Mr. Speaker, it is in indeed an honour to stand here in this specific debate as proposed by our party, the Liberal Party of Canada, and our caucus. As we have had many discussions about this in the past, I want to talk about this.
I have some experience with palliative care in my riding in central Newfoundland. It is always a painful experience for a lot of people here, and more so for others in the House who have spoken so powerfully about it, such as the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay did earlier, and has done so in the past.
For the record, I want to read the text of the motion to the House. For great part, it is mostly about the text of the motion, which talks about the Supreme Court ruling and how we have to deal with that. However, it is also a question of process and how we as members can deal with this situation.
I neglected to mention earlier, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
The text of the motion is, in part:
That (a) the House recognize that (i) the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the prohibition on physician-assisted dying violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice”, (ii) the Supreme Court has suspended the implementation of its ruling for 12 months, (iii) the expected federal election and summer recess limit the remaining sitting days in 2015, (iv) Canadians expect Parliamentarians to take a leadership role on this issue and engage with it in an informed and respectful way, (v) a nonpartisan, deliberate and effective discussion took place on this issue in the Quebec National Assembly, (vi) Parliament has a responsibility to respond to the Supreme Court ruling...
Let me get to that for a moment, and talk about the special committee and the history behind this.
The unanimous decision by all nine Supreme Court justices, which took place on February 6, upheld an earlier ruling by a British Columbia judge who determined that laws outlawing physician-assisted dying contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In particular, the prohibitions unjustifiably violated section 7 of the charter. It states, “the life, liberty and security of the person”, and it does that in three specific ways: first, by forcing some people to commit suicide early out of fear of incapacity, such as the case in life; second, by denying those people decisions on their bodily integrity and medical care, and that goes to liberty; and three, by leaving people to endure intolerable suffering, which goes to security of the person.
Constitutionally, the court found that the prohibitions went disproportionately beyond their purpose, by capturing people who were not vulnerable to coercion in times of weakness. That has been a large part of the debate, which I will touch on a bit later. Many groups, interest groups and citizens, have already openly discussed this, not in an official forum, which we would like to see here and which is proposed within this motion, but through social media in particular and through many special interest groups and their fora.
The court stated that the prohibition of physician-assisted death was of no force or effect to the extent that two conditions were met. The first was that the person was a competent adult who clearly consented to dying. The second was that the person “...has a grievous and irremediable medical condition (including an illness, disease or disability) that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition”.
This decision overturned the earlier Supreme Court decision that went back to Rodriguez v. British Columbia, or the Attorney General, in 1993. Everybody remembers the story of Sue Rodriguez and her fight on this issue, a valiant one at that.
The remedy was a declaration of invalidity that was suspended for 12 months. This remedy did not compel physicians to provide assistance in dying. There compels us to act as legislators by first discussing this issue within the parliamentary precinct. That is why we talk about this special committee to be struck in order to discuss this issue at length.
I do not think it specifies that we have to stick specifically to this position. It would be great if the committee could launch into discussions about a legislative framework, as my colleague from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, pointed out. He pointed out that we could talk about a legislative framework for this to discuss the palliative care strategy, which many people have discussed in this House, certainly in the past 10 years I have been here, and it should play a big role in this discussion.
There is a 12-month period into which we have to fit. Time is somewhat limited, of course, as I mentioned earlier. There is a scheduled federal election in the fall, which rules out that period of time, plus of course the summer recess. That gives us the days between now and the end of June. I certainly think this would be a golden opportunity for us.
Just by way of background, the terms euthanasia and physician-assisted death should not be used interchangeably, as euthanasia means terminating someone's life for compassionate reasons with or without consent. Physician-assisted death requires consent.
In a 2014 Ipsos Reid poll, 84% of people surveyed agreed that “[a] doctor should be able to help someone end their life if the person is a competent adult who is terminally ill, suffering unbearably and repeatedly asks for assistance to die”. That is a pretty comprehensive question to be asking the general public, and over 80% returned in favour of it.
However, that does not negate the fact that discussion needs to be had about how this will be implemented across the country; first, how we would adjust the Criminal Code to provide this, if this is what Canadians want, and as we study this.
I would just like to quote from an article. This is from the Canadian Medical Association. It put out a lot of material on this. Its stance, too, has softened over the past many years. I have spoken about this in my riding, to a gentlemen in my riding, Dr. John Haggie, who is a former president of the CMA. The CMA quotes several of the physicians who are close to the subject, whether it be physician-assisted dying or palliative care. For close to two years the association has been studying medical aid to dying as it is regulated in Europe and in five U.S. states.
The CMA has also held town hall meetings across Canada to canvass the feelings of the general public and doctors, and Dr. Chris Simpson, the CMA president, said in an interview:
We'd like to bring that expertise and reflect what we heard to the table, so that we can come up with a system that meticulously protects vulnerable people but one that provides access to medical aid in dying for those who need it.
That is from Dr. Chris Simpson, the CMA president. He talks about the forum that they have at their disposal; so they take this to the public, they have a discussion, and they would like to report back, but to report back to whom? This is a golden opportunity to bring this back to the committee that we are discussing in this motion today, a special legislative committee to look at this. It would be great to hear from the Canadian Medical Association, which has done so much work on this.
Here are just a few more quotes from this. Some doctors welcome the decision, including Dr. James Downar, a palliative care physician at Toronto's University Health Network who wrote a Canadian Medical Association journal commentary on physician-assisted death. That was in 2014.
Downar said it is critical that legislators involve stakeholders in crafting a process to ensure all Canadians have access to physicians who will assist them in dying if they meet prescribed conditions.
This is very important for the Canadian Medical Association:
Any process must also require doctors who have a conscientious objection to refer patients to a colleague who will medically assist them with dying.
Other palliative care physicians, however, are deeply concerned about the Supreme Court decision. It will negatively affect their relationship with their patients. Dr. Jessica Simon is one of them:
Our role is that we don't hasten the end of life, but we allow people to live as fully as they can before they die.
The intentional act of ending someone's life is not part of palliative medicine. She says:
I've never had a case where someone has had to die in order to relieve their suffering, because we have other tools at our disposal, including palliative sedation.
Whether we agree with these specific physicians is one thing, but we are saying today that these particular physicians need to be heard, to report back to our parliamentary system that we have here, and that is what this motion seeks to put in motion over the coming year.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood for his comments about some parliamentarians wanting to take this issue seriously. I would hope that more of us in this House would want to take this issue seriously, but I am pleased to hear that Liberals will be supporting the bill.
In 2011, a historic election for the NDP, we won a number of seats and became the official opposition for the first time in history. We were here for caucus meetings right after that election. My phone rang, and I knew it was Jack Layton calling me. He was calling around to people, asking them to serve in his shadow cabinet. He was asking us to shadow the Prime Minister's cabinet in different roles.
When my phone rang, he asked me if I would serve as the environment critic, and I was thrilled. I was thrilled because all I have ever wanted to work on are issues of justice. For me, justice is social justice, economic justice, and environmental justice.
I was really excited to work on this portfolio. When I was on the phone with him, I told Jack I wanted to meet with him and talk about my mandate. If I am working on the environment portfolio, what mandate should I serve under? He said we would have a lot of time to talk about that, but that I needed to understand that the most important issue facing us today is climate change, because climate change affects poverty, it affects security, it affects agriculture. It can create famine. It has the potential to affect everything, so everything one does has to be seen through that lens of climate change.
Jack and I never got to have that follow-up talk, but I took that mandate of applying the lens of climate change to everything I work on.
