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.


PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

I was only indicating to the hon. member that he had one minute left. If he wishes to continue for another minute the time is his. I was not in any sense being disrespectful to the hon. member whose views are very important to the House.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Perth—Wellington—Waterloo Ontario


John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to join in the debate on this motion put forward by the member opposite.

On the surface the bill differs a little from what the government has already put into practice. In fact the government has made a point of encouraging public debate and more open consultation in all major foreign and defence policies.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

When did we vote on any of them?

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Peacekeeping debates held in the House have been numerous, a practice to which the government remains committed. It is my belief, however, that while this motion is similar in spirit and steps have already taken by the government to increase consultations, it has the potential to deprive Canada of its ability to respond effectively to crisis situations. This motion would transform a well functioning system into a more cumbersome process.

The value of Canada's involvement in promoting international peace and security cannot be overstated. As the government has emphasized in the House on numerous occasions, Canada has a long and proud tradition of helping global communities defend peace, freedom and democracy. It remains committed to creating, in association with its friends and allies, a stable international environment. We realize that our security and prosperity depend on a safer, more secure global order.

As a responsible member of the international community and as a major trading nation, Canada understands the need to contain and prevent conflict. We also want to help reduce the human suffering in situations where outside assistance can make a difference.

Canada has consistently seen peacekeeping as an extremely useful tool in international efforts to manage and resolve conflict. We have excelled at peacekeeping. Our experience and skills are unmatched. We have a long tradition of peacekeeping and expertise based on professionalism, training and courage of our personnel.

We have a wealth of experience in preparing, deploying, sustaining and repatriating peacekeeping forces of various strengths and, more recently, have been in a vanguard of new concepts. Our corporate memory and reputation in peacekeeping thus makes us a natural choice for a wide variety of missions.

For Canada to remain on the leading edge of peacekeeping operations, it must recognize and be prepared to adjust to new global realities. Events in today's world unfold with startling speed. We have seen numerous examples in recent years of tensions, left simmering for years, suddenly boiling over with terrible ferocity.

It is for this reason that the government rejects the motion before us. At a time when an efficient response would be critical, this motion would complicate unnecessarily the government's capacity to react to the UN's request for assistance in peace operations and to respond to changes in the peacekeeping mandate. That certainly is the consensus of many former Canadian UN commanders. They have identified the length of time it takes for the international community to respond to a crisis as a major problem.

Major-General Romeo Dallaire has been an eloquent and passionate advocate of the need for efficient response to emergencies. And who should know better than a man who saw the horrible carnage that took place in Rwanda and Burundi? He witnessed it firsthand.

The motion before this House would add another step, one which is redundant to the decision making process. Should we support a motion which in practice could erode Canada's capacity to become involved and provide help when and where it is needed? If a situation is deemed an emergency, it should be treated like one.

Improving the ability of Canada and the UN to react promptly and effectively to a wide range of humanitarian crises has been a priority of this government. For example, the Canadian Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, was established this year as part of the response to the kind of conditions found two years ago in the Rwanda crisis. In Rwanda a terrible price was paid because of the slow and ineffective response. Many, many lives were lost.

For some time Canada has played a leading role in efforts to design a specialized military unit to respond to humanitarian emergencies. We have now put our plans into action. The DART team will be able to respond to a crisis in Canada or almost anywhere in the world within 48 hours of a government decision to send assistance. It has the capacity to assist and complement the work of humanitarian organizations in critical situations, conducting emergency humanitarian assistance operations for up to 40 days.

For example, DART might work with non-governmental organizations such as CARE in responding to a major cholera epidemic. They will be able to provide medical resources and treat up to 500 patients a day. They will be able to help provide electrical power and clean water for up to 10,000 people a day. They will be able to build temporary shelters as needed. This capability will also buy time for Canada to assess the situation and determine long term assistance strategies.

Canadian peacekeepers are trained to respond effectively in times of crisis. They have leadership to assess situations and implement plans to assist others. These are the assets so valued in times of crises, assets we cannot allow to be unnecessarily compromised by the added step this motion would introduce in the decision making process.

The proposal from the member opposite may well introduce rigidity where flexibility currently exists, and impede decision making rather than assist it. Rigidity, inaction and cumbersome decision making are exactly the problems Canada is trying to alleviate at the international level.

Members from both sides of this House have acknowledged that the UN must improve its ability to respond rapidly and effectively. The UN needs to do so to identify and prevent impeding crises from escalating. In the aftermath of the cold war there is no reason the UN cannot ultimately perform this role.

Unfortunately, the UN does not currently have the capability, politically, militarily, administratively or logistically, to react rapidly to conflicts or humanitarian crises where security is at risk. The current ad hoc method of obtaining and assembling units from member states while at the same time trying to set up operational headquarters makes true rapid response impossible to achieve.

New approaches are being implemented. This was the impetus behind the Canadian study of the UN's rapid reaction capability in peace support operations. Canada has emphasized the need to create within the UN a capability to respond with humanitarian, diplomatic, military and logistical aid in a more efficient manner and a much improved crisis management apparatus.

Sovereign states must adapt to this new world in order to permit the UN to do the job they do not want to do individually, or cannot do for various geopolitical reasons. Change is required if we were to manage properly future humanitarian crises. In an emergency situation where many lives are at risk, surely the members of the House would not want to complicate Canada's response mechanism by placing an unnecessary procedure in the way. At a time when flexibility of response is critical to meeting demands of rapid change, eastern Zaire being the current example, the motion before us would complicate our process, which has been proven to be effective, and would potentially place the lives of many in unnecessary jeopardy.

The government has demonstrated its commitment to consultation. We have listened to the views of parliamentarians and the Canadian public in formulating peacekeeping policy. We will continue to do so in the future. But not every decision can be reached by committee. The government has established the political guidelines and reciprocal trust must prevail in their implementation. There is a time when action backed by discretion and experience is crucial to success. To abandon flexibility is to be imprudent.

We have listened to those who gave us the mandate to govern, the citizens of this country. They have made it clear through their support the existence of a consensus among Canadians on the approach we have taken in peacekeeping. Now it is up to us to make the difficult decisions that will enable us to accomplish the mission, but to do so the government must have the ability and flexibility to choose from among different options.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I rise in the House today to speak to the motion of the hon. member for Red Deer and the amendment of the hon. member for Témiscamingue, I would like to start by saying that the first few times I took part in debates of an international nature in this House, I realized this could have a tremendous impact, both on the people and the countries where interventions take place and in our own ridings, where we have members of the military who are called upon to take part in these operations.

After being involved in the debates we have had on Bosnia, Haiti, Rwanda, and perhaps tomorrow in another debate which may arise unexpectedly, I think the motion before the House is a very interesting one and is also very balanced, which is very important in the area of international relations, especially when we consider the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Témiscamingue.

If the motion were adopted, as amended, it would say as follows: "That all projects of military commitments abroad involving Canadian troops must, as soon as possible, be the subject of a vote in the House". As soon as possible, and that is in response to the arguments of the government, which contends this would paralyze the government's activities. No, the Bloc Quebecois amendment is intended to ensure that the government retains enough flexibility but at the same time will respect the advice it is given in the House. It would do so as soon as possible, always, of course, depending on the emergencies that arise.

I will resume my reading of the motion: "-must, as soon as possible, be the subject of a vote in the House in order to recommend their approval or rejection to the government". The government's responsibility remains intact. There are always aspects of international relations, diplomatic and security aspects that may be considered and of which each member of this House is not necessarily fully aware.

However, I think it would be useful for the government, as part of a review of Canada's international policy, to make a rule of what has been its practice for a number of years, which is to consult the House regularly when it has decisions to make regarding the presence of Canadian troops abroad.

It is important because, as I said earlier, one of the first speeches I made in this House was one I made in a debate on Bosnia. There are young men and women of 20, 25 or 30 in my riding who took part in these operations. I met some of these people last week and they described their experience, the results and how things worked over there.

With the advice of people who were in the field and also what I would call the sense of balance, the sense of responsibility we find in this House when we deal with international issues and when we do not get the same kind of partisan debate we might have on

domestic issues, I think it is important for the government to be able to consider these roles and the advice that may be forthcoming.

All this is especially important since in future, Canada will undoubtedly be asked to take on an expanded role in these operations. We can expect all kinds of unusual situations on this planet. Every time, this will require a detailed and balanced analysis. We will have to look at the pros and cons of our involvement. The latest crisis in Rwanda and the Zaire question are a case in point.

During a debate in this House on the question, we realized that both the government and the opposition parties had a very balanced approach. They all wanted to ensure that nothing ill-advised was done on the international scene which would be harmful to the populations concerned. This obliged the government to take all recommendations into consideration.

I recall that, among the things that were said, it was stated that care must be taken to avoid sticking obstinately to military intervention if this proved to no longer be the right solution. This was said in the House. Suggestions were made, enriching the debate and enabling the government to take a stand.

