September 13, 1988 (33rd Parliament, 2nd Session)


Roland de Corneille


Mr. Roland de Corneille (Eglinton-Lawrence):

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the Member for Scarborough West (Mr. Stackhouse) on his presentation on the purposes and objectives of this institute, and Bill C-147, which is the Bill to effectuate that institution, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development.
This concept is not something that has suddenly been brought forward in the last minute. Indeed, it is something that has been given a great deal of thought. In June, 1985, a special joint committee of the House of Commons and the Senate was created, which involved members from all three Parties of the House of Commons and from the Parties in the Senate. In its report called Independence and Internationalism, which was the result of its studies, which came out in June, 1986, it made a specific recommendation on this very subject. In that recommendation, it called for the establishment of an international institute of human rights and democratic development with carefully prepared guidelines for supporting activities by non-governmental organizations. This recommendation, found on page 105 of that report, comes from the research and concerns that were a result of a year's study of the human rights situation throughout the world, in an overview of international development. It resulted in what is known as the Simard-Hockin report, from which 1 have just read.
Following this presentation, there was then a Standing Committee of the House of Commons on External Affairs and International Trade-the regular standing committee-which met during the years of 1986 and 1987, and it came out with a report. The Government replied to the Simard-Hockin report, first of all, favourably and said that it was going to try to look

