Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Why Canada is sending so many politicians to Myanmar

President Thein Sein of Myanmar visits Thailand in this photo from July.

Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters

Hoping to see real change come from an opening by Myanmar's autocratic regime, Canada is sending the long-isolated country a heap of politicians. For a little while.

A delegation of MPs, political advisers, and officials from organizations including the House of Commons and the Auditor-General's Office will go to Myanmar, formerly called Burma, on Sunday for a week-long trip to talk to reformists there about electoral politics and parliamentary practice.

The idea was proposed by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird last March when he made the first-ever visit by a Canadian foreign minister to Myanmar after the county's president, Thein Sein, took reformist steps, including releasing many political prisoners, and allowing once-jailed opposition leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi to campaign in parliamentary elections.

Story continues below advertisement

"There is very little parliamentary tradition in Burma, and if a functioning legislature and multi-party electoral system are to flourish, there's real value to this type of practical interaction," he said in a statement issued Friday.

There's still a considerable question mark hanging over Myanmar's reforms, however. While western countries have hailed the dramatic change of tune from a military-backed regime that had long been one of the world's most autocratic and isolationist, it's not clear whether Thein Sein's government will press ahead with broader reforms toward full democracy – and if the country's military will let him.

In addition to MPs – Conservatives Stella Ambler and Costas Menegakis, New Democrats Wayne Marston and David Christopherson, and Liberal John McKay – the delegation will include veteran NDP and Liberal political strategists, and representatives of the Parliamentary Centre, the House of Commons, and the Senate.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to