On Monday, BQ MP Jean Dorion presented a clear query regarding the assets held by the Ben Ali family in Canada, here:
Mr Speaker, it took less than 24 hours for Switzerland to freeze Mubarak's assets. Europe and Switzerland also dealt quickly with the assets of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali and his entourage. Members of the Ben Ali family have been in Canada for weeks now and we still do not know whether Canada has frozen their assets.
Is anyone in this government able to tell us whether or not Canada has frozen the assets of members of the Ben Ali entourage?
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon uttered the standard HarperCon ring-around-the-rosy reply:
Mr Speaker there is a condition that needs to be met, as I have told my colleague many times: the request has to come from the Tunisian government. For example, in the case of Egypt, the request was made to the various countries my colleague mentioned. However, before we can take action, this request has to come from the Tunisian government. We have worked and continue to work closely with government authorities. My colleague, the Minister of Justice, is weighing all the options, and we will pursue this matter with the same intention I have already identified.
Mr. Speaker, here we have another example of misinformation from this government. The Minister of Foreign Affairs led the House to believe that he had not received any requests from the Tunisian authorities for Canada to freeze the assets of former dictator Ben Ali or members of his family. That is not true. How can the minister deny the many requests made to the Canadian government urging it to take the necessary steps to freeze the assets of Ben Ali?
Mr. Speaker, I have always answered my colleague's question clearly. The Tunisian authorities have taken steps. We have encouraged the Tunisian authorities to take steps to allow us to work with them on developing options to freeze the assets of those who are not welcome in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, how could the minister, yesterday, still maintain his story that he did not receive any request, when a press release from the Tunisian embassy, dated January 26, confirmed that: “the Embassy has taken the necessary steps with the Canadian authorities...to freeze and protect assets...that might be held by ousted President Ben Ali, his wife, and members of their families”? What more is the minister waiting for to freeze the assets of the Ben Ali family?
Mr. Speaker, if my hon. colleague reviews yesterday's transcript, he will see that he began his question by talking about Egypt. With regard to Egypt, I told him that we still had not received such a request. However, I continued by specifying once again that we are fully prepared to work with the Tunisian authorities on freezing the assets of those who are not welcome in Canada.
On Wednesday, the Tunisian ambassador issued a statement:
Canada must be on the side of the Tunisian people and not on the side of criminals, "said Ambassador Mouldi Sakri, in an interview with The Associated Press.
He claims not to have received a formal response from Ottawa despite a request from the end of January of the freezing of assets to countries of the former President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family, including accused of illegal transfers of funds abroad. [...]
"Our hope is that the Canadian government to take urgent measures to safeguard the property until justice is done," pleaded Mr. Sakr.
And if the former Tunisian president and members of his family are not found guilty, their property will be returned, he explains.
Two other requests were made to the Canadian government formally by the Ministry of Justice in Tunisia," he said. One is an international arrest warrant against Belhassen Trabelsi - the brother of former president - now on Canadian soil.
Despite claims that date back more than three weeks, Cannon - when pressed for action - simply answers questions from MPs in the House of Commons that the Canadian government is "evaluating options" with Tunisia.
HarperCon ministers are so well trained in the tactics of NOT giving direct answers. They fill the air with volumes of truthy gabble-fab. They don't appear to answer their mail, either.