House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, after months of pursuing a wrong-headed policy of appeasement towards Iran, the Liberals finally agreed with the Conservative Party to have a more forceful response to the Iranian regime.
It was just last month that Liberal senators defeated Conservative proposed legislation to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist group. Now, I want to know clearly from the Prime Minister, because moments after the vote was held his own officials in the Department of Public Safety refused to acknowledge that this important step of naming the IRGC as a terrorist organization would be kept.
Will the Prime Minister confirm that he will actually follow the will of the House?
Mr. Speaker, we deeply oppose Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, its threat towards Israel, its ballistic missile program, and its support for the murderous Assad regime. We will always defend human rights and hold Iran to account for its actions.
We led a resolution at the UN in November calling on Iran to comply with its international human rights obligations. We continue to maintain sanctions on Iran, which include restrictions on sensitive goods and a list of individuals and entities subject to asset freezes with whom all transactions involving property are prohibited.
Mr. Speaker, last Saturday, in downtown Toronto in what can only be described as a rally intended to incite hatred toward Jews and others, Sheik Shafiq Hudda of the Islamic Humanitarian Service called for the eradication of Israelis, and genocide. Some of his anti-Semitic hate speech aimed at the Jewish community included telling them, “You will leave in body bags.”
Will the Prime Minister condemn these hate-filled anti-Semitic comments?
Mr. Speaker, we always condemn hate-filled anti-Semitic or homophobic or Islamophobic and hate-filled speech of all types across this country. Canada is a welcoming, diverse country of a broad range of views and perspectives, but we do not allow hate speech and we do not allow the incitement of hatred.
We are a country that is built on mutual respect, on openness and compassion, and we reject the politics of division and hate wherever they come from.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister‘s actions speak otherwise. On one hand, he is giving these anti-Semitic religious extremists taxpayers’ dollars to actively promote hatred using funds from the Canada summer jobs program. On the other, he has denied funding to faith groups that want to help those in need.
Why is the Prime Minister allowing certain religious organizations to be funded to promote hatred toward Jews, but saying no to churches that want to help the homeless?
Mr. Speaker, this is not an issue of faith or beliefs.
We can tell they are still Stephen Harper’s Conservatives when they advocate for organizations like the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform to receive public funds, which are then used to attack a woman’s right to choose. We believe that public funds should never be used to actively fight against the rights of Canadians, and we will ensure that no money from the Canada summer jobs program is re-funded to organizations that violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that use hate against other Canadians of any type, whether they be women, Jewish community groups, or LGBTQ—
Order. There is far too much noise.
The hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis.
Mr. Speaker, if that is the case, how come the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is giving funds to the organization that just last weekend called for the eradication of Israelis? Last weekend, Sheik Shafiq Hudda of the Islamic Humanitarian Service made statements that were criminal.
When is the Prime Minister going to take action? Above all, does this pass the Liberal test, or is it illegal? Is he going to take concrete steps to make sure this never happens again?
Mr. Speaker, we unequivocally condemn these statements. Such statements are unacceptable in Canadian society. Our society is open and tolerant, but we do not allow hate speech that incites violence. That is and always has been our position. Canada rejects the politics of division and fear. I will always be opposed.
Notice of Motion to Urge the Government to Cease Diplomatic Relations with Iran
Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, in light of the Government of Canada’s recent significant shift in its foreign policy relating to Iran, which does not reflect the Senate’s recent decision to reject the principles of Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations, including an annual report of Iranian human rights violations, the Senate now:
(a) strongly condemn the current regime in Iran for its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border;
(b) condemn the recent statements made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for genocide against the Jewish people;
(c) call on the government to:
(i) abandon its current plan and immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations;
(ii) demand that the Iranian Regime immediately release all Canadians and Canadian permanent residents who are currently detained in Iran, including Maryam Mombeini, the widow of Professor Kavous Sayed-Emami, and Saeed Malekpour, who has been imprisoned since 2008; and
(iii) immediately designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code of Canada; and
(d) stand with the people of Iran and recognize that they, like all people, have a fundamental right to freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other forms of communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association.
