I'm familiar with the committee's work. I accompanied Thomas Axworthy — he's the chair of the centre — when he was here in October. Also, I heard good things from my colleagues at International IDEA in Stockholm.
The committee has asked witnesses to comment on three broad areas: democracy assistance as an objective, comparative lessons, and the Canadian role in democracy promotion. I'll address these aspects in order. In terms of Canada's role, I'll speak to the political party function of democracy assistance. I'll try not to be redundant, as Dr. Axworthy has outlined our case in a Democracy Canada Institute paper, so I'll focus on different aspects that he didn't touch on.
I'll start with democracy promotion as an objective. Democracy is one of the most contested concepts in political science, chock full of normative connotations. As such, aiding democratic development can be a tricky process, as the evolution of a transition to democracy will necessarily leave room for debate regarding the democratic status achieved by a particular country.
Political theorist Robert Dahl argues that representation is an essential element of a democracy, and to have democracy in a meaningful sense, political institutions must be established and entrenched that facilitate this representation. Dahl points to free and fair elections as the necessary component of this representation. Political parties are typically employed to undertake this representative role.
Next I'll talk about democratic transitions. Over what has been termed the “third wave” of democratization, several international democracy-promotion organizations have been created and strengthened in Europe and North America and in many new democracies themselves. Now, beyond the third wave, democracy promotion has taken on an even more prominent role on the international stage. Moreover, demand for international democracy assistance remains high in developing democracies throughout the world.
How do transitions to democracy occur? Thomas Carothers, a leading writer in democratic studies, notes that, broadly speaking, there are two main paths for democratic reform under authoritarian regimes. The first method sees an authoritarian regime collapse due to a lack of legitimacy through popular uprisings, revolutions, or similar overthrows of dictatorships or authoritarian regimes. The second path takes place when an authoritarian regime gradually releases control over the state through liberalization initiatives in which social, economic, and political reforms are expanded in a manageable way and a goal of consolidated democracy is eventually achieved.
Finally, I will talk about comparative cases. Allow me to highlight key features of democratic transitions in Taiwan and Afghanistan, which we have studied at the Centre for the Study of Democracy. I'll place those in the context of Carothers' categorization of how democratic transitions occur.
In Taiwan, democratic reform was a gradual, 50-year, election-driven process, from about 1946, with the beginnings of local elections, to 1996, with the first open presidential election. Participation in local elections helped to instill a democratic ethos among the Taiwanese population and facilitated the political representation of a growing opposition movement. Taiwan possessed all the right preconditions for democratic reform to occur in a gradual and relatively stable process, namely: economic success and the growth of an often foreign-educated middle class who returned to Taiwan; a system of local elections that allowed legitimate political dissent through an organized process; and outside reform pressure from the United States and other players.
If Taiwan underwent a gradual transition to democracy, Afghanistan represents the opposite case of a failed state. More than a development project for the international community, rebuilding Afghanistan has meant rebuilding and redesigning its political institutions as well. In fact, Afghanistan is undergoing a transition to democracy. Making the transition to a democratic form of government in Afghanistan is fraught with difficulties and is likely to experience setbacks. Afghanistan's economic structure has been gravely weakened, distorted, and made more vulnerable through two decades of sustained conflict. The importance of international intervention on a large scale is an essential point when determining whether a democratic transition in Afghanistan has any chance of being sustained over the long term, both in terms of military and security aid, and in terms of political and governance assistance and humanitarian aid and development.
Now I'll speak to the comparative context and how democracy assistance is structured in other developed countries. Democracy assistance organizations can be placed into three main categories: political party institutes, like the German and Swedish party models; international or multilateral organizations, like the Stockholm-based International IDEA; and national umbrella organizations and multi-party institutes, like the National Endowment for Democracy, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in Britain, or the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy.
The international multilateral model... The field of democracy assistance benefits from mutual learning and international cooperation. Thus it is useful to highlight the multilateral model. For example, International IDEA, of which Canada is a member, is a multilateral organization with member states across all continents that seek to support sustainable democracy in both new and long-established democracies. It is important for Canada to be represented in multilateral democracy assistance bodies such as IDEA to learn from and influence the best practices of other organizations. However, the creation of an independent democracy Canada institute would promote Canadian democracy assistance priorities in a more direct way.
