Marco Levytsky, National Affairs Editor.
Belarusian democracy supporters across Canada rallied over several days earlier this month to mark the first anniversary of the fraudulent elections which brought dictator Alyaksandr Lukashenka back to power on August 9, 2020.
The Belarusian Canadian Alliance (BCA) has asked Canadian officials to respond to this crisis with new measures to bring Belarusians targeted by the regime to Canada through preferential emigration, work and study programs.
“Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarus Olympian who made international headlines last weekend, brought to the spotlight the feelings many experiences in Belarus,” says Alena Liavonchanka, head of the Belarusian Canadian Alliance, a non–profit organization that represents Canada’s Belarusian diaspora.
“There’s a deep fear that no one can be safe at home or even abroad, that any dissent, any form of criticism of the regime can lead to imprisonment. For example, faculty and students who participated in the protests not only lose their jobs and academic careers but are forced to leave the country for the fear of going to jail.”
“As the regime’s repressive machine continues to scale up, Belarusian Canadians ask Canada to create specific programs to assist Belarusians facing state persecution in relocating to safe destinations. While Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine have become the main safe havens for Belarusians fleeing persecution, Canada should open up more doors for them.
“Belarusians who’ve chosen to come to Canada over the decades demonstrated a strong track record of becoming productive members of our society, contributing strongly to Canada’s economy and rich cultural diversity,” says Liavonchanka. Programs to bring the victims of repression to Canada should include special work, study and humanitarian visa arrangements, according to the BCA.
Over the past year, the BCA has continuously advocated on behalf of Belarusians repressed by the dictatorship. Speaking with the Canadian Parliamentarians for Democracy in Belarus, a newly formed parliamentary group led by the Members of Parliament James Bezan and Yvan Baker, BCA leaders updated them on the urgent situations where the regime’s political opponents and their families require urgent support.
In addition, Belarusian Canadians working in close collaboration with the leaders of the Belarusian democratic forces across the world call on Canada and the rest of the international community to launch tougher economic sanctions against the regime.
“Violence inside the country and the violations of international norms outside its borders exemplified by a recent hijack of a Ryanair flight to arrest a dissident journalist aboard or kidnapping an Olympic athlete in Tokyo require fast coordinated action from the world proportionate to the threat. We applaud Canada for initiating earlier sanctions against Belarusian officials implicated in the violations of human rights and we also ask Canadians to supplement these measures with broader sectorial sanctions targeting specific industries that fund the dictatorship. Such industries include potash, petrochemicals, steel, wood products, banking and tobacco, among others,” stated the BCA’s press release.
About a dozen people attended a rally on August 6, while in Toronto 40 people participated in a demonstration at Queen’s Park, August 8. About a dozen gathered in Calgary August 8 while another 20 attended the demonstration in Edmonton that same day. They were joined by members of the Cuban community.
“It’s been a year since the last election in Belarus when Lukashenka illegally became president but was not recognised by the majority of the world. Belarus has changed since then dramatically,” said Marina Mosk, one of the organizers.
“The people of Belarus are still struggling and fighting for their stolen votes, for a free and democratic country. Mass repressions, terror, humiliation, violation of human rights are the words to characterize Belarus now. Nevertheless, the Belarusian nation has been awakened and continues to realize all the horror of the authoritarian regime. Recent regime actions beginning from the Ryanair plane hijacking, continuing with the scandal at the Olympics and helping Iraqi migrants in crossing the border of Belarus with Lithuania draw lots of worldwide attention and show the entire world what the Lukashenko regime really is. We call on all democratic countries, including Canada, to help to stop repressions in Belarus, free all political prisoners, impose tougher sanctions on the regime as well as recognize Lukashenko as an international terrorist,” she added.
On August 13, 20 people gathered in Vancouver and initiated a petition to block Lukashenka’s access to the Belarusian IMF-SDR Account. (See below) for the text.
Over the past year, leading opposition figures have been jailed or forced to leave the country. More than 35,000 people have been arrested, with thousands beaten by police and 562 currently held as political prisoners. A recent “mopping–up operation” against civil society, following a sweeping crackdown on independent media, led to the closure of dozens of non–governmental organizations, from those campaigning for political prisoners’ rights to the organizations helping medics in the fight against coronavirus. July alone saw more than 200 raids of offices and apartments of activists and journalists.
“Despite these massive challenges, Belarusians continue to spearhead a pro–democracy movement that may shape the future of the region, and Canadian support is critical during this transformative time,” stated the BCA.
