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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

7 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the course of world history, many different political systems have emerged. Like all human developments, none are perfect, but there is little question that for those who have benefited from it, democracy is truly the most equitable and responsible of all systems of government.

The reality is the world is full of nations that put on a show of democracy, but in actuality those democratic outcomes have been predetermined by a ruling group intent on maintaining its power through oppression if necessary. Nowhere is this more evident than in Iran.

While the supreme authorities of Iran have gone through the democratic motions once every four years, the reality is all candidates have all been hand selected by an unelected and unaccountable group of clerics. Simply put, Iran is a theocratic state shrouded behind a mask of democracy.

The egregious natures of the Iranian government's human rights abuses include a broad swath of violations, all intended to reinforce the domination by the leadership over every aspect of Iranian life and to ensure that all social interactions are controlled by the government.

The Iranian government has time and again arrested union leaders and responded to peaceful strikes with deadly violence. The right to withhold one's labour is an important one. People must be able to advocate for better working conditions, otherwise the reality for working people would be unbearable.

The arrest of Mansour Osanloo, as well as hundreds of other labour organizers, is an affront to human rights, and this kind of behaviour must stop. Canadians can be proud of labour organizations, like Teamsters Canada, that are working to keep this issue on the forefront.

Similarly the treatment of religious minorities in Iran, including Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, Baha'is and many others, is abysmal. These groups are regularly targeted for rioting, mass arrest, terror and intimidation. They are used as scapegoats to vent the fears and frustrations of the population and their rights, while technically guaranteed, are constantly trampled by the Iranian authorities.

The violations of that government, however, are not limited to minorities. The oppression of women under Iranian law is extensive. Everything from schoolrooms to ski slopes to public buses is strictly segregated.

In the first year after the revolution, females who did not cover all parts of their bodies, except their hands and faces, were subject to severe punishment. This suppression of half of Iran's society is further evidence of this disregard for human rights.

The Iranian government even violated the few human rights agreements that it does sign. The public execution of Mahmoud Asgari, a 16-year-old gay youth, not only violated his right to enter into a private relationship, but was also a contravention of a United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which states that no person under the age of 18 will be executed.

All those violations of human rights are designed to keep the population subjugated and impose the government's will on even the most basic of social interactions. These Orwellian tactics continue to be used as a mechanism for Iranian rulers to maintain their power.

Canada has historically been a leader at the United Nations on the issue of human rights. The previous Liberal minister of foreign affairs was responsible for introducing a number of United Nations resolutions condemning the violation of human rights in Iran and demanding that Iran comply with international law. It is vital that Canada finds a way to ensure that the United Nations becomes a more vocal force for human rights in all nations across the world.

What is the government doing to address human rights violations by the Iranian government?

7:05 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I agree with most of the hon. member's comments. Tonight allows me to explain the position of the Government of Canada toward the serious human rights situation in Iran.

First, I remind all of those present that the Government of Canada remains very concerned with Iran's deteriorating human rights situation. Mr. Mahmoud Salehi was arrested by Iranian authorities in April 2007 and Mr. Mansour Osanloo has been in Iranian custody since July 2007.

In December 2007 Canada and the European Union, in a joint demarche in Tehran, called upon Iran to release human right defenders, Mr. Mansour Osanloo and Mr. Mahmoud Salehi and reminded Iran of its international human rights obligations.

Canada's commitment to human rights in Iran has long shaped the nature of our bilateral relations with Iran. Since 1996, Canadian relations with Iran have been governed by the tightened controlled engagement policy, which limits official bilateral dialogue to the following four topics: the case of the murdered Canadian-Iranian, Zahra Kazemi; Iran's human rights performance; Iran's nuclear program, and Iran's role in the region. This policy reflects in part the importance that Canada attaches to human rights, as well as our ongoing concerns about the Iranian government's opposition to the Middle East peace process, its support of terrorism and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

In addition to our concerns over the detained labour workers, Canada remains gravely concerned with Iran's blatant disregard for its commitments and obligations under both international and domestic law. The new penal code being drafted in Iran, particularly a section that imposes the death penalty for apostasy, witchcraft and heresy, targets religious minorities and clearly violates Iran's commitments under the international human rights conventions to which Iran is a party.

