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Parliamentary Secretary Oliphant delivers remarks at Governing Council of the Community of Democracies meeting

Thank you to the Community of Democracies for hosting the 33rd Meeting of the Governing Council.

It is my honour to be here today on behalf of the Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada.

Let me begin by saying that February 15 was a great day for human rights, the rule of law and multilateralism.

On that day, foreign ministers from 57 countries from around the world stood together in support of the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.

The declaration affirms that no country’s citizens should ever be used as bargaining chips, that the practice of arbitrarily detaining foreign nationals for diplomatic leverage must stop immediately, and that those who have been detained must be released.

Any and all cases of arbitrary detention for diplomatic leverage are unacceptable.

I'm happy to say that as of today, the declaration has received 62 endorsements, and that number keeps growing.

Sixty-two means almost 1 third of the world’s countries, from every region of the globe, have endorsed the declaration.

That sends a clear message to perpetrators that arbitrary detention for diplomatic leverage will not be tolerated; the rule of law must be respected.

I would like to take a moment now to express my sincere appreciation, on behalf of Canada, to all the countries that have endorsed the Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.

Canada is proud of the principles the declaration stands for, which include upholding the rule of law, international norms and universal human rights.

The declaration is grounded in the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In that sense, it is not new but takes existing international laws and focuses on a clear declaration to send a clear message.

As we near the 58th anniversary of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations next week, this initiative also reaffirms that all states must abide by their consular duties and obligations, including the right to consular access for all detained foreign nationals.

 All these legal instruments, as well as international law, already clearly prohibit arbitrary detention in all its forms. Canada’s declaration is a reaffirmation of these core principles.

It is nonetheless an important message: arbitrary detention is wrong.

All the signatories recognize that the arbitrary detention of foreign nationals poses a fundamental threat to all our people—students, business people, tourists and people with dual nationalities—who live, work, study, travel or do business abroad.

This practice has chilling and far-reaching effects on victims and on their families that cannot be understated.

Canada, I believe, is known as a welcoming country that values free and open engagement between people of different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives. We apply those core principles in our foreign policy.

Like our partner countries within the Community of Democracies, we strive to settle disputes through fair, peaceful negotiations guided by mutual adherence to principles such as the rule of law, judicial independence and respect for human rights.

If individuals who have not broken any laws can be arrested, detained, sentenced or otherwise harmed as a result of diplomatic disputes, then no one is safe anywhere.

All cases of arbitrary detention to leverage diplomatic relations are unlawful and unacceptable and will not succeed.

Once again, I want to thank endorsing countries worldwide, who are taking a principled stance against this unacceptable practice, wherever it may take place, and speak as one to condemn and eradicate it.

To those who have not yet endorsed, we urge you to strongly consider it. This is an essential issue that affects open and democratic societies worldwide. Any country could have citizens in this situation.

It is your chance to send a strong signal to your own citizens that you have their backs and are doing everything you can to keep them safe as they travel to countries who could arbitrarily detain them. 

Our efforts are already having an impact.

Countries that choose to coercively detain a citizen of another country have the eyes of the world directed at them.

And Canada will continue to pursue endorsements of the declaration and turn this promising show of solidarity into concrete and meaningful actions for victims of arbitrary state detentions worldwide.

Now is the time for leadership from rights-respecting democracies, to restore and promote the rule of law across the globe.

We will continue to advocate for the values of this declaration in multilateral forums, such as the UN, the G7 and others, just as we will continue to shine light on the issue of arbitrary arrest, detention and sentencing and collaborate with civil society partners. But we want to do that with you, our valued friends. We need you, all of you.

Canada will continue to collaborate with partners and advance next steps and concrete action.

Six areas for possible joint action are being discussed. These include:

The global community, especially the Community of Democracies, must continue to demonstrate a united front in reaffirming that the violation of the rule of law will not be tolerated, anywhere in the world. 

Opposition to this practice must and will be heard.

Arbitrary detention for diplomatic leverage is unacceptable, and we are deeply committed to ending it.

Join us in standing for human rights, the rule of law and the rules-based international order.

Thank you.

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