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View Garnett Genuis Profile
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 of association.
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 foreign affairs minister 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.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2017-06-16 11:16 [p.12837]
Mr. Speaker, Canadians of Turkish heritage who disagree with the domestic policies of Ankara are worried. The Turkish government has broadened its crackdown against the coup plotters to include all those who dissent with the policies of the AKP. I am concerned that peaceful support for the Turkish opposition by Canadians of Turkish heritage in Canada is becoming the target of surveillance and intimidation.
Across our border to the south, on May 16 in Washington, members of the Turkish president's security entourage, joined by civilian supporters, physically assaulted peaceful protesters, a moment caught on video and shared worldwide. Justly concerned about this violation of our shared value of freedom to dissent, the U.S. House of Representatives foreign affairs subcommittee held a hearing on May 25 to investigate the circumstances surrounding this altercation. Now we learn that arrest warrants have been issued for two Canadians who assaulted protesters during that May 16 altercation.
Differing opinions, dissent, and debate are welcome and encouraged in Canada. Intimidation of Canadians, regardless of their country of origin, by foreign powers is a violation of our rights, and we should guard against such illegal activity at home.
View Peter Kent Profile
View Peter Kent Profile
2017-06-01 17:33 [p.11872]
That, in the opinion of the House, the extreme socialist policies and corruption of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor President Hugo Chavez have imposed considerable suffering on the people of Venezuela and therefore the House call upon the government to: (a) develop a plan to provide humanitarian aid directly to Venezuela’s people, particularly with respect to alleviating the severe shortages of food and medical supplies; (b) condemn the continued unjust imprisonment and treatment of political opponents who, as reported by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States on March 14, 2017, “fear repression, torture, and even death”; (c) call upon the Government of Venezuela to respect the right of the people of Venezuela to hold a free and fair referendum to restore democratic rule in their country; and (d) recognize that Canada’s foreign policy should always be rooted in protecting and promoting freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
He said, Mr. Speaker, I have brought private member's Motion No. 128 to the House to urge the government to more actively respond to the ever-deepening crisis in Venezuela. This is a crisis not only in terms of the brutal denial of democratic process, free speech, free assembly, and the rule of law in Venezuela but because of the humanitarian tragedy that worsens by the day.
First, a little history.
Venezuela is a magnificently beautiful, resource-rich country on the northeastern top corner of South America. Simón Bolivar, born there in 1783, educated in France, and a disciple of Locke, Hobbes, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Napoleon, returned to the Spanish colony in 1807 and became the leading force, over succeeding tumultuous decades, in the liberation of the continent from Spanish rule and in the independence of Venezuela in 1830.
Jumping forward to modern times, after the Second World War a series of democratic governments presided over the then richest economy in Latin America, an economy driven by its vast oil and gas reserves. However, economic shocks, attempted coups and counter-coups, the impeachment of an embezzling president, and the collapse of public confidence in the government led to the 1998 election of a former coup-plotting soldier, Hugo Chávez.
Chávez launched what he called the Bolivarian revolution, rewrote the Venezuelan constitution, imposed extreme, often contradictory, socialist policies, and presided over the country's tragic downward spiral economically, socially, and democratically.
Chávez engaged in a close relationship with Iran and Cuba in support of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and anti-U.S. states. Under his gross mismanagement of the economy, his elimination of governmental checks and balances, and his survival of an attempted coup, Venezuela developed the worst inflation in the world.
As so many dictators have done over the centuries, Chávez blamed Venezuela's small but dynamic Jewish community for stealing the wealth of the country. His henchmen endorsed the Holocaust. Members of the Venezuelan state police were caught vandalizing and desecrating synagogues with crudely painted graffiti, the mildest being “No Jews wanted here”.
As minister of state for the Americas in 2009, I visited Caracas to hear testimony and to observe evidence directly linking the virulent wave of anti-Semitism to the personal direction of Hugo Chávez.
I must make clear, on behalf of Venezuela's Jewish community, that the long-suffering people of Venezuela did not then or now buy into the anti-Semitism of the regime. However, as the focus of state-directed anti-Semitic human rights abuse, many of the Jewish community have since fled to sanctuary abroad, a significant number now proud members of Canadian society in Thornhill, in the greater Toronto area, in Montreal, and elsewhere.
Under Hugo Chávez, poverty soared, as did crime and corruption. Malnutrition became common and chronic among children and adults. Chávez's death in 2013 and the election of Nicolas Maduro as his named successor, a vote widely considered to have been fraudulently manipulated, coincided with gross economic recession. In 2015, Venezuela's inflation rate passed 100%. Last year, inflation was estimated to have surpassed 700%.
To contain the rising outcry over severe shortages of food and medicines, Maduro last year imposed repressive states of emergency, renewed four times. Amnesty International has since documented a broad range of human rights abuses and crimes under international law.
Prison overcrowding and violence sparked by food and medicine shortages were blamed for a succession of deadly riots. Political opponents of the Maduro regime and pro-democracy protestors have been imprisoned without due process. Critical media companies have lost their operating licences. Unions have been hobbled and blacklisted. The supreme court, packed with regime loyalists, suspended an opposition referendum to recall Maduro and stripped Parliament of many of its powers. Public discontent has boiled over.
For the past two months, street demonstrations have been mounted in Caracas and other large cities and in smaller communities and villages across the country.
People are demanding elections, freedom for jailed politicians and pro-democracy activists, and foreign humanitarian aid for the sick and hungry masses, literally the masses. The street protests have seen steadily increasing violent actions by police, army, and vigilante groups that support the regime. Though the opposition leaders urge non-violent behaviour, protesters are increasingly responding to violence, unfortunately, with violence. At least 60 people have died on both sides of the recent protests. About 1,000 have been injured, and many hundreds of businesses have been looted and burned.
A recording obtained by one news agency is said to carry the words of an identifiable Venezuelan general ordering subordinates to prepare for the use of snipers against future demonstration leaders. Regime brutality in countering the demonstrations is already common. On one occasion last month, social media videos captured a government armoured vehicle deliberately driving into a crowd, killing and injuring civilians, and there are wide reports of civilians now being tried in military courts.
In March, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, called on the 34 members, which includes Canada, to suspend Venezuela from the organization unless Nicolás Maduro's government moves quickly to hold free and fair general elections. In a 75-page letter to the organization, Secretary General Almagro set these conditions: elections within 30 days, the freeing of all political prisoners, the appointment of independent supreme court justices, and the reinstatement of laws suspended by the top court.
I would remind the House that Lilian Tintori, the wife of Leopoldo Lopez, Venezuela's leading political prisoner, who has been in prison and held unjustly for three years, has travelled the world pleading for support, meeting with Secretary General Almagro, President Trump, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the presidents of Mexico and Argentina, and the Pope. Last month, in fact three days after we asked the Prime Minister in question period why he had not met with Señora Tintori, she was granted a meeting and met with other parliamentarians of all parties here in Ottawa.
When it came to a vote at the OAS, Canada, along with 19 other of the 34 member states, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, Mexico, and Peru, voted to suspend. Voting against were a small number of Caribbean states, states dependent on Venezuelan cheap oil, along with Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua, as expected. There were not enough votes. It was short of the two-thirds needed to pass.
In response, in anticipation of another vote, President Maduro petulantly denounced the charter of the OAS and announced Venezuela's withdrawal from the organization, more or less emulating Groucho Marx by rhetorically wondering why Venezuela would want to remain in an organization that would have Venezuela as a member. As well, Maduro compared the OAS demands for democratic renewal in Venezuela with the OAS suspension of Cuba in 1962 and quoted Fidel Castro's equally petulant quote then, when he denounced the OAS as the ministry of the colonies. That left the OAS still pondering next steps.
There has been increasing agreement among the majority of OAS members that Maduro's attempt to change the constitution would effectively be a form of a coup within a coup and that as the situation in Venezuela has intensified, the violent polarization is an increasing concern for other countries right across the region. As Secretary General Amalgro has said from the beginning, the Inter-American Democratic Charter outlines two measures that can be applied: diplomatic mediation, or full suspension and effective isolation by members. It is not as though mediation has not already been attempted by the Union of South American Nations, known by its acronym, UNASUR; by the Common Market of the South, known as Mercosur; by the Vatican; by the U.S. State Department; and, of course, by the OAS itself.
As the democracies of the Americas, and beyond, ponder next steps to encourage or pressure the Maduro regime, there has been an unfortunate intervention by the big U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs, which last week bought devalued bonds of Venezuela's state oil company. Goldman Sachs is reported by The Wall Street Journal to have paid about $865 million, or 31¢ on the U.S. dollar, for bonds worth $2.8 million.
The bank has defended its purchase, saying that while Venezuela is in crisis, it made the investment because it believes life has to eventually get better. It is often said that money has no conscience, and opposition politicians in Venezuela not yet in prison are accusing Goldman Sachs of exactly that. Julio Borges, who leads the opposition in the national assembly, wrote a letter to Goldman Sachs saying, “It is apparent Goldman Sachs decided to make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”
