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House of Commons Hansard #61 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was colombia.

Topics

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeMinister of International Trade

moved that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again speak in the House to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. This agreement is an important part of the government's ambitious free trade agenda, an agenda aimed at supporting Canada's economy, Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and building prosperity for our economy.

The fragility of the global economy emphasizes the value of expanding trade and investment relationships by improving access to markets abroad.

Our government is committed to pursuing this initiative and building Canadian prosperity through bilateral and regional trade relations. Canada's economy is export-focused, and as such, it is in our best economic interest to find as many new foreign markets for our producers and exporters as possible.

By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we support economic growth and create new jobs for Canadian workers. That is the experience of the North American free trade agreement and the experience of new free trade agreements under this government with Peru and with the European Free Trade Association.

We have had other free trade agreements, one before this Parliament on Jordan and another one recently signed with Panama, and we are currently negotiating a very ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union. This Canada-Colombia free trade agreement before the House today is an important part of that agenda.

Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for the opportunities that all of these free trade agreements provide, and this government is listening.

Colombia is a significant trade partner for Canada. In 2009, our two-way merchandise trade totalled $1.3 billion and, over the past five years, Canadian merchandise exports have grown by over 55%. Clearly, Canadian businesses and producers see potential in this market.

However, the reality is that Canadian exports, particularly commodities, are at a disadvantage when compared to many of our main competitors, like the U.S., for geographic reasons.

Speedy implementation of our agreement with Colombia will help our exporters strengthen their position. Canadian exporters are in danger of finding themselves at an even greater disadvantage in this important market. Once in place, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will benefit Canadian exporters by removing a number of major trade barriers to the Colombian market. For example, Colombia will eliminate duties on nearly all current Canadian exports to Colombia, including wheat, pulse crops and mining equipment.

In 2009, Canada exported agri-food products worth $247 million to Colombia. In fact, Colombia is the second largest market for Canadian agricultural exports in South America.

Once this free trade agreement is in place, over 85% of Canadian agricultural exports to Colombia will be duty-free immediately. The removal of these duties is a significant advantage for Canadian agriculture and agri-food producers. This government is standing up for Canada's agricultural producers. This sector is critical for Canada. It contributes about $100 billion to the country's gross domestic product and employs over two million Canadians.

The benefits of this deal extend across the Canadian economy. It is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector. This sector has been hit particularly hard during these recent difficult economic times and it is a sector that would benefit from new market opportunities.

With rapid growth in the Colombian economy in recent years, Canadian companies made important investments. The strong presence of Canadian companies has also created many export opportunities for Canadian exporters of industrial goods, particularly oil and gas and mining equipment manufacturers.

Some of Canada's leading exports to Colombia include off-road dump trucks and auto parts. The manufacturers of these products would benefit under this agreement, and I need not point out the obvious, that auto parts manufacturers in the auto sector have been hit hard in recent years and the workers in this sector would appreciate the economic opportunities this would present.

Knowledge of infrastructure needs and the production of industrial goods are areas in which Canada excels.

These export sectors are integral to our economy. They are part of every Canadian community, large or small. That is why our government is seeking access to new markets.

Colombia is also a strategic destination for Canadian investment, and two-way investment is an absolutely critical driving force in today's global economy. It is important for Canada to maintain both inward and outward investment with our global partners, partners including Colombia, with the stock of Canadian investment in Colombia reaching approximately $800 million in 2009, and thanks in great part to Colombia's oil and gas a mining sectors, this number is expected to grow over the coming years.

Those are just a few areas where Canada has significant interests and can offer a lot to our Colombian partners going forward.

The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement offers both Canadian and Colombian investors an unprecedented degree of stability, predictability and protection.

This agreement establishes a stable legal framework and strict obligations to guarantee freedom of investment capital transfer and to protect investors from expropriation. Thanks to this agreement, investors will also have access to transparent, enforceable and impartial dispute resolution procedures.

In terms of services, this sector is a primary driver of the Canadian economy. It is responsible for 71% of our gross domestic product and for three in four Canadian jobs.