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into this matter and that it would be in a better position to consider this at a later time but that it was supportive of the idea. That idea was given further support by the External Affairs Committee in its report called For Whose Benefit. In that particular report, it said that it favoured the establishment of such a committee, such an institute.
This is not some new idea. It is something which emerges from two very extensive studies by two very reputable committees in their recommendation that such an institute be established. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that I would add the voice of our caucus to support the idea, in principle, of this institute.
We have to say that one of the main concerns that has emerged, however, from our studies in these committees is that the situation of Canada giving development assistance to countries abroad that are in clear violation of the human rights of the citizens of those countries, seems to be misunderstood, and if not, is at least causing confusion on the parts of the inhabitants of those nations. It seems to me, as if it were, in some people's minds, counterproductive for us to be helping Governments that are repressing people in the name of helping them. Because of the state of confusion, because of this apparent inconsistency and paradox, it has been necessary for us to examine and watch very carefully our relationship with those countries. How do we conduct our international assistance and how do we help those countries to foster human rights abroad are questions that must be asked. That is why this institute can be a cornerstone or one of the building blocks in this process of trying to help developing nations to establish better human rights situations.
We have to recognize that many of the developing countries, in fact many of the developed countries, carry out gruesome violations of human rights. Haiti, a country receiving development assistance, has a Government that is repressing freedom of speech, freedom to assemble and even the freedom to live of those who want to express any disagreement with the Government. In light of this kind of violation of human rights, we see confusion. There is confusion on the part of Canadians who ask how it is that we are giving assistance to a Government like that of Haiti when it is thoroughly repressing its people. Regrettably it is not only in Haiti but in other nations throughout the world that human rights are being brutally repressed. In some there is no such thing as human rights.
Look at the situation in Burundi. I tried to bring to the attention of the Standing Committee on Human Rights that we must look at what is happening in Burundi because of threatened genocide, not only threatened but, in fact, genocide of the Hutu tribe and majority of the people by a minority repressive regime. Here is a gruesome example of genocide. While it is correct to criticize the policies of the Soviet Union, Chile and so on in terms of their failure to live up to the idea of human rights, brutal genocide and the massacre of tens of
thousands of people is going on elsewhere. This is the decimation of human lives on a gross and massive basis. Something must be done urgently in our international relations about the way in which we deal with human rights in other countries and the way in which we deal with our international development assistance to those countries.
The same thing could be said about the aboriginal people in East Timor and in Irian Jaya. The oppression by Indonesia of those people and the genocide which has taken place over many years is again another example of brutal murder and slaughter on a wholesale scale. It is the purposeful and wilful starvation of masses of people. Yet Indonesia receives international development assistance from Canada. Real and gruesome situations such as this led our committee to say that Canada must look at the question of human rights and our relationship to development assistance programs in the Third World. The Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade raised these questions and asked what Canada's policy will be.
Tragically the list goes on and on of nations where repression is part of the ordinary way of life. Canadians cannot look away and act as if these problems did not exist and blindly go on simply dealing with those countries and providing them with assistance. Some kind of action must be taken. For that reason the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade made some strong recommendations about what must be done, at least in the area of international development aid. In order to be able to be objective and fair the report said that for the development assistance program on the whole the committee saw merit in developing a classification grid for recipient countries that would provide incentives for good behaviour as well as penalties for poor human rights performance. Without minimizing the difficulties of such a system of categorization, the report continued, the committee put forward as a basis for consideration a suggested category system.
Let there be, first of all, a category called "human rights negative". This would apply in extreme cases, to those judged by the international community to be guilty of persistent, gross and systematic violations. In other words, the kinds of violations to which I have been referring, gross slaughters and genocide. The committee, proposed a classification grid system which would define that kind of repression.
The second category was a "human rights watch" for cases of less or variable concern where serious allegations have been made, but with many grey areas and where development progress is still possible.
The third category we recommended was "human rights satisfactory", which has an obvious meaning. Finally, we had "human rights positive".
With a classification grid we would, as a country, be able to say that if a nation is in a category that is satisfactory or positive, a green light would be given for full speed ahead for providing assistance and for the way in which it is given. But if
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a country were placed in a human rights category, watch or if a country were placed human rights in a negative category Canada would not be giving government to government aid but would work only on emergency relief for floods, fires and earthquakes or through non-governmental organizations such as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, church organizations and so on. That would be a comprehensive organized system of approach which the committee said needs to be put into place by Canada.
That was and is a sensible recommendation. The committee went on to recommend that we set up an evaluating system of nations as well. It is not enough merely to lay out the criteria. One also has to evaluate where the countries are falling in some category or other and to define under what category they fall under. This is no easy matter. It requires research, definitions and on the spot assessment. It requires the views of non-governmental organizations and of people throughout the world about what is happening in the various countries. It is not only a matter of stating criteria but also of observing what is happening in nations, assessing them in terms of this grid and classification, and then making a firm decision. It means an objective approach. It means not a willy-nilly approach of "Well, we will help this week but we will not help them that week", but a deep assessment based on criteria.
The Government replied to this report For Whose Benefit? In its reply it did not accept the committee's request that there be criteria laid down. It did not accept the recommendation that countries be categorized by this criteria. On March 3, 1988, in this House I expressed my concern. The Government said it would bring these problems before Cabinet and that countries would be judged by the Cabinet as to whether or not they would receive aid. I said that that simply was not good enough, that Cabinet is too busy to do this kind of thing. I asked in whose hands this would then be left and what kind of objective, satisfactory and comprehensive review would be made of the human rights situations in countries to which we are giving assistance. I have expressed my concern about this on many occasions, but I want to express my concern about it once again.
I hope that through the process of establishing this kind of an institute, there will be some possibility of establishing some guidelines or parameters that can be recommended to the Government so that the Government can take steps forward from its present position. Whichever Government may be in power will have to realize that objectivity and even-handedness is needed and that criteria must be set down so that we treat everyone the same. We should not treat one set of nations that may be friendly toward us in one way and those about which we are not too happy in another way. If we are to continue to be respected, we have to take an even-handed approach.
I think Canada has had a tremendously good record over the decades. The world respects Canada. The world respects our international development systems, precisely because we have
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been able until now to maintain, perhaps through good luck as well as through good management, objectivity and fairness.
In establishing this new institute, perhaps the Government will ultimately see a role for it in establishing criteria. Perhaps the Government will not want to have this organization monitor these criteria, but hopefully it will at least encourage and invite this institute to establish criteria by which the Government, the Department of External Affairs and CIDA, the arm for international development, will be able to have guidelines and make decisions on what kind of aid and how much aid it will be giving.
We hope that this institute will develop into something that will be even greater than what has been proposed. We hope it will give advice to External Affairs and to Cabinet on situations throughout the world. Of course, as is true in every system of Government, we can anticipate that bureaucrats at External Affairs and CIDA may want all the assessing on human rights to be kept in their empires, but they would be well served if they opened up the process and invited such an institution as this to play its role.
There are a number of things about this institute that encourage me. Obviously it can do much to help nations to improve their police forces so that they would be less brutal and to provide insight, instruction, inter-relations and comparing of notes with nations throughout the world, especially those we are helping with international development.
By the way, helping a nation is a two-way street. When we help, we are also helped. As we try to learn things from Third World nations, they learn from us about ways to improve law and order, justice and equality rights. As we discuss ways to eliminate discrimination, and certainly above all to eliminate brutality and the gruesome violations of human rights, that educational process is of benefit to Canada as well as to the nations with which we are working. It is a positive program.
Education is desirable and important. Research and development will be extremely important. I do hope that this organization will refine its ability to verify human rights situations throughout the world. It is not sufficient to merely observe whether or not a nation is violating human rights. We must lay down the conditions whereby we are able to assess whether those violations have or have not taken place.
There is much research and study that this institute can do in establishing the very conditions, objectivity and criteria for us to assess whether we are helping a brutal regime or whether we are helping a regime that is truly struggling to move upward into the light of day for the betterment of its people. Therefore, this institute must receive our enthusiastic support.
It has received recommendations from two very notable committees. The Government has now placed before us Bill C-147 to implement the institution. While we are certainly favourably inclined toward such a positive step, I hope all Hon. Members will also be critical about some of the things involved in this Bill. There are some things that I think Members of the

