June 18, 2014

CPC

Gordon O'Connor

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I have a few points for the member. It has already been said that we will not use cluster munitions. Even though we had them a while ago, we did not use them and we will not use them in the future because we will not have any. That also means we will not produce, stockpile, transport and, as I said, use munitions.

I listened to the member's explanation of article 21. It sounds okay to me. I do not have any problems with article 21.

The other point I want to make is this. If our troops are in battle with the United States and an airstrike comes in, the Americans would not tell us what they would strike with; they would just tell us to stay out of a certain area. It may be cluster munitions; it may not be cluster munitions. In that case, they have not signed any treaty so it is okay for them. We have signed a treaty so we cannot use them, but we would take advantage of it if it is there. We would not walk away from it. It would be silly to do that. We would not say to our American neighbours that we would not ever go to war with them because they had cluster munitions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Jean Crowder

New Democratic Party

Ms. Jean Crowder

Mr. Speaker, I respect the member opposite. I know he served for a number of years with the armed forces. I will self-declare that I grew up in the military. My father was a career soldier, so I am very familiar with the challenges that our armed forces personnel face. They risk life and limb for us all and I recognize the challenges in that.

However, I also recognize the fact that Canada has a role to play here. In the past we proudly were often the one that people looked to as a nation that would broker agreements and move initiatives forward. I still believe Canada has a role to play in working with its allies to have them cease and desist using these kinds of munitions.

All members of the House agree that the use of cluster munitions is a humanitarian problem and that it affects civilians disproportionately. I believe there is not one member of the House who supports the use of cluster munitions and wants to see that kind of damage occur in countries. We need to take that goodwill and that sentiment and do everything in our power to ensure our allies are not using those munitions as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Winnipeg North, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to express a few thoughts on what the Government of Canada could have and maybe should have been doing to say to the rest of the world that Canada wants to play a strong leadership role in an area where there is a great deal of concern. That opportunity has been somewhat lost through the way the government has brought forward flawed legislation.

I approach the discussion as a member who served in the Canadian Forces. It was not necessarily through my direct service that I acquired experience. It was more from things that occurred indirectly. As members of the forces, we are quite often required to get out and meet with veterans. I served during the 1980s, when there were a significant number of World War II veterans. Some members might be aware that cluster bombs were first used in the Second World War. They were used by the Germans.

I have had many discussions with World War II veterans in my capacity as a member of the Canadian Forces. Unlike what we might see in movies that glamorize war to a certain degree, there are a great number of horror stories.

These are real people. We thank God for them, and we compliment them for their bravery and all the freedoms they have garnered for us. However, the war and its impact on the lives of those who directly fought in it is profound.

The types of weapons that were used will have had a significant impact on the veterans' views. We talked about D-Day. They were getting off landing craft and charging onto a beach with their brothers falling to their left and right as they ploughed their way through all sorts of war machinery and ammunition being aimed at them.

Something that can be gained by reflecting on our past actions and wars. Weapons have caused so much collateral damage that we would find that veterans and current members of the regular forces and the reserve forces would have strong opinions about the issue we are talking about this evening. I have often made reference to some of the horror stories that are out there. I can assure members that there is no lack of opinions among members of our forces.

I made the assertion that I believe that no member in the chamber is going to advocate the benefits of this type of weapon. It should never be glorified in any fashion whatsoever. We recognize the harm that has been done by this type of munition.

When I stand to speak to Bill C-6, a number of things come to my mind. The first is getting people to realize what cluster munitions are. A bomb can come from the ground or from a plane. In essence, it is a hollow shell that will open and within the cavity will be anywhere from a half-dozen up to 2,000-plus munitions that are designed to explode, but not necessarily once they hit the ground. There are all sorts of different types of cluster bombs. Sometimes a cluster bomb will release its contents and as it hits the ground, there will be a massive explosion that will cover the size of a football field. Anything within that perimeter will be virtually destroyed. That includes the loss of lives and limbs and horrendous destruction.

What we do not necessarily appreciate is that when those 2,000 little explosive devices hit the ground, a high percentage never explode. We are not talking about two or three or four; we are talking about hundreds. As some people have referenced, they are not necessarily obvious bombs that someone who is walking in a field would notice and know was a bomb.

