Mr. Speaker, I consider it a privilege to stand in the House to join my colleagues in debating the bill. I am deeply troubled that the government moved to limit debate on the bill. I am deeply troubled that apart from some questions which have been useful, I am not seeing colleagues in the Conservative Party rising to speak to this. If it is so wise to blow a cannon-ball through this treaty, then those members should stand and defend why they should do that.
Bill C-6 allegedly is an act to implement the convention on cluster munitions, but absent the amendments that my colleague from Ottawa Centre has brought forward, it will not be a bill to ban the use of cluster munitions. I will speak to that.
As my colleagues have spoken to, in order for Canada to ratify an international convention, the government of the day must table a bill in the House to enact legislation which brings into force in this country the terms of the treaty. As has been mentioned, Canada actually signed this treaty in 2008, and has waited until now to bring a final conclusion to the legislation that it has brought forward.
It is regrettable that our country, unlike Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and most of the European nations, has chosen not to take the treaty and enact it in legislation. Conservatives have taken this treaty and they have blown a cannon-ball through it. Canada has made a choice. Canada has signed the treaty, and it could choose not to ratify the treaty.
We heard questions today asking about our allies. The only ally that Conservatives have talked about is the United States. The whole point of the treaty was to deter nations from continuing to produce and use cluster munitions. What possible excuse can there be, if we only want to sort of ratify the treaty because we like to hang out with countries that do not respect the treaty? I do not think that is much of an incentive, to those who have not yet signed or ratified, to do the proper thing.
What is the significance of the treaty? What are cluster bombs? We have talked a lot about that tonight. These are explosive weapons that release many smaller submunitions. What is particularly dangerous about these—as if they do not cause enough damage and harm and maiming of families and children in the course of a war—is that, like landmines, many are left behind unexploded. Apparently they are very brightly coloured. They are very attractive to children, and a lot of children become maimed.
There has been a lot of talk in the House of late about how much we care about the plight of families suffering through this debacle in Syria. Let me share what has gone on in Syria with cluster bombs. The Syrian army, in Aleppo, has been issuing cluster bombs. What has happened is that a little boy of seven, shaking like a leaf, is seen moaning, with lacerations to his abdomen and legs. Three-year-old brother Nizar's body was ready for burial. Six-year old Mustafa Ali was lying in a bed with shrapnel injuries to his head, neck, and shoulders. There was a nine-year-old boy, with a nasty shrapnel injury to his left leg. These stories go on and on. This is what these weapons do. They are reprehensible.
To the credit of the nations around the world, at one time also including our nation, in 2008, they agreed to come together and draft and implement a convention through a treaty to ban the use of these reprehensible weapons.
Who supports its ratification in whole? The Secretary General of the United Nations supports it. He has expressed increasing concern about the humanitarian impact of explosive weapons, particularly when used in densely populated areas. The International Committee of the Red Cross has spoken out with great concern regarding the proposed legislation by the Canadian government to provide this major exemption. There are others: the British Action on Armed Violence, the International Network on Explosive Weapons, and Amnesty International.
Who has opposed the cluster bombs treaty? Well, it is the nations who have been producing or stockpiling significant quantities of cluster munitions. Those are the ones who are opposed to the convention and have not stepped forward either to sign or ratify it, and they include China, Russia, and the United States, reprehensibly.
In response to the remonstrations by the U.S., Canada and this group of nations have brought forward this treaty. However, now, Canada is introducing a loophole. A number of the parties that I have mentioned are concerned about Canada's move. They are suggesting that this move by Canada to include clause 11 may end up dismantling the effect of this treaty.
Who has criticized Bill C-6?
My colleagues have mentioned the former prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, and I will read what he has to say:
In a rare public attack, the former prime minister has lashed out at Canada for what he says is “a lack of commitment to an international treaty to ban deadly cluster munitions”. He has accused the current government of departing from Canada's traditional international leadership, and said, “Canada used to be in the forefront internationally in leading the world in good directions”. He then said that Canada cannot claim to have banned cluster bombs when it proposes to allow its military to help others to use the weapons.
That is a good point.
A second party who has spoken very strongly against Bill C-6 is one who should be very worrisome to Canadians, and that is Earl Turcotte.
Who is Earl Turcotte? He was the senior coordinator for the Conservative government's Department of Foreign Affairs in negotiating the treaty. He led the Canadian delegation in negotiations on the convention. He resigned, given the Conservative government's position on this section, which essentially blows a cannon-ball through the convention.
I do not think I have time to mention all that Mr. Turcotte has said, but I can assure members that he has been very strong in his admonitions. He said, “...the proposed Canadian legislation is the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the convention..”. He has called for the bill to be strengthened. He said that, “The innocent victims of cluster munitions deserve nothing less”. I tend to agree.
The Red Cross has said clearly that if clause 11 stands in the bill at passage, it could have the effect of undermining the entire treaty. The Government of Norway has also very strongly spoken against the bill.
Concerns have been expressed that unless clause 11, this wide exemption, is removed from Bill C-6, it could put Canadian Forces at risk. Yet, when we read the details of the bill, it is very hard to argue that.
I look forward to one of those members standing in this place tonight and giving us their argument on why this provision is needed in the treaty. No other nation who has ratified the convention has included this provision. Canada did not argue for this provision to be in the treaty. It is highly unusual for a nation that has signed and shown intent to ratify, to add a provision that would essentially undermine the treaty itself.
The treaty already allows for interoperability, so why do we need this additional provision? Surely it should be the obligation of our country, when we get into the fields of war, to look very closely at what our partners in those activities are doing.
What could be an appropriate action by Canada? Well, it would be the same as all of the others who have ratified this convention, which is to stand up and say that one shall not use cluster munitions.
The case that Canadian Forces could be at risk simply by the fact that they go into the field of war with a country such as the United States that still has a stockpile of the munitions, I do not believe is a sound argument. I have yet to see that argument.
If we are in the field of war with a country and it is using those cluster bombs, then shame on us. We should not be participating in that activity. We have signed on to this treaty, and we are professing that we are going to ratify it, which is supposed to do away with the use of these cluster bombs.
I fully support the NDP amendments, which would strike clause 11. That would then bring Canada in line with all of the other reputable nations of the world that have signed and ratified the treaty.