REPORTS OF THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARY DELEGATION
Text of the agreed report released to Press by members of Canadian
Delegation, M/s. Lachance, Macquarrie and Brewin
in Ottawa, after their return on July 19, 1971
Following is text of agreed report released to Press by
members of the Canadian Parliamentary Delegation, M/s Lachance,
Macquarrie and Brewin in
Ottawa, after their return on July
Major reason for going to India was to see at first hand plight of East Pakistan refugees who have been moving in such
vast numbers across border into India. It was our belief that immense task
of coping with great influx of people should not be borne by India alone. We return more than every
convinced that humanitarian issue is one of international concern and that
generous effective assistance in looking after these unfortunate millions
should be provided by world community without delay.
While Canadian Government and non-Governmental agencies have
helped it is our fervent hope that a much greater measure of assistance will be
forthcoming. We shall so recommend to our Government, our parties and people
of Canada having seen at first hand immensity
of tragedy and magnitude of problem we could not do otherwise. From our visits
to camps our interviews with refugees and discussions with those bearing
responsibility of caring for these millions of people we developed a high
regard for manner- in which Indian Government is coping with this immense
problem. Considering magnitude of task India's Efforts have indeed been remarkable
and deserving of highest commendation.
Under any circumstances provision of food and shelter for six
million people would be an almost insuperable challenge to any country. Against
background of difficulties created by terrain, weather and general climatic
conditions, problem now faced by India is monumental in its immensity.
One matter very much in dispute was as to whether, flow of
refugees had ceased or whether, as we were told in India, flow continued albeit on a somewhat
On this point all that we are able to say is that near borders
West Bengal, we oursrselves
saw and spoke to people trudging along the road who told us that they had
walked for ten days to get across the border which they had crossed within last
Indians told us that number of refugees who had crossed had
increased, while we were there from 6.4 million to 6.8 million. In West Bengal we toured many individual camps each
with a population of 10,000 to 100,000, larger than many Canadian towns and
cities. To provide on short notice basic necessities, shelter, food, medical
and sanitary services is a strain on the administrative capacity of any
country. While in two busy days in Calcutta and North Bengal regions we saw many camps and
thousands of people, we realise that time permitted
us to view only a small portion of refugee population. Considering extent of
burden upon India's economy, it is not surprising that
her leaders affirm Chat their country cannot for long sustain or retain these
millions of people and that their return to their homeland must be brought
Initially, when number of refugees in India was between one
and two million, -the Indian Government estimated that total
requirement to keep refugees on a minimal standard of existence and shelter for
six months would be 150 million dollars. It was at this time that Canadian
Government pledged an initial amount of two million dollars.
We are now told a revised figure has been prepared and
approved by the authorities. This figure estimates six months expenditure for
now nearly seven million refugees at 400 million dollars.
It is obvious that Canadian and other nations will have to
increase scale of their giving if burden on India is to be relieved. We recommend that Canada should now increase provisional
figure of its commitment to five million dollars.
From our inquiries of many of the refugees it is clear that
the great exodus ,of people was prompted by
fear. We were given many sad and depressing accounts -of violent actions by the
West Pakistani military forces and other groups -many reported their homes
burned, members of their families put to death and other incidents which led
them to flee in terror to sanctuary across Indian border. Although mindful of
dangers of any effort to over-simplify a complex situation it would appear that
unless there is established in East Pakistan an administration which the refugees do not regard with fear
they will not voluntarily return to their homes. It would be unthinkable that India or any other authority should force
them back at gun point. Therefore the political and administrative situation
within Pakistan becomes germane to the situation.
While it has been a long-held contention that a nation's
political structure is an internal matter, the massive outflow of Pakistan
citizens upon the soil of another State gives question an international
dimension which cannot be gainsayed.
Already, some members of world community have sought to put
pressure upon Pakistan to withdraw Martial Law in East Pakistan and to make accommodation with
political party which won such an overwhelming electoral victory in recent
elections. Consideration is also being given to terminating all economic aid to
Pakistan, and as in case of Canada, shipment of arms to Pakistan is being stopped.
Whether these and other such acts of pressure will be
effective is not certain. History records some significant and painful failures
of such techniques of international persuasion.
In India, one is overborne and traumatized by
the magnitude of the sorrow and suffering of so many people. In Pakistan there are also elements of the tragic
which are almost equally painful and depressing. President's call for democratic
elections and a popularly constituted constitution a few months ago, opened great new opportunities for democratic growth,
in Pakistan. By all accounts election was
conducted properly and efficiently with a high degree of popular participation.
That all the bright prospects for democracy throughout Pakistan and of the possibilities of
adjustment of East Pakistan grievances should wither just before fruition is a source of profound
regret to all who wish well to Pakistan.
