While an estimated 30,000 Tamil protesters demonstrated on the lawn of Parliament Hill – many of them having taken busses from Montreal and Toronto to be in Ottawa for this particular demonstration (free of Tamil Tiger flags, it must be noted) – the business of the nation carried on.
During Members’ Statements, Liberal MP Mario Silva spoke out against Iran’s comments regarding the Holocaust at the recent Durban conference on racism (which Canada did not participate in), and NDP MP Bill Siksay spoke about the need for more peace initiatives – including a “Department of Peace” – by the government.
Silva: Mr. Speaker, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, a sombre day when we reflect on one of the most tragic periods of human history.
Yet, just yesterday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad used the Durban Review Conference to incite hatred and genocide and undermine the cause of human rights. The Iranian president's complicity in crimes against humanity reminds us of our profound obligation to speak out against hatred and his call for the end of Israel.
We must join together, today and every day, to remember the millions who lost their lives as innocent victims of hate at the hands of the most despicable regime the world has ever seen.
Let us challenge inhumanity and confront injustice when it tries to rear its head. Let us say with conviction, “Never again; never again!”
Siksay: Mr. Speaker, how does a society develop a culture of peace? The Canadian Department of Peace Initiative focused on that question last weekend in Hamilton, Ontario.
Peace activists from across Canada showed our support for a major realignment of federal and provincial government priorities away from militarism and violence, and toward peace.
The Department of Peace Initiative proposes the establishment of a federal department of peace to place the promotion of peace at the heart of the operation of our government by redirecting the machinery of government toward the promotion of peaceful conflict resolution, non-violent intervention and mediation.
As well, establishing a Canadian civilian peace service to professionalize peace work by Canadians would significantly improve Canada's role in charting a course to peace at home and around the world.
New opportunities exist to recommit to peace given the coming end to Canada's participation in the war in Afghanistan and new interest in nuclear disarmament. A broadly mandated department of peace would entrench Canadians' hopes for a peaceful world in the work of our federal government.
With Harper still in Jamaica, Tony Clement was apparently his designated replacement in the House today, responding to Ignatieff’s questions on cuts to science and research funding (while a furious looking Gary Goodyear shouted “nonsense!” to Ignatieff). And while Diane Finley deflected any of Jack Layton’s questions on EI, it wasn’t until Liberal MP Mike Savage asked a question on the EI system that Finely declared that now wasn’t the time to overhaul the system. Err, okay – isn’t that the point that they’re trying to make? That the current system has problems that need to be fixed right away, given the economic situation?
Questions on Sri Lanka came from Liberals Albina Guarnieri and Kristy Duncan, while Bev Oda simply said that they were monitoring the situation and calling for a cease-fire.
After Question Period, Liberal MP Rob Oliphant addressed the scrums regarding Ignatieff and the Tamil protests.
Oliphant: Michael invited eleven senior Tamil community leaders in to discuss why there’s a demonstration today, what’s going on in the community. Where six MPs and Michael met with eleven different leaders from various groups from across Canada, and they told him two things – they talked about the stress of the Tamil community in Canada, and the very particular grief situation. Also, they’re concerned about the catastrophe in Sri Lanka.
Reporter: Is there any reason why Michael or somebody like Jim Karygiannis or somebody who’s been involved with the Tamil community, wasn’t allowed to speak to the group today? Mr. Layton did.
Oliphant: I think it was our consensus that the best way to meet with the Tamil community was to do it with their leadership – it was the best way to have a thoughtful, intelligent conversation, so each of the Tamil leaders got to express to Michael very directly. Many of us have attended Tamil organisation rallies and events before that – it’s not new. Bob Rae had a press conference last week, and we expressed those kinds of concerns in that larger forum. Today I think was the forum for Michael to step back and have a thoughtful discussion.
Reporter: So did you agree with the position, that we recall our Canadian High Commissioner, that we impose sanctions, and that we get humanitarian aid and NGOs in there?
Oliphant: Michael even expressed even more than that. It was for the Canadian government to call for again an immediate cease-fire, for a UN special envoy to be appointed immediately to maintain or build that peace diplomatically, to call for increased humanitarian aid, and for better access to the humanitarian aid. We recognise that there are blockages with the aid right now, so it’s not getting through. Also witnesses to the war – Michael expressed a huge concern that the war is going un-witnessed, and when wars are un-witnessed, there’s always the possibility of more violence, so we have to get more people in there. I think he also stressed that we shouldn’t underestimate what Canada can do. We shouldn’t overestimate – but we shouldn’t underestimate that Canada can take a world leadership role, fulfilling the role that perhaps Norway had in the past, but Canada needs to take up that leadership role.
Incidentally, Oliphant also got a response to a previous written question submitted to the government regarding their television commercials about Tax Free Savings Accounts.
Sartorial snaps go out to Lisa Raitt for the sexy black lacy top she mostly kept under the black wrap sweater. Quite a courageous statement, and the girl can work it. The style citation goes out to Megan Leslie, once again. The brown dress and matching shoes weren’t the problem. It was the fact that she chose to pair them with bright yellow tights and a yellow and blue ascot. Yes, an ascot. Yikes!
Up today: Bloc MP Thierry St-Cyr’s Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), gets its Second Reading vote. Will it pass? Will the Refugee Appeal Division finally come into existence? Stay tuned.