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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was region.

Topics

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the reason why I should talk about the Liberal carbon tax is it will drive prices higher and higher. The member's concern seems to be about fuel prices. If she wants to talk about the impact on fuel prices, we are looking at another possible 60% hike in the price of fuel from the new tax the Liberals are proposing. We have already moved to give people their money back. We have raised the personal exemption, lowered the income tax and lowered the GST. We have done things to help Canadians.

7:10 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for informing me that points of order may not be raised during adjournment proceedings.

I find the parliamentary secretary's comments in the course of an honest adjournment debate scandalous and appalling.

I came back to a question that I raised as an independent, and he used it as a launching pad to toss verbal hand grenades at the official opposition. I do not care about the official opposition. I asked what the government will do for public transit in rural areas because he says that he understands the situation.

I do not want to hear that he met one of his constituents who told him that tax cuts, a reduction in the GST and reduced exemptions will do something. In my region, when there are forestry or agricultural crises and people are not able to take care of their families, those things will not help them. But can we come back to the subject—

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am disturbed to hear the member say that she does not give a hoot about taxes because we do. We think it is important that we treat taxpayer money well. Liberals obviously want to tax people as high as they possibly can and it sounds like the member opposite wants to do that as well. We have made a clear choice to help Canadians in the way that the member is concerned about and we have reacted, and I will give the House an instance.

By 2009 the amount of money that will be transferred to municipalities from the gas tax transfer fund will be up almost 50%. The member knows that. She knows there will be billions of more dollars for local roads, highways, bridges and for municipalities to make decisions about what they want to do with local transportation issues. That is part of the building Canada fund.

We have committed $33 billion to infrastructure, the biggest infrastructure commitment ever made by a federal government. It came after 13 years of Liberal neglect.

It is important I point out that we have moved to—

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Yukon.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, in the last several months Burma has received unprecedented worldwide attention, and justly so.

Burma is a beautiful country situated between Bangladesh, India, China, Laos and Thailand with an extensive coastline along the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal. There are approximately 55 million people living in Burma in an area a little bigger than the province of Alberta and slightly larger than Afghanistan.

Other than Burmans, which make up 60% of the population, there are over 100 ethnic groups, including Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Karenni, Chin, Mon, Rakhine and Shan, nearly 90% of which are Buddhist.

Sadly, however, it is a country wrought with suffering and human rights abuses.

Burma achieved independence from Britain in 1948, thus calling itself the “Union of Burma”. After the 8888 student uprising on August 8, 1988, the State Law and Order Restoration Council, or SPDC, also known as SLORC, changed the name to the “Union of Myanmar” when it officially seized power. This change has never been recognized by opposition groups nor many English speaking nations. The junta also changed the capital city from Rangoon to Naypyidaw in 2006.

Governments, international institutions and human rights organizations around the world have condemned the military junta's repressive policies and human rights abuses. Violations include rape, arbitrary executions, torture, inhumane treatment, mass arrests, forced labour, forced relocation and denial of freedom of assembly, association, expression and movement. Burma transports trafficked persons, primarily women and girls, to Thailand as factory workers, household servants and for sexual exploitation.

Burma is also one of the poorest countries in the world. It is ruled by one of the world's most brutal military juntas. The military regime forcibly recruits up to 70,000 child soldiers and uses rape as a weapon of war.

Burma is the second largest producer of heroin in the world.

Opponents of the military regime are imprisoned and tortured, including more than 1,100 political prisoners, 13 of whom are fellow members of parliament.

Today nearly 150,000 Burmese refugees and internally displaced persons live in camps along the Thai border, camps that are constantly under attack by the military.

Since its independence from Britain, Burma established a parliamentary democracy. However, due to the military coup in 1962, democracy was crushed, leading to decades of civil war between the military and numerous ethnic groups.

Since the military junta took over, people in Burma have had to face adversities that we in the west can barely imagine.

None of this was more clear than the junta's attacks on innocent monks in 2007 and the recent response to Cyclone Nargis, which devastated nearly the entire Irrawaddy delta region.

As chair of Parliamentary Friends of Burma, it is my honour to work with organizations such as Inter Pares, Canadian Friends of Burma and Rights & Democracy to bring these issues to the forefront and to keep them there.

Last winter I travelled to the Thai-Burma border to show our support for the people of Burma and to find out what else Canada could do. I met with numerous groups and ethnic nationalities, listened to their stories, asked their opinions and brought back with me advice and hope.

