House of Commons Hansard #219 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentencing.

Topics

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Secretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to nine petitions.

Nigeria
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Christine Stewart Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa)

Madam Speaker, because of the proceedings in the House earlier this week I was unable to give the statement I am giving today. Nonetheless, our government regards it as very important.

Two years ago on June 12, 1993 Nigeria held a presidential election. It was the largest vote ever in Africa and the first chance for Nigerians to choose their president. It was also the climax of an extended transition to democracy which had seen the adoption of a constitution and local state and legislative elections over four years. Most important, it was in the view of international observers including Canada the fairest and most peaceful election in Nigeria's history.

After preliminary results showed Chief Moshood Abiola winning a convincing majority of both votes and states, the military regime simply annulled the election. Protests at home and abroad led to leadership changes and months of confusion which ended with General Sani Abacha taking power in November 1993.

Since then his regime has disbanded all elected bodies, jailed Abiola and many other democratic leaders, closed newspapers, repressed labour unions and minorities, given itself absolute legal power and immunity, ended the right of habeas corpus and carried out public executions. The January 1996 date set by the regime's own constitutional conference for return to democracy was recently dropped, enabling General Abacha to stay on indefinitely.

What happens in Nigeria matters to Canada. Our countries have had a broad relationship based on Commonwealth ties, human contacts in both directions and a shared commitment to federalism.

Nigeria is our largest export market between South Africa and Maghreb and our largest source of imports in all Africa. Its population and resources should make it a natural leader on the continent. Instead, its entrenched military regime has a chilling influence on democratic neighbours and has been imitated in Commonwealth west Africa and elsewhere. It remains a potentially destabilizing factor in the region.

Canada has responded to the situation in Nigeria. We have condemned abuses as they have occurred and at the United Nations. We have ended high level visits, military training assistance and military capable exports.

Our limited diplomatic relations have included many representations on behalf of Chief Abiola, Ken Saro-Wiwa and other repressed human rights leaders.

We have assisted the democratic movement with modest aid funds and have invited several prominent Nigerians on visits to give Canadians a firsthand impression of the situation.

Democracy delayed is democracy denied. Nigerians have been under military rule for 12 years and have already demonstrated their readiness and enthusiasm for the democratic process. General Abacha's regime must now act decisively to restore democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. In particular the release of Chief Abiola and ex-president Obasanjo would be a step in the right direction; so would debanning the media, freeing or charging detainees or setting a firm date for the end of military rule.

In the absence of visible measurable progress toward these objectives Nigeria's Commonwealth partners will be obliged to draw their own conclusions. Today we recognize the efforts of Nigerian democrats and ensure them they are not forgotten nor do they work in vain.

Dr. Wole Soyinka, a democratic leader and Nigeria's only Nobel prize winner, was recognized by the Speaker on Monday and met with me. As in South Africa, the struggle may be long but there can be no doubt about the outcome, Nigerians will enjoy the rights South Africans do today.

Nigeria
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I am pleased today to pay tribute to all Nigerian democrats.

Barely two years ago, the people of Nigeria believed they had acquired a democratic process worthy of the name. Their leader, Moshood Abiola, had won a resounding, eminently democratic victory. Unfortunately, as we know, the military regime did not accept the outcome, cancelled the election and ultimately, appointed General Sani Abacha as head of state.

In light of the special commercial and political ties between Canada and Nigeria, the Canadian government has a duty to condemn loud and clear the basic human rights violations that many Nigerians have suffered.

In our opinion, the Canadian government is not doing everything that it can to intervene. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs publicly announced only a few weeks ago, Canada is preparing to promote trade without taking into account the human rights record of certain countries.

The Liberal government's new foreign policy is questionable. When the Canadian section of Amnesty International gathered for its annual meeting last week, the director of the English section rightly stated that to remain silent on the human rights issue constitutes a serious abdication of our responsibilities, bordering on complicity.

As we have said, the Canadian government's policy on human rights is based on double talk. The policy of the Liberal government is to answer only to the economic imperatives of Canada's relations with its major trading partners, such as China or Mexico. However, it takes a hard line approach to small countries with which we have few or non-existent trade relations.

The Bloc Quebecois believes that the Liberal government should not hesitate to proclaim and publicly defend the fact that democracy and human rights are the cornerstones of Canadian foreign policy, and that all of our trading partners should be expected to have a similar stand, regardless of how much trade Canada does with them.

By taking such a position, the government will be sending a clear message to the people and heads of state or government of countries that have trade ties with or receive aid from Canada, as is the case with Nigeria. Canada must not pass up this opportunity to profess in a vigorous way its democratic faith in an international community where the temptation to remain indifferent, detached or self-interested is omnipresent. We must move quickly to prove wrong the dictators who interpret the collusive silence of countries that claim to embrace democratic ideals as support for their actions.