Venezuela's opposition has previously been urging American banks to avoid any financial investments in Venezuela on grounds that they would serve to bail out the Maduro regime, as the Goldman Sachs' bond purchase seems to be doing.
Was this a less than glorious moment for capitalism? Certainly opposition leader Borges said that he would recommend to any future democratic government of Venezuela to refuse to recognize or to redeem the bonds in question. However, I digress. I will turn back to the democracies of our hemisphere and the next possible steps.
Foreign ministers and ambassadors from 33 member nations attended a meeting yesterday in Washington. Venezuela did not show. Canada, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and the United States put forward a declaration calling for an immediate end to violence, the release of political prisoners, restoration of the rule of law, and a demand that Venezuela abandon plans to confect a citizens' assembly to write a new constitution.
Canada's minister said Canada was ready to do its part for a return to peace and stability. Brazil's foreign minister was somewhat more direct. Aloysio Nunes said, “We're taking about people dying.” He said that democracy is not a luxury and that we must collectively rescue Venezuela's fundamental freedoms.
However, the resolution failed again to get the necessary two-thirds' support because the usual Venezuelan crony supporters like Nicaragua and Bolivia and a number of short-sighted Caribbean nations that depend on cheap oil from the Maduro regime put forward a blocking resolution of their own.
In sharp contrast, as diplomacy stalled in the OAS assembly and the foreign ministers and ambassadors dispersed with a vague plan to return in a couple of weeks or so, yesterday Venezuelan military forces were using tear gas and water cannons to block tens of thousands of civilian protesters attempting to march on the foreign ministry in Caracas.
Therefore, with the Venezuelan crisis deepening by the day, with 60 dead and thousands injured and many more held as political prisoners, with malnutrition on the rise and public health services and hospitals unable to function because of a lack of essential pharmaceuticals, I will return to the motion I bring to the House today, Motion No. 128. Let me remind members very briefly what it says.
Motion No. 128 calls on the government to first develop a plan to deliver humanitarian aid directly to Venezuela's people, particularly with respect to alleviating the severe shortages of food and medical supplies. It also calls for the government to publicly condemn the continued unjust imprisonment and treatment of political opponents, who, as was reported by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, fear repression, torture, and even death.
Finally, Motion No. 128 calls on the Canadian government to again call upon the Government of Venezuela for a free and fair referendum to restore democratic rule to that country.
View Matt DeCourcey Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Matt DeCourcey Profile
2017-06-01 17:53 [p.11876]
Mr. Speaker, once again I would like to thank the hon. member for introducing this timely motion. I welcome the opportunity to present the Government of Canada's position on Motion No. 128 and to elaborate on Canada's ongoing commitment to addressing the serious political and economic crisis facing the people of Venezuela.
Our government has repeatedly called on Venezuela to respect the democratic rights of the Venezuelan people. The Government of Canada supports all recommendations in the motion. The minister has consistently condemned the continued unjust imprisonment and treatment of political opponents and has called upon the Government of Venezuela to hold elections, as prescribed by its constitution.
On April 3, Canada co-sponsored an OAS resolution calling on the Venezuelan government to restore constitutional order and respect democratic rights. On May 4, the minister called on the Government of Venezuela to release all political prisoners and set an electoral calendar without delay. Yesterday, at the OAS ministerial meeting in Washington, D.C., the minister reiterated the need for solidarity among OAS members to protect the democratic and human rights of the Venezuelan people. Our government's actions and our words exemplify Canada's acute moral responsibility to protect and promote freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Against a backdrop of rising insecurity and deteriorating human rights, freedom of expression, and political governance, Venezuela is now in the throes of a severe political and economic crisis. This government is very concerned that Venezuelans are suffering from severe shortages of food and medicine, causing many people in state hospitals to die from preventable diseases or to seek treatment across the border in neighbouring countries. We understand that Venezuelans are fleeing the country in the thousands to escape this suffering. Many more have taken to the streets in large-scale protests, during which more than 50 people have already lost their lives. We offer our sincere condolences to the victims and their family members and call on all parties to show restraint.
We firmly believe that the OAS must stand united and ensure that the long-term resolution to the current crisis be rooted in respect for human rights and peaceful dialogue.
Canada is particularly troubled by the fact that political dissidents in Venezuela have been silenced. Media independence has been severely restricted and government opponents are threatened and jailed.
One case that attracted a lot of media attention was that of Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the opposition party Voluntad popular. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison for supposedly inciting violence when he encouraged people to demonstrate in 2014.
Many similar situations have also been reported. More than 2,000 Venezuelans have been jailed since demonstrations began throughout the country. Although some have been released, a growing number of demonstrators are being brought before military courts, a clear violation of Venezuela’s constitution.
The Government of Canada has long emphasized that ending arbitrary detentions and freeing political prisoners are urgent and important steps toward reconciliation in Venezuela. Our strong position was exemplified by a statement issued on July 7, 2016, on the urgent need to release political prisoners following the appeal hearing of Mr. López. Later, in August of last year, Canada condemned the transfer of political prisoner Daniel Ceballos from house arrest to prison and called for an end to restrictions on political participation. At Venezuela's Human Rights Council universal periodic review last November, Canada placed the urgent need to release political opponents and uphold freedom of expression at the top of its statement.
In May, the minister restated our position. She said:
We call on the Government of Venezuela to release all political prisoners and set an electoral calendar without delay. Free and fair elections including all of Venezuela’s eligible voters are required to solve the country’s crisis.
Last month, I, along with my colleague, the hon. member for Mississauga Centre, met with Venezuelan human rights activist and wife of Mr. López, Lilian Tintori, to discuss the deteriorating situation and commit Canada's support for dialogue and respect for democratic rights. The Prime Minister also met with Ms. Tintori and repeated Canada's call on the Venezuelan government to release all political prisoners.
In addition to public statements, government officials have been working hard to keep bilateral channels open in order to directly convey our serious concerns to the Venezuelan ministry of foreign affairs and the Venezuelan ambassador in Ottawa.
Programming at Canada's embassy in Caracas continues to support the work of Venezuelan NGOs and human rights activities working on good governance and human rights issues. This includes an embassy-sponsored annual human rights award, which is now considered one of the most prestigious human rights awards in the country.
Canada will continue to criticize the Venezuelan government's treatment and imprisonment of political opponents, but we also recognize that ensuring that democratic rule is restored in Venezuela is fundamental for there to be respect for human rights, security, and prosperity for all Venezuelan citizens.
Since the national assembly began sitting in early 2016, their supreme court has annulled almost all legislation. In March of this year, the court declared the assembly in contempt and announced that it would take over the elected members' duties. While the decision was reversed, the assembly remains powerless. The international community, including Canada, was swift in condemning this action. On March 31, the Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning the supreme court's takeover of the national assembly and calling for the Government of Venezuela to allow elected members to carry out their constitutionally mandated duties.
This type of behaviour is unacceptable and points to a lack of separation of powers between institutions in a democratic society. The Venezuelan people have a right to have their voices heard through their elected representatives. Meaningful progress is impossible without proper processes.
They also have a right to vote in constitutionally guaranteed elections. Unfortunately, not only has the presidential recall referendum launched late last year been indefinitely postponed, but so have regional elections that were due to take place in 2016.
The Government of Canada has not hesitated to raise its voice in support of democracy in Venezuela through the many statements and messages the government and our embassy in Caracas have issued.
At the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa last June, our Prime Minister, along with the U.S. and Mexican presidents, jointly issued a statement calling for democratic norms to be respected and for the recall referendum to be allowed to proceed. Similarly, since last July we have issued multiple joint statements with partner countries at the Organization of American States, insisting the Venezuelan government adhere to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
On October 21, 2016, Canada issued a statement explicitly conveying Canada's concern with the suspension of the presidential recall referendum and urging the electoral council to reverse its decision and allow Venezuelans to exercise their constitutional right.
On April 27, the Minister of Foreign Affairs again expressed Canada's regret about President Nicolas Maduro's decision to withdraw from the Organization of American States, appealing for a restoration of constitutional order, and on May 4, after President Maduro announced he would establish a constituent assembly to change the constitution, we issued a statement urging all parties to work together peacefully on solutions to the crisis and calling for the release of political prisoners and the setting of an electoral calendar.
Indeed, the Government of Canada is deeply concerned with the establishment of a constituent assembly without the guarantee of universal suffrage. We are also troubled by the increased tension and polarization this announcement has served to generate.
The Canadian government values its long friendship with Venezuela, and we recognize that only Venezuelans can determine their future. However, as a champion of the values of inclusive and accountable governance and the promotion of human rights, Canada has an important role to play in helping Venezuelans find a solution to the current crisis. A secure and prosperous future for Venezuelans is important not only for Venezuela and its citizens but for the entire hemisphere. Rest assured the Government of Canada will remain firmly engaged on this important issue.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)

