Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Issue No. 15 - Evidence - Meeting of December 14, 2016

OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, to which was referred Bill S-226, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; and Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations, met this day at 4:17 p.m. to give consideration to the bills.

Senator Percy E. Downe (Deputy Chair) in the chair.


The Deputy Chair: Colleagues, welcome to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Senators Andreychuk, the chair of this committee, is the sponsor of the bill that's before us today, so I will be chairing this meeting.

We have two panels today. In the first panel, we are continuing our examination of Bill S-226, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

I have the great pleasure of welcoming the Honourable Irwin Cotler. If I start listing everything you've done, Mr. Cotler, we'll be here all day. Let me simply say he's been an outstanding advocate for human rights throughout his life, his career in Parliament and his career as a federal minister. He's internationally recognized for his work and is honoured in many platforms for that work.

We are delighted to have you here today, Mr. Cotler. I will call on you for opening remarks and then we will take questions that senators may have.

Hon. Irwin Cotler, Founder and Chair, Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm delighted to be here and to appear before this committee to participate in the review of Bill S-226.

This is not unrelated to a review that is taking place in the house regarding a mandated review of two pieces of legislation: the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act and the Special Economic Measures Act, which are necessarily implicated in the legislation before you.

As well, both the hearing here and the hearing in the house come against the backdrop of unanimous motions in both the House of Commons and the Senate, along with related private members' bills, that look toward establishing a global justice accountability act that would call upon the government to enact, effectively, global justice legislation, specifically targeting human rights violators.

I mention that because sometimes there's confusion that we're targeting governments. We're not targeting governments; we're targeting individuals. We don't have general sanctions; we have specific sanctions. We don't have vague applications; we have consequential applications with respect to exclusion of people who have engaged in gross violations of internationally recognized rights from coming into our country or from laundering their assets here.

Indeed, this hearing, I would say, is as timely as it is necessary, for we have been witnessing a resurgent global authoritarianism that has been finding expression in a massive domestic repression. We have seen this increasingly in countries like Russia and Iran, where you're going to have hearings shortly after my appearance here, and in China and Saudi Arabia, to name a few.

More importantly, this massive domestic repression is underpinned by a culture of impunity. That culture of impunity leads those engaged in a culture of criminality and corruption to then seek to launder their assets abroad. That effectively engages our own country in breaches of our responsibility to protect our own sovereignty and to protect our own integrity of our economy and the like.

Fortunately, as we meet, the United States Congress and the Senate have both recently adopted their Global Magnitsky justice legislation. This is the sequel to the justice for Sergei Magnitsky legislation initially adopted by both the house U.S. and Senate in 2012 that targeted Russia specifically, whereas this more recent adoption is global justice accountability legislation, though Magnitsky is the genesis for it.

As well, an all-party coalition of parliamentarians in the U.K. is undertaking a similar initiative. Interestingly, the government of Estonia, consequent upon a unanimous vote of their own parliamentarians, has enacted this legislation. It's worth noting that Estonia is a neighbouring country of Russia. It did not, nonetheless, feel that it could not do so because of any retaliatory action that might be taken by Russia.

I would like to very briefly organize my remarks around three themes. The first is an abbreviated critique of the pieces of legislation that are engaged by the house and relate to Bill S-226. I'm referring here to the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act and the Special Economic Measures Act, SEMA.

Second is the raison d'être for having the both justice for Sergei Magnitsky and global justice accountability legislation. I may skip that for reasons of time and respond to any questions on that.

The third theme would be the purposes to be served. Why are we seeking to enact this legislation? I think the raison d'être for this is sometimes not fully appreciated.

Let me just deal with the present legislation that is on the books in the House of Commons in Canada and relates here, and that is the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. Let me say that the limitation of this legislation, which was adopted in 2011 with the onset of the Arab Spring, is that its application can only be triggered if a request comes from a foreign government. That sometimes can be a situation in which you are asking the arsonist to put out the fire, so I want to say that piece of legislation, as it now stands, really is insufficient for our purposes, for the reasons I mentioned.

The second piece of legislation is the Special Economic Measures Act. Much of the Canadian sanctions regime under this legislation is pursuant to a UN sanctions regime or Canada acting in association with a multilateral grouping in that regard. But the threshold for unilateral Canadian action for empowering our government to take its own action with respect to any sanctioning conduct — the problem with this legislation is that on the one hand, the threshold is too high, and on the other hand, the language is too general. This finds expression in the fact that there have been only two prosecutions under this regime, related to the nexus to UN sanctions with respect to Iran. It does not contain — and this is the important point for our work and for your legislation — any specific triggering language that would specifically target those engaged in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and who would abuse our sovereignty, our economy and the like — in effect, who would abuse privileges of entry and laundering of assets in that regard.

Let me just go to the third theme. As I said, I'm not going to go into the second theme, which was how we got to this point in terms of justice for Sergei Magnitsky legislation to begin with, and then the more global application. You've had testimony in that regard, and I've read it, from Bill Browder, Thor Halvorsen and the like.

I will only mention one thing, which I think may be relevant. In October 2011, I initially proposed justice for Sergei Magnitsky legislation. That grew out of the whole assault on Sergei Magnitsky, what you know and what is well known to you. We had in Russia the largest corporate tax fraud in Russian history. The same Russian officials who perpetrated that tax fraud were then the same ones responsible for the arrest, detention, torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky. Then the crime was not only covered up but, in an initiative that would make Kafka blush, Magnitsky was then tried posthumously for the very criminality that those who were responsible for his murder had perpetrated.

In February 2012, Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the democratic opposition in Russia at the time, came here to the Canadian Parliament to support my then-private member's bill. What he said applies specifically to our hearing today. Then, we were speaking only about Russia, but it would apply generally. He said, "This legislation is pro-Russian. It's on behalf of the Russian people. It's on behalf of the human rights defenders who are putting themselves on the line. It should not in any way be interpreted as anti-Russian, other than being 'anti' the particular perpetrators of the violations of internationally recognized human rights who should be held accountable for that culture of criminality and corruption, and the attending culture of impunity which makes our action necessary.''

Now we move to the second stage. You could say, and rightly so, that Russia is not the only major human rights violator; there are other countries. Therefore, what we are seeking is not country-specific legislation. It's specifically targeting those individuals who engage in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

That brings me to the final point, which is the purpose of such legislation. If you look at the witness testimony out of the other chamber and the house, generally speaking, some three purposes were given for adoption of such legislation: one, to coerce or change in behaviour; two, to constrain the activities of an individual or group; and three, to signal the violation of international norms.

