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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

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—

Situation in Iraq September 16th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to join in this important debate on Canada's military role in Iraq.

We are engaging in this discussion as our military is being deployed to help counter ISIS, the Islamic State, which has taken control of large swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, killing and terrorizing civilian populations, targeting Shia Muslims and various minorities, including Kurds, Christians and Yazidis, and engaging in a whole gamut of international criminality, be it ethnic cleansing, genocidal acts, plundering ancient and protected sites, or executing journalists in a gruesome fashion, the beheadings videotaped and posted online for all to see.

Of course, we are all disgusted and enraged by such barbarism. The Islamic State must be stopped, and Canada should join our allies in order to do so. It is encouraging to see that many countries have declared their support and have committed resources to help defeat the Islamic State and restore peace and stability to Iraq and the Middle East. I am sure we will offer our full support and recognition to those who contribute to this important international mission.

As has been mentioned this evening several times, I hope that the government will provide more information about the role the Canadian military will be playing in Iraq, notably the timeline for deployment.

As we examine and debate Canada's role in combatting ISIS, it is critical that we take the time to review our role in Iraq through a wide-angle lens, indeed through an international prism. ISIS is really metaphor and message of a larger evil. Indeed, even if we were to defeat ISIS tomorrow, the global radical jihadist threat would remain. As such, we must consider how ISIS came to be and recognize the nature of the multiple threats it poses, understand the broader global context of the Islamic terrorist threat, and appreciate the radical ideology underpinning it, as I said, of which ISIS is only one part.

For example, in the spring of 2011 in the Syrian city of Daraa, 20 young Syrians, at the time, painted graffiti, expressing their desire for freedom and reform, what came to be known as a peace and dignity revolution.

When they were arrested and tortured, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in protest, chanting “peaceful, peaceful”. In response, President Bashar al-Assad's regime fired into demonstrators. This was followed by artillery and tank assaults against civilian neighbourhoods; the rape, torture and murder of their inhabitants; the bombing of schools and hospitals; and the use of cluster munitions, thermobaric weapons and chemical weapons against civilian populations.

At the time, those of us who argued that what was needed was the implementation of the responsibility to protect principle, which was not only a matter of engaging, and not even necessarily military action, but which included expanding and enhancing global sanctions, establishing humanitarian quarters and civilian protection zones, holding the Syrian leadership accountable for their crimes under international law, and providing defensive weapons to the moderate opposition at the time.

Regrettably, those of us who recommended that kind of protective intervention were told that any intervention would lead to more sectarian violence, the likelihood of civil war, the jihadization of the conflict, and the like.

Regrettably, what happened as a result of all this was that jihadization and the beginnings of ISIS took place, not because we intervened but because we did not intervene. Indeed, one of the consequences of allowing the Syrian conflict to fester, of not assisting at that time what was in effect a peaceful protest, was not only that ISIS was able to take root but to develop and strengthen and spread out.

Three years ago, the world did not engage in the protective humanitarian measures that were required in Syria. Today we find ourselves sending personnel to confront a violent terrorist jihadist group that grew in part out of our own inaction and has gone beyond Syria. Moreover, ISIS represents a composite of threats, not only to Iraq and Syria but to the broader Middle East, a clear and present danger to the stability of the Middle East and indeed the international community.

It has, of course, been violently taking control of Syrian and Iraqi territory, threatening and brutalizing civilian populations as it advances, but ISIS has also been a destabilizing force in the Middle East as a whole, particularly in countries bordering Syria and Iraq. Not only do countries such as Jordan and Lebanon continue to deal with an influx of refugees from neighbouring conflicts, but some support for ISIS has even been found to exist in these countries themselves.

Indeed, The New York Times has reported that shops in Lebanon sell ISIS paraphernalia, and ISIS flags can be seen flying on the streets in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, near the Syrian border. There has been some protest support with regard to ISIS in Jordan. Therefore, as appears to be happening, the effort to combat ISIS must also include support and contributions from Muslim countries in the Middle East to ensure that its ideology and its physical presence do not spread.

