House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was aboriginal.

Topics

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, having seen Liberal and Conservative governments, we have come to realize that the approach of the two parties is the same in a number of ways. They are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. When they are in opposition, the Liberals champion certain areas. I will give you an example. Perhaps an hon. member will rise to question the relevance. The best example is the situation of unemployed and seasonal workers. As long as they are in opposition, the Liberals are the first to say that there should be real employment insurance reform. When they return to power, they do absolutely nothing. This is the end of my aside.

I will return specifically to this issue. The Liberals can say what they like. If they return to power, we will see how they behave. We saw what they did from 1993 to 2004. With the Conservatives it is more of the same thing. That is why Quebeckers have decided to be represented by the Bloc Québécois, the only party that stands up for the interests of Quebec.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to start my speech by reading an email that all members of Parliament received, but more specifically it was addressed to the member for Kings—Hants. I cannot mention the member's name in the House of Commons, but I would like to read a letter that was addressed to him. The member has more or less been the spokesman for the Liberal Party in this debate. I know he is in favour of this trade agreement with Colombia.

Dear [member for Kings—Hants],

By means of this letter I would like to express my point of view concerning the legislation recently tabled in the Canadian House of Commons to implement Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). As I am a citizen of both countries I am proud of my origins, but also of my immensely proud of belonging to my adoptive country, which you represent in the Canadian Parliament. Canada and Colombia have many differences in their cultural, social, political and economic aspects, and also very different in their systems of justice. I am not opposed to commercial exchanges between Canada and any other country in the world. But I wish for those relationships to be just and equitable. And I certainly object to unequal commercial relations which could help destabilize the Colombian economy and contribute to further to the deterioration of social climate in the country where, I trust you will well agree, there exists a grievous situation of generalized violence.

I urge you, [member for Kings—Hants] to consider the fact of the profound level of violence that afflicts the people of Colombia and which is a manifestation of extreme social inequality and of marked economic inequities. I am certain that if you were to direct all the necessary attention to the tragic situation presently endured by the people of Colombia, neither you nor any other deputy representing the Liberal Party of Canada would support the ratification of the CCFTA or would collaborate with the Conservative Party's will to push the implementation of this commercial accord by the Parliament of Canada.

I ask you to immediately consider the ethical stakes and the political responsibilities associated with international commerce. I am well aware that the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Accord has as its objectives to favour Canadian investments in Colombia, particularly in the mines and minerals sector. I have no doubt that Canadian mining companies are keenly interested in exploiting, to their advantage, the many mineral resources that are present in Colombia, natural resources that belong, by right, to the people of Colombia. Gold deposits, carbon and coal mines, and petroleum resources are of great value and are highly coveted, and access to these precious resources requires the cooperation and complicity of the government of Colombia.

I would like to stop right now. I will read the rest of this letter later on. However, because this paragraph speaks about Canadian mining companies, I would like to talk a little bit about a company from South America that is presently operating in my community of Nickel Belt. That company is Vale Inco.

Can members imagine if this company were allowed to invest in Colombia, this company that has absolutely no moral values, this company that is trying to suppress the workers of Nickel Belt and Sudbury, this company that is firing employees and trade unionists at will? They would not have to fire them in Colombia; they would just shoot them, as many others have done in the last few years in Colombia.

I just wanted to stop at that paragraph to talk a little bit about Vale Inco and what it is doing in my community and what it would do in Colombia.

I am going to carry on with this letter:

The regime presently in power in Colombia can, with little hesitation, be qualified as extremely unjust, immoral and corrupt. It has been alleged and proven that human rights are systemically violated by the regime and by paramilitary actors complicit with the country's government.

I am going to stop again here. Can members just imagine if Vale Inco had the backing of the Canadian army in Sudbury? Can members imagine what they are going to do in Colombia when the corrupt government is going to do everything it can to suppress the Colombians?

I will go back to the letter, which reads:

Please believe me that inequitable commercial exchanges will not help to improve the situation of the people of Colombia. The inequality in the distribution of wealth in Colombia is a glaring reality that no one can, in good conscience, ignore. The implementation of the CCFTA will only lead to Canadian complicity with the unjust economic and social policies upheld by the right-wing government of president Alvaro Uribe. This leader, now at the tail end of his mandate, has always backed the interests of a tiny minority of the Colombian population, always pushing policies that have favoured the meanest interests of rural and urban elites who favour their own interests above a real will for peace with social and economic justice.

Can we have trust and confidence in a government that has been widely seen as complicit in atrocities that have cost the lives of thousands of its citizens, and that have caused millions of Colombians to be forced to flee their homes for foreign or internal displacement?