But my sense is that what was largely ignored or marginalized, however inadvertently, in the hearing before the other house is a number of compelling purposes that underpinned the initial justice for Sergei Magnitsky legislation and the more global one as embodied in your Bill S-226 — in other words, global human rights accountability legislation. For reasons of time, if I may, I will indulge a number of one-liners in terms of what these purposes are.

The first is the importance of combatting the persistent and pervasive cultures of corruption, criminality and, in particular, impunity, which make this legislation necessary, I would say here.

The second is deterring, thereby, other would-be violators, because if we indulge that culture of impunity, we only embolden the human rights violators. If we sanction the human rights violators, we can deter others because they know there is a price to be paid.

Third is that we make the pursuit of international justice a priority in our overall pursuit of justice as a pillar of our human rights policy, both domestic and international.

Fourth is that we uphold the rule of law and justice and accountability in our own territory. We are not interfering with the sovereignty of any other country. We are not acting in any other country. What we are seeking to do is to protect our own sovereignty, our own economy and our own rule of law and to do so through the application of visa bans excluding these would-be perpetrators from exercising what is, in effect, a privilege, and not a right, to enter our country. Regarding asset seizures, the testimony from both Thor Halvorssen and Bill Browder in particular that I read recently gave you really dramatic case studies of the extent to which those assets have, in fact, been laundered here, whether it is in the case of Venezuela or Russia.

Fifth is that we protect our Canadian businesses operating abroad. Magnitsky uncovered the largest corporate tax fraud in Russian history, and that was targeting a U.K.-based company, Hermitage Capital. It could target a Canadian company operating in Russia, and elsewhere. We want to protect, again, at least with regard to our own sovereignty and our own people, Canadian businesses operating abroad.

Sixth is the importance of the naming and shaming of human rights violators so that they cannot, in effect, leverage their culture of criminality and corruption and come to Canada, purchase houses here, vacation here and send their children to schools here and to launder their assets. In other words, we need to protect the integrity of our country's sovereignty, economy and our rule of law.

Seventh, and this is important, and I note it was stated by Senator Andreychuk and yourself, Mr. Chair, in testimony here before, but it bears repetition: this legislation does not bind the government. It's enabling legislation; it empowers the government. It gives them a resource and a tool with which we can sanction human rights violators and prevent them from coming into this country or, as I said, laundering their assets here. It allows us to be a protector of human rights and not, however inadvertently, indulge the violations of human rights which take place in the absence of such legislation.

Finally and most importantly, it tells the human rights defenders — whether they be the Magnitskys and Nemtsovs in Russia and their successors, now; the human rights defenders like Raif Badawi, the imprisoned blogger in Saudi Arabia; the imprisoned Bahá'í in Iran; or Leopoldo López and those imprisoned in Venezuela — they are not alone. We are with you. We stand in solidarity with you. We stand in solidarity with the protection of human rights in your country, internationally and in our country.

All we are seeking to do is to enact specific sanctioning legislation targeting specific individuals. We're not targeting a country and we're not targeting a government, and this is not always fully appreciated. We are targeting individuals and saying they cannot export to Canada that culture of criminality and corruption that they have been able to practice in their country because there may be a culture of impunity in their countries. We, Canada, have an obligation to protect our citizenry, our people, our rule of law, as I said, and our system of both domestic and international justice.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you, very much. That was a wonderful presentation. Your career as a former law professor and Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the Government of Canada obviously came through in those remarks as well. We very much appreciate it.

Senator Ngo: Thank you, Mr. Cotler.

Not all human rights violations have received the same level of attention, and information about individuals who committed these gross violations is not always readily available. Could you elaborate more on the kind of information the government should consider to impose sanctions against those human rights violators?

Mr. Cotler: Yes, and thank you, Senator Ngo, for that question.

It is, of course, the government that will be implementing this legislation. It is the government that will be responsible for the evidence gathering that will lead to the sanctioning of specific individuals, and there is a variety of sources that have increasingly become available in that regard. There is, for example, the evidentiary-based information that now arises from the special procedures in the UN system by the special rapporteurs. You have special rapporteurs now on torture, freedom of expression and freedom of religion and the like. Each of them has themselves been engaged in evidence gathering in that regard, which is not only sometimes country-specific but also individual- specific.

You also have very individual-specific evidence gathering through the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which undertakes regular inquiries and through their own findings of fact and conclusions of law can thereby determine if in fact there has been an arbitrary imprisonment, torture and the like. They have done that, for one example among others, in the case of Raif Badawi and other imprisoned officials in Saudi Arabia.

You have the panoply of evidence-based inquiries in the UN system. You also have the universal periodic review that takes place, and you have assessments and evaluations there. You've got the treaty bodies that speak to issues with regard to human rights defenders, torture and the like.

I haven't gotten to any information sharing that we can avail ourselves of with countries that have passed global justice accountability legislation, like the United States, which would have a wealth of documentation in this regard, the U.K. and, if it now follows, Estonia.

And, of course, we have our own information-gathering systems here in Canada, through the departments of Justice, Public Safety, Global Affairs and the like, and I haven't even gotten to the whole NGO community and their evidence-gathering processes, which have become increasingly available and are pervasive.

Thor Halvorssen, who has appeared before you, through his human rights foundation, among other things, sponsors an annual Oslo Freedom Forum, which I've attended, which specifically hears from families of dissidents and former political prisoners, if not the prisoners themselves.

There is a variety of intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental sources that can be made available for this purpose.

Senator Ngo: As we know, this bill is aimed at the individual, as you say, human rights violators. But I have a question that is very important here. A regime like Vietnam is communist regime, like China and other countries that are communist regimes. It's not just one person; it's the whole regime. How do you do that?

Mr. Cotler: You are not going after the government. You are not going after the country. You are going after those who may seek entry into Canada and who seek to launder their assets here. Effectively, the legislation is addressed as global justice accountability legislation where you identify, through the evidence, as I said, those perpetrators of violations of internationally recognized human rights, those who have been engaged in torture and those who have been engaged in extrajudicial executions.

