|| That: (a) the House recognize that (i) Canadian arms exports have nearly doubled over the past decade, and that Canada is now the second-largest exporter of arms to the Middle East, (ii) Canadians expect a high standard from their government when it comes to protecting human rights abroad, (iii) Canadians are concerned by arms sales to countries with a record of human rights abuses, including Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Sudan, (iv) there is a need for Canadians, through Parliament, to oversee current and future arms sales; (b) Standing Order 104(2) be amended by adding after clause (b) the following: “(c) Arms Exports Review”; (c) Standing Order 108(3) be amended by adding the following: “(i) Arms Exports Review shall include, among other matters, the review of and report on (i) Canada’s arms export permits regime, (ii) proposed international arms sales, (iii) annual government reports regarding arms sales, (iv) the use of these weapons abroad, (v) all matters and broader trends regarding Canada’s current and future arms exports.”; (d) the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs prepare and report to the House within five sitting days of the adoption of this Order a list of Members to compose the new standing committee created by this Order; and (e) that the Clerk be authorized to make any required editorial and consequential amendments to the Standing Orders.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise here this morning and move this motion to create an all-party committee to review arms exports.
Why is a new committee needed? First of all, because arms exports are a very complex issue involving trade, defence, foreign affairs, human rights, and industry, and yet this very complex issue does not fall under the purview of any existing committee. None of our parliamentary committees is mandated to examine this matter or carefully review it.
We recommend that this be a permanent committee and that it conduct more than just one study that collects dust on a shelf somewhere and is forgotten. There are definitely more than enough topics for just one study.
For instance, this committee could examine why the Liberal government approved a major sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, completely ignoring our current regulations. Canada claims to be a champion of human rights and presents itself as such, and yet it is selling arms to Saudi Arabia without following its own procedures.
Let us not forget that Canada has rules and a policy banning the sale of arms to a country that abuses human rights unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that they can be used against the civilian population.
The assessment that was made before the current allowed these exports showed that the issue had not been properly addressed. The committee could also do a review of STREIT Group, which sells arms to Sudan and Libya, often in violation of sanctions and embargoes. There seems to be no mechanism in place at this time to deal with that type of situation. Worse yet, it seems that Foreign Affairs gave that same company untendered contracts for armoured trucks, among other things.
I would also like to know whether the minister did indeed issue permits for the export of arms to Thailand, which is under the yoke of a military regime.
The latest annual report on Canada's arms sales indicate that our current standards are being watered down. They were likely not high enough in the first place, and this lowers them even more, weakening the human rights assessments for arms sales.
There are already a number of issues, but there is more. As mentioned in the motion, Canadian arms exports have more than doubled over the past decade, and we are now the second-largest exporter of arms to the Middle East, where some countries have very worrisome human rights records.
Furthermore, arms sales to China, which is not really a democracy, are on the rise. The admires the Chinese government, but we cannot really say that it is a democracy. Algeria and other countries are also problematic.
We have some major questions. Are there loopholes in our regulations and practices? How are our regulations enforced? Other countries are asking different questions. For example, what are arms? In a totalitarian regime, are surveillance devices considered arms?
Here is another important element. Arms sales have increased significantly and they are not going to stop tomorrow. We should institute continuous monitoring to determine, for example, who Canada is selling arms to; what it is selling; and why, how, and under what conditions it is doing so.
According to surveys, Canadians are very concerned about these issues. Canadians want answers. They are entitled to the transparency and openness that the Liberal government promised them. For that reason, creating a committee would be a step in the right direction.
Yes indeed, Canadians are preoccupied, and Canadians want to know where and to whom Canada sells arms. Of course, there is the famous Saudi arms deal, given the green light by the Liberals, and we know that Saudi Arabia is really not a model in terms of human rights. We have reason to believe that arms sold by Canada to Saudi Arabia have been used in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is being accused of war crimes in the UN report.
Further, in that specific case, the process was obviously not followed. According to current regulations and procedures, arms cannot be sold to a country that abuses human rights unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that they can be used against the civilian population. I do not think that the government did its homework on that; and it needs to do its homework.
There is so much more. There is the Streit Group that is selling arms to Libya and Sudan despite embargoes. There is the fact that Canada has become the second most important exporter of arms in the Middle East. There is the toning down of having to take the human rights situation into account when issuing export permits, which we have seen in the latest annual report. There are so many issues relating to the sale and export of arms.
Canadians want to know. Canadians are worried not only about this but about the overall issue of arms sales. This is why we need a permanent committee that would be able to look at past and future deals and also at larger trends, options, rules and regulations, and how they are applied.
A multi-party House committee could examine any number of questions related to arms exports, just as the UK committee is doing right now, and it could look at where, to whom, how much, and what kind of arms we are exporting. It could identify loopholes in our existing legislation and also loopholes in our regulations and our practices, because what we have seen recently is that, even when we have regulations, they are not always properly followed.
There is no existing committee that can deal with these issues on an ongoing basis. This issue involves defence, trade, foreign affairs, development, human rights, and industry. We need a specific committee that would be able to look at the whole issue. No existing committee has the depth and the mandate to study this whole issue, and none have the space to be monitoring arms sales on an ongoing basis. I said before that in the last 10 years our arms exports have nearly doubled. If this keeps on, we will need to look at it constantly, not as a one-off study, which is certainly not sufficient. It needs to be comprehensive and bring everybody to the table.
The Liberal government has promised to be open and transparent. This is an opportunity to be open and transparent on an issue about which Canadians care.
Canada is poised to return to the international stage and, by working together, we can show that we can act responsibly and with transparency in arms sales, global security, and the protection of human rights.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to proudly support our party's opposition day motion to create a House committee to provide parliamentary oversight of arms exports. This is a long-pressing issue that has become increasingly urgent, given the utter lack of transparency of our government's current system, as well as the increasing number of disturbing allegations that Canadian weapons are being used to commit human rights violations in countries where we have no business selling weapons, like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, China, and South Sudan.
Part of my duties as an NDP MP is my engagement in and monitoring of the international human rights file. Therefore, I would like to speak to our motion from the perspective of human rights, which is, I believe, the most important perspective. I know this perspective is something that many members would not argue with, and I know I am not alone in believing that human rights takes ultimate priority, as demonstrated by the throngs of people here in Ottawa today participating in the One Young World summit. That is extremely affirming for someone like me, who wants to go forward and not be cynical about how we embrace and advance transparency and accountability on something that directly impacts human rights.
The main reason we are debating a motion like this in the House is the outcry about Canada's decision to green-light the sale of $15 billion's worth of weaponized vehicles to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a country that, as many know, is one of the most brutal and despotic regimes on the planet, on par with North Korea.
Distressingly, Canada is now the second-largest arms dealer in the Middle East, after the United States, as my hon. colleague noted and Jane's, the defence industry publication, reinforces, Moreover, reports have emerged this year that Canadian-made tactical equipment was used by Saudi forces in raids against dissidents. Military gear, stamped “Made in Canada” was found “at the scene of a deadly raid against Shia civilians in the Qatif region of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province”, according to Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares.
Unfortunately, the situation is not just limited to the Saudis. Canada's government will not even confirm whether the issued an export permit for military sales to Thailand earlier this year, a country ruled by a military dictatorship. Just yesterday, Amnesty International had to cancel the public launch of a report on torture in Thailand after police in Bangkok warned the rights group that its representatives might be arrested and prosecuted for visa violations. Let us just think about that.
Activists are alleging that the Saudis sent Canadian-made vehicles into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell a democratic uprising. Canadian-made weapons have also made their way into South Sudan during a period in which grave human rights abuses have been committed. High-level reports from the United Nations and Human Rights Watch are sounding the alarm, including to our own Subcommittee on International Human Rights.
According to Global Affairs Canada statistics, Canadian arms sales to China, a country with a notorious human rights record, soared to the tune of $48 million in 2015. As is often pointed out in House, including as recently as this morning by the member for , we have a troubling situation in China. In China, there is no freedom of speech or freedom of conscience. Human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists are routinely arrested, subject to arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, politicized prosecution, and torture by authorities in response to their work. This is according to Human Rights Watch. Yet, for all this, China takes a back seat to Saudi Arabia in terms of human rights violations.
I would like to give a brief rundown on the appalling human rights record in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I use the word “brief”, as I could easily spend the remainder of my day cataloguing the endless horrors that constitute this regime's human rights record.
In January of this year, Saudi Arabia carried out a mass execution of 47 imprisoned civilians convicted of terrorism in 12 different provinces in the country. Forty-three were beheaded, and four were executed by firing squads. Under Saudi Arabia's reading of Islamic law, such attacks are interpreted as banditry and carry automatic sentences of death followed by public displays of the bodies.
Freedom of speech does not exist in Saudi Arabia, nor is there freedom of press. Authorities will arrest, prosecute, and imprison government critics, including bloggers and other online commentators; political activists; members of the Shia minority; human rights activists and defenders, including women's rights defenders. This is something that has been noted by the respected Amnesty International.
Reports of people being tortured while imprisoned are common. Routine punishments include public lashings, with prisoners being sentenced to upwards of 1,000 lashes. Prominent blogger, Raif Badawi, for instance, was sentenced to 1,000 lashes last year, with of 50 these being administered this last January.
Blogger and human rights activist, Mikhlif al-Shammari, was sentenced by a special criminal court to two years in prison, as well as 200 lashes. He has been arrested several times in recent years for his work on democratic reform and human rights within the kingdom. One of the crimes he was charged with was tweeting his intention to pray in a Shia mosque.
Worse still, Saudi Arabia is one of the most notoriously misogynist countries in the world. Women are not allowed to drive. They cannot open a bank account or get a passport, among other things, without written consent from a male family member. They are not allowed to walk down the street in broad daylight without being accompanied by a male relative or guardian, not to mention the fact that domestic violence is on the rise. While there are laws prohibiting spousal abuse, they are not enforced.
I mentioned earlier the prominent Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, a uniquely courageous man by any standard, who received a public flogging of 50 lashes in Jeddah this past January. This flogging was the first instalment of his sentence of 1,000 lashes. Members might ask what his crime was. It was criticizing prominent religious leaders on his blog.
Earlier this year, Mr. Badawi's sister, Samar, was also arrested and interrogated before being released. I have met Mr. Badawi's wife, the formidable Ensaf Haidar, and their children, who have been granted asylum in Canada. It distresses me to think of how Ms. Haidar must feel about the Canadian government's support for the $15-billion deal to sell weaponized vehicles to that country. What a distressing, ironic, and discouraging situation it is for her, and a thousand other people just like her who know from firsthand experience what it is like. After all, the has stated publicly that he will not intervene on behalf of her husband with his counterparts in Saudi Arabia, while at the same time, he has personally intervened and expended a good deal of political capital in making sure that the $15-billion deal goes through.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia's crimes extend beyond its border. The country is without doubt guilty of war crimes in Yemen, where it has been spearheading a coalition of nine Arab states attempting to affect the outcome of the country's civil war, according to the American journal, Foreign Affairs.
