moved that Bill , be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour and privilege to rise in this House on behalf of the people of Northumberland—Peterborough South. Today, it is a particular honour because I rise with respect to my private member's bill, Bill , on human rights.
Just to give a little context before I jump into the substance of this legislation, I want to say that we are extremely blessed to live in the greatest country in the world, a country where we can be assured of the rule of law and where people can disagree without there being any physical violence. In the last three weeks of Parliament, I imagine we will hear some rancorous debate, which I am sure the Speaker will do a great job presiding over, along with some arguments and other things that may not be as pretty as they could be. However, they will be a lot better than the alternative, which, of course, would be violence.
In too many countries around the world, people have been resorting to violence. There are many countries where people will spend the night awake, waiting to see what their government might attempt to do to them. People who are just standing up for who they are, what they believe in and how they choose to worship stay up nights in living, shaking fear of an authoritarian regime or some goon or thug coming in to threaten them, simply because of the way they live. Worse yet, they may be arrested, put in jail or tortured. Right now, many are sitting around and rotting in horrible conditions, suffering through torture and unthinkable, unbelievable pain at the hands of governments around the world. Therefore, it gives me great pride today to discuss my private member's bill, which seeks to at least move the ball a little bit forward towards more humane conditions while advocating for human rights around the world.
Bill has four primary sections, or clauses. The first section deals with prisoners of conscience. Prisoners of conscience are people around the world who are being detained, sitting in prisons right now, simply because of their beliefs or thoughts. They are fighting for virtuous causes like liberty, freedom of religion or freedom of expression. They are in incredible pain and suffering. Anything that Canadians and the Canadian government can do to alleviate or reduce their suffering is something that I think we should do as quickly as we can.
My private member's bill seeks to give the Canadian people and Parliament oversight of the government's advocacy for these individuals, these important people around the world. Specifically, it puts on to the government a reporting regime that forces it to report what actions it is taking to help prisoners of conscience around the world. It would have to report how many prisoners of conscience the government's Department of Foreign Affairs is aware of and what it is doing to aid their cause; it would also have to determine whether it has been deemed helpful by the families of these victims to publish their names.
I have had the great privilege of talking to some of the family members in Canada whose loved ones are in prisons around the world; there is one in particular who is in Venezuela. They want the name of their loved one, their brother in this case, to be published, because it would add gravitas. They would be able to point to a government report to say, “Yes, the Canadian government agrees with me. My loved one, my spouse, my sister or my child is being held not because they have done a crime but because they believed in the cause of freedom, democracy or religious freedom.” The report will go on to say what the Canadian government is doing.
I will not cast aspersions in this House, because I do not think that would be parliamentary. However, I think it is fair to say that many observers out there have written about the fact that the cause of human rights has sometimes been forgotten when carrying out international diplomacy or economic trade. However, human rights should be something we stand on. Human rights should be something that demands transparency and accountability.
This private member's bill would get us there with respect to accountability and transparency. It would have the government tell us why it has not been taking action with respect to prisoners of conscience or individuals who believe that they are prisoners of conscience. There will be various groups of individuals and organizations that will look at this report and ask why a certain individual is not included or why there are only 10 prisoners of conscience in Venezuela, when surely there are many more than that. It would give family members and organizations the ability to push the government to help with care and advocacy and, hopefully, the release of their loved ones. As I said, these are some of the most honourable individuals I can imagine; they are people who have given their lives to the cause of liberty, democracy and freedom. As Canadians, we need to do everything we can to support them.
The next clause is with respect to the Magnitsky sanctions, which are, of course, named after Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky was a brilliant tax lawyer in Russia and one of the strongest fighters against Vladimir Putin's incredibly corrupt and devious regime. He stood up to Putin. Unfortunately, he ended up in a prison in Russia. A true warrior for the cause of integrity and honour, Magnitsky wound up passing away in that prison while fighting for what was right, for integrity and honour. The president of Russia, then and now, let him die there from a treatable medical condition that he would not allow him to get treatment for.
