Thanks for inviting me to be part of your process. I think democratic development, the issue you're looking at, is a critically important issue.
As you said, I head CANADEM, which is Canada's civilian reserve. I'll try to keep my comments brief, because I agree that we'll probably get more out of the questioning.
I think one of the strengths of this committee is that you're all inherently aware of the validity of Tip O'Neill's statement that “All politics is local”, and so can take that into what I would rephrase for this endeavour as “All democratic development is local”.
I've been working on international human rights for 25 years with a number of international organizations. I was on staff with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, with the Commonwealth Secretariat, with Amnesty International, and with a number of other organizations.
My CANADEM perspective on effective democratic development builds upon the fundamental truth that all democratic development is local and further personalizes, in a sense, that truth. I really believe strongly that success comes from getting the right people out there and involved, people who can make things happen, and then providing them with some resources, and then largely getting out of their way. But let me expand on two observations that are germane to my role as head of CANADEM and also, in a sense, explain a little bit of CANADEM's value-added role in all of this.
The first observation would be that the genius of any economic or social development lies with innovative individuals who populate committees like this, departments, NGOs, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, and societies. The corollary is that even though Canada can and should assist, the future of any democratic development lies with the local civil societies and governments in question.
The second observation is that the success of Canada and Canadians as mentors and facilitators of local civil societies that are forming themselves also lies in the identification of those individual Canadians who know how to make a difference, how to make things happen on the ground. That's what CANADEM is all about: harnessing the best and most effective Canadian individuals that we can identify.
CANADEM is now in its tenth year. It was initiated after a recommendation in a report to Foreign Affairs was critical of UN field operations and recommended that Canada unilaterally create its own roster of human rights experts. It took off from there.
Part of the genesis of it was a relationship with NORDEM, the Norwegian Resource Bank for Democracy and Human Rights. For a long time we used the same terminology, so the “DEM” in CANADEM is democracy, but we've rapidly moved beyond that. We've gone a slightly different route from NORDEM.
At this point in time, we work with over 200 UN agencies, missions, or divisions on the ground, as well as an equally large raft of other international organizations and NGOs internationally. We've put out over 10,000 résumés of Canadians. Over 2,500 Canadians have been shortlisted through that process, and over 2,000 have actually been engaged.
CANADEM is divided into three major divisions. The first one is the roster, which includes the rapid recruitment assistance program for the UN, which was our initial raison d'être, and that funding comes from Foreign Affairs. The roster is now just under 8,000 Canadians, and it's expanding fast.
The second major division is CANDEP, our deployment arm. We're just closing the book on four successful major deployments. One was CANPOL-Haiti 1, in which 25 police experts went down to Haiti. There was the Elections Canada international monitoring mission for Haiti; running in parallel with that was the Canada Corps deployment of election observers to be attached to that particular mission. We also assisted Elections Canada with the international mission for Iraqi elections.
There are a number of other deployments coming down the pike very quickly. They include CANPOL-Haiti 2, which will see us sending thirty police experts down to Haiti for a year this time; assistance to the Haitian Conseil Electoral Provisoire; sending monitors to Haiti, Tajikistan, Nicaragua, Congo, and other spots; further assistance to Elections Canada for its new mission, the Canadian mission for accompanying Haitian elections; border security to the West Bank and Gaza; a number of activities in Afghanistan; and it goes on.
The third division of CANADEM, which in a sense comes before those first two, is CAN-Jeunesse, which is our youth division. We see ourselves as having a major role in mentoring and employing young Canadians into their international careers. That's rapidly expanding.
There are two characteristics that enable CANADEM to be a useful tool for the international community and for the Canadian government to put Canadian civilian boots on the ground. One characteristic is that we are an independent, not-for-profit organization, which gives us greater freedom of action and allows us to turn on a dime to undertake rapid recruitment and deployment.
The other characteristic speaks to risk and liability. There's an ability and a willingness on the part of our board and our senior staff to take serious risks in moving this forward. That's another one of our advantages. These two combined have allowed us to evolve into pretty much a full-spectrum civilian reserve, from the selection of candidates, to their training and equipment, and to deploying them on the ground.