The Colombian market holds many opportunities for growth across this service sector in areas such as financial services, legal services, engineering and architecture, and high technology, for example. Canadian service providers already have a substantial presence in the Colombian market. Our services' exports to Colombia are in the area of about $80 million to $85 million each year. Propelling these numbers are Canadian financial, mining, engineering, petroleum extraction sectors and tourism.

Service sectors like these in Canada have a lot to gain. This agreement would afford service providers a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based trading environment, and would provide an added measure of confidence.

Under this agreement, Canadian service providers can plan for the future knowing that they will receive the same treatment as Colombian service providers.

In addition, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will provide direct benefits in other areas that are important to Canada. Thanks to the procurement provisions in the accord, Canadian suppliers will be able to bid on requests for proposals for goods, services and construction issued by most Colombian federal departments.

There are also comprehensive provisions covering the temporary entry of business visitors, intra-company transferees, traders and investors, spouses, technicians and an extensive list of professionals. This would ensure timely processing and transparency in the review of temporary entry applications. Businesses would directly benefit from this expedited process and the people to people movement would mean that Canadian investors and Canadian professionals would be better positioned to benefit from the opportunities offered in the Colombian market.

Those are just a few examples of the many benefits that would be achieved and accomplished by this free trade agreement.

In difficult economic times, we cannot hide behind walls or behind barriers. We need to seek out new opportunities on the global stage, and that is why this government has been committed to securing access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses through negotiations with the European Union, Ukraine and others across the Americas.

It is now time to move ahead with this legislation. it has been debated at length by this Parliament, by numerous speakers and by extensive evidence at committee. It has been studied as thoroughly as any other agreement, perhaps even more than the North American Free Trade Agreement, I hasten to suggest. Of course, we believe that in this agreement, our parallel agreements on environment and labour help address the concerns that some have raised with regard to Colombia.

I ask for the support of all hon. members for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and the parallel labour co-operation and environment agreements. This would be a great step forward for Canada, another addition to our overall free trade agenda, which is leading to growth and prosperity for the Canadian economy and for the benefit of Canadian workers, which is why we think this is a long overdue agreement.

Canada would lead the way, ahead of those in the European Union and in the United States that have agreements in place but have failed to ratify them as yet. We would be in a position to do that. This agreement would provide an advantage and an opportunity to our Canadian workers, an advantage that this government is committed to capitalizing upon.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, there was little comment in the minister's speech. The minister is a failed minister with a failed trade strategy.

It is not just the softwood lumber sellout that killed tens of thousands of jobs right across the country. It is not just the buy America sellout that has been condemned as the second worst agreement ever signed by Canada. It is not just the shipbuilding sellout. It is not just the consistent, wrong-headed policies of this government. The reality is that when we have signed bilateral trade agreements, our exports to those markets have gone down in real terms. The minister has tried to hide behind that by using inflation-related dollars but, in real terms, our exports go down to those markets after we have signed trade agreements in every case except one.

The minister simply cannot defend the record of his government and he certainly cannot defend what the Conservatives and Liberals have done on this agreement. They refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress, from some of the largest unions in the country and from the Colombian free and democratic labour movement. The only labour movements they would hear from were the government affiliated labour unions. They refused to hear from African Colombians and aboriginal Colombians.

Now we find out that this secret report the government has been hiding for the last six months refers to the murders, which are directly government-related to those communities, and also lesbian and gay Colombians.

We have a systematic obstruction, a refusal to get any sort of real input from the people who would be affected by this agreement and now we have closure. What a shame. I say shame on the Conservatives and shame on them all.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I give the hon. member credit for consistency. He has always been against free trade and continues to be, and I do not expect that will change regardless of what changes are brought forward on any trading ground.

First, I will address his contention about this report. The report to which he was referring was not prepared for the Canadian government. It was being prepared for the United Nations and it was the United Nations that chose to cancel that work. That being said, the draft report and the benefit the United Nations had of it did not change the fact that the United Nations International Labour Organization, actually for the first time in 21 years, moved Colombia off its list of countries that it watches for violations of international workers' conditions and rights.

