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House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ukraine.

Topics

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's commitment to this topic and his interesting proposal that the government might support perhaps paying physicians and other health care professionals who want to go to other parts of the world to be involved, in this case in Ukraine. It would be a proposal worthy of consideration, but I have no doubt, on the other hand, that there are many people in Canada who are willing to make those investments personally. I certainly applaud those who are doing that. I know there are many people from my community who travel around the world to involve themselves in humanitarian types of activities like this. We are all so proud of having the kinds of communities where people are willing to step forward and invest their own time and resources in making the world around us a better place.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke a lot about the situation in Ukraine. Certainly, human rights is a concern. We know there are ongoing conflicts happening in Ukraine, so when the bill was at committee stage, I brought forward a proposal around human rights. I firmly believe, as do my NDP colleagues, that human rights should be enshrined in every trade agreement going forward. It is incredibly important that we address human rights in our own country, with our own flaws and history around human rights certainly around indigenous people. However, when we look to other countries, it is important that we have a level playing field around human rights.

I had pushed at trade committee to put a provision in place so we could receive reports on conditions inside Ukraine, with Canada being reciprocal, to ensure that the human rights of the people of Ukraine and Canada were being protected. I wonder if the member could speak to whether he would support the enshrining of human rights into trade agreements going forward.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for provoking a discussion on an important issue. I would not be prepared here yet to endorse the text of the member's motion. I am not a member of the trade committee, and I do not know exactly what she was proposing.

Of course, trade deals generally do include detailed discussion of environmental issues, labour rights, and other issues around human rights. It is important that they do that, certainly. That was part of our approach when we were in government, and I am sure that will continue to be par for the course in trade deals.

It may be that when we look at the details we might have disagreements about the specific mechanism for best achieving that result. I would be very interested in looking at the member's specific proposal. In principle though, our trade deals are not just trade deals in isolation. They include issues around some of these other topics that have been addressed.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, Foreign Affairs; the hon. member for Vancouver East, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-31 at third reading. As my hon. colleagues will know, the New Democratic Party supported the bill at second reading, and we intend to continue supporting it at third reading.

A Canada-Ukraine trade agreement is significant for reasons beyond the opportunities it provides to Canadian exporters. The agreement symbolizes our countries' strong friendship, which is increasingly important as Ukraine continues to deal with conflict within its borders and a fragile relationship with Russia. These two issues are obviously deeply connected. In these tumultuous times, Ukraine is looking to its friends in the west. There is a strong case to be made that having a trade agreement with Ukraine is of great strategic importance. Indeed, Canada and Ukraine's friendship is often described as historic. We have spoken a lot in this place about the close socio-cultural ties between our two countries, and the strong Canadian Ukrainian communities across Canada.

Whom Canada trades with is very important and must be considered when it comes to analyzing free trade agreements. It is also important to consider the other country's record on labour and environmental rights, and how its government treats its citizens.

Canada is certainly not perfect with regard to our own human rights record. How our country has historically treated indigenous peoples is shameful. When we point our finger at other countries, it is important that we not forget our own failures with regard to respecting human rights.

Having strong labour and environmental rights is not a question of either one does or does not. It requires an ongoing commitment. These rights can be granted, but they can also be eroded without vigilant stewardship, and there is always room to strengthen them. Canada still has a way to go. CUFTA includes chapters on labour and the environment, both of which are regarded as substantive. It is positive to see that these chapters are included in the agreement. One of the big criticisms of NAFTA has been that these two important areas were left out of the main agreement. They were relegated to side agreements, almost like they were afterthoughts.

Proponents of free trade claim that trade and investment deals will increase prosperity for all citizens. It is the idea that a rising tide will lift all boats. In fact, the opposite is true. Unfortunately, with trade agreements, history has shown us that the benefits of trade are not—

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. member for Mégantic—L'Érable is rising on a point of order.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure there is quorum to continue debate. I would like you to check, please.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I will check with the Table.

I believe we have quorum.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Essex.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that I had to stop my speech because there were not enough Liberals in the House. In fact, I think—

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, on many occasions I have been in the House when there has not been one New Democrat MP in the chamber, and I have never made reference to that. I do not think it is appropriate for members to be making reference to who is or is not in the chamber.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

There is a rule that states we are not allowed to name who is or is not in the chamber. I look to the hon. member for Winnipeg North and the hon. member for Essex who clearly broke that rule. They should both retract their comments.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my comment.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my comment as well.

As I was saying, it is the idea that a rising tide will lift all boats, but in fact the opposite is true. Unfortunately with trade agreements, history has shown us that the benefits of trade are not evenly distributed among all participants in the economy.

