Canada’s response to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh

Since August 2017 more than 740,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar as a result of attacks and repression they continue to face at home. Canada continues to be seized by the unacceptable persecution of Rohingya communities in Myanmar, and remains deeply concerned by the situation in Rakhine State that has led to this displacement. The refugee camps where they live in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, are the world’s largest. Recognizing the immense responsibility taken on by Bangladesh to welcome 905,000 refugees from Myanmar over the last several decades, Canada has committed considerable humanitarian and development assistance to Bangladesh.

In responding to this crisis, Canada has played a leadership role, and our concerted efforts continue to have a real, positive effect on the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Canada’s response to the Rohingya crisis recognizes that the current situation does not have an immediate solution. It will require sustained engagement for years to come. This will ensure the humanitarian needs and security situation in Bangladesh and Myanmar remain at the forefront of a coordinated international response.

In October 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the Honourable Bob Rae as Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. Special Envoy Rae released his report in April 2018, outlining the underlying causes of the Rohingya Crisis. The report provided a number of recommendations to the Government of Canada. Based on this report, Prime Minister Trudeau announced Canada’s Strategy to Respond to the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh in May 2018. This response dedicates $300 million of international assistance over three years to address four key objectives:

  • alleviating the humanitarian crisis
  • encouraging positive political developments in Myanmar
  • ensuring accountability for the crimes committed
  • enhancing international cooperation

Humanitarian crisis

Rohingya refugees on the shore of a river in Bangledesh.

Rohingya refugees on the shore of a river in Bangledesh.

Photo credit: Suvra Kanti Das / Alamy Stock Photo

Since early 2017, Canada has provided more than $68 million for the provision of life-saving and gender-responsive humanitarian assistance in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Canada’s support is helping to meet the needs of refugees, displaced people, and the communities who are hosting them.

Canada is focused on strengthening the responsiveness of humanitarian action to better meet the unique needs of women and girls. This is in line with its Feminist International Assistance Policy as well as the G7 declaration on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls in Humanitarian Action.

As one example, Canada is contributing $2 million over three years to UN Women to increase the quality of the response through enhanced coordination and capacity for gender-responsive humanitarian action in Cox’s Bazar. In 2018, Canada was the fifth largest single country donor to the Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis in Bangladesh.

Canada is supporting several development projects to help address the needs of Bangladesh host communities. We are working with the World Bank and the Government of Bangladesh‎ to implement an innovative mechanism whereby every $1 from Canada unlocks $5 in grant funding from the World Bank. This will support health, nutrition and basic education services for the Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar.

Canada continues to take every opportunity to emphasize the importance of full implementation of the recommendations made by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Through targeted and effective programming, we are also working to address the root causes of the crisis, and advance the conditions that are conducive for the safe, dignified, sustainable, and voluntary return of the Rohingya to Myanmar.

The political situation in Myanmar

Minister Freeland visiting a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh.

Minister Freeland visiting a Rohingya camp in Bangladesh.

Photo credit: Global Affairs Canada

Canada continues to encourage positive political developments and support efforts to achieve a political solution that will address the plight of the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar. It is also important to address the root causes of conflicts in the country. We continue to carefully listen to the Rohingya and recognize their active role in defining their future as a recognized, respected, and safe community. This is a core element of Special Envoy Rae’s recommendations that informs all of our actions. Through sustained diplomatic engagement and targeted international assistance, Canada promotes human rights, respect for diversity, inclusive democracy, and peace and security in Myanmar.

Canada’s bilateral development program in Myanmar focuses on improving the human dignity, well-being, and rights for vulnerable and marginalized people, particularly women and girls.  It helps to improve trust among communities, and strengthen women’s voices and leadership. We are helping women build inclusive networks through support for local civil society organizations, and to participate in the public decision making process. We have recently launched five new development projects in Myanmar worth $60 million over three to five years. These projects will provide support to address the needs of vulnerable people, especially women and girls, and to help empower them to participate in the decisions affecting their lives.

