That the House (a) recognize that the government is committed to a foreign policy that supports multilateralism and rules-based international systems, human rights, gender equality, the fight against climate change, and economic benefits being shared by all; (b) recognize that further leadership on the part of Canada is both desirable and required; and (c) support the government’s decision to use the foregoing principles to guide Canadian foreign policy.
She said: Mr. Speaker, here is a question. Is Canada an essential country at this time in the life of our planet? Most of us here would agree that it is, but if we assert this, we are called to explain why and we are called to consider the specifics of what we must do as a consequence.
International relationships that had seemed immutable for 70 years are being called into question. From Europe to Asia, to our own North American home, long-standing pacts that have formed the bedrock of our security and prosperity for generations are being tested. New shared human imperatives, the fight against climate change first among them, call for renewed, uncommon resolve.
Turning aside from our responsibilities is not an option. Instead, we must think carefully and deeply about what is happening and find a way forward. By definition, the path we choose must be one that serves the interests of all Canadians and upholds our broadly held national values. It must be one that preserves and nurtures Canadian prosperity and security, and that contributes to our collective goal of a better, safer, more just, prosperous, and sustainable world, one we can pass on to our children and grandchildren with a sense of having done the right thing in our time.
This is no small order. It is what I would like to spend a few minutes talking about today.
Since before the end of the Second World War, beginning with the international conference at Bretton Woods in 1944, Canada has been deeply engaged in, and greatly enjoyed the benefits of, a global order. These were principles and standards that were applied, perhaps not perfectly at all times by all states, but certainly by the vast majority of democratic states, most of the time.
The system had at its heart the core notions of territorial integrity, human rights, democracy, respect for the rule of law, and an aspiration to free and friendly trade. The common volition toward this order arose from a fervent determination not to repeat the mistakes of the immediate past. Humankind had learned through the direct experience of horror and hardship that the narrow pursuit of national self-interest, the law of the jungle, led to nothing but carnage and poverty.
Two global conflicts and the Great Depression, all in the span of less than half a century, taught our parents and grandparents that national borders must be inviolate; that international trading relationships created not only prosperity but also peace; and that a true world community, one based on shared aspirations and standards, was not only desirable but essential to our very survival.
That deep yearning toward lasting peace led to the creation of international institutions that endure to this day with the nations of western Europe, together with their transatlantic allies, the United States and Canada, at their foundation.
In each of these evolutions in how we humans organize ourselves, Canadians played pivotal roles. There was Bretton Woods itself, where the Canadian delegation was instrumental in drafting provisions of the fledgling International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. A few years later, in 1947, a Canadian, Dana Wilgress, played a leading role at the meetings in Geneva that led to the development of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the precursor to the WTO.
It is a Canadian, John Humphrey, who is generally credited as the principal author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. That was the first of what became a series of declarations to set international standards in this vital area.
Let us not neglect the great Canadian, perhaps best known for advancing the cause of humanitarian intervention, Lester B. Pearson. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his leadership during the Suez crisis in 1956, for the creation of modern peacekeeping.
These institutions may seem commonplace today. We may take them for granted. We should not. Seventy years ago, they were revolutionary, and they set the stage for the longest period of peace and prosperity in our history. It was the same appreciation of the common interests of the human family in caring for our common home that led us to the acid rain treaty of the Mulroney era. It was what led us to the Montreal protocol of 1987 to phase out CFCs and preserve the ozone layer. It is what led us, ultimately, to Paris with 194 signatories at our side. That is global co-operation.
It is important to note that when sacrifice was required to support and strengthen the global order, military power in defence of our principles and alliances, Canada was there. In Suez, in Korea, in the Congo, in Cypress, in the first Gulf War, in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, up to and including today in Iraq, among many other places, Canada has been there. As the has often said, that is what Canadians do. We step up.
Today, it is worth reminding ourselves why we step up, why we devote time and resources to foreign policy, defence, and development, and why we have sent Canadian soldiers, sailors, aviators, diplomats, aid workers, intelligence officers, doctors, nurses, medics, and engineers into situations of danger, disaster, and chaos overseas, even at times when Canadian territory was not directly at risk.
Why do we spend billions on defence, if we are not immediately threatened? For some countries, Israel and Latvia come to mind, the answer is self-evident. Countries that face a clear and immediate existential challenge know they need to spend on military and foreign policy, and they know why.
For a few lucky countries, like Canada and the United States, that feel protected by geography and good neighbours, the answer is less obvious. Indeed, we could easily imagine a Canadian few who say that we are safe on our continent and we have things to do at home, so let us turn inward, let us say, “Canada first”.
Here is why that would be wrong.
First, though no foreign adversary is poised to invade us, we do face clear challenges. Climate change is a shared menace, affecting every single person on this planet. Civil war, poverty, drought, and natural disasters anywhere in the world threaten us as well, not least because these catastrophes spawn globally destabilizing mass migrations.
The dictatorship in North Korea, crimes against humanity in Syria, the monstrous extremists of Daesh, and Russian military adventurism and expansionism also all pose clear strategic threats to the liberal democratic world, including Canada. Our ability to act against such threats alone is limited. It requires co-operation with like-minded countries.
On the military front, Canada's geography has meant that we have always been able to count on American self-interest to provide a protective umbrella beneath which we have found indirect shelter. Some think, some even say, we should therefore free-ride on U.S. military power. Why invest billions to maintain a capable, professional, well-funded, and well-equipped Canadian military? The answer is obvious.
To rely solely on the U.S. security umbrella would make us a client state. Although we have an incredibly good relationship with our American friends and neighbours, such dependence would not be in Canada's interest. That is why doing our fair share is clearly necessary. It is why our commitment to NORAD and our strategic relationship with the United States is so critical. It is by pulling our weight in this partnership, and in all our international partnerships, that we, in fact, have weight.
To put it plainly, Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power. Force is, of course, always a last resort, but the principled use of force, together with our allies and governed by international law, is part of our history, and it must be a part of our future. To have that capacity requires substantial investment, which this government is committed to making. The will elaborate fully on that tomorrow. I know he will make Canadians justly proud.
Whatever their politics, Canadians understand that as a middle power living next to the world's only superpower, Canada has a huge interest in an international order based on rules, one in which might is not always right, one in which more powerful countries are constrained in their treatment of smaller ones by standards that are internationally respected, enforced, and upheld. The single most important pillar of this, which emerged following the carnage of the First and Second World Wars is the sanctity of borders, and that principle today is under siege. That is why the democratic world has united behind Ukraine.
The illegal seizure of Ukrainian territory by Russia is the first time since the end of the Second World War that a European power has annexed, by force, the territory of another European country. This is not something we can accept or ignore.
The atrocities of Daesh directly challenge both the sanctity of borders and the liberal international order itself. They create chaos, not only because of the carnage they perpetrate on their innocent victims but because of the humanitarian crises and migratory explosions that follow. This is why the world has united against this scourge. Violent extremism challenges our very way of life. We will always oppose it.
Another key benefit for Canada from an international system based on rules is, of course, free trade. In this sphere as well, beggar-thy-neighbour policies hit middle powers soonest and hardest. That is the implacable lesson of the 1930s and the Great Depression. Rising trade barriers hurt the people they are intended to help. They curb growth, stifle innovation, and kill employment. This is a lesson we should learn from history. We should not need to teach it to ourselves again through painful experience.
The international order an earlier generation built faces two big challenges, both unprecedented. The first is the rapid emergence of the global south and Asia, most prominently China, and the need to integrate these countries into the world’s economic and political system in a way that is additive, that preserves the best of the old order that preceded their rise, and that addresses the existential threat of climate change.
This is a problem that simply cannot be solved by nations working alone. We must work together.
I have focused these remarks on the development of the postwar international order, a process that was led primarily by the Atlantic powers of North America and western Europe, but we recognize that the global balance of power has changed greatly since then and will continue to evolve as more nations prosper.
The G20, in whose creation Canada was instrumental, was an early acknowledgement of this emerging reality. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia are ascendent, delivering ever-increasing living standards to fast-growing populations bursting with innovation, creativity, and enterprise.
This is not a trend any of us should fear. It is one we should embrace. Let us recognize that the peace and prosperity we in the west have enjoyed these past 70 years are desired by all and are increasingly within reach of all. As Canadians, let us be agents of that change. Let us seize the great opportunity we have now to help the people of the world's fastest-growing countries join the global middle class and the multilateral system that supports it. Peace and prosperity are every person's birthright.
The second great challenge is an exhaustion in the west of the belief among working people, the middle class, that the global system can help them better their lives. This is an enormous crisis of confidence. It has the potential, if we let it, to undermine global prosperity itself. At the root of this anxiety around the world is a pervasive sense that too many people have been left behind, betrayed by a system they were promised would make them better off but has not.
Here is the key. It is true that the system is flawed. However, international trade is the wrong target. The real culprit is domestic policies that fail to appreciate that continued growth and political stability depend on domestic measures that share the wealth.
Admittedly, this is a complicated problem. If there were easy solutions, everybody would be applying them. However, let us be clear on this point: it is wrong to view the woes of our middle class as the result of fiendish behaviour by foreigners. The truth is that the nature of work has changed because of profound, and generally benign, global economic innovation. This transformation, driven primarily by automation and the digital revolution, is broadly positive.
Managed fairly, it has the potential to increase prosperity for all, not just the global one percent. That means supporting families, supporting pensioners, and supporting education and retraining, as the did in his recent budget.
By better supporting the middle class and those working hard to join it, Canada is defining an approach to globalization that can be a model. At the same time, we strongly support the global 2030 goals for sustainable development. The world abroad and the world at home are not two solitudes. They are connected. Likewise, by embracing multiculturalism and diversity, Canadians are embodying a way of life that works. We can say this in all humility, but also without any false self-effacement: Canadians know about living side by side with people of diverse origins and beliefs, whose ancestors hail from the far corners of the globe, in harmony and peace. We are good at it.
We say this in the full knowledge that we also have problems of our own to overcome, most egregiously the injustices suffered by indigenous people in Canada. We must never flinch from acknowledging this great failure, even as we do the hard work of seeking restoration and reconciliation.
It is clearly not our role to impose our values around the world. No one appointed us the world's policemen. However, it is our role to stand firmly for these rights, both in Canada and abroad. It is our role to provide refuge to the persecuted and downtrodden to the extent we are able, as we are so proud to have done for more than 40,000 Syrian refugees.
It is our role to set a standard for how states should treat women, gays and lesbians, transgendered people, racial, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious minorities, and of course, indigenous people.
We can and must play an active role in the preservation and strengthening of the global order from which we have benefited so greatly. Doing so is in our interest, because our own open society is most secure in a world of open societies, and it is under threat in a world where open societies are under threat.
In short, Canadian liberalism is a precious idea. It would not survive long in a world dominated by the clash of great powers and their vassals struggling for supremacy, or at best, an uneasy détente. Canada can work for better. We must work for better.
Let me pause here and address the United States directly. As the said last week, Canada is deeply disappointed by the U.S. federal government's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement on climate change.
That said, we will continue to seek opportunities for constructive progress on the environment, wherever we can find them, with our counterparts in Washington and across the great United States, at all levels of government and with partners in business, labour, and civil society.
As I have said, we Canadians can rightly be proud of the role we played in building the postwar order, and the unprecedented peace and prosperity that followed.
Even as we celebrate our own part in that project, it is only fair for us to acknowledge the larger contribution of the United States, for in blood, in treasure, in strategic vision, in leadership, America has paid the lion's share. The United States has truly been the indispensable nation. For their unique seven-decades-long contribution to our shared peace and prosperity, and on behalf of all Canadians, I would like to profoundly thank our American friends.
As I have argued, Canada believes strongly that this stable, predictable international order has been deeply in our national interest, and we believe it has helped foster peace and prosperity for our southern neighbours too, yet it would be naive or hypocritical to claim before the House that all Americans today agree. Indeed, many of the voters in last year's presidential election cast their ballots animated, in part, by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership. To say this is not controversial; it is simply a fact.
Canada is grateful and will always be grateful to our neighbour for the outsized role it has played in the world. We seek and shall continue to seek to persuade our friends that their continued international leadership is very much in their national interest, as well as that of the rest of the free world. We also recognize that this is ultimately not our decision to make. It is a choice Americans must make for themselves.
