Mr. Chairman, members, it's an honour to appear before the standing committee to discuss Canada's engagement in the Horn of Africa, specifically in Somalia. I'll address the current situation in the Horn and in Somalia and discuss briefly Canadian and international diplomatic efforts. My colleague from CIDA, Nadia Kostiuk, will discuss Canada's humanitarian and financial contribution in greater detail, and then we would both be happy to take questions.
My comments focus on the four countries generally defined as comprising the Horn of Africa, namely Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. I understand that this committee will be addressing the situation in adjacent Sudan later this month.
Mr. Chairman, the Horn of Africa's geography has been central to its political, social and economic development for centuries. Relations between the countries in the Horn—and especially between Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia—are intertwined and complex.
Firstly, for example, there is an ongoing and serious border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The decisions in 2002 of the internationally-mandated Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission have still to be implemented. Neither country is willing to enter into negotiations without conditions, and both remain prepared to resume battle.
Secondly, Ethiopian troops remain in Somalia. The African Union and some countries within the region view this as a liberating and security force, others as an occupying force.
Thirdly, Ethiopia accuses Eritrea of inciting the large ethnic Somali population in Ethiopia to create instability, and of supporting the opposition forces in Somalia.
Underlying this dynamic are challenges within several of the countries that comprise the Horn, challenges relating to governance and human rights, to acute poverty exacerbated by endemic drought and food insecurity, and to internal conflict. To these have been added new security challenges including international terrorism, largely because of the weakness of states in the region.
Mr. Chairman, within the Horn, Somalia, which I realize is your principal interest, plays a crucial geographic and political role. It is a failed state that has been without a functioning government since 1991. Somalia is a centre of internal and regional insecurity, with continual humanitarian suffering, famine, and outward migration.
In the past two years, through the mediation of the subregional organization, the International Governmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, and supported by the United Nations and the African Union, a time-bound transitional federal government has emerged and a national reconciliation congress has been held. Thus far the TFG, the transitional federal government, has not achieved the required security and reconciliation and it continues to encounter active resistance by a largely Islamist opposition, whose resistance is inspired, in part, by Ethiopia's military intervention.
However, there have been encouraging developments in the recent past. These include, first, a renewed commitment to reconciliation on the part of the new TFG Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein; second, the preparation for the first time of an integrated TFG priorities and plan of action, which has the potential to provide the basis for a road map for Somalia; and third, a renewed diplomatic initiative centred on the new and exceptionally dynamic special representative of the UN Secretary General for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, and a new African Union special representative for Somali, Nicolas Bwakira.
The UN Security Council approved the mandate for an African Union mission in Somalia, AMISOM, the implementation of which has, unfortunately, been slow. There are currently 1,500 Ugandan troops and some 600 soldiers from Burundi on the ground, with additional soldiers from two other African countries expected to arrive within the next two or three months. This remains a fraction of the 8,000 troops authorized for AMISOM and it is not sufficient either to restore order or to provide the necessary protection to the civilians of Somalia, and especially Mogadishu. Indeed, the UN Secretary General has indicated that the operating environment in Somalia is so difficult that a UN peace support operation may not be a viable option.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation in Somali is judged by the UN to be among the worst in the world, with nearly 1.5 million displaced, aid being hampered or pirated, and humanitarian workers under threat.
Mr. Chairman, Canada's diplomatic engagement in the Horn of Africa reflects a broader commitment to contribute to the maintenance of peace and security and to promote good governance, democracy and human rights.
With regard to each of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, Canada has—through its missions and mission heads in Kenya and Ethiopia—encouraged the promotion of good governance and reconciliation. We have encouraged respect for human rights, for international humanitarian law, and for international decisions and agreements, including the decisions of the UN Security Council and of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission. And we have constantly emphasized the importance of each country playing a constructive role within the sub-region.
With reference to Somalia, Canada has participated in the International Contact Group on Somalia, the principal international mechanism in support of peace. The International Contact Group is reflecting on how to achieve greater impact on the ground in Somalia. Canada has endorsed this.
We are also undertaking targeted engagement in Somalia, working with local partners, to strengthen the media, to develop citizenship, to promote human rights, to empower women and to foster reconciliation.
Promoting the role of the media in Somalia has particular salience for Canada in view of the murder in August of the Somali Canadian journalist, Ali Iman Sharmarke, and his colleague, Mahad Ahmed Elmi.
