Canada's Official Policy
Canada supports democratic reform in Burma while at the same time
it allows Canadian companies to trade and invest in partnership with
this country's military dictatorship.
In 1988, Canada cut off all overseas aid to Burma along with many
other Western countries in condemnation of the August 8, 1988 (8.8.88)
massacre in which the military gunned down thousands of unarmed
pro-democracy demonstrators in the streets.
From 1988 to 1997, Canada imposed various condemnatory measures
against the military regime, but still held that constructive
engagement was the best way to democratize the country. However, after
years of unsuccessful attempts to "constructively engage" Burma's
military rulers, the Canadian government decided in 1997 to introduce
limited punitive measures or Selective
Economic Measures, against Burma.
Limited Measures Ineffective
"Limited" is the
operative word. The more accurate word would be "voluntary". It
means that, unless Burma starts a major war in Southeast Asia, Canadian
companies can do as much business as they want with the country's
And Canadian companies are indeed
taking advantage of this weak policy. Since the measures
were imposed in 1997, imports to Canada from Burma have more than
tripled, now at over $60 million
Telecommunications giant Nortel Networks (which has sold cellular
telephone technology through its subsidiary Telrad, to a regime
which outlaws fax machines), TransCanada Pipelines (which helped build
a controversial gas pipeline whose preparation involved forced
relocations of villagers as well as forced labour), and Ivanhoe Mines
(whose CEO, Robert Friedland, who is wanted by the US Environmental
Protection Agency for past transgressions -
See Mining Campaign) - these are just a
few of the Canadian firms who are doing business with a regime whose
human rights abuses include summary execution, torture, rape and
Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi is the
leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) which won 82% of the
votes in the 1990 elections. She and her party have been urging foreign
countries for years not to do business with the Burmese military regime.
She says "no amount of aid or investment will benefit our people.
Profits from business enterprises will merely go towards enriching a
small, already very privileged elite."
According to the Sunday Times of London,
most countries are taking heed of Suu Kyi's pleas. Foreign investment
in Burma has fallen from US$777.4 million to US $429.5 million in 1999
alone. Unfortunately, Canadian companies are responsible for part of
that $429.5 million.
List of Canadian government's Current Measures
- No bilateral aid since 1988
- No multilateral aid through international financial institutions
- No commercial packages (the only G8 country to do so) or Export Development
- No visas to Junta officials
- No diplomatic presence in Rangoon
- No trade promotions
- No military sales
- Selective Economic Measures: Burma on Area Control List, No General Preferential
the meantime, write your MP and tell them the list isn't long enough.
We need tougher measures! WE NEED FULL ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST BURMA!
(See Sanctions Campaign)
If you would like more information
this issue, please contact CFOB