June 18, 2014

NDP

Ève Péclet

New Democratic Party

Ms. Ève Péclet (La Pointe-de-l'Île, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, according to the Government of Canada, and based on what we have heard in the Conservatives' speeches, the use of cluster munitions is inconceivable and unacceptable.

Why have we not heard the Government of Canada or the Minister of Foreign Affairs condemn the use of cluster munitions in the current Syrian conflict and take a strong stance on this issue?

When we were dealing with Bill S-10, the parliamentary secretaries at the time told us that Canada had always staunchly defended this position. If so, why did the Conservative government not adopt a strong, clear position on the use of cluster munitions in the Syrian conflict?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Jinny Sims

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jinny Jogindera Sims

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to try to guess why my colleagues across the way have not taken that kind of position. I cannot imagine anybody on either side of the House supporting the use of cluster munitions.

What we have is a bill that is fundamentally flawed, one in which the government has inadvertently opened an escape hatch that we do not need. The interoperability clause that exists in section 2 of the convention is more than adequate to enable Canada to work with its allies. We as a country can have all kinds of caveats when we work with other allies, but to leave the possibility that our soldiers could be directing or ordering the use of these munitions as a result of leaving clause 11 in there is unconscionable.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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CPC

Peter MacKay

Conservative

Hon. Peter MacKay

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to questions on the order paper. They are questions nos. 489 and 490.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté (Beauport—Limoilou, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank all of my colleagues for being here tonight to debate a very important bill. I am honoured to speak to Bill C-6 because it is closely tied to our Canadian identity and to Canada's involvement in the community of nations. In addition, the bill deals with a serious moral issue.

It is crucial for us to carefully study this bill so that we can understand the extent of our commitment as we consider passing or abandoning a bill that will create so many exceptions that, in the end, the convention on cluster munitions that Canada has signed but not yet ratified will be devoid of all substance. The convention has already been undermined by the position taken by Canada, which was looking to remove all substance.

I am 47 years old. The Prime Minister has kept the promise he made to his voter base and his core supporters to profoundly change Canada. He is doing just that.

Bill C-6 is a perfect example of the profound changes that are being made to our country, transforming it to such an extent that I no longer recognize the Canada of my childhood, 25 or 30 years ago. The Canada I was proud of is increasingly becoming an illusion and a cause of embarrassment and even shame for many of our citizens. This is a very serious problem.

Canada has long been a leader and innovator. It still has quite a strong reputation around the world as a country that has promoted, defended and put in place a series of measures and actively supported and guided all the nations of this world in affirming, defending and protecting human rights so that human dignity is defended around the world.

Former prime minister Lester B. Pearson, who was minister of external affairs at the time, established the corps of peacekeepers, soldiers of peace, so that there would be an interposition force in conflicts around the world. Canada was recognized as an innovator for that.

Unfortunately, our country has now become particularly marginal in terms of its involvement and having its soldiers once again proudly wear the blue helmets of peacekeepers and serve as an active interposition force between parties in conflict around the world.

Canada also led the charge within the Commonwealth to force South Africa to abandon its apartheid system, which had been in place for decades. That particularly cruel system had resulted in intolerable situations in which people were subdued and their fundamental rights violated.

They were even killed in some instances. We remember particularly tragic episodes in the history of South Africa in which many people paid with their lives for claiming rights as simple as the right to live in dignity, to have enough to eat, to be housed or simply to have a place in society.

We can also be proud of that legacy of Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government. However, it now seems so long ago, and we appear to be increasingly moving away from the ideal that existed at the time.

In the 1990s, Canada also welcomed and supported the community of nations in implementing the convention on the prohibition of anti-personnel mines, also called the Ottawa treaty.

As I pointed out when I put a question to my colleague from Don Valley West, our government was so convinced of the validity and value of that treaty that it signed and ratified it on the same day, December 3, 1997. It was an admirable, far-reaching gesture. We can find no better example of a government moving from words to action.

Unfortunately, the effect of the bill that is before us today is to undermine a convention that has already been significantly undermined by the cycle of negotiations that the Canadian government seriously compromised. Canada forced the principle of interoperability into the convention so that our soldiers could potentially transport and use cluster munitions.