In conclusion, you're looking at best practices and how Canada can best contribute to democratic development. I would repeat very strongly that every success will have smart, effective individuals at the core of that success. Even the best-designed initiative will fail if it's staffed with incompetent individuals. Equally, even badly designed initiatives will have positive impacts if they're populated by effective individuals who can make things happen on the ground.
My two concluding points are, one, again I feel very strongly that all democratic development is local; and two, getting the right individuals is critical to success. CANADEM is a primary source of Canadian experts.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much, Mr. LaRose-Edwards, for being here today. When I look at your background, I can see that you have a long list of skills and that you have taken part in missions in all kinds of areas.
In your introduction, you mentioned that you had just finished a mission in Haiti where 32 police officers had been deployed. You also mentioned Afghanistan. As we have a strong presence in those two countries, my two questions will be related to them.
Just five weeks ago, I was in Haiti where I led an OIF parliamentarian mission aimed at helping the new parliamentarians from the two Houses of the Haitian Parliament. One of the problems on the ground was obviously a security issue, so don't you think that, even if you have organized a mission there, there is no continuity?
When we went to Haiti as parliamentarians the government of Mr. Préval and Prime Minister Alexis told us that people come to help but they leave too soon. I would like to hear your comments on that subject.
Also, what was your involvement in Afghanistan? Tomorrow, the Minister for National Defence and General Hillier will appear before our Committee. As you certainly know, we have a strong presence in Kandahar and there are problems in that region. I would like to know what kind of involvement you can have in the democratic development of a country like Afghanistan, particularly in the Kandahar area.
In response to your first question—continuity, and are we leaving too fast from mission areas?—obviously that's been a challenge from time immemorial. I suspect that's not going to disappear rapidly. There's a shortage of funds, and I think we'll constantly try to find ways around that.
My personal approach is I've always felt that internationals moving in should be rapidly training their replacements amongst the locals. In other words, assume that three or six months from now you'll be leaving and won't be coming back. If you want anything to be sustainable, you'd better be training the locals.
The international community falls into the trap of thinking they're going to go in with all the solutions and they'll direct things on the ground. Personally, I think that's the wrong way to look at it. I really do believe that the innate intelligence of the local host society is there. They can learn. They need a window of opportunity and some new ideas. In that lies a solution to the reality that we will never stay engaged in very many places for very long. It will be off and on, off and on.
A better solution is to make sure that from day one we're putting most of our resources into mentoring and bringing along the local host society, organizations, and government. In part, these are the kinds of individuals we like to roster and send out, who understand this, and they're not looking to make a career out of staying there for years on end; they're looking to develop local capacity.
I don't know if that gets to it, because I don't think there's an easy solution on the larger issue of funding.
In Afghanistan, we've been involved there and sending people over for almost five years now, quite apart from identifying experts for activities in Afghanistan. We deployed police experts and some judicial experts there. We're also a major route for DND to recruit what they call cultural interpreters. These are Afghan Canadians. We've got a roster of 200 Afghan Canadians registered with us and screened. So DND approaches us to pick up these individuals to deploy alongside Canadian troops as key force magnifiers out there.
This is actually a bit of a segue to something that we've been looking to do, where we can, with limited resources—tap into more of those new Canadians to draw on their skill sets for them to go back, not as returning Afghans or returning Congolese, but to go back as Canadians with a particular knowledge and awareness of local culture that those of us who are born and raised in Canada just couldn't possibly have. So our Afghan Canadians have been a huge success story. The Afghan government has picked them up directly from us, DND, Foreign Affairs, and a raft of international organizations.
For the future, there is discussion about sending police and other experts into the Kandahar area. It's good news, bad news. The bad news is that it's very dangerous in Kandahar and elsewhere. The good news is we have an incredible number of individuals, among our 8,000, who are prepared to go there, who understand the risks but also understand that somebody's got to step up, take those chances, and try to make a difference on the ground. So we've already been in contact with some of our police experts, and a surprising number have said, sure, I'll go to Kandahar, which was a bit of a shock for me, but that's great.
We're what I would call a “quango”; we're a quasi-non-governmental organization. We don't have a constituency as you would have in an Amnesty International. That said, we're not part of government either. The fact that we're not part of government makes us valuable to government. We're a tool they can use. We're a trusted partner with the Foreign Affairs START folks right now, and with CIDA and others, but they can use us in a way that means they do not have to take ownership for what we end up doing.
