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House of Commons Hansard #154 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was property.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

November 21st, 2005 / 12:20 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women and Minister responsible for Industry (Women Entrepreneurs)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the critic for the official opposition, for her support on the bill in committee. It gives me an opportunity to say that one of the wonderful things about sitting on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage is that we really look at how important heritage is to Canadians and internationally and that many times we are able to put our partisanship aside and concentrate on those things that are important to Canadians, heritage being one of them.

The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île asked a very good question today. It was one of the questions that was raised at committee as to why it had taken us so long because it was 1954. It was an important question to discuss.

The heritage critic of the official opposition also raised a number of questions during committee, which I think would be important to share with colleagues and perhaps the Canadian public. One of the questions she asked had to do with the effect the legislation would have on the military.

Canadians and members of the House should also know that another question raised at committee concerned whether or not the legislation would somehow affect the Elgin marbles and whether retroactivity would be involved. It is important to look at that.

The committee also talked about the terrible image, which we will all remember, of the Buddhas being destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Perhaps the hon. member could share some of the answers and some of the discussions we had at committee.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for this opportunity to expand on the discussion that occurred at the heritage committee.

We all agree that this is a very important piece of legislation that has to be passed. Consequently, I wanted to make sure that we had thoroughly explored all aspects of it.

I know that within the military there are obligations regarding cultural properties that already exist and therefore, I asked for clarification on how this bill would work with those existing obligations. We were told that this bill not only complements what the military has as an obligation, but it enhances the obligation of the military and of all Canadian citizens and the Canadian judicial system. That makes very good sense because we are not replacing one with the other. In fact, we are strengthening our obligations to the international community.

I was assured by the department and the people who have studied this piece of legislation thoroughly that the retroactivity would not necessarily apply. We all have heard stories about past conflicts where cultural objects have been seen under certain circumstances as trophies to bring home if people were able to access such objects from another country during times of conflict.

I suggest in the terms of this legislation that would be an acquisition in good faith and there would be no retroactivity for those properties.

When we look at this bill and the conflicts that are happening in various countries and states that have a rich tradition of cultural heritage, I think it will help the world enhance the protection going forward.

My party has no problem with this bill and is pleased to support it.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I asked the hon. member a question earlier as to why it took Canada so long to adopt, sign and ratify the 1954 convention and protocols.

I asked this question because I was looking at the conventions and protocols a few weeks ago when we started talking about them. I noticed that Canada was missing from the May 14, 1954 convention until December 11, 1998, unlike countless other developing countries and European countries. Great Britain is missing from it. I know why.

The veil may have just been slightly lifted on the reasons why Canada did not ratify the convention sooner, but later I will ask my colleague to elaborate on why it took Canada so long to do so.

Canada, which says it took a leadership role in improving the protocol, had not taken adequate measures for signing it even though it was drafted in 1954, following World War II. I am not on the committee and have not done any in-depth research on the matter, so I would simply like to know why. This is the quite the opposite of taking a leadership role.

For the benefit of those who are listening to us, I want to talk about the significance of Bill S-37. This bill amends the Criminal Code and the Cultural Property Export and Import Act to allow Canada to fully implement the protocols and the convention that have been in effect since 1954 and 1999 respectively.

In its most recent version, this convention is a critical tool to protect the world's cultural heritage, which is constantly threatened by destruction or looting during armed conflicts.

The 1954 convention was established based on the problems experienced during the second world war, but since then other types of conflicts have developed and proliferated, either between countries, or internally between various groups representing different cultures. This is why, in some cases, the destruction and looting of cultural property was dramatic, as we saw in the Balkans, during the nineties.

The proposed legislation will allow the government to prosecute any Canadian who steals cultural property of great importance abroad, or who is responsible for its destruction.

The bill also provides a recovery process for cultural property that is illegally exported.

In so doing, this legislation is consistent with the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, under which individuals who committed crimes during an armed conflict can be prosecuted.