This class of weapons is far from new. Here I must admit a part of my own personal journey. When I was young, I was truly fascinated by human beings’ ability to invent all kinds of ways to gain the advantage on the battlefield and to innovate in order to neutralize and even destroy the enemy. That led me to find out about all those ways, land-based, naval and aerial.

It also helped me understand how weapons as particular, dangerous and destructive as cluster munitions could have evolved to such an advanced degree that it really sends shivers down one’s spine. Whether in bomb or missile form, cluster munitions can scatter dozens of mini-bombs or mini-missiles across the landscape. There is virtually no way to protect oneself from this type of weapon. Furthermore, once they have been used, it is very hard and dangerous to neutralize them, as is the case with anti-personnel weapons.

I listened carefully to the speeches by my Conservative Party colleagues, and I admit I absolutely failed to understand how they could defend the indefensible. I hope the image I am going to use will clearly illustrate how untenable the Conservative government’s position on Bill C-6 is.

What is being suggested as a way to prevent our soldiers from being prosecuted and convicted for using or transporting cluster munitions is comparable to my telling my son, if he sees the boy next door hit students with a baseball bat in the school yard, that I give him permission to do the same thing because I think that is fair.

This is absolutely indefensible. I do not know whether there is a better image than that, but that is the one that comes to mind. It is a deliberately brutal image. I will not conceal that fact. It is an image that shows the extent to which I think we are venturing onto a very slippery slope.

In the past three years, it has been an enormous privilege for me to serve as the member for Beauport—Limoilou and to be able to sit in the House of Commons with my 308 colleagues. I have been able to speak with people from all walks of life who have absolutely extraordinary knowledge, expertise and experience, which makes me feel quite humble. It also makes me see how far Canada’s leadership and, more particularly, the influence it can have, have declined everywhere.

I am an international relations enthusiast. A reputation is built gradually. Canada began to build its identity starting in World War I, and even before that, when the Laurier government demanded Canadian independence from the British Crown. It has benefited enormously from a particularly favourable geographic situation and, at certain times, has managed to position itself admirably on the geopolitical stage.

That heritage, that clout and the influence that Canada once enjoyed are being whittled away. Our nation still wields some influence since, fortunately, people in different countries are able to make the distinction. That is what I heard on my few trips abroad. Foreigners tend to make the distinction between the government's position and the values of Canadians. This is a very minor consolation.

It is simply not good enough to say that fortunately, people believe that Canadians still have good values, when the government has gone off track and completely in the opposite direction. We cannot just stand idly by and forsake our parents', grandparents' and great-grandparents' heritage. This heritage makes it possible for Canadians to enjoy a certain degree of privilege. When Canadians meet people from other corners of the globe, they listen to us and respect us. We have credibility when we speak.

There is something that is really disappointing about this government's approach, and that is its hypocrisy. There is no need to mince words.

We cannot claim to want to eventually banish cluster munitions without taking steps to avoid their use. The government has created a huge loophole in the convention with Bill C-6. It is just hot air, nothing but a marketing ploy, a PR exercise that will achieve very little at the end of the day, and that is truly disappointing. It betrays the trust that our constituents place in us. That is why, like my NDP colleagues, I am going to oppose the passage of this bill at third reading.

It is well nigh impossible to describe just how horrific the use of cluster munitions is.

That is why I evoked memories of my adolescence and my young adult life. I was interested in global issues, defence and the tools a country has to wage war and defend its territory. It is staggering to see the capacity of the human spirit to invent new tools that are increasingly sophisticated, broad and blind, as cluster munitions are, in order to target indiscriminately, and even primarily, civilians as opposed to combatants.

I would like to recall a very recent memory. I was learning about the advances in robotic applications and artificial intelligence on the battlefield. I will describe what I learned, which did not completely surprise me. I must admit that I was shocked to see just how easy it is to lose control. It is virtually unstoppable. We all have pictures in our heads of science fiction movies such as Star Wars, in which we see human-like combat robots deploy, fire indiscriminately and find a way of seizing the advantage on the battlefield. Indeed, the fiction pales into insignificance compared to reality.

