Notices of Meeting include information about the subject matter to be examined by the committee and date, time and place of the meeting, as well as a list of any witnesses scheduled to appear. The Evidence is the edited and revised transcript of what is said before a committee. The Minutes of Proceedings are the official record of the business conducted by the committee at a sitting.
Welcome to meeting number 66 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
I intend to dispense with the usual reading of the hybrid rules.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Monday, February 13, 2023, the committee is resuming consideration of Bill S-8.
I'm very pleased to welcome officials from various departments. They are going to be supporting our consideration at the clause-by-clause stage. If members are interested, I can review the rules around clause-by-clause, but I'm also happy to dispense with those, given that we've dealt with clause-by-clause fairly recently.
Is there any member who wishes us to review the clause-by-clause rules?
Thank you for expressing that, Ms. McPherson. We have an agenda for this meeting, which is clause-by-clause of Bill S-8.
I will call each clause successively, and each clause is subject to debate and a vote. If there is an amendment to the clause in question, I will recognize the member proposing it, who may explain it. The amendment will then be open for debate. When no further members wish to intervene, the amendment will be voted on. Amendments will be considered in the order in which they appear in the bill or in the package each member received from the clerk.
There is an additional amendment from our friends in the Bloc this morning, so just take note of that. That will be considered, as well, in due course.
Members should note that the amendments must be submitted in writing to the clerk of the committee. Each amendment has been given an alphanumeric number in the top right corner to indicate which party submitted it. There is no need for a seconder to move an amendment. Once an amendment is moved, you will need unanimous consent to withdraw it.
During debate on an amendment, members are permitted to move subamendments. These subamendments must be submitted in writing. They do not require the approval of the mover of the amendment. Only one subamendment may be considered at a time, and that subamendment cannot be amended. When a subamendment to an amendment is moved, it is voted on first. Then another subamendment may be moved, or the committee may consider the main amendment and vote on it.
Once every clause has been voted on, the committee will vote on the title and on the bill itself. Finally, the committee will have to order the chair to report the bill to the House. That report contains only the text of any adopted amendments, as well as an indication of any deleted clauses.
Those are the clause-by-clause rules.
I will now proceed to call clause 1.
(Clause 1 agreed to)
(Clauses 2 to 4 inclusive agreed to)
(On clause 5)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): We're now on clause 5, for which I believe there is an amendment.
As I noted during our discussion on the bill, there is a coordinating amendment that we feel would be required because of the previous passing of another Senate bill that affects the same area of this bill.
I would move that Bill S-8, in clause 5, be amended by replacing lines 33 and 34 on page 2 with the following:
5 (1) Paragraph 35(1)(c) of the Act is repealed.
(1.1) Subsection 35(1) of the Act is amended by adding “or” at the end of paragraph (b) and by repealing paragraphs (d) and (e).
That is the amendment. It is meant to be a technical coordinating amendment, on the advice of legislative counsel.
I have a question for clarification at this point.
I note that CPC-1 and G-1, I believe, are trying to correct the same omission, and I'll give credit to Mr. Hoback's office for discovering this.
I have a question to Mr. Oliphant.
Is paragraph 35(1)(c.1) remaining or being repealed? To me, that is the section that refers back to the coordinating amendment from S-223 and refers to section 240.1 of the Criminal Code and must remain. Is it clear that it is being retained in Bill S-8?
It's just a comment and you can rule me out of order, Mr. Chair.
I'm a little surprised that this omission made it this far. We're in committee after having gone through the Senate so I'm not quite sure. I'm still relatively new to this game. I'm wondering how this omission came about? It's more of a question of ignorance on my part.
My understanding is that it's fairly normal. When two bills are being considered concurrently and they're dealing with the same act this can happen. The good thing is that the officials catch it and tell us that, you've just done this on this act... What was it? Bill S-221 or S-226...?
I have one more question to the officials then. It is very clear through G-1 that both foreign nationals and permanent residents are deemed to be in scope of inadmissibility through the provisions from Bill S-223. Is that correct?
As for the (c.1) provision, it remains unchanged from as enacted in Bill S-223, so I believe it does apply to permanent residents and foreign nationals, but the Bill S-8 inadmissibilities on sanctions only apply to foreign nationals.
To help the interpreters, officials should move closer to the microphone when they speak. It is sometimes difficult for the interpreters to do their job well. I heard them say a few things to that effect.