Question No. 954--
Mr. MacKenzie (Oxford):
With regard to page 11 of the Guide for Parliamentary Secretaries published by the Privy Council Office in December 2015, where it states that Parliamentary Secretaries are “prohibited from accepting sponsored travel”: (a) does the government consider the trips taken by Parliamentary Secretary Khera and Parliamentary Secretary Virani, which are listed in the 2016 sponsored travel report by the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, to be a violation of the guide; (b) if the answer to (a) is affirmative, what corrective measures were taken to reconcile the violation; and (c) if the answer to (a) is negative, why does the government not consider these trips to be a violation?
Mr. Peter Schiefke (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth), Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to trips taken by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism), their sponsored travel was pre-approved by the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Furthermore, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism) made the proper and appropriate public declarations to the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner upon their return, in accordance with the rules that govern the practice of sponsored travel.
Sponsored travel is not unusual for ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
For example, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, the former parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, travelled to Taiwan, a trip that was sponsored by the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association.

Question No. 958--
Ms. Brigitte Sansoucy:
With regard to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and energy efficiency programs, for the years 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017: (a) what programs are in place; (b) what are the eligibility criteria for each of these programs; (c) what tools do the government and the CMHC use to promote these programs to the public (i) at the national level, (ii) at the provincial level; (d) how many people use these programs (i) at the national level, (ii) by province, (iii) in the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot; and (e) how much has been spent to advertise these programs (i) at the national level, (ii) in each province?
Mr. Adam Vaughan (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing and Urban Affairs), Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, CMHC, considers energy efficiency an important issue. Many of the housing programs available to Canadians include a consideration or component for energy efficiency.
In regard to stand-alone programs, in response to part (a), CMHC green home program was introduced in 2004 and is intended to encourage consumers to purchase energy-efficient housing or make energy-saving renovations which can generate significant reductions in energy costs for homeowners and have a positive environmental impact. CMHC green home offers a premium refund to CMHC mortgage loan insurance borrowers who either buy, build, or renovate for energy efficiency using CMHC-insured financing.
For the years 2014, 2015, and up to June 22, 2016, borrowers could benefit from a 10% refund on their mortgage insurance premium, and a refund of sales tax where applicable, when using CMHC-insured financing to purchase a new or existing energy-efficient home or to undertake energy efficient renovations to an existing home.
Enhancements to the program were made in June 2016. Effective June 22, 2016, the base premium refund increased from 10% to 15% of the total premium paid and a two-level premium refund structure exists, allowing for as much as 25% of the total premium paid to be refunded, depending on the level of energy efficiency achieved.
In response to part (b), under the CMHC green home program, most new homes built under a CMHC eligible energy-efficient building standard automatically qualify for a premium refund. For all other homes, eligibility is assessed using Natural Resources Canada’s EnerGuide rating system.
Information on how to apply for a partial premium refund and eligibility requirements is available on CMHC’s website www.cmhc.ca/greenhome.
In response to part (c), CMHC's modernized green home program was launched in 2016 and was actively promoted through various channels including mortgage professionals, industry associations, media outlets, and CMHC's redesigned web content. CMHC's green home program continues to be promoted through various social media outlets including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
In response to part (d), the number of refunds issued under CMHC green home, at a national level, during the requested years is as follows: 752 in 2014, 476 in 2015, 443 in 2016, and 153 in 2017. These numbers are not available by province or territory nor specifically for the riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.
In response to part (e), CMHC did not spend any specific advertising funds prior to 2016. In 2016, CMHC spent $20,940 to advertise the CMHC green home program at a national level.

