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432-00137 (Foreign affairs)

Paper petition

Original language of petition: English

PETITION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA

WHEREAS:

  • The August 9, 2020, presidential election of Belarus was denounced by international monitors as neither free nor fair.
  • Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko claimed re-election to a sixth term in office, with fraudulent electoral results crediting him 80% of the vote, while Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya also announced victory, citing at least 60% of the vote, and called on Lukashenko to transfer power.
  • Mrs. Tsikhanouskaya, whose husband Siarhei is currently imprisoned by the Lukashenko regime, has been forced into exile for her personal safety and that of their children.
  • To counter Lukashenko's electoral fraud, Belarusian citizens have engaged in widespread, long-term peaceful protests, which have been met with severe police brutality.
  • Over 10,000 people were detained in the first weeks of post-election protests, a figure that continues to rise as daily detentions escalate; and lawyers have been barred from seeing their clients.
  • The members of the Coordination Council, the body created to facilitate national dialogue, a path to a second election, and peaceful power transition, have been detained or forced into exile.
  • The United Nations reports 450 documented cases of torture, calls on Belarus to cease torturing protesters, and calls on authorities to prevent enforced disappearances.
  • The people of Belarus fight in a struggle for their national freedom against a hostile regime intent on recreating the Iron Curtain, the outcome of which will have significant implications to democracy globally.
  • Canada rejects the fraudulent Belarusian presidential vote results and calls for free and fair elections.
  • Canada stands with the peaceful protesters and condemns the state's use of violence.
  • Donald Tusk, President of the European People's Party, Prime Minister Poland 2007-2014, President of the European Council in 2014-2019, advocates for the EU's Nobel Peace Price nomination to go to Siarhei and Svitlana Tsikhanouskaya.

THEREFORE:

We, the undersigned citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to support a free and democratic future for the people of Belarus through:

  • Calling for the immediate resignation of illegitimate President Lukashenko;
  • Calling for an immediate free and open second presidential election, presided over by international observers;
  • Calling for the cessation of political persecution, and release of all political prisoners in Belarus;
  • Calling for a full investigation into and prosecution of all those involved in use of force against peaceful protesters;
  • Introducing personalized sanctions against those involved in electoral fraud;
  • Enacting the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) on foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights;
  • Calling for the referral of the actions of the Lukashenko regime to International Criminal Court for investigation;
  • Supporting democratic movements in Belarus and abroad by acceptable means;
  • Calling for Russia to end interference in internal Belarusian affairs;
  • Nominating Mr. and Mrs. Tsikhanouskaya for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Response by the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne

The Government of Canada is a longstanding advocate for the promotion and protection of human rights and this is an integral part of Canadian foreign policy. The systematic nature and scale of violations by the Belarusian authorities following the August 9, 2020, presidential elections are deeply disturbing and troubling. Canada does not recognize the results of the fraudulent elections and declared that Alexander Lukashenko lacks the legitimacy to be the leader of Belarus. The Government of Canada continues to be alarmed by the Government of Belarus’ blatant disregard for basic democratic principles and fundamental human rights, including credible allegations of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), torture and cruel treatment perpetrated against individuals who have been arbitrarily detained. The violent crackdown on peaceful protestors, expulsion of opposition members, and targeting of independent journalists are an affront to the freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression, and opinion. These actions by the Government of Belarus are not only highly reprehensible but they are inconsistent with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and UN Convention on Torture.

Canada has been strongly engaged in response to events in Belarus since the beginning of the crisis and has repeatedly sent firm messages to the Government of Belarus that its actions are unacceptable. The Government of Canada worked with likeminded partners including the EU, U.K., and the U.S, to address the situation.

Canada engages partners on steps aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the political impasse in Belarus. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has coordinated with his counterparts, had multiple calls with opposition leader Ms. Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, as well as registered Canada’s concerns directly with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus, Vladimir Makei. On October 16, 2020, the Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Vilnius to meet with the Foreign Ministers of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia to reinforce common support for the people of Belarus. While there, the Minister of Foreign Affairs also met with Ms. Tsikhanouskaya.

Canada has also been active in multilateral bodies and has made several statements on the human rights situation in Belarus, which has included urging the Government of Belarus to release all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained.

For example, on August 18, 2020, Canada co-sponsored a UN Security Council (UNSC) Arria-formula meeting on human rights in Belarus with nine other Member States. In his intervention to the UNSC and other invited participants, Canada’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN called for dialogue between the Belarusian authorities and members of the opposition movement. On October 26, 2020, in an Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, Canada raised serious concerns about the use of SGBV, torture and impunity in the country.

At the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in September 2020, Canada’s Permanent Mission to the UN presented a Canadian-led joint statement alongside 30 signatories to condemn internet shutdowns. In November 2020, as part of Belarus’ Universal Periodic Review at the UNHRC, Canada also made public strong recommendations to Belarus on human rights, one of which specifically called on the Government of Belarus to investigate promptly and impartially all allegations of torture and other cruel treatment.

Furthermore, Canada continues its human rights advocacy at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), where as a participating State, Belarus has made commitments to human rights and democracy. In September 2020, Canada with 16 other participating States pressed to invoke the Moscow Mechanism to establish a fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of human rights violations. The resulting report, made public on November 5, 2020, confirmed serious violations under Lukashenko’s regime. Canada called on Belarus to take heed of the report’s recommendations and again called for a cessation of violence against peaceful protestors and opponents. Canada also advocates for dialogue mediation through the OSCE, offered by current and incoming Chairs, Albania and Sweden.

Canada strongly believes that media freedom remains an important part of democratic societies. On September 24, 2020, Canada and the U.K. co-led a joint statement from the Media Freedom Coalition’s Executive Group, expressing alarm over the crackdown on journalists and other media workers in Belarus. Collectively, the Executive Group called on Belarus to guarantee media freedom and for accountability on those responsible for limiting the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The current situation of media freedom in Belarus was also addressed at the Global Conference for Media Freedom, which Canada hosted on November 16, 2020.

On September 29, 2020, Canada and the U.K. were the first countries to sanction Alexander Lukashenko, following his holding of a secret inauguration for himself. All together, the Government of Canada has announced three rounds of sanctions against 55 Belarusian officials under the Special Economic Measures Act for gross and systematic human rights violations. These actions have been taking in close coordination with the EU, U.K., and the U.S. The imposition of sanctions demonstrates Canada’s strong commitment to human rights and democracy in Belarus and to the dignity of its people. This coordinated action with partner countries reinforces the assertion that violence and acts which undermine democracy will not be tolerated by the international community.

Canada stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus and supports their democratic aspirations. On September 23, 2020, Canada announced $600,000 of funding to support Belarusian civil society, with a focus on bolstering independent media and women’s leadership. The Government of Canada continues to engage with potential programming partners on how Canada’s assistance can best support democratic governance and democratic actors.

Canada recognizes the future of Belarus should reflect the will of its citizens. To this end, the Government of Canada will continue to closely consult with the Belarusian opposition and civil society in order to support their work, engage with the diaspora in Canada and abroad, and call on all countries, including Russia, to refrain from foreign interference in Belarus.

The Government of Canada will continue to closely monitor developments in Belarus, raise its concerns regarding the human rights situation, and pursue diplomatic efforts with its partners to bring about positive change in Belarus.

Presented to the House of Commons
Brad Vis (Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon)
October 21, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00137)
Government response tabled
December 4, 2020
Photo - Brad Vis
Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon
Conservative Caucus
British Columbia

Only validated signatures are counted towards the total number of signatures.

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