Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the hon. member for Louis-Hébert.
I appreciate this opportunity today to draw your attention to World Human Rights Day. The world has undergone profound changes since the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, whose 48th anniversary we celebrate on this 10th of December.
During those past 50 years, considerable progress has been made. In recent years, humanity put an end to a number of dictatorships, including the hated apartheid regime in South Africa, which gave new hope to the entire African continent.
In 1989, we saw the Berlin wall, that symbol of the cold war, collapse, and we also saw major changes taking place in the countries of eastern Europe. The rivalry between the two great blocks has ended.
The issue of human rights was officially mentioned at the beginning of this century in the Pact of the League of Nations which, among other things, led to the creation of the ILO and the United Nations Organization. The UN preparatory commission, which met in 1945 immediately after the closing session of the San Francisco conference, recommended creating a commission to promote human rights as defined in section 68 of the Charter.
Finally, the draft declaration was submitted, through the Economic and Social Council, to the General Assembly meeting in Paris. The declaration was adopted on December 10, 1948. In two years we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of this declaration, which constitutes "a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms".
The declaration provides that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world" and "disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people".
The horrors of World War II played a large part in making the whole world aware of the direct link between the respect of human rights and peace. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the cornerstone of the UN human rights conventions. It was followed by the Declaration on the Right to Development in 1986, the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 1992, and several others. These declarations and conventions are not legally binding, except on ratifying states. However, many countries have incorporated certain provisions into their legislation.
The principle of the declaration which states that "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" has served as a model for the laws and institutions that today protect Canada, Quebec and many other countries.
Human rights, peace and development are the three pillars of the UN.
Since it was first formed, the UN has adopted over 50 instruments concerning human rights: the right to life, the right to freedom, the right to freedom of expression, religion and association, the right to protection from discrimination, the right to adequate food and housing, and the right to an adequate standard of living.
We are told that international promotion of human rights is an integral part of Canada's foreign policy. However, the present government is closing its eyes to repeated violations of human rights in certain countries, especially when it is a question of developing trade ties with those countries. This is true in the case of China and Indonesia.
The cold war is now a thing of the past. It has been replaced, however, by other types of threats to peace and security: interethnic hatreds; breakdown of social and government infrastructures; an increase in the frequency and intensity of internal armed conflicts, with all the massive migrations that result. Twenty-five million refugees have been forced through persecution to move or leave their country of origin. As you know, the situation today in Zaire and neighbouring countries is tragic.
Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and all the other covenants and protocols on human rights, there have been genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda and Burundi. In the 1960s and 1970s, several cruel dictatorships sprang up in Latin America. Flagrant violations of human rights in Chili-assassinations, tortures and disappearances-forced me and my family to leave my country of origin and come to Quebec. Even today, according to Amnesty International, a number of Latin American countries continue to violate certain fundamental rights.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government of Guatemala and the National Revolutionary Union of Guatemala on the peace accords and definitive ceasefire that were signed not long ago. Peace has been restored after 35 years of fighting between the armed forces and the guerrillas. I hope that Canada will play an active role in supervising these accords and help to promote and defend human rights, including those of the Indian peoples in this country for whom I have great respect.
We have a duty to condemn human rights violations throughout the world. But this is not enough. We must establish a permanent international criminal court. This decision is urgently needed, considering the intolerable situations experienced by various peoples, and I am thinking of Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and other countries where war criminals remain unpunished.
I want to congratulate the Ligue des droits et libertés du Québec on starting a campaign to establish this kind of permanent tribunal, and I would ask the government to give its vigorous support to this initiative. I have always been active in promoting human rights, especially in the "Ligue" where I was a member of the board for a number of years.
The international community must acquire the necessary tools to implement existing standards effectively and wisely throughout the world. It must also have the tools to punish the perpetrators of crimes against humanity. It is necessary to reinforce international control, investigation and monitoring mechanisms, especially in cases of forced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture. We must narrow the gap between the solemn principles set forth in the Charter and the suffering endured by peoples throughout the world.
Furthermore, we cannot dissociate the protection of human rights from the process of democratization. Poverty is a major obstacle to the genuine implementation of the principles underlying democracy. It is on behalf of this ideal that third world countries have started a long and difficult struggle to obtain recognition of the right to development and to find a solution to their debt problems.
In concluding, I would urge the Canadian government to make this issue an absolute priority and to intensify and reinforce the promotion and defence of rights and freedoms here and throughout the world.