House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cuba.


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Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-54, an act to amend the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to seek the unanimous consent of the House that the first 40-minute time slot accorded to the government, notwithstanding the standing orders, be split between two members as opposed to one speaker as is normally the case. I believe you will find unanimous consent for that proposition.

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The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

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Some hon. members


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10 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba


Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the courtesy of the members of the opposition allowing leave for a joint presentation of this legislation by myself and the Minister for International Trade.

In the last several months Canadians have been heavily engaged in a variety of debates about the imposition of the Helms-Burton law by the United States Congress.

The legislation being presented to the House today at second reading is basically a defensive measure to allow Canadians to protect themselves against parts of that act and to demonstrate that we will provide a basic tool kit for Canadians to ensure that their interests are protected. In the amendments there are a number of technical features with which the minister of trade will deal.

At the outset I want to address the fundamental principle that is at stake in the legislation. The Helms-Burton bill is an attempt by the United States Congress to unilaterally decide the rules of the game for other countries. That runs counter to the basic principles on which an international economy or an international society can work.

We have debated in the House in the past weeks the importance of a fundamental rule of law to govern the actions between individuals. The rule of law is also important in governing the relationships between nations if we want to develop an open international economy for trade, investment, telecommunications, commerce and culture. We have learned our lessons over the last 40 or 50 years that the best way to do that is to come to an agreement on basic laws that we agree to, basic principles that we adhere to. If there are to be changes to those, nations come together to negotiate and discuss them and arrive at some consensus.

The minister of trade has been actively involved in the development of a World Trade Organization. It is an enormously important development for the world. The whole premise is that there have to be rules by which countries abide. If one country, especially an extremely powerful country, perhaps the most powerful country in the world, begins to adopt a unilateral approach that it can declare on its own, without any consideration for the rights of other individuals or states, then it begins to break down the international system that we have laboured so diligently in the last half century to build.

It is ironic that the United States has over that 50 years been a leader in developing those rules. Not only has it been a leader, but it has been a beneficiary. Perhaps no country in the world has gained more of its economic strength by helping to open up the international system. Yet at the very time the rhetoric and the pronouncements in various fora around the world by United States representatives of a need to put rules into globalization and ensure that we expand and augment our openness, its Congress passed a law which basically tells Canadians: "We will decide for you what your policy will be in relation to a third party. And if you do not adhere to what we decide is right, then we will penalize your companies and your individuals". It makes absolutely no sense. It is totally contrary to the interest of the international community and is certainly contrary to the interests of Canada. I would dare say, it is contrary to the interests of the United States.

It is interesting that in a recent Angus Reid poll which was done in the United States, 64 per cent of Americans who know about the Helms-Burton bill support the right of Canada to have its own independent policy vis-à-vis Cuba. That has been our point. We have not argued the question of whether the United States policy

toward Cuba is right or wrong. We do not agree with it. We have a different approach. But it is certainly their right how they want to deal with another country.

We will use all avenues and venues to talk with the United States and other countries about how we can work together to improve and make the system in Cuba more open. For the United States to tell us how to carry out our policies and if we do not agree with them, to impose a penalty, is an enormous step backward both in our relationships and also in terms of the wider international community.

Therefore, it is important that the House in the legislation send a message that Canadians will not accept that kind of unilateralism and that we will stand firm to protect the interests of our companies, the interests of our citizens and the interests of Canada to be able to maintain its independent sovereign right to decide how to do its international business.

I say that in the confidence of knowing that on both sides of the House there has been basic support for this approach. It is a good example of how, when we unite as a country on a matter of fundamental importance, we can speak with a very strong voice.

One of the most important developments during the debate on the Helms-Burton legislation is the way that not only has the country united-provincial governments have been in support, the public has been in support, members of this House on both have been in support-we have been able to mobilize a very active and a very effective campaign to counter Helms-Burton.

The United States has become virtually isolated on this. In the Caribbean, in Latin American countries, in Europe and in Asia there is total condemnation of the bill. That is due in some large part by the leadership shown by Canada.

The Prime Minister started that when he went to the Caribbean nations just weeks after the imposition of Helms-Burton and was able to get full agreement from the Caribbean countries. The Minister for International Trade has been working actively with his colleagues in Mexico and other members of the trade organization, in NAFTA and WTO.

Our secretary of state for Latin American affairs was an effective floor manager at the OAS at which time a resolution was passed 30 to 1 condemning the United States for its actions. Those of you who are historians of the OAS would know that is a very unusual happening and one that was taken notice of by the United States because it demonstrated that the United States had stepped across the boundary of what is a fair, equitable and useful system.

As a result of our unity in this matter we have been able to provide real leadership in the international community and to provide a very strong message. I think the message has been received.

One of the things we can take some satisfaction from is that in title III, which is the part of the Helms-Burton bill which gives the right to U.S. companies to sue foreign companies that they believe may have been involved in confiscated property in Cuba, the United States president has deferred the implementation of that part of the act as he has a right to do under the legislation. He has not totally deferred it.

Canadian companies are still accruing liability under that portion but a deferment on a six month by six month basis is not good enough. The act has to be changed to eliminate that position altogether. One of the very effective ways of doing that is by this House passing this legislation. It will demonstrate that any American action in U.S. courts, first, will not be recognized by the our authorities, and, second, give the right to Canadian companies to counter sue. We can go into more details on that and I know the minister of trade will deal with that extensively.

That is the reality we will now put in our arsenal, the right to counteract. It will provide as well a further signal to the international community that other nations will do the same. Our friends in Mexico have already proposed similar legislation. Certainly Europe is considering similar legislation. Once there is in effect an international alliance in which the legal instruments are at hand to enable companies to provide that defensive responsive posture, I believe that once the U.S. election is concluded and things settle down and they begin to review these matters, then the United States administration and I trust that Congress will take another hard, second look at Helms-Burton and realize just what a serious mistake they have made.

