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 countries.

Topics

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is correct and these very things have been pointed out to us by labour leaders in the United States, who pointed out that in regard to the United States-Peru free trade agreement, which was about a year ago, we are following the U.S. almost step for step in Colombia and Peru. It seemed that when the Bush administration signed agreements with Peru and Colombia, all of a sudden it became necessary for the Conservative government here to follow suit with the same kind of substandard agreements.

A very prominent labour leader, the head of the teamsters union in the United States, pointed out that it was outrageous that Congress and the Bush administration had approved yet another job-killing trade agreement at a time when American families were seeing their jobs shipped overseas, their food and toys tainted, their wages on the decline, and their houses foreclosed upon. Workers here and in Peru deserve better.

If we take out the word America and insert the word Canada, the same applies to this country too. We could not possibly pick a worse time to impose a free trade agreement that will have downward pressure on Canadian standards because of harmonization. The globalization of trade has resulted in us lowering our standards, not developing nations raising theirs.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg Centre and I were criticized just a few moments ago by a Conservative member for being too diligent and taking our work too seriously, but of course we have actually read the agreement. I know the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has, and we have seen, as testimony has also indicated, that it is a vastly inferior agreement to that which the U.S. government initially negotiated, and which then was gutted, rebuilt and amended by U.S. Congress.

My question for the member for Winnipeg Centre, who is a wise member, one of the most active in the House, is this. The Conservatives blew it on the softwood sellout, costing us thousands of jobs. They brought forward this Colombia trade deal, which is essentially privileged access by a regime that is tied, cheek by cheek and jowl by jowl, with murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords. Now they bring forward this bill which is considered an inferior version of bills that have been negotiated.

We have record trade deficits and most Canadians have actually lost real income over the past 20 years. Why do the Conservatives always seem to get trade issues wrong? Why do they not have an overall strategy that actually works for economic development, both here in Canada and abroad?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague poses a compelling question. I would only answer, in the brief time I have, by saying that the Conservatives seem guided more by ideology than by reason, logic, economics or empirical evidence.

There is a belief on their part that free trade will solve all of our ills the world over. What they fail to understand is that free trade benefits corporations. It benefits wealthier nations, but it even puts wealthier nations at risk in that the harmonization that has taken place has been terribly hard on our manufacturing sector. It has been dragging us down, frankly.

Unfettered free market capitalism is passé. It has gone the way of the dodo bird. We need regulation. We need guidelines and objectives. We need that triple bottom line, if you will, for everything that we do that will elevate--

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Terrebonne--Blainville.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing 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 want to start by saying that the Bloc Québécois will oppose this bill and this agreement because we have no guarantee that the agreement is worded strongly enough and contains a framework to protect the environment and human rights in Peru.

The third point I want to make is that this free trade agreement with Peru contains a similar clause to chapter 11 of NAFTA. This chapter, which relates to investments, allows investors from member states in the North American Free Trade Zone to claim compensation from the government of another party to NAFTA when they believe they have incurred a loss as a result of the adoption of regulatory measures that modify existing business operating conditions. What does that mean? It means that if, for example, a country decides to introduce legislation that would force a company doing business in that country to adopt other procedures that might seem harmful to the business, it could sue the government of that country.

NAFTA is the only major free trade agreement to which Canada is a party that contains such broad provisions regarding the treatment to be granted to investors from other parties. The provisions of chapter 11 of NAFTA governing investments have been called into question. They are the source of numerous proceedings that have been brought against various governments in Mexico, the United States and Canada. They sometimes result in several million dollars in compensation being awarded.

I said earlier that chapter 11 defines a complete scheme to govern investments and that the definition of investments is very broad. That is why the provisions of this chapter have given rise to many lawsuits pertaining to the concept of expropriation.

In a way, the NAFTA provisions laid the groundwork. They are similar to the provisions in the proposed Canada-Peru free trade agreement, which will give companies a great deal of power. Ultimately, we are concerned about the sovereignty of governments and their ability to take measures to protect the health of people and the quality of the environment. Will it be possible for Peru to protect people's health and the quality of their environment? We doubt it.

The Bloc Québécois is well aware of the need for free trade. We support investment protection agreements, but we are not prepared to accept bad agreements at any cost, and we feel that this agreement is a bad one.

Foreign direct investment is soaring.

