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.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present, in the name of my fellow citizens of the riding of Manicouagan, a petition signed by more than 3,000 people.

The petitioners call on Parliament to maintain the status quo so that the federal ridings of Manicouagan and Charlevoix continue to be part of the previous administrative region of northern Quebec, so as to keep employment insurance eligibility requirements at 420 hours for 32 weeks of benefits.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise to present a petition. These many thousands of Canadians who have come to me feel strongly that the government must take every step possible to save our Canadian public health care system and to stop the two tier American style system which is threatening to move into Canada and to privatize this treasured institution, our not for profit public health care system.

The petitioners believe that the federal government should immediately bring health care funding back up to 25% rather than the 13.5% that is currently given to the provinces as the federal government's share. They feel passionately that we must do everything we can to save our health care system.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36 on behalf of many Canadians who are very concerned about the Criminal Code of Canada. In particular section 608(3) makes it too easy for a person who has been convicted of a serious crime such as murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, manslaughter and firearms offences involving a term of imprisonment greater than five years to obtain release from custody pending the hearing of their appeal.

The petitioners would like the Government of Canada to amend the criminal code to prevent persons convicted of serious crimes from being released from custody pending the hearing of their appeal, except in very exceptional circumstances.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed 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, and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (with amendment) by the committee and of the motions in Group No. 2.

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

June 9th, 2000 / 12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

This morning, the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry rose on a point of order concerning two motions which he moved at report stage of Bill C-19, the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, that were ruled out of order.

According to the member, his amendments, which sought to append the Rome Statute to the bill, were aimed at informing the people about the provisions of the treaty.

The Chair examined the issue raised by the hon. member and did some research. According to citation 704 in the sixth edition of Beauchesne's:

It is not necessary to include agreements in bills which have as their purpose the carrying into effect of those agreements.

Moreover, the Chair looked carefully at the scope of the bill and does not believe that the inclusion of the text of the Rome Statute is directly related to Canada's obligations under this treaty.

I am sorry that in this case I cannot accept the arguments or the amendment motions by the hon. member.

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to this bill with some trepidation because of the largely emotional aspect of it.

Many years ago there was a song that was sung on the radio. It went, “Ain't going to study war no more”. I will not sing it because that may affect negatively on the people on the other side of the House who may rise in derision at my attempt to sing. It was a spiritual song, “Ain't going to study war no more”.

Without exception, all thinking people, all people with any conscience at all, will agree that war is terribly bad. It is really wrong. It is as great an evil as we can think of. Even if it involves only the people who are enlisted, it still involves humans pointing weapons at their fellow humans with the intent to kill them, and success goes to the one who wipes out the other side.

It is a great aberration to our society. It is one that would drive humanists to despair. For many years the humanists have said that we as a humanity are getting better and better but it is quite clear that is not happening. If I were a humanist in the sense of that being a religious faith, my faith would be severely shaken because of the atrocities that have continued through the ages and which continue to this very day. Quite clearly war crimes, atrocities committed in war and indeed even atrocities that are committed outside of war are abhorrent to us.

I think of another phrase. There are some things that are so evil, so offensive, that it is even difficult for us to speak about them. The atrocities of war certainly come into that category. I find it difficult to even think about them let alone speak about them.

I happen to be sandwiched between two generations that have firsthand experience with this. My grandparents and parents were in the middle of such atrocities. My parents were in their very early teens when they escaped from what we affectionately call the old country. They did so under the threat of losing their lives if they stayed. They were able to escape. I have said in the House many times and I will never stop saying it, how grateful I am that their escape was successful, that my grandparents made the decision to make Canada their home and that Canada, with its arms wide open for refugees, accepted our family. I will be forever grateful for that.

I said I was sandwiched between two generations which have had firsthand experience with this. The other side of it is the experiences of my son, who I suppose picked up some of our family values. He spent one summer while he was at university working in third world countries with a Christian relief agency. The stories he told of things that he observed firsthand are enough to make one cry. It is impossible to imagine the things that humans will do to one another. I want to relate just a few.

With a name like Epp, it is not to be unexpected that I have some Mennonite heritage, since that name appears quite frequently in Mennonite circles. My family members in southern Russia at the end of the first world war and during the time of the Russian revolution were considered to be enemies of the revolution because they would not take up arms in order to annihilate fellow human beings. They thought that was morally wrong so they would not do it. As a result my family and all other Mennonite families were considered by the revolutionaries to be enemies of the revolution. Hence they became targets.

Many times late at night, sometimes after midnight, their homes would be attacked by the revolutionaries. Because they knew that the people who inhabited those homes were not for the revolution, they were simply taken out and shot. Three of my maternal grandfather's brothers lost their lives. It was a miracle that my grandfather survived in that particular occurrence. There were many other cases.

I read not too long ago The Diary of Anna Baerg who underwent some of these atrocities and wrote about them in a diary not unlike The Diary of Anne Frank . I recommend that book to all members. As a matter of fact, the government House leader had a copy of that book and lent it to me since he knew of my interest in it. I read the book carefully and with great interest because it represented the things that my own family went through.

She relates some of the atrocities about the people who were summarily shot, people she knew and lived with, her neighbours. She indicated how one girl was not shot. She said in her book that there are some things worse than death, and Madam Speaker, you and I know what she is talking about. I cannot help but grieve when I think of the things people are willing to do to others.

My son worked in different places in Africa, in southern Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda. He worked in Croatia. In Croatia a home was set up for women who suffered terribly in the conflict. He told me stories that broke my heart about things that were done to children while their mothers watched. The stories are so detestable that I cannot and will not speak about them though the picture is very vivid in my mind.

I do not know what the answer is. We have before us a bill to bring to justice the people who do these things.

