House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

Topics

Iran
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am afraid the hon. member's 10 minutes is over, but luckily we have 10 minutes of questions and comments so I am sure there will be some of those.

The hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

Iran
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Iranian law allows the death penalty for persons who have reached the age of puberty, which is defined as 15 for boys and 9 for girls. My colleague spoke a lot about the justice system there. We know these sentences typically follow unfair trials and the executions often violate Iranian law, such as the failure to notify families and lawyers 48 hours in advance of the execution.

The fact is the Iranian judiciary is increasingly handing out death sentences, including against many women and even juvenile offenders, as I just mentioned. We are very proud that Canada has abolished capital punishment, but we have a leadership role to play internationally as well with respect to that. Does the member believe Canada should campaign against the death penalty, not just in Iran but internationally?

Iran
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I was minister of justice and attorney general of Canada in 2005, I ratified, on behalf of Canada, the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, wherein we oblige ourselves not only in terms of our commitment against the death penalty but to play a leadership role in seeking the abolition of the death penalty internationally. In effect we are bound by treaty of that which we are bound by domestic law in terms of our own Constitution and Supreme Court decisions, where the death penalty is unconstitutional in Canada and the death penalty internationally is something that we have condemned, that we have ratified an international treaty to deplore it and that we seek to do away with it internationally.

Iran
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was glad my hon. colleague raised a human rights issue that typically gets characterized as being a security issue, and I wish there had been time for him to go into it in more detail, and therefore is frequently excised from discussions of human rights.

I am speaking of the human rights issue of incitement to genocide. Genocide is a monstrous thing. It can be presented in some cases, and Iran is doing this as a foreign policy issue. It opposes the existence of the state of Israel and thinks it is necessary to wipe it out. The means of doing this would be effectively to obliterate its population by means of nuclear weapons delivered by a missile. Both of these are technologies the Iranian regime is working on.

This is a matter of grave concern to me. I think in a very powerful sense it outweighs any other human rights issue one can imagine, not merely in Iran but worldwide. I would be grateful if the member could comment a bit on that.

Iran
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will recall that our foreign affairs committee and the subcommittee on international human rights, which he chairs, has heard witness testimony to the effect that Iran is engaged in the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes, namely genocide, embedded in the most virulent of hatreds, namely anti-Semitism. It is underpinned by the legal pursuit of atomic weapons dramatized by the parading in the streets of Tehran of a Shahab 3 missile draped in the emblem with the words “wipe Israel off the map”, to which are added four other words, sometimes ignored “as the Imam says”, namely that this is a religiously sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide. This is in standing violation of international law and genocide prevention.

Therefore, it behooves us to undertake the legal measures authorized by international law to hold the Iranian leaders to account and, in particular, to initiate among other things an interstate complaint against Iran, which is also a state party to the genocide convention, before the international court of justice for its standing violations of this most horrific of crimes in international law.

Iran
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin my comments, quickly as I know time runs out, by recognizing the great work that my hon. colleague has done on behalf of our country and countries around the world when it comes to fighting Iran and fighting for human rights.

Specifically on these issues of Iran, he has done an unbelievable amount of work. He outlines all of the areas. The question now becomes this. What can we do and what must we do, both as parliamentarians and as Canadians, on that whole attempt to mobilize the world to ensure we do not allow this to continue any further without there being much stronger sanctions?

What does my hon. colleague plan to do and what would he like all of us as parliamentarians to do?

Iran
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is an excellent all-party unanimous report first drafted by the foreign affairs subcommittee that I mentioned, then approved by the foreign affairs committee and tabled in this Parliament, which regrettably got overtaken by the election but still deserves adoption. It set forth an inventory of recommendations of actions. We would do well to undertake those actions, which include among other things: listing the Iranian revolutionary guard corps as a terrorist entity under Canadian law; expanding the range of targeted sanctions for human rights violations, as well as our targeted sanctions with respect to a nuclear threat; and, addressing Iran in terms of the fourfold threat and the interrelationship of that fourfold threat, as that unanimous report does, and developing sanctions that are organized around that fourfold threat.

