The ICC has sent the following formal complaint letter to the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Senator Andreychuk:
Kind Attention: Honourable Senator Raynell Andreychuk, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
This letter is written on behalf of the Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) to complain about the proceedings on Bill S-219, the Non-Nuclear Sanctions Against Iran Act. We believe that there has been a clear and consistent bias shown in favour of the Bill both in terms of the witnesses called before the Committee and the procedures leading to the clause-by-clause consideration.
Since Bill S-219 was introduced by Senator Tkachuk, multiple witnesses with pro-sanctions and anti-diplomacy views have been invited, while expert witnesses with opposing views were very limited. Particularly egregious is the invitation of three (3) members from one organization, the known hawkish American think-tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). The Iranian Canadian Congress is aware that a number of Canadian experts on foreign affairs and Iran with diverse views have requested to present before the Committee as witnesses but have not been chosen, while, as mentioned, multiple witnesses have been called from the FDD. This is an unacceptable course of action which deprives the Committee of expert Canadian perspectives while privileging foreign views which do not have Canadians’ best interests at heart.
Lastly, our view is that the the common Senate procedure is being ignored by scheduling the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-219 on the same day as a witness testimony, once again by a witness from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, on March 29th, 2017. According to Senate Procedure in Practice (June 2015):
clause-by-clause consideration of a bill does not take place at a meeting during which witnesses on the bill are heard...committees tend to avoid this practice, ensuring that senators have adequate opportunity to reflect on the testimony of witnesses and to prepare amendments if they so wish.
This matter is especially concerning in the case of Bill S-219 and the meeting scheduled on March 29th, 2017; once again, the invited witness in this meeting is from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and will be speaking in favor of the bill. Committee members should have time to consider the different testimonies and reflect on the facts that will be provided before moving into clause-by-clause consideration, rather than moving into the clause-by-clause consideration immediately after a witness has spoken in favour of the Bill.
We therefore ask that the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade delay the clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-219 until after more Canadian experts on Iran and Canadian foreign policy are provided the opportunity to present their diverse views to the Committee about this bill. Secondly, we ask that the Standing Committee follows common procedure and not schedule the clause-by-clause consideration of this Bill on the same day as the presentation of witness testimony. It is vital for the integrity of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade to take these actions to ensure a fair and unbiased review process for Bill S-219, an important bill whose ambitions reach far beyond our borders.
Iranian Canadian Congress
CC: Honourable Senators of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.