House of Commons Hansard #95 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was countries.


Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, in terms of financial implications, I would like to point out that the bill uses funds already allocated to the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor.

The financial implications had therefore already been calculated by this government when it created the position of corporate social responsibility counsellor in 2009. If the legislation needs to be amended to alter the financial implications, for example, then we will deal with that when the time comes. For now, this government has already done the calculations and there are no additional financial implications tied to this bill.

In addition, I consulted with almost all of the NGOs that had a hand in the national roundtable report on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive sector. I would like to point out that this initiative was put forward by the government in 2006. It was the one that held the consultations. I reviewed everything that was said. This bill was endorsed by the industry, by the NGOs and by civil society.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we recognize the whole idea of corporate responsibility. This is not necessarily new. I know my colleague, the current critic for the environment for the Liberal Party, has taken a keen interest, as other members have over the years, in wanting to advance a higher sense of corporate responsibility. I think Canadians as a whole would look to the government to come up with initiatives that would have an impact and would influence what happens in the world.

Would my colleague provide some additional comment on the type of support available? In fact, it would be nice to see the bill go to the committee, where it could draw upon some of the stakeholders who are very opinionated on this very important issue.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question.

Again, I want to point out that this was the main recommendation of the national roundtable report on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive sector. This recommendation was endorsed and drafted by the principal extractive sector and NGO stakeholders.

When the report was tabled, there was virtually unanimous agreement on accepting the principle of creating an ombudsman position. Also, as I said in my speech, a number of civil society NGOs have expressed support for this recommendation since the report was tabled in 2007, notably Development and Peace and the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability.

I can assure my colleague that civil society and the people my colleagues met with in their ridings support this bill. I am not saying that we have reached a general consensus, but I do think that we have achieved a consensus as far as creating an ombudsman position is concerned.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the member for her enthusiasm and corporate social responsibility. All of us here want to take this seriously.

It gives me pleasure to rise in the House today and speak about what our Conservative government is doing in our approach to supporting and promoting corporate social responsibility, or CSR, particularly with Canada's international extractive sectors operating abroad.

I want to emphasize that this government encourages and expects all Canadian companies working internationally to respect all applicable laws and international standards, to operate transparently and in consultation with host governments and local communities, and to conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Our Conservative government works across all sectors and with a wide range of stakeholders to underscore the importance of responsible business conduct, good governance, and meaningful stakeholder engagement, broadly and in the extractive sector specifically.

Canada is a trading nation. Our economy relies on doing business around the world. From the trade perspective, we promote CSR to Canadian businesses because they contribute to our economic success. I want to be clear. The vast majority of Canadian companies conduct their operations in a responsible manner. It is a key reason why Canadian companies are highly regarded and internationally respected. It is also one reason Canada is a global leader in the extractive sector.

Canadian companies operating abroad recognize that responsible business practices are fundamentally important to their ultimate success and to their bottom line, including shareholder value. Canadian companies recognize that a commitment to responsible business practice is a commitment to their own success.

I would now like to turn to a CSR strategy that our government has created.

The CSR strategy was created around a number of core areas. However, much of the focus has been centred on four key elements. These are often referred to as the four pillars of the CSR strategy. They include enhancing the capacities of developing countries to manage the development of minerals, oils, and gas, and the benefit from these resources to reduce poverty; promoting widely recognized voluntary international CSR performance guidelines; establishing the Office of the Extractive Sector CSR Counsellor; and supporting the development of the Canadian Centre for Excellence in CSR.

Other areas of CSR strategy include promoting and recognizing that transparency and disclosure are key to the success of CSR activities. Co-operating with stakeholders for continuous improvement in the implementation of the CSR strategy and extractive sector CSR practices is also very important.

The CSR strategy has proven to be a strong framework by which the government encourages and promotes responsible business practices by Canadian companies working internationally in the extractive sector. The CSR strategy has also garnered strong support from a broad range of stakeholders, including industry, civil society, and host countries.

The government's approach to CSR is based on its commitment to the value of using voluntary mechanisms for dispute resolution, such as those offered by Canada's National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the NCP. The use of voluntary initiatives based on internationally developed and recognized standards offers a flexible and effective approach to resolving issues of mutual concern, and can advance public policy objectives in a more expeditious and less costly way than relying on regulatory or legislative regimes. Voluntary mechanisms for dialogue and dispute resolution are respectful of the countries that host Canadian companies. It is for those countries, not us, to judge what laws should be in place within the respective jurisdictions.

Compared to the many legal alternatives, non-judicial mechanisms offer a cost-efficient and more accessible alternative for all stakeholders. Voluntary mechanisms also allow relationships to flourish on the basis for creating economic and social benefits for both the company and the host community. Coercive mechanisms shut down dialogue and risk ending positive relationships.

Through the CSR strategy, our Conservative government's efforts are squarely focused on encouraging constructive collaboration and dialogue. This approach is further exemplified by the Canadian Centre for Excellence in CSR, which has been successful in establishing an environment for productive discussion among key industry, civil society, and government stakeholders on sensitive issues affecting Canada's extractive sector.

This government has made a commitment to review the CSR strategy five years following its implementation date. In 2014, I am pleased to report that the government has been active in carrying out this mandate. The review is informed by a comprehensive process that includes round table consultations with industry and civil society, supplemented by an online public consultation process. The Minister of International Trade and his parliamentary secretary also held consultations in the summer and fall of 2013, which has fed into the CSR strategy review.

The preliminary findings of the review confirm that the CSR strategy should continue. It clearly responds to the needs of the host communities and Canadian extractive sector companies operating abroad. We are confident that the CSR strategy will become even better as a result of the broad consultations we have undertaken during the review process.

Everything I have said so far clearly highlights why Bill C-584 is duplicative. It simply restates key elements of the existing CSR strategy. The government already works with the Canadian business community, civil society organizations, foreign governments and communities, as well as other stakeholders, to foster and promote responsible business conduct in countries where Canadian extractive sector companies operate.

