Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act

An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions

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


John Baird  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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

This enactment implements Canada’s commitments under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In particular, it establishes prohibitions and offences for certain activities involving cluster munitions, explosive submunitions and explosive bomblets.


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.


June 19, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 17, 2014 Passed That Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions, as amended, be concurred in at report stage.
June 17, 2014 Failed That Bill C-6 be amended by deleting Clause 4.
June 17, 2014 Failed That Bill C-6 be amended by deleting the short title.
June 16, 2014 Passed That, in relation to Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions, 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.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2014 / 12:35 p.m.
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Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

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.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2014 / 12:50 p.m.
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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to pick up on the member's last comments with regard to international leadership. The government has been able to demonstrate leadership on that file. My question is related to the fact that Canada played such a strong leadership role during the 1990s in terms of the land mines treaty. Not only did the Ottawa land mines treaty originate in Ottawa but it was then ratified during Jean Chrétien's era. Liberals demonstrated very clear leadership. Not only did we sign it off, but it was passed through the House unanimously, from what I understand.

My question is this. Does the member recognize that the government has not been able to get unanimous support from the House of Commons, which demonstrates a deficiency, and it also took so many years to bring it before us in the House today?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2014 / 12:50 p.m.
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Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Surrey North for his very eloquent remarks about this bill on cluster munitions and the failure of the government to live up to the promise of many international treaties. Just today, I introduced a motion calling on the government to sign the Marrakesh treaty so that people who are visually impaired can get access to these documents.

Can the member comment on the importance of signing treaties like the Marrakesh treaty?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:15 p.m.
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Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here tonight. I hope we have a good debate here tonight. I am not so sure that we did not catch the NDP off-guard a couple of days ago when we did the last stage of discussion of this bill, because it seemed they came up with the same talking points all evening. Its members had about two points. Hopefully, tonight, we can have a broader discussion.

We do want to talk about Bill C-6, which is about cluster munitions. The speech I have here tonight will lay out a good explanation of what Bill C-6 is about, why it needs to be put in place, and how it would be a good balance for Canadians, for Canadian troops, and for our responsibilities around the world.

I do not think that there is a person in this House who does not share with me the sense that the world would be far better off without cluster munitions. They cause death, injury, and damage wherever they are used, and they can create significant long-lasting humanitarian consequences for civilian lives and for civilian livelihoods. This is because cluster munitions disperse large numbers of smaller bomblets, increasing the risk that some of these munitions will strike non-combatants and that any submunitions that do not explode will cause an ongoing threat to civilian populations and reconstruction.

Munitions can be dropped from an aircraft, or they can be shot out of artillery or out of rockets to attack a variety of targets, such as armoured vehicles or troops. When the munitions release the bomblets, some will detonate, but many do not. The result is small, unexploded submunitions lying on the ground. Like anti-personnel mines, they must be located, disarmed, and disposed of safely before a backyard, family garden, public park, or any other land can be returned to any kind of normal use. The bomblets are, to an extent, even more problematic than landmines, because they scatter at random, which makes them much harder to locate, to identify, and then to destroy.

Today, almost 30 countries are contaminated by cluster munitions from past wars. Some are recent, but in other cases, wars that ended long ago have left a legacy that remains armed and lethal. In countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, for example, cluster munitions dropped more than 40 years ago during the Vietnam War continue to cause deaths and injuries. Similarly, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and more recently, Syria and Libya, are also plagued by unexploded cluster munitions used in these recent conflicts or, in the case of Syria, a civil war that is still going on.

Canada has always been committed to protecting civilians from the indiscriminate use of explosive remnants of war. Canada has never produced cluster munitions. I want to point that out because there may be some confusion here later, once the opposition begins speaking. Though we have had them in our arsenal in the past, we have never used them in our military operations. That needs to be understood as well. That is why we have no problems in getting rid of cluster munitions stockpiles in our possession, even before ratifying the convention.

