House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was fact.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Davenport (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2011, with 28% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, we are very much concerned also about consular cases.

We tend to focus on witnesses who actually have on the ground expertise and are witnessing also what is taking place in terms of the human rights abuses taking place in Iran. The reports that came back to us are very shocking and very alarming. We are talking about mass murders of people. We are talking about a government that silences critics, imprisons critics, tortures them, kills them. According to Human Rights Watch, there are mass executions of over 100 people just this year alone, which makes it per capita probably the number one country in terms of mass executions, far outreaching any other country.

In terms of specific consular cases, many of these are done, as the minister would probably know, through diplomatic channels and through different friendly countries who might be able to assist us. We are asking the government to take whatever steps are necessary. It has our support to bring Canadians home safely. We have seen what could happen if a Canadian citizen, or someone who wanted to reside in this country, are captured by the Iranian regime, once they are jailed without even a fair trial, which they never have, the possibility of them being executed is quite great. We have seen what happened with the journalist, Ms. Kazemi. That was a situation where she was arrested and killed. That was basically what took place.

We have to act in an urgent manner, because the lives of those who are taken by the Iranian regime are at risk. It really is a question of life and death. It is not a question of waiting too long. We have to bring pressure and assistance to our neighbours through whatever country that will be supportive. To get their assistance is very important. That would be the appropriate way.

The other concrete thing we said is that we have to support NGOs both domestically and internationally who are working on this file and who could also be witnesses to what atrocities are taking place and to document it. That also requires financial assistance from the government.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for his hard work on the committee. He has certainly witnessed the fact that all members of the committee share a deep concern in what is happening with of human rights throughout the world.

In doing this report, all members were quite clear that we were very much concerned about the deplorable situation on human rights in Iran. We are very concerned about its genocidal tendencies toward the state of Israel and the Jewish people, as well as its nuclear program.

However, I understand the member is trying to say, and that is we need to find a way to get organizations to document what takes place. One of the recommendations in the report is to get funding to ensure we financially support agencies that not just work on human rights but also document human rights abuses that take place in Iran.

The situation is not getting better, and I admire the Iranian people. The hon. member mentioned the fact that 65% of the people are under 40. I had heard the number as 50% of the people are under 25. There is a very young generation of Iranians who want freedom. They are very savvy in terms of technology. They use Facebook and the Internet very wisely, but they need our assistance and solidarity. They need to know the world community is standing behind them as they go through this very difficult time.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, we have all watched the developments in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and other countries that are experiencing considerable political and social unrest. Citizens are demanding greater freedom and political accountability and there are signs in many cases that change is indeed coming.

In recent days, the people of Iran have taken to the streets of Tehran and other cities calling for change. Yet again we have seen from the Islamic Republic of Iran the brutal suppression of those who seek freedom of expression and political change. President Ahmadinejad's regime practises wanton disregard for human rights, the rule of law and international standards of behaviour.

Take, for example, the ongoing case of Saeed Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada being held in the notorious Evin prison. He was forced through torture to make a false confession and is under constant threat of execution. This is but one instance of the total contempt the Iranian regime has for the rule of law domestically and internationally.

As a member of the foreign affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights, my colleagues and I have had the opportunity to study and report on the realities of the Iranian human rights violations and the seemingly endless reprehensible conduct. It was made clear in its December 2010 report that the committee firmly believed the Iranian regime's policies and activities within its territory and those it projects internationally constituted gross violations of its obligations under international law.

The litany of oppression and irresponsible international behaviour literally grows by the day. In recent days we have received reports of the terrible oppression of legitimate and peaceful dissents in Iran. The utter hypocrisies of the Iranian regime is incomprehensible.

Human Rights Watch remarks:

Just days ago the Iranian government claimed to support the popular aspirations of millions of Tunisians and Egyptians who peacefully demanded an end to dictatorship...Now Iranian security forces are using batons and teargas to disperse Iranians peacefully demonstrating in support of their Arab neighbors.

The suppression of these peaceful demonstrations was accompanied by the detention of numerous opposition leaders across Iran.

