Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Alupa Clarke Profile
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-05-31 16:21 [p.20002]
Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me. First of all, I would like to say hello to all the people of Beauport—Limoilou, many of whom are listening today, and to thank them for all their work. They are definitely listening. When I go door to door, many of them tell me that they watch CPAC.
I would like to say something about what the hon. Liberal member for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas said in response to the speech of my colleague from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan. She engaged in the usual Liberal demagoguery. She asked if we believed in climate change. I really would like my constituents to listen closely, because I want to make this clear to them and to all Canadians: we, the Conservatives, believe so strongly in climate change that, in 2007, Mr. Harper held a joint press conference with Mr. Charest to announce the implementation of the new Canada ecotrust program, supported by a total investment of $1.5 billion. The aim of the program was to give each province hundreds of millions of dollars to help with their respective climate change plans. It is easy to look this up on Google by entering “ecoTrust,” “2007,” “Harper,” “Charest.” Not only did Mr. Charest commend the Conservative government’s initiative, but even Steven Guilbeault from Greenpeace at the time—and I am certain that my colleague from Mégantic—L’Érable will find this hard to believe—saluted the initiative as something unheard of.
There is a reason why greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 2% under the decade-long Conservative reign. We had a plan, a plan with bold targets that the Liberals made their own.
Now let us talk a bit about the 2018-19 budget, which continues in the same vein as the other two budgets presented so far by the hon. member for Papineau's Liberal government. I would like to begin by saying that the government has been in reaction mode for the past three years and almost never in action mode.
It is in reaction mode when it comes to the softwood lumber crisis, although we do not hear much about it because the softwood lumber rates are still pretty attractive. However, the fact remains that this is a crisis and that, right now, industrial producers in the U.S. are collecting billions of dollars that they will eventually recover, as they do in every softwood lumber crisis.
The Liberal government is in reaction mode when it comes to NAFTA. They will say that they are not the ones who put Mr. Trump in office, but this is yet another major issue that has been taking up their time in the past year, and they are still in reaction mode. They are also in reaction mode when it comes to the imminent tariffs on aluminum and steel.
The Liberals are in reaction mode when it comes to almost every major issue in Canada. They are in reaction mode when it comes to natural resources development, for example with regard to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline. Once again they were in reaction mode, because Kinder Morgan said that it would walk if the government could not assume responsibility and tell British Columbia in no uncertain terms that this was a matter of federal jurisdiction.
All of this shows that the Prime Minister is not the great diplomat he pretends to be across the globe, and in celebrity news and other media. He is such a poor diplomat that he was unable to avoid the softwood lumber crisis with Obama. He is such a poor diplomat that he has supposedly had a wonderful relationship with Mr. Trump for the past year and a half. He speaks to him on the telephone I do not know how many times a month, but that did not prevent Mr. Trump from taking deliberate action against Canada, as we saw today with the tariffs on steel and aluminum.
I would like to make a comparison. We, the Conservatives, were a government of action. We negotiated 46 free-trade agreements. We sent Canadian troops to Kandahar to demonstrate our willingness to co-operate with NATO and the G7 and to make a show of military force. We invested hugely in national defence, increasing our investments from 0.8% to almost 1.2% of the GDP following the dark days of Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government. We settled the softwood lumber issue in 2007, during the last crisis. We implemented the national shipbuilding strategy, investing more than $30 billion to renew our military fleet, to renew the Canadian Coast Guard’s exploration fleet in the Canadian Arctic, and to renew the fleet of icebreakers. The first of these icebreakers, the majestic Diefenbaker, will soon be under construction.
Let us not forget that we also told Mr. Putin to get out of Ukraine. There is no doubt that we were a government of action.
When the budget was tabled, several journalists said that it was more of a political platform than a budget. I find that interesting. In their opinion, the political platform contained no concrete fiscal measures to prepare Canada for tomorrow, for the next 10 years, or for the next century, as our founding fathers intended in 1867. Rather, it contained proposals, in particular concerning social housing. The NDP must be very happy. The Liberals promised billions of dollars if the provinces gave their assent. That was a promise.
The Liberals also made proposals concerning pharmacare. Once again, they were conditional on studies demonstrating the usefulness of such a plan. That, too, was a promise. The promises go on page after page in the budget, and it is obvious that it is a political platform. That is why the Liberals used the word “woman” more than 400 times, 30 times on each page. That is just demagoguery and totally abusive.
I would like to quote a very interesting CBC journalist, Chris Hall. Since he works at the CBC, the Liberals will surely believe him. He said that the government recently spent $233,000 to organize round table discussions to find out whether Canadians understood the message, and not the content, of their budget. I will quote Mr. Hall:
In particular, the report said the findings suggest middle-class Canadians—the very demographic the Liberals have been courting since their election with both policy initiatives and political messaging—don't feel their lives are getting better.
They are correct in thinking that their lives are not getting better. Even Chris Hall concluded, in light of these studies, that the 2018-19 budget is not a document that provides guidelines, includes concrete measures, or outlines actual achievements in progress. It is a political document that proposes ideologies.
The budget also contains a number of disappointments and shortcomings, precisely because it does not contain any actions. It does not respond to the fiscal reforms enacted by U.S. President Trump that give American companies an undue competitive advantage.
The 2018-19 federal budget does not address the tariffs on aluminum and steel either, although we all saw them coming. It does not specify what measures will be taken to implement carbon pricing. Most of all, it does not say how much it will cost every single Canadian. You would think it would at least do that. Some analysts say that it will cost approximately $2,500 per Canadian per year.
This budget is full of proposals but has no concrete measures, and it perpetuates broken promises. Instead of $10-billion deficits for two consecutive years, we have $19-billion deficits accumulating year over year until 2045. This year, we were supposed to have a deficit of $6 billion, but it has reached almost $20 billion. The Liberals also broke their promise to balance the budget. This is the first time that the federal government has not had a concrete plan to balance the budget.
We were supposed to run up deficits in order to invest in the largest infrastructure program in history, because with the Liberals everything is historic. Only $7 billion of the $180 billion of this program has been injected into the Canadian economy.
This is a very disappointing budget and, unfortunately, dear people of Beauport—Limoilou, taxes keep going up and the Liberal carbon tax is just the start.
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Gerretsen Profile
2018-05-24 11:11 [p.19566]
Madam Speaker, I would like to speak about how our government's priorities and Bill C-57 align with the core principles underpinning the sustainable development goals and support the overarching philosophy of the 2030 agenda to leave no one behind. For Canada, leaving no one behind means that everyone can participate in, contribute to, and benefit from the achievement of the sustainable development goals.
The 2030 agenda is an informative agenda rooted in the principles of universality, inclusiveness, interconnectedness, and the need for meaningful partnerships that deliver positive change for all. It commits all countries irrespective of their income levels and development status to contribute to the comprehensive effort toward sustainable development.
As Canada's Prime Minister said in his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2017, “the SDGs are as meaningful in Canada as they are everywhere else in the world”. The 2030 agenda seeks to benefit all people in need, in a manner that targets their specific needs and vulnerabilities. To do so, the 2030 agenda calls for inclusiveness and participation by all segments of society irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, and identity. This generates an unprecedented demand for diverse regional and local understanding of community-based issues and robust data.
For instance, we know that while drinking water in Canada is among the safest in the world, access to clean water and sanitation remains a challenge in on-reserve first nation communities. This is why clause 5 of the bill, which addresses the composition and mandate for the Sustainable Development Advisory Council, is so important. Clause 5 seeks to increase the number of indigenous representatives on the council to better reflect the indigenous groups represented and the broad range of challenges they face across Canada.
