Fredericton residents rally to 'stop the genocide'
Community leaders say people should write to MLAs and speak out
Fredericton residents joined hundreds of people across the country in raising awareness for the Rohingya refugee crisis Saturday.
More than 40 people gathered in front of the Legislative Assembly in Fredericton Saturday to mark the one-year anniversary of a military crackdown that started what the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing targeting Rohingya people in Myanmar.
The Bangladeshi community organized the rally as part of a national day of action. It's an issue close to home for people with Bangladeshi roots because the majority of displaced Rohingya ended up in their country after many Myanmar villages were burned to the ground.
"It's very important for me to be here that's why I came with my family and kids and support the community, because I am totally against it and genocide," said Sabrina Kabir, who was holding a sign that said "stop the genocide."
Community leaders gave speeches about the importance of writing to MLAs and speaking out in letters to the editor. Some attendees signed a letter addressed to the federal government that calls for more concerted efforts to return Rohingya to Myanmar safely.
Historical parallels drawn
The Rohingya people are mostly Muslims in a predominantly Buddhist country. They have been persecuted in Myanmar since the 1970s and last August an attack by Rohingya militants on police and military bases in the country prompted a crackdown on the ethnic minority.
Fredericton MLA David Coon, who spoke at Saturday's rally, said the Canadian government should be "playing leadership role in defending those who have been subjected to atrocities."
"In all people in the world, we should be doing that," he said.
He drew parallels between how the Acadian and Indigenous people were treated in the past and what's happening in Myanmar.
Chris Brooks, a spiritual leader from St. Mary's First Nation, sang a healing song at the event. He also pointed out the connection between the Rohingya crisis and his own ancestors.
"I thought to myself once my eyes became open my heart became open," he said.
"When I read more about the situation over there I realized they are Indigenous people of that area and that's another reason why I'm here, to support my Indigenous brothers and sisters in other parts of the world."
Events in 12 communities
Raïss Tinmaung, who is part of the Rohingya Human Rights Network, encouraged Fredericton residents to participate in the day of action along with 11 other cities.
On Saturday he attended the Ottawa and Montreal rallies. He said there were just over 150 people in attendance in Ottawa. While the crowd was small, he said it was diverse.
He said while it's important for him to remain positive, the turnout was "discouraging."
"Some people are turned away by the thought of mass killings," he said. "But our mandate is to raise awareness and we'll keep with the same mandate."