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Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity Act

An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, the Agreement on Environmental Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Ed Fast  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment implements the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements on environmental and labour cooperation entered into between Canada and the Republic of Honduras and done at Ottawa on November 5, 2013.

The general provisions of the enactment specify that no recourse may be taken on the basis of the provisions of Part 1 of the enactment or any order made under that Part, or the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement or the related agreements themselves, without the consent of the Attorney General of Canada.

Part 1 of the enactment approves the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements and provides for the payment by Canada of its share of the expenditures associated with the operation of the institutional aspects of the agreements and the power of the Governor in Council to make orders for carrying out the provisions of the enactment.

Part 2 of the enactment amends existing laws in order to bring them into conformity with Canada’s obligations under the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreement on labour cooperation entered into between Canada and the Republic of Honduras.

Part 3 of the enactment contains coordinating amendments and the coming into force provision.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 10, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 4, 2014 Passed That Bill C-20, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, the Agreement on Environmental Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
June 4, 2014 Failed That Bill C-20 be amended by deleting Clause 1.
June 3, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-20, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, the Agreement on Environmental Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, not more than five further hours shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and five hours shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and that, at the expiry of the five hours provided for the consideration at report stage and the five hours provided for the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stages of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.
March 31, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.
March 6, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-20, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, the Agreement on Environmental Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, not more than one further sitting day after the day on which this Order is adopted shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, it would be a pleasure to speak to this subject, but given the horrific record of facts that I am about to share with the House, I cannot say that is the case.

I have heard some members of the Conservative Party catcall across, asking why we do not like Hondurans. This has nothing with that. I would ask the government why it does not like democracy. Why does the government not like human rights? Why does the government not like freedom of the press? Why does the government not like keeping our society free of drugs?

Honduras is a country that had a military coup in 2009, when the military removed a democratically elected government at gunpoint and replaced it with a government that had no democratic mandate.

Honduras has widespread human rights abuses and massive corruption in both the government and the police. There is no functioning court system in Honduras. It is a narco-trafficking centre. It is considered by the U.S. State Department to be one of the most violent places on earth. It is the murder capital of the world. It is the most dangerous place on earth for journalists. Honduras has repressed the media to such an extent that PEN International has ranked it below Ukraine under Yanukovych and below Egypt today.

It is the cocaine trafficking centre of Central America, where the U.S. State Department estimates that 79% of all cocaine shipments emanating from South America land in Honduras.

It is one of the poorest nations in the western hemisphere. It has no strategic value for Canada, since the net total of all exports that Canada made to Honduras last year was $38 million. It has extremely low environmental standards, if they exist at all. It has extremely low labour standards, in that some 40% of the population of Honduras make under the minimum wage of Honduras. It has serious mining issues.

It is very interesting that both the Conservatives and Liberals have joined together to support the bill at second reading. We heard witnesses at committee who buttressed everything I just said, and there was no contradiction by a single witness who came before committee. In other words, Honduras is one of the most repressive, undemocratic, corrupt, and dangerous places on earth, and the government wants to extend preferential trade relations to that government and the Liberals want to assist it.

I understand why the Conservatives would do that. I have a bit more difficulty, given the propaganda and rhetoric coming from them, why the Liberals would.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood has been championing a bill that is supposed to raise the standards of Canadian mining companies around the world. The Liberal Party is concerned about mining standards and it wants mining standards in third world and second world countries to be raised, including environmental standards, the rights of indigenous people, and corporate social responsibility standards, yet the Liberal Party supports a trade bill with Honduras, which probably has the most lax mining standards on the planet. I do not understand that.

I have heard the Liberals talk about human rights. They appear to be concerned about them. I will say it for the Canadian public and defend it to anybody who wants to look at the record and the facts: Honduras is one of the worst human rights violators on the planet.

I will go through the figures. Honduras is ranked 85th out of 167 on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index, and that is a slide from 74th in 2008. Honduras is classified as a “hybrid regime” rather than as its previous designation as a “flawed democracy”. It is getting worse. So much for rewarding a country for getting better.

The government has continued to negotiate with signing a trade agreement, giving preferential economic terms to a country that is actually sliding away from democracy.

Transparency International ranks Honduras as the most corrupt country in Central America, and it has the worst income inequality in the region. I have commented about the U.S. State Department estimating the cocaine shipments originating in South America and landing in Honduras, drugs moved from South America through countries like Honduras and other Central American states into Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

Independent observers have noted the increasing levels of violence as well as organized criminal gang activity associated with trade in illegal narcotics.

It is a country that is awash in drugs and drug money, which raises the question of why any Canadian government would want to liberalize investment rules to make the flow of capital easier between the two countries. In other words, we would have more drug money coming into Canada because of this trade deal with Honduras.