While corporate profits are soaring, wage growth in Canada since the 1970s has been stagnant. Household debt persists at record high levels while our younger generation struggles to find meaningful employment in an economy that no longer provides the stability and prosperity associated with full-time jobs that include benefits and pensions.

Looking at NAFTA, while it led to job creation in some sectors, it also devastated our manufacturing and textile sector. Let us not try to paint over that fact. Furthermore, having labour and environment in side agreements in NAFTA did not raise the standards in Mexico to the same standards as here in Canada. Again, I am pleased to see that the Canada-Ukraine agreement, which we are debating today, does not treat labour and environment with the same disregard as NAFTA did.

When we look at Ukraine, we see that the country has made a lot of progress since 2014 when it was in the grips of a civil war that killed over 9,000 Ukrainians and displaced around 1.5 million people. However, just this past week, we read about conflict breaking out again in eastern Ukraine. Thirty-five people were killed after what has been described in the media as extensive and indiscriminate shelling. There is a war going on, and it is destroying families and communities. Children have lost their parents.

I spoke earlier about how a country's human rights record is not a static thing. It changes over time. We know that in Ukraine there is still a lot of uncertainty and continued conflict. The fact is Ukraine is still at an early stage in its transition to a market economy. It has a history of political instability. It has a weak constitutional framework. It is viewed as having a weak business environment for these and many other reasons.

Canada is currently looking at whether to add Ukraine to our Automatic Firearms Country Control List. There were consultations over a year and a half ago, but the government has been mum on whether Ukraine will be added to the list or not. If it is added to the list, Canadian companies could be allowed to export certain prohibited firearms and weapons to Ukraine. Given the ongoing civil war in eastern Ukraine, I would be very concerned about Canadian weapons ending up in the wrong hands.

It is not just about today, but about tomorrow, and 10 and 20 years from now. We are hopeful that peace and stability will prevail. In the meantime, a very practical way that Canada can know with greater certainty that increased exports of Canadian goods would not negatively impact Ukraine's human rights is by requiring an annual independent review of the impact of CUFTA on human rights in both our countries. As a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, I proposed this as a possible amendment to this legislation. My colleagues felt the inclusion of such a review would be seen as “an unnecessary criticism of Ukraine”.

As I said at committee, I think when we have relationships with other countries, there are sometimes difficult things that have to be addressed, and this is one of them. Human Rights Watch has noted concerns over steps by the Ukraine government to restrict freedom of information and the freedom of the media. Free trade agreements should not be a reason not to talk about differences or broach difficult subjects respectfully. In fact, as a Canadian citizen, I would expect that my government would be having these conversations as part of trade negotiations. These were the concerns I attempted to lay out before the committee.

I also attempted to have the committee hit a pause button for a moment on Bill C-31 so that we could hear from some witnesses on this legislation. Unfortunately, the committee chose not to study the bill or hear from any witnesses beyond department officials. Without commenting on the merits of this legislation, I would like to note my deep concern with this approach.

As parliamentarians and as committee members, it is our job to study the legislation that comes before us and not just rubber-stamp it. Even if witnesses support the agreement, it is incredibly helpful to hear their testimony and to have an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the issues.

For example, when the committee studied CETA, albeit briefly, even stakeholder groups that supported the agreement talked about concerns with how the agreement would be implemented and how Canadian businesses needed support with accessing potential new markets. They made recommendations that they wanted us to carry forward to the government.

I would urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to not be afraid of asking questions and listening to Canadians, even on topics where we assume there will be overwhelming agreement.

In the Prime Minister's latest mandate letter to the Minister of International Trade, he said:

If we are to tackle the real challenges we face as a country - from a struggling middle class to the threat of climate change - Canadians need to have faith in their government's honesty and willingness to listen.

I would like to take a little more time to discuss some of the feedback our committee has received over the past year on how specifically the government can better help Canadian businesses access international markets. There are important points that are relevant to our consideration of the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement.

From the perspective of Canadian small and medium-size businesses, the signing of a new agreement is just the beginning. Having a new agreement will not magically translate into increased trade flows. Supporting markets is a big challenge. I am pleased to see this is part of the new minister's mandate letter.

Specifically, he is instructed to develop and implement a new trade and investment strategy to support Canadian businesses exporting to international markets and help Canadian jurisdictions attract global investment. In particular, I would like to see the minister's efforts really focus on supporting Canadian SMEs, not just the large companies which have more means to pursue new markets. Around 90% of Canadian SMEs do not export their goods or services. This would include micro businesses as well.

In my riding of Essex, a lot of businesses cannot even connect yet to high speed Internet. It is difficult to think of how they will connect to potential new markets in Asia, Europe, including Ukraine, if they do not even have a quality Internet connection.

We have talked a lot at the trade committee about the important role of Global Affairs Canada and what it must play in terms of engaging Canadian businesses, listening to what the non-tariff barriers are and working in close collaboration to address these issues.

I am pleased that the Canada-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce has been actively working to connect Ukrainian and Canadian businesses. There is also a role for the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to play, and of course Export Development Canada.

I want to hear a lot more from the government on what its trade and investment strategy will include. I think too often these conversations are brushed to the side. They come as more of an afterthought after the agreement is signed.

I would also like to speak to a few more specific areas covered by the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement.

At second reading and at committee, I raised the issue of steel. As we know, the issue of steel dumping is one of great concern for us in Canada. It impacts my riding of Essex, as well as Hamilton, Sault Ste. Marie, Regina, and many other Canadian communities. Therefore, when I saw that CUFTA would reduce tariffs on the trade of steel between our two countries, I wondered how this might impact the global steel trade and the challenges of overcapacity and dumping. It is something on which to keep an eye.

In the meantime, I would like to once again urge the government to take action on improving and strengthening Canada's trade remedy system. Canada needs to do a better job of protecting our steel industry. That means enforcing the rules and doing a better job when other countries like China are breaking the rules. Standing up for Canada's steel industry is about standing up for Canadian jobs.

The trade committee has committed to a brief study of dumping. I hope we can make room for this soon. It will be important to hear from Canadian producers and workers on how the broken trade remedy system is hurting our industry. The finance committee has already done a study of the trade remedy system, so the solutions are there. Now it is time for action.

By and large, Canada's steel sector will not stand to lose in CUFTA. In fact there are not really any losing sectors in this agreement, which is rare.

In CETA, Canada made some big concessions around pharmaceutical, intellectual property rights, and around dairy and our maritime industry. These concessions will mean a higher cost of medicine for Canadians, and they will mean our dairy sector will lose millions and our maritime sector will lose thousands of jobs.

I was surprised that Canada did not take a second look at what we gave up in CETA after the U.K. voted to leave the EU. After all, the U.K. makes up about half of Canada's market in the EU.

In TPP, Canada would be forced to make many of the same concessions. We also know TPP would hurt our auto sector. In fact, TPP is estimated to cost Canada 58,000 jobs.

Both CETA and TPP include harmful investor-state provisions that erode Canada's sovereignty. These provisions make it harder for Canada to enact and enforce environmental rules, and they can also make it harder for Canada to introduce a national pharmacare plan. Even in the TPP, a special carve out was required to allow countries to preserve their ability to regulate cigarette packaging.

The problem with mega deals like TPP and CETA is that they ask countries to make a lot of concessions in areas that extend far beyond the traditional realms of trade. For example, the TPP includes a clause barring every other TPP member state from ever adopting Canada's notice and notice system for copyright rules. Our system is widely considered to strike a fair balance that respects the rights of users to share and collaborate, while ensuring that artists are fairly compensated for their work.

Perhaps the case could be made that trade-offs required by multilateral deals are worth it, if a government is willing to take proper steps to mitigate the negative effects. These trade deals can increase inequality if proper action isn't taken to make sure they do not. In this regard, bilateral trade deals tend to require countries to make far fewer concessions. They are easier to negotiate, and they are easier to ratify and implement. This is the kind of trade that the New Democrats tend to support, trade that reduces tariffs and boosts exports.

I would also point out that CUFTA is the second trade agreement the New Democrats have supported in this parliamentary session. We also supported the trade facilitation agreement.

My colleagues in the Liberal and Conservative Parties like to spread misinformation that the NDP is somehow anti-trade because we point out the flaws in the agreements, like NAFTA and the TPP.

We do not think a trade and investment agreement is appropriate with countries that have deeply concerning records on human rights. We want to see Canada do business with good partners of strategic importance. We want to see trade deals that do not harm the interests of everyday Canadians.

I would challenge my colleagues to participate in these debates about the merits of trade and investment deals on a case-by-case basis, instead of relying on blanket statements that all trade and investment is good therefore no study or critical analysis of an agreement is needed.

On the question before us today, I have studied the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement closely. Like other trade agreements the New Democrats have supported, on balance this agreement does serve Canada's interests.

