IN THE HOUSE ~ Speaking on Bill S-36, An Act to Amend the Export and Import of Rough Diamonds Act
October 26th, 2005 - 2:19am
38TH PARLIAMENT, 1ST SESSION
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill S-36, an act to amend the export and import of rough diamonds act. The act would serve to help us meet our commitments under the Kimberley process certification scheme.
I would like to say at the beginning that in this corner of the House we are in favour, in principle, of the bill moving forward but we are hoping at the committee stage there will be an examination of this important legislation, perhaps looking at the potential for improving it.
As the member for Sherbrooke mentioned, we are a bit concerned about the fact that the act in general will be reviewed in 2006. We are therefore making changes to the act, as proposed by this bill, even though we will not have the opportunity to review it until next year. This seems like a rather difficult procedure.
That being said, even if the process is of some concern to us, we are fully in favour in principle. There is not doubt about that.
I would like to go back to the principles of the Kimberley process and give a bit of the history of that process. The issue of blood diamonds, or les diamants du conflit, is something that has been a front and centre conflict, particularly in Africa, over the past decade. It was in 2000 that the first actions were taken to deal effectively with this issue of how to, in some way, cull or prevent blood diamonds from being distributed around the world and helping to fuel those conflicts.
A little later in my presentation I will outline the impact of the blood diamond trade on some of these civil wars. It has had absolute horrific results for the populations in these African countries. However for the moment I will just trace the history of it.
It started in July 2000 when the International Diamond Manufacturers Association and the World Federation of Diamond Bourses sat down at the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp and first started to address the issue of blood diamonds and how to create an environment where these diamonds were not trafficked and marketed in other countries such as Canada. That led to the formation of an active process and, as we know, we had 43 participants, including members of the European Community, who were part of the negotiations that led to the Kimberley process implementation. Canada chaired that process, which undoubtedly was important because it started to resolve the issue of blood diamonds and the impact of blood diamonds on these horrific civil wars.
As a result, we had a process that was implemented. We had a working group chaired by Canada and that process led to the creation of these voluntary standards that have now been put into place.
I will say that we are not talking about a perfect process. A little later on this afternoon I will mention some of the weaknesses of the existing process. However the process is undoubtedly better than what existed before, which was absolutely nothing to prevent the trafficking of these diamonds.
The issue really has to do with the impact the diamond trade had on the civil wars in Africa. I would like to mention four particularly horrific conflicts where very clearly blood diamonds sustained those conflicts and led to even further loss of life and further atrocities than what otherwise might have been the case.
What has often been cited is the Liberia Civil War which started in 1989, went through to 1997 and then started up again in 2000 and went until 2003. During this bloody dictatorship and the civil war that followed, about 200,000 people were killed and about one million civilians were displaced. That civil conflict was fueled by blood diamonds.
Second, the Angola Civil War started in 1975, after Angola acceded to independence and went right though to 2002, in other words, over a 30 year period. Some 500,000 people died, hundreds of thousands were displaced and thousands of civilians in Angola and combatants were maimed. The main rebel group in Angola, UNITA, controlled 70% of the diamond mines and that allowed for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue coming into UNITA to actually sustain that civil war and the war effort. I will come back to Angola in a moment because I think here is a case where blood diamonds fueled that conflict and contributed to the appalling loss of combatants and civilians.
A third example that is often cited is the Sierra Leone civil war which started in 1991 and ran through to 1999. Fifty thousand people died in that conflict. It is estimated that the main rebel group, the RUF, mined between $25 million and $125 million in diamonds annually to finance its war efforts, which were attacks on the civil population in Sierra Leone. That country is still recovering from that brutal civil war.
I have former constituents who are working as part of the United Nations relief effort in Sierra Leone to address the appalling results of that war, including establishing housing and helping to integrate many of the child combatants into their villages. The effects of that brutal civil war are still being felt today.
We then have the Republic of Congo civil war, which started in 1998 and ran through to 2003, but is still very endemic today. Over three million people have been killed in the Republic of Congo and it has been expelled from Kimberley membership. We will come back to that in a moment but it is clear that the appalling civil conflict in the Republic of Congo was fuelled by the diamond trade.
I will now go back to Angola. An interesting article was published in Drillbits and Tailings,a publication concerned with the diamond trade and mining. It linked up in a series of articles the Angola civil war and diamonds. I would like to read a few paragraphs from that because I think it is illustrative of exactly how blood diamonds fuelled the conflict.