Question No. 959--
Mr. David Sweet:
With regard to the call for proposals for government funding under the Natural Resources Canada’s Energy Innovation Program allocated for Clean Energy Innovation that closed October 31, 2016: (a) what criteria were used to select approved projects; (b) what projects received funding, broken down by the (i) name of the recipient, (ii) type of project, (iii) date on which the funding was received, (iv) amount received; (c) what projects have been selected to receive funding in the future, broken down by the (i) name of the recipient, (ii) type of project, (iii) date on which the funding was received, (iv) amount received; and (d) for each project identified in (b) and (c), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?
Hon. Jim Carr (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, in response to paragraph (a), the criteria used to select approved projects are outlined in section 6 of the “Energy Innovation Program, Clean Energy Innovation Component: Request for Project Proposals, Applicants’ Guide”, which is made available to all applicants.
With respect to paragraphs (b), (c), and (d), as of April 4, 2017, NRCan had not yet formally announced any of the selected projects for the clean energy innovation program. However, 100% of the $25.1 million in funding available for this program has been allocated to projects selected through the call for proposals process. The current number of projects expected to be supported by the clean energy innovation program is approximately 27, although this figure could change slightly in the future. All applicants have been notified, and NRCan has started conducting post-selection due diligence and negotiating contribution agreements with applicants. It is expected that the majority of the 27 contribution agreements will be signed by June 30, 2017. Once contribution agreements are signed, NRCan will announce the projects. NRCan will also disclose the contribution amounts through the formal, quarterly proactive disclosure process. This information will be available on NRCan’s website.

Question No. 960--
Mr. Kevin Sorenson:
With regard to the announced 372.5 million dollars in repayable loans provided by the government to Bombardier: (a) was the government told during its negotiations with Bombardier that the financial assistance provided by the government would be used for bonuses to executives; (b) did the terms of the financial assistance include any guarantees that the loans would not go towards executive bonuses; and (c) if the answer to (b) is affirmative, what are the details of such guarantees?
Hon. Navdeep Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, in response to part (a), the Government of Canada is committed to the long-term viability and success of the Canadian aerospace sector. The repayable contribution by the government to Bombardier is focused on research and development. This contribution will support creation of high-quality jobs and development of leading-edge technology in Canada. It will ensure the long-term competitiveness of Bombardier as a key aerospace firm for Canada.
In response to part (b), the strategic aerospace and defence initiative and C Series are claims-based programs where recipients make claims against eligible costs associated with research and development required in the performance of the project by the recipient. As negotiated in each individual contribution agreement, the costs must be reasonably and properly incurred and/or allocated to the project with eligible costs mainly supporting labour, materials, overhead, equipment, and contractors. Costs not related to the completion of the project are ineligible.
In response to part (c), specific terms of the contribution agreements are deemed third party commercially confidential information and protected under paragraph 20(1)(b) of the Access to Information Act.

Question No. 966--
Mr. Guy Lauzon:
With regard to page 24 of the Liberal election platform where it said “We will ensure that Access to Information applies to the Prime Minister’s and Ministers’ Offices”: (a) does the government plan on keeping this election promise; and (b) in what year does the government plan on introducing legislation which would make such changes?
Mr. Peter Schiefke (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth), Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, our government continues to raise the bar on openness and transparency because government information ultimately belongs to the people we serve, and it should be open by default.
Major reforms to the Access to Information Act have not been done in more than three decades since it was enacted and we are taking on this challenge in a two-phase approach.
Changes to the act have to be carefully crafted to balance our fundamental values of openness with other principles, including independence of the judiciary, the effectiveness and neutrality of the public service, the protection of Canadians’ personal information, and national security.
We are working on fixing an Access to Information Act that is stale-dated after decades of neglect and, furthermore, we will legislate a requirement that the act be reviewed every five years so it never again becomes stale.
Through the ministerial directive issued last spring by the President of the Treasury Board, we moved to enshrine the principle of “open by default”, eliminated all fees apart from the $5 application fee, and directed departments to release information in user-friendly formats whenever possible.
Furthermore, we will undertake the first full and now-mandatory review of the Act beginning no later than 2018.

Question No. 967--
Mr. Tom Lukiwski:
With regard to the possible extradition of individuals between the Government of Canada and the Government of China: (a) what are the details of any communication between the governments on the subject including (i) the date, (ii) the form (in person, telephone, email, etc.), (iii) the titles of individuals involved in the communication, (iv)the location, (v) any relevant file numbers; and (b) what are the details of any briefing notes on the subject including the (i) title, (ii) date, (iii) sender, (iv) recipient, (v) subject matter, (vi) file number?
Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to discussions between the Government of Canada and the Government of China, please read the following joint communiqué found online at: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2016/09/13/1st-canada-china-high-level-national-security-and-rule-law-dialogue

Question No. 968--
Mr. Tom Lukiwski:
With regard to interaction between the government and the Bradford Exchange: (a) when was the government made aware that the company was planning on producing a talking doll bearing the image of the Prime Minister; (b) did the government authorize the company to produce the doll; (c) if the answer to (b) is affirmative, who provided the authorization; (d) did the government provide any input regarding the phrases which the doll says; (e) if the answer to (d) is affirmative, what are the details including (i) who provided the input, (ii) when was the input provided; and (f) what are the details of any briefing notes or memos related to the production of the talking dolls including the (i) sender, (ii) recipient, (iii) date, (iv) title and subject matter, (v) file number?
Mr. Peter Schiefke (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth), Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the government had no interaction with The Bradford Exchange and did not authorize the production of the doll.

Question No. 969--
Mr. Gordon Brown:
With regard to the “Sober Second Thinking: How the Senate Deliberates and Decides” discussion paper, circulated by the Government Representative in the Senate, and dated March 31, 2017: (a) does this paper represent the policy of the Government of Canada; (b) was its preparation, writing, editing and publication coordinated with the Government House Leader’s March 10, 2017, discussion paper entitled “Modernization of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons”; (c) was its preparation, writing, editing and publication coordinated in any other manner with the Government House Leader; (d) did the Privy Council Office, or any other department, assist in the preparation, writing, editing and publishing of it; (e) if the answer to (d) is affirmative, with respect to the employees involved, what are their (i) titles, (ii) occupational groups, (iii) levels; (f) if the answer to (d) is affirmative, (i) were any parliamentarians or political parties consulted in the course of their work, (ii) were any staff of the Senate consulted in the course of their work, (iii) were any academics, experts, or any other outside advisors consulted in the course of their work; (g) if the answer to any of (f)(i), (ii) or (iii) is affirmative, what are the names of the persons or organizations consulted, and when were they consulted; (h) were any contractors, paid by the Government of Canada, involved in the preparation, writing, editing and publishing of the paper; and (i) if the answer to (h) is affirmative, with respect to the contractors involved, (i) what are their titles, (ii) what services were contracted, (iii) what is the value of the services contracted, (iv) what amount were they paid for their services, (v) what are the related file numbers?
Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to discussion paper entitled “Sober Second Thinking: How the Senate Deliberates and Decides”, the paper was prepared exclusively by the Office of the Government Representative in the Senate and published on the Senate website.
Our government believes that a more independent and less partisan Senate will rebuild Canadians' trust in this parliamentary institution.
It is up to the Senate itself to determine how to best adapt its internal rules and practices to function effectively.
Our government will continue to work productively with the Senate to move forward on our legislative agenda.

