Good afternoon, committee members and ladies and gentlemen. This is meeting number 10 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, on Thursday, January 31, 2008.
I want to begin by welcoming new and returning colleagues. This is the first committee meeting since the Christmas break. I certainly wish you had a good holiday, and I wish everyone the best in 2008.
You will note that the agenda for today is written as going in camera for committee business. My intent is to go into committee business without being in camera and then passing the part of the steering committee meeting that deals with the Burma study. We will come back to our steering committee and ask for a motion to accept what the steering committee planned last Tuesday. There's no need to go in camera for this.
Are there any objections? All right.
Your subcommittee met on Tuesday, January 29, 2008, to consider the business of the committee, and it agreed to make recommendations. We'll deal with the first one now, which is that “pursuant to the motion agreed to on November 20, 2007, the committee hold a briefing session on Thursday, January 31, 2008 on Burma with officials from Foreign Affairs”.
Are we in favour of accepting that portion of the steering committee's report?
So we're all in favour of proceeding today as...?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: All right, carried.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on November 20, 2007, we will proceed with a briefing on the violent reaction of the Burmese regime to the democratic movements in Burma.
We have appearing before us today the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
First of all, we have Randolph Mank, director general of the Asia south and Pacific bureau; Peter McGovern, director general, bilateral commercial relations, Asia and Americas; Adèle Dion, director general, human security and human rights bureau; and John F. G. Hannaford, the director general and deputy legal adviser.
We welcome you here. Certainly we have anticipated your coming. All parties have been taken with the concerns that we have seen in Burma. Even in the midst of a fairly comprehensive study on Afghanistan, this motion came forward.
We're pleased that you are able to be with us. If you could give us a presentation, we would then move into our first round of questioning. At the close of the next hour or so, we will then move into committee business.
Merci, Mr. Chairman, honourable members, mesdames et monsieurs.
Burma has been ruled by successive military-led governments since the early 1960s. The current Burmese regime consistently violates the human rights of its people. Forced relocation, rape by the military, extrajudicial killings, forced labour, the use of child soldiers, arbitrary arrest and detention, and the persecution of ethnic minorities commonly occur. Reports of torture continue to be received.
The Burmese regime also imposes significant restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms by the people of Burma, including freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of movement, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly.
Last fall’s round of protests was sparked by a substantial and unexpected rise in fuel prices. However, the small-scale and quickly repressed protests of late August by activists were soon eclipsed by the widespread peaceful protests in September led by Buddhist monks across Burma. The protests subsided following a violent crackdown by the Burmese regime. The crackdown involved violence against monks and protesters, followed by the arrest of thousands of monks and the sealing of key monasteries, depriving the protests of their leaders.
Canada's policy on Burma was and is a direct reflection of the severe problems that the military government has created for its own people. It also reflects the security concerns that the policies of its leadership and actions of its armed forces pose for the international community.
Prior to the events of September 2007, Canada had already imposed a number of exclusionary bilateral measures on Burma, including the following: export controls on all but humanitarian goods; the withdrawal of preferential import tariffs; a visa ban on visits by high-level members of the government and armed forces; the suspension of bilateral aid and commercial support; exclusion from a market access initiative to eliminate most import duties and quotas; an in-Canada travel notification requirement imposed on Ottawa-based Burmese diplomats; and official announcements discouraging Canadian tourism to Burma and urging our business community not to invest in or enter into commercial ventures in Burma.
After the latest crackdown, the government decided to impose economic sanctions. On December 13, 2007, the “Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations” came into force in order to respond to the gravity of the situation in Burma. In the government's opinion, this situation constitutes a grave breach of international peace and security that has or is likely to result in a serious international crisis. The abhorrent human rights and humanitarian situation in Burma is particularly dangerous as the government's actions not only oppress its own people but also bring substantial transnational destabilizing effects. These destabilizing effects threaten peace and security in the entire region and undermine freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
Subject to certain exceptions, the measures implemented by the regulations include: a ban on all goods exported from Canada to Burma, excepting only the export of humanitarian goods; a ban on all goods imported from Burma into Canada; a freeze on assets in Canada of any designated Burmese nationals connected with the Burmese state; a ban on new investment in Burma by Canadian persons and companies; a prohibition on the provision of Canadian financial services to and from Burma; a prohibition on the export of any technical data to Burma; a prohibition on Canadian-registered ships or aircraft from docking or landing in Burma; and a prohibition on Burmese-registered ships or aircraft from docking or landing in Canada and passing through Canada.
