House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rights.


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8:25 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

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.

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8:35 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for his speech, which is as well informed and well researched as usual.

He pointed out the lack of an international criminal court with a general jurisdiction. We have only ad hoc courts, special courts such as the tribunal on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Somalia.

But does he consider that creation of a criminal court with overall jurisdiction would be enough to guarantee application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Is it not possible to also consider creating a United Nations court mandated to implement human rights?

The European charter has its own special court, the European court of human rights. The great German and French charters both have their special, constitutional courts. In Germany and France, when a constitutional matter is involved, there is the special jurisdiction of the council of state and even the appeal court, the court of cassation. May I ask these questions of my colleague?

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8:35 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his high praise. I acknowledge that he is a great jurist, and he is asking me a question that has no easy answer.

I believe that, like the Civil Liberties Union in Quebec, the International Federation of Human Rights in Paris has always called for the creation of a permanent international criminal tribunal. I believe this is necessary, particularly to judge those who have committed crimes against humanity.

It is true that there is a human rights tribunal in Europe, but it has no jurisdiction over war criminals who have committed crimes against humanity.

I support his suggestion, if that is what he is suggesting, that the UN create its own tribunal, particularly when infractions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are involved. The UN is a formidable body, an extraordinary organization, but it does not have the capacity to apply its fine principles.

What we need is a body that is capable of monitoring and controlling application of the charter, and of judging those responsible for offences under that declaration and other international conventions on human rights.

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8:40 p.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to rise on this important day, on which the international community celebrates the 48th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It was no doubt at the time an important event. It was the end of the second world war and of all the atrocities it engendered. At the time, the 48 members of the League of Nations felt there should be a charter that would serve, as my colleague from Mount Royal said, as a sort of measure to assess progress or the lack of it.

However, certain questions arise. Was it a real desire to mark a new stage in the respect of human rights or was it rather vague declarations that might be described in popular language as wishful thinking? The answer no doubt lies somewhere in between the two. There was wishful thinking, because not a whole lot of progress has been made.

I refer, as proof, to the latest report of Amnesty International, which appeared in June of this year and which mentioned, and I will take the liberty of reading a few paragraphs: "Torture,

arbitrary detention, rape, mass executions, disappearances and human rights violations occurred in 146 countries in 1995". The report obviously criticizes the inaction of the international community.

We learned that there were human rights violations in 146 countries. The report goes on to say that 4,500 prisoners were tortured to death, 140,000 people disappeared and 2,900 people were executed. We might well ask then whether any progress has been made and whether the Universal Declaration of Human Rights achieved the importance it might have.

We could talk about the complicity of the international community, because, in the end, countries are always trying to defend certain interests. There are outrageous paradoxes that we will never understand. How is it, for example, that the five permanent members of the Security Council alone manufacture 80 per cent of the world's armaments? And yet there they are on the Security Council. Do the words still have any meaning?

My colleague, the member for Bourassa, referred earlier to the sad history of genocides. He gave some examples. One is, of course, the elimination of six million Jews. Another is the cruel treatment of Cambodians by the Khmer Rouge. Another is the endless war in the Sudan, now in its tenth year, that is no longer even mentioned in the press, where the government is systematically fighting people in the south, who practice a different religion. There is the former Yugoslavia, of course, where Muslims have undoubtedly been persecuted by Croats and Serbs in equal measure. There is Rwanda, where close to a million people have died in ethnic wars.

The worst thing in the case of Rwanda is that the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development led a mission there in 1992.

They described what they said were all the conditions needed for genocide to happen. The report was submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations, nothing was done, and the inevitable happened. The genocide took place, and now we find ourselves in an extremely difficult situation in this region.

One of the major problems is the whole question of impunity. Rwanda, Haiti, and the former Yugoslavia are examples. Crimes against humanity are committed and the international community is unable to bring the guilty parties to trial and sentence them.

Remember what happened in Haiti after the military coup. General Cédras was finally persuaded to leave. He was showered with money to help him make up his mind. It was tragic to hear President Aristide, on his return, talking as though reconciliation were possible, when the rule of impunity was in place. In my view, reconciliation-and this is undoubtedly true in Rwanda as well-is not possible unless a minimum of justice has been done.

My colleague, the member for Bourassa, spoke of the need for tribunals. That is elementary. Ad hoc tribunals with minimal powers are established and, eventually, as it just happened in the former Yugoslavia, they try some individuals very low in the hierarchy, but the real culprits always manage to elude pursuit.

What can ordinary citizens do? There are a number of things that can be done. I referred earlier to Amnesty International. Any man or woman in this country may choose to work with Amnesty International to help free prisoners of conscience.

This morning, at the foreign affairs committee, we heard from a NGO known as PEN Canada. There is also a PEN Québec and PEN International. This organization is dedicated to having journalists and authors released from prison. It handles the cases of 900 individuals jailed for their ideas. This is another NGO the public can support financially or through volunteer work.

Here, we have the international centre for human rights, which is government subsidized. This is one of the good things this government has done in terms of human rights. The centre is already operating in a dozen countries, helping non-governmental organizations involved in human rights and other organizations in the civil society get established to ensure that they gradually develop the capacity to face arbitrary or military powers in these countries.

What is missing is any real political will. It is true in many countries, and in Canada as well, unfortunately. In its last foreign policy statement, Canada put trade relations before human rights. Such an action certainly does not do much in terms of promoting human rights around the world.

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8:45 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie

Madam Speaker, it is with pride and humility that I take part in the debate on this motion.

I am proud to be a citizen of a country known throughout the world for its enviable record on human rights.

I am proud also that Canada has given its solid support, during the last 48 years, to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am proud, moreover, to belong to this government, which continues, to this day, to make our country a leader in the promotion of peace and security throughout the world.

The promotion of human rights is an objective that is unanimously supported by Canadians, regardless of their political beliefs.

Despite our best efforts, however, people all around the world still suffer violations of their basic human rights. Discrimination and abuse still exist. There are human rights abuses in all societies, ours included. Continued efforts are needed to achieve progress.

We, both citizens and leaders, are collectively responsible for dealing with the problems at home and abroad.

My colleagues have spoken very eloquently on this subject tonight. I think of the speech by the hon. member for Mount Royal. As minister responsible for our international development programs, I would like to acquaint the House with the activities of the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, for which I am responsible, to promote human rights, democracy and good governance activities which have begun to bear rich fruit.

CIDA's mandate was clearly stated in the government's foreign policy document entitled "Canada in the World", tabled in the House in February 1995. And, regardless of what may have been said a little earlier, one of the six priorities for our official development assistance program is, and I quote: "Human rights, democracy, good governance: to increase respect for human rights, including children's rights; to promote democracy and better governance; and to strengthen both civil society and the security of the individual".

According to the official CIDA policy statement: "Human rights are derived from the inherent dignity of the human person, and they are of basic importance for the well-being of individuals and the existence of freedom, justice and peace in the world".

Translated into CIDA programming, taking a human rights approach to development does not simply mean lecturing recipient countries about democracy and human rights. It means making difficult choices among the competing demand for aid and setting priorities for how we use our limited resources. As minister responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency, I know what it is to be pressured by various individuals for various good initiatives, most of them quite worthwhile but not all of which can be supported.

