Ms. Jacqueline O'Neill (Director, Institute for Inclusive Security):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to the committee for this invitation.
Thank you for giving this critical issue the attention it deserves. You mentioned that I direct the Institute for Inclusive Security. We're a Washington, D.C.-based NGO, and for more than 15 years we've increased the inclusion of women in peace and security processes around the world.
We work on current conflicts, including in Sudan, South Sudan, Myanmar, Colombia, Syria, Afghanistan, and others. We work with policy-makers in the United States and other governments and at NATO, the United Nations, and elsewhere around the world. We're specialists on national action plans. So we've worked with about 20 countries, always with government and civil society, to either create new plans or strengthen their existing ones.
We are the organization that wrote the independent mid-term assessment of Canada's national action plan in 2014, which was subsequently tabled in Parliament, and I'm hoping today that I can share with you a mere eight recommendations for Canada's next plan.
Before I shift to the policy proposal aspect, however, I am wondering if I can speak on a somewhat personal note. I've been based in Washington, D.C. for about a decade, but I'm Canadian. I'm from Alberta. While I focus on this issue around the world, it is never closer to my heart than when we interact and engage and intersect with Canadians and Canadian government policy.
At Inclusive Security we work directly with women who have experienced almost unspeakable trauma as a result of war. We work with South Sudanese women, for example, who a few months ago told me that their relatives have now started eating grass because there is simply no food to be had. We work with other South Sudanese women who talk about their relatives and family members who make a deliberate choice to leave their camp to seek food, knowing they're going to be raped, but make that choice anyway because they see it that they have no other options.
We work with Afghan women like the ones that Beth Woroniuk discussed and mentioned a few days ago, who are witnessing militants recruiting young men in their communities and who, when they travel at great risk to their own personal safety to report it to government ministers, are effectively laughed out of the room.
The women we work with summon enormous strength and enormous courage to get to the table and to have a say in the decisions that affect their own lives. You can imagine then what it's like for me as a Canadian when I see them engage with Canadians here and abroad, who essentially tell them that their work matters. I've had a number of experiences along those lines.
I understand that the committee has heard a lot about Deb Lyons, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan. She told those same women who were laughed out of the room by an Afghan minister that they were welcome in Canada's embassy. She invited them for several days, rolled up her sleeves, facilitated a workshop with them, and about a month ago they identified a top priority list of qualified women from their networks who could serve and sit in peace negotiations.
It makes me enormously proud when I see people like Kerry Buck, Canada's ambassador to NATO, the first-ever female ambassador to NATO, who has put this topic squarely on the alliance's agenda, including last month, for example, when she hosted the first-ever high-level panel discussion about women, peace, and security at NATO, and even invited civil society to participate.
I'm really proud to see the work of our RCMP internationally and see the modelling collaboration at home. I was there this morning and heard great reports about their inviting Canadian civil society to observe their pre-deployment training and then provide substantive input and assessment on how to strengthen it.
I was blown away by the Chief of the Defence Staff's directive on implementing the tenets of the Security Council resolutions in the Canadian Forces' planning and operations. It is an amazing document. I'll come back to that later, but I was truly blown away when I read that.
One last point, if I might, I would like to relate to your a story that Hillary Clinton often tells in the United States, including when she announced the United States national action plan in 2011. It relates to peace negotiations in Darfur around 2007; at one point things were especially tense. The negotiations had ground to a halt. Talks were at an impasse over one specific issue. So the parties to the talks, almost all men at the time, couldn't agree over who would have control over a certain river. There was a deadlock. That evening, the mediator met with a group of Darfuri women who were assigned to be technical advisers at the negotiations and said that the talks were stalled because of that river and he pointed to the map. He said they couldn't get past this, that each wanted control. The women asked, “That river right there?” The men said yes. They women said, “That river dried up two years ago. It's been dry for years.”
I love this story because it was Canadian Senator Mobina Jaffer, at the time Canada's special envoy to Sudan, who convinced the mediator to bring women to the talks and to facilitate their participation, to actually pay for them to be there. That's the type of on-the-ground, real inclusion that matters at these peace negotiations.
All of these are examples of Canadian leadership. They are Canada leading by example, and they are things that make me enormously proud.
How do we have even more of that? How do we systematize this? A high-impact national action plan is key. Let me offer eight suggestions for the next version.
