moved that the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development presented on Friday, February 17, be concurred in.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for this opportunity to address the House today on an urgent question of foreign policy.
After people have enjoyed more than three decades of political independence with their own self-governing democratic institutions, another power has just invaded their territory. It has the clearly stated intention of ending self-government for these people and incorporating the territory in question by force.
The aggressor has framed this attack as being a military operation instead of an invasion and has described the independently constituted defence forces of this area as being a terrorist entity. This doublespeak barely covers the naked desire of this invading force to reassert 19th-century norms of aggression and to replace diplomacy and the international rule of law with violence and the rule of power.
I could be, but in this case I am not, describing the Putin regime's illegal invasion of Ukraine. At least in the case of Ukraine, the fundamental right to self-determination of peoples and the essential illegitimacy of efforts to change the status quo by force were widely accepted. Russia's brutal invasion rightly provoked a significant international response, and the invasion was widely understood as a fundamental attack on freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
However, today I am not speaking about Ukraine. Rather, I am speaking about the brutal assault of Azerbaijan's forces on the self-governing territory of Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh. The sad reality is that, while the aggression of the Azerbaijani state bears many features in common with Russian aggression, many Canadians are probably completely unaware of this conflict. This needs to change.
While Neville Chamberlain could refer to the question of Czechoslovakia as “A quarrel in a faraway country, between people of whom we know nothing”, his ignorance did not make Czechoslovakia any less important.
There are differences between Azerbaijani aggression and Russian aggression; however, there are also similarities. My hope in moving this concurrence motion today is that our discussion will confront the relative lack of consideration of this important issue. I raise the issue most from concern for the people directly affected. I also raise it because the principle of peaceful resolution of conflict and respect for fundamental human rights needs to be established in every case, not just in cases that happen to be the most high-profile. After members have heard this story of these 120,000 people, I hope they will be able to consider more action in response as well.
As such, here is the background: Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war over a disputed area. It had previously, according to Soviet-era internal borders, been within Azerbaijan, but its population was nonetheless overwhelmingly ethnically Armenian and Christian and enjoyed official autonomy during the Soviet period. Following the first Nagorno-Karabakh war, this territory became de facto independent and set up its own institutions. However, it maintained close relations with Armenia, it was still claimed by Azerbaijan and it was still seen by much of the international community as technically constituting Azeri territory.
In effect, the Armenian side won that war. In addition to establishing de facto independence for Artsakh, it established a buffer zone that provided secure linkage between Artsakh and Armenian territory. This buffer zone prevented the possibility of Artsakh being blockaded; it also led to many ethnic Azeris becoming victims of displacement, a situation that required resolution.
It is important to note the large amount of displacement on both sides during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war, which was much larger on the Azeri side. In addition, there were various atrocities committed, for which there can be no excuse.
The conflict over Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, was the subject of sporadic conflict and much debate and negotiation between the end of the first Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1994 and the start of the second in 2020. The dispute over the core territory of Nagorno-Karabakh hinges on a certain tension between two established principles of international law: territorial integrity and the right of self determination.
Territorial integrity, the principle asserted by the Azerbaijani side, is the idea that a state's existing territory should not be interfered with and that states have a right to defend their existing territory. This principle is important for preventing conflict, because it establishes that a state cannot militarily intervene in the territory of another state outside of very narrow and specific circumstances. This principle is recognized in the UN charter.
Of course, an extreme interpretation of the principle of territorial integrity, read in isolation from other principles of international law, could say that borders should never change and that historical borders established with no regard for the preferences of the people within them should nonetheless be maintained, regardless of anything else. Such an extreme application of this principle would, in effect, justify the continuation of all forms of colonialism and domination that had managed to survive until the point at which that principle was promulgated.
Fortunately, in real-world international law, we do not apply this one principle of territorial integrity in isolation from other important concepts, such as the genocide convention, which establishes a responsibility to act and protect people at risk of genocide, and the principle of the right of self-determination of peoples in general. I will come back to the issue of genocide, but I want to speak first on this issue of the right of self-determination.
Self-determination is the fundamental idea that all human beings, bearers of inherent and immutable human dignity, have a right to play a role in directing the political community that they are a part of. A people should not be compelled against their will to be part of a political community; rather, their membership in a political community should be the result of collective choice. In this particular instance, those who defend Artzakh assert the simple idea that this area's population should be able to collectively determine their own future and decide on whether they wish to be part of Azerbaijan. They should be able to make that decision through their elected representatives, free from violence, intimidation or coercion.
The notion of a right to self-determination does not entail the presumption that a particular community would or should pursue independence or association with another state purely on the basis of ethnic or religious commonality. It is quite reasonable that a people might choose to be part of a multi-ethnic, multilingual state or, on the other hand, choose to pursue independence from another state with whom they nonetheless share the same language, religion or ethnic characteristics. The point of self-determination is not that people should draw state boundaries in a certain way or on the basis of certain factors. It is simply that the people affected should be the ones making choices about their own future. In the case of Artsakh, this means that this region's future should be decided by the people who live there and not by the leaders of Azerbaijan or Russia, or even by the leaders of Armenia or those elsewhere.
Over the last three decades, the ethnically Armenian people of Artsakh, or Nagorno-Karabakh, have asserted their right to self-determination against Azerbaijan's claim that Artsakh ought to be incorporated into Azerbaijan on the basis of the territorial integrity of these Soviet-era borders. This basic tension between territorial integrity and self-determination underlies the overall question, although the question is complicated in a few other ways that reinforce the need for negotiation and dialogue.
Undoubtedly, Azerbaijanis who were displaced during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war have a right to self-determination as well, although this issue is now somewhat moot, given how borders have changed since 2020. In addition, Artzakh has had self-governing independent institutions operating for three decades, so a legitimate question is this: At what point can an unrecognized territory start making an argument for territorial integrity in its own right?
Artzakh has been a self-governing entity for about as long as many states in eastern Europe have. However, moving forward, 2020 brought the second Nagorno-Karabakh war; this time, the war was won decisively by Azerbaijan. In a ceasefire agreement that ended the war, the buffer territory taken in the first Nagorno-Karabakh was ceded back to Azerbaijan, leaving Artsakh more isolated and strategically vulnerable, but still standing.
As I think my description illustrates, there are many aspects of this conflict that are legitimately complicated; however, there are also aspects of it that are not. Azerbaijan was rightly criticized for starting the second Nagorno-Karabakh war. Although the conflict was an ongoing irritant, there was a legitimate hope that a negotiated settlement would lead to an agreement securing the position of all affected peoples. Instead of pursuing that path, Azerbaijan has launched wars of choice. From at least 2020 onward, it has been clear that Azerbaijan's authorities are willing to use violence to upend the status quo and pursue their own objectives.
At this point, the question is no longer primarily one of self-determination versus territorial integrity; rather, it is about whether violence should be the means for settling disputes in interstate relations. I think we should all clearly say “no” to that. We should assert that, regardless of the legitimate complexity here, violence should not be the path pursued or the means of seeking resolution.
Because of a decision that the Liberal government made to resume arms exports to Turkey, Canadian-made weapons played a significant role in Azerbaijan's victory in the second Nagorno-Karabakh war and potentially played a role in its calculation to use force in the first place. It should grieve Canadians deeply that the government's decision to sell arms to Turkey played a negative role in international peace and security, and I will return to that point later if time allows.
The territorial settlement that ended the second Nagorno-Karabakh war left only one narrow road, the Lachin corridor, linking Artzakh to Armenia. Russian peacekeepers were supposed to guarantee peace on it sand the access of essential goods to Artzakh via this road.
