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House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was funding.

Topics

Vaughan, Dauphin--Swan River--MarquetteVacancies

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

It is my duty to inform the House that vacancies have occurred in the representation, namely Mr. Maurizio Bevilacqua, member for the electoral district of Vaughan, by resignation effective September 2, 2010; Mr. Inky Mark, member for the electoral district of Dauphin--Swan River--Marquette, by resignation effective September 15, 2010.

Pursuant to subsection 25(1)(b) of the Parliament of Canada Act, I have addressed my warrant to the Chief Electoral Officer for the issue of a writ for the election of a member to fill this vacancy.

Board of Internal Economy

September 20th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that for the purposes and under the provisions of article 50 of the Parliament of Canada Act, the following members have been appointed members of the Board of Internal Economy, namely Mr. Baird, member for the electoral district of Ottawa West--Nepean, in place of Mr. Hill, member for the electoral district of Prince George--Peace River.

In addition, Ms. DeBellefeuille, member for the electoral district of Beauharnois—Salaberry, is replacing Mr. Guimond, member for the electoral district of Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord.

Message from the Senate

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed certain public bills, to which the concurrence of the House is desired.

It being 11:05 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, as reported without amendment from the committee.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order regarding Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, introduced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

I submit that the bill contains provisions which would require new spending for purposes not currently authorized in statute and therefore should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Bill C-300 would add new functions to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act by requiring the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to establish a new, quasi-judicial function regarding Canadian companies engaged in mining, oil or gas activities in developing countries. Currently, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act does not authorize spending for that new function.

The government did not raise a point of order on the bill prior to second reading. However, during committee consideration of the bill, the issue of new spending was raised, and I now want to bring that to your attention. On December 1, 2009 officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade stated in committee:

The mechanism itself would require...the set-up of a whole new procedural framework that is not currently in existence within DFAIT and is not foreseen in the DFAIT Act.

Let me explain why this would require new spending. Clause 9 of the bill would amend the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act to compel the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to ensure that mining, oil and gas activities by Canadian corporations in developing countries are consistent with the guidelines in clause 5 of the bill.

Clause 4 of the bill sets out a formal complaints process to require the ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to receive complaints and conduct investigations on whether the guidelines have been contravened.

In a case where the ministers determine that activities contravene the guidelines, the ministers would be required to notify the president of the Export Development Corporation and the chair of the CPP Investment Board that a Canadian corporation's mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines.

In such a case, the EDC would not be able to enter into, continue or renew a transaction with a Canadian corporation found to have contravened the guidelines and the CPP Investment Board would have to ensure that assets are not invested in any corporations that have been found to be in contravention of the guidelines.

Bill C-300 would alter the terms and conditions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act by adding a new quasi-judicial function. The need for a royal recommendation for a new function is explained on page 834 of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. It states:

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered.

On June 13, 2005 the Speaker ruled on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting) and another Act in consequence, stating:

Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose--

On February 11, 2008, with respect to a new role or function for an existing organization or program, the Speaker ruled on Bill C-474, the National Sustainable Development Act, stating:

Bill C-474 also proposes a new mandate for the commissioner.

However, clause 13 of Bill C-474 would modify the mandate of this new independent commissioner to require, namely, the development of “a national sustainability monitoring system...The clause 13 requirements would impose additional functions on the commissioner that are substantially different from those foreseen in the current mandate. In the Chair's view, clause 13 thus alters the conditions set out in the original bill to which a royal recommendation was attached.

I have explained how the new function proposed in Bill C-300 would alter the terms and conditions of the original royal recommendation for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.

In keeping with the precedents I have mentioned, I therefore submit that Bill C-300 requires a royal recommendation.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have been at this bill now for some 13-14 months and here we are literally at the last minute raising issues of royal recommendation, which have already been, in my judgment, ruled on. This bill was carefully crafted in order to avoid the issue of royal recommendation because that is a limitation on private members' bills.

I take note, Mr. Speaker, that it requires no creation of any new agency. It does not create any new ombudsman. It does not create any new department. It does not create any agency which would require further appropriation of any moneys or any expenditures on the part of the government. This bill was intentionally crafted that way so as to avoid the very objections that my hon. friend has raised. There will be required, within the government itself, a reorganization of its resources, but there are no new resources contemplated by the creation of this function in the ministry.

I say to my hon. friend and I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that this bill does not require a royal recommendation as it does not require any fresh resources. The fresh resources are literally the prerogative of the government. There is no intention and, in fact, there is no requirement on the part of Bill C-300 to create any new agency, any new organization, or any new expenditure of funds.

Corporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue here that is raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons refers to the creation of a new quasi-judicial function. A function is not a new agency or a board.

The procedures with regard to assessing the requirements for a royal recommendation on private members' bills begin with a notice by the Speaker after consultation with the Clerk of the House. The Clerk's officials do a rigorous examination of each of those bills and they report to the Speaker who in turn reports to the House on the possibility of a royal recommendation being required. No such report was provided to the Speaker, and the Speaker has not in fact given such an alert to hon. members in this regard. Therefore, I would submit, for all the reasons that the Clerk of the House of Commons did not flag this for the Speaker, that those reasons would stand in the stead of the member who has moved this bill.

The other consideration, and I have seen this with regard to other bills, is that significant alteration of the role of any body does not necessarily rule out the fact that there is a responsibility for that. I think, Mr. Speaker, you would find that there is no other department or agency, whether it be Foreign Affairs or International Trade, to which this particular matter that is raised by Bill C-300 would come under. It must be under their ambit; it must be under the scope of their work.

I submit, Mr. Speaker, that this is the only place that it could go so that it is consistent with the responsibilities as departments, agencies, and boards, and that this bill does not require a royal recommendation.

Speaker's RulingCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood, and the hon. member for Mississauga South for their submissions on this point. I will examine the bill in light of their submissions and return to the House in due course with a ruling in respect to this matter.

There are 16 motions and amendments standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-300.

Motions Nos. 1 to 16 will be grouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting patterns available at the table.

The Chair does not ordinarily provide reasons for its selection of report stage motions. However, having been made aware of the exceptional circumstances surrounding the committee study of this bill, I would like to convey to the House the reasoning involved in considering these motions.

The note accompanying Standing Order 76(5) reads, in part:

The Speaker...will normally only select motions which were not or could not be presented [in committee].

The Chair takes note that the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood sits on the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which was mandated to study Bill C-300. Although I believe that the majority of the amendments in his name could have been proposed during the committee consideration of the bill, they were not.

In a written submission to the Chair, the member outlined his efforts to overcome the committee's inability to deal with the bill in the prescribed timelines, even going so far as to move a motion that the committee begin clause-by-clause study of the bill. These efforts proved fruitless, and although the member had submitted his amendments to the committee, he was not afforded the opportunity to propose them.

Having carefully reviewed the sequence of events and the submission made by the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood, I am satisfied that these motions could not be presented during the committee consideration of the bill and, accordingly, I have selected them for debate at report stage.

I shall now propose Motions Nos. 1 to 16 to the House.

