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Diplomatic Relations with Iran

Hon. Linda Frum: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On November 1, while in Jerusalem, Minister Freeland stated there is one condition for the Trudeau government to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. That is the liberty of Maryam Mombeini.

When pressed by journalists, her office refused to say if the talks to reopen our embassy in Tehran were still ongoing. This is a surprising response given that last June 12, the House of Commons adopted a motion calling for the government to cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations.

Both Minister Freeland and Prime Minister Trudeau voted in favour of the motion to cease any and all negotiations.

Senator Harder, what exactly is the position of the Trudeau government on this topic? Are you negotiating with Iran for the reopening of the Canadian embassy? If not, why will you not confirm you are abiding by the terms of the motion adopted by the House of Commons of June 12?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for her question. Let me repeat the Foreign Affairs Minister of Canada speaks on behalf of the Government of Canada and her expression of views with regard to the obstacle preventing the Government of Canada from moving forward with diplomatic relations remains the obstacle.

Hon. Leo Housakos: On the same line of questioning, government leader, when the Parliament of Canada puts forward a motion and supports it almost unanimously on the other side, isn’t the government obligated to respect the wishes of Parliament? Doesn’t Parliament also speak on behalf of the Canadian people?

Senator Harder: Of course, the Parliament of Canada is an important voice. The House of Commons is an important voice. The Senate is an important voice. Foreign policy is conducted by the Government of Canada.


Hon. Linda Frum: I would like to return to my previous question and ask you how it is anything less than contempt for Parliament for the foreign minister to continue her negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran when the Prime Minister, she herself, the entire front bench of the Liberal government and the entire Liberal caucus itself voted on June 12 for a motion in the House of Commons to cease any and all diplomatic relations with Iran.

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, let me repeat: It is not at all inconsistent for the foreign minister to make clear what the obstacles are to complete restoration of diplomatic relations. That’s what the minister did. I congratulate her for it.

Hon. Frances Lankin: I question is for the Government Representative. As I understand, with respect to issues of national security, defence, war-making actions and foreign affairs, much of that is guided by Crown prerogative and provides a right and a responsibility for the executive branch to make decisions with the advice of Parliament.

The questions I have heard seem to strike at whether this undemocratic and a flouting of the democratic majority wish of Parliament. I’m not sure those two things are the same. I am wondering if you could dig down deeper on the Crown prerogative issue?

Senator Harder: Thank you, senator. I would be happy to. I was attempting to say, in more diplomatic words, the voice of Parliament is important, whether that be the House of Commons or the Senate. The Government of Canada conducts Canada’s foreign policy and is accountable for that to the people of Canada. The Government of Canada, through the Crown prerogative to which you refer, has great latitude, as we would wish it to have, to ensure the security of Canada, the defence of Canada and the advancement of Canada’s interests in diplomatic and other avenues.

Senator Frum: Am I to understand now that we have had a legal explanation of the difference between a contempt of Parliament and something merely dishonest and cynical on the part of the Liberal government?

Senator Harder: No.

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