Notwithstanding the circumstances that led to the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, there should have been the basis at this point for efforts to pursue a long-term settlement that allowed the return of Azeris to their recently transferred territory and that recognized the right of self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh in their remaining territory. However, the advances made during the second Nagorno-Karabakh war were sadly not good enough for the Azerbaijani government, which has continued to insist on its right to incorporate by force any people, no matter how unwilling, who fall within the parameters required to make an argument based on territorial integrity.
Further to this point, I think a good way to understand the initial question of self-determination versus territorial integrity is by analogy to the relationship of a married couple. Generally speaking, in most cases, we might hope to see the preservation of the integrity of an existing marriage. It is nice when a couple can stay together. Different individuals would likely identify different thresholds at which they believe other factors might outweigh the importance of marital integrity, but all other things being equal, it is nice to keep the family together. On the other hand, a general belief in the general desirability of couples staying together is not the same as a belief that people should be forced to stay together even if they are victims of violence and abuse. The fact that two people have a lot of history together clearly does not mean that one partner should be able to force the other to remain against their will.
In geopolitics, when I hear arguments that assert the right of one region or people to dominate another, purely on the basis of historical borders or relationships, this rings to me like the ravings of an abuser demanding continuing access to their victims. Centuries of Russian domination of Ukraine do no create some right for Russia to continue to dominate Ukraine in the present. Ukraine may choose her own path. The same principle ought to apply to Artsakh. Past domination does not justify future domination when the relationship is clearly not voluntary or consensual. When it comes to prospective independence or separatist movements, while, generally speaking, breaking up existing states is not a desirable thing, states should preserve themselves and their integrity through persuasion and through the consensual building of common endeavour, not through violence directed at those who prefer and argue for a different path.
Following the second Nagorno-Karabakh war, rather than accept the ceasefire agreement, the regime in Baku engineered a blockade of the Lachin corridor, which disrupted the flow of essential goods into Artsakh and caused great hardship for people living there. The objectives of this blockade have since become very clear. Following the start of this blockade last December, the Canadian foreign affairs committee chose to hold emergency hearings on the situation. Here at length is what we heard from Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh's representative in Washington. He said:
On December 12 of last year, a group of Azerbaijanis blocked the only road connecting Artsakh with Armenia and the world....the lives of an estimated 120,000 people have been severely worsening. Children and adult medical patients remain in critical condition and are suffering in hospitals from a lack of supplies and treatment outside the republic. People have died as a result.
Grocery shops and markets are almost empty. The Red Cross and the peacekeepers supply a fraction of the required products and medicines. A shortage of food has led to the closure of schools and other educational institutions across the area. To elevate the suffering, the Aliyev regime has cut the supply of natural gas and sabotaged and blocked the repair of high-voltage power lines, which provide much of our electricity.
This is a humanitarian crisis caused not by an economic downturn, a global pandemic or a natural disaster. This is, rather, a political disaster. Aliyev wants to decide who can live and who must have death. It is a political disaster if, in the 21st century, we witness medieval cruelty by a repressive regime toward people whose only crime is the desire to live in freedom, democracy and dignity.
We heard other harrowing testimony, way back in January, that nonetheless did not impel stronger action by the international community, or even by the Canadian government. However, in response to this testimony, the committee did agree unanimously to adopt the following motion:
That the committee report to the House that it calls on the Azerbaijani authorities, in accordance with its obligations as a party to the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, and following the appeal made by the Government of Canada on December 14, 2022, to reopen the Lachin Corridor and guarantee freedom of movement in order to avoid any deterioration in the humanitarian situation.
The committee adopted this motion because we understood that what was happening was a grave and unjustified violation of the fundamental human rights of the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and of the agreement that Azerbaijan had itself signed. Regardless of the conclusions that one comes to about any of the history of the conflict, this blockade was a clear violation of international law and of the ceasefire agreement. Azeri authorities showed no interest in taking their commitments seriously, and Russia showed either an unwillingness or an inability to fulfill its peacekeeping obligations under the agreement.
Again, regardless of one's views on the nature and exercise of self-determination, the blockade was a clear violation of fundamental human rights. In terms of how we classify that violation, it is important review the genocide convention to which Canada is a party. The convention underlines the responsibility of state parties to act to prevent and punish genocide. The convention defines “genocide” as “any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”, and of the possible acts, the convention includes “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.
The blockade of the Lachin corridor created conditions which made the continuation of normal life impossible in Artsakh, bringing about an increasing exodus from the area. The fact that this relates strongly to the genocide convention criteria explains why various experts have raised the flag about genocide in this context. States, regardless of their claims, never have a right to use genocide as a tool to advance their objectives, and other states have a moral and legal responsibility to respond when they do. The House should know that Armenians have been victims of genocide before, a genocide that, to this day, continues to be denied by the Turkish government. The world's relative ignorance was, in fact, used by Hitler to justify his own preparations for the Holocaust.
By launching this blockade, Azerbaijani authorities sought to and did squeeze the people of Artsakh, with their plans culminating in a full-scale invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh last week, about nine months after the blockade began. Last week, Azerbaijan declared that it would no longer tolerate the existence of Artsakh's independent institutions on its territory and launched coordinated attacks on security and civilian installations. Essentially, this was to be the final invasion. Without any international support, Artsakh was quickly forced to surrender and begin the process of negotiating its so-called reintegration into Azerbaijan.
It looks as if now it is all over for Artsakh, and now the ethnic Armenians who have long inhabited this territory will no longer be able to choose their own leaders. They will be at the mercy of their invaders unless the international community finally steps up. Meanwhile, we continue to hear reports of grievous human rights violations that will likely spawn the further exodus of these Armenians from their homeland.
Where has the international community been in response to these events? Where has it been in response to this assault on the idea that people ought to be able to choose how they are governed, that political conflict should be solved peacefully and that starvation and ethnic cleansing are never acceptable tools for forcing a civilian population into submission? Where has the Liberal government been? It initially condemned the blockade but has been largely absent since, and its statement last week on the invasion was certainly substantially weaker than those of our allies. This invasion took place during the operation of the UN General Assembly. Where was the world?
While keeping the focus on human rights, it is important to underline also the strategic implications of what has happened. Armenia has historically been an ally and partner of Russia, reflecting the fundamental reality of how challenging Armenia's neighbourhood is, landlocked and surrounded by, among others, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran. However, Armenia has recently been making a series of welcome moves to align instead with the global community of free nations. This is natural, from a values perspective. Unlike its neighbours, Armenia is a free democracy. Armenia has given humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The first lady of Armenia has recently visited Ukraine, and Armenia made the point that it is not Russia's ally in the war with Ukraine. Ominously, Russia said it took note of Armenia's stand in this regard. Just before the final invasion of Artsakh, the U.S. and Armenia held joint military exercises.
What is happening here? Armenia appears to be moving more into the western camp of nations. In response, Russia appears to have greenlit or allowed Azerbaijan's aggressive action against Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, in spite of the fact that this invasion may have been impacted by Armenia's outreach to the western camp, we in the west have entirely failed to show ourselves to be a good reciprocal partner, and this sends a terrible message to any would-be allies: that even if they would like to execute a strategic pivot away from the Russian sphere of influence to the community of free nations, we may not have their backs. This is the wrong message and a dangerous message.