I would like to extend my appreciation to Mr. Marvin Hildebrand, chief negotiator of CUFTA, and his team for their hard work on this file. I do not doubt that our trade negotiators always have Canada's best interests in mind.

I am pleased that all parties in the House have extended their unanimous support for Bill C-31. Let us not forget that it is time to ensure that this and every trade deal works for Canadians and creates market access and benefits for Canadians that we expect.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for championing the best interests of all Canadians and, indeed, of all our trade partners when we negotiate bilateral agreements. We can see how far superior they are. We can see that when, as she mentioned, the NDP shares the very concerning shortcomings of agreements like CETA and the TPP, which take advantage of people, we know labour standards will be improved with the Ukraine under CUFTA.

I want to talk a little more about having the entrenchment of human rights in trade agreements being considered. One of the reasons we are discussing this trade agreement today is because we want a more fulsome response to human rights and our international obligations, especially when we have trade relationships.

I hope the hon. member can expand on that a little, as it is very important for all of us to be paying attention.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh does a great amount of work around human rights. The NDP firmly believes in protecting human rights around the world, not just for Canadians but we look beyond ourselves. Ukraine is a prime example of an opportunity to extend human rights and to ensure the human rights of Ukrainian people as well as Canadian people.

Unfortunately, the amendment I brought forward at committee was not adopted. The amendment was about having such a provision, as we have had in previous agreements such as the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. We really tried to enshrine that into the agreement.

It is so important, because as I mentioned in speech, in these past few weeks in eastern Ukraine the civil war has reignited. This is sparking the worst fighting they have seen since 2014-15. The Canadian government and everyone in the House has to be realistic about the potential human rights impacts of CUFTA. We of course would like to see peace and stability in Ukraine, and we continue to push for that. If the people of Ukraine are being threatened in some way, it is important that we are a strong ally to them.

Human rights should be entrenched in every agreement. When they are not a part of the agreement, it is unfortunately something that we cannot keep an eye on in a positive manner. I believe we have a responsibility to do that, and certainly in our friendship with Ukraine, it is incredibly important we do so.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, let me start off by giving the New Democratic Party credit for supporting what we believe is a very progressive trade agreement between two countries. People of both Ukraine and Canada will benefit immensely.

The member made reference to a number of issues surrounding Ukraine. One could easily become sympathetic as to why we have this important legislation and why we need to see it pass.

My question for the member is related to trade agreements in general. It is great that the New Democrats are supporting the Ukraine trade agreement. However, I am a little surprised they are voting against the CETA agreement. Could the member tell us what is so upsetting about the CETA agreement that is not found in the Ukraine agreement?

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is pleased to support the Canada-Ukraine deal. We supported the previous trade facilitation agreement. That is two agreements we have supported around trade in this session.

On the member's question with respect to CETA, when we talk about increasing the cost of pharmaceutical drugs for every Canadian, it is a serious matter. I am sure people in all of our ridings come into our offices every day, telling us they cannot afford medication. Whether they have a plan through their workplace or not, or they are supported in some way by the province, to increase the patent, to extend that two years, that did not happen in the Ukraine deal. The Ukraine deal does not address that. Therefore, 25% of the implementing legislation around CETA is with respect to changes to the intellectual property pharmaceuticals, which is of grave concern, and should be for every member in the House.

It is disappointing that Liberals at the committee level, and in the House, refuse to acknowledge the pieces in CETA that are of concern, such as the maritime jobs that would be lost, the cabotage jobs that would be lost across our country. We are seeing human rights violations on ships that are sitting in our waters because these are flags of convenience. Maritime workers from across the country have written to me about the changes in CETA around the Canada Coasting Trade Act.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon all members, but certainly the government, to look at all aspects of a trade deal, not just the positive. It is easy to only bring in the positive. When we are doing our full work around a trade deal, when we are being comprehensive, we look at both the positive and negative. Certainly, there are ways to mitigate the negative. It was very unfortunate to see in CETA that way dairy was being impacted in supply management. The compensation package that came forward was not even close to the $4.3 billion that was promised under the previous government. We see a small drop in the bucket that will not help family farms across Canada. There are many other pieces of CETA that are of grave concern.

Therefore, I would ask that around every trade agreement, parliamentarians take it upon themselves to learn about which sectors will be impacted, which communities will be impacted, and how it will impact average Canadians.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Essex for the voice she brings to the House of Commons, and to the trade committee. She does an extremely effective job of speaking out for our regular families across the country that are left aside by many of these trade deals.

