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Evidence of meeting #42 for International Trade in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was colombia.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kerry Buck  Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Jean-Benoît Leblanc  Director, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division I, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Alex Neve  Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada, Amnesty International
Hassan Yussuff  Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress

11:55 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

I'll pass that question to my colleague, Monsieur Leblanc, to answer, if you don't mind.

11:55 a.m.

Jean-Benoît Leblanc Director, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division I, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As Mr. Keddy just mentioned, yes, it is true that the Colombia agreement is very similar in terms of the chapters that you have: the trade in goods, trade in services, investment rules, government procurement rules, intellectual property, and non-tariff barriers. So it's very similar. It is a model Canada has been using for years. Obviously since the NAFTA there is always some adjustment, depending on the commercial realities of the country we are negotiating with.

In some countries, for example, investment rules will be even more important if Canada is a large investor. If for example, Canadian banks are active in one market, we might put a bit more emphasis on financial services, and so on and so forth.

So it's the same template—quite general, but with a little adjustment depending on the commercial relationship.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Mr. Easter, you have seven minutes.

June 7th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, folks, for your presentation.

I do agree with Mr. Davies' line of questioning on this issue.

I will admit that I come from the point of view that an economic relationship can be utilized to improve human rights; I don't think the right way to go is to just close the door and say that we're not going to deal with them.

But I can certainly tell you that on this particular clause in the legislation, Scott Brison did travel to Colombia, and the clause was one of the conditions of our agreeing to pass the legislation.

We don't want to take it out on you folks, because it's ultimately the minister and the ministry who are responsible, but I find this is basically an excuse. I have to ask you, does the ministry, the department, not take seriously the clauses that were inserted into the legislation so that there would be a significant report? That was conditional on our passing that legislation. Does the department not take the legislation seriously?

I think the departments are basically in violation of a law that was passed by the Parliament of Canada. This is serious stuff. People can laugh if they like, but this is serious. Parliament passed a law. We expected a report; we're not getting it, so why the insufficient data?

11:55 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

The department, the government, takes the report and that clause of the legislation very seriously. You'll appreciate that this is an agreement, as my colleague said, that is specific to Colombia. This element of the agreement is specific to Colombia. It's very important to do it properly; it's very important to do the proper analysis.

The report is about the correlation, the human rights impact of activities that flow from the CCOFTA, in the most active economic sectors flowing from the CCOFTA. Four and a half months of trade and investment data was, in our view, insufficient to allow that in-depth, rigorous analysis of the correlation between that economic activity and human rights.

The period will be covered. The government's position is that the tabling of the report is clearly consistent with the fulfillment of its obligations under the legislation. But it is also clear, as we have recognized in the report, that the entire period will be covered when we table the next report in 2013.

Thank you.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

I guess it's not clear to me why you take the position that there's insufficient data for the period. I mean, what's going to change next year? When we next address this after a year has passed, how are you going to set up the protocols or the baseline, or whatever you call it, that will give Parliament a comparable and evidence-based report that's going to be different from the current one?

Noon

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

Sir, I think you've actually framed it quite well. The thing that will be different is that there will be a year of data and we'll be better able to do that rigorous analysis that's required.

You asked about how we would approach the rigorous analysis. We've set it out in the current report. As I said, the overall framework is to assess any notable changes in the human rights situation in the most active economic sectors that stem from the CCOFTA. Those are the parameters of the report. In that report we'll have to include baseline information outlining the trade and human rights situation in those economic sectors so as to be consistent with the requirements of the legislation prior to entry into force of the CCOFTA. Then we'll be looking through the number of methodological steps outlined in the current report.

I'll briefly run through them: we will review the measures that flow from the CCOFTA in the preceding year; do a preliminary screening of what sectors we see more economic activity in; cluster those economic sectors—

Noon

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Is there any way you could provide the chair or the clerk with a note stating what those parameters are, because they are not in your remarks? I find a year versus four and half, five, or six months.... If you can't do it for five or six months, how can you do it for a year? That's the problem.

Noon

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

Four and a half.

Noon

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

In its report the United Nations does say, to Colombia's credit, that there have been improvements but that “many human rights and international humanitarian law violations are still committed in Colombia”.

The United Nations is the organization that the government, lately, is consistently attacking. They can give us a report, they can examine the issues, and your departments, which are mandated by law to do this, can't? Water under the bridge may be a certain thing, but what I find remarkably strange is that if you can't do it for this year, how can you do it for next? But at least give the parameters to the clerk so that we can have a look at them.

I will ask you this last question. Will you be comparing the years that have already passed with this year, as we move into...? Will that comparison be there, as well, next year?

Noon

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

First, we would be very happy to provide the committee with information on the methodological steps that we intend to take.

Second, on reporting generally on human rights, yes, the UN recognizes that there are ongoing human rights issues in Colombia. The Government of Colombia recognizes ongoing human rights, as does the Government of Canada. This is normal. We also all recognize that there's been important progress.

But that is not the mandate that we are given to report on, generally, on human rights. We have to do a rigorous.... This is a Colombia-specific agreement. This kind of analysis I know, as someone who's worked on human rights for about 25 years, is very hard to get it right. You have to do it up right and you need a sufficient database in order to move forward. Four and a half months was not sufficient. But the entire period will be sufficient.

We'll be following the methodology that we will outline to the committee and outlined in our report.

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much for that.

We have one more questioner.

Mr. Holder, I'll yield the floor to you.

I understand, Mr. Bouchard, that you have to leave, perhaps very soon. Feel free to do that. But we certainly want to carry on with the final questioner.

Mr. Holder.

Noon

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

But, Mr. Chair, we're coming to the best part now.

I hope you don't have to leave, Mr. Bouchard

I'd like to thank our guests for being here today. It's been an interesting challenge, with some fairly aggressive questioning, but I appreciate your forthrightness.

I'd like to come to something, Mr. Chair, if you'd allow me. Sometimes you just can't let certain things sit there and go unchallenged. What is important to challenge are the references that have been made about the government's position with respect to the UN.

Let me tell you what the government is saying with respect to the UN. The government is saying that we don't think that an agency of the UN that has a food rapporteur who attacks Canada is the best focus, frankly, for the UN nor do we think it fair. We don't think that another agency of the UN that chooses Robert Mugabe, from Zimbabwe.... And if anyone wants to talk about human rights, Mr. Chair—

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

No, it was brought up, Mr. Chair.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

On a point of order.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

It had better be a point of order.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

It is a point of order. What does this have to do with the evidence—

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

It's not a point of order.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Then we're going to debate the issue, Mr. Chair.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

No, we're not.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

We're going to debate the issue—

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Mr. Holder, go ahead.

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

—because I'm not going to listen to this propaganda coming from the government side.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Yes, you are.

Mr. Holder, carry on.