That the House: (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, (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
He said: Mr. Speaker, is Canada an indispensable country? Is our voice and influence necessary on the world stage? I believe it is, but in order for Canada's influence to matter, we must stand for something.
Our gave a speech about a year ago in which she asserted that Canada was an indispensable country, and yet she has failed to deliver a foreign policy that involves us standing for anything clearly or consistently.
In my motivating remarks for this motion, I am going to start by articulating the principles that we believe should animate Canadian foreign policy and then talk about the situation on the ground in Iran and the wider Middle East. It calls for the particular substantive Canadian response that we are proposing.
At a fundamental level, our party contends that Canada must have a principled foreign policy; that it is a foreign policy that stands for something. What does that mean?
Canada is a special place. We were founded as a free, bicultural society with religious freedom and diversities and with common laws and values. We chose to reconcile our diversity in the unity of one democratic political community from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the earth.
Out of that founding vision has grown the greatest nation on earth. We are free, prosperous, bold, creative, and kind. Our political culture is characterized by freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We are diverse but we are great, not just because of our diversity but because of how we live together in the midst of that diversity, how we live out the maximum of St. Augustine, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”
That is Canada, an uncommon example of diverse people living together well. We are the exception that proves the rule, evidence that something outside the experience of many people around the world is in fact possible. This is who we are and this is what we seek to preserve here in Canada.
As we develop our foreign policy, we have two paths available to us. We can choose to stand as we are, true to ourselves and our own experience and seek to expand the space for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law around the world. Or we can demure, speaking of our values as Canadian values but failing to assert that they are also universal human values, perhaps, and highlighting our own failures in the world in a way that gives comfort to human rights abusers elsewhere.
A principled foreign policy is one that seeks to apply our own domestic experience to make the world around us a better place. An unprincipled foreign policy would put a claim in the councils of the world and the approval of other nations ahead of our principles, preferring the appointment of envoys and the taking of photos to actual action on important files.
A principled foreign policy recognizes that the peoples of the world are no less deserving of freedom, democracy, human rights protections, and the rule of law than Canadians. Again, a principled foreign policy seeks to expand the space for these ideas. A serious, principled, strategic Canadian foreign policy that involves doing the right thing even when people are not looking can make a big difference.
Canada is part of most major non-regional international clubs, the G7, the G20, the Commonwealth, the Francophonie, etc. We do not have the natural challenges of being a super power. We do not have the baggage of colonial history beyond our borders. We have a domestic experience of reconciling diversity in a well-functioning federation. We can use our access and our experience to effectively seek the spread of our values around the world.
This is our opportunity, but we also face challenges. Fully projecting our influence requires us to do two things that do not normally come natural to us nationally. It requires us to be proud and it also requires us to be impolite.
It is fashionable among some Liberals today decry the rise of nationalism, without even qualifying or defining that term. Nationalism obviously has many negative manifestations, but nationalism properly oriented is the love of one's country and its natural virtues, a love of one's country that is not incompatible with love and goodwill to all, but a love that is grounded in and starts with one's most immediate community. In order to spread our experience around the world, we must first be proud of that experience and unafraid to speak about our greatness. We should be unapologetic about saying and showing the greatness of our political model. That is the basis on which we will spread it.
To be principled is also to be willing to be impolite when the situation calls for it. Are we the sort of country that wants to get along with everyone, or are we willing to risk our relationships, in the case of very bad actors, or risk not having relationships at all, in order to stand up for what is important? I think those suffering persecution around the world who want to see their own country become more like Canada would want us to be as effective as possible and as impolite as necessary in seeking to support and advance their legitimate aspirations.
Canada cannot be both a friend to the oppressor and a friend to the oppressed. We must choose. A timid foreign policy, lacking in sufficient pride and aggressiveness would be a friend to the oppressor. However, a Canada that understands the genesis of our own success, that is proud of what it is, that is bold, blunt, and even impolite when confronting abusers of human rights, would be a friend to those who need it. Surely, this should not be mistaken for a call to isolationism. It is fundamentally the opposite. It is a call to authentically carry ourselves into the councils of the world.
I moved a motion today specifically about Canada's foreign policy towards Iran. This motion calls for a a clear condemnation of the Iranian regime's aggression throughout the Middle East, including the sponsorship of terrorism, and specifically its support for Hamas during recent violent clashes on the Israel border. It calls for a clear condemnation of the Iranian regime's advocacy for a second Holocaust; that is, for the complete destruction of the world's only Jewish state. It calls for a response from the Canadian government to the actions of Iran, the total abandonment of its plan to negotiate the restoration of diplomatic relations with Iran, for aggressive and consistent advocacy for Canadians imprisoned in Iran, and for the designation of the so-called Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code. Finally, this motion calls for a recognition of the fundamental human rights of the Iranian people.
Some context here is important. The Iranian state is recognized by most nations in the Middle East as a clear and present threat to the security of the region. At a fundamental level, the Iranian regime does not operate like a normal state, accepting the strictures of sovereignty and diplomatic action in this age. It is rather a post-revolutionary state, seeking to spread its theocratic revolutionary doctrine and system through any and all means possible.
While Canada ought to seek the spread of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law through a rules-based order that recognizes the inherent dignity of all human beings, Iran seeks to spread its particular brand of authoritarian theocracy through underhanded support to violent proxies. It seeks to wage war through its proxies against anyone in the way of its quest for complete dominance in the region, especially against Israel and Saudi Arabia.
This present conflict should not be misconstrued as a clash of civilizations or religions. In fact, countries in the region, other Muslim nations, generally see and experience a threat posed by Iran more clearly than do nations in the west. In the region, Iran is using proxies to infiltrate Iraq; it is supporting the Assad regime in Syria, and it is continuing to back Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. It is co-opting and using Houthis in Yemen to destabilize the country and attack Saudi Arabia, and it is supporting violent action by Gaza on Israel's border.