Incidentally, the Bloc Québécois strongly supported that legislation, back in 2000. But I want to go back to my finding. While it is true that Canada was a leader in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, it remains a mystery to me why Canada has really been dragging its feet when it comes to amending Canadian laws, so that these protocols can be signed and ratified.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code to prohibit, in particular, robbery, mischief and arson against cultural property protected under the 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. The bill allows for the prosecution of such offences when committed outside Canada by Canadians. It also amends the Cultural Property Export and Import Act to prohibit Canadians from illegally exporting or otherwise removing protected cultural property from an occupied territory. Finally, the bill allows for the prosecution of such offences when committed outside Canada by Canadians and provides a mechanism for the restitution of cultural property.

In fact, there is a lot we could say about this unfortunate practice or tradition, which goes back to ancient times, of destroying or stealing cultural property by countries that took them supposedly to better ensure their protection. I have already spoken in the House on a bill to help Greece recover treasures that the British decided they were better able to protect. Clearly, the world's cultural heritage is threatened by wars and the multiplication and refinement of extremely destructive long-range and remote weapons. This was the case after the second world war—and that is why a convention was drafted. But this is also true since the definition of the new types of threats resulting from the significant increase in non-international conflicts.

I understand that, with regard to such non-international conflicts, it is essential for the countries whose nationals commit cultural property crimes to take action. I understand that the international community will increasingly demand this with regard to all types of crime committed abroad. This is desirable in many areas, including the misuse of water in Africa by mining companies that leave behind a trail of environmental destruction, when they have finished mining activities.

We remember what happened in the old city of Dubrovnik, during the Bosnian war, or rather the Balkan war, and the destruction of the Mostar bridge, churches, synagogues and mosques. These are not only exceptional world heritage cultural property sites, but they are closely linked to the cultural roots of a number of peoples.

So awareness of this new kind of war has led to changes in the Hague convention of 1954. Consequently, a second and stricter protocol, as my colleague said, was created in 1999.

The second protocol creates a new series of measures, including an intergovernmental committee for the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, a fund to assist the states parties in implementing the protocol, and a new and stronger system for the protection of cultural property. As well, it makes some clarifications and sets out precise obligations as far as legal proceedings in the event of violations of the convention and its protocols are concerned.

The purpose of the bill we have before us is to modify the way Canada fulfills certain of its obligations under the convention and its protocols. A state party is, for example, required to adopt the following protective measures: forbid, prevent and put an end to any act of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, or acts of vandalism directed against cultural property protected under the convention; take any necessary penal or disciplinary measure against anyone who has committed or conspired to commit an offence under the convention; implement the penal provisions of chapter 4 and the second protocol; prevent any illicit export, other removal or transfer of ownership of cultural property; on cessation of hostilities, restore to the authorities of the country of origin the exported cultural property.

One may well wonder how any state party is going to be able to implement this protocol even with the act in place. For it to be implemented, embassies and consulates just about everywhere will have to be given more means. The armed forces will need to have clear directives. As well, those going into countries where there is armed conflict or war and who might want to bring home some souvenir to put on their own bookshelf or give to friends or grandchildren will need to be made aware of this.

This protocol is a long time coming, but we must pay tribute to the spirit and the law which will make it possible for Canada to ensure compliance by its citizens.

One of the main means for its application is, of course, clause 1 of the bill, which amends the definition of Attorney General in order to enable proceedings to be undertaken.

The definition of the offences is also important. I will read clause 2.01.

Despite anything in this Act or any other Act, a person who commits an act or omission outside Canada that if committed in Canada would constitute an offence under section 322, 341, 344, 380, 430 or 434 in relation to cultural property as defined in Article 1 of the Convention, or a conspiracy or an attempt to commit such an offence, or being an accessory after the fact or counselling in relation to such an offence, is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada if the person

(a) is a Canadian citizen;

(b) is not a citizen of any state and ordinarily resides in Canada; or

(c) is a permanent resident within the meaning of subsection 2(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and is, after the commission of the act or omission, present in Canada.

This is a powerful clause, but it is demanding at the same time.

Clause 3 of the bill provides that everyone who commits mischief in relation to cultural property is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Clause 4 adds a section to the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, entitled “Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocols”. It states that it is prohibited to export or remove cultural property from an occupied territory of a State party to the second protocol. It also describes action for the recovery of the cultural property, and the court may make an order in that regard.