After his death, we had a leadership race. The member for Outremont is now the Leader of the Opposition. He asked me if I would keep this portfolio, and I said that I would, gladly, but under one condition: that I carry out that mandate of using the lens of climate change for everything I do. My leader, the member for Outremont said, “Of course, because that is all that matters here.”
So here we have the climate change accountability act, initially tabled by Jack Layton in the 39th Parliament, but unfortunately it did not make it through the Senate because we had an election, and that kills all legislation.
We reintroduced it in the 40th Parliament, because we in the NDP are plucky like that. We keep going at it. The bill passed all the stages in the House of Commons and then was voted down by an unelected and unaccountable Senate.
I was with Jack that evening, and I have never seen him angry like that. I have never seen him yell like that. He was very angry, and rightly so, because we were democratically elected members of the House and we had said that yes, we need to take action on climate change, we need to legislate these targets, we are working with the international community, we are working with environment organizations, and this is what we have to do—and the Senate voted it down.
It is now the 41st Parliament, and we have brought it back. I really want to thank and applaud my colleague, the member for Beaches—East York, for his commitment to climate change, his commitment to his constituents, and his commitment to our future. We all owe him for bringing this bill back after his election.
We are bringing it back, and if it fails, we will bring it back again. If it fails again, we will keep bringing it back, and if we have to form government to get the bill to pass, we will form government to get the bill to pass, because we are committed to legislating our targets.
How will we achieve these reductions? First, of course, we are going to legislate the targets, just as the bill says, and then we are going to act.
We are the only recognized party in the House of Commons that has committed to putting a price on carbon. Our preferred mechanism is cap and trade, as it was in the last election, but it is not just about a price on carbon. It is not about cap and trade or carbon tax or fee and dividend. These are little economic models, these mechanisms, and they work. We have seen them work around the world, but it is not just about a price on carbon.
I am really proud to be a member of the NDP, a social democratic party. Social democratic parties have a history of leading economic transformations. If we look to jurisdictions where there have been social democratic governments, they are frequently at the top when it comes to innovation. They are at the top of the list, and we can draw lessons from our history as social democrats to create the green transformation that we need here in Canada.
The key difference with the NDP's approach, a social democratic approach to environmental justice, is that the principles of equality and fairness, and the provision of social security are fundamental conditions for this type of transformation that I am talking about. That is the transformation we need in order to deal with climate change. These things are must-haves; they are not things that would be nice to have.
We have to build solidarity if we are to tackle climate change, and so we need to focus on capturing the benefits of a green energy economy. We need to make sure that people receive the benefits of energy efficiency services. We need to ensure that cities and our local communities can grab hold of the green technology sectors. It is that solidarity that I am talking about.
I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment ask, what kind of wacky technology are we going to use to bring down these emissions. Well, how about the wacky technology of energy efficiency? The cheapest source of energy is the energy that we do not use.
I know it sounds wacky, but it is these energy efficiency programs. If we look at the old home energy retrofit program, it created jobs in every single community, from Nanaimo to Ecum Secum to Brantford, in every community. There would be two energy auditors and four home retrofitters. Those jobs were in all of our communities. That was our local economy. It also brought down our emissions. We saw the results from Environment Canada showing good reductions in emissions. It also put money in our pockets. We were well on our way to figuring out how to offer this to low-income Canadians as well, and we see those kinds of low-income programs at the provincial level.
This is what I am talking about when I say that building solidarity is key to fighting climate change. This is what I am talking about when I say that we need to look at the social, environmental, and economic aspects of justice.
The NDP is committed to investing in green technology and renewables. We are committed to things like loan guarantees to provinces and first nations who want to capture that exciting transition to the green energy economy. This is what we are all about.
As proof of that commitment, my colleague, the MP for Drummond, brought forward an energy efficiency motion. My colleague, the MP for Edmonton—Strathcona, understands the need for transformational change and developed a Canadian environmental bill of rights in which we would enshrine the right to live in a healthy environment. Can members imagine if we had that right as Canadians?
This is about real ideas that will work. This is about drawing on that social democratic history to lead that economic transformation to the green energy economy. This is about justice: environmental justice, social justice, and economic justice.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood says it is a lie. It is remarkable that he says it is a lie because there are all kinds of press releases. I would encourage him to read the article so he can see that his colleague from Markham—Unionville was there for the presentation of a $2 million cheque when farmers were evicted from their lands in what is now called the Bob Hunter Memorial Park in this area.
Prime farmland in 2007 was taken out of production with a smile by the same minister who was at the time parliamentary secretary to the minister of municipal affairs and housing, the provincial member of Parliament for Markham—Unionville, the federal member of Parliament for Markham—Unionville, all happy about what was about to happen with the removal of these farmers from their lands, with a $2 million cheque.
The Bob Hunter Memorial Park still is not open to the public. That is the type of park management the Liberals across the way and their friends in the provincial government are supporting. That is what farmers are afraid of, because they know what happens when they entrust their futures to other people. What happens is they suffer, as Mr. Whittamore has said, the death of 1,000 cuts.
The members opposite have talked about ecological integrity. Among the witnesses who appeared at committee, who have actually been managing the resources in that area, was Ian Buchanan of York region. He said that it was impossible, that we could not bring ecological integrity to this park not only because of Highway 401, not only because there was a landfill in the area and the Metro Zoo, but for many other reasons. Mr. Buchanan of York region government talked about the successes and stated:
In addition, I have 15 years of environmental enforcement background at three different levels of government, and what was sadly lacking among all of the framework of legislation in the past was that there was no one window for environmental protection. There were multiple layers and people didn't know who to turn to about what activities were taking place. The one window is a blessing for the Rouge Park.
Larry Noonan, as was referenced by the member for Thornhill, who is with a ratepayer group, supports the legislation that we have brought forward. It recognizes that the goal of environmental integrity is impossible to attain in this area. It also supports the continuation of farming in the area.
Many of the members opposite have referenced Friends of the Rouge Watershed, Ontario Nature and a number of other organizations. A representative of Ontario Nature appeared in committee, Caroline Schultz. We often hear members opposite say not to worry about farming, that it will be protected, that it is all okay. When Ms. Schultz was asked about a corridor, she said that she supported a 600-metre ecological corridor that would take 2,000 acres of class 1 farmland out of production, but said that we should not worry because farmers could still farm.
However, depending on the type of agricultural production that is taking place, she said there were certain types of farming that would not be compatible. Already they are making plans to eliminate farmers from the area.
On the Rouge park management plan, a number of the members opposite have submitted petitions and have talked about their support for organizations like Ontario Nature, the David Suzuki Foundation and Friends of the Rouge Watershed and how important it is.
The member for Scarborough Southwest, when speaking about the Friends of the Rouge Watershed, said, “Nothing will ever be accomplished in Rouge Park without buy-in from the Friends of the Rouge Watershed”. Who disagrees with that? The 700 farmers who actually farm in the area, and the ratepayers who actually lives in the area. The Cedar Grove ratepayers association disagrees with it. People who actually live, work, invest or play in the Rouge disagree with everything the opposition has said with respect to the Rouge and preservation.
Why are farmers so worried about what the environmental groups have put forward? It is because in the Rouge park management plan, this is a section they support. This is from the plan:
Part of protecting cultural heritage values in the park involves the continuation of active farming. Since all activities must dwell within the framework of park goal and objectives, with the highest priority being the protection and restoration of the park's natural heritage, some reduction of farm land base is recommended to permit natural restoration goals to be met.
These are the people and the policies that the members opposite are telling farmers they have to swallow yet again.
Let us talk about the 600 metre ecological corridor. I thought it was 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland that would be taken out of production. I was wrong. It is actually 2,000 acres of class 1 farmland that would need to be taken out of production to meet what the environmental groups have suggested has to happen in the Rouge Park. Let us take that into consideration.