This pattern of intolerable conduct is completely consistent with the regime's human rights records and its intolerable foreign policy objectives. Throughout testimony for the report on Iran, concerns about the policy of Iran's governing regime's on human rights related policies was expressed strongly. Particularly notable among these concerns was its support of various terrorist organizations, its incitement to genocide, its belligerent stance towards Israel, the dehumanization and the intentions of its nuclear program.

In various conflicts throughout the Middle Eastern region, and indeed around the world, the footprints of the Iranian regime are fully in evidence whether it is the support of terrorists or other violations of international law. Its endless contempt and outrageous attacks on Israel are completely unacceptable and must be condemned.

Within Iran itself, we have witnessed for some time now the personal price paid by those who oppose the regime or simply violate its reprehensible standards of intolerance.

As with Mr. Malekpour, these include Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi who died tragically in Iranian custody in 2003 for taking a photograph of a protest outside a prison. Her son, Stephan, put it eloquently by saying:

Through her art, she wanted to inform, connect with and educate people. She gave a voice to the people of those countries she focused on—she even gave them hope.

Victims Mahmoud Asgari and Ayez Marhoni were teenagers executed by the Iranian regime in 2005 because they were gay.

Just today it has been reported by Human Rights Watch that there has already been over 100 executions in 2011 by the Iranian regime, including political prisoners.

In testimony before the Subcommittee on International Human rights this week, Professor Payam Akhavan characterized it as “mass murder in slow motion”.

The Iranian Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi, appeared before our committee and said this morning that the Iranian regime:

—are using the familiar tactics of carrying out political execution at the same time as mass executions of prisoners convicted of criminal offences. These executions may increase if the world is silent.

Her words represent an appeal to all nations of the world, including Canada, to ensure that the Iranian regime hears the voice of the world community and understands that they will be held accountable for their actions.

We need that action, but one of the major challenges is the ability to collect information from a society that conducts itself as the Iranian regime does, that criminalizes freedom of expression. In order to get an accurate picture of what goes on in Iran, we must rely on activists and journalists for much of what we have come to know, but they need our support. Action is needed to add the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps to a list of terrorist entities and to amend the State Immunity Act.

One of the groups within Iran about which we have received regular reports is members of the Baha'i faith. Left unprotected by the Iranian legal system, the 300,000 members are singled out for particularly brutal persecution. Their homes are raided. They are publicly vilified and have no means of public recourse, creating what Suzanne Tamas of the Baha'i Community of Canada called “an atmosphere of prejudice, which allows the Iranian government to continue to persecute the Baha'is with impunity”.

People of the Jewish faith remaining in Iran are also targeted for oppression, as are other minority communities such as Christians and Sunni Muslims. Minorities like the Kurds and the Baluchis are always under constant threat from the Iranian regime, so much so that Fakteh Zamani, president of the Association for Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran said judges would simply show up and sentence tortured members of the Baluchis members to death, leading to hundreds of Baluchis on death row for no reason other than they are a minority.

Whether it is Iranians seeking political and social reform, religious minorities or foreigners who appear to threaten their regime, the Iranian government will spare no action in its quest to quench dissent. Indeed, following the marches in cities across Iran this past Monday, the regime has called upon its supporters to participate in protests this coming Friday to demonstrate what it is calling their “hatred” for those who participated in the rallies calling for change. The reformers are clearly in the sights of the Iranian regime once again.

Reformers cannot rely on instruments of the Iranian current political system for any change, as we have seen. The presidential elections of June 2009 were clearly conducted in a manner that was unfair and questionable, to say the least. The results clearly did not reflect the true will of the Iranian people and the regime's ruthless repression of resistance in the wake of the vote merely demonstrated its complete lack of legitimacy.

The Iranian regime represents one of the most pressing threats to stability in the world. The conduct of this regime domestically is reprehensible and intolerable. The public statements of the regime and its leadership as well as policy declarations are a serious threat to both Iranians and to all people of the region and beyond. Israel is a particular target of their vitriol.

While the challenge of dealing with the Iranian regime may at times appear daunting, the price of not taking substantial action will almost certainly be much higher, as history has taught us in such circumstances.

Our subcommittee's report to Parliament makes a number of recommendations that I hope will be adopted and implemented by the Government of Canada. I hope too that it will then stand as an example of the action that needs to be taken by other nations too.