The UN Human Rights Council is set this week to discuss a Dutch resolution calling for an impartial monitoring body to travel to Yemen to collect evidence of human rights abuses there. Since peace talks were suspended in August, the UN has reported a sharp increase in civilian deaths.
I cannot believe I am asking this, but honestly, is this the sort of situation in which Canada should be involved, either directly or indirectly? I will answer my own question. No, emphatically, it is not. Let us have the confidence to assert our sovereign identity.
Human rights are not optional. Governments, like individuals, are defined not by their words or intentions, but by their actions. I therefore hope that in the matter of Canadian arms sales abroad, and indeed across our country's approach to international relations more broadly, that our reality soon becomes more closely attuned to the rhetoric—
Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to rise today to discuss this very important topic. We are pleased to see that members of the House are determined to work on maintaining high standards when it comes to peace, security, and human rights.
While we welcome the member's concerns for human rights, transparent processes, and strong arms controls, we are disappointed by the disregard for tens of thousands of Canadians' livelihoods. Our defence industry directly employs 70,000 Canadians. Their jobs are well paying, and many of them are union jobs that support families across our nation. Workers in the defence industry work hard to create products that help families and protect Canadians and our allies.
The disregard that the NDP holds for fellow Canadians is clear in the opening of its motion, which states, “Canadian arms exports have nearly doubled over the past decade”. Is keeping our forces safe, providing our allies with equipment they need to operate effectively, and serving as a source of innovation and support for aviation, communications, and transportation not important to the member opposite? Is the defence industry really something we wish to cut back on?
For many years, the New Democrats have consistently attacked the Canadian defence industry. The only time they broke from their attacks was during the last election, in an effort to hold onto a seat in London. In October 2015, when asked if he would cancel the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, the leader of the NDP declared, “You don't cancel a commercial accord retroactively, it's just not done”. He was not alone. Even the hon. member for stated that it was a signed contract and they would honour the contract. Now that the election is over, the NDP has once more chosen to abandon the defence industry and to abandon the hard-working families it supports.
We recognize that the export of arms requires rigorous oversight and regulation, and we are aiming high. The nature of the products requires that sales be strictly controlled, but this does not mean that the industry should be shut down.
As I have said in the House on previous occasions, Canada's export controls are among the best in the world. Canada controls the export of not only military goods but also dual-use goods and technology, nuclear goods and technology, goods and technology pertaining to missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, and any goods and technology that could be used to create chemical or biological weapons. All applications for permits to export controlled goods or technology are carefully reviewed against the full range of Canada's defence and foreign policy interests. The purpose of this review is to ensure that exports from Canada do not cause harm to Canada or our allies, do not undermine national or international security, do not contribute to regional conflicts or instability, do not contribute to the development of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery, are not used to commit violations of human rights, and are consistent with economic sanctions.
We are very encouraged that members of the House share our government's keen interest in maintaining high standards for peace, security, and human rights. I note that while the export control system has served Canada well, there is always room for improvement and the government's commitment to enhancing the rigour and transparency of the process is under way. We are pursuing many parallel paths to deliver on this commitment.
As promised during the election, Canada will become a state party to the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty, ATT, in 2017. Canada is committed to joining the Arms Trade Treaty. The implementation of this multilateral treaty by Canada and other states parties would reduce the unregulated flow of weapons that contribute to terrorism, transnational organized crime, and violations of human rights. These goals are consistent with Canadian values and our policy objectives of reducing conflict and instability, promoting human rights, and countering terrorism.
The previous Harper government was wrong not to join the Arms Trade Treaty. By joining the treaty, Canada would come into line with our NATO and G7 partners. This would allow Canada to, among other things, participate fully in ATT meetings of states parties, enabling the government to be more effective in its push for more transparency and accountability in the global arms trade both in Canada and worldwide.
It is important to note that Canada already meets the vast majority of ATT obligations. In fact, the ATT was designed to bring other countries up to the type of high standard that Canada already applies. For example, Canada already controls the export of all ATT-relevant goods, already has measures in place to prevent diversion of exported goods, and already assesses all proposed exports of all military goods, not just the goods that the ATT explicitly covers but for the types of risks identified in the ATT such as the potential for an export to be diverted to terrorist activities, used for purposes contrary to international peace and security, or to commit violations of human rights.
I would point out that Canada currently conducts these assessments for all proposed exports of all goods that are subject to export control, not solely the military goods required by the ATT. Indeed, Canada fully complies with all but two of the 28 articles in the treaty: article 7, regarding export assessment criteria, and article 10 on brokering.
Article 7 of the ATT requires states to take a number of factors into consideration when considering whether to authorize an export. In fact, we already take these factors into account as a matter of policy, but now, they are added into law.
Specifically, an amendment to the Export and Import Permits Act and its associated regulations would create a legal requirement for any minister of foreign affairs to take the ATT criteria into account in assessing all proposals to export military goods controlled by the treaty, such as tanks, small arms, and light weapons.
The ATT also requires that its members not authorize an export when there is an overriding risk of negative effects that cannot be mitigated and when that risk overrides any positive benefits that could come from the export. We will outline a clear policy with respect to how the will apply this overriding risk level.
Article 10 of the ATT requires each state to regulate brokering. Arms brokering is when a Canadian facilitates, or is a middle man, for an arms transfer between entities outside Canada and thus not captured by Canadian export controls. This would be a new regulatory area for the government, and is a good example of where we are enhancing the rigour of our current export controls.
We will introduce legislation later this fall to make these changes. Once the legislation and regulations are in place, we will submit an instrument of accession to the UN Secretary General. Our goal is to ensure that Canada becomes an ATT state party in 2017.
The previous government claimed that ratification of the ATT might affect domestic gun laws, and it is important to clarify that this is completely and categorically untrue. The treaty governs the import and export of conventional arms, not the trade in sporting firearms that are owned and used by law-abiding Canadian citizens. Joining the treaty will have no impact on how gun ownership is regulated in Canada.
In addition to ATT accession, and together with the , we have announced other measures to further enhance the transparency of Canada's export controls system. The annual reports on the administration of the Export and Import Permits Act, and on military exports from Canada, will be more transparent, more user-friendly, and more informative, and they will be tabled on time, every year, by law.
Going forward, the public and other key stakeholders could rely on these reports being tabled no later than May 31 each and every year. As in the past, all reports will continue to be published online as soon as they are tabled in Parliament to ensure that Canadians are fully apprised of activities under the Export and Import Permits Act, and of the value, scope, type and destination of military goods exported from Canada.
This is just the beginning. As we move forward with our plan to join the ATT, NGOs, and industry are being consulted on how we can make these reports more informative, transparent, and easy to understand. We are confident we can find the right mix of additional information to enhance transparency without harming Canadian business or the livelihood of Canadians who are employed in this important commercial sector.
As the government works to deliver on these commitments, it is important that we do so in a manner that maintains the competitiveness of the defence and security industry in Canada.
In addition to serving as a crucial source of supply for the Canadian Armed Forces and directly contributing to the protection of Canada, the defence industry drives innovation. This helps to keep Canada at the leading edge of technology among the G7 nations, not just defence technology but in the information, aviation, automotive, and many other sectors.
The defence industry is interwoven throughout the Canadian and North American industrial sector, and contributed $6.7 billion to Canada's GOP in 2014. It represents more than 70,000 jobs for Canadians. These are high-paying, highly-skilled, middle-class jobs spread across more than 700 firms located in every province and territory of the country. These jobs pay salaries that are on average 60% above the average Canadian industrial wage. Many of these jobs are union jobs.
In short, these are good jobs that this government will work hard to protect, which is why it is so fundamentally disappointing to see the NDP working to undermine these jobs. It is particularly disappointing that the member for , who has 3,000 of these good jobs in her own riding, is failing to speak up in support of her constituents.
Each region of Canada has seen substantial investment and development of specializations in various defence industrial activities. For example, there are strong aerospace clusters in Quebec and western Canada, an Ontario-based land vehicles cluster, and shipbuilding clusters on two coasts. Canadian defence and security products are sought after by Canada's allies and security partners abroad. and the defence industry contributes almost $7 billion to Canada's GDP. Canadian companies are innovative and competitive. When they succeed, it is good news for our manufacturing sector and our economy.
Military and strategic goods are subject to strict controls, precisely because of the uses to which they are designed to be put. For these reasons, exporters looking to fill the overseas demand for Canadian products are required to comply with Canada's export control system. None of this changes the fact that Canada expects all Canadian companies operating abroad to respect Canadian and international law, as well as human rights.
Canada promotes improved performance in this regard through the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, and the voluntary principles on security and human rights showcased in Canada's updated corporate social responsibility strategy. Canada's missions abroad foster partnerships between companies, governments, and civil society to promote respect for human rights. The is working to improve corporate social responsibility requirements each and every day.
The opposition motion notes the important role of parliamentarians in holding governments accountable for Canadian engagement abroad. Indeed, department officials and their colleagues across the public service regularly appear before the committees studying these matters. Specifically, we look forward to working with the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in the coming months as we bring forward implementing legislation for Canada's accession to the arms trade treaty.
We respect and appreciate the work of existing committees in both the House of Commons and the Senate that study these issues. These committees are empowered and independent, and they are well within their mandates to study what they want, including Canada's arms trade.
The creation of the committee suggested is unnecessary and would merely create additional excessive burdens on an already highly regulated and monitored industry. Perhaps that is what the NDP wants, to overburden industry, I am not sure, but the member for certainly has not expressed support for the families she represents.
Canadians demand that the government effectively monitor and control the exportation of Canadian arms. Canada already has a rigorous process and there is room for improvement. Our government is responsibly responding to this need. Work is under way to live up to our commitments to improve the system, to accede to the arms trade treaty. We look forward to moving this along in the coming weeks and months.
Mr. Speaker, let me say off the top that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Let me make clear at the outset that there are a number of statements in the preamble of this motion with which we, in the official opposition and as the previous government, fully agree. Conservatives agree with the NDP that Canadians expect a high standard from their government when it comes to protecting human rights abroad.
Conservatives have always supported efforts to establish and to maintain international standards for arms transfers, aimed at preventing illicit transfers of weapons and matériel that would be used to fuel conflict, to enable terrorism, or for the use of organized crime.
