House of Commons Hansard #312 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was iran.

Topics

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very glad to hear that my colleague will be supporting the motion, and hopefully many of his colleagues as well. Hopefully they will all be in good health and none of them will catch the flu on the day of the vote. Certainly we look forward to that taking place.

I want to ask my colleague a specific question about how we relate to Iran with respect to consular cases. We spoke about the case of Maryam Mombeini. Also he mentioned the case of Saeed Malekpour. He said that the government's first priority in engaging with Iran would be ensuring the permission to travel for Ms. Mombeini.

I want to get the assurance of the member of the government that the government will also not pursue any further discussions with Iran until Mr. Saeed Malekpour has also been released. If we are able to secure that permission to travel for Ms. Mombeini, surely we should also not take any further steps with the Iranian regime until Mr. Malekpour, who has been in prison for a very long time, is released at well.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, our foreign affairs minister has been exceptionally clear. Any communications, any discussion with Iran is focused on the plight of Maryam Mombeini. We know that other Canadians have been impacted by this odious regime, and I hope we continue to advocate on their behalf as well. However, our minister could not have been any clearer in any communications going back and forth, that this is the focus and will continue to be the focus. We need to get Ms. Mombeini back to her sons in Canada.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

June 11th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I am certainly glad that Canada has consistently spoken up for the rights of Canadians who have been held in Iranian jails and face torture, and we will continue to do that.

I was very surprised by my colleague's comments on Gaza, the horrific shootings by Israeli snipers against civilians, and the fact that Israeli military targeted a Canadian doctor, Dr. Tarek Loubani. Under the Geneva Convention, the targeting of medical staff is a crime, yet we have had numerous medics shot by Israeli snipers. I did not hear the member mention anything about Dr. Loubani when he talked about Gaza.

The Prime Minister said it was inexcusable. The international community said the shooting was inexcusable. Does the member support the call for an independent investigation into why Israeli military targeted a Canadian doctor who was doing medical work for civilians being shot by the Israeli army?

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not know why the member is saying that the Israeli army targeted Dr. Loubani. I have not seen that anywhere. With respect to an independent investigation, yes, the Israelis have a judiciary and an independent investigative process that is beyond reproach.

The Canadian government right now is co-operating while the Israelis undertake that investigation. However, to claim that the doctor was targeted by Israeli soldiers is a reckless accusation.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed two points made by my colleague. First, he did a very good job of stating the difference between the regime and the people of Iran. I congratulate him in saying that the regime is responsible for the activity that is happening. We all know the regime has intolerable behaviour toward Jewish people and disseminate hate. However, he also touched on another religious minority, the Baha’í . I would like him to expand on what the regime is doing toward Baha’í and how that is unacceptable behaviour as well.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Levitt Liberal York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the plight of the Baha’í is something that we focused on at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. I am honoured that the Baha’í community of Canada has told us first-hand of the repression that its minority religion faces in Iran each and every day.

We know that a number of Baha’í have been held as political prisoners in Iranian jails, and we are pleased that a number of those have been released. However, we know the repression continues. We know children are not allowed to get an education. We know there is civil discrimination occurs against the Baha’í, the most peaceful of minorities that could possibly be in Iran.

Canadians will continue to raise our voices, both as parliamentarians and in general, to ensure that the plight of the Baha’í is not forgotten in Canada.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, Canada's approach to Iran has been focused on careful coordination with our allies, the pursuit of Canadian interests, and the promotion of Canadian values. Chief among these is the pursuit of consular cases and the promotion and protection of human rights.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been very clear on this: As long as Maryam Mombeini is denied the right to leave Iran, the focus of any discussion will be on ensuring that she is able to leave Iran and return home to Canada. Our government is committed to providing help and assistance to Canadians abroad. That includes advocating strongly for the freedom of Maryam Mombeini and for the release of Saeed Malekpour.

As has been said, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has raised these consular issues directly with the Iranian authorities. Two weeks ago, she spoke to the Iranian foreign minister about Maryam Mombeini. Our government cares deeply about human rights and consular issues, and, for the benefit of members opposite, that is the clear focus of any of our discussions with Iran. I should acknowledge that this is what Canadians expect of us, and this is our government's policy with Iran. This is exactly what we are doing.

Canadians also expect us to continue to work in conjunction with our friends and allies and the broader international community to achieve shared objectives. Canada works with its partners to undertake international efforts to rein in the revolutionary regime and limit the terribly damaging effect of its actions. Canadian values provide an important contribution to our engagement with our allies. It is through these means that Canada protects Canadian interests and Canadians abroad.

