Mr. Speaker, as always, it is an honour to speak in the House on behalf of my constituents of Surrey North.
I know this may be out of order, but I would like to take a couple of seconds to acknowledge my staff who are here today in the gallery. I would like to thank my constituency staff for the wonderful work they do in the constituency. MPs are very busy. We would not be able to do our jobs unless we had our constituency staff to help us out. That is across party lines in the House.
I have been waiting to speak to this important bill. Last night I was here until midnight, because of the scheduling, and I am here again this morning. It is an opportunity for me to voice my concerns on behalf of the constituents of Surrey North.
Unfortunately, over and over again throughout this session the government has been moving time allocation motions. It is basically shutting down the debate and prohibiting the opportunity for members of Parliament to represent their constituents and bring their views to Ottawa. That is what we on this side of the House, the NDP members, like to do. We like to bring the views of our constituents to the House so that they can be heard. Unfortunately, this is the 76th time that time allocation has been used.
Unfortunately, Conservatives do not believe in bringing forward the views of their constituents. Time after time, they do not speak to some of these bills. A number of Conservative members do not speak to these bills. Maybe they do not want to bring the views of their constituents into the House. I believe what we are brought here to do is to represent our constituents. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have failed to do that not only on this bill, but on many other bills that have been introduced in the House.
There have been 76 time allocation motions. The Conservatives have tried to ram through every bill that has come before us. Omnibus bills containing some 500 pages have been brought into the House and the Conservatives have put time allocation on them. It prevents not only NDP members but Conservative members as well from bringing forward the views of their constituents.
This bill to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions is important. Cluster munitions are little explosives that are dropped and burst into thousands of mini bombs. They cause great damage, not only when they are dropped, but many years afterward as well. I have seen many times on TV where children are playing with these explosives and they get hurt. Some 98% of those injured by cluster munitions are civilians. People are not only injured during conflicts, but many years after as well. It is the civilians who are impacted the most when cluster munitions are used.
Canada participated in the Oslo process and worked with other countries to bring forth this convention. This was right after the signing of the treaty to ban land mines which took place in Ottawa. We had an opportunity to bring other countries together to show leadership on this very important issue of cluster munitions, where we could make a real impact around the world and ensure that these kinds of things are not used against civilians, children and women, to make sure that they are not hurt by these explosives. Unfortunately, the Conservative government has failed time after time.
There was a time when Canadians were viewed around the world as peacemakers. Canadians were viewed as people who would bring the world together. They would negotiate between different countries to bring them together for peaceful purposes. Unfortunately, under the Conservative government, we have seen the deterioration of our reputation around the world.
There was a time when Canadians were proud to wear the Canadian flag pin on their lapels. Citizens of other countries would wear the Canadian flag on their backpacks when travelling around the world. We were viewed as a peaceful country that brought people together, instead of what we have seen from the Conservative government, which is divisive and forceful attitudes, and empty rhetoric.
We have always been viewed as people who have helped countries. We look at the work of CIDA that was done many years ago. We helped poor nations. We helped nations come together. That is where we had our influence. We were out there helping many nations around the world. We had influence. We brought countries together for peaceful purposes.
Unfortunately, under the Conservative government, we have seen the deterioration in the CIDA funding that we provide around the world. It is now tied to businesses. It is tied more to mining companies or oil companies rather than humanitarian causes for which it was originally intended. That helped us have influence around the world to bring those countries together.
What has happened over the years? We pulled out of Kyoto. We were supposed to be the leaders in bringing countries together to deal with climate change. I know the Conservatives do not like the term “climate change”. They rarely use it. This morning, the member for Halifax spoke about the environment, and that we should have a debate about the environment. She pointed out that Conservatives rarely use the term “climate change”. There is scientific research behind it, and people all around the world know about it, yet some of the members from the Conservative side do not even want to use the term. They deny there is such a thing as climate change. We had an opportunity to show leadership in that regard.