The CSR Counsellor's office and the CSR guidelines promoted in the CSR strategy play an important role in assisting companies and facilitating dialogue between project-affected stakeholders to allow for sustainable economic growth in the countries where Canadian companies are active.

This government supports the overall objective of fostering enhanced accountability for the extractive sector, while continuing to address the CSR-related challenges of Canadian firms operating abroad.

However, I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill for three reasons.

First, legally the bill raises several constitutional issues. The bill purports to compel Canadian extractive companies to report on how they conduct their business when they are operating abroad. This clearly falls outside the Government of Canada's jurisdiction. Jurisdiction over how a company conducts its business is primarily provincial. Extractive sector companies do not fall into the federally regulated category. Even for federally incorporated companies, the federal government lacks the jurisdiction to legislate the commercial activities of these companies overseas. As a result, it is likely that any legal action challenging the constitutionality of the bill would be successful.

Second, Bill C-584 duplicates the key elements of Canada's existing CSR strategy, which already articulates how the government provides tools and information to assist Canadian extractive sector companies enhance their ability to manage social and environmental risks abroad. As mentioned earlier, much of the guidance and undertakings recommended in the bill are currently provided by Canada's NCP for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

Third, the CSR strategy is currently being reviewed. It is therefore premature to put forward this bill when concerns that have prompted its introduction may be addressed following the completion of the CSR strategy review.

For these reasons, I ask all hon. members to vote against the bill, which is legally unenforceable and duplicative and whose consideration is clearly premature, given the ongoing CSR review process.

I have had the privilege of travelling into Central and South America with different committees and have seen some of the different Canadian mining companies operate. I am proud to see how important they think CSR is. In fact, in Peru, it is really interesting. When one looks at the Canadian mining or extractive industries there, they are so highly regarded that other countries are hiring Canadians to help set up and establish their mines because we know how to do it.

I understand the enthusiasm that the member has for this type of legislation and her concerns, but she can rest assured that we are taking these concerns very seriously and already working with many stakeholders to ensure that these CSR concerns are being addressed.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-584, although I have to admit I am disappointed with what I have just heard from the government side, which seems to suggest that everything is going along perfectly and there is no need to do very much. In fact, if one looks at what it has been doing, it has been dragging its feet for a very long time.

I would like to congratulate my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île for this initiative. She is headed in the right direction and the Liberal Party will support this bill, An Act respecting the Corporate Social Responsibility Inherent in the Activities of Canadian Extractive Corporations in Developing Countries.

I would like to begin by thanking the large number of my constituents who wrote to me about this bill and about their concerns regarding the activities of Canadian mining companies in foreign countries. We would not be hearing from them if everything was going along perfectly.

Many Canadians care deeply about these sorts of issues and want to see us holding ourselves to a higher standard. I share those concerns and wishes. As I will be arguing, it is in everyone's interest that Canada adopt the highest possible standards in this area.

Corporate social responsibility is an important issue, and Bill C-584 is one of several private members' bills that have been introduced in recent years that seek to better regulate the activities of Canadian corporations working in the extractive sector.

My own colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, for example, introduced a bill in the previous Parliament. It was called Bill C-300. I have to commend him for this, because he really did make a very honest effort to address corporate social responsibility in the mining sector. It was a private member's bill that would have been the Canadian equivalent of the U.S. legislation passed in September of 2013, which requires mining and oil and gas corporations to submit annual transparency reports that disclose all financial payments provided by them to foreign governments for the purposes of furthering mining or oil and gas industry activities.

The bill before us today shares the same basic goal as the bill advanced by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood, but approaches it from a different angle by proposing to establish an ombudsman who would be responsible for:

(a) creating guidelines respecting the best practices to be followed by corporations in their extractive activities in developing countries; and (b) monitoring the corporations’ extractive activities to ensure compliance with the guidelines.

Earlier I mentioned the importance of corporate social responsibility. This is important because it is through a good regime of transparency and ethical safeguards that corporations acquire the social licence to operate successfully.

My colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood put it eloquently in a past speech, when he explained that:

Social license is more than a stack of legal documents and geological surveys; rather it is the social permission of the people affected to mine the minerals. Sometimes the people are well represented by their government and sometimes not.

The Canadian government has an obligation to ensure that companies based here are not engaged in corrupt activities that encourage foreign governments to not act in the best interests of their own citizens. This happens more than we would like.

For example, in January 2013, as documented by the CBC, Human Rights Watch reported that a Vancouver-based company failed to ensure that forced labour was not used in the construction of a mine it operated in Eritrea. The agency said that Eritrea's conscripted workers, some of whom had been forced to work for over a decade, face torture or other serious abuse, and revenge is taken on their families if they desert their posts.

Sadly, all over the developing world there are other similar examples of corporations failing to live up to the ethical standards that they need to adhere to. Most do, and do a great job, but we are here to make sure that they all do.

A failure to respect the human rights of workers and residents in areas affected by mining operations can lead to social instability and failed states. We all end up paying the price when this happens.

In the example I just cited, there is some evidence that the Canadian company tried to address the problem on its own, but evidently whatever action it did take was insufficient to prevent these abuses from occurring. This is bad for Eritreans, it is bad for Canada's global reputation, and it is also bad for the mining company itself, which was subjected to considerable criticism.

The company might very well have benefited from independent guidelines regulating how it should operate in foreign countries and a watchdog to ensure it was compliant with those guidelines.

In fact, there is already a broad consensus among civil society, NGOs, industry, and some governments that there has to be something done about the problem of unreported payments and corruption involved in a variety of enterprises, particularly the extractive sector, and that we need to have increased transparency in order to curb corruption. The government claims that it shares this goal, yet I note that it failed to support the bill from my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, which would have brought Canadian regulations up to par with American and EU standards. I suspect a similar fate, based upon what my Conservative colleague just said, will befall this bill presented by the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île. I hope I am wrong.

