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House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scientists.

Topics

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, it is almost 16 months since things happened in Syria. In January 2011, a series of protests began in Syria. Among other things, Syrian protesters called on the Syrian president and his government to bring in political reforms and stronger protection of civil rights. It was the beginning of the Arab Spring. Sixteen months later, we have a situation in Syria in which it is not any longer spring, but deep winter.

I mentioned in this House earlier tonight that in October 2011—October 18, as a matter of fact—I asked for unanimous consent for a motion to be passed. We asked for a motion for an emergency debate to be passed, and neither one of them flourished.

I even wrote to the minister on August 19, 2011, enclosing a letter from the Syrian Canadian Council, at which time they were asking the Canadian government to do the following:

1. Ensure that Canadian companies, such as Suncor Energy Inc., are not funding the present Syrian regime;

2. Call for a Conference of members of the Syrian Diaspora and others who were interested in developing a free and democratic Syria;

3. Offer to host the Conference in Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Government and assist with the funding of the Conference;

4. Expel the Syrian Ambassador to Canada; and,

5. Consider recalling the Canadian Ambassador to Syria.

That was August 2011, and to date I have not heard from the minister, not even a whisper and not even a return email. We did get a receipt that the minister did read it.

However, the Canadian-Syrian diaspora is asking for much more. They and our party as well have asked that CIDA match dollar for dollar whatever the community raises in order to help their loved ones back in places like Turkey, Libya and Jordan where they have fled, but again, nothing from the government.

There are people who have come to this country and have claimed refugee status for what is happening back in Syria. There are Syrians who were here in Canada before the atrocities started and have claimed refugee status, yet the government is not saying, “Yes, go ahead; we will accept your claim”. Instead people have to resort to courts, and courts are refusing their applications.

I even got an email this evening from a young man who is in Canada, Mike Wise. It states, “Today my house in Aleppo City was under fire and the Syrian army destroyed more than three buildings beside where my mom and sisters live. More than 44 people died under fire.”

The atrocities are perpetrated by the government of Syria, the Assad regime. It is not the first time he has done it, and his father did it before him. These atrocities need a quick response, and the quick response is that we should not have waited 16 months after it started to have a debate in this House.

The Government of Canada issues press release after press release, but has done absolutely nothing else except to address the situation. The Syrian community of Canada has asked the government to match dollar for dollar. We do not have a crisis on our hands of the kind we did in Haiti, and the Prime Minister is not going to go to the Red Cross and give money. It does not really matter, so the government is not listening.

The accountability has to start right here, tonight. The member for Mississauga South, I believe, says we must, and I will repeat the words, “be held accountable”. I think the Canadian people and the Syrian diaspora in Canada are holding us all accountable, especially the government, because the government waited for 16 months to have the Syrian debate in the House, has not answered the diaspora's calls for action and certainly has not answered its calls to match dollar for dollar, which is what they are asking.

The minister of immigration is not assuring the community that we will take seriously their calls to stay in Canada and to be protected. He is not taking it seriously by telling the courts or his bureaucrats to stop deporting people or to not to turn their claims away.

The accountability should start in this House. It should start right here, today, and the government especially has to be held accountable. It has waited long enough, and this is why things are as bad as they are in Syria.

Accountability should start in the House and it should start right here today. The government has to be held accountable. It waited long enough and that is why things are as bad as they are in Syria.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I listened to the speech by the member for Scarborough—Agincourt and I listened to some questions he asked earlier this evening in what I must say was a typically belligerent and, regrettably, partisan fashion when we are having a debate about humanitarian atrocities that are happening in Syria and all members of Parliament are speaking with one voice here tonight. We put forward a unanimous resolution earlier today that was quite toughly worded. I think Canadians are listened to abroad when they speak reasonably with one voice and not in a partisan fashion.

I want to respond to a question that he asked of me earlier tonight. He asked me if we had received a letter from him or from others requesting matching dollar for dollar contributions. I checked with the staff of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and there is no record of such a request having been received. The minister has met with the Syrian community on multiple occasions across Canada. I have met with the Syrian community in the GTA. I have not heard that request. It has not been put forward in any media article that we are aware of.

