Adjournment Proceedings – Foreign Affairs

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to pursue a question that I put in the House for the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs on March 5.


The issue deals with the question of the integrity of Canada’s ability to enforce sanctions against Iran when we are increasingly dealing with what we consider new markets or new trading partners, however we want to put it, but essentially allowing state-owned Communist Party enterprises owned by the Government of China to become increasingly large investors in Canada.

Some of the very same companies, not just the general concept of state-owned Chinese enterprises, are major investors in Iran. In fact, the single largest customer for Iranian oil is Sinopec. Sinopec, as people may know, has been investing heavily in the oil sands. In fact, it purchased a 9% share that used to be ConocoPhillips’ share of the oil sands, and at the same time, the ConocoPhillips’ share was a share of Syncrude, so it is a major investor now in Syncrude, but it is not the only company that deals with Iran as well as investing in Canada.

I would mention, for instance, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, sometimes called CNOOC, has completely purchased, or one of its subsidiaries has purchased, the Long Lake oil sands mine in Alberta. At the same time, it is doing a $16 billion investment with Tehran in the North Pars gas fields. That is not the only company. If we look at PetroChina, it has a 25 year deal with the National Iranian Gas Export Company, and at the same time it was only six years into its 25 year deal with the Iranian National Gas Company when that same company, PetroChina, purchased all of the mine at MacKay River oil sands project.

What does this mean for us in terms of our sanctions? On March 5 I said that in light of the increased tensions around Iran and around nuclear issues, the importance of sanctions could not be overestimated. I asked the minister, in this light, whether we were concerned that our new trading partner, Sinopec in China, which is the largest buyer of Iranian oil, was undermining the sanctions.

The minister’s response, while interesting, did not relate to my question. I hope this evening, as we pursue this matter, we can perhaps get an answer to the question.

I would like to put into the discussion we are having this evening that I am not the only member of Parliament who is concerned about Chinese investments in Canada at the same time that these same Chinese companies are the major oil customers for Iran, undermining sanctions. This is a quote from the hon. member for Mount Royal that reproduced in the Ottawa Citizen:

To the extent that we’ve now got sanctions-violating companies here in Canada that are doing business in Iran, the implications are serious…. They are very, very serious. 

Again, that was the hon. member for Mount Royal, who has a very strong record in the area of working as hard as we all can to ensure that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad understands that Canada is not his friend. We are friends of the people of Iran but we are not his friends.

How then did they perceive what is going on in global diplomacy when we are opening our arms? We are actually undermining environmental laws, and Bill C-38 was its destruction of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It appears to be in the interest of speeding things that Sinopec wants. How do we justify that?

Deepak Obhrai: Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for bringing this concern to Parliament today, as has the member for Mount Royal.

Canada is deeply concerned by the Iranian government’s continued disrespect for the human rights of its citizens, its destabilizing regional role and its nuclear proliferation activities.

I will say quite clearly that Iran clearly knows that Canada is no friend of Iran. We have the largest, strongest sanctions against Iran, going beyond what the Security Council has said.

Most recently, on January 13, we expanded existing sanctions by adding five entities and individuals to our list of designated persons. Prior to that, on November 21, 2001, Canada implemented a number of strong measures against Iran under the Special Economic Measures Act. These expanded sanctions prohibit all financial transactions with Iran or any person in Iran, adding individuals and entities to the list of designated persons and expanding the list of goods prohibited for export.

The member has raised the question of China. As a result of the sanctions that we have put on Iran, there is no direct energy sector relations between Canada and Iran.

Furthermore, all Canadian sanctions against Iran were drafted as broadly as allowed under Canadian law. There is no power in Canadian law to apply sanctions to non-Canadians outside Canada. However, the prohibitions apply to persons in Canada and Canadians abroad, and they apply to financial transactions carried out for the benefit of and on the direction of or order of any person in Iran. 

Canada’s concern about the nuclear, and not only nuclear activities but also human rights violations has been long-standing. As part of our ongoing efforts to promote respect for human rights in that country, Canada led the adoption of the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran in the fall of 2011 session of the United Nations General Assembly. This marked the ninth consecutive year Canada led this initiative. The resolution was co-sponsored by 42 member states and supported by 89 in the vote, with only 13 members voting against it. This represented the largest margin of adoption since Canada assumed the lead on this resolution in 2003.

I do join with the member on the opposite side in expressing the concern that she has expressed about the nuclear proliferation by Iran and the threat that Iran poses to the region. We will be working with our international allies, and that includes China as well, to ensure that sanctions are applied and that as much diplomatic pressure is put on Iran as we can.