May 2006 Rahim Jaffer, MP, Speech at Burma Watch International AGM

May 23, 2006 BurmaWatch AGM Speech - Rahim Jaffer, MP

Good evening and welcome to the annual general meeting for BurmaWatch International. I'm honoured to be able to take part in tonight's meeting; it's a pleasure to be here to speak with you and to help launch another exciting year for such an important volunteer organization.

Since 1989, BurmaWatch International, based right here in Edmonton, has led an impressive and sustained campaign to raise the profile of significant human rights abuses in the Union of Burma. BurmaWatch members have worked tirelessly to promote wider public awareness of the political, cultural and economic realities of the Burmese people. BurmaWatch International's program to provide health and human rights training for Burmese health workers in risky border regions is just one example of the way this organization continues to provide real assistance in such a difficult part of the world. This is important and valuable work and I'm proud to be here to support your efforts.

Since my election in 1997 I've spent considerable time working for action on a number of global human rights issues:

  • Member of Parliamentary Friends for Burma
  • A long-time associate member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
  • Worked actively with a number of local human rights groups, including BurmaWatch, to host "Freedom 2000" at the UofA
  • Currently working to assist and support the important work of Canadian investigators probing allegations of organ harvesting in China

I have a unique appreciation for the importance of real action and compassion for those suffering at the hands of regimes like the military government currently gripping to power in Rangoon. It's sometimes difficult for people to believe that in the 21st century there could still be dark corners of the world where human beings are forced to live without political freedoms or even the most basic recognition for human rights. As someone who came to Canada as a refugee, I know it's our responsibility to do something tangible to help people suffering and for our government to use it's influence to lead the world to do the same.

For those of us concerned with seeing an end to the suffering and oppression currently taking place in Burma, we will always feel that more needs to be done, but I've been very pleased with our government's commitment to stepping into a leadership position on the world stage:

  • Canada has been in the forefront of support for democratic transition in Burma and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Burma
  • We have in place some of the strongest economic and political measures of any country against the Burmese military government
  • We recently helped facilitate a briefing on the situation in Burma in the UN Security Council and continue to work with the international community to find a solution to this situation.

Beyond standing in opposition to the military government in Rangoon, Canada has also recognized that real help needs to get to people suffering.

  • Since 1991-2, Canada has provided over $18 million in aid to Burmese refugees in neighbouring countries.
  • Canada continues to support peace building initiatives and emergency humanitarian aid.

As you prepare to launch a new year of activities, you should know that you have our support.

It is absolutely necessary for the military government in Burma to take concrete steps to initiate genuine democratic reform and to respect human rights.

Our government recognizes this central fact and will work with our international partners to see that real progress is made.

May 23, 2006 BurmaWatch AGM Question and Answer Session with Rahim Jaffer, MP

Some of the questions following Mr. Jaffer's speech included:

Q: Than Aung raised the issue of Burma Forum Canada. A motion to support resolutions of Burma Forum was made during the spring 2005 parliamentary session but nothing has happened.
A: Mr. Jaffer stated that there was a possibility that a motion could be reintroduced under the new government and action taken. Mr. Jaffer and Mr. Aung arranged to meet the following day to further discuss issues around Burma Forum.

Q: Zohreh Saher asked how best to put pressure on the government to act.
A: Mr Jaffer suggested that Burma Watch write letters to MPs alerting them on the situation in Burma and calling on them to take party in the Parliamentary Friends of Burma.

Q: Cindy Kleinmeyer asked about Canada stance on companies doing Business in Burma.
A: Mr Jaffer stated that the Government will come down heavily on Companies who do business in Burma.

Q: A question was raised regarding China's support for the dictatorship in Burma.
A: Mr Jaffer stated that they [the Canadian government] are raising the issue of Taiwan and Tibet with the Chinese government and can raise the issue of Burma was well.

Date last changed: 2007 October 17

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