Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Halifax for speaking about our late leader, Jack Layton. Quite frankly, with regards to the member for Scarborough—Agincourt, it was absolutely contemptible that he would actually stand and say what he did.
Besides all of that, it is clear to me, although it is not as clear to my colleague down there. Then again, they are Liberals and I would not expect it to be clear. That is why they are like flags on a flag pole, whichever way the wind blows today, they will blow that way too.
The bottom line is that there are many folks who would be more than pleased to come here and serve their country. In fact, I could name five people in Welland for the member for Halifax. I have heard Senators say that is why they are there. They are there to serve our country. Let them come and serve, and we will give them per diem. However, they do not need to get paid. If the parliamentary secretary says that the only reason they come is because they get a salary, perhaps that is not who we want to have in there in the first place.
What does my hon. colleague think about that?
Does the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt have the unanimous consent of the House to table the letter?
The hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt, a real point of order.
Order, please. If the parliamentary secretary and the member for Scarborough—Agincourt want to continue this conversation, I suggest they do it outside the chamber. If they fail to do so, they will be asked to leave or they will not be recognized for the balance of the debate this evening.
Questions and comments, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta.
Mr. Speaker, I am struck by the irony of that member standing in the House to talk about free speech and the ability of members to express themselves freely in the House. My colleague has indicated that the member for Winnipeg North may well have used up about 400 years of statements since the 2011 general election, and that is his right as a member. He is recognized by the Speaker and he uses that right frequently.
I have to be honest, given the ruling that we heard yesterday I think that members' freedom and their ability to be recognized by the Speaker has been codified by that ruling. I would like to hear, for example, questions or statements by the member for Ottawa South or perhaps the member for Scarborough—Agincourt. I have not heard them speak in the House for some time. Maybe the Liberal Party would like to unshackle those members.
I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt for rising and making this request. However, I do not feel it meets the test to grant an emergency debate.
We will go back to the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Superior North who would like to contribute to the question of privilege raised by the member for Langley.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member for Scarborough—Agincourt when he was making his comments. If I heard correctly, he was asking that the government put forward $2 million.
However, the government today has added $10 million, for a total of $22 million, into humanitarian aid to help the people in Syria. We are working with our humanitarian partners. We want to see all of that aid get into Syria and help the people there. We know that there are needs and so we have stepped up.
If the member had come to committee, he would have heard the testimony—
Order. The hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt is rising on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday in question period, the member for Scarborough—Agincourt rose in the House and said that he “twice I wrote to the Minister of Foreign Affairs requesting that he contact the Egyptians with respect to the false accusations that my constituent”. He went on to say, “The minister ignored my letters”.
For the record, I have a copy of the letter the minister wrote to him here. Not only the letter the minister wrote, but also the letter from the staff of the minister who wrote to the member.
Therefore, what the member said was not factual, and I would like that member to apologize to the minister for giving a false report. As well, with permission, I would seek unanimous consent to table this letter to show what the letter said.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support a number of petitions referring to Canada's 400-year-old definition of human being and asking Parliament to bring that into the 21st century. The petitioners are asking Parliament to stand up for the principle that every human being is created equal and every human being has an inherent worth and dignity.
In particular, I have a petition with almost 300 signatures from the riding of Mississauga—Erindale. I have a petition with almost 400 signatures from Calgary, Saskatoon, Vancouver Island, London and Bruce Grey. I have petitions from the riding of Scarborough—Rouge River, which together accomplish almost 1,200 signatures, many of whom are women. I have a petition from the riding of Markham—Unionville, which together have almost 1,300 signatures. I have a petition to the same effect from the riding of Oak Ridges—Markham with 300 signatures. I also have a petition from the riding of Scarborough—Agincourt with almost 300 signatures.
I have received petitions from all across the country with thousands of signatures but I will stop there for today.
Mr. Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to add a few thoughts to this important debate. I am splitting my time with the member for Scarborough—Agincourt.
