Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to this motion, though my reason for being in the House this morning was to get up and speak to Bill S-5. There will be time for that, obviously, a little later on.
I have been listening intently to the words of all members in the House, and it is obvious that all of us, all Canadians, are profoundly scandalized by the war crimes that we have witnessed through the news. We are scandalized by the disregard for the international order that has been displayed by Vladimir Putin and those who are working with him to carry on this illegal invasion of a peace-loving country that seeks only democracy and freedom.
We are all profoundly scandalized by what is going on. We live here in a free land. We live in a land that is essentially free of violence, and it is certainly free of persecution. While we understand and are repelled by what is going on, we are really seeing it through the intermediary of the news, of the TV news and of the newspapers that we read. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be living in a war zone.
I know that when President Zelenskyy spoke to us a few months ago, he tried to bring it home to us by asking us to reflect on what it would be like if we were living in downtown Toronto, like many MPs here live in downtown Toronto, and one morning we woke to the sound of bombardment bringing down structures as iconic as the CN Tower and whatnot.
He asked us to reflect on what that would be like. How would we explain that to our children, who would be completely perplexed and puzzled and fearful? I think that was a very important approach that President Zelenskyy employed to make us try to understand what it is like on the ground. I do not think we really can, but we are seeking to understand, and even though we are not on the ground, we are no less disgusted and repelled by what Vladimir Putin has done.
My generation never thought we would ever see another war in Europe. We thought that the First World War and the Second World War had driven home the point that conflict can lead only to mass suffering and destruction and all kinds of economic and human pain. We never thought we would see the day, but obviously this has taught us all, in some way, a lesson, a lesson that I think veterans understand.
I know we are approaching Remembrance Day and we go to Remembrance Day events and reflect on the past and on past sacrifices. We underscore the sacrifice of those who fought for liberty, but somehow we always think that this was something from the past, which it was, but also that it was something that would never recur, at least not in a European context.
I was reflecting on Remembrance Day just the other day, because it is coming up and we will all be asked, most likely, to speak at ceremonies. I was thinking about how the context of this year is so different, because we will not be thinking just of past sacrifices; we will not be thinking just of all that veterans have done to protect our freedom and our democracy. I think we will look at their message in a different light. Yes, there is the sacrifice, but the veterans are also sending us a message.
They are saying that they understand something that maybe not everyone understands for not having been through war, that authoritarianism has not disappeared. The impulse toward authoritarianism has not disappeared. Authoritarianism can raise its ugly head very quickly, even in Europe and even though we never thought we would ever see that day. I think there is a special, additional meaning to Remembrance Day this year, which is that we have to be on guard against authoritarianism.
We should be grateful that there are many courageous individuals who volunteer for the armed forces, knowing that they are making sacrifices just by being in the armed forces but also that they may be called upon to make great sacrifices at times of conflict. As we know, our Canadian military is helping out over in Europe, offering training to Ukrainians.
The thing about authoritarianism is that it can be defeated through military action. We saw that in World War II. The military action of the allies was particularly effective. However, there is another element that is required to defeat authoritarianism, and that is dissidence from within. I marvel at those who stand up to authoritarian regimes, whether it be in Iran or those who are protesting in Moscow and no doubt throughout Russia. I do not know what it means to fear that what I say would provoke a violent reaction against me and my family.
We all get up and say things about other members. We criticize their positions and we even use a little humour sometimes to put down the point of view of the other, but we never walk out of this place thinking we are the target for somebody now. This is true of our entire society. We can stand up to political leaders, and people do it all the time. We can mock political leaders and we can satirize political leaders, and so on and so forth, without ever having any fear of retribution. This is something that should be underscored, because there are people putting their lives on the line to stand up to people like Vladimir Putin and to stand up to the Iranian regime, knowing that they could wind up behind bars in what I would say are some very awful conditions that would be foreign to incarceration in our own country.
It is very important that we salute the dissidents. As I think of dissidents, many in the House are probably too young to remember the stature that a dissident like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn had all over the world, but especially in North America. I remember how former President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, embraced Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and his cause, and how he had the courage to write things that Soviet authorities were not too pleased with, and he paid the price.
This is someone who was actually in the military himself. He was a military person who had fought in the war, but he saw certain things that he did not agree with and he wrote about them in an eloquent manner, and in a voluminous manner. His books were very large tomes, whether we are talking about about the Gulag Archipelago or others, like Cancer Ward. The west stood up for him.
It is very important that we stand up, not only that we stand up against Vladimir Putin's military machine, but that we stand up for dissidents and that we do so through the sanctions that we apply and that keep coming. I would like to underscore that fact. We have imposed sanctions on oligarchs, on members of the Putin regime, but they have been successive. They have not stopped after one round of sanctions. The foreign affairs minister has announced multiple rounds of sanctions, and I suspect there are many more rounds to come. We have done the same against the brutal authoritarian dictatorship in Iran.
We need to stand up for the dissidents, and one way of doing so is through sanctions. I would like to say how fortunate our government is, not just the government but Parliament is, our country is, to have as an adviser someone whom I and the member for Winnipeg North sat with in this House, the Hon. Irwin Cotler. He devoted his life to standing up for persecuted dissidents, specifically but not exclusively by any means, in the Soviet Union.
To know that there is wisdom being communicated from the Hon. Irwin Cotler to this Parliament and to this government personally reassures me as a parliamentarian and also as a Canadian. We are very fortunate to have someone like Irwin Cotler providing his perspective and his advice on how we can support dissidents and how we can stand up to Vladimir Putin.
As a matter of fact, if I recall, so courageous was Irwin Cotler that he went to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, and I believe he was poisoned while he was there. I do not know if that was the official news or headline, but I remember him saying that something was happening, that he was not feeling well and that it was not just the garden variety of food poisoning. I do not know more about that situation, but I seem to recall hearing or reading about it. We are very fortunate to have the Hon. Irwin Cotler who, of course, has been an advocate for the Magnitsky Law and so on.
However, I think Canada is doing its part by supporting Ukraine militarily, but it is also doing its part by targeting those who would be part of the machines, mechanisms or apparatus of repression that are targeting, no doubt, dissidents in both Russia and Iran.
With that, I will now take questions as best I can on a very difficult topic.