In its 150 year history, Canada has only awarded honourary citizenship to six people. Four of the six are also Nobel Peace Prize recipients.
It says much to the world about Canada and about these extraordinary people that they have received such honours. But now, one of the recipients actions, or lack of them, threaten to tarnish the images of Canada and her fellow recipients.
For more than two decades Aung San Sui Kyi was recognized internationally for her determined opposition to the military dictatorship in Burma. She suffered almost 20 years of virtual house arrest, separated from her British husband and children. It was for these efforts that she was given the Nobel Peace Prize and awarded her honourary citizenship.
But now this human rights activist has become a human rights abuser as the country of which she is now the de facto leader faces the terror of genocide against the Rohingya people.
The Rohingya are a mainly muslim people from the Rakhine province of Myanmar. They have been a persecuted minority in the mainly Buddhist country since its founding and since 1982 have been denied citizenship and the legal sight to live in the country. But in recent months the Myanmar military has been carrying out a deliberate campaign of terror against the Rohingya, burning villages and killing thousands including women and children. Through it all, Aung San Suu Kyi has stood by, saying nothing and refusing to rein in the military excesses.
Last December, more than 20 fellow Nobel Laureates wrote an “open letter” condemning Aung San Suu Kyi, saying “(she) is the leader and the one with the primary responsibility to lead..” Just this week, several elder Canadian statesmen issued calls for Aung San Suu Kyi to be stripped of both her Nobel Prize and her honourary citizenship.
Their calls are long past due.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister and past president of the Springhill and Area Chamber of Commerce.