We, and other regional powers, are in something like a new cold war against Iran. The term “cold war” does not seem quite right in light of how hot it actually is. However, the current situation is analogous to the Cold War that we fought against the Soviets, insofar as Iran, a radical post-revolutionary state, is seeking to spread its revolution by backing violent proxies, and in some cases sending direct military aid. It is trying to spread its brand of revolutionary theocracy, and to encircle and undermine the security of those who it defines as its foes.
Of particular concern to Israelis, but also to Syrians, Iranians, Kurds, and other Middle Eastern people, is the attempt by Iran to open up and operationalize a northern corridor from Iran through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, covering Israel's northern border and stretching to the Mediterranean Sea. This corridor would give Iran the means to ferry weapons and equipment more easily back and forth between its proxies, sending more sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, and opening a second front against Israel from Syria.
Israel has highly sophisticated iron dome and anti-rocket technology. However, that does not eliminate the substantial risk presented by the proliferation of weapons in an Iran-controlled transportation corridor. The previous American administration had sought to constrain Iran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for sanctions relief. This strategy represented a laudable goal, but it did not engage sufficiently with the non-nuclear ways that Iran represents a threat to regional security, and the way that sanctions relief has enabled the regime to invest further in support of its terrorist proxies.
While Israel is a particular target of these northern corridor efforts, we must also recognize how harmful they are to the particular countries in the path of this Iranian regime's aggressive attack corridor. The people of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon have suffered enough already, yet their states and their rights are in different ways undermined by Iranian aggression. The Iranian regime, aided by sanctions relief, is developing greater capacity to undermine regional security through terrorism. It is not just developing capacity, it is repeatedly demonstrating a willingness to use that capacity.
A principled Canadian foreign policy would seek to join with our allies to counter Iranian aggression by doing all we can to prevent the regime from accessing the resources it needs to complete its strategic design, undermining other countries' sovereignty, and using them to attack our partners. The spread of Iranian regime-backed terrorism and instability throughout the region requires the clear and steadfast opposition of all free nations whose foreign policy is informed by principle.
I would like to turn now specifically to the situation in Gaza, and the role that Iran is playing. I recently had the opportunity to join members of the Canada-Palestine Parliamentary friendship group on a trip to the West Bank to observe the situation and engage in dialogue with the Palestinian leadership, civil society, and people. Palestinians are a warm and hospitable people. They deserve the same things that all of us do. I do not always agree with our hosts in the West Bank, but they profess a commitment to recognizing Israel's right to exist, and the pursuit of a peaceful two-state solution, including hard compromises on both sides. Conservatives in Canada seek the establishment of a free, democratic, rights-respecting, pluralistic, rule of law-based Palestinian state, living in peace with, and enjoying close co-operation with the Jewish state of Israel.
The situation in the West Bank under the Palestinian authority stands in marked contrast to the situation in Gaza. Gaza is fully controlled by Hamas, a terrorist entity which countenances no negotiation or peace with Israel. Some people have called Gaza an open-air prison. If that is the case, then Hamas is the jailer. Hamas's charter says the following, “Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.” Then later, “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors.” That is from the Hamas charter.
Lest there be any doubt of what they mean by the word “Jihad” in this context, the charter says later:
The day that enemies usurp part of Moslem land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Moslem. In face of the Jews' usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised. To do this requires the diffusion of Islamic consciousness among the masses, both on the regional, Arab and Islamic levels. It is necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the nation so that they would confront the enemies and join the ranks of the fighters.
No wonder there is such kinship between Hamas and the Iranian regime. Iran and Hamas are dedicated to the destruction of Israel, in effect to the bringing about of a second holocaust. The Hamas charter contains similar language to the recent tweet of Iran's supreme leader, who said, “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.” This statement should clearly be understood as incitement to genocide. Insofar as the tweet specifically references the so-called “Great Return March”, we should understand that this march on Israel's border is part of the mechanism that Hamas and Iran see for effecting the second holocaust that they desire.
The Palestinian people are the first victims of Hamas, and of the Iranian regime in this case, because they regard the Palestinian people as mere chess pieces in their cynical game against Israel. Hamas has used a series of tactics for targeting Israel, trying to inflict maximum suffering on Israelis, but with no concern for the associated cost to Palestinian people. The costs of this ongoing violence have included lost aid, collateral damage, and direct repression.
Hamas launches rockets into Israel, although these rockets can often be effectively countered with Israel's iron dome technology. Hamas uses aid and building materials to try to construct tunnels into Israel through which to launch attacks. Hamas has repurposed kites given as aid, intended to bring some joy to the children of Gaza, but that are repurposed into tools for setting fire to forests and fields in Israel. Hamas has organized marches on the border, combining civilians and militants, as they always do, but specifically with the intention of infiltrating and violently attacking Israel. The name of the event , “Great Return March”, should make rather obvious that the intention is not to protest at the border, but rather to violently cross it.
When it comes to issues involving international peace and security, as well as advancing Canada's vital trade interests, Canada's Conservatives seek co-operation with the government whenever and wherever possible. However, we will not deign to criticize substantial wrongs by the government, which are at odds with our values and interests. The government's response to the so-called Great Return March has focused solely on criticizing Israel's response to it. We desire for multi-party unity and support for Israel's right to exist and defend itself, but Israel becomes an issue of partisan disagreement when this government makes statements that single Israel out and fail to identify the real instigators of violence in the region. We will not, in the name of so-called non-partisanship, demure to criticize the government when it fails to properly support our close allies.
Aside from the supreme leader's tweet, the Iranian role in these events should be eminently clear. The Palestinian ambassador to France has specifically identified the role of Iran in fomenting and supporting these protests in Gaza.
