MPs vote to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi's honorary Canadian citizenship
Published Thursday, September 27, 2018 3:19PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 27, 2018 10:22PM EDT
OTTAWA – Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi made history on Thursday, becoming the first ever person to have MPs unanimously vote to revoke her honorary Canadian citizenship.
In passing the motion from Bloc Quebecois MP Gabriel Ste-Marie, the House of Commons no longer recognizes the title, which has only ever been bestowed upon six people.
Suu Kyi was honoured by Canada in 2012 for her decades-long fight for democracy in Myanmar. She took the nation’s highest office in 2016, although much of the country’s power has remained with the military.
Despite international pressure, Suu Kyi has repeatedly failed to condemn atrocities committed by the military against the Rohingya Muslim population in Rakhine state. At least 10,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed -- a conservative estimate, according to the United Nations -- while more than 700,000 have been forced to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. The UN has called the situation “textbook ethnic cleansing.” Suu Kyi has said only that it “could have been handled better.”
Alex Neve says Suu Kyi lost any “tiny bit of credibility that she might have had left” earlier this month when she defended the imprisonment of two Reuters journalists sent to prison for violating a state secrets law while reporting on Rohingya deaths.
Raiss Tinmaung, a Rohingya Canadian, told CTV’s Omar Sachedina that he once expected Suu Kyi to improve conditions for the Muslim minority. Instead, he says, she presided over genocide.
“This is a very big deal,” Tinmaung said of the House vote. “And not only as a Rohingya, but also as a Canadian.”
The Commons’ motion was twofold: to reiterate a motion already unanimously agreed to last week in the House of Commons -- which recognized the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as genocide and called for further investigation and sanctions -- and subsequently, that the House should revoke the citizenship bestowed upon Suu Kyi in 2007.
Speaking with reporters in the House of Commons foyer moments after his motion passed, the Joliette, Que. MP said he didn't think it was logical for Suu Kyi to still hold the honorary citizenship given the treatment of people in her country, under her watch. He said he thought it was a positive step from Canada to send the signal internationally that "if you're an accomplice of a genocide, you won’t have the honorary citizenship here."
Ste-Marie said he gave the other parties a heads-up that he would be presenting the motion, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opened the door to the possibility of her citizenship being revoked yesterday.
Speaking at the UN, Trudeau said it’s something MPs could debate.
"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," Trudeau said, though he added that whether or not she has Canadian citizenship, it wouldn't help in solving the crisis.
Trudeau was in the House of Commons when the motion passed.
Conservatives voted in support of the motion. Leader Andrew Scheer told CTV News that “revoking the citizenship is an important symbol but it also needs to have action behind it.”
In a statement, Adam Austen, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that the government supported the motion because of her “continued failure to speak out against the genocide of the Rohingya, a crime being committed by the military with which she shares power.”
“We will continue to support the Rohingya people through humanitarian assistance, targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s generals and by pushing for accountability for those responsible through an appropriate international body,” Austen said.
Because the Senate also granted her the title, Senators would also have to pass a motion to no longer recognize Suu Kyi as an honorary Canadian citizen. The Senate rose not long after the House voted, and is not scheduled to resume until Tuesday. A Senate official speaking on background said that it would be surprising if no senator moved a similar motion, to make it a full parliamentary revocation.
With a report from CTV’s Omar Sachedina