The motion presented to us is important in that connection. It restores to Parliament a responsibility which is rightly ours. I know that we are in a British parliamentary system, in which the government assumes total responsibility; it is different from the American or the French system.

When international security is concerned-international military interventions in which human lives are at stake-it is important to give members of Parliament the chance of putting forward their points of view and, whenever possible, a vote ought to be taken when the situation is not urgent and does not require action to be taken within hours.

We have seen the case of Rwanda. We had the time to discuss the situation, to adjust our positions. By taking into consideration the opinions expressed during the debate, the government avoided taking actions that would have been badly perceived, as well as ineffective on the international scene.

They could have come back and asked the opinion of the House, in light of the new information available. The government would have been well advised to base its positions on the results of House votes. In the case of a major international situation for example, the unanimous support of the House would strengthen the government's intervention. The government would also be in a better position internationally.

At home, it can always be argued that decisions are made democratically. They are made in consideration of elected officials' opinions. If we passed the motion before us, we would show our belief in letting elected officials have a say not only in principle but also in reality.

Our opinion must be taken into consideration, because increasingly a precise way of consulting elected officials in such situations must be defined. The trend will be increasingly to create an international emergency force that would act in difficult situations or situations involving military or humanitarian interventions, matters of practical logistics and of principle.

The government benefits from considered opinions on all these things and from the opinions of the members of the House of Commons, which represents all parties in Canada. This is equally valid in the case of interventions in francophone and anglophone countries, whatever the make-up of the Canadian force and the type of intervention involved.

Recently, on the question of Zaire and Rwanda, we wondered about an American presence and the type of aid they could provide. Would a vote in the House not have given the Government of Canada a stronger position from which to defend its viewpoint? Would that not have been worthwhile? We would all have benefited from such a position.

I would like to come back to the impact that I think is the most important, the human impact. In the course of our duties as MPs, we are often called upon to vote or take a stand on economic, social or cultural issues. When we talk about the presence of foreign soldiers, we are talking about human issues, about families that will be left worrying, separated from one of their own. Therefore, we must be sure that, when these situations arise, we have truly weighed all sides of the issue, because we cannot really afford to be wrong. We must identify the position most likely to resolve the situation and to allow Canada to fulfil its international role. The support the House of Commons can provide in these cases is, in my view, an important factor.

I am not in complete agreement with the arguments we heard earlier from a government member, who said that this would take away the government's room to manoeuvre, that we could not always change course rapidly enough. I think that the opposition parties, in these situations, have learned to weigh all the facts carefully before adopting a position.

The amendment proposed by the member for Témiscamingue meets all these criteria, and it would be a sign of maturity on the part of this Parliament and of the government majority to approve it, so that all proposed military commitments abroad involving Canadian troops can be the subject of a vote in the House of Commons with a view to their approval or rejection. Democracy and Canadian diplomacy abroad would stand to gain.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 31 put forward by my colleague from Red Deer. The motion asks that our peacekeeping commitments, which involve 100 or more personnel, be put to the House of Commons in a manner that would allow a free vote.

This motion has a lot of credibility because, if there is one single issue that I have had a lot of calls from my constituency about, it has been the sending of our troops to different parts of the world to be involved in peacekeeping activities. The opportunity to have free votes on this issue is certainly justified as a result of the input I personally have had from the people of Prince George-Bulkley Valley.

Also, on page 92 of the Liberal red ink book, the Liberal Party promised more free votes in the House. However, these Liberals have not allowed very many free votes.

We do have debates on certain peacekeeping missions. When it comes to peacekeeping and the lives of our Canadian soldiers, it is absolutely essential that Parliament as a whole is able to have meaningful debate and provide input in these matters. But the fact is that cabinet and only cabinet has the ultimate authority to designate soldiers to peacekeeping activities.

That is an awesome power for the cabinet to have. Regardless of what our constituents may have to say about it, regardless of what the Canadian people may feel about it, the small group in cabinet can make the unilateral decision to send our soldiers abroad. And that has been done. It has been done over and over again. There is no requirement to hold a debate on these matters. It is only required that Parliament be reconvened within a 10-day period following the decision to commit troops in the first place. That is sort of the reverse.

I would think the proper way to handle these matters would be to have a debate and after the debate cabinet would make a decision based on that input. It can make a decision with the confidence that the concerns and the voices of the Canadian people have been heard in the House. But that is not the case.

It is interesting that in the fall of 1994 a special joint committee released a defence policy paper. Lo and behold, the paper had the support of all the parties in the House. Liberals know very well that one of the recommendations stated "nor should the government commit our forces to service abroad without a full parliamentary debate and accounting for that decision".

As we have seen on the GST issue, the Liberal government can take a promise to scrap the GST many different ways. I would imagine the way it has taken this is that there will be a full parliamentary debate in the accounting for that decision but it will come after cabinet has already made the decision to commit troops. I stated earlier that is the reverse of the way one would assume things should operate in this House. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you would agree with me on that point. We have had token debates on peacekeeping and cabinet does what it wants anyway.

If we want to have a full accounting of our peacekeeping decisions as recommended by this policy paper which all the parties agreed on, then MPs must have the opportunity to debate these matters in the House of Commons.

This motion in no way attempts to limit our international obligations; it does not do that. It in no way attempts to somehow remove Canada from its very distinguished role as a peacekeeper.

We have much to be proud of when it comes to peacekeeping. We have done a good job. Since 1947 over 100,000 Canadians have served abroad in over 30 peacekeeping and related operations. We are the only country that can legitimately claim to have participated in almost every peacekeeping mission organized under the UN.

When countries are in need of someone to enforce ceasefire agreements or provide humanitarian aid, they come knocking at our door. We should be proud of that record. The international community is very aware of Canada's professionalism and its commitment to neutrality and evenhandedness.

In helping other countries we are also helping ourselves. A safer and more secure international environment is key to our very own security and prosperity.

While our record on peacekeeping speaks for itself and while we are anxious to assist other countries in dire need of our soldiers' services, these Liberals have not given the military the support it needs and deserves and the lives of Canadian soldiers overseas have been put in danger because of that.

The Liberals have committed our troops to war zones with antiquated equipment. Stories came out of Bosnia of Canadian peacekeepers trading helmets and flak jackets with their replacements at the airport because there was not enough gear to go around. That is an incredible thing to comprehend.

Furthermore, the armoured personnel carriers they were using provided our troops with inadequate protection against bullets and land mines. That is frightening. These are Canadian soldiers. It was only last summer that the Liberals announced that the armoured personnel carriers would be upgraded. That is some consolation but we did have those dangerous situations prior to that.

Outdated equipment at the department of defence should come as no surprise since it has faced continual cutbacks under the Liberal government. As a matter of fact the 1996 Liberal budget predicts that expenditures at national defence will be cut by 20 per cent in 1998-99.

That leads us to this scenario. While the government is committing our troops to more and more missions, they are being sent off with poorer and poorer equipment. That is not a mission a Canadian soldier really wants to go on. This is why I say that the policies of the Liberal government are putting the lives of our peacekeepers at risk, sending them into areas of peacekeeping and providing humanitarian aid without being properly equipped or properly prepared.

We can see that in the most recent issue as we have been talking about sending our peacekeepers to Zaire. There was no real plan. As far as I know, there is still no plan but the government has been intent to send our troops over there.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs himself has stated that we need to have the views of members of Parliament. The views of members of Parliament are what this motion asks for, nothing more than that. It is not designed to impede our peacekeeping activities. It simply asks that members of Parliament be given a chance to have meaningful debate in the House to put the views of their constituents forward in this House before a cabinet decision is made to send our troops abroad.

I urge all members of the House to support this most worthwhile motion put forward by the hon. member for Red Deer.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to participate in the debate on Motion No. 31 put forward by the hon. member for Red Deer.

In late October in the first part of our debate on this motion we heard criticism of our record of consultation on Canadian participation in peacekeeping operations, especially in former Yugoslavia and Haiti. I would like to remind hon. members opposite that since January 1994 our participation in peacekeeping operations has been debated in this House eight times. They should have been here between 1988 and 1993 and compare that record to this one.

On most of these occasions, particular attention was drawn to our role in former Yugoslavia and Haiti. Furthermore, numerous other consultations took place in discussions with the standing committee on foreign affairs, of which the hon. member is a member, which also has a voting mechanism.

I cannot overemphasize that at every opportunity this government has endeavoured to facilitate the debate on Canada's peacekeeping commitments. The apparent objective of Motion No. 31 to generate such debate has already been accomplished by this government.

This motion contains no innovative proposals to strengthen the Canadian policy making process with respect to peacekeeping. The only effect it would have would be to hamper Canada's ability to act by making the existing process more cumbersome, which could only compromise the respect and admiration the country has merited through its peacekeeping actions for more than 40 years.

In light of Canadians' ability to express their concerns regarding any peacekeeping operation, their willingness to do so and the frequency with which the House is debating this matter, the motion under consideration is really unnecessary. It can only sap Canada's ability to act swiftly in accordance with its international peacekeeping commitments.

