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e-2829 (Foreign affairs)

E-petition
Initiated by Siarhei Mazgavoi from Nepean, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

Whereas:
  • The August 9, 2020, Presidential election in Belarus became one of the dirtiest rigged elections;
  • Dictator Lukashenko’s regime brutally suppressed the ensuing nationwide peaceful protests with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons, and stun grenades; and
  • The repression resulted in over 7,000 unlawful detentions, four confirmed deaths (one caused by use of fire arms), and 89 cases of missing people.
We, the undersigned, Canadians and permanent residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:
1. Demand that Belarusian officials free all political prisoners;
2. Demand that dictator Lukashenko resign immediately;
3. Demand that a proper investigation be conducted into the atrocities committed in the streets and in Belarusian detention centres (violent beatings, torture, rape, denial of medical care);
4. Demand that Belarusian officials immediately stop repression against any individuals and organizations that started industrial action, and against any citizens opposed to the Lukashenko regime;
5. Adopt the Magnitsky Act for Belarus that would include all persons involved in the repression, abductions, torture, murders, dismissals, threats of removal of children from families, as well as the persons involved in falsifying the 2020 election results;
6. Appeal to the UN Security Council to refer Lukashenko and his regime to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity;
7. Support the democratic movement and its activists within Belarus by all acceptable means, and support the democratic initiatives of Belarusians abroad; and
8. Prevent Russia’s interference in the conflict between Belarusian society and the Lukashenko regime.

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.

Open for signature
September 15, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
October 15, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Chandra Arya (Nepean)
October 26, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00158)
Government response tabled
December 9, 2020
Photo - Chandra Arya
Nepean
Liberal Caucus
Ontario
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