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House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.

Topics

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

An hon. member

It is the four horsepower.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

The four horsepower of the apocalypse. That is very good.

The fact is that we now have Marxism realized. We own the means of production and we did not have to fire a single shot. It is really quite phenomenal what went on today.

We have always cautioned people that unfettered capitalism has no conscience. I do not blame it for that, just like a shark cannot be blamed for having no conscience. It simply swims through the water and gobbles and gobbles because that is what it does.

It is up to us because we have the moral conscience. It is up to people to apply morality to capitalism and that is what we seek to do when these free trade agreements come through. Some of us need to rise up in the spirit of true democracy, contrary to what my colleague implied, that those of us who raise legitimate concerns are somehow less than democratic. We do not respect the unfettered right of the Conservative minority government to enter into free trade agreements without scrutiny, oversight and due diligence by duly elected members of Parliament in this chamber. That would be an affront to democracy, if there were any associated with this.

My Bloc colleague from Rivière-du-Nord pointed out earlier that one of our serious legitimate concerns about this free trade agreement and others is the investor rights that it gives to corporations. The chapter 11 rights were unheard of until they were introduced in the NAFTA agreement. These rights give a corporation nation-state status so it can sue a duly elected government for inconveniencing its ability to commercialize a certain product.

That was horrifying to us. We blew the whistle and sounded the alarm in 1988. We warned people that this was folly and that it would lead to untold complications. I will give one example from a few years ago and example of one that is going on currently involving MMT.

The people of Canada decided that the gasoline additive MMT was too poisonous to be exposed to and that we did not want it put into gasoline in this country. We were sued because this decision interfered with the ability of Ethyl Corporation to sell its product in Canada. It sued Canada for lost opportunity and it won. We paid the corporation for the inconvenience. We had to shell out $13.5 million to Ethyl Corporation because we as a nation decided we did not want MMT in our air supply and in our children's organs.

I will give the House a more recent example. The province of Quebec, quite rightly, wanted to ban the cosmetic nonessential use of pesticides in homes, gardens, schoolyards, on golf courses, et cetera. This was the right thing to do given that we now know that exposure to chemical pesticides can lead to a number of cancers, birth defects and problems in reproductive health. However, believe it or not, Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of many of these chemical pesticides, is now suing the Government of Quebec for having the temerity to do what it thought was right for its citizens.

That is fundamentally wrong on so many levels that I can hardly express them, but this is the very same concept we are now introducing in this free trade agreement with the people of Peru.

The good people of Peru will find themselves stripped of some of their sovereignty to chart their own destiny in a matter so vital and so fundamental as public health. The same investor right clauses can be applied should their democratically elected government decide to curtail the ability of one of the Canadian mining companies operating there or impose stringent standards on the operation of those companies. Those companies can sue because this interfered with their ability to commercialize that product.

That is just one of the concerns that we have that warrants further debate. I regret we are now at the stage of debate on this bill where we do not have the opportunity for further amendment. All I can do is express our dissatisfaction with this and our legitimate concerns.

The NDP, advocating on behalf of workers around the world, has tried to introduce what we call our corporate social responsibility bill, a bill put forward by my former colleague and the former leader of our party, Ed Broadbent. It was taken over by the next leader of our party, the former member for Halifax, Alexa McDonough.

For a decade or more, we have been trying to introduce something that would recognize the problems in the free trade agreement. If we are going to give a charter of rights to businesses and to corporations, then we need to offset those rights with what we call the extension of corporate social responsibility of Canadian companies when acting abroad.

The rules that apply to them when they are within the domestic jurisdiction where they come from should apply to them when they act and operate outside this jurisdiction. That way we would truly be elevating the labour and environmental standards of those other companies with which we trade because we would export not only the business operation, but we would export their modus operandi of how they conduct themselves as well.

