Debates of June 13th, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #217 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firearms.
- Access To Information
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Government Response To Petitions
- Firearms Act
- Battle Of Stoney Creek
- 2002 Winter Olympics
- International Financial Institutions
- Work Safety
- Maritime Provinces
- Labour Relations
- Party Fundraising
- G-7 Summit
- Referendum On Quebec Sovereignty
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Liberal Party
- Reform Party
- Presence In The Gallery
- Unemployment Insurance Reform
- Government Contracts
- Job Creation
- Youth Unemployment
- Goods And Services Tax
- Bovine Somatotropin
- Indian Affairs
- Presence In Gallery
- Firearms Act
- Ways And Means
- Firearms Act
- Peacekeeping Act
- Firearms Act
- Criminal Code
The House resumed from April 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-295, an act to provide for the control of Canadian peacekeeping activities by Parliament and to amend the National Defence Act in consequence thereof, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Private Members' Business
Len Hopkins Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in second reading of Bill C-295. As members are well aware, the government has already stated its opposition to this bill in no uncertain terms. Today I will restate the government's main objections and explain why the bill must not become law.
Canada's support for peacekeeping is a reflection of our strong commitment to international peace and security. Our impressive record in this field is recognized worldwide. We have long argued our experience and skills are unmatched. As proof of our expertise Canada is currently at the forefront of efforts to improve the conduct of the United Nations' peacekeeping operations. We take pride in our peacekeeping reputation and we work hard to preserve it.
Unfortunately Bill C-295 if it were to pass into law would do irreparable damage to this reputation. This is a flawed, contradictory piece of legislation that would seriously undermine Canadian efforts to contribute effectively to peacekeeping operations.
The bill goes beyond consultation and seeks explicit control by Parliament of all peacekeeping activities. This would set a very dangerous precedent, for Bill C-295 would restrict the prerogative and discretion of the governor in council to determine Canada's contribution to UN or regional operations.
Under section 4 of the National Defence Act the Minister of National Defence has responsibility for the management and direction of the Canadian forces and of all matters relating to national defence including peacekeeping. The bill would remove this responsibility not only from the minister but from the government as a whole respecting military operations.
Perhaps the most serious repercussion of giving Parliament direct control over peacekeeping operations relates to the speed with which events unfold in the post-cold war world. The bill which calls for a five-hour debate prior to any mission involving more than 100 Canadian forces members would add another layer to the decision making process. As a result it would limit Canada's ability to respond quickly to UN peacekeeping requests or to changes in the actual peacekeeping mandate.
The need for quick deployment in peacekeeping operations cannot be overstated. We have heard again and again how a more rapid response by the international community might have saved tens of thousands of lives in Rwanda.
Bill C-295 if anything would increase reaction time, making it even more difficult to respond to such crisis. The bill would also hamper current efforts by the ministers of national defence and foreign affairs to improve the UN's rapid reaction capability and to find ways Canada might contribute to such a capability.
In short, the bill sends the wrong message to our partners at a time when we are leading the way in promoting new methods to enhance the UN's ability to prevent and resolve conflict.
If Canada is to remain an effective peacekeeper the authority to deploy and operate peacekeeping forces must stay in the hands of the governor in council. The government has the expertise and experience to decide, sometimes on a moment's notice, whether troops should be deployed and how they should operate. Although it welcomes the advice of Parliament, the
government must have the flexibility and some measure of independence to make these decisions.
In effect while Bill C-295 would like to see Canada define its own objectives for specific peacekeeping missions and decide when those objectives are met, it is willing to place Canadian commanding officers under UN or other international command. This is unacceptable. Currently Canadian forces personnel serving on peacekeeping operations are always commanded by a Canadian. While they can be placed under operational control of multinational commanders for specific tasks they are never put under command of the UN or other international organizations. If they were, their assigned tasks would be changed. Their units could be split up and they could be deployed to new areas of operations, all without consent of the Canadian government. This would be unacceptable.
At present all Canadian contingent commanders are directly responsible to the chief of the defence staff for the Canadian contribution to the overall mission and tasks of a peacekeeping force. Bill C-295 would end this practice which would ultimately mean less, not more national control. This does not seem to fit the general intent of the bill which suggests many of these concepts have not been fairly thought out.
Such muddled thinking carries over to the sections of the bill dealing with rules of engagement and the use of force. Subsection 5(3) authorizes the use of deadly force only in self-defence and in defence of civilians threatened with deadly force or else to stop serious human rights abuses.
However, it is important to understand peacekeepers may use force to protect civilians only if it is specifically authorized by a United Nations security council resolution. At the same time, the UN mandate may also require the use of force for reasons other than those specified in subsection 5(3).