We've chosen these sanctions because they will impact on the Burmese regime and clearly indicate Canada's condemnation of its complete disregard for human rights and its repression of the democratic movement. Imposing the toughest sanctions in the world against the Burmese regime is the right thing to do. Our sanctions set an example. Canada is urging others to impose the strongest possible measures against Burma until the Burmese authorities demonstrate their commitment to undertaking genuine reform.
The Government has also pursued a number of non-sanctions measures to demonstrate our support for reform in Burma and for Burma’s democratic movement.
In the months following the protests, the made numerous statements on Burma on behalf of Canada. He strongly reiterated Canada’s condemnation of the war of deadly force by the military and police against monks and other protesters in Burma who were exercising their right to peaceful dissent. At the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in New York on September 26, 2007, the Minister joined his counterparts in unanimously condemning the violence in Burma and calling for a resumption of dialogue. He also sent a Canadian diplomat to Rangoon to assess the situation and to show Canada’s support for the democratic movement.
On October 17, 2007, following the Speech from the Throne, the tabled a motion in the House of Commons to confer honorary citizenship on Aung San Suu Kyi. This was done in recognition of her struggle to promote freedom and democracy in Burma, and was adopted by all party agreement.
Canada has long had economic controls on trade with Burma. Burma was placed on Canada's area control list in 1997, thus controlling the export of all goods to Burma. The stated government policy is that all permit applications are generally denied, except for exports of humanitarian goods.
Furthermore, the Government of Canada has consistently called upon the Canadian business community to not do business with or invest in Burma. Canadian exports to Burma decreased by 62% in 2006 to $140,000. Canadian imports from Burma were valued at $8.4 million in 2006, a 24% decrease over 2005 levels. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is working closely with various government departments to ensure proper enforcement of the sanctions.
Canada continues to be very active within UN fora, voicing our serious concerns with the human rights situation in Burma. We are working with the international community to continue to put pressure on the Burmese regime to refrain from violence.
Canada strongly supports the work of the United Nations Secretary General's special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari. The UN Secretary General has twice sent his special envoy to Burma for meetings with senior members of the Burmese regime, as well as with Aung San Suu Kyi. The special envoy travelled to Burma in September and November 2007, and hopes to return to Burma in the coming months.
At the UN Human Rights Council, 18 member states, including Canada, called for a special session on Burma to address the deteriorating human rights situation. The special session held on October 2 resulted in the adoption by consensus of a resolution, co-sponsored by Canada and 50 other countries, strongly deploring the continued repression of peaceful demonstrations in Burma. The council further requested that the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Mr. Sérgio Pinheiro, seek an urgent visit to the country and report back to the council. The special rapporteur's visit took place in November 2007, and his report will be presented at the upcoming session of the council from March 3 to 28, 2008.
In conclusion, Canada believes that the Government of Burma must undertake concrete and measurable action to demonstrate its commitment to genuine democratic reform. Despite repeated calls by the international community to exercise restraint and respect human rights, the Burmese regime has been completely unwilling to undertake genuine reform. Canada continues to call upon the Burmese government to respect human rights, engage in a genuine dialogue with members of the democratic opposition, and release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. Until it does so, we will continue to work with our partners in the international community to exert pressure against the military junta.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to thank our witnesses for coming. I'd especially like to welcome Mr. Mank, who of course has a distinguished career, particularly as our former ambassador in Indonesia.
