- Get e-mail whenever he speaks in House debates
- Subscribe to feeds of recent activity (what you see to the right) or statements in the House
- His favourite word is rights.
Liberal MP for Mount Royal (Québec)
Won his last election, in 2011, with 41.40% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 6th, 2014
With regard to Canadians detained abroad: (a) broken down by year for each of the last 15 years, and broken down by country of arrest, charge, or detention, (i) how many Canadians have been arrested outside of Canada, (ii) how many Canadians have been detained outside of Canada, (iii) how many Canadians detained outside of Canada have been charged with an offence, (iv) how many Canadians have been detained without charge outside of Canada; (b) broken down by country of arrest, charge or detention, (i) how many Canadians are currently detained outside of Canada, (ii) how many Canadians currently face charges outside of Canada, (iii) how many Canadians are currently detained without charge outside of Canada; (c) for each instance in (a) and (b), (i) which representatives of the government met with the individual charged or detained, (ii) on what dates did these meetings occur, (iii) what other communication, if any, occurred between the government and the individual, (iv) through what medium did this communication occur, (vii) what was the purpose of each of these meetings and communications, (viii) what was the outcome of each of these meetings and communications; (d) for each instance in (a) and (b), (i) which representatives of the government contacted family members of the individual charged or detained, (ii) on what dates were these family members contacted by the government, (iii) which representatives of the government were contacted by family members of the individual charged or detained, (iv) on what dates did the family members contact the government, (v) through what medium did each contact between the government and the family members of the individual charged or detained occur, (vi) what was the purpose of each communication between the government and the family members of the individual charged or detained, (vii) what was the outcome of each communication between the government and the family members of the individual charged or detained; (e) regarding each instance in (a) and (b), (i) what non-governmental organizations were contacted by the government, (ii) on what dates were these organizations contacted by the government, (iii) which representatives of the government contacted these organizations, (iv) what non-governmental organizations contacted the government, (v) on what dates did these organizations contact the government, (vi) which representatives of the government were contacted by these organizations, (vii) through what medium did each contact between the government and a non-governmental organization occur, (viii) what was the purpose of each communication between the government and the non-governmental organization, (ix) what was the outcome of each communication between the government and the non-governmental organization, (x) what assistance did non-governmental organizations offer to provide to the government, to the Canadian, or to the Canadian’s family, (xi) in what ways did non-governmental organizations assist in providing services to the Canadian arrested, charged, or detained, or to his or her family, (xii) in what ways did non-governmental organizations assist in securing or attempting to secure the release or extradition of the Canadian, (xiii) what other assistance did the non-governmental organization provide; (f) regarding each instance in (a) and (b), (i) what representations were made by the government to the government of the country in which the Canadian was arrested, charged or detained, (ii) on what dates were these representations made, (iii) which representatives of the government made these representations, (iv) through what medium were these representations made, (v) what response did the government receive from the government of the country in which the Canadian was arrested, charged or detained, (vi) which representatives of the government received the response, (vii) through what medium was the response delivered, (viii) which representatives of the government of the country in which the Canadian was charged or detained responded to the government’s representations, (ix) what was the purpose of each representation made by the government to the government of the country in which the Canadian was charged or detained, (x) what was the outcome of each representation made by the government to the government of the country in which the Canadian was charged or detained, (xi) what other communications did the government receive, solicited or otherwise, from the government of the country in which the Canadian was arrested, charged or detained; (g) regarding each instance in (a) and (b), (i) what governments of third-party countries were contacted by the government, (ii) on what dates were the governments of third-party countries contacted by the government, (iii) which representatives of the government contacted the governments of the third-party countries, (iv) what governments of third-party countries contacted the government, (v) on what dates did the governments of third-party countries contact the government, (vi) which representatives of the government were contacted by the governments of third-party countries, (vii) through what medium did each of these contacts occur, (viii) what was the purpose of each contact between the government and the government of a third-party country, (ix) what was the outcome of each contact between the government and the government of a third-party country, (x) what assistance did governments of third-party countries offer to provide to the government, to the Canadian, or to the Canadian’s family, (xi) in what ways did governments of third-party countries assist in providing services to the Canadian arrested, charged or detained, or to his or her family, (xii) in what ways did governments of third-party countries assist in securing or attempting to secure the release or extradition of the Canadian, (xiii) what other assistance did the governments of third-party countries provide; (h) at the time of their arrest, charge, or detention, which Canadians in (a) and (b) had (i) Canadian