The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course. For Canada, that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the post-war multilateral order.
We will follow this path with open hands and open hearts extended to our American friends, seeking to make common cause, as we have so often in the past, and indeed, as we continue to do now on many fronts, from border security, to the defence of North America through NORAD, to the fight against Daesh, to our efforts within NATO, to nurturing and improving our trading relationship, which is the strongest in the world. At the same time, we will work with other like-minded people and countries that share our aims.
To put this in sharper focus, those aims are as follows.
First, we will robustly support the rules-based international order and all its institutions, and seek ways to strengthen and improve them. We will strongly support the multilateral forums where such discussions are held, including the G7, the G20, the OAS, APEC, the WTO, the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, the Arctic Council, and of course NATO and the UN.
A cornerstone of our multilateral agenda is our steadfast commitment to the transatlantic alliance. Our bond is manifest in CETA, our historic trade agreement with the European Union, which we believe in and warmly support, and in our military deployment this summer to Latvia.
There can be no clearer sign that NATO and article 5 are at the heart of Canada’s national security policy.
We will strive for leadership in all these multilateral forums. We are honoured to be hosting the G7 next year, and we are energetically pursuing a two-year term on the UN Security Council. We seek this UN seat because we wish to be heard, and we are safer and more prosperous when more of the world shares Canadian values.
Those values include feminism and the promotion of the rights of women and girls. It is important, and historic, that we have a and a government who are proud to proclaim themselves feminists. Women’s rights are human rights. That includes sexual reproductive rights.
That includes the right to safe and accessible abortions.
These rights are at the core of our foreign policy. To that end, in the coming days, my colleague the will unveil Canada’s first feminist international assistance policy, which will target the rights of women and girls as well as gender equality.
We will put Canada at the forefront of this global effort. This is a matter of basic justice and also basic economics. We know that empowering women overseas and here at home makes families and countries more prosperous. Canada’s values are informed by our historical duality of French and English; by our co-operative brand of federalism; by our multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multilingual citizenry; and by our geography, since our country bridges the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic.
Our values are informed by the traditions and aspirations of the indigenous people in Canada, and our values include an unshakeable commitment to pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law.
Second, we will make the necessary investments in our military, not only redress years of neglect and underfunding but also to place the Canadian Armed Forces on a new footing with the equipment, training, resources, and consistent, predictable financing they need to do their difficult, dangerous, and important work. We owe this to our women and men in uniform. We will not let them down.
Canada’s broader interest in investing in a capable, professional, and robust military is very clear. If middle powers do not implicate themselves in the furtherance of peace and stability around the world, that will be left to the great powers to settle among themselves. This would not be in Canada’s interest.
Third, we are a trading nation. Far from seeing trade as a zero-sum game, we believe in trading relationships that benefit all parties. We look forward to working with our continental partners to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement and to making a great partnership even better.
We will intensify our efforts to diversify Canadian trade worldwide. We will actively seek new trade agreements that further Canadian economic interests and that reflect our values, with the Canada-EU trade agreement as our template.
As I said, we are proud of the role Canada has played in creating a rules-based international trading order. We believe in the WTO and will continue our work to make it stronger and more responsive to the needs of ordinary people in Canada and around the world. We believe in progressive trade that works for working people. That is why we are very proud that this month, Canada will ratify the last of the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization.
In summary, we will be tireless in pursing our national interest, tireless in upholding progressive Canadian values, tireless in working to create a rules-based international order for the 21st century. Seventy years ago Canada played a pivotal role in forming the postwar international order. By virtue of our unique experience, expertise, geography, diversity, and values, we are now called to do this again for a new century.
These are ambitious objectives. There is no guarantee of success. We set them, not in the assumption that success will come easily but in the certain knowledge that it will not. We will venture in noble and good causes. We will risk, we will enjoy victories, and we will suffer defeats, but we will keep working toward a better world because that is what Canadians do.
Let me conclude on a personal note.
A popular criticism today of the arguments I am making here is that all such ideas are abstract, perhaps of interest to the so-called Laurentian elite, or the media or the Ottawa bubble, but not at all relevant to real Canadians. That line of reasoning is the ultimate elite condescension; it is nonsense.
In reply, I offer the example of my grandfather, John Wilbur Freeland. He was born in Peace River, Alberta, the son of a pioneer family. Wilbur was 24 in 1940, and making a bit of a living as a cowboy and boxer. His nickname was “Pretty Boy” Freeland. My grandpa was the opposite of an Upper Canada elite, but in the darkest days of the Second World War, Wilbur enlisted to serve. Two brothers, Carleton and Warren, joined up too. Wilbur and Carleton came home; Warren did not. My grandfather told me they signed up partly for the excitement. Europe, even at war, was an exotic destination for the young men of the Peace Country.
There was more to it than a young man’s thirst for adventure, though. My grandfather was one of a generation of Canadians who intuitively understood the connection between their lives and those of people they had never met, whose speech they could not comprehend, who lived on a continent so far away as to constitute, back then, another world.
That generation of Canadians, the greatest generation we call them with good reason, had survived the Great Depression. They were born in the aftermath of the First World War. They appreciated viscerally that a world without fixed borders or rules for the global economy was a world of strife and poverty. They sought to prevent that from ever happening again.
That is why they risked and gave their lives to fight in a European war. That is why, when they came home, they cheerfully contributed to the great project of rebuilding Europe and creating a postwar world order. That is why they counted themselves lucky to be able to do so.
They were our parents, our grandparents, and our great grandparents. The challenge we face today is significant, to be sure, but it pales next to the task they faced and met. Our job today is to preserve their achievement and to build on it, to use the multilateral structures they created as the foundation for global accords and institutions fit for the new realities of our century. They rose to their generation's great challenge, so can we.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise, speak about Canada's foreign policy, and respond to the statements that the minister has made, as well as make some of my own comments with respect to this.
Just as a quick follow-up to the exchange that the minister and I just had, is it not striking how I can ask very simple, basic questions about fundamental issues of human rights, issues that should not be difficult to answer, issues for which there is evidence? There is no debate, really, about the fact that Saudi Arabia is not exactly a champion of women's rights. There is no debate about the certain reality that Assyrian Christians and Yazidis face genocide in Syria and Iraq. These are not questions that I think the minister, actually—if she were not a politician but were in her former life as a journalist and commentator—would have any trouble answering in a clear and frank way.
However, through the fact that the minister and the government are unwilling to make very simple, very clear statements about human rights issues, we can discern a deeper reality about the government's foreign policy, which is that while it wants to praise, in general terms, these things like human rights and the international system, it does not actually ever want to confront those countries that are responsible for the violation of human rights.
In fact, while talking in glorious terms about these important values and institutions at least in this place, on the world stage in its interaction with other countries that actually really need to hear these messages, the government's watchword is, unfortunately, appeasement. The minister began her speech with an important and proactive question: Is Canada an essential country on the world stage in the present time? I would say, “Yes, absolutely; Canada, a Canada that stands up clearly for our values, a country with an unapologetically principled foreign policy, is very much needed on the world stage.”
However, what we have under the government is not a Canada pursuing a principled foreign policy. Rather, we have a government that knows what buzzwords it wants to use for a domestic audience, but it is afraid to say something as basic as that there are women's rights problems in Saudi Arabia. Again, this is not rocket science; this is not controversial.
It is too much, apparently, for the to state that reality. When the minister fails to do that, when the minister is unwilling to state the obvious in this place and on the world stage, we actually lose that vital Canadian voice, a voice that we had in the last 10 years under Stephen Harper. At that time, not everybody around the world liked our foreign policy approach. There were some countries that were annoyed by the fact that we talked about fundamental human rights, that we confronted leaders on issues like their disregard for international peace and security, like their disregard for borders, like their disregard for fundamental human rights.
We were not afraid to stand up and talk about those issues. It had some consequences, insofar as there were countries that, some of the time, did not really like that we were doing this. However we were true to who we are. Through our courageous, principle-based foreign policy, we were very much able to advance Canada's interest.
During the Harper years, especially in the early period when Canada was particularly vocal on human rights in China, Canada's trade increased dramatically with China. There is this myth that somehow we cannot talk about human rights with China while trading, but the opposite is true. In fact, what we saw under the Harper government was a willingness to stand up, clearly and forcefully, for our values. It might make some people uncomfortable, but ultimately those people are still going to come to the table because they can respect a Canada that is clear and convicted in its principled stand for its positions.
That is what we had previously. That is what existed under the previous government. However, there are so many areas where we see very clearly a complete dissonance between that and the flowery words of the government when, in instances like this, it wants to come into the House of Commons and have this publicity event where it talks about its alleged commitment to principles, which it then completely fails to stand up for when it actually counts.
What we are actually seeing from the government is a de-emphasis of principles and an emphasis on what it perceives to be national self-interest. It is a different form or expression of national self-interest than we see from other states. Other states disregard the international political order and seek to violently advance their self-interest with complete disregard for the borders of other countries. We see from the Liberal government a different kind of prioritization of self-interest, which is at all costs, at cost of principle, to try to curry favour within international institutions by getting the approval of whatever heads of state, dictators, or whoever control the votes to try to advance their position within the councils of the world, but with complete disregard for the actual values that are supposed to underlie those institutions.
I believe that the United Nations is important, but I care more about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights than I do about votes of the UN General Assembly, because most countries that vote in the UN General Assembly actually do not come anywhere close to the full implementation of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That is a truly principled internationalism, one that has greater regard for, yes, principles rather than the politics, rather than the self-interest calculation of these international institutions.
The focus on national self-interest, which we see epitomized by the actions of the Liberal government might be a different form or expression of national self-interest, but is still very much, quite evidently, a prioritization of its concept of national self-interest ahead of values. I am hopeful that through the continuing pressure of the opposition, the government can be pushed to make changes, but it is not good enough to simply applaud the statements of the minister when there is absolutely no acknowledgement of the realities of the government's foreign policy and the harms that it has caused.
Let us very clearly and specifically review the record with respect to the Liberal government's approach to foreign policy. I am going to go over some key examples in response to what the minister said, which I will dig into in more detail later, to demonstrate the contrast between what Canada has done previously, especially under the leadership of Stephen Harper, and what the current and are doing.
The most obvious place to start is that it is breathtaking how much the Liberal government wants to gain the favour of China and do everything possible to cozy up to China, not in Canada's interest but in China's interest, and not reflecting Canada's values. I should not even say China's interest or values, because we are talking about the governing elite, the Communist Party, that has really, in many ways, captured the direction of the . There are many people in China who are, I note, very concerned about what the Liberal government is doing with respect to not addressing human rights issues in their country.
How can we talk about a rules-based international system and then seek a free trade deal and an extradition deal with the People's Republic of China? Clearly, China does not, at a very basic level, have a sound criminal justice system and does not respect human rights and the rights of people who are charged to have their situation considered in an impartial way. The Chinese government actively seeks to persecute people whose crime might be, in the view of that government, simply being part of a faith community that the government does not wish to exist. Typically, the Chinese government will come up with outlandish charges against those individuals. It may charge them with corruption, disrupting the peace, or these sorts of things.
In an extradition framework, if Canada is told China wants to extradite a particular person because that person was involved in corruption, which might be the charge, the Chinese government might do everything it can to try to make that charge stick, but the reality is that there are divisions within that government that are specifically set up for the purpose of trying to make false charges stick to people who are political dissidents or members of religious minorities.
Of course, we already have extradition agreements with some countries with whom we disagree on certain things. We have an extradition agreement with the United States. Our country opposes the death penalty and I personally oppose the death penalty. Obviously, if anyone is sent back for extradition to the United States, it is on the basis of a clear understanding that the person will not receive the death penalty.
The point is that the United States is a rule-of-law country that happens to have one and probably certain other features of their justice system that we would disagree with. We want to make sure that those features are removed in the case of a person who we send back. That is fair enough.
In a country where there is not rule of law at a fundamental level, where there is not respect for or guarantees of the rights of the individual, where there is no concept even of a fair trial, how can one talk about extradition? One cannot ask, in the context of extradition, that a person not be tried by the existing system of that country. It just does not make any sense, yet the Liberal government has said that it would like to pursue extradition with China. Even there, there is a lack of coherence. We see clearly how there is this dissonance between what it wants to be saying for the benefit of a domestic audience and what it wants to be saying to the People's Republic of China.