When asked by Ms. Empringham and Mr. Whittamore what that would mean, Mr. Whittamore said it was “death by a thousand cuts”. Ms. Empringham, on behalf of farmers, suggested that people who believed that did not understand farming. The equipment is bigger and it is more intense than it was before. This would almost certainly lead to fewer people farming in the Rouge Park.
The opposition also talks at length about Mr. Robb. Why do farmers fear Jim Robb? Why do they fear the environmental groups that have signed onto this? What has Mr. Robb called our farmers?
He called our farmers industrial cash cropping farmers who planted products that harmed the environment. This was at a committee in front the city of Markham. He went on to say that he was willing to share the Rouge Park with the heritage farm community.
When we had Mr. Robb in front of our committee and asked him to describe what a heritage farmer was, he suggested that a heritage farmer was somebody who was there when the lands were expropriated.
What he was saying in front of the city of Markham was that he would share the park with the heritage farmers, but the farmers who were farming class 1 farmland in the area who did not own the land when it was seized from them did not have a right to be on that land producing.
He was on a committee with a gentleman by the name of Reesor. The Reesor family is one of the original families that actually settled that area. Mr. Reesor actually started farming in that area in 1985. He would not be considered a heritage farmer. He would be evicted, presumably, under Mr. Robb's definition, which is supported by the opposition, from those lands that he has been farming since 1985 and that his family has been farming for over 200 years.
We heard from witnesses. I have met with a number of farm groups. I met with countless constituents of mine. They all say the same thing; that we have to protect the farmers in the northern part of the Rouge.
At the same time, we have to do our best to protect the southern part of the Rouge, which is in the hands of the provincial government. At first, all the provincial government wanted was a hundred million bucks. It said, “Give us $100 million and we'll turn our backs on the Rouge. You can do whatever you want with it, just give us that $100 million”.
Alan Wells, former chair of the Rouge Park Alliance, said that had never been done before. When we called them on it, they then changed their mind and said, “Okay, maybe $100 million is asking too much”. Part of that deal was also saying that ecological integrity was important to them. However, no, it was “Give us $100 million. We'll turn our backs. Congratulations. Move forward with your park”.
We said no; that was not our priority. Our priority was to amass these lands on behalf of all Canadians and to create something special in the Rouge. That is what we are moving forward with.
Let us look at what has happened. People have been calling upon the federal government to take leadership in the Rouge for decades, and we came forward with that protection. We came forward with a plan that engaged Parks Canada.
I have not ever heard anyone in this House who would suggest that Parks Canada is not among the most professional organizations and one of the best stewards of our parkland. In fact, it is world renowned for what it has done in creating national parks and in protecting our natural heritage around this country.
Parks Canada sat down with farmers and actually changed the relationship that government had with its farmers in the area. It changed that relationship to make it more co-operative. They worked together and got the buy-in of farmers to participate in the Rouge national park.
The federal government then set aside over $140 million to create this park, to make it a reality, so that millions of people in the GTA could have access to a national park. We incorporated visitor centres so that people could understand what is important about the area. We established a farming centre to the north of the Rouge Park, so people could understand the 400-year tradition of farming in the area. To the south, there are going to be trails so people can enjoy the Rouge park. They will be able to enjoy their visitor experience. There was going to be upgrading to the environment, upgrading that the provincial government has never done.
The provincial government has put forward a set of circumstances to transfer lands, and it wants us to do what it has never done. By the way, that does not include its infrastructure demands. The provincial Liberal government said, “You need ecological integrity, but, just a second, we need a whole swath of that exempted because we might have future infrastructure demands over the area. You can forget about that portion, but for everything else you should have ecological integrity”.
Forget the fact that the provincial government has never done it. Forget the fact that this legislation would increase the protection of the environment to the highest level it has ever had in this area. Forget the fact that the people who live, work, and play in this area, and have done so for decades, do not agree with what the provincial government is doing. They agree with the approach we are taking, and actually appeared before committee to support this government, to support the Parks Canada initiatives. We are supposed to throw all of that out and pay attention to groups that have no vested interest in the park unless they are getting paid. That is the reality here, and to suggest anything else is wrong.
When they talk about the amendments they brought forward, page after page of amendments, what are the vast majority of these amendments about? They are about ecological integrity. Did we vote against them? Darned right, we voted against them. To vote in favour of them would mean we would be evicting farmers. We cannot have it both ways.
To sum up, to those who suggest that they cannot support this bill, look at it this way. If the provincial government said that it is not transferring its lands, what would we be doing? We would be creating a 5,000-acre park. What are we doing there? We are taking 5,000 acres of class 1 farmland out of a proposed international airport. We are setting it aside for farmers and preserving it so that they can farm forever.
By voting against this, the opposition would not be voting against a greater Rouge park; they would be voting in favour of holding this land for an international airport. They can separate the two issues. If they support farmers and they support the environment, then they will support this bill, at the very least because it would take 5,000 acres of federal land out of a potential international airport and preserve and protect it forever.
At the very least they can support that, and we could all work on the framework and final management plan that would support all of the goals of farmers and environmentalists.
The Speaker is not aware of any of those conversations, but perhaps the member for Scarborough—Guildwood is.
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood made a superb case that was well stated and well researched. He is right on target.
I was there at the committee meeting reviewing the 18 amendments that the Green Party put forward, supported by the Liberals and the NDP. The hon. member was there and observed the absolutely unbelievable behaviour of all of the Conservative members at that session. Particularly dreadful was the performance by the member for Oak Ridges—Markham, who did not even pay attention to the amendments. Members were playing with their BlackBerrys, mindlessly voting no to everything, and declaring things inadmissible that were clearly relevant.
I wonder if the member would like to comment on the behaviour that he saw and whether that is appropriate behaviour for parliamentarians in committee.
With regard to government funding, for each fiscal year since 2007-2008 inclusive: (a) what are the details of all grants, contributions, and loans to any organization, body, or group in the electoral district of Scarborough—Guildwood, providing for each (i) the name of the recipient, (ii) the location of the recipient, indicating the municipality, (iii) the date, (iv) the amount, (v) the department or agency providing it, (vi) the program under which the grant, contribution, or loan was made, (vii) the nature or purpose; and (b) for each grant, contribution and loan identified in (a), was a press release issued to announce it and, if so, what is the (i) date, (ii) headline, (iii) file number of the press release?
Order, please. The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood.
As members have heard before, the Liberal Party is desirous that Canada plays a substantial role in this war but, for reasons I will explain, we are not in favour of a combat role. Therefore, we do not support the government motion.
Before getting into the reasons for that position, on the subject of Iraq in general, I do not think we can trust the judgment of the Prime Minister.
I say that because I remember that in 2003, Mr. Chrétien's government said that Canada would not help the Americans invade Iraq. I remember it well because I was the defence minister at the time. More than ten years ago, the Prime Minister was completely in favour of going to war against Iraq.
The Prime Minister in those days in 2003 went so far as to write a letter to the Wall Street Journal denouncing the position of the Canadian government to not join in the invasion of Iraq led by George Bush at the time. He was so rabidly in favour of war at that time. If we flash forward more than 10 years, he is rabidly in favour of war again.
It is true that the circumstances of the two occasions are dramatically different, but the fact that the Prime Minister was rabidly for war in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when history has shown that was a terrible decision and indeed the root of many of the problems today can be laid at that misguided invasion, leads one to the conclusion that if he was wrong then, one has no trust that he will necessarily be right the second time.
