House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scientists.

Topics

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, it is not a perfect solution, but Canada does support the Annan six-point plan, because at this point it is a tool. It is what we have to pressure the parties to seek a solution while containing the violence as much as possible.

It is true that the pressure has to come on the Assad regime from all angles. It has to come from sanctions, it has to come from the UN Security Council, and it has to come in a positive way. That is how I see the Annan plan. It is a positive—meaning unbiased—boots-on-the-ground kind of assessment that holds the regime's feet to the fire, in that Assad cannot tell the world that everything is fine if the envoy and his people are on the ground saying that the ceasefires are not being observed or people are not being allowed to assemble or refugees are not being allowed to leave the country.

Without that kind of information, countries like Canada could not make the decisions they are making, decisions that go a long way toward changing the situation, and neither could the UN Security Council.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:20 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Chair, what is the member's view of the opposition in Syria? Who are they and whom do they represent?

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, the Syrian National Council is the opposition to the Assad regime. I am sure the member knows that it has been working on its outreach efforts and that Canada supports the Syrian National Council. We are prepared to work with its members because we believe they want democracy and freedom, as do we, for the Syrian people. They want the violence to end and so do we. We stand with all Syrian people in their fight for democracy and freedom. We believe that all countries deserve the human rights that we take for granted sometimes here in Canada.

Syria in particular has suffered at the hands of Assad and his regime. For that reason, we are supporting the efforts of the Syrian National Council.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, the difficulties in Syria started in January 2011, and 10 months later, in October 2011, I put forward a request for a unanimous motion that read as follows:

That this House condemn the brutal attacks on members of the Syrian movement for democratic change and accountable government by the Bashar al-Assad regime; call on Bashar al-Assad to meet the Arab League 15-day deadline to enact a ceasefire and begin a dialogue between government officials and opposition representatives; accept the United Nations Human Rights Council's commission for inquiry into the violence of Syria to find out exactly what happened and to put an end to civilian deaths; and, ensure that the perpetrators of these attacks are brought to justice and bear the full weight of the law.

That was in October 2011. I would ask the member, what has changed from then until now? Today the government has asked for an emergency debate, but we could not have that debate back in October 2011. What has changed is that after all this time, inaction from the government has brought more killing to the people in Syria.

Why is the government not listening to the requests of the Canadian Syrian people? They are asking CIDA to match dollar for dollar the money that they are raising in order to look after their loved ones in Turkey, Lebanon and other countries.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, I find the partisanship demonstrated by this question a little disappointing. It is extremely important for us to stand together as one country in Canada, and I think all sides in this House agree.

The government has acknowledged for many months now that the problems in Syria are serious. We have been taking action, including sanctions and humanitarian aid to the tune of $7.5 million or so.

More importantly, I draw to members' attention the motion that was passed unanimously earlier today by this House, because it covers many different areas of this conflict. I think that when Canada passes a motion like this, the world listens because we are united and we are a strong country.

We are condemning the brutal massacre and calling for an immediate end to the violence. We support the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on the Syrian Crisis. We are calling on Syria's government to allow the people to access the media. We have expelled our Syrian diplomats. We call on the leadership of China and Russia to play an active and decisive role. We confirm our support for humanitarian aid to the refugees and the victims. We stand in solidarity with those in Syria who aspire to peace, a democratic government and protection of human rights.

I think, frankly, that says a lot about Canada and about the fact that we are willing to rise above partisanship in this House for the betterment of the people in Syria.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to add a few thoughts to this important debate. I am splitting my time with the member for Scarborough—Agincourt.

In preparing for this evening's debate, I had opportunity to speak with representatives of the Christian community, the Druze community, the Turkish community and a few others as well. I am quite grateful for their contributions to my thinking. It is important for Canadians, particularly MPs, to listen to what the diaspora communities have to say. I appreciate the diaspora communities sometimes have their own agendas. Nevertheless, it is useful in informing us as MPs so that we, in turn, can contribute to the formulation of government policy particularly with respect to an issue as serious as Syria.

While by no means unanimous, the communities that I spoke to had one clear message. Bear in mind that these are minority communities. The one clear message is that President Assad must go. Their opinion was based upon real life experience. Many of them are recent immigrants from that part of the world and being in some instances from minority communities can easily relate to stories where their own families have been subjected to persecution. They have, in the phrasing of refugee language, well-founded apprehension and fear based upon persecution for religion, ethnicity or race. It does not take a great deal of prompting to get them to tell stories, frequently horrific ones, of how they have been subjected to violence, frequently murders in the family and sometimes property confiscation.