Canada has more obligations, however. The convention and its two protocols do entail a number of obligations which are not set out in the bill, which only focusses on the criminal aspects of the protection of cultural property. Given that the government is likely not to consult Parliament before signing the protocol, consideration of this bill is the only opportunity afforded parliamentarians to examine Canada's preparedness to fulfil its obligations. Ultimately, we know that, for historical reasons, our time is short.

I will provide an example of the obligations that Canada agrees to honour, which are not set out in the bills. Here then is one of the obligations the contracting parties must honour. They shall, for example, undertake to prepare for the safeguarding of cultural property situated within their own territory by taking inventories, planning emergency measures against the risk of fire or building collapse, preparing for the removal of moveable or immovable property, proper protection of it and the designation of competent authorities responsible for its safeguard. What has the government done in this regard?

Here is another obligation. In time of war, the contracting parties shall protect cultural property located in occupied territory, and, insofar as possible, take the measures needed to preserve it.

The Canadian armed forces are regularly required to operate in areas where there is a risk of pillage or destruction of cultural property. These duties require, therefore, that significant measures be taken to make the military familiar with the convention. More money will of course be required and, more importantly, the military will have to be accountable as will all persons entering these areas, given the obligation not only to prevent and remedy but to foresee as well.

So, this is an important moment. This Parliament is finally agreeing to acquire the means to comply with this second strengthened protocol to safeguard world cultural heritage threatened, not only by the environment, which is another dimension, but by wars and the various conflicts occurring in the world and some parties more than others. We might consider the example of Africa, whose cultural treasures were pillaged and not only during a time of conflict. Other continents besides Africa have also been pillaged, of course.

At the moment, we are concentrating on the huge damage caused by war and conflict, and we want to prevent it from recurring.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her support for the bill.

I want to comment on the several reasons we had not signed earlier.

During the cold war we were not sure that eastern bloc countries in particular would live up to the terms and the spirit of such an agreement. In fact, they might have used it to inhibit our work and that of our other allies, the United States and the U.K., in times of conflict. They could have hidden behind the convention with respect to historic buildings.

As well, the second protocol was a very complicated legal format. We had check it with a number of existing laws, such as the Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act and the National Defence Act, which cover a number of the provisions. We had to make sure that we had the acts and legislation in place so that we could sign it. This is always the way that Canada enters into these international agreements.

It is not that we have not shown leadership. There have been other conventions and international agreements to protect heritage to which we have been a party. We are part of the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its protocol 1, which prohibits the international targeting of cultural property and its use in the support of military operations. Also, in terms of engagement for our military, there has always been very strong leadership and an understanding in their training that they cannot target cultural properties.

I hope that adds a bit more comfort to the member as to the evolution of Canada's support in an orderly fashion to these protocols.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his attempt at a justification. I understand that he is uncomfortable as well. If, like me, he has consulted the conventions, namely the Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, dated May 14, 1954, he will have noticed that Canada is not mentioned at all. There are three pages in the protocol listing the main European countries and the developing countries.

I used to be a history teacher. If I had the time, I would try to find out why Canada did not do what was legally necessary to ratify this protocol. I still have not gotten an answer and I would really like to. Perhaps my opposition colleagues have an answer.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I must say that, as usual, my colleague gave a very enlightening presentation. Not only was she once a history teacher, but she is now our resident historian.

In this context, I would like to expand the debate we are having on this protocol. She mentioned, and rightly so, that Canada dragged its feet. However, this is not the only area where Canada drags its feet. Look at the International Labour Organization conventions. The hon. member is well aware of what I am talking about since she was the vice-president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions.

Globally, despite what the Liberal government and the Minister of Foreign Affairs might say, Canada is far from being a leader. I would like the hon. member to elaborate on how the situation has changed. For instance, under the leadership of Mr. Pearson, Canada managed to achieve some renown, but now we are known as a country that is not even of moderate importance on the international scene.

I would like the hon. member to comment on that.

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12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague thinks highly of me, but I cannot give him a specific answer. I can only share his observation.