Let us say that 2,000 are dropped. Some would estimate that as many as 400 to 600 would not be set off. Even after the war has come to an end, 400 to 600 little bombs from one cluster bomb could be waiting to be set off. That is why in countries where there are no active wars, there is still destruction and the loss of life and limbs. The bombs are still in the fields and have never been set off or found. It is a very costly venture, after a war, to identify the areas where there is a high concentration of cluster bombs and to send a workforce to clear the ground.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that we came up with the resources to send in massive numbers of well-protected people and machinery to identify and dispose of those hundreds of thousands of little bombs. We would not get all of them. Thousands would remain, even if we could get the money to do the clearing that many believe is absolutely essential. It is exceptionally costly, and in reality, for many of the countries that have this issue, they just do not have the resources to deal with it.

As a result, what ends up happening is that someone farming in a field or a child playing in a field will find a bomb that has not gone off. Then there is yet another horror story. We know that when they are set off from the ground or from an aircraft that the damage is indiscriminate. They do not discriminate between civilians and military personnel, or children and people in their thirties or well into their sixties. They affect everyone. In fact, during World War II, when the Germans first used cluster bombs, they were not designed to attack just the military. They were meant to cause damage to both the military and civilians, and they were exceptionally effective.

These bombs are designed to kill personnel and destroy vehicles. There is a high level of recognition around the world of how destructive these bombs can be. As a result, there was a Convention on Cluster Munitions. It took place in Ireland in 2008.

I have suggested that the Government of Canada had an opportunity to play a strong international leadership role on what is a very important issue. Unfortunately, it has fallen short in two ways. First, it has not approached this issue in a timely fashion. Remember, this agreement was signed back in 2008, and here we are in 2014. One could question why it took the government so long to bring forward this legislation.

Well over 100 states signed the cluster munitions convention. Approximately 80 of them, maybe a little more, have actually ratified it. Canada was one of the countries that signed, but we still have not ratified it. One would have thought that Canada was in a wonderful position to demonstrate that we understand the need to deal with the issue in a tangible way.

I have had the opportunity to raise this in some of the questions and answers. This is the second part that I am making reference to. That is the loss of opportunity to demonstrate international leadership. I made reference to the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction.

The similarities are amazing in terms of how countries from around the world came together in 1997 and this took place here in Ottawa. It is known as the Ottawa treaty. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and someone I am very proud of, local Manitoba member of Parliament Lloyd Axworthy who was the minister of foreign affairs at the time, went out of their way trying to make something happen. It is interesting that shortly after that Mr. Axworthy was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize because of his efforts.

In the late nineties, Canada was able to demonstrate very strong tangible leadership on this and it had an impact. Yes, there are some countries around the world that still have not signed on and ratified, or chosen not to be a part of it, but we did. I am not 100% sure of this, and I suspect if I am wrong my colleagues across the way and my friends in the NDP will quickly point it out, but I believe that there was likely unanimous support at the time here in the House for that. If I am wrong on that point I would ask that members raise the issue in the form of a question.

The difference is that members recognized back then the importance of the issue and how we were able to not only develop the issue and get countries around the world to sign on and ultimately ratify it, but we were also able to get the necessary legislative requirements in Ottawa to ratify it. I believe that all political parties supported it at the time of its passage.

Fast forward that to today. Where are we today? If the truth be known, this is not the first time we have had the bill here. We had the first reading of Bill S-10 by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. This is not the first time we have had this legislation. I would like to think that had the government brought in the legislation and worked with the opposition, we would have been able to amend the bill before us this evening and it could have received the support of all political entities in the House. That is not going to happen because the government has chosen not to reflect what was ultimately wished for in the convention Canada signed on to in 2008.

I would challenge the government to recognize that we are still not too late, that with the right political will, we can make the changes that would in fact make Canada once again demonstrate good, solid, sound leadership. That is the challenge I would leave to the government.

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, it is not the first time that Canada has banned the use of certain weapons by way of an international convention, whether it be for poison gas, bacteriological weapons, or even nuclear weapons—which we call weapons of mass destruction.

