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Track Irwin

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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is justice.

Liberal MP for Mount Royal (Québec)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.40% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Redress for Victims of International Crimes Act October 20th, 2014

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-632, An Act to amend the State Immunity Act (genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or torture).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce legislation that would amend the State Immunity Act to allow Canadian victims of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, or torture to seek justice in Canadian courts.

At present the act immunizes foreign states and their officials from civil suits in such cases. The current state of the law is such that Canadians can use Canadian courts to enforce commercial contracts with foreign governments but not to seek redress for heinous crimes such as torture.

Accordingly, the Supreme Court recently found that Iran could not be held accountable for the torture, sexual assault, and murder of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi. The court made it clear, however, that the power to remedy this injustice rests with Parliament, and I trust that hon. members will join together to exercise this responsibility.

When I last introduced this legislation in the 40th Parliament with the support of members of all parties, it never came to a vote. Given my place in the order of precedence, that risks being the case once again.

I therefore invite the government to adopt this legislation as its own so as to ensure that Canadian law no longer shields foreign states that commit horrific crimes against Canadians while securing justice for victims of such crimes.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Iran October 9th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to sound the alarm on the wave of wanton executions in Iran, the intensified persecution of the Baha'i and the imminent executions of three prisoners, including: the torture and threatened execution of senior Shiite clergyman Ayatollah Boroujerdi, known as “Iran's Mandela”, which is a shocking example of the massive repression that has prevailed despite the reputed moderation under Rouhani; the imprisonment of renowned Iranian physicist Omid Kokabee, who is languishing in prison on trumped up charges, has been denied life-saving medical care and whose release has been publicly urged by 25 Nobel laureates; and, the threatened execution of sexual assault victim Rayhaneh Jabbari, who was falsely convicted of murdering her assailant based on a coerced confession and a Kafkaesque proceeding.

I invite all colleagues to join me in calling on President Rouhani to cease and desist from this wanton execution binge and to release these three prisoners threatened with imminent execution, along with other political prisoners, such as the leadership of the Baha'i, and to end Iran's culture of impunity.

Justice October 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would concur with the parliamentary secretary that Justice Gascon is a distinguished jurist and that there was consultation; however—and this is the main point of my remarks—there was no protocol of who was consulted; there was no establishment of a judicial selection panel; there was no parliamentary review; there was no public engagement; there was no accountability. In fact, the Prime Minister's Office, in response to my order paper question, acknowledged that it in fact was the one that suspended the process.

As the Supreme Court is the pillar of our constitutional democracy, the arbiter of federal, provincial, and territorial relations, the ultimate guarantor of constitutional rights, that Supreme Court deserves better.

Thus far, the non-existent judicial appointment process prejudices the court, Parliament, the public, and the whole integrity of this process to secure the candidates.

Justice October 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to follow up on a question that I asked on June 18 about the process to replace the hon. Justice Louis LeBel, who will be retiring on November 30.

At the time, the justice minister responded that “there has been no process undertaken to date”, but he encouraged me to “look forward to the future with optimism”. I therefore anticipated that the government would use the ensuing summer months to begin consultations and get the process under way, if not completed. As such, it was particularly alarming to learn upon our return to Parliament in September by way of an order paper question that, in the words of the minister, the Supreme Court appointment process is “still under reconsideration”, and that it remains to be determined how the government will proceed.

Today is an especially appropriate day to be raising these issues because today the hon. Justice Clément Gascon took his seat on the Supreme Court. I have a great deal of respect for Justice Gascon, but the process by which he was chosen, following the Nadon fiasco, was a clear regression to a closed, unaccountable, unrepresentative process without an advisory selection panel, without any parliamentary involvement, and without any public participation.

In fact, since the Conservatives took over in 2006, the government has been watering down the appointment process that I was proud to initiate as minister of justice in 2004. That process, which led to the appointments of the hon. Justices Rosalie Abella and Louise Charron, included, for the first time, a public protocol setting forth the people to be consulted and an inclusive advisory panel composed of MPs, distinguished members of the legal community, and eminent public persons who evaluated and recommended candidates.

The evaluation criteria were made public from the outset, and prior to the appointments being finalized, I took questions as minister from a parliamentary committee about, among other things, how these criteria were met by the nominees. These measures were intended as a first step toward a more inclusive, transparent, and accountable process. Indeed, the committee submitted a report with recommendations for further improvements, and that report was made public.

At that time, 10 years ago, it appeared that all parties agreed on the need for greater transparency, accountability, and inclusiveness in the appointment process. However, the government has since moved starkly in the opposite direction, to the point that earlier today, in response to a question from the member for Gatineau, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice indicated that the government envisages no role for Parliament in the process to replace Justice LeBel.

There are now less than two months until Justice LeBel will vacate his seat on the court. By the minister's own admission in his response to my order paper question three weeks ago, not only had the process to replace Justice LeBel not been initiated, but the government had not even decided what the process would be.