According to The Economist, “...the countries known as 'the northern triangle' of the Central American isthmus [that includes Honduras] form what is now the most violent region on earth”. Let us stop for a moment and think about that. We have Syria. We have the Democratic Republic of Congo. We have Rwanda. We have Uganda. There are places on earth right now where the most horrific crimes against humanity are being committed, and Honduras is the most violent place on earth, and the Conservative government wants Canadians to extend preferential trade terms to that government.

In 2012 Honduras became the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides, or 81 per 100,000 people. Since the 2009 coup d'état, violence and repression in the country have gone up and have reached an all-time high. To put that in context, Honduras has about one-fifth the population of Canada. That would be the equivalent of Canada experiencing 35,000 homicides. Can members imagine in this country if we had 35,000 homicides? That would be the equivalent per capita homicide rate in this country. That is the country the Conservatives want us to be trading more with.

In 2013, just last year, lest anyone think this is an old problem, there were on average 10 massacres per month. A massacre is defined as an instance where three or more people are murdered at one time. In the previous four years, fewer than 20% of all homicides in Honduras were even investigated, let alone prosecuted. We hear a lot of talk by the Conservatives about the rule of law. The rule of law means we have an independent police force and an independent judiciary. I have heard the Conservatives, for six years, talk about getting tough on crime, and they have signed a trade agreement with a country that does not even investigate murders. It is the most murderous country on earth. The police do not investigate and the judges do not even hear cases, and the Conservatives think we should be trading more with that country. Is that tough on crime? That is absurd.

I want to talk about journalists, because journalists in Canada should be writing about this. Freedom of the press and having an independent media is part of being a democracy. Today journalists in Honduras suffer threats, attacks, and killings. Six months ago, TV news anchor Anibal Barrow was abducted while driving in Honduras, and his dismembered remains were found weeks later. While several suspects have been charged with kidnapping, none have even been brought to trial.

Thirty-five journalists have been murdered in Honduras over the last five years. To put that in perspective, in per capita terms, that would be more than 150 journalists in Canada killed over the last five years. Can members imagine if in this country 150 journalists who were doing their jobs, holding the government to account, doing investigative work, covering politics, and covering the activities of the corporate sector were murdered, and we were finding their bodies in ditches? That is what is happening in Honduras.

This is not rhetoric. These are the facts in Honduras, backed up by every source there is. At committee we called witness after witness to testify to this, and there was not a single rebuttal. All we heard was silence, and the Conservatives and Liberals turn a blind eye to this.

Canadians want trade. We want to be trading with countries, but Canadians do not want us trading with butchering, murderous regimes. That is why Canadians would not accept a trade agreement with Yanukovych in Ukraine, but I noticed that the Liberal trade critic stood up and waxed eloquent in this House about how offended she was by the human rights situation in Ukraine and how we should stand up for human rights in Ukraine. That is the same Liberal trade critic who stood up and said that we should support a trade agreement with Honduras. I will say right now that Honduras has a far worse record on human rights than Ukraine did under Yanukovych. This is inexplicable.

In June 2013, 24 U.S. senators signed a letter expressing concern about the human rights situation in Honduras. Ninety-four members of Congress have called on the U.S. State Department to halt all military aid to Honduras in light of its violent repression of political activity. The Conservatives are signing a trade agreement with a country that has violent repression of political activity.

I could go on about the violence against indigenous people and the violence against the LGBTQ community, but instead I will read some of the quotes we heard at committee, which the Liberals and the Conservatives just want to pass over.

This is Ms. Karen Spring, from Honduras Solidarity Network. She said:

Since 2009, the violence in Honduras has increased pretty dramatically, and coupled with a high impunity rate, this has been very troubling for the human rights situation in the country. Very few crimes are investigated, and even fewer are brought before a judge. The Honduran Supreme Court has estimated that the impunity rate is at about 98%, but depending on who you ask, I've heard the impunity rate can be between 80% and up to 98%. So, given the high impunity rate, it's really difficult for human rights concerns to be mediated, and there are really serious repercussions for human rights abuses related to Canadian investments in the region....

She goes on to talk about the communications director for the Federation of Agro-Industry Workers' Unions of Honduras:

[He is] a labour journalist who has a national radio program that's called Trade Unionist on Air, which he's had for 19 years, 5 days a week. He's recently been working on a union organizing drive and he makes frequent mention of a [local]...banana supplier.... Last June he started receiving death threats related to his work. Every time he went on the air and spoke about the...supplier he received death threats on his phone, and cars were circulating around his house and the radio station after his programs.

He has since gone into hiding, because his family was intimidated.

