House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was institutions.

Topics

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member and the Reform Party is doing is absolutely reprehensible and it is contemptuous-

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

David Collenette Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is contemptuous of the three people who are charged with heading this inquiry.

Justice Létourneau has set aside two or three weeks on this specific case. Everybody concerned, including the chief of defence staff, will have an opportunity to make their views known and to give their points of view. Then people can judge accordingly.

For the hon. member to read selective quotes from certain documents into the record, some of which may be germane to that investigation, to create a certain impression is absolutely and totally unacceptable. I would say it is unparliamentary and it is even un-Canadian.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is trying to twist this, as the Liberals do so well, and is shirking his responsibility as a minister of the crown.

Canadians and armed forces personnel are tired of this minister's lacklustre performance.

I will state again, "he did not deem it necessary to go further". The minister had to know that senior officials at DND were defying the minister's own order of a year ago to turn over documents to the Somalia commission.

How can the minister continue in his job knowing that the officials at DND defied his orders?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is becoming so incoherent he is choking on his rhetoric. By and large I answered that question in the first response.

The hon. member talks about morale in the armed forces. Let me tell him and his colleagues-I am sure that his colleagues have had the same calls-that members of the armed forces and their families have been outraged by the conduct of the opposition on this matter.

It is the opposition that is trying to discredit the armed forces and undermine the morale of the armed forces.

This matter should be dealt with in a calm and rational manner before the inquiry that members in the Reform Party sometimes support. They support it one week, they support it another week and in between they are not so sure, they want it wound down. They have no credibility on this issue whatsoever.

Department Of National Defence
Oral Question Period

April 17th, 1996 / 2:35 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, as we can see, the minister of defence is easily offended when we ask him questions on what goes on in his department.

Earlier, in response to my colleague from Charlesbourg, he took offence at being asked about events that call into question our armed forces' credibility and, above all, his own credibility and leadership. He has just done the same thing.

When the minister of defence mentions families that, in his opinion, are outraged by the opposition's attitude, he should perhaps consider the members of Corporal Daniel Gunther's family, who were told by the Information Commissioner of Canada that documents were missing from the corporal's file and that he could not explain why these documents were still missing. This is strangely reminiscent of the Somalia affair and it would be in the minister's interest to give this some serious consideration.

Department Of National Defence
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member has evidence germane to the inquiry he should submit it to the inquiry, not read it into the record here.

It is quite obvious by the bluster we have just heard that the Bloc Quebecois has joined the inquisition of the hon. member for Calgary West. Perhaps if the shoe fits they should wear it.

Department Of National Defence
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, it is all the members of this House and all Canadians who may soon be outraged by the minister's unacceptable attitude.

My question is a very simple one. The Information Commissioner of Canada can give the minister all the answers he wants. But would it not be normal for the minister of defence, who is supposedly responsible for the Canadian Forces, to know what goes on in his department and why some people routinely destroy and hide documents? He should know this, if he were truly responsible.

Department Of National Defence
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to listen to the hon. member when he claims to be speaking on behalf of all Canadians. This is interesting coming from a separatist.

It is interesting that the leader of the Bloc Quebecois has joined in a common front with Reform, a front to undermine the inquiry and the judicial process to look into this very serious matter.

Canadians want answers. The government wants answers. We will not get the answers from this line of questioning. We will get the answers from an impartial commission which is doing its job and doing it well.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the foreign affairs minister feigned outrage that Reform would ask questions about UN Ambassador Bob Fowler.

However, I remind him there have been clouds over Mr. Fowler for over two years. I remind him Mr. Fowler was deputy minister to the present defence minister, deputy minister during the Somalia affair. He was hustled out of town on December 23, 1994. He is a well connected Liberal.

Will the minister not agree that the allegations raised by the media, by former Prime Minister Kim Campbell and by Colonel Geof Haswell constitute a serious cloud of controversy that must be dealt with immediately?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let me first clarify that I was not feigning indignation; I really was upset by the hon. member's remarks.

To suggest that being a deputy minister of defence, while it is a very difficult job, is somehow the reason why someone should be asked to be pulled back from a diplomatic post simply does not stand up to much credibility.

As we have repeated many times, the reality is there have been allegations made. I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Ms. Campbell's book. I may never have the pleasure of reading her book; in fact, I am almost sure I will not have the pleasure of reading her book. However, it is an allegation.

As the Minister of National Defence has explained many times, we have set up an inquiry to look into all allegations, to ensure that all information is given, to make sure all testimony is heard and that we will not prejudge any of the results of that inquiry.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about some clerk here. We are talking about Canada's representative to the world at the UN. This guy was around as a DND deputy minister for seven years. He is a Liberal friend. It is not enough to say that Mr. Fowler has not been proven guilty.

To do his job and to be sure Canada is not undermined at the UN-

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. It is 2.45 p.m. and I still have indications from many members who would like to ask questions. I ask that we shorten the preambles and get to the question.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, why will the minister not do the right thing and put Canada's interests higher on his priority list than defending a well connected Liberal appointee and recall Mr. Fowler until these allegations are cleared up?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre
Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as is so often the case, the Reform Party tries to intrude its own somewhat undercover form of politics in the debate of the House.

Mr. Fowler is a long time public servant. He has had no affiliation with any party as far as I know. He has worked in a number of posts with great distinction. He is continuing to play that role at the United Nations where he was fundamentally responsible in helping put together a Haitian rescue force which has helped the island. He has represented us effectively in the reform of the United Nations. He is responsible for providing a new budgetary formula for the United Nations. He is doing his job well.

The hon. member should not be so quick to dismiss the fundamental principle this country stands for, that one is innocent until proven guilty.