Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-85, an act to amend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act and to make related amendments to other acts.
As New Democrats have pointed out in previous debates on this bill, we have serious concerns about the lack of human rights protections contained in the act, particularly relating to the rights of Palestinians in territories occupied by Israel. The NDP tried to address these concerns at committee, but all amendments were voted down.
That said, we are not opposed to a free trade agreement with Israel. New Democrats are in favour of international trade agreements that respect human rights, the rights of workers, the environment and all of our international obligations. In fact, we supported the bill at second reading and had proposed amendments that would have made Bill C-85 a truly progressive free trade agreement, the very sort of agreement the current government claims, with great bluster and swagger, to support, but never actually seems to sign.
Other parties like to say that the NDP does not support free trade and has never supported a free trade agreement. My response is that the NDP supports and actively encourages trade agreements that are fair and responsible, trade agreements that respect human rights, the rights of workers, the environment and all of our international obligations. Canada has yet to sign such an agreement, and if one judges by actions and interactions, is not particularly interested in doing so just yet.
I am quite proud of the amendments we proposed at committee for this bill. We brought forward amendments on human rights, gender rights, indigenous rights and labour rights—reasonable and achievable amendments, as proven by the advances made by the European Union in the update of its free trade agreement with Israel—to ensure that relations between Canada and Israel are based on respect for human rights and international law.
Our amendments, first and foremost, ensure this fundamental concept. They would ensure that the government undertakes an annual gender-based analysis and gender impact assessment that would be applied to the entire agreement, as well as enforceable corporate social responsibility and the standards and principles set out in the United Nations document entitled “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights”.
As well, we brought amendments to ensure the provisions of the agreement would respect the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and that the rights of workers are protected through mandatory mechanisms laid out in the International Labour Organization's Decent Work Agenda, which lays out four pillars contained in the sustainable development goals. One mandatory mechanism is the creation of an independent labour secretariat with the power to oversee a dispute settlement process.
Another amendment was to ensure the creation of a framework for transnational bargaining to allow unions to represent workers in Canada and Israel.
Likewise, we brought forward amendments on environmental protections. These were brought forward in order to ensure a high level of environmental protection through comprehensive and legally binding commitments that meet Canada's obligations under the Paris Agreement reached on December 12, 2015, and to protect against bulk water exports and ensure that water is not labelled as a commodity, which is profoundly important.
We also tabled amendments to include a gender impact assessment, along with an economic impact analysis, a detailed job analysis and an analysis on the impacts of the act on human rights in both countries, including the occupied Palestinian territories.
As members can see, these are basic common sense proposals that are designed to ensure that everyone, and not just our multinationals, benefits from the agreement.
As our party's critic for international human rights, I am gravely concerned about the impact these trade agreements have on human rights in the nations involved. Economic objectives, unfortunately, conflict with human rights obligations in many scenarios.
Canada, for instance, has free trade agreements with a number of countries with appalling human rights records, such as Honduras; Mexico, a country whose very state apparatus has come perilously close to collapsing due to corruption by and conflict with the largest narcotics trafficking enterprises in the world; and Colombia, where over 400 human rights defenders have been murdered over the last three years.
As for this Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, I am deeply concerned about the lack of human rights protections in the bill and the lack of recognition of the rights of Palestinians living in their sovereign territories occupied by Israel.
Canadians expect their government to sign trade deals that respect human rights, international law and our foreign affairs policies. This legislation does not conform to these expectations. Without these protections, the Canadian government is not respecting Canada's commitment to a peaceful and just settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The European Union at least pushed for and received a human rights clause in its free trade agreement with Israel. Notably, since 2015, the EU, a member of the World Trade Organization, has required that products from the occupied territories be labelled as such. While the Israel government has opposed these measures, it has not challenged them at the World Trade Organization. This is important, as Canadians are concerned that Israeli wine, for instance, lacks proper labelling as to whether grapes were produced in the occupied territories.
In July of 2017, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ruled that wines made in the occupied West Bank could not be labelled as products of Israel. After the ruling, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario directed its vendors to pull the products from their shelves. The CFIA emphasized that Canada does not recognize the occupied territories as part of Israel and that labelling products produced there as made in Israel was misleading for consumers and in violation of Canada's Food and Drugs Act.
After a strong backlash, the CFIA said, “We did not fully consider the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement”, which applies to the territory where the customs laws of Israel are applied. This is not acceptable.
This updated iteration of this free trade agreement was a perfect opportunity for us to address and specifically articulate this problem. Let me explain. This trade agreement appears to fail to distinguish between the State of Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The European Union has, since 2015, as mentioned, required products from the occupied territories to be labelled as such, yet article1.4.1(b) of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement stipulates instead that the agreement applies to “the territory where its customs laws are applied”.
