Motion No. 1
That Bill C-281, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 19 on page 2 with the following:
“droits de la personne;”
Motion No. 2
That Bill C-281, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 15 on page 3 with the following:
“rules of the Senate or the Standing Orders of the House of Commons for responses to”
Motion No. 3
That Bill C-281, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the French version, lines 1 to 3 on page 4 with the following:
“(1.1) Aucune licence ne peut être attribuée ou renouvelée dans le cadre de la présente partie à l’égard d’une entreprise de radiodiffusion, y compris une entreprise qui distribue de la programmation étrangère, qui,”
Madam Speaker, it is my absolute privilege and honour today to rise for Bill C-281, the international human rights act. This is a bill that many individuals have contributed to, including the member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, as well as many other members. We had a fantastic discussion at committee, and I was very proud to be a member of Parliament when we were having productive discussions.
For those who are unaware of the legislation, I want to go through it and outline some of its key parts.
This private member's bill seeks to do four things. First of all, it seeks to raise awareness about Canadians and other people being held across the world not because of any type of crime they have committed, but because of the beliefs they hold or who they are as individuals.
We have seen this with the two Michaels, who were held by the regime in Beijing. We have also seen many prisoners of conscience held for many different reasons. Of course, in the past and with the Soviet Union and others, many times individuals were held because they had beliefs that were different from the regime's beliefs. We have seen individuals incarcerated by governments across this world simply because of the person they choose to love.
We are calling for the government to go forward and publicize what it is doing to help prisoners of conscience around the world. Specifically, we are asking for the government and the foreign affairs department to share the following information: the number of prisoners of conscience detained by each government or detaining authority and the names of prisoners of conscience. I will talk briefly about the names of prisoners of conscience.
We had quite a bit of debate at committee, and I think we landed in a really good spot, a spot where everyone could be happy. There were concerns expressed from across the political spectrum that perhaps publicizing the names of individuals who are being held for their beliefs may cause them additional issues and may even put them in peril.
What we have done with this legislation is given the government the broad latitude to redact names where it believes the individuals' security may be impacted by the publication of their names. We are also requesting that the government consult with the families of these individuals. This is so the families who have members being held as prisoners of conscience across the world who want a name published, want to see the force of the Canadian government and want to put the name on a list can point to it and say their brave brother, their brave sister or their brave father is standing up and speaking truth to power in an authoritarian regime. Others who feel this may in some way imperil these individuals or reduce their ability to eventually be released can choose not to do so.
By publishing this list, the idea is that we bring awareness to the cause of prisoners of conscience, so they do not just get swept underneath the rug in the name of diplomacy or in the name of economics. As Canada's traditional role is to be steadfast in standing for human rights both at home and abroad, by having this provision we get to find out, through this mechanism, what Canada is doing to protect these prisoners of conscience, both Canadians and other people around the world.
Where it makes sense, we will publish their names so that family members can point to them and say that the Government of Canada believes their brother, mother, sister or dad is being held as a prisoner of conscience. We will have an ability as parliamentarians to hold the government to account.
If the government is doing enough, we can say thanks for helping those folks. For those it is not doing enough for, we will also have the ability to ask questions, provoke and advocate for them, as prisoners of conscience are often some of the bravest people in the world. They are people who have stood up for women's rights. They are people who have stood up for freedom, for liberty and for LGBTQ rights. These individuals are heroes and should be protected.
The next provision is with respect to the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Sergei Magnitsky act. Many members of caucus and many individuals, including Bill Browder, and of course Sergei Magnitsky himself, were instrumental in creating these sanctions that seek to hold those who perpetrate the worst of human rights crimes accountable.
Knowing individuals cannot torture or incarcerate individuals simply for their political beliefs or for fighting for the cause of freedom and then hop on a private jet to attend cocktail parties around the world, make these sanctions so critical to raising the standard of human rights in Canada, and more importantly, across the world.
Canada has not only an ability but also an obligation to stand for human rights as a country that has been blessed with constitutional democracy, liberty and freedom. We have an obligation to the world to fight for human rights around the world. The Sergei Magnitsky act is incredibly important in doing that. Unfortunately, we have seen inactivity on this file.
Unfortunately, the government has had very few instances of triggering the Magnitsky act, especially in recent years. Let us be clear and let us be frank. The is no shortage of individuals who could be held accountable. We have seen the atrocities in Ukraine. We have seen the atrocities done by the regime in Beijing. We have seen what these individuals are doing. We have seen what is happening to the Uyghur people. We have seen what has happened to the Tibetan people.
We need to make sure the individuals who commit these most horrendous of crimes, these most vile of human rights offences, are held to account. Bill C-281 would give Parliament the ability of oversight. It would now have the ability, through the committee structure, to ask why an individual is not being sanctioned, and the government would be compelled to answer why.
In many countries it goes even further, where legislative bodies are actually given the ability to trigger it themselves, but this is a great first step along the way to encourage, advocate for and make sure as much as possible that the government is doing its job.
I am so proud to help and advance the cause of Sergei Magnitsky and others, who have done an amazing job of fighting against the human rights violations we have seen in the Russian regime and elsewhere.
The next section I will talk about briefly is the Broadcasting Act. Unfortunately, we have seen foreign regimes able to broadcast their propaganda over Canadian airwaves. The most egregious time was with Russia Today using it to broadcast hate against the Ukrainian people. Fortunately, its licence was revoked, but there lacked a process for the CRTC to do it. Bill C-281 would put a process in place so that, if genocidal regimes were using our airwaves to broadcast propaganda, we would have an ability to withdraw their licence.
Finally, there is the prohibition of cluster munitions. This bill would put in place the ability to restrict Canadian companies to finance the construction of cluster munitions. Cluster munitions are not weapons of war. They are weapons of terror that often kill civilians, often children. Cluster munitions are really just bombs of bombs, and there are numerous stories of children going out in the fields, playing with these and unfortunately dying.
These four provisions are at least a small step in making our world a bit of better place in fighting for human rights and restoring Canada's place in the world as a hero and worker for human rights.