Conservative and Liberal parliamentarians joined forces to support a private member’s motion presented by a Conservative MP that condemns Iranian-backed terrorism directed against Israel and which calls on the Canadian government to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations.”
If implemented, it could mark a major change in government policy. Formal diplomatic relations with Iran were severed by the Stephen Harper government in 2012 but the current government led by Justin Trudeau has been considering restoring those ties.
In a 248-to-45 vote on June 12, parliamentarians approved a motion that “strongly condemns the current regime in Iran for its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world, including instigating violent attacks on the Gaza border,” and which also condemned “the recent statements made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calling for genocide against the Jewish people.”
The motion demands the release of Canadians held in Iran while recognizing the Iranian people’s fundamental rights to freedom of conscience and religion. The motion also called for the immediate designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a listed terrorist entity under the Criminal Code.
Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland supported the opposition motion, while members of the New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted against it. The motion represents the views of parliament, but is non-binding.
It was introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Garnett Genuis, who the week before presented a separate motion that condemned Hamas for instigating violence against Israel and in using civilians as human shields during a recent violent attack on Israel’s border.
That motion was tabled but did not come before parliament for a vote.
Genuis, MP for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, said the Tories have long opposed government moves to restore relations with Iran. Recent genocidal comments from the Iranian supreme leader, coupled with the case of Kavous Seyed-Emami, the Canadian professor killed while in Iranian custody, and the rising ferment of Iranians who oppose their government’s policies, prompted him to raise the motion.
Genuis said he was surprised that the motion received support from Liberal parliamentarians, including the Prime Minister and members of the cabinet. “It’s a reversal of two key policy areas,” he said, pointing to its provision to stop pursuing diplomatic relations and to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity.
“We are going to hold the government accountable to implement what is in the motion,” he added.
Debate on the motion proved to be lively, with New Democrat MPs saying they could support parts of the motion that condemned the “unacceptable” comments by the Iranian cleric, but that they disagreed with abandoning steps to restore diplomatic relations.
“The NDP supports diplomatic engagement, based on the principle that dialogue is the best path forward to peace and positive change. The decision to cut diplomatic ties with Iran shows perhaps a profound misunderstanding of what diplomacy is. Diplomacy is about advancing national interests and values and using dialogue to build better understanding and progressive change. It is not really about shunning others,” said Jenny Kwan, NDP MP for Vancouver East.
Speaking during the debate over the motion, Mount Royal Liberal MP Anthony Housefather said, “I am very pleased to have the chance to stand in the House today and support a resolution that condemns Iran. We should all condemn Iran for its human rights violations at home, for its importation of human rights violations abroad, for its support of terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East, for its support of the butchering Assad regime in Syria, for its denial of the Holocaust, for its threat of genocide against the Jewish people, for its attempts to eradicate Israel from the face of the earth, and for its desire to become a nuclear power and proliferate nuclear arms across the Middle East. That deserves to be denounced.”
Housefather said Hamas, backed by Iran, was responsible for the deadly violence on Israel’s border with Gaza and he affirmed his government’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
Commenting on passage of the motion, David Cooper, vice-president of government relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said, “We are very grateful to Garnett Genius for putting forward this important motion on Iran, and for the unanimous support it received from the Government and the Official Opposition.
We are going to hold the government accountable to implement what is in the motion
– Garnett Genuis
“The strong statements made by Members of Parliament from all parties denouncing Iranian behaviour during the debate on the motion is encouraging. We will continue to work with elected officials to ensure that Iran is held to account for its terrorist activities, its human rights abuses, and its repeated calls for the genocide of Israelis.”
With files from Janice Arnold.