Magnitsky's friend and business colleague, Bill Browder, then went around the world trying to get Magnitsky sanctions in place. In my estimation, Magnitsky sanctions are incredibly powerful devices. They seek to put individual sanctions on some of the worst human rights violators in the world. Too often, in the past, human rights violators have gotten up in the morning, tortured victims, then hopped on their jets to attend cocktail parties in some of the most advanced economies around the world, hobnobbing with the world's elites. These are the lowest of the low; they deserve to be sanctioned and not to be given access to our country.
These Magnitsky sanctions are incredibly important tools in our tool box, and when the Magnitsky act was passed, there was a flurry of sanctions put in place for some human rights violators. We started towards the path of holding them accountable. It was a great step, I might add. However, in recent years, it has slowed down to an almost imperceptible trickle of people who have been named under the Magnitsky act. This is challenging.
What is being asked for in the second clause of my private member's bill is to look at giving Parliament oversight. We would not be taking away the power of imposing Magnitsky sanctions, although many legislative bodies around the world have done so. We are simply looking for the government to report back if the Senate, the House or a committee thereof says a person is terrible and is torturing people in Venezuela, Russia or Beijing. It then needs to find out why the government is not sanctioning that individual. All it would require is a very simple report, but it would add transparency and accountability to the government when it does not sanction a terrible human rights violator, when it is letting an individual get up in the morning and torture innocents, then, in the afternoon, fly their private jet to Toronto, B.C. or wherever to hobnob with some of our elites. It is a very reasonable bill in that it does not seek to go too far. It simply looks to hold the worst human rights violators in this world accountable.
The next section is with respect to the Broadcasting Act. During Vladimir Putin's illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, we saw that a foreign power can use Canadian airwaves to broadcast its propaganda. Fortunately, the CRTC did the right thing in pulling Russia's licence today, stopping it from broadcasting Vladimir Putin's hatred across Canadian airwaves. Unfortunately, there was no process in place, so the CRTC had to hodgepodge one together. This bill would give the CRTC a process to use when a genocidal state is using Canadian airwaves to broadcast its hatred.
We obviously do not want to restrict freedom of speech or freedom of expression unduly, so this would be a very limited prohibition in that it would need to be a genocidal state utilizing Canadian airwaves. The CRTC could then prevent it from broadcasting on Canadian airwaves. It is an oversight that this does not exist. The idea of a genocidal state broadcasting its hatred, propaganda and promotion of genocide on our airwaves is completely and utterly unacceptable. I am very proud of the proposed Broadcasting Act amendment.
The final amendment is about the prohibiting of cluster munitions. These are all great provisions, and they are all important to me, but this one is of particular importance and relevance to me. I have been to demining fields. We are talking about cluster munitions, but it is a similar concept in demining fields around the world. It is incredibly sad what cluster munitions and mines do to civilian populations. They primarily kill innocent civilians, and in many cases, children. Once the cluster munitions or mines are put down, they can take years or even decades to remove, making otherwise fertile farmland and areas where there could be schools and businesses completely useless for years and decades to come.
Even sadder is the fact that, often, these unexploded ordnances last for years and decades. The ones that are not found are the saddest of all; many children have lost their lives simply by walking somewhere. The really scary, sad and disturbing part is that cluster munitions are bomblets, or bombs of bombs. Imagine one bomb with thousands of little bombs inside that land all over. They are completely indiscriminate, which makes them particularly horrible and terrifying.
They land everywhere, and no one has a map or a marking of where these bomblets went because they are often dropped from thousands of feet up. The wind could take these things in a myriad of different directions. Therefore, mapping them out is nearly impossible. Even if countries that drop them wanted to remove them, it is very difficult to do so and requires a demining process.
The disturbing part is that these bomblets often look like shiny little toys. There have been many reports of small children going out to a play yard or a field and seeing these shiny toys; obviously, the worst happens. These tools are not even valuable when it comes to war. Because they are indiscriminate and not targetable, their value to an army is extremely limited. They are really just weapons of terror, weapons that are completely indiscriminate; because of that, they are particularly dangerous to civilians and children.