Iran and Hamas seek a second holocaust. My grandmother was a survivor of the first Holocaust, and she instilled in us the necessary sensibility towards those who threaten violence against the Jewish people. It is a sensibility rooted in that historic memory. When people say they are trying to kill us, believe that they mean it and stop them before it is too late. Never expect critics around the world to have the same commitment to our security that we do. Israel will not wait until it is too late to respond to Iran, and neither should we.
Our motion calls on the government not to seek resumption of diplomatic relations with Iran, and further to list the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity. I would like to turn now in particular to the importance of those measures.
The question of diplomatic ties with Iran is an important one, but one which is often misconstrued in terms of its actual impact. In cases where Canada does not have a diplomatic presence, we work to advance our interests and support Canadians in other ways. Everyone understands that there are workarounds and back channels that exist as part of international diplomacy.
Diplomatic relations are not merely a question about whether or not we have an ability to talk to each other. It is also a question of the status of our relationship and the degree to which we believe that mutual access to each other should be automatic. Should Iranian agents have the freedom to come to Canada easily and inevitably to work clandestinely to intimidate members of their own community and share intelligence back home? Should Iranian authorities be able to threaten Canadian diplomatic staff and property in Iran, as we have seen happen in other cases with nations that have disputes with Iran? Should we reward Iran's threats of genocide and instigation of violence in the region with an upgrading of relations?
It would have to be out of either willful blindness or in clear spite of our values and interests for us to pursue the reopening of diplomatic relations with Iran at a time like this. Pressing the reset button arbitrarily in the midst of worsening regime behaviour sends a perverse message about our intensity and our resolve to advance the things that we consider important. Rewarding bad behaviour is appeasement. It has never worked, and it will never work. Organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah which enjoy Iranian support and share its designs are rightly listed as terrorist organizations.
The government trumpets the importance of dialogue with extreme bad actors like the Iranian state, and yet accepts, in the listing of Hamas and Hezbollah, the principle that there are some people we should not be talking to, whose actions put them beyond the pale of even the legitimacy that comes with discussion, and that we are safer drawing a clear line in the sand. Insofar as we take this approach with Hamas and Hezbollah, it follows naturally and reasonably that we take the same approach with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The IRGC is almost certainly responsible, at a practical level, for more violence and mayhem than these organizations, and it shares values, objectives, and tactics with them.
What makes it different, of course, is an apparent link with a state, but it functions with a level of autonomy and independence that could well justify its recognition as a non-state actor. In any event, there is nothing in Canadian law to prevent the listing of state entities as terrorist entities, if in fact they are. It would be perverse to contend that we should sanction non-state entities involved in terrorism while seeking greater diplomatic ties with state entities that do the same thing.
Our motion concludes with an affirmation of the fundamental human rights of the Iranian people.
In the midst of efforts by the Iranian government to spread violence and terror throughout the region, the Iranian people have stood up and said no. A powerful protest movement broke out this past December and January, with protestors demanding political change and the emergence of a government that protects their rights and is on their side. Slogans included "Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, I give my life for Iran", and also "Death to the dictator". In other words, protestors were specifically and knowingly repudiating the grand design of their regime, and even calling for an end to the regime itself. In the midst of significant violence and repression, these protesters were a portrait of courage.
Some in the west will often cover Iranian politics as some legitimate contest between regime moderates and regime hard-liners, but the more important cleavage is between the supreme leader who holds all of the political power, and the people who seek more than simply the moderation of their environment, the gilding of their cage. They seek fundamental change.
In the midst of this, a Liberal MP referred to the Iranian government as "elected". I know many people in the community and the democracy movement found that offensive.
Political change in Iran is the most important and reachable strategic objective for us in the region. It would, in a moment, dramatically reduce the security threats posed to Israel and our other allies. It would open up a space for opportunity and prosperity. By weakening Hamas and Hezbollah, it would be a particular blessing to the people of Palestine and Lebanon. It would significantly increase the prospects of peace between Israel and Palestine, between Israel and Lebanon, in Syria, and in Yemen.
Most importantly, it would mark the extension of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law to over 80 million people who do not presently enjoy it.
We, here in this House, today, have the power to do something about this, to constrain and isolate the Iranian regime, to support the Iranian people, and to work towards the perhaps imminent objective of a free Iran. In this struggle, our experience matters; our voice is indispensable.
Mr. Speaker, our government is deeply committed to providing help to Canadians in distress abroad. As parliamentary secretary for consular affairs, I have spent the last two and half years focused on ensuring that Canadians abroad get the help they need from their government.
When Canadians are abroad, they want to know that they have a government at home that will provide them with the help they deserve, and a government that will fight for them; not a government that will be equivocal, not a government that will be selective, and not a government that will be partisan about standing up for their rights.
I am pleased to say that we are able to provide that help to many Canadians who find themselves in difficult situations in foreign countries every year.
Our government places the highest value on providing consular services to Canadians. We place a vital priority on helping Canadians in distress. No Canadian should be abandoned by their government, a point that I know the members opposite do not always agree with, and did not in fact act upon while they were in government.
Led by our and our , we have been very clear around the world throughout our bilateral meetings and multilateral meetings that consular issues are the highest priorities to our government.
In fact, I know that many world leaders are often surprised when our personally takes the time to raise consular matters during bilateral meetings. Foreign leaders are not accustomed to seeing a world leader dedicate time within a bilateral meeting, when there is a short time for a face-to-face encounter, to raise consular affairs. I am proud that our Prime Minister has taken leadership on this file.
I am sure I join with all of the members of the House when I express how deeply shocked and appalled I was when the world learned of the death of Canadian Iranian Dr. Kavous Seyed-Emami. Dr. Seyed-Emami was sociology professor, a dedicated environmentalist, and the founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
The circumstances surrounding his arrest and detention have raised many important questions, which remain woefully unanswered. He was arrested by Iranian authorities and taken to the notorious Evin prison. His family found out two weeks later that Dr. Seyed-Emami died, and they were given the explanation of suicide.
