Rights & Liberties
2 min

Mario Silva talks trade and human rights

I spoke to gay Toronto MP Mario Silva for a few minutes last week, and asked him about the new session of Parliament. Silva is on two committees this session – the Commons committee on International Trade, and he's the Vice-Chair of the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. That Subcommittee was responsible for things like the report on Omar Khadr in the last Parliament (which the government subsequently ignored), but it nevertheless got some attention to the issue.

Q: You’re on two different committees right now. International Trade and the Human Rights subcommittee.
A: International Trade has been an interesting committee because we look at a shrinking economy, a loss of jobs, and possibly a situation where we will no longer be an exporting country but an importing country, and have to figure out how to get back to that advantage situation that Canada was in, which it is to be an exporting nation, so trade will play a very important role, and our partners with the US and the Europeans and international as well, and we’ll have to figure out how to strengthen those relationships. There are a few agreements as well, about the European Free Trade agreement, and maybe Canada-Colombia, so all those agreements they’re working on, we’ll have to see legislation as well, and see whether it has any impact either positive or negative on the Canadian economy.

Q: And on the Subcommittee for Human Rights?
A: Subcommittee for Human Rights, we’re just [starting up]. We were looking at last, when we left, minority rights, particularly religious minority rights in countries such as Pakistan, Iraq, and Egypt. We’ll have to assess as of [now] what issues we’ll be focusing on, and obviously I have spoken quite vocally about human rights issues in many countries, in the Americas and all over the world. Particularly also gay and lesbian issues are very important because I think that’s the new frontier for the gay and lesbian community to take on, is the important role that we have to be supportive of all those who are being persecuted around the world.

Q: In terms of Private Members’ Bills this session, what are you looking forward to introducing?
A: I had a series of Private Members’ Bills last year. I’m way down on the list this year, so I’m still figuring out whether I’m going to bring back some of those. I’ll probably do it for symbolic reasons. Some of them were about the environment, some of them were issues about human rights, one of them is an issue that concerns me greatly, it’s a motion basically – not so much a Private Members’ Bill but a motion to Parliament that basically is the succession of the Head of State, which being the Queen, would be in line with the Canadian constitution. That would mean asking the British Parliament to amend the Act of Settlement of 1701 that basically doesn’t allow for a Catholic and a woman to accede to the throne if a male heir is born, and if there is also a Catholic or a monarch who marries a Catholic cannot ascend to the throne, so it’s a very discriminatory law.

Q: The Autumn Kelly issue?
A: It’s an issue that has been burning for quite some time, that I think is quite patently discriminatory. It’s quite a bigoted law and it needs to be changed.