The political party foundation model... In democracy assistance, the political party foundation model is a prominent feature, particularly in Germany, but also notably in Sweden. The German party foundation model, or stiftungen, has served as a model for all party foundations. The two largest German foundations have yearly revenues exceeding 100 million euros each, although they divide resources between international and domestic initiatives. The revenue for the National Democratic Institute in Washington, for 2005, exceeded $80 million U.S. and their activities were almost exclusively geared for international projects.
In international democracy assistance projects, the foundations tend to work with sister parties with like-minded political views in partner countries. For example, Sweden's Olof Palme Foundation, the Social Democratic Party, tends to provide political party assistance to sister parties within Socialist International.
Political party foundations generally have a significant degree of independence from their affiliated parties. Because of the nature of independent party foundations, coordinated democracy promotion efforts among political parties in a given country may be difficult to achieve.
The multi-party and umbrella model... Organizations that best fit the model of the internationalization of democracy assistance and exemplify the cooperative model of working both with international partners and through indigenous organizations include the NED, the Netherlands IMD, the Westminster Foundation, and the newly created Norwegian Centre for Democracy Support.
Multi-party organizations, unlike party foundations, provide differing degrees of oversight to the democracy assistance projects undertaken by political parties. IMD, for example, employs a proportional representation from the seven major political parties in the Netherlands to undertake program activities, while maintaining a permanent non-partisan bureau staff to manage the institute's overall approach. Multi-party organizations receive core funding from public sources and maintain an arm's-length relationship with government agencies.
The multi-party model is particularly intriguing because it incorporates elements of political party independence in which parties are free to work with and develop programs with sister parties in partner countries, while at the same time having the benefit of the broad oversight of an umbrella organization to ensure policy coherence.
I'll speak to Canada's role in democracy promotion now. Thomas Axworthy laid out the Centre for the Study of Democracy's approach for establishing a Democracy Canada institute when he appeared before this committee last October. The paper can be viewed in full through the IRPP.
So that I'm not repetitive, I will highlight a key feature of our paper, the role of political party assistance in democracy promotion. Based on our analysis of existing organizations in the Canadian democracy assistance community, it is clear that no single organization focuses exclusively on political party assistance or democratization. Many organizations have elements of these, but none could be described as an institution exclusively focused on the provision of democracy assistance internationally. Specifically, Canada lacks an institution comparable to the Dutch IMD or the United States NED.
A role for Canada within the democracy assistance community... I received a study grant to examine European models of democracy assistance in 2005. I learned that not only are international political party assistance organizations thriving in many European countries, but their operations are also expanding markedly in the Netherlands and Sweden, and new organizations have been created in Finland and Norway.
The Democracy Canada institute proposal has received international attention, being referenced by organizations such as the OECD, the UNDP, and International IDEA. The CSD's international consultations made it clear that the democracy assistance community would see the creation of Democracy Canada as a very worthwhile initiative, particularly in the area of political party assistance.
Moreover, because Canada lacks a central democracy assistance organization, Canadians contribute to other organizations and other countries' aid and foreign policy objectives. This means that Canada is losing some of its best and brightest democracy practitioners, who therefore contribute primarily to U.S. or European foreign policy priorities.
Canada has a wealth of experience in democratic institutions and processes that can be shared with emerging democracies. I was speaking at a conference on democratic transitions in Taiwan in 2005. At the conference, a young group of Taiwanese law students, who were coming to terms with their own national identities in relation to China, engaged with me in lengthy discussions of Quebec's place within Canada — a topic on which they were quite knowledgeable.
A Canadian-based democracy institution, with its experience in a federal, ethnically diverse, multilateral, and bilingual country, would be welcome into the international democracy promotion community and would have a significant impact in assisting developing democracies.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, what do we mean by democracy, and what are we trying to accomplish by democratic development?
At Rights and Democracy, where I was president for five years, democracy was much more than free, fair, and regular elections. In evaluating democracies, we had developed ten indicators: firstly, free, fair, and regular elections, including a multi-party system; second, full respect for all human rights, including minority rights and gender equality; three, full respect for the rule of law; four, an independent judiciary; five, an independent legislature; six, an equitable distribution of wealth; seven, control of the military and police by the civil authority; eight, public accountability and an ongoing process for consultation; nine, transparency and access to information; and ten, a free and active civil society.
