House of Commons
Statements by Members
Mr. Speaker, on May 14, 1948, Israel became an independent nation-state. Born of war, its short history as a state is one of more challenges to its sovereignty than maybe any other in the same time frame. Facing opposition to their very existence, Israelis built a shining light of pluralism, democracy, and freedom in a hostile and conflict-torn region. There are not words strong enough to describe Israel’s resilience. Canada’s Conservatives stand with Israel under attack by Iran.
Israel’s people are innovative and entrepreneurial, pioneers of technological advances that help millions every day. With countless achievements, from mathematics to medicine to cybersecurity, and small but crucial inventions taken for granted, such as the USB flash drive, the world is better because of Israel. Allies must not waver.
At once a young nation-state and a people since the beginning of time, from Eilat to the Golan Heights, and Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, that high tech and holy land always overcomes unimaginable adversity. Israel deserves independence, peace, prosperity, and freedom of belief forever.
Congratulations to Israel on 70 years of independence.
Mr. Speaker, last night, without provocation, the Iranian regime launched a vicious missile attack on Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. It was a gross act of aggression against a steadfast Canadian ally, the only stable democracy in the Middle East. While the Liberals continue to restore relations and lift economic sanctions, the Khamenei regime in Iran continues to spread its human rights violations and to thrust its tentacles of terror across the Middle East.
Will the Liberals stand up for one of our closest allies, Israel, and condemn the unprovoked attacks by the terror-sponsoring regime in Iran?
Mr. Speaker, as a steadfast friend and ally of Israel’s, we certainly condemn Iran’s attack on Israeli military forces and fully support Israel’s right to defend itself against Iranian aggression. We call on Iran to stop any further provocations.
The house debated the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which deals with medical inadmissibility due to excessive demand. The vote will occur on May 22, 2018. Click here to read the entire transcript.
Syria and UN Conference on Disarmament
Mr. Speaker, “It’s like putting a serial rapist in charge of a women’s shelter”. That is how one newspaper described the fact that Syria will chair a UN Conference on Disarmament later this year.
The Syrian regime, with the backing of Iran and Russia, is one of the world’s leading violators of human rights in general and a violator in terms of the use of illegal weapons to violate human rights in particular. What is striking about this situation of the Syrian regime chairing this UN conference is that the UN’s own investigations clearly show the illegal targeting of civilians with illegal chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. The fact that these attacks on civilians with chemical weapons have happened at all is a grave challenge to the credibility of the international system, so I am glad that there was a punitive response taken by our allies. The UN’s investigative bodies have identified this and pointed the finger at Syria, yet at the same time, the UN is going to welcome Syria to chair the UN Conference on Disarmament, which operates under and reports to the UN General Assembly. The conference will meet starting May 28.
This is a pattern we see in different UN entities. Some of the worst violators of human rights in general, and in particular cases, will seek positions of influence involving human rights at the UN, the particular area where they are violating those rights, in hopes of preventing, or at least dampening, criticism of their own activities. We saw this, for example, with the Saudi government getting a position on the UN women’s rights commission. We should acknowledge that there have been some changes made in Saudi Arabia, but there is a heck of a lot more work to do when it comes to women’s rights and other human rights issues.
At the time, I asked our Minister of Foreign Affairs what I think was a fairly simple question. Did she think it was a good thing or a bad thing that Saudi Arabia was on the UN women’s rights commission? I asked the question multiple times. Her response was to explain some of the context around this election but not to actually answer the specific question.
I know that all members of this House believe that the UN plays an important role in the world, but I want to say to the government that appropriate criticism of that pattern of behaviour, of the way some authoritarian regimes use UN human rights bodies to try to whitewash their own abuses, is the pro-UN thing to do. If one cares about the UN, if one cares about the integrity of international institutions, it is necessary to speak out and criticize and act when we have these kinds of negative outcomes. It is with an eye to reforming and improving the UN to make it better that we should clearly identify when these perverse outcomes happen. Being pro-UN does not mean accepting these kinds of clearly unacceptable aspects of current processes as having to be in place going forward.
I want to ask the government this question again, because I do not think we got a clear answer originally. We heard comments about the situation in Syria in general.
The government had notice of this question, so it knows it is coming. Will it be boycotting this conference, given that Canada in the past has boycotted this conference when it has been chaired by rogue states? Will Canada do the right thing on May 28, and going forward, and boycott a disarmament conference chaired by Syria?
