April 29, 2014

CPC

Gary Schellenberger

Conservative

Mr. Gary Schellenberger (Perth—Wellington, CPC)

Mr. Chair, I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in this debate.

Canada has always played an important role in responding to global crises and tragedy. With appropriate, timely, and effective assistance, our contributions aim to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain the dignity of those affected by conflicts and natural disasters.

As we know, politically motivated violence and ethnic conflict have gripped South Sudan for more than four months. If the poignant images alone have not been enough to make us want to help, the number of casualties and victims makes it clear that we must.

It is estimated that between 10,000 and 40,000 people have died in the violence. Today some 817,000 South Sudanese are displaced within the country, and over 270,000 have fled as refugees to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda.

It is impossible for us to understand what it must be like to be so afraid and so desperate that the only hope is to flee one's home and leave everything behind, yet that is reality for thousands of South Sudanese civilians, people who just three short years ago voted overwhelmingly for independence and rejoiced in the birth of their new nation.

South Sudan's new beginning formally ended 22 years of civil war that caused the country to have some of the worst development and humanitarian indicators in the world. An estimated 90% of the country's 10.8 million people live below the poverty line. An estimated seven million people in South Sudan are at risk of food insecurity. The maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world: for every 100,000 births, over 2,000 mothers die. The child mortality rate is no better, with 106 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

These are some of South Sudan's regular development challenges, the challenges that made Canada want to invest development dollars there in the first place. They are among the reasons that our development programming in South Sudan centres on saving the lives of mothers and children and on improving agricultural capabilities so that people can get the food they need and earn a living off the land.

Now South Sudan faces challenges of another kind. The conflict has caused the country to plunge deeper into instability, and that concerns us.

We worry for South Sudan's political and economic health, already fragile to begin with. We worry for its people, already struggling to overcome the challenges they face.

In response to the dramatically increasing needs and the international humanitarian system that has ranked South Sudan among the highest priorities, United Nations agencies and international NGOs have ramped up their presence and widened their operations considerably throughout the country.

Overall, despite being hindered in their efforts to assist people by the continuing insecurity and looting, humanitarian agencies are increasing their capabilities and responses to the crisis. They are particularly focused on strengthening responses outside of the capital, Juba, where there have been considerable unmet needs.

During this crisis, Canada once again stepped up its humanitarian efforts as part of the international community. On April 1, the Minister of International Development announced nearly $25 million in new funding in response to 2014 appeals from the United Nations, the International Red Cross movement, and Canadian non-governmental organizations. The money will help to get people the food they need, put a roof over their head, give them increased access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities and, for the ill or wounded, access to emergency medical care.

We hope that our efforts, in co-operation with those of our friends and partners, will contribute to putting an end to this spiralling violence and ensure a calm and peaceful transition process in South Sudan.

Recipients of our funding have included the United Nations World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Humanitarian Air Service, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the International Organization for Migration, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Relief Canada, Médecins Sans Frontières Canada, and World Vision Canada. Based on assessments, these organizations are best positioned to ensure that people are physically safe and receive proper health care, and that they have food, water, and shelter. It is worth pointing out that their work is not easy. A humanitarian mission never is, particularly not under a black cloud of violence as is the case in South Sudan.

In January, Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that thousands of South Sudanese were going without help because of interference in humanitarian activities. That should never happen. Intentionally preventing access to life-saving assistance is deplorable, much like acts of violence against those working to keep civilians safe. Since the conflict began, three humanitarian workers have been killed, caught in the crosshairs of a conflict had that nothing to do with them or with an overwhelming majority of South Sudanese. Canada condemns such cowardly attacks, and calls for full, safe, and unhindered access for humanitarian organizations in South Sudan and in all other places where humanitarian workers are engaged in life-saving activity.

Few places are more challenging for aid workers than South Sudan. In another few weeks, the rainy season will begin, cutting off up to 60% of the country. Road access in key locations of humanitarian response is minimal or impossible from May until November. Canada has offered considerable support since the conflict began, and will continue to pay close attention to ensure that we are doing everything we can to keep South Sudan civilians safe from this crisis.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP)

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague, who sits on the foreign affairs committee, for his intervention.

It is with great alarm and sadness and with concern around the recent events in the whole area that we have been discussing, that I posed some questions on the Central African Republic, concerns about what we have been hearing in Burundi and of course South Sudan. We had done a study on South Sudan just before the elections, in the last Parliament. One of the things we underlined was the need for Canada to stay engaged. We had been involved in the 2005 peace agreement and accord but it was very clear at the time, before full independence, that South Sudan would need our support.