I would ask that member to hand me the letter right now and I will take it directly to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and we will respond. I noticed that he was referring to his notes earlier so I assume he has it there. If he does not deliver it by the end of this debate tonight, I will assume that in typical fashion he has just fabricated that information and such a letter does not actually exist.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, the letter is right here. I even read it and I will read it again. I hope the member will listen carefully, as he has absolutely not listened. The letter reads:

They are asking the Canadian government to do the following:

1. Ensure that Canadian companies, such as Suncor Energy Inc., are not funding the present Syrian regime;

2. Call for a Conference of members of the Syrian Diaspora and others who are interested in developing a free and democratic Syria;

3. Offer to host the Conference in Canada under the auspices of the Canadian Government and assist with the funding of the Conference;

4. Expel the Syrian Ambassador to Canada; and,

5. Consider recalling the Canadian Ambassador to Syria.

That is the letter that the community has sent. This was sent by email to the minister on August 19, 2011. Our party has issued press releases asking for dollar to dollar contributions--

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

There is no mention of matching contributions. You made it up. You fabricated--

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, the member had his opportunity to speak but, as usual, in every fashion he does not allow others to speak and in every fashion he is very belligerent.

If I have unanimous consent, I will table the letter.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to table the letter?

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

The member has about 30 seconds left in his answer.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, in government fashion, it will not stand up and take responsibility. In government fashion, it sweeps everything under the rug. In government fashion, it puts out press release after press release, which means nothing. The government does not consult with the community.

The community asked for it and it asked me to put it in writing. It was put in writing to the minister, and the minister has not responded. It is very unfortunate. I will make sure that I send it to his personal email, which I believe is p.9, which has been used frequently by others.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2012 / 10:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Chair, I guess I am doing cleanup here tonight. I believe this will be the last address tonight. It gives me great pleasure in some ways, but obviously concern in others, to rise in the House to participate in this take note debate.

For more than a year now, the Assad regime has been perpetrating unspeakable atrocities against its own people, against citizens who have done nothing more than to courageously demand their freedom and democratic rights. This barbarism has shocked the international community, provoking widespread condemnation of Assad and pushing many countries to take action to help resolve the crisis.

Canada has played an active role in these efforts and we are working with our partners and allies around the world to help stop the ongoing and horrendous violence in Syria. The tragic deaths of so many people, and especially children, in the May 25 Houla massacre only reinforces the need for the international community to work together to resolve this crisis before more lives are lost.

Throughout the crisis, the Arab League has played a key role, proving that it can make important contributions to regional peace. Its members have repeatedly condemned the violence in Syria and the Assad regime's brutal repression of its own people. Arab League Secretary General Nabil El-Arabi and several member states have repeatedly attempted to mediate between the government and the opposition, only to see their efforts rebuffed by Damascus.

While long dismissed as a talking shop that was incapable of taking action, the Arab League has in fact taken forceful action repeatedly during the Syrian crisis. It suspended Syrian membership in the Arab League, a nearly unprecedented step and a shocking blow to the regional prestige of the Assad regime that has long prided itself for being the beating heart of Arabism. It has called on Arab states to impose sanctions against Syria and it has developed peace plans to help resolve the crisis. In support of their efforts, the Arab League deployed a monitoring mission to Syria, only to be confronted, yet again, by the refusal of the Assad regime to honour its pledges, making the work of the monitors both impossible and pointless as the military operations against the opposition continued despite their presence.

The Arab League now continues to work to resolve the crisis in partnership with the United Nations. The two organizations have appointed Kofi Annan as their Joint Special Envoy to Syria and he has developed a six-point peace plan that remains, in our view, the best hope for a peaceful political solution to the conflict.

The six-point plan, which calls for a ceasefire to be monitored by UN observers that would pave the way for a Syrian-led political transition, has been endorsed by the UN Security Council, the Arab League, the Assad regime itself and countries around the world, including our own. Once more, however, Assad is refusing to fulfill his commitments and the violence is continuing throughout Syria, unfortunately even as we speak.

Canada has and will continues to call on all parties to immediately implement the ceasefire and on the Assad regime to fully respect its obligations under the Annan plan. It is now all too obvious that Assad will not do this voluntarily.

Therefore, we urge the UN Security Council to adopt binding sanctions against the Assad regime in order to force him to stop the violence before he has time to slaughter even more innocent people. Those countries that have influence on Syria must now wield it to convince Assad that he must implement the Annan plan now while he still has the chance to do so.

The international community has also responded to the Syrian crisis in various other ways. The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly condemned the systematic violations of human rights carried out by the Syrian forces during their operations against peaceful protestors demanding their legitimate democratic rights.

The Human Rights Council established a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegations of human rights abuses, and despite a complete lack of co-operation from the Syrian government, it has amassed a substantial body of evidence demonstrating that the Assad regime has committed crimes against humanity. Canada continues to support the work of the Human Rights Council, including sponsoring last Friday's special session in Geneva where the council adopted a resolution condemning the Houla massacre.