Of course we are supporting the Canada-Ukraine trade deal. However, we have had a number of other trade deals referenced in the discussion taking place this afternoon. None of them are fair trade deals. None of them take as a starting point how we can improve the lives of regular families in Canada. That is part of the reason why the NDP and the member for Essex speak out against these bad trade deals that do not put in place the fair trade practices that most Canadians want to see.

For example, she referenced human rights. When we look at Mercosur and South America, they actually have poverty alleviation as part of their trade agreements. There are a number of different models that are fair trade agreements, rather than these right-wing free trade agreements that have all of the weaknesses the member for Essex has cited.

Therefore, I would like to ask the member for Essex this. What is her vision of trade for the future of Canada? How can we build trade agreements that help regular working families across the country, rather than contribute to higher drug costs and to lost jobs as she mentioned, and as we have seen consistently in the manufacturing and other sectors?

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his prior work on the trade file. He has certainly been available to me at any time to have conversations about previous Parliaments and trade deals that have gone through.

This is an incredibly important question, because if we look across Canada today, we see that average Canadians, families, and people who are working hard every day feel that trade deals have not served them or worked well for them. There has been no advantage to the average Canadian worker. We look at large trade agreements, and we will be talking soon about the renegotiation of NAFTA. Some 25 years on, we have lost our textile industry in Canada. There were many people employed in that sector. Our manufacturing sector has been hit incredibly hard.

If we look at NAFTA, a previous agreement, we see some opportunities to improve. In NAFTA, labour and the environment sit in side agreements, and in CUFTA, they are enshrined in the agreement, which is so important, because it really gives teeth, an ability for people to bring forward issues around those particular chapters and ensure that people in both countries are protected under them.

When we look at Mexico as an example, we see that Mexican workers were never raised up to the standard of average North Americans as they were told they would be in NAFTA. New Democrats believe that is largely because these things are not enshrined in that agreement. In a renegotiation, it is very important that we ensure these things are included.

When we look at this trade agreement as opposed to other trade agreements, there is no ISDS clause. Other trade agreements include the investor-state dispute settlement in some shape or form. We see it kind of shifting a little, so to speak, in the CETA agreement. This has not worked well. We are the most sued developed country in the world under these provisions, so when they are not in trade deals, we are quite pleased, because that is a contentious issue, and most Canadians understand that.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we begin our debate here this evening, I note that tomorrow morning the Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement will be debated in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament. I issue a challenge to Speaker Parubiy, Ukraine's parliament and our colleagues to see which Parliament will pass this free trade agreement first.

This past July, as the chair of the Canada–Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group and as a Ukrainian Canadian, I had the honour of bearing witness to the historic signing of the Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement in the presidential ceremonial hall in Kiev. I would like to thank our Prime Minister for including me in the delegation and, more important, for making the state visit and signing a priority for our new government. In fact, it was the Prime Minister's first one-on-one state visit of his term after his visit to the United States. This will most likely be the first free trade agreement to be ratified by our government.

Watching my fellow Ukrainian Canadian, the former minister of international trade, sign the treaty was especially poignant, as we had first met in Kiev in 1992 as young and idealistic Canadians who were intent on making a difference in the ancestral homeland of our parents and grandparents, the minister as a journalist, and I a Canadian organizer of Rukh, Ukraine's democratic front. Twenty-five years later, the minister worked hard to make this free trade agreement a reality, Twenty-five years later, we accompanied Canada's Prime Minister for the signing of this historic agreement.

Why would the Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement be a priority for our country? Our bilateral trade has been a modest $289 million on average for the past five years. Why was CUFTA's implementation specifically referred to in the previous international trade minister's mandate letter? Why would this free trade agreement be the sole such agreement to have the unanimous support of the current House? It is because not every free trade agreement is just about trade. It must be seen through various lenses, one of which is Canada's special relationship with Ukraine.

Internationally and in the House, everyone is aware of Canada and Ukraine's special relationship. However, the word “special” is not just an adjective but a term defined in an agreement in 1994, the joint declaration on the “special partnership” between Canada and Ukraine, an agreement which was reaffirmed in 2001 and again in 2008. As well, Ukraine is one of 25 countries of focus for the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA.

Although Canadians and our symbol of the maple leaf are warmly received in almost every country of the planet, there is no country where Canadians are more warmly, in fact affectionately, welcomed than in Ukraine.

Many of us literally stood shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine during the independence movement of 1988 tolasnost 1991, in the democratic revolutions, in the Orange Revolution of 2004, and in the revolution of dignity of 2014. I cannot relate to the House and the Canadian people how often during these historic events, Ukrainians, upon hearing that I was from Canada, would embrace me and say, “Thank you, Canada. Please say thank you to the people of Canada from us”.

