House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.


Red Tape Reduction ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I will not have a lot of time to respond to that. I will certainly have an opportunity to talk about it with the member in the lobby.

There is administrative red tape and we have to reduce it. That is this government's objective, and that is why we will support this bill.

Red Tape Reduction ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from April 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-486, An Act respecting corporate practices relating to the extraction, processing, purchase, trade and use of conflict minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting patiently to speak to Bill C-486 respecting the extraction of conflict minerals.

As the official opposition energy and natural resources critic, I am especially interested in this bill. The Great Lakes Region of Africa is currently plagued by chronic political and economic instability. Paradoxically, the abundance of natural resources is one of the causes of this instability. In fact, these natural resources should be driving the socio-economic development of the people living in this region. Resources are plentiful and financial opportunities abound, but instead of enabling the community to develop, these resources create instability. That is very unfortunate.

This brings me to the bill. In addition to this situation, it is unacceptable that future profits earned by Canadian mining companies will help fund extremely violent internal conflicts and will contribute, whether directly or indirectly, to the suppression of basic rights. For this reason, Bill C-486, which was brought forward by my colleague for Ottawa Centre, provides for mechanisms to thoroughly monitor the movement of a mineral from the extraction site to its incorporation in the final product for end consumers.

The bill also provides for the participation of an independent third party that would produce a report on the exercise of due diligence. This process would ultimately depend on the co-operation of the companies involved, the expertise of the third party and on Natural Resources Canada’s duty to inform the public.

More specifically in this instance, the bill allows the government to endorse Canada’s traditional position on responsible supply chain management. As a signatory to the OECD's Declaration on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises, the government has, by extension, supported the OECD guide on due diligence.

The bill in fact formalizes the main points of the OECD guide. It is highly contradictory to ratify an international agreement while at the same time refusing to adopt it in the form of a federal bill. Unfortunately, this is not the first contradiction of which this government is guilty.

I would like this government to act logically when it ratifies international conventions and I would like to see it apply these conventions in its bills. This is not the case here and for that reason, we need to take action and to lend Bill C-486 our support.

This bill is in line with the New Democrats’ position that companies should act in a socially responsible manner while allowing consumers to make more informed choices. The government equates transparency provisions with administrative formalities that can hinder investment and impede economic growth in the states located in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

This rhetoric, central to the Conservative’s position, clearly has no basis in fact. The bill sponsored by my NDP colleague calls for a responsible, progressive course of action.

A message was delivered by the Usher of the Black Rod as follows:

Mr. Speaker, it is the desire of His Excellency the Governor General of Canada that this honourable House do attend him immediately in the Senate chamber.

Accordingly, the Speaker with the House went up to the Senate chamber.

And being returned:

5:50 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor General in the Senate chamber, His Excellency was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, royal assent to the following bills:

C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

C-489, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (restrictions on offenders).

S-218, An Act respecting National Fiddling Day.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I was in the process of explaining, unfortunately when the government refers to this bill, it often equates these transparency provisions with red tape that will impede investment and economic growth in the countries in question.

Sadly this rhetoric, which is central to the Conservative’s discourse, has no basis in fact. The bill sponsored by my NDP colleague calls for a responsible, progressive course of action and brings to the forefront the issues of human rights protection, the right of consumers to be informed and environmental protection.

Given the Conservatives' refusal to exercise due diligence, their blind partisanship and their belief in the benefits of deregulation, controlling the supply chain of extractive sector companies is a responsible course of action. Conflicts within the Great Lakes Region of Africa, fueled by mining companies, and their repercussions place a heavy burden on a government that, unfortunately, is only concerned about passing legislation that benefits lobbyists.

Some UN experts have called on the federal government to hold an inquiry into mining companies that fail to comply with OECD principles regarding ethical practices. In March 2009, the government announced its building the Canadian advantage strategy, which called for the appointment of an ethics counsellor devoid of any power.

Without a requirement to exercise due diligence, the activities of Canadian extractive sector companies will continue to fund social injustice and human rights violations in conflict areas. In the absence of regulations, companies seeking short-term returns on their investments will be a lightning rod for instability and will hinder direct foreign investment. Long-term investment projects are tied to the stability of political institutions.

However, the proliferation of armed groups chases away foreign investment and isolates this region, which is plagued by serious political unrest and devastating economic stagnation. In terms of foreign policy, Canada has acquired expertise in providing humanitarian aid and managing peacekeeping operations.

The development of this expertise rests on Canada’s faith in strengthening international legal instruments. As a result, Bill C-486 introduces the principle of corporate social and environmental responsibility, as well as legal provisions aimed at protecting civilian populations.

