Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean.
Our government entered office with a mandate to expand Canadian diplomacy and leadership on global issues. We are committed to promoting human rights and fostering peace. We are committed to ensuring that our foreign, defence, development, and trade policies can work hand in hand. It is with this in mind that I am so proud to be part of a government that is committed to an export control system that is transparent and that protects human rights at every stage of the assessment process.
Canada's export control regime is, by international standards, already one we should be very proud of. Canada promotes stringent transparency, and our export regime takes human rights into account during the assessment process. However, while I am proud of what has already been done to build Canada's export control system, I believe that to remain a global leader in human rights, we must continue to do better.
The changes we are proposing in Bill C-47 are about demonstrating Canada's commitment to human rights on the global stage so that we can hold our heads high, knowing that we continue to do our part as we align ourselves with our closest partners and allies in NATO and the G7. In other words, this is about returning Canada to the forefront of international peace and security efforts. As we make these changes, and as we build lasting policies that will advance Canada's engagement on the responsible trade of conventional arms, we need to take the care to ensure that we take an approach that works for Canada. We must build policies that work within the context of Canadian institutions and embark upon an approach to the implementation of the ATT that is practical, long-lasting, and bureaucratically feasible.
This is the first international treaty that explicitly acknowledges the social, economic, and humanitarian consequences of the illicit and unregulated trade in conventional arms. I think it is important to remember that what lies at the heart of this treaty is not bureaucracy or the motivation of partisanship but rather our collective obligation to advance the human security agenda and the international community's collective agreement that we must stand together if we are to protect the rights of those who live in insecure areas and conflict zones.
There has been fearmongering where this treaty is concerned. A debate that should have been centred on the protection of some of the world's most vulnerable people has instead been haunted by hollow, baseless speculation as to how this treaty might interfere with the rights and practices of Canadian gun owners.
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said:
This treaty will not diminish anyone's freedom, in fact the treaty recognizes the freedom of both individuals and states to obtain, possess and use arms for legitimate purposes.
Make no mistake, we would never think about supporting a treaty that is inconsistent with the rights of Americans, the rights of American citizens to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our constitution.
This treaty reaffirms the sovereign right of each country to decide for itself, consistent with its own constitutional and legal requirements, how to deal with the conventional arms that are exclusively used within its borders.
If people are legitimate law-abiding gun-owners or users here in Canada, this treaty will not impact them. The United States signed the treaty, and given the centrality of gun ownership in the United States, I highly doubt that it would have done so had there been any domestic impact from this treaty.
For anyone who may have misread or misunderstood the Arms Trade Treaty upon first reading, let me take this opportunity to remind everyone that the preamble to the ATT both reaffirms the sovereign right of any state to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system, and recognizes the legitimate political, security, economic, and commercial interests of states in the international trade in conventional arms.
From day one, this government has believed in evidence-based policy. Not only does that govern our outward-facing policy, but it affects how we operate internally as well.
We do not have unlimited resources or personnel, and we have to use them very smartly and efficiently. NDP members think differently. They want to force officials to review permits any time new information comes to light that could affect the larger decision to grant a permit.
Our officials are experts in their jobs. They know better than any of us in this House what would constitute a meaningful enough change to trigger a review of either an export or brokering permit. We should allow them to focus their energies in areas where changes are significant and carry a real risk of impacting the eventual result. By pulling them off these important reviews to engage in less critical work, we are simply raising the possibility of not catching something in the high-risk cases that could have an extremely detrimental effect and impact on the ground. Legislation must be reasonable.
The minister has the power to review permits, and in fact, the minister has used that power. The Arms Trade Treaty encourages state parties to review permits when relevant information comes to light. When we have experts tell us that they have relevant information that mandates a review, rest assured that a review will be carried out.
At committee, we learned that export experts wanted us to place the Arms Trade Treaty criteria into legislation so that we could have clear guidelines on which the decision to issue export-import permits could be assessed. We did that.
These criteria are the following: a serious violation of international and humanitarian law; a serious violation of international human rights law; an act constituting an offence under international conventions or protocols relating to terrorism to which Canada is a party; an act constituting an offence under international conventions or protocols relating to transnational organized crime to which Canada is a party; serious acts of gender-based violence; or serious acts of violence against women and children. These are mandatory considerations. They must be taken into account before any decision is made.
This amendment is at the very heart of the Arms Trade Treaty as originally envisioned. It is a vital tool to help protect human rights all around the world. Of note is the language on gender-based violence, which goes beyond the requirements of the Arms Trade Treaty. I am particularly proud of this effort on our members' part in committee to ensure that our foreign policy and development agenda align.
What else came out of committee? We now have a “substantial risk” clause in the proposed legislation. What does that mean? It would bind all future governments to the higher standards we are setting out in this proposed legislation. This clause would prevent the government from allowing for export or brokering if there were a substantial risk that it would lead to any of the acts I have previously listed. Prior to this amendment, there was no prohibition on allowing for export or brokering under these circumstances. It simply had to be considered as a factor.
The Arms Trade Treaty is a powerful tool, and acceding to it is a meaningful statement of our values. It is a way we can keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists and those who seek to do harm to Canada and its allies. The Arms Trade Treaty is a way we can reduce the risk that the trade of arms at the international level will be used to commit genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
As Canadians, we are blessed to live in a country where our strength is not measured only by our excellent defence forces or our resilient and growing economy. Our strength is measured by the people who inhabit this land who want to do good, not only in Canada but around the world. Our citizens demand that we engage with the world and that we continue to strive for peace and justice. That is the Canadian way, and that is the reason this government is going to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty.