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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 offering humanitarian aid, such as in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

In the context of democratic reforms, 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. Although Canada has consistently condemned these events, it maintains representation and a diplomatic presence in Myanmar.

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, working mainly through the UN, civil society organizations, champions of democratization and human rights defenders.

Canada has developed a coordinated strategy to respond to the Rohingya crisis and the political, security, humanitarian and economic crises that followed the military coup in 2021.

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

Canada does not provide any international assistance to the military regime.

Federalism, inclusive governance, and peacebuilding

Despite recent setbacks, Canada strongly supports an inclusive democratic future for the people of 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. Recognizing the importance of the political dialogue in any peace process, and the uneven distribution of both political and economic power as the underpinning motivation of some parties to the ongoing conflicts, Canada has taken a leading role in advancing an understanding of federalism and continues to promote a peaceful return to Myanmar’s democracy in line with the aspirations of the Myanmar people, including through dialogue and peace processes.

Health, including sexual and reproductive health and rights and COVID-19

Critical gaps in sexual and reproductive health and rights 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, 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 civil society organizations to provide health care services for 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. These services include sexual and reproductive health and rights services, especially for vulnerable women and in conflict-affected areas in the country, support services to sexual and gender-based violence survivors, and COVID-19 prevention and treatment services.

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 $39 million in gender-responsive humanitarian assistance funding to help address the needs of crisis-affected people in Myanmar, including the Rohingya.

Canada's humanitarian assistance programming takes the impact of the crisis on the needs and rights of women and girls into consideration and supports programming that integrates those needs into multi-sectoral humanitarian programming. 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 supports legitimate business activities of Canadian companies in Myanmar that adhere to the principles of responsible business conduct and comply with relevant requirements set out in Canadian legislation. 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 2020, bilateral merchandise trade amounted to $227.9 million. Canadian merchandise imports from Myanmar reached $174.9 million, with exports valued at $53.0 million. Canada's imports from Myanmar consisted largely of woven and knitted apparel, footwear, articles of leather, and plastics; while Canada's primary exports to Myanmar were motor vehicles, cereals, fertilizers, and food residues. 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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