These companies should not be able to form and incorporate in this country and then when they conduct themselves abroad, go to the lowest common denominator or standards, health and safety standards, labour standards and environmental standards, that are often far lower than what we would require a company to adhere to in this country.

We noticed when the Canada-Peru free trade agreement was first signed, the president of Peru, Alan Garcia, was optimistic that Canada, having a greater production outcome, would share some of that outcome. He said that Canada had a production output 12 times greater than Peru's and bought $600 billion worth of goods from other countries. He was therefore optimistic that Canada, by virtue of this trade agreement, would add more Peruvian wood, mining products and farming and manufactured products to the list.

At the same time, critics of the current president and the regime spoke out against the free trade agreement and against the president's administration, pointing out that the president's approval ratings had sunk as popular support for his policies continued to vanish. An international commentator said:

The Peruvian government is beginning to unravel as corruption charges and scandals threaten to completely discredit the already unpopular leadership of President Alan García. The minister of Mines and Energy as well as other top energy and state oil officials have been fired in response to allegations of favoring a foreign energy company...in exchange for bribes.

The regime that we are entering into an agreement with is falling apart. I speak now on behalf of the working people in Peru. It could well be that the Peruvian government does not have the mandate to enter into this agreement from the people of Peru any more than this minority Conservative government has the absolute mandate of the people of Canada to enter into this agreement.

We should remind ourselves that it was not long ago that bribery was such a common business practice in international trade, et cetera. Until the mid-1990s, the Government of Canada allowed companies to write off bribes as a tax deduction. This only changed in the mid to late 1990s after Canadians were horrified. The companies pushed back and said that it was the way business was done when they operated abroad. They have to grease the wheels of commerce with bribes and therefore it is a legitimate business expense. Until recently, the Government of Canada accepted this.

Revenue Canada has been under a lot of scrutiny lately with the Oliphant inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Airbus affair. Many of us were horrified at some of the things Revenue Canada deemed to be acceptable. When we pay our taxes diligently, not exactly eagerly, and then the former prime minister of Canada, after not paying taxes for nine years on money he received in a brown paper bag in a hotel room, finally decides to come clean with Revenue Canada and it arbitrarily decides that he only has to pay taxes on 50% of what he failed to declare all those years earlier, the credibility of Revenue Canada comes into question.

I was even more horrified to learn today that the practice was only stopped by Revenue Canada last November. When this whole situation began to surface, Revenue Canada quickly stopped the practice and covered up its tracks.

That does not explain what happened to the former privacy commissioner, George Radwanski, who owned $650,000 in back taxes and 24 hours before he started a job, which paid $250,000 a year, Revenue Canada forgave him all the back taxes on the basis that it was not possible to retrieve.

Those are the kinds of decisions that Revenue Canada makes from time to time. It makes Canadians really question if there is not two tax systems in our country, one for the rich and the connected, someone who has connections with the PMO, and the rest of us.

This free trade agreement is fraught with concerns. We felt obliged to oppose the agreement when it was first introduced. My colleague, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, at every stage of debate and through the committee stage, made efforts to amend the free trade agreement so it would be in a form of which we could be proud.

Those of us who want fair trade do not object to free trade, as long as it meets those basic tests. We do not want the huge imbalance that exists, an imbalance that would act as a charter of rights for corporations to override the sovereignty of a nation state and completely give them carte blanche to conduct themselves in any way they saw fit without a considered attempt to elevate the standards of conditions in the places where they settle.

My colleague from Rivière-du-Nord said that one of the faults of the bill was that it set guidelines for voluntary compliance, by suggesting these companies should conduct themselves in a certain way will make it so. I am sorry, but we do not buy that. It is just not credible. We should judge people by what they do, not by what they say.

We find ourselves in the middle of an economic downturn. Some people are saying that it is the end of an era of a certain ideology and certain economic policies. Some people are calling for a new Bretton Woods. Some people are calling for a new internationalism, coming out of the ashes of what began as the globalization movement.