We are the first to implore the international community to react swiftly in times of crisis, as stressed in the report on the United Nations' rapid response capacity which I am pleased to note resulted from a Canadian initiative.

The international community must react efficiently. Having pressured the international community for action on this issue, Canada has a responsibility to play a leading role and must not run up against redundant mechanisms. Even when confronted with humanitarian emergencies such as in eastern Zaire, we were prepared to consult the House, as is only right. Nevertheless the opposition leaders chose to trust us and not to recall members to the House unnecessarily.

Let us take a look at peacekeeping and peace building in the aftermath of the cold war. In the post-cold war era the whole context of peacekeeping has changed. Increasingly, instead of the classic cross-border conflict between states, we are dealing with internal conflicts which threaten to spill over into regional conflicts and to fall into unending cycles of violence. We have seen this pattern most clearly in the former Yugoslavia and in the great lakes region of Africa.

These changes have sparked debate in Canada and internationally about how best to respond to these needs, a debate that informs the quest for reform within the United Nations. In this context, and as I mentioned earlier, Canada tabled a study on ways to enhance the UN's rapid deployment capabilities. Work is under way within the United Nations to implement many of the recommendations made in this study. That is one aspect of the debate, making us better peacekeepers, able to react more efficaciously, with a more flexible, integrated response. This is the premise on which we have built our international reputation as some of the best peacekeepers in the world.

The other aspect is recognizing the need for a broader approach, not just keeping the peace now, but building peace to last. This broader approach has been termed peace building. Peace building is rooted in the recognition that human rights and basic freedoms, the rule of law, good governance, sustainable development and social equity are just as important to world peace as arms control and disarmament. In other words, if we want to restore and maintain peace in countries plagued by conflict, we must guarantee human security as well as military security.

While peacekeeping seeks to guarantee security on a military basis, the goal of peace building is to put in place a lasting infrastructure for human security. Once a peacekeeping operation is under way, peace building seizes on a brief opportunity, a crucial moment to help a country turn to the road of lasting peace and stability.

It works to bring about the minimum conditions that will enable a country to take control of its destiny after which social, political and economic development become possible. Peacekeeping and peace building clearly have to play closely linked roles, complementary roles, to put an end to the conflict.

In planning international missions to Haiti, Bosnia, and now Zaire, we are becoming increasingly aware that multi-disciplinary actions are needed that address more than one aspect of a problem. Armed forces cannot only enforce a ceasefire but can also establish a framework in which civilians, including NGOs, can act. Civilian operations include both a humanitarian assistance component and peace building activities.

It is absolutely essential to link and co-ordinate these two aspects: assistance and peacekeeping in the short term and peace building in the long run. This need has been recognized in the United Nations Security Council resolution on the forming of a multilateral force in response to the situation in Zaire. The resolution explicitly called for a second follow-up phase in the force's mandate. Planning for that phase began immediately which has never happened before.

This is an example of new approaches to conflict resolution. Other methods may be needed in other situations but what is important is to react in a flexible and innovative way. In accepting his Nobel prize, Lester B. Pearson stated: "The best defence of peace is not power but the removal of the cause of war, and international agreements which will put peace on a stronger foundation than the terror of destruction".

Implicit in this statement are several basic Canadian values. In line with the third pillar of our foreign policy we see peacekeeping as a means to project these values. First and foremost is the commitment to peace itself and to the non-violent resolution of disputes, values which resonate throughout our society.

Crucial to achieving peace is the pursuit of a process of dialogue and consultation, leading to mutual agreements. Our federal system could not work without a firm commitment to the consultative process. Broad international support fortifies such agreements by providing recognition and legitimacy.

Strengthening the foundations of peace, as I have just described, fosters the establishment of an international order based on rules to which Canadians are strongly attached. In short, peacekeeping goes hand in hand with our vision of Canada, our vision of a progressive country that is open to the world and committed internationally. In addition, it strengthens Canadians' fundamental belief in the effectiveness of civil society, good governance and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

I would like to say a few words about Canadian expertise in peacekeeping. Nourished by these values and by four decades of on-the-ground experience, Canada has developed extensive expertise in peacekeeping. The notion of civil-military co-operation to enhance the effectiveness of peacekeeping is the cornerstone of the new peacekeeping partnership. This partnership was put into action by the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Trading Centre. It is also at the core of the DART, the Disaster Assistance Relief Team, a concept developed by DND to intervene efficiently in the case of a humanitarian disaster and to co-ordinate in theatre efforts with humanitarian agencies.

A national consensus for our peacekeeping policy and operations is also very important. Canadians have a remarkable degree of support for peacekeeping which is a great satisfaction to all of us. Polls indicate that 80 per cent of our fellow citizens take great pride in our country's peacekeeping role. Many of our fellow citizens see it as our most important contribution to the international community. Our national consensus on this issue transcends partisan differences and is supported by all segments of society. The Canadian media as well echo and strengthen that consensus.

I see, Mr. Speaker, you are giving me a signal that my time is up. I thank the hon. member for Red Deer for bringing forward this motion so that we can talk about peacekeeping and peace building. I hope in the future the hon. member would bring more constructive and creative ideas to the whole idea of conflict resolutions.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak today on Motion M-13 put forward by the hon. member for Red Deer.

As official opposition critic on foreign affairs and vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, I am in fact entitled to draw attention to the appropriateness

of this motion, which would make the process of sending our troops overseas much more open and democratic.

Let me start off, however, by reminding you that the Bloc Quebecois has proposed a very important amendment, because we felt that Motion M-31, while very pertinent, was still flawed. Thus, with the amendment proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, the motion would read as follows, and I quote:

That, in the opinion of this House, all proposed peacekeeping or peace enforcement commitments involving Canadian troops must, as soon as possible, be the subject of a vote in the House in order to recommend their approval or rejection to the government.

This amendment would be totally acceptable to the present government, since it would have the advantage of adding to the transparency of the decision making process associated with sending our soldiers abroad, without tying the hands of the government when prompt action is required.

You will see that the Bloc Quebecois is being very consistent with its previous positions, because we had already, in the dissenting opinion we tabled in November 1994 in conjunction with the report by the Special Joint Committee reviewing Canada's Foreign Policy, recommended that the House of Commons be more involved in decisions involving foreign affairs.

I will quote, if I may, an excerpt from page 4 of the Bloc Quebecois dissenting opinion: "We consider that Canada should submit any decision to participate in peacekeeping missions to a vote in the House of Commons, as rapidly as possible, when time allows".

Now that the irritants in the motion tabled in this House by the Reform Party have been removed, we sincerely believe that it would be illogical for this government to vote against it, especially since the Minister of Foreign Affairs is constantly reiterating his desire to consult MPs and the general public to a larger extent.

I do not have to remind my hon. colleagues in this House that the principal role of a member of Parliament is to represent his or her fellow citizens. The government ought, therefore, to do everything it can to involve MPs in decisions as important as sending our soldiers overseas. The lives of Quebecers and Canadians are at stake, whom Canada takes the risk of sending into parts of the world where instability or danger, or both, are constantly present.

Of course, our military personnel possess all of the qualities required to carry out such missions successfully. Moreover, they have our total support and affection, given the excellent reputation they have built for themselves in their many peacekeeping assignments.

We believe, however, that not just the soldiers, but the people of Quebec and Canada are entitled, at the very least, to be informed of the dangerous situations our troops might have to contend with. What is surprising today is that the Liberal government might well vote against this Reform Party motion as amended by the Bloc Quebecois, although the Liberals themselves promised in their famous red book that they would increase the involvement of Parliament and the public in debates on major foreign policy issues.

I shall, if I may, quote a particularly significant excerpt from the red book which would be a mere pamphlet if it only included the promises that were kept. It says, and I quote:

A Liberal government will also expand the rights of Parliament to debate major Canadian foreign policy initiatives, such as the deployment of peacekeeping forces, and the rights of Canadians to regular and serious consultations on foreign policy issues.

The conclusion is that it makes no sense at all to debate this motion today, since it is clear that if the Liberal Party had kept this promise, the case would already be closed. Of course some of our Liberal colleagues are going to argue that the government would not be as functional or that it has to be able to act quickly.

During the debate in April 1995 on Bill C-295, whose purpose was to promote parliamentary control of peacekeeping operations, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence and Veterans Affairs implied that he would not go along with the idea of being subjected to a set of rules that would restrict the speed with which the government could react.

Motion M-31 as amended would allow the government to act quickly. Adding the phrase "as soon as possible" means that the government could act immediately in a crisis and would not have to wait for Parliament to reconvene before making a decision.

If, for instance, a crisis arose somewhere in the world, our troops could be dispatched immediately to the theatres of operations and subsequently, parliamentarians would be able to have a debate on this decision.

