10.07.2016 07:57 AM

If someone abducted your children, would you have things to say?

Alison Azer does.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion jeered and gave a thumbs-down gesture in the House of Commons Thursday when the Conservatives raised the case of four Canadian children abducted by their Iranian-Kurdish father, an incident their mother says she witnessed in disbelief and shock.

Alison Azer was in the visitors’ gallery in the Commons when Mr. Dion made the gesture and she later broke down in tears when she spoke to reporters.

“It was the first time I felt truly disrespected and dishonoured, not just on behalf of myself and on behalf of my children but my parents,” she said. “I was truly disappointed to see the Foreign Minister exhibit such unbecoming behaviour.” It has been 14 months since Ms. Azer’s children were abducted by her former husband, a medical doctor now living in northern Iran.

I’m a big Stephane Dion fan, from way back, so I don’t believe for a moment that he was in any way making light of Ms. Azer’s agony.  That part doesn’t trouble me.

What troubles me is this part, which has been eating at me since last night, when I first read Bob Fife’s story:

The senior government official suggested that Ms. Azer has not been helpful in her criticism of the government. She has accused Ottawa of foot-dragging and is asking Mr. Trudeau to call Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss the situation directly.

Ms. Azer’s agony began on Aug. 21, 2015, when RCMP officers arrived at her door in Comox, B.C., to say that her children, now aged 4 to 12, had not boarded their return flight from a vacation with their father in Europe.

See that? A “senior government official” – usually code for a central agency – telling Bob “Ms. Azer has not been helpful in her criticism of the government,” quote unquote.

That is an extraordinary statement.

If any of our kids were stolen, we wouldn’t be nearly as composed or restrained as Ms. Azer. We would be losing our minds. We would be screaming at every government official, at every level, to do more.

To insinuate that Ms. Azer has hurt her case because she has been critical of the government isn’t just outrageous. It is something that should concern every citizen. That is, because she has been critical of the federal government, the federal government will perhaps punish her by being slightly less diligent in returning her children to her.

Two things.

One, we live in a democracy. Ms. Azer, like any citizen, is entitled to be critical of government. No exceptions.

Two, when a “senior government official” – speaking like a coward, without attribution – hints that there is a connection between the fate of her children, and her rather mild criticism of government, we have all reached a very dangerous place.

I don’t know what the Hell is going on up there in Ottawa, lately, but they need to stop it. This isn’t just offensive, it’s disgraceful.

Isn’t it?


  1. R News says:

    The Liberals are just behaving like the government their leader admires most. Just as described here:

  2. Lukelele says:

    I saw her on the news last night, and indeed her composure was surprising. I don’t know what I would do in her situation, but it might involve rather dark things.

    I also like Dion and, although I don’t particularly understand his gesture or his intended meaning, I don’t believe he means any ill will towards the mother who hasn’t seen her four children since their abduction. I still I don’t like his response to the important issue that backbencher was raising, in any case. Seemed dismissive, and that’s not acceptable in the context of child abduction.

  3. Eric Weiss says:

    Very troubling indeed. When I read about Dion making gestures I thought that was out of character as well and wondered what the context was. That, the comments by the “government official”, the exposed spending scandals, the carbon tax without consulting the provinces, electoral reform without a referendum, etc. has me wondering if the current governments arrogance and sense of entitlement is already off the hook. Usually it takes a few years and a second term before they start feeling they’re made of Teflon and can get away with anything.

    • Ron says:

      Funny, I don’t remember much consultation with the provinces from the previous régime. Maybe they just
      want to get on with it instead of sitting around waiting for another provincial power grab.

      • Eric Weiss says:

        “B-b-b-but the other guys do it too!”

        C’mon man that’s just a lame excuse. If you’re going to claim to have the moral high ground, then just use the same tactics of the people you replace, that’s just hypocritical. All I’ve seen from this bunch is claims of doing things differently, then just going back to same old entitled Liberals. It’s inevitable. Governments always defeat themselves. Some take longer than others. I hope it would take longer than this with this crop.

  4. ottawacon says:

    I am not sure there is a possible interpretation of Dion’s actions that involves jeering and gesturing in a derogatory fashion when the case is raised in the Commons that does not imply making light of the woman’s agony. You are right, it is out of character for him.

  5. dean sherratt says:

    Dion was quoted as follows: “When we don’t accuse [Trudeau] of not caring … we have results.” This rather parallels the comments of the senior official…you get results if you don’t criticize.

  6. Aongasha says:

    Sounds like something the ‘babies’ would tell a reporter – ‘senior government official’ indeed!
    Agree not like Dion, but his mangling of English doesn’t help. Should stick to French & translation in QP.
    Suspect you’re onto something WK – Liberal Arrogance & Sense of Entitlement is again becoming part of their narrative.

  7. P. Brenn says:

    part I dont get is purposeful or not ..fix it …apologize, meet with Ms Azer (probably have but do again)…look out for those Canadian kids…I agree with Warren and above I as a parent would be absolutely freaking out …

  8. Aongasha says:

    Maybe should have writeen one of the PMO’s ‘babies’ as opposed to Tory kids in short pants? This probably as senior as it got to Fife.