It was only logical, therefore, that we played a leading role in the negotiations that resulted in the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2008. The convention itself prohibits the use, the development, the production, the stockpiling, and the transfer of cluster munitions. I want to go through that list again. It prohibits the use, the development, the production, the stockpiling, and the transfer of cluster munitions. Canada is already in the process of implementing the convention. Some of its requirements will require the domestic implementation of legislation before Canada can ratify, which is what Bill C-6 is here to do.

The Government of Canada will be committing itself to refraining from making, using, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. Again, that needs to be made clear before the debate goes any further. I will repeat it. We are going to refrain from making, using, stockpiling, or transferring cluster munitions. The bill would make it an offence for individual Canadians to do the same. This is the last major requirement here in Canada before we can ratify the convention. I urge hon. members to support it, so that we can take our place among the growing community of states parties that have renounced these weapons.

The bill also reflects important compromises that were made during the negotiation of the convention in order to ensure that the legitimate defence and security interests of the countries that are party to the treaty are upheld. We would much prefer a world in which all of our allies joined the convention, but the reality is that we are not there yet. Given this situation, Canada and others had to find a way to negotiate a strong treaty, while at the same time remembering that we need to continue to co-operate with some of our closest military allies who may not soon be in a position to join it.

This is in contrast with what I heard one of the official opposition members say the other night, that we just should not bother to co-operate at all with the United States. That is a position that is completely impractical, but the NDP members seemed to think that they could embrace that.

The Canadian Armed Forces work closely with our allies, especially the United States. Our national security depends on that co-operation. Canadian soldiers, sailors and air personnel regularly join with their American counterparts in training and combat. We exchange personnel so that each of us is closely familiar with the operational procedures of the other.

The United States has not joined the convention and while Canada will continue to urge our American friends to do so, it is necessary for us to collaborate in a manner which will respect our new obligations on the one hand, while also respecting our obligations to our close ally on the other.

In order to allow countries and their military forces to co-operate with one another, article 21 was included in the convention. However, the armed forces of a state party cannot co-operate with those of a non-party state if the activities involved are a crime for their individual members. I think that is obvious.

In order to allow Canadian Armed Forces personnel to continue to work, train, fight and co-operate with their American counterparts without the risk of individual criminal liability, under this bill, the principles that are in article 21 of the convention must also be reflected in Canadian criminal law.

The bill would do this by creating specific new offences that would apply to everyone in Canada and then by excluding from those offences personnel who co-operate as permitted by the convention. Such individuals must generally be Canadian officials or members of the Canadian Armed Forces. They must be engaging in permitted forms of military co-operation and that co-operation must be taken with members of armed forces of state that is not a party to the convention.

One of the important benefits of article 21 is that it allows countries that wish to join the convention to do so without having to give up military co-operation with those allies that have not yet become state parties to the convention.

It was essential that the treaty permit this kind of co-operation between the militaries of countries that have joined the treaty and the countries that have not. Without such provisions, many countries that wanted to address the impact of cluster munitions by joining the treaty would likely not have done so. Instead, with the inclusion of article 21, countries are not forced to choose between working with their allies in the interest of broader peace and security and their efforts to do all that they can to get rid of the scourge of cluster munitions.

Indeed, article 21 enables more countries to join the treaty, thereby moving us much closer to the eventual elimination of these munitions.

While some may not like the provisions of article 21, it represents a negotiated compromise between states, and it forms an integral part of the fabric of the convention.

Clause 11 of this bill, which we are addressing tonight, implements the terms of article 21. Clause 11 would ensure that Canadian Armed Forces personnel would be able to continue to work with the American armed forces or any other allied non-party state, such as Turkey, Israel or Poland, all states that have not signed on yet. That includes by joining their military units on exchange without exposure to criminal liability.

I need to point out that Canadian Armed Forces members will never be permitted to directly use cluster munitions at any time. If people hear anything different later tonight, that will be an attempt to mislead and misdirect people to what is the actual reality of this bill and the treaty.

A Canadian Armed Forces order will be issued to ensure this. However, given concerns that were raised in relation to clause 1, at committee we were able to work together and the government agreed to an amendment that was unanimously adopted. The amendment would ensure what the government had intended all along, and which the Canadian Forces order will reinforce, and that is that members of the Canadians Armed Forces may never directly use cluster munitions at any time, even when they are on exchange with a non-state party's military unit.

