THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE
OTTAWA, Thursday, November 8, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 10:30 a.m. to study foreign relations and international trade generally; and, in camera, for the consideration of a draft agenda (future business).
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: The committee is authorized to examine such issues as may arise from time to time relating to foreign relations and international trade generally. Under this mandate, the committee has invited government officials from Global Affairs Canada to update committee members on the situation in Brazil since the publication of our report in May 2012, which was entitled Intensifying Strategic Partnerships with the New Brazil.
Before I turn to our witnesses, I ask the senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Dawson: Dennis Dawson, a senator from Quebec.
Senator Bovey: Patricia Bovey, Manitoba.
Senator Boehm: Peter Boehm, Ontario.
Senator Dean: Tony Dean, Ontario.
Senator Massicotte: Paul Massicotte, from Quebec.
Senator Ngo: Thanh Hai Ngo, Ontario.
Senator Greene: Steve Greene, Nova Scotia.
Senator Housakos: Leo Housakos, Quebec.
The Chair: I am Raynell Andreychuk from Saskatchewan and chair of the committee.
I am pleased to welcome, from Global Affairs Canada, Cheryl Urban, Director General, South America and Inter-American Affairs; Jean-Paul Lemieux, Director, South America Relations; Glen McPherson, Deputy Director, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay; and Jean-Luc Pilon, Senior Desk Office, Brazil.
Thank you for accepting our invitation to update us on the Global Affairs Canada perspective on Brazil. We like to follow up our reports. We make recommendations to the government, and we follow whether in fact our recommendations are still timely and whether there has been some action on them.
Ms. Urban, you have the floor.
Cheryl Urban, Director General, South America and Inter-American Affairs, Global Affairs Canada: It is a pleasure for me to be here this morning to make a brief presentation on the recent elections in Brazil and its implications for Canada, as well as to answer questions you may have.
As you know, Brazilians went to the polls in October, resulting in the election of a new president, Jair Bolsonaro, but also a new congress, senate and governors across the country. The outcome of these elections represents probably the most significant political shift in the country since its return to democracy in 1985.
Brazil is an important partner for Canada and has been and will continue to be. The fact that we share a regular, open and constructive dialogue with our partners in Brazil is a testament to our shared concern for our relationship and for the planet. Very often we have an aligned global vision, especially when we work together in multilateral fora. We have similarities as stewards of the Arctic and of the Amazon. Our concern for humanitarian challenges and for democratic development means that we will continue to work together on regional crises, such as the one we are currently witnessing in Venezuela. Canada and Brazil share a history with a significant population of Indigenous nations. We have both been committed to working with Indigenous peoples on a path that starts with reconciliation and leads to the full expression of identity. In order to understand the relevance and the impact of these 2018 elections, it is important to appreciate the political, economic and security landscape within which they occurred.
The past three or four years have not been easy for Brazilians. From 2015 to 2017, Brazil suffered its worst ever economic recession, a period when most of the rest of the G20 group of countries was emerging into important periods of growth. High unemployment and reduced government, consumer and corporate spending wreaked havoc on the economy. At the same time, Brazil began to bring to light enormous domestic corruption cases that upended the political landscape. President Dilma was impeached, former President Lula was imprisoned, and dozens of political leaders of all political stripes were charged.
Against the backdrop of the successful 2014 World Cup and the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016, Brazilians also faced significant public security challenges. A number of Brazilian cities are on the list of cities with the highest murder rates in the world.
It is with all of this in mind that President-Elect Jair Bolsonaro swept to an electoral victory almost two weeks ago. Focused squarely on eradicating corruption, encouraging economic growth and improving public security, Mr. Bolsonaro’s election platform offered policy proposals that appealed to the majority of Brazilians and resulted in his second-round election win, with 55 per cent of the votes cast.
It is the first time in almost 30 years that neither of Brazil’s main political parties produced a winner in the presidential race. Despite their lopsided access to public funds and television time, those parties fared much more poorly than they did during the last elections in 2014, both in national and subnational races. Social media played an unexpectedly important role in this election, something that President-Elect Bolsonaro and his campaign seemed to understand sooner and better than anyone else.
For the first time, the Organization of American States deployed an electoral observation mission in Brazil and praised the success of the election. The OAS observation mission, led by former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla also highlighted the professionalism and technical expertise with which the electoral process was organized and carried out.