With the proposed deletion in G-1 of paragraph (c), which only refers to permanent residents, is it the intention then to leave—I'm getting confused now—foreign nationals...? Is the intention to allow permanent residents who may have received an illegal organ transplant not to be subject to the inadmissibility under Bill S-8?
I remember hearing testimony to say that this does not impact the organ transplant bill at all, so there's no impact on what we've already done in that bill. Whatever was in that bill is there, and this does not have any impact on that or change it.
That's what I heard from experts. I'm not an expert on it, but I did hear that.
Before I move my amendment, I would ask that the chair give us some time to consider the motion that I tried to bring forward at the beginning of the meeting, my motion that is looking at peace in Israel and Palestine.
Would that be possible to do after clause-by-clause, Mr. Chair?
Ms. McPherson, I'll consult with the committee, after clause-by-clause, on what folks want to do next and depending on time and resources. I'm happy to pose the question to the committee at that point.
I'm just asking if you could let me know if you'd be willing to give the floor, if there is time at the end of the meeting, so that we can debate the motion that I brought forward last Thursday and that I would like to bring forward today so that the committee can make a decision on it.
I think, realistically, the reason that you said we couldn't do this last week was that we had witnesses. We don't have witnesses the same way today. We do have the time to do this. I don't think it would take very long—really just a few minutes—to do a vote and to have a bit of a discussion on it. That's what I would like to do.
I do believe that Ms. McPherson has the floor. I think you are correct in saying that she could move her motion now but that you would be not able to say whether or not it could happen later because that depends on the meeting.
Mr. Oliphant, she has the floor in the context of the consideration of clause 6. She is welcome to move an amendment to clause 6 or to speak to clause 6, but she cannot move another motion because it's an established principle, the rules of the committee, that you can't have two motions on the table at once. When clause 6 is being considered—
I'd like to offer, maybe, a little bit more explanation.
For every committee meeting, an agenda is distributed, and we seek to follow that agenda. When there's committee business scheduled, members can move any motion without notice. If an item is not on the agenda, if a motion is on notice, members may move that item on notice when they have the floor, provided that there isn't another item on the table for consideration.
We are under consideration of clause 6. I offered the floor to Ms. McPherson for discussion on clause 6, but in light of the fact that she is going far afield of the topic, I—
Mr. Chair, I was asking you a question, and it's very reasonable to ask a question of the chair. If you would like me to go with my NDP-1, I'm more than happy to, but your not responding to my question is inappropriate.
I think you're very aware that we do this very often in committee, Garnett. You're being a little unreasonable to be perfectly honest.
I'm happy to move my NDP‑1, and I would certainly hope that you would be willing to let us debate the motion, because, as you know, you've brought many motions forward during committee meetings. It's not always during committee business.
NDP‑1 is an attempt to define “entity” within the bill. We heard from a number of different experts that they were concerned about it. Bill S‑8 proposes to establish a distinct ground of inadmissibility based on sanctions, namely sanctions imposed on a “country, entity or person”.
As we heard from the Canadian Bar Association, the Refugee Centre and other witnesses, they recommend removing the reference to “country” because it is too far-reaching and the implications on others would be too risky, and they would limit the sanctions to an entity or person. They also recommended that “entity” be clearly defined to exclude a country or foreign state.
We also want to ensure that the sanctions in this bill are defined as many witnesses asked. The main concern was that “sanctions” should not include economic measures imposed on a foreign state. We believe that the removal of “country” from proposed section 35.1, which is the subject of this amendment, would accomplish that. That's exactly why we're moving this particular amendment.
I do want to advise that there was some discussion around the admissibility of this amendment. My view is that the amendment is admissible, so we'll proceed on it. Of course, that's always subject to a possible appeal to the Speaker if there are those who think I made the wrong decision.
If this amendment is adopted, it will preclude the Bloc amendment, which was distributed this morning, from being moved.
I will now open the speakers list if there is further debate. I have Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe and Mr. Oliphant. If any others want to speak, please indicate that.
I agree with the NDP's proposal, but, with respect, I think the Bloc Québécois amendment is much more specific and comprehensive. I suggest that the Committee reject the NDP amendment and accept the Bloc Québécois amendment.
