Iran’s human rights record was the center of debate at the House of Commons last Monday May 14 as MPs discussed what Canada’s role should be in supporting Iranians whose rights continue to be abused.
Conservative Calgary East MP Deepak Obhrai, the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, started the debate by listing the “deep concerns” and “troubling” abuses of women, gay, religious minorities, and activists in Iran have recently endured.
Obhrai stated that Canada has taken a “strong stand” against the violations through United Nations human rights resolutions “to abolish the use of stoning and hanging as methods of execution and further calls on Iran to respect its human rights obligations in law and in practice.”
Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar added a brief history of Iranian politics from the 1906 constitutional revolution up to the 2009 Presidential election controversy and advised on the repercussions of war.
“To support people in Iran, we should not beat the drums of war, or get loose with our rhetoric, or suggest we will go to war with Iran, because that supports the regime,” said Dewar in the debate. “It gives it a pretext to crack down on the population.”
Several speakers expressed dismay to the closing of Rights & Democracy, the independent agency that monitors human rights and promotes democracy abroad and also to the cost cutting measures the government recently placed on the CBC.
Conservative MP Scott Reid did not mention the soon-to-be-defunct agency or the CBC but did bring up the recommendations made in the 2010 report from the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on Iran’s threat to peace, international law and human rights.
The report included 24 recommendations that Reid, who chaired the subcommittee of the report, said Canada “should do.”
Two of the recommendations included “funding a research chair at a Canadian university dedicated to the study of Canadian-Iranian relations and to “encourage Radio Canada International to consider programming in Farsi over its worldwide shortwave service.”
Scarborough-Agincourt MP Jim Karygiannis questioned if the money to be spent for funding Reid’s proposed recommendations should rather be allocated towards re-opening Canada’s visa office in Tehran.
“Instead of Canada being supportive of the people in Iran and being there with them, we did the worst thing we could have done and closed down the visa section,” said Karygiannis.
Liberal MP and ardent critic of the Iranian regime Irwin Cotler suggested three of his own recommendations; to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization, to expand human rights sanctions, and to initiate an inter-state complaint against Iran before the International Court of Justice .
Cotler said the report was “overtaken by the election” and “still deserves adoption.”
No mention of possible meetings between the Iranian-Canadian communities and the government were made.
You can view the debate and all its speakers, in writing, by visiting this site.