Bill C-486 contains provisions that are consistent with traditional principles of Canadian diplomacy, principles that this government is unfortunately dismantling through the excessive deregulation of the activities of Canadian companies operating abroad. A stable market, one that is conducive to investments, requires a state of law and strong political institutions, at the very least, hence the need for responsible supply chain management.

According to the French organization Coface, the prevailing political climate is one of the determining factors for a company that is seeking to invest. In the absence of regulations, activities will continue to fuel political instability, to the point where this region of the globe will become a region of bankrupt states where anarchy reigns, a region with the potential to become fertile ground for international terrorism.

Finally, when it comes to minerals, we have to understand that Canadian consumers have no way of tracing their movement. For instance, when we buy a toaster made of metals and other substances, we do not know where each of the metals came from. The same can be said for many consumer goods. There is no way of knowing exactly where the metal used was mined or processed. If consumers knew that the goods they were purchasing were manufactured with conflict minerals, and by purchasing them, they were perhaps contributing to the climate of political instability or fuelling unrest in certain areas of the world, I honestly believe they would not buy these products.

For this reason, I believe it is important to require Canadian extractive sector companies to be more transparent and more open about the movement of products. This would help to ease the instability and decrease the incidence of human rights violations in these regions.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario


Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today and participate in the second hour of debate on Bill C-486.

First I would like to reiterate that the government fully agrees with the hon. member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre on the importance of finding ways to address the issue of conflict minerals. Indeed, the first hour of debate demonstrated that there is a shared concern over how the illegal trade in minerals fuels conflicts. The good news is that Canadian companies, civil society, and government have shown significant leadership and have been at the forefront of creating global consensus on responsible mining and sourcing practices in the gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum sectors. I know that the hon. member for Ottawa Centre appreciates Canada's active engagement, because he cites many of our activities in the preamble to Bill C-486, such as our participation in the development of the supply chain due diligence guidance at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

This government believes that the extractive sector has demonstrated that it can be a positive force not only here at home but around the world by helping create sustainable economic growth and development in countries where it is active.

At a recent event co-hosted by Canada and the World Economic Forum, the hon. Minister of International Development and Minister for La Francophonie stated, “Canada is well known as a world leader in responsible resource development. We have robust strategies that support economic growth and diversification, that promote responsible business conduct, that ensure environmental sustainability and that strengthen community engagement so all stakeholders can benefit from natural resource development”.

Our efforts to stop the trade in conflict minerals are a part of the same narrative. Our engagement at the OECD, where we work with relevant actors in government, the private sector, and civil society, is emblematic of the constructive approach our government has taken to enhance the positive contribution of the extractive sector to social and economic development. Indeed, the Government of Canada is committed to working with partner countries to help them develop and manage their natural resources in a responsible and sustainable way that benefits all of their citizens. It is only by putting the right systems in place on the ground that we can hope to address a multi-faceted problem like conflict minerals.

There is more that can and should be done to curb the trade in conflict minerals. The Government of Canada is actively engaged on this issue, and we are always looking at ways to improve our efforts. However, the approach outlined in Bill C-486 is, in our view, fundamentally flawed. To be more specific, the government believes that Bill C-486 is questionable in its efficacy, overly broad in its application to companies throughout the expansive supply chain, and unduly limited in its geographic focus.

Allow me to elaborate on our concerns in more detail.

First, on the question of efficacy, simply put, there is no evidence to date that mandatory reporting on due diligence activities would actually stop conflict minerals from entering international markets. As noted in the first hour of debate, Bill C-486 is modelled after U.S. legislation, specifically section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act. This legislation has been around since 2010, but the first reports were not due until June 2, 2014. Why should we blindly follow a model that has not yet proven that it actually works?

Some may argue that we should not sit around and wait for results in order to take action, but what about unintended consequences? One of the concerns related to the U.S. legislation is that companies have simply avoided buying designated minerals from the Great Lakes region as it is estimated that the region may account for as little as 15% of the global supply of tantalum and much smaller percentages of the other minerals.

Companies can and are sourcing these minerals from elsewhere, which is having a significant economic impact on the region in general and the people of the DRC in particular. The risk of Bill C-486 reinforcing this de facto embargo of minerals from this region is real. Some may argue that this is not a problem. Indeed, they might argue that this will only help the fight against conflict minerals. Unfortunately, the reality is that while investment in the region may have declined dramatically, the illicit trade has continued.

Questionable efficacy is not the only problem with Bill C-486. Our second concern relates to the bill's overly broad application.

According to the bill, any company incorporated in Canada that extracts, processes, purchases, trades and or uses any of these minerals from the Great Lakes region of Africa could be required to provide an audited report on an annual basis. To use the example of the gold supply chain, this could include miners, refiners, bullion banks, gold exchanges, alloy processors, manufacturers, importers, wholesalers, artisans, and retailers. Moreover, gold is used in numerous industry sectors, including jewellery, medical supplies, aerospace, automotive, and of course, electronics.

