House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

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The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-19, an act respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

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10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

There are nine motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for report stage of Bill C-19, an act respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Motions Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 7 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows: a ) the vote on Motion No. 1 will apply to Motions Nos. 3 and 7; b ) if Motion No. 1 is concurred in, a vote will be necessary on Motion No.4; c ) however if motion No. 1 is negatived, it will be unnecessary to proceed with the vote on Motion No. 4.

Motions Nos. 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows: Motions Nos. 2, 5, 6, 8 and 9 will be voted on separately.

I will now put Motions Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 7 to the House.

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10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I read the Chair's decision on the acceptability of certain of the amendments to Bill C-19 I introduced. I find the Chair's decision on two of them questionable and I would ask that it be reviewed.

At issue are the two motions dealing with the schedule. Basically, both amendments are aimed at making sure the complete text of the Rome Statute is incorporated into the schedule to the bill, whereas currently only two articles are incorporated in the bill as it now stands.

These two motions were supposedly found out of order because the amendments went beyond the scope of the bill. I find it difficult to understand how the amendments go beyond the scope of the bill as they are aimed at incorporating the whole statute when some parts of it are already incorporated into the bill.

The true aim of these amendments is to circulate the text of the Rome Statute so that citizens may learn what it is all about when they read the act, as is the case with other implementing acts which include the text of the Geneva conventions, for instance, or of the treaties on antipersonnel mines or the nuclear test ban, which were recently passed by this House.

I urge the Chair to review the decision and rule in order two of the amendments aimed at incorporating the complete text of the Rome Statute in Bill C-19.

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10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

At this time I would like to take the point of order raised by the member under advisement and we will get back to him on that very soon.

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10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-19, in Clause 2, be amended by adding after line 19 on page 1 the following:

““Minister”, in relation to any provision of this Act, means such member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada as is designated by the Governor in Council as the Minister for the purposes of that provision.”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-19 be amended by adding after line 14 on page 2 the following new clause:

“3.1 The Governor in Council may, by order, designate any member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada to be the Minister for the purposes of any provision of this Act.”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-19 be amended by adding after line 14 on page 2 the following new clause:

“3.1 The Minister may designate any person to exercise the powers and perform the duties and functions of the Minister under this Act that are specified in the designation and on that designation that person may exercise those powers and shall perform those duties and functions subject to such terms and conditions, if any, as are specified in the designation.”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-19 be amended by adding after line 14 on page 22 the following new clause:

“32.1 The Minister shall prepare an annual report with respect to the implementation of this Act and shall cause a copy of the report to be laid before the House of Commons within three months after the end of each financial year or, if the House is not then sitting, on any of the first fifteen days next thereafter that it is sitting.”

Madam Speaker, we have noticed that some of the clauses which are the subject of the amendments you just read cannot be found in several pieces of legislation recently passed by the House of Commons to implement international conventions.

For example, in the Anti-Personnel Mines Convention Implementation Act and in the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Implementation Act, it says at the beginning that a particular minister is designated by the governor in council to administer the act and that it is possible for that minister to delegate this responsibility to another minister.

In the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Implementation Act, there is also a provision that was added, at our request, to take into account the way in which Australia fulfilled its obligations under that convention, provision whereby the minister was required to submit an annual report on the application of the act in order to inform the people about how the act was administered and how it allowed the country to fulfil its obligations under the treaty to which it had become a party.

That is the reason why amendments such as these could not only be useful, but could also give more consistency to the various implementation bills this Parliament is called upon to pass so that Canada's international obligations under the treaties to which it becomes a party are fulfilled.

I am calling here for a certain degree of consistency in our treaty implementation legislation, a consistency which is lacking and which the House should reflect upon more deeply since we do not seem to be able to have the same legislative practices whether we are dealing with the anti-personnel mines convention or, in this case, with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

These amendments would improve the bill and give more consistency to our treaty implementation legislation.

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10:15 a.m.

Edmonton Southeast
Alberta

Liberal

David Kilgour Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa)

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague. I know that he is a renowned scholar and that everybody respects his opinions as an international law professor.

The importance of establishing the international criminal court literally cannot be overstated. The court is a legacy of the Nuremberg war trials which came out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the second world war.