This directly supports our efforts to forge a new relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. Clause 5 also seeks to reflect the diversity of Canadian society by taking into account demographic considerations, such as age and gender, when appointing representatives to the Sustainable Development Advisory Council. Gender equality and the empowerment of women, for example, are foundational pillars of Canada's leadership in the fight against climate change. We are enhancing our gender-based analysis across all areas of work on environment and climate change to ensure that our actions promote gender equality.
To further support diversity and inclusion in the Federal Sustainable Development Act, clause 5 provides that representatives appointed to the Sustainable Development Advisory Council may be reimbursed reasonable expenses incurred so they can meet as a council face to face. Council members would only be reimbursed for expenses incurred under the Treasury Board Secretariat travel directive. This directive applies to public service employees and other persons travelling on government business, and its purpose is supported by clause 5, which would ensure fair treatment of those required to travel on government business. The travel directive provides for the reimbursement of reasonable expenses necessarily incurred while travelling on government business, and does not constitute income or other compensation that would open the way for personal gain. The ability to meet face to face will enable more fair and effective engagement of the council.
The 2030 agenda rests on the interconnected nature of its goals. For example, ensuring access to clean water and sanitation supports the achievement of zero hunger and good health and well-being, by providing clean water to grow food and eliminating potential sources of disease.
To support the principles of interconnectedness, clause 5 provides that the Sustainable Development Advisory Council may advise the Minister of Environment on any matter related to sustainable development. Given that it was previously limited to reviewing the draft of the federal sustainable development strategy only, this will help to ensure that the core elements of sustainable development—social inclusion, economic growth, and environmental protection—can be further examined to ensure timely and meaningful advice to the minister.
All Canadians, including all levels of government, indigenous peoples, civil society, and the private sector, have a role to play in advancing the sustainable development goals and ensuring that no one is left behind.
In 2016, our government undertook an extensive consultation process to review our international assistance policy. Canadians showed strong support for the themes and issues addressed by the sustainable development goals. Canadians want to support the health and rights of women and children, to ensure peace and security, to provide clean economic growth and climate change, and protect governance, pluralism, diversity and human rights.
Responding to this consultation, Canada's feminist international assistance policy supports targeted investments, partnerships, innovation, and advocacy efforts with the greatest potential to close gender gaps and improve everyone's chances for success. As we implement the policy, we will strengthen our priorities through working in areas such as gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, human dignity, and growth that works for everyone.
Domestically, we have already begun to respond to the challenge of the 2030 agenda and the sustainable development goals through the 2016-2019 federal sustainable development strategy, our plan to promote clean growth, ensure healthy ecosystems, and to build safe, secure, and sustainable communities over the next three years.
The strategy presents 13 aspirational goals that are a Canadian reflection of the SDGs of the 2030 agenda, with a focus on their environmental dimensions. Our goals are supported by medium-term targets, short-term milestones, and clear action plans. Currently, 41 federal departments and agencies contribute to meeting our targets and advancing our goals. Our strategy was shaped by input from stakeholders and Canadians, and it recognizes the important role that our partners and all Canadians play in achieving sustainable development.
Recognizing the complex nature of coordinating the SDGs, budget 2018 announced $49.4 million over 13 years to establish a sustainable development goals unit to provide overall policy coordination and to fund monitoring and reporting activities by Statistics Canada. To facilitate meaningful engagement, budget 2018 also provided up to $59.8 million over 13 years for programming to support the implementation of the sustainable development goals. This means the development of an ambitious, whole-of-Canada national strategy, in consultation with provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, municipalities, universities, and civil society, to catalyze action across the country, build public awareness, and foster new partnerships and networks in advancing the sustainable development goals.
Many Canadian priorities, such as taking on climate change, clean energy, and oceans, growing and strengthening Canada's middle class, reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and advancing gender equality, already support the 2030 agenda. However, we know there is more work to do to ensure that no one is left behind. Canada's efforts to implement the 2030 agenda to date will be showcased this July at the UN high level political forum on sustainable development in New York, where we will present our first voluntary national review. Canada's voluntary national review will highlight our efforts and achievements to date, recognizing areas where more work is needed.
In conclusion, the sustainable development goals can only be achieved if everyone is on board. This is a Canadian agenda, a shared agenda, and an agenda that calls for all hands on deck. We strongly believe that Bill C-57 is in lockstep with our commitment to a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2014-06-16 18:25 [p.6906]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the member's comments in regard to international leadership. At one time, Canada did play a very strong leadership role. I would reflect on a former member of Parliament, Lloyd Axworthy, and the Ottawa agreement, which dealt with the land mines. The member made reference to that particular agreement in his opening remarks.
I would ask that the member provide further comment in terms of lost opportunity by Canada not playing the type of leadership role that it could. A good example of that was the land mines treaty and the positive impact that has had in general.
View Yvon Godin Profile
View Yvon Godin Profile
2014-06-16 18:26 [p.6906]
Mr. Speaker, I remember that I made a speech on cluster bombs at the time that Axworthy and the Liberals were here, but they did not go far enough.
Today we have another bill in front of us, and we believe strongly that clause 11 has to be removed. We have to show that leadership. It was a start at that time, but now we have to continue. It is totally unacceptable to have those cluster bombs in some countries, when 98% of times it is civilians who are killed from them, and our own soldiers, when they go on the line. Our own soldiers are being killed by them. It is not just that, but innocent civilians are getting hurt.
It is time for the leadership of our country, our government, to do the right thing, and it has that opportunity.
View Jasbir Sandhu Profile
View Jasbir Sandhu Profile
2014-06-16 18:44 [p.6908]
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to speak on behalf of my constituents of Surrey North.
This is the 77th or 78th use of time allocation by the government. Time allocation basically shuts down debate. The Conservatives do not want debate to happen in this House.
On this side of the House, the NDP is fully prepared to debate this bill, but there are no Conservatives getting up to speak to this very important bill that concerns Canada's reputation around the world. Yet speaker after speaker, NDP members are willing to debate in this House that we can actually repair some of the damage that has been done to our reputation over the last seven years by the government.
Before I get to the bill, which is an act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions, I must say that Canada had a great reputation around the world. We were viewed as peacemakers. We were viewed as a country that brought countries together. There was an opportunity for us to do that with this particular bill.
As the member pointed out, the Conservatives should not bring a bill into the House while crossing their fingers behind their backs. The Conservatives seem to be doing that not only with this bill, but with many bills. The Conservatives have been slapped by the Supreme Court a number of times in the past couple of years when it comes to the bills they are bringing forward in this House, as to whether they are actually constitutional and whether they respect our charter.
The Conservatives have their fingers crossed behind their backs, hoping nobody will notice it, but the NDP will ensure that Canadians know that the Conservatives are missing an opportunity to present Canada to the world at the level we were many years ago when we were respected around the world.
In the 40 or 50 years that the elections have been held for the Security Council, Canada has always rotated and had a seat on the Security Council. However, under this government, it is the first time we do not have anybody sitting on the UN Security Council.
This was an opportunity to show the world that we are serious when it comes to these kinds of munitions, cluster explosives that are very dangerous when they are used around the world. We have seen pictures from many countries of the damage these explosives do not only at the time they are dropped, but many years later.
When it came to drafting this particular convention, Canada played a role in bringing some of the countries together. The process came on the heels of another success we had, which was the Ottawa treaty to ban land mines. This was an opportunity for us to again lead the world, but the Conservatives missed it.
