moved that Bill C-19, an act respecting genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and to implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, on December 10, 1999, Human Rights Day, our Minister of Foreign Affairs tabled Bill C-19, the crimes against humanity and war crimes act.
This legislation will implement in Canada the Rome statute of the international criminal court and strengthen the foundation for criminal prosecutions in Canada.
The bill is now in its final stages. I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the very important work done by members of the standing committee and the many witnesses who contributed to the examination of this bill.
Bill C-19 brings Canadian law into line with the Rome statute which was adopted by delegates of the Rome Diplomatic Conference in July 1998. Once 60 countries have ratified this treaty, a permanent international criminal court will be created in the Hague which will try individuals accused of committing the most heinous crimes known to humanity.
There are already 97 countries which are signatories to the statute, 12 of which have already ratified. The 12 ratifications represent a doubling in number since the introduction of this bill in the House.
This progress is excellent, and It is especially encouraging to note that the most recent country to ratify was France, which did so last Friday. France's ratification is of particular significance as its government was initially quite opposed to the international criminal court. This demonstrates the momentum that is occurring worldwide for this initiative.
The creation of the court is a revolutionary progression in the struggle for universal peace. Many individual Canadians have fought diligently at every step to ensure that the ICC would become a reality. In particular, I would like to highlight the contribution made by Ambassador Philippe Kirsch who chaired the negotiations in Rome and was assisted by a committed team of Canadian officials. They have demonstrated tremendous leadership in bringing the nations of the world together on an extremely complex issue. In this same spirit, many other Canadians have acted as leaders at the non-governmental level to ensure that every individual in the global community is able to live in an environment of peace and security.
The opportunity for Canadians to be leaders in ensuring that the international criminal court is made a reality has not, however, ended. Rather, Canadians must remain vigilant and demonstrate resolve in our efforts to make the ICC a success at every stage.
For the moment, we as parliamentarians must play our part in the implementation of the Rome statute. The importance of Canada ratifying the Rome statute cannot be overstated. A common theme that echoes throughout parliamentary committee hearings came from NGO representatives who stressed that it was of importance not only to Canadians but to the global community that Canada ratify the Rome statute as soon as possible.
There are two reasons why Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Rights and Democracy, Women's Caucus for Gender Justice and other esteemed organizations continuously stressed the need for Canada to quickly act.
The first reason is that most countries prefer to follow rather than lead. Many countries are hesitant to ratify the statute because many countries that normally take the lead on such issues have themselves not yet ratified. Our ratification of the statute will place Canada in its familiar role of leadership in the national arena. We must demonstrate this leadership as atrocities continue to be committed throughout the world. It is incumbent that we exert every effort to bring the ICC into being as soon as possible.
The human rights NGOs also stated that it was imperative that Canada ratify the statute because the proposed crimes against humanity and war crimes act is the first comprehensive implementing legislation to be developed by any country. The Canadian legislation has been heralded by NGOs as model legislation that will be studied and borrowed from by other countries throughout the world.
I would now like to focus for a moment on the committee stage which, under the direction of the hon. member for Toronto Centre—Rosedale, the chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, was thorough and comprehensive. The enlightened debate that took place at the committee meetings between parliamentarians and witnesses representing a wide variety of interests, has ensured that Bill C-19 is well crafted and that it meets the needs of all Canadians.
Many amendments have been made to Bill C-19 as a result of the suggestions that were put forward by NGOs and committee members. I would now like to highlight some of these amendments.
The crimes against humanity and war crimes act has been amended to ensure that Canada will be able to fully prosecute individuals who commit mass murder, rape, torture or any other similar heinous crimes against humanity. The customary international law definitions of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes will now be recognized inside Canada.
Canada's ability to assert universal jurisdiction for these crimes has also been streamlined and simplified. Now, as long as the person accused of the crime is found in Canada, they will fall under our jurisdiction, regardless of when or where the crime took place. This change ensures that those who have committed or who commit in the future the most egregious crimes will not find a safe haven in Canada.