Adopting this concurrence motion at this time is, in certain respects, late to the game because the motion, of course, does focus on the blockade. The invasion has now overtaken these issues, but it is critical for the House to speak to this. So much hangs in the balance: the fundamental rights of the people of this area, the importance of preventing another Armenian genocide and the need to show all nations that we will do what we can to support free people seeking to exercise self-determination and disentangle themselves from Russian influence.
I hope this motion will have the support of the House and then that we will do more to stand for freedom and justice against violence and aggression, and for a peaceful international rules-based order.
Madam Speaker, usually I would indicate that it is a pleasure to be able to rise to address a particular issue in the chamber. I would like to break my speech into a couple of parts related to the issue at hand.
First, I would like to provide a bit of background as to why we are debating this issue before us. Suffice it to say that all issues are ultimately important, particularly in the minds of many different people. When we have a finite amount of time to debate issues on the floor of the House of Commons, we have to try to place them, whether they are opposition agenda items or government agenda items, in some sense of an order of priority. War and things taking place internationally have always played an important role in debates of the chamber.
Members will recall last Monday, for example, we had the very serious issue of foreign interference being debated. I would have thought it to be universally accepted by most members of this chamber, but it was not by the Conservatives because I believe they had one person come in to speak once and that was it. Then they were absolutely quite. They did not get engaged, yet that was on the issue of foreign interference.
I can assure members across the way that the level of interest on that issue is actually quite high, yet the Conservative Party, with the exception of its very first speaker, was absolutely silent. I suspect it was because its members wanted to have their fingers in the air to figure out what they could or should be saying. That was an important international issue.
When we think of foreign affairs, we often have take-note debates and emergency debates. These are opportunities not only for opposition members but also for government members to stand and express concerns by reflecting on what their constituents are saying about that particular issue, and they can raise it in great detail. That is one of the advantages of the rules we have to accommodate issues of this nature.
I think people need to be aware of the background of these reports. For example, the member for , who did not participate in the international interference debate last Monday, and who often likes to talk about his concerns about what is happening around the world, has brought forward a concurrence motion. I want us to put this into the proper perspective of when the report was actually tabled, which was back on February 17 of this year. Allow me to read the entire report. I can assure members it will not take long, but so I do not misquote, I will put on my glasses.
The report, which was tabled on February 17, states:
That the committee report to the House that it calls on the Azerbaijani authorities, in accordance with its obligations as a party to the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, and following the appeal made by the Government of Canada on December 14, 2022, to reopen the Lachin Corridor and guarantee freedom of movement in order to avoid any deterioration in the humanitarian situation, and that, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Government table a comprehensive response to the report.
It is one paragraph that was brought into the chamber on February 17. Do members know there was actually a response to that report? An official response was given. Did the member refer to, cite or quote the response? I am not convinced the member is aware that there was a response given to the report on June 14 of this year. If so, he could have read first-hand how the government responded to that report.
Did the standing committee meet to discuss the response to the report and give an indication as to whether it wanted to have further debate on the issue? I do not know. I am not on the foreign affairs committee, nor have I asked any of its members. However, if I were to speculate, given the track record of the member for , I would suggest that it likely did not.
Why do we have it today? I was supposed to be the first one to speak today. Do members know what the topic was? It was to be on Bill , which is a wake-up call for the Conservative Party of Canada. People are hurting. Interest rates, inflation, what the grocery store giants are doing, and housing are the important issues that Canadians are facing today. This is not to take away from the importance of the issue described in that one-paragraph report from the standing committee months ago. After all, the government gave a formal response to it.
All issues are important. The reason for this motion is not to say we want to have a debate on this issue here on the floor of the House of Commons, but that this is being used as a tool to prevent the debate the was supposed to be taking place to deal with the Canadian economy and how Canadians are hurting. The members of the Conservative Party want to play games and filibuster. Shame on them for that sort of behaviour as an official opposition.
There are mechanisms from which the Conservatives can choose, such as opposition days, where they have a number of days every year to choose to debate important issues. For instance, they can add additional substance to the one paragraph that was provided by the standing committee. They could express other concerns. They could draw in the comparison, as the member for did, with what is happening in Ukraine today.
As one of my colleagues said, the Conservatives are putting politics above people. That is shameful. If the member or the Conservative Party, because I think this is its agenda, did not want to use one of their opposition days and were keen to have this debate in a forum that would allow people to really get engaged on the issue, why would they not approach the government and ask for a take-note debate? To the very best of my knowledge, and I sit on the House leadership team, that was not done.
There is no member who brings forward more petitions than the member across the way. How many petitions has he tabled with respect to this connection for humanitarian aid, the Lachin corridor? I will get more into that shortly. To what degree has that taken place? Better yet, I am having a difficult time trying to recall when the member rose with a request for an emergency debate on this issue. The reason we cannot remember a date is that he did not request one.
The only reason this concurrence motion has been brought forward for us today is because the Conservative Party has, once again, fallen into two principles. The first is character assassination. Every opportunity the Conservative members get, they try to make the look bad, even if it spreads false information. They are very good at this. The other thing they want to do is frustrate the House and what is taking place on the floor. Today is a very good example of that.
The member for in particular, and all Conservative members, needs to realize that the people they are hurting—
Madam Speaker, if the member were actually listening, he would have heard the comments I made about the motion and the reason why it was before us.
I have read the motion. After reading the motion, it will not take people too much to get a better sense of it and understand it. Instead of reading the speech that was delivered by the member for , all people need to do is go to Google and type in the words “Lachin corridor”. Let us remember that is what the motion is about. It states:
That the committee report to the House that it calls on the Azerbaijani authorities, in accordance with its obligations as a party to the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, and following the appeal made by the Government of Canada on December 14, 2022, to reopen the Lachin Corridor...
It is important because it is about issues such as freedom and humanitarian aid.
If people who are following debate feel that is the issue they want to look more into, Wikipedia has a nice graphic picture on it. I looked at it while the member was speaking. Albeit not overly comprehensive and may not necessarily give justice to the issue, there is something there. The Lachin corridor is a mountain road that links Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh. Being the only road between these two countries, it is considered a humanitarian corridor or a lifeline. Being a lifeline, it plays an absolutely critical role for what is taking place on the ground.
Canadians have consistently said that humanitarian aid is important. Actions by the Government of Canada are always expected. When I think of foreign aid, it is critically important that we differentiate between the perpetrators, or the people who are causing the problems, and the people who are having to live with the result of what other people are doing to them, and under some horrific circumstances, including starvation and all forms of abuse.
We see conflicts taking place around the world, and Canada is a very diverse nation. Often when something is happening on the other side of the world, Canada has an interest. We often find that Canada has members of that community living in Canada and calling it home. However, part of the Canadian identity means that they do not come to Canada and forget their homeland. They can still be a hard-working, proud Canadians but maintain those strong, often emotional ties to their homeland. When people share those lived experiences with workers or the environment in which they live in Canada, it overflows into the main population.
When we see the number of conflicts that are taking place around the world, we begin to understand why Canadians are very much in tune with the importance of humanitarian aid, whether it is to individuals or organizations. For a country the size of Canada of just under 40 million people, we contribute a lot toward humanitarian aid. We contribute a lot to the issues of freedom and rule of law, because those are important Canadian values. We see that on an ongoing basis
I made reference to the fact that the report the member for has brought forward was tabled in February. I questioned whether he understood there was a response to that report, because he did not cite the response. I have a letter of response that was provided, and I would like to go through it so the member in particular, and the Conservative Party, understands the response.
