House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was iraq.

Topics

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4:10 p.m.

York South—Weston
Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the member has expressed very well some of the sentiments that many members in the House feel in terms of a number of issues, one of which being the inability of the United Nations, because of some of the reasons to which the member alluded, to come to a diplomatic solution and bring the forces to bear that would have influenced the Iraqi government and thereby avoided the whole conflict.

The member suggested that perhaps it was the Security Council that was the problem. I would like the member to address further whether he feels that if there is an inability to deal with the Security Council and its structure, he sees some wisdom in changing the rules of membership in the Security Council such that a major player on the world stage, like Canada, would have an opportunity to influence diplomatically the course of events. Could different structural changes be made in the Security Council that would allow countries like Canada to play a major role as opposed to a minor role in terms of influencing events?

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4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I, as I think many members of the House, would be open to debating the future of the UN and look at how we could restructure it to some extent to work more equitably and actually not have cases such as we see today, where often one country can veto the direction of many others when it comes to maybe doing what is right.

I would like to see Canada have a stronger role at that table but we need to ask ourselves here in Canada whether we in fact are taken seriously internationally.

We have been doing some great things over the years when we look at our peacekeeping abilities and our influence at being seen as a neutral country but over the years this, unfortunately, has deteriorated. Why has this deteriorated? I would say that it is because the current government does not see the value of putting some of our military capability or some of the investments, which are required for us to be taken somewhat seriously internationally, at the forefront and evaluate what our role should be in international conflicts.

I have no doubt that people still respect our country and want Canada to bring its experiences to the forefront of many of these particular international crisis. We are such a pluralistic country, one that stands for a lot of values that other countries would like. How in fact could we strengthen our role here at home so we actually can be taken seriously?

I am all in favour of restructuring the UN but we need to take some concrete steps here at home to ensure that we as a country are strong and viewed that way internationally before we can even be taken seriously around the world.

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4:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague in the Canadian Alliance, the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, for moving today's motion to support our allies in Iraq.

It was not my intention to rise in the House to speak to the motion as I had risen previously on this issue and wanted to give my hon. colleagues an opportunity to go on record regarding the issue. However I felt it was important to tell the House, but more important, to convey a message to our friends to the south that Canadians are outraged by the Liberal government's position of supporting Saddam Hussein rather than our traditional, democratic allies.

Here is an example of the letters I have been receiving regarding the Iraq policy of the government. The title is “The Cowardice Liberal Government”. The letter was sent to the Prime Minister with copies to the White House and myself:

Mr. Prime Minister, I'm certainly not surprised that you have sided with the government of France rather than support the American government with its decision.

You have succeeded in bringing shame upon all Canadians.

I've forwarded an e-mail to the White House, as a Canadian, offering my support.

Why the...are you still the Prime Minister?

I want to thank Jim from Pembroke for saying what is on the minds of millions of Canadians today. Canadians are telling us that they do want their government to be neutral.

Last Friday, March 21, I had the honour and the privilege of hosting a town hall meeting at the Best Western hotel with the leader of the only opposition to oppose the government's stand on Iraq, the leader of the Canadian Alliance.

It was standing room only as the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke packed the place to hear a real leader speak. My office was flooded with calls for copies of my leader's speech from the previous evening here in the House, a speech that was a true testament to Canadian values.

I have no doubt that it was the inspiring words from the Canadian Alliance, the member for Calgary Southwest, that brought the people out that night.

The anti-American stance that has been adopted by the government is looked upon by the people of my riding with shame and disgust. It is with pride that I recognize Reeve Gordon White of the Whitewater region of my riding for making the following motion to Renfrew County council:

Reeve Gordon White moved, seconded by Reeve Jack Wilson of Laurentian Valley:

That the Warden, in conjunction with Renfrew County staff, send a letter directed to Mr. Jean Chrétien, Prime Minister of Canada, regarding--

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4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order. The member has just mentioned the Prime Minister by name. I ask her to please do not do it again.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

--the article of Thursday, February 27, 2003, Federal MP on Americans: “I hate those bastards” as stated by Liberal MP on February 26, 2003, MP for Mississauga Centre re: This type of comment toward American neighbours is totally irresponsible, despicable and not acceptable in the fostering of ongoing public relations with our trading partners south of the border. A copy of the letter be sent to MP for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke.

