House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Don Valley East (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 34.60% of the vote.

Statements in the House

International Co-operation February 17th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, there have been reports of severe delays in aid support from Canada actually reaching earthquake victims in Haiti.

Could the Minister of International Cooperation update the House on the progress of the $250 million of matching funds the government has committed?

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I rise today to speak on the important matter of human rights violations in Iran.

Human rights both domestically and internationally have long been a concern of Canadians. However, this government, in its five short years, has dramatically silenced the voice of Canada on the international scene. We cannot continue on this path of insularity in an increasingly global environment.

I would like to thank the member for Mount Royal for taking leadership in asking for the take note debate tonight.

According to Freedom House, the number of new electoral democracies has ceased to grow, while the number of backsliders has increased. Countries like Thailand and Kenya, which only a few years ago seemed safely in the democratic column, have sunk into political crisis and uncertainty.

However, the last few weeks have seen a challenge to authoritarian rule in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and, most recently, in Iran. Tonight this debate is focusing on the events that are unfolding in Iran and concerns that are arising in regard to the treatment of those who are protesting.

When protests were taking place in Egypt, Iran was cheering the protesters. However, when the protesters took to the streets in Iran, they were rounded up and put in prison.

The Iranian people have suffered tremendously under this mullah regime. When the Shah was deposed, the people thought they had rid themselves of authoritarian rule. Ayatollah Khomeini had agreed to be an interim leader until democratic elections took place. The Iranian people were in for a rude awakening.

It has now been 32 years that this regime has been in power, and during that time hundreds of thousands of Iranians have been killed. The people killed were intellectuals, professors, thinkers, opposition leaders, journalists, et cetera. Some of these opposition members moved to Iraq for sanctuary, to Camp Ashraf, and they are still not safe from the mullah regime.

What has the world done? It has stood by and let this happen. When Ayatollah Khatami took over from Khomeini, the west thought they had a moderate leader, but that was not so. The west kept on appeasing the mullah regime to such an extent that it agreed to label opposition parties who were resisting the regime as terrorists.

If the Canadian government truly believes in democracy and truly fights for democratic and human rights, it is high time that it follows the example of Britain and the European Union and delists the opposition parties who are resisting the regime so that they can go back and fight the mullahs democratically.

We have heard about thousands of people who have been killed, and the killing continues. I would like to add a few names of people whose only crime has been to resist the government: Zahra Bahrami, Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei, Ali Saremi, Jafar Kazemi and many more.

What was their crime? They supported the opposition. They challenged the government. They fought and died for change.

How are we going to help their memory survive and the memory of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian citizen, and many others like her who died fighting for freedom?

The Iranian regime's human rights violations are state sanctioned and done with impunity. Many Iranians who have come to Canada attest to the brutality of the regime. The Iranians who fled the brutality of the regime some 30 years ago were young people, the same as we see today protesting in the streets of Iran. However, nobody paid attention to them. These young people risked their lives and those of their families to demand human rights, and the struggle is still going on.

The Iranian people are resolute. They are resisting. The diaspora wants to keep up the struggle. They want the world to help them. If the world wants to see peace, we need to help the Iranian people in their struggle.

Human rights groups have been pressing the UN and the international community to denounce the rash of executions in Iran. The groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, say at least 86 people have been executed in 2011 in Iran. They say at least eight of those killed last month were political prisoners.

Iran Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi joined the call saying that the executions may increase if the world is silent.

Canada must speak out loudly and clearly that human rights knows no borders. We must make it clear that repression and state-sanctioned murder will not go unnoticed. In a country where some 70% of the population is under 30 years old, estimates suggest that 25% to 40% of the youth is either underemployed or unemployed.

The stark realities facing this young population and their desire for change were expressed by Professor Akhavan in his testimony at the foreign affairs subcommittee on international human rights, when he said, “When young people are willing to get murdered in the streets, it is not because they are fanatics; it is because they have no hope; they are desperate. They would rather get killed than remain silent”. Canadians must not remain silent while they die.

At this point I would like to digress a little. I would like to bring some perspective on Islam, because after all, that is what the mullahs keep on saying; that this is an Islamic state. Let me elucidate what Islam is and what the Quran says.

Many people are unaware of one of the fundamental principles of Islam: respect for human beings and respect for the total creation. Islam is a religion of peace and submission to the will of God. Islam believes in the dignity of human beings. It regards human beings as the crown of creation and as such, they have to be responsible for all creation. They have to treat the resources of the earth wisely, look after the environment, look after the sick, the poor, the needy and the most vulnerable in society.

