Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of private member's Bill C-252, calling for a domestic ban of anti-personnel land mines.
I have a particular interest in this issue, since last week at a conference of the North Atlantic Assembly I was elected Special Rapporteur to the Science and Technology Committee to report to the assembly on anti-personnel land mines with the objective of banning them. In the coming months I will be studying this issue very closely.
In recent years, due in part to the efforts of numerous international non-governmental organizations, as mentioned by the previous speaker, the issue of anti-personnel land mines has been brought to the forefront of international relations. We are becoming increasingly informed and aware of the destruction and havoc caused by such weapons all over the world.
These efforts have led to an international campaign to ban anti-personnel land mines, a movement in which I am proud to state Canada has taken a lead role.
In October of this year, the Minister of Foreign Affairs held an international strategy conference toward a global ban on anti-personnel land mines where representatives of 70 governments, non-governmental organizations, multilateral agencies and private citizens attended. The Ottawa conference concluded with the adoption of the Ottawa declaration calling for an international ban on anti-personnel land mines.
The problem is enormous. It is estimated there are 119 million uncleared active land mines around the world in more than 64 countries. Currently, as the previous speaker mentioned, only 100,000 are being cleared and disarmed yearly at great expense.
The United Nations has projected that if no further land mines were laid, it would still take 1,000 years and $33 billion to clear the land mines that are already in place. However, each year two million to five million new mines are put in the ground. We cannot sit idly by and allow the situation to continue unchecked.
These horrible weapons currently claim more than 2,000 victims a month and over the last 50 years have probably inflicted more death and injuries than nuclear and chemical weapons combined.
While the use of land mines began as a counter to tanks, the use of anti-personnel land mines have become increasingly popular. They have become the weapon of choice for parties involved in guerrilla type operations and international conflicts as they are cheap, as little a $3 a piece, easy to lay and highly effective in killing and maiming human beings, particularly women and children. They are used in some cases to deny access to farm lands, irrigation channels and power plants. The effect of these usages is devastating in a country recovering from war.
Once land mines are laid, they are indiscriminate in their actions since they do not have to be aimed or fired. They are nameless and faceless weapons. Unless they are cleared they go on killing long after the end of any conflict. In fact, the United Nations has estimated that land mines are at least ten times more likely to kill or injure a civilian after a conflict than a combatant during hostility.
Moreover, floods, landslides, moving sand dunes and natural erosion can shift their positions long after they have been laid and marked. In Namibia 88 per cent of post-1980 land mine casualties were civilian. The same situation is reflected in many other countries where land mines are numerous.
The effects of land mines are gruesome and abhorrent. One person is killed or maimed by a mine every 20 minutes and nearly a third of the survivors have at least one limb amputated. On a current election monitoring trip to Bosnia I was shocked to note that about one in every ten adults and children walking along the street in a town called Gorazde had either a hand, an arm or a leg missing.
By comparison, in the U.S. there is one amputee per 22,000 inhabitants. In Cambodia, one of the countries most affected by mines, there is one amputee per 384 inhabitants. A study in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia and Mozambique found that the number of mine incidents in these four countries more than doubled between the early 1980s and the early 1990s.
Land mines cause havoc in a society and severely hamper post-war reconstruction. Most mines strike those who are poor and must go into debt to pay for their medical bills if they can afford medical treatment at all. Gorazde has 20,000 people and two doctors from Doctors without Borders.
The day before I arrived in Gorazde a little boy picked up a red lunch pail and blew his arm off at the shoulder. All the doctors could do is cauterize it and send him to Sarajevo. No one knew what happened to him after that.
Mines also prevent the use of land for agricultural production in many parts of affected countries, severely limiting economic recovery. For example, in Libya only 27 per cent of arable land is usable because it has been covered by mine fields since World War II. Mines make reconstruction of rail and road networks, power lines and waterways slow, dangerous and costly.
When I was in Bosnia they only had power for two out of 24 hours. It was erratic. It could not be repaired. Sometimes the electricity came on from two until four in the morning, the time when most people do not have much use for it.
Not only do anti-personnel land mines prevent the use of resources, they also place a strain on the budgets of countries affected, especially since those countries are likely among the poorest in the world.
In addition, land mines prevent the settlement and resettlement of refugees which is essential to the success of the peace process. Peacekeepers are also at risk in these circumstances and we have many Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia right now, over 1,000.
A total of 203 UN peacekeepers have been injured by mines and 60 have been killed to date. A further 39 UN civilian personnel have been injured and 7 have been killed by mines. One of the most important briefings I got repeatedly before I went to Bosnia as a civilian election monitor was all the rules and regulations on how to avoid getting maimed or killed by a land mine. I was in one of the most beautiful countries in the world yet I could not step off the sidewalk or the road on to the grass anywhere.
For all of these reasons, land mines make it difficult, if not impossible, for countries to make the transition from conflict to peace through economic recovery, which is what those countries desperately need in order to reduce the chances of future armed conflicts.
Land mines are not a significant source of revenue for most countries. About 100 companies in some 55 countries produce approximately five million land mines a year comprised of about 360 different types of anti-personnel land mines. Few countries profit significantly from the sale of conventional anti-personnel land mines, most of which sell from $3 to $30 each.
Not only are clearance costs between $300 and $1,000 per mine, the human costs are overwhelming. Each victim will incur lifetime expenses and each country will incur serious human and economic costs from those injuries. We can be very proud. Canada has one of the best trained forces in the world in disarming these mines.
The review conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons adopted on May 3 a revised version of the convention's protocol II regulating the use of "mines, booby traps and other devices". Some of the revisions include an extension of the protocol to apply in both international and non-international armed conflicts, a clear assignment of responsibility for mine clearance to those who lay the mines, and a requirement that all mines be mapped and recorded. Of course that requirement is useless in many countries. As soon as the weather changes the mines shift and it is impossible to find them. Self-destructing mines may be used without any specific restriction but they are few and far between.
While I am pleased that such efforts are being attempted it is not enough. The provisions will be phased in over nine years. In addition to this delay, many of the provisions are costly, difficult to ensure and unlikely to be followed, particularly in the midst of war.
Even if states comply with the recording and mapping rule these techniques are only marginally effective when land mines shift easily over unstable ground. Self-destructing mines can be delivered in huge quantities and are extremely difficult to map. Their use could lead to an even greater increase in civilian mine casualties.
The limited military usefulness of land mines must be overridden by humanitarian priorities. I have had the opportunity to witness firsthand, as I have mentioned repeatedly, the destruction caused by anti-personnel land mines.
On the trip to Bosnia the most nervous part of the whole trip was not fear that I would be shot at or fear that there would be conflict between the people we were there to observe, it was the fear for my own person. I thought to myself there are many people, young people, who do not have work, 85 per cent unemployed, and they have the added fear that if they step anywhere that they should not, off a road, off a sidewalk, they can be maimed for life.
I can only imagine the dangers the average citizen faced on a day to day basis there. Fighting had technically ceased. Just because the
act of war was over did not mean the citizens were out of danger. Rather, they faced a whole new set of problems, not the least among them was trying to rebuild a country with so many obstacles in place.
Canada must take a lead role in achieving a global ban on anti-personnel land mines. Bill C-252 is non-partisan. It has been presented by a member of the Reform Party but I wholeheartedly endorse it in a non-partisan fashion. It draws our attention to this very important subject and provokes serious debate and consideration of the issues involved.
I strongly urge thoughtful consideration of this bill because ongoing dialogue is essential to any future progress.