Senate votes to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of honorary Canadian citizenship

Aung San Suu Kyi has become first person to be stripped of honorary Canadian citizenship for her role in gross human rights violations against the Rohingya people.

Civilian Myanmar leader faces global condemnation for complicity in Rohingya crisis

Aung San Suu Kyi has become the first person to be stripped of honorary Canadian citizenship. The Senate made it formal by passing a motion to revoke the honour today. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Aung San Suu Kyi has become first person to be stripped of honorary Canadian citizenship for her role in gross human rights violations against the Rohingya people.

The Senate formally revoked today the symbolic honour that had been bestowed on the de facto Myanmar leader in 2007. Senators unanimously adopted a motion tabled by Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar in the red chamber.

Sen. Omidvar called it "an appropriate message to send to her, Myanmar and to the world.

"We need to send a strong signal here in Canada and around the world that if you're an accomplice of a genocide, you are not welcome here. Certainly not as an honorary Canadian citizen.

"Stripping her of her honorary citizenship may not make a tangible difference to her, but it sends an important symbolic message."

MPs unanimously voted to revoke Suu Kyi's honorary citizenship last week, but the Senate vote was necessary to make it official.

A United Nations fact-finding mission recently found the Myanmar military was committing genocide against the minority Muslim population and other ethnic minorities, and that Suu Kyi had failed in her duty to protect her own citizens.

The report names six military commanders in Myanmar who should be investigated for genocide in Rakhine state and crimes against humanity in other areas, calling their actions "shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity."

It also condemns Suu Kyi for failing to use her power or moral authority to stem or prevent the genocide and fulfil her responsibility to protect the civilian population. Instead, civilian authorities have spread false narratives, allowed hate speech to flourish and blocked independent investigations, the report says.

Omidvar said Suu Kyi has been complicit in stripping the citizenship and the security of thousands of Rohingya, leading to mass murder, rape and displacement.

Conservative Sen. Raynell Andreychuk said revoking Suu Kyi's citizenship is necessary because Canadians believe the honour has been breached, and she expects that the government will take further action to respond to the crisis.

About 700,000 Rohingya forced to flee the military crackdown are now living in squalid, overcrowded refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.

The Senate vote reduced the number of living and dead individuals with honorary Canadian citizenship to five:

  • Raoul Wallenberg (1985).
  • Nelson Mandela (2001).
  • Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama (2006).
  • Karim Aga Khan IV, 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims (2009).
  • Malala Yousefzai (2014).

The Canadian Museum of Human Rights had made some changes around Suu Kyi to reflect developments, including updated signage to reflect Parliament's votes to declare the atrocities committed against the Rohingya a genocide and to revoke Suu Kyi's honorary Canadian citizenship.

"We continue to engage our visitors in gallery about the ongoing situation faced by the Rohingya and Suu Kyi's role, including sharing news of the recent vote in the Senate," said spokesman Rorie McLeod. "We have also dimmed the light behind her image on our Human Rights Timeline and are working to replace her image in that exhibit with a member of the Rohingya community."

Nobel Peace Prize intact

Despite the international criticism, Suu Kyi will retain her Nobel Peace Prize

The head of the Nobel Foundation, Lars Heikensten, told Reuters in an interview that while Suu Kyi's actions are "regrettable," her prize will not be withdrawn.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy.