House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

Topics

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Somalia inquiry has been eventful from the word go. We saw generals suspected of a cover-up, we heard witnesses contradict themselves, we saw a minister make a hash of things and

in the end lose his job. We even saw an operation to look for lost documents; the whole army on alert to look for documents hidden by the chief of staff.

Nevertheless, a number of things are clear. First of all, there was at least one murder in Somalia. Not unfortunate accidents but a murder. Second, senior army officers and senior officials with the Department of National Defence tried to hide these facts. And finally, now that the Commission of Inquiry on Somalia is winding up, we still do not know exactly how many people were involved in the cover-up.

Considering that the Commission of Inquiry on Somalia will not be able to offer full clarification of this case and all the consequences within the time frame it was given, why does the minister persist in refusing to extend the commission's mandate so that it can do a good job?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, today it will be nearly two years since the commission of inquiry started investigating the events that took place in Somalia.

The government gave the commission three extensions, including the last one. However, we have asked the commissioners to submit their report no later than the end of June. We could have continued this inquiry for another year or two or three, and by the end of this whole exercise, the conclusions and recommendations would probably have had some historic value.

As the hon. member is aware-I was going to say "Leader of the Opposition", but this may be a bit premature-I am to report to the Prime Minister of Canada and the government on the future of the armed forces and how we should proceed. The former chief justice of the Supreme Court, Brian Dickson, has agreed to investigate and report on the whole military justice system as well as on the way investigations should be conducted.

I am sure it would probably have been impossible to obtain full clarification of all the events that occurred before, during and after the situation in Somalia.

I think that for the sake of the Canadian Forces and for the sake of the future of this institution which is very important for Canada, we had to wind things up. As soon as a report has been submitted to the government and the Commission of Inquiry has made its recommendations at the end of June, I hope Canadians will realize why it is important to turn the page.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, if we are celebrating the commission's second birthday, I am not sure the word celebrate is particularly apt, it is because their people are responsible for the situation. We would not be in this mess if people had not run around hiding documents. That is what happened at army headquarters. At that level, we have an establishment that protects its own and prevents the truth from coming to light.

To restore credibility within the armed forces, would it not be preferable to finish the inquiry and, if necessary, produce a preliminary report in June, let the minister do some house cleaning and then continue this inquiry into a number of major events, to identify who was responsible for what?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I fully understand the hon. member's concerns. The incidents that occurred in Somalia are absolutely intolerable. The way the institution reacted to these incidents is entirely unacceptable. That is why we promised to try to find ways to prevent such incidents from recurring, but in a less than perfect world, we know it is always a possibility. We had to find a way to set up mechanisms for dealing appropriately with all eventualities.

I never commented on the way the commission decided to do its job of hearing witnesses, on its work schedule or on the testimony as such.

But I can say to the hon. member that I believe Canadians realize that for the past two or three days, we have heard witnesses who were directly involved in the incidents that occurred in Somalia. They are being heard two years later. I am just stating a fact. This is not a comment.

If two years later, we now hearing testimony from two people who were involved in the incident in Somalia, I think it says quite a bit about the time it would have taken to receive conclusions and recommendations that would be useful, in the current context, to try to deal with the problems and the challenges facing the Canadian Forces.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, surely the minister would agree that had there not been a cover-up, we would not have the problems we have today. If senior officers had co-operated instead of trying to sabotage the inquiry, we would not be where we are today. If the minister's predecessor had not spent his time protecting senior officers instead getting the army to do what it is supposed to do, we would not be in the mess we are today. There are guilty parties. If certain acts, certain criminal acts were committed, surely there are people who are guilty.

Considering that this commission will not be able to finish its work, does the minister realize that soldiers will have trouble identifying who among their superiors was innocent and who was guilty? And that is a serious matter.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is referring to a situation in which there may be certain

things that prevented the commission from doing its job or that meant the commission needed more time to do its job than would have been the case had the circumstances been different.

However, some allegations regarding purported cover-ups and all the rest have been checked by other institutions. I may remind the hon. member that for instance, in the case of allegations concerning the former chief of staff, a government institution conducted an investigation and found that General Boyle was not responsible for doing things which, according to the commissioner, were unacceptable.