Diplomatic Relations with Iran
Hon. David Tkachuk: Senator Harder, yesterday the other place adopted a motion condemning Iran and demanding, among other things, that the government “. . . abandon its current plan and immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations . . .” and “. . . immediately designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code of Canada . . . .”
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs both voted in favour of the motion.
When Bill S-219 was before the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Global Affairs Canada wrote a letter to the chair of that committee opposing the bill because, in their words, “. . . it is likely Iran would react negatively to the Bill. This negative Iranian reaction could serve to hinder the eventual re-establishment of ‘normal’ diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran.” The letter further stated that Canada is “. . . exploring re-engagement with Iran in a step-by-step manner,” and “that it is through dialogue, not withdrawal and isolation, that it can advance Canada’s interests . . . .”
When you spoke on Bill S-219 in the Senate on May 8, you condemned it using the same language: that it would severely constrain the government’s ability to advance Canada’s interests.
Does the Government of Canada still believe, as it argued so vehemently in opposing Bill S-219, that engagement is still in Canada’s best interests in dealing with Iran?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. He quite rightly references the votes that have taken place in the other chamber, which reflect the view of the government in the following way: With its recent actions, particularly with respect to the consular cases that have been referenced in this chamber, the Government of Iran has displayed a lack of cooperation to which the Government of Canada has reacted by not moving forward with any engagement or re-engagement pending actions by the Government of Iran to resolve those issues that are of great concern to the Government of Canada and all Canadians.
Clearly, until and unless those issues are addressed, the desired outcome of having an engagement cannot proceed.
Senator Tkachuk: Yesterday, a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale cast doubt that the minister and his department would adhere to the will of Parliament, demanding the IRGC be listed as a terrorist entity. That spokesman, Scott Bardsley, said, “Public Safety has taken note of the views Members of Parliament expressed . . . ,” but he stated that the IRGC’s Qods Force is already listed.
Senator Harder: Again, with respect to the listing of certain entities, the ministers responsible will be taking into account the votes that they themselves participated in and ensure the appropriate steps are taken.
Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, my question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It also has to do with the current situation between Canada and Iran.
The abuses committed by the Iranian regime are plentiful and well known. The Iranian regime continues to sponsor terrorism throughout the Middle East, as evidenced in these past recent weeks by support for the violence fuelled by Hamas in Gaza.
The Iranian people continue to have their most basic human rights violated. People are being thrown off rooftops just simply because they are gay or lesbian. Women are arrested by the morality police and beaten to death for not covering their faces in public, actions I’m sure the Trudeau government would agree are appalling.
In light of all these abuses and more, while I thank the Liberal government for finally taking a principled stand on Iran yesterday, one must ask why it took so long.
Senator Harder, why did your government change their policy from that of the previous government, given all we knew of the Iranian regime? Is this government simply blinded by the political gamesmanship of undoing the efforts of previous governments at all costs?
Senator Harder: Thank you for the question. Of course not. The positions of the Government of Canada in respect to engaging countries with whom we have significant differences are motivated by the view that engagement is better than lack of engagement, that multilateralism is better than individual action and, frankly, that diplomacy is better outside of a legislature restricting the ability of a government to engage in diplomatic activities with colleagues, like-minded countries and the like.
I do think the issues that have been raised, particularly in the last number of months — and the Minister of Foreign Affairs has reflected on this — have put to the side any discussions and further engagement until the actions the Government of Canada wishes the Iranian government to take with respect to the consular cases I have referenced have been taken.
Senator Housakos: Government leader, we all agree on dialogue and international diplomacy, but it has been a month now that senators like Senator Tkachuk and Senator Frum have been insisting that the government at least keeping a regime like the Iranian regime in check by setting certain benchmarks.
Given that your government finally seems to see the error of its ways on this particular situation, provided yesterday’s actions were not just for political expediency, are you and your government ready to commit to the effective and meaningful policy of its predecessor; commit to immediate cutting off all diplomatic ties, including halting steps to reopening the Canadian embassy in Iran; and employ the sanctions that were previously employed by the previous government?
