Madam Speaker, in response to an invitation from Indian Prime Minister Modi, the Prime Minister of Canada concluded his first official visit to India last month. He was accompanied by six ministers in the official delegation. Fourteen members of Parliament participated in key elements of the program.
Recognizing that the relationship is underpinned by people-to-people ties, the Prime Minister incorporated a strong focus on education and youth in the program, reflecting Canada's 1.4 million Canadians of Indian heritage, and cognizant of Canada's geostrategic and commercial interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Prime Minister's objective was clear: to reaffirm that Canada stands with a united India. Recognizing that the relationship between Canada and India is based on a shared commitment to pluralism, diversity, and democracy, the Prime Minister visited cultural and religious sites of significance to people in Canada, India, and around the world.
During the visit, the Prime Minister met with India's Prime Minister Modi, India's President Kovind, the Minister of External Affairs, business executives and entrepreneurs, civil society advocates, academics, and thought leaders.
The Prime Minister visited the world's most populous democracy, the fastest-growing major economy in the world, and a society on the cusp of dramatic cultural, political, and economic transformation. India's economic heft is increasing. Its middle class is expanding, and its global influence grows stronger every day.
Over the past few years, Canada's relationship with India has thrived. We have expanded and deepened our traditional areas of engagement. However, Canadians expect the Prime Minister to do more, to welcome more skilled workers, to attract more students to study in Canada, to facilitate the ease of doing business with and investing in India. Canada's Prime Minister took the pulse of the change afoot in India in order to guide Canadian stakeholders through this transformation.
The relationship between Canada and India is strong and mutually beneficial. Two-way trade between Canada and India is estimated to have reached $8.34 billion in calendar year 2017. This represents an increase of 3.9% over 2016, and an increase of over 30% just in the last three years. There is an estimated 1,000 Canadian companies active in the India market, of which 400 have a physical presence in the country.
Despite these impressive figures, there is a palpable sense that Canada-India trade should be higher than it is right now, that there is enormous potential in India. The fact that our trade and investment numbers are low relative to the size of our GDP is just one example. On the same note, our negotiations on a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, known as CEPA, and a foreign investment protection and promotion agreement, known as FIPA, are important priorities for both countries.
Closing these bilateral agreements has proven to be long and arduous, and we are not quite there yet. However, Canada shares the same objective as India: to work together to create economic growth, prosperity, and good middle-class jobs and more opportunities for our citizens.
To this end, in the joint statement issued by the leaders on February 23, Canada and India agreed to intensify negotiations to finalize both CEPA and FIPA. As well, Canada and India finalized a memorandum of understanding between Global Affairs Canada's investment and innovation bureau and Invest India, which will enhance two-way investment between the two countries.
The Prime Minister welcomed the conclusion of, and progress on, co-operation agreements in areas such as civil nuclear science and technology, education, audiovisual production, information technology, intellectual property, sports, and many other areas.
The leaders agree to encourage the private sector to explore further investment opportunities, and they welcome the signing of the commercial agreement, which will create thousands of new economic opportunities and jobs for both countries.
Clearly, this was a valuable international trip to engage with an increasingly important global partner, India. This brings me to the subject of today's supply day motion.
Unfortunately, the subject the opposition has chosen to put forward in today's supply day motion calls into question the professionalism of some of our most senior public servants in the country. Canada's national security agencies are non-partisan, as well they must be. They are highly competent and highly effective. We trust them to protect and promote Canada's security. They continue to do an excellent job in serving and protecting the interests of Canadians regardless of what party might be in power. We respect our national security agencies and we respect the non-partisan public service. We respect their ability to provide non-partisan advice, including on operational issues that bear upon national security.
As has been explained to the House on many occasions, the invitation to Mr. Atwal should never have been sent. When the government became aware of the invitation, it was withdrawn. The member of Parliament who extended that invitation has apologized for doing so.
Our security and intelligence agencies are highly competent and do their jobs extremely well. Our government has been working to ensure they continue to do that work despite deep cuts that were made by the previous Conservative government. In fact, in their last four years in power, the Conservatives cut $1 billion from our national security and intelligence agencies.