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-300 be amended by replacing, in the English version, the long title on page 1 with the following:

An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas Corporations in Developing Countries”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 9 to 11 on page 1 with the following:

““corporation” means any company or legal person incorporated by or under an Act of Parliament or of any province, and includes holding or subsidiary companies of the corporation.”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing, in the French version, lines 10 to 13 on page 1 with the following:

“Opérations de recherche, notamment par forage, de production, de rationalisation de l'exploitation, de transformation et de transport de ressources minérales, de pétrole ou de gaz, réalisées dans le territoire d'un”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-300, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing lines 12 to 16 on page 1 with the following:

““developing countries” means countries classified as low income, lower middle income or upper middle income in the World Bank list of economies, as amended from time to time.”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-300, in Clause 3, be amended by replacing, in the French version, line 34 on page 2 with the following:

“3. La présente loi vise à faire en sorte que les”

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the English version, lines 3 and 4 on page 3 with the following:

“receive complaints regarding Canadian corporations engaged in mining, oil or gas activities”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 22 and 23 on page 3 with the following:

“ister who receives the complaint shall consider any relevant information provided by the corporation or the”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing, in the English version, line 27 on page 3 with the following:

“that a corporation has contravened a guideline set”

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 32 on page 3 with the following:

“undertaken pursuant to this section, which shall include a determination regarding the corporation’s compliance with the guidelines set out in section 5 and the Ministers' basis for any finding, within eight”

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing lines 39 to 44 on page 3 with the following:

“(8) If a corporation is found by a Minister to have contravened a guideline referred to in section 5, the corporation shall have six months, from the date of publication of the Minister’s finding, to bring itself into compliance. During that period, no adverse steps resulting from that breach of compliance shall be taken against the corporation by Export Development Canada pursuant to section 10.2 of the Export Development Act or by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade pursuant to section 10 of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Act.

(8.1) The Ministers shall publish in the Canada Gazette their findings regarding compliance with the guidelines within a period of 30 days after the conclusion of the grace period provided for in subsection (8).

(8.2) If, at the end of that grace period, the corporation remains in contravention of a guideline, as determined by the Ministers, the Ministers shall, within a period of 30 days, notify the President of Export Development Canada and the Chairperson of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board that the corporation’s mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines referred to in section 5.

(8.3) If a corporation found to be in contravention of a guideline at the end of the grace period provided for in subsection (8) subsequently undertakes corrective actions, the corporation may request the Ministers to review the results of those actions and make a determination regarding compliance with the guidelines. The request shall be made in writing and shall include such information as is required to determine compliance with the guidelines.

(8.4) Subsections (3), (4), (6) and (7) apply to a request for review provided under subsection (8.3) as if it were a complaint.

(8.5) If the Ministers determine through a review that the corporation remains in contravention of a guideline, the Ministers shall notify the President of Export Development Canada and the Chairperson of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board that the corporation’s mining, oil or gas activities are inconsistent with the guidelines referred to in section 5.”

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-300, in Clause 4, be amended by adding after line 12 on page 4 the following:

“(11) Every investment manager who invests the assets of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board pursuant to the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act shall take into account the results of examinations and reviews undertaken pursuant to this section.”

Motion No. 12

That Bill C-300, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing line 17 on page 4 with the following:

“(2) The guidelines shall be substantially consistent with:”

Motion No. 13

That Bill C-300, in Clause 5, be amended by replacing lines 18 to 23 on page 4 with the following:

“(a) the IFC's

(i) Policy on Social and Environmental Sustainability,

(ii) Performance Standards on Social and Environmental Sustainability and Guidance Notes to those standards,

(iii) applicable Industry Sector Guidelines, and

(iv) General Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines;”

Motion No.14

That Bill C-300, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing line 36 on page 5 with the following:

“enter into or renew a transaction”

Motion No. 15

That Bill C-300, in Clause 9, be amended by replacing line 17 on page 6 with the following:

“functions under subsection (2)”

Motion No.16

That Bill C-300 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome you back to the House. I am sorry to see you had to be put to so much work so quickly. I also welcome back my hon. colleagues on their return from summer recess.

It is an honour to be the lead speaker on Bill C-300 in the opening of this parliamentary session. Ironically, this bill has spent some 13 months in committee and over that time the arguments in favour of the bill have actually become stronger.

I would never, in my wildest imagination, have thought that this bill would attract so much attention. Certainly, I had not anticipated it would attract so much international intention. People are literally flying in from around the world to support Bill C-300 and are encouraging my colleagues to get behind this bill and do something for the world's poor, the world's indigenous and the world's people who cannot speak for themselves. They are literally taking their own time and spending their own resources to lobby colleagues and encourage them to support this bill.

Why would people spend their time and resources and have all of the international attention and domestic attention on what is quite a modest bill? My view is that it is due to Canada's reputation as a fair-minded democracy that adheres to the rules of law and where aggrieved persons can actually come and expect to receive redress. That may or may not be true in some of the countries from which these folks are coming.

I also believe that this bill has received so much attention because of the increasingly negative reputation of Canadian mining companies operating abroad that do things to people and communities which would never be tolerated in this country. I could literally take members on a world tour. Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and the Congo have enormous conflicts with Canadian mining companies. The allegations that have been put forward against these Canadian mining companies are very serious as witness after witness came before our committee and made these allegations.

It is never a good day for Canada when our own Governor General is surrounded by 200 Mexicans chanting “Canada, go home” because of the activities of the Canadian mining company operating in that country. It is not a good day when, as a witness described, he was chased out of a village because the villagers thought he was a Canadian supporting a Canadian mining company. He deemed it appropriate to take the flag that was on his backpack and black it out. It is not a good day for our reputation. It is not a good day when one of the people who was moderating a debate in which I was involved said that she had recently been in Guatemala where people would naturally ask her where she was from. When she would say that she was from Canada, they would say that in Guatemala it was better that she described herself as being from America.

Ironically, one of the great objections that the industry puts forward to the bill is that it would cause reputational damage. Reputational damage to whom? Is it reputational damage to Canada or is it reputational damage to the country?

We already know that a lot of activities of Canadian mining companies destabilize governments, put other Canadian companies at risk and put Canadians travelling abroad at risk. Why the objection to reputational risk? Why the fear of a quasi-judicial process where the impartial laws of natural justice actually prevail in a hearing? Why indeed?

It is hugely ironic to me that at the same they are complaining about the process, they are saying that they adhere to the IFC standards that are set out in the bill itself. They do not want to have a process to find out whether they actually adhere to the IFC standards because they say that they are already adhering to them. It seems a bit of an ironic argument.

Possibly, though, the real reason that the objection is so vociferous on the part of the companies and the government is that there possibly is something to be hidden.The allegations in the aforementioned countries are possibly true.

Sometimes where there is smoke there is just smoke but sometimes where there is smoke there is an actual fire. Did witness after witness really tell the truth about murder, rape, environmental degradation, officials being bought and paid for and paramilitaries enforcing the so-called companies? With all of those witnesses, was that just smoke and mirrors?

Possibly there is some truth and the companies do not want anyone, let alone a government official, a minister of the crown or the people of Canada, actually taking evidence, having a look, listening to arguments and making a finding one way or another, good or bad. Not only do the companies not want anything resembling a fair and impartial inquiry, they do not want any sanctions. They want to exist in a sanction-free environment. They say that the sanctions are too draconian.

What are the sanctions? The sanctions are that they will not get support from the Export Development Corporation of Canada. They will not get support from the Canada pension plan. The Canada pension plan will not be allowed to buy shares on the stock exchange. They will not get consular support. They will not get the promotional activities that our consuls general provide right around the world to Canadians operating abroad. In other words, no taxpayers' money, no pensioners' money and no parties.

That is three rather modest teeth and I am proposing pulling half a tooth on one of these amendments because we took the view of the Canada pension plan that there would be a requirement to amend the Canada pension plan, which would require provincial consent. My thought was that if the Minister of Finance could not get his own provincial counterparts to make much needed amendments to the Canada pension plan, what hope would I have of getting amendments? Therefore, we have modified that objection somewhat.

Then there is the full argument about extraterritoriality. This is just plain nonsense. This bill is about accountability for taxpayers' hard-earned money and how it is used, not where it is used. Like foreign aid, Canada has expectations and the absolute right to withdraw its money at any time and in any place. So also does EDC and the Canada pension plan. Canada retains the right to invest abroad based on its own set of laws and guidelines. It has the right to invest and it has the right to divest.

The other proposed amendment of significance is whereby the company would be given a period of time to rectify its non-compliance. Notwithstanding what the companies say and its handmaiden, the government, I would much prefer compliance over non-compliance. I prefer honourable and responsible mining over no mining at all.

