I think Canadians can be very proud both of the action we took in 1988 under the Mulroney government and of the action of Mr. Chrétien's government in 1997 to strengthen the sanctions. We do have the toughest sanctions in the world; I even had to give myself an exemption to be able to hand Aung San Suu Kyi her framed citizenship certificate, the sanctions are so tough.
I can tell you that last year we took the decision to exchange ambassadors to begin diplomatic relations. I don't think we could have appreciated that the situation would change this much in such a short period of time. I met my counterpart last July for the first time at the ASEAN post-ministerial forum, and I could never have imagined that in eight or nine months we'd see such a change.
Clearly, there are obviously big fights within the government in supporting reform and in supporting going in the right direction, versus those who don't want to see change. I think we have to support the reformers. I think we don't really have much of a choice, but I think the president has steered the country down a different path, as has the foreign minister, as has their Speaker of the Lower House, as has the minister for rail.
But as for the proof, while they've done a lot of good things, the big test will be the elections on April 1: are they free, fair, and transparent? We're not going to change any sanctions until we see the results of those byelections. I had a very good meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and that was her strong advice. I strongly agree that it's the right thing to do. Having said that, I'll say that this is not a country with a history of anything like western-style liberal democracy. They will not be perfect. We should understand that. The question is, on balance, can we say they were decent? If they are, we're certainly prepared to review our sanctions and to begin to lift them if they continue to go in the right direction.
I have also offered to Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition groups that Canada would be very pleased to provide support in democratic development. We'd be very pleased to provide support to new members of Parliament who get elected. There's a new Parliament. It doesn't have a long history there, and I think anything we can do to support democratic development would be appreciated. That might involve bringing some of their members of Parliament here or sending experts in democratic development or members of Parliament there to provide them with support. She was very grateful for that.