Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-14, an act providing for controls on the export, import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds and for a certification scheme for the export of rough diamonds.
First, I would like to say that I am pleased to have this opportunity, because in the riding of Matapédia—Matane, we have a business that specializes in the cutting of diamonds. I would like to explain how that company was created and the problems that it encountered in the process. It had absolutely no possibility of finding diamonds in Canada, despite the fact that Canada produces diamonds and has diamond mines.
It was the same problem when the time came to train the company's staff. It was absolutely impossible to find diamonds in Canada, even though we are a producer. This situation caused a great deal of problems, both in the training of employees and in the setting up of the company which, fortunately, managed to begin operations. I must say that there was very little cooperation on the part of the federal government regarding the establishment of the company and the training of its employees. On the contrary, the government made things harder for the company.
I am pleased to address this bill, because we agree with it and particularly with its objectives. This bill seeks to set up an international certification process to avoid situations where profits generated by the sale of diamonds are used in conflicts, particularly in African countries. My colleague mentioned a few of these countries, including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The problem is that diamonds are sold under various covers and that the proceeds from their sale is used by certain organizations to buy arms for terrorist activities. This has the effect of destabilizing the economy and the political and social situation in some countries.
Why does the Bloc Quebecois support this bill? I will mention the main reasons.
First, because of the atrocities perpetrated with the money from conflict diamonds. All this has been very well documented over many years, except that, as in many cases, governments do not react until the situation blows up in their face, until there is an international scandal. This is what is happening with this government. While being aware of very serious situations, it waited a long time to react; it should have acted much sooner and started years ago taking steps to resolve this problem. I am referring to diamond trading. Most of us are consumers of these goods, which may be described as blood diamonds.
The other reason is that we felt it was imperative and absolutely necessary to react, and action should have been taken sooner, to resolve conflicts in the countries involved, particularly in South Africa.
Without such a process, diamond consuming countries, including Canada, are financing the atrocities taking place in these countries. Unless a control scheme is put in place for diamond imports and exports, we will, as citizens, be contributing to financing conflicts, revolutions, atrocities, belligerents using any means available to seize power in these countries.
The Bloc Quebecois believes we have a social and ethical responsibility to move forward on this issue. Years ago, and I emphasize this, we should have become aware of what we were doing and made sure this kind of trade stopped.
Obviously, the bill before us is a step forward, a very small one however. I am wary of the steps this government takes. With respect to Kyoto, for example, we were assured over the past year that it would be ratified and finally implemented. We eventually realized that ratification was being postponed from one year to the next, one month to the next, one week to the next.
Naturally, if the government takes the same approach to Bill C-14, passing it in the House but then dragging its feet, while working out details with diamond importing industries, we will once again find ourselves wasting our time, as usual, with this government.
What is it that has finally woken up the government? I have already referred to this. Why is it that it is reacting today? Why is it that the government, which was after all aware of what was going on in the countries in question, did not react earlier? I have said already, and say again, it is because the international media, the NGOs, which were aware of the situation, have succeeded in raising the government's awareness of the need to be part of the Kimberley process and because of them that it has finally decided to bring forward a bill to solve the situation.
I would like to quote from a Partnership Africa Canada document, which reads as follows:
In 2000, the international diamond industry produced more than 120 million carats of rough diamonds with a market value of US $7.5 billion.
It is hard to imagine what $7.5 billion represents. I do not think my colleague can manage to do so, having never had her hands on $7.5 billion. So it is very hard for a taxpayer to imagine, but it is a huge sum.
Continuing the quotation:
At the end of the diamond chain this bounty was converted into 70 million pieces of jewelry worth close to US $58 billion. Of total world production, rebel armies in Sierra Leone as well as in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are estimated by De Beers to traffic in about 4%. Other estimates place the number higher.
De Beers is, as we know, the Dutch industry that controls the diamond industry.
This 4% figure they give for trafficking is a very conservative one. It means that these rebel forces currently control over 4% of the total world diamond production, and they have a very specific objective for doing so: to obtain weapons to use against the governments in power.
This, in my opinion, constitutes a pretty substantial share of the world diamond trade. When we say 4% of $7.5 billion, this means that hundreds of millions are being used to purchase weapons to kill people and, in the end, to try to overthrow governments. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that the present government, despite being very much aware of the situation, took years to react.
Now, there is also the way one reacts. I referred to one industry in particular and what was happening in our region. When a business is set up and this business cannot even find suppliers within Canada in spite of the fact that Canada is a diamond producing country, this just does not make sense. At one time or another, this business from Matane, in my riding, could have had in hand diamonds from the countries in question, which I would describe as contraband diamonds or something of the sort.
I wish we would go a little further, and this government would take the initiative of going a little further than what is proposed in Bill C-14. I wish the government would take the lead internationally and raise public awareness about the realities of the diamond industry.
It should make it clear to the public in Canada and Quebec that, when people buy diamonds, it might be a good idea to ask where they are from, and the jeweller should be able to tell what country, what mine and even what company they come from. In other words, there should be traceability within the diamond industry. This is to some extent the intent of the bill, but there is a need to go a little further.
To conclude, the bill will not resolve the entire problem. It will not resolve the problem in Sierra Leone and other countries. Besides the problem with the rebel army and the government army fighting one another, there is a poverty problem, an underdevelopment problem, and this may be the most serious problem.
As we know, these past few years, the federal government has dramatically cut international assistance. We recently learned of plans to increase international assistance funding, but even this increase will not make up for all the cuts made. The federal government's commitment should therefore go a little further in terms of international development, and poverty reduction, particularly in African countries.
This concludes my remarks on Bill C-14.