'Shameful milestone' for Rohingya crisis as new worries surface about refugee children
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- Rohingya crisis about to reach a 'shameful milestone'
- Maxime Bernier is quitting the Conservatives and will start his own right-wing party
- Pope faces mixed welcome in Ireland this weekend
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'A shameful milestone'
This weekend marks the first anniversary of the Rohingya crisis, and there is no end in sight for the refugees who have been forced from their homes.
Starting on Aug. 25, 2017, coordinated attacks by Myanmar's army and local militias on Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine state caused more than 700,000 members of the Muslim minority community to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.
Homes were burned, women raped, and there were several large-scale massacres. By some estimates, more than 40,000 Rohingya died in the violence. The UN's human rights chief called it a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
But no one is facing charges, and the Rohingya are no closer to leaving their crowded refugee camps and heading home.
"This anniversary marks a shameful milestone," Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International's Crisis Response Director, said today in a blistering statement. "Lack of political will, not a lack of evidence, is at the root of the international community's inaction. It is undeniable that Myanmar's security forces committed crimes against humanity against the Rohingya. But while the international community drags its feet deciding what to do about it, vital evidence risks disappearing or being destroyed."
Another NGO, Save the Children, has released a study suggesting that half of the 6,000 "unaccompanied" children now living in the refugee camps were orphaned by the violence, rather than simply separated from their parents.
Myanmar's government has formed an independent commission to probe the allegations of genocide and human rights abuses, and there is an agreement in place to start repatriating the Rohingya, but few outsiders have faith in the process.
After all, the UN and aid groups are still being denied access to Rakhine state.
Perhaps for good reason.
A Sky News correspondent travelled to Rakhine this week under government escort, and reports that the signs of the violence — empty farms, burned buildings, scattered possessions — are still visible a year later.
The international community is also coming up short on the funds needed to support the Rohingya stuck in the Bangladeshi camps. In March, the UN unveiled its 2018 Joint Response Plan and asked for $950 million US to fund it. So far, pledges total about a third of that amount.
In a report released today, UNICEF warns that the 380,000 children living in the camps risk becoming a "lost generation," because Bangladesh prohibits them from receiving a formal education for fear that they will put down roots in the country.
Most of the international action seems to be on the symbolic front.
This morning, Edinburgh became the latest city to strip Myanmar's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi — once a human rights darling — of a previously bestowed honour.
At the beginning of August, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg announced that it is removing a reference to Suu Kyi from one of its displays, and dimming her illuminated portrait in another gallery.
But for now, she remains an honorary citizen of Canada.
Clashing conservative visions
Maxime Bernier is quitting the Conservatives and will soon start his own right-wing party.
"I have come to realize over the past year that this party is too intellectually and morally corrupt to be reformed," the longtime Quebec MP told an Ottawa news conference this afternoon.
"The whole strategy of the party is to play identity politics, pander to various interest groups and buy votes with promises, just like the Liberals."Bernier, who finished second to Andrew Scheer for the Conservative leadership last May, timed his announcement to let the air out of a Tory convention that begins today in Halifax.
And he did not mince words when it came to his once and future rival.
"Andrew Scheer keeps talking about his 'positive Conservative vision.' But nobody knows what that vision is," declared Bernier. "The Conservative Party has abandoned conservatives. It does not represent them anymore. And it has nothing of substance to offer Canadians looking for a political alternative."
The 55-year-old said that he is already in contact with Elections Canada about the mechanics of registering his as-yet-unnamed party, and intends to seek advice from other unhappy Conservatives across the country in the coming weeks.
But perhaps he should look back as well as forward.
There's a long history of Quebec politicians splintering off from their parties, although mostly over sovereignty and language issues.
René Lévesque was a cabinet minister for Jean Lesage's provincial Liberals until their 1966 defeat, but then struck out on his own forming the Mouvement souveraineté-association. It joined forces with other separatist groups in 1968 and became the Parti Québécois.