Under our previous Conservative government, Canada had some of the strongest export controls in the world, including laws and regulations such as the Export and Import Permits Act and the Automatic Firearms Country Control List.
In addition, when we were in government, the then department of foreign affairs rigorously assessed all exports of military goods and technologies on a case-by-case basis.
Now to address another point in the preamble to the motion by the NDP member for , we in the official opposition also recognize that Canadian arms exports have increased over the past decade. That is not, in itself, bad news. Arms exports were only approved by our Conservative government if and when contracts were consistent with Canada's foreign and defence policies. I will come back to those considerations in a moment.
Members today must remember, and Canadians must remember, that many thousands of Canadian jobs depend on exports—legitimate and closely regulated sales of the products of our Canadian defence and defence-related industries.
The much-discussed sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia has created, and will sustain, more than 3,000 jobs in southwestern Ontario, which is a region of Canada that is the heartland of our manufacturing sector, as my colleagues in the House know. This single contract will also create thousands of indirect jobs across Canada through a 500-firm supply chain stretching literally from coast to coast to coast.
We in the official opposition were proud to deliver these economic benefits for southwestern Ontario when we were in government, benefits that extended to all of Canada. This single, job-creating contract is only one of many in Canada's steadily expanding defence industries—our aerospace, shipbuilding, and high-tech sectors, to name just a few.
That said, end-user contracts are an important element of defence systems export sales. In the case of the armoured vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia, I would remind colleagues, the sale itself was conditional. The purchaser committed, in effect, that the vehicles would not be used against the Saudi domestic population. No evidence of any such misuse was discovered or reported during our Conservative years in government.
However, we in the official opposition fully expect the Liberal government to continue today to ensure the conditions of that contract are respected. As we have said many times in recent months, if the government finds the terms of that contract have been violated, then appropriate action must be taken by the Liberals, by the government. The Liberals simply cannot look the other way on highly conditional defence product export contracts.
I would like to return to my earlier points about any arms export contracts being consistent with Canada's foreign affairs and national defence policies.
Despite the concerns that have been raised about the armoured vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia, we need to remember that Saudi Arabia is an ally in probably the most violently contested region of the world today. Saudi Arabia is an important member of the allied coalition in the war against ISIL, the so-called Islamic state. Iran's support of terrorism is a continuing and growing threat to the stability of that region, specifically in Yemen, in Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the region.
In Syria, the Iranian regime has provided increasing military assistance to the Assad regime. We just learned today that another 3,000 Iranian fighters have been dispatched to prop-up Assad forces in the long and tragic battle for the city of Aleppo.
It remains to be seen today whether Iran will comply with the P5+1 nuclear agreement, even as the regime continues to ignore UN resolutions against the development of ballistic missiles. Iran continues to belligerently proclaim its goal—its aim of destroying the state of Israel. Domestically, of course, Iran is among the world's worst violators of human rights.
That said, at the same time, the recent execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia has outrageously and unnecessarily further inflamed Sunni-Shia tensions right across the region. While we share Saudi concerns about Iran's efforts to export its violently destructive ideology across the region, we believe that alienating moderate Shias in these chaotic times is profoundly counterproductive.
We strongly encourage the Government of Canada to take every opportunity to make our views on human rights and religious freedom known to Saudi authorities and the international community at the same time. Canada must continue to work aggressively with our allies in the region to create a stable and, one day, prosperous Middle East, governed by freedom, tolerance, and pluralism, where human rights are fully respected, particularly the rights of the now persecuted minorities.
My hon. colleague raised the matter of the Arms Trade Treaty. I would like to make a couple of points there, although it is not directly reflected in the motion by the NDP today.
We in the official opposition believe that any arms trade treaty should recognize and acknowledge the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their personal and recreational use, including sport shooting, hunting, and even collecting. We are disappointed that the Liberals have moved forward with an ATT that does not specifically respect the legitimate trade or use of hunting or sporting firearms.
We are also concerned that little to no consultation with lawful gun owners was undertaken by the Liberals before they unilaterally decided to accede to this treaty. These are concerns from law-abiding Canadians about just how the treaty could affect responsible firearms owners. Conservatives will continue to give voice to these legitimate concerns.
That brings me to the central objective of the NDP motion, an outcome the party has sought on a number of occasions in the past. The NDP wants to address legitimate concerns about Canada's arms exports with a review that would look at past and current sales, the arms export permits regime, end-use conditions and enforcement, and broader international trends, which are all valid topics for review. However, in this motion it is asking to create an entirely new standing committee of the House to manage such a review.
The official opposition will not support this motion. The reason is quite simple. The foreign affairs committee already has the power and authority to study these issues or to create a subcommittee for such a study. In our view, establishing an entirely new committee devoted solely to arms sales would create an unnecessary burden on and consumption of limited House of Commons resources. Therefore, the official opposition will oppose the motion put by the member for .
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and contribute to what I think is a very important debate. It is an honour for me to follow my colleague, our foreign affairs critic, someone who is doing a great job standing up for international human rights and for a principled and hard-headed approach to foreign affairs.
I want to congratulate the member for for bringing this motion forward. As my colleague said, we will not be supporting it, but it has been a pleasure working with her on these issues, and I appreciate the knowledge and commitment she brings to them.
I think, in general, we see from both Conservatives and New Democrats in the opposition a different attitude toward the importance of international human rights than we see, unfortunately, at least from the front bench, in the policies on the government side.
I am going to make five distinct points.
The first point I would like to make is about the procedural grounds on which I, and we as the official opposition, cannot support this motion. As I mentioned during questions and comments, I, and my colleagues who were at the foreign affairs committee the day this motion was proposed, supported the creation of a subcommittee to study the issue of the arms trade. This would have been a very effective way of ensuring scrutiny of this issue and of integrating a discussion on arms control within the broader discussion of foreign affairs.
We have, of course, another subcommittee, a subcommittee on international human rights. The value of that subcommittee is that it feeds information through the foreign affairs committee to the House.
The use of subcommittees does not create the additional strain on House resources that a separate committee would create. It also ensures set-aside and cordoned-off time. The reason a subcommittee was not created is that its creation was opposed by all the Liberal members on that committee. It was something that we and the New Democrats agreed on at the time.
There are a range of different options for moving forward in a way that achieves some of the same objectives as this motion. It might even be worth contemplating a joint foreign affairs and defence subcommittee.
With regard to the study on this, the parliamentary secretary made it sound as if there were a current or imminent study by the foreign affairs committee on the issue of arms control. To my knowledge, that is just not the case. I believe that the committee is currently reviewing reports and is very soon to undertake studies of other very important matters, but it does not have an imminent plan to move forward on a study related to this issue.
I think we know who needs to be doing this job and where this job can be done. I do not think the creation of a stand-alone committee is necessary. However, the real impediment to the objectives the member in the NDP has talked about is the approach government members have taken on that committee. That is why, on some important procedural grounds, we cannot support the motion, although, as my colleague from pointed out, there are many things, in substance, that are important to affirm.
The second point I want to make is that a strong and effective arms control regime is important, and it is particularly important to us here in the official opposition. My colleague laid out, very ably, aspects of the arms control regime we have in place and that we are committed to. They include, for example, the Export and Import Permits Act and the Automatic Firearms Country Control List. They include, of course, in the context of the LAV deal with Saudi Arabia, which we have discussed already and which I think will probably come up frequently throughout the day, the end-use permits to actually control and restrict the end use of those vehicles. There are mechanisms in place for responding if there are abuses, and we would expect the government to take those obligations very seriously.
My colleagues have been right to point out the important number of Canadian jobs associated with this deal. At the same time, we in the official opposition understand that who we are and the values we believe in have to come first. That is reflected in the approach we took: seeking opportunities for Canadian commerce but insisting, as a primary principle, on the protection of human rights.
The third point I want to underline today is that we must defend human rights, regardless of the cost. We have to be clear about our values. We have to talk about our values, and we have to recognize that in some cases, standing up for our values might involve sacrifices, whether commercial or otherwise. Who we are as a country, the values and principles that define us and reflect international norms that are rooted in ideas about human rights and universal human dignity, exists prior to purely material or economic considerations. In many cases, in fact, we can and do have both, but we have to be clear about human rights.
I think it is worth saying to the government, because there is not an acknowledgement in the way the Liberals talk about foreign policy, that there is such a thing as a moral absolute.
About a year ago, I listened to a speech given by the at the University of Ottawa where he talked about moving away from a purely principle-based ethic in foreign policy to one that he called responsible conviction. Really, it was a way of saying, as I understood it, that we should not be holding fast to these ideas of moral absolutes, that we should be evaluating our response in a sort of highly contextualized and situational way.
I think, conversely, that there is actually a need for moral clarity in a murky world, for a government that is clear about our values and is clear that there are certain fundamental principles of human rights on which we will not compromise. Whether it is in our dealings with Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Iran, or any number of other actors, if there is no such thing as an absolute when it comes to human rights, I would suggest that we cannot talk about a genuine commitment to human rights at all.
We, on this side of the House, believe in the need for Canada to speak with moral clarity, despite the murkiness of the world around us. That means calling out those who are egregious violators of human rights, and it also means being willing to talk about human rights with our allies.
The fourth point I want to make today in the context of this motion is specifically about Saudi Arabia and the Saudi system, because I know that it is an important part of what colours this discussion. I view the Saudi state as, in many ways, a contradictory entity, and therefore it requires what we might even call a contradictory response. In other words, we need to respond to the aspects of the Saudi state that we find objectionable, and we need to work with the aspect of the Saudi state that we can and should. That does not mean compromising our clarity about our values; it means recognizing the need to deal with different parts of the same state in different ways.
Of course, we know that Saudi Arabia is in some ways a conservative monarchy and that some of its international education programs play a role, perhaps indirectly, in fomenting extremism. This is a country with a terrible domestic human rights record, with an ideology that is very much, internally as it is expressed, at odds with our values. Yet it is a country that has historically had a more pro-western foreign policy, a country we have been able to collaborate with in certain respects that are important to the protection of our interests as they relate to our values.
My colleague spoke very well, for instance, about the need to contain Iran and the fact that although, again, Saudi Arabia's approach to Israel is nothing that could be misconstrued as pro-Israel, there is agreement about the concern Iran poses in terms of stability for the region. There is a shared concern, in fact, about the Iranian nuclear deal.
These are interesting things to observe in how we relate to the Saudis. Above all, it must be said that the Saudi state needs to survive, because if, under the present circumstances, there were to be a Syrian-style revolution in Iran, the consequences in terms of human rights as well as international peace and security would be absolutely devastating.