I don't want to create a squabble either, but I think our amendment, which is much more specific, is along the same lines as the NDP amendment. It does not change the spirit of the bill at all. If the NDP's amendment is found to be in order, so is the Bloc Québécois' amendment. I would argue that ours is more focused and more precise. For this type of bill, it would be better to adopt the Bloc Québécois amendment.
First, I would like to hear, from the legislative clerks, his or her opinion on the admissibility of this amendment. Then I would like to retain the floor and talk about it. However, I'd like to hear their comments on whether or not they believed and advised the chair that it was admissible or inadmissible, based on their extensive experience as legislative clerks.
In analyzing this amendment, it seemed to us that the objective of Bill S‑8 was to expand the scope of inadmissibility based on sanctions to not just a country but also an entity or a person. This amendment seeks to reduce the scope of inadmissibility, so in our view, it went against the principle of the bill.
I would agree with you. It's been ruled by the chair as admissible, which I don't think is correct. However, I won't challenge the chair on that. Your point is extremely important, because on this side, we won't be supporting either the NDP's amendment on this section or the Bloc's. We actually think it does change the bill and is contrary to the nature of the bill, which was meant to expand the government's ability, Canada's ability, to keep the bad people out. That's exactly what we're trying to do.
Bill S-8, if amended, would delete the reference to “country” in the proposed new paragraph and would add the clarification that an entity does not include a foreign state. The proposed amendment would unduly limit the scope of inadmissibility provisions. It would mean that, contrary to the provision that has been in place for the last 20 years, foreign nationals would not be inadmissible if they were subject to a travel ban, included as part of sanctions imposed against a country. This would put Canada in breach of its obligations to implement such sanctions, including travel restrictions imposed by the United Nations.
We have strong legal concerns, which are coming from two departments, as well as a parliamentary concern coming from the legislative clerk that this changes the nature of the bill, so we would be voting against this amendment. I believe if it were to fail, it would probably negate the Bloc one as well—although I have never been sure of that rule.
However, we want to keep Canada as safe as possible. We want to limit admissibility when people have been sanctioned, and I think this amendment is contrary to this.
This is a response to Mr. Oliphant's comments. My concern is that this is an amendment that is being brought forward by legal experts to limit the potential for unintended harm. The Canadian Bar Association, obviously, would have some pretty strong understanding of the legal requirements.
From my perspective, this is doing what we can to ensure that, as you say, the bad guys don't come to Canada, but it's also giving us protection so that we are not having unintended consequences on those who are not guilty. It's providing more clarity, so there is more understanding. That's my perspective on that.
Many witnesses asked for clarification of certain terms, including "countries" and "entities," and in some cases even for the removal of the word "country." The latter term may be too broad a reference, whereas "foreign state" is used in legislation related to sanctions, such as the Special Economic Measures Act and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, or Sergei Magnitsky Act. The term "foreign state" is clearly defined in them.
I don't think anyone here questions the wording of the Sergei Magnitsky Act. I even often hear members of all parties using it as an example. If we want to be serious, I think we could build on what is already defined in some legislation internationally, and even domestically.
As far as we know, the word "entity" is also not defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, whereas it is, as I've indicated, in various statutes dealing with sanctions. We are simply adding more clarification without changing the essence of Bill S‑8.
My colleague Mr. Oliphant just gave a demonstration in his argument, but I would be curious to know if he is able to explain the difference between "country" and "foreign state." Perhaps that would help us understand the Liberal point of view a bit. Right now, I'm convinced that our proposal will really define things better and only improve the bill, and, more importantly, make it more precise.
In my opinion, the essence of the bill is not affected at all by these amendments. I understand that we are still debating the NDP amendment, but I am convinced that the Bloc Québécois amendment is more precise.
As I said with all due respect to Ms. McPherson, this is not a disavowal at all, but I think it is a good idea to clarify things because the witnesses came to the Committee and explained that we needed to do this. It is our role as parliamentarians to listen to what is being said when the experts speak to us and to act accordingly when it comes time to vote on amendments and subamendments.
To the civil servants, first, I would like some clarity on NDP-1, which is the amendment we're debating right now, in terms of what impact it would have on the number of individuals who would be admissible to Canada if we made this amendment.
Second, is with regard to the term “country”. Can you provide some insight as to whether there is any interlocking with other legislative instruments, with the term “country” in particular?