It said that the United Nations estimated that UNITA, the main rebel group in Angola after independence, earned between $3 billion U.S. and $4 billion U.S. over the last eight years of the conflict from diamond sales after Angola was engulfed in the civil war in 1975 after gaining independence from Portugal.
When UNITA relaunched the war in December 1998, it relaunched it with money made from investing profits from diamond sales. In fact, the head of the UN peace building support office, Felix Downs-Thomas, said that the conflict was referred to as a diamond war. Diamonds not only allowed UNITA to finance the war, it was the principal reason for the fighting. In fact, ongoing wars in Angola were being fought because of the pursuit of those mineral riches.
The article goes on to say that diamonds had spawned a culture of violence in Angola, including the hiring of mercenaries, as confirmed by a United Nations report that came out in October 1998, and that the mining company, DiamondWorks, had well established connections to mercenaries and that Tony Buckingham of Branch Energy, a British company that owns one-quarter of the shares of DiamondWorks, is known for brokering entry of the corporation into Angola.
Executive Outcomes, which was the company that came into Angola, was a South African mercenary army that included former members of apartheid death squads. Half a million Angolans lost their homes in that conflict and became internal refugees as the war to seize control of the mining regions continued.
Angola is a clear case of where the intense search for blood diamonds fuelled the war and, because of the immense riches generated by these blood diamonds, contributed to deepening and widening the conflict.
I could speak about Sierra Leone and the similar impact the diamonds had in that civil conflict, but I would like to read a couple of paragraphs of the Human Rights Watch report on Sierra Leone at the height of the blood diamond fuelled war.
Human Rights Watch has documented numerous rebel abuses committed in 2000 in the Port Loko district, which was an area allegedly under government control. The abuses included cases of rape, 118 cases of abduction of villagers, three murders, cases of mutilation, of forced labour, of massive looting, of ambushing and the training, as I mentioned earlier, of child combatants. Most of the victims were civilians living in camps for internally displaced people who were attacked when they ventured out to get food, wood or water.
The atrocities taking place in Sierra Leone, Angola and Congo are all fuelled by these blood diamonds. That is why, in this corner of the House, as previous speakers have mentioned, we fully support the intention of the Kimberley Process and the idea that the Kimberley Process will lead to a better situation and a partial resolution of this trade in blood diamonds that fuels these horrific civil conflicts. We know that it is civilians, women, men and children, who are the victims of these horrific conflicts.
We should say that the blood diamonds, even though they have been reduced through the Kimberley Process, have not been eliminated. Kim Sutch, who is the director of the Diamond Information Centre in Canada, says that the blood stones are still believed to make up about 1% of the legitimate diamond trade, while conflict diamonds were believed previously to comprise as much as 5% or 6% of the global rough diamond trade.
This trade has now been reduced, but we cannot say it has been eliminated through the Kimberley Process. We must say that the Kimberley Process is a significant step, but it is not a final resolution of the trade in these horrific blood stones. If we have reduced the trade from 5% or 6% to just below 1%, we have not completely resolved the issue.
In the Globe and Mail, London-based Global Witness stated, “Despite improvements, the Kimberley Process is still having difficulty in stopping conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate diamond trade” completely. Global Witness mentioned this in a June report. The Global Witness group, whose campaign helped trigger the Kimberley Process, said that diamonds continue to fuel conflict in areas such as the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and also play a role in the conflict in the Ivory Coast.
As we know, the Democratic Republic of Congo was kicked out of the Kimberley Process for non-compliance in 2004, but the Ivory Coast continues to be a member of the Kimberley Process. Even though this is a vast improvement in a situation that very clearly needed to be resolved, even though we needed to make a substantial gesture and the international community has come together for voluntary compliance, even though these are significant steps, that is why I have to underscore the fact that this does not resolve completely an issue that continues to exist.
We have to monitor it and look at furthering our international commitments so that indeed we can say, perhaps in the next few years, that we have entirely eliminated the trade of blood diamonds, that blood diamonds cannot squeeze through the loopholes that exist in the process.
In other words, the Kimberley Process must be a gigantic stepping stone to ultimate resolution, so that in no part of the world, especially in Africa, given the recent conflicts there, can there be trade in blood diamonds. That must be the ultimate objective.
I believe this is something that all four corners of this House would agree with. All members of this House believe that we must ultimately completely eliminate the trade in blood diamonds. This is a fundamental goal that we all share.