We welcome the points of view of our various members but this legislation is a very important and very significant statement on behalf of Canadians and also a very significant statement on behalf of other countries around the world. The direction to become unilateral arbiters of what is right and wrong is not given by divine right to one state alone. We must begin to work in the area of co-operation, consensus building and rule making in the international community. That is how countries like us survive and that is how the international community will survive.

Before I turn this over to my colleague, I want to make one other important observation. We do not simply by our opposition to the Helms-Burton bill in any way ignore the responsibilities of Canadians to begin to conduct our relationships with Cuba in a way that will promote and encourage a more open system. I can say to the House we are actively engaged in developing discussions, dia-

logues and initiatives that down the road we believe will help to work in that country, to have a more open market system economically and a system of government that will provide more transparency and accountability.

We in no way withdraw from our responsibilities as a member of the international community to help promote human rights, democratic development and more accountability particularly in our own hemisphere. We happen to believe that our approach of engaging in that kind of active involvement with the Cuban people and the Cuban government is a much more effective and useful way to proceed.

It is not simply a matter of Helms-Burton by itself. It is also the right to maintain, develop and promote a more active engagement, to build bridges with the Cuban government and the Cuban people. In that way we can help make transitions in our own hemisphere and promote the fact that we are able and willing to work with our fellow countries in this hemisphere in the promotion of a better system of government, better economic development and a system in the hemisphere that will recognize the rule of law.

I strongly recommend these amendments to the House. I am very pleased to turn the debate over to my colleague, the minister of trade, for his comments. I hope we can quickly conclude this debate and send the kind of statement and message which I think Canadians would like us to do.

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York Centre Ontario


Art Eggleton LiberalMinister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, there are certain pieces of legislation that one would prefer not to be putting forward and this bill falls into that category. However, Canada has been compelled to strengthen the provisions of the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act because of the actions taken by the United States in passing the Helms-Burton law.

No one is looking for confrontation, no one wants to take the risk of aggravating the dispute.

But certain fundamental principles must be respected. The freedom to maintain our own foreign policy and trading relationships is one of them, as my colleague the Minister of Foreign Affairs has so correctly pointed out. Canadians have the right to expect that their government will act to respond to threats to our sovereignty and this government is fully prepared to accept that responsibility.

Helms-Burton is wrong on many levels. I will deal with a few of these today. At the most fundamental level it is objectionable because it attempts to enforce uniformity of approach and to deny the freedom to other nations to make up their own minds and implement their own policies. It says: "Our foreign policy must be your foreign policy; our trade relations, your trade relations; our friends, your friends; our foes, your foes; and if you do not agree, our laws become your laws" .That is wrong.

Many years ago President Kennedy said of the relationship between our two countries: "The geography has made us neighbours, the history has made us friends". That is true. We welcome that relationship. We welcome that friendship. History has indeed made us friends, but it has not made us the 51st state. We are not subject to American laws and we are not obligated to follow their rules. Our foreign policy and our trade policy are made in Ottawa, not in Washington. That is something this nation has always declared and is something this government will always defend.

Both Canada and the United States are trading nations, not only with each other but with the world. The Americans have always played a key role in promoting and supporting freer trade around the world. That commitment stretches as far back as President Woodrow Wilson and was reaffirmed as recently as 1994 by President Clinton at the Summit of the Americas in Miami. There, led by the host the United States, we launched the free trade agreement of the Americas which seeks to build bridges to the newly emerging economies of Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Americans know that trade is bringing the world together as never before. With the free exchange of goods and investment comes a greater openness to new ideas and new approaches. Again and again history has shown us that closer trade links lead to closer relations between nations. So freer trade and a clear system of rules to enforce it are important objectives and ones that this government is fully in support of. However, recently we have seen disturbing indications that the American commitment to freer trade may be flagging. First there was the isolationist rhetoric which reverberated throughout the American presidential primaries and now there is Helms-Burton.

Those of us who are committed to tearing down barriers and opening up opportunities cannot be selective in our approach. We cannot defend this principle and then defy it in practice. As the leader of the movement to freer trade, the United States cannot say: "The world should follow this path except when we tell them not to". It cannot oppose a system that it says is closed and anachronistic by passing laws which imitate that system. It cannot oppose isolationism by isolating selective adversaries.

Canada and the United States no doubt share a common objective in Cuba and that is in democracy, economic reform and respect for human rights. The difference is in the best way to achieve the result. The Americans believe in isolating Cuba; we prefer to engage Cuba. History will have to judge which approach is better. I would only note that the American policy has been in place now for

30 years. Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush have all come and gone but Fidel Castro remains in power.

Why this particular approach to Cuba? The United States has profound differences with China and some other countries as well, but that does not stop them from doing billions of dollars worth of trade with China. No one would suggest that because the United States carries on trade with China they disapprove any less of certain Chinese policies. So why this double standard with respect to Cuba? The confusion does not end there.

On June 21 the state department's co-ordinator for Cuban affairs said that Helms-Burton is designed to discourage foreign investment in Cuba. That is what he said. It was a candid, straightforward statement of fact. Yet just last month the president's special envoy to Cuba told an Ottawa press conference that the United States was in no way telling Canadians to stop their trade or investment with Cuba. There was no gun to our head. Rather, he went on to say that Canadians should invest in a strategic way that would help to advance democracy in Cuba.

It would seem that trade and investment with Cuba are okay as long as they meet U.S. approval. This is what happens when policy is made on the run in response to election year pressures. It is no way to conduct sound long term policy. It is a throwback to the old days when governments believed that trade should be controlled according to circumstances and not according to agreed upon rules. It is a look back, not a step forward.