The champions of the globalization of capital saw it as a panacea, that all we had to do was increase and improve lines of trade with countries and they would automatically come and be harmonized at some western standards.

That has not been the case at all. These things will not happen by accident. These things will not happen because there has been no collective agreement, which is one of the goals, one of the objectives. When businesses come to governments looking for a licence to operate in a certain way, it is up to us then to inject and insert those secondary objectives into the activities that they have under way. They have one goal and one goal only, and it is the profit motive. There is nothing wrong with that. That is what businesses do. They seek to maximize profits for their shareholders.

We are here with a different mandate, a different set of rules. We are here with different goals. If our goals are to elevate the standards of wages, living conditions and social conditions of fellow workers around the world and if we use these opportunities to achieve those secondary goals and objectives, we can do more than just enable free trade. We can mandate fair trade and then we will realize those noble objectives of elevating the standards of the people with whom we are trading.

What we want for ourselves, we wish for all people. That is one of the founding principles of the party to which I belong. As a socialist and a trade unionist, it is my obligation, every chance we get, to try to elevate those standards of my colleagues around the world, my brothers and sisters in the international labour movement. It is through trade agreements we can achieve those things, but not if we let them slide by in a substandard way like this.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, as the member well knows, he and I have managed to find ourselves on different sides of many issues, but I respect the fact that he and I have also had occasion to work together for the kind of common good to which he has spoken. He would also know there is currently a private member's bill before the committee, which was passed by the House, Bill C-300 on the issue of corporate social responsibility.

We have been studying it as recently as this afternoon and the thing that has been most interesting is the aggressive action that the Government of Canada is currently undertaking with respect to corporate social responsibility.

I put to the committee today the concept that there was not one person in the House, and probably not one person in Canada, who was not serious about wanting all of our corporations to be involved in the world with the concept of corporate social responsibility.

The only thing I would suggest for my friend is this. An awful lot of the time I have been in the House and have taken occasion to listen to the speeches of the NDP, it always seems so dower, so down and so negative. we cannot do this and we cannot do that and those great big greedy corporations. There is all this negativism.

What the Government of Canada wants to do with this Peru free trade agreement, as with other free trade agreements, is to open up the possibility for Canada and Canadian workers to have more opportunity in the world because Canada is such a free trading nation.

Would my friend not want to put on a more positive face, a bit more of a smile, rather than always being concerned about being dragged down? Canadians are the most productive creative people in the world. We are a nation that can carry our own and we can carry these things to Peru and to other countries to help them bring themselves up to a higher level.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his thoughtful remarks. I should tell him that one of the reasons the NDP enjoys its third majority government in Manitoba is that we have taken the hair shirt off the NDP. We have become a lot more fun, and the member would be happy to know that.

We are all in favour of good corporate citizenship. I know he is not speaking on behalf of corporate Canada, but we do take the member at his word, that most Canadians would expect Canadian businesses to conduct themselves in a way that his honourable when they operate outside of the domestic jurisdiction.

That has not always been the case. There is nothing particularly binding on them. We find the environmental standards, the labour standards and the health and safety standards in other countries sorely lacking. It is difficult for small countries or developing nations to impose stringent health and safety, environmental and labour standards because they are so desperate to attract investment.

This is the contradiction we have heard. This is the quandary in which they find themselves. I am not trying to imply the government of Peru is corrupt, although I did cite some sources that implied the current leadership is under a lot of stress because of bribery and corruption charges, but even in those countries where there is well-meaning leadership, they would look to the harmonization of labour standards and environmental standards as a huge benefit and a huge gain. However, there is nothing in these agreements that would make that so, other than the implied goodwill of the corporations.

As I said in my remarks, capital has no conscience. We have to impose a conscience on them.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the NDP member referred to President Garcia as somewhat of a supplemental factor in this agreement. We know that the president is widely challenged in his country in relation to the indigenous people, who want to protect their environment and their biodiversity. Peru is signing multiple bilateral agreements in this regard. It will in fact be signing one with Canada.