The damage to our reputation has been severe. The UN Security Council is very powerful. We have had a seat on it on a rotating basis every year since the UN Security Council was formed, but this year we lost that seat. We did not even run because we knew we would lose to some other country, and we did lose. We did not even ask to be on the Security Council. That is how much damage the Conservative government has done to our reputation around the world. The UN Security Council was a place where we played an important role with all the work we have done as parliamentarians and as Canadians to bring countries across the world together for peaceful purposes. Under the Conservative government, we have lost that seat. That is the record of the government over the last six to eight years, and it has been downhill ever since.
We had an opportunity with this bill, Bill C-6, to repair some of the damage done by the government. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have failed in this regard. Some of the experts are saying that the Conservatives' legislation to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions is widely recognized as the weakest and worst in the world, that it undermines the very spirit of the convention it is supposed to implement. This is what the world is saying.
We had a great reputation as peacemakers and world leaders in bringing countries together, but now we have taken some steps backward. Not only did we not ratify the Kyoto agreement, but we also do not have a seat on the Security Council. Now the world is saying that we have an opportunity to be positive and show leadership around the world, and yet this particular legislation on cluster munitions is a step backward.
People around the world are saying that this will set a precedent for other countries to also undermine the regulation or banning of these explosive, deadly munitions that hurt people. Again, 98% of the injuries are to civilians.
Despite the strong opposition of a majority of participatory states and non-governmental organizations, Canada succeeded in negotiating into the final text of the convention an article that explicitly allows for continued military interoperability with non-party states. That is a troublesome issue. That is a very troublesome article that Canada actually championed and negotiated to include in the convention.
Bill C-6 goes beyond even the interoperability allowance in the convention. The main problem lies in clause 11. We heard this last night, and I am saying it again this morning. I think it is important because clause 11 establishes an extremely broad list of exceptions. We know what happens when there is a broad list of exceptions; it sort of guts the bill. I have used these words before with most of the legislation that the government presents, but we could drive a truck through this legislation which has been so gutted by these broad exceptions.
In its original form, this clause permitted Canadian soldiers to use, acquire, possess and/or transport cluster munitions whenever they are acting in conjunction with another country that is not a member of the convention, and to request the use of cluster munitions by another country.
China, Russia and the U.S. are not signatories to the convention. This is where we could have used our influence around the world. We could have brought countries together to persuade the countries that have not signed on to the convention to eliminate and ban the use of cluster munitions. The 98% of the people who are hurt by these munitions are civilians. We could help these people around the world. This is where leadership comes in.
Time after time the Conservatives have failed not only on the international stage but also on the domestic stage to show leadership in the areas where Canadians want their government to show leadership.
At the foreign affairs committee, the NDP supported Canadians and international civil society groups in pushing for changes to the bill. We engaged closely with the government, in public and through direct dialogue, to encourage improvements to this legislation.
We were successful in persuading the government to formally prohibit the use of cluster munitions at least by Canadian soldiers. There was a small give on the part of the Conservatives. However, other loopholes remain. Without amendments to rectify these loopholes, Canada's commitment to ending the use of cluster munitions will be superficial at best.
Indeed, Bill C-6 may even be damaging, as I pointed out earlier, by establishing an international precedent for opting out and exceptions. Therein lies the problem. The Conservatives entered into the process on the Convention on Cluster Munitions and came back with a whole bunch of exemptions. Exemptions are basically loopholes that allow for cluster munitions to still be used.
We have seen this over and over. In order for Canada to be a leader on this around the world, we need to close these loopholes. We need to work with other nations, our NATO allies, our Norad allies, and the UN. We need to work with all these international organizations to bring the countries on board so we can look at banning these explosives that hurt civilians, including children, around the world. What do the Conservatives do? They basically leave huge loopholes in the bill and that will not help.
As it currently stands, Canada's legislation will be the weakest of all countries that have ratified this convention. Unfortunately, with the government's approach to international issues, where it could take a leadership role and had shown leadership many years ago, it has failed to live up to that leadership. Canadians expect the government to live up to that leadership. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have failed Canadians again. This was an opportunity for them to show that leadership and, again, they failed.