Evidence of meeting #26 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was thank.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Wendy Hannam  Executive Vice-President, Sales and Service, Products and Marketing, International Banking, Scotiabank
  • Morris Rosenberg  Deputy Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

The estimates before you have spending up $169.1 million in some areas and spending down $202 million in other areas. There is a small decrease, by and large, from sunsetting programs.

I do agree with the thrust of what you said at the end of your comment, that clipping people's wings, nickel-and-diming missions to such an extent that they have no capacity to do anything but sit in the office and do e-mails, is a wrong approach. We've been very mindful of that as we've gone through the proposals for a deficit reduction action plan.

Obviously we're getting close to putting the budget to bed, but no final decisions have been made. I look forward to sharing them with you after, when the budget is presented.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Perhaps when you're next here in the spring.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Absolutely.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

Thanks, Mr. Chairman.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

But it seems so spring-like outside now.

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour, NB

I mean next week.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

We'll start our second round, and we'll go first to the government side.

Ms. Brown, you have five minutes.

March 12th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Ministers, thank you for being here.

Minister Baird, I'm going to give you a little bit of a rest and direct my question to Minister Ablonczy, if I may, particularly because I have some keen interest in this area.

Minister, I'd like to say thank you, first of all, to your department for the good work you've done on the files that I've brought to you on child abduction. You know that they have been exceedingly stressful, very complex for the families involved, so I just want to say thank you, first of all, for all the work you've done.

You know that my constituent Stephen Watkins is currently undergoing proceedings with the Hague convention in Poland. His hope is to return his two boys to Canada, but we're waiting for that appeal to go through.

We have taken some steps as a government to try to ensure that these kinds of situations don't happen. We're trying to put some controls in place for parents who are taking children out of the country. I wonder if you could tell the committee the things we've done to help parents who want to travel with children.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

It's a very difficult area because these are distressing cases. There’s a lot of very strong emotion and grief when these abductions occur.

I don't know if you're aware, Minister Baird, but Lois has become a little bit of a go-to person in her area because she's developed some expertise and some real depth in dealing with these cases. I know other committee members may have experiences as well.

The first actor to get involved is always the province, because child custody orders are provincial orders in family courts. They generally will call in the OPP or local law enforcement, who often work with NGOs such as Child Find and other actors that provide support and expertise.

The Government of Canada is often asked to go and get the child and bring them back because the parent has a custody order and feels that somebody should enforce it, and they look to the government to do that. But that simply is not something the federal government is able to do. We have to work through the existing legal framework, both in our country and in the country to which the child is taken.

Many countries have signed what's called the Hague Convention, which is something Canada has been promoting. The Hague Convention essentially says that the child's custody should be decided by the country of their ordinary residence. That's been very helpful because it's kind of a quick and clear litmus test on which country has jurisdiction. We often claim the Hague Convention in asking for children to be returned to Canada.

Where it gets complicated is often these child abduction cases involve children with dual citizenship. Often we find that the country of other citizenship is very reluctant to cede to Canada their sovereignty over the child, even though the child also has Canadian citizenship. So there are appeals to the other court to ask that the Hague Convention be overridden in that case. These can be very complex legal cases, and generally are as a matter of fact.

There are a few things parents can do if they think this is going to be an issue for them and their children. One is that they can put the child on the Passport Canada's security list. The child's name is then flagged so that if the child is travelling under a Canadian passport or if the parent who intends to abduct tries to get a passport for the child, then the flag comes up and both parents will be consulted. There's some protocol to ensure that there's consent from all the players.

It helps for a parent to have a notarized consent letter when the child is travelling because that helps border officials sort out whether they should be concerned or whether they should be asking more questions. It's something also that our consular officials in other countries should be made aware of. So if you think your child might be taken to another country, just notify our mission there. We'll help them to be aware of the issue and to work with local officials, if in fact the problem develops.

But there are publications available on the travel.gc.ca website to assist parents in these heartbreaking situations. Parents should also be aware that in Muslim countries, strong preference is given to the father. In fact, a child in those countries cannot legally leave the country without the father's consent. That's another area.

We are working to get information about this widely disseminated. We had a briefing for members of Parliament and senators last week. Some of you were there. Knowledge is to some degree I think helpful for people, but the bottom line is that there are no quick fixes, so the care and concern of members of Parliament like you give a great deal of comfort and support to parents in these difficult situations.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you.

We're going to move over to the NDP. Madam Laverdière will start.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, you spoke earlier very eloquently about the importance of strengthening security in the hemisphere.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

I'm not getting translation here—

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Okay. I'll do it in English.

You've spoken eloquently about the need to strengthen security in the hemisphere, in the Americas, with which we agree. We also know that one of the main security issues in the Americas is the illicit transfer of arms.

Now, the OAS has developed, under the leadership of Canada, a great tool called CIFTA, the convention to control the transfer of arms. Yet Canada is one of the few countries that still has not ratified the convention. Do you know why?

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

In this specific case, I don't know what our hesitation would be.

5:35 p.m.

A voice

We'll have to get back—