Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about Canada's interactions with the Iranian regime. The questions I have posed before I feel have, by and large, gone unanswered.
A Liberal MP, during the throes of a protest movement against the authoritarian, theocratic government of Iran, said that this Iranian government was elected. This comment was deeply offensive to the Iranian community and to Iran's democracy movement, right at a moment when they were fighting for their fundamental rights. Does the Government of Canada agree with its MP's characterization of Iran's government as elected, or does it not? This is something it should be willing to say.
The Iranian regime is a leading sponsor of global terror, murder, and violence. The Government of Iran played a major role, we have now learned, in supporting Hamas-instigated violence on Israel's border, violence for which the Prime Minister called out Israel, not Hamas or Iran. Why did the Prime Minister issue a statement that did not call out Iran and Hamas?
The Canadian government called for an independent investigation into alleged actions by Israel during the border clashes but has asked Iran to investigate itself over the killing of Canadian professor Seyed-Emami in an Iranian prison. Why does the government seem more confident in Iran's capacity for neutral self-assessment than in Israel's?
There has been a very tepid response from the government, in general, to Iranian aggression and human rights violations. There has been an insistence on continuing to pursue warmer relations, with the government going so far as to directly finance an aerospace deal with Iran.
Some of my friends across the way want to profess their commitment to advocating for human rights in Iran. If so, it should not be difficult to denounce the Iranian government and reject the claim from one of their colleagues that it is elected. Hold the Government of Iran responsible for the violence it instigates in the region, and acknowledge the obvious reality that people do not die in Evin prison by suicide.
As the opposition, it is our job to ask tough, serious questions about the failure of the government to stand up for fundamental human rights in Iran and in many other places.
What is going on here in terms of the government's failure to expect democracy and stand up for human rights, including the rights of Canadians? If we look at the aerospace dimension and the opportunity for Bombardier's shareholders, there is a legitimate question about whether the government is making its decision on the basis of the interests of Bombardier, instead of on the basis of Canadian and universal human values.
However, I think there is something else going on here, when we look at its approach to Iran. This is what Michael Gerson calls the soft bigotry of low expectations that plagues the actions of western countries in their interactions with many nations in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. That is, the same states that criticize real or perceived declines in democracy in European or American states, in many cases have much less to say about worse abuses of process and fundamental human rights in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Why do governments single out Israel for criticism, for example, while ignoring other abuses in the region? Perhaps, to some extent, this is also rooted in the soft bigotry of low expectations. So much less criticism is directed toward authoritarian states in the region, perhaps because, unfortunately, much less is expected of them.
Human rights, universal citizenship, and democracy are the birthright of all people, affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and are the necessary consequence of recognizing our shared humanity.
On this side of the House, we reject the soft bigotry of low expectations for Iran. We believe that freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are the proper birthright of the Iranian people. They want it, they deserve it, and they will have it. The question for us is simply whether we will be on their side or not.
We need to know where the Government of Canada stands on this claim from a Liberal MP that the Iranian government is elected. Why did the Prime Minister issue a statement that failed to call out Iran and Hamas for their instigation of violence against Israel? Why does the government seem more confident in Iran's capacity for neutral self-assessment than in Israel's? These questions, which I have asked many times before, demand an answer.