House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals’ moral equivalence with Israel and its enemies is notorious, and when they had an opportunity to stand against a one-sided motion against Israel at the United Nations yesterday, and in direct contradiction to votes in the House this week, they did it again. The Liberals directed Canada’s diplomats to sit on their hands, to abstain from standing with the only democracy in the Middle East.
The Liberals always show up for the annual Walk With Israel, as fair-weather friends would. Why did the Liberals refuse to stand with Israel yesterday?
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives continue to make Canada’s long-standing steadfast support for Israel a partisan issue despite being told not to do so. Canada has long been a friend of Israel and we believe that resolutions at the UN should accurately reflect the situation on the ground. That is why Canada supported a U.S. amendment to yesterday’s resolution that would have explicitly referred to the role of Hamas in the situation in Gaza. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and Canada calls on the international community to stand up to Hamas. Hamas must end its incitement of violence against Israel.
Mr. Speaker, let us be eminently clear to the parliamentary secretary. When the Liberals refuse to stand with our allies we will challenge them to do better. That is our job. That is what we were sent here to do. One wonders why they are so bent on getting on the UN Security Council just to abstain once they get there.
The parliamentary secretary and the Prime Minister voted to immediately designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code. That is how they voted, so when will the Liberals follow the will of the House and immediately designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization?
Mr. Speaker, in fact, the IRGC’s Quds Force is already listed as a terrorist entity. That is the branch of the force that, in fact, involves itself in terrorist operations. In addition, Iran is a state sponsor of terror, all listed under the State Immunity Act, and the senior officials of that regime are already subject to special economic measures under the SEMA legislation. The process for listing actually involves an investigation by the RCMP and CSIS and that process will go forward.
Hon. David Tkachuk: Senator Harder, yesterday in the chamber, you explained the sudden 180-degree turn your government made in its policy towards Iran by saying and I quote:
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.
I contrast this in the words from a letter objecting to Bill S-219, and in that letter, the government wrote:
The government believes that it is through dialogue, not withdrawal and isolation, that it can advance Canada’s interests, including consular services to Canadians, . . .
So Senator Harder, which better encapsulates the government’s policy approach to Iran as of this moment? The policy approach described in the words of the letter from the government I just quoted, or the policy approach prescribed by Bill S-219?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. It gives me an opportunity to again reiterate that the government at the highest level and at various levels of consular interventions has sought the release of the Canadians and permanent residents associated with the consular challenges that we are facing.
The lack of progress has certainly led the government to the position it has taken, and that position will be the position of the government until and unless there is movement.
That doesn’t obviate the objective at the right time and in the right conditions of moving forward with an engagement. But that engagement has to be preceded by a more accommodating concern to the interests that have been stated. There is obviously a degree of frustration that we all share on the lack of movement on the consular cases. This gives expression to that.
Senator Tkachuk: The letter that I quoted from the government also said that Bill S-219 would hinder the re-establishment of normal diplomatic relations with Iran because Iran would likely respond negatively to its introduction. Why would the government expect Iran to respond negatively to Bill S-219 but positively to the motion on Tuesday?
Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for his question. Let me say that the circumstances of the consular cases have evolved to a level of unresolved frustration such that the government was comfortable supporting the motion in the other place a couple of days ago, and that reflects the evolving nature and frustration of the lack of progress on the consular cases. It’s not a contradiction; it’s a judgment made after a series of frustrated interventions.
Canada Summer Jobs Program
Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable colleagues, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. At a rally in downtown Toronto on Saturday, Sheikh Shafiq Huda of the Islamic Humanitarian Service called for the eradication of Israelis. His hateful comments are now the subject of a police complaint. The group he represents, the Islamic Humanitarian Service is receiving funding from the Canada Summer Jobs program.
Senator Harder, when I asked you about the Canada Summer Jobs attestation in January, you stated:
It is the expectation of the Government of Canada that organizations supported by the Canada Summer Jobs program respect the rights of individual Canadians, and the processes being put in place are to ensure that happens.
Senator Harder, in light of the funding of this group, how can the government continue to defend its values test? How could you possibly approve and have a group like this receive taxpayers’ money under the Canada Summer Jobs program?
Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for bringing this case to my attention. I will make inquiries of the minister responsible and report back.
Senator Housakos: Government leader, yesterday in the other place, the Prime Minister rightfully condemned the statement made by Mr. Huda and said that they were unacceptable. I completely agree with the Prime Minister and I think you should make that same statement in this chamber. Why then would the Prime Minister not go a step further and state that providing Canada Summer Jobs funding, taxpayer funding, to this group is fundamentally wrong? Why are organizations and churches, which would not and do not promote illegal hate speech, denied funding for students to run summer day camps or work in homeless shelters while a group like this gets funding of taxpayers’ money?
Senator Harder: I thank the honourable senator for his question. His question was with respect to the Canada Summer Jobs program and the case that he has brought forward. I would need to determine the facts before I could provide an answer. As to his preface with respect to the outrageous statements that he quoted, I can only associate myself, as I’m sure we all can, with the Prime Minister’s condemnation and I would be happy to do so.
Orders of the Day
Hon. Leo Housakos, pursuant to notice of June 13, 2018, moved:
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.
He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the motion I believe is very important in righting a wrong that has been undertaken by the Liberal government and righting a wrong that was done in this chamber just one month ago.