The Canadian Armed Forces order will reflect all of the requirements of Bill C-6 as ultimately adopted by Parliament. In addition, and going beyond the requirements of the convention, the order would also prohibit the transport of cluster munitions aboard carriers belonging to or under the control of the Canadian Armed Forces. It would further prohibit Canadian Armed Forces members on exchange with states that were not party to the convention from instructing and training in the use of cluster munitions.

Most of the requirements of the convention do not require domestic legislation. Bill C-6 only implements the requirements that make it a necessity. For example, the convention requires Canada itself not to develop, stockpile or use prohibited munitions. We have not, we will not develop them and we will not use them. Also, no legislation is needed to destroy the stockpiles that we do have. The government can do that on its own.

However, the treaty obliges Canada to extend these prohibitions to private companies and individuals in Canada by enacting the necessary criminal offences. It is these offences, along with the supporting definitions and exclusions, that form the core of Bill C-6.

The bill would make it illegal for any person or organization in Canada, and members can go through the list as it is extensive, to develop, produce, acquire, use, stockpile, retain or transfer cluster munitions. It would also make it a crime to aid, abet or counsel someone else to do these things, even if they were done in a country where cluster munitions were not illegal.

This expansion of Canadian criminal law then makes it necessary to exclude individuals within the Canadian Armed Forces and other public officials for scenarios in which they engage in the forms of military co-operation that are permitted by the convention.

One of the long-term challenges of this convention will be its full international acceptance or its universalization. If we really want to rid the world of the scourge of cluster munitions, we need to ensure that as many countries as possible sign and ratify the treaty and, more important, that they fulfill their obligations to destroy all stockpiles of these weapons. Ideally, all countries of the world would join the convention. However, until that day arrives, it is important for all of us who believe in this treaty and its goals to continue with those efforts.

The Government of Canada is committed to doing just that. Of course, we are not alone in encouraging other countries to join the convention. Many of our friends and allies, like the U.K., Australia, France, Germany and others, are also working hard in this regard, as all parties to the convention are expected to do.

As I have already noted, the United States has not joined the treaty and may not do so any time soon. Canada accepts that other countries are and should be free to make their own decisions on what international obligations to sign onto, but we nonetheless will continue to encourage the Untied States and others to support this historic and important treaty.

I know that all members in the House, like me, are anxious for Canada to complete its ratification of the treaty. As soon as the bill is enacted, Canada will be able to take the next step to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

The government has already begun fulfilling its future commitments to do away with the cluster munitions under its control. As I have said, the Department of National Defence has destroyed the vast majority of the former stockpile of cluster munitions and hopes to finish that destruction process by the end of this summer.

Internationally, Canada has participated actively in the first four meetings of state parties to the treaty in order to encourage its universal acceptance. We have also voluntarily submitted annual reports on our implementation of the treaty. Once we have ratified it, the commitment to submit annual reports will become a legal obligation.

These reports, which each state party must submit, show the rest of the world what each country is doing to get rid of cluster munitions. They will also explain what countries are doing to clear contaminated areas and rehabilitate victims. Canada believes that such reporting is important and necessary to ensure that all countries are meeting their obligations, and that is why we are already voluntarily providing these reports.

Finally, hon. members should be aware that Canada is also helping some of the nearly 30 countries that are contaminated by cluster munitions to clean up these explosive remnants. Since 2006, we have contributed more than $215 million to Mine Action projects around the world, which address the problem of explosive remnants of war, including cluster munitions.

For example, Canada has provided funding for projects in Laos for education on the risks of cluster munitions and for the clearance of those munitions. We have also provided funds to Bosnia and South Sudan to clear cluster munitions still lying around from the recent civil wars.

In November of last year, the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that the government would give an additional $10 million over 18 months to do even more to clear mines and cluster munitions to help victims of weapons and to educate local populations to be more aware of the risks.