We have been invited to participate in another ban. We are being called upon to pass Bill C-6, which involves a ban that all members of Parliament are in agreement with. They do not want to see weapons of mass destruction. Through the back door, however, Canadian soldiers are being asked to engage in combat operations where they can take advantage of these weapons, and even participate indirectly in their deployment and use. That is the problem.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, as I started off with in my comments, I genuinely believe that all members of Parliament here in the House today recognize the type of collateral damage that cluster munitions cause and that, if it were up to all members in the House, this weaponry would not exist anywhere in the world.

I am appealing for us to look at the convention that we signed and ask the question, does the current legislation really reflect what is being asked of us, in terms of what we had agreed to and what we had signed?

I believe that we have not met the challenge of the agreement that we signed. That is why I am suggesting that, ultimately, for us to be able to do that, we need to get the government to recognize that it still is not too late to make the modifications that would allow us to demonstrate that leadership that we should be demonstrating.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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?

Elizabeth May

Green

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the Liberal Party for weighing in on this debate.

Certainly, I think it is fair to say that all the parties in opposition are very concerned that we are about to pass legislation that would fall far short of the objectives of the treaty that Canada has signed.

I am particularly concerned that there is so much in the treaty that calls for us to take leadership. We are a long way from leadership now. We are at a position where many of our allies are concerned. We have seen other countries interpreting this convention as meaning that in order not to assist in cluster munitions there must be a specific prohibition against financial investment and contributions.

Yet, we were told earlier tonight by a Conservative member that was somehow too difficult and could not be done.

We know other countries have brought in legislation much stronger than our own, countries that are also in NATO, countries that also participate with the United States. The singular failure to at least be in the middle of the pack is grievous to all of us in the opposition benches.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, I talk a lot about leadership and how it is lacking on many different fronts. This is yet another one of those files where I do believe that the government has made a mistake.

All we need to do is take a look at when the agreement itself was signed. We are talking about 2008. How difficult would it have been for the government to have brought this in four or five years ago? Not in its current format, but in a modified format, four or five years ago in itself would have demonstrated more leadership on the file.

The leader of the Green Party does make some valid suggestions about other things that we could have done to complement and to enhance.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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LIB

Massimo Pacetti

Liberal

Mr. Massimo Pacetti (Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, that was another great speech from my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North.

We have been hearing from the government side that ratifying this convention or treaty is going to enhance our reputation on the worldwide stage. My colleague referred to our position and how our reputation is being viewed across the globe. He mentioned the fact that this treaty has been hanging around for eight years now. This bill has been in Parliament. I think it was tabled twice since the last election.

I would like to ask the member how it enhances the reputation of Canada when in fact we do not see any signs of that, by actually ratifying this treaty?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, the best way to answer that is to demonstrate contrast.

The best way to demonstrate the contrast in this issue is to compare the land mines agreement to cluster munitions. With the land mines, what we had is Ottawa leading the charge. It became the Ottawa treaty. We had countries around the world signing on and then ratifying it. Canada did likewise. This was done in a very timely fashion. It was done in a very effective way. Then we had a minister of foreign affairs who went around talking about why Canada did what it did.

Let us contrast that to Bill C-6, formerly Bill S-10, before that, just waiting on the back burner, even though it was signed off on in 2008. The only time we hear the government talking about it is when it periodically shows up for debate late at night.

Do members not think that other nations around the world recognize the difference between the two? We lost the opportunity, because we set the bar high in the late 1990s. Now the bar is a whole lot lower.

I am going to suggest that the government has dropped the ball on this. It would have been an excellent opportunity to demonstrate strong international leadership.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Wayne Marston

New Democratic Party

Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, it is not my practice to give kudos to Liberals. I have to say to the member for Winnipeg North that that was probably one of the better speeches I have heard him give in the House. I will not give it a rating number.

I will say that the member has identified a couple of interesting things, particularly the delay and the length of time it took for this work that was started, in fairness, by the Liberals in their day. That is all he is going to get.

I want to ask the member a question. The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan was talking about how article 21 on the interoperability is almost contradicting what was laid out in clause 1. That leaves Canada open to significant worldwide criticism.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux

Mr. Speaker, the member demonstrates that, if one talks enough, sometimes one is bound to say some things right.

I do not have the bill in front of me at this present time. What I can tell the member is that there were fairly detailed explanations within the convention that was signed off on.

When we take a look at the legislation that we have today, we see the government is providing its own personal interpretation as to what it believes is necessary, and it feels it is in compliance with the convention that it signed off on.