citizenship, (ii) Canadian permanent resident status, (iii) other status in Canada; (i) for each instance in (a), (i) does the Canadian remain detained outside of Canada, (ii) is the Canadian currently detained in Canada, (iii) was the Canadian extradited to Canada, (iv) was the Canadian released by the country in which he or she was arrested, charged, or detained, (v) was the Canadian released after being extradited to Canada, (vi) did the Canadian die in the custody of the country in which he or she was arrested, charged, or detained, (vii) did the Canadian die in Canadian custody, (viii) is the Canadian’s status unknown; (j) for each instance in (a) and (b), (i) on what date did the government learn that the Canadian had been arrested, charged or detained, (ii) which representative of the government first learned that the Canadian had been arrested, charged, or detained, (iii) how did that representative learn that the Canadian had been arrested, charged, or detained; (k) for each instance in (a) and (b), was the arrest, charge, or detention determined by the government to be consistent with (i) Canadian norms, (ii) international norms, (iii) the norms of the country in which the Canadian was arrested, charged, or detained; (l) for each instance in (a) and (b), based on what information did the government determine whether the arrest, charge, or detention was consistent with (i) Canadian norms, (ii) international norms, (iii) the norms of the country in which the Canadian was arrested, charged, or detained; (m) for each instance in (a) and (b), based on what criteria did the government determine whether the arrest, charge, or detention was consistent with (i) Canadian norms, (ii) international norms, (iii) the norms of the country in which the Canadian was arrested, charged, or detained; (n) for each instance in (a) and (b), (i) who made the determinations in (k), (ii) when did the process of making the determinations in (k) begin, (iii) when were the determinations made; (o) for each instance in (b), (i) what actions is the government taking to ensure that the Canadian’s rights are respected, (ii) what actions is the government taking to ensure that the Canadian receives a fair trial, (iii) what actions is the government taking to ensure that the Canadian is treated humanely, (iv) what actions is the government taking to secure the Canadian’s release, (v) what actions is the government taking to secure the Canadian’s extradition?
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns March 6th, 2014
With regard to applications to the Minister of Justice for ministerial review of criminal convictions: (a) for each year since 2002, (i) how many applications for review of a criminal conviction were received by the Minister of Justice, (ii) of the applications received, how many preliminary assessments were completed, (iii) of applications that completed preliminary assessment, how many proceeded to the investigation stage, (iv) of completed investigations, how many applications were dismissed, (v) how many applications, and which specific ones, were granted, (vi) of applications granted, in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the Minister direct a new trial, (vii) of applications granted, in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the Minister refer a case to the court of appeal; (b) for each year since 2002, (i) how much funding was made available to the Criminal Conviction Review Group (CCRG) for use in the conviction review process, (ii) how much money was spent by the CCRG, (iii) how much money has been requested by the CCRG; (c) for each year since 2002, (i) how much funding was made available to the Department of Justice for use in the post-conviction review process, (ii) how much money was spent by the Department of Justice in this regard, (iii) how much money was requested by the Minister of Justice for use in this regard; (d) in the current employ of the CCRG, (i) how many individuals are lawyers; (ii) how many individuals are non-lawyers, broken down by job title, (iii) what is the employment term for the individuals in (i) and (ii); (e) for each year since 2002, (i) how many lawyers were employed by the CCRG, (ii) who was responsible for determining the staffing requirements of the CCRG, (iv) how frequently were staffing levels reviewed to ensure that they are adequate to handle the number of applications received, (v) how many CCRG staff were involved in the review of each application received by the Minister, (vi) how many applications were reviewed by each individual lawyer employed by the CCRG, (vii) broken down by case, which lawyers were assigned to which applications, (viii) of those applications reviewed by each individual lawyer employed by the CCRG, how many, and which ones, resulted in a completed preliminary review, (ix) how many resulted in a completed investigation; (f) for each year since 2002, in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the CCRG recommend further investigation; (g) for each year since 2002, in how many investigations, and in which specific cases, did the CCRG, (i) interview or examine witnesses, (ii) carry out scientific testing, (iii) obtain assessments from forensic and social science specialists, (iv) consult police agencies in connection with the specific investigation, (v) consult prosecutors in connection with the specific investigation, (vi) consult defence lawyers in connection with the specific investigation, (vii) obtain any other relevant information or documentation; (h) for each year since 2002, (i) in how many cases, and in which ones, did the CCRG produce an investigation report, (ii) in how many cases, and in which ones, did the applicant provide comments on an investigation report, (iii) in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the CCRG conduct further investigation based on an applicant’s comments to an investigation report, (iv) in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the Special Advisor produce advice or make a recommendation to the Minister that differed from the advice or recommendation contained in the CCRG’s investigation report, (v) in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the Minister make a determination that differed from the investigation report, (vi) in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the Minister make a determination