Thank you very much, Bob. I was a bit worried with all of the toing and froing with the votes, but I think we have found ourselves a one-hour window here, and that's good.
I am supported here by my outstanding colleagues from the Department of Global Affairs.
We have David Morrison, who is the associate deputy minister. I want to particularly thank David for the terrific work he's done on Venezuela. He was really leading the charge there, and he was with me in Washington on Monday. Thank you very much, David.
I think everybody knows Steve Verheul, who is our chief NAFTA negotiator and is broadly responsible for trade and trade policy.
Since we are here to talk about estimates, we have with us our finance whiz, Arun. I think Arun is going to be available later on, if there is a later on, to answer further questions.
I wanted to start, as Bob said, by making a few opening remarks.
Mr. Chair, honourable members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, thank you for inviting me to speak to you today about the way in which our government is delivering on its foreign affairs priorities.
I would really like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the committee for your hard work. I have been travelling a great deal in recent months and have not seen you as often as I would like. This committee has played a huge role in travelling to parts of the world that are increasingly important for Canada. I would specifically like to thank and single out the committee for the work on the Magnitsky legislation. I have supported that work all along, but I think the international developments we have seen have shown how valuable it is to have that tool.
Our government is taking full advantage of Canada's long tradition of being present on the world stage, in order to speak with a loud voice against intolerance and nativism, while addressing the legitimate concerns of those who feel left behind by globalization. It means that we have to demonstrate constructive leadership within the international order we have established with our partners in order to promote peace, security and prosperity in the four corners of the earth.
That is exactly what our government is doing. First, I want to talk to you about our concerns about the persecution of the Rohingya populations in Rakhine State, and the forced migration of the Rohingya into Bangladesh. Canada's position is clear: no group, no people, no community should be victims of persecution or discrimination because of their identity or their religion. Canada will not sit idly by while peoples are deprived of their most basic rights because of their membership in an ethnic group. We have a moral obligation to act. That is why, on May 23, Canada announced its strategy in response to the crisis affecting the Rohingya in Myanmar and in Bangladesh.
In order to begin new initiatives and to strengthen existing ones, Canada will be providing $300 million over three years in international assistance to meet the needs for humanitarian and development assistance, and for peace, stabilization and accountability. Canada's strengthened and integrated involvement is based on specific recommendations provided in the report by special envoy Bob Rae, to whom we owe our thanks. Mr. Rae did some excellent work in this critically important matter that marks Canada's increased contribution to the international response to the crisis.
Honourable committee members must also be aware that I went to Bangladesh at the beginning of May. I spoke at the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Canada will continue to work closely with the international community and the United Nations in order to set the course for the future. We are assuming our share of the global responsibility to intervene in this crisis and to respond to the needs of the displaced and most vulnerable people.
This week, in fact on Monday, I was at the Organization of American States general assembly with David where Venezuela was a central topic. The countries in our hemisphere were clear in their overwhelming concern about the crisis. As I said directly to the Venezuelan foreign minister on Monday, the people of Venezuela have Canada's unwavering support in the face of ongoing oppression by the Maduro regime. In response to the recent illegitimate presidential election, we have downgraded our diplomatic relations with Venezuela and sanctioned a further 14 regime officials, our third round of sanctions. Canadians are committed to standing up for the human rights of Venezuelans and for democracy in Venezuela, and our government will continue to do so.
Canada also stands with the people of Ukraine. We continue to condemn Russia's illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea and its ongoing support for the war in eastern Ukraine. In April, I was very pleased to welcome foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin to the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Toronto and to my home. All G7 countries were clear and firm in their support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
In my last appearance before this committee, I announced the Government of Canada's support for amendments to further strengthen Bill and Canada's arms export controls. I want to thank the committee for its diligence and hard work on this important legislation. Importantly, the amendments that we will be voting on would require the government to consider the Arms Trade Treaty criteria when assessing the granting of export permits. They would also permit the Minister of Foreign Affairs to deny a permit when there is substantial risk that the export of the goods would result in the negative consequences of these criteria. These changes would mean that Global Affairs Canada would need to ensure, before authorizing the export of arms, a high level of confidence that the arms will not be used to commit human rights abuses.