Canada’s support to peace and security initiatives in Myanmar focuses on:

  • dialogue
  • inclusion and diversity
  • protection and promotion of human rights
  • justice and accountability
  • democratic freedoms
  • support to Myanmar’s peace process

Canada strongly supports an inclusive peace process for ending decades of armed conflict in Myanmar. We are actively supporting the wider national peace process through the Joint Peace Fund, a multi-donor trust fund to help enable a lasting peace for all the people of Myanmar.

Accountability and impunity

The burned remains of a Rohingya community in Myanmar.

The burned remains of a Rohingya community in Myanmar.

Photo credit: Global Affairs Canada

Canada is engaged in extensive advocacy and continues to work with the international community to find a way to bring to justice those responsible for gross human rights violations and abuses in Myanmar. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Development, along with Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, have visited Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. They have consistently raised their concerns on the issue in international forums while calling for concerted action.

Following the recommendation of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Canada co-sponsored, along with 104 other countries, an historic UN Human Rights Council resolution on Myanmar in September 2018. This resolution will establish an Independent Investigative mechanism (IIM). Its mandate is to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence for future criminal proceedings. Extensive advocacy by our missions in New York and Geneva, and a coordinated international approach, saw the approval of the IIM achieved in December 2018. This mechanism is an important next step in advancing accountability in Myanmar.

Canada recognized the crimes against the Rohingya as constituting genocide through a motion in the House of Commons in September 2018.The motion reiterated our call for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. Parliament also unanimously passed a second motion revoking Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship.

Targeted sanctions

A large Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.

A large Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Photo credit: Global Affairs Canada

Canada’s response to the Rohingya crisis also includes a commitment to enhancing the effectiveness of targeted sanctions. On December 13, 2007, the Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations came into force. This was in reponse to the gravity of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Myanmar, which threatened peace and security in the entire region.

Sanctions under the Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations include an arms embargo and an effective asset freeze and dealings prohibition targeting both entities and individuals.

On June 25, 2018, Canada and the European Union sanctioned seven individuals involved in the military operations launched in Rakhine State in August 2017 under the SEMA (Burma) Regulations. This followed targeted sanctions announced on February 18, 2018, against Major General Maung Maung Soe under the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. This was a result of his significant role in human rights violations against the Rohingya during the military operations launched in Rakhine State in August 2017. Canada continues to engage with likeminded partners to ensure a robust and coordinated approach to sanctions.

International cooperation

Minister Freeland meeting her G7 counterparts to discuss ways to address the crisis in Myanmar.

Ministers Freeland and Bibeau discussing ways to address the Rohingya Crisis at the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Photo credit: Global Affairs Canada

Since August 2017, Canada has been steadfast in its advocacy and commitment to strengthening international coordination to better respond to the crisis.

In Bangladesh, we play a leadership role, on gender equality and the inclusion of women and girls, through close collaboration with the government, other donors, the UN, and international and local NGOs. In Myanmar, Canada is actively engaged in supporting democratization and the peace process. Our view is that a peaceful, democratic, federal union is the most effective way to address the root causes of conflict in the country and Rakhine.

We have been active in bringing together like-minded countries at the UN through Canada’s 2018 G7 Presidency and in other multilateral institutions. The goal is to build political will and strengthen coordination of international efforts to address this crisis.

At the 73rd UN General Assembly in September 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs hosted a ministerial level meeting on the Rohingya crisis to discuss the humanitarian situation and accountability measures. The Minister of International Development also co-hosted a high-level round table on gender-responsive humanitarian action to focus international efforts on putting policy into action in the crisis.

Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar

Special Envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae visits a Rohingya refugee camp.

Special Envoy to Myanmar Bob Rae visits a Rohingya refugee camp.