Consequently, we don't have an ideal democracy when a freely elected majority suppresses a minority, when a freely elected majority does not respect the rule of law, or when they corrupt the justice system.
Briefly, we would define democracy as a political system that is based on the freely expressed will of the people that fully respects the entire family of human rights. Democracy is a political system through which human rights achieve their full expression. Democracy should not be confused with good governance nor with a free market economy, both of which might be desirable but not essential elements of democracy.
It is our view that you can't have democracy without human rights, and you can't have human rights without democracy. Human rights and democracy always advance together.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the principles of democratic elections in article 21, freedom of expression in article 19, and the freedom of peaceful assembly and association in article 20. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights includes the same rights, but more explicitly in articles 1, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, and 27. They are also included in article 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights, under the OAS, and in the American declaration on human rights in article 20. The Vienna declaration of 1993 stated in article 8 that “Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.”
Therefore, this broad concept of democracy should be the goal of democratic development, if we are serious about implanting a true democracy in other parts of the world and in our own part of the world.
The second question is, what are the methods of pursuing democratic development? As stated above, the best approach to democratic development is based on the premise that full respect for the entire body of human rights is a necessary condition of a fully functioning democracy.
At Rights and Democracy, we developed a three-step framework approach to democratic development. The three steps are as follows.
First is a study on the status of democracy in a specific country, using the ten indicators I mentioned, to evaluate the democratic situation in that country.
Second, a report on this study is distributed to a wide range of civil society representatives and government officials in the country concerned, who are then invited to discuss the report at a conference, where they can criticize, modify, or add to the provisions in the report. They then agree on a set of recommendations flowing from the study in the conference that are geared to improving the democratic situation in their country.
Third, steps are then taken to program the implementation of the recommendation from phases one and two. The implementation of various recommendations will be assigned to different civil society and government offices, including international ones.
A high priority in the process is the development and strengthening of civil society in said country. An active and free civil society is a key element in determining whether an effective democracy exists. To have a strong democracy, we must have a deeply entrenched commitment to human rights and democracy to the extent that civil society will defend and promote these rights against any attack by governments or other power elites.
We define civil society as the sum of all non-family institutions that are autonomous and independent of the state, and capable of influencing public opinion and policy. This would include NGOs, unions, churches, business associations, universities and academia, professions, media, and political parties.
It is fundamental that this democratic development process should only be pursued with partners in the target country, and through their invitation. A certain level of cooperation in the host country is essential, and priorities must be set within those countries.
In this context, I strongly encourage that this standing committee recommend to the Government of Canada that it also incorporate in its democratic development policy robust procedures for consultation with civil society, both in Canada and internationally.
Democratic development should be a specific objective of Canadian foreign policy. It should be coordinated by some central office in the government, but may be carried out by Canadian government or civil society agencies such as — and these are only examples — Elections Canada, CIDA, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Radio Canada International, and then on the civil society side, NGOs, unions, churches, professions, and also by parliamentarians through their various interparliamentary associations and international exchanges.
It should, of course, be carried out, as I said, with partners in the focus country. It may also be carried out multilaterally, through the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the Commonwealth and Francophonie, the OSCE, and others.
Democratic charters have been developed by the Commonwealth. You have the Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991 and the Millbrook Commonwealth action program on the Harare Declaration of 1995, by the Francophonie; the Bamako Declaration of 2000; and by the Organization of American States, the Inter-American Democratic Charter of 2001, which got its start at the conference in Quebec City; and also, of course, by the Council of Europe.
The Organization of American States also has a unit for the promotion of democracy, established in 1990 and adopted as the Washington Protocol in 1997.
I will now go to Fergus for something on the context of international organizations.
The last section of our presentation focuses on the importance of an enabling international environment for democracy promotion.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights reminds us, in article 28,
||Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
There are a number of historical examples we might point to. For example, the European Union has expanded horizontally, bringing in more countries, and vertically, becoming itself gradually a more democratic pan-European institution. The OSCE, following the end of the Cold War, when democracy was spreading to the countries of the former Soviet Union, itself deepened its institutional basis and created a more effective parliamentary assembly, its commissions, and so on. So the international enabling order is important in terms of democracy promotion multilaterally.