My question for my colleague across the way is this. At a time when things are so fragile and with a nascent country, the newest country that we have seen formed in the last number of years in the family of nations, would the member not agree with me that we really do need to game up, that we need to provide more support, both in governance and in security, and ensure that we do not take our eyes off? I am concerned, as many are, that we had a strong commitment before, but since we have seen the Sudan task force basically dissolve, there have been concerns about what our short-term and long-term commitments are. I would just like to get his comments on that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Gary Schellenberger

Conservative

Mr. Gary Schellenberger

Mr. Chair, Canada is concerned with the humanitarian situation in South Sudan. We all know that. We are deeply concerned by the reports of ethnically targeted violence. Canada calls for the perpetrators of those crimes to be identified and brought to justice.

The government is providing life-saving food, water, sanitation, medical assistance, emergency shelter, and protection for those in need. Canada is providing emergency food assistance to 2.3 million food-insecure people throughout the country, providing access to over one million people across South Sudan to improve sanitation and safe water, helping 80,700 pregnant women access antenatal care, and building a new maternity ward in eastern South Sudan to provide 24-hour emergency obstetric and newborn care services.

Canada is very concerned by the deteriorating situation in South Sudan. Canada condemns these acts in the strongest possible terms. We call on all parties to immediately allow for the safe passage of humanitarian assistance to those to whom it is intended. We will continue to monitor the situation very closely.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
LIB

Kirsty Duncan

Liberal

Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.)

Mr. Chair, I would like to reiterate, I really hope foreign affairs will do a study regarding South Sudan.

To my hon. colleague, will the government consider increasing support to UNMISS beyond its assessed and voluntary contributions to the UN to protect civilians, especially women and children, from violence? For example, the government has previously funded protection of civilian capacity for the UN operation in the DRC. Will it consider doing the same for South Sudan? Also, will the government adjust and renew its long-term development programming?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Gary Schellenberger

Conservative

Mr. Gary Schellenberger

Mr. Chair, I will answer that the best I can. I know that we have recently put more money into the UN and as time goes on we are monitoring the situation very closely. I am quite sure, along with our allies and UN commitments, we will be there for the people of South Sudan.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar

Mr. Chair, along with the disturbing, horrific reports we have had just a week ago, we know that there are ethnic tensions. We know there has been a manipulation of ethnicity and that this is something that will only be dealt with if there is strong international support, not just what we have had in the past, but what is required clearly for the short and medium term.

I appreciate that my colleague is not the minister and he cannot speak for the government that way. I appreciate that and I am not trying to corner him. However, I get the impression after we have heard the really disturbing reports, which were difficult to watch if anyone saw the news reports recently, the kinds of things we are seeing are a much smaller scale of what happened 20 years ago in Rwanda. There is targeting of people and the use of violence in a very perverted way.

Would he not agree at least that we really need to have another look at what is happening right now, in real time, in South Sudan, in light of the fact that we have a historical past? The Government of Canada has done a lot of good work there, this government and previous governments. Would he not agree that we really need to look at some ways that we can deal with this most recent situation? I am just talking to him as a member across the way, a member of the foreign affairs committee. Perhaps we should look at some other recommendations to game up, as they say, to deal with the present situation, which is very dangerous.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Gary Schellenberger

Conservative

Mr. Gary Schellenberger

Mr. Chair, I do know that it has been put very plainly that Africans like most problems in Africa to be solved by Africans. I have heard that over the last number of years. They want to see African forces, or African forces want to go in to some of these situations to help them make them work. As our parliamentary secretary said, he sits with the African Union at various times. He goes to its meetings to help give guidance and to make sure that we can perhaps work together to make these atrocities go away.

It will not happen overnight, I am quite sure, but I feel that our government is working very hard, along with the people in the UN and the African forces to make sure that we can try to bring an end to this violence in South Sudan.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
LIB

Kirsty Duncan

Liberal

Ms. Kirsty Duncan

Mr. Chair, again, I would really like to thank everybody for being here tonight.

