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House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

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The House resumed from May 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Jobs, Growth and Long-term Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 6:42 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill C-38.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #194

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7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the amendment defeated.

The next question is on the main motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

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7:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #195

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7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion adopted. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

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7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Pursuant to order made on Friday, May 11, 2012, the House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole on Motion No. 11 under government business.

I do now leave the chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 11, Mr. Scheer in the chair)

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7:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That this committee take note of the state of human rights in Iran.

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7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Before we begin this evening's debate, I would like to remind hon. members of how the proceedings will unfold. Each member speaking will be allotted 10 minutes for debate, followed by 10 minutes for questions and comments. The debate will end after four hours or when no member rises to speak.

Pursuant to the order made on Friday, May 11, 2012, the Chair will receive no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent.

We will now begin tonight's take note debate.

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7:20 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to rise this evening to kick off the debate on this motion regarding the horrific human rights situation in Iran.

Our government continues to have deep concerns about the situation of human rights in Iran, concerns that I know are shared by every member of the House. Iran's refusal to respect human rights obligations is a violation not just of universally recognized norms and standards but of those enshrined within its own constitution.

Let me highlight some of the human rights violations in Iran.

First, the suppression of women's rights in Iran is particularly troubling. Women face many restrictions on their freedoms. For example, they are unable to run for president or to serve as judges. They cannot have full guardianship over their children after divorce. As inheritors, they receive half as much as men, and their court testimony is worth half that of a man. A woman who refuses to cover her hair may face a jail term and up to 80 lashes. Women who belong to ethnic or religious minorities face discrimination on multiple levels.

With respect to religious minorities, Iran remains a dangerous place for members of numerous communities, including the Baha'i. For years, this peaceful community has been targeted by the Iranian authorities and subjected to discrimination and detention. Baha'i leaders have been arrested and imprisoned for practising their faith. Iranian officials have also made statements to try to link the Baha'i to the political unrest in that country. These are trumped-up accusations and a cause of concern for the safety and well-being of those unjustly detained in Iran. In fact, today, on the fourth anniversary of the arbitrary arrests and detention of several Iranian Baha'i community leaders, we are particularly reminded of the ongoing, persistent and pervasive prosecution of religious minorities.

Equally troubling is that almost three years after the 2009 elections, the efforts by the Iranian government to suppress the voices of those who seek to exercise their basic political rights continue. Leaders of the pro-democracy movement remain either in jail or under house arrest.

The Iranian government continues to take steps to curb Internet freedom and prevent an exchange of ideas on governance and human rights. Those seeking to speak out in favour of reform are facing even greater obstacles to free expression.

Canada, along with its allies, leads the international community in putting pressure on the government of Iran to be accountable for its actions. As part of our ongoing efforts to promote respect for human rights in Iran, Canada once again led the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the 2011 fall session at the United Nations General Assembly. This was the ninth consecutive year that Canada led this initiative. In December 2011, the General Assembly adopted this resolution, with 89 member states supporting the vote and only 30 member states voting against it. This represented the largest margin of support since 2003.

The promotion and protection of human rights has been and continues to be an integral part of our government's foreign policy. Canada stands up for human rights and takes principled positions on important issues to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Canada calls on Iran to address the substantive concerns highlighted in the report of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the specific calls for action found in previous resolutions. The resolution calls on Iran to abolish the use of stoning and hanging as methods of execution and further calls on Iran to respect its human rights obligations in law and in practice. Canada believes that the adoption of this resolution provides comfort to human rights defenders in Iran as it reminds them that they are not alone in their struggle to attain their basic human rights.

In addition to our efforts at the United Nations, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs continue to issue frequent statements urging Iran to respect its domestic and international human rights obligations, and our head of mission in Tehran conveys these messages to the Iranian authorities.

Canada remains highly concerned with the routine news of Iran's failure to comply with its international obligations, including nuclear energy support for terrorist country entities.

Canada continues to work to ensure that the human rights situation remains on the agenda and is not overshadowed by other important issues. Human rights is only one of four areas where we engage Iranian officials under the controlled engagement policy that Canada put into place in 1996 and tightened following the death while in Iranian custody of Canadian Iranian journalist, Zahra Kazemi, in 2003. The other areas of engagement include consular cases, nuclear issues and international security.

