Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-14, an act providing for controls on the export, import or transit across Canada of rough diamonds.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton. While it was the minister who introduced the bill today, everyone knows that it was the hon. member who raised this issue last year.
I also want to congratulate the hon. member for Manicouagan, who addressed this issue earlier today. He gave an excellent speech and presented the various and very important aspects of this activity, while also stressing the need to do this properly, using controls. There is the whole issue of certification, among other things. The hon. member for Manicouagan is right when he says that, when it comes to protecting the interests of his region and of Quebec, he does so vigorously, as he did this morning, for which I congratulate him.
As members know, this is a very important activity. The rough diamond industry is a US $7.5 billion industry. It is said that 70 million jewels are created every year in the world, for a value in excess of US $58 billion. So, this is a very important issue.
The point raised by the hon. member is that part of what was done within the Kimberley process by NGOs and others has identified a minimum of 4% of this economic activity as going to purchase weapons. In one specific region, Africa, the three countries mentioned most often are Angola, Sierra Leone and the Congo. Trading is done through neighbouring or other countries.
Africa may seem far away, but what goes on there concerns us all. I do not see it as a waste of time to debate this subject today. The more debates there are in the House, and the more press coverage there is, the greater public awareness of the importance of this issue will be.
If I may draw a parallel here, last Friday I was with a secondary school class studying Amnesty International. These young people are very much attuned to what is going on in the rest of the world. They were quick to ask “What can we do?” People may feel helpless, but there is a lot that can be done, particularly public education so that people can be better informed and take action indirectly, even if this only means making their opinions known publicly.
The debate was raised by NGOs and by MPs, but many people took an interest, resulting rather quickly in pressure which culminated in the Kimberly process. There have been 12 international debates on the topic, some here in Ottawa, and things got moving pretty quickly.
It is urgent for this bill to be passed in order to ratify Canada's commitment in connection with this process. We in the Bloc Quebecois are in favour of this bill. We acknowledge the impact it will have. That impact has already begun to be felt, even if it has not yet been implemented, but it is a step in the right direction.
Many other things should be done. For example, over the last ten years, 500,000 civilians have been victimized by weapons and human rights violations in the three countries that I mentioned. I am referring to civilians who have died, but there are also civilians who have been injured. Other members have mentioned this. There have been atrocities and we must do something.
However, in terms of a broader policy, we must also consider the sale of weapons. There are countries that continue to sell weapons to groups and even to armies from certain countries, sales that are not always made under proper trade conditions.
There is also another way. I am referring to international assistance. There has been much talk of late of the crisis in Afghanistan and in Africa. Now the possibility of a conflict with Iraq looms. All too often, we forget about civilians.
I do not wish to be partisan, because not all issues are matters for partisan comments, but we have to face certain facts. In 2001, of 22 countries in the world that provided assistance, Canada ranked 18th. The country that ranked last, in 22nd place, was the United States. When it comes to aid, Canada must not view the U.S. as a model, because they may be the least generous country in terms of international assistance.
However, there are other countries that could serve as better models. For example, Denmark, in that same year, gave more than 1% of its gross domestic product; Norway gave 0.83%; Holland also gave 0.83%; the little country known as Luxembourg gave 0.8%, Sweden gave 0.76%. In the end, these are the only countries that reached the standard set by the United Nations, the famous 0.7% of GDP in international aid contributions.
With these conflicts, the reality is that the victims are people who have been displaced, people who are hungry, and there are health problems. We must keep this in mind.
As I said, we support the bill. Naturally, it is a step in the right direction, and is was urgently needed. We are therefore in agreement. We will make no attempt, either in the House or in committee, to slow down the passage of the bill. On the contrary, we will be very cooperative.
Pending ratification, people are still dying because of diamonds. In this respect, I will draw a parallel with the impact of oil around the world. Where there is oil, there are often conflicts. Oil fuels conflicts. It may not be the root cause, but it fuels conflicts around the world. That is number one.
There is also illicit drugs—let us not forget them—in Colombia, in some Asian countries and elsewhere. The diamond, however, because of its small size, combined with enormous value, is easy to market, especially under the current conditions.
Incidentally, I wish to respond to the question raised by students from the group representing the Commission scolaire de Lévis with whom I met on Friday about what young people can do. Of course, they must raise their own awareness. And often, interested young people are in a position to influence their parents at home.
I would add another element here, namely ethical investment. Sometimes, people unwittingly contribute to activities in certain countries which are more or less dubious from an ethical point of view, whether they concern oil or other economic goods such as diamonds.
One must be very aware of this possibility. One can ask questions at one's mutual fund managers' meeting: Where are we investing? It would seem that large corporations are increasingly aware of this. The impact is extremely important. There are also our actions as consumers.
Let us take the example of diamonds. In Canada, buying diamonds is probably done properly, but again the Kimberley process must be more closely followed. We often hear people say that, when they visited certain countries, they were able to buy goods—I am referring to jewels—for such and such a price, but that they did not pay any tax. They probably got these jewels on the black market. First, it is a risky thing to do. Also, not only are these people not sure of the quality of the diamonds, they are also contributing to an underground economy that can serve non-humanitarian purposes.
Today, I would like to bring my small contribution to this debate. After hearing our party critic and the other hon. members who have spoken on this issue today, I can see that that the House is off to a good start this week. I heard reasonable, intelligent and useful comments. This is an issue on which every citizen should reflect. As we know, not everyone listens to the debates of the House of Commons. However, most members of Parliament can use the various means put at their disposal by the House of Commons to convey to targeted groups information on important issues such as this one. This is a very relevant issue, one that is of real interest to our constituents. Even though the bill was introduced by the minister, I congratulate the hon. member who, through his initiative, helped ensure that all parliamentarians support the Kimberley process.
I remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois supports the bill. We will be very cooperative regarding similar initiatives that relate to human rights and to humanitarian issues around the world. We should ask the public to do the same.