As part of this private member's process, I have had the ability to travel a bit in the country and meet with people in communities from all over who settled here in Canada, because they believe, as I do, that Canada is the greatest country on earth. They have told me their stories. They have told me about their suffering. More than once, in either one-on-one or group meetings, I have been brought to tears by their stories.
These individuals are people who have given up their lives, sacrificed their lives, for important things like making sure little girls have the opportunity to go to school; that children, regardless of where they live in the world, have the opportunity to seek an education and improve their lives; that people have the ability to vote for their leadership and not simply be told; that people enjoy freedom and have the right of personal self-determination; and that people have the right of liberty and are able to decide who they want to be, how they want to be and whom they want to love. These people need our help, and this is hopefully at least a small step in that direction, a step in re-establishing Canada as a human rights champion around the world, as it should be.
Madam Speaker, I am speaking to Bill today and would like to comment on two main themes.
First, I would like to comment briefly on the portion of the bill that would amend the Broadcasting Act. My colleague, the hon. member for , began commenting on this during the debate at report stage, and I think it is worth highlighting a few points that come from this side of the House. Afterwards, I would like to speak to human rights generally and the government's commitment to promoting and protecting human rights, both globally and here at home. This is a core part of our foreign policy and is essential to our party's approach to politics.
Broadcasting plays an important role in Canadian society. It allows for Canadians to exchange ideas, enriches our democracy and can play an important role in advancing human rights. Bill would recognize this important role by prohibiting the issuance or renewal of broadcasting licences to broadcasters that are vulnerable to significant influence by certain foreign nationals or entities of concern. Measures to protect the broadcasting system from influences are important, especially when it comes to critical issues related to human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
That said, despite the intent behind this proposal, ensuring that broadcasts that go against Canada's fundamental commitment to human rights are not on the airwaves, the bill, in its original format, was troubling. I am glad that, thanks to Liberal proposals at the committee, it has been significantly improved. It is crucial to respect the independence of the CRTC as a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal that serves at arm's length from the federal government as a regulator for broadcasting and telecommunication. In Canada, the CRTC is our expert regulator, comprising professionals with comprehensive knowledge of the broadcasting industry. It is independent, and it is well known and recognized, as it operates outside of the political sphere and has done so since 1968. It must continue to act in the public interest and make use of the full regulatory tool kit. The bill would now ensure that the CRTC can use the full scope of its power to deal with broadcasters under the significant influence of an individual who has been sanctioned, or who has been implicated in genocide or other crimes against humanity.
Additionally, I would like to recognize the important role played by Canadian courts and by international tribunals to which Canada is a signatory, such as the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice, in making legal determinations of genocide and other crimes against humanity. While the House has an important role in shining a light on these types of bad acts and being at the leading edge of international responses, it is crucial that the political determinations we make in the House are not confused with decisions that have full legal standing both in Canada and abroad.
Next, I would like to speak to Canada's work in promoting and protecting human rights around the world, which goes far above and beyond the proposal in this bill. In fact, should the new reporting requirements for the government proposed in this bill go forward, I am confident Canadians would gain a better understanding of just how strong the government has been on this front. Just last month, the announced that Canada would be seeking a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2028-30 term.
Human rights are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. When there is greater respect for human rights globally, the world is more stable, prosperous and resilient. Unfortunately, they are also currently under attack, and the multilateral system that underpins these rights is under threat like never before. This is evident in challenges such as illegal wars of aggression against Ukraine, rising racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and discrimination and an intensifying backlash against the most basic rights of women, girls and 2SLGBTQI+ people.
In order to confront the challenges that lie ahead, we must work together to reinforce the foundation of human rights and strive toward a more just tomorrow for everyone. Multilateral institutions play a crucial role in continued and effective engagement on human rights, online and off-line, and to holding countries accountable for their international human rights obligations, including respect for gender equality, the rights of freedom of expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of religion or belief. I encourage members of all parties to come together in support of initiatives that advance Canada's work on this matter, such as our candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council and many of the concepts proposed by this bill.