With respect to the proposed amendment and the questions you have raised, it's important to note that, in our view, there's a bit of misinterpretation by some former witnesses. As pointed out by some members of the committee, the reference to “country” has existed in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for nearly 20 years now. It's not the case that we apply that inadmissibility to all citizens or nationals of that country. That's just simply not the case.
In terms of the concrete reality, if you look at the United Nations Security Council travel bans that Canada has agreed to impose, where they list countries and individuals, there are 290 individuals on that list of the United Nations Security Council. Since 2017, only 10 have been refused entry to Canada. We've never interpreted it as applying to all nationals of a country.
The amendment as proposed would actually narrow the inadmissibility that currently exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That's the answer to one of your questions.
With respect to definitions, sanctions inadmissibility in the IRPA is directly referenced by the other statutes. These are the Special Economic Measures Act, for instance, or the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. Under IRPA, we do not apply any different definitions to those terms. It's what's in those other acts that results in someone being sanctioned, and then by operation of law, more or less, they are found inadmissible if they choose to come to Canada and their admissibility is assessed.
We took a look at the very same issue. We took a look at potentially.... One of the criticisms we heard was defining the word “entity”. I think that's the other thing that we're trying to get at. We took a look at adding it to the IRPA at the beginning and then allowing the clause in this section, “entity does not include a foreign state” as referring only to section 35.
Can you comment on whether that's the better route to go: to define “entity” within the IRPA as it is defined in SEMA? I think that is what we're trying to get to. We're all on the same page, I think. We're just trying to figure out how we get there.
Then we'd be excluding “entity”, specifically within section 35, as defined in Bill S-8.
With respect to definitions, it's important that it's not only about the Special Economic Measures Act. If you look at paragraph 35(1)(c) of the IRPA as it exists today, it doesn't actually limit the imposition of sanctions to that one act. For instance, there's also the United Nations Act, which is used to impose some United Nations Security Council sanctions and travel bans.
If you're looking at definitional requirements, it's best to place those, in our view, in the statutes that have the authorities to generate those sanctions to begin with, and not in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
I would just give a “thank you” to the officials. On technical issues like this, their advice is very important to be followed. I don't think it's partisan advice. I think it's really making sure that our legislation is clear and in line with our UN obligations, which they know far better than I do.
There is no definition of “country” in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That's one point.
That in and of itself doesn't affect the administration of the inadmissibility provisions, however, because the sanction is imposed by the Governor in Council or whatever instrument is provided in those other statutes, for instance, the Special Economic Measures Act or the United Nations Act.
For immigration purposes, there is no different definition from what is provided in the statute that allows the government to impose the sanction in the first place. There is no definition, but we also don't apply any definitions, either.
In that case, it would be a good idea to use the expression "foreign state" like we are proposing, as that would clarify things for many people. This is not a partisan debate and we are trying to do the best job we can.
We think using the expression "foreign state" is the right way to go. That is why I think the Bloc amendment is better than the NDP amendment. Our amendment makes it clearer by using the term "foreign state," whereas the NDP amendment eliminates the reference to a state.
I will make one comment, and then, if I may, Mr. Chair, turn to my colleague, Scott Nesbitt.
With respect to the definitional issues, the one thing that is very important to note is that any time there's a definition in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that doesn't perfectly align with the enabling sanction-imposing statute, you have imposed a new test for immigration officials to apply, which somewhat undermines the intent of this bill.
The intent of this bill is to align sanctions-issuing provisions with immigration inadmissibility-issuing provisions. If you impose any definitional issues, or any definitions that don't perfectly mirror those statutes, you're introducing greater complexity and an extra administrative decision for immigration officials, which wouldn't be the case if the definitions perfectly aligned amongst all of those statutes.
Very briefly, and I don't want to extend this discussion. Essentially, the term “country”, even if it's not defined in the legislation in question, still has a concrete definition that is well-worn, recognized and understood by any engagement with the legislation, as you said, over the last 20 years. Is that correct?
Yes, that's a very fair point. There is no expressed definition in the act, but as with any legislation, a term is going to be interpreted, having regard to its purpose and context.
The purpose and context here is all about implementing multilateral sanctions, primarily United Nations Security Council resolutions. To be clear, there are 15 United Nations Security Council resolutions right now that impose sanctions. Of those 15, it's absolutely crystal clear that 11 of them are sanctions against countries. There's no doubt that those 11 sanctions are imposed against countries and, thus, would trigger paragraph 35(1)(c) as it currently exists, or proposed paragraph 35.1(1)(a) as it would be amended by Bill S-8.