It is my privilege to publicly acknowledge the following mayors and reeves of Renfrew County Council who endorsed this motion: Reeve Janice Bush, Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards; Reeve Bill Croshaw, Head, Clara and Maria; Reeve John Doering, Horton; Reeve Arlene Felhaber, Bonnechere Valley; Reeve Audrey Green, Renfrew; Mayor Russ Havelin, McNab Braeside; Reeve Norm Lentz, Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglin; Reeve John Frost, Greater Madawaska; Warden of Renfrew County and Mayor of Madawaska Valley, Bill Schweig; Mayor Bob Sweet, Petawawa; Reeve Harold Weckworth, North Algona Wilberforce; Reeve Gordon White, Whitewater Region; and Reeve Jack Wilson, Laurentian Valley.

While the official government line is that the member from Mississauga is a minority in her party, the message has gone through to rank and file Liberals to defend intemperate comments that if they were directed at a visible minority, for example, would have been called racist.

It is interesting to note that of the three councillors who voted against the motion condoning the anti-American remarks in the process, one is actually a declared candidate for a federal Liberal nomination and one of the others has a reputation for speaking before thinking, particularly when the issue involves a party which she calls common sense.

The Renfrew county councillors who voted for this motion are smart enough to understand the economic importance of American markets. The U.S. is, in the words of Reeve Gordon White, our lifeline when it comes to selling agricultural and lumber products as well as attracting tourists. Reeve Bush observed that the anti-American stance of the Liberal government only harms the struggle to reach a fair softwood lumber agreement that is so important to Canada.

Consumers are already feeling the slowdown at our borders. The government is only fooling itself if it thinks there would be no long term repercussions from its decision to ally Canada with the likes of Libya rather than our traditional allies like Great Britain and Australia.

Canadian veterans are concerned about Canada's lack of involvement. I was interested to read in the Pembroke Daily Observer a quote from Korean Veteran Harold Doner who was speaking at Branch 72 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Pembroke. He said, “We should have backed the States. We used to be reliable like England, but now,...”

America will remember who her friends are. With 93% of our trade with the United States and a Canadian military that has been gutted by the current government, I find it incredible that the federal government is taking a pro-Saddam Hussein position.

As the riding that is home to CFB Petawawa I am in contact with our troops. These soldiers, who regularly train with their US counterparts, feel shame at being labelled cowards. The Canadian military relies on US equipment with which to train. We rely on US planes to fly our troops to peace missions because we do not possess any strategic lift. How can we, with any sense of honesty, ask the Americans for anything again?

So much for the expression “middle power”. The government gave away our sovereignty both economically and militarily long ago. Very soon it will find that being a friend and an ally has its responsibilities.

In closing, I will quote from my leader's speech, for which he received a standing ovation in Pembroke last Friday night, words that stirred the heart.

For the first time in history, the Liberal government has left us outside our joint British and American allies in their time of need.

The Canadian Alliance supported the American and British position on this issue because we share their concerns. We share their worries about the future if Iraq is left unattended to and we share a fundamental vision of civilization and human values. Alliances are two-way processes and where we are in agreement we should not leave it to the United States to do all the heavy lifting just because it is the world's superpower. To do so would undermine the most important relationships we have and in an increasingly globalized and borderless world, such relationships become even more important in the future.

Since Saddam Hussein came to power in 1979, more than one million people have died as a consequence. They have died through killing and torture as individual opponents, real and imagined.

A country that does not honour its own friends and allies in a dangerous world but uses them and rejects them at will, such a country in time will endanger its own existence. This country was forged in large part by war, not because it was easy but because it was right. We did so for freedom, democracy and civilization itself, values that today continue to be embodied in our allies and in their leaders.