First of all, I would indicate, through you, Mr. Chairman, to Mr. Mank that the policy the government is pursuing is certainly in line with what previous governments have done. My question to you is twofold.
One, what are we doing diplomatically with China and India, which have significant investments—particularly China—in support not only of the business community in Burma, but obviously significant military hardware that they have been selling to the Burmese regime?
Secondly, in terms of organizations such as ASEAN, APEC, etc., what concrete steps have we been taking to work with those partners to try to move this forward?
Finally, I wrote the Chief Justice of Burma—who I know quite well—U Aung Toe, back in October, asking, since he's in charge of the constitutional reform process in Burma.... Basically, although I can't divulge the contents of the response, I can tell you that there seems to be a situation there where there's a lot of what I would call shadowboxing, where they are trying to make moves for the media, but the reality is that behind the scenes not much seems to have changed regardless of sanctions, etc. I guess he was as candid as he could be with me.
So I'll leave it at that.
Would you like us to put all our questions and then...?
I'm the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Burma. There are about 40 MPs and senators from all the parties. We certainly appreciate what Canada has done in the last decade.
I just came back from six solid days of meetings on the border, the first MP probably in a decade in the area I went to. I met with student groups, rebels, National League for Democracy people, prisoners, etc., and ambassadors of China and India. As you said, the rapes, the killings, the displacements, the extrajudicial killings are still going on, and it's awful.
So we appreciate what's been done so far, but they told us other things that could be done, some of which we've asked of the government. We'd just like to ask if you're willing to do some of the following things.
First, there has been a group of 14 countries, which we're hoping Canada will join, recently established to fight against this awful situation.
Secondly, our group, members of all parties, put forward a 10-point plan a couple of months ago to the minister, on some of which actions have been taken, which is great, but there are other actions in there.
They would like help with their constitutional development. It was great that you stopped any new Canadian investment, but they would like to get rid of existing Canadian investment. As you know, one of the companies was, at one time, the fourth largest producer of income to the dictatorship.
They'd like a UN political presence in Burma.
They'd like more aid. Last night, the minister mentioned $300 million for Palestine, which is great, but only $2 million to Burma, in this awful situation.
So I wonder if you would be willing to look at any of those things that the Burmese people are asking for and that the Parliamentary Friends of Burma hopefully will be asking for.
Thank you very much. They're both very pertinent questions and are much appreciated.
I'll start with Mr. Wilfert's questions. First, regarding what we're doing diplomatically with other countries, and you have named three very key players in mentioning China and India and ASEAN, we're very conscious of the role these neighbours have in bringing influence to bear on Burma. In fact, we've been doing a number of things.
First, in the context of our work down at the UN, these are the kinds of counterpart diplomats we seek out to share information with on what we're doing. We give the Canadian point of view on what should be done by us, by the international community, and by neighbours, and so on and so forth. So those conversations, which happen at the diplomatic level, and for that reason are privileged, I can assure you, are going on.
At the same time, at Foreign Affairs and International Trade here in Ottawa, in keeping with regular diplomatic practice, we bring in diplomatic representatives, normally at the ambassadorial level, for conversations of a similar ilk. We use the opportunity to explain what we're doing and to encourage others, if not to follow suit, which is our preference, to do as much as they possibly can to bring collective pressure to bear on the regime in Burma.
With regard to ASEAN, of course, we're a dialogue partner with ASEAN, so we have the right to have that conversation annually in the councils of ASEAN. Frankly, it's a conversation we've been having for a long time. Canada has actually been in the forefront in bringing pressure to bear on Burma for quite a number of years. What the government has done in deciding to move to sanctions is to ensure that Canada remains at the forefront in exerting that pressure. ASEAN partners know that. We have those conversations in the context of the normal meetings with ASEAN. But frankly, the minister certainly likes to ensure that there's more than that. He has deployed me, personally, to some capitals in ASEAN countries to carry that brief forward to ensure that it's well understood and to ensure that it's understood in the context of our expectations and hopes for Burma's neighbours in terms of taking action. Certainly, with Burma being a member of ASEAN, one does have expectations that ASEAN will take a firm line.