that differed from the Special Advisor; (i) Regarding the “new matters of significance” test, (i) is it currently necessary that an application for review of a criminal conviction be supported by “new matters of significance” in order for it to proceed to the preliminary assessment stage, (ii) in order for it to proceed to investigation, (iii) in order for the Minister to allow the application; (j) regarding the “new matters of significance” test, (i) has the test been applied the same way in each year since 2002, (ii) if not, how has its application changed, (iii) are there any cases, and if so which ones, where an application proceeded to any stage of the review process without having adduced “new matters of significance”, (iv) what is the meaning of the term “new matters of significance” in the context of the ministerial review process, (v) for an application to proceed, must it be supported by “fresh evidence” not available at the time of trial, (vi) can an application for review proceed based on evidence that existed, but was not reasonably discoverable at the time of trial, (vii) can an application for review proceed based on evidence that reasonably could have been, but was not, discovered by the applicant at the time of trial; (k) for each year since 2002, in how many cases, and in which specific ones, did the Minister waive privilege regarding an investigation report; (l) broken down by year since 2002 and by case, in which cases did the Minister, (i) determine there to be a conflict of interest, (ii) in those cases where the Minister determined there to be a conflict of interest, in which specific instances did the Minister authorize an agent outside of the department of Justice or the CCRG to carry out the investigation; (m) broken down by year since 2002 and by case, in which cases, and to whom, did the Minister (i) delegate his powers to take evidence, (ii) delegate his powers to issue subpoenas, (iii) delegate his powers to enforce the attendance of witnesses, (iv) delegate his powers to compel a witness to give evidence, (v) delegate his powers to otherwise conduct an investigation and, if so, what specific powers were delegated; (n) regarding the requirement under section 696.5 of the Criminal Code that the Minister of Justice submit an annual report to Parliament regarding applications for ministerial review, (i) what are the requirements pertaining to the compilation and submission of the annual report, (ii) where are these requirements contained, (iii) have these requirements changed since 2002 and, if so, when and in what specific ways were they changed, (iv) what requirements for publication exist, if any, (v) what is the process for dissemination of the report; (o) regarding the requirement under section 7(f) of the Regulations Respecting Applications for Ministerial Review that the Minister include in his annual report “any other information that [he] considers appropriate”, (i) what guidelines exist for determining what information is appropriate for inclusion in the report under this element of the Regulations, (ii) what aspects of each ministerial report submitted pursuant to section 696.5 of the Criminal Code since 2002 was included as a result of the Minister’s determination that it is appropriate for inclusion under section 7(f) of the Regulations Respecting Applications for Ministerial Review; (p) broken down by year since 2000, how many Canadian Commissions of Inquiry into wrongful convictions have recommended the further study or implementation of an independent commission to assume the powers of the Minister of Justice to investigate and refer cases of suspected miscarriages of justice for judicial re-considerationl; (q) broken down by specific Commission of Inquiry, (i) which specific foreign review mechanisms have been examined as potential models to reform the current Canadian post-conviction review regime, (ii) what actions have been taken to implement the findings or suggestions of the commission of inquiry, (iii) has the government consulted with any stakeholders regarding the possibility of implementing an independent commission of inquiry to assume the powers of the Minister of Justice in this regard, (iv) what specific stakeholders were consulted in this regard and when, (v) with which provinces has the government consulted in this regard, (vi) with which provincial bar associations has the government consulted in this regard, (vii) with which provincial Attorneys General did the government consult in this regard, (viii) has the government engaged in any analysis of the comparative costs associated with the current ministerial review process compared to a possible independent review commission; (r) what specific steps is the government undertaking to minimize the incidence of wrongful conviction; (s) what efforts have been made to implement the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group reports in respect of wrongful conviction; (t) what efforts are made to inform Canadians of their options with respect to addressing what they believe to be a wrongful conviction or other miscarriage of justice; (u) with respect to the government’s website entitled “Conviction Review" (http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/ccr-rc/rev.html), last updated on April 30, 2013, what changes were made on this date and what are the three previous versions of this page; (v) by what means is the wrongful conviction process as a whole reviewed by the government and what metrics are tracked with respect to it; and (w) regarding the 2004 Annual Report, in which the then-Minister of Justice stated that “although it is not required, applicants are encouraged to seek the assistance of counsel,” (i) when was the language "encouraged to seek the assistance of counsel" removed from the Annual Report, (ii) whose decision was it to remove this language and on what basis, (iii) when was this change implemented, (iv) did this change further a specific policy objective, (v) what policy objective did this change further, (vi) is there any difference in the success rates of pro bono applications compared to applications submitted with legal assistance and what is the difference, (vii) has the Department of Justice called for greater access to legal assistance for those submitting applications for ministerial review of their criminal convictions?
