Liberal MP Rob Oliphant introduced a new Private Members' Bill today, and I caught up with him after Question Period to ask him more about it.
Q: Tell me about this Private Members’ Bill you’ve introduced.
A: It’s a bill to recognise July 11th as a memorial for the victims of Srebrenica. Fifteen years ago in 1995, there was a massacre that happened in a UN safe-declared area, and 8000 Bosniak – which is Bosnian Muslim – men and boys were massacred in a very short order of time. It’s been declared by two international bodies as a genocide, and as well the American Senate and House of Representatives, the European Parliament, and the Serbian government itself has recognised this genocide. The Canadian government should do the same, and I think a memorial day would be the most appropriate thing to do for that. It’s part of the healing process that needs to go on.
The other part of the story is that the NDP have a motion on the books, and came up with a new motion that they were seeking unanimous, all-party approval for, and the NDP, the Bloc and the Liberals agreed to it, but the Conservatives refused this week to give unanimous consent to it unless the “genocide” word was taken out. The genocide, however, was internationally recognised – this is not a matter of debate. I have no idea why they did not recognise that, or what they’re afraid of. They refused to give unanimous consent for the motion, so my bill – which I’d already planned on doing this week as well – takes on a higher significance.
Q: In terms of the logistics of this bill, is this the one you’re moving forward with when your turn comes up?
A: When my turn comes up, I’ll decide which bill. I’ll have several by then. My hope is that by then, a unanimous motion will have been adopted, so part of the Private Members’ Bill is to push the government another step.
Q: You also had a question in QP today regarding your critic portfolio. Can you give me a little more about the background for that?
A: There was a report this week that retired Colonel Stogran, the Veterans’ Ombudsman, has made quite strong statements, very critical of the government, and the treatment of returning soldiers – especially Afghan soldiers, but pretty much all ‘modern veterans.’ I have two concerns – one, for the well-being of the ombudsman, because as soon as someone is critical of this government, they kind of disappear, whether it’s Paul Kennedy, or any of the number of other senior public servants who’ve been dismissed as soon as they’re critical, so I wanted to get it on the record very quickly that we’re worried about that, so that the government knows we’re watching. The second goal was to continue to raise the issues that the ombudsman is raising, regarding the lack of new programming for a changed context, and I think this goes hand-in-hand with the fact that the Prime Minister has appointed a part-time Minister of Veterans Affairs for the first time in 50 years, when I think some of these issues require full-time attention.