Photo credit: Global Affairs Canada

Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, the Honourable Bob Rae, continues to engage with key international partners in bilateral, regional, and multilateral channels. In Bangladesh, he emphasized that education and livelihoods in the camps are essential. His ongoing advocacy at home and internationally is a continued demonstration of our global leadership and commitment to seek ways to build long-lasting peace and reconciliation in Myanmar.

Statements and declarations

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DateStatement typeTitleStatement
2019-11-11Canadian statementCanada welcomes the Gambia’s action to address accountability in Myanmar

Canada welcomes the Gambia’s action to address accountability in Myanmar

Date: 2019-11-11

Statement type: Canadian statement

2019-05-07Canadian statementCanada welcomes Myanmar’s decision to grant amnesty to Reuters journalists

Canada welcomes Myanmar’s decision to grant amnesty to Reuters journalists

Date: 2019-05-07

Statement type: Canadian statement

2019-03-14Multilateral statementsStatement on the further escalation of violence in Rakhine State

Statement on the further escalation of violence in Rakhine State

Date: 2019-03-14

Statement type: Multilateral statements

2019-01-11Canadian statementCanada decries imprisonment of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Canada decries imprisonment of Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Date: 2019-01-11

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-11-14Canadian statementCanada deeply concerned by reports of efforts to prematurely repatriate Rohingya refugees

Canada deeply concerned by reports of efforts to prematurely repatriate Rohingya refugees

Date: 2018-11-14

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-09-28Canadian statementCanada welcomes adoption of United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on human rights situation in Myanmar

Canada welcomes adoption of United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on human rights situation in Myanmar

Date: 2018-09-28

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-09-26Canadian statementAddress by Bob Rae, Special Envoy to Myanmar, to the 15th Meeting, 39th Regular Session, Human Rights Council

Address by Bob Rae, Special Envoy to Myanmar, to the 15th Meeting, 39th Regular Session, Human Rights Council

Date: 2018-09-26

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-09-03Canadian statementCanada profoundly disappointed by verdict against Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Canada profoundly disappointed by verdict against Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Date: 2018-09-03

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-08-29Canadian statementCanada statement on the continuing crisis in Myanmar

Canada statement on the continuing crisis in Myanmar

Date: 2018-08-29

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-08-27Canadian statementCanada welcomes United Nations summary report on independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar

Canada welcomes United Nations summary report on independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar

Date: 2018-08-27

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-08-17Canadian statementSupport for United States sanctions regarding Myanmar

Support for United States sanctions regarding Myanmar

Date: 2018-08-17

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-07-09Canadian statementCanada dismayed by court ruling against Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Canada dismayed by court ruling against Reuters journalists in Myanmar

Date: 2018-07-09

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-06-25Canadian statementCanada imposes further sanctions in response to ongoing crisis in Myanmar

Canada imposes further sanctions in response to ongoing crisis in Myanmar

Date: 2018-06-25

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-05-23Canadian statementCanada’s strategy to respond to Rohingya crisis

Canada’s strategy to respond to Rohingya crisis

Date: 2018-05-23

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-04-26Canadian statementForeign Minister to attend meetings in Bangladesh on the Rohingya crisis

Foreign Minister to attend meetings in Bangladesh on the Rohingya crisis

Date: 2018-04-26

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-04-17Bilateral statementForeign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Call for Greater International Support and Coordination to the Rohingya Crisis

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson Call for Greater International Support and Coordination to the Rohingya Crisis

Date: 2018-04-17

Statement type: Bilateral statement

2018-04-03Canadian statementPrime Minister welcomes final report from Special Envoy to Myanmar

Prime Minister welcomes final report from Special Envoy to Myanmar

Date: 2018-04-03

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-04-03Canadian statementMinisters of Foreign Affairs and of International Development and La Francophonie welcome final report from Special Envoy to Myanmar

Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of International Development and La Francophonie welcome final report from Special Envoy to Myanmar

