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AEFA - Standing Committee

Foreign Affairs and International Trade


Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Issue No. 16 - Evidence - Meeting of February 2, 2017

OTTAWA, Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, to which was referred Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations; and Bill S-226, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, met this day at 10:31 a.m. to give consideration to the bills.

Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is this morning going to deal with Bill S-219 during the first part of the meeting.

Bill S-219, which we commenced with witnesses just before Christmas, is Senator Tkachuk's private member's bill. Appearing before us by video conference from Washington is Behnam Ben Taleblu, Senior Iran Analyst, Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

You have previously testified before us, and I think you understand the process. We'd like your opening statement and then we'd like to go to questions from senators. Thank you very much for appearing. We await your opening comments.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, Senior Iran Analyst, Foundation for Defense of Democracies: Thank you very much for having me today. Chair Andreychuk, Deputy Chair Downe, your honours, distinguished members of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, on behalf of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C., thank you for giving this opportunity to me for the first time to testify before you via video conference.

More importantly, I am honoured to be speaking about an issue that tugs at the very nexus of North American values and interests, as countless professors, analysts and former and present government people have mentioned when it comes to foreign policy; and that is, namely, the role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in sponsoring terror incitement and violating the fundamental human rights of its own people. This is an issue that tugs at both the strategy and the values of the West.

When looking at the Middle East, sitting here in Washington, conventional wisdom informs us that seldom do policy makers, practitioners and analysts have the opportunity to make transformational policy and not just transactional policy. However, this is largely a product of the phrase that life in the Middle East, to paraphrase the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, is nasty, brutish and short. But dealing with Iran in the post-JCPAO era offers policy makers across North America the opportunity to realize that this need not be the case. There are real options available to states like Canada who wish to roll back Iranian terrorist activity, those who underwrite it, and preventing those who would engage or support such activity from continuing to carry out this activity abroad as well as impinging upon the rights of the citizens in Iran in their own home.

This threat, as well as the opportunity to combat it, is largely, in my humble opinion, the by-product of another nexus in this challenge that we face. It is the linkage between Iran's foreign and domestic policies; namely, contrary to the conventional wisdom that existed during the Cold War, that when you negotiated with an adversary you would modify its domestic and international behaviour, Iran has done the exact opposite during the talks that led up to the nuclear accord. Throughout the talks that led up to that deal, Iran did not cease but rather stepped up its regional aggression, stepped up its support for terror, chiefly to entities like the Assad regime, which the United States Department of State labelled as a state sponsor of terror.

On the home front, executions in Iran have continued to grow. In the year 2015, Tehran executed over 1,000 people, topping the world in the number of executions for that year. The irony here for foreign policy watchers is that this number occurred under the watch of the purported "moderate'' President Hassan Rouhani and is several hundred more, in fact, than the recorded executions under Iran's former Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Executions in Iran are handed out to juveniles, which is most unfortunate. Just the other day the United Nations protested the existence of the execution policy for juveniles, and despite the numerous requests by the international community in general, Iran has refused to turn down its execution policy for juveniles. In fact, it has kept its execution policy on the book for drug offenders, and Iran has some of the world's harshest drug offender laws.

Worse, according to analysts and my colleagues here at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, the post-nuclear deal era that we live in stands to enrich and embolden the partners in crime of the hardest of the hardliners of the regime in Tehran. These are the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, its veterans, numerous entities and business interests, and the affiliate and subordinate companies that they own and/or control in Iran and around the globe. These are entities that take advantage of the global financial system and reject the global liberal-led world order. They must be stopped and cannot be permitted to cash in on something that was meant for the Iranian people.

As scholars and analysts in Washington have pointed out, the only area where Iran has temporarily modified its behaviour during the talks that led up to the nuclear deal was Iran's ballistic missile testing. It turns out, however, that since inking the accord, Iran has tested upwards of 10 ballistic missiles — in fact, by our count, 14, based on available Persian- and English-language open source reporting.

Again, this is largely a product of the nexus of the problems — the linkage between Iran's foreign and domestic policy. The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has used fear, military coercion and terrorism as state power since its inception into the government in 1979. For instance, after Iran was invaded by Iraq in September 1980, Iran not only fought Saddam Hussein's army back across the border but in 1982 invaded Iraq and needlessly prolonged that war for six years.

The critical juncture we face in the international community today is a product of Iran's six-year prosecution of the war. During those six years, the political space in Iran was marginalized and Iran commenced its policy of exporting "the revolution.'' Iran invented and invested in Hezbollah, and Iran fundamentally began to use terror as a weapon of state policy.

After that war and the lessons Iran learned from that war, Iran continued to send assassination teams and terrorists across Europe and Latin America. We know that in Latin America, particularly Argentina, Iran killed over 100 people in two different bombing incidents in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994. In the mid to late 1990s, Iranian assassination squads ran rampant across Europe, killing countless prominent human rights activists, musicians, artists and political dissidents.

Given this aforementioned linkage between foreign and domestic threats for the regime in Tehran, the following finding by the U.S. State Department in 2015 should not be surprising. There is a constant "disregard for the physical integrity of persons" in Iran, but this disregard for the integrity of persons can be extended to both foreign and domestic policy.

One group disproportionately affected by this disregard for physical integrity has been journalists. In Tehran, journalists perform their duties under the most stringent and challenging conditions and face censorship on both physical and cyber grounds. Others are ethnic minorities, like Iran's Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and Baha'is.

Against this backdrop that I have painted of foreign and domestic challenges, of values and interests, Canada occupies a unique place in the community of nations. In fact, by not being a member of the P5+1 and not being a member of the nuclear negotiating teams that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, Canada can afford to stand firm on its commitment to human rights and the fundamental rights of all people. It need not wind down sanctions or ignore the rights violations going on in Iran. It can and must stand firm on the rights of its own citizens or residents, like Saeed Malekpour, who has been imprisoned, as you know, in Iran.

It also must not forget the harsh realities and the tenuous social contract of life that exist in Iran, even for Iranian citizens and dual citizens. In this regard, the life, death and wrongful imprisonment of Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi should be instructive and should inform Canadian policy.

Canada has long been home to many refugees, former prisoners and Iranians who may love their ancestral homeland but emigrated abroad in search of a better life. By standing firm against the Islamic Republic's gross rights violations and incitements to hatred both in their home and abroad, Canada can help personify, in conjunction with its American and European partners and friends, as well as for the liberal-led world order, what a principled foreign policy of principled re-engagements can look like.