We're a service provider and an implementing agent. CIDA is quite used to using implementing agents. This is newer to Foreign Affairs, but that's coming along very well. This is valuable if something goes wrong out there. Although we can be given very clear parameters by the Canadian government and by Foreign Affairs as to what they want done, at the end of the day, if it goes wrong, it's our fault all the way. It is our fault if we lose one of our individuals on the ground, as we did last year; one of the individuals we deployed in Haiti was killed. It allows a certain arm's-length relationship for Foreign Affairs and CIDA.
Equally, and perhaps more importantly, it makes it easier for the international community to utilize us. They do not have to approach us through an official démarche; they can approach us directly. If they want an expert, we can find them an expert in 24 hours. They just send us an e-mail; we make a rapid dive into our database, pull out the right individual, see if he or she is free, and send the résumé off to that requesting organization. It really makes us far more useful to the international community than if we were inside government.
This whole debate took place very early on in the creation of CANADEM. It could have been set up in Foreign Affairs or set up outside. I argued there was a value in setting it up outside, Foreign Affairs agreed, and the rest is history. Part of my argument was we should be like NORDEM--outside of government.
I don't know if that quite gets to it, but we're a non-governmental organization. We're a not-for-profit organization.
This is actually a fairly standard construct, not only in Canada but internationally. For example, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will quite often engage NGOs to run refugee camps. Almost all of CIDA's activities are carried out by implementing partners that are outside of government, outside of CIDA.
The controlling link, of course, is that they ask for RFPs. We bid for projects in many instances. The government can tell you that this is how you have to spend your money, this is what we want you to do, and if you don't do it, we're not going to pay your second tranche; we're going to take you to court, and we're going to want that money back. There's always that way for government to control any of its implementing partners--as CIDA does.
Equally, it creates a certain amount of pressure upon us to remain a very lean and efficient organization. If we get too expensive, the government is going to step away from us. We're not government employees, and as a result the salary scale for CANADEM is extremely low--it's an NGO salary scale. If this had gone forward within the Canadian government, it probably would have cost about three to four times what it has cost. It's a very cost-effective, lean mechanism. There are a lot of examples of how it's used elsewhere, both internationally and in Canada.
No, there are a lot of organizations similar to us.
There was a certain niche that was not being filled. We've got a lot of implementing agents for doing things in the field. What we did not have was a roster. There was no national roster, and that remains our biggest value-added.
Obviously at the beginning, there was an idea that this would be a human rights roster. That is why I proposed it, why Foreign Affairs started to fund it, and why we looked at Notre Dame as a good example—and that's what they remain. It is largely a human rights roster with a modest add-on on the democracy side.
But as we did this, it became more and more obvious that, wait a second, there's no roster for this, so maybe we should roster that as well, or oh, there's nobody rostering this, to the point where now—and in your kit, there's a study put out by DPKO, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations—there are rosters for the deployment of civilian experts and peace operations.
This is a real success story. Canada is head and shoulders above the world. The closest roster to us is the German ZIF, which was modelled on CANADEM. ZIF has a roster of 1,000 people. We are the only roster in the world that is specifically designed to assist the United Nations, and therein lies a fair amount of the reason for our success.
I am going off on a bit of a tangent here. I don't know how I got there, but—
Mr. LaRose-Edwards, I'd like to talk a little bit about your recruitment. You say you have 7,500 members on your list of possible people to send on missions, and you send them on missions in a variety of areas around the world.
My question is, with a list such as this, I would think it would be advantageous for members of Parliament who wished to go on these missions to not only participate in the observation but also to get other value-added issues conducted at the same time by various meetings and so on, because obviously the election monitoring itself is a one- or two-day experience.
Also, as I am sure you are aware, I have been on a couple of other missions, and of course to the Ukraine. I even spent a week in the Ukraine on my own without an interpreter, and I did pretty well.