Members should keep in mind that this response was given back in June, so I did a Hansard search. Did the member for , who I know will get an opportunity to ask a question of me, follow up on that report? Did he write to the and provide his opinions on it? Did he provide any feedback with respect to the report that was tabled? I do not know. I will wait for the member to stand, when it comes time for questions and comments, and possibly answer that question. What was his official response? Did he ignore it? I anxiously await.
Since I only have two minutes, and in case the member does not have a copy of it, if I could have unanimous consent, I would be happy to table the response of June 14.
Madam Speaker, I cannot say how surprised I am, to say the least, that we are addressing this issue today—not that I do not consider it important, on the contrary. My office and the office of my colleague from held discussions prior to the first meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development so that we could again bring up the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, given the events of recent days and weeks. There was then an agreement.
Yesterday, during the very first meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, I did say that we wanted to revisit this issue, since we have an open study, so to speak, on the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and recent events require us to look at this issue again. We therefore had discussions with our Conservative colleagues about this.
Suddenly, this morning, without warning, the Conservatives moved this motion to adopt the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Not that I do not think this report should be adopted or that this is an important issue. It is a matter of the utmost urgency, and I will come back to this in a moment.
There was, however, a distinct lack of co-operation on the part of our Conservative colleagues, a lack of consultation and communication, even though our offices had been in contact for several weeks about the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. As a result, I can only conclude that this is a delaying tactic that has nothing to do with the substance of the issue. This is a parliamentary guerrilla tactic to prevent the government from passing its inflation bill.
At the same, I must say that I disagree with the Liberal Party’s when he says that the inflation issue is more important in the calculations or in the ranking of important matters. I know that our constituents are living with the daily consequences of inflation and the housing shortage and that it is vitally important that we address this issue. Moreover, we were scheduled to discuss this, as part of the study of Bill .
However, right now, there are people losing their lives in Nagorno-Karabakh and the international community is showing little or no concern. There are only a few countries, including France, in particular, that really seem to care about what is happening in that region.
Azerbaijan claims that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of its territory. International law seems to confirm the Azerbaijani claim. However, if it is true that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are part of Azerbaijan, how can we tolerate, under the principle of the duty and responsibility to protect—a concept that was adopted by the United Nations at Canada’s instigation—a government literally starving and attacking a population in its territory? That, however, is what is happening.
For several months, after the 2020 conflict, the government claimed that it wanted to adopt a balanced position, stating that it did not know what was really happening on the ground. It said that it did not really know who the attacker was and who was in the wrong.
However, since then, the facts keep pointing at Azerbaijan.
There was a reluctant statement from Global Affairs Canada, which we actually reiterated in the report, that simply called on Azerbaijan to live up to its commitment under the peace agreement that it reached with Armenia after the 2020 conflict under Russian auspices. This statement called on Azerbaijan to live up to its commitment to keep the Lachin Corridor open and call on it to respect the terms of the ceasefire.
Aside from this half-hearted statement, not much has been done by the Canadian government. Of course, a special rapporteur was sent, and none other than Stéphane Dion, Canada’s ambassador plenipotentiary, who is the right fit for all purposes and missions. He was sent to Armenia to support Armenian democracy. Some recommendations were taken from his report, including the recommendation to open an embassy in Yerevan, a commitment made by the Prime Minister several years ago that is finally being implemented. How can we accept that Azerbaijan has, on several occasions, not only violated the ceasefire agreement reached with Armenia in 2020, but also blatantly crossed into Armenia’s sovereign territory?
In the House, since February 2022, we have stood in solidarity in our determination to denounce Russia’s illegal and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. Several countries around the world look at Canada and its claims to defend international law, human rights and the rule of law, and then wonder about how we seem to apply things differently based on the situation. Palestine has been living under occupation since 1967 to near total indifference. Armenia has been subjected to military attacks by Azerbaijan to near total indifference. The Canadian government is determined, and we completely support it, to defend Ukraine against Russian aggression. Why then the double standard? Why not be just as firm about Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia as we have been and still are about Russia's aggression against Ukraine?
Azerbaijan violated the peace agreements once again by launching a military offensive in the Nagorno-Karabakh region on September 19. People are fleeing by the hundreds, fearing repression. Indeed, there have been disturbing reports about how the Azeri troops are treating the civilian population. There are reports of summary executions and discrimination against Armenian populations. For months now, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have been suffering the effects of the blockade, which Azerbaijan initially tried to deny so as not to be accused of violating the terms of the ceasefire agreement signed with Armenia in 2020.
Azerbaijan is a rather authoritarian state that rarely tolerates protests. However, it did tolerate a months-long protest by so-called environmentalists who blocked the Lachin corridor under the pretext of wanting to prevent mining developments in Nagorno-Karabakh. The fact of the matter is that Azerbaijan's main fear was that mining resources would flow from Nagorno-Karabakh into Armenia. Under the pretext of preventing mining development for supposedly environmental reasons, these activists were therefore tolerated in the Lachin corridor for months.
In January of this year, I brought this serious situation before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. In the wake of the blockade of the Lachin corridor, we conducted a study on this specific situation at the request of the Bloc Québécois. That study eventually led to this report, which is quite brief. As I was saying, it essentially repeats the wording of the Canadian declaration. I felt that the Liberals wanted to soft-pedal, that they were not too eager to adopt a report. I told them that it was the Global Affairs Canada statement repeated verbatim and that they could not be against that.
One thing led to another and they ended up accepting. However, I get the impression that as a result of Azerbaijan lobbying certain Liberal MPs, they were reluctant to take a position, much like the government. The report says:
That the committee report to the House that it calls on the Azerbaijani authorities, in accordance with its obligations as a party to the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020, and following the appeal made by the Government of Canada on December 14, 2022, to reopen the Lachin Corridor and guarantee freedom of movement in order to avoid any deterioration in the humanitarian situation, and that, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Government table a comprehensive response to the report.
The response came. On June 14, the sent us a two-page response that was interesting but contained many of the same soothing statements that the government has been offering up for months concerning the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. It said that the government was following developments closely, that it was monitoring the situation every day, that it was urging Azerbaijan to open the corridor, and so on. Meanwhile, in violation of the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Azerbaijan repeatedly resumed hostilities, including against Armenia. This development met with, as I have said, near total indifference.
Azerbaijan eventually realized that the truth about the corridor supposedly being blockaded by eco-activists was coming out. Public protests are not permitted in Azerbaijan, except in the Lachin corridor, curiously enough. The Azerbaijan government realized that no one was buying its story, so it decided to just set up a military roadblock, right under the noses of the so-called Russian peacekeepers. The ceasefire agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia in 2020 was brokered by Russia, which was supposed to guarantee that the ceasefire stayed in place by having troops on the ground. Who knows why Russia's attention seems to be elsewhere, but the Russian peacekeepers barely fulfilled their role. I would go so far as to say they did not fulfill it at all.
In fact, they were even used by Azerbaijan to carry out attacks not only against Nagorno-Karabakh, but also against Armenia itself. The same aggressor that we are denouncing in the war in Ukraine is abetting Azerbaijan in attacking another independent nation, the only democracy in the Caucasus region, where we have committed to defending democracy, yet we are doing nothing. We are letting it happen.
Canada makes soothing comments that it is monitoring the situation very closely, that it is paying attention to what is going on, that it is urging Azerbaijan to reopen the corridor, but this is no longer about reopening the Lachin corridor. The territory of Nagorno-Karabakh has been occupied by the Azerbaijani military. Its population, which has been starving and deprived of all basic medical supplies for months, is now under military occupation by Azerbaijan, which is committing atrocities against the civilian population. Again, this news has been met with near total indifference.
