Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Issue No. 18 - Evidence - Meeting of February 16, 2017
OTTAWA, Thursday, February 16, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade,
to which was referred Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism,
incitement to hatred, and human rights violations, met this day at 10:30
a.m. to give consideration to the bill; and to study opportunities for
strengthening cooperation with Mexico since the tabling, in June 2015, of
the committee report entitled North American Neighbours: Maximizing
Opportunities and Strengthening Cooperation for a more Prosperous Future.
Senator Percy E. Downe (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: This is the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign
Affairs and International Trade. We are meeting today for the first panel to
continue our study on opportunities for strengthening cooperation with
Mexico since the tabling in June 2015 of the committee report entitled
North American Neighbours: Maximizing Opportunities and Strengthening
Cooperation for a more Prosperous Future.
Under this mandate, the committee will hear witnesses today on North
American trilateral relations, which are obviously very topical given what's
going on, and I'm pleased to welcome back Mr. David Morrison, Assistant
Deputy Minister for the Americas at Global Affairs Canada; and Mr. Martin
Moen, Director General, North America and Investment at Global Affairs
Gentlemen, I believe you have opening comments?
David Morrison, Assistant Deputy Minister (Americas), Global Affairs
Canada: Honourable senators, I would like first to express my thanks for
the invitation to speak to you today.
Canada and Mexico have enjoyed diplomatic relations for more than 70
years. The renewal of our engagement has been a key priority of the
government. Indeed, the relationship between our two countries has recently
gained momentum not seen in years.
There have been a range of high-level and productive engagements, and I
will give you three examples.
The state visit of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto last June was a
clear demonstration of our commitment to an enduring relationship. The
agreements signed strengthened institutional linkages in areas such as
environment and climate change, safety and security, health and wellness,
indigenous affairs, international development, and cultural collaboration.
As had also been recommended by this committee, the Prime Minister also
announced the lifting of the visa requirement for Mexicans travelling to
On December 1, 2016, a year and a half after this committee's 2015
report, visa-free travel for Mexicans became a reality. The visa lift
underscores the great importance Canada places on its relationship with
Mexico. It is expected to improve Canada's overall competitiveness as a
tourism destination and encourage continued growth of air travel between the
two countries, benefiting the Canadian tourism and air travel sectors, as
well as facilitating business ties and investment.
To follow through on commitments from the state visit and to further
advance our common agenda, we also launched a high-level strategic dialogue,
led by the foreign affairs minister. The first meeting was held in Mexico
City, on October 12, 2016, where Minister Dion met with his counterpart,
Mexican Foreign Secretary, Claudia Ruiz Massieu. During that meeting, Mexico
agreed to join the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights in the
extractive sector. The two countries agreed to establish an annual
high-level bilateral dialogue on human rights, which we anticipate will take
place in the spring.
Furthermore, Mexico agreed to establish a task force to address issues
affecting Canadian investments in Mexico, to help resolve effectively issues
that arise in our commercial relationship.
Thirdly, the Canada-Mexico Partnership annual meeting, which most
recently took place in Ottawa on November 23 and 24, 2016, was the most
successful and well-attended since the inception of the first meeting 12
years ago. This partnership serves to deepen cooperation on economic issues
between Canada and Mexico, including energy, agribusiness, labour mobility,
human capital, trade, investment and innovation, environment, mining and
We are confident that this recent strengthening of the bilateral
relationship will facilitate increased cooperation on a range of issues. Let
me mention particularly issues that have been of interest to this committee:
security and the rule of law, energy, climate change, trade and education.
One of the committee's recommendations from the 2015 report was to
explore opportunities for "cooperation on governance, security and rule of
law issues of mutual interest, such as law enforcement and judicial capacity
The government considers that strengthening democratic institutions in
Mexico and helping Mexico to address its domestic and regional security
challenges is in our national interest. Mexico is undergoing a substantive
reform of its justice system to allow for better access to justice, more
predictability and more transparency. Confidence in the justice system is
indispensable for human rights protection and an important component of the
rule of law.
During last June's state visit, Canada announced robust new support to
assist Mexico with this transition. To date, several projects have been
undertaken or are being planned that involve a wide range of stakeholders
within the justice system, including the police, lawyers, prosecutors and
The enthusiasm and support from Canada's own judicial sector to undertake
these projects has been notable. As an example, the National Judicial
Institute started a second project with Mexico in January. This three-year
project aims to train Mexican judges in oral arguments, evaluation of
evidence and advanced human rights.
The energy sector has also been identified as a potential area for
opportunities and cooperation. The Mexican energy reform — expected to
attract more than 50 billion U.S. dollars in private investment by 2018 —
represents a historic opportunity for companies in the oil and gas sector.
Private firms are now allowed to bid for licences in areas like oil
exploration and production, and to invest in power generation.
Canada's expertise in oil and gas, as well as in the renewable energy
sector, represents significant opportunities for our companies and
investors. Furthermore, Canada's recognized expertise in the field of
resource development governance is leading to Canada-Mexico cooperation in
policy development, education and training. The Government of Alberta and
Alberta Energy Regulators have recently signed agreements with their
counterparts and three Albertan educational institutions, the Universtiy of
Calgary, University of Alberta and Southern Alberta Institute of Technology,
have partnerships with Mexican institutions to develop skills for the
Minister Carr's recent visit to Mexico with a large delegation of
business and indigenous leaders led to several noteworthy energy-related
outcomes supporting Canada's trade and investment objectives. This includes
the establishment of a working group to promote Canadian firms'
participation in Mexico's oil and gas as well as electricity auction
processes, as well as the signature of an MOU to further enhance electricity
cooperation between our two nations.
Climate change and the environment are additional areas that also present
good opportunities for increased cooperation between Canada and Mexico. At
COP 22 in Marrakesh last fall, Canada announced $14 million in funding to
reduce short-lived climate pollutants, like methane, through partnerships
with Mexico and Chile. We are both committed to meeting our Paris agreement
targets, many of which are at the provincial or state level. Cooperation at
the sub-national government levels on those issues is indeed important and
growing, and I know that's a particular area that previous witnesses have
spoken about to this committee.
For example, last September Mexico hosted the second Climate Summit of
the Americas on that very theme. Four Canadian premiers attended and
committed to set long-term emission reduction and adaptation goals,
involving innovative practices that benefit the environment, the economy and
society, and making investments that will enable deep emission reductions by
Turning now to the trade front, I will not repeat the statistics
regarding Canada-Mexico bilateral trade as they have already been given to
you by the previous speakers. However, it is important to mention that
Canada and Mexico are important trading partners and that Canada is the
largest foreign investor in Mexico's mining sector.
We agree with your previous witness, Ms. Laura Dawson, that Mexico's
growing middle class will offer growing opportunities for Canadian companies
As was also recognized by your previous witnesses, education is a sector
where we believe there is significant potential for growth and enhanced
cooperation. Mexico is a priority country under Canada's International
Education Strategy. Canada and Mexico agree on the importance of education,
research, and innovation as drivers for competitiveness and prosperity for
our countries. A number of initiatives were signed during last June's state
visit, including a bilateral industrial research mobility agreement between
Mitacs, a Canadian national, non-for-profit organization that funds research
and training, and Mexico's National Council for Science and Technology.
Through Global Affairs Canada's Emerging Leaders of the Americas program,
nearly 600 Mexicans have come to Canada for short-term study or research
opportunities since 2009.
Universities Canada has identified Mexico as a priority and is exploring
a mission of university presidents to Mexico next fall.
Before ending, let me place the Canada-Mexico relationship in the broader
North American context. The election of President Trump has of course
brought uncertainty, and we realize that there could be challenges ahead.
However, we continue to believe in the potential of North America.
The North American region has a combined population of almost 530 million
people and an economy that represents more than one quarter of the world's
gross domestic product. Three countries are among each other's largest
trading partners and sources of foreign investment. Our combined GDP has
more than doubled over the past two decades, rising from US$8 trillion in
1993 to over US$20 trillion today.
Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have long collaborated as continental
partners. Shared free market principles, advancements in information
technology, regulatory harmonization and simplification, and physical
proximity have helped drive trade and investment. The increased movement of
trade, capital and labour across shared borders also presents the three
countries with common challenges relating to environmental sustainability,
natural disasters, pandemics and security risks such as the flow of illicit
drugs, transnational crime and terrorism.
Examples of working groups that have been established trilaterally to
combat some of these issues include working groups on drug trafficking,
violence against indigenous women and girls, and the protection of monarch
butterflies. We expect that this kind of close cooperation will continue.