Human Rights February 28th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, this week I delivered the keynote address at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, a moving and inspiring gathering of dissidents and former political prisoners who shared witness testimony of human rights violations in countries, including North Korea, Syria, Russia, Eritrea, Iran, and China. These heroes of humanity, the gold medallists, so to speak, of moral courage, personify the larger struggle for human rights in our time, transforming human history through their involvement in that history. It is our responsibility to break the silence, briser le silence, surrounding political prisoners, to advocate on their behalf, to let them know that they are not alone and that the violators of their rights will be held to account.
I also spoke at the Kwibuka20, the official launch of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis, on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Prevention of Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity. As part of Kwibuka, survivors bore witness and spoke movingly of the unspeakable horrors of the Rwandan genocide, unspeakable because they were preventable. While the international community dithered, Rwandans died.
We remember the past and the lessons of the past.
I trust that all members of this place will join me as we unite to remember and bear witness, and to combat indifference and inaction, atrocity, and impunity, as we seek to pursue justice and human rights for all.
Petitions February 27th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to table a petition on behalf of Canadians who are concerned about cuts to Canada Post mail delivery that will negatively impact on the elderly and persons with disabilities.
My riding of Mount Royal is home to many seniors, and I share their concerns about the serious risk to their well-being if forced to walk in hazardous weather conditions to get their mail, which arguably might well violate the equality provision of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Accordingly, I join with the petitioners and call upon the government to suspend this ill-conceived plan.
Situation in the Central African Republic February 12th, 2014
Mr. Chair, I would like to commend the member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his remarks this evening, both in chronological sequence and substantively. I want to say I enjoyed his presence on our foreign affairs subcommittee on international human rights, and regret that he has gone on to maybe better things.
I want to put a particular question to him that relates to what we have been discussing this evening but goes somewhat beyond it. The member has made reference to atrocities that have been committed. Earlier in the discussion this evening we talked about how these have risen to the level of war crimes and crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, regrettably tragedies that have repeated themselves here in CAR and have occurred elsewhere.
The UN Security Council, of which the member made mention, in 2005 adopted the responsibility to protect doctrine. That doctrine says simply that whenever there is a situation that has risen to the level of war crimes, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and, God forbid, genocide, then there is an obligation on behalf of the international community to protect.
The nature of that protection can take various forms. The member made reference to that. It can be humanitarian assistance. It can be diplomatic engagement. It can be political involvement. It can be military intervention, which requires a UN Security Council mandate in certain circumstances.
The importance of the responsibility to protect doctrine as a foundational normative principle, someone referred to it as one of the most important foundational normative principles since the universal declaration to begin with, cannot be overstated.
On Friday I am going to be participating in a colloquium that is being organized by the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights on the whole question of genocide awareness and prevention, responsibility to protect, or R to P, and the like. I suspect I will be asked what I have been asked elsewhere when we have had these colloquia, does the Government of Canada subscribe to the responsibility to protect doctrine?
I would have assumed that this is a given since it is a United Nations Security Council mandate, and we have in the past affirmed it. However, I have not heard reference, and I am being frank about this, from the Conservative government on this point.
I think it is a crucial point. It is not only a question of whether we are partaking of a foundational international protection doctrine, it is also whether we are sharing with those that the member mentioned, others with whom we work in common cause and who do subscribe to that doctrine, and who do ask me whether we subscribe to it. I like to think that we do.
This is not a Liberal doctrine. This is a United Nations Security Council doctrine. This is an international normative doctrine. This is not a matter of partisan party politics.
I put the question specifically and in good faith. Does the government subscribe to the responsibility to protect doctrine as set forth by the United Nations Security Council in 2005 and which we accepted at the time?