Now, the reality is robots that have practically no humanoid appearance but a lot of characteristics found in other parts of the animal world, including the insect world. The concept that particularly struck me was that of autonomous robotic swarms. Currently, there is, for example, still some human control over the use of drones. This remote control makes it possible to keep one's distance and kill or injure people elsewhere in the world very easily while feeling a lot less implicated. This leads to huge ethical and personal conscience problems.

However, we now have very small autonomous systems that are able to cause death and destruction in innumerable swarms. I am referring to tens, hundreds or even thousands of small robots that can very easily injure or kill people wherever they are in the world and against which it is impossible to defend oneself, as is the case with cluster munitions.

When I was in university, one of the concepts that I studied in the area of international relations was obviously that of the sword and the shield. This concept indicated that for every improvement made to the sword in order to pierce the shield, the hope was to improve the shield and ward off the increased offensive capacity. Now, this concept seems increasingly outdated to me. Realistically speaking, cluster munitions are a good example of the fact that this indeed the case. It is virtually impossible to guard against swarming, a missile or a cluster bomb.

It is a system of offensive weapons that is particularly pernicious and devious. That is why I want to warn my colleagues. Our soldiers could potentially commit innumerable and immoral actions. In terms of conscience, and considering the responsibility that we have as elected members and, more fundamentally, as Canadian citizens, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we could cause our soldiers to commit such actions.

I hope that my contribution to the debate will have enlightened my colleagues in the governing party and that Bill C-6 will not pass.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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CPC

Gordon O'Connor

Conservative

Hon. Gordon O'Connor (Carleton—Mississippi Mills, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to my colleague's speech. It was quite wide-ranging, so I cannot air every part of it, but I want to hit a few of the points.

First, he mentioned Mr. Pearson and peacekeeping. Today there is not much demand for Canadians as peacekeepers. They go to countries that have large militaries, they subsidize those militaries, and they do the job. Africans look after Africans and Asians look after Asians, and they do quite well.

However, the member might note—I do not know if he wants to do the whole history—that Mr. Pearson also brought nuclear weapons into Canada. I do not know if he agreed with nuclear weapons or not, but he brought them into Canada. Nuclear weapons, I think, are worse than cluster munitions.

Now you said that we are going to use and transport cluster munitions. First of all, we do not have any cluster munitions now. We had them in the past. I guess that at the time, people thought it was a good idea. They do not think it is a good idea anymore. In any case, we are not committed to using or transporting cluster munitions.

The other point is that you have a view of the world and we have a view of the world. You may think that we are diminished, somehow, in the world. We do not. We think we are doing quite well in the world. We think we have a very strong position in the world. We stand up for what we believe, and you do not.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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CPC

Andrew Scheer

Conservative

The Speaker

Order, please.

I just want to remind the hon. member to address his comments through the Chair, not directly at his colleagues.

The hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by my colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills. However, I have to start by contradicting him. Even though Canada does not have any of these weapons, our soldiers could be exposed to their use and may have to use them in operations because of interoperability agreements with our allies, including the United States, which has refused to sign the convention.

We have to look at what does the most damage. I have to disagree with my colleague again, in a friendly way, about nuclear weapons. Back in the day, Canada was in a position where, unfortunately, it ended up bringing in nuclear weapons systems. My colleague is absolutely right about that. However, one of the features of nuclear weapons is that they are really a weapon of last resort because they are weapons of mass destruction.

Cluster munitions, however, are much easier to use because they are much easier to acquire, cost less and cause limited damage. Nevertheless, these weapons produce thousands of casualties around the world every year. I sincerely believe that cluster munitions are worse and much more cruel than nuclear weapons.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Carol Hughes

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Carol Hughes (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a few questions. He talked about victims. The government likes to go on about how it keeps victims and protecting them top of mind when it drafts and introduces bills. However, in this case, the victims are little kids.