Are we in the midst of a negotiation, or are we just talking about the possibility of negotiation? It is not entirely clear what the government is doing. We have heard subtly different kinds of responses on these points from different people on the government side as this debate has unfolded.
It would be amazing if the could give a speech as she did about the government's commitment to international institutions without having any shame about the fact that Canada is involved in negotiations or discussions of some kind with China with respect to extradition. Surely, when she was saying the things she was saying, at some point she had to think that this does not perhaps jibe with what is being done over here.
Actually, there are lots of things that are in this “over here” space that do not jibe with the words of the government. It is also talking about pursuing a free trade deal with China. I am going to talk more later about how that is not in our interest. More particularly to the point here, this does not accord at all with the government's statements about its commitment to an international rule-based system.
It is well known that China does not respect basic labour rights. The People's Republic of China does not respect basic issues around environmental protection and intellectual property. If the government is going to enter into a bilateral trade negotiation in the context of a bilateral negotiation with such a large economy as China, the government would find itself at a significant disadvantage in the context of that negotiation.
We are much better off, I would argue, in the context of an international system, in the context of a partnership of democracies, if we were to, at a later point, through a collaboration of democracies, approach China for trade. We would be in a much better position having, through a vehicle like TPP, set the terms of trade in favour of free democracies.
That is not what the Liberal government wants to do. It wants to pursue a bilateral trade agreement with the People's Republic of China. It is going into that, initially, automatically, with some degree of a disadvantage. If it is to do that, of course it has to take into consideration what the impacts would be for intellectual property protection in this country, for environmental protection, and in terms of labour rights. If Canada is in a trading relationship where there is a country not respecting those things, Canadian business is at a huge disadvantage, never mind the fundamental issues of human rights.
That is a clear instance of dissonance between what the is saying and the realities of the situation in terms of what the minister is actually pursuing with respect to our relationship with China.
I have spoken often in the House about Canada's relationship with Burma. We have a long-standing relationship with Burma. Burma has been a major recipient of Canadian development assistance. Right now, there are very credible reports of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine area of Burma.
I have asked many questions about this, and specifically I have asked if the would be willing to contact Aung San Suu Kyi and ask directly for a better response to the crisis affecting the Rohingya people.
For a bit of context, Burma has a power-sharing government between a pre-existing military regime, which continues to have a lot of power, and a democratically elected government. There is a tension there. I am not trying to suggest that this is the sort of thing that Aung San Suu Kyi and the elected side of things could unilaterally stop on their own.
At the same time, we need to have strong, clear leadership from the democracy movement in Burma that rallies public support around the protection of religious and ethnic minorities in Burma, in particular around a response to the issues that are affecting the Rohingya people. The Rohingya people should have full citizenship in Burma. Of course, as human beings, they should have their basic rights respected.
I have repeatedly asked the question of whether the government would contact Aung San Suu Kyi directly on this issue. I have asked the that question directly in question period. It was at the last Prime Minister's question period that he did. I do not think it was my question alone that scared him away, but it was the last time, up until now at least, that he answered all the questions, and he did not answer that question.
During committee of the whole, I asked the if the would contact Aung San Suu Kyi and raise the issue of the Rohingya. She said she would like to speak for herself, instead of the Prime Minister, and that she had been in touch with various people involved in a study and investigation into these issues through the United Nations. That would be one way for a minister to gather information about the situation in Burma, but that is not the principal vehicle of advocacy. I asked her in a follow-up to that if she had contacted the minister of foreign affairs in Burma to raise these specific issues.
It is well established by now that the government members do not really feel obliged to answer the questions that are asked of them, either in question period, question and comments, or committee of the whole. That is a point that is well established. However, what is actually particularly revealing are the kinds of questions they do not want to answer.
When we ask them to speak clearly and specifically about human rights issues, and ask them if they will take a simple step to contact their counterpart in a country where, very likely, there is ethnic cleansing going on, and raise the issue of ethnic cleansing, a government that is committed to international institutions, to international human rights, to the protection of the rights of linguistic, religious, and ethnic minorities, as the minister talked about, would not have a problem picking up the phone and raising these issues of fundamental human rights. It is not difficult. It is not particularly time consuming to have that conversation, not just with impartial experts. Those conversations are important of course to gather information, but they should have those conversations directly with counterparts in those countries that are affected.
On the issue of Burma, clearly, we have seen that the government has probably not done it, but we would not actually know if they had done it because they have not been able or willing to answer very simple questions about that human rights issue.
It is important to emphasize this point of course because Aung San Suu Kyi is in Canada this week. Let us emphasize clearly that a government that was generally concerned about principles of foreign policy, human rights, the rule of law, human dignity, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, would take this opportunity to raise the issue of minorities, including the situation of the Rohingya in Burma.
Burma's official name used by the government is Myanmar, but Burma has always been the name used by the democracy movement. When I asked the this question, he initially said Burma in response to my question, but then corrected himself to say Myanmar. That is notable as well. Of course, there may be some official context in which it is appropriate to use the name Myanmar, but generally speaking, the words we use for countries also send a powerful message about whether we are aligning ourselves with the democracy movement, and with religious and ethnic minorities, or whether we are aligning ourselves with the existing political parties that are in play in a country.
Let us talk about the issue of the government's response to Daesh, because there was a specific section in the minister's speech where she spoke about the horrific atrocities of Daesh. It is striking. Every time we ask a minister of foreign affairs in this government, it was the same with Stéphane Dion, about genocide recognition they will say, “These atrocities are terrible. There are terrible atrocities happening”, but they will not use the word “genocide”. It is as if they expect the House not to notice that they did not use the word in the response. This is an unfortunate pattern with the government, not being willing to recognize the reality of this genocide.
The evidence of genocide is overwhelmingly clear. The UN convention with respect to genocide identifies five criteria for a genocide. Daesh has transgressed not just one of those criteria, it has very clearly transgressed all five of those criteria, and it has been explicit about it. Yes, it is important to undertake an investigation, but the reality is that Daesh is actively trying to broadcast its atrocities. Its members are not ashamed of the fact that they are involved in genocide. They are trying to broadcast as much as possible to the world their involvement in genocide. They are proud of it, and they want us to know about it, yet the government refuses to recognize that reality, even though it is clear that not one but all five of the criteria established by the United Nations are being clearly transgressed by this organization.
Every time I ask this question, I say that Yazidis and Assyrian Christians have been victims of genocide at the hands of Daesh, yet the response from the minister, all three times I have asked this question, twice in committee of the whole and once here during questions and comments in response to her speech, was, “Of course we are very concerned about the situation of the Yazidis.” What is going on there? I always ask about Yazidis and Assyrian Christians, and the minister replies, “We are very concerned about the situation of the Yazidis.” What is wrong with mentioning concern about the situation of Assyrian Christians as well? Yazidis and Assyrian Christians live in the same communities. They are victims of the same genocidal death cult. They are treated in the same way.
When the minister cannot bring herself to acknowledge the experience of Christians in the Middle East, that is quite revealing. Again, it is not just what the government members say. It is what they do not say that I think is particularly revealing in terms of whether they actually are seized with these issues of fundamental international human rights. We know that they voted against a motion that sought to recognize the genocide affecting Yazidis and Assyrian Christians, but even in response to my questions, they cannot bring themselves to say “Assyrian Christians”. This is really unbelievable.
I asked during committee of the whole if the minister has ever made a public statement about the persecution of Christians in any country. Christians are arguably the most persecuted religious community, certainly if we add up the number of countries and individuals affected around the world. The minister was able, only in that context, to refer me to a number of S.O.31s made by the parliamentary secretary in the House. Needless to say, 60-second statements by the parliamentary secretary are not a sufficient expression of the government's active commitment to addressing the issues affecting Christians, as well as other religious minorities.
Of course, our concern for human rights internationally should not focus on one group to the exclusion of any others. I speak regularly in the House about Muslims, Rohingya, and other minorities around the world, but yes, my advocacy on human rights includes Christians. The advocacy of our party on human rights includes all religious minorities, including Christians, yet the government cannot bring itself to say “Assyrian Christians” in response to a question. If we look at the statements made on the foreign affairs website, there is no mention of concern being expressed with respect to the treatment of Christians.
It comes down to this very clear specific point that if the government is actually concerned about issues of international human rights, it needs to consider not just the politics of the United Nations but the United Nations documents that specify fundamental human rights, including the convention on genocide, which provides a clear definition. Daesh is advertising the fact that it is ignoring that convention.
Another theme of the minister's speech is the issue of defence spending. She said, I think quite rightly, actually, that a nation that simply relies on another nation for its defence will find itself in a very vulnerable position. She used the term “client state”.
I think the other concern is that if a nation is not providing for its own defence, over time the nations that are protecting it will become sick of protecting a state that is not pulling its weight. We know that the current U.S. President has been quite vocal on the issue of other countries within NATO getting to their 2%-of-GDP target. However, it is not just Donald Trump who is talking about this issue. I remember when former president Barack Obama was here in this House speaking about issues in the Canada-U.S. relationship. Of course, he received a very warm reception from all parties. It was striking, actually, that he made some explicit comments in front of our Parliament about how it would be nice if Canada spent more on our military.
Mr. Speaker, it would of course be unparliamentary for me to comment on the presence or absence of many members in the House during my remarks, but I am not surprised that members of the government backbench do not want to hear what I have to say. In fact, I know that many members of the government backbench are genuinely embarrassed about the policies of their own government with respect to these issues. I commend them for their shame when they listen to the words of the , who is clearly not willing to do basic things when it comes to international human rights. All the same, I invite them to look their own failings in the eye and participate and listen to this discussion, because it is only through honest confrontation of their failures that they can hopefully turn the corner.
I say all that with the best of regard, because we all have a stake in Canada turning a corner and returning to a principled foreign policy, one that actually measures up to the words spoken by the minister, but we are certainly not there now.
I was in the process of discussing the issue of defence spending and reminding members who are in the House now that it was the last president, President Barrack Obama, who spoke about the need for Canada to contribute more to our national defence and to our collective security. I am under no illusion that we can get to that 2% of GDP overnight, but we need to have a realistic plan to get there, because if Canada and other NATO partners are not realistically engaged in ensuring that we are meeting our obligations under NATO, then at some point, taxpayers in the United States are going to become frustrated, and it is going to add pressure and create some real problems for us.
This discussion was ongoing throughout the last number of months and years. I think many members of the government thought that finally, in budget 2017, we would see a substantial new investment in national defence. Actually, I did a panel with one member of the government, who, it seemed, was trying to send the signal, “Do not worry, we are going to make these investments. We recognize now the need for Canada to do more.” These were supposedly coming.
However, what did we see in budget 2017? Actually, in the budget, the Liberals cut $8.48 billion that had been earmarked for military equipment purchases. That, combined with last year's cut, actually brought us to a $12-billion shortfall. We had substantial cuts. This is what the Liberals telegraphed earlier, in their original throne speech, when they talked about having a leaner military. It was quite a contortion of language to do their best to make it sound as if it was a great thing having a leaner military.
When the government talks about cutting back the resources it gives our men and women in uniform, the defence is, “Our men and women in uniform do a great job, and we pull more than our weight, because our troops are so skilled at what they do.” Let me say clearly that on this side of the House, we agree with that phrase about Canada's armed forces. They do an excellent job, but I do not think anyone in the armed forces would tell us that they do not really need the resources and are doing more with less. The right way to acknowledge and recognize the great work done by our men and women in uniform is to give them the proper resources that allow them to do their job.
I do not think the minister mentioned NATO in her talk about international issues. NATO is obviously a critical multilateral institution that serves our interests. If we are not meeting our commitment sunder NATO to at least work toward that 2%, then we are putting the security of that alliance at great risk. The government is not moving toward 2%. It would have been unrealistic to expect that budget 2017 would bring us to 2%, but it is not moving us toward 2%. It is actually moving us away from 2%.
The minister talks about the importance of collective security, about the importance of our being engaged internationally on all of these issues, about the importance of responding to groups like Daesh and being part of NATO, and about the importance of defending Canada's interests in eastern Europe, the importance of defending Latvia and being present in Poland and other places. There are many different hot spots and threats around the world, places where Canada can be present, as well of course as at the discussion of prospective peacekeeping operations in Africa.
The minister talks about all of these things and yet the is cutting back on expenditures in our military. There is pretty clear dissonance here.