I remember an individual who was once our colleague and whom I can now name: John Manley. At times, he had a very abrupt way of speaking. Quite rightly, he said that Canada's international reputation was based on its past efforts and that, now, it was nothing more than a pale reflection of what it once was.

In fact, the regret that many people have about Canada's former role as a leader can be heard not in official speeches but rather in numerous discussions behind the scenes. Just recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was talking forcefully about reforming the United Nations. International aid is an important issue. Kofi Annan has called on all nations to contribute 0.7% of GDP by 2015 in order to effectively fight poverty. Canada wanted to tell people how to reform the United Nations, but it has failed to make this commitment.

I want to thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to repeat that fact.

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12:55 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Minister responsible for Status of Women and Minister responsible for Industry (Women Entrepreneurs)

Madam Speaker, let me begin by thanking the member for her party's support on this legislation. I certainly have tremendous respect for the member opposite in her role as the foreign affairs critic for her party.

During her speech, the member noted that the U.K. has not signed this protocol. If we looked at the list, we would find that no other G-8 country has signed this protocol. Perhaps I could ask the member to look at that.

The member mentioned that we had passed the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act in 2002. It is important that members realize it was that piece of legislation that allowed us to put in place the legal framework to prosecute Canadians for committing acts outside our jurisdiction. To be fair, it is important to note that one of the reasons we could not sign this convention in 1954 was that we did not have the legal framework in place.

The U.K. has not signed the protocol, nor has the United States. I ask the member in her capacity as the foreign affairs critic for her party, does her party feel that because the U.S. has not signed the protocol, it will affect our relations with the United States? I would like her perception of the U.S. not signing this convention.

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12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Madam Speaker, I will, however, tell my colleague that France, Italy and Russia have signed it.

Here too, history is telling. The United States and Great Britain have not signed it, but I cannot understand why Canada failed to signed. No matter whether we refer to the Pearson years or the Trudeau years, Canada made a point of adopting its own foreign policy, and took significant risks. Why did Canada not sign, even if the United States and Great Britain did not? As I said, France and Italy did sign. There is no real reason. This Parliament, in any case, does not seem to know why, nor does my colleague opposite. We will ask the academics to enlighten us on this count.

One thing, however, is clear. Nothing explains Canada's failure to give a firm commitment to contribute 0.7% of GDP by 2015, to fight poverty and reach the millennium goals. No doubt, the member will agree with me on this.

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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour for me to speak to Bill S-37, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Cultural Property Export and Import Act.

Today's discussion is very profound in light of the circumstances in which we find ourselves internationally. What comes out of today's debate has to be the springboard to a larger discussion about how we are actually going to move forward as a country to ensure that what we bring forward in the House is implemented on an international scale.

We are discussing two issues in terms of the Hague protocol. One is the older issue of looting and war. Looting has been an intricate part of war since time immemorial. Many empires were built on the art brought back from war. This goes from Alexander's time on. Members know the old expression “to the victor goes the spoils”. We have to put this in the context of modern looting which is much more deliberate and has to be looked at in terms of the breakdown of international order.

The other issue we are discussing today is the destruction of cultural identity and the planned and deliberate cultural destruction of memory. When we are talking about heritage and describing specific sites, we are talking about the repositories of a community or a social group's living memory. It is a very profound thing. To deliberately target and try to erase that memory has profound implications both politically and socially.

We are very much aware in the 20th century of the targeting of memory in order to control history and the future. This was very much a part of what the Nazis and the Communists did. Orwell wrote about the erasing of memory, the erasing of what happened and replacing it with fictitious facts. He talked about this in the context of Spain where the Communists and the Fascists first faced off against each other.

Orwell said that he who controls history controls the truth. We are now talking about something profoundly different. When we move from the battle of political ideologies or the battle between political nations toward the battle between cultural groups, the issue of erasing becomes much more important. It is not a matter of the old example of the May Day parade and who was cut out of the picture and erased from the Soviet general's staff never to be mentioned again. We are talking about removing the on the ground facts of an entire way of being. For example, in Dubrovnik a bridge that was built in the 1500s to represent the power of a civilization was deliberately targeted. That says to those people that they were never here. It says that they had no right to be here. It says that they have no claim on the land now. That is a very profound thing.