First, simplify monitoring and evaluation. Have far fewer indicators overall and reduce the focus on counting, increasing the number of qualitative indicators. Focus on outcomes, meaning look at effects, not just performance. As we start the process of creating a new NAP, ask ourselves, what difference do we want to see? What difference do we want to make over the period of this plan? It's usually about four to six years. Identify a handful of key outcomes at an outcome level, and then work backwards from there.
Canada's in a rare and really great position of actually now having a fair amount of baseline data for a number of indicators. That means we can also set targets, which is something we couldn't do in the first plan. Of course, simplifying monitoring and evaluation also involves releasing shorter and much more digestible reports against performance and implementation of the plan itself. Those reports, if they're simpler, shorter, easier to follow, and perhaps have more visual representative of the indicators over time will lead to more reflection, more learning, and more assessment of how the plan is being implemented. We can course-correct as opposed to just tracking performance.
The second thing I propose to do is take the time to hold authentic consultations to create the next NAP, especially to get input on those handful of key outcomes that both civil society and the government think we should be pursuing. In a lot of countries, our experience has been that the national action plan is no more than a document or a piece of paper that sits on a shelf. Canada has an opportunity right now to really bring it alive and to get a lot of buy-in. I would suggest and urge strongly that you consult heavily with civil society here and directly with women most affected by conflict around the world, as well as consult with Canadian diplomats, civil service, police, and military.
I'll note that just based on experiences elsewhere, and not Canada, authentic consultation isn't just creating a first draft and then giving people a few weeks to respond. It's getting people together and identifying these outcome-level indicators on what it is we want to achieve, and working backwards.
Third, once there is a plan, make the expectations for implementation across the departments exceedingly clear. That means having department and agency-specific implementation plans. We want to take away as much guesswork as possible from the thousands of really well-intentioned people who really want to understand what it means for their day-to-day life to bring this national action plan alive. Two months ago, General Vance did this with the CDS directive. It lays out what he wants to achieve, who's responsible for doing it, and by when they need to do so. Our diplomats at Global Affairs will tell you the best format for doing it there, but I think something similar at Global Affairs could be especially useful.
Of course, for expectations to be meaningful, people need to be held accountable. My fourth recommendation is to institute genuine accountability measures. That means creating a culture of accountability around this plan, getting it essentially into the capillaries or the DNA of each of those organizations. That means putting it in job descriptions, having references to it in performance evaluations, putting references in mandate letters, and then asking questions as it relates to those mandate letters, etc.
The fifth recommendation is to make sure to resource this work. This issue of women, peace, and security is one that suffers from the “budgetless add-on syndrome”, as I call it, where people think we can just add on to people's existing responsibilities and not resource it. Strengthening civil society here and abroad means core funding. Consultations take time and money. Training takes time and money. Reporting takes time and money. If this is an authentic priority, it needs to be resourced. Of course this is some funding, but not an enormous amount. It is truly a pittance compared with the return on the investment.
Six, keep up this parliamentary oversight. I think it's fantastic that you're holding this series of hearings. The Canadian Senate human rights committee had a number of hearings on this topic, but to my knowledge it's the first in the House of Commons.
So having the hearings is essential, as is also asking questions of people who appear before you on other topics, including the ministers who appear before the committee.
My seventh recommendation is to make Canada's commitment even more visible, and I think the Prime Minister is doing his part in raising attention to this issue around the world. It includes having more ministers speaking about this—that means talking about women not only as victims of conflict, but as agents of change—assigning an influential, authentic, and high-level champion within different ministries, and appointing more female heads of mission.
Finally, I would urge us all to embrace this issue and topic as part of Canada's brand and to do so very strategically. Embracing it is the right thing to do. It's also the strategic thing to do, especially as we're talking about a bid for the UN Security Council.
Canada is in a solid place right now and we're positioned to be even better on this issue. We have a Prime Minister who's announced himself to the world to be a feminist. We have great diplomats on the front lines. We have a Chief of the Defence Staff who authentically gets this. We have a vibrant civil society.
At the UN, we've chaired a group of friends on this topic for years. We have police advisers and military advisers who are of the highest calibre. We're already exceeding the percentage of female police officers serving in UN missions. We're at about 25% in the UN target, which the UN itself has not met; it's at about 20%. We also talk about children's rights and vulnerable populations and other language that really makes this brand authentic and genuine for us.
So while we're not perfect, we can certainly be committed. There's a lot of momentum around this issue and a lot of space for Canada to make a visible and powerful contribution, not only for our own interests but to make the world a safer place for men, women, boys, and girls all around the world.