The OAS also raised some concerns about this electoral event, including the aggressiveness of the campaign, the tone of some of the discourse and the physical attacks that occurred, not the least of which was the stabbing of the candidate Bolsonaro while he was campaigning in September. Most concerning, however, was the online propagation of disinformation and fake news, a development that is not unique to Brazil.
Turning to what to expect from the Bolsonaro government, President-Elect Bolsonaro is only now beginning to form his cabinet and has begun to coordinate the transition of power from President Temer’s government. The inauguration will be on January 1, 2019. As a result, it would be premature to predict what will be his priorities or how he plans to govern effectively, but what is known at this point is that he has a very fractious Chamber of Deputies and Federal Senate to deal with, in which no fewer than 30 political parties are represented. No single party has more than about 10 per cent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
Also, Brazil’s constitution is highly prescriptive and ably identifies and prioritizes the protection of rights and freedoms. That constitution is actively supported by a judicial system that offers a serious counterweight to both the executive and legislative branches of government. Given these factors, governing forward will require a high level of negotiation, while allowing the president-elect and his party very little wiggle room.
On the economic side, President-Elect Bolsonaro campaigned on an economically liberal platform, promising to tackle the current fiscal crisis through privatization of state companies and the adoption of much-needed pension reform. In addition, he promised to reduce the government presence in the economy, to cut spending and to reduce red tape. He also proposed to focus on trade and investment partnerships with advanced economies instead of the south-south collaboration for which previous Brazilian governments have become known.
He has named his main economic adviser, Paulo Guedes, as minister of a new super ministry, combining the current planning, finance and industry ministries. The markets have so far reacted positively to the prospect of implementing these reforms, with the hope of getting Brazil out of its most important recession ever.
On security, he promoted a hardline method to tackle the current security crisis, notably by loosening restriction on police forces, reducing the penal age of majority from 18 to 16 years old, and removing current restrictions on gun ownership to enable citizens to defend themselves against criminals.
On foreign policy, President-Elect Bolsonaro also promised a significant shift away from the policies of the past, indicating that Brazil’s foreign policy would no longer be subjected to an ideological bias. There is no doubt that President-Elect Bolsonaro’s foreign policy will be much more closely aligned with that of the United States, especially given his preference for favouring bilateral over multilateral negotiations.
Traditionally, the new Brazilian president’s first South American trip is to neighbouring Argentina, but the president-elect has announced that he prefers to go to Chile instead. The president-elect has also expressed a stronger stance on the crisis in Venezuela.
Finally, we can also expect that Brazil’s traditional support for multilateral institutions in key areas such as trade, human rights and the environment may be put to the test.
What does it mean for Canada? Despite the changes that will certainly come with a Bolsonaro administration, Brazil will remain a key actor on the international scene for years to come, along with emerging leaders in China, Russia, India and others. It is still the world’s ninth-largest economy and an important member of key multilateral fora, including the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the G20.
Also of note is the strength of Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in driving policy and its capacity to exert international influence, notably through the presence of Brazilian nationals in leadership positions of key multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organization and UN-affiliated institutions such as the World Food Programme.
For Canada, we overcame the trade irritants of the early 2000s involving aircraft and beef market access to significantly bulk up our political and commercial relationship with Brazil in the past two decades. This was done through numerous high-level visits and the creation of a bilateral mechanisms such as the recently he’d Strategic Partnership Dialogue at the foreign minister level, as well as the Joint Economic and Trade Committee that was held in 2017.
On trade and investments, Brazil remains an important country for Canada to meet its trade diversification objectives. It is the second largest economy in the Americas after the United States and t is Canada’s most important commercial partner in South America, with merchandise and trade between the two countries valued at more than $6.4 billion. This trade is critical to Canada’s value chain infrastructure. For example, one-third of Canada’s aluminum output results from trade with Brazil. Currently, Brazil is Canada’s fifth largest foreign investor.
Deepening our strong commercial relations via the ongoing negotiations for a free trade agreement with Mercosur countries will be the number one priority for Canada in coming months. Mercosur is a trading bloc and customs union consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay that represents a GDP of $3.6 trillion and a population of 260 million. Brazil is the most important economy of the bloc, accounting for 72 per cent of its GDP.
An eventual free trade agreement with Mercosur could enhance market access in Brazil for Canadian exporters in a number of sectors. It could also lead to increased and predictable access for Canadian investors and service providers. The negotiations with Mercosur have been advancing well so far.