I will give you an example: Right after this is a hearing with regard to Iran. I'll give you a high-ranking official there who should never be allowed into this country. If he or any of his colleagues seek to launder assets, they should be sued. You have Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the Minister of Justice in Iran. The evidence is fully available from objective sources and the like. That minister is responsible for the murder of thousands of dissidents in Iran in 1988 and thereafter. Yet he sits now as the Minister of Justice in Iran. That's the high-ranking official, in my view, who should not enjoy a privilege of being able to visit this country let alone launder any assets here.

All those against whom there is evidence that they have engaged in torture, in extrajudicial executions or other violations of internationally recognized human rights are the people we want to target. We will be sending a message to these people that if you are going to engage in torture, extrajudicial executions, and widespread and systematic imprisonment of human rights defenders, know that there will be accountability — not in your country, but we here in Canada will not allow you the privilege of being able to leverage your violations in order to enter and launder your assets here.

Senator Ngo: Thank you for the clarification.

Senator Ataullahjan: Mr. Cotler, we're talking about high-ranking officials who are involved, where there is evidence against them, of human rights violations, torture and killing. What is our responsibility when we are involved in developing countries? The country I'm referring to is Afghanistan. I don't know if you are aware of the story that just came out yesterday about the vice-president who was known as one of the most brutal leaders. What do we do? How do we tell them that these people or these groups are not acceptable? What is our responsibility? We are still involved in Afghanistan and still providing aid.

Mr. Cotler: To me, the issues, while related, are nonetheless mutually exclusive in this sense: We live in an international community where we have not only the globalization of media, markets, technology and trade, but also diplomatic relations and the like. There is no reason that those relationships with governments don't continue, however much we may not like the conduct that that government or senior officials are engaged in and however we may express that to them through diplomatic exchanges, meetings, informally and the like.

We are speaking specifically of only one kind of conduct: If the senior official in respect of whom there is clear, demonstrable evidence that they have violated internationally recognized human rights seeks to enter Canada or launder their assets here, that triggers the exercise of discretionary power of government. It does not bind our government to act. This legislation empowers and enables our government to act. It allows them to exercise their discretion, based on demonstrable evidence in certain circumstances and only with regard to that which is to take place on our territory, not that which is taking place in Azerbaijan or anywhere else. It's restrictive legislation because it's only triggered under certain circumstances with the authority of the government.

In a way, it enables us to hold those who engage in violations of internationally recognized human rights to account. It doesn't allow us to be an enabler of those violators by allowing them to come here and launder their assets.

Senator Woo: By way of introduction, this is my first meeting as a member of the committee. I say that only to apologize in case my question appears ignorant or out of order.

Mr. Cotler: The questions are always in order; it's the answers that sometimes are not.

Senator Woo: I am very lucky to listen to such a compelling conversation in my first meeting. You have made a strong case.

I have a question about internationally recognized human rights. As you know, the international declarations cover civil and political rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. Is there some risk that rights related to economic, social and cultural issues might fall under this definition? This would include the right to housing, education, water and basic human needs. What risk is there that this might be too broad a definition in its application?

Mr. Cotler: The breadth of application could be countered by the responsible discretion that is to be exercised by the government minister and those officials associated — in this instance, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is the requirement for evidence-based considerations.

Basically, we are speaking about — and I'm mentioning it because we are meeting in the wake of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — internationally recognized human rights that are anchored in that universal declaration. As it happens, we are meeting as well on the fortieth anniversary of the two covenants: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. I'm referring to the violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We are referring to the violations of those recognized human rights because those that I referenced earlier, be it torture, extrajudicial executions or what I call the criminalization of fundamental freedoms such as freedom of religion or speech, association and assembly — all those are anchored in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as in the universal declarations.

I have noticed in terms of human rights violators that we would seek to sanction in terms of examples given before you and otherwise that we really are speaking of those who are engaged in consistent patterns of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights of a character that I mentioned. As somebody who has been involved in representing political prisoners for the last 40 years, I've noticed in terms of political prisoners I am involved with now, the imprisoned bloggers in Saudi Arabia, Leopoldo López in Venezuela or the Nobel Peace laureate imprisoned in China, Liu Xiaobo — the only one in prison in China — for each of those cases and others I have not mentioned, the nature of the violation of rights is everywhere the same. It is what I call the criminalization of innocence, a criminalization of what these people are — human rights defenders — rather than what they do. It's a criminalization of their fundamental freedoms as set forth in these internationally recognized human rights treaties. Torture in detention, extrajudicial executions: all of these things are the patterns we see in all these cases.

What we are saying is, "If you engage in these violations of internationally recognized human rights and your own government doesn't hold you accountable'' — that is the first place where that accountability should take place — "and you seek to export that criminality abroad to our country and leverage that criminality in order to profit from it in our country through your laundering of assets, then we, in our country, with respect to our sovereignty and our protection of these internationally recognized human rights, will seek to hold you accountable in Canada to the extent we can.'' And I would say we are obliged to do so as a state party to these international covenants.

Senator Gold: Professor Cotler, it's a real honour and a privilege, on multiple levels, to be sitting across from you here. You answered the question I wanted to ask, but what, in your experience, is the strongest argument against this legislation, if there is one? From which quarters does it come, and how should we respond? I support this bill.

Mr. Cotler: I have been asking myself that question as well. Frankly, Bill Browder made compelling testimony before this committee when he said he doesn't see why we have any obligation to indulge a privilege that seeks to be engaged by a human rights violator to allow them to come into this country and to launder their assets. In that sense, there really is no credible argument against what we are seeking here, which is specific sanctions against specific individuals for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights that are at the core of who we are as a government and as a people and which find expression domestically in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I might add parenthetically, which is not always appreciated, but that was itself inspired by the very international human rights law to which I refer and of course our involvement in the promotion and protection of these internationally recognized human rights.

There is a concern that has not been brought up, but I think it's legitimate and should be stated: We want to be sure that even perpetrators must have due process. In other words, we don't want to have a situation where their arbitrariness and their gross violation of human rights somehow find expression in the arbitrariness of our application of our law. I think that the legislation and Bill S-226, as I understand it, seek to also provide for due process protections in that regard. That is a legitimate concern and it is something that I believe we are able, in the crafting and drafting of the legislation, to include: that due process protection.

But again, let us not detract from the overall raison d'être, which is to hold these people accountable to begin with.