Despite strong opposition from the majority of participating states and non-governmental organizations, Canada succeeded in negotiating into the final text of the convention an article that explicitly allows for a country to use military interoperability with non-party states. It's article 11.
Bill C-6 goes beyond the interoperability allowance in the convention. The main problem lies basically in clause 11, which establishes an extremely broad list of exceptions. That is where the trouble is.
In the original form of the bill, the clause permitted basically Canadian soldiers to use, acquire, possess, and/or transport cluster munitions whenever they are acting in conjunction with another country that is not a member of the convention, and to request the use of cluster munitions by another country.
At the foreign affairs committee, the NDP supported many Canadians, many experts and civil society groups in pushing for changes to the bill. We engaged closely. We like to work with the government when it comes to making legislation. That is the job of parliamentarians. When a bill gets to committee, we want to ensure that we work with the government to correct mistakes. We want to ensure that we correct mistakes not only in this particular legislation but in many other bills. We can work with the government and make this legislation better.
In many committees, not only does the NDP offer good ideas, but various professors, academics and experts in particular areas offer genuine, good advice to the government in order to improve legislation. A lot of times the government fails to consider that advice. In this case, we were able to persuade the government to formally prohibit the use of cluster munitions by Canadian soldiers. That is a minor improvement, but there is still an issue with clause 11.
This legislation contains many loopholes, and the government failed to close them. We, along with experts and civil society organizations, offered advice. We were all very vocal with respect to some of the changes that needed to be made, but again, the Conservatives failed to do that.
As it currently stands, Canada's legislation, Bill C-6, will be the weakest legislation of all the countries that have ratified the convention. Unfortunately the government, even though it is opposed to cluster munitions, fits into a broader pattern of weakness on arms control. The government has refused to join all NATO allies in signing the UN Arms Trade Treaty and has loosened restrictions on arms exports.
Canada had the opportunity to show the world that we are leaders when it comes to bringing peace to countries around the world. We had an opportunity here to lead worldwide, to show people that Canadians can provide peaceful societies around the world.
I will quote former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, who said, “It is a pity that the current Canadian government”, that is the Conservative government, “in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.”
The Conservatives seem to have myopic vision. They cannot see that they could provide leadership to the whole world. Countries around the world are looking for leadership from Canadians, and this was an opportunity for us to provide that leadership.
A number of countries have not signed on to this convention, but that does not mean we cannot work with some of the other countries. Eighty-four countries have passed bills in their legislatures. There are 113 signatories to the convention. That is a lot of countries. Working with these countries we could help persuade the countries that have not signed on. This is where Canada should be providing leadership. It has been expected for many decades, for over a hundred years, for Canada to take the lead, to bring other countries together in a peaceful manner, yet over the last number of years we have seen especially the present Conservative government fail to provide that leadership.
I urge the government to live up to the letter of the convention. I urge it to make the changes that we are proposing in order to improve this legislation so we can bring countries together and have a peaceful, prosperous munitions-free world.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2014-06-16 19:13 [p.6911]
Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that this is not the first time I have had the opportunity to speak. Quite often when I speak, I speak on behalf of the Liberals, so the Liberals are engaged whether it is at second reading or the bill's current status.
There are endless horror stories involving a wide range of all types of demographics, from young children to adults to members of the forces. There are many horror stories regarding cluster munitions. Earlier this afternoon, I made reference to the fact that Canada could and should play a stronger leadership role on issues of this nature. I cited what one of her colleagues made reference to earlier in his speech, which was the role that Lloyd Axworthy played with regard to land mines.
To what degree does my colleague believe Canada should be lobbying or taking any sort of role with regard to the United States and its position? What would she like to see Canada do with regard to the United States and its position on this issue?
View Jinny Jogindera Sims Profile
First, Mr. Speaker, with regard to our friends and other states that are not signatories to this treaty, it is our job to work with them and use our influence on our buddies to persuade them to do the right thing. That is the kind of leadership role Canada has always played. Canada has been a consensus builder. I can remember being a young person in Europe and asking Americans why they were wearing Canadian flags. Do members know what they said? They said that it was because they felt more loved, and safer as well.
It is very easy for Canada to water down a convention it has signed because the Conservatives have a majority, but I will read a quote by an international committee of the Canadian Red Cross. This is what it had to say:
—clause 11...could permit activities that undermine the object and purpose of the convention and ultimately contribute to the continued use of cluster munitions rather than bringing about their elimination.
It stated that if clause 11 was deleted, the bill would have its support.
View Marc-André Morin Profile
View Marc-André Morin Profile
2014-06-16 19:16 [p.6912]
Mr. Speaker, perhaps some people who are watching do not know what this is about. These are bombs the size of a household water heater that may contain as many as 2,000 small explosive capsules. The bomb is set to explode just before it touches the ground, and its effect is spread over a 100-metre radius. This weapon was invented to kill civilians. In a real combat theatre, it is useless, because soldiers are protected since they are in bunkers or armoured vehicles. This is a genocidal weapon.
When you get to that point, it is because there is a moral problem. We have to ask whether, by accommodating allies who use these weapons, we are not simply becoming accomplices. All of the little provisions in this bill to accommodate the users of these monstrosities mean that we share the blame with murderous countries like Russia and, in certain situations, the United States and China.
All of the countries that refuse to sign want to reserve the right to use them. There is absolutely no justification for using weapons of this kind. Starving children find pretty little coloured canisters and think they contain food. They try to open them and they are disfigured or killed.
The only way to protect our soldiers from being accused of something because these weapons were used is not to engage with allies who use them. We must place conditions on our engagement. I think we are no longer in that position, because we have virtually no diplomatic presence left. We have lost much of our lustre.
The first few times I went to Europe, a lot of Europeans told me what an example our country set and how much Canada had done for peace, in humanitarian terms. Canada is admired for helping to put an end to apartheid.
Every time we make compromises in situations like this, our popularity rating goes down, and we get nowhere. All the legal loopholes are dangerous and pointless, in addition to undermining the spirit of the treaty. If we had some dignity and some leadership, we would be ensuring that Canada’s humanitarian reputation is not tarnished by actions like these.
We have to have some dignity and a right to criticize regimes that violate human rights. These days, for example, the Syrian army is dropping fuel barrels packed with explosives and shrapnel on civilians. That bears a strange resemblance to a cluster bomb, since civilians die when they explode. If we want to be in a position to criticize actions like those, we have to set an example and we have to demonstrate leadership. If we continue in this way, then instead of sewing Canadian flags on their backpacks, the Americans are going to be sewing Norwegian flags.
It is all very well to want to protect our troops from prosecution, but that should not prevent us from asking ourselves moral questions about the legitimacy of using weapons of this kind. If we accommodate those who use them, we become their accomplices and we must then bear that shame.
It would be very simple to remove clause 11. I prefer to deal with the difficulty of finding legal language rather than deal with the moral difficulty of indirectly endorsing the use of this kind of weapon.
It is important that Canadians know that the reason we want to debate this is that we have some very serious questions and we want them to know what the government is dragging them into. As soon as the bill has been passed and this is ratified, critical international voices are going to discover that we have the weakest law of all the signatory countries. We are going to make a reputation for ourselves like the one we had with the Arms Trade Treaty and in all the other situations where we have a weak position and make compromises without assessing the consequences.