There is another aspect of this legislation which is troubling in that it affects both friend and foe alike. Helms-Burton has taken a U.S.-Cuba problem and made it a much broader international trade and investment issue. Two sections of the act are particularly offensive. Title III allows U.S. citizens with claims on expropriated property in Cuba to sue foreign nationals, such as Canadians, in the United States courts. If the company has no assets in the United States that it can seize upon, an American could try to come to the Canadian judicial system and ask the courts to enforce the ruling and seize assets here. Two months ago President Clinton suspended this right to sue for six months. He can change his mind though at any time. As long as Helms-Burton is on the books, the threat of lawsuits exist.

Title IV of the act allows the U.S. government to deny entry to executives of companies which the U.S. state department deems to be trafficking in property subject to a U.S. claim. This ban extends also to the families, the children of these executives.

The special envoy said that there was no gun to our head. However, it seems to me that there are two guns: one is title III and the other is title IV. Both are fully loaded but one of them, title III, has the safety catch on until it is decided by the Government of the United States to release it.

Helms-Burton is also regressive in other ways. At a time when our hemisphere is coming together as never before, Helms-Burton seeks not to integrate but to isolate. With initiatives such as the Miami summit and the free trade area of the Americas, we have the chance to tie the disparate elements of this hemisphere into a new relationship, one built on openness and the free exchange of ideas, individuals and products. Helms-Burton runs counter to this impulse and would erect barriers, not bridges, create resentments, not relationships and introduce tensions, not trusts.

Finally, Helms-Burton is unacceptable because it flouts long established international legal practices for settling disputes between nations regarding claims by foreign investors who have had their property expropriated. These established practices have served the world well in the past. By choosing to ignore them now, Helms-Burton sets a dangerous precedent.

If the U.S. behaves in this way today, what is to stop other countries from adopting similar measures tomorrow? If such an international free for all ensues, we will undo much of what has already been achieved in bringing trade under international rules.

For all of these reasons, Canada has objected to Helms-Burton. We have raised this matter to the highest levels of the American administration. I have met with my Mexican and American counterparts for consultations under chapter 20 of NAFTA.

Canada has also raised this matter with other trading partners both within the World Trade Organization and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In fact in the current negotiations going on at the OECD on the multilateral agreement on investment, we are seeking protection against just this type of measure. We are certainly not going to be letting up on our efforts there.

Led by Canada's opposition to Helms-Burton, both the European Union and Mexico are drafting legislation which is similar to these FEMA amendments. Other nations are considering doing the same.

Nor is the criticism and concern just coming from outside the United States. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. National Association of Manufacturers have urged the President not to implement title III of Helms-Burton. The United States, they said, benefits as much as anyone-which is true-from strong, stable and reliable rules regarding trade. In other words, even the business associations which represent many of the companies that might be able to sue under title III are opposed to its applications. They know the dangers. They know what is at stake.

All of this pressure both from within the United States and abroad helps, but there is still more we can do on our own which is to make the changes that are necessary to the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act.

We believe the amendments before this House are an appropriate response.

The amendments that we are proposing will strengthen FEMA in two ways. It will permit the attorney general to block any attempt by a foreign claimant to enforce a judgment under a law such as Helms-Burton, and it will give Canadians recourse to Canadian courts if awards are made against them in American courts. In other words, Canadians can apply in our courts to recover or claw back from the American claimant an amount equivalent to that awarded against them by the American court.

Let us take the example of a U.S. national that wins a suit under Helms-Burton against a Canadian in an American court. The Canadian has no assets in the United States. The U.S. national would have to ask a Canadian court to enforce the judgment. The Attorney General of Canada would now be able to issue an order blocking this process under the amendments we propose. If the American court ordered the Canadian to pay damages, he or she could sue the American in the Canadian courts to recoup the full amount of the award. This amount plus costs in both countries would be applied against the American assets in Canada.

One of the problems we have encountered in the past is the refusal by Canadian companies to comply with FEMA because the penalties from the foreign country are higher than those extracted by our own law. In order to increase the chances of compliance we are increasing financial penalties under the act from a maximum of $10,000 to $1.5 million.

The amendments would also allow the attorney general to place foreign laws that he considers objectionable on the list under FEMA. This listing would give the government greater flexibility and would provide for a quicker response time in defending Canadian interests.

All of the amendments we are proposing are moderate and defensive in nature. It is our hope that they will never need to be employed. They are a reactive antidote if we need them, but it is vital that they be available to Canadian companies in order to do the best we can to help them protect themselves should this ever be required.

I call again upon the United States to remember the principles for which they have fought and through which such progress has

been achieved. I ask them to remember the benefits that freer trade has brought them and others in the past, and the still greater promise of freer trade in future.

We have come too far and made too much progress to stop now.

We have broken down too many barriers to begin constructing new ones. We must not sacrifice those principles to expedience. Let us work together to expand the circle of opportunity by expanding the benefits of freer trade. Let us work together to engage, not isolate, Cuba and all the other Cubas around the globe so that the freedoms, the hopes and the opportunities of freer trade will be brought to all people in all parts of the world.

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10:30 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to participate in the debate at second reading of Bill C-54, an act to amend the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, which has been a while in coming.

By finally introducing Bill C-54 after months of stalling, the Liberal government is again putting up a smoke screen by trying to prove to Quebecers and Canadians that Canada will defend their freedom to invest and trade anywhere in the world.

I say "trying to prove", because what is both laughable and sad in this extraterritorial measures saga is that the carelessness and wait-and-see attitude the Liberal government stubbornly clung to in the several months preceding the introduction of this bill could have been more costly for our business people. This situation is very troubling, because the Liberal government let way too much water flow under the bridge before responding to a law with extraterritorial implications passed by a foreign country but directly affecting our business people.