As we know, this is somewhat like the agreement signed with Colombia under the Uribe government, when we had rather serious suspicions that that government did not respect union rights. We have seen the murders that have occurred. We went to that country with the NDP member and we met with community and grassroots groups. There are a lot of abuses committed against workers. From that perspective, another agreement signed with President Garcia has also been criticized, as the member mentioned.

Why does this Conservative government still want to sign agreements with rogue countries when we are trying to promote a healthy environment and a healthy planet? We want to combat climate change and preserve our water and land, but we sign agreements that allow companies to degrade the land and jeopardize the quality of life and air and water quality in other countries. I would like to hear from my colleague on that subject.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is correct and these very things have been pointed out to us by labour leaders in the United States, who pointed out that in regard to the United States-Peru free trade agreement, which was about a year ago, we are following the U.S. almost step for step in Colombia and Peru. It seemed that when the Bush administration signed agreements with Peru and Colombia, all of a sudden it became necessary for the Conservative government here to follow suit with the same kind of substandard agreements.

A very prominent labour leader, the head of the teamsters union in the United States, pointed out that it was outrageous that Congress and the Bush administration had approved yet another job-killing trade agreement at a time when American families were seeing their jobs shipped overseas, their food and toys tainted, their wages on the decline, and their houses foreclosed upon. Workers here and in Peru deserve better.

If we take out the word America and insert the word Canada, the same applies to this country too. We could not possibly pick a worse time to impose a free trade agreement that will have downward pressure on Canadian standards because of harmonization. The globalization of trade has resulted in us lowering our standards, not developing nations raising theirs.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg Centre and I were criticized just a few moments ago by a Conservative member for being too diligent and taking our work too seriously, but of course we have actually read the agreement. I know the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has, and we have seen, as testimony has also indicated, that it is a vastly inferior agreement to that which the U.S. government initially negotiated, and which then was gutted, rebuilt and amended by U.S. Congress.

My question for the member for Winnipeg Centre, who is a wise member, one of the most active in the House, is this. The Conservatives blew it on the softwood sellout, costing us thousands of jobs. They brought forward this Colombia trade deal, which is essentially privileged access by a regime that is tied, cheek by cheek and jowl by jowl, with murderous paramilitary thugs and drug lords. Now they bring forward this bill which is considered an inferior version of bills that have been negotiated.

We have record trade deficits and most Canadians have actually lost real income over the past 20 years. Why do the Conservatives always seem to get trade issues wrong? Why do they not have an overall strategy that actually works for economic development, both here in Canada and abroad?

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague poses a compelling question. I would only answer, in the brief time I have, by saying that the Conservatives seem guided more by ideology than by reason, logic, economics or empirical evidence.

There is a belief on their part that free trade will solve all of our ills the world over. What they fail to understand is that free trade benefits corporations. It benefits wealthier nations, but it even puts wealthier nations at risk in that the harmonization that has taken place has been terribly hard on our manufacturing sector. It has been dragging us down, frankly.

Unfettered free market capitalism is passé. It has gone the way of the dodo bird. We need regulation. We need guidelines and objectives. We need that triple bottom line, if you will, for everything that we do that will elevate--

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Terrebonne--Blainville.

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are discussing the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru. I want to start by saying that the Bloc Québécois will oppose this bill and this agreement because we have no guarantee that the agreement is worded strongly enough and contains a framework to protect the environment and human rights in Peru.

The third point I want to make is that this free trade agreement with Peru contains a similar clause to chapter 11 of NAFTA. This chapter, which relates to investments, allows investors from member states in the North American Free Trade Zone to claim compensation from the government of another party to NAFTA when they believe they have incurred a loss as a result of the adoption of regulatory measures that modify existing business operating conditions. What does that mean? It means that if, for example, a country decides to introduce legislation that would force a company doing business in that country to adopt other procedures that might seem harmful to the business, it could sue the government of that country.

NAFTA is the only major free trade agreement to which Canada is a party that contains such broad provisions regarding the treatment to be granted to investors from other parties. The provisions of chapter 11 of NAFTA governing investments have been called into question. They are the source of numerous proceedings that have been brought against various governments in Mexico, the United States and Canada. They sometimes result in several million dollars in compensation being awarded.

I said earlier that chapter 11 defines a complete scheme to govern investments and that the definition of investments is very broad. That is why the provisions of this chapter have given rise to many lawsuits pertaining to the concept of expropriation.

In a way, the NAFTA provisions laid the groundwork. They are similar to the provisions in the proposed Canada-Peru free trade agreement, which will give companies a great deal of power. Ultimately, we are concerned about the sovereignty of governments and their ability to take measures to protect the health of people and the quality of the environment. Will it be possible for Peru to protect people's health and the quality of their environment? We doubt it.

The Bloc Québécois is well aware of the need for free trade. We support investment protection agreements, but we are not prepared to accept bad agreements at any cost, and we feel that this agreement is a bad one.

Foreign direct investment is soaring.

Every now and then, a Canadian company decides to settle abroad, where the government may decide to nationalize it. In order to create a predictable environment, to ensure that a foreign investor will not lose his nationalized business without compensation, and to give some assurances to companies, states sign treaties to protect investments. We think this is perfectly normal, and we accept that such provisions be included in these treaties.

However, over the past few years, we have seen such an incredible shift, because of NAFTA's chapter 11, that we are now wondering. We are very cautious with processes, chapters and clauses that may look like the provisions in NAFTA's chapter 11.

Under that chapter, foreign investors are allowed to go before international tribunals and challenge the expropriation, which may reduce their profits and result in a court action. If investors can prove that they are losing money because of a new act, or a new way of doing things by the government of the host country, they can get compensation by going before the courts. The important thing here is that the amount of the suit is not limited to the value of the investment, but includes all possible future profits. In other words, these investors can literally ruin a government, and that is totally abusive.

This chapter has been condemned time and again by many countries, by various organizations, and by the Bloc Québécois. Still, Ottawa continues to sign bilateral agreements that are patterned on this infamous chapter 11 in NAFTA. The government is on the offensive again and is negotiating numerous such agreements. We believe that the Conservative government is headed in the wrong direction and should instead take better care of the public good and of human rights.

A few years ago, the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries took place. Many Canadian mining companies are responsible and respectful, but quite a few, many of which I could name, are not. While negotiations for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement were underway, it was clear that plenty of Canadian mining companies could not have cared less about aboriginal rights, environmental rights or human rights. They set up operations in various countries, take advantage of conditions there, such as military juntas and corrupt governments, and exploit those countries for profit.

We also have to consider human rights in Peru. Peru is one of Canada's smaller trading partners, and the mining sector is the primary trade driver. We know that Peru has a pretty poor track record when it comes to protecting workers in that industry.

Earlier, I mentioned the National Roundtables on Corporate Social Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Industry in Developing Countries.

The national roundtables reported on what was going on. We all know the Canadian mining companies. We know their names. We know that a book has been written about their activities. They did everything in their power to get the book off the market; they even sued the authors in the hope that their activities would not be made known to the general public.

Canadian mining companies are the biggest foreign investors. Canada does not have any rules about what responsible companies should do, so they do as they please. We know that. We want to know what will happen if we have a bilateral agreement that does not impose any restrictions whatsoever on mining companies, an agreement that allows them to do whatever they like in countries like Peru, which do not have the means or even the ability to set rules and standards. Given the context, we cannot accept a country-to-country agreement with no guarantees.