Senator Cordy: Thank you, Mr. Cotler, as always, for being before us. I feel like we should just let you speak.

When I asked Mr. Browder about making the bill better, he said not to let perfect get in the way of making things better, which I think was a good comment.

First, does Canada have any sanctions in place currently to not allow money laundering, which was one of the examples, and to allow these people to bring money into our country, for safety for them? I'm surprised that we have nothing. How will this bill make it better?

Second, is the American Human Rights Accountability Act working, or is it too early to tell? Are we seeing signs that it is actually keeping people out or not allowing money obtained illegally to go into accounts within the United States? Do we know any of that yet?

Mr. Cotler: Some say we don't have any legal regime, but we do. The problem is that the legal regime that we now have is insufficient. Therefore, what we need to do is enhance that legal regime. SEMA, the Special Economics Measures Act, is a sanctioning regime, but as I said, it is one that is, for the most part, triggered by our involvement in United Nations sanctions or in association with other multilateral regimes. Where it comes to our enactment and implementation of unilateral sanctions, SEMA, as it exists now, needs to be amended for that purpose so that the sanctions can be made to target specific individuals in circumstances with demonstrable evidence.

On the matter of asset seizures, I mentioned we have the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. The problem there is it can only be triggered by a request from a foreign government, and that is a serious limitation. I understand when it was originally enacted in the Arab Spring in 2011 that it could have had a benefit if a country like Tunisia or the like had made a request in that regard, but for the most part, if you are depending on a request from the human rights violator's regime itself, it will not happen and will just enhance the culture of impunity.

In the documentation that the United States undertook with regard to the initial justice for Sergei Magnitsky legislation adopted in 2012, they did make a very express review of the individuals who should be held accountable. It was very comprehensive. I reviewed the evidence myself and, in fact, they only chose a certain number from those who were referenced to them as being accountable. They kept the threshold with respect to demonstrable evidence that they had in fact engaged in human rights violations to effective standards of investigations, corroborative evidence and documentation. The U.S. has ongoing congressional reviews, and they have shown us that you can do this and do this effectively.

Senator Andreychuk: First, I wanted to thank Mr. Cotler for his work in human rights, and particularly international human rights. I've had the privilege of working with him for many years now, but we won't say how many.

The genesis of this bill comes from Magnitsky, Bill Browder and yourself, Mr. Cotler. What you have done in the past and what we hope we can do here in the Senate is unite those of us who wish to work on human rights. It was not from one side of the house or the other side of the house; this bill has seen great support from all parties, and particularly from the political parties who announced in the campaign that they were for this bill. It's moving, though perhaps not as quickly as you and I would wish it to, and I want to give you credit for that.

One of the defences sometimes given is that if we do this and attract attention to an individual — which is what you are saying: not the government, but an individual — there could be repercussions in other foreign policy issues. It has often been said that if we do this, then that government in the country from which this person comes could retaliate in some way in using other foreign policy measures. Thank you for saying there is government and there is the individual. We are going for the individual, but sometimes the government and an individual can be blended.

What would your answer be to a government who says they are not sure they want to use it because there may be repercussions in other fields? What would your answer be to that, other than the obvious, that it's at their discretion to use the tool or not? They can weigh other consequences. It's an enabler, as you've said. That's been the argument I've heard, and the only one I've heard, against Bill S-226.

Mr. Cotler: Senator, you are correct, absolutely, that the government is not obliged to act on the legislation in any particular circumstances if, in their judgment, the risks of doing so outweigh the need to implement it. However, I would have to say that when we look at what the purposes are here, we are targeting specific individuals with respect to specific violations of internationally recognized human rights at a high threshold, such as torture, based on demonstrable evidence. That is an obligation that we ourselves have undertaken in terms of the pursuit of both domestic and international justice, and as a state party to uphold these treaties, such as the treaty with regard to the prohibition on torture.

If the choice is between defaulting on our obligations as a country, a government, a parliament and a people and deferring for fear of retaliation from a government that says, "We're going to retaliate because you didn't let in somebody who tortured people,'' well, I think that's the kind of risk we should be prepared to take. In light of the panoply of obligations that we have domestically and internationally for the pursuit of justice and the protection of those individuals who were prepared to put themselves on the line with regard to the protection of these fundamental freedoms, the least we can do is to say, among other things, "We stand in solidarity with you. We are with you, we share your commitments, and we, as a government, a parliament and a people will stand up and fulfill our obligations, not only in protecting you in the exercise of your internationally recognized human rights, but, in particular, in holding the perpetrators and violators of those internationally recognized human rights to account with respect to our country, sovereignty, peoplehood and values.''

The Deputy Chair: Honourable senators, on your behalf, I would like to thank the Honourable Irwin Cotler for his testimony today and also taking time from his busy schedule to appear before our committee.

Senator Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: Honourable senators, after this panel I would like to go in camera for one small item that we have to deal with. I don't believe it will take long, so we will just take a moment to clear the room after and have an in camera session.

For the moment, in this panel, we are starting our examination of Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations.

This bill is sponsored by our colleague, the Honourable Senator Tkachuk, who is here with us. Please join me in welcoming him to our committee. I think this is the first time you have come to our committee to testify. You will be our first witness, and you will be followed by Ms. Sheryl Saperia, Director of Policy (Canada) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. I welcome both of you to the committee.

Hon. David Tkachuk, sponsor of the bill: I would like to also introduce Danny Eisen, from the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, who is here to assist me.

This actually isn't my first time; it is my second time. I appeared before Foreign Affairs along with, actually, the same two people on the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which was introduced here many years ago. It was around the house and the Senate for five years and then was passed as government legislation.

Madam Chair and honourable colleagues, thank you for having me here to speak about Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations.

This bill is especially timely now as the Canadian government is reconsidering its relationship with Iran. The bill will in no way obstruct that. That is not its intent, nor if you read it carefully, is it designed to prevent an improved relationship.

It is designed to establish the explicit terms on which any improvement is based, beyond that which is outlined in the joint comprehensive plan of action. As many of you know, the plan of action called for the scaling back of nuclear- related sanctions against Iran, and that agreement was signed in July 2015. In January this year, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that Iran had complied with all its commitments under the plan of action.