I will speak very briefly to my fifth point. On the strategic balance of power in the Middle East, it is necessary that we have an effective alternative to Iranian influence. We know about the major concerns with growing Iranian influence. To the extent that the partnership we have with Saudi Arabia allows us to combat Iranian influence, it is important for both human rights and international peace and security.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in favour of the motion moved today by my colleague from . Obviously, it is a very important issue.
I would like to begin by expressing how disappointed I was to learn from this morning's debate that the Liberal government plans to vote against this motion to create an arms export review committee, despite its rhetoric about openness and transparency.
While recognizing the discourse on human rights, which we appreciated for the most part, and the support the Conservative Party offered to my colleague from regarding its proposal at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development to create a subcommittee on the issue, I am still disappointed that the Conservatives will not be supporting the motion.
When I heard the parliamentary secretary's speech, I felt a bit of déjà vu. That was exactly the kind of speech I used to hear in the previous Parliament. We were told that no such committee was necessary, because we already had the tools required, we needed to put the economy first, and so on. I am extremely disappointed.
With regard to economic issues, I have to say that the beauty of creating this committee is that it will allow us to study all aspects of the issue. At present, the mandate of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is too narrow. Furthermore, the great thing about creating this committee is that it provides an opportunity to study international trade, Canadian defence and industry policies, as well as to examine issues related to foreign affairs and the protection of human rights. All these issues deserve serious consideration.
The government argues that this committee is not needed because the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is currently conducting a study. The House and Canadians are being misled. Why? First, the Arms Trade Treaty requires that we study its implementation and any legislative amendments. That is only one specific aspect.
Furthermore, members know that a committee conducts studies and hears from witnesses. However, to be honest, the time available is very limited. We sometimes would like to study the subject in more depth. However, a bill may require a change to the timetable, which can affect the committee's work.
Given all these limitations, the human rights abuses in various countries to which Canada exports weapons, and Canadians' legitimate concerns, we firmly believe that this issue deserves further study on an ongoing basis.
There is a precedent for this. In 1999, the United Kingdom created a similar committee responsible for conducting the same type of examinations, for example, a review of the government's annual report. In addition to conducting an in-depth study of these issues, the United Kingdom's committee also submits an annual report on arms exports and hears from many witnesses.
I heard some Conservative members asking if there will ever be an end to the creation of standing committees. They were wondering whether we are going to create a committee for every issue. In my opinion, the issue before us warrants the creation of a standing committee. Why? Because Canada's arms exports have increased. In fact, Canada has become the second largest exporter of arms to the Middle East after the United States, and that raises many concerns. Of course, we also think a committee should be created for the same reasons that the parliamentary secretary talked about in her speech. She mentioned this industry's importance to Canada several times.
In my opinion, that is just one more reason why we should create such a committee. It would allow us to conduct a parliamentary review and monitor this important industry on an ongoing basis.
The NDP and I believe that the most important thing is human rights. The interesting thing is that I know that members are going to quote things that were said during the election campaign. There is no contradiction there. What we are asking the government to do is to keep its promise to be open and transparent and to give more power to parliamentarians who are not in cabinet. A committee like this one would allow us to meet those objectives. It is disappointing to see the government rejecting this solution, particularly after all its talk about openness and transparency.
Nonetheless, let us come back to the potential criticisms. Look at all the information that has come to light since the election campaign. We even saw videos posted by the Globe and Mail showing how Saudi Arabia uses these arms or these jeeps, as the likes to call them. Let us be honest, these are very serious problems and this new information gives us pause for thought. This is not a matter of having a contract, but a matter of issuing export permits. That is a very important nuance that the government and the minister do not seem to grasp.
The minister told the House that he would be prepared to reconsider if he were given new information, but he is not keeping his word. That is one more reason to create a committee to address this issue, so that parliamentarians are not hampered by the minister's discretionary power. We have to be able to conduct this study ourselves without being hindered by the existing committee. In light of the Liberals' refusal to create a subcommittee on arms exports, we find that we cannot rely on the good faith of the existing committee. We have to form a specific committee to study this matter thoroughly.
I wonder why the Liberals are afraid to create this committee. I have yet to hear a strong or convincing argument from a Liberal member to justify their refusal to create this committee. All the parties are saying the right thing about respecting human rights abroad. So why not allow parliamentarians to monitor the situation and report to the House to help us keep our international commitments and uphold our values of protecting human rights?
I am very concerned because we are being told in no uncertain terms that we do not need this committee and that there are not enough resources. They are also quoting irrelevant snippets from the campaign. We want to hear a real argument against the creation of a committee.
After all, the Liberals would have a majority on the committee. They need not fear being backed into a corner, being made to feel ill at ease, or pushed into doing something the government does not want to do. We just want to ensure that the process is transparent so that Canadians can once again have confidence in the system.
These are the same arguments that we raised yesterday when debating the creation of an oversight committee for national security agencies. This is not just about reviewing facts and involving parliamentarians; it is about our relationship with Canadians. Opinion polls and our conversations with Canadians indicate that they have lost confidence in this process, especially since Canada does not monitor its arms exports.
Despite the parliamentary secretary's comments about the excellent regulations we have and the assessments carried out by Canada before exporting arms, it is also important to follow up because the world is quickly changing. As was said several times this morning, there are very complex diplomatic situations around the world. I would hope that the government recognizes the importance of monitoring these situations.
In closing, Canadians are increasingly becoming citizens of the world. We know that people care about protecting human rights. Canada has values and international commitments.
Government members keep repeating their famous empty phrase, “Canada is back”. However, those are just words. We do not just want to hear them say it. We want them to make it a reality. We want real transparency and we want them to create a committee that will examine this issue and give power back to parliamentarians and, by extension, to Canadians, so that they can again have confidence in their institutions and the work we are doing.
This increasingly worrisome situation must be monitored in order to protect human rights. That is why I am pleased to support the motion of my colleague from . I hope that the Liberals will see things the same way, regardless of the government's position.
Mr. Speaker, I have enjoyed listening to the debate.
My colleagues have outlined in a very good way the details of this motion, why it is important, and some of the objections that should be taken into consideration.
From my perspective, I think we have perhaps lost the plot a little. Maybe I can start with a bit of a story about what we are supposed to do in this place. When I was elected 2011, one of the first decisions I was asked to make was whether or not I would support the mission to send fighter jets to Libya. This decision, for new MPs, was very difficult, as it was for all parties involved. I believe the motion was to support a mission against Moammar Gadhafi, who was an international scourge and one of the worst human rights offenders in history.
What me struck me during those discussions, both inside and outside this place, was that we were really talking about killing people. That is what we are really talking about if we send to fighter jets to Libya or arms to Saudi Arabia. In the end, as parliamentarians, we are deciding who is going to live and who is going to die, in one way or another. That should really underscore the discussions we are having here today.
This is why Parliament and democracy are important. In dictatorships, which we oppose because they are not the proper way to run governments or countries, it is usually a person or a small group of people who decide to make these decisions about who will live and who will die within their own countries, and then when they engage in military actions against other countries.
However, in a democracy, we are supposed to come to places like this Parliament and the Senate to discuss in a very open and transparent way how we regard our standing in the world, and to say whether or not we should engage in certain actions.
I think that is all we are talking about here. It is really the same thing. It is not about a direct motion, that is, whether or not we should take direction action in a country, whether to support or oppose a certain regime, but it is more of a macro discussion about how we see ourselves in the world, how we make decisions, and in this case whether or not we should sell armaments to particular countries. That should probably underscore this discussion.
We have a global affairs committee that discusses foreign affairs. I understand there were proposals made for subcommittees. This is a proposal for a new standing committee. I think that Canadians who are looking at this debate would really like us to get down to the issue of how we as parliamentarians will discharge our duties in making these very important decisions, to which they are also attached because they vote for us. Voters vote for MPs in various political parties, and we come to this place and make decisions, some of which have lethal consequences or result in the loss of human life in various countries.
Through this debate, Canadians will be shocked to know that our arms exports have doubled over the last decade. In fact, it might be one of our dirty little secrets. Canadians like to see themselves in a particular way. They like to think that we are going around the world in blue helmets keeping the peace. Our past Nobel Prize efforts at peacekeeping, again, are the ones by which Canada really emerged on the world stage.
We like to think of ourselves as givers of aid and generous contributors to reducing poverty around the world. However, through the course of this debate, Canadians will find out that we have doubled our arms exports. We are now the second-largest exporter of arms to the Middle East.
Therefore, it is a clash of values that we have here. Canadians who are watching this debate or reading about it in the media would think that the decisions the government is making, and that past governments have made, clash with how they see themselves as a Canadian.
This place is for that. There are difficult choices to make. Weather we approve arms sales to one country or another is decided here, and it should be. Decisions have been taken now, both within the industries that produce these arms and the government bodies that approve the sales and export to other countries. I think many Canadians would say that this does not jive with their view of what Canada does, which is okay.
Again, this place is for that. It is for us to come to discuss the facts that are behind every decision we have to make, to ensure we get them straight. We debate in a public way, on TV, with recorded minutes and vote as to what should be done. Decisions are taken, and the those decision have their effects.
The result of these decisions are that people will die. We cannot sell arms to a country and think that they will not be used, especially small arms and vehicles that have small arms attached to them. Therefore, this is worth debating in more detail to ensure we get the facts. I think most of my colleagues in the House would agree that these are probably the most important issues we talk about here.
The mechanism does not interest people, whether it is a standing committee, subcommittee, or a special committee. I do not think that makes a tonne of difference. However, When we make decisions as grave as this and evaluate decisions about whether we should be compliant in someone's death, Canadians expect that deserves significant debate.
Therefore, because we have had new facts come to light about these sales, and we are not clear about how these deals have transpired, the short-term details about who benefits and who is not, or the long-term impacts of this deal, we propose that we have a standing committee.
Of course, in terms of a procedural decision, that is a fairly big one. Starting a new standing committee is a significant commitment. However, the issue that the committee would be studying is so important. It is probably one of the most important things at which we will be looking. It is reviewing our roles in participating in the deaths of people around the world.
Sometimes those military interventions are necessary. As I said, I voted to support the mission in Libya after a lot of deep thought. Again, that was approved unanimously in 2011.
However, this proposed standing committee would give us room to not only talk about decisions regarding arms exports, but also to review the impacts of these things. We could get regular reports from experts in this area, have a better understanding of our own arms industry, and have briefings, because the world changes. Places that are at war now will soon be at peace, and places at peace now unfortunately will be at war at some point. Therefore, committee members could get briefings on this and have very wholesome discussions.
