Mr. Speaker, I move that the 18th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade presented on Wednesday, May 8, 2002, be concurred in.
In our hemisphere the greatest place of murders, the number one place for human rights abuses, the place that has the greatest displacement of human beings in the entire hemisphere, is Colombia. The committee did a report on this much forgotten place, a place of human rights abuses that has been destroyed by a conflict that we are partially responsible for, and I will get back to this later.
The depth of destruction and the depth of human rights abuses taking place in that country and the ramifications for the surrounding areas are so large as to be quite extraordinary.
I want to thank the committee chairperson for the great work she did and the committee members who have put together an excellent report on this conflict, a conflict that we hope the Government of Canada will take a more active role in trying to diminish.
To give an indication of the depth of the problem, 2 million people have been displaced in a country with a population of 40 million. To put it in some perspective, Colombia is a country that is relatively the same size as ours, but with 7 million to 8 million more people and is smaller in land mass. It is a country where 26,000 were murdered in the year 2000 alone. That is a rate 30 times the level in Canada.
What is fueling this conflict? Is it ideology? Is it a battle between groups trying to fight for power? No. It is a battle over drugs. Drugs fuel the war in Colombia, drugs that are consumed primarily in North American. That is where our responsibility lies and I will get back to that later.
Not only is this is a place where 26,000 people are murdered every single year, where 2 million people have been displaced, a place where there is a fiscal and economic crisis in a developed country with a competent, hard-working and intelligent populace, it is a place where there is a massive environmental disaster happening because the chemicals that are used in the production of these drugs are being dumped into the Amazon basin. This is destroying the Amazon rain forest and the jungle is being displaced by crops to grow cocaine and heroin. Those areas are completely destroyed and will be of no use to anybody for many years.
This is also a social disaster. I was in Colombia last year. Children are being prostituted on the street to pay for the drug habits of the parents. Children are also being put into situations where they can be used as slaves and as drug runners. This is a direct result of the drug war and the drug production fueled by our demands here in North America. Colombia is also the number one kidnapping spot in the world. In one year alone, 3,042 people were kidnapped and that number is increasing. Kidnapping is used as a tool to generate money.
The major antagonists in all this are as follows. FARC is the leading guerrilla movement. I use the term guerrilla movement loosely. Certainly this conflict has been going on for 50 years. Indeed, it started off as an effort with a political objective: to make changes for much needed land reform in the country and to also put in social and economic reforms in a country that desperately needed them. However, that changed.
What changed is as follows. As we know, in the 1980s the Medellin and Cali cartels controlled cocaine production in that country. In fact, Colombia is the number one cocaine producer in the world.
In our war on drugs, with the Americans and other countries, we said that we were going to cut the head off organized crime and we were going to cut the head off the Medellin and Cali cartels. Indeed, we were successful in doing that., but what we failed to understand and anticipate in doing so is that drug production, because of the profits involved, will never stop. If there is demand, there will be production. As we destroyed the Medellin and Cali cartels a vacuum took place and FARC filled the vacuum. It began as a small guerrilla movement but massively increased in size as it actually took that spot. FARC is now the major producer of cocaine, producing some 300 tonnes a year. Now it is producing heroin. As heroin production has decreased in southeast Asia and Afghanistan, Colombia has taken on that role and is now producing some six tonnes of heroin a year, heroin that is becoming purer all the time.
Colombia became involved, but this is also more insidious than that. The conflict is spreading to the surrounding areas. It has involved Bolivia and Peru and is destabilizing those countries. FARC has also used its terrorist links with the IRA. The IRA has gone into Colombia and has taught the FARC a great deal about how to wage a war of terrorism to destabilize and destroy the country of Colombia, not for a political objective but to control a larger segment of that country so that it can produce what? Drugs, primarily cocaine but an increasing amount of heroin.
What have we done so far? We have waged a war, which has failed. We have used Plan Colombia. Plan Colombia will work to the extent that it has to strengthen domestic police and army capabilities to deal with FARC, but it is not enough. We have also tried to use herbicides to spray the crops. They do destroy the drug crops, but they also destroy a lot of edible crops and poison the riverine force in that area, dumping large amounts of toxic chemicals into the Amazon basin.
I want to talk a bit about what an ecological disaster this is. I want also to remind people out there that if they consume heroin, cocaine in particular, what they are doing is killing a country and killing innocent civilians. They are part and parcel of the murder of some 26,000 innocent people in Colombia. They are also part and parcel of an ecological disaster.
Colombia contains 10% of the earth's biodiversity in only .7% of the world's land mass. It has a third of the world's primates. It has 1,721 bird species representing an extraordinary 20% of the world's total. It also contains priceless rain forests. It has the highest capacity for carbon dioxide sequestration in the entire world. It has one of the most diverse ecosystems. It ranks fifth in the world in hydrological resources, has the largest coral reef zones in the world and has 82 different ethnic groups.
What has happened is that the production of drugs has destroyed some 6,600 hectares, which are under poppy production in the Andean rain forests. It has also destroyed a quarter of a million acres for coca crops in the rain forests of Amazonia and the Orinoco basin. Those areas are massive and the total damaged area is over one million acres under production.
Members will be interested to know that in the production of these drugs not only are we culpable by virtue of being users, but we also produce the chemicals that are necessary in the production of these drugs. The United Nations has told the western world, including Canada and European countries, that it is part and parcel of the problem because when it starts talking about trying to deal with the drug problem and conflict in Colombia, what it is really doing is being a hypocrite. It is a hypocrite because not only does it consume the drugs but it also allows the precursor chemicals that are absolutely essential for the production of these drugs to continue unabated. The western world has done nothing but turn a blind eye to the sale of these chemicals to these countries, which are used for nothing more than the production of these illegal drugs.