I prefer the Bloc amendment, as well, so I will withdraw NDP-1.
Some of the context I have here is.... I recognize it's a new test. I recognize there is the ability for folks to interpret how this is identified. Having clarity and context makes sense, but I will withdraw NDP-1. Perhaps we can vote on the Bloc amendment. It seems unlikely to pass, but we should go through the process.
In listening to your explanation, is it clear then that no individuals have been deemed inadmissible on the basis of sanctions purely because of their affiliation to a country or foreign state? Is it always tied to an additional test as outlined by IRPA?
I would like to just briefly explain. The way UN sanctions work is that they are imposed against a country as the target to try to change that country's behaviour. However, when a travel ban is imposed, individuals are always listed by the committee responsible for that United Nations Security Council resolution, so it designates particular individuals who are subject to the travel ban as part of the overall sanctions against a country as a whole.
For example, sanctions against North Korea were imposed by the UN in 2006. There are 80 individuals who have been designated. It's only those 80 individuals who are inadmissible under this provision. The most recent UN sanctions are against Haiti. Only one person has been designated. It's only that one person from Haiti who is inadmissible under this provision.
During the debate on the NDP amendment, I was in fact debating the amendment that we put forward. We've looked at it from every angle.
Everybody knows the reasons why we moved it today. I thank the officials for their comments. Now, the parties need to take a position on this amendment, because we already discussed it during the debate on NDP-1. We should move to a vote right now and then move forward with the rest of the bill.
Just on the first point, I want to highlight what you mentioned earlier in terms of a foreign entity. That will add on a new layered test.
We just had a conversation around country and how that's been tried, tested and true as a term and a concept, but the foreign state concept isn't tried, tested and true in the same way. It would require a whole set of rethinking with respect to the legislation. Is that correct?
In principle, it's a similar scenario. As I mentioned before, the multilateral sanctions under paragraph 35(1)(c) of the IRPA, which reference country and individual, can be imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act, in addition to the United Nations Act and any other act that allows Canada to act in concert with an association of states.
By importing a definition from only the Special Economic Measures Act and not ensuring that same definition applies in all of the other sanctions-issuing legislation, it creates additional complexity and additional tests. It could create a lack of coordination from an inadmissibility perspective, rather than a coordinating effect as intended by the proposed amendment.
With respect to that particular amendment, we noted preliminarily that it is already missing an element that is in the Special Economic Measures Act. There is a reference to “organization” that is missing, which is actually quite important for the effectiveness of the sanction.
It would create a disharmony between the two statutes, if adopted.
I'll just add that the minister explained one of the reasons why the word “entity” was being added to Bill S-8. The intent behind that is to make sure that multilateral sanctions directed against non-state actors—groups such as the Taliban, Daesh, ISIL or al Qaeda—are covered by the new proposed paragraph 35.1(1)(a).
The term “entity” was deliberately not defined so that it would be interpreted broadly enough to capture those organizations however they are characterized. The fact that, here, the term “entity” is being defined in a way that references or seems to draw from the Special Economic Measures Act definition of “entity” but doesn't include the term “organization”—which is in that other act as well as the Magnitsky act—suggests that maybe it would not cover the very groups that this amendment was intended to cover.
Thank you for the clarifications. You are right. Unfortunately, the second part was badly drafted. I cannot introduce a sub-amendment to amend my amendment, but if someone else wants to do it, that would be great. We should keep the first part and delete the second part. Officials have rightly pointed out that the second part is badly drafted.
I am going to make a subamendment actually. That's exactly what I'd like to do. We actually have no problem with part (a) of the amendment—sanctions on a person, entity or foreign state. We can live with that. However, part (b) we would like to strike from the amendment, the part about “after line 19”. The subamendment is to strike the (b) section of that amendment.
Since Mr. Epp had been up to speak on the amendment, I'll just ask if there's anybody—Mr. Epp or otherwise—who wants to speak to the subamendment. If not, we'll proceed to a vote on that. Is there a need for recorded division, or are we agreed to adopt the subamendment?
(Subamendment agreed to)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): Now that we're back to debate on the main amendment, we'll go to Mr. Epp and then to Mr. Oliphant.