As a result, an extremely wide range of companies of varying sizes, functions, and sectors would potentially be implicated by the bill and saddled with significant costs associated with reporting. Indeed, if one's dentist has an incorporated company, he or she may be required to submit an audited report on the activities undertaken to demonstrate that the use of gold fillings has not inadvertently contributed to armed conflict in the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Interestingly, the implication of the entire supply chain is not an approach favoured by other initiatives, including the U.S. legislation, which is only focused on companies involved in manufacturing processes.

The requirement of an independent third party audit of the report also differs from the OECD due diligence guidance, which recommends audits at the smelter and refiner level, not at every point along the supply chain. Even the proposed directive by the European Union is focused on one particular point in the supply chain, importers of designated minerals. Moreover, while Bill C-486's proposed mechanism is legislative in nature, the approach the Europeans are taking is a voluntary one.

Imposing a potentially significant reporting burden on the entire mineral supply chain may be great news for auditing companies, but is generating a mountain of reports really an efficient way to address the issue of conflict minerals?

Can we really hope to tackle a global issue if we only focus on the Great Lakes region of Africa? This is the third concern I would like to raise with respect to the bill. Taking a narrow approach that only focuses on a particular region risks stigmatizing conflict minerals as an exclusively African problem, and they are not. Trade in conflict minerals is an issue with a global reach in terms of the repercussions on peace, security, and democratic development, as well as on local communities and multinational companies in countries around the world.

Through our participation at the OECD, we are actively trying to expand the promotion and implementation of guidance, which applies to all conflict-affected and high-risk areas in relevant country contexts.

This government believes in working with, not against, our partners in both the public and private sectors to foster an enabling environment for meaningful engagement and change. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Bill C-486 would hinder these efforts. Canada's continued involvement in international initiatives related to conflict minerals will help identify the most promising and effective way forward. When that happens, we will undertake the necessary consultation and analysis to ensure we can achieve the desired impact on the ground.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2014 / 6:05 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Newmarket—Aurora, because I am forever standing in this place saying that we should be working together, sharing information, and trying to make bills better. I hate to use the word “conflict“ when we are talking about this issue, but oftentimes, between the two sides of the House, there is more conflict than co-operation.

I would like to commend the member for the speech she gave. Now, after saying that, I take issue with a couple of points, but I will address only one. Perhaps the sponsor of the bill, the member for Ottawa Centre, will discuss later with the government other areas they seem to have concerns about.

When we say “voluntary”, to me that fails the test of true due diligence. I come from farm country, and that is like saying to the fox that we trust it not to come near our henhouse. It would likely not work there.

Again, it is very important in the House, especially as this session is winding down, that there be a glimmer of a possibility that all sides will work together on an important issue.

For the viewers who are just joining us now in this important debate, I would like to reiterate the fact that Bill C-486, once passed, would require Canadian companies using minerals from the Great Lakes region of Africa to practise public due diligence. I stress that word. It would ensure that no armed groups that are engaged in illegal activities would benefit from the extraction, processing, or use of these minerals.

In my past speeches I have often referred to Hollywood versions of stories. There was a movie made in the last five to eight years called Blood Diamond. It highlighted in a very personal way the particular problems in that part of the world.

The most important feature of Bill C-486 is that it would allow Canadians to know whether minerals that may have contributed to funding or fuelling a conflict are in the products they have purchased. It would empower them, as consumers, to make an informed choice. It would not order them to do anything, but it would be guidance that an awful lot of responsible Canadians would appreciate having.

This bill would continue the NDP's agenda on corporate social responsibility. It would have an important role in enhancing, as I said, consumer knowledge and control of purchasing choices. As the critic for international human rights, I can tell the House that New Democrats have long supported transparency and accountability by Canadian industry abroad.

I will step back for just a moment. The member for Newmarket—Aurora mentioned the Dodd-Frank bill. I had the pleasure a couple of years back of spending two hours with Barney Frank in Washington and listening to his passion. The member was fairly critical of aspects of his bill, such as the length of time and the delay. That would be an area I would suggest the member for Ottawa Centre discuss as well. If there is a better way of doing it, we would certainly want to look at it.

I remember that not that long after I was elected in 2006, we had Bill C-300. There was excitement in our activist community about the potential the bill had for holding Canadian companies to the same standards in foreign countries they are held to in Canada. As I recall, sadly, the bill failed by about 12 votes. More sadly, there were 15 Liberals who did not come into the House to vote. That bill was sponsored by a Liberal at the time, so there was significant disappointment.

Because Canadian extractive companies are among the most successful in the world, a fact that we are proud of, we believe that it is important that they lead in responsible, sustainable, and transparent management practices in the world's extractive sector.