There should also be renewed opportunities for Canadian companies in science, technology and innovation, where the incoming government and economic team have expressed a need for Brazil to improve the performance and productivity of its manufacturing and value-added industries. President-Elect Bolsonaro appears to be committed to the internationalization of Brazilian companies and to the development of stronger ties between the private sector and research, which could bring opportunities to position Canada as a partner for Brazil in terms of innovation as well as a destination for Brazilian foreign direct investment, especially for innovative companies looking to grow beyond Brazil. Of note, Brazil is only one of five countries with which Canada already shares a funded science, technology and innovation agreement, which could be leveraged to increase this collaboration.
Moreover, Bolsonaro’s future Minister of Science and Technology, former astronaut Marcos Pontes, has already stated his intention to strengthen technological exchange and cooperation with Canada. He is a former colleague of Canada’s Governor General, the Right Honourable Julie Payette, when both worked together in their space exploration endeavours.
On education, Canadian international education should remain attractive and opportunities for technical training or tailor-made education for the private sector could appear in relation to workforce adjustment principally in manufacturing sectors. According to the most recent Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada figures, Brazil was the seventh largest source of international students in Canada. As well, Canada is the number one destination for Brazilian students studying English and the number two destination for Brazilians wanting to study French.
On security and defence, the already strong security and defence links between Canada and Brazil are likely to continue and to be deepened under the new administration. Given Brazil’s importance as a regional player, strong service-to-service ties and Brazil’s increased role in regional peace support operations, Brazil is a priority country for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces in the hemisphere.
The last Political-Military Talks between Canada and Brazil were hosted by Brazil in June 2018. They led to the completion of negotiations on a defence cooperation agreement and increased collaboration on women, peace and security, including through bilateral dialogue. Seeking cabinet and legislative approval for the signature and ratification of the defence cooperation agreement will be a priority for both Canada and Brazil.
While there will be plenty of opportunities to foster our relationship with Brazil under a Bolsonaro administration, we must acknowledge that some of his campaign promises might lead to divergences if they are implemented. In a wide-ranging relationship such as ours, disagreements or differences of approach are inevitable.
We will be watching closely for the new government’s foreign policy orientation in the areas of human rights, environment and climate change, as well as the support of multilateral institutions. There have been media reports about the new president’s positions on women’s rights, LGBTI rights and climate change. However, the extent of real policy change remains to be seen.
President-Elect Bolsonaro already said that he would not implement his promise to remove Brazil from the Paris Agreement on climate change. He has also committed to respect Brazil’s constitution. It remains unclear how his skepticism toward multilateral institutions will translate in trade-related organizations such as the World Trade Organization, where Brazil is playing a key role to reform the institution.
In conclusion, the recent elections in Brazil will definitely lead to a significant change in domestic and international policy. Some of those changes will likely result in new opportunities for Canada to strengthen our relationship with Brazil, while others will lead to disagreements that we will need to work through and overcome.
As with any new government, at this stage it is too early to know the extent of the opportunities or the challenges. It is premature still to determine if the rhetoric that accompanied the political campaign will translate into policy shifts. What remains clear, regardless of the recent electoral results, is that Canada’s interests in Brazil are significant and that our bilateral relationship is deep and multi-faceted, spanning much more than relations with Brazil’s federal government. We will work closely with the states and municipalities and with the country’s vibrant civil society, including non-governmental organizations, academic institutions and think tanks. This will continue to be the case going forward regardless of the political dynamics at the federal level. Thank you.
The Chair: You have covered a lot of territory there. Perhaps you could remind us. In our report, two things came to the fore where there were great opportunities for Canada. One was education, and I am pleased to hear that there has been progress in that area.
When this committee visited Brazil it was interesting to understand not only the dynamic of their state levels and how they play into the federal system, but politically how those work out. The controls really affect the actual parliament from the states.
In this election, will there be a shift at that second level, or is it how it will play into the overall federal system? In other words, will Bolsonaro have more problems or fewer problems than the previous administration had in dealing with all of the states?
Ms. Urban: I am afraid I don’t think I have enough information to answer that specific question. As I mentioned before, a good number of political parties make up the government, so I think that it will continue to be challenging in the way that it has been challenging to date. I don’t know if my colleagues have any indications.
It is difficult to say right now, but we can keep an eye on that and get back to you.
The Chair: Certainly in our report we had a lot of positive things to say, but we said it was all subject to governance, which was problematic after our report, particularly for the people of Brazil. This is a whole new direction that we will have to chart with them.
Senator Bovey: I found it very interesting, particularly in light of the fact that I was in Argentina a week ago today and we were talking about some of what you mentioned from that perspective.