By contrast, the Liberal government has been providing them with integrity funding as we undertake reviews to ensure they have the resources to match their mandates and the difficult tasks we ask them to do every day on behalf of Canadians. More than that, we are restoring the public trust and confidence in our security and intelligence agencies that eroded over the 10 years of the previous Harper government.
Last year, Parliament passed Bill C-22, which created the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. For well over a decade, experts, academics, and parliamentary committees, including ones that I was on, have called for a committee of parliamentarians that would be mandated to review the work of our security and intelligence agencies and who would have the appropriate clearance to review all classified material. That committee is now up and running. It is currently reviewing and taking a look at our national security and intelligence apparatus.
We are also enhancing and making major changes to the existing review bodies by combining all entities with a mandate to review an individual department or agency into one body. Some academics have referred to this for years as a super SIRC. This too was called for in Justice Iacobucci's report and Justice O'Connor's report. Certainly in my time as the critic for public safety when I was in opposition, it was something that we called for and something that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security called for.
We are calling it NSIRA, the national security intelligence review agency. There are benefits of having one review body that can actually follow the evidence as it moves from one agency to another. As an example, if SIRC were currently reviewing a CSIS operation and found that at one point CSIS had turned it over to the RCMP for an investigation, SIRC would not be able to follow the trail to see what the RCMP had done with that information. In other words, the security and intelligence review of matters would be siloed and there would not be the ability to follow them from one agency to the other. This would make knowing exactly what went on or what went wrong nearly impossible.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, CRCC, could review what the RCMP has done with that information in the example that I gave earlier, but it would not be able to know what CSIS did in order to obtain it. Should Bill C-59 be passed by Parliament, the new NSIRA would have a mandate to look at every department or agency within the national security and intelligence function.
In line with Canada's feminist foreign policy and feminist international assistance policy, as well as the emphasis on gender equality in the budget tabled in Parliament, the goal of women's empowerment and gender equality featured prominently during the Prime Minister's visit to India. He participated in a women's business leaders round table and launched the Canada-India accelerator program for women tech entrepreneurs.
Canada and India announced collaboration between Canada's Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and India's Department of Science and Technology to jointly promote and strengthen the participation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
As well, Canada's International Development Research Centre, IDRC, announced research initiatives into the most important and effective ways to empower women, prevent gender-based violence, and make digital platforms work for inclusive development in India. New investments by the IDRC in 2018 will improve the working conditions of homeworkers and improve business practices in global supply chains. Canada announced $7.9 million for 40 Grand Challenges Canada projects in India, supporting women's empowerment, sexual and reproductive health rights, water and sanitation, and mental health. Finally, Canada and India launched the Nutrition International's Asia campaign called “She'll Grow Into It”. The campaign, supported by $11.5 million of funding through the right start initiative, works to empower the world's poorest women, adolescent girls, and children.
On the last day of the visit, the Prime Minister delivered a keynote speech before 5,000 youth at the 2018 Young Changemakers Conclave annual conference. At this event, captured live on Facebook, the Prime Minister emphasized the importance of gender equality, youth engagement, and diversity, and discussed the role of technology and innovation in empowering young leaders. Canada's Prime Minister heard directly from India's young leaders on how they are making their country and their world a better place in which to live. India has the largest youth population in the world, with more than 780 million under the age of 35.
Speaking about youth, I want to turn to the topic of education. India has one of the largest higher education systems in the world. With over 30 million students enrolled in higher education every year, the demand far exceeds the supply. As a result, more than 550,000 Indian students opted to study abroad in 2017, and Canada is increasingly a destination of choice. Canadian institutions currently have over 400 arrangements with Indian institutions, and approximately 50 universities and colleges have a presence in India. In addition, the government has been proactively targeting students from abroad with the result that a record number of Indian students, an estimated 124,000, held a permit to study in Canada for six months or more in 2017. Canada now trails only the United States as a destination for Indian students going abroad for higher education.
Academic collaboration is also moving forward at an accelerated pace. In 2016, Mitacs, a Canadian not-for-profit organization, brought 184 Indian researchers to Canada with funding of over $2 million through the Mitacs Globalink program and $736,000 in support from the Government of India. Since its launch in 2013, the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability, known as IC-IMPACTS, has delivered 38 projects that have resulted in 16 technology deployments in Canada and India in a variety of fields. Recognizing the importance of innovation, the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Modi welcomed a call for research proposals amounting to $4 million toward cleaning polluted bodies of water and mitigating fire hazards in buildings. Key partners in this initiative are IC-IMPACTS and India's departments of biotechnology and science and technology.