My question really concerns your response to my office, which I thought was rather caustic, with comments like, “Peter can probably have lots of fun anyway, but I can't believe you people are bothering me with this”—when I am making a serious application to go. Then there was another comment that it would be a major sign of disrespect to Haitians to send non-French speakers to observe their elections. Why is it that it's not an insult for other nations, such as Ukraine and maybe other countries too, to have English-speaking people who have the interest and take time out of their own lives to go to the countries? I would hardly think that it would be a sign of disrespect for those countries. Why would it be that way for Haiti?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I have four questions that I'm going to try to spit out as fast as I can.
Thank you for the presentation. Starting with Haiti, I would certainly congratulate you for your role there. I had the opportunity to be there during the second round of elections, when I think there was an absolute minimum incidence of irregularities. It was very impressive.
One of the things you said, which I very much applaud, is that it's extremely important to do the training of the local population. One of the things that surprised me a lot was that when we visited Elections Canada sites on the election day, there wasn't a single local anywhere to be seen. I'm not sure about where CANADEM leaves off and Elections Canada picks up in that regard. Could you comment on that briefly?
Secondly, you were speaking about the CAN-Jeunesse program, which aims to involve young Canadians. I very much applaud that. I'm wondering if you suffered any cuts in this recent round of cuts to the international internship program, or whether you're not directly affected by that.
Thirdly, with respect to the Ukrainian election observing, there was a fair amount of criticism about the recruitment and perhaps inadequate training of some of those who were sent. I'm wondering if you can comment on whether it just grew out of anything that had been anticipated. Is that the reason why? Could you shed some light?
Finally, speaking about involvement in Afghanistan, could you speak specifically about the nature of any involvement in Kandahar? Several of us have heard really shocking, worrisome testimony this morning from the Senlis Council about the unbalanced mission in Kandahar that is leaving people literally starving, including children. People aren't the least bit Taliban-sympathetic, but they are nevertheless accepting money to fight and kill for the Taliban because it's the only way they see themselves as being able to feed their children and save them from starvation.
In that context, my question is, what is the involvement in Kandahar, if any? What are the prospects for any kind of winning of their hearts and minds and winning them over to democracy, given the desperate humanitarian situation that prevails at this point?
It has been variable, but that will cut back twelve interns for us. However, we're looking at alternate ways of funding that. In fact, I will say without hesitation, to any individual who wants to start their international career, that if they're trying to decide whether they should take a master's in something or whether they should pay for their own internship, they should self-fund their own internship. That's the way to start your career. God, I wish that had existed when I was trying to start my career, because it's a catch-22 if you don't have experience. Nobody wants to talk to you.
So I think there are a lot of different ways. We're going after corporate funding, but I think self-funding internships is the way to go on that one. So it's a shame, but I don't believe it's the role of the government to always pick up the tab on this one.
On the Ukrainian recruitment, was it a smart idea to suddenly decide to send 500 election observers to Ukraine? Was that the best expenditure of money? You know what? I don't want to go down that road. It wouldn't have been my first choice. Let me put it that way.
We were anticipating a deployment of maybe 75 individuals. That's what we were geared for. Suddenly, 15 minutes after it was announced in the House, we heard that 500 were being sent, CANADEM was it, register with CANADEM.
I'm impressed at how that turned out. The partnership between Foreign Affairs, CIDA, and us was impressive. A number of things could have gone wrong on that one, so I think it was in fact a very successful mission. Was it the best thing to do? I wouldn't recommend it. Let me put it that way.
On Afghanistan and Kandahar, I have my own personal thoughts on Kandahar and the motivation for some of the Canadian presence in Kandahar, which I think is perhaps misguided. On the other hand, other motivation to help the Afghans in Kandahar is good motivation.
Is it the best time to be going in there, following on from a fairly heavy-handed military presence by the States and others? Again, you could take it in various different ways. But those are my personal views.
Our job at CANADEM is not to get too much into the merit of what's being done on the ground. If it's outrageous, obviously we don't want to be part of it. But other than that, we assume that the Canadian military, NATO, the UN, and international organizations have thought about it and they think it's the right way to go.
They ask us for experts. We drill down into our database and we find the 300 people who fit the criteria. We send those people a message saying what the terms are; what it is; what it pays, that it's pro bono, or that it's a D1 post with the UN that is hugely paid; that it's for six days or six months or two years. We put it all in there and they make an informed decision. It's their call. We're like matchmakers. If we have a willing mission that wants people and we have willing individuals who want to go out there, if they want to go to Kandahar, great. We make the introduction and then we step out of it.