My son and his wife went to Rwanda. The government provided them with a school so they could provide housing for the hundreds of children whose parents were killed in the conflict. To kill parents in front of their children and to leave the children on their own is a huge atrocity.

My son and his wife had as their first job to clean the school. The school was filled with bullet holes. The enemies had entered the school when it was in operation and when the so-called soldiers left, every student and teacher in the school had been shot and subsequently died. My son's job was to clean up all the mess on the walls. That school was used to house the children and give them some shelter and love.

Madam Speaker, I see your signal and cannot believe that I have only covered my preamble.

Canada's involvement in reducing the crime of war throughout the country is what we should be emphasizing. Let us help to spread the message of love and forgiveness and learn to live with one another so these things do not happen. Yes, we must to the degree that we are able, help to restrain the evil which pervades our country and our very world and which leads to the hideous atrocities committed against women, children and men.

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in turn to speak to the second group of amendments to Bill C-19 to implement the Rome Statute in Canada, which will help prepare for the creation of the International Criminal Court and recognize that Canada has obligations.

I in turn wish to congratulate the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on its work. I must say that I have been on two other committees during my parliamentary life and I have greatly appreciated the committee's ability to work in a non-partisan manner on a number of issues.

This was certainly the case for this bill, and I congratulate the committee chair. I also pay tribute to all members and to the departmental representatives who appeared before us. We worked hard to come up with the best legislation possible for Canada.

That having been said, I also wish to point out that it became clear in the course of our work and also from what was said by the witnesses who appeared before us from the department, or from one of the other departments, that this bill was progressive, but that it could be even more so, especially with respect to jurisdiction and immunity. It was on these two issues in particular that the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry moved the amendments which I seconded. Yes, we salute this bill.

We salute the work done to improve it, through the good faith of all parties on the committee. I also point out that this bill can be improved further. Some witnesses who appeared before the committee even admitted that, if has not yet been improved, it could be improved later on, and in fact the discussion we brought about this morning will pave the way for the committee's subsequent work, although we would like the government to agree this morning to broaden the scope of the bill.

I will now give our reasons for having moved some of these amendments. First, we would have liked the government to have admitted, by adopting an amendment, that the present bill has to do with the performance of Canada's obligations under the Rome Statute. If that is the objective, why not spell it out in the bill? This leaves a doubt.

And this doubt is all the greater because in committee and now, this morning, the Chair has told us that the government did not want to include the Rome Statute and its amendments in a schedule. I note that, in the ruling just now, the Chair cited Beauchesne as saying that it is not necessary to include agreements or treaties in implementing statutes. Our concern is not with the need to do so, but the fact that this has already been done in other Canadian implementing statutes.

As far as this law is concerned, we need to provide people with some information, as the colleague who spoke before me has already stated so eloquently, because the International Criminal Court is still not well known. Often the NGOs who worked to create it and the various government and international law experts are the only ones to receive any information.

We need, however, to make the general public aware of the preparations that have been made throughout the world in order to create an international criminal court which would be empowered to judge all those who have committed crimes of such enormity, these horrible crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

War is never a clean business, but the countries have come to mutual agreement on a certain number of rules relating to civilians and prisoners of war. As we know, and as we have seen recently, and continue to see, there are certain groups, certain troops that have turned their backs on this international convention. The crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity are defined in the bill. These are definitions which will apply equally in future to Canadian statutes and to the implementation of the provisions of the Rome Statute.

We would have liked to have seen the Rome Statute and its amendments given as an appendix to the bill, but what we would have liked still more would have been to have the bill provide broader jurisdiction for Canadian courts acting in this area.

What is meant by broader jurisdiction? I am not a lawyer, and sometimes glad of it, since I then have to translate these things into words, which I hope will be understandable to everyone, what my hon. colleagues say most precisely, but not always in a way that is understandable to the general public.

What broader jurisdiction means is that the Canadian courts could judge people who have been charged of such crimes, not solely those whose victims are Canadians or who, as perpetrators, are Canadians, but also anyone who has committed such crimes.

The reaction to this will be “But that is extremely broad. Can it be done?” The answer is yes. I will quote the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium. It should be known that Belgium enacted legislation giving its courts broader powers. In June 1998, addressing a gathering of the representatives of the countries that formed the project of an international tribunal, International Criminal Court, Minister Derijke made the following announcement. He said “In compliance with the principle of universal jurisdiction, my country passed legislation enabling its courts and tribunals to prosecute in 1993 suspected criminals”.

He did not say Belgian criminals or persons against whom Belgians may have committed crimes. He referred instead to persons suspected of having committed war crimes, regardless of where the crimes were committed or the citizenship of the perpetrators. He is talking about an expanded universal jurisdiction.

I know that Canada acted as a catalyst during the drafting of the Rome Statute. I know also that departmental officials, and external affairs officials in particular, worked hard on it and I salute them. At the same time I serve notice that the Bloc will keep on working to expand jurisdiction.

But there is more at issue, namely the issue of immunity. But even with expanded powers or jurisdictions, if at the same time, we in Canada were to grant immunity to former general Pinochet, for instance, then, we would have failed.

This is the reason why we introduced these amendments. It is not to unduly prolong the proceedings of the House. We thought this voice should be heard in the House of Commons during this debate. I have heard colleagues from at least one other party who were receptive to our comments.

It will not be easy to establish the International Criminal Court. Nine countries have already ratified the treaty. Canada will soon follow, but 60 signatories are required. Once the treaty has been ratified by 60 countries, the court will have jurisdiction over the signatory countries, but it will have to go through the security council counsel to have jurisdiction over other countries or criminals who take refuge or are living in other countries, hence the importance for countries, as the Belgium minister said, to give themselves the broadest jurisdiction possible.

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Crimes Against Humanity Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.