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

Power outages affected thousands of BC Hydro customers in the north on Jan. 14 (File photo) (File photo)
Power outages affect thousands of BC Hydro customers in northern B.C.

Transmission failure led to outages in Prince Rupert and Port Edward

A Prince Rupert port expansion project received a $25 million investment from the provincial government, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure announced on Jan. 14. Seen here is Ridley Terminals Inc., a coal export terminal in Prince Rupert (Shannon Lough / The Northern View)
$25 million government investment in Prince Rupert port expansion project

Prince Rupert port expansion project expected to create more than 2,200 jobs

For the second time in less than a year, Air Canada announced on Jan. 13 it has suspended flights on the Prince Rupert-Vancouver route as of Jan 17. (Photo by: Jerold Leblanc)
Cessation of flights to YPR will affect the municipal economy and global trade, P.R. Mayor said

Chamber of Commerce said it will aggressively pursue the resumption of flights to Prince Rupert

Air Canada has suspended flights to Prince Rupert Regional Airport due to COVID-19 mitigation, the airline announced on Jan. 13. (Photo:THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
YPR is not immune to plummeted air travel demands – 25 jobs lost

Prince Rupert Regional Airport flight cancellation will levee significant hardship - Rick Leach

Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the press theatre at the B.C. legislature for an update on COVID-19, Jan. 7, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 spread steady with 509 new cases Friday

Hospitalized and critical care cases decline, nine deaths

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Forestry companies in B.C. agree to abide by the cedar protocols based on traditional laws of the First Nation members of the Nanwakolas Council. (Photo courtesy, Nanwakolas Council)
Landmark deal sees B.C. forest firms treat big cedars like a First Nation would

Western Forest Products, Interfor among companies to adapt declaration drafted by Nanwakolas Council

Most Read