These are the objections: the companies are too draconian, they will hurt our reputation and they will leave Canada in droves. To go where? To go to the United States, the most litigious nation on earth? To go where the alien tort claims act is? To go where Senator Lugar's bill is, which now requires that Canadian mining companies wishing to list their shares on the New York Stock Exchange must tell the department how much money they are giving governments and government officials? It is an attempt at accountability and transparency, which speaks well for our American friends but does not speak well for us.

Will they go to Great Britain, which is another great place? It is actually proposing a more robust version of Bill C-300. The European Union has very high standards of corporate social responsibility. I doubt the companies will go to Russia or China. The only place they may possibly go is to Switzerland. When companies go to Switzerland, they generally want to hide something. If they are going to Switzerland, fine, Lord love them, but they are not going to take Canadian taxpayers' money or pensioners' money with them.

This really is a modest bill. It has run into a virtual tsunami of objections from the industry and the government. Government members may face clear and overwhelming testimony from those who have chosen to turn their backs on the poor, the helpless and the aboriginal. By voting against this bill, they embrace the status quo. If this bill does not pass, we will have failed vulnerable people and struggling democracies. We will be diminished in the eyes of the world. We will erode our credibility to speak in international fora. We will be smaller in every way.

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.

Conservative

Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to stand and rebut the bunch of stuff that just came from the other side. I rise today to speak in strong opposition to Bill C-300. I had the opportunity to be fully engaged in the committee process and discussions. My presentation will lay the expert testimony and facts we heard onto the record for all members of the House.

The debate on Bill C-300 has been constantly muddied by partisan division and a cliché of anti-business rhetoric. I must say that was a great exhibition we just had. The partisan division is along party lines on the frivolous premise that one party is more virtuous in protecting human rights than others. It should be made clear right from the beginning of this debate that all members of Parliament, Canadians, indeed Canadian companies, want to ensure that human rights are protected. We all agree with corporate social responsibility.

It should be noted that we are very fortunate in Canada, in a country where the big bad corporations that the member has tried to make out just do not exist. There is no Avatar planet full of blue people and mysterious trees being destroyed by the big bad mining company. We live in a country where everyone realizes the value of human rights and corporate social responsibility. Canada has an independent corporate social responsibility counsellor who works with NGOs and companies to ensure that Canada is a world leader in respecting human rights abroad. Around the world Canadian companies are noted leaders, practising corporate social responsibility, contrary to what the member just said.

Bill C-300 should be defeated in the chamber for the following reasons. It is badly written legislation and it has extremely poor process in its implementation mechanism.

I want to be clear. The MPs who are voting against the bill are not voting against corporate social responsibility. None of us would vote against corporate social responsibility and human rights. Canada has its own independent CSR program, which involves consultations, public reporting, third party verification. Bill C-300 dismisses the existing collaborative approach and promotes an open-ended punitive one.

Bill C-300 would harm our businesses, which are already world leaders on corporate social responsibility. The bill is often referred to as the product of the national round table on corporate social responsibility. It does not deserve that title. The bill does not represent the round table.

The round table was very successful and it involved representatives from civil society, corporations and the bureaucracy. All participants were happy with the result of the discussions, but not all are happy with the bill.

As previously noted, the government response to the national round table was the establishment of Canada's independent corporate social responsibility counsellor. In contrast to the thoughtful government action, Bill C-300 was hastily drafted with no consultations, as we heard time after time during the committee process. The product we see before us is sloppy. The bill, if ever enacted, would have drastic consequences that were never ever envisioned by the round table.

In the bill the complaints mechanism is placed in the hands of the ministers of the Crown. Bill C-300 converts a process that should be fair and independent into one that is entirely partisan. The complaints mechanism should be run at arm's-length by an independent individual, who reports to the government and that is precisely the existing rule of Marketa Evans, Canada's corporate social responsibility counsellor.

In comparison, the bill would promote soapbox partisan antics on the issue. No minister would be able to deem a claim frivolous without that decision being derided by the opposition's partisan political agenda. However, the same claim could be deemed frivolous by an independent corporate social responsibility counsellor because he or she would be independent from politics.

Unfortunately, the problems with the complaints mechanism go further. Any claim will automatically be perceived as having credibility because of the involvement of ministers of the Crown. Even the most frivolous accusation could be perceived as legitimate. Bill C-300 does not have any mechanism to protect the system from frivolous claims and therefore even the most facetious claim could be given false credibility when the minister so-called investigated.

This issue is so obvious that several prominent Liberal politicians have put partisan politics aside and expressed their concern about the bill, stating that foreign governments could end up withholding or taking away permits from Canadian firms citing the minister's investigations. This could happen in spite of the fact that at the end of the investigation there still might be no evidence of wrongdoing against the company.

When Bill C-300 was in committee, scores of expert witnesses came to testify against the bill. Many of the witnesses had voluntarily participated in the national round table discussions. We heard from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Export Development Canada. These two organizations are representative of the leaders of the Canada's economy and the fact that they are strongly opposed to the bill should not be ignored.

We heard from countless Canadian companies that have outstanding reputations and are examples for the world when it comes to investing in the communities in which they operate. We even heard from the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, who appearing on a different topic, spoke of the immense contributions that Canada's private sector was making in his developing nation.

If we collect the committee witnesses, placing them onto a scale, those opposed to the bill on one side and those in favour of it on the other, the scale will overwhelmingly tilt in opposition to the bill. We cannot ignore the qualifications of the witnesses who spoke out against the bill. They are experts and came with precise concerns about specific details of the bill.

I will not deny there were witnesses in favour of the bill. However, they spoke in favour of corporate social responsibility in general and could not rebut the concerns about specific sections of the bill.

Let me restate that around the world Canadian companies are noted leaders, practising corporate social responsibility. Canada has its own independent CSR program, which involved consultations, public reporting and third party verification.

Bill C-300 dismisses the existing collaborative approach and promotes an open-ended punitive one. The bill would harm our businesses that are already world leaders on corporation social responsibility. In fact, it is important to note that many witnesses stated that the bill would jeopardize the ability of Canadian corporations to purchase mines from less reputable operators.

Frequently Canadian companies will purchase mines that were previously run with little regard for human rights and Canadian companies will correct the problem. Canadian companies invest heavily in local communities and bring mines up to acceptable standards. If Bill C-300 were to be enacted, we have been advised this will no longer be possible because the bill does not protect a company from the allegations of abuse that occurred before it acquired the mine in question.The Canadian corporation could be in jeopardy of liability for prior actions by previous owners.

If Canadian companies are unable to purchase previously poorly run mines, then the local communities will be left at the mercy of the less reputable companies from countries with lower human rights standards than those in Canada. We have also been advised that it will be difficult for Export Development Canada to partner with any mining operation overseas.

Mines are not entirely financed by one organization, but are a collection of international investors. This typically include Canadian companies, Export Development Canada, private investors from around the world and other investment sources. International investment partners would not agree to invest if EDC were at the table and C-300 were to become law. The bill would force EDC to walk away from its investment if any claim were made against the project.

This is highly problematic because Canadian direct investment abroad in the mining sector was $66.7 billion in the last two decades. Putting this at risk would cripple our Canadian companies. If international investors feel that the EDC is default-risk due to the poor complaints mechanism of the bill, they will only invest in EDC if other public organizations are not involved.

Canada's mining sector is a world leader. We have every right to be proud of the work that our companies do. Our companies have an excellent economic track record and have incredible corporate social responsibility programs that operate in communities around the world.

Canada is well positioned throughout the current worldwide economic crisis, but we are not out of the woods yet. The economic recovery is still fragile. Our commodity sector has led the way for our economy and we must not hinder its progress now. We must not cripple our strongest economic sector.

Supporters of the bill will argue that we are saying that if the bill is passed, there will be a mass exodus of companies from Canada. These are the same people who twist the debate into cliché anti-business arguments.

