House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.


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The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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The Deputy Speaker

The hon. parliamentary secretary has asked that the vote be deferred until the end of government orders today.

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Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Belinda Stronach Liberalfor the Minister of Canadian Heritage

moved that Bill S-37, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and Cultural Property Export and Import Act, be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

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11:30 a.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to debate Bill S-37.

This bill has direct consequences for Canada's position in the world community. In the wake of damage and destruction of important cultural heritage during the tragic years of World War II, the nations of the world took action.

They were determined to establish a mechanism to condemn such destruction. They were eager to work together to try to ensure that such destruction would never be repeated. Above all, they recognized that the damage to the heritage of one nation impoverishes the heritage of all nations.

Nations recognized that if the world's cultural heritage were to be preserved and passed on to future generations, it would require a multilateral effort. It would require cooperation. It would require a sense of collective responsibility.

Bill S-37 is based on these very principles. UNESCO was the forum where nations took action in 1954. They came together at The Hague and adopted the convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. It is often simply referred to as the Hague convention.

The basic principles of the convention echo what were, even then, widely accepted rules of engagement in war. Those very same principles and rules are also reflected in the 1949 Geneva convention and its protocols, which are perhaps more familiar to all of us.

They include rules that prohibit the Intentional targeting of cultural sites by military forces, rules that prohibit the use of cultural sites in a way that would make them a military target, and rules prohibiting reprisals against cultural sites.

These are not just empty words. Only recently, the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted former military personnel for their attack on the historic city of Dubrovnik in 1991. They were convicted of war crimes for the intentional targeting of an important cultural site.

Canada, along with many of our allies, including the United States and the United Kingdom, chose not to join the Hague convention during the difficult years of the cold war, but with the end of the cold war in the 1990s, we began to rethink our position on the convention. I am happy to say that we became a state party to the Hague convention in 1999.

The House will recall that this was a time when Canada expressed its commitment to human security issues and the promotion of the rule of law on a number of fronts internationally. We championed the international treaty on landmines. We were a leader in the effort to establish the International Criminal Court. We joined the Hague convention in 1999 as part of that same commitment to human security and the rule of law.

We understand as a nation that cultural heritage speaks to the soul and the identity of a people. We understand that the protection of cultural heritage contributes directly to the long term well-being of a community and to the well-being of a nation.

We understand that cultural heritage can build understanding and that the intentional destruction of heritage can fuel ethnic conflict and political instability.

When we joined the Hague convention in 1999, Canada also reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to international cooperation to protect cultural heritage.

Canada has a long record of participation and leadership in that field. We are a state party to the 1972 world heritage convention and we have chaired the world heritage committee. We are a state party to the 1970 UNESCO convention on illicit trafficking in cultural property. We currently chair UNESCO's intergovernmental committee on return and restitution of cultural property.

Canada's cultural community has a wealth of expertise that is continually sought by other nations to help them build the capacity to protect their heritage. In other words, Canada is recognized for its commitment to the protection of heritage and to the need for collaboration between states in that important task. Bill S-37 provides a further illustration of Canada's commitment.

There are two protocols to the Hague convention. The first protocol, adopted in 1954, establishes obligations, among other things, to return cultural property that has been taken illegally from an occupied territory.

The second protocol, adopted by UNESCO in 1999, expands on many of the concepts of the convention and the first protocol. One of the most important aspects of the second protocol is the range of obligation it creates for states to prosecute those who commit certain acts against cultural heritage during armed conflict. This is what I mean when I talk about the mutual responsibility of states to protect heritage.

These aspects of the Hague protocol speak directly to that responsibility. It means that if a country is occupied and someone illegally exports cultural material, the country can look to others for help in getting the material back. It means that a state commits to pursuing those found to be in its territory who have damaged, destroyed or looted cultural property during conflicts in other countries. It means that cultural heritage is important to us all and that we have a collective responsibility to help each other protect it.

Canada joined the Hague convention in 1999. Since then the government has been hard at work to determine exactly what would be required in Canadian law in order for us to join the convention's two protocols.

It is very important to point out that even though we have not yet joined the protocols, the legal concepts on which they are based are already enshrined in Canadian law. In order to implement our obligations under the protocols, we already have in place almost everything that is required. This should come as no surprise.

The Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act establishes the authority in Canadian law to prosecute war crimes. That includes acts against culture property that are prohibited under the protocols to the Geneva convention and similar acts prohibited under the Hague convention. Further, the National Defence Act has already established obligations for conduct of our armed forces that mirror obligations on the military under the Hague convention and its protocols.

Clearly Canada has already taken the step of demonstrating through legislation our commitment in this area. We have stepped up to the plate. We have demonstrated we are willing to acknowledge our responsibilities as a member of the world community, not just by words but through action.

Through Bill S-37 we once again have the opportunity to take action and we have the opportunity to take the steps necessary to allow Canada to join the protocols.

Why us? I have already spoken about our commitment to the international cooperation for the protection of the world's heritage, but I also want to talk about Canada and Canadians.

Canada is a unique experiment in multiculturalism. Our society is the most multicultural in the world. Canadians can trace their roots to virtually every corner of the globe. We do not expect anyone to forsake his or her cultural roots in order to be a Canadian. In fact, it is just the opposite. We celebrate our diversity. Many Canadians arrived here from countries that are mired in conflict. Others suffered the distress and heartbreak of seeing their country of birth or the country of birth of their ancestors torn by conflict.

By demonstrating our commitment as a nation to protect the world's heritage, especially in times of armed conflict, we send Canadians a message. We are saying to them that we value them, that we value their heritage and that we are committed to doing what we can to protect it.