And this foreign country is not an obscure, little known nation led by a dictator or located far away from Canada, but our main trading partner and international ally, the United States of America.

The U.S. government, which bills itself as the champion of free enterprise, will always amaze the international community by enacting laws such as the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, better known as the Helms-Burton law. What is surprising though is that this is not the first time that the U.S. has passed this kind of legislation and that we have to react to it.

In 1985, to impose an embargo against the small central American country of Nicaragua, the American government passed

legislation with extraterritorial implications that could have adversely affected the interests of Quebecers and Canadians.

The Republican administration claimed that the American legislation would apply to any foreign company whose operations might have repercussions in the U.S. or on American companies.

In response to the American embargo against Nicaragua, in which the U.S. wanted to involve the international community, Canada passed Bill C-14, an act respecting foreign extraterritorial measures.

Note that the provisions of this act were never used, which may well be the case again with Bill C-54 to amend the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act in response to two new pieces of American legislation.

Under conservative pressure from the Republican majority in Congress, the Democrat administration just approved two pieces of legislation allowing Americans to sue companies in Quebec, Canada or anywhere in the world. The first one is commonly known as the Helms-Burton law and is designed to extend the embargo against Cuba, while the second one is the Iranian and Libyan economic sanctions law of 1996.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated earlier, the U.S. is certainly quite free to impose sanctions on any country if it deems it appropriate to do so, but we will not permit a country, any country, to pass extraterritorial legislation affecting companies operating out of another sovereign state.

In the present case, we must recall the context in which this American legislation was passed. The Helms-Burton law is the political expression of the American response to the Cuban air force shooting down two small American civilian aircraft for presumably violating Cuban airspace.

As for the legislation imposing sanctions on Iran and Libya, two countries suspected of supporting international terrorism, it was passed after a TWA airliner mysteriously crashed just after taking off from New York, this summer.

However, regardless of how justified the American administration might be in adopting sanctions against these countries, we cannot accept that the United States, or any other country, can unilaterally pass laws affecting Canadian businesses and nationals outside their boundaries.

The Helms-Burton law and the legislation seeking to extend sanctions against Iran and Libya not only violate every international agreement on trade liberalization-including the Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA and the Uruguay Round agreements establishing the World Trade Organization-they also do not promote the type of harmonious, productive and positive relations that close allies such as Canada and the United States should maintain.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs said earlier, we cannot accept that the Americans can go ahead and use international trade agreements when it is convenient to do so, while adopting unilateral measures such as these when it suits them.

It is as much a matter of principle as it is an economic issue, given that Canada's economic relations with Cuba are relatively limited. In 1995, imports from Cuba totalled $320 million, while Canadian exports to that country reached $250 million.

Obviously, such an arrogant and authoritarian attitude on the part of friendly countries is not conducive to a relation based on trust and dialogue. This is why we feel that these two new American laws are totally unacceptable.

The U.S. government seems prepared to risk offending friendly countries for the sole purpose of destabilizing the Cuban, Iranian and Libyan regimes. We are always surprised to see how relentless our American neighbours can be when they target certain members of the international community, on the grounds of noble and generous principles that they conveniently forget in other situations.

For instance, the United States is much more permissive with China and Vietnam where democracy and human rights are concerned than with Cuba. But China and Vietnam are, need I remind you, growing markets, which make principles that more flexible.

On this issue, I must say that the Canadian government is marching to the beat of the same drummer as the American administration. However, lamentable cases like that of Trân Trieu Quân, a Canadian citizen sentenced to hard labour in Vietnam, must continue to make us aware that an increase in trade does not necessarily entail more respect for human rights.

Anyway, upon closer examination, you realize that there are two sections at the heart of the Helms-Burton law. First of all, section 3 permits American nationals to prosecute in the American courts any foreign corporation which has benefitted from real estate or facilities that used to belong to these American citizens and that were confiscated by the Cuban government following the 1959 revolution.

It is as if, when they left the country, those corporations retained a right to their properties and facilities in perpetuity ensuring that no one else could ever benefit from them.

And then there is section 4, which denies entry into the United States of managers or majority shareholders of foreign corporations along with their spouses and under age children allegedly trafficking-as the law defines it-in U.S. property confiscated by the Cuban government.

The problem with Bill C-54, which the House is debating today, is that, on July 15 of this year, the American president exercised his discretionary power to suspend title III concerning legal proceedings. He can renew this suspension every six months if he deems it to be in the national interest of the United States.

Therefore, Bill C-54 is nothing more than a symbolic measure for the time being since its sole purpose is to neutralise the effects of title III. This way, the Canadian government can have the impression that it bared its teeth, that it stood up courageously for businessmen from Quebec and Canada, but this unexpected show of courage came only after the government had made sure the Americans did not intend to enforce this provision.

However, it is revealing as well as disturbing to see that title III of the Helms-Burton law banning people from travelling to the United States is in force and that the Canadian government has not included any protective or retaliatory measures in the bill before us today.

The federal government is giving the impression that it is reacting strongly and diligently when it knows its actions are of no consequence, but it continues to show the same lack of courage when effective and significant measures need to be taken.

It is therefore very surprising to see that the Liberal government waited for the American president to exercise his discretionary power to suspend title III for a period of six months before going ahead with Bill C-54.

When it announced last June 17 that it was going to table a bill to amend the existing Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act, the government already knew that the president was going to suspend this title.

I was happy to hear the Minister of Foreign Affairs saying earlier that suspending the application of Title III was not enough for Canada, that what Canada was calling for was no less than the amendment and even the outright withdrawal of this legislation and of Title III, which more particularly concerns us.

