House of Commons Hansard #91 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was question.

Topics

Farm Income Protection Act
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is in fact Motion No. 42 on the 35th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Farm Income Protection Act
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Speaker

We will begin with Motion No. 14.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 4th, 2005 / 3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade presented Wednesday, December 15, 2004, be concurred in.

It is with considerable emotion that I present this report. The Burmese and friends of Burma are working tirelessly to revive democracy in their country.

A motion was brought before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which it debated after receiving the subcommittee's proposal, and the amended motion became the second report. While watered down somewhat, it remains strong and deserves to be read and debated in this House in view of the ongoing drama in Burma.

I will read the motion first, which will provide a review of the situation.

That the Committee is of the opinion that the government must:

I would point out here that this is what we too want from the Canadian government, which can talk the talk, but appears less consistent and determined in its actions. I will continue with my quote:

a) condemn more forcefully the repeated and systematic human rights violations committed by the military junta in power in Burma, particularly those involving certain minority groups, including arrests and imprisonment without trial, summary and arbitrary executions, torture, rape, kidnappings of women, men and children, forced labour, denial of fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of assembly, association and expression, the recruitment of child soldiers and massive relocations of civilian populations;

Furthermore, the government must,

b) urge the authorities in Burma to release immediately and unconditionally all political prisoners, in particular Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), to end their harassment of them, to abolish all repressive laws and measures contravening international human rights conventions, and to take action to end the appalling humanitarian crisis facing hundreds of thousands of displaced people and refugees at Burma’s borders—

Burma borders China, India, Bangladesh and Thailand.

We want the government to:

—provide tangible support to the legitimate authorities in Burma, specifically the government in exile—

That day a number of their representatives came to see us on the subcommittee, the standing committee, and the committee representing the people's Parliament.

We want to see the government impose:

—more comprehensive economic measures on Burma, and in particular:

-- review the effectiveness of the Export and Import Permits Act;

In reality, the prohibitions of that act are far from sufficient.

-- review the feasibility of fully invoking the Special Economic Measure Act;

Fully invoking that act requires that it be done with other countries.

Finally:

-- impose a legal ban on further investment in Burma.

Further investment here means that investments in Burma will be halted under the terms of the act.

The government must:

e) bring pressure to bear on the United Nations Secretary General and the international community, in order to establish a framework, primarily though ensuring the spread of the embargo, to bring the military junta to negotiate a peaceful transition toward democracy, in cooperation with the NLD and representatives of ethnic minority groups, as set out in all the resolutions of the United Nations on Burma since 1994;

Finally, it is proposed that the government:

f) call upon the authorities in Burma to include the National League for Democracy (NLD) and other political parties in the on-going process of the National Convention, and warn that any outcome from the convention without the participation of the NLD and other parties will not be recognized.

Of course I must pay tribute to the work of the League for Democracy in Burma and all the friends of Burma here. I must also pay tribute to the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, who, as member responsible for this issue, did excellent work and my colleague from Louis-Hébert, who, as current member responsible for this issue, continues the good work done by his predecessor.

It is important to realize that we are using rather strong terms in demanding additional action because Burma is one of those countries that, despite all the pressure from the international community and its citizens, continues to impose a violent dictatorship over a people that has been suffering a great deal for many years.

Since the beginning of my speech, I have been referring to this country as Burma, but I should point out that the junta has changed the name to Myanmar, which is the Burmese translation for Burma, thereby leaving out all the other minorities that make up this country and its people.

Burma has roughly 53 million inhabitants. It is a country the size of Alberta, rich in all sorts of natural resources, oil in particular, gas and precious stones, and rich in textiles and manufactured goods—inexpensive, as you might imagine. It is in an interesting political and geostrategic situation being between China and India.

In 1948, after gaining independence from Great Britain, a parliamentary democracy was formed, ending in 1962 with a military coup d'état. From 1974 to 1988, a single party took power and ran this country with an iron fist. In 1988, a student uprising against the dictatorship shook the country, while many other such uprisings were occurring in several other countries, including the former Soviet Union. In an extremely harsh and bloody manner, the junta quelled this uprising, during which at least 10,000 students were killed and thousands of others imprisoned.

But the pressure was so strong that, in 1990, the junta saw fit to allow a multiparty election to take place, figuring that it could survive it. With her tireless efforts and her fearlessness in the face of the junta, presidential candidate Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of one of Burma’s greatest independence heroes, symbolized what the Burmese people aspired to become. The junta had never thought that this candidate could be elected to lead the country as she was, sweeping 392 out of 484 parliamentary seats.