In conclusion, I know hon. members on all sides of the House share my concerns about the tragic humanitarian consequences of these weapons. I urge all hon. members to support the bill so it can be enacted as quickly as possible and allow Canada to ratify the treaty and do our part to get rid of cluster munitions around the world.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if my colleague listened to my whole speech, but Canada has taken a strong position against the use of cluster munitions. We have never used them, we never intend to and we will forbid our troops from doing so.

However, we also need to continue interoperability agreements with other countries for a number of reasons. One reason is that we need to work militarily with them. A second reason, specific to this convention, is that we believe by working with these other countries we can hopefully convince them that they should sign on to this treaty as well.

The sooner we can get rid of these weapons around the world, the better off we will be. We are committed to help get rid of these weapons in places that are polluted with them. The minister was in Laos and was strongly impacted by what he saw. Therefore, we have made the commitments, which I mentioned in my speech, to try to deal with this issue around the world.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:30 p.m.
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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have a chance to speak to the cluster munitions bill again tonight and to put a question for my friend, the hon. parliamentary secretary.

We had a fairly unfortunate debate on a previous occasion in this place where there was what I tend to call a dialogue of the deaf. Some MPs were claiming that because Bill C-6 was very weak, and, in my view, unacceptably weak, the current administration did not care about getting rid of cluster munitions or about the children who had been injured by them. I reject that totally. I know that the hon. member and everyone in the House do not want cluster munitions to be used.

I want to preface my question for the parliamentary secretary by saying that I accept everything he has said. This bill is supposed to implement a cluster munitions treaty, which means that Canada is on record as being opposed to the use of cluster munitions.

My questions are very specific.

First, why has the administration failed to take the steps that should have been taken in this bill, as our other allies have done, to ensure that investment in cluster munitions is specifically prohibited.

Second, when the interoperability sections were created, why was the same language not used as is in the Ottawa land mines treaty bill, which is much more restrictive and does not allow as many loopholes as does the language we find in this legislation?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:35 p.m.
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David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has asked a couple of questions and hopefully I have enough time to respond to them.

One reason we do not use the term “investment” is because it is seen as too broad. The convention is written in a particular language and each country then has to put it into the language of its legal system in order to make it fully applicable. The word “investment” is not used because it is a broad term. It would be covered, as I mentioned earlier, under things such as counselling, aiding and abetting. Those are wrapped up in that. We are not permitting people to invest in cluster munitions, and I think the member opposite can be comfortable with that position.

In terms of the Ottawa convention, these are two very different treaties. One of the differences lies, in a practical sense, in the way that the munitions are used tactically in operations. This one is used in a wide variety of situations, typically planned and unplanned. If we had adopted the exact approach of the Ottawa convention, it certainly would have undermined the Canadian Forces' ability to effectively participate in joint military operations, interoperability and those kinds of things.

We did not believe that we should risk our national security and defence interests. We think this provides a good balance. It provides the leadership that Canada insists we show to the world in wanting to get rid of these munitions. At the same time, it allows us the interoperability that we need with our partners.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:35 p.m.
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Essex Ontario


Jeff Watson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the member's intervention. Obviously, this bill would help Canada fulfill its important commitments with respect to international protocols without binding us from our own unilateral action to exceed the intent of such a protocol.

The member noted that the United States was not a signatory to that international protocol. Would he discuss how Canada might appropriately engage the United States, to bring it along, and whether this bill in some way would allow us to do that?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:35 p.m.
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David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I should point out that we were not the only country that expressed the need to protect the concept of interoperability between the parties that were signing on to this and the ones that did not. Other countries such as Australia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, a whole list of other countries understood that this was an important concept within the realm of this convention.

I should take a couple of minutes to point out the reality of what would be expected if we were to rule out interoperability or if we were not to protect our troops. For example, there would be a risk in operational planning. Our men and women of the Canadian Forces participate in the strategic planning of things like air campaigns. They work in the headquarters of multinational operations. If there were no clause 11 in this bill, it would actually prevent Canadians from any involvement in the planning of and working on missions.