Most of the time, we're just matchmakers. Sometimes, though, we do go that added bit when the Canadian government or somebody else says they also want us to give them a contract and get them over there. We're then engaged until their flight takes off. But once they take off, command and control transfers over to that particular entity on the ground.
First of all, on the funding, thank you for bringing that up. In your opening remarks you talked about that funding being $500,000. That had been flatlined for four years, but this year Foreign Affairs fortunately agreed that we had just taken on so much more.
That money is used for the recruitment of people to the roster and the screening of individuals on the roster, which is a major challenge for us because we don't put anybody forward unless they have been screened. It then pays for a team of people who respond to international requests for individuals to go in and make that match-up. It's for going in, finding the experts, sending those experts a message, finding out who is free, and making sure that gets to the UN.
So that covers that component of what we call our rapid recruitment assistance program, where we're assisting the UN and others in the international community to identify experts. To do that, we have to create and maintain this roster, and then respond when they're looking for individuals. That's what the money pays for.
For anybody who has run an organization, you know $650,000 doesn't go very far, so—
Quite honestly, I'm not too sure what Canada Corps is. It has been morphing over the years. I don't think anybody was too sure right at the beginning, and I don't think anybody is too sure now exactly what it is.
What's in Canada Corps? On the Ukraine deployment, all of us were three days into the deployment—me, Foreign Affairs, CIDA—and we would meet every day. On day three, we were sitting down and doing our daily debriefing. We had a dynamic team that really clicked along. We were about fifteen minutes into that debriefing and in walked someone to tell us that, by the way, this was a Canada Corps deployment.
One person from CIDA said, “Oh great. Does this mean I don't have to fund it?” “No, it's still coming out of your budget.” Someone from Foreign Affairs said, “Does that mean we don't have to do this?” “No, you're still doing it.” We said, “Is our involvement going to stay the same?” “Oh yeah.” Nothing changed. We didn't see Canada Corps until the day of the deployment. So was that a Canada Corps deployment? Yes, sure. I'm easy. I don't really care.
So what's Canada Corps? I'm not too sure. But don't get me wrong. The concept of Canada Corps is a great idea. We worked very hard with the two co-chairs on that one on what it could have become. It didn't go that route, and Gordon Smith and Julie Payette finally sort of...they got partly pushed out and they partly walked away.
Let me not go too deeply into this, because the concept was a right concept. It was a concept that really laid the foundation for CANADEM. That's why we have CANADEM.
I suspect that the people who were thinking about Canada Corps were not fully aware of CANADEM. They weren't fully aware of a whole raft of other Canadian organizations that do similar things. There are a ton of people out there doing this. We're not the only ones. Let me emphasize that we're just one of a number of Canadian tools, both governmental and non-governmental, that is doing this stuff.
So I think Canada Corps was thought up with a great motivation, but without a full understanding of how much existed already.
Paul, it's great to see you here. Thank you very much.
I just want to say on the record what an admirer I am of the work that CANADEM does. You're a lean, mean organization that fulfils a major deficit in international development. The fact that you well articulated Canada's excellence in this area is all the more reason why I hope the funding continues, and continues to grow. All of us who have been in the environments that you work in know full well that capacity-building is a major obstacle to development. It's a major area where Canada can make an effective contribution, and your CANADEM does that.
I want to just follow along some of the questions that Mr. Van Loan asked. I might be a little less charitable about Canada Corps than you are. I think it's a great idea, but it's a runt of an organization that is utterly dysfunctional. It has been a great disappointment personally in trying to get that thing moving forward.
What is the relationship, if you could, between CANADEM, CESO, CUSO, and other organizations that were alluded to before?
And my second question is, how can we move forward to make your organization and what you do more effective, and to be able to broaden those opportunities? Given that the effective demand on the ground is so large and what we're doing is great but modest, we are part of an untapped potential of what you're dealing with. How can we expand the capabilities of CANADEM, then? What can we do to assist you to be able to be bigger and have a larger reach, if you will?