There is a fundamental understanding that important issues like security,
human and drug trafficking, health pandemics and energy systems integration
are best addressed collectively.
Regardless of rhetoric, Canada and many in the United States understand
that a secure, stable and prosperous Mexico is indispensable to Canada's own
prosperity and security. We consider that it is important for close
neighbours to meet regularly to discuss issues on which we agree and also on
which we disagree. There is currently a lot of uncertainty, but the lines of
communication remain open. The Prime Minister stated in the days following
the U.S. election that Canada and Mexico would "work constructively together
to advance our interests.''
Sometimes, as with all our partners, our interests will diverge and at
other times they will align. The reality is that it is in our individual as
well as collective interests to continue collaborating on a wide range of
issues. This is why we will continue to foster a strong bilateral
relationship with Mexico and a strong commitment to the North American
Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with an update on the
government's agenda in relation to Mexico. I welcome any questions that you
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Morrison, for your presentation.
I wonder if you could briefly describe the "snap back'' provision in the
visas for Mexico.
Mr. Morrison: As I said, Mexico became visa-free on December 1. We
will be and are monitoring the flow of Mexican travellers closely and
looking at whether there will be an increase in the number of asylum
claimants. It's only been two months, but we're looking at that closely.
The Deputy Chair: What number is not acceptable? Would the
government intervene when it goes above a certain number? I'm interested in
a discussion about that.
Mr. Morrison: I can't say a certain number other than to say that
we are monitoring it closely.
There is a new provision that you will know of called the Electronic
Travel Authorization, and it's ever-so-slightly complicated. At the same
time as Mexico became visa-free, Mexican citizens wishing to travel to
Canada had to go through the Electronic Travel Authorization process. The
way that will work in the future is we'll extend eTA to additional
countries. Mexico would be a candidate for that.
If you're a candidate for eTA extension, if you have ever had a visa to
Canada or the United States and have complied with the laws of those
countries in terms of not overstaying, then you would be eligible for
visa-free travel. The point is that even if we were to get to a point of
visa reimposition with Mexico, trusted travellers would still be able to go
The Deputy Chair: Correct me if I'm wrong, but were the Mexicans
not advised that if 3,500 asylum seekers came in a year, the visa would be
reassessed at that point? Did the Canadian government give the Mexicans a
Mr. Morrison: I'm not aware of a precise number that was
transmitted to the Mexican government. I am aware that the Canadian
government had determined a number for itself. I just don't know whether
that was conveyed to the Mexicans.
The Deputy Chair: And has that number been made public?
Mr. Morrison: No, it has not.
The Deputy Chair: So 3,500 could be right or wrong. I understand
it's right, but you can't confirm or deny it.
Mr. Morrison: I can't confirm.
Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation this morning.
I want to ask you a question about an article printed in The Globe and
Mail yesterday. It said:
Canada and the United States will focus on bilateral negotiations as
part of President Donald Trump's pledge to tweak the North American
free-trade deal that governs Canadian commerce, leaving Mexico
essentially to fend for itself.
The signals coming from Washington are that there will be an American
negotiating team dealing with Canada and a separate one for Mexico . . .
The article cites two views in this regard. Canadian trade lawyer
Lawrence Herman believes that it's "a significant achievement for Canada''
because, in his view, Canada must "avoid being embroiled in resolving
Mexico's contentious disputes with the Trump administration.''
On the other hand:
. . . John Weekes, a trade lawyer who helped negotiate NAFTA, warned
it could backfire if Canada attempts to cut the Mexicans out of
I would like to know your thoughts on this. Is Mexico being left out of
the conversation entirely?
Mr. Morrison: I'll speak a little bit about the overall
relationship, and then I'll turn to my colleague Martin Moen, who is our
To respond directly to your question, Mexico is most definitely not being
left out of the conversation entirely. It's the policy of the Government of
Canada to strengthen relations with the United States and with Mexico and
trilaterally, and that's reflected in the mandate letters to the Minister of
Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Trade.
There has been plenty of media speculation recently. Let me just say that
I think it's very early days in terms of any renegotiation of NAFTA.
Martin will comment, but it is at least my understanding that the
Americans are just now beginning to think about how they would conduct a
future NAFTA renegotiation.
Martin Moen, Director General, North America and Investment, Global
Affairs Canada: First of all, there are elements of areas that the U.S.
administration has publicly identified as being of concern in terms of their
relationship with Mexico that are unrelated to trade. I think whether or not
those would be dealt with bilaterally or trilaterally would depend on the
With regard to NAFTA itself, I would like to stress that there are many
decisions in terms of how to proceed that the U.S. administration has not
taken. For example, they have not taken the decision as to whether they
would proceed to use the formal process of trade promotion authority and
notify Congress under that authority and then proceed to do some kind of
negotiation that would require congressional approval. They may go that
path, but they have not decided.
Much remains undecided. It is early days in this administration.
With regard to the NAFTA itself, it's an agreement that is very flexible
in how it treats different issues. At the time of the NAFTA, for example,
issues regarding access for sugar were dealt with between the United States
and Mexico. Issues relating to trucking were dealt with separately between
the U.S. and Mexico, with the U.S. and Canada having very different
circumstances in that regard.
Similarly, the energy chapter of the NAFTA has provisions related to
proportionality that apply between Canada and the United States but not with
Mexico. So there are elements of the agreement that in the past have been
dealt with in a bilateral way and then brought under the umbrella. There, of
course, are many important elements of the agreement that are fully
As to how exactly we would be proceeding, which elements we would be
tweaking or whether we'll be adding on, all of these are good questions for
us to consider, that we're all thinking about, but we really don't know at
this point exactly how the U.S. wishes to proceed.
Of course, as we move into any such modernization of the NAFTA, if that's
where we end up going, then of course we would consult widely with Canadians
and make sure we have an appropriate approach, both in terms of the
specifics of the content and the form regarding what is trilateral, what is
bilateral and what is best dealt with in this context or elsewhere.
Senator Ataullahjan: I'm just going by what the Canadian
ambassador said — who was present at the meetings between the Canadian Prime
Minister and the American President — that if any changes are made, it could
be beneficial to Canada and the U.S. That's the reason I'm asking if Mexico
is being left out of the conversation. Everyone is talking about what's
beneficial for Canada and the U.S., but there is no mention of Mexico. You
have already commented, so thank you.
Senator Saint-Germain: Thank you for your presentation, deputy
minister. I noted your reference to Canada's commitment to helping Mexico,
in particular in its transition to stronger human rights practices. I also
noted issues involving cooperation between companies, citizens, and the
Canadian and Mexican governments, as regards trade or business practices
that do not always meet our standards. This is a very important aspect, in
On another matter, there are also irritants for Mexican business people,
including matters related to Canadian laws and regulations. You referred to
that. I am thinking in particular about the issues related to visas for
temporary and seasonal workers. Perhaps you can give an overview of the
Canadian government's approach and the action plan it intends to implement
in order to eliminate these irritants, which is some cases date back a
number of years? Eliminating these irritants could provide for smoother and
more positive trade and commerce with Mexico.
Mr. Morrison: Canada and Mexico trade is about $38 billion a year,
and almost all of it passes irritant-free, which is a quantum increase since
the coming into being of NAFTA.
There were two major irritants, I would say, going into the state visit
in the summer. One was the visa, which was imposed in 2008 or 2009 and quite
dramatically reduced the number of Mexicans coming to Canada for all
purposes — for vacation and all manner of short stays. On our side, there
was an issue of beef access to the Mexican market.
We were able to resolve both of those and announce at the state visit
that six months later the visa would be lifted and that as of October 1,
Canada would enjoy complete access to the Mexican market for Canadian beef.
Both of those things unrolled on schedule.
You mentioned temporary workers. I'm not aware that that is an irritant
at all. The Canadian temporary workers program of which Mexico is the
largest beneficiary — Jamaica is another large beneficiary — has been cited
by the United Nations as a model of managed migration. This is a program by
which Mexican workers come up seasonally to work mainly in the agricultural
sector in southern Ontario and elsewhere at harvest time. I think the
Mexicans would like to have a greater number. I believe the number last year
was in the range of 22,000 Mexicans who came up. That's one part of our
overall bilateral relationship that we can work on.
In general, you would have taken from my remarks that Canada-Mexico
bilateral relations right now are stronger than they've been at any time in
recent memory. Obviously, with our third-largest trading partner we're going
to have some irritants from time to time, but most of the big ones that I
mentioned have indeed been resolved in the recent past.
