Contributing Lawyers


Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross


Andrew Hudson

What Does Aung San Suu Kyi's Release Mean Re Canada's Economic Sanctions Against Myanmar

On November 13, 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in Burma (Myanmar). So far, there is no word from Ottawa whether Canada will ease its economic sanctions against Burma to reward the government of Burma for holding elections (I acknowledge that there are serious questions about the election in November 2010) and releasing Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar (Burma) is on Canada's Area Control List, which means that an export permit is required for any exports to Myanmar (even exports of paper clips). Until this past summer, only Myanmar and Belarus were on Canada's Area control List. North Korea was added this year. Please go to the following link to review Canada's Area Control List -

Canada also has imposed very strict economic sanctions pursuant to the Special Economic Measures Act and Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations. For more information about Canada's sanctions against Burma, please review the following Trade Lawyers Blog Post -

Canada's policy on Burma is stated, in part, on the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade website as follows:

Canada is committed to supporting civil society and democratic actors in Burma in their work toward a better future for all Burmese people, both before and after the 2010 elections. Canada urges the regime to live up to its commitment to hold peaceful free and fair elections on November 7, 2010, including by unconditionally releasing all political prisoners (including Aung San Suu Kyi), and engaging in genuine dialogue with members of the democratic opposition and ethnic groups.

Canada’s policy towards Burma is a direct reflection of the severe problems that the military government has created for its people, and the security concerns that the policies of its leadership and the actions of its armed forces pose for the international community. Foremost among these concerns is the mistreatment of the people of Burma, who are deprived of fundamental human rights and denied a voice in the way they are governed.

Given that some of the key steps required by Canada in its stated policy on Burma have been met (acknowledging the imperfect nature of the election), it is time to query whether Canada will take steps to reward and restart a positive relationship with Burma.

I do not think Canada will removed the economic sanctions entirely or immediately --- but, it is possible that if Aung San Suu Kyi is not placed under arrest again for political reasons and there is not a violent crackdown or human rights abuses by the government in the near future, Canada may respond with easing on the sanctions. The first step would likely be the removal of Myanmar from the Area Control List and then a variation of the special economic sanctions. Canada will still carefully control exports of controlled goods to Myanmar and other goods that may be used to harm the people of Myanmar and neighbouring countries.

What the release of Aung San Suu Kyi may mean for Canadian businesses is export opportunities and less bureaucracy for those Canadian humanitarian organizations who are already engaging in good acts in Burma.

Most Canadians are happy to watch and witness today's release of the Noble prize winner and inspiration to many. My personal wish (if Santa is listening) is that Aung San Suu Kyi will be given the opportunity to speak in Canada and inspire men and women. She has an important message of hope, determination and resilience to share. As a woman, she has a story to share with women on how we can inspire and persevere, even when others attempt to shield us from the view of the masses.

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