Every now and then, a Canadian company decides to settle abroad, where the government may decide to nationalize it. In order to create a predictable environment, to ensure that a foreign investor will not lose his nationalized business without compensation, and to give some assurances to companies, states sign treaties to protect investments. We think this is perfectly normal, and we accept that such provisions be included in these treaties.

However, over the past few years, we have seen such an incredible shift, because of NAFTA's chapter 11, that we are now wondering. We are very cautious with processes, chapters and clauses that may look like the provisions in NAFTA's chapter 11.

Under that chapter, foreign investors are allowed to go before international tribunals and challenge the expropriation, which may reduce their profits and result in a court action. If investors can prove that they are losing money because of a new act, or a new way of doing things by the government of the host country, they can get compensation by going before the courts. The important thing here is that the amount of the suit is not limited to the value of the investment, but includes all possible future profits. In other words, these investors can literally ruin a government, and that is totally abusive.

This chapter has been condemned time and again by many countries, by various organizations, and by the Bloc Québécois. Still, Ottawa continues to sign bilateral agreements that are patterned on this infamous chapter 11 in NAFTA. The government is on the offensive again and is negotiating numerous such agreements. We believe that the Conservative government is headed in the wrong direction and should instead take better care of the public good and of human rights.

A few years ago, the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries took place. Many Canadian mining companies are responsible and respectful, but quite a few, many of which I could name, are not. While negotiations for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement were underway, it was clear that plenty of Canadian mining companies could not have cared less about aboriginal rights, environmental rights or human rights. They set up operations in various countries, take advantage of conditions there, such as military juntas and corrupt governments, and exploit those countries for profit.

We also have to consider human rights in Peru. Peru is one of Canada's smaller trading partners, and the mining sector is the primary trade driver. We know that Peru has a pretty poor track record when it comes to protecting workers in that industry.

Earlier, I mentioned the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries.

The national roundtables reported on what was going on. We all know the Canadian mining companies. We know their names. We know that a book has been written about their activities. They did everything in their power to get the book off the market; they even sued the authors in the hope that their activities would not be made known to the general public.

Canadian mining companies are the biggest foreign investors. Canada does not have any rules about what responsible companies should do, so they do as they please. We know that. We want to know what will happen if we have a bilateral agreement that does not impose any restrictions whatsoever on mining companies, an agreement that allows them to do whatever they like in countries like Peru, which do not have the means or even the ability to set rules and standards. Given the context, we cannot accept a country-to-country agreement with no guarantees.

One of the main reasons Canadian investors are attracted to Peru is the country's natural resources, particularly its mining resources. Canadian investment in Peru's mining sector is $5 billion, give or take. More than 80 Canadian mining companies are doing mining exploration in Peru. Canada leads investment in mining exploration and exploitation in Peru.

It was asked earlier why Canada is concluding a free trade agreement with Peru. It is very clear. It is to protect Canadian mining companies. It is not simply to do the right thing or for philanthropic reasons. It is to cover its own behind, to protect its own interests. We have nothing against that. However, the framework is too general. The free trade agreement with Peru gives greater protection to Canadian companies that invest in the mining sector. However, our fear is that the investment protection measures provide disproportionate protection to investors at the expense of local populations and the environment.

How many times have we watched as Canadian mining companies have displaced local populations, preventing them from reuniting, and polluted rivers? In Colombia in particular, rivers have run pink.

We know that Peru can protect itself, but it is still considered a developing country. It does not have the ability at this time. Also, not protecting workers' rights is standard practice in certain countries. The workers are small fry. They are considered worthless. Child labour often exists in these kinds of countries.

The Bloc Québécois would like to see mandatory standards and accountability measures imposed on the activities of mining companies working abroad. We would have liked to see the formation of a committee to advise the federal government, just as the national roundtables advisory group recommended. The minister at the time, the current international trade minister, practically refused and stonewalled.

It was recommended that a multiparty committee be formed, made up of representatives from the mining industry, to advise the federal government. I say “advise” because this government continues to do whatever it likes, no matter what anyone says, no matter what Canadians say. It stubbornly pursues its agenda without thinking about the fact that some people might be able to suggest a more acceptable approach. These people were calling for mandatory standards.

Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The member for Terrebonne—Blainville will have four minutes to finish her speech when the House resumes consideration of this bill.