I believe, as the Liberal Party believes, as I understand the New Democrats and the Green Party believe, that in fact its interpretation is wrong. That is one of the reasons why there were amendments moved.

The government has not been able to justify not accepting those amendments. That is the reason why it is not going to get the type of support as when we had the land mines treaty being ratified.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Randall Garrison

New Democratic Party

Mr. Randall Garrison (Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by letting members know that I will be splitting my time with the member for Hull—Aylmer.

Despite the late hour, I will try to do justice to what I think is a very important topic before us this evening, Bill C-6.

I have to say that it is strange to be starting a speech in the dark of the night on something that could have been before us, and should have been before us, much sooner. This convention was agreed to in Dublin in May of 2008. It was signed in Canada on December 3, 2008. It actually entered into force in 2010, when I think 30 nations had ratified it. However, the first version of this bill was only tabled in the House of Commons in December 2012, which was 18 months ago.

We are now debating the bill under time allocation, suddenly, and I am not sure which time allocation it is, as there have been several since then. However, we are now up to about 75 time allocations. Again, it is a strange sense of priorities from the government.

What we have in front of us is a bill to implement an international treaty. The bill, now at third reading, is still very much in the same form as when it first came to the House. There has been only one small amendment, but I agree that it was an important amendment. Unfortunately, what we still have before us is a bill that contradicts and undermines the very international treaty it is supposed to implement.

Our official opposition foreign affairs critic, the member for Ottawa Centre, has tried very diligently to work with the government on this implementation legislation, all the way back to its original iteration as a Senate bill. He has been trying to make sure that it actually matches the treaty that we signed.

The member had a very practical suggestion, which was to take article 21 from the convention, the clause dealing with interoperability with non-party states, and get agreement to substitute it for clause 11 in the bill before us. It is clause 11, for me, that is the main problem with this legislation. However, it is less of a problem after the amendment than it was previously, because before that amendment there was a very serious problem.

The initial problem with clause 11 was that it would have allowed Canadian Forces to use cluster munitions in some circumstances. Therefore, I am thankful for the amendment, which the government agreed to, to remove that explicit permission for the use of cluster munitions. It is an important change. However, I have to say that when we think about the treaty we signed, it is hard to imagine how that ever got into the original draft of an implementation bill, because it was so clearly contradictory of the intent of the convention.

Still, even after the small amendment that took out “use”, the bill, under clause 11, would still allow Canadians to participate in and even command operations using cluster munitions as part of joint operations. To my mind, and I think to most observers, this clause still undermines the treaty, the purpose of which was to ban the use of cluster munitions.

Of course, New Democrats are not the only ones raising these concerns. They have been raised by international civil society groups, by Canadian civil society groups, and perhaps most tellingly, by the Canadian who negotiated the treaty on our behalf. The head of the Canadian delegation negotiating this convention, Earl Turcotte, resigned from DFAIT and has subsequently called the proposed legislation “...the worst of any country that has ratified or acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions”.

Most interesting to me is to remember the role of Canada at these negotiations. This role was in great contrast to our previous traditional leadership role when it came to negotiating weapons treaties. In this case, Canada's role was to try and get article 21 added to the treaty. This is the article that provides for interoperability with non-party states. Since Canada succeeded in getting that added to the convention, it is hard for me to imagine why the government finds itself in a position of creating even larger loopholes through clause 11 in the bill. Let us remember that 113 countries have signed the convention and 84 have ratified it.

Why is clause 11 there? I believe it has come out of an inordinate concern about interoperability with the United States and subsequently from a parallel concern about the protection of Canadian Forces members from liability when participating in joint operations that use cluster munitions.

There would be two ways to solve this problem. The way the government has decided to do it is to create a loophole that would let Canada out of its legal responsibilities. The other way would have been to conduct negotiations with the United States about joint operations to make sure that Canadians did not place themselves in a situation in which they would be in violation of the convention.

If we entered those negotiations, we would actually advance the goals of the convention and help try to bring the United States, or any other country that is not a signatory, under the convention. Instead, as I said, the government has chosen to create a larger loophole.

There is a list of 84 countries that have ratified this convention without seeing the need for loopholes like those in clause 11. This includes NATO countries like Spain, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Italy. It includes traditional allies of Canada like Australia and New Zealand. It includes countries like Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland.

