Human Rights Situation in Iran
Mr. Jim Maloway (Elmwood—Transcona, NDP):
Mr. Chair, I am pleased to speak to the take note debate tonight on the situation in Iran sponsored by the member for Mount Royal. I know he has a very good command of the issues in this area. We spoke a couple of weeks ago on the situation in Egypt.
As members know, the situation is very fluid and has developed just in the last few weeks. The government fell In Tunisia and then the government fell in Egypt, which I believe was a bigger surprise. Now we are talking about recurring protests in Iran and other countries in the region. I do not know how much of it is facilitated by the up-to-date information that is available today through networks such as Al Jazeera because people can access that information. We are being told that new technologies, such as Facebook, the Internet and so on, have been big facilitators, whereas maybe 50 or 100 years ago we would not have had these types of activities. I do not know that we can actually be 100% sure of that but suggestions have been made that this has been facilitated by these modern mediums. If that is the case, it is important and incumbent upon the friendly support of governments across the world to take action and support the protestors for the purposes of establishing democratic regimes to the extent that is possible in some of these countries.
I must admit that I am impressed with the House of Commons Subcommittee on International Human Rights which produced the report on human rights in Iran. Our member and members from other parties are on the committee that produced its report in December 2010. The report contains 24 fairly excellent recommendations that came out of that committee and I think it would be a travesty if those recommendations were simply not followed up on.
I have been around governments for a long time, 26 years as an elected person but a number of years before that working for the political apparatus. I can say that governments of all stripes operate more or less on a boiler room day-to-day crisis management basis. They do things when they have to do them. Often times we find that the follow up is not there. Promises are made by governments, which is why we have a press out there that regularly follows us around to ensure that we are actually doing what we said we would do.
Earlier on tonight, I had an opportunity, which I may have missed, to ask the new minister a question. I would also like to congratulate her on her long overdue appointment. I believe she talked about consular services in 260 locations having to deal with 600 cases a day. I would like to know from her or any other member of the government, should one be around later to speak to this, if perhaps someone could provide me with the number of consular service cases the government has been dealing with on a daily basis over the past year to give us a longer term view of that.
I also would like to know where the government sits regarding the 24 recommendations that are mentioned in the report. I had not intended to but I will go through some of those recommendations because some of them are fairly good.
As we indicated, the situation is changing and is very fluid so perhaps different recommendations that may be relevant today or were relevant in December may not be relevant in a few months. Maybe some more accelerated or extreme measures might need to be taken if the situation gets further out of hand.
Recommendation number one reads:
The Subcommittee recommends that the Government of Canada continue to provide moral support and should increase, if possible, its financial support for Canadian and Iranian civil society organizations and other human rights groups that document and report on human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime.
Once again the committee has to do a follow-up to ensure these recommendations are adopted. The government member just indicated to us, and I am not sure whether all members of the committee are even aware, that the government has not even adopted this report yet. Assuming that we are all on the same page, the government should get this report adopted tomorrow and then start laying out a plan as to how it will implement these recommendations.
The report talks about providing moral and diplomatic support to the democratic movement in Iran. The government is willing and able to do that, and it has been doing that.
The report suggests that the government consider funding a research chair at a Canadian university dedicated to the study of Canadian Iranian relations, including the human rights situation in Iran. The documentation of cases is really vital to successful cases long term. So much of history’s atrocities have not been documented and, without proper documentation, it is hard to prove at the end of the day. If we could get cases documented, then we could move forward and get results through international courts and other adjudication bodies. The documentation is really the worst enemy of the tyrants because they thrive on being able to hide in the shadows, use force whenever it suits them and basically run and escape. It is only when the cases can be documented and the light is shone on those cases that proper results will be made.
I recall a police person telling me a number of years ago that while he really could not tell what would happen in certain situations, he knew that if the light was shone on it things might develop and people would start scurrying around. Sure enough, that is one of the approaches that it takes.
If world attention is drawn to a problem, then tyrants will not be very happy with that development, particularly if some sanctions are attached.
Another recommendations reads:
…Radio Canada International to consider programming in Farsi over its worldwide shortwave service, over conventional AM/FM broadcasting in the Gulf region, and over the Internet.
This is another excellent idea that must be followed through on and initiated.
We talked about all the modern technological advancements like Facebook, Twitter and the Internet to the extent that we can work around those issues and use those issues. That would be a positive thing to put these tyrants in their place. That is one of the things that we can use against them to try to get results.
There is talk about a prohibition of Canadian registered ships from docking in Iran and Iranian registered ships from docking in Canada. I was wondering about the airline issue. Maybe someone knows about the issue of airline service to Iran and what is happening there.
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Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, NDP):
Mr. Chair, I would like to comment on something that came from the subcommittees report. We had witnesses before the subcommittee who were hopeful that the change in Iran can and must come from its people. Several witnesses told the members that the new generation in Iran, the children of the revolution, are not happy with the social, economic and political policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The new generation is well-educated, worldly and very realistic.
Professor Akhavan referred to one of the slogans. One of the slogans on the streets now is, “Neither Gaza nor Lebanon, I will only sacrifice my life for Iran”. They are saying that they are tired of hate-mongering and the use of imaginary external enemies as a way of crushing internal dissent and that they want to live in peace with their neighbours. Professor Akhavan is from this area.
I am wondering if the member is aware of any other totalitarian governments around the world that use what I refer to as sleight of hand or distraction away from what they are doing to their own people by way of pointing at an external enemy.
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Mr. Jim Maloway:
Mr. Chair, one example that I can think of is North Korea where it keeps its people in state of poverty and under control by using that kind of threat that they are about to be invaded. It is very common for repressive regimes to conjure up imaginary enemies to keep their people in line. Once that is broken, they do not have a very good argument for staying in power.
I am still interested to know about the air situation, because with any country that is shut off, sanctions work. Libya was a really good example that faced sanctions because it too was put on the Americans’ list as a country of state-sponsored terrorism. It was shut out of a lot economic ventures because of its status. There was really no tourism investment from the United States or Europe. Once Colonel Gaddafi got out of the situation he was in and renounced international state-sponsored terrorism and his continuing role in it, then Libya opened itself up to a large development of tourism and oil development. That was a good reason for him to stop doing what he was doing before. That situation did work and I am sure we will have to look at some sort of isolating tactics like that against Iran.