The person who wrote the minister's speech that was given today clearly did not reflect enough on the government's record. In a way, the government's approach is condemned through the very words of the minister. The minister said that nations that do not properly invest in their own defence risk becoming client states of other nations, and yet she is choosing—or perhaps I should blame her colleague or the government as a whole—to pull back its spending on the military. Again, there is an area of clear dissonance between the reality of the government's record and the flowing words we heard in the speech.
Let me talk about Sir Lanka. During the election, the government made very specific commitments about supporting justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka. When I raised these issues during committee of the whole, the said she wanted to assure the committee and the House that she was very concerned about the situation and that she had, and I am paraphrasing here, good feelings and feelings of solidarity towards the people in that situation.
Expressing goodwill inside the Canadian House of Commons is not enough for the people on the ground who are suffering as a result of human rights abuses, especially when the government made specific commitments to be involved in supporting the advancement of justice and human rights on the ground. Again there is clear dissonance.
I have mentioned Saudi Arabia in my questions. The Liberal government's approach to Saudi Arabia really is quite striking. Saudi Arabia does not give basic citizenship rights or basic human rights to women, but that does not mean we cannot have a strategic partnership on certain kinds of issues.
It is important for us to engage with countries with whom we disagree, and confront issues of fundamental disagreement while working together on areas of strategic interest. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is quite important in terms of how we collaborate and in terms of how we counter the influence of Iran in the region. I want to be clear that it is not a situation where we should have no engagement with Saudi Arabia.
If we are going to have engagement with countries with whom we disagree, we have to be clear and unapologetic about stating what our values are. If we are having a relationship with a country and that country is doing things that violate fundamental human rights, it is not difficult but in fact necessary for us to be specific and identify those issues.
If we have an interest in working with other countries and other countries have an interest in working with us, that collaboration is still going to happen, and it is going to happen very clearly with Saudi Arabia. There are opportunities to collaborate on things that are important for Saudi interests. which are not going to be lost, not going to disappear. If the minister were to have the courage to simply say that it is a bad thing for Saudi Arabia to be on the UN women's rights commission, that would not change Saudi Arabia's interests with respect to its relationship with Canada.
If the were to speak more clearly, or if he were to speak at all, about human rights in China, it would not change the fact that China still has an interest in accessing Canadian energy. It would not change the basic logic of the economic relationship. What do we have to lose by being true to who we are? The minister asked if Canada was an essential country. I say yes, but we have to be true to who we are.
With respect to the minister's speech, we had a lot of discussion on the issue of the environment, greenhouse gas emissions, and the government's response. I find what the government has said and done really interesting. Of course, we know that under the last Liberal government there was a dramatic increase in overall greenhouse gas emissions. The approach of the Chrétien government was to put all of the emphasis on this idea of signing a big international agreement. It signed the Kyoto protocol and launched major promotional advertising to let Canadians know that it had signed on to being part of this response to global greenhouse gas emissions. Basically, it did nothing else. Global emissions went up. Canadian emissions went up.
Then we had that glorious day, January 23, 2006, when Stephen Harper won the election. Under the Harper Conservative government, greenhouse gas emissions went down. Every time I say this, people scoff and shake their heads. Look at the numbers. Greenhouse gas emissions went down under Stephen Harper, whether anyone likes it or not.
The responses that typically came from the current government and others were to say, “Well, that was only because of the bold action of the Kathleen Wynne government.” Now the current government is not as keen to associate itself with Kathleen Wynne as perhaps it once was, yet it says that the only reason that emissions went down was because of the bold steps that were taken by the Kathleen Wynne government.
The other thing the Liberals said was that emissions only went down because of the global economic recession. The only time that they remember we even had a global economic recession was when they are talking about the environment. They completely ignore it when they talk about economic history, but on the environment they say that greenhouse gases only went down because of it. Here is the reality. If we look at the numbers province by province, not just the overall numbers for greenhouse gas emissions, we will find that if we compare the period of the Chrétien government to the period of the Harper government, in every single province emissions either went down or went up by less than they had under the previous Liberal government. Therefore, when it comes to real, achievable results on greenhouse gas emissions, progress was achieved under the Harper government in every single province across this country. That completely blows out the “Kathleen Wynne is so great” argument that I am sure many members of the Liberal caucus from Ontario would perhaps have been more reluctant to make in the past than they are now.
The other counter-argument is that the Liberals would say that greenhouse gas emissions only went down because of the global economic recession. If we look at the numbers, we see that global emissions went up during a period when they went down in Canada, yet Canada was one of the countries that was least affected by the global economic recession. Therefore, the world over, the economy was more negatively impacted by the recession, yet emissions were going up; Canada was less affected by the recession, yet was able to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. We were able to see overall economic growth at a time when our emissions were going down. I think that very clearly blows this counter-argument out of the water. Canada was able to achieve real results.
At the same time, we recognized the reality of the Kyoto protocol, which was that the Kyoto protocol would have asked Canada to spend Canadian tax dollars to buy emissions credits from other countries without actually reducing our emissions or theirs. It had a built-in system that facilitated a transfer of wealth between different countries based on where specific targets were set. We quite rightly said that the money is better invested in actually achieving environmental improvements here at home. Canada is a country that is leading on environmental innovation. It can continue to lead, it can continue to reduce emissions, and it can share its technology, but we have to do that in a way that does not cripple our economy.
What is the approach of this new Liberal government? Aside from of course failing to recognize the reality of the successes of the Harper government on these issues, it is to try to use the environment as an excuse to try to raise more revenue for government. The Liberals said their carbon tax plan would be revenue neutral, but in fact now we know that they will be collecting GST/HST—for the federal government, it is GST—on the carbon tax, so it is a tax on tax, a big increase in federal government revenue.
That is quite striking, is it not? The Liberals are talking about the environment and yet they have a plan aimed solely at raising revenue, which completely ignores the experience of the Harper government, which showed that we could achieve real reductions in emissions with binding sector-by-sector regulatory targets. The approach we took was to ensure that, through our binding sector-by-sector regulatory targets, we were not reducing the capacity of the economy to grow. We were making it possible for companies in Canada to continue to invest and grow. We were not creating a kind of environment where companies just had to go out of business because they could not possibly meet with the new regulatory burden. We were very careful to do that, because we recognized that reducing our emissions was what we wanted to do, not chase jobs out of the country. If, with punitive regulatory structures, we chased jobs to other countries, we would not help the environment, especially if we were chasing jobs to countries that actually have far less stringent environmental regulations than we do.
I am very concerned that the government's approach when it comes to the carbon tax, far from actually achieving advances when it comes to the well-being of the global environment, will actually just force job creators out of Canada. They will make those investments in the United States where there are completely different environmental standards, especially now, and that is going to lead to worse outcomes when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and significantly worse outcomes when it comes to the Canadian economy.
How does that make any sense? It does not make sense for greenhouse gas emissions at all. I do not really like this term because I am generally a fan of virtue ethics as a philosophy, but this is what has come to be known colloquially as virtue signalling. The government wants to send the signal about its alleged commitment to some principle without actually doing anything about it.
That is the issue of greenhouse gas emissions. This came up during questions and comments, and the minister may have mentioned it in her speech as well: the rights of gays and lesbians around the world. This is an important issue and an issue that is perhaps not one of the best known successes of the last government, but this is an example where the Harper government really led with respect to standing up for fundamental human rights.
The then prime minister directly raised these issues internationally with world leaders, but also the former minister of immigration, Jason Kenney, set up a specific program to help gays and lesbians escaping from Iran. It was a way of facilitating and prioritizing gay and lesbian refugees coming out of Iran. This was cancelled by the Liberal government. This was a program.
The minister said that there are things going on with Chechnya that she cannot tell us about. On some level, we can recognize that when it comes to foreign affairs, there may be certain things that the minister is less inclined to talk about publicly, but we do not really have any strong indications of the government's commitment when it comes to doing concrete things to stand up for the fundamental human rights of people in this situation, because of the fact that the government chose to get rid of this program that was helping gays and lesbians who were escaping the severe persecution they face in Iran. At least we could be raising these issues with Iran.
Instead, speaking of Iran, the government is eager to seek a closer relationship with Iran, and this flies in the face of our strategic interests, of international law, and of our fundamental regard for human rights: the rights of religious minorities in Iran, the significant issues facing the Baha'i community, the rights of gays and lesbians, and really, actually the rights of all people, even those who are members of majority communities but still face severe repression as a result of the terrible things being done by the regime in Iran.
What else did the minister speak about in her speech? She spoke about free trade, about how we could support development and be agents of change around the world. The government has completely failed when it comes to the trade file. It has carried on the inertia with respect to things that were started under the previous Harper government. It did its best, frankly, to completely screw up CETA negotiations, but nonetheless there was enough inertia in place from the work done by the Harper government for that agreement to get over the finish line.
The government has failed to stand up for the trans-Pacific partnership. The minister spoke about the rise of Asia. It is not something she is ignorant of, yet she does not seem to appreciate, or at least the government does not seem to appreciate, the importance the trans-Pacific partnership in setting the terms of trade in the Asia-Pacific area in a way that reflects our values.
The trans-Pacific partnership would have been an opportunity for us to work with like-minded countries and set terms of trade that would favour respect for intellectual property, fundamental human rights, the environment, and workers' rights. Those things were established and could have been protected through the framework that was established by the trans-Pacific partnership.
It would have been difficult to see that proceed in its current form, in light of the disposition of the new American administration toward it. It absolutely would have helped if the Canadian government had actually been willing to lead, though, on the issue of the trans-Pacific partnership, if the Government of Canada was actually willing to stand and speak about these issues in a concrete and specific way.
Now, in light of the situation that we are in, this would be a good time for Canada to lead in defence of a free economy and to seek the kinds of relationships and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific that would allow us to ensure the dominance of the democratic and free rule of law idea in that region. We should seek deeper trading and other partnerships, with countries like Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. India was not part of the original the TPP, neither was Taiwan, but deepening our partnerships there, commercially and in other areas, would be very important for advancing our values and protecting the security of our values in the region.
The minister talks about trade, yet we do not see action in that vital area. We merely see the continuation of things that were already begun and undertaken under the previous government.
The minister's final point was about the idea of there being a crisis of confidence in the global system in the west and this being a threat politically insofar as people within the middle class no longer had confidence in the global system. I do not actually see that being a major problem in Canada.
We are not really seeing at all the rise of the kind of isolationist, anti-establishment, populism in the negative sense we have seen in some other countries. We have a political consensus around, broadly speaking, the idea of an open society, and that is important. However, it also speaks to the success of the last government in putting the economic mechanisms in place, cutting taxes, for instance, on those on the low end, economically, to ensure that there would be an effective sharing of prosperity, not through the expansion of government programs but through policies that would encourage employment and that would allow industry to develop.
We were able to cut business taxes, cut the small business tax rate and establish a hiring credit for small business. These kinds of policies stimulated the economy in a way that benefited everyone, especially those who were looking for jobs.
The government risks creating new problems with its policies, which expand government and involve big, new subsidies for companies like Bombardier. It is a tax-and-spend approach. Also, if we look at those tax changes that actually matter for those who are looking for work, the Liberals have raised the payroll taxes through the CPP expansion. They have eliminated the hiring credit for small business. They have reversed themselves on a promise they made with respect to the small business tax rate. They had promised to lower it down to 9%. Actually every major party in this place had promised to lower the small business tax down to 9%, yet the Liberals decided to renege on that promise.
The tax changes that the Liberals have made do not just affect small businesses; they affect those who are looking for jobs and contribute to rising unemployment. Alberta has an employment crisis. The government's response was to give $30 million to the Government of Alberta. That is less than the amount paid out to Bombardier executives in bonuses.
When the government talks about how a crisis in confidence in governments contributes to problems in our global system, it needs to look in the mirror and ask why it does not stop taxing Canadians to death. It needs to start looking at our history and employing the measures successfully undertaken by the previous government. Why does it not proceed in that direction? Maybe that would address some of the issues about which it is concerned.
The other thing is, having been in the United States during the U.S. election, that there is a reality that America spends a great deal of money on its national defence. Some people say that maybe we should not be spending so much on the defence of other countries and other countries should step up and spend more. American leadership is important when it comes to supporting collective security, but it is part of why it is so important for Canada to actually invest in collective security and national defence.