The Chair: Thank you.

I will turn to Senator Ataullahjan for the first question.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you for your presentation this morning.

Iran, besides the human rights abuses in its own country, has ambitions beyond its own borders. We need to look at what's happening in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war, and in Pakistan too, where they are stirring the religious feelings between the Shias and the Sunnis. The executions for 2015 were almost 1,000. In 2016, they said they were executing a prisoner a day. Where does this end? What role is civil society playing in Iran, or are they so cowed down and so afraid that they're all keeping quiet?

Mr. Taleblu: Thank you very much for that excellent question. I think you highlighted some of the more foreign aspects of the challenge that the export of revolution policy has posed.

Before I get to civil society, in 2015 in Bloomberg news, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, was quoted. Pointing to the many low-intensity conflicts and civil wars in the Middle East and across South Asia, Suleimani said that this is what the successful export of the Islamic revolution looks like. And the picture you painted — the discord in Yemen, the discord between Muslim communities in Pakistan and around the world — is, in fact, seen by Iranian security planners like Suleimani as a success, and that is worrying to me.

You mentioned the role of Iranian civil society. On the foreign policy front, I think it's one of the greatest shames and one of the lasting failures of the Islamic revolution in Iran that civil society has had little impact on foreign policy. Civil society, in fact, has been circumscribed. What a strategic win for civil society in Iran would look like is the degree to which Iranian women can move their hijab back, the mandatory veiling that is in Iran; the degree to which couples can hold hands in public parks in the nation's capital; the degree to which young students can take a car ride up to the north, to the mountains, have a picnic away from the prying eyes of Iran's security forces. Civil society, unfortunately, has been tamped down, repressed and controlled by Iran through formal apparatuses like the Basij, for instance, which translates to the mobilized forces in Iran. These mobilized paramilitary forces have their own duplicate or dual civil society functions, so there are Basij organizations that monitor university or college campuses. There are Basij organizations that monitor Iranian labour unions, Iranian teachers' associations and Iranian veterans' organizations. So in any place where civil society could blossom, there is a formal and legal coercive check by the state through these Basij apparatuses. Most unfortunately, that's why I believe for the near future, because the deal enriches the allies of the Basij, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its affiliates and entities, this civil society function will continue to be tamped down.

Senator Ataullahjan: A few months ago there was a story about how some of the refugees from Afghanistan were treated like slaves and were literally being sold as slaves, and we haven't heard anything since then. Would you be able to give us anything new about what is happening with some of the refugees from Afghanistan?

Mr. Taleblu: Sure. That's an excellent question.

I haven't heard anything in terms of a slave trade or a black market for slaves from Afghanistan or any other South Asian countries where there would be a refugee crisis, but there is significant mistreatment of the Afghan population in Iran as well as the Pakistani population in Iran. I will give one example where both of those populations are forced to congeal for Iranian security interests.

If you read Persian-language regime media, they say there are two divisions. They call the Afghan division the Fatemiyoun and the Pakistani division the Zeinabiyoun. They mobilized these two divisions, armed, equipped and trained them under the guise of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and they've deployed them to Syria, in fact, often on promises that they would give to the families of the men who go to fight in Syria for the regime in Tehran, money, lavish funeral services and some sort of social goods, like a college education for one of the children of the family or services like that.

The regime says these are all volunteers. I have a hard time believing that's the case. In the 2012-16 siege of Aleppo, Iran deployed these two different forces, the Afghani Fatemiyoun and the Pakistani Zeinabiyoun, almost as cannon fodder in conjunction with the Syrian national forces and supported by Russian air power to achieve its strategic goals. There are also countless documentaries and, I think, award winning movies in Iran that show the plight of Afghan populations in Tehran as construction workers and living in shantytowns outside of the capital.

So it is a most unfortunate life that many Afghani and Pakistani refugees often have in Iran. They are often promised through legal and illegal means that they would have Iranian citizenship if they perform X, Y, Z tasks, if they sign up for indentured servitude, but I haven't heard anything of a slave trade to date.

Senator Marwah: Thank you for that very informative presentation.

Can you elaborate a bit more about Iran's recent track record particularly after the nuclear deal? Has nothing changed in Iran?

Mr. Taleblu: May I ask a clarifying question?

Senator Marwah: Can you elaborate a bit about Iran's recent track record, particularly after the nuclear deal. Has nothing changed or improved in terms of its human rights abuses?

Mr. Taleblu: Thank you for clarifying the human rights angle.

In terms of its human rights abuses, there has been a slight change in the reporting by Ahmed Shaheed. He was the famous human rights rapporteur for Iran. He did note the somewhat diminished number of executions. I think 2015 had over 1,000. For 2016, the data isn't in yet or verified, but there are unfortunately just a few hundred less, which is still a problem because the number should be zero for these executions.

They are marginal successes, if anything, but they are not a product of the nuclear deal. In fact, there are successes that the Iranian people have by creating new blogs as websites are shut down, or new forms for communicating, organizing and even having vigils, public protests and private protests. But they're often things that occur in spite of the nuclear deal.

It might be ironic to observers why these are things in spite of the nuclear deal, because once the deal was inked in July 2015 and implemented in January 2016, there was mass civil society support for the deal; but that's because Iranians desire engagement with the West and reintegration in the community of nations. The challenge is that their government creates policies, barriers and impediments that legally and morally prohibit them from doing so. If there are any silver linings, it's Iranian civil society achieving them in spite of their own government. They're not dividends of the deal, I would say.

The Chair: I want to pursue the bill before us, Bill S-219, An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations. We've targeted the human rights violations. Is there any incitement to hatred, anti-American, perhaps, or particular groups? You touched on religious groups. Is there anything to do with neighbouring issues?

As you pointed out, the previous head of Iran had a particular take on Israel, and that was what he pursued and was certainly marked by the UN and others as hatred and Holocaust-denying, et cetera. What is the state now on the hatred position as well as the human rights?

Mr. Taleblu: Thank you for drawing attention to the issue of hatred incitement towards acts that could be construed as hatred inspired. I apologize if I didn't sufficiently touch on them in my opening remarks. I tried to keep them as brief as possible. They do remain a significant challenge.