In my role as the critic for international human rights, I met, in a three-week period, indigenous groups from five countries. They were from the Philippines, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, and Guatemala. When they came before me, they made suggestions that bordered on accusations that Canadian mining interests in their countries were complicit in pushing them off their lands.

I do not think Canadian companies would do that with deliberate intent, but certainly the governments they deal with in their daily business often have people in charge who are prepared to do nearly anything for money, for greed. Therefore, when something comes before us that would make sure that Canadian companies are responsible and do not allow practices such as pushing people off their land, that to me is very satisfying.

Bill C-486 at its best is part of an international trend toward due diligence and corporate responsibility. Again, the member opposite, in her speech, referred to the OECD, the United States, and other countries. If legislators enforced regulations, it would no doubt lead to a more level playing field for all Canadian companies.

One of the fair arguments that could come from the government side is that if we put restrictions on Canadian companies that are not put on other international companies in that part of the world, that could be seen as handcuffing them and holding them back. Now that there is a broader consensus out there about the need for this particular type of legislation, there is less possibility of that.

Further, I believe that this bill would go far in ensuring environmental, labour, and human rights protections of which all Canadians can be proud. We know that when we talk to Canadians and listen to them, their expectation is that in Canada our corporate citizens will abide by all these laws, and for the most part they certainly do. However, they also expect that these companies will do the same thing abroad when they are working in other countries.

At its worst, the international illegal exploitation and trade of minerals from the Great Lakes region of Africa is funding and fuelling one of the deadliest armed conflicts, I would say, since the Second World War. Canadians are just now coming to understand that many of these conflict minerals, as various speakers have mentioned, end up in many of their products, such as cellphones and even tin cans and medical devices. One of the things I kind of smiled at was that they are in jet engines. I do not know quite how they would wind up there, because they are certainly not technically inclined in that area.

Clearly Canadians need support and guidance if they are looking to understand what products they should avoid.

Members no doubt know that mineral profits in the conflict zones provide revenues from trade, taxes, bribes, and fees imposed by armed groups, and those are substantial. Conflict minerals account for up to 95% of the revenues of these groups. Clearly, those minerals literally keep some armed groups in business.

More than half of all the mines, and all but one major mine in the eastern DRC, are controlled by armed groups that may also impose illegal taxes on minerals transported through the territory they control, which brings to mind what is happening in Iraq today. The insurgency in Iraq has taken over part of an oil field, and they are actually selling that oil and getting money, even though they illegally took it over. It is being reported in the news.

Much of the DRC's mineral output is smuggled into countries. Again, that goes to the heart of what the member across the way asked. Where do we do the audit, upstream or downstream? That is something to consider.

One of the things I am pleased to say is that virtually all the main technology companies are now watching where they purchase their materials, such as BlackBerry—a good Canadian company that I hear today is doing a little better than it had been—Microsoft, Apple, and Nokia. These companies are starting to take steps to avoid using conflict minerals in their products. As was said, the OECD also made moves, I believe, in May 2011.

It is very important that a country like Canada maintains it international reputation and takes a lead in this area.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek for a very balanced and thoughtful presentation. I also wish to thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre for the work he does for his constituents, the incredible work he does in his capacity as critic for international affairs, and the very steady, compassionate, and solution-oriented work he has done with regard to conflict minerals and the impact the struggle to finance war, insurgency, and militia groups has on vulnerable, innocent victims and communities.

This debate and this bill are about human beings, human beings who are trapped and terrorized by those who wreak havoc in many regions of the world. This afternoon I am going to speak about the violence in places like the Great Lakes region of Africa; the victims, many of whom are women and children; and the purpose and possibility of Bill C-486, standing in the name of my colleague from the New Democratic Party. It is a very important discussion.

Briefly, the illegal exploitation and trade in minerals in the Great Lakes region of Africa is, as has been said, funding and fuelling a brutal and deadly armed conflict. This is a war that had its origins in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Refugees from that horrific slaughter flooded into the eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, an area formerly known as Zaire. During the Congo wars from 1996-1997, and later from 1998-2003, the conflict involved nine countries and more than 40 rebel groups.

At the present time, there are about three main armed groups operating in eastern Congo, all of them competing for the resources they need to continue fighting by exploiting the illegal trade of minerals in this region. We have to remember how very lucrative the minerals are. They include cassiterite, coltan, wolframite, tin, tantalum, and tungsten. The profits from these illegally traded minerals are estimated at between $140 million and $225 million, and as has been said, they provide up to 95% of the money that keeps these armed groups going.

The human cost has been horrific. More than 5.4 million deaths are directly attributable to this trade, and the devastation goes beyond death and murder at the hands of combatants. That devastation comes in the form of sexual and gender-based violence. It has become a weapon of war, and it is used as such in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are at least 40,000 survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in the DRC. No one knows how many women and girls have died at the hands of their tormentors, these armed men who rape.