I am not a moralizer, but I think that ultimately, we reach a point where we really have to look at our decisions head-on and see whether we are not on the wrong track and violating all our principles and the principles of the Canadians we represent.
View Royal Galipeau Profile
View Royal Galipeau Profile
2014-06-16 20:09 [p.6918]
Mr. Speaker, I found my colleague's speech rather interesting. I am wondering if she would have known what she was talking about had she not read a speech prepared by someone else.
Frankly, the fact that she is calling Canada a pacifist country leads me to believe that the United States entered the First World War before we did. That is not the case. She also gave the impression that, during the Second World War, the United States were battling against the fascism of Nazi Germany before we were. That is also not the case. Her speech gave me the impression that we never went to Korea and that we did not do an extremely tough job in Afghanistan.
Canada is not a pacifist country. I do not know where she got that idea, and I do not know why she is reading speeches written by someone else.
View Gordon O'Connor Profile
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the spokesperson for the opposition and I have to question a few points.
First of all, he said that soldiers are out fighting for democracy. We did not fight for democracy in Afghanistan. We did not fight for democracy in Iraq. We did not fight for democracy in Libya. In the 1950s when we were in Korea, the south was not a democracy, and we did not fight for democracy either. Fighting as a soldier does not mean we have to fight for democracy. Sometimes we do and sometimes we do not.
The member also mentioned pacifism. We do not have an aura of pacifism about us. We have never been pacifists. We always fight for a cause and we stay with that cause.
View Jean Rousseau Profile
View Jean Rousseau Profile
2014-06-16 20:25 [p.6920]
Mr. Speaker, I am astounded that anyone would make such comments. The member said that we are not a pacifist country. We all know that when soldiers go to war, they go to war. We know what that means.
Fundamentally, the people of Canada, from coast to coast to coast, are pacifists who want peace. Of course we fight for democracy when we go to war. Our boys fought in the Second World War to uphold democracy and ensure that we would not have to pay a bloody price for our right to vote. It is insulting to hear such comments in the House.
View Jean Rousseau Profile
View Jean Rousseau Profile
2014-06-16 20:26 [p.6920]
Mr. Speaker, I have a feeling that Canada is being made out to be a sometime instigator of conflicts. That is totally ludicrous. It is a regressive and totally outdated view. I have spent time with colleagues opposite, and I can tell you that that is not the way they see things.
They can clown around all they like. We will see which clowns will be at the starting gate in 2015. I am convinced that half of them will not have the nerve to even show up.
View Élaine Michaud Profile
Mr. Speaker, this is a strange atmosphere in which to start my speech on Bill C-6 but I will jump right into it anyway. I first want to preface my remarks by reassuring my colleagues opposite that I have a clear understanding of the issue here and that I wrote my speech myself.
I hope that this will not lead my colleagues opposite, such as the member for Ottawa—Orléans, to make disrespectful remarks. I hope I will not hear any more such comments when I finish my speech. Frankly, I thought that debates in the House of Commons were supposed to be more courteous. I find such comments to be far beneath an experienced member like him, who has been in the House for years and who once held the position of Speaker.
In any case, let me get back to the subject at hand, which is Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is a very important debate in the House, and that is why the NDP wants to take the time to debate the bill properly.
I have heard many comments from the Conservative backbenchers, but not one member has risen to actively participate in this debate in the House. That is a terrible shame. I guess they think they have done enough to earn their salaries.
The NDP thinks it is important to be the voice of the people who we represent and who sent us to the House to debate issues that are important to them, including international policy issues. A Conservative member said that he had made a speech just a few days ago. That is extraordinary. One speech in all the time that was allocated to members of the governing party. That really is unfortunate.
Bill C-6 seeks to finally implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions. This is an issue that has been the subject of international debate for many years now. The convention in question is the result of negotiations between over 100 countries as part of the Oslo process, which came on the heels of the successes of the Ottawa treaty to ban land mines.
Although Canada became one of the 113 signatories to the convention on December 3, 2008, the convention has yet to be ratified by our Parliament. This is what Bill C-6 is attempting to do, in its clumsy way. Cluster munitions have a devastating and direct impact on civilian populations, as the NDP has already discussed at length.
The Conservatives have told us repeatedly that we need these weapons to defend our military personnel during international operations. They seem to forget that 98% of the time, victims of cluster munitions are civilians. Not only are they civilians, but many victims are children. About 30% of submunitions fail to explode and remain on the ground. Children are attracted to these small, sometimes brightly coloured objects and pick them up. Submunitions then function just like land mines.
Canada has clearly stated its opposition to the use of land mines. However, the Conservative government will not hear of prohibiting the use of cluster munitions, which end up acting just like land mines. Unexploded submunitions remain on the ground for years. They keep on claiming victims long after the fighting is over.
Ratifying this convention is very important to Canada. People I talk to are concerned about these types of issues, and they would like to see Canada take a leadership position on the world stage.
Unfortunately, once again the Conservatives are dropping the ball. The bill in its current form does not at all live up to the mission of the convention that was negotiated.
In fact, the bill presented to us by the Conservatives contradicts and undermines the international treaty it is meant to implement. It is very contradictory, and that is what we are trying to shed light on in this debate, which apparently is too long for the Conservatives, but is essential for the NDP. This is a complex issue. We must take our time with it. We must give this bill the time it deserves. It has already gone through committee. The NDP worked with the government to try to improve the bill. However, there is still work to be done.
In its current form, Bill C-6 is still today being criticized by many experts and international players as the weakest and worst bill in the world for ratifying the Convention on Cluster Munitions. There is nothing to be proud of—quite the contrary.
The major problem is that the Conservatives did everything to ensure that this bill included a lot of legal loopholes, which seem unnecessary and dangerous to us. That is what the NDP focused its efforts on in committee and continues to focus on.
We think the main flaw in the bill is clause 11, which is still included. That clause would allow Canadian soldiers to acquire, possess or transport cluster munitions whenever they are acting in conjunction with another country that is not a party to the convention and to request the use of cluster munitions by another country. Clearly, the government made only half an effort to control the use of these weapons. We think that is not enough.
We nevertheless managed to make one amendment to the bill at committee stage. The NDP's efforts were rewarded. The government finally admitted that it would not necessarily be a good idea to expressly allow Canadian soldiers to use cluster munitions. However, it is a rather small victory considering all the work that remains to be done.
If no further changes are made to the bill at the stage it has reached, although amendments could still be made, the bill could undermine the international implementation of the convention by creating dangerous precedents that other countries could rely on. The exemptions currently found in the bill could be invoked by other countries that want to justify keeping or even using the weapons in their arsenals. That is what most of the international community and the NDP are trying to avoid. Unfortunately, once again, Canada was the black sheep and tried to do everything it could to undermine the essence of the convention. It is really too bad, but we still can do the right thing, even if that is not the Conservatives' way.
This is not the first time that they have watered down the principles and values dear to Canadians on the international stage. I could talk about environmental treaties, such as the Kyoto protocol, which are not being honoured. An even more striking example is the 2009 scandal that broke over the transfer of Afghan detainees. We learned that in 2006-07, the Conservative government had expressly approved the transfer of Afghan detainees to prisons where there was a significant risk that they would be tortured.
Canada is a signatory to the Geneva convention. Before the arrival of the Conservative government, we were strongly opposed to torture. For various reasons, the Conservatives allowed violations of the values so dear to Canadians and permitted the transfer of Afghan detainees to prisons where they were tortured.