We are all aware of the depths of horror that the 20th century brought to millions and millions of our fellow human beings on this planet. There have been forced famines, genocides, mass expulsions, mass rapes, that horrible term ethnic cleansing, and every war crime one could imagine. Those who commit those crimes from now on must be held accountable to humanity. People who do these things must no longer be able to hide anywhere on the face of the earth. In order for the international criminal court to be created, 60 nations must ratify this proposal before December of this year.

Many members of the House have recognized the importance and the urgency of ratifying the international criminal court and actively urge other nations to follow suit.

Human rights NGOs have echoed repeatedly the urgency of passing the bill at committee hearings. I would like to commend in particular the members for Mount Royal, Burnaby—Douglas and our colleague from Mercier for their unequivocal commitment to seeing the establishment of the court and the timely adoption of this bill.

May I also commend the members of the foreign affairs committee and in particular the chair, the hon. member for Toronto Centre—Rosedale, who played a most productive, thoughtful and constructive role at the committee.

The hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry is very much aware of that because he was fully involved maybe more than any other member in the committee hearings and he knows that the committee heard a lot of testimony.

It passed 18 amendments as a result of suggestions from members of all parties, including the hon. member's own party. I understand it was a most non-partisan, collaborative and satisfying process such that the chair referred to it in the House the other day. He said, “I should like to take one minute and share an observation with the House. It is often said that in committee time is not given to study bills properly and to amend them. I urge members of the House to have a look at the many amendments which were made to this bill with the co-operation of all members”. The member for Beauharnois—Salaberry expressed his satisfaction with the process calling it “une expérience tout à fait extraordinaire”.

It is therefore a surprise, although it is perfectly proper as the member knows, to see a further 20 amendments at report stage, possibly knowing it would delay passage of the bill while there are only a very critical few days left in the House before adjournment. I would submit that the amendments are either identical or similar to those considered thoroughly at the committee stage, or more relevant to the hon. member's personal interest, the role of parliament in treaty implementation.

Thus, we were surprised on this side of the House to see the hon. member submit so many amendments this morning. It must be clear that the government cannot accept any of these amendments. I must also clarify something: I mentioned that 60 countries must approve the treaty; this is a ratification issue. Sixty countries must ratify the treaty before it can come into effect.

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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-19 and the various amendments.

This bill is very important for all of us. As has been indicated it relates to the implementation of Canada's obligations under the Rome statute regarding the international criminal court. This bill would certainly make it an offence to commit genocide, a crime against humanity, or a war crime.

When we look around today we see so many examples of war crimes and atrocities being committed that this is a certainly an area we have to pay strict attention to. Human life is our most valuable resource and asset. We see crimes being committed against humanity, against children, women and quite often innocent bystanders of war. This is an area that we have to seriously look at.

Looking at the background of this situation, it was in July 1998 that 160 nations decided in Rome to establish a permanent international criminal court. This was a big move forward in terms of looking after the interests of mankind and protecting humanity.

The bill deals with the implementation of Canada's obligations and indeed is very important. Canada has been a strong proponent for the establishment of the international criminal court. It has often been suggested that our poor record at home in prosecuting suspected war criminals is something to look at closely.

We certainly support implementing our obligations. With respect to the amendments, I support my hon. colleague from the Bloc Quebecois concerning the necessity of an annual report. I believe that is in Motion No. 7. An annual report is important because it brings about accountability and transparency. It is the record and way of informing the public as to what we are doing on issues. We know how very important annual reports are so we support the motion.

I will not speak to the amendments tabled today because we have not had the opportunity to study them. However, certainly we would support anything that helps or alleviates some of the suffering we see as a result of war crimes, and brings about a fair process to deal with that kind of situation.

As an aside, we talk about war crimes and define them in terms of genocide and various acts and atrocities. In the whole process of war and our involvement, when we send our troops abroad into the battlefield, we have to have a much broader definition of what is criminal, what really can be “criminal” when it comes to how we treat our own people who defend our shores. In a lot of instances we have to draw our attention to what we ourselves do by way of supporting or not supporting our troops when they are on missions.

There is one thing which I think is a very serious “crime”. When a soldier who has dedicated and devoted his life to our country goes off to war and he is concerned about taking a vaccine that could harm him because of problems with that vaccine, he faces a court martial. The individual has to go through the strain, stress and turmoil of a court martial. It places stress on him, his family and others close to him. There are the costs involved. When he is successful and a judge pronounces that something has been done wrong and his rights have been violated, then the government sees fit to institute an appeal against that decision and the individual is put through further turmoil, strife, pain and suffering. This to me is a crime in itself and is something we have to look at.

