House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was defence.

Topics

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-436, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (sponsorship of relative).

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the Housetoday to introduce my bill. I believe it will help reunite families in Canada.

The bill, called “once in a lifetime”, would, simply put, allow someone to sponsor a relative to come to Canada who otherwise would not qualify under the immigration family class rules.

I know in Vancouver East and across the country there are many families desperate to reunite with a family member. The bill would allow them to do that in a reasonable and compassionate way.

I truly hope that members of all parties will support the bill to strengthen our multicultural diversity in Canada and to support families.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Employment Insurance Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-437, an act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (persons who leave employment to be care-givers to family members).

Mr. Speaker, again I rise with great pleasure to introduce what I think should be the finest piece of legislation ever to grace the halls of Parliament.

The bill basically would enable people with relatives under palliative care or severe rehabilitation to leave their place of employment for up to six months to provide care for that individual.

It is not a question of if people will become caregivers, it is a question of when they will become caregivers. We have over 3 million caregivers in the country today that the bill would greatly assist.

Also, for those concerned about dollars, for every $1 from the EI program that would be spent on the bill, $4 would be saved on the health care system. That is not only a great fiscal initiative, it is also a great family initiative.

We encourage speedy resolution and support for the bill throughout the country.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if Question No. 187 could be made an order for return, the return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed

Question No. 187
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Concerning Canada-Iraq trade, what is, on an annual basis, the value of trade between Canada and Iraq for the past 20 years with a breakdown by imports/exports and type of merchandise?

Return tabled.

Question No. 187
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all other questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 187
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is that agreed?

Question No. 187
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 187
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 39(5) to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the ministry to respond to the following questions on the Order Paper is deemed referred to several standing committees of the House as follows.

Question No. 187
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Question No. 180, standing in the name of the hon. member for North Vancouver, is referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Question No. 184, standing in the name of the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest, is referred to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Question No. 186, standing in the name of the hon. member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, is referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Question No. 191, standing in the name of the hon. member for Macleod, is referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Question No. 194, standing in the name of the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River, is referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

moved:

That this House urge the government not to take part in the United States' missile defence plan.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their support. I am pleased to take the floor to address the motion before the House.

I was wondering how I should introduce this debate, and I finally decided that my starting point would be the long-standing military doctrine of the offence vs the defence. This doctrine probably goes all the way back to Cro-Magnon man.

In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey , we see a Cro-Magnon man clubbing another man. Those who witnessed the incident probably thought that being hit with a big club seems to hurt, that maybe people should don a helmet to cushion the blow.

This has always been the military doctrine. The offensive side tries to overcome the enemy's defence, and the defence tries to resist the adversary's offence. This has evolved over time.

Other weapons, like arrows and javelins, were invented and other types of shields were found to fend off these new attacks. To this day, things have evolved that way.

Now we have a missile defence plan, or antimissile shield. The concept of a shield has evolved as well. In our modern world, we are threatened by antiballistic missiles. There are people who wonder if we should get ourselves a shield, a missile defence plan. It is an American idea.

I would like to talk about more recent history. In 1972, the ABM treaty was signed, with the goal of preventing the militarization of space. The proliferation of nuclear arms was on people's minds and there had already been discussions about limiting this proliferation. But the great powers, Russia and the United States in particular—for we were still in the cold war era—understood then that it was very important not to militarize space. That is the ultimate in defence. It is also possible to have offensive weapons in space and people could not allow that, because it would restart the arms race.

In 1983, President Reagan put forward the idea of a space-based missile defence system to intercept missiles. This project was abandoned for many reasons, but especially because the technology at that time was not available. It was all rather futuristic. And it was about the same time that the film Star Wars came out, and the project became known as star wars, as well. Thus, this project was abandoned for a time.

President Reagan also understood that the ABM treaty signed in 1972 would make it difficult, and nothing could be done without amending the treaty or repudiating it.

The situation evolved under President Clinton, with what they called at the time the NMD or National Missile Defense. The idea of a counterattack or of a shield seemed to be downgraded. Perhaps it would no longer be done from space. Ground-based possibilities were to be studied.

This theory has changed again with the arrival of George W. Bush, who wanted, perhaps, to see a group of elements that would block a potential attack on the United States. It could be done from ships, for example; antimissile missiles could be launched from ships, or from aircraft or from the ground.