Democracy promotion is often considered as an activity affecting governance at the national level only; however, the enabling international environment, as I've said, is one that not only promotes democracy, but is also becoming increasingly democratic. Increasing adherence to the principles of democratic governance nationally proceeds in lockstep with the democratization of these international institutions above the level of the state.
I guess the benchmark internationally for this line of analysis was the former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's agenda for democratization. There's some discussion of his document in our brief.
Lastly, I would mention one possible initiative that parliamentarians here may want to consider. There is a campaign under way to create a more fulsome parliamentary assembly at the United Nations, and a conference is being organized in Geneva this fall under the patronage of Mr. Boutros-Ghali himself. There is an appeal that some 318 parliamentarians from over 70 countries have signed. I believe one or two members of this committee have signed it. That is appended to our brief.
That is just one example of ways in which parliamentarians can be involved as well in the deepening of democratic institutions multilaterally.
My name is Naresh Raghubeer. I am the executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies.
I brought 20 copies of my presentation with me. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, they were not translated into French this time, but I've left them with the clerk.
First of all, the Canadian Coalition for Democracies would like to thank the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for the opportunity to meet with you this morning, as you undertake this major study of Canada's role in international support for democratic development around the world.
Joining me today are David Harris, senior fellow for national security with the Canadian Coalition, and Clement Mugala, founder and director of Trace Aid. Both Mr. Harris and Mr. Mugala will be prepared to answer questions following our presentation.
Before I begin, allow me to tell you a little about the Canadian Coalition for Democracies and Trace Aid.
Founded in 2003, the Canadian Coalition for Democracies is a non-partisan, multi-ethnic, multi-religious organization of concerned Canadians dedicated to national security and the protection and promotion of democracy at home and abroad. CCD focuses on research, education, and media publishing to build a greater understanding of the importance of national security and a pro-democracy foreign policy.
Clement Mugala is the founder and director of Trace Aid. He has worked throughout Africa as a senior executive in state companies and has been a witness to different types of unethical business practices perpetrated by African bureaucrats, politicians, suppliers, and contractors. To quote Mr. Mugala:
||While in public the government gave an appearance of commitment to fighting corruption, in reality, these same politicians were at the forefront of looting the national treasuries and stashing the stolen money into the banks accounts of the developed countries.
While the Canadian Coalition for Democracies supports Canada's willingness to help those in genuine need around the world, we are concerned about the effectiveness of Canada's development assistance and the lack of accountability to the Government of Canada and to the Canadian taxpayers whose money is being spent.
CCD is also concerned about the refusal of CIDA to acknowledge deficiencies in its aid program and its lack of willingness to demand accountability from governments that actively work against the interests of Canada and her democratic allies. Beyond our concerns of Canadian aid dollars being wasted as a result of corruption and poor management, we're even more concerned about those situations in which Canadian tax dollars may actively be used to promote hatred and incitement to violence and to undermine Canadian interests.
CCD is also concerned that CIDA, with a budget of over $3.1 billion, is not prepared to establish effective strategies for promoting good governance programs that encourage responsibility, accountability, transparency, as well as the advancement of Canadian values of rule of law, free media, independent judiciaries, open and accountable government, gender equality, equal treatment and respect for minorities, religious freedom, and free and fair elections.
To address our concerns, let us look at a few examples.
On supporting corrupt governments, according to the international policy statement released by the previous government, Canada was prepared to focus the majority of its financial assistance on 25 countries. These are the countries of CIDA's aid programming. Of these nations, Freedom House identified 19 as dictatorships or unfree nations. All 25 were identified as nations where corruption is rampant.
Not only did such facts fail to deter CIDA's investment in these countries, but little to no effort was made to oblige local governments and aid agencies to demonstrate that moneys reached their intended recipients and produced intended results.
