Parliament has officially revoked Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary Canadian citizenship after the Senate voted on Tuesday to strip Myanmar’s de facto leader of the honour in light of the United Nations finding that Myanmar’s military leaders should face charges of genocide.
The unanimous approval of Tuesday’s motion took place on the Senate’s first sitting day after the House of Commons passed the same motion last week. Both chambers have now unanimously decided to reverse Parliament’s 2007 decision to grant the citizenship. At that time, Ms. Suu Kyi was praised internationally as a champion of democracy and was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1991.
The head of the Nobel Foundation told Reuters last week that while some of Ms. Suu Kyi’s actions are “regrettable,” her prize will not be withdrawn.
Independent Senator Ratna Omidvar, who introduced Tuesday’s motion, said Ms. Suu Kyi’s silence in the face of the refugee crisis created by Myanmar’s campaign of violence against the Rohingya ethnic minority must be condemned.
“History teaches us, when people in power are silent, that silence is tantamount to complicity,” Ms. Omidvar said after the Senate vote. “It’s important to send this message with one voice from both Houses of Parliament, so that the nation knows we’re all speaking with one voice.”
Because the granting of honorary citizenship was an act of Parliament, the government appears to be of the view that Parliament also has the authority to revoke the honorary citizenship and no further action is required.
Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in an e-mail that the government agrees with Parliament’s decision and considers the citizenship revoked.
“Our government supported this motion in response to [Ms. Suu Kyi’s] continued failure to speak out against the genocide of the Rohingya, a crime being committed by the military with which she shares power,” he said. “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.”
More than 700,000 Rohingya people fled Myanmar starting in mid-August of 2017 in response to what the Myanmar military said was a counterinsurgency operation. However, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the situation as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
An independent fact-finding mission found evidence of crimes that included murder, rape and torture.
That mission, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council, concluded in a report that Ms. Suu Kyi, “has not used her de facto position as Head of Government, nor her moral authority, to stem or prevent the unfolding events in Rakhine State.”
Conservative Senator Salma Ataullahjan, who has been raising concerns about the Rohingya in the Senate and through special hearings on the topic by the Senate’s human rights committee, said the revoking of citizenship should bring attention to the humanitarian needs of the refugees.
“I wish we had done it sooner,” she said after Tuesday’s vote. “It’s good because we recognize that we think she’s complicit in what’s happening. I think that message is very good. But I’m hoping also that the government will continue to support the Rohingya Muslims.”