Senator Saint-Germain: Regarding seasonal workers, there have been
various problems related to upholding work contracts. I understand from your
reply that this, at least, has improved.
You referred in particular to Canada's commitments to further assisting
Mexico as regards its official desire to more fully respect human rights.
What type of assistance are you talking about, in practical terms?
Mr. Morrison: I mentioned a couple of the ways in which we were
accompanying Mexico in its transition, and I made reference to one specific
project. It's actually quite a dramatic development in Mexico, the reform of
the justice system. I mentioned how we're working with police, lawyers,
judges and so on.
Mexico had a system until very recently that had no oral arguments, so
all of the Mexican court cases took place only on paper. Judges received
written submissions and took decisions accordingly. Most other countries
long ago went to oral arguments where the people disputing whatever they are
disputing, if it's a civil or a criminal matter, actually appear in front of
That is deemed to be a very significant step in helping Mexico cut down
on the high levels of impunity for all sorts of crimes, but including human
rights crimes. Canada has provided Mexico with assistance, training for
judges and others in this new and, for Mexico, revolutionary way of trying
cases. That's just one example.
I mentioned that Canada is a very large investor in Mexico. In the couple
of years since Mexico opened up its energy sector, we now have 200 Canadian
companies selling into PEMEX, the Mexican state oil company. All of that
activity on the commercial front is being accompanied by a stepped-up effort
to help Mexico with its transition, including on human rights.
Senator Cordy: My question is a follow-up in relation to human
rights violations. I had the privilege — if you can call it "the pleasure''
— to hear some horrid stories of people. It was more a privilege to hear
their stories. I met with a number of young women from Mexico who were
arrested for no reason other than they were against government policy in
Mexico. They told their stories. You mentioned briefly in response to
Senator Saint-Germain about the judicial system. Do we use the commonalities
that we have with Mexico? Do we use our trade relationship with Mexico to
address the human rights violations that are taking place there?
Mr. Morrison: Yes, we certainly do. Let me give you two examples.
This is how the business of diplomacy works.
I mentioned in my remarks that one of the outcomes of the state visit in
the summer was an agreement to establish what we called a high-level
strategic dialogue between Mexico and Canada. The first edition of that
dialogue took place in October. I travelled down to Mexico Minister Dion and
several others. Human rights in both countries was on the agenda. The
outcome of that discussion was an agreement to set up a regular high-level
mechanism to talk about human rights in both countries. As I said in my
remarks, the first specific dialogue on human rights will take place this
spring between the two countries.
Minister Dion met with a group of activists on that trip involved in
human rights in Mexico, including a woman who had come up here at the time
of the state visit. She was interviewed on CBC Radio and then she went back
to Mexico, and her protection was removed. That's a case that our embassy in
Mexico is following very closely.
A country like Mexico, which is extraordinarily diverse and has high
levels of inequality, is on a journey. The journey has been I think mostly
positive. There are now 44 million members of the Mexican middle class. A
large number of Mexicans have been pulled out of poverty by that country's
growth in recent years. Nevertheless, the levels of criminality, impunity
and violence are things that the Mexican government is taking very
seriously. We, as a great partner to the Mexican government, do what we can.
Senator Cordy: Mexico would be one country. There are many
countries around the world where we disagree with what they are doing with
the people in their country, and they commit human rights violations. Is it
helpful for Canada to have the doors open to Mexico in this case so that we
can actually address some of our concerns?
Mr. Morrison: The government's clear policy is to engage with
countries on which we agree and engage with countries on which we don't
I would point out as well that many countries going through transitions
have very weak state institutions. So when human rights violations are being
committed, it's not necessarily the state that is doing the committing; it
is other forces. The great scourge in Mexico, or course, is drug
trafficking. There are high levels of corruption. There are police services
that are infiltrated by the drug gangs, and human rights abuses are
committed as a result. There is no one more aware of this and more committed
to changing the equation than the Government of Mexico, but it's a long-term
Senator Cordy: Going back to Senator Ataullahjan's question
earlier, is Canada having a dialogue behind the scenes about all the
possible scenarios with NAFTA and whether or not we do bilateral trade with
the United States? You don't have to tell me what your discussions are, but
I would feel a bit of comfort if I knew at least you're having that
dialogue. If NAFTA becomes no more, do we engage in bilateral trade with
Mexico and then bilateral trade with the United States?
Mr. Morrison: If my colleague Martin is looking a little tired
these days, it's because he and his trade policy colleagues are literally
working around the clock to consider all of those different scenarios. As I
tried to say in my remarks and as is evident to anybody following this,
we're in a period of great uncertainty. In a period of uncertainty it's
prudent to prepare for all eventualities, and that's of course what we are
Senator Woo: I want to go back to the question of travel between
Canada and Mexico and get your views on the ampleness of direct air travel
between Canada and Mexico, perhaps an update on the expanded services
agreement that was put in place quite recently, and whether you have any
information on the possibility of more freedom flights, planes coming in
from Europe or from Asia that can stop in Canada and continue to Mexico.
Mr. Morrison: So far it's a pretty good news story. Both Air
Canada and Aeromexico have indicated they are laying on additional flights.
I do believe there has been a recent announcement. I would need to check
this, but Aeromexico now has the first direct Calgary to Mexico flight.
I have heard from the embassy that there is lots of additional interest.
There is a problem at the Mexican end, at least in Mexico City, that their
airport is maxed out. They are building a new airport which will be one of
the largest infrastructure projects in coming years in Latin America. Right
now, there is not a lot of adequate landing spots.
Obviously Mexico is a big country. There are additional flights to
sunspots and charter flights, so I don't know the answer to your fifth
Can you speak to that?
Mr. Moen: I don't have an answer to that.
Senator Woo: Am I correct in saying, though, that Canada-Mexico
have essentially open skies? So there are unlimited flights, depending on
whether airlines are willing to pick them up and the capacity of the
airports to handle more flights; is that right?
Mr. Morrison: My understanding it is it's not quite open skies,
but we can come back to you on exactly what it is. My understanding is there
are reasons it has stopped a little bit short of a full open skies
agreement. We can get you that information.
Senator Woo: I would appreciate if you can look into the fifth
freedom. Because most of the incremental demand for travel to Mexico via
Canada would be coming from other countries' airlines. So we would be
captive to just the airlines and Mexico and Canada under the current
agreement, but we could really expand it if we have fifth freedom rights.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Senator Woo.
When you have the answer to the question, if you could send it to the
clerk, she will distribute it to all members of the committee.
Senator Marwah: Given the uncertainty around NAFTA and now TPP,
are we doing anything further to enhance our other trade alliances, like the
Pacific Alliance, where Mexico always plays such an integral part of other
regional alliances? Because it would behoove us to really have something
further on many other fronts.
Mr. Morrison: Yes. As you know, Canada is a great trading nation,
number one in terms of trade as a percentage of GDP in the G7. I think it's
fair to say that Canada is always looking for ways to diversify its trading
There will be a meeting in Chile in a month or so, I believe, of the
Pacific Alliance, which is this very interesting grouping of Mexico,
Columbia, Peru and Chile that came into being in 2011 or 2012. Canada was
the first non-Latin observer country. We're the only country with a
partnership agreement with the Pacific Alliance.
They are hosting a meeting that Canada will be attending. This is a
meeting that is taking stock of trade, including with Asia, in the wake of
what has recently happened with the TPP.
Senator Marwah: We are an observer currently, are we not, in the
Mr. Morrison: Yes, we are.
Senator Marwah: Are we planning on moving beyond that to joining?
Mr. Morrison: Not to the best of my knowledge. We are an "observer
plus'' in that we're the only observer that has a partnership agreement, but
I'm not aware of any plans to become a full member.
It does bear saying, though, that we already have free trade agreements
with the four founding members of the Pacific Alliance, as well as the two
aspiring members, Costa Rica and Panama.
Mr. Moen: Let me add to that. Certainly over the past while, the
government has been pursuing an approach to trade agreements that is very
open-minded, looking where possibilities exist, pursuing them and exploring
There are different degrees of engagement, of course. The agreement with
the European Union and the success earlier this week in moving that forward
and through the European Parliament is a very big, important step. There is
an openness to exploring trade agreements across the world.
We certainly value the partnerships we have with the United States and
Mexico. NAFTA has served us well, but having a diverse range of trade
agreements is definitely in our interest and something worth pursuing.