Ms. Spring went on to say that Hondurans have little faith in the institutions that are set up, that very few investigations are conducted, and that the fear people face is real. She also said:

...since 2009, 31 trade unionists have been murdered in Honduras and over 33 journalists as well.

This is what was said in committee about the 2013 elections, which the Conservative government said were fine:

The 2013 elections occurred in a really difficult human rights context, given the high impunity rate, given the high homicide rate. There was a report put out that looked at the political killings in Honduras a year and a half prior to the November 2013 elections, and it showed that there were 36 killings in total of candidates and pre-candidates who were set to participate in the November elections. There were 24 armed attacks against these candidates. The list shows that the majority of these killings were against the political opposition party, the Libre party. This list was published by Rights Action, and...a lot of the cases were actually published by the International Federation of Human Rights [and internationally respected body]...worried about the targeted assassinations of the political opposition in the lead-up to the elections.

Last year, in the Honduran elections, 36 candidates were murdered in the 18 months prior to them. Does that sound like a democracy? Does that sound like a country Canadians would want their government extending preferential trade terms to?

We heard from PEN, the internationally respected independent organization for journalists. Here is what its representative said to the committee:

Our report finds that journalists are targeted for their work, and that they are especially vulnerable members of the population... [F]reedom of expression in Honduras has suffered serious restrictions since the ouster of President Zelaya in June 2009. These past five years have seen a dramatic erosion in protections for expressive life in Honduras. Journalists are threatened, they're harassed, attacked, and murdered with near impunity, and sometimes in circumstances that strongly suggest the involvement of state agents.

I have heard from some of the people on the other side who would say that it is drug involvement. It is not. The evidence is that the state is involved in some of these killings.

The representative from PEN went on to say:

This has had a devastating impact on the general state of human rights and the rule of law in the country, since violence against journalists often silences coverage of topics such as corruption, organized crime, drug trafficking, and political reportage. Fearing for their personal safety, many journalists [in Honduras] either self-censor or flee the country altogether.

I have heard the Minister of Foreign Affairs in this House stand up on the international stage and rant and rave about the situation in Ukraine and how Canada and the Prime Minister stand up for human rights and democracy on the world stage. These things are a matter of principle, and they will take that position. It does not matter what the costs are. They turn around and sign a trade agreement with Honduras, which has just about the worst human rights record in the western hemisphere.

I hear laughing on the other side of the House. How do we square that? Canada either has a principled position on human rights and democracy or it does not. In the case of Honduras, it is a contradiction of massive proportions. It is hypocritical. It is opportunistic politics by the Liberals of the highest order.

We have an election coming up in Ontario. Premier Wynne is trying to tell New Democrats that she is progressive. If the people of Ontario knew that the Liberals in the House of Commons were supporting a trade deal with one of the most murderous, anti-democratic, human rights-violating jurisdictions on the planet, I wonder if they would still view them that way, because they are not progressive.

I will go back to what PEN said:

The taint of corruption and the culture of impunity have undermined trust among state agencies and public confidence in key institutions. Public distrust of the police is so great that only about 20% of crime is reported, and of that, less than 4% gets investigated.

I have heard Conservatives in the House talk about the lack of reporting of crime in this country. They say that crime is under-reported, and they say it is a problem in this country. Eighty per cent of the crime in Honduras is not even reported, because people cannot even trust police officers who come to their doors, because they may be on the payroll or they may be involved in the killing. What kind of culture is that?

Serious problems are evident throughout the criminal justice system. Police will say an investigation is under way when there is none. The office of the special prosecutor for human rights does not have the jurisdiction to try those responsible for the murders of journalists, and lacks resources to conduct even the most basic of investigations into human rights abuses....

She also said:

As our report sets out, only two convictions have been secured in the 38 journalist killings between 2003 and 2013—an impunity rate of 95%.

This is what PEN concluded:

To be clear: under international law, when the state is unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes, this is state complicity in human rights violations. Honduras is facing a serious human rights crisis. This is not just a matter of working with Honduras to move beyond a troubled past. Violence against journalists, complete collapse of expressive life, and impunity for violent crimes and human rights abuses remain the norm there.

Are these international journalists radicals that we should not pay attention to?

We heard from yet other witnesses:

Honduras is far worse than any of Canada's current trading partners in the region. To give you an idea of the situation in relation to others, in the global press freedom rankings of 191 countries...Canada ranked 29; Chile ranked 64; Peru ranked 89; and even Colombia, also plagued by narco-trafficking, ranked 112. Where did Honduras rank? They ranked 140, tied with Egypt, which has imprisoned two Canadian media workers in the past eight months. Since the coup in 2009, 32 journalists have been murdered in Honduras.