As well, ISIS poses a further threat in that it has attracted, by some estimates, as many as 12,000 foreign fighters. Its own force has now increased and is now believed to be triple the size it was originally and is estimated to have over 30,000 people. These foreign fighters include many from the west, including Canada. It is disturbing to learn of Canadian youth from Calgary or Timmins becoming engulfed by the hateful ideology of ISIS and joining the group's murderous campaign.

Moreover, the possibility that some of these individuals could one day return to Canada and seek to put their pernicious ideology into practice on Canadian soil cannot itself be discounted. Importantly, therefore, the Canadian Council of Imams, along with other leaders of Canada's Muslim community, have condemned, in their words, the Islamic state's “narrow, bigoted, dogmatic distortions” and have called for “meaningful discussion, to engage preventative strategies and to find meaningful solutions to this growing threat in our country”. Indeed, such efforts must be an important part of our anti-ISIS campaign, along with the military measures we are discussing tonight.

Thus, ISIS threatens Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the broader Middle East, and the international community at large and has even succeeded, on occasion, as I mentioned, in recruiting Canadians to join its cause. These threats must be met with the requisite response, military and otherwise. Canada must play its part, and the people of Canada should know what part we have signed up to play.

However, the unfortunate reality is that even if we succeed in defeating ISIS, as I mentioned, the global jihadist terrorist threat will persist. We must view ISIS and our efforts to combat it in that broader context, recognizing the similarities between ISIS and other jihadist groups and understanding that it is but one part of a larger terrorist threat.

I recently returned, for example, from an international conference hosted by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center near Herzliya. Among the speakers and attendees were Iraqi Christians and Yazidis, moderate members of the Syrian opposition, and numerous international experts on terrorism and counterterrorism. One of the recurring themes of the conference was that we face not only one murderous radical Islamist group and ideology, such as ISIS, but an international network of radical Islamic terrorist ideologies. In the Middle East alone, in addition to ISIS, there are other radical Sunni groups, including al Qaeda, Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, and radical Shiite groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, along with the leading state sponsor of terror, Iran, which has notably trained, supported, and financed both Sunni and Shiite radical extremist groups; for example, both Hezbollah and Hamas.

In Africa, groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia are likewise violent and dangerous. Indeed, there are likely more than 40 non-state radical Islamic terrorist groups operating in some two dozen countries. As British Prime Minister David Cameron recently said, these groups espouse “a poisonous and extremist ideology that I believe we'll be fighting for years and probably decades”.

Indeed, another of the recurring themes of the conference was the need not only to fight terrorist groups militarily but to combat this poisonous ideology that underpins and nourishes their totalitarian objectives. This fight, therefore, must occur not only in the theatres of conflict, such as Iraq and Syria, but also here at home, where necessary, where some of our youth may be targeted for recruitment. To this end, as I indicated, co-operation and engagement with Muslim communities and community leaders in the west are essential.

Another important way of combatting such terrorism is cutting off its funding. In addition to Iran, Turkey and Qatar have become significant sponsors of terrorism, notably of ISIS and Hamas, and so diplomatic and financial measures could dovetail with military ones, choking off financial support for terrorist groups.

Perhaps one of the most significant things that could be done to combat terrorism is to ensure that it does not succeed to begin with, that it is not rewarded, validated, and nowhere legitimated while groups that do not adopt terrorist tactics, such as Tibetans, do not receive our attention and support. Every payment of ransom, every prisoner swap, every moral equivalence or offer of legitimacy, every unnecessary concession to a terrorist group encourages still more terror.

Indeed, for example, suggestions that Hamas should be treated as a mere political party or placed on a morally equivalent plane with democracies that fight it is itself part of a pattern of indulgence that only encourages more terrorism. For example, if we are to combat Hamas as a terrorist group, we should engage in what I have elsewhere referred to as a kind of “six D” strategy, which would work as well with regard to other terrorist groups in that regard.