The important thing for us is that by the end of March, when we will have reported to the Prime Minister and Canadian people, people will be able to evaluate the work we have been doing for three months. At the end of June, Canadians must be able to analyze-

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Témiscamingue has the floor.

Haiti
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

Three weeks ago, a number of Canadian police officers and soldiers stationed in Haiti stated that their lives were endangered by the lack of co-operation by local authorities. Today the situation has not improved. On the contrary, Canadian patrols are the victims of repeated attacks by Haitians throwing stones.

Does the minister agree that these statements are troubling, and can he tell us whether his department has initiated an inquiry to cast some light on the situation?

Haiti
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are not in the process of investigating who is throwing stones in Haiti. But I can tell you, as I stated yesterday to those concerned about these statements by two members of the Canadian Forces, which were picked up by the press, that when our people are sent into a situation like the one in Haiti at the moment, it is obvious that they are not being sent to the local Club Med.

They have gone to a dangerous spot, one where there is danger not only for our troops, but also for the President of Haiti. We are not there in a babysitting role. This is a military situation in which military personnel will certainly be exposed to a certain degree of danger.

Make no mistake: when Canadians go to a country like Haiti that has been torn apart by internal strife for years, it is not a comfortable situation. There is, of course, some level of danger, but I believe that the military personnel who are there, as well as the police officers, and the Canadian public in general, consider that the objective of the mission is a valuable one, in light of the realities they face daily.

Haiti
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, can the minister explain to us why the two soldiers who dared reveal the truth concerning the increasingly dangerous situation in Haiti, for both police officers and the military, have been moved to administrative positions?

Haiti
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the two soldiers expressed concerns about their safety.

If the two persons in question were uncomfortable with the mission they had been asked to carry out, it was important not only that they say this to the general public, but also that they discuss it with their colleagues who are also there to fulfil the objective of this very important mission.

They have not been disciplined. They were nervous where they were, close to the President of Haiti, and so they have been put in a position where, I hope, they will feel more at ease.

The Economy
Oral Question Period

March 13th, 1997 / 2:25 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government is collecting more taxes than any other federal government in the history of Canada. It has the record.

Not surprisingly, Canadians have suffered a $3,000 pay cut in the last three years. What do they get in return? They get 1.5 million Canadians unemployed, 800,000 people having to moonlight just to make ends meet and the highest number of young Canadians dropping out of the workforce since the 1960s.

My question is for the finance minister. When is the government going to realize that high unemployment is a direct result of high taxes? When will it get the connection?

The Economy
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first of all the hon. member's numbers are wrong. He ought to know that since we have taken office the federal government's share, revenues as a percentage of GDP, has dropped.

He ought to know while disposable income dropped substantially under the Reform Party's kissing cousins, the Conservatives, in 1993 when we took office it stabilized.

Third, he ought to know that as a result of the government's actions, massive purchasing power through the reduction of interest rates has gone back into the pockets of Canadians.

The Economy
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, by trying to defend an unacceptably high unemployment rate, the Liberals are sounding exactly like Brian Mulroney: productivity up, interest rates down, low inflation, rosy IMF predictions and-listen to this-the best job creation record in the G-7.

These are exactly the same arguments that Brian Mulroney made in this place in 1992 to try to defend another government that promised and failed to deliver on jobs, jobs, jobs for 1.5 million Canadians. It is exactly the same rhetoric.

Instead of using Brian Mulroney's arguments from 1992, why does the government not actually do something for the 1.5 million unemployed? Why does it not lower taxes?

The Economy
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we reduced taxes in the last budget by $2 billion over the next three years.

The government has set out a very clear and comprehensive plan for job creation. It is, first, to clean up the nation's finances which has led to an unprecedented drop in interest rates.

Second, we have a short term plan for the infrastructure program, which the hon. member had the nerve yesterday to call rinky-dink. He cast aspersions on every mayor and municipality in the country. We have the Prime Minister's trips abroad.

We also have a long-term plan, a reinvestment in education, a reinvestment in research and development. If the Reform Party is sincere about jobs, then it will support the government's budget. It is the most comprehensive plan that has been set out.