Canada has been one of the strongest critics of Iran's support for terrorism abroad, including its support for the murderous Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas, and its incitement against Iran. We are also strong critics of Iran's poor human rights record. There has been consistent advocacy on our part for the rights of the Baha'i, protection of Iran's Jewish community, and an end to unlawful imprisonment, torture, and capital punishment.

Our government has advocated for the rights of women and girls, freedom of speech, the right to protest peacefully, and the implementation of the rule of law. Since 2003, Canada has been the lead sponsor of the annual United Nations resolution on the situation of human rights in Iran. The most recent iteration of the resolution was successfully adopted in December 2017 with support from a cross-regional group of countries, underscoring the fact that the international community remains deeply concerned about human rights violations in Iran.

The government of Iran actively works against the annual adoption of this resolution, which provides an ongoing spotlight on the human rights violations carried out by the regime. Iran is well aware that Canada is leading this international effort.

Canada's engagement with the United Nations on human rights is reflective of another consistent element of Canada's approach to Iran, which is the requirement to work in concert with our like-minded friends to bring collective weight against Iran to adjust its actions and policies. There is strength in numbers. Collective action prevents Iran from playing one country off against another in order to avoid being held to account for its actions.

This has been especially the case with economic sanctions. Sanctions are a tool that Canada has used over the years to try to address Iran's behaviour. Sanctions can be implemented unilaterally or as a result of UN Security Council resolutions. Canada has used both methods of sanctions over the years. We also use our export control process with a view to preventing the delivery of certain controlled goods to Iran.

While Canada's autonomous sanctions can serve a specific targeted purpose, it is generally acknowledged that international sanctions prove more effective in modifying the behaviour of the countries being sanctioned. Sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, as well as autonomous sanctions by a number of countries, including Canada, the EU, and the U.S., play a central role in bringing Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program.

Iran's exports of crude oil and related revenues were dramatically decreased. The government of Iran and its institutions and businesses were cut off from the international financial system. This collective pressure forced Iran to negotiate on its nuclear program and to accept a deal that provides unprecedented oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, on Iran's nuclear program to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability.

Canada strongly supported these sanctions and welcomed the January 16, 2016 confirmation by the IAEA that Iran had implemented the necessary upfront commitments under the JCPOA for the deal to be implemented.

In response, Canada amended its autonomous sanctions under the special economic measures, Iran, regulations in February 2016, in order to recognize the progress made under the JCPOA and to allow for cautious economic re-engagement while continuing to restrict the export of proliferation-sensitive goods and technologies to Iran.

Canada still maintains a robust sanctions regime against Iran. Entities and individuals with links to proliferation activities or to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps continue to be listed under the special economic measures, Iran, regulations.

In closing, I would like to be very clear that any discussions between Canada and Iran are focused on consular cases. Canadians want to know that their government will fight for them and be there for them when they are in distress abroad, and we will continue to do this. We will continue to seek answers in the death of Canadian Iranian Kavous Seyed-Emami. We will continue to seek the freedom for his widow, Maryam Mombeini, to leave Iran, and we will continue to call for the release of Saeed Malekpour.

As well, our goal has always been, and will continue to be, the safe return of the Azer children to Canada. We are inspired by the strength and conviction of their mother, and we will continue to express this directly to Mrs. Azer. The safety and well-being of her children is a priority for us. I would like to commend the member for Courtenay—Alberni for his advocacy and commitment.

Canadians are proud of their country's strong and consistent support for human rights across the world, and we are committed to meeting the expectations of Canadians in this regard.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciated listening to the speech by my colleague across the way. She mentioned that the government and the Prime Minister are very concerned about human rights and individuals. When we look at the case of Iran, I am wondering why the Prime Minister took months to respond to protests in Iran and only mentioned them in response to a question on the issue from the opposition. Why did the Prime Minister not express immediate support for the pro-democracy demonstrations by the people?

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, we were one of the first countries to issue a statement. We deeply oppose Iran's support for terrorist organizations, its threats, its ballistic missile program, and its support for the murderous Assad regime. We will always defend human rights. We will always hold Iran to account for its actions.

I would like to be very clear. Our government is committed to holding Iran to account for its violations of human and democratic rights. That is why Canada led a resolution at the UN in November calling on Iran to comply with its international human rights obligations, something we have been entirely consistent about for almost two decades.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague and good friend from West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country for her speech. I particularly want to thank her for standing by the principle that Canada should be talking to those we disagree with as a pathway to peace.