That is one reason why the Liberal party really does not trust the judgment of the Prime Minister on this issue, and that is why we came to our own conclusion. Our own conclusion is that yes, the situation is entirely different, yes, ISIL is evil, and I do not use that word lightly, and has to be combatted, and yes, Canada should play a major role in that struggle against ISIL.
However, the war has more than one dimension. A part of the war involves fighter jets and another part of the war involves assistance for those on the ground who are suffering untold horrors as we speak. Therefore, as important as dropping the bombs is the need to assist those people, to provide humanitarian support, to provide medical support, to provide refuge for those people as refugees in our country, possibly also to provide non-combat military support in terms of reconnaissance, transport or things of this nature.
One side of this war is not more important than the other side, but in our judgment, the capabilities of Canada, the comparative advantage of Canada favours us on the non-combat side in this war. We know that a number of countries have already lined up to take part in air strikes, but there are less resources being applied to the humanitarian side of the war. We therefore believe that is where Canada can add the most value added and make the greatest contribution to a solution in that troubled region.
I note the government says that it can do both. That is like a millionaire saying to a pauper, “We can both have the fruits of this world”. The millionaire has a whole lot more fruits than the pauper. The point is that the government's military contribution to the war will cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We do not know exactly how much. The Conservatives have not told us. However, I know a bombing mission of that kind would be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Yesterday, the Conservatives announced with great fanfare a humanitarian gesture, which is a few million dollars.
We can do both, but we are putting virtually all the eggs, in terms of money, on the combat side and very little, in comparison, on the other side. The Liberal position is that we want Canada to have a major effort, which means putting significant resources into the humanitarian side, something roughly equivalent to what would be spent on the combat side.
I will give the House one example, which came up in question period today. The government's record on refugees since coming to office has been abysmal. The number of refugees in total under the Conservatives' watch has dropped by 33%. The number of government-assisted refugees has dropped by 23%. Those are the ones it controls directly.
It takes money to bring in refugees. Our position is that the government should invest money in the staff and resources required to process refugees more rapidly so that we could bring in much larger numbers from Syria and Iraq and other places in that region. The government's record in that area has been dismal.
As one component of our non-combat, substantial proposal for a Canadian contribution, we would propose that significant resources be devoted to beefing up the resources in our immigration department so that we would be able to admit a substantial number of refugees.
Listening to the minister in question period today, my sense was that he did not display a great deal of enthusiasm for that proposition. While the Conservatives say they can do both, combat and humanitarian, it is clear from their body language and from the dollars involved and from just about everything they say that their heart, if that is the right term, is truly in the military mission, and only a few little trinkets are left over for the humanitarian side.
We in the Liberal Party think that the great bulk, indeed all, of our effort should be on the humanitarian side in terms of medical help, humanitarian help, absorbing refugees, providing transit, and all those other issues that are crucial to this war effort in its entirety. I for one do not think Canada's role would in any way be diminished or reduced because we in the Liberal Party chose to focus our efforts on that side of the war rather than on the combat side of the war.
Order. We are out of time for the question.
The member for Scarborough—Guildwood will have 30 seconds to respond.
Mr. Speaker, we looked at Rouge Park at committee during an urban conservation study. We heard from Parks Canada about the extensive consultation it has done and the way it has worked to try to bring everyone on board. However, as members heard earlier, this is going to be a difficult park to figure out. There are a lot of different interests, one might say competing interests. Parks Canada has done a good job of making sure that everyone is at the table and of trying to find out where the overlap is and how we can move forward with this.
I am in the same position as my colleague for Scarborough—Guildwood when he said earlier that he was surprised to even see that the bill has been tabled. I am surprised that we are still talking about the bill, because we do not know what the park will be. Without the transfer of lands from Ontario, we barely know what we are discussing here.
This is not a partisan question, but I wonder if government is open to taking a step back and pressing pause on this, because I do not know that we are ready to debate a bill when we do not even know what the park will look like.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by noting that today is the first day of the Markham Fair, which runs from October 2 to October 5. This is one of Ontario's largest agricultural fairs. It has been going on since 1844 in my community. It highlights the important role that farming and agriculture have played in the development of my community and the entire York region.
What is very special about the Markham Fair every year is the importance that the entire community places on it. Every November, I have the opportunity to attend the president's banquet at the Markham Fair, and we recognize the individuals who have volunteered their time at the fair. It always amazes me how many people have been there for 5, 10, 20, 25, 40, 45 and 50 years, volunteering at the Markham Fair. Generation upon generation of families volunteer to make this annual fair a special event for our entire community.
As I said, it is an agricultural fair. We see all the things that we could expect to see at an agricultural fair. There are ploughing matches There are competitions for things like hogs, chickens, the best homemade apple pie. There is soap carving. Obviously, there is a midway and there are all kinds of other things that highlight the importance of agriculture to our community.
Today, as they kick off another year of the Markham Fair, I just wanted to congratulate them and wish them well.
There has been a lot of difference of opinion on the creation of the park. Actually, let me take that back. I do not think that there is a difference of opinion with respect to creating the Rouge national urban park. I think that the difference is in the form that the park would take.
As the members for Scarborough—Guildwood and Wellington—Halton Hills highlighted, a lot of people for many years have been focused on trying to create a national park in the Rouge. That is something that has been talked about for many years.
It is important to look back a little bit at where this all started and how we got to this place. A lot of the land in this area became available to the government through the expropriations in 1972 by the Trudeau government of, I think, over 18,000 acres of land for the creation of potential new airports and a second airport for Toronto. At that time, farmers in the area were evicted from their lands. Some were given leases to lease back their lands on a yearly basis, but many were evicted. That has been the reality for many of the farmers in the area since 1972.
Fast forward to 1994, when the Rouge park concept started being put into play. As it has already been noted, it really followed Pauline Browes, who was the minister of state for the environment in the Campbell government and a parliamentary secretary in the Mulroney government. A decision was made that $10 million would be set aside to help create, manage and preserve some of the natural heritage of the Rouge park. That brought in a heightened significance of how special the natural heritage of the Rouge is.
Consequently, there have been provincial governments that have also recognized its significance. Through the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Mike Harris government transferred thousands of acres of land into the management of the park. Also through that time, plans were made to manage the Rouge in a more effective way so that we could preserve and protect the national heritage of the area.
As we have got a little bit further into the discussion, there were thoughts about what could be done to protect the Rouge park. As it has been mentioned, the Rouge park falls into two different categories. There is a Toronto category, and then there is a York region part of it.
For those who do not know the area, in the Toronto category there is a large street called Steeles Avenue. South of Steeles Avenue, some of the most extraordinary natural heritage in Ontario or Canada can be evidenced through the Rouge park there. It is absolutely spectacular. I do not think anybody can question that.
North of Steeles Avenue, we start coming into more agricultural areas. A vast majority of the land to the north of Highway 7, which would be put into Rouge park, is agricultural land that has been farmed for hundreds of years. This is not just a new concept. This land has been farmed for hundreds of years. In fact, I would invite all of my colleagues in the House to look at a program called The Curse of the Axe. This program highlights the Wendat people who were settled in this area some 500 years ago. It was discovered that the Wendat people had been farming those very same lands. The extent to which they were farming completely changed how we viewed our first nations and the role that they played in agriculture and trading in the area. I would invite all my colleagues to look at the program. It will highlight again how long this land has been farmed.
North of Highway 7, it is farming. To the south, as the member for Scarborough—Guildwood rightly pointed out, we have the 401, a hydro corridor, the Toronto Zoo and, on one edge of it, there is a landfill. However, there are extraordinary pockets of incredible beauty that the Ontario government, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and what was previously the Rouge Park Alliance had been working on preserving for a number of years. We have done that with partners in the private sector. By and large, we have done a very good job.