Words cannot express how disappointed I am with the Liberal government's attitude toward this conflict. For months, it suggested that we could not be sure which nation was the aggressor was in this case. What will it take for the Liberal government to understand that Azerbaijan is the aggressor, that the fact that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan under international law cannot justify military aggression against innocent civilians and cannot justify a nation literally starving its population? In another context, that would be called genocide. This is a very serious issue.
I certainly do not want to downplay the importance of the debate we are having on the adoption of the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. However, I cannot help but wonder once again if this is the time to discuss it. I know our Conservative colleagues are genuinely and deeply concerned about the situation because, as I stated earlier, we have had discussions. Our offices have had discussions about the fact that we wanted to raise this issue again in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Since our offices have been in contact, why are we being surprised this morning by this motion to adopt the report? Why were we not consulted? Why were we not even informed?
This morning, I was coming out of another committee when I was told I had to speak. Why proceed this way on such an important issue that should see us all working together?
What we are seeing, unfortunately, is a political move by our Conservative friends to derail and delay debate on the inflation bill. I come back to the comments by the . I am not saying that the issue is more important than what is happening in Nagorno‑Karabakh, because people are dying right now in Nagorno‑Karabakh, but our fellow Canadians in every riding are dealing with the problem of inflation. Our fellow Canadians in every riding are dealing with the problem of a housing shortage.
Our Conservative colleagues rise every day in the House and say that the current inflation is unacceptable, but they come here today with this delaying tactic. Someone would have called them whited sepulchres.
We saw yesterday how hypocritical our colleagues can be, and I use that word carefully. When it was proposed that the passages in which the veteran of the Waffen-SS was in our gallery, and even the related video excerpts, be removed from the record of the debates, they refused. My Conservative colleagues need to show some honesty. If they are as interested in the issue of Nagorno‑Karabakh as they claim, they should not proceed as they did this morning.
Madam Speaker, this is a very important debate that we are undertaking here today. A very serious situation is unfolding in the region. I am happy to speak in this debate today, but I want to start by taking a moment to say that, as many have said before me in this place, this is not how we should be engaging with this topic.
I was informed about an hour ago that this debate was going to be happening. That does not give members of Parliament the time to prepare to present on something as important and as vital as this issue. This issue is so important that I and the member for wrote a letter to the last week asking for more action to be taken on this.
I want to make it extraordinarily clear that the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding, the risk to Armenians, the tens of thousands of Armenians who are fleeing for their lives and their safety right now, demands attention from Canada and a response from the government, but a debate like this, which was brought forward by the member for , is the wrong way to do this.
I will say as well that this is the same member from whom we have heard nothing with regard to foreign interference by India. On the potential of a Canadian citizen being murdered on Canadian soil, we have heard nothing from the member for . This is the same member who, during his speech, spoke about Canada selling arms to Turkey, but at no point has he ever mentioned the fact that Canada continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. At no point has he said that we are not adhering to the Arms Trade Treaty. This picking and choosing when he brings things forward is disingenuous. To politicize something as serious as what has happened in the Nagorno-Karabakh is almost criminal, to be honest.
We are very worried about what is happening. In fact, the NDP asked for the government to put sanctions in place against the Azerbaijanis who are responsible for this humanitarian crisis. We have asked the government to sanction those individuals who have started this offensive increase in terror in the region, and the reason for that is that we saw last week that over 200 civilians were murdered. We have now seen tens of thousands of people fleeing the region, after months and months of conflict within the Lachin corridor. The challenges in this region are extraordinary, and the need for Canada to step up and step into that place is also extraordinary.
We know that in Brussels today, peace talks are under way. Canada has a role to play there as well. We do not occupy a large source of influence in that region. It is important for us to recognize that. However, I would say that we do have the ability to have a voice. We do have the ability to work with our allies. One of the things we can do is impose sanctions on those who are responsible for this violence.
I have stood in this place many times and criticized the government on our sanctions regime. I do not think our regime is as strong as it could be. We are good at putting people on the sanctions list, but we are not necessarily good at following through and enforcing those sanctions. I do think this is one of those opportunities where Canada could step up. This is one of those opportunities where we could improve our sanctions regime and the way we deal with bad actors.
Canada has a long history of speaking out for human rights on the world stage, for speaking up for justice, for speaking up for the rights of others, and while that role has diminished over the last decade, the last 10 to 15 years, we can take that role again. We can take that on. We have a new ambassador in Armenia. I know this will be a very difficult job for him. He has testified at the foreign affairs committee, so I know that he is well informed and able to contribute to this important work.
At this moment, when there is ethnic cleansing happening, when the Armenian people are suffering, when people are being forced from their homes because of their fears for their own safety, it is an opportunity for Canada to step forward and do what we can.
The NDP has asked for sanctions and development assistance. We should be committing to helping those Armenians who are fleeing from their homes.
We should be committing to increasing our official development assistance, ODA. This is a government that cut ODA by 15% in the last budget. That is not playing the role on the world stage that we need to see from this current administration.
Of course, we would like to see Canada play a bigger role in the world. I have said that many times. I have said many times that in this multipolar world, in this vastly changing world, having that voice, being present, is so important. This government's fixation on trade to the exclusion of diplomacy, peacekeeping and development has put our foreign policy in a very dangerous place.
We have heard, many times, from the government that we have a feminist foreign policy and yet I do not see that in the actions that this government takes.
A feminist foreign policy would require us to invest in development and to look at where we sell arms and how we engage with other countries. It would require us to recognize the impacts of things like the humanitarian crisis happening right now in the Lachin corridor in Nagorno—Karabakh. It would require us to recognize that the people who bear the burden of these horrific events are women and girls. They are the ones who will suffer the most in these situations.
As a member of Parliament in a country that purports to have a feminist foreign policy, obviously one no one has ever seen but that is what we have been told, this is something that needs to be raised. We need to be looking at how that feminist foreign policy informs what we do and how we engage with Azerbaijanis who are committing ethnic cleansing against the Armenian people.
For me, there are steps we can take. There are more things that Canada can do. I think it is vital that we actually take those steps.
Knowing that the diplomatic talks are happening in Brussels today, I would also urge the government to reach out to all channels that we have to encourage the Azerbaijanis to come in good faith, and to encourage other countries within the EU, the United States and our allies to come to those talks with meaningful, concrete steps that can stop the violence against civilians.
Dialogue is the only way out of this very complex issue. It is the only solution. Any violence against civilians will never result in a peaceful outcome for the people of Azerbaijan or the people of Armenia. There has to be dialogue. There has to be engagement with the international community.
Frankly, there has to be recognition that what the Azerbaijani government is doing right now is wrong. What it is doing right now is ethnic cleansing. It is against the law. It is against international law. It is morally incorrect, morally wrong, and it should be called out for that right now. That should be raised by our and our government.
I will finish today by once again reiterating that Canada needs to do more. We need to step up and have a bigger voice on the international stage. As I mentioned, cuts to our official development assistance, cuts to support for international development organizations that are working around the world and changes to our legislation, which make it much more difficult for Canadian organizations to provide life-saving humanitarian and development aid around the world, are heading us in the wrong direction. It is taking our foreign policy in the wrong direction. We should be investing in people. We should be investing in those experts in our community that do development assistance. We should be committing to doing everything we can in this context and in contexts around the world.