But something has been overlooked. Title IV of the Helms-Burton legislation has prevented a number of Canadian nationals from entering the United States since August 1. To date, at least seven people, essentially members of the management of Sherritt International Corporation, have been affected by the application of this title. And what is the federal government doing about it? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It waits for the other shoe to drop and ceases all action, probably for fear of ruffling the feathers of our American neighbours.

This Toronto based Canadian company holds shares in Cuba in the nickel mines, in petroleum development, and in the agricultural and tourist sectors. Its completely respectable commercial activities have made the directors of this company persona non grata on American soil. Yet, these people have never committed any crime, either in Canada or in the United States. They have no criminal record. They are simply guilty of having invested and conducted business in Cuba.

For example, how would the U.S. government react if the Canadian government decided to apply this type of legislation to American nationals?

Even if it is not always in agreement with the United States' political and trade choices and priorities, the Canadian government has never gone so far as to consider American nationals as criminals on its territory solely on the grounds of nationality. Bill C-54 is, therefore, incomplete because it counteracts only one portion of the Helms-Burton law, which is currently inoperative. The step that now becomes necessary, if the Canadian government really intends to protect the interests of Quebecers and Canadians, is to call for the striking of a special group to settle the dispute under NAFTA.

Even though in recent months a number of federal departments have made strong representations to protest the consequences of the Helms-Burton law, even though the American president has suspended for six months the right of American nationals to institute legal proceedings under Helms-Burton, and even though the Liberal government is proudly presenting Bill C-54 today, the Helms-Burton law is still in existence, nevertheless, and is causing serious harm to citizens of Quebec and of Canada, and is liable to cause still more in the coming months.

What is the government waiting for, under these circumstances, before bringing this dispute before NAFTA?

Even if Canada has risen to object to the Helms-Burton law in such international fora as the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Organization of American States, it still must take concrete legal action.

Canada has some formidable allies in its fight against the Helms-Burton law. Mexico, for example, also a signatory to NAFTA, is equally affected by application of this act. Already the Mexican telecommunications group Domos has seen five of its directors refused entry into U.S. territory because of its investments in Cuba, which are in excess of $700 million.

We urge the government to submit the Helms-Burton act to competent authorities under NAFTA, in association with Mexico which is also affected by this legislation.

Frankly, I must admit I have doubts about the determination of the government to protect efficiently the interests of Quebecers and Canadians. We may actually have before us a bill aimed at protecting their interests but we have reasons to believe that it will probably never be used.

Indeed the Minister of International Trade himself has candidly admitted in the House, on June 18, that the legislative measures proposed by the government would only be used as a last resort and that he hoped he would never have to use it.

By seeking to avoid a confrontation with the United States at all costs the Liberal government will hurt Canadian citizens.

However, we do support a clause of Bill C-54 which requires Canadian businesses to abide by Canadian laws. In a news release dated September 16, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade announced, and I quote: "The Government is also amending FEMA to update penalties so that Canadians will be less likely to abide by objectionable foreign laws and more likely to follow Canadian law".

We have already mentioned in this House the case of a company operating on Canadian territory which scrupulously applies the American embargo against Cuba. I am referring to American Express, whose case has already been mentioned to the Minister of International Trade. The Canadian branch of American Express has violated Canadian law for many years, since it still follows the guidelines of its head office which prohibit doing business with Cuba.

We have a letter sent by American Express to a resident of Quebec. In that letter, the addressee is informed that the American head office and all subsidiaries throughout the world abide by U.S. government regulations. I will read you part of this letter:

"We regret that you are unable to use travellers cheques in Cuba. This is due to U.S. government regulations prohibiting the exportation of goods and services in Cuba. These regulations apply to all companies incorporated within the United States and their foreign branches and subsidiaries"

The Minister of International Trade said previously in this House that he would look into the case of American Express, and the official opposition is still waiting for him to do so. It is shocking to see that subsidiaries of American companies established in Canada abide by laws and directives emanating from a foreign government.

Under the amendments proposed in Bill C-54, a company located in Canada that observes the law of a foreign jurisdiction instead of Canadian legislation may be liable to financial penalties in excess of those prevailing today. Penalties that before were about $10,000 could now be as high as $1.5 million. In similar cases, the United States imposes fines of up to one million dollars in U.S. currency.

Passing legislation alone is not enough. It must also be enforced. If companies located in Canada do not abide by Canadian law, then we must make sure that law is enforced.

In concluding, the Bloc Quebecois agrees with the position taken by most of our foreign partners who are opposed to the Helms-Burton law and the law imposing sanctions against Iran and Libya. We believe that the Canadian government should stop claiming it maintains its independence vis-à-vis our main ally if it is not prepared to act accordingly.

Since the government proposes to authorize non-recognition of foreign judgments against companies or individuals in Quebec and Canada, and since it suggests increasing the penalties for observing foreign laws instead of Canadian legislation, we do support the bill to amend the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act.

However, we feel that we should go one step further by asking for a special dispute settlement panel under NAFTA. The Minister for International Trade told us last March that Canada would ask for a consultation under Chapter 20 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. By pursuing this, the government will ensure the invalidation of legislation that contradicts all the efforts deployed in recent years to achieve free trade.

Foreign Extraterritorial Measures ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech on Bill C-54 by stating that the Reform Party will support this legislation, although I believe it is only a half measure to resolve this dispute.

My advice when this matter first arose was to take this to a dispute resolution panel under NAFTA and get the Helms-Burton act overturned. Had we moved on this quickly we would be well on our way to settling this dispute once and for all. A dispute settlement mechanism was negotiated in NAFTA. It is in place and we should not be afraid to use it.