She cited the Azer file. We know that when Canadians abroad are in trouble, especially in Iran, if we do not have a presence there and a relationship, we are relying on our partners, in this case Italy, Jordan, or the U.K., all of whom have a presence in Iran. Since the Conservatives closed our embassy in Iran, we do not have a direct relationship. Even the United States has a special interest section working with Iran.

Could the member tell us when Canada will have an embassy in Iran so we can make sure we have a strong voice representing Canadians when they are in trouble in other consular files?

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Madam Speaker, the Azer case is certainly a priority. At the moment, we have a Canadian in harm's way, and that is a top priority.

Our government places the highest value on providing consular assistance to Canadians in distress abroad. We are deeply concerned and shocked by the death of Canadian citizen Dr. Kavous Seyed-Emami, and we continue to call for answers regarding his death and detention. We are outraged that his widow, Mrs. Maryam Mombeini, a Canadian citizen, has been barred from leaving Iran, and we are steadfast in our resolve to focus on these incredibly important consular cases.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to follow up on some comments made by the parliamentary secretary for consular affairs. He told us that it was inappropriate for members of the opposition to ask questions about specific consular cases by name, and he said that the Liberal Party never did that. He criticized us for making these cases partisan.

I was checking the record, and he might remember, since he has been a member of Parliament for a long time, that, in fact, on February 23, 2015, the current Minister of Science asked a question in the House specifically about an individual consular case, saying that, from her perspective, the government was not doing enough. The Minister of Innovation made similar comments in the media. Two ministers specifically criticized the government's approach to sensitive consular cases while they were going on.

Does the member think that it is legitimate to have debates in the House about individual consular cases so that the opposition can challenge and criticize the government's handling of them? Is that something we should be doing?

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Goldsmith-Jones Liberal West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

I believe that each and every member of Parliament cares an awful lot about Canadians in distress abroad. It is egregious and unacceptable to make any of those cases a partisan issue.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

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.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague said that our government has a drive to normalize relations. A couple of sentences later, he said that we need to do all we can to ensure that Canadians are safe or are returned safely.

The Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the parliamentary secretary, and in fact all of our caucus oppose Iran's support for terrorist organizations, its threats toward Israel, its missile program, and the vile and murderous Assad regime. We adamantly denounce violence, hate speech, racism, and anti-Semitism, domestically and abroad. Therefore, I am wondering if my hon. colleague does not believe that there is room for the policy of engagement and dialogue that allows us to adamantly and fervently bring up issues of human rights and protect Canadians who are in trouble abroad.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I view it as no disconnect. We can strongly stand against the Iranian regime. We can refuse to normalize relations with the Iranian regime, but at the same time, that does not mean that there could not be some back channels that exist to help us out in consular cases. I see no disconnect there.

It is very clear that the Iranian regime is not a normal regime, and under no circumstances should we be normalizing any of our relations with it.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues Iranians here in Canada have identified as fallout from the situation is that they themselves are being discriminated against. For example, at the heritage committee, we discussed Motion No. 103. Representatives from the Iranian Canadian Congress came before committee and told us that one day, Iranians in Canada would suddenly find themselves having their bank accounts closed for no reason other than the fact that they are Iranian. There is fallout with respect to the situation.

I am not advocating by any stretch of the imagination the human rights abuses that are going on in Iran. I am absolutely against some of the comments that have been made targeting the Jewish community. Nobody wants to see that kind of history repeating itself.

That said, how can we address the impact on Iranians in Canada as a result of the situation in Iran? Would a diplomatic approach not address some of these issues? Would it not be better for Canada to have a path forward to move toward peace through diplomatic channels?

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak to the cases my hon. colleague has brought forward, but I can speak to my trust in the Canadian security services and their role in monitoring the accounts and ensuring that Canadian banks and Canadian financial resources are not being used illegally to finance a rogue regime.

I can speak to a situation involving a very close friend of mine whose fiancé is an Iranian national and has been targeted by the regime while living in Canada. We cannot stand by and normalize relations with a country that is targeting citizens in this country. We must stand against that.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to hear some of the comments from other members about the Iranian people. A lot of Iranian people I have talked to in this country do not feel that the Iranian Canadian Congress speaks for them, but that is a topic for another day, perhaps.

NDP members say that we need to be talking to the Iranian people. Of course we do. We need to be engaging with Iran's pro-democracy movement. We need to be engaging with the people of Iran and the Iranian community in this country, which, by and large, are calling for dramatic political change in Iran. They are supportive of the protest movement and recognize that there can be no reform from within with the current structure of the system, which completely excludes dissent.