Can my colleague explain why the government does not see the need to protect children in some countries even though they are the real victims?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

In fact, I will try to answer the question with the following thoughts: if we really want to prevent people from becoming victims, then we avoid creating the conditions that make them victims. It is not always possible, but when it comes to this bill and especially abolishing the use and even manufacture of cluster munitions, Canada could completely ban their use in its jurisdiction, on its land and in its circle of influence, even from its presence around the world. I am convinced that that is the best way to prevent young children from becoming victims of these weapons. The majority of the victims are children.

Unfortunately, many of these weapons come in shapes and colours that are very attractive, making it very tempting for children to pick them up. They then are maimed or killed when the weapons go off.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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CPC

Lois Brown

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, of course, we find cluster munitions absolutely reprehensible, which is why we have worked diligently around the world since 2006 to de-mine places where cluster munitions have been dropped. We have put up some $208 million, as I said earlier.

Other countries in the world have put interoperability clauses into their legislation, when they signed their own legislation. I would like to read what New Zealand has in its legislation:

A member of the Armed Forces does not commit an offence against section 10(1) merely by engaging, in the course of his or her duties, in operations, exercises, or other military activities with the armed forces of a State that is not a party to the Convention and that has the capability to engage in conduct prohibited by section 10(1).

Since we have so many operations in which we embed our Canadian Armed Forces with our largest ally, the United States, that are important to the security of our own nation, why does my colleague not want to give our own members of the Canadian Armed Forces the legal cover they need to be embedded with our allies?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

In return, I would ask her, why stop halfway and actively support the inaction by our ally, the United States, and its outright refusal to sign on to this convention?

If eliminating clause 11 created a major obstacle preventing us from operating with the United States, this would allow us to exert enough pressure to hopefully force the Americans to reconsider manufacturing and using cluster munitions. We could probably manage to do that.

Unfortunately, my colleague's position is completely indefensible because in the end we have a round of negotiations accompanied by cocktails with a rather meaningless text with no real scope. This is unacceptable. There is no other way to describe her position.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Alain Giguère

New Democratic Party

Mr. Alain Giguère (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, allied NATO member countries have signed this agreement to prohibit the use of cluster munitions. Are these countries lesser allies? Are they enemies? Why can our allies sign this agreement, but our hands are tied because one day the United States might use these munitions?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin very much for his comment and his question.

One does not exercise leadership by constantly avoiding responsibility. What is truly unfortunate is that Canada is no longer the world leader it used to be. We have now been overtaken by many other countries that allow themselves to go the extra mile.

Coming back to the previous question, my colleague hid behind the argument that other countries had passed laws or implemented this convention and had included the principle of interoperability in order to protect the members of their armed forces from prosecution. That is treading lightly and very timidly on the path to abolishing these weapons and, unfortunately, completely losing sight of the objective.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder (Nanaimo—Cowichan, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, like other members of the NDP, I am rising to speak in opposition to Bill C-6, An Act to implement the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

I want to start with a quote of Paul Hannon from Mines Action Canada. He said:

Canada should have the best domestic legislation in the world. We need to make it clear that no Canadian will ever be involved with this weapon again but from our reading this legislation falls well short of those standards.

I think this is an important place to begin the 20 minutes I have to speak on the bill.

As a number of my colleagues pointed out, there was a time when Canada could hold its head high on the world stage for the work it had done in many areas of international relations. Certainly, when we come to things like a number of declarations, Canada has had key roles to play. However, Canada has fallen far short.

I want to give an example of how we as parliamentarians can work and have worked together before I talk about what is wrong with the bill.

As a parliamentarian, I am a proud member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament, or PNND. We had in the House and the Senate a motion passed that supported the Canadian Parliament taking very strong actions in calling for non-proliferation and disarmament. We have worked together across the aisle on that initiative. It is an example of where we can come together on points that we agree on.

What I have heard from members in the House to date on this particular issue is that we all agree that cluster munitions have terrible consequences for people in countries where these munitions have been used. We can all agree that we do not want to see children maimed and killed by these munitions. Therefore, it is troubling that we have a piece of legislation that simply does not go far enough.