The lack of accountability and transparency runs counter to the Government of Canada's recent commitment to accountable government, as expressed through the Federal Accountability Act. Not only is CIDA acting irresponsibly with regard to its programs, it is demonstrating a flagrant lack of respect for Canadian taxpayers and an indifference to the plight of the needy, both of which run contrary to the spirit and intention of government policy.
On supporting China, last year Canada provided approximately $56 million in foreign aid to China, a country with the world's largest army, a GDP of $7 trillion, and 700 missiles aimed at peaceful democratic Taiwan.
A fair amount of foreign aid was directed to training communist Chinese judges, who rule in a communist system of state-controlled law. There can be no rationale or reasonable excuse as to why Canada continues to train Chinese judges, knowing full well that these state-appointed judges are and can only be responsible to Beijing first and foremost.
Rule of law does not exist for Chinese or foreigners. The Chinese government, through its courts, actively persecutes minorities such as Tibetans and Falun Gong practitioners. State-enforced punishment includes forced re-education, physical torture, imprisonment without trial, and execution for the purpose of for-profit organ harvesting.
It is useful to note that unlike China, democratic India has of late declined aid as the basis of its economic and social progress. India recognizes that strength and prosperity are a result of using foreign aid as a means to build essential infrastructure and institutions, not a perpetual right that invariably leads to permanent dependency.
On Arab Palestinian aid, Canada has provided over $390 million to the Arab Palestinians since 1993. CIDA's continuing investment from its limited resources into providing for Palestinian development is a textbook example of betraying hardworking Canadians. Over the past 14 years, the return on Canadian aid to Palestinians has little to show in terms of gains for freedom and democracy. Sadly, our aid has done much more to perpetuate a terrorist death cult and internecine warfare as various factions seek to outdo each other in hatred directed at Israel, the lone oasis of values that Canadians cherish in a part of the world where those values are under siege.
Should Canadian tax dollars support President Mahmoud Abbas, who governs under a charter that calls for the annihilation of Israel and whose armed faction, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, is designated as an illegal terrorist organization in Canada? Should Canadian tax dollars fund UNRWA, whose connections to incitement and violence are well documented?
With respect to focused aid, CIDA can draw upon the history of Canadian aid disbursement. This history indicates that wide and non-strategically focused aid disbursements have been inefficient, ineffective, and provide little evidence that such provision of aid, anywhere, has broken the link between dependency and constraints on freedom and democracy.
Canadians generously contributed the amount of $425 million in emergency assistance and development funds to the Asia tsunami victims in 2004-05. To date, Canadians cannot be provided with a clean audit of where and how these funds were distributed and what measures of success follow as a result.
An example of focused and sustained aid would be to help Afghanistan recover from the ravages of war to its people and society. CCD counsels that the Government of Canada, through CIDA, make Afghanistan its top priority in the greater Middle East and South Asia region, complementing the sacrifices of our brave soldiers in the NATO-UN mission to Afghanistan.
Focused aid by CIDA to a few carefully selected countries where our assistance can make the critical difference in breaking vicious cycles of dependency and non-democratic rule would send a message that Canadian assistance is not untied. In other words, Canadian aid will flow to countries where people and government become committed to overcoming poverty and build free and open societies. This will also meet our own accountability test and advance the cause of democracy, freedom, and hope for women and children, who are often the first to suffer.
In conclusion, CCD sees the work of this committee of Parliament to be extremely important. This is especially so given the over $3.1 billion managed annually by CIDA and the Government of Canada's policies and statements about accountability and transparency.
We acknowledge that CIDA is implementing a new four-part agenda for aid effectiveness, which includes a strategy focus of aid programming; strengthening program delivery; effective use of the agency's resources, including strengthening field presence; and clear accountability for results. However, this initiative does not satisfy the reasonable test of political, bureaucratic, and parliamentary accountability required under the Federal Accountability Act.
All of this leads CCD to call on members of the standing committee for the following:
First, ensure that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development has the authority, as recommended by the Honourable Justice Gomery, to retain research personnel and legal administrative staff and experts as needed to monitor the work of the department.
Ensure that all aid provided by the Government of Canada meets the accountability requirements of the Federal Accountability Act.
Ensure that the Auditor General of Canada is able to follow aid dollars and independently audit all recipients of aid, whether domestic or international, government or non-governmental.
