Mr. Speaker, I will begin with a comment. I find it unfortunate that a guillotine has been imposed to limit the time we have to speak to this bill. Is it because they do not want to work with us or for us to ask them questions? I find that truly regrettable. Who do people currently see discussing this bill on CPAC? The NDP. The other parties ask us questions.
I think it is important today to discuss the risks to which Canada is exposing its military personnel and millions of civilians around the world by passing Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.
Although this bill is supposed to support an international effort to get rid of an atrocious weapon, the bill that has been put before us could do precisely the opposite.
I will therefore speak to what the bill does, what it does not do and the consequences it would have. I am putting myself in the shoes of the people in the countries that receive these bombs that kill children or injure them for life. This is really disastrous.
Speaking of consequences, what happens when a cluster bomb explodes?
In Canada, we are lucky to live in peace, but we must not believe that we will never go through war. Other democracies before us have been through war. Just imagine for a moment what civilians go through during conflicts, which, by the way, rarely serve their interests.
As my colleagues said earlier, a bomb, not unlike the leaflet propaganda bombs that were used in days gone by, is dropped. However, instead of paper, hundreds of bomblets or submunitions no bigger than a D battery spread out over a more or less accurate target such as a landing strip or an armoured vehicle. It is said that cluster munitions are cheaper because they cover more territory in less time. In time, people are injured and die. There is therefore no need to send more. After the initial wave of explosions, roughly 30% of the unexploded submunitions remain and become de facto landmines that are still effective decades later. Think about this: when these bombs are dropped on a country, the child that might end up playing with them is not even born yet. He will be disabled for life. Civilians account for 98% of victims of cluster munitions. Half of them are children who mistake the colourful submunitions for a toy.
Would we want our children to mistake a bomblet for a toy? That is why I think we can never predict exactly what will happen once a cluster munition is dropped. All we know is that they tear flesh, break hearts and destroy communities with sadness.
I am taking the time to remind everyone what these weapons do because the Conservative government does not seem to understand. Officially, judging by its name, the bill should enable the implementation of the convention on cluster munitions.
Let us take a look at what this bill does and what it does not do.
According to the text of the convention signed by Canada on December 3, 2008, in Oslo:
1. Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances:
a) To use anti-personnel mines;
b) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, anti-personnel mines;
c) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.
Does the bill that should, above all, fulfill these obligations to the international community pass the test?
According to Earl Turcotte, the former coordinator of mine action at DFAIT and the head of the Canadian delegation that negotiated the convention, the answer is no. Mr. Turcotte said:
The proposed legislation is the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to date. It fails to fulfill Canada's obligations under international humanitarian law; it fails to protect vulnerable civilians in war-ravaged countries around the world; it betrays the trust of sister states who negotiated this treaty in good faith, and it fails Canadians who expect far better from our nation.
I am not the one who said that; it was Earl Turcotte. He is the fellow who was hired to sign a real convention, one that was really binding on arms manufacturers. He is the fellow Canada sent to help bring peace to the world, which should be our objective as a pacifist country.
We therefore see here what this bill does not do. What does it do, then, if it does not fulfill the primary reason for its existence? To understand what the bill does, we have to look at a process that is not without interest. It is all proceeding as if the Conservative government had thrown a bomblet into the treaty negotiations.
The people in charge of the negotiations for Canada had to bargain hard to have article 26 of the convention, on the interoperability of the signatory countries, included. Essentially, because China, Russia and the United States refuse to sign, it would be hard not to do business with them, is that not so? The people in place at the time of the negotiations succeeded in having that article accepted for Canada, but they are surprised to see, today, that the spirit of the convention is undermined by clause 11 of the bill introduced to address article 26, which Canada requested.
The bomblet that is clause 11 permits Canadian troops to use, obtain, possess or transport cluster munitions in the course of joint operations with another country that is not a party to the convention and to request the use of cluster munitions by the armed forces of another country. We will be able to say that we do not make them, but our troops are going to be transporting them.
The Conservative government has thus destroyed the spirit of the convention for good. Flesh will be ripped apart, hearts will be broken and communities will be torn by grief. I would have liked to see a little more leadership on the part of this government. I would have liked our colleagues across the aisle to make speeches, and I would have liked to be able to ask them questions and get more information. I expected a lot more leadership. I am certain that the people of Joliette, whom I represent, have had enough of learning that under the Conservatives, Canada has withdrawn from important international treaties like the Kyoto protocol, which people talk to me about when I go door to door, and is going so far as to sabotage peace efforts at the international level.
When the Conservatives behave in this manner, they show the entire world their true colours, colours that we do not share. On behalf of Joliette and all of Canada, I would like to send this message to the rest of the world: those are not our colours. They are the colours of a minority that obtained a majority in the House of Commons and, for that reason, that minority believes that it is leading on behalf of the majority. Let us hope that the government will agree to do the right thing by amending its bill at third reading. In my opinion, that is the only thing to do for Canada, for its international reputation and for the civilian victims in countries at war.