In her announcement, the outlined that Canada's candidacy will be based on six priorities. As a member of the council, Canada aims to support the vital and courageous work of human rights defenders, strive for a more inclusive future for all, advance reconciliation with indigenous people, prioritize gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all of their diversity, reduce harms online, and work with others to address the adverse impacts of climate change, which Canadians across the country know all too well, given the wildfires raging across much of the country. These objectives are ambitious, but with determination and in close collaboration with other countries, indigenous partners and civil society we can advance these objectives and achieve a better future for all.
The also noted that the government's engagement on this issue is built on a desire to strengthen the international human rights system. It also reflects our approach here at home, where we stand up for the human rights of all Canadians. For example, we are currently celebrating Pride Month. It is a time for 2SLGBTQI+ communities and allies to come together to celebrate the resilience of the pride movement and to show the beauty and talent of our community, while also continuing to advocate for a safer and more inclusive Canada. It is necessary for us to keep in mind that, while it is important that we take the opportunity to recognize the hard-earned victories of the pride movement, we must continue pushing back on the sharp rise in anti-trans hate, anti-2SLGBTQI+ legislation, protests at drag events, the banning of educational books in schools, and calls against raising the pride flag. I am glad that, on this side of the House, working on that type of issue is a key part of our approach to human rights.
In that regard, I want to thank all the municipalities across the country that raised the pride flag on June 1. I want to thank them because it is important. Resistance is rising across the world. Last week's flag raising is humbling, and I want to thank all of the mayors who participated.
Canada's Human Rights Council candidacy adds to a consistently strong voice for the protection and promotion of human rights and the advancement of democratic values. It is without question that the human rights bodies of the United Nations are the foundation of a strong and effective international human rights system.
Canada is party to several international human rights instruments and disarmament conventions, including the Convention on Cluster Munitions, to which we acceded in 2015. This convention, in fact, takes inspiration from the work of another great former Liberal foreign affairs minister, the Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, who led the charge in the 1990s on banning the use of land mines. Cluster munitions pose a devastating and indiscriminate threat to civilians in conflict and post-conflict contexts. Having immediate and long-term effects due to high failure rates, these weapons are dangerous and hinder sustainable development and post-conflict recovery for affected societies.
Canada has played a critical role in encouraging the international community to accede to the convention and ultimately eradicate these deadly weapons from the world. Canada meets its international obligations outlined in the convention through the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. We have also made significant investments to support programming that aims to eliminate cluster munitions and all unexploded ordnances of war. Over the past two decades, Canada has contributed over $450 million to this end. Our international programming addresses key elements of explosive ordnance clearance work, including national implementation support, stockpile destruction, gender mainstreaming, risk education, training and victim assistance. This work is essential to the sustainable facilitation of the safe return of civilian populations, reconstruction of affected communities and the restoration of essential services for generations to come.
All countries have a duty to promote and protect human rights under international law and the United Nations charter.
I want to thank my hon. colleague for putting this bill forward, and I look forward to further debate.
Madame Speaker, before I begin my comments, I would like to say a few words. Quebec is in a very difficult situation right now. Over 150 forest fires are burning on the north shore, in Abitibi and in Lac-Saint-Jean. My colleagues are working on the front lines of that situation. Thousands of families have been evacuated.
Meanwhile, another tragedy has occurred on the north shore. Five people went capelin fishing and drowned. Four of those were children. It is not clear whether they were members of the same family, but it is a terrible tragedy.
I would like to say to the devastated families and the families who have been evacuated that we are thinking of them and they have our heartfelt sympathy. We are hoping for rain as soon as possible to put an end to the forest fires.
I thank my colleague for introducing Bill . It is an important bill that is quite robust and touches on many issues. I think that, more than ever, we need greater transparency on human rights. I think that is one of the objectives of this bill.
This bill has four components.
The first objective of the bill is to increase government transparency. The government will be required to report to the House on international human rights issues. It will therefore be required to report more frequently. I will talk about that later.
The second objective of the bill is to impose new measures to counter corrupt foreign officials, particularly by requiring that the Minister of Foreign Affairs respond within 40 days to any committee report recommending sanctions against a foreign national under the Magnitsky Law.
The third objective of the bill is to prohibit the licensing of foreign propaganda broadcasting undertakings when the state is recognized by the House of Commons as having committed genocide or is facing sanctions. No one needs to be a genius to know that this refers primarily to China, but also to Russia and other states.
