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COMMENT: Foreign affairs progress report 2

Alex Atamanenko
By Alex Atamanenko
September 26th, 2013

As I mentioned in Part I of the Foreign Affairs Progress Report, the federal NDP is committed to earning back Canada’s respect on the world stage.  We have seen how the Conservatives, since their election in 2006 have gradually been withdrawing from our international responsibilities.  For example, the Harper government has pulled out of a UN Convention that fights droughts in Africa and elsewhere.  This puts Canada the only country in the world, outside of the agreement.  (In 1994, Canada signed the Convention and in 1995, ratified it).  Every UN nation – 194 countries and the European Union – is currently a party to it.  Canada has shamefully decided to go its own way. 

In my previous column, I talked about Afghanistan, Syria, Women, Peace & Security, the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Food and the Arms Trade Treaty.

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.   This past June, the Conservatives with the help of the Liberals, voted to pass S-10 at Second Reading.  I believe it is highly unlikely that any NDP proposed amendments to impose a total ban on cluster munitions will be accepted when it comes before the conservative majority led Committee.

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.  However, the industry minister directed Conservative Senators to kill the bill in the Senate.  It was a heartbreaking set-back, but out work continues.  Hélène Laverdière, our critic for Americas and Consular Services, re-introduced the bill as Bill C-398, but it was defeated at Second Reading in November 2012.

Corporate social responsibility– The Foreign Affairs committee studied the role of private corporations in international development.  While Conservatives wanted to use the study to undermine the importance of public sector in development, our International Development critic, Romeo Saganash, led our team’s focus on transparency and corporate social responsibility in international development.  Our team has continued our efforts to ensure that Canadian corporations maintain the highest standards of human rights and environmental protection in their operations abroad.  Paul Dewar, our Foreign Affairs critic introduced 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.  Our Foreign Affairs critic, Paul Dewar travelled to Kazakhstan last 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. 

I am immensely proud of the efforts of our international team in parliament to both oppose the Conservative’s 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.

Alex Atamanenko is the MP for BC Southern Interior.

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