Syria has also featured prominently on the agenda of the G8 during the past year, most recently during last month's Camp David leaders' meeting. All G8 countries, including Canada, reiterated their support of the Annan plan and called on the Syrian government to immediately and fully implement all of the plan's provisions, including the immediate cessation of all violence.

Beyond these long-established bodies, international action on Syria has also resulted in the creation of the Friends of the Syrian People group, which has thus far gathered together more than 80 countries that are committed to helping the Syrian people achieve the democratic future that they are struggling for so valiantly. The friends have met twice since February, once in Tunis and once in Istanbul, and will meet again in July in Paris. Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs attended both of these meetings, as well as the April 19 foreign ministers meeting of the core members of the group.

In addition, several smaller working groups have met to further international efforts to expand sanctions against the Assad regime, to hold it to account for its human rights violations and to prepare an economic transition plan for the post-Assad era.

Canada has participated actively in every one of these meetings to date, and we will continue to demonstrate that we are truly friends of Syria, never more so than in this, their hour of greatest need. The proof of our friendship comes not merely in the form of our engagement with international partners, significant as it has been. It is also seen in the actions that we, ourselves, have taken since the outbreak of the crisis.

We continue to stand with the Syrian people in their great struggle. We know we must stand together, and I am particularly proud that I was able to be in the House earlier today when the resolution that was presented by the hon. member for Ottawa Centre was unanimously approved by all members of the House.

I think that is a great sign of the strength of this great Parliament of Canada that, despite the fact that we do have differences from time to time, there is no doubt, and I know over the next week or so we are going to have an opportunity to have those differences, the clear resolve tonight that we need to leave in this House is that 308 members of Parliament stand together with the people of Syria in their time of need. We are there for them. We stand with them. We see a brand new Syria coming down the pipe, with a new regime for peace, democracy and safety for all who live there.

It has been a pleasure to participate in this discussion tonight. I look forward to the questions from my hon. colleagues.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chair, I listened closely to the member for Mississauga—Streetsville's remarks.

He provided a detailed description of the six-point plan put forward by Kofi Annan, the special envoy not only of the Security Council, as he mentioned, but also the Arab League.

Currently, it is clear that not one of the points in the plan has been implemented. Kofi Annan is scheduled to speak to the Security Council Thursday. I would like the member to tell us if he has any hope that Kofi Annan will come up with a new idea that will help put an end to the current impasse.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Chair, all of us tonight, and I have been paying attention to a lot of the debate and the back and forth discussion, know this is complicated. Mr. Annan, the United Nations and many other international bodies have really tried their very best in a very difficult situation to advance a plan that makes the most sense for regime change and for a new Syria.

Clearly, and I believe I speak for all members of the House, we would like to see the Annan plan be accepted, do well and move forward. This is an individual who has clearly made his contribution on the international stage and is extremely well respected by all parties, including the regime that I think most of us would like to see changed in Syria.

Therefore, I would hope, as we move forward, Mr. Annan will continue to get more and more respect on the international stage to implement the plan that he has proposed. I am glad to see the Parliament of Canada standing united tonight in supporting what he is trying to accomplish.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I listened to my hon. colleague with great interest. However, what I have not heard tonight from his party, the government, is what steps Canada is anticipating to take, or whatever program it will take, should the al-Assad regime be removed from Syria. Will we be giving more aid to Syria? Will we match dollar for dollar if the Syrian community comes up and says that it is looking for that to happen?

Also, should there be an election after the regime leaves, will the government be sending international observers to ensure that things happen clearly?

We did engage in Libya. The Libyan elections will come up in a couple of days from now, but I still have not heard if the government will send election observers to Libya. Therefore, I would like to know from the member, or he can consult with his colleague the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, what the government plans are for Syria in the next couple of months.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Chair, in this situation I do not think Canada has anything to apologize for or to say that we have not done in a 100% wholehearted way in supporting, most important, the citizens of Syria who, due to no fault of their own, are in difficult situations.

In fact, Canada has been a significant leader in aid to the Syrian people. I can go through the stats that my colleagues have raised before. Canada actually has been the number one leader in this. We have made more statements. We have been out in front more often than any other government in the world in standing up for the Syrian people.

It is absolutely clear, and I can go through the litany of statements if the member from Scarborough wants me to do it, that our ambassador to the United Nations has been extremely aggressive on this file. We have nothing to apologize for, but I will agree there is more to do.