CIDA has done its job with a good deal of success. We have been able to put in place projects and programs that are helping to enhance the will and capacity of developing countries to respect the rights of children, women and men and to govern in an effective and democratic manner.

During the two year period 1993-94 and 1994-95, CIDA spent some $46.5 million on 384 projects around the world directly related to human rights and democratization. These are the most recent detailed figures available. The rate of approval of such projects is accelerating and they cover a wide variety of initiatives. Let me enumerate a few.

Thirty-seven per cent of the money that was contributed was done in efforts that strengthened the democratic process, including elections and building democratic awareness. A further 25 per cent supported initiatives to build a rule of law, including strengthening the judiciary, training for police and prison officials and greater access to the law. I had the opportunity to open a tribunal recently in Haiti along with my colleague from Louis-Hébert across the way.

Finally, 20 per cent of the funds provided are for projects to strengthen civil society, including building human rights awareness of disadvantaged groups and the advocacy role of civil society organizations.

CIDA's mechanisms are flexible and they adjust to existing needs. In fact, statistics do not reflect the nature of the work done. Let me give you some concrete examples.

As I said earlier, when I spoke about Haiti, CIDA's contribution in that country allowed RCMP officers, members of Montreal's urban community police force, and members of other Canadian police forces to teach Haitian police officers how to conduct investigations in a democratic society.

In Guatemala, our support to the office of the ombudsman for human rights helped the ombudsman uncover and confront those responsible for human rights violations in that country.

Legal assistance, counselling and training were provided for Somali women who were victims of sexual violence in the refugee camps at the Kenya-Somali border. Funds were also used to improve the security of these same camps.

These projects focused on women because, unfortunately, women remain, to a large degree, the chief victims of human rights abuses.

In East Africa, judges and magistrates from several countries have received training to increase their awareness of issues relating to human rights, democracy and good governance. In Malawi the Canada fund paid $50,000 to help the United Nations organize a constitutional conference and prepare a bill of rights and employ a human rights adviser for their police force.

And the list goes on. As I said before, there are some 384 projects on the go. Together, they provide a lot of information on democracy and human rights. This kind of information is accessible to every Canadian, through schools, the media, and the elections that have taken place at the municipal, provincial and federal levels for over a century.

While we are getting together today to highlight the significance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we must also recognize that human rights and good government go hand in hand with lasting social and economic development.

To conclude, I will refer to the policy statement of the Canadian International Development Agency, for which I am responsible. It says that respect for human rights, democratization, and good government are essential to the security of children, men and women alike, and the development of society.

These three issues are an integral part of CIDA's mandate, and I would venture, the goal of every Canadian involved with promoting sustainable development to reduce poverty and make the world a safer, fairer and more prosperous place.

This is CIDA's goal, this is the government's goal and I would suggest it is the goal of human beings everywhere who long for a healthy, secure global society.

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8:50 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague has the privilege of heading an incredibly effective agency, CIDA. I have been witness to much of its work. I congratulate him on its undertaking.

I would suggest to my hon. colleague that there is a lot of questions from some Canadians who are not as well informed about the importance of interlinking countries, both developing and underdeveloped countries, with democracies like Canada.

They ask when we are in difficulty here, why are we spending money elsewhere. What do we plan to accomplish by helping women through micro credit or the World Bank, or building bridges or teaching farming and agriculture, marketing and good production, civics and civism and democracy? What does that have to do with us when we are poor, hungry and when we need to be looked after? Dollars here first. Charity begins at home.

I wonder if the hon. minister would care to comment.

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8:50 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, this is an excellent question, one that should be raised at every opportunity to give all Canadians the opportunity reflect on this important issue.

First, if one were to look at humanitarian aid and programs of development only on selfish grounds, which would not be the focal criteria in any case, one would have to come up with the following equation nonetheless. Almost 70 per cent of all the aid that we provide comes right back to Canada in the form of purchases of goods and services and so on from Canadians. I am not saying that it would be the sole criteria to use. As a matter of fact I said it was not. One should at least bear that in mind when one is making the equation. I thank my colleague for bringing that up.

Second, it is important for us to know the reputation that this country has right around the world. Whether it is in Haiti where my colleague for Louis-Hébert and I were the other day, or when I had the opportunity to be in China, our reputation as a nation is far greater than our absolute numbers. I was told in China by more than one political leader that what they know the most about Canada is Dr. Bethune and the Canadian International Development Agency. It is absolutely amazing that a country of 1.2 billion people would know of a development agency of Canada, a country of 30 million, as something that they would all have in mind.

It is linked very much to their way of doing things. When they undertake purchases, when they find goods, services and so on, Canada is there. It is no coincidence that we are the most trade dependent nation in the western world. It is largely due I suspect to the fact that we have internationally the great reputation that we enjoy.

Finally, we are in government and as such we have a collective responsibility. I know some will disagree with that proposition and perhaps I will get one or two letters tomorrow for saying this, but I feel that it is our responsibility to help out fellow human beings. Those of us who know or study or even remember the two wars of this century and how sad they were, will know that when there is a war, it involves a lot more. Not only does it involve the nations that are at war directly but it can involve virtually everyone.

The war in Rwanda, that tiny African nation the size of Vancouver Island, has consumed billions of dollars over recent years. That in itself should tell us that having peace, again if that were the only criteria, is much cheaper than not having peace. Our role in contributing to peace, good governance and the respect of human rights even if we were to use economic criteria alone makes sense. There is the human criteria to invoke and that is the most important one of all. I thank my colleague for raising this issue.

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9 p.m.


Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this place of free and open debate to speak in support of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1998.

I intend to speak today about the reasons why we must commemorate this important occasion. As Canadians we must lead the world in celebrating and reaffirming the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for four basic reasons, and I will give the House the four reasons.

First, Canada was instrumental in the declaration's existence. Second, our Canadian society has been profoundly shaped by the declaration's articles. Third, we must applaud the victories that we

have made in human rights internationally. Fourth, we must acknowledge that our work is not complete.

Canada and Canadians have been a force in establishing this important document. After the second world war our country shared the belief with our allies that we needed international institutions like the UN to prevent future wars from happening. It was the determination of Canadians like Louis St. Laurent and Lester Pearson that pushed for an institution which respected the sovereignty of states but also valued the rule of international law.

After the allies liberated the concentration camps at the end of the war, people around the world were shocked and dismayed by the inhumanity of the holocaust and the tyranny of the axis powers. This prompted Canada to join with other nations to establish the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It was a Canadian who authored the original draft. The member for Mount Royal spoke about Dr. John Humphrey, a New Brunswick born Quebec lawyer, former dean of law at McGill University in Montreal, one of Canada's finest jurists, a key figure in setting out the scope and content of this great human rights convention. We have a great deal to be be proud of and we should celebrate the 50th anniversary of the universal declaration because of this.

Canada has had an important place and has played an important role in developing this international convention. However, Canadian society has also reaped the fruits of this great document. Our society, the envy of the world, has nurtured the seeds of the virtues of respect, tolerance, freedom and democracy.