Ms. Sarah Taylor (Women, Peace and Security Advocate, Women's Rights Division, Human Rights Watch):
Thank you so much to the committee for holding these hearings, receiving these presentations from a range of civil society representatives, and, of course, for inviting Human Rights Watch to present.
Human Rights Watch is an independent non-governmental organization that monitors and reports on compliance with international human rights standards in more than 90 countries around the world. For over 20 years we have investigated and documented violations of women's rights in conflict and post-conflict settings, in communities and countries as diverse as the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Somalia, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Haiti, and the list goes on.
Before proceeding with my presentation, I'd like to flag that Human Rights Watch is a member of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security in New York, which will be presenting to you as well, and that we work closely with the Institute for Inclusive Security and many of the other NGO colleagues who will be providing you with information throughout this hearing process.
I'd like to make today a few points specifically on Canada's international leadership on women, peace, and security, and why it is important for your national action plan and for all of your international engagement on this issue to support women's rights globally. These recommendations include the necessity of accountability for violations of women’s rights; the importance of services, medical and psychosocial, for survivors of sexual violence and other rights violations; the key importance of women's participation in peace and security decision-making, as Jackie has flagged; the necessary reforms to international peacekeeping, including tackling sexual exploitation and abuse; and, finally, support to women human rights defenders, particularly in situations of conflict and post-conflict.
As Jackie has noted, Canada is in a particularly good position to champion women’s rights internationally. This includes, as she has said, its role of chairing the group of friends of Women, Peace and Security in New York, a leadership role that many of us appreciate here. Canada should put women’s rights at the centre of its campaign for the UN Security Council and its work in other international fora. You'll hear a briefing from the executive coordinator of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security next week, but I just want to flag some of the research and what it's shown, which is that the UN Security Council, amongst other international bodies such as the G-8, remains committed on paper, committed in rhetoric, but does not necessarily adhere to their own obligations on women's rights in their daily work. In the UN Security Council alone, briefings on country situations are often absent any information or analysis, let alone recommendations, on women's rights violations and what the UN and other international actors can do.
So what should Canada be doing in the international stage?
First, promote accountability for sexual violence and other rights violations. As a member of the International Criminal Court and a supporter of international and national justice, Canada is well placed to help tackle the scourge of impunity and to secure justice for the victims of these crimes. Human Rights Watch has documented the impunity for sexual violence in many conflicts around the world, with the case of DRC being illustrated. Horrific levels of rape and other forms of sexual violence in that country have plagued eastern DRC for almost two decades.
At the international level, the International Criminal Court's conviction of the former vice-president of the Democratic Republic of Congo indeed a victory for sexual violence victims and a stark warning to senior commanders who turn a blind eye while their troops rape and commit other atrocities. Congolese authorities at the national level have carried out an increasing number of arrests and prosecutions for rape; however, the vast majority of perpetrators remain unpunished. Our recent research on the so-called Minova trials shows that, despite international attention, there's often a failure to deliver justice for either the victims or the accused in these cases.
Canada should press for survivors of sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence to have full access to the range of essential medical and psychosocial care, which includes economic and social support. Canada can support this both at the forthcoming World Humanitarian Summit and can heighten the work of CIDA in this issue.
Our research has documented many examples of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict and emergency situations around the world and just how stark and dire their need for these services are. This includes women with disabilities in conflict situations, who also face discrimination and additional risk and vulnerability because of those disabilities.
Sexual and gender-based violence has acute and long-term physical, psychological, and social consequences. We've seen that with a great number of reports, including our own research on the attacks on Yazidi women. Unfortunately, to date, the necessary medical and psychosocial service provision for the survivors of these crimes is inconsistent, if forthcoming at all. Our recent research on Kenya and the political and electoral violence in that country in 2007 and 2008 shows just how long term the effects of these attacks can be.
Canada should press for greatly increased investment to address the health needs for survivors of sexual violence in conflict, and press governments to invest in comprehensive emergency health services, including medical treatment for injuries, emergency contraception, safe and legal abortion, and trauma counselling.
The next recommendation, as Jackie has highlighted, is that Canada should champion the participation of women in peace and security decision-making, including in the leadership of centres for those who have been displaced, for refugees, for those making conflict-resolution efforts, and in post-conflict reform efforts. Again, this is one of the areas in which we've seen a great deal of rhetoric and not sufficient action by international actors.