As I also mentioned to this committee in February, Canada will hold itself in the future to a higher standard on the export of arms to reflect the expectations of Canadians that such exports are not used in the serious violation of human rights. Our reputation as a country with clear and cherished democratic values that stand up for human rights is strong. We must continue to be a global leader and to work to protect these values and rights.
I also want to speak briefly about the unprecedented trade action taken by the United States last week. This is not a typical trade dispute. This is the United States using national security considerations as a pretext to impose tariffs not only on Canada, but on all of its closest allies, the members of NATO and Mexico. These tariffs have been imposed on NATO allies of the United States, including Canada, using the absurd argument that somehow the steel and aluminum that we produce poses a national security threat to the United States. This is not only ridiculous, it is also illegal under international trade law.
I was in Washington over the past two days, and while there, I spoke with senior Republican legislators who have been publicly critical of this action by the U.S. administration. Canada's response has been measured, carefully calibrated, and perfectly reciprocal. Last Thursday we announced that we will be imposing tariffs on a list of U.S. imports worth $16.6 billion. This is Canada's strongest trade action since the Second World War.
Alongside these tariffs, Canada has initiated a case at the WTO, and we have raised a case under chapter 20 of NAFTA. As supporters of the rules-based international order, including in trade, it was very important for us to take this legal action. In taking and in crafting our responsive measures, we have been working in very close coordination with our allies in the European Union and in Mexico. We will continue to coordinate closely with them.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the countless Canadians of all political stripes who have come out in support of our strong plan to defend Canadian workers. This really is a matter of national interest and not partisan politics, as I have heard from very many Canadians who have written in directly to me, some of them, I am afraid, beginning their emails by saying they do not vote for the Liberal Party. In particular, I was pleased to see Jason Kenney, Brad Wall, Rona Ambrose, James Moore, the Canadian Labour Congress, United Steelworkers, and Unifor voice their support for the strong Canadian response.
The and I were also glad to speak to Canada's premiers on Monday. I'm grateful for their support. I was able to brief Premier Moe of Saskatchewan personally ahead of his trip to Washington, where he is even as we speak. I would like to thank him for being there and advocating for Canada.
On a final note, Mr. Chair, let me conclude with a few words about one of Canada's signature priorities, which you may have heard of, that is happening this week. That is our G7 presidency and the leaders summit. This week and this year is a real opportunity for our country to speak with a strong voice on the international stage.
Canada will call on our counterparts in addressing the global issues that demand urgent attention. This specifically means investing in economic growth, which benefits everyone, to get ready for the jobs of the future, to work together on climate change, the oceans and clean energy, and to build a more peaceful and safe world. Above all, we will promote gender equality and enhance the power of women.
I will close by stating that, in the G7 and in the international community, Canada will continue to come to the defence of a rules-based international order and to find ways to strengthen it. We do so each time we have the opportunity, and we pay specific attention to the link between peace, common prosperity, open trade, and human rights.
Thank you very much, Bob. Thank you very much, colleagues. I am happy to take your questions now.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
To our witnesses, thank you. Mr. Verheul and Minister, thank you for your hard work on this file. I know you've spent many nights and weekends working on it, and you're probably wondering where your home is now, whether it's Ottawa or Washington, so thank you for that.
Last Thursday, Canadian steel producers stopped shipping orders to the United States. I had a chance to meet with the Canadian Steel Producers Association on Monday, as I'm sure you did, Minister, or certainly your boss did. I know the had a meeting with them.
They've indicated to us that unless this is resolved—and I know it's very complicated, and it's not going to be resolved overnight—they will probably be reducing production and laying people off if a deal is not done. I get the fact that this is probably going to take some time.
My question would be, with respect to table 1, why did we not immediately impose tariffs on the steel? I realize in table 2, there are going to be some things we want to discuss. Given the fact we knew this was may be coming, I'm wondering why we didn't do some of that consultation ahead of time. More importantly, why are we not issuing tariffs on steel and aluminum immediately?
Thank you very much for your engagement with our steel and aluminum workers. Really, I think that extends to the whole committee and all parties around this table. It's very important for our workers and our industries to feel the strong support of the government and of all Canadians.