We cannot talk about being concerned about war crimes and what happens in other parts of the world when here at home we put our own people through what can be truly described as a criminal experience.

With those comments I conclude my remarks. When we look at these things I urge that we truly consider what we are saying and where we are coming from in our own hearts and minds.

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10:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Jean Dubé Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-19, an act respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and ward crimes.

The Progressive Conservative Party supports and applauds this excellent initiative by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

First of all, I should like to congratulate the members of the standing committee on foreign affairs, who all worked together on this initiative without any needless party politics. Moreover, the committee report was tabled this week and all members are, I believe, pleased with the way it has turned out.

Much can be said about this bill. I believe it would be advisable to review the main thrust of Bill C-19.

The purpose of Bill C-19 is to implement Canada's obligations under the Rome Statute, adopted by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, the ICC, on July 17, 1998. In order to have a clear understanding of this bill, it is important to first of all have a clear understanding of the objective and scope of the Rome Statute.

The Statute was approved in July 1998 by 120 countries and will come into existence after ratification by the parliaments of 60 states. The ICC will be the first permanent international instance mandated to investigate the most serious of crimes under international law: genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

I am proud. It was high time for Canada to show some leadership by ensuring that the authors of these horrible crimes are charged and punished. With so many lives lost, the international community should work together in order to do something.

With Bill C-19 Canada joins forces with the numerous countries, which are taking the necessary steps to integrate the Rome Statute with their national legislation. Although nine states have already ratified the Statute, it is a source of pride to the Progressive Conservatives Party that Canada is one of the first to enact legislation to implement the Rome Statute.

According to the Department of Justice there are presently in Canada 400 people that are deemed to have been involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

It is totally unacceptable that those war criminals could quietly live as if nothing had happened. Canada does not want to be recognized as a haven for war criminals.

The clock was ticking. The international community had to get together to develop a permanent organization having all the powers to fulfil it's obligations. We could not ignore the atrocities committed in some countries under the guise of war any more. It was too easy, and unfortunately, the previous system of ad hoc tribunals was not very efficient. Being a permanent organization, the ICC will be able to fulfil its mandate.

Clause 4 of the bill states that every person who commits genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime is guilty of an indictable offence. The definition of those three terms is based on sections 6, 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute.

It is an addition to the criminal code since every person convicted of one of these offences is sentenced to life emprisonement if their crime was intentional. In all other cases, that person is liable to life imprisonment.

These measures would apply to offences committed in Canada and would allow the government to bring an action against the perpetrators or to extradite them so that they can be judged by the ICC. As I have already said, it is a real improvement because it was very difficult for the Department of Justice to prosecute war criminals who had found refuge in Canada because of the court's decision in the Finta case that we have already talked about.

There is however an element on which I would like to come back, and it is the defence argument of obedience to the orders of a superior. It will be remembered that in his client's defence, Mr. Finta's lawyer argued correctly that, under the criminal code, the defence of obedience to a superior's orders was available to members of the military or police forces.

From now on this kind of defence will no longer be available, except under international law. These provisions were necessary.

Another feature of the bill is its retroactivity. Some expressed reservations about this. Nevertheless, I want to congratulate the minister and the committee on their work. In most cases, the events in question occurred as far back as the second world war or during conflicts prior to the signing of the Rome Statute.

One must be realistic. Since most of the events date back more than 50 years, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the individuals who perpetrated war crimes or crimes against humanity, especially under the nazi regime. Moreover, justice department officials had difficulty finding witnesses to those events to justify the extradition. If the bill had not applied retroactively, it would not have made sense.

Bill C-19 is fairly complete, as it gives jurisdiction to Canadian courts in the case of offences committed outside Canada through clause 8. This clause also recognizes that Canadian courts have the authority to prosecute any person charged with having committed specific acts, providing one of the conditions listed exists.

With respect to Bill C-19, Canada now has an obligation to surrender people caught by the ICC for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. I could say a lot more about the need for such a bill, but in conclusion I will mention that victims of war have suffered terrible ordeals, and through Bill C-19 Canada takes the position that no war criminal is safe or welcome within our borders.

This position has the support of Canadians and the Progressive Conservative Party. We do not want our great country to serve as a haven for war criminals.

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10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

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10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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10:35 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those in favour of the (motion, amendment) will please say yea.

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10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.