Business of Supply February 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I stand corrected in that regard.
Just to further the basis for our initiative, which as I said has been concurred in by members from all parties, there needs to be an immediate independent and thorough review of CSEC activities and operations. In fact, our international partners, such as the U.K. and Australia, both have rigorous parliamentary oversight committees to ensure that the privacy rights of their citizens are protected as the security of these countries is protected.
Business of Supply February 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, such a parliamentary committee would be mandated through a review of the legislative and regulatory policy and administrative framework for the agencies responsible for national security in Canada.
I might add that this bill by the member for Malpeque stems from a 2004 report by an all-party committee of parliamentarians at the time, of which the Minister of Justice, Peter MacKay, was a member. We would expect the government's full—
Business of Supply February 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, it is the first time I am hearing that the establishment of an oversight committee, which I regard as part of the responsibility of Parliament as a whole, would somehow be transformed into an alleged partisan mechanism.
It is a parliamentary committee that has been recommended by members on all sides of the House for over 10 years, one that exists in the American Congress and European parliaments. It would not be a novel undertaking, but a necessary undertaking, both for the protection of security and individual liberties.
Business of Supply February 4th, 2014
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion standing in the name of my colleague, the member for Malpeque, expressing the House's concern over reports that Communications Security Establishment Canada has engaged in improper practices, including the monitoring of Canadians, and calling for parliamentary oversight of CSEC through the measures outlined in Bill C-551, the national security committee of parliamentarians act. Indeed, I was one of those who, some 10 years ago, recommended the establishment of such a committee.
Others have risen to contextualize today's debate, citing recent media reports that CSEC accessed the metadata of passengers at airports in Canada using airport Wi-Fi, an activity which would be beyond CSEC's mandate and which would infringe upon the privacy rights of Canadians. Rather than discuss these reports at length or dwell on the technical questions surrounding the proper use of metadata, I will organize my remarks around a discussion of the foundational principles that should exist in our discussion of anti-terrorism law, practice, and policy, and their impact on matters of privacy, personal and collected.
As I have written elsewhere, the foundational principle should be that of human security, which does not see security and rights as a zero-sum or trade-off exercise, but which is inclusive of both security and human rights and is organized around a dual perspective. The first principle is that transnational terrorism constitutes an assault on the security of a democracy such as Canada, and on the individual and collective rights of our inhabitants, our rights to life, liberty, and security for the person. In that context, anti-terrorism law and policies are designed to protect the security of democracy and the rights of its inhabitants.
At the same time, the enactment, enforcement, and application of our anti-terrorism law and policy must always comport with the rule of law. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms must always be respected; individuals and groups must never be singled out for differential and discriminatory treatment; torture must always be condemned; and vulnerable and visible minorities must always be protected, be it as targets of incitement to racism and hatred or targets of racial profiling. In the promotion and protection of human security, we must never undermine our individual and collective rights, which are a fundamental component of that human security itself.
As the Supreme Court of Canada has put it, the question is not whether to respond to acts of terror but rather how we respond. “The Constitution”, it added, “is not a suicide pact”. Therefore, anti-terrorism law and policy is clearly necessary. Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the centrepiece of our Constitution, and the proportionality principle, the linchpin of any purported limitation on any charter right, must always be adhered to and respected. The same goes for our privacy rights, which are concretized in two federal statutes, primarily the Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.
Constitutional democracies such as Canada can and should address the dilemma of how to respond to terrorism in an informed and principled way rather than in any political or politicized fashion. As such, I wholeheartedly support the bill referenced in this motion, which would allow for oversight by a committee of parliamentarians, both senators and members of the House of Commons, sworn to secrecy, to receive briefings and updates on the activities of Canada's security services, and to do so in as secure a setting as needed. The importance of this issue cannot be understated. Just last week, Interim Privacy Commissioner of Canada Chantal Bernier tabled a report entitled, “Checks and Controls: Reinforcing Privacy Protection and Oversight for the Canadian Intelligence Community in an Era of Cyber-Surveillance”, which states:
While secrecy may be an inherent aspect of many intelligence activities, so is accountability. Reporting, review and appropriate legal controls lead to accountability on the part of decision-makers and institutions.
I believe I can speak for all members of this place when I say that we seek accountability and come to expect it. This holds even in the national security context.
