Mr. Speaker, diamonds are forever as they say, but life is not. Today we are speaking about a very important topic, Bill S-36, a bill to amend the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act.
This bill provides controls for the export, import and transit across Canada of rough diamonds. Most rough diamonds in the world are actually mined, bought and sold in very ethical ways and people are enriched by them. However, a small percentage of rough diamonds are behind devastating consequences in some of the poorest areas of the world. This causes incredible hardship. Death, murder, dismemberment, rape and torture are driven in part by the desire of some despotic leaders to use the diamonds, seldom legally, for their own ends. They have driven conflicts as far away as Sierra Leone, the Congo, Liberia and Angola. The consequence has been the murder of millions of people, and the torture, mutilation and rape of others.
I was in Sierra Leone a couple of years ago, and I will give an example of why we are here to pass Bill S-36. In Sierra Leone some years ago, the president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, a despotic murderous man hired a psychotic person by the name of Foday Sanko to march into Sierra Leone. With 700 people he marched into that impoverished country. He went through the villages and abducted the children. He indoctrinated those children to murder. He told them that if they did not do what he said, they would be beaten, raped or killed.
Those children became an army of child soldiers and caused the death in Sierra Leone of some quarter million people and the mutilation of many others. Those children were forced to march into villages. They would line up the villagers and ask them, “Right or left?” meaning which arm or leg should be chopped off. Those children would go down the line with machetes and hack off the arms or legs of those people, adults and children, young and old, and leave them bleeding to death on the ground.
Charles Taylor wanted to acquire the diamond resources of Sierra Leone for his own ends. These diamonds were trafficked around the world before the year 2000 and drove those conflicts. Diamonds from West Africa have also supported the coffers of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. This bill is intended to stop the moneys and resources from those blood diamonds driving terrorist activities and conflicts in other parts of the world.
I would like to give compliments and accolades to our ambassador Robert Fowler and his team from the Department of Foreign Affairs who worked tirelessly around the world in an exhaustive series of travels to countries to start what we now know as the Kimberley process. That process was started by Canada in conjunction with other countries that were also concerned about this, and indeed today we have this process. This bill will go a long way to strengthening that process.
In order for us as a country to follow through on our commitments and implement the Kimberley process certification scheme on a solid legal foundation, our government established the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act which came into force on January 1, 2003. The act provides the ability for us to verify natural rough diamonds that are exported from Canada and make sure that they are non-conflict. It also gives the authority to verify that every shipment of a natural rough diamond entering Canada is accompanied by a Kimberley certificate. This process now includes 45 participants around the world and it represents more than 99% of those that are dealing with diamonds.
The implementation of the Kimberley Process has demonstrated significant benefits. I refer again to Sierra Leone. In 2000 the value of diamonds sold by Sierra Leone was $10 million. In 2003 that number jumped to $130 million. Why? Because we can track those diamonds. Instead of diamonds leaving that impoverished country, they can now be used by the government of the country for the benefit of its people.
Tragically, this demonstrates that in sub-Saharan Africa, which controls 40% of the world's natural resources, an inverse relationship exists between resources and the wealth of the country and its people. The more natural resources a country generally has, the poorer the people because most of the resources are not used properly to benefit the people. They are not used for the infrastructure, health care and education needs of the populace. The moneys have generally been stolen.
The bill would enable countries to utilize their resources for poverty reduction, education, health care and infrastructure. Investments in these areas must occur in order to create the investment climate that would attract private resources to these countries.
Aid will not enable these countries to get out of poverty. They need stable government structure, anti-corruption activities, critical infrastructure development and a harnessing of the private sector to invest and utilize their resources. The profits could then be put toward the critical needs of their people. The poverty cycle will be broken that way. Developing countries will get off the aid bandwagon and provide for themselves, which is all their people want.
We started mine production in Canada a few years ago. By 2004, the net production of diamonds was an enormous $2.1 billion. We are now, by value, the third ranking country in the world in diamond production, and our diamond producing sector will increase as time passes.
This legislation also is important for our country in terms of where this resource is being utilized and who will benefit, the north in particular and aboriginal communities. It also is important for value-added production in polishing and cutting diamonds, which we have now started to do in places like Yellowknife, Vancouver and Toronto. A number of aboriginal apprentices also have been trained to do this. Not only are we mining diamonds, but we are also providing value-added here at home.
Because the Kimberley Process is in its early phase of operation, shortcomings occur. Our goal is to prevent those shortcomings from happening. That is why the government produced this bill.
There are two amendments to the act. The first one involves a provision to enable the publication of Canadian import-export statistics. The second amendment involves the definition of a rough diamond. Essentially, we will get the power to exclude certain diamonds, those being less than one millimetre, which have no bearing whatsoever on the illegal blood diamond trade. Canada was one of the first countries to start this process so we must lead by example. We need to implement these amendments to be in concert with other signatories.
This certification scheme is built on a consensus. There has been consultation with the private sector. A mining working group is involved right now in developing the standards. We have consulted with this group as part of the production of the bill.
Both the diamond industry and the diamond cutting and polishing industry are dependent on an export market. We need to ensure the bill passes forthwith for our own domestic needs. We need to understand that the bill is important for the mining industry. It also is important in terms of a humanitarian capacity.
When I was in Sierra Leone, I had a chance to visit an amputee clinic in Freetown. It is probably beyond the scope of most people to understand and envision what it is like to see hundreds of people living in abject squalor, many who have had their limbs cut off.