That indicates that the United Nations believes, as does the Canadian government, that Colombia is making considerable progress on that front. That is the position of the International Labour Organization. I know the hon. member is sometimes at odds with the International Labour Organization and does not stand with workers the way we do. We stand with workers by ensuring they have opportunities for free trade.

The hon. member suggests that somehow free trade agreements have resulted in less opportunity for Canadian workers. The fact is that two-thirds of our economy is trade related. That tells us that there has been significant growth in our economy because of trade that has resulted and why Canada is now posting the strongest economic growth and job growth of any major developed economy in the world. The reason we have posted hundreds of thousands of new jobs at a time when economies all around us are losing jobs is because of our commitment to a free trade agenda that creates opportunities for Canadian workers and marketplaces around the world.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his support of this agreement and the importance of it to Canadians.

I would note that just recently there was an election in Colombia and a new government was elected. In those elections, the party that represented the anti-free trade faction garnered 7% or 8% of the vote in Colombia, less than 10% of the vote, and they are still complaining about the free trade agreement.

That reminds me of the position of the NDP members in this House. They have obfuscated, delayed, obstructed and have moved dilatory motions. They have done everything possible to prevent this from moving forward. However, it is obviously time for democracy to prevail, which is a notion I know the NDP really do not agree with, and for members to vote on this important issue.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will resist the invitation from the hon. member to comment on electoral processes in other countries, particularly since Colombia is in between rounds in its successive elections. However, I believe all the leading candidates who will participate in the runoff elections are supportive of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, as is the overwhelming majority of Colombians, which is not surprising. This agreement offers tremendous benefits for Colombians.

Free trade is always a win-win proposition, where there is economic growth on both sides. If people are genuinely concerned about the living conditions of the Colombian worker, then they would want opportunities for more jobs, higher incomes, a better standard of living and a greater opportunity to build brighter futures for their children. Colombian workers are looking for that. That is why they so strongly support the Canada-Colombian free trade agreement.

I know the approach of the New Democratic Party has always been to raise walls and isolate and cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. That is why it opposes every free trade agreement that comes along. However, we know the world has changed. That perspective was thoroughly discredited in the 1930s when walls of protectionism and an economic downturn brought the world to its knees in the greatest depression ever and saw the workers of the world suffering more than ever before.

This time around, the world has resisted that protectionism, resisted the siren calls of the left and the socialists to do exactly what the NDP is saying today. As a result, the world is now heading into economic recovery with more opportunities for workers everywhere.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, as you would know, farmers in parts of Saskatchewan are unable to put their crops in the ground. It is a difficult time. While cattle and hog prices have improved, they have gone through a very difficult time.

We all know the trade agreement will help bolster the income of farmers, not only now, because it will take some time to enact, but at times like this in the future. Yet members of the New Democratic Party and the Bloc have blocked this agreement. I do not understand why they would have so little concern for farmers across the country. They have to know, because they have been paying attention, that this agreement will help the income of farmers in the livestock and the crop sectors long into the future.

The minister referred to this in his speech. Does he have some idea as to why those two opposition parties are showing so little regard for the farmers of our country?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will simply put it down to them doing the job of representing their constituents, none of whom are Saskatchewan wheat and pulse farmers.

Those who stand to gain from this are the farmers across western Canada, in particular, who grow and produce the exact products of which the Colombian market already obtains in large numbers and wants more. Canada will now have a privileged access that many of our competitors growing the same products will not have should this agreement pass. Those farmers are not constituents of the NDP and the Bloc and that is fair.

If people are representing organized labour and have an agenda of resisting any kind of free trade agreements anywhere, they are doing their job. Quite frankly, though, it is a job and a perspective with which we disagree. We believe in creating opportunities for our farmers and workers who are looking at trading on the world stage, selling their products all around the world, offering Canada's high-quality agricultural products to markets around the world.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, could the minister speak to the participation of Liberal Party, in particular of my colleague from Kings—Hants, that resulted in an addition to this free trade agreement with respect to human rights, of which Liberals are very proud? I believe it was singularly important in being able to get our support for it.