We on this committee have been working on the issue of cultural diplomacy and the impact of cultural diplomacy for Canada globally. You’ve spoken about education, which I think is truly important. However, going forward with your crystal ball, what is your sense of the roles that soft diplomacy, cultural diplomacy or cultural exchanges can play in terms of creating greater understanding, greater trade, greater business and further opportunities?
I am talking about exchange of historical work and contemporary young artists of all disciplines. I am looking at it from the broad sector. I would be interested to know what you feel, at a time of change, about how cultural understandings can increase our relationships going forward.
Ms. Urban: Certainly this government in its foreign policy also sees cultural diplomacy as an important part of our overall diplomatic relationships. It sees that as an important dimension of that relationship.
Some of that is the mandate of another federal department, but what I can do is get back to the committee with any additional plans about what Canada might be thinking of over the next coming years with regard to cultural diplomacy.
Senator Bovey: I want to push this a little further. With your knowledge of the area, what would you say is the understanding of Canada? As we look at future trade agreements and future agreements of all sorts, do you see the need for an increase in Canada’s values and Canada’s understandings?
Ms. Urban: As I mentioned in my opening remarks, there are some quite notable similarities between Canada and Brazil. Some of that is that we have large land masses, such as the Amazon and the Arctic. As well, we have a deep relationship with our Indigenous populations. Certainly there are areas of commonalty between Canada and Brazil. We have opened many opportunities for cultural diplomacy and for Canada to share its best practices. In diplomatic exchanges that I’ve been part of, the Government of Brazil has expressed an interest in exchanging with Canada in these areas.
Senator Bovey: When you compare the Amazon and the Arctic, perhaps you could address a bit about climate change. We’re well aware of the work being done in Canada’s Arctic now. Are you aware of what is being done in the Amazon?
Ms. Urban: Indeed, in all of our partnership dialogues and discussions, the topic of climate change is one that has been discussed. As I mentioned before, we work with the Government of Brazil on environmental stewardship. We have recently seen that they have committed to following through on the Paris Agreement. We also believe that they have offered to host a COP meeting in the future.
A question will remain, as we move forward, with the Government of Brazil seeking to relax some regulations and to privatize public companies. There have been some concerns expressed publicly about the environmental impact of that.
For example, Canada is cognizant of the recent creation of the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. Any Canadian company operating in Brazil will be held accountable for operating with good corporate and social responsibilities and principles and with good environmental stewardship in mind. Canada, for example, has already cooperated with Brazil in a number of related areas. In July 2017, Canada hosted the second World Indigenous Peoples’ Games.
We also have small programming. We used to have a development program that ended in 2011, but we have the small Canada Fund for Local Initiatives. We use that local fund to support activities. Some of those are related to Indigenous populations. We used some small programs to help create a documentary about Indigenous women in Brazil. It is as another means by which we can collaborate in these areas.
Through our embassy and through our presence in Brazil, we are supporting ongoing dialogue between stakeholders on themes of corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship. There are many points of intersection where Canada and Brazil have an opportunity to exchange on important matters.
Senator Boehm: I am new to the Senate but not new to Brazil, so I would like to probe you a bit.
In my previous career, I found the bilateral relationship between Canada and Brazil zigzagged a lot, whether it was through a complicated consular case, through the Embraer-Bombardier dispute, or through mad cow disease accusations and the like. We worked very closely. In fact, when I was permanent at the OAS we would sit alphabetically, so Brazil was always to my left and we had an opportunity to discuss. As you mentioned in your remarks, they have a very professional and dedicated foreign service, but they might be put to the test with the Bolsonaro leadership.
My question is more directed to Brazil and to Canada as regional players. Canada is a member of the so-called Lima Group, looking at the situation in Venezuela. Mr. Bolsonaro has said that he will look at that very closely to see what President Maduro is really up to. There is the other neighbour, Bolivia, with President Morales who has been there for a long time. He is very much from the left, and Indigenous issues are important there. Then you have the OAS that you mentioned as well.
Are you working on a comprehensive strategy that would involve our missions? Will we engage with the new administration, once the cabinet is named, to look at pressing regional issues that are destabilizing and creating refugee flows into Colombia, Brazil and some parts of the Caribbean? If you have a strategy, how do you expect to push it forward?
Ms. Urban: That is a multi-faceted question. Indeed, once there are more appointments to cabinet, our embassy will certainly go out proactively and begin having meetings and establishing relationships with those new cabinet members as part of an overall strategy.