I'd like to think we are lean and mean, and I'd like to stay lean and mean. Staying lean and mean means you're not getting too much funding, and do you know what? I'm largely happy with the funding we're getting. Will we get better? Yes, we will, because there will be more and more Canadians who register with us. I predict that there will be anywhere from 25,000 to 35,000 people on that roster ten years from now, so we will continue to struggle to figure out how to do that with not too much money.
I would suggest that the better way to proceed starts to feed in with what your mandate is on this study, democratic development. The reason we're here is not to help Canadians get jobs. I love my fellow Canadians and that's what the end result is, but that's not what drives me.
What drives me and what drives my colleagues is assisting the international community—the UN and others—and, at one step removed, assisting local societies as they move forward. That's what drives me. That's why I recommended that we have this and why I think it has been very successful.
What I'm leading to is the fact that CANADEM has its own roster. The Norwegians have theirs; they have a Norwegian Refugee Council and they have NORDEM. The Germans have ZIF. Everybody's moving along just fine. They're still a long way behind us, but they're coming. They have their own money.
It's the developed countries that don't have this. That's the real gap. Not only do they need to know who their experts are. When we have a UN mission out there, we want the best Canadians that we have going out there. We want them working alongside the best Congolese, the best Haitians, the best Somalis, or the best whatever.
The real gap is them having their rosters, and that's where I'd like to move forward. That's where I think there's a real potential. If Canada is really sincere about strengthening the international community, this is a huge gap.
Right now, you probably have a good idea of how staffing is carried out in the UN. They don't have easy mechanisms, so you find that a particular permanent mission is putting forward the best friend of the president. That's how it occurs right now. We all know that's how it goes—not that there are not great third world individuals in the UN, but it's more luck than anything else.
That's where the real gap is, and it doesn't—
It might be long or it might be inspiring, but it probably won't be both.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. John McKay: I'm actually going to put myself in the hands of the committee in kind of a reverse order. Usually, a committee becomes convinced of a principle and then works toward drafting a bill. I don't think I need to convince the committee of the principles of this bill. One thing I know has been very true is that this committee enjoys a lot of support on all sides of the House and that it enjoys a lot of public support.
The second thing is that the bill requires royal recommendation. The government has made it explicitly clear that it will not be forthcoming in granting a royal recommendation, the consequence of which is that the bill requires some modifications, while keeping the bill in its essence and with its core purpose. I hope the clerk has circulated a proposed set of amendments to the bill, which I'm advised releases the bill from its obligation for royal recommendation. So in my view, I think we've dealt with that issue.
The issue then becomes letting members look at the new approach to the principles of the bill to see whether this in fact reflects what the committee opined on back in June of last year in the previous Parliament, which was adopted by the House unanimously.
The big scheme, if you will, is to eliminate the need for the petitioning process and to eliminate the committee--those were the two objections that caught the Speaker's attention. That part has now been eliminated.
We then shifted our emphasis away from NGOs to a larger concept of civil society, if you will, and we have required that the minister “shall” consult with civil society, not “may”, in order to fulfill the obligations of the bill. I hope this meets with committee approval.
We also took note of some of the speeches that were made during the two hours of debate, one of which was the promotion of human rights, which I think Madam McDonough and Madam St-Hilaire spoke to. We've explicitly put that in, and we tried to make it a more robust role, where the minister in effect will be obligated to take into consideration civil society's views.
That's the big picture. I'm in your hands, Chair, as to how you want to proceed from here.
I actually thought one of the ways to proceed, rather than going back and forth with questions and things of that nature, was to go at it like the clause-by-clause stage. I'd be very keen on hearing from members as to whether they think we capture the intention of the bill, and that the methodology we've chosen captures the essence of the bill as well.
I'm going to stop there, and I'm going to ask you, Chair, for some guidance with respect to how to proceed at this point.
If you have the bill and the proposed first amendment in front of you, you'll see that in subclause 2.(1), lines 9 and 10, of the current bill, it says:
||poverty reduction and in a manner consistent with Canadian values, Canadian foreign policy and international human rights standards.
Now it will read:
||poverty reduction and in a manner consistent with Canadian values and Canadian foreign policy and that promotes international human rights standards.
That was a direct response to what we heard on the floor of the House. I understand this has been under discussion at this committee in the past. That was the first amendment.
