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Bill S-219: An Act to deter Iran-sponsored Terrorism, Incitement to Hatred, and Human Rights Violations - Third Reading

Honourable Senators, I rise at Third Reading of Bill S-219: An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations. I commend Senator Tkachuk for sponsoring this important piece of legislation and for his tireless dedication to this issue.

Bill S-219 is grounded in a moral and ethical purpose: and that is to monitor one of the most malign nations in the world and to calibrate our nation’s sanctions accordingly.

Bill S-219 requires the Government of Canada to publish an annual report on Iranian sponsored terrorism and human rights abuses. 

This report must be published on or before March 31st each year and include statistical information on the incidence of:

•Terrorist activity

•Support for terrorism

•Incitement to hatred; and,

•Human rights violations emanating from Iran during the preceding year.

This report must include the measures the government of Canada has taken during the preceding year to address these activities by Iran, and name anyone who has been convicted of an offense under the Special Economic Measures Act.

Within 15 days of being published, the report must be tabled in both houses of parliament. 

This approach not only creates an evidence based record of what abuses the Iranian Government have participated in, but sets out the pathway for Canada to lift its remaining sanctions against Iran, which include prohibitions against:

-Financial transactions involving individuals and entities identified by Canada as being involved in the development of Iranian weaponry; and,

-The export, sale, supply and shipment of goods such as aerosol generators, riot gear and precious metals

Should there be a period in which two consecutive annual reports demonstrate that there is no credible evidence of state sponsored terrorism or human rights abuses, the Government of Canada would be able to lift sanctions against Iran.

The legislation lays out the various ways this evidence can be demonstrated, and includes:

•The Iranian Government allowing the UN special rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran to investigate conditions without restrictions,

•Ratifying and implementing the UN Convention against Torture,

•Unconditionally releasing all political prisoners including the citizens of Iran detained in the aftermath of the 2009 election,

•Allowing freedom of expression, and

•Prohibiting all forms of discrimination on the basis of colour, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

These are practical standards that Canada can set as the precursor to lifting sanctions that are currently imposed against Iran.   They add a layer of accountability for any government considering relaxing sanctions in the future.

Furthermore, Bill S-219 applies existing Special Economic Measures Act sanctions to the so-called Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO) and to entities that are owned or controlled by EIKO or the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Adding these two groups to the Special Economic Measures Act would bring Canada’s sanction regime in line with the Government of the United States recent announcement that it will sanction the IRGC and EIKO through the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

Finally this legislation calls on the Minister of Public Safety to consider whether to recommend that the IRGC be listed as a terrorist entity under the criminal code.

Put together, these provisions form a well thought out policy that sets a clear standard for how Canada should move forward with its engagement with Iran.

I have listened to the criticisms against this legislation, particularly from those who believe that an annual audit of Iran’s terrorist activity and human rights abuses will disrupt diplomatic relations between our two countries.

Well, that may very possibly be true.  But if Canada wishes to be a beacon of moral leadership in the world, that is as it should be.

Honourable Senators, the legislation before us is precisely about leadership and demonstrating to the world that practical and responsible steps can be taken to compel the Iranian Government to end both their domestic reign of terror and their world-wide campaigns of chaos and war.

Last month, I joined the Iranian community of Toronto to commemorate the victims of the 1988 Iranian Massacre.  A massacre which claimed the lives of up to 30,000 dissidents and perceived enemies of the state. 30 years on, the political situation in Iran has not improved – and the perpetrators of the 1988 massacre remain at the nucleus of power.

Executions for crimes such as drug offences, apostasy, same sex relations and blasphemy continue at an unrelenting pace.  Journalists and online media activists are jailed and tortured for attempting to exercise their right to freedom of speech.  Women’s rights and minority rights are non-existent. 

And Iran's intercontinental ballistic missile program has in fact accelerated since the signing of the JCPOA nuclear agreement in 2015, posing a serious threat to the international community.

We can all hope that a “revolution from below” may overthrow the present regime. But it is a fallacy to think that the current regime can itself be “reformed” through closer engagement.

There are those who have argued in this chamber that the current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is a moderate who can bring change to Iran.  To those who accept this view, I ask for evidence.

Because here is the evidence to the contrary:

Under the leadership of the so-called moderate Rouhani, Iran’s list of terrorist clients continues to include:

•Shia terrorist groups in Iraq;

•Hamas;

•Palestinian Islamic Jihad;

•(and) Hezballah in Lebanon.

Last month alone the Iranian backed Assad regime in Syria murdered 3,000 individuals and is responsible for the violent deaths of almost half a million total.

Iran is also responsible for the chaos unfolding in Iraq and Yemen.  And it’s responsible too for financing Hezbollah’s arms race against Israel.

Domestically, Iran continues to execute hundreds of people every year and comes second only to China in the number of executions carried out annually.  Amnesty International recorded nearly 1,000 executions in Iran in 2015 and at least 567 in 2016.

Honourable colleagues, let us not fool ourselves: neither the lifting of economic sanctions nor the alleged appeal of diplomatic re-engagment has changed anything about the behavior of this rogue, nihilistic regime.

I believe everybody in this Chamber agrees that we must do everything we can to promote human rights across the world.  Canada must be a leader among civilized nations and not be afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if such a principled stand comes at an economic cost to ourselves.

In order to stand up for what is right, real action, not just through pretty words is required.

And that is why Honourable Senators I urge all of you to support Bill S-219.

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