I want to point to the Cluster Munition Coalition. This bill was reintroduced after it had been here in another form but lost due to prorogation. However, the Cluster Munition Coalition issued a news release on October 29, 2013 entitled, “Different Name, Same Deadly Consequences”. In the release it says the following:

The bill, that should enact the Convention on Cluster Munitions in the country, proposes legislation that is not only against the spirit and the intent of the Convention, but would also put the lives of civilians at severe risk during and after armed conflicts. While the Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions in all possible forms, Bill C-6 includes a clause (Section 11) which would enable Canada to request other countries to use cluster munitions in the course of joint military operations, and in certain cases enables Canadians to use these outlawed weapons themselves.

I believe there has been an amendment that did change that last piece, but the bill would still allow Canada to work with countries who continue to use cluster munitions.

The article continues:

The Cluster Munition Coalition believes no explanation of the contested clause is plausible.... Only by closing the dangerous loopholes can Canada really claim to be banning cluster munitions and putting the protection of civilians first.

I will quote other sources on the impact of these munitions and why they are so dangerous. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway has put out a release entitled, “Cluster munitions—a humanitarian problem”. It states:

Cluster munitions are a large, and growing, problem. If their use continues to spread, and the number of those using them continues to grow, they may become an even greater humanitarian and development challenge than anti-personnel mines were in the 1990s.

Attention is now being focused on cluster munitions, a general term for a variety of weapons that disperse a large number (anywhere from 10 to several hundred) of submunitions, or bomblets, over a target area. The submunitions are placed in a container that can be dropped from aircraft or delivered by means of artillery shells or missiles. The submunitions, which are designed to explode on impact, are released from the container some distance above the target area, and are armed as they fall.

They go on to talk about the fact that over the last years, they have clearly demonstrated the unacceptable humanitarian consequences of this weapon. They go on to say:

There are two main causes of this.

First, cluster munitions cover large areas, and so do not discriminate sufficiently between civilians and military personnel. Depending on the type of cluster munition, the size of the area they cover ranges from a few hundred square metres to about 20 hectares, equivalent to 40 football fields. In many cases where cluster munitions have been used extensively, they have been used in areas where there is no clear separation of civilians and military personnel, such as cities and agricultural areas. When used in such areas, weapons that cover large surface areas with explosives almost invariably affect civilians.

Second, cluster munitions often produce a large number of ‘duds’, i.e. submunitions that have failed to explode as intended. These highly unstable explosive devices remain lying on the ground, on roofs or in collapsed houses, or are caught in trees. In practice, duds have the same effect as anti-personnel mines, injuring or killing innocent civilians, for example when they are rebuilding destroyed houses or resuming vital agricultural activities.

Because the proportion of duds is generally high—25% is not unusual—and because these weapons are often employed in large numbers, the number of duds can be extremely high. Civilians can continue to suffer casualties and injuries years after a war has ended.

Efforts to clear areas of duds and to assist victims are often extremely resource-intensive. Poor countries with limited resources can only focus on these efforts at the expense of other development aims. According to the Landmine Monitor, the international community provides about USD 400 million per year to assist affected communities in clearing munitions....

Any future proliferation of cluster munitions would greatly increase the need for assistance from the international community. Not only would the humanitarian costs be unacceptable, but a heavy economic burden would fall on affected countries.

Members can see that these are extremely dangerous weapons. They are largely impacting civilians, and many of those are children. It seems unconscionable that all governments, particularly our own government, would not do everything in its power to make sure that the use of these munitions becomes something of the past, and that we would also do everything in our power to contribute the dollars we can to help countries clear these munitions.

The Cluster Munition Coalition provides a bit of background on the convention and says:

The central provision of the Convention on Cluster Munitions is the ban on the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions. This makes it illegal in every country that joins the Convention for anyone to use cluster munitions or engage in any production or trade of the weapon. Other weapons that have been banned in this way include antipersonnel landmines as well as biological and chemical weapons.

The ban also extends to any activity that would assist other countries in the use, stockpiling, production or transfer of cluster munitions. This means that if a country, for example the UK, has joined the treaty banning cluster munitions and takes part in a joint military operation with another country that has not, for example the US, then UK troops must not intentionally do anything that would in any way assist in the use of these weapons during that operation.

