MONTREAL — Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, RIGHT, hopes Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government will take over a private member’s bill he tabled in Parliament April 11 that would make the Sudanese government accountable to Canada and the international community for the continued toll of death and suffering in Darfur.
Called the Sudan Accountability Act, Cotler’s bill, C-536, would provide for “targeted” government divestment from Sudan and require Canadian government contractors to certify that they don’t do business there.
Cotler said the divestment portion of his bill would target only Sudanese industries – including energy, petroleum and the military – directly involved in the genocide, so that the people would not be hurt: “We were very careful about that.”
The proposed legislation “instructs” Canada to work with the international community and the United Nations to end the genocide.
“This is not a partisan thing,” Cotler told reporters last week. “If we’re going to combat the genocide in Darfur, we’re going to need the involvement of the government and the people of Canada.”
In addition to the steps proposed in his bill, Cotler, founder of the Save Canada Parliamentary Commission, said Canada should also consider using China’s participation in certain Alberta tar sands projects as leverage to encourage it to decrease its involvement with Sudan. The Chinese Petroleum Corporation (the parent company for PetroChina) is currently “involved in oil extraction” at the sands, he said, but did not elaborate.
China is the main “enabler” of the genocide in Sudan through its purchase of most of Sudan’s oil. The revenues from those purchases, Cotler said, are used by the Sudanese government to buy arms and perpetuate the “genocide by attrition.”
China is the most important player here,” Cotler said. “China alone could stop the genocide.
“If we want to leverage China, we should hold them accountable with respect to their involvement in oil extraction in Canada and the like.”
When asked how Alberta’s provincial government might react to the idea, he replied, “We’ll see.”
Cotler’s comments capped an eventful week related to African genocide.
On April 7, all parties adopted a non-partisan motion of Cotler’s marking that date – the day the genocide in Rwanda began in 1994 – as an annual Day of Reflection on the Prevention of Genocide.
Four days later, Cotler put forward his bill, legislation following up on a motion on divestment in Sudan he had earlier tabled with Liberal MP Ken Dryden.
Then on April 13, Cotler attended a mass rally at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto marking the “Global Day of Darfur” and the start of the sixth year of strife there.
All these events, he said, were ignored by the media, despite the continued “culture of impunity that continues unabated” in Sudan, a culture that has allowed the death toll to rise to well over 400,000, displaced three million people and put another four million “on a life-support system.”
The media, he said, only pay attention if celebrities like Mia Farrow or George Clooney travel there.
The crisis is also starting to encroach onto other African nations, such as Chad, he said.
Cotler also cited six “ominous” indicators of the worsening situation. They included new “scorched earth” Sudanese government assaults on the people; the UN Security Council protection force not being allowed by the Sudanese government to properly deploy; two-thirds of Sudanese living outside the access routes of aid workers; the coming seasonal rains that, it is feared, could kill hundreds of thousands more; and the non-implementation of two peace agreements on Darfur and the Sudanese civil war.
Cotler called on Canada to be the potential site for a Darfur summit that would bring together all relevant parties, including representatives of the United Nations, NATO, the African Union, the European Union, the Arab League and the Sudanese government.