I would also like to ensure that one issue raised by some NGOs at committee stage is fully clarified. Much trouble has been caused by the words direct and indirect which appear in the Rome statute but not in the corresponding article in the Geneva Conventions section on transfers of population. I want to reassure the House that the preparatory commission in New York has resolved the problem, agreeable to all, by adding a footnote which essentially reaffirms that the provision has the same effect as the corresponding offence in the Geneva Conventions, ratified by Canada and implemented by parliament twice.
The fundamental importance of the ICC is that it will ensure that individuals who persist in committing shocking violations against the global community will be held accountable for their actions.
It is sad that humanity can make so many advances in knowledge, in the sciences, in technology and in so many other areas, yet peace has always eluded the world. The world has never known a period when war did not rage somewhere.
The 20th century in fact, despite our progress, has been the bloodiest century known to humanity. The violence that we have known this century has been so unparalleled that the word genocide itself had to be created to denote the level of violence that had previously been unknown.
In this century we have seen far too many peoples targeted and murdered en masse simply because of who they were. All too often those who perpetrated the violence have escaped justice. The ICC will ensure that the Stalins, the Hitlers and the Pol Pots of the world will never again be able to act with such impunity. The ICC will be the permanent, independent institution which will serve humanity blindly and ensure that the 21st century will be one in which universal accountability is demanded and protected.
The international community must show resolve in continuing to push countries to ratify the Rome statute. The situation in Sierra Leone is an unfortunate illustration of the immediate need for the ICC. It is also useful as serving as an example of how the ICC will serve the interests of Canadians in doing our part in promoting the values which we hold dear to our hearts.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs has done tremendous work in the promotion of human security. Human security puts the needs of people first, and the situation in Sierra Leone illustrates how the ICC can promote the rights of individuals throughout the world.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been making great efforts to promote awareness on the issue of war affected children. Many of us have seen the images of small children wielding weapons that were bigger than they were. Children as young as nine in some conflicts are routinely drugged and sent out as cannon fodder to benefit and protect cowardly warlords.
To take advantage of children in this manner is beyond unconscionable. It is outrageous and it cannot be tolerated by individuals who consider themselves to be civilized. The ICC, once established, will provide the global community with the mechanism to go after the individuals who turn children into killers by providing within the Rome statute that it is a crime against humanity to employ children in warfare.
Sadly the image of children brandishing guns is not the most horrific to emerge from Sierra Leone. Instead it is the image of children as well as those of countless men and women who have had their limbs hacked off that is more enduring. It is perhaps this image of small children with stumps where their hands once were that best exemplifies why the world needs a permanent court to hold the individuals who perpetrate these acts accountable before the world.
The ICC will ensure that the climate of impunity that has been tolerated for centuries will be replaced by a culture of accountability. The court's creation will send a strong signal to all corners of the world that the international community will no longer stand idly by while innocent persons are massacred. Criminals will no longer be able to stand behind borders safe from prosecution. They will instead answer for their crimes.
The act and the ICC will also ensure that those who aid in committing these crimes or who profit from these crimes will have to likewise answer for their actions.
The situation in Sierra Leone, for example, has been financed by the trade in diamonds. Without the trade in diamonds there would be no guns. Canadian diamond companies have acted responsibly in Sierra Leone. Yet there are companies from other countries operating in Sierra Leone that have provided the people who hack off children's hands with the money to commit these crimes. Legislation such as this act will help ensure that these companies, like the perpetrators themselves, will be held accountable for their actions.
It is also important that it be made clear the ICC will be a neutral, non-politicized court whose prosecutors and judges will meet the highest professional standards and will be elected by an assembly of state parties. It is worth citing the excellent work done by Madam Louise Arbour who served as the chief prosecutor on the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Madam Arbour, who now serves Canadians as a supreme court justice, demonstrated the level of professionalism, integrity and commitment to justice that we can expect to see from those who will perform similar functions for the international criminal court.
Canadians have long demonstrated the intellectual and moral courage to play a leadership role in promoting peace and security for all of humanity. I praise those Canadians who have ceaselessly contributed to ensuring that the rule of law is extended throughout the world to all persons irrespective of who they are. I hope we as parliamentarians, as representatives of the Canadian people, can continue to demonstrate the commitment of Canadians to ensuring that mass murderers, rapists, those who mutilate children and all war criminals will never again escape justice.