As Ms. Bernier's report states:
National security claims do not reduce accountability obligations and security bodies must account to Canadians for what they do with personal information. Independent review mechanisms ensure this accountability of security agencies, safeguard public trust and verify demonstrable respect for individual rights.
The report of the interim Privacy Commissioner is a fascinating look at the interplay between national security and the protection of Canadians' personal information and data. There are also recommendations therein for the government. I hope it will implement some of them in the near future.
However, a more serious debate needs to happen wherein parliamentarians can help define and fashion the contour between what is acceptable in the pursuit of safety and what behaviours infringe upon our civil liberties in ways that we would deem inappropriate and improper, particularly with respect to the rights of privacy.
Regrettably, it is not the government that has asked for this open dialogue. Thus, I am thankful that my Liberal colleague from Malpeque has initiated this debate. It is important that Canadians play their part in this discussion as well.
Elizabeth Renzetti, in yesterday's Globe and Mail, put it quite well in her column, aptly titled “As government snoops, Canadians...take a nap”. Indeed, we have been lacking here in that sense of urgency about what has been happening, compared with the sense of urgency in matters of this kind in the United States and European parliaments.
Alarm bells are now going off. The interim Privacy Commissioner has sounded the alarm. We ought to heed her advice. She is not the only one, however. It is useful here to recall the Auditor General's report of March 2009, wherein he declared:
For Canadians to have confidence in their security and intelligence organizations, they need to know that government agencies and departments maintain a balance between protecting the privacy of citizens and ensuring national security.
It is precisely that balance that we strive for through an informed debate on CSEC's activities and through the creation of a parliamentary oversight committee for Canada's security infrastructure, as outlined in my colleague's bill.
Moreover, some of the answers the government has offered leave much to be desired. For example, the top national security adviser to the Prime Minister, at a committee of the other place, testified yesterday that he is “not totally persuaded” that CSEC had “tapped into” Canadians' communications via airport Wi-Fi.
Saying that one is not persuaded is not a categorical denial. It is not a definitive no. Should not the top security adviser to the Prime Minister know for sure? We, as parliamentarians, on behalf of Canadians, have an obligation to discover fully what happened and why, and to pronounce ourselves thereupon.
In its statement on the recent media reports, CSEC noted:
The CSEC Commissioner is currently conducting another review of CSEC’s metadata activities. We welcome that review.
I am hopeful that this review will be made public and that we will require more transparency from CSEC, including, as the Privacy Commissioner has recommended, the publication of annual statistics of interception and the tabling of a non-classified report in Parliament.
In closing, it is not only possible but also necessary to work together to ensure the protection of both security and rights. While it is a challenging matter to resolve, I believe that parliamentarians are capable of co-operating across party lines to ensure that Canadians enjoy both a robust security infrastructure, on the one hand, and the fullest expression of the principles underpinning the charter and privacy legislation, on the other.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address Bill C-474, the transparency of payments made by mining, oil, and gas corporations to foreign governments act.
I would like to start by commending the sponsor of this bill, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood, for his persistent pursuit of this important legislation over the past several years.
Bill C-474, which my colleague has properly characterized as a sunshine bill, would compel Canadian extractive corporations operating abroad to submit an annual audited transparency report to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Natural Resources. The reporting requirement would mandate the disclosure of all payments provided by a corporation or its subsidiaries to a foreign government for the purpose of furthering its mining, oil, or gas industry activities and to publish this report on the company's website. A company that fails to comply with these disclosure requirements would be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than $20,000 and not more than $5,000,000.
Canada's international standing respecting our promotion and protection of human rights is something in which many of us take pride. Accordingly, our relationships with local populations and environments, and the foreign policy values we represent and exercise as a nation, have become bound up with our global mining footprint.
Indeed, 75% of the world's mining companies are based in Canada, and the approximately 1,300 Canadian extractive corporations invest hundreds of billions of dollars in more than 100 countries around the globe. Certainly, many of these companies respect human rights and the rule of law and thus engage in responsible resource development. However, the regrettable reality is that many do not, as my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood has demonstrated.
Given our position as a world leader in the extractive industry, we have a moral responsibility to implement rules that will ensure the transparency and accountability of Canadian firms operating abroad.
I am therefore supporting Bill C-474 and urge all members in this place to do the same for two compelling reasons: first, because the bill would buttress the current criminal law regime by ensuring its enforceability; and second, because this bill would prevent Canadian corporate complicity in the human rights abuses of foreign governments by exposing their financial relationships with foreign governments to proper public scrutiny.
