Amid Burmese refugees in Canada voicing concerns over their country’s peace process, Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau has announced $8.8 million in support for humanitarian assistance and the advancement of peace and stability in Burma.
The announcement came as Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visited Canada, meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau on Wednesday in Ottawa.
A statement released on the prime minister’s website said the financial contributions “will help protect human rights, support peace building, and promote women’s participation in the national peace process.”
“They will also support a range of life-saving services, including emergency food assistance, shelter and health care, to vulnerable populations,” read the statement.
Canada’s Prime Minister said in the statement, “Canada’s ties with Myanmar grow every day, and we are committed to supporting this country as its people progress towards true peace and stability.”
“We encourage an inclusive peace process that respects human rights and meets the needs of all people in Myanmar, especially those of traditionally vulnerable populations, including ethnic and religious minorities, women and children,” he was quoted as saying.
Burma’s State Counselor and Canada’s Prime Minister also discussed the political transition in Burma and the Canadian government’s support of ongoing reforms.
The Prime Minster encouraged Burma to speed up its efforts to “uphold human rights, particularly with respect to women, youth, and protecting ethnic and religious minorities, including the Rohingya.”
The prime minister also expressed condolences for the tragic loss of life after a Burma Army plane, carrying more than 100 people including servicemen and their families, crashed near Dawei on Wednesday.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi also joined a federalism study workshop on Wednesday with leaders of Burma’s ethnic armed organizations. Ethnic leaders from Karen, Shan, Chin and Pa-O armed groups are currently visiting Canada on a federalism study tour.
On Monday, ethnic Karen refugees in Canada released an open letter on the arrival of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, raising their concern over the ongoing militarization in Karen State despite a bilateral ceasefire agreement that was signed between the Karen National Union (KNU) and the previous government.
Slone Phan, chairman of the Karen Community of Canada, told The Irrawaddy: “We are concerned about human rights abuses, land confiscation, mega-projects, and militarization in ethnic areas. We want to tell the Canadian government to encourage Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out for human rights, to stop conflict and withdraw her troops [Burma Army] in Karen and other ethnic states.”
He also urged the state counselor to sincerely cooperate with ethnic leaders for national reconciliation and a new constitution that reflects a genuine democratic federal union in Burma.
Canada and Burma established diplomatic ties when Burma gained independence from the British in 1948. Canada has disbursed more than US$95 million to Burma in official development assistance since 2013, according to the prime minister’s website.