I remember visiting a woman in a hut. She had one child with her. The rest of her family, more than six people, had been murdered by child soldiers. People have been hacked to death. People who were in the amputee clinic in Sierra Leone had their limbs chopped off because of blood diamonds. They were working to simply eke out an existence. They had rudimentary prostheses for hands or stumps for either hands or legs. These people either died or were mutilated because of blood diamonds. It is happening again today.
If we look at the Congo, people are still being murdered. More than six countries have their fingers in the eastern Congo. These countries are there not only because they want diamonds, but they want to acquire, extract and hold on to the ample resources in that country as well, a country which has seen more than 2 million people murdered.
The reason for those conflicts is resources. Most of the conflicts taking place in sub-Sahara Africa today are not because of tribal differences, but because of resources.
While it has its religious overtones, the primary driver of the conflict in southern Sudan is resources. Oil, gold, timber and other natural resources can be found in there. The venal government in Khartoum wants to retain control over those resources, despite what we have heard of late.
This is what drove that conflict for 18 years and saw the murder of 2 million civilians and the expulsion of more than 4 million people. Six countries in the region of the Congo have their mucky hands in that area. They want to control the valuable natural resources in that part of the world. What happens to the civilians? The Congolese civilians are innocent people who simply want to lead their lives without conflict. However, they see the meddling from outside to acquire and control those resources. Those countries use those resources to fuel their own ends and to enrich their pockets.
This is not an academic exercise either for us in the west. We know the money that fuels al-Qaeda's ability to engage in terrorist activities all over the world is driven in part by the sale of blood diamonds from west Africa.
This is why we need to pass Bill S-36. The bill goes to the heart of a much larger initiative by the Government of Canada called the responsibility to protect. Our Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Canada's team at the United Nations this year drove the responsibility to protect, much to the dismay and opposition of many who did not want the responsibility to protect. They do not want to be anywhere near the panoply of United Nations treaties that have been signed. They do not want to be held accountable in the world.
We have put forth the first step. Now the responsibility to protect must be married with something else, and that is an obligation to act and prevent genocide. We have to prevent the genocide that has occurred and will occur in the future. Genocide is one of the most vexing and challenging problems in the world today. The international community has signed a myriad of treaties, from the prevention of genocide, to covenants against torture, protecting children, against child soldiers. We have a responsibility to enforce those. Right now we do not have a responsibility to act or to enforce. This is the teeth required to save lives and prevent genocide.
We all know what has happened and continues to happen in Darfur today, where innocent people are being murdered, raped and tortured. Sudan is not alone.
Blood diamonds are being trafficked in the Ivory Coast. I was in the Ivory Coast this summer and it is apocalyptic. It was a jewel of West Africa. It was truly horrific to go through the streets of Abidjan. Everything was shut down. Children with automatic weapons are hauling people out every kilometre and taking their moneys. A conflict and a war will happen there within the next six months to a year. The world has an opportunity to prevent it.
Blood diamonds are being trafficked through Abidjan, through the Ivory Coast to fuel that and other conflicts. We cannot allow that to happen. That is why Bill S-36 is so critically important. That is why we take it to heart. That is why Parliament should adopt, embrace and pass the bill forthwith.
It is about Canada. It is about ensuring and enabling our mining industries to continue. It is about saving lives, not only here but half a world away as well. Those people are simply pawns caught in a bloody crossfire and they are subjected to the most heinous atrocities imaginable. We can help do that by not supporting terrorist activities that would use diamonds and other resources to fuel their anarchistic activities.
It may seem academic perhaps for us. It may seem trite perhaps or common for us to read about this. However, I can speak from personal experience. I met many child soldiers in southern Sudan, Sierra Leone and in other parts of the world. Those children are victims too. What they have been forced to do, in the name of acquiring blood diamonds and other resources for adult leaders, is heinous.
I am thankful, and I think most Canadians are too, that Ambassador Fowler and public servants of the Department of Foreign Affairs public took it upon themselves some years ago to try to address the issue. At that time, Angola, about which Ambassador Fowler felt very passionately, was an area with vast oil resources, and still is. However, it is an area that conflict has been destroying and eviscerating. Millions of people have died, or have been murdered or tortured. In part blood diamonds have driven that. The diamonds, which went through Antwerp and Tel Aviv, were sold and the money from them used to purchase arms.
I have seen young children with brand new automatic weapons that were purchased by these resources. This is a profound tragedy not only for them and the victims but for the countries as well. The resources are not being utilized for the benefit of their country.
We have had debates about the 0.7% in international aid. We know the real benefits for developing countries, most of which have vast resources, is not the aid that will go to them or 0.7%. It is about enabling those countries to have a stable government, good macro and micro economic policies and a judiciary that is fair, open and independent. It is about a country willing to have a regime that attracts foreign investment so the resources can be sustainably utilized, the profits of which can be used in large part to drive a sensible government and sensible policies for their people.
That direction is articulated a report commissioned by the United Nations about 2003. The report articulates the importance of the utilization of natural resources for the benefit of developing countries. In the confines of that document, exist the ways in which these countries can severe their ties to the west, the aid, and dependent cycle and become self-sufficient for their people. Botswana did it. It was able to utilize its diamonds in a responsible way by having a solid government that invested appropriately. It should be used as an example of a country that has utilized its resources wisely.
I beseech the House to pass the bill forthwith. It is critically important not only for our mining industry but to save lives in other parts of the world.