I want to talk a bit about mining because the Liberals have tried to convince Canadians that they are concerned about mining standards abroad. Here is the testimony we heard at committee that was not rebutted. After 2009, when the Zalaya government was trying to put a moratorium in place on new mining concessions and to bring in some mining laws, the new regime, which was installed at gunpoint by the military, got rid of that, and now it leaves the door open to open pit mining.

Water sources, except those that have been declared and registered, which are in a minority, are not protected. Mining is not prohibited in populated areas, meaning that forced expropriation and displacement of entire communities can continue to take place.

Community consultation is a theoretical right only, only after the exploration concession has been granted. Honduras has almost no environmental standards. It has almost no ability to police or regulate its mining.

I expect the member from Scarborough, who I mentioned before, to stand up in the House and say that he is opposed to this deal. If he really cares about mining standards, as he claims he does, then he will stand in the House and say, “I can't support this deal with Honduras”, where we are going to see environmental degradation, violations of indigenous rights, pollution, and dangerous working conditions.

Trade deals are about extending preferential terms. The New Democrats believe that we should be extending preferential trade terms to democratic countries, modern democracies that respect human rights, environmental standards, and labour standards. We understand that many countries are not perfect, but we think Canadians want those countries to at least be on a positive trajectory in that regard.

Canadians want to see trade deals signed with countries of strategic value to our country. The testimony from economists before our committee said that Honduras has almost zero strategic importance to Canada. In fact, it already has virtually zero tariffs in Honduras, so it is going to make zero difference to the amount we export from Canada.

I hope every member of the House who believes in democracy, human rights, and the rule of law stands with New Democrats and votes against this flawed deal. It is a poor piece of legislation.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have some sincere questions to ask my hon. colleague.

He gave a good speech. It was well researched, but I have some concerns. The member first talked about trade deals with countries that are favourable to all the things that he attested we should be in favour of, such as human rights and so on and so forth.

I have been here 10 years, and I have yet to see them agree with any free trade deal agreement.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

I am sorry; there was Jordan. The NDP members did not stand to vote for it. We are still not sure where they stand on that one.

Nevertheless, the nub of the issue is this: if they believe that Honduras is as bad as they claim it is—and I do not doubt it, because there are a lot of human rights violations taking place there, and I agree with the member in many respects—what exactly do we do to engage Honduras to improve the situation? Do we shut down dialogue completely?

I firmly believe that opening up trade relations has a benefit in many of these countries, a fundamental benefit that we should consider as compassionate people.

I ask the member, if there is absolutely no free trade deal agreement, where do we go from here to improve the situation in Honduras?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:30 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for the hon. member and I take his questions at face value.

The Liberal Party has its own contradictory past. I think Liberals campaigned against the free trade agreement in 1988. In 1993, they had a little red book that said they were going to renegotiate NAFTA. They never did that. That is par for the Liberal Party, which says one thing at election time and does another when it is elected. What is the Liberal Party's record on trade? I am not sure.

The hon. member is a little disingenuous. He knows for a fact that the New Democrats supported the trade deal with Jordan. Whether there was a standing vote or whether it was passed by division, the member, as a member of this House, knows it is irrelevant.

The question of who we should be engaging is a straw man argument. This Conservative argument—and I am surprised to hear a Liberal making it—is that if it is a really terrible country, we should engage with it. If that is the case, we should be signing a free trade agreement with Iran or North Korea. They have terrible human rights abuses. If engaging with those countries is the way to improve human rights, why not engage them? I do not hear anybody in those two parties suggesting that we sign a free trade agreement with those two countries.

It is because of this: when countries are so far outside of the international norm, when they are not conforming to even the basic standards of international behaviour, we should not be rewarding those countries.

When South Africa had apartheid, we did not sign a trade agreement with them to facilitate that regime. We brought in sanctions and boycotts. The government, and I will give it credit for it, has done that in Iran, when the country just refused to comply with basic norms of conduct.

I will just finish with this. This is what we heard in committee from a professor from York:

Trade and investment create economic benefits, but who ends up with those benefits? In Honduras the answer seems clear. It is now the country with the most unequal distribution of income in Latin America, and 43% of the labour force is working full time without receiving even the minimum wage. A study by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington found that in the two years after the 2009 coup, over 100% of all real income gains went to the wealthiest 10% of Hondurans...

I will stop by saying:

The de facto regime soon embarked on policies that included using the army and police in actions against citizens exercising their right to protest. Numerous suspensions of the right to assembly and protest were put in place, all of them out of compliance with the requirements of Honduran law and its constitution. Protestors were shot, beaten, and some died in open conflict with the military or police.

That is the country that—

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:35 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and his work on this file. It is certainly well researched, and he understands the issue very clearly.