We immediately called upon the Iranian authorities to answer those questions, and we continue to do so today. We need an independent investigation to examine the circumstances and the situation surrounding his death. We must have the truth in this case. There are too many questions left unanswered, and his family is still desperate for answers.
We immediately demanded details surrounding his detention and his tragic death. We are also shocked and appalled that Dr. Kavous Seyed-Emami's widow, Ms. Maryam Mombeini, continues to be denied the freedom to leave Iran. Ms. Mombeini is a Canadian citizen, and she wishes to return home to Canada. There is no reason why she should not be allowed to do so, and we call upon the Iranian authorities to grant her the freedom to return home immediately.
I have spoken with her sons on many occasions. Her sons have been able to return to Canada. In fact, I received them at the airport in Vancouver when they came back. I am grateful that they are back home and that they are safe, yet I can also understand what they are going through. They have lost their father, and they are unable to be joined by their mother, who has been barred from leaving Iran.
The decision by the Iranian authorities not to let her leave is unacceptable, and we have been taking every possible measure to address this terrible situation. In fact, we have said repeatedly, both in public and in private, that as long as Ms. Mombeini is not able to leave Iran, the focus of any discussions with Iran will be on getting her home to Canada. That has been the focus of every interaction that the Government of Canada has had with the Iranian authorities, and I can say to the members opposite that this continues to be the firm case today.
The has spoken on several occasions with Ms. Mombeini, as well as her sons in Canada, to reassure them of our strong commitment to resolve this unacceptable situation. I have spoken with the sons as well and I have reassured them that the government stands by them unequivocally.
The has raised this issue directly with Iranian authorities. Just two weeks ago, she spoke with the Iranian foreign minister and delivered that exact message, that any interaction with the Iranian authorities today will solely focus on making sure that Ms. Mombeini is able to return home. She has also raised that issue directly with the Iranian permanent representative to the United Nations.
Let me say this. I strongly doubt that any foreign minister of a previous government would have been able to fight for a Canadian citizen as we have been able to do. We understand the commitment we have made to the citizens of Canada. It is a promise to provide the help and assistance that we are able to do. At every opportunity, we raise consular issues with other countries, including with Iran.
It is appalling to us that Saeed Malekpour remains in prison in Iran. In fact, just under a week ago, Mr. Malekpour marked the 10th birthday that he has spent in an Iranian prison. We advocate for his case at every opportunity. Our government is in frequent contact with Mr. Malekpour's family, and I have spoken with his sister, Maryam, whose bravery and determination I truly commend.
Our government's commitment to Canadians oversees is paramount. The case of Dr. Homa Hoodfar, who in 2016 was released from a Tehran prison after 112 days of detention, illustrates this. Our Government of Canada was actively engaged at the highest levels in Dr. Hoodfar's case, working for her release. The decision of the Conservative government to shutter our embassy in Iran, of course, made providing this help and advocating for Dr. Hoodfar's release even more significant a challenge. In the absence of diplomatic representation of its own in Iran, Canada worked closely with other countries, notably Oman, Italy, and Switzerland, in helping secure Dr. Hoodfar's release. We were extremely relieved and pleased to be able to welcome Dr. Hoodfar back to Canada.
I would also like to take a moment to thank the many people who worked so hard on this case, including of course, our own Canadian diplomats.
It is clear that the lack of respect for human rights in Iran is a serious concern for our government, and for all Canadians. The promotion and protection of human rights are at the core of our foreign policy, and we raise these issues globally, both bilaterally and in international forums. That is why Canada leads the annual United Nations General Assembly resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran. This was begun in 2003, and we welcomed the adoption of the Canadian-led resolution by the General Assembly again last year in 2017.
Our concerns with Iran include the highest number of executions, particularly of juveniles, widespread discrimination against women and girls, restrictions on freedom of expression, and serious and systematic discrimination and harassment of ethnic and religious minorities. The UN resolution sends a strong message to Iranians that the international community remains concerned about persistent human rights violations in Iran. Our government also meets with human rights groups on the human rights situation in Iran regularly. This includes organizations such as Amnesty International, as well as Iranian minorities such as the Baha'i community.
I have met on several occasions with groups of Iranian-Canadians to discuss human rights issues, including the cases of individuals detained in Iran. This includes the Mohammad Ali Taheri human rights campaign. We are concerned by the case of Mr. Mohammad Taheri, who has been in prison in Iran for a few years.
I commend those who continue to advocate for human rights. We must never be afraid to fight and stand up for human rights. At the very core of our government's foreign policy is the protection and promotion of human rights. It is a fundamental belief of our government and a reflection of Canadian values that human rights and democratic rights should not be denied to any person, and that no government should seek to do so. We are not afraid to speak up when these rights are denied.
At the end of December last year and at the beginning of January, the Iranian people exercised their right to protest. These protests were widespread, taking place in some 80 cities throughout Iran. They attracted a broad cross-section of society, and protestors expressed their discontent on a number of issues. These protests were the demonstration of genuine frustration and real grievances. On December 30, our government was one of the first around the world to speak out publicly in support of the Iranian people. As we said then, we were encouraged by the Iranian people who were exercising their basic right to protest peacefully. We also called on the Iranian authorities to uphold and respect democratic and human rights.
However, the Iranian security services arrested approximately 3,700 protestors. At least 25 were killed. In addition to this tragic outcome, security services also attempted to suppress the protests by blocking access to social media. On January 3, the issued another statement on the protests, expressing how deeply troubled Canada was by the deaths and detention of protestors in Iran. We reiterated that the Iranian people have the right to freely assemble and express themselves without facing violence or imprisonment, and called on the Iranian authorities to uphold and respect democratic and human rights, which are too often ignored.