I would also like to raise what my colleague from the NDP was talking about. He said that the UN initially said that 200 died in Bentiu, and now we know that it is 400 in the last weeks. According to the monitoring and reporting mechanism on grave violations against children, of which Canada is a key supporter, since the conflict began in December, 2013, and through to April, the UN received more reports of grave child rights violations in armed conflict in South Sudan than it did for all of 2013. It has affected over 22,000 boys and girls through injuries, rape, death, and recruitment into armed forces.

I wonder if the government will encourage the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict to travel to South Sudan and request a report to the UN Security Council on the situation of children in South Sudan? There have been 22,000 affected between December and April. The children cannot wait.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Gary Schellenberger

Conservative

Mr. Gary Schellenberger

Mr. Chair, I know a group from London, Ontario, that is quite involved in South Sudan and in an agriculture venture there. It was just getting things to a point where it was able to produce more than enough grain to feed its people and sell some of the other products. I am quite sure that we have people on the ground. These people are not really NGOs, but they are doing it on their own with no government support. It has been a great situation that has been working well.

I do not know whether they are affected. They are near the Nile. I do not know if they are affected that far away, but I am sure that the minister and our government will be putting as many resources and as much of a push on the issue in South Sudan as we can.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP)

Mr. Chair, I rise tonight to provide some input from the New Democratic Party on what we think is important for all of us to be seized with about South Sudan.

I remember very well my first year as a member of Parliament. Some of the most important debates we had here were around Afghanistan, but the other issue we were seized with was what was happening in Sudan. At the time, it was not divided into the two countries. I will never forget, as a new MP, being quite taken with the fact that there were things we were doing in Sudan at the time, but there was a deep crisis in Darfur, the situation in Darfur that many have said was like a genocide in slow motion.

We really pushed to have more done. At the time, we were pushing for more lift capacity, helicopters, to support the United Nations mission, and we wanted to have the government seized with the issue. In fact there was some good work done and the government did provide some resources, albeit we wanted more, but I must acknowledge that the Conservatives did support the mission and focused on Darfur at the time. We believed more lift capacity was available and they could have used it, but anyhow.

I say that because at the time we were all looking toward a resolution of the conflict and looked at the 2005 peace accord, to which Canada was a major contributor, and we had the development into a separate country. This was very exciting. There were many people concerned at the time that we would not see a successful partition and the creation of a new country.

However, as I just said in my question to my colleague across the way, at the time just before the creation of the new country of South Sudan, the foreign affairs committee—of which I was a member at the time, before the last Canadian election—had warned that there would be a need to stay with the Sudanese, to stay engaged, to make sure that, just because a new country had been created, it did not mean we could walk away.

We have been concerned that the Sudan task force that was set up to help in the Department of Foreign Affairs simply was dissolved at the very time when there was a need to stay with the South Sudanese and governance and making sure this new nascent country was going to be successful, to help it with economic development, to help it with basic governance, to make sure there would not be this kind of cleavage, ethnically speaking, or there would not be the external threats from Sudan in the north. Not that we predicted these exact events that just happened, but we did know and predict that there would be a need for support, and many other countries have noted that.

I have already mentioned the deep concern I and many of us have with what is happening in the region. Of course, there is CAR, the Central African Republic, and concerns about some of the reports coming out of Burundi, but what we heard this past week about the massacres in South Sudan clearly underlined and underscored the need for the world community to take action.

It is important and instructive to look at what some of the agencies are saying on the ground. Médecins Sans Frontières has been very clear about the need for additional support, and I know the parliamentary secretary stood in the House to acknowledge the loss of humanitarian workers. I thank her for that. In doing so, we need to acknowledge their loss but also what they are asking us to do. They are asking us to scale up humanitarian aid. Médecins Sans Frontières is very focused and does some extraordinarily good work in very dangerous, precarious situations. It wants us to scale up aid and make sure there is going to be support for that. In this take note debate forum, we want to talk about ideas, and it is a good idea to scale up the aid and look at how we can help.

We have to take a look at how the UN is working and how these agencies are co-ordinated on the ground. That is something it has pointed out. The humanitarian aid must remain independent and impartial, so that the humanitarian organizations can gain access at this point. This is a conflict, and in a conflict it is imperative that there are clear lines and avenues for aid to get to the people. That is why it believes it is important to have the aid go through these independent actors, so that it can get to the people who need it and that it will be impartial.

