Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, I want to congratulate you on becoming the chair of this committee. I look forward to a collaborative relationship with you and with all parties on this very important committee.
I want to bring us all back for a moment to what it is we are actually debating currently. As we know, MP Fry introduced a motion on May 6, 2022. In our last meeting, Mr. Genuis introduced an amendment to that motion. His amendment simply states as follows:
and that this study not take place until after the completion of the committee's studies on Ukraine, vaccine equity and Taiwan as well as studies on legislation sent from the House of Commons; and further that it not take place until the subcommittee on agenda and procedure submits a report prescribing the manner in which the study is to proceed.
Those words would be inserted between “rights globally” and “and that the committee report its findings to the House”.
That is the subject we are currently debating. I must say that I am surprised that this amendment has not sailed through. I recall at the meeting on Thursday the members around the table saying that it's exactly what they wanted to see happen. Everybody wants to see us finish the study on Ukraine, on vaccine equity and on Taiwan. We have an obligation to study Bill S-223 and Bill S-211. Everyone seems to agree on that. So I'm somewhat confounded by the fact that we can't seem to come to an agreement on an amendment that everybody has spoken in favour of, from what I can tell so far.
One of the things that's extremely important about this amendment is Ukraine. I want to spend some time talking about my perspective. I'd appreciate some latitude on this, as I was not here the week Dr. Fry's motion was introduced. This is actually my very first time speaking on this subject.
Having the committee find itself in this unfortunate position, I just want to say that this committee is essentially on the front lines. We shouldn't underestimate our role. We're on the front lines of protecting Canada's foreign interests abroad. What we study here can directly impact decisions that the Government of Canada makes vis-à-vis our interests in Ukraine and around the world.
Now, we know that the world is a dangerous place, and it's even more dangerous now that Mr. Putin has taken the rash decision to invade our friend and ally Ukraine. Canada has over one million citizens of Ukrainian descent. Our ties to Ukraine carry a moral imperative. That imperative is to safeguard our foreign policy interests and to stand up for Ukrainian Canadians who are rightfully distraught over the carnage that their beautiful, peace-loving, democratic state has been subjected to. It's also to stand up for the principles of peace and democracy throughout the world. That's why we're here.
We have met these obligations. Canada has met these obligations over our long history. Former prime minister Lester Pearson stood up for these ideals when he assembled the first large-scale United Nations peacekeeping force to de-escalate the situation in Suez. He was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for the work he did. Mr. Pearson also played an important role in his career to establish the peaceful and democratic State of Israel, resulting in our most important bilateral relationship in the Middle East.
Former prime minister Brian Mulroney stood up for these ideals when he was alone on the world stage seeking to free Nelson Mandela and bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. Mr. Mulroney spearheaded an aggressive Canadian push within the Commonwealth for sanctions to pressure South Africa to end apartheid and get Mr. Mandela released after 25 years of unjust incarceration.
The day after his release from prison, Mr. Mandela spoke with Mr. Mulroney on the phone. According to the former Canadian prime minister's memoirs, Mandela told him, “We regard you as one of our great friends because of the solid support we have received from you and Canada over the years.... When I was in jail, having friends like you in Canada gave me more joy and support than I can say.”
In 2004 Mr. Mandela sent a letter in which he said that Mr. Mulroney had provided strong and principled leadership in the struggle against apartheid. He also said that this was not a popular position—