Mr. Speaker, today we are speaking to Bill C-14, the Kimberley process. I have concerns with the bill, some which were addressed in committee through amendments. My main concern was with the rights to private property. I am happy to say that through different methods we got that changed in committee. For a change the government is starting to respect the rights of private property.
While Bill C-14 is needed, I have grave concerns with the way the bill has been drafted because it lacks toughness and teeth when it comes to sentencing people who are caught and convicted of using conflict diamonds.
The government has had time to work on the bill and to bring it forward to the opposition parties in the House. Why has it waited until the last minute to do that? It was a process that could have been dealt with through more consultation, more than we were allowed. Instead, it now is trying to ram it through the House. This seems to be a favourite habit of the government. It knows full well that such a bill is needed to keep our people working, particularly in our exploration and mining fields and in import and export.
Years ago we knew that the funds being derived from the sale of rough or conflict diamonds were being used by rebels and state actors to finance military activities to overthrow legitimate governments, to subvert international efforts to promote peace and stability and to commit horrifying atrocities against unarmed civilians.
During the past decade more than 6.5 million people from Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been driven from their homes by wars waged in large part for control of diamond mining areas. Millions of these refugees are eking out a very miserable existence in neighbouring countries. As well, tens of thousands of others have totally left the continent.
Approximately 3.7 million people have died during these wars. The countries caught up in the fighting are homes to nearly 70 million people whose societies have been torn apart, not only by fighting but also by terrible human violations.
Human rights activists, the diamond trade, as represented by the World Diamond Council and governments around the world have been working to block the trade in conflict diamonds. Their efforts have helped to build a consensus that action is urgently needed to end the trade in conflict diamonds.
We have known this for years and yet it is only today that the government has decided to rush the bill through.
We know that without effective action to eliminate the trade in conflict diamonds, the trade in legitimate diamonds faces the threat of a consumer backlash that could damage the economies of countries not involved in the trade of conflict diamonds and penalize members of the legitimate trade and the people they employ. Because of this, I probably will do something that I have never done before in the House, and that is hold my nose and vote in support of Bill C-14. I say I will hold my nose because the legislation lacks teeth. I do not see anything in the bill that will be a roadblock through penalties or fines in the area of conflict diamonds.
It just seems to be here in Canada that we believe even a weak law is better than no law so I have lots of concerns. Industry has some concerns but has been assured by the government that it will work to rectify those concerns.
I have talked to some people in the industry and I must say they have a lot more confidence in the government than I do when it comes to rectifying a number of concerns. They are accepting a promise of the government, and we all know the government has a tendency to break its promises and its word. Hopefully this will not be the case in this instance. I only have to go back and think of the promises of the government and its word to the lumber industry on the softwood lumber agreement. Look at what happened to many people employed in the industry.
Hopefully the government will be better at keeping its word under the Kimberley process and Bill C-14 than it has been for others.