Ultimately, however, Canada and other international partners can but help. It is for Somalis, working through the transitional federal government and other mechanisms, to ensure their own destiny. This point was underlined in a recent report by the UN Secretary General on Somalia. While circumstances do not permit formal diplomatic relations with any Somalian government, Canada maintains contacts with the TFG, including with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ali Ahmed Jama, who is a Canadian of Somali origin.
Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, I would emphasize that the Horn of Africa remains an especially complex part of the world. The challenges are great, and in some places, such as Somalia, the tools at our disposal to address them are few indeed. But we will continue to try to find ways to improve human rights, democratic development, and governance in the Horn, not just for the people of the Horn, but for greater security and stability globally. And we will remain alert to new opportunities for engagement in Somalia, as and when the situation on the ground improves.
The government appreciates the concerns and contributions of the growing diaspora communities in Canada from the Horn of Africa, including what I understand to be the largest Somalia diaspora community in the world, communities that are succeeding in making important contributions both to Canada and to their countries of origin. And of course we appreciate the commitment of Canadian parliamentarians in helping to achieve lasting solutions to the challenges in the Horn of Africa, including Somalia.
Thank you very much for the invitation to appear before the standing committee to discuss the work that CIDA does in the Horn of Africa, particularly Somalia.
As my colleague David Angell has described, the Horn of Africa is an intertwined and complex region composed of four countries: Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.
I must say that CIDA's only bilateral program in the Horn is in Ethiopia, with its 77 million people representing roughly 85 percent of the region's total population. Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world, currently ranked 169 out of 177 on the United Nations human development index. It is in fact the largest extremely poor country in the world.
Our development programs in Ethiopia focus on poverty reduction, primarily through work to improve agricultural production and food security for the poorest eight million Ethiopians. The promotion of human rights and democratic governance is also a key priority. All CIDA programming in Ethiopia is delivered through international organizations, Canadian firms, and non-governmental organizations. CIDA's bilateral program disbursements, those directed by my branch, in 2007-08 are projected to exceed $70 million.
Canada does not provide bilateral assistance to Eritrea, but can and would respond to humanitarian emergencies. There is a small local initiatives fund in Djibouti, managed by the Canadian Embassy in Addis-Ababa, that supports human rights and democratic government activities.
Canada's contribution to Somalia is primarily in the form of the financing of humanitarian assistance. This assistance is delivered by humanitarian agencies including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Food Program, the WFP, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as Canadian non-governmental organizations such as World Vision, OXFAM Canada, and Médecins Sans Frontières. These trusted partners are widely recognized for their experience working in Somalia and other situations of conflict or insecurity.
In 2007, CIDA provided approximately $15 million to aid Somalis displaced by their ongoing conflict and flooding. Somalia received another $15.6 million in 2007 from the UN's Central Emergency Revolving Fund, the CERF, to which Canada is the fifth largest donor.
Canada also provides non-humanitarian assistance to Somalia. The Canadian High Commissioner in Nairobi manages the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. This $500,000 fund supports small governance initiatives in Somalia with the objective of promoting human rights, equality between women and men and the development of independent media, as my colleague just explained. Additionally, through its support to the African Union, Canada is contributing to that organization's efforts to resolve the crisis in Somalia, particularly in mediation, negotiation, and peace monitoring activities.
CIDA's decisions on funding for activities in Somalia are taken based on close consultation and collaboration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
The delivery of programming in Somalia is very difficult. The chief constraint is insecurity stemming primarily from the ongoing conflict in the south between the Ethiopian-backed transitional federal government, or the TFG, and a loose coalition of Islamic insurgent groups. Humanitarian agencies report increasing difficulties reaching those in need due to the conflict and to the lack of respect for international humanitarian law demonstrated by, I must say, all sides to the conflict. Attacks on non-combatants, extra-judicial executions, and other human rights abuses have led to a dramatic increase in the number of people forced to flee their homes. Nationwide, more than one million people have been displaced, one quarter of them just in the last three months.
Humanitarian organizations are frustrated by the denial of access, extortion at roadblocks, and intimidation or violence at distribution sites. Targeted violence against humanitarian workers has also become an important issue. Representatives from CIDA and the Canadian High Commission in Nairobi visited Somalia in November of last year and corroborated the concerns voiced by humanitarian agencies.
Médecins Sans Frontières announced just last Friday, on February 1, that it is withdrawing its international staff from Somalia following a bomb blast that killed three of their employees in Kismayu. MSF has indicated that it will continue to deliver their programming with the help of their local staff. However, it is too early to tell what the impact of last week's bombings and the subsequent decision by MSF will mean for the delivery of humanitarian assistance in what is already a very difficult environment.