Instead of turning a blind eye to anti-democratic regimes and human rights violations, whether in China or elsewhere, instead of discussing the issue of human rights only behind the scenes to spare the feelings of countries with markets that are interesting to Canada, the government must adopt a coherent, clearly worded policy, one that is entrenched in legislative and regulatory texts and that ensures that decisions are based on three established criteria, namely human rights, development assistance and international trade.

Otherwise, the only clear message that the government will be sending is that governments of the south need only become good trading partners if they want to rule by dictatorship, free of any pressure.

In closing, I want to express once again my support for all Nigerian democrats. I know how difficult it can be to fight for human rights and democracy. Sometimes people have the feeling that their hard work produces only mediocre results. Yet, we are hopeful that their efforts to achieve democracy will prove successful. Until then, the official opposition will support their actions and join with them in condemning the human rights violations that many Nigerians have suffered.

Nigeria
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, I share the sentiments of the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa who spoke well on the need for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.

It is certainly true the people of that country deserve a far better government than they currently have. When they went peacefully to the polls two years ago they had a genuine hope that for the first time they would be able to choose their own president, but their hopes were dashed. Not only was their democratically elected president Chief Moshood Abiola arrested in jail by the army, but almost every personal freedom was taken away from the people of Nigeria. This unfortunate set of circumstances was described in detail by the secretary of state.

In response to this robbery of democracy the Canadian government has been quite right to condemn the illegitimate government which has taken over. It was similarly correct in taking certain punitive actions against that government. In the future the Reform Party hopes the Canadian government will vigorously promote democracy and improve human rights in Nigeria and throughout the world.

In general Reform supports positive measures to improve human rights such as support for the strengthening of democratic and legal institutions in the developing world through our international aid program. Canadian aid should support human rights promotion, democratic change and institution building. Reform also supports working with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to build up a civil society and middle class in developing countries. As civil society expands and the middle class grows, human rights issues will improve.

In severe cases such as Nigeria where the government is responsible for massive human rights abuses and with which a co-operative approach is not likely to be successful, we would support the multilateral use of certain penalties.

I pass on a message to the people of Nigeria that Canada does care and we will continue in our commitment to assisting democratization and human rights in that country and in others. With hard work and persistence they can overcome tyranny and Canadians look forward to the day when we will welcome their democratically elected leaders to our country.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Bélisle La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present today to the House the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts concerning the Correctional Service of Canada.

At the conclusion of the report, the committee recommends that the auditor general monitor the efforts of the Correctional Service of Canada to improve its accommodation planning and supervision of released offenders, and that he report his findings when he considers it appropriate.

The committee believes that the recommendations contained in this report should be actively implemented. It also recommends that unless it is directed to do otherwise, the Correctional Service of Canada report on the progress made in implementing the report's recommendations by April 1996 at the latest.

Appended to this report is the official opposition's dissenting opinion on the policy of double bunking. In closing, I would like to quote two recommendations contained in this dissenting opinion: one, that the Correctional Service of Canada assess the short, medium and long term impact of the policy of double bunking on inmates, particularly its effect on inmate rehabilitation and that the results of the study be published by January 1996; and two, that the Correctional Service of Canada await the results of this study before making the double bunking policy part of its accommodation standards.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Zed Fundy Royal, NB

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Industry relating to Bill C-91, an act to continue the Federal Business Development Bank under the name the Business Development Bank of Canada, with amendments.

The main change will be in the suggestion that the name of the bank be changed to the Small Business Bank of Canada.

Business Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

A point of order, Madam Speaker. In view of the tremendous co-operation of all members I wonder if there would not be unanimous consent for this motion.

I seek unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That notwithstanding any special order, this House shall continue to sit after ll.30 p.m. this day in order to consider Government Orders and it shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by the minister of the crown.

I seek unanimous consent for that motion.

Business Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Is there unanimous consent to accept the motion?

Business Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Business Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Saint-Léonard
Québec

Liberal

Alfonso Gagliano Secretary of State (Parliamentary Affairs) and Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 56.1, I move:

That notwithstanding any standing order or special order, this House shall continue to sit after 11.30 p.m. this day in order to consider Government Orders and it shall not adjourn except pursuant to a motion proposed by a minister of the crown.

Business Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Those members who object to the motion will please rise in their places.

And fewer than 25 members having risen:

Business Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Pursuant to Standing Order 56.1(3) the motion is adopted.

(Motion agreed to.)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House to present a petition sent to me by Mrs. Margaret Wiens of Quesnel, British Columbia, and signed by over 1,000 constituents from many areas of my riding of Cariboo-Chilcotin.

The petitioners call for the government to enact immediate legislation for freedom of choice in health care that is full integration of alternate practitioners, homoeopathic, herbal, naturopathic, et cetera, into the Canadian health care system with full equal coverage of visits and necessary remedies.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Madam Speaker, I also present eight petitions signed by over 200 constituents from Quesnel, Williams Lake and Lillooet in the riding of Cariboo-Chilcotin.

My constituents request that Parliament not amend the human rights code, the Canadian Human Rights Act or the charter of rights and freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or homosexuality, including amending the human rights code to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase of sexual orientation.