Canadian MP Motions on North Korean refugees


Anybody suffering from insomnia might wish to consult the Canadian Government website and read “Status of House Business” or the slightly more interesting “Order Paper and Notice Paper”. The former, whose last update was on Friday 8 October 2010, is a listing not only of parliamentary bills currently before Parliament, but also of Private Members’ Motions, which concern “general subject matters” on every conceivable topic.

All I really wanted was to see what, if anything, members had proposed in relation to the DPRK. I found that the situation of North Korean refugees seems to be a multi-party concern. Separate motions have been proposed by Barry Devolin (Conservative), Judy Sgro (Liberal) and Peter Julian (NDP). As I understand it, the order in which these motions come before Parliament is by a sort of lottery.

As you will see by the listing below, Ms Sgro has upped her chances in this lottery by proposing three motions on Korea. One of them seems a little dated, offering sympathy to the families of the sailors killed on the Cheonan, and pledging support for South Korean President Lee Myung Bak’s response to “the act of aggression by North Korea”. The two other motions are identical, but assigned different numbers. They call for increased food aid to be sent to North Korea for starving families and for Canada to work with UNHCR to improve the lives of North Korean refugees, while applying pressure on China to stop repatriating them and to work with the International Community “to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.”

Mr. Julian has a more modest approach, simply asking Canada, together with the international community, to pressure China “to authorize the safe passage of North Korean refugees to South Korea.”

Mr. Devolin, the only MP to use the official — and correct — designation “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)” and — also correctly and professionally — asks Canada to “express concern” about the situation of North Korean refugees who find themselves in China, and to “encourage” (not “pressure”) China to work with the international community and the UNHCR “to find a solution that respects China’s right to defend its borders and security while upholding the rights of DPRK citizens, as articulated by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.”

If these motions were to be dealt with as a group (they won’t be) and if I were a member of parliament (I’m not), my vote would certainly go with Mr. Devolin’s deft and diplomatic formulation.

To browse through the texts of these and hundreds of other motions, check out Private Members� Business, Tuesday, October 5, 2010 (No. 77).

Here are the full texts of the relevant motions in both official languages:

M-369 – March 3, 2010 – Mr. Devolin (Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should: (a) express its concern over the situation of citizens of the Democratic People�s Republic of Korea (DPRK) who have fled to China and who fear imprisonment, torture and potential execution if forcibly returned to their country; and (b) encourage the government of China to work with the international community, including Canada and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, to find a solution that respects China�s right to defend its borders and security while upholding the rights of DPRK citizens, as articulated by the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

M-375 – March 3, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should use all available means to end the human suffering in North Korea, including, but not limited to, increasing food aid to feed countless starving families, to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to improve the quality of life of refugees, putting pressure on China to accept and not repatriate North Korean refugees and working with the International Community to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.

M-383 – March 3, 2010 – Mr. Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should work with the international community to put pressure on the Government of the People�s Republic of China to authorize the safe passage of North Korean refugees to South Korea.

M-539 – May 27, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That the House extend its profound sympathies to the people of South Korea and especially to the families of the 46 South Korean sailors killed during the March 26, 2010, sinking of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and that the House, on behalf of the people of Canada, express an unwavering commitment to stand with the people of South Korea and to support President Lee Myung-bak in his decision to react following the act of aggression by North Korea on March 26, 2010.

M-540 – May 27, 2010 – Ms. Sgro (York West) – That, in the opinion of the House, the government should use all available means to end the human suffering in North Korea, including, but not limited to, increasing food aid to feed starving families, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to improve the quality of life of refugees, putting pressure on China to accept and not repatriate North Korean refugees and working with the international community to stop the human rights atrocities and human trafficking.

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