The argument we hear from those who support this agreement is that we are a trading nation. We have been a trading nation and we have traded with all sorts of regimes in our history, including many repressive regimes, whether China or the former Soviet Union.

There is a distinction between trade and free trade. My colleague mentioned the idea of preferential treatment. In other words, if we sign a free trade agreement, it is preferential treatment to a country that we want to do business with as opposed to just trading.

Could the member expand a little on this point, because I think it is a bit lost on the other side?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:35 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if it is lost on the other side or if it is just disingenuously portrayed by the other side, because it is quite obvious. Canada trades with all sorts of nations. We have goods coming to our country right now from China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Honduras. The only question about trade policy is whether we want to encourage economic relations with those countries. Trade policy is a tool that is used economically, but it is also a political tool.

Again, if that is recognized in the House, the government has imposed trade sanctions on Iran. We are not facilitating trade with Iran; we are actually stopping trade relations with Iran.

I want to pick up the thread of my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party and quote Mr. Ricardo Grinspun, who is a York University professor from the Centre for Research on Latin American and Caribbean Studies. He said:

I have argued that the idea that the FTA will bring jobs and assure prosperity to Honduras is not a substantiated claim. Indeed, the idea that Canadians can help the most needy people in Honduras through this FTA is a public relations message, nothing more. Moreover, an FTA would provide international legitimacy to a political regime and economic model that is oligarchic, oppressive, and unjust. There are other more effective ways in which Canada could contribute to poverty alleviation, human security, and environmental sustainability in that part of the world, which we could discuss.

I go back to my hon. colleague's question. Those are the kinds of measures that we should be sending to Honduras. We should be saying to Honduras that we will work with it to improve its standards, if there is that willingness there in Honduras. However, surely we would require that country to demonstrate the commitment to international norms and standards first of at least a floor model before we start to extend benefits to it.

The government talks about the trade agreements it has signed. It has signed about six and it has all been with countries that are small or insignificant, such as Colombia, Peru, Honduras, Panama, Jordan, and the infamous Liechtenstein.

Whoever we choose to negotiate with and whoever we choose to extend preferential terms with, we on the New Democrat side believe it should mirror Canadian values. Canadian values mean we should be trading with countries that at least have a commitment to basic concepts like respecting people's right to assemble in the street, people's right to vote in elections, people's right to run in elections, having peaceful, democratic transition of power, having a functioning judicial system where crime is investigated, prosecuted and punished, where journalists can write with freedom of expression so the public can actually have a vibrant, democratic dialogue. These are basic norms.

It is surprising to me that in 2014, I have to stand in the House and defend those. I would have thought every member of the House would agree at once that these are basic concepts that Canadians demand should be in place before Canada decides to reward that place.

Again, the New Democratic Party will be the only party that will stand up for those principles, and I hope Canadians are watching.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:40 p.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief.

I want to thank my colleague for his very enlightening speech. I hope that the government got the message.

Free trade agreements play an important role in our economy, obviously. The fact remains, however, that we are dealing with a special situation here. Honduras is not a democratic country. What message would we be sending the world if we became its trading partner? How could people struggling in a dictatorship ever trust us once they are aware of this free trade agreement?

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:40 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's reputation on the world stage depends on our adherence to international norms and our consistency in respecting them. When we sign a trade agreement with a country that every country in the world knows is not conforming to those standards, as Honduras is not, it sends a mixed message and it causes other countries to have less confidence in Canada. It causes them to question what our foreign policy is.

If we are to stand on the world stage and talk about freedom, democracy, and human rights, then we have to walk the walk. We have to be consistent. The Conservatives and Liberals are not being consistent in this regard on this file, and they should be.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:40 p.m.
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York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the bill goes back, actually, not as a bill but, certainly, in terms of its negotiations to the time I was trade minister. That was quite some time ago. It has been a policy of this government to make the pursuit of jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity one of our significant priorities. In the case of an agreement like this, which has been on the books for some time, we are looking to implement it through this agreement. It is long overdue. That is one reason why we are seeking to have it passed. With that in mind, I move, pursuant to Standing Order 26, and seconded by the chief government whip:

That the House continue to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for the purpose of considering Bill C-20.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 9th, 2014 / 11:40 p.m.
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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to follow my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway, who quite passionately articulated why New Democrats believe this international trade bill is flawed.

One of the things I have said in the House many times before, going back to the last Parliament, is that we do not debate trade. That is not what the government puts in front of us. It brings forward implementation bills. It does not ask if we should have trade with a particular country, what it should look like, or whether we should talk about certain aspects of it. No. It just says, “We have a deal. Here it is. Take it. It will be good for Canadians and it will be good for Hondurans.” However, everything my colleague talked about and all of the statistics he quoted said the opposite.

