1st Session, 42nd Parliament
Volume 150, Issue 232
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
Motion to Revoke the Honorary Citizenship Bestowed on Aung San Suu Kyi Adopted
Hon. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): Honourable senators, I rise today to deliver remarks on behalf of our colleague Senator Jaffer who wanted to add her voice to this motion.
Honourable senators, I rise to speak on the motion to revoke the honorary citizenship bestowed to Aung San Suu Kyi on October 17, 2007.
I would like to thank my colleague Senator Omidvar for her tireless work and leadership to take this motion to the Senate.
As the first woman to receive an honorary Canadian citizenship, Ms. Suu Kyi was hailed for many years as a heroine of the human rights community. Most notably, she endured years under house arrest for her activism in promoting democracy under a violent military dictatorship. However, the Myanmar leader has failed to condemn the military campaign that has driven more than 700,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Ms. Suu Kyi has failed to stand up for what she claims her values are. In 2007, when Ms. Suu Kyi accepted her Nobel Peace Prize that she won in 1991 while under house arrest, she stated:
Ultimately our aim should be to create a world free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless, a world of which each and every corner is a true sanctuary where the inhabitants will have the freedom and the capacity to live in peace.
Why is it, then, honourable senators, that Ms. Suu Kyi is so hesitant to speak directly to the Rohingya and their right to citizenship in their native land? Why has Ms. Suu Kyi done nothing to foster peace and create justice for the Myanmar Rohingya? Is it not the injustices that the Rohingya are currently facing that Ms. Suu Kyi fought against when she was under arrest? We all fought hard for her to be released, and now she is silent.
Ms. Suu Kyi’s failure to recognize her power and ability to stop the mass genocide that proliferates throughout Myanmar is an affront to her commitment to human rights and democratic values. I was a very ardent supporter of Ms. Suu Kyi when she received honorary Canadian citizenship and then a Nobel Peace Prize. I believed that she would change the lives of Myanmar. It is unforgivable that Ms. Suu Kyi never lived up to her own promises. An honorary Canadian citizenship is a very special privilege that our country bestows upon people who help humanity, not destroy it.
Section (a) of the motion before you says we must:
(a) endorse the findings of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar that crimes against humanity have been committed by the Myanmar military against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities . . . .
When I first started to write and speak against the persecution of Rohingya in early 2014, they were called “The world’s most forgotten people.” It is an unfortunate reality that this title remains.
When I hear that Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader in her country, refuses to speak out against the atrocities in her country, I think of Rajuma. Rajuma is a young Rohingya woman who faced a situation so horrific that it is simply incomprehensible.
Rajuma and hundreds of women stood in a river, held at gunpoint, and were ordered not to move. Chest high in water, clutching her baby son while her village in Myanmar burned down behind her, the soldiers advanced towards her slowly:
“You,” the soldiers said, pointing at her.
She squeezed her baby even tighter.
In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. She was then dragged into a house and gang-raped.
By the time the day was over, she was running through a field naked and covered in blood. Alone, she had lost her son, her mother, her two sisters and her younger brother, all wiped out in front of her eyes . . . .
Rajuma is a Rohingya Muslim, one of the most persecuted ethnic groups on Earth. She now spends her days drifting through a refugee camp in Bangladesh in a daze.
Rajuma’s story is just one of the countless examples of the Rohingya men and women who have senselessly suffered under a dictatorial regime.
Honourable senators, revoking Aung San Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship is a necessary first step in our effort to denounce the mass genocide that has happened under her nose. However, revoking her citizenship is merely a symbolic reaction to her inability to speak out against the atrocities happening in her country. It is not a long-term solution in our effort to solve the Rohingya crisis. It does not put the Rohingya on a path to reconciliation and reconstruction in Myanmar.
Honourable senators, I urge you to adopt this motion and to push our Canadian government to do more to help the Rohingya people. We must act like leaders. That’s what leadership is all about. The time to act is now.