I have a question for the officials. I'd like to get back to the definition of “entity”. I hear you about the problem being not only with SEMA but also with the UN sanctions. Is this the first time that “entity” is going to be defined in legislation? Is it defined nowhere else, be it IRPA, SEMA...?
While true, that's not a point of order. We're on part (a).
Can I make a suggestion? This is an amendment we received today, and I think people are getting some new information. Can I suggest a brief suspension to facilitate some discussion about the remaining provision?
The reason I raised a point of order was relevance, because Mr. Epp was talking about “entity”, which I think is gone. I think where we are now is on part (a). My sense is that we may have a consensus on part (a). We may be able to live with that without a suspension.
I just want to ask the officials if there are any unintended consequences that we as parliamentarians don't know about.
Are there any unintended consequences of changing “country” to “foreign state”? We've reversed the order of them to “entity or person”. Essentially the change is to change “country” to “foreign state”. I know it's not in concordance with the other acts, but is there anything you think we're making a mistake on by doing that?
The reason we're bringing forward NDP-2 is that it sets a legislative review of the bill after three years. We did hear from a number of witnesses at this committee—the Canadian Bar Association, the Refugee Centre, the Bellissimo Law Group—who had concerns with how this legislation may affect innocent people, including refugee claimants. I think it's important that we have an opportunity to do a legislative review of this to deal with any negative consequences that may unintentionally come as a result of this bill and to make sure that those are addressed and remedied.
Basically, it's a simple amendment. We're just asking that there be a legislative review.
We'll stay on topic-ish. I know I deviated a little bit there.
Shall amendment NDP-2 carry?
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): Shall clause 23 carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): Shall the title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): Shall the bill as amended carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): At this point, we don't have any other items on the agenda, so I'll put the question back to the committee. If there's a desire on the part of the committee, there are a number of items that I know members have expressed interest in dealing with. We can deal with those, or we can adjourn.
I would like to either adjourn or suspend so that we can give the officials time to step away. Perhaps we could do a quick straw poll and ask which members are interested in adjourning.
I'm not seeing any hands, but I think I have a majority of the committee indicating that they would prefer to adjourn. Is that...?
Mr. Brunelle-Duceppe, I'm offering the committee the option. As you know, adjournment is not something that the chair is supposed to do of their own will. Adjournment is dependent on the will of the committee. There was nothing else on the agenda besides Bill S-8, but we certainly have the option to deal with other matters.
I'm putting the question back to the committee. I got the sense that there was a desire to have a vote on the question of adjournment.
I'm sorry, Ms. McPherson. As a point of order, that motion has been moved. It can't be moved again. You can move that the committee resume consideration on it. It is a dilatory motion, so we'll go directly to a vote.
Ms. Heather McPherson: I would like to do that.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): You're moving that the debate on the motion be resumed. Is there a need for a vote?
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), and in light of recent events in Israel and Palestine, the committee conduct a study on the actions Canada should take to foster peace and respect for human rights and international law in the region; that the study consist of at least eight meetings; that the Minister of Foreign Affairs be invited to appear and that the committee invite witnesses from Canadian civil society, international humanitarian organizations, and Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations; that the committee report its findings to the House, and that pursuant to Standing Order 109 the government table a comprehensive response to the report.
I want to begin with a few comments. Then, I will let the committee know that I will be introducing a first amendment to be considered, after which I will have a second amendment.
I will begin by saying that Canada is a steadfast ally and friend of Israel and a friend of the Palestinian people. I think our position as Canada and the Canadian government is long-standing and has been clear. It has been the position of successive governments. We are committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel.
We recognize Israel's right to assure its own security and to protect its citizens from attacks by terrorist groups in accordance with humanitarian rights and international humanitarian law, and we recognize the Palestinian right to self-determination. Canada also believes in upholding the rule of law and democracy and in defending the institutions that underpin them. We strongly oppose any unilateral actions that undermine the rule of law and jeopardize international efforts towards lasting peace, and support all efforts towards a two-state solution. We will always support the Israeli and Palestinian peoples in their right to live in peace and security with dignity and without fear.
We agree that a study of the region could be a constructive way to evaluate this work, discuss best practices with civil society partners and assess areas through which we can further collaborate to address issues on the ground. However, in order to be productive, the study must be fact-based and conducted without bias or any prejudged conclusions.