In other words, rules of engagement must take into account the specifics of the mandate. They cannot be restricted by legislation that turns a blind eye to such details.
The bill is murky and confusing in other areas. It would amend the National Defence Act so that all members of the Canadian forces assigned to a peacekeeping mission would be on active service for all purposes. However, this proposal is unnecessary because pursuant to Order in Council 1989-583, April 6, 1989, all regular force members anywhere in or beyond Canada and all reserve force members beyond Canada are currently on active service.
Private Members' Business
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. A couple of the government speakers have pointed out to me an error I made in the drafting of the bill. At line 31 of page 3, I used the words "command of the United Nations" when I meant to use "operational control". I wonder if there would be unanimous consent for the following. I move:
That, in line 31 of subclause 6(2) of Bill C-295, the Peacekeeping Act, the word "command" be struck out and replaced by "operational control".
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker
Is there unanimous consent to permit that change in the bill?
Private Members' Business
Some hon. members
(Motion agreed to.)
Private Members' Business
Philippe Paré Louis-Hébert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to participate in the debate on Bill C-295, an act to provide for the control of Canadian peacekeeping activities by Parliament and to amend the National Defence Act in consequence thereof.
I would remind you that the Bloc Quebecois has already expressed its support, with a few reservations, for this bill by our colleague for Fraser Valley East.
I would like to recall the exceptional participation by Canadians, and particularly francophones, in UN peacekeeping operations since they started in 1956 at the initiative of Lester B. Pearson.
I would also take the opportunity afforded me to salute the courage of the Canadian military who, over the years and in the course of various missions, have taken part in UN peacekeeping operations. I salute in particular the members of the Royal 22nd Regiment from Valcartier. Their presence in the former Yugoslavia reminds me that the horrors of this Bosnian conflict are felt right here at home. I want to offer all my moral support to the men and women who are over there and to their families here, who are feeling doubt and uncertainty but also pride.
These peacekeeping missions are not what they were 40 years ago. They are constantly changing. They are increasingly costly in human and material terms, and their objectives are ever more in doubt. The role of peacekeepers is also being questioned. Should the deployment of international troops be faster and easier or, on the contrary, should UN peacekeeping operations be limited? Should UN peacekeepers have broader mandates?
Recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda have made the international public more aware of peacekeeping activities, but they mainly brought to light the flawed rules of engagement for UN peacekeepers, and perhaps also the Canadian government's lack of responsibility in refusing to set clear peacekeeping objectives.
Yet, these operations were once quite simple. The peacekeepers' job was to come between the warring factions in order to keep the peace and foster the resolution of conflicts. But peacekeeping operations have changed a great deal since the
1956 Suez crisis, while humanitarian efforts have become much more important in recent years.
The rise in ethnic conflicts since the tensions between East and West have disappeared have turned peacekeeping missions into dangerous operations in which peacekeepers are caught in the middle of heavy fighting. Of course, the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the cold war have given us an opportunity to contribute to the advancement of democracy and human rights. But this should not be done blindly.
Unfortunately, the new complexity of peacekeeping mandates did not go hand in hand with public acceptance. The Canadian Forces' traditional role on the international stage has always been to support peacekeeping missions by contributing troops. However, the time for unconditional participation in every UN operation may be over.
As some say, Canada is not the 9-1-1 of the planet. It is our view, in the Bloc Quebecois, that Canada should make any future commitment subject to more definite conditions. It is also our view that the Canadian Armed Forces should be configured around a clearly defined role. The credibility of our actions depends on it.
In addition, we think that Canada should have a comprehensive review of its involvement in international security and peacekeeping. It should therefore review its contribution to existing military alliances, such as NATO and NORAD, as well as promote within these organizations a broadening of their role and mandate according to the needs of the UN.
While reviewing its contribution to global peace and security, Canada should support the setting up of a standby contingent that could be deployed with UN peacekeeping forces abroad. These organizations need to see their skills updated both with respect to preserving security and resolving conflicts.
The problem is that the Canadian government has no peacekeeping policy. As the hon. Leader of the Official Opposition asked last March, on what basis do we agree to take part in peacekeeping missions? No one can answer.
The Bloc Quebecois refuses to give the defence minister a free hand and allow troops from Quebec and Canada to continue to be sent on missions which are frustrating because there is no clear and definite mandate, and in which they are totally powerless to do anything about the horrors suffered by civilian populations.
Today, at a time when peacekeeping missions are becoming increasingly complex and their costs astronomical, while more and more lives are lost, clear conditions of participation are essential. The Bloc Quebecois hopes that the government will undertake to set out the conditions under which our troops will participate and their mandate can be renewed.
