Canada Suspends Sanctions Against Burma, Helps the Country Build a Brighter Future

April 24, 2012 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today announced that Canada will suspend some sanctions against Burma, which were among the toughest in the world.

“Canada is encouraged by the changes that have taken place in Burma, especially in the last year,” Baird said. “Today’s move signals our support for the reforms championed by the country’s president and demanded by the Burmese people. President Thein Sein and my Burmese foreign minister counterpart and others in power are to be congratulated for staying true to their word; we also applaud democracy champions like the incredible Aung San Suu Kyi for their commitment and involvement in this process.”

“There is more work to be done, but Canada stands ready to support Burma in building a free and prosperous society. The easing of these sanctions will help Burma move in that direction and create jobs, hope and opportunity for the Burmese people.”

Canada has been closely monitoring developments in Burma over the last year, many of which Baird saw evidence of first-hand during his visit to the country in March this year.

Canada welcomed Burma’s release of political prisoners in October 2011 and January 2012. Canada was further encouraged by Burma’s ceasefires forged with some ethnic minorities and the smooth conduct of the April 1 by-elections.

Canada urges those in power to go even further and continue to improve conditions for human rights and democratic development. This would include, among other things, the release of all remaining political prisoners and the halting of all conflict in ethnic-minority areas.

Baird added: “We encourage the authorities to continue their reforms in order to ensure greater openness and freedom for the Burmese people.”

Canada is ready to support Burma’s democratic reform efforts and looks forward to working with the Burmese people as they seek to build a more democratic and peaceful society.

Canada will continue to monitor developments in Burma and will make further changes to its policies as warranted. Canada hopes that these changes will continue to be positive. However, should the situation in Burma deteriorate, Canada stands ready to impose sanctions again.

For more information on Canada’s relations with and sanctions against Burma, please consult Canada’s Policy on Burma and Burma (Also Known as Myanmar).

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A backgrounder follows.

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Backgrounder - Canada Eases Economic Sanctions Against Burma

Changes to the Government of Canada’s unilateral economic sanctions on Burma were announced today. The sanctions—known as the Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations, or the Burma Regulations—were imposed in 2007 in response to human rights violations in that country. These sanctions included comprehensive trade and investment prohibitions, as well as provisions relating to financial services, technical data, transiting and docking of ships and aircraft, and transactions with designated persons and entities.

Since that time, and particularly in the last year, there have been several positive developments with respect to basic rights and reforms in Burma. Hundreds of political prisoners have been released, most notably pro-democracy opposition leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, in November 2010, followed by significant releases of other political prisoners in October 2011 and January 2012. The Burmese government has entered peace negotiations and signed ceasefire agreements with most of the ethnic armed groups in the country. On April 1, 2012, Aung San Suu Kyi, an honorary Canadian citizen, and other members of her party were elected to parliament in a historic by-election that, while not perfect, was largely without the problems of previous elections. Collectively, these are important milestones that are contributing to the palpable sense of optimism amongst the Burmese people.

After his historic visit to the country in March, Minister Baird pledged that Canada would be a leading supporter of Burma’s recent reforms. To that end, Canada is increasing its engagement with Burma and has made changes that ease sanctions against it. Prohibitions on imports, exports and investment have for the most part been removed, as have those related to technical data and financial transactions. However, a few prohibitions remain: trade in arms and related material is still forbidden, along with technical and financial assistance related to military activities. An asset freeze and prohibition on transactions also remain in place against designated individuals and entities. The list of designated persons will be reviewed and updated over the coming weeks in light of changes that have taken place in the Burmese power structure since the list was created.

The Burma Regulations were not the only economic sanctions in place against Burma. In 1997, Burma was added to the Area Control List, requiring that all those wishing to export from Canada to Burma obtain an export permit under the Export and Import Permits Act. As of today, Burma is removed from this list. However, permit requirements for items included on Canada’s Export Control List remain in effect.

By significantly easing its sanctions, the Government of Canada is signalling its support for the reform efforts being undertaken by the Burmese government. These changes to Canada’s sanctions will also allow Canadian non-governmental organizations, businesses and citizens to become more involved in Burma, to share their knowledge and experience, and to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity in Burma and in Canada.

Canada stands with the Burmese people in their hopes for a better, brighter future. Canada will continue to closely monitor the situation and will play a role in assisting the Burmese people with the transition to democracy. On the other hand, Canada stands ready to re-impose sanctions if progress is reversed and the situation in Burma deteriorates once again.