A petition calling for the Liberal government to revoke Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi‘s honorary Canadian citizenship was presented at Parliament Hill Tuesday.
Gatineau, Que.-based advocate Fareed Khan, who started the online petition in September amid the ongoing persecution of the country’s Rohingya population, unveiled the 2,000-page document in front of politicians such as Liberal MP Alexandra Mendes, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, and NDP MP Charlie Angus.
Khan’s petition takes aim at Suu Kyi, who has been largely silent as Myanmar’s military drives out the marginalized minority from villages.
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“Someone like that cannot hold the honour of an honorary Canadian citizenship,” Khan told Global News told in September. “It diminishes other people who have received the honour.”
Since then, the petition was signed by 43,824 people in a little over one month.
Mendes told Global News the politicians present at Tuesday’s press conference are currently determining whether the petition meets the criteria for being tabled in the House.
“I believe that this issue deserves our constant attention,” she said, adding that she hopes if Canada does withdraw Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship, it influences the Myanmar government’s actions.
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Khan says this proves there is strong support for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take a stand on this issue.
“Canadians and all the people who signed the petition are just wondering why isn’t the government acting,” Khan said. “There’s a genocide going on.”
There were about 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar, who largely lived in Rakine state. The group had long been denied citizenship in the country, which is mainly Buddhist, and had been subjected to the status of illegal immigrants with restrictions on basic services such as medical care and education.
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About 582,000 refugees from Myanmar have poured into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts triggered an army crackdown in response.
The military’s retaliation has been denounced by prominent world figures such as the Dalai Lama and Malala Yousafzai. The United Nations described their tactics as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
Suu Kyi, who was awarded an honorary Canadian citizenship by the Harper government in 2007 for her pursuit of freedom and democracy in Myanmar, said in September that fake news is making the situation sound worse than it is.
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More recently, amid ongoing scrutiny, the leader pledged accountability for human rights abuses, saying the country will accept the return of refugees who can prove they were residents of Myanmar.
“I think that her speech was meaningless,” Khan said about Suu Kyi’s pledge, indicating she has yet to actually help the Rohingya people.
Toronto-based human rights lawyer Mohamed El Rashidy told Global News last month that revoking an honorary Canadian citizenship would be “uncharted territory” — but it all comes down to Trudeau.
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“It would require the prime minister to take steps to strip it. There’s no specific procedure, it just requires political will.”
The decision to revoke the citizenship may not end the violence, but it would send an important message, El Rashidy noted.
COMMENTARY: Canada needs to step up and do more to help the Rohingya
The petition also calls for the Canadian government to take other actions such as “unequivocally condemn the atrocities committed by Myanmar’s military,” and work with international bodies such as the UN to protect Rohingyas.
“Basically we’re asking for Canada to step up and take a leadership role,” Khan said.
While Trudeau has been pressed several times on whether revoking Suu Kyi’s honorary citizenship is a possibility, he has side-stepped the questions.
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The government has been forthcoming more in condemning the country’s actions, and calling for the military to cease clearance operations.
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Ottawa has also pledged millions of dollars in aid for Rohingya refugees, particularly women and children, as part of the government’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.
Global News has reached out to Global Affairs Canada for a comment on the petition and will update the story accordingly.
— With files from Reuters, Global News
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