I spoke earlier about the major cuts that the government had made, and is making, when it comes to national defence. It absolutely sends the completely wrong message when, in the midst of a time of increasing global insecurity and real and growing threats, the government cuts back on spending in national defence.
Having directly responded to many of the points that were made, I would like to talk a bit about the legislative context of this motion.
Before I do that, I believe we do not have quorum in the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is a particularly important point. I want to ensure there are at least some members here to benefit from it.
We are debating a motion with respect to the foreign policy of the government. It comes forward in a particular context. That context is that the government has sought to extend the hours beyond the usual hour at which we adjourn. We are now in a situation where Monday to Thursday every week the debate continues to progress until midnight, but only motions or bills that the government has brought forward. It is not the case for opposition motions. However, the government has now extended debate to the end of the day. It has done so, allegedly, with the goal of implementing its very important legislative agenda. In fact, it was so important that the government not only introduced a motion for extended hours, it brought in a motion of closure with respect to extended hours.
Here is what the government House leader said on this issue. She said:
We have much to accomplish in the coming weeks. Our government has an ambitious legislative agenda that we would like to advance in order to deliver on the commitments we made to Canadians in the last election. Let me reflect on our recent legislative achievements before I turn to the important work that lies before us over the next four weeks.
In our last sitting week, the House and Senate were able to reach agreement on securing passage of Bill C-37, which would put in place important measures to fight the opioid crisis in Canada. I would like to thank members of the House for the thoughtful debate on this bill and for not playing politics with such an important piece of legislation....I would also like to point out the passage of two crucial bills related to trade...The first, Bill C-30...I am proud that our government continues to open the doors to trade and potential investment in Canada to grow our economy and help build a strong middle class.
In looking forward to the next four sitting weeks, I would like to highlight a few priority bills that our government will seek to advance. I will start with Bill C-44, which would implement budget 2017. This bill is about creating good middle-class jobs today while preparing Canadians for the jobs of tomorrow....
Sitting a few extra hours for four days per week will also give the House greater flexibility in dealing with unexpected events. While it is expected that the Senate will amend bills, it is not always clear which bills and the number of bills that could be amended by the Senate. As we have come to know, the consideration of Senate amendments in the House takes time. This is, in part, why we need to sit extra hours. I know that members work extremely hard balancing their House duties and other political duties. I expect that extending the hours will add to the already significant workload.
I wish to thank members for their co-operation in these coming weeks.
The government assured us that it had a robust legislative agenda that it had to get through before the summer. That is why we needed to extend hours.
Our party was willing to support extending hours under certain conditions that involved protecting the fundamental rights of the opposition. Those considerations were completely ignored by the government. It put through closure, it ran through its bill, and we carry on.
Now we are working under the framework established by Motion No. 14, which was designed to respond to the government's allegedly important legislative agenda.
Then we have the government bringing forward this motion. This motion was not promised. It is not something the government had ever committed to doing. It is not at all substantive. In general, motions in the House do not impact legislation. They can change the Standing Orders, theoretically, but that is it. They cannot change the law of the land. This motion was not effectual. Really, if we drill into the text of the motion that has been proposed, it looks more like it is designed simply to boost the self-esteem of the government. It is a motion that says, “Hey, we're doing a really great job.” The government seems to need to use the time in the House to debate and seek a vote on a motion telling it that it is doing a really good job.
I have a spoiler alert. This motion is probably going to pass. The government has a majority. If it wants to pass a motion saying, “Hey, we're doing a great job”, it has the numbers in the House to do it. However, it is a ridiculous exercise. It speaks more fundamentally to the question of why the government needs a motion of the House of Commons to boost its self-esteem with respect to what it is doing on foreign policy.
Let me read the motion for the benefit of members so it is very clear what I am talking about.
The motion reads:
That the House (a) recognize that the government is committed to a foreign policy that supports multilateralism and rules-based international systems, human rights, gender equality, the fight against climate change, and economic benefits being shared by all; (b) recognize that further leadership on the part of Canada is both desirable and required; and (c) support the government’s decision to use the foregoing principles to guide Canadian foreign policy.
Basically, it is a motion. It does not speak to specific foreign policy situations. It does not seek the endorsement of the House to proceed in a particular way with respect to a particular situation. It just says, “These are some important principles and aren't we doing a great job at implementing them.”
Put another way, I would say this is the selfie of parliamentary motions. It is put forward purely for image and has absolutely no legislative effect, yet a government that was so concerned with needing to get through its legislative agenda has put this motion on the table.
When a government needs to bring forward a motion like this, it actually reminds me of a dialogue from Game of Thrones, where Tywin Lannister says to Joffrey, “Any man who must say 'I am the king' is no true king.” This is the “I am the king” of parliamentary motions. It is the government members' attempt to simply remind themselves that in their view they are doing a very good job. It is perplexing as a use of parliamentary time when the government claims it actually has a robust legislative agenda. It is quite strange. I would say, if this is the “I am the king” of parliamentary motions, then the king is tired so see him to his chambers.
This is the second time they have done this in two days. Yesterday, they put forward a motion to reaffirm the House's commitment to the Paris accord. The House has already passed a motion to support the Paris accord. That already happened, but I guess government members felt that they just wanted to do it again. The new motion they proposed yesterday had no legislative effect. It was a rearticulation of the position of the government, but it had absolutely no substance or meaning, just as this motion has no substance in terms of the actual effect it has. Of course, as argument it has substance, but its passage has no concrete effect, especially with respect to Paris, since the House has already passed a motion.
Notably, we have had, twice in as many days, a government that needed to extend the hours supposedly for the purposes of advancing its legislative agenda coming forward with motions that really do not have any kind of substantive effect. In one case, it is very repetitive. They merely create an occasion for the government to, through a vote, say, “Look at us. We got our majority to vote to say we're doing a good job” on some issue or another.
On the issue of the Paris accord, as we are again voting on it, it is an accord that introduces nationally approved targets, which are not binding. In principle, there is nothing wrong with that, but it also needs to be recognized that it is not the be-all and end-all, because the effect of the Paris accord is going to be determined by the kinds of targets that nations actually set under it and whether or not they follow through with their targets.
It is the same approach that I spoke of earlier with respect to the Kyoto protocol. With the Kyoto protocol, the Chrétien government emphasized Kyoto and did a big public relations exercise on it, but in the end, it did not actually do anything about it beyond having that extensive public relations exercise.
Again, with Paris, we are seeing the government trying to use this as a cover for its desire to raise taxes. It is not following the effective example we saw under the Harper government, which actually led to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. It is instead trumpeting the agreement and trying to use it as a cover to raise taxes.
This is what is going on here. This is the government wanting to extend hours and then using the time for these pretend public relations exercises, which actually do not have a substantive effect on outcomes on the ground. In the case of Paris, the motion has already passed.
In this case, if the government wanted to bring forward a motion saying such and such a thing with respect to our relationship with China, with respect to something that is happening in a particular area, then there would be a space to debate it. However, it is strange to try to wrap one's head around the government's strategy in terms of parliamentary time, never mind the broader hypocrisy with respect to its approach on foreign policy issues.
I would like to talk about some of the specific foreign policy initiatives that were taken under Stephen Harper's leadership because this should provide some examples to government members that they would do well to follow. I want to talk about our relations to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Sri Lanka, Russia, and then the United Nations and gender equality, then trade, and then a number of other issues.
First of all, with respect to Canada's relationship with Israel, I was certainly very proud of the work that was done under the previous government with respect to our relationship with Israel. We recognized the importance of that relationship, that it was a relationship based on shared values, that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and that Israel is a country that provides respect and provides rights to its minority. That does not mean that Canada never does or never could disagree with specific policies of the Israeli government. In fact, there are many Israelis who eagerly engage in debate about the direction of the government, and in its very dynamic proportional representation political culture there are a lot of differences of opinion even within the cabinet.
Supporting Israel does not mean we do not necessarily disagree with what the Government of Israel is doing, but it means that we have a commitment to the principle of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, not just the right of a country called Israel to exist but Israel's right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people. This idea is quite important, quite fundamental, and something that Stephen Harper in our previous government was very clear in terms of leading on. He gave a speech to the Knesset that was very powerful in terms of standing up for Israel.
I want to read a section of that speech. Stephen Harper said:
Let me repeat that: Canada supports Israel because it is right to do so.
This is a very Canadian trait, to do something for no reason other than it is right, even when no immediate reward for, or threat to, ourselves is evident.
On many occasions, Canadians have even gone so far as to bleed and die to defend the freedom of others in far-off lands.
To be clear, we have also periodically made terrible mistakes, as in the refusal of our government in the 1930s to ease the plight of Jewish refugees.
But, as a country, at the turning points of history, Canada has consistently chosen, often to our great cost, to stand with others who oppose injustice, and to confront the dark forces of the world.
It is, thus, a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is easy or popular.
It is, thus, a Canadian tradition to stand for what is principled and just, regardless of whether it is convenient or popular.
But, I would argue, support today for the Jewish State of Israel is more than a moral imperative.
It is also of strategic importance, also a matter of our own long-term interests.
Before I continue, because I want to read more from that speech, this a similar point rhetorically to what the minister made here. The minister talked about Canada standing up even in cases which do not directly inform our interests. Stephen Harper was speaking very specifically about that, about it being a Canadian trait to be willing to “bleed and die” in defence of freedom even when our interests are not immediately or obviously directly impacted.
The difference is that under the previous government, our words were backed up by actions. We were willing to step out and do the hard thing, challenge other countries, and stand up for fundamental human rights. We were willing to commit troops, for example, to the fight against Daesh, as opposed to the current government, which pulled back from that fight.
Therefore, there are some similarities in terms of the words being used, but there is dramatic dissonance in terms of the actual actions undertaken if we compare what is being done by the current government and the principled foreign policy of the previous government.
I have just a few more paragraphs from Stephen Harper's speech before the Knesset that I think are crucial here. He said:
Ladies and gentlemen, I said a moment ago, that the special friendship between Canada and Israel is rooted in shared values.
Indeed, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
Indeed, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which has long anchored itself in the ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
These are not mere notions.
They are the things that, over time and against all odds, have proven to be the only ground in which human rights, political stability, and economic prosperity, may flourish.
These values are not proprietary. They do not belong to one nation or one people.
This is an exposition of the reasons for Canada's relationship with Israel, but also more broadly the emphasis that we took when it came to protecting fundamental human rights, and recognizing as well that these are not just Canadian values, that these are universal human values. When the minister spoke, she spoke about not wanting Canada to dictate to the rest of the world on these issues, but we have to recognize that when Canada is seeking to advance not just narrowly Canadian values but values that speak to fundamental human rights, these are things that Canada should be confident in standing up for.
When it comes to Canada's relationship with Israel, we recognize that Israel is a special country in many ways, but it should not be specially singled out for criticism when there are so many other countries in the region and throughout the world who are not singled out, whose human rights situations are rarely mentioned. Uniquely, Israel is often singled out for criticism.
In one more section of his speech, the former prime minister said this before the Knesset:
I believe that a Palestinian state will come, and one thing that will make it come is when the regimes that bankroll terrorism realise that the path to peace is accommodation, not violence.
All of us in the House, I think, would strongly desire a two-state solution in the region and to see the emergence of a Palestinian state that was based on the same kinds of universal human values we all share, but that has to be based on a rejection of terrorism. That was the strong approach when it came to standing beside Israel and standing up for fundamental human rights, which we saw as a core part of the foreign policy of the previous Conservative government.
I am going to talk more about the current government's approach to Israel later on, but the big issue for me is its decision to restore funding to UNRWA. UNRWA is an organization providing education in the Palestinian territories, but one that is severely compromised when it comes to concerns about radicalization in terms of the content of that education. It is one thing for the government to talk about supporting Israel, and I think there are many members of the government who genuinely do. However, when it comes to taking a principled approach to how we spend Canadian tax dollars and how we stand by and up for our friends in the region, realistically we need to say that involves not being involved in funding or supporting education that is compromised when it comes to real concerns about radicalization.
Another point that is important to make about Israel is that, for those members who have not been to Israel, it is a pluralistic, multicultural democracy. People will see a very large number of Arab and Muslim Israelis who have all of the same rights that Jewish Israelis do. Israel is, yes, a homeland for the Jewish people; it is a Jewish state but it is also a state that fully respects the rights of minorities. Muslims as well as Christians as well as Baha'i, as well as a range of other smaller and less-known minority faith communities find they are most safe in Israel.