It is essential that conditions be harmonized with the UN. UN missions are hard, particularly psychologically, because their purpose is not clear. The government and the Minister of National Defence should provide more information to this House, they should encourage a debate on the issue, so that we can work together to find a solution to the impasse in which Canadian troops find themselves.
This is why the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill. It is essential that Parliament be informed of Canadian military activities abroad. As you know, the Bloc said on a number of occasions that Canadian participation in peacekeeping missions ought to be voted on in the House of Commons, following a short debate, time permitting.
However, the Bloc Quebecois feels that Bill C-295 goes way too far in terms of parliamentary control and is much too rigid. Clause 4 does not include any provision dealing with the situation where Canadian troops might have to get involved in peacekeeping operations at a time when Parliament is not sitting, such as in the summer for example.
Consequently, the legislation proposed by the Reform Party precludes the government from taking quick action in case of a crisis. There must be a happy medium between the position of the Reform Party and that of the Liberal government, which tries to restrict the role of parliamentarians to making speeches which carry no weight.
We also have some reservations about the role of the UN in defining peacekeeping operations. Clause 4 of Bill C-295 provides that a motion must be debated in the House of Commons to authorize the participation of Canadians in a peacekeeping mission, to specify the objectives and role of the mission, to define the state or the area in which the mission is to operate, to specify the date on which the authority is to expire, and to specify a maximum planned expenditure for the mission.
I remind Reform members that the mandate, the objectives, the area and the duration of each UN mission would not be an issue if a permanent peacekeeping force were established, since the parameters would be defined by the United Nations.
The problem exists today because the government sends, more or less automatically and without giving it much consideration, Canadian troops to every UN peacekeeping mission. So, the lack of parameters regarding the mandate of Canadian troops participating in peacekeeping missions clearly illustrates this problem, since the Canadian government seems unable to define the mandate and the objectives of Canadian participation in peacekeeping missions. Obviously, Parliament should look after that issue.
Do not forget that Canada's policy on peacekeeping missions must include a mechanism by which the peacekeepers' mandates can be adapted to the circumstances of the conflict. Unfortunately, the Reform Party is silent on this issue.
The fact remains, nevertheless, that Parliament should be in a position to periodically review the situation and the context of peacekeeping missions, in order to make decisions on whether or not to commit Canadian troops, or whether to extend or shorten their mandates. This is why we will throw our support behind Bill C-295, despite the reservations that I have already expressed.
In this month celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, it is clear that the international community and the government have to seriously review the UN's peacekeeping operations.
Private Members' Business
Jesse Flis Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Speaker, the government in its election platform made a commitment to better involve parliamentarians in the decision making process on foreign policy and defence issues. To that effect, House and Senate members have had the opportunity to participate extensively in the review of Canada's foreign and defence policies.
A number of debates have been held in the House over the last 16 months on several aspects of our international relations. These debates have allowed members to express their views specifically on Canada's peacekeeping policy and operations. This is why I thank the hon. member from the Reform Party for bringing in Bill C-295. It gives us another opportunity to give our views on our peacekeeping forces abroad.
The concerns raised in Bill C-295 are in part similar to those expressed in previous debates. They show that a more open and accessible decision making process in the field of defence and foreign policy is necessary. The government subscribes to the intentions which have motivated the tabling of Bill C-295. It is after all the responsibility of this government to ensure that Canada's contributions to peacekeeping operations remain efficient and useful and that they respect the financial situation of the country.
Bill C-295 generally calls for rigid procedures which would run counter to the need for the case by case flexible approach that has made Canadians successful peacekeepers in the past. Moreover the adoption of Bill C-295 which in its general outline borrows heavily from the American approach to peacekeeping would send a very negative signal to our partners and to the international community at a time when Canada is promoting new ways of improving the efficiency and the relevance of the UN in the field of conflict prevention and resolution.
The end of the cold war has seen a return to violent ethnic and nationalistic conflicts in many parts of the world. This reality coupled with the new co-operation among the members of the security council have changed the peacekeeping equation. Missions have increased in number and grown in size and scope putting severe pressure on the financial capability of the UN and member states.
Ten years ago Canada's share of the total UN cost of peacekeeping was $8 million. In 1995 Canadian assessment alone will be in excess of $150 million, not including the incremental costs of the Department of National Defence. This is admittedly a burden but it is also an investment in peace at costs far lower than were we to allow conflicts to continue unabated and uncontained.
Canada remains one of the strongest advocates of reinforcing the UN's conflict prevention and conflict resolution capability. We have been working with like minded countries at the UN to bring about reforms that will provide the organization with the political, financial and military tools it needs to fulfil its growing responsibilities.