So we can see that this idea has evolved. At present, it appears to have been reactivated. I remember the debates we had here in this House two years ago. The Bloc Quebecois asked questions. The federal government stayed far away from the new American philosophy of the antimissile shield, because it said we did not have enough details and that we would wait for the Americans to spell out the details.

We believe it is becoming an important issue today because the Americans want it to be. We also believe there have been contacts with the Americans.

But what is really going on? Is it realistic to think that a state could launch a ballistic missile attack against the United States of America?

There are various types of missiles, with different ranges. Obviously, if we are talking about an intercontinental missile, not many people have such a capacity, apart from Russia, China and perhaps North Korea. Indeed, North Korea has been extremely active lately for reasons of international relations, and also perhaps to indulge in a little blackmail in order to get some economic support, to get some assistance. Its nuclear program is up and running again. Therefore, I believe that it possesses the necessary capability for such an attack. Actually, North Korea has the technology needed to launch a nuclear weapon against any city in the U.S.

However, we should remember that we still subscribe to a military concept which was developed at the time when the balance of terror, at it was called, was the rule, and which was known as mutually assured destruction. Now, any state that launches a missile against the United States can be assured of its own destruction. It has always been the rule that if you attack, we will respond in kind.

Furthermore, any state that decided to launch a missile against the United States should be aware of the fact that it runs the risk of simply being wiped off the face of the earth. I believe Russia as well as China have understood this.

Russia, specifically, has the means to launch a massive attack on the U.S., because it has enough nuclear weapons and the means to launch these weapons toward America. It is the only power currently able to do so.

China also a number of missiles, but perhaps only a dozen that could be aimed at American cities. So, China has no reason to attack the U.S. because this would mean its automatic self-destruction.

This leaves the so-called rogue states, of which Iraq is not currently one. Incidentally, the Americans are still searching that country for weapons of mass destruction, without success. Nor do I think that Iran has the technological capabilities to launch a nuclear weapon on any American city. That leaves North Korea.

Is it really necessary to spend such sums for just one country, when obviously if that country were to attack, it would be destroyed. This is one consideration with regard to such missiles.

Of course, India and Pakistan also have nuclear capabilities, but their range capability is limited to the continent. So they can attack each other. I do not think they have the capabilities to launch a missile attack on an American city.

Canada's geography must also be considered. This is very important. Currently, the Americans are telling Canada that they will set up interceptors in Alaska. So they have to ask Canada, “Do you want to join us?”

I am happy that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is here to listen to what we have to say. I am happy that he is here because, ultimately, international relations are also at stake.

There is the whole question of debris because Alaska is on the far western tip of the Arctic. If a rogue state—North Korea, for example—were to launch a missile, this attack would cross the polar ice cap. It would fly over the polar ice cap. So, this is a problem for Canadians. In fact, interceptors leaving Alaska could fly over Canadian territory. I have a theory about this that I will discuss shortly.

I must point out too that all of this involves NORAD. It is NORAD's decision if a missile is going to be launched. Having visited Cheyenne Mountain, I found American technology very interesting. Their satellite can detect a missile within mere seconds of its being launched. Our only problem, if the missile is headed toward Canada or the United States, is that this is only a realization of the situation. There is no retaliatory measure possible except the concept of mutually assured destruction to which I have already referred.

So a North Korean missile will take 20 minutes to reach U.S. territory. The U.S. President, and likely the Prime Minister, are informed in order to seek a balanced response. There is not much time. In fact, at this time there are no countermeasures that can be taken.

We have, however, always had the concept of mutually assured destruction I have already referred to. I personally do not feel that North Korea would risk launching a missile and then being destroyed itself within minutes.

Now for the limits. As I said, Russia is probably the only country currently with the capacity to launch a massive attack.

At this point in time, not only has missile defence failed in attempts to block a missile aimed at the U.S., but its costs are exorbitant. There is no way to stop a massive attack.

It must be made perfectly clear: tmissile defence is designed to respond to a targeted attack by a few missiles, and it is not yet ready. In future, maybe in ten years or so, perhaps three or four missiles might be blocked. It is certain, however, that if Russia launched a major attack using a hundred or so missiles. the concept of mutually assured destruction would apply and the end of the world would likely ensue.

