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Canada invited Burma’s newly free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to visit to accept honorary citizenship, one of a list of accolades during years under house arrest.
The invitation was extended by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who voiced hope that Suu Kyi would come to Canada at an “appropriate time” but recognized that she was now focused on work inside her country.
“Canada is proud to have stood firmly with Aung San Suu Kyi and those working for Burmese democracy for these many years,” Harper said in a statement inviting her to “personally accept” her honorary citizenship.
Harper asked the regime to “engage in a meaningful, inclusive dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and ethnic leaders to ensure a better future for all Burmese people, in which their fundamental rights are respected and their long-held desire for the restoration of democracy is realized.”
The Canadian parliament in 2007 named Suu Kyi an honorary citizen, a title for foreigners bestowed only on four others: Swedish Holocaust hero Raoul Wallenberg, South Africa’s former president Nelson Mandela, Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the Aga Khan, leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims.
Suu Kyi’s party swept 1990 elections but was never allowed to take power. Instead, she has spent 15 of the ensuing years under house arrest.
She was freed on November 13, but only after the junta conducted new elections widely seen by the opposition and foreign governments as a sham meant to cement the regime’s power.
Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In 2008, the United States awarded Suu Kyi with its highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.
In the past, Suu Kyi has been reluctant to travel overseas for fear of not being allowed to return. She did not travel to England in 1999 when her husband, the British academic Michael Aris, was dying of cancer.
Aris’ mother was Canadian.