Madam Speaker, I welcome everyone back to the House after a week in our constituencies. I ask everybody to give me a brief moment this morning to wish my father a happy 80th birthday. It is his 80th birthday today. Duke McPherson, my dad, who is Frederick Clark III but is in fact called Duke, is a bit of character. We were never quite sure who was the parent and who was the child, but we always had his unrelenting love, so I wanted to take a moment to wish him a happy birthday this morning.
Today we are talking about a piece of legislation brought forward by the member for Northumberland—Peterborough South. It is a very good piece of legislation. I have long suspected the member of being an NDP at heart, because he does recognize the important value of human rights. This piece of legislation is something that all of us in the House can agree closes some of the gaps in the human rights legislation in this country. It closes some of the holes present in our human rights legislation.
Human rights, for me, is an extraordinarily important part of what we do. Canada has an obligation to be a leader in human rights. Canada has shown itself in the past to be a leader, and there are so many more things we need to do as parliamentarians, as a Parliament, as a government and as people representing our constituents to ensure human rights are protected in Canada, because many human rights are not being protected here. We also need to ensure that human rights around the world are being protected. This stems from the fact that for many, many years, Canadians have expressed concerns about Canada's human rights and the approach that our governments have had with regard to human rights, and not just the current government but previous governments as well.
We know we must do better. We know that no person should profit off the use of cluster munitions. We know foreign nationals involved in genocide or human rights abuses should not be able to broadcast in Canada. We know the Government of Canada must be more transparent with its sanctions regime, as well as the work it is taking on to defend prisoners of conscience.
While this is a very good bill that would close some gaps, there are some things it would not do. There would still be loopholes in Canada's cluster munitions legislation. We will still need a fulsome review and fix of Canada's sanctions regime, in particular the enforcement of sanctions.
Many times in the House I have stood and asked questions of the government about the sanctions regime, particularly with regard to how it is being implemented against Russian oligarchs. It is very difficult to get information on how much has been seized and how effectively our sanctions regime has been enforced. This is something that I have used Order Paper questions for as well. In fact, I was told the government could not give me the answer for the sanctions questions I had because it was not sure it would have the right answer. It was therefore not able to give an answer at all.
Of course, there are more things we need to do. We need to make sure that Canada's approach to human rights is consistent. We have seen time and time again that our human rights approach has been inconsistent in this country. There are times when Canada has been very strong and has been a human rights leader, but there are notable blind spots.
One of those blind spots is Saudi Arabia. We continuously fail to stop the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia despite the fact that we know they are being used against civilians. We know they are being used brutally.
We fail to recognize that there is a disproportionate war happening in Palestine and Israel. International law is being broken at this moment, which is having implications for civilians.
We have not done enough to deal with the ongoing genocide happening against the Uighur people in China. The government worked very hard, and we are very grateful that we were able to get the two Michaels returned to Canada. However, there are other Canadians who are still being held in China, and we have not seen the same level of focus on them. Huseyin Celil has not seen his family in over 16 years. He is a Canadian citizen who has not seen his children in 16 years. This is a human rights atrocity that we should also be standing up for.
A personal issue that I have taken up with my Bill C-263 is with regard to our Canadian mining and extractive industries around the world and how we do not apply the same human rights lens to mining companies around the world like we do to other industries in other places. Ensuring that people in Latin America, in South Asia and in Africa are protected from the environmental and human rights abuses caused by Canadian mining companies is very important.
My colleague, the member for New Westminster—Burnaby, has brought forward some forced labour legislation that is extremely strong. I certainly hope the government looks at the legislation that the member has prepared, which he has worked with the sector to prepare, as it looks at developing its own forced labour legislation going forward.
These are some of those gaps we see in Canada's human rights response and it is vital that we close them.
With regard to this bill, the idea of requiring the minister to publish an annual report that would outline the measures the minister has taken to advance human rights internationally as part of Canada's foreign policies is an excellent idea. We probably should already have that. It is an important step that will shed light on the government's priorities and give us more information about what we need to do to push them harder to do the right thing.
However, I do have a couple of concerns. One is that Canada needs an international human rights action strategy. If we had that, then there would be something clear and concrete against which we would measure this proposed report. We want to see the government produce an action plan that will then lead to an annual report on what it will do and whether it has done it. We need that response mechanism so we can keep that in place.
In addition, the bill would require that the government produce a list of prisoners of conscience, for whose release the Government of Canada is actively working toward. This is an excellent step and I am very thankful the member has brought it forward. It does give us some transparency and some accountability. However, there is no international legal definition of a prisoner of conscience and this could mean that some folks deserving of our attention would not be included on this list. For example, could we use a term such as “prisoners detained in contravention of human rights legal standards or legislation standards?”
Even just recently, for example, the family, a Canadian family, of Dong Guangping has no idea where he is. He went missing in Vietnam. We do not know where this gentleman is. Canada can do more to work on that, helping people like him find their way to Canada.
Moreover, we do have a concern that the public list of this kind may not provide the needed nuance or subtlety that Canada needs to employ in delicate cases. Should a name not be on the list, does that mean Canada is not working for that person? We would propose a meaningful plan of action and a set of guidelines for prisoners that would ensure greater consistency and transparency and accountability to families in civil society.
We need something more useful than the list. An actual change of behaviour from the Canadian government is something that we certainly would be proposing.
Giving the parliamentary committees the right to recommend Magnitsky sanctions is an excellent proposal. It is something we should already have done. We need to be using the Magnitsky sanctions more. We need to ensure that we are specifically targeting those individuals who are causing these crimes. The Magnitsky act, implemented by Bill Browder, on behalf of his friend Sergei Magnitsky, is one of the strongest pieces of legislation we have to hold individuals responsible for human rights abuses to account. I strongly support the ability of people who are studying issues, for example, at the foreign affairs committee or wherever, to be able to contribute to that and be part of that conversation.
I would like to thank the member for the bill. This is excellent legislation. We will be providing some friendly amendments. I look forward to closing some, though not all, of the gaps in Canadian human rights law.