For every reason, the bill is sloppily written, does not reflect the national round table, does not create an arm's-length independent process, creates a partisan political process, has an inadequate complaints mechanism, hinders reputable—

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle.

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to say welcome back to all of my colleagues, to you, and to the House staff.

I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-300 on this first day back. The Bloc Québécois will support this bill, because it is a first step in the right direction. Unfortunately, there are not currently any mechanisms to adequately regulate the activities of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies abroad. This is a senseless situation that must be changed. We know full well that Canada is a world leader in the mining industry, and Canadian companies must set an example.

The vast majority of Canadian mining companies that operate abroad are respectful of the local populations and the environment. However, it is clear that for several years, Canadian mining companies have been directly or indirectly associated with forced relocations of communities, major environmental disasters, support for repressive regimes and serious human rights violations. Some companies even hire armed groups, such as militias or security agencies, to protect them.

Far too many conflicts still exist between communities and mining companies, and far too many human rights advocates are still being abused psychologically, kidnapped and sometimes even murdered.

Extraction practices need to be regulated so that they pose no threat to the sustainable development of local populations or their health and safety.

Those are several reasons why Canadian companies should be held accountable for the impact of their overseas activities. The Bloc Québécois is recommending a clear, independent and transparent process to ensure accountability and to monitor Canadian companies' compliance with accountability standards.

We are debating Bill C-300 and its amendments today because we need to act quickly. There are far too many people affected by the negligence of some Canadian companies to ignore such a serious issue. Yes, there are currently some serious gaps. And we did not make them up: numerous people spoke to this on a number of occasions before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

Like many of my colleagues, I repeatedly met with many individuals and with members of civil society organizations working in Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and Africa, where the people have been affected by the questionable behaviour of some Canadian mining companies. Their testimonies were all marked by deep distress, great suffering and injustice.

Bill C-300 is a rudimentary legislative tool, and while it is debatable, it is still high time that Canadian parliamentarians pass legislation to regulate the activities of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies working overseas. The Canadian government has its head in the sand if it believes that the voluntary measures it has proposed are effective deterrents. This government is refusing any form of legal regulation of Canadian companies, saying that monitoring is the host countries' responsibility, even though they do not possess the resources needed to manage the situation.

These countries and the mining industry need to make sure that natural resources help reduce poverty and promote economic and social development. The government should exert more control over these companies' practices and give Canadian investments abroad the tools they need to ensure that these companies' activities truly benefit the people of these countries.

The government should recognize that this situation is serious and adopt measures that require mining companies to operate responsibly. The government appears to be downplaying the social, environmental and human rights impacts that these companies' practices and activities have.

This debate has been going on for too long. In 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development released a report entitled “Mining in Developing Countries - Corporate Social Responsibility”. Three of the recommendations in the standing committee's report proposed specific objectives relating to the Canadian government's responsibility to monitor and exert greater control over the activities of Canadian mining companies abroad.

Two recommendations concerned the importance of establishing clear legal standards for accountability and developing mechanisms to monitor the activities of Canadian mining companies in developing countries.

At the time, a number of Canadian NGOs called the committee's recommendations “a real breakthrough”.

As we all know, the then government's response was deeply disappointing because it was interested only in voluntary measures.

In its response, the government agreed to organize a series of round tables to study in greater depth the issues that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development raised in its report. Four round tables were held from June to November of 2006 in four different cities: Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal. Participation levels were high: 104 briefs were submitted, 156 oral presentations were given and 57 experts were invited to participate. Members of the public and experts spoke for a total of 101 hours.

Following this extensive consultation, the members of the advisory group, the Canadian and Quebec NGOs, and the experts managed to come to an agreement with a good part of the Canadian mining industry. They published a report on March 29, 2007, in which they asked the Canadian government to immediately adopt a set of standards establishing a corporate social responsibility framework for Canadian mining, oil and gas companies operating abroad. These recommendations are the result of a consensus between civil society and the extractive sector.

The report recommends the establishment of a corporate social responsibility framework for the extractive sector.

In addition, it recommends the appointment of an independent ombudsman to handle complaints about the activities of Canadian extractive companies abroad, the establishment of a tripartite committee—consisting of members of government, civil society and the extractive industry—to monitor compliance with standards, and the establishment of an advisory group to provide advice to government on improving corporate social responsibility.

The report recommends that offending companies no longer be entitled to tax benefits, loan guarantees and other forms of government assistance.

It took the Conservative government two years to respond to the round table report. The Conservative government chose to ignore the recommendations made by the parliamentarians and advisory group members who took part in the round tables and instead set up a bogus agency that will not impose any rules or consequences on companies that pollute or infringe on human rights. The government's decision to rely on voluntary measures and its refusal to adopt effective sanctions make the communities affected by mining projects even more vulnerable.

The Bloc Québécois has always defended the need for social responsibility standards for corporations working abroad and for that reason we are in favour of the principle of Bill C-300. We have frequently denounced the overseas activities of Canadian extractive companies that violate human rights and compromise the sustainable development of local populations.

In closing, Bill C-300 makes it possible to continue the debate about the social responsibility of Canadian mining, oil and gas companies abroad. A number of groups have mobilized to voice their support for Bill C-300. Civil society has taken this opportunity to inform parliamentarians and the public of the need to monitor the overseas activities of mining companies.

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

I welcome you back to this session, Madam Speaker.

I would like to thank the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for introducing this legislation and for his general concern for citizens in developing countries. I would also like to thank him for seeing it through committee and for working with other MPs to improve it. I thank the member, while noting that corporate accountability for Canadian resource extraction companies operating abroad is long overdue. I also thank other members and groups who have worked so hard to put this issue on the public agenda, including the member for Ottawa Centre.

Many players in the extractive industries have taken advantage of political cultures in developing countries that cannot or do not accept or respect our domestic principles of democratic accountability and transparency. We also know that such companies will continue to act unethically so long as there is no requirement, penalty, or incentive to encourage them to act in a different, more responsible manner.

Nearly every witness who testified at committee in regard to this bill acknowledged that there is a problem in the extractive resource sector in developing countries, and many agreed that our federal government has the right, the responsibility, and the power to right this wrong.

I am sure that all members, past and present, would agree that legislation that enforces international rights standards and environmental best practices among Canadian companies operating abroad is long overdue. I do, however, have a significant problem with the conduct of some members of the foreign affairs committee that examined this bill.

I stated that I assume that all members, past and present, feel a need to protect human rights, labour rights, and the environment and to stop reckless and unfettered business practices, no matter where they occur. Why did these members deliberately and forcefully stall progress and prevent amendments from being introduced and debated and put forward? I will let their actions speak for themselves, but I hope that they will come on board and make a constructive contribution to the debate and legislative process at this time so that the bill can pass in some form in this Parliament.

Support from the New Democrat caucus for legislation that would enforce ethical behaviour by Canadian companies, including those operating abroad, has never been difficult to attain. This bill, however, like most that enter this place, is an imperfect piece of legislation.

I will repeat my concerns from this past March about this bill. I believe that it is too narrow in scope and application and too weak in its enforcement for my liking. As such, and given that this bill would merely encourage such ethical and morally responsible behaviour in the extractive resource industry sector rather than enforce it, I can only offer my qualified support. Along with my New Democrat colleagues, I remain hopeful that it can still be amended to resolve some of these difficulties and problems.

Obviously, an amendment to the bill that would see it apply to all corporations in Canada with operations abroad, not just to those receiving government assistance that are operating in the extractive industries, such as mining and oil and gas, would be most welcome.

In addition, it would be helpful if there were a clause in the legislation that would ensure that the principles contained in it related to environmental best practices and international human rights standards could be enforced rather than merely encouraged.

Equally helpful would be the creation of an independent ombudsman's office to help ensure that the principles in the bill are respected and to investigate any claims that may be brought against companies with respect to the provisions in the bill.