    • Warren says:

      I don’t provide a forum for libel. When you have a personal accusation to make, you have to have proof that will hold up in court.

      • Aongasha says:

        no problem – mea culpa! Still question the senior official part though. Makes it sound like a civil servant, but probably a political gofer.

  9. G. McRae says:

    This behavior is what you get when your dear leader admires dictatorships like China. Evidence the carbon pricing announcement.

  10. Ron says:

    Trudeau is right and the conservatives are right.

    Um, okay ..

  11. dave constable says:

    The Conservative sure did obsess with Dion’s whatever he did in the HoC. They accused him of all kinds of dastardly deeds, and even when HoC got back to debate on orders of the day conservatives still kept referring to Dion’s gestures. (although, one Conservative got into being against gun control, but that didn’t last long.)

    I agree with the sensitivity of parents and their kids. Government has to try to avoid emotional responses; from this interpretation, looks like ‘senior government official’ let something get to him.

  12. doconnor says:

    I suspect they are trying to get the children back without having the Iranian government lose face by appearing to be go along with a Western government. This means keeping things as quiet as possible without implicit criticisms of Iran. By bringing this up in the House of Commons and the media it makes the job of bring them back more difficult. Dion may have been expressing frustration over that.

  13. Tim Sullivan says:

    I’m not in her boat and I cannot imagine what she’s going through and would not pretend otherwise.

    I wonder if quiet diplomacy is in order. She’s frustrated, no doubt and reasonably so. What’s in it for her to embarrass the foreign affairs minister and to have a platform from the opposition benches?

    There is no way the opposition will have any pull with a government we have no formal contact with. There is no way Dion was making fun of her plight. There is no upside for the CPC to make the government look good and only an advantage to make it look bad. The CPC could be working in the background with Dion and his officials to make progress. A show on the CBC helps none of her children.

  14. Charlie says:

    Dion has always had problems with communicating. He’s an immensely intelligent person with desire to get things done right, but he’s not an effective communicator. Leaving me to question, again, why he would be given such a prominent portfolio.

    Having said that, the Conservatives were obviously using this poor women as a political hammer. Their faux-outrage is a bit contrived. Its political opportunism that is insanely transparent.

    But lets get to the matter at hand:

    Trudeau made an absolutely valid point when he cited the severing of diplomatic communication with Iran under Harper and the complications that introduced to getting these children back. How exactly would a government go about retrieving its citizens from a country that they refuse to dialogue with?

    We need to recognize the complex pretext to this situation.

    I understand that this women wants to get her children back and could only imagine the anguish she must be feeling. However, its not as easy as Trudeau picking up the phone and calling the Iranian President and demanding the kids are returned — after all, if it was that easy Stephen Harper could have just as well done that back in August when he was still Prime Minister.

    I’m on board with pushing the government to do more. I think she’s doing the right thing by approaching MPs from all sides of the House. I just don’t think anyone is served well by letting this discussion go the way it did yesterday. Partisan politics has a tendency to lower the level of discussion.

  15. e.a.f. says:

    The Canadian government, regardless of party, hasn’t always been helpful to a parent who has lost their children because the other parent took the children out of country. Over the years we have seen enough of it in the news. One person I knew found the other country’s government much more helpful than the Canadian government. So I can see where Ms. Azer is getting frustrated. She and the people who support her in the Comox Valley, B.C. are at their witts end.

    Part of the problem is we don’t have diplomatic relations with Iran. Thank you Mr. Harper. That makes things much more difficult. Canada did manage to get the professor back, thank heavens, but again this case may have issues for the Iranian government given there are the mullahs and then the government. The mullahs are never going to turn the children over to their mother.

    As to Dion’s gestures. Its hard to believe these actions were directed at Ms. Azer. The guy is too smart to do things like that, regardless of how frustrated he is.

    What the Canadian government can accomplish in this case is little to nothing. The best bet to get the children back is to go get them, however, what that takes or means. That is something a government can not support or finance. It will be up to others to take care of that.

    Even if Trudeau got on a Canadian jet with Ms. Azer and landed in Iran and said, we want the kids, nothing would happen, unless you can get past the mullahs. they want to make life difficult for the current government.

    Perhaps if the campaign to have the children returned was expanded to other countries, it might help, but without international pressure, those children will not be coming home any time soon.

  16. Kevin says:

    I agree completely. I also have enormous respect for Dion and would see his gesture as a way to show contempt for someone who was trying to score points off him using this horrible situation. Pretty ham-fisted of him because it’s so easy to turn it back on him, but as Charlie says Dion is not a very effective communicator.

    As for the government source, I think it’s more a case of someone coming back from lunch a tad over-refreshed. Someone who doesn’t speak on behalf of the department, but likes to make the off-the-record phone calls and imply he’s part of important conversations?

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