Canada is conducting a study on a UN rapid reaction capability which will provide recommendations on how to make the UN more efficient and more timely in case of conflicts. We are also organizing with our partners peacekeeping seminars in the context of the ASEAN regional forum and the OAS. We are working with the OAU to improve the capability of African countries to better contribute to peacekeeping operations and preventive diplomacy.
On April 24 the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre officially opened providing the international community with a world class training facility in this vital field. Canada's credibility and efficiency in the field of peacekeeping came from its commitments to the UN and its reliability in time of crisis. Canada has contributed with distinction in most operations in the history of peacekeeping because of the foresight of its leaders, the flexibility of its policies and the courage and skills of its troops.
Bill C-295, despite the well founded intentions of its author, would prevent the government from meeting these conditions. More specifically, Bill C-295 calls for a five hour debate prior to any mission that involves 100 or more members of the Canadian forces. Given the complexity of the situation on the ground and the sensitive nature of the negotiations that take place between the UN, the parties to the conflict and the troop contributors, a public debate on a given operation would take place in the shadow of diplomatic activities. It would likely lead to general reflection on peacekeeping without addressing the
specifics of the mission being debated. In other words, it would not respond to the problem for which this is allegedly a solution.
Other avenues are already available to parliamentarians to express their views on the subject. The government will continue to ensure those views are taken into account when cabinet decides on Canada's contribution to peacekeeping.
Given the nature of conflicts in the current international environment and the speed at which crisis situations degenerate into open confrontations, debating each mission might also hinder the government's ability to rapidly reply to a UN request and deploy Canadian troops in a timely fashion. This is precisely the opposite of what the government is currently promoting and urging the UN, to be more timely and more effective in responding to crises. Both the defence review and the foreign affairs review drew attention to this issue.
Bill C-295, if implemented, would ask the Minister of National Defence to specify the objectives, duties and role of the mission as well as to define its area of operation. These aspects are currently defined by the UN Security Council after careful consideration and discussions with troop contributors. This is the sole competence of the UN.
Should individual countries decide to redefine missions, objectives and operational requirements this situation would lead to constant stalemate in UN planning and deploying. When an operation does not meet Canadian approval, Canada does not contribute. This was the case for instance in the latest UN verification mission in Angola.
Canada and other like minded countries have invested personnel and financial resources in order to ensure the UN fulfils its task in an efficient manner, observing the criteria and conditions which are necessary for countries contributing troops to participate in peacekeeping missions.
We continue to play a leading role in the establishment of a better decision making process in the UN. Recently we have succeeded among other things in obtaining a better consultation mechanism between the security council and the contributing countries at the early stage in the process of mission planning. We intend to continue to press the UN and the security council on this issue.
The bill also stipulates that the Canadian forces in peacekeeping operations shall be under direct command of a Canadian officer. This has always been the case. We do not need further legislation to ensure that provision.
The bill further allows for this Canadian officer to be placed under United Nations command. The government strongly opposes this suggestion. Currently, Canadian soldiers are under UN control, but the ultimate command of the troops remains with Canadian authorities. Such a practice prevents the UN field commander from using Canadian troops for tasks that have not been agreed to by the government.
Such a far reaching commitment appears to contradict the intent of the rest of Bill C-295 and demonstrates this proposal is not clearly thought out. I respect the author of the bill just tried to correct that with unanimous consent, but I think it shows how ill thought out the bill was.
Let me underline again the commitment of this government to open debate on peacekeeping issues, especially in times of scarce resources. It is important to reach a broad consensus about where and how Canada should contribute to the needs of the international community. The foreign and defence policy reviews and the debates in the House are tangible proof of the seriousness of the government about the issue.
However, Bill C-295 is a step in the wrong direction. The idea of providing greater parliamentary control over the Canadian contribution to UN peacekeeping is exerted at the wrong end of the decision making process.
The adoption of this bill would not shake the overall Canadian attitude toward peacekeeping operations. It would rather have the effect of confusing the decision making processes and limiting Canada's ability to respond in a timely fashion to UN requests.
Canadians remain supportive of our contribution to peacekeeping, as was demonstrated during the foreign and defence policy reviews and in several polls taken over the years. Canada should build on this past experience rather than move in the direction of this bill.
Private Members' Business
Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to Bill C-295, an act to provide for the control of Canadian peacekeeping activities by Parliament and to amend the National Defence Act in consequence thereof. Bill C-295 is the peacekeeping act.
In commencing my remarks, I would like to address some of the concerns expressed by the member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke as well as those of the parliamentary secretary.
Careful examination of the bill reveals that their concern of the ability of the governor in council to react rapidly is ill founded, in fact, specious. If we read the bill, it says that less than 100 people can be deployed for an indeterminate amount of time. More than 100 people can be deployed immediately without reference to Parliament for up to 30 days.