Question No. 970--
Mr. Pierre Poilievre:
With regard to the services related to issuing debt and selling of government bonds, since April 1, 2016: (a) what amount has the Government spent on services related to issuing debt and/or selling government bonds; (b) for each service in (a), what is the (i) name of the person or firm, (ii) service period, (iii) amount of the contract, (iv) reason that person or firm was chosen to provide the service?
Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Government of Canada marketable debt, which includes treasury bills and marketable bonds, is distributed by the Bank of Canada, as the government’s fiscal agent through competitive auctions to government securities distributors, a group of banks and investment dealers in the domestic market. No commissions or fees are paid to government securities distributors.
The Bank of Canada, as the government’s fiscal agent, is also responsible for overseeing and administering the retail debt program, which includes the issuance of Canada savings bonds and Canada premium bonds. Fees are paid to financial institutions in proportion to the amount of bonds outstanding that they have distributed. Any Canadian financial institution can distribute retail debt products, subject to signing the sales agent agreements. Financial institutions are engaged to distribute Canada savings bonds and Canada premium bonds as they are seen as an effective distribution channel for retail savings products. In 2015-16, the government paid an aggregate amount of $3.9 million in fees to a number of financial institutions on an outstanding retail debt stock of about $5.5 billion. The government announced in budget 2017 that it is winding down the retail debt program, so these fees will stop. The Bank of Canada directly pays these fees to financial institutions and is refunded by the Department of Finance. Accordingly, the department does not have the list of financial institutions nor the breakdown of fees paid per financial institution.
The Government of Canada holds foreign currency reserve assets to provide foreign currency liquidity to the government and to promote orderly conditions for the Canadian dollar in the foreign exchange markets, if required. Foreign currency debt is issued to fund foreign reserve assets in a manner that mitigates the impacts of movements in interest rates and foreign exchange rates. The government pays fees to financial institutions selling Canada bills, i.e., short term debt issued in U.S. dollars. Financial institutions are selected based on their ability to efficiently distribute a debt offering to a diverse investor base located around the world and play an active role in secondary market making. The Canada bills program contracts have no service periods. In the 2016 calendar year, the Department of Finance paid an aggregate amount of $2.2 million U.S. in fees to RBC, CIBC, and Goldman Sachs in proportion to the amount of Canada bills they distributed, with a total issuance of $18.6 billion U.S. Disaggregated information per financial institutions is confidential.
These fees, for retail debt and foreign currency debt, are included in the $10.6 million under “Servicing costs and costs of issuing new borrowings” in the Public Accounts of Canada, volume III, section 7.6. Unfortunately, this information is not yet available for the period starting April 1, 2016.

Question No. 971--
Mr.Kelly McCauley:
With regard to funding for the implementation and administration of various measures to crack down on tax evasion, combat tax avoidance and enhance tax collections in Budget 2016 for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and referenced in Supplementary Estimates (B) 2016-2017: (a) how many full time equivalents (FTEs) were created from this additional funding; (b) what percentage of all FTEs within CRA are dedicated to tax evasion and what was the percentage before the additional funding for tax evasion; (c) of these FTEs, how many employees are targeted toward offshore tax cheats; (d) of the new hires at CRA responsible for going after tax evasion, what is the breakdown by area of focus; and (e) how many new FTEs have been dedicated to address the back-log of low-complexity, medium complexity and high complexity assessment objections?
Hon. Diane Lebouthillier (Minister of National Revenue, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the above noted question, here is the response from the Canada Revenue Agency, CRA. Regarding part (a), on the basis of the funding received in budget 2016, the CRA created a total of 654 FTEs across its collections, verification, and compliance programs in 2016-17 to implement, administer, and support the various measures to crack down on tax evasion, combat tax avoidance, and enhance tax collection. Of this amount, 171 new FTEs were specifically provisioned for our compliance programs to crack down on tax evasion and tax avoidance. When fully implemented in 2020-21, this will represent an additional 375 permanent FTEs.
Regarding part (b), the additional provision of 171 FTEs in 2016-17 raised the percentage of FTEs dedicated to addressing tax evasion and tax avoidance to approximately 6% or 2,255 FTEs of the total CRA base of 37,878 FTEs. Prior to the additional funding, 5.5% or 2,084 FTEs of the total CRA base was dedicated to these measures.
Regarding part (c), of the 2,255 FTEs dedicated to addressing tax evasion and tax avoidance, 383 are dedicated to offshore non-compliance. The CRA also has 447 FTEs dedicated to conduct international compliance interventions, including transfer pricing. In addition, these positions are indirectly supported by other compliance and enforcement staff who make referrals and leads to the offshore compliance auditors in the course of conducting their domestic activities.
Regarding part (d), the areas of focus for the various measures to crack down on tax evasion and combat tax avoidance include high net-worth individuals, aggressive GST-HST planning and refund integrity, tax scheme promoters, aggressive tax planning specialists, legal support for criminal investigations, large business audits, offshore non-compliance, and international auditors that focus primarily on transfer pricing verification to ensure appropriate attribution of profits between Canada and other jurisdictions.
Regarding part (e), the CRA is focused on service and improving the objection process by providing people and businesses with greater certainty about their tax obligations earlier in the process.
In response to the Auditor General 2016 fall report on income tax objections, the CRA committed to an action plan that addresses each of the Auditor General’s eight recommendations. For example, the agency updated its website in November 2016 to provide taxpayers with more information about the objection process, definition of complexity level, and current time frames for assigning low and medium complexity objections. In addition, the CRA is currently piloting a new triage process for objections, so that taxpayers are contacted earlier in the process and files are complete when assigned to an officer.
Moreover, a separate budget 2016 initiative under the section entitled “Improving Client services at the Canada Revenue Agency” increased capacity to resolve existing taxpayer objections and ensure that taxpayers are provided with certainty of their tax obligations as soon as possible. For this specific client service measure, the CRA did receive funding for an additional 71 FTEs, all of whom were hired in 2016-17.
Funding received in budget 2016 for the implementation and administration of various tax measures to crack down on tax evasion, combat tax avoidance, and enhance tax collections included provisions to ensure that taxpayers who choose to avail themselves of their recourse rights receive timely responses. Funding to address potential impacts to the objections workload will be made available in subsequent years, after the reassessments have been issued.