What other message would joining the protocol send? It would send the message that Canada is committed to the protection of cultural diversity throughout the world; that Canada is committed to acting multilaterally, through multilateral institutions like UNESCO and multilateral agreements like the Hague convention and its protocols; that Canada is committed to promoting respect for the rule of law internationally; that Canada and Canadians are accountable for our actions.

Why now? The second protocol to the Hague convention came into force only in March 2004. As potentially the first G-8 country to join the second protocol, we are in a position to demonstrate leadership in our commitment to the international cooperation for the protection of heritage.

With the passage of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, we have already overcome almost all of the legislative hurdles to joining the protocols.

Unfortunately, recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown us only too well the risks faced by cultural heritage during armed conflict. It has shown us the need for all nations to rededicate themselves to instruments such as the Hague protocols.

Why this bill? As I have already said, almost everything Canada needs to implement our obligations under the protocols is already in place, but there are some gaps. While they may be few in number, they are not insignificant. We need to address those gaps and we need to make sure that we can fulfill the treaty obligations we would have under the protocols.

That is what Bill S-37 does. It amends the Criminal Code. It will allow us to prosecute Canadians who commit acts such as theft, arson and vandalism against significant cultural property abroad. Such acts are specifically prohibited under the second protocol and states who join that protocol must be able to prosecute those who commit them.

Bill S-37 also amends the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. It will allow us to prosecute Canadians who illegally export cultural property. Right now we can do it only if they import to Canada. It will allow us to prosecute those who illegally export cultural property from an occupied territory that is party to the second protocol. Again, such exports are prohibited under both protocols and the second protocol requires states to prosecute those who commit such acts.

It will strengthen Canada's role in returning cultural property that has been illegally exported from an occupied territory. It will also acknowledge that when Canada is asked to accept cultural property for safe keeping by another country that is in conflict, we have an obligation to return it at the end of that conflict.

These are significant steps. They speak to the heart of what it means for countries to work together to protect heritage in conflict and to help each other recover from the effects of conflict.

I urge members to support Bill S-37. It will clear the path for Canada to join the Hague protocols. It will affirm Canada's protection of the world's heritage. It will signal to the world that we will not be a haven for those who commit acts against heritage during conflict. It will demonstrate Canada's leadership in promoting the rule of law internationally. It will tell Canadians and the world that when any nation's heritage is attacked, we must all defend it.

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11:45 a.m.


Betty Hinton Conservative Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is an important piece of legislation that updates a convention that is 60 years old.

Following World War II when theft of invaluable artifacts was committed on a global scale, most of the world decided it should never happen again.

The 1954 convention for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict was a direct result of what the world witnessed during World War II. Great treasures were stolen from occupied countries in Europe, not just from museums and churches, but also from individuals. Some of those treasures remain hidden from the world today in private collections. The Hague convention, as it came to be known, sought to outlaw thefts of this nature as well as vandalism or deliberate destruction of cultural property.

It was only six years ago that Canada became a party to the Hague convention, and that is shameful. Canada should have been a party to the Hague convention back in 1954. Successive Liberal governments have dodged it for reasons known only to the Liberals.

If we read the Hague convention definition of cultural property, we will learn a little more about events that were not reported during World War II. The authors of the convention define cultural property as “movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments or architecture, art or history, whether religious or secular”. It applies to museums, libraries, manuscripts, archeological sites, scientific archives, collections and so forth.

They wrote the Hague convention and agreed to it because they were eye witnesses during World War II. They saw the walls of museums and galleries where some of the world's greatest art once hung. They saw statues that had been deliberately pulverized as opposed to being the collateral damage of war. They knew that freight trains loaded with important and invaluable manuscripts, paintings, archives and architectural marvels moved out of occupied countries into other countries.

Some but not all of those treasures have been returned to the original rightful owners. The Hague convention did not force the repatriation of any of those treasures, but it sought to outlaw any such atrocities in the future.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Hague convention has had to be applied in more recent times. It was applied during the 1967 Middle East conflict and again in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Croatia and Iraq.

This legislation will ban Canadians from illegally exporting cultural property from an occupied territory and provides a mechanism for the restitution of such property. Both the Criminal Code and the Cultural Property Export and Import Act will be amended to allow for the prosecution of Canadians who commit related offences outside Canada.

I want to pause here to make a reassurance. I hope our men and women in the armed forces will not see this as a reflection on them individually or collectively. Somebody not paying attention might think that amending the Criminal Code to prohibit offences such as theft and arson against cultural property protected during times of conflict is a reflection on our military. It is most certainly and definitely not a reflection on those brave men and women.

Instead, it is a tragic recognition of reality that there are people who would steal or vandalize priceless objects in times of conflict. The legislation could, however, impact on the practices of Canada's armed forces. This is one area of grave concern to us on this side of the House.

The government has not specified how our armed forces will have to change their practices. We do not want to see a situation develop where any member of our armed forces is liable for prosecution because of some unavoidable act during a time of conflict.

For example, what would happen if a soldier was called on to advance on an enemy who was holed up in a fortified and ancient place of worship? It seems to me that it is incumbent upon the government and the House to make it absolutely clear to our people in the forces that if they are called upon to do their duty, they will not be held liable for their actions if there is unavoidable collateral damage to the sorts of objects we are discussing here today.

We cannot have our military commanders or personnel second-guessing or hesitating to take action for fear of being held criminally responsible following an action. The Hague convention states clearly that it will protect cultural heritage during armed conflict, take preventative measures for this protection during both peace time and war and set up a system to identify important buildings and monuments. It also requires the creation of special units within the armed forces to be responsible for the protection of cultural heritage.

