House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreement.

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Nunavut Official Languages Act
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3:20 p.m.

Nunavut
Nunavut

Conservative

Leona Aglukkaq Minister of Health

moved:

That, in accordance with section 38 of the Nunavut Act, chapter 28 of the Statutes of Canada, 1993, this House concurs in the June 4, 2008 passage of the Official Languages Act by the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut.

Nunavut Official Languages Act
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3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the House ready for the question?

Nunavut Official Languages Act
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3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Nunavut Official Languages Act
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Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
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3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That this question be now put.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
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3:20 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-24 proposes to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru.

I will explain the position of the Bloc Québécois, which will oppose this bill to implement an agreement with the Republic of Peru.

I will first quote from the statement by the Canadian Labour Congress, Peruvian central labour organizations, the Coordination of Andean central labour organizations and the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas, or TUCA, on the free trade agreement and the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Peru.

I found it interesting, because we have seen the new democratic American Congress force President Bush to review the agreement he had already negotiated with Peru—not by himself, of course, but through others—because Congress wanted that agreement to provide for greater rights, particularly for workers, and a greater social safety net. That was done.

Are these amendments enough for us to support this free trade agreement? No, and I will explain why.

Here is, first, an excerpt from the statement:

Based on their collective experience of free trade and investment agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the Free Trade Agreement between the United States of America and Peru and the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Peru, the above-mentioned organizations [the ones I mentioned a moment ago] state that they profoundly disapprove of this kind of agreements that put the rights of investors before human rights, labour law and the social, economic, cultural and democratic rights of the people. These agreements are designed to be entered into by nations with comparable levels of development—

That is why a free trade agreement served as a basis for the establishment of the European Union. The declaration continues:

—and therefore ignore existing disparities between the economies of nations like Peru and those of nations like the United States of America and Canada, whose development is a hundred times greater than that of nations like Peru.

Clearly, those who made this statement also disagree with the signing of the United States-Peru agreement.

The Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement and the Canada-Peru Agreement on Labour Cooperation were negotiated in record time, and no civil society or labour organizations were consulted, nor were any analyses conducted on the effect they would have on the sectors of production, employment, human and labour rights, and the environment of both countries.

These agreements were negotiated in record time, without any consultations or analyses of the consequences.

Experience has shown that these types of agreements compromise the democratic process by giving more power to companies than to citizens and governments. They make the creation of an unregulated free market easier and more widespread, and encourage the adoption of economic, social and labour policies that make the job situation more precarious. That increases poverty, social exclusion and negative impact on the environment, particularly in Peru. Since we are experiencing a global economic crisis, this is not an appropriate time to be signing this type of agreement.

As indicated in Labour's Platform for the Americas, which was adopted by labour organizations of the entire western hemisphere, in order to be considered acceptable, all international trade agreements must have a primary objective of creating decent jobs and sustainable development. The agreement must protect the fundamental labour standards that can be implemented in the signatory countries.

Experience suggests that it is unlikely that the labour provisions [which I spoke of earlier] in trade agreements, whether they are side deals or the main agreements, will lead to concrete improvements to the situation of workers. Trade agreements like NAFTA are not intended to improve labour standards, and there is no indication that they can become a means to ensure labour rights.

We urge the Parliament of Canada to refuse to ratify the Canada-Peru FTA until there has been a full assessment of the economic and social impacts it will likely have on capital mobility, wages, employment stability, working conditions and the environment in both countries and steps have been taken to make up for any deficiency.

The Bloc Québécois is opposed to implementing this free trade agreement not only on these grounds, but also because the Bloc Québécois is against the government's strategy of making piecemeal trade agreements. The Bloc Québécois prefers the multilateral approach. Multilateral is a word that may seem complicated, because it is not used on a daily basis, but Latin scholars will know that it means a strategy that includes all the parties, on different sides.