In preparing for this evening's debate, I had opportunity to speak with representatives of the Christian community, the Druze community, the Turkish community and a few others as well. I am quite grateful for their contributions to my thinking. It is important for Canadians, particularly MPs, to listen to what the diaspora communities have to say. I appreciate the diaspora communities sometimes have their own agendas. Nevertheless, it is useful in informing us as MPs so that we, in turn, can contribute to the formulation of government policy particularly with respect to an issue as serious as Syria.
While by no means unanimous, the communities that I spoke to had one clear message. Bear in mind that these are minority communities. The one clear message is that President Assad must go. Their opinion was based upon real life experience. Many of them are recent immigrants from that part of the world and being in some instances from minority communities can easily relate to stories where their own families have been subjected to persecution. They have, in the phrasing of refugee language, well-founded apprehension and fear based upon persecution for religion, ethnicity or race. It does not take a great deal of prompting to get them to tell stories, frequently horrific ones, of how they have been subjected to violence, frequently murders in the family and sometimes property confiscation.
The May 15 issue of the R2P Monitor states, “Threats to the safety and security of Alawites, Kurds, Christians and other minorities complicate the prospects for a peaceful resolution of the conflict”. Canadians need to bear that in mind, as does the government. I am sure the government is cognizant of the fact that the minorities have well-founded fear of majority rule. Their concern is that in the event that Mr. Assad leaves and is replaced, the question is, replaced with what?
The atrocities that are happening in Syria have been well documented and spoken to by other members this evening. I do not propose repeating what has already been said, but I want to add my voice and the voice of my constituents to the demand that President Assad step down. I would say to President Assad, “The objective international community has made and documented its observations and condemns your atrocities against your own people. You, sir, should leave and you should leave now.” In looking forward to the next steps that we should take in this conflict, I am particularly grateful to my colleague from Mount Royal for his insightful analysis and call to action.
Let me conclude on the point that I raised in questions, and that is the role of Russia. The key to the resolution of this conflict is Russia. I, frankly, do not understand why Russia takes the position it does. It has had a historical position on the Middle East and it is a position that everyone knows about. It goes back to colonial times. It has ports in Syria. I have no idea why Russia continues to take its position, particularly its position with respect to the alienation of the remainder of the Arab League. The Arab League is unanimous in the view that Assad must go.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-373, An Act to establish the Department of Peace.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce my bill, an act to establish the department of peace, to help advance the cause of peace in Canada and throughout the world.
The idea that all people can live in peace may seem a bit utopian, but each generation must, on behalf of the next generation, do everything in its power to come as close to reaching this goal as possible.
I would like to pay tribute to my former colleague, Bill Siksay, for introducing this bill in the last Parliament. He truly was and remains an inspiration for all of us.
I would also like to thank the leader of the Green Party and the Liberal member for Scarborough—Agincourt, as well as my fellow NDP members, for supporting this bill.
I also thank the folks from the Canadian Department of Peace Initiative for all their hard work in advancing this cause, a number of whom are here today. I extend a special thanks to Bill Bhaneja, the co-founder of CDPI, as well as Theresa Dunn, co-chair of CDPI, Koozma Tarasoff, a Doukhobor writer, historian and long-time advocate of peace, and Laura Savinkoff of Grand Forks of the Boundary Peace Initiative, among others.
This is truly a non-partisan issue. I urge all my colleagues on both sides of the House to join us in support of this important initiative. Let us give peace a chance.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada continues to stand up for the rights of religious minorities and for the universal right to religious freedom for all faiths.
Last night, the Liberal Party of Canada once again stood up to tell the government and the world that the atrocities facing Coptic Christians in Egypt could not be allowed to continue. Through the tireless work of the Liberal MP for Scarborough—Agincourt, along with others in the Liberal caucus and party, including the distinguished member for Mount Royal, the issue of the persecution of Christians has been raised repeatedly by our members on the floor of the House of Commons.
