Mr. Speaker, today I am going to talk about Bill C-47, which should, in theory, have the unanimous support of the House.
Everyone in the House will support Canada ratifying the 2013 Arms Trade Treaty, which would be very useful.
Take article 6.3, for example:
A State Party shall not authorize any transfer of conventional arms...if it has knowledge at the time of authorization that the arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a Party.
Under this treaty, no country is supposed to sell arms to countries that direct attacks against civilians. I am sure some people are wondering what an arm is, exactly.
The treaty that Canada is planning to ratify clarifies that in article 2.1:
This Treaty shall apply to all conventional arms within the following categories:
(a) Battle tanks;
(b) Armoured combat vehicles;
(c) Large-calibre artillery systems;
Cynicism is a perfectly natural response here. What is the point of ratifying a treaty if a country does not respect either the letter or the spirit of that treaty?
Canada sells weapons to Saudi Arabia, and yet the government has known for years that the Wahhabi Kingdom does not respect human rights. It has known for years that Saudi civilians are constantly under attacks by the army, but money talks.
We forget about human rights when billions of dollars are at stake in Canada's great liberal democracy. Two years ago, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Dion believed that maintaining a strong trade relationship was the best way to influence a country that violates the rights of its citizens.
At least two years ago, when Minister Dion saw Saudi Arabia attacking its civilians, he acknowledged that selling light armoured vehicles to Riyadh was a calculated risk. However, he insisted that the armed vehicles appearing on screen at the time were not Canadian. He stated that there was no proof that any military equipment that Canada had been selling to Saudi Arabia since 1993 had been misused.
Yes, the Saudis are firing on their own people. Yes, we are selling them weapons, but for the Liberals, there is no connection between the two. However, the Arms Trade Treaty, that the Liberals want to ratify, clearly states that a country that is part of the treaty shall not sell any arms to another country if they know, at the time of authorization, that these arms or items would be used to carry out attacks on civilians. It doesn't say “are being used“, but “would be used”.
Two years ago, Canada was the second-largest exporter of arms to the Middle East, right behind the United States. Is that really the Liberals' vision for Canada? Everyone gets along, everything is fine and dandy, but we still sell weapons to a country that decapitates, whips and stones its own people.
On page 18 of the latest annual report to Parliament on the administration of the Export and Import Permits Act, we can read:
With respect to military goods and technology, Canadian export control policy has, for many years, been restrictive. Under present policy guidelines set out by Cabinet in 1986, Canada closely controls the export of military items to: countries which pose a threat to Canada and its allies; countries involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities; countries under United Nations Security Council sanctions; or countries whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.
We know that Saudi Arabia uses Canadian arms against the civilian population. The July 22 Globe and Mail article proved it. We saw the videos of the Canadian Gurkhas, the Minister of Foreign Affairs saw them, and the Prime Minister saw them. Has Canada put a stop to the sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia as required by the guidelines? No.
The government is not obeying its own laws and now wants to ratify a treaty that it is already contravening. Bill C-47 may enjoy unanimous support, but the Liberal Party and every other party that voted in favour of the deal between the arms manufacturer and Saudi Arabia in 2015 was being hypocritical.
We know that Canada is partly responsible every time a civilian is killed by the Saudi government. When civilians are threatened, terrorized or brutalized, Canada will find solace in the money pouring into its coffers. In July, the minister stated that she was very concerned about the use of Canadian-made arms by the Saudi army against civilians and asked her officials to look into it immediately. This is my interpretation of what she said: if it were proven that Canadian exports were used to commit serious human rights violations, I would take action. Two months later nothing has been done.
We support the principles of this bill, but we think its application is even more important. There is no point in passing legislation and then not enforcing it. There is no point in ratifying a treaty and then not complying with it. In 1976, Canada signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which authorizes each signatory country to be a watchdog over the other signatory countries. Article 1 of the covenant states:
All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
This is precisely what Madrid is denying the Catalan people. The Spanish government is denying the Catalan people not only their right to self-determination, but also their democratic right to vote on it.
Article 41 of the same covenant adds that if a state party to the covenant believes that another state party is not applying its provisions, it can draw that state party's attention to the matter in writing. The Minister of Foreign Affairs believes that the referendum in Catalonia falls under Spanish domestic affairs and that Canada should stay out of it, but what exactly is a domestic affair?
Canada ratified a covenant that invites signatory countries to keep an eye on one another to ensure that civil and political rights are respected. Now Ottawa is turning a blind eye, as though its signature meant nothing, as though the covenant were optional. My fear is that this Liberal government, despite having signed the Arms Trade Treaty, proves once again that its international commitments and its word are not worth much. The Liberals always put economic considerations ahead of human rights. That is the way it is.