I am pleased to see an amendment put forth that would put an incentive in place to encourage companies with poor corporate accountability histories or that violate standards to change their practices to re-earn the support of the government. I thank the member for that amendment.

I thank the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for taking such a bold step and for tabling amendments, if that is still possible at this late stage, and for tabling them regardless of what the outcome will be, beyond the reach of the destructive and corrosive behaviour of some MPs who sit on the foreign affairs committee.

This bill, for all its imperfections, is progress on the issue. I thank the member again for using his private member's spot to table a substantive legislative measure that can make a real difference in this world.

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I stand before you to speak in favour of Bill C-300, An Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries, as well as recent amendments that serve to incorporate recommendations made by Canada's extractive sector.

The bill grows out of actual recommendations made in the 2006 government round table report on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry in developing countries. It empowers ministers to review serious, not frivolous, allegations made against Canadian extractive firms that operate in foreign jurisdictions. Firms found to be in actual violation of the norms set out in this legislation risk losing financial support from the Canadian Pension Plan and Export Development Canada should they fail to make improvements. Currently no investigation is even allowed without the actual consent of the company.

Having briefly described what this bill will do, I will now explain why we need to pass it, and I will begin with a brief quote:

Canada has shown its determination to be a good world citizen.

This quote comes from a children's book on Canada and the world. It is used in schools to teach kids about Canadian identity and about how Canada is perceived internationally. These types of textbooks have a profound impact on our identity as Canadians. They speak of what we once stood for as a country.

When I was fortunate enough to travel to Honduras, Guatemala, and Peru over nine years of being involved in international aid work, I was proud to tell locals that I was a Canadian, and they welcomed me as such. Today our image is changing. Today people in certain developing countries see us as no different from other western countries that are eager to exploit their natural resources, compromising the human rights of indigenous peoples and their ability to manage their own resources, such as water, oil, minerals, and agricultural products.

In voting on Bill C-300, we are being forced to answer a simple question: What do we want our children to read when they are learning about the way their country responded to this bill while we were its decision-makers? How shall we reconcile the legacy we are leaving with the values that we claim are so dear to us: fairness, equity, generosity, and social and environmental responsibility?

Today we could choose to be the decision-makers who continue to provide funding that enables socially irresponsible acts committed by a select few Canadian firms. Instead we could act and cut off funding if and when, and only if and when, firms are found to be in actual violation of the respected norms set out in this bill.

I will now provide examples of some of these socially irresponsible acts to illustrate why action is required. Let us begin with Guatemala.

The Canadian firm HudBay Minerals stands accused of evicting local Guatemalans from ancestral and culturally significant land. When surprised villagers inhabiting the El Estor region of Guatemala protested their forced relocation, violence broke out. Homes were burned and hacked to the ground. Protesting villagers were harassed, beaten, raped, and killed, or they vanished.

Reports of these allegations are extremely difficult for me. We are all partly responsible and frankly, anyone who has contributed to the Canada pension plan, our national retirement fund, is unwittingly supporting this conduct by association. The Canada pension plan has $30 million invested in HudBay.

The situation in Honduras is not much better. The Canadian firm Goldcorp and its subsidiaries are accused of deforestation, of polluting streams, and of illegally altering the course of waterways to support their San Martin mine. Water near the mine has been found to have unsafe levels of harmful metals, and Hondurans living near and using that water have been found to have unsafe levels of arsenic, mercury, and lead in their blood, conditions we would simply not permit in our own country. Goldcorp's environmental record was found to be so atrocious that the Honduran government fined the company for, among other things, allowing cyanide and arsenic to leach into the environment.

Again, we passively support this conduct because we do nothing, while the CPP and Export Development Canada use our money to invest in this company. CPP investments amount to $256 million.

The list continues and is disturbing. Vancouver-based Copper Mesa stands accused of harassing and displacing Ecuadoreans. Contractors for the Toronto-based Barrick Gold stand accused of gang-raping women in Papua New Guinea.

How much can Canada's reputation withstand?

Marcia Ramirez was pepper-sprayed by Copper Mesa security personnel in Ecuador. She described Canada as being a bad country that destroys everything.

Despite these compelling examples, I know that many are still thinking about our economy. Just as some rightfully understand that economic prosperity and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive, so too can the human rights of indigenous people co-exist with economic development.

Let me now take a few minutes to explain why passing this legislation will not hamper our economy. First, the United States recently passed legislation to regulate the way their version of the Export Development Corporation invests its money overseas, and mining companies have not boycotted the United States. As with the U.S., mining companies will continue to choose Canada as their headquarters, because we are a stable country with favourable regulatory regimes.

Second, a firm operating responsibly with respect for the environment and human rights will be less likely to encounter resistance from the residents of host states or from its shareholders. As such, firms will be able to operate with greater efficiency, will be more stable in their business operations, and will therefore have access to cheaper money.

In 2003, Talisman Energy was forced to cease its undertakings in Sudan after investors threatened to sell off their shares in light of allegations of human rights abuses.

Shell's operations in Nigeria were also threatened when locals began to sabotage mining equipment in response to human rights abuses and environmental contamination.

Professor Richard Janda, an expert in environmental law and sustainable development at McGill University's Faculty of Law, explains Bill C-300 this way:

There is no evidence that Bill C-300 will unfairly disadvantage Canadian extractive companies, and in fact there is strong reason to believe that the opposite is true. It is more likely to create a regulatory environment that would make Canadian extractive sector companies world leaders in the area of CSR, resulting in a competitive advantage for those Canadian companies when operating internationally.

Instead of continuing to let our once-good reputation be blemished by a few, and I stress “a few”, extractive firms inclined towards such irresponsible behaviour, we have an opportunity to take action and pass this progressive legislation. Today we can show people in the developing world that yes, we are capable of doing the right thing. We can show them that we will no longer be “a bad country that destroys everything”.

Instead, let us vote for this legislation so that we can once again be thought of as international leaders in human rights. Members of Canada's honourable foreign service undergo rigorous training before they are posted overseas to represent Canada to the world. Some, and I stress “some”, of our corporations go into these same countries and with heavy-handed brush strokes undermine the efforts of our foreign service and paint Canada and Canadians as human rights abusers, militia-funding displacers of local populations, environment destroyers, water contaminators, rapists, or killers.

If we do not do something about it, if we do not vote in favour of this bill, it is our children who will read about this in their textbooks as the moment we squandered, the moment when we chose profit over justice when we had the opportunity to choose both. One need not prevail at the expense of the other.

While not posing a threat to Canadian extractive businesses, this bill represents an important first step towards enabling the government, in the most severe cases, to investigate and sanction conduct that is by all accounts irresponsible.

We have a choice. We can either sit back and let our country's identity be shaped by certain irresponsible firms whose objectives do not include the positive portrayal of Canada or the protection of human rights and the environment abroad, or we can do something about it.

Join me in ensuring that our children learn of a Canada and inherit a legacy they can be proud of, rather than a Canada that many in developing countries are starting to question. We must grasp this opportunity to correct this wrong, strengthen our legacy, and re-write the stories that, if we do not do something now, our youth will read and see their country cast in a poor light.

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Kenora Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Madam Speaker, I would like to expand further on some of the challenges that Bill C-300 would present in its implementation. I will drill down, no pun intended, on at least seven substantive issues we have with Bill C-300.

I should say from the outset that the great Kenora riding is home to vast mineral assets, and in fact has one of the most productive gold mines in the world, operated by Goldcorp in Red Lake and Pickle Lake. Needless to say, constituents, families, communities, and corporations performing exploration and mining activities in the great Kenora riding have expressed serious concerns with respect to Bill C-300.

I am therefore pleased and honoured to speak to this bill on behalf of my constituents.

Many members of the House have pointed out certain practical issues that need to be considered, while recognizing the intent and the goal of this bill.

I want to reiterate that this government is a firm believer in corporate social responsibility. However, this bill is not the way to promote it.