We would not want to have a situation whereby as a result of negotiations next week Iran agrees finally to suspend its enrichment of uranium, which I would like to see, and then we forget about the human rights violations, the terrorist assaults and the like. That is why we have to look at the composite fourfold threat and have a critical mass of remedy.

Iran
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing that worries me enormously. I know that when a country is faced with a difficult situation, it is often the citizens of that country who have to come up with a solution. However, when the situation is so huge, difficult and catastrophic, and it has lasted for years and years, it becomes unbearable and the citizens alone cannot find a solution. I know that international aid—assistance for NGOs that work for democratization and respect for human rights—is fundamental.

How is Canada assisting the missions of countries that are working to achieve peace if it is doing away with organizations such as Rights and Democracy and closing down visa offices?

As a parliamentarian, I feel powerless. What do you think about this issue? It is all well and good to sign a lot of documents and to condemn a whole host of things, but there needs to be more action. Personally, having lived under a dictatorship, I believe that assistance for NGOs, which directly help citizens within their own country, is fundamental.

What does my colleague think about this?

Iran
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in previous debates, we need to stand in solidarity with the people of Iran. One of the problems with our relationship with the Iranian people came to the surface when the green movement started a few years ago, in June 2009: it was some time before we expressed our solidarity with the Iranian people regarding their aspirations. It is very important to help them when it is possible to do so, because it is difficult to help them now.

However, there are things that can be done to further their right to express themselves, including condemning the imprisonment of those people who try to express their rights and aspirations and making it clear that we are behind the Iranian people and the minorities in Iran when it comes to their aspirations and their needs.

Iran
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to ask my esteemed colleague some questions.

One very disturbing aspect is the fact that the death penalty is being imposed on minors, on adolescents. I just want to remind the House that puberty is considered to take place at age 15 for boys and age 9 for girls. There have been instances of children that young being executed.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on that particular subject.

Iran
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my remarks and in response to another question on the same subject, it is important that we—as a government and as a country—take the initiative and condemn the death penalty, not only here in Canada, but also around the world. We are a signatory to an international treaty in that regard. It is very important that we condemn the execution of young people, particularly in Iran.

Iran
Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to address this issue and to discuss some of the light that was shed on the issue of human rights in Iran for myself and other members of the human rights subcommittee when we held an series of hearings over the course of about a year and a half starting in early 2009.

We published an extensive report with over 30 recommendations dealing with how Canada could try to have some influence on Iran. We did not suffer from the illusion that Canada is the biggest player in that particular game. Iran is on the far side of the planet and Canada is, relatively speaking, a power with limited economic and military pull but with considerable moral powers at its disposal. Canada has a large Iranian Persian ethnic population and with a considerable amount of goodwill toward the Iranian and ethnic Persian community worldwide, if not perhaps with the regime that currently governs that country.

It is important to point out that the two are very distinct: the Iranian civilization and the Iranian regime are not the same thing, notwithstanding the desire of that regime to conflate itself with the country and with the nationality that it exploits. The favourite tactic of all dictatorial regimes is to conflate themselves with the country that they are exploiting.

We looked at a series of human rights abuses that exist within Iran. I remember telling my staff when I came back from these hearings that we listened to yet another form of human rights abuse going on within Iran.

The Iranian regime is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to human rights abuses. It engages in abuses on the basis of persecution of religious minorities. It persecutes its national minorities. Women are persecuted and the advocates of women's rights are persecuted. Sexual minorities, that is homosexuals, gay men and lesbians are severely persecuted, especially gay men. Democracy advocates face persecution, that includes many people who are of the Persian majority.

The regime engages in the sponsorship of terrorism abroad, so it exports human rights abuses.

