News / Toronto

'Call it a genocide before it's too late' Canada asked to do more on Myanmar crisis

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland joined a weekend rally in Toronto. One advocate wants her government to go a step further.

Refugees balance on bamboo as they try and cross a stream as the monsoon rains create challenges for the displaced Rohingya people in Bangladesh, where over 400,000 have fled  since the August outbreak of violence in the Rakhine state.

Paula Bronstein / Getty Images AsiaPac

Refugees balance on bamboo as they try and cross a stream as the monsoon rains create challenges for the displaced Rohingya people in Bangladesh, where over 400,000 have fled since the August outbreak of violence in the Rakhine state.

A Toronto advocate is calling for Canada to push the UN to send a peace-keeping mission to Myanmar, on the heels of the Foreign Affairs Minister calling the situation there "ethnic cleansing."

At a weekend rally in Toronto, Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada is "seeking access" into the Rakhine State, one of the areas most affected by the ongoing conflict.

In an email to Metro, a spokesperson said the access would allow the government to assess the situation and report back to Canadians and the international community.

"We are seized by the unacceptable persecution of the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities," wrote Brittany Venhola-Fletcher, adding any vists by diplomats to the region have to be sanctioned by the government of Myanmar.

Ahmed Ramadan, coordinator for the Burma Task Force Canada - the charity that had organized the Saturday rally - said the move is an important step in holding the military leadership accountable for their acts.

"The Canadian presence there will show the military rulers that somebody is watching. They can't just deny their wrongdoing anymore," he said.

But he added that Canada should go even further. As the United Nations General Assembly meets this week, Ramadan would like to see Canada pushing for the creation of a peacekeeping mission in Myanmar.

"Something like 40 per cent of the villages have been burned down. So, creating a safety zone must be a short-term solution to protect the villages that haven't been burned yet," he said.

The General Assembly will not get a chance to hear directly from Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who cancelled the trip to New York last week amid mounting accusations that she has failed to help stop the violence.

More than 400,000 Rohingya people have been displaced as military operations attack villages and set them on fire, in what the UN officials have called acts of "ethnic cleansing." That's the same terminology Freeland used at the Saturday rally, but Ramadan believes that should change too.

"We're hoping that Canada will take the next step and call it a genocide before it's too late," Ramadan said, noting countries are reluctant to use the term to avoid responsibilities. "Once that happens, it'll force the world to take action."

With files from The Associated Press

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