I would like to know whether that remains the case or whether the government has, by now, decided on a process. If it has, what does this process entail, what elements of the process have already occurred, and why has it been kept secret? If, on the other hand, the government has still not decided on a process, what is the cause of the delay and when will the process to replace Justice LeBel in fact begin?

Jewish Holidays October 6th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the aftermath of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews ask forgiveness from those we have wronged and forgive those who have wronged us, while resolving to do good.

In the words of the great sage Maimonides, we should each see the world as divided into half-evil and half-good. Therefore, one good deed by any one of us tips the balance from evil to good.

During Yom Kippur, a central theme is the danger of evil speech. As my late mother put it, “a kind word can make a person's day, while an unkind word can hurt”.

Indeed, words can wound. In this spirit, I will soon be asking for unanimous consent for a motion establishing a “speak no evil day”, through which members can promote mutual respect and public civility.

As we are also on the eve of Sukkot, the Jewish Thanksgiving, which overlaps this year's Canadian Thanksgiving, I join with all members in giving thanks for all that we are fortunate enough to enjoy, and in resolving to do good, so that the coming year will bring even more cause for thanksgiving.

Hampstead Centennial September 29th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise to salute the Town of Hampstead, which is in the midst of celebrating its 100th birthday under the theme “Looking back, moving forward”. Last week I was pleased to attend the town's centenary parade and festivities, along with celebrants representing communities from across Montreal, and indeed, around the world.

In fact, the Town of Hampstead's centennial highlights the diversity of our rainbow riding as more than 60 groups participated in the parade.

Designed originally as a garden city, Hampstead remains a tranquil, distinctively green residential oasis.

I commend Mayor Steinberg, the town council, hard-working town employees and the centennial committee for their vision and hard work, as Hampstead moves from last week's celebrations to its time capsule and Centennial Lane dedication. I offer my congratulations for a century of success and best wishes for the hundred years to come.

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is crucial to have broader involvement of Arab and Muslim countries. Indeed, a significant number of them have indicated that they support the United States initiative, but they have to be also involved in concrete support. That includes, as I said, intelligence gathering and it includes providing an umbrella, a political as well as military umbrella, so that this is not looked upon as being the U.S. or the west against Arabs or Islam, but it is the U.S. in concert with the Arab League, in concert with countries constituting the Arab League, that this becomes a true, internationalized alliance, which is really an alliance against radical evil, and an alliance for the purpose of protecting the human security of us all, of the Arab and Muslim countries in the Middle East as well as countries in Europe and North America.

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her question because it gives me occasion to reaffirm what I have said in the House on a number of occasions, including with respect to these take-note debates. We should be signing and ratifying this treaty and undertaking all other measures in addition to that to prevent the smuggling of arms and to sanction those countries that are engaged in the arms trade, which regrettably we have not been doing as much needs to be done.

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of ways that this can be done. There can be intelligence gathering. We need to fuel the intelligence gathering with respect to matters of criminal acts. We need to refer, as was recommended with regard to Syria but then vetoed by Russia and China, both those from Syria as well as those from radical terrorist groups to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution. That was not done. The exercise of the veto frustrated that. I might add that even without a veto we would get UN Security Council resolutions frustrated.

I mentioned that, for example, Hezbollah now has over 100,000 missiles. UN Security Council resolution 1701, which concluded the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, called for demilitarization at the time, called for the disarming of Hezbollah at the time. What happened was that rather than get the disarming of the terrorist militia of Hezbollah, we got in fact an intensification of its rearmament.

Part of the problem is that we have been witnessing a culture of impunity with regard to these UN Security Council resolutions, and we need to mobilize the international community to ensure that these resolutions are implemented and not find a situation where they are not only breached but in fact mocked in such a way that the very disarmament that was supposed to have been achieved is replaced by a gross armament and then further terrorist acts.

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, I recently returned from a conference on terrorism that was held in Herzliya in Israel and the description there was, for example, of a triangular terrorist threat in the north, which emanates from Hezbollah. We should not forget that while Hamas has 10,000 missiles, it is estimated that Hezbollah at this point has over 100,000 missiles that could reach any point in Israel. Therefore, there is a terrorist threat that emanates from Hezbollah.

We also have al-Qaeda elements in the north. We have al-Nusra elements also in Syria. We have ISIS of course centred in Syria. Therefore, we have even more than a triangular threat in the north. We have a triangular threat in the south coming from Hamas, from Islamic Jihad, from al-Qaeda in Sanaa. We have a triangular threat from the east coming from Iraq, coming possibly from incursions from Jordan and coming, of course, from behind it all, Iran, which as I said finances, trains and arms in this instance both Hamas even though it is Sunni and Hezbollah even though it is Shiite. We have Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism, financing, arming, training, encouraging all these non-state radical terrorist actors.

We have to have an appreciation of all that. What I mentioned with regard to Israel is also true, though not in the same scale of threat but nonetheless, for Jordan. Jordan is also threatened in terms of al-Qaeda elements in Jordan, ISIS elements there as well, al-Nusra Front as well. We have to protect the stability of states like Jordan, like Lebanon, like Israel, like Saudi Arabia at this point, which is finding itself under threat. Ironically enough—