I am deeply worried about the people of Armenia and about the tens of thousands of people who are fleeing violence right now. I ask, as strongly as I possible can, the Government of Canada to do more to alleviate their suffering.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the .
I just want to begin my comments by speaking to the many Armenian Canadians who live in my riding of Vancouver Granville and expressing my own grave concern about what has been happening over the course of the last few days in Nagorno-Karabakh and in terms of the potential humanitarian catastrophe that may unfold. I want them to know that Canada, that I and that all of us in this chamber will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that a negotiated settlement, peace and security are brought to them. It is important for us to make sure that all Canadians and members of Parliament in this House speak with a united voice in ensuring that the Azerbaijani government refrain from activities and actions that pose risk to life, safety and the welfare of the civilian population. It is essential to show the human value of kindness, particularly humanitarian compassion, by allowing access, including via the Lachin corridor. This should be something that happens right away.
We are living in a world right now where military action and violence is becoming the way in which we seek to solve problems. That is unacceptable. Canada has always spoken for and must always speak for negotiated political solutions, and this is no exception. We have to make sure that we act in the best interest of civilians first. In this case, it is absolutely critical that the Azerbaijani government understand the importance of allowing humanitarian access to occur, of ensuring that humanitarian work is not prevented, as well as that civilians are protected and that this exodus that has been forced upon Armenians is stopped so that they can live in peace and security.
Military escalation is good for no one. It serves no purpose and adds no value at all. All it does is seek to cause further unrest in the world, which is already dealing with tremendous amounts of unrest. This is yet another deeply troubling global situation that we need to address.
Just yesterday, Canada took the step of announcing a new ambassador to Armenia. This is a strong commitment being shown to the region, to people on the ground and, in particular, to the Armenian community here. It says that we intend to stand firm in working toward peace in the region and that we are following developments occurring on the ground in the Lachin corridor not only from here but also with a team there that is going to be doing its part in ensuring that a diplomatic solution is preserved.
We have voiced as a country, in public statements, social media and everywhere we possibly can, how important it is to have activities that underline confidence in the peace process and that allow Armenia and Azerbaijan to work toward a peaceful and comprehensive solution. We cannot live in a world where peaceful settlements are replaced by violence or where a government can enact aggression on civilian populations unchecked. It is unacceptable and the potential for genocide, violence and mass harm to civilians is something that cannot be understated or ignored. It is so important for us to take a strong position in favour of peace and make sure that Armenian Canadians hear and understand this unequivocally: Not only are we concerned about what is happening, but we also know we must be tireless in the efforts to find a negotiated political solution to what is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh. We need to make sure that the Lachin corridor remains open, that there is no threat of closure again, that humanitarian work can continue and that civilians can continue or at least begin again to live with some measure of peace.
These types of challenges that happen, although they may seem a world away for many of us, have a profound impact on diaspora communities and on the Armenian community here. It is really important for us to realize how important it is to remain in constant dialogue with that community here. They need to hear that this chamber and members of all parties understand the severity of the consequences of what is happening on the ground, the impact on their families and the potential impact on their community here. These dialogues must be met not only with profound compassion and understanding but also with a willingness and a desire to keep on the path of being an active player in the region and to keep being active in our engagement.
The thing we are hearing today and the magic, sometimes, of issues such as this is that it allows us all to come together to say that we must, as a country, keep on this course. I have been really gratified to see our minister and our ambassador speaking out to say how important it is for that engagement to occur and continue in a thoughtful way, so we can keep pushing the cause of negotiated settlements, of finding peace and of long-term permanent solutions.
The idea that every few months or years, a flare-up such as this one can cause profound humanitarian anxiety, civilian unrest and hardship to civilians is unacceptable. Global conflicts, small or large, require us to put our time, effort and energy into finding peace.
The 2020 ceasefire agreement calls on Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia to fulfill their obligations under the terms of that settlement. These obligations should not be taken lightly by anyone. They should not be taken as recommendations. These are requirements.
Our opportunity, as Canada, particularly now that there is a new ambassador who is going to be on the ground in place, is to remind people of the importance of this and to be actively engaged, as we are.
The idea of dialogue, of making sure we support the EU's work that is under way right now, is important. It is important for this House to send a unified message that, in fact, all Canadians believe that the right answer is a negotiated settlement and that we are willing to support those who are doing the hard work of building peace.
The idea of humanitarian work, humanitarian aid and a humanitarian approach is critically important in our dealings with other governments and in how other governments need to think about the way in which they behave.
I have said this multiple times in this House and outside: There is no good that comes from governments attacking civilian populations. I think we would all agree on that. This is a case where, periodically and episodically, we see an ethnic population being attacked unnecessarily, with no reason and sometimes with the purported idea that they are fighting against terrorism or there is a desire to cleanse or to remove criminal elements. That is not on.
We know the reality of what is happening on the ground. We all see it, and we all understand it. We hear it from the Armenian community, as well as from the Azerbaijani community in Canada. They are deeply concerned about escalation in their country and their region, and they have the desire to be able to live in peace and security.
I heard from Armenians who live in my riding and Azerbaijanis who live in my community, who say unequivocally that they have a desire to see peace. They have a desire to see their region be peaceful, and they continue to have friendly relations here in Canada. They say how important it is for this to be communicated to that part of the world, how important it is for people on the ground in Armenia and Azerbaijan to see that these communities should and must be able to live in peace as neighbours.
There is much to be gained from Azerbaijan acting in a way that brings peace and from finding peace for the entire region and for the peoples who live there. These peoples seek one thing, which is to be able to live with peace, security and the capacity and the ability to be able to plan for the futures of their families.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues for raising this important issue, which is deeply impacting the security of the Caucasus and Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
We have heard from the Armenian community, which has members all across the country and certainly also in my own riding of Ahuntsic-Cartierville. My heart and my thoughts are with them.
Of course, my heart and my thoughts are with members of the Armenian community in Ahuntsic-Cartierville and across the country, as the situation in Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh and the Caucasus is extremely difficult.
We have been following this very closely, and we continue to call on Azerbaijan to stop the hostilities. The Lachin corridor must be reopened. There must be freedom of movement for humanitarian supplies and aid, and civilians must be protected.
We call on all parties involved in the 2020 ceasefire to fulfill their obligations. I raised this issue just this morning at the meeting of the OSCE and last week in the context of the UN General Assembly. I also raised the issue with the chair of the OSCE, North Macedonia, when I was in North Macedonia. I raised it with the president of the EU council, Charles Michel, when I was in Slovenia three weeks ago at the Bled convention, and I also raised it with Secretary Blinken last week.
This is an issue that is close to my heart and that is very important to the government. I have engaged with the government of Azerbaijan and with the government of Armenia, and later today I will be talking to my Armenian counterpart. Canada stands ready to continue supporting measures to stabilize the current situation as well as negotiations for a comprehensive peace treaty through the promotion of confidence-building measures around the principles of the non-use of force, territorial integrity and self-determination.
We firmly support a comprehensive negotiated political solution. The European Union is playing an important role to foster peace, and Canada is proud to support its work. We will be deploying Canadian experts to join the EU mission to support peace and security in the region, and we are also increasing our presence in the region, as we announced last summer. This is in line with the recommendations made by Stéphane Dion, the special envoy to the on this issue. Just yesterday, we announced the appointment of a new ambassador to Armenia, Andrew Turner. Mr. Turner is a seasoned diplomat who has spent his career developing a deep understanding of the region and of the realities of the Armenian people. I look forward to working with him as we support Armenian democracy and the Armenian people.