We also remain deeply concerned by Iran's support of terrorism. That is why Canada has listed Iran as a supporter of terrorism under the State Immunity Act. Also, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force is listed as a terrorist entity under the Criminal Code, and the IRGC is listed under the Special Economic Measures Act. This means that all persons in Canada are prohibited from engaging in certain activities with the IRGC and the IRGC Quds Force, such as dealing with its properties or entering into a financial transaction. These are strong and meaningful sanctions on Iran, reflective of its actions, internal and external, and they will continue to remain in place.
Let me also be clear on a further point. We also absolutely and without equivocation condemn Iran's actions against Israel. We condemn the recent abhorrent statement by the supreme leader Khamenei that clearly incited hate and violence. As the said then, we are appalled by it. We strongly condemn its incitement to violence as we condemn all of Iran's threats against Israel. Canadians want us to stand up for Iranian citizens who are tired of corruption, incompetency, and military adventurism that directs precious resources to questionable endeavours and creates international instability rather than policies that could improve people's lives. These Iranian citizens are driven to the streets to protest, only to be met by violence from their own government.
Canadians expect us to have the promotion and protection of human rights at the core of our foreign policy. They also expect us to raise the consular cases of Canadians abroad. We understand that, and that is why our government is so committed to doing it. Let me repeat our firm position on the decision by Iranian authorities to deny Ms. Mombeini the ability to leave Iran. Until that decision is reversed, and until Ms. Mombeini has the freedom to return home to Canada, the focus of any discussion with Iran will be on securing that freedom. We will continue to call on the Iranian authorities to give answers to the detention and death of Kavous Seyed-Emami. We also call on the Iranian authorities to release Saeed Malekpour.
What our government values above all are the lives and well-being of Canadian citizens. That has always been and will always be our absolute focus.
In closing, let me add one more thought. Canadians are not deceived by the Conservatives' rhetoric. The Conservatives were in power for 10 years and Canadians saw they were not able to make any progress. On our core values, we agree with all the messages and virtue signalling they keep promoting today. However, we disagree with them on the fact that Canada needs to be impolite. The hon. member just said that we need to be impolite to achieve those goals.
As the said last weekend, Canadians are polite and reasonable people, but Canadians will not be pushed around. Canada will not be pushed around. Canada will stand up for Canadian citizens abroad and for human rights everywhere, and we will find the best way to achieve those objectives.
I want to close by saying that I find it regrettable that the hon. members on the opposite side are using consular cases for partisan purposes when Canadians' lives are at stake. I accept the fact that they have the right and, in fact, I welcome their tough questions on the government's approach to dealing with these cases, but to politicize consular cases for partisan reasons is unbecoming of the official opposition.
Canadians are not deceived by this because they have not forgotten the 10 years under the Harper government when the Conservatives were not able to accomplish anything. In fact, they remember cases of Canadian citizens abroad who were abandoned, ignored, and neglected.
I welcome the voices of opposition members on this debate, but I call upon them to be prudent, to be wise, and to be careful when using consular cases for partisan purposes.
Mr. Speaker, there is overwhelming agreement among the parties here today, and I can attest to that with confidence because of my work as vice-chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. I am proud of the work we have done on the subject of human rights in Iran. I also appreciate the collegiality that exists among the three parties represented on the subcommittee and how we focus on addressing human rights in Iran. We do this in a non-partisan fashion, because it is a non-partisan issue.
I am disappointed in today's opposition day motion, because it forsakes a real opportunity to fortify our consensus. Instead of bringing forward a motion on the matter of Iran that could be supported by all parties, and this would have been the simplest and easiest thing to write, my hon. colleagues in the official opposition have decided to play politics instead. If the party opposite truly cared about this issue, it would be reaching out and extending a hand to all the other parties so that a sense of unity of purpose could be established within this chamber, but no, our hyperpartisan colleagues cannot resist the sensation they can wring out of this. Instead of trying to work with everyone, they drafted a motion that they well know contains language the other parties cannot support.
While New Democrats agree with much of the motion being debated here today, particularly the support it expresses for Iranians and their fundamental human rights, we object to the call to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations”.
People in my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh have been following the citizenship and immigration issues that come with diplomatic strains, and they are astute to what is going on here.
In April, CBC reported about the case of one of my constituents, Pooya Mirzabeygi, who had to wait more than 40 months for his permanent residency application to be finalized. He holds a master's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Western Ontario, and he is currently working in research and development in the automotive industry.
I wanted to express that more pointedly for Canadians. For those out there today watching this debate, those who happen to care about the awful situation of human rights in Iran, please take note. The party opposite knows that we will not accept this language. It added it for the sole purpose of attempting to drive a wedge between us and Canadians. Conservatives care more about manipulating messages and scoring cheap political points against their opponents than they do about addressing the issue of human rights in Iran. This is unfortunate, given how much overwhelming agreement there is among the parties here today on the situation of Iran's human rights abuses and aggression.
Canadians and New Democrats stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Iran in their aspirations for freedom, peace, democracy, and the rule of just law. We will continue to stand with them and speak out when their voices are unfairly silenced. We will unequivocally condemn comments by Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, who threatened cities in Israel, and comments by supreme leader Ali Khamenei regarding the destruction of Israel, as has been mentioned, including, most recently, when he said that “Israel is a malignant cancerous tumor...that has to be removed and eradicated”. These comments are an unacceptable incitement to violence against an entire population.
We support the right of Israel to defend itself. We urge Canada to do everything in its power to avoid an escalation of conflict in the Middle East. New Democrats are deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Iran. We believe that Canada should continue to be firm in its dealings with Iran and push harder on human rights issues.
According to human rights organizations:
[Iranian] authorities heavily suppressed the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as well as freedom of religion and belief, and imprisoned scores of individuals who voiced dissent. Trials are systematically unfair. Torture and other ill-treatment was widespread and committed with impunity. Floggings, amputations and other cruel punishments were carried out [as a matter of grim routine]. The authorities endorsed pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. Hundreds of people were executed, some in public, and thousands remained on death row. They included people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime....