However, when the concept started evolving with respect to a national urban park, and we knew we had some excess airport lands, that is when the debate started to change a bit. We knew, as has been mentioned by other speakers, that we could do something very special here. We could protect the natural heritage of the Rouge Valley, but at the same time we could extract those lands that had become surplus to any potential airport needs, and put them back into a Rouge park so these lands could be protected for a long time to come.
The Ontario Farmland Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes farmland preservation, said, “The new Rouge National Urban Park offers one of the most innovative opportunities for the protection of farmland resources, agricultural heritage and local food production in our generation.”
If I am not mistaken, it is only 1%. This is class 1 farmland. We have lost so much farmland in this area to development. In the park south of Steeles Avenue, pretty much all of the farming that was there is now gone. I believe that we have to do our absolute best to ensure that the class 1 farmland on the northern part of the future park is preserved and saved, and that we allow our farmers to continue to farm, using best farm practices, for a very long time.
Our farmers are sometimes condemned as not being proper stewards of the land. I disagree. These lands have been farmed for hundreds of years, and our farmers are some of the best stewards of the land. The proposal that has been brought forward by the minister would see these farmers finally get long-term leases. Bear in mind that these farmers have been working on yearly leases. It is very hard, if not impossible, for them to make investments in the land that they have been farming. They cannot make the investments that most farmers would want to make. They are forced into a certain type of farming because they are on a yearly lease. This has disadvantaged the farmers in this area for a very long time.
We have the opportunity through this legislation to do both things that are very important, to protect the natural heritage of the park, while at the same time reversing decades of poor treatment of farmers in the area.
That is why I am very excited about this. Obviously throughout this process there has been a lot of debate. The member for Wellington—Halton Hills and I have not always seen eye to eye on this. We have had a tremendous amount of debate. When the proposal first came to me as the member of Parliament for Oak Ridges—Markham to create a Rouge national urban park, I was dead set against it if it meant that farmers in my riding would be disadvantaged the way they had been and if they were to be treated the way they had been under the existing Rouge Park management.
There is a 2001 Rouge Park management plan. Part of that management plan calls for a 600-metre corridor. The net result of that corridor would mean the elimination, at a minimum, of 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland and that is completely unacceptable to me, to farmers and to my constituents. We can make sure that we work with the farmers, who are not opposed to making sure that the entire ecosystem is protected. They want to work together with government to make sure that they can do that. I want to read a letter from the York Region Federation of Agriculture, which represents farmers in the area, to the hon. Brad Duguid, the Ontario minister who has highlighted that the Ontario government does not want to transfer the land. It says:
The York Region Federation of Agriculture members are the 700 farm businesses in York Region and Toronto including the farmers in the Rouge National Urban Park. ...you arrived at your decision to not recommend the Provincial land transfers after discussions with stakeholders and local citizen groups. You did not consult with the York Region Federation of Agriculture, the farmers in the Park, or the community living in the Park. We urge you not to hold up the transfer of Provincial lands to Parks Canada.
The farming community in the Rouge National Urban Park are the same farm families that have been farming and caring for the land...for the past 200 years. The future of the farms in the Rouge National Urban Park have been in limbo since the farms were expropriated in the 1970's. The farmland in the Rouge National Urban Park is Class 1 Agricultural Land, meaning it is the best land for agriculture production. Less than 1% of Canada's farmland is Class 1. The farmers in the park have already given up 1000 acres of productive farmland in the Rouge National Urban Park to reforestation projects.
We support Parks Canada's consultation process that engaged over 100 stakeholder groups and thousands of individuals to create the Rouge National Urban Park Draft Management Plan.
It went on to say:
We believe that Parks Canada will improve the ecological integrity of the Rouge National Urban Park while maintaining the farmland in food production.
I want to reference another letter, from the Cedar Grove community group to Minister Duguid. Cedar Grove is an extraordinary community within my riding, a very historical community. This is what it has to say:
On behalf of the Cedar Community Club, we write with regard to your letter of September 2...which presents your decision to withdraw your recommendation to support transfer of land to Rouge National Urban Park.... It was shocking to learn of your decision and we strongly disagree.... With the promise of the coming Rouge National Urban Park, there was an anticipated hope for stability for the farmers and residents of Cedar Grove and surrounding communities.
It went on to support what the minister has done to bring about the Rouge national urban park.
I want to talk about what has recently transpired with the Province of Ontario.
We obviously have been working with the Province of Ontario for a number of years. Since this announcement was made in the previous election of 2011 and rehighlighted in the throne speech, we have been working closely with the Province of Ontario to bring about the Rouge national urban park in a way that respects the ecological integrity and promotes the national heritage, but also protects the farmers and gives them the stability that they have been looking for since 1972.
I do not think it is a big secret that we were close to an agreement. We had a signed agreement with the Province of Ontario that we probably would have announced had an election not been called for the Province of Ontario. Then, after the election that changed, unbeknownst to any of us. I know I picked up the Toronto Star one day and saw a letter from Liberal Minister Duguid outlining the Liberals' concerns. They were no longer going to be transferring the land because they had some concerns with ecological integrity.
Never had they mentioned this before. The province had signed an agreement with us. The transfer was to happen. We were to move forward with a management plan that was working with the province and the stakeholders in the area. Then this came. Coincidentally, everything is held up until November 2015, after the next federal election. It is truly shameful.
It is worth remembering that these are the same provincial Liberals that had before requested, not ecological integrity, but money for the lands it was going to transfer. They wanted to be bought out. Therefore, when they asked for I think it was $120 million, they had no concerns with what they were seeing then. Their concern was that they wanted to be bought out of their position in the lands; “Give us a hundred million dollars and we'll transfer it to you, no problem”.
It was highlighted by people like Alan Wells, who was the final chair of the Rouge Park Alliance, that this had never been the case. Governments had transferred lands to the Rouge Park for a very limited amount, I believe for $1. The provincial government had done that before. The provincial government of Mike Harris transferred lands to the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority so that it could be managed. That was pointed out to the minister, but they needed to get their $100 million.
I really want to reiterate what the provincial Liberals' proposal would do. In his letter to the Minister of the Environment, he highlighted what the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands talked about. It is worth noting that the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, the member for Markham—Unionville, and I am not sure if anyone else, submitted petitions to the House supporting a 1994 framework, saying that this park could not go ahead unless the 1994 framework was supported. However, as I said earlier, the 1994 framework would cause 1,700 acres of class 1 farmland to be taken out of production. It would mean the eviction of farmers and would probably mean the closure of one of our most successful farms in the area, Whittamore's Farm.
To say that the farmers do not trust the provincial Liberal government on this is an understatement because they have seen this before. There was a park called Bob Hunter Memorial Park, where 600 acres of class 1 farmland was taken away from farmers. People who had lived there for 33 years were evicted. Trees were planted across this class 1 farmland. Millions of dollars were put into it. There was no consultation. It was done and forced upon these farmers. Therefore, the farmers do not trust the provincial government. Quite frankly, governments at the federal level have never undertaken a consultation process like we have on this, and that is all governments. The Conservative and Liberal governments in the past have never done what we have done now.
While I agree that the southern part of this extraordinary ecosystem needs to be protected, and that is what our legislation does, I do not agree that means sacrificing thousands of acres of class 1 farmland in order to create a Rouge national urban park.
I hope that members of the House will work with us to create a park that we can all be proud of and give the millions of people who live in this area access to a treasure that we will be able to brag about because we helped create it.
When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood had spoken for 10 minutes. Therefore, he has 10 minutes remaining, plus questions and comments.