This declaration has been a guiding force for these virtues right here at home, for example, the Canadian Citizenship Act of 1947, the Canadian Human Rights Act of 1977, the Canadian Employment Equity Act of 1986, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 and last and most important, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms adopted in 1982.

All of these important roots of Canadian human rights law were inspired by the articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We must celebrate our Canadian accomplishments as part of our international ones. That is why we must mark this important day.

As we approach the 50th anniversary, let us applaud our successes over the last few years. We have witnessed the transformation of South Africa from apartheid to a multiracial democracy. I witnessed this firsthand. I was fortunate to be chosen as the Canadian representative to observe South Africa's first multiracial elections in 1994.

We have also witnessed the progress to democracy in many parts of Latin America. My past riding president and provincial Liberal candidate Bruce Davis also went as a Canadian representative to monitor elections in Nicaragua a few years ago.

We have seen progress in Haiti, Russia and parts of eastern Europe. The spread of freedom, justice and democracy throughout the world is owed to this great document. This document has also been a rallying point for many international conferences on global issues.

Last year I was fortunate to attend the international conference on women in Beijing, China. It was there that the nations of the world met to affirm the principle of equality in article 2(1) of the universal declaration. It states:

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

To put it simply, women's equality rights are human rights and countries of the world must reflect that. The declaration has been instrumental in our successes around the world but there is still work to be done. With regimes like Nigeria's, where oppression and corruption prevail, with gross violations of human rights in countries like Burma, Indonesia and Iraq, with conflicts fed not by ideology but by perverse commerce in places like Liberia, Afghanistan and Somalia, we must celebrate the UDHR and demand that these nations respect and honour the universal declaration.

With atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, we realize that our work as a peace loving nation is not done. With the growth of hate messages on the Internet, we realize that our work as a tolerant, respectful, multicultural society is not done. With terrorist groups from Ireland to the United States to Israel spreading violence and fear in order to achieve political power, we realize that our work to preserve freedom and democracy and to respect the opinions of our opponents is not done.

We must celebrate and promote human rights by aiding the work of the international criminal tribunals, promote the strengthening of international labour standards, help establish an international criminal court and fight for the international initiatives for the welfare of children.

Until we do that, our work to establish free, democratic and civil societies around the world will not be done. We can begin this work by reaffirming our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and by celebrating its 50th anniversary.

In closing, I can sum up my address by turning to the words of my esteemed colleague and friend from Winnipeg South Centre, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He remarked in a speech earlier this year: "If we turn away from the desolation and dismay of human suffering, if we fail to stop hatred from flowing through the channels of our new electronic networks, if we do not care about the present or future of vulnerable children, if we do not counter the capricious and arbitrary actions of authoritarian governments with

no legitimacy beyond weaponry and terror, then we will face harsh consequences down the road. In the larger landscape of human society, what began as hateful rhetoric may turn into open terrorism, regional warfare or genocide".

If we are serious about human rights around the world and here at home, we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with all the glory it deserves. Every member of the House will join with me in affirming all 30 articles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights today and especially in 1998.

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9:10 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to speak today on this extremely important issue of international human rights.

In the post-cold war era we all came to believe that there would be a newer and brighter future for everybody. We thought that the cold past and the cold times of two terrible wars were over and we would see a time when the future would look brighter, when human rights would be respected and we would all live in a safer and more peaceful time.

Unfortunately, the post-cold war era has demonstrated that anything but that has occurred. We have seen an explosion of regional conflicts, primarily internecine conflicts, affecting nation states. Many of these states were boiling over and when the cold war ended, the shackles which prevented these conflicts from blowing up were removed. We saw a time of violence, destruction, raping and pillaging in nations which were relatively peaceful.

We need not look any further than the situation in the former Yugoslavia to see a graphic and tragic example of what has happened in our midst. Potentially those situations could have been prevented. I will say more about that a little later on.

Prior to the cold war ending, the nations of the world got together and developed a number of declarations on human rights, beginning with the Hague and going on to the Geneva convention. They sound very good and mean well. If we were to adhere to those conventions we would not see much of the terrible suffering that people, primarily innocent civilians, have endured over the last several decades. Unfortunately, with these declarations have come an absence of enforcement.

Enforcement is essential if we are going to have a rules based human rights network that is going to work. Without the enforcement, some countries will not adhere to these basic human rights.

It is unfortunate that what we have seen over the last 20 years is a change in who the victims are. The victims are no longer the combatants who have UZI submachine guns, who have AK-47s. Ninety per cent of the victims we see in today's internecine conflicts are innocent civilians who have no part whatsoever in the trials and tribulations they have been subjected to. That is why when we are developing a rules based human rights network and an enforcement policy for the future, we have to remember that we are trying to protect those individuals who are most vulnerable in our society and are the least able to take care of themselves.

One can see that many of the situations in so many of the terrible civil wars that have taken place have occurred under the guise and under the leadership of individuals who are draconian rulers. In no way, shape or form do they represent the best interests of the majority of their people.

Zaire and the former Yugoslavia. Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, General Mladic, Sese Seko Mobutu and others have demonstrated that they do not represent the wishes of the majority of their people. They are prepared to subject their people to terrible atrocities for their own gains and the gains of their own political elite.

That is why when we develop rules for the future, we now have to start being a little firmer in what we are putting forth and recognize that the leaderships we are integrating with and so-called negotiating with may not represent the best wishes of their people.

First we have to develop a warning system, one that will identify the precursors to conflict. After that, we have to develop a rules based response system to the precursors to conflict. I say the precursors to conflict because foreign policy throughout the world has focused not on conflict prevention but on conflict management.

We talk about peacekeeping and peacemaking as part of conflict prevention. It is not. Conflict prevention means preventing the conflict. When peacekeepers and peacemakers have to be put into a situation, the conflict has already occurred and it is too late. The seeds of ethnic discontent and hatred have already been laid and therefore the seeds for future conflicts are laid. This is not necessary. It is possible to prevent these and future conflicts if we change our mindset on foreign policy from conflict management to conflict prevention. How do we do that?

The first thing again is to identify the precursors to conflict, of which there are many, and precede the conflict by many years. Examples are inappropriate arming, the subjugation of democratic and basic rights of a group of people, terror campaigns against a group of people, the withdrawal of the economic abilities of certain groups of people to function, the breakdown of judicial structures and the rule of law falls apart. These are all examples of the precursors to conflict that take place before a conflagration occurs. Let us set up monitors so we can identify that.

The second is we need a response and the response has to be multinational. The problems that are affecting these nations will not be solved if only one country is going to respond to them. The international community has to respond to them and that is why we need a multinational response system.

These responses can involve a carrot and stick approach. If they are going to engage in these behaviours, we can prevent them from doing that or suggest that they do not by offering a carrot. The carrots could be such things as approved loans and preferred trade status. By doing this we could convince the nation states that it is not in their best interests to engage in a conflagration, but it is certainly in their best economic and social interests to engage in peace building between disparate groups.

There is the stick approach. We could remove or withdraw loans. We could recall loans which were made by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other nations. We could cordon off areas. We could withdraw funding. We could discourage nations from engaging in activities with surrounding nations. We could impose sports bans. We could freeze the assets of the draconian rulers.