If Parliament does not agree that Canadians should have a say in whether or not their people are committed to peacekeeping operations and 30 days is inadequate, then Parliament, in my estimation, is not doing its job.
Bill C-295 should not be necessary at this time. We should have established long since an ability for Parliament to become involved in the deployment of Canadian forces personnel to life threatening situations.
I would like to go on record as commending the government. It is far superior to its predecessors in that it has had four debates to date dealing with peacekeeping. The first one was on January 25, 1994 and at that time there was all party support for Canada's continuing peacekeeping commitments. Following that, on February 17, 1994 there was a debate by the special joint committee on Canada's defence policy which also touched on peacekeeping and again received all party support.
The third debate on peacekeeping was in September 1994. Notice was given on September 19, with the debate on September 21, hardly sufficient time to adequately prepare and debate an issue, particularly when the mandate was to be renewed on September 30. In other words, it was just over a week from the time the debate commenced until the commitment was signed.
In December 1994 Reform laid down four stipulations which should be met if Canadian troops were to be left in the former Yugoslavia. These were that the airport at Sarajevo should be kept open; convoys should be able to proceed unimpeded; peacekeepers should not be interfered with and that a ceasefire should be in place and respected. As we all know, subsequent to that time these four parameters were all violated.
Using an opposition supply day, Reform forced a discussion on severe problems in the defence department. The Minister of National Defence, having belatedly realized his failure to schedule a debate on renewal of the Balkan commitment, tried to convey that the opposition initiated debate would constitute a debate on renewing our peacekeeping commitment. When that was not satisfactory to us, the minister called for a debate on March 29, 1995 with the commitment expiring on March 31, 1995.
While I commend the government for having held debates, I question the validity of their timing. If we are really serious about Parliament and Canadians having input in whether Canadian troops should be committed to life threatening situations, surely it deserves more attention than it has been given by the government.
I would like to quote from the red book where it says: "A Liberal government will also expand the rights of Parliament to debate major Canadian foreign policy initiatives, such as the deployment of peacekeeping forces and the rights of Canadian to regular and serious consultation on foreign policy issues". From that statement it is quite obvious the government is not keeping its promise so we have another broken red book promise.
If one wants to look at a newly emerging democratic country, my colleague from Nanaimo-Cowichan recently returned from a North Atlantic Council meeting in Hungary at Budapest. He found that although it is relatively newly into the business, civilian control of the military in Hungary is vitally important. More important, the Hungarian Parliament has far more control than does the Canadian Parliament. No Hungarian soldier may be sent on operations beyond Hungary's borders without the approval of Parliament. This ensures that the pros and cons of any deployment are debated and that the people are aware of the factors bearing on the involvement of their country in foreign ventures.
I ask the question: Had there been a full parliamentary debate prior to committing forces to the former Yugoslavia, would we now be in Bosnia and Hercegovina? I suggest that probably there would be at least 250 members of the House who would disagree with that initial commitment having been taken, going on the mandate that was not there and the fact that the achievement of peace was not a real desire on the part of the people involved.
There was no peace to keep and no desire for peace on the part of the combatants. That would have been brought out in debate. It would have become obvious there could be no appropriate mandate for the Canadian peacekeepers to become involved.
We need real debate, not a facade or smoke and mirrors. This is even more vitally important when one considers that peacekeeping is becoming more dangerous with every day. Canada, as the House will well remember, was once involved in all peacekeeping operations. With the reduction in the size of our forces, the financial constraints and the realization that Canada can no longer contribute to all, we must selectively involve ourselves in those missions that we know we can accomplish well.
UN peacekeeping has grown astronomically. In January of 1993 the UN had 12,000 peacekeepers in the field. Eighteen months later, in July of 1994, there were 80,000 peacekeepers in the field. In early 1993, Canada had 4,700 peacekeepers deployed. The number now has shrunk to between 3,000 and 3,500, but that number seems likely to continue. Canada is now providing 3.6 per cent of the UN peacekeepers.
With regard to command and control, I would like to return to the comments made by both the Bloc and the parliamentary secretary with regard to a UN standing force. They object to the unfortunate mistake of my colleague when he put command rather than operational control, but they seem willing to consider the assignment of operational command or control to the UN. I do not think Canadians are willing to see Canadian soldiers committed to a shooting situation or to a life threatening
situation based on a decision by the United Nations without reference to Parliament. Certainly I would not agree with that.
Canadians are the best or at least among the very best in the world of peacekeeping. Our peacekeepers are well trained, well disciplined. They are innovative. They are trustworthy. They are dependable. They are compassionate and proficient in establishing and maintaining good relations with all factions in the area of conflict. This is painfully evident when one visits Bosnia or Croatia. Our peacekeepers are trusted because they are known to be unbiased. They show no favouritism to one side or the other. This means that all sides trust their judgment and rely on them to be fair and impartial.