Women are often subject to hostile work environments. Women human rights defenders often face grave risks when trying to heighten and support the work and voice of women and raise controversial issues around women's rights in conflict. Canada should press for women's full participation in all these efforts to create and maintain peace, and support efforts to safeguard women's security in post-conflict elections, in referendums, constitutional drafting, and reform processes. This includes promotion and protection of women candidates, voters, election workers, and women's human rights defenders.
The next recommendation is regarding international peacekeeping. Canada has a particular role to play here, particularly when the UN and other actors in the international community are making an effort to tackle the scourge of sexual exploitation and abuse. Over the past decade there have been many allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the missions in Central African Republic, Haiti, Somalia, and the DRC. In 2014 we published a detailed report on sexual exploitation and abuse by African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia, and more recently we documented cases of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers in the Central African Republic.
In all efforts to address this scourge, priority must be given to the security and well-being of survivors, including through promoting best practices as basic as maintaining confidentiality, minimizing repeated trauma from multiple interviews and, again, providing and ensuring rapid access to medical and psychosocial care. Canada and other governments should be pressing for a major overhaul to boost accountability mechanisms, ensuring that there are clear policies and training in this area, and for independent investigative mechanisms in an effort to bring judicial redress for those who have had these crimes committed against them.
Finally, Canada should push for better support for human rights defenders, those on the front line in dealing with sexual and gender-based violence and those who are promoting national legal reforms to address and adhere to women's rights obligations. Human rights defenders assist survivors of sexual violence, expose abuse and impunity, and press their own governments to tackle these problems more effectively. Many do this at great risk to themselves.
Human Rights Watch works with many remarkable human rights defenders around the world, and our recent work on women human rights defenders in Sudan documents the efforts by Sudanese authorities to silence women who are involved in protests, involved in rights campaigns and other public action, and who provide social services and legal aid. Women engaged in these efforts are targeted with a range of abuses, from rape and rape threats to deliberate efforts to tar their reputations. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender and inter-sex people are often at particular threat of sexual violence in conflict, as our research has indicated in Iraq and in Syria.
On this point, I really hope that Canada will press for greater international support for women human rights defenders and for human rights defenders writ large. This includes more emergency and quick-impact funding to support efforts to document violations in the middle of conflict, and more support to local lawyers to help secure local justice for crimes of sexual violence. Canada can also press for measures to protect human rights defenders from threats, intimidation, and violence.
On that point, I would like to thank you once again and I'm looking forward to our discussion here today.
Ms. Jacqueline O'Neill:
There are about 51 countries in the world now that have national action plans. Those include countries that are directly experiencing conflict and countries like Canada that perceive this from the perspective of primarily a foreign policy development and security assistance point of view.
Our organization has identified criteria that we call “criteria for a high-impact national action plan”. We've always said there are four things that go into having a high-impact national action plan: one is genuine political will; two is actually ensuring that the plan was a result of consultation, including with civil society; three is a strong monitoring and evaluation framework; and four is resourcing.
We'd say that right now in the world there is one, possibly two, plans that meet all those criteria and are what we'd consider high impact. Probably about a third of them, about a quarter of them, are close to being high impact; and there are several, as I mentioned in my presentation, that really were not worth the paper they're written on. They're done for show demonstrate that countries are taking action, primarily for and funded by an international audience, and have very little political will at home.
We're often cautious about saying this country's model is ideal and that country's model is not. A lot of things are to be learned from different countries, and I've spoken a fair amount with colleagues here in civil society in Canada who have also participated in exchanges and sessions with governments in civil society around the world, looking at different models that do work.
There is a range of models. For example, the last version of the Netherlands map had 56 civil society organizations sign on to the national action plan and commit to holding themselves accountable for taking certain steps. You heard about Norway's national action plan a couple of days ago that has an implementation strategy associated with it. There are ranges of different national action plans, each of which, I would say, has at least something that Canada can draw from in terms of lessons and models, but there isn't one model that I would hold out.
That said, there are now 51 countries with national action plans. Most of them have been created in the last three to four years, so we're all learning these lessons as we go. Canada has an opportunity to create something tailored, recognizing that national action plans aren't entirely different from every other national government strategy that you create, whereas, as you all know, you want accountability measures, political will, resourcing, and you want some type of authentic collaboration to create it.
I hope that at least partly answers your question.