It is exceedingly important to hit those individuals who transgress international rights and to hit them in their own pockets. Too often what happens is that these groups or individuals who are engaging in draconian measures are doing so with complete impunity. We have to hit them, because hitting the country at large sometimes does not work.

Some of the sticks that I proposed may not be appropriate in certain circumstances, but sometimes they will be. We have to be careful and balance it out to ensure that those who are least advantaged in a society will not be hurt.

Another activity which has been used before but not often enough is to engage in positive propaganda. Oftentimes when the breakdown of structures occurs before a war, we find that one group is engaging in negative propaganda against another. That was done very effectively in the former Yugoslavia. We also saw it in Somalia.

The international community, especially the United Nations, could transmit positive propaganda and peace building messages to the groups. They must also engage in efforts to bring the disparate groups together in an effort to try to build bridges of understanding.

What often happens in a conflict is that one group demonizes the other. It breaks the communication between groups, which enables one group to develop negative myths about the other. It also instils fear within the borders of the other group. This must be broken down. The only way to break this down is to foster levels of communication between the groups. The best way to do that is to do it on the ground with civilians. Civilians can be easily manipulated by the powers that be.

Fostering a sense of democracy and the support of judicial structures is also extremely important, as my Liberal colleague mentioned in her speech. It is exceedingly important to do that. Without a strong judicial structure, without the influence of democratic principles and the support of democratic structures within a country, there is the breakdown of infrastructure which lends itself to conflict.

This is an area in which Canada can take a leadership role. To do this will require the revamping of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations. As the United Nations is looking for a new secretary general, Canada can influence that secretary general with respect to the role which he or she might take.

Right now we have a window of opportunity. The problems that are going to face nations will require a multinational response. To do that will require a revamping of those three structures. It will also require a level of co-operation among the members of the international community which we have not seen, but just because we have not seen it does not mean it is not possible. If we do not do it, all nations will pay a very heavy price.

No country in the world is looking very clearly at the problems which will affect us in the 21st century. There will be environmental problems, population explosions, conflicts and many other problems. All of those problems are not being looked at in a multinational fashion. We get together to study them a lot, but studies do not necessarily produce action. Oftentimes one study will lead to another rather than leading to a course of action.

We have an unusual situation in our country. We are one of the few countries in the world which has an international reputation and ability to engage in the revamping of those international structures which is so greatly needed.

Power in the future is going to come from three areas: traditional military power; traditional economic power; and a non-traditional form of power which will go to those countries which can act as a mediator to organize international consensus. This is where I believe Canada can take leadership. We, along with a handful of other countries such as Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand to name a few can band together as a group and collectively utilize our diplomatic corps, our foreign affairs consultants and experts to bring forth this consensus within the international fora.

Again, we are doing it not only for ourselves but for the international community. There are some powerful and perhaps self-centred ways in which we can justify this involvement. I will not argue the humanitarian grounds because they are self-evident as we speak. However, I am going to argue in a very self-centred fashion.

If conflicts are allowed to occur, we then see a migration of population to our shores. We see greater demands on our official development assistance. We see greater demands on our defence department assistance. We see greater demands on our domestic expenditures on social programs. I am sure, Madam Speaker, you would agree that people like to live in their own countries and in their own cultures if they have a choice. Why not facilitate that and enable these people to live in peaceful surroundings? By getting involved in doing this, we are doing it primarily for international peace and security but also for some very conclusive domestic reasons.

There are many things that we should do in terms of trade, aid and human rights. We have to convince the private sector, and I think we have abrogated our responsibilities in large part on this, that it is in its best interests to ensure that there is going to be peace and a civil society in the areas where it wishes to engage in trade. Engaging in trade and speaking out for human rights are not mutually exclusive; in fact they go hand in hand.

I propose that our government ask that our private sector demand of its companies when they go abroad that they adhere to the same basic rules and regulations of labour that are engaged in in our country, that they engage in the same basic rules and regulations of human rights that are engaged in in our own country, that we support companies that are going to help to promote democratic structures and human rights in those countries abroad. These things would be useful and again would make Canada look very good.

We had a great opportunity recently with the Canada-Israeli free trade agreement to do just that. We had an opportunity, and I think we missed it in a big way, of ensuring that the Canada-Israeli free trade agreement was going to be equitable for the Israeli people as well as the Palestinian people. Economic emancipation for the Palestinian people and economic interactions between the Israeli and Palestinian people are going to promote peace. That is the way in which it is going to be done. It is not going to happen on diplomatic initiatives only. It is not going to happen by standing back with an armed or walled mentality. It is going to happen when Israeli and Palestinian, Jew and Arab get together and engage with each other, understand each other's hopes, fears and aspirations and understand that very clearly their hopes, fears and aspirations are very similar.

I hope the government will continue to pursue this, and ensure that the agreement is going to be mutually beneficial to both peoples. I hope it speaks out on the transgressions that are occurring there as well as in many other parts of the world.

We can take a much stronger role. The Prime Minister and the ministers of trade and foreign affairs are going to go to southeast Asia again. East Timor has an egregious record of human rights abuses. It is important for us to engage in trade opportunities with the area, and also engage in speaking out against human rights abuses there.

In closing, I would summarize by saying that the government has a great opportunity to work with members of the House to ensure that Canada takes a leadership role in support of human rights of people around the world whose rights have been transgressed, people who cannot speak for themselves for various reasons.

Our role in the 21st century is to be that third party which brings nations of the world together to work co-operatively to address the problems that affect us all. That is the only way we will collectively survive in a better and more peaceful world.

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9:30 p.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to participate in the debate this evening on the 48th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Today, December 10, we are all observing international human rights day. On this day it is important to remember why this declaration was born. The declaration came about because of the devastation and horrible slaughter resulting from the continual violation of human rights around the world.

The men and women who drafted the declaration had themselves witnessed the extermination of entire peoples as a result of twisted racist ideologies and were resolved to put an end to such atrocities. Their long term vision to establish universal principles recognized that human rights and peace were intertwined.

Unfortunately, man does not always learn from his mistakes, as we still see around the world violations of human rights in the form of torture, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, executions, killing of defenceless demonstrators and detention because of one's beliefs. When these attacks occur far away from us they are still attacks against each and every one of us. For every time there is a violation of human rights, there is a violation against humanity and the human spirit.

However, we must not be discouraged by this, for the declaration has paved the way for the progress in the struggle of human rights. While the declaration set out the principles for the protection of human rights, the United Nations has developed specific bodies and procedures to deal with human rights issues. The International War Crime Tribunals in the Hague for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda represent a critical element to the progress made in the

area of human rights. These tribunals have shown that individuals responsible for atrocities should not be protected by the state.

That is why the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that Canada strongly urges the establishment of a permanent international criminal court as a new instrument in the fight against human rights violations.

Another advantage of the declaration is its universality. The countries which proclaim it found that it expresses values and norms shared by all their cultures. Many nations which became independent after the proclamation of the declaration also saw that their aspirations were reflected by the document.

I recall speaking about human rights abuses in the Soviet Union and in eastern Europe. Indeed, many suffered for many decades under totalitarian rule. How many suffered and died in the Gulag for their beliefs? How many millions died in the Ukraine because of man-made famine in 1932-33? How many Polish officers, professors and priests were massacred in the Katyn Forest in the former Soviet Union, never to be heard from again? In my riding Canadians built the Katyn monument to mark this atrocity.