Among those targeted were peaceful political dissidents, journalists, online media workers, students, filmmakers, musicians and writers, as well as human rights defenders including women's rights activists, minority rights and environmental activists, trade unionists, anti-death penalty campaigners, lawyers, and those seeking truth, justice and reparation for the mass executions and enforced disappearances of the 1980s.
Many prisoners of conscience undertook hunger strikes to protest their unjust imprisonment.
Popular social media sites have been blocked.
Freedom of religion and belief was systematically violated in law and practice. The authorities continued to impose codes of public conduct rooted in a strict interpretation of Shi'a Islam on individuals of all faiths. Non-Shi'a Muslims were not allowed to stand as presidential candidates or hold key political offices.
Widespread and systemic attacks continued to be carried out against the Baha’i minority. These included arbitrary arrests, lengthy imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment, forcible closure of Baha’i-owned businesses, confiscation of Baha’i properties, bans on employment in the public sector and denial of access to universities.
For Iranian authorities, the Baha’i have long played the role of first scapegoat of choice and are routinely blamed for everything from economic decline to Zionist spies.
As well, Kurdish people in Iran are targeted.
Iran's border guards continued to unlawfully shoot and kill, with full impunity, scores of unarmed Kurdish men known as Kulbars who work as cross-border porters between Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan. In September, security forces violently suppressed protests in Baneh and Sanandaj over the fatal shootings of two Kulbars, and detained more than a dozen people.
There was a heavy police presence cross Kurdistan province in September when members of Iran's Kurdish minority held rallies in support of the independence referendum in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. More than a dozen people were reportedly arrested....
Earlier in the year, judicial officials had exerted persistent pressure on the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology to request that Telegram relocate its servers to Iran and close tens of thousands of Telegram channels, which according to the judiciary “threatened national security” or “insulted religious values”. Telegram said it rejected both requests.
Other popular social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube remained blocked.
Journalists and online media workers faced a renewed wave of harsh interrogations and arbitrary arrests and detentions before the presidential election in May. Those using Telegram were particularly targeted for harsh prison sentences, some exceeding a decade.
Freedom of musical expression remained curtailed. Women were banned from singing in public and the authorities continued to forcibly cancel many concerts. In August, several hundred artists called on President Rouhani to end such restrictions.
The authorities continued their violent raids on private mixed-gender parties, arresting hundreds of young people and sentencing many to flogging.
Censorship of all forms of media and jamming of foreign satellite television channels continued. The judicial authorities intensified their harassment of journalists working with the Persian BBC service, freezing the assets of 152 former or current BBC journalists and banning them from conducting financial transactions.
The Association of Journalists remained suspended.
Scores of students continued to be barred from higher education in reprisal for their peaceful activism, despite President Rouhani's election promise to lift the ban.
Bans on independent trade unions persisted and several trade unionists were unjustly imprisoned. Security forces continued to violently suppress peaceful protests by workers, including on International Workers' Day.
Dozens of environmental activists were summoned for interrogation, detained and prosecuted for participating in peaceful protests against air pollution, disappearing lakes, river diversion projects and dumping practices.
Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi and the latter's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, remained under house arrest without charge or trial since 2011....
Torture and other ill-treatment remained common, especially during interrogations. Detainees held by the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards were routinely subjected to prolonged solitary confinement amounting to torture.
Failure to investigate allegations of torture and exclude “confessions” obtained under torture as evidence against suspects remained systematic.
The authorities continued to deprive prisoners detained for political reasons of adequate medical care. In many cases, this was done as a deliberate punishment or to extract “confessions”, and it amounted to torture.
Prisoners endured cruel and inhuman conditions of detention, including overcrowding, limited hot water, inadequate food, insufficient beds, poor ventilation and insect infestations.
More than a dozen political prisoners at Karaj’s Raja'i Shahr prison waged a prolonged hunger strike between July and September in protest at their dire detention conditions. Some faced denial of medical care, solitary confinement and fresh criminal charges in reprisal....
In February, the Supreme Court upheld a binding sentence issued by a criminal court in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province against a woman in retribution for blinding another woman.
Dozens of amputation sentences were imposed and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. In April, judicial authorities in Shiraz, Fars province, amputated the hand of Hamid Moinee and executed him 10 days later. He had been convicted of murder and robbery. At least four other amputation sentences were carried out for robbery....
In May, a woman arrested for having an intimate extramarital relationship was sentenced by a criminal court in the capital, Tehran, to two years of washing corpses and 74 lashes. The man was sentenced to 99 lashes....
Trials, including those resulting in death sentences, were systematically unfair. There were no independent mechanisms for ensuring accountability within the judiciary. Serious concerns remained that judges, particularly those presiding over Revolutionary Courts, were appointed on the basis of their political opinions and affiliation with intelligence bodies, and lacked legal qualifications.
This past December and January, protests began in reaction to the Iranian budget. Iranian people engaged in widespread protests calling for clerics to be reined in, an end to corruption, the end of support for Assad in Syria, and the end of the dictatorship. Iran has reportedly arrested nearly 5,000 people during recent protests, and at least 25 were killed. The majority of those arrested are educated young people. These protests are the country's biggest unrest in a decade. Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have demanded that the deaths of protestors be investigated.
Many of the concerns of protestors are about the Iranian economy. Unemployment remains high for youth; inflation is soaring; real wages are stagnating; and housing remains expensive and unaffordable to many. Some 80% of all workers in Iran are in insecure, temporary contracts. In the recent budget, which prompted protests across the country, the clerics were given billions to pay for religious libraries, for religious foundations, and to lead Friday prayers. This was on top of the purported further billions allocated to finance the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Since the protests, however, President Rouhani has announced some economic reforms.