There are other technological limitations. When this type of missile has been launched and is getting close to its target, it sends out “leurres”, which are I think “decoys” in English. In the recent attacks on Baghdad, the planes launched flares before the attack in order to thwart antimissile responses. The same thing applies to ballistic missiles. Just minutes before it hits, it sends out its decoys. This is where things get complicated; the antimissile missile may go after the decoys instead.

Until now, there have been eight interception trials; five were successful and three were not. However, there were no decoys involved. It was only a missile launched from a base and the Americans were trying to intercept it in a context where everything was well planned.

Therefore, the technology is still very questionable. When additional elements such as decoys come into play, interception will be more complex and increasingly difficult.

Let us talk about the costs. For some time now, the Americans have adopted a step-by-step approach. They no longer tell us, “Are you fully with us, yes or no?” They have opted for a more gradual approach. I want to talk specifically about the joint strike fighter, the famous American stealth fighter airplane commonly called the F-35.

Here is how countries can participate in the development of this aircraft. Taxpayers who are listening will probably hear this for the first time. We have already invested from $250 to $500 million in this program.Our participation concerns a specific stage, stage III; there are several stages. This means that they can now tell us, “When the F-18s are obsolete, you will be able to acquire these aircraft at a better price, because you participated in their development. Furthermore, you will receive royalties”. To those countries that did not participate but want to buy the aircraft, they will say, “You will get some money back and some royalties”.

The same could apply to the missile defence plan. They will probably tell us, “We have defined some stages of the project; do you want to participate in them?”

As I said, the joint strike fighter has so far cost Canadian taxpayers between $250 and $500 million, and nobody knows about it. That too is not part of the public debate. Just like the space shield issue, it has not been brought before the House. Currently, the Liberal Party is split, as everybody knows. There are a lot of differences of opinion within the Liberal Party, especially now that the leadership campaign is on. The problem we have is that on issues as fundamental as the missile shield, they want to stifle the debate and only give briefings to Liberal members to convince them of the need for such a shield. We find it outrageous to have to go about having this debate today in such a roundabout way. We have had to use our opposition day and move a motion which, by the way, is not votable because the Prime Minister dared us to do so. We told the Prime Minister, “We will take up your dare, but we have used up our days to move a votable motion. Will you allow a vote anyway?” But today we most likely will have to be content with debating the issue. We do like a good debate, but we also like to vote.

The costs are astronomical. We can expect that the space shield and the joint strike fighter, in view of what I have just said about it, will cost 100 times more than planned.

Then there is the whole issue of starting up the arms race again. As I was saying earlier, those who saw Cro-Magnon man club someone thought to themselves, “Let us get a shield to protect our head”. It will be the same with the space shield. The offensive--defensive doctrine still applies. As soon as the space shield is in place, people will try to find a way to circumvent it. To do that, they will develop an offensive weapon capable of going through the shield.

This will trigger a new arms race. The government has it easy right now because our defence and foreign affairs policy is 10 years old. We are not attuned to today's realities.

Incidentally, I would like to remind the government that the missile defence shield does not appear in its 1994 policy. There is, therefore, no national defence or foreign affairs policy to guide us. Limiting the debate, as is currently being done, is therefore a major problem; so is allowing the government to basically do what it wants because its policy from 1994 no longer applies today.

We know that everything has been shaken up since the September 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. We know that everything has changed. The enemy is no longer visible. Our enemies are invisible. No missile defence shield could have prevented the World Trade Center attack. We need to understand this.

We might be better off investing money in measures better suited to this new military context, which is terrorism and the fight against terrorism. Why should the U.S. invest hundreds of billions of dollars and ask Canadians, who have less than they do, to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in missile defence? That is a fundamental question we need to ask ourselves.

The scenario that I envision for Canada is just as valid as any other scenario. What can Canadians say right now? “Why do we not set up interceptors in Canada's far north?” Earlier, I mentioned that an attack would come from over the polar cap. If we want to avoid debris from falling on Canadian territory, why not plan for a counterattack from remote Canadian regions? Incidentally, I think the Minister of Foreign Affairs knows this, but there are certain parts of the far north over which the United States has not given up its claim to sovereignty. It could be tempting for Canada to say, “If you launch anti-missile missiles from Alaska, and the debris falls on Canada, we are prepared to give you access to our territory in the far north. We will set up some interceptors there too. We will not pay for them, because we cannot afford it, but we will give you access to the far north to intercept missiles above the polar ice cap”. That way we would be protecting ourselves because debris would fall over the ice cap. We could say to the United States, “In exchange, we want you to recognize our sovereignty in the far north, something we have been asking for for a long time”. Maybe this is a fair scenario. We need to envision this type of scenario.