The death penalty has been carried out in Iran for apostasy under Sharia law but never before set in criminal law. Executions of minors and others, including through suspension-strangulation, continue to be carried out.

The persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, such as the Baha'is, continues with no end in sight. For example, attacks against Baha'i children and youth occur on a daily basis and include even the expulsion of Baha'i children from primary school and kindergarten.

Freedom of expression, including that of the media, is limited and women's rights are severely restricted.

These deplorable actions compel the Government of Canada to continue to work with the international community to pressure Iran to change its law and behaviour.

For five consecutive years, Canada has worked with more than 40 co-sponsors and successfully led a resolution on the situation on human rights in Iran at the UN General Assembly. The fall 2007 resolution calls on the government of Iran to fully respect its human rights obligations and implement previous resolutions. The adoption of the Canada-led resolution sends a strong signal that the international community is deeply concerned about Iran's serious human rights violations.

With regard to labour organizers, the resolution expressed serious concerns at the continuing harassment, intimidation and persecution of union members and labour organizers, including through undue restrictions on the freedoms of peaceful assembly, conscience, opinion and expression, the threat and use of arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention, targeted at both individuals and their family members and restrictions on the activities of unions and other non-governmental organizations.

I can assure members that Canada will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Iran very closely, and to express concerns about human rights in Iran through appropriate multilateral or bilateral fora.

In conclusion, we call upon the government of Iran to release Mr. Osanloo and Mr. Salehi from custody—

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Davenport.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, many Canadians have been at the forefront of advocating for human rights in Iran. Among the most prominent is Teamsters Canada. Alongside Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch they have taken an extremely active role in promoting human rights in Iran. Their work to free labour activists Mansour Osanloo and Mahmoud Salehi has significantly amplified the debate surrounding Iranian human rights violations. Their efforts have been recognized across the world, and earlier this month Mr. Salehi was released from prison.

With labour groups such as Teamsters Canada managing such effective campaigns for human rights in Iran, the government would be well advised to follow their lead. What is the government doing to ensure the release now of Mr. Mansour Osanloo?

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I said Canada, remains very concerned about the treatment of the two union members and labour organizers in Iran. I am very happy to see that one of them has been released. Nevertheless, it does not change the situation of labour organizers in that country. It requires a tremendous amount of attention.

We call upon the government of Iran to release Mr. Mansour Osanloo as quickly as possible, and remind Iran of its international human rights obligations.

7:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight's adjournment proceedings arise from a question I asked on February 27, 2008, regarding a crisis facing the Canadian auto industry. The question I asked relates to an automotive plant located in the riding of the Minister of Justice, and the response I received from the minister was insufficient.

Edscha is an automotive parts supplier located in the riding of Niagara Falls. The company employs approximately 150 people and it recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. In late 2007, one of the companies to which Edscha supplies auto parts provided notice that it was withdrawing from its contract. This particular company decided it would instead pursue a contract with a Korean supplier.

The loss of this contract is very worrisome for Edscha and its employees. The company will experience a major loss of income with the possibility that many workers may lose their jobs. This particular case is also representative of a larger problem facing the auto industry throughout Canada.

Employees at Edscha as well as other auto workers in Niagara are afraid that this is an example of the growing trend of Canadian jobs being outsourced to cheaper overseas competitors, especially since the Conservative government is on the brink of signing a Canada-Korea free trade agreement. They fear the situation will only get worse.

Over 100 auto employees across the Niagara region have written to the Minister of Justice expressing their concerns over the current negotiations to create a free trade agreement with Korea. Many are concerned that should Canada sign a free trade agreement, it may lead to further job cuts within the Canadian auto industry, especially at Edscha. Many fear that such a free trade agreement would not necessarily ensure fair trade.

The response of the Minister of Justice, an influential member of the Conservative cabinet, has been nothing short of appalling. He has turned his back on his own constituents and has left them feeling frustrated and humiliated by his lack of concern. These constituents have reached out for assistance from their member of Parliament and he has ignored them. He has offered them no reassurance that their jobs would be protected, simply nothing. These employees deserve more. These employees demand more.

