Mr. Speaker, today I want to speak to private members' Bill C-306, Crimean Tatar deportation, or “Sürgünlik”, memorial day act.
Let us take a moment to remember this tragedy. In 1944, Soviet authorities forced the deportation of a vast number of minorities throughout the Soviet Union. This bill seeks to acknowledge the staggering number of deaths and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars, forcibly removed from their homes on the Crimean Peninsula. This tragedy continues to haunt the collective memory of Crimean Tatars and further strengthens the attachment they still feel for their peninsula.
Canada strongly condemns the terrible discrimination and mass deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944 under the Soviet regime of Joseph Stalin. The Soviet regime committed an affront to Canadians by committing an affront to the common human values that we all share, namely the fundamental right to live free from persecution and to forge one's own path in the world.
These fundamental rights and freedoms have been denied to a great many people, but rarely as brutally as to the Crimean Tatars. A day to commemorate the massive deportations of Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula to central Asia would raise awareness of a dark chapter in the history of humanity and give a voice to those who were killed during this terrible tragedy. That is why our government commemorated this day on May 19, 2016. We fully support designating a memorial day in honour of the Crimean Tatars.
History can guide our future endeavours. The tragedy of the Crimean Tatars underscores an important principle articulated by Lord Acton, who said, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its minorities.”
Canada is a great nation, a free nation, and its greatness is due in part to its Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which enshrines in law the protection of minority rights. As stated in subsection 15(1) of the charter:
Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.
This principle of equality and protection for all, or human rights, seems so obvious to Canadians. Unfortunately, that principle has been violated in the past, and is still being violated in parts of the world today.
We are gathered here today as parliamentarians because we want to make our communities, Canadian society, and the entire world a better place. When we look around the globe, we see that too many tragedies are still taking place, and it seems that the universal protection of human rights and recognition of the inalienable nature of each individual's rights are distant notions in some cases.
At any given moment, countless human beings around the world are being punished and tortured simply for their religious beliefs. They are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. They are abused because of their gender and killed because of the colour of their skin. Too many governments commit acts of hatred and refuse to acknowledge the humanity they share with others.
Here in Canada, we know that we are stronger because of our differences and not in spite of them. We know that we are all equal and that we have basic human rights. In light of that, it is up to all of us to make Canada a strong advocate for human rights.
This government is known for its strong, unwavering commitment to human rights. Now more than ever, there is a need for human rights advocates, and Canada is in a better position than most countries to lead this fight. This government is being proactive and working hard to defend and solidify Canada's position on international human rights. We are building a safer world that is more stable and prosperous by interacting with it rather than withdrawing from the fight.
I would like to give a few examples. Canada now seeks clemency for all Canadians facing execution abroad. If Canada does not fight to protect the lives of each of its citizens, then the government has failed in its basic duty to protect them.
We announced our intention to ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Torture is a scourge that must be eliminated. It has been shown time and time again that this barbaric practice is not effective and produces false information. It serves no purpose except to inflict suffering.
We also created the Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion, because human rights requires a comprehensive approach and because our outreach efforts produce better results when we stand up for all rights abroad by combining all of our voices and skills.
We gave all of our heads of missions abroad the objective of defending human rights and the tools to achieve it. Their mandate letters also reflect the need to promote and defend human rights. Their actions will inspire many people throughout the world.
We are putting in place a new government-wide strategy to address the crisis in Iraq and Syria, which includes tripling the number of members in our training mission and investing $1.6 billion over three years in Iraq and the surrounding region. It should be noted that we have pledged $158 million of this amount to humanitarian work and support for stabilization in Iraq.
Daesh is a perversion of Islam, a vessel brimming with hate, and an affront to the entire world; together with our allies, we will fight this monstrosity. We are supporting the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights with new base funding of $15 million a year over the next three years.
We also reaffirmed our commitment to the empowerment of women by providing $16.3 million to women in the Middle East and North Africa. The world cannot be a just place when half the population does not have equal opportunity.
Thanks to the concerted efforts it is making right now, our government is getting results. We are making an important contribution. By focusing on promoting human rights and ensuring the rule of law and justice, Canada is paying tribute to the legacy of Crimean Tatars, a brave and resilient people whose strength of character is an example for everyone.
We must never forget their suffering and we must continue to commemorate May 18. However, it is not good enough just to reflect on this tragedy; we must take action. By promoting human rights, Canada is trying to prevent another tragedy such as this one from taking place in the future.