Madam Speaker, there are many ways I could start my comments with respect to the debate on the motion that was moved earlier today after question period, but I want to highlight the importance of the day itself for a moment or two. One might think that I am going to talk about Diwali, because today is in fact a very special celebration. However, there is something else that should be highlighted, which is the fact that it was 77 years ago today that the Charter of the United Nations was formed.
When we think of the issue of human rights, the Liberal caucus believes in the future of the United Nations as a shining beacon for the world when it comes to the issue of human rights and dignity of the person. It is important that we recognize this and the fact that Canada is a charter member of the United Nations, which we should take a great deal of pride in.
In approaching the debate that we are having this evening, I do not want to do anything that would minimize in any fashion whatsoever what has happened to the Uighur people and the Turkic Muslims. The severity of what they have had to endure over the years is significant. Whether it has been individual countries or the United Nations that have looked into some of the things that we often hear about, we all take it very seriously. We all understand what is taking place and the issue of propaganda that is out there, so I do not want to take anything away from it and I will get back to this.
First and foremost, I want to talk about the reason we are having this debate today. The Conservative Party, over the last number of years, has used concurrence motions not as a way to raise an issue, as its members often try to imply when they bring forward the motions, but as a way to prevent debate on government business, which is why I asked the mover of the motion why he chose to bring forward this motion. In his response, he said that, if things had taken place in the foreign affairs committee, he then would not have had to move this particular motion.
I will talk about Bill S-223 in regard to the illegal harvesting of organs, as members of all political parties have supported that legislation. However, what we see is a Conservative Party that is in every way trying to prevent the government from advancing important legislation.
It is just like we saw moments ago with Bill S-5. Members will recall that last week we were ready to debate Bill S-5, but the Conservatives moved a motion of concurrence to talk about yet another issue during Government Orders on a day when there was government business. They will not move one tomorrow because that is an opposition day, but today is a government day. Therefore, they moved a motion to have the debate on the Uighurs and Turkic Muslims and what is taking place in China. Why? It is because they do not want the government to advance important legislation
I cite Bill S-5 because the Conservatives are actually voting in favour of it, even though last week they tried to prevent it from being debated. Again, today, they tried to prevent it from being debated. The government suggested that we have 20 minutes or a half an hour of debate on the issue and then continue the debate after the House finished government business at 6:45 p.m.
I do not say this lightly. It could be said that the most precious commodity we have inside the House of Commons is time. There is never enough time to debate all the things that need to be debated inside the House. A good example of that is Private Members' Business, let alone government legislative business and all the demands on it.
If we are going to debate human rights, which in essence is what the Conservative Party wanted us to debate today instead of debating Bill S-5, which they support, there are other issues we could have debated regarding human rights. I am thinking of what is happening today in Ukraine. There have been so many allegations, substantiated in many ways, of things like torture, rape and mass killings. Defining “mass” is another challenge in itself, but that is something that is taking place today in a war in Europe.
I suggest that on a human rights scale, much like dealing with the Uighurs and the Turkic Muslims, it is an important issue. Both deal with human rights issues. If the Conservatives really wanted to have a debate on human rights, I think what they should have done was bring forward an opposition day motion. Had they done that, they could have highlighted a number of different issues.
Depending on where one sits and the area one might represent, one might bring a different perspective of human rights and what is happening around the world. If someone were to ask me to pick an area that I would like to talk about when dealing with human rights today, there is no shortage of areas. I think one of the areas that we could definitely give more attention to would be to what is taking place in Ukraine. What about the Iranian refugee situation, where protesters have been killed, not dozens but hundreds? Allegations of all sorts are taking place there. I suspect we would have had members in the House standing and wanting to talk about that. There are so many people, so many MPs, who are still touched by people like former Senator Dallaire and what took place in Rwanda. Others might want to go back to World War II and the genocides that took place.
What we see around the world is truly amazing. One would think we would learn from it. That is the reason why I say the future is the United Nations. That is something the government of the day works with every day. We have a Prime Minister and a Minister of Foreign Affairs who actually sent out a release. If it had not been for that release, I do not think I would have realized that it was the 77th anniversary of the United Nation.