For the past 25 years, tens of thousands of Ukrainian Canadians, as well as many of their Canadian friends, have directly engaged in building democracy in Ukraine. In many ways, my personal story of engagement in Ukraine's difficult journey toward freedom began in earnest in the summer of 1991, on the centenary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. A group of youthful Ukrainian Canadians travelled into Ukraine's eastern Donbass region, the front line of the current Russo-Ukrainian war. It was the time of Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost, when the Iron Curtain had been slightly drawn, allowing in the winds of change. For most in the Soviet Union, especially in the regions, it was like the wind rustling leaves at the tops of trees. We could hear it in the distance, but we could not feel it down on the ground.

Our group of Ukrainian Canadians decided to head into a region that had been among the most devastated by Soviet rule: the epicentre of the Holodomor, the genocide by famine of the Ukrainian people, a region whose churches had mostly been dynamited generations ago under Stalin's decrees; a region in which history, the past, had been destroyed and in whose libraries and schools history began with the 1917 Bolshevik revolution; a coal mining and heavily industrialized region that was also among the Soviet Union's most ecologically devastated. It was here, to a region formerly closed to westerners, that we brought Ukrainian- and Russian-language copies of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and pamphlets describing our multicultural nation.

It was also in this region that we had a glimpse into the future. It was here that in various towns, during the span of a week, I was taken in for so-called conversations by communist party first secretaries, the local KGB, and police. At times, conversations were theoretical, sometimes quite threatening. Others were almost pleasant.

I recollect one particular incident when the police came. We had set up our little table with copies of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the police came and took me to meet with the communist first party secretary in his office. As I sat there, he was intent on showing me a model of a Lenin monument he was going to build in his town of Milove, near the Russian border, today near the front of the Russo-Ukraine war.

As I listened to him, I saw out his window that a fire truck, which looked like it was built in the fifties, had pulled up. It had a nozzle, almost like a tank turret, that it pointed at our Ukrainian Canadians standing at the little table with their Canadian flag and copies of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As I was watching out of the corner of my eye, I asked the first party secretary if it would not be better to be spending resources not on this grand monument to Lenin. I said that it may well be that in the next few years, that monument may be taken down. I said that no matter how they might laud him in Moscow, would it not be better to spend those resources on local schools or to fix the potholed streets of his town?

In all of these conversations with officials, I noticed that there was a plan formulating. They spoke of how Ukraine was not really a country and that if Ukraine were to become independent, it would split up into regions. In fact, the same map was produced in different towns showing a small, truncated Ukraine, a Novorossiya, New Russia, a republic that encompassed all of Ukraine's south and east.

Later, in Luhansk, the capital of the current so-called Luhansk People's Republic, I met Don Cossacks, who had come from Russia's Rostov-on-Don, who, after selling me a Cossack hat for $10, confided to me that they were actually soldiers sent in from a Russian military unit in friendship.

As I have previously stated, my experiences are just examples of the thousands of such personal experiences of Ukrainian Canadians in Ukraine. However, the ties between Ukraine and Canada run much deeper than the personal contributions of Ukrainian Canadians over the past 25 years. Ukraine has given Canada its most precious of gifts: its people. There are 1.3 million Canadians who can trace their ancestral roots to Ukraine.

Next year marks Canada's 150th anniversary. Last year Ukrainians marked the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the first Ukrainian pioneers in Canada's Prairies. These pioneers transformed the bush of the Prairies into the golden wheat fields of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. As one travels the vastness of the Prairies, the golden paysage is regularly broken by grain elevators and the domes of Ukrainian churches. There is not a city in Canada where golden church domes do not testify to the presence of Ukrainian Canadians. They testify to the perseverance, industry, and spirituality of Ukrainian Canadians.

The ribbons of steel of the Canadian Pacific Railway bound our vast Confederation together. It was largely Ukrainian Canadians who filled that prairie vastness. Their presence countered the movement of American settlers north who, as had their southern brethren in Texas, California, and other states previously, were opposing sovereignty threats to their northern neighbour.

Canada may well have had a very different geography if not for the government's policy at the time of free land to the people in sheepskin coats. However, Ukrainian Canadians did not only transform our landscape, they gave us a deeper understanding of who we are as a nation.

The term “multiculturalism” was first used by Senator Paul Yuzyk in his maiden Senate speech in 1963. The Ukrainian Canadian committee, as the congress was called at that time, lobbied the federal government through the 1960s on this issue, a government at the time whose official policy was biculturalism. It was due to these determined efforts that former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau officially announced the federal policy of multiculturalism in 1971, thus transforming our understanding of Canada and who we are as a people.