There are two sides of this coin: the anti-American side and the anti-Israeli side. It's sad to say, but one side animates the other with regime elites in Iran. Because it's hard to have genuine polling in Iran because it is an authoritarian society, there are incentives to misrepresent for the government, and there are incentives for the Iranian society and state not to actually give true results to whatever independent or state-affiliated poll that exists. It's hard to know the real sentiment of people in Iran.

If you ask me personally for a back-of-envelope calculation, I would say that a solid 60 to 70 per cent of the population would disagree with the hate speech that is spewed by the government on a daily basis and formally spewed by the government every Friday during prayers. Friday prayers in Tehran are like a mini state-of-the-union address, where the political and religious elements that underwrite the Islamic Republic in Iran are seen in concert with one another. That's where the hate speech on a theological basis and political basis is merged.

With respect to anti-Americanism, there is a case that continues apace. "Death to America'' is said during Friday prayers; it continues apace. But there is an instructive video, I think from the fall of 2016 — I can't remember the date. There is a famous Tehran university professor who earlier on Iranian state television, I think in the summer of 2016, commented and said, "Why do we burn flags?'' He simply protested verbally the flag burning that goes on routinely in Iran.

These Basij organizations had mobilized hard-line university students to put American flags outside of entryways to a campus he was speaking at in Iran's northeast. And the professor, to his credit, refused to step on the flags and defile them, but it shows how intrinsic this anti-Americanism is and how much they seek to instill it in their own population.

On the anti-Israeli side, Holocaust denial continues apace as well as incitements to genocide. I mentioned ballistic missiles earlier in my opening statement. In March of 2016, Iran tested two medium-range liquid fuel ballistic missiles. On two of these missiles was emblazoned a famous quote from the founding father of the Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and it had the phrase purportedly in Hebrew — I can't read Hebrew — and it had the phrase in Persian, which I can read. It said in Persian the famous quote of Khomeini: Israel must be wiped off the pages of history, or the pages of time, depending on the translation. They proudly touted this quote on the missiles, which they successfully test-fired from Iran's central desert. This was a signal to the international community that despite the deal and three and a half decades since the revolution, this anti-Israeli vitriol continues apace.

Senator Woo: Thank you for your presentation. I take it your organization is against the JCPOA?

Mr. Taleblu: I'm not familiar with the institutional policy that everyone has, but we do focus on the power of economic sanctions.

I joined the FPD in early 2013, and I have been focusing on ways to get more out of Iran. It's not that I disagree with diplomacy. My personal take — and I can't speak for the organization — is that I am for "a'' deal. I don't necessarily like "this'' deal, but diplomacy to me seems to be the most prudent course of action to deal with Iran's most preponderant threat, which is the nuclear threat.

Senator Woo: So the position on JCPOA is somewhat ambivalent from the perspective of the organization. This is a stand-alone issue, not connected to the repeal of the JCPOA?

Mr. Taleblu: Do you mean does our organization promote repealing the JCPOA?

Senator Woo: Backing out of it.

Mr. Taleblu: Not that I'm familiar with. In fact, I've seen countless analysts, scholars — and we even have a former deputy director from the International Atomic Agency who works with us now, so we promote vigorous enforcement of the deal. What happens when the United States, should it seek to renegotiate — my personal opinion is I would be for renegotiation, but I understand it would be hard to get the P5+1 on board.

Senator Woo: Our bill focuses on Iran and its role in state-sponsored terrorism, incitement of hatred and so on. I presume your organization works on these issues across the board, not just on Iran.

Where does Iran sit in the hierarchy of state-sponsored terrorism? If we were to follow through on this bill on its merits, what would we be looking at and how would you put Iran in the scheme of states that are in the bad books according to the way we've defined it?

Mr. Taleblu: From what I ascertain from your question, you seem to be saying that Iran could be a test case or a most likely case for measures which, if they exist in Iran, could be brought in to targets not just in the Middle East but to this area where the strategy and values of Canada are connected.

Senator Woo: I'm asking the question in part because I'm assuming that your organization looks at other countries as well and has similar analysis.

Mr. Taleblu: We have one fellow who focuses on the Arab side of the Persian Gulf. His name is Dr. David Weinberg, and he has published multiple reports on incitement in Saudi textbooks.

Saudi Arabia is not my particular area of expertise; I'm paid to look at the full Iran threat package, so Iran both wide and deep. But based on my colleague's reports on Saudi Arabia, it wouldn't surprise me if it existed there, but I'm most qualified to offer the perspective on how Iran institutionalizes incitement and terrorism within its own country. I'm sure we do have people. My colleague David Weinberg is the one that comes to mind for Saudi Arabia.

Senator Gold: Thank you for your presence today, albeit by video. Firstly, thank you for clarifying the current state of Iranian attitudes vis-à-vis incitement and hatred, particularly towards Israel, because I think it's too often assumed that a past president carried that as a hobby horse and that when he departed things would change. Thank you for that clarification.

Could you elaborate on the degree of support that Iran and its agencies provide for Hamas and Hezbollah and, second and related, the degree of support and the role of Iran in attacking or fighting moderate Sunni regimes and factions in the area or in the world?

Mr. Taleblu: Thank you very much for those questions. I will divide them up. I want to start first with your comment before I get to your question.

You mentioned the perception in North America that Rouhani was qualitatively different from past presidents. I think it's important to note that that is a misperception, which I think you mentioned. There is a quote from Zarif's confirmation hearing back in 2013 when he was first nominated for the post of foreign minister, which I think is quite instructive. It's not necessarily about changed attitudes by Iran but how Iran successfully masks the attitude. I remember this quote because it was particularly salient; I don't even need to look at my cheats — it was that salient. Zarif said in his confirmation hearing, and I am quoting Zarif: I will not let Holocaust denial be a tool against the Islamic Republic. He didn't say he would seek to change the Islamic Republic's discourse on Holocaust denial or inform Iranian citizens about the Holocaust. He said he simply wouldn't enable other states to marshal it, like they did against Ahmadinejad. If anything, we're dealing with a more competent adversary when I'm describing the Rouhani administration.

