Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I wish to begin my remarks by expressing my deep gratitude to the hon. member for Ottawa Centre, both for his championing of this issue and for his generosity in seconding my amendment this evening, so that I can explain the reasons that the Green Party is so very disappointed with what is before us here in Bill C-6.
We had a chance to get it right. We had a chance to stand with the community of nations and fulfill the promise of the treaty to ban cluster munitions. As my hon. colleague has mentioned, Canada played a significant role. We got a reputation globally as being willing to step out ahead when there was the Ottawa process to deal with land mines. It is in that vein that we are going to go forward and deal with cluster munitions.
As was just mentioned, it is estimated that between 95% and 98% of the casualties from cluster munitions are civilians. Of that, 40% are children. These are not weapons of war. These are monstrous tools of destruction for the innocent, and Canada should rightly be at the forefront in ensuring that such munitions are never used again.
I want to quote from the treaty, which we have actually signed. We have signed this convention, and the legislation before us is required as a tool to bring that treaty into force for Canada. For ratification we need a domestic law. Unfortunately, this domestic law has tilted in the wrong direction.
Let us just look at the language of the convention. Canada has signed this treaty. As a state party to the convention, we are:
|Deeply concerned that civilian populations and individual citizens continue to bear the brunt of armed conflict.|
|Determined [that is a good verb] to put an end for all time to the suffering and casualties caused by cluster munitions at the time of their use, when they fail to function as intended or when they are abandoned.|
|Concerned that cluster munition remnants kill or maim civilians, including women and children….|
In this vein, we continue to have the language of commitment, of concern to protect human life from weapons that are designed specifically to destroy human populations, civilian populations, and do damage to the innocent.
The operative section of the convention is very important, and I want to return to it for a few of the things that the bill fails to do. Article 1, the general obligations and scope of application, commits Canada to the following:
|1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:|
|(a) Use cluster munitions;|
|(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;|
The third part of this important paragraph is really significant. It states:
|(c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.|
Those are the key operative phrases. Then we have Bill C-6, which is largely a carve-out that says we were just kidding when we said “never under any circumstances”. We have a bunch of circumstances in which Canadian Armed Forces are going to be working alongside one of our military allies. It is clearly intended. As my hon. friend mentioned, so far the United States has not ratified this treaty, so we know that we might be in a theatre of operations—as we now describe wars—with our allies, namely the United States. They might be using cluster munitions, and we would want to safeguard our ability to work alongside them.
I will acknowledge and I do accept that this is a large and important move for this particular Conservative administration, because it so rarely changes any bill. My hon. friend, who is the parliamentary secretary, moved in committee to remove the opportunity for any Canadian soldier or military operation to actually use the weapons, but the bill still allows us to participate, to be alongside in a shared military operation with an ally that is not a party to this convention.
There was other language put forward in various presentations to the committee that would have protected Canadian operations if they were in such a shared military operation with a non-party state. There was other language that would have worked very well. Human Rights Watch suggested that we could replace clause 11 with the following:
|Section 6 does not prohibit a person who is subject to the Code of Service Discipline under any of the paragraphs…[which are referenced] of the National Defence Act or who is an employee as defined…[and this is the operative portion] in the course of military cooperation, our combined military operations involving Canada and a state that is not a party to the Convention, from merely participating in military cooperation or operations with a foreign country that is not a party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.|
That would have vouchsafed. That would have been the protection the Canadian military would have needed for the circumstance for which we have created a far too aggressive exemption in clause 11.
It is a great tragedy that we had one amendment. I have to say that one amendment in the current context of this particular Parliament, coming from the government, is unusual and it was welcomed, but it did not go far enough to rescue this from being, as my hon. friend has said, the weakest of all the implementing legislation of any nation that has so far signed this convention.
It leaves us in a position that is really rather shameful.
I want to return to one of the other areas. I mentioned that in the convention language, we are obligated as a convention party to do nothing to assist or induce anyone to engage in an activity prohibited here.
A great number of nations have, in interpreting that section in which we are prohibited from assisting, interpreted it very clearly to mean that there should be a ban on investment. There should be no investments allowed. In order to comply with this treaty, Canada should ban anyone from investing in any of the operations of any of the providers of cluster munitions.
There is nothing in this legislation that stops companies in Canada or investors in Canada from actually assisting through their financial investments. That is the kind of amendment that should have been included, and it is not here.
I pointed out that the following nations have actually ensured, through legislation, that no investment in cluster munitions be allowed. That is included in legislation from Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Samoa, and Switzerland.