It is clear that Helms-Burton is in contravention of the NAFTA agreement with United States. Helms-Burton is also an affront to Canada's right to set its own foreign policy and to continue trading and investing in Cuba. We cannot allow this American act to go unchallenged. Passing Bill C-54 is one more defensive action that we can take, but a much more effective one would have been to take the Helms-Burton bill to a dispute resolution settlement under NAFTA. I repeat that this should be done immediately, not after the American election in November.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said that under the Helms-Burton bill liabilities continue to accrue. This is a stopgap measure, we support it to that extent, but we believe that it should be settled once and for all.

We must take a firm stand. We cannot allow the United States to push us around as it has on softwood lumber, as it has on wheat. Now it is telling us where to invest and do business. If we keep letting the Americans get away with these bullying tactics we will only encourage them to keep threatening us.

Just two days ago there was another report in the press that the acting American trade representative and the agriculture secretary had issued a joint statement that they were going to use U.S. trade laws to keep our wheat exports from growing. Canada capitulated to the Americans in 1994 and agreed to caps on wheat exports, at 1.5 million tonnes. Things have been quiet this past year because U.S. wheat supplies grew and Canadian prices were no longer competitive. Clearly that action is contrary to the free trade concept that Canada wants to establish throughout the world, a market economy.

We have been one of the forerunners, and rightly so, in negotiating free trade deals and I believe that we have to ensure that countries play by the rules. This year we have a bumper crop and the Americans are afraid that our wheat will once again become attractive. Various American interest groups have seen us buckle time and time again. That is a very bad precedent and encourages only further strong arm tactics. I believe we have to use whatever avenues we can to fight Helms-Burton and other attempts to fetter free trade.

Bill C-54 makes certain amendments to the Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act which allow the Canadian government to stymie some of the more aggressive aspects of the Helms-Burton act. They are good as far as they go.

I would like to get into the specifics of the Helms-Burton act and how the proposed amendments to FEMA will help defang that legislation. The Helms-Burton act allows U.S. nationals who have claims on expropriated property in Cuba to sue Canadian companies and people who traffic in that property. Trafficking is defined quite broadly in the act to include things like holding an interest in confiscated property, engaging in commercial activities using confiscated property or participating in profits through another person who is trafficking in that confiscated property.

Under Helms-Burton a U.S. national who has a certified claim to expropriated property can start an action in a U.S. court under title III. U.S. officials have said that almost 6,000 claims of expropriation have been recognized by Washington as being legitimate. Of those, about 800 were above the threshold of $50,000 in commercial value in 1959 when Fidel Castro took power. Many of these are not subject to claims by U.S. nationals any longer.

It is true that President Clinton has waived until January certain provisions allowing suits against foreign firms. We cannot take for granted that he will do so again. The legislation is there and it is there to protect ourselves. Further, we should start an immediate action under NAFTA to resolve this issue once and for all. As we heard earlier liabilities continue to accrue.

Under Helms-Burton, once court proceedings begin and a U.S. court is presented with a certified claim it can award up to three times the damages claimed by the U.S. national. If the Canadian company refuses to pay the damages that are awarded the Helms-Burton act allows the U.S. national to ask Canadian courts to enforce this judgment.

Here is where the amendments to FEMA kick in for the first time. The new and improved FEMA will allow the attorney general to declare such an order cannot be recognized or enforced in Canada. That is a step in the right direction.

If the Canadian company has assets in the United States, Helms-Burton allows the U.S. court to seize and sell those assets and pay the awarded damage to the U.S. national. Here again the strength in FEMA will step in. It will allow the Canadian company to recover in Canadian courts any amounts that have been awarded in the United States.

However, a glitch in all of this is that the U.S. national would have to have assets in Canada to be counter seized. I do not know of many U.S. nationals who can sue under Helms-Burton that would have assets in Canada, certainly not a whole lot. Therefore we are going to be questioning this and making some recommendations in committee on how this may be improved.

Helms-Burton is meant to intimidate foreign individuals and companies from investing in Cuba and carrying on any business activities there. Here again an amendment to FEMA shows the Americans that the Canadians have backbone. We are going to raise these penalties from $10,000 to $1.5 million on Canadian companies that refuse to trade with Cuba for fear of U.S. sanctions.

For instance, if a company was planning a business venture prior to the passage of Helms-Burton but got cold feet later, it could be fined for allowing the American legislation to influence its decision. I have read that the RCMP has conducted about two dozen investigations of complaints that subsidiary companies in Canada were violating earlier provisions of FEMA not to let American head offices influence their trade with Cuba. I understand that there have been no prosecutions to date.

It is easy for a subsidiary to say that it walked away from a sale to Cuba for valid commercial reasons that have nothing to do with Helms-Burton. That is why I believe that making these amendments to FEMA, although good, are only a stop gap measure. We must try to get Helms-Burton overturned.

The aspects of Helms-Burton that Bill C-54 does not address is that provisions for barring entry into the United States of senior officials of selected Canadian companies. Clearly these are in contravention of NAFTA. Article 1603 of the NAFTA trade agreement specifically states that each party shall grant temporary entry to business persons who are otherwise qualified for entry under applicable measures relating to public health and safety and national security. What is happening here is that the senior officials of these Canadian companies would not be in contravention of NAFTA and we should make that case very clearly.

Does the United States have the right in the wake of NAFTA to stop healthy law-abiding Canadian business people from entering that country? I do not think so. Not after we signed NAFTA. It is clear that it does not.

Foreign Extraterritorial Measures ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, I must interrupt you. You will have the floor immediately after question period. I understand that you have approximately 30 minutes left.

