James Bezan, born on May 19, 1965, is a Canadian Conservative politician known for his significant contributions in the House of Commons of Canada. He has represented the riding of Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman (formerly Selkirk—Interlake) since 2004. Bezan currently holds the position of Conservative Shadow Minister for National Defence.
Early Life and Career
Born in Russell, Manitoba, on May 19, 1965, James Bezan developed a passion for agriculture and livestock from an early age. He pursued his education in livestock technology, specializing in the Agricultural Production program at Olds College. In the 1980s and 1990s, Bezan actively worked in the livestock and cattle industries. In 1996, he took a significant step by establishing his own company.
Bezan’s commitment to the agricultural sector extended beyond his personal endeavors. He served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Manitoba Cattle Producer’s Association and held positions on various boards related to cattle and food production. Additionally, he managed a family farm near Teulon, Manitoba, showcasing his dedication to the land and rural communities.
Bezan embarked on his political journey in the 2004 federal election, winning the riding of Selkirk—Interlake and securing a seat in the House of Commons. He continued to earn the trust and support of his constituents, successfully winning re-election in the subsequent federal elections of 2006, 2008, 2011, 2015, 2019, and 2021.
During his time in opposition, Bezan actively participated in parliamentary activities. He served on the executive of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association and assumed the role of Conservative Associate Agriculture Critic.
Notably, in the 38th Canadian Parliament, Bezan presented Motion M-309, aiming to enhance benefits for parents of critically ill children. This motion ultimately became law through Government Bill C-44 in 2012, introducing a new Employment Insurance (EI) special benefit for parents caring for critically ill or injured children.
Following his re-election in 2006, Bezan joined the government, assuming various roles and responsibilities. Between 2006 and 2015, he served as the Chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, Chair of the Manitoba Conservative Caucus, Chair of the Canadian Section of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas (FIPA), and Secretary of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Bezan consistently advocated for marketing choice for Western Canadian grain farmers and fishermen. As a staunch opponent of the long-gun registry, he celebrated its eventual end. Additionally, Bezan played a crucial role in securing over $35 million in funding for the Lake Winnipeg Basin Initiative through Budgets 2007 and 2012.
In the 39th Canadian Parliament, Bezan successfully passed Private Member’s Bill C-459, which established the Ukrainian Famine and Genocide Memorial Day and officially recognized the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-33, known as the Holodomor, as an act of genocide. For his efforts, Bezan received the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise, Ukraine’s highest civilian award, from the President of Ukraine.
Bezan’s dedication to public service extended beyond legislation. His wife, Kelly, battled melanoma skin cancer on multiple occasions, which heightened his awareness of health issues. In the 40th Canadian Parliament, he introduced Private Member’s Bill C-497, which aimed to strengthen warning labels on tanning beds to raise awareness about the carcinogenic risks associated with tanning equipment.
During the first session of the 41st Parliament, Be
zan assumed the role of Chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence. He was also elected as the Vice President of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group and served as an executive member for the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas. Moreover, Bezan co-founded and co-chairs the Canadian Parliamentarians for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran, an all-party group.
In the 41st Canadian Parliament, Bezan introduced two significant pieces of legislation. The first was the Tanning Equipment Prohibition and Warning (Cancer Risks) Act (Bill C-386), which influenced the government to introduce warning labels about the health risks of indoor tanning on tanning equipment in February 2013. He also tabled Bill C-478, The Respecting Families of Murdered and Brutalized Persons Act, which sought to extend the parole eligibility period for individuals convicted of abduction, sexual assault, and murder.
Recognizing his expertise and dedication, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed Bezan as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence on September 19, 2013. Bezan continued to serve in this role during the 2nd session of the 41st Parliament.
While serving in Her/His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition since 2015, Bezan has assumed several important positions, including Shadow Minister for National Defence, Deputy Official Opposition Whip, Co-coordinator for Question Period Planning, and Shadow Minister for Ethics. Throughout his parliamentary career, he has been actively involved in advocating for human rights and democracy in Ukraine and Iran. Bezan participated in multiple Ukrainian elections as an election monitor and accompanied Prime Minister Harper on visits to Ukraine in 2010 and 2015.
Furthermore, Bezan played a pivotal role in lobbying for the closure of the Iranian embassy and the delisting of the MeK (Mujahedin-e Khalq) as a terrorist organization. The Canadian government acted on these actions during the 41st Canadian Parliament.
Bezan’s dedication to his principles and unwavering support for Ukraine earned him a place on the list of thirteen Canadians banned from traveling to Russia under retaliatory sanctions imposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2014. Bezan, undeterred, expressed his resolve and commitment to standing up for Ukraine, considering the ban as a badge of honor for all critics of the Crimea Invasion.
Elections Canada Dispute
In June 2013, Elections Canada requested the suspension of James Bezan as a member of Parliament (MP) due to an alleged failure to properly claim the cost of advertising signage he erected during his campaign. The Speaker of the House of Commons ruled on this matter on June 18, 2013, stating that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) would review the issue.
Ultimately, on February 5, 2014, Bezan reached an agreement with Elections Canada regarding a corrected campaign return. The revised return demonstrated that the commercial value of his MP signs, submitted on May 5, 2013, was $518 per sign. Bezan’s final campaign return for the 2011 election fell below the allowable election expense limit, and his personal contributions also remained within the acceptable limit. The discrepancy between the corrected return and the final return amounted to only $458, as clarified on his official website.