Last week my wife's family, the Radziszewski family, received a telex from the Government of Belarus apologizing because, as the telegram said, the Radziszewski family was sent to Siberia in error. My wife was nine weeks old and together with her mother and eight other children were shipped off to Siberia. Now they get an apology because they were sent there in error. As a baby, my wife survived, but her 10-year old brother did not. This telegram does not bring him back to the Radziszewski family.

Nevertheless, the human spirit endured in that part of the world and since the collapse of the Soviet system we have seen the emergence of independent countries developing their democratic and civil societies. Countries such as Hungary, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine are all moving in the right direction but the world must remain vigilant.

I am reminded of a recent human rights case involving Alexander Nikitin, a retired Russian captain who has worked with the Bellona Foundation of Norway to highlight serious environmental dangers of the Russian northern fleet that has been found to be the source of radioactive contamination of both northwest Russia and the Arctic.

The environmental report was compiled using knowledge and statistics available from open sources, yet Alexander Nikitin was imprisoned earlier this year by the Russian security police on trumped up charges of espionage and high treason against Russia for providing the Bellona Foundation with so-called top secret information. He remains in custody under threat of a death sentence.

In my opinion this is a setback for Russian behaviour in human rights. Mr. Nikitin's imprisonment and the accusations against him are not only flagrant breaches of human rights and the rights of free speech, but also threaten human health and ecological safety, both in Russia as well as in neighbouring countries.

In the spring of 1993, I served as an electoral observer in UNTAC, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. This was the first free and fair election in 14 years of civil war in Cambodia. Indeed, the Khmer Rouge did much to violate human rights in this country through intimidation and the most brutal killing the world had ever seen. I was horrified to see the killing fields where piles of bones lay like open graves.

Today I read in the Ottawa Citizen that 5,000 photos of those who were tortured and killed by the Khmer Rouge will appear on the Internet next month. I shudder to think what the families are going to go through when they recognize relatives and friends.

Ensuring sustainable human security means providing basic needs in a political and economic way, which includes the protection of fundamental human rights. When there is a breakdown to protect human rights there is also a breakdown of civil society. Civil society, that sector between the individual and the state, often is there to monitor the activities of the government and functions as a check and balance. The services offered by non-governmental organizations, otherwise known as NGOs, fit this description. NGOs are the lifeblood of the human rights system and it is crucial that the United Nations be accessible to them.

Organizations such as Amnesty International or Ambedkar Centre for Justice and Peace, which is run by Yogesh Vahardi, a constituent of mine, offer important information and advice. Yogesh Vahardi has made it his crusade to speak against the caste system in India, saying that it is the root cause of Indian slavery and the exploitation of millions of children.

The Canadian government has made the rights of children of utmost priority. Therefore, I recommend that the government make it illegal for Canadian firms to employ child labour abroad. Since the relationship between trade and labour standards is an emerging global issue, I also recommend that we strive for an international convention that any product which is made by children have marked on that item "made by children". With such labelling, hopefully no company, no country, no individual will buy this product.

To conclude, I would like to quote the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Javier Perez de Cuellar:

I should like to say that the rights recognized by the Declaration exist truly only in so far as they are exercised by those who possess them. One learns to be free. One can also renounce freedom. The best and most scrupulously applied law means nothing if the people prefer assistance and dependence. Freedoms can die if they are insufficiently used, insufficiently valued, or insufficiently cherished.

Whatever view one takes of the revolutionaries whose memory you will soon be evoking, they cannot be denied one essential virtue: They loved freedom. May we, like the authors of the Universal Declaration and the innumerable defenders of human rights share their enthusiasm, we who know by experience that world peace, progress and civilization are at stake and that henceforth it is our hopes that hang in the balance.

Thus in honouring the memory of the founders of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we are honouring their principles and their importance to the countries of the world. Let us work together for their universal attainment in order to ensure for our children a humane international community, firmly based on the pillars of human rights, justice, dignity and peace.

I forgot to mention that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Fredericton-York-Sunbury.

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9:40 p.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Madam Speaker, I am glad to participate in this special debate on the UN declaration of human rights which will be commemorating its 50th anniversary in 1998. As vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important issue.

This document has been key in advancing the protection of human rights not only in this country but around the world. The drafting of a framework for human rights legislation is an accomplishment of which we as Canadians can truly be proud.

Mr. John Humphrey, a native New Brunswicker, authored the original draft of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the assistance of others in 1948. The preamble captures the spirit of the declaration by stating:

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.

The inherent dignity of the human family is not dependent on religion, race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

The act states in section 25(1):

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the even of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

As chair of the recent task force on disability issues I have heard many individuals from across the country express their desire for the federal government to outline its role regarding disability issues. This exercise has resulted in the final report entitled "Equal Citizenship for Canadians with Disabilities: The Will to Act".

Canadians with disabilities need to know that no matter where they live in Canada they can be assured a decent quality of life and a level playing field. The federal government's role is significant. The challenge is to provide leadership. Leadership involves accepting responsibility to remove inequities, barriers and obstacles.

The report suggests changes that include amendments to the Canadian Human Rights Act and amendments to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act to improve access to the criminal justice system. Many more changes have been recommended and they are all a function of the fact that people with disabilities are first and foremost Canadian citizens. They have the right to expect that their government is doing its part to remove inequity.

If you have a disadvantage, the Government of Canada has an obligation to do whatever it can to remove that disadvantage. I want to encourage the government, particularly on this anniversary, to accept the report's recommendations and applaud the former minister of human resources development for having the foresight to set up the task force to look at this very important human rights issue.

In order to keep the community of nations united in shared goals, of dignity for all citizens, prosperity and freedom, each government needs to continue to look to each other and avoid the pitfall of looking only inward, of putting on blinders to the outside world. We need to keep watch, to question human rights abuses, to look out for each other.

I believe this government is continuing to prove its commitment to human rights issues. We have drafted legislation that will enable criminal prosecution in Canada of Canadians who go overseas to engage in prostitution related activities with children. We are addressing the problem of the propagation of hatred on the information highway. We have contributed to the human rights field operation in Rwanda and to the program of operations in the former Yugoslavia. We are currently looking into the issue of privacy in technology in the human rights committee of Parliament.

We have participated in the United States world conference on human rights in Vienna and the fourth UN conference on women in Beijing.

These are but a few examples of how the government is proving its commitment to human rights issues. We need look no further

than our recent leadership role with respect to the refugee crisis in Zaire. That intolerable situation is being resolved largely thanks to the Prime Minister and the ministers who convinced many key leaders to commit troops and resources to helping the refugees before it was too late.

Canadians across the country can be proud of the influence that a middle power can have in such important international events.

Much has been done but there is much yet to do. I hope that this anniversary will bring attention to the need for vigilance on every nation's part, vigilance against human rights abuses, infringements on personal freedoms and inequalities rising from gender, age and disability.

I applaud the government for allowing this debate to take place. I commend all members who have participated. I offer my support and encouragement to the human rights committee of the United Nations association for Canada on its planned commemoration next year.