Question No. 973--
Mr. Robert Kitchen:
With regard to videos which appear on the Environment and Climate Change Minister’s Twitter Account between March 23, 2017, and April 6, 2017: (a) what is the total cost associated with the production and distribution of the videos, broken down by individual video; (b) what is the itemized detailed breakdown of the costs; and (c) what are the details of any contracts related to the videos including (i) vendor, (ii) amount, (iii) description of good or service, (iv) file number, (v) date and duration of contract?
Hon. Catherine McKenna (Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, Environment and Climate Change Canada has one video from World Meteorological Day 2017, which appeared on the Environment and Climate Change minister’s Twitter account between March 23, 2017, and April 6, 2017.
The video was produced with internal resources and Getty Images at a total cost of $68.20. Since March 6, 2017, Getty Images has a one-year contract for 2,500 videos or 5,000 photos.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has no expenditure recorded between March 23, 2017, and April 6, 2017, in relation to (a), (b) and (c) of Question No. 973.
In addition, Parks Canada has no expenditure recorded between March 23, 2017, and April 6, 2017, in relation to (a), (b) and (c).

Question No. 974--
Mr. Robert Kitchen:
With regard to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs): how many GHGs does the current Prime Minister's motorcade emit every (i) minute, (ii) hour, for which it is running?
Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the RCMP’s information management system does not capture the requested information.

Question No. 975--
Mr. Kelly McCauley:
With regard to the government’s claim that the February 7, 2017 Bombardier bail-out will result in 1300 new jobs: (a) what were the calculations used to come to that conclusion; (b) what evidence was given to come to that conclusion; (c) what branch within Bombardier will these jobs be in; (d) how many of these jobs are full-time; and (e) how many of these jobs are part-time?
Hon. Navdeep Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the Government of Canada is committed to the long-term viability and success of the Canadian aerospace sector. On February 7, 2017, the Government of Canada announced a $372.5-million repayable contribution to Bombardier for research and development for the new Global 7000 business jet and ongoing activities related to the development of the company’s C Series aircraft. Bombardier has indicated that employment related to the production of the Global 7000 business jet will go from approximately 1,700 jobs to approximately 3,000 jobs as a result of the strategic aerospace and defence initiative, SADI, contribution.
With regard to parts (b), (c), (d), and (e), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada conducted the required due diligence for projects under SADI. Specific information related to the due diligence and analysis is considered commercially confidential and protected under paragraph 20(1)(b) of the Access to information Act.

Question No. 976--
Mr. Kelly McCauley:
With regard to the Phoenix Pay System and Public Services and Procurement Canada since June, 2016: (a) how much has been spent on researching other payment delivery systems; (b) how many meetings have been held on other payment delivery systems; and (c) for the meetings in (b), what are (i) the names and titles of the staff members that have been present at those meetings, (ii) the dates of the meetings?
Mr. Steven MacKinnon (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, the ongoing public service pay problems are completely unacceptable. Resolving these problems remains our priority. Our government is committed to ensuring that all employees are paid what they have earned.
Prior to awarding a contract for a new pay system, research was conducted by PSPC and with the industry throughout 2008-2009 to seek feedback and test market capability. This included two requests for information and a series of one-on-one meetings with the industry. No further research of other pay systems has taken place since June 2016.
Following an open, fair, and transparent bidding process, PSPC awarded a contract to IBM Canada Limited in June 2011 to design and implement the new pay solution for the Government of Canada.
Since the implementation of Phoenix, PSPC’s priority has been and still is to help each and every employee experiencing a problem with his or her pay and to ensure they receive what they have earned.
In this regard, PSPC is making progress toward achieving steady state and continues to look at options to increase pay processing efficiencies by implementing technical enhancements, increasing capacity, and improving work processes and procedures.

Question No. 980--
Mr. Todd Doherty:
With regard to the protest at the offices of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in St. John’s on April 7, 2016: (a) what was the amount of damage to government property caused by the protesters; (b) what are the titles of the government officials who met with the protestors; (c) did the government sign an agreement with the protesters; (d) if the answer to (c) is affirmative, what are the contents of the agreement; (e) did the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans approve (i) the meeting, (ii) the agreement; and (f) were there any Ministerial Exempt Staff in attendance at the meeting and, if so, what are their titles?
Mr. Terry Beech (Parliamentary Secretary for Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, it would be inappropriate to comment on this incident, as it is currently under investigation by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. Fisheries and Oceans Canada is co-operating fully with this investigation.

Question No. 982--
Mr. Mark Warawa:
With regard to the statement by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change in the House of Commons on April 10, 2017, that “Every dollar that comes from putting a price on carbon pollution to the federal government goes directly back to the provinces”: (a) does the government consider this statement to be accurate; (b) if the answer in (a) is affirmative, then how is the government disposing of the extra Goods and Services Tax collected as a result of collecting GST on the price of carbon; (c) when did the program to send the extra revenue collected from the GST back to the provinces begin; and (d) how much has been paid out to the provinces, broken down by province, as a result of such a program?
Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, pricing carbon pollution is a central component of the pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change that was announced by Canada’s first ministers in December 2016. The pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution will expand the application of carbon pricing, which is already in place in Canada’s four largest provinces, to the rest of Canada by 2018. Recognizing that each province and territory has unique circumstances, the pan-Canadian approach allows provinces and territories flexibility to choose between a direct price on carbon pollution and a cap and trade system. As part of the pan Canadian framework, the Government of Canada will introduce a backstop carbon pollution pricing system that will apply in provinces and territories that do not have a carbon pricing system in place that meets the federal carbon pricing benchmark by 2018.
The pan-Canadian framework includes the commitment that revenues from pricing carbon pollution will remain with the province or territory of origin, each of which will decide how best to use the revenue. These revenues do not include those in respect of the GST charged on products or services that may have embedded carbon pricing costs in them. Revenues generated by the federal backstop will be returned to the jurisdiction in which the backstop revenues originated.
The Government is making investments to address climate change and support a healthy environment, through the Pan-Canadian Framework and other measures. Budget 2016 provided almost $2.9 billion over five years to address climate change and air pollution. This included $2 billion to establish the Low Carbon Economy Fund to support provincial and territorial actions that materially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Budget 2017 proposes a number of new and renewed actions to reduce emissions, help Canada adapt and build resilience to climate change and support clean technologies. To further advance Canada’s efforts to build a clean economy, Budget 2017 lays out the Government’s plan to invest $21.9 billion in green infrastructure. This includes programs and projects that will meet the goals outlined in the Pan-Canadian Framework.

