Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Questions on the Order Paper

With respect to the Iranian leadership’s comments concerning Israel and Jews, does the government: (a) recognize that Iran has committed the crime of incitement to genocide under international legal instruments; (b) intend to act to combat Iranian incitement to genocide; (c) intend to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for discussion and action regarding its state-sanctioned incitement to genocide; and (d) intend to initiate before the International Court of Justice an interstate complaint against Iran?
Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, in response to (a) and (b), in September 2009, the Minister of Foreign Affairs led the Canadian delegation in walking out of the United Nations General Assembly as President Ahmadinejad was delivering his speech. This action was taken in order to protest his repugnant statements against Israel and his continual denial of the Holocaust, as well as Iran’s blatant disregard for the basic human rights of its citizens and foreign nationals, including Canadian Zahra Kazemi, whose death remains unexplained. We were followed by many like-minded members of the international community, including the United States and most European countries. Our actions demonstrated Canada’s leadership and commitment to taking a clear position on Iran’s unacceptable behaviour.
Canada has long been outspoken in the UN and elsewhere about the unacceptable undemocratic practices and deplorable human rights record of the Government of Iran. We are deeply concerned that the human rights situation in Iran has deteriorated significantly in 2009, especially following the June 12 presidential elections. As part of its ongoing efforts to focus the international community’s attention on the human rights situation in Iran, Canada, along with 41 co-sponsors, tabled a resolution on the human rights situation in Iran on October 29, 2009, at the third committee of the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, for the seventh consecutive year. The resolution was adopted by the third committee of the UNGA on November 20, 2009. It expresses particular concern about the human rights violations committed by the Government of Iran following the June 12, 2009, presidential election. The resolution calls on the Government of Iran to fully respect its human rights obligations and implement previous resolutions and to cooperate with international human rights mechanisms by redressing its inadequate record of co-operation with international human rights mechanisms. It also encourages Iran to "continue exploring cooperation on human rights and justice reform with the United Nations, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights". The adoption of the Canada-led resolution is another clear signal of the international community’s concern for the human rights of people in Iran. It sends a message of hope to the victims of violations, and to the human rights defenders who seek to effect positive change in Iran.
The international community has a responsibility to address egregious violations of human rights. Canada, along with much of the international community, believes it is important that we continue to exert pressure on the Iranian regime to improve the current situation for the people of Iran.
In response to (c), if Canada were to refer Iran to the UNSC regarding its remarks calling for the eradication of the State of Israel, it is unlikely that the UNSC would take any action, thereby handing Iran an undesirable political victory. Instead, as outlined in the 2009 UN resolution on the human rights situation in Iran, Canada will continue to press the Iranian government to grant access to the special rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; and on the situation of human rights defenders access to Iran; as well as the working group on arbitrary detention and the working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances; in order to monitor human rights violations writ large.
In response to (d), it is unclear whether the International Court of Justice would be able to take jurisdiction in this case. An unsuccessful attempt at pursuing Iran in this forum would hand the regime an undesirable political victory. Moreover, Israel, as the state party most concerned with this matter, has not brought an action before the ICJ.