We were very pleased that in New York, during the UN General Assembly, the ASEAN leaders issued a very firm statement condemning the crackdown on the monks in Burma. So that was a very good development that was a positive sign. We've seen that all these countries have joined in a kind of consensus on what the end game should be: the Burmese regime should have a dialogue with the opposition, should move on the path of democracy, and should get its house in order, essentially. There are differences of view, of course, in the approach, but essentially, there's very little disagreement on what we all think collectively should be the way forward in Burma.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for helping us understand the situation.
I am very pleased that the Government of Canada has implemented certain sections of the report that the Foreign Affairs and International Trade Committee adopted on December 1, 2004.
Furthermore, I salute the sanctions taken by Canada against the military regime, even though these sanctions are not retroactive. We wish they were, but we are still pleased with what has been done up to now.
My question is more specific. We are concerned about the fact that the money deducted weekly from the pay cheques of millions of Canadians for the Canada Pension Plan is invested in Canadian companies, which unfortunately are often socially and ecologically irresponsible. For example, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board invests over $60 million in the largest Canadian business operating in Burma, Ivanhoe Mines, and this money benefits the military junta. But the Investment Board is still investing money in Ivanhoe, which is still present in Burma.
I wonder why the Canadian government does not require the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to have ethics and transparency rules, follow-up and monitoring mechanisms, to make sure it does not invest in Canadian companies that are socially and ecologically irresponsible. It seems to us that this would ensure some consistency with the Canadian sanctions that have been adopted against Burma. On the one hand, we impose sanctions while, on the other, we allow certain companies to go on investing. And, since it involves taxpayers’ money, it leaves sort of a bitter taste.
Thank you very much, Mr. Goldring, Mr. Chairman.
Without doing an exhaustive review of the regulations, suffice it to say that the earlier measures that were taken were under a range of different instruments, including the Export and Import Permits Act and those related to the movement of goods.
What has happened most recently is action has been taken pursuant to the Special Economic Measures Act, which was instituted in order to allow for more targeted sanctions in certain instances, and among those are situations that either are an international crisis or threaten to be an international crisis. So that's the triggering mechanism in this context. That was determined to be the case by the Governor in Council. Certain actions were taken, then--pursuant to the SEMA--in order to address the situation in Burma, and those include an export and an import ban, effectively.
The export ban is conditioned by the movement of humanitarian goods by fairly broad measures: an assets freeze; a ban on the transfer of technical data, which is a defined term that includes things like blueprints and other sorts of value-added goods; there are bans on investment, which we discussed earlier; a prohibition on provision of financial services; and then measures relating to both shipping and to the movement of airlines.
A lot of those measures do go beyond what was simply available in our other mechanisms. These are specific measures envisaged by SEMA that were taken as a result of their specific allowance under SEMA.
Let me try it this way.
In the case of Haiti and the former Yugoslavia, did we impose special economic measures against investments that had already existed in both Haiti and in the former Yugoslavia when we brought them into force? No, we haven't. Okay.
I hit a bit of a wall there, because we know that there are CPP investments that still exist, notwithstanding Ivanhoe putting things into a trust to sell off. Many people still have concerns about that, and I just want you to note that. In fact, what we're talking about here is SEMA, but also about corporate social responsibility. Perhaps another day we'll have a motion to discuss that.
Many Canadians are deeply concerned that there still are Canadian companies doing business in Burma. My question to you is, what tools do we have for Canadian companies to divest themselves from Burma now? Do we have none?
Who would be privy to that information? Would shareholders be privy? Obviously, I'm not, because I'm hearing that information can't be disclosed for reasons....
In other words, I would appreciate knowing what companies have been captured by the SEMA vis-à-vis Burma. Is that information available to us as a committee? The fact that you brought in SEMA is great. I applaud it. I was hoping it would affect existing investments. I also think many Canadians would hope that it would deal with investments that some would say are a loophole through the indirect....