Question No. 985--
Mr. Bob Saroya:
With regard to Access to Information requests submitted to the Privy Council Office: (a) between April 1, 2016, and April 1, 2017, excluding instances where no records exist, how many Access to Information requests were completed and; (b) of the completed requests, how many resulted in documents being (i) completely redacted or not disclosed, (ii) partially redacted, (iii) completed disclosed without redaction?
Mr. Peter Schiefke (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth), Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), 827 access to information requests were completed during this period.
With regard to (b)(i), of the completed requests, of those that were completely redacted or not disclosed, 53 documents were exempted and 16 were excluded. With regard to (b)(ii), 495 were partially redacted. With regard to (b)(iii), 30 were disclosed without redaction.
The final numbers will be posted in the PCO’s annual report. It will be released in June 2017.
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Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to join this exciting and important debate about ratifying the Canada-Ukraine free trade deal. This is an agreement and legislation that all parties in the House support, at least the three major parties. We are grateful for that and the statement it makes about Canada's co-operation with Ukraine.
I want to share a bit of the history of the Canada-Ukraine co-operation and talk specifically about some issues in Ukraine. Then I will also make a plea to the government to consider doing more when it comes to this co-operation. I think there is some pulling back in terms of this important relationship that has happened under the current government, not so much on the economic front but on other fronts. I want to draw the attention of members to that issue and again ask members of Parliament and the government to do more, because we are, indeed, talking about a relationship that is critically important for both countries.
I had the honour of visiting Ukraine in August of this year. I stayed in a hotel that overlooks Independence Square. I was there when this young nation marked its 25th anniversary and it was such a powerful experience for me. Canada is coming up to its 150th anniversary, an important milestone for our country, but we experience our founding moments as a matter of history and not so much a matter of immediate personal experience. They are part of our collective memory, but not part of any of our individual memories. Even so, our founding did not come out of occupation.
Being in Ukraine for this 25th anniversary was so powerful on multiple levels. The history of the occupation of all of Ukraine is very immediate. Most Ukrainians will remember what it was like to live under Soviet occupation, but Ukraine is also a country that is currently being occupied by Russia and Russian-backed entities. There is no doubt that there is a great deal of sorrow about the ongoing challenges and the occupation, but there is also a great pride in Ukraine about what this young nation has been able to accomplish.
Ukraine has been compared to the mythological creature, the phoenix, that dies and is continually dramatically reborn. This is the story of Ukraine, entirely irrepressible and continually reborn in the midst of a very harsh environment geopolitically in terms of the neighbour it has to deal with. The current incarnation of the Ukrainian state has, indeed, accomplished so much in a short time, so much since its founding 25 years ago and since the Euromaidan movement, which started about three years ago.
Eastern Europe, like many parts of the world, is a place where the shifting sands or, in this case, we might say the shifting snows, of empire have left a multicultural and multi-ethnic reality that makes the definition of ethnic borders quite difficult. This is sort of true of Canada as well, although we generally think of our multiculturalism here as being voluntary. Much, though not all, of our diversity is the product of immigration and accommodation as opposed to conquest. However, Ukraine emerged only recently from occupation, an occupation that included genocide, which was followed, in turn, by the sending of ethnic Russians into communities that had previously been inhabited by Ukrainians.
Therefore, as we think about Ukrainian identity and the reality of the Ukrainian state, it might be worth suggesting and understanding that, though quite diverse, Ukraine has found itself in a place of what we might call involuntary diversity. During the occupation, people were sent there and this was a situation that the Ukrainian state, upon coming into existence, found itself in. That history, obviously, has made certain cultural ties between Ukraine and Russia inevitable.
Because of this, we hear some political narrative from people with an interest in propelling this narrative about division, the claim that Ukraine is divided between east and west, between Ukrainian and Russian speakers, and along ethnic and religious lines. However, what I found when I was in Ukraine in August, what I observed and what I was told, is that Ukraine is a diverse but also a deeply united country, indeed, united in its intention to resist foreign aggression, a country that, in the midst of a history of involuntary diversity, is choosing to build a shared civic nationalism, with shared values and shared cultural touchstones as well.
It is within this context, and other members have already referred to this, that we hear about an interest in the Canadian model of unity around common values in spite of differences.
I mentioned my hotel room, when I was in Ukraine, overlooked Independence Square, which was the centre of a movement that started about three years ago, called the Euromaidan movement, where protestors bravely resisted a corrupt Russian-backed autocrat Viktor Yanukovych and successfully forced him from power.
As we have a discussion today about a trade deal with Ukraine, it is worth reminding ourselves that the spark that set off that conflict, initially, was actually a discussion about trade. The then government of Ukraine decided not to pursue closer economic integration with Europe, despite previous commitments to do that.
As we think about that, and we think about the debate we are having today, it is a good reminder that trade association, in this context, is not principally about the economy. It was, for Ukraine, about independence and identity. The initial decision to not proceed with this agreement would have left Ukraine in a position of serious economic vulnerability and, therefore, geopolitical dependence on Russia.
The Russian regime, the Putin regime, did not want Ukraine to be able to develop trading relationships that affirm and deepen its independent western and European identity; hence, the pressure that was put on Yanukovych. This was a key pivot point associated with a discussion about trade.
Because of the bravery of protesters who risked and, in some cases, gave their lives, Ukraine positioned itself to start a stronger future as a more independent, more European, more western-looking nation. It was a brave and proud moment for Ukrainian nationals.
Russian propaganda, then and since, tries to dismiss Ukrainian nationalism, in general, and the Euromaidan movement, in particular, as being about narrowly xenophobic and ethnic nationalism, even anti-Semitism and white supremacy; but the reality could not be further from the truth.
In fact, these messages are particularly ironic when we identify Russian support for far right movements in Europe. The Russian regime and its enablers and useful idiots in the west peddle an exclusive colonialist vision of nationalism that suggests they have a right to seek to control affairs in countries that they have historically bullied or occupied, their so-called sphere of influence.
No sovereign state has a right to bully another on the basis of cultural ties or historic claims to so-called sphere of influence. There is no moral or legal justification for such bullying, and there never has been.
However, while the Russian state peddles narrow and ethnocentric nationalism, the Ukrainian nationalism that spawned the Euromaidan move is open, pluralistic, and democratic, and it has strengthened Ukraine and it continues to strengthen Ukraine.
When I was there, I spoke with young Ukrainians who participated in the Euromaidan movement, of all varied ethnic and religious backgrounds. I met with Jewish leaders, one of whom led a Jewish brigade in the Maidan. I met Muslim Crimean Tatar leaders who have inspired their fellow Ukrainians by showing as great a pride in their predominantly Christian country as anyone else.
We have an opportunity tonight in the vote to recognize the genocide they have faced and to do something very important for this community.
We have Muslim Ukrainians, ethnic Tatar Ukrainians, Jewish Ukrainians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, Polish Ukrainians, Catholic Ukrainians, Orthodox Ukrainians, Ukrainian Ukrainians. They are all Ukrainians, united by culture, to some extent, but, more important, by common Ukrainian values of independence and democracy.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine sought to capitalize on a moment of weakness but, in fact, it united Ukrainians more than ever in a commitment to share civic nationalism, and to the western and European values that spawned Euromaidan in the first place.
Ukraine's success was never inevitable, but her people have shown, and continue to show, inspiring and inspired courage.
