House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was safety.

Topics

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Liberal

Paul Zed Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 11 petitions.

China
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Richmond
B.C.

Liberal

Raymond Chan Secretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the tragic events of 1989 in Tiananmen Square to present to the House an update of the government's continuing efforts to engage Chinese leaders on these issues.

Our long term relations with China are based on interlocking pillars: economic partnership, peace and security, sustainable development, human rights, good governance and the rule of law. With regard to economic partnership, systematic and wide ranging contact leads to calls for greater openness and freedom. Trade reduces isolationism. Trade also expands the scope of international law and generates the growth required to sustain social change and development. A society that depends little on trade and international investment is not open to the inflow of ideas and values.

My recent meetings with regional leaders in China reviewed a sensitivity to the need for rule of law and a clear, fair, transparent, legal and regulatory framework. While there was a recognition that China had a long way to go, there was also serious intent.

Respect for human rights and the rule of law in China are essential Canadian objectives. On the bilateral front, Canada is developing a constructive dialogue on human rights issues. Recently bilateral dialogue at the official level was held in Beijing and we are assisting China in reform of its legal and judicial structures.

Multilaterally we expressed concern about violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in China. Canada uses every opportunity to discuss our concerns with the Chinese government.

Good governance and the rule of law were major themes of the recent visit to Canada of the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Qiao Shi. Mr. Qiao and his delegation met many of the people embodying the rule of law in Canada and held in depth discussions with them.

The Chinese delegation was quite interested in the workings of Canada's Parliament and legal systems. It is our hope we can build on this to assist China in creating an environment that is more respectful to the rule of law.

My recent trade mission to China was also an excellent example of our government's approach toward China. While I helped Canadian firms meet face to face with key decision makers in booming regional markets, I also used this trip to raise human rights issues with Chinese officials in Beijing.

For the first time we received assurance from Chinese officials that the 100,000 Canadians in Hong Kong can remain permanent residents there after 1997 and continue to receive Canadian consular protection.

I also told Chinese officials that China's plans to install a temporary legislative counsel in Hong Kong is damaging the competence of the Hong Kong people as well as the international community.

In meetings with foreign affairs minister Qian Qichen, I pressed the issue of human rights and the treatment of dissidents in China. I also met with the sister of imprisoned dissident Wei Jing Shang to discuss this case while she was in Canada.

As I pointed out to the Chinese authorities on my recent trip, I agree there have been significant human rights improvements in the everyday lives of ordinary Chinese since 1989. Individuals now have a greater freedom of mobility within China. Food rationing has disappeared and people can seek their own employment.

However, this does not excuse the fact that human rights leaders and pro democracy activists continue to receive swift and harsh punishment. Let me point out today that I disagree with those who

argue democracy is not appropriate in Asia because it is alien to Asian values such as Confucianism.

The ruling class always elaborates this in its own self-interest. It manipulates Confucianism to support its own cause. As far as I am concerned, democracy and freedom of thought are well entrenched in Confucian thought.

We will continue to point out to the Chinese government through both bilateral and multilateral channels that it still does not meet the basic requirements necessary to protect human rights.

At the same time, we will continue assisting the Chinese in specific areas such as trade, regional security and improved bilateral projects to help create an environment in China that in the end respects basic human rights.

China
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Bloc

Maurice Bernier Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to mark this 7th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, when thousands of students fell victim to the brutal repression of the Chinese regime, which savagely put down their democratic movement.

As I said yesterday in this House, this great democratic movement had raised a great deal of hope, and yet today we are compelled to note that the situation in China is far from improved. Thousands of Chinese are still victims of repression and their rights are constantly being trampled.

I was somewhat amazed to hear the Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific's review of the so-called efforts of his government to bring the Chinese leaders to respect human rights. We need only recall the Prime Minister of Canada's response here in this very House on March 22, 1994, when the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Bouchard, asked him to act to protect human rights in China. The Prime Minister replied: "If I told the President of China, who represents 1.2 billion people, that the Prime Minister of Canada was telling him what to do, he would laugh in my face". So much for what the leader of the Government of Canada thinks of the importance of human rights.

What the secretary of state has said is barely credible, and the government's position is no more so, when it comes to the pillars upon which Canada's long term relationship with China rests, the fourth in particular: human rights, good governance and the rule of law. Quite a pillar. How could such a close link be made between good governance and the promotion of human rights? That takes some doing.

