Evidence of meeting #8 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was egypt.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Barbara Martin  Director General, Middle East and Maghreb Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Marie Gervais-Vidricaire  Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Jeffrey McLaren  Director, Gulf and Maghreb Relations, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Hani Tawfilis  Board Member, Mississauga, Canadian Coptic Centre
  • X  As an Individual
  • Antoine A. Malek  Chair, Coptic Orthodox Community of Greater Montreal
  • Hugh Segal  Ontario, CPC

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

I have just one other quick question and then I'll defer to my colleague, Ms. Brown.

You mentioned that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has passed a law prohibiting international election observers. Should Canada press further for this, and should we tie our CIDA aid, in any way, to free and fair elections and the presence of international election observers, in your view?

9:05 a.m.

Director General, Middle East and Maghreb Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Barbara Martin

We are pressing, indeed, as are many of our allies, for international observers in the elections.

They have indicated that they would welcome some kind of informal arrangement. The law has explicitly excluded the formal kinds of observers that we have seen in other elections. The Egyptian justice ministry is to oversee these elections and be responsible for them. The elections will be in the latter part of November.

I think we need to see what will play out at that time--whether observers are able to be present for these elections.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Thank you.

I will defer to Ms. Brown.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

You have one minute, Ms. Brown.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Martin, when you were doing your presentation, you failed to read into the record this one paragraph about the funding that Canada's giving. It says:

This funding includes $10 million towards providing skills training and expertise aimed at helping young people secure jobs and start businesses in sectors such as tourism and manufacturing through CIDA's Decent Employment for Youth Project.

My understanding is that the demographics of Egypt right now show a very high percentage of young people, between the ages of 15 and 24 particularly. Could you comment on the impact that this demography has on the changes that are going on in Egypt? Has that been part of your study?

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Ms. Martin, please make it a very quick response.

9:05 a.m.

Director General, Middle East and Maghreb Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Barbara Martin

Okay. I will.

First, my apologies for skipping over that part. I had sensed that my statement was too long.

Yes, indeed, the youth population does constitute a very significant percentage of Egypt. A huge group is under 20 within Egypt. Therefore, they are deeply affected by unemployment and their prospects going forward. This is very much a factor in our programming.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're now going to move over to the last questioner in this round.

Mr. LeBlanc, sir.

October 25th, 2011 / 9:05 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you to the witnesses for coming in again this morning.

You're right, Mr. Chair, maybe they should get an office close to Parliament Hill.

We seem to ask you to come here a lot. I appreciate it very much.

Mr. Chairman, I had questions in two specific areas. Perhaps I'll put all the questions and then either Ms. Martin or Madame Gervais-Vidricaire could perhaps answer.

I appreciate your comments in terms of our chargé having met with Egyptian officials to convey the resolution passed by Parliament and the concerns of the government with respect to a very worrying level of violence and the persecution of the Copts in Egypt. I also appreciate that our chargé met with the head of the church there. I'd be curious to hear what the head of the Coptic Church said to Canadian officials when they met.

My real question, though, is with respect to the persecution of the Coptic community: what has Canada done at the United Nations? It seems to me that the United Nations is essential in providing some investigation and some sanctions--not traditional sanctions, but some ability to draw the international community together, our allies in the region--and expressing in a concerted way the concern of the international community.

I am interested in whether the minister or the Prime Minister or somebody has conveyed, for example, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, or senior officials there, our concern. What can the UN do with Canada to hopefully bring attention to this very unacceptable circumstance? That's a question with respect to the Coptic community.

The second part is more a general question with respect to our relationship with Egypt. I appreciate that the ongoing governmental relations at the foreign ministry level, with officials of the Egyptian government, have continued through the last number of months, and probably at a reasonably fulsome level. But have we had very high-level discussions with members of the Supreme Military Council? Has the minister or have senior officials from the department who have been travelling in that region had discussions with the very senior people on the ruling military council? That's apart from the normal channels through the foreign affairs ministry.

If so, in those channels--to follow up on Mr. Dechert's question--I'd be curious to know if we've expressed as well our concern about the persecution of the Coptic community, and also this rather bizarre idea that there should be no international observers at an election. That doesn't ring very encouraging; they're supposedly making the transition towards a more democratic system.

9:10 a.m.

Director General, Middle East and Maghreb Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Barbara Martin

Thank you for that question.

Very briefly, I'll ask Marie if she's in a position to respond with respect to the UN.

9:10 a.m.

Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Marie Gervais-Vidricaire

I'm not aware of any....

9:10 a.m.

Director General, Middle East and Maghreb Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Barbara Martin

But before we get there, I will just say that, indeed, in terms of the bishop's response, our chargé met with the general bishop and private secretary to the Pope. The Pope is not in very good health.

He is an extremely senior official considered to be at prime ministerial rank.

9:10 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Excuse me. If you don't have the name, perhaps you could get us the name of the person they met.

9:10 a.m.

Director General, Middle East and Maghreb Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Barbara Martin

It was Bishop Youannes. He expressed his deep gratitude and appreciation for the continuing support and concern of the Canadian government and people. He was very appreciative of what we have done.

This issue in terms of the UN context would normally come up in the environment of the UN Human Rights Council, which normally meets in the spring.

Jeff, do you know if it came up in the last session of the Human Rights Council?

9:10 a.m.

Jeffrey McLaren Director, Gulf and Maghreb Relations, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

I do not believe that it did in the last session. Every few years each country is dealt with on a very intense basis on the review of its human rights. I don't believe Egypt has been on the schedule this year. We can certainly look at that and move it forward.

Also on the UN front, Minister Baird, in his speech to the General Assembly this year, did raise this issue. That was put forward at a UN level for UN officials to hear. The statements by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, last week, on the most recent event were shared with the Egyptian embassy. That message was passed through to the senior officials in Egypt as a result.