We will stand, and I believe most Canadians will quietly stand with us, for these higher values which shaped our past and which we will need in an uncertain future.

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a note about the concept of courageous compassion. We are not there shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers, but we hear the discussion that we are going to be there to put Iraq together afterward. But because we are not there now there is no guarantee that we are really going to be there later because we will not be running the show.

We have already seen the unloading of compassionate aid coming in once the port was secured. That operation of humanitarian aid and compassion is already underway, and we are not part of it.

Can the member talk a little about courageous compassion and what this is all about? It is for our security but certainly also for the humanitarian aspect of the people of Iraq.

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4:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, courageous compassion is demonstrated through the benefits of modern technology in that we are able to see exactly what is going on at the war front. While it is necessary to punch through the Iraqi forces, many of them not wanting to fight the Americans and their allies who are trying to liberate them, we see that some are injured, but as soon the forces catch up with those who are surrendering, immediately the compassion is showing through in the videos.

Sometimes they incur injury but immediately they are offered compassion and medical aid. Contrast that with the videos that the Iraqi government has put out with the captured U.S. troops and some of them civilians. They were shot down and their bodies were thrown into a pile for all the world to see.

It is against the rules of the Geneva convention, against anything humane--shooting and executing civilians and troops before a camera. Contrasting the compassion that we see through the video feed, it goes to follow that what this conflict is about is liberating those who have a leader who shows no compassion for his constituents, the women and children who are routinely beaten, tortured, starved and raped by their own leadership.

Millions of dollars are flowing in as a result of oil, but instead of helping his own people he uses it to build arms and to kill his own people.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. She mentioned a higher value. In case she does not know, the higher value is peace; peace at any cost.

Over the last few weeks and months it has been remarkable how Canadians stood fast with their own government in advocating that the only solution to the problems that we are having is through the United Nations. Many people have criticized the United Nations through the years. There is no doubt that it is not a perfect organization, but nevertheless it is the only thing we have as a collectivity in the world.

Many times we heard that democracy is not perfect, but there is nothing else that comes close to it that we would prefer. It is the same thing with the United Nations.

Through the years after the second world war, the failure of the League of Nations after the first world war gave birth to another attempt, the United Nations. We had great hope that this collectivity of the world powers would protect us against the abuses that we saw through the years.

The United Nations has had many difficulties in this Middle East effort. I could not help but note that the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla stated in the first part of his motion:

(1) endorse the decision of the Allied international coalition of military forces to enforce Iraq's compliance with its international obligations under successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region;

All we would have to do is take out a few words and say, “endorse the decision of the allied international coalition of military forces to enforce resolutions 181, 242 and 380”, and continue. That would have contributed greatly to peace in the Middle East.

The United Nations was confronted with the situation whereby we had a rogue state like Iraq with a leader who nobody disputes is lacking in sanity. We all agree that his own people have suffered. We figured that the time had come and realized that the only solution was peace. It cannot be done any other way if we want to progress and truly become civilized in this world.

The United Nations has many drawbacks, but at least the attempt has been laudable. In this particular event with Iraq, which had been contained, it was going very well. I am sure that the French, Germans, Russians and Chinese had legitimate reasons to feel that they took the endorsement of the United Nations. The Canadian government stood behind that and the polls have shown that the majority of Canadians endorse that. We felt that the time had come that we had to go to the bitter end and find a solution peacefully.

Many years ago, a Canadian journalist wrote a book, in which he was advocating how Canada could be a real powerful agent in the world as a peacekeeper. The book was entitled Peacemaker or Powder-Monkey; Canada's role in a revolutionary world . Obviously we chose to be peacekeepers, and that has not been easy for us.

When this issue dawned on us in the Middle East, where there has been confusion ever since the second world war, we had to stand our ground. It is with great proud that Canadians saw their government take a stand. By far most of the colleagues in the House stood by the government and felt that this was the only solution. We are very happy with that.

