House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was foreign.

Topics

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I thank the member for Wild Rose and I am glad he did not say whether he was supporting the actual petition or not.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

With respect to the petition just presented on behalf of Bernie's Bakery, which indicated that his loaves could not be called bread by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, this petition is not in its proper form. However, as I understand it, there have been changes to the regulations and I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to have it accepted in its present form as its intent is well understood. The 220 people in Cochrane would appreciate that.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to have the petition accepted in its present form?

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would request that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

February 11th, 2005 / 12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. At the time when the debate was suspended for question period I understood there were a few minutes left for us to pose questions and comments to the hon. member for Churchill. If that is the case, she made two points which need to be responded to and I also wanted to make a comment.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I believe the time had expired for questions and comments. The hon. member for Churchill is not here to respond anyway so it would be out of order for you to present those questions to her.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to made consequential amendments to other acts presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs formalizes the continuation of the Department of Foreign Affairs, whose principle mandate is to coordinate and lead Canada's foreign policy.

This re-centering of the Department of Foreign Affairs on its primary functions is already close to completion. It would allow for greater clarity in Canada's international actions and for improved coordination among the actors involved in developing our foreign policy.

It is incumbent upon us today to give a solid legal foundation to those who have been working toward this goal for a year now. To do so, we are being asked to make a number of amendments to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act, which dates back to 1982. It is a matter of removing references to international trade from the act of 1982 in order to reflect the new reality of a department that has been operating in this manner since the order in Council of December 12, 2003, with great success, as we have seen.

The first years of this millennium have been marked by events which have reverberated around the world and have had an impact on Canada's international obligations and vision. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, or of March 11, 2003, the war in Iraq, various regional crises in Darfur, Haiti, or the Ivory Coast, the move toward democracy and civil society, whether in Ukraine or Somalia, all of these event affect Canada. They affect our interests, conflict with our values, and call out to our common humanity. Such tragic events necessitate well considered yet resolute action on our part.

International problems and crises provide opportunities for Canada to find solutions. The Government of Canada and more particularly our Prime Minister and our Minister of Foreign Affairs have recently met with considerable diplomatic success. I am referring, among other achievements, to the inclusion in the report of the UN high level panel on threats, challenges and change, of the concept of the L20, a group bringing together leaders of developed and developing countries and the concept of the responsibility to protect. These successes, which emphasize Canada's influence in the world, were made possible through the dedication and professionalism of foreign service officers.

More than ever, our country must assert the role it wishes to play on the international stage. A Department of Foreign Affairs will now allow our diplomacy to focus on its foremost tasks: to promote the interests and values of Canada abroad; to develop its unique expertise, the product of over 80 years of remarkable history; to strengthen its international networks with a spirit of dialogue and collaboration with other government departments and actors on the international stage, International Trade Canada, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of National Defence, of course; but also the many other federal and provincial departments and agencies which, with the proliferation of exchanges and the need to apply truly global solutions, have seen their perspectives extend beyond our borders.

It is a fact that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade no longer claims a monopoly on Canadian action beyond our borders. Today, it is unthinkable for foreign policy and domestic policy to operate in isolation. Ever more complex issues and parallel improvements in means of communication have led the actors of domestic policy to become increasingly interested in what is happening around the world. It goes without saying that many global challenges can only be faced with a coordinated response. That is why federal departments and agencies are ever more involved in Canada's international policy.

Foreign Affairs Canada will remain more than ever the main architect of Canadian international policy, but that policy will have to be pan-governmental, involving the engagement of all federal departments and agencies having international interests, with a special contribution by CIDA, International Trade and National Defence. This role as coordinator and integrator thus requires that the Department of Foreign Affairs focus on its own activities.

A Department of Foreign Affairs separate from that of International Trade does not mean the two distinct departments will cease working closely together to face future international challenges. To the contrary, these challenges will help Canada introduce a new diplomacy with an integrated approach that will take into account all Canadian actors involved on the international stage.

I want to emphasize that the act introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs does not affect the status of the management of consular affairs, which remains with the Department of Foreign Affairs. More than any other service, consular affairs directly interacts with Canadians.