The Americans have already thought about this and came up with a solution in 1973 in the form of the War Power Resolution. The three main points may be summarized as follows: after sending troops abroad, the president has 48 hours to inform Congress in writing of what he intends to do; the use of force by troops must cease within 60 days, unless Congress authorizes an extension. However, the president may request a further 30 days to ensure a safe withdrawal of the troops. Congress could demand the withdrawal of the troops within 60 to 90 days by passing a resolution to that effect, a resolution that would be passed simultaneous by both chambers.

It is clear that we are nowhere near this kind of control. Motion M-31 as amended by the Bloc Quebecois merely proposes to have an open debate on sending our troops abroad.

This motion would give members a chance to make their suggestions and opinions known in this House. The last time troops were sent abroad, it was clear that the members of this House had not been consulted but merely informed.

It is too bad government does not pay more attention to the advice of parliamentarians, despite its claims of openness and transparency.

Take for instance the case of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. The minister does not seem to realize that the members of this committee examine a certain number of issues thoroughly. We hear witnesses from all walks of life with often exceptional knowledge of often very complex subjects.

The minister keeps saying that the work done by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade is very important. He says that he intends to keep committee members informed of the government's decisions, and to take into consideration the positions formulated by this committee.

Is there not something ironic about the fact that these eloquent, gratuitous and inconsequential statements come from the same government which waited until the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade were held up abroad as members of a parliamentary delegation to sneak through the House the bill to implement the Canada-Israel free trade agreement, despite the reservations expressed by members of this committee during clause by clause consideration of the bill and after hearing witnesses?

When the government decided to lead what was supposed to be a multinational force that would go and help refugees in the African great lakes region, it did not even bother to consult or even inform members of the committee or at least the chairman of its decision.

The government has already promised that members sitting in this House will have a say in the deployment of peacekeepers. That is exactly the purpose of motion M-31.

I see you are signalling that my time is up, but you allowed the member of the Liberal Party a few seconds more, so I shall, if I may, use the time I have left to say that this is exactly the purpose of Motion M-31 as amended by the Bloc Quebecois. It does not deny the government the authority to act quickly when the situation so requires and it would have a major impact in that it would open a window on that rather closed decision making centre which is the Department of Foreign Affairs.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)

The hour provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

December 10th, 1996 / 7 p.m.

Hamilton East Ontario


Sheila Copps LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Canadian Heritage


That this House take note of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1998 and the importance of this declaration in the promotion of human rights both domestically and throughout the world.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to lead off an extremely unusual debate in the House of Commons. It is the kind of discussion that we need to have more frequently not only in Parliament but among ourselves as Canadians.

This debate is on human rights in the world and at home. Two years from today, the world will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For the first time in the history of man, a declaration was adopted in which all peoples of the world agreed that, and I quote:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Mount Royal and chair of the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for having requested this debate and the former hon. member and Secretary of State for External Affairs, Walter McLean, for his hard work.

For all of us who have known her in the House of Commons, it is no surprise that it is the hon. member for Mount Royal who is the prime advocate for this discussion, where we examine our conscience as parliamentarians and our hearts as human beings. It is no surprise because the phrases "advocacy of human rights" and "Sheila Finestone" go hand in hand.

I would also like to recognize the contribution of the United Nations Association in Canada, which encourages Canadians to focus on education, public awareness, the participation of young people and community involvement in human rights on this historic occasion.

The United Nations was created so that the world had a place to come together. Right now, in the search for a new secretary general, countries are thinking more about their veto than reflecting on the fact that the United Nations is the only world vehicle we have for advancing true world harmony.

Yes it is possible for countries to stymie one another at the United Nations but to do so for reasons of national vanity is very wrong. At the UN we come together, we put aside our individual interests so we may act in harmony and collective honour.

As President John Kennedy said in his state of the union address to the United States Congress in 1962: "Our instrument and our hope is the United Nations, and I see little merit in the impatience of those who would abandon this imperfect world instrument because they dislike our imperfect world". John F. Kennedy's statements are as true today as they were when he spoke them in 1962.

Yes the United Nations needs to be reformed. But member countries also need to reform their attitude toward the United Nations and they should start doing something about paying their back dues.

The people of Canada consider Boutros Boutros-Ghali highly talented, extraordinarily committed, most dignified and a great friend of Canada. We hope whoever succeeds him will have the wisdom to continue his sensible and considered actions.

Two years from today, celebrations will be held around the world to mark the anniversary of this declaration. Three years from the end of the month, we will be celebrating the advent of the new millennium.

It is my profound hope that as we prepare for these occasions, Canadians take to heart the awesome meaning of these words: "Now, therefore, the General Assembly proclaims this universal declaration as 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".

What the world agreed to 48 years ago was not just a statement from governments. It was a statement for each and everyone of us in our daily lives, in our communities and in our own homes.

The declaration committed us to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. It committed all of us to equal pay for equal work, a radical concept those many years ago. It committed us to respect for privacy, to peaceful assembly, to opposition of inhuman punishment, to protection against discrimination, to freedom of movement, to just and favourable conditions of work, to food, to clothing, to housing and medical care and to basic education for everyone in the world.

Have we achieved these goals completely here in Canada? No we have not. Have we achieved these goals completely in our personal lives? I know the answer for me is no and I suspect the same is true for most other Canadians.

We have all from time to time advanced our own interests at the unfair expense of someone else. We have harboured views of people based simply on their language, or their religion, or their social or economic status, or their race, or their sexual orientation, or where they lived in the country.

We tend to promote our own rights. Too often we make disparaging remarks about others rather than try to find a way to work together to do things well.

The upcoming celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the declaration will give us an opportunity to underscore the fact that Canada and its people have always been at the forefront of those defending human rights. Canada and its people, especially, know, however, that they can always do better.

The United Nations declaration was drafted by a Canadian professor, John Humphrey, who died last year. Professor Humphrey, who was from Quebec, carried the torch for Canada's campaign in favour of human rights worldwide. His words, in their wisdom, convinced the world. At the time we acknowledged that: "Yes, we make mistakes, and yes, we can do better and we believe we must do better".

This desire to do better and more underlies Canada's commitment to peacekeeping. It also underlies our commitment with respect to multilateralism and our faith in the United Nations.

Despite the many infractions against human rights, it is important to remember that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has helped to change things for the better.

Democracy has spread in Latin America, the Berlin wall has come down, apartheid is no more, the threat of nuclear war has faded. These were all just dreams not so very long ago.

Yet at the time this declaration was drafted, most scoffed at the dream of an end to totalitarianism or the opening of the iron curtain. These were the visions of a freer world that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights dared us to dream.

And as hope has come to so many in the life of this declaration, our world continues to rest on other dilemmas and reflect on other problems: the problems in northern Island, the stalemate in the Middle East, the millions of frightened refugees in Rwanda and Zaire, the manifest in ethnic hatred in Bosnia, the terrorism in Paris, Tokyo, New York and London. We need to be inspired by human rights, to renew our hope and translate it into action. In the life of this declaration time and again people have endured great suffering and have achieved great progress.

As we approach the millennium it is sobering to realize that at the beginning of the current millennium there was no Magna Carta, there was no democracy. People were either masters or slaves. Communities were built up or thrown away on the basis of race or ethnic heritage. Human beings were treated as gods or garbage depending upon where they were born, what they believed in or what they held sacred.

It is even more sobering to realize that as we approach the dawn of a new millennium, race, religious and ethnic divisions are still tearing people apart across the globe. For all of our political advances as human beings, for all of our economic and social accomplishments, for all of the marvels of industrialization, people are still bombing one another because of how somebody looks, how they sound or what they think.

This is the dark side of human nature. This is why the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is so important. It makes it possible to bring out the positive side of human nature.

We are grateful for the chance to be able to debate widely diverging points of view in the House, and we do so day in and out. We also know that, as citizens, we have the power to bring about change by marking an X on a piece of paper.

But the credit is not due solely to us in the House. Many generations of Canadians have preceded us.

We are the envy of the whole world because, for decades, Canadians have acted responsibly and fairly towards each other and, in particular, towards the rest of the world.

The United Nations was born out of a war where a star or a triangle sewn on a lapel meant death. The United Nations was born out of a war in which millions of teenagers became dismembered to save the world from a madman who would not respect basic human rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights consists only of a short preamble and 30 articles. It is the length of a political pamphlet but it is the critical affirmation of decency which flows from the work of the world coming together to stop another world war.

That this document was written by a Canadian, and that Canadians like Mr. Pearson took the initiative to have this declaration adopted, are surely reasons to be proud. We should also take much credit for the enforcement of the principles set out in this declaration.

Certain steps in achieving respect for human rights will take much longer than others, or will lead to controversy. Certain steps will require that people set aside old grievances and old settlings of account.

And Canada's contribution to all these steps will force us to remember the mutual respect we owe one another as citizens of this country.

It will also encourage us to continue in our role of leader in financial, human and political issues abroad.

