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Canadian Government Strips Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi of Honorary Citizenship

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OTTAWA – Canada’s parliament has unanimously voted to strip Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of her honorary citizenship over her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Thursday’s vote came a week after Canadian MPs approved a motion recognising the crimes committed against the Rohingya as genocide.

Aung San Suu Kyi received the honour from Ottawa in 2007, when she was a democracy advocate under long house arrest. But the Myanmar leader has been under fire for her failure to condemn the military campaign that has driven more than 700,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh in what the UN human rights chief called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Suu Kyi is one of six people who have been granted honorary citizenship by the federal government, and the only one who wasn’t presented with the honour at a ceremony in Canada.

Canadian parliament’s decision to revoke the symbolic honour was due to a “persistent refusal to denounce the Rohingya genocide”, said Adam Austen, spokesman for Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

“We will continue to support the Rohingya by providing humanitarian assistance, imposing sanctions against Myanmar’s generals and demanding that those responsible be held accountable before a competent international body,” said Austen.

MP Gabriel Ste Marie, who proposed the motion, told reporters he thought the vote was “a great symbol”.

Member of Parliament Salma Zahid called Aung San Suu Kyi’s “unwillingness to take any moral leadership … inexcusable, and deeply disappointing”.

Rights organisations have accused Myanmar military of committing extrajudicial killings, gang rape and arson during their bloody campaign launched in August last year after army posts came under attack from Rohingya fighters.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya now live in cramped refugee camps in Bangladesh, fearful of returning home despite a repatriation deal.

Andrew Leslie, Minister Freeland’s parliamentary secretary, said “the machinery of government will chew over the details of what specifically is required to implement” the motion.

Only five other individuals have ever been given honorary citizenship in Canada, including the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai and Nelson Mandela.

Source: Al Jazeera and CBC