The citizens of our country are great travellers. Wherever we go, whether in Latin America, Asia, Europe or Africa, we meet Canadians. Some have chosen to work abroad, whether for private institutions or NGOs. Others travel for pleasure, curious to discover the world. Just think of all our fellow citizens heading south at this time of year. For example, from November until March up to 15,000 passports will be issued every day and 8,000 a day during the other months of the year.

Still, consular services are much more than issuing passports. Every year Canadians make over 100 million foreign trips. Consular services are there to help Canadians plan their trips, whether for business, school or pleasure and to help them during their time abroad. The consular services of the Department of Foreign Affairs are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through Canadian offices set up all over the world. Canada has offices in over 270 cities located in some 180 foreign countries to serve our fellow citizens, as well as an around the clock consular operations centre here in Ottawa.

The Department of Foreign Affairs will continue to provide the consular services at our missions abroad all the support they need to effectively carry out their foremost mandate, which is to serve Canadians.

The control and management of information are crucial issues of the 21st century. For a department like foreign affairs, the effective management of information and knowledge, for both internal use and public dissemination, are of vital importance. Innovation in the development of information technology is key to transcending the limitations of time, bridging cultural differences and overcoming the often great distances that separate Ottawa from its missions abroad.

The modern, well-defined Department of Foreign Affairs, as outlined in Bill C-32, can count on a very effective communications network to help fulfill its mandate.

To conclude, I believe it is important for us to enable those who represent Canada abroad to continue their valuable work. The legislation will do just that.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Pickering—Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre for his presentation in support of the bill.

I take the opportunity to congratulate the hon. member for his initiative and leadership in terms of yet another event that I believe has been important in transforming the way we see the world, Canada's effort with respect to Ukraine. This is unprecedented certainly in my time as a member of Parliament of almost 12 years.

It is rather ironic, but not all lost on those of us who know about the change that took place in Ukraine. The response by the Canadian government and this Parliament speaks to the importance of foreign affairs policy that is directly focused on the issue of capacity for governing and on issues dealing with good governance, proper legal systems and electoral reform, for which Canada is very much noted. This is quite separate from commercial interests and trade considerations.

Given the member's expertise in this area, is it the view of the member that foreign affairs can operate more effectively when it is focused on matters dealing with affairs of other countries, devoid of commercial interests? I would like to hear the hon. member's response to that because he has an expertise in the House which is beyond question.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is quite interesting that the two departments, as was mentioned earlier, came together some time ago, approximately a decade. Quite a debate was going on in the international sphere of diplomacy at that time. We had just witnessed the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the cold war had come to a close.

An essay was written at that time entitled, “The End of History”. There truly was a sense of euphoria in diplomatic circles that perhaps we had reached a certain end of history in terms of wars and we would now concentrate on economic development and trade. That is perhaps some of the logic that precipitated this move of the two departments coming together. Perhaps the theory was premature. Perhaps it speaks to a world that we will achieve one day, but events over the past decade have made it clear that we need robust diplomacy.

During my speech, I referred to a number of very Canadian initiatives. The initiative of L20 is similar to the initiative of the G-20, a concept our Prime Minister came up with, when he was minister of finance, of bringing the finance ministers of 20 countries together, not just the largest economies in the world but also regional leaders and economies in the developing world.

Canada has taken this one step further and come up with the concept of L20. We have joined along with developing democracies, countries with developing civil societies. It talks to a very different approach from our neighbours or allies to the south. We have a very different approach in bringing democracy to the world than our American allies.

The process that is bringing democracy to Iraq has been quite interesting. A number of people have been rightly suspicious. In fact, some people call it the Haliburton method of bringing democracy to the world. We take a very different approach. We believe in multilateralism. We believe in engaging the world, our allies and also countries that we believe are on the path and need to be encouraged along the path of democracy and civil society. We just heard a petition that was brought forward from the Sunshine Coast where the petitioners said that Canada should not be part of a war machine that brings war to other parts of the world.

Coming back to the example of what has happened in Iraq and the suspicions as to why that has taken place, we do not want that sort of suspicion to ever come into play when Canada plays an international role in diplomacy. There should be a separation between commercial interests and our very important work in building democracy and civil society around the world.