Ms. Jacqueline O'Neill:
I'll speak to the simplification, first of all. Something that we consistently see in the second and third iterations of national action plans around the world is a reduction in the number of indicators. Canada was in a rare position, along with only a few other countries at the time it announced its national action plan, of also having a monitoring and evaluation framework. It just wasn't a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework.
For example, we've worked with Bosnia over the last several years. Their original plan had some 250-plus indicators. The revised version had between 50 and 75. That's the type of scale of reduction that I suggest.
Again, it's not to oversimplify or to say that complexity doesn't factor into it. But as I'm sure you've all done in trying to digest the progress reports, even in the very helpful civil society shadow reports, it's really difficult to see progress over time, to understand what's really a priority in there, to understand what the target is. Are we making incremental change but still not getting anywhere close to where we need to be?
Simplifying, simplifying, simplifying the number of indicators in the reporting makes everybody happier, because our diplomats, our civil servants, aren't spending all their time reporting and not actually implementing the agenda. I think that will actually help this committee and other organizations or other bodies make better decisions.
Your second point was related to core funding. It's just something that I think is essential to organizations, both in Canada and around the world. Part of the way our governments work, and governments around the world need to work, is through a relationship between civil society and government. It's when civil society has the ability to meet....
As Sarah was saying, sometimes even just meeting is a challenge. Money for gas is a challenge for many of the women in the countries that we work with. It's not like they're asking for an exorbitant salary or to be spending money in fancy hotels and capitals around the world. They're talking about money to rent a room and maybe have coffee or tea for some type of consultation, to have staff who can actually track a government's progress.
It will be these civil society organizations that hold our partners and our allies and those who are not our allies accountable, and really push for change within. I think perhaps the single most important value of having a national action plan is that it gives civil society a tool to holds its government accountable, as opposed to a government just saying, “Yes, this is a priority for us, and we'll take action”, especially in countries where processes are far more opaque.
Having well-funded and well-resourced civil society organizations, paired with national plans that lay out clear priorities, really enables that process, which is so fundamental to the democracy we're all pursuing.
Ms. Jacqueline O'Neill:
In terms of new indicators, as I mentioned, one is an umbrella level of outcome indicators that say, “Within the period of this plan, we want to achieve the following”. I leave this entirely to the consultations you have with Canadian civil society and women around the world to tell you what should be in the plan. An example of that type of indicator would be something like, “Over the period of this plan we want to see a significant improvement in the attention to this agenda, in multilateral organizations of which we are a part, and in our partner nations' security forces.”
We want this firmer on the agenda of those organizations. Then we'll work backwards to determine how we are going to do that.
There is a whole other range of potential outcome-level indicators that you could say.... One is related to the topic we were just talking about. We want to see a significant improvement in the strength of local women's civil society networks and organizations and a targeted list of priority countries—determine how you are going to measure that and what your target is, and move backwards.
I was privileged to be here on Tuesday and hear some of the comments as well, and it's reflected in our report. It's what I mention in my remarks. There is a lot of focus on what we are doing on progress towards the plan in terms of the activities we are creating and not the difference it's making.
For example, the RCMP is working with the United Nations to contribute to and, in many cases, lead training, in many cases now for women only, in police forces abroad who are focused on and want to increase the number of women they send on UN missions. They were finding that the women in those police forces—for a whole range of reasons, in part because they were not exposed to training opportunities, promotion opportunities, etc.—were not passing these pre-selection classes at a high enough rate.
The RCMP was delivering training. They were saying, essentially, let's raise the standard of these police officers so they will be eligible to serve on international missions. They are tracking things like the changes in the pass rate of those classes. Instead of the national action plan calling for, “How many times did we advise the United Nations on this course?”, let's start tracking what difference it makes in the pass rate of the people we are working with. That's the type of outcome-level indicator I am thinking about.
There is a myth in this field that because it relates to advocacy or because things are so long-term or so focused on policy shifts, we can't track them or change them, but that is just not true.
There are a broad range of indicators we can choose from, from plans that measure this type of outcome behaviour that are not just the number of people trained, the number of classes held, etc. I think you all know training can be horrible, and then you get credit for doing the training, whereas in some cases it actually brings everybody backwards and leaves them more confused than before.
Focusing on this midterm outcome and then ultimately the bigger-purpose type of indicator is really going to be motivating for people, and it's actually going to give oversight bodies like yours a chance to assess whether or not we are making progress.
Hon. Stéphane Dion (Minister of Foreign Affairs):
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Dear colleagues, thank you for inviting us to appear before you today.