One of the main reasons Canadian investors are attracted to Peru is the country's natural resources, particularly its mining resources. Canadian investment in Peru's mining sector is $5 billion, give or take. More than 80 Canadian mining companies are doing mining exploration in Peru. Canada leads investment in mining exploration and exploitation in Peru.

It was asked earlier why Canada is concluding a free trade agreement with Peru. It is very clear. It is to protect Canadian mining companies. It is not simply to do the right thing or for philanthropic reasons. It is to cover its own behind, to protect its own interests. We have nothing against that. However, the framework is too general. The free trade agreement with Peru gives greater protection to Canadian companies that invest in the mining sector. However, our fear is that the investment protection measures provide disproportionate protection to investors at the expense of local populations and the environment.

How many times have we watched as Canadian mining companies have displaced local populations, preventing them from reuniting, and polluted rivers? In Colombia in particular, rivers have run pink.

We know that Peru can protect itself, but it is still considered a developing country. It does not have the ability at this time. Also, not protecting workers' rights is standard practice in certain countries. The workers are small fry. They are considered worthless. Child labour often exists in these kinds of countries.

The Bloc Québécois would like to see mandatory standards and accountability measures imposed on the activities of mining companies working abroad. We would have liked to see the formation of a committee to advise the federal government, just as the national roundtables advisory group recommended. The minister at the time, the current international trade minister, practically refused and stonewalled.

It was recommended that a multiparty committee be formed, made up of representatives from the mining industry, to advise the federal government. I say “advise” because this government continues to do whatever it likes, no matter what anyone says, no matter what Canadians say. It stubbornly pursues its agenda without thinking about the fact that some people might be able to suggest a more acceptable approach. These people were calling for mandatory standards.

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

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The member for Terrebonne—Blainville will have four minutes to finish her speech when the House resumes consideration of this bill.

The House resumed from May 28 consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, An Act respecting civil liability and compensation for damage in case of a nuclear incident be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 6:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-20.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #72

Nuclear Liability and Compensation ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few months ago, I asked a question in this House, and the answer did not convince me. In fact, it was not convincing for anyone. I asked the government how it could justify its refusal to repatriate the young Omar Khadr after the testimony that has been gathered about torture practices in Guantanamo. We know that the United States Division Court for the District of Columbia ruled that American authorities did use torture to obtain information from prisoners. In addition, an American prosecutor in Guantanamo says that prisoners, including Mr. Khadr, have been subjected to severe abuse.

The response was the usual insensitive Conservative tape: Mr. Khadr faces very serious charges in the United States.

It is striking to hear such a response when Canada is the only western country that has not taken steps to repatriate its citizens jailed in Guantanamo. What is worse, we know that, on June 24, the Federal Court confirmed that Omar Khadr's detainment was illegal under international and American law. Canada must repatriate Omar Khadr in order to uphold the fundamental principles in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The ruling confirms that Omar Khadr's detention is illegal. When will the government respect the rulings handed down here, by our own courts? That is shameful. It will be a black mark on Canada's international reputation.

We also know that the Subcommittee on International Human Rights, during the second session of the 39th Parliament, recommended that the protocol on child soldiers be respected. Mr. Khadr was arrested when he was only 15 years old. The rights of child soldiers should apply to him.

It is shameful that Canada, in addition to reneging on the treaties it has signed, is also no longer honouring the motions that we parliamentarians have adopted in this House. On March 22, a motion was adopted that called for the repatriation of Omar Khadr so that he would stand trial in Canada. However, in addition to thumbing their noses at the decisions made in the House, the Conservatives, as I was saying earlier, are ignoring decisions made by Canadian courts.

I would like some clarifications about that and, above all, some answers. Why are the Conservatives digging in their heels when Canadian courts, parliamentarians and the treaties they signed indicate that Omar Khadr is a child soldier? Why has Omar Khadr not been returned to Canada?

7 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to children under 18 years of age, the Bloc just will not listen to reason.

