Mr. Bill Kempling (Burlington):
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member for York Centre (Mr. Kaplan) for having the wisdom to resurrect this bill from the order paper of the previous Parliament and present it as a private member's bill.
As far as the draw is concerned, I was there when the draw took place and it is rather interesting that the first two bills were stood and the hon. member's bill is the first to be presented in this Parliament in private members' hour. I would have preferred that the hon. member's bill had been drawn further down the list because that would have allowed time for certain changes the Prime Minister (Mr. Clark) is contemplating in the conduct of private members' business.
I have a great deal of sympathy for this bill. I believe the hon. member for York Centre knows my views on the whole area of boycotts, and economic boycotts in particular. I took a month's trip through the Middle East in the course of which I visited several Arab countries as well as Israel, and on my return I produced a paper for the Prime Minister on the subject of economic boycotts. In fact, I myself put forward a private member's bill in the last Parliament dealing with this subject, but unfortunately it was not in a position to proceed and never saw the light of day.
When this bill of mine was put forward, the internal details of the measure were not presented. I withheld them on purpose. I held them back as long as possible while I was awaiting a call from the desk to tell me that the bill was likely to come up and be sent to the printer. This was a conscious procedure because I know this was a very delicate subject then, as is the case today. I delayed the internal content of the bill from the printer's hands in the hope, first of all, that the central issues would be resolved. I had a great deal of hope when President Carter and Mr. Begin got together; I thought that they and the President of Egypt were really going to make a lot of progress in a hurry. Perhaps I was over-optimistic at that time.
Foreign Economic Boycotts
In trade and commerce we like to see the least possible amount of regulation so that trade is allowed to move in normal fashion. I found varying degrees of concern. I found, first of all, that the Canadian companies which were on the boycott list had apparently been drawn from an old issue of the Directory of Directors put out by the Financial Post and that many of the companies listed were no longer in business. Others had been merged and consolidated and their names had been changed, so the list was not very accurate.
When I talked with officials in Iraq and Syria I found varying degrees of concern-the feeling in no way resembled that which I encountered among business people I talked to in Cairo. The attitude seemed to be: if we want what you have, we shall find a way to get it regardless of any boycott. For example, if hon. members would look at the original boycott list they would see that the Ford Motor Company is listed. Yet the Ford Motor Company today has a plant in Cairo where it produces trucks and tractors. We have had an ongoing concern with the progress of events in the Middle East, and with that in mind the Prime Minister, as everyone knows, has sent Mr. Stanfield over to look not only into the proposed move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but into the whole matter of the boycott.
It is the intention I believe, from the information I have, to introduce a bill dealing with this subject in the New Year. I do not know whether the content will differ greatly from that which the hon. member has outlined. I look forward to having his co-operation and input at that time because I know he has a deep concern with these matters, as we all do. But I must tell the hon. member now that it is our intention to talk this bill out today because we believe the report to be presented by Mr. Stanfield will have an impact on whatever legislation we bring forward in the New Year. Thus, while I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. member's intentions and appreciate his bringing the bill forward, we cannot at this time refer it to a committee.
From my experience, people engaged in commerce have always considered themselves above the politics of a situation. In fact, if one looks to history one finds that the traders have usually preceded the diplomats. The problem which arises here is that actions taken by certain countries in the Middle East appear to be transgressing the civil rights of Canadians. The hon. member may be interested to know that my first experience with this so-called boycott was when some people who were selling for cash to a Middle East country found that the enforcer of the boycott was actually the bank through which they were doing business. I found it surprising that they had a sale. The deal was completed and they had not complied with any of the boycott requests. They stayed clear of them. They said, "No, we don't want to sign that," but when it came to collecting on the letter of credit and getting their money, in order to get their money they had to sign some documents or they would not have been paid. That was what sparked my interest in the whole matter.