Again, this is worrisome. We must recognize in this new war of terror, the terrorists will have no qualms about occupying any building and using it for their terrorist purposes. Does anyone really believe that they will avoid buildings that have been deemed culturally important to society in any nation? The fact is they would probably seek out such buildings in the hopes that those we assign to fight terrorism might hesitate to do their duty.

It seems to me that the legislation has to give our military people some reassurance that their hands will not be tied when we ask them to do their duty. It is legislation worthy of our support, but there are a few too many questions left unanswered and most of those questions would undoubtedly come from the brave men and women in Canada's armed forces. It is my hope that the government will answer those questions before the legislation becomes the law of the land.

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11:50 a.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, could the member elaborate more on the one concern she raised on the effect on Canada's military? Canada's military already is doing everything it can to implement these protocols. This responsibility is covered under the Geneva Protocol No. 1 in the convention of 1949. Therefore, our military already takes the steps. It consults with local governments to find the heritage sites. In its operations it ensures that it does not damage those heritage sites or put military installations co-located with heritage sites during conflicts so they could become a target.

Could the member expand on her concern of any impact that might have on our military?

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11:50 a.m.


Betty Hinton Conservative Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, I tried to be very specific in my comments and make it clear. First, I recognize, without hesitation, that members of our military would never do anything deliberate to damage anyone else's cultural property, their artifacts, et cetera. I want to make certain that the legislation recognizes that as well.

My concern, as I outlined in my speech, is that I want to have assurances in the legislation that the hands of our military personnel will not be tied in these situations, so they will not hesitate to do their duty to protect people and livelihoods in another country because of fear that there may be reprisals down the road if there is collateral damage done to a particular institution, a church or museum, or whatever the case may be.

I believe all Canadians learned dramatic lessons from World War II. We watched the confiscation of irreplaceable objects. We watched the literal destruction, for no purpose whatsoever, of pieces of history, of religious culture which were completely irreplaceable. I want to be certain that the legislation does all that it is intended to do. I want to make certain that those cultural pieces of importance to the country where the conflict is taking place are preserved. I also want to make certain that we do not have a situation that could cost lives, where we have military personnel hesitating to take the action out of fear of reprisals or being charged back in Canada for having destroyed something inadvertently, what I refer to as collateral damage.

I think everyone in the House has great respect for our military and also wishes we lived in a world where there was no conflict. The reality is we do live in a world where there is conflict and Canada plays a vital and important role. We have a long history of being there for other people.

As the shadow minister for veterans affairs for the Conservative Party, I am probably in touch with veterans on more occasions than anyone else may have the opportunity to be in the House. I hear their concerns. When I talk about veterans, I am not just talking about our former veterans from World War II and from Korea. I am also talking about modern day veterans who are now finding themselves in situations in other countries where they are trying to protect lives, protect culture, et cetera. I want those people going into those situations with clear minds. I do not want them to hesitate about doing their duties out of fear of reprisals.

Therefore, I ask the House and all members in it to make it clear and certain that if there is collateral damage, there will be no prosecution to our own people, that we understand that in times of conflict and war there will be terrorist groups and organizations that will target exactly the kind of things we are trying to protect. I do not want our people or any other people to hesitate to go in and eliminate these terrorist groups because of fear of reprisals down the road.

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11:55 a.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, when the Hague convention and protocol started to come in early in the cold war, earlier Liberal governments had some concerns about those countries that could use cultural sites inappropriately to avoid detection and prevent us and other countries from the free world going into them, so they did not sign immediately.

Why has the member criticized previous Conservative governments for not signing the Hague protocols?

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11:55 a.m.


Betty Hinton Conservative Kamloops—Thompson, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was not specifically criticizing a Conservative government. I am sure the member across the way can count as well as I can and can go back until the time of 1954 when the Hague convention was signed. I am sure he can recite as well as me, how many of those governments were Conservative governments and how many were Liberal governments.

If we are going to get into finger pointing, the member might want to be very careful. When he points one finger at me, three fingers point back at him. It has been a Liberal government that has failed miserably to get us involved. To get involved only six years ago is absolutely shameful. It tells me very clearly that we did not have our priorities straight as a country.

I tried very hard not to be too partisan in my speech, but it is hard not to criticize legislation without mentioning some flaws that have occurred under a government. I was very careful not to do too much damage in terms of partisan use of my wording. I would like to ensure that the member, and all members, are on side. It took us until six years ago to get the picture. We have it now.

As we are going to progress through this legislation, I am asking that we get it right. I ask that we not only protect artifacts, museums, churches, pieces of important significant information for countries or part of what is their heritage. I also ask that we protect our Canadian soldiers, men and women, our Canadian naval people, all our military, from frivolous lawsuits. I want to ensure that when our people go to protect another country's people, or to offer freedom as we have done so many times worldwide, that they do it with an open mind and a clear conscience and that they do not have to worry about coming back to their own country and facing charges. Make certain it is done right and the government will have my support.

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Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to speak on Bill S-37, to amend the Criminal Code and the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

Obviously, it was high time we took steps to amend Canadian legislation so that the protocols that have been signed—including two protocols to the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict—can be put into force in Canada. It goes with saying that since ancient times, but particularly after the second world war, conflicts have led to even greater destruction. Whether due to bombings or wilful acts, this has resulted in wide-scale destruction of cultural property, including archeological sites, historical monuments and churches. So we needed to ensure we have the means to protect our architectural and cultural heritage.

