Progress report from New Democrat Foreign Affairs Critic Paul Dewar
New Democrats are committed to earning back Canada’s respect on the world stage so that we can win back our seat at the Security Council table. We want to project a bold and ambitious agenda for cooperation, and to build a more compassionate, peaceful and sustainable world.
That work has already begun. I write you this progress report on our party’s record in the most recent session of Parliament.
Led by Jack Harris, NDP Defence Critic, our team secured assurances that the Conservatives would no longer extend Canada’s role in Afghanistan beyond 2014. For the first time since the start of the war in Afghanistan, Stephen Harper was facing a determined and principled Official Opposition which would not allow him extend the mission any further.
We will continue to hold the government to account on its record in Afghanistan and urge a renewed focus on development, democracy and human rights.
In reaction to the deepening crisis in Syria and the immense human suffering caused by the conflict, I issued statements condemning the violence and calling for an immediate ceasefire. Parliament unanimously adopted my motion to condemn the violence in Syria, support the joint UN-Arab League efforts for a ceasefire, engage Russia and China in seeking a resolution to the conflict, provide humanitarian aid to civilians and stand in solidarity with the Syrian people.
Women, peace and security:
Gender violence is often used in conflicts by state security forces and armed groups alike to destroy the social and cultural bonds of communities and terrorize civilians. Earlier in the session, our Deputy Foreign Affairs Critic Ève Péclet succeeded in passing a motion at the International Human Rights committee to study gender violence in the Congo conflict. On June 14, I hosted the launch of Nobel Women’s Initiative’s International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict. Thanks to strong pressure from civil society and activists, my motion to make Canada a leader on ending sexual violence in conflict was unanimously adopted by Parliament.
UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food:
Our leader and a number of critics met with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, during his mission to Canada. We discussed our perspectives and proposals regarding addressing food insecurity and human rights in Canada and abroad. New Democrats were dismayed at the Harper government’s response, which minimized the severity of poverty in Canada and displayed a lack of respect for Canada’s international human rights obligations. On behalf of our party, I wrote a letter to Dr. de Schutter to thank him for his mission to Canada and express our regrets for the government’s reaction to his report. I particularly thanked him for his highlighting of the plight of children and Aboriginal peoples – an invaluable insight informed by his visits to indigenous communities in Northern Manitoba and Alberta.
Foreign affairs committee was seized with a timely study on the situation in Ukraine. The politically-motivated persecution and arrest of Ukrainian opposition members, including former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, has undermined confidence in Ukraine’s movement toward democracy. Our MPs Linda Duncan and Alexandrine Latendresse joined the committee mission to Ukraine. We issued a minority report following the visit to Ukraine which called on the Conservatives to replicated EU’s suspension of trade agreement negotiations with Ukraine until the situation has significantly improved.
Along with our leader, our international affairs team has conducted a successful diplomatic outreach, meeting with a number of Ambassadors, High Commissioner and high-level officials and diplomats. In our meetings, we presented our party’s foreign affairs priorities, from climate change and environmental sustainability, to global peace and security. We have also met with officials from our sister parties abroad to coordinate our efforts at the international level.
Arms Trade Treaty:
We succeeded in changing the Harper government’s irresponsible position on an Arms Trade Treaty, an agreement to regulate the import, export and transfer of all conventional weapons. At the previous round of negotiations Conservatives played a spoiler role by seeking to exclude all sporting and hunting firearms from the international Treaty. Our critic for Americas Hélène Laverdière secured committee hearings on Canada’s position. Thanks to pressure from civil society and our party’s strong opposition to the government’s position, the government has dropped its request to exclude these weapons. The final round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in July.
Climate and Environment talks:
Led by NDP Environment Critic Megan Leslie, the New Democrat environment team has been working hard to hold the Conservatives to account for their attacks on environmental protection. In December, NDP’s former Deputy Environment Critic Laurin Liu traveled to Durban to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change, where the Conservative’s failure to address the climate crisis culminated in Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. New Democrats responded by putting forward an Opposition Day motion to call on the government to take urgent action on the environment and to secure Canadian jobs in the new energy sector.
This June, Deputy Environment Critic Anne Minh-Thu Quach represented the NDP at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio + 20. She called out the Conservatives for weakening commitments on biodiversity of oceans and fossil fuels and blocking financial commitments to developing countries struggling to deal with climate change — all while loosening environmental protections at home by gutting environmental regulation in the budget bill.
In the upcoming session of Parliament, we will continue our team’s focus on promoting peace and security, corporate social responsibility and economic sustainability:
Convention on Cluster Munitions – Bill S-10:
The horrible remnants of cluster munitions take a devastating toll long after conflicts have ended. Ninety-eight percent of casualties are civilians, many of them children. That is why the international community has moved towards a ban of cluster munitions. But instead of implementing the international ban, the Conservatives have proposed legislation in the Senate to create exemptions that are in complete disagreement with the spirit of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. A former Australian prime minister is calling the Conservative’s approach “timid, inadequate and regressive”. Along with our National Defence critic Jack Harris, we have reached out to experts and civil society groups to oppose the Harper government’s bill and seek to amend it at the committee stage. We expect the bill to arrive in the House of Commons in the fall, and we will be relying on activists in civil society and our members across the country to push back on the Conservative bill.
Medicines for All – Bill C-398:
2.3 million children under the age of 15 are infected with HIV. One in two children with HIV in the developing world dies before reaching his or her second birthday. Canada can play an important role in changing those statistics. In the previous parliament, the House of Commons adopted our “Medicines for All” bill to provide low-cost generic life-saving medication to developing countries with a strong vote, including 26 Conservative MPs. However, the industry minister directed Conservative senators to kill the bill in the Senate. It was a heartbreaking set-back, but our work continues. Hélène Laverdière has re-introduced the bill as C-398 and we will be campaigning strongly to ensure its passage in this parliament.
Corporate social responsibility:
The Foreign Affairs committee has been studying the role of private corporations in international development. While Conservatives want to use the study to undermine the importance of public sector in development, our International Development Critic Romeo Saganash has led our team’s focus on transparency and corporate social responsibility in international development. In the coming months, our team will continue our efforts to ensure that Canadian corporations maintain the highest standards of human rights, labour rights and environmental protection in their operations abroad. Later this year, I will introduce legislation to end the trade of conflict minerals which sustain the horrific conflict in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
Nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament:
New Democrats are strongly committed to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament as significant steps in promoting global peace and security. I will be travelling to Kazakhstan this summer on a mission with Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament to shape parliamentary action and build political momentum to achieve the global abolition of nuclear weapons. New Democrats believe that Canada must play a leadership role in the global efforts against nuclear arms, and we’re starting on that work now.
I’m immensely proud of the efforts of our international team in parliament to both oppose the Conservative agenda and to put forward positive steps to improve Canada’s role in the world. As we continue to hold the Conservatives to account and promote our policies for change, we rely on your support and advice.
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