Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in turn to speak to the second group of amendments to Bill C-19 to implement the Rome Statute in Canada, which will help prepare for the creation of the International Criminal Court and recognize that Canada has obligations.
I in turn wish to congratulate the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade on its work. I must say that I have been on two other committees during my parliamentary life and I have greatly appreciated the committee's ability to work in a non-partisan manner on a number of issues.
This was certainly the case for this bill, and I congratulate the committee chair. I also pay tribute to all members and to the departmental representatives who appeared before us. We worked hard to come up with the best legislation possible for Canada.
That having been said, I also wish to point out that it became clear in the course of our work and also from what was said by the witnesses who appeared before us from the department, or from one of the other departments, that this bill was progressive, but that it could be even more so, especially with respect to jurisdiction and immunity. It was on these two issues in particular that the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry moved the amendments which I seconded. Yes, we salute this bill.
We salute the work done to improve it, through the good faith of all parties on the committee. I also point out that this bill can be improved further. Some witnesses who appeared before the committee even admitted that, if has not yet been improved, it could be improved later on, and in fact the discussion we brought about this morning will pave the way for the committee's subsequent work, although we would like the government to agree this morning to broaden the scope of the bill.
I will now give our reasons for having moved some of these amendments. First, we would have liked the government to have admitted, by adopting an amendment, that the present bill has to do with the performance of Canada's obligations under the Rome Statute. If that is the objective, why not spell it out in the bill? This leaves a doubt.
And this doubt is all the greater because in committee and now, this morning, the Chair has told us that the government did not want to include the Rome Statute and its amendments in a schedule. I note that, in the ruling just now, the Chair cited Beauchesne as saying that it is not necessary to include agreements or treaties in implementing statutes. Our concern is not with the need to do so, but the fact that this has already been done in other Canadian implementing statutes.
As far as this law is concerned, we need to provide people with some information, as the colleague who spoke before me has already stated so eloquently, because the International Criminal Court is still not well known. Often the NGOs who worked to create it and the various government and international law experts are the only ones to receive any information.
We need, however, to make the general public aware of the preparations that have been made throughout the world in order to create an international criminal court which would be empowered to judge all those who have committed crimes of such enormity, these horrible crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
War is never a clean business, but the countries have come to mutual agreement on a certain number of rules relating to civilians and prisoners of war. As we know, and as we have seen recently, and continue to see, there are certain groups, certain troops that have turned their backs on this international convention. The crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity are defined in the bill. These are definitions which will apply equally in future to Canadian statutes and to the implementation of the provisions of the Rome Statute.
We would have liked to have seen the Rome Statute and its amendments given as an appendix to the bill, but what we would have liked still more would have been to have the bill provide broader jurisdiction for Canadian courts acting in this area.
What is meant by broader jurisdiction? I am not a lawyer, and sometimes glad of it, since I then have to translate these things into words, which I hope will be understandable to everyone, what my hon. colleagues say most precisely, but not always in a way that is understandable to the general public.
What broader jurisdiction means is that the Canadian courts could judge people who have been charged of such crimes, not solely those whose victims are Canadians or who, as perpetrators, are Canadians, but also anyone who has committed such crimes.
The reaction to this will be “But that is extremely broad. Can it be done?” The answer is yes. I will quote the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium. It should be known that Belgium enacted legislation giving its courts broader powers. In June 1998, addressing a gathering of the representatives of the countries that formed the project of an international tribunal, International Criminal Court, Minister Derijke made the following announcement. He said “In compliance with the principle of universal jurisdiction, my country passed legislation enabling its courts and tribunals to prosecute in 1993 suspected criminals”.
He did not say Belgian criminals or persons against whom Belgians may have committed crimes. He referred instead to persons suspected of having committed war crimes, regardless of where the crimes were committed or the citizenship of the perpetrators. He is talking about an expanded universal jurisdiction.
I know that Canada acted as a catalyst during the drafting of the Rome Statute. I know also that departmental officials, and external affairs officials in particular, worked hard on it and I salute them. At the same time I serve notice that the Bloc will keep on working to expand jurisdiction.
But there is more at issue, namely the issue of immunity. But even with expanded powers or jurisdictions, if at the same time, we in Canada were to grant immunity to former general Pinochet, for instance, then, we would have failed.
This is the reason why we introduced these amendments. It is not to unduly prolong the proceedings of the House. We thought this voice should be heard in the House of Commons during this debate. I have heard colleagues from at least one other party who were receptive to our comments.
It will not be easy to establish the International Criminal Court. Nine countries have already ratified the treaty. Canada will soon follow, but 60 signatories are required. Once the treaty has been ratified by 60 countries, the court will have jurisdiction over the signatory countries, but it will have to go through the security council counsel to have jurisdiction over other countries or criminals who take refuge or are living in other countries, hence the importance for countries, as the Belgium minister said, to give themselves the broadest jurisdiction possible.