Part of your question spoke to readiness and preparation. I want to assure all Canadians very much, including the industry, that Canada was absolutely ready for this action. This is not a U.S. action that we desired. We think it is a very grave mistake, but we were absolutely prepared, and that preparation is manifest in the extensiveness of the list that we published on Thursday.
In terms of the timing, a few considerations played a part in that timing. One is, as I mentioned, a strong view that we are strongest when we work together. The European Union's actions will take effect on July 1, as will ours, and we think international coordination is very useful in this matter.
You referred also to the value of consultations. We share that view. A public consultation period is particularly valuable in terms of giving all of our stakeholders in Canada an opportunity to be in touch with us about the list. Let me say, as a bit of a footnote here, I've heard from a lot of MPs directly about concerns in their constituencies, and I'd like to encourage everyone to send me an email personally. I'll be very happy to receive it.
Having that public period is useful. It's also useful because publishing the list gives the affected American companies and stakeholders and workers an opportunity to see it and to respond.
You're quite right also in the thought behind the question that surely there was an opportunity to consult with stakeholders beforehand. There was, and very many extensive conversations were held, particularly with the steel and aluminum industry prior to Thursday—and I want to thank Steve and his team for leading that. Having said that, public consultation and the publishing of the list has a very different impact, and it's valuable to have that consultation period.
Particularly when I am outside Canada or talking with colleagues from other countries about the Rohingya issue, it makes me really proud to be Canadian because, if anything, our government has support for a strong position on the Rohingya from the opposition parties on both the left and the right, and if anything I feel from the opposition parties the idea that Canada should be doing even more.
As Canada's foreign affairs minister, that's a great position to be in. I think we may be the only country in the world, certainly the only non-Muslim majority country in the world, where there is such a strong and united national sense that these people, among the most wretched in the world, deserve our country's strong support.
I'm sure that the other members of Parliament who are gathered around this table have all experienced what I have, which is strong support in my own constituency. People come up to me on the street and thank me for the strong position Canada is taking on this issue.
If Canadians are listening to the proceedings of this committee—I don't know how many are, Chair, but maybe a few—I would like to say thank you, and thank you, Canada. I think it shows one of the great qualities of our country.
Michael, I've spoken already a little about the announcement that we made about 10 days ago, of Canada's stepped-up action in support of the Rohingya, the $300 million over three years. Maybe I can speak a little about our effort to ensure accountability for those who are responsible for—I agree with you, Michael—crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing.
I spoke this morning on the Rohingya issue with one of my new friends on the international scene, Minister Ali, the foreign minister of Bangladesh. We are developing a very strong partnership with Bangladesh. Minister Ali and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, will be coming to Canada for the outreach session of the G7 summit. We agreed that we would spend some time talking about the Rohingya issue.
Canada is leading the creation of a contact group of countries. The permanent representatives to the UN will be meeting in New York this week to get some collective action on the Rohingya.
I would also like to thank Japan and my colleague, foreign minister Taro Kono. As the sole Asian country that is a member of the G7, I think it is able to play and is playing a particularly useful role in this issue. I've spoken about it often with Minister Kono. I spoke with him on Tuesday about the Rohingya issue and ways in which Japan is working directly in conversation with Myanmar to try to push the issue from that direction.
On the accountability front, people here are aware that we have sanctioned the general who we believe is directly responsible for these atrocious acts. I think it's also worth pointing out—and this is something that was particularly appalling to me and I think may not be widely appreciated—when I was in Cox's Bazar a month ago, I met with Rohingya refugees who had arrived there just a week earlier. This atrocity is ongoing. Rohingya are continuing to flee across the border to Bangladesh, and a person has to be in a truly dreadful situation to choose this very difficult thing of becoming a refugee, of walking to what is certainly the people of—
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much for joining us this evening, Madam Minister.
I would like to start by emphasizing that I agree with you completely that, particularly given the decisions of the Trump administration, coordination and cooperation with our other allies is absolutely essential.
Thank you also for your offer to us to email you. I am going to take advantage of that to perhaps talk about a number of topics, especially as there has been a problem with the many letters I have written to you that have not been answered. There are still others waiting, but I really look forward to reading your reply to my letters.