Naturally, the two protocols I mentioned, from 1954 and 1999, needed to be signed. However, we can say today that Canada unfortunately took its time in ratifying these protocols. While the first protocol on cultural property was signed in 1954, it was not until 1998 that Canada acceded to this protocol. Worse still, Canada took its time not only before acceding to this protocol, but before putting it into effect and before amending Canadian legislation, including the Criminal Code.

After Canada acceded to the protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, it took seven years before the government acted and amended its legislation. We can most certainly say today that we are proud to see that the government is taking some action and amending the Criminal Code. However, we on this side of the House would have preferred to see the government act faster and take a more preventive and concrete approach.

In fact, the situation is somewhat similar to that for the Kyoto protocol or any other international protocol. It is not simply a matter of signing a convention or a protocol, whether it be the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the Kyoto protocol. Measures have to be taken inside our borders. Our laws must be amended to ensure that Canada’s international commitments, notably to the protection of cultural property, can be reflected in those laws. That is the goal of Bill S-37 which we are studying today.

These two protocols have a number of purposes. Most notably, they are designed to provide attorneys general with the means to pursue individuals charged with theft of cultural property. They also offer mechanisms for the restitution of cultural property that has been illegally exported.

Through these two protocols, particularly that of 1954, the government has indicated its intention to bring about improved protection. What does the first protocol do? First of all, it specifically identifies cultural property. Second, it prohibits the export of cultural property from the territory. Third, it requires that such property be returned to the territory of the state from which it was exported. These are the three objectives of the first 1954 protocol to the UNESCO convention.

To date, 114 states have ratified the protocol and are parties to the convention, and 88 states have implemented it. Of course, one may very well have signed the UNESCO convention, but that does not mean that all states are automatically members and have signed the protocol.

Clearly, Canada ought to take steps to sign this protocol as quickly as possible. As I said earlier, we would have preferred that it do so more quickly and table implementing legislation. Nonetheless, we support the principle of Bill S-38.

The second protocol, of 1999, is designed to take measures to ensure the implementation and proper management of the international commitments made by the parties to protect cultural property. To that end, the first objective is to set up an intergovernmental committee for the protection of cultural property in the event of conflict. The second is to create a fund to assist the states party in implementing the protocol. A final objective is to introduce a stronger system for the protection of cultural property.

This 1999 protocol came into force in March 2004. Over 20 countries ratified it at that time. This second protocol is the subject of the implementing bill that is before the Commons today.

It is important to remember that this bill is designed to amend not only a number of statutes, but above all the Criminal Code, so as to give more powers to the attorney General. He will then have every means at his disposal to launch legal proceedings. It was important to do this, because to date this has not been permitted by law.

The bill is also intended to amend the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. In section 4 of this act, a part is added entitled the “Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols”. It clearly states that it is prohibited to export or remove cultural property from an occupied territory of a state party to the second protocol. The convention also describes the mechanisms for recovering and returning the property in question.

The bill provides mechanisms under both this act and the Criminal Code for the Attorney General to intervene and institute actions. The protocols also provide that a state party, which has ratified and adhered to the protocols, must make a certain number of commitments which shall govern its actions in the event of a conflict, or also when there is no conflict, in order to preserve cultural property.

In peacetime therefore, the parties agree to safeguard cultural property located on their territory by making inventories, planning emergency measures in the event of fires or collapsed buildings, preparing to remove cultural property or adequately protect it, and designating authorities responsible for the preservation of this property.

In times of war, the states party must protect cultural property located in occupied territory and, in particular and so far as possible, take the necessary actions to preserve it.

The Canadian armed forces are regularly called upon, we must remember, to carry out operations in regions subject to pillaging and the destruction of cultural property. Their duties require that strong measures should be taken to sensitize deployed CF members to this convention.

What we have here is nothing more or less than a bill to amend our legislation and ensure that Canada keeps the commitments it has made on the international scene under the UNESCO convention and the two protocols that it has signed, one in 1954 and the other in 1999.

As indicated, I would conclude by saying that we fully support this bill in principle.

However, we must speak out about the fact that we would have liked Canada to act more quickly to respect these two protocols. We also would have liked the government to take the necessary steps to implement this protocol so that we could rest assured not only that Canada would keep its international commitments but also that heritage and archeological sites and cultural property will be protected in times of peace as in times of war.

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12:10 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his excellent speech which was very comprehensive and covered the topic. I certainly appreciate his support and I am sure all Canadians do, as well as all parties.

I want to make two comments. The one concern that was raised in the debate was whether our soldiers might be charged for collateral incidental damage. Basically, the rules of engagement as they are written explain that those things that are done not intentionally and by accident are not covered. Therefore, there would not be a problem there.

The member who just spoke referred to the timing of this legislation. Normally when Canada signs protocols we try to get all the legislation in place first just in case we were to sign a protocol and something were to happen that the legislation could not pass, then we would be in contravention because we could not implement something we had signed.

However, I want to commit to the member that as soon as we can get this legislation through, we will be signing the protocols and implementing them as quickly as possible. I know he would appreciate that.

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12:10 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that announcement by the parliamentary secretary today. We would, however, have liked to see the bill before us implemented more promptly. It is not merely a matter of signing international conventions or protocols and then complying with them. There are numerous international protocols on which Canada does not respect its commitments. In fact, the principles they contain are very often not respected.

This is the case with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the sections on child abduction. International protocols are signed yet very often the principles subscribed to internationally are not reflected in Canadian legislation. This is the case for the Kyoto protocol. How can we accept Canada's making international commitments and then not ensuring that its legislation clearly expresses its desire to achieve the greenhouse gas reduction objectives?