Honduras is a place where murder is rampant and journalists are disappearing and being killed on a scale that is unprecedented around the world, yet the government says, “We can trade a few more bushels of wheat or a few more tonnes of pork. That will be a good thing, and we won't have to worry so much about the other things in the bill. It will just be one of those things that annoy us”.

This is a government that used to say that human rights mattered. It was the Prime Minister who at one time did not want to engage with China because of the Chinese government's human rights record.

The largest market in the world was China. We all know that. It is a demographic, a pure number. When the Prime Minister first took power in 2006, he said, “We don't want to talk to the Chinese about trade because its human rights record is bad. We are simply not going to do that”. He then makes a deal with Honduras.

There is a bit of a template here, and it is ironic to look at. There was Colombia, Panama, and now Honduras. It is ironic that the Liberals down at the far end actually supported all three deals. In fact, the member for Kings—Hants actually talked about being able to get President Uribe to make sure there is some sort of monitoring group so that trade unionists and journalists are not assassinated and murdered. That is when the Liberals bought in to the trade deal.

What happened with that panel? It is the same old same old. Trade unionists still get killed and murdered at a regular rate, journalists still get murdered at a regular rate, and the Conservatives say, “That is okay; they voted for it”, and move forward. My colleague from Newfoundland, for whom I have great respect, said New Democrats have never voted for one before. Truth be told, we did. Of course, that happened to be the Jordan deal. It was a recorded division, so we stood and voted yes. As much as the other side says it was not a recorded division, it was the real thing. We actually stood and voted.

This idea that we cannot enter into a comprehensive trade deal that includes the rule of law and the protection of human rights is not true. In essence, it can be true and it can actually happen, but the government does not look at that. The House leader just stood and said this has been going on since he was a trade minister.

The problem is that the things that happened in Honduras when he was the trade minister have changed; they have gotten worse. Still the government is insisting on going down the road of firming up this trade agreement, passing it into law, and having a trade agreement with an authoritarian, oligarchic, elitist group of individuals who are not even a government.

What would the government say if 36 members of the House who were candidates in elections got assassinated? I do not think we would find ourselves in a particularly stable environment. This sort of sense that we have extended hours this morning being destabilizing is, quite frankly, not destabilizing at all. What is destabilizing is the mere fact that people die in Honduras on a regular basis and not of old age. They are murdered. There are horrendous numbers of multiple murders. Human rights and NGO groups around the world are saying it is clearly a massacre. It is not a question of someone breaking into a house and shooting mom, dad, and one child; these are targeted killings of journalists, labour leaders, and members of political parties who are running for government.

The Honduras government, with impunity, simply dismissed Supreme Court justices. I almost think some days the Conservatives would like to do the same with the Supreme Court justice down the street from us. However, they would not dare do that. That did not stop Honduras from doing it. On a trumped-up charge, the government there just said it would remove them. As my colleague said earlier, when we are dealing with the fact that 85% to 90% of cases are never pursued, how does anyone trust the rule of law when no one will actually pursue a case? It is even worse for someone who actually wants to report a case and does not trust the authorities enough to actually make that report. Never mind the fact they do not believe it would get investigated; they think they may actually be the target, rather than the perpetrators of the crime that is being committed against them.

This is such a small trade piece as well. The reality is that if our government could open up provincial borders, it would actually get greater trade than it would with Honduras to a magnitude of probably a hundredfold. Of course, human rights would not be an issue in our country because there is rule of law here. There is not this need to constantly look at the abuses that are happening.

If only we had a trade deal that would lift all boats, that so-called rising tide that lifts all ships. Well, it did not lift the ship Colombia. It did not lift the ship Panama. The Panama agreement is with a regime the UN and NGOs agree more drug cartel money gets laundered through than practically anywhere else in the world, yet we signed a deal with that regime too.

Significant deals that they are, the problem with the government is it signs a deal with CETA, or did it? There is no implementation bill in front of us, so clearly it does not have a deal. If it had a deal, there would be an implementation bill here. What it has is a hope and a prayer. Therefore, what it does is go out and sign a deal with Honduras because it cannot get one anywhere else.

Ultimately, where are we heading with a trade regime that literally takes on trade agreements with human rights violators around the world? Is that what we say with the rule of law? One of the things we put in the agreements is the rule of law, so if our companies feel victimized in a place where they go to trade, they have an opportunity to access what they believe is the court system so they can actually get due process. Good luck in Honduras. I highly doubt any Canadian corporation that goes before its tribunal would get due process when its citizens cannot get due process.