Second, I can describe a situation. I think that as soon as I bring it down to this level, members will understand why there is the necessity. For example, a team of 30 Canadian soldiers are guarding a school of young girls and boys in Afghanistan when they come under armed attack by Taliban terrorists. They call in air support from the United States forces to protect them. In a combined operation, they do not know in advance which plane can come to their rescue and what payload that plane will be carrying. When they are told that, the question is this. Would we want Canadian soldiers to volunteer to die, which they may do if we are prohibited from using the air support that would show up, or would we sooner have air support from a close friend and ally such as the United States?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:40 p.m.
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Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House, we actually tried to work quite closely with the government and civil society groups to address the problematic areas in the bill, and yes, there was one amendment. However, it certainly is not enough.

Earl Turcotte, who was the former senior coordinator for mine action at DFAIT and was also the head of the Canadian delegation to negotiate the convention itself, actually said:

...the proposed Canadian legislation is the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the convention [on cluster munitions], to date.

It fails to fulfill Canada's obligations under international humanitarian law; it fails to protect vulnerable civilians in war-ravaged countries around the world; it betrays the trust of sister states who negotiated this treaty in good faith, and it fails Canadians who expect far better from our nation.

Here is someone who negotiated the convention who says that clause 11 has to be removed to ensure that we have a good piece of legislation, and we have a government that continues to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the changes that would actually make it a much better bill.

I am wondering why it is that the Conservatives always put forward bills that have problematic areas in them. We have seen it with Senate reform, with the prostitution law, with the safe injection sites, and with the decision about Justice Nadon. Why is it that the Conservatives are not willing to work effectively with the opposition to ensure that we come to an agreement on a bill that would actually work for Canadians and for the international community as a whole?

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:40 p.m.
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David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I guess we have been on both sides of this equation, as far as being able to work with the opposition, because at committee, we were able to work together. There were primarily two issues that came into focus. One was the interoperability agreement, and the other was a concern about the word “use” in the bill. We were able to reach agreement on the amendment to the word “use”. I see that my colleague from Ottawa Centre from the foreign affairs committee is here tonight. He was one of those people we worked with. He gave his support to the motion and gave credit to the international effort to fix the bill and to the co-operation we had at committee.

On the side of usage, we were able to work together. We had no intention of having Canadian troops ever use these munitions anyway.

On the other side, on the interoperability agreement, we have a basic agreement with the NDP. In this situation, to have the convention ratified, the clause was put in the convention. In order for our bill to go forward, clause 11 will be part of the bill, because we understand that there needs to be a balance between the humanitarian effort to rid this planet of cluster munitions, and on the other hand, the opportunity to protect our soldiers as they go about doing their jobs to protect us.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 7:40 p.m.
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Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate at third reading of Bill C-6. It has had a rather long history. In fact, it goes back to a bill we had before the last prorogation of Parliament. It was actually a Senate bill. Just to remind people, this is a bill to implement an international treaty. At the time, I was deeply concerned that we had a pattern of having bills as important as Bill C-6 being initiated in the Senate. I say that because it is important that we are the ones to initiate legislation in the House.

However, we had a prorogation. The government actually did bring the bill back to the House of Commons, which is important. I had expressed my dismay and concern about the fact that it had its origins in the Senate. I had talked to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as was already intimated by my colleague on the foreign affairs committee, the member from Saskatchewan. It was a matter of trying to convince the government that the Senate bill was problematic.

I went to the government and said that clause 11 was a problem. We have gone over this many times in the House. The person who actually negotiated this on behalf of the government said that the bill was flawed. This was not the opposition saying this. This was actually someone who negotiated the international treaty. To give some context, we send our brightest and most competent people to negotiate treaties on our country's behalf. As has been mentioned, the person who did that on behalf of our country looked at the bill and said that it undermined the integrity of the treaty we signed.

When we sign treaties, that is the first step. Then we have to implement them, because otherwise they are just a signature on a piece of paper. The implementation of the treaty is the bill we have, and it is absolutely critical to get it right.

I went across the aisle and talked to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and told him that this was a problem, particularly clause 11. I noted the fact that our own diplomat who negotiated the treaty had a problem with it. The minister listened, and I waited to see what response there would be. This was a Senate bill, remember. Sadly, the bill stayed put. The Conservatives did not change it, so it became a controversy not just here in Canada, as I will outline in my speech, but in the international community. This is not just about the opposition critiquing the bill. It is about what the international community is saying about the bill. It is about what our very own diplomats who negotiated the treaty are saying about the bill, which is that the bill is problematic.