We also need to look at these recent crises that have happened and how the Government of Canada can assist the UN to restore credibility by calling for the establishment of an independent humanitarian coordinator. This is very important, because, as I mentioned before, South Sudan right now is not able to govern itself independently. Why? It is a nascent government. It does not have the infrastructure in place. It is a smart thing that Médecins Sans Frontières is saying, which is to have the humanitarian coordinator deal with what is happening on the ground, deal with capacities.

It also points out that the Government of Canada can demand that both parties of the conflict uphold their obligations under the international humanitarian law to directly provide or allow for the provision of humanitarian aid to all people during the conflict. This is really important, because then the international community is saying to both sides of the conflict that their role here is very clear under the international law and they must allow for the provision of humanitarian assistance. It is something we can do and we must do, and I would urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to engage in that light.

There is widespread hunger because of this conflict among people who have nothing to do with the conflict, who are not on either side but are affected by it. This, of course, breeds more misery. We have seen some of the estimates that have come out. An estimated 7 million people right now are at risk of food insecurity. We know how that can happen very quickly if left unattended. The United States is likely to keep up support in the Upper Nile, but we have problems in parts that we just cannot reach right now because of the conflict. We have to work with our partners in this. South Sudanese people should be planting right now, but they are not able to because of the conflict.

These are all things that we could be doing. Médecins Sans Frontières has been helpful in its very specific recommendations.

The other aspect of this that we have to look at is the neighbourhood. There are a lot of pressures on South Sudan. We know about the north. We have to see that there is going to be support that South Sudan will receive from people in the neighbourhood. That is going to be helpful. We have to see “do no harm” from those in the north who, in the past, have been belligerent in affecting people.

Right now, we need to support the UN mission. The United Nations mission in South Sudan is hosting about 70,000 civilians who are fleeing ethnic reprisals. Right now, it is very under-resourced. It needs more resources, frankly. The UN mission in South Sudan needs more support. This is something that Canada can consider supporting. I am not talking about troops for a peacekeeping mission, as I said today in the House, but certainly support that can help.

Let me give members a couple of ideas. This is from the International Crisis Group. I will maybe get into this in the questions and answers. It said:

To the UN Security Council:

1. Amend the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to ensure it is consistent across the country—

This is what I mentioned. There is a need for support in different places, because places are isolated. It goes on to say that the mandate should be amended so that it:

...emphasises protection of civilians, human rights reporting, support for the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) mediation process and logistical help for the African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry.

This is to find out exactly what happened here.

I will quote one more bit before my time is up.

The second recommendation from the crisis group is:

2. Signal clearly that leaders will be held responsible for the actions of troops they command, and any interference with UNMISS and humanitarian operations may give rise to targeted sanctions.

I will finish with the third recommendation, which is:

3. Ensure that any support provided to an IGAD or other regional force is consistent with and does not undermine UNMISS’ ability to carry out its mandated tasks, particularly its protection of civilians responsibilities.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
LIB

Kirsty Duncan

Liberal

Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.)

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank my colleague for his thoughtful speech and the new ideas he has brought to the debate.

Since signing a comprehensive peace agreement with Sudan in 2005 and becoming independent in 2011, South Sudan has not undergone a much-needed process of reconciliation. There are deep-seated ethnic grievances, which will need to be addressed in order for South Sudan to avoid a repeated escalation of violence, and now we see UNMISS's bases have been specifically targeted.

I wonder what the member thinks Canada could contribute to the peace and reconciliation efforts.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar

Mr. Chair, I think that, first of all, we have to communicate to all parties. This is not just Canada, of course. This is a collective responsibility in the international community. We have to effectively communicate to all parties that it is absolutely clear that their responsibility is to protect civilians. That is the first and immediate thing. The longer term will touch on what the member has mentioned.

I think there is a need to establish three separate negotiation tracks, focused on the SPLM, which would be one track, the armed groups, and communal conflict, tracks that are appropriately sequenced, and contribute to the broader piece of national political dialogue.

If we are able to kind of separate into three tracks the immediate protection and then the longer-term negotiations, looking at the role of the SPLM, the other armed groups, and the kind of communal conflicts that are happening, we can then get to the final stage, which is what the member has touched on, to look at some form of reconciliation.

This is something that will be more difficult, but important. It is something on which we can work with our partners after we have dealt with the short term, such as I have just laid out, the SPLM, the armed groups, and what is happening in some of these communal conflicts, which are the three tracks that are there. The international community must then focus on working together to look at reconciliation, which would provide the basis for South Sudan to be able to be truly independent, and not just in name but in governance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Lois Brown

Conservative

Ms. Lois Brown (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, CPC)

Mr. Chair, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague for his concern for South Sudan.