It is far too easy to point to instances in which all of us as a country, and each of us as individuals, have failed to live up to that dream of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is far too easy to give up trying to solve very complex and difficult problems. But no great human challenge, no great human dream was every easy, and no human glory was ever achieved without determination and hard work.

In two years it will be the 50th anniversary of the declaration which speaks to justice, freedom and peace. Three years from now we will be entering a new millennium. Where do we go from here? How do we get there? No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain. If we follow the principles laid out 48 years ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights we can be certain that tomorrow will be a better time than what we inherited.

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7:15 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, with your leave, I would like to ask for the House's consent to split my time with my colleague, the member for Mercier, giving us both 10 minutes.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House?

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, as the official opposition's human rights critic, it is obviously a very great pleasure for me to take part in this debate to mark the fact that 1998 will be the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to note, as the Deputy Prime Minister has done, that this declaration was written by a Canadian, John Humphrey, a citizen of Quebec, and by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Although respect for fundamental rights is now guaranteed the people of Quebec and of Canada through their respective charters, this is not the case in certain countries, where governments are still trampling citizens' individual freedoms and fundamental rights.

We, as parliamentarians, have an opportunity today to restore the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to its rightful place in the forefront of national and international debate. The 50th anniversary must mark the renewal of the declaration and not just the commemoration of a date.

My colleagues will have a chance to go into more depth on the historic evolution, present situation and probable future of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and its enforcement throughout the world. But I will begin, if I may, by recalling briefly the birth of this declaration, certainly one of the major historic events in humanity's evolution.

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This marked the turning of an important page in the history of mankind.

Indeed, the horrors of the second world war greatly contributed to raising world awareness and truly expanding the concept of human rights. As early as June 1945, the United Nations Charter and the statutes of the International Court of Justice were ratified in San Francisco. The following year, the Commission on Human Rights and the Commission on the Status of Women were created.

Finally, after adopting the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the UN passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which we are celebrating today.

Since then, there has been continuous progress in terms of respect for basic individual rights almost everywhere in the world. I say "almost" because, unfortunately, in certain areas of the globe, there is still a great deal of progress to be made.

Right from the start, in order to better ensure respect for basic human rights, and to promote their implementation, the UN decided to set international standards, protect human rights and provide technical support where needed. In order to attain these objectives, however, the United Nations Organization had to draw up clear rules relating to human rights, hence the necessity of adopting this Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This universal declaration may be the keystone of United Nations declarations on human rights, but it is not the only one. In fact, the 1986 Declaration on the Right to Development, and the 1992 Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance strengthened the United Nations' moral interventions.

It is, moreover, important to keep in mind that all of these declarations are not legally binding, and that the UN, lacking a real United Nations military force, performs more of an international ombudsman role.

Fortunately, on the other hand, the international conventions and covenants have force of law in the states ratifying them. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, both drafted in 1966, are highly binding on signatories.

International conventions, on the other hand, focus on more specific attacks against human dignity such as the 1969 convention on racial discrimination, the 1981 convention on discrimination against women, the 1987 convention on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and finally the 1990 UN convention on the rights of the child.

All these measures have achieved concrete results such as stays of execution, the release and medical care of prisoners, and sometimes even a complete overhaul of legal systems emphasizing the importance of human rights.

For instance, Bulgaria, Malawi and Mongolia recently received assistance in drafting a new constitution and new legislation, both conforming to the conventions on human rights.

Even more recently, in 1993, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution creating the position of High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose duties consist in preventing and managing crises, sometimes by providing technical assistance to states in transition and co-ordinating interventions aimed at promoting fundamental rights.

As we can see, we have come a long way over the years in our respect for human rights, and we should proudly emphasize events like the one that brought us here today. The future celebrations around the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be more than just that. This great event should not be just another occasion for organizing huge banquets, cocktail parties, receptions and shows for the benefit of venerable dignitaries the world over.

We are all familiar with the propensity of our leaders to slap each other on the back as a sign of satisfaction and to congratulate each other while singing the praises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It will be available in pocket format, as a poster either laminated or beautifully framed in acrylic, and it will be seen at its best. People will shout that they love it, they venerate it, and they will very pompously wish it a very happy 50th birthday.

But for thousands of victims of torture and summary imprisonment by unscrupulous governments, this anniversary will not be a joyous occasion. In fact, for all these people, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains nothing more than a hope based on the action of countries, which, like Canada, protect fundamental rights and might have some influence on the leaders of those countries that still refuse to do so.

Often, this declaration is universal in name only. There was nothing universal about it when the Government of China decided to crush the student movement for freedom in Tiananmen Square barely a few years ago.

There is nothing universal about it for the victims of oppression in East Timor or for the children exploited in India or for the political prisoners in Indonesia or for the demonstrators in Belgrade and other major Serbian cities.

Canada has an important role to play in this area. We must develop a policy of international trade that includes respect for human rights. We can no longer simply close our eyes to these atrocities in the name of profit. We must make it known to the entire international community that Canada will make no human rights compromises out of a need to trade with these countries. Is it not both deplorable and embarrassing when the Prime Minister of Canada signs lucrative trade agreements with countries heavily criticized by Amnesty International without any mention whatsoever of human rights?

I might point out that barely a few years ago, when the whole world knew that the communist regime in Romania was systematically ignoring the fundamental rights of its citizens, Canada welcomed its dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, with open arms and great pomp. Madam Speaker, I will conclude, if I may have one minute. I would not like this situation repeated.

In conclusion, we must continue to promote basic freedoms wherever necessary. We will stop the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is truly what it is supposed to be: universal. The whole world will have achieved its goal: peaceful co-existence of peoples and respect for human dignity. Are we dreaming?

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7:25 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I wonder if you could enlighten us about whether there is a question period following the interventions, please.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Does the member for Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead have unanimous consent to share a limited 20 minutes of his usually unlimited time with his colleague from Mercier? There are no questions on this 20 minutes. After the next member's speech we will enter into questions and comments.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with a feeling of honour, pride and great responsibility that I rise to speak on this extremely important issue. Of course, we are celebrating the 48th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I need hardly remind anyone that the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights came about because of the atrocities committed during World War II, and that, coupled with the social movement that had existed prior to that time, these terrible wars forced, and indeed helped nations to adopt unanimously in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Having armed itself with the means, the UN was able to begin protecting human rights, and it continues to offer assistance and experience to states that want to advance the cause of human rights and freedoms.

In addition to being a specific instrument of the UN, this Universal Declaration of Human Rights was also a rallying point for all people, all groups in different countries suffering injustices of all sorts, to help them continue their struggle and call for justice, sometimes when they did not have a voice.

Through its efforts, the UN obtained concrete results, as my colleague pointed out. Releases, stays of execution, improvement in prisoners' living conditions, and input into the domestic legislation of certain countries are examples of what the international community can achieve by bringing pressure to bear. We can only rejoice. It is a step in the right direction.

However, I would like to say that the situation is not so rosy that we can afford to sit on our laurels. As we know, not only are human rights violations still taking place openly and publicly throughout the world, but we must sadly point out that, depending on the location, and sometimes the nature, of the conflict, the international community does not always react in the same manner.

It must be acknowledged, in fact, that the international community did not react to the invasion of Kuwait in the same way it reacted more recently to the situations in Burundi, Zaire, Bosnia, Tibet and Indonesia. One may wonder what made such a difference that, in one case, an extraordinary military force could be drawn up, while in others not even a minimal force could be assembled, and millions of innocent victims were left to not only live through the war, but to suffer-as civilians, which is what they generally are nowadays-the horrific aftermath of war.

We are living in a world where we are assailed daily with images so horrific that they ought to convince us to do everything in our power to defend human rights. Yet, as we know, we continue to

view those images and to carry on living our calm and tranquil lives, while sometimes taking a voyeuristic interest in the suffering that is going on elsewhere. One might say that the duty to intervene varies in intensity, depending on the place involved.

The great powers are not interested, either, in insisting with equal vigour, regardless of the location, that human rights be respected. It cannot be denied that economic and financial interests play an extremely important role.

Recently and most tragically, western Europe was unable, or claimed it was unable, to help resolve the crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

One might say that, if the will of the international community is truly there, it is high time it gave itself a reliable means of ensuring the protection of civilians during conflicts, as well as a permanent means of intervening, no longer just to maintain peace, but to restore it.

We know that many countries are discussing this question. We know that Canada, pushed by the official opposition, has made concrete proposals and has struggled to advance the idea, which is supported by the former Secretary General of the United Nations, of having a permanent force in a position to step in when it deems necessary.

More consistency is needed in the actions of the international community, and efforts must be made to do away with this justice which is really not justice, this double standard, which considers some dreadful situations more dreadful than others, and which mobilizes the international community over some cases and not others.

I can only vigorously underscore that, in the effort to find support for all those who suffer and specific ways Canada and other countries so wishing may help these people and groups in countries where human rights are not respected, there must be no trade relations independently of international involvement in the respect of human rights.

