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Evidence of meeting #8 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was egypt.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Barbara Martin  Director General, Middle East and Maghreb Bureau, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Marie Gervais-Vidricaire  Director General, Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Jeffrey McLaren  Director, Gulf and Maghreb Relations, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Hani Tawfilis  Board Member, Mississauga, Canadian Coptic Centre
X  As an Individual
Antoine A. Malek  Chair, Coptic Orthodox Community of Greater Montreal
Hugh Segal  Ontario, CPC

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Allison, I want to thank the witness.

However, sir, this has been going on in Kandhamal, in Orissa; it has been going on in Indonesia; it has been going on in Pakistan. And yet this government is saying that it's going to have an office of freedom and justice, or whatever they want to call it, and they want to put in there $5 million.

How far do you think this $5 million is going to go? Is it going to cover the bureaucracy in Canada? Is it going to cover their travel? Is it going to cover Egypt? is it going to cover Indonesia? Is it going to cover Pakistan? Is it going to cover India? Honestly, although they have good intentions, I think it's a farce.

10:10 a.m.

Chair, Coptic Orthodox Community of Greater Montreal

Antoine A. Malek

I made an initial suggestion when I talked about establishing an operational unit, a task force on Christians in the Middle East. If such a unit exists, it will very well be able to focus on logistical and other problems.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you. That's all the time we have.

Mr. Goldring, you have time for a couple of questions.

October 25th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you for appearing here today.

I hope you could help to clarify something for me. We talk of sharia law. I'd like to know what it is based on. I understand that it's based on the Koran, but is it a written understanding, an interpretation, or is it word by word in the Koran? When we talk of sharia law and the concerns for human rights and other issues, how exactly is the sharia law constructed in the Koran?

10:10 a.m.

As an Individual

X

Sharia law was formulated by the followers of Prophet Mohammed after his passing, by his friends collectively, from verses in the Koran as well as references to his ideology and teachings to his colleagues or people around him. It was formulated as guidance to how everything should be judged.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

So when a country forms its constitution.... Here, clearly, the constitution of Egypt has been opened up during the amendments for shortening the presidential period of time and what have you—

10:10 a.m.

As an Individual

X

Right.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

—and now they're calling for a new constitution. Now the constitution is the preeminent law of the land, I would think. Is that where you would put in the written references? Would this not be a chance for the parliament to debate these provisions as they come forward?

10:10 a.m.

As an Individual

X

Right. It would mean, for instance, that if you have any issue concerning education or any legislation, there are people there who can ask, “What did sharia say on this matter?” They go to their books, these formulated laws, and they extract definitions or solutions to any legislation that you will come up with. After that, they say, according to our fatwas, which is the elderly people to the best of their understanding on how the sharia should debate on this or decide on this, and they take this and apply it to the law.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

Well, so now in the present circumstances, where there have been attacks on the Copts, would this indicate that, as you explained earlier, they're kind of in a constitutional vacuum right now of clear laws to be defended in the country?

10:10 a.m.

As an Individual

X

Yes. In fact, the trick that is played right now....

First of all, when sharia law was introduced as part of the constitution, the church in Egypt, which is now trying to stay away from the political arena because they were accused of manipulating people, tried to address one issue. They asked, how about if we consider sharia law as one of the sources of legislation, because if the Copts are 15 million or 15% of the population, then we have to consider their way of thinking and how they handle matters. So we can say that sharia law is one of the sources, they said; however, they said, there are other sources we can use to formulate the legislation. That, of course, was rejected all along.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

So is the real risk, looking ahead, that if the sharia law is interpreted in such fashion into the constitution, it would be hugely problematic?

10:10 a.m.

As an Individual

X

Of course.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

And the interpretation, as you brought forward before, certainly sounds as though that form of interpretation would be incompatible with human rights, United Nations rights, rights of the child, and many other scenarios...?

10:15 a.m.

As an Individual

X

Of course. It will affect family law for sure. It will affect the conversion. It's on the duties. A lot of other day-to-day life would be affected by this set of laws, which is generated from a specific ideology.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

It sounds to me as though the real emphasis on all of this should be real attention to the writing of the constitution and how the constitution—

10:15 a.m.

As an Individual

X

The trick they are playing right now is to hold off changing any constitution now, based on the possibility that the Islamist government will take the power, and then they will sit down and set the law. This is why the thinkers and the people who are pro-democracy and so on are opposing this approach and demanding early on that the constitution be modified before the voting, that is, we set it up regardless of who comes to power.

But because of the interim military government, which is, I believe, again playing on the same ground of religion as well as Islamists and Muslim brothers and so on, they are deferring this issue until Islamists get into power, and then they can set the new....

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Conservative Edmonton East, AB

At one time, they were even discussing parts of sharia law for Ontario law here too.

10:15 a.m.

As an Individual

X

Exactly.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thanks Mr. Goldring. Sorry, but we will have to keep it short today.

I want to thank our witnesses once again.

We're going to suspend the meeting again just until we get Mr. Segal on the phone, and then we'll get started again.

Witnesses, thank you very much for taking the time to be here.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

We're back.

Hello, Senator. Can you hear us?

10:15 a.m.

Senator Hugh Segal Ontario, CPC

Yes. I can hear you loud and clear.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Okay. As the members return to their seats, I want to welcome Senator Hugh Segal, who is on the phone. He's going to talk to us a little bit about the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group.

Senator Segal, I'm just curious. What time is it over there in Australia right now?

10:20 a.m.

Ontario, CPC

Senator Hugh Segal

It's a little bit after 10:15 in the evening here on Tuesday, so we're about 12 hours ahead of you.

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Perfect. So you're still very coherent. There you go. That's better than it being in the middle of the night.

Thank you, Senator, for taking the time to be with us. Why don't you go ahead and tell us what you've been up to and what has been going on with the Commonwealth?