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THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, to which was referred Bill C-47, An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments), met this day at 1:30 p.m. to give clause-by-clause consideration to the bill.

Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: We are meeting today to complete our examination of Bill C-47, An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments).

The committee has heard from witnesses, and we delayed our clause by clause today to take in all the evidence that we had before us. We are now at the stage where we can go through the bill clause by clause.

Senators, is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-47?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Before we begin, I would like to make members aware that we have government officials from Global Affairs Canada in the room should members have any technical questions to raise as we go through the bill clause by clause.

If at any point a senator is not clear where we are in the process, please ask for clarification. I want to ensure that at all times we all have the same understanding of where we are in the process. In terms of the mechanics of the process, I wish to remind senators that when more than one amendment is proposed to be moved in a clause, amendments should be proposed in the order of the lines of a clause. If a senator is opposed to an entire clause, I would remind you that in the committee, the proper process is not to move a motion to delete the entire clause but rather to vote against the clause as standing as part of the bill.

I further remind senators that some amendments that are moved may have consequential effect on other parts of the bill. It would be useful to this process if a senator moving an amendment identified to the committee other clauses in this bill where this amendment could have an effect. Otherwise, it would be very difficult for members of the committee to remain consistent in their decision making.

If committee members ever have any questions about the process or about the propriety of anything occurring, they can certainly raise a point of order. As chair, I will listen to the argument, decide when there has been sufficient discussion of a matter or order and make a ruling.

The committee is the ultimate master of its business within the bounds established by the Senate, and a ruling can be appealed to the full committee by asking whether the ruling shall be sustained.

As chair, I will do my utmost to ensure that all senators wishing to speak have the opportunity to do so. For this, however, I will depend on your cooperation. I ask all of you to consider other senators and to keep your remarks to the point and as brief as possible.

Finally, I wish to remind honourable senators that if there is ever any uncertainty as to the result of a voice vote or a show of hands, the most effective route is to request a roll call which obviously provides unambiguous results. Senators are aware that any tied vote negates the motion in question.

If there are no questions, I am ready to proceed.

Senator Massicotte: Perhaps I could take a couple of minutes. Some of you are aware of my opinion. Once we hear hours and hours of testimony and before we go to detailed clause by clause, as a matter or process we have a discussion among ourselves to basically share what we heard and to share our opinion relative to what we heard. I think we all benefit from that discussion. I think it is normal, after hours of listening, that we should have an informal and preferably confidential discussion among ourselves.

I would normally try to encourage a more serious debate among all of us, but given that we don’t have much time today we the time, let me summarize what I think are the issues we heard. You’re aware of my thoughts because I sent you an email. If you don’t mind I will be a bit aggressive, maybe more than usual, in telling you what was the consensus so we can go a little faster. If you don’t agree, it is obviously your right to interject.

First, there were some questions and a lack of full comfort among some members of this committee relative to the fact that the United States would continue to be excluded from the permit process. Some of us felt uncomfortable, but I think there was a broad consensus to say that in the circumstances, given the relationship we have with the United States, it is a relationship we need to continue. The consequences are too severe. While some had a little less than full comfort, I would say the consensus here is that stands. You can comment later on.

Second, irrespective of whether we continue to do U.S. trade without the permit process, there were strong recommendations and feelings among some of you that there should be greater transparency by Canada in its annual report to the legislatures, which should include all Canadian exports and imports to the U.S. As you know, we got an email yesterday from Amnesty International. The amendment emanating from that is not significant, but some of us, including me, could not get a handle on how important that was. I am all for transparency, especially when you give such broad powers to the government to trade with the United States. It would have been neat to have a somewhat greater transparency on what that means. Let me come back to that.

Third, when you talk to the minister it is very clear in her mind that, contrary to Amnesty International, she has the power to end or freeze a permit irrespective of the consequences at any point in time. That is a lot like the British system where they have that right. She made it very clear she was going to use that more frequently. At least this government will do that more frequently than in the past.

As you also know, six years ago Pratt & Whitney was found guilty for the improper use of armaments. A $75 million fine was imposed by the American government. Our government decided not to collect or pursue it. It looks like this government is going to use its discretion to freeze or cancel permits more frequently. My concern is that Canadian vendors are signing contracts today where there is no right to cancel. It’s probably the case for the contract in question with Saudi Arabia, where they’re somewhat stuck. I would urge the minister to make it very clear to the enterprises to do like they do in the United States. That is, there should be a force majeure clause in the sales contracts so that the government is not imposing significant penalties.