We are also encouraged by the many Iranians, including many women, who are currently speaking out for their rights. The hijab protests were started by Masih Alinejad, the founder of My Stealthy Freedom, an online movement that opposes the dress code.
The hashtag #WhiteWednesdays quickly spread across social media, with women of all ages posting pictures of themselves wearing white as a symbol of protest. Dozens of women have been arrested in Tehran for removing their head scarves in public. Many women recorded their acts of defiance, waving their head scarves around in busy crowds.
The NDP urges the Canadian government to advocate for the human rights of all those in Iran whose inalienable rights have been infringed.
Across the country, talented Iranian nationals' permanent residence applications are stuck in our system. The government recently acknowledged that the problem exists but has taken no concrete action to fix it.
The NDP is calling on the government to finally put an end to these delays once and for all. The government needs to immediately review the current system, identify the cause of delays, revise the process to prevent further delays, and ensure that Iranian nationals are not subject to wait times that are astronomically higher than those for other applicants.
Coming back to the motion being debated today, one of the main reasons we believe it is important to maintain diplomatic ties with regimes we do not like is that it is crucial to have lines of communication open between our officials and the officials of other countries precisely for those times when we need to work for the release of one of our unjustly imprisoned nationals. How can Canada possibly defend our people when we have no one in the country to do it on our behalf, no one who knows the lay of the land, the right officials to approach, and so on?
At the present time, Canada maintains diplomatic ties with a number of regimes that quite obviously do not share our values. Canada does this for the very practical reasons I have mentioned. My friends in the Conservative Party can correct me if I am wrong, but I do not recall hearing them call for shutting down our embassies or consulates in the Philippines, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There is no shortage of unsavoury regimes in the world.
The NDP has communicated on multiple occasions the urgency and scope of the problems created by diplomatic tensions. I urge us, today, to understand the language that has been laid out before us with this motion and leverage the actual ways in which we can advance human rights in Iran.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join this opposition day motion debate on an important subject. I have long described Iran as the most destabilizing force in the world right now, standing in the way of global peace and security. We are talking about that today in bringing the debate to the floor of the House of Commons.
I would like to thank my colleague and the deputy shadow minister of foreign affairs, the member for , for helping advance the debate today, and for being an active participant in it.
I have been following the debate, and I am amused by the fact that the Liberal parliamentary secretary and even some opposition members on this side of the House keep using the word “partisan”. The government often throws this out, saying “stop being so partisan”, as if in the chamber, which is designed for opposing points of view, debate, speech, and challenging the government, we are being partisan somehow if we suggest parts of the debate should focus on the horrendous and tyrannical regime in Iran. There is nothing partisan in that. In fact, it is an absence of leadership, of how quiet the has been vis à vis Iran.
The Liberals were being partisan when they formed government and kept using the rhetoric “Canada is back”. Back to what, when it comes to Iran? Back to being silent in the face of the death of a Canadian, to being silent in the face of thousands being imprisoned? In February, Alex Neve of Amnesty International that confirmed thousands had been detained without charges in Iran.
The was one of the few global leaders absolutely silent with respect to the protests in Iran, the democratic desire for a people to have human rights, a basic level of democratic rights and freedoms that we take for granted. The Prime Minister, who loves traversing the world as the global progressive, has been very silent with respect to Iran. That is why we are here today. If those members want to suggest we are partisan, well thank goodness we are partisan. One of the Liberals' own members, the member for , has been an apologist for the regime, and has hosted delegations from Iran in Canada. Perhaps that is why the Prime Minister does not want to talk much about it. Maybe there is some debate in his caucus on how much we should engage in Iran, or how much we should call out its behaviour.
Mr. Speaker, I got into a rhetorical flight so quickly that I forgot to mention I would be dividing my time with my friend from .
The first time the mentioned Iran in the House of Commons was in January 2016. He said, “We know that Iran is a cause for concern”. Later on he said that global safety would be through “responsible engagement”; “a cause for concern.” Nothing better illustrates the fact the Prime Minister has either been willfully blind with respect to the horrific conditions facing a lot of people in Iran or the fact he has been wanting to expand Canadian presence and negotiate aircraft sales, and this shows that the Liberal government has had the wrong approach when it comes to Iran. This debate is about that.
When a regime is probably the most disruptive force to global peace and security, we have to be careful that our engagement with it is not normalizing that regime. Comments suggesting there is an elected government in Iran, as if the protests were just regular protests for tuition fees or something and they should negotiate with their elected officials, is irresponsible. The should condemn statements from his own caucus that will allow some Canadians to not have the proper view of a regime that is the most oppressive on earth.
We have seen this even more in recent months. The death of Professor Seyed-Emami, a Canadian citizen in Evin prison, has eerie reminiscence of the death of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in the same prison. Now it appears that Maryam Mombeini, who went to try to investigate the circumstances of her husband's death, who was illegally detained alongside thousands in Iran, cannot return home. This is the type of regime with which we are dealing.
In the same time, over the last 30 years or since the revolution of 1979, there has been an express desire for nuclearization of an Iranian regime, which would be a direct threat not only to Israel but to global security in the Middle East and around the world.
This motion also highlights the horrific role that the Islamic revolutionary guard plays, with respect to oppressing its own people not just in Iran but around the world. It has been a direct funder and supporter of terror in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Gaza, and Palestinian-controlled territories, funding Hamas, funding terror, and not wanting peace, security, and stability. Therefore, I would think that condemning that should be something all members of this House would do.
We are here today because of the general silence with respect to the current government's position on Iran. It seems that, after we pushed it, it is holding off on the aircraft sale. That is a refreshing development from us pushing the government on that. Boeing has said it will not sell any type of aircraft to the regime, at a time when more global attention is being paid to Iran, as it should be, because the international community has to condemn the actions of the regime. Just last week, the supreme leader called for genocide on the Jewish people. The Iranians have tried to normalize their positions of hate. We have to be very careful that in this rush, as the naively said in his first few months as the Prime Minister, of responsible engagement with the Iranian regime, we are not somehow normalizing that regime.