The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-20.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #72

Nuclear Liability and Compensation Act
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few months ago, I asked a question in this House, and the answer did not convince me. In fact, it was not convincing for anyone. I asked the government how it could justify its refusal to repatriate the young Omar Khadr after the testimony that has been gathered about torture practices in Guantanamo. We know that the United States Division Court for the District of Columbia ruled that American authorities did use torture to obtain information from prisoners. In addition, an American prosecutor in Guantanamo says that prisoners, including Mr. Khadr, have been subjected to severe abuse.

The response was the usual insensitive Conservative tape: Mr. Khadr faces very serious charges in the United States.

It is striking to hear such a response when Canada is the only western country that has not taken steps to repatriate its citizens jailed in Guantanamo. What is worse, we know that, on June 24, the Federal Court confirmed that Omar Khadr's detainment was illegal under international and American law. Canada must repatriate Omar Khadr in order to uphold the fundamental principles in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ruling confirms that Omar Khadr's detention is illegal. When will the government respect the rulings handed down here, by our own courts? That is shameful. It will be a black mark on Canada's international reputation.

We also know that the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, during the second session of the 39th Parliament, recommended that the protocol on child soldiers be respected. Mr. Khadr was arrested when he was only 15 years old. The rights of child soldiers should apply to him.

It is shameful that Canada, in addition to reneging on the treaties it has signed, is also no longer honouring the motions that we parliamentarians have adopted in this House. On March 22, a motion was adopted that called for the repatriation of Omar Khadr so that he would stand trial in Canada. However, in addition to thumbing their noses at the decisions made in the House, the Conservatives, as I was saying earlier, are ignoring decisions made by Canadian courts.

I would like some clarifications about that and, above all, some answers. Why are the Conservatives digging in their heels when Canadian courts, parliamentarians and the treaties they signed indicate that Omar Khadr is a child soldier? Why has Omar Khadr not been returned to Canada?

7 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou
Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to children under 18 years of age, the Bloc just will not listen to reason.

As we all know, Omar Khadr was arrested by U.S. forces in 2002 because they believed he had been recruited by al-Qaeda and had participated in the armed conflict in Afghanistan as a combatant.

The United States has accused Mr. Khadr of serious crimes, including murder and attempted murder, and of other terrorism-related crimes.

Any court, including American courts, would consider these accusations to be very serious. That is why our government's position has always been based on the fact that it is up to American authorities to decide what they believe to be the most appropriate way to handle Mr. Khadr's case.

We understand that President Obama has asked for an extra 120 days in all cases, including Mr. Khadr's, to finalize military commission reforms.

That decision is just one more example of the Obama administration's efforts to resolve the Guantanamo detainee situation. The United States is continuing to debate whether, among other things, the detainees should be freed or transferred, or whether they should be tried and, if so, before which courts.

It would be inappropriate for Canada to disrupt the action taken by President Obama about this, by jumping ahead of the process taking place. We have no intention to prejudge what the final conclusions of the review of Mr. Khadr's case will be and how it will be resolved afterwards.

On April 23, 2009, the Federal Court of Canada made a ruling about the repatriation of Mr. Khadr. After carefully reviewing the legal merits of an appeal and the grounds of the ruling, the government decided to appeal the ruling. Our decision is very much consistent with the approach we have always adopted about this case.

Moreover, our decision is in line with the respect our government has for the sovereignty of American courts. It allows for the procedures ordered by President Obama to take place without undue interference on our part.

Canadian officials in Guantanamo regularly visit Mr. Khadr to inquire about his well-being. These visits allow us to constantly assess the conditions of his detention and to bring him some form of support.

In addition, Canadian officials play a tangible role to help him obtain items which improve his comfort in Guantanamo. The government of Canada also requested on several occasions that Mr. Khadr be offered opportunities for education during his detention and that he be submitted to an independent medical and psychological assessment. Finally, the government insisted that Mr. Khadr must benefit from the services of a competent lawyer of his choice and helped him gain access to a Canadian lawyer.

7:05 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the Conservatives are playing the same old tape. I mentioned three things. I only have one minute and I will be brief. The government decided to appeal. Ignoring the rights of children is quite in keeping with the right-wing ideology of the Conservative party. A treaty that protects child soldiers does exist and it is important.

My colleague spoke of American justice. She is saying that the laws and rulings of Canadian courts are not as strong as the laws upheld by American courts. She spoke of the sovereignty of the United States, but I would reply that a ruling—

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.