As members on the other side have pointed out, some of these countries do have interoperability clauses in their own legislation. However, those clauses are consistent with article 21 of the treaty, and that means that their interoperability clauses allow participation in joint operations only when that participation does not involve assistance with acts explicitly prohibited by the convention.

What kind of weapons are we talking about here? These are weapons that can be delivered by a variety of means, by aircraft, artillery, or rockets, but what is most pernicious about them is that they release hundreds of small explosives over a very broad area. These devices individually are often as small as a battery. They are devices with a very high failure rate, up to 30%, which leaves a large unexploded ordnance problem behind. We know that 98% of the recorded casualties from cluster munitions have been civilians. This makes cluster munitions most similar in their impact to the problems left behind by land mines.

Land mines are phenomena that I had occasion to become personally familiar with some time ago. When I went to Afghanistan in 2002 as a human rights investigator, I was required to complete a high-risk personal security training course conducted by the British military. At that time, I learned how to recognize land mines and how to extricate myself from a minefield.

That was all theory until I actually arrived in Afghanistan. What struck me most was the very large number of people on the streets each day missing a limb, most of them children. Almost every day that I was there, we ran across more examples of civilians losing limbs as a result of those land mines.

Land mines later became a more personal reality for me when I was travelling across the country and we stopped to heed the call of nature. I went to step off to the side of the road, but luckily and helpfully our driver pointed to two lines of rocks on either side of the road delineating the boundaries of where mine clearing had taken place. Despite the hard work Canada had done to bring the world together to ban anti-personnel mines in the Ottawa treaty signed in 1997, five years later I found myself on the side of a road about to take a step too far.

As an international observer, I had the luxury of going home at the end of a four-month tour and not having to live every day with the threat and the impact of land mines.

I also had the privilege of going home very proud to be a Canadian whose country had played such a prominent role and such a positive role in trying to end the scourge of land mines.

Here I am late at night a decade later in a debate on cluster munitions that makes me much less proud to be a Canadian.

Let me be clear. I am not accusing members on the other side of favouring the use of cluster munitions, but I do think that their excessive concern with U.S. interoperability has led them to introduce legislation that leaves the door open to that use. It is not just about the use of cluster munitions by others, but it also leaves the door open to Canadian complicity in the use of these weapons.

It is bad enough, in my mind, to have worked so hard to get an interoperability clause into the convention itself, but it is still worse to provide larger loopholes like those provided in the language in clause 11 of the current bill.

Instead of, at minimum, sticking to the language that we already had inserted into the convention, we have, as I said, created a larger problem. That is why on this side of the House we worked very hard to try to get an agreement from the government to amend the bill to conform with the language of the convention.

Let us remember that cluster munitions do not just harm civilians. In 2006 in Afghanistan, 22 Canadian Forces members were killed and 112 were wounded by land mines, cluster bombs, and other explosive devices.

I look forward to the day when Canada returns to its traditional leadership role in weapons reduction and when we lend our weight to the total abolition of cluster munitions, instead of trying to tunnel loopholes through the convention.

We have here two competing values. On the government side the value of continuing co-operation with the United States and interoperability, and our common goal of trying to eliminate the use of cluster munitions. I believe the government has clearly placed the wrong priority on one of these over the other. For that reason, members on this side of the House will have to vote against a bill that otherwise might help advance a very worthy cause.

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 would like to thank my colleague for his speech. His remarks were moving because he shared with us his personal experience of what he went through during his travels to Afghanistan for the implementation of a landmine treaty.

Another troubling thing that affected my colleague was how slowly the government moved and the long and roundabout way it took to introduce legislation, when Canada participated in the negotiations of the present convention on the use of cluster munitions several years ago, in 2008, in fact.

I would like him to talk about the government's foot-dragging, not to say its near-total inaction with regard to Bill C-6. That does not even include its undue delays after introducing the bill and with regard to the treaty banning the use of landmines, when Canada had signed the convention, in addition to ratifying it, on December 3, 1997. That was a very strong and very clear act of leadership.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Randall Garrison

New Democratic Party

Mr. Randall Garrison

Mr. Speaker, of course I am quite mystified by the government's sense of priority and timing. When we bring things forward, things are introduced and then they make no progress. Then suddenly they have to go through immediately and they have to be subject to time allocation.