It is my hope today, therefore, that we will not just talk the talk but also walk the walk, not only by being a signatory to this type of protocol, this UNESCO convention, but also by enacting legislation. We must also be in a position to apply that legislation. In fact, in the eight years I have sat in the House, many a law has been passed. The Government of Canada enacts legislation, like the endangered species legislation, one glaring example, and then we do not have the means to apply it.

We must therefore provide support abroad, and at home as well, in order to ensure that these laws we pass, and these amendments we are proposing today relating to both the Criminal Code and the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, can be clearly reflected in concrete action.

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12:15 p.m.


Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not intend to speak, but the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie was so inspiring that I want to raise two or three important points.

I feel like I am learning more about how the sovereign country of Quebec should behave in the future, especially when it comes to the protection of cultural property and international commitments. We should use today's debate to determine the responsibility of the country that Quebec will become in the coming years.

The other point involves the example of how the Government of Canada is currently shirking its responsibilities toward heritage lighthouses. I had the opportunity to speak on this matter.

The hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie did indeed bring up the example of the Kyoto protocol, which we signed. However, it is one thing to talk about it and another to take action. We went through the process of writing up and signing a plan and formally promising action, but there seems to something missing in the application of said protocol.

As far as the heritage lighthouses are concerned, it is all well and good to say that cultural property must be protected, but, unfortunately, what we are seeing is quite the opposite. These cultural properties, these heritage lighthouses, have been so neglected that now we have to spend tens of millions of dollars simply to restore them. Then we could enjoy a cultural heritage property and present it as another tourist attraction, namely in my region.

I simply want to say to the House, to the hon. members who are currently listening and to those watching us on television that the speech by the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie was inspiring in many ways. His contribution today is a valuable one and allows us to look at the discussions we have here in a different way.

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12:15 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a concrete example of the federal government's lax attitude as far as recognition of historical and sometimes architectural heritage is concerned.

I will give an example in addition to the one my colleague has given: the churches of Quebec. There are many of these still awaiting historical and architectural recognition, which is long in coming from the Department of Canadian Heritage. What would recognition of our churches mean? It would open the door to additional funding.

The same goes for heritage. UNESCO has designated a Ramsar site in the riding of my colleague from Trois-Rivières: Lake Saint-Pierre. Yet any concrete steps to decontaminate the lake of the thousands of artillery shells in it have been refused.

On the one hand, we have a problem of historical, cultural and architectural recognition, and on the other a problem of funding when designations are made. What is needed is to ensure that Canada meets its international commitments. When cultural or architectural heritage is recognized, concrete measures must be taken to ensure its preservation, whether it be within our borders or elsewhere.

We are in favour of Bill S-37 in principle, although we want to see it have concrete reflection in Canada when implemented.

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12:20 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, this is a very interesting debate. I thought the member's speech was brilliant; however, I disagree with two of his interventions. First, he said that we have to implement things domestically, that we go ahead doing these things in foreign countries and do not even do it domestically.

One could make that argument perhaps in other bills, which I will address in a minute, but we certainly cannot do it in this bill. The purpose of the amendment is to extend something we are already doing in Canada, and doing very well, in the Criminal Code. We are just extending that, so that it can be done internationally. It is already in place and taken care of in Canada. We are extending this, so that it applies to these crimes when Canadians do them in other nations.

In relation to the investment in cultural heritage, I have to disagree with that too. Perhaps it is just the different areas, but one of the biggest investors in cultural heritage in my riding, which I talked about in the passport debate last night, is tourism and Parks Canada. We have magnificent restorations of heritage buildings in Yukon.

In relation to the comment on the implementation of the Kyoto protocol, if I commit to do something by the end of this year and someone stands tomorrow and says I have not done it, that is not really fair. We have all sorts of programs supporting biodiesel, cellulose ethanol, grain ethanol, solar, wind, photovoltaic, landfill gas and all sorts of plans. We have an auto plan that we are implementing related to Kyoto. So, just watch us as we add more programs to that implementation.

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12:20 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my reply will be relatively brief, since my time is nearly up.

I must tell the hon. member that it is all very fine to say there are tons of programs and plans. The reality is that greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20%. The only thing that is important is to ensure that our international commitments are respected along with our domestic commitments. It is all very fine to have plans and programs, but results are what counts. As far as application of the Kyoto protocol is concerned, we would have to say that the federal government gets an F.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the NDP to speak to Bill S-37. I want to talk about a couple of elements in the bill and I turn specifically to the summary which states:

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to prohibit certain offences, including theft, robbery, mischief and arson against cultural property protected under the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Those amendments allow for the prosecution of such offences when committed outside Canada by Canadians.

It goes on to state:

—prohibit Canadians from illegally exporting or otherwise removing protected cultural property from an occupied territory. Those amendments allow for the prosecution of such offences when committed outside Canada by Canadians and provide for a mechanism for the restitution of cultural property.

The last sentence is the important point that I really want to get to. It is important for us to specifically consider what we are talking about in terms of the definition of cultural property. The schedule attached to the bill deals with the definition of cultural property. It states:

For the purposes of the present Convention, the term “cultural property” shall cover, irrespective of origin or ownership:

(a) movable or immovable property of great importance to the cultural heritage of every people, such as monuments of architecture, art or history—

This is an important piece of information because we often do not understand the breadth and depth and range of cultural property.

I turned to the ICRC website when I was preparing to speak to the bill in the House in order to get some kind of historical context. The ICRC indicated how important cultural history is to people, and it went through the historical context. This website goes back to the very early times of humankind with its early cave paintings and pottery, all of the cultural artifacts that have been with us since the very beginning of time.