There are a couple of things going on that are worth pausing for a second. I know the parties all have their entrenched votes scripted of where they will go. However, I would ask members to take a pause and think about the issue we are dealing with here, which is grave. It is one of the most important things we will decide as parliamentarians. Members should ask themselves if these types of decisions actually deserve a space of their own.
In my over five years as a parliamentarian, I would have welcomed this idea. It would be a committee that would have great merit, but that a subcommittee would not be enough. However, the committee would need a good degree of independence in order to look at all of these issues in great detail. Therefore, I urge the government to have a rethink on this and not dismiss this idea out of hand.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from .
I rise today to speak about the government's commitment to human rights. I do so as a parliamentarian, as a member representing a city that thrives because of the defence sector in part, and as someone who has taught human rights policy for a number of years at Western University. This is an issue I take extremely seriously.
The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada's constructive engagement in the world. We view human rights as universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated.
We have all seen how hatred and xenophobia have taken root. A record number of refugees are now displaced. Everyone has to do more to protect the most vulnerable and marginalized people in the world today. We do this by embracing diversity.
Last week the right hon. spoke in front of the UN General Assembly and told the world that Canada was stronger, not weaker, because of our differences. He said that we should embrace diversity. As a multicultural, multi-faith and inclusive society, Canada is well positioned to champion peaceful pluralism, respect for diversity and human rights internationally.
How do we do this? Canada is enhancing and expanding its efforts through multilateral organizations, bilateral engagement, development assistance, and trade and policy services. The UN is the main forum where we advance our international human rights objectives.
Canada actively participates as an observer at the UN Human Rights Council and is fully engaged in the UN General Assembly's Third Committee. Canada is also party to seven UN human rights treaties, which are established treaty bodies to regularly monitor state compliance. Canada actively participates in the universal periodic review process, which evaluates the human rights performance of all 193 UN member states at regular intervals. Canada was last reviewed in 2013 and will be up for review again in 2018.
The promotion and protection of human rights is an integral part of Canada's development programming and humanitarian assistance. Our development programming integrates the principles of inclusion, participation, equality, and non-discrimination. Our humanitarian assistance ensures full respect for the rights of the individual in accordance with international law.
With regard to trade, Canada expects Canadian companies operating abroad to respect human rights and promote improved performance through the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises, and the voluntary principles on security and human rights, showcasing Canada's updated corporate social responsibility strategy as well.
Canada's missions abroad foster partnerships between companies, governments, and civil society to promote respect for human rights. Canada consults regularly with civil society organizations both at home and abroad through a network of missions, including our permanent mission to the UN and Geneva and New York. Canada is a strong advocate at the UN for the full participation of civil society. This is becoming increasingly important given the efforts of some countries to limit civic space both at the UN and more broadly.
Canada also acknowledges the important leadership role played by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Canada is directly contributing $50 million to the office over the next three years.
Canada also works to advance international standards on important issues and promotes human rights around the world in a variety of multilateral fora ranging from UN bodies to the G7. For example, Canada is advancing the rights of women through our membership on the UN Committee on the Status of Women. Key issues for Canada related to the rights of women include addressing violence against women, sexual and gender-based violence, improving maternal newborn and child health, women, peace and security, gender equality, and women's economic empowerment. Canada was elected a member of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2016. Canada is also a strong supporter of the UN Security Council Resolution on Women, Peace and Security.
Canada is an active promoter of the rights of children and has helped to lead international efforts to end child early and forced marriage. Canada was instrumental in bringing the issue of children in armed conflict to the international agenda, and continues to support efforts to eliminate violations of children's rights in conflict.
For the past 13 years, Canada, in partnership with a strong cross-regional group of similarly concerned countries has successfully led an annual resolution at the UN General Assembly on the situation of human rights in Iran. This fall, Canada is leading this resolution again.
Canada has joined the global movement to support the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. Our embassies around the world support grassroots LGBTI organizations that are fighting against discrimination, violence, and unjust laws. In July, the attended a global conference of LGBTI human rights and joined with 29 other countries to found the equal rights coalition. Canada is also a founding member of the freedom online coalition, which seeks to protect and promote people's human rights online. We also work bilaterally and multilaterally to promote Internet freedom, which remains a key component of open democracy.
Canada's international support for human rights extends to other areas as well. We oppose the death penalty and support the abolition of the death penalty internationally. Our government will undertake clemency interventions in all cases of Canadians facing execution in foreign jurisdictions.
Canada recognizes the key role played by human rights defenders in protecting and promoting human rights and strengthening the rule of law, and we are committed to supporting their work. We are concerned that through new legislation and increasingly harsh tactics, governments and other actors are restricting civil society, promoting discrimination against individuals from vulnerable and marginalized groups, and threatening human rights defenders and other civil society actors.
Canada believes strongly that freedom of religion or belief is a universal human right. On May 17, 2016, Canada's announced the creation of the office of human rights, freedoms and inclusion. The new office expands on the work undertaken by the former Office of Religious Freedom by bringing these efforts together under a comprehensive vision that includes all human rights and addresses issues of respect for diversity and inclusion.
Of course there is much more to be done. We will continue to seek out opportunities to strengthen human rights around the world. I have highlighted the human rights element to all of this because it is important. If we look at the comments of my hon. colleagues in the NDP, they are discussing human rights, as they should be. It is an important value.
I also wish to discuss an economic element to all of this. Economics matter for any member of Parliament, but since we are discussing issues that have a direct impact on London, Ontario, being the member of Parliament representing London North Centre, it would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of General Dynamics Land Systems to the London economy. This company employs over 2,000 people. The result is that $230 million is injected into the London economy each and every year. London has been hard hit by the loss of manufacturing. This advanced manufacturing sector that we see propelled forward by GDLS is incredibly important. We are also talking about 10,000 indirect jobs in the London region. These are well-paying, middle-class jobs that put food on the table, that allow middle-class families to send their children to school, and to raise their families in a prosperous way.
GDLS also works to support and sustain a network of 500 suppliers in all regions of Canada. That is incredibly important for the House to understand. We are talking about jobs. We are talking about members of Parliament who represent ridings across the country that benefit because of GDLS. GDLS also employs 650 engineers, and tens of millions of dollars have been invested in research and development. As the government and the country moves toward an innovation agenda, as we should, this is the sort of example that highlights the importance of a firm such as GDLS.
My colleagues opposite have shifted positions. They supported the work of GDLS but now they do not. I invite all members of the NDP to come to London to speak to the employees of GDLS and explain clearly why they have changed their position. Why did they support the work of GDLS? These are working people, represented by Unifor. Why have they shifted their position? I beg of them an answer.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to this very important topic. It is encouraging that members of the House share the interest of our government, and all Canadians, in maintaining high standards for peace, security, and human rights.
A key priority of Canada's foreign policy is the maintenance of peace and security. In line with that, Canada has some of the strongest export controls in the world, which are very much in line with those of our allies and security partners. All exports of controlled goods and technology, including military goods, are carefully reviewed to ensure that they are consistent with these objectives, as well as with other key foreign policy objectives, such as the protection of human rights.
In addition, our government is enhancing the rigour and transparency of Canada's export controls with respect to military and strategic goods and technology. As the stated earlier this year, the government is undertaking measures in a number of different areas.
We will be joining the United Nations' Arms Trade Treaty, the ATT. This treaty aims to stop unregulated arms transfers, which intensify and prolong conflict, and creates common international standards for the export of weapons. In order to do this, we will make all of the necessary changes to legislation and regulation to be able to implement all of the treaty's obligations.
It is important to recognize that Canada meets nearly all of these obligations already. However, some additional work is required. That being said, I would like to underline that the treaty was designed to bring other countries up to the high standards of export control that Canada already has in place.
The criteria we currently use to assess export permit applications, which have been implemented through policy for many years, will now be a legal requirement.
Canada will also implement controls on brokering activities by Canadians who facilitate the transfer of arms between third countries. This is a new regulatory area for Canada, and we are consulting with industry and NGOs on how best to implement this obligation. We will introduce legislation to enact the necessary changes, with the goal of ensuring that Canada has all of the necessary laws and regulations in place so that we can accede to the Arms Trade Treaty in 2017.
We are also making changes to improve transparency, specifically by making more information about exports of military and strategic goods available to Canadians. Annual reports on how the Export and Import Permits Act is being administered and annual reports on exports of military goods from Canada will now be more transparent, more user-friendly, and more informative, and will be tabled in Parliament on time, beginning next year.
Of note, on June 17 of this year, at the same time as the Arms Trade Treaty was being tabled in the House of Commons, the government also cleared the decks from the previous government and published the 2014 and 2015 reports on exports of military goods and technology from Canada. As the confirmed, these reports will now have a fixed date for publication, and this date will be enshrined in legislation for May 31, each and every year.
These are substantial improvements over past reports. However, we intend to go further. Relevant stakeholders, including NGOs and industry, are being consulted on how we can make these reports even more informative, transparent, and easier to understand for the Canadian public. Our goal is to provide additional facts, content, context, and explanation, so as to make the reports clear and more useful to all readers.
While we will do all that we can to provide as much information as possible to enhance transparency, we must do so in a fashion that will not harm Canadian business interests or negatively impact either competitiveness or the livelihoods of ordinary Canadians who are employed in this important commercial sector.
This issue is very important to me as the member of Parliament for London West. Many of my constituents work at General Dynamics Land Systems, located in the riding of London—Fanshawe. These hard-working Canadians and their families rely on jobs created by this regional employer. GDLS, the eighth-largest regional employer, hires over 2,400 people, with approximately 2,100 employees in the London and Edmonton facilities. It is our local and global leader in light armoured vehicle platform and subsection integration. It has over 35 years of experience in supporting and protecting our soldiers.
During the election campaign, I was asked by a number of constituents if the Liberal government would sacrifice the jobs at GDLS because of concerns with the deal made with Saudi Arabia. I said during the campaign, and have continued to say without wavering, that I would do all I can to continue to support the jobs at GDLS.
Canada has a strong history working with the defence industry. My father worked on the Avro Arrow in the 1950s as a draftsman working on the engine of this amazing aircraft. He was one of the 5,000 employees who lost their jobs on that infamous day when the Conservative government decided to turn its back on Avro Arrow. I will not let that happen again.
GDLS Canada relies on the Government of Canada to set the trade and export policies under which it conducts its business. Defence goods are among the most highly regulated export commodities in Canada. GDLS Canada exports in full compliance with the laws and regulations of the Government of Canada. Canadians expect an export control system that is rigorous, transparent, and predictable, and that is what we deliver.