Canada, in unison with nations across the global community, can make a difference. We must ensure that the voice of tolerance, responsibility and freedom is heard by the Iranian regime and, perhaps just as important, it will serve as inspiration to those who labour for freedom in that country.

Let us be an example of this principle in our dealings with the Iranian regime. Let us stand firm.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Mr. Chair, I would like congratulate the hon. minister on her new file as Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs).

In her new role as the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas and Consular Affairs, could she talk about what is happening in Venezuela? In speaking with several officials, I know there is concern about what is taking place there, specifically with the Jewish community, and Iran's influence and involvement in that country and around that part of the world. There have been a series of secret flights taken back and forth. We are not sure what it is about. We are very much concerned and are monitoring that situation. I want to know if the minister has anything new to add on that particular situation.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

The Suez Canal.

I presume this is sort of a hostile act by Iran and also a warning to the west probably, that it does not want a similar movement taking place in Iran that took place in Egypt.

It is another sign of Iran creating instability in the whole region, from its support of Hezbollah, to Hamas. It is certainly a regime that sponsors terrorism and is quite frightening in terms of its action toward people and also toward the international community.

I wonder, given what happened just a few minutes ago, whether the member has any comments or anything to add to that action by Iran.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Madam Chair, I want to alert my hon. colleague that I just received notice that two Iranian naval ships have just moved near the Egyptian territory. I presume that this is sort of--

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Madam Chair, I also want to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal for his excellent speech and his tireless efforts on this issue.

All of us are aware that Iran is a party to several international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The genocide convention also obligates Canada in many ways, through article I and article III, as we had asked at the committee, to have Canada invite the United Nations Security Council to consider referring to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for investigation and prospective prosecution the case of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and those Iranian leaders participating with him in direct and public incitement to genocide.

The member for Mount Royal has worked tirelessly on this specific issue. I would like to hear his comments on how that is going and what specific concrete action he suggests the government could be doing right now, not tomorrow, but today.

Human Rights Situation in Iran February 16th, 2011

Madam Chair, I thank the minister for his words and I thank the House leaders for allowing this very important debate on Iran.

I want to ask the minister specific questions in relation to some of the recommendations that were put forward originally at the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, of which I am vice-chair, and then at the foreign affairs committee, which ask for specific action from the Government of Canada, including: that the government call upon the United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, to refer the matter of Iran's genocidal incitement to the Security Council pursuant to article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations on the basis that Iran poses a threat to international peace and security; that the government list the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as part of the international terrorist organizations in accordance with Canadian law; and that the Canadian government enforce the standing international arrest warrants that have been filed against Iranian government officials.

Those are part of the many series of recommendations that were put forward. I would like to hear what the minister has to say on some of these recommendations.

Pope John Paul II Day Act February 14th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the private member's bill put forward by my hon. colleague from Brampton West.

The bill creating Pope John Paul II Day is truly an important one, as Pope John Paul II was a transforming figure not just in his homeland of Poland but also throughout the world.

I have to say that it was a great pleasure for me as the chair of Exhibition Place in Toronto and a former city councillor there to play host for the World Youth Day. That was certainly a remarkable gathering of youth from all over the world. It was another initiative that His Holiness Pope John Paul II started during his papacy to bring youth from all over the world together in common prayer and thought, and in action. That event will always stick in my mind, the gathering of youth from different corners of the earth at Exhibition Place and then afterwards followed by a mass and service at Downsview Park.

I had the pleasure and honour of being there and working along with Father Thomas Rosica who was the CEO of Salt + Light Television, a network that does wonderful work throughout Canada in promoting the Christian, Catholic faith. Father Thomas Rosica played a truly tremendous role in hosting that particular event. I was pleased to work with him.

Certainly the response from people, regardless of faith, was always truly one of welcoming His Holiness and incredible cherishing of his presence, his magnetism and charisma.

He was the pope who transformed Europe to what we know today, not just with the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism but also with his the ability to allow his people who had suffered so much to, as he famously said, “Be not afraid”, to be not afraid of totalitarianism, to be not afraid to speak out, to be not afraid to be a light in the darkness. Certainly he was that transformative figure who could inspire people to do amazing things and to be a leader for all.