The Prime Minister announced with much fanfare in June 2013—that is, a year ago—that the government would adopt a G8 initiative that requires companies to disclose any payments they make to foreign governments, but a year later, no such legislation has been introduced. My hon. colleague from the Conservative Party said, “We're on top of this and our corporate social responsibility plan is just working beautifully”.

We are told now that something will be forthcoming by April 1, 2015. There is no excuse for this two-year delay. We will see if the government is any quicker at introducing these rules than it has been so far in, for example, regulating carbon emissions in the oil and gas sector. That was promised five years ago.

One way that it might demonstrate good faith and show that Canada is taking this issue seriously is to allow Bill C-584 to be taken to committee.

With regard to the bill itself, let me reiterate again that it is a very well-intended piece of legislation. Liberals recognize that, and we are supportive of it.

That said, there are a few areas that can be improved. For example, clause 9 of the bill indicates that corporations would have to report to the office of the ombudsman on any extractive activities within one year of the act coming into force. However, a later section, subclause 10(1), gives the office of the ombudsman up to three years to develop the guidelines. If the ombudsman does, in fact, take three years to develop the guidelines, how will companies be able to report in the first and second year in the absence of those guidelines?

However, that is something that could be corrected in committee.

Another problem is in clause 8 of the bill, which would require companies to:

(a) take all necessary measures to minimize the negative impact of its activities on the environment or on human rights in the developing country

Without defining what “necessary measures” are, the bill would leave major loopholes for corporations that the bill is supposed to close.

There are a couple of other things; however, my time is coming to an end. I would encourage all members in this House to vote in favour of taking the bill to committee, because its objectives are good objectives for Canada, good objectives for the extractive industries, and the right thing to do.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing this legislation forward. I was delighted to second the bill.

I want to pick up on what my colleague from the Liberal Party said. I am heartened to hear that the Liberal Party supports this legislation.

The last time we debated similar legislation put forward by the member's colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood, the Liberal Party unfortunately did not support it entirely. At the time, the Liberal leader and some members of the front bench could not find a way to support Bill C-300, so I am glad the Liberals will be supporting sending the bill to committee.

These are really important initiatives. We have already had an overview of what the bill proposes to do, but for those members who are hearing about this legislation for the first time, it essentially says that Canadian companies doing business abroad should more or less follow the same rules that they follow here. That is essentially the theory around this legislation and that is what the round table came up with.

The round table, as has been mentioned, included members of civil society, industry, and government. Ed Broadbent, who formerly represented my riding, was very much a part of moving that forward.

Then Alexa McDonough had a bill similar to the one we are debating now; I also had a similar bill, and my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood put forward Bill C-300. We have had a lot of debate and discussion.

The government has said that it has acted. It has talked about its CSR counsellor being in place. The government felt that this was taking care of people's concerns about the behaviour of Canadian extractive companies abroad. However, when that position was created, we all noted that the position was actually toothless.

It is important to note the title of counsellor, not ombudsman. When complaints came in, the counsellor did not have the power to investigate them. The problem with the counsellor position was that it was incumbent upon both parties, the party making the accusation and the company, to accept an investigation. To no one's surprise, there were not many investigations. The CSR counsellor was not effective at all.

My colleague has brought this issue back to the House of Commons. It is fantastic to see the progress that has been made because of civil society. It really should be noted that civil society has incredible leverage, particularly when it comes to both foreign policy and domestic policy. Development and Peace and unions such as steelworkers that are involved with extractive companies have been front and centre in making this issue known to Canadians and to politicians. They want them to move forward, and they have not let up. They want Canada to be smart about what we do abroad and proud of what we do abroad. That way Canadian companies abroad are seen as responsible actors.

Development and Peace, the faith communities, unions, and everyday Canadians have been carrying this flag and making sure that we do not lose sight of this issue. It is terrific that my colleague has taken it up. She is carrying on the work that was done before.

I also want to acknowledge the change in mindset of the mining sector. In particular, for the record, I want to cite the Mining Association of Canada. This organization has written to government to advocate what we heard from my Liberal colleague, which is to bring in regulations on what we call “publish what you pay”, meaning that the transactions that any company does abroad would be made public. They want to see consequences if companies do not make those transactions public.

The government has said it is consulting on this issue, but industry is ahead of government. What is going on here? We need to get the government to listen more carefully, not just to Canadians but to industry as well. The government has to get on board and get moving on this issue.

I will read what the association said on this issue. It was noted, and I will not be surprising some members, that there was a bit of tension between industry and civil society representatives on the last iteration of this legislation, Bill C-300.

Here is what the Mining Association of Canada is saying in a letter to government:

The function of the Office of the CSR Counsellor focused on the “front end” [at the beginning of the process] of any request for a clarify the issues and the guidelines involved, to encourage the parties to address the issues through direct dialogue under local-level mechanisms, and to advise parties on the implementation of the guidelines. MAC believes companies will be motivated to participate in this front end of the process, as they have participated in the initial stages of the requests for review brought to the Office to date, and as an alternative to other, more formal forms of review.

It goes on to say, and here is the important part:

This first step is essentially to determine the nature of the dispute and whether mediation could be effective in resolving it. In MAC's view, this first step should be mandatory: a company's refusal to participate in this front-end process should have as a consequence a loss of public support for the proponent's project by the Government of Canada's Trade Commissioner service.

It is industry that is saying this. This is progress. This is the Mining Association of Canada acknowledging that collectively the industry has a responsibility to engage when there are concerns and complaints about activities on the ground.

The government says that somehow this is not in its domain. It is extra-territorial. It cannot be involved in these things, et cetera. Industry is saying no; we need to be engaged.