The cosmopolitan ethic in Islam stands for respect among peoples of all faith and no faith, that is an ethical respect for the dignity of the human person without any discrimination. At the conference in Amman, Jordan in 2005, where all Muslim countries were represented, the conference reaffirmed the historic plurality of the Muslim Ummah. It reinforced the consensus among all different schools of thought, of the mutual acceptance of the legitimacy of various Muslim denominations, and that pluralism should be cherished.

The Prophet of Islam has clearly stated that difference of opinion is a blessing from God. The Holy Book for the Muslims, the Quran, states that God made us all diverse people and nations so that we may know each other.

The Quran also states, “to take one life is to kill the whole of humanity” and “to save one life is to save humanity”. The Quran is very clear in what it states that Muslims should respect all religion and all people, people with religion and without religion, which is the cosmopolitan ethic.

I hope this clarifies the principles that no Baha'i, no Hindu, no Ahmadiyyas or any other denominations, no Christians, no Jews, should be persecuted by the regime of Iran.

When the west talks about Islam, it gets itself confused between the principles of Islam and the Sharia. The Sharia is man made. It is not God sanctioned. I hope that in the Iranian regime, some of the people are watching, because I would like to pose a question for them. How can these mullahs claim to be religious when they are basically violating the fundamental principles of Islam? Why hide these atrocities behind a garb of religion? It is high time that the mullahs left Iran and that democracy was brought back to Iran.

Indonesia February 15th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the horrendous events that took place on February 6 in Indonesia.

Members of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat were publicly killed in the streets and the police failed to protect them. The Ahmadiyya community in Indonesia was established in 1926 and was formally recognized by the government in 1953.

The Ahmadiyyas espouse the Islamic ethics of tolerance, brotherhood, generosity and assistance to the poor and the needy. Indonesia has long embodied the philosophy of allowing different interpretations of Islam.

Prophet Muhammad viewed differences of opinion as a blessing from God. Islam espouses the cosmopolitan ethic: respect among peoples of all faiths and no faith, respect for the dignity of the human person without any discrimination.

I therefore urge the Canadian government to seek assurance from the Indonesian government that it will not allow radicals to take over the country's agenda and that it will ensure protection of all minorities.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member is very interested in labour law, and there is a side agreement on Labour co-operation that recognizes the obligations of both countries under the ILO.

On the other front, from a human rights perspective, I made a statement very quickly on whether we would like to engage with other countries. Through trade, we engage people, and through this engagement, people see how different people operate. If we were to shut the country, close the doors, close our borders, people would not understand how others operate. I gave a prime example of when I went to India, I was in the state of Gujarat, and I asked what would be the best Canadian expert and they said it was pluralism. We did not have to teach it to them. They understood how we, as Canadians, worked and lived in harmony, and respected our diversity.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

As has been mentioned, Canada is a trading nation. In the global economy, it is important to get preferential agreements with countries, which is beneficial to both partners. We have seen the impact of relying too heavily on one trading partner. We have seen the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and its failure to seize trade opportunities in China, South Korea and other countries.

The Conservative government's mismanagement of Canada's trade relations has led to the first trade deficit we have seen in over 30 years. The trade deficit record last July was $2.7 billion. Therefore, it is important that as a country we need to increase our efforts and our engagement in order to improve the economic situation, increase international trade, and help the Canadian economy.

Canada has always supported free trade. Our origins are that of a trading nation, having started with fur, wood, and other natural resources. The portion of our economic activity attributed to trade is greater than that of most other nations. Indeed, approximately 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend upon trade and our ability to access foreign markets. We are, after all, a very small country. Our population is 32 million which, one day the U.S. ambassador told me, could fit into the State of California. Taking that perspective, we need to ensure that we make agreements that are based in the interests of Canada.

If a free trade agreement is negotiated properly, Canadian exporters benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs on their goods destined for other countries. Canadian manufacturers benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs at the Canadian border on the various materials that go into their products. Canadian consumers benefit from lower prices of imported goods when tariffs on these goods are reduced or eliminated.

I think it is important to note that people do look at the best return on their investment, and everyone is an economical shopper. In this global age, where we are exposed to just about any goods and services, it is important that when we make deals we are able to ensure a better deal for Canada.

We have heard the debate on protectionism and what steps could best promote Canadian business success and generate Canadian jobs. However, most Canadian businesses that serve domestic markets do benefit from free trade because they are forced to innovate and compete with others from abroad, provided that those abroad comply with international rules on trade, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. In the long run, Canadian businesses are more than capable of being strong, innovative, and competitive without hiding behind protectionist walls.

We know that when we are promoting trade in our green technology, as we have seen in examples such RIM et cetera, we need to be strategic and smart because we live in a global village. In that village, everyone knows what the prices are. We could go on eBay and get things from Australia that could be cheaper than what we could get in Canada. This makes businesses innovate, so they can compete in the global market.