Someone said that more interpersonal relations training is required for our peacekeepers. There are very few, if any, of us who would not benefit from more training in this aspect but personal observation in the field has shown me that our peacekeepers not only do well but excel in their relationships with all factions in their area of responsibility. Possibly, because of Canadian qualifications, we should consider a different aspect of peacekeeping for Canada. Perhaps it should be our mandate or our best purpose to deploy quickly. We have the ability to resolve a situation over a short period of time and then withdraw, turning that job over to other peacekeepers: a first in, stabilize, establish a good situation and withdraw scenario.
Withdrawing seems to be Canada's primary peacekeeping problem. We can involve ourselves but we cannot get out. Canada had troops in Cyprus for more than 29 years. As a matter of fact we still have two people there. We have been in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina for more than three years.
Bill C-295 would not hamstring government's ability to react quickly to pop-up crises because it applies only to the commitment of 100 or more personnel and to time periods exceeding one month. Furthermore, considering the seriousness of deploying Canadian personnel on peacekeeping operations, a parliamentary debate would seem to be the minimum acceptable approval required.
Should Parliament be in recess at the time of a crisis surely such a commitment deserves and would justify the recall of Parliament for such a debate.
Private Members' Business
Brenda Chamberlain Guelph—Wellington, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-295 on behalf of the people of Guelph-Wellington today.
I thank the hon. member for Fraser Valley East for his concern for Canadian peacekeepers. I know he is very sincere in this bill. I believe the bill has been introduced because of his concern and for the well-being of Canadian forces, a concern that is shared by the residents of Guelph-Wellington.
Canadians invented the concept of peace making. Former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the 1950s. Our peacekeepers shared that same prize in the 1980s. We have always acted in the interest of maintaining international peace and security.
Many of my constituents have participated in peacekeeping operations across the world and have distinguished themselves in service to their country. For example, recently Petty Officer Second Class Martin Mollison received a mention in dispatch from the Governor General for his act of bravery while serving in Cambodia.
I cannot support this legislation for several reasons I wish to make clear to the House. As the hon. member knows, peacekeeping is carried out pursuant to the authority of the Minister of National Defence under section 4 of the National Defence Act. The minister has the authority with respect to the management and direction of the Canadian forces and of all matters relating to national defence.
The legislation changes the decision making with respect to peacekeeping deployment and therefore restricts the prerogative, speed and discretion of the crown to determine Canada's contribution to United Nations or regional peace operations.
The legislation would also remove the responsibility and discretion of the minister respecting military operations. This would therefore affect the speed with which we can respond to requests for assistance from the United Nations.
The legislation would also ensure it would take longer for Canada to provide assistance because it would add another layer in decision making processes which is a strange suggestion from a member whose party stands for reduced government and easier decision making.
The Reform Party's blue sheet states it supports a national defence policy that would provide a fast response to national or international conflict. By providing for a process that would subject the involvement of Canadian forces in international peacekeeping missions to parliamentary control the hon. member appears to be contradicting the support of a quick response which is central to the promises he made during the last election.
Chapter VII of the United Nations charter provides for action by the security council with respect to the peace, breaches of peace and acts of aggression. Under articles 25 and 48 of the charter, member states of the United Nations are required to carry out the decisions of the security council for the maintenance of international peace and security.
The procedures proposed by Bill C-295 would restrict government from carrying out its obligations under the United Nations charter. All Canadians share the pride of knowing that we have contributed to world peace. While the armed forces remain small and the population is modest compared to other
nations, we were the first in peacekeeping and we remain respected because of what we do.
Peacekeeping is what we do well. We are asked to participate in missions around the world because other nations look to us for the expertise and skill required to perform the job of peacekeeping. Regrettably, we are often targeted by those who do not respect freedom and peace because we are, quite simply, the very best.
One hundred thousand Canadians have served in over 30 missions during the past 45 years. We have been asked because Canada has earned the respect and has acquired the skill to function as peacekeepers wherever we are required.
I find it troublesome to read that Bill C-295 would give up Canadian sovereign command of Canadian forces. As the parliamentary secretary said earlier, Canadian personnel serving on peace operations are always commanded by a Canadian. Our commanders are directly responsible to the Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian contribution to the overall mission and tasks of any given operation abroad. The hon. member at this point has said that he has changed that. I am pleased to see that, because it was a real flaw in the bill.