Are you aware, [member for King--Hants] that hundreds of thousands of well-informed members of civil society, in Colombia and throughout Canada, are vigorously opposed to the Free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia? Have you and your colleagues in the Liberal Party of Canada listened to and heard our voices?

We are asking you and the Liberal Party of Canada to NOT support the implementation of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA). We are asking that you NOT conclude an agreement with a Colombian government whose hands are stained with the blood of many thousands of its citizens.

In Canada, we are millions of workers, farmers, Union members, students, and citizens who loudly and strongly raise our voices to oppose the ratification and implementation of the CCFTA. Do you hear us, [member for King--Hants]?

Yours sincerely,

Jorge Parra

Colombo-Canadian citizen

It is not only members of the NDP and the Bloc who are against this trade agreement. There are many others. I do not know how much time I have left, but I would like to read from another letter. It states:

Dear Members of Parliament

I was shocked to learn that after prorogation the first bill to be reintroduced after the budget was the Colombian free trade agreement, now this is one bill that was better left dead on the floor. Death and Colombia are two unfortunate words that seem to have disturbing history together whether it's the dozens of union organizers at such companies as Coca Cola who have been murdered in cold blood at the hands of hired guns just to keep the labour suppressed and the profit margins in place.

I will stop there because I will not have time to finish the letter but it just goes to prove that we are not the only ones who are against this free trade agreement.

I want to go back to this company from South America in my community that is firing employees at will and is refusing to negotiate with the workers. It wants to take away their pension rights and their bonuses. It wants to prevent them from transferring from plant to plant. Can anyone imagine what a company like this would do in Colombia? There would be so many murders in that country that we would not be able to keep up.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member for Kings—Hants must be starting to feel the heat on this issue.

The Council of Canadians, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the B.C. Teachers' Federation, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Auto Workers, the United Church, the Public Service Alliance and many more organizations have been paying attention to the debates in the House over the last few days and have been sending letters condemning the Liberal critic and the Liberal Party for supporting the Conservatives. They are resurrecting what essentially was dead legislation until two weeks ago and making an amendment to allow the Colombian government to essentially police itself and self-assess its human rights record on an annual basis.

I find the whole situation appalling. The fact that the Liberal members have been very quiet during this whole debate speaks volumes about where their party is going.

Would the member like to make any further comments about the role of the Liberal Party in resurrecting what was dead legislation only two weeks ago?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, the Liberal Party is thinking along the same lines as the Conservative Party as far as Colombia is concerned and it is being led by the member for Kings—Hants who must be feeling the pressure right now.

I want to remind my colleague that the member for Kings--Hants used to sit on that side of the House but he was kicked over here. Perhaps the Liberal Party should consider punting him back because he is dragging the Liberal Party into an extreme right-wing party with an extreme right-wing agenda.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the member for Nickel Belt spoke extremely well. He is part of the strongest representation northern Ontario has ever had in the House of Commons. I am thinking of the member for Nickel Belt, the member for Sudbury, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North who spoke just a few minutes ago, and the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. They join long-time parliamentarians, the member for Sault Ste. Marie and the member for Timmins—James Bay, as the by far strongest representation we have ever had from northern Ontario in the House.

Northern Ontario MPs are speaking out because they have seen some of the abuses that are taking place, as the member for Nickel Belt mentioned. In the Sudbury region are the kinds of abuses magnified 100 times that could well arrive with this free trade blank cheque that would be given to multinational companies to work in Colombia.

Report after report of every human rights organization that is independent and impartial has said that there are strong concerns about the kind of corporate rights that this agreement would give to Canadian companies and that they may be complicit in human rights violations that are taking place now in Colombia. Three million people have been forcibly displaced and their land stolen by paramilitaries connected with the government.

Could the member for Nickel Belt tell the House why the Conservatives are trying to push this complicity with a government that has its hands stained with blood?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Madam Speaker, the member asked me why the Conservatives are pushing this free trade deal but I would remind the member that without the help of the Liberals this free trade agreement would be dead. If memory serves me right, they initiated this free trade agreement.

The member also mentioned the MPs from across northern Ontario. I can assure my colleague that most of us from northern Ontario, at one time or another, belonged to a trade union. If we lived in Colombia, we would not be here today. We probably would be dead. This is the type of agenda that the Conservatives and the Liberals want to push on the people of Colombia.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with a great deal of emotion that I rise today in the debate on BillC-2. In all my political career, I did not believe that I would one day have to speak about this kind of agreement.