Senator Bovey: Thank you for the update. As a new member of this
committee, I found it very useful. I was really pleased to see you mention
cultural collaborations and particularly pleased that you mentioned the
educational research bilateral agreements and the fact that a number of
university presidents will be in Mexico in the fall.
I am, as others know, very interested in cultural diplomacy. It was
interesting to note that the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was in Mexico,
coincidentally, as the Minister of Energy was there a few weeks ago. One of
the senior dancers of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet is Mexican himself. As we
take a look at the role of cultural diplomacy, I would like your thoughts as
to what you think its role can be in relations between Canada and Mexico.
I'm also interested in trying to get a handle on what you feel the
cultural trade is with Mexico. The most recent figures I have
internationally, and they could be wrong, but in 2006, Canada put $11.9
million into the cultural trade program. The result of that was $4.3 billion
or maybe closer to $5 billion back into our economy. I would be really
interested to know what proportion of that was to Mexico and how you see
that can grow.
The history of Canadian artists going down to Mexico and Mexican artists
coming to Canada is rich. The cultural exchange in both performing and
visual arts is huge. I wonder if you feel that that is being developed to
the extent it could be.
Mr. Morrison: Thank you for the question. Many of us in the
diplomatic service are big fans of cultural diplomacy because when you have
been involved in it up front, you see the magic that it makes in terms of
opening doors and building relationships.
Let me answer your question in a couple of ways. First, the Canada 150
project is not just a domestic initiative, although most of it is domestic.
There will be a very vibrant international dimension to that, where our
missions around the world will be using the occasion of Canada's one hundred
fiftieth birthday to do all manner of cultural events.
In addition, the government announced — it was in the platform, but it
was also in the last budget — the reinstatement of two cultural diplomacy
programs, one of which will help to support Canadian artists and cultural
performers travelling abroad. The other will support cultural trade, the
kind you mentioned.
That's a tremendous ratio that you've cited for the amount invested in
the program and the benefit to the Canadian economy. You asked how much of
that was Mexico. I don't know, but what I will say is that the new resources
made available under the two programs that I mentioned were hotly contested
by the various embassies around the world. They are leading to new positions
for people to manage these programs. Embassies and high commissions are
quite cleverly getting together. If someone is going down Buenos Aires, they
will to try to create a stop in Santiago.
So there will be more cultural diplomacy in the coming period than there
has been in the past. From the point of view of my colleagues in the foreign
service, that is very welcome news. As I said, it's magic what culture can
do when you're trying to build relationships and take them to the next
level. Mexico will be one of the most active missions in that regard.
Senator Bovey: I happen to believe that the loss of the cultural
attachés hit not just the cultural community hard but did hit an
understanding of who and what Canada is in many ways.
Senator Gold: I would like to return to the rule of law
initiatives to which you have made mention early on. I applaud, of course,
the Canadian Judicial Council's work.
I have a three-part question. Apart from that project, what other
projects might fall within that category? How much money is being invested
in those projects as part of this initiative? Finally, what the role of law
faculties or research centres in the support or accompaniment of the Mexican
community in this area?
I think, for example, of work that was done at the Centre de recherche en
droit public at the University of Montréal, which I have had the privilege
of being associated with for many decades now. It has done important work in
Africa, China, and Latin America, educating lawyers, judges, the media, and
civil society on rule of law values. I'm wondering what role they might play
or could possibly play in assisting Mexico in its journey.
Mr. Morrison: Thanks very much for the question. Let me go from
big picture to small picture.
First, we focus a lot on the kind of dialogues that I have already
mentioned we have set up. Speaking in terms of security governance and the
rule of law, bilateral security consultations take place regularly.
Political military talks, which have a security dimension, obviously take
place regularly. As a result of the state visit, there will be a new
dialogue, which I believe will begin in April, which will be public security
— our Department of Public Safety and their equivalent down in Mexico.
In addition to all of that, we have a program focused on the Americas
called the Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program, training judges, police
forces and so on.
You asked for amounts. There is $10.7 million in bilateral programming in
Mexico since 2009, and the program that I mentioned recently was $1.7
million to train judges.
In addition, we have a separate program called the Global Partnership
Program that helps countries like Mexico tighten up certain kinds of
security to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. That's a
technical program that helps them at their ports and other places where
things that we don't want to get into North America might try to get into
On top of all of that, there is what we call the Canada Fund for Local
Initiatives, which is an embassy-administered fund that can be responsive,
in Mexico City and elsewhere, to human rights groups, LGBTI groups and
women's groups that have smaller projects for which they are looking for
funding. That fund is in the range of $500,000.
I'm not aware of individual law faculties helping out — I think that was
part of your question — except to say that the relationship between Canada
and Mexico is such that there are all manner of collaborations that go on
every day that the embassy and we, as the government, don't know about
because they are just the bread and butter of a very developed relationship
between two countries.
Part of Brand Canada, I would say, is exactly the sort of programs that
you were talking about from law schools across Canada. I know most about
what goes on in the Americas, and I do know that law faculties, and
universities in general, have all sorts of twinning and partnership
arrangements that help to promote the Canadian way of doing governance.
Obviously, Canada is renowned as a country that is well governed and that
has figured out a lot of things that other countries continue to struggle
with. That's why I say it is a strong part of Brand Canada — very active,
actually, in the Caribbean.
Senator Gold: Thank you. I encourage you, though, to consider —
and it's not a question of funding universities or law faculties. I'm not
carrying a brief for that at all. But I think it's one of the things that
we, as Canadians, really can add to the world. Encouragement by the
government would, I think, encourage faculties and research centres — who
have access to third-party funding, internationally and for initiatives of
this kind — perhaps to do more. I think that would redound to the benefit
both of Mexican society and, quite frankly, our own.
Senator Ngo: I want to follow up on the questions by Senator
Ataullahjan and Senator Cordy. From your point of view, could you tell us
the potential consequences of the renegotiation of NAFTA?
Mr. Moen: Like many of the other questions on NAFTA, I think this
is difficult to answer with much precision given what we don't know. What we
do know about NAFTA, of course, is that it has been a very valuable
agreement for Canada, the United States and Mexico. It has, in some areas,
been very important in supporting the development of very integrated supply
If you take a look at automobiles, the NAFTA and the access it provides,
and the security of access it provides, has allowed for automakers to
rationalize production across three countries in ways that allow employment
in all three countries.
There are many examples like that. Certainly from Canada's perspective,
we think this is an agreement that has benefited all three parties. When we
talk with business associations in the United States, with specific
companies, with local governments, they all agree about the benefits of
NAFTA in these areas.
Of course, as with any agreement, particularly an agreement that has been
around for decades, there are elements that might be worth modernizing.
There are things that have happened in trade negotiations since then and the
world has moved on.
In terms of the assessment of what might happen or might be changed and
the impact it would have, it's too early to tell in which direction we're
going. I can say that we are doing the internal work on all kinds of
possibilities to make sure that whatever it is we are asked to do or
whatever is suggested, that we're ready to respond — and not just respond;
we have our own ideas of ways the agreement can be improved, facilitated and
clarified if we were to get into that kind of a discussion.
Senator Cools: I would like to welcome our witnesses today.
Some years ago I was in Mexico with a delegation. It was a very
successful set of meetings; it was one of those exchanges. I had the
experience of discovering that the bulk of the illicit drug trade of Mexico
is directed towards the United States of America. At that time we were told
that the previous year the Mexicans had lost 1,200 policemen to murder by
the drug forces and that the Mexican government had arrested or apprehended
250 planes. I found this at the time almost unbelievable, incredible. Has
there been any improvement?
At the meeting, one of the very bright, I thought, younger, up-and-coming
members raised the issue of the inordinate needs in America for these drugs
and what it is in that society that produces these needs that can produce
such illegal and criminal activity in Mexico. Maybe this is not your field
and you don't know anything about this, but I'm wondering if the situation
has improved in any way, if you happen to know. If you don't, I understand.
Mr. Morrison: For example, taking one statistic, the murder rate,
you mentioned 1,200 policemen. The murder rate actually did improve quite
considerably. I can send you the exact figures. I believe that between about
2010 and 2014, the level of violent crime went down in Mexico, but it began
to trend up again in 2014.
The only thing I would add is that it's not just Mexico. If you look at
Mexico's southern neighbours in Central America, you are looking at some of
the highest levels of violent crime in the world. It's a regional problem.
Mexico has borne of brunt of it. Different governments have approached the
issue of violence in drug cartels in different ways. But grosso modo,
Mexico is in better shape now than it was back in 2008, 2009, 2010.