As we all know, Omar Khadr was arrested by U.S. forces in 2002 because they believed he had been recruited by al-Qaeda and had participated in the armed conflict in Afghanistan as a combatant.

The United States has accused Mr. Khadr of serious crimes, including murder and attempted murder, and of other terrorism-related crimes.

Any court, including American courts, would consider these accusations to be very serious. That is why our government's position has always been based on the fact that it is up to American authorities to decide what they believe to be the most appropriate way to handle Mr. Khadr's case.

We understand that President Obama has asked for an extra 120 days in all cases, including Mr. Khadr's, to finalize military commission reforms.

That decision is just one more example of the Obama administration's efforts to resolve the Guantanamo detainee situation. The United States is continuing to debate whether, among other things, the detainees should be freed or transferred, or whether they should be tried and, if so, before which courts.

It would be inappropriate for Canada to disrupt the action taken by President Obama about this, by jumping ahead of the process taking place. We have no intention to prejudge what the final conclusions of the review of Mr. Khadr's case will be and how it will be resolved afterwards.

On April 23, 2009, the Federal Court of Canada made a ruling about the repatriation of Mr. Khadr. After carefully reviewing the legal merits of an appeal and the grounds of the ruling, the government decided to appeal the ruling. Our decision is very much consistent with the approach we have always adopted about this case.

Moreover, our decision is in line with the respect our government has for the sovereignty of American courts. It allows for the procedures ordered by President Obama to take place without undue interference on our part.

Canadian officials in Guantanamo regularly visit Mr. Khadr to inquire about his well-being. These visits allow us to constantly assess the conditions of his detention and to bring him some form of support.

In addition, Canadian officials play a tangible role to help him obtain items which improve his comfort in Guantanamo. The government of Canada also requested on several occasions that Mr. Khadr be offered opportunities for education during his detention and that he be submitted to an independent medical and psychological assessment. Finally, the government insisted that Mr. Khadr must benefit from the services of a competent lawyer of his choice and helped him gain access to a Canadian lawyer.

7:05 p.m.

Bloc

Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the Conservatives are playing the same old tape. I mentioned three things. I only have one minute and I will be brief. The government decided to appeal. Ignoring the rights of children is quite in keeping with the right-wing ideology of the Conservative party. A treaty that protects child soldiers does exist and it is important.

My colleague spoke of American justice. She is saying that the laws and rulings of Canadian courts are not as strong as the laws upheld by American courts. She spoke of the sovereignty of the United States, but I would reply that a ruling—

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it always makes me laugh to see the Bloc members shouting so loudly.

They are the only ones in Parliament who voted against Bill C-268, which would have protected our own children from sex offenders. And they are the ones lecturing us. I am sorry, but Bill C-268 was very important. All the parliamentarians supported us.

The treatment of Canadian children is just as important as the treatment of children elsewhere.

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I asked a question about the cuts to research funding, and I did not receive an answer to my question. I was speaking about Katrin Meissner, an accomplished B.C. climate scientist, who is packing up and moving from Canada to Australia because of the cuts to science funding.

There was $365 million cut from science and technology when one adjusts for inflation. That is a substantial withdrawal of support for this very critical activity. Two thousand top researchers recently signed a petition calling for urgent federal action to stop the brain drain. Why, in 2009, do we have a government whose policies are driving our key researchers out of Canada? In fact a minister from the other side called it absurd that there would be continuing funding by government for science and research. This is very difficult for people to understand in my community, where I have the University of British Columbia and research is a key part of the economy and the well-being of people in the future.

The person who is moving is a climate scientist. It is particularly concerning that the government is eliminating its capability to do what needs to be done to reduce greenhouse gases. It does bring into question whether the government has any intention to reduce greenhouse gases or do anything to take action on climate change.

I would suggest that the record to date would lead to the answer of no. It has absolutely no intention or commitment to this issue. Three years, three ministers and three plans, with zero results. I will point out that the government is led by a prime minister who made this statement only a handful of years ago. He said:

We will oppose ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and its targets. We will work with the provinces and others to discourage the implementation of those targets. And we will rescind the targets when we have the opportunity to do so.