I think there has been some speculation that having signed the treaty, the government spent a lot of time consulting with the Canadian defence forces, which at that time had as chief of staff Rick Hillier, who had spent a lot of his time embedded with U.S. forces. I suspect they spent a lot of time trying to figure out how they would solve the problem of interoperability and its obvious contradiction with the land mine treaty.

I would say it must have taken them quite a while to come up with a solution, which I think is no solution at all.

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, earlier my colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke about a lady in Lebanon who has basically taken it upon herself to be trained to remove, to disarm, and to get rid of these cluster munitions. It is unbelievable how one person can actually make a difference. As my colleague said, this lady used to be a teacher.

When we are looking at the fact that half of the victims are children and we see a government that says it prides itself on looking after victims, it is quite disconcerting and problematic for us to see a government turn a blind eye as to what is really happening to these children, and the positive impact that such a small change in the bill could actually have.

So many other countries and some agencies have spoken against what the government has put in its bill and refuses to remove. Some of these agencies actually support people in times of difficulty, like the Canadian Red Cross. Could my colleague elaborate on that?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Randall Garrison

New Democratic Party

Mr. Randall Garrison

Mr. Speaker, I would start by saying in my experience in Afghanistan, I was able to travel around the country because of very brave people who had done the mine clearing ahead of where I needed to travel. I have seen first-hand the effects on civilian populations, not just in the injuries, but in the constrictions it places on everybody's life, and the very valuable work that people do who support trying to remove the aftermath of land mines and cluster bombs.

I will say again, I would really hope that Canada would lend our full moral weight to the movement to ban these kinds of weapons forever. The only way to do that, I think, is to remove section 11 from the bill so that we are very clearly saying, even to our closest allies, these are not acceptable weapons.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Nycole Turmel

New Democratic Party

Ms. Nycole Turmel (Hull—Aylmer, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-6. Several of my colleagues have already spoken about it. Although we essentially agree with the agreement that was signed, we can no longer support Bill C-6 because of the additions that the government made.

Over the course of our careers, we have heard a lot of talk about land mines and we have been made aware of that issue. My colleague from Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke about the images that we see on television and the stories that are told about people who have been affected by these weapons and children who have been maimed by this type of explosive years after the conflict has ended in many countries. Even today, even after the wars have ended, this problem still remains. That is very unfortunate, and we should take a lesson from that.

People are always saying that we need to remember history and that we need to talk about it in order to prevent those sorts of things from happening again.

The effects of the cluster munitions that we are talking about today are just as devastating as those of the land mines we are all so familiar with. It is important to point out that 10% to 40% of these submunitions do not explode immediately. They remain in the ground for many years.

This reminds me of a file I worked on. A veteran came to see me. He talked about the explosion that happened at Valcartier 40 years ago. By the way, there will be special memorial ceremony this summer to mark the 40th anniversary of that incident.

Some young cadets were transporting grenades, and one of those grenades was live. Some of these young people died, while others lived but still carry emotional and physical scars 40 years later.

This man, who was in charge of the cadets, was still crying as he talked to me about it.

When I hear talk about land mines or cluster munitions, as a mother, a grandmother and a person who sees the destruction caused by war and the use of these weapons, I think that we should learn a lesson from this and that we should immediately stop doing this type of thing. We have the opportunity to do so today. We have the opportunity, as leaders, to refuse to say that we have no choice because the countries that we work with did not sign the agreement and have the right to use them. Yes, we have a choice. Instead, we should be working to dissuade those countries from using them.

I would like to give an example. Paul Hannon, the executive director of Mines Action Canada, 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.

Why would we pass watered-down legislation? Why would we not take this opportunity to show the world that we can take a leadership role, using the examples I mentioned earlier, to demonstrate that this should not be happening? We need to stop it. It is our duty.

We also know that 98% of injuries caused by cluster munitions are inflicted on civilians. Civilians who give of their time to work on destroying these mines are injured.

As I said, we just need to think about the examples that my colleague gave earlier, the stories we see on television and what we hear from people who have been affected.

It is clear to us that these weapons need to be banned. We need to show some leadership.