The people of Guelph-Wellington are justifiably proud of our contribution to the history of peacekeeping. We support the concept of our troops promoting good relations and preventing genocide, acts of terrorism, and civil war. The Canadian flag has for many in the world been seen first on the shoulders of a peacekeeper in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Cyprus, and Central America. Our peacekeepers have served as care-givers, have rebuilt and maintained orphanages, and their families have organized food, clothing, and toy collections in order not only to keep the peace but to provide some comfort to innocent men, women, and children who suffer from acts of violence and war.
Many of those peacekeepers were born in Guelph-Wellington and have family in my community or they have studied at the University of Guelph. My constituents remind me that every peacekeeper is a hero.
The people of Guelph-Wellington want the overall control of our troops to be in the hands of the Canadian command.
Never before has a government so often sought the consultation of members of Parliament on issues of peacekeeping. We have on this issue, as we have on so many others, demonstrated our commitment to seek the views of all parliamentarians and their constituents.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence have listened and they will continue to do so. Actions have followed their seeking our advice on peacekeeping missions. There are times, however, when the government needs to act without delay. In our rapidly changing world, when nationalism and religious fervour have risen to increasingly dangerous terms, the need for flexibility is paramount.
My constituents will continue to support the government in promoting world peace and development. We understand the complexities of this commitment. We know that peacekeeping is not without risk. We also know that as the makers of the concept of peacekeeping its success will continue as long as we play a vital role in its future. The current system works well. It allows the government maximum flexibility.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot support this legislation. I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-295.
Private Members' Business
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on this private member's bill. It is certainly timely. I congratulate the hon. member for Fraser Valley East for bringing it forward at this time.
The current crisis in Bosnia has brought into sharp focus the need for Canadians to have clear criteria for the future of peacekeeping missions. That is exactly what Bill C-295 does.
Certainly we have heard in the House many times that we cannot go everywhere. We have heard that we have to be more accountable, we have to be more transparent, and of course we always have to be aware of the cost of such measures.
Let me review what has occurred in Bosnia to illustrate why we need a bill such as this.
Canadian troops first went to this war-torn country over two and a half years ago in the honest hope that they could provide assistance and humanitarian relief to the people of Bosnia. They also hoped to keep combatants apart and facilitate a negotiated peace for the region.
Unfortunately, these laudable goals were not backed up by a United Nations mandate that could get the job done. With no leadership from Ottawa, our peacekeepers have been left twisting in the wind.
Our peacekeepers are the best in the world and their service in Bosnia has been above and beyond the call of duty. They deserve to have modern equipment, a coherent government policy, decisive leadership from Ottawa, and a UN mandate that allows them to do their job properly. Unfortunately, the government has let them down in almost all these respects.
We have received most recently mixed messages. We have a defence minister who says we should consolidate, we should fight back, and he even condones air strikes. We have a foreign affairs minister who says let us leave it the way it is and hope we can return to the mandate, as long as they do not keep taking us
hostage and humiliating us. We have a Prime Minister who in effect simply tries to ride the middle and more or less agrees one day to go one way and another day to go the other.
We do not have leadership in this area, and we certainly are letting our peacekeepers down because of it. Meeting with people as recently as today, that has been reconfirmed by people who have been there as recently as two days ago. To begin with, the government has overextended our commitments to peacekeeping while simultaneously cutting back on the defence budget. The results have been most unfortunate. For example, we have troops who go out on peacekeeping missions with equipment that would be considered antiques by many nations.
Compounding this, we have Liberal defence cuts that have very much limited the availability of trained personnel. This means that for missions such as the one in Bosnia we have to keep sending the same people over time and again. How do members think our soldiers feel as they are posted back to Bosnia for the third or fourth time? What about their families? What do members think their reaction is when they see Canadian peacekeepers being targeted by all sides in that conflict? What do they feel, knowing that Canadian troops are regularly taken hostage at gunpoint by the very people they were sent to help?
We must decide what we are going to do, and this bill helps us to do that. We must specialize. We must pick our areas. We cannot be everything to all people. And of course we must make sure we have a clear mandate and the equipment to deliver on that mandate.
There is no peace to keep in Bosnia. There is also no humanitarian mission to speak of. The only thing the UN is successful at is being used as a pawn by the warring factions. The government should have recognized this long ago. Canada should never have renewed our commitment to Bosnia in March, considering the ridiculous situation our peacekeepers are in. The Reform Party warned the government and we asked for this withdrawal since before last Christmas, but the government did not listen.
Our proud peacekeepers were not sent to Bosnia to be hostages. They were not sent there to be forced to helplessly watch murder and torture, since their mandate does not allow them to stop it. They were not sent there to be shot at by the very people they are supposed to be helping to find peace.