All of this violence, all of it, is to instill fear in communities and is used as a form of vengeance. Women and children are the stable base of society, and in this case, they are specifically targeted by these militia to undermine the very fabric of that society to destabilize communities and make it easier to pillage them for those valuable minerals we have been talking about. The result is traumatized women who are often marginalized because they are forced to bear the children of the enemy. These women, some as young as 13 or 14, are rejected by their communities, and so are their children. No one is safe. Women are raped and men are subjected to torture and humiliation. The victims include children as young as four and adults as old as 65.

For many, the injuries never heal. The survivors suffer from a number of health problems, including damaged reproductive organs; fistulas, in the case of women; sexually transmitted diseases; and HIV-AIDS. Many survivors have also been robbed of their possessions or can no longer work as a result of their injuries, and they cannot afford medical care. The DRC is one of the most dangerous places in the world, particularly for women.

Locals in mining communities are forced to take part in the illicit mining economy. Money earned from the sale of these minerals, as I have said, is used to further the violence. Minerals are smuggled out of the Congo through neighbouring countries and are shipped to smelters around the world for refinement.

Once minerals are processed in this way, it is really difficult to trace their origin. Conflict minerals easily make their way through the United States to Canada and to consumers in our countries. This underscores the purpose and the importance of Bill C-486.

It is supported by a wide range of Canadian and international civil society and corporate organizations. Consultations were a part of the drafting of this legislation. My colleague has done many consultations, including with representatives from Partnership Africa Canada, BlackBerry, KAIROS, the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Enough Project, and Global Witness.

Bill C-486, quite simply, requires Canadian companies using minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa to practise due public diligence to ensure that no armed groups engaged in illegal activities benefit from the extraction, processing, or use of those minerals

The bill would allow Canadians to know whether minerals in products they purchased may have contributed to the funding and fuelling of conflict and to the horrific crimes against human beings. It would also empower Canadian consumers to make more informed choices.

The New Democrats have long supported transparency and accountability by Canadian corporations overseas, including those in the extractive sector. The bill complements other legislation and efforts made by the New Democrats to encourage responsible, sustainable, and transparent management practices in all sectors, including the extractive sector.

Bill C-486 is part of an international trend toward due diligence and corporate accountability. Enforced regulations—and it is important that they be enforced regulations—will create a level playing field for all Canadian companies while ensuring environmental, labour, and human rights, the protections of which we can be proud.

As we know, there is a vast trade in these minerals. They support electronics and jewellery companies. We simply have to know that the products we are buying are not financing atrocities. We, as Canadians, deserve to know that.

It is critical to build a clean mineral trade in the Congo so the people who live there and the miners who work there can have decent living conditions and know that their region is a place where they can eventually build safe communities, conflict free, where people can survive and live in harmony.

Unfortunately, as we have heard, the government is primarily focused on voluntary industry and government initiatives in regard to the extractive industry. That is unfortunate. It is also unfortunate that we have seen opposition to bills like Bill C-300 that would require Canadian extractive companies to behave as they do in Canada when they work abroad.

Canadians want to choose products that do not fund war and human rights violations. Canadians need to know that companies that provide electronic products and jewellery are not funding those wars, that there is corporate transparency, and that Canadians can absolutely rely on the products that we have in our homes and know that they are not causing undue harm and terror for those people living in areas like East Africa.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Annick Papillon NDP Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on Bill C-486, An Act respecting corporate practices relating to the extraction, processing, purchase, trade and use of conflict minerals from the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

First of all, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Ottawa Centre for his excellent work on this issue. It is important to highlight this work that has been so well done. My colleague’s bill requires Canadian companies using minerals originating in the Great Lakes Region of Africa to exercise due diligence to ensure that no armed groups engaged in illegal activities benefit from the extraction, processing or use of these minerals.

More than half of the mines located east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are controlled by armed groups that place illegal taxes on the minerals passing through areas under their control. The DRC's mineral production is for the most part smuggled out to other countries. Subsequently, these minerals end up in products such as cell phones, tin cans, medical devices and jet engines. This is how the illegal exploitation and trafficking of minerals in the Great Lakes Region of Africa finances and perpetuates the most violent armed conflicts since the Second World War. The media do not talk about it enough, but what is happening in the Congo is really tragic. There have been millions of deaths and there are millions of refugees. It is important to show concern for them and worry about the consequences of our actions.

This bill is part of the NDP agenda to support corporate social responsibility while allowing consumers to make more informed choices. In fact, one of the most important aspects of the bill is that it will make it possible for Canadians to find out whether the minerals contained in the products they buy may have helped finance and perpetuate conflicts so that they can make better informed and more knowledgeable choices as consumers.