Today, in a world of resurgent xenophobia and nativism, Canada stands as an aspirational city on the hill amongst liberal democracies. Our multiculturalism, our strength in diversity, is a shining example to a world of darkening chauvinism and increasing divisions.

Ukrainian Canadians' contributions to Canada both in numbers and in length of time qualify us as one of this country's founding peoples. It is why, when Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov referred to us as a “rabid diaspora” in January of last year while ranting against Canada's steadfast policy of standing with Ukraine, his denunciation was responded to by Canada's foreign minister's statement of January 27 last year in this House. Minister Dion stated:

I am so pleased...to express...the steadfast support of Canada for Ukraine, how much we deeply disagree with the invasion and interference of the Russian government in Ukraine, and also how much we will not tolerate from a Russian minister any insults against the community of Ukraine in Canada.

We owe so much to Ukrainian Canadians and we will always support them.

It must also be seen through a geopolitical lens in a world in which Ukraine has been the victim of military invasion and annexation of her territory by a Russia that does not subscribe to international treaties on the sanctity of borders, a violation of accords that have largely brought a grand peace to Europe since World War II.

It must be understood in the context of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution of dignity, a modern revolution by a people of 45 million in support of liberal democratic values and in support of their dream to be part of a multilateral European union of states with enshrined universal human and democratic rights.

Today, Russia poses the greatest geopolitical threat to liberal democracy in the west. Ukraine and her people are literally on the front line. When Putin ordered his armies to militarily invade and annex Ukrainian territory, he broke a fundamental principle of international rule of law, the sanctity of borders. We have not seen European borders changed through military force since the 1930s. Ten thousand Ukrainian soldiers, mostly volunteers, and civilians have been killed by invading Russian soldiers and their proxies. Two million Ukrainians are currently internally displaced. In annexed Crimea, Muslim Tatar leaders continue to disappear.

Why did Putin invade? It was because the people of Ukraine chose liberty and democracy. Ukraine's revolution of dignity was a revolt against a new enslavement by the kleptocratic President Yanukovych, puppet of a dictatorial Kremlin. It was the first time in the history of the European Union that people, including student demonstrators, were shot by snipers, killed while carrying the European Union flag, a symbol of the western democratic values that we cherish.

These protestors were not only a threat to the puppet President Yanukovych and Putin's revanchist imperial vision; as the Russian President watched Kiev's Maidan with hundreds of thousands of citizens building barricades, he envisioned the contagion of the revolution of dignity spreading and infecting Russians.

Since 2000, Putin has methodically dismantled Russia's nascent democracy and created a new Russian dictatorship. At least 132 investigative journalists have been silenced in Russia through murder, as well as opposition leaders such as Boris Nemtsov, symbolically assassinated outside the Kremlin walls, and FSB defectors like British citizen Litvinenko, who was gruesomely poisoned by radioactive polonium in London, England.

Glorious patriotic wars started in Chechnya in 2000, Georgia in 2005, and Ukraine in 2014. However, Russia's war against Ukraine is not only imperial revanchism; it is to create a terrifying example of Ukraine for Putin's own Russian people, as a dismembered, failed democratic state.

The Kremlin has not only declared war militarily against Ukraine, and there is not only an ongoing propaganda war, but there is a Kremlin economic war against Ukraine. Russia had been Ukraine's largest trading partner, equivalent in importance to Canada's economic relationship with the United States. At the same time that Russia invaded militarily, Putin shut down trade with Ukraine. That is why the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement is of such importance. It is a clear statement of support by Canada for Ukraine at a time of Kremlin military aggression and economic war. It is not just a reaffirmation of our government's policy in regard to free trade; it is a geopolitical statement of support.

Having earlier noted the current modest levels of trade, we should not dismiss the opportunities that CUFTA would afford to the business communities of both countries, especially for small and medium-size businesses. Ukraine, with its free trade association with the EU, can be the entry point for Canadian low-cost capital investment and low manufacturing costs on the European continent, a de facto gateway into the European market. Canada can become a gateway for nascent small and medium-size Ukrainian businesses to expand and invest in Canada as an entry point into the North American market.

CUFTA is but one effective tool in a policy kit to strengthen democracy in Ukraine and to contain Putin's plan to create a democratic failed state of Ukraine. We must renew and broaden Operation Unifier, our military training mission in Ukraine. However, while standing with Ukraine, we must also strengthen our resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with Russia's embattled, yet courageous, democratic opposition.

