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

OTTAWA — 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.”

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

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Employee at Bethany CollegeSide in Red Deer tests positive for COVID-19

An employee at a Red Deer continuing care facility has tested positive… Continue reading

The Government of Alberta has identified 1,828 new cases and 15 new COVID-19-related deaths, which brings the provincial death toll to 590. (File photo)
Alberta identifies 1,828 new COVID-19 cases on Friday

Central zone has 1,251 active cases

Higher sales of cannabis helped Canadian farmers come out in the green. (Black Press Media File)
Drumheller RCMP lay charge for unlawfully distributing cannabis

A joint forces investigation involving the AGLC investigation team partnered with Drumheller… Continue reading

Three weapons have been seized and four people are facing charges following a police operation in central Alberta. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
RCMP, Lacombe Police seize loaded guns, arrest four people

Four people have been arrested and multiple prohibited firearms are off the… Continue reading

The Salvation Army's 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign includes a new $5 tap feature for pandemic-friendly donations. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Salvation Army officers safe, touchless options for Kettle donation this year

The Salvation Army in Red Deer needs help. Kettle donations are needed… Continue reading

Dan Cochrane, senior pastor at CrossRoads Church. Contributed photo
CrossRoads Church closes its doors for two weeks after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

CrossRoads Church made the decision to cancel in-house services for two weeks… Continue reading

Montreal Alouettes' Michael Sam is set to make his pro football debut as he warms up before the first half of a CFL game against the Ottawa Redblacks in Ottawa on Friday, Aug. 7, 2015. Sam became the first publicly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes after being released by St. Louis, but abruptly left after playing one game. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Study finds Canada a “laggard” on homophobia in sports

Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan (3) and Mexico's Jacqueline Ovalle (11) battle for the ball during a CONCACAF women's Olympic qualifying soccer match Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, in Edinburg, Texas. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Delcia Lopez
Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Lyon defender Kadeisha Buchanan named Canadian Women’s Player of the Year

Winnipeg Blue Bombers' Andrew Harris celebrates his touchdown against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats during the first half of the 107th Grey Cup in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. Running back Andrew Harris, who was instrumental in the Winnipeg Blue Bombers ending their Grey Cup drought in 2019, tops the CFL team's list of potential free agents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

Grey Cup MVP, top Canadian Harris among Winnipeg Blue Bombers potential free agents

24Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet (23) goes up for a shot agains the Boston Celtics during the first half of an NBA conference semifinal playoff basketball game in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.. Watching Connor McDavid let a slapshot fly or Fred VanVleet sink a deep three can be a salve to the soul of a sports fan run down by the difficult realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark J. Terrill
Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Bubbles are best: experts say return of sports risky as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Coastal Carolina's Grayson McCall (10) scrambles past Texas State's Nico Ezidore (95) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in San Marcos, Texas, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chuck Burton
BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

BYU presents tough challenge for Chanticleers, Canadian Makonzo this weekend

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, arrives at B.C. Supreme Court to attend a hearing, in Vancouver, on Friday, November 27, 2020. The U.S. Department of Justice is refusing to comment on media reports that its lawyers are seeking a plea deal of sorts with Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

PM won’t confirm reports U.S. Justice Department seeking plea deal with Meng Wanzhou

Alek Minassian is shown in a handout photo from his LinkedIn page. A psychiatrist retained by the defence will testify for a fifth consecutive day today at the trial for the man behind Toronto's van attack. Dr. Alexander Westphal says Alek Minassian does not truly understand the moral wrongfulness of killing 10 people, but says criminal responsibility is a legal opinion, not a psychiatric one. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

‘I know what I did was morally wrong,’ Alek Minassian told psychiatrist, court hears

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

A look at what provinces and territories have said about COVID-19 vaccine plans

Most Read