We talk about memory and identity. I would like to place this in context. Memory and identity are fundamental to the ability of a people to partake culturally and politically in their space in the world.

Neil Postman wrote in terms of our own culture that in the digital age of 24/7 television, we had basically lost our ability to look to cultural references or to look to history to have a context. He said that it is not that we refuse to remember; rather we are being rendered unfit to remember. For memory to have any value, it needs a context or a metaphor.

In cultures where their sense of memory is based on a building, a church, a synagogue, or a museum, where people can say that is the living repository of their memory, for another nation, another ethnic group or a banded army to deliberately attack and destroy that is not just an attack on that community but it is an attack on the fundamentals of human civilization. What we have seen since the second world war is a major transformation in how these wars are fought.

There was deliberate destruction of certain ethnic identities during the second world war, but on the whole, it was basically wholesale looting. What we have seen in the latter half of the 20th century and definitely going into the 21st century is deliberate destruction. The whole notion of ethnic cleansing is not simply to remove people from a village, but their well water is destroyed or poisoned, and their land is seeded with explosives so that they cannot return. Where there was a living community, a wasteland is created. Part of that process is the destruction of the libraries, the destruction of the churches, the mosques and the synagogues. Yes, we do need a law which says that these are crimes against humanity, that these are crimes that cannot stand. We should have the power as a nation to go after the perpetrators of these crimes.

In the modern age, the question we have to ask ourselves, and my one question with the bill is where are the teeth behind it? When we look at the nations and the bandit states that are perpetrating these atrocities, by the time we get down to the fact that they are destroying Buddhist temples that are a thousand years old or cultural artifacts, they have already committed so many crimes that we tend not to even place the cultural destruction on the level where it needs to be. That has to change. The destruction of cultural identity has to be a number one priority in dealing with the modern bandit states.

Another question I would like to raise, and this is where it becomes more germane to our own communities in Canada, is how are we dealing with international looting of cultural artifacts that have been obtained in war? This is a very profound issue because it puts us on a direct collision course with our two traditional allies. The two countries that will not sign on, the United States and the United Kingdom, are now overseeing the complete running of a country that was mercilessly looted.

If we are talking about cultural crimes in the last generation, the fact is that under shock and awe, the entire library, the historic memory of Iraq was allowed to be looted and destroyed while the U.S. army stood by. The U.S. army was securing the oil buildings, but it allowed the destruction of the Iraqi museum. We are not just talking about one museum. We are talking about the cradle of civilization, the original land of Ur, the land where writing first began, the land in the Mesopotamian Valley where the first seeds were sown and the agricultural economy was built up.

We read the stories, many of them written by Canadian journalists who were there at the time of the looting to see fragments of ancient artifacts spilled all over the ground. Artifacts that are irreplaceable, artifacts that no other civilization has managed to collect were basically thrown out on the streets while the U.S. army stood there and did nothing. We are talking about the destruction not just of Iraq's memory, but of our entire cultural memory going back to the beginning of civilization. That is a crime. It is a war crime.

We are also talking about the fact that only two nations, the United States and the U.K., are basically treating Iraq as their own personal fiefdom. There is no international body there to oversee, so what are we to expect? We are to expect that their soldiers, their officials can be part of this massive large scale looting of a cultural identity. Where do we stand up in terms of going after these people?

The hon. member from the Conservative Party said that we have to be careful about people who buy products in good faith. There is a black market for the illegal selling of historic artifacts. Buyers know what these artifacts are. They know their value and they know how to get them. In the same way we talk about blood diamonds, we are talking about blood artifacts, artifacts stolen from a culture and which are being sold on the international market and no one has the ability to intercede to protect these artifacts. We need some clear laws in place to go after those people. We should be able to go after them mercilessly.