The second amendment is on clause 3, adding after line 19, “civil society organization”. This definition means--and this is new--a not-for-profit or a charitable organization whose governing structure is independent. This expands the whole basis for consultation among those with whom the minister would consult. That would be the second point, the definition of civil society.
The next amendment would be to delete lines 20 and 22, because there is no longer a requirement for the committee.
Moving through the bill, we've expanded the notion of development assistance. We lifted this from what the minister has said in public pronouncements in the last little while. As you can see, we have been a little more precise in our definition of development assistance. It means:
||funding that's transferred to developing countries and multilateral institutions by government agencies, and that is administered with the principal objective of promoting the economic development and welfare of developing countries that is concessional in character and that conveys a grant element of at least 25%.
This is right out of what the minister has been speaking about.
The next amendment would be adding after line 11 on page 2, “international human rights standards”. We would say:
||“international human rights standards” means standards that are based on international human rights conventions to which Canada is a signatory.
I believe this was raised by Mr. Menzies in debate. I think it is a response to a concern that he raised.
We also expanded the definition of “minister” to read:
||the Minister for Cooperation or any other minister designated by the governor in council as the minister for the purposes of this Act.
That is just a broader definition.
Then “non-governmental organization” is deleted, because we replaced it with “civil society organization”.
That takes us to clause 4. Then you get to, if you will, the guts of the change. In lines 29 to 31 on page 2 we replaced “the competent minister may consult with international agencies and Canadian non-governmental organizations” with:
||the competent minister shall consult with international agencies and Canadian civil society organizations
Civil society is a larger concept than non-government organizations. This way we tie the minister into this bill and require her or him to show that they have consulted with civil society organizations.
The next change is to delete clauses 6, 7, and 8.
You also delete lines 17 and 18 on clause 9 because there's no longer a summary of an annual report submitted by the committee under section 8--
Well, I guess what we've done so far is basically clause-by-clause. That's why I wondered.
But I do want to raise this as a point. It's something that.... In your speech, you were critical of the bureaucracy, and I tend to defend the bureaucracy, because they're usually working under the direction of a minister. Your comment was that the bureaucracy will want to get this right and will want to do it carefully. My concern is whether this bill was hastily put together, and now we hastily have some amendments to add to it.
I think everyone here recognizes that this new government is all about accountability and transparency, and we do want to get this right. We do want to make sure that we are using aid dollars in the most effective way, and we need to make sure this is transparent. We also want to make sure that the delivery mechanism of this is transparent to taxpayers.
I'm concerned that we're trying to rush this through. The bill that was tabled doesn't appear to be what we're discussing here today.
We have a number of concerns. The one I would like you to address, if I could.... Even though we're not going clause by clause, in your changes to the minister accountable.... We have three ministers who are actually accountable, no matter how we add this up. There is the CIDA minister, who basically reports to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We now have the finance minister involved in this. I'm very concerned that this bill doesn't address that accountability, who is responsible, and how that is dealt with.
Perhaps you could address that, if you would.
There's no question about the finance minister. He has a huge responsibility in terms of our external relations with other countries, and he takes the lead responsibility. By phrasing it as “the competent minister”, that would allow Parliament to direct its attention to how this report was formulated and whether the finance minister has signed off or provided his own report, or it would allow Parliament to actually require the minister to account for how he or she discharged his or her responsibilities under the bill.
You're absolutely right to say that this bill is about accountability and transparency. It was part of your party's election platform. It was your leader, in his incarnation as opposition leader, who actually was, in part, the genesis and mover of this bill.
I would quibble with you with respect to the haste in getting it right. Certainly, you've had quite a while to do it yourselves, and thus far, as far as I know, there is no bill on the order paper that would get it right. So here we are, we're all parliamentarians, and that's what the Canadian public expects us to do--provide accountability and transparency and get it right, hence, if you will, my unusual procedure of presenting suggested changes to the bill well in advance so that members can comment on it.
My final point is that I think the minister should be endorsing this bill, because it gives him or her a complete answer to other ministers who may want to do project X or project Y out of the CIDA minister's funds. So I think your minister should be dancing in the streets.
I hope we're all approaching this as a work in progress. Let's remind ourselves that it's work that began on April 1, 2003, when we began to really hear about ODA, where we and other countries stand, and what it all means.