The fourth objective of the bill is to prohibit any investment in an entity that contravenes the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. Still today, throughout the world, weapons that were once used in a war are still on the ground ten years later. Children often go through those areas where bombs may have fallen and where parts of those devices may still explode and cause serious injuries and deaths. Moreover, the victims are often children. It is unacceptable that that is still happening today.
Let us go back to the first component, government transparency regarding international human rights. I think that more than ever there is a need to ensure that Canada's actions advance the ongoing cases and issues of those who are unjustly detained. Transparency would allow for joint work with organizations such as Amnesty International. It would also enable families to be actively involved in a communication and dissemination strategy that is consistent with their needs. That would make it possible for civil society to support advocacy and grievances and for elected officials to follow up on real-life situations, which would help advance international human rights.
I spoke earlier about the case of Raif Badawi. This is a clear case of unjust imprisonment. Mr. Badawi was imprisoned for 10 years simply for having posted things against his government on Facebook. His case received a lot of media coverage. His wife is still advocating for him. She is travelling around the world to talk about her husband’s case, to talk about human rights and all these issues. In Canada, we are doing nothing. We have no news. We do not know what is happening. Mr. Badawi is no longer in prison, but he is still stuck in his country. He would like to come and join his children, whom he has not seen for 10 years. His wife is here and his children are growing up. It is outrageous that we have no news and that the government is not more transparent.
The second component, imposing new measures against corrupt foreign officials, speaks to all the foreign interference problems that have been talked about in recent weeks. It is completely inconceivable that foreign individuals in Canada can threaten Canadians here, in Canada. We have heard stories. In the Uyghur community, people have been threatened and harassed and families have split up. It is an inconceivable tragedy.
Of course, we also immediately think of the case of the Chinese diplomat linked to the member for , which we discussed here for many weeks. Despite all the questions asked, we never truly learned what the government did or did not know. We never received much of an answer to that. I think it is really important, particularly since the government is not acting quickly to stop activities that jeopardize the safety of a Canadian individual. That is the situation. We asked questions, but we do not know what the government knows. We are unable to get to the bottom of things.
This bill will ensure that there will be more frequent reporting. Perhaps we may get answers.
I sit on the Special Committee on the Canada-People's Republic of China Relationship. Recently we submitted a report entitled “A Threat to Canadian Sovereignty: National Security Dimensions of the Canada-People’s Republic of China Relationship”. It is an unnecessarily long title, but it addresses human rights in China. The report states:
The report recounted threats and intimidation faced by individuals with personal connections or work related to the PRC at the hands of PRC state actors and their proxies. Among other things, witnesses spoke of:
Attempts to limit freedom of expression through threatening phone calls or emails, cyberhacking and physical confrontation;
I would also like to mention that the Canada—Hong Kong Parliamentary Friendship Group met with representatives from Hong Kong Watch last week. They reported situations similar to those disclosed by the witnesses who appeared before the special committee. These examples of threats and intimidation can be found in the report, which describes them as the “coordinated use of counter-protesters, Chinese international students, and pro-Beijing United Front organizations to block and intimidate peaceful demonstrations in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa”.
Another example cited in the report is the “publication of private information online to intimidate protest participants”.
The report continues as follows:
During the study, some witnesses alleged the harassment they experienced had been encouraged or instigated by PRC diplomats. The Special Committee therefore recommended that the Government of Canada convey, to the Ambassador of the PRC in Canada, that any interference with the rights and freedoms of people in Canada would result in serious consequences. It also recommended that the Government of Canada carefully review accredited diplomatic personnel in the People’s Republic of China’s diplomatic missions to Canada.
After much harassment in the House, Canada finally expelled the diplomat who had been involved with the MP. However, it was complicated and took a long time, and it had to be made public before the government decided to take action.
Canada can no longer afford to be complacent about situations like this. It is unacceptable. We are being laughed at. Swift, consistent responses are needed to counter this type of interference, which threatens our sovereignty.