In 2021 and 2022, Stéphane Dion, the Prime Minister's special envoy to the European Union and Europe, led a mission to explore options for Canada to better support Armenian democracy. His report, which was published in April 2022, contained 11 recommendations, including a recommendation that Canada continue to support Armenia's parliament and civil society. Since then, Canada has committed to establishing an embassy in Yerevan, which is now scheduled to open no later than the end of this year. Yesterday, we announced the name of our first ambassador to Armenia, Andrew Turner.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for the diligence and commitment undertaken in their work. I will also mention the report that was tabled in the spring regarding the situation in the Lachin corridor. I would also like to refer to the response to the committee's report that my team and I issued in June.
I will be pleased to answer all questions from my colleagues in the House, since the issue of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh is one that I am following very closely.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
What is going on in the Caucasus today is of grave and deep concern. Just over a century after a horrific genocide, the Armenian genocide of 1915-16, the world still has not learned from the lessons of the past. Just over a century later, we are witnessing a major humanitarian crisis unfold in Nagorno-Karabakh, in the western part of Azerbaijan. Tens of thousands, if not over 120,000, civilians are being slowly starved to death in that corridor because of the blockage of that corridor.
The former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, wrote a report recently in which he said, “There is an ongoing Genocide against 120,000 Armenians living in Nagorno- Karabakh”. That should raise alarm bells for all of us here in Canada, with Canada being a signatory to the 1948 genocide convention. Many people think of a genocide as an active, physical slaughter of innocent civilians, but the 1948 genocide convention contains many other reasons for an event's constituting a genocide. It can mean taking away children from a particular group. It can mean destroying the means of life for a particular group, either in part or in whole. It does not necessarily require mass killing.
By blocking the Lachin corridor, the Government of Azerbaijan is putting at risk the lives of some 120,000 civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh. They are putting at risk those lives through starvation, a silent killer. Starvation, in many respects, as Mr. Ocampo has written, “is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.” This was written several weeks ago and should be of great concern to us.
The International Court of Justice has ordered Azerbaijan to remove the blockade. Instead, Azerbaijan has established a checkpoint on the road and has begun blockading even humanitarian aid being delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The BBC has reported that people have been fainting in the bread lines. Other witness accounts have shown that people are slowly starving to death. However, because of world events, this humanitarian crisis in the Caucasus has gotten little attention.
The reason for today's concurrence debate in the House is to draw to the attention of the world the fact that this humanitarian crisis is unfolding and needs to stop. We call on the Government of Azerbaijan to immediately reopen the corridor, not just to humanitarian aid but also to passenger traffic and commercial traffic. We call on both sides in this conflict, the representatives of the Government of Baku and representatives of the community in Stepanakert, to immediately meet to sort out an agreement on transportation that would allow the corridor and alternative supply routes to reopen to ensure that food, medicine and other goods could flow into the region to ensure that 120,000 people are not slowly starved to death.
I want to finish my speech by delivering a message to both communities involved in this long-standing conflict. Canada was once a country where sectarian violence ruled the politics of the day. It was not that long ago, in the 19th century, that various sectarian elements in our society put forward their sectarian interests and used violence to advance their political causes.
It was not that long ago, in the mid-19th century, that Protestants and Catholics would be at each other's throats in a violent way, never co-operating on anything and, instead, using violence to advance their means, using discrimination and other forms of non-democratic tools to get their way and achieve their political ends. Thankfully, through a lot of hard work, dialogue, constitutional change and discussions that took place over many decades, we were able to leave that terrible time behind.
So too with the linguistic divide that once existed in this country between anglophones and francophones, we ultimately resolved our differences through constitutional change and legislative changes that endure to this day. It has not always been perfect, as we see with the continued debates on language that take place here and at the provincial level.
Nevertheless, we have achieved a remarkable degree of social peace and cohesion in this country by moving beyond these sectarian and linguistic divides toward a Canada where people can achieve the good life and a resolution to their differences through democratic dialogue and not through the end of a sword. Such, I hope, will be the ultimate result for the peoples living in the South Caucasus in that part of the world. Such, I hope, will be the end result for Armenians living in Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis living throughout the region.
We call on the Government of Canada to be more categoric and clear with the international community on the need for Azerbaijan to lift the blockade to allow the free movement of goods, of people and of humanitarian aid. We call on the government to be more clear in calling on both parties, those in Stepanakert and those in Baku, to come together to iron out an agreement to allow the free movement of goods, people and humanitarian aid. We do that with a sense of urgency, because while this conflict has been going on for some time, it has become especially more urgent since Azerbaijan concluded its hostilities against Armenia a couple of years ago. I hope that in this time of conflict in Ukraine and other parts of the world, the world will not turn a blind eye a mere 107 years after another genocide took place in that part of the world.
For all those reasons, I call on the Government of Canada to use its diplomatic resources, to use its influence here and abroad, to deliver a clear message to the Government of Azerbaijan that this blockade of the Lachin corridor is completely unacceptable and that it is leading, in effect, to an ethnic cleansing through the means of a silent killer: starvation.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great sobriety that I stand in the House today to discuss the issue with regard to the ongoing conflict that is taking place with the Azeris going after the Armenians who reside within the Nagorno-Karabakh region. We are receiving news day by day of grave atrocities that are being committed at the hands of the Azeris. There are people who are starving. There are people who have lost their lives. There are people who desperately need medicine and are not being granted that. There are individuals who are separated from other loved ones because of this conflict.
This conflict, of course, has gone on for quite some time, but most recently its intensity has heightened to a significant extent. Therefore, it is with that heightened crisis that my colleagues and I stand in the House today and advocate on behalf of the people of Armenia for peace to be restored to the region. It is our belief that Canada, as a peacekeeper, does have an important role to play in a diplomatic regard, and so it is to that end that we stand today in this place and advocate.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in this region of Nagorno-Karabakh has a long history. Two major wars have been fought just within the last three decades, so it is not without its complications or many different angles to be considered. However, at the end of the day, the thing that must be accounted for is the fact that there are innocent people residing within this region who are being put in harm's way and being prevented from being able to access the necessities of life, and that must weigh heavily on the conscience of every single member of Parliament.
I had the opportunity to travel to Armenia in 2017 and to see first-hand some of the conflict that has taken place in the past and that is taking place now. Of course, in 2017, things were very different than they are now. I would never dream of going into this particular region at this point in time, but when I went in 2017, there was certainly a military presence, both from the Armenian side and from the Azerbaijan side, and I had the opportunity to actually walk that military line and see the separation, the topography and geography, and how this is all situated.
More important, I not only had the opportunity to see that, but I had the opportunity to visit with the people of the region and to hear their stories of wanting to preserve their language, their way of life and their culture, and wanting to be respected for that. I heard the stories of people who have gone through one atrocity after another and who have been proponents of peace. Unfortunately, the other side, Azerbaijan, does not want to grant that to them, so those folks who live within the specific region of Nagorno-Karabakh are forever living in this place of unsettledness, unrest and fear.
During my time there, I had the opportunity to go into several homes. These were not homes where people were living; they were actually homes that had been vacated. The reason they had been vacated was that they were on the line where war had taken place. I can remember explicitly walking into one home and there were actually pictures hanging on the wall. There were two photographs that caught my attention, and there were actually a couple of drawings done by children; they were coloured in. It was evident that a family had lived here. There were beds with old mattresses and there were still a few plates and different necessities within the kitchen. Other than that, it was largely vacated. As I wandered through the home, I entered into one room where there was actually a bloodstain on the floor and blood spatter on the wall, which was stained there. I asked my guide what had taken place and he went on to tell me that there was in fact a family that had lived in this home and this family was actually attacked. They were an innocent civilian family, but unfortunately resided in a region that Azerbaijan wanted to control.
