Harsh words replaced diplomacy at the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union as Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird lashed out against the human rights records of Iran and Uganda.
Delegates from both countries accused Canada of interfering in their internal affairs. An Iranian representative said it was no different than his country using the IPU forum to call for international support of Quebec independence.
“If in such a meeting we spoke about the independence of Quebec, would that be good or not? … This is not the place for that,” Iraj Nadimi, the head of the Iranian delegation, said in an interview.
Mr. Nadimi stood up, waving in protest with the plaque used to identify his delegation, when Mr. Baird began to criticize the regime in Teheran during his speech.
Mr. Baird told the 1,400 participants from more than 125 parliaments that Iran “foments hatred against the Jewish people and it incites genocide,” calling its intolerance towards religious minorities within its own borders unacceptable. “Canada won’t stand still in the face of these egregious actions,” he said.
“It [Iran] provides aid, comfort and support to terrorist organizations, and it is guilty of widespread and massive oppressions of the human rights of its own people, including the oppression of religious minorities,” Mr. Baird said. “This regime stands for everything we parliamentarians should stand against.”
He added that this is why Canada recently suspended diplomatic relations with Iran.
Mr. Baird also called Syria’s government a “sad regime,” which, in a desperate attempt to stay in power, has been “waging a war on its own people, despicably slaughtering civilians.”
And the minister didn’t mince words describing the plight of young African girls under regimes that tolerate early and forced marriages. He then denounced Uganda for the violation of gay rights and oppression of homosexuals.
He pointed to the case of David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights activist who was beaten to death after a newspaper published a photo of him and other gay men under the headline, “Hang them.”
The Speaker of the Ugandan National Assembly, Rebecca Kadaga, said her government will demand an apology from the Canadian government.
“Ignorance and arrogance, that is how I would describe Mr. Baird,” Ms. Kadaga said in an interview, adding that her government’s does not promote violence against gays. “This is a very high level of arrogance for him to attack my country.”
She added the Ugandan people do not “share the same values” as Canada.
“To say that we would invite the President of Uganda to officiate the wedding of two gays, that would not happen in Uganda,” Ms. Kadaga said.
She accused Canada of adopting a “colonial attitude” towards African nations and interfering in her country.
Mr. Baird shrugged off the criticism as he urged the parliamentarians to support Canada’s resolution at the United Nations criticizing Iran’s record on human rights.
“Sometimes the truth hurts,” Mr. Baird said. “I know that staying silent is never an option when people stone women, when they hate gays, when they incite genocide, when they say they want to wipe the Jewish people, the Jewish state off the map, when they dishonour the U.N. obligations, when they spread hateful and racist rhetoric. … It is extremely important that as an international community we speak with one voice.”