Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act (Bill S-10)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say for the record that the hon. parliamentary secretary is in no position to criticize the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for asking multiple questions, nor interrupting with heckling when an opposite member attempts to answer. He did both earlier in questions to the official opposition.

Since I am not allowed to speak due to closure, I will never get an opportunity to give a full speech on this very important bill.

To answer his question, I have examined the legislation from Australia and the U.K., and I can give a comparison. It is very clear that Canada’s language is the weakest of all of the interoperability sections. He can check Australia’s section 72.41 and section 9 of the U.K. legislation. They are not as weak as Canada’s legislation, which, particularly under paragraph 11(1)(c), allows the Canadian Forces to have enough exemptions to use, acquire and possess cluster weapons.

To answer a question he has not asked yet, that being which of our allies has the best interoperability clause, the one I would be happy to see in this legislation is New Zealand’s. It simply states:

A member of the Armed Forces does not commit an offence against section 10(1) merely by engaging, in the course of his or her duties, in operations, exercises, or other military activities with the armed forces of a State that is not a party to the Convention and that has the capability to engage in conduct prohibited [otherwise by the legislation].

My question to the hon. parliamentary secretary is this: What is wrong with the New Zealand language? Why will he not accept it? It deals with the interoperability questions he has asked about in the theatre of war.

Bob Dechert: Mr. Speaker, I have also read the Australian and the U.K. legislation.

The Australian legislation is very similar to Canada’s. It has almost the exact language and includes explicit exceptions in its legislation to allow for interoperability. The United Kingdom legislation also has an interoperability clause, as well as an annex establishing defences to the general prohibitions provided in the bill against the use of cluster munitions.

Both Australia and the United Kingdom are countries that operate with Canada and with the United States. Those approaches are very similar to Canada’s. The Canadian legislation was drafted in direct reference to the Australian and U.K. legislation.

Our government is very comfortable that our military personnel will continue to be interoperable with both those countries, with the United States, and not put our military personnel at risk.