The third element of Bill C‑281 seeks to prohibit broadcasting licences from being issued to foreign propaganda companies when the House of Commons or Senate has recognized the foreign government as having committed genocide or when it is subject to sanctions.
The same special committee report mentions that the People's Republic of China has been identified “as one of the countries that has attempted to interfere in Canadian elections”. That much is proven.
I remember when a representative from Hong Kong Watch appeared before the committee. I told her that there was a documented case of interference in the election of a municipal candidate in Brossard. The Chinese regime was sending messages in Mandarin to people in Brossard using a platform called WeChat to encourage them to vote for that candidate. I naively asked the representative from Hong Kong Watch whether such a thing were possible at the provincial or federal level, and she basically laughed in my face. She found the question to be completely ridiculous because the answer was so obvious to her.
It is clear that the Chinese regime has been attempting for years to influence municipal, provincial and federal elections here in Canada in any way possible. There is no doubt that issues are coming to light. People are talking about it more and more, but the government is still not doing anything about it.
I want to come back to another aspect of the special committee's report with regard to ACHK. It reads, and I quote:
The organization added, “[m]any Canadian political actors genuinely believe that they are interacting with community organizers and grassroots organizations, when in fact they are interacting with actors that have close connections with the Chinese consulates or the Embassy.”
This happened in Brossard. We know that the Chinese police stations start out as community centres that help people with various issues, such as integration, poverty and employment. Then these centres slowly turn into intelligence centres.
It is not clear. There are grey areas. People naively thought that these centres had been shut down, but we recently learned that they are still open and operating. I am referring to the two centres in Brossard and the one in Montreal. They were supposedly shut down. The RCMP—
Madam Speaker, I thank colleagues of mine who have spoken to Bill .
The New Democrats will be supporting this bill at third reading. I would like to thank the member for for bringing it forward. It has been a real pleasure to work with him and his team on this bill over the past few months.
The reason for this bill is that we want to make sure Canada's laws protect human rights. We want to strengthen that legislation. We want to strengthen how Canada acts with regard to international human rights. For me, I want to remember, while we do this work, that people's lives are at risk. These are people who are being detained, who have disappeared and who are suffering greatly. Canada could play an important role there.
I want to start my speech today by talking about a few of those people.
I want to talk about Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has recently been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Russia because he opposed Putin's illegal war in Ukraine. I know that a number of people from all parties are hoping that the government will offer Vladimir Kara-Murza honorary citizenship in Canada to help protect him.
I also know there are others. It has been over a decade, getting close to two decades, since Huseyin Celil, a Canadian citizen, has been able to see his family. There is also Dong Guangping, whose wife and daughter are Canadians. We do not know where he is right now.
There is a lot of work to do on human rights, and I want to make sure that we always centre this work on the people who suffer, the people who are impacted by this.
As many have said before me, this bill has four changes to pieces of Canadian legislation. It requires the minister to publish an annual report on human rights, as well as a list of prisoners of conscience for whom the government is actively working. It amends the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act. It amends the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Sergei Magnitsky act. It also requires the issue or renewal of broadcasting licences in the case of genocide to be prohibited. Obviously these are all things that I think are very important and very strong to do.
We were happy to bring some amendments forward. That first piece about providing the list is important. I know the member for spoke to many families of victims, and they wanted more information; they wanted that there. We were also conscious that there are some concerns. We do not want to put people's lives in danger. We do not want to make situations worse. We always need to act with an abundance of caution when we are working with things that are very sensitive.
The NDP brought forward an amendment that would change the list to give the government the ability to protect people but still give information to families, parliamentarians, activists and human rights defenders around the world. It was a compromise, and a really strong one, that makes the legislation better. It was lovely to see support from all parties on that.
Our second amendment was on a human rights strategy. I have brought this up in this House before. We asked for there to be a human rights strategy in this country. Most Canadians probably feel we have one. We do not have a human rights strategy. We have no benchmark to measure how well the government of the day is doing in protecting human rights. That does not exist.
It makes sense to me, and I think it is a very common-sense thing, to include that and have the government do it. Unfortunately, the government chose to vote against that. It chose not to move forward on that in a way that makes me believe it simply did not want to do the hard work. It simply did not want to have to do the work to create that strategy and keep it updated.