As a result, Canada moved swiftly to scale back these sanctions related to Iran's nuclear effort to allow for what it called controlled economic re-engagement. Those sanctions had been imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act, or SEMA, and related to impediments to financial transactions, including the transfer of personal funds. Also removed were blanket prohibitions on exports to and imports from Iran.

In announcing their removal, Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said:

With these amendments to Canadian sanctions against Iran, Canadian companies will now be able to position themselves for new trade opportunities, but we will also maintain rigorous controls on any exports that raise serious proliferation concerns.

For his part, Foreign Minister Dion said:

Canada's approach to re-engagement with Iran, as with any country of concern, will be based on efforts to foster dialogue, rather than on withdrawal and isolation.

Canada will not lower the standard to which we hold Iran accountable, particularly on its human rights record and its aggressiveness toward the state of Israel. We will use any renewed engagement with Iran as a tool to support efforts to advance human rights and regional security.

Broad sanctions brought Iran to the negotiation table, resulting in an agreement which has rolled back Iran's nuclear program—an agreement with which Iran is complying. We need to recognize this progress and continue to encourage Iran to fully comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The objective of the bill is similar to the minister's objective with Iran. In fact, it complements those objectives rather than conflicting with them.

I believe the words of the minister quoted above open the door to that. Let me emphasize some of those words. In particular, Minister Dion said:

Canada will not lower the standard to which we hold Iran accountable, particularly on its human rights record and . . . We will use any renewed engagement with Iran as a tool to support efforts to advance human rights and regional security.

The minister also emphasized that it was broad sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiation table.

This bill simply takes the government at their word and provides them with the means to do exactly what they said. It does not impede engagement but rather helps give form to those engagements and a tool through which to monitor progress.

I described the particulars of the bill in my second reading speech, in which I said:

Beyond Iran's nuclear conduct, which rightly or wrongly has become legitimized under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Canadian Parliament has recognized three other toxic threats emanating from Iran: the massive human rights abuses; state sponsorship of international terrorism; and state-sanctioned incitement to hate and genocide.

I also cited the rape, torture and murder of Canadian Iranian-born citizen Zahra Kazemi in 2003 at the hands of the Iranian government. We must never forget that and the fact that, to this day, Iran subjects thousands of their own citizens to the same treatment. This bill is inspired by those and other similar transgressions by Iran that we must never lose sight of as we seek to engage them.

Take the Bahá'í people, for instance. They are a particular target in Iran. They can be arbitrarily detained, arrested and imprisoned. Their businesses are raided and attacked, and they are afforded zero legal protection under the Iranian constitution. What does this remind you of?

Think about this for a second: In Iran, the blood of Bahá'í is considered mobah, meaning it can be spilled with impunity. In Iran, homosexuals are persecuted and juveniles are executed. Let's not forget that Iran under the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is a participant in Assad's crimes against humanity — the genocidal crimes that are taking place this very minute in Aleppo. I want you to keep all of that in mind as Sheryl and I talk about the bill.

This bill asks the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister Dion in this case, whose words I cited above, to produce an annual report on Iran's non-nuclear but very bad — what we in Canada would consider criminal — behaviour in other areas. I am talking about its continued support and sponsorship of terrorism, its incitement to hatred and its human rights violation.

The report of the minister would also identify the officials in the Iranian government most responsible in those areas and would provide a description of the steps that the Canadian government has taken to address Iran's activities pursuant to them.

The bill provides that sanctions will be maintained unless it can be shown in two consecutive annual reports that there is demonstrable improvement in the behaviour of Iran in all three sanctioned areas.

It also provides that SEMA regulations apply to organizations or individuals within Iran most closely linked to the conduct of those activities. That means officials in the leadership, a long list of which is named in the bill, and includes organizations such as the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order, EIKO, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC.

EIKO is an entity in Iran established in the early years of this century to manage the commercial-built holdings of Iranian leadership, which are quite vast, as you can imagine. The IRGC was established in 1979 to protect the Islamic Republic of Iran and the ideals of the 1979 revolution. That all sounds so innocuous until you realize it has a traditional military role to export the revolution abroad as well as focus on the suppression of domestic enemies at home.

The bill also provides that sanctions will be maintained unless it can be demonstrated in two consecutive annual reports that there is demonstrated improvements in the behaviour of Iran in all three sanctioned areas.

Finally, the bill asks the Minister of Public Safety to consider naming the IRGC as a listed entity under the Criminal Code. One arm of the IRGC, known as Quds Force, which is responsible for military and terrorist operations abroad, is already listed under the Canadian Criminal Code as a terrorist entity. For the purpose of this bill, the entire organization would be listed and subject to sanctions, as would EIKO.

Colleagues, I take the government at its word that it will not lower the standards of international behaviour to which it holds Iran accountable. That means not a sanction should be lifted until Iran improves — and I mean vastly improves — its behaviour in relation to terrorism, incitement to hatred and human rights.

I worry when I hear that MP Majid Jowhari held a private meeting with Iranian officials at his constituency office last month. I worry when I hear that Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre took a trip to Iran last week to meet with his counterparts for Tehran, and I worry when I hear that Minister Dion met behind the scenes with Iranian officials during the UN General Assembly meeting in September.

I worry because Iran has been busily reacting angrily to a Canadian court's finding that found it libel to the victims of terrorist attacks by groups it sponsors, seeking to have the judgment overturned. That judgment so angered one Iranian official that he said:

Any normalization in the two countries' diplomatic ties requires a radical revision of the extremist and wrong politics of the former Canadian government, such as the violation of Iran's judicial immunity.

In other words, "If you want to be our friend, it is not enough to overturn the court's verdict; you also need to repeal the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, the legislation under which the victims launched their lawsuit in the first place.''

The reason I worry is that Iran had no problem last summer imprisoning Montreal Professor Homa Hoodfar in the notorious Evin Prison for the crime of "dabbling in feminism.'' She stayed there for 112 days, being interrogated by members of the IRGC who threatened to send her dead body back to Canada.

Bill S-219 will help Canada keep its commitment to not lowering our standards for Iran in the areas of human rights, incitement to hatred and terrorism. It makes sure we do not lose our perspective in our eagerness to normalize relationships with an abnormal regime. At the same time, it does no more or less than hold the government to its word when it lifted non-nuclear sanctions against Iran back in January.

Senators, at his press conference, the Prime Minister said, "This is a government that is extraordinarily open to multiple perspectives.'' I hope that includes the perspective this bill takes on our engagement with Iran.