Insecurity is less pronounced in the semi-independent northern provinces of Puntland and Somaliland, although the situation there has deteriorated with a border clash between them in October 2007 and with the recent kidnappings of a journalist and aid workers in Puntland.
The situation in Somalia is further complicated by pirate attacks on ships delivering aid, although no attacks have occurred since November, when France began providing naval escorts for World Food Programme ships. The U.S. Navy recently made forceful interventions to resolve pirate attacks on commercial vessels.
The Horn of Africa remains a complex part of the world and constitutes a challenge for the international community. As my colleague David Angell emphasized, the region is of strategic importance from both an international and Canadian perspective. Despite longstanding challenges, we can see signs of progress in the region, especially in Ethiopia, one of the most influential countries in this volatile region, and on the continent. Ethiopia is working, with donor support, to address the scale and depth of poverty compounded by weak public sector institutions.
Somalia's challenges are very directly related to stability and security. However, in spite of the very difficult operating environment, Canada's assistance is delivered to those most in need, with close monitoring of those efforts. There is some progress, such as in the provision of emergency food to nearly 2.2 million internally displaced people and to other people affected by conflict or natural disaster. There is also access to medical care and sanitation services for nearly 27,000 people living close to the MSF-managed hospital in Galcayo. We're hoping that they will be able to keep that open.
I must say, in conclusion, Mr. Chair, that the Horn of Africa ranks near the bottom in the world, and indeed below the rest of Africa, on the human development index. Its peoples face the challenges of overwhelming dependence on international support.
Canada is contributing to global security in the region by investing in its stability through a combination of emergency assistance and support for sustainable poverty reduction.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague, Mr. Wrzesnewskyj. I would like to thank our witnesses for being with us this afternoon.
According to the United Nations special representative for Somalia, Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the humanitarian situation is Somalia, which you have just described, is the worst in Africa. That is a very troubling assertion, given what is happening elsewhere in Africa, particularly in Darfur, Sudan, North Kivu, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and what will perhaps soon develop in Chad.
We know that Somalia is divided into three regions, and that the two semi-autonomous regions in the North, Puntland and Somaliland, are relatively functional by African—although not northern—standards.
Human Rights Watch has harshly criticized war crimes in Somalia. A tally of collateral victims is no longer kept. You spoke about what was happening in the Mogadiscio region. The Somali President, Mr. Yusuf, believes it acceptable to punish a neighbourhood that has not blown the whistle on its insurgents. That is what he himself said.
Mogadiscio was once a city of a million inhabitants; today it is home to only 200,000. Some fifteen refuge camps housing more than 200,000 refugees have sprung up within a 60-kilometre radius of Mogadiscio. The situation is critical both in terms of humanitarian needs and human rights.
I have two questions for you. The European Parliament has demanded an independent inquiry into the war crimes, and the United Nations Special Representative, Mr. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has requested that they be heard by the International Criminal Court. Will Canada be supporting this request?
Secondly, what is Canada doing with regard to humanitarian aid which, according to the Red Cross, is insufficient in light of the overwhelming needs? I know that we play a role through the WFP and the United Nations, but as a country, are we really present in the region, or are we simply giving money to international organizations and then claiming to have done our part?
With the limited time we have, I'm going to ask a couple of quick questions.
Ms. Kostiuk, you mentioned that in 2007 there was $15 million in humanitarian aid provided through a UN project. We were the fifth-largest contributor. Could we get the dollar amount of Canada's contribution through this mechanism in 2007?
Also, it seems that we're unable to deliver the badly needed humanitarian aid. Somalia, after Iraq, is probably the most decrepit place on the planet right now, with the greatest humanitarian requirements. We're unable to deliver because we don't have the security in place to be able to do so. We put institutions in place--the African Union peacekeeping mission, AMISOM--yet we never came forward with the resources so they could actually put the soldiers on the ground. As you indicated, the soldiers who were provided through the African Union mission are inadequate.
Do you see any indication within your department that there will be an increased focus? You talked about the Somalia-Canadian diaspora, the important role they play. It was mentioned that there have been discussions with the foreign minister; I understand he lives in Ottawa.
What were the dollar amounts in 2007? Is there any commitment to guarantee that the African Union peacekeeping mission will succeed? Because it's failing at this time. How are we directly engaging this tremendous reservoir of knowledge we have about Somalia in our local Somalia-Canadian community?