Could the minister speak to Liberals' very constructive participation in the process?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the opposition trade critic, the member for Kings—Hants, and the Liberal Party put forward an amendment proposing the exchange of annual reports on human rights between this Parliament and the Colombian Parliament. Our government did not believe it was necessary. We believe there has been very sound and solid progress on human rights. However, we recognize there are some critics still looking to be convinced and, as such, we are agreeable to the proposition of this amendment as a way of providing assurance to those individuals.

The result is we now have an amendment, a parallel treaty, on human rights with Colombia. Through the ratification of that amendment with the vote in the House on report stage, we believe the treaty has now been given the approval of the House to go forward and—

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Willowdale.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I commend the efforts of all our colleagues in the House because of our very strong collective interest in the promotion of human rights elsewhere in the world. My thanks go to everyone for the spirited debate, the substantive discussions that have taken place in the House with that as an end.

In some cases I know we disagree very much on the how, but I want to stress that I believe very sincerely that there is a view among all members of the House that human rights are very important and, in particular, that the rights and protections of Colombians are very important to us all.

I want to thank all my colleagues in the House, because I know we have not necessarily always agreed during our debates, but I want to assure the public that I believe all members in this House want to see human rights respected all over the world. We are now talking about Colombia. We all want to ensure that human rights are respected in Colombia as well. We now have differing ideas and opinions as to how we can accomplish what we want to do in terms of human rights.

I will to speak now on why we have those differences and perhaps why I, in particular, feel strongly that the Liberal Party supports the free trade arrangement with Colombia. We believe very strongly that in the support of increased human rights, there is the option to say that we will put up walls and allow human rights abuses and other activities, which we find abhorrent. We can encourage the building of walls so people can hide behind them, or we can participate in the opening of windows through which we and the world can see and through which daylight can shine.

We can engage in avoidance. We can pretend that bad things are not happening and we can say that we are going to carry on with our own activities, or we can actively engage.

My view is that engagement is the opportunity to participate in encouraging, not just improvements in trade, not just improvements in the economic situation of both countries, but improvements in human rights in Colombia. We can engage in criticism. We can wag our fingers and say that they must do better, or we can engage in support of action and wherever possible support improvements where we see them.

As I said, I believe that all members in this House want to improve human rights, but the question is how to go about it. We have options. We can help build walls so people can hide behind them, or we can participate in the opening of windows through which we and the world can see and through which daylight can shine. We can pretend that bad things are not happening or that they are not our problem, and we can say that we are going to carry on with our own activities, or we can actively engage.

With my speech today, it is clear that my view—and I believe the view of the Liberal Party—is that engaging with Colombia is much more important. We can criticize. We can stand here and say they are doing things we do not like, or we can give our support when we see progress and the possibility of improvements. That is exactly what I want to see Canada participate in by supporting progress wherever we see it.

It ultimately comes down to a philosophy of whether it is better to encourage human rights. I absolutely believe in free trade on the basis that it will encourage economic prosperity in Canada and in all the countries with which we engage in free trade, and in this case with Colombia. Free trade is an avenue to greater economic prosperity for both countries and for the people.

However, clearly the issue, as has been discussed in the House with great emotion, has been the concern about human rights in Colombia. Therefore, I will focus on that. It is, without question, a philosophy of whether we believe that if we engage, it will help the cause of human rights in Colombia, or whether it is better to retreat and to avoid. I firmly believe engagement is the right direction for us to take.

I will use China as an example, and I know some of my colleagues may find it a bit odd. We all know that China still has major human rights issues about which we are all very concerned. However, I have a little anecdote. My mother travelled to China 30-35 years ago. When she came back, she had all sorts of very interesting stories, but one had to do with the control. It was not even a question of freedom of speech; it was a question of speech at all. Everywhere she went, she had someone controlling her move. She was prevented from speaking with anyone locally on the ground. It was not a question of freedom of speech, it was a question of speech alone.

