Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise on Bill C-14. Normally when we bring up the subject of diamonds we do not think of conflict, misery and poverty, but the diamonds we are talking about today play a big role in those issues. These diamonds are often referred to, surprisingly enough, as conflict diamonds or blood diamonds. Especially in Africa, they have fuelled violence and conflict in many countries, such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and more. The profits from the unregulated sale of rough diamonds have been used to fund the military and armed conflicts. As a result, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, mutilated or abducted. Whole countries have been destroyed with the use of the funds from these uncut and rough diamonds.
There has been very little control of rough diamonds and the bill is about bringing Canada into line with newly established international standards for regulation, control and certification of rough diamonds. The bill would bring Canada into line with almost 50 other countries and it should help stamp out the international trade in these illicit rough diamonds that are being used to fund violence.
On December 1, 2000, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict, seeking to break the link between the illicit transactions of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of these conflicts. In taking up this agenda item, the General Assembly recognized that conflict diamonds are a crucial factor in prolonging the brutal wars in parts of Africa and underscored the fact that legitimate diamonds contribute to prosperity and development elsewhere in the Congo.
In Angola and Sierra Leone, conflict diamonds continue to fund rebel groups such as the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola and the Revolutionary United Front, both of which are acting in complete contravention of the international community's objectives of restoring peace in these two countries.
In March 2002, an international agreement was reached on a plan to require a paper trail for diamonds to help throttle the trade in so-called blood diamonds, blamed for financing most of these bloody wars in Africa. As of January 1, 2003, all gem quality diamonds must be certified according to standards outlined in the Kimberley process or they will not be allowed into other countries.
Unfortunately, Canada does not have a diamond regulatory body. Canada Customs does not have a centralized port of entry for diamonds and does not require proof of origin for diamonds. Importers can simply declare them to be from the last port of call, such as a processing centre in Antwerp.
My colleague from the South Shore has been very much involved in this debate and on this issue. He has been following the topic very closely for some time. He has spoken on it many times here in the House and has been following it through the committees involved with the legislation. He has raised a particular concern on the point of entry and exit of rough diamonds in Canada. In doing so, he proposed an amendment in the clause by clause process, which was defeated. Clause 34 of the bill states:
designating any place as a point of entry for importing rough diamonds or as a point of exit for exporting them.
The member for South Shore was not satisfied that the clause referred to more than one point of entry or exit. Therefore his argument for the amendment was to designate two or more points of entry or exit. However, the government could not go along with this and it defeated the amendment. It did not feel that it was important to make that designation. It does not make sense for rough diamonds to be exported and imported through only one port in Canada and it probably will not happen.
This is a very important piece of legislation for many people. It is important for the people in such countries as Sierra Leone, Angola and Liberia because it will stop the conflict due to blood diamonds in these countries. It is also important to our country, because we are on the verge of mining production in Canada and we are becoming a major player in the diamond business. Canada's only diamond mine, the Ekati diamond mine, employs 650 people and produces three million to four million carats of gem quality rough diamonds each year. This is equivalent to nearly 4% of the current world diamond production by weight and 6% by value. We are becoming a big player. Another mine will begin operation in 2003. Two more projects will open in 2007. These four mines could provide direct employment for 1,600 people and could bring total annual production in Canada to approximately $1.6 billion.
Overall, this is a good piece of legislation and many will benefit from it in the true sense of the word. The Progressive Conservative Party does support the bill at third reading. Even though the member for South Shore proposed important amendments to improve the bill and they were not accepted, we feel that it is so important that the bill go through we will support it even without them.