That is pretty clear. The government has no intention of reducing greenhouse gases. In contrast, when the Liberal Party was in government they were leaders on that issue. The Liberals ratified and negotiated Kyoto, and they went to work to bring industry and the public on board. We saw emissions drop between 2004 and 2006 under the former Liberal government. There has been a pathetic recidivism on this issue since the Conservative government took charge.

Surprisingly enough, the Conservative government did agree to a target. Let us look at how it is actually doing. We will turn to the report from the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, in which it is clear that the Conservatives are a complete disaster on climate change. There is no honesty, no action, no tracking and no credibility. The commissioner said that the plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are missing information required by law, that the plans overstate expected emissions, and that the plans are not transparent and there is no system to monitor and report results.

The commissioner himself asked if the environment department could explain why it could supposedly estimate emission reductions in advance but could not actually measure these reductions after the fact.

7:10 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure exactly where to begin. The hon. member's question is replete with misinformation and falsehoods, both on science and technology and on the Liberal record regarding the environment. Of course, the record of the Liberals regarding the environment was that they increased greenhouse gas emissions by 35% over the time they were in office.

In terms of science and technology, we have indicated many times before, Canada continues to be a world leader in terms of its support for post-secondary research. We rank first in the G7 and second, after Sweden, among the 30 OECD countries in terms of higher education R and D expenditures as a percentage of GDP.

Through the federal S & T strategy, announced by the Prime Minister nearly two years ago, the government has demonstrated its commitment to build on this strong record.

This strategy has been backed up with strong action, with investments of over $7 billion in S & T funding, much of this geared to supporting world-class research.

For example, new funding totalling $240 million was provided to Genome Canada in budgets 2007 and 2008, allowing it to fund its operations and current research support until March 31, 2013. In fact, Genome is now running a major new competition, the results of which will be announced later this year.

Budget 2007 provided $50 million to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics to support its leading research, education and public outreach activities. In this same budget, we set aside $195 million to establish the centres of excellence in commercialization and research program to create world-class centres to advance research and promote commercialization of technologies, products and services.

A further $105 million was earmarked to support the operations of seven existing centres of excellence, such as the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, the Life Science Research Institute in Halifax, and the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

We also continue to invest in research and science infrastructure through the Canada foundation for innovation, with investments of $510 million in budget 2007 and $750 million in budget 2009. This support, aimed at modernizing research facilities and equipment in post-secondary institutions, is complemented by the massive $2 billion investment in university and college infrastructure outlined in budget 2009.

Most recently, budget 2009 invested $50 million to support the construction and establishment of University of Waterloo's Institute for Quantum Computing, a new world-class research facility in this exciting field with considerable promise.

In addition to the preceding targeted investments, we have provided significant funding increases for the federal granting councils to support their core programming, with increases totalling $205 million per year through actions taken in budgets 2006, 2007 and 2008. I should underline that these increases represent ongoing permanent increases in annual funding for the granting councils.

Our past investments and budget 2009 underscore our determination to help build a strong national competitive advantage through science and technology.

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has failed Canadians on the economy, failed Canadians on research and failed Canadians on climate change, and all that member can do is read from a list of initiatives, succeeding to take credit for what the Liberal Party has done for this country in building world leadership on a range of issues.

Canadians care about climate change. The voters in my riding care. They are organizing a huge event for September to bring the community out. Vancouver is a leader on this issue. British Columbia is a leader on this issue and the federal government is a zero on this issue.

It abdicated its responsibility and covered its absence of action with bluster, pretense and misrepresentation. It is an embarrassment to be a politician with this calibre of behaviour on climate change, one of the key issues of today on which our children and grandchildren deserve action, not this--

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. parliamentary secretary.