Bill C-32 clearly separates the two departments so when we engage other countries in the world, through concepts like the L20, people will understand that Canadians believe in the values of democracy and in bringing civil society to the world, notwithstanding our trade interests.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to speak on Bill C-32, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

A number of my colleagues have addressed it over the past few days. On December 12, 2003, behind closed doors, the Governor General in Council decreed that the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade would be split. We are talking about an administrative decision that went almost completely unnoticed. Let me remind hon. members that December 12, 2003, was no less than the day the Prime Minister was sworn in. Now, this decision must be endorsed here in Parliament.

With the tabling earlier this week of Bill C-31, an act to establish the Department of International Trade, and the tabling of Bill C-32 today, many of my colleagues from the Bloc Québécois have set the tone of the debate by denouncing this unintelligible decision. Today I am, of course adding my voice to theirs.

For more than three years, I had the pleasure of working with the member for Joliette, the Bloc Québécois critic for international trade and globalization. Today, among other things, I am deputy critic for globalization. Therefore, I can say in all modesty that we know a bit about international trade and globalization. Over the years, we had the opportunity to discuss with all major organizations and to follow all the debates held in the House of Commons.

I can assure you that I agree with my learned colleague from Joliette, who stood this week and today to denounce what he called a totally absurd measure. Absurd indeed, because the Minister of Foreign Affairs himself, speaking before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on November 29, 2004, was unable to explain clearly why it was necessary to create two separate departments.

But what we understood from his testimony is that it was likely the Prime Minister himself who made the decision, against the advice of various people he had consulted. Now, who did he consult and when? It remains a mystery.

The same foreign affairs minister said that the Prime Minister, after having supposedly discussed the issue with various people, “made a different decision”. I am quoting here what the foreign affairs minister said on November 29. In other words, the Prime Minister went against the tide. It is true that he is a shipowner and knows something about boats. But the captain is going off course in this case. As we know, it is unfortunately not the first time this happens.

Today, we are faced with a fait accompli. Fortunately, we still have the possibility of voting against this bill and I take this opportunity to invite all my colleagues from other parties to seriously consider this issue. Others have done so, for example, the members of the Retired Heads of Missions Association. This association is made up of nearly 300 former ambassadors, consuls and high commissioners, who wrote to the chairman of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, last December, to tell him that they are against those two bills.

I quote from the letter.

[...] we were forced to conclude that our foreign service is on the verge of being dismantled. [...] we believe that the decision to split the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in to is a regrettable one and it is a step backward.

For the past 30 years, foreign affairs and international trade have gone hand in hand; indeed, the latter has become a tool to promote the former.

The Liberal government now wants to ditch all of that, while we, members of the Bloc Québécois, have been advocating for a long time a globalization with a human face, a notion we will apply when Quebec becomes a country. The Liberals are creating a two-headed hydra: each head will be ignorant of that the other does.

The Department of International Trade will deal exclusively with foreign investment in Canada, investment abroad, and the development of trade. When issues relating to human rights, the environment or labour law will be at stake, we will wash our hands of it.

On the other hand, the Department of Foreign Affairs will make international commitments on behalf of Canada without holding the reins of international economic relations. Everybody will pass the buck with regard to human rights, labour law or the environment when Canada invests abroad, for example.

We all know Export Development Canada, one of the tools used by the government to enable exporters and investors to gain access to about 200 markets in the world, including about 100 in developing countries.

If the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is split in two, we wonder how the Minister of International Trade will ensure that EDC respects democratic rights and that Canadian projects in those developing countries are in compliance with, for instance, the International Labour Organization conventions and those relating to the environment.

The minister's response will be to put the ball in the foreign affairs minister's court. This minister will then toss it back to the international trade minister, saying that henceforth he will not address international economic relations issues.

Bill C-32 clearly takes the coordination of international economic relations away from the foreign affairs department. This is clearly spelled out in paragraph 7(2) of the bill.

This situation will be all the more catastrophic since EDC already has a special status. At times, we wonder whether it is not a secret organization. It is not subject to the Access to Information Act or the Environmental Assessment Act, and it is not regulated by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions .

