House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was trade.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale (B.C.)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 55% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Iran May 15th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons. As our Minister of Foreign Affairs recently said, those weapons could be a reality in a little less than a year if Iran decides to proceed.

A nuclear armed Iran would be a destabilizing force in the Middle East and a serious threat to peace.

Given Iran's track record of persecuting minorities within and sponsoring terrorism abroad, Canadians are deeply concerned about Iran's objectives.

The Iranian regime claims it has no interest in nuclear weapons. Canadians would have more confidence in such claims if they could see evidence of peaceful intentions.

Instead of sentencing Iranian Christians, Baha'is and others to death for their faith, Iran should demonstrate religious tolerance. Instead of threatening Israel with destruction, Iran should stop funding Hezbollah. Instead of secrecy at atomic facilities, Iran should allow stringent international nuclear inspections.

Iran May 14th, 2012

Mr. Chair, I understand that the issue of Rights and Democracy has come up throughout the course of the last four hours. I do not see much point in revisiting that topic after it has received a fair amount of air time tonight. However, I do want to recognize that there are many civil society organizations, both Canadian and Iranian, that are doing excellent work in documenting the human rights abuses there. We can consider supporting these institutions that are already in place so they can document and report on the human rights abuses. We can play a role in providing moral and diplomatic support to the democratic movement in Iran as we recognize the role that existing Iranian organizations are playing.

Let us not forget that our foreign service, including ambassadors, service officers and other staff at DFAIT and CIDA, do this every day, and for that we are grateful.

Iran May 14th, 2012

Mr. Chair, it is hard not to agree. Of course, that is why our government has taken the position that it has. We are imposing sanctions. We have done that four times since July 2010, including dealing with the prohibitions against exporting arms and financial transactions and investments. Many believe this is making a tremendous difference. I personally agree with the member when he suggests that, as has been said by our government, Iran's nuclear threat is the greatest threat to global peace and security in the world today.

The very least we can do is impose sanctions as we seek a peaceful resolution to this potential crisis which is not only a regional issue, it is also a global issue. By using every diplomatic means possible, we will continue to put pressure on Iran so it will hopefully choose a different path. Until that happens, we have to take every opportunity, whether financial or investment, or even by naming individuals on a prohibited list as we have done, and use every diplomatic tool to ensure the world and Iran in particular know that it cannot with good conscience and with any international support continue along this path that it is on.

In my speech, I did not highlight a few of the other 24 recommendations that we made in our report, but I will wait for another opportunity.

Iran May 14th, 2012

Mr. Chair, one of the aspects I really appreciate about serving on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the foreign affairs committee is the non-partisan nature in which we are able to operate. Members of the Liberal Party and the NDP and our Conservative members work united with the common cause to achieve some measure of difference around the world by highlighting some of the atrocities we hear about.

In my experience on that committee in the last three or four years, there are no atrocities greater than those in the situation in Iran, so much so that we did not only one but two studies on the subject of Iran, thanks to the initiative of the member for Mount Royal. We were so taken aback with the rioting and unrest that occurred after the July 2009 presidential elections in that country that we had to revisit our study and update it. In the process of putting together that report, we came up with a number of recommendations. I have a copy of the report, which is around 100 pages, if the Chair would like me to table it. We had experts from literally around the world come and testify about the atrocities that are occurring in Iran. There is no doubt that the use of torture is prevalent in that country, whether it is for extracting information or simply a form of retribution. That is regrettable.

While I was in the process of listening to the member's question, I was actually looking for the section that dealt with that situation, and it drew my attention to all the different atrocities that occurred, including incitement to genocide.

We have not even talked about the nuclear threat.

I would invite the member opposite to get a copy of our report, because it is very comprehensive and deals with the situation of torture and its use specifically as it relates to Iran. By reading it, he might further appreciate how apolitical this question really is. I would invite him to look at that. It is available on the Foreign Affairs website.

Iran May 14th, 2012

Mr. Chair, at the beginning of my remarks, it is an honour to serve with the member for Mount Royal on the Subcommittee on International Human Rights. I thank him for the leadership he has shown in originating a study that we did a few years back, which I will reference in just a moment.

Tonight many of my colleagues have spoken on the appalling human rights situation in Iran. As a member of that Subcommittee on International Human Rights, I have heard a great deal of testimony on the abuses of the Iranian regime over the past couple of years.

In December 2010, we presented our report to the House. It was titled, “Ahmadinejad's Iran: A Threat to Peace, Human Rights and International Law”. We addressed many different rights abuses the Iranian regime engaged against its own people. One of these is Iran's suppression of gender rights.

Equality between men and women simply does not exist in Iran. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran's clerical leaders have sought to impose limits on the rights of women and institutionalize gender discrimination in the name of Islamic law. Laws have been passed which sharply restrict women's educational and professional opportunities, reinforce male control over women in the family and impose gender segregation and discriminatory provisions in their criminal code.

Women are not allowed to run for president or serve as judges. They cannot have full guardianship over their children after a divorce. They receive half as much inheritance as men and their court testimony is worth half of that of a man.