Senator Cools: That's very good news. Thank you. I sincerely
believe that if there's any way that we can assist, promote or support, I
think we should do it. When I say "we,'' I mean Canada.
The Deputy Chair: On behalf of the committee, I would like to
thank the witnesses.
Mr. Morrison, if you would be kind enough to pass on to the Minister of
Foreign Affairs' office that when she appears before us I will be asking her
for the number on the "snap back'' on the Mexican visas, given that the
Prime Minister said in the mandate letter to her:
We have also committed to set a higher bar for openness and
transparency in government. It is time to shine more light on government
to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its
information should be open by default. If we want Canadians to trust the
government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.
Given that context, I think Canadians deserve to know if the number is
3,500 before we reinforce visas in Mexico, or higher, or whatever it is. I
will be asking the minister for that number when she appears before us.
As a public servant, I won't put you on the spot, but if you would relay
that to her office, I would appreciate it so she can be prepared to answer
when she comes.
Colleagues, we will now continue with our study on Bill S-219, An Act to
deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights
We have as witnesses today the Honourable Irwin Cotler, former Minister
of Justice and member of Parliament and well-known human rights activist;
and from the Iran Democratic Association, we have Shahram Golestaneh.
I understand both of you have brief presentations and then I'm sure the
senators will have questions. Please proceed.
Shahram Golestaneh, Iran Democratic Association: Thank you, Mr.
Chair. I'm delighted to appear before this committee to participate in the
discussion on Bill S-219. My presentation focuses on some aspects of the
bill that we believe are important considerations with respect to Canadian
values, security and global affairs.
I have been privileged and have the honour of working with the Honourable
Irwin Cotler, a distinguished scholar with vast knowledge of both Canadian
and international law, who has a relentless pursuit of justice in the global
Bill S-219 is a step in the right direction. Although in my presentation
I will be emphasizing the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or
IRGC, on all areas of concern in the bill, in my written submissions I
touched briefly on perpetrators and enablers of gross violations of human
rights in Iran, which is also part of the bill.
Many of those perpetrators are currently holding high government
positions within the Iranian regime.
It is the significance of the Iranian regime threats and its actions in
all these areas addressed here that makes it worth considering and enacting
Article 151 of the regime's Constitution specifies the duties of the
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as protecting the revolution and its
accomplishments. In other words, the IRGC is the backbone of the apparatus
established to preserve the dictatorship, which itself rests on three
pillars. The first is suppression within Iran; the second is export of
terrorism and fundamentalism throughout the world; and the third is the
program to manufacture a nuclear bomb and nuclear-capable missiles to
threaten other countries.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Iranian regime was overtly engaged in
terrorism around the globe that targeted Iranian dissidents such as Dr.
Kazem Rajavi in Geneva, Mohammad Hossein Naghdi in Rome, Shapour Bakhtiar in
Paris, leaders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Berlin, Ghassemlou in
Vienna, and the list goes on. It equally targeted citizens of other
countries, including the bombing of the American marines in Beirut, Khobar
Towers in Saudi Arabia, the Jewish AMIA Center in Buenos Aires, and many
In the same period, 450 acts of terrorism were registered to have been
carried out by the Iranian regime that spans from countries like Pakistan,
Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen, Syria to Switzerland, France, Germany,
Italy, Austria, the U.S. and Argentina. The IRGC played a critical role in
planning and conducting these acts of terrorism.
However, in recent years there was a shift to use and employ foreign
nationals and foreign entities for terrorist operations around the globe.
Two days ago, the National Council of Resistance of Iran — the main Iranian
opposition group which is credited for exposing Iran's clandestine nuclear
activities, including the existence of the Natanz and Arak nuclear
facilities back in 2002 — disclosed valuable information about the IRGC's
training centres across Iran mostly designed for foreign nationals.
I would encourage honourable senators to study this report that I have
prepared as it relates to this bill.
The newly disclosed information also identified some of the key
commanders of the IRGC.
The NCRI noted that Iran's recruitment of foreign nationals has been on
the rise at least since 2012 and that the IRGC training facilities have
grown accordingly. According to the report, this expansion has been
explicitly endorsed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who visited the Quds
Force training centres last year, an incident that the NCRI views as
underscoring Khamenei's reliance on the IRGC to advance the regime's agenda
It goes without saying that there is no distinction between the IRGC and
the Quds Force, either in the Iranian Constitution or in the national
In addition to being a potent and lethal terrorist force, the IRGC is
also a conglomerate financial powerhouse, answerable to no one but the
Supreme Leader and outside of any regular oversight about its spending and
budget. Close to 70 per cent of Iran's economy is tied to the IRGC and its
affiliated front companies. They span from controlling exports and imports,
narcotics shipments and exports, to shipments of arms and ammunition to
inflame regional conflicts.
In concluding my remarks, I want to touch upon some narratives that I
have seen those opposing the bill have used.
One, JCPOA proved diplomacy works. My argument is that those who now say
JCPOA was the result of diplomacy, including the Iranian regime's officials,
were the ones who for many years denied that Iran had any nuclear
capability, denied they were after the nuclear bomb, and they were arguing
the sanctions were counterproductive and would not yield any results.
I believe no fair-minded person these days would argue that if it was not
for the pressure of the sanctions we would not have even this agreement. I
still reserve my judgment on the shortcomings of the JCPOA.
Two, dual national Iranian-Canadians would be hurt by the bill as it
hinders re-engagement with Iran. This is one of the narratives I have heard.
Unless my reading of the bill is wrong, the only people who would suffer
from the passing of this bill would be those identified as gross violators
of human rights, inciters to hatred and genocide, and those engaged in
spreading terrorism. I believe that Canadians at large and by that virtue
the vast majority of Canadians of Iranian descent who have come to this land
to be free of oppression and intimidation will welcome such restrictions on
Third, we do not want to see another devastating war. I just can't
swallow why a small dose of justice-seeking measures in full compliance with
international law and our value system equates to war. No one wants war. In
order to avoid it, we must stand firm in bringing to justice perpetrators of
crimes against humanity. More than half a century after the Holocaust, we
are still bringing perpetrators of those crimes and even accessories to
those crimes to justice, as we should. No one can argue that this measure
will hurt Canadians of German descent, and even if it does, that is still
the right thing to do for our future generations and this marvelous land of
freedom and human rights. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for your presentation.
Mr. Cotler, please.
Hon. Irwin Cotler, P.C., Founder and Chair, Raoul Wallenberg Centre
for Human Rights: I'm pleased to appear here with my colleague Shahram
on Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to
hatred, and human rights violations.
Mr. Chairman, as you and other members of the committee will recall, I
had occasion on December 14, 2016, to appear here regarding Bill S-226,
which dealt with sanctioning persons responsible for gross violations of
internationally recognized human rights and which, on the human rights
issue, dovetails with this legislation and helps to underpin it.
My basic theme today is that we are witnessing and have continued to
witness for some time the toxic conversion of five distinct yet interrelated
threats in Khamenei's Iran, and I use the term "Khamenei's Iran'' because I
want to distinguish that from the people and public in Iran who are
otherwise the targets of mass domestic repression. So my remarks are
directed with respect to accountability regarding Khamenei's Iran and those
engaged in the violations that I will address, and at the same time in order
to protect the people of Iran.
These threats include, number one, the nuclear threat, which now warrants
monitoring in the light of the JCPOA, the comprehensive nuclear agreement,
to ensure compliance with it.
Two, Iran state sponsorship of international terrorism. As the U.S. State
Department report on international terrorism has documented year after year,
Iran remains the leading state sponsor of international terrorism, and its
terrorist footprint is global. It isn't only in the Middle East. It is in
Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, in Europe and the like.
Third is incitement to hatred. I note that your bill references
incitement to hatred, but I would also reference incitement to genocide,
which is a standing violation of the genocide convention. Where state
parties to the genocide convention, like Canada, have a legal obligation to
address and redress such state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, it's not
simply a policy option; it is an obligation that flows from our being a
state party to the genocide convention. I might add Iran also being a state
party to the genocide convention has the obligation not to engage in such
state- sanctioned incitement to genocide.
A fourth threat is the massive human rights obligations which regrettably
have increased and intensified under what is characterized as the moderate
regime of Mr. Rouhani, and have even intensified, as reports have recently
documented, since the conclusion of the nuclear agreement.