It is very disappointing, particularly considering that the government is asking for a seat at the United Nations Human Rights Council as we speak. It is very disappointing, because time and time again, we hear the government talking about being defenders of human rights while at the same time failing time and time again to do the hard work to protect human rights. A perfect example of that for me is watching the Liberal government, as reported yesterday in The Globe and Mail, continue to sell more arms to Saudi Arabia than any other country aside from the United States, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia has an appalling human rights record, despite the fact that this does not align with our Arms Trade Treaty and despite the fact that the government continues to claim that it has stopped doing it.
As we see, there is a record of the government speaking about human rights, and talking about being human rights defenders, but failing to act when it comes to it.
One of the things that I really want to talk about today is the piece in this bill around cluster munitions. This, for me, is the absolute ultimate in the Liberals' ability to say one thing when they are in opposition and do a completely different thing once they are elected as government. In the Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act, section 11 carves out the ability for the Canadian military to use cluster munitions in the event it is working with another military that uses them. In 2013, the NDP worked very closely with the Liberal government to put restrictions in place to fix that loophole. Paul Dewar, the NDP foreign affairs critic at the time, said, “when we sign international agreements, it's important that we live up to our signature. It's important that the legislation we adopt does not undermine the treaty we negotiated and signed on to and accepted.”
There is one other quote that I would like to share, if I could, which states:
Canada should not be escaping its responsibilities by choosing to implement a treaty in this way. It makes a mockery of our commitment. It makes a mockery of our understanding of what it means to actually put into effect and to put into operation a treaty obligation that we signed. It will provide for total confusion with respect to what Canada and Canadians troops have actually agreed to do.
That is why, while we support the bill going to committee, we have great difficulty with the way in which the government has chosen to interpret the treaty in clause 11 of the bill.
That sounds like it was Paul Dewar, but in fact, it was Bob Rae, speaking as a Liberal, saying how much Liberals disagreed with clause 11.
The language New Democrats chose in our amendment to close that loophole in Bill was the exact language that our former colleague Marc Garneau had used when he stood in this place and said that section 11 was a loophole that needed to be closed. Again, we find ourselves in a situation where the Liberals have said time and time again, when they were not in government, that they wanted to fix this loophole. Some of the pre-eminent voices within their caucus, Mr. Garneau and Mr. Rae, people who would be seen as good, staunch Liberals, wanted to fix that loophole and saw that as important, but when it came down to doing the work, when it came down to them actually fixing it, they chose not to.
It has been very difficult for me to listen to the government try to make excuses for this. It has been very difficult for me to listen to Liberals try to justify why they continue to support the loophole for cluster munitions, which is similar to why they continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. Before they were elected, they also said they would support nuclear disarmament, but whenever we asked them whether they would even attend the TPNW, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, even as observers, even the fact that many NATO members do attend as observers, they declined to participate.
My ask of the government members would be for them to please be the Liberals they were before they were elected in 2015 and to please think about nuclear disarmament and human rights the way they did before 2015 because, since 2015, their record has been appalling, and human rights are far too important for this continual politicization.
Madam Speaker, I welcome colleagues, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak about Bill , the international human rights act, and to congratulate my colleague. Over this journey we have had together on this bill, I have been working to get his constituency's name right. It is . I want to recognize the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South for putting forward this bill. I spoke at report stage about the provisions of this bill, and I want to focus on something else at third reading, which is how people will be able to use this bill.
I spent the entire parliamentary recess week in the greater Toronto area, meeting with different communities, with the primary goal of sharing and discussing Bill . There was a lot of support from different communities, from the Yazidi community, the Persian community, various African communities, the Hong Kong community and eastern European communities. There is a lot of support for this bill in the impact it would have. People were asking how we would use it and what concrete difference it would make.
My hope is that Canadians of all backgrounds would eagerly await, every year, the government's publication of its annual report on international human rights. People will be able to look through that report to say, “What does the government say it is doing? What are the areas where the government is not doing enough?”