Date: 2018-04-03

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-03-16Canadian statementRohingya crisis: Canada announces new funding for emergency preparedness and assistance for Rohingya refugees and host communities

Rohingya crisis: Canada announces new funding for emergency preparedness and assistance for Rohingya refugees and host communities

Date: 2018-03-16

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-02-16Canadian statementCanada imposes targeted sanctions in response to human rights violations in Myanmar

Canada imposes targeted sanctions in response to human rights violations in Myanmar

Date: 2018-02-16

Statement type: Canadian statement

2018-02-15Canadian statementCanada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar update on Rohingya crisis

Canada’s Special Envoy to Myanmar update on Rohingya crisis

Date: 2018-02-15

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-12-16Canadian statementCanada deeply concerned by arrests of journalists in Myanmar and requests immediate release

Canada deeply concerned by arrests of journalists in Myanmar and requests immediate release

Date: 2017-12-16

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-12-13Canadian statementMinister Bibeau announces final tally for Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund

Minister Bibeau announces final tally for Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund

Date: 2017-12-13

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-11-17Canadian statementMinister Bibeau to travel to Bangladesh

Minister Bibeau to travel to Bangladesh

Date: 2017-11-17

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-11-16Canadian statementCanada and international community gravely concerned about human rights abuses in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Canada and international community gravely concerned about human rights abuses in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Date: 2017-11-16

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-10-31Canadian statementMinister Bibeau launches Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund

Minister Bibeau launches Myanmar Crisis Relief Fund

Date: 2017-10-31

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-10-23Canadian statementPrime Minister appoints the Honourable Bob Rae as Special Envoy to Myanmar

Prime Minister appoints the Honourable Bob Rae as Special Envoy to Myanmar

Date: 2017-10-23

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-10-20Canadian statementStatement following visit to Rakhine state of Canada’s Ambassador to Myanmar

Statement following visit to Rakhine state of Canada’s Ambassador to Myanmar

Date: 2017-10-20

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-10-16Canadian statementCanada marks World Food Day with additional support to feed Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Canada marks World Food Day with additional support to feed Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Date: 2017-10-16

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-10-07Canadian statementCanada gravely concerned with deteriorating situation in Myanmar

Canada gravely concerned with deteriorating situation in Myanmar

Date: 2017-10-07

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-10-04Canadian statementMyanmar/Bangladesh: Canada responds to United Nations appeal with additional humanitarian assistance

Myanmar/Bangladesh: Canada responds to United Nations appeal with additional humanitarian assistance

Date: 2017-10-04

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-10-02Multilateral statementsStatement on the diplomatic trip to Northern Rakhine

Statement on the diplomatic trip to Northern Rakhine

Date: 2017-10-02

Statement type: Multilateral statements

2017-09-22Canadian statementCanada concerned about restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine state, Myanmar

Canada concerned about restrictions on humanitarian access in Rakhine state, Myanmar

Date: 2017-09-22

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-09-15Canadian statementMyanmar: Canada provides additional humanitarian assistance for displaced persons in Bangladesh

Myanmar: Canada provides additional humanitarian assistance for displaced persons in Bangladesh

Date: 2017-09-15

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-09-13Canadian statementPrime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Mya

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Mya

Date: 2017-09-13

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-09-07Canadian statementCanada calls for action on critical situation in Myanmar

Canada calls for action on critical situation in Myanmar

Date: 2017-09-07

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-09-05Canadian statementCanada deeply concerned by ongoing situation in Myanmar

Canada deeply concerned by ongoing situation in Myanmar

Date: 2017-09-05

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-09-01Canadian statementCanada condemns escalating violence in Myanmar

Canada condemns escalating violence in Myanmar

Date: 2017-09-01

Statement type: Canadian statement

2017-08-25Canadian statementMission Level statement following attacks against police and security forces in Northern Rakhine

Mission Level statement following attacks against police and security forces in Northern Rakhine

Date: 2017-08-25

Statement type: Canadian statement

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