Evidence of meeting #18 for National Defence in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was conflict.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

11:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Dr. Ann Livingstone

Right. Again, one can say that we wish we could wave the magic wand and have them all democratic in a nightfall, but I think the reality is that the slow drip, drip of leadership, mentoring, and advising by countries such as Canada helps to dissuade and helps to change.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Part of that is again complex peace operations versus the classical word “peacekeeping”. There's a fair bit of education I think that needs to go on for the Canadian public. We've talked about the attention span of the public and government, and the media, frankly, because it is a long-term process; it's a drip, drip process. How do we keep Canadians' attention span long enough to try to build a little bit of understanding about some of these very complex operations? It's not just simply put on a blue beret and strap on a sidearm and go fix the Congo.

11:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Dr. Ann Livingstone

I think that's where Parliament has such an important role as a teacher, as a leader to its constituents. I think that's where history becomes very important. I think that's where myth busting becomes extremely important. And institutions like Peacebuild and the PPC can be helpful in that, but when economic tensions and economic realities address local folks' pocketbooks, it makes it a little bit harder to keep the attention span going on, I'll grant you that.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Lord, do you have any comments on that?

11:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

I'd agree very much with the idea that Parliament should be leading on this kind of issue. I think part of what you're doing here with this study and other studies that the committee undertakes is part of that process. I'd also make a pitch for talking more with NGOs and with academics, and maintaining those connections, maintaining that kind of consultative mechanism and momentum, because that's a means of connecting with the public and connecting with larger constituencies.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

I'd like to talk about parliamentary involvement in decisions a little bit. The decision to deploy troops is a prerogative of the executive, technically speaking, although obviously parliamentarians should have a knowledge. I would suggest that in terms of the pre-discussion about parameters, about conditions under which we should deploy, it's the purview of parliamentarians to work with the public to build understanding and so on. But because of time constraints and lack of specific knowledge by parliamentarians about a specific situation, I think it would be a little bit unrealistic in a lot of cases for Parliament to make the decision on deployment.

Do you have comments on that?

11:45 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

I would agree with you on that. I think any new situation is going to be difficult. I think there's perhaps a problem arising where we're looking for the perfect situation for Canada to get involved in. That ain't going to happen. It's going to be a place where we don't have the knowledge, where we don't necessarily have the historical capacities, where it will seem to be a great necessity. There will be public pressure. There will be political pressure. Hopefully, we've learned some things in relation to Afghanistan and other events of the recent past about how to gather information, how to process that information, and how to move along with the public on some of these issues, and to communicate more about what are the parameters for involvement.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Maxime Bernier

Thank you very much.

Mr. Martin for cinq minutes.

May 25th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Merci beaucoup, monsieur le président.

Thank you very much, Ms. Livingstone and Mr. Lord, for being here today.

Ms. Livingstone, what do we do in cases...? These days most conflicts are intra-state; there's no willing partner, which, as you said, was a prerequisite for action, but we have a responsibility to protect. What can we do to deal with those conflicts?

11:50 a.m.

Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Dr. Ann Livingstone

Responsibility to protect as a political process I think is different from protection of civilians. I would like to address it from a protection of civilians perspective, because I'm not adroit enough at speaking about politics.

When we have the kinds of conflicts that we do, where we see the damage to the civilian population, whether it's in genocide or the mass rape that we're seeing in Congo, I think one of the questions that has to be asked is, how and when do we engage? Do we engage at the prevention cycle, at the very beginning of it, when we see the patterns emerging, or is this a good use of resources and time, and is this a values issue? In the intra-state conflict, where it's all confused with economics, and it's confused with politics and with time, I think that's when we have difficulty making a decision.

I'm not sure I'm answering your question.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

In the interest of full disclosure, I asked Jack Granatstein the same question and he couldn't answer it either. It's a tough one.

I'd like to ask both of you for your ideas. Do we have to improve our own intelligence capabilities, including our ability to provide better skill sets in language and culture? We saw in Afghanistan what in my personal view was an abysmal failure in terms of understanding the people and the cultures that we were dealing with. In the process of that, we've had an appalling political process that had to.... We had a good military intervention, but the political process was a mere runt compared to the military one. Part of that I think is due to the fact that we didn't understand the culture. I'm not sure we actually have the cultural and linguistic capabilities to do that, nor the intelligence capabilities, which I don't think we have external to our borders.

Do we need to develop such a capability, and if so, how would we do it?

11:50 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

I think Jack Granatstein said he wasn't qualified to answer that question.

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

He said he couldn't.

11:50 a.m.

Executive Director, Peacebuild

David Lord

But I'll take it at a different angle. As far as the intelligence establishment, I'm not qualified to answer that question either, but I certainly have opinions about what could be done to increase the knowledge of parliamentarians, the media, and the bureaucracy in these kinds of situations. Part of it is using this tool of parliamentary committees to get involved and get focused on a particular issue and begin bringing in expert witnesses. There are hundreds of non-governmental organizations, academics, people within various diasporas, and so on, who have a tremendous amount of knowledge about their particular homelands, areas of work, and/or academic expertise. I think one of the issues is pulling that information together in a hurry in certain circumstances to be able to begin making the judgment calls that are necessary.

So in relation to Congo, Haiti, Côte d'Ivoire, or Ethiopia, there are hundreds if not thousands of people within Canada who have a tremendous amount of knowledge related to those situations. Some sort of systematic process could tap into that.

11:50 a.m.

Vice-President, Research, Education and Learning Design, Pearson Peacekeeping Centre

Dr. Ann Livingstone

As a quick example, when we were preparing for a course we were delivering to the UN police in Darfur, we reached into the diaspora community in Hamilton and learned how to address issues of sexual and gender-based violence that are culturally taboo. So we were able to get questions translated in Darfur. My staff understood how to put culture into the training materials, which then resulted in a very successful course in Darfur that allowed police to be more effective at gathering evidence.