Mr. Speaker, it actually gives me pleasure to rise today to discuss Bill C-14, the government's answer to the Kimberley process.
Bill C-14 is an act providing for controls on the export, import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds and for a certification scheme for the export of rough diamonds in order to meet Canada's obligations under the Kimberley process.
A number of people might ask why Canada needs the legislation. Those who are unaware, Canada is now heavily involved in the diamond mining industry. Why Canada requires legislation along these lines is that without legislation Canada is not in a legal position to meet all the requirements of the Kimberley process certification scheme.
Under the legislation the Minister of Natural Resources will have the authority to do the following: issue a Kimberley process certificate, KPC, for exports; verify the information in an exporter's application for a certificate for participating in an import shipment, including the important KPC documents; delegate the above administration practices to any person; make regulations prescribed in the records to be retained and presented by exporters and importers; the form and containment of the KPC and KPC application and the requirements of a tamper resistance container; and designate enforcement officers and establish that they process the KPC applications.
The Kimberley process was originally initiated and developed by South Africa in May 2000. It is an international certification scheme for rough diamonds to prevent conflict diamonds or, as some of us know them, blood diamonds, from entering legitimate markets. It was chaired by the government of South Africa. The process brought together 48 countries, including Canada and the United States, along with a number of other countries such as Central African Republic, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, India, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. There are many countries that have the same concern that we do in regard to these diamonds.
What exactly is the Kimberley process? The Kimberley process was internationally established to break the link between the trade in rough diamonds or blood diamonds and armed conflict, particularly in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We may wonder whether the trade in conflict diamonds is large. No, it is not really right now because conflict diamonds constitute only a small percentage of the diamond trade. However they still have a very devastating impact on peace, security and sustainable development in the affected countries. Has the trade in conflict diamonds not been eliminated? As I said, there is much less trade today but it still affects several African countries.
Why has Canada's position on the issue of conflict diamonds been international? As I said, we are now finding diamonds in Canada and we will be part of this process. We have been a leader in instituting some control in this.
The government's answer to our concern is Bill C-14. It is not an extensive bill but it answers a lot of the questions. As we go through the summary of the bill, it is the government's response to efforts among diamond importing and exporting nations to certify that rough diamonds on the move are sealed in tamper proof containers and certified as not being used to finance conflict, or so-called blood diamonds. Although such diamonds are supposedly decreasing in number, the threat to the marketing image of gem quality diamonds as well as the economics of several African nations remains serious.
Time constraints are tight due to the target of this November for all 48 to 50 participating nations to commit to national implementation and December 31 for simultaneous implementation world wide.
Bill C-14 is accepted by BHP Billiton Diamonds Inc. which operates the Ekati Diamond Mine 300 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife. It also is endorsed by the mining association. The mine employs 650 people and has offices in Kelowna and Vancouver, British Columbia; Yellowknife, as well as Antwerp; Belgium; and London, England.
Other companies expect their mines in the territories to be operational by 2007 with the annual production forecast at $1.6 billion and direct payrolls of 1,600 people plus 3,200 indirect jobs. Additional diamond exploration in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador has not yet yielded economically viable sites but exploration is still ongoing.
What we are talking about today impacts a large working force here in Canada with the potential for it to go a lot higher. I only refer to this to show the justification for Canada becoming involved in the Kimberley process. Some of the cutting and polishing is centred at Yellowknife and Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula. Training programs, especially for aboriginal workers, are still in process with resulting job skills being among the benefits to northern residents. This is an industry that was very much needed in the northern parts because unemployment was very high up there.
All Canadian diamonds are first exported to London and Antwerp for sorting. We also import diamonds from 44 countries, including Israel, India, the United States, Belgium and the U.K.. In terms of value of our diamond imports, the top five are those countries.
The multiple stages of handling from international mining through sorting, polishing, cutting et cetera are major reasons for the Kimberley process agreement to ship these valuable products in tamper proof containers with a certificate attached to prevent inclusion of blood diamonds.
Each certificate should bear the title, Kimberley process certificate. It should also include the Kimberley process logo and the following statement “the rough diamonds in the shipment have been handled in accordance with the provisions of the Kimberley process international certification scheme for rough diamonds”.
The country of origin should also be included on the certificate for shipment of parcels of unmixed. The certificate may be issued in any language provided that an English translation is incorporated. Also included would be unique numbering with the alpha 2 country code according to ISO 3166-1. It should indicate that the package is tamper and forgery resistant; the date of issuance; the date of expiry; the issuing authority; identification of exporter and importer; the carat, the weight and the mass; the value in U.S. dollars; the number of parcels in the shipment; relevant harmonized commodity description and coding system; and validation of the certificate by exporting authority.
There are also some optional elements with regard to the certificate. It may also include characteristics of a certificate, for example, as to form and security elements; and quality characteristics of the rough diamonds in the shipment. The recommended import information should also have the following elements: country of designation; identification of importer; and authentication by approving authority. Rough diamonds may be shipped in transparent security bags. The unique certificate number may be replicated on the container.
The weakest link in Bill C-14 and the process that Canada is taking in answering the Kimberley process remains the initial certification, especially when performed by officials and countries widely reputed to suffer from an epidemic of corruption, notably some of the African countries. No independent, international agency will verify or even spot check the certification. This becomes another problem. It should be incorporated into the bill.
Bill C-14 requires that Canadians ensure the certificate provides accurate information to company officials and that individual directors are liable.
We come to a point that I hope can be addressed in committee along with a couple of other concerns. There is no liability under clause 24 of the bill for investigators who enter on private property. We in North America have strong feelings toward private property and what we own.
Clause 24 reads:
When exercising their enforcement powers, investigators may enter on and pass through or over private property without being liable for damage to property or infringement of rights relating to property.
The clause raises some concern with me, particularly with regard to no liability if the company and the people who are under investigation are proven innocent and damage is done to the property. Surely with our environmental codes and standards there has to be some liability. If a property was disrupted the company would be on the hook 100 per cent. I think that clause has to be looked at very closely.
Another point is that prosecutions under Bill C-14 can only be instituted within three years from the time the complaint arose.
I am tougher on this point. Due to the significant degree of international cooperation that is likely to be involved and the fact that human lives are at risk with the trade in blood diamonds, I would suggest that a time limit of seven years is not unreasonable. I say that because the lines of communication when dealing with other countries and ourselves can be a hindrance. A company's reputation will already be damaged by the laying of charges. The best way to minimize such impact would be to obtain convictions and not allow the guilty parties get away with the crimes due to paperwork technicalities that are bound to arise when dealing between countries.
When we deal with financial costs, seized diamonds can only be held with the consent of the owner. An improvement would be to authorize holding such diamonds until the case is resolved. That way it would be guaranteed that possible fines would be paid. We know of a number of cases where fines have been levied against companies or individuals but by the time it comes around to collecting the fee the individual or company has disappeared or the finances have all gone up in smoke. Those are areas we have to look at. Is the process needed in Canada? Definitely.
These concerns will have to be addressed in committee to our satisfaction. Overall the legislation is long overdue.