We have seen incredible advancement. We have seen engagement. What we need to see from government is to be at least at the same level as industry and adopt these measures that have been put forward.

The reason is that, when we see mining operations abroad—and we see it, frankly, here in Canada and we see it with gas and oil as well—and the fact that companies can make a profit from mining, no one has a concern around that. However, when we see that people's human rights are abused or that the environment on which they rely is being negatively affected and they feel they have no voice at all, what are their choices? I have Bill C-486 before the House on conflict minerals,

When mining companies, extractive industries, or oil and gas companies are abroad, they are not just any companies; these are Canadians companies, and there are certain values and responsibilities, I will say, that go with that.

We have heard stories of mining companies hiring security firms to clear the land, so anyone who protests any of the developments is cleared off the land and sometimes people are killed. This is extraordinarily troubling for many of us, but the question is, what are we going to do about it? Will we just continue to listen to these grievances, or will we act?

That is why the bill is so important. It says that there is a responsibility for the Government of Canada to have an objective person to oversee the concerns that may arise because of our activity abroad.

CSR is a great term. The problem I have noted over the last number of years is that it seems to only apply in-house to business and the corporate side. Frankly, I think it is quite obvious to many that it should be something that government adopts, that the cornerstone of part of our trade policy and our foreign policy should be corporate social responsibility, and the Canadian government should ensure this happens.

We just had some great debates in our foreign affairs committee about what happened in Bangladesh with the Rana Plaza collapse. Over 1,000 people died a year ago, on April 24. Why? It was because there were not proper standards and because the integrity of the building was not kept up. What happened? We saw 1,100 people die, many of them children, most of them women.

We can do better. We need to have oversight. The bill is a reasonable offer. We can make sure that when Canadian companies are operating abroad, we can say in good faith that they are following the same values and the same regulations that we want to see them follow here.

I would ask the government to at least look at what is being proposed and see if we can improve it, so that we can be proud Canadians when Canadian companies are operating abroad.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to support the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île, Bill C-584, An Act respecting the Corporate Social Responsibility Inherent in the Activities of Canadian Extractive Corporations in Developing Countries.

For the benefit of my constituents, I will briefly explain what it is about.

My colleague's bill will ensure that Canada meets its commitments under international law and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights with respect to the extractive activities of Canadian corporations in developing countries; it creates the Office of the Ombudsman and requires corporations to report to it on their extractive activities; it gives the Office of the Ombudsman responsibility for developing guidelines on best practices for extractive activities; and it requires the ombudsman to table an annual report on this act and its operation.

I am very proud to be able to support this bill. Since I have been a member of Parliament, a number of groups have come to consult me at my office about the matter. There is a large Filipino community in my riding and they came to see me the first and second year after I was elected specifically to talk about this problem. Groups from the African and Latin American communities have also come to talk to me about it. It is a great concern for them. Even though they are in Canada, they know what is happening in their countries and they expect the government to act quickly to change the situation.

At the moment, 75% of the world's mining companies are headquartered in Canada. It is therefore our responsibility to point out to them that what is good in Canada is also good abroad. Since their headquarters are in Canada, it is up to us to tell them what practices they must follow. If we believe that human rights are important in the choice of best practices, of course we must encourage those companies to do the same things outside our country, in developing countries.

We often hear of workplace health and safety problems for employees in other countries where mining is being done. We also have to consider the issue of colonization, and I would like to use a excellent quotation to describe the problem.

Mireille Fanon-Mendès-France, of the United Nations Human Rights Council, said the following:

Canadian mining companies often act like new colonizers. They come to the countries, they take over the land and they violate the peoples' right to self-determination…

In fact, that is exactly what is happening. The companies arrive, they crowd out the people, they take over the land and they decide what they are going to do. If they need people to work, they use them. If not, they bring people in from elsewhere.

I am aware that some mining companies do not act that way. One of my good friends worked for a mining company before he changed jobs recently. That company went to the job site and gave health and safety courses to the miners. Those are good practices, and it is what my colleague is asking for with the establishment of the office of an ombudsman.

It is a question of choosing those good practices, gathering them together, sorting them out and teaching them as examples of what should be done. That deals with the problem of colonization.

We also need to consider our environmental responsibilities. What about our responsibility concerning the water used in mines? Are they going to let things slide like the previous two governments did? They, too, can say that it is not their responsibility because it is happening in other countries. That is what the Conservatives seem to be saying and, unfortunately, we have just learned that they will be voting against this bill.

The Conservatives are saying that it is none of our business, but it is our business. These companies have their headquarters in Canada. It is up to us to ensure that they proudly represent Canada. Our international reputation is at stake.

There is social unrest because companies show up and chase people off the land even though they were already living there. There are problems with violence. Children have also worked in those mines. The mines are a hotbed of violence and child exploitation.

We need to take a leadership role, especially since three-quarters of the world's mining companies have their headquarters in Canada and everyone knows what going on in those mines. We regularly see newspaper articles and reports on the working conditions in the mines, the potential for accidents and the age of the workers, which is something that concerns me.

I have done a lot of work on the issue of human trafficking. I do not want to accuse any company of human trafficking, but we know that young people are being exploited in these mines. It is unbelievable. We need to assume that leadership role and implement best practices. We need to ensure that every mining company that represents Canada abroad is accountable. That would help our reputation.

The creation of an ombudsman was recommended in the report that came out of the 2007 national round tables on corporate social responsibility and the Canadian extractive industry seven or eight years ago. The report was jointly written by NGOs, unions and the mining companies themselves. The government is arguing that we should not get involved in this, but if the companies themselves are able to stand up and say that they need guidance, it is time we give it to them.

The ombudsman's mandate would be to investigate complaints about the foreign operations of Canadian mining companies. Someone has to receive those complaints. The ombudsman should also publish the results of his investigations and make recommendations to the government regarding legislative changes and the sanctions that should be imposed on companies at fault.