The first step is demilitarization. The second is the disarming of the terrorist militias, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the like. The third is the dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure. The fourth is the defunding of its sources. The fifth is the detoxification of its ideology. The sixth is development—in other words, a reciprocal response to these forms of demilitarization and dismantling of the terrorist infrastructure would be a massive program for reconstruction, relief and development.

At the same time, we must ensure that groups that shun terrorist tactics receive our attention and support. For example, while parliaments around the world debate how to approach ISIS, while the subject will undoubtedly receive much attention at the upcoming UN General Assembly, and while it should be the subject of a UN Human Rights Council emergency debate, as I and others have proposed recently, one would be hard pressed to find a parliamentary debate about the plight of the Tibetan people, who have been facing repression for decades, but who, if they engaged in violence, would self-immolate rather than attack Chinese civilians.

All of this is to say that the struggle against terrorism and radical Islamist ideology is a complex, multifaceted fight. As Canadians go to Iraq to support efforts to combat ISIS, let us support them, let us have full information about the nature and scope of their mission, and let us not forget that the fight against ISIS is but one battle in a much larger war in which military, economic, diplomatic and humanitarian measures must all be brought to bear.

To conclude in that regard, first, we need to expose and unmask the critical mass of threat and the critical level of mass atrocity of ISIS and other radical terrorist Islamic groups. For example, we have seen in a poll taken now that 61% of American voters believe that the U.S. taking military action against ISIS is in the national interest, versus 13% who do not. However, when asked last year about the U.S. taking action against Syria after its reported use of chemical weapons, only 21% said that action was in the nation's interest, while 33% said it was not. I believe that it is the exposure of the barbarism of ISIS, including the theatrics of its barbarism, that has helped to mobilize public opinion. We need to really expose and unmask the critical mass, not only of threat but the critical mass of mass atrocity that has been engaged in.

Second, we need to expose and unmask the radical and murderous ideologies that underpin ISIS and the other terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda, al-Nusra, Islamic Jihad and the like, which pose a clear and present danger, as I indicated, not only to the stability of the Middle East but to Europe, North America and the like.

Third, we must expose and unmask the genocidal anti-Semitism of these groups. This is not a term that I would use lightly or easily, but there is no other term to describe the toxic convergence of the advocacy of the most horrific of crimes, namely genocide—it is a word that we should even shudder to mention. Embedded in the most enduring of radical hatred, namely anti-Semitism, is the propagation of terrorist acts and furtherance of both this genocidal objective and these radical, hateful ideologies.

Fourth, we need the U.S. and allies to step up efforts to choke off, for example, the Islamic State's funding. In particular, we need to focus on steps to choke off the oil sales of the Islamic State, its donations from the Persian Gulf and its extortion rackets. Officials said their strategy is highly dependent on the co-operation of Middle East allies such as Turkey, Qatar and Kuwait in preventing the flow of finances and fighters into the Islamic State's war machinery.

Since the primary source for the Islamic State's fund comes from its sale of oil and refined petroleum, therefore, what needs to be done is to curtail their capacity to engage in such sales and to cut off the capacity of those that assist them financially in that regard. We also need to ensure, and with this I close, that terrorism is not rewarded; that recruitment of Canadians and others is countered, as we have begun to do here in Canada with the engagement and the leadership of the Muslim communities at its helm; that we have a program and policy with respect to protect against the returning jihadist committing terrorist acts in this country. As I said, only a comprehensive approach involving military, diplomatic, political, economic, humanitarian and educational measures will achieve this.

We always have to appreciate that terrorism constitutes an assault on the fundamental security of a democracy, be it Canada, Europe, or otherwise, and that counter-terrorism is really a response in the protection of human security, the security of a democracy and the security of the life of each of its inhabitants. Equally in the Middle East counter-terrorism at this point will be and will serve the protection of the inhabitants of the countries in the Middle East who are in the first line of threat from these radical jihadist groups symbolized by ISIS, but not limited to ISIS.