Ensure that the Canadian development assistance does not support corrupt governments, bureaucrats, or those who support, glorify, sponsor, or promote terrorism.
Ensure that recipient nations justify and obtain approval for aid from their parliaments before Canadian development assistance is released.
Direct CIDA to take to heart the example being set by India as a democratic reformer and adopt in full measure the idea of development as freedom, based on India's experience promoted by Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winner in economics.
Direct CIDA to support local NGOs that advance the strategic aims of development as freedom and direct Canadian development aid to be disbursed as an incentive to recipient countries to advance freedom.
Focus Canadian development aid on a few nations, such as Afghanistan, where we can make a valuable and effective contribution.
Madam, as I mentioned, more than 150 countries in the world have ratified the international convention on civil and privacy rights. This convention includes several provisions that are in support of democracy, the freedom to hold elections, the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, the freedom of assembly, the freedom of public assembly, etc. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it is not just Western countries that ratified it but also Latin American countries, African countries, Asian countries — 150 is a lot —, these countries have not always followed through on their commitments, nor even enforced the provisions they adopted, even within their own constitutions, because in several cases they have charters of rights.
As I mentioned, at Rights and Democracy, we have our own program. We had implemented it in eight countries at the time of my departure; there are perhaps a greater number of them now. We had been invited, along with the people, the NGOs or the unions in those countries, to implement a democratic development program using the ten indicators that we have mentioned. We determined what the problems were in those countries, for example Pakistan, Haiti, El Salvador, Peru, and we took note of the positive and negative aspects of their democracies. We prepared a report that was then discussed in the context of a major conference, not just with civil society, but also with government officials, members of Parliament, the police, the army, etc. The report was prepared by people in those countries with our support and financial assistance. They then built a program based upon the two first steps aimed at improving the situation. Today, the program belongs to Rights and Democracy, but my suggestion is that there be more coordination within the government of Canada.
We should have a central unit that would coordinate democratic development. It might include Rights and Democracy as one of its operators, but I also mentioned Elections Canada, CIDA, Radio Canada International, and so on. There could be many players on the Canadian side and many players on the side of the country in question that we want to deal with and that wants us to deal with them.
Finally, we should also work through multilateral programs. We can do so through the OAS, the OSCE, and so on, on democratic development, because sometimes with partners in other countries and partners in the countries that are the recipients of the assistance, you're more successful.
It takes a long time. I think the question was asked earlier, at the last session, “What do we do with countries that have, for a long time, dealt with things in a way that we would not consider democratic?” If we look at the history of Europe, in Europe they supported slavery for hundreds of years. They supported supreme monarchies for hundreds of years. There was a death penalty in Britain in the 19th century for about 25 crimes. Was that part of the culture of Europe? No.
These are universal values. The values in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are not just Canadian values. They're values that have been supported by people throughout the whole world, and we have to work together to bring them into force.
I also just want to apologize that our brief is not in French. We just finished it yesterday. We only have one staff person and we just got it this morning. I apologize that it wasn't here sooner, but we are very limited in our resources.
Mr. Chairman, would you like me to read it?
I move that the committee invite senior officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade responsible for the decision to close the Canadian consulates in Milan, Italy; St. Petersburg, Russia; as well as Fukuoka and Osaka, Japan, to appear before the committee by February 20, 2007 in order to examine the rationale, the cost, and implications of such a decision.
I put this forth, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, because in the Kansai region of Japan, for example, the Osaka area, with 25 million people, there's no question that in terms of outreach, in order to be able to trade and do business, this is the second-largest market out there. With this closure, which employs one Canadian and seven locals, with companies like Sony and Panasonic, I want to find out what the rationale is. I think it's very important: if we're going to be scaling back our operations in the second-largest market, I think this should be debated.
As far as Milan goes, Milan has four Canadians and 18 locals, and that consulate is a jumping-off point for much of the business in eastern Europe. We have heard, certainly, concerns raised on the Fukuoka and Osaka closures by Ambassador Numata, etc.
I could go on, Mr. Chairman, but in the interest of time, I will close there.
I'm going to give the reasons for the others. Maybe you don't want them, but the others do.