They go on to talk about the Oslo process, launched by Norway in 2007 to work with like-minded states on a ban. At that time:

The Convention, signed by 94 states when it opened for signature in Oslo, Norway on 3 December 2008, is an historic achievement. The strength of the treaty is largely due to the prohibition on cluster munitions as an entire category of weapons. The negotiators rejected proposals for broad exceptions from the ban and for a transition period during which cluster munitions could still be used. The obligations relating to victim assistance are ground-breaking; they demand the full realisation of the rights of people affected by cluster munitions and require states to implement effective victim assistance measures. The Convention’s comprehensive ban has contributed to the increasingly powerful international stigma against cluster munitions, making it clear to the world that no actor, including those states that have not yet joined the Convention, should ever use cluster munitions again.

I want to touch briefly on a couple of clauses in the convention itself. A document from March 28, 2014 says the following about the convention:

The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions is a legally binding international treaty that comprehensively prohibits the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions, requires destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions within eight years, and clearance of contaminated land within 10 years. It recognizes the rights of individuals and communities affected by the weapon and requires states to provide assistance. The Convention also obliges countries to assist affected states to fulfill their obligations....

As of 13 September 2013, a total of 113 governments had joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions including stockpilers, former users and producers of the weapon as well as the majority of affected countries.

As members have noted, Canada has signed onto the convention, but we are dealing with the process of ratification at this point.

Article 1 of the convention on general obligations and scope of application says that the production, stockpiling, use and transfer of cluster munitions are prohibited in all circumstances, including in international conflicts and conflicts of a non-international nature. It is also prohibited to assist, encourage, or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited by the convention.

I am not going to go through every article, but there are a couple that I do want to mention.

One of the other pieces that many people have spoken about is important to acknowledge. There is a victim assistance clause under article 5 of the convention, which adopts a holistic view of victim assistance by requiring state parties to ensure that victims of cluster munitions can enjoy their human rights. It notes that state parties are obliged to provide assistance to cluster munition victims, including medical care, rehabilitation, and psychological support, and to assist their social and economic inclusion. Cluster munition victims include all persons directly impacted by cluster munitions, as well as their affected families and communities. It continues that state parties must develop a national action plan to implement victim assistance activities and to designate a national focal point within their government for coordinating all matters related to the article. The article further stipulates that in their work on victim assistance, state parties must consult with and involve cluster munition victims and organizations working on this issue. Furthermore, state parties should integrate victim assistance work into existing mechanisms to make it more cost efficient and effective.

Another article I want to mention is article 21. It is a somewhat unfortunate article that Canada worked to have included, one that allows for continued military interoperability. In it, state parties are required to promote universalization of the convention to notify states not party to the convention of their treaty obligations and to discourage states not party to the convention from using cluster munitions. Moreover, state parties may engage in military co-operation and operations with states not party to the convention that might engage in prohibited activities, but must still respect their article 1 duty to never assist anyone with any prohibited act.

It is troubling that Canada worked to have this included in the convention. We hoped that Canada would work hard to convince every country with whom we have co-operative relationships to ratify the convention. They would sign the convention and then ratify the convention domestically. That would be a much preferable role for Canada to play on the international stage.

I want to touch for a moment on a story from a woman who removes cluster munitions in her home country. This article from the The Guardian of August 2011 is as relevant today as the day it was written. The headline reads, “'I feel like I've saved a life': the women clearing Lebanon of cluster bombs”. The sub-heading reads, “An all-female team is doing the hazardous and painstaking work of removing unexploded...ordnance from the 2006 war”. It states:

Cluster bombs burst open in mid-air and release bomblets that are supposed to detonate on impact, but many of the ones fired on Lebanon did not explode, lying on the ground instead like landmines with the potential to blow up at any time. The women's team works in tandem with other teams of searchers, all co-ordinated by the Lebanese army, to clear up the unexploded ordnance that still litters the countryside.