Mr. Speaker, once again I want to thank my hon. colleague for his passion and advocacy for human rights.
Our government is dismayed and appalled that Syria will take on the presidency of the conference on disarmament. We believe that it is inappropriate for Syria to take this presidency. Almost three weeks ago, when the ministers of foreign affairs of the G7 met in Toronto, a conversation on this matter was initiated by our Minister of Foreign Affairs. I will quote the communiqué that came out of the G7 conference. It states, “We deplore the fact that Syria will assume the Presidency of the Conference on Disarmament in May, given its consistent and flagrant disregard of international non-proliferation and disarmament norms and agreements.”
We will continue to publicly denounce this development. We have been calling on the conference to change its rules of procedure to prevent countries which violate their disarmament obligations from holding the rotating presidency. We also call on countries to voluntarily recuse themselves when they know that they have not been upholding their international obligations.
I want to assure the hon. member that our government is seized of this issue and we have been publicly and diplomatically raising it with our allies, like-minded countries, and members of the UN.
I also want to make a distinction. We, of course, know that the UN can work better and we want to see the UN improve and reform itself, but there is a difference between raising cynicism about the institution and constructively contributing to reforming the UN, and that is where I see the difference between me and my colleague.
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives raised this issue not to create cynicism but to point to the reality, and people are going to respond to that reality in different ways. My hope is that this leads to constructive action. Sometimes we have to be tough on international institutions, and that includes a willingness to boycott conferences that are clearly too compromised.
With all due respect to my colleague, he said some things that are worthwhile about the G7 communiqué, but he did not answer the specific question, which is this: If Syria remains in the presidency position, if these reforms do not happen as they are fortunately being sought, will Canada be willing to send a clear statement by boycotting that conference?
Asking Syria to voluntarily recuse itself from this discussion is not a realistic approach. Syria wants to be in this discussion precisely because it wants to view criticism of its own record.
I ask the parliamentary secretary to answer this question: Will Canada be willing to boycott the convention if change does not happen?
Mr. Speaker, I want to remind my colleague of the phrase, “Don’t confuse politeness with weakness”. He defines toughness with being vulgar or belligerent. My definition of toughness is being constructive, clear, and sometimes blunt, but in a constructive way.
As to his question about what we will do, he will understand that we will keep our options open. We are not going to reveal our options until the time comes. For now, we have been very clear about calling on Syria not to take the presidency, asking our allies to support that, and asking the conference to reform itself.
Human Rights in Iran
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise before you today to draw attention to the appalling human rights situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in that country. Last month, Vahid Tizfahm was released from prison after serving a 10-year sentence given to seven Bahá’í leaders jailed on false and baseless charges. Vahid was arrested and imprisoned in 2008 when he was 34 years old. His young son was in third grade and had to spend some of the most important years of his life without his father. Vahid was imprisoned for no other reason than his faith. He was a Bahá’í.
While I am relieved to know that Vahid can return to his family, he returns to a Bahá’í community under increasing pressure by the Iranian government. Despite initial optimism that President Hassan Rouhani would take steps to improve civil rights for all citizens of Iran, the persecution of Bahá’í has become worse under his presidency. Since 2005, more than a thousand Bahá’ís have been arrested — over 300 alone since President Rouhani was first elected.
I am deeply troubled by the Iranian government’s efforts to incite hatred against Bahá’ís. The Iranian government’s tactics of oppression have also begun to focus on what has been called “economic apartheid.” Bahá’ís are not permitted to attend university or work in the public sector. They are denied business licences, work permits and trade membership cards. More recently, several independent sources have repeatedly confirmed that Iranian authorities are directing efforts to persecute the Bahá’ís in Yemen, including statements by influential Yemeni leaders that amount to incitement to genocide.
The Bahá’ís imprisoned in Yemen for their religious beliefs at the behest of the Iranian government must be released. Honourable senators, the response of Bahá’ís in Iran and Yemen has been entirely non-violent, and they have sought to assert their rights to full citizenship through available public and legal channels. However, they require constant support and solidarity from us. Canada continues to lead on a United Nations resolution on the human rights situation in Iran.
We can do more. We can raise our voices individually and collectively to express our support for the Bahá’ís to worship, serve and live peacefully in their communities in Iran. Thank you.
Contacting Members of the House of Commons
Find your Member of Parliament’s contact information here.
Find contact information for Senators here.