Israel is one of the only countries in the Middle East where Muslims have a right to vote. In many countries in the Middle East, nobody has a vote. It is important to point out that Israel, in terms of its protection of the rights of its Muslim citizens, is far ahead of many of the other countries in the region. For those who would want to cast this as an inevitable clash of religious identities, the reality is that Israel is a Jewish state but also a pluralistic one that respects fundamental rights.
That alignment of values, shared interests, commercial opportunities, and Israel's vitality when it comes to innovation are things that indicate that there are major continuing opportunities in that relationship. We have to continue to prod the government with respect to these issues, and we will. There are areas of agreement with respect to the relationship with Israel, but there are areas where it needs to do better, especially on the issue of UNRWA.
We can also talk about comments the last foreign minister made along the lines of using this “honest broker” language. The implication of being an honest broker is that we have to somehow stand right in the middle rather than being principled in our advocacy of our values. Being principled advocates of our values means that at certain points in time, we will take sides. We are not just going to sit on the sidelines and try to balance things out. We are going to say that this is right, this is wrong, and so on and so forth. A big part of the principled foreign policy of the last government was standing up for and with Israel.
Let me speak now about our relationship with Iran. We need to recognize that there is a clear threat to international peace and security presented by Iran. We need to judge Iran by its actions, not its words. I want to go through and talk specifically about some of the crimes of the Iranian regime. There is a threat to international peace and security, but there is also the issue of the fundamental human rights of the people of Iran.
Iran will have so-called elections, not really, later this year. This should be a reminder to us that President Rouhani has failed to deliver on promises of meaningful reform. The Iranian regime remains a disastrous human rights basket case and a menace to its neighbours and the people it is supposed to govern.
The regime executes hundreds of people every year, many of them for non-violent so-called crimes, such as drug-related offences, same-sex relations, and religious conversion. Iran continues to execute children. The United Nations has noted the use of electric shock therapy on LGBT children, and media have reported the flogging of minors who have protested the firing of other workers. I mentioned earlier how the Liberal government had eliminated a program the previous Conservative government had set up to help gay and lesbian refugees fleeing from Iran.
The justice system in Iran is not worthy of the name justice. Rights of defendants are restricted, and human rights groups allege the use of confessions obtained through torture. Certain kinds of criminals can only select lawyers from a pre-approved group. Selecting a lawyer in Iran can be a lot like selecting a president. Iran has elections, but candidates have to be approved by the Guardian Council, whose criteria are certainly anything but transparent.
We know that journalists and ordinary citizens alike continue to face severe restrictions on freedom of speech and can be arrested and charged for the opinions they express. Websites and social media platforms remain blocked or restricted. Independent unions continue to be targeted. Those who speak out about human rights issues are also persecuted by the regime.
Discrimination against women is rampant in all aspects of life. Women require the approval of a male guardian to get a passport, to travel, and to get married, regardless of age. Marriage for girls as young as 13 is permitted. According to the UN children's rights committee, sexual intercourse with girls as young as nine years old is not criminalized, and judges have the discretion to not punish perpetrators of so-called honour killings.
In terms of minorities, the government denies basic freedoms to the Bahá’i community, converts out of Islam, and Christians who meet in private homes, so-called house churches. Cultural activities as well as political activities are severely limited for the country's ethnic minorities.
It is quite jarring to meditate upon that list of crimes, and it is jarring every time we go over it. It is probably particularly jarring to anyone watching who has family members who are affected by these crimes. I have a few specific points about them. First, these crimes are abuses of the Iranian people. When we speak out about human rights in Iran, we are not doing that principally for a geostrategic reason but out of solidarity with the suffering people of Iran. Second, we recognize the rich cultural heritage the Persian civilization has given to the world. The clear reality of the simplistic brutality of this regime does not in any way represent this enlightened tradition. These are not Iranian values the regime is acting on. The government is, in fact, betraying its people and its cultural heritage, and Iranians are its primary victims. That is the necessary starting point when we talk about these violations of fundamental human rights in Iran.
The second point is that we can see a continuum between the regime's disregard for human dignity domestically and its foreign policy, a foreign policy that undermines the security of the entire region. I have often said in this place that a regime that is a menace to its own people is also necessarily a menace to international peace and security. This should highlight the failure of this government's appeasement policy toward various brutal regimes around the world. When nations are abusing the human rights of their own people, and they are not following international law with respect to the treatment of their own populations or minorities within their countries, they cannot be expected to follow international norms and laws either. They will not. If they are not following international law at home, they will not abroad.
We see this continuity between those two aspects of ignoring international law with respect to Iran. Iran's actions throughout the wider region are exactly the way we would expect a regime to act that treats its own people in the way I have described.
I have contended that we must seriously confront human rights abuses out of a moral concern for those who are impacted by those abuses but also because addressing human rights abuses clearly, forcefully, and constructively is also in our strategic interest. Failure to do so leaves in place those who are or will become a menace to the global order and its stability.
I want to move now from talking about Iran to talking about certain other countries through this same prism. The Iranian regime is like the North Korean and Putin regimes. Both are human rights abusers and geostrategic foes in that they oppose both our values and interests. In that sense, therefore, it should be easy to criticize them. The Liberal government often fails to do even that, but it should be relatively easy to do so.
How forceful can we be? I have raised the question in cases where a regime is a human rights abuser yet is also a potential geostrategic collaborator. I have spoken a little about Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the government's reluctance comes from the potential benefits of geostrategic collaboration with Saudi Arabia. That is a present example. I think history would give us many more examples. At the same time, if I were to go through a full litany of Saudi crimes, they would come close, perhaps, in certain respects, to Iranian crimes.
The other interesting thing about Saudi Arabia is that states like Saudi Arabia are, in a certain sense, schizophrenic. They can promote one type of policy direction with one arm of government while promoting another type of policy direction with another arm of government. States may be human rights abusers but also be led by people who are trying to, in the process, change the system. Taking a principled approach to foreign policy does not mean being unnuanced or disengaged.
At the pure strategic level, in broad strokes, I believe we are witnessing a period of dramatic transition in the Middle East, a period that started with the so-called Arab Spring. Conservative non-radical authoritarian states in the Middle East, of which Saudi Arabia is chief among them, had for too long pursued a policy of buying off radical elements, especially through support for so-called international education. These radical elements grew as a result, and the Arab Spring marked the proverbial chickens coming home to roost.
Initially, radicals allied themselves with liberals to overthrow authoritarian governments throughout the region. Some governments survived. In Egypt, after the revolution, liberals effectively re-allied themselves with authoritarians, leading to a successful counter-revolution. Other countries, like Libya and Syria, unfortunately remain in chaos.
The House of Saud, in light of all that has gone on, has still remained in place, but the Saudi monarchy must know, and I think does know by now, that it cannot keep appeasing and buying off radical fundamentalists who ultimately want to destroy it. Saudi Arabia must change, and we need to help it change, because if it does not, then not only will we have the continuation of all the human rights abuses associated with its authoritarian brand of government but we will also eventually see the chickens come home to roost there in a serious revolution in a country with Islam's holiest sites and the world's largest oil reserves.
Coming back to Iran, in some sense, Saudi Arabia's ability to confront radical Sunni elements is limited by its ongoing proxy conflicts with Iran. Iran is a post-revolutionary radical power, not a conservative authoritarian power. Unlike Saudi Arabia, which funds radical groups that it actually fears, Iran is behaving more rationally in terms of its narrowly defined self-interest. It is seeking to spread a Shia fundamentalist ideology, which it sees as ultimately strengthening its position. Saudi Arabia must change or collapse, but Iran will only change if it is forced to, and this is one of several critical differences we can distinguish here.
Unfortuntely, western policy in general has recently been failing to recognize the real threat of the Iranian regime to its own people and to global security. Negotiations to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions are important, but it is striking that a nuclear deal supported by virtually every country in the west is actually opposed by virtually every country in the Middle East not directly controlled by Iran. It is not just the Israelis who oppose the nuclear deal. The Saudis, the Emirates, and many others express concerns along similar lines.
The money Iran gained access to through the deal has now allowed it to step up its support for radical activity throughout the regime. We know well the direct involvement of Iran in continuing and perpetuating the terrible conflict in Syria.
In the midst of all I have described in terms of the situation with Iran, the threat it poses strategically, and its complete disregard for human rights, we have a government in this country that is eager to strengthen and deepen our relationship with Iran. What the government fails to recognize is that Iran is a post-revolutionary radical state, and as a result, it does not play at all by established rules. It attacks embassies, putting international diplomats at risk. It uses its own embassies to intimidate people in other countries, and we have seen examples of this happening in Canada. It is not the only country that does it, by the way, but certainly Iran is one of the countries that does it. Iran seeks to destabilize any state that has not adopted its program. Not unlike the old Soviet Union, Iran does not play by the same assumptions we do with respect to the international system.
When the Liberal government talks about opportunities for deepening the relationship with Iran, we should be very concerned. That does not accord with the commitment to fundamental international human rights, to international institutions, and to the rule of law the Liberal government is supposedly committed to. Again, there is a dramatic and unmistakable dissonance between what the government talks about with respect to these issues and what it is doing in virtually every case. With Iran, we can see clearly the working out of this policy of appeasement, a desire to pursue closer relations with Iran, in spite of the very real risks that come with it.
The previous minister of foreign affairs during his signature speech at the University of Ottawa talked about so-called responsible conviction. He highlighted the fact that movies had been made the last time Canada had an embassy in Tehran. Movies were made, but diplomats have repeatedly been put at risk.
We can have back-channel dialogue with countries like Iran, but we should not give them something for nothing. We should not send the message that everything is fine, when everything is not at all fine in any sense with regard to the actions of this regime.
I want to move on now to talk a little about Canada's relationship with the remaining Communist countries in the world, specifically China and Cuba.
Sometimes during question period we have referred to Communists and there have been chuckles from the government benches, as if the members think that is not really a thing anymore, that we are sort of stuck in a Cold War story that is no longer relevant.
The reality is that we have to take seriously the fundamental threats from the world's remaining Communist powers, the ways in which they perhaps have changed but also the ways in which they have not changed. We have to speak frankly about that. One of the things our government championed was recognizing the terrible crimes that happened by other Communist regimes, and proceeding with a memorial to victims of Communism.
Some objected to that proposal and said that maybe we should just have a memorial to victims of totalitarian communism, the bad kind of communism, without seeming to understand that all communism was, by its nature, totalitarian. That is the world view of communism. That is what it is in theory and in practice.
If we look at a country like China, we see the emergence of facially capitalist structures throughout the Chinese economy, but it is all undergirded by the continuing, sometimes unseen but still present, domination of the existing system, the substructure of Communist Party control. We need to be aware of that reality when we think about a commercial relationship.
With respect to our relationship with China, the opportunities but also the risks, this is something Stephen Harper understood very well. I want to quote from an interview he gave on this point. He said:
First of all, let’s be clear what the government’s objective is. These are not mixed signals, as you put it. They are carefully calibrated decisions with an objective in mind. Let me be absolutely clear: the objective is not to have the best possible relationship we can have with China in terms of getting along.
The policy of our government is not to go along to get along. And the more we get along, the better the relationship is.
Our policy is not just to get along as well as possible. Our policy is to have the best relationship that is in Canadians’ interests.
That means parts of this relationship that serve our interests, and frankly serve mutual interests between Canada and China, we are trying to develop. Whereas when we’re faced with issues that we think may be in the Chinese interest but frankly not in the interest of this country, we calibrate accordingly.
That is a very important point. Our goal in a relationship with China, frankly in a relationship with any state, should not be to have the warmest possible relationship. It should be to have the kind of relationship that, to the greatest extent, advances Canada's interests and values.
Now, for countries like Israel, about which I have spoken, where there is significant value alignment, probably the kind of relationship that best serves our interest will also be the kind of relationship that is as wafrm as possible. However, for a country like China, where there is a significant divergence of values and interests, then we will hold back a lot of the time and say that we do not want to proceed in that direction with the relationship. Proceeding in that direction might be in China's interests but it is not in Canada's interests.