Let me close by repeating the words of Canada's foreign minister, Stéphane Dion, about the plan of action. "Broad sanctions brought Iran to the negotiation table.'' We are asking no more or less of Canada in this case, and I thank you and will turn the floor over to Sheryl who will give you more details on the legislation and the behaviour of a regime that gave rise to the proposed act.

Sheryl Saperia, Director of Policy (Canada), Foundation for Defense of Democracies: Good evening, honourable senators. Over the last 10 years, I've had the privilege of appearing before the Senate on a number of occasions on issues relating to terrorism in general and to the Islamic Republic of Iran in particular. I am very grateful to have this opportunity to offer my thoughts on Bill S-219, a bill that speaks to how Canada's bilateral relationship with Iran should be structured.

The contours of this relationship need to be crafted in the context of two defining circumstances: first, Iran's accelerating display of a wide array of malign and alarming behaviours; and second, our federal government's stated desire to re-establish ties with Iran.

Canada was not a party to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal signed between the P5+1 and Iran, but nonetheless shed many of its sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act after the deal was implemented.

Although expectations were high that the JCPOA would moderate Iran's malevolent activities, this has not been the case. For example, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation for human rights in Iran, Ambassador Ahmed Shaheed, has reported that Iran's human rights abuses have actually increased under President Hassan Rouhani since he took office, including during the post-Iran deal period.

Canada is now left in a quandary over how to balance its interests of re-engagement with its stated values of holding the Iranian regime to account for, in Prime Minister Trudeau's words, "its position of violation of human rights, of nuclear ambitions, and indeed of sponsoring terrorism around the world.''

While there are some compelling reasons to reimpose the full weight of our former sanctions architecture against Iran, my remarks today focus only on what should be done with Canada's remaining sanctions, which were enacted under SEMA strictly in response to Iran's nuclear program.

The first option is simply to remove all outstanding sanctions in a concerted effort to mollify Tehran and enable Canadian companies to benefit fully from whatever corporate opportunities may exist in Iran.

Senators, it must be noted that irrespective of other policy considerations, there should be no illusions regarding the financial and reputational dangers to Canadian businesses looking to enter the Iranian market. Iran has not properly addressed rampant money laundering issues throughout all sectors of its economy, a problem compounded by the systemic, extensive financial corruption throughout government bodies. The Iranian government has shown a propensity to take foreign hostages, putting international interests at risk. An opaque and arbitrary legal system poses threats to businesses involved in litigation.

As well, doing business in Iran invariably means doing business with the regime itself, particularly the Supreme Leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which may actually be in violation of U.S. sanctions. American companies are already contending with this issue. The Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives recently held a hearing over concern about an announced multi-billion dollar deal between U.S. aerospace giant Boeing and Iran Air, a government-owned airline that has been complicit in Iran's weapons proliferation, support for terrorism and heinous war effort in Syria.

Terror victims may also complicate matters for Western businesses looking to profit in Iran. Lawyers representing hundreds of families of victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism have told Boeing that it would place liens on any airplanes slated for Iran to ensure that unsatisfied court judgments in favour of the victims are paid out. Canadian companies can expect similar legal treatment.

So let us therefore proceed on the premise that the benefits of doing business in Iran are limited. But even if they weren't, while Canadian corporate interests undeniably matter, they cannot be summarily divorced from our national security interests and our commitment to human rights.

Eliminating our sanctions as Iranian violations continue to accelerate would only incentivize Iran to continue on its dangerous track. Canada should, therefore, use its remaining sanctions to help contain the regime's appetite for aggression, to support the liberal democratic forces within that country, and ultimately to set some expectations for Tehran's conduct that would enable the Canada-Iran relationship to strengthen and improve.

Returning then to our question of what to do with these remaining sanctions, Canada has several other options.

Some have argued that Ottawa simply should maintain the sanctions as a way of addressing the evidence suggesting that Iran is already violating the terms of the nuclear agreement. For instance, Germany's domestic intelligence agency issued a report this past June, noting that Iran's "illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities'' in Germany reached a "quantitatively high level, particularly with regard to items which can be used in the field of nuclear technology and Iran's ambitious missile technology program.''

A third possibility would entail maintaining or dismantling SEMA sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program as the government deems appropriate while imposing new and tough sanctions for non-nuclear misbehaviour, such as Iran's human rights violations.

The fourth option is encapsulated in this bill, namely, for Canada to tie the elimination of existing sanctions to demands that the regime cease its terrorist activities, end its calls for the destruction of Israel, and put a halt to its vast system of domestic repression. This would be similar to the approach taken by the United States in reaching an arms- control agreement with the Soviet Union in 1975, which linked security, economic and human rights issues.

According to the provisions of Bill S-219, the existing sanctions under SEMA cannot be eased or lessened unless two consecutive years pass in which there is no credible evidence of terrorist activity or support of terrorism emanating from Iran, there's no credible evidence of incidents of incitement to hatred emanating from Iran, and Iran has made significant progress in respect of human rights. Let me briefly address these three criteria.

First, terrorism. Iran is widely acknowledged as the globe's pre-eminent sponsor of terror and is listed as such by Canada and the United States. The Islamic Republic has been implicated in terrorist attacks in Beirut; Berlin; Buenos Aires; Burgas, Bulgaria; as well as the failed plots to bomb JFK airport in 2007 and a restaurant in Washington, D.C. in 2011.

Moreover, the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Hamas and Hezbollah, all listed terrorist entities in Canada, continue to receive critical support and direction from Iran. Even President Obama, who doggedly pursued the nuclear agreement with Iran, has been emphatic that the regime continues to sponsor terrorism. Thus, in the United States, while many nuclear sanctions have been waived, Iran's designation as a state sponsor of terror remains intact.

The second arena is Iran's incitement to hatred, which the bill defines as any public comment that incites hatred or contempt against an identifiable group or a member state of the United Nations. It is meant to counter the dehumanizing language the regime employs against minority groups in Iran, such as the Bahá'i, as well as the calls to eliminate the Jewish state of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. The latter actually constitutes a crime under the genocide convention, and as former Attorney General Irwin Cotler has written, combatting Iranian incitement is a legal responsibility which Canada, as a state party to the genocide convention, has an obligation to enforce. It is noteworthy that the convention prohibits the crime of incitement itself, whether or not genocide actually follows.