I feel the strong emotion because, in 1974 and 1976, 36 and 34 years ago, the World Confederation of Labour and the Latin-American Confederation of Workers, or the Central Latinoamericana de Trabajadores (CLAT), asked me to spend several months in Colombia to help to establish agricultural and food cooperatives.

At that time, we were closely watched for our own protection because we were trade unionists. In a way, we were protected by world opinion. If a foreign trade unionist was harassed, it made international headlines. But local unionists could suffer almost any kind of unimaginable atrocity. To keep us safe, the unions in Colombia at the time provided us with double protection. If one person lost sight of us, there always had to be a second person who could see us, so that, if we disappeared, it could be immediately made public.

People my age will remember Marcel Pépin, who was kidnapped in Argentina in 1976. I was in Colombia at the same time. What saved Marcel Pépin, who was president of the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, was precisely international opinion. I say that because, as soon as I became aware of this proposed agreement for the first time, and having watched how things have evolved in Latin America, and especially in Colombia, I said to myself that not much progress has been made on human rights or the basic rights of the people there.

I have watched the current situation very closely, and, in fact, very little has changed. Back then, paramilitaries committed murder with the complicity of the state. Paramilitaries still commit murder with the complicity of the state. International organizations are well aware that 30 people who are very close to the president of Colombia, members of the Congress of Colombia, are also very close to the paramilitaries. In the Congress, 60 people have close ties to the paramilitaries, and the crimes that they commit are well known.

In the past 20 years, 4,800 trade unionists have been killed and thousands have disappeared. In this country, killing unionists and those in charge of agricultural cooperatives and agrarian organizations has become a trivial matter. I know that for some people here in the House it is trivial, simply because it is happening elsewhere.

Turning a blind eye to these types of things, even from afar, also means that you are endangering your own values. The two major parties that are contending for power and government status here are not only suggesting that this is acceptable elsewhere, but also that we will sign a trade agreement with them. But today's assessment, recognized by international experts, is that this is a rogue state when it comes to human rights. Let me say that again: this is a rogue state when it comes to human rights. I am at a loss when I see how quickly they can get on board to support such a bill.

There are still child labourers in this country. There are still workers who have no rights in this country. They definitely do not have the right to unionize. It is no coincidence that only 5% of workers in this country are unionized. Those who choose to unionize risk their lives in doing so. The only recognized labour organizations are the ones that support the Colombian government's claim that there is a right to unionize, when, in reality, that does not exist.

I think that it is important to consider the following proverb: A man is known by the company he keeps.

I encourage our Conservative and Liberal colleagues to think about this proverb as well as what they are about to do. It is not just about a relationship. It is about an agreement, about associating ourselves with something, thereby approving it, even though it is at odds with our values regarding the development of natural resources.

When companies have the right to invest, when their investments are protected and when there are no measures to protect human rights, that creates a situation that is not worthy of what we claim to stand for. We claim to stand for a society that is not only democratic, but willing to fight for democracy to uphold human rights. This is what our Liberal and Conservative colleagues are giving up on.

It is easy to sit out the debate. Personally, I find it disconcerting that our Liberal and Conservative friends have been missing from the debate for a few hours. It is embarrassing. They support a bill that would implement a free trade deal with a country that tramples on human rights, yet they do not have the backbone to stand up, say why they support this agreement and argue against what we are saying in this House.

We are abdicating our responsibility when we claim that what we are proposing is good not only for our own people, but for the people we are going to trade with. Even our own people disagree. Even Canadians and particularly Quebeckers do not support the idea that this bill promotes investment and protects only investments by companies that often behave badly abroad. We are talking about mining companies, for one.

We know what happened to two writers who wrote about what mining companies were doing in African countries. They were sued for millions of dollars because they dared to describe what was happening.

I call on our colleagues to reconsider and think about what Mr. Fowler said on the weekend at the event organized by the Liberals. He said that they should not make so many compromises in order to achieve power. They are not trying to achieve power with compromises anymore, but with cowardice, and we will not stand for it. That is why we are going to vote against Bill C-2.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, this gives me the opportunity to note that the speech we just heard was inspired by experience, but at the same time, it was also very inspiring.

I do not believe it is because of a lack of understanding on their part. The Liberals, like the Conservatives, know very well what this is all about. The question I would like to ask is an extension of his speech.

Ultimately, when it comes to supporting this free trade agreement with Colombia, is that not simply encouraging and supporting the fact that there are people in that country who use their power to completely ignore human rights? That is the situation before us.

What my colleague from Chambly—Borduas experienced when he went to Colombia—I did not have the opportunity or privilege of going—is what allows him to dot the i's and cross the t's. He was there for several weeks, so he was able to see the situation first hand. That is very inspiring. I think our Liberal and Conservative colleagues should also draw inspiration from him when it comes time to vote on this.