This round table submitted its recommendations in 2007. In 2009, two years later, the government chose to instead create the Office of the Extractive Sector Corporate Social Responsibility Counsellor, which is responsible for hearing complaints about environmental degradation and human rights abuses abroad. This is good, but it is not as good as having an all-powerful ombudsman.

This office has been the subject of a lot of criticism. The counsellor did not have the authority to investigate complaints. What is the point of having a counsellor who cannot even investigate complaints? He also did not have the legal power to ensure that the parties involved participated in the arbitration process in good faith. If one of the parties does not participate in the arbitration, it created problems because the office of the counsellor could therefore not determine whether there was harm and could not recommend corrective action. In fact, six cases were raised and nothing ever came of any of them.

Now we can see what is going on with the self-regulation that Conservatives believe in so strongly. No matter which sector—rail safety, credit cards—they always say that there is a little code of conduct and that people act in good faith. I am sorry, but those fabulously wealthy mining companies are not all acting in good faith. Some are, but it is not true that they all are. It is our duty as lawmakers to impose regulations on these companies to ensure respect for international human rights.

Many people and organizations support my colleague's bill. I would like to congratulate her again. One that really interests me is the Development and Peace initiative called “A Voice for Justice”. The campaign has collected 80,000 signatures calling for the appointment of an ombudsman who can ask unscrupulous Canadian mining companies for accountability.

I want to emphasize that because, in my riding, the congregation of the sisters of Sainte-Anne is really very active when it comes to ensuring respect for human rights and children's rights on an international level. The sisters asked me to talk about this issue. I would like to thank them for the work they do. A huge thanks to my colleague who introduced this private member's bill.

I hope that the government will at least agree to send it to committee. It is part of the legislative process to send it to committee, study it thoroughly and then decide whether or not to continue the process.

I hope that all members in the House will want to and will be able to vote in favour of the bill introduced by my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate with the member for Terrebonne. The member has two minutes remaining before we wrap up debate on this bill.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île on introducing this bill.

This issue has been troubling me for a long time on a personal level. I did my studies with a specialization in Latin America. We often studied cases about mining companies going to developing countries, in very poor communities in particular. They built mines and promised many jobs to the locals. However, they did not talk about the negative consequences, such as the displacement of people. They did not talk about the environmental damage caused by the mines.

I am also very pleased to be able to speak to this bill for another reason, even though I have only a couple of minutes. I had the honour of working with my colleague from Ottawa Centre on Bill C-486, seeking to regulate the mining sector and dealing with conflict minerals in the region of the Congo. By bringing all these bills together, we can right the wrongs. We are putting in place a social responsibility system for extractive sector corporations.

I would very much like to talk about this some other time.

Corporate Social Responsibility of Extractive Corporations Outside Canada ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The member will have eight minutes remaining when we resume debate on this bill.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Canada-Honduras Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-20 concerning the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras, for which the agreement in principle was concluded on November 5.

Free trade is a very important policy for Canada. The many advantages of free trade cannot be ignored, and it goes without saying that the strength of the Canadian economy relies on opening new markets. For that reason I do not understand why the government is delaying finalizing the free trade agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras. I would like the government to move more quickly and to take concrete action with respect to emerging markets. This agreement is a start, but it is not indicative of the ambition that Canada should have with respect to international markets.

I am also wondering why the government has suddenly found that there is an urgent need for action in this area. I am wondering about the government's sense of urgency, because it has been negotiating this agreement since 2010. It has taken the government almost three years to put this agreement back on the table. Surprisingly, in 2010, the government was talking about short-term trade prospects. I wonder whether the government really takes international trade seriously, whether it is really a priority, or if this is just empty rhetoric.

If we look at the figures for 2012, we see that Canadian exports to Honduras totalled $38.6 million. Bilateral trade between Canada and Honduras during the same period totalled $257.2 million, while Canadian imports from Honduras were valued at $219 million.

While trade between the two countries is not substantial, there are still many companies waiting for progress to be made in this area. They are looking for more openness, and unlike the NDP, which rejects the bill without understanding the importance of free trade agreements, I think we need to consider businesses and workers.

Once a free trade agreement is in place, Canadians can expect to see more jobs for the middle class and more business opportunities for companies. The Liberal Party has mentioned this fact on a number of occasions both in and outside the House. Every effort must be made to help the middle class.

Consideration must also be given to potential trade opportunities for Canada. Given the size of Canada’s economy, it is critically important for us to compete globally for emerging markets. In my view, the government needs to be more serious and more transparent when it comes to this matter. It needs to answer questions over its failure to take action with respect to other emerging markets.

I agree that international markets are more open from an economic standpoint. The world and trade are evolving rapidly. This means we need to act more quickly on free trade initiatives.

Certain Canadian businesses stated in committee that they had lost a share of the commercial market in Honduras when the free trade agreements between Central America and the United States were signed in 2005. They pointed out that Canada needed to act as quickly as possible to regain this share of the market. We are already lagging behind. A free trade agreement with the Republic of Honduras represents an important step in the resumption of trade with Central America. However, we will then have to turn our attention to Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala and El Salvador and negotiate additional agreements.

Previous Liberal governments in fact concluded trade agreements with far more influential countries like Costa Rica, the State of Israel and Chile.

Consider Chile, for example. Bilateral trade of goods with that country represents $2.5 million Canadian, and exports to Chile amount to $789 million Canadian. We are talking about trade that is almost 10 times greater than that between Canada and the Republic of Honduras.

Although this government boasts of having negotiated several agreements, such as the agreements with Colombia, Jordan, Panama and the one being negotiated with the Republic of Honduras, only the agreement reached with Peru appears to be as ambitious as those achieved by Liberal governments.

These agreements do not position Canada where it should be in the global economy. As is its responsibility, I urge the government to do more for international trade.