The Minister of Justice indicated in his response to my question that he was quite influential in getting the federal government to invest $2 million in Edscha. However, the sum of which the minister speaks was in fact a loan. What is incredible is that this loan was paid back 16 years ago. Can you believe it, Mr. Speaker? Suggesting that he is there for this company and its employees in the current crisis is shameful.

The minister has done nothing to date to assist the workers at Edscha. His claim that a free trade agreement with Korea will also be fair for Canadians cannot be guaranteed, certainly not for Edscha workers.

7:15 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice is always eager to respond to the concerns of his constituents to ensure they are well informed on all aspects of this government's support for the automotive industry.

In this particular case, the minister had received a number of letters from employees of Edscha Canada which had no individual return addresses included. Therefore, the minister responded with a letter addressed directly to the president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 199 in St. Catharines, which was the only return address included in the mailing.

In his reply, the minister stated that he had appreciated the opportunity to visit Edscha for its 20th anniversary celebration and valued the positive comments he had received with respect to his assistance in securing an investment from the federal government in the amount of $2 million.

Some of the letters he had received had reference to a free trade agreement between Canada and Korea which, as all of us in this House well know, does not exist at this time.

The member can rest assured that the Government of Canada will continue to take the necessary time to ensure that we are working toward fair trade agreements, ones that are in the best interest of Canadians.

The manufacturing sector is vital for our economy. Our government continues to support a climate of success for manufacturers by investing in critical infrastructure across Canada and improving access to a skilled and talented workforce.

A healthy automotive sector is also vital to our economy. That is why earlier this week the minister introduced Bill C-53, which proposes to amend the Criminal Code.

Auto theft impacts more individual Canadians and businesses than any other with an estimated cost of more than $1 billion each year. This dollar figure takes into account the cost of the theft of non-insured vehicles, policing, health care, legal and out of pocket costs, such as deductibles. While Canadians suffer the financial and emotional impacts of this crime, organized crime profits.

Our government has also moved to protect Canadians from the very serious crime of identity theft. This is under the leadership of the Minister of Justice.

In closing, I would like to mention that this week is National Victims of Crime Awareness Week. People in communities all across this country will be getting out the message about what crime does to victims and what all of us can do to help.

Our government and the Minister of Justice are committed to helping victims of crime, including the many victims of auto theft. We will, of course, ensure that Canada's citizens are safe and our industries prosperous.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary certainly mentions the loan to Edscha. As I pointed out, this was 16 years ago. What has the minister done today to assist these workers?

Thousands of jobs are at stake with the anticipated Canada-Korea free trade deal and the Conservative government has done nothing to protect these workers. This particular case demonstrates just how out of touch the government is with the needs of average Canadians.

The government is well aware of the problems with the proposed Canada-Korea free trade agreement, yet it has taken no action to ensure that Canadian industry is protected.

Canadians deserve a better deal. Will the government stand up for Canadians and assure free and fair trade with Korea? When will the government protect the auto industry and the livelihoods of thousands of hard-working Canadians, especially those in the auto sector in Niagara?

When will the Minister of Justice show some accountability and address the needs of his own constituents?

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice needs to take no lessons from the member on standing up for his constituents and in fact, on standing up for all Canadians. We are all tremendously proud on this side of the House of the steps the Minister of Justice has taken to protect Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

I should add that I am a little alarmed at the member's issue here where the Minister of Justice responded to his constituents to the only return address that was included in the mailing. I suppose the hon. member when he receives mail without a return address somehow can magically respond to that directly, but for the rest of us, we can only respond when someone has provided a return address for us to respond to.

The Minister of Justice did this in this case and I appreciate the, “What have you done for me lately” comment from the member, but in my books the securing of a federal investment of $2 million is significant and the Minister of Justice--

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order. It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary. The hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe has the floor.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, March 3, I asked the parliamentary secretary whether he and his party were trying to twist Chuck Cadman's words or deviate from the fact that offers were made to the Cadman family to ensure that Mr. Cadman would place a crucial vote in their favour.

The reason I ask this question is that it appears that the Conservatives are thriving on a system of double talk and half truths. In the past few weeks, it has become apparent that the Conservative Party is willing to use whatever means it can and any means it can think of to get what it wants, including bypassing the election laws for which we now see the RCMP, regretfully, has had to become involved.