This was the kind of careful measured calibration that we saw taking place under the previous Conservative government, which we have really lost under the Liberal government. It is eager, falling head over heels, into that Canada-China relationship. Whatever the Chinese government asks for, it seems as if the Liberals cannot say no, when it comes to discussions with the People's Republic of China. If it is extradition, sure, they will talk about it. If it is free trade, sure, they will talk about it. Obviously, that is a very concerning set up in the kinds of priorities they have. The government's priorities should be looking to advance Canada's interests. It should not be with respect to currying favour with people internationally who have their own interests, not Canada's interests, at heart.
With respect to Cuba, our government was very clear about understanding the major problems associated with human rights abuses and standing up forcefully in response to the things that were going on. I am quite proud of our record with respect to these issues.
Before I move on to my next point, I want to talk a bit about the situation around religious freedom in Tibet and the importance of the government on raising these issues.
I had the pleasure of serving as the vice-chair of the Canada-Tibet interparliamentary friendship group, of participating in the friends of Tibet internship program, having someone in my office involved in that program, who is doing a great job. This is on the demolition of Larung Gar.
In 2016, the Chinese government began the wide-scale demolition of Larung Gar, one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist centres in the world, with plans to downsize it by 50% and evict half of its 10,000-plus residents. The evictees were forced to sign a document pledging to neither return to the institute nor continue their practice in their home town.
In 2016, the Freedom House report ranked Tibet the second-worst in political and civil rights after Syria. Similarly, Amnesty International has reported on the increasing restrictions on Tibetan monastic institutes by the Chinese government. Despite the continuing repression, Tibetans and Tibet have been at the forefront of the Tibetans' movement to fight for their fundamental human rights.
In 2016, the European Parliament adopted an emergency resolution on Tibet, condemning the demolition of Larung Gar and calling for the resumption of dialogue with Tibetan representatives.
This past February, on the eve of the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, six independent UN experts expressed concern over China's systematic religious crackdown and the violation of international human rights. The U.S. congressional delegation to Dharamsala last month called for a rethink of policies to defend and promote human rights in Tibet.
Given the international condemnation of China's Tibet policies, Canada should also stand on the right side of history. As the Canadian government seeks to develop stronger ties with China, it should be consistent in doing it in the way that is consistent with our values, seeking to have China adopt the middle way approach. The middle way approach, for members who do not know, is advocated by the Tibetan community, by the Dalai Lama himself. It calls not for independence, but for genuine autonomy within the framework of the Chinese constitution.
The Canadian government has at different times called for dialogue, but it should go the next step and endorse the middle way approach, which is genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution. Certainly it is consistent with the principles of the self-determination of peoples that has established international law in which the government is supposed to believe.
When we think about the use of House time, the government could have chosen to bring forward a motion that dealt with something concrete and specific like a motion similar to the one passed by the European Parliament, specifically condemning the demolition of Larung Gar. Instead, though, the Liberals would rather talk in big generalities so they have an opportunity to pat themselves on the back without actually dealing with specific issues, such as this terrible demolition and some of the broader issues of human rights in Tibet.
It would be worthwhile, even outside of a motion of the House, if the made some specific statements about human rights in China, specific statements with regard to this demolition.
I wanted to ensure I got the Canada-China relationship on the record.
Another area where the previous government led with respect to principled foreign policy was in our approach to Sri Lanka. This is another clear example of how Stephen Harper was more focused on Canada's interests, on Canada's values than on going along to get along.
In 2013, Canada boycotted the Commonwealth summit happening in Sri Lanka. We did so specifically because we were very concerned about the human rights situation there, in particular about the situation affecting the Tamil community.
There are very legitimate and concerning reports about the conduct of the Sri Lankan government in the civil war with respect to the use of torture and the impact on civilians. Therefore, Canada had continued, under Stephen Harper, to put significant pressure, which included the boycotting of the 2013 Colombo summit. I was very proud of the leadership that our government showed on that. However, we have not seen similar leadership or action with respect to justice in Sri Lanka from the current government, in spite of its promise to do so. I will talk more on its response to Sri Lanka later on. However, the leadership we saw from the last government on that issue was certainly very clear, something all Canadians should celebrate.
One of the areas where Canada was able to be a very strong leader toward the end of our 10 years in government was with respect to Russian aggression in eastern Europe. Canada was very clear and forceful on this issue. This was an opportunity that Canada had, given our membership as part of international bodies and institutions, to put these issues forward and to effectively advance them.
As a member of the G7, Canada finds itself in a somewhat different position relative to the United States and our European partners. Perhaps because of the superpower relationship between the United States and Russia, there are certain things the United States has always been less inclined to say. There are certain things that our European partners are perhaps less inclined to say because of commercial relationships.
Canada, without being a superpower and without having the same kind of commercial ties, was able to act as a conscience at the G7. We were able to lead specifically and forcefully on the importance of isolating Vladimir Putin, on defending Ukraine, on standing up for international borders and fundamental human rights. Stephen Harper repeatedly spoke forcefully on those issues, and it had an impact. He was able to build and lead a consensus of the G7 on those issues.
I remember people asking me if it made a difference talking about or engaging in that conversation. It made a significant difference because he and Canada were able to ramp-up that public pressure. We were able to introduce sanctions, yes, but lead our partners on imposing strong sanctions against the Putin regime, sanctions which the regime has felt.
At the same time, we were providing important military aid and other kinds of support to Ukraine. This combined action of the western alliance helped to tip the balance. It helped to allow Ukraine to respond more effectively over time to the threat associated with the Russian aggression. This was Canada being principled, appropriately understanding its role, and understanding its capacity to raise issues in a particular way because of our situation, because of the membership we had in various groups.
I was in Ukraine last August for the 25th anniversary of the founding of Ukraine. This is obviously an exciting moment for Canada. It is our 150th birthday, but none of us were here 150 years ago, so it is not as imminent to us. It is a point of remembering something that happened historically. However, the spirit was so powerful around the 25th anniversary celebrations in Ukraine, a country marking 25 years of independence, noting a very painful history prior to that, which involved repression and occupation in so many different ways. This was the kind of leadership Ukraine was able to show through those 25 years, and the changes that happened.
I had the chance to observe a military parade. There is such a great deal of pride in how over the last two years, since the start of the war, which was effectively a Russian invasion, Ukraine has been able to significantly increase its capacity to respond. That is in no small part a result of the relationship that Canada has had with Ukraine, and the steadfast support it has given to this important ally.
It was also on the occasion of the 25th anniversary that Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney were awarded the Ukraine Order of Liberty, recognizing the fact that Stephen Harper was prepared to stand up to Vladimir Putin.
I think members will remember how, during the election, the said that he would stand up to Putin as well. Then, afterwards, he said he did not really think that was necessary. Stephen Harper's leadership in confronting Putin was critical.
That is an example of Canadian leadership, principled leadership, with respect to our response to the situation in Russia and Eastern Europe.
What about our approach to the United Nations?
Here is the issue when it comes to the United Nations. Our previous Conservative government always prioritized the values that the United Nations is supposed to embody over the politics of UN committees. We put the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the forefront of our approach to international politics. We sought to advance the protection of fundamental human rights—all of these rights that are not well protected throughout the world, quite frankly. We have a situation in which many of the countries voting on UN resolutions, many of the countries that are represented on bodies that are supposed to be all about advancing human rights, are actually not countries that appear to take seriously their obligations under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is important that we get this right. A principled foreign policy, with respect to the United Nations, focuses on those values. It certainly also recognizes that the United Nations is an important forum. It is an opportunity for us to raise issues, for us to refer to the founding documents and ask why certain things not happening that should be, given the direction given by those founding documents. However, we do not regard specific UN committees as sort of the final arbiters of truth.
The previous government sought a position on the UN Security Council. I will be the first one to say it would have been great if we had been elected to the UN Security Council. However, we were not willing, ultimately, to pay the price that would have been necessary to get there. The present government's approach is to make all kinds of unacceptable compromises in the pursuit of that objective, in the pursuit of trying to get on the Security Council. However, our approach was to refuse those unacceptable compromises, recognizing that there are honourable compromises but dishonourable compromises as well. We were not willing to compromise our support for freedom, democracy, human dignity, rule of law, and justice. We were not willing to compromise those things just to get on the Security Council. We were not willing to dial back our criticism of the worst violators of human rights just in order to get approval in the councils of the world.
The government's approach is just fundamentally utilitarian. It says we can ignore human rights, we cannot talk about human rights, but then, maybe in a few years, we will be on the Security Council and maybe then we'll talk about human rights.
The fact is that, if we are not saying anything then, by that time there will be something else to pursue and, again, the government is not going to change its direction at that point. I think we know that. Even still, it is not worth the prize. I believe that, yes, as the minister discussed, Canada is an essential country. The world needs Canadian leadership on human rights right now. That is not something on which we should be willing to compromise.
Canada showed real leadership, under the previous government, on the issue of promoting gender equality around the world. Canada worked hard to combat early and forced marriage, which is something we spoke about, we pushed back on, and we made strong and forceful points. This was not uncontroversial. There were some countries that did not want us talking about the issue of early and forced marriage because they felt it was putting them in a bad light. However, it was an important issue for us to talk about.
Our former interim leader for the opposition was a strong leader on the international stage, getting the United Nations to recognize International Day of the Girl Child and bring more attention to the range of issues that affect girls: issues like early and forced marriage but also sex selection, feticide, the lack of access to education, and how poverty and different kinds of health challenges disproportionately affect girls. These were issues that our former government led on, and we were able to drive a consensus that brought more attention to these issues.
When we talked about fundamental human rights and about the rights of women, our focus was always on women and girls who were on the ground, who were suffering around the world, and who had real needs to which we could respond. It was not about just emphasizing symbolic moves in high places. This is not to say that those things cannot be important, but what really matters is the impact that the advocacy we did had on the ground and the difference that we were able to make. This will be a big part of the political legacy of the member for . That was a core part of our emphasis.
The other area where we can look at the principled approach of our previous Conservative government was the emphasis we put on a principled approach to trade policy. We clearly had a robust, strong, active trade agenda. We pursued trade forcefully in all different avenues. Through trade negotiations, we were able to sign trade deals with the trans-Pacific partnership area group of countries and with the European Union. Had all of those agreements gone through, Canada would have had free trade with countries representing over 60% of the world's GDP. That would have given us an incredible trade advantage in terms of being a nation with strong trade links in North America, in Europe, and in the Asia-Pacific, emphasizing those trade links with like-minded countries.
Why was it important and why was it principled for Canada, under Stephen Harper, to pursue those kinds of important trade partnerships? There was the issue of the basic economic benefits of trade, that when we have freedom of exchange—people have the ability to voluntarily exchange goods among themselves—this is in everybody's interest because people can have the freedom to make mutually beneficial exchanges, and countries can specialize in areas of their comparative advantage. Free trade raises everybody's standard of living, and we know well the benefits of that. We know well the economic benefits that have accrued to Canada as a result of, for example, our membership in NAFTA.
However, free trade also is consistent with our belief in the value of an open society. It is curious to me that there are some members in this House, including members of the government, who seem to believe in the idea of an open society and yet are skeptical about the idea of an open economy. What better expression of the fact that people from different kinds of backgrounds and different kinds of countries can live together and work together than commercial relationships? Commercial relationships can facilitate understanding and indeed be part of what informs and helps build toward global peace.
Also, the previous Conservative government had a trade policy that really highlighted our interests, and it did so by seeking strategic partnerships with like-minded countries, like-minded democracies. The point needs to be made that the current government, in seeking a bilateral trade deal with China, will have a very hard time in the context of those negotiations, China being a much larger economy. It is not clear the Liberals wanted to, but even if they did, they would have a much harder time standing up for Canada's interests in the context of those negotiations. The alternative that we pursued was forming partnerships with like-minded countries as part of these broader partnerships like the TPP, and we need to continue to seek broader partnerships with other countries in a way that reflects our principles and our values.
I want to talk a bit about the principled approach that the previous government took when it came to LGBT issues, and this is perhaps something that is one of the less-known successes of that government, but it is a reality.
I want to draw the attention of members to an article in The Globe and Mail on November 29, 2009. The headline reads “Harper lobbies Uganda on anti-gay bill”, and it states:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has privately lobbied Uganda's president on the sidelines of a Commonwealth leaders' summit to jettison a proposed law that would imprison homosexuals for life in the African country.