It is worth noting that after almost two years of trying to engage the government to amend the bill, the Conservatives did allow one amendment. It is important to note that since 2011 I can count on one hand the number of times the Conservatives have accepted amendments.

It took a very long time to get a small amendment. It is absolutely true that I tried to work with the government on this. However, the amendment it brought forward was not enough to deal with the issues we have with the integrity of the bill as juxtaposed with the treaty.

It is very important to lay that out, because it shows that the government, first of all, took a long time to get the legislation going. We had signed the treaty. It took a couple of years to present legislation. At the same time, other countries that had signed the treaty had ratified it. It was put in place, and they were moving forward.

This is really important, because right now, as we speak, cluster munitions are being used in conflict. We are having to catch up, just like we had to do with land mines.

These are heinous munitions. It is difficult to understand how people contemplate these forms of munitions. Unlike land mines, which are planted in the ground, cluster munitions actually fall from the sky, and when they land, they explode with bomblets right across the terrain. No one is able to actually track them. Land mines are a bit different. We can find out from enemy combatants where they are planted. With cluster munitions, that is not the case.

The majority of victims, as we know, are civilians. Too many of them are children, because often children mistake them for toys. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said this himself. He was very moved when he went to Cambodia and heard testimony. I gave this testimony last time we debated the bill. Kids actually take these back to their homes and go to play with them, and they blow up, They remove limbs and also take lives. These are heinous things. We have to get this right.

The government took its time bringing legislation forward. It tried it in the Senate and prorogation ended it. The same is offered here, after I went to the government.

What were some of the concerns? They have been enumerated numerous times, but I want to give a critique, not just from me but from the international community, on Canada's legislation for the implementation of an international treaty. There are a couple that are worthy of noting. We have noted them before, but they require repetition.

Let me quote first from our friends from Norway, who were responsible for helping to get this treaty together. The Norwegian ambassador, Steffen Kongstad, whose country holds the presidency for the actual process of the treaty, said:

We would normally not comment on the internal process in other countries. But I can say that we would not present such a law in the Norwegian parliament. It seems somewhat inconsistent with the purpose of the convention.

I do not think I have to tell members that diplomats speak diplomatically. When a diplomat who is in charge of the overall integrity of the treaty says to one of the member states that is a signatory to the treaty that he would not actually bring this forward to his own parliament, that is a very strong, direct signal from a diplomat. It is basically saying, “You got it wrong. You need to change it”. It is important to note that.

The Red Cross is another international voice we have heard from. Again, it is very rare. It is in the mandate of the Red Cross that it does not comment on a country's activities, behaviours, et cetera, because it undermines the integrity of the Red Cross. It is to be objective. It was actually the Red Cross that cited our legislation as not being sufficient, as undermining the treaty.

It is perplexing. Many people are asking how clause 11, on interoperability, happened. We have had this debate back and forth between the government and members of my party about why we had to have this. Other countries and people who helped negotiate and implement this legislation are actually saying that it is not the case. We can have interoperability and still ensure that none of our forces, diplomats, or anyone involved in the theatre of war would have anything to do with cluster munitions. The government says we cannot do that but then says that we will never use them. It has an inconsistency in its argument.

The question is how we got here. I would argue that it is the way the government does policy, particularly on international affairs. What we learned after we heard from the former diplomat who actually negotiated the treaty was that after the treaty was negotiated and the government signed the treaty, it went to implement it. Who did the government go to exclusively? It went to the Department of National Defence. It should consult the Department of National Defence. It is very important. There is expertise. We heard from the department at committee. It was extraordinarily important to hear from it, because it has to know how to implement the actual legislation in theatre. However, what was astonishing, and it is a pattern with the government, was that it was not consulting the Department of Foreign Affairs.

