On November 24th, 2020, I questioned Minister Champagne on the steps Canada is taking to address rising violence against journalists and parliamentarians around the world.
Since 1992, 1,350 journalists have been killed around the world, 40% of those have come from the Caribbean & Latin American regions.
Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: It’s good to see you.
Hon. Hedy Fry: It’s good to see you too.
I want to go back to something that Mr. Diotte brought up about journalism and journalists.
Since 1992, 1,350 journalists have been murdered around the world; 40% of those havecome from the Caribbean/Latin American region. We also know that in the OSCE there are many journalists right now who are being tortured, put into prison, their human rights denied. These are all journalists who are actually being critical of governments. We see Turkey in the OSCE, we see Belarus in the OSCE, we see some of the Central Asian countries in the OSCE that are doing this.
It is easy for us to decry it internationally, but that doesn’t solve the problem. Are there tools that the international community can use to sanction, to do whatever they can about countriesthat are actually committing murder?
It’s not just about democracy now, it’s about human rights. It’s the right of people to speak out and have opinions. It’s a whole issue of the fact that people are afraid to do this now. I think very recently we saw in Mexico that a journalist, Ms. Ferral, had been killed.
What are the tools that are available to us that can actually be effective? Just saying we don’t like it and everyone waggling their finger has made absolutely no impression whatsoever. Are there tools?
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: Thank you for your question.
First of all, Ms. Fry, I want to commend your work at the OSCE. I want to state for the record you were extremely helpful.
To your point, it’s true that we see democracy and the value process in institutions and freedom of speech and freedom of expression [Inaudible] authoritarian regime, which have used COVID-19 as an excuse.
Let me take an example. In Belarus, at the media freedom conference there’s a prize that was created by Canada and the United Kingdom to recognize journalists who did exceptional work. This year the prize has been awarded to the Belarusian Association of Journalists.
It’s one way. I think giving them a voice so that the international community with he high level panel…. I spoke to Amal Clooney, with Lord Neuberger, and we have our own Irwin Cotler, which is on the high legal panel to see how we can best protect journalists. He talked about enhancing consular assistance to journalists. There’s a number of streams.
I spoke at the International Bar Association as well to raise the awareness of the plight which is being felt now by journalists. With the rise of authoritarianism that we wee in many places of the world, we see freedoms going down. Those who are suffering on the front line have been journalists in too many parts of the world.
We’re always looking at the tool box.
I think what I like about the high level legal panel in particular is that they are really looking at legal tools that states could draw upon to make sure that we can better protect journalists around the world.
Hon. Hedy Fry: Thank you, Minister. That at least tells us that we’re working on some actually effective ways of dealing with this issue. I didn’t know if sanctions and things….Obviously you cannot apply Magnitsky because nobody is taking money and putting it into foreign accounts, especially into Canada.
The most important thing that I wanted to talk about is that it’s not just journalists. We are now seeing that parliamentarians are being murdered in many countries. These are so-called—and I use the word guardedly—democratic countries that belong to democratic institutions thatare part of people that we deal with on an everyday basis.
Again, I wonder what we can do to protect parliamentarians as well?
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne: I know you did a lot of work on that, and I want to first of all to commend you again for the work you’re doing on that with other parliamentarians around the world.
It is of much concern.
When we see an attack on freedom and democracy, it has many concerning angles. We’ve seen it in many countries where…. I take the case of Belarus, where you see that we have not recognized the presidential election as being free and fair. We’ve seen a number of issues coming up in Latin America. I think as parliamentarians we should all be very concerned about what’s going on.
Just an idea about studies, about the tools you can recommend the international community in Canada an be part of the solution in addressing the situation you’re talking with respect to different parliaments around the world.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Dr. Fry.
Hon. Hedy Fry: Thank you, Minister.