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9:45 p.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, I will share my time with my colleague, the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

To ensure world peace and security, to show our support for human rights and democracy and to contribute to the fight against poverty, we must stop considering the development of human rights as a marginal question and place it instead at the very heart of our foreign policy, at the centre of our concerns. The 50th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, coming up two years from now, commands such reflection.

For too long, the concept of human rights did not include women's rights. Fortunately, now it finally does. This shows how much progress has been made. The concept of fundamental rights has widened and become more all-encompassing.

However, in all countries, without any exception, poor people are still mostly women. Women and children are by far the main victims of the conflicts in the world; according to data compiled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, women and children represent 80 per cent of all refugees. Furthermore, whatever the country and whatever the type of government, women are always underrepresented in politics.

Why is it so difficult, even today, to have people recognize that human rights also include women's rights? The right to own property, the right to be protected against any form of violence, the right to solicit public and political office, these are all rights that are universally recognized, but that women cannot claim in many countries.

Of course, women got organized and continue to do so to change this. At the world summit for social development that was held in Copenhagen in March 1995, political leaders from all over the world said, and I quote: "Economic and social development cannot be ensured in a sustainable manner without the full participation of women". They added that "equality and equity between men and women is for the international community a priority objective that must be at the centre of economic and social development".

No one challenges the principle that women's contribution is essential to any social development. However, some doubts arise when we ask ourselves how women's fundamental rights are reflected in society and in the context of real equality with men: an equal presence, equal chances and an equal weight in the real governing of our world and our society.

From such an angle, we quickly realize that there could be a double standard here, that the issues affecting the freedom, health, security and working conditions of women could continue to be of secondary importance compared to those of men.

Delegates from almost 200 countries reviewed these issues and others at the fourth world conference on women held by the UN, in Beijing, in September of 1995. Quite often during this conference, we were reminded that the first conference of its kind was held more than 20 years ago and that no country in the world had since seen fit to ensure that women enjoy full equality in terms of salary, status, opportunities or power. No country has as yet seen fit to ensure that the rights of women were truly considered as "human rights".

The Beijing conference led to a concrete measure, the approval of an action plan for the year 2000. Negotiations on the content of this action plan were difficult at times, but in the end the main problems of poverty, health, violence, economic equality and human rights were taken into consideration. The action plan also stresses the fact that many women face other obstacles to equality based on race, religion, disabilities or other aggravating factors.

Of course, in the end, a conference is only a conference; an action plan, only a few sheets of paper. But the Beijing world conference on women did still have at least two positive and concrete consequences for women in Canada and Quebec. It gave them the opportunity to see what is left to do around the world with regard to women's fundamental rights. It also showed them specific objectives towards which they can work at the family, community, national or international level.

As important as it is for the Canadian government to preach by example, the best indication of its commitment to human rights is its accomplishments in this area. What is the status of women and

children in Quebec and in Canada? What impact do the basic rights of women and children have on our government's foreign policy?

In Canada and in Quebec, children's rights are protected under the human rights legislation and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. At the international level, they are protected under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Despite these political and legal instruments, poverty among children is increasing constantly here and elsewhere. In February 1995, the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development warned us, and I quote: "[Canada is] simply not doing enough to ensure that [our children's] future is a bright one. With close to one-fifth of our nation's children living below the low-income cut-off, our record of concern for children and their future, in comparison with that of other relatively affluent industrialized nations, is quite simply unacceptable".

In Canada, one child in five lives in poverty. This means one in five children does not have enough to eat, does not have decent housing, does not have the security to which all human beings have a right. On the international level, 250 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are working, half of them full time.

The Canadian government must finally acknowledge the key roles played by women and children in the community and in society. Not only must the highest priority be given to the needs of poor families, but it must also be realized that human rights, the rights of women and children, must at all times guide our actions, since they are the most vulnerable members of society.

Great principles are not enough on their own. There must also be concrete actions. The Canadian government is dragging its feet in this regard. Parents, especially mothers, should have access to employment or to better educational and training opportunities, and this must include the assurance that their children are being properly taken care of.

All of this should-and this can never be said too often-fit in with the transfer of powers and funds to Quebec, in order to enable it to control all elements of an overall pro-family and anti-poverty policy.

On the international scene, the least the government could do is to ensure that the conditions regarding the work of children are respected when it comes to its aid programs and international trade relations as well as its grants to promote international trade. Satisfying basic needs should be a priority on the national as well as international levels.

One thing is for sure: respect for human rights will not come about automatically, either in isolation or through trade. Whether it be through legislation, promotion or protection, basic rights must, like anything else, find their place among the humanitarian priorities of this government. In real life, the principle that all human beings have a right to the same level of respect and deserve to be treated fairly is not always a top priority. It is important to change that.

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9:55 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, before I start, may I raise a point of order and say that you will find there is unanimous consent for extending the debate beyond the time allowed, so that I can make my 10 minute speech and a few other hon. members can do so as well.

Since you seem to be in excellent form and superb health, I do not think you will mind if we go on, Madam Speaker.

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9:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Is there unanimous consent to hear the members who wish to speak to the motion?

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9:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

9:55 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, you have my undying gratitude and this also applies to the pages and the staff of the House. I also want to thank the security staff, and I hope Camille Dagenais is listening as well.

That having been said, time or the lack of it should not make us unmindful of the importance of the debate we are having today, as parliamentarians, to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of what in contemporary, in recent history was certainly the first text, with the text produced in the French Revolution, to actually define human rights in a legislative text, which has led us to try to establish an international public order.

As I prepared my speech this evening, I wanted to briefly recall the role played by former U.S. president and democrat Woodrow Wilson, who was a professor at Princeton University. He was, without a doubt, one of the great driving forces behind human rights in the history of the 20th century. He gave his country and the international community a document entitled "Fourteen Points", which served as the basis for the League of Nations.

You will remember that President Wilson was a visionary. He was convinced not only that men and women were equal, but that the countries in the international community must have the same rights and responsibilities.

A Democrat who faced a great disappointment in his life, because the American Congress denied him the mandate he sought to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and join the League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, President Wilson said something very important in his "Fourteen Points".

He pointed out that there had to be an international community with common interests and responsibilities. However, there also had to be a forum for discussion and the expression of multilateralism.

Sir Wilson was a visionary. In his 14 points, which the pages certainly studied in political science and have not forgotten, President Wilson said there should be no more secret diplomacy. When President Wilson urged us to establish a lucid and transparent international order without any more secret diplomacy, he was surely thinking of the European system of the 19th century, of which Bismarck had been an architect, and which led over time to a very opaque system of concealed alliances which led to the mess we are familiar with and to what Clémenceau called the first European civil war, which was of course the war of 1914-18.

All this has not been in vain, however, since it led us over a single century to believe that every individual has rights, regardless of where he or she lives in the world. That is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 50th anniversary of which we will celebrate in two years, is all about. This is the basic idea.

Nobody can say that the declaration is a long, dense, arid document. About 30 clauses make up the text and there are 5 "whereas" in the preamble, which you have surely read, Madam Speaker. This document is younger than you are-No, I mean the document is older than you are. I almost made a diplomatic faux pas that could have cost me dearly.

These "whereas" point to something that is very important. They remind us that every state is a country and must make a commitment to promote human rights.