As the deputy critic for consumer protection, it is very important for me to give Canadian consumers an opportunity to make informed choices. In order to do so, companies must tell them whether the minerals they use in manufacturing their products help finance wars. The situation is far from trivial or insignificant. To explain how conflict minerals can cause harm, I will give you a few facts.

Conflict minerals generate $180 million per year for armed groups, literally keeping some militias in business. In fact, conflict minerals account for up to 95% of the income of armed groups.

In addition, up to 40% of those working in the mines are children, who are exploited and abused. They then become prime targets for recruitment by armed groups. We all know the story of too many child soldiers.

Finally, it is estimated that 5.4 million people have been killed either directly or indirectly in the conflicts in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

I would like to take a few moments to mention that I met with people from my riding and the Quebec City area who are working with Development and Peace and who are doing an outstanding job. Just like myself and the NDP, their aim is to make our Canadian companies socially responsible, both at home and abroad.

I have received messages from hundreds of constituents in my riding who support an approach similar to that of my colleague, that is, to ask Canada, as a major player in the international extractive sector, to promote responsible management practices. I would like to thank them for their support and I would ask that they continue writing to me, as this is precisely how we can bring pressure to bear on the government, to ensure we are heard and that we can make the government listen to reason.

I still need the support of the people of Quebec City and elsewhere to do this.

In other words, the constituents of the Quebec riding that I represent here in Parliament think that Canada and Canadian businesses must exercise due diligence, responsibility and especially transparency in their operations abroad. I am proud to say that the bill being debated today will help guarantee that the international activities of Canadian businesses comply with a standard that we can all be very proud of.

Members of the NDP have long advocated for greater transparency and responsibility from Canadian businesses that operate in other countries, primarily in the mining industry. This bill forms part of the NDP's legislative efforts to encourage responsible, sustainable and transparent management in the mining industry.

My colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île has also put forward a bill that would create an ombudsman for the corporate social responsibility of extractive corporations, specifically. This demonstrates how active we are. The NDP wants to ensure that companies that exploit minerals in developing countries are not only, as I said, socially responsible, but also ecologically responsible.

Canada must take the initiative internationally on this matter. Canadian mining companies are leaders in the global market and it is now high time for Canada to also become a leader in corporate social responsibility. Almost every high technology company, from Microsoft to Apple to Nokia, have already adopted measures to avoid using conflict minerals in their products.

In May 2011, the OECD adopted a due diligence recommendation and guidance. In August 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced rules requiring corporations to show reasonable due diligence in their use of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. I will quote, the former U.S. Secretary of State, the esteemed Hillary Clinton, on the subject of conflict minerals:

With respect to corporations responsible for what are known as conflict minerals, I believe that the international community must start looking at steps we can take to try to prevent the mineral wealth from the DRC ending up in the hands of those who fund the violence here.

It is time for Canada to join this international movement and play a leading role in efforts to put an end to the conflict in the DRC. The bill would incorporate the OECD guidance in Canadian legislation, which would be a first for the OECD. It would be good to show initiative and take the first step. That would be a change.

In closing, this bill could be another step in the right direction leading to an end to a conflict that, as I mentioned, has victimized more than 5.4 million people and is financed and fuelled by revenue generated by the minerals in the products we buy.

Canada has a duty to be at the forefront when it comes to efforts to put an end to conflict mineral trafficking. I am listening to what the people of Quebec City are telling me and they want our companies to be successful, responsible representatives of our country. They want our companies to comply with international standards. We want consumers to be given the information they need so that they can buy products that do not finance war. I truly believe that they have that right. That is why our proposed bill is so worthwhile. I sincerely hope that this bill gets passed with the full support of the House, and I hope that it will restore our international reputation abroad. That reputation has been badly tarnished in recent years.

This initiative would give the organizations that we work with a renewed sense of hope. We would get the feeling that this is the Canada that we used to know, the one that made us proud. I am talking about the Canada of Lester B. Pearson, who won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I sometimes think about that Canada. I would like Canada to be a country that is fairer and more responsible, an example on the world stage. That is the direction we should be headed in. I invite my colleagues to move forward with this bill and give it their full support.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking all of my colleagues, in particular my colleagues on this side. I particularly want to thank the parliamentary secretary for her comments. I will deal with her concerns in a minute, but I first want to say how proud I am to stand to speak on Bill C-486, the conflict minerals act.

Five years ago, as I have mentioned many times in this House, I was in the Congo. I saw the exploitation of mineral resources and their contribution to violence. As I have said before, all of us have these little devices that we carry around, and thus we carry a little piece of the conflict with us—unknowingly for many. That is really what this is about. I am tying the purchases that we make to the conflict that is happening in the Congo, which, as has been stated before, is the rape capital of the world. It is where rape is used as a weapon of war, and where 5.4 million people have died since 1998. It is a tragic war.