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House of Commons should think about. One is that the space devoted in the Bill to the objectives of this institute is very slight indeed. The description of its objectives and purposes amounts to a couple of paragraphs. The rest of the Bill deals with the institutional structure of the organization and the appointment process. Of course, those are important, but it is disappointing to see that so little is said in the short preamble about the specific objectives of this organization.
On the one hand, I am pleased that the objectives are not specifically set out, because that might provide room for us to move forward in the areas I have discussed. On the other hand, it seems to me that something of such great importance as this should at least set forth more fully and precisely the objectives of this institution. In any case, I bring this to the attention of Hon. Members. I would ask them to study the Bill and ask themselves if they would like to see anything more precise than that which is offered among some of the objectives included in the Bill.
I for one would like to see one of the duties of this institute being to develop criteria for human rights and criteria for monitoring human rights. Many things have already been done in this field through the Helsinki Accord. In terms of monitoring, many models have been put forward already. Still, it is at a crude level even at best, and this is an area in which Canada can give leadership in research and in recommending the way to monitor, understand and assess the criteria by which nations observe or violate human rights.
The second thing I would like to bring to the attention of the House is the matter of finance. We know that there is always a problem with money. All good things require money. This one is no exception.
The Bill proposes the assignment in the first year of $1 million for this institution and $2 million the next year, $3 million the next year, $4 million the next year and $5 million the next. Then Parliament would assess the situation and decide what further funds should be granted to it. It is a sensible approach to increase year by year the amount of money provided to the institute, but I am concerned about one thing, and I hope that the Hon. Member for Scarborough West and others who will deal with this Bill will consider it. That is, there are many people in non-governmental organizations in the field of human rights who feel, first, that $1 million may not be adequate to launch this institute, particularly if a large part of that amount goes for the basic infrastructure involved in setting up such an institute. They feel this is inadequate funding for the very first year, which is usually quite expensive for any organization or institution.
Second, and maybe even more important, non-governmental organizations are concerned that the Government expects the public and other institutions to support this institute. They are having a hard enough time maintaining their own work in a very competitive market. If the Government does not plan to
support this organization in its entirety and plans to call on revenues which are already supporting other organizations, it will put a great strain on their ability to maintain the good work they are doing. In that sense it would be self-defeating.
The solution to that problem, according to these organizations, and I share the view, is that the Government should support this institute and not look for support among those who contribute money to organizations like the Red Cross, Amnesty International and others. Those organizations are already under great financial strain and such competition is viewed by them and their leaders as a very real threat to their ability to provide very valuable services to the country and the world.
My third point deals with the proposed name of this institute. This is an Act to establish an International Centre For Human Rights and Democratic Development. I know what it means and you know, Sir, what it means, at least I hope we do, when we speak about human rights. However, with respect to the words "democratic development" there is some concern. Perhaps your view, Sir, of the meaning of "democratic development", or that of other Members of the House, might differ from mine. However, I think it should be pointed out that in the report made by rapporteurs studying the matter for the Government, Madam Gisele Cote-Harper and John Courtney, on pages 24 and 25, there is a concern expressed that this title may cause some difficulty for Third World nations when that organization is working with them.
We know, unfortunately, that the words "democratic republic" have been used by some of the most oppressive nations on earth. We know that the eastern bloc uses the words "democratic peoples republic" and so on and the word "democratic" can be misused. We know that the United States has often used the words "democratic government" as a euphemism for countries that will go along with American foreign policy. For that reason Third World nations, who see how the superpowers use these words to camouflage nationalistic intentions and the extension of their empires, are going to be suspicious when they see the words "democratic development".
What do those words mean? This is not some sort of savant's concern or dilettante's comments. It was expressed by those asked by the Government to study this matter. The recommendation is not to use those words but to use some others less prone to be misunderstood or misinterpreted as some kind of manipulative effort by Canada to establish our own way of life or values and interfere in the values and life systems of Third World nations. Therefore, I call on the Government to consider some revision in this area.
In conclusion, I hope the Government will proceed with this institute, widen its terms of reference, and that it will be more than merely an educational institution. Rather, I hope it will become involved in the pragmatic research that deals with criteria and monitoring of human rights violations, setting
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down criteria and trying to be objective. I hope it will flourish and that its title and finances will be reviewed.
I also hope that it will pass this House in all stages today, obviously because of pressing concerns of time. In saying that, I do think there should be further discussion on an objective basis with people from the human rights field and all political Parties in order to make it the vehicle Canadians want it to be, an effective, objective and humane institution which all of us can support. I commend all those involved in its conception and now in its fulfilment.

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