Even in the face of this stunning victory, the junta refused to step down. Prevaricating and failing to yield to various pleas from the international community, the junta is still in place. It has participated in a national convention process, but without the party that so clearly and indisputably won the election in 1990 being included.

I will point out that, since December last, the junta has been pressured by numerous countries to free Aung San Suu Kyi. Just recently, on April 23, while repeating over and over that the international community has been bringing pressure to bear for quite some time and that the junta still will not undertake the democratic reforms it has been asked to make, Kofi Annan once again asked that Aung San Suu Kyi be freed. A short time later, Tony Blair called on the international community to boycott tourism to Burma.

Significant pressure was brought to bear on Unocal, a major U.S. based oil company, to compensate Burmese villagers who suffered abuse during the construction of a pipeline. It is pretty astounding to learn that troops securing the pipeline route were charged with rape, murder and slavery. The company had to pay compensation to the villagers. It had to do so in one case at least.

I have learned that the International Labour Organization has threatened once again to crack down in Burma, where conditions of forced labour are still to be found. An international human rights organization is also accusing Burma of using chemical weapons against rebels in the country.

It is a veritable land of horror, and it is easy to imagine the sort of situation the country's inhabitants are finding themselves in. This is why Canada must play an important role not only diplomatically and politically, but economically as well. The junta is giving no sign of loosening its grip in any way. Having failed to apply the appropriate measures, the international community could be considered part of the problem in a way for doing nothing.

The witnesses testifying before the subcommittee, the work we did in committee, the support from all the opposition parties—although the motion, which had been adopted unanimously in the subcommittee, was adopted by a majority in committee—reveal the importance of this issue. I would have been very happy had the motion been adopted unanimously.

I think it could be. The economic demands are not overly brutal, on the contrary. It is like the action by the friends of Burma. They want effective action based on reason and likely to produce change. I repeat, they want us to review the effectiveness of the Export and Import Permits Act. There are no extreme measures in the act or in looking into feasibility or applying the Special Economic Measures Act to its fullest. It has to be put to use at some point.

On a number of occasions I indicated to the two previous foreign affairs ministers that they should amend this act so that Canada can, as required, make use of this Special Economic Measures Act on its own. Account must be taken of globalization, outsourcing and the roles played by many companies, Canadian companies included, in the outbreak or perpetuation of conflict throughout the world. We need only think of the role played by the mining companies in Africa. We need only hearken back to the inglorious role played by Talisman, which eventually sold its shares in Sudanese oil exploration .

The international community cannot allow companies to make a profit, a tidy profit at that, for their shareholders, with no thought to the terrific upheaval they are causing in many countries. This is why the Special Economic Measures Act also needs to be reviewed.

The measure being called for is a ban on any further investment.

This motion has afforded me this opportunity to speak, and I know that several others will speak as well. I see colleagues here from the various parties who sat on the committee and who supported the motion. I hope they will repeat that same message. No one can remain unmoved by the extreme suffering and repression being imposed by the Myanmar junta. We must fully support those in Burma and elsewhere, including of course Quebec and Canada, who are working to ensure that country rejoins the ranks of democracy.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I know the member is very interested in matters of international human rights and has in fact related what she characterized to be a horror story. She also refers to the United Nations and to Kofi Annan's efforts. Would she care to comment on what she knows about the ability or maybe the inability of the United Nations to respond in a leadership role when matters of international human rights, particularly the horror story she related, have not been dealt with effectively?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, this is a very interesting subject, which also brings up the subject of the United Nations. The United Nations and its Secretary General cannot be stronger than the international community allows them to be.

A number of countries continue to have dealings with the junta. As long as it continues to get rich by imposing this dictatorship on a population, Kofi Annan can make speeches, visit the country, bring pressure to bear, get permission to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, but none of this will get the junta to release its hold.

This is why we cannot let the United Nations act without backing Kofi Annan. The name of that body says it all, United Nations. All nations support Kofi Annan in a situation where an illegitimate and illegal government scorns everything and everyone, with the exception of the minority close to it, which is getting rich by exploiting resources with the collaboration of first world corporations.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Clavet Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to point out the exceptional work done by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île and other hon. members who worked on the Burma file.