This past week, I received the terrible news that my friend Vladimir Kara-Murza had been hospitalized in Russia due to acute intoxication by an unknown substance—poisoning. My prayers are with Vladimir and my thoughts with his wife, Yevgeniya, and their three children.

Vladimir had testified before the foreign affairs committee in Ottawa this past spring, stating that Canadian Magnitsky sanctions for gross human rights abusers would be a pro-Russian measure. He was joined on the panel of witnesses by Zhanna Nemtsova, the daughter of the late Boris Nemtsov, also an acquaintance of mine, who had come to Canada's Parliament in 2012 in support of Magnitsky legislation and was assassinated two years ago, on February 27, and by Bill Browder, whose lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, had been tortured and killed in a Russian prison for uncovering, documenting, and reporting massive fraud against the Russian people by individuals sanctioned by President Putin.

We must join our American legislative colleagues in sanctioning gross human rights abusers by expanding our Special Economic Measures Act to build upon the U.S. Jackson-Vanik repeal and Sergei Magnitsky rule of law accountability act of 2012.

I conclude by thanking Canada on behalf of all Ukrainian Canadians. This has been freedom's shore and the land of opportunity for waves of Ukrainian immigrants for over 125 years. This is the land in which our ancestors, with their perseverance and industry, built new lives and, in building their lives, helped to build and transform our great country, Canada.

They built a future in their new homeland. However, they never forgot their ancestral roots, who they were and where they came from. The Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement is a hand of friendship and solidarity by Canada to a country, Ukraine, which gave its most precious resource, its human resources, its people, to us. Long may our special relationship endure.

Slava Canadi. Slava Ukraini.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Madam Speaker, I have to stress that Canada has always been a good friend of Ukraine. I remember when Prime Minister Harper and I attended the opening ceremony of APEC in Beijing. The first thing he said to Putin was to get out of Ukraine. That shows the Conservative Party's strong support for our good friends in Ukraine.

Economic growth is also the best way to grow a country, a region, or a community. I remember when I trained Muslim women, single parents, in Malaysia on how to start and run a small business successfully. These women saw the need for economic independence and they successfully became women entrepreneurs in their own country. SMEs are important and so is the strength of the Ukrainian community in my riding of Richmond Centre.

My question for my hon. colleague is this. How would you demonstrate that trade can help small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and businesses benefit and create jobs because of this free trade agreement?

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I would remind the member not to use the word “you” and to address her comments to the Chair.

The hon. member for Etobicoke Centre.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for mentioning a previous prime minister. We have a proud history of Canadian prime ministers since 1991, both Conservative and Liberal, standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney was the first western leader to acknowledge Ukraine's independence in December 1991, a day after the referendum for independence in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Paul Martin, during the Orange Revolution, sent an unprecedented 500 electoral observers to Ukraine for the rerunning of the presidential election.

In fact, I note that a former prime minister, John Turner, headed that mission. When he was asked if he would head up that mission, he was older at that point in time and it was Christmas in Canada, and he said he would go to Ukraine to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine and celebrate with his family a little after Christmas. He said it was too important to show that we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people.

The example of Prime Minister Harper was given.

I would like also to relate something I saw during the Prime Minister's state visit to Ukraine. On the first evening, there was an event and, as usual, crowds were gathering around the Prime Minister. He noticed two soldiers who had had facial reconstruction surgery done. He pointed them out to me and we walked over to them. Everyone was asking for pictures with the Prime Minister and he said he would be honoured to have a picture taken with these two Ukrainian soldiers, volunteers, who had fought on the front line in Ukraine. It is symbolic of the sort of position that all Canadian prime ministers have had with Ukraine.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Cheryl Hardcastle NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, this is a very healthy trade agreement that sets an example for us on the merits of bilateral agreements.

New Democrats always are told we dwell on the negatives with respect to trade agreements. One of the positives is the addressing of labour standards in the Ukraine. Since it sounds like my colleague is very familiar with the Ukraine, I would love to hear a little more about addressing labour standards as a way of addressing human rights and how this bilateral agreement is so important in achieving that.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to extend thanks and appreciation for the NDP's support for this very important free trade agreement.

As I mentioned in my speech, this free trade agreement is not strictly about trade. Yes, it is important for trade between our two countries as it provides opportunities for investment for small and medium-sized businesses in our two countries, but it also is a show of support for Ukraine as it transforms to a fully functional democracy with all of the guarantees of democratic rights, human rights, and labour rights. We have a number of projects that Canada is funding in those areas.