Madam Speaker, on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I am pleased today to pay tribute to all Nigerian democrats.
Barely two years ago, the people of Nigeria believed they had acquired a democratic process worthy of the name. Their leader, Moshood Abiola, had won a resounding, eminently democratic victory. Unfortunately, as we know, the military regime did not accept the outcome, cancelled the election and ultimately, appointed General Sani Abacha as head of state.
In light of the special commercial and political ties between Canada and Nigeria, the Canadian government has a duty to condemn loud and clear the basic human rights violations that many Nigerians have suffered.
In our opinion, the Canadian government is not doing everything that it can to intervene. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs publicly announced only a few weeks ago, Canada is preparing to promote trade without taking into account the human rights record of certain countries.
The Liberal government's new foreign policy is questionable. When the Canadian section of Amnesty International gathered for its annual meeting last week, the director of the English section rightly stated that to remain silent on the human rights issue constitutes a serious abdication of our responsibilities, bordering on complicity.
As we have said, the Canadian government's policy on human rights is based on double talk. The policy of the Liberal government is to answer only to the economic imperatives of Canada's relations with its major trading partners, such as China or Mexico. However, it takes a hard line approach to small countries with which we have few or non-existent trade relations.
The Bloc Quebecois believes that the Liberal government should not hesitate to proclaim and publicly defend the fact that democracy and human rights are the cornerstones of Canadian foreign policy, and that all of our trading partners should be expected to have a similar stand, regardless of how much trade Canada does with them.
By taking such a position, the government will be sending a clear message to the people and heads of state or government of countries that have trade ties with or receive aid from Canada, as is the case with Nigeria. Canada must not pass up this opportunity to profess in a vigorous way its democratic faith in an international community where the temptation to remain indifferent, detached or self-interested is omnipresent. We must move quickly to prove wrong the dictators who interpret the collusive silence of countries that claim to embrace democratic ideals as support for their actions.
Instead of turning a blind eye to anti-democratic regimes and human rights violations, whether in China or elsewhere, instead of discussing the issue of human rights only behind the scenes to spare the feelings of countries with markets that are interesting to Canada, the government must adopt a coherent, clearly worded policy, one that is entrenched in legislative and regulatory texts and that ensures that decisions are based on three established criteria, namely human rights, development assistance and international trade.
Otherwise, the only clear message that the government will be sending is that governments of the south need only become good trading partners if they want to rule by dictatorship, free of any pressure.
In closing, I want to express once again my support for all Nigerian democrats. I know how difficult it can be to fight for human rights and democracy. Sometimes people have the feeling that their hard work produces only mediocre results. Yet, we are hopeful that their efforts to achieve democracy will prove successful. Until then, the official opposition will support their actions and join with them in condemning the human rights violations that many Nigerians have suffered.