It is obvious that the Conservatives do not care about the values and principles that matter to Canadians. Earlier, I heard them going on about how Canada is not a pacifist country. That is unbelievable. They need a history lesson. I will not give it to them now, since I do not think they would listen, which is too bad. Regardless, as I just showed, the Conservatives are once again flouting the values and principles that matter to Canadians.
We are not finished. The NDP will continue to work with the government to amend the bill to ensure that it complies with the convention that has been negotiated and ratified by more than 80 countries so far. We simply need to remove clause 11. That is what we are asking for. I hope that the government will finally listen.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2014-06-16 20:41 [p.6922]
Mr. Speaker, periodically I like to interject to provide some thoughts in regard to the issue the member made reference to, which is the issue of international leadership. Earlier I made reference to the fact that it was the Ottawa treaty that dealt with the issue of land mines. Individuals such as Lloyd Axworthy played a critical role in advancing that.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions was actually signed back in 2008, so it has been a number of years and the government has not been able to bring in the legislation. As has been pointed out, the legislation has some serious issues that cause international concern.
Would the member not agree that Canada is losing out by not providing strong international leadership on such an important issue, given our past record, particularly on the Ottawa treaty, which dealt with the horrendous land mines?
View Élaine Michaud Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. He has captured the essence of what I was trying to raise in the House.
Canada has always played a leadership role. The Conservatives seem to have forgotten, but before they arrived on the scene, our country was known as a pacifist country. I know that will make the Conservatives scream and shout, but I will continue to use that word. It is a proud part of our heritage. We have every reason to be proud.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms. Élaine Michaud: I definitely saw that coming, Mr. Speaker. The word “pacifist” gets a rise out of them every time. They seem to think it is really insulting, which I find fascinating.
In any event, despite their shouting, Canada has a responsibility to regain its international and humanitarian reputation. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have destroyed it, and we are a disgrace around the world. I know people who refuse to wear the Canadian flag when they go abroad because of the terrible reputation this government has given us. The Conservatives would do well to learn from history. They need to change their attitude, and quickly.
View Laurie Hawn Profile
View Laurie Hawn Profile
2014-06-16 20:52 [p.6924]
Another point that was brought up by another person across the way suggested that Canadians are allowed to transport munitions. That is not true. That is absolutely not true. It is false. The member should withdraw that statement. I know she will not, but that is okay.
Going back to my colleague, the retired general from Carleton—Mississippi Mills, we are not a pacifist nation. We were not pacifists in 1914, 1939, 1950, 1991—
View Laurie Hawn Profile
View Laurie Hawn Profile
2014-06-16 20:53 [p.6924]
Mr. Speaker, in point of fact, the general was right. We fight for freedom. That is what we fight for, the freedom for people to make their own choice on what they want to do. Afghanistan will never be a democracy like Canada. We fought for their freedom.
With respect to detainees, I really take offence. I know that file inside out. There was never any evidence at all from the Red Cross or—
View Sylvain Chicoine Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will only be making comments since I heard no questions in what my colleague said. He is putting words in my mouth. He wants to identify our country as an aggressive nation, whereas that is not the case. I think that is what my colleagues who spoke previously wanted to say. Our country has come to the defence of allied countries. We fight for freedom and for the Canadian values that we want to uphold, regardless of what my colleague thinks.
In future, I would invite my colleagues to ask questions on what I myself said, not on what others said an hour ago. I think we have to move away from that kind of discussion.
View Claude Gravelle Profile
View Claude Gravelle Profile
2014-06-16 21:11 [p.6926]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to address an important issue on Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The NDP opposes Bill C-6 in its current form on the grounds that it contradicts and undermines the international treaty it is supposed to implement. Bills that implement international treaties should not work at cross purposes from the treaty itself.
The NDP attempted to amend the bill at committee, however, the Conservatives only allowed one small change, which would leave its weak support for the treaty in place.
Let us be clear about how serious this issue is and how dangerous cluster munitions are. Cluster munitions can release hundreds of explosives over a large area in a very short period of time and have a devastating impact on civilians that can last many years after the conflict has ended.
In 2006, 22 Canadian Forces members were killed and 112 wounded in Afghanistan as a result of land mines, cluster bombs and other explosive devices.
Submunitions are very small, often similar in size to a D battery or a tennis ball. Furthermore, 30% remain unexploded and become, in fact, land mines. A single cluster bomb holds hundreds of submunitions, enough to cover an area the size of two to four football fields.
As members can see, these incredibly small devices, the size of a tennis ball, can project death and danger as far as four football fields away.
Canada participated actively in what was known as the “Oslo process” to produce a convention to ban the use of cluster munitions. The Oslo process came on the heels of the successes of the Ottawa treaty to ban land mines. There are 113 countries who have signed the convention and 84 have ratified.
The U.S., China and Russia did not participate in the process, and continue to have stockpiles of cluster munitions. Despite strong opposition from the majority of participating states and non-governmental organizations, Canada succeeded in negotiating into the final text of the convention an article which would explicitly allow for continued military interoperability with non-party status, article 21.
Earl Turcotte was the former senior coordinator for Mine Action at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which are two very left-wing organizations. He was the head of the Canadian delegation to negotiate this convention. He also negotiated the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the Convention on the Prohibition of Anti-Personnel Mines, the Ottawa convention. It is significant therefore that Mr. Turcotte resigned as a result of Canada's attempting to implement weak legislation.
Mr. Turcotte joined many Canadians and our party in advocating for stronger legislation. He said:
—the proposed...legislation is the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the convention, to date.
It fails to fulfill Canada's obligations under international humanitarian law; it fails to protect vulnerable civilians in war-ravaged countries around the world; it betrays the trust of sister states who negotiated this treaty in good faith, and it fails Canadians who expect far better from our nation.
Imagine that: Canada's bill to implement the international treaty is the worst of any country and an epic failure in so many ways.
Of course, Bill C-6 goes beyond interoperability. The main issue is actually clause 11 and its vague list of exceptions. According to the Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross, clause 11 would authorize activities that would undermine the purpose of the CCM and ultimately contribute to the continued use of cluster munitions instead of bringing about their elimination.
In its original form, the clause permitted Canadian soldiers to use, acquire, process or transport cluster munitions whenever they were acting in conjunction with another country that was not a member of the convention and to request the use of cluster munitions by another country.
At the foreign affairs committee, the NDP supported Canadian and international civil society groups in pushing for changes to the bill. We engaged closely with the government in public and thorough direct dialogue to encourage improvements to the legislation. We were successful in persuading the government to formally prohibit the use of cluster munitions by Canadian soldiers.
Clause 11 of Bill C-6 would go far beyond the language of article 21, and anyone from the international committee of the Red Cross to the Canadian responsible for drafting article 21 agrees on that. The Conservatives are alone in thinking that clause 11 is in line with the convention. The NDP amendment would have replaced this loophole language with an actual text of the convention. Without amendments to rectify these loopholes, Canada's commitment to ending the use of cluster munitions would be superficial at best.
We want to protect our soldiers from cluster munitions, to ensure that they are neither the users nor the victims. That objective is only possible if there is a full commitment by the entire country to the letter and the spirit of the treaty banning these weapons.
Until then, the convention allows interoperability. There is therefore no reason to use the overly broad wording proposed in Bill C-6.
Let me also cite the former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser. He said, “It is a pity the current Canadian Government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.”
Indeed, Bill C-6 may even damage the convention as a whole by establishing an international precedent for opt-outs and exemptions. We need some good amendments to the bill to gain our support and the support of the international community.