In terms of Brazil regionally it’s very early to speculate. I don’t want to get into too much speculation, but early indications are that they will potentially have a strong position with regard to issues such as Venezuela. At present, both Brazil and Canada, as members of the Lima Group of foreign ministers, have been addressing the issue of Venezuela over the past year. It is possible that the Government of Brazil will be a stronger player in that regard, although the details of the ways in which they will do that have yet to be seen. It could be that there is stronger collaboration within the Lima Group with Brazil on that.
In addition to the political focus of the Lima Group, another dimension is the issue of Venezuelan migration in a number of countries in South America. Certainly Brazil has had to handle Venezuelan migrants coming across their border into their country. Canada has already been working with the Government of Brazil and supporting them, as I have mentioned, through small Canada Fund for Local Initiatives projects to help Brazil with managing some of the issues related to Venezuelan migrants. However, most are in agreement that the situation will continue to get worse.
Canada has provided assistance already, for example, through funding humanitarian programming and through some of our peace and security programming on a regional level. We are providing funding to help these countries address the migration crisis. This will be an ongoing story in coming months.
We will also continue to look at political dynamics in other countries in the region. Bolivia will have elections coming up in the near future. We will also need to look at ways in which we collaborate with Brazil and other countries through the Organization of American States. There have been recently resolutions and work done by the Organization of American States in areas of concern for those countries, including Nicaragua. We anticipate that we will be able to work with Brazil.
You are very right. Brazil sits next to ourselves around the table at the Organization of American States, and that opportunity has even led to bilateral discussions at that multilateral fora.
Senator Boehm: To follow up on one point on more the economic and trade sides. When the Bolsonaro government looks north, they will not see us. The curvature of the earth is such that it will stop at the United States, and their focus will be there. By the same token, we are negotiating an FTA with Mercosur. If we step on that, would this not be a vehicle for greater engagement including leveraging the other discussions that you mentioned?
Ms. Urban: Absolutely, yes. Mercosur holds a lot of potential and is extremely important to Canada for a number of commercial and trade reasons. It’s also a good regional organization. We are seeing in Latin America and the Caribbean an evolution of regional organizations. Some of them are strengthening, and some of them are losing steam.
However, Pacific Alliance and Mercosur show examples of strong regional collaboration and opportunities for discussion. In our negotiations on Mercosur, Canada is bringing to the discussion the idea of an inclusive approach to international trade in commercial and investment. That is an example of ways in which we can do that.
Venezuela is not a member of Mercosur, so this is an example of a regional organization where Canada can leverage and work with Brazil. It holds a tremendous amount of potential. As I mention, it is a top priority for the Government of Canada, but we know as well that it is a top priority for the Government of Brazil.
Senator Housakos: My question is in regard to the fact that obviously we have our interests in Brazil as a country. We are in competition with the United States for that particular potential relationship, but the reality of the matter is that between Canada and Brazil is the world’s largest market. Traders always like to go where they can sell high volume and get good return.
In addition to Mercosur and all other elements that we’re trying to enhance between ourselves and Brazil, what other extenuating elements do we need to build upon to give us an edge over the United States? Obviously it has the geographic edge and the economies of scale edge. What else can we do as an economy to give us a competitive capacity with the United States in Brazil?
Ms. Urban: We have a very active Trade Commissioner Service present in Brazil working with Canadian companies. There are some niche areas that Canada can leverage in terms of Brazil’s priorities, one of them being research and science. We can leverage and maximize the fact that we have a science, technology and innovation funded agreement. It also seems to coincide with Brazil’s priority sector which seems to match well with what Canada has to offer. Some of our exports and some of our companies have an interest in Brazil, including clean energy research and agriculture. There are key links between Canada and Brazil in those sectors. They are areas in which we can have a strong focus such as technology and innovation.
If you look at how we have been collaborating on education, there has been a lot of institution-to-institution collaborations between Brazil and Canada in the areas of science, technology and innovation. We can leverage the fact that we have those institutional relationships and leverage the relationships that we have. As a detail, the Brazilian government has recently announced its selection of 25 selected projects for its program on institutional internationalization. From these 25 projects, 22 indicated that Canadian educational institutions were their partners. That will be helpful for Canadian companies and give us the edge.