The woman in the story says:

Women are more patient than men. That is why we are good at this job. We work more slowly and maybe we are a little more afraid than men. Whatever the sex of those searching the undergrowth, the risks are still the same. One careless move, and they could lose a leg. The previous day, a searcher in another mining team was injured, reminding everyone of the dangers of the job. Everyone has their blood type embroidered on their vest for good reason.

Can anyone imagine doing a job where, when people go to work, they have their blood type on their shirt or vest so that if something blows up or they are injured in some way on that job, they can be automatically blood-typed so they can get immediate assistance? Imagine working in those kinds of circumstances.

The woman goes on to say:

“My kids always worry about me, especially yesterday when they heard about the accident”, says Abeer .Asaad, team member and mother to five daughters. “They asked me to quit my job yesterday, they were so scared.

“I was unemployed when I heard that NPA was recruiting wormen for a de-mining team and I applied without telling anyone, not even my husband. When he found out he didn't want me to do it. I was scared too. Just hearing the word 'bomb' would make you scared. But when I began to work it was different, especially when you are careful all the time and follow the rules. You need to be alert and focused when you are in the field, and you must check the ground slowly”.

Zein too says her family have come to accept her job after four years in the field. "I was an English teacher for eight years. I wanted a change, and this could not be more different than teaching”.

“Of course, my family was worried but now they ask me everyday how many clusters I found, how many I destroyed”.

She is the only woman in the country to be trained in explosives demolition and at the end of the day detonates the bomblets they find. “I am so happy when we find them and I can carry out what I have been trained for”.

In the story she says that when she does it, she feels like she has saved a life or she has saved a child from a maiming that would alter his or her life in a way that we cannot even imagine.

Later in the story, the author talks about a case of how random and how accidental this can be:

It was a year after the war that Rasha Zayyoun joined the list of casualties. Life had been returning to normal for the then 17-year-old and her family after the devastation of the previous summer. Her father brought home a bushel of thyme he had harvested for Rasha to clean, but neither of them noticed a bomblet hidden among the leaves. As she began work her finger got caught on the device and thinking it was a piece of rubbish, she threw It aside. As it hit the ground it exploded. Rasha lost her left leg below the knee.

“It was so painful. It was like torture”, she said at her family horne in the village of Maarakeh where she is trying to build a life for herself as a dressmaker. “I have a prosthetic leg now but l can only walk for a few minutes on it”.

Stories like Rasha's are what make Asaad sing and dance when she finds a bomblet.

“I feel like I have saved a life”, she beams. If I find a cluster and take it out, then there will be no victim from it. The feeling is beyond description”.

What we have are teams of men and women all over the world, taking their lives in their hands as they try to clear their countries of these extremely dangerous munitions. I reiterate that we only hope that Canada will play a role on the world stage where we would not have to have this debate because those munitions would not be used by any country in any circumstance.

I have another paper that is a pilot study on technical and non-technical considerations when developing and implementing new technology for the humanitarian mine action community. This is a very good article because it talks about the social, political, cultural and other economic influences on mine action operations. The article talks about the fact that it is not a simple matter to go into countries and remove these munitions, whether land mines or cluster munitions, and that there are numerous social, political and cultural factors that need to be included, like education levels which affect the productivity and ability to use high-tech equipment.

Culture affects the choices of the kinds of tools that can be used because in some countries dogs cannot be used because of some cultural factors. Biotechnology introduced for the purposes of mine action could disrupt the indigenous environmental balance. National governments' interference or support will impact productivity and clearance rates of the operation. There are many factors, and I have not had time to even begin to talk about the impacts on the economy.

When people know, for example, that farm fields have been infiltrated by cluster munitions, what does that do to the productivity of the men and women who have to go and work those fields? It is as simple as the story about picking a time and having their life changed as a result of that.