As a result of that, life was lost. As a result of that, a house was turned into wreckage. As a result of that, the remaining individuals within this family who survived the attack, though there was loss of life, were displaced and moved into another region of Armenia where they would be safer.
For these folks to live in this type of upheaval, to live in this type of fear and to exist in such a state, is not okay. For Canada to stand idle and remain quiet on this matter is also not okay. We cannot find ourselves silent. If we do, I fear that we are then perhaps siding with the enemy.
It is important for us to speak out on behalf of those individuals who are innocent and on behalf of those individuals who simply want to live a good live, preserve their language, culture and way of being, and be respected and honoured within their historic homeland. That right is currently being robbed from them.
There was a peace agreement that came about. In fact, there was a peace agreement, but then it was called off, and then there was another peace agreement, but that was called off. This is the history of the region. What is so grave about what is taking place right now is the fact that Azerbaijan is going into this region and attacking innocent civilians. Azerbaijan has blocked access to necessities such as food, medicine and the movement of people.
The reason this matters is because these individuals are not there taking up weapons of war. Rather, they are simply trying to exist and live a peaceful life. They want their children to go to school. They want to own businesses and to be able to pay their bills. They want to be able to sow seed into the ground and reap a harvest. These are normal individuals who are looking to live life, but due to the disruptions within the region and the attacks coming from Azerbaijan, these folks are being put in peril's way.
Again, I would plead with the House that, sure, Canada could just sit on its hands, allow for this to transpire, allow for the loss of life to take place and allow for these folks to no longer be able to enjoy life, or the House could make a statement to advocate for these individuals and advocate that their freedom be restored and their homelands be honoured.
Of course, I am advocating that we do this in a very diplomatic way, but nevertheless, diplomacy and inaction are not the same thing. They are not synonymous. I would argue that right now, Canada is simply existing in a realm of inaction, but we have an opportunity to change course. My fear is that, if we do not do something, we will have a repeat of what happened 107 years ago when the Armenian people found themselves at the hands of a genocide.
We are already being warned by experts that this is where this is going. This is headed in the direction of annihilating a people group, which is genocide. Based on that evidence, based on those experts who are taking intel from the ground and feeding it to us at the House of Commons, I would plead with those in this place that now is the time to act. We should not allow for loss of life to ensue so much so that we are finally compelled to act, but rather out of a place of deep love, respect and honour, out of a desire for peace, and out of honour for our legacy as a country that is known for peacekeeping and peacemaking.
I would plead with those in the House that we agree to take action and that we agree to engaging in diplomatic conversations about what it takes to establish peace. I would ask that the House go so far as to consider sanctions because action must be taken. Innocent lives are at risk, and Canada does not stand for that.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I will be speaking to this motion for concurrence on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Some people tuning in right now or who have been following this debate may want to know where this place is. It is north of Iran. It is an area north of Iran, south of Russia, and in between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. I do not know if that helps, but it is a landlocked region populated by ethnic Armenians who have lived in this region for many hundreds of years. It is a semi-autonomous enclave within Azerbaijan, which is next to Armenia. A lot of that was formed politically during the time of the USSR, or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. There is a long history not only of people living there, but also of tensions, and hopefully solutions.
As of late, there have been thousands of ethnic Armenians fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh for Armenia because of hostilities and the pressures they have been facing in this region from the Azerbaijani military. There have been some bombardments. There has been a degradation of the United Nations peacekeeping forces there. This has caused some real instability.
There was a ceasefire agreement that officials agreed to, which was to dissolve their armed forces. The Armenians had backed up this area so that they could fight to protect themselves. They have agreed to disarm themselves to the Azerbaijani military because it has military superiority there. That essentially means they are sitting ducks. They are helpless. They are in a terrible situation. That is why we are bringing this up as a motion to debate right now. It is important.
I have heard different members from the other parties make suggestions about discussing this or that, as there are many issues of importance to debate. We can talk about many issues in the House. Right now, this is an opportunity to focus on a very serious situation that is happening in the world where many Canadians have connections to. They may come from the region, and they are very concerned.
There are also a lot of geopolitical problems. Iran is backing up Armenia. Russia is there, and there are a number of other nations. This has the potential to really explode beyond what the situation is right now, so it is important that we have this discussion and that Canada is at the plate to bring it forward, not necessarily long-term solutions, but things to help the situation.
There has been a humanitarian crisis and an influx of refugees. The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh has a long history with two major wars being fought in the past three decades. Azerbaijan regained control of a significant part of this region in 2020 after a conflict. There was an agreement that Nagorno-Karabakh would cede the control of a lot of the villages around the main population of the city. That was an agreement between the Russians, the Azerbaijani and Armenia, with peacekeepers also being brought in.
There has been a reneging of that agreement, which is causing some real serious problems. The number of displaced people is increasing and efforts to provide humanitarian aid and shelter for those people are being seriously affected. The situation highlights the challenges faced by refugees and internally displaced persons not only in that region but also worldwide. We have seen that also in Ukraine, with the invasion by Russia, where there have been many displaced people and many refugees. This is a terrible situation.
Canada is one of the most multi-ethnic, multicultural nations on this planet, so all these connections impact our nation.
The recent conflict has resulted in casualties, and there are concerns about the well-being of the Armenian population. The exodus highlights, and we have seen pictures of the thousands of people fleeing this region and all the cars lined up, the need for humanitarian assistance and protection.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has successfully negotiated a humanitarian consensus to deliver essential aid to the Nagorno-Karabakh region on September 18. It is one thing for people and nations to say one thing and it is another thing for them to actually do it, which is the concern on the implementation of the agreement.
Right now, there is a very dire situation. There is a lack of basic necessities getting through. Essentials like food, hygiene products and medical items are being rationed. Essentially, this area is under siege. What is a siege? Going back throughout history, a siege is when a region, a castle or an area is cut-off from being able to provide for itself.
This region is now under a siege warfare, which essentially has the purpose of having them surrender. The purpose is to have the people leave the ancestral area they have lived in for many hundreds of years for Azerbaijan. That is of great concern.
This is a very hilly area. As I mentioned earlier, it is a landlocked area. There is essentially one major road to get through, and that is called the Lachin corridor. In the past year or so, it has been very difficult to get humanitarian aid and medical supplies through. As the Conservative member for mentioned, about one-third of the population is malnourished and at risk of starvation. There actually have been cases of starvation in this area. It is imperative we open up this corridor for food and medical supplies so people can freely provide for themselves. While looking at other alternative routes is fine, right now this is really the only viable solution as far as providing aid and assistance.
There are military tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We are right now on the cusp of seeing military action moving in, where there could be many thousands of deaths. It was not that long ago the Armenia population, the majority residing in this region, underwent a serious genocide. Over a million Armenians were killed or sent on death marches throughout the region. They just fell dead from exhaustion or malnutrition. This is in the recent past.
Our concern is not hypothetical. Our concern is the potential of another genocide happening in this area. We do not want to see this. We are calling on the federal government to exert pressure and to collaborate with others to open this corridor, and not just to be a silent partner. It is fine to say the words, but we call on it to be involved in order to see this corridor open, to see resolution and to allow the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to have self-determination.