I had the opportunity to be in South Sudan two years ago at a time when the Jonglei province was of particular concern. Fortunately, much of the conflict in the north had been somewhat settled at that point in time, but obviously there were concerns around the Jonglei province in particular, which is still where a lot of the conflict is taking place.

Given that we have organizations in Africa like the African Union, the African Commission, ECOWAS, IGAD, and SADC, I wonder if my colleague has any thought on how they might participate in helping to find resolution.

There are cultural issues that are very sensitive. We know that. There are geographic considerations that are very sensitive.

I wonder if my colleague has any thoughts on how the African organizations themselves can help to negotiate some of this much-needed conflict resolution.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar

Mr. Chair, that is a great question. What we need to do is provide support, as we have done with other countries. Guatemala comes to mind, when it was dealing with the horrific mass atrocities in the 1980s.

The AU Commission of Inquiry into human rights abuses will need adequate staff, adequate training, and resources to consult widely to get things functioning. That is something we can help with concretely, with all of the other partners the member mentioned.

Make no mistake. Canada is seen as a valid partner, a wanted partner. As I said, it is with some sadness, as a matter of fact, that we disbanded the Sudanese task force, the desk within foreign affairs. It was noted just recently at committee that the funding in the last couple of years has lapsed. I do not think it is a question of resources. I think it is a question of focusing and coordinating the resources and providing the support South Sudan needs.

We can work with all of the organizations she mentioned to provide, as I mentioned, to the AU Commission of Inquiry, something we did in Guatemala on justice and human rights protection. Our assistance would not only be welcomed but celebrated, because it is something we have done before. I gave the government credit for what it did before, as well as the previous government. It is just a matter of being consistent, carrying on, and showing that we can play a constructive role.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
NDP

Djaouida Sellah

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Djaouida Sellah (Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, NDP)

Mr. Chair, I listened carefully, as I always do, to my colleague's speech. We are all concerned about the situation in South Sudan, of course.

We are asking the government to provide additional assistance, whether that means humanitarian assistance or forcing the people of South Sudan to sign a treaty for the peace and stability of the country.

However, does my colleague think that the government should sign the treaty to prevent sales of arms, including small arms, which are often found in these conflicts, especially in African countries?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
NDP

Paul Dewar

New Democratic Party

Mr. Paul Dewar

Mr. Chair, what the member is getting at is the arms trade treaty. We are still waiting for the government to formally respond as to whether it is going to sign the treaty. I note that all of our allies have done this, including the United States, the U.K., and Australia. I say that because it is related. The arms trade treaty was negotiated to deal with the trade of illegal arms and arms sales, particularly small arms. Small arms in Africa have been noted as the arms of mass destruction, because they have done so much damage. They have flooded into the region, particularly the Sahel but also the area we are talking about.

While I am on my feet, I will say that we should not only sign the arms trade treaty to send the right message that we are serious about armed conflict. A really smart idea, again coming from the crisis group, is the idea of establishing a contact group. We have seen this method used before. The AU would be part of it, the UN, the U.S., the U.K., Norway, the European Union, China, South Africa, and maybe even Canada. I think that would be supportive. I say maybe even Canada, because I think the government needs to start to take those leadership opportunities when they arise.

I am getting the sense from the other side, in the case of CAR and in the case of Sudan, and I heard it from one of the members earlier, that because we are not within the continent, and as was said before, it should be an African solution, we should not take part. Maybe we just happen to disagree. Clearly it is not about us dictating terms. I see my colleague shaking her head. I think she would agree that we need to be involved.

I would like it clarified by the government how we are involved. It is difficult to see the progress in terms of engagement in Africa when we have disbanded the Sudanese task force, when we have seen a lapse in funding, money Parliament appropriated to the Department of Foreign Affairs, to CIDA, that is not being invested.

This is not about saving money and good administration. This is about hundreds of millions of dollars that were entrusted to the government to invest in its priorities. That is how the process works.

There are ideas we are putting forward here tonight. The government will have its own ideas and consult within its own departments. We need to see our country step up in Africa right now, because there is crisis in the Sahel, in the Central African Republic, and in Sudan. It would be applauded by everyone in this House. It would be supported. It would also be something that would make a difference, clearly in the case of Sudan and clearly in the case of the Central African Republic. Finally, I think Canadians would want to see us do it.