We are delivering on our campaign commitment by joining the Arms Trade Treaty, thus promoting responsibility, transparency, and accountability in regulating the global trade of conventional weapons. This is the right thing to do. We are committed to the jobs at General Dynamics Land Systems, unlike members in the third party who are now turning their backs on the thousands of workers in the London region who count on these jobs.
We are confident that we can find the right balance between safeguarding the commercial interests of Canadian businesses and delivering on our commitment to further enhance the rigour and transparency of the export control process, and accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. This treaty is the result of growing international concern about the direct and indirect consequences of the global arms trade on conflict, human rights, and development.
The ATT does not restrict the type and quantity of arms that a country can export, but requires that these be exported in a responsible manner. It is aimed at ensuring that individual states have an effective export control system in place to regulate the legitimate arms trade while, at the same time, using transparency measures to combat the illicit trade.
The ATT sets out robust global rules to stop the flow of weapons, munitions, and related items to countries when it is known that they would be used for truly horrific purposes, including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. It requires all its state parties to assess the export of conventional weapons to a high standard to ensure that they are not used to commit human rights abuses, violate international humanitarian law, or contribute to international terrorism or organized crime.
For the first time, it specifically requires that states also assess their exports against the risk that they would be used to commit serious acts of gender-based violence or violence against women and children, seeking to protect those who are so often victims in the use of conventional weapons.
It is important to note that the ATT does not require its member states to automatically halt all exports to countries with challenging records on human rights or other areas of concern. Rather, it must assess the risk of an individual export being used for nefarious purposes and consider options to mitigate this risk. In other words, states must apply due diligence in considering exports and consider both the risks and benefits of the export of conventional arms.
The ATT also requires transparency and efforts to prevent diversion of weapons. This is critical in the fight to prevent the illicit transfer of conventional weapons. These weapons, when traded illegally, too often fall into the hands of those who do not respect human rights or who commit acts of terrorism.
It is now essential that we rejoin our international partners and allies in their collective effort through the Arms Trade Treaty. Indeed, Canada is the only NATO ally and only G7 partner not to have signed or ratified the treaty. This is in keeping with neither our Canadian values nor our broader policy objectives of reducing conflict and instability, promoting human rights, and countering terrorism.
Acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty would complement Canada's existing engagement on the responsible trade of conventional arms. It would allow Canada to be more effective and to work multilaterally in its quest for a more transparent and accountable arms trade not only here in Canada but throughout the world.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague the hon. member for .
Mr. Speaker, speaking in support of the motion on the floor, I will start off by saying once again, as my colleagues have been echoing all morning in this House, that for too long Canadians have had too little information about our arms exports to countries with questionable human rights records. This has to change.
Liberals have not been fully transparent with Canadians about our arms exports, but we have a right to know who Canada is doing business with and under what conditions.
There are increasing allegations that Canadian weapons are being used to commit human rights violations in countries like Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan.
It is clear that Canada's arms export policy is not working, and it is really time to have a national conversation about arms exports, with a multi-party commons committee that would collaborate across the floor.
Human rights are not optional. If the government wants to show Canada that it is a leader in human rights, then it needs to ensure that it, and we, are walking the talk.
I was very moved at a ceremony in my community, in Nanaimo, right on the waterfront, on August 6, which is the anniversary of Hiroshima bombing. Members of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, a very long-standing activist organization within our community, was talking about the UN vote that was coming up on nuclear disarmament. They shared my optimism that, given the campaign commitments around peace and security and restoring Canada's international reputation on the world stage, our was going to direct that Canada vote in favour of negotiations to end the nuclear weapons trade.
However, sadly, last month, Canada voted against negotiations for a global treaty banning nuclear weapons. It was shameful. It was a shock to everybody. These nuclear negotiations had been called for by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; 68 countries ended up voting in favour of the motion, so Canada was on the outside of that international consensus; and the vote was called “the most significant contribution to nuclear disarmament in two decades” by one of the UN member countries.
The Liberal government's vote last month also flew in the face of a 2010 resolution, in this House, encouraging the Canadian government to join negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention. The motion was adopted unanimously in this House and in the Senate, with support from all parties, including the Liberals. However, it was a real sad point that they did not follow through and carry on with that commitment that would have made us proud on the international stage. We want to move forward in a more positive way. There is more United Nations consensus with which our country can join.
A 2009 resolution of the Security Council stressed the particular impact that armed conflict has on women, children, refugees, and internally displaced persons, as well as on other civilians who may have specific vulnerabilities, including persons with disabilities and older persons, and it stressed the protection and assistance needs of all affected civilian populations.
As the New Democrat spokesperson for the status of women, I want to bring a particular gender lens to the debate.
The United Nations and international aid agencies say women are among the most heavily impacted victims of war. Tens of thousands suffer from sexual violence, rape, and lack of access to life-saving health care.
Amnesty International says women and girls are uniquely and disproportionately affected by armed conflict; women bear the brunt of war and are the vast majority of casualties resulting from war; rape and sexual violence target women and girls and are routinely used, not only to terrorize women but as a strategic tool of war and an instrument of genocide; systematic rape is often used as a weapon of war in ethnic cleansing; and, in addition to rape, girls and women are often subject to forced prostitution and trafficking during times of war, sometimes with the complicity of governments and military authorities.
In all countries, everywhere in the world, sexual violation of women erodes the fabric of a community in a way that few weapons can. This is the moral challenge to our country and the government. Six hundred and three million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime. Are we exporting weapons there?
In many countries there is repression, the silencing of abuse, and the mistreatment and imprisonment of women, human rights defenders, and activists. Are we exporting to those countries?
In some countries women are considered perpetual legal minors, permanently under the guardianship of male relatives. Are we exporting there?
In some countries it is actually legal for a man to rape his wife. Are we exporting arms to those countries?
We hear again and again that Canadians want to have more scrutiny over the destination of Canadian weapons, and they want to know that we are not exacerbating these human rights abuses in countries abroad.
At the NDP convention in April, Stephen Lewis gave a very powerful speech, and I quote:
|| We're not supposed to be sending armaments to countries that have a 'persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.' Saudi Arabia is the embodiment of the meaning of the word 'violations.' And the government of Canada refuses to release its so-called assessment of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. So much for the newly minted policy of transparency.
He went on to say that it was a huge pleasure to have a prime minister who unselfconsciously calls himself a feminist, yet is selling weapons to a regime "steeped in misogyny".
Is it not time that we looked more closely at the regimes we export weapons to? Polls show that most Canadians disapprove of arms deals to human rights abusers. Many Canadians would be shocked to know that Canadian weapons exports have nearly doubled over the last 10 years. While Canada used to export arms mostly to NATO countries, under the Conservative government our arms exports shifted to include many countries with very troubling human rights records. Canada is now the second-largest arms dealer in the Middle East, after the U.S. Saudi Arabia is now the world's second-largest buyer of Canadian-made military equipment, after the United States.
Our arms export rules were supposed prohibit the sale of military hardware to countries whose governments have a persistent record of seriously violating the human rights of their citizens. However, it is clear that our arms export controls are not working. While the government argues, as the Conservative government did before it, that Canada has strong arms export regulations, in recent months Canadians have grown increasingly concerned about Canadian arms exports falling into the wrong hands.
Canada does not control or track the use of its arms exports overseas. Worse, it was revealed in August that the Government of Canada has weakened its arms export policy to make it easier to export military hardware to states that abuse human rights.
We have a few pieces of good news, despite all of this tough stuff. I am very glad that the government has agreed to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. We look forward to seeing the details of that. It is a move in the right direction.
We do have a pre-election commitment from the . He said to the press that Canada must stop arms sales to regimes that flout democracy, such as Saudi Arabia. That was reported in the London Free Press on August 10, 2015.
We have a government that says that it is committed to equal rights for women and that it is deeply committed to transparency.
I urge the government, in the spirit of co-operation, to agree to a House committee that would provide parliamentary oversight of arms exports. This oversight is badly needed. We would have multi-party co-operation investigating current and future arms exports, and we can follow the example of other countries that have taken this step.
Let us move forward. Let us do the right thing collectively. Let us make Canada proud on the world stage again.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from for moving the motion calling on Parliament to create a House of Commons standing committee on arms exports, in order to guarantee the parliamentary oversight that is truly necessary, given some of the contracts approved by successive Conservative and Liberal governments.
My colleague's proposal is really interesting because it would enable members to scrutinize current and future exports and to give their opinions on the matter. It would also allow members to comment on the policies surrounding the sale of arms, including the Export and Import Permits Act. Finally, parliamentarians would also publish reports on the studies done by the committee in order to inform Canadians of the various issues related to arms exports, including human rights issues, in particular.
Why is it important that such a committee be created? I will first address the international context. The Middle East is currently embroiled in a number of incredibly intense conflicts, whether in Syria, Iraq, or Yemen, with Saudi Arabia intervening.
In Africa, the southern region of South Sudan, Libya, and Mali are extremely troubled. The common thread among nearly all those regions is the involvement of Canadian enterprises that are selling arms to authoritarian, if not dictatorial, regimes.
Journalist Alec Castonguay said in L'actualité:
|| During these two years, Canada also:
||exported military arms and equipment to the tune of $882 million to countries where gay rights are non-existent or very weak, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nigeria...
|| sold roughly $860 million worth in military arms and technologies to nations where there is little to no freedom of expression or freedom of the press: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, China...Vietnam...
||sent $863 million in exports to countries where there is little to no gender equality [as my colleague just mentioned]: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain...
||made shipments worth $633 million to nations where criminal justice rights are ignored:...Turkey, Egypt, China...
This is an indefensible record. I hope that the Liberal government will change its policy and not just rely on its post-campaign slogan “Canada is back”.
The recent examples of arms sales fall far short of Canadians expectations when it comes to human rights.
I will begin by speaking about the most well-known contract, the Saudi arms deal. Last April, the quietly approved export permits for 11 billion dollars' worth of light armoured vehicles to be sent to Saudi Arabia, hoping it would go unnoticed. These vehicles may be equipped with machine guns and other guns of various calibres. These are not just Jeeps, as the likes to say. It is the government's duty to ensure that these vehicles will not be used against the civilian population.
Finally, between the election campaign and the minister's approval, the situation on the ground really changed. We are now in a war situation where increasing allegations and reports are being made against the Saudi army, particularly with regard to the national guard's use of Canadian equipment against civilian populations. We are particularly concerned about that.
The indicated that, if new human rights violations came to light, he would cancel the export permits. However, despite repeated calls from Canadians and non-governmental organizations to do something about the alarming situation in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the is still sticking to his guns, if members will pardon the expression, and honouring the contract in full.