By now most members, if not all, know of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest in Rangoon for almost 20 years. Some members have met with her cousin Sein Win, elected prime minister of Burma, who was exiled in 1990 after her party won the democratic election.

Members will remember that in September 2007 the military junta issued a crackdown on thousands of peaceful protestors, raiding monasteries, indiscriminately arresting Buddhist monks and civilians, beating, shooting, killing, including Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai.

We watched safely from afar the devastation and death caused by Cyclone Nargis just a few short weeks ago. The death toll is estimated at over 100,000. Two and a half million people who survived now face homelessness, starvation and disease. The military junta's inaction, mishandling and hindrance in distribution of international aid only made it worse.

We cannot forget these things.

PFOB has been working hard to keep Burma in the spotlight. Our members have petitioned Ivanhoe Mines and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which hold shares with Ivanhoe. We have held press conferences, attended rallies and posted petitions and motions in the House.

We met with Burmese monks, including Venerable Pannya Vamsa, Chair of the International Burmese Monks Organization—

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

7:15 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments about the situation in Burma. I know the hon. member is the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Burma, and I too am a member. Both of us have a very strong interest in what is happening in Burma.

First, let me say that cyclone Nargis, that killed so many Burmese, was a devastating catastrophe that took place. I am glad that Canada stood up and has worked with the UN and with its partners to help the people of Burma.

I want to state again that the Minister of International Cooperation has stated that Canada will be matching all the funds that were raised by recognized charitable organizations. I hope that Canadians will rise to the call as the Government of Canada has and will continue to help the people of Burma to overcome the cyclone.

I would also like to state that the world was extremely shaken by the protests when the monks went out on the streets. The protests by the monks had a monumental effect in Burma. Buddhist monks normally do not protest nor are they violent, but they were beaten up and put away which was a very serious violation of human rights by the Burmese regime.

My government and I have stood in Parliament and have condemned those actions. So has the hon. member along with our group. Let me say to the hon. member and to all Canadians that the government has taken stringent sanctions against the Burmese regime. The hon. member was advocating the same thing. The government has recognized the contribution and the sacrifice of Aung San Suu Kyi by giving her an honorary Canadian citizenship.

Most importantly, I want to say that the Government of Canada and members of Parliament from all parties strongly condemn the government of Burma, and strongly condemn the military regime of Burma in the way that it has handled not only the monk protests but also the way it handled the relief operations for its own citizens when the world was ready to help them.

As a matter of fact, I am going to go one step further and say that the military junta has blood on its hands by not ensuring that the timely aid was reaching Burmese citizens. It was playing politics when its own citizens were dying. I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that the regime has blood on its hands causing the death of its own citizens as a result of cyclone Nargis.

The government does not look on that regime in any favourable light. We were appalled by what happened. I want to assure the hon. member that by working together we will continue putting strong pressure on the regime to change.

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I applaud all our PFOB members for their tireless work and efforts in the last two and a half years. We have lobbied the Canadian government for numerous actions and applaud it for denouncing the military junta, for its sanctions, its petitions, and its contribution to help after the recent cyclone and the additional $2 million to the Thai Burma Border Consortium .

However, we can still do more. We can continue to work with groups such Inter Pares, Canadian Friends of Burma, Mining Watch, Amnesty International and TBBC. We can work with and continue to lobby countries who invest in Burma such as China, who continually vetos human rights votes at the UN. We can keep our doors open to NGOs and Burmese groups because they are our eyes, ears and conscience into devastating situations, not only in Burma but in Tibet, Darfur and other regions that must continually fight for basic human needs and rights.

I urge all members, regardless of politics, pride or partiality, to continue their pledge to help the people of Burma to attain the simple freedoms and human rights that all of us deserve and ensure that this beautiful country attains the same democratic liberties that we enjoy in this country.

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the hon. member that the government, through this Parliament and with people like himself and everybody else, will continue to work with other NGOs and other groups to ensure that there is democracy, rule of law, and humanitarian assistance for Burma.

As the member rightly pointed out, Burma is one of the poorest countries. I think we owe it to the Burmese people. On a personal note, I do have a Burmese community living in my riding. Members of that community do come to me and talk about the situation. I want to commend them also for doing whatever they can to assist the people of Burma to advance peace, freedom and security.

7:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:25 p.m.)