I have a strong historical bent, so I love looking at declassified documents. There are declassified U.S. documents from the mid-1980s that say even the pragmatists in Iran would prefer subversion and terrorism. Most of the U.S. government has a declassification policy for 20 or 25 years. These documents and assessments are 20 or 25 years old. They need not be found just with the Rouhani administration. Pragmatism is not necessarily different in Iran from this preference for terrorism and subversion as tools of state policy. In fact, they may be better at using terrorism and subversion because they can erect this mask.

On to your question, Hamas and Hezbollah definitely remain some of the largest patrons of Iranian funding. According to a 2010 Department of Defense report — and this is a consensus opinion within Washington — there's about a solid $200 million that Iran gives Hezbollah. We have no good data, starting in 2012-13, about Iranian funding to Hezbollah because that's when Iran activated Hezbollah to fight on its behalf during the Syrian civil war. You distinctly remember the operation to liberate al-Qusayr, a strategic town in Syria where Hezbollah provided a backup force for the Syrian national military to take, and ever since then, Iran has been doubling down on furnishing Hezbollah with weapons.

So the reason we don't have a good figure to give for Iranian support to Hezbollah in this era is because now it's qualitatively and quantitatively deeper. So $200 million should really be seen as a price floor, not a price ceiling, and this obviously does not include the laissez-passer that they give to Hezbollah operatives through Iranian embassies around the world and the like.

Hamas is somewhat different, because at the same time, Hamas is totally focused on attacking Israel, one of Iran's greatest, if not the greatest, regional adversary, both strategically and ideologically, but also it's because Hamas took a somewhat different position towards the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war. There has been some tension between Hamas and Iran because of the Syrian civil war, but this is really akin to a wide tent. This is the anti-Israeli, anti- Semitic tent that exists in the Middle East, and just because they have differences over Assad does not mean that Iran would hesitate to furnish Hamas with weapons should there be another war, another incursion into Gaza or another hostage-taking by Hamas, which would lead to another war or incursion into Gaza. So just because there is a conflict over the status of Assad and the Assad regime, one should not take lightly that Hamas does personify the export of the revolution, as Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, said.

As to the Sunni regimes that you mentioned, I can't necessarily speak to Jordan, but I can speak to Saudi Arabia, which Iran has had this ongoing cold war with throughout its history during the Islamic Revolution. There's a great quote by the former founding father of the Islamic Revolution, Khomeini, and he said this about a year and a half before he died. He said, if we forget about America, if we forget about Israel, we will not forget about the enmity of the Al Saud. So really, Iran had this decade's long enmity with Saudi Arabia.

There really is an article waiting to be written about how they compete in different theatres for the hearts and minds of Muslim communities, not just in the Middle East but in Africa, places like Nigeria; in South Asia, Pakistan and Afghanistan; and actually in Latin America. They promote terror. They look to incite these young, somewhat impressionable Muslim populations and try to wean them from one camp towards the other camp. So the competition is also strategic and ideological.

Senator Bovey: Thank you for being with us today. You've talked about Canada's unique position as an international leader but not part of the negotiating team. Being new to this committee, I've got a couple of questions.

Have other states enacted legislation similar to what this bill proposes? If not, how effective do you think unilateral sanctions might be?

Mr. Taleblu: Thank you very much for having me. Let me start with the second question, the effectiveness of unilateral sanctions.

I actually think they can be quite effective if you have the right target set and if you know what kind of goal you're applying the sanctions towards. Most of the sanctions literature lets us know that there are two kinds — behavioral or punitive. Behavioral is you use sanctions as a tool of coercion to get them to change their behaviour; or you can issue punitive sanctions because they failed to comply with a certain set of standards or norms of behaviour. Let me give you an example when it comes to Iran and illicit finance.

Many different international organizations say that Iran is a jurisdiction of money laundering concern. The Treasury Department has also echoed this. Businesses, on their own private volition, abide by these unilateral sanctions because of the plethora of non-governmental and international organizations that also echo the same thing. In there, the strength of unilateral sanctions is echoing a sentiment that already exists among private businesses.

But unilateral sanctions can also be used to change behaviour. In my case, with respect to the nuclear deal, which I closely followed, the sanctions were lifted too soon. So to me the debate is not over whether unilateral sanctions could have exacted more from Iran with respect to the nuclear deal.

I was telling one of your colleagues that I'm for "a'' deal but not "this'' deal. That's because I think that should the sanctions have continued, Iran would have likely had a balance of payments crisis. There I think unilateral sanctions, specifically some of the economic measures that at least I'm a little familiar with through the draft of the bill I saw on the parliamentary website — again, I'm a U.S. citizen. I don't live in Canada, so I'm not familiar with Canadian laws and regulations. What I've gleaned from the text of this bill is that that has some of the targets laid out, like the Setad or the Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order, an organization that brings in money through all these illicit ways.

I apologize; I've forgotten your first question.

Senator Bovey: Do other countries have the same legislation or similar legislation to this bill or would Canada be alone?

Mr. Taleblu: I believe that in the run-up to the nuclear deal from 2012 to 2013, Europe had actually targeted more entities than the United States Treasury Department did, and that was a fascinating find for me to discover. There were the EU council decisions. I know that Switzerland, Norway and the U.K. would issue concurrent sanctions but also have separate warning lists that would say, "These are entities that don't necessarily meet the sanctions criteria'' — some of the criteria you have laid out in this bill — "but we believe them to be entities that would mask the real end user or that would engage in a dual-use trade.'' They didn't necessarily have a high threshold for proof, but they had a strong reason to believe.

So in the run-up to the nuclear deal, yes, I think some countries, particularly in Europe, did have these laws, but I'm not familiar with the status of these laws being on the books anywhere else after the deal. It is my impression that it was harder to get a lot of the East Asian countries that Iran did trade with to get such laws on the books. My experience, looking at Europe, was that Europe believed in the same norms of non-proliferation as the U.S. did.

Senator Cools: I would like to thank the witness for coming before us and presenting his rather strong points of view. I would like to ask him two questions.

Could you tell us when the term "terrorism'' as it is currently used was first adopted on the world scene? Do you know when that happened?

Mr. Taleblu: I could take a stab in the dark. Countries have engaged in acts of terror from time immemorial. As someone with a strong historical bent, I would say when the Mongol armies of Genghis Khan flung disease-ridden bodies over their enemies' walls to frighten them away and to prevent them from manning the defences of the walls, that worked.