Over the last year, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development has heard from almost 70 witnesses on Bill C-300. Many witnesses have raised a number of practical issues with the bill, and these must be considered while recognizing the intent of the bill. I would like to highlight some of the more significant obstacles that they have raised regarding the effective implementation of the bill.

First, Bill C-300 does not appear to include any procedural safeguards to ensure that it is consistent with Canada's procedural fairness or even every Canadian's right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. For example, Bill C-300 would not require those conducting an examination to give notice or even consider evidence from the affected company. It would, however, permit complainants to give evidence against affected parties without subjecting themselves to cross-examination. Furthermore, this bill puts at stake the rights, privileges, and interests of an affected company.

Because a negative judgment under Bill C-300 would significantly affect a company's reputation and operations, we owe our Canadian companies the right to procedural fairness.

Second, Export Development Canada—EDC—uses its trade influence to encourage businesses to develop socially responsible practices and helps businesses implement them.

The categorical nature of the compliance standards set out in this bill would force EDC to immediately cut off any association with any Canadian business that fails to fulfill its corporate social responsibility.

This means that if Bill C-300 becomes law, EDC's ability to provide lending and insurance to companies in the extractive sector will be seriously compromised, without providing any real corporate social responsibility benefit.

Once again, if Bill C-300 is enacted, EDC's capacity to provide loans and insurance to companies in the extractive sector will be seriously compromised, and there will be no real corporate social responsibility benefit.

In the last year alone, EDC's support is estimated to have generated $61 billion in Canadian GDP, which amounts to 5¢ of every Canadian dollar, and sustained 642,000 jobs in communities across the country. When we consider that the extractive sector comprises one-third of EDC's total business volume, we can appreciate the impact that EDC's departure from the market would have on working families here at home. This clearly highlights the economically reckless and irresponsible nature in which this bill was conceived.

Third, the department already has two mechanisms in place to assist in the resolution of disputes: the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor. Both of these mechanisms focus on improving the performance of Canadian companies. This allows for longer-term solutions that benefit all parties involved.

By comparison, Bill C-300 is largely punitive. Unfortunately, in many cases the Government of Canada does not have the leverage over extractive companies that the bill presumes. Junior companies, especially, often do not seek the government support this bill proposes to deny them. In these cases, the company would not be compelled to change its performance under the threat of Bill C-300.

The implication is that this bill would see changes we do not want, because a prejudicial regime such as that proposed by this reckless bill could serve only to encourage more companies to leave Canada.

Those companies might see the constructive mediation provided by the national contact point and the corporate social responsibility counsellor as a better way to enhance their performance and be more competitive.

That is what mining companies in Canada are saying about the bill. In fact, a number of witnesses also put forth that the bill would discourage companies from maintaining offices in Canada. Instead, they would relocate to another jurisdiction. Why risk such a result when we have a strategy that is working? That is the question.

The punitive framework of Bill C-300 contrasts with the constructive, productive, and effective mediation offered by the National Contact Point and the Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor.

Regrettably, Bill C-300 could be counterproductive to the existing mechanisms, since a company might not want to engage in the informal mediation if the information it provides could subsequently be used against it in a complaint under Bill C-300. It burns goodwill and good faith.

Fourth, the bill proposes changes to the Special Economic Measures Act. It is not clear why an act that deals with state-to-state relations would appear in a bill designed to regulate the activities of corporations.

Fifth, even if the consequential amendments that are proposed are applied domestically, the bill may constitute an extra-territorial application of Canadian law since it would be regulating the activities of Canadian companies outside Canada's jurisdiction.

Many countries, including many of our trading partners, would likely take issue with the patronizing implication that Canada viewed their laws as inferior. Likewise, it might harm diplomatic relations if we were to send teams of investigators into these countries, especially if they were in the process of conducting their own investigations.

Sixth, we have serious concerns about whether there is the constitutional authority to enact Bill C-300. The regulation of business, including issues relating to human rights and the environment, is constitutionally a matter for provincial jurisdiction, with regard to property and civil rights. Therefore, there is a serious risk that the regulatory scheme of complaints, examinations, and published findings envisioned by Bill C-300 would be found to be unconstitutional. Simply put, there does not appear to be any federal head of power that clearly authorizes Parliament to establish the regulatory scheme as proposed in Bill C-300.

Seventh, and finally, Canada's missions abroad provide critical advice on corporate social responsibility to Canadian companies. Bill C-300 would prevent our missions from engaging companies facing difficulties and would prevent us from helping to resolve their disputes.

For these reasons, we feel that the government's corporate social responsibility policy is a more effective way of helping Canadian extractive companies continue to develop a social licence to operate. As discussed in the past, building on Canada's commitment to the OECD's Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and our country's National Contact Point, the government's strategy describes four specific initiatives for action that outline our commitment to promoting best practices for Canadian companies operating abroad.

The government has supported the development, outside government, of a multi-stakeholder Centre for Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility that will help the Canadian extractive sector to implement these voluntary performance guidelines in their operations abroad.

We applaud organizations like the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada who have developed e3 Plus, A Framework for Responsible Exploration, which is intended to complement established norms for corporate behaviour as exemplified by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the United Nations Global Compact.

Our efforts promote corporate and social responsibility, both domestically and abroad. I ask all members from both sides of the floor for their support as we continue to take measures to ensure that Canadian companies can make the most of our global opportunities.

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in support of the bill. This is a bill about what is possible for Canada. It is not a bill for members who do not want to address the fundamental problems that exist in Canada.

We need to have impact on world trade. We need to be agents of our own way forward in terms of how we are going to get good results, good jobs, and good outcomes for people from this globalized economy. It is our champions in mining, in particular, in this case that can lead the way.

What is most disappointing to some of the argumentation we hear against this bill is that there was a consensus that is reflected in this bill. This is the outcome of the corporate round table on social responsibility. Clause after clause, measure after measure, many of these things are to be found in the guidelines that corporations have for themselves. What is the difference? We are actually going to enact something. We are actually going to make something workable. We are actually going to make it plausible.

As is often the case when it comes to progress there are doomsayers that say all these incredible things that will come about as a consequence without looking at what this really could mean. This could mean corporations will have an ability to resolve disputes. This could be an enhanced reputation for Canadian-based mining companies. Of course, for those of us interested in the benefits for Canadians of companies, it is a little rich hearing from some of the government members about how they would like to see Canadian headquartered companies when they keep rubber-stamping sale after sale and creating conditions under which our mining companies are being sold off.

This bill had quite a different context a few years ago when we were world leaders. The government has ridden us to a different place. But the companies we do have understand these issues. They deal with them every day in the sovereign nations that they are part of. It is, I think, a bit of stampeding on somebody's part to bring them away from where this bill could put them, which is in a consensus position; a functional position of leadership in the world.

It is what we need to see happen in terms of trade if we look at our own vulnerabilities in terms of our dependence on foreign decisions in a range of things. We want to start to see not just a code of ethics, but a basis for behaviour on the part of companies in terms of advancing some of the other outcomes that we have. The bottom line has to include some of the bottom line benefits for the local populations and Canada is in that position in a number of industries.

Again, when we look at the unspoken in terms of what the government and some of the bill's detractors are prepared to look at, they simply do not see that this is a functional bill that has taken into account all of the different challenges that are there and that the companies actually then deal with a predictable process.

It is a little bit like the failure of the government on climate change. To go to the Petroleum Club in Calgary, or to any business enclave in the country, they are talking fairly loud about a government that does not have the temerity to actually invent something that will work. What does business want? Predictability. They actually want to know what the rules of the game are. To simply say, as this government says on climate change and so many other things, “We will wait for somebody else to move”, that is not leadership. That is not even Canadian.