The concept of human rights implies a number of things that are very clearly stated in the declaration. First, there is the dignity of individuals, which is above all about physical integrity. In a country unable to respect the physical integrity of its citizens, there cannot be respect for human rights.

Moreover, in addition to talking about the physical integrity of individuals, the declaration mentions the right to own property, the right to take part in public life, which is part of the right to dignity, the right to run in a election, the right to live in a country where freedom of expression is recognized, and the right of all its citizens to take part in public life.

It is awesome to think that in 1948, as the member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead and the secretary of state for multiculturalism reminded us a while ago, the declaration was a gamble that in international law, opposing parties could sit down together and agree that the rule of law must prevail, no matter what. In the history of international relations, this was a huge step forward, called multilateralism.

True, this declaration does not have force of law. Each nation state wanting to follow through with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is responsible for translating into policy the underlying principles of each of the 30 articles which are statements of principles, values, beliefs and duties.

Each of the 30 sections show a number of principles, values, beliefs and obligations.

In Canada's case, this took a number of forms. First of all, it took the form of the Declaration of Human Rights that was put forward by former Prime Minister Diefenbaker and where it was mentioned essentially that, as a community, we are opposed to any form of discrimination based on religion, origin, sex, religious or political beliefs. This is an important part of Canadian law reflecting our belief in the equality of all citizens.

Thereafter, we had the Canadian Charter of Human Rights in 1982, in a context that it is not appropriate to mention tonight, for it has not always been in the interest of Quebec. This must be said because entire sections of the main language act, the only national redress act to have been passed by Quebec was invalidated.

When I say this, I must also say, for the sake of truth, that in some respects the Constitutional Act and the 1982 charter had an extremely positive effect on human rights.

I am thinking in particular of the whole issue of the rights of those who experience discrimination based on sexual orientation. The hon. member for Mount Royal knows how sensitive I am to this issue that always brings us to the same reality. The only reality that must prevail in a state is the rule of law. It is extremely important that the rights and obligations we all have before the law be codified in the legislation.

Does that mean that there is no need to update the charter of human rights, the universal declaration of 1948? No, it does not mean that. It means that, for a document nearly 50 years old, it has aged very well. It remains just as relevant and topical now as it was then, to anyone who believes that we need clear authority on the matter of human rights.

I will conclude by saying that I am very proud to see that everyone in this House, members of all parties, all support a document like this one.

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10:05 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, almost 50 years ago, the United Nations approved conventions, principles of recognition and monitoring mechanisms, which all reflect the overwhelming desire of the international community to recognize all the various aspects of the indivisible, inalienable and fundamental rights of individuals. We are now having this little debate and you have just alluded to this important issue.

We want gender equality, which means all the inalienable rights every woman and man should have in our society. The most sensitive and difficult issue in my mind is the fact that, in the past, we used to talk about "droits de l'homme". I think the time has come to replace that expression with "droits de la personne".

Since the hon. member also referred to this issue earlier, can he enlighten us on the differences between "droits de l'homme" and "droits de la personne"?

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10:05 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, this is an extremely interesting question at this late hour. I am sorry not to have more time to answer it.

The fact remains that the first time I went to the UN-I am not sure if the hon. member for Mount Royal was part of the delegation but I do not think so-I was very surprised and very disappointed to see that all official documents in French still referred to "droits de l'homme". This is an extremely outdated phrase that should no longer be part of international terminology, since, as we know, women account for 52 per cent of the population. Countries with governments led by women are usually more successful than countries led by men.

Indeed, we should speak of "droits de la personne". I subscribe completely to the comments made by the hon. member for Mount Royal. I hope Canada and its partners will press for the updating of titles and names of international organizations. I think that the current names are extremely discriminatory.

If the Canadian government, through the foreign affairs minister or the Minister for International Cooperation, ever decided to make representations in favour of these changes, I am sure it would have the unanimous support of the official opposition.

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10:10 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to make an additional comment. This is precisely what Canada did at the Inter-Parliamentary Union. We proposed that the expression "les droits de l'homme" be amended in the statutes to reflect this equality, and in fact the even greater number of women than men in society.

Unfortunately, France steadily opposed the proposal. It was debated in committee and in plenary. The executive and the committee of the whole rejected it, based on the fact that "les droits de l'homme" contains in its very conception the notion of women, and that it should therefore not be changed. What do you think? How are we to deal with France?

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10:10 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I know that the member for Mount Royal is a very gifted diplomat. Even though I have, in the past, found her more closely aligned with the Anglo-Saxon reality, I believe that, were she to give it all her charm, conviction and talent, she could persuade the motherland to change reality.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Richmond B.C.


Raymond Chan LiberalSecretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Madam Speaker, today is International Human Rights Day. I want to draw attention to the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a year long celebration of Canada's commitment to human rights which will begin one year from today.

The United Nations has invited all countries to organize programs of activities in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the declaration. It has also proclaimed 1995 to the year 2004 as the United Nations decade for human rights education, calling on member states to develop plans of action to address the needs in this area.

Last April the Minister of Human Resources Development was the first Canadian foreign minister to address the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. At that time he promised to keep the High Commissioner on Human Rights advised of Canada's plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in order to ensure maximum international impact for the occasion.

As our Minister of Human Resources Development said in Geneva: "The celebration of the 50th anniversary should not be an occasion for complacency or sentimentality. Rather, it is the time for reaffirmation and renewal, for tough concerted action that will move the human rights agenda to the centre of a reformed and revitalized United Nations". The minister described the universal declaration of human rights as "the linchpin that joins us all, governments and citizens alike in our shared aspirations".

Canada has a special attachment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A Canadian, the late John Peters Humphrey, was one of the architects of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the first director of the UN human rights division. His great personal qualities, enthusiasm and vision continue to guide Canada's strong involvement within the UN in the field of human rights.

Canada has played an active, often central role in the evolution of UN human rights principles and machinery. The 1986 all-party parliamentary review of Canada's foreign policy, and the government's response, emphasized the importance of human rights as a fundamental integral part of Canadian foreign policy.

The 1996 parliamentary review of Canadian foreign policy reaffirmed this commitment and made clear that respect for human rights is key to international peace, prosperity, development and to an environment where Canadians can best pursue their interests in the world. That the emergence since World War II of the principles of human rights in any country are a legitimate concern of all governments and a legitimate topic of discussion in international

fora represents a quantum leap in the evolution of international relations and law.

Of course, as in most other fields of international law what remains to be done is the hard part: ensuring effective, that is, timely and universal implementation and enforcement of the established norms.

For instance in China, legal experts from both China and Canada are working together on a series of projects to strengthen the Chinese legal framework.

The International Centre for Criminal Law Reform and Criminal Justice Policy, funded in part by the Canadian Development Agency is an excellent example of Canada's support to China's efforts to implement international standards for human rights. A transparent system based on the rule of law is of growing importance to the Chinese people. Another way to encourage internationally established norms is through support for democracy worldwide. Many of the countries that Canada supports through its human rights programming are in the midst of adapting more democratic forms of government.

As the Minister for International Cooperation said, taking a human rights approach to development does not mean lecturing recipient countries about democracy or human rights. It means supporting projects and programs that enhance the will and capacity of developing countries to respect the rights of children, women and men, and to govern in an effective and democratic manner.

