Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to take the second half of my fellow member's time and to again remember December 10, 1948, the conference on human rights and the statement made at that time.
Human rights is something that hopefully every single one of us as Canadians feel strongly about and are concerned about. I am sure we could talk about it in many different ways. What I intend to do tonight is concentrate primarily on the international aspects.
Each and every day my office receives a great many letters from across the country appealing to the government to do more about human rights. I suggest that many Canadians who have written those letters feel that the current government has done a poor job in many areas of human rights.
In much of the current debate a false dichotomy has developed. On one hand, many human rights activists argue that Canada should completely cut off countries with abusive governments. They argue that we should not trade with them, that we should publicly condemn them and that we should isolate them. On the other hand, the government has taken the approach of cosying up to at least 99 per cent of the dictators, of being their best buddy and of saving its outrage and contempt for the other 1 per cent to make it look like it actually cares. Neither of these approaches achieves the goal that most Canadians want.
From speaking to Canadians I believe they want government policy to accomplish several things. First they want Canada to help people who live under abusive regimes in the most constructive way possible. In order to help people, Canada must have a presence in the affected country. Canada has a lot of experience in building legal and democratic institutions in the developing world. This is an important feature of Canada's current foreign aid program.
That is why Reform supports this process which includes things such as monitoring elections to make sure they are free and fair; providing legal expertise to reform the court systems; and providing training for police so they will serve and protect rather than intimidate and bully their populations. It is our hope that through this type of policy we can help the people in the developing world to establish democratic and legal institutions that ordinary people trust.
Reform also supports working with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to build civil societies in developing countries. With this policy Canada will be able to help people in the developing world to help themselves to a better future. As social and business groups emerge as legitimate political forces in developing countries, they will be able to assert themselves and work against corrupt and abusive governments.
Reform also sees international trade as a source of hope for people in developing countries. Certainly there is an intense debate surrounding this point but I believe supporting human rights through various programs and reforms will mean little if the people we are trying to help continue to live in absolute poverty and destitution.
International trade creates jobs and incomes for millions and millions of people who would otherwise have nothing. This is not to say that wages are always at an acceptable level. It is not to say that the workplace conditions are what we would expect here in Canada. But if we ask the question, would the people living in abusive countries be better off or worse off if Canada and other developed countries refused to trade with them, I believe the answer is clear.
In the political debate in Canada, Reform has consistently argued that the best kind of welfare program is a job. If this is true in Canada where we have a whole social safety net which includes free health care, employment insurance, old age security, welfare and a host of other programs for our citizens, then it is doubly true in countries where no such programs exist.
For all of the reasons I have mentioned: providing jobs, assisting in democratic institutions and building and reforming corrupt legal systems, Canada should not choose the path of isolation. Even though cutting countries off would be a strong symbolic statement, I do not think it is the best way to help those people who desperately need our assistance.
Nonetheless, neither should the Canadian Prime Minister be best buddies with foreign leaders who reject democracy and frequently run corrupt and abusive regimes. This sends out all the wrong messages. I believe this is where the current government and our Prime Minister have failed.
It must be clear to Canadians that our government is not condoning the kind of massive repression and abuse that frequently takes place around the world. Unfortunately it is not clear. In fact many Canadians have written me to complain bitterly about the behaviour of the Prime Minister. They believe he has callously ignored human rights abuses in his foreign travels and this has left them outraged.
This reminds me of a highly ironic point. Just over a month ago the Prime Minister attacked me and the leader of the Reform Party for having met with the U.S. speaker of the house of representatives, Newt Gingrich. He was shocked and outraged. It seems the Prime Minister believes that Reform should not meet with the democratically elected leaders of our closest ally, the U.S., but it is a demonstration of true Liberal Party leadership when the Prime Minister befriends dictators all the time.
In fact I would not even be surprised if we find the Prime Minister golfing with Saddam Hussein over the Christmas break. How many people commented about the Prime Minister dancing with the Prime Minister of China and some of his past history? Or how about embracing Mr. Castro and some of the abuses there? I have been in some of the jails in Cuba and have looked at them and have seen the human rights abuses in that country.
My point is that while Reform does not advocate isolation, we do reject the government's shameless pandering to foreign dictators. We reject it and so does the Canadian public. It is for this reason that at the last Reform Party assembly in Vancouver our membership voted overwhelmingly, over 90 per cent, to oppose federal government foreign aid to governments which suppress basic human rights. That is the commitment our party has made and we will follow through on it when we form the next government.
Reform will end the Liberal government's practice of giving handouts to abusive regimes.
In the future Canada must provide an example to the world. We should use our foreign aid program to constructively promote democratic and legal reforms. We should encourage expanded trade to generate jobs in developing countries, but we should make it perfectly clear that the systematic abuse of human rights is unacceptable. We should voice our concerns and cut off aid to those who reject freedom and ignore human rights.