The website mentioned the fact that it is hardly surprising that conflict leads to the destruction of monuments and places of worship, works of art and so on, that are precious to the human spirit. Some destruction is accidental but some is quite deliberate. Some has been predicated on undermining the underpinnings of an entire people in order to demoralize them. We have had a long history of that with numerous armed conflicts.

We also have that right here in Canada with our first nations communities. Although this piece of legislation specifically deals with Canadians externally, it is important to note that first nations communities in Canada continue to struggle to have repatriation of their artifacts from abroad. One could argue that many first nations were under some sort of pressure or armed conflict at the time their artifacts were taken.

When we talk about the protection of property transcending cultural, national or religious divides, I go back to the ICRC website where it states:

As far as principles are concerned, cultural property is to be respected and protected in its own right, as part of humanity’s common heritage and irrespective of the cultural tradition to which it belongs. The protection of such property therefore transcends cultural, national or religious divides.

This is found in the preamble from the 1954 convention. It continues:

The High Contracting Parties [...] convinced that damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind, since each people makes its contribution to the culture of the world—

Two questions remain: Does the protection of cultural property fall under the heading of international humanitarian law? Should the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement concern itself with the matter?

Its response to that question was:

Let us start with the first question: Does the protection of cultural property fall under the heading of international humanitarian law? Of this there can be no doubt.The destruction of cultural property is not aimed just at the object in question. When a cultural object is destroyed, it is always people who are the real target. The object itself does not provoke hostility.

Conversely, by protecting cultural property, one is attempting to protect not only monuments and objects but also a people's memory, its collective consciousness and its identity, and indeed the memory, consciousness and identity of all the individuals who make up that people. Ultimately we do not exist outside of our families and the social framework to which we belong.

The reason I raise that particular issue is that in Canada the first nations, the first people in Canada, have been subjected to cultural appropriation that has in effect been an effort to destroy their culture, their heritage, their social framework and their history. When we are looking at sanctions for Canadians who go abroad and bring back cultural artifacts from places of conflict, it would behoove us to also consider the impact on the first nations people here in Canada.

The Assembly of First Nations in July 1999 actually passed a motion asking for repatriation of first nations cultural property. I will not read the preamble, but the motion states in part:

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT The Assembly Of First Nations Re-Affirm The Importance Of Cultural Properties To First Nation Cultures;

And BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT The Assembly Of First Nations Approve The Efforts To Locate Items Of Cultural, Spiritual And Historical Value That Have Been Removed From The First Nations;

And BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED THAT The Chiefs-In-Assembly Hereby Endorse And Support The Efforts Of First Nations In The Repatriation Of Cultural Properties Currently Held In Foreign And Domestic Institutions.

My colleague from the Bloc talked about the importance of domestic policy when we are looking at repatriation of artifacts or when we are looking at protecting our own artifacts in Canada. This is a very good example of why it is absolutely critical that we look at it in a domestic context as well as in the foreign context.

In my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan we have a number of very proud first nations people. I want to speak specifically about the Cowichan people and the Hul'qumi'num treaty group which consists of a number of first nations including Chemainus, Cowichan, Halalt, Lake Cowichan, Lyackson and Penelakut. These first nations people have peopled the area for thousands and thousands of years. The six chiefs have agreed to a case study that looks at the kinds of cultural artifacts and cultural issues around repatriation. They are going to be exploring customary laws, traditions and rules about sacred and historically significant places, artifacts and human remains. In addition, they will be contributing to broader project objectives which are specifically designed to help Hul'qumi'num treaty group in better understanding and protecting their heritage sites and objects for future generations.

The Cowichan people have been involved with some of the people from Washington State in attempting to repatriate artifacts that are held in museums throughout the world. Currently the repatriation office of the National Museum of Natural History is looking at detailed reports in response to travel repatriation requests that summarize all the available information in its collections.

I have to wonder why it is that we continue to ask first nations communities to continue to struggle to repatriate their artifacts. Part of the challenge is that some of the museums have said to the first nations communities that they cannot give them their artifacts back unless they stick them in a museum. These are historical sacred objects that are critical to the ceremonial life of the community. It should be up to the community to determine whether or not those artifacts should be stuck in museums or whether they should become part of the ceremonial and sacred life within a community.

Potlatches are a good example. Way back people took artifacts that were used in potlatches. They were part of the ceremonial and spiritual life and they were taken out of Canada. They reside in museums throughout the world. Now when first nations communities ask for them back so that they can use them in their potlatch ceremonies, they are told they cannot have them back if they are actually going to use the artifacts. Surely it should be within the first nations people's right to determine how they are used.

When we are talking about repatriation, I would urge members to consider repatriation in the Canadian context as well.

I will close on that note. I encourage members in further discussions to consider the fact that our first nations people deserve a voice at the table when we are talking about repatriation of articles. We should not only be looking at the foreign issues.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question of the NDP member who just spoke.

As the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said, we support this bill on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. It states that it is prohibited to export or remove cultural property from occupied territory. So we support this bill. However, like the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, I am a bit concerned about the fact that the government does not always respect its international agreements. Think of the Kyoto protocol or the child protection question, as he said.

I am also concerned about something else, namely our own cultural property and heritage assets. In Quebec we could mention our churches and various culturally significant buildings that are often threatened with demolition. The government does not provide any assistance to ensure they continue to exist.

There are two parts to my question. First, is the NDP member concerned about the issue of respecting international conventions? Second, does she think that we should also make a sustained effort to preserve cultural property and heritage assets in our own provinces, where we ourselves live?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are in complete agreement with the Bloc in that the Liberal government continues to ignore conventions to which it signed on.