In his statement on June 9, 1994 here in this House, the secretary of state reserved his fourth pillar for human rights and the rule of law. In 1996, he is adding good governance. What will be added in 1997, I wonder. Concretely, all that the secretary of state sees fit to say is that, bilaterally, Canada is continuing a constructive dialogue on the question of human rights, while on the multilateral level, it is voicing its concerns. Quite an agenda, that.

Even more surprising in the statement by the secretary of state is what he said after reporting that he raised the question of human rights with Chinese officials. He said that Chinese officials, we are not sure which ones exactly, apparently gave assurances for the first time it seems that the 100,000 Canadian nationals in Hong Kong will retain their right to permanent residence following the hand over in 1997.

As late as yesterday, one of the Hong Kong papers mentioned a plan for the evacuation of Canadian nationals in the event of a crisis. It provided for their removal by air and by sea. I was also surprised to hear the secretary of state say that human rights had substantially, and nothing less than substantially, improved in the daily life of the Chinese since 1989. I do not know where the secretary of state's information comes from, but I would question it.

Amnesty International's official reports paint a very different picture. Perhaps the secretary of state is prepared to contest their validity. From them we learn instead that hundreds of political dissidents and members of certain religious and ethnic groups are victims of arbitrary arrests and that many of them, including prisoners of conscience, are being held without charge or sentence or are condemned to prison terms at the end of unfair trials.

Thousands of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience arrested a number of years ago remain incarcerated. Torture and poor treatment of prisoners are commonplace. At least 2,496 death sentences and 1,791 executions have been reported. This is a very brief summary of the situation in China in 1995, according to Amnesty International.

I will close on an equally sombre note, in my opinion. The government's petty approach, a break with longstanding tradition, considerably undermines Canada's credibility abroad in promoting respect for human rights. Practically no country anymore gives any credibility to the words of the present government on this matter. The best example I have of this may be found in the treatment recently given Tran Trieu Quan by the Vietnamese government. He now has his feet chained every day from 3 p.m. until the following morning.

All the Canadian government could muster in this matter was a slightly more strongly worded letter, according to a spokesperson for foreign affairs. This is shameful. The only real human rights spokesperson internationally is Craig Kielburger, a young man 14

years of age from Toronto, who condemns the bad treatment given a number of different groups in the world.

We therefore take this opportunity today to condemn the Canadian government whose foreign affairs practices are dictated by a human rights policy that is soft, insignificant and likely to precipitate human rights violations.

China
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is very appropriate that we take today, the seventh anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, to remember those who died and to speak out in support of democracy and human rights.

The tragedy in Beijing that day was a black mark on human history. Peaceful protest for greater political freedom and democracy is a right that must transcend all borders and all cultures. That is why Canada must promote these values throughout the world.

The kind of tragedy that occurred in Beijing unfortunately is not isolated to China alone. Therefore, promoting democratic principles throughout the world and reforming developing world legal institutions should be a priority area for Canadian foreign policy. By concentrating on these two areas we can help to increase political freedom and reduce the level of serious human rights abuses.

To achieve this goal we would like to see the government take a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, Canada should support using our aid programs to promote the strengthening of democratic and legal institutions in the developing world. This would include things such as monitoring elections to make sure they are free and fair, providing legal expertise to reform the court systems and providing training for police so that they will serve and protect rather than intimidate and bully their populations. Of course this may not be relevant to our relations with China, but certainly there are countries where we could have real influence. It is our hope that through this type of policy we can help the people in the developing world to establish democratic and legal institutions which ordinary people trust.

The other approach we suggest is to support international NGOs and the private sector in developing countries to build up civil society as a vehicle to improve human rights and democracy. As social and business groups emerge as legitimate political forces in developing countries, they will be able to assert themselves and work against corruption and government abuse.

In the case of China it is vitally important that the Canadian government take a strong and constructive stand in support of human rights and democratic development. While we may be unable to get dramatic changes overnight, it is essential that we build for the future to ensure that the events of Tiananmen may never be repeated.

I urge the government to do everything possible to contribute to the improvement of human rights in China and in the rest of the world, and to maintain open and frank discussions with the Chinese authorities when abuses take place. If we can build a better, more democratic future for China, then we will honour those who died in Tiananmen seven years ago. That should be our goal. We must not fail for the sake of our children.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

June 4th, 1996 / 10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Sheila Finestone Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian group of the Interparliamentary Union which represented Canada at the 95th Interparliamentary Conference held in Istanbul, Turkey from April 13 to 21.