The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
Mr. Speaker, Scarborough—Guildwood has the good fortune to be the home of Toyota Canada. This year, Toyota is celebrating its 50th anniversary. It employs over 24,000 Canadians and has sold 4.6 million vehicles made in Cambridge and Woodstock.
Toyota is an environmental leader. The Toyota Evergreen learning grounds initiative has created over 2,000 green spaces in Canadian schools. Among its many research initiatives with Canadian universities, it created the cold weather testing facility in Timmins. During its time in Canada, it has sold over 100,000 hybrids. In fact, 75% of all hybrids sold in Canada are Toyota models.
I am sure my colleagues in the House will join me in thanking Toyota for its investment in Canadian industry, jobs and building a greener economy. Here is to 50 more successful years in Canada.
I must interrupt the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood at this point. The time for government orders has expired. The hon. member will have 10 minutes remaining when this matter returns before the House.
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-618, An Act to amend the Lobbying Act (reporting obligations).
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure on behalf of the people of my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and the people of Canada to introduce this bill, an act to amend the Lobbying Act, to read as the foreign lobbying transparency act.
This legislation is all about following the dollar, in this case to foreign capitals with very un-Canadian agendas.
I am proud to be Canadian. All Canadians have built something very special in this country. Any time there is a national discussion, Canadians have a right to know whose voice is being heard and why.
Canadians have been made very aware that foreigners have been secretly funding single or special interest groups whose lobbying efforts do not enjoy the support of regular hard-working Canadians. Many of these groups could not exist without foreign funding.
In my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, thousands of hard-working Canadians depend on their livelihood from the working forest. Misinformation jeopardizes those jobs. Canadians have a right to know the sources of funding for those groups that seek to take away jobs from Canadians.
The foreign lobbyist transparency act would achieve financial transparency and improved accountability through the public reporting of payments made by foreigners to lobbyists.
I welcome the member for Scarborough—Guildwood to refer to this legislation as a sunshine bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)
Mr. Speaker, I find it highly rich to hear a Liberal member stand in the House of Commons and talk about Senate reform. His leader's contribution to the idea of reforming the Senate is to take all the Liberal senators and turn them into Senate Liberals in some kind of publicity stunt. That is all it really was. Then on top of that, the member's idea to try to further reform the Senate going forward is to appoint people to appoint the senators. That seems a lot more democratic. I am sure that would make the Senate far more democratic. If his leader were to appoint some people who would then appoint senators, I think that would make it much more democratic.
I think it should be made clear that the sarcasm was evident in those comments. I do not know if the member thinks, like his colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, that it was a bozo eruption from his leader or if that was a legitimate proposal, but certainly appointing people to appoint senators would not do anything to create more democratic legitimacy in the Senate; that is for sure.
Mr. Speaker, it would be a pleasure to speak to this subject, but given the horrific record of facts that I am about to share with the House, I cannot say that is the case.
I have heard some members of the Conservative Party catcall across, asking why we do not like Hondurans. This has nothing with that. I would ask the government why it does not like democracy. Why does the government not like human rights? Why does the government not like freedom of the press? Why does the government not like keeping our society free of drugs?
Honduras is a country that had a military coup in 2009, when the military removed a democratically elected government at gunpoint and replaced it with a government that had no democratic mandate.
Honduras has widespread human rights abuses and massive corruption in both the government and the police. There is no functioning court system in Honduras. It is a narco-trafficking centre. It is considered by the U.S. State Department to be one of the most violent places on earth. It is the murder capital of the world. It is the most dangerous place on earth for journalists. Honduras has repressed the media to such an extent that PEN International has ranked it below Ukraine under Yanukovych and below Egypt today.
It is the cocaine trafficking centre of Central America, where the U.S. State Department estimates that 79% of all cocaine shipments emanating from South America land in Honduras.
It is one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere. It has no strategic value for Canada, since the net total of all exports that Canada made to Honduras last year was $38 million. It has extremely low environmental standards, if they exist at all. It has extremely low labour standards, in that some 40% of the population of Honduras make under the minimum wage of Honduras. It has serious mining issues.
It is very interesting that both the Conservatives and Liberals have joined together to support the bill at second reading. We heard witnesses at committee who buttressed everything I just said, and there was no contradiction by a single witness who came before committee. In other words, Honduras is one of the most repressive, undemocratic, corrupt, and dangerous places on earth, and the government wants to extend preferential trade relations to that government and the Liberals want to assist it.
I understand why the Conservatives would do that. I have a bit more difficulty, given the propaganda and rhetoric coming from them, why the Liberals would.
The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood has been championing a bill that is supposed to raise the standards of Canadian mining companies around the world. The Liberal Party is concerned about mining standards and it wants mining standards in third world and second world countries to be raised, including environmental standards, the rights of indigenous people, and corporate social responsibility standards, yet the Liberal Party supports a trade bill with Honduras, which probably has the most lax mining standards on the planet. I do not understand that.
I have heard the Liberals talk about human rights. They appear to be concerned about them. I will say it for the Canadian public and defend it to anybody who wants to look at the record and the facts: Honduras is one of the worst human rights violators on the planet.
I will go through the figures. Honduras is ranked 85th out of 167 on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index, and that is a slide from 74th in 2008. Honduras is classified as a “hybrid regime” rather than as its previous designation as a “flawed democracy”. It is getting worse. So much for rewarding a country for getting better.
The government has continued to negotiate with signing a trade agreement, giving preferential economic terms to a country that is actually sliding away from democracy.
Transparency International ranks Honduras as the most corrupt country in Central America, and it has the worst income inequality in the region. I have commented about the U.S. State Department estimating the cocaine shipments originating in South America and landing in Honduras, drugs moved from South America through countries like Honduras and other Central American states into Mexico, the United States, and Canada.
Independent observers have noted the increasing levels of violence as well as organized criminal gang activity associated with trade in illegal narcotics.
It is a country that is awash in drugs and drug money, which raises the question of why any Canadian government would want to liberalize investment rules to make the flow of capital easier between the two countries. In other words, we would have more drug money coming into Canada because of this trade deal with Honduras.
According to The Economist, “...the countries known as 'the northern triangle' of the Central American isthmus [that includes Honduras] form what is now the most violent region on earth”. Let us stop for a moment and think about that. We have Syria. We have the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have Rwanda. We have Uganda. There are places on earth right now where the most horrific crimes against humanity are being committed, and Honduras is the most violent place on earth, and the Conservative government wants Canadians to extend preferential trade terms to that government.
In 2012 Honduras became the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides, or 81 per 100,000 people. Since the 2009 coup d'état, violence and repression in the country have gone up and have reached an all-time high. To put that in context, Honduras has about one-fifth the population of Canada. That would be the equivalent of Canada experiencing 35,000 homicides. Can members imagine in this country if we had 35,000 homicides? That would be the equivalent per capita homicide rate in this country. That is the country the Conservatives want us to be trading more with.
In 2013, just last year, lest anyone think this is an old problem, there were on average 10 massacres per month. A massacre is defined as an instance where three or more people are murdered at one time. In the previous four years, fewer than 20% of all homicides in Honduras were even investigated, let alone prosecuted. We hear a lot of talk by the Conservatives about the rule of law. The rule of law means we have an independent police force and an independent judiciary. I have heard the Conservatives, for six years, talk about getting tough on crime, and they have signed a trade agreement with a country that does not even investigate murders. It is the most murderous country on earth. The police do not investigate and the judges do not even hear cases, and the Conservatives think we should be trading more with that country. Is that tough on crime? That is absurd.