For all those reasons, I plead with the government to look at their strategy in Africa. If it wants to do things differently, fine, but let us get going on this, because people are asking for our help, and we need to be there.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Mike Wallace

Conservative

Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC)

Mr. Chairman, I am honoured to have this opportunity to address food security in South Sudan and what Canada is doing to help get food to those who need it most. I want to speak to both the immediate humanitarian need for food and why food security and agriculture are the most viable long-term solutions to poverty and poor nutrition and a potential linchpin for the economy of South Sudan.

As some members may recall, South Sudan first gained independence on July 9, 2011, six months after the South Sudanese overwhelmingly voted in favour of seceding from Sudan through a peaceful referendum. However, this forced an uneasy peace in a country whose people were more familiar with responding to violence than with building stable futures for themselves and their children.

Improving food security is an important key to building a better and more peaceful future in the wake of the damage and destruction inflicted by 22 years of civil war, which claimed an estimated two million lives and left four million people without homes.

In December 2013, South Sudan was plunged into crisis yet again, this time as the result of ethnic and political tension within the new country. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that since December 2013, the conflict has forced more than one million people from their homes, including more than 800,000 people within South Sudan. An estimated 250,000 people have fled to the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.

At the time South Sudan separated from Sudan, its oil potential offered the prospect of a prosperous economic future that would benefit all, including the poor. However, too much dependence on oil for government revenues has proven to be a problem and the source of many tensions with neighbouring Sudan. For over a year, South Sudan ceased oil production, with severe consequences for the economy, including inflation.

Let me say what the people of South Sudan are up against. First, South Sudan is a new country, where the majority are young people. More than 70% of the population is under the age of 30. Their lives are a constant battle for survival in the face of impossible odds. The country has some of the worst development and humanitarian indicators in the world, with 90% of the country, nearly 11 million people, living below the national poverty line. Almost half of South Sudanese do not have enough to eat, and nearly a quarter of the population relies on food aid. This year, up to seven million people are likely to experience some form of food insecurity because of this crisis. Half the population does not have access to clean drinking water.

A majority of the country's people live in rural areas, and most households depend on small-scale crop farming or animal husbandry as their main sources of income. South Sudan's small-scale farmers lack access to credit and land because of the absence of laws on property rights and land tenure, which keeps them from expanding their production. Women, who provide most of the labour in agricultural production, are doubly disadvantaged because of gender inequality.

Although a remarkable 90% of the land in the country is suitable for farming, less than 5% of it is cultivated. In fact, South Sudan imports half of its food from neighbouring countries, chiefly Kenya and Uganda. Nevertheless, South Sudan has made significant development advances since the civil war between Sudan and South Sudan ended.

Over the last five years, food production has increased by 22%. Just before the conflict broke out in December 2013, national food security was the best it had been in over five years. These are some of the reasons the government of South Sudan is looking to agriculture to help it turn things around. The agriculture sector is still South Sudan's best option for economic growth and diversification. In the meantime, humanitarian assistance will continue to be needed and may increase because of the armed conflict, which has affected the normal planting season.

While Canada is concerned with the worsening humanitarian situation in South Sudan, we remain committed to South Sudan's development as a new country. Most of our development initiatives in South Sudan are ongoing, even though we certainly have had to adopt some of these because of the current conflict. In our programs in South Sudan, Canada's approach tries to balance humanitarian assistance for the immediate situation with the long-term development programs that focus primarily on food security and agriculture.

For maternal, newborn and child health, as well as advancing democracy, Canada is among the top bilateral donors to that country. In 2012-13, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development provided a total of $84.9 million to South Sudan for development and humanitarian assistance.

Our main focus in food security includes building smallholder farms to meet immediate food security needs as well as initiating market access to improve livelihoods. Canada has particular expertise to offer in year-round farming of fruits, vegetables, as well as in the fisheries. All of these could help to bridge the current gap between growing seasons and feed the farmers as well as the rest of the population throughout the year.

At present, we are working through UN agencies such as the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as well as Canadian NGOs like the Canadian Red Cross.

Through these organizations, Canada is supporting farmer training and providing agricultural supplies such as seeds and tools to communities so they can plant basic crops to boost food production, a dire need in the current crisis.