Very briefly, here is my third point on the Rohingya issue. In fact, we share your concern: we have to face many challenges. Another challenge is the situation in Yemen, which is absolutely tragic. There again, assistance and accountability are needed. It is absolutely essential.
However, I would like to go back to the matter of Bill , about the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, the ATT. Some small improvements have clearly been made and I am pleased to see that at least. However, there are certainly gaping holes in the bill, including the issue of selling arms to the United States. I know that 33,000 Canadians have written to you on the issue, asking you to seal those holes.
So I was wondering if you have been informed about the fact that 33,000 Canadians have written to you about the issue in the last 10 days or two weeks
Okay, thank you for the question.
You have touched on a lot of issues and I am going to make some quick comments before I talk about Bill .
First of all, I would like to thank you and the NDP for your support for the strong actions that Canada took last week. This morning, I talked to Jagmeet Singh and thanked him directly. This is really a national issue and I am very pleased that we have a position that one might compare to a Team Canada.
When I was in Washington yesterday and Monday, people told me that they were astonished to see that we can deal with issues in a nonpartisan fashion. I agree with you that the Rohingya situation, is really important, and, as I have already said, it is an issue where I feel that Canada can make a difference.
Thank you for bringing up the issue of Yemen. It is also a very grave humanitarian crisis, and Canada is actively involved in the matter.
You mentioned Bill and I also want to thank the committee for its work on that bill. As you know, our government made the decision to improve the act. Perhaps we have not done all the things that our critics would like us to have done, but we have made some very serious changes and I feel that they have improved the act. This is a demonstration of the importance of committee work.
You specifically brought up the matter of trade with the Americans not needing a permit. As you said, our commercial and security ties with the United States are special. Canada and the United States are partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, and in the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or NORAD. We also have an industrial base and a defence base that are integrated. At this moment, it is more important than ever to focus on that reality.
The ATT does not exclude an accelerated procedure for assessing and authorizing exports to certain countries. For example, controlled items circulate freely among the countries of the Benelux union.
I also want to emphasize something that is very important for me. The changes we made in Bill have strengthened the act for various reasons. We have written the ATT criteria directly into the Canadian legislation. We have included a legal obligation for the government to be able to use export permits for arms that would violate those criteria. These are serious changes and I am proud of them.
Thank you very much, Borys, for that question. I would like to take this opportunity to really thank you for your commitment over many, many years to the Ukraine issue. Something that perhaps not everyone is familiar with is the fact that you have been speaking up for the Crimean Tatars for many, many years. This is a group of people who have experienced severe repression for a very long time. They are among the chief victims of Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. I'm grateful to you for your support for them. I think it is really important that Canada stands up for them, as we do.
I'm also glad you mentioned Jens Stoltenberg's comments. I do think he is a person with whom Canada has a very close connection. In fact, I think he was one of the first people who called to congratulate me when I became foreign minister of Canada. We have a very close conversation with him.
I think it's useful to use this moment at committee to be sure that Canadians appreciate just how much Canada is contributing today to NATO and to the support of our friends and allies in Europe.
Canada is, as you mentioned, Borys, one of the four lead countries of the enhanced forward presence mission in Poland and the Baltic States. We are the lead country in Latvia. That is something that's appreciated not only by Latvia but across the region. Last week the Prime Minister of Estonia was here, and he made that point explicitly to me. He said that Canadian women and men are in Latvia but that supports all of us; we really, really appreciate it.
Canada is present in Romania, and the Unifier mission in Ukraine is a very important symbol of Canada's support for Ukraine. It also has tremendous practical value in training the Ukrainian men and women in uniform. I think there could be no better confirmation of the value of our work there than the fact that Sweden has now chosen to join us and will be sending Swedish troops to join the Canadians in that training mission. That is a really good sign that what we're doing really helps.