It is through those multilateral relations, an alliance of like-minded nations, that we are going to be able to make the world a better place for humanity into the future. At the end of the day, I would have preferred to have that type of debate on the floor of the House of Commons during an opposition day motion or even a take-note debate this evening. The Conservatives could have raised the issue and said, instead of moving concurrence on a report, let us have a take-note debate on human rights violations and put in the request for what they wanted emphasized.
We are very aware of what is taking place in China. Today and last week, I presented petitions regarding the illegal harvesting of human organs. I made reference to the fact that there are well over a million people around the world who have signed a petition calling upon governments at all levels to recognize what is taking place with the Falun Gong. These are the types of things that should be debated and need to be debated. I do not question that, but there are forums for us to ensure that takes place.
Where I take objection is when the official opposition, in the name of debating human rights, brings forward a concurrence motion in order to prevent substantial legislation from being debated. That is what we see from the Conservative Party time and time again.
The Conservatives have sent a message through their behaviour on Bill S-5, even though they support it. The message is that, if the government wants to pass S-5, it is going to have to go to the NDP or the Bloc, and the NDP or the Bloc are going to have to support us in bringing in time allocation. Otherwise, the Conservatives are going to continue to filibuster, unless we shame them a little.
That is the reason we are having this debate this evening. It is not because there was a consensus among all parties to talk about human rights, but rather because of an irresponsible opposition that will do whatever it can to try to frustrate the legislative process during government business.
If we look at the substance of the legislation, Canadians having a right to a healthy environment is within the legislation description. We could talk about other pieces of legislation. There is legislation that would provide children 12 and under the opportunity to have access to dental care. We could also talk about supporting renters by making their rent a little more affordable.
Conservatives do not want to have those debates because they oppose them. I believe they oppose that legislation. Maybe we can take that into consideration, at least in part. The Conservative Party likes to say it is a minority government and it has a responsibility, but so does the official opposition. The official opposition also has a responsibility to ensure there is some functionality inside the House. They were not elected to prevent all forms of legislation and hold them up.
I understand what it means to be in opposition. For over 20 years as a parliamentarian, I was in opposition. Hopefully, I will get that same time in government. The point is that, as an opposition party, the Conservative Party has fallen off track by believing everything it does needs to be obstructive and prevent the government from being able to pass anything, whether it is good or bad. This is until it comes to a point in time where the Conservative Party is embarrassed and shamed, or maybe even, like with the GST, it actually changes its opinion and supports the legislation. In fairness, there have been a couple of instances where that has taken place.
I would really encourage the Conservative opposition, when it says it wants to debate something, to allow that debate to take place. If there is something its members would ultimately like to see take place and they feel frustrated by government, there are other alternatives and other tools.
When we talk about the Uighurs and Turkic Muslims and what is happening to them, we need to get a sense of what it is, because most people do not necessarily have that understanding. They hear there are issues surrounding human rights violations. With a very little amount of research, one can easily get an appreciation on the types of things we are actually talking about.
It is estimated the Uighur population is in and around 12 million people. If we put that into the perspective of Canada, Canada has 38 million people. Imagine 12 million people, and I have not done the math but I suspect it would be all of western Canada plus, being suppressed and all sorts of violations taking place against human dignity and against basic human rights.
We often hear of the issue of genocide. We often hear how the government of China is in complete denial, saying it is more about propaganda by people who are against China. We see the results of other nations, the United Nations and others, that have been working with and listening at the ground level. When we talk about the uniqueness of the Uighur people and the degree to which it is getting the necessary attention worldwide, I think the world could be doing more. There is a need for us to collectively work within the United Nations and with other like-thinking allied countries to continue to put pressure on China.
I made reference to the Magnitsky act, which is legislation the United States first brought in based on what took place in Russia many years ago. It is the idea of sanctions and the idea of the world recognizing this. Many other countries, including Canada, have actually adopted similar legislation, recognizing there is always room for us to do more.
I will continue to do what I can. I would encourage members of all political entities to recognize what I suspect is a common value Canadians share: our rights, which are embodied in our Charter of Rights. Our Charter of Rights and the rule of law are things that matter to Canadians, and we should be sharing these with the world.
With those few thoughts, I appreciate the time to speak.