Is there any way to catalogue which Canadian companies are presently affected by the Special Economic Measures Act? It's good to have these policies, but if we don't know what companies are affected, and catalogue that, then it matters not to many of us, and we kind of say, well, that was nice, but what effect did it have?
So is there a listing of which companies, how many companies, and the net investment or divestment that has taken place to date? Do we have that kind of information?
At this point we don't have an aggregated list of companies in Burma. We have been dealing with our mission in Thailand, which is responsible for relations with Burma. To our knowledge, there are very few companies that are active in the Burmese market. The number of direct investors, with Ivanhoe Mines now going into trust, is probably zero.
We have been in touch with other companies that were doing exploration work in Burma. In light of the situation, they withdrew prior to sanctions being imposed. The expectation of the Government of Canada is that the companies operating will, in and of themselves, be corporately socially responsible. Given the situation in Burma, there's a strong indication that it's not a place they would want to be.
We are always looking for indications of firms that are active, and we work with partners to ensure that we bring those to the attention of the appropriate authorities. But the numbers are very small. If you look at what we import from Burma, it includes frozen shrimp, mung beans, some textiles, and that's it. Our exports were down to about $4,000 until November. So the transactions are of a very limited nature.
I can only speak about direct investment and commercial exchanges. I'm not in a position to know about the indirect activity of Canadian firms that may be present in Burma. Again, I would suggest it is very small.
Sure, because it is obviously very relevant. Burma is isolated from the international community. They are behaving in a way that only a very isolated country would, and that has been the case for quite some time now.
At the same time, as you're alluding, they do have some relationships for commercial and other purposes that have allowed them to sustain the regime they've had in place, which is very controlling of their own population's wishes.
The neighbouring countries have been doing most of the trade with the country. We know who their principal trading partners are. Obviously they rely on that trade in order to sustain the economy such as it is. But it isn't much. If you look at the actual size of that economy, their GDP is just under $14 billion. That adds up to about $239 per capita--I'm using some IMF figures here; those are numbers that we often look to when we want to see the state of a country.
There's another statistic I look at when I want to see what the state of a country is, and that is infant mortality. It is a country that has 75 deaths per 1,000 births, which is extraordinary.
Welcome to the committee. I have the highest regard for the department. DFAIT has been working very hard on this file. You mentioned earlier it's been 20 years since we tried to sanction Burma. If you look at the volume we're doing with them, I'm sure anything we do now is going to have very marginal effects.
Following the line of questioning of my colleagues, Mr. Wilfert and Mr. Kramp, I would like to understand a bit more about the other countries that might have more leverage in the situation, like India, China, and ASEAN. Can you explain to the committee the size of their relationship with China, with India, and all the ASEANs, and what it means to Burma? Also, what does it mean to China to not be hard on Burma? Why are they behaving that way? Might we be able to find some leverage from those nations that we might exercise in the international arena?
Also, to Madame Dion, what tool does the UN have with that kind of information? It's very nice to have the human rights report, but if the UN cannot be effective on this matter, it won't be any use. I'll leave my questions at that. Thank you.
I don't want to be put in the position of trying to explain why Chinese foreign policy is what it is, or Indian or anybody else's besides Canadian.
But look again at the data. The total exports of that country, Burma, were $3.6 billion in the most recently recorded year; imports were $2 billion. It does not have a burgeoning trading partnership with anybody.
It is a country that's not completely isolated, but isolated to the point where it has abysmal conditions for its people. So there isn't a whole lot of interest for anybody, as far as we can see, except that it's a country rich in natural resources. It's also a country of significant population. It's a country importantly situated in Southeast Asia. Those are perspectives that obviously are brought to bear.
In terms of the UN, I'll let Ms. Dion answer that, but I would note that it is progress that Mr. Gambari was allowed to go in and it is progress that he was able to, first of all, meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been completely isolated from outside contact for a long time. Third, he was able to broker a dialogue, so the Government of Burma identified a minister of their cabinet, whose name is Major General Aung Kyi, to be the dialogue partner with Aung San Suu Kyi, and they have been having a dialogue. They have allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to have meetings with her own party as well.
