A local Rohingya Canadian is calling on the Canadian government to do more to help the people who are enduring a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in southeast Asia.

Raees Ahmed said while he respects Bob Rae, who was appointed special envoy to Myanmar earlier this week, Canada needs more than symbolic gestures to address the ongoing situation.

"This is a response, but it is not a concrete response and is not a concrete action," he told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

He wants the Canadian government to consider sanctions against the Myanmar government.

"We need to impose a total arms embargo. We need to put in sanctions so that the [Myanmar government] feels the brunt of it and sees consequences out of it," he said.

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Bob Rae was appointed special envoy to Myanmar earlier this week. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Aid blocked in certain regions

While the federal and provincial governments have each promised aid to groups assisting the Rohingya people in the small south Asian country, Ahmed is concerned about how that aid will reach people since access by humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations, has been blocked to the hard-hit Rakhine state.

'These people, they do not only lack food, water, healthcare, shelter. They lack human rights.' - Raees Ahmed

He suggests peacekeepers should be sent to the region, along with the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). They could build a water filtration system for the refugees, he added, as many are being forced to drink from a river where bodies have been found.


Thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar cross a small stream in the hot sun on a muddy rice field. (Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

'They lack human rights'

Ahmed is no stranger to refugees, having visited Haiti and South African camps, but his voice broke as he talked about the conditions in Bangladesh, which has accepted around 900,000 refugees who have fled there.

"What I've seen in Bangladesh is a different story … these people, they do not only lack food, water, healthcare, shelter. They lack human rights."

With the ongoing crisis, Ahmed said he expects a similar investigation into reported human rights atrocities similar to what followed after the Rwandan genocide.

But in the meantime, he wants Canadians to take notice — and not just when they turn on their TV.

"As a Canadian … imagine yourself in the shoes of somebody who has seen their neighbour hacked to death. Imagine yourself as somebody who has seen a child burned alive," he said. 

"Are you just going to watch and just let it go? Are you going to bear the fact that this is happening just because that individual is of another ethnicity, of another colour, of another race? Those are also human beings."