The other issue that has to be raised in terms of the decisions that our southern neighbours are taking now toward unilateral invasions of other countries is that we need people on the ground to assess the cultural properties when these invasions occur or soon after the invasions occur to make sure that there is not a black market infrastructure that grows and sells these products to European, American or Canadian buyers. Once these products are stolen, once these collections are destroyed, there is no rebuilding of them.

The New Democratic Party will support Bill S-37. However, we would like to state that we need to take this bill seriously enough that we are actually going to put some teeth and some money behind it, so that our international presence is seen as protecting cultural identities. We have to ensure that the ongoing theft of artifacts from all over the world, including Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq does not continue.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, there was a quote earlier which basically stated the principle of importance, that the world's cultural heritage has to be preserved and passed on to future generations and will require a multilateral effort. Canada was not part of the agreement until 1999. The United States and the U.K. are still not part of the agreement.

I have a question for the hon. member. What message should Canada be giving to the Americans and the British in this regard to reinforce the messaging that it is going to take a multilateral effort, and that without their participation this is not going to happen as easily as it should?

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, again, there is no living in this 21st century world if we do not live multilaterally.

We need to be working together. We need the support of North America and Europe, basically as the bulwark, in order to protect cultural properties. If the United States and the U.K. continue to refuse to sign on, then we have to send a strong message that regardless, the rest of the global community will work together for the protection of property.

We should still be insisting that we have the power to go after these criminals, regardless of whether they are hiding out in the U.K. or they are coming home on leave from the U.S. If these people are engaged in the black market looting of cultural properties and their destruction, they still have to be accountable. We have to send a very clear message to our partners in this regard.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for giving such a great historical perspective and then bringing it to the present day.

My question is in terms of the death and destruction taking place in Iraq and the largely unreported tremendous cultural destruction that is taking place. When the Buddhas were being destroyed in Afghanistan, there was a tremendous amount of press regarding that one particular horrendous act. Yet, there have been a series of acts of destruction in Iraq that have largely gone unreported. What correlation does the member see between the lack of reporting with regard to Iraq and the fact that the United States and the U.K. are involved in the war in Iraq?

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, the member's question really strikes to the heart of what we are talking about. Earlier I spoke about the example of Orwell and the whole notion of erasing history and facts, so that people have no references to go return to.

What we have seen in the war in Iraq is the culpability, particularly of the U.S. media, in ignoring, erasing, and distorting the actual record of what is happening on the ground. We have seen the North American media's culpability in denying the reality of what was done in that country, the incredible international crime that was committed in that country.

As we see the destruction of cultural goods and institutions right across Iraq, it has profound implications. First, it has profound implications for the larger community because we do not even have the references to understand what has been lost.

Second, there will be profound long term implications in a country such as Iraq because when centres of identity and centres of community are broken down chaos is created. We have the example of 20 some years of destruction in Afghanistan and the break down of the village system, the break down of their traditional cultural identity by the relentless onslaught of the Soviets which created a generation that knew nothing but terror and responded with terror.

Unfortunately, Iraq, which is an even older civilization, is now undergoing this with the U.S.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, for his sensitivity to this issue and for the way that he outlined the importance of culture and heritage in this context.

I would ask him if Bill S-37 does anything to address one of the most egregious examples of looting of cultural heritage and religious properties that has ever been known? The looting of the Iraq museum is second only perhaps to the property of the west coast Indian tribes in Canada, the Haida, and those tribes whose potlatch ceremonies were outlawed. Now there are huge efforts being made for the repatriation of these cultural and heritage properties.

Would the member agree with me, first of all, that the looting of these artifacts is an element of cultural genocide in this example and is there anything in Bill S-37 that will help with the repatriation of these artifacts, so that these societies can be made whole?

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, this issue was raised by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan who has been very concerned about the effect of the loss of cultural properties of the west coast natives.

When we are talking about this, we are continually putting this back in the context of the need for cultural memory. When we erase these memories from a society, when we take them away and then say that they never had anything great in the past, they were nothing, they were nobodies, this is the message that is continually done again and again in ethnic cleansing. This was done on the west coast. We have seen an amazing resurgence of community identity based on the return and the valuing of these properties because people identify with them in terms of their international significance from cultural and historical points of view.