For the past few weeks, there have been huge demonstrations, especially in Montreal. It was pleasing and almost surprising to see the number of Canadians who took to the streets to show that they truly value peace. It is difficult to maintain peace. It is not difficult to make people angry and afraid, but maintaining peace is something else.

During the demonstrations that we have seen across the country—and I followed those in Montreal very closely—it was wonderful to see the unity, and the hope that peace, not war, would prevail, because war leads to more violence and other reactions.

We could talk about this for hours in this House, but to sum up, it is important to note that Canadians were behind the government's position that the United Nations is the only organization that can order such drastic measures as declaring war.

We hope to see in this world, and celebrate in this House a day when the United Nations alone will have the power to decide what action to take in circumstances so serious as to require nations to join together in war. We are always going to work toward this goal. However, we must realize what is at stake, and it is very difficult to know what the truth is.

In conclusion, I was very happy to see Canadians from all provinces back the government in its desire to support the measures for peace. It was one of the greatest things I have seen done by our community and I am very happy and proud—more than ever—to be Canadian and to be for peace.

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4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before proceeding to questions and comments, I would like the hon. member for Gatineau to confirm whether or not he will be sharing his time with the hon. member for York Centre, because we have an indication to that effect.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I forgot to indicate at the beginning of my speech that I was going to share my time with my hon. colleague from York Centre.

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4:35 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, thank you for recognizing me. Allow me to congratulate the hon. member for Gatineau on his speech.

I know very well how terribly complex the whole reconstruction phase is. Even while the conflict is going on, our government is working together with UN organizations to develop and implement strategies to make us as effective as possible.

I would like to give my hon. colleague the opportunity to explain what role Canada will play, given the important strategic position in which our Prime Minister has put himself throughout the period leading up to actual conflict. He is one of the heads of state with the most experience in this regard, and is in a position to have extremely productive discussions with both parties to the conflict. I would like to give my hon. colleague an opportunity to elaborate on the extremely important role of Canada during the reconstruction phase, which is already underway.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reiterate the fact that we are proud of the exemplary courage demonstrated by the Prime Minister. He felt supported by Canadians, by the colleagues in his party and even by members of the opposition.

As for the issue of reconstruction in Iraq, I am one of those who feels that Canada will play a role in it. In articles appeared in the United States last week, it was said that it would be private sector companies that would do this reconstruction. The role of other countries was not mentioned. We know that most of these private companies will come from the United States.

Who will pay for this reconstruction? We know very well how it will be funded, given the riches that exist in Iraq. I had hoped that the United Nations would say it was up to the UN to decide how to proceed and what means to use in the reconstruction of Iraq. We must help these poor people who have been victimized by a man who is out of control, there is no doubt about that. It is up to the United Nations to help the Iraqis, to give them a chance to live in peace and to give them hope. None of Iraq's riches were being used to support the most fundamental needs in life.

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4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to my colleague that I was in Montreal for these big demonstrations. I was so very happy to call myself a Montrealer. So many people marched for peace. It was beautiful to see. Taking part in it felt good. It gives us hope for the future.

I also wanted to tell my colleague that I fully agree with what he said with regard to the reconstruction. In fact, that was the subject of my question this afternoon.

Canada must pressure the United Nations. We are concerned, and for good reason, that the unity and sovereignty of Iraq could be threatened if it becomes a protectorate of anyone other than the United Nations. It is critical that the UN oversee the reconstruction.

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March 24th, 2003 / 4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree fully with the hon. member. If the UN and the world community do not do the reconstruction, there will be resistance and that will complicate things. The only approach is for the UN to oversee the reconstruction. This will provide hope for bolstering the United Nations so that it may play an enhanced role everywhere there is conflict. We must realize that this is the only instrument available to us. We must help the United Nations as much as possible, and ensure that they are an instrument of peace, regardless of the consequences.

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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows:the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville, Iraq.