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2014-06-16 21:19 [p.6927]
Mr. Speaker, the speech of the hon. member for Nickel Belt was a very eloquent on an important matter.
The member mentioned, again, the growing list of persons and nations who were concerned about the direction Canada was going in alleging that we were going to enact legislation to ratify the cluster munitions treaty. One of the many that stand out for me is the foreign affairs negotiator who negotiated on Canada's behalf at the international table.
I have had the privilege of working with some of these very high-calibre officials. They are used to sitting at the table, they are used to bending over backward and they are used to taking directions from the government. In many cases they may feel personally not just that the recommendation is reprehensible, but they do not think the wording being proposed will actually work. However, for one of these high-calibre officials to actually resign over the position of the Government of Canada is profound.
Could the member speak to the issue that even senior officials in the government's foreign affairs department have opposed clause 11, which the government members have insisted on keeping in the bill.
View Niki Ashton Profile
View Niki Ashton Profile
2014-06-16 21:26 [p.6928]
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to speak in opposition to Bill C-6, an act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions. I would like to begin today by making it clear that history will note that in this debate, on such a critical issue, we have not seen one government member rise and make a speech in defence of an indefensible bill.
Hon. Laurie Hawn: That is not true.
Ms. Niki Ashton: In fact, Mr. Speaker, I am being heckled right now by speakers who reject this notion, but we know very clearly that tonight it is New Democrat member after New Democrat member who has had the courage to stand in the House and call the bill what it is. It is a bill in which we see the government trying to hide an ugly agenda. A gaping loophole exists that would allow Canadian soldiers and Canada to sit by or work with countries that kill civilians through the use of cluster munitions.
It is no surprise that the Conservatives often have real issues digesting factual information. Just to be clear, and I know that this fact has been repeated on numerous occasions tonight, 98% of all recorded cluster munition casualties have been civilians. We know that the bomblets coming out of cluster munitions are small, often the size of a battery or a tennis ball, and have a failure rate of up to 30%. Unexploded bomblets, as they are called, become de facto land mines. One cluster bomb contains hundreds of these submunitions and typically scatters them across an area the size of two to four football fields.
Up to 37 countries and territories may be affected by cluster munitions from use in armed conflicts. Nineteen countries have used cluster munitions in combat, and 34 countries have at one point produced the weapons, though half of these have since ended production, some as a result of the convention. We know that in 2006, 22 Canadian Forces members were killed and 112 were wounded in Afghanistan as a result of land mines, cluster bombs, and other explosive devices.
In this House we have been able to bring forward the voices of internationally respected figures who oppose Canada's position. I would like to quote the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser. Testifying before the parliamentary committee, he said:
If you want to kill women and children, cluster bombs would be the weapon of choice.
He urged Canada not to enable Canadian soldiers to use cluster bombs in joint operations with the U.S. military. As a result of clause 11 in this bill, we know that this is exactly the loophole that exists. Canada would now embark, as a result of this bill, on a journey that would see us collaborating with countries that use cluster bombs that would cause incredible civilian casualties and take away the lives of innocent people in countries around the world. All of this would be for what?
There are many days in the House when one wonders what the Conservative government's foreign affairs agenda actually is. We know that there have been deep cuts to our international development commitments. We know that every step along the way, the government has sought to prioritize its corporate agenda, assigning top advisory positions to corporate figures in the mining industry and the resource extractive industry, which have incredible sway over our international aid and international development dollars.
We know that Canada now houses about 75% of the mining companies around the world. Sadly, some of these mining companies do not even have production here in Canada, and many of them are complicit in human rights abuses around the world.
Many of them benefit from the services of Canadian embassies. Some benefit from actual investment through Export Development Canada, and many carry the reputation that as Canadian mining companies, somehow they are working to make the world a better place. In fact, we know that in country after country, particularly in Latin America and Africa, all that is happening is that Canada is getting a bad name.
This bill is no different. This bill serves to sully the reputation of Canada, a country that for years had built a strong reputation when it came to banning land mines, when it made commitments to peacekeeping, and when it came to commitments, under its foreign affairs agenda, explicitly to human security. These were not the ideas of just one person, although we certainly think of former Prime Minister Lester Pearson and others who were responsible for the vision of peacekeeping. These touchstones emerged as a result of Canadian values and the push Canadians made day in and day out. They were activists who fought for nuclear disarmament, peace, and solidarity to make sure that Canada was actually contributing to the well-being of people around the world.
Canadians are horrified and will be horrified to hear about the bill the government is ramming through Parliament, a bill that throws out the kind of reputation Canadians value, and a bill that would ensure that Canada collaborates with countries that know that the technology and arms they are using kill civilians.
It is surprising that the members of Parliament who sit across the aisle seem not to be concerned about any of this. We can see that from the fact that none of them are actually rising tonight to make a speech on this issue. They seem to think that their best contribution is through heckling in the House. What kind of defence could they possibly have to share with their constituents who wonder why their members of Parliament on the government side are complicit in ensuring that a bill that will see civilians die is rammed through Parliament without their contribution in debate, but obviously with their full support, as they vote for debate to be hurried and for this bill to become legislation?
I share the feeling of shame, frankly, that Canada would now be a country, as a result of this bill that includes clause 11, that would be complicit in these kinds of horrors. I would say to let history document that members of the Conservative government actively pursued an agenda that does not improve the lives of people around the world and that actively obstructs those, including former allies, who have worked with Canada in disarmament and on the ban of land mines. It is a government that is trying with great gusto to reconfigure the representation of a country that no Canadian will buy.
I look forward to talking about the government's agenda in the lead-up to the 2015 election. I am sure that their arguments, certainly in this area, when it comes to their foreign affairs agenda, will not pass muster with Canadians.
View Chris Alexander Profile
View Chris Alexander Profile
2014-06-16 21:35 [p.6929]
Mr. Speaker, I do not think any of us on this side have ever heard a speech by the NDP opposing an arms control measure with such an unbelievable claim attached to it. The member opposite claims that by passing the bill, we will be killing civilians. Could we on this side of the House register our incredulity, our absolute disbelief, at the absurdity of that claim?
The anti-personnel land mines convention, championed by Lloyd Axworthy, did not lead to the United States abandoning the use of anti-personnel mines. This convention will not, in the short term, lead to the abandonment by the United States, and others around the world, of using cluster munitions. However, Canada should do it. It should stand on principle and should have the member's support in doing so.
My question is the following. Will the member opposite, who talked about the deaths of children and civilians in Afghanistan due to American cluster munitions, acknowledge who killed the most civilians in Afghanistan? Will she stand in the House and tell us whether she even knows what has been happening over the past 12 years to the civilians of Afghanistan and who is responsible? I would like to ask the member opposite, who is the main belligerent responsible?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2014-06-16 21:38 [p.6930]
Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the comments by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. He is quite right when he made the assertion that the Ottawa treaty, which banned land mines, did not get the U.S. to reverse its position. However, I think it is worth noting that the Chrétien government at the time demonstrated incredible leadership. In fact, through its minister of foreign affairs, it actually initiated it and turned it into a reality. In fact, the minister of foreign affairs at the time was even nominated worldwide for his efforts.
No doubt there is a need to see stronger leadership on this file. In looking over the legislation and some of the deficiencies, would she not agree that the leadership from Canada has been tarnished because of the manner in which the government has approached it? Let us keep in mind that the treaty itself actually came in as an initiative back in 2008. Here we are six years later, and the legislation still has not even been passed.