The Chair: Who wants to begin? Mr. Angell?
With regard to AMISOM, Canada has not provided direct financial support to the AU mission, but Canada has provided considerable financial support to the African Union over the past number of years to assist its conflict resolution capacity.
If there were a transition from AMISOM to a UN force, Canada would automatically pay an assessed contribution of 3% for the AMISOM mission, in part because we've now contributed $286 million for the AU force in Sudan. Canada is the fourth-largest contributor, and that contribution has been very considerable. That has been the focus of our engagement with regard to support of the African Union. AMISOM is the second African Union force; we've been the fourth-largest contributor of its first operation.
With regard to engagement with the local communities, we are in contact with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I spoke with him last week in Addis. I also spoke with the Prime Minister. In terms of discussion with the community in Canada, there's no structured process, but we are always open to discussion. We have a good dialogue with a number of a diaspora communities, and we are certainly open to continuing that with the Somalia-Canadian community. I know the Somalia-Canadian community does have a dialogue with the minister's office.
In terms of accountability, you know of Canada's very strong commitment to the International Criminal Court. We have very actively supported a number of tribunals in the region, including, for example, in Sierra Leone. I'm not aware that a decision has been taken with regard to the proposal by the Europeans, but certainly the gist of the proposal is consistent with areas where Canada has provided extensive engagement in the past.
Briefly, Mr. Chairman, there were two principal developments relating to Somalia, both at and on the margins of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa last week and over the weekend.
The first, which immediately preceded the summit, was a meeting of the International Somalia Contact Group with the participation of the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Said Djinnit. It was not formally an AU event, but certainly, with regard to the discussion of Somalia, it was a particularly important element of the summit period.
The International Contact Group is made up of perhaps a dozen of the countries, either as full members or observers, that are the most directly involved in trying to address the situation in Somalia. It was a very useful meeting, in that there was an effort launched to take the ICG beyond a process of discussion of Somalia and turn it into a mechanism whereby real change could be achieved on the ground.
The Prime Minister of Somalia, Nur Hassan Hussein, addressed the International Contact Group. It was a very important presentation. It was an occasion for the Prime Minister to put forward, really for the first time, quite a comprehensive, compelling vision of how the transitional federal government can move forward. There was a broad sense that the vision conveyed could form the basis of a road map for Somalia. So that element, not formally part of the AU summit, was extremely important.
With regard to Somalia itself, there was a resolution adopted by the commission that welcomed a number of the steps that had been taken, including the creation of a new cabinet, under the Prime Minister. It welcomed the process of dialogue that has been evolving around the national reconciliation congress. It appealed for support for AMISOM. It endorsed the role that AMISOM was playing. It welcomed the new contributions made to AMISOM. And it reaffirmed the importance the African Union attaches to a transition from AMISOM to UN force.
There were other provisions as well, for example, with regard to the humanitarian situation. It was a very strong statement, and quite a lengthy resolution was adopted.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The International Contact Group is the principal international vehicle for engagement on Somalia.
The group was founded two or three years ago and is co-chaired by the United States and Norway. It comprises both active members and observers, some from Africa, others from the west, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada. No distinction is drawn, however, between active members and observers.
Thus far, the group has operated as a forum for dialogue with the government and other partners in order to discuss intervention strategies for those African countries facing the greatest difficulties. We hope that the group will go on to strike a number of task forces to provide more direct support to the government, for example, by helping to prepare the census with a view to the 2009 election and by helping draft the constitution and train police officers.
The ICG is a means of cooperating with the Somali government, even though normal access channels are closed to the majority of the group's members, a reality with which we are not confronted elsewhere.
Thank you to our guests for your presentations today.
I think most Canadians who are aware of what's going on in Somalia are deeply concerned, to put it mildly. We know from the responses of the UN that many are calling Somalia right now the worst humanitarian crisis we are facing. It seems from your presentation today and from the things we read in the paper and other news reports that there's little hope on the horizon.
I know that people--and UN reports, I believe--have said that up to two million people are facing a humanitarian crisis right now. About a million are internally displaced, and recent reports from this afternoon indicate that 15 people were killed in the north from a grenade attack. It goes on and on.
We know that one of the problems was that the UN was supposed to provide stability, following a motion at the UN, but it was usurped by what happened when the Ethiopian troops came in. I guess this is a political question.