I would like him to comment further on the fact that supporting such a treaty would be tantamount to encouraging the violation of human rights.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine for his question. He does magnificent work.

On a city block in Bogota, Colombia, there is a huge house with armed guards. Inside there are extraordinary works of art that the conquistadors collected, that is, stole from the Mayan people. When you enter this site, you are searched in every room to make sure you do not take anything.

While works of art are being so carefully protected, in the streets outside there are children and elderly people dying from disease. You see them. They are there. Children who are only three or four years old are often looking after smaller ones.

That is the regime seeking our support. It is a regime that worships the golden calf and does not respect human rights.

To support Bill C-2, as the Liberals and Conservatives do, is to protect the golden calf at the expense of human existence.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have two minutes left for questions and comments after oral question period.

Statements by members. The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Rural Tourism Industry
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, Canadian families planning their vacation should know that rural Alberta offers all the best in summer vacations.

The Growing Rural Tourism Conference is an initiative of the Camrose Regional Exhibition, Alberta Tourism, Parks & Recreation, Alberta Agriculture & Rural Development and Travel Alberta. The 10th annual conference will be hosted by the Camrose Regional Exhibition, April 12 to 14.

Our communities understand the importance of our rural tourism industry, and the many and unique opportunities it offers. During the current economic times, our tourism industry boosts local economies and provides great attractions and experiences for Canadian families.

When one visits Alberta, it is not just for the beautiful mountains and sunshine; there is much more. We have great music, live theatre, historic sites, museums, golf, and rodeos everywhere.

I urge members to come visit the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller and see the hoodoos. There is the Big Valley Jamboree, country music at its best in Camrose; the historical Atlas Coal Mine; the Canadian Badlands Passion Play; and the world's largest lamp.

Epilepsy Awareness Month
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, March is Epilepsy Awareness Month in Canada.

Epilepsy is not well understood despite afflicting 300,000 Canadians. The public's lack of knowledge creates fear, discrimination, and stigma surrounding those with this condition.

Each day 42 of our fellow Canadians learn they have epilepsy; 60% of them will be either young children or senior citizens. They face no formalized diagnosis system.

There is a need for an effective and improved means of control and a need for accurate diagnoses. They face the prospect of having behaviour and emotional issues simply from a condition that is so little understood. One-third of people with epilepsy do not yet have an effective treatment.

I invite my colleagues to join with my constituents Margaret Maye, Gary Neumann, and their son Thomas of Epilepsy Cure Initiative, to help give thousands of Canadians control back over their lives.

Jean Labonté
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Madam Speaker, despite the Canadian sledge hockey team's heartbreaking defeat at the Vancouver Paralympic Games, I would like to congratulate all of the players, especially Gatineau citizen Jean Labonté, team captain and defenceman.

I would like to highlight Jean Labonté's courage, determination and indomitable will. Despite the team's defeat, he showed that he is a first-rate athlete and a great and passionate man. I cannot help but admire this accomplished player. As a hockey fan, I know that he and his team gave us the most exciting games of the whole event.

I do not know whether he will continue to play next year. I have heard rumours that he has played his last game. If that is true, then my Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.

Bravo, Jean Labonté.

Norman Wells Oil Field
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, recent news reports about the Conservative government's plans to sell off its share of the Norman Wells oil field as a way of balancing the books have my constituents greatly concerned.

In September 1988 Canada signed an enabling agreement with the Government of the Northwest Territories that all oil and gas resource revenues from the onshore NWT, except those committed to aboriginal claim settlements, shall be reserved for the NWT.

In 1999 the Federal Court ruled that payments to Canada from the Norman Wells oil field are resource revenues. Based on that decision, any revenues, including those from a sale of the oil field, belong to the NWT. This oil field is being held in trust for the people of the Northwest Territories and should be treated as such.

It is high time the Conservative government recognized its responsibility to its northern territories.

Acts of Bravery
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Dona Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, on February 4 of this year Tony Tingskou received the medal of bravery from the Governor General for his heroic rescue of two people from a burning car after a devastating accident.

In 2007 Mr. Tingskou came upon an accident scene in Abbotsford and chose to pull over to see if he could help. In spite of the fire and smoke, Tony and two other rescuers risked their own lives by smashing one of the car windows and pulling a 16-year-old girl and her father from the car and certain death.

I would like to ask all my colleagues in this House to join me in honouring Tony Tingskou for his heroic actions. A true hero is someone who puts his or her own life in jeopardy in order to save the lives of others and Tony did just that.

Congratulations Tony.