“I did raise it directly with the president of Uganda and indicated Canada's deep concern and strong opposition,” Mr. Harper announced at the conclusion of the 53-country meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad.
“We deplore these kinds of measures. We find them inconsistent with frankly I think any reasonable understanding of human rights,” the prime minister said.
“I was very clear on that with the president of Uganda.”
Not all leaders at the summit were so forceful. Patrick Manning, Trinidad and Tobago's president, declined comment, saying Uganda's planned law was an internal matter.
These are examples that Stephen Harper spoke clearly and was willing to directly lobby the leader of another country. This is something that I have asked the Liberal government to do. He was willing to lobby directly and speak publicly about the fact that the lobbying had taken place. Of course, the parliamentary secretary is trying to make a point across the floor that this was a private conversation. The former prime minister had a private conversation with the president of Uganda and then spoke publicly on the record about the fact that the conversation had taken place.
When I ask the to actually raise issues of fundamental human rights with world leaders, I am not expecting him to necessarily include the media on the conference call, but he should still make the calls and then talk about the fact that he has made the calls, to help raise the pressure. The Conservative government raised these issues because we believe in protecting the fundamental human dignity of all people, and that includes standing up for religious minorities as well as the issues that I mentioned.
There is a follow-up story in Maclean's, which states:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper...is being hailed as a gay rights hero—in Uganda. “He’s a human rights activist,” said Brown Kiyimba. “Harper is a liberal guy,”—
I do not know about that, but maybe in that sense.
—added Emmanueil Turinawe. Both men are from Uganda’s gay community, which is under siege thanks to a bill that calls for life sentences for gays....
The article describes the context and notes that Harper's criticism has provoked a response from the government in Uganda. Further on in the article, it states, “For the first time, Museveni talked of the need for 'extreme caution' about the bill because it had become a foreign affairs issue.” In other words, the president of Uganda recognized that this had become an issue in his country's foreign affairs and, therefore, was responding to the pressure from Canada. It did not damage the relationship between Canada and Uganda. It was an example of Canada being willing to speak in a way that reflects our fundamental values.
This shows what can happen when Canada is simply willing to step up and actually talk about international human rights. This was the principled foreign policy approach of the previous government and it is one that, unfortunately, has not been carried on under the Liberal government. It is not discussing issues happening with respect to the LGBTQ community internationally. It has made statements for a domestic audience here, but we know nothing about direct advocacy that is happening. Liberals certainly have not been willing to talk about it. Again, I mention the cancelling of the refugee program for people coming from Iran.
Members will know that I have spoken before about the issues around religious freedom. I know I have somewhat limited time, so I will not go into the issues of religious freedom in depth, because I have put those statements on the record many times before. The previous government created an office of religious freedom, which had a small $5 million budget and was very effective in bringing about real change by funding programs on the ground that were building communal harmony. The office also brought greater public attention and awareness to issues of religious freedom around the world and helped to inform the whole Department of Foreign Affairs on these issues. It was a very effective model and yet one that, unfortunately, the Liberal government got rid of.
To sum up my comments on the foreign policy approach of the previous government, it is important to dig a little into the philosophy of what actually constitutes a principled foreign policy. In the summer, I published a book that was for the most part a collection of speeches I had given on foreign policy issues and I called it The Fight for a Principled Foreign Policy. The introduction is an exposition of the philosophy behind a principled foreign policy.
It says that in politics, whether it is a student union, where I started, or at the United Nations, to which I now pay considerable attention, there is always some balancing of principle and pragmatism. Almost no one seriously suggests that it is possible or desirable to be completely uncompromised. The precise way in which principle and practicality are balanced then is at the heart of many of our political conversations.
For some in public life all decisions are shaped by interests. Those interests could be personal such as one's own career advancement. They could be political such as the election of one's party. They could be class or group-based such as elevation of the relative condition of the poor or the preservation of privilege for a particular social or ethnic group. They could be national such as the elevation of Canada to the Security Council.
For those who think in an interest-based way, principles play a secondary role. As the example suggests interests are not necessarily good or bad. They can be selfish or noble and their realization can be socially desirable or undesirable.
In any event, the interest-based perspective would emphasize that interests are the only relevant considerations. Those whose politics have been shaped by a focus on interests, especially in the context of foreign policy, are many and are well celebrated, from Machiavelli to Kissinger and beyond. Nobody expressed this elevation of interests over principles better than Kissinger, who once told a congressional committee, “Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.”
The people shaping Canada's current foreign policy do not quite have the cut of a Machiavelli or a Kissinger, yet the significance of what is happening here should not be underestimated. The Liberal government knows what it wants and it is pursuing clearly stated foreign policy objectives. Their foreign policy doctoring recasts Canada's engagement with the world in interest-based terms instead of in principle-based terms.
There is an alternative to the politics of unmoored interests. It is the politics of principle. For me, the politics of principle rests on two interrelated ideas. The first is that there are certain things that have intrinsic value and that those things must be defended come hell or high water. Intrinsic value in this sense means value that is not dependent on anyone's interests for protection. Intrinsic value is not given as an act of someone's will and it is not the result of circumstance. Intrinsic value is the sense that particular kinds of value are embedded in the very nature of a thing.
For example, we say that a person has intrinsic value, meaning that a person is not valued simply based on their usefulness, their experiences, or their social circle, but rather based on the fact that they are a human being. The belief in the intrinsic value of people and of certain principles can have many different intellectual origins. It is not the exclusive domain of any particular political or moral philosophy or of any part of the political spectrum.
Historically, a principle-based concept of intrinsic value has been the basis of almost every claim about human rights. Human rights are rights that accord uniquely to humans on the basis of who and what we are, creatures with a certain inherent worth and dignity. History's great human rights defenders have understood that while compromises may be made in the pursuit of ends that are of intrinsic value, intrinsic values themselves must never be compromised or denied.
Second, the politics of principle holds that our interests individually, politically, factually, and nationally, are in the final analysis, best advanced by sticking to our principles. In the short term, principles can often seem to get in the way of achieving one's objectives; however, in the long run, there is not much sense in sacrificing principles in order to advance one's interests. Doing so is almost always counterproductive.
Principles may come from a sense of intrinsic value, but they are also useful tools of self-preservation. The identification and public defence of principles as well as consistent adherence to those principles increases the likelihood that others will adopt them and treat the proponent of them in the same way. Those who behave solely according to their interests implicitly invite others to do the same. We are all safer in a world where others treat us individually, politically, and nationally in a principled way.
This point is well illustrated in a dialogue in A Man for All Seasons, in which Thomas More tells his son-in-law:
This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast—Man's laws, not God's—and if you cut them down—and you're just the man to do it—d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
Regardless of where they come from, our common principles of conduct generally leave us better off. The politics of principle fundamentally contend that adherence to principle is both intrinsically right and practically useful.
Coming out of that statement, which I put in the introduction to my book, principles, politic, and foreign policy is not about taking a particular side in a conflict. It is not about rejecting pragmatism. It is about defining one's principles and then working from them in a way that refuses to compromise on those fundamental principles.
One cannot be genuinely pragmatic without being principled. Pragmatism, properly understood, is principle in action. Pragmatism is trying to advance a principled objective in a way that recognizes and accords with the realities of the world in which we find ourselves. In other words, if one is trying to be pragmatic without having principles, then one will not have any sense in terms of the direction one is trying move pragmatically. It is not even properly coherent to speak of pragmatism independent of fundamental principles.
Our approach is distinct from the government's approach, from what it wants to prioritize in terms of foreign policy. Notwithstanding the fact that we have a different , the previous Liberal minister articulated what the government's approach to this was in a speech he gave at the University of Ottawa, where he talked about his approach to these issues.
He said the following:
The guiding principle that I will follow in fulfilling this mandate is something I call responsible conviction. Let me explain what I mean by that.
I refer you to the traditional distinction that Max Weber made between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility. Weber contrasted behaviour that remains true to one’s convictions, regardless of what happens (ethics of conviction), and behaviour that takes the consequences of one’s actions into consideration (ethics of responsibility). In isolation, the ethics of conviction of course lead to pure action, defending a principle or a cause, while ignoring the consequences. Pacifists who recommend unilateral disarmament in the face of the enemy are inspired by the ethics of conviction: they advocate non-violence at all times.
He goes on later in the speech to say:
Canadian foreign policy has lacked responsible conviction in recent years. It must be principled, but less dogmatic and more focused on delivering results. Responsible conviction must not be confused with some sort of moral relativism. Since the classic concept of the honest broker is now too often confused with moral relativism or the lack of strong convictions, I prefer to say that Canada must be a fair-minded and determined peace builder.
Unlike the current , the previous foreign affairs minister was at least willing to frankly look in the eye of what he was doing, which was a policy of appeasement. We see the consequences of this de-emphasis on principle. What he called being less dogmatic actually meant being willing to compromise. The previous foreign affairs minister gave every signal that the government would not be supporting Magnitsky sanctions. Fortunately, the government reversed itself on that point.
Whether it is China, Burma, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, the treatment of Christians, the way in which we engage with the Middle East around genocide recognition, our relationship with Russia and Ukraine, or any number of these human rights issues, it has been clear throughout the last 18 months that the Liberal government has been willing to sacrifice on fundamental issues of principle in order to achieve what it believes is its objectives.
I am calling on the government today to measure up to the words that were spoken during the minister's speech, to turn those things into concrete action, and not to make it all about its desire to curry favour in international institutions. Rather, for it to act in a way that accords with the values that Canada believes in: fundamental human rights, justice, the rule of law, and a belief in universal human dignity.
Canada must not be shy in standing up for these values. Canada must be confident and fearless in our advocacy for fundamental human rights.
The started this debate by asking, “Is Canada an essential country?” The answer is absolutely, yes, Canada is an essential country. Our values are essential, and they are not just Canadian values. They are universal human values embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
I am proud to be part of a party that consistently put universal human rights and a broader understanding of universal human rights, rooted in a belief in universal human dignity, at the centre of its foreign policy, that was willing to be controversial and to disagree, and was willing to stand up for our convictions, regardless of the consequences, also recognizing that being true to who we are and standing up for our convictions, would advance our interests. That is exactly what I think Canadians expect of us. It is to consistently only carry on in a way that reflects our fundamental values.
It is important in the time I have left to highlight some of the failures of the government when it comes to the issue of religious freedom, because there is a real dissonance between what it has said on the issue of fundamental human rights and the issue of religious freedom. When we had the previous Office of Religious Freedom in place, here is what members of the government had to say about it.
I know the has been following this debate with great interest. At the time, when the Office of Religious Freedom was in place, he said:
As a part of broader efforts to cultivate long-term stability, tolerance, and respect for human rights, including freedom of religion or belief, Global Affairs Canada, through the Office of Religious Freedom, is supporting two projects in Ukraine to promote interfaith dialogue and to strengthen the capacity of local authorities to respond to hate crimes.
As the hon. member is aware, the Office of Religious Freedom has advocated on behalf of religious communities under threat, opposed religious hatred and intolerance, and promoted pluralism and respect for diversity abroad.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs has already stated repeatedly, we are grateful for Dr. Andrew Bennett's service as the head of the Office of Religious Freedom and for his ingenuity, sensitivity, and competency over the past three years.
We clearly see the government talking about the benefits of the Office of Religious Freedom, yet showing a complete lack of willingness to support it. In fact, it decided to do away with the Office of Religious Freedom. It said it would leave in place the contact group, the advisory committee, yet I am not even sure if that advisory committee has met once since the office was done away with.
We heard the government talk about new programming with respect to communal harmony, yet I asked the minister during committee of the whole what was going on with that and she was not able to talk at all, in any specific terms, about programs they were actually doing.
We see clearly the failure of the government's foreign policy to measure up to the lofty words we hear some of the time from the government. I call on government members to reject the politics of appeasement and instead stand up for Canadian values and fundamental human rights around the world.
At this point, I would like to move that the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
the House recognizes that the government's foreign policy should have acknowledged the genocide committed against Yazidis and Assyrian Christians, including women and girls; refrain from attempting to reopen and normalize relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a Canadian-listed state sponsor of terror as well as normalizing relations with Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation when it is illegally occupying Crimea and Ukraine; reopen immigration programs targeted towards vulnerable minorities; and reopen the Office of Religious Freedom.