Or in the Siege of Eger in Hungary against the Ottoman, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who actually died in Hungary, the Hungarians went along with this myth that they mixed their wine with bull's blood to give them extra strength to strike terror into the hearts of the Ottoman armies.

As a political scientist, my guess would be in East Germany and the Baader-Meinhof gang. That would be my assessment, but I'm probably wrong.

Senator Cools: I shall tell you, if you want to hear it. The word was first used in its modern sense in 1944 on the occasion of the murder of Walter Guinness, Lord Moyne, who was a British minister plenipotentiary in Cairo, for the East. He was murdered in Jerusalem point-blank by the Stern Gang members sent down by Yitzhak Shamir, later Prime Minister of Israel.

The word "nexus'' was used thereafter, in 1947, I think it was, on the occasion of the murder of Count Bernadotte, again in Israel.

Mr. Taleblu: May I ask the second gentleman's name?

Senator Cools: The second gentleman's name was Count Bernadotte, a great humanitarian. He was murdered by the same group, again in Jerusalem.

The Chair: What is the question?

Senator Cools: I'm asking him what "terrorism'' means, and when are some terrorists and when are others not terrorists, when you are on the question of murder, which I see as a very serious thing?

Mr. Taleblu: Pardon me. I misunderstood the question. Is it on murder?

Senator Cools: Murder is murder, but there are instances where murders are happening and now they are called "terrorism.'' I'm saying to you that the modern use of "terrorism'' is really quite recent. It is only 50 years old, in the modern years. I'm just wondering about your views on that. The Stern Gang was a pretty powerful terrorist gang. They did a lot of damage. As a matter of fact, for a period of time, they were virtually in charge of Jerusalem.

Mr. Taleblu: I can't comment on the Stern Gang because I don't know enough about them, but you did enlighten me about the 1944 and 1947 usages.

You mentioned the run-up to the end of World War II. You obviously would know better than I, but there's so much we have in our modern world that seems like it has been going on for a while but it really originates in the World War II era.

There's a great book called Inventing Human Rights. It shows how the post-World War II era let us create the strong norm of defending human rights and that all citizens have human rights. With the liberal world order we inherited, the UN also originates at the same time. The post-World War II era is the congealing —

Senator Cools: The question I really wanted to ask —

The Chair: We're running out of time, so quickly, please.

Senator Cools: For the most part, when the Parliament of Canada enacts a piece of legislation, it is usually a domestic piece of legislation. The Parliament of Canada has no international jurisdiction and no foreign jurisdiction. Bills of this nature — and they seem to be growing in number — are attempting to attribute to Canada or to give Canada an international jurisdiction, which no bill of this Parliament can do.

As we know, most foreign affairs are conducted under that group of powers called the Royal Prerogative. When governments come to Parliament for bills, it is usually to get money to support foreign affairs, to support its initiatives or to support the military. But this Parliament has no power in foreign jurisdiction to legislate in a bill.

The Chair: Mr. Taleblu, I appreciate that the question is a Canadian question. You may not feel comfortable answering questions of the application of domestic law to international and vice versa. If you feel you have an opinion on it, you can provide it. Otherwise, I appreciate that we called you here on the international aspects and not on being an expert on Canadian positions.

Mr. Taleblu: Thank you so much, chairperson.

I don't necessarily have a position on it, basically because I'm not informed on Canadian laws. But I guess the norm the honourable senator was mentioning was basically the norm of sovereignty and how Canadian laws can become extrajudicial should they desire. Again, I'm not familiar with Canadian law, so I apologize for not being able to answer that question.

In terms of sanctions and sanctions predicates, the United States has predicates for its sanctions that allow it to engage in extrajudicial and extraterritorial sanctioning, which actually has a pretty good track record of success, I might add.

There are two good examples in the Iran scenario, if you will. One used to be called the Iran and Libya sanctions act, and now it's called the Iran Sanctions Act. That was the predicate for another bill that was passed in 2010 in the U.S. Congress called the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act. Those two acts permitted this extraterritorial sanctioning.

Again, I'm not familiar with any parallel to this in the Canadian system, but I know such a thing has existed in the U.S. and it was quite effective. I apologize again to the senator for not being able to comment on the Canadian aspect of it.

The Chair: Thank you.

Senator Wells: Thank you, sir, for appearing before us. We're looking at An Act to deter Iran-sponsored terrorism, incitement to hatred, and human rights violations. This question goes towards the personality of the Iranian leadership as we are considering these instruments.

I will also point to the most recent information on this, President Trump tweeting to Iran this morning, putting them "on notice.'' The current authoritarian government of Iran, what kind of motivation is being put on notice publicly like that? Is that something that we would see as a good deterrent instrument, or would they become even more belligerent?

Mr. Taleblu: Thank you, senator. I think that's an excellent question. It's one that political science still struggles with: How effective is coercion, if at all? Let me get to the two types of underlying assumptions that I think exist in your question. One is motivation and the other is rationality.

I think the motivations of the Iranian leadership are quite clear. They're revisionist in their intentions. They may not have irredentist claims, but they definitely have hegemonic claims in the Middle East.

With respect to the rationality, if you take a classic Max Weber means/ends rationality, then yes, the Islamic Republic of Iran is eminently and totally rational because it is pursuing its interests to the nth degree. The problem is that it is pursuing this marginal, regime-centric interest at the cost of destabilizing its entire environment — basically the status quo in the Middle East and the liberal world order around the world.

I want to draw a sharp divide between what is in the interest of the Iranian state and what is in the interest of the Islamic Republic's elite. You'll notice I never used the words today "Iranian regime.'' I've said the "Iranian state'' or the "leadership of Iran'' or the "Islamic Republic of Iran.'' That's because I think it would be a pejorative to say that this regime that currently occupies of the halls of power in Iran has elements that are particularly Iranian. I think it would be a pejorative term to Canadian Iranians, Iranian Americans, and most importantly Iranians in Iran who trace their history far back to the origins of this regime.

May I inquire about the Trump tweet? I think National Security Adviser Mike Flynn mentioned the "on notice'' a little bit earlier, before President Trump tweeted it. He basically said that Iran is on notice. I think that's a good predicate. Iran has been testing ballistic missiles since inking the July 2015 nuclear accord upwards of 10 times. I have, through open-source material, the number 14. This is using Persian- and English-language open-source material. I think putting them on notice is the least you can do for right now.