In this regard, Team Canada provided a very poor example and confirmed the Prime Minister's oft repeated statement that trade relations for Canada would now be dictated by "business as usual", and this is what characterizes relations with countries known worldwide not to respect human rights. Team Canada brought no honour to Canada in this regard.

The official opposition will continue to urge the government to bear in mind that it cannot continue to have close, warm and lucrative trade relations with countries that do not respect human rights, while continuing to boast about being responsible and being a leader in the respect of human rights. I feel obliged to state this fact here, this evening, and my colleagues will confirm it in the coming minutes.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary, we must see the horror of the international situation in order to decide to take the next step in organizing solid support for the respect of human rights.

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7:35 p.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Madam Speaker, I simply want to point out to you and to this House that the members of the government will now share their time. Therefore, instead of 20-minute speeches, we will have 10-minute speeches followed by 5 minutes of questions and comments.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I am splitting my time with the member for Red Deer.

I am pleased tonight to be able to speak to the commemoration of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, both to reflect on its helpfulness in providing guidelines for national institutions and specific human rights issues as well as to call on the Canadian government to account for the steady erosion of these principles in public policy today.

Forty-eight years ago the world, having endured two world wars, one which threatened the global with the spectre of fascism, called on its leaders to commit to a fundamental standard of responsibility toward both their own citizens and to people around the world.

Forty-eight years ago the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was born to form the basis of many national human rights acts. In 1976 it was coupled with the international covenant of economic, social and cultural rights, the international covenant on civil and political rights and the optional protocol to the latter covenant, to become the international bill of human rights.

The declaration has much to commend it. It has been used to protect many vulnerable Canadians. It has been used not only to direct public policy but also to remind individual Canadians in their own private relationships about their responsibility to respect others. It has been used to frame policy which has made Canada a safe haven for those who have fled from oppression and almost certain death in their own country.

Unfortunately, as each day passes it becomes more and more evident that Canada has lost its commitment to the essence of the human rights debate, the recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and unalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. With the loss of the vision it has also lost its commitment to our fundamental institutions.

In my brief time tonight I want to reflect on three issues, the lack of protection for existing basic human rights, the evolution of the broader interpretation of rights, with their infringement on existing rights and basic institutions, and the denial of the full equality of Canadians.

First I want to talk about the erosion of our protections. There have been many UN conferences in the past few years on a wide range of issues, from population to habitat, from women to the environment. It has become clear that special interests dictate the agenda, not those representing the main concerns of many countries.

The UN process is not democratic, in violation of the universal declaration's affirmation of the importance of democracy. Certainly in Canada there is no accountability to Parliament to ensure that delegates accurately reflect the views of our country.

My own experience at the Beijing conference on women showed me how developed countries, including and especially Canada, trampled the human rights of delegates from other countries as well as those of Canadians. When they are advancing narrow special interests, the commitment made to the most basic of human rights like the freedom of opinion, conscience and religion found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights do not matter.

I read into the record last week a statement from the official Canadian facilitating committee report. It specifically advised Canadians to criticize the opinions of Muslims, Catholics, pro-life groups and REAL Women. This kind of intolerance, which is condemned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, appears to have become standard policy among Canadian delegations to UN conferences over the past few years.

Even more disturbing is the way countries like Canada use the UN to lever legislative change in Canada as well as in the domestic policies of developing countries, contrary to the democratic process. An example of the influence of the UN policy is in the guise of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which seeks to broaden children's rights at the expense of family and parental autonomy.

The most significant institution recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as in the broader international bill of human rights is the family as the natural and fundamental group unit of society. Yet astonishingly this is one of the sections which is most ignored by the federal government today.

The international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights in article 10 states that the widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, which is the natural and fundamental group unit of society, particularly for its establishment and while it is responsible for the care and education of dependant children.

The international covenant on civil and political rights, in article 23, says that the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state.

The framers of these documents recognized that the family was the key social institution for effectively realizing all other rights that are mentioned.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is being used to eliminate parental freedom and responsibility in child discipline through its demand that Canada repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code. Despite the strong majority view in Canada that the discipline of children should be the prerogative of parents, the UN has demanded that Canada repeal the protection for parents who choose to use responsible corporal punishment.

The fact that such a demand comes not through democratic process but by way of an international body does not seem to matter. The fact that it attacks the autonomy of parents and, therefore, the UN's human rights commitment to the family seems to be irrelevant. The fact that such a decision has ramifications for the freedoms of religion, opinion and conscience which are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not appear to matter.

Canada's leading anti-corporal punishment group, the Repeal 43 Committee said that: "Freedom of religious belief does not include the freedom to engage in practices that threaten health and safety," yet there is no evidence to defend its link between responsible corporal punishment and health and safety.

Reform supports the original understanding of human rights as they apply to children, that is protection rights which obligate us to make the health and well-being of children a priority by combating abuse and seeking their best interests in situations such as family break-up.

But in the same Beijing document I cited earlier we can read the following: "Human rights activists applauded a Canadian breakthrough that recognizes children's evolving rights to make their own decisions even though the issue pits a child's right to learn about issues against the right of parents to prevent access to subjects in which they do not believe".

The new notion that legitimate protection rights should be expanded to include what could be termed choice rights for children denies the autonomy and importance of parenting and the family. Despite the problems associated with giving children the freedom to make choices they are not ready to make, and despite the opposition of most Canadian parents toward this idea, Canada has been advancing this ideology domestically and on the international stage.

Finally, another violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the system of special rights that has contaminated almost very sphere of public policy in this nation.

The Reform Party has told Canadians clearly in our fresh start election platform that we support the repeal of section 15(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides for the establishment of discriminatory treatment of Canadians based on sex, race, ethnic origin, family status and other irrelevant characteristics. Untold destructive policies have been introduced in Canada and justified by this mentality: employment equity, official bilingualism, official multiculturalism, the ongoing paternalism toward out native population and divisive immigration policies.

It is astounding that in 48 years, almost half a century, the Canadian government has lost its commitment to true equality and the dignity of every human being.

In conclusion, those who constructed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had noble intentions. They worked hard and produced a commendable document. Unfortunately, while bureaucrats and governments have been busy redefining and massaging the message to their own ends, here in Canada and elsewhere real human rights abuses still exist.

There are many around the world who face death each day as they take a stand for the most basic of human rights. The spirit and letter of the universal declaration supports their cause and calls on the world to respond. There is much to be done at home and abroad to honour our 1948 commitment. Let us never lose sight of its original intent.

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7:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Rey D. Pagtakhan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, in listening to the debate, the member forgot to even remember a recent happening in the world when the world thanked Canada as a people for asserting our collective conscience once more.

Our Prime Minister, through his leadership moved the United Nations to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Zaire. We should continue to remember that, for the essence of human rights is about the integrity of any one person which if violated destroys the essence of our humanity and the soul of any nation. When the Prime Minister took that action, we should not lose sight of that very caring and creative leadership. It is fitting to be able to comment on this on such a special day of debate devoted to human rights.

An ancient Chinese proverb said: "A journey of 1,000 miles must begin with a single step". The first step in the journey to make human rights the acid test of any civilization was taken when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. Nearly 50 years ago, on December 10, the conscience of mankind said never again: never again to the disregard and contempt for human rights which resulted in the Buchenwalds of that time; never again to all the death camps and the dictators who marched people into slavery; never again to all those barbarous acts which provoked and killed an entire wartime generation.

When the Prime Minister took that step, the member from the Reform Party should have taken pride in that step. The men and women of that time took the first step in Paris knowing full well that the journey ahead of them was long and full of danger. In taking that first step, the assembly of citizens of the world, men and women, turned a corner in the course of world history. Henceforth there shall be a world in which human beings will have freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Today, in 1996, when we look back to the idealism of those early defenders of human rights we see that the record is very mixed indeed. I would like to call hon. member's attention to the international tribunals which have been frustrated in their attempts to prosecute those same dictators who, at a different time, had marched Bosnians, Haitians, Somalians and Rwandans into times of barbarisms unmatched in human history.

We must remember the leadership taken by the Prime Minister. On this day we look at all the violence of unrestrained ethnic and racial conflict across the planet. We look at the unconscionable social and economic inequities which in our time are growing. However, let me say that the fundamental rights of humanity are not just civil and political rights but critical to these rights are our civilian societies in the mature western democracies.

I agree with the member that human rights have as much to do with the right to medical care as it does to the right to vote. Human rights have as much to do with having a roof over one's head as it does with privacy. Human rights have as much to do with children in poverty as it does with the brave and courageous individuals around the world who fight for freedom in countries where intimidation, fear and oppression are daily realities.

In commenting on this debate, we must look at the question of human rights in this perspective.

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7:50 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to take the second half of my fellow member's time and to again remember December 10, 1948, the conference on human rights and the statement made at that time.

Human rights is something that hopefully every single one of us as Canadians feel strongly about and are concerned about. I am sure we could talk about it in many different ways. What I intend to do tonight is concentrate primarily on the international aspects.

