Canada urged to impose sanctions against Belarusian officials

    One of the Edmonton protestors stands behind “My Cell” which represents how protestors are packed into cells by Belarusian police. The chains represent the physical dimensions of the cell while the shoes represent the people packed into them. In fact, they did not have enough spare shoes to go around as there are sometimes up to 50 people crammed in them Photo: Marco Levytsky

    Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.

    Participants and opposition MPs at a rally to support Belarusian democracy activists called upon the Government of Canada to impose sanctions on officials involved in repression and torture, September 3.

    “When (Belarusian dictator Alyaksandr) Lukashenka rigged the elections in 2006 Prime Minister (Steven) Harper imposed sanctions. When Lukashenko rigged the elections in 2010, Prime Minister Harper kept those sanctions in place and strengthened them. We call on the Trudeau government to do the same,” said Michael Cooper Conservative MP for St. Albert – Edmonton

    “It’s in Justin Trudeau’s hands. He could impose sanctions. Email Justin Trudeau. Every one of you. Every last one. Copy me. We are on your side. And force his hand. Tell Justin Trudeau to impose sanctions and that is the way that this will get resolved,” echoed his colleague Kerry Diotte, MP for Edmonton Griesbach and member of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group (CUPFG).

    Cooper also stated that on August 9 “hundreds of hundreds of Belarusians said: ‘Enough is enough. We’re taking to the streets because we’re not going to take it anymore. We want our country back. We want our freedom back and we want Lukashenka gone.’ It is absolutely essential – now more than ever – in the face of the systematic campaign of arrests, torture, rape and murder that Canada sends a clear message – that as the people of Belarus fight for their fundamental freedoms that Canada stands with them.”

    New Democrat Heather McPherson, MP for Edmonton Strathcona and Vice Chair of the CUPFG added her voice, stating: “The NDP does not accept the results of the election and stands with the people of Belarus in their calls for a free and fair election and democratic reform… And the NDP condemns the crackdown on peaceful protestors and join with those calling for an end to police brutality and the release of political prisoners… The NDP support calls for sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations, and want Canada to work with other nations to support and strengthen the democratic process in Belarus.”

    About 60 people attended the rally held at the Alberta Legislature. This time members of the Belarusian community were joined by members of the Ukrainian and Hong Kong communities with their respective flags. In the case of the Hong Kong representatives, they carried the Blue Ensign which was the flag used from 1959 when Hong Kong received its coat of arms until 1997 when the British returned the city to China. Democracy activists in Hong Kong have adopted that flag as their standard.

    “The protests in Hong Kong have been happening since last year and we can see there are so many similarities between what is happening in Belarus and Hong Kong. We should say no to dictatorships all over the world. Dictatorships should not be allowed to function in the 21st century,” one of the Hong Kong participants told New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

    MC Anastacia Morozova also read out a letter from Yvan Baker, Liberal MP for Etobicoke Centre and Chair of the CUPFG, who noted that on September 1, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne spoke again with Opposition Leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, and they discussed the options Canada is considering to stand with the people of Belarus and ensure human rights are upheld.

    “I call on the authoritarian Lukashenka regime to immediately cease persecution and violence directed against demonstrators, opposition leaders and media. The international community cannot recognize the results of the fraudulent August 9 election, and the highest consideration should be given to implementing targeted sanctions against those who are responsible for committing human rights violations in Belarus.

    “For those of us who draw our origins from states that endured and survived decades of tyrannical communist rule, the attack on the democratic rights of the Belarusian people cannot be allowed to stand. All those peoples who suffered terribly behind the Iron Curtain and, indeed, all Canadians stand in solidarity with the Belarusian people and their right to a free and democratic Belarus,” he added.

    In her own address, Morozova related stories of the torture protestors are subjected to in Lukashenka’s jails.

    “The punishers beat young females on their bellies so that they could not bear children in the future. They raped them with batons.

    “Males were beaten on their groins. The punishers pushed batons in their anus and were beating them with their feet making them go further inside.

    “The emergency room doctors could not keep their emotions in check as they have never encountered so many people with such brutal injuries in their whole practice: females with torn uterus, males with torn rectums and smashed testicles, extensive hematomas in all parts of bodies, injuries of the internal organs, broken spines, brain injuries, smashed face bones and many more,” she said.

    “Canada has already shown its support to the people of Belarus by openly recognizing the Belarusian elections as fraudulent and Lukashenka’s presidency as illegitimate. We appreciate it. Thank you.

    “Yet, we ask that Canada continue to take a firm position on the situation in Belarus and call on the Canadian Government:

    • To demand that Belarusian officials free all political prisoners;
    • To demand that a proper investigation is conducted into the atrocities committed on the streets of Belarus and in Belarusian detention centres and jails.
    • To demand that Belarusian officials must immediately stop repressions against workers of companies who joined the nation-wide strike, and towards any citizen that is openly opposed to the Lukashenka regime.
    • To demand that Lukashenka resign immediately.
    • As a member-state of the United Nations, to initiate and refer the case against Lukashenka and his regime to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
    • Together with its allies to adopt the Magnitsky Act against Lukashenka and his regime.
    • To prevent Russia’s military/police interference in the conflict between Belarusian society and Lukashenka regime.

    “The European Union is already working on sanctions. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia imposed travel bans on President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and 29 other Belarusian officials on Monday.

    “We are asking our Canadian Members of Parliament to create an all-party working group to move these actions forward,” she added.