Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased that this bill was introduced, but it is disappointing that it came from the Senate.
Last year, other bills on the same topic were rejected. Now, a door has opened. This bill addresses corruption of foreign public officials. The NDP is in favour of clear rules requiring that Canadians and Canadian businesses abroad be accountable and responsible.
We will support this bill so that it can be sent to committee. However, there needs to be some ambition here. This bill is lacking many components that would implement basic standards to ensure that companies doing business overseas respect human rights and are congenial. Those standards would allow Canada to become a model country in doing business overseas.
During a Senate committee meeting on February 28, 2013, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said the following:
...our government's priority is encouraging jobs, growth and long-term prosperity...It is reflected in the need to position Canada as a reliable supplier of resources which emerging markets need to grow...
We need to position our country as a reliable resource. We need to be a model country, but there is still work to be done in that regard. I would like to talk about what is happening with certain Canadian countries abroad. I will just give a few examples.
We sometimes think that things are wonderful everywhere. We talk about corruption elsewhere without looking in our own back yard. For example, there are Canadian public servants who receive bribes. Turn on the television and you might be shocked to see what is happening here in Canada.
There have been some examples on television, on the CBC. For example, the RCMP investigated a Canadian mining company's activities in Mexico. The story did not end well. The people in the concerned area in Mexico did not want the Canadian mining company, Blackfire, to set up shop in Chiapas, and that resulted in criminal activity.
In March 2010, the coalition MiningWatch Canada informed the RCMP and provided proof that money had been paid to the mayor of Chicomuselo. However, nothing really came of it because the RCMP also needs the means to investigate. Bills are great, but it is hard if there is no money to implement them.
Finally, the Mexican spokesperson in this story was killed. No one knows who killed him, but he was a harsh critic of a Canadian company. The company was accused of killing him, but no one could prove it. It is odd that this man, who fought to defend his land and ensure that the mining company conducted its business properly, got himself killed. That gives us food for thought. Just go to Radio-Canada for the source.
As far as Guatemala is concerned, last year we welcomed a group of people who came to talk to us about the way Canadian companies operate in these countries. They were talking about the involvement of security staff from Canadian companies in recent acts of violence that could result in civil suits.
I am talking about Tahoe Resources, a Vancouver-based company. This company sets up in a region without consulting the people who live there, those who will have to live with the impact of its activities on the environment and the water they consume.
These Canadian companies are giving us a bad name because the people are not going to say it was the Canadian company's fault; they are going to blame Canadians. We have to be careful. Yes, it is a matter of corruption, but the problem is even broader than that. We have to be more ambitious and draft a bill to crack down on offending companies.
Tahoe Resources' project heightened the conflicts in the region. Civilian security officers came down on the community and hurt people, some seriously. We do not want that. We want good relations.
As members said earlier, our government's priority is to promote jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, but not by destroying our neighbouring countries. I have another example: the police search of SNC-Lavalin.
Nonetheless, I will close on a note of hope. Earlier, one of my colleagues was talking about Pascua-Lama in Chile. This is another Canadian company. The local people demonstrated for months, but the company kept operating. The same people went to court and won. The government had no choice. It had to put an end to the activities of the Canadian company. The company was unable to set up there because it had no consideration for the local people.
This brings me to another point. In Spanish we say that we must have un acuerdo social, une licencia sociale. We must get along socially. It is similar to a driver's licence, but it is social license. It means that these companies, except for the corruption issue, are very honest. That is what we hear. They must consult people and explain to them how their mining activities may affect their lives. Before doing anything, they must secure social license. Otherwise, this leads to conflicts in the country, and they do not want that.
We signed free trade agreements with these countries and we do not want to create problems there. We want wealth for both sides.
In Chile, a court ruling forced one of the largest gold companies in Latin America, the Pascua-Lama mine, to stop all its activities. The Chilean justice felt that the project did not meet environmental standards. It is a good thing the country had some environmental standards. In the end, the company will not leave. It is now negotiating to resume its activities next year. That is great. We should not expect this to happen overnight.
This is a good bill and the NDP will support it, but we must go further. We must be more ambitious. Canada has an opportunity to be a role model. For a long time, the United States was always mentioned as a role model. If Canada creates jobs, if it establishes mines elsewhere, if it develops a policy with a minimum of social agreements that respect people's way of life—and not just the environment—it may become a role model, and other countries will open their doors to us. We will be proud of what we will be doing abroad.
The bill is particularly important for the mining industry, of which the NDP is a strong supporter. In the past, Bills C-323 and C-486 were not passed. The time has come to retrieve them and to read them. Then, perhaps members opposite will realize that we were not so wrong and that the NDP was right on target, because it was able to look a little further, instead of thinking only about the money going into the companies' pockets. Moreover, these companies often do not even pay taxes in the countries where they settle.
I invite all hon. members to be more ambitious and to dream of a country that can behave like a good big brother and be a role model. This is a start, but it is not the end. We must go further.