The current economic crisis clearly shows that a market economy can work properly only if it is regulated and stabilized through an institutional, political and ethical framework. Canada should work within the International Labour Organization to ensure that the rules governing international trade are the same for everyone.

The Bloc Québécois believes that trade can contribute to the prosperity of nations. That does not mean that trade and trade agreements automatically profit everyone. It is important to see whom these trade agreements benefit. However, ordinary people can benefit only if these trade agreements include measures that will ensure sustainable development and that will promote the development of the populations involved.

However, I must point out that the Canada-Peru free trade agreement includes a clause to protect investments that is patterned on NAFTA's chapter 11 and that will allow businesses to sue governments. I will talk about this later, but I want to say that the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, which has been in force for a number of years, has promoted development in Canada and the United States. That free trade agreement included an investment clause, but it was nothing like the clause in NAFTA. It was mainly because of that investment clause that the Bloc Québécois campaigned hard against the free trade agreement of the Americas.

In fact, the presence of a chapter to protect investments such as one patterned on chapter 11 might interfere with Peru’s social and economic development rather than helping it to develop, as is hoped.

Peru is a minor trading partner for Quebec. Quebec’s exports to Peru represent only 0.14% of total exports from Quebec. It is therefore a small partner and Quebec does not stand to lose.

It must be added that Canada’s main business activity in Peru is in the mining sector. Unfortunately, Peru’s track record on worker protection in that sector is hardly a glowing one. So the agreement does not contain any real policy to hold Canadian mining companies accountable. We talk about it here and there, and the government commissioned a substantial report on the need to impose constraints on mining companies that are created in Canada and everywhere in the world.

Ratifying this agreement will enable mining companies to expand their activities without being liable to any consequences for their actions when they pollute or when they flout human rights.

In Peru, this agreement will not help the situation of people in need, and it will especially not help the Peruvians most desperate to defend their rights, the indigenous people. There are about 600,000 indigenous people in Peru, in the Amazon region, who are subject to enormous inequality, and yet they are the ones most affected by this agreement between Canada and Peru, from what I understand. The mines and the extraction companies that operate facilities in the tropical forest or in areas where the indigenous people live will destroy their habitat without offering any compensation and without consideration, as is generally the case. The indigenous people, for whom it is already difficult to defend their rights, will find themselves in an even worse situation.

Is that our business? Yes. We cannot tell the Peruvians to look after the indigenous people there. Quite the contrary. We know that various products like oil are extracted there. Other products are extracted from mines by various companies. There are also the forestry companies.

Those companies certainly do not come bearing gifts for the indigenous people; quite the contrary. The agreement, which provides for there to be a significant increase in investments, cannot help but please the government, regardless of its feelings about the people there otherwise. I do not want to meddle in this, but I simply want to point out that Canadians have a responsibility in negotiating this kind of agreement, which will enable extraction companies to displace populations who have no means to defend themselves.

To provide an idea of the situation they are in, I thought I would tell the House about some of the documentation I have seen.

There was a study, for example, on inequalities in infant mortality rates. Infants born near the national capital of Peru have first year survival rates that are more than two times higher than the national average. These are children born near the capital. Children born in the forest or the Sierra region, especially in the south, have rates that are almost two times lower than the national average. These inequalities in the infant mortality rates are the result of social inequality, which itself reflects the different rates of inclusion in the social system. This study was a few years old, but there is nothing to indicate it cannot be used today to understand the plight of the indigenous peoples.

The government and Peru's Indian communities are meeting this week in Lima, the capital, against a backdrop of mounting tensions in the northeast, where a state of emergency was decreed pursuant to indigenous demonstrations against the oil concessions granted to the Franco-British multinational, Perenco.

The president of the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle, Mr. Pizango, described this decree as an act of aggression. Pizango and a number of Indian leaders are going to meet with Prime Minister Simon today, but without any apparent hope of making progress. “The government, and not just the government, has always treated us like second-class citizens”, Pizango said. His organization represents 65 different ethnic groups living in 1,350 communities with a total population of 600,000 located in the east Amazon part of Peru.