The third condition for the lessening of sanctions under Bill S-219 is an improvement in Iran's respect for human rights. Honourable senators, Iran's domestic repression is shocking. The regime crushes pro-democracy uprisings; tortures inmates as they enter the prison system with methods including the surgical removal of eyes, hand amputations and flogging. It boasts the world's highest per capita rate of executions generally and of children in particular. It sentences girls as young as nine to death for minor criminal acts, and it persecutes members of the LGBT community and religious and ethnic minorities. We know all too well the regime's propensity to arrest Canadians for crimes like insulting the sanctity of Islam and insulting Iran's Supreme Leader or, in Homa Hoodfar's case, for dabbling in feminism.

I would be remiss not to mention that while the public discourse in the West frequently discusses the Kremlin's support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, both media and government officials have tended to overlook Tehran's role as Assad's top foreign sponsor. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of foreign policy, and the IRGC, which executes the Syrian file, have both gone to great lengths to preserve Assad.

In the past five years, the Islamic Republic's support has greased the cogs of Assad's death machine, enabling him to commit war crimes and atrocities that have claimed the lives of nearly half a million people and displaced half of the country, creating the worse humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.

To reiterate, Iran continues to invest massive amounts of money in terrorist organizations across the globe to torture and execute members of Iran's gay community and to imprison dual nationals of countries like Canada that have sought a new beginning with the regime.

Bill S-219 offers a concrete balance and well-calibrated program for balancing Canada's concerns with Iranian behaviour and its objective of re-engagement. It keeps intact the few remaining sanctions that we have against Iran until the regime meets some basic standards of appropriate conduct. It enables Canada to re-engage with Iran, while excluding some of their worst human rights abusers from capitalizing on our openness and goodwill.

Canada's commitment to human rights and to combatting terrorism needs to be part of the fabric of our formal relationship with Iran, not just part of our rhetoric. I believe that Bill S-219 helps to advance the government's own interests and stated positions on rebuilding its relationship with Iran, and I strongly urge you to support this bill.

Thank you.

Senator Percy E. Downe (Deputy Chair) in the chair.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you for your presentations. We will now go to questions from senators.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation. The present government would like to engage in dialogue with Iran. What can parliamentarians do when they start having the conversations with the Iranian regime to make sure they bring up the issue of human rights, whether it's the Baha'is or Sunni Muslims or women and students?

I have Iranians constantly Tweeting at me because I do a lot of work with the Baha'i community in Toronto, and the last Tweet was that they had arrested four people who were supporting prisoners who were on hunger strikes. The list of the abuses is endless; such minor things they arrest people for, and Erin Prison is famous. Once you get in there, you're lucky to get out.

How can we pressure our government?

Senator Tkachuk: We're not privy to discussions that the Government of Canada is having with Iran, but there are methods to get some transparency — obviously Question Period in the House of Commons. And the United Nations does keep track of human rights violations.

To get back to the bill, though, what we're trying to achieve is transparency. In other words, the government will have its dialogue with Iran. There is nothing to stop it from doing so, and I don't think we should do anything to prevent it. They have an agenda and I believe their agenda is to promote human rights. Foreign Minister Dion has said that and I have no reason to doubt him, but what the bill does is give some transparency to the process.

In other words, when the government does act, there will be a reason for acting. It will file a report at the end of March and say they have done this or they have done that that has improved human rights and they have taken certain actions that have made life better for Iranian people, and therefore we're going to perhaps do this and do this to open up further trade or further discussion with Iran.

That's about all I can say on that question. I don't know if anybody else has anything to add.

Ms. Saperia: I think the question is such a good one, and the bill speaks to this exactly, which is going beyond our government just speaking to Iran, because we're getting assurances that human rights matter and terrorism matters, but I think the explicit interest that has been conveyed by our government in re-establishing ties has made us vulnerable to Iranian demands. "Oh, Canada, you're so interested in doing business here; well, then let's tell you what the conditions are for being able to enter our market.'' And this bill flips that dynamic around and says, "Yes, Canada absolutely continues speaking with Iran, but here are the benchmarks that you, Tehran, need to meet before our relationship can go forward.''

In fact, it can actually make the relationship in some ways go more smoothly because the criteria are set out. The government says these are the criteria we are bound by. We can't give you any more on this unless you can give us more on human rights, on terrorism, on incitement to hatred. Instead of just relying on government officials to be saying the right things, we've taken it out of rhetoric and into actual formal conditions that need to happen before any further sanctions can be removed.

Senator Ataullahjan: With the election of the new president in the United States, I might be mistaken but my sense is that there is a will there to engage with Iran too. Iran's ambitions are well known. You just need to look at Yemen. It's a war being fought between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Yemen. You need to look at its record where its neighbours are concerned, whether it's Afghanistan or Pakistan, the interference that goes on with the borders and how they encourage some of the Shia population to cause civil unrest.

Are you concerned at all that it's changing the perception we all have of Iran and how we are all willing to talk? Mind you, I do believe in dialogue at a certain level, but there are certain conditions that have to come with that dialogue.

Senator Tkachuk: I think right now there is so much speculation going on about what the new president-elect will do. It's very difficult for us to go in that direction whatsoever because we have no idea what he's going to do, frankly.

Senator Ataullahjan: I'm just going by reports that have come out of there, and I was concerned when I heard about it because I'm sure if you follow, there have been conversations that they are engaging.

Ms. Saperia: It's interesting because President-elect Trump's remarks about Russia and Syria have been of concern on the one hand, but on the other he has been extremely critical of the JCPOA, the nuclear agreement, and has been talking about ripping it up, which I don't actually think is going to happen and certainly not on day one. But there are a few things that could change under his presidency without necessarily ripping up the nuclear deal, which some of the nuclear deal critics would be happy with. For one thing, it will cause some fear and uncertainty for Western businesses looking to do business in Iran because now you've got a new president and everything now is on the table. I think that will make them much more worried about what new sanctions will come down to make their lives more difficult.

One of the things President Obama has not done that many are hoping President Trump will do is actually crack down on the violations of the nuclear deal that Iran has already been doing quite incrementally. Because President Obama seems to want this deal so badly that he has turned a blind eye to some of their violations, and I think a President Trump wouldn't necessary do that.