For the public who wonder if we ever manage to collaborate and do some things cooperatively, maybe it would be a good demonstration by us for ourselves and Canadians that we can actually come together and get this done. As John McKay has said, and I appreciate, your opening comment was that you've tried to reflect the spirit of the debate in second reading of Bill C-293, and I would add, hopefully respect the record on where we've collaborated to try to move forward on this. So let's try to keep it in that spirit.
This isn't clause-by-clause, but I think it was very helpful for you to respond in a very direct way to the very clear and pointed criticisms that the parliamentary secretary has put forward. Surely the point is not to start way back where we left off in debate, but to move it forward.
With all due respect to the parliamentary secretary, if you think we're rushing through this, maybe you needed to be with us in five cities in five days in the Nordic countries and the U.K. a couple of weeks ago as a committee. Most of us had a sense of how humiliating it was that we were so far back in the pack in really addressing our commitments to an appropriate level of ODA, and our need to be very explicit about our commitments to engage in civil society and make sure that a human rights focus is also reflected.
I appreciate that my party was the original drafter of this bill. Some very legitimate criticisms were put forward by the parliamentary secretary, and there's been an earnest effort here to respond to those concerns. We're not going through clause by clause, but having gone through the proposed amendments, I think they respond in a genuine way to the concerns that were raised. I don't think there's one of the proposals for change that I would not agree with.
So I'm not just clinging to the original version of this. I think we have to exchange ideas and agree to improve it as needed. The only criticism I have is that clauses 6, 7, and 8 need to be deleted, as you now have indicated, to fully respond to the criticisms that have been made.
I want to say a further word or two about what we heard while we were waiting for the original international policy review from the minister, which morphed into a statement. We went ahead and tried to grapple with this issue and heard from a lot of witnesses as to what kinds of things were needed to get us on track. We had further reinforcement of that from all of the opportunities we had on our recent European trip.
I hope we can move fairly quickly to have some witnesses come before the committee. Perhaps we need to turn our attention a little to whom that should be. Certainly CCIC, which represents over 100 NGO organizations and civil society groups that are very much engaged in the work that is the main focus of this bill, would be a crucially important witness to hear from. I hope we don't have to go back through the whole process we engaged in here for almost three years that brought us to the point today where we're looking at what the legislation might be.
The only other thing I would raise a question about is the term “the competent minister”. It may be typical language that I'm not familiar with in such a bill, but I don't know whether that's a judgment.
Mr. McKay, your name has “honourable” in front of it. You guys were in government for all these years, and that's why you got the word “honourable”. Now all of a sudden there's a minority Parliament. As Mr. Patry said to us, we can't do anything in a minority Parliament to get this thing going here.
Our concern over here is whether this is an attempt, because there's a minority government, for you to rush through this bill that you could not do when you were in the government. Nothing came forward from the government, and suddenly, within ten months of a minority government, we have all these things.
At any rate, that is my accusation to you.
I want to ask you a question, now that you've brought this amendment. In your amendment, replacing lines 4 to 7--
I know we don't have time today to deal with my motion that is next up, but what I wanted to do was make the suggestion, for the consideration of the committee, that we invite Senator Doug Roche before the committee to address the subject matter of that motion that is before the committee.
I think people are all familiar with Doug Roche. He was formerly a Progressive Conservative member of Parliament; he was Canada's ambassador to the UN for disarmament; and he was then a senator. More recently, many committee members have met with him in the context of his position as chair of the Middle Powers Initiative, which has been very much seized with the issues of nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation, and nuclear abolition. I also think we all feel very sobered by the increased threat that people feel with what is happening today in North Korea.
Some have had the opportunity to meet with Doug Roche as recently as when he was here during the first week of Parliament being in session, when he chaired the Middle Powers Initiative meetings. I think every member of Parliament received his letter that was sent to us from his perspective as chair of the world council of the Parliamentary Network for Nuclear Disarmament. It's really in his capacity as the Canadian chair of the PNND that I brought this forward, very much in the cross-partisan, multi-partisan spirit that was really being encouraged by Doug Roche as chair of the world council.
I'm wondering whether we might invite him to address us on this issue, given the severity and its obvious currency at the moment, and for obvious reasons given what's happening in North Korea.