Since we have had a lot of discussion about diamonds and conflict, I would like to quote an article that was in La Presse a few months ago. It was an interesting article that raised the whole problem of blood diamonds. It said:
Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone were posing a problem in the late 1990s when the UN Security Council decided to act. The sanctions that were provided have been easy to circumvent and have not had much effect. The diamond industry soon smelled a huge problem with them: the most coveted stone in the world was in danger of being boycotted, like fur 20 years ago. Already some NGOs like Oxfam and Amnesty International were decrying the abuses. The Kimberley conference, taken from the name of the city where it was held, produced an initiative: the certificate of authenticity that makes it possible to trace diamonds from their extraction in one of the 17 producing countries to the world markets. The diamonds leave the country with a seal of compliance that is required further down the line. “The process is doing its job, it works,” says Mr. Van Bockstael.
Mr. Van Bockstael chairs the committee in charge of the implementation of the Kimberley process.
The article also said:
For the rest, however, it is another matter. The big mining companies would try to ensure good conditions for their workers, but how could the unauthorized mining of local people in African villages working with spades and sieves be controlled?
For the time being, only the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), Liberia and Lebanon are excluded from the process. The Republic of the Congo, for example, produced only 50,000 carats a year but sold 5 million. A patent case of trafficking.
This is an interesting article because it brings up the point that that the legal production represents 1% of everything sold on the market. There is a problem in the Republic of the Congo. Even if production was a certain amount, what was sold was mostly blood diamonds, which amounted to 100 times the legitimate production.
I would like to conclude by mentioning that the Canadian industry is growing by leaps and bounds as well. Our adherence to the Kimberley Process also helps to legitimize our strong Canadian domestic production. We have a number of mines that have started production in the past few years. In fact, we are now the world's third largest diamond producer.
Even though we still have additional steps to take, for us to participate in a process that ensures as much as possible a legitimate diamond trade, a trade that stops the blood diamond trade as much as possible, and hopefully one day completely and entirely stops it, is something that also helps our legitimate domestic diamond trade.
For all those reasons I will stand in support in principle of Bill S-36. We are hoping, as I mentioned earlier, that we will be able to look at this in committee, of course, and examine it in more detail. However, we are completely in agreement with the principle of the Kimberley Process and any amendments that allow us to keep our commitments on the Kimberley Process.
Mr. Speaker, it stems from how we move this process along. Under the Kimberley Process we have moved from a high of 6% of blood diamonds in the world diamond trade down to 1% or slightly lower, as most estimates have it. We are looking at a review on that next year. The question is, how do we move it along more quickly?
If we are looking at 2006-08 as a window, I would perhaps suggest that given the size and scope of the impact of blood diamonds on the countries that I mentioned in my speech, the quicker we act the more effective it would be. That is why I was suggesting that the review should perhaps take place at the same time that these amendments were brought forward.
The member may agree with that or not, but that was my hesitation. We have a review coming up, but the review is next year and we are talking about amendments now. It would seem to me that the review should be done at the same time.
Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, members from all four corners of the House certainly agree about the importance of the legislation. It reads very blandly, as most bills do, but its impact is significant.
We cannot minimize or in any way try to limit the immense significance that it would have over time if we could completely eliminate the blood diamond trade and its impact on civil conflicts such as, for example, the conflict in Angola, where billions of dollars were brought in to fuel that civil conflict and the rebels through the sale of blood diamonds.
Given the importance of the issue, I think it is good to see agreement in the four corners of the House. We may disagree on minor points, but on the vast principle of stopping the blood diamond trade we are all in agreement. That is very important.
Mr. Speaker, I feel very strongly that we need value added on our exports, not only in the diamond sector.
I come from British Columbia which is a province where we export raw logs. That is a sore point with many British Columbians. When we export those raw logs, we export job. What that means is that resource is creating jobs elsewhere.
It is similar to the diamond trade. In the last few years we have created a vital and strong diamond industry. We now need to ensure that we have in place the type of technical and vocational training to ensure downstream development. That will ensure more jobs in Canada.
Given the marketing of Canadian diamonds, which has been very effective, the more downstream value added development we do, the more jobs we create in Canada. Ultimately, the goal of Parliament and of the government is to use the vast resources Canada has such as our energy resources, our forests, our diamonds and our minerals. They are second to none in the world.
With these vast resources, I would suggest that we do not create the type of quality jobs we need in our country. The more value added we have on these products, which are natural resources, the more we will get the type of quality family sustaining jobs and incomes that are important for all Canadians.