At present time in aftermath of collapse of planned
constitutional changes there are obviously great strains upon Pakistan economy, not to mention its social
While recognising that recent events
may well prompt reconsideration of question of overall aid programmes
it is not our view that a total cessation of aid to Pakistan by Canada would be an appropriate or useful
response to present situation. Although still affirming that immediate
effective aid to millions of refugees must be our highest priority, we must not
forget the needs of the many East Pak. residents who remain in that troubled
land. The prospects of serious economics problems and food shortages in near
future are serious, enough to prompt us to look with
compassion upon needs of these people. It would seem realistic and commendable
if Canadian aid could be channelled to people of East Pakistan who are victims of existing
situation. Great emphasis has been naturally put on immense tragedy of refugees
who left Pakistan and have gone to West Bengal. This has occupied centre of
attention on world stage. It is our view, however, that a tragedy of comparable
proportions is building up in East Pakistan. Inter Agency Committee of Relief and Rehabilitation Department
of the Government of Pakistan has furnished a report to U.N., dated July 4.
This emphasised that there would be a food gap in East Pakistan in 1971 and 1972 of two million tons.
What was urgently needed was an international commitment of 250 thousand tons
of foodgrains. In addition report urged necessity for
gift of 100 thousand tons of edible oil.
External funds would also be required for medical supplies to
rehabilitate citizens returning from India. One of the most urgent needs is 15
coasters to repair damage to transportation system to enable food to be taken
from ports to where it was needed.
Recently, Senator E. Kennedy released a U.S.A. AID report
following a field study made from June three to June twenty-one in East Bengal which expected serious food shortages
in many areas by August.
As Senator Edward Kennedy said, "Unless emergency
measures are taken immediately, millions of innocent people will die of
hunger." For this reason we recommend an immediate commitment by Canada of substantial sums to meet this need in East Pakistan.
In our discussions with President Yahya
Khan he indicated his readiness to talk at any time or any place with Prime
Minister of India. Believing that consultation is generally preferable to
confrontation, we transmitted President's indication to Indian Government
representatives. It would appear, however, that there is little prospect of
such a meeting. Several Indian officials and Parliamentarians observed that
essential dialogue was not between heads of Government in Pakistan and India but between President Yahya Khan and Leader of Awami
League, Sheikh Mujib.
While in Pakistan we visited a reception centre
established to meet returning refugees. It was our impression that this centre
was well managed with competent persons. Regrettably only a
small trickle of people have returned and comparison with massive flow
which moved outward is all too obvious.
In discussing with President Yahya
Khan the need for creating an atmosphere of trust in refugees as a prerequisite
to their return, he expressed his willingness to have U.N, persons in his
country to assist in establishing such a climate of confidence. We regard this
as a positive factor and one which should be reported to world community.
We return with renewed conviction of need for immediate and
greatly increased action on humanitarian side. We also feel seriousness of
political situation with many potentially explosive possibilities cannot be overemphasised. Throughout our visit we heard of threat of
war between India and Pakistan arising out of disasters which have
occurred in East
movement of refugees to West Bengal. We emphasised wherever we want
that eventually of war could not possibly be a solution and would indeed
aggravate the problems of people of both countries including the refugees.
As observers anxious to find out as much as we could we did
not regard our mission as one of passing judgment. Nor had we or have we any
solution for grim and gripping human tragedy. It is our hope that all nations
will use every means to bring about an amelioration of problems and avoid anything
which would exacerbate an already dangerous situation.
Although it was a strenuous and difficult trip we are glad
that we made it and would like to pay tribute to both Governments of Pakistan
and India for invitations to their countries.
Without exception we were treated with kindness, graciousness and every
consideration and to all those responsible w.- express
our grateful thanks.
recommendations.-(i) We recommend to Canadian people, and specifically
the Canadian Government, that Canadian commitment to "relief of
refugees" be increased immediately from two million to five million
dollars. We call upon Canadian people through their voluntary organisations headed by "Combined Appeal for Pak. Relief"
to give generously.
(ii) We urge the setting aside of substantial funds for
provision of needed supplies of foodgrains, edible
oil and transportation facilities to prevent famine in East Pakistan.
(iii) We ask the Canadian Government, either by itself or in
collaboration with other nations, to bring question to attention of U.N. as
conscience of mankind stressing (a) the right of humanitarian intervention on
behalf of world community and (b) willingness of U.N. to make available
observers to supervise and encourage ... refugees from West Bengal to East Pakistan.
(iv) We urge upon parties concerned namely
Government of Pakistan and representatives of East Pakistan that a political settlement be
reached reflecting clear expression of opinion in election of last December for
greater autonomy and a role in their own affairs.
Source: Bangladesh Documents, Vol
– 1, Page no – 571 - 575