Honourable Senators, I rise today to speak about the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. Senator Fraser has highlighted the extraordinary work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the work of the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians and I would like to both recognize and applaud Senator Fraser for her ongoing support and involvement with the IPU.
The IPU’s Committee on Human Rights works to “protect parliamentarians against abuses and thus, defend the parliament institution.” The Committee’s work is invaluable to parliamentarians around the globe who may otherwise not have a mechanism to address violations of human rights perpetrated against them by their own government.
In this regard, I am reminded of the time when my daughter was in grade 6 and she entered an essay writing contest on The Importance of Democracy. The theme of her essay was how lucky she felt to live in a country where she was free to speak her mind without fear of being put in prison, like her grandfather, a Senator in Pakistan had been, simply because of political affiliation.
My daughter won 1st place in that contest and the prize was a trip to the Parliament of Canada. It was on that trip, that I visited Parliament for the very first time. I can assure you that never in my wildest dreams did I imagine, at the time, that one day I would be here.
I recall when I first became involved with the IPU. As a newly appointed Senator, I was inspired by the exchange of ideas and dedication to world-wide parliamentary dialogue; the promotion of democracy, women’s involvement in politics, peace and security, as well as the commitment to defend fundamental human rights of all parliamentarians.
This year, the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has examined complaints of alleged violations of the rights of parliamentarians in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the South Pacific.
The complaints included allegations of death threats, intimidation, harassment, restrictions of freedom of expression and assembly, arbitrary arrest and detention, obstruction of justice, absence of due process, arbitrary revocation of parliamentary mandate, violations of parliamentary immunity, arbitrary striping of nationality, withholding of financial entitlements and years of delay and lack of transparency in the investigation of the assassination of a parliamentarian.
Senators, as parliamentarians in a country such as Canada, we may take for granted the rights and freedoms we exercise without fear every day in our work. But, we mustn’t. We must never forget that for parliamentarians in other countries, it may not always be the case that their fundamental rights are respected and upheld.
When a government violates the rights of their parliamentarians, it undermines the ability to exercise his or her parliamentary mandate and it affects the ability of parliament, as an institution, to fulfil its role.
Canada must, therefore, continue its support of the IPU and the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, to ensure that governments, who violate the fundamental rights of their parliamentarians, are held accountable.