It has become obvious to all Canadians that the Conservatives have a policy of saying and doing one thing behind closed doors and on tape and then vehemently denying, some 150 times we are told, or apologizing in a cursory manner for their words and, most important, for their actions.

The problem is that none of their public denials, apologies or announcements ring true, which is why I am hoping that the parliamentary secretary will be motivated by some source of inspiration and be clear this time, on the 151st time perhaps, that the Cadman family already knows and has told the Canadian public regarding offers made to them by the Conservatives. The parliamentary secretary knows that no members of my party, including the former prime minister, made any offers to Mr. Cadman.

What he has not answered directly is whether he and the members of his party, including the Prime Minister, knew of the financial offers that had been made to Chuck Cadman, as corroborated by his wife and the Conservative candidate in that riding. Why will the parliamentary secretary not elicit from his notes and his conversations with the Prime Minister or why will he not even listen to the tape of the Prime Minister and come up with some better answer on the 151st time?

He blames the opposition for asking the question 150 times but if we keep getting a denial 150 times, we will keep asking the question.

I will help the parliamentary secretary out in finding his way here. His answer should include some reference to the fact that the current Prime Minister had been taped saying to the author of the Cadman book, Mr. Zytaruk, that he was aware of financial considerations, namely, the payment of an insurance policy, being made to Mr. Cadman. What are financial considerations in this context? Why will the Prime Minister not rise to the questions from the member for York Centre? Why will the Prime Minister not answer the question?

We now have the parliamentary secretary who must be very fatigued giving the same answer 150 times.

I will also help out the parliamentary secretary to ensure he does not deviate on a tangent of half truths by saying that the Conservative Party was only trying to help Chuck Cadman out, that it was not at all concerned about its electoral concerns or whether it became the government. Oh, no, it was all about Chuck Cadman.

We are not talking about just help here. We are talking about financial inducements, financial considerations. The Prime Minister of this country is on tape. At first the parliamentary secretary and others said that they had not heard the whole tape. It was Nixonian. They should have learned the lessons from the last time a right wing government got in deep trouble.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary to come clean, to have his conscience serve the Canadian public and, finally, on the 151st time, tell us what the financial considerations were. Would he?

7:25 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe on his performance rather than his speech.

While I was watching him, I counted over 30 sheets of paper that he went through during his speech. Did he have one phrase per page? How exactly is that complying with the Liberal dogma on the environment?

However, in answer to his question, the Liberals' allegation is that the Conservative Party offered Chuck Cadman a $1 million life insurance policy in order to change his vote on the budget. The allegation is, in fact, false.

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, these papers are very important to the work I do and they will be archived. Also, I do not think it is fair for him, the young, spritely fellow that he is, to make fun of an ocular deviation that I have and I cannot see as well.

I would ask my friend for, I think, the 153rd time now and counting, to at least address the question. What does he think financial considerations meant? These are the Prime Minister's words. I know he was very careful to say on air, in the public domain and in the Commons so many times that they had not heard the whole context of the tape and that the context was important.

The fact is that the term “financial considerations” was used by the Prime Minister, the leader of the governing party in the House, the government to which Canadians look up to.

I would ask the parliamentary secretary to come clean. What were the financial considerations if they were not financial security for his vote in favour of the Conservative--

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Conservative Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the offer to Chuck Cadman was made by Doug Finley and Tom Flanagan on May 19, 2005. The offer had three components: that Chuck would rejoin the Conservative Party; that he would then present himself as a candidate; and that we would help him get re-elected in the subsequent campaign. If he needed support with fundraising and financing, we would help him in that regard, complying, of course, with all the laws that are mandated by Elections Canada. That was the only offer made to Chuck Cadman.

My colleague told me that I should just come clean. I would not be speaking to this issue if I were not entirely certain that I was standing on firm ground, and I know I am. I know that no wrongdoing has been done here.

However, I would close by saying that I am sorry. I did not mean to poke fun at the number of sheets my colleague was using. I did not realize it had to do with his vision, but I wish him well.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:29 p.m.)