House of Commons
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Diplomatic Relations with Iran
Hon. David Tkachuk: Senator Harder, last week, The Hill Times reported that in mid-October Canadian officials travelled to Iran for the second set of talks with Iranian officials, signalling, the report said, forward momentum in the fraught relationship between the two countries. Indeed, we’re also told that Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at the UN in September and that Global Affairs officials also travelled to Iran in May for discussions. The Hill Times cautioned officials, advocates and former diplomats suggest Canada is still a long way off from re-establishing these ties.
Senator Harder, is it your understanding that Canada has been engaging in talks with Iran towards re-establishing ties?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. The policy of the Government of Canada is to seek to have an appropriate engagement with, in this case, Iran. It is the view of the Government of Canada that such engagement is in Canada’s interest both in terms of defending the values that we bring to these discussions and, frankly, in terms of the consular interests of Canadians who may or be affected in travel to Iran.
As you know, there has been a history of this. Senators will also know that until recently we did have an embassy and diplomatic relations.
While I cannot predict the time frame in which diplomatic relations may be restored, the engagement that Canada is pursuing would have that as an objective.
Senator Tkachuk: Senator Harder, can you confirm that while Canada has been engaging in talks with Iran, the SEMA sanctions against Iran have been in place?
Senator Harder: Again, the engagement that Canada is proceeding with is fully consistent with our policies with regard to both bilateral and multilateral sanctions that we are a party to. The senator will know that many of the countries party to sanctions also have relationships with Iran.
Hon. Claude Carignan: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Early in the year, the Parliament of Canada passed the Genetic Non-Discrimination Act, which was introduced by Senator Cowan and passed unanimously here in the Senate. In the House of Commons, however, it did not pass unanimously. Many MPs voted to support the bill, but most cabinet ministers voted against it. Nevertheless, the bill did pass and received Royal Assent.
A little later, in June of this year, the Government of Quebec announced its intention to refer the matter to the Quebec Court of Appeal to challenge the constitutionality of the act. My question is simple. Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm that the federal government will make representations in this application to the Quebec court in support of the constitutionality of Canadian law?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I will make inquiries as to what the position of the Government of Canada may be in this court application.
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