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127th Assembly of the IPU

Honourable senators, others have already spoken of the IPU, but did honourable senators know that the Inter-Parliamentary Union is the oldest multilateral organization of Parliaments, even preceding the League of Nations?

Established in 1889, the IPU recently held its one hundred and twenty-seventh assembly. Over 1,300 delegates from 162 member Parliaments gathered together in the most welcoming of nations — Canada.

For six days, from October 21 to 26, the delegates met in picturesque Quebec City for a unique forum to address the challenges of citizenship, identity and cultural diversity in a globalized world. As one of the most diverse and multicultural countries in the world, where better to have such a discussion than in Canada?

I led a special session on gender-sensitive Parliaments. In the 20th century, one of the greatest changes to democracy around the world was women’s increased participation in politics, both as voters and as members of Parliament. Canada has supported this shift.

With our recent role in Afghanistan and our Senate study on women’s rights in Afghanistan, I was so pleased to see not one but four women in the delegation from Afghanistan. In fact, this morning we received an email from the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Afghanistan expressing his gratitude.

I wanted to thank Senator Oliver, president of the Canadian group of the IPU, and his team for fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding. Canada was a gracious host, even going so far as to plan an event for the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha, a major Muslim holiday that commemorates the sacrifice that the prophet Abraham was willing to make of his son. Muslim delegates were missing this celebration in their home countries.

A prayer and a reception were organized by the Canadian IPU staff, which one delegate later said were the most memorable he had ever attended. While the prayer was led by a delegate from Pakistan, the sermon was made by a delegate from Egypt. The delegation from Oman even surprised us with delicacies from their country. About 80 representatives of Muslim nations joined together, standing side by side irrespective of differences. It was a humbling sight to see.

I wanted to mention the presence of Senator Fortin-Duplessis, Senator Joan Fraser and MP Jean Crowder and the IPU staff at the prayer. It was noticed and greatly appreciated by all.

Honourable senators, I am sure that, like me, you would have been proud to see global unity on our very doorstep.