When there is a regime change, Canada will be front and centre and will continue to provide international support and international development relief for the people of Syria so they can move on with their lives and build a better, democratic, safer country for themselves and their families.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the hon. member for Mississauga—Streetsville's remarks this evening. He has, on a number of occasions, pointed out the unanimous resolution of the House of Commons tonight and that is very important. I want to focus on one particular clause of that unanimous resolution and that is clause (i) which says that all parliamentarians, all Canadians, “stand in solidarity with those who aspire for peace, democratic governance and the protection of human rights” in Syria.

Could he expand a bit more on the protection of human rights, especially the rights of minority religious groups in Syria and what we expect to see from a future democratically elected government of Syria?

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Chair, Canada has taken it upon itself to be a leader in the fight against human rights violations in Syria. Just over a year ago, as I recall, Canada joined many other nations in imposing its first round of sanctions against the Assad regime in Syria and our government condemned the regime. We moved forward very quickly. The Canadian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council led the way in condemning the current Syrian regime and delivered its condemnation on behalf of 54 countries from various regions. Canada also co-sponsored a request to convene a special session of the council to conduct an independent investigation into those human rights violations.

Canada remains at the forefront of international efforts to bring an immediate end to Assad's violent campaign of terror. The Syrian people will have their day. Canada stands with them as they push for a better and brighter future, one where their fundamental freedoms are respected and their families can live in peace and security. That is all of our goal.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Chair, throughout the night we have heard government members say that Canada has played a significant role in the international arena. We have also heard other government members say that Canada's role has been diminished and we are not really big players anymore.

Why does the member think that Canada's international role or position has decreased, and why is it that government members are talking about Canada's international reputation so negatively?

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Chair, I know that there has been discussion tonight of being on the Security Council and not being on the Security Council. If we look at the history of Canada and various governments, not just ours but governments of other political stripes that have represented Canada, Canada has a reputation of making a huge difference in the world, not just because we serve on a certain body or because we have some medal hanging up in the hallway. Canada makes a difference because we continue to speak out effectively and work with our partners in many international organizations to get change done in the world. Canada was a leader in having the South African regime change, right? That is not a partisan thing. I do not care what the political party of the day did it. We did it. We did not have a seat on the Security Council back then, but we stood up for what was right.

This government and this Parliament, and I am very proud of this Parliament tonight, is standing up for what is right in a united way. Canada can make a huge difference in the world in many different ways. We are doing it, we are going to keep doing it. Thankfully with the support of this House tonight, we will be stronger than ever in making a very strong statement about Syria, starting in a minute or two.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Resuming debate.

The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard has five minutes.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Chair, it is with some concern that I address the House this evening. I am concerned because this is an extremely complex international issue where human lives are at stake. That is why I commend the hon. member for Ottawa Centre. As part of our team, he was able to explain these challenges in a very humanistic way. I would also like to commend him on his initiative in asking for the emergency debate on Syria in the House.

I think that the tragic situation in this country and the UN's efforts to try to find peaceful solutions to this problem have already been clearly explained. Parliamentarians on both sides of the House, regardless of their party, described a tragic situation, exacerbated by the recent massacres of civilians. What is even more tragic is that children were massacred recently, which once again attracted global attention.

We cannot deny that this is a serious problem. Syria is in crisis. The violence and the murder of civilians must stop. An immediate cease fire must be implemented so that humanitarian aid can be given to Syrians in need in every region.

I believe that the member who spoke before me also pointed out the repercussions not just in Syria, but in all neighbouring countries, especially the arrival of refugees. For example, people are fleeing to Turkey, which has already accepted refugees. At least 150,000 people were displaced in 2011. Most people were displaced temporarily because they were fleeing their villages or cities before or during an attack, and then would return after the government forces left.

The largest displacements occurred between June and September, when almost 70,000 people left Maaret al-Noman, 45,000 fled Homs and 41,000 sought refuge further away.

I cannot help thinking that, in recent years, Canadians have never experienced the hardships suffered by the people of this country. That is why it is very difficult for me to imagine the extent of the human tragedy currently taking place in Syria. However, even though we may not understand what is happening, it does not prevent us from being duty bound to take action, or at the very least, to support UN actions.

Therefore, the NDP unreservedly supports the Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States.

The NDP also condemns violence against civilians. We want to encourage support and co-operation, in order for humanitarian aid to reach Syrians.

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Barry Devolin

It being 11:15 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 53.1, the committee will rise and I will leave the chair.

(Government Business No. 14 reported)

Situation in SyriaGovernment Orders

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 11:15 p.m.)