Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part today in the debate on Bill C-14, 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.
Not only will this bill have an impact on the way we do things in Canada, but in my opinion it also has an important role to play in protecting human rights in a number of countries. I am thinking in particular of countries with totalitarian regimes, which make use of a mineral resource, a natural resource, in order to finance entire armies. This enables them to commit atrocities and abductions and torture civilian populations. Later in my speech, I will not hesitate to name some of those countries.
When such major violations of the most basic of human rights are committed in certain countries, African countries in particular, it is our responsibility as parliamentarians in a democratic society to speak out against these atrocities, but also to engage in an international process to prevent such situations from occurring. That is the purpose of Bill C-14, with its 14 or 15 pages.
The enactment permits exports of rough diamonds to be made only to countries participating in the Kimberley process. The Kimberley process is the result of a consensus by 37 governments and NGOs who wanted to do away with the trade in what are commonly called “blood diamonds”. Some governments actually go so far as to use money from the diamond trade to finance and equip armies to crush civilian populations, often populations who are fighting for their freedom.
The atrocities funded by the proceeds from these conflict diamonds are well documented, as we know. It is therefore imperative to take action in order to put an end to them.
This process, moreover, means that diamond purchasing societies such as Canada end up financing the atrocities committed in those countries. It is our social and moral responsibility to take steps on this. This one is just a baby step, considering the terrible situation in these countries. Canada must therefore be consistent, and must step up its development aid and other actions as well in order to help Africa, and the countries in the most precarious positions. This bill is a beginning, but we have to go beyond it.
When I accompanied the Prime Minister to Johannesburg in September for the Earth Summit, I made three recommendations. One of them was to increase international assistance to developing countries. How can it be considered acceptable that a country such as Canada, a member of the OECD, refuses to provide a percentage of its GDP that is comparable to the average of other OECD countries? Obviously we need measures, such as the Kimberley process, which must be applied.
This bill, which would work towards implementation of the process, must be encouraged. We must also provide the funds necessary to help these countries to develop, to develop their abilities, and to truly promote the conditions required for establishing real democracy, and to prevent governments from using diamond sales and revenues to fund organized groups that violate the most fundamental human rights.
This is why the Kimberley process was developed, and one of the first meetings on the process was held here in Ottawa. Canada must also be consistent and adopt this bill, because in many ways, Canada hosted a number of meetings that led to the adoption of the Kimberley process.
The process sets up an international certification system. The process must be applied. However, it must apply from the mining operations all the way to the place of processing, in this case, the diamond cutters. This has to be the case from the moment the resource is developed. However, those who handle the resource, the diamond cutters, must be governed by the process. This is the only way to avoid loopholes.
Many countries apply some certification scheme. However, too many countries take advantage of certain loopholes between the time when the resource is mined and the time it is processed. The UN security council has prohibited, among others, diamonds from Liberia. It also has strong reservations about diamonds produced by Sierra Leone and Angola.
For example, the Government of Angola funds its action against UNITA by using other sources of revenues to buy its military equipment. Under the sanctions imposed in 1998 on UNITA by the UN security council, it is illegal to acquire diamonds from UNITA and to sell arms to that rebel group. Despite these measures, the illegal trade in diamonds by UNITA has not been stopped, even though it is not as active. The murders, acts of torture and kidnappings are continuing.
This is still a reality. It is also a reality in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Amnesty International estimates that several thousands, and even several tens of thousands of unarmed civilians have been killed deliberately and arbitrarily since August 1998 by armed forces engaged in the conflict.
No less than 2 million people, the majority of whom were living in and around mining areas, were displaced by armed forces. A large number of them died of hunger, cold and untreated diseases that they contracted while trying to escape from armed men.
Moreover, civilian populations living close to areas where mineral resources are mined—in this case it is diamonds—are the direct, and more so than others, victims of such action, which is in total violation of human rights.
The group Partnership Africa Canada estimated that the illegal trade conducted by rebel armies in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo represents about 4% of total world production, according the De Beers. Other estimates place the number higher. While not a significant part of the world trade, 4% of U.S. $7.5 billion will buy a lot of weapons. So, as those who are listening to us can see, there is a reality and this reality has a definite and significant impact.
It turns out that, in certain countries, certification is not uniformly rigorous throughout the process, that is to say that there were inspections, of course, at a few stages of the process before the diamonds are cut but not at all of them.
We must therefore support the implementation of the Kimberley process by passing Bill C-14, but we must not stop there. We must take this one step further. We must understand that the violence perpetrated in these countries, often against the population, is a reality of non-democratic regimes.
Canada must increase its assistance to developing countries. It must promote technology transfer. These countries' potential for democratic development needs to be enhanced. Without a process like the Kimberley process to protect human rights, and without new capital for developing countries, we will never be able to ensure that human rights are respected, and more importantly, we will never be able to give the people of these developing countries the possibility of leading the normal life led in a country where democratic rules and the most fundamental rights are respected.
The Bloc Quebecois will support any bill that will ensure that armed groups looking to crush civilian populations are not subsidized. This is the context in which we plan to support Bill C-14, a bill that will not only change our way of doing things, obviously, but also protect human rights internationally.