Fifth, though not addressed directly in your bill, there is the
increasing regional belligerent aggression of Iran. I'm referring to its
aggression particularly in Syria, but also in Lebanon and through Hezbollah
and the like threatening the independence and integrity of Lebanon, which
becomes at issue in Iraq, thereby destabilizing Iraq and Yemen and thereby
creating regional conflicts.
While it is not directly addressed in the threats that you identify in
your bill, what I have just said about the regional belligerent aggression
can be subsumed both under terrorist activities and human rights violations,
but it may warrant a distinguishable address.
Finally, there's the panoply of illicit behaviour that accrues from the
unlawful testing of ballistic missiles, which has been of particular concern
of late, violations of arms embargoes as in the transfer of arms to
Hezbollah, a terrorist organization under Canadian law, American law,
European Union and the like, and the international money laundering and
narcotics trafficking that have their own destabilizing aspects and which
link up with the terrorist networks as well. All of this constitutes what
has been called the Iran threat network, the ITN, warranting action by the
international community, including Canada.
Accordingly, Bill S-219 provides what I would call a modest framework for
such action dealing with the three major threats of the Iranian threat
network. It is important to emphasize that they are in standing violation of
international norms and international agreements to which Canada and Iran
are both state parties. In other words, if Iran engages in international
terrorism, then it is violating a network of international treaties and
agreements, including when it is engaged in international terrorism that
ends up targeting diplomats, as it has, and this engages the whole network
of diplomatic immunity, treaties and the like.
If it involves incitement to genocide, then, as I said, it's a standing
violation of the genocide convention and a breach of the obligations to us
as a state party not to engage in such incitement.
If it engages in major human rights violations, it is in violation of
major international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights or the treaty on torture. Again, these are treaties where
we are both state parties.
In a word, we are obliged as a state party to these treaties, let alone
as a responsible member of the international community, to enforce these
international norms, to sanction these violators, and to combat the culture
of impunity that purports to immunize violators from accountability.
One of the mistaken and I would say disturbing narratives that is
continuously propagated — and, again, I'm saying by Khamenei's Iran — is
that after the Iran nuclear agreement we are, to use their words, in a
post-sanctions universe, in other words that there is no longer any need for
sanctions because Iran has effectively been relieved of any need for
sanctions now that it is a party, with the P5+1, to the nuclear agreement.
That somehow in a post-nuclear agreement sanctions regarding even
non-nuclear violations are to be construed as violations of the nuclear
agreement, even though Iran insisted with respect to the nuclear agreement
that it should not relate to any other violations of a non-nuclear nature, a
narrative that both fosters and sustains a culture of impunity, is to turn
the logic and undertakings of the nuclear agreement on its head.
The fact that the nuclear agreement did not deal with the other threats
that I mentioned, and those in your bill, does not and should not immunize
or remove these threats from being sanctioned. On the contrary, it is reason
alone for these other threats to be sanctioned precisely because they were
not included in the nuclear agreement. Even if we are, for the sake of
argument, in a post-sanctions universe regarding the nuclear agreement, then
a fortiori we have to ensure that we are all the more vigilant with
the non-nuclear threats, with the Iran threat network, as I mentioned, which
is in standing violation of the international norms, lest under this false
narrative we as a country, let alone the international community, become
complicit in a culture of impunity and immunity and absence of any
accountability for human rights violators and, thereby, we default on our
Accordingly, while I was an MP I introduced a private member's bill in
2009, the Iran Accountability Bill, to hold Iran to account for the Iranian
threat network, as I mentioned, and which is referenced in your bill. At the
time, prior to the nuclear agreement, I called for a nuclear agreement and
the negotiation of one so at least that threat would be addressed, and that
clearly was one of the most compelling of threats.
As I said then and reaffirm today, we need to address the
comprehensiveness of the Iranian fivefold threat, which constitutes a
standing threat to international peace, security, human rights and
particularly to the people of Iran.
This led to the study and report by our own foreign affairs subcommittee
on human rights, which was referenced in your bill; the establishment of an
Iran accountability week, whose centrepiece was addressing human rights
violations in Iran; a global Iranian political prison advocacy project where
members of Parliament, both in the house and the Senate, took up the case
and cause of political prisoners — and I note that in your bill you call for
the release of political prisoners — and which led to my own representation
of Iranian political prisoners, including the leadership of the Bahá'í
Ayatollah Borujerdi, a leading cleric in Iran who has tragically been
imprisoned and tortured for advocating nothing other than freedom of
religion and belief in Iran.
Now as I am meeting before you, we are in the ninth year of the
imprisonment and the torture and detention of Saeed Malekpour, a permanent
Canadian resident on the path to citizenship who was arrested when he went
to visit his ill father, detained, convicted on trumped up charges, tortured
in detention, and the like. Just 10 days ago in Toronto an evening was held,
largely in the presence of the Iranian-Canadian community, to call for his
If I may just conclude on this point, as an MP no other issue involved me
more than the Iranian issue because of the fivefold threat, because of the
particularity of the human rights violations, because it engaged us so much
as a state party, and because of the global spectrum of its fallout with
respect to the totality of its threats.
As I said in 2009, but which may bear repetition today, my bill "targets
the regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iran, and not the great
civilization of Iran — and the peoples of Iran — who are increasingly the
object of the regime's domestic repression.'' One cannot emphasize that
I close, Mr. Chairman, with one other point regarding the false
narrative. There is a suggestion, and I have seen it in testimony before
this committee, or the implicit inference arising from it, that if we adopt
something such as this Senate bill, then this will prejudice or preclude
engagement with Iran, or that if we engage with Iran somehow we can only do
so in a way that does not involve this bill. I want to say that there is no
contradiction between engaging with Iran, which I have always supported, and
supporting this bill. When we speak about engaging with Iran, we're not
talking only about engaging with the Government of Iran. That is the formal
dimension of that engagement. We are talking about engaging on behalf of the
peoples of Iran, those who are the targets of mass domestic repression. Nor
can engagement with Iran somehow relieve us of our international
responsibilities to enforce international norms and treaties any more than
non-engagement would allow us to, because as a responsible actor of the
international community, we have a responsibility to enforce international
human rights norms, to combat the culture of impunity, to be a responsible
actor in the international community, and to do so on behalf of the peoples
of Iran with whom we will be engaging, along with our engagement with the
Government of Iran.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much.
Colleagues, we have a very long list. I would ask people wherever
possible to keep their questions short and the answers as short as possible
Senator Saint-Germain, please.
Senator Saint-Germain: You are both very convincing and the
situation in Iran is clearly unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. You
stressed the situation in Iran and of course everyone shares your view.
My concern pertains to the actual effectiveness of the bill as opposed to
a merely symbolic value. More specifically, the requirement that Canada's
minister publish an annual report makes him accountable for that report.
Knowing how Imam Khameni's executive committee operates, I wonder how a
minister could prepare a report that is sufficiently documented to be
Do you have any suggestions? You said that this was a stage, a step in
the right direction. What other steps do you think could be taken in order
for Canada's action to be effective?
Mr. Golestaneh: In terms of being symbolic, I don't think that
it's symbolic. I believe actually it has consequential effects on our
relations, not only with Iran, but also as a leader on human rights and
combatting impunity worldwide.
When we had the case of Ms. Zahra Kazemi, who was murdered in Iran, I
remember there was hesitation of making Iran accountable for their acts.
Eventually when Canada took the case and introduced, in 2003, annual UN
resolutions against human rights violations, other countries followed suit.
This has been our argument since then and at that time, that if we take the
lead, other countries will follow suit because this is reasonable. It is
based on international law. It is combating the culture of impunity and will
have an effect on the gross violators of human rights and other things.
With respect to specific measures, I hope Mr. Cotler would have better
answers about the mechanism of how to enforce the bill or ask the minister
how to collect that information. We used to have that. There used to be
annual consultation with the NGO community generally speaking, not about
Iran but about all countries around the globe, by Foreign Affairs. That was
abandoned many years ago, but that would also be a venue to deal with the
Iranian people and with Iranians in the diaspora, to provide valuable
information. As I presented in my argument about the IRGC, the same argument
can be made about what is happening inside the country about human rights
abuses and about incidents of incitement to genocide and hatred.
But in terms of specific measures, if Mr. Cotler has any oversight on
that, I don't know.