Because it was felt that there would be no repercusions at all on the services that these three G-8 countries, with their infrastructure and so on, were providing to these countries, it was decided that this consolidation—it's not a closure, but a consolidation of this mission—would have zero impact on that.
Taking that into account, the Canadian officers based there would be reassigned to other duties, and the local staff would follow the contract, which was the service package and everything out there.
The Government of Canada normally reviews its embassies and these things periodically, whether we open up new embassies or close old ones. This is what governments have been doing, including yours.
In the past, we had 43 new missions open up, but 31 were closed as we evaluated their effectiveness—where we were going to go and how best to do it. This was the exercise that cabinet followed.
There is going to be no change, as far as the loss of officers is concerned. The total savings on these closures is going to be $3.6 million, as part of the restraint that the cabinet directed for 2007 and 2008.
We worked with and informed the local governments as well. This is part and parcel of the government exercise that took place out there. This was the rationale, the reason for the consolidation of these things.
This is the answer you're going to get, Mr. Chair, if the minister comes—not the department officials, but the minister, if they want to listen to him, not to the one responsible, but to the one who will speak on behalf of the government. And I've just spoken on behalf of the government.
If the committee wants to carry on doing it and waste money, so be it.
I just want to say that we're not asking for that many things; we're asking that Canada would “join with the...countries” — we can delete “twenty-six” because now there'll be 30 — “leading efforts in developing...an international treaty”, not a new one, because there's not one in the sense that if there was an old one, then we'd get a new one. For an international treaty, we'll just say we'll join the people who want to lead the world to stop these cluster bombs. That's something that, to me, is quite easy. We don't need to wait to see what's going to happen. We can join the efforts of the world, see what's going to happen over there, and after that, just push, in a sense, our government.
Your government, Mr. Obhrai, didn't... If my colleague Mr. Wilson had not asked the question last week... You were undecided as to whether you wanted to go to Oslo. You decided after the United States had decided to go as an observer.
Under the second bullet, I would like to delete “until”.
Mrs. McDonough, when you say “Declare a moratorium on the use, production, trade, transfer, or procurement of cluster munitions” — bombs — “until humanitarian concerns about them are addressed”, I think we should delete this. My understanding — I'm francophone — is that it means “when humanitarian concerns are addressed, at that time, we won't have any more moratoriums”. We could delete this, in a sense.
At the next bullet, I would put, “Complete the destruction of the cluster munitions in Canada’s military arsenal.” Period; that's it. We're just asking for Canada to be one of the leading countries, because we showed leadership, for instance, with the Canada convention on anti-personal mines. That's all we are requesting. We're not requesting anything else.
First of all, I want to thank Bryon for giving me such great credit. Thank you very much.
Back to the main point of this thing, we took quite a leading role in protocol V when it was being developed out there. It is now going through the interdepartmental final analysis, before it is signed. Canada has played a very important role. The decision taken to go to Norway is to participate. It is not a decision to go there and be an observer. We are going to be participating fully in everything.
An hon. member: Why didn't the minister go —
Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Why don't you let me finish when I'm talking? You already had your turn. Please listen intently.
Let me go back; this is an important issue.
So we are going there. The difficulty coming from the government here is that you want to declare a moratorium, you ask for actions to be taken before the instrument is signed...and what is negotiated by the instrument, taking a lot of other things into account, the legalities and everything here.
Now, if you were to make a general motion, something to the tune of Canada is participating in Norway and we would like Canada to be heavily engaged in this, with an objective of achieving...whatever, then one could see something different coming out here.
This motion, from the point of view of the government, is that we want to go to Oslo with the idea of seeing what is happening and how to negotiate...not how to negotiate, but to be there. So our concern here is that this motion...
I would just ask you if you could park it until the instrument over there is done, and then you'll have a better idea which direction you would like to go with a subsequent motion, if you want to put forward two.
I just want to say that we do have this concern, and because of that, the government may vote against this, which we don't want to do, because we want to send a message of unanimity out there that cluster bombing is a very important issue to all officials here in the department. So if this motion is worded in a manner that we can all support, it will send a unanimous message.
These guys have been in power for 13 years — which was a disaster — but they do know how governments operate. That is why we're having this little difficulty.
We do understand cluster bombing is an important issue with Canadians.