Madam Speaker, at the outset, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Midnapore.
I will interrupt my speech at the beginning because of an interesting comment made by my Liberal colleague across the floor. I would like to turn her attention to a Facebook post on the Liberal Party website, from August 29, 2015. In the middle of the election, the Liberal Party chose to make the consular issue of Mohamed Fahmy an election issue. If there is any egregiousness about making a case a political and partisan issue, surely the Liberal Party has to realize the hypocrisy of bringing up such a case in the middle of an election. However, I will move on now.
First and foremost, I would like to rise today to declare that I will always stand by and support the State of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people and also home to people of many faiths and nations. I am proud to live in a country and serve in a parliament that stands as a steadfast ally to our friend and ally, Israel. I would also like to affirm my support for the aspirations of the Palestinian and the Iranian people for a future when they can enjoy the benefits of a sovereign country that respects the fundamental freedoms of its citizens and the integrity of its neighbours' borders. I also want to say that I have had the pleasure of serving with the descendants of Baha'i refugees to this country in the Canadian Armed Forces. These are people who are loyal to Canada, and they love this country. I want to say that I support the Baha'i minority.
Today I have been called to speak on behalf of my constituents to hold the Iranian regime accountable for its constant assault on the State of Israel and for its actions that have destabilized the region through the sponsorship of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. I am also very concerned about evidence that shows the Islamic Republic of Iran's progress toward the production of weapons of mass destruction, despite an agreement reached with the world that sanctions would be lifted if Iran ceased its pursuit of these nuclear weapons. Finally, I cannot fail to mention the economic mismanagement that has used a windfall to promote the ideology of the regime while the people suffer under economic privation.
The evidence of Iran's nuclear program, presented recently by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supported by the U.S. administration, is deeply concerning. Canada cannot stand by and normalize relations with a country that continues to harbour dangerous nuclear ambitions as it continues to develop ballistic missile capabilities that will only lead to further conflict in the region. An Iranian regime with nuclear capabilities and ballistic missiles would present a serious threat to our allies and set off an arms race similar to that which led up to the First World War, and I fear with similar consequences.
The Iranian people are ill-served by a government that continues to pursue ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons at the expense of providing its people with a safe and secure society to live in. Sanctions imposed will have a material impact on the lives of everyday Iranians, yet the regime refuses to take any action to improve the situation. The constant provocations of the Ayatollah and his government, such as calling for the destruction of the State of Israel, cannot be tolerated. Canada must no longer stand by and allow the provocations of the regime to go unanswered. We must stand steadfast with our allies in opposing the aspirations of the Iranian regime to violently expand its influence in the region while continuing to oppress its people under a theocratic regime.
The consequences of not acting will be to risk further bloodshed in an already war-torn region. It will set back the cause of freedom in Iran as the regime uses its new oil wealth to enrich the few and fund violent global adventures. Economic prosperity does not beget political freedom. Only when the Iranian regime recognizes the fundamental rights of its people to freedom of conscience, religion, assembly, and speech and the freedom of the press can the Iranian people truly chart their nation's destiny.
This motion calls on the Liberal government to cease negotiations aimed at restoring diplomatic relations with Iran. Although I would agree that it is always a good idea to keep a line of communication open, the drive to normalize relations with the regime is offside with the values of Canadians. It goes without saying that Canadians value peace, we value a government that respects the rights of the individual, and we oppose the violent imposition of values by a totalitarian regime.
We see Canadians who are unjustly being held in Iran, such as the widow of Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, Mrs. Maryam Mombeini, who was denied the right to return to Canada. Professor Kavous Seyed-Emami died under mysterious circumstances in the notorious Evin prison, the Bastille of Iran, where political prisoners are kept.
The family refuses to accept the official explanation of the regime that he died by suicide, and as a Canadian, I refuse to accept that explanation. The family has faced constant harassment from the regime. I call on the government to support the motion and continue to do all it can to secure the release of our citizens, including the remains of our citizen that are being held in Iran.
This disrespect for Canadian citizens at a time when the Canadian government has indicated its support for the normalization of relations and for the joint comprehensive plan of action indicates to me that the regime is uninterested in working in good faith with our government. It is clear to me that the best means to achieve Canada's aims is to project strength. We must declare the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the IRGC, which is a critical piece of the regime's governing apparatus, a designated terrorist organization. This organization is the equivalent of the Condor Legion that fought on the nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
The regime uses the IRGC to train local troops that will be loyal to its aims and ideology. It also means that it is creating battle-hardened Iranian units ready to conduct operations across the region. This level of aggression must not be allowed to go without consequences, and by designating the IRGC a terrorist entity, we can further restrict its operations.
Over the past few years, the Iranian regime has used the breathing space granted by the removal of sanctions to ramp up its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad. It has provided clandestine support for rebels in Yemen and has continued to support organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. These are just a few notable cases of how the Iranian regime is sponsoring conflict and destabilizing the region.
Recently, Israel came under attack as waves of Molotov cocktail kites and those who wished to breach the border defences descended upon Israel. The loss of life by innocent Palestinians is truly tragic, and the Hamas regime, which has shown little regard for the lives of civilians in Gaza, is directly responsible.
I would also be remiss if I did not recognize that on this side of the House, there is no question that Israel was under attack by a terrorist organization and that the right of Israel to act in self-defence was justified. I am happy to see that the Prime Minister has finally recognized Hamas's responsibility for this attack and reaffirmed Israel's right to self-defence.
It was also unnerving this past weekend, during the holy time of Ramadan, that an Al-Quds Day rally in Toronto yet again targeted the people of Israel and Jews across the world. I was proud to see Ontario's new premier-elect, Doug Ford, signal that this would be the last time under his watch that such a rally, with its blatant anti-Semitism and message of hate, would be allowed a platform in Toronto. That is the kind of leadership we need in this country, leadership that unambiguously stands up against hatred. Canadians want a government that will stand up against Iranian oppression and in support of our ally, the State of Israel.
I remember on May 5, 2015, when the New Democratic Party pulled off its surprising upset victory against the Progressive Conservative dynasty in Alberta. As I watched the news in disbelief, I received a call from my grandmother. I remember her words today: “I just wanted to let you know I voted NDP, but I really hope this doesn't hurt Prime Minister Stephen Harper, because I know he stands for the State of Israel.” For many, like those in my family, this support comes from a deep-seated faith, but for many across Canada, it is also a recognition that Israel stands for so much of what we stand for in our own country, principles like liberty, equality, democracy, and the rule of law.
All free and democratic nations must stand together against terrorism and tyranny. A house divided against itself surely cannot stand, and if we fail to back our ally Israel and stand behind the people of Iran as they fight against their regime and its systematic violations of international law, we are only weakening ourselves.