View Niki Ashton Profile
View Niki Ashton Profile
2014-06-16 21:40 [p.6930]
Mr. Speaker, it is clear that under this government, in terms of our foreign affairs policy and international development, the disconnect between what it is doing and how Canadians perceive our role on the international stage, or what our role should be, is incredibly vast.
I think of all the Canadians, my constituents and others across the country, who work hard day in and day out, who are raising families and contributing to their communities and our country. They want to know that what they are sending to the government in tax dollars and revenue is actually being spent properly. That includes the work we are doing overseas. Sadly, example after example coming from the government on its foreign affairs agenda proves the opposite.
Canadians would be horrified, the way we are in the NDP, that the government is willing to drive an agenda without proper debate, except for heckling, that not only stands by but that actually allows for a clause whereby Canadians would be complicit in the use of cluster munitions by others. That is unacceptable to us and unacceptable to Canadians. All Canadians deserve better than this government.
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
2014-06-16 21:54 [p.6931]
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his speech.
He mentioned that the exceptions went too far when it comes to Bill C-6. They are a clear breach of Canada's international obligations. In any case, when we sign a convention and the bill to ratify it is completely inconsistent with the content of that same convention, as it has been pointed out, it is impossible to have any credibility internationally. What does my colleague think about that?
View Robert Chisholm Profile
View Robert Chisholm Profile
2014-06-16 21:55 [p.6932]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. Not only has the government failed to deliver, but some nations and experts around the world have suggested that what the government has brought forward in a bill to ratify this convention is the worst they have seen. It is the worst of the lot. It may be the slowest, and it is certainly the worst. It undermines the government's credibility. It undermines all of our credibility on this issue and issues of international importance.
Canadians expect us to reflect their values, that we are a country that stands up for what is right, that we put our money where our mouths are, that we look after our neighbours, and when we say we will do something, we do it. This is not fulfilling that particular value.
View Pierre Nantel Profile
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2014-06-16 22:27 [p.6936]
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-6.
This is a situation we know all too well in Canada. In order for an international treaty to be enshrined in Canadian law, an implementation act is required, and that is what we have before us tonight.
The issue with countries operating under the dualist model is that the implementation act could be undermined by weaknesses, omissions or even ill will. Unfortunately, we have heard time and time again that this bill is undermined by ill will. The government is deliberately misusing the process whereby international rules are incorporated into Canadian law.
We have already debated this bill, since the Senate introduced a previous version. At the time, the NDP had some concerns about the fact that it originated in the other place. However, I will refrain from launching into a tirade against the legitimacy of legislation that originates in the red chamber.
At first glance, it seems to me that every effort made by the government in terms of international relations tends to turn sour. It seems that the Conservatives could not care less about our relations with the international community.
To hell with other countries if they do not think much of Canada. Before the Conservatives start bragging again about their wide-ranging trade policies, they should ask themselves if other countries will want to trade with a country that behaves in such a cavalier and arrogant way.
Bill C-6 is very important. Unfortunately, the government waited too long before introducing a bill to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
I am not the only one who sees the major flaws in this bill. As it is, without any amendment, the bill would render Canada's signature on the convention null and void, simply because our law would not faithfully reflect the content of this treaty. We would clearly be renouncing our international obligations in front of the whole world.
The international community is aware of the efforts made by countries to enforce international laws and now sees Canada as a country that does not do the bare minimum. Clearly, this bill must be amended in order to make sure that it is in agreement with the spirit and the letter of the convention.
I would like to talk about the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty that has been signed by 118 countries—three-quarters of the UN member states—and ratified by 84 countries. The Ottawa treaty to ban land mines as well as the Dublin and Oslo negotiation processes laid the groundwork for a treaty such as this one to put an end to the horror of cluster munitions.
These weapons are extremely difficult to detect and disarm. They are tiny and often look like small objects that have been left behind in conflict zones. We can imagine the many victims, both adults and children, who survive but end up suffering and living with serious injuries caused by these weapons. It is disgusting to think that people could have conceived or produced these ghastly weapons, that companies could have distributed and sold them, and that countries could have authorized and ordered their use. The fact that countries continue to support their use is even worse.
Fortunately, the international community is trying to put an end to inhumanity. There have been a lot of consultations. The work done at the United Nations bodies in Geneva and Vienna is absolutely crucial and important. We mentioned the Ottawa treaty to ban land mines. The work done every year as part of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons is also invaluable, and Canada has always played an important role in the work of these organizations.
I mention this because I think it is very important to remember that Canada used to be an undisputed leader on these issues, and today, as I will point out later, a number of international experts are looking at Canada and wondering what is going on with us. Where is the logic behind these absolutely ridiculous policies? Once again, I do not understand the government's logic.
Let us get back to the subject of this bill. Cluster munitions were used for the first time during the Second World War. They were used until recently in countries like Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq. These weapons indiscriminately strike all those who happen to be in their range. The non-explosion rate of these munitions makes them particularly dangerous and horrifying. Thirty per cent of all cluster munitions do not explode when they hit the ground. Therefore, they could explode whenever a civilian gets near them, even years or decades later.
Civilians make up 98% of the victims of these weapons, and 40% of the civilian victims are children. Obviously, this is shocking and appalling. We are not talking here about injuries that last a lifetime; we are not talking about the material losses often inflicted on the poorest families that are already ravaged by war; we are not talking about the destruction of homes or the contamination of land used for agriculture; we are talking about the destruction of families, countries, economies and human lives.
In 2008, Canada signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It was only natural to do so, given the fact we have always been in favour of disarmament and of monitoring the use of conventional weapons and considering the humanitarian commitment behind our signature internationally, that is, up until now.
At that point, Canada made a commitment not to develop, produce, acquire, sell, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions. It also made a commitment to destroy all cluster munitions in its possession within eight years.
By signing the 2008 convention, Canada also agreed to help victims of cluster munitions and support other signatories to the treaty. It was also to take all the necessary legislative measures to have the text adopted in its domestic law. That is what we expected the bill to do.
The NDP rejoiced when Canada became a party to the convention. However, we see tonight, with much sadness and puzzlement, that the government is choosing to shirk its responsibilities under the treaty.
It is choosing to act that way even though we offered to work with the government and suggest amendments, among other things, so that Canada could implement the convention effectively, as it promised to do in 2008.
Becoming a signatory to a convention is only the first step. Once an agreement has been reached and the convention has been signed, it needs to be implemented, which requires a bill like this one.
The bill we have before us, however, does not meet Canada's obligations. Bill C-6 is roundly criticized by experts as well as by those who believe that children and civilians should not be exposed to such weaponry.
Clause 11 allows Canadian soldiers to engage in operations where cluster munitions are used. We were fully compliant in the case of the Ottawa convention, which prohibits Canadian soldiers from being in theatre with non-signatory states. We were forbidden from participating in joint operations with states that use those weapons. Today, Canada is reversing its position in front of the whole world and agreeing to participate in operations in which cluster munitions are used. The decision is as inexplicable as it is worrisome.
Legitimizing the use of these weapons and the states that use them goes against both the spirit and the letter of the convention. Clause 11 authorizes Canada and a state that is not a party to the convention to use, acquire, possess, import or export cluster munitions. This flies in the face of the convention. The government's intentions are unequivocal, and it has made no attempt to obscure them. It is trying to circumvent a treaty that bans the use of some of the weapons most lethal to civilians around the world.
If we are to play a vital, valued role in promoting international peace, we need to make sure that this treaty meets international requirements when it is enshrined in Canadian law. That role was a Canadian tradition that many Quebeckers were proud to be part of, whether as diplomats or statesmen.