The May 15 issue of the R2P Monitor states, “Threats to the safety and security of Alawites, Kurds, Christians and other minorities complicate the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict”. Canadians need to bear that in mind, as does the government. I am sure the government is cognizant of the fact that the minorities have well-founded fear of majority rule. Their concern is that in the event that Mr. Assad leaves and is replaced, the question is, replaced with what?

The atrocities that are happening in Syria have been well documented and spoken to by other members this evening. I do not propose repeating what has already been said, but I want to add my voice and the voice of my constituents to the demand that President Assad step down. I would say to President Assad, “The objective international community has made and documented its observations and condemns your atrocities against your own people. You, sir, should leave and you should leave now.” In looking forward to the next steps that we should take in this conflict, I am particularly grateful to my colleague from Mount Royal for his insightful analysis and call to action.

Let me conclude on the point that I raised in questions, and that is the role of Russia. The key to the resolution of this conflict is Russia. I, frankly, do not understand why Russia takes the position it does. It has had a historical position on the Middle East and it is a position that everyone knows about. It goes back to colonial times. It has ports in Syria. I have no idea why Russia continues to take its position, particularly its position with respect to the alienation of the remainder of the Arab League. The Arab League is unanimous in the view that Assad must go.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:35 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I thank the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for his thoughtful comments. I know he has been here for many years and has participated in many debates. He is a very thoughtful man and I always appreciate his comments. I especially appreciated his comments about what might come next and his concerns about the protection of minority rights and religious freedoms, in particular.

I wonder if he would expand a little on that and refer to the resolution that was passed earlier today, which says that we all stand in solidarity with those who aspire for peace, democratic governments and, of course, protection of human rights. I wonder if he would expand a little on the protection of universal rights of religious freedoms under article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and how he would expect the international community to assist in the protection of those very important rights in the next government of Syria.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Chair, this is where kind of the rubber hits the road with respect to the protection of religious rights.

In my conversations with the diaspora communities, they were virtually unanimous in the one thing that they thought Canada could do. The one thing that they said Canada could do was stand up for human rights and the rule of law. That was, so to speak, the one take-away above all other take-aways. It is interesting that, as a series of diaspora communities, that is what they see as the shining beacon of Canada. Within that universe of human rights, clearly religious rights are the rights that are probably as important, if not more important, to, the Alawites, the Druze, the Christians and the Shia minorities. We cannot actually pick and choose among our rights and, in this particular conflict, religious rights are probably the paramount of all rights.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

June 5th, 2012 / 10:35 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Chair, this evening, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the speeches that we heard in this debate, and my colleagues on the government side will find me almost reassured. It is important that the entire community remain calm and avoid trying to be cowboy heroes who ride to the rescue, bring the massacre to an end and sort everything out in one fell swoop.

Whenever I hear the expression R2P, the responsibility to protect, I break out in a cold sweat. It makes me think of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Libya: there was a great success. There are still tanks blocking the airport in the capital and the problems are far from being resolved. It is important that we remain calm and restrained right to the end. This is how things will be resolved.

The only fear I have has nothing to do with what the international community is not doing, but rather with what might happen if it sends in troops. This would really sound the death knell for the Syrian people. They would be facing a real war and seeing their country destroyed and its infrastructure ravaged. That is the real danger. I hope that the members of the government will pursue the wise course they have followed until now.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Chair, I do not know that was actually a question directed to me since I am not a government member.

However, I would agree with him in the sense that it is time for prudence and for caution. As horrific as the situation is in Syria where tens or dozens or hundreds of people are being killed on a daily basis, an imprudent intervention, a heavy-handed intervention or an inappropriate intervention could turn hundreds into thousands killed on a daily basis. This is a very difficult situation.

Therefore, when we are contemplating an RtoP, a Responsibility to Protect, there is a whole cascading series of interventions. I encourage the government to go through it in a kind of disciplined fashion so that, as each stage gets reached, the pressure on the al-Assad regime gets ratcheted up. However, I do not know that we are actually at the point where we would actually intervene on an armed basis.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, it is almost 16 months since things happened in Syria. In January 2011, a series of protests began in Syria. Among other things, Syrian protesters called on the Syrian president and his government to bring in political reforms and stronger protection of civil rights. It was the beginning of the Arab Spring. Sixteen months later, we have a situation in Syria in which it is not any longer spring, but deep winter.

I mentioned in this House earlier tonight that in October 2011—October 18, as a matter of fact—I asked for unanimous consent for a motion to be passed. We asked for a motion for an emergency debate to be passed, and neither one of them flourished.