I found her intervention most interesting, because it reminds us of the very fundamentals of some parts of the world where extreme violations are taking place. This has been made amply clear in the case of Burma.

As critic for the Asia-Pacific region and member for Louis-Hébert, I am especially interested in this matter as are other parliamentarians. The economic aspect is of great concern to us.

Some countries in that part of the world still trade with the junta in Burma. China, in particular, continues to do business despite the situation.

As you know, Burma stopped publishing figures in 2000. No accounting or budgets have been produced. The situation may in fact be even worse than we currently think.

My question is for my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île. Could the means the Government of Canada might use to impose stronger measures on the Burmese authorities result in greater pressure on the military junta to recognize the forces of democracy in Burma? Is this the route to take?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, the economic measures we have adopted were proposed to us by Canadian Friends of Burma, which are in contact with the National League for Democracy.

That is the preferred approach of many. The United States and Europe, for instance, imposed sanctions on Myanmar, or Burma. They have imposed sanctions and are threatening not to participate in a scheduled series of ASEAN meetings, precisely to drive the point across that this dictatorship must not be encouraged by the other Far East countries.

It is clear, however, that Burma and other countries—I am sure that some hon. members will be talking about China and other countries—show no respect, to say the least, for human rights. In Burma, or Myanmar, the dictatorial system is so despicable that the only means we could think of, besides economic measures, would be much more unsavoury ones.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, the situation in Burma is very serious. As far back as 1990, when there was an election in that country that was relatively free and fair, it was won by the National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Right after that election, that new democratically elected leader was in fact arrested by the agents of the repressive regime that was in place at the time.

She has been basically under arrest, partly in prison and partly house arrest, ever since then, even though during that time she has been recognized internationally as the leader of a government in exile and is also a Nobel prize laureate.

In the corresponding years the human rights record of the regime in Burma, or as some refer to it as Myanmar, has been horrendous. The systematic persecutions, rapes, tortures and killings are horrendous.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Pardon me.

Are we in questions and comments? Yes.

The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île who has to respond is not in her seat. I just want to ensure that you know this.

The hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate that the member is there. Given that record and the motion that we have before the House, is the member also aware that yesterday and today in Toronto a business meeting has been taking place with ASEAN nations and included in that are representatives from Burma or Myanmar? They have not been blocked out of the meeting. They in fact are included in that.

I wonder if the member was aware of that. She is indicating that she was not aware of that, but that is the case. I wonder if she would have any comments on that.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, I was in fact not aware of that. I thank my colleague for his question. I apologize for leaving my seat, but I thought he was taking his turn at speaking on this matter. I believe he will speak on it since he attended the committee session.

What he just said illustrates the following difficulty. On one hand we want to encourage this country to respect both democracy and human rights and on the other hand, we want it to collaborate and improve its lot through participation.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments of my colleague from the Bloc. Essentially, the member from the Bloc is saying that it is an illegitimate government in place.

My colleague from the Okanagan has indicated that there was a fair election in that country, a democratically elected government, and yet the leadership was arrested and now we have an illegitimate government there.

The response from the Bloc is that there should be economic sanctions. If economic sanctions do not work, are there any other mechanisms that the member feels the international community can take with respect to removing an illegitimate government like this?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, I will not leave my seat any more, no matter what.

This is an interesting question. Again, I remind the hon. member that it was not just the Bloc Québécois that passed this motion. We would like in committee to be able to pass motions ourselves, but this one we passed with the other parties. We sought unanimity and almost had it, but the parliamentary secretary did not vote with us.

The Alliance Party wanted a certain provision to be changed. We changed it together because we felt the issue was important enough to develop a common position that we wanted to see the government adopt.

Whether the economic measures are significant may not be important in every case. For South Africa, at the instigation of Mr. Mulroney, imposing economic sanctions was extremely important. This supported the democratic movement there and added to the pressure by the international community.

We have to realize that this is a junta with full military power over a country located between India and China. It can maintain order in a brutal fashion and gain wealth for itself and its friends. It has exploited the country's resources, including oil, gas, precious stones, manufactured goods, cheap textiles, teak and many others, not to mention vacations and sex tourism. Why should it listen to the international community?

I feel that we must—

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The time has expired.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke, Canadian Space Program; the hon. member for Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley, Wallace Harbour Lighthouse.

Resuming debate, the hon. parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Labour and Housing.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Liberal

Judi Longfield Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Housing

Madam Speaker, I move:

That the debate do now adjourn.