I will look at what has happened with China over the last 35-40 years. It has been extraordinary. We know there are still significant concerns with regard to human rights, but the situation has so massively improved. I will venture to say that it has to do directly with the incredible growth of engagement, primarily on an economic level between China and the rest of the world. I will stress again, things are not perfect, but they are far better now than they were a mere few decades ago.

On that basis, I will speak about the issue of whether we need to focus on the status quo, or whether we need to focus on the current specific situation in Colombia, or whether we have an opportunity to look at the importance of the direction of the progress. Again, I refer to China. It is far from perfect, but the direction that country has taken in the last number of decades, the improvement in the rights people and the improvement in economic opportunities, has been extraordinary.

It is that progress and improvement that I hope all our colleagues can focus on rather than what has happened in the past in Colombia. We need to look at the significant improvements in that country, not only in terms of economics, but also in terms of democracy and the improvements in human rights and treatment of civilians in Colombia. Again, it is not perfect, but Canada has an opportunity, with this agreement, to participate in a significantly greater way with Colombia and Colombians. If we engage in more trade, if we engage in more investment, not only will we allow a greater opportunity for economic advancement and jobs, but we also allow an opportunity for more and more Colombians to see how the rest of the world operates, how Canada operates and how we stress the importance of human rights.

I firmly believe there is an opportunity for Canadians. When we engage more in trade and economic activity, it gives us that many more opportunities and occasions to engage in discussions and debate.

Not too long ago one of my colleagues suggested that if we put up those walls and said no to the windows, in a very short period of time Canada would end up focusing on something else, the European Union for example. That would be our focus in terms of trade negotiations.

Very quickly, nobody in this House will even be speaking of Colombia anymore. Colombia, as a country, will disappear from our radar and that would be a real shame. This is an opportunity for Canada and for Canadians to increase the level of discussion, to increase the level of engagement with Colombians through greater economic activity that can lead to greater exchanges and greater engagement on the educational front, the cultural front, and simply in terms of more people working and discussing with each other. This is a real opportunity.

I would like to talk about the improvements that could be made through stronger engagement. I will use China as an example. Some of my colleagues may find it a bit odd that I am using China as an example to talk about human rights. However, I am not talking about the current situation, but the difference between today's China and the China of 30 or 40 years ago.

I would like to tell a short story. My mother travelled to China 30 or 35 years ago. It was incredible; not only was it impossible to speak frankly and openly, she was not allowed to speak at all. There was someone with her at all times, controlling her entire visit. She could not speak or even have informal conversations with the locals on the ground.

I am using this example because I feel it is an example of engagement. The difference between the China of 30 or 40 years ago and today's China is incredible. We know that there are still issues with human rights, but things are evolving and progress has been made.

We now have the opportunity to ask what we can do. Do we want to build walls and do nothing because the situation in Colombia is not perfect? Even though there are issues, there has been significant progress in Colombia. We have the opportunity to support this progress. Canada, by engaging in more trade with Colombia, is improving that country's economy. And we have the opportunity to help with that progress. We can help Colombians contribute to this progress and ensure that the progress already realized in Colombia will continue.

That is a fundamental philosophical view that not all of my colleagues share.

There is a tremendous opportunity for Canada either to put up walls and wag our finger, and tell Colombia that we will not play with it until it does better, or we have an opportunity to engage because it has worked hard to improve, it has made progress even though it is not perfect, but we are there to engage as much as possible so that we can help the country to improve.

I will conclude with the fundamental view that it will not be Canadians who will ultimately change Colombia. It was not Canadians who changed China. In the case of Colombia, it will be Colombians. In the case of China, it was the Chinese.

