Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Foreign Affairs

Issue 1 - Evidence, May 2, 2006


OTTAWA, Tuesday, May 2, 2006

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs met this day at 6:32 p.m., pursuant to rule 88 of the Rules of the Senate, for an organization meeting.

[Translation]

Mr. François Michaud, Clerk of the Committee: Honourable senators, I see a quorum. As Clerk of the Committee, it is incumbent upon me to preside over the election of the Chair. I am ready to receive motions to that effect.

Senator Stollery: I nominate Senator Segal.

[English]

Mr. Michaud: Are there other nominations?

It is moved by Senator Stollery that Senator Segal be chair of this committee. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Mr. Michaud: Carried.

I would invite Senator Segal to take the chair.

Senator Hugh Segal (Chairman) in the chair.

The Chairman: Senators, the next item on the agenda is the election of the deputy chair.

Senator Di Nino: Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to nominate Senator Stollery.

The Chairman: Are there other nominations? Let me then declare nominations closed, and welcome, Senator Stollery, as my colleague and deputy chair on this committee.

Senator Stollery: I will move Motion No. 3, that the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure be composed of the chairman, the deputy chairman and Senator Corbin.

The Chairman: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

Just so honourable senators are aware, the second part of that motion is that the subcommittee be empowered to make decisions on behalf of the committee with respect to its agenda, to invite witnesses and to schedule hearings. It is implicit in that resolution. All in favour?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Contrary minded, if any? Carried.

Item 4 is the motion to print the subcommittee's proceedings. Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

Motion No. 5 requests authorization to hold meetings and to print evidence when a quorum is not present.

Senator Di Nino: So moved.

The Chairman: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

Item 6 is the financial report. It is moved that the committee adopt the draft first report, prepared in accordance with rule 104.

Senator Di Nino: I am happy to move that item.

The Chairman: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

Item 7 is research staff.

Senator Di Nino: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

Item 8 is the authority to commit funds and certify accounts.

Senator Stollery: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

Item 9 is travel.

Senator Di Nino: I will move that item.

Senator Stollery: So moved.

Senator Di Nino: I will be happy to put my name down on any of these motions.

The Chairman: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

Item 10 is designation of members travelling on committee business.

Senator Dawson: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Carried.

[Translation]

Item 11: Travelling and living expenses. Would someone care to move the motion?

Senator Dawson: I so move.

The Chairman: Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Next we have item 12: Electronic media coverage of public meetings.

Senator Dawson: I move the motion.

The Chairman: Is it the pleasure of the committee to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chairman: Moving right along, item 13: Time slot for regular meetings.

[English]

That item is really for information purposes. As a committee, we can sort out how we wish to proceed this week, if at all, beyond tonight's meeting. Now, we will proceed to other business.

Honourable senators, it may be constructive, specifically because I am the new person at the table, if each of us reflects for a moment about where we think the committee should go. I have heard from various colleagues on the committee that there is a strong consensus in terms of finishing the excellent and important work that began on Africa.

[Translation]

This would be the committee's top priority in terms of getting its work done.

[English]

I am interested in any views that the honourable senators wish to express as to how we go about that. We are in the month of May. The order of reference, which we should discuss either here or at the steering committee, will reflect when we hope to have some measure of completion. Tremendous work has been done and travel has taken place. It is true that Senator Mahovlich had an out-of-body experience in one African country. Let me defer to others.

Senator Di Nino: Mr. Chairman, I apologize for speaking about a different subject, but we do have an item we could dispense with. It is the first report. Should we approve it?

The Chairman: It was adopted.

Senator Di Nino: I apologize, then, Mr. Chairman.

If I may, I agree that the study was extensive, complex and detailed. I believe that some components are still missing, and I propose that we have further hearings.

I would particularly like to see certain entities and individuals invited as witnesses who can bring forth a different viewpoint, one that deals less with the negative side and more with the positive side, but also, with certain aspects of how people have succeeded. I suggest the Aga Khan Foundation as an example. It has done a lot of work in Africa in many ways. I had a list. However, I have not brought it here today. There would be two or three of those, including possibly inviting the Canadian Tires and Wal-Marts of the world to share their thoughts about Africa.

The Chairman: In terms of why they are not buying from Africa or investing in Africa, as the case may be?

Senator Di Nino: Invite them to try to get ideas. For example, can the success of Asia be duplicated or can it be of some value in our recommendations about Africa?

The Chairman: Thank you, senator.

[Translation]

Senator Dawson: I think it would be interesting to hear the views of the new ministers (perhaps not right now as we begin our work, however), on such issues as La Francophonie, CIDA or foreign affairs, to engage in a discussion with them and to have an opportunity to say to them: here is what the government is planning to undertake in the coming months. This would put them in the position of having to address the Africa question and to come before us to explain their position.