I support developing a consensus in the P5+1. Specifically, there was a UN Security Council meeting yesterday. I hope the P5+1 comes to a consensus on what Iran's ballistic missile tests mean for the future of the nuclear deal and UN Resolution 2231. But I think putting them on notice is the least the U.S. or the international community can really do at this point. Fourteen missile tests and only one set of sanctions from the United States in January 2016? I don't think that was enough.

Senator Wells: Just for clarity, it was President Trump who earlier this morning, at 6:30, said:

Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!

It seems like it's directed externally. And it wasn't from National Security Adviser Flynn; it was directly from the President.

Mr. Taleblu: My apologies. I had only seen Mike Flynn's press statement yesterday, and I think he had used the words "on notice'' or notice to some effect. Thank you for clarifying that.

The Chair: Senator Oh?

Senator Oh: You have just answered my question about the missile tests on Sunday. Thank you.

Senator Saint-Germain: Congratulations on your very interesting and substantiated presentation.

If and when this bill becomes an act and is enforced, what type of retaliation from Iran against Canada and Canadians would you fear?

Mr. Taleblu: That's an interesting question.

In 2012, when the U.S. was considering escalatory economic sanctions but also having a change in rhetoric with respect to Iran's nuclear program, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said that they would respond to threats with threats. That policy was basically to establish some sort of tactical parity with whatever adversary he believed he was facing at that time.

Now, obviously I think Canada does have diplomatic representation with Iran, at least much more than the U.S. does, basically through our keeper, the Swiss, in Iran. That may be something to be concerned about, but I don't think that would be a ramification of this bill.

If anything, the Iran-Iraq War legacy shows that they engage in what many analysts and scholars in D.C. call limits testing. I'm not the first person to come up with this, but I agree with the conventional wisdom that because they are conventionally weak, they know there is a certain limit that they can hit in terms of their response.

My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that because Iran is already receiving so many dividends from this nuclear deal — economic, political. And after the year 2020 and 2023, when the arms embargo and respectively the missile embargo lapses through the UN, they will also get military dividends from this deal. They may not necessarily lead with their chin on this one and retaliate against Canada. In fact, they may put out strong press statements, as the government in Iran tends to do through their foreign ministry. They may issue a démarche, but I don't believe that they will respond in kind because Canada and Iran do not have the same sort of adversarial enmity that the United States and Iran have had.

This is my humble opinion. Canadians may disagree, but based on the relationship Iran has had with the United States and using that as a measure for retaliation, I don't necessarily think there would be that type of retaliation that the supreme leader promised against the United States.

Senator Housakos: I'd like to ask a question of our guest with regard to the political dynamic in Iran right now. How fragile or how secure is the administration in terms of popular support amongst the public?

The public's view of the world outside the political figures, of course, in the regime in Iran, how does the average Iranian see Iran in the world? Of course, there's an ever-flowing well of anti-American sentiment among the public that has existed there for decades, but how do they perceive themselves? How do they think Iran is perceived around the world? Is it an accurate perception?

My second question is vis-à-vis Iran and Turkish relations in the Middle East. Of course, they have diametrically opposed views with very similar objectives. I'd like it if you could highlight some of those.

Mr. Taleblu: Sure. I think those are three very interesting areas, and I want to flesh them out a little bit, if I may.

In terms of public support for President Rouhani — who, it's worth noting, is up for re-election this May — if history serves me correctly, since the early 1980s, after past President Rajai, every Iranian president who was an incumbent has been elected and re-elected. President Khamenei was elected twice. Rafsanjani was elected twice. Khatami was elected twice. Ahmadinejad was elected twice, or should I say "selected'' the second time. And I assess with moderate to high confidence that President Rouhani will also be re-elected come May. I may be wrong — Iran watchers are wrong all the time — but given this trend, I assess that he will win re-election.

But there is a groundswell against Rouhani. I wouldn't say there was a popular backlash, but there was reformist support for him. There was the centrist faction that supported him and helped congeal that broad social base that got him over 50 per cent in 2013 when he was first elected, and it is upset with the lack of dividends they feel from the deal because so much of it has gone to the IRGC and the upper echelons of the regime elite.

So there is a fair amount of dissatisfaction for Rouhani because of the perception and reality of the deal on the Iranian streets for the Iranian people, as well as public support of Rouhani over his citizens' rights bill, where he didn't want to talk about Iranian ethnicities, minorities or religions. Somewhat admirably, I would say, he wanted to talk about Iranian citizens. Iran, unfortunately, doesn't have equal rule of the law or equal implementation of the law, so the citizens' charter bill failed quite badly. There was somewhat of a public backlash against Rouhani there.

What the regime wants to do, and what I think Khamenei has set up Iranian diplomacy to do, is to have the West feel invested in bailing out Rouhani because, unlike President Ahmadinejad, who would go to the UN in a zip-up jacket as opposed to a suit and wouldn't be shaved and he would deny the Holocaust at plentiful international fora, Rouhani is a much more competent interlocutor and a much more competent adversary. He looks much more suave. Even his Persian diction is much better, so there is a sharp divide there.

In terms of how the Iranian people see Iran and the world, they definitely want to re-engage with the world. That's why I say Iranian civil society wanted this deal, but they haven't felt the benefits of this deal, because as entities like FDD rightly predicted, those who would be in place to cash in were those who had filled the void left by the genuine Iranian private sector, and these are the plentiful IRGC companies, affiliates and entities owned or controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

There is a famous Iranian Swiss military analyst who was a non-resident at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It's seldom that think tanks in Washington hat-tip to other think tanks, but I must hat-tip to this scholar. His name is Shahram Chubin, and he wrote an excellent article about Iran's military capabilities where he says that Iran suffers from a "status discrepancy.''

I would say the same sentiment exists for the Iranian people. The Iranian people suffer from a perceived status discrepancy. They have visions, and some would even say delusions, of a great past, and really I would say a memorable and honourable past. That doesn't match up with their position in the world today with their GDP, with their relative power projection, with their education and with a glass ceiling imposed on them. So many Iranians go to college but so few of them actually get jobs and degrees that they pursue. There is this artificial glass ceiling imposed on them, largely by conditions created by 30 years of mismanagement by this regime. So the Iranian people perceive themselves as the rightful inheritors of the great civilization but haven't felt the material dividends of being the rightful inheritors of that civilization.