Conservatives at one point in time used to really believe in human rights. They believed that perhaps what we ought to do is enact sanctions. My colleague talked about it earlier with Iran and North Korea. However, I would remind my friends on the other side it was a previous prime minister of their party, Brian Mulroney, who was the leader who enacted sanctions against South Africa and won. What we saw at that moment in time when the prime minister almost stood alone in the Commonwealth was he was able to have the civil society groups and trade union groups come together, marshall the forces, and help end apartheid in South Africa. Now Canada can trade with South Africa. Apartheid has ended.

Many of us were watching on television screens around the world when Nelson Mandela was finally free. There was rejoicing in that country, and pride, even for New Democrats, thinking about the accomplishments of Brian Mulroney, albeit a Conservative prime minister. Even New Democrats would agree that it was a principled stand taken by the prime minister of this country that was just, was right, and for which he deserved the credit.

However, the current Prime Minister thinks it is okay to have trade deals with some of the most murderous regimes in the world, such as Colombia, Panama, and now Honduras, that those are just places to have trade deals with and that somehow it is okay. As long as we can get a couple of bucks out of the trade deal, we can ignore the other side. Maybe it will get better. We can only hope.

If the Honduran oligarchs get what they want, they do not need to make things better. Why would they need to make things better if they have the trade deal? This is not about the carrot; it is about the stick. We have to make them understand that the rule of law is necessary if they want to trade with us, that human rights are essential for their population if they want to trade with us, that murdering journalists and trade unionists and their citizens because they disagree with the government is wrong, and that if they want to trade with us it must end. No. This government decided to just have a trade deal. The idea is that if they just get a better trade deal, they will stop doing all of those things. That will not happen. It has not happened yet because, as my colleague from Vancouver Kingsway said, then we would do it with North Korea. Surely to goodness we would say, “Okay, that will make it better there and we will just do it there”, but we have not, and correctly so. The government is correct to not have a free trade deal with Iran and North Korea. It is absolutely right on that, but it is wrong on this one.

We can argue free trade agreements. We can look at clauses in it we do not like, environment and trade union rights and those sorts of things. When we are dealing with a state that has the rule of law, has decent human rights protections for its population, then we are arguing about environment and trade union rights and some other things, but not about human rights.

In this case it is fundamental. It is about the human rights of the Hondurans. It is about their right to safety and liberty. It is about saying to them there are other ways to get them there, that there are other methods for us to help them build a society, build a capacity, build a sense of infrastructure within governments, and allow them a period of time to make changes to their civil justice system, to their Supreme Court system when they actually respect those judgments, and allow the capacity to build with their law enforcement agencies. There are ways for us, because of the expertise we have, to help them do that.

Therefore, it is not about isolating them in the way that happened in South Africa. That was a specific time, when a specific measure was undertaken that worked. This is not about simply saying we will let Honduras circle around the map and leave it be. We can offer the help and the hand of hope to it and say, “Here is how to build capacity and when you build that capacity there is an opportunity to get into a preferential trade agreement”. We think that would be a valid approach, rather than the approach that is being taken, which is just to have a trade deal and it will all work out. Then all of the other things will fall into place. The reality is that it has not worked before, so why would it work now?

My friend from Vancouver Kingsway recited a litany of statistics. They are true. They are just facts, not rhetoric or over-the-top hyperbole for the sake of saying it. This is what actually happens.

No member in this House thinks that is correct. We have a different viewpoint on how we would remedy it, perhaps, but surely to goodness we all understand that if a group gets what it wants, why would it change its position and way of doing things?

There is nothing in the free trade agreement that says “Thou shalt not shoot journalists”. Even for Colombia, there was a sidebar piece that the Liberals put in. It said that it would be monitored to make sure it does not do that, and if it did, perhaps there would be repercussions, even though that never materialized.

It is amazing to see the government decide that it wants a free trade deal that has no significant impact as far as trade is concerned in this country. There would be a few million dollars here or there, and a few areas in the agriculture sector that might benefit a little, but there is no one beating the door down saying that they need a trade deal in Honduras.

However, there are folks in the agricultural sector who are kicking the door down asking for the CETA deal. Of course, that is not there yet. However, there is no question that is a deal for the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector has been clear about it. The problem now is that they do not know what it is, because there is nothing that we have yet. There is no ink to paper and no deal in front of this House. Is there a deal, or has it evaporated?

It is almost flabbergasting. As Dr. Ricardo Grinspun said, “...the idea that Canadians can help the most needy people in Honduras through this FTA is a public relations message, nothing more. Moreover, the FTA would provide international legitimacy..”.

Probably one of the most egregious things is that it would provide international legitimacy for a group of individuals who think they have a right to run a country by force. We would give them international legitimacy by saying that we have a deal with them. They will go out to their other friends, if they can find any in this world, and say that Canada made a deal with them. Canada believes in the rule of law, and it has a Parliament, a mature democratic system, a Supreme Court and judicial system.