Canadian companies and Canadian governments have led in a whole host of areas internationally. That is not the Conservative government of today. That is the problem. It is in that context of do nothing, know nothing, deny everything that we basically have this reactionary government unwilling to basically have leadership--

Motions in AmendmentCorporate Accountability of Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries ActPrivate Members' Business

12:15 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but he will have approximately six minutes when this item returns. The time provided for the consideration of private members' bills has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Niagara Falls Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson ConservativeMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-17, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak at second reading to the combating terrorism act, Bill C-17.

In that regard, I have to thank the hon. government House leader for putting justice legislation first on the list. I know that is in accord with his own thoughts and priorities. I just want to tell him how much I appreciate that this is the first bill before Parliament in this session and thank him.

I am pleased to lead off the debate on a vital piece of the government's national security legislative agenda: Bill C-17. This bill, with which many members are familiar, seeks to reinstate, with additional safeguards, the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions that sunsetted in March 2007.

This government has put national security and, in particular, anti-terrorism at the forefront of its agenda.

In the March 3, 2010, Speech from the Throne, the government committed to taking steps to safeguard Canada's national security, maintaining Canada as a peaceful and prosperous country and one of the safest places in the world in which to live. This is our goal. The proposals in this bill represent one significant step in the right direction.

There is somewhat of a history in this place on these powers. These provisions were first introduced in the Anti-terrorism Act in December 2001 and were subject to a sunset clause. Members will recall that the ATA also contained a mandatory parliamentary review component, which led to two separate reviews: one by a Senate special committee and, in this place, by two subcommittees, the last being the Public Safety and National Security Subcommittee.

As the committees were winding down their review of the ATA, including the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions powers, the sunset date on these provisions was fast approaching. As a result, the government introduced a resolution in the House of Commons that proposed to extend these provisions for three years. Unfortunately, the powers were not extended by a vote of 159 to 124 and the provisions, therefore, expired on March 1, 2007.

It is important to recognize that the reports published by the parliamentary committees that reviewed the ATA were generally supportive of the powers contained in Bill C-17 and called for their extension.

Since that time, attempts have been made by this government to reinstate these important tools.

First, Bill S-3 was introduced in the Senate in the 39th Parliament and contained additional safeguards and technical changes to respond to the recommendations of the committees reviewing the ATA.

The Senate passed Bill S-3 on March 6, 2008, with a few amendments, but it died on the order paper when the election of 2008 was called.

More recently, in the last session of Parliament, this government again made efforts at bringing this important piece of legislation back to life, through Bill C-19. Bill C-19 contained the amendments made by the Senate to the former bill.

In summary, these were making mandatory a review of these provisions by a parliamentary committee within five years; deleting some words in the recognizance with conditions provisions to track charter jurisprudence; and making a technical amendment for consistency.

These changes are also now found in Bill C-17. I want to make that very clear. They are all there in this piece of legislation.

With that short history, let me turn to an explanation how the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions provisions of this bill would operate.

What will become very clear, as I described these proposals, is that they would achieve the appropriate balance between the respect for human rights without compromising effectiveness and utility.

First, with the investigative hearing provisions, the courts would be empowered to question, as witnesses, those persons who are reasonably believed to have information about a past or future terrorism offence.

The key here is that the person required to attend an investigative hearing is treated as a witness, not someone who is accused of a crime. It is important to note that witnesses could be questioned under this scheme without the commencement of any prosecution.

Earlier, I noted the balance between human rights and security. In this regard, the investigative hearing provision would be equipped with numerous safeguards for witnesses in accordance with the charter of rights and the Canadian Bill of Rights. I would like to set out a few of these safeguards so that all hon. members can get a sense of the careful attention which our government pays to issues of this type.

First, the attorney general must consent before the investigative hearing can be initiated.

Second, an independent judge must agree that an investigative hearing is warranted, finding in particular that it is believed on reasonable grounds that a terrorism offence has been, or will be committed, the information concerning the offence or the location of a suspect is likely to be obtained as a result of the order, and in all cases, reasonable attempts have been made to obtain the information by other means. Previously, this safeguard only applied to future terrorism offences and not past ones.

Third, section 707 of the Criminal Code, which sets out the maximum period of time in relation to which an arrested witnesses can be detained at a criminal trial, would apply to a person arrested to attend an investigative hearing. This is a new safeguard that is added to Bill C-17, something that was not in the original legislation.

Fourth, the person named in the investigative hearing would have the right to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceeding.

Finally, there is a robust prohibition against the state using the information or evidence derived from the information against the person.

It is important for all members of this place to know that in 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the investigative hearing was constitutional having regard to the safeguards that existed at that time in a case called “Re: Application under Criminal Code s. 83.28”.

Therefore, I think all members would agree that the safeguards set out in Bill C-17 in relation to the investigative hearing are robust, effective and reasonable.

Now let me return to the recognizance with conditions provisions of the bill. The recognizance with conditions proposal would permit the court to impose on a person such reasonable conditions as the court considers necessary to prevent terrorist activity. This would prove to be a vital tool in efforts at keeping Canadians safe. As I set out in the various components of the recognizance with conditions scheme, I would ask hon. members to take note of the numerous safeguards contained within the proposal.

Under the proposed bill, before a peace officer is able to make an application to a judge for a recognizance order, again the consent of the attorney general would have to be obtained. A peace officer could lay an information before a provincial court judge if the peace officer believed on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity would be carried out and suspected on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person or the arrest of the person would be necessary to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity. This would be the legal test to be met in order to obtain the judicial order to compel a person to attend before a judge.

Under this proposal judges would be able to compel a person to attend before them for a hearing to determine if a recognizance would be imposed. Now the bill proposes a very limited power to arrest without warrants, the purpose of which is to bring a person before a judge so that the judge can exercise his or her power of judicially supervised release.

This power can only be exercised in two situations as follows: first, is where a peace officer has the grounds for laying an information before a judge, but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impractical to lay an information and the peace officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the detention of the person is necessary in order to prevent a terrorist activity.

The second is where and information has already been laid as a summons issued by a judge and the peace officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the detention of the purpose is necessary in order to prevent a terrorist activity.

For example, suppose that a peace officer has the requisite grounds to lay an information before a judge. However,he or she also learns that the terrorist suspects are planning an imminent terrorist attack and the person is about to deliver material that could be useful in making, for instance, an explosive device. In such an example, the peace officer could reasonably suspect that it is necessary to detain the person and bring him or her before the judge in order to prevent the delivery of the material and therefore the carrying out of the terrorist activity.

The bill sets out that in cases where the person has been arrested without a warrant under the recognizance with conditions provisions, that person cannot be detained for more than 72 hours. In the end, if in the opinion the recognizance is not warranted the person will of course be released.

It is important to note that if a person refuses to enter into a recognizance when ordered by the court, the judge can order the person's detention for up to 12 months. This is a significant power but I am sure one that is understandable in the circumstances given the seriousness of the harm that could be caused by the commission of a terrorist offence. Moreover, it is a power found in other peace bond provisions of the Criminal Code.

For both the investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions powers, the bill would require annual reporting on the use of these provisions. While annual reporting requirements existed in the original legislation, this is an important change that is found in Bill C-17. In response to a recommendation from the Senate committee that reviewed the ATA, the bill proposes that both theAttorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety provide their opinions, supported by reasons, as to whether the operations of these provisions should be extended. This is an open, transparent and sound reporting mechanism that is being proposed.

One of the benefits of having extensive reviews and debates already to have taken place on these provisions is that one is able to anticipate questions or concerns that may be expressed. I will not attempt to address some of those issues.

Some may take the position that these provisions are not necessary since they have been rarely used when they were in force if at all. However, this argument is premised on the view that since these powers were not used in the past that they will not be needed in the future. In the face of continuing terrorist attacks around the world, this logic is, to say the least, questionable. Neither I nor do I suspect the members of the House have the power to predict the future. Therefore it is imperative that we as a country have the mechanisms necessary to respond to a terrorist threat and that we give our law enforcement proper tools to do so. This is what Canadians rightfully expect.