Men have the right to take a second wife without the permission of their first. They can divorce their wives whenever they wish. They may prohibit their wives from even working outside of their home.

Women who refuse to cover their hair can face jail and up to 80 lashes. In some cases, Iranian women have successfully fought to reverse these discriminatory practices and laws and have pressured the government to make some concessions, but the record is very mixed.

In fact, the government increasingly targets women's rights activists to try to dismantle the women's movement in Iran. It often arrests, interrogates, mistreats, threatens and imprisons activists. Some have been fired from their jobs.

Women's rights activist, Jila Baniyaghoob, and winner of the courage in journalism award from the International Women's Media Foundation was banned for 30 years from journalistic activities in the brutal suppression of the Green Movement following the 2009 elections. Around the same time, Shiva Nazar Ahari, a well-known women's rights activist received four years in prison and 74 lashes. Both women received terrible punishments for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

These are just two of many similar cases. Unfortunately, members of Iran's women's movement are increasingly faced with a stark choice: cease their activism or continue under the threat of criminal charges, arbitrary arrest, detention, interrogation, torture or even death.

Although in February 2010, Iran agreed to guarantee equality for women in the law during their UN Human Rights Council review of Iran's record under the framework of the universal periodic review, Iranian authorities continue to entrench gender discrimination. For example, since 2009, female students have been required to study at universities in their own homes or towns, greatly restricting their access to higher education, while male students face no such restriction.

Iran has also been the only country to use stoning to execute those who commit adultery, even though it breaches Iran's commitment under article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that death sentences will be imposed only for the most serious crimes. In fact, there was a sharp rise in sentencing, both men and women, to death by stoning since President Ahmadinejad came to office, but most of those were women.

A revised Iranian penal code, due to take effect this year, finally removes the stoning penalty from the code. However it still remains to be seen whether or how the new code will be applied in practice and whether existing death by stoning sentences will be commuted.

In no instance is the intersect between the Iranian government's abuse of due process of law, rights and systematic discrimination against women more egregious than in the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

The case of Ms. Ashtiani is well known. A mother of two, Ms. Ashtiani has been in prison since 2006, when she was arrested for adultery and the murder of her husband. In 2010, she was initially sentenced to 99 lashes and death by stoning; however, following an international outcry, the sentence was changed to death by hanging.

Throughout her trial, Ms. Ashtiani's right to due process was egregiously violated. Her lawyer was arrested briefly and forced to seek asylum in Norway. Her son was also imprisoned for speaking with international journalists about his mother's case. Canada continues to urge the Iranian authorities to revoke or commute Ms. Ashtiani's sentence.

Our government is also deeply concerned about the lack of religious freedom in Iran. Other speakers have addressed this concern tonight, particularly in the persecution of the Baha'i minority in Iran. There is also severe persecution of other religious minorities, including Christians.

The case of Youcef Nadarkhani was mentioned by my colleague. He is 34, a Christian pastor, married and the father of two boys. He was arrested on charges of apostasy—for leaving the Muslim faith—and has now been sentenced to death by an Iranian court for refusing to renounce his Christianity. He has defied a request by the Gilan provincial court in Rasht, Iran, to repent and now faces death by hanging. That sentence has been upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. As we have heard in testimony before our subcommittee, despite the fact that the Iranian constitution recognizes and protects the nation's pre-Islamic religious minorities, including Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, in practice these groups face discrimination and persecution.

Christians are subject to harassment and close surveillance by police. The government has a policy of prohibiting proselytizing and monitors the activities of many churches, acts to close churches and arrests Christian converts. Members of some congregations are required to carry membership cards that must be provided to police on request, and church officials have been ordered to inform the Ministry of Information and Islamic Guidance before admitting new members.

The Iranian government has restricted meetings to Sundays and has harassed and intimidated congregations that have attempted to worship on other days. The Iranian government continues to arrest and detain Christian believers, pastors and priests for lengthy periods without charge. Some have even complained of being tortured while in custody. Often they are arrested when they gather, and their Bibles and other literature materials are seized.

The reality of life for religious minorities in Iran is almost incomprehensible to many Canadians, who have grown up in a land of freedom where we are all able to worship and discuss our faith openly. That is all the more reason for freedom-loving Canadians to call attention to the rights of individuals in other nations. That is why I am proud of the actions of our government in addressing the critical issue of religious freedom, both in Iran and around the world.

As part of our commitment to defending this fundamental freedom, we are setting up the office of religious freedom within the Department of Foreign Affairs. This office will promote and protect freedom of religion and belief around the world, consistent with core Canadian values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs reminded us recently, and I quote:

Canadians enjoy the rights and privileges that come with living in a free and democratic society in which human rights are respected. We are also keenly aware of the struggles that religious minorities face around the world.

That is why, whatever the circumstances, Canada will continue to speak out, and take principled positions.... We will not just go along to get along. We will stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is popular, convenient or expedient.

With the support of Parliament, Canada will continue its proud record of standing up for human rights and for taking principled positions on important issues to promote freedom, including gender rights, religious freedom, democracy and the rule of law in Iran and elsewhere around the world.