I want to say that the bill has already helped. We have had an incredible dialogue here in the House and around the country about the connection between minerals and conflict. We have heard some of that debate tonight and an acknowledgement from the government that this is a concern.

Thousands of people across the country have signed petitions and written letters in support of this legislation. Groups as diverse as the Grandmothers Advocacy Network, the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada, Students Taking Action Now, the Canadian Fair Trade Network, the Enough Project in the States that is partnering with us here in Canada, Engineers Without Borders, and many church and faith groups have got behind the Just Minerals campaign in support of Bill C-486. I am so thankful for their advocacy on this important legislation.

The bill has made parliamentarians in this House take note of an often forgotten and overlooked crisis in Central Africa. The last time the bill was debated, all parties agreed that further action was needed by Canada. We have a consensus on that, which is important. In the words of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs:

I am pleased to say that this government agrees wholeheartedly...that further engagement by Canada is warranted to find effective and efficient ways to address the issue of conflict minerals.

I could not agree more. That is an important consensus. We heard it from the parliamentary secretary again tonight, and I take note of that.

Moreover, all parties agree on the principle of the bill, the crucial point that Canada can help to disconnect the minerals in Canadian products from the conflict in the Congo. However, I have to underline that this is not about Canadian mining companies. In fact, I am engaged right now with the Mining Association of Canada, and if the government sees the agreement, I hope to get support from them. This is actually about bad actors, about those who are mining in the eastern Congo and controlling the mines with conflict, using child soldiers and rape as a weapon of war. This is not about Canadian mining companies; this is actually to give Canadian mining companies a good reputation, so let us put that aside. While it is not about Canadian mining companies, it is about the supply chain of those companies.

I will now address some of the stated concerns of my friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development.

She is concerned about the scope of the bill. She said its scope is too big. To address her concern directly, what we are saying is that we need reporting along the supply chain. That would simply be about keeping tabs on a computer about where people are sourcing their supplies. It is very simple. It would actually help.

That addresses her second concern, the focus of the bill, which is the Great Lakes region. Why? It is because that is where the conflict is and that is where the minerals are. That is why the bill is focused on it, just as the OECD was and just as the legislation in the United States was. It is because we can make a difference if we focus here.

The parliamentary secretary said that the bill is too narrowly cast on the Great Lakes. The good news is that we learned from the Dodd-Frank Act that the reporting would not just be here in Canada, but that we would also share it with the people in the Congo so that the government there could track and trace where these minerals are coming from. That would help build up their capacity and help people in the Congo.

Second reading is about agreeing on principle. I would ask that the government look to the consensus, and if second reading is about taking it to committee to improve the bill, then I would ask the government and members to consider that. If we want to take conflict out of our devices and give Canadians a clear choice on what they are buying, I would submit that we have to get this bill to committee and third reading, so we can improve it, save lives, and stop the horrendous conflict in the Congo by doing our fair share. That is the least we can do for the people of the Congo.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 6:43 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

Accordingly, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members



Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Conflict Minerals ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 17, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Combating Counterfeit Products ActGovernment Orders

6:45 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

We are now switching from the situation in Congo, but I want to finish pleading with my colleagues across the way to really consider that issue. If there is one issue that is not partisan, it is this one about what is happening in Congo. I think we can somehow find a way to agree on how to stem the violence in Congo.

The bill that I am now addressing is Bill C-8. Members will know that this legislation has quite a lengthy history. I do not mean just Bill C-8, but the whole issue of copyright and the Trade-marks Act and making consequential amendments to other acts.

This issue requires caution. It requires an understanding of not just the law but enforcement of the law as well.

Many people are concerned about how international treaties and copyright interplay. They are concerned about the fact that we are in the midst of finishing negotiations on CETA and how that agreement would relate to copyright. It is important to note that the international agreement dealing with counterfeiting also comes into play here. Many have noted that while a treaty to combat counterfeiting presently exists, not many countries have signed on to it, about which there is some concern. It is this international context, and how it would apply to this legislation, that we are dealing with.

If we abide by certain rules made by legislation such as this and there are trade deals or other treaties we have to contend with, it is important that we understand what those trade deals and treaties mean. In the case of CETA, it is important to understand how it would apply.

I am pleading with the government yet again to at least tell us what is going on with respect to CETA, because it would affect trademark and copyright legislation. My understanding is that there could be consequences from the CETA deal for copyright and trademarks. I would like to hear about what action the government is taking. I would like to know what success, or lack thereof, the government has had with respect to CETA, and the sooner the better.

Here we are trying to find a way to help people create in an unhindered and legal way, while also making sure that the creative class will be able to access technology and ideas and material and will not be suppressed. The law has to find a balance. By the same token, we want to make sure that what we are creating and what we have copyright protection for will not be usurped or be taken and used without the creators benefiting from their work. It is obviously a delicate balance.