I am pleased to be here with my deputy minister, Mr. Jean, and Mr. Rigby. Before I forget, I would like to thank all the public servants who are working so hard and with such professionalism. We can be proud of Canadian diplomacy.
I would also like to say that this first meeting, including our discussion, is very important to me. No party has a monopoly on good ideas or on facts. We learn from each other, and I am sure that your committee will be able to develop inter-party synergy, which will be very useful for Canada's foreign affairs. I feel very optimistic about our co-operation.
In these 10 minutes, I will try to be quick, given that I have a lot of things to say. If I say too much, please cut me off, Mr. Chair. We must respect everyone's speaking time.
So let me jump right into it, by drawing on the mandate letter that I received from the Prime Minister of Canada. This is the first time that ministerial mandate letters have been made public. Since this is what I am required to follow, I will refer to it a great deal in the 10 minutes of my presentation.
Of course, the mandate letter requires me to advance Canada's interests in the world, by serving security and economic interests. It also requires me to support what the Prime Minister calls the deeply held Canadian desire to make a real and valuable contribution to a more peaceful and prosperous world.
To fulfill this mandate, which is quite ambitious as you can see, I have announced that the guiding principle that I will follow is something I call “the ethics of responsible conviction”. By that I mean that the decisions we make must take into account their foreseeable impact on other human beings. I can elaborate on this if you have questions about it.
To achieve the objectives in my mandate, I am bound to work closely with all the members of cabinet. I will mention specifically Ms. Freeland, the Minister of International Trade, Ms. Bibeau, the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and my colleague Mr. Sajjan, the Minister of National Defence.
I will start from the beginning: our relations with North America, more specifically with the United States. This is a fundamental relationship for Canada, one that we must never take for granted and that we must always strive to improve.
Prime Minister Trudeau has highlighted the need to strengthen our North American partnership and our relations with Mexico. In January, I hosted my foreign minister counterparts from the United States and Mexico in Quebec City. We made progress on climate change, clean energy, economic and security questions, peacekeeping, and health, including joint efforts to combat the Zika virus.
During the Prime Minister's historic state visit to Washington, our governments agreed on measures that will reduce red tape, make it easier to trade, and simpler to cross the border, while at the same time keeping both of our countries safe. This will have real results for Canadian travellers, with an agreement in principle to pursue new preclearance operations at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto as well as in Quebec City's Jean Lesage airport, and an expanded preclearance for rail service in Montreal and Vancouver. As well, we committed to working hard to find a solution to the softwood lumber dispute within 100 days.
In budget 2016 we announced $9.5 million to support the International Joint Commission. This will help all parties with a long term strategy for a healthy Great Lakes region, and for me, the Great Lakes include Lake Winnipeg.
Specific to Mexico, we are steadily progressing on lifting the Mexican visa requirement. This will improve relations with Canada's still largest trading partner.
Now to other international issues, especially multilateral institutions.
I could speak at length about COP21 in Paris and the very positive role Ms. McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, has played there, at the Prime Minister’s request. If I am asked to participate, I will do so. Since I have a limited time at my disposal, let me stress the international component, assistance to the tune of $2.5 billion over five years to help developing countries fight climate change.
Our commitment to multilateralism and the UN was highlighted when the Prime Minister announced we are seeking election to the United Nations Security Council for the 2021-22 term. The same week, Minister Hajdu announced that Canada would run for a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women for the 2017 to 2020 term. She said she had a very interesting meeting on the status of women just before. Well, Canada was elected to this body on April 5.
My mandate letter asks that we increase Canada's support for United Nations peace operations in its mediation, conflict prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. To this end, budget 2016 provides $586.5 million over three years for stabilization, counter-terrorism capacity building, and police peacekeeping programs.
I recently announced that we will renew Canada's action plan on women, peace, and security. I know this committee's work on this topic and look forward to the outcome of your study.
Also, later this year I intend to table the arms trade treaty in Parliament as part of our accession process.
Having been called on to promote inclusiveness and accountable governance, peaceful pluralism, and respectful diversity in human rights, including the rights of women and refugees, budget 2016 provides dedicated funding to support the promotion of pluralism and respect for diversity and human rights around the world. Indeed, the department is now focused more than ever on a comprehensive approach to human rights across the government's priorities, in terms of gender and women, migration, LGBTQI and indigenous rights, climate change, and many others. Our approach to human rights will be comprehensive in order to be effective in the promotion of all universal human rights, including, of course, freedom of religion.