Canada does have a role to play in engaging. I am proud of the role that Canada played with respect to China, in encouraging engagement, in encouraging the Chinese to demand greater opportunities for themselves within their own country. Canada has an opportunity to do the same thing with Colombia. We know it is not perfect. We know Colombia is making progress. We know that if we can engage even more with Colombia in terms of trade and economics, and in all of the other engagement that encourages, then we have an opportunity to help Colombians to help themselves economically and also with regard to human rights.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her comments and I would like to add a few comments to maybe flesh out a little more some of the things that she talked about.

I appreciated her comments regarding China and the comparison. I would like to make the comparison that when we were studying Colombia at the international trade committee, we went to Colombia. The Colombian government was only too eager to talk and to show us Colombia, to have us travel in Colombia and to meet people. It was more than accommodating on finding people who did not agree with the free trade agreement and ensuring that we had access to those individuals at committee, to know that there was a protest among a minority of Colombians, but still a protest among some Colombians who were against the free trade agreement.

I would say that I appreciated the intervention by the member for Kings—Hants regarding the side agreement on human rights in this agreement. We were, quite frankly, stymied at committee. We were not moving forward. It enabled us to move forward.

My question for the hon. member is this. The Colombian government itself is made up of various fractions, from the centre left, from the centre right, from the far right and the left, and they represent a total makeup of Colombian society. To me, that speaks of democracy and that speaks of individuals who want to improve upon--

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Willowdale.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his comments. I will point out that earlier, the minister had said that the addition in terms of human rights was not necessary. I am glad to hear my colleague now acknowledging that in order to move this through and to get approval, in fact, the work by my colleague from Kings—Hants and the Liberal Party was instrumental in getting this to the point of getting it through the House, so I thank my colleague for that.

I will also say that when the government first came to power a few years ago, the attitude was not the one that I have been promoting. There was an element of sitting here in Canada and wagging our finger at other countries that did not engage in activities the way we preferred them to be. The government, to its credit, has acknowledged and has realized over the last few years, and it has a long way to go but at least it is making some progress, in recognizing that Canada cannot accomplish what it sees to be opportunities internationally by wagging our finger, but rather through engagement.

I will also comment on the reference to democracy in Colombia and reiterate what other colleagues have said. It is a democratic country. It is not perfect, but in the elections that we have seen, we have seen an overwhelming support by Colombians for free trade. They understand the value of engagement.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Liberal member a question. How can she explain such a drastic change in the Liberal Party's position since last fall, both in committee and in the House, regarding possible support for a free trade agreement with Colombia?

This support was very clearly expressed at the Standing Committee on International Trade. Unanimous consent was reached regarding the need for an independent study—before Canada ratifies the agreement—on the Colombian government's respect for human rights and what it is doing to prevent human rights abuses.

Why such a difference between the Liberals' position last fall and their current position, whereby a report submitted a year later will suffice? With all due respect, their words sound like empty rhetoric to me. This seems to completely contradict their position, which was well argued, entirely plausible and reasonable.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question.

I would like to say two things. First of all, I am proud to be a member of a party that brings together people with different opinions, a party in which we can have discussions in order to achieve consensus and one that is able to find common ground that we can support. In the end, we determined that it was better to adopt this position for Canada and for people elsewhere.

I would also like to say that the speeches given by my hon. colleague from Kings—Hants on human rights greatly helped convince other Liberals that, as a party, we can now support that position.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, first, as far as the Conservatives are concerned on agricultural policy, after the vicious attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board, after the fact that Alberta has the lowest farm receipts in the entire country, and after putting supply management on the table in the Canada-E.U. negotiations, this party takes no lessons from the Conservatives on agricultural policy.

I would like to go back to the member now. The Conservatives' record is very clear. Alberta has the lowest farm receipts in the country. So, farmers are not being well-served by the current government.

I like the hon. member. I find her a little disingenuous, to say the least, on this particular issue. I know that she is not a member of the trade committee and has not been to Colombia. However, the reality is the Liberal Party systematically obstructed and refused to hear from the Canadian Labour Congress; refused to hear from the National Union of Provincial General Employees; refused to hear from the Public Service Alliance of Canada; refused to hear from the free and democratic labour unions in Colombia, where over 90% of Colombians who are workers and unionized are in that sector; refused to hear from African-Colombians; and refused to hear from aboriginal people in Colombia. It shut off all debate before the committee.