Trade with Ukraine is economically useful, but it is also a moral and strategic imperative. We must use our own significant and unique cultural ties with Ukraine to ensure that this brave nation is never again as vulnerable to the bullying of Russia as it once was. Its independence requires economic ties with nations that will respect that independence and, indeed, that share its values.
We share cultural ties with Ukraine, but also we have a common approach to nationalism, a love of country rooted in shared civic values, not in ethnic exclusiveness or a desire to dominate someone else.
While I am pleased to see a certain consensus in the House around the need to have a strong relationship with Ukraine and to support Ukraine, we need to do more and better when it comes to standing up for Ukraine. I want to identify three specific areas where the government can do a better job when it comes to standing by our important partner.
The first thing we can do is to do more for domestic human rights issues inside Russia. Why would I say that in the context of a debate about Ukraine? Because we know, and we can see as we look at different conflicts around the world, that a government that is a menace to its own people is necessarily going to be a menace to international peace and security. When a government is aggressive and hostile toward its neighbours, we know that will also likely lead to or be associated with the repression of human rights domestically.
It is in the midst of the Russian attempt to distract attention from domestic challenges, economic challenges, and human rights issues inside Russia that it is undertaking this aggressive activity in other countries. Therefore, we need to be very clear about the fact that human rights in Russia must not be sacrificed. There is a very concrete way that we can do it. We can support and pass Magnitsky sanctions, which specifically target human rights abusers associated with the Russian regime. This is a piece of innovative political technology that targets, with sanctions, individuals involved in human rights abuses. Unlike in times passed, the autocrats of the world and those around them often enjoyed having investments in and travelling to countries in the west. By working with our allies to impose these individual targeted Magnitsky sanctions, we can make a real concrete difference for human rights in Russia.
This is something I know individual members of the government support, but so far we have seen in statements made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a reluctance to move forward with this. I think we know why. Because the government is pursuing a policy of closer relations with the Russian government. It justifies it on the basis that if we engage, we could talk about human rights issues. I would be more sympathetic to that if we actually saw the government using engagement as a means to advance human rights issues, if it was talking to the Russians but still insisting on Canadian values and still insisting, for instance, on the implementation of Magnitsky sanctions. However, that has not been the tone, and does not seem to be the direction, at least, that the current Minister of Foreign Affairs is setting.
I encourage all members of the House to understand the importance of Magnitsky sanctions. This is not a piece of political technology that is limited in its effectiveness to Russia. We should explore the use of Magnitsky sanctions in many different places to target human rights abusers, but let us take this vital step. It is a step that is important to Ukrainians and the Ukrainian community in Canada. They want to see their Russian neighbours enjoying the same freedoms that people in Ukraine and Canada enjoy. I think they understand that a Russia that is genuinely free and democratic can be a good neighbour to Ukraine, at some point in the future we hope. However, as long as there is internal repression of human rights in Russia, there is a greater threat that exists to Ukraine and other countries in the region.
Number one is to do more for human rights inside Russia.
Number two is that the government needs to strengthen military co-operation with Ukraine. We hear a lot from members of the government about the need to be engaged as a strategic partner with Ukraine. However, there is one simple thing they could do, which is to reverse a step they took back on May 6 of this year. At the time of the previous government, the Harper government, it was agreed that we would share information from Canadian satellites with the Ukrainian armed forces. This information was very helpful in their fight with Russian-backed entities in eastern Ukraine. This was a decision the previous government undertook, but then it was reversed by the Liberal government. We have stopped providing these satellite images.
I have asked this question of multiple members of the government today, and it is important that we continue to ask this question. No justification has been given for withdrawing the use of this imagery in terms of giving it to the Ukraine government. We can imagine what the reasoning might be. We can only assume that the Russians wanted Canada to stop providing this information to Ukrainian authorities and that the Liberal government decided to listen to the wishes and the interests of the Russians. The reality is that this satellite imaging was extremely helpful to the Ukrainian armed forces. It was right for us to be providing this strategic support. As of May 6 of this year, Canada stopped providing these images.
I have a quote from Ivan Katchanovski, a political science professor at the University of Ottawa. He said, “I think this was a sign of a possible change in the Canadian stance toward Ukraine”. He noted as well that budgetary considerations were unlikely to be the real reason for these decisions.
These images are being taken anyway. Canada has these satellites, so sharing these images with the Ukrainian government does not strike me as a difficult or challenging thing to do. If the Russians are against it and the Liberal government is being overly-influenced by Russian interests, then that obviously creates a problem for Ukraine. Ukraine is in a battle for its very existence and Canada needs to be there. We need to provide these satellite images.
For all of the government members who are giving flowery speeches about the need to support Ukraine and to work with Ukraine, I ask them to take this simple step and show goodwill, show that they actually want to co-operate. That would be proof positive of a real commitment to working with Ukraine. However, it looks like, on the one hand, there is this discussion of the need to work with Ukraine. On the other hand, there is this pulling back of support. There seems to be a dissidence between what is being said and the reality, at least as it pertains to military co-operation.
We need to strengthen military co-operation with Ukraine. This would mean the continuation of the training mission that began under the previous government, which is up for renewal in March 2017. We have yet to hear a formal commitment with respect to continuing that support. It would be really unfortunate if the government did not continue to provide Ukraine with what it needed in addition to the satellite imagery we pulled back in other areas.
The final point I want to make with respect to Canada's co-operation with Ukraine is on the areas in which we can do more. We can reinstate initiatives that were aimed at promoting communal harmony in Ukraine. When I was in Ukraine in August, it was interesting to have discussions with people about the issues of some of the religious tension that existed. There have been significant concerns about faith-based persecution taking place in Crimea and in other Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, the persecution especially of Catholics and Protestants, as well as some persecution targeted at the Muslim community.
As we think about that, it is important to recognize that under the previous government, we had the Office of Religious Freedom. It provided funding for on-the-ground projects aimed at building harmony between different communities. That office had projects inside of Ukraine aimed at bringing together some of the different religious elements and promoting communal harmony, this being important for the ongoing unity of the Ukrainian state.
During a debate we had in the spring about the Office of Religious Freedom, one member from the NDP suggested that the fact we were putting money into projects on religious freedom in Ukraine suggested that this office was somehow political, as if to suggest that there were no real issues with communal harmony in Ukraine but especially as we saw the persecution of certain faith groups in Russian-occupied parts of eastern Ukraine. There is a need for Canada to be involved in that conversation, and we can provide meaningful support.
I am pleased to support this free trade deal, but I am also eager to urge the government to do more when it comes to helping Ukraine, to do more for human rights inside Russia, to strengthen our military co-operation with Ukraine, reverse the decision with regard to satellite imaging, and reinstate international initiatives aimed at promoting communal harmony, especially which have benefits for Ukraine. We could do these things. We could actually put our money where our mouths are when it comes to helping that country in addition to this important step today, which is the free trade deal.
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