What can and should we be doing to deal with this? What we should be doing is what I have previously proposed in a motion that I presented to the House. First, we have to decrease consumption here in North America. It is absolutely essential that we do this. There are new European models for the treatment of people with substance abuse problems and they work very well. These people should not be looked upon as individuals who have a criminal problem. They have a medical problem and they should be treated accordingly.
Second, we need to prevent. What is the best model for prevention? It is the head start program, which is a program that works on children. It starts even before then, in the prenatal stages, to diminish the incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome and the effects of illegal drugs on the developing fetus. If we ensure that children in the first eight years of life have their basic needs met, have proper nutrition, are living in a loving, caring and secure environment with proper boundaries and are subject to good parenting, the opportunities of ensuring that those children will develop into gainfully employed, functional people in our society are much greater. The work done by the Minister of Labour and others bears this out.
Third, we must employ the U.S. racketeer influenced and corrupt organizations act amendments. We must use the RICO amendments in Canada to go after the money pillars that support organized crime. The best way to go after organized crime gangs is to take away the money supports that they have. Organized crime gangs are people in Armani suits, with expensive tastes, who use illegal means to generate funds. They are the ultimate in a corrupt businessperson. They are willing to use the law for their benefit, hide behind it for their benefit and prey on the weaknesses of some people.
Fourth, we must remove the barriers to trade that exist for developing countries, in particular Colombia, so farmers can grow other crops.
Fifth, we must support plan Colombia but we also must recognize that we must reduce consumption in North America.
Finally, we must use import-export permits to ensure that there are checks and balances on these chemicals that are used for the production of these drugs. If we do not do this the war in Colombia will not stop.
If we are so naive to believe that the murder of 26,000 people in our hemisphere will stop as a result of taking this war down to Colombia without decreasing consumption in North America we are sadly mistaken. It is encouraging to hear individuals like Senator McCain in the United States and the governor of New Mexico echoing the same kind of message. Some people in the United States understand this.
It is up to the government to work with our partners in the United States and say to them that we must decrease consumption in North America. We must implement a head start program in Canada and in the U.S. We must have the import-export permits and employ new European models for treatment. The current punitive models for the way we approach drug problems do not work. They are archaic and obsolete. If we look at the cold, hard facts, all they do is play into the hands of organized crime gangs which are the ones preying off the weaknesses of others.
Who pays the price? It includes: drug addicts; we as a society, through crime; property destruction; diseases such as HIV-AIDS, hep B, hep C; and the list goes on. That is the penalty we pay for not dealing with the problem in a more multifactorial and holistic approach.
The FARC and ELN are guerrilla movements not based on ideology. The paramilitary is also a group not based on ideology. They are all thugs. They are criminal organizations whose main purpose is to control the drug trade. If there were no demand, this problem would end overnight. It is our consumption in North America that is helping to drive those problems in Colombia. It is true that land reform needs to take place in Colombia and that economic and political reform must take place in that country. We must work with President Uribe.
My colleague from the Bloc had a press conference with the sister of Ingrid Betancourt that was attended by members from the House. Ingrid Betancourt was a presidential candidate who was kidnapped, like more than 3,000 other Colombians recently. Her life is in the balance. Many of these people are murdered. I am asking the government to work with the Colombian government to release Madame Betancourt from her kidnappers . If we do not do that her life is at risk. That would be a tragedy for Colombia.
This problem in Colombia will not end unless we work with like-minded countries. We cannot do this alone. We must work with the United States, the Mexicans and the Europeans to implement this multifactorial approach to deal with the drug problems that we have in our own countries.
We must also work with the Colombians to address the human rights abuses that they have there. Historically the military in Colombia has used paramilitaries to engage in human rights abuses. Colombia has done a lot to diminish that and the report cites that good work. We must continue that good work.
We must enforce the police and military capabilities to go after these groups who are thugs. They are criminals, nothing more and nothing less. We can do much by working with our counterparts to that end. If, however, we believe as some members in the U.S. congress and senate believe, that merely pouring money down plan Colombia's throat would end this, we are sadly mistaken.
I ask the government not only to listen to what I have said about the foreign policy implications but to deal with the domestic situation we have in Canada. We must deal with the consumption aspects and the implementation of import-export permits. This is easy to do. I was in Costa Rica where I met with representatives from the Organization of American States. The bureaucrats said the only thing that was holding up the import-export permits for the precursor chemicals was bureaucratic intransigence. This would require leadership that our country could show. By working with like-minded countries we could implement this system that would go a long way to undermine the ability of these countries to produce these drugs.
Organized crime in Canada is a blight on all of us. More than half of all the crime in our country is from organized crime. The penalties are not severe enough or where they are used, they are not used to the full force of the law. Too many individuals involved in organized crime are allowed to go scot-free. Too many of those who are known to be involved in organized crime, for example, the biker situation in Quebec, are allowed to operate as they always have. These individuals are not the traditional vision we have of somebody on a Harley-Davidson without a helmet going down the highway. These are sophisticated individuals who use a multiplicity of tools to buy and sell drugs, to launder money and deal with prostitution and extortion.
These are things we must deal with in our country today. The trial of Maurice “Mom” Boucher in Quebec brought to light not only the depth to which organized crime exists in Canada, how it has infiltrated all segments of our society, but that we have been woefully unable or unwilling to take a tough and firm line against organized crime gangs that are preying on the innocent, the general population and costing us all billions of dollars.
I want the government to show spine. There are good suggestions in this report. We must get tough on these people. We must employ the full force of the law to eliminate them. If we can do that the people in Canada will live a lot safer.