Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne attends a news conference during an official visit to Switzerland at the Von Wattenwyl Haus, in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Anthony Anex, Keystone

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne attends a news conference during an official visit to Switzerland at the Von Wattenwyl Haus, in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Anthony Anex, Keystone

Indigenous genocide finding hangs over Canada’s Myanmar court intervention

More than 850,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine state after being targeted by Myanmar security forces

Cries of the pot calling the kettle black are emerging after Canada joined an international genocide lawsuit against Myanmar, because the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls said Canada’s Indigenous Peoples are genocide victims.

Canada and the Netherlands announced with great fanfare this week that they were joining the genocide application launched by Gambia against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice in The Hague as interveners.

Gambia filed the case last fall on behalf of the 57 Muslim countries in the Organization of Islamic Co-operation under the 1948 Genocide Convention.

More than 850,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine state after being targeted by Myanmar security forces, who killed thousands while burning villages and engaging in ethnic cleansing and gang rape.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok said their countries were joining the case to assist Gambia with “complex legal issues” in the case.

But Bruno Gelinas-Faucher, a University of Montreal international law expert who has worked at the ICJ, said Canada’s presence could cause delays and complications for the Gambian case because of an international legal axiom known as the “clean-hand” principle.

“There’s a risk for Canada to be perceived as adopting a contradictory position of leading a very active foreign policy based on prevention of genocide abroad, and at home, not responding to fully for the calls for justice made by the (inquiry),” said Gelinas-Faucher.

“I think there is a very important element for Canada not to be seen as putting forth this contradictory position in the world, and to be coherent — have a coherent foreign policy that is in line with its domestic policy as well.”

Gelinas-Faucher said it is likely Myanmar will raise the Canadian genocide finding in legal arguments that would seek to block Canada from gaining standing in the case. He said that could further brake the already slow-moving wheels of the international court and delay the case for as much as a year.

In June 2019, the landmark Canadian report on the victimizing of Indigenous women issued more than 200 recommendations and declared that violence against First Nations, Metis and Inuit women and girls was a form of genocide as that the crisis was “centuries in the making.”

Champagne said in an interview that he’s not concerned about Canada’s position on Indigenous issues at home, and that he is content to let “legal experts debate legal issues.”

“This is not about Canada. This is about genocide committed in Myanmar, and therefore I think Canada has every right to be standing side by side with a country like The Gambia, which is taking the leadership position and being supported by countries like the Netherlands and Canada,” Champagne said.

Another leading international legal expert said Canada has little to worry about, and that it should be joining the case against Myanmar.

Errol Mendes, a University of Ottawa international law specialist who has served as a United Nations adviser, said there is much to distinguish Canada from Myanmar on the question of genocide.

“I hope our many attempts to reconcile with our Indigenous Peoples will set us apart from the type of actions in Myanmar that we have not seen since the Nazi regime, the Rwanda genocide and the Bosnian genocide,” said Mendes.

“We are far from angels, but hopefully we are not in the same league of those that were involved in these genocides.”

Canada also brings a lot of international expertise to the case because it helped create the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court, said Mendes.

“We helped develop the Statute of the Court that includes express provisions on gender violence and rape as indicia of genocide,” said Mendes, which he said is relevant in the case against Myanmar at the separate International Court of Justice because of the allegations of sexual violence against its military.

Gelinas-Faucher said Canada’s feminist foreign policy does leave it well-suited to add value to the case against Myanmar. But the government will have to take concrete action to address the domestic genocide allegations contained in last year’s inquiry report.

“It has to show clearly its commitment to implement fully the recommendations and one of the elements is they said they would create a task force to implement these recommendations, which we haven’t seen yet,” he said.

Champagne said Canada is consulting with Gambia and believes its feminist foreign policy has a role to play in the case.

“We’ve seen acts of genocide, systemic murder, sexual violence, torture,” the minister said. “The international community is more seized now than ever with the plight of the Rohingya.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

IndigenousMyanmar

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Don Devenney is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as Community Builder of the year. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
West Shore volunteer’s efforts an exercise in adventurous pursuits

Don Devenney is the 2021 recipient of the Community Builder Award

Sergeant Francis Dion with the box containing HMCS Calgary’s new secret mascot costume. (HMCSNCSMCalgary/Facebook)
The value of new construction in North Saanich topped $52.1 million in 2020 (Peninsula News Review)
Value of new construction in North Saanich topped $52.1 million in 2020

New figures also show 25 per cent increase in number of new secondary suites

This rendering shows plans for the new “flyover”overpass connecting northbound traffic on Highway 17 heading west on Keating Cross Road. Plans currently seeking public input propose two options for the median along Keating Cross Road. Option 1 will prevent left turns onto Tamany Drive and Buena Vista Road. Option 2 (seen here)will allow for left turns onto Tamany Drive and Bujena Vista Road. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Public asked for comment on proposed overpass for Pat Bay in Central Saanich

New flyover overpass proposed for Highway 17 and Keating Cross Road

A wind warning is in effect for Greater Victoria Thursday afternoon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Strong winds predicted for Greater Victoria

Environment Canada issues warning for Thursday afternoon

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools is preparing a rapid response team proposal for submission to the B.C. Ministry of Education. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district chosen as COVID-19 rapid response team

Team to consist of SD68 and Island Health staff, according to B.C. Ministry of Education

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

Most Read