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?