It will be even more difficult to keep tabs on EDC. We will not know if our values and priorities are going to be respected in projects financed by the crown corporation in foreign countries. With Bills C-32 and C-31, of course, the government strips its foreign policy of its economic and trade leverage. But, as I said, the two are completely indissociable, no matter what the Liberals think. The Liberals should remember, however, that their own leader, the Prime Minister of Canada, went to China recently. Every time our head of state goes to China, what do journalists ask him? Two things: essentially, if he discussed human rights issues with Chinese leaders and, obviously, if he signed any trade deals. These are the questions that our leaders are always asked when they visit, in particular, developing countries and countries were human rights are partially or totally abused

China is frequently mentioned because of all the economic problems it might cause. Obviously, there are not just problems. It is good to do business with countries such as China. This is a very compelling example. China is a country with which we are developing trade ties. Despite the harm it has done to our clothing, textile and furniture industries, to name just a few, we must obviously draw maximum advantage of this huge market, which is now open.

Okay for trade, but what about that country's human rights record? No one here is unaware of the human rights abuses and medieval working conditions in China. With the creation of two separate departments, the fear is that trade will take precedence over humanitarian issues.

Tying trade to human rights has been standard practice for over 30 years. Today, more than ever, a country's foreign policy is closely linked to its trade policy. How can we better the lives of Chinese workers—I am using China as an example, but it could just as easily be another country, such as Bangladesh—if human rights are no longer part of discussions on trade? I would really like the government to explain this secret decision to us, which it has yet to do, as was said earlier. In any event, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has not satisfied us that he himself was convinced of the merits of the decision.

There are two major problems with Bills C-31 and C-32. With respect to the first, as I said, trade is an essential tool for countries in determining foreign policy. With respect to the second, human resources are currently managed consistently at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, since all employees posted abroad answer to the same administrative unit. Separating the two entities would only lead to inconsistent management of human resources.

By creating two separate departments, how can the government now integrate its concerns and, naturally, the concerns of Quebeckers and Canadians about respect for human rights and the resolution of conflicts, for example, into its trade policy or selection the criteria established by Export Development Canada?

We are still waiting for the foreign policy review. Even before the results of this review become available, and without holding public consultations, considering Parliament's contribution or seeking the public's opinion, the government has decided that it should separate Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

We are naturally very anxious to see the changes made, because the present situation at Foreign Affairs is not ideal. I have myself had a highly negative experience, but nothing compared to what three people from my riding had to go through. They were in Thailand and got hit by the infamous tsunami. They managed to get to the Canadian embassy there, hurt, in great distress and without passports or money. They were treated terribly. The reception was cold to say the least, and one of them had to create a scene in order to even be allowed in. He could not go to a hotel because he had no money. He could not go anywhere except the Canadian embassy, which is considered Canadian territory and supposed to be a place that welcomes refugees and people from Canada who are in difficulty. That was anything but the case.

The department is definitely at fault here. Its policy in the case of disasters must be reviewed. Embassies are not there just to organize nice little cocktail parties and receive VIPs. They are also there to help people in distress. Fortunately, these things happen very rarely but, when they do, our embassies have a duty to treat Canadian citizens with all the respect that is their due.

We have also witnessed the minister's shilly-shallying about the missile defence shield, and the contradictions of his colleague at National Defence.

Then there is international aid. This, of course, has not yet reached the 0.7% of GDP mark, despite the promises made to Bono. Speaking of Bono, one wonders if he is not behind the PM's idea to split the department in two. I think not, because this is a man greatly concerned with humanitarian interests, so I do not think he would take such a position.

Those are my feelings about Bill C-32, and I encourage my colleagues to oppose both C-31 and C-32.

Department of Foreign Affairs Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague across the aisle has made a very good argument for reasons we should divide the department. He started off by saying that approximately 240 former diplomats were opposed to this. There are thousands and thousands of current and retired diplomats. With any change there will always be a small minority that dissents with a new vision, especially with bureaucracies, or as sometimes we encounter here in Ottawa, entrenched bureaucracies. That is not what should guide us.

We should be the ones who provide the vision, not the departments or the bureaucrats. I heard from across the aisle that over the past 10 years about 60% of the work of the department has entailed work around international trade. It is very important as we articulate Canada's values around the world that these be values of democracy and civil society, and that there be absolutely no hint that trade will in some way influence these Canadian values and beliefs in democracy and civil society and the efforts of our diplomats in that regard.

We have seen over the past 10 years what a great importance and an increasing importance international trade has in our lives. As international trade develops and takes on a greater and greater role, is there not a danger if these two departments were together that it would take over the role of foreign affairs?