Some would point to the fact there was some stability beforehand, notwithstanding people's concerns about the Islamic courts. I know from eyewitness accounts of constituents of mine that there was actually a period when you could drive through Mogadishu without being harangued, harassed, or shaken down, at the time the Islamic courts had brought some stability. Those aren't my words; those are the words of people who had been in Mogadishu.
It seems there was another agenda at play here. It seems that the result of the Ethiopian action, with the support of the U.S., was that any sensible conflict resolution was thrown to the side. In passing, I find it strange that we sit here as a country with one of the largest Somalian expatriate communities in the entire planet.... I'm not saying this to you, because I know you're the people who deliver the policy of the government. So let me be clear about this, especially as I'm the son of a bureaucrat, that you deliver the wishes of the government. But it seems very strange to me that what I'm seeing is that the best we can do is to come up with a couple of million dollars, and we don't seem to be able to put together a more robust response in what is clearly the worst humanitarian crisis we face right now—though maybe Kenya is going to get worse. And from what we're hearing, it's a political crisis.
What are some of the policy possibilities that we have as a country to support reconciliation, be they through what you already mentioned, Mr. Angell, in terms of the most recent meetings with the ICG or...? And if it isn't possible to do anything now, what can we say to my constituents—Somali Canadians and everyday Canadians—that we can get our government to do beyond what I would suggest is a fairly muted response?
Mr. Chairman, the African Union has developed a plan, the key element of which is AMISOM. At the moment, two countries have contributed troops. Two more are on the cusp of doing so. There's an authorization for 8,000 troops. There is a hope that will be sufficient to fill the vacuum.
With regard to robust response, the challenge that Canada has confronted is precisely the same challenge that other countries participating in the international contact group concerned more generally confront, and that is, in a country that does not have a functioning government that is responsible for the entirety of the country, that does not have some of the key ingredients of a functioning state, it's exceptionally difficult to have an impact and to get traction.
By way of a vision of how to move forward, what the special envoy of the African Union has put forward as a vision for the short term is a five-point plan to engage all stakeholders within Somalia: through the reconciliation congress process, to build on the results and conclusions of the NRC; to create the security conditions necessary to the effective deployment of AMISOM; to prepare for an eventual UN transition; to create the conditions necessary to permit a timely delivery of humanitarian aid; and to help build the governance capacity. In one sense, that's a very simple five-point plan. Given the realities on the ground in Somalia, that's also at the same time a Herculean task.
In my statement, Mr. Chairman, I mentioned a sense of encouragement recently. Certainly I sensed it at the international contact group meeting, that there are a number of developments taking place that augured for Somalia. At the same time, the most recent UN and AU reports continue to emphasize that there has been no significant improvement in the security situation, that the situation remains exceptionally difficult. There is some basis to believe that greater progress may be possible, but that's small steps. It's incremental progress relative to what we've seen recently.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you to my colleague Keith Martin and to the chair of the committee for reviewing this, and to the officials. I had hoped to have a question for my colleagues Alan Tonks and Judy Sgro, but there may not be sufficient time.
First of all, I'm glad to see that we're party now to the international contact group, but as you pointed out, we have a very special relationship in Canada with Somalia. We have the largest Somali diaspora. I'm told that the largest community from Africa in Canada is from Somalia. And if you look long term, there are many ways that we could work with Somalia, with their natural resources and in economic terms as well, but I realize that's some ways away.
We know that Somalia is a failed state. I'd like to suggest that our “watching brief” strategy of the federal government, if I could call it that, is a failed strategy.
If we go back to the first transitional national government many years ago, it seems to me there was an opportunity there for the world and Canada as a player to offer some tangible support to that first government. It was not perfect. You know, neither was the second government. And there's always this concern that we're waiting for the perfect solution, the elegant government, and there's concern about warlords and representation. I don't think in that part of the world it's going to happen. Somalia, hopefully, will get its act together and have another government, and what we should be doing in Canada, in the western world, is showing some tangible support early for that new government so that the people can see that there's a reason to proceed.
If we all stand by and take a watching brief, we know we're doomed to failure.
Alan, do you have a question?
This is a very serious situation down in the Horn of Africa. One wouldn't like to play partisan politics. My colleague here was trying to smack my government for doing nothing, considering the fact that we were there for 13 years and his government didn't do anything.
