By Seeba Chaachouh
NDP Stances On International Relations Issues:
Q: How can Canada balance between international trade and human rights?
A: There are many obligations that Canada must respect in order to maintain a balance between international trade and human rights. We must take a leadership role in ending the trade in conflict minerals, a trade that has funded decades of war and violence against civilians. Canada has a responsibility to develop a worldwide strategy to fight against famine and the current food crisis.
What’s more, Canada must respect its obligations toward international aid and ensure that Canadian companies that operate abroad adhere to the same ethics, social and environmental rules to which they are subject in Canada.
Canada also has to establish agreements that place the environment and climate change at the center of a fair and sustainable global economy to ensure that human rights and trade are in balance.
In terms of international aid investment, Canada is virtually the lowest in the OECD class. The human cost of successive cuts in international aid since 1995 is estimated at over 7 million lives lost. I plan on establishing a funding plan so that Canada invests 0.7% of its GDP in official development assistance over 10 years. We will remove the dispute settlement mechanism from investors-states. Since 2006, 72% of complaints filed by Canadian companies have targeted developing countries. According to a study by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives, Canadian investors are abusing the investor-state dispute resolution process by addressing social and environmental regulation in developing countries. To alleviate the burden of fragile and developing countries, we will immediately cancel all unfair bilateral debts that hinder the growth of poor and developing countries.
Q: What measures can Canada take in dealing with authoritarian/dictatorship regimes around the world?
A: I think we must take a prudent and cautious approach in these matters. What’s clear, however, is that if Canada is to be a leader on the international stage, we shouldn’t be afraid to take a stand. For example, take the case of Saudi Arabia. Why are we exporting armed vehicles to a totalitarian regime? If Prime Minister Trudeau was serious about standing up for human rights and women’s rights, he would not have upheld the deal the Harper Conservatives signed.
Q: In addition to constantly engaging in human rights violations in its own country, Saudi Arabia is also responsible for thousands of deaths and a big humanitarian crisis in Yemen: what is your opinion on Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia?
A: I believe that it is unacceptable that we are exporting arms to countries that are targeting civilians. Canada needs to clean up its act on the international stage and this means not selling arms to countries that are in clear violation of human rights.
Q: Do you think Canada should establish diplomatic ties with Iran and Syria again?
A: I think right now our priority should be the settlement of refugees. We are in the midst of the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II, and I think this needs to be addressed first, before be we can envision potentially rebuilding a nation-to-nation relationship with these two countries.
Q: What is the NDP’s position on the Israeli-Arab conflict?
A: The NDP is an advocate for the two-state solution where two countries, Palestine and Israel, exist side by side. Building of settlements must be halted as prescribed by international law and the blockade on Gaza must be lifted. I believe that working with partners for peace in Israel and Palestine, respecting UN resolutions and international law, supporting peaceful co-existence in viable, independent states with agreed-upon borders can put an end to Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and an end to violence targeting civilians.
Q: Considering that most media outlets are owned by major corporations, how could they be prevented from controlling public opinion through their news outlets?
A: What is fundamental is that we live in a country where freedom of the press and critical thinking represent the backbone of our democracy. That being said, one of the things I will continue to push for as Leader of the NDP is reinstating adequate funding for public broadcasting. The CBC for instance is an essential public service in a country like ours, where minority-language communities require regional news coverage in their own language. Major cuts to the CBC by the Harper government have been detrimental to this public service.