|June 2012 - Human Rights|
I don’t often use this space to talk about foreign affairs. Usually the focus is on the economy, the budget, infrastructure or innovation – just to name a few recent topics.
However, having served on the House of Commons Sub-Committee on International Human Rights since 2006, there’s another part to my work in Ottawa. Recently there have been a few opportunities to speak out against human rights abuses abroad, and for freedom and democracy in all corners of the world.
On May 14th there was a "take note" debate in the House of Commons on international human rights. These are special debates that take place occasionally to draw attention to important issues.
I rose to speak out against the human rights abuses that Bahá’í leaders in Iran have been suffering since the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
The Bahá’í people have lived peacefully in Persia, now Iran, since the 1800s. However, in 2008, seven members of a Bahá’í group were arrested in their homes, without charges, and held in solitary confinement. Once trumped-up charges were concocted, 20-year sentences were issued and they are all now prisoners of conscience in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. This is a shameful example of the tyranny against the Bahá’í people taking place in Iran under the Ahmadinejad regime and Canada is speaking out.
Earlier, on April 27th, I participated in the World Parliamentarians Conference on Tibet, held in Ottawa. I introduced the Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister elected by Tibetans), Dr. Lobsang Sangay, who spoke about the grim situation in Tibet. Peaceful protesters are being fired upon and Tibetans are setting themselves on fire to protest the Chinese police crackdown.
The hope is that Dr. Sangay – a Harvard-educated expert in international human rights law, democratic constitutionalism and conflict resolution – will help bring about change. In the past decade, he has organized two unprecedented conferences between the Dalai Lama and Chinese scholars towards a resolution of the Tibetan issue.
Just last week (June 1st), I chaired an all-party press conference in Ottawa to draw attention to continuing and widespread persecution taking place in Burma (Myanmar). Local NDP MP Wayne Marston (Hamilton East-Stoney Creek) also participated.
While these are just a few of the many grave situations around the world, it surely reminds us what a great country Canada is -- where human rights and freedoms are protected under the law and by our democracy.