That brings me to neighbouring Turkey and to the final part of your question. For a long time now, there has been this talk of Turkish mottle in the Middle East. My colleague, who is of Turkish ancestry, and I coined the term "frenemies'' to describe the Iranian-Turkish relationship. I think for the foreseeable future, Turkey and Iran will compartmentalize their enmity and their friendship.

I think the Moscow Declaration, which happened in late December 2016, is one area where that can be shaken up, but both of them are competing for Muslim hearts and minds in the Middle East. In the wake of a Sunni-Arab vacuum, both of them want to be the champions of the Palestinian streets, and I think both of them want to position themselves as the major non-Arab but Muslim power.

I think in the long term there is strategic competition there in terms of pipeline politics, in terms of history, in terms of these being the inheritors of two old empires in the Middle East, but they often routinely say that they want to reach $30 billion in trade. They have been saying that since 2012. They still haven't reached it yet, but the future of the Middle East does offer challenge and change for that relationship.

Senator Housakos: How would you evaluate the Iranians in the diaspora, especially those in the West vis-à-vis their "proactiveness'' or lack thereof vis-à-vis politics back home? It is safe to say that Iranians or people of Persian origin in North America and Western Europe are very successful, yet I find that they're a little detached from the political goings-on back home in Iran. Is that a fair assessment on my part, that there isn't a lot of radicalism against the regime from Western people of Iranian descent? And why would that be, if I am accurate in that assessment?

Mr. Taleblu: There are several competing theories that would take somewhat longer for me to flesh out.

I was born in the U.S. but born to two parents who came from Iran, who left the revolution. My father was already living out and my mother left after the revolution. So if I am assessing the diaspora, I can best speak to the Iranian- American diaspora. I'm not particularly familiar with the Canadian-Iranian diaspora, but I know there is a prominent Canadian Iranian community.

I must say that politics, at least in the generation preceding mine, is seen as a pejorative term. Even if you asked Iranians aged 40 or above, doing anything political is seen as doing something pejorative. In fact, there is a famous Iranian comedian Parviz Sayyad who actually has a couple of skits to this effect, which we can discuss offline.

I think Iranians are fervently nationalist. They love their ancestral homeland. In the U.S., they've integrated extremely well, probably better than many other immigrant groups from the Middle East.

A former colleague of mine is of Iranian ancestry by way of Denmark, and he has this great line that I think personifies the experience. He says, "Iranians are successful in every country but Iran,'' and I think that speaks volumes.

The Chair: The final question goes to Senator Ataullahjan.

Senator Ataullahjan: I have a two-part question. In terms of the role of social media in Iranian politics and society, Arash Sadeghi went on a hunger strike, and there was a very successful social campaign to have him freed. How much attention do Iranian political figures pay to social media?

My understanding is that you think we should engage Iran in dialogue. With the younger people coming up, who is a person to watch in terms of new leadership?

Mr. Taleblu: In terms of "watch,'' do you mean within their government?

Senator Ataullahjan: Younger leaders. Current leadership, a lot of them are not young. Is there any one person coming forth who you can see will take a leadership role in the future? Or is young leadership totally stifled, as it is in a lot of these countries? They don't encourage young leadership to come forward.

Mr. Taleblu: From what I understand about the Iranian political system, there is a selection effect at play. In my humble opinion, I think the most talented young Iranian leaders are those who are not serving in the Islamic Republic but actually have made a life for themselves elsewhere, outside, in the marginal private sector in Iran and are likely leaving Iran. I think that dovetails nicely off of the comment I mentioned by a former colleague of mine, that they are successful everywhere but in their home country.

I apologize for not having a figure off the top of my head as someone to watch, but there will be a power transition at some point in the near future should Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei die. That would be a major critical juncture in Iran's history, basically because he is the only replacement to Ayatollah Khomeini, who is the founding father. The supreme leader has only been replaced one time and was replaced by Khamenei. So whoever replaces Khamenei, in my opinion, will not be a young person. It will likely be an old cleric of hardline values, if not more hardline values. So unfortunately, the generation to watch is the greying generation, not the younger generation, if we're talking about power politics in Tehran.

To your first question about Iranian engagement and use of social media, in terms of foreign policy, I think a principled engagement policy is good. It's engagement, but engagement with your eyes wide open, if you will.

Many social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are technically banned in Iran, but Iranians use VPNs — virtual private networks — to get around them. There is a robust Persian blogosphere, one of the biggest in the world. This is where you can really see the Iranian street in a virtual sense, opinions from every corner of Iran.

Interestingly, the Iranian regime elite and conservative regime elite that use social media despite it being this taboo, if you will, the supreme leader of Iran not only has an English-language Twitter feed, he has a Spanish-language Twitter feed. Iran has a Spanish-language satellite station called HispanTV. So Iran is definitely looking to target these non-aligned countries through the use of social media as well.

In many ways, while social media remains this excellent tool to empower the Iranian people to choose their own political future, which I think has not been fully tapped into yet, it is also a double-edged sword: The more the regime learns about these technologies, the more they can create networks that impinge upon the freedom of communication. In August 2016, for instance, Telegram, a popular instant messaging application that has end-to-end encryption, was hacked by Iran. I think Iran has 20 million Telegram users, and it's assumed that the Iranian state did that hack.

It remains to be seen, but social media will be a two-way street for Iran. As much as it will empower the Iranian people, it will also serve as a megaphone for the hardest of the hardliners to solidify their message and spread it around the world.

The Chair: Thank you. From all these questions, I'm sure you understand that you have generated a lot of interest and thought about the bill before us. We've wandered on issues way beyond the bill, but I think that has been instructive and helpful. Your knowledge and commitment to continuing to study not only the history but the present- day situation in Iran has been extremely helpful to this committee. I thank you for appearing before us.

Senator Percy E. Downe (Deputy Chair) in the chair.

The Deputy Chair: Everyone has received notice that today we are giving clause-by-clause consideration to Bill S- 226. Particularly for the new members but for the long-standing members as well, if you have any questions through this procedure, feel free to ask and we'll try to answer them as we proceed.

Colleagues, is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-226?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall the title stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall the preamble stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 3 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 4 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 5 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 6 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 7 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 8 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clause 9 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clauses 10 to 12 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clauses 13 to 15 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall clauses 16 and 17 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall the title carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall the preamble carry?