I only have to look at the convention for the elimination of discrimination against women, more commonly referred to as CEDAW. We have been cited on a number of different fronts for not living up to our agreement on that particular convention. There are other conventions as well where we have been cited as being in violation.

In fact, article 12 of the United Nations draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples is one where we have not moved far enough. There is a preamble on the first nations cultural heritage website in Canada which states:

Indigenous peoples have the right to practice and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, well as the right to restitution of taken without their free and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions and customs.

This is another international convention in draft form. It is another example of how we have not done enough in Canada to protect indigenous cultural artifacts.

Alert Bay is not in my riding, but Alert Bay has had a long struggle to repatriate many of the artifacts and potlatch items that would continue to be used in a ceremonial and traditional way. It is another example of how the peoples have been forced to have lengthy negotiations about returning these artifacts. Although some formal repatriation of these pieces started in 1998, we are talking about it taking decades in trying to have these artifacts returned to their communities.

It not only happens in museums. We continue to be faced with development in communities where there are burial sites. It is very difficult for the first nations to have their voices heard respectfully in these development applications. We are talking about burial sites, ancient remains of elders that are being disturbed. There is very little consultation and very little inclusion in a meaningful way. We talk about consultation, but it often is “we will send you a letter and tell you what is going on. If you get back to us in the timeframe fine, and if you do not, then so be it”. That is not consultation.

The elders need to be there. They need to have their oral history heard. They need to have their voices heard in terms of respectfully dealing with the artifacts and the remains of their elders.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Ruby Dhalla Liberal Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill S-37 and what it says about the values of Canadians to the world stage.

Bill S-37 really closes the legislative gaps and will clear the way for Canada to join the Hague protocols. In doing so it symbolizes Canada's commitment to multilateral efforts and organizations, organizations like UNESCO. It speaks volumes about our belief that there are common interests among all of the nations of the world and challenges that require collaborative effort.

We have seen on many occasions, most recently with the unfortunate tragedies of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the willingness and openness of Canadians to come to the aid of those who are in trouble, because we as Canadians ask ourselves, what if it happened to us? We know that we as Canadians are in the fortunate situation and position of being able to help.

It is this same spirit of mutual concern and responsibility that led Canada to actually introduce the concept of multinational peacekeeping forces at the UN in 1956, to fight for the establishment of an international criminal court and to play a major role in it. Canada provided leadership to ensure that this became a reality.

Canada has championed the international land mines treaty; Canada has committed to doubling its aid to Africa, because we all ask ourselves as Canadians, what if this were actually happening to us? We know that as Canadians this is simply the right thing to do.

Canadians really want and expect Canada to continue to conduct itself this way on the international stage to show leadership on issues of humanitarian concern, to ensure that we represent Canadians and Canadian values in areas of international cooperation for the greater good. It was in this spirit of the need for the nations of the world to unite for a common cause and to do the right thing that led us as Canadians to join the Hague convention. Joining the two protocols of the convention is also simply just the right thing to do.

Among the things that Bill S-37 will enable Canada to do is to really strengthen our ability to return important cultural objects when they have been taken away from their country of origin and its citizens when they are most vulnerable, in other words, when they are occupied during or as a result of armed conflict, when they are powerless to protect those parts of their heritage that are most important to them.

When a country emerges from such a situation, the return of important cultural objects can be a crucial step toward healing the hearts and spirits of the people. Canada has long recognized the central role played by culture in the identity of a country. What if this happened to us? We would want the nations of the world to ensure that they helped us recover what we had lost.

Bill S-37 will also allow us to prosecute Canadians who engage in such activities, such as those who play a role in illegal exports from occupied territories. Let me be clear. There is no evidence that Canadians are committing such acts. However, it is essential and imperative that we as a country send a signal to the world that Canada will not be a haven for those who do and that we have the means in our country to prosecute such crimes because once again, we think to ourselves, what if it were us?

We want other countries as well to help deter such acts and to punish those who commit them. Here we have the heart of what it means to join international agreements like the Hague protocols. It is not just about what one country is doing for another. It is about what we as a global community are really doing together. It is about the international community coming together, taking a stand and saying that this is wrong and we are going to work together collectively to stop it.

Canada has long been a leader in multinational efforts of various kinds that seek to rally a collective effort to do good on a variety of different initiatives. Canada has not been and is not afraid to stand with others to combat issues that are of a global nature, that are ultimately our world issues.

It is really the same spirit that has led Canada to support efforts at UNESCO to develop an international convention to protect cultural diversity, because it is the business of all countries together and it is an initiative and an effort that truly requires international cooperation, cooperation that we have seen in so many international initiatives and humanitarian relief efforts that have already taken place.

I strongly believe that the more countries that join the Hague protocols, the more weight they will carry and the more effective they will be in protecting the world's heritage, our heritage at a time when it is most vulnerable. I urge us as Canadians and here in the House to really do the right thing once more and clear the way for Canada to join he Hague protocols. I urge us to collectively support Bill S-37.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.


Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many more speakers there will be on the bill but I am certainly pleased to add a few comments of my own before it moves on through the legislative process.

As has already been pointed out, the bill is an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Cultural Property Export and Import Act. The summary of the bill that is distributed says, among other things, and act to amend the Criminal Code to prohibit certain offences, including theft, robbery, mischief and arson against cultural property protected under the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. These amendments would allow for the prosecution of these offences when committed outside of Canada by Canadians.