I wonder if the member could comment on this. I have felt so inspired by the response by the Iranian people in fighting back against the regime. Political change in Iran would presage much greater peace throughout the region and would help to address so many different conflicts in which the Iranian government is the instigator. Does the member feel similarly inspired by the courage of the Iranian people and the protest movements and other movements we have seen in response to this?

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am inspired by the Iranian community here in Canada that, by and large, wants to hold the regime accountable because its members have suffered under it.

I think of the Iran Democratic Association and the great work it does here on Parliament Hill to raise issues of concern and to advocate for the families whose members were killed in the 1980s, which was hidden by the regime. We need to hold the regime accountable. I stand with groups like the Iran Democratic Association.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking in the House of Commons today regarding the condemnation of Iran. My party worked hard to support a principled foreign policy approach while in government. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada was a world leader on promoting democracy to all nations. The Conservative government defended our values and interests of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law on the world stage.

In Iran, freedoms are far from warranted, and the people there are facing severe injustices. The people of Iran are facing no freedom of speech or assembly, and the political rights of women, LGBT communities, and ethnic or religious minorities are practically non-existent. With ruthless consequences for speaking out against their government's atrocities, a strong and free Canada needs to start holding this regime accountable.

I want to make it clear that my condemnation is of the Iranian regime and its policies, not the Iranian people. Under the current regime, the Iranian people have suffered. While economic sanctions were lifted on Iran as part of the nuclear deal, fuel and food prices have been rising, along with inequality. This is due in large part to endemic economic mismanagement and corruption within the regime, leading to inflation and unemployment. Ordinary citizens hoped that the nuclear deal would bring economic relief, but the regime has stood in the way of any real progress.

The Iranian government is not elected through free and fair elections, and limits Iranian citizens' rights to exercise their freedoms of belief, expression, and assembly. In late 2017 and early 2018, thousands of Iranian people took to the streets to show their opposition to a government that is corrupt, authoritarian, and unjust. I commend them for their courage to stand up for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The Iranian regime responded with excessive force and created further restrictions on social media. Thousands were arrested, and more than 20 people lost their lives in the unrest. This was an unacceptable, but not unsurprising response from a regime that has been oppressing its very own people for years.

Beyond the impact that Iran has on its own people, it is also a bad actor across the Middle East. The country has been a long-time backer of Hezbollah, a violent terror organization, and vocally supported the brutal Assad regime during the Syrian civil war. Iran actively contributes to violence, instability, and the spread of terror across the Middle East, and therefore around the world. Iran also has a long history of threatening our good friend and ally, Israel. Recently, Ayatollah Khamenei tweeted that “Israel is a malignant cancerous tumour” and that it “has to be removed and eradicated”. The regime is anti-Semitic, pure and simple.

I condemn, in the strongest terms, Iran's aggression in the region, its oppression of Iranian citizens, its stance on Israel, and its sponsorship of terrorism. Given the country's track record, it is of the utmost importance that Iran never gains nuclear capabilities. Canada is no stranger on advocating for rights and freedoms globally. In Afghanistan, Canada played an integral role in protecting the Afghan people and ensuring that Afghan national security forces are well trained so that they can assume full responsibility for their own national security. In Libya, our men and women did more than their share, performing over 1,388 raids to help protect civilian lives, and putting an end to the Gadhafi regime.

Currently, our brave men and women are in Iraq providing an advise-and-assist mission against ISIS. For the next two years, we will be there to help the Iraqi Kurdish forces resist the advances of these genocidal terrorists, and carry out air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria.

However, rights and freedoms are elusive at best in this Islamic Republic. Civil society in Iran is quickly deteriorating as they move to detain academics, journalists, and activists in Iran. This brutal regime is becoming a dire threat to the peace and security all around the world. Although we care deeply for the people of Iran, Canadian citizens have also suffered greatly. Not only has the well-known Canadian professor Kavous Seyed-Emami recently died suspiciously in an Iranian prison, but Iran is preventing his wife, also a Canadian citizen, from returning to Canada.

Maryam Mombeini was barred from leaving Iran on a Canada-bound flight with her sons Ramin and Mehran Seyed-Emami. The family has faced severe harassment, threats, and smear campaigns over their refusal to accept the Iranian authorities' claim that Kavous Seyed-Emami died by suicide in prison. The two sons were permitted to travel back to Vancouver, but they had to leave their mother in Tehran. This travel ban is absolutely unacceptable, and explicitly violates United Nations conventions. Our government should be working harder to uphold our responsibility to protect the rights of Canadians abroad.

