Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Nose Hill.
Fidel Castro was not a kind man. He was not an admirable man. He was in fact a tyrant.
Wherever he went, he left behind a wake of violence, death, and misery, which is why it was alarming to those of us on this side of the House and to Canadians at large to hear the Prime Minister mourn his death as if Castro were a relative or a close family member. What is worse, however, is that the Prime Minister had the audacity to speak on behalf of all Canadians when he heaped praise on this abusive dictator.
This is not a partisan issue. Canadians at large confirmed this sentiment. In fact, Liberal MPs and supporters share the view that Fidel Castro was an oppressive dictator who ruled by terror. The Prime Minister's comments were inappropriate and do not reflect the beliefs of the Canadian public.
Castro was known for degrading women, murdering innocent people, and terrorizing anyone and everyone who disagreed with him. We do not, nor should we, condone these actions in Canada.
Here, we cherish freedom and democracy. There, Castro imposed his will through dictatorial rule. Here, we value tolerance and debate amongst political ideas. There, Castro imprisoned, tortured, and murdered those with a different view from his. Here, we reward entrepreneurs for investing their time, their talent, and their money to grow the economy, whereas Castro nationalized all businesses and arbitrarily outlawed or took over successful small entrepreneurial ventures.
Castro was in fact the antithesis of freedom.
International experts have documented these abuses of fundamental human rights for decades. Amnesty International said:
Over more than five decades documenting the state of human rights in Cuba, Amnesty International has recorded a relentless campaign against those who dare to speak out against the Cuban government’s policies and practices.
The Americas director of Human Rights Watch, José Vivanco, stated this week:
As other countries in the region turned away from authoritarian rule, only Fidel Castro’s Cuba continued to repress virtually all civil and political rights. Castro’s draconian rule and the harsh punishments he meted out to dissidents kept his repressive system rooted firmly in place for decades.
Meanwhile, Christopher Sabatini, a Columbia University expert on Cuba who advised Barack Obama's administration and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, has publicly said:
Unfortunately, his human rights record will not get the weight it deserves.... Let’s be honest: [at the end of the day] this was a regime which when it came to power lined up its opponents and shot them.
The most recent report by Human Rights Watch on Cuba states:
Under Fidel Castro, the Cuban government refused to recognize the legitimacy of Cuban human rights organizations, alternative political parties, independent labor unions, or a free press. He also denied international monitors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and international nongovernmental organizations like Human Rights Watch access to the island to investigate human rights conditions.
And this is to say absolutely nothing about the treatment of the LGBTQ community. From 1950 to 1979, members of this community were arrested, put in forced labour camps, and worked to death because they were considered “incompatible” with the socialist revolution. Since 1979, “publicly manifested” homosexuality and “persistently bothering others with homosexual amorous advances” remain illegal under Cuban law.
Fidel Castro left a legacy of broken people and made Cuba even poorer than when he seized power, but then we know that this is true about socialist regimes.
It is clear that the values of Castro are not congruent with the beliefs and practices we hold here in Canada. Canadians value freedom, value democracy, and respect the rule of law. Cubans lack the freedom to express political views, to establish their own businesses, or to travel between different regions of their country without government approval.
Canadians, as witnessed by our actions here today, function with the freedom to express their political views on any subject without fear of reprisal. Our journalists publish a wide variety of opinions on the government without fear of punishment. No Canadian journalist has been roughed up, sent to a forced labour camp, or exiled for criticizing the government of the day.
Canadians are incredibly proud of the beautiful land we call home, and we travel freely from province to province and into the territories without impediment, without borders, and without needing government approval.
In Cuba, there is no rule of law. Arrest and detention are arbitrary and entirely at the whim of the Castro brothers. Connections within the Communist Party of Cuba allow others to ignore the law or use the law to make themselves wealthy by punishing their competition.
In Canada, we celebrate the fact that even the prime minister is bound by the same rules that guide us. It does not matter how connected people are to the government of the day; the justice system is there to hold them accountable.
In Cuba, more than 80% of the land that could be used for agriculture sits entirely fallow. Why is that? It is because no one can be bothered to pick the weeds or plant a plot of land, because there is no incentive to work, no reward for labour. In Cuba, the locals are forbidden from eating local lobsters that they catch. This is not a health precaution. In fact, the lobsters are simply saved for the tourists who prop up the Cuban economy.
In Canada, we have free markets, and those free markets reward individuals for their hard work. We celebrate our entrepreneurs, who through vision and hard work build successful businesses.
As a self-declared feminist, a defender of human rights, and an advocate for the middle class, the Canadian Prime Minister should have stood against the acts of brutality committed by the late Fidel Castro. Instead, however, Trudeau took the opportunity to praise Castro, calling him a “remarkable leader” and even went so far as to state that Castro had a “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people”.
Based on the public outcry of Canadians, including hundreds of my own constituents, I know with confidence that the Prime Minister's sentiments are not widely shared among the Canadian people. The outrage over the implication that Canadians support Castro is one of the most visceral reactions that I have seen from the people in my riding. Castro is not viewed as a paternal or warm and fuzzy figure who wanted the best for his country, who loved his people, and who advanced it. He is seen as a repressive dictator who chronically mistreated his people, who had zero tolerance for women, and who viewed the marginalized as a problem to be solved by imprisonment or forced labour.
I understand that the Prime Minister has some family connections to Castro, but as the Prime Minister of Canada, one would hope that Trudeau could put aside his personal affections—