Honduras officials would use that elsewhere in the world and say that Canada thinks they are legitimate, as it gave them a deal. It only gives free trade deals to their best friends and the folks who participate in the same way that it does with the rule of law and protection of human rights. They would say to ignore what they do. They know it is ugly, but Canada thinks it is okay. Anyone who knows how to bargain for an agreement knows that is exactly what one would do. It is what other governments do.

What do we do? We worry about the CETA deal, which the Conservative government supposedly has. They say that it has to run to get the deal because the Americans are coming next.

Will Honduras seek deals elsewhere after it gets this one? Yes. Will its government officials use us as an example and say that they think we are a good place? Yes. There is no question that they will, and why would they not? Why would they not use the credibility that we give them through this deal to try to tell the world that they are a legitimate government because the Canadians think so? I think that is what we should expect, but why would we want to be the ones to give them that credibility?

The statistics that we quote to the government it already knows. Those statistics are not foreign to them. They know that.

The issue then becomes, why Honduras? Why now? Why not later, at a time when it has a rule of law that actually works, and respect for human rights and democracy in its Parliament? Why not when it enacts a democratic electoral system that does not put people under threat and does not kill them, so that they can run freely for office without feeling the repercussion of someone coming through their door and shooting them?

In this House, it is one thing to feel that during our election process we might bump a bit up against one another or we might go to a debate that could be passionate, but none of us has ever worried about going to a debate in case somebody shoots us. They do, and we will give that regime credibility and legitimacy, and that is a shame.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2014 / midnight
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NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a somewhat shameful aspect to this agreement. Becoming a partner of the regime means becoming its willing accomplice, in a way. Indeed, of all royalties our mining companies will be paying, 25% will go directly to security. I do not know the exact amount involved, but we can assume these are significant amounts, since they will be used to purchase vehicles and weapons, as well as pay staff. Are the companies going to war or digging a mine?

I would ask my colleague to comment on that.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2014 / 12:05 a.m.
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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is baffling what Honduras is and why we want to have a trade agreement with it. Usually I can be very passionate on this side about debate, in the sense of taking the government to task, but I am actually saddened, to be truthful, that we would engage with this country when we know full well its record.

I could amp up the rhetoric and get angry, but I am to a point now where I am actually saddened by the situation. There are members on the other side who know this to be wrong. I am sure they do, notwithstanding the fact that it is a trade deal. The government side likes free trade deals. There is no argument about that. Its position is well known, and the position of the Liberal Party, in conjunction with the government, is well known: it supports free trade agreements. No one disputes that.

But surely there is a limit when it comes to trading. Surely there is a point where one says that there has to be acceptable behaviour, and surely we do not believe that Honduras' behaviour is acceptable. There cannot be a member in this House who believes it is okay that 36 journalists in the last 18 months have been shot. Surely no one agrees with that, never mind the thousands of others who have died along the way. No one can agree. It is true.

Yet clearly the government wants to pursue this unconscionable agenda. When it comes to this particular piece, I am not sure exactly why it would not want to just let this one slide until Honduras can build capacity.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2014 / 12:05 a.m.
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Richmond Hill Ontario

Conservative

Costas Menegakis ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and the way he was responding to those questions. He says he is baffled; we are baffled. We are baffled when we look over at the NDP, which has opposed virtually every single free trade agreement that has come before this House. Every time a free trade agreement comes up for debate and discussion, the NDP finds an angle to dispute.

I see the member for Sherbrooke over there chirping, “You're wrong.” He is referring, of course, to the one agreement the NDP agreed to, which was Canada-Jordan. However, it opposed Canada-U.S. It opposed NAFTA.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2014 / 12:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Exactly, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member reminds me the NDP supported provincial trade.

The NDP opposes everything. It absolutely opposes every trade agreement. The NDP is fundamentally opposed to trade with every nation in the world. Maybe the member can tell us that.

This time he is finding an angle for the NDP to oppose the Canada-Honduras agreement. Why did it oppose NAFTA? Why did it oppose Canada-Israel? Why did it oppose every other free trade agreement that came before this House?

We all know the answer. Maybe he will 'fess up to it. It is because the union bosses over there in the NDP do not want them. Just be honest and tell people.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2014 / 12:05 a.m.
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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can tell them that my union boss would say he does not understand why that hon. colleague does not want to support human rights. I am baffled, quite frankly, by why that member would stand on his feet and wonder why we are baffled about defending human rights. If that is what it is about in this House, my friend, about why you cannot defend human rights, then I am truly baffled.