Scarborough MPs take up cause of Coptic Christians in Egypt

Sparks flew in the House of Commons as Jim Karygiannis, MP Scarborough-Agincourt, took on the Harper government for their lack of response in dealing with the recent killings of the Coptic Christians in Egypt.

In a four-hour debate on Oct. 27, Karygiannis said the government hasn’t taken any action against the violence in Egypt.

“It [the government] has not brought up the request from the community to go in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council,” he said.

Deepak Obhrai, the Parliamentary Secretary to The Minister of Foreign Affairs, countered Karygiannis’ statement and stressed the Harper Government is doing all it can.

“The Minister of Foreign Affairs stated at the UN that we will continue working with our allies,” Obhrai said. “We will also continue working on the international stage and we will be speaking very strongly about human rights.”

Karygiannis had introduced the motion condemning the “vicious attacks on Egyptian Coptic Christians and their institution” in the House of Commons on Oct. 17 that was unanimously supported by the members.

The promise of the Arab Spring, which saw Egyptians of every faith join together to fight for democracy, seems to have been short-lived

— Jim Karygiannis

The motion comes after 26 people were killed and more than 600 injured in clashes with the military. The group was protesting the demolition of a Coptic church in the province of Aswan.

“The promise of the Arab Spring, which saw Egyptians of every faith join together to fight for democracy, seems to have been short-lived,” Karygiannis said.

The Canadian government has a moral duty toward the Coptic Christians community in Canada, he added.

Canada is in constant communication with the government of Egypt and expressed concern over this issue, Obhrai stressed.

“When the Minister of Foreign Affairs brings his concern to the UN General Assembly and makes a public statement, it is a very strong public statement issued by this government to the government of Egypt to say it is concerned,” he said.

The debate was a message to the government of Egypt to act against the violence, Obhrai said.

“The debate tonight … [is] a message to the government of Egypt that there is an expectation from the international community for it to uphold human rights,” he said.

However, since passing the motion, the Canadian government hasn’t taken initiative to speak out against the violence, Karygiannis said.

“There are places that we can do it. There is the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Hague … Canada must be at the forefront,” he said.

“The Prime Minister has not picked up the phone to call Ban Ki-moon or to tell the United Nations that Canada is not pleased …We are scared to do it maybe because we have no clout at the United Nations or we are scared of the UN.”

John McKay, MP for Scarborough-Guildwood, was also part of the debate and urged the Harper government to take advantage of Canada’s diversity and its Coptic Christian community.

“They can speak with a voice that is probably far more powerful than any voice that could be asserted from here,” he said.