Two years ago, when we went down to Colombia, the trade committee came back with a unanimous recommendation to not proceed with this agreement. That is the one time when the trade committee did its job.

It did not do its job on Bill C-2 because of Liberal interference and Liberals refusing to hear from the groups that actively requested to come before the committee.

For the Liberals to say they are for human rights when they have accepted and in fact promoted closure, and cut off all of those important witnesses who wanted to come before the trade committee is disingenuous, at best.

I know that many activists have expressed this to Liberal members. The Liberal leader has simply said to all of the members within the Liberal Party caucus who have misgivings about this tragic turn of events with no human rights override at all in the Colombia trade deal, that the only thing the Colombian government is obliged to do is produce a whitewashed report on itself once a year.

My question for the member is very simple. Will her leader allow a free vote on the Colombia free trade agreement? Will her leader actually say that those many Liberal MPs who have expressed misgivings about this Liberal sellout on human rights will have the opportunity to vote on this agreement without being bludgeoned through a whipped vote here in the House?

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his initial kind words.

Despite the temptation to descend into a more personal approach, because I believe very strongly in our obligations here in this House to work together as much as possible with as much respect and civility without personal labels, I will say that in addressing the one issue about the trade committee's position on this issue I will repeat what I said in my answer to my other colleague from the Bloc Québécois.

We have been able, through the hard work and the excellent work of my colleague from Kings—Hants, to address significantly the fundamental concern that so many people have had with regard to human rights through the amendment, through the extra portion of this agreement on human rights, specifically. I am very proud of that fact. It was because of concerns raised by members of our own party, it was because of concerns raised by members of the public, that we were able to address those specific concerns. That is why, now, the Liberal Party is in a position to support this free trade agreement.

I want to commend all the colleagues who participated in that. I want to commend the colleagues on the opposite side of the House who appreciated the fact that that intervention, that amendment, that focus on human rights, was in fact what we needed to allow this to move forward. I would hope that my colleague would understand that we are at least trying to make progress.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-2 is now at third reading, and I would like to begin by saying that I find this rather strange and even a bit anachronistic. I am very disappointed that we have gotten to this point.

Both in committee and in the House of Commons, we have seen the Conservative government use closure to put an end to extremely important, interesting and relevant debates, especially about respect for human rights, and to prevent witnesses, including Colombians, from testifying about what their lives are like. The issue of human rights affects them directly, yet the government is using procedural tactics to prevent them from talking to the committee and is putting an end to this debate to prevent witnesses from being heard.

Moreover, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster raised a question of privilege in the House about what happened in committee, where, with the Liberals' support, the government denied members access to the committee clerk to check some information.

So it is disappointing that this bill is at third reading today, especially since the government has imposed closure to put an end to this debate. With the issue of human rights a top priority, it is particularly significant that the government is using closure, seeing as how it is bound, bent and determined to do whatever it takes to implement an extremely controversial bill.

What the government is doing goes completely against the unanimous position of the Standing Committee on International Trade, which had unanimously recommended two years ago that the government wait before implementing this agreement, because the Colombian government's respect for human rights was highly questionable.

A number of people have still not had a chance to be heard to this day. Even though Colombia has one of the worst human rights records in Latin America, the Conservative government keeps on saying that Colombia's human rights situation has greatly improved.

In all honesty, the situation may not be as bad as it was a few years ago, but it certainly is not ideal or worth celebrating, as the Liberals and Conservatives are doing by implementing a free trade agreement with a country whose trade with Canada is quite insignificant compared to other countries.

Is trade the real reason the Conservative government is so eager to implement such a trade agreement with support from the Liberals?

It begs the question. We believe that the government is not trying to promote trade through this agreement. The government is instead trying to help Canadian mining companies exploit the natural resources of another country.