When the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited in February, we announced new funding of $15 million over three years to finance that body's work. We now support all sexual and reproductive health rights, and therefore ended the previous government's policy that prohibited giving assistance for pregnancy terminations, even in countries that authorize them.
Also, we put an end to the previous government's case-by-case policy regarding the death penalty. We now demand clemency for all Canadians facing the death penalty anywhere in the world, to maximize the possibility of obtaining clemency for some Canadians.
The Prime Minister has also asked me to be more transparent and rigorous than ever with respect to export permits and human rights reports. I will make an announcement about that in the near future.
Turning to security, my mandate letter instructed me to ensure a close link between defence policy, foreign policy, and national security. I worked with my colleagues on the development of the government's new strategy for countering ISIL and responding to the crises in Syria and Iraq. It is comprehensive, integrated, and sustained, and has been well received by our local and international partners, including within the global coalition led by the United States.
Over the next three years, we'll invest $1.6 billion in defence, security, development, and humanitarian assistance in the region. We are working with all our partners to achieve a diplomatic solution to the crisis and to prepare the long road to peace.
In terms of the refugees issue, I am proud of the role played by my department and by Canadian diplomacy in general in welcoming 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada. That has required a great deal of co-operation with other countries, specifically Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, to some degree as well. Thousands and thousands of new files had to be processed within very tight deadlines. I thank them for all their hard work.
Furthermore, I would like to point out the announcement made yesterday by my colleague, Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, about a financial contribution of $100 million to help the most vulnerable communities affected by the Syrian crisis. Canadians have been very generous, and Canada will support this generosity.
Let’s not forget our contribution of $100 million to the United Nations Refugee Agency to help those affected by the Syrian crisis.
In other areas, I delivered a strong call to the conference on disarmament in Geneva to get back to work, with Canada ready to assist. We announced that Canada would invest an additional $42 million in the global partnership program to improve nuclear and radiological security worldwide. In fact, Canada will lead the push to secure agreement and accession to the anti-fissile material treaty.
My mandate letter also mentions my duty to help increase Canada’s educational and cultural interaction with the world and to revitalize Canada’s cultural diplomacy. I will do so in close collaboration with Ms. Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage.
Budget 2016 proposes to invest $35 million over two years starting in 2016-2017 in promoting Canada’s artists and cultural sectors abroad. As I have just mentioned, I will be working with Ms. Joly and Ms. Freeland on accomplishing that.
As of now, that funding will help Canadian missions abroad to promote Canada’s culture and creativity on the world stage, especially since Canada is preparing to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation, not of Canada, because Canada had been around well before that time.
We consider it important to stay engaged around the world, understanding that engagement is not agreement, and that we proceed with our eyes open. Engagement is essential to regaining the respect of our allies and to pursuing our interests within the multilateral governance framework.
With Iran, we are in the very preliminary stage of our re-engagement. We continue to have fundamental differences, including serious concerns about Iran's continued human rights violations and its aggressive stand toward Israel, but channels of communication are open, which is an important first step.
We made changes, along with our like-minded partners, to our sanctions regime in line with the joint comprehensive plan of action on Iran's nuclear program, negotiated by the P5 + 1 members. Canadian business is no longer at a disadvantage vis-à-vis our allies.
With Russia, the previous government's empty-chair policy caused Canada to miss opportunities to lead international meetings, to host events, and to play its full role in the negotiation process regarding Ukraine. In line with our like-minded European and American partners, we have applied additional new sanctions to Russia and are now working on a progressive re-engagement where we have clear and common interests, like the Arctic and international security for example, even as we maintain our firm stance on Russia's actions in Ukraine.
Mr. Chair and honourable members, our government has already begun delivering on the priorities identified in ministerial mandate letters. My deputy will tell you that we are keeping the department very busy.
I look forward to your questions and comments. I think the discussion we’ll have today and in the coming months or even years will be very promising and productive for Canada and for its role in the world.
Hon. Stéphane Dion:
Thank you for that important question.
Yes, indeed, we believe that if Canada is alone in cutting links to Iran, it is not helping anyone. It's not helping the people of Iran and their human rights. It's not helping the interests of Canada, not only businesses but also students and families. It's not helping our allies, including Israel. Also, it's not helping our relationship with our own allies who do not think Canada is relevant anymore, or with the negotiations on Syria. If we don't speak to the Russians and the Iranians, it's difficult for us to be at the table on Syria to find a solution.