I would like to go over some of the aspects of the bill and what it proposes to do.

As I said, this legislation has a long history. I remember previous Parliaments that attempted to deal with the copyright issue. It should be noted that many of our trading partners have been pleading with us, particularly our friends south of the border, to get this done and get it right. The new ambassador brought it up in a recent meeting with us. He indicated that this was an important issue for the United States because most of our trade is done with that country.

Bill C-8 deals with counterfeiting and infringement, which is important. It proposes to add two new criminal offences to the Copyright Act for the possession of and export of infringed copies. The bill would also create offences for the selling or offering of counterfeit goods on a commercial scale.

There is some contention as to the degree of the export and import of counterfeit goods.

I cite Michael Geist, because he is the expert in the country on this issue. His testimony at committee raised some questions about the extent to which there is counterfeiting. He should be listened to, because he is an expert. He asked this very good question: what is the scope of the studies that are referenced by government and officials? In other words, do we have accurate data?

That said, it is important that we have legislation that would deal with counterfeiting and the trade of counterfeiting materials, as contemplated in this bill.

That is the first part. The bill adds two new criminal offences under the Copyright Act for possession and exportation of infringing copies and creates offences for selling or offering counterfeit goods on a commercial scale.

The other aspect is that it creates a prohibition against importing or exporting infringing copies and counterfeit goods. It introduces some balance to that prohibition by creating two exemptions. One is personal use. As I referenced earlier, it relates to the creative class and those in the knowledge industry. I will use educators as an example.

I come from the business of teaching. As educators, it is important that we have access to knowledge and make it available to students. There is a balance that has to be struck so that we will not arrest teachers if they are just sharing materials with their students to allow them to gain knowledge. That is one of the areas we have to keep in mind.

The other one we have to look for is items in transit control.

Finally, the bill would grant new ex officio powers to border officials to detain infringing copies or counterfeit goods. That is a significant policy shift, because until now border officials required these private rights holders to obtain a court order before seizing infringing copies or goods. The bill grants new ex officio powers to the Minister of Public Safety and border officials to share information on detained goods with rights holders. It also widens the scope of what can be a trademark to the features found in the broad definition of “sign”, which includes all sorts of things: shapes, colours, scents, et cetera. What we want to see on this side is that we strike that balance. These are fairly important new powers that are being given to the government.

I will finish by saying that it is fine to pass laws on copyright and trademark to make sure that we deal with what we are focused on—that is, those who decide to get into the business of knock-offs and use the creations of others to benefit themselves when they have not had any input into the creation of any goods, ideas, or products. By the same token, how do we enforce these measures?

Members will hear from my colleagues tonight about some of the problems we have with the government's cutting of border services in this area. On the one hand, it is fine to give powers to border agents to say, “Here it is; you make sure that you deal with the infringements on copyright”, but on the other hand it has cut the budgets of those who are responsible for dealing with this authority.

This is an issue with our friends south of the border. They are aware of this. We have had issues with our friends south of the border regarding regulations. Let us make no mistake, this is a trade issue. They want to know if we are serious about this issue and will bring in laws that are modern and up to date with current copyright thinking. That means little unless we have an enforcement mechanism, to say the least. It is not only about passing laws; it is also about ensuring that we have resources on the ground to enforce them.

Members will hear from my colleagues and me that we have to get it right and make sure that we do not go too far in terms of infringing on those in the creative class, those in the knowledge business, and those who need to have access to materials, while on the other side making sure that if we bring in new responsibilities for our border agents, we do not cut their budgets. It is important that we give them support and training as to what these new powers mean and how they will exercise them.

At the end of the day, we will be supporting the bill to ensure that we do our bit as a country, that we have a balance in terms of the copyright obligations, that those in the creative and knowledge classes have access to the materials they need to create, and that, on the other hand, we provide our border agents with the proper support that they need in material supplies and training.

6:55 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we proceed with questions and comments, I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

The Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

Rideau Hall


June 19, 2014

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 19th day of June, 2014, at 6:07 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Wallace

The schedule indicates the bill assented to on June 19, 2014, was Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, An Act to amend the Copyright Act and the Trade-marks Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Combating Counterfeit Products ActGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.


Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to congratulate my colleague for his bill on conflict minerals. His speech was very eloquent. I congratulate him on this initiative that all members strongly support.

With respect to Bill C-8, my colleague spoke at length about the lack of available data. Experts have pointed that out as well. It is very difficult to determine the impact of counterfeiting. It certainly has an impact, but the data are lacking. As he mentioned, we support the bill.

My colleague spoke about resources and mentioned Mr. Geist, who said that it was not always easy to detect counterfeit goods.

Have we allocated the resources needed for border officers to be able to detect counterfeit goods?