As a matter of fact, this crisis in Somalia has been coming for a longer period of time; the failed state issues don't immediately just happen. There were talks going on in Nairobi all the time between warring factions to bring them back together into this transition government before they moved into Ethiopia. During the period of time when all these talks were going on in Nairobi, in trying to get all these parties to the table to come to an agreement, I'm not sure whether the previous government did issue any instructions that Canada would be there to support them. I don't know whether we were there or this government was there to push to bring all these warring factors back to the table when they were talking in Kenya.
Right now, of course, considering the situation in Nairobi, I may say, they're back in there. So this has been going on there for a very long period of time. Minus what has happened in the past, we have to look at the future, which is why I asked you about the African Union summit--you went there--and what is happening. So looking at the future, I'm as optimistic as anybody else can get about what will transpire and if this transition government will be able to maintain traction.
I'm interested in knowing from you the complicities between Puntland, Somaliland, and this area around Mogadishu. This transition government that is in Mogadishu may not have much of a say in Puntland or in Somaliland, because they are autonomous regions having their own governments. In this issue, what is your assessment, and would that whole Somaliland become one, or will they splinter into what they've splintered into right now?
As you see, the motion coming from my colleague, Peter Goldring, says the following:
||That the Committee recommends to the government that it calls on all parties involved in the disputed Kenyan elections to reach an immediate, peaceful agreement in order to stop the tragic and continued violence, and that the Committee notes with deep concern the violation of human rights in Kenya during this political crisis.
I don't know if many of you know this, but Kofi Annan has called what is happening in Kenya quite clearly ethnic cleansing. He has used the very strong words “ethnic cleansing”. There has been a mediation effort going on with the African Union. Nevertheless, unfortunately, positions have become quite entrenched in Kenya on both sides at this time.
I'm not going to go into the merits and demerits of the election results. We know what that is all about. What we really need to do, number one, is to stop the violence that is taking place. It has disintegrated to the level of gangs from each tribe trying to kill those from the others. Two members of Parliament have already been shot dead in Kenya in the last week.
Historically, Canada has been very strongly engaged in Kenya. Kenya is our CIDA partner. We have invested a lot of money in Kenya.
I think at this given time, this motion calls for the government to act. We will present it to the Parliament very quickly.
I'm saying that the authority is coming from us as parliamentarians, although by adopting this motion we are telling the Government of Canada to do it. The parliamentarians of Canada are concerned about this whole issue.
That is why Peter wrote this message here: so it would be not only the Government of Canada doing it but the parliamentarians of Canada as well. We have had a lot of visits from the Kenyan parliamentarians, so we do have good relations.
For that reason, I ask that we adopt this motion as quickly as possible so that the message can go out.
Mr. Chair, let's just see what this report was and what the government promised. This report was out of a round-table conference; it was not done by parliamentarians, as Roy said. It was not a parliamentary thing, but was done at the round-table conference with all of the stakeholders.
For you to say that parliamentarians have a right to know, you should first have attended the round-table conference to know exactly.
The government undertook, at the time it was doing the round-table conference, that when the report was completed and presented to it, it would study the report and then report back to Parliament. This commitment was made at the round-table conference; it was not a commitment made to the parliamentary committee, under which timelines are set according to the bylaws. There were no bylaws for this. It was a commitment made at a round-table conference outside of the parliamentary bylaws, or whatever they are called. But the government is committed on its part to give its response, and it is studying and working on this.
Mr. Cullen, you have been in government and know very well that the government has to look at all the i's to be dotted and the t's to be crossed, and everything like, which they're now doing. At the given time, the government will present its report to Parliament. Now, at that time, I am sure the committee could say it wants the relevant ministers to come forward to talk about it. That would be my thinking. However, you are having this thing sitting until the government gives a response.
But at the same time, this motion, Mr. Chair, has a problem, because you are talking now of two other ministers. You are talking of the responsibility of the Minister of Trade and the Minister of Natural Resources who will do the presentation in Parliament and be responsible for providing answers—not the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
I don't know, but it's up to the clerk to say whether we really need to call them. Would it be appropriate? I'm sure my colleague Mr. Dewar will not agree with this, considering that he wants me kicked off this thing, but would it be appropriate if the trade committee wanted to include this thing as part of its responsibilities, since it concerns the trade minister, or it will be part of the natural resources committee's responsibilities, if they want to do this?
So it's quite an open situation at this time as to what each of the relevant committees is going to do, but the Minister of Foreign Affairs does not have to take the lead in responding to this round table, but the two other ministers do. So there are no time limits. That is what I'm saying, Chair. So let's be very clear this is not what these parliamentarians want to do—and they can't put a timeline on it.