House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was fishery.


Canada Health ActAdjournment Proceedings

October 23rd, 1997 / 6:25 p.m.


John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, I asked the question in the House of the Minister of Foreign Affairs concerning the legislation passed by the Russian parliament disenfranchising religious minorities. It is an affront to those who believe in religious freedom, democratic values and human rights.

To his credit, the minister raised the issue with representatives of the Russian government and expressed Canada's dismay at the passage of the legislation. Coincidentally, the Prime Minister was in Russia on that very same day trying to get President Yeltsin to sign on for the land mine treaty and to stand up for the legal rights for Canadian investors in Russia.

News reports disclose a potential $70 million loss on a Canadian investment despite international and Russian judgments in favour of the Canadian investors. News reports also disclose the climate of fear and intimidation to the Canadian employees and investors of that company.

Despite the Prime Minister's intervention, President Yeltsin had the nerve to complain that Canada was not investing enough.

Is there a connection between the abuse of religious minority rights and the abuse of investors' legal rights? I would submit that the two are inextricably linked. Religious minority rights in particular but human rights in general are the canary in the mine shaft.

A country which abuses its religious minority rights will abuse other legal rights as well. Abuse of religious minority rights and abuse of other legal rights go together.

When Canadians contemplate investments in countries which routinely abuse minority rights, they put their investments at risk. It is part of the bottom line and should be part of the government's advice to Canadian companies contemplating investments in countries whose human rights' records are somewhat dismal. It is as important a consideration as dollar fluctuations, interest rates and workforce skills. Losing one's investments is the most significant cost of doing business.

We need to move to the protection of religious and human rights from the fringe agenda to the concerned and make it part of the business agenda. The only language that Russia and other nations that abuse religious minority rights understand is money. If the investment money dries up, there may just be an incentive to provide a legal framework for the protection of those citizens and the international investors which will lead to prosperity and protection for all.

Canada Health ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs said in the House on October 20, we have expressed our concerns about Russia's new religion legislation consistently and at the highest level.

The Prime Minister has just spent five days in Russia. He spoke about the new religion legislation with President Yeltsin, Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, the chairman of the Federation Council and the speaker of the Duma Parliament. He told each one of them that the legislation appears to discriminate against certain religions and that it is sending a negative message internationally about Russia's democratic reform efforts.

He reminded the Russian political leaders of Russia's international obligations as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the OSCE, and of the Council of Europe and of the United Nations. He cited, in particular, the UN Commission on Human Rights' resolution 53 on religious intolerance.

This is not all. The Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Primakov during the latter's visit to Ottawa on September 29 and 30. In July we expressed our concern about the proposed legislation at the OSCE meetings. The Canadian Ambassador to Russia took up the issue with the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In spite of our expressed concerns and those of many other countries the law has been passed. The Kremlin has given assurances that minority confessions will not be adversely affected.

This gives us some margin for further interventions. We have advised the Russians that we will continue to monitor implementation of the law very closely.

Many Canadian citizens and religious organizations in Canada are watching this issue. We will continue to provide updates to the House on appropriate occasions.

Canada Health ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.31 p.m.)