Furthermore, in addition to the free trade agreement, an agreement on environmental co-operation has been reached with the Republic of Honduras. That agreement refers to the promotion of stronger environmental policies and sound environmental management. The Canadian government must make sure it keeps those promises and develops measures designed to improve environmental performance. It must also ensure that businesses involved in trade between the two countries comply with them. For the moment, the agreement makes no mention of any audit mechanism. That means there would be no penalties for businesses contravening these agreements.

When it comes to the environment, the Conservatives have some work to do to regain Canadians’ trust. The environment has never been a priority for the Conservatives, and everyone knows it. It is therefore surprising that they have moved forward with an agreement of this kind.

Can the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade give us any guarantees that this environmental co-operation agreement will be a success?

There is also talk about labour co-operation agreements. We ask that the government ensure that workers’ fundamental rights are a priority and that labour law is complied with, here and in Honduras.

It is essential that any increase in trade occurs in a manner respectful of workers and that free trade between the two countries will not lead to weakened labour rights.

Once this agreement is final, we will be entitled to demand acceptable wages and working conditions for the workers of the Republic of Honduras.

As my colleagues previously mentioned, we are aware of the unstable situation in Honduras, and we believe it is not a situation that warrants the economic isolation of that country. We must ensure that increased trade between the two countries can be achieved through harmonious relations and that free trade side agreements will be complied with.

This agreement will help strengthen the national economy of Honduras and at the same time prevent certain violations of fundamental rights by force of the ties that will bind us. Economic ties between countries have the power to encourage better behaviour.

The government must still make sure that this economic agreement works properly; otherwise, trade must be halted. That calls for a great deal of vigilance and oversight in the areas of labour and the environment.

If the government really wants to guarantee human rights in Honduras as part of this free trade agreement, it must issue an annual report and require one from Honduras, so that the public can see whether human rights have been respected as trade between the two countries grows.

We are entitled to require compliance with these parallel agreements, and to have proof of compliance. I hope that this government will remain vigilant with respect to the adverse consequences of the bill, given the unstable situation in Honduras. We must remain alert and monitor the internal situation in that country.

In conclusion, I support this bill, because it represents a first step toward trade with new markets. Because our economy is based on exporting, I believe that eliminating barriers to trade can only be beneficial to Canada. I therefore ask the government to be more persuasive in this bill on free trade with Honduras, and to ensure that Canada is open to emerging markets in a way that fully reflects our values. The government must provide for better monitoring of the political, economic and environmental situation in the countries with which we trade. Otherwise, Canada’s image could suffer.

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6:40 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's speech. The difficulty I have is apparently the Liberal members are in support of a deal with a country that is so bad. That is the part of this debate that I cannot understand. We have a government and some members to my left who have decided that the words “free trade” mean more than the words “democracy”, “human rights”, “fair and equitable treatment of its citizens”. Here we are championing a deal, an agreement, with a country that is awful. By signing such a deal, we are giving it legitimacy. We are giving a government that was put in place by a coup a legitimate place. As Canadians, we should be concerned and should take a big step back.

Would the member like to comment on that?

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June 3rd, 2014 / 6:40 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not a cheerleader for this agreement. I am saying that we will support it. There are issues. We do not support free trade without imposing certain conditions like the Conservatives and we are not against free trade like the NDP.

I will explain it to the member. There are already Canadian companies doing business in Honduras. This agreement will help Canadian companies that are doing business in Honduras. There are American companies that are taking business away from Canadian companies, companies that perhaps are in the member's riding or province. They have come before committee and testified that we are losing business. We are way behind. As much as the government likes to say that it has been signing free trade agreements, we have a trade deficit.

The member started off by saying that he wishes it was a Liberal government. So do I, especially in the area of free trade. We were champions when we were in government. When we signed free trade agreements, they were real free trade agreements. There were conditions imposed upon other countries. If we were going to sign an agreement, it did not matter with which country it was; those conditions had to be respected. We made sure that Canadian companies and Canadian individuals were protected.

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6:40 p.m.


Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, who explained the position of the Liberal Party quite well.

He also mentioned the other free trade agreements that we signed when we formed the government.

When it comes to free trade, the Conservatives want it at any price, without carefully examining a number of factors. As for the NDP, we know where it stands, and I have the impression that the party's position is that we should not have free trade with any countries. The opposite is true.

In his speech, my colleague from Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel said there is no monitoring mechanism in the free trade agreement between Canada and Honduras. I wonder why, since it is important to protect our resources and our companies, when it comes to free trade. Can he explain why there is no monitoring mechanism in this agreement?

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6:40 p.m.


Massimo Pacetti Liberal Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a fantastic question. I want to congratulate my colleague on his election a few months ago. I congratulated him outside the House, but this is the first time I have had the chance to do so officially in the House.

We said the same thing: the Conservatives are signing a free trade agreement without any conditions because they are always playing catch-up. We are seeing it with this free trade agreement. It was negotiated in 2010 and, four or five years later, it has yet to be ratified in the House. It could have been done when it was tabled. We are already lagging behind the United States, which signed an agreement 10 years ago.

Some Canadian companies are losing a share of the market. Some workers are losing their jobs because a main office in Montreal is having business dealings with Honduras. We are losing commercial opportunities and jobs. We cannot sign free trade agreements without giving it any thought.

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6:45 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I invite the Conservatives to consider the old saying that if you play with fire, you are going to get burned. This would unfortunately be the case if we ever partnered with the Honduran government to sign a free trade agreement.

We could ruffle each other's hair and joyfully squabble about the economic relevance. I am certain that very good arguments for an against could be exchanged from both sides of the House. However, that is not the problem. First, I will note that we cannot compare the very nature of trade between Canada, an export-oriented country, and little Honduras, whose main economic activity is underground and illicit narcotics trafficking. Honduras engages in mining activities. I can understand that Canadian companies are interested in seeing a certain legal framework, but this requires the rule of law and, obviously, that is not the case in Honduras.