The Coptic Christian faith in Canada is a robust and positive force in Canadian society and Canadian neighbourhoods. In the home of the Coptic faith in Egypt, Coptic Christians have preached peace for centuries, yet they have been persecuted and murdered for their faith and seemingly all but abandoned by those with a duty to protect.
Never forget, Coptic Christians are among the original Egyptians who now willingly share their land for one Egypt. Coptic Christianity is one of the oldest religions in all of Egypt, which persevered by the faith of its members and by—
Mr. Speaker, it has been an interesting debate. I commend the member for Scarborough—Agincourt for his effort in bringing this debate to the floor of the House. It is an important debate and it is a debate that is timely. I appreciate his efforts, both on the floor of the House and elsewhere. It has been a significant effort to bring this debate forward so that it is in the minds of Canadians and in the mind of the government.
We have watched the Arab Spring with various degrees of enthusiasm, trepidation and discouragement. We have watched people from Tunisia and Yemen embrace a desire for freedom and accountable government.
Canada has contributed in its own small way to the yearnings to throw off the yoke of oppression of a madman in Libya. We can only hope that the people of Libya will not descend into chaos that is worse than before. It was also encouraging to see elections take place in Tunisia.
How all this shakes down is probably anybody's guess. However, we do have a tremendous advantage here in Canada, in that we have diaspora from pretty well all over the world and those diaspora can, in many instances, inform us as politicians and also inform the government and give us a tremendous advantage as to how to interpret the events that are happening in the various countries.
That brings me to Egypt. Egypt is easily the largest and most important of the Arab countries. It has had a glorious past and it may yet have a glorious future. However, for many decades, it has wallowed in a state of despair and despondency which has really never let it take its rightful place in the community of nations.
Just a few months ago, Coptic Christians and Muslims stood shoulder to shoulder to throw off the Mubarak yoke. Unfortunately, that unity of purpose and hope has been fractured by the abuse of some Islamist elements that have used this time of turmoil to settle ancient grievances and assert a form of Islam repugnant to the legitimate aspirations of those Egyptians who risked their lives for freedom.
Equally unfortunate has been the wilfully blind attitude of the military to the abuses of minorities, particularly the Copts.
As the sole remaining protection of the security and rights of all Egyptians, the army has been missing in action. Television images of wilful destruction of churches and abuse of worshippers reflects very poorly on the military. The protection of minority rights and religious freedom should be, if it is not already, a core value of the military and those who aspire to lead the country.
One would have hoped that the army would have been Egypt's guarantor of security as Egypt transitions to an accountable post-Mubarak government.
The treatment of the Coptic Christians will be a litmus test for Egypt's success. If the abuse of people and the destruction of property continues, Egypt will fail. The Arab Spring will become an Arab winter in Egypt and the people will return to a new era of despair and despondency that will look a lot like the old era of despair and despondency.
For those who support the religious persecution of this minority, I say, “You are destroying Egypt's lone chance of success”. It is the ultimate in self-limitation. If Egypt does not treat the Copts with dignity, respect and the rule of law, Egypt will fail. No country in the world can prosper if its minorities do not also prosper.
Sri Lanka is a classic example. Sri Lanka has had a low grade civil war for several generations. In 2009, the conflict came to an end without justice for the Tamils. If there is no justice and respect for the religious and ethnic minorities, as it has debilitated Sri Lanka for literally generations, it will also debilitate Egypt.
There is no doubt that Egypt will face serious challenges regardless, but it will inevitably handicap itself if it fails to respect and protect the Coptic minority. The best traditions of ancient Islam protected and encouraged minorities.
Order. The member for Scarborough—Agincourt needs to come to order. The parliamentary secretary needs to come to order.
Order, please. We have to give the hon. member time to respond.
The hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.
The hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.
I thank the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt for indicating that to the House.
The hon. Minister of Labour.
Given that there seems to be agreement for this, does the House give its unanimous consent for the motion by the member for Scarborough—Agincourt as amended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs? Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?
The electoral district of Scarborough--Agincourt (Ontario) has a population of 111,867 with 74,734 registered voters and 185 polling divisions.
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