This is especially frustrating because the basis for cancelling or postponing a contract is not the existence of proof that Canadian arms are used, but the simple fact that they could be used. That is very serious. In fact, according to a number of allegations, Canadian arms could be used in cases of human rights violations.
For that reason the NDP is asking the Liberals to suspend export permits granted for the sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia while waiting for an investigation of the human rights situation.
In light of the international context and this very dubious sale to Saudi Arabia, rigorous controls for arms exports are in order. This is also about domestic policy and the transparency of government measures. Canadians must be able to obtain information from a reliable source, and that source must be a parliamentary committee created to study arms exports.
Since the beginning of this debate, we have heard many times about the United Kingdom, where the role of the committee on arms export controls is to provide information to the British people. Every year since 1999, members of this committee have published a report analyzing the export policy. The committee collects information not only from the government, but also from academia, business leaders, and public servants, who truly enrich the debate. The committee examines export data in light of ethical considerations. In the most recent hearing to be made public, a committee member took a stand and declared that selling arms to Yemen was choosing the prosperity of the United Kingdom over the lives of the people of Yemen. Arms exports are not just a trade issue and require that we think about respect for human rights, a very cherished Canadian value.
The war in Yemen and South Sudan is raising serious questions at Global Affairs Canada and not just in terms of diplomacy. I am talking about Streit Group, a Canadian company that uses its plants in the United Arab Emirates to supply its clients, including in Yemen and Sudan. However, this group was flagged by three separate UN review panels that oversee sanction enforcement mechanisms. They criticized Streit Group for selling hundreds of armoured vehicles to war-torn countries. Canada has imposed sanctions against each of these countries, including prohibiting Canadian citizens residing in Canada or abroad from selling arms and military materiel.
The Liberals asked the RCMP to investigate this group and its alleged violation of Canadian sanctions, as well as the UN arms embargos. For reasons of commercial confidentiality, Global Affairs Canada claims it does not want to disclose information on this matter, including whether trade commissioners helped Streit group.
The Americans fined that company several million dollars for failing to comply with these rules.
Considering their past actions and the present controversy, we need answers to a number of questions. For example, how did the Government of Canada support Streit Group in its commercial activities? Did Streit Group get help from Canada's trade delegates in the United Arab Emirates? How does Global Affairs Canada do due diligence on the companies it decides to promote? What loophole do we need to close to ensure that Canadian export rules apply to exports from manufacturing facilities located both here and abroad?
New Democrats believe that citizens have the right to be informed and to participate in the debate. They have the right to know if companies are complying with arms export laws and regulations. Certainly they should know if our own companies are following the rules governing our exports to the countries I mentioned and whether they are doing business with countries that are violating human rights elsewhere. This whole point of this committee is transparency. The government must be accountable to Canadians for its actions.
The NDP is asking the Liberals to move forward instead of backward and tear up the Conservative playbook. On this issue in particular, the Liberals promised change. They promised to ensure respect for human rights, but their policy did away with mandatory consultation of human rights advocates and the requirement to produce documentation on the end use of weapons. Not everyone knows this, but the law on human rights consultation has been watered down. Trade is taking precedence over all of our human rights concerns. That is really worrisome. Canadians have the right to get answers to these crucial questions.
I am ready to take questions.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
Today, I will be talking a lot about Canadian jobs, which are often unionized, well-paid, and highly skilled jobs that we have the duty to protect. However, first, I would like to point out, as some of my other colleagues have already done, that this government is working hard to improve the rigour and transparency of our export controls and is trying to combat the illicit trade of weapons worldwide.
We are keeping our election promise to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, which is designed to promote responsibility, transparency, and accountability in the regulations surrounding the global trade of conventional weapons. It is the right thing to do and we are proud of our approach.
The promotion and the protection of human rights are an integral part of Canada's foreign policy. As the hon. has often said, this is a Canadian value that we will continue to defend at every opportunity.
In addition to these efforts, members on this side of the House know that highly skilled, well-paying jobs in the manufacturing industry are essential to the growth and prosperity of the middle class.
We also know that many of the companies targeted in today's motion play a key role in the Canadian economy. This innovative sector generates spinoff effects in the rest of the economy, integrates Canadian exporters into global logistics chains, and supports well-paying manufacturing jobs across the country.
In 2014, the manufacturing sector contributed $6.7 billion to Canada's gross domestic product and supported nearly 63,000 jobs across the country. Close to 640 companies work in the defence and security sector. Most of them are small and medium-sized businesses. They play a key role in other manufacturing and high tech sectors, again, across the country.
There are hon. members in this place who have sought to misconstrue the true nature of this sector. It is a vast, diverse sector and is present in many of the communities we have the privilege of representing.
For example, there is Canada's dynamic aerospace sector, which includes aircraft fabrication, structures, and components; maintenance, repair, and overhaul; air-based radar and other sensors; and space-based systems and components. There is Canada's maritime sector, which includes ship fabrication, structures, and components; and Canada's ICT sector, which includes communication and navigation systems, satellites, cybersecurity, software, electronics, and components.
These businesses are responsible for thousands of high-quality, high-skill jobs, and the benefits are felt by families in communities large and small. All across the country we have highly skilled workers performing maintenance, repair, and overhaul services on a wide variety of vehicles, aircraft, and Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard ships.
Each region of Canada has benefited from substantive investment and the development of specializations in a variety of defence manufacturing activities. For example, there are strong aerospace clusters in Quebec and in western Canada. There is an Ontario-based vehicles cluster. There are shipbuilding clusters on two coasts and defence technology clusters in Montreal and Ottawa. In some communities, these businesses are key to supporting the broader community. A prime example of this is southwestern Ontario, the home of Canada's vehicle manufacturing sector. Maintaining these high-skill, high-paying jobs is critical to the region's broader manufacturing sector.
I emphasize once again that these are not low-skill, part-time jobs. Workers are in fact characterized by their high level of skill. Engineers, scientists, and researchers accounted for more than 30% of the defence industry in 2014. These are professions our government proudly supports in a 21st-century, knowledge-based economy.
Because the sector is highly-skilled and innovative, the jobs in this sector are high-paying. In 2014, the direct jobs from the direct defence sector provided an average compensation close to 60% above the manufacturing sector average.
Canada's defence businesses possess strong linkages into important global value chains, generating high-value exports. Roughly 60% of Canada's defence sales are attributed to exports, representing an export intensity that is close to 20% higher than that of the overall Canadian manufacturing average.
As I mentioned earlier, the defence and security industry is made up almost entirely of small and medium-sized enterprises. Although the sector is export oriented, these small businesses owe much of their livelihood to larger supply chain opportunities.
Our defence industry requires exports to be sustainable. Of course the majority of our exports go south to our American friends. Canada is a proud partner in the North American defence industrial base. We are, and will continue to be, good neighbours and good partners in North America.
Canada's defence firms are sources of technological dynamism and have contributed to innovations across a range of sectors, including aerospace, space, marine and information communications technologies, or ICT. This is particularly true with respect to technology spillovers flowing from defence related research and development in areas such as propulsion, detection, navigation, communications, composites and materials.
Of course, this is much more about economics. Canada's defence and security industry helps enable mission success for the Canadian Armed Forces, both at home and around the world. The Canadian Armed Forces could not be successful in what it does without the Canadian industry ensuring that our military has the right skills, equipment and training to succeed on every mission.
Without a commercially viable defence and security sector, industry support to our armed forces and its objectives would not be possible. As an example, in the maritime sector the national shipbuilding strategy is re-establishing an important industry and supporting Canadian technological innovation. At the same time, the strategy and the renewal of the Canadian Coast Guard fleet are essential to the Government of Canada's ongoing efforts to keep Canadians safe on the water and to help navigate the billions of dollars in cargo that travel through Canadian waters each year.
Our government understands the importance of an armed force that will monitor our coast lines, protect our continent, contribute to international peace and security, and help during natural disasters, but all of that is impossible without the active role played by our businesses and workers.
To sum up, Canada’s defence and security industry makes an important contribution to our economy. It provides high-paying, innovative work to thousands of Canadians in various economic sectors all across the country. We should be proud of the Canadians working in that industry.
The NDP should not so callously abandon the thousands of workers whose livelihoods depend on the survival of those companies.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to address the motion before us today. There are a number of things that come to mind. I would like to start off by talking about the importance of human rights.
This is fairly universal. Canadians truly care about what is happening around the world. I do not question that. The Liberal party does not question that. The Prime Minister and the Government of Canada not only do not question it, but are very much proactive on that file.
Pierre Elliott Trudeau brought Canada its Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We are a party of the charter. When I think even of my years in the Manitoba legislature, I cannot help but think of the late Izzy Asper, a gentleman who had the idea of having a human rights museum. Today, we have the Canadian human rights museum in Winnipeg, its first national museum.
There no doubt are individuals on all sides of the House who have played a leading role in different capacities in dealing with the issue of human rights. However, I do not believe for a moment that we should have to abandon our thoughts on human rights. We can be strong advocates, but at the same time recognize Canada's valuable contributions moving forward on a wide number of fronts.
We need to recognize Canada's defence industry. It plays a critical role not only in Canada's and other United Nations' militaries around the world, but it also plays an important role in providing thousands and thousands of jobs in all regions of our country. Our middle class is very much dependent on those jobs. There was a time when even New Democrats appreciated those jobs.
There is the multi-billion dollar, multi-year deal with Saudi Arabia, which the NDP is criticizing today. However, that was not the case a few months ago during the election. In fact, the leader of the New Democratic Party was very clear with Canadians, saying the New Democrats would not back out of the agreements. A local NDP member of Parliament guaranteed that the New Democrats would fulfill those contracts with Saudi Arabia. I found it interesting when one of the members said that some facts had changed. The only fact that has changed is that we are no longer in an election. While we were in the election, the New Democrats seemed more interested in those defence industry jobs. Today, they seem to have written that industry off.
Canada is one of the most proactive countries and is very much aware of human rights. We have things in place to ensure that as much as possible we have a responsible exportation policy.
The New Democrats are proposing yet another standing committee. One of the members said that the government of the day, the , said yes, to a separate standing committee on pay equity. It was an NDP motion. We acknowledged it as a good idea, we accepted it, and we voted for it. However, this motion is not a good idea. This is just not necessary.
I am surprised the New Democrats have chosen to politicize such an important issue to the degree they have. I could pull those very specific quotes where we hear hypocrisy oozing out on the issue. I wish I had the vocabulary to demonstrate, like Pat Martin used to do from the New Democratic benches. I am sure people would recognize that what is happening today on this issue is of the utmost importance and Canadians need to be assured that the Government of Canada is in fact doing its job.
