Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS Deputy Minister for the G7 Summit Peter Boehm poses in this office in Ottawa on Monday. Canada is expanding the focus of the upcoming G7 foreign ministers meeting to include the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh and the democratic backslide in Venezuela.

Rohingya, Venezuela added to Canada’s G7 international security agenda

OTTAWA — Canada is expanding the focus of the upcoming G7 foreign ministers meeting to include the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh and the democratic backslide in Venezuela.

Those items are being added to the “perennial” international security issues the G7 usually confronts, such as Syria, Ukraine and Iran, Peter Boehm, Canada’s chief summit organizer, said Monday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has said Canada wants to use the G7 to leverage the recommendations in the recently completed report by its special envoy Bob Rae, who called for the perpetrators of violence against the Rohingya to be brought to justice.

The Rohingya issue has particular relevance because it dovetails with the summit’s theme of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, Freeland told a recent summit-related event at the University of Toronto.

“It is very important to make the gender perspective a key part of everything that we do, and we talk about,” Freeland said.

“Gender is a central part of so many of the issues that we are grappling with.”

Freeland said she recently hosted a roundtable on the Rohingya violence, where she heard repeated stories of gender-based violence and rape being used as a weapon of war on women and girls fleeing Myanmar.

Such chronic problems are being exacerbated by the fact that many young girls are arriving as orphans at refugee camps in Bangladesh, where they continue to be vulnerable, she said.

A coalition of advocates for the Rohingya crisis — including Rae, former Liberal foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, human rights groups and aid agencies — is calling on Canada to use its G7 presidency to highlight the crisis, which has forced 688,000 Myanmar Rohingyas, mainly women and children, into exile in neighbouring Bangladesh.

Freeland said she also wants to see European voices added to the chorus of international condemnation of Venezuela’s ongoing crackdowns on dissent and democracy.

Canada will be courting the support of the G7’s European members — France, Germany, Britain, Italy and the European Union — to denounced the anti-democratic behaviour of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who was barred from attending last weekend’s Summit of the Americas, she said.

Venezuela is in the midst of a debilitating political and economic crisis that has hobbled the once prosperous country. Maduro is planning a widely derided presidential election that Venezuela’s opposition is boycotting.

Freeland said she wants Venezuela on the G7 agenda because numerous Latin American counterparts have told here that if the EU, in particular, can be brought on board to denounce Maduro, it will help deflate the notion that anti-Venezuela sentiment is simply an American-driven phenomenon.

None of that will displace the ongoing Syrian civil war as a continuing preoccupation for the G7 foreign ministers this weekend, or for its leaders when they gather in June in Quebec’s Charlevoix region, Boehm said.

In a statement Monday, the G7 leaders denounced the use of chemical weapons earlier this month in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta region, and pledged support for the airstrikes Friday by the U.S., France and Britain that targeted Syria’s chemical weapons capability.

“The repeated and morally reprehensible use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in the past has been confirmed by independent international investigators. We condemn this deliberate strategy of terrorizing local populations and forcing them into submission,” said the G7 leaders.

Freeland and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale are hosting their G7 counterparts for three days of meetings in Toronto next week.

Boehm says Goodale and his counterparts will be focusing on cybersecurity and on how to deal with foreign fighters returning from Middle East battlefields in the ongoing war with Islamic militants.

Just Posted

Alberta premier unhappy with Suzuki honorary degree but defends academic freedom

EDMONTON — Premier Rachel Notley says she does not agree with the… Continue reading

Sylvan Lake wants to create year-round tourist season

Public open house and workshops held May 10-12

Historical bylaws show a different Lacombe

Staff combed through records to find hundreds of outdated bylaws still on the books

Gravel companies facing fee increase

Red Deer County considering raising levy charged to gravel companies for road repairs

Excessive dog poop on Blackfalds ball diamonds frustrates town

Melting snow in Blackfalds uncovered ball diamonds full of dog poop, frustrating… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer students get active, healthy

Healthy Active Schools Symposium takes place in schools

Poll: Advocate readers support Trans Mountain pipeline expansion

Red Deer Advocate readers want the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion to be… Continue reading

Celebrate all women this Mother’s Day in Central Alberta

A breakfast fundraiser is scheduled May 12 in Lacombe

Photo: Poplar Ridge Grade 6 class learn about newspapers

Red Deer Advocate editor Crystal Rhyno visited the school on Wednesday

‘The Heat’ doc examines gender barriers for top female chefs

TORONTO — In making a documentary about top female chefs, Toronto filmmaker… Continue reading

Hank Azaria willing to stop voicing Apu on ‘The Simpsons’

NEW YORK — Hank Azaria is ready to stop voicing Kwik-E-Mart owner… Continue reading

US stocks mostly fall in wobbly trading as costs, rates rise

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks are wobbling and trading mostly lower Wednesday… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month