So there's a bit of progress there; it's not nearly enough. But I think that's a credit to the UN and to all this collective pressure we've joined in bringing in behind the UN bilaterally, multilaterally, and so on.
Yes, to continue on the UN theme, because Burma is isolated.... It is a member of the United Nations. It very much values that the UN provides it with a forum to have a bit of respectability at the international level. The regime's desire to continue to be a participant there is actually a very useful lever.
As Mr. Mank said, we're very fortunate with Mr. Gambari, who is a very skilled Nigerian diplomat and actually has been able to make some considerable progress. Equally, the special rapporteur, Mr. Pinheiro, who is a Brazilian, has been in the international system for a very long time. He is very skilled at using the leverage that the UN and the Human Rights Council have given him.
Two opportunities will be coming up. The first opportunity is when Mr. Pinheiro presents his report in Geneva in March. It will provide the occasion for a dialogue. Canada and others will be able to take the floor and ask him very specific questions to highlight how bad the situation is in Burma and specific instances of human rights abuses that he was able to gather information on.
Also, the Human Rights Council has a new tool that's called “universal periodic review”. This tool will require that all members of the UN submit to an extensive review of their human rights records every four or five years. Burma will be coming up for a review in 2011, which is not immediately, but it certainly will provide an opportunity for a very comprehensive review of the situation and a dialogue with representatives of the regime.
Thank you. It's very short.
These guys are bad, obviously. They drive five-inch spikes into monks' heads to kill them. I want to give you a chance to answer the questions, because I know you didn't have time to answer some of them.
Also, the General Assembly can stop Burmese delegations from going places. Could we join in that, use not just regional unrest but also the responsibility to protect? Could we help them to develop their constitution? The European countries have. Could we lobby for a UN political presence in Burma? There is room for more foreign aid; I saw it there--in schools, health care, education, and food for refugees.
Could we lobby for a resale treaty so that no country in the world could sell arms...or have a condition for selling arms so that they don't go by a third country to Burma? This sometimes happens, and then they say they're not selling to Burma.
We called for the release of the political prisoners again this week—the 1988...some of them have gone up; it's over 1,800—and for an independent monitor like the Red Cross for those prisoners.
Again, they are all interesting ideas, some of which have been studied or are under study and being considered. Some have some difficulties and some have potential. We are always, as I said, looking for that kind of input. I've taken some notes here. We'll be looking at that and at other things that Canada might do, hoping that we can remain in the forefront as we have.
At the end of the day, if there's any glimmer of good news in this horrible story of Burma, it is the fact that countries like Canada have been taking rather extraordinary measures to show that even though we might be far away geographically, we're not missing any of those actions that they're taking against their people. The world is watching. Even countries quite far away geographically are watching their every move, and we're willing to react in ways that we possibly can and looking for new ways to react, including potentially some of those things you mentioned.
These sanctions are not designed to go after any particular firm or firms. They are what they are, and firms that stand in contravention or act outside of this law have to deal with the consequences of that. It's not designed for one company, but it doesn't exempt any. There's nobody who is immune from the law as it's passed. It is what it is. We think it has power in its application and we think it will have some effect.
More important is the impulse it gives internationally in showing that Canada is going to continue to lead on this. We will continue to encourage all of the other countries, including the neighbours, to do what they can to bring pressure to bear so that this regime will change. That's the bottom line, and I think everybody agrees with it.
So I say in this particular instance that the reference to the joint committee be taken out completely, that we don't meet with them, and that we do meet, but we call John Manley and all the members of the independent panel as well as the Ministers of National Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation, adding further witnesses—I have to emphasize “adding further witnesses”—to provide their perspective on this report.
Now, let me say this, Mr. Patry, and to my colleagues on the other side. We are studying Afghanistan. The defence committee was not, but we are. It's part of the report on our side here. So it is important for us to get that perspective in there, both from the ministers and.... It seems to me a little thin that throughout last year, when Mr. Patry was the vice-chair, if I'm not mistaken, they kept saying they wanted ministers, they wanted to hear....