Mr. Cotler: The last point is very important. It is incumbent on
us to state our demands to ensure that the bill achieves its objectives. The
preamble to Bill S-219 begins as follows:
Whereas the Charter of the United Nations and customary international
law impose on all nations the responsibility to promote and protect
human rights as a mutual obligation of all members of the international
community and as an obligation of a state towards its citizens;
I think this indicates it is not simply a symbolic measure, but as I was
suggesting in my testimony, it is an obligation that we have as a
responsible actor in the international community. There are specific things
we can do. Take the things in the act itself, for example, the matter of
incitement to hatred and to genocide. It's not well known, but it is
something that we can document. The 21st century began on January 3, 2000,
with the Supreme Leader of Iran. This is for Ahmadinejad, to whom this is
always attributed. With the Supreme Leader of Iran saying, "There can be no
solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict without the annihilation of the Jewish
people.'' He didn't even use the euphemism, as it is usually done, of the
It has continued after Ahmadinejad, to whom was attributed all this
incitement, about the obligation, as Khamenei put it, to remove this
cancerous tumour, Israel, from the Middle East.
Even more so, it was just documented yesterday in a report that emerged
from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that the incitement to hate and
genocide has, regrettably and tragically, even increased since the nuclear
agreement, where one would have hoped that at least the agreement would have
had an abatement on that incitement; in fact, the incitement has continued.
The recent testing of ballistic missiles in Iran itself — arguably a
violation of UN Security Council resolutions in that regard — were
accompanied by banners on the ballistic missiles saying in Hebrew as well as
in Persian, "Death to Israel.''
So I think that one role that Canada could play is to provide
independent, open-source documentation and testimony with respect to the
manner in which Khamenei's Iran is in standing violation of the prohibition
against the incitement to genocide in the genocide convention.
Again, we can use Supreme Court jurisprudence because we have, through
our Supreme Court, set down the most compelling principle, and now
precedent, with respect to how to sanction incitement to hatred and genocide
when the Supreme Court set forth in its judgment in 2005 that the very
incitement to genocide constitutes the crime, whether or not acts of
So we have the ability from an evidentiary point of view to set forth the
documentary record regarding incitement to genocide, and from a legal or
juridical point of view to set forth the remedies to combat it, one of them
being — no state party has done it, though I believe it's an obligation
under the genocide convention — to institute an interstate complaint against
Iran before the International Court of Justice, as Iran is also a state
party to the genocide convention, for its standing violations of that
I'm using the matter of incitement to genocide as a case study of where
Canada can provide an independent evidentiary and juridical basis for the
international community to be able to act based on the record that we put
The Deputy Chair: Colleagues, we have a long list. As interesting
as the answers are, we have to keep them shorter and the questions as short
as possible, as I know you always do.
Senator Ngo: Thank you for your presentations here today.
Last week the Iranian Canadian Congress mentioned a very slow but
promising improvement in steps taken by modern factions in Iran towards
improving human rights conditions in the country. They also mentioned that
unfortunately, many times these small steps are being ignored.
Could you share with us your thoughts about that perspective on this?
Could you provide us also with examples of recent human rights abuses that
have been committed by the regime?
Mr. Golestaneh: Yes. I'll try to be, as the chair said, brief on
Unfortunately, we have not seen any improvement in the human rights
situation in Iran. This is factual. Look at the number of executions since
January 1, 2017. Yesterday we had a mass execution of 12 people.
Now, there is infighting within different factions of the regime. There
is no question about that. The infighting is real. It has nothing to do with
moderation. Indeed, everything that we have discussed here is already
institutionalized in the Iranian Constitution. The export of so-called
revolution, which I call the export of fundamentalism and terrorism, is
enshrined in the Iranian Constitution. If Mr. Rouhani or anyone else comes
forward and says we have to abandon that and change the Constitution, I
guess everyone would welcome that. These are not the types of things we are
What is emanating from Iran is actually — missile tests was one aspect.
It was also a test to see the international resolve of how they deal with
Iran. Unfortunately, we haven't seen much by way of condemnation, except
from the U.S., but not even from Europe to the extent we really hoped to
In terms of human rights, unfortunately, again, the vast majority in the
international community has been silent because the narrative that Iran has
used in order to do these things was that anything you do to us, including
sanctions, is a violation of the JCPOA. Those are completely separate
issues. So I would argue against that statement; unfortunately we have not
seen any major improvement.
The litmus test is very simple. I actually witnessed that session. One of
the honourable senators asked, "Are there any preconditions for even
engagement in Iran?'' I would say definitely. All of these things we are
discussing in this bill can be preconditions for things like that. The mass
violation of human rights: You stop the executions for instance; put a
moratorium on that. That would be one thing. You return the body of Zahra
Kazemi back to Canada, as her family wished. That would be a precondition.
You release political prisoners in Iran. That would be a precondition. You
stop incitement to genocide. These are all the things that can be done.
Unfortunately, we haven't seen from any factions of the regime any of those
Senator Downe: Colleagues, as you know, the rules state we have to
adjourn at 12:30. I will start a second round list, if we have time get to
that. I'll ask everybody restrict themselves to one question.
Senator Housakos: I have a follow-up question to the topic you
just touched upon, which is preconditions, requirements and benchmarks set
before engaging in dialogue. Quite frankly, I'm skeptical, looking at the
path Iran continues to take and based on the enlightening testimony you have
provided us today.
Why should we be optimistic that dialogue will have an end result? What
would be the time frame? Where do we set the benchmarks where there are
dates, and they are not meeting those preconditions? As we speak, there are
not meeting many of those preconditions.
Second, our former colleague Mr. Cotler pointed out that there are two
ways to engage Iran; that is, to engage the regime and the people. Can you
distinguish exactly what methodology you would use to bypass the regime and
engage the Iranian people?
Mr. Cotler: I want to say, parenthetically, because when I was
quoting a Supreme Court judgment on the matter of holding those who incite
genocide to account, I didn't mention the name of the case. It is the
Mugesera case in 2005. That's just for the record.
On the matter of the question that was put, it relates to the question
right now. That has to do with whether human rights violations, as has been
suggested in previous witness testimony, have abated in Iran, particularly
since the signing of the nuclear agreement. I wish that were so, but the
record discloses exactly the opposite. You don't need to take my word for
it; just look at the reports of the UN special rapporteur for human rights
in Iran, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed who appeared before the Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on International Human Rights to give testimony. Look at the
witness testimony of Iranian-Canadians themselves. There are NGO reports
from Human Rights Watch International. Look at the indicators.
I'll close with this and then relate to Senator Housakos question on
governing the people.
Shahram mentioned the issue of executions. Iran executes more people per
capita than any other country in the world. In January 2017, they have been
executing a person every nine hours. Since Rouhani came to power, the rate
of executions has dramatically increased in Iran, and this includes the
targeting of juveniles, minorities and the like.
Second, as mentioned in Mr. Shaheed's report, is torture and detention.
Third is what I would call the criminalization of innocents, where people
are imprisoned not for what they do but for who they are: human rights
defenders, members of minorities and the like. Right now, there are more
than a thousand political prisoners in Iran. Therefore, I'm delighted this
legislation calls for release.
Fourth has to do with the targeting of religious and ethnic minorities.
Let me mention the Bahá'í as a case study. Their situation has worsened, not
Similarly, with regard to targeting dual-nationals, that has increased,
I can go on. I have written elsewhere about 12 indicators that
demonstrate that the situation re human rights in Iran has worsened.
When we engage with Iran, we are going to send a signal to the people of
Iran that we are with them; that we stand in solidarity with them; and that
we will not relent until the political prisoners are released and until Iran
ceases and desists from torture and detention. As we engage with Iran, we
will continue to hold the regime accountable, not because that is the
purpose of engagement, but because the obligation of both Iran and us as
members of the international community is to cease and desist. We will seek
to combat the culture of impunity in Iran from which and as a result of
which the people of Iran are among its victims.
Senator Cordy: Thank you both for providing insight into what is
happening in Iran. When we're developing legislation, we want to make sure
that it's practical and not just going to be something that just sits on a
Following up on Senator Saint-Germain's question is the obligation on the
part of the minister to provide an annual report to Parliament on the abuses
taking place in Iran. I think you did an excellent job, Mr. Cotler, of
differentiating between the people of Iran and the regime within Iran. The
people of Iran are the ones we really want to help.
But when I look at the annual report and the list in section 3 of all the
people, among others the officials of Iran, that have to be contacted and
receive information from them — or officials from organizations within the
country. ECO would be an example of the execution of a man under Khamenei's
orders. They don't even report within Iran.