Senator Harder: Again, I believe the senator, wilfully or otherwise, is misrepresenting the position of the Government of Canada. The government has undertaken, in concert with multilateral efforts, the extension of sanctions as a result of the behaviour of the Iranian government. The Government of Canada has, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated, set aside the engagement process, which had been under way, in light of the consular cases. The Government of Canada continues to act vigilantly with the appropriate international community on this matter.
I hope this is an issue on which Canadians and parliamentarians can be united. I was pleased to see yesterday that in the other chamber that happened.
Hon. Larry W. Smith (Leader of the Opposition): My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
I will read into the record of the Senate of Canada a Tweet sent last week from Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader. It stated:
Our stance against Israel is the same stance we have always taken. #Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor in the West Asian region that has to be removed and eradicated: it is possible and it will happen.
Statements such as these have become commonplace from the Supreme Leader and the Iranian regime. However, no matter how many times they are said, these words must be denounced in the strongest of terms, with no ambiguity.
Given the government’s support for the motion put forward in the other place by the Conservative opposition, which specifically condemned Khamenei for calling for genocide against the Jewish people, will the government decide to cease its policy of diplomatic re-engagement with Iran?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. I think it has already been asked and answered.
As far as putting on the record Tweets from supreme leaders, we could spend an afternoon on Tweets from other supreme leaders.
Senator Smith: I respect your answer. I would suggest to you that it’s not funny because people are suffering in Iran right now. I think there comes a time when people and governments have to stand up and recognize that if these wrongs continue to be done to a people, is it best for us to talk about bilateralism, multiculturalism? That sounds great when you are talking trade, but we are talking human rights. We’re talking people. I guess I’m asking for your help. Could you communicate the seriousness of this messaging and hopefully give us some feedback? Because, “Wait and see,” doesn’t work. We need to have some action.
Senator Harder: Again, honourable senators, surely the vote in the other chamber reflects the views of the government and the record of the government in respect of that vote. I don’t know what further statements could be stronger.
Again, the Government of Canada seeks a relationship with Iran that reflects and respects human rights, that reflects and respects the well-being of the region, the stability of the region and the responsibilities that Iran has to the international community.
The Government of Canada will continue to express that bilaterally. It will continue to work cooperatively multilaterally, and I think it is stronger for the government to do so when we are all united in that objective.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and is also on Iran.
On May 8, you spoke to the third reading of Bill S-219, the Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran Bill and stated:
. . . the government must respectfully oppose it, for it is the responsibility of the Government of Canada to speak for Canada’s foreign policy intentions.
Yesterday, in the other place, I was pleased to see that the government voted in favour of a Conservative motion on Iran that called upon the government to demand that the Iranian regime immediately release all Canadians who are currently detained in Iran, including Maryam Mombeini, the widow of Professor Seyed-Emami. She has been barred from leaving Iran.
Senator Harder, given this new foreign policy intention, could you please update this chamber on what actions the government will take to secure her release from Iran so that she may finally return home to Canada?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, I thank the honourable senator for his question. Certainly, the intent of his question, the spirit of his question, is to ensure that all steps and appropriate actions are taken to secure the release. As the government has said publicly, it has engaged bilaterally on multiple occasions and multilaterally with like-minded countries on issues of human rights and the well-being of Canadians.
It would be inappropriate for me or for the government, for that matter, to say publicly all of these steps, lest their becoming public undermines our objective. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and all of the officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs are pursuing every avenue possible to deal with the consular issues and the well-being of Canadians who have been referenced in the question.
Senator Patterson: Thank you for that answer. I would like to draw your attention also to the fact that the motion specifically named Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian permanent resident who has been held in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison since 2008.
Could you also update this chamber on whether Mr. Malekpour’s release will now be sought by our government?
Senator Harder: Again, I thank the honourable senator. I want to assure him that it is not now that we as the Government of Canada are engaged in these efforts. It has been for some time, and those efforts are ongoing, and it is not unhelpful, as the government determined yesterday, to have that expressed in the House of Commons.
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