I would like to draw to members' attention a few examples of such projects.

In Asia alone, a region which is close to my heart, CIDA was involved in 72 human rights and democracy projects during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 fiscal years. This does not include initiatives that address rights and democracy indirectly or as secondary objectives.

CIDA has contributed to a peace fund in Sri Lanka. The fund, is aimed to promote peaceful resolutions to Sri Lanka's ethnic conflicts through dialogue. It provided for a wide range of activities including the production of educational material and support for Sri Lanka's peace committees.

In Pakistan, CIDA provided support to the Women in Development Support Fund. This project's goal was to help remove discriminatory barriers to women's economic, social and political participation in society. One of its accomplishments was the creation of the Women's Desk at the Human Rights Commission of the Pakistan Secretariat in 1995.

The relationship between trade and human rights are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they reinforce each other. We should be able to discuss human rights issues with our trading partners and we should be able to use trade as a tool to improve human rights.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs said at the United Nations General Assembly in September: "The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be an occasion not only to reaffirm our commitment to its principles but also to further what practical steps remain to be taken by governments to implement them".

Let us prepare ourselves to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the secretary of state for his remarks. They bring the degree of clarity we need as we have been talking about trade, international law, human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the person and the assurance that politicians and people who speak out do not end up being incarcerated because they have cared to speak about democracy and freedom and the right to self-expression.

The member did not address the situations in Vietnam and Burma. He did address the situation in China. In the view of the secretary of state, what would be the outcome of isolating, of not trading or of undertaking sanctions against countries like Burma or Vietnam? I could mention many other countries in the same breath that have incarcerated their parliamentarians or that have ignored supposed open democracy. They have had free elections yet they have ignored those elections and in many cases put the elected persons into prison. What does the member believe we can do in the light of the work we have already undertaken at the United Nations and in the light of the helpful remarks made by the foreign minister?

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.


Raymond Chan Liberal Richmond, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. We have to look at those issues according to the situations in the individual countries. Situations differ between countries.

It is very unfortunate that even though Canada has discouraged our business community from trading with Burma, many other countries like the United States, Japan, Australia and the Asian countries have been trading with Burma. It is very difficult for us to unilaterally impose sanctions on Burma. On many occasions we continue to speak out against the human rights situation in Burma, but we are limited in our ability to effect change.

In countries like Indonesia the government has shown signs of co-operation. It has established a human rights commission which has demonstrated its integrity in its last report on the January 27 riots in Indonesia.

In those countries I do not think that isolation or trade sanctions would be effective, positive or constructive in pursuing human

rights. The best way to go is to continue trading with them, to encourage them to open up their countries and accept our norms on human rights. We have seen progress in those countries.

In Vietnam we have seen there is higher degree of freedom among the civilians. They can pursue their own economic agendas and they are able to move around freely. At the same time, the dissidents and political activists are still facing a lot of trouble. We use every opportunity to share our views with them, to talk about those issues with them. During my last visit to Vietnam I actually raised individual cases with the prime minister. I made sure that human rights and trade could go hand in hand.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to note that the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Status of Persons with Disabilities, on which I was privileged to serve as chair last year, recommended in its second report to Parliament this past June that the Government of Canada should set aside time today, on International Human Rights Day, for a special debate on the pivotal role played by the universal declaration of human rights in promoting human rights abroad and at home and to begin to make Canadians aware that December 10, 1998 will mark the 50th anniversary of its adoption. Therefore I am delighted that the Government of Canada proceeded to announce that a special debate in honour of International Human Rights Day would take place tonight.

Earlier this evening during comments and questions I spoke about human rights having as much to do with children in poverty as they have to do with the brave and courageous individuals around the world who fight for freedom in countries where intimidation, fear and oppression are daily realities.

When we look at the question of human rights in this perspective, it is clear that in spite of the wonderful technological progress of this decade, there are still far too many who have shown too little responsibility for the vast majority of the human race.

I speak of peace not just as a north-south issue. I speak of peace as well as a concerned Canadian who knows only too well the magnitude of the war on poverty we all have to make in our own country. Again, I do not speak here only of freedom from oppression but of freedom from hunger and hopelessness as well.

Nelson Mandela made the same point in his speech to the joint session of the U.S. Congress on October 7, 1994 when he said: "As the images of life lived anywhere on our globe become available to all, so will the contrast between rich and poor become a force impelling the deprived to demand a better life from the powers that be".

Here at home Canadians have built a compassionate country anchored with the spirit of tolerance and the idea of strength through diversity. Canada is a multicultural federation which is in many ways is a microcosm of the planet. Thousands of newly arrived Canadians enrich our national dream. Thousands more wait in immigration offices around the world seeking access to a country where the red maple leaf signifies peace and freedom and compassion and respect for the rights of the individual.

Too many of us, in the rush to rise to the challenges of the world economic revolution, forget that Canada is seen as a special laboratory for social change in all corners of the planet.

Today on International Human Rights Day we must reflect on the real priorities for Canadians. No society or country is truly free if it neglects the rights and freedoms of the most poor and illiterate, the most defenceless citizens among them. The true test of a civilization is how it treats the poor, how it treats the illiterate, how it treats the most defenceless.

Antoine de Sainte Exupery once wrote: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye".

May this December 10 teach us to look with our hearts; we must look with our conscience. We must think of the tiny babies and the small children growing up in our decade.

As a paediatrician I might add I often think of such babies and children. They do not understand globalization and computers, trade pacts and gross domestic product. But they are born among us, raised among us with rights, rights to shelter and good health care, rights to nourishment and protection, rights to societies which respect and love them. But most of all, they have the right to grow up in a country in which they have a fair opportunity to do their very best, a country where the right to equality does not depend on the neighbourhood they come from or the ethnic community they belong to, or whether they are of aboriginal parents in Winnipeg or whether they are of English parents on the Island of Montreal. You have the right to grow up equal and in some respects that is the real moral test of our time.

Today we think and look with our hearts because the real essentials are invisible to the eye. We think back to that United Nations General Assembly meeting in Paris nearly half a century ago, when the first step in the long 1,000 mile journey toward a freer, fairer world was taken.

Let us resolve and endeavour to answer the unspoken questions in every human heart: Why are we here? What are we to do?

We in this House can take pride that this government under the creative and caring leadership of our Prime Minister remembers our humanity at home and abroad. Indeed we must remember the intended purpose and meaning of our being. We must remember our humanity. This is the essence of today's celebration of International Human Rights Day.

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10:25 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

My intervention is more in the nature of a comment, Madam Speaker. I want to note that this debate has been most interesting. I am really delighted with the number of people who have participated for the government and on all sides of this House.

It is particularly important to note that the last speaker for the evening is the past chairman of the Standing Committee on Human

Rights and the Status of the Disabled. He was the guiding spirit in that new committee and certainly oversaw some very wonderful pieces of research, particularly in relation to the disabled. I want to congratulate him on the work which he and his committee did and to tell him how pleased I am that he who in, of and by himself speaks to human rights in his everyday life is a real testament to the nature of the kind of debate we had tonight for which I thank him personally.