The bill would do a number of things that are ancillary to that as well to expand on this country's commitment and, indeed, the world community's commitment to protect cultural works and to protect particularly against offences that take place against them and, in this case, by Canadians.

It is always and it always has been a somewhat tricky business in the world to project one's own set of values, one's own set of laws outside the boundaries of our own country.

, I was reading over the weekend that this is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. One of the outcomes of the Battle of Trafalgar was, according to this article, that it allowed the Royal Navy to project the English common law, the British Admiralty law basically right around the world. After that point it was generally acknowledged that the Royal Navy would not or could not be challenged to any great extent, so with the export of British influence through its navy, also came its laws.

We will see in the decades subsequent to that , instances that are very similar to the ones that we are dealing with in this particular bill. There were individuals who may have been picked up for a crime outside of the country. If they were a British subject, they may have been taken back to Britain to stand trial. Crimes against property could be prosecuted. The laws of the sea were promulgated.

Interestingly enough, one of the byproducts was that many countries, which had no connection to Britain or which were completely outside the British orbit, adopted many of the laws and principles just for the orderly traffic on the sea and for the betterment perhaps of their own causes, that if they adopted certain rules between countries it worked for the better.

For instance, one of the rules was that a country was able to own and control three miles off its territorial boundary. For many countries that had nothing to do with Britain and, indeed, did not have imperial measurements, would use the three mile limit to order the relationships between themselves because it sort of made sense and made for a more workable relationship.

In many ways, what happened in the 1800s was the idea that might was right. Might was not always wrong but if a country were strong enough, it could project its laws around the world. It did not just apply to the laws of the sea. It did not apply even to the English common law. For those who study law in common law jurisdictions, as the province of Ontario is, they will see many instances throughout the world where civil cases arise and end up getting looked after and decided in an English court.

Indeed, there was a doctrine promulgated by the English Court of Appeal at some point which said that the doors to the King's courts were open to the world. If we had a commercial transaction and we were not satisfied with the local jurisdiction, we could, under certain circumstances, have that heard in an English court and get a decision. It seemed to work out well.

However the world is a lot more complicated place than it was in the decades after the Battle of Trafalgar. One of the positive things that has happened in the last century is the development of international protocols that help establish the working relationships between countries and spell out the obligations that individuals have in peace time and in war.

I find the legislation that Canada is signing on to very interesting. As a nation we are committing to saying that Canadians who get involved in the destruction, theft or arson of cultural pieces can be prosecuted and brought back to this country where they can face a Canadian court. That is a good thing and I do not think anyone would disagree with that.

I have only made about two comments on this. A couple of Canadian veterans of World War II made it very clear to me that on a careful reading of the history of World War II, and I think that can be said of all Canada's participation in armed conflicts, I would see that Canadians are not the problem. They said that it was not us who created some of the atrocities and some of the cultural degradation for which there is evidence.

I agreed with those veterans when they said that it was not us who did some of these things. I appreciate that but the laws apply to everyone and mistakes are made by people of all nationalities and all countries. It seems to me that it is a leadership role that Canadians can play by adopting legislation such as this.

The other issue that was raised with me is that war, in and of itself, by definition, is a messy business and damage does take place. The individuals who were familiar with this bill and discussed it with me wanted assurances, and I think we can give those assurances, that we are not talking about the kind of collateral damage that can happen in an armed conflict. There can be destruction of property, and that can include cultural pieces and that is understood, but, in my reading of the bill, that is not what we are getting at.

I think overall this is a step in the right direction. I guess if I had any quarrel with this it would be the quarrel I have with a great deal of Criminal Code legislation, which is that there is no uniformity in the sentencing and the seriousness of an offence.

This bill is a perfect example of a case that I have made a number of times over the years. It says, among other things, that an individual who commits mischief against cultural property, which includes things like destruction, theft, illegal importation, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a prison term of up to 10 years.

If people want to steal art or destroy art in some other country, the Government of Canada says that they could get up to 10 years. One may ask what the problem is with that. My problem with that is when it is taken in relation to other offences defined by the government, it seems to me that it does not measure up with the seriousness with which I view other offences.

I will give an example. The House, indeed, the Canadian Parliament, is having a look at another bill known as Bill C-49 which is trafficking in persons. I believe that bill is before the Senate. The bill purports to make it a crime to traffic in human beings, to kidnap human beings or to press other human beings into slavery. This of course is a terrible problem. The United Nations estimates that over 700,000, mainly women and children, are trafficked annually around the world into this type of slavery and yet it is a little disappointing to me, although I do support the intent of the bill and bills like this have to go forward.

I would just point out that one of the offences created in that bill says, among other things, that if a person withholds or destroys documents, if a person permits or facilitates the commission of a trafficking offence, the person would be liable to a sentence of five years.

Let me back up for a second to the individual who assists in the importation of a person for the purposes of slavery. A person who destroys documents, who aids and abets this type of crime, is liable for an offence of five years. Do not get me wrong. I abhor any individual who would destroy a work of art, but in terms of the seriousness of these offences, those individuals who are into the importation and the enslavement of individuals are much worse offenders, in my opinion, and the sentences should be apportioned accordingly.

To be fair, it is not easy. I was a parliamentary secretary to the justice minister a little over four years ago. It was a little tricky. I remember trying to make sure, to the extent that I was able to in that role, that the penalties matched the seriousness of other offences within the Criminal Code. Indeed, there were individuals who used to suggest to us that we should start all over again with the Criminal Code, that we should start from square one and take all the offences, update them and make sure that the penalties corresponded with the seriousness.

Other than that reservation, and it is something that I just point out, quite frankly, I think the legislation should proceed. I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to say a few words on it.