Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise here today to continue debate on our free trade agreement with Ukraine and what will be happening next. I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton Strathcona. I am looking forward to her comments.
I think this agreement shows the connections with Ukrainians that are so evident across this country. It will be symbolic in effect, given some of the Ukrainian cultural connections we have across Canada. Ukrainians have been coming to Canada and establishing settlements here in organized civil society for over 125 years. This was celebrated this past November in particular. There were Ukrainians here before then, but the marker for the community is 125 years ago. It is important to note the history of that settlement here as we move forward. It is important to note as well that there is a great connection today with the Ukrainian community over social justice in many respects, not only because of what they have faced in their home country but also here in Canada.
I would be remiss not to note that from 1914 to 1920 Ukrainians were interned in Canada under the War Measures Act by Prime Minister Borden of the Conservatives. It is something that was noted in the House of Commons with Bill C-331. Without getting too much into the details of the debate, the bill was the result of a Conservative, NDP, and Bloc effort to push this issue forward. Importantly, it encouraged us, as part of our solid foundation, to make restitution for injustices that have taken place. We saw support for making such restitution for past events become unanimous in the House. Even during World War II, up to 10 million Ukrainians suffered, either through forced labour or by being killed by the Nazi regime. Subsequently we have seen continual problems and challenges.
One of the things we can do as Canadians right now is to continue not to hide from the challenges that currently facing Ukraine from Russia, and how we can do things we can control and support. One of these things is entering into better, more mature, and value-added trade agreements that will be mutually beneficial. As New Democrats, we support that.
For example, in the past we have often seen trade agreements that have been reached for ideological reasons and for business at the expense of people. This agreement would truly be a better opportunity for people-to-people trade, especially since there are no investor-state provisions in it that would give an edge to the corporate element and brand. The trade that could happen among our people is significant.
I think of no less than St. Vladimir's church in my riding, where we have seen people involved with Ukrainian traditions and heritage. In fact, we had a memorial for the Holodomor established in a prominent park. I want to congratulate the entire community for doing this together. We did this before, as we have done for other monuments, most recently for the genocide in Srebrenica. The Holodomor itself is genocide that this House of Commons has recognized. It is recognized in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg as well. It is truly important because the survivors are no longer with us in the numbers they used to be, but the memories and the families live on, and the tradition that we have now of connecting that to our day-to-day actions is important.
The trade agreement that we are discussing today would improve trade relations in a number of different ways. The agreement really shows the strength of the Ukrainian contribution to our country when it was new and relied upon hard labour to make its mark in the world, and continues to do so in many respects.
The issues that we have on a number of different products and goods to be traded will dissipate as our tariff levels on trade are reduced. Tariff levels are in the 80s and 90s right now, so there would be a reduction of those by up to 99%, and in the high 80s, if not low 90s, for the reciprocal. It is close to getting together.
We have iron, steel, industrial machinery, beef, pork, pulses, canola oil, fish, and seafood. My riding has steel, machinery, and industrial development. The reason the strength continues is the mere fact that we have men and women who have contributed to the social development of a society here, which is very much in tune with our collectively working together to make a difference. In my riding, it was the creation of the unions in the sense that Canada, with the auto industry, really made a difference with the Rand formula. The contributions one can make and the work they have done over the years for social justice, equality, and a whole series of different things that benefit the workforce really came from a foundation of immigrants coming to Canada who have played a role in our country to get things done. Steel, industrial machinery, and equipment are part of that. Also, when we go out west and see the word “canola”, we remember the profound farming and agricultural footprint from this contribution. What makes us part of a whole as a country is the fact that this trade continues to happen in a much more robust way.
I mentioned that the agreement is more mature. That is because, for example, on labour, there are enforceable provisions in the bill, which are critical. Those enforceable provisions come to light when we look at the trading elements that are important to us as New Democrats. Labour and environment are privileged issues to many, but for us, they are about justice. When working on a trade agreement, we will focus on the beneficial aspects of those issues, because of the strength or benefit to both trading partners from the longevity of those benefits. It is not a matter of trading for a quick return at the other's expense, because after three or four years we do not see that element coming into play.
The Liberals and Conservatives brag about certain trade agreements they have set, but we have sold out some of our industries in them. Shame on our country for selling out the textile industry on two fronts. The first front is our jobs and our workers. The second front is allowing countries like Jordan to take advantage of poor people, who are almost forced into labour camps to do the jobs they stole from workers here who actually had provisions in their agreements that provided for benefits and safe working conditions. These may not have been the best of jobs, but they were working class jobs with a family heritage that could have provided for a future. We sold them out to places where they now use migrant labour. They use the country just like a storefront, or, as the Liberals might understand, a flag of convenience for corporations. It is a shortcut.
Hence, we have this agreement. I am proud to support it. I know that our member for Essex will be watching over this as it goes through committee. We will be looking at not only enhancing the trade provisions between Canada and Ukraine, but doing what I think it wants, which is looking at enhanced provisions that respect people, justice, the environment, and creating a relationship that is not about trying to be a winner or a loser through the entire process, but about creating a partnership that will be mutually beneficial for all of our citizens.