It is astonishing. Here is how I understood and still understand the way things should work when it comes to international treaties, particularly around conflict. It is the role of the diplomats to negotiate these treaties, and it is the role of our diplomats and our Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is the top diplomat in cabinet, to look at how to implement legislation. He or she should be going to the department and seeking out the best advice from experts in diplomacy on how we implement a treaty in legislation.

That did not happen. What we had instead was the Department of National Defence having the first go at it, and we ended up with this clause 11. That's nothing to say against the military; it protects itself. We know that. That is what institutions and departments do.

What the department did was that it put in clause 11 in the bill, after section 22 of the treaty, which talks about interoperability. It was pretty clear, and I actually asked for an amendment to lift section 22 out of the treaty and to put it into the legislation. Then there would have been an absolutely direct connection between the treaty and legislation, by cut and pasting that treaty section. However, they did not do that. What they did was put in clause 11.

Clause 11 actually states, and part of this was changed through the amendment process, that Canadian Forces personnel could use cluster munitions. I say that, and most people think it is unbelievable that we would sign a treaty banning the use of cluster munitions, but then have in the implementing legislation of that very treaty a clause that would put Canadian Forces personnel into a situation where they could use cluster munitions.

We can see the inherent contradiction and paradox within the legislation. Why did the government do that? We heard from the former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Natynczyk, who said that this was very important, that there had to be clarity of purpose and direction when doing joint operations with our friends in the States. I could not agree with him more. It is true.

However, it does not preclude our having different protocols. Why? Well, when I and others were in Afghanistan, we knew on the ground that there were different caveats for different operations. They were clear. In fact, in ISAF's mandate on how it worked on the ground in Afghanistan, there were caveats for different forces who made up the international security forces in Afghanistan. They are caveats, different ways of operating in the field.

There should not be too many caveats, because they can undermine the coherence of a mission. However, we have them. The general knew that. However, he was able to get the government to put in what he wanted. What he wanted was clear: it was to have an exemption for the Canadian Forces in the case of interoperability and a scenario with the Americans where cluster munitions were used.

It is very important to note all of these facts: where the bill came from, who negotiated the bill, and the fact that we had this section 11, which the Red Cross and the diplomats who helped negotiate it for Canada, and Norway, which was responsible for the overall framework of the agreement, all said the same thing about. I will add here, just for good measure, because I know that the Prime Minister is a fan of Australian prime ministers, that we had a former Australian prime minister with the same party leaning as the Prime Minister saying this was a flawed bill.

If we put that all together, what do we have? It is a flawed bill that undermines not only the integrity of the treaty but also our reputation as a country, because our signature is on the bill. It is the legislation we are implementing.

All of these things come together with the following result. Let me read into the record what we were able to negotiate with the government as an amendment. We negotiated paragraph 11(1)(c), which would have allowed, as I was just explaining, the Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions. It is true that the government took that out. That has to be acknowledged, but what was left in there was the rest of clause 11, after it was amended. So the government listened to us and took out one part of section 11, which would have allowed Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions. This inherent paradox was taken out. However, they left in the following:

Section 6 does not prohibit a person [in the forces] the course of military cooperation or combined military operations involving Canada and a state that is not a party to the Convention, from

(a) directing or authorizing an activity that may involve the use, acquisition, possession, import or export of a cluster munition...

What that means in English is that we could have the Canadian Forces directing an operation using cluster munitions. Let us put forward a scenario: I have cluster munitions and I am in the Canadian Forces. Before, the exemption allowed the Canadian Forces to directly drop the bomb. Now, according to what we still have and what is problematic in the bill, we could direct another force to drop cluster munitions.

That is the first problem that we have with the bill. We are glad that they took out the part that the Canadian Forces shall not use them, but directing or authorizing activity for others to use them is still problematic. It is a matter of accountability.

Yet again, there is another problem with clause 11. It refers to the Canadian Forces “expressly requesting the use of a cluster munition”. Again, directing the use of cluster munitions is allowed by the Canadian Forces, and in paragraph (b) of clause 11, they can request their use. They can ask someone to bring in a raid and drop cluster munitions on a certain target if it is for the Canadian Forces. It makes no sense. We are saying this is a treaty to ban cluster munitions, but in clause 11 we are saying it is okay for the Canadian Forces to direct or request the use of cluster munitions.