Another dimension I would add is that there could be ways in which an increased collaboration between Brazil and the United States could help to pave a way for even a better ease of doing business for Canadian companies. It doesn’t have to be that progress on the Brazil-U.S. front gets in the way of opportunities for Canadian companies and for the Canadian economy. There are some trade disputes between Brazil and the United States. If there is progress on them or if those are resolved, it could be helpful to Canada.
Senator Housakos: One of the sectors of concern for me is the service sector. The service sector in Canada has been our fastest-growing sector in the economy for the last little while. We have seen a lot of growth of the service sector in terms of trade with our biggest trading partner, but when it comes to countries like Brazil and other smaller trading partners, I get the sense that we are not competitive or our service sectors don’t seem to be penetrating.
Is there a reason for that? Is there something that Parliament and government can do to get around that hurdle, if I am right?
Ms. Urban: We are modernizing our Trade Commissioner Services by increasing our focus on small and medium enterprises. As part of what the government and the Global Affairs Canada are doing for our Trade Commissioner Services, we’re trying to make it more available and accessible to Canadian companies so that Canadian companies take advantage of the services that the Government of Canada provides. This means being more accessible online, more accessible through social media, and being more present for Canadian companies. There is a perception that the government could be doing more to help Canadian companies that have an interest in creating opportunities in other markets.
It is true that Brazil is a closed market, so it is a difficult market to access. There is some potential hope, depending on how things move forward over the coming years. Their focus right now is on addressing corruption and on their liberal economic platform to reduce red tape and to ease regulations. This may help Canadian companies and may open up Canadian opportunities in Brazil.
The Chair: Following up a bit on that, in our study it was rather revealing to us to see how much trade is internal trade. The country is huge and disparate. Not only were they closed, but it was an opportunity for them to survive by inter-trading with the varying regions.
China was becoming a factor. Certainly, in President Lula’s time, followed by President Rousseff and even in the previous immediate presidency, China was a factor in varying and different ways. The new president has made some comments about China. Will that be a significant factor or not? Also, he is not as enamoured with the BRICS situation.
Do we believe that offers opportunities in trade? You already mentioned that south-south would not be the issue in north-south. There are opportunities, I would presume, but would you want to comment on that?
Ms. Urban: We have been monitoring that because China is Brazil’s most important commercial and investment partner. We also recognize that Candidate Bolsonaro during the election platform raised some questions about the extent of Chinese investments in Brazil, but nonetheless he said that he expected to work amicably with representatives of the Chinese government.
It is early days to be able to provide an opinion on the future direction of the Brazil-China trade and diplomatic relationships, but traditionally Brazil highly valued its membership in the BRICS group of nations and is expected to host the BRICS summit in 2019.
Senator Dawson: At the beginning of your statement you mentioned Indigenous issues. Among the outrageous statements made by the new president was the quasi-elimination of Indigenous rights in his new Brazil, taking over their land and denying them the right of protection.
How much of it was electoral rhetoric? I don’t like the word execute because it sounds very bad, but in China it was outrageous. I think it is a danger for Indigenous communities. I was wondering if you have any insight for us on that issue. We’re not always very good with our own.
Ms. Urban: Right. In response to that, on the night of his election President-Elect Bolsonaro said that he was committed to the Brazilian constitution, which provides a progressive legal framework and includes strong human rights protections. There are checks and balances within the Brazilian system in that regard.
Canada and Brazil have worked closely on the issue of human rights, including Indigenous rights. We do so in a variety of ways both bilaterally and multilaterally through multilateral organizations. We have recently had consultations with Brazil. One was on humanitarian issues and took place in 2014. In 2017, we had bilateral consultations on the topic of human rights. Canada has an open dialogue with Brazil to address those issues. I also mentioned the negotiations on Mercosur. In Canada’s approach to those negotiations we are focusing on inclusive elements of the Mercosur agreement, including as they pertain to Indigenous populations. It’s very early in the mandate. It is not a point to speculate, but the way the Brazilian constitution and its government are constructed can provide a strong framework for human rights in Brazil. Canada is attentive to it and will make it a priority in our discussions with the Government of Brazil.
The Chair: I thank you and your colleagues for accepting our invitation to come and update us. It is very helpful to remind us of the size of Brazil and that it is in our hemisphere. It is also helpful to underscore the opportunities for building a stronger relationship and at least be alert to the changes that may be there. One would hope they will be positive for Brazilian people and for future collaboration with Canada.
If there is anything else you would wish to add to your testimony today, it would be helpful. You could just file it with the clerk in the usual manner.
Senators, we will suspend for two minutes to go into an in camera meeting.
(The committee continued in camera.)