Irked by the resistance to Meech Lake, Lucien Bouchard resigned from the federal Conservatives in May 1990, and briefly sat as an independent before gathering other disaffected Quebec MPs and launching the Bloc Québécois.
Success came quicker for him, with 54 seats and Official Opposition status in the 1993 election, narrowly beating out a Western Canadian splinter group, the Reform Party. And after almost leading the sovereigntists to victory in the 1995 referendum campaign, he jumped to provincial politics, replacing Jacques Parizeau as premier.
The anti-bilingualism Confederation of Regions party rose out of the ashes of Richard Hatfield's New Brunswick Progressive Conservatives and became the official opposition in 1991, then faded away in the next provincial election.
But Alberta is probably the current Canadian home of political disenchantment.
Last summer's merger of the provincial Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose Party into the United Conservative Party has failed to put an end to a decade of right-wing splintering.
Disgruntled remnants of Wildrose formed the Alberta Advantage Party, and in mid-July, Derek Fildebrandt, a MLA who had been kicked out of the United Conservatives last winter, announced that he is forming the Freedom Conservative Party of Alberta.
Bloc Québécois leader Martine Ouellet resigned in June after seven of her 10 MPs bolted and she received just 32 per cent in a party confidence vote.
The slow-motion unravelling of the Bloc left Lucien Bouchard feeling blue.
"When you've been the founder of the Bloc and you know what the Bloc has managed to do, with its successes and its failures, and you look at what is happening now, you get very discouraged," he told the Canadian Press this past spring.
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The last time a head of the Catholic Church visited the Republic of Ireland — Pope John Paul II in 1979 — almost three-quarters of the population turned out for an open-air mass.
Pope Francis shouldn't expect the same sort of welcome this weekend when he touches down in Dublin.
The worldwide child sex abuse scandal that is rocking the Church will be top of mind for the public and the politicians who greet him.
"My first words are absolutely going to be words of welcome on behalf of the Irish people … But there are a number of issues, ranging from human rights to child sex abuse, and I am going to want to talk about them as well," he said. "I am going to raise as many issues as I can."
The Irish Taoiseach also intends to demand greater cooperation from the Vatican in ongoing investigations of historic abuses.
"We want to make sure that there is truth and justice and healing for victims, and that has to be part of it," Varadkar said.
"In the aftermath of child abuse scandals and other shameful episodes of the past, there are those who feel they can no longer trust our message," he told delegates at the World Meeting of Families, the event that is bringing Francis to Dublin.
"Perhaps because they have been directly hurt and betrayed in their families by their experience of Church, or because the revelations of such heinous crimes have shocked them to the core."
A Facebook group called "Nope to the Pope" has been active for months, encouraging members of the public to snap up tickets to an open-air mass scheduled for Sunday at Dublin's Croke Park and then throw them away. One poster to the forum claimed to have obtained 1,312 tickets by using aliases like "Jesus Christ," and making requests on behalf of purported bus tour groups from outside the city.
And recent referendums that legalized same sex marriage in 2015, and abortion this past May, suggest that the Irish public is quickly drifting away from the traditional message of the Church.
The Pope's itinerary for the 36-hour tour includes a parade in Dublin on Saturday, and a visit to a shrine at Knock in County Mayo. He will also hold a private meeting with survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, as has become his custom on foreign visits.
The forecast calls for heavy rain.
A few words on …
The real "leg work" of journalism.
We pay tribute to NBC News intern Cassie Semyon who sprinted into the headlines with her mad dash to break the news of Paul Manafort's guilty verdict. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheMoment?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TheMoment</a> <a href="https://t.co/1EbD7PKqky">pic.twitter.com/1EbD7PKqky</a>—@CBCTheNational
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Today in history
Aug. 23, 1958: Building a better egg beater
It feels like an SCTV parody, but it's not. Just three minutes of tape of Canada's Design Index Panel — made up of an architect, manufacturer, retailer, designer, and "a housewife" — debating the merits of a new egg beater. Things build to a climax when "housewife" beats an egg. "It seems to work very well," she proclaims.
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