I mentioned in my remarks the significance of inviting foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin to be a guest and to speak directly with the G7 foreign ministers. We began the G7 foreign ministers meeting with a breakfast in my house. It was ministers only. After a beginning conversation among the ministers, Pavlo joined us and was able to speak very directly to the G7 foreign ministers about the situation in Ukraine. I heard from many of my G7 colleagues how much they valued being able to have such a direct conversation with Minister Klimkin. It was really a moment when we heard very strong support from the G7 for Ukraine. That was reflected in the statement by the G7 foreign ministers. I know that this is an issue that will be raised at the leaders summit.
I met with Secretary Mike Pompeo in Washington on Monday. We also discussed the issue of Ukraine and ways that Canada and the United States can work together on it.
Thank you very much, Anita, for your work on the committee. Like Borys, you're a person who has been committed to these issues for many years. I'm really grateful for that and I appreciate your expertise.
You're right that the situation in Venezuela has been a particular focus for the government. Again, I'd like to take this opportunity to share with members of the committee, but also with Canadians more generally, the extent to which Canadian leadership on this issue is very much appreciated throughout our hemisphere. There are only two G7 countries in our hemisphere. Canada is one of them. The fact that Canada is devoting so much focused attention to the situation in Venezuela, and the fact that Canada is such an energetic member of the Lima group means a great deal to Venezuelans who are suffering a loss of their democratic and human rights. I think it also is very heartening to our other friends and allies in the hemisphere, who see that Canada is not only with them in principle, but that we are really prepared to devote the sweat equity to act on the principles that bring together the members of the Organization of American States.
Our meeting of the OAS on Monday.... As I said, David was there with me. We're lucky to have him in the department because of his deep expertise in Latin America. I've heard a lot of people praising you for that, David, so thank you very much.
It was an important meeting. It was an opportunity for the members of the Lima group to speak directly to the Venezuelan government, to the Venezuelan foreign minister, and to make clear our absolute commitment to democracy for the people of Venezuela.
I think that having that sort of a direct exchange has a real impact. Again, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank, in particular, our Caribbean friends, for whom this can be a particularly difficult issue. They are joining us. We share democratic values with many of our long-time Canadian friends in the Caribbean, and I would really like to thank those who are joining us in the work of the Lima group. That's particularly important. This again—
Thank you very much for the question, Jati.
Actually, this gives me an opportunity to acknowledge another official, Mark Gwozdecky. He is the director of policy in the department. As I was walking in here, I was asking Mark how we are doing on some of the issues in the communiqué.
Indeed, this has been a focus of Canadian foreign policy for some time and a major theme in our G7 year. As you mentioned, the G7 foreign ministers met shortly after the Salisbury attack, which was yet another gross violation of international norms by Russia. In fact, the G7 was able to act before the foreign ministers' meeting with a strong G7 statement in solidarity with our British partners and allies, condemning this attack.
I know that was very much appreciated by the United Kingdom, and I think a very powerful message was sent following tet Salisbury attack by the very strong action by the international community, including Canada, in expelling Russian diplomats in response. I think that demonstration of international unity was very powerful and was an example of Canada using our G7 presidency this year to really play a leadership role in bringing together that coalition and in supporting democracy and the sovereignty of our allies.
I thank this committee for its work on the Magnitsky legislation, which I mentioned earlier. That, of course, has been an important additional tool, which we have in our diplomatic tool box and have been able to use with regard to our policy towards Russia.
Canada has been very closely engaged and supportive of our partners, the Netherlands and Australia, in the recent report about the MH17 tragedy, another important example. As we have discussed with regard to the Rohingya, this is an example of the importance of the rules-based order, the importance of gathering evidence, and the importance and value of establishing accountability. It is an issue that Canada is following very closely and will continue to follow closely. I think it is an important issue, which is emerging during this, our G7 presidency year.
I'd just like to make a final point, which was certainly an element of the G7 foreign ministers meeting and I expect will be an important issue when the G7 leaders meet very soon, and that is the importance of standing up for and defending our democracies against foreign interference. Something that we are encountering, particularly from Russia, is a very orchestrated attempt to undermine our democratic institutions from the inside and to undermine the credibility and effectiveness of how our democracies work. It's very important for us as Canadians to be aware of this issue and to work hard to stand up for our democracies. I intentionally say “us as Canadians”, not just as parliamentarians.
