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House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Chair, given that Taliban forces cross freely back and forth across the Durand Line, which they do not recognize given that there is a rear operating base for the Taliban in Pakistan, what practical diplomatic steps is Canada taking to engage with the Pakistanis to deal with that issue and reduce the threat to our soldiers?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, through DFAIT, we have been working with senior officials in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to bring border officials together into dialogue so they can begin to work together in constructive monitoring and policing of the border. That is one very important part of diplomacy. Of course, there are many more—

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member. There are 15 seconds left for the last question from the hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Chair, could the minister tell us if there are any diplomatic negotiations of any kind, at any level, with the Taliban?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Not directly, Mr. Chair. We, again, rely on such initiatives as the government of Afghanistan chooses to undertake with respect to coalition building.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

The next block of time belongs to the government and I recognize the hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages and Minister for La Francophonie.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:30 p.m.

Louis-Saint-Laurent Québec

Conservative

Josée Verner ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak about the international Francophonie. I would like to acknowledge my CIDA colleague, since her department is also very involved in la Francophonie, along with my department, Canadian Heritage.

When I was Minister for La Francophonie, we accomplished a number of things. In the first weeks, I went to Paris to meet with His Excellency Abdou Diouf, Secretary General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. There, I announced that Canada would make a direct contribution of $900,000 to support institution building and the modernization of the OIF. It was important for Canada to modernize the OIF and make it more transparent and efficient.

A few months later, Canada had the honour of hosting the ministerial conference of la Francophonie on conflict prevention and human security in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba. We had the pleasure of welcoming Mr. Diouf at the conference. More specifically, it was an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate the richness of our Canadian francophonie to the visiting international leaders of la Francophonie.

I also attended the Sommet de la Francophonie in September 2006, in Bucharest, Romania, along with the Prime Minister.

I would also like to point out the work that the member for Beauce has done on Francophonie issues in recent months.

Today I am going to talk about the international institution known as la Francophonie.

When we talk about la Francophonie, we first have to talk about the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, which is known by the acronym OIF, and about all of the agencies, decision-making bodies, ministerial conferences and operators surrounding it.

First and foremost, la Francophonie is an idea, we could say an ideal, that originated in the early 1960s, at a time when the great architecture of the United Nations had been put in place. The UN programs had not yet hit their stride, the international community recognized the need for a kind of Marshall Plan on a global scale, and decolonization, particularly in Africa, was underway. The idea was an ambitious one: to take advantage of a common language to build bonds of cooperation and strengthen natural affinities.

The spirit behind la Francophonie is a desire to cooperate and to discuss contemporary problems.

Within la Francophonie, there has been a process of evolution that has produced an amalgam of institutions, which vary in their specialization and the autonomy they enjoy. The oldest of them is the Conference of Ministers of Education of Countries Using French as a Common Language, CONFEMEN. It was created in 1960 and its purpose is to encourage dialogue, cooperation and coordination in the area of education policies and to conduct high-level discussions about the future of education.

In 1961, the Association des universités partiellement ou entièrement de langue française was created in Montreal, and it has since become the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie. Today it has a membership of 659 institutions in 60 countries.

In 1967, the Association internationale des parlementaires de langue française was created, and today it is known as the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie.

A second permanent ministerial conference was established in 1969: the Conference of Youth and Sports Ministers of Countries sharing the use of French, CONFEJES.

And last, in 1970, at the impetus of the Presidents of Tunisia, Niger and Senegal, an intergovernmental institution for la Francophonie was established, with a broader mandate: the Agency for Cultural and Technical Cooperation. It has served to provide more structure for international Francophonie, and over the years it has adapted to the needs of the member countries. It is now called the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie.

La Francophonie has continued to build on those foundations.

The mayors of Paris and Quebec City started the International Association of Francophone Mayors. Other institutions that have been created are la Francophone Business Forum, the Games of La Francophonie, the Energy and Environmental Institute, Senghor University in Alexandria and the international television network, TV5.

The first summit of heads of state and government of la Francophonie was held in Paris in 1986. Canada eagerly hosted the second summit in Quebec City in 1987, and we continue to act as host country on a fairly regular basis.

In 1999, the summit was held in Moncton and we are preparing to receive, once again, the heads of state and of government in Quebec City in the fall of 2008.