I think those were the three issues that we heard that were bothersome. I think we had consensus on the first one. The second one, we’re not sure how important it was. The third one should be dealt with administratively.

I would recommend that we accept this bill as is but that we delegate to the steering committee the further pursuance of our three concerns with the minister and to come back in time with more information on how to manage those three issues or to resort to another process. I think we need to pursue the three issues with the minister to find out more substantially what we are talking about, if it is very important. In time, we would get back to you. That’s how I recommend we deal with the three issues and where there is probably consensus amoungst ourselves.

The Chair: I have a list. Hopefully it is a short one.

Senator Saint-Germain: As I have attended all meetings and met with all witnesses, I agree with that summary of what happened, but none of the witnesses thought that the addition of Canada to the ATT was something that should not happen now. Many people, including people from civil society, were pressing the government to go ahead with this bill. In principle, I believe it is very important that we stress the fact that Canada is long overdue to be part of the Arms Trade Treaty.

We all agree with transparency, but regarding the specific profile of the armament industry, which is a kind of Canada-American industry, we need to be very pragmatic when we speak about requiring arms permits for all companies. In matters of transparency, we need to know the way the components of the firearms are exported and imported back and forth. It is very specific, and it is very important not to be disruptive of this industry.

The issue of transparency is an interesting one, but I would support your proposal, senator, that we raise it through a letter to the minister to see what more has to be done, if more can be done, and how it can be done without Canada losing its competitiveness because other countries, especially the U.K., France, Belgium and Netherlands, have fast-tracked proceedings. We need to keep it like it is for the time being. If we go further, it would be important for us to have the experts from Global Affairs give us more information with regard to the consequences or the impact of requiring more information and imposing additional processes or procedures to the military and firearm industries of both countries.

Senator Coyle: I know you’re in a hurry and I know I didn’t attend all of the meetings because I am new to the committee. I also have to leave just before two o’clock for the chamber. I want to express at this table agreement with what Senator Massicotte has put on the table, but I am not sure I agree with the proposed solution. Apparently we only get to open up something like an Arms Trade Treaty every 25 years, I’ve been told.

I agree the main thing is that we need to get this done so that everyone sees Canada signing onto the treaty as a very positive step. I don’t think there is agreement on the issue of the capture and disclosure of information. I think with the issue of reporting, there is some question about how difficult or how easy it is. Maybe this will be discussed later when we go through clause by clause, but I was told a few minutes ago that even in conversations with officials at Global Affairs, there were some hints at openings around the issue of information and reporting, not permitting but capturing information. The proposed amendment that may or may not come to the table here does not actually name the U.S. It actually just makes the clause shorter and the requirement is there for everybody.

I wanted to put it on the table that I am not convinced everybody agrees. It will go where it goes, but I just wanted to make that point.

The Chair: If we go beyond the time allocated, we will have to adjourn and I will either have to seek leave to sit when the Senate is sitting at some appropriate time, or it will be adjourned until Wednesday. I thought that we had the time, but so many committees are sitting, trying to finish business, that it was very hard to get a room. Unbelievably that was the biggest thing, a very practical housekeeping thing that we struggled with. That’s why we ended up at this time. That is not to thwart any debate but certainly to remind you of the consequences of continuing the debate before we go clause by clause.

Senator Massicotte: Perhaps you could canvass, in my opinion, to see if you get a sense of consensus before we delay the discussion.

Senator Cordy: I agree with you, Senator Massicotte. I think they’re very good suggestions, and thanks for the letter. It gets everybody thinking.

Will we have observations to convey some of the things Senator Massicotte raised today? If so, I would be willing to let steering do that. I am saying that just because we heard some really good testimony, I thought, from the International Red Cross and from others about risk of diversion when arms are sent to the United States. I know we spoke about a letter to the minister. Perhaps we could make a comment or even an observation that the committee will be sending a letter to the minister addressing issues that we heard, such as blah, blah, blah, just so people who appeared as witnesses know we actually heard them.

Senator Saint-Germain: I propose we go clause by clause now.

The Chair: If there’s no further discussion, is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-47, An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments)?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the title stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 3 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 4 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 5 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 6 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 7 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 8 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 9 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 10 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 11 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 12 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 13 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 14 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 15 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 16 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 17 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 18 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 19 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 20 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 21 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 22 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 23 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 24 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the title carry?