Poland, with the Solidarity movement, in which he played such a major role, transformed the rest of what we know in Europe. However, it was his initiative and his imprint that we celebrate worldwide in recognizing this day.

He was also a man who reached out to people of different faiths. He was the first pope in the history of the Catholic Church to actually visit a synagogue, in Rome. He certainly held the role of Bishop of Rome very dear to his heart and reached out to the people of Rome, like no Pope before him. Being that particular transforming figure, going out to the people of Rome and the people of all faiths, is what makes him one of the most incredible men of the 20th century.

He was also the first pope to ever visit a mosque. It is, again, a tribute to his understanding and solidarity and friendship with people of different faiths, in extending a warm hand of friendship to all. Again this was important milestone for him as a world leader on stage to say that we want to be friends with everyone of all different faiths. I think it was an important and incredible milestone for us.

The other thing is that he was a pope who actually took his mission as a shepherd and a preacher of the gospel very seriously. He went to 129 different countries and attracted some of the largest crowds in history, such as five million people once in Manilla in 1985 and, of course, in Toronto there was about 800,000 people. Some estimated the crowd to be close to even a million people attending his event.

This bill, in recognition of John Paul II Day across Canada, is an important one. It gives credit to someone we consider to be one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century, a man of incredible courage and vision, somebody who transformed the world, who built relationships with countries all over the world and who also played a major role in peace negotiations.

I was always saddened by the fact that he never won the Nobel Peace Prize, but certainly nobody promoted more peace than John Paul II, not just in Europe but all over the world. I remember the times when there were skirmishes in Latin America. It was always his intervention that saved the day for certain countries in South America and Central America from actually going to war with their neighbours. He played a major role in all of those events.

Thus we are looking at a man of incredible faith, vision and passion, someone man who deeply cared about the world community. He was a shepherd of peace and a messenger of the gospel.

As we all know, Pope Benedict XVI has announced that Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1, 2011. People from all over the world will gather in Rome to celebrate this momentous event for this incredible man. In the history of the church, this is a very short period of time for somebody to be beatified. The fact he is going to be beatified and become Blessed John Paul II on May 1, 2011, is indicative of the incredible esteem with which he is held and how we all feel about this particular pope whom we really see as a saintly man. He will probably be considered, as I mentioned in this House on his passing, as John Paul the Great because he was one of the greatest popes in the history of Catholicism and, certainly, a transforming individual.

I am pleased to support the bill. The member for Brampton West has put an incredible amount of work into this and I want to commend him for that. His Polish background speaks also to the fact that he knows, from his ancestors and family members, what an important role John Paul II had in liberating the Polish people. However, at the end of the day, he was really a liberator for all of us, a man of all the people, a man for all seasons, as was said about Saint Thomas Moore. He was an incredible human being who deserves this incredible recognition, because he did transform Canada, the world, and history as we know it.

As I said before, I was deeply moved when I first saw him. I will never forget that moment in Downsview Park when I took communion from His Holiness. It was a transformative day for me. I remember getting there early in the morning. It was pouring rain, and just as he came out for the mass the sun came out. It was the most beautiful experience ever.

He was at that time quite frail. He was somebody who was not afraid to show his physical vulnerability and weakness. We always remember the images of him when he first came to Canada in 1984 as someone who was very strong with an incredible physical presence. Later in his life he became quite frail. He suffered from Parkinson's disease and other illnesses, but he never was afraid to show or accept his own frailty and illnesses, while also showing compassion and care for others.

He was also a pope who was a transformative figure in the church's two millennia of history. All of us remember the particular mass he celebrated when the Holy Door was opened to celebrate the second millennium of Christianity in the world. He was the Pope who launched the new millennium. We will always remember him for being probably one of the greatest popes in living memory.

I am proud to support this bill. I am very pleased that the member for Brampton West has put this bill forward.

Petitions February 7th, 2011

Mr. Speaker, finally, I have a petition from Canadians who are concerned about the closure of the Canada Post offices in rural communities.

The petitioners are calling upon the Government of Canada and Canada Post to consult with elected representatives, postal unions and other major stakeholders, including provincial rural communities that are affected by these closures.