In terms of our own Canadian experience, there has been a direct correlation between the return of identity and return of pride based on the return of these artifacts to their original owners.

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1:15 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I think the member made and excellent speech and brought forward a good point about protection and how it is implemented.

In my view, we have to get more people agreeing to things like the second protocol. On the second protocol there is an intergovernmental committee for the protection of cultural property. There is a new fund to assist states in implementing this convention. There is a new regime of enhanced protection. It clarifies and provides for more specific obligations in the pursuit of prosecutions and violations. For instance, Canadians can now be prosecuted in Canada for things they do overseas.

There are only 28 countries who are signatory to the second protocol. I think we have to keep up the fight, promote all the items in it and use the tools in it. If that turns out to be deficient and not working, then we should agree to a third protocol for the same reason that the first protocol was added to the original convention.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree. I think this is very important. I am saying this in the beginning of a new century when we have already seen so much barbarism and such an assent in the rise of bandit states where cultural identities that have existed for thousands of years are being arbitrarily erased.

As a general human community, we have to see the profound implications. We are being reduced to a genetic mono-cropping of Disney culture. To erase something that was built 2000 years ago by a small group because they are suddenly a political threat to whatever bandit power sees it, we have to see that as a larger threat to our overall cultural identity, and political and social ability to maintain a civilized society.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak in favour of Bill S-37 which would provide the basis for Canada to go forward and join the two protocols to the Hague convention. Canada is already a state party to the convention. By joining the protocols Canada would strengthen its long held commitment to international cooperation in the protection of the world's heritage.

By joining the protocols and by ensuring that we can prosecute violations of the convention and protocols in Canadian law, we will send a message that Canada will not be a haven for those who destroy, damage, and loot cultural property abroad during armed conflict. The bill has now had the benefit of consideration by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage and I am pleased to say that during its discussions the committee acknowledged the importance and even the urgency of Canada joining the Hague protocols. The committee supported the intent of the bill.

A number of important issues were raised by the committee about the bill and about the implication of Canada's membership in the convention and its protocols. What have we learned? First, that the Hague convention and its two protocols reflect obligations toward cultural property that are already well enshrined in international law and in other treaties such as the additional first protocol to the 1949 Geneva convention. This means that Bill S-37 and Canada's proposed ascension to the protocols will not add new operational burdens or legal risk for our armed forces. Second, we have learned that the international community is increasingly ready to identify acts against cultural property during conflicts, as war crimes, and to punish those who commit such acts.

The more countries that adhere to agreements such as the Hague convention and its protocols, the more effective such efforts will be. We have also, thanks to the committee, learned more about the ramifications of the proposed amendments. For example, the new offences will not apply retroactively. We have learned that with Bill S-37 everything Canada will need to implement the Hague protocols will be in place in Canadian law. The amendments proposed by Bill S-37 would ensure that there are no gaps in our ability to implement our treaty obligations once we join these two important agreements.

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage voted unanimously to adopt Bill S-37 without amendment. This is an important step for Canada. It is a good bill. Let us give it our support.

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1:20 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, the member for Etobicoke Centre does a lot of work in our party related to foreign affairs. Although he is a new member, I compliment the tremendous initiatives he has already undertaken and had effect due to his diligence, passion, energy and experience on some of the international issues.

He has had experience in areas such as Ukraine, Somalia, Darfur and Sudan. Regarding the conflicts that are going on today that make it very urgent that we support this bill, does he have any examples of which he is aware that are at risk and could he discuss some of the international work in which he has partaken?

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for being very kind in his comments about my work. The work I have done over the last year has given me quite a perspective on some of the destruction that takes place in conflict zones around the world. The twentieth century was horrendous when it came to mass killings and cultural destruction. Some would argue it was a century of cultural genocide that often accompanied acts of human genocide.

The member mentioned Ukraine, which is part of my ancestry. It is fascinating because it ties back to the question of why, in the late 1940s to 1954, although a state party to these protocols, we did not sign on to them.

One of the signatories to these protocols was the Soviet Union. A number of vassal states in central and eastern Europe were newly enslaved. There was a great dilemma at that time. If we signed on, were we providing the Soviet Union with another method to go about the very cultural destruction that it had clearly demonstrated over the previous years and decades?