The convention clearly requires that we completely rid ourselves of these weapons and refrain from using them if we are in a conflict zone or theatre of operations where they are being used. That is the commitment we made when we signed this agreement. It is there in black and white.
We can say that we do not have these weapons and that we will destroy them, but as long as we do not embrace this particular notion of not using them at all, we are not meeting our international obligations under this convention.
Numerous people have said as much. The Canadian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross said that clause 11 was not consistent with the purpose and the object of the convention. To quote them:
[It] would permit activities that could undermine the object and purpose of the CCM and ultimately contribute to the continued use of cluster munitions rather than further their elimination.
The parliamentary committee also heard from former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser, who is an international disarmament expert:
It is a pity the current Canadian Government, in relation to cluster munitions, does not provide any real lead to the world. Its approach is timid, inadequate and regressive.
Our amendments were specifically designed to change this bill so that it would be in line with such extremely important opinions and comply with international law.
Instead, the Conservatives are hurting Canada's reputation. It is shocking and shameful. I urge them to change their strategy, if only to preserve our international reputation.
Do they care about that?
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
View Sadia Groguhé Profile
2014-06-16 22:40 [p.6938]
Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague on his speech.
As we have been saying since the beginning of the debates on Bill C-6, it is clear that this situation is significantly tarnishing Canada's international reputation.
It is like someone giving their word and not keeping it. That is what we are doing if you consider clause 11 of Bill C-6. I must say that I am overcome by the fact that the government is minimizing the impact of these cluster munitions, which, whether the government likes it or not, kill children, women and civilians who have nothing to do with any army or with people involved in the military.
That is what we are talking about this evening. This truly goes to show that when it comes to a convention, applying it in a way that is inconsistent with what we signed on to, makes no sense.
View Annick Papillon Profile
View Annick Papillon Profile
2014-06-16 22:57 [p.6940]
Mr. Speaker, you are doing good work, because we often get the impression that the members opposite do not hear us. Thank you for calling them to order so that we can have a constructive debate.
Throughout the evening, my NDP colleagues have been contributing to the debate and asking the government opposite to examine this bill more closely. However, my colleagues were the only ones who spoke tonight. We want the voices of civil society and the various organizations affected to be heard.
We are here to talk about Bill C-6. It makes sense that we are not talking about other subjects that I am passionate about, such as tourism and the need for investments in that area, consumer protection, and the environment and climate change. There are many interesting subjects.
However, we are here to debate Bill C-6. The House is sitting this late in the evening precisely to discuss this issue, namely, the Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
The NDP opposes Bill C-6 in its current form on the grounds that it contradicts and undermines the international treaty it is supposed to implement. That is really the key element. The Conservatives are going against the spirit of the convention by not agreeing to make the necessary amendments, as proposed by members of civil society, the NDP and the opposition in general. We should be hearing that they will agree.
We attempted to amend the bill at committee, but the Conservatives allowed only one small change. They did not make the necessary changes to the bill. This evening, we are once again trying to amend the bill at report stage.
If the government continues to ignore us and continues to fail to use its speaking time to respond to the points we are raising tonight in the House, obviously no progress will be made and we will get home quite late.
The Conservatives' bill to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions is widely recognized as the weakest and, to be honest, the worst in the world. It clearly undermines the spirit in which the treaty was created.
This is not the first time the Conservatives have humiliated us on the international scene. The memory of the Kyoto protocol, which they up and ditched, is still fresh, as is the memory of the UN Security Council seat that we did not get because they failed to convey how important it was. They have made many mistakes. For example, the Conservatives rushed a whole bunch of free trade agreements through. They care a lot more about the number of agreements than about the quality of those agreements. To us, quality is important because those agreements are here to stay. It is important to do things right so they do not have to be redone and so we do not suffer the consequences.
The NDP collaborated with Canadian and international civil society groups to persuade the government to prohibit the use of cluster bombs by Canadian soldiers. The bill still contains a number of dangerous and useless legislative gaps. Bill C-6 has that in common with many other bills: loopholes you could drive a truck through.
The NDP will continue to put pressure on the Conservatives to amend Bill C-6, and that is why we are sitting so late tonight. We want to ensure that Canada's humanitarian and peaceful reputation is not tarnished by this very weak and mediocre bill.
Cluster bombs eject hundreds of explosive devices over a wide area very quickly. They have devastating effects on civilians that can last several years after the end of a conflict.
What we do now will have consequences for generations to come. As a young MP, that matters to me. My children and grandchildren will be affected. This is important, and we cannot treat this issue lightly.
It is important to understand the importance of our role here and the responsibilities we have for ensuring that generations to come have a better and much more certain future than the one that is facing us right now.
Canada actively participated in the Oslo process that led to the drafting of a convention to ban the use of cluster munitions. The Oslo process was initiated to take advantage of the success of the Ottawa Treaty to ban land mines. The United States, China and Russia did not participate in the process and are continuing to stockpile cluster munitions. In spite of strong opposition from a majority of the participating states and non-governmental organizations, Canada was able to negotiate the inclusion of an article in the final text of the convention that expressly allowed for ongoing military interoperability with states that are not parties to the convention, namely article 21.
Bill C-6 is not only about that interoperability article. The main problem actually lies in clause 11, as we know, which proposes a list of very vague exceptions, creating the legal uncertainty I mentioned. In its original form, clause 11 allowed Canadian soldiers to use, obtain, possess or transport cluster munitions in the course of joint operations with another country that is not a party to the convention, and to request that they be used by the armed forces of another country.
At the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, the NDP supported the Canadian and foreign civil society organizations calling for the bill to be amended. As I will explain a little later, those calls are supported by many organizations on the ground. We also worked closely with the government, publicly and directly, and we were able to persuade it to expressly prohibit Canadian soldiers from using cluster munitions. When you care about our troops, you do not turn your back on them. You are there for them, you defend them and you do not let them put their lives in danger. That is important.
Unfortunately, there are still other flaws. If they are not rectified, Canada’s implementation of its commitment against cluster munitions will be rather superficial. In fact, if Bill C-6 is not amended, it could even be detrimental to the convention and give us a bad reputation on the world stage, in that the opt-outs and exceptions it contains could be invoked as precedents by other countries. We do not want a precedent that taints our reputation. We have paid dearly for that reputation over the years of our history.
In its current form, this bill is the least restrictive of all the laws passed thus far by countries that ratified the convention. That is why I would like to quote the people who support us. Earl Turcotte, former senior coordinator of mine action at DFAIT, was the head of the Canadian delegation that negotiated the convention. He also negotiated the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and the convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines. Mr. Turcotte resigned to protest Canada's attempt to impose a weak implementation bill. That is saying something. Mr. Turcotte is advocating for stronger legislation, and we understand what he is saying.
It is important to say so. Some of my colleagues have already talked about Mr. Turcotte. When a person resigns, they understand that, in life, you have to have principles and you have to stand up for them and defend them. I hope that this will come to fruition. I remember other people who resigned as heads of certain government organizations. That is quite something. It means refusing to support this kind of thing because it betrays the spirit of the law, the mandate that we have given ourselves and the objectives we have set for ourselves. That is noteworthy.
Paul Hannon, executive director of Mines Action Canada, and former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser also support us. We have a lot of support. What we are asking this evening is very simple. We are asking the Conservative government, the Conservative members, the Liberals and everyone to take action and to listen to what we have to say.
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