Now we have an opportunity here. It does not matter whether you agree or you disagree with the Manley report or what the report recommends or what it does. But it provides us with the opportunity to ask questions of everyone and to get a broader perspective on it. I am more interested that if we are going to put an Afghanistan report out there that it listen to everyone. If I recall correctly, Mr. Dewar was a little upset when he did not get his NGOs to talk about Burma because they did not think the Burma report was a complete report.
Using the same argument, we imply over here that we listen to everyone, the ministers and everything. So I am asking that this motion be amended following this and that the foreign affairs committee call Mr. Manley as part of our report, to be involved in our report.
Mr. Chair, with due respect to what the government side has been saying about the importance of this report and so on, I have problems with the whole notion of the process by which the government is coming to its decision after just looking at the Manley report. To me, the Prime Minister has appointed a group of elitists, a group of five people, who he thinks is knowledgeable on those matters, and he has ignored the input or the feelings of Canadians at large.
As Mr. Kramp and Mr. Obhrai have said, all Canadians are very concerned about the Afghanistan issue. I don't think the government or Parliament should make any decisions without going to the people. I also echo Madame Barbot; it is amazing this panel ignored consulting Parliament, people in this committee, for input before they made their conclusions in their report. Further, the government, without consulting Parliament and without consulting the foreign affairs committee, has made a decision on the government's position and on government policy on how to proceed. The Prime Minister and the cabinet—whether he consults the cabinet or not, I don't know, but the Prime Minister has come out and said this is what we're going to do. This has shown contempt for the parliamentary process, for the people.
I respect the Manley report. There is something in it, but it is a product of five people out of a country of 33 million people, and there is no democratic input from grassroots Canadians. To me, the responsibility that was put on our shoulders to represent the people of Canada is to come up with some policy recommendations to the government, with the Manley report as part of the input. I would weigh the importance of the Manley report just as heavily as the evidence of the witnesses we are going to see in the days to come and other representations we may have.
In response to Mr. Chan's question and in response to Paul Dewar's question and everybody's question, the simple fact of the matter is that this is an independent committee of the Parliament of Canada, not the Government of Canada. You are not responding to the Government of Canada. This committee is doing a report on Afghanistan that will be presented to Parliament as independent. And now within exactly the argument that you are making is what the argument is, that we are calling the panel here as part of all the other witnesses.
You can say very clearly what you just said in the report when you are listening to the panel, by putting your own argument in this thing by saying, “I don't agree with you”. But this is exactly the debate we are talking about. And the debate on Afghanistan is that we undertook in this committee to study Afghanistan. Now, as part of that report of the dialogue on the Afghanistan issue, here is one portion out there that will come and tell us...as you have put forward committee people for evidence, from all sides of things here.
What is wrong? I don't even understand what is wrong, why we cannot bring one panel here to listen to their point of view for a comprehensive report. The defence committee was not doing it; they cancelled it.
But, Mr. Chan, you must understand that this is an independent panel to study this report. Look, we have put forward minority reports. You put forward a minority report. You put forward dissenting opinions. Now you have this thing out here and you are getting afraid.
Let me put it to you point-blank, Mr. Chan. Are you afraid of the Manley report? Then why are you not listening to it?
I just want to say this, because the question has come, why didn't Manley come here? With all due respect to Mr. Manley, in the middle of a report, he would come and do what? To question us or to come and have us question him? What I would imagine Mr. Manley would believe is that he would finish his report, would come to the conclusions of his report, and then would be willing to be questioned on that report.
Let me say one other thing. If you recall, our committee was oh so anxious to finish our report so that Manley would have our report to reference in the building of his report. We said, all different people said, that he can reference our evidence at any time. He can go to the website. Our evidence is there. He may well have done that. But as anxious as we were to hear from Manley, we didn't even finish our report.
Wait a minute. That's an aside. That was for free.