At the same time we have Canadians risking their lives, we should be at the decision-making table. If we put our fellow citizens in danger for a cause, we should be among the decision-makers.
For all these reasons, we are penalized in Canada much more than Iran or Russia when we take this kind of approach. We need to change it.
We need to do it with open eyes. There are a lot of problems, as you've mentioned, and I fully agree with you about the assessments you've made about Iran. For example, when they tested a ballistic missile, we increased our sanctions. But we did it in co-operation with our allies. If Canada is alone in doing it, it will barely be felt in Iran. If it's a collective sanction, then they are more likely to be affected. I agree fully with you about that.
Where are we? We are in a very preliminary context. It's not yet at the level of politics. The officials are doing it. It's very difficult to recreate links when they have been cut. In another context, I have spent a long time in my political career, and if we cut links with a country it's very difficult afterward to recreate the links.
That was another context, but in this context it's a bit the same. It will be step by step, and it's not so easy to do. We won't have an embassy tomorrow morning. When we have an embassy, a top priority of ours will be the consideration that you very rightly mentioned: the necessity of being careful about the safety of our diplomats.
If there is something that stops me from sleeping at night, and it's the same for my deputy, it is the security of all the diplomats around the world.
Hon. Stéphane Dion:
Thank you so much, Michael.
First, I will speak about Myanmar, because they told me that is the name they choose. I understand that we are reluctant to use it, because at the beginning it was the military that imposed this name, but now I'm told it has been accepted by the democrats as well. The military doesn't want to stop the democrats; they want to work with the democrats, and they call it Myanmar.
It's sort of too bad. The name “Birmanie” in French is very nice, but the country is now called Myanmar.
Second, there are a lot of problems in this country. It is one of the poorest in the world, the human rights record is appalling, and respect for diversity and religious rights starts from a very low level. But they are courageous. They have decided to become a democracy. It cannot be done overnight, but they have made a lot of progress. Their leader is one of the most-celebrated around the world, and as I'm sure you know, she is an honorary Canadian. We did that unanimously some years ago.
We need to support them. I hope it will work. I told them that I hope it will work not only for them and their minorities, including the one you mentioned, but that it will work for the world. They are almost alone in their region in trying this. Other countries, neighbouring countries—I was reluctant to mention them so as not to create diplomatic problems—are going the other way. They are more military than ever, and less democratic than ever. This one wants to succeed.
So let's work together to help them, to support them, and to encourage the international community to do so. It's why I was pleased to announce $44 million in support as a first step; it's not the end of the story.
One of the things I announced addresses your issue. They want to create national reconciliation, as they call it, together. Today there are still militias in some parts of the country. They want that to stop and to have national reconciliation. One of the ways they are looking at is to create what they call a “federal union”.
One of the investments Canada is making today is to provide the capacity for Myanmar to have access to the best federative practices around the world. We have an international body that is very good for that, the Forum of Federations, which the former government was working with. We're not starting from scratch. That is the kind of support that Canada must provide in Myanmar.
—maybe what I'll do, because our time is pretty much done, is certainly to revisit this.
Minister, I want to wrap this up by letting you know how much we appreciate your time today. I also want you to know that the committee is working very collaboratively to try to depoliticize, if I can put it in those terms, to make this committee very effective, as hard as it may be for all of us who make our living being politicians. Part of that role will be to have you visit us on a fairly regular basis. You know I will be asking to have you visit the committee and talk about these issues, so people will have an opportunity to ask these questions and make their points. This was a very good start.
I want to let the committee know just a little of what has transpired to set up this meeting. I did ask to have it televised and was told that it was booked by other committees, so we'll attempt to do that as we work our way through this. I think it's important.
Frankly, on the women, peace and security study, I wish we did get it televised more often. We've had some absolutely amazing witnesses so far. The more I think about it, the more I wish that Canadians could listen to what we've been listening to on a regular basis.
Minister, I will invite you, on behalf of the committee, to do the estimates sometime very soon.
I think it was a very good start. We appreciate your time and effort here today, and we look forward to seeing you again.
Colleagues, as you know, next Tuesday we have General Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, and Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, chief of the military personnel command. We will also have the head of the RCMP. We will have an opportunity to speak on the military side as it relates to the women, peace and security study, which, as you know, is a very important part. I look forward to seeing you back here on Tuesday at 3:30.
Thank you very much.
The meeting is adjourned.