It being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

The Death Of Rose OuelletteStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Friday, at the age of 93, Rose Ouellette, affectionately nicknamed "La Poune", a legendary figure in Quebec burlesque, passed into history at the end of a long career spanning three quarters of a century.

During the most painful depression years in the 1930s, this lady so close to the people gave her audience a ration of good humour that carried them through the harsh reality of their daily lives. Beyond the stage, her friends and neighbours at the Chez-nous des artistes confirm that Rose Ouellette was generous and jovial.

Making frequent appearances at the Cartier theatre, Dominion theatre, National theatre, Mocambo, Café de l'est, she was a pillar of Quebec culture. Together with her stage partners, Olivier Guimond, Juliette and Arthur Pétrie, Paul Desmarteaux, and Jean Despré, she touched Quebecers' hearts.

Madame Rose, our people will remember you for ever.

GovernmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share a letter which was forwarded to me by a constituent, Mr. Doug Leitch, Sr. The letter reads:

This country was built by its people, not the government. Let's get the country back in the hands of the people through less government. Let the citizens determine how they will live and determine their own destiny-not a few people in Ottawa.

This means empowering that level of government closest to the people to deliver the services, allowing people to make their own decisions versus government making them for them. It means a smaller federal government of 250 MPs, not expanding it to 301. It means less duplication and overlapping and red tape of federal and provincial government services. It means that governments should govern the country at arm's length, not compete directly with their citizens and businesses through selective subsidies and grants. Finally, it means less power to the politicians and more power to the people.

ChildrenStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, we look to children as the future of our society. Why then do some members of society treat children as chattels rather than treasures?

One million children under 18 work as prostitutes in Asia and another one million children worldwide enter the sex trade every year. These are shameful statistics. This is an international problem, one we must eradicate not only in Canada but in the rest of the world.

A first step is to pass Bill C-27, which would assist in the apprehension and prosecution of those who seek out and use child prostitutes, whether the crime is committed inside or outside Canada. This law will protect children from those who prey on them.

I call on the government to initiate other measures as well which would serve to protect our most important natural resource, our children.

New Brunswick Round Table MeetingsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Harold Culbert Liberal Carleton—Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, over the past two months I have met with business leaders, representatives of chambers of commerce, boards of trade representatives and municipal officers in the six regions of New Brunswick. These meetings were co-ordinated through the efforts of New Brunswick's industrial commissions and provided an opportunity for round table discussions focusing on jobs and small business.

Through these presentations we were able to discuss what has been accomplished to date and exactly what must be done in the future in order to attain our goal of continued growth in small business and jobs.

While we have met or exceeded our deficit reduction goals and achieved over 600,000 new jobs in Canada, there is still much to

be done. These regional meetings were helpful in developing new initiatives so that new opportunities may be created.

I would like to thank the industrial commission managers and all participants who made the round table meetings in New Brunswick such a great success.

Formal Systems Inc.Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Andy Scott Liberal Fredericton—York—Sunbury, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to bring to your attention the major expansion of a leading edge Fredericton company.

Formal Systems Inc. has announced it will create 100 new jobs. These jobs are being created with the help of a $750,000 repayable loan from ACOA as Formal Systems undertakes activities leading to the development of new technologies. These technologies will address the date change at the turn of the century which is less than 1,000 working days away.

Computers are set up for a two digit date and when the clock turns to the year 2000, the computer will read the date as being the year 1900, resulting in obvious disruptions in everything from billing phone calls to calculating interest. Most computers are not set up to adapt properly to the date change. Formal Systems will develop an automated conversion tool set to remedy this problem.

New Brunswick companies are once again showing they have the solutions, the technology and the drive to lead the way in meeting worldwide information technology requirements.

High Risk OffendersStatements By Members

September 20th, 1996 / 11:05 a.m.


Elijah Harper Liberal Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, two years ago this week, Sarah Kelly, a young constituent of mine from The Pas, was brutally murdered by a man known to be a dangerous offender. After this tragedy I joined my constituents in mourning the loss of this young life and in calling for tougher laws to deal with dangerous offenders and repeat sex offenders.

This week, two years after Sarah's death, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-55 which targets dangerous offenders and sex offenders. I believe that this legislation will honour Sarah's memory by helping to prevent tragedies like this in the future.

I call on all my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation.

The Canada-Israel Free Trade AgreementStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, on July 31, the Canadian Minister of International Trade and the Israeli Minister of Trade and Industry signed a free trade agreement between Canada and Israel, which is to come into force on January 1, 1997.

Of course, the Bloc Quebecois applauds the signing of this treaty, which will give our businesses greater access to the Israeli market. However, although it concerns a host of companies across Canada, it should be pointed out that this agreement was negotiated behind closed doors, without any real debate or public consultation.

We strongly condemn this lack of openness on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. We believe it is the duty of the federal government to keep the public informed of what is at stake when negotiating trade matters with other countries. This is the least one should expect from a so-called transparent government.

ImmigrationStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to see that the minister of immigration took a hands on approach to her portfolio this past summer by getting out into the field and witnessing Canada's refugee laws at work.

And what did the minister discover? Lo and behold, she was amazed to learn that some refugees were not legitimate. She was shocked to learn that when a Chilean claimed refugee status because he was unable to find work in his native Chile he was allowed to remain in Canada.

The minister has since announced a crackdown on bogus refugees and a plan to revamp the Immigration Act. At last a government minister has finally decided to listen to the Reform Party and has found out that what we have been saying in this House for the past three years has been right all along.

But I hear the Liberals have been inspired by the unemployed Chilean who had claimed refugee status. Since the Liberal strategy to resolve our unemployment problems has failed, they are likely considering sending the one million unemployed Canadians across the border to claim refugee status in the United States.

