By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: March 31, 2012
The report released on Tuesday shows MP Weston’s one-week trip in last September to the Iraqi capital was sponsored by One Free World International. Calls to his office for comment were not returned.
Based in Toronto, Free World bills itself as an international human rights organisation that focusses on the rights of religious minorities around the world.
According to documents filed by Weston, he went there to meet members of the Iraqi government, and to address the prosecuted Christians and other minorities there.
Speaking to the North Shore News after his trip to the war-torn country, Weston said the visit gave him a renewed appreciation for Canadian freedoms.
“No one remembers when a Canadian Member of Parliament was last there,” Weston told the North Shore News, following his return from Iraq on Sept. 15. Yet, he said, “Our voice there is disproportionately influential.”
His second trip, a two-week sojourn to Hong Kong in December last year, was organised by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade office.
Flight and accommodation for MP Weston in Baghdad cost Free World roughly $13,000. His all-expenses trip to Hong Kong came at roughly $2,000.
Among conservatives, he took the most travel benefits at $15,761.40 for both these trips.
He said the two sponsored trips helped him promote trade in Asia as well as address human rights issues affecting persecuted Christians and other minorities in Iraq.
“When I take trips paid for by others, I make sure that my independent judgment is not compromised, and I do what my constituents elected me to do as an international lawyer and as a human rights lawyer,” Weston said in an interview published in the Vancouver Sun.
Over all, Federal politicians collected more than $420,000 worth of trips paid for by a variety of sponsors, according to the ethics report.
Conservative members of Parliament had racked up the biggest expenses, accepting $236,503.53 in sponsored trips, followed by the Liberals at about $131,740.26, the New Democrats at about $33,911.33 and the Bloc Quebecois at $17,979.55.