It is important for all those participating and listening this evening to know that we will never waver in our commitment to support the people of Iran in their aspirations for universal human rights. They are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as Canadians and, above all, they are entitled to live their lives with dignity.

Tonight in this debate my colleagues will highlight many other abuses that are going on in Iran. We call upon the Iranian government to respect its human rights obligations.

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7:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a critical issue for us. Would the parliamentary secretary comment on the human rights violations concerning the LGBTQ community in Iran?

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7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stated in my remarks that we are highly concerned with the situation of human rights, specifically that of the Iranian government targeting its own citizens when political views do not match. The member just highlighted one of the groups in which the government of Iran has been abusing human rights because it does not like what the group does.

As I stated in my presentation, the political freedom in Iran under that regime is very limited and we have raised concerns. One of the reasons Canada takes such a strong stand at the United Nations is to condemn all of the human rights violations that are occurring in Iran, including the one the hon. member mentioned.

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7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great interest that I listen to the debate here tonight. In 2003, I had the opportunity to visit Tehran and go outside the notorious Evin jail where I spoke with some of the individuals. That was right after Mrs. Kazemi was killed by the regime.

I have a couple of questions for the parliamentary secretary.

We talk about issuing press releases and about Canada pushing the issue at the United Nations. However, Canada lost its place at the United Nations decision-making table and it went to Portugal. How can Canada push anything at the United Nations, let alone what is happening in Iran?

Further, the Canadian government closed the visa section in Iran for cost saving purposes. It had two officers but the Conservative government did away them. When people from Iran need to apply for a visitor visa to come to Canada, they must go through Ankara. If they need to have an interview, they must fly to Ankara. How is the hon. parliamentary secretary able to stand up and defend his government when it did away with the visa section?

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7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about human rights issues and, more important, when the member talks about the UN Security Council, Canada has not lost its voice there. I just said that at the UN General Assembly Canada sponsored the resolution on Iran and e 89 member states supported our vote with only 30 member states against. This represents the largest margin of support since 2003. Therefore, Canada has not lost its voice on this stage.

As to the visa office, tonight we are debating the issue of human rights violations in Iran. I would ask the hon. member to stick to that topic.

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7:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, the judiciary in Iran has been handing out death sentences at a rate that is unspeakable. It is hanging women and youth. In fact, at the subcommittee on human rights we heard that it was hanging a person every eight hours.

Will the Government of Canada call upon Iran to stop these executions and speak out against the death penalty wherever it is used around the world?

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7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I just informed the House about the resolution that we put forward at the General Assembly of the United Nations. This resolution highlights serious ongoing and repetitive violations of human rights by the Iranian authorities, including the ones the hon. member mentioned. In fact, it calls on Iran to address the substantial concerns highlighted in the report by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the specific call that found action in previous resolutions.

The resolution calls on Iran to abolish the use of stoning and hanging as a matter of execution and further calls on Iran to respect human rights obligations.

We share the member's concern in reference to the method of execution, death by hanging. We join with the United Nations and everybody else to call on Iran to stop it.

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7:35 p.m.

NDP

Paulina Ayala NDP Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we do not have an embassy, I imagine that it will be even more difficult for those persecuted politically to apply for political asylum.

I know that Canada has adopted a critical position toward the Iranian government. However, what is Canada doing to further assist these people who are suffering and being tortured?

Is Canada going to provide additional assistance or agree to a compromise in order to help all these organizations that are assisting people whose lives are in danger, so that they can come to Canada as political refugees?

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7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canada is home to large number of diaspora from Iran who have found their way into Iran and the Government of Canada has accepted these bi-racial refugees and we will continue to do so.

There are a lot of other areas around the Middle East where Iranian refugees can go and can file a claim as a refugee. Canada will, of course, meet its obligations. Canada is one of the leading supporters of UNHRC, the refugee determination system of the United Nations, and Canada has always opened its doors to those refugees who fall under that category. We normally take 25,000 refugees as identified by the UNHRC and many of them are Iranians.