We have to remember that this was the Stalinist regime. Stalin was a party to signing these protocols at that time. It was mentioned that its recent history was 1954. While I was not born at that time, I have some knowledge of that history. It was this same regime that committed genocide through the Holodomor, the famine in Ukraine in the early thirties. It was the same regime that burned down hundreds of churches in Kiev and throughout Ukraine. It destroyed thousands and thousands of churches and libraries. It was the same regime that burned down the archival library in Kiev, which held manuscripts and archives going back to the tenth century.

There was no question why we were unable to sign on with partners such as the Soviet Union at that time. It was signing on because it saw a particular advantage. It could use cultural institutions as the premises for military intelligence operations. The same regime performed a similar trick with the Helsinki accords. After signing the Helsinki accords, it immediately sent numerous people into the gulags.

It provides a little historical context as to why Canada did not sign on at that point in time. However, today is the right time. We have seen the destruction that takes place during times of war, especially today in Iraq. It is a terrible situation in that country. Unfortunately, one of the things that is not discussed is once this conflict is over, a lot of that cultural history, the repository of thousands of years of history of a people and of all civilization, will have been destroyed.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I have been quite moved by the debate. I want to thank my colleague for the points he has added from experience in his culture, his background and history and the obvious passion he holds for the subject.

I am interested in the bill itself. It originated in the Senate, so we have not had as much opportunity as we might have had to be involved as the bill evolved. The NDP generally objects to bills that originate in the unelected other place, but I will not dwell on that today.

I am more interested in an aspect of the bill which seems to, if I understand it correctly, extend the arm of the law beyond our geographic boundaries, much like the prosecution of Canadians abroad who sexually exploit children.

Is my understanding correct that the bill contemplates enforcement of these principles for Canadians operating abroad?

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, once in a while we get bills from the Senate, and it is encouraging. Although we may have various opinions on the role of the Senate and its effectiveness, in this case I think we can all agree that it has addressed a very important issue and it needs to be commended.

I do not know the intricacies of the law and how it would be applied when it comes to war crimes. From my understanding, Canadians who get involved, whether to culturally destroy or most likely in existing situations these days to get involved in looting and pillaging, that is the business of buying and selling the culture and history of peoples, unfortunately, have ended up in situations of conflict and wars.

Quite rightly, there should not be a situation where Canadians can feel that once they travel beyond the borders of Canada, what happens there is of no concern to Canadian law. At a point in time perhaps a majority of people held that point of view. I believe the member has brought up a great example when it comes to the abuse of children in countries overseas. The fact that it takes place somewhere other than Canada does not make the person less guilty or innocent. Abuse for profit of culture, cultural artifacts and records should be considered just as criminal should it happen in Canada or overseas.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Ed Broadbent NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I have a question and an observation for the hon. member. I too would like to praise everyone who has taken part in this debate. What is at root here is the profound importance of historical memory in relation to culture in the shaping of human identity. What we are all about as human beings at this point in the 21st century is, in one sense of the term, kind of an inevitable product of what has gone on in our past, broadly speaking, our cultural past.

Is the hon. member aware that in this context the bill amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence for Canadians abroad to indulge in theft of cultural property. For me that is a remarkable change in Canadian law and consistent with what we did in terms of the sex trade. Canadians can no longer go to any other country and abuse children.

In that context, recently in the House we adopted a recommendation of the foreign affairs committee that says that Canadian corporations in the mining sector can no longer do abroad what they have been stopped from doing here. It extends the Westray principle of health and safety, which is now embedded in Canadian law from Canadian corporations at home to Canadian corporations abroad.

I praise the government for extending our domestic law into these realms: cultural protection, sexual protection of children and the protection of workers abroad. I am sure the hon. member agrees with me on that.

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the kind comments about the government, through the Senate, having brought this bill forward.

A couple of interesting items were touched upon. Cultural destruction and genocide also deal with the tremendous hatred that the perpetrators feel toward the particular culture or peoples being destroyed. We could go on and on about this topic.