Colleagues, a few days ago, we saw the government completely reverse itself on a very significant policy issue. Just one month ago, in this very chamber, the government leader was arguing strongly that former Bill C-219 proposed by our colleague Senator Tkachuk would set Canada on a unilateral track, putting it out of step with the international community.
Bill S-219 proposed that the sanctions Canada already had in place against the Iranian regime would not be eased unless two consecutive annual reports concluded that there was no credible evidence the regime was supporting international terrorism or inciting hatred, and that there was significant progress in Iran with respect to human rights.
At the same time, Senator Harder argued that the adoption of such legislation would put Canada out of step with its allies. Specifically, he claimed:
. . . by taking action that doesn’t match the actions of our allies and partners, this bill would have a very limited impact on Iran’s respect for human rights and its support for terrorism.
Instead, the government’s alternative approach was outlined in a letter that was sent out to my colleague Senator Andreychuk as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. In that letter, the government stated:
The Government believes that it is through dialogue, not withdrawal and isolation, that it can advance Canada’s interests . . . .
It also stated that:
. . . Bill S-219 would . . . limit the capacity of the Government of Canada to pursue and eventually conclude a complex process to re-establish diplomatic ties with Iran.
What a difference a month makes. Earlier this week, the Liberal government appeared to condemn the Iranian regime for “its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world.” This government also appeared to agree to abandon its current plan of engaging with Iran, cease all negotiations or discussions to restore diplomatic relations, and to immediately designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code of Canada.
My only question is this: Why has it taken so long?
When the government said in its letter to Senator Andreychuk that it wanted to restore diplomatic relations with Iran, Iran had already been supporting international terrorism for many decades. As we on this side of the chamber said when we debated Bill S-219, Iran’s revolutionary Islamist ideology has led it to support international terrorism and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, Hamas and dozens of others. It is this ideology that is the foundation of its international policy.
The Iranian regime has, for four decades, been the leading supporter of Hezbollah, which is arguably the most powerful terrorist entity in the world. Hezbollah, in fact, is so powerful that it constitutes a state-within-a-state in Lebanon. Hezbollah is not only committed to the destruction of the only democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel, it is heavily engaged in the civil war in Syria and closely allied with the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Together, Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime are a terrorist troika in the region.
A wide range of open-source literature tells us that Iran has bankrolled Hezbollah; provided it with arms, including long-range missiles that are now capable of striking at most parts of Israel; and provided that terrorist group with advice and leadership. It has done this in a complete violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
What is shocking in terms of our debate here today is that the Government of Canada has known this for a very long time. That is partly why, honourable senators, the previous Conservative government, quite correctly, severed diplomatic relations with the Iranian regime.
It is important to recognize how unusual a complete break in diplomatic relations is in the international community. There are few states with which Canada has completely severed relations, but it is a demonstration of the threat that this regime poses to international peace and security that Canada took these steps in this particular case.
Given the nature of the Iranian regime, it is scarcely surprising that the “dialogue” that the current government sought to pursue with Iran has not succeeded.
Fundamentally, a regime that seeks to overturn the international order is not suddenly going to change its strategy or tactics because a country that is very far away — in this case, Canada — demands that it does so. Yet, somehow, until recently the government has clung to that idea and many self-described independent senators in this chamber clung to the same idea.
When he spoke on Bill S-219, the bill that would have established a principled foundation for Canada’s policy with Iran, Senator Woo said that were that bill to be adopted, it would:
. . . damage Canada’s efforts to foster positive change in Iran through a restoration of diplomatic ties with Tehran.
I trust, now that the government seems to have rethought its position, that senators in this chamber will at least reflect and reconsider the positions they too have advanced as an institution, here.
I believe that what has likely given the government pause is the fact that the Iranian regime has so obviously spurned Canadian efforts in the cases of Maryam Mombeini, Kavous Sayed-Emami and Saeed Malekpour. What is unfortunate and tragic is that although these cases are shockingly egregious, they are just three of the tens of thousands of people who have been imprisoned, abused, tortured and murdered by the regime over many decades.
We have taken notice of these cases because of the connection of these individuals to our country, Canada — their adopted nation. Perhaps these cases have brought the thousands and, indeed, millions who have suffered under the policies of the Iranian regime into sharp focus for us. Whatever the reason it is heartening that the government has, at least as of this week, changed its approach.
To establish a foundation for a better policy, I would recommend to the Prime Minister, the government, Minister Freeland, Senator Harder and, indeed, the entire cabinet, that the framework laid out in Bill S-219 provides the best basis for that stronger and principled approach.
The government showed this week that a change of course, away from what clearly has not been working to what actually might work, is possible.
Therefore, I believe that this is the moment where the Senate, too, can demonstrate similar wisdom and sober second thought. A mistake was made by this institution when it defeated Bill S-219 last month. I believe that by voting for this motion we can contribute to putting the policy of the Government of Canada on a stronger foundation.
As the government leader, Senator Harder, said yesterday, in his response to my question about restoring the policy of the previous government, including imposing sanctions: “I hope this is an issue on which Canadians and Parliamentarians can be united.”
I couldn’t agree with you more, Senator Harder, and I thank you for your support for this motion, colleagues.
Thank you very much.
(On motion of Senator Tkachuk, debate adjourned.)
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