During the Prime Minister's trip, a memorandum of understanding on higher education was renewed, and Canada announced it will host the 2018 meeting of the joint working group that oversees implementation of that memorandum of understanding. As well, the Prime Minister recognized the 50th anniversary of the Shastri lndo-Canadian Institute in promoting understanding between India and Canada through academic activities and exchanges, with the support of both governments to the institute.
To pursue this line further, if we continue to link youth and entrepreneurs in India and Canada and if we continue to encourage innovation and collaboration between academics, the private sector, and civil society, then government can back away and let these dynamics take over. There is nothing we wish for more than for the citizens of our two countries to drive forward this relationship and economic partnership.
A number of important security challenges face India and Canada in the Indo-Pacific region. On regional and global issues, the leaders discussed the prevailing security situation in Afghanistan, calling for an immediate cessation of violence, renunciation of links with international terrorism, and the dismantling of infrastructure of support for terrorism. The leaders reaffirmed support to the government and the people of Afghanistan to achieve an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled national peace and reconciliation process.
The leaders called upon the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the DPRK, to abide strictly by its international obligations and commitments. They called on all states to implement rigorously the relevant UN Security Council resolutions relating to the DPRK.
The leaders deplored the current state in the Maldives, and urged the Government of Maldives to allow democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary, to function independently in a fair and transparent manner.
The two leaders discussed the humanitarian and security crisis in the Rakhine State of Myanmar and across the border in Bangladesh, and called for the voluntary, safe, and sustainable return of the people displaced, while stressing the importance of ensuring law and order, and respect for human dignity in the process. The leaders also called for the restoration of humanitarian access for relevant UN and other international organizations to facilitate the return process.
In short, Canada and India resolved to work together, bilaterally and multilaterally, to promote a stable and rules-based Indo-Pacific region that would not only benefit Canada economically vis-à-vis India, but would serve to broaden our interests in the region and move us toward greater connectivity.
To promote and sustain collaboration, Canada's national interests call for a stronger relationship with India. To this end, the prime ministers of Canada and India reinforced the architecture of our security partnership. A dialogue of national security advisers was institutionalized. Canada's national security and intelligence adviser met with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi just prior to the Prime Minister's visit, and concluded a framework agreement on countering terrorism and violent extremism. This framework agreement reaffirms the shared resolve of India and Canada to combat terrorism and violent extremism in all their forms and manifestations.
Canada and India agreed to step up bilateral collaboration under a newly-formed national security advisers' dialogue, the joint working group on counterterrorism and its experts' sub-group. Both leaders agreed to work collaboratively to address the threat posed by cross-border and state-sponsored terrorism, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, prevent the supply of arms to terrorists, and to counter violent extremism and radicalization to violence.
On broader defence and security issues, the leaders committed to develop bilateral defence co-operation by exploring possibilities in diverse fields, including cold climate training. They agreed that Canada and India would coordinate on cybersecurity and address cybercrimes at bilateral and multilateral fora going forward.
India sent a high-level delegation to the Vancouver peacekeeping defence ministerial meeting in November 2017. It is the world's third largest contributor to international peacekeeping operations. The two leaders decided in India to enhance co-operation on peacekeeping to provide an effective response to global challenges. They stressed the importance of integrating gender perspectives into peace and security activities, and interventions in line with the women, peace and security agenda, including prevention of conflict-related sexual violence.
Taken as a whole, this visit reflects an important step forward in the Canada-India relationship. There is much our two countries can offer each other, in commercial and security terms and in the fruits of collaboration in international fora. To recognize the future of this commercial partnership, Canada and India announced a new dialogue on innovation, growth, and prosperity. This is a collaboration between Canada's Centre for International Governance Innovation and India's Gateway House. It will convene subject experts, government officials, and business leaders to promote economic growth and innovation in today's digital economy.
It is unfortunate that, rather than celebrating all of the accomplishments, the opposition is using today to attack public servants and question their non-partisanship. I will say one more time that Canada's national security agencies are non-partisan, highly competent, and effective. We trust them to promote and protect the security of Canadians. That is why I will be voting against the motion.