May I commend this report to members of the House for their information on a number of important issues being dealt with right here in Canada. In particular are the key roles we played in setting the directions for resolutions on the conservation of world fish stocks, on the move to a worldwide ban on land mines, on fighting the scourge of international terrorism and on the internal and external rights of minorities which have been so well addressed by all three parties this morning on the occasion of the memory of Tiananmen Square. I encourage those who are interested to read it.

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-295, an act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous offenders).

Mr. Speaker, this bill extends the category of dangerous offenders to include child sexual offenders. Indeed it requires the courts, rather than giving them the discretion, to find a person a dangerous offender in the event that the offender fails to show any ability to control his impulses and refuses to participate in programs which might assist him and the safety of the public.

It is part of a general strategy which I think we all support to put our children first and to deal with dangerous offenders, in particular child sexual offenders, in a serious and committed way.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Corrections And Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-296, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (rehabilitation programs).

Mr. Speaker, this private members' bill will require federal inmates to complete programs that will assist in their rehabilitation and make their parole request contingent upon their successful completion of such programs.

Currently enrolment is voluntary. Inmates know that if they enrol in specific programs they will be looked upon much more favourably at their parole hearings.

Another problem that exists is availability of such programs. There is no consistency in the corrections system. The program may be available at one penitentiary but not at another.

The bill specifically seeks to make changes that would ensure that rehabilitation programs are available where needed, that inmates are counselled as to which programs they need most, and most important, that their parole request is dependent upon their successful completion of such appropriate programs.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

An Act To Revoke The Conviction Of Louis David Riel
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-297, an act to revoke the conviction of Louis David Riel.

Mr. Speaker, it has been over 110 years since Riel was hanged following a trial tainted with irregularities. He was sacrificed by the then Prime Minister to the powerful Ontario lobbies. He was hanged because he was a Metis, because he was a francophone and because he stood up for a distinct society.

This is the second time we introduce a bill to that end. It has been introduced before by several other members of this House. Louis Riel is one of the Fathers of Confederation. This must be recognized officially. It is not enough to pardon him posthumously. We must reverse the conviction against him.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Members Of Parliament Transition Allowance Act
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-298, an act to replace the allowance provided by the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act with an allowance funded by members' contributions to assist their transition back to private life.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to reintroduce this private members' bill on members of Parliament pensions.

This bill is based on input from my constituents and represents what the average Canadian feels an MP's pension plan should look like. Unlike the current government bill on this issue, my bill would do away with the cash for life plan in favour of a privately controlled RRSP style fund with no contributions from the taxpayer.

My bill would allow MPs to plan ahead for the future or provide them with funds for transition back into private life. This proposal is fair to all MPs and they will all be treated equally. There is none of this trough regular and trough light which we hear many constituents complain about.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Canadian Human Rights Act
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Kingston and the Islands, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-299, an act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is very similar to one I introduced in the last Parliament. It introduces a series of amendments to the human rights act recommended by the report of the human rights commissioner in 1989. It has taken some time for some of these recommendations to be acted upon. This is an attempt to speed up the process.

In addition, in light of the most recent change to the human rights act, this bill also amends the human rights code to provide that in carrying out any special program, plan or arrangement designed to prevent disadvantages that are likely to be suffered by any group of individuals, when those disadvantages would or could be based on or related to sexual orientation, those will also be covered.

It is a technical amendment that follows on the other. I believe all these amendments will commend themselves to all hon. members.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed.)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have six different petitions dealing with different subject matters which I would like to table pursuant to section 36.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Chris Axworthy Saskatoon—Clark's Crossing, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present some petitions totalling about 530 signatures from people across Saskatoon. They call upon the House of Commons to do something about rising gas prices and to ensure that consumers are not gouged at the gas pumps.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions I would like to present this morning on behalf of my colleague, the member for Medicine Hat.

Unfortunately both petitions are a little late in the agenda of this House. The first one requests that Parliament not amend the Constitution as requested by the Government of Newfoundland and allow the educational reforms to take place within the context of the framework agreement reached in that province.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Reform

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, again I am presenting this petition on behalf of the member for Medicine Hat. His constituents pray and request that Parliament not amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the charter of rights and freedoms in any way which would tend to indicate societal approval of same sex relationships or of homosexuality, including amending the Canadian Human Rights Act to include in the prohibited grounds of discrimination the undefined phrase of sexual orientation.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the honour to present three petitions.

The first two petitions call on Parliament not to amend any act or code to allow sexual orientation as prohibited grounds for discrimination.