La Francophonie is one of the only international intergovernmental entities where the Canadian provinces can have a seat. In the early 1970s, the Government of Canada concluded an agreement with Quebec on its participation in la Francophonie events. The same agreement was later reached with New Brunswick. These two provinces have government participant status, sit in on the proceedings, make their own financial contributions and bring with them real expertise on issues in their own jurisdictions.

I have a few more words about la Francophonie: the OIF today has 53 member states and governments, two associate states and 13 observer states, from five continents, that are united by the French language. It is a forum where Canada has some clout and influence. We are the second largest provider of funds after France, with a contribution of more than $40 million a year. Some $19 million comes from the Department of Foreign Affairs. The rest essentially comes from CIDA and Canadian Heritage.

Our participation in la Francophonie reflects the linguistic duality of our country and our attachment to cultural diversity and the values of solidarity. It is the multilateral forum of choice for promoting the major objectives of Canada's foreign policy and we have strongly encouraged la Francophonie to become more political. The OIF has answered that call and is now taking political action in line with its four fundamental missions: to promote the French language and cultural and linguistic diversity; to promote peace, democracy and human rights; to support education, training, higher learning and research; and to develop cooperation for sustainable development and solidarity.

Canada can have its voice heard on issues like security, the rule of law, good governance, human rights and development.

We will continue to contribute to the institutional reform of la Francophonie and to encourage the organization to have clear objectives and a structure that maximizes its effectiveness. The OIF's good governance depends on its people. We have complete confidence in the current secretary general, His Excellency, Abdou Diouf, former president of Senegal, and in the OIF administrator—the secretary general's right-hand man— Clément Duhaime, a Canadian.

We are also very proud of the progress that has been made in regard to the TV5 Monde international television network. As the chair of the conference of ministers responsible for TV5 Monde, I had the pleasure of announcing that discussions among senior officials from the partner governments have led to the development of a draft agreement that preserves the multilateral, pluralistic nature of TV5 Monde. This network plays a major role in promoting the culture and values of la Francophonie and must remain a joint project of this international organization.

Discussions among the partner governments have always been held in an excellent climate of cooperation and collaboration. In addition, the Prime Minister and the President of France addressed the future of TV5, among other things, during their discussions last May 27.

This will be the 12th time that the heads of state and government of la Francophonie have met. This time the summit will be held in Quebec City from October 17 to 19, 2008.

The governments of Canada and Quebec are the co-hosts and Canada will chair the summit.

We have been working very closely with our partners—both the participating provinces and the other member countries—to deliver a summit worthy of the name. Four issues—broken down into sub-topics—have been selected. The first is democracy and la Francophonie, including preventive diplomacy and strengthening of the organization’s mediation capacities, as well as democratic life. The second is the environment, where we will emphasize water and sustainable forest management. The third concerns economic governance, including the principles of transparency and corporate social responsibility. Finally, the fourth is the French language, which is at the heart of la Francophonie.

The preparations are proceeding well. An organizational secretariat has been established in Quebec City and started its technical and logistical work in September 2007, in accordance with federal management guidelines.

The governments of Canada and Quebec have each contributed $16 million to the organization of the summit and New Brunswick has contributed $750,000. In addition, the federal government is responsible for the full cost of security, which brings its total contribution to more than $57 million.

In recent months, organizing the summit has provided many opportunities to strengthen cooperation between Ottawa and Quebec City. At last November's ministerial conference in Vientiane, Canada assumed the presidency of the ministerial conference of la Francophonie.

We should not forget what we are doing for the French language here in our own country. On March 20, the International Day of La Francophonie, I announced financial assistance for the cross-country tour of Francoforce, which will run from May 30 to September 2, 2008. Funding of $1.1 million will help the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française coordinate this major tour, in close cooperation with the Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada.

In March, our government announced financial assistance for various major projects in minority language communities in New Brunswick. Ten francophone organizations shared $946,100 to carry out activities promoting the vitality of francophone and Acadian communities in New Brunswick and linguistic duality throughout Canada. In addition, we announced $714,970 in financial support for seven organizations working with francophone communities in Alberta.

