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Sample letter

to Canadian Government– Sanctions

Honourable Pierre Pettigrew
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs Canada
Lester B. Pearson Bldg., 125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1A OC6

Dear Minister Pettigrew:

We are writing to you out of deep concern for the increasing amount of Canadian commercial activity in Burma. We urge you to consider taking stronger action against this activity, including imposing full economic sanctions. Our reasons are as follows:

The Government of Canada’s current position on Canadian investment in Burma, we understand, is that economic sanctions cannot be imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA). However, we believe the ILO resolution now fully justifies triggering the SEMA. This is because it responds to the Act=s allowance that AThe Governor in Council may, for the purpose of implementing a decision, resolution or recommendation of an international organization of states or association of states, of which Canada is a member, that calls on its members to take economic measures against a foreign state.

The biggest foreign mining venture in Burma, Ivanhoe Mines — registered in the Yukon to take advantage of generous tax incentives provided by the Territory — is in a 50/50 partnership with Burma’s military regime. In research conducted for a report on mining in Burma last year, testimony from Burmese villagers claimed that at least eight villages were forcibly relocated to make way for the Monywa copper mine=s expansion. We find it hard to imagine how this mining project could avoid taking advantage of the nearby infrastructure — such as roads and dams — that have been built with forced labour.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which has been documenting forced labour in Burma for the past decade B and reporting to the ILO — states that “…any commercial or economic links with Burma in effect today helps the junta to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labour.”

Not only are Canadian companies helping to perpetuate the suffering of the people of Burma, but their business goes against the express wishes of Aung San Suu Kyi and her democratically elected party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). As you know, the NLD won over 80% of the seats in the 1990 elections but is still prevented by the junta from taking office. The NLD continues to insist that foreign business largely contributes to propping up the military dictatorship and a small, very privileged elite. Just as the South African anti-apartheid movement called for economic sanctions against their own country, Burma’s democracy movement calls for an end to foreign financial support to a brutal military dictatorship.

The junta’s tight control over the country=s economy makes it impossible to do business in Burma without supporting the military regime and its human rights violations. Foreign companies are steered into joint ventures with companies that are either wholly or partially owned by the military regime. Moreover, Burma’s military junta openly allows profits from the drug trade to be channeled through military-owned companies such as banks and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises.

As you know, the resolution on Burma from this year’s United Nations Commission on Human Rights was consistent with previous statements and those of the UN General Assembly. Once again, the resolution deplored: AThe deterioration of the human rights situation and the continuing pattern of gross and systematic violations of human rights in Myanmar, including extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, inhuman treatment, mass arrests, forced labour, forced relocation and denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement.

In conclusion, we urge you, Mr.Petigrew, to take immediate action to stop Canadian complicity in the suffering of the people of Burma. We would be happy to provide you with more information and its sources, should you require them.



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