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Canada-Myanmar relations

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Bilateral relations

Formal diplomatic relations between Canada and Myanmar were established on August 9, 1958. However, relations became strained after the 1962 military coup and decades of military rule that followed. Canada remained involved throughout this period, in particular by providing varying levels of development and humanitarian assistance, depending on needs.

Canada appointed its first-ever resident ambassador to Myanmar in March 2013. By August 2014, the Embassy of Canada to Myanmar in Yangon officially opened. In August 2015, a visa application centre was opened in Yangon, making it possible for Myanmar citizens to apply for Canadian visas locally.

Diplomatic relations between Canada and Myanmar continued to improve after the 2015 elections in Myanmar in which the National League for Democracy won decisively, seemingly consolidating democratic gains. However, the 2017 attacks and atrocities committed against the Rohingya ethnic minority, precipitating the ongoing Rohingya crisis, and the February 2021 coup, both led by the country’s military, have severely strained bilateral relations with Canada. Canada maintains representation and a diplomatic presence in Myanmar, even though Canada unequivocally condemns the disproportionate attacks against the Rohingya people and the coup in Myanmar, calls on the military regime for an immediate halt to violence, release of all political prisoners, including foreigners, and immediate unhindered humanitarian access.

In 2007, sanctions related to Myanmar were enacted under the Special Economic Measures Act to respond to the human rights situation in that country. Canada has continued to update its robust sanctions regime as needed.  

Learn more about Canada’s response to the Rohingya and Myanmar crises.

Development assistance

Canada's bilateral development assistance program was launched in 2013. Aligned with Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy, Canada's assistance in Myanmar puts women and girls at the centre of efforts to help improve the human dignity, well-being, and rights for vulnerable and marginalized people. Overall, it aims to contribute to a future where diversity, inclusion, human rights and peace and security are respected.

Canada continues to support the most vulnerable and conflict-affected populations in Myanmar, including women and ethnic minorities. Canada does not provide any international assistance to the military regime. However, through the UN, civil society organizations, champions of democratization and human rights defenders, Canada continues to provide international assistance to protect development gains and to help keep people from slipping into poverty. . .

Canada’s first Strategy to Respond to the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh (2018 to 2021) dedicated $300 million to ease the crisis facing Rohingya in Bangladesh and Myanmar, including humanitarian and development assistance, and Peace and Stabilizations Operations programming (PSOPs). On June 20, 2022, World Refugee Day, Canada announced the second phase of its Strategy to respond to the Rohingya and Myanmar crises (2021 to 2024), including 16 new development, and peace, and security projects for Bangladesh and Myanmar.

Learn more about Canada’s strategy to respond to the Rohingya and Myanmar crises and Canada’s humanitarian assistance, including in the aftermath of Cyclone Mocha in 2023.

Search the Project Browser for more on Canada’s international assistance contributions in Myanmar.

Federalism, inclusive governance, and support for civil society

Canada strongly supports the democratic aspirations of the Myanmar people and those who work peacefully to advance an inclusive, democratic future. Canada engages with the range of stakeholders working towards a democratic, peaceful and inclusive Myanmar. Canada is working with individuals, communities, researchers, and journalists to emphasize the importance of gender-sensitive federal design and policies, with gender equality as an integral part of a federalization process. Canada has taken a leading role in advancing an understanding of federalism and supporting human rights defenders, especially women, in their efforts to protect the rights of vulnerable groups and individuals. Canada also supports civil society organizations to foster spaces for women leadership, inclusive dialogue and action, and advance the restoration of democratic rule in Myanmar.

Health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights

Critical gaps in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) exist, including policies that restrict women's and girls' access to family planning, comprehensive sexuality education, basic reproductive health care, and safe abortion and post-abortion care. Pervasive sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), including child, early and forced marriage, also limit women's and girls' abilities to make free and informed decisions about their bodies and sexualities.

Canada works through UN agencies and civil society organizations, including ethnic health organizations (EHOs), to provide gender-responsive health, SRHR, education and nutrition services to vulnerable and crisis-affected populations in Myanmar, and to improve the capacity of service providers to deliver these services in an accountable and environmentally-sustainable way.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls

Women in Myanmar face long-standing and systemically entrenched discrimination, impacting access to quality livelihood opportunities, health services, and political participation. The aftermath of the coup has worsened conditions for women and girls, especially those in ethnic minority communities. Canada supports women’s rights organizations and women-led civil society organizations, helping them to build and strengthen alliances to protect the rights, interests, and economic opportunities of women and girls. Canada also focusses on women’s economic empowerment as well on services in response to sexual and gender-based violence, and other protection needs of vulnerable women and girls.

Humanitarian assistance

Canada's humanitarian assistance is provided on the basis of need and in line with humanitarian principles. Since 2017, Canada has provided more than $65 million in gender-responsive humanitarian assistance to help address the needs of the most vulnerable and crisis-affected people in Myanmar, including the Rohingya people.

Canada supports gender-responsive humanitarian assistance that addresses the specific needs of vulnerable populations, including women and girls. Examples of how this programming in Myanmar has helped meet the needs of women and girls include support for:

This approach is closely aligned with Canada's Feminist International Assistance Policy, including the Action Area sub-policy, A Feminist Approach: Gender Equality in Humanitarian Action.

Trade relations

Canadians and Canadian companies planning to conduct activities in Myanmar are encouraged to familiarize themselves with Canadian sanctions and restrictions, including a trade embargo on arms and related material, as well as on related technical and financial assistance. More details can be found here:

On April 13, 2021, Canada issued an advisory on doing business with Myanmar-related entities. The Government of Canada expects Canadian companies active abroad, in any market or country, to respect human rights, operate lawfully, conduct their activities in a responsible manner and adopt voluntary best practices and internationally respected guidelines. It is recommended that persons engaging in activities involving Myanmar conduct robust due diligence to ensure compliance with Canadian legislation and regulations, including with respect to export controls and sanctions measures, in consultation with private legal counsel as appropriate.

Canada reinstated general preferential tariff and least-developed country tariff status for Myanmar in 2015. Canada's bilateral trade volume with Myanmar has grown in recent years but remains modest. In 2022, bilateral merchandise trade amounted to $220.6 million. Canadian merchandise imports from Myanmar reached $213.3 million, with exports valued at $7.3 million. Canada's imports from Myanmar consisted largely of textile and textile articles, footwear, and articles of leather; while Canada's primary exports to Myanmar were vegetable products, food products and beverages, live animals and animals products, and machinery and appliances. The Myanmar economy is still largely agricultural, though the state-owned energy sector remains the largest source of export revenue. In recent years, prior to the coup, there was a noticeable increase in interest in certain emerging sectors in Myanmar, particularly in the information and communications technology, extractives, infrastructure, aerospace, and education sectors.

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