We have stood by Canadian and foreign civilian organizations that are calling for this bill to be amended.

I am very disappointed that the government rejected the amendment we proposed last Tuesday to clause 11 of the bill. It was very important.

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre spoke about it in the speech he gave earlier today. The amendment was designed to prohibit Canadians soldiers from being directly involved in the use of cluster munitions. The government wants to allow them to be indirectly involved in their use. That comes back to what I was saying earlier, that Canada would be following in the footsteps of countries that have not signed the convention. That is unacceptable.

We need to demonstrate once again that Canada is a country that can show leadership. Canada may never have experienced a civil war, but we are familiar with the consequences. Immigrants and new Canadians have lived through war and share those experiences with us. We never want to go down that road.

We want to maintain our soldiers' ability to work with other countries. However, we need to be sure that the Canadian Forces will never use cluster munitions.

Earlier, I spoke about one stakeholder in particular, and I would like to mention a few others who have similar concerns about this bill. Many experts share our view. I would like to share a few examples that some members have already mentioned. It is important to repeat them.

Earl Turcotte, the former senior coordinator for mine action, who was the head of the Canadian delegation that negotiated the convention, said:

In my view, 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.

When you sign a convention, you have a duty to comply with it and not find roundabout ways to avoid fulfilling the obligations you committed to in that convention. That is what is going on here. That is what this government is doing, which is truly unfortunate for Canadians. It is also truly unfortunate for the leadership of our country and for Canada's image on the world stage. We must reject this; it is not too late.

The government should understand the consequences of what it is doing. We disagree with the bill because it does not honour the commitment that we made. This government has the means and the time to fix that. We must not accept the proposed changes, and we must move forward to protect our soldiers and the families, children and civilians who would be affected by this bill.

Mr. Turcotte is also concerned about the diplomatic consequences this flawed bill could have. He said that Bill C-6 constituted an about-face on several key commitments Canada made during the negotiations and when it signed the convention in 2008 and that the bill is an affront to the other states who negotiated in good faith.

Mr. Turcotte even resigned his position after 30 years of service at that organization. He could not accept that Canada would impose such a weak implementing legislation. That is what we must condemn.

We have experts, so why not listen to them? Why not pass the best bill possible?

Since my time us up, I will now take questions from my colleagues.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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CPC

John Baird

Conservative

Hon. John Baird (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the convention itself allows for interoperability. Obviously, we have important NATO obligations. We have to work with our closest friend and ally, not just in NATO but in Norad. The Obama administration has not signed on to this treaty. It is imperative that we work with the United States.

The government has been very clear that no Canadian service personnel have ever used these weapons. There are some stockpiles that have been in the possession of the Canadian Armed Forces for many years. They will all be destroyed.

There will be the odd person, perhaps we could count them on one hand, among our senior leadership who will have an interoperability training secondment with, for example, the United States, under President Obama, and we think it is important that the person benefits from the value of that training and experience. For example, Walt Natynczyk, a very distinguished Canadian general, would not have been able to assume that position if we had put that condition on.

We worry about the small legal liability. What if a member of the Canadian Armed Forces was fueling an airplane for the United States in Goose Bay? Would that member have to first confirm that none of these weapons were on board? We do not want to put the odd small number, very small, perhaps even a handful, of Canadian Armed Forces personnel at risk. No other government has raised any concern with me with respect to Canada's position on this, which certainly is contrary to what my friend opposite has said.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
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NDP

Nycole Turmel

New Democratic Party

Ms. Nycole Turmel

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by my colleague and neighbour from the other side of the river.

However, experts believe that by signing this convention the signatories are violating the agreement they made with other countries. That is regrettable. By saying that we cannot find a way, we are not keeping an eye on the objective.

In my opinion, there is a way, and we have to demonstrate leadership in order to comply with the agreement we made when we signed this convention. I find it regrettable that we are holding back, doing nothing and saying that we cannot do anything. On the contrary, there is always a way.

Wars are started because people did nothing and decided not to take action. They did not show leadership.

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 a couple of questions. First, the member mentioned a number of failures, and I would like her to explain what these failures are.

Second, I would like her to name three or four or five governments that are criticizing us and our actions on this, because I am not aware of anyone criticizing us.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Prohibiting Cluster Munitions Act
Permalink

June 18, 2014