Canada: Questions Around Rohingya Livelihood

Helal Mohiuddin, Ph.D.

The United Nations (UN) Termed the Rohingyas as ‘the most persecuted ethnic people of Myanmar’. Presently more than one million Rohingyas are sheltered in many cramped camps in Bangladesh.

About 126 NGOs are working to serve relief and survival supports to them. Bangladesh recently sought international cooperation to solve the humanitarian disaster in the region. China and India, two great actors and beneficiaries of the Belt Road projects and ambitious Special Economic Zone (SEZ) project are approached more intimately. Bangladesh and Myanmar officials also had a few strategy dialogues since early 2018. A Joint working Group (JWG) is formed in this regard.

Of International communities, the Canadian government demonstrated the most pioneering role in Rohingy crisis mitigation. Notable of them are sending Hon. Bob Rae to Bangladesh as a Special Envoy of the Prime Minister to Canada and Bangladesh. His on-site investigative report presented plights of the Rohingyas with specific recommendations.

The recommendations were bold, at times much bolder than the previously published Kofi Annan report. Canada lately stripped off Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship; enacted the Magnitsky Law to bar the six top military officials of Myanmar enter Canada; advocated ICC trial, and allocated CAD 300 million to solve the crisis. Winnipeg-based Canadian Museum for Human Rights took down Suu Kyi displays, and declared to display Rohingya genocide evidences from June 2019.

The Bangladesh government is about to move 200,000 Rohingyas to two newly emerged islands. The Rohingyas are unwilling to move there fearing of an impending exile-like future. Nevertheless, the facts indicate that they would have no alternative but comply with Bangladesh government’s plan.

Once 200000 people are moved, they would not only require meeting basic needs, but also a livelihood for sustainable future of the next generation. Worth mentioning is that women and children comprise lion-share of the Rohingya demography.

They are the most vulnerable segment of the population—easy prey to prostitution, human trafficking, organ black-marketing, forced drug-slavery, and rape and repression. The islands are too vulnerable to cyclones and submerging.

Evidences suggest that a sustainable livelihood of the Rohingyas would not be possible in islands unless international communities extend their humanitarian supports toward livelihood development of the Rohingyas in their new-built community settings.

Conflict and Resilience Research Institute Canada (CRRIC)—a Winnipeg-based policy research organization is making every effort to develop a viable livelihood development model for the Rohingyas. CRRIC suggests that Canadian endowments and proceeds should go to monitoring and supporting Rohingya livelihood development initiatives more than mere relief and rehabilitation interventions. (Helal Mohiuddin, Ph.D.:

Research Fellow, St Paul’s College, University of Manitoba)

June: Canada Vanguards Rohingya Humanitarianism, Yet Not Adequately