The essential problem with this agreement is that we have to sign it with a partner that is not respectable enough to be considered credible. This is tragic. Honduras itself is the private property of a few families, a few high-ranking police and army officers, where no consideration is given to the interests of the local population. This is especially tragic, and it means that the government is not democratic. The recent governments were installed by the army. There is no real democratic choice. Not one government has recognized this government as being a free and informed choice by the population.

There is the recurring problem of corruption. It is complete, absolute and endemic. Not even the judges can be trusted. The United Nations has made recommendations concerning the Honduran judiciary. It said, in reference to the judges of the Supreme Court of Honduras, that it made no sense for at least four of them to be there. That speaks volumes. This is a state where the law is not obeyed. The main law in the world is “thou shalt not kill”. In Honduras, that is not the case; a lot of killing happens there.

This is a state where there is no justice. Justice is a dream. As I said, there is no law, and a lot of killing happens there. Journalists are killed, as are union representatives and people who want a little democracy; everyone who makes certain people unhappy is killed. Because there is no justice, the killers are never prosecuted. What would the consequences be if the Canadian government sent mining engineers to that country? If Canadian mining engineers were killed, what recourse would Canada have? There would be none. We cannot rely on these people to ensure that justice is done. For that most obvious reason, we need to keep our distance from this kind of people. In that country, even the legal profession is at high risk.

If we were presented with a trade agreement that included a component on legal obligations and democratization obligations—that would not be exceptional in terms of recognizing a country’s independence—but the problem is that we are being asked to partner with this country in a legitimate trade framework, but it is ostracized by corruption and the denial of the essential fundamentals of justice.

That is where we say to ourselves that associating with them is essentially so corrupting that we should not do it.

We have had treaties with other countries whose economic relevance we cheerfully quarrelled about. I am thinking of Jordan in particular. In the case of Jordan there was some economic relevance, but Jordanian society was also evolving, changing, and willing to use the window afforded by international trade agreements to become a much more democratic state that complied with international agreements and international human rights law. We supported it.

In this case, there is no such component. No government representatives came to tell us that signing this agreement would lead to democratization. The murder rate is constantly increasing. It is not improving; it is deteriorating. That is the whole problem.

We do not want to associate with people of such poor reputation. There is something extremely disturbing here: the law in Honduras, the informal law, permits private companies to hire mercenaries. One can imagine the international mess we would find ourselves in if ever any Canadian companies dealing with social problems or problems with competitors or small-time bandits attacking their company responded by hiring mercenaries. Canada as a whole and its global reputation would be tarnished.

Our global reputation is good. It is important to note that Canada has a long history of active involvement in peacekeeping missions. We had a prime minister who won the Nobel peace prize. We have legal experts who have drafted international legal instruments and charters of freedoms.

Canada is the opposite of Honduras. The history of Honduras is merely a succession of military governments and governments that belonged to a few private families. The old saying is true: if you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

I can essentially understand my colleagues, who were making an economic choice in terms of international trade. We could genuinely have a long discussion on the subject. In the case of Honduras, however, this is not a trade problem; it is a moral problem.

Should Canada support the international credibility of a government of thugs by means of a trade treaty? The issue is not that there are a few problems of corruption; it is that the corruption is systemic. All stakeholders have said the same thing. Even the U.S. Senate acknowledged this was unacceptable.

I will be pleased to answer my colleagues’ questions.

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6:55 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for his excellent speech. Bill C-20 is a bit harsh and I fully agree with the reasons why we should oppose it.

The NDP studies international agreements properly and bases its assessments on fundamentally important criteria. Does the proposed partner respect democracy and human rights? Does the partner's economy have a significant or strategic value? Are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?

What does my colleague think of the NDP's guidelines for studying international agreements?

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6:55 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who does excellent work in the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. She understands the problem we might run into by signing an agreement with Honduras.

The criteria imposed by the NDP take into account the fact that Canada does not want to become corrupt. We will not sell our soul for a fistful of dollars. On the contrary, we want to sign agreements with partners that evolve and have the same view toward democracy and respect for human life and environmental regulations.

In that regard, Jordan announced a major turnaround. It was interesting to become partners with a country that was taking charge and looking to the future. Despite the major economic gaps, we had the opportunity to become an older brother to be looked up to who supported a great move that would benefit the entire population of Jordan.

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6:55 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada used to be a world leader in foreign affairs, in our relations with other countries and in our ability to help other organizations, other countries, become more democratic, freer, fairer to their citizens and have better human rights records. However, I am afraid agreements like this set us back.

Agreements like this with a corrupt government that has very little regard for human rights send a message to other like countries that it is okay with Canada to be like this. It is okay with the Conservative government and with their partners, the Liberals, to be like this. Signing agreements with this kind of country is a signal to other oppressive countries that oppression is acceptable to Canada.

What does the member think of that?

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6:55 p.m.


Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has been quite clumsy about how it has dealt with this agreement. I do not think that the government members are criminals or interested in supporting fascists. Unfortunately, that is what they are doing.

Canada has a long history. We can criticize this government's approach to international relations sometimes. However, a few days ago, this same government was commended by the United Nations Secretary General for its efforts with regard to child and maternal health.

Canada can still stand tall. Through its history and accomplishments, on which we may not all agree, there is always a desire to be a good country that defends democracy.

However, with this agreement, it is clear that the government has it all wrong. I invite the government to change its perspective on this issue.

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7 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to speak to Bill C-20, which deals with the agreement between Canada and the Republic of Honduras.

Before I begin my speech, as most of my colleagues on this side of the House probably know, I will be speaking as a New Democrat and I will be voting against Bill C-20.

In my speech, I will lay out the various reasons that lead me to that conclusion.

Before I begin, since my colleagues have mentioned democracy a great deal, I would like to tell the people watching us today on CPAC, on television or online, that democracy is very important.

