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e-3039 (Foreign affairs)

Initiated by Rimzy Kuthubdeen from Toronto, Ontario

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • The Government of Sri Lanka mandated an exclusive cremation order on all deceased persons attributed to the COVID-19 virus;
  • This order has been arbitrarily introduced, with no scientific evidence, and is contrary to the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO);
  • Canadians of Sri Lankan origin are raising this concern and are resonating the worldwide outcry against this act of forced cremation.
We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada of Sri Lankan origin, call upon the Government of Canada to communicate via formal channels and request the Sri Lankan government to honour the religious and cultural sentiments of Muslim and Christian minority communities by restoring them the basic human right of burial of victims of COVID-19 within the guidelines of the WHO.

Response by the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Rob Oliphant

The promotion and protection of human rights, democracy and fundamental freedoms are an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy and Canada has long advocated for the global protection of freedom of religion or belief, including the rights of faith and belief minorities. In this regard, Canada has engaged directly with the Government of Sri Lanka to express its concern regarding reports of forced cremation of those deceased from COVID-19, a decision that has disproportionately affected the minority Muslim community.

As member of the Core Group responsible for United Nations Human Rights Council resolutions on Sri Lanka, Canada has consistently expressed concern over the targeting of minorities and marginalization of minority groups in the pandemic response. At the Council’s 44th session (June 2020), the Core Group reiterated that extraordinary measures to tackle COVID-19 should not be used to roll back human rights, including freedom of religion and belief.

At the Council’s 46th session (February-March 2021), Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs highlighted Sri Lanka’s deteriorating human rights situation and Canada’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that Sri Lanka’s forced cremation policy would fuel further divisions. At the Session, through Core Group efforts, the Council adopted a new resolution which advances accountability in Sri Lanka by mandating the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ‘to collect, consolidate, analyse and preserve information and evidence’ of gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The continued reporting and the attention of the UNHRC will assist in monitoring ongoing human rights concerns in the country.

Although Sri Lanka has revoked its policy of forced cremation for those deceased from COVID-19, Canada will monitor the implementation of new burial measures to ensure that the rights of religious minorities are respected, consistent with World Health Organization guidelines. Further, Canada will continue to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to uphold its human rights obligations, end impunity and undertake a comprehensive accountability process for all violations and abuses of human rights.

Open for signature
December 16, 2020, at 2:04 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
February 14, 2021, at 2:04 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Salma Zahid (Scarborough Centre)
February 23, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00542)
Government response tabled
April 12, 2021
Photo - Salma Zahid
Scarborough Centre
Liberal Caucus
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