In Selected Opinion

A skull found at a mass grave containing the remains of members of the Yazidi community killed by the Islamic State in 2015. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

By Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, National Post

On Tuesday, I stood with three of my Liberal colleagues to support a Conservative motion. My government encourages reasonable and respectful disagreement, yet it was still an odd position to be in, and one that I’d like to explain to my constituents and to Canadians.

The actions of ISIL are unspeakable, and should be condemned without reservation. But do they amount to genocide? The Conservative motion called on the House to declare yes.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion is right to insist that such a determination should ultimately be a legal one, on a standard beyond a reasonable doubt, with all of the legal consequences that entails. He has called on the UN Security Council to create a mechanism to determine formally whether a genocide has occurred, and to limit veto use at that Council where a mass atrocity has been ascertained. These are good steps.

I do not believe, however, that such a process precludes our House of Commons from making its own determination. We speak, through Parliament, on behalf of Canadians, and our declaration does not bind any international tribunal. Nor am I convinced that we must deliberate on the same legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” when we deal with non-binding motions in our House versus a full hearing at the International Criminal Court.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith: Why I voted against my party


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