The NDP will be opposing the legislation. We hope there will be some room for further amendments.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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CPC

Ray Boughen

Conservative

Mr. Ray Boughen (Palliser, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, for the last two evenings I have listened to interventions on Bill C-6 from the ladies and gentlemen across the floor who have said that this is a badly flawed bill. I have not heard what those flaws are. I have heard about some shortcomings of cluster bombs, and I knew about those beforehand, but maybe we could have one of the speakers share with us what those flaws are.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder

Mr. Speaker, I did touch on that in my speech. I talked about the convention itself and article 21, which allowed for the interoperability. Canada worked to have that included in the original convention.

I mentioned clause 11 of Bill C-6, as did many other speakers. It goes even beyond the interoperability allowance in the convention. The main problem is that it establishes an extremely broad list of exceptions, so it is very problematic.

Members from the NDP and other members have been very clear. The member for Ottawa Centre clearly outlined the problems with clause 11 and outlined why we were opposed to the bill, so I am reiterating that. In essence, something has to be done with clause 11.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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?

Elizabeth May

Green

Ms. Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands, GP)

Mr. Speaker, in response to my friend from Palliser, I think we have had a very detailed debate in terms of the places where the bill is deficient, and woefully so.

We know that clause 11 includes far too broad a carve-out. It goes well beyond protecting Canadian troops from inadvertently violating the cluster munitions treaty. If we had used the same kind of language for interoperability that is found in the Ottawa land mine convention legislation, we would not be having this long debate now. We would all be united and proud of Canada for bringing in domestic legislation which meets the letter and spirit of the cluster munitions treaty globally.

This legislation fails to do that by having too a broad a carve-out, allowing too many operational engagements between Canada and obviously our ally, the United States, which has not yet ratified and has apparently no intention of taking the steps that any civilized country should take to eliminate cluster munitions from the face of this earth.

We have been detailed about the changes. I, personally, have put forward amendments in committee. They were all defeated. I am grateful the parliamentary secretary did bring forward the amendment to remove the word “use”, but we are allowed to invest in cluster munitions and we are allowed to participate in operations involving cluster munitions. We have failed to take the steps that were within our reach.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder

Mr. Speaker, I have been here for 10 years now and I have experienced many occasions where the Conservative government, in particular, has violated the spirit and intent of an agreement.

I have been the aboriginal affairs critic for most of the time since 2006, so I can talk about the spirit and intent of treaties of first nations and how consistently that spirit and intent is violated.

When I come back to general obligations under article 1 in the convention, it closes by saying that it is also prohibited to assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activities prohibited by the convention. There is a spirit and intent in article 1 of the convention that surely would make it incumbent upon the government to honour the spirit and intent of the convention by working with its allies and its partners to encourage and support them to stop the use of cluster munitions.

Everything we do to undermine the convention also undermines the spirit and intent of that convention.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Raymond Côté

New Democratic Party

Mr. Raymond Côté (Beauport—Limoilou, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan for her speech.

I cannot help but react to the question from the member for Palliser because of the parallel that is drawn, for instance, with the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction. Article 1 is very clear. It states that each state party to the convention must never use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone anti-personnel mines. This does not prevent the convention from allowing the retention of a small number of anti-personnel mines for training in mine detection, clearance and destruction.

Canada is a signatory to this convention. This bill to ban the use of cluster munitions creates some enormous loopholes that contradict the other commitment we made to ban anti-personnel mines, which has not caused problems with our allies, including the United States.

I would like my colleague to comment further on this precedent, which shows the direction we should have taken with Bill C-6. We should even have gone further in order to ensure that cluster munitions are banned.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder

Mr. Speaker, I want to turn to Earl Turcotte, the former senior coordinator for Mine Action at DFAIT. Others have noted that he was the head of the Canadian delegation to negotiate the convention. His words are telling because he was part of that process. He said:

—the proposed Canadian legislation is the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the convention, to date. It fails to fulfill Canada's obligations under international humanitarian law; it fails to protect vulnerable civilians in war-ravaged countries around the world; it betrays the trust of sister states who negotiated this treaty in good faith, and it fails Canadians who expect far better from our nation.

That is a damning comment on this legislation by somebody who was at the table in the negotiations. Therefore, I would again encourage all members of this House to look seriously at Bill C-6 and look for ways to amend it so we can respect the intent of the convention.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
Permalink

June 18, 2014