Interparliamentary Delegations April 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegations of the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association respecting the participation in three events: the 57th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference; the International Parliamentary Conference on Millennium Development Goals; and the Annual International Seminar in Delhi.

Burma April 4th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the nation of Burma has just held a set of byelections and early results are in. Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy party, has won a seat in parliament. We are pleased that reports indicate voting was conducted without violence or overt intimidation. Burma appears to be making progress toward democracy once more. We hope this progress continues.

Despite these gains, we are concerned, however, about the protection of individual rights of Burmese citizens. We call on the Government of Burma to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms all people should enjoy. Those freedoms include freedom of the press, of expression and of religion. We also call on the Burmese government to seek peace in Kachin State and to put a stop to the abuses, such as the recent burning of Christian churches and destruction of villages which have been reported there. We continue to call on the government to respect the lives and property of the Kachin, Karen, Mon, Karenni, Chin, Shan and other ethnic and religious minorities.

Income Tax Act March 13th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to briefly summarize the second reading debate on my Bill C-377, which would require public financial disclosure of labour organizations.

First let me express my appreciation to my colleagues on both sides of the House for their comments and their interest in this subject. I commit to you, Mr. Speaker, and this place that I will not say anything that would force me to apologize because of my remarks.

My purpose in introducing the legislation is to create financial transparency in a group of institutions that are receiving substantial public benefits. All members here and the general public know the value in financial transparency for public institutions and for institutions that receive public benefits. That is why, for example, financial transparency for charities, which has existed for over 35 years now, is fully accepted by charities themselves, as well as the public.

Some members across the way have raised the point that some provinces have labour codes that require limited financial disclosure to union members only. This, however, is an irrelevant point that has nothing to do with this bill.

The purpose of the bill is not about requiring disclosure to union members. Rather its purpose is requiring disclosure to the general public because the public is providing a financial benefit through the tax system. The public has a right to know how the benefit they provide to labour organizations is being used.

Some MPs and several leaders and labour organizations have also raised the issue of the cost of compliance with the legislation. Again, I believe the cost to labour organizations of compliance with Bill C-377 to be quite minimal in this age of electronic bookkeeping.

Clearly, labour organizations already track their finances internally and translating this data into a format which can be filed with the Canada Revenue Agency is largely a question of technology and software. Compiling and filing a single unaudited information return once a year is not going to unduly encumber any labour organization. Any actual cost to the labour organization will be far outweighed by the benefits of transparency.

The NDP House leader stood in the House during the first hour of debate and made some wild claims that the bill was about to strip Canadians of their charter rights. He actually called the bill “an attack on the labour movement.”

Contrary to the NDP House leader's wild claims, transparency for unions is no more an attack on unions than transparency for charities is an attack on charities. We know, with 35 years experience of the matter, that financial transparency for charities has been a positive development and not an attack.

The truth is the vast majority of Canadians, a full 83%, as expressed in a recent Nanos poll, support financial transparency for labour organizations. I know those numbers are even higher in Quebec. As for the labour movement, according to the same poll, 86% of Canadians who identified themselves as unionized employees supported financial transparency. Clearly, the broad labour movement does not regard the bill as an attack on themselves. It is quite opposite in fact.

The NDP member for Acadie—Bathurst also complained during the debate that it did not apply to other types of organizations. We have heard that here as well. In fact, in ratcheting up the rhetoric, he suggested that transparency for a wide range of organizations was a matter of justice.

When drafting my bill, I chose to focus on addressing public financial disclosure by labour organizations, because they were unique institutions with a specific purpose and function, distinct from the other types of institutions that he mentioned. However, there is nothing in Bill C-377 that would preclude another member from seeking financial disclosure by other types of organizations that receive a public benefit. Some members, even this afternoon, mentioned the CFIB and I note that as a non-profit it does not receive a public benefit, unlike charities and the labour movement.

Despite the fact that a handful of union leaders and NDP MPs have suggested otherwise, this is very much a pro-union bill. The bottom line in all of this is that public financial disclosure will build public confidence that the public benefits that labour organizations are being provided are being used efficiently and effectively.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my input and I seek the support of all my colleagues at the second reading of the bill so that it can go to committee for further review.

Petitions March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and present a petition on behalf of the people of South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

The petition states, in part, that one of the hallmarks of a stable and mature democracy is financial transparency and accountability, that the majority of Canadians believe that labour unions should be required to disclose how they spend their union dues, and that labour union financial transparency would allow Canadians to gauge the effectiveness and financial integrity and health of unions.

The petitioners ask that the House pass the disclosure legislation as quickly as possible.

International Co-operation March 12th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, people around the world are worrying about the Assad regime's increasing use of violence against the Syrian people. Thousands of victims are being displaced from their homes and are in desperate need of emergency medical care, food and shelter. As this conflict continues to escalate, so does the need for humanitarian assistance.

Can the Minister of International Cooperation update the House as to our government's response to the humanitarian needs in Syria?