In summary, the cost is astronomical. I was looking at the statistics about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Why invest hundreds of millions of dollars in this? Why not work at helping the disadvantaged instead? Or helping those countries and nations which are a veritable breading ground for terrorism? They are desperate, left out, and they have no wealth. In fact, they are often plundered by bigger powers.

These are questions we must ask ourselves. There is also the issue of reliability. Why invest billions in projects that are not quite ready to roll and not entirely reliable? Why relaunch the arms race? It is one thing to spend billions of dollars on creating a space shield, but doing so will launch an arms race which, in turn, will lead to more spending, all on defence.

Finally, we must ask ourselves what kind of world we want to live in. Do we want to live in a world where we have weapons in space which are intended for defensive purposes but could eventually be used for more offensive ones? Is that the kind of world we want? Do we want to invest huge amounts in weapons? There is a difference between this level of sophistication and the weapons of Cro-Magnon men. The stick they used to club the other guys did not cost much, but modern weapons cost hundreds of billions of dollars. What kind of world do we want to live in?

I think it was good that the Bloc Quebecois put forward a motion today to at least initiate a discussion. I urge the government to consult the House before making a final decision on the space shield. This is important. I find that Parliament is currently handicapped by the vision the Liberal government has of the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole. Opposition members are left in the dark. The other day, in response to a question, the Prime Minister told me I should have attended the Liberal caucus meeting, that they had a great briefing. The fact is that we are not allowed to attend those meetings, and neither are the Canadian Alliance or the Canadians listening.

I think that the step the Bloc Quebecois is taking today is an important one. We are initiating the discussion, and I hope that Liberal members will express their views on this issue; there is no shame in speaking against a project like this one, which is likely to cost billions of dollars and which is not to the benefit of society or the world at large.

Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions for my colleague, whom I wish to congratulate on his speech.

First, he raised the issue of the costs of the American decision. Does he not agree that it is the Americans who have decided to do this? It is their money that they will spend. Maybe the member, myself or other members of the House could tell them that they should put that money to better use, but they will spend it anyway. They will make that decision anyway. Should we make our decision based on their decision to do it anyway? In my opinion, that is what is important, and I will come back to it during my speech.

Second, at the end of his speech, the member said that the members of the Bloc were in the dark, that no one explained anything to them. Do the members of the Bloc not know that the Standing Committee on Defence and the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs have been studying these issues for years? Do the members of the Bloc not know that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, which includes members of the Bloc quite knowledgeable about these matters, even made recommendations in this regard in a report tabled recently in the House? They have had no end of opportunities to talk about this over the years.

Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is not reassuring me at all if what he is saying is that whenever the Americans decide to spend money in this area, we automatically do the same. We have heard a lot about Ottawa's grovelling in Washington, especially about the Minister of Justice going there without even consulting with Parliament on the issue of marijuana.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is confirming to us that this is normal, that we will follow the Americans on this issue because they are going to do it anyway. To me, this is not the proper way to handle international issues. The minister can say what he is saying because we have no policy in foreign affairs. Our policies go back ten years and he can therefore say whatever he wants, and he is often taken to task for this.

Washington is presently Ottawa's head office. It is Washington that makes the decisions. Besides, even if relations are tense between the Prime Minister and Washington, his ministers are going there to say, “We are preparing a bill. What do you think about it?” The bill has not been tabled here yet. We have not talked about it yet.

Regarding the study on foreign affairs that the minister is talking about, I would remind him that he has said himself that he was against the weaponization of space. The missile defence shield project could lead to the weaponization of space.

I am telling the minister of Foreign Affairs that his position is inconsistent. He said that he was against the weaponization of space. He has been saying for two years that he was against the missile defence shield and all of a sudden he completely changes policy.

I think that the inconsistency is on the Minister of Foreign Affairs' side.