Mr. Speaker, I am speaking in the House of Commons today regarding the condemnation of Iran. My party worked hard to support a principled foreign policy approach while in government. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada was a world leader on promoting democracy to all nations. The Conservative government defended our values and interests of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on the world stage.
In Iran, freedoms are far from warranted, and the people there are facing severe injustices. The people of Iran are facing no freedom of speech or assembly, and the political rights of women, LGBT communities, and ethnic or religious minorities are practically non-existent. With ruthless consequences for speaking out against their government's atrocities, a strong and free Canada needs to start holding this regime accountable.
I want to make it clear that my condemnation is of the Iranian regime and its policies, not the Iranian people. Under the current regime, the Iranian people have suffered. While economic sanctions were lifted on Iran as part of the nuclear deal, fuel and food prices have been rising, along with inequality. This is due in large part to endemic economic mismanagement and corruption within the regime, leading to inflation and unemployment. Ordinary citizens hoped that the nuclear deal would bring economic relief, but the regime has stood in the way of any real progress.
The Iranian government is not elected through free and fair elections, and limits Iranian citizens' rights to exercise their freedoms of belief, expression, and assembly. In late 2017 and early 2018, thousands of Iranian people took to the streets to show their opposition to a government that is corrupt, authoritarian, and unjust. I commend them for their courage to stand up for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The Iranian regime responded with excessive force and created further restrictions on social media. Thousands were arrested, and more than 20 people lost their lives in the unrest. This was an unacceptable, but not unsurprising response from a regime that has been oppressing its very own people for years.
Beyond the impact that Iran has on its own people, it is also a bad actor across the Middle East. The country has been a long-time backer of Hezbollah, a violent terror organization, and vocally supported the brutal Assad regime during the Syrian civil war. Iran actively contributes to violence, instability, and the spread of terror across the Middle East, and therefore around the world. Iran also has a long history of threatening our good friend and ally, Israel. Recently, Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted that “Israel is a malignant cancerous tumour” and that it “has to be removed and eradicated”. The regime is anti-Semitic, pure and simple.
I condemn, in the strongest terms, Iran's aggression in the region, its oppression of Iranian citizens, its stance on Israel, and its sponsorship of terrorism. Given the country's track record, it is of the utmost importance that Iran never gains nuclear capabilities. Canada is no stranger on advocating for rights and freedoms globally. In Afghanistan, Canada played an integral role in protecting the Afghan people and ensuring that Afghan national security forces are well trained so that they can assume full responsibility for their own national security. In Libya, our men and women did more than their share, performing over 1,388 raids to help protect civilian lives, and putting an end to the Gadhafi regime.
Currently, our brave men and women are in Iraq providing an advise-and-assist mission against ISIS. For the next two years, we will be there to help the Iraqi Kurdish forces resist the advances of these genocidal terrorists, and carry out air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria.
However, rights and freedoms are elusive at best in this Islamic Republic. Civil society in Iran is quickly deteriorating as they move to detain academics, journalists, and activists in Iran. This brutal regime is becoming a dire threat to the peace and security all around the world. Although we care deeply for the people of Iran, Canadian citizens have also suffered greatly. Not only has the well-known Canadian professor Kavous Seyed-Emami recently died suspiciously in an Iranian prison, but Iran is preventing his wife, also a Canadian citizen, from returning to Canada.
Maryam Mombeini was barred from leaving Iran on a Canada-bound flight with her sons Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami. The family has faced severe harassment, threats, and smear campaigns over their refusal to accept the Iranian authorities' claim that Kavous Seyed-Emami died by suicide in prison. The two sons were permitted to travel back to Vancouver, but they had to leave their mother in Tehran. This travel ban is absolutely unacceptable, and explicitly violates United Nations conventions. Our government should be working harder to uphold our responsibility to protect the rights of Canadians abroad.
Today we are calling on the government to denounce appeasement of the Iranian regime, and instead continue to be a global leader in upholding human rights abroad. Immediate action is needed. We must call on Iran to lift the travel ban on Maryam Mombeini and sanction Iran's leaders and other gross human rights offenders under Canada's Magnitsky law.
We must communicate support for the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2012, and reiterate that Iran is a state sponsor of terror. This House should pass Bill S-219 to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism that incites hatred and human rights violations. Commercial relations between Bombardier and Iran should be reviewed.
We must recognize that Iran is complicit in the atrocious war crimes of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. We need to boycott the UN Conference on Disarmament to protest Syria's election as chair. Canada should cease immediately from referring to the Iranian regime as “elected”, or any other references to democracy. We need to speak up regarding Iran's protest movement, and start standing in agreement with the people of Iran.
Lastly, the Government of Canada must recognize that the people of Iran, like Canadians, have a fundamental right to freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other forms of communication, and finally the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
Anything else is condoning the shameful and hateful republic. This is not who we are as humanitarians, and, more importantly, this is not who we are as Canadians.