As such, the NDP resolution right now, as it has been drafted and as it is being framed publicly, while very well-intentioned, we don't believe sets the stage for such a study. Therefore, we will put forward a couple of amendments to help us move this issue forward in the spirit of co-operation and collaboration, with the shared goal in mind of best supporting Israeli and Palestinian peoples.
That being said, I would move my first amendment. The first line of the motion begins as follows: “That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), and in light of recent events in Israel and Palestine, the committee”. I would replace “Israel and Palestine” with “Israel, the West Bank and Gaza”.
We think that statement would better represent Canada's position, long held by successive governments, on our understanding of the area as being Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
Has the amendment been distributed or sent in writing?
Okay, that is not required. It can still be moved verbally. I just want to make sure that every member understands what the amendment is and that it's clear in both languages. It's not that complicated.
Obviously, I have some concerns with the use of the words “West Bank and Gaza” instead of “Palestine” or “occupied Palestinian territory”. I think it's clear that the United Nations uses the term “occupied Palestinian territory”. Many Palestinians have told me that they have expressed that there is a feeling among the Palestinian community that this government is trying to erase their reality and erase the reality of the Palestinian people. I think it's important that we use accurate language and that the “Palestinian people” or the “occupied Palestinian territory” be used instead.
That said, I think this is a vitally important study. I think we will be bringing forward witnesses who will speak about the reality of people both in Israel and Palestine. I think the fact that this foreign affairs committee has not studied this for many years, if not decades, and that Canada does have an important role to play.... The attacks on Israeli and Palestinian civilians, particularly on children, is so appalling that, as a foreign affairs committee, we have an obligation to look at this.
While I am concerned by that amendment, I think it is more important for us to get the study and get the witnesses to this committee to talk about what Canada can do to ensure peace in the region.
I have a second amendment. This has a few small changes to the wording of the motion.
In the second line where it says, “actions Canada should take to foster peace”, I would insert the words “protect civilians, combat terrorism and uphold respect for human rights”. That is the first part.
I had intended to do all four of these at once, but it may be fairer to the committee to do them one at a time. I'll just do that one right now. I was going to do them all, but I think....
As I was saying, I'm just inserting the words, after “foster peace”, it's “protect civilians, combat terrorism and uphold respect for human rights”.
I would prefer the eight meetings. One of the things I thought might be a good compromise is that we could look at this study throughout. We could come to it and move on to the other things that are on our agenda. Then we could come back to it multiple times, similar to what we are doing with regard to the study in Ukraine. I think the eight meetings is better, considering how long it's been since we've actually done a study of this region and considering just how important what we're seeing happening in the region is.
I do think that eight is a reasonable number. That said, again, I will be supporting the will of the committee because I think it's just so important that we get this forward. I think the idea that we can then have more meetings as needed once we start looking at this very important topic would be useful.
I have another amendment. It's that we replace “the Minister of Foreign Affairs” with “relevant ministers”. Being that there are issues here of development, of defence and of international trade, there are many ministers the committee may want to call. We think it's best to say “relevant ministers” as opposed to just one.
I'd like to propose a compromise. We could say « the relevant ministers, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs.» That way, the relevant ministers would be included, but we would make sure that theMinister of Foreign Affairs will appear. I think that's reasonable.
This relates to the second-last part of this motion. Where it says “and that the committee invite witnesses from Canadian civil society, international humanitarian organizations,” we would replace the “and” that follows with “as well as Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations and peacebuilding organizations”. One is sort of grammatical—“as well as Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations”, and then we would add “and peacebuilding organizations”.
For my own clarity, I'll start a little bit earlier to make sure I see how it reads: “that the committee invite witnesses from Canadian civil society, international humanitarian organizations, as well as Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations and peacebuilding organizations; that the committee report its findings to the House”. That would be how it would read once revised.
Okay, that's the proposed amendment. Are there members wishing to debate the amendment?
(Amendment agreed to)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Garnett Genuis): We will now proceed to debate on the main motion if there are other amendments or comments.
Are there other members wishing to speak to the main motion?
As the motion is on notice, I would like to move it at this time. It is:
That, as part of its study of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the committee study and report to the House on how Canada can support its allies who are affected by resources access challenges stemming from the invasion and steps that the Government of Canada should take to respond to these challenges and that the committee complete consideration of the motion before the meeting is adjourned.