There is room within the nuclear deal for Western countries to do more to push back against Iranian misbehaviour than has actually been occurring. You might see that under the new president.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: But would it not also be true that what has happened with Iranians announcing the airplane purchase, that they have really trumped anything President-elect Trump will do on this issue because if he does anything, will they not cancel the plane deal?

Ms. Saperia: Can you repeat your question?

The Deputy Chair: In your presentation, you talked about the deal Iranians announced to buy American airplanes. It seems to me it's more than coincidence they did that after President-elect Trump has been elected and before he's sworn in, so if he's taking any action on the first day of office, will they not cancel their plane deal?

Ms. Saperia: I'm not sure that the deal actually was going through before he was elected; I think it was before the election. And I don't know what's going to be with that deal, and I think that's the point. I think Western businesses ought to be extremely wary of going forward with business relationships with Iran at this point. Whatever pressures Canadian companies may be putting on our government, I think everyone should sit back a little bit and wait.

The Deputy Chair: Agreed.

Senator Eaton: Educate me, it's been very interesting: What sanctions do we have at present against Iran that are non-nuclear?

Ms. Saperia: Under SEMA, we have nothing. All the SEMA sanctions against Iran are nuclear. Under a looser definition of sanctions, we could say that Iran is also designated as a state supporter of terrorism under Canadian law, but that is not an economic sanction under SEMA.

Senator Eaton: We have no economic sanctions whatsoever against them.

Ms. Saperia: Only for nuclear.

Senator Eaton: Not for gross human rights violations?

Ms. Saperia: Correct.

Senator Eaton: Terrorist acts or anything?

Ms. Saperia: Correct.

Senator Woo: Thank you for your presentation. What is the position of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on the JCPOA?

Ms. Saperia: Sure. The Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where I work, is an American-based think tank. I'm Canadian, working in Canada on Canadian policies, so I have no special insights into the United States. This is really where I focus, but I'd be happy to give you some information on that.

By and large, our position has been that the agreement is extremely flawed and that essentially it provides what we have called a "patient pathway'' for Iran to get everything it wants. It just needs to wait a little bit of extra time. In eight years, almost all the sanctions are gone. In 15 years, it has more access to nuclear materials. It will be that much closer to being able to create a nuclear weapon quickly. I can get into specifics if you would like.

For the next decade, Iran only needs to be patient to become a threshold nuclear power with an industrial-sized uranium enrichment and plutonium program, near zero nuclear breakup capacity, advanced ballistic missile and intercontinental ballistic missile programs, and a more powerful economy that could be then immune to Western sanctions 15 years from now.

Another major flaw, and this is where our bill actually is an improvement, is that the nuclear deal failed to link any of these security or economic or human rights issues, and it did nothing to address the full range of Iran's illicit activities. Even as Iran may have temporarily scaled back some of its nuclear activities under the deal, its non-nuclear malign activities like terrorism and human rights violations are actually expanding and accelerating.

So with the dismantlement of some of these sanctions by the U.S., Tehran has been given this badly needed hard currency to settle its outstanding debts, begin to repair its economy and spend freed-up funds for the financing of terrorism. About a year ago, January 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that Iran would use some of the funds from sanctions relief to support terrorism.

Senator Woo: This is your position as well? You mentioned you don't represent the American parent organization, but do you also take this view, and do you take the view that Canada should not have been supportive of JCPOA?

Ms. Saperia: I think that even those who have been critical of the details of the Iran deal have fully understood why there was so much desire on the part of the United States and its European allies to reach a deal with Iran. I do feel that our failure was that the West was so desperate to reach a deal that it reached a poor deal. I think we should have been prepared to walk away to make sure that the deal was actually a good one. So, yes, I would agree that the deal is extremely flawed.

Senator Woo: Thank you.

Senator Ngo: Thank you for your presentations.

We know that Canada never sanctions alone, so this bill would implement some changes against Iran that could create some differences, sanctions imposed by the state. Do you think that the unilateral sanctions against Iran would be effective with this bill?

Ms. Saperia: Will our unilateral sanctions be effective?

Senator Ngo: Yes.

Ms. Saperia: Certainly Canadian sanctions alone are not going to bankrupt Iran. That is clear. But first of all, we're taking a stand. We're taking a symbolic stand. Second of all, even if Canada is not the most significant player on the world stage, we matter to us and this bill speaks to what our bilateral relationship with Iran should look like. So to the extent that it puts some pressure on the Iranian regime from the Canadian government, for whatever it's worth, that is what I believe we should be doing.

Senator Tkachuk: It also reflects our values.

Senator Ngo: Thank you.

Senator Moore: Thank you, witnesses, for being here.

Have we had any reaction or response from Iranian authorities in Canada with regard to this bill? Has anybody come forward? Do we know if they are even aware at their embassy? Has anybody said anything to us, to the Senate or anybody else?

Senator Tkachuk: No one has said anything to our office, that I'm aware of. I'm not sure if they said anything to any government office, but certainly not anything to our office.

Senator Moore: Do we know if they said anything to the minister of foreign affairs within the federal government?

Senator Tkachuk: I have not heard anything, period. And it's been a while.

Senator Moore: It's a very significant piece of legislation, and it has been a while, so I would have thought if someone were concerned about it, they would have connected with one of you.

Senator Tkachuk: Maybe they are waiting. It's a long, slow process. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

Senator Moore: I know, but this is of international import and it's very significant. Okay. Thank you.

Senator Tkachuk: Thanks, Senator Moore.

Senator Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.

The Chair: No further questions? I apologize to Senator Tkachuk and the witnesses. I assure you I will read all of the testimony. I had to deal with two issues that pertain to this committee in the chamber, and as you know, they are wrapping up many things, so I apologize that I had to slip out. I was not on as quickly as I should have been because senators can stand up and intervene, so there was a good debate and I had to wait. I assure you it is no disrespect for your bill, and I thank you for coming before the committee and doing it so efficiently. You said one hour, and I think you were even less than that, Senator Tkachuk. Thank you very much.

Senator Tkachuk: Thank you, chair, and thank you for having us, and because we are senators and understand why you were away, and because we know you, we know darn well you are going to be reading all of the testimony.

The Chair: And I will be questioning you further.

Senator Tkachuk: No question about that.

The Chair: Honourable senators, we are going to suspend to go in camera for one item. We'll ask the senators to remain.

(The committee continued in camera.)