The summit will take place in five months' time. We are working on fine-tuning the objectives, further developing the themes and identifying our commitments and areas for follow-up. One thing is certain: the action taken will be effective and will result in tangible outcomes. We are counting on all Canadians, including parliamentarians, to ensure the success of the summit. I know that we will pull off a remarkable event that we will all be proud of.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

The government has two and a half of its 15 minutes left.

The member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Denis Lebel Conservative Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Madam Minister, thank you once again for that very useful information about the international Francophonie. I would especially like to thank you for telling us about the preparations you have made together with the Prime Minister's Office to ensure that the next Sommet de la Francophonie goes well. Of course, much more could be said about this international forum that has been so important to us for so many years. I would therefore like to take advantage of this opportunity to ask you for more information about it.

For example, we all know that Quebec is also an active member of the international Francophonie. Such situations are rare, and deserve an explanation. Can you tell us more about this? How and why did this come about? Also, can you tell us how the federal-provincial dynamic works at the international level?

Furthermore, if Canada wants to be an important player on the international stage, and I believe everyone feels the same way about this, we have to belong to major multilateral organizations, such as la Francophonie. But do we not also have an obligation to ensure that our actions on the international stage are as effective as possible? Is it not in our interest to see to it that the performance of the institutions to which we belong and contribute meets certain standards of good governance and management? Where is la Francophonie on that? Are we satisfied? What remains to be done in that regard?

It would certainly be reassuring to know that Canada is still working toward more relevant and effective multilateralism. Madam minister, I will conclude by asking you to tell us how Canada's participation in la Francophonie corresponds—

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

I must interrupt the member, whom I asked to address his questions in the third person and not the second.

The minister has 45 seconds remaining.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:40 p.m.

Conservative

Josée Verner Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the member for his excellent questions.

The majority of multilateral organizations are composed of member states. La Francophonie is unique in that it admits participating governments. Quebec has this status, as does New Brunswick, and there are other examples. There is a spot for Belgium, as well as Belgium's French community.

This is a unique formula that applies only to la Francophonie, and it works. Canada brings more experience to the table and puts forward ideas that would otherwise be absent.

Canada, Quebec and New Brunswick—

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. minister, but time has run out.

The hon. member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup now has 15 minutes.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chair, I will begin by expressing my hopes that the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, if that will be his permanent position, will have the opportunity to put an end to the darkest period in the history of Canadian foreign affairs since I became a member. I have been a member in this House for 15 years and I have never seen a darker period than this one, ever since the Conservatives came to power.

Basically, the messenger was a greenhorn and not competent for the task, but the person responsible for his appointment was the Prime Minister of Canada, who sacrificed the people of Beauce in the interest of votes. That said, I hope that, from now on, we will have clear signs of the Conservatives' change of direction. The first thing I would like to ask the minister has to do with the millennium goals.

At present, only 0.29% of our gross domestic product is allocated to international aid, while the millennium goal is 0.7%. Considering the wealth of our society, how is it that the Conservative government has not taken action on this?

Based on our performance so far, we will not reach our objective until 2032. We often treat those who are most in need around the globe pretty much the same as people here at home. The government is currently adopting the same attitude towards international aid that it does towards employment insurance.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Chair, let me say that the millennium development goals are an agreed to international set of goals. We are approximately halfway through the time period of achieving those goals. The international community is now reviewing and measuring its success and moving forward on other goals. I know that through the many international conferences and meetings that I have attended.

We also have tried to ensure that for those we seem to be able to achieve, we are going to continue our efforts internationally together to meet those goals. In other cases where circumstances have created difficulties, we are also doing an assessment as part of the international group. I have asked that Canada be assured of playing a full role in the assessment.

We have always consistently increased our international assistance resources. In fact, our levels of international assistance will be doubled. It will reach $5 billion in 2010-11. However, as I said earlier, it is not just a matter of the dollar figure. It is how those dollars are being used. It is making sure that children who get enrolled in school are actually going to become literate and have the numerical and arithmetical skills they are going to need to be functioning adults.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:45 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chair, the fact remains that it will take Canada until 2032 to meet its international goals. It will take until 2032, and this is 2008. It will therefore take 24 years, even though we are a very wealthy country.

On another note, I would like to talk about Omar Khadr. This Canadian national was taken prisoner in Afghanistan when he was just 15. Canada has not demanded that he be returned here, even though the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that Canada do so because Mr. Khadr is being held illegally. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that his detention is illegal.