It's an issue that I discussed with the Prime Minister of Estonia last week, and he brought with him his official who is specifically in charge of countering cyber-threats from Russia. This official said that it may be easier in Estonia than in other countries because their public is very prepared for this and has the natural defences. I think that is a lesson that all of the democracies can and must learn from countries like our partners in the Baltic States and from countries like Ukraine. This is a threat that may have begun in the Baltic States and in Ukraine, but it is very much an issue for us here in Canada.
I think it's an important issue for the world's leading industrial democracies—that's what the G7 is—to be addressing. We are seeing that action, and Canada is very much playing a leading role there.
Thank you for asking me another question in French.
I have already talked about feminism and about the importance of having a feminist international policy.
Our government's policy on the issue is based on a number of factors. One of them is Canada's feminist international assistance policy, that my colleague Ms. Bibeau is promoting. This major strategy has already changed the lives of women and girls around the world. Internationally, there is a lot of interest in that strategy. A number of countries are closely following what Canada is doing in this area and they are very interested.
We also have initiatives dealing with women, peace and security, such as the Elsie initiative on women in peace operations. Canada is actively working to ensure that there will be more women in United Nations peace operations. Canada is working with a number of international partners on that structural change, and I see the start of a change here.
The G7 summit will be another opportunity for Canada to raise questions about women and gender equality. The meeting of the gender equality advisory council will provide a very significant opportunity in this regard.
As I announced during the G7 Foreign and Security Ministers' meeting, Cecilia Malmström and I have decided to call a meeting in September to bring together all the women foreign affairs ministers in the world. The meeting is raising a lot of interest. In fact, during the G7 Foreign and Security Ministers' meeting, we had dinner with a small group of foreign affairs ministers who are women. I invited the other G7 foreign affairs ministers, including Federica Mogherini, a woman, of course, and she joined us.
Taro Kono, Japan's Foreign Affairs Minister, decided to join us. He found the meeting so interesting that, on Tuesday, he asked me if he could attend the meeting of women foreign affairs ministers. I said yes of course, and that I was going to invite all the women foreign affairs ministers in the world, plus the G7 ministers, whether they are women or not. This is a very important feature of our foreign policy.
Let me give you another example. Mr. Morrison was with me in Washington at the meeting of the Organization of American States, the OAS. One of the participants was Costa Rica's new Minister of Foreign Affairs. She is the country's first female Minister of Foreign Affairs. She explained to us that the government of Costa Rica had decided to have a cabinet based on gender equality. During the meeting, she told me that she had been inspired by our prime minister's 2015 decision to do the same thing.
So we need to understand that an example from Canada can have an effect on the entire world.
That is an excellent question and a difficult one.
In the case of Venezuela, we recently had, as we discussed, and the minister was clear on that, the OAS special panel, which reported basically that.... The findings are that there is systematic attacks on the civilian population in Venezuela. This is like crimes against humanity. The report of the OAS will be submitted actually to the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court which has launched an investigation. Those matters are utterly serious. This is the highest threshold you could have in terms of needing to do something and taking action. That's why we had sanctions and we took measures, such as what you mentioned, downgrading our diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
The other cases that you mentioned, in Honduras, for example, the Government of Canada, with the advice we provided, it was a difficult situation. Nobody will claim that those elections were perfect. There were irregularities that were reported on, but at the end of the day, even the electoral monitoring observation mission that Canada funded reported that there were irregularities, but there was not systemic fraud.
Therefore, it was a difficult decision, but we decided, like our partners, our European allies and the United States, to recognize the Government of Honduras because, even though the elections were not perfect, they were still legitimate. That decision was not taken lightly. The minister has been very vocal at explaining that Canada actually expects more and better from the Government of Honduras in terms of human rights defenders and for them and others to have the space to do what they need to do and to protect human rights. We actually expect the Government of Honduras to reform its electoral system. Some of those recommendations were actually made way back in 2009, and the government didn't act on them, and in the last election again...were difficult.
There are difficult circumstances. For each and every one of them, we need to make a clear assessment as to what is the best way forward, should we recognize the government or not.
In the case of Venezuela, it is clear. There is no ambiguity. We're talking about a systematic attack on the civilian population.