It is certainly true that when these powers were previously in force for five years, to our knowledge the investigative hearing power was invoked only once and never in fact held. On that occasion, the Supreme Court of Canada considered the investigative hearing scheme and found it to be constitutional. To my knowledge, the recognizance provision was not used at all.

I suggest that this is clear proof, not that these powers are not needed, but rather that Canadian law enforcement is prepared to exercise restraints when it comes to using these powerful tools.

I would like to restate that the recognizance provisions cannot be imposed solely on the ground of reasonable suspicion. The bill would require that the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out and that he or she suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions is necessary to prevent a terrorist activity. This is a significant threshold and not one based on mere suspicion.

Some have argued that the Criminal Code already contains similar provisions that could be used for terrorism related offences, such as Section 495(1)(a) and Section 810.01, and that accordingly these provisions are unnecessary. Section 495(1)(a) in part allows a police officer to arrest without a warrant a person reasonably believed to have committed an indictable offence or about to commit an indictable offence. What this argument fails to realize is that the arrest powers in that section apply to a much smaller class of persons than those who would be covered under this bill.

Similarly, the peace bond provisions that I talked about earlier target only potential perpetrators of offences themselves, the actual person doing it. Provided the criteria or the recognizance with conditions are met, this bill would apply more broadly to persons who could not be arrested for terrorism offences in order to disrupt the planning of terrorism. I think all members of the House would agree that this is a class of persons who must, in order to save lives, be subject to a form of judicially supervised release.

We all know that terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Since the attacks on the United States in September 2001, the world has witnessed numerous acts of terrorism but, more important, as the recent guilty pleas and convictions in terrorism cases in our country have shown us, Canada is not immune to the threat of terrorism.

We as a government and as parliamentarians have a responsibility to protect our citizens. In doing so, we must provide our law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools to achieve that objective. It is equally our responsibility to do so in a balanced way with due regard for human rights. That was our goal with this reform and I believe that we have achieved it.

The investigative hearing and the recognizance with conditions powers are necessary, effective and reasonable. I call upon all parties to work together to make Canada a safer place to live, work and thrive.

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12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not necessarily share the joy that the minister has expressed about the House leader bringing forward this legislation at this time given the fact that many of the amendments and things that we were pushing for were originally suggested in 2007. In fact, we had to wait until March 12, 2009 for the government to bring this bill forward. I can recall speaking more than a year ago to the imperative need to get this bill before committee and yet here we are more than a year later waiting around for the government to deal with it. Prorogation killed it once but the government brought it back.

I can recall when the government said that these measures were so important that they had to be dealt with immediately at committee. Why have we been waiting nearly three years? Why, several bills later, are we still waiting to deal with this at committee, ask questions and approve measures?

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12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I hope the hon. member will remember that this legislation actually came before the House for a vote.

I will pass this advice on to my colleague the government House leader. Just because people have voted one way in the past or made speeches in support of something in the past does not necessarily mean that they will follow through with that.

These sunset provisions were put in by the previous Liberal government. I and my colleagues reintroduced this bill with the approval, the blessing and the tacit support of the Liberal Party and then, at the last minute, they folded their tent and decided they would not be supportive. It was very disappointing. The provisions themselves have been sunsetted. Since my colleague is now worried that it has taken a while for us to get this legislation back to the House, I hope this means he will be supportive of it.

I indicated that I looked closely at amendments that were proposed by his colleagues in the Senate and they are in this legislation. This is the bill that was originally put in by the Liberal Party of Canada when it was in government. I listened to the proposals that were made by the Senate of Canada to get these necessary anti-terrorism provisions. On one occasion the Liberals folded their tent and changed their mind but I hope that will not be the case this time. I am somewhat encouraged that the hon. member has asked why we are not dealing with this. We are dealing with it right now.

The member made comments about the hon. government House leader. He is an outstanding individual and it was an outstanding appointment. I thank him again for putting forward justice legislation right at the beginning of this session. We have been saying for a long time that the economy is absolutely vital to Canadians but our justice agenda is vital and important to Canadians as well.

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the minister a question about CSIS, one of the agencies responsible for national security, particularly counterterrorism. I would like to know if he read the Canadian Press release that states:

Canada's spy agency—CSIS—says it would use information obtained through torture to derail a possible terrorist plot—a position critics argue will only encourage abusive interrogations.

...

CSIS will share information received from an international partner with the police and other authorities “even in the rare and extreme circumstance that we have some doubt as to the manner in which the foreign agency acquired it,” say the notes prepared for use by CSIS director Dick Fadden.

The quoted material is from a briefing note sent to the head of CSIS.

My question for the minister is this: is his government aware that CSIS would use information obtained by torture in certain circumstances, and does his government approve?

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, I have been very clear about the legislation that we have in Parliament today. We are providing police and law enforcement agencies with the tools they want.

I would ask everybody to look very carefully at what I had to say about the different safeguards that are placed within this legislation. They are to be used on reasonable grounds. I have set those out in detail for both parts of this: the investigative hearings and the recognizance with conditions sections.

I have responded to the reports that I received from the two subcommittees of this House. A committee of the Senate had a look at that. We have made some changes to it that do nothing except enhance this bill.

I would say to the hon. member that we should put in the hands of the police forces the tools they need and deserve to fight terrorism in this country. We cannot turn our heads away and hope that this country will not be targeted or become a victim. We know that terrorism and those who want to disrupt our society exist. Therefore, when we see legislation like this that responds in a responsible manner with appropriate safeguards, it should have the support of all members of the House and, indeed, the members of the other place.

Whatever prejudices, misbeliefs or concerns members have had in the past, I would ask them to look at this legislation. I hope they and all members of the House will stand with the members on this side of the House to support these important tools that our police agents and those in law enforcement need and deserve.

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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, I was on the committee that sat through the hearings that reviewed the anti-terrorism legislation. Witness after witness came forward and myself and other members of the committee repeatedly asked questions about a scenario where these two sections were needed given that they are a huge incursion into what are fundamental historical rights for all Canadians, both in terms of the right to remain silent and not be incarcerated unless charged and know what the charges are against a person.

There were witnesses from CSIS, the RCMP and the justice department and no one could give me a scenario where these sections were needed in the light of looking at other sections in the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act that could have dealt with the scenarios they painted. I have to tell the justice minister today that I still have not heard of one scenario where these sections are needed.

When we put that in the context of an attack on fundamental rights, such as the right to remain silent, the right not to be incarcerated unless charged and knowing what the charges are against a person, how can we possibly justify that in a democratic society?

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member started off by saying that this was a huge incursion into the human rights of individuals. I was very clear in pointing out all the different safeguards that existed. They go beyond what was originally there nine years ago in terms of clarifying exactly what it is that we are applying to. It is possible that when it comes to the attention of law enforcement agencies, there is information available for past or future terrorist activities. This clarifies and sets out the basis upon which that evidence can be brought to the attention of law enforcement agencies.

I hope that in his discussion as to what he heard at committee, he would remember those members of the law enforcement agencies saying that these were the tools, the kinds of things they needed, to deal with the threats that we were facing. He would know as well that we are constantly trying to update the Criminal Code and the provisions that are on the books in our country to ensure they deal with the evolving face of crime.

Whether we are talking about everything from identity theft to auto theft to white collar crime, all these types of crimes have changed over the years. It has become more sophisticated. If one had said 10 years ago, at the beginning of the millennium, that it was necessary to have special powers on the books with respect to anti-terrorism, I suppose there would have been more skepticism from the NDP. However, we know what has taken place in the last nine years.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, law enforcement agencies have been very careful with these powers, which underscores how responsible they are. I am sure he must have heard this at committee. Law enforcement agencies have said to me that they want these on the books, that these are important tools to have in the fight against—

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12:45 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I regret to interrupt the minister, but his time has run out.

Resuming debate, the hon. member Ajax—Pickering.