Will the government finally promise to demand that the United States return Omar Khadr to Canada?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Chair, Mr. Khadr faces very serious charges in relation to being captured in Afghanistan. In fact, the charges include murder in violation of the laws of war, attempted murder in violation of the laws of war, conspiracy, providing materials for terrorism, and spying.

The Government of Canada has sought and received assurances that Mr. Khadr is being treated humanely. Departmental officials have carried out several welfare visits with Mr. Khadr and will continue to do so. Any questions regarding whether Canada plans to ask for the release of Mr. Omar Khadr are premature and speculative, as the legal process and appeals are still going on.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chair, I understand that Canada will continue to flout the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is therefore no change in that regard.

Many Canadian extractive companies working overseas regularly ignore locals' human rights. Yet the government has never acted on the report of the advisory group on the national round tables on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries.

When will the government act on the recommendations in this report? The government has had the report for several months.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for his kind comments.

The corporate social responsibility review that was undertaken by the Government of Canada round tables on the extractive sector report is indeed in my area. We have undertaken an extensive review of that report. We are getting close to what we believe will be a robust approach to corporate social responsibility. I think the hon. member will be pleased.

In the meantime, we have a series of international guidelines under the OECD, the G-8 and the United Nations to deal with a number of aspects of corporate social responsibility.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chair, our relationship with the Americans is not always an easy one. Recently, the Americans included an addendum in the farm bill that complicates the softwood lumber issue. It has extremely negative effects, and there will be still more to come. Canada signed the softwood lumber agreement. Producers got refunds, and the Bloc supported that measure.

Now, will the Minister of Foreign Affairs act so that his government intervenes quickly to ensure as soon as possible that this addendum does not apply? The forestry industry in Quebec and Canada has enough problems already.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Yes, Mr. Chair, we have been intervening with the U.S. administration. Our ambassador has intervened. I have intervened directly with the U.S. trade representative.

It is Congress. The president, as the hon. member knows, has vetoed the bill. It is to be voted on again. We believe that this particular monitoring system for softwood lumber is in contravention of the softwood lumber agreement. We will be pursuing vigorously both diplomatic and legal alternatives to deal with this issue.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chair, I think I am starting to detect a difference in the way the new minister responds compared to others today. There may be some hope. I hope his hands will not be tied by the attitudes we have seen in the past.

Let us talk about the free trade agreement with some of the European countries that the Bloc supported. There is one essential condition for this to work. Canada needs to have a very firm shipbuilding policy. Fifteen years is enough time to adjust. Nonetheless, will the Government of Canada submit a shipbuilding policy to ensure that we made the right choice in supporting this agreement because we will have given our shipbuilding industry a chance to meet the challenges within the deadlines outlined in the agreement?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Chair, we absolutely are going to have a dynamic and robust shipbuilding industry. The EFTA trade agreement provides a 10 year to 15 year phase-out on the most sensitive shipbuilding products and services. That is the longest phase-out of any trade agreement in our history.

We also have applied new funding to the structured financing facility, which supports the Canadian shipbuilding industry.

However, the really big opportunity for Canadian shipbuilding is the government procurement policy. We have excluded government Canadian build policies from the agreement, and this $8 billion-plus in Canadian ship and vessel acquisition is going to keep the Canadian shipyards busy for a long time.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chair, how much time do I have left?

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Chair Conservative Royal Galipeau

There are five and a half minutes left.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade--Main Estimates, 2008-09Business of SupplyGovernment orders

8:50 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the Minister for La Francophonie a question. I am not sure if this question should be addressed to her specifically, but there is an important link.

We all know how anxious the Inter-Parliamentary Union is to hold its assembly in Quebec City in 2010. The government, in the beginning, was adamant that the organization had to change its internal rules, meaning that the rule allowing all of the parliamentarians to attend the assembly would not be respected. Following our repeated questioning, we received indications in this House that the government was working to soften its position.

Can we be guaranteed that real efforts are being made for this to happen? I am asking this question of the Minister for La Francophonie because the fact that this assembly could be held in Quebec City—with the global impact it would have—means it would be important that during the Sommet de la Francophonie this fall, which coincides in terms of dates, it be confirmed that the Inter-Parliamentary assembly will take place in Quebec City in 2010.