Mr. Speaker, I want to start by reminding the House of certain facts, to counteract the falsehoods spread by some government representatives over the last few days. For example, they claim we are opposed to Canada's accession to the Arms Trade Treaty. It may be trendy to spread fake news, but these people know full well that what they say is not true. We have always supported Canada's accession to the Arms Trade Treaty. In fact, we have been pushing for it for years. However, we want to do it properly. We want to accede to the entire treaty, not just half or a third. The bill before us does not do that. I want to read out part of an email I just received from Project Ploughshares, which is probably the best-known arms control organization in Canada. The email says:
“Last day of debate on Bill C-47 for Canada to join the Arms Trade Treaty.”
I would really like my colleagues across the aisle to pay attention to this:
“Do not confuse merits of the ATT with merits of the Bill.”
The email goes on to say:
“Big shortcomings remain in export controls, eg loophole re exports to US.”
We support the Arms Trade Treaty, but because of these big shortcomings, we cannot support the bill to implement the treaty. That is why I cannot support it, the NDP cannot support it, and experts cannot support it. Experts have expressed satisfaction with the few changes that the government accepted, but as of today, they still oppose the bill. That is why 33,000 people wrote to the minister to ask that this bill be withdrawn and replaced with a better one that includes and covers our exports to the United States.
When people from the government spread falsehoods, I am usually patient, but this makes me really mad. These people should be ashamed of themselves. They say that the New Democrats are opposing the accession to the ATT. That is a bit rich. It is the NDP that has been pushing for years for Canada to accede to the ATT, but we want to do it well and completely, not as a half-baked measure. Bill C-47 would not do that well. It does not reflect the letter or the spirit of the treaty and it may weaken the treaty. That is why I cannot support it. That is why, as I said above, experts in arms control, as of today, still oppose Bill C-47 and why 33,000 Canadian citizens wrote to the minister and asked her to fix the bill.
The Liberals are twisting the facts. By doing so, they are disrespecting the experts. What are the main problems? Since I know my time is running out, I will sum them up very briefly. First, there is the issue of exports to the United States. More than half of our exports go to the United States.
When I say that more than half of our arms exports go to the United States, we do not even know if it is 52% or maybe 57%. Who knows, it could be 62%. Why? It is because we have absolutely no information on those arms exports to the U.S. With this bill, not only will our arms exports to the U.S. not be covered, but even when we asked for the small step of reporting to Parliament about those exports, the Liberals refused. There is no transparency at all, no willingness to give Parliament, this House, some sort of power to oversee the sometimes very troubling issue of our arms exports.
We will remember that twice we have tried to create a committee that could provide oversight of our arms exports, and twice the Liberals have turned it down. Why does it matter? It is a matter of principle, transparency, and democracy. It matters also because under the Trump administration, the Americans are lowering their standards for arms exports. We have seen, for example, that some Canadian equipment goes to the United States and then becomes part of shipments that go to countries like Nigeria. We have cut our arms sales to Nigeria, but now Canadian arms are finding their way to Nigeria through that loophole. I have a problem calling it a loophole, because it is so huge. It is like a doughnut with a large three-foot hole in the middle. It is amazing. They say, “Oh yes, we are acceding to the treaty.” No, I am sorry, we are not acceding to the treaty. We are just putting our big toe in the water, and not more than that. This is a huge hole.
A few weeks ago, there was a big story about a sale of helicopters to the Philippines. They were going to the Philippines without requiring an export permit. How interesting, selling helicopters to the army of a president who boasted that he had once thrown someone out of a helicopter and was ready to do it again. Why did it not need an export permit? It did not need one because the deal was organized through an agreement with the Department of National Defence and a Canadian commercial corporation, and it was deemed that helicopters are not military equipment, so it just went through. It created a hoopla. Of course, Canadians were upset by that. What we are learning now is that the company is planning to send the helicopters to the U.S., and then they will go on to the Philippines. There is no control over end-users.
The bill would not cover all of government, because the bill would make amendments to the Import and Export Permits Act, and the Canadian crown corporation is not covered by that act, as officials have told us.
Then we have the issue of reviewing permits in the event of new developments. That is in the treaty, so why does the government not want to include it in the legislation? I do not get it.
When new information comes to light and when new developments arise, the government should make it its duty to review the permits that have been granted. I could go on about this for hours. In fact, I probably have talked about this for hours over the past few weeks. I invite everyone to read my blog on the issue and my Twitter account, where I am very active.
I described all these shortcomings in this bill and talked about what a bad bill it is. More to the point, experts have described this as a bad bill that is full of holes.
My final concern is about countries that claim they are complying with a treaty, but in fact are only doing it halfheartedly and badly so. That weakens the treaty for the rest of the world. As a result, other countries may well decide to follow suit. What Canada is in the process of doing is complying with a small part of the treaty, but mostly it is undermining it. That is not going to happen on my watch, and that is why I will be moving a motion.
I move, seconded by the member for Victoria:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
“this House decline to give third reading to Bill C-47, An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments), because it:
a) doesn't require the Minister of Foreign Affairs to reassess existing export permits should new information about human rights abuses be revealed post-export;
b) does not allow for exports of military goods to the United States to be licensed, tracked, or reported back to Canadians in any way;
c) goes against the spirit and the letter of the Arms Trade Treaty.”