Breast CancerStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Richardson Liberal Perth—Wellington—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak on a topic of great importance: breast cancer.

Statistics tell us that in their lifetime, one in nine Canadian women will be diagnosed with this disease. They also tell us that one in every three women diagnosed with this disease will die. However, the statistics do not begin to tell the real story behind this disease: the fear, the pain and the uncertainty.

Two constituents of mine, Paul and Mary Knowles, understand fully the terror of this disease. Mary is a breast cancer survivor. Recently the Knowles published a book entitled Close to the Heart , an anthology of Canadian poetry and short stories supported by poets across this country. All the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Canadian breast cancer research initiative.

I congratulate Paul and Mary Knowles for their hard work and dedication to this cause. I encourage all Canadians to give generously to the fight against this terrible disease.

Commercial SignsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to draw the attention of the House to the issue of commercial signs in Ottawa, which has an impact not only on the francophone community in Ottawa but also on national unity.

Must we always remind the stubborn people on both sides of the linguistic war that Canada is a bilingual country with two official languages? Ottawa business people are certainly not required by law to put up signs in French. Still, simple courtesy requires them to put up signs in both French and English, just as Montreal shop owners ought to have signs in both official languages as they are allowed to under the law.

Canada prides itself on its ability to adapt to the differences between people. Everyone must contribute, otherwise the Canadian ideal will die.

Bloc Quebecois LeaderStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, September 20, 1996, the Bloc leader said, and I quote: "As far as I am concerned, the Bloc's mission is not to sell the idea of partnership to the rest of Canada".

Yet, on June 16, the Bloc leader had this to say, and I quote: "-as we speak, I have a task force that is looking at how we could co-ordinate our efforts in the rest of Canada to explain the partnership portion of our political program that is consistent with sovereignty".

The only thing that is clear in the contradictions of the Bloc leadership is that they invite Quebecers to follow them blindly without really knowing where they are going.

Once again for them, the end, sovereignty, justifies the means.

ParliamentStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services recently inaugurated her department's new web site on the Internet. According to her press release, a video camera will transmit images of the Parliament buildings on the World Wide Web 24 hours a day.

The minister justifies this expenditure by arguing "that the Peace Tower is one of the most widely recognized symbols of Canada, just like the beaver and the maple leaf". Perhaps she wanted to announce the imminent appearance on our screens of interactive maple leafs and beavers.

What the minister is not telling us is the number of loonies taxpayers will have to shell out to promote the beaver. This new web site is nothing more than another element in the strategy of her colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, to promote artificially and at great cost a feeling of belonging among Canadians.

Since the referendum, the people of Quebec know that Canada is living on borrowed time, but what we did not know is that its Parliament has now become a virtual reality.

Canadian Wheat BoardStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, this week in question period the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food quoted both myself and the member for Swift Current-Maple Creek-Assiniboia.

He quoted the two of us from a CBC Radio report saying that calls to our offices showed a majority of callers wanted the CWB to retain its monopoly. That is true, but calls to one's office are hardly a scientific survey and are a country mile away from a plebiscite.

However they do indicate a high level of concern on both sides. That concern is that the minister is fiddling while the industry is

burning. He did not get the answers he wanted from his own grain marketing panel so now he is digging himself a hole like a gopher on the run.

Farmers on both sides of this issue are becoming agitated. I warn the minister that this inaction puts him at risk of losing all the good things about the CWB.

I also warn the minister of fence sitting. It is going to get hot on that part of the anatomy that meets the rail. At least Reformers are listening to what farmers are saying.

St. Lawrence RiverStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that, after more than ten years of sustained efforts and investments totalling several billion dollars, the federal-provincial program called St. Lawrence Vision 2000 is starting to yield results.

Indeed, at a press conference held in Montreal, officials representing the Canadian and Quebec governments announced that the discharge of waste by the 50 largest polluters in the St. Lawrence has been reduced by 96 per cent.

Other measures are currently being implemented and will affect about 50 additional businesses located on other affluents of the river.

The cleaning up of the St. Lawrence is not completed, far from it, but given these results, we have every reason to be proud of what we have achieved. This is an incentive to keep up our efforts to eventually give people a clean river they will be able to enjoy safely.

Olympic AthletesStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Bonnie Brown Liberal Oakville—Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, September 21, will be a great day in Oakville when my constituents will welcome home and honour our four Olympic athletes: our boxer Domenic Filane, our cyclist Eric Wohlberg, our paddler Gavin Maxwell, and our sprinter Donovan Bailey.

After a breakfast with a representative group of children, the four Olympians will proceed through town in a motorcade to a big rally in a waterfront park. CBC Newsworld will cover the rally live at 12 noon.

I want to invite you, Mr. Speaker, my colleagues in the House, and indeed all Canadians to share the joy and pride that will explode in Oakville tomorrow. Join us by watching CBC Newsworld at noon.

Goods And Services TaxStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.


Daphne Jennings Reform Mission—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance stated that he has no intention of removing the GST on reading materials because he cannot afford the loss of $140 million in revenue.

Yet the minister can afford the obscene MP pension plan, the Deputy Prime Minister's flag propaganda machine and the $1 billion buyout offered to Atlantic premiers to join the harmonization scheme. This is despite a personal pledge from the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party policy to remove the tax on reading.

This government continues to pay lip service to encouraging literacy while taxing it. The harmonization scheme will force Atlantic Canadians to pay $15 on a $100 science textbook.

In twisted logic, to further promote literacy, the government will be collecting GST on special 50 cent stamps being sold by Canada Post. The corporation will donate five cents of every stamp sold to a literacy fund while the government collects four cents on the same stamp.

This government clearly lacks integrity, not only on failing to remove the tax on books, but on taxing literacy itself.