I turn first to the issue of criminal enforcement.
The current legal regime addressing the issue of illicit payments by Canadian companies to foreign governments is the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. Bill C-474 would in fact enhance this act by providing prosecutors with sufficient evidence to meet the high burden of proof required in criminal prosecutions.
The difficulties of enforcing this act are apparent when one considers that the conviction obtained this past August in the Regina v. Karigar case was the first trial ever to have occurred under the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and only the fourth conviction obtained in the act's 14-year history.
Indeed, according to Jamie Kneen, a spokesperson for the Ottawa-based non-profit organization Mining Watch Canada, the RCMP has stated that it simply cannot keep tabs on corporate bribery and corruption in the extractive industry.
Simply put, what we are seeing here is an accountability and transparency gap that must be addressed by mandatory disclosure. As long as Canadian extractive companies are able to hide the details of their financial relationships with foreign governments, prosecutions—and in particular, effective prosecutions—under the CFPOA will remain few and far between.
The importance of the bill goes far beyond the question of criminal enforcement, however important that alone remains. Indeed, mandatory disclosure is inextricably intertwined with the question of Canada's reputation abroad as a defender of human rights and as a responsible global citizen.
In this regard, I refer to the Prime Minister himself, who expressed this very sentiment when he announced in June that he would be “...establishing new mandatory reporting standards for Canadian companies operating in [the extractive] sector” and further acknowledged that such standards would result in the enhancement of Canada's reputation as “...a world leader in promoting transparency and accountability...” both at home and abroad.
I am encouraged that the Prime Minister expressed this sentiment, and I am sure that we all agree with the proposition that we must effectively guard Canada's hard-earned but at-risk reputation as a defender of human rights. This bill would afford us an opportunity to take real action to further the rule of law in the international arena while enhancing our global reputation in this regard, and thus I am hopeful that all members of the House will join in this cause.
By passing Bill C-474 and implementing mandatory disclosure requirements, our message to Canadians and to the world will be clear: What is good for human rights is also good for business, that Canada is a global leader not only with regard to innovation and development but also with regard to the integration of human rights with economic development; that we will not waiver in our demand that multinational corporations and the governments with which they do business cannot simply disregard international human rights laws and norms with impunity, or under the cover of Canadian law.
Certainly, as I mentioned, criminal prosecutions alone are not enough to ensure responsible corporate citizenship based on respect for the rule of law and human rights. But by providing for transparency and accountability across the board, we will encourage Canadian companies to operate ethically and with the utmost respect for human rights. Yet, one might hope that such laws would not be needed for the simple reason that companies should seek, as it were, to do the right thing regardless of the content of statutes.
I recall the testimony last November before the Subcommittee on International Human Rights of Cliff Davis, president and CEO of Nevsun Resources, a Canadian-based mining company that operates one of the highest grade open pit base metal deposits in the world at the Bisha mine in Eritrea.
When I questioned Mr. Davis as to his company's response to reports from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and other major human rights organization that describe systematic Eritrean patterns of detention, torture, forced conscription, and the wholesale denial of freedom of religions and freedom of expression, he pleaded ignorance.
When I questioned him as to what, if any, steps his company had taken to bring these human rights violations to the attention of the Eritrean government, he replied that it was “not in [his] purview as president and CEO of [his] company”.
Mr. Davis' testimony illustrates the importance of the bill before us today. Indeed, this very “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” mentality is precisely what Bill C-474 seeks to address. If Mr. Davis does not consider the systematic human rights abuses perpetrated by the government with which he does business to be within his purview, at the very least he should be required to disclose the nature of his dealings with human rights abusing regimes so that Canadians can judge for themselves.
The issue here is that transparency leads to accountability, which we must all seek.
In conclusion, Bill C-474 affirms that as Canadians we expect our corporations to appreciate and respond to the human rights realities in the countries where they operate and to engage with these issues in the context of their operations abroad. This is the meaning of good corporate citizenship, which must be firmly rooted in the principles of transparency, accountability, and the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law.
Accordingly, I support Bill C-474 because I strongly believe that it will discourage Canadian-based corporations from profiting from, or facilitating, human rights atrocities in foreign countries and will reinforce in the minds of Canadians, including in the minds of investors and shareholders, that human rights are good for business and good for the rule of law. Indeed, Canada's reputation as a human rights defender is at stake in this regard.
I trust that the House will give its full support to the bill.