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Canada’s response to the Rohingya and Myanmar crises

In 2017, in response to a series of coordinated attacks against police outposts by an insurgent group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), Myanmar security forces launched a disproportionate attack against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine State, precipitating one of the largest mass exoduses in recent history. Since then, more than 770,000 Rohingya have fled to safety in the Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh, to what is now the world’s largest and most congested refugee camp. Including those who arrived before the 2017 attacks, nearly one million Rohingya now live in Bangladesh. Meanwhile an estimated 600,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar and face ongoing discrimination and repression from the military regime that include denial of basic rights and freedoms, and limit their access to essential health services, freedom of movement, pathways to citizenship and livelihood opportunities.

In February 2021, a military coup d’état deposed the democratically elected civilian government in Myanmar. The ensuing political crisis, the regime’s efforts to stifle dissent and opposition, and worsening armed conflicts across the country have triggered a nation-wide humanitarian crisis. This crisis has put the safe, voluntary and sustainable return of the Rohingya from Bangladesh to Myanmar in jeopardy.

The military coup has also led to a deepening political and security crisis, along with widespread human rights abuses throughout Myanmar. The political instability and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are driving an economic crisis. There has been an increase in urban food insecurity and almost half of Myanmar’s population is at risk of falling into poverty. This is having a disproportionate impact on women and girls.

The crisis-affected populations in Myanmar and the Rohingya refugees and host communities in Bangladesh need support.

These grave and interlinked crises represent a human tragedy that demands a sustained and concerted international response.

Canada’s response to the military coup in Myanmar

Canada stands in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their desire for a peaceful, inclusive and democratic society. Canada has unequivocally condemned the Myanmar military's illegal seizure of power, its overthrow of the democratically-elected civilian government, and its detention of politicians, civil society leaders, journalists, peaceful protestors and human rights defenders. Canada has called for an immediate halt to violence and for the military to commit to genuine inclusive dialogue to resolve the crisis.

Canada has made its position clear both bilaterally and in conjunction with its international partners. We continue to support the efforts of the United Nations (UN) in Myanmar, particularly those of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar. Since the outset of the coup, Canada has contributed to coordinated advocacy efforts at the United Nations (UN), G7 and elsewhere to condemn the Myanmar military’s seizure of power and call for the immediate restoration of democratic rule. We have co-sponsored UN Human Rights Council Resolutions and UN General Assembly Resolutions on the situation, and issued several statements at the Ministerial level and in the context of the G7. We have also registered our condemnation at a UN Human Rights Council Special Session on Myanmar, an opening statement at World Trade Organization's Trade Policy Review of Myanmar, an intervention at the UN General Assembly and a joint Canada-UK statement at the International Labour Organization Governing Body meeting.

Canada has welcomed and supported ASEAN engagement on Myanmar, and has called for Myanmar to implement the ASEAN Five Point Consensus, which was agreed at the ASEAN Leaders' Summit in April 2021 as the roadmap to resolve the crisis. We continue to support the efforts of the ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy to promote genuine and inclusive dialogue among all relevant parties, working toward full implementation of ASEAN’s Five Point Consensus.

Canada also supports the UN’s efforts in Myanmar, particularly those of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar. We stand ready to work with the UN Special Envoy on all her efforts in Myanmar to address the current political crisis in Myanmar including the safe, sustainable, voluntary and dignified return of Rohingya asylum seekers.

Recognizing the grave breach of international peace and security and resulting serious domestic, regional and international crises stemming from the coup, we have imposed targeted sanctions against senior Myanmar military leaders, regime leadership and their financial interests. This includes a unilateral arms embargo and asset freeze. Canada continues to call for the halt in sale and transfer of arms, material, dual-use equipment and technical assistance to Myanmar representatives to stop the flow of military equipment and other resources to the regime.

Canada has also issued a Business Advisory on Myanmar registering the legal and reputational risk of business engagement in the country, and has undertaken an assessment of its international assistance programme to confirm no funding has or will benefit the military regime.

We are working with partners to provide vital support to journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists and democratic actors at risk. We continue to pursue a range of additional measures with partners and allies to advance a long-term and durable solution to this crisis.

Canada recognizes that the coup in Myanmar further exacerbates the challenges facing the Rohingya population both inside and outside Myanmar; prospects for a safe, voluntary, dignified, and durable return seem more remote than ever. Canada continues to encourage positive political developments and support efforts to achieve a political solution that will address the root causes of conflict in the country, including the plight of the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities in Myanmar. 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 recommendations provided by the 2018 report of the Honourable Bob Rae, Canada’s former Special Envoy to Myanmar, that continues to inform 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 response to the crises

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. In 2018, Canada announced a three-year strategy to respond to the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh. Despite results achieved from 2018 to 2021, significant challenges remain. Canada has therefore extended its strategy into a second three-year phase. This phase transitions from crisis-response to advancing durable solutions in Myanmar.

Canada will continue to provide international assistance to meet the needs of those at risk and crisis-affected populations. In Myanmar, these needs are increasing quickly due to the impact of COVID-19 and the military coup. This is having a disproportionate impact on women and girls and is also likely to further weaken social cohesion.

As Canada responds to the global pandemic and resulting economic challenges, striking the appropriate balance between necessary measures to contain the virus and service delivery remains of critical importance.

All at-risk and crisis-affected populations, including women and girls in all their diversity, continue to need access to food, health care, and protection. Longer-term development assistance, such as education and skills training are also essential to helping girls, boys and youth to build a future.

The military coup has also eliminated the near-to-medium term prospects for the repatriation to Myanmar of the Rohingya people who fled violence. Canada remains committed to building the conditions for their eventual safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable repatriation. At the same time, Canada is addressing the needs of the refugees and host communities in Bangladesh. Canada acknowledges that it is a challenge for Bangladesh to host a significant number of Rohingya people and stands with them to address the situation.

Canada is committed to empowering the Rohingya to speak for their own community and to set out their rights and their needs in their own voice. We continue to advocate for the human rights of Rohingya wherever they reside, including both those living in Cox’s Bazar and those now located on the island of Bhasan Char.

Targeted sanctions

Canada has a robust sanctions regime under the Special Economic Measures Act that has been in place since 2007.

Our response to the Rohingya crisis as well as the political and security crisis in Myanmar includes a commitment to enhancing the effectiveness of targeted sanctions. We continue to review the need for further targeted actions as required and to engage with like-minded partners to ensure a robust and coordinated approach to sanctions.

Statements and declarations

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DateStatement typeTitleStatement
2020-12-23Canadian statementGovernment of Canada statement in response to the report by Canada's special envoy on humanitarian and refugee issues

Government of Canada statement in response to the report by Canada's special envoy on humanitarian and refugee issues

Date: 2020-12-23

Statement type: Canadian statement

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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