The Chairman: If I understand your suggestion correctly, we should extend an invitation to them to come before the committee to discuss their position on Africa and on other issues.

Senator Dawson: Since we have concluded our work on Africa, in the medium term, it would be an opportunity for them to raise other issues. If we are going to hear from ministers, we especially should invite the Minister of Foreign Affairs to outline his vision to us.

[English]

Senator Corbin: Mr. Chairman, in terms of the study on Africa, you used the terms ``finishing'' and ``completion.''

[Translation]

You have noted in French: ``poursuivre l'étude sur l'Afrique.'' I place a great deal of importance on the significance of words. I do not believe that we can say at this point in time that we are on the verge of wrapping up our study on Africa. After all, we have barely touched on some contentious questions. The committee has traveled and has made brief visits to four countries. While this experience has proven extremely valuable to committee members, the African continent is composed of 53 or 54 nations. As we all know, the problems are ongoing and the situation is evolving. New problems are coming to the forefront. The Canadian government is deeply involved in Africa through its agencies. We have barely scratched the surface. A draft report of the work accomplished to date is available to committee members.

I would like us to set up a subcommittee to allow these members, who have been fully immersed in the study on Africa, to continue examining this question. This would allow the full committee to move on to other concerns.

I cannot speak for my colleagues, although I have talked to some of them. I would not want us to close the book too quickly on our study of Africa because the problems are pressing indeed. Major tragedies are currently unfolding in Africa and I think we need to continue focusing on this continent's problems.

The Chairman: Are there any other comments?

[English]

Senator Merchant: I am a new member of this committee, but I sense that there is a passion from some of the senators involved in this study of Africa. I, too, think that we should not rush this study. I think that they have visited very few countries and they have a desire to continue. I would defer to their wishes.

Senator Di Nino: The idea of a subcommittee is not a bad one, if this committee will be engaged in some other area of study or endeavour.

Frankly, I think all of us would benefit from continuing the Africa study for a period of time at least. Obviously, we can go on for the next 10 years, but we must have some closure. I do not mean to put a time limit on it, but I prefer to have the whole committee. We can benefit from those who have experience surrounding this issue and those who bring a new perspective to it. I think it would be a stronger group, and the contribution more valuable, if the whole committee studied this issue.

If the committee wanted to look at some other avenue between now and the summer, then probably we would need a subcommittee to finish it off.

Senator Mahovlich: The thing that stood out in my mind was how terrible the roads were in Africa. This is just one part of our study. Why are we not over there teaching them how to build roads? Can we invite witnesses who have something to do with construction in Africa? There is a tent village of Chinese people over there — maybe 300 or 400 people. I have been to China and they are not noted for their roads. America and Canada are, however. I can go all the way to Timmins and not hit a pothole. We have some great roads here in Canada. One thing we can do is build roads. We should be in Africa helping them build and take care of roads. Once they have roads, they will have to take care of them, and they are not capable of doing that now.

Senator Stollery: I would like to make a suggestion. We can think about a subcommittee, but we do not have to do that right now.

In terms of witnesses, I would like to hear from General Rick Hillier because of the information we received in the Congo. This information is not just rumor. When the Canadian Forces were asked for four trainers to train this rattletrap Congolese army, we refused to send them for security reasons. I know that is true. I did not dream it up, because I have the evidence. That is something that I — and other members of the committee — would like to hear more about. It is the largest UN mission in the history of the United Nations — 16,000 people all told, and 6,000 or 7,000 combat troops — and not a single Canadian in this tragic situation that we all saw. I would like to hear more about that from General Hillier.

In terms of the next step, technically, we will need the two orders from the Senate that we had in the last Parliament. We cannot call witnesses until the Senate approves the orders of reference. The chairman can give his notices of motion, then move his motions. We need these two motions for reasons we all know. There is the general Foreign Affairs Committee motion, which we need because something will arise that we do not expect. Perhaps the steering committee, in consultation with all committee members, can then decide how we proceed. First, however, we must have the orders from the Senate.

The Chairman: That is an excellent suggestion. I will ask the clerk to distribute these motions. They are pro forma. The one on Africa will look similar to the reference you had in the previous committee, and then there is the general one. Perhaps the members of the committee could look at them to see that there are no changes. We could then get the necessary references to begin our work.

I am in the committee's hands in this respect, but various suggestions have been made, for example, about inviting the ministers, about not having any limits with respect to the study on Africa and about inviting other witnesses to talk about successful economic activity in the region. I would take those suggestions to the steering committee, with permission of the committee. We would meet and come back to the main committee with a proposal about how we could proceed with our work. That would obviate the need for a formal committee meeting this week, but I would hope to use the time for the steering committee to meet and to make progress based on the suggestions.

If other thoughts occur to senators beyond what we have discussed about how we might proceed, and any specific ideas about witnesses, content or subject matter, we would take that into consideration at the steering committee and try to be responsive in that context.