Each and every day my office receives a great many letters from across the country appealing to the government to do more about human rights. I suggest that many Canadians who have written those letters feel that the current government has done a poor job in many areas of human rights.

In much of the current debate a false dichotomy has developed. On one hand, many human rights activists argue that Canada should completely cut off countries with abusive governments. They argue that we should not trade with them, that we should publicly condemn them and that we should isolate them. On the other hand, the government has taken the approach of cosying up to at least 99 per cent of the dictators, of being their best buddy and of saving its outrage and contempt for the other 1 per cent to make it look like it actually cares. Neither of these approaches achieves the goal that most Canadians want.

From speaking to Canadians I believe they want government policy to accomplish several things. First they want Canada to help people who live under abusive regimes in the most constructive way possible. In order to help people, Canada must have a presence in the affected country. Canada has a lot of experience in building legal and democratic institutions in the developing world. This is an important feature of Canada's current foreign aid program.

That is why Reform supports this process which includes things such as monitoring elections to make sure they are free and fair; providing legal expertise to reform the court systems; and providing training for police so they will serve and protect rather than intimidate and bully their populations. It is our hope that through this type of policy we can help the people in the developing world to establish democratic and legal institutions that ordinary people trust.

Reform also supports working with non-governmental organizations and the private sector to build civil societies in developing countries. With this policy Canada will be able to help people in the developing world to help themselves to a better future. As social and business groups emerge as legitimate political forces in developing countries, they will be able to assert themselves and work against corrupt and abusive governments.

Reform also sees international trade as a source of hope for people in developing countries. Certainly there is an intense debate surrounding this point but I believe supporting human rights through various programs and reforms will mean little if the people we are trying to help continue to live in absolute poverty and destitution.

International trade creates jobs and incomes for millions and millions of people who would otherwise have nothing. This is not to say that wages are always at an acceptable level. It is not to say that the workplace conditions are what we would expect here in Canada. But if we ask the question, would the people living in abusive countries be better off or worse off if Canada and other developed countries refused to trade with them, I believe the answer is clear.

In the political debate in Canada, Reform has consistently argued that the best kind of welfare program is a job. If this is true in Canada where we have a whole social safety net which includes free health care, employment insurance, old age security, welfare and a host of other programs for our citizens, then it is doubly true in countries where no such programs exist.

For all of the reasons I have mentioned: providing jobs, assisting in democratic institutions and building and reforming corrupt legal systems, Canada should not choose the path of isolation. Even though cutting countries off would be a strong symbolic statement, I do not think it is the best way to help those people who desperately need our assistance.

Nonetheless, neither should the Canadian Prime Minister be best buddies with foreign leaders who reject democracy and frequently run corrupt and abusive regimes. This sends out all the wrong messages. I believe this is where the current government and our Prime Minister have failed.

It must be clear to Canadians that our government is not condoning the kind of massive repression and abuse that frequently takes place around the world. Unfortunately it is not clear. In fact many Canadians have written me to complain bitterly about the behaviour of the Prime Minister. They believe he has callously ignored human rights abuses in his foreign travels and this has left them outraged.

This reminds me of a highly ironic point. Just over a month ago the Prime Minister attacked me and the leader of the Reform Party for having met with the U.S. speaker of the house of representatives, Newt Gingrich. He was shocked and outraged. It seems the Prime Minister believes that Reform should not meet with the democratically elected leaders of our closest ally, the U.S., but it is a demonstration of true Liberal Party leadership when the Prime Minister befriends dictators all the time.

In fact I would not even be surprised if we find the Prime Minister golfing with Saddam Hussein over the Christmas break. How many people commented about the Prime Minister dancing with the Prime Minister of China and some of his past history? Or how about embracing Mr. Castro and some of the abuses there? I have been in some of the jails in Cuba and have looked at them and have seen the human rights abuses in that country.

My point is that while Reform does not advocate isolation, we do reject the government's shameless pandering to foreign dictators. We reject it and so does the Canadian public. It is for this reason that at the last Reform Party assembly in Vancouver our membership voted overwhelmingly, over 90 per cent, to oppose federal government foreign aid to governments which suppress basic human rights. That is the commitment our party has made and we will follow through on it when we form the next government.

Reform will end the Liberal government's practice of giving handouts to abusive regimes.

In the future Canada must provide an example to the world. We should use our foreign aid program to constructively promote democratic and legal reforms. We should encourage expanded trade to generate jobs in developing countries, but we should make it perfectly clear that the systematic abuse of human rights is unacceptable. We should voice our concerns and cut off aid to those who reject freedom and ignore human rights.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

8 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question but before doing so I thank him for an interesting address.

Has he considered the relationship between human rights under the universal declaration and under national constitutional law.

He will know of course that in the actual drafting of the UN document Canadians played a very large role, but still it is a different document from the charters we have been used to in the common law world. It is designed for legislators. Ours is designed, the American bill is designed and western bills are generally designed for judges and judge made law. Still our own charter of rights and freedoms borrowed from the universal declaration in its drafting.

Has he considered the correlation between the universal declaration and its enforcement and a national charter such as ours and its enforcement? Is it the obligation, in his view, of national legislators to bring national law in line with the universal declaration?

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

8 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Madam Speaker, I cannot give a legal answer to that question.

My honoured colleague obviously is an expert in international law and constitutional law. I respect him for that.

I would say that when it comes to human rights it comes more to the point of common sense, not the sorts of things where we could get hung up in a court of law, in international courts, where we could debate it for years on end.

It reminds me of the couple of monks in a monastery back in the 17th century who debated for 100 years whether or not angels have wings. The debate went on for 100 years and at the end of the time, they came to a conclusion. Their conclusion was that some angels do and some angels do not. That is what happens when we get too hung up in the legal ramifications.

I would say in answer to the hon. member's question that the role of Canada is to show leadership. Through our Constitution, which I believe does give equality to all within the law, that is what we should try to achieve on an international basis. The closer we come to achieving that, the better this world is going to be for the human beings living in it.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

8:05 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.


Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be able to participate in this very special debate to raise awareness of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

My portfolio as Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women deals specifically with human rights, the rights of women and minority groups to have an equal place in the economic, social and political life of this country.

The difficulties facing many Canadians, women and men, are rooted in inequality, in gender and in ethnic socialization and outmoded customs, attitudes and practices.

The activities related to the two components of my mandate, the status of women and multiculturalism, are closely linked and are also complementary. The purpose of both components is to ensure that all Canadians avail themselves of their right to equality and realize that human rights are sacred.

The Government of Canada is deeply committed to the realization of women's rights as human rights. Human rights relate to every aspect of people's lives, be they male or female. Human rights speak to the ability of people to live, to work, to play, to worship, to be safe from societal harm and to contribute fully to the social, economic and political life of their nation.

Respecting human rights means promoting choices, opportunities, equality and fairness. Women cannot assert themselves effectively nor can their human rights be respected when their economic base and their social status are not as secure as those of men or when the integrity of the person is still subjected to rape and to violence.

Our blueprint for action to the year 2000 is the 1995 federal plan for gender equality, a comprehensive plan of federal government initiatives to advance women's equality. As well, Canadians, whether they be disabled, aboriginal or gay and lesbian, who face the barriers to social and economic equality because of racism and

discrimination miss out on opportunities to contribute to society, a society in which we all have a share in building or destroying. The choice is ours. When we do not respect others because of their differences or respect their rights to make basic choices, we create a society that is bound for destruction.

To work for the full implementation of human rights is to strive for a democratic ideal. This in itself should be incentive enough for Canadians to promote the full realization of human rights. But if it is not, there is a second and more pragmatic argument to persuade Canadians to demand the full observance of human rights in our country. We must improve the lives of women, aboriginal peoples and Canadians of all ethnocultural origins and as we do so, the social and economic life of the nation will benefit as a whole. As we respect each other's equal rights, we create a social structure based on respect, on accommodation and therefore on finding peaceful resolutions to conflict.

These are not the worst of times, but neither are they the very best of times. We still live in a society here in Canada where there are those in this country and in this Parliament who would deny jobs to persons because of their race or their sexual orientation, who say that in order to foster equity we must treat everyone the same. On a very practical level Canada cannot afford to have or to deny even a few of its citizens an opportunity to contribute as fully as possible to the economic, political, cultural and social life of the nation.

We only have to look at nations of the world where there is ethnic cleansing, intolerance and denial of equal opportunity to see that people will not for long stand to be oppressed. They will rise in anger and with violence to assert their right to the basic human freedoms to achieve their individual potential.

Canada must ensure that human rights are given more than just lip service here in our territory because the world looks to us for leadership on the international stage, to show by example, to assist in encouraging and building democratic processes. By isolating those who do not conform to our ideals, we lose the very important opportunity to teach and to inform.

As a signatory to a number of instruments that have been developed to protect and promote human rights, Canada has an obligation to assist when and where we are able in carrying out an international mandate, but also to ensure that we practice here at home what we preach.

