Government should look at bringing Rohingya refugees to Canada, minister says

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada needs to look into bringing Rohingya refugees here to reunify families.

Nearly 1 million people displaced following ethnic cleansing in Myanmar

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland meets with Médecins Sans Frontières volunteers at a Rohingya refugee camp at Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh on May 4, 2018. (Chrystia Freeland/Twitter)

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada needs to look into bringing Rohingya refugees here to reunify families. 

"We can just imagine if it were our brothers, sisters, uncles, who were in these dire straits, we would be desperate to bring them to join us in Canada," she told reporters on Saturday. 

"I think that is an issue we need to be looking at."

While she said the majority of people she spoke to while visiting the refugee camps in Bangladesh expressed a desire to return to their homes in Myanmar, many Rohingya in Canada have told her they want their family members to be able to come here.

Freeland is in Bangladesh on a four-day tour focused on the Rohingya refugee crisis.

She said the trip has left her "more convinced than ever of the necessity of a comprehensive, international response to this tragedy."

​The camps are home to nearly 900,000 minority Muslim Rohingyas who have fled a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign in Rakhine State in neighbouring Myanmar, also known as Burma.

A report from Bob Rae, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s special envoy on the Rohingya crisis, recommends Canada take a lead role in efforts to address it. In his third and final report, Rae says Canada should play a key role at the International Criminal Court during the investigation of possible war crimes and makes 16 recommendations on how Canada could help the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar 4:45

There were two overwhelming themes to what she was told by people living in the camps, she said,"A desire for justice and accountability," and "a really strong desire to go home."

Though she spoke of the importance of families being reunited in Canada, she said most of the refugees are simply looking for safety in their home region. 

"This is very clear to me that this is a group of people who want to go home," she said.

Freeland also spoke of the importance of establishing accountability for the human rights violations occurring in Myanmar and developing an international response to the crisis. 

Canada will work to establish a clear pathway toward accountability, she said.

However, details on what Canada's contributions would be are still scarce. 

Special envoy recommends welcoming refugees

Recommendations were made weeks ago by Bob Rae, Canada's special envoy to Myanmar. In his final report, he suggested Canada should ramp up humanitarian aid, development efforts and show a willingness to welcome refugees.

Rae's 17 recommendations included the advice that Canada should develop a multi-year funding plan beginning this year for a response that focuses on humanitarian assistance, education and supporting infrastructure.

He estimates the annual costs of such a plan, including additional staff at headquarters and abroad, to be about $150 million for the next four years.

The government takes the report seriously, Freeland said — and more details on how the government has adopted Rae's advice will be released in the near future.