Canada Strips Aung San Suu Kyi of Honorary Citizenship

In response to the horrific accounts of the genocide in Myanmar which has resulted in the displacement of more than 700,000 Rohingya people, Canada has voted to strip Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of her honorary citizenship; accusing her of being “an accomplice of genocide.”

Read more: What You Need to Know About the Rohingya Genocide

On Tuesday, the nation’s Senate voted unanimously to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of the honour awarded to her in 2007, making her the first person to have her Canadian citizenship revoked.

Canada has awarded honorary citizenship to only five others, and the list includes anti-Apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela, and Pakistani female education activist, Malala Yousafzai.

The motion was tabled by Independent Senator, Ratna Omidvar, who referred to the revocation as “an appropriate message to send to her, Myanmar and to the world,” before stating that “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.”

Read more: ICC Can Prosecute Myanmar for Human Rights Abuses

Conservative Senator Raynell Andreychuk’s statement mirrored Omidvar’s; he said that the revocation was a necessary reaction to a breach of Canada’s honour. 

Aung San Suu Kyi is no stranger to losing awards; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum rescinded the Elie Wiesel Award given to her in 2012, while the Freedom of Oxford City award was removed due to Suu Kyi’s “inaction” amidst the genocide occurring in her country. The Freedom of Glasgow award was also dropped for similar reasons. 

Dublin musician and anti-poverty activist, Bob Geldof, has stated that he wishes to return his Freedom of the City of Dublin award that he shares with Suu Kyi as he can no longer hold the honour with her. In a statement from December 2017, Geldof revealed that he does not “wish to be associated in any way with an individual currently engaged in the mass ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people of North West Burma.”

St Hugh’s College at Oxford University, where Suu Kyi was a student, voted to remove her name from the junior common room for her “inability to condemn the mass murder, gang rape and severe human rights abuses in the Rakhine.” In addition, St Hugh’s College also removed Suu Kyi’s portrait from its main entrance.

These are just some of the institutions and organisations that have revoked awards bestowed on the former political prisoner. 

However, while there has been a worldwide call to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of arguably the most prestigious human rights award, the Nobel Peace Prize, it has since been revealed that it is not possible.

Although 400,000 people around the world signed The Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Berit Reiss-Andersen, revealed that “it is not practically possible, it is against our statutes. We select a winner because that person or organisation has done something at the time that the prize is being awarded. That is what we can be held accountable for.”

Though, many human rights activists have vowed that they will not cease campaigning until Aung San Suu Kyi has been stripped of the prestigious award. 

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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