Senator Di Nino: I was informed that Mr. Benjamin Mkapa, who was the President of Tanzania, will be in town in May. I propose to the steering committee that he be invited as a witness. We discussed this kind of opportunity. Sometimes, people visiting Ottawa on other business might be able to contribute to the business of the committee. I have all the information and I will leave that with the committee.

The Chairman: We will take note of that suggestion, Senator Di Nino.

Are colleagues around the table comfortable with approving the two drafts in front of you — one on Africa and the other on a general reference so that the committee can do the kind of thing that Senator Di Nino has suggested? Are there concerns?

To be fair, Senator Corbin was concerned about any undue limits imposed. The draft, as it is written, mentions a final report no later than June 30, 2006, which will not work. Could I ask you to advise what is reasonable?

Senator Corbin: The steering committee has the power to resolve these matters and report back to the committee.

The Chairman: Does the steering committee have the power to approve this draft before it goes to the Senate or does the draft have to come back to the full committee?

Senator Corbin: The Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the committee with respect to its agenda and to invite witnesses. This item is agenda, really.

The Chairman: Are colleagues comfortable with doing what Senator Corbin has suggested? Do I have a mover to that effect?

Senator Di Nino: I so move.

The Chairman: I am delighted.

Senator Stollery: That will save us sitting around for no reason.

The Chairman: To the extent that members of the committee have other ideas and suggestions to consider after the Africa matter has been addressed to the committee's satisfaction, I would be delighted to have the steering committee reflect on them. Some have expressed interest — we received a letter from Senator Downe who could not be here tonight.

Senator Stollery: I would add one brief word while everyone is present, since the committee is the master of the events. When Senator Di Nino and I were in Hong Kong at the Doha ministerial meetings, I heard several people refer to this committee as the ``Africa committee.'' Again, I do not have a strong feeling, but we are the committee. As Senator Di Nino says, officials from Africa are coming here to see this committee, and I would hate to lose that. It does not cost anything. I merely want to point out that in Hong Kong they referred to us as the ``Africa committee.'' Some people say that we are one of the few groups where they can get a hearing.

Senator Corbin: Do you have an agenda for this committee, chair?

The Chairman: I do, but it would not have included Africa.

Senator Corbin: Africa is on.

The Chairman: Absolutely. You are kind to ask. I have taken advice from other committee chairs in the Senate who have said it is often of great value for the committee to look not only at issues in the news but also at issues that might have fallen out of the news, or might be of interest in two or three years time. I would be interested in the steering committee and colleagues considering the entire role of democratization in our foreign policy. A series of agencies — the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA; the International Development Research Centre, IDRC; and others — are spending money in support of democratization activities. We need only think of Haiti, Ukraine, Kosovo, Afghanistan, et cetera. We could think about other countries that have tried to do the same and perhaps learn from them. This committee could bring focus in a constructive way. Views have been advanced by Thomas Axworthy and others about how some countries deal with democratization through agencies that are responsive to Parliament and not to the executive branch, such as the Westminster Institute of Education in the U.K., the National Democratic Institute in the United States and a similar institute in France. That area, where we could do some good, solid, hard work, would be worthy of consideration particularly since democracy has been expressed as one of those values that should drive foreign policy in a constructive way.

In a prophylactic way, I fear we have not looked at the Caribbean in a constructive manner as a committee for a long time. I worry that the area in its economic and social development has a direct implication for Canada both in terms of security and immigration, and in terms of migration patterns. Perhaps the committee might find time to reflect upon that area as a possible subject of inquiry. Those two areas of study would occur to me if I were a member of the committee and were asked for topics of consideration.

Senator Corbin: Someone touched on the next point I want to raise. I apologize to my colleagues who wish to go somewhere else now, as I do. However, it would be useful, and we will discuss it at the steering committee, to have key ministers appear before this committee at an early date so that we can have a good vamping of the way in which the government sees issues evolving and Canada's participation in eliminating danger points. That could keep the committee busy for a while, and we could have our Africa subcommittee working at the same time.

The Chairman: I raise only one issue with respect to the subcommittee. Speaking for the leadership on our side of the house, I know that this committee has a strong non-partisan tradition, which I am determined to sustain and advance. However, subcommittees make it difficult at times for the membership to be present at both the committee and the subcommittee. Accepting that constraint, as it is on all of us, I approach the matter with an absolute open mind.

Senator Corbin: It works well with the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

The Chairman: You are absolutely right. That is an exemplary instrument.

Senator Di Nino: It will be a bigger challenge for us as time goes on unless we have additional troops.

Senator Corbin: We will be kind.

The Chairman: It is important to reflect on the presence of some measure of Christian charity in our final deliberations around this table.

Are there any other comments from honourable senators? If not, I will accept a motion for adjournment.

The committee adjourned.