I want to talk about journalists, because journalists in Canada should be writing about this. Freedom of the press and having an independent media is part of being a democracy. Today journalists in Honduras suffer threats, attacks, and killings. Six months ago, TV news anchor Anibal Barrow was abducted while driving in Honduras, and his dismembered remains were found weeks later. While several suspects have been charged with kidnapping, none have even been brought to trial.
Thirty-five journalists have been murdered in Honduras over the last five years. To put that in perspective, in per capita terms, that would be more than 150 journalists in Canada killed over the last five years. Can members imagine if in this country 150 journalists who were doing their jobs, holding the government to account, doing investigative work, covering politics, and covering the activities of the corporate sector were murdered, and we were finding their bodies in ditches? That is what is happening in Honduras.
This is not rhetoric. These are the facts in Honduras, backed up by every source there is. At committee we called witness after witness to testify to this, and there was not a single rebuttal. All we heard was silence, and the Conservatives and Liberals turn a blind eye to this.
Canadians want trade. We want to be trading with countries, but Canadians do not want us trading with butchering, murderous regimes. That is why Canadians would not accept a trade agreement with Yanukovych in Ukraine, but I noticed that the Liberal trade critic stood up and waxed eloquent in this House about how offended she was by the human rights situation in Ukraine and how we should stand up for human rights in Ukraine. That is the same Liberal trade critic who stood up and said that we should support a trade agreement with Honduras. I will say right now that Honduras has a far worse record on human rights than Ukraine did under Yanukovych. This is inexplicable.
In June 2013, 24 U.S. senators signed a letter expressing concern about the human rights situation in Honduras. Ninety-four members of Congress have called on the U.S. State Department to halt all military aid to Honduras in light of its violent repression of political activity. The Conservatives are signing a trade agreement with a country that has violent repression of political activity.
I could go on about the violence against indigenous people and the violence against the LGBTQ community, but instead I will read some of the quotes we heard at committee, which the Liberals and the Conservatives just want to pass over.
This is Ms. Karen Spring, from Honduras Solidarity Network. She said:
Since 2009, the violence in Honduras has increased pretty dramatically, and coupled with a high impunity rate, this has been very troubling for the human rights situation in the country. Very few crimes are investigated, and even fewer are brought before a judge. The Honduran Supreme Court has estimated that the impunity rate is at about 98%, but depending on who you ask, I've heard the impunity rate can be between 80% and up to 98%. So, given the high impunity rate, it's really difficult for human rights concerns to be mediated, and there are really serious repercussions for human rights abuses related to Canadian investments in the region....
She goes on to talk about the communications director for the Federation of Agro-Industry Workers' Unions of Honduras:
[He is] a labour journalist who has a national radio program that's called Trade Unionist on Air, which he's had for 19 years, 5 days a week. He's recently been working on a union organizing drive and he makes frequent mention of a [local]...banana supplier.... Last June he started receiving death threats related to his work. Every time he went on the air and spoke about the...supplier he received death threats on his phone, and cars were circulating around his house and the radio station after his programs.
He has since gone into hiding, because his family was intimidated.
Ms. Spring went on to say that Hondurans have little faith in the institutions that are set up, that very few investigations are conducted, and that the fear people face is real. She also said:
...since 2009, 31 trade unionists have been murdered in Honduras and over 33 journalists as well.
This is what was said in committee about the 2013 elections, which the Conservative government said were fine:
The 2013 elections occurred in a really difficult human rights context, given the high impunity rate, given the high homicide rate. There was a report put out that looked at the political killings in Honduras a year and a half prior to the November 2013 elections, and it showed that there were 36 killings in total of candidates and pre-candidates who were set to participate in the November elections. There were 24 armed attacks against these candidates. The list shows that the majority of these killings were against the political opposition party, the Libre party. This list was published by Rights Action, and...a lot of the cases were actually published by the International Federation of Human Rights [and internationally respected body]...worried about the targeted assassinations of the political opposition in the lead-up to the elections.
Last year, in the Honduran elections, 36 candidates were murdered in the 18 months prior to them. Does that sound like a democracy? Does that sound like a country Canadians would want their government extending preferential trade terms to?
We heard from PEN, the internationally respected independent organization for journalists. Here is what its representative said to the committee:
Our report finds that journalists are targeted for their work, and that they are especially vulnerable members of the population... [F]reedom of expression in Honduras has suffered serious restrictions since the ouster of President Zelaya in June 2009. These past five years have seen a dramatic erosion in protections for expressive life in Honduras. Journalists are threatened, they're harassed, attacked, and murdered with near impunity, and sometimes in circumstances that strongly suggest the involvement of state agents.
I have heard from some of the people on the other side who would say that it is drug involvement. It is not. The evidence is that the state is involved in some of these killings.
The representative from PEN went on to say:
This has had a devastating impact on the general state of human rights and the rule of law in the country, since violence against journalists often silences coverage of topics such as corruption, organized crime, drug trafficking, and political reportage. Fearing for their personal safety, many journalists [in Honduras] either self-censor or flee the country altogether.
I have heard the Minister of Foreign Affairs in this House stand up on the international stage and rant and rave about the situation in Ukraine and how Canada and the Prime Minister stand up for human rights and democracy on the world stage. These things are a matter of principle, and they will take that position. It does not matter what the costs are. They turn around and sign a trade agreement with Honduras, which has just about the worst human rights record in the western hemisphere.
I hear laughing on the other side of the House. How do we square that? Canada either has a principled position on human rights and democracy or it does not. In the case of Honduras, it is a contradiction of massive proportions. It is hypocritical. It is opportunistic politics by the Liberals of the highest order.
We have an election coming up in Ontario. Premier Wynne is trying to tell New Democrats that she is progressive. If the people of Ontario knew that the Liberals in the House of Commons were supporting a trade deal with one of the most murderous, anti-democratic, human rights-violating jurisdictions on the planet, I wonder if they would still view them that way, because they are not progressive.
I will go back to what PEN said:
The taint of corruption and the culture of impunity have undermined trust among state agencies and public confidence in key institutions. Public distrust of the police is so great that only about 20% of crime is reported, and of that, less than 4% gets investigated.
I have heard Conservatives in the House talk about the lack of reporting of crime in this country. They say that crime is under-reported, and they say it is a problem in this country. Eighty per cent of the crime in Honduras is not even reported, because people cannot even trust police officers who come to their doors, because they may be on the payroll or they may be involved in the killing. What kind of culture is that?
Serious problems are evident throughout the criminal justice system. Police will say an investigation is under way when there is none. The office of the special prosecutor for human rights does not have the jurisdiction to try those responsible for the murders of journalists, and lacks resources to conduct even the most basic of investigations into human rights abuses....
She also said:
As our report sets out, only two convictions have been secured in the 38 journalist killings between 2003 and 2013—an impunity rate of 95%.
This is what PEN concluded:
To be clear: under international law, when the state is unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes, this is state complicity in human rights violations. Honduras is facing a serious human rights crisis. This is not just a matter of working with Honduras to move beyond a troubled past. Violence against journalists, complete collapse of expressive life, and impunity for violent crimes and human rights abuses remain the norm there.
Are these international journalists radicals that we should not pay attention to?
We heard from yet other witnesses:
Honduras is far worse than any of Canada's current trading partners in the region. To give you an idea of the situation in relation to others, in the global press freedom rankings of 191 countries...Canada ranked 29; Chile ranked 64; Peru ranked 89; and even Colombia, also plagued by narco-trafficking, ranked 112. Where did Honduras rank? They ranked 140, tied with Egypt, which has imprisoned two Canadian media workers in the past eight months. Since the coup in 2009, 32 journalists have been murdered in Honduras.