As an interpretive decision, so too have other nations said that they understand this convention to mean that they must not allow any investment in cluster munitions. In taking the interpretive decision, the U.K. and a larger group of nations, including Germany, Norway, and many others, have decided they cannot understand this convention without understanding that they have to ban investment in cluster munitions.
We have lost the moral high ground here. We are slipping down to where we have signed a convention that says we are completely committed to never, under any circumstance, use or encourage or assist in the spread of these deadly, immoral weapons of assault on civilians. We will never do that, we say, yet somehow, when we read Bill C-6, we feel that we have crossed our fingers behind our backs. We mean “never” most of the time, but sometimes we are going to be in a theatre of war and we do not want to be too bound by our word under the convention to ban cluster munitions.
In this place we still have time to remedy that. The hon. member for Ottawa South has put forward an amendment. The Green Party has put forward an amendment. Should this House assembled decide that Canada can reclaim the moral high ground, we still have time.
We have the moral courage. We are Canadians. We stand for peace. We believe that children should not be blown up because they find a piece of metal and think they can recover that scrap metal to buy their family supper.
We are, by God, Canadians, and we stand for peace, and we stand against war, and we stand against cluster munitions. Bill C-6 says “not really”. Let us amend the bill here and now at third reading and report stage.
Paul Dewar: Mr. Speaker, the global stockpile of cluster munitions and submunitions totals approximately four billion, with a quarter of these in U.S. hands right now. 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. This is a real question for us right now, for reasons I just mentioned, if we do not get this right and we do not implement this treaty. I believe it is not just about this treaty, but it is about a precedent we are setting when it comes to international treaties. I would like her comment on that.
In committee the Conservatives said that it would not happen. They said we would never have a situation in which one of our generals would order one of our Canadian Forces members to go in theatre with a member state that had cluster munitions. However, I do not think that is good enough. It is about the precedents we are setting by undermining the treaty. I would like to hear her comments on that as well
Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, for my hon. friend from Ottawa Centre, I would love to believe that the hypothetical would not arise, but we are living in a time when the basic understanding of how a civilized country behaves seems to be slipping between our fingers.
Our greatest ally and friend is the United States. I have great respect for Barack Obama and I think he is a wonderful and inspiring human being, except he has ordered more unmanned drones to commit illegal murders in other countries than any previous U.S. president. We seem to be taking a very mild approach to the threat of torture. I never thought I would hear a Canadian minister of the crown speak of the possibility that because other things were a bigger threat, the government did not really mind if somebody got information by torture.
There is a lot of moral relativism going on right now in relation to whether we are a civilized country and stand for anything. I believe we are. I believe we always will be. However, this kind of climb down from the treaty commitments that we made, bringing forward legislation that is so weak, indicates that we are prepared to say one thing and do another, because when push comes to shove, we do not stand for anything. I do not think that is what Canadians want to see.
Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity on many occasions to sit down and have discussions with a former minister of foreign affairs, Lloyd Axworthy. Lloyd played a very important role in terms of the land mines deal that ultimately demonstrated that Canada, if it did it right, could play a very strong leadership role on issues of this nature.
Could the leader of the Green Party provide some comment on the leadership role Canada could play if it chose to do so? What I reflect on is the land mine treaty deal in which Canada did play a critical role, and that is why we are where we are today with the land mines.
Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, this is one of the lines of our former minister of foreign affairs Lloyd Axworthy to whom the member refers. He used to say that we punched above our weight. We really do. We are a relatively small population of the globe, a relatively small economy, yet Canadian leadership has accomplished so much historically. That is not a small thing.
Going back further, before he was prime minister the former minister of foreign affairs, Lester B. Pearson, resolved the Suez Crisis in such a way that he won the Nobel Peace Prize. In that exercise, he created the concept of having a peacekeeping force. It is not for nothing. It has been Canadian leadership in drafting the UN charter, the UN Declaration on Human Rights, the Law of the Sea.
If we look around the world at some of the fundamental documents that speak to multilateralism and improving the life of a community of nations through a system of rules and respect, we see that Canadian leadership has always been there. Now we are losing ground. We are losing our global reputation. I see it every time I go to a climate negotiation. It breaks my heart when people look at our accreditation and say, “Oh you’re Canadian. Why do you people even bother coming anymore?”
We need to reclaim that global leadership. If we accept the amendments before us, we can begin to rebuild that reputation.