I would point my friend the , who is listening to this debate, to the comments made in April by Madam Shirin Ebadi, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work as a human rights lawyer. She is an Iranian woman who is championing the cause of freedom and democratic rights. In an interview in April she told Bloomberg, “Reform is useless in Iran.” She went on to say, “The Iranian people are very dissatisfied with their current government. They have reached the point and realized this system is not reformable.” Therefore, a number of the elements we are bringing to this debate are to showcase that, and to demand that the Liberal government start speaking up for the people of Iran and the families impacted, like Ms. Mombeini. It should be speaking up for the very principles that it talked about at Charlevoix. That seems to be absent when it comes to Iran.
We would also like the Liberals to correct the record, which was made fuzzy in January of this year by their own member for , at a time when the was silent, and there was no clear direction from our . That single tweet by a Liberal member of Parliament sent a very bad signal. At a bare minimum, it was incredibly naive, or possibly worse. Therefore, I would like to see the government clearly renounce that view and not allow that member to host Iranian delegations in Canada.
What else would I like to see out of this opposition day motion now that we are shining the bright light of accountability on a government that does not like it? I would like to see the government apply Magnitsky sanctions against the supreme leader and many of the key regime functionaries who promote hate and support terrorism. The Magnitsky sanctions should be applied immediately.
I would like to see Iran put on the country control list. We have debated arms trade in this place. The Liberals seem to forget that they have the ability to stop all sales with regimes like Iran. Only North Korea is currently on that list. Iran should be immediately placed on country control list.
I would like to see Iran removed from the SWIFT financial system. We have seen it directly fund terror operations around the world, putting people at risk, and in some cases using money from the Iranian deal previously negotiated. Access to the SWIFT system has allowed this to be moved.
I would like a clear statement from the . Even if the Liberals support this motion today, I would like the to be clear in his renunciation of the regime, and to sanction the member for for clouding the issue with respect to whether Iranians truly get to elect their government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support this motion and encourage my colleagues to do the same, especially after the excellent statement by my colleague and friend from Ontario on the importance of having every member of Parliament support this motion.
I will deliver my presentation in three parts. First, I will address the aspects of the motion. Second, I will explain why it is important to raise public awareness in Canada about what is happening in Iran. Third, I will give a concrete example that illustrates that what happens there has repercussions here.
The motion moved today seeks to strongly condemn the current regime in Iran for its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border. We recently saw to what extent Iran fuels tensions in several countries instead of easing them and avoiding violent clashes. Instead of looking for peaceful resolutions, Iran tries to create conflicts.
The motion also condemns recent statements made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for genocide against the Jewish people. Canada cannot tolerate that. Conflicts like this must be resolved peacefully and respectfully. We cannot sanction a country that calls for genocide, particularly against the Jewish people. God knows the Jews have seen their share of suffering throughout history.
The motion also calls for Iran to abandon its current plan and immediately cease its nuclear weapons development program. We are also asking our government to abandon its soft approach and its current plan and to immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations. Our government must demand that the Iranian regime immediately release all Canadians and Canadian permanent residents who are currently detained in Iran, including Maryam Mombeini. She is a Canadian citizen, and we want her back. It is important to state her name in both French and English and to demand that the government bring back the people who went over there. Maryam is the widow of Professor Kavous Sayed-Emami. Nor must we forget Saeed Malekpour, who has been imprisoned since 2008. It is now 2018.
Furthermore, the motion urges the government to immediately designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code of Canada, and to 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.
If we truly want to promote the fundamental rights that our country is built on, we also need to be vigilant and speak out when heads of state behave like tyrants. Iran is one such example. The Iranian government acts very harshly toward its people, and the Liberal must not look away from these situations. They must speak out. Right now, it seems like the Liberals want to downplay the relationship with Iran, but that would be tantamount to condoning the hateful statements in question, which are diametrically opposed to Canadian principles and rights.
Everyone on this side of the House, and probably every MP, recognizes that Iran's brutal regime is a threat to global peace and safety. As we have seen over the past few months, Ali Khamenei's oppressive regime has turned on its own citizens and continues to sponsor terrorism abroad. It is especially obsessed with destroying Israel, a democratic country in the Middle East, which is totally unacceptable.
This is why we must never hesitate to denounce the Iranian regime and take action against it, given its support for terrorism, its Holocaust denial, and its repeated threats toward Israel.
The government likes to say that it must be a strong voice for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. This is great for Canada, but it would also be great for the people of Iran. At present, however, the Liberal government says nothing and will not lift a finger when the time comes to defend the rights and freedoms of Iranians. The problem here is that if Canada does not play this role and does not defend those values, they will be threatened right here at home. That is why we are concerned about this government's complacency regarding a brutal regime that has such contempt for its own people.
An activity funded by Iran, a hateful demonstration calling for the eradication of the Israeli people, no less, was held yesterday not in the streets in Tehran, but in Toronto. This happened right here at home, in our streets, on the grounds of the Ontario legislature, where a new government was just democratically elected. How can such incitements to violence be tolerated?
That is why every parliamentarian has the responsibility and moral obligation to condemn violence and hate speech. That is why it is important to support not just the motion itself, but also the spirit of the motion.
For example, the spiritual leader Shafiq Huda called for the eradication of the Israeli people, in clear violation of the Criminal Code. There are sanctions and a complaint was filed with the police. Unfortunately, we learned that one of the organizations that was part of this rally received funding from the current government under the Canada summer jobs program.
Members will recall that the government introduced an attestation to ensure that organizations that receive taxpayers' money respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now, the leader of one such organization is promoting hate in the streets of Toronto.
The government needs to wake up; it has the opportunity to do so by supporting the motion before the House today.