The minister, with this bill, would have an obligation to get this
information. What are the practicalities of any minister being able to gain
access to information that would be credible to present to the Parliament in
Mr. Cotler: There are open sources. In fact, Mr. Golestaneh has
access to some of those sources. When we had Iran accountability week, he
appeared before us as one of the witness and shared that type of documented
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran has in the year 2016
issued reports in March, May and September. These fulsome and comprehensive
reports document the human rights violations in Iran with respect to each of
the indicators that are in your report and some of the others even that are
So I think that the report, while it only asks that the minister publish
an annual report on Iran-sponsored terrorism and human rights violations,
could even be more inclusive by using the reports of the United Nations. I
mentioned the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, but other
rapporteurs on each of the thematic procedures have also made inquiries in
that regard. The European Union collects information. The U.S. has ongoing
congressional hearings, both in the house and in the Senate that are
documenting each of those three themes that I mentioned, although less so in
most cases on the matter of incitement to hatred.
We can make a particular contribution in that regard as well as on the
terrorism and human rights.
The people of Iran are themselves sources of that information, though
admittedly they have to be careful about the manner in which that
information emerges, lest they themselves become imprisoned for being the
sources of that information. But some of that information does emerge from
former political prisoners and the like.
This week I'll be going to Geneva for a summit on rights and democracy,
which is spotlighting the case and cause of political prisoners. Among the
political prisoners, or the families of political prisoners, will be former
political prisoners from Iran, who will be giving testimony.
So there are a lot of open sources and I think Canada can play a
distinguishable and distinguished role in documenting that information and
coming up with juridical remedies, the whole in accordance with your bill.
Senator Ataullahjan: I thank you for your presentation. There is a
possibility of a power vacuum arising upon the death of the Supreme Leader,
with a possibility, maybe, of a takeover by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.
I'm particularly interested in Qassem Suleimani, who is a very popular
commander of the Quds Force.
My question to you, Mr. Golestaneh, is this: What role would he play? The
feeling is he is due for a promotion and might become the head of the IRGC,
so I would like to ask about the political influence of the IRGC. Would the
succession of power in Iran be influenced by its political relationship with
the West, as well as the type of legislation we're contemplating in Bill
Mr. Golestaneh: I'm glad you brought this issue up. Regarding
Qassem Suleimani, this is also a follow-up on the question that the
honourable senator asked about how we get the information.
Some of those sources of information are very open, including the
commanding chain in the IRGC, the Quds Force and Qassem Suleimani, who has
been named specifically in many UN and U.S. reports and even the pre-nuclear
negotiations with Iran. He has been sanctioned, but unfortunately we are
seeing him now travelling freely to Iraq, Syria and Russia, holding hands
with officials in these countries and commanding, on the battleground,
operations against civilians. We have seen the resulting disaster in Syria
and in Iraq.
Qassem Suleimani is the commander of the extra-territorial force of the
IRGC, called the Quds Force. I also have to stress that the IRGC itself was
formed shortly after the revolution as a countermeasure to the Iranian army,
or the potential for any coup by the Iranian army, by then-Supreme Leader
Khomeini. But during the whole Iran and Iraq war, one of the slogans for the
IRGC, and also for the army, was that the road to Quds — which is the
equivalent to Jerusalem — the road to Jerusalem passes through Karbala. This
was enshrined and institutionalized as being the benchmark for having a
Shiite Crescent method; so, having Iran, Iraq and Syria, and then going to
When you say he is a popular commander, he is a known commander. He is
notorious, actually, as a commander. I wouldn't use the word "popular''; I
would use the word "notorious.''
Senator Ataullahjan: Amongst the IRGC, yes.
Mr. Golestaneh: There are many factions even within the IRGC. The
thing is all of them work directly under the command of the Supreme Leader.
As I mentioned in my presentation, even with their budget, they are not
answerable to anyone, even within the Iranian Constitution that, by itself,
has its own goal. They are not answerable to anyone but the Supreme Leader.
When I say it's more than a military force, it controls 70 per cent of
Iran's economy, like the Khatam-al Anbiya, which is the main conglomerate
for most of the defence construction, missile testing and construction in
the country. We can appreciate that when we talk about sanctions or
non-nuclear sanctions, it directly affects the IRGC.
Qassem Suleimani has been a key commander of the Quds Force and a key
person in the whole operation in Iraq and Syria. However, he is not the only
one. Since 2003, all of Iran's ambassadors to Iraq were commanders of the
IRGC. The current Iranian ambassador, Irij Masjidi, who was named a few days
before the new U.S. administration was sworn in, is also a key commander of
the Quds Force. But none of them are in denial that these people are Quds
Force commanders and IRGC commanders.
So we have open sources providing information to the minister of how to
designate the IRGC and how to deal with the portion of the bill that deal
with that, let alone other things that Mr. Cotler provided on open sources
about gross violations of human rights.
One of the key things I want to emphasize, as he also emphasized,
regarding the Iranians themselves — when I say Iranian, I mean the Iranian
opposition — you can interact with many groups from the Iranian diaspora and
you can get information that would be corroborated. I wouldn't say to take
anyone's word for granted, but it can be corroborated by the UN and other
Senator Marwah: It is a privilege to meet you, Mr. Cotler. You
have a remarkable record of public service.
I have a question that Mr. Golestaneh raised where you said in your
comments that this bill would receive support from — I don't know the exact
adjective you used — a lot of Iranian-Canadians. But last week, we heard
from the Iranian Canadian Congress who, at least, gave us the impression
that this is not in the best interest of Iranian- Canadians. That left us
with the impression that they did represent a large number, if not the
majority, of Iranian- Canadians. My question is: Who are we to believe?
The second question related to that is how do you balance the interests
of Iranian-Canadians who feel that this is not in their best interests
towards Canada's role — and it's a very important one — to advance the human
rights and the anti-terrorist agenda in Iraq? How do you balance the two?
Mr. Golestaneh: First, it is my personal belief that what Canada
can, will and has to do should not take into consideration which specific
group to please or not to please, including us.
Senator Marwah: That's not the question. The question is: Do
Iranian-Canadians support this bill?
Mr. Golestaneh: Absolutely. The vast majority of Iranian-Canadians
would support the perpetrators of crimes against humanity being sanctioned,
as well as those who are responsible for their coming to Canada to be free
of oppression and intimidation. There will be sanctions, and they don't see
their torturers here on the streets in Canada. Absolutely.
This is a benchmark, but in my remarks I also indicated that, arguably,
even if it was not the case, that still would have been the right thing to
do. Justice is not a matter of who we please and who we do not please.
Justice is a matter of international law and obligations that we have to
That said, the vast majority of Iranian-Canadians would absolutely
support that the IRGC, the gross violators of human rights and the inciters
of genocide and hatred would be sanctioned.
Mr. Cotler: As someone who has also read the testimony before
committee, there would be some concern from some Iranian-Canadians, and I
would assure them that the sanctions should be sanctions which target the
human rights violators and are not drafted in such a general way as to
somehow prejudicially affect the Iranian people. The whole purpose is to
protect the Iranian people from human rights violators, so we are targeting
the human rights violators. I know Marina Nemat made that point in her
The second thing is that the Iranian Canadian Congress — and this is
where some of the inference may have been drawn — somehow assumed or brought
up the argument that an adoption of this bill would be counter to engaging
with Iran, or that this would be an argument to be used against engaging
with Iran. I said that that's turning the issue on its head because we have
to take the issue of engaging with Iran as a given. It is just that when we
speak about engaging with Iran, we have to have an inclusive approach to
that engagement. We are not just engaging with a government; we are engaging
with the people. And when we engage, we are doing so to hold the violators
to account on behalf of the people, where we work in concert with the
government — because they are still the government — to see that they in
fact live up to the international obligations that they have assumed as
state parties to the international treaties.
You have something in your bill that I think can act as an incentive. It
provides, and I will end with this, that:
. . . Canada's current sanctions regime against Iran cannot be eased
unless two consecutive annual reports conclude that there is no credible
evidence of terrorist activity or incitement to hatred emanating from
Iran and that there has been significant progress in Iran with respect
to human rights;
That's to incentivize the Iranian government to in fact comply with this
legislation and thereby improve the situation for all concerned.
The Deputy Chair: Colleagues, I regret to inform you the time
allocated for the Senate for the meeting has ended. I have asked the clerk
to add those that did not have an opportunity to ask a question today to be
the first two names on our next hearing, where we will be discussing Bill
S-219 again. Unfortunately, it won't be with the same witnesses, but there
will be others.
On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank the witnesses for their
time today, as we know how busy they are.
(The committee adjourned.)