The Bosnian mission has disintegrated beyond repair. While the government buries its head in the sand and wrings its hands in indecision, it is up to private members such as my hon. colleague from Fraser Valley East to speak for the people of Canada and to stand up for the interests of our peacekeepers.
Bill C-295 does what the government should have done long ago. Instead of trusting the safety and lives of our peacekeepers to the twist of fate, this Parliament must set down criteria to condition our involvement for future missions. These criteria should outline what is acceptable and what is not. This is what Bill C-295 does. Most important among these criteria is that Parliament have the right to choose what peacekeeping missions Canada will participate in.
It is not up to the Prime Minister to snap his fingers and expect that everyone will do what he wants. We supposedly live in a democracy, not a dictatorship, although the recent tactics of the Liberal Party on Bill C-68, Bill C-85, and Bill C-41 really have me wondering if that is true.
It is amazing that we are told, "If you do not agree with us, backbenchers, stay home. Forget about the people at home. The party knows best. We will take the message from Ottawa to the constituency."
We waste time talking about $2 coins and three most important bills like this are left for us to talk about in six hours' time on third reading. We keep all of these people in line by giving them travel perks, by constituency spending, and by committee activity.
Beyond the basic idea of parliamentary approval, members of Parliament will need specific information upon which to base their decision. Without knowing the specific objectives and duties of the peacekeepers, how can members know how to vote? Without knowing the duration and the maximum cost of the mission, how would Parliament decide on the best course of action? These questions will be answered if Bill C-295 is passed.
Another key aspect of this bill is that it clearly spells out that Canadian peacekeepers shall be neutral and not engage in combat. This may seem obvious, but from watching the crisis in Bosnia it seems like the UN has taken sides. This is unacceptable. You cannot join the war you are intending to stop. This is why we have concerns about the strike force, about the whole concept of that strike force and what it is going to do. I guess we would have to applaud the government on the go slow action of recommending our involvement in this whole strike force idea. To escalate the war is certainly moving further and further away from the mandate, which we do not believe exists there any longer.
Another vitally important criterion for the good of our peacekeepers involves the reasonable use of force. Again referring to the ridiculous situation in Bosnia, we see how this has been a major failing in the past. We have had troops that have not been able to defend themselves properly. We also have troops who have been forced to watch helplessly as civilians were massacred because their mandate did not allow them to do anything
to stop it. Bill C-295 deals with this problem and spells out some very-
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker
Order. I am sorry, the hon. member's time has expired.
The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra.
Private Members' Business
Ted McWhinney Vancouver Quadra, BC
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Fraser Valley East has brought forward legislation in the area of what under our constitutional system is left to good judgment and good sense. It takes us a step toward the American constitution, constitutionalizing these areas of discretionary judgment. Yet of course the experience with the American constitution is that when it comes to issues like the Vietnam War it does not prevent the United States sliding into that, in spite of the constitutional provisions.
Reference has been made to eastern European experience. I was interested myself in the Russian constitution and the careful separation of powers now provided and the control by parliament over the military. Of course in Russia the newly written constitution has not stopped it from being embroiled in the conflict in the Caucasus.
It is a mistake to imagine that legislation can cover these issues of prerogative power. In those constitutions that have done it, alternative glosses are simply developed.
I thought we had a valuable debate here in the last few months. I do remember the undertaking given on the government side to consult with Parliament. When I went to the committee on defence this afternoon I had the privilege of sitting in and speaking there. I was reminded of our extraordinary good sense and that we have profited by experience. The failure in Somalia was a failure of judgment by the previous government. It did not study the geography; it did not study the military logistical base for support, and it paid the error of that misjudgment.
These are matters about which I think we can say that we in Canada are better informed today. I think several successive debates in this House have brought an understanding on both sides that it is something to go into seriously, that we understand the limits of peacekeeping, that we will not creep into peacemaking type political actions under the guise that it is classical peacekeeping as Canada has conceived and that where we send our people in we will make sure their mission is adjusted to the realities of the military logistical support we can provide.
What I am saying is I basically believe the system as it now exists will involve a proper and full consultation with Parliament from now on. We are anxious for advice. We are all committed to no more Somalias but to continuing in the Pearson tradition where we can be useful. Somebody cited Cyprus. We can be proud of Cyprus. We have kept the peace there and that is the model we will all be following in the future.
I commend the member opposite for his initiative. However, I do believe it is covered under the powers of the constitutional customs which we have developed and which have been very much evident in the past few months by the experience of the debate and the lessons we have learned in Bosnia.
Private Members' Business
The Deputy Speaker
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, an act respecting firearms and other weapons, be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment.
June 13th, 1995 / 6:30 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
Pursuant to the order adopted earlier today, it is my duty to put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of third reading of Bill C-68, an Act respecting firearms and other weapons.
The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?