Here is the part that I find fascinating. When this point was made to the government time and time again by me, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the former prime minister of Australia, other experts, and the diplomat who negotiated this treaty, the government said that it was true that it would allow the Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions, that there was an exemption here. However, here is the caveat: the government said that it would direct, through the Chief of Defence Staff, the banning of the use of cluster munitions.

This is fine, but it is simply a promise. We are talking about legislation to follow a treaty. We have a massive loophole like this, and the government is covering it by saying that it would direct our Chief of Defence Staff to tell our forces that we shall never use them. Members can see the contradiction. Why would we not put it into legislation to ensure that there is no scenario where Canadian Forces would use cluster munitions?

This gets into the most important argument, which is the debate that we had at committee and which is still happening outside Canada in regard to our reputation in implementing the treaty. As my colleagues already mentioned, it is the worst legislation of any signatory to the treaty.

The government says that because of interoperability, it does not really want to put in these exemptions but that it has to because of the nature of our relationship with the United States. Other NATO countries can have interoperability, according to section 22 of the treaty, and follow it, which is what we hoped and negotiated for. However, we are Canada and we are special, so we must have these loopholes.

Here is the problem. In the case of Afghanistan, as I already mentioned, we were there with the Brits, the Dutch, and others who are signatories to the treaty. They do not have this exemption. They have interoperability with the Americans.

The fact of the matter is, and my colleagues know this, that we can be explicit as to what we will be doing in the field, be it through caveats or joint training. If we are doing joint training, it is pretty obvious that we would be using the opportunity in our joint training with our American friends to say that they know that we have signed this treaty, here is the legislation, here is what we will be doing to make sure that Canada, in joint operations with our friends in the States, will not be using cluster munitions in theatre. We have already done this with landmines.

Let me finish with this. We got the government to make one amendment, but it is clearly not sufficient when the government is still allowing troops to guide and request the use of cluster munitions. That is why clause 11 must go. That is why we will oppose this bill.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 8 p.m.
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Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was touched by my colleague's remarks, particularly when he talked about children playing with unexploded cluster bombs. Unfortunately, they do not understand that these are dangerous weapons than can kill or maim them.

I would like my colleague to tell us more about the human tragedy happening in conflict zones where civilians find unexploded cluster bombs near their homes even after the conflict ends. Unfortunately, young people are being killed.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 8 p.m.
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Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just give my colleague this response, and to read it into the record for the House. The following is stated in an article about the ongoing conflict in Syria:

Cluster munitions were used in Syria in areas with a high population density.

We know about the barrel bombs, but they are using cluster munitions as well. The article continues:

On March 1, 2013, they were used in a residential neighbourhood at 11:30 a.m., when children were playing outside in gardens. The attack exacted a heavy toll: at least 19 people were killed and 60 were injured. The unexploded cluster munitions will continue to pose a lethal threat to civilian lives for years to come.

That is the point. When these bomblets are dropped, there is an explosion on impact, but the bomblets fester and stick around and children pick them up. They the children are maimed or killed. That is why we have to be absolutely resolute to do our best to ensure that these munitions are banned.

Prohibiting Cluster Munitions ActGovernment Orders

June 18th, 2014 / 8:05 p.m.
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Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre for his excellent presentation and for all of the work he does on foreign affairs. He is widely recognized as someone having a great deal of expertise, and we thank him for that.

On the bill at hand on cluster munitions, New Democrats support a treaty to ban cluster munitions. These are terrible weapons that overwhelmingly impact civilians, and especially children, as my colleague has so eloquently described. Yet, as he detailed, this Conservative legislation to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions is widely recognized as the weakest and worst in the entire world. In other words, Canada has become an embarrassment when it comes to the issue of having effective legislation to implement the treaty on cluster munitions.

My question for my colleague is this. With this weaponry that overwhelmingly targets civilians, especially children, can he advise the House why the Conservatives, who say their government supports families and children, would want to undermine a treaty that would save the lives of children around the world?