Trudeau says Parliament could review Aung San Suu Kyi's honorary citizenship

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Parliament could consider revoking honorary Canadian citizenship from Aung San Suu Kyi, but believes such a move would do little to ease the humanitarian crisis enveloping the Rohingya people.

Stripping Myanmar leader of honour would do little to ease humanitarian crisis of Rohingya, PM says

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar's commander-in-chief, shakes hands with Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. MPs passed a motion Thursday to strip Suu Kyi of her honorary Canadian citizenship. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Parliament could consider revoking honorary Canadian citizenship from Aung San Suu Kyi, but believes such a move would do little to ease the humanitarian crisis enveloping the Rohingya people.

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 the country's de facto leader failed in her duty to protect her own citizens.

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations in New York, Trudeau was asked if Suu Kyi should be stripped of her honorary citizenship in light of the developments.

"I think that's one of the questions that certainly Parliament can reflect on. It was Parliament that granted her honorary citizenship and that's a conversation we could certainly have," he said. 

At the U-N general assembly, Prime Minister Trudeau was asked if Myanmar's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was deserving of her honorary citizenship. 0:47

"Let's be very clear: The hundreds of thousands, indeed millions, of people affected by this Rohingya crisis, by this genocide, whether or not Aung San Suu Kyi has Canadian citizenship or not, honorary or not, makes no difference in solving this crisis. Canada is entirely focused on solutions that will move forward to protect these citizens, these individuals, to support them, to put an end to this ongoing humanitarian crisis," Trudeau said.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya are believed dead and more than 700,000 Rohingya have been forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh, where they are living in squalid and overcrowded refugee camps.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel said she would be disappointed if the honorary citizenship removal was the only concrete action by the government.

"It's a symbolic gesture, and I want to be clear, I'm not opposed to that. But if we're just going to stand in the House and talk about her citizenship, how does that reflect the fact that for many of these people, one of the core issues they have is that they are, for all intents and purposes, stateless."

Last week, MPs from all parties unanimously adopted a motion condemning the acts of the Myanmar military against Rohingya Muslims as an act of genocide.

The UN 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."

"Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law," it read. 

The report also condemns Suu Kyi for failing to use her power or moral authority to stem or prevent the unfolding events and meet 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.

There are growing calls to strip Suu Kyi of her honorary citizenship. In Canada, honorary citizenships are not conferred by the prime minister or the cabinet of the day, but a vote in Parliament. Similarly, it would take such a vote to strip one. 

Fareed Khan, a spokesman for the Rohingya Human Rights Network, called it "totally incongruous" that she holds the honour along with Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama and the Aga Khan, while being complicit in genocide.

"It's like giving the key to the city to a mass murderer," he told CBC News.