Behind all of our human rights activities at home and abroad is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted in 1948. In the aftermath of the horrors of the second world war, Canada worked for change to create a world where fascism and totalitarianism could not survive, a world where peace could become a reality, a world where individuals were free to live productive and fulfilling lives according to their own ability.

We have been working hard in the field of human rights, both domestically and internationally, and there is firm evidence of our progress. In Canada we have the charter of rights and freedoms which guarantees all Canadians equal protection and equal benefit of the law. Women's equality rights were enshrined in the charter in 1985. We have a Canadian Human Rights Commission where all can seek justice and ensure equality.

We have the court challenges program which allows access to disadvantaged groups and individuals so that they can put forward selected cases of national significance on language and equality rights. We have the world's first multiculturalism act and we are working to build a multifaceted strategy to address violence against women and children. Treasury Board recently agreed that a number of federal government spousal benefits should apply to same sex couples.

In October I was very pleased to honour our government's red book commitment to launch the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. This foundation will facilitate the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canada.

We are world leaders in advancing women's rights globally, particularly with respect to violence against women and children. At the 1995 United Nations world conference on women in Beijing, women's human rights formed the cornerstone of Canada's position. In Stockholm, Canada pledged to do all in its power to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

Through the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, Canada has long supported international women's rights organizations and developed gender sensitive programs to assist women in achieving their economic potential in developing countries. We have also supported organizations such as the Asia-Pacific Forum on Women and Women in Law and Development in Africa. We are the first country to create gender discrimination as a criteria for refugee status.

We are moving forward, but the job is not yet done. If we can envision our ideal, then we can believe in its reality, a reality that seeks to foster equality by treating people differently and by using different strategies to do so. With a strong enough belief and hard work to back it up, we can realistically hope to achieve our ideal which is to keep that belief strong and our incentives fresh.

We need occasions to remind us of the worth of what we do. Such an occasion is the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I urge everyone in this House to use this day and this time to recognize the importance of serving each other and

permitting each other to live with equal opportunity in this very great country.

United Nations Universal Declaration Of Human RightsGovernment Orders

8:10 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, today we are approaching the 50th year of the magna carta of human kind. When the United Nations General Assembly adopted this magna carta, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on December 10, 1948, United Nation member states committed themselves to recognize the inherent dignity of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

I want to thank the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, for agreeing to launch on this day this important debate. I would encourage all people to think about these matters over the coming year and plan some activity to celebrate next year's 50th anniversary.

I also wish to express appreciation to the Hon. Walter McLean, a colleague of this House for many years, a secretary of state himself, who has been very instrumental in raising all these issues and talking about the importance of planning ahead.

This declaration was a powerful idea that inspired us. It recognized that we all have rights as human beings.

That is not because we inhabit a particular country, are the product of a particular class, of a particular group or the product of a particular ethnic background; it is because we exist as human beings.

This declaration was drafted by a really fine Canadian. I am glad that my colleague in the Bloc noted this in his remarks. I know that the family of John Humphrey and John Humphrey himself would have been very proud of this day. Unfortunately, he passed away last year. He lived in the Mount Royal riding and he and Eleanor Roosevelt were the key drafters of this declaration of human rights. Although most of his fellow citizens might not even recognize this great Canadian's name, his achievement has an ongoing impact on the functioning of our governments and, as a result, on the way that each and every one of us conducts our lives.

The universal declaration revolutionized international law by enshrining the principle that the international community has an abiding and important interest in the fundamental rights of all human beings. It established the framework for the international recognition of the rights of human kind.

In the 50 years that followed the United Nations put into place covenants, principles and monitoring activities which all demonstrate a fundamental international agreement to recognize different aspects of the indivisible, inalienable and fundamental rights of individuals.

During the ensuing 50 years, and I feel I must repeat this, the United Nations adopted conventions, principles and control mechanisms which all reflect this strong desire on the part of the international community to recognize all aspects of the indivisible, inalienable and fundamental rights of the individual.

The principles, the goals and the fine phrases have been put on paper and agreed to. Now what?

To no one's surprise, when we look at how the international human rights system actually functions, we confront a paradox. Many of the ringing statements of principle in the universal declaration and various covenants are honoured more in the breach than in observance.

The United Nations human rights system is a patchwork. The monitoring and enforcement mechanisms are imperfect. Too often the politicians, the bureaucrats and diplomats natter on and on about what is wrong and how to improve things, but it is often too little and too late. It is a very slow process.

I heard the secretary of state a few moments ago allude to the fact that in Beijing we had to reaffirm the fact that women's rights are human rights, inalienable, et cetera. It was quite a critique on the state of the world, although let us not despair.

What about the people? We have all read about the Holocaust, which is now called the Shoa. We know about racism, fascism and intolerance. What have we learned? Have we learned very much?

All we have to do is turn on our television to see the horrors of Cambodia, ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia and mass killings in Rwanda. It is no wonder that when we did our television study children find that the most terrifying thing on TV is the daily news. The world is still struggling with ethnic, cultural and religious differences. How to accept and live as equals peacefully and respectfully is still the challenge to meet.

Other people at risk, with disadvantages to overcome are the disabled. They are still among the poorest and rank at the bottom or the end of the queue to receive services and remain the most marginalized and vulnerable group in this world.

Then we must complete the circle, for there is hope, a light shining to mark the way.

In fact, we are still guided in our actions by hope, because without the Universal Declaration and the other UN conventions, we would have no landmarks, so to speak.

The peoples and nations of the world and their governments would be disoriented, without purpose, without standards, without ways to measure their progress or to know what they did right or what they did wrong.

So this brings us to that ultimate recognition. I would say that domestically we have moved ahead, that the UN's involvement in human rights has become part of the evolving process, a kind of perpetual motion machine. In the half century since the adoption of the universal declaration internationally accepted values have shifted and goals as well as programs have moved forward, in large part pushed by the very existence of these United Nations declarations of human rights principles.

Domestically, Canada confronts the same paradox. The principles of fundamental human rights for Canadians are well entrenched here. We have cause to be proud of section 15 of our charter of rights and freedoms. We have cause for pride in other aspects of our charter; the recognition of human rights in the basic constitutional fabric of this country.

The Canadian Human Rights Act assures protection against discrimination in areas within federal jurisdiction. The language of human rights and of inclusiveness is spoken everywhere throughout Canada, in all our provinces and no more or no less, might I say, than in my own province of Quebec, which passed the first human rights act in Canada in 1977.

Like the United Nations, Canada has ways of monitoring compliance with human rights standards. The supreme court, of course, is one and the most important, but there is as well the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The standing committee that I have the privilege to chair is another. We may be different singers but we sing the same tune.

Progress has been made, no doubt about it. But why does this paradox, the difference between principle and practice, continue to confront us so starkly even here in our own country? I would say that the perpetual motion machine I spoke about earlier comes into the picture in Canada too, just like at the international level.

The acknowledgement of human rights in Canadian laws and institutions has fostered an environment where awareness of rights has promoted awareness of practices. The awareness of practice has promoted awareness of flaws, and awareness of flaws has promoted demands for change. And while changes have been made, more needs need to be address. The goal remains the same but the distance between the players and the goal posts has widened and so we have to become even more vigilant.

In the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons we have become very aware that we need to keep the gap from widening even more. As we develop and apply new technologies we must keep in mind that all of us, knowingly or unwittingly, attach social values and responsibilities to technological developments.

Take the debate over new technologies right now and their implications for privacy, which is a human right. We have been looking at new physical and biological surveillance techniques and personal identification practices, including new ways of testing an individual's genetic make-up. We have become aware of the tension between progress and rights and why it is so crucial to protect privacy in the face of new technology.

Supreme Court Justice LaForest said in a 1990 decision: "The limits of our personal privacy define in large part the measure and the limits of our freedom. Not to be compelled to share our confidences with others is the very hallmark of a free society. That is where we hope human rights is headed".

We know there is no ultimate answer in finding the balance between an individual's right to privacy and society's broader requirements. Defining human rights is a constant process of evolution, just as our Canadian federation is constantly evolving, particularly when balancing rights against social policy.

In order to build equality into the fabric of our society we have to take a positive approach that goes beyond using the courts to deal with abuses. Recognition of fundamental human rights is essential for individuals to develop a sense of belonging, a sense of equality and a sense of the rights and obligations of citizenship.

A true economic and social democracy, like the one I believe Canada must keep striving for, has to build equality and justice into every aspect of every human relationship. We must never lose sight of that goal. We must intensify and strengthen our message. That is the reason we must emphasize the importance of marking the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1998; plan now, act later.

As the drafters of the charter did almost 50 years ago, we must use the concepts of human rights to point the way to ongoing respect for each other as human beings. We can move toward our vision of equality but we can do this only together for the full enjoyment of our lives.

We can do it together to more fully experience justice, peace and freedom.