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Global Affairs Canada advisory on doing business with Myanmar-related entities

Introduction

Following a landslide election victory by Myanmar’s National League for Democracy, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar armed forces) initiated a coup on February 1, 2021, arresting senior civilian government leaders and seizing control of the country’s governance. The military has worked rapidly to consolidate power, applied deadly force against peaceful protestors and implemented draconian legal measures to stifle dissent. Its actions have reversed progress made over the last decade toward peace, democracy and respect for human rights and have triggered a barrage of international statements and responses.

Responsible business conduct

The coup presents increased risks for Canadian companies active in the region.

The Government of Canada expects Canadian companies active abroad in any market or country to respect human rights, operate lawfully, conduct their activities in a responsible manner and adopt voluntary best practices and internationally respected guidelines, such as the United Nations Guiding principles on business and human rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. Canada also operates 2 voluntary dispute mechanisms, the National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct and the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. These dispute-settlement mechanisms are robust: not collaborating in good faith could result in a number of consequences, including the withdrawal of trade advocacy support and recommending to Export Development Canada that they decline to provide future financial support to the company.

Although the Government of Canada’s expectations with respect to responsible business practices abroad are not limited to Myanmar, it considers that Canadian companies active in Myanmar may face heightened commercial and reputational risks and should take appropriate action to mitigate risks, particularly in cases that might have ties to Tatmadaw-owned or -connected entities.

Sanctions

Canada first imposed sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) in relation to Myanmar, then called Burma, on December 13, 2007, in response to the human rights and humanitarian situation in the country. The Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations include a dealings ban on listed individuals and entities, as well as an arms embargo, subject to certain exceptions. More information on these measures, including links to the SEMA Myanmar Regulations, is available at Canadian sanctions related to Myanmar. For general information, visit Canadian sanctions.

All persons in Canada and Canadians abroad must comply with Canadian sanctions, including individuals and entities. Contravening sanctions is a criminal offence. Possible violations and offences are investigated and enforced by the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

If you determine that the activity or transaction you wish to carry out is prohibited under Canadian sanctions, you can apply for a permit or certificate. The minister of foreign affairs may issue a permit or certificate to any person in Canada or Canadian outside Canada that will allow them carry out a specified activity or transaction, or any class of activity or transaction, that is restricted or prohibited by Canada’s sanctions. These permits and certificates are issued on an exceptional basis and are decided case by case at the minister's discretion. More information on how to apply is available at Permits and certificates.

Please note that Global Affairs Canada cannot provide legal advice to the public and therefore is unable to provide a preliminary assessment as to whether a particular activity is prohibited under Canada’s sanctions. Sanctions are also subject to change without notice, and we therefore recommend that persons in Canada or Canadians abroad refer to the Canadian sanctions website and consult the relevant regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Export controls

Canada has one of the strongest export control systems in the world, and respect for human rights is enshrined in the country’s export control legislation. All permit applications for controlled items are reviewed within Canada’s robust risk-assessment framework. The framework includes the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) criteria, which are included in the Export and Import Permits Act.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs will not issue a permit in respect of arms, ammunition, implements or munitions of war if, after considering available mitigating measures, they determine there is a substantial risk that exporting the goods or technology would result in any of the negative consequences referred to in the ATT, as well as if it could be used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender based violence or violence against women and children. All export permit applications are also assessed to ensure they are consistent with Canada’s foreign and defence policies.

The Government of Canada evaluates every export permit application on a case-by-case basis to determine what the goods, services or technologies will be used for, where they will be used and who will use them, among other considerations.

Due diligence

The Government of Canada recommends that persons engaging in activities involving Myanmar conduct robust due diligence, including by consulting private legal counsel if appropriate, to ensure their activities comply with Canadian legislation and regulations. The government also advises companies to increase their awareness of the implications of the coup in Myanmar and the potential reputational risks associated with doing business with any affiliate of the Tatmadaw.

The Government of Canada further advises Canadian companies to undertake thorough responsible business conduct due diligence, including closely examining their supply chains to determine whether their activities support military-owned conglomerates or their affiliates. When reviewing supply chains related to Myanmar, businesses should also closely examine potential indicators of illicit revenues or human right abuses.

Further assistance

If you need assistance or advice, please contact the Trade Commissioner Service in Ottawa or in regional offices in Canada, or abroad in embassies, high commissions or consulates.

Questions related to Canada’s sanctions can also be sent to Global Affairs Canada’s Sanctions Policy and Operations Coordination Division at sanctions@international.gc.ca.

Questions related to export controls can be sent to Global Affairs Canada’s Export Controls Policy Division at expctrlpol@international.gc.ca.

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