They want to go after the natural resources at the expense of human rights. I said earlier that Colombia has one of the worst human rights records. It is a country where the government tolerates extreme violence. I will continue after—

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have 15 minutes following question period.

Larry John RuddStatements by Members

June 11th, 2010 / 10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week in Brantford, Ontario, big yellow ribbons and Canadian flags lined the streets as thousands of people came out to bid a final farewell to Trooper Larry John Rudd, who died on May 24 serving our country in Afghanistan.

Standing more than six foot six, Trooper Rudd was known among his comrades as a gentle giant. At his funeral he was described as a phenomenal soldier, friend and Canadian. Larry John Rudd is a true Canadian hero who will be dearly missed by his family, friends, fellow comrades and the communities of Brantford and Brant.

Trooper Rudd is one of 147 Canadian men and women who have given their lives serving their country in Afghanistan. On behalf of all Canadians, I salute these brave men and women. Their commitment and sacrifice will remain a source of pride for all.

AfghanistanStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week parliamentarians and government ministers hosted one of the most courageous and compelling heroines of our day in the person of Dr. Massouda Jalal, distinguished physician, the former minister of women's affairs and the first woman to run for president of Afghanistan.

Dr. Jalal's testimony before the foreign affairs committee's Subcommittee on International Human Rights was clear: that we are witnessing in Afghanistan a regression from the initial progress at the beginning of this decade; that a developing extremism is driving a culture of fear amidst a culture of impugnity; that, in a word, the empowerment of women can underpin democracy and freedom and usher in a culture of peace. As Dr. Jalal herself put it:

Women's rights are the key to fighting dictatorship and extremism, militarization and warlordism. Women are the key to the future.

Dr. Jalal's courage and strength should inspire us all and underpin our mission in Afghanistan now and beyond 2011, the protection and empowerment of women, and thereby, the promotion and protection of democracy and freedom for all Afghans.

Mario Cusson Competition TeamStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was proud to learn that the Mario Cusson Competition Team from my riding recently distinguished itself at the Quebec provincial Golden Gloves boxing championship.

The team took first place as the most improved club and second place for number of wins.

I would like to congratulate the winning boxers: Charles Boismenu, Sarah Dasylva, Mélanie Carrier, Gino Colangelo, Mélanie Grenon, Martine Vallières-Bisson, Samuel Francisque, Parwiz Payman and David St-Pierre.

A big thank you to the team's head trainer, the president and former champion Alain Bosmenu, whose energy and dedication help young people excel at a competitive sport.

Good luck to Longueuil's Mario Cusson Competitive Team in the 2010 Quebec Cup, an international competition that will be held in Longueuil from June 24 to 27.

BangladeshStatements by Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bangladesh became a country after a war of independence that began about 40 years ago.

After many challenges in the early years, the restoration of democracy in 1991 gave hope to the people of Bangladesh for a better life for themselves and their children. That is why it is with grave concern and great sorrow that Canadians have learned of recent arrests of journalists, in particular Mahmudur Rahman. Hundreds of members of Canada's Bangladeshi community have written to me asking me to share their condemnation of these arrests.

As a sister Commonwealth country, Canada will always have a keen interest in what happens in Bangladesh. A vibrant and industrious Bangladeshi community that shares the values of democracy, freedom of expression and freedom of the press is asking the Canadian government to take note of these disquieting developments and to do whatever it can to avoid a slide back from those values.

FIFA World CupStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I wish to extend our heartfelt best wishes to the people of South Africa as they host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the very first on African soil.

I am confident that South Africa will stage a world-class tournament. The world again will have a chance to see the vibrancy, growing self-confidence and optimism that is emerging from the continent of Africa, the continent where I was born.

Over the 20 years since Nelson Mandela's release from prison, Canadians have watched with pride as South Africa has emerged to take an increasingly prominent place on the global stage. Hosting the World Cup is yet another world-class achievement by our great friend and ally.

Let us celebrate the friendship between our two countries and wish South Africa every success as it brings us the joy and excitement of the World Cup.