Hon. Senators: Carried.

The Chair: Shall the bill carry?

Hon. Senators: Carried.

The Chair: Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report, or, as I indicated in conversation with Senator Massicotte, that the steering committee could undertake to fully look at the issue and come back with recommendations on how this committee should proceed to be seized with the issue? Therefore, it would not be restricted to an observation that just gets filed.

It would mean the committee would undertake to study how to address these issues and perhaps call witnesses, but it would be separate from this bill. It would be on the issue of the continuance of the issues that were brought up. In that way, it would be a more fulsome debate, understanding and commitment that we could give the government.

Senator Coyle: Does one preclude the other?

The Chair: It doesn’t technically, but I can tell you, from being around here, that once the observations are made the appetite fades. Going to the steering committee leaves it for the steering committee to address the issue and bring it back to the committee. The committee then puts the input into it, and we can then move it forward as we see fit as a committee. That gives us more time to investigate, to reflect and to call other witnesses.

We’re not precluded, then, by Bill C-47, which in fact is an enabling piece of legislation for the Arms Trade Treaty and that is it. Whereas, what we want to do is explore this relationship, transparency and accountability. That’s where I felt the instructions to the steering committee should really be to address this and bring this back. By virtue of doing that, we can file a report, which is tantamount to observations on the floor of the Senate at any time that we want.

It pays to be around this table for a few years. You get the nuances of what other committees have done.

Senator Coyle: I really appreciate the experience around the table. This is my third meeting of this committee.

The Chair: Stay tuned.

Senator Coyle: There is also some benefit to being the new guy because you get to ask questions. I am not convinced, to be honest, in what I’ve heard why one wouldn’t do both. I think that an observation or some observations could be in order. I am not discounting that or the second action that has been recommended, the letter. I think both sound like reasonable things to do, in my humble opinion.

Senator Cordy: My suggestion is that an observation be that the committee will be looking at issues raised by witnesses. I would leave this up to steering. I am comfortable with that. We don’t need the wording right now.

The committee will be looking at issues related to Bill C-47 specifically related to the testimony we heard from witnesses, including the risk of diversion and including other things as an observation.

The Chair: I wouldn’t list them by saying,“ observations from the committee.” It is on the record here.

Senator Cordy: We could say “such as,” and it wouldn’t be inclusive. Could we leave it to steering to make an observation related to that? I would like to have an observation, just because of the witness testimony we heard, to say that we actually heard them. It is a treaty. We can’t change it, but we heard what they had to say and we’re going to do further investigation.

Senator Dawson: For the sake of being able to report it today as quickly as possible, I think the steering committee could meet this afternoon and agree on wording that will satisfy. I certainly agree with the chair. I don’t think we should start making exceptions because it opens up debate on what is important and what is not. I agree that we will ask for a mandate to further study this question, and we’ll say so in the report.

I recommend steering be mandated, and we try to do that today. Timing is everything. It is the end of the session. If we don’t do it now, we get into another cycle.

Senator Cordy: Steering would develop an observation this afternoon.

Senator Dawson: I propose that we report this bill, as adopted.

Senator Dean: I am not going to throw things off balance at this point, so I think I will pass.

The Chair: Is it agreed that we pass the bill? We will report it with an observation that the steering committee will have the authority to complete the conversation we had here. Is that agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: We did it. I would like to make one comment because we are in a public forum. To my knowledge we do not and have not had, unless it was an exceptional circumstance, a committee meeting in camera to discuss legislation. We’ve done that for studies because of the nature of the studies, but on legislation we’re all free to make our comments and reach consensus in public and maybe after in camera for purposes of reports and observations but never before the vote. I want the public to understand that clarification.

Senator Massicotte: I have another comment to add that I think would be good for the future. It’s a process issue I feel strongly about. Before we do clause by clause, we should have time after the testimony to have a discussion among ourselves on what we heard, what we agreed and what we did not agree on, to make sure we get as much consensus as we can.

The Chair: I think we are obliged, the minute we’re finished the testimony. You’re treading on parliamentary privilege.

Senator Massicotte: Many committees are doing so, and nobody has gone to jail yet.

The Chair: That’s fine. I think we can have a fulsome debate about the fact that I don’t think we should have in-camera meetings before. How each one of us comes to the conclusion of how to vote would be different. I did want that on the record, and now I have it on twice.

(The committee adjourned.)