We are achieving good results. For example, support to the Canadian Red Cross has increased food production for 14,000 individuals in the eastern part of the state. One woman the project helped was recently awarded the title of “best farmer” in her state. We are really changing individual lives through Canadian assistance.

Despite these gains, food shortages and the displacement of more than one million people have placed South Sudan at risk of famine this year. To address this situation, on April 1, Canada announced funding of nearly $25 million to address humanitarian needs arising from the current conflict. This funding is being used to help meet food, shelter, emergency medical care, safe drinking water and sanitation facilities and the protection of the most vulnerable people, especially refugees and displaced people.

In addition, Canada announced new funding of $51.5 million to support food production and develop livelihoods, so South Sudanese could continue to produce food and work toward self-sufficiency. This will also make farmers more resilient in times of crisis. This funding includes support to both displaced populations and their host communities to help avert a potential famine as a result of the crisis.

It is hard for Canadians with all our highways to imagine, but South Sudan has only 300 kilometres of paved roads in the entire country. Through the World Food Programme's efforts, Canada is helping to build 140 kilometres of roads that will ease delivery of humanitarian assistance and help bring agricultural goods from farms to markets.

The WFP's activities will also build irrigation networks and food storage facilities, as well as meet the immediate food needs of up to 450,000 people through a food for work program. Already, Canadian support has helped WFP to reach 56,940 people through this program.

Our support will improve fisheries through the United Nations Industrial Development Organization's five-year program, which will help fish folk living along the Nile River, especially women, to increase their harvest and improve their livelihood.

Overall, Canada's food security projects are helping to diversify and increase the production of nutritious foods and expand agricultural opportunities in one of the poorest countries on earth. Although there are risks, the risk of doing nothing is even greater.

Through these investments, we are helping South Sudan to make the transition from aid dependence to self-sufficiency in the long term, while meeting the urgent food needs of the people of South Sudan.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
LIB

Kirsty Duncan

Liberal

Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.)

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the hon. member for his focus on food security. There is a looming malnutrition crisis. UNICEF is warning dangerous levels of malnutrition threaten one-quarter million children and unless they are urgently reached with treatment, up to 50,000 children under age five could die this year.

With the rainy season and the ongoing insecurity, travelling by road is nearly impossible, making delivery of aid by air the most secure but also very expensive. I am wondering will the government encourage other donors to step up their funding for South Sudan, respond to changing needs on the ground and call on all parties for unimpeded humanitarian access so humanitarian organizations can reach the children in need.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Mike Wallace

Conservative

Mr. Mike Wallace

Mr. Chair, before I answer the question, as a member of Parliament from a relatively affluent community of Burlington, I have been told, in terms of grocery sales, that we are one of the top per capita in the country. We have a tremendous amount of food and it is hard for me and people from my riding to understand the actual needs of other countries, including South Sudan.

I use what is happening in Africa, in South Sudan, as an example when I am asked by constituents why we send aid around the world when we have our own issues here. My point to them is that they have no idea what life is really like in other parts of the world and Canada has a responsibility to be there, in this case, as I indicated in my speech, with humanitarian aid and food security.

To the point of my colleague, Canada cannot do it alone. We need our partners from around the world, whether they are NGOs or other countries, to understand and deliver what is really needed on the ground so people have food security and other basic needs, so they can progress, make a difference and develop a new country. The other issues take a back seat to famine and health when there is no help. That is why we are helping and why we as a government have been encouraging others, and are going to continue to encourage others, to help the people from South Sudan.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink
CPC

Lois Brown

Conservative

Ms. Lois Brown (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, CPC)

Mr. Chair, one of the things I was so impressed with in South Sudan when I was there was the incredible amount of arable land. The opportunity is there for South Sudan to really be a self-sufficient country.

When I was there, I met a gentleman by the name of David Tepper. He is from Stratford, Ontario, a developer, who went over because he was told of some business opportunities in South Sudan in growing acacia berries. When he got there and saw what the land was like, he decided that he would, along with a group of people he knew from the Stratford area, develop some farmland. He is now cultivating thousands of acres of land just outside of Juba. He is growing wheat, which he is selling to the World Food Programme, which is, in turn, helping to feed many of the people in South Sudan.

Knowing that these opportunities are there, with the expertise that Canada has, does my colleague think there are other opportunities that we might pursue there to help a real economy begin in South Sudan that would give the people a real hope and a real future?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Situation in the Republic of South Sudan
Permalink

April 29, 2014