The Liberal Party has always supported economic growth through proper free trade agreements. It also supports any initiatives that will improve access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses. It is important to note that we cannot rely heavily on one trading partner because, as was said, when the elephant rolls over, it is the poor mouse sitting next to it that might get hurt. It is important for us to be careful when we are negotiating but ensuring ensure there is freer trade with far more nations, rather than relying heavily on one partner.

Although Panama has a small economy and Canada's existing trade with that country is relatively limited, there are opportunities for Canadian businesses.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is currently underway and it is slated to be completed by 2014 at a projected cost of $5.3 billion. That is an interesting sum of money. The expansion is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in such areas as infrastructure and construction, as well as environmental, heavy engineering and consulting services. In the area of capital projects, opportunities will be generated in human capital development and construction materials.

Like the free trade agreements between Canada and Chile and Costa Rica, the North American free trade agreement, and the free trade agreement between Jordan, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. These are important aspects of the agreement.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement recognizes the obligations of both countries under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Both countries are required to ensure that laws, regulations and national practises protect the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced labour, and the elimination of discrimination.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment both include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into the perceived failures of Canada or Panama to comply with these agreements.

The free trade agreement with Panama is another opportunity to increase access to more markets for Canadian farmers and businesses. As was pointed out, our farmers need access to more markets. We are a small country and our farmers need to be competitive and innovative. This agreement will give them access.

Panama is a relatively small economy. In 2009 we exported $90 million in goods to that country, which is not as large as some trading partners. It is, however, a stable country which has made significant progress in recent years in terms of development and democracy. Canada is well placed to continue to encourage that.

In spite of the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP grew to 10.7% in 2008, one of the highest in the Americas, and is forecast at 5.6% for 2010. In 2009, bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $132.1 million. Canadian exports made up $91.4 million and $40.7 million in imports.

In the merchandise area, exports to Panama include: machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, pulses and frozen potato products. In the area of service, Canadian exports include: engineering, information and communications technology.

Under the agreement Canada will eliminate over 99% of its tariffs on imports from Panama.

It is important to note that there is no debate here over the issue of human rights. As members of Parliament we may be concerned about it, but we defer on what approaches to take, whether it is through trade, opening up doors, or through the wagging of fingers. Wagging fingers is not a good idea. When I was in India, we discussed what Canada could export, and the first thing I was told was pluralism.

As the government is focusing on creating free trade agreements with other countries, it also needs to look at creating free trade agreements within provinces.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I believe the free trade agreement that was negotiated in 1993 offered too many concessions, wide concessions, and was not thought through properly. I am wondering whether the member believes the Panama deal has been thought through and if there are certain aspects of the deal that concern him.

Dubai February 3rd, 2011

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are facing problems with travel and work in the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai, due to the incompetence of the government.

Dubai is the economic hub of the Middle East and a gateway to Africa and Asia. It was, until recently, a strategic ally. Canada needs to get this relationship back on track.

Instead of diplomacy, the Prime Minister escalated a dispute, which has impacted Canada's economic and security interests.

In 2009 Canadian companies exported $1.3 billion in goods to the Emirates, giving Canada a $1.1 billion trade surplus. Over 200 Canadian companies operate in Dubai. Alberta, Nova Scotia and Ontario have all led trade missions to Dubai. Direct foreign investment by the Emirates in Canada amounted to $4.4 billion, making it the 12th largest investor.

Canada is losing opportunities for a positive, constructive relationship and it is high time the Prime Minister looked after the interest of all Canadians.

Situation in Egypt February 2nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, I would refer back to the historical experience with living in pluralism. Egypt has been the cradle of three monotheistic faiths and those faiths have always lived in harmony. It takes external forces to create disharmony.

The example the member has given is the will of the Egyptian people to ensure a peaceful solution and to ensure that this does not get into a religious polarization of people.

Situation in Egypt February 2nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, I think the elephant in the room is the Muslim brotherhood. People are saying to vote one way or the other. It is a choice between this and that.

It is up to the Egyptian people to look at history, to look and at what happened in Iran and decide for themselves which way they want to go. These decisions should be made by the Egyptian people without interference from external forces.

Situation in Egypt February 2nd, 2011

Madam Speaker, in my deliberations I did mention that there were many permutations and combinations that needed to be regarded.

“I quote the Rev. Paul Girguis, who said:

The current situation for the Copts stinks, but [longtime Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak is the best of the worst for us.

I think what Canada can do is show Egypt, which has been a cradle of civilization and understands pluralism, that polarization is not the way to go and that when a crisis occurs a minority group should not be picked on.

I can say from experience that I was a visible minority in Africa and we were picked on because people did not understand pluralism. I think it is important for Canada, when we are using diplomacy, to use the diplomacy of pluralism.