We are sitting late at the end of this parliamentary session to make sure that we do things properly and to thoroughly debate the various bills that we have to pass. However, it would seem that only the New Democrats really value their speaking time in the House. We have seen that the Conservative party has missed more than 22 shifts, while the Liberals have missed four. On this side of the House, we are serious and we have not missed any shifts during these extended hours. I thank my colleagues for their participation in democracy. I will also refer to it in my speech.

As I said, I will be voting against Bill C-22. Why? Because we New Democrats have very strict criteria for free trade agreements. In general, they must respect the fundamental rules of democracy.

I will list them: first, does the prospective partner respect democracy, human rights, adequate labour standards, environmental protection, and Canadian values? If such is not consistently the case, is the partner on a path to meet those objectives?

We do not necessarily eliminate partners who do not meet those objectives. However, we want them to be people who are ready to meet strict and serious objectives.

Second, does the prospective partner's economy have a significant or strategic value for Canada?

And third, are the terms of the proposed agreement satisfactory?

I will begin with the first one that mentions, among other things, democracy and human rights.

I did a little research. I visited the site of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. It provides some very interesting reports on the Republic of Honduras, particularly since the coup of 2009.

I looked at a report from the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination. I also checked the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders about the mission to Honduras. These very interesting reports paint a clear picture of the current state of human rights in Honduras.

What do the reports say? They mention human rights violations committed by the police and by security guards, as well as murders and people allegedly going missing. They indicate that Antonio Trejo, a human rights lawyer, was murdered. In fact, many human rights activists get killed or go missing in Honduras. There are also allegations that military groups have killed men, women and children.

The findings from the reports and the working groups raise many questions regarding an unwillingness, on the part of the government and judicial authorities, to investigate serious human rights violations. Furthermore, the country's legislative framework still does not prohibit the use of mercenaries. These are very serious issues that constitute direct attacks against human rights.

Canada was, for many years, a leader in international relations. Our country used to be a role model for the way it met its international responsibilities. However, in its current form, the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement fails once again to hit the mark.

The government is completely missing the mark. We should be leading by example and presenting a more substantial free trade agreement. The Canada-Honduras agreement, as it stands, is very problematic.

I have been watching the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway as he goes about his work. I know that he is doing an incredible job of keeping us informed about what is included in these free trade agreements and what the Conservative government is proposing to Canadians. I admire the work he does. I am part of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, so I do not get very involved with international agreements. Economics never really was my strong suit, which is why I think it is very important that we have other experts on our team. He takes his work very seriously and works hard to educate us and keep us informed about what is in this free trade agreement.

Human Rights Watch has said that Honduras suffers from rampant crime and impunity in terms of human rights. The murder rate, which has risen consistently over the last decade, was the highest in the world in 2013. That was just last year. Perpetrators of killings and other violent crimes are rarely brought to justice. The institutions responsible for providing public security continue to prove largely ineffective and remain marred by corruption and abuse, while efforts to reform them have made little progress.

The rights of very specific groups are being attacked in Honduras. Journalists, peasant activists and the LGBT community are particularly vulnerable to attacks yet, as I said earlier, the government routinely fails to address those injustices and provide better protection for those at risk in Honduras.

What I find sad is that many people from Laval contact me every week to share their priorities with me and to talk about what is bothering them at the federal level. A large part of what they tell me has to do with our place on the world stage, the responsibility we have as a G7 country and the influence we could have in the world. Most of the people who contact me are extremely disappointed in this Conservative government's lack of leadership.

There are a number of examples at the international level. Take for example the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, which we pulled out of. Many people in Laval were shocked when we withdrew from Kyoto, and I know that people across Canada were stunned to see that the Conservatives were withdrawing from Kyoto.

I want to get back to the free trade agreement that we are discussing here. I do not want to spend too much time on the first point, since I know my time is limited. I did some research on the economy, to find out whether the proposed partner's economy is of significant and strategic value to Canada. Through my research I discovered that less than 1% of our trade was with Honduras. Our types of trade with this country are very specific and will probably benefit some very specific sectors in Canada.

I see that my time is up. I just wanted to conclude by talking about something that my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin mentioned during his period for questions and comments. Toronto is currently hosting the Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Summit, and we are seeing all of this Conservative government's efforts to support women's and children's rights. If the government were to start integrating that into their policies, it would be a great start. Let us start with the international agreements we want to sign.

I am ready for questions.

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7:10 p.m.


Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Alfred-Pellan for her speech.

I would like her to explain how a democratic country like Canada, with a relatively stable political system and an economy that may not be 100% but is pretty stable, can help Honduras with its governance problems.

What can Canada do to help Honduras become a democratic country again?

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7:10 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from LaSalle—Émard. I know that she cares deeply about human rights issues. I am pleased that she is participating in today's debate. It is extremely interesting.

Canada is lucky to have been a champion, a leader. We are lucky, because not all countries can claim to be democracies. I do not always agree with the Conservative government, but from Monday to Friday, we have a one-hour question period during which we can ask the government questions about what is going on. We do not always get the answers we would like, and sometimes we get no answer at all, but that is part of the game.

We should be human rights and democracy champions. It is our responsibility as a G7 country to be champions for that. Why not help Honduras, as my colleague from LaSalle—Émard said, by setting a good example? I am not saying that our way is the only way, but Canada is a good example to follow when it comes to democracy.

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7:10 p.m.


Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Alfred-Pellan on her excellent speech.

She outlined the social and environmental factors that must be respected when entering into free trade agreements with countries across the globe. Established democracies must be respected when agreements are entered into, and human rights and workers’ rights must be upheld. The countries involved must benefit and evolve into free societies, and in return Canada, too, must benefit.

Can my colleague please elaborate on the importance of humanitarian and social conditions in countries with which Canada negotiates free trade agreements?