Finally, and perhaps most significant of all, there is the incitement to genocide and the overt stated goal of the Iranian regime, the Ahmadinejad regime, of wiping Israel off the face of the earth by killing as many Israeli citizens, as many Jews, as possible.

Let me go through some of these things now systematically.

I will start with religious persecution. With good reason we have heard about the terrible persecution of the Baha'i in Iran. The Baha'i religion began in Iran and has had its home there for a long time, although Baha'is exist worldwide. The Baha'i religion is a post-Koranic religion. On the basis of it being post-Koranic the minimal legal and constitutional protections that are offered to other religions, the so-called faiths of the book, Christianity and Judaism and also on a traditional basis Zoroastrianism, are not given to the Baha'i religion. Baha'is face what really amounts to a systematic effort to exterminate the religion by rounding up, imprisoning and where the regime dictates it to be necessary, executing their leadership and causing others to go underground for fear of a like treatment. What has gone on with Baha'is is one of the great tragedies of modern times.

Christians are also persecuted in Iran, especially those who are accused of proselytizing or of being guilty of converting from Islam, a crime under Iranian law that is punishable by death.

There is a small Jewish population. They have some nominal protections but that should be taken as being more in the letter of the law than in practice. Zoroastrians have some protection, but it is limited protection.

This is a Shia Muslim country. Sunni Muslims face discrimination. It is not as severe as the discrimination faced by the other religions of the book and certainly nothing as severe as what is faced by the Baha'is, but, for example, it is difficult to get permission to build or repair a Sunni mosque.

Finally, dissenting Shia clerics, those who disagree with where the regime wants to go, also face persecution and, in some cases, penalties up to and including things like house arrest.

In religion, really any point of view other than the very narrow point of view that is approved by the regime is persecuted at a variety of levels of severity, depending upon how determined the regime is to suppress that particular group.

National minorities also face very considerable persecution in Iran. This is a matter of no small significance. Iran is not an ethnically homogenous country. On the contrary, it is like the old Soviet Union, or like Austria and Hungary 100 years ago. It is a country that consists very much of minorities and depending upon how one measures the minorities, they may actually represent a majority of the total population. These include the Azeris, the Kurds and the Balochs, to name the three largest groups, also Arabs, and many other smaller groups, some of which exist only within the boundaries of Iran, others which overlap its boundaries. These groups face very significant persecution and there are, in some cases, armed responses from some members of those communities in response to the way in which they have been treated.

I mentioned that women and the advocates of women's rights are treated very badly. This includes a variety of forms of persecution and repression. In particular, being an advocate of women's rights is a very dangerous and, in some cases, a life-threatening occupation.

In Iran, homosexuals face some of the most grotesque abuses imaginable. Gay men face a choice between execution or forceable sex change operations. Naturally, many gay men have fled Iran. There is now a community of men who are effectively refugees, although they do not have formal refugee status, living in Turkey. One of the great and much forgotten human rights tragedies of our times is the treatment of the Iranian gay population.

There are also democracy protestors and those who are involved in the Green movement. Starting in the midst of our hearings three years ago, we watched, initially with enthusiasm and then with alarm, the way in which they were essentially destroyed through the excessive use of force by the regime, very effectively, to stop a movement that really was, in a sense, a precursor of the Arab Spring that we have seen elsewhere in the Muslim world.

I mentioned sponsorship of terrorism. Hamas is sponsored by the Iranian regime. Hezbollah, in particular, is very much sponsored by the Iranian regime. Indeed, the regime in Iran is the primary sponsor of Hezbollah's terrorist activities. It has, through arming the Hezbollah movement or the Hezbollah terrorist organization, turned it into a very effective military force, with disastrous consequences for Lebanon, where Hezbollah is headquartered, and with very negative consequences, obviously, for Israel, which faces Hezbollah across its borders.