Belarusian Canadians ask for termination of Belarus SDR account: Petition Letter to the Canadian Government Representative at IMF
TO: The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of Canada
RE: UPCOMING IMF FUNDING FOR BELARUS
We, the Belarusian Canadians and friends of the Belarusian People, residing all across Canada, are writing to you in connection with the would like to draw your attention and the attention of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) upcoming SDR issuance by the International Monetary Fund and Belarus’s share in it.
We’d like to draw your attention to the fact that current Belarus government lacks legitimacy, dictator Lukashenko lost presidential elections in August 2020 and is now holding power by force while engaging in continuing acts of terrorism towards citizens of Belarus, EU and NATO countries and crimes against humanity.
The Government of Canada does not recognize Lukashenko as legitimate: between August 2020 and now had issued a number of official statements supporting its position, and had recently joined the US, UK and EU -led sanctions against the regime. Similarly, the majority of the IMF members do not recognize Lukashenko’s government.
Therefore, we politely insist that Lukashenko’s government access to Belarus’ account in the IMF’s SDR department has to be terminated.
We respectfully draw your attention to the fact that the IMF has already used such practices toward governments not recognized by its members. The IMF refused to consider Nicolás Maduro’s request for $5 billion to deal with the coronavirus pandemic because the international community does not recognize his government. Similarly, Maduro’s government will not have access to Venezuela’s share of the upcoming allocation.
The situation with the Belarusian government is the same as with Nicolás Maduro’s government of Venezuela. Thirty-six IMF members did not accept the results of the Belarusian presidential election. Four members have been questioning the legitimacy of the election.
The forty countries that have not recognized the legitimacy of Lukashenka comprise 2,829,935 IMF votes which are equal to 56.2% of the total. The 19 countries that officially accepted the election result have under 13% of the IMF votes. Consequently, there is no clarity and consent of IMF members regarding the issue of who is Belarus’ president.
Section 1 of the Article V of the Articles of Agreement, the IMF interacts with its members “only through its Treasury, central bank, stabilization fund, or other similar fiscal agency, and the IMF shall deal only with or through the same agencies.” According to Belarusian law, these agencies are the National Bank and the Ministry of Finance.
Lukashenko claims that those are headed, respectively, by Pavel Kallaur and Yury Seliverstau, but their terms have already ended. Furthermore, as stated above, Lukashenko lacks the legitimacy and any and all authority recognized by the IMF to appoint or prolong the terms of ministers.
Consequently, any communication from Lukashenko’s envoys to the IMF cannot be treated as from legitimate Belarusian fiscal agencies. The names of these illegal “fiscal officials’’ should be removed from the list of the IMF Governors and be replaced with a “Vacant” reference, as it was done in the case of Nicolás Maduro’s representatives.
In light of the foregoing, we respectfully ask you to vote to terminate the access of the Lukashenko government to Belarus’s account in the SDR department and Belarus’ share of the upcoming SDR allocation. Belarus’ share should be frozen, just like Venezuela’s, and be kept on the IMF books with further transfer to Belarus’s internationally recognized government – when such appears.
In August 2020 Lukashenko lost the presidential elections to Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya, yet still claimed victory through ballot rigging and fraud [this is thoroughly documented]. The ensued nationwide peaceful protests were brutally suppressed by his government authorities. Between 2020 and 2021 over 40,000 Belarus citizens fell victims to unlawful detentions, arrests, torture, made-up criminal charges and subsequent false imprisonment, and job loss due to their political opinion. As of today, there are 631 officially recognized political prisoners, whereas the real number is estimated to be closer to 8,000 people. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights is currently investigating post-election violence and had already issued a preliminary report documenting facts of hundreds of cases of torture by the hands of the regime.
We call on the IMF to take action to firmly prevent Lukashenko’s terrorist government from further endangering the lives and freedoms of Belarus people.
We call on you as the Official Representative of the Government of Canada within IMF, and our Ministry of Finance to: VOTE TO TERMINATE THE ACCESS OF THE LUKASHENKO GOVERNMENT TO BELARUS’ ACCOUNT IN THE SDR DEPARTMENT AT IMF AND “FREEZE” BELARUS’S SHARE OF THE UPCOMING SDR ALLOCATION.
We encourage Canada to show that it remains committed to the People of Belarus and democratic principles with concrete action.
Belarusian Canadians and friends of the Belarusian People