They will then be able to hold the government accountable and say, “Why has it not talked about Ethiopia? Why has it not talked about Yazidis? Why has it not talked about Rohingya this year?”
They will be able to look to see where the areas of action have been and where the areas of inaction have been and then hold the government accountable to ask why more has not been done. They can then look at the following year's report to ask if there has been progress in relation to the previous year's report or not. Are there individuals that communities want to see the government advocating for, in terms of their release? Are those names in the report? If they are not in the report this year, there is a jumping-off point for advocating for their inclusion next year
Right now, so much of this advocacy, whether it concerns prisoners of conscience, human rights in general or listing individuals under various sanctions provisions, happens in a bit of a black hole of information. There are no requirements right now around this sort of reporting. If people want to advocate for individuals to be listed, for sanctions to be considered in various ways or for human rights advocacy, it can be very difficult to know what the government is doing and where the access points are for that advocacy.
This bill strengthens the Canadian government's engagement on human rights, we hope. It strengthens the tools that parliamentarians have, but it also provides broader tools for communities across the country who are concerned about human rights issues.
If one wants to see somebody sanctioned for human rights abuses they are involved in, one can advocate directly to members of Parliament, who can then put forward motions at committee. If one wants to know whether the government is doing anything on a particular human rights issue, one can look at the human rights report and ask if it is doing anything, if it is not doing enough or if one is satisfied. Then one can advocate for the government to change its approach and hope to see that change in approach reflected the following year.
This is important for communities of people who are concerned about human rights issues, not because this bill is going to usher in nirvana, and not because things will be perfect after the bill is passed, but because it provides critical tools of advocacy and mechanisms for people to know what is going on, to advocate and to make a difference.
Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking all of the individuals who played such important roles in getting this legislation before the House today, up for a final vote and, hopefully, off to the Senate.
I will start with thanking the hon. member for . He worked very closely with me in drafting and putting this legislation together. I would like to also thank all of the non-government agencies and the families of victims who I had the opportunity to talk to, along with all the groups from various communities across the country and the world that have come together to signal their support. I would also like to thank Bill Browder for his support.
I have many thanks for the contributions from the members of the different parties who helped out, including the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and the Liberal Party. There were some substantial amendments made at committee. There was significant debate and long discussions. I am proud to say that I think we finished in a very good place.
There were a number of concerns. I do not think any one of our parties got exactly what we wanted out of the amendment process, but perhaps that is a signal that we got what we should get, with one exception. I thought the NDP amendment for a plan of strategy for human rights was excellent. I was sad to see it ruled out of order by the Chair.
As I said, this legislation has four critical parts that I believe would help the cause of human rights in Canada and around the world. The first of these respects prisoners of conscience, those heroes around the world who are fighting for important rights, such as for young girls to have the ability to pursue an education; for people to have the ability to live in a country free of government tyranny; and for people to pursue democracy, freedom and liberty and live their lives as they see fit without potentially fearing imprisonment or worse. The part on prisoners of conscience is critical.
The second critical part is having parliamentary oversight of Magnitsky sanctions. This is important. I am hopeful that this piece of legislation will not only allow Parliament to make its reports, but also encourage the government, maybe even future Conservative governments, to take the steps they need to make sure Magnitsky sanctions are put in place against some of the worst offenders. As I have said numerous times, it just seems shameful to me that, in this day and age, we allow violators of human rights to torture their victims in the morning and then take their private jets to fly around the world to hobnob with the world's elite in the afternoon.
Third, with respect to the Broadcasting Act, I think this is an amendment that only makes sense. Genocidal states should not be allowed to use Canadian airwaves to tout their propaganda. Just to add to that, we have seen what foreign interference can mean for our democracy and the challenges that can impose. Canadians should have a full, free and open ability to understand and give consent. We should also make sure that genocidal states are not broadcasting their hatred on Canadian airwaves. That seems to be only common sense.
Finally, with respect to cluster munitions, of course these are horrible, terrible things. Canada has had a leading role, going all the way back to the Harper government, in outlawing and making them illegal. This will reduce the ability of Canadian companies to finance the construction and manufacture of cluster munitions.
I am proud to be the sponsor of this bill and proud to be the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South.