Motion to Bestow the Title “Honorary Canadian Citizen” on Vladimir Kara-Murza and Call for His Immediate Release

By: The Hon. Pierre Dalphond

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Halls of Parliament, Ottawa

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond, pursuant to notice of June 8, 2023, moved:

That the Senate acknowledge that Russian political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza — recipient of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, a Senior Fellow of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and a friend of the Parliament of Canada — is an internationally recognized champion for human rights and democracy, whose wrongful imprisonment for dissenting against the unjust war in Ukraine is emblematic of thousands of political prisoners in Russia and around the world; and

That the Senate resolve to bestow the title “honorary Canadian citizen” on Vladimir Kara-Murza and call for his immediate release.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise to co-propose that the Senate join with the House of Commons’ unanimous vote last week to grant honorary Canadian citizenship to Russian political prisoner Vladimir Kara-Murza. Thank you to Senators Housakos, Omidvar, Miville-Dechêne and Patterson (Ontario) for your collaborative efforts towards this goal.

As this motion states, Vladimir Kara-Murza is an internationally recognized champion for human rights and democracy. He is a recipient of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize and a Senior Fellow of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights in Montreal. Mr. Kara-Murza’s wrongful imprisonment for dissenting against the unjust war in Ukraine is emblematic of thousands of political prisoners in Russia and around the world.

After surviving two assassination attempts, Mr. Kara-Murza is currently serving a 25-year sentence in Russia imposed further to a mockery of a trial held after he courageously returned to his homeland last year.

Senators, the Parliament of Canada must stand with such a hero and a friend of Canada. Mr. Kara-Murza visited our Parliament twice. In 2016, he appeared before the Senate Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee to urge the adoption of the Sergei Magnitsky Law named after another victim of the Putin regime, which became law in 2017.

In 2019, Mr. Kara-Murza assisted the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, alongside the Honourable Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, in relation to the human rights situation in Russia.

Vladimir’s spouse Evgenia Kara-Murza is the Advocacy Coordinator of the Free Russia Foundation. She assisted the same House committee last October in relation to a study of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. She told MPs that 19,335 people have been arbitrarily detained in Russia since February 2022, the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

That same week Ms. Kara-Murza was a guest of this chamber. Many of us had the great honour of speaking with her. This year, senators have spoken of Vladimir Kara-Murza’s situation in this chamber, including Senators Boehm, McPhedran and Gold.

Last April, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, condemned the guilty verdict of Vladimir Kara-Murza. She stated, and I quote:

Mr. Kara-Murza stands as a symbol of the courageous and principled defence of democratic values and human rights. Russia’s attempts to silence people of conscience only makes their voices more powerful.

At the beginning of the month, Senator Omidvar co-led a press conference with the Honourable Irwin Cotler and a group of parliamentarians, including Senator Miville-Dechêne and myself, to establish the basis for this motion. If Mr. Kara-Murza is aware of our efforts, he must know that his friends, the Honourable Irwin Cotler, Bill Browder, Brandon Silver and many others tirelessly defended his cause until today.

I also want to mention a letter of support for this initiative by the League for Human Rights, an agency of B’nai Brith Canada. I will quote an excerpt from this letter:

Kara-Murza is a beacon of hope for a population that is increasingly oppressed by Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime, which seeks to crush any dissidence while continuing its criminal war against its neighbour, Ukraine.

Honourable senators, honorary Canadian citizenship is an honour rarely bestowed by Parliament. It is done through a motion of the House of Commons and the Senate. Among the few who have received this honour in the past are heroes of humanity, such as Raoul Wallenberg, Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai.

On June 8, last Thursday, Conservative MP Tom Kmiec rose and found unanimous consent of elected members of Parliament to a motion to confer honorary citizenship on Vladimir Kara-Murza and to call on the Russian Federation to set him free.

By adopting the motion before us, the Senate of Canada will join the other place in showing the world that the Parliament of Canada stands up for our friends and for political prisoners around the world. With this motion, let us speak with a united voice for freedom and justice for Vladimir Kara-Murza. Let us send a powerful message to dissenters against tyranny who are imprisoned worldwide, “In Canada, you are not forgotten.”

Last year, Mr. Kara-Murza’s spouse, Evgenia, received the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize on her husband’s behalf, which was awarded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. In a statement she read on his behalf, Mr. Kara-Murza dedicated the prize to the many thousands of Russians jailed for speaking out against the war who chose not to remain “. . . silent in the face of this atrocity, even at the cost of personal freedom.”

He added:

. . . I look forward to . . . when a peaceful, democratic and Putin-free Russia returns to this Assembly and to this Council; and when we can finally start building that whole, free and peaceful Europe we all want to see. Even today, in the darkest of hours, I firmly believe that time will come.

Senators, with this motion, let us make those brave words of an honorary Canadian citizen. Let us honour Vladimir Kara-Murza, a star of hope in the Russian sky, and stand with him in the hour of his struggle. I invite senators to adopt this motion. Thank you, meegwetch.

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