I want to talk a bit about mining because the Liberals have tried to convince Canadians that they are concerned about mining standards abroad. Here is the testimony we heard at committee that was not rebutted. After 2009, when the Zalaya government was trying to put a moratorium in place on new mining concessions and to bring in some mining laws, the new regime, which was installed at gunpoint by the military, got rid of that, and now it leaves the door open to open pit mining.
Water sources, except those that have been declared and registered, which are in a minority, are not protected. Mining is not prohibited in populated areas, meaning that forced expropriation and displacement of entire communities can continue to take place.
Community consultation is a theoretical right only, only after the exploration concession has been granted. Honduras has almost no environmental standards. It has almost no ability to police or regulate its mining.
I expect the member from Scarborough, who I mentioned before, to stand up in the House and say that he is opposed to this deal. If he really cares about mining standards, as he claims he does, then he will stand in the House and say, “I can't support this deal with Honduras”, where we are going to see environmental degradation, violations of indigenous rights, pollution, and dangerous working conditions.
Trade deals are about extending preferential terms. The New Democrats believe that we should be extending preferential trade terms to democratic countries, modern democracies that respect human rights, environmental standards, and labour standards. We understand that many countries are not perfect, but we think Canadians want those countries to at least be on a positive trajectory in that regard.
Canadians want to see trade deals signed with countries of strategic value to our country. The testimony from economists before our committee said that Honduras has almost zero strategic importance to Canada. In fact, it already has virtually zero tariffs in Honduras, so it is going to make zero difference to the amount we export from Canada.
I hope every member of the House who believes in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law stands with New Democrats and votes against this flawed deal. It is a poor piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing this legislation forward. I was delighted to second the bill.
I want to pick up on what my colleague from the Liberal Party said. I am heartened to hear that the Liberal Party supports this legislation.
The last time we debated similar legislation put forward by the member's colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, the Liberal Party unfortunately did not support it entirely. At the time, the Liberal leader and some members of the front bench could not find a way to support Bill C-300, so I am glad the Liberals will be supporting sending the bill to committee.
These are really important initiatives. We have already had an overview of what the bill proposes to do, but for those members who are hearing about this legislation for the first time, it essentially says that Canadian companies doing business abroad should more or less follow the same rules that they follow here. That is essentially the theory around this legislation and that is what the round table came up with.
The round table, as has been mentioned, included members of civil society, industry, and government. Ed Broadbent, who formerly represented my riding, was very much a part of moving that forward.
Then Alexa McDonough had a bill similar to the one we are debating now; I also had a similar bill, and my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood put forward Bill C-300. We have had a lot of debate and discussion.
The government has said that it has acted. It has talked about its CSR counsellor being in place. The government felt that this was taking care of people's concerns about the behaviour of Canadian extractive companies abroad. However, when that position was created, we all noted that the position was actually toothless.
It is important to note the title of counsellor, not ombudsman. When complaints came in, the counsellor did not have the power to investigate them. The problem with the counsellor position was that it was incumbent upon both parties, the party making the accusation and the company, to accept an investigation. To no one's surprise, there were not many investigations. The CSR counsellor was not effective at all.
My colleague has brought this issue back to the House of Commons. It is fantastic to see the progress that has been made because of civil society. It really should be noted that civil society has incredible leverage, particularly when it comes to both foreign policy and domestic policy. Development and Peace and unions such as steelworkers that are involved with extractive companies have been front and centre in making this issue known to Canadians and to politicians. They want them to move forward, and they have not let up. They want Canada to be smart about what we do abroad and proud of what we do abroad. That way Canadian companies abroad are seen as responsible actors.
Development and Peace, the faith communities, unions, and everyday Canadians have been carrying this flag and making sure that we do not lose sight of this issue. It is terrific that my colleague has taken it up. She is carrying on the work that was done before.
I also want to acknowledge the change in mindset of the mining sector. In particular, for the record, I want to cite the Mining Association of Canada. This organization has written to government to advocate what we heard from my Liberal colleague, which is to bring in regulations on what we call “publish what you pay”, meaning that the transactions that any company does abroad would be made public. They want to see consequences if companies do not make those transactions public.
The government has said it is consulting on this issue, but industry is ahead of government. What is going on here? We need to get the government to listen more carefully, not just to Canadians but to industry as well. The government has to get on board and get moving on this issue.
I will read what the association said on this issue. It was noted, and I will not be surprising some members, that there was a bit of tension between industry and civil society representatives on the last iteration of this legislation, Bill C-300.
Here is what the Mining Association of Canada is saying in a letter to government:
The function of the Office of the CSR Counsellor should...be focused on the “front end” [at the beginning of the process] of any request for a review...to clarify the issues and the guidelines involved, to encourage the parties to address the issues through direct dialogue under local-level mechanisms, and to advise parties on the implementation of the guidelines. MAC believes companies will be motivated to participate in this front end of the process, as they have participated in the initial stages of the requests for review brought to the Office to date, and as an alternative to other, more formal forms of review.
It goes on to say, and here is the important part:
This first step is essentially to determine the nature of the dispute and whether mediation could be effective in resolving it. In MAC's view, this first step should be mandatory: a company's refusal to participate in this front-end process should have as a consequence a loss of public support for the proponent's project by the Government of Canada's Trade Commissioner service.
It is industry that is saying this. This is progress. This is the Mining Association of Canada acknowledging that collectively the industry has a responsibility to engage when there are concerns and complaints about activities on the ground.
The government says that somehow this is not in its domain. It is extra-territorial. It cannot be involved in these things, et cetera. Industry is saying no; we need to be engaged.
We have seen incredible advancement. We have seen engagement. What we need to see from government is to be at least at the same level as industry and adopt these measures that have been put forward.
The reason is that, when we see mining operations abroad—and we see it, frankly, here in Canada and we see it with gas and oil as well—and the fact that companies can make a profit from mining, no one has a concern around that. However, when we see that people's human rights are abused or that the environment on which they rely is being negatively affected and they feel they have no voice at all, what are their choices? I have Bill C-486 before the House on conflict minerals,
When mining companies, extractive industries, or oil and gas companies are abroad, they are not just any companies; these are Canadians companies, and there are certain values and responsibilities, I will say, that go with that.
We have heard stories of mining companies hiring security firms to clear the land, so anyone who protests any of the developments is cleared off the land and sometimes people are killed. This is extraordinarily troubling for many of us, but the question is, what are we going to do about it? Will we just continue to listen to these grievances, or will we act?
That is why the bill is so important. It says that there is a responsibility for the Government of Canada to have an objective person to oversee the concerns that may arise because of our activity abroad.
CSR is a great term. The problem I have noted over the last number of years is that it seems to only apply in-house to business and the corporate side. Frankly, I think it is quite obvious to many that it should be something that government adopts, that the cornerstone of part of our trade policy and our foreign policy should be corporate social responsibility, and the Canadian government should ensure this happens.
We just had some great debates in our foreign affairs committee about what happened in Bangladesh with the Rana Plaza collapse. Over 1,000 people died a year ago, on April 24. Why? It was because there were not proper standards and because the integrity of the building was not kept up. What happened? We saw 1,100 people die, many of them children, most of them women.
We can do better. We need to have oversight. The bill is a reasonable offer. We can make sure that when Canadian companies are operating abroad, we can say in good faith that they are following the same values and the same regulations that we want to see them follow here.
I would ask the government to at least look at what is being proposed and see if we can improve it, so that we can be proud Canadians when Canadian companies are operating abroad.
The electoral district of Scarborough--Guildwood (Ontario) has a population of 108,813 with 67,124 registered voters and 197 polling divisions.
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