There have been blockades for a month now of roads, rivers and airports in the north to get the decrees I mentioned rescinded. According to the indigenous communities, the controls over mining, petroleum, forest and water development on their ancestral lands are being weakened. Between three and ten demonstrators were hurt on Sunday. On Monday, the International Federation of Human Rights supported the demands of the indigenous peoples and called for the withdrawal of these decrees as well.

One of the reasons I have been fighting the free trade agreement is that it allows all Canadian investors—who may be fine individuals—to pursue and to step up the exploitation of sub-surface resources in these sensitive regions, which need to be protected, along with the people who live there.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member whether she is aware of the geopolitical drivers or events that have driven the agenda in favour of this agreement at this time. It seems that the government is very eager to get this agreement signed. In her mind, what is driving this whole agenda?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question. I cannot say that I have an exact answer. However, the logical answer is important, since it is the American policy that seems to be driving this. It is clear that the Prime Minister wanted to negotiate a free trade agreement on the heels of the American agreement. Now the conditions have changed and I hope that Canada will revise its policy. The Bloc Québécois does not want this agreement to be ratified.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
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Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to what the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île had to say.

I would like to ask her if I am right or wrong. We just discussed a free trade agreement with Colombia and now Peru. It seems to me that the negotiations were not open or transparent enough to believe that these agreements are in the best interest of the people of Colombia, Peru or Canada. I am left with the impression that only the resources matter. It is as though we are seeing a new colonialism and returning to imperialism, which is a form of colonialism. That is my impression. Does the hon. member feel the same? Can she comment on that?

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3:45 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting question. As I have often said, as the Bloc has often said, and as others have no doubt written, free trade agreements are negotiated between countries and among groups of countries that are more or less similar economically and socially. They are not negotiated between a rich country and a poor one. If they were, it is likely that the country benefiting would not be the one that ought to in terms of social justice.

Upon closer examination of the two agreements in question, what stands out is the fact that we are committing to increasing mining investment. One might think that would help develop the country, but we have looked at a number of cases and it is clear that groups of people are often displaced and forced to give up their traditional livelihoods, after which they cannot find new ways to make a living. Either there are no provisions restricting investors' actions or there are none protecting workers and allowing them to unionize. Even if there were, it is extremely difficult to make sure that the rules are being followed when we are so far away.

My colleague used some strong language, but he was right. This situation is a kind of new colonialism.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
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3:45 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île raised the question of who benefits from this agreement. Is it ordinary people?

I have in my hand a copy of a press release from some critics of the America-Peru free trade agreement. These critics are ordinary people. They are workers.

They point out some of the problems with the U.S.-Peru agreement. They list that foreign investors based in Peru would have the right to question domestic laws and get compensation if those laws undermine corporate profits. They cite that nothing would change for the 33,000 slave labourers cutting down the Amazon rainforest. They cite that subsistence farmers would be forced off their land because cheap U.S. food produced by agribusiness would undercut their prices. They say that this is what happened with NAFTA and it resulted in millions of poor Mexicans leaving their farms.

That is the example in the U.S. Does the member see any hope for things being different if we do have a Canada-Peru free trade agreement?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
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3:45 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I see no reason why things would be any different. Canada wants this agreement because of the provisions that favour investors. I did not discuss chapter 11 of NAFTA, which we fought, but which is basically copied in this agreement. It is hard to understand why a developing country would sign such an agreement, and that is not just our opinion.

If a company is harmed by any law seeking to improve working conditions or social laws and can calculate the impact on its bottom line, it can sue the government. It does not have to wait for one government to take up the matter with the other. No, the company itself can go to court to have its case heard. That has happened a number of times. Not only does that lead to the consequences I mentioned earlier, but it interferes with the government's ability to improve workers' living conditions and other social conditions.