Baird Opens New Canadian Chancery in Burma

August 8, 2014 - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony to inaugurate the Canadian embassy’s new chancery in Yangon, Burma.

Starting today, the Canadian embassy will be offering consular services, and these modern offices will also play a role in strengthening relations between Canada and Burma, particularly with respect to the promotion of human rights.

As part of the ceremony, Baird announced that Canada will provide new funding to local organizations to promote freedom of expression, peace efforts and democracy and the rights of sexual minorities.

U Thant Kyaw, Burma’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mark McDowell, Canada’s ambassador to Burma, also took part in the ceremony.

“Today is a historic landmark in the relations between our two countries,” said Baird. “The official opening of this embassy is literally a concrete expression of the importance that we attach to our renewed relationship with this country.

“Canada has opened its embassy in Yangon today as part of our desire to play a more active role in continuing Burma’s transformation.

“Our engagement brings to bear diplomacy, trade and development, and I look forward to seeing progress in these areas.”

For more information on Baird’s visit to Asia, please consult Baird to Travel to East Asia to Talk Security and Prosperity.

A backgrounder follows.

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Beyond Ceasefires Initiative

The Government of Canada will contribute $50,000 to the Beyond Ceasefires Initiative, a project which supports both the Government of Burma and ethnic groups. This contribution is symbolic of Canada’s desire to aid the government and ethnic groups in moving from ceasefires to lasting peace.

The project will be implemented as a series of symposiums, public expert interactions, private meetings and related activities designed to bring outside experience and expertise to the Burma peace process.

This initiative will also contribute to stimulating an informed public debate on issues central to the peace process and will contribute to longer-term, sustainable peace in Burma.

Open Myanmar Initiative

The Government of Canada will contribute $50,000 to the Open Myanmar Initiative (OMI), which promotes the right to information, engages citizens in the parliamentary process and supports former political prisoners.

OMI’s e-government initiative will make information on Burma’s parliament and parliamentarians more accessible to citizens through mobile applications in the lead-up to the 2015 elections.

The initiative will contribute to increasing civic awareness and government accountability and will play a role in preparing the next generation of Burmese leaders for their civic duties.

Conflict Sensitive Media Monitoring and Peace Writing Contest Project

The Government of Canada will also be contributing $10,000 to support PEN Myanmar in its work both to promote freedom of expression and to make citizens more aware of speech that can incite intolerance.

This project will help PEN Myanmar to monitor the newly free media and draw attention to any instances in which the media exacerbates tension and conflict; this is in order to counter hate speech and promote unbiased reporting. It will also help PEN Myanmar to conduct public education sessions to raise awareness among the Burmese people on the importance of critical analysis and how to approach a newly free media.

Support for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights

The Government of Canada will continue to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Burma by providing $10,000 to Equality Myanmar and Colours Myanmar to fund a series of public education and legal awareness events this year.

These organizations continue to raise awareness among the Burmese regarding human rights for all members of society, including the LGBT community.