We are committed to enhancing both the rigour and transparency of Canada's export control progress. We are pursuing many parallel paths to do so. The foremost is ensuring that Canada becomes a member of the United Nations armed trades treaty, known as the ATT.
The ATT aims to stop unregulated arms transfers that intensify and prolong conflict, lead to regional instability, facilitate violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses, and hinder social and economic development. It also promotes responsibility, transparency, and accountability in the global arms trade.
Canada already closely controls the export of all goods and technology listed on the export control list. This includes all dual-use goods and technology, not just military goods as required by the ATT. That would include things like chemicals that could be used in chemical warfare. It also includes nuclear-related things. The Government of Canada is aware of many different things and that is one of the reasons we have these export rules.
The government is committed to delivering more transparency so that the export control system combines national security along with human rights, along with Canadian jobs, and there is nothing wrong with defending Canadian jobs, and a domestic defence industry that supports Canada's military. It makes sense.
We have demonstrated tangible leadership with regard to the Arms Trade Treaty. The government is committed to ensuring that Canada becomes a state party to the Arms Trade Treaty.
Winnipeg is the home of Lloyd Axworthy, who is playing a leading role with respect to the ban of landmines. We have done all sorts of things on the global front dealing with humanitarian causes. Not only are we looking internally, but we are also looking at how Canada can play an international role at making sure the right thing is being done, that human rights are being advocated for in all regions of the world.
With the entry into force of the ATT in December 2014, Canada must accede to the treaty to become a state party to it. This process is being pursued as a priority by the and the government, but it will take some time as legislative and regulatory changes are expected and necessary before Canada can accede to the treaty itself.
I would encourage my friends in the New Democratic Party to look at the standing committees that we currently have. The NDP member on the foreign affairs standing committee would be aware of the fact that the foreign affairs committee is looking at this very issue. As opposed to playing politics within the chamber on this important issue, I would encourage members to look at that standing committee and its commitment to do a study, which is on its agenda. I would encourage them to pursue that.
I posed a question earlier to an NDP member. I asked what the party's position is today with regard to the Saudi agreement. During the election campaign, those members were clear that they supported it. The leader of the New Democratic Party made it very clear as did the member of Parliament from London. I would ask the current members as they stand up and address the debate today if they have flip-flopped. If they have that is fine. I respect that. However, they should at least be transparent with Canadians as to what they hope to accomplish and whether they support the Saudi Arabia agreement.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this important debate. Before I begin, I should indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for today.
I think it is really important that we start with what we are talking about and what we are not talking about. This is a forward-looking motion that is designed to achieve greater transparency and greater oversight. It calls upon Parliament to create, by amendment to the Standing Orders, an oversight committee for the issue of arms sales abroad and related procedural matters to that particular motion.
The objective is to say, learning from what we have done in the past, how we can do better in the future. The proposition in the motion that is before Parliament today is that we create a committee that would study this because our allies are doing a much better job and because we lack the information they have to do that job. That is what I would like to focus on in my remarks today.
In the last couple of days we have been dealing with another important initiative, Bill in which the Government of Canada has liberally adverted to the experience in the United Kingdom with its security intelligence oversight committee, and called for greater accountability through that process and greater access for parliamentarians to information about national security operations in our country.
Today's motion would do the same thing, but in a different context. It would create oversight of how arms exports occur in Canada, particularly when we learn more information about human rights abuses that may or may not be occurring in a particular country.
Let us examine the situation in the United Kingdom. Just as the government would want us to learn from their experience in national security oversight, I am suggesting that the House could profit from learning about the United Kingdom experience in this same area.
It was over 15 years ago that the United Kingdom set up a parliamentary committee on arms export controls. That committee had people drawn from a whole variety of other parliamentary committees to examine all aspects of the United Kingdom arms exports, from licensing to broader policy issues such as human rights. Every year in that country there is a government annual report on U.K. arms exports, and it has recently been focusing on exports to countries of concern, many of which are the subject of the debate we are having here today. It is looking at the role, for example, of U.K. exports to Saudi Arabia and the war in Yemen, which of course are very much at the core of why this debate is before us today.
That is about oversight, but what about the need for greater transparency and information? The British public, through that committee, has had much more access to information about what is going on so that they can hold their government to account as to the extent to which arms exports are being sent to countries most people in Britain would not want to receive them.
What is the situation in Canada? We have an Access to Information Act, but its exceptions swallow the rule. The moment anything to do with international affairs or foreign policy comes up, it is a black hole. The ability to actually find out what is going on is very limited. This committee would be an opportunity to hear, not just from the public, NGOs and the like but also from people in industry, which is perfectly appropriate, as well as government representations and indeed the public so that we can have a broader national conversation about this important issue.
I had the honour of working with the former member for Mount Royal, Irwin Cotler, a champion of international human rights, and we are on a committee called the Raoul Wallenberg human rights committee, with members drawn from all the representative parties here. We had the opportunity to meet the wife of Raif Badawi here in Ottawa, who was arrested and imprisoned in that country for insulting Islam, sentenced to 10 years and a thousand lashes. That international human rights debate was the subject of great concern across this country.
We have understood in recent years more than we understood before about where Canada's arms are going. I will admit, I had no idea the extent to which Canadian arms abroad have become an important component of international trade in arms. Canada's weapons exports have nearly doubled over the last 10 years. I confess, I did not know that.
In fact, Canada is the second-largest arms dealer in the Middle East, according to Jane's All the World's Aircraft, the defence industry publication. Now Saudi Arabia is the world's second-largest buyer of Canadian-made military equipment after the United States. I do not think many Canadians are aware of that information. It may be that I am the last to know these things, but I find it very disturbing, as I think a lot of Canadians would, that we have become such an important arms export contributor in the international sphere.
Therefore, I ask myself, what do we have to hide as a country? Why can we not know more? Why can we not know the human rights records of the countries to which we are sending arms? Yes, we have assessments, but those human rights assessments have been watered down over the years. They are not as available as they should be to the Canadian public and to us so that we as the representatives of the public can have a better idea of just exactly where our money is being spent, where our arms are going, and the extent to which we are contributors to world peace. I think that is something that we need to look at very carefully.
Apparently our existing arms export rules have changed over the years. They are supposed to prohibit sales of military hardware to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens”, and here is the condition, “unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population”. Well obviously there are problems, because we have seen in the Saudi example how arms sent to that country for domestic purposes have been diverted to put down Shia protests in one part of the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, and, it seems, to be used by the Saudis in countries like Yemen, where human rights atrocities have been so widespread. Over 6,000 people have been killed there.
Do Canadians realize that their arms may be used in that theatre of war? Do we not need to know whether light armoured vehicles, which are used for the suppression of those people, are in fact made in Canada? Maybe that is good public policy. Why can we not have a committee tasked with doing just that, not as an add-on to other work that the foreign affairs committee might be doing but as a stand-alone committee to address what is obviously a growing and important industry in our country, and its ramifications? Why is that any different from what we do with other committees that look at an area of our economy and address its ramifications?
Why would the House be opposed to greater transparency and accountability through an oversight mechanism like the British have? Why does the current government refuse to see that what it proposed two days ago in one bill, following the U.K. example of oversight and transparency, should not be used a couple of days later in another important area of our economy and society? That is what is before the House today. I really fail to see how this can be politicized as if we were somehow trying to talk about past events, who supported what and who did not, and how much information we had at a particular time versus how much we have now.
Anyone who has seen the videos of the repression of Saudi citizens with Canadian light armoured vehicles at least has to ask questions about whether we are on the right track. We do not have time, as parliamentarians, to cover every single piece of policy. Why can we not give a multi-party committee the opportunity to look at it, to get the information that members need, and to report to Canadians what it can legitimately report to them about what is going on with our dollars abroad?
That is what is before us today. I urge the House to support a motion that would provide greater accountability and greater oversight of our arms export industry.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise on such an important motion. I thank my colleague for putting it forward. A lot hard work and thought went into this substantive motion. It is an important issue. It has several aspects showing that this is a serious issue for our country that needs to set an example, especially after our government has been saying, “Canada is back”. I suppose what we are showing here is that Canada is back, in continuing arms sales in an unaccounted way.
What I also find really difficult about the situation is why would we abdicate our responsibility for products and goods once we sell them by saying, “It's not our fault, but because the receiving country sold them to somebody else”, or “they decided not to follow the rule of law or the order that has been made before”.
However, let us look at the reality. Some of the countries that have Canadian-made weapons do not even have proper relationships with Canada. These weapons are ending up in other jurisdictions. Some are sold directly to nations where we have an embassy and other types of connections and so forth. But after their use, perhaps in a second life, sometimes what we are debating is the first life cycle. This is the first life, but in the second life cycle and the third life cycle, they can end up abroad. We would have to look no further than proxy wars like that in Yemen where we have these situations.
All we are calling for is having accountability back in the chamber so that all Canadians will have a connection to the products and services that are exported outside our country and will have their say in that, by having representatives who are informed about that. It goes to committee. When witnesses are called to committee, if they lie or make up information that is not truthful and knowingly present it to committee, that is perjury. There is an accountability measure in the committee system, more than just public shame and public opinion. That is law.
I think that is the fairest thing to do when some of our customers then use our machines, our materials, to do things that were not supposed to be done.
The reason I mentioned asbestos earlier is that, quite literally, Canada was exporting death with asbestos. Pat Martin, a former member of Parliament, spent more than a decade working on this issue, raising it, bringing up the fact that men, women, and children were often dealing with asbestos without having the proper safety requirements for this, a product that is now illegal in Canada, but which it was okay for others to use, in that once it was out the door, “Don't worry about it. We're all done with it”.
How can we say this on such an important issue when we know our customer base is growing in region where there is significant conflict and war and, in fact, where regimes are often using tactics that include the use of weapons against their civilian populations? Are we supposed to abdicate our responsibility for that?
I believe that if we do the right thing and have that accountability, it will increase the responsibility of our customer base and also improve our chances of making sure that other illegal arms are not dispersed to countries and other jurisdictions.
In fact, we are not the only country doing this. The United Kingdom, for example, is going through the same process. Why does it matter? It matters because their public money is often involved in this. So, they have a right have a say in that.
When we look at some of the programs that we are assisting arms manufacturers with, they include research and development, supports for exporting and, thanks to the previous governments, a series of tax cuts that have gone unaccountable, in terms of where that money went. Often, much of that money left Canada anyway, but the reality of the matter is that Canadians have a vested interested financially and ethically, in social justice terms, to have that accountability in this chamber. There is no better place to do it.