Under the terms of the 1994 Paris protocol, Israel and Palestine are part of a customs union under which Israel collects duties on goods destined for the Palestinian territories. However, the existence of a customs union does not change the fact that the West Bank, where illegal Israeli settlements have proliferated, remains occupied territory. Bill C-85 appears to cover the products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
Neither Canada nor the United Nations recognizes these settlements as part of Israel. These settlements are illegal. They clearly violate the fourth Geneva convention, which prohibits the settlement of territories acquired by war and the movement of indigenous people in those territories, among other things.
In fact, there is virtual global unanimity that the territories seized and occupied by Israel since 1967, which are the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza, are not part of Israel. Indeed, those territories are a fraction of the land awarded to the Palestinian people by the United Nations partition of 1947.
As stated, Palestinians have been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. That is 51 years. The Canadian government's own policy does not recognize permanent Israeli control over these territories, and stipulates that Israeli settlements, occupation and control violate the fourth Genera convention and many Security Council resolutions.
As stated as recently as 2016 at the United Nations Security Council:
[The Security Council] Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace;
It also goes on to call upon all states, including Canada, “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”. I would suggest to you that a trade instrument that respects international law would distinguish between the occupied territory and the State of Israel because a trade agreement is a relevant dealing.
I am gravely concerned that this agreement fails our international commitment. It fails its own international commitment to be a respected covenant of trade with another sovereign power. It puts us afoul of international law. Products made in the occupied territories in Palestine must be labelled as such. To fail to do so amounts to a countenance of illegal annexation of territory.
More broadly, I wish to speak for the millions of Canadians who want to see peace in this region and the creation of the secure and sovereign states of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.
Israel has not complied with its obligations under the Geneva convention. Over time, it has steadily and consistently increased its illegal settlements in Palestine.
In the end, most Canadians wish for a safe, secure, sovereign Israel and Palestine, living in peace and friendship and in mutual co-operation. We all want to see increased commercial, political, social and cultural relations with Israel. However, we also want to see these very same relationship benefits extended to the Palestinians. Trade agreements are important legal instruments that play an important role, along with diplomacy, in ensuring that internationally recognized human rights standards and laws are adhered to and maintained.
They absolutely must themselves comply with these laws and norms. The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement is not merely the technical construct of an economic relationship, with chapters and chapters on the exchange of goods and services and some voluntary feel-good promises; this is a political treatise that has profound influence on people. It is reckless to sign a free trade agreement that disregards the issue of occupied territory. This only exacerbates the situation, and for what?
I mentioned earlier that the NDP is in support of trade agreements that uphold our international commitments, human rights, the sustainable development goals, indigenous rights and gender rights, and that align with our own foreign policies. However, I would like to point out that a year on from the signing of CETA, our exports have decreased. It makes us question again a trade agreement that undermines human rights, that undermines social responsibility. Why would we sign a trade agreement with Israel that does not respect the position of Palestinian territory? It is reckless because it exacerbates the situation, and why? What is it all for?
We have other free trade agreements that were followed by a decrease in exports to the countries we have signed with. We have signed 14 trade agreements, and exports have decreased to those countries. There is a major fundamental issue, a major fundamental approach to the trade agreements that we have to address. There are underlying issues that have to be examined, and bolder steps have to be taken so that we align not only with our own foreign policies but with international law.
We covet a seat on the United Nations Security Council, and this is a perfect opportunity for this country to step up when it is updating this free trade agreement. In being so bold as to update it, we do not have to forge a path on our own. The European Union has articulated exactly the kinds of amendments that we see as putting us in alignment with our international commitments and our own domestic foreign policies that have been laid out.
We have fundamental issues that need to be addressed with the types of trade agreements that we are creating and signing, and if they are not actually creating opportunities for Canadians businesses, then that is a springboard. It is a definite impetus for us to delve in and see what is fundamentally wrong with these agreements. This is a perfect opportunity for the Government of Canada to change the trajectory.
Enough with the voluntary guidelines for corporate social responsibility. There need to be real, enforceable rules. We could have negotiated stronger language, just as the European Union did with Israel. We could take at least the astute step that the EU has taken on labelling the origin of a product for where it came from: occupied territory. Why mince words? Why not assert international law and human rights? Why not insist on it?
It is disappointing that with this iteration of the CIFTA, a valuable opportunity has been discarded with regard to Israel and Palestine. Canada's trade policy does not align with its foreign policy. The latter acknowledges the importance of international law and the fact that the settlements violate this law. By including settlement products in the provisions of the CIFTA, such treatment de facto legitimizes the settlements, encourages their economic growth and contributes to their permanence. In any free trade agreement, the question should always be “cui bono?”: who benefits?