Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has thanked Canada for having “never faltered in its support for the democracy movement in Burma.”
In a statement delivered on Parliament Hill by her sister-in-law, Lucinda Phillips, Suu Kyi said that she is especially grateful to the Canadian government for taking in Burmese refugees.
The totalitarian government that rules Burma—also known as Myanmar—has kept Suu Kyi out of the public eye, either imprisoned or under house arrest, for 15 of the last 21 years. She was released from her latest term of confinement on November 13.
As reported by BBC News and other media outlets, upon being permitted some freedoms, Suu Kyi was greeted by thousands of “jubilant supporters”.
Since then, Suu Kyi has publicly reiterated calls for national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy in Burma.
In 2007, Canada’s Parliament voted unanimously to designate Suu Kyi an honorary Canadian citizen. The award was accepted on her behalf by Sien Win, the leader of Burma’s democratic government in exile.
“I deeply appreciate the award of Honorary Canadian Citizenship, both for myself and because it symbolizes the help that Canada has given my people,” Suu Kyi said in her December 2, 2010, statement.
That same day, federal NDP leader Jack Layton sent a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggesting that the federal government invite Suu Kyi to Canada so that she could accept her honorary citizenship in person.
Suu Kyi’s statement was provided to the Straight by the Canadian Friends of Burma. Its full text appears below.
I deeply appreciate the award of Honorary Canadian Citizenship, both for myself and because it symbolizes the help that Canada has given my people. Canada has never faltered in its support for the democracy movement in Burma for which I am very grateful. I would particularly like to thank the generosity of the government for taking in so many Burmese refugees and the help that they have received when they arrived. A good example of Canadian generosity is the recent donation to the victims of Cyclone Giri in Western Burma which has scarcely impinged on the consciousness of the outside world.
I have always felt a particular closeness to Canada because of my French-Canadian mother-in-law, Josette Vaillancourt who was always proud to be Canadian and always kept her Canadian passport through living in England for over 60 years. I am also aware of the history of the Vailancourt family’s efforts to foster good relations between the peoples of Canada, something that I have always advocated for Burma. Lucinda [sister-in-law] will no doubt explain that part of the family history. Finally I look forward very much to the day that conditions in Burma will allow me to be free to visit Canada myself and thank the Canadian people in person. Thank you very much.
You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.