October 25, 1979
Foreign Economic Boycotts
My own view is that we should proceed something along this line: we should respect the human rights of Canadians in this matter. I would prefer to see a bill in which there is no reference at all to any particular ethnic group. In other words, I do not want to see a statute on our books which refers to Arabs, Jews or any other racial group. I think it would be wrong. I think we should look at it in this sense: we should prefer to see a prohibition on the transmission of any information regarding a Canadian citizen's racial origin, religion, political affiliation or the racial origin, religion or political affiliation of any Canadian director, employee or officer of any company.
I would like to see this prohibition put into any legislation dealing with trade and commerce. In other words, in a commercial transaction between a Canadian company and a company outside Canada there should be a prohibition in Canadian law against any mention whatsoever of an individual's race, religion, political affiliation or anything of that nature. If we leave it as open as that, that would pretty well cover the situation.
We recognize that a state of war exists, theoretically, between Syria and Israel, Iraq and Israel and some other Arab countries and Israel. That is a fact, we recognize it, and they have a right to say who they do business with. If they do not want to do business with a certain nation, they have a right to a primary boycott. They have a right to say which shipping lines come into their ports. They have a right to be suspicious of a shipping vessel which stops at a port of their theoretical enemy, and they have a right not to allow that ship to go from the port of their enemy to their own port without serious restrictions. However, beyond that we should prefer to see the whole matter as free and open as possible, because commerce finds a way to handle these matters. I think that if we leave it there we will be able to serve Canada best.
I am upset when I read reports about what is going on in the Middle East. I think some of the statements made in Canada by people who are not very well informed on events in the Middle East tend to inflame the situation. Constantly keeping the matter in the headlines works against a solution. I am a great believer in quiet diplomacy. I have a great respect for people of the calibre of Mr. Stanfield. I know he has a great and deep feeling about the difficulties in the Middle East, and I know he will bring in a report which is detailed and comprehensive. It will be something upon which we will be able to base some solid and meaningful legislation which will be fair to all concerned.
This subject is charged with emotion, and I think we reach a time in these things when we have to cool our feelings, sit back and look at them calmly and coolly and listen to the wisdom of those who have been there, gathered details and listened to the wisdom of our embassy people and our trade people. Only then should we put together and bring forward a piece of legislation which would help us deal with this problem as we go down the road.
I do not think we are going to solve the problem totally. There will always be some people inside and outside Canada who disagree with what we do. I note that many states of the United States have brought forward anti-boycott legislation. The United States has brought forward anti-boycott legislation. We could rush into this right now, but perhaps after we have read the report which will be made by Mr. Stanfield we will wish we had let matters rest for a few more months.
This matter has been on the table for a long time. It was on the table for the previous government for a long time, and we urged several times that it be brought forward. We talked about it very seriously in our caucus. I think the hon. member will agree that we really should wait and hear what Mr. Stanfield has to say. I do not think that waiting for another 90 days or 120 days will be too difficult for us. I know the Prime Minister is greatly concerned about this matter. Several of my colleagues have expressed their concerns several times. I know that the Minister of State for International Trade (Mr. Wilson) is very concerned about potential losses of trade in the Middle East.
I talked with our trade people in Iraq, in Syria and in Egypt about the boycott, and they all told me more or less the same story. They said that every time the subject of boycott legislation is raised in the House of Commons, whatever trade negotiations are going on between Canadian companies and companies in the Middle East come to a standstill. In other words, the fact that we are even thinking of introducing boycott legislation causes many deals just to stop. The fact that we are talking about this causes a slowdown in negotiations or causes them to be stalled. It was two years ago now, but when I was in Iraq I believe there was a contract being negotiated for aircraft refuelling equipment and tanks in a system. One of the members of the government of the day, the hon. member for Windsor West (Mr. Gray), asked a question about when the government was going to introduce antiboycott legislation. He also asked a supplementary. At the time I was told that two days later there was knowledge of the question in Iraq, and the deal which was being worked on came to a halt. The parties were ready to sign a contract but they came in and said "It's all off'.
The whole matter of legislation and its introduction is being used as a tactic in commercial negotiations, and that is a tragedy in itself. I think the wise position would be to wait for the report of Mr. Stanfield.
Subtopic: FOREIGN ECONOMIC BOYCOTT REQUESTS REPORTING ACT