Today we are calling on the government to denounce appeasement of the Iranian regime, and instead continue to be a global leader in upholding human rights abroad. Immediate action is needed. We must call on Iran to lift the travel ban on Maryam Mombeini and sanction Iran's leaders and other gross human rights offenders under Canada's Magnitsky law.

We must communicate support for the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2012, and reiterate that Iran is a state sponsor of terror. This House should pass Bill S-219 to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism that incites hatred and human rights violations. Commercial relations between Bombardier and Iran should be reviewed.

We must recognize that Iran is complicit in the atrocious war crimes of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. We need to boycott the UN Conference on Disarmament to protest Syria's election as chair. Canada should cease immediately from referring to the Iranian regime as “elected”, or any other references to democracy. We need to speak up regarding Iran's protest movement, and start standing in agreement with the people of Iran.

Lastly, the Government of Canada must recognize that the people of Iran, like Canadians, have a fundamental right to freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion, and expression, including freedom of the press and other forms of communication, and finally the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.

Anything else is condoning the shameful and hateful republic. This is not who we are as humanitarians, and, more importantly, this is not who we are as Canadians.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, certainly we share the member's concerns, and unequivocally condemn the comments made by Iranian leaders that threaten the destruction of Israel. We also condemn any support given by the Iranian government for terror groups in the Middle East, whether it be Syria, Iraq, or elsewhere.

However, New Democrats believe that Canada has an important diplomatic role to play in bringing Iran back into the mainstream international community, and denouncing the Iran regime cannot replace strong diplomacy.

We have consular cases. The member talked about Canadians abroad who are in trouble. We currently have Canadians in Iran who are in trouble, and we do not have a clear path in our communication with Iran. That is unlike our allies, the Italians, the U.K., Jordan, or even the United States, where they have a special interest section. All of these countries are allies and have direct ways of communicating to Iran, and that is not just on consular files, but also on abuses that are happening within Iran. They are able to cite their concerns directly to Iran.

Does the member not believe that opening up diplomatic relations would help protect Canadians abroad on consular files, so that Canada can convey our concerns about human rights abuses and about certainly comments and atrocities that the Iranian government has made? Does she not believe that opening up diplomatic relations so that we can relay our concerns directly to the Iranian government would help?

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan said this morning, I believe it would not be prudent at this time for us to have a diplomatic presence in Tehran. In fact, we would be putting the lives of Canadian diplomats there in danger, which is very much a concern for me.

However, as a former diplomat, and someone who has worked as a policy adviser for the member for Thornhill in his role as the minister of state for Latin Americas, at that time, I was very open to evaluating alternative paths forward in our relationship with Cuba. It was a special time. It was 2008, and President Obama had come into place. The Helms–Burton Act was being reviewed. Remissions were being re-evaluated in regard to the United States, as well as visitation rights. I felt that perhaps Canada had a special role to play as a mediator and a special player in relationship to both the U.S. and Cuba. Therefore, I am very much open to ideas in regard to diplomacy. However, one must look at who one is dealing with, and if the other party is not willing to listen, in some cases diplomacy is futile.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Flamborough—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have more of a comment.

The Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khamenei is an extraordinarily tyrannical regime that is matchless in the world. Therefore, I would defend everything the member said by explaining that for the last 13 years, the Subcommittee on International Human Rights has never had more cases of human rights violations as we have had from Iran. In fact, we have Iran accountability week, which derived from our committee for that very reason.

This is a regime that kills its own citizens. It targets Baha'is, Ismailis, or anybody who has anything to say against the regime. It has a very intricate structure of terror as well, from people like those in the Basij, who are on the ground terrorizing people when they are protesting, and will use knives to cut ligaments in their legs, etc., to make sure they demoralize the crowd. The Revolutionary Guard Corps very handily exports terror, and grafts money from its citizens and exports it out of the country as well. We have a lot of evidence on that. I could go on and on.

However, the government often talks about our reputation on the world stage. By normalizing relations with a regime like Iran, it can do nothing but harm our reputation on the world stage. I defend my colleague's speech on making sure that does not happen.

Opposition Motion—IranBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

Mr. Speaker, United Nations reform is a passion of mine, and something that I am committed to in the future.

I will close by saying that the official opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada, has always been the party of human rights and democracy abroad under Stephen Harper, with Jason Kenney and the Hon. John Baird, and we will continue to serve as that.