Finally, incitement to genocide. It is difficult to state just how serious the efforts of the Iranian regime to advocate genocide and then to, potentially, at least, actualize it really are. The regime seeks to create nuclear weapons. It has been to some degree frustrated in those efforts, thank goodness. But, nonetheless, it seeks to create these weapons. It seeks to develop a delivery mechanism through missiles in order to destroy Israel.

To give a sense of just how absurd, but also how dangerous, this really is, let me just read a bit about what has been said by the Iranian regime. Israel is referred to as a “cancerous tumour”. We have heard that an Iranian attack on Israel would seek to kill as many as five million Jews. The estimate was that if Israel responded by dropping its own nuclear weapons, Iran might lose as many as 15 million people but that would be, as representatives of the regime put it, a small price to pay, a small sacrifice, because there are a billion Muslims in the world.

This kind of grotesque rhetoric obviously has no place in civilized nations. It is an indication of how profoundly the Iranian regime has abandoned its place among the family of nations.

It is a great tragedy for a culture that is one of the great homes of civilization in the world. The Iranians are the inheritors of the remarkable heritage of ancient Iran and Persia, which goes back thousands of years. We do hope it will be possible in the future for them to return to that marvellous heritage and to abandon this terrible and inhuman regime.

Iran
Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his work on the human rights subcommittee.

On this side of the House, we were dismayed when we found out that Rights & Democracy was fading out of the picture, that it was being de-funded. When we are dealing with a totalitarian regime such as Iran, obviously state entities cannot influence there the way a non-state entity could, or the supports that could have been there. We are losing them.

In place of that, what would the member suggest Canada do in the area of supporting the growth of democracy in that country?

Iran
Government Orders

8:30 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I am in the right position to comment on the specific things that Rights & Democracy was trying to accomplish. It is an organization with specific goals, and specific individuals seeking to achieve those goals.

In terms of what Canada could do and should do, I could turn to no better document than the report of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights which made a number of recommendations. Of course, the member himself participated in the developing of those recommendations.

I think what the member is asking is what sort of aids can be provided to civil society in Iran to allow it to express itself and to--I hesitate to use the word “overthrow”--replace the regime, to cause the regime to be put aside, but at any rate to remain organized and focused and to have a presence outside the control of the regime.

A number of recommendations were made. There were suggestions that we ought to do things such as endow a chair at a university to study the situation in Iran, and that we ought to try to provide assistance to some civil society organizations directly to try to create Farsi language broadcasts. These are a small number of the many recommendations made in the excellent report of the subcommittee. The report is available on the subcommittee's website, which will be found on the website of the Standing Committee of Foreign Affairs and International Development, which in turn is part of the House of Commons website.

Iran
Government Orders

May 14th, 2012 / 8:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague who talked about doing something with the Farsi language and Farsi radio.

I am wondering if he is saying that maybe CBC International might engage that. On one hand I think it is a good idea, but on the other hand we are cutting the funds to CBC.

My colleague across the way also stated that we should give money to a university in order to study what is happening in Iran.

They are great ideas, but would the money not be better used to restore the two officers we had in Tehran who were working in the visa section? People who wanted to come out of Tehran could visit other countries, engage people in dialogue and democracy building. Not only could they engage in an exchange of ideas, but they could see how democracies function. Then they could go back to Iran and engage with their own people.

On one hand we are saying we can do all these things, and on the other hand we are cutting the money that is available. Could the member clarify for me how we can give $1 million to a university to open a centre while we decimate and cut back the visitor visa section in Iran? That was the only link Iranians had to Canada. If they want to apply to come to Canada right now, they have to send their application to Turkey. They will have to get a visitor visa or find their way to Turkey, if they require an interview.

I am really baffled and confused. On one hand we have money to give, and on the other hand we have cutbacks.

Will my colleague please explain the priorities as far as Iran is concerned? Is the priority to help the people on the ground, or is the priority to give money to a university to do studies and more studies?

I think the people of Iran are sick and tired of studies. I think what they really want to see is action, and—