Senator Woo: I want to raise a question that will come up in many different clauses, including the title and the preamble and many other places. It has to do with the phrase "internationally recognized human rights.''

My understanding of internationally recognized human rights is the universal declaration of the United Nations, which includes two covenants. As many of you know, there is the covenant on political and civil rights, which is the principal focus, I believe, of this bill, but it also includes, very importantly, the covenant on economic, social and cultural rights. Most human rights analysts and international law experts would say that both covenants are indivisible. They are universal, indivisible, and you cannot prioritize or give additional weight to one over the other.

That creates a problem, I think, for this bill insofar as it includes a very wide area of internationally recognized human rights in the domains of economic, social and cultural issues that are not intended, I don't think, to be the subject and object of this bill and which, furthermore, would create some ambiguity and perhaps some accusations of hypocrisy on our part should we proceed in this manner.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you. I will call on the sponsor of the bill, Senator Andreychuk.

Senator Andreychuk: I know you're new to the committee. We had studied this bill before and there were discussions about it. I would refer you to Irwin Cotler's comments on that, which I think would be an effective rebuttal to what you're saying.

This bill is talking about internationally recognized rights as they affect the bill. It is not intended to be a discourse about international human rights, per se. It is the standards recognized now, which pertain to the bill, so it would have to be — if the bill is triggered, as I have said over and over again, it is a tool for the government. It's not a mandated issue, so you would have to, first of all, say that the bill will be utilized, and here is the international standard. I agree with you. We have to say it is universal. Within the body of international law, there is a way of getting at that, so it would have been a UN or another international standard that we're adhering to. It would not be our own standard; it would have to be international.

So I hope that answers it, but it's not opening up the discussion. I respectfully disagree that it goes as far as you're saying, that there is an ambiguity.

This bill has had many ideas and many forms, and this is the language that was put forward. It has a history from the first bill that Irwin Cotler put through, and we have made amendments and changed it, but that's the direction it goes. But it is a preamble, as you noticed. The specifics are in the bill itself on application, and it will have to be tested, of course.

Senator Gold: I think it's an important question. I would focus on paragraph 4(2)(a) because the circumstances that might trigger the government's consideration of taking measures are not simply a violation of any international human rights but are specific to certain activities, whether it's the whistle-blowing aspect in paragraph (a) or, more particularly, the more liberal political rights and freedoms that are set out in subclause (2). I think that's clearly the thrust of the bill.

I don't think the preamble could be effective to expand the scope of those circumstances. There's always ambiguity around the margins, but I don't think it encompasses the social and economic rights to which you properly refer.

The Deputy Chair: Just to remind colleagues as well, on these votes you can abstain or oppose. By passing it today, it goes to chamber for much further debate, just to remind particularly the new members.

Senator Andreychuk: I think this is the kind of bill and the kinds of issues worthy of continual debate. When the first bills came through, not just on this, they were works in progress. I was involved on the issue of the freezing of assets. There was an immediate issue that had to be dealt with, so the best minds around tried to develop a bill, but it was changed after because practice teaches you many things.

I think Senator Gold commented eloquently that the preamble is just that, and that the specifics on how you would apply are within the bill. I think his interpretation is right on, so I appreciate his wisdom.

The Deputy Chair: Thank you.

Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Shall the bill carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Does the committee wish to consider appending any observations to the report?

Senator Marwah: I think I'm going to abstain.

Senator Cools: Put me down too as abstaining.

An Hon. Senator: That would be three.

The Deputy Chair: Three. Thank you.

The Deputy Chair: Is it agreed that this bill be reported to the Senate?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Deputy Chair: Colleagues, there has been a suggestion from some of the new members that steering consider the format of the meeting today and any critique of what happened and suggestions on a go-forward basis. We'll certainly consider that for the next meeting.

Senator Andreychuk: I will make a comment. We always have to take the evidence as a whole, so we hear from one witness with one perspective. If you feel that you know of a witness with perhaps an alternate perspective that you wish to bring forward, please do so. I think that's the gist of the discussion. Because we can't get witnesses when we want them in a timely way — it's when they're available — sometimes you get a number of witnesses putting forward one point of view, and then you have to wait a couple of weeks before you get witnesses giving you the alternate point of view. We have to try to balance to make sure we cover all aspects of an issue, but I think it's worthy of a discussion.

Senator Cordy: Yesterday questions were raised about future business, and it was said you can send in a letter. I would like to have 15 or 20 minutes where we have a general discuss generally and raise issues.

There has been a change in the United States presidency and in trade — the NAFTA, the EU and the TPP trade. There has been a change with the new government in Canada a little over a year ago. So before we put pen to paper, I think it would be helpful if we all put on the table the things that we feel are important. Perhaps we can combine some of them. I'm not saying an hour long, but just throw a number of issues on the table so we can see where the rest of the committee is going. Then we can decide, earlier rather than later, where we're going to go so that we can all do some background work on it before we actually start. I know we have legislation coming forward, but I think we should be ready to go as soon as the legislation finishes going through our committee.

Senator Dawson: At one of our first meetings after we came back, we had a list about mandate letters for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Well, he was there and now he is gone.

We now have a new mandate letter for the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. I think one of the things this committee did well in the past — and one of the things that a lot of committees did — was to meet with the minister and have him or her discuss their interpretation of the mandate that was given to them by the Prime Minister.

As you know, we also had on that list the ambassador for Washington, which is certainly as relevant today as it was when we discussed it six months ago, and also the ambassador to the UN. I want us to remind ourselves about that original list, which I think is still pertinent, but more importantly the mandate letter for the new Minister of Foreign Affairs. The earlier we get into her process of thinking and the more we know about where she wants to go, the more we'll be able to do a good job as a committee.

Senator Saint-Germain: I support this idea. I would add that the new minister responsible for trade would also be an interesting person to meet.

Senator Andreychuk: Both ministers have been invited. The question is how quickly they will respond.

The Deputy Chair: We're waiting to hear from them. We are conscious of that and will try to arrange for them to appear.

The clerk will be sending out a reminder of the press conference that everyone is invited to and that the steering committee will be participating in on Tuesday, regarding our previous trade report. The clerk will get a note to you within the next few days confirming the arrangements of location and time.

(The committee adjourned.)

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