Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak in support of this bill today.
Bill C-22 is an important bill and I am happy to have this opportunity to share my comments with my colleagues in this House.
I would like to take a moment to express my appreciation for the tireless hours that several individuals have dedicated to this very worthwhile cause.
Internationally the names of this year's Nobel Peace prize recipient, Jody Williams and her organization, and the efforts of the late Princess Diana brought international attention to this cause. I applaud the Nobel Prize committee for recognizing the efforts of Jody Williams and her organization who rightfully deserve the Nobel Peace prize.
Here in Canada there are many individuals and groups such as Mines Action Canada who have taken the initial momentum to work toward an international ban on land mines.
On a more personal note, I applaud my colleague for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca who has worked tirelessly over these past several years in making this an issue on the Canadian stage.
In late 1995 he introduced a private member's bill that called for an international ban on the anti-personnel mines, a bill which was supported by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs. When the current minister came into this portfolio, he too supported this initiative.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Foreign Affairs for his efforts which began the Ottawa process. This is a proud achievement for Canada. My congratulations go out to all Canadians who participated and made it possible to bring together over 120 countries which will be present in Ottawa next week for the signing of the treaty.
This treaty includes the banning of the use, production, stockpiling and the trade of anti-personnel land mines. It also includes assistance for de-mining and for victims of land mines. This was intended to be a collective disarmament treaty and has several significant humanitarian elements that will not only ban the creation of the land mines but also ban countries from using and trading them.
Canada's exemption will allow it to import, export and possess mines for military training, mine clearing and destruction. Police officers and the RCMP will also have the authority to possess and transfer the mines in the course of their duties to defuse them.
In the event that a country falls under suspicion of violating the treaty, fact finders will be sent by the international community. They will have the powers to search and seize them with or without warrant. Dwelling houses can be inspected with a warrant. Warrants are not required to search military bases and/or warehouse facilities.
This bill comes into effect once given royal assent and also takes effect in all provinces. As I only have 10 minutes on this bill, I will leave most of the technical details of this legislation to those who have spoken before me as well as those who will speak after me, as I agree with most aspects of this bill.
Land mines are a very serious issue in the international arena. The use of anti-personnel mines already violates numerous tenants under international law. Each and every year it is estimated that over 250,000 individuals are at the least maimed and all too often killed by land mines. That works out to one person every 20 minutes. This is a tragic loss. To make it even more tragic is that these losses are often unnecessary.
Without the removal of land mines in post-war areas, many of the land mine victims have died or have been injured unnecessarily. These land mines are currently deployed in over 70 countries, most of them developing countries. Countries such as Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia, Croatia, Eritrea, Iraq, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan and Vietnam are all affected. There are approximately 100 million mines that are waiting for their next victim. With the variety of land mines in existence, there are over 350 different types of land mines. The severity of injury can be quite varied.
These losses could have been and, more importantly, should have been prevented. Land mines do not discriminate. They will target any individual who comes into their path. Our brave peacekeepers have paid a heavy price in places like Bosnia. These brave soldiers carry on their duties which bring honour and pride to our nation and are to be saluted for their courageous work in spite of danger to their lives.
It is interesting to note that those who manufacture or order the deployment of land mines themselves are in no danger of losing life or limb to these land mines. It is instead the soldiers that are at risk as well as innocent civilians who ultimately are the victims of this senseless carnage. I often wonder how many politicians or high ranking officials face danger from these land mines.
I take a personal interest in this bill. Coming from Tanzania, which is the northern neighbour of Mozambique, a country which has been devastated by the use of land mines, which has been the result of an internal conflict within that country, from my experiences in my native land, I can see how land mines placed indiscriminately can cause havoc in the civilian population.
In these countries the infrastructure development is concentrated in the urban centres. In the countryside people walk on trails and bush paths going from village to village. Women use these trails to fetch water from rivers and from wells. Children play using these areas, running up and down these trails to meet their friends from neighbouring villages.
When unchecked, the use of these land mines interferes with a society whose primary mode of transportation in the countryside is the time honoured use of two feet. We can, therefore, visualize what terrible deeds these land mines can do. Women, children, elderly people, soldiers all pay a heavy price for the absurdity of men who pursue political agendas.
Those who manufacture such items of horror should be held as responsible as those who place those land mines. It is only fitting. Therefore, we can move forward and stop manufacturing land mines.
There are real economic costs to the production and removal of land mines is estimated at 2 million land mines being deployed every year. When one considers the cost of production for each land mine which runs anywhere from $3 to $70 each, just think what this money could be better spent on. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 mines are removed each year at a cost of approximately $300 to $1,000 each. With these figures there is an estimated cost of approximately $50 billion. Although this figure is enormous, I would argue that this would not compare to the loss of life. It is believed that for every mine removed another 20 are planted.
At the current rate of de-mining, if more land mines were to be placed it would take over 1,000 years to rid the world of these dangerous killers. Getting rid of these mines is not going to be easy.
Besides the sheer time involved in finding these mines, as most mine fields are not mapped out, de-mining is a very dangerous job. It is believed that for every 5,000 mines removed, one person will be killed and another two will suffer injuries.
I could go on and on and read a whole list of statistics and figures, but that does not bring the real issue to the forefront. This is not a financial issue, but an issue of our core moral values.
The contribution that those who were maimed or killed would have made to our society would have far outweighed the so-called economic loss of getting rid of these land mines.
To put it more simply and bluntly, one cannot put a price tag on life. We all have to move forward to ensure that this senseless killing of innocent civilians and soldiers stops.
I would like to note that several key nation states have not yet signed this treaty and I hope they overcome their differences and sign on as well.
For the most part these countries are citing security reasons for using the mines. Yet often the use of these mines is as destructive for the armies that have set up the mines as for the enemies.
We now live in a global village. We are members of one gigantic family. Our efforts should be devoted to promoting harmony and peaceful coexistence. All religions of the world espouse neighbourly love. Wars are destructive, causing loss of precious human life, breaking up families, causing pain.
However, we have a long way to go before we can peacefully coexist. This treaty is the first step toward achieving that goal and it receives my full unconditional support.
In conclusion, I would like to say that while I stand proudly in supporting this bill, I also feel and share the pain of those who were the victims of land mines. To them I say while we may have been late and have let them down, our prayers are that our present and future generations will not suffer the same pain that they have suffered.