I even wrote to the minister on August 19, 2011, enclosing a letter from the Syrian Canadian Council, at which time they were asking the Canadian government to do the following:

1. Ensure that Canadian companies, such as Suncor Energy Inc., are not funding the present Syrian regime;

2. Call for a Conference of members of the Syrian Diaspora and others who were interested in developing a free and democratic Syria;

3. Offer to host the Conference in Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Government and assist with the funding of the Conference;

4. Expel the Syrian Ambassador to Canada; and,

5. Consider recalling the Canadian Ambassador to Syria.

That was August 2011, and to date I have not heard from the minister, not even a whisper and not even a return email. We did get a receipt that the minister did read it.

However, the Canadian-Syrian diaspora is asking for much more. They and our party as well have asked that CIDA match dollar for dollar whatever the community raises in order to help their loved ones back in places like Turkey, Libya and Jordan where they have fled, but again, nothing from the government.

There are people who have come to this country and have claimed refugee status for what is happening back in Syria. There are Syrians who were here in Canada before the atrocities started and have claimed refugee status, yet the government is not saying, “Yes, go ahead; we will accept your claim”. Instead people have to resort to courts, and courts are refusing their applications.

I even got an email this evening from a young man who is in Canada, Mike Wise. It states, “Today my house in Aleppo City was under fire and the Syrian army destroyed more than three buildings beside where my mom and sisters live. More than 44 people died under fire.”

The atrocities are perpetrated by the government of Syria, the Assad regime. It is not the first time he has done it, and his father did it before him. These atrocities need a quick response, and the quick response is that we should not have waited 16 months after it started to have a debate in this House.

The Government of Canada issues press release after press release, but has done absolutely nothing else except to address the situation. The Syrian community of Canada has asked the government to match dollar for dollar. We do not have a crisis on our hands of the kind we did in Haiti, and the Prime Minister is not going to go to the Red Cross and give money. It does not really matter, so the government is not listening.

The accountability has to start right here, tonight. The member for Mississauga South, I believe, says we must, and I will repeat the words, “be held accountable”. I think the Canadian people and the Syrian diaspora in Canada are holding us all accountable, especially the government, because the government waited for 16 months to have the Syrian debate in the House, has not answered the diaspora's calls for action and certainly has not answered its calls to match dollar for dollar, which is what they are asking.

The minister of immigration is not assuring the community that we will take seriously their calls to stay in Canada and to be protected. He is not taking it seriously by telling the courts or his bureaucrats to stop deporting people or to not to turn their claims away.

The accountability should start in this House. It should start right here, today, and the government especially has to be held accountable. It has waited long enough, and this is why things are as bad as they are in Syria.

Accountability should start in the House and it should start right here today. The government has to be held accountable. It waited long enough and that is why things are as bad as they are in Syria.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:45 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale
Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I listened to the speech by the member for Scarborough—Agincourt and I listened to some questions he asked earlier this evening in what I must say was a typically belligerent and, regrettably, partisan fashion when we are having a debate about humanitarian atrocities that are happening in Syria and all members of Parliament are speaking with one voice here tonight. We put forward a unanimous resolution earlier today that was quite toughly worded. I think Canadians are listened to abroad when they speak reasonably with one voice and not in a partisan fashion.

I want to respond to a question that he asked of me earlier tonight. He asked me if we had received a letter from him or from others requesting matching dollar for dollar contributions. I checked with the staff of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and there is no record of such a request having been received. The minister has met with the Syrian community on multiple occasions across Canada. I have met with the Syrian community in the GTA. I have not heard that request. It has not been put forward in any media article that we are aware of.

I would ask that member to hand me the letter right now and I will take it directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and we will respond. I noticed that he was referring to his notes earlier so I assume he has it there. If he does not deliver it by the end of this debate tonight, I will assume that in typical fashion he has just fabricated that information and such a letter does not actually exist.

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, the letter is right here. I even read it and I will read it again. I hope the member will listen carefully, as he has absolutely not listened. The letter reads:

They are asking the Canadian government to do the following:

1. Ensure that Canadian companies, such as Suncor Energy Inc., are not funding the present Syrian regime;

2. Call for a Conference of members of the Syrian Diaspora and others who are interested in developing a free and democratic Syria;

3. Offer to host the Conference in Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Government and assist with the funding of the Conference;

4. Expel the Syrian Ambassador to Canada; and,

5. Consider recalling the Canadian Ambassador to Syria.

That is the letter that the community has sent. This was sent by email to the minister on August 19, 2011. Our party has issued press releases asking for dollar to dollar contributions--

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

There is no mention of matching contributions. You made it up. You fabricated--

Situation in Syria
Government Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please.