House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Art Eggleton York Centre, ON

Madam Chair, we will only go as far as we feel it is in our national interest to go. We do not want to go in the direction of the weaponization of outer space. Even if the Americans eventually go there, we do not have to go there, just as we did not go to Iraq.

We make the decisions that are in our national interest. I believe this is in our national interest, but to go to the weaponization of space is not. I have every confidence that Canadians know where to draw the line, where it is in our interest and where it is not in our interest.

In terms of trying to please the Americans, they are our closest neighbour, our closest friend and ally, and our major trading partner. We certainly want to work with them in terms of defence and security of North America, just as we work together in all those other areas. We have to look at what our interests and our values are. We have to determine whether we can go in this direction with them. Sometimes we will be able to go with them and sometimes we will not.

We will make those kinds of distinctions. I have every confidence that the government and the people of this country will do what is in our own national interest.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Chair, I would just like to pick up on the member's assurances that at any point, if it is not considered in our national interest and it becomes clear that the Americans are headed for the weaponization of space, Canada would just draw the line and pull back.

This is why I raise the question. As I mentioned earlier, my leader Jack Layton and I were in Washington for a day and a half last week. Without exception, the military personnel with whom we met, the U.S. Congress members with whom we met, and the representatives of a number of different, reputable, respected NGOs with whom we met, all said that NMD is simply a way station on the way to the weaponization of space, and that in fact most informed Americans know that NMD cannot work and will not work, that it is an impossibility, that it will never work.

It is like the emperor has no clothes. We talk about NMD. We are going to get through this phase but actually what we are moving to is the weaponization of space because we think that is what we need and that is what we are committed to.

Does the member think that there is really any such thing as Canada signing on to NMD and not finding itself drawn into the weaponization of space, which is, very clearly, from all the documentation available from all sources, precisely where the Bush administration intends to go with this?

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:40 p.m.

Liberal

Art Eggleton York Centre, ON

Madam Chair, not everybody believes that is where it is ultimately going to end, but even given that a lot of people say that--and the member has quoted a number of people--we do not have to be there with them, just as we were not there with them in Iraq. We took a stand. We said no. We did not agree with what they were doing there. We did not agree with them operating outside the multilateral process. We were not going to go that way. People said that we were going to pay a price for that, but we said, “No, we believe that is the right thing to do”.

We will do what we believe is in our interests and what is in the interests of the worldwide community. Weaponization of space is not in the interests of the worldwide community.

If the United States ultimately decides to go there, we will just say no. We are with them in terms of missile defence. It is a discrete system. It is a system that can work.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

There is no evidence that it can work.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Liberal

Art Eggleton York Centre, ON

Oh yes, the Americans have had a number of tests that have worked. In fact, for any country that can put a man on the moon and can put the kind of equipment that they have on Mars, it certainly will not take long before they master this technology. They will.

It is a discrete system. It is one that we can sign on to and say, “Yes, that is in the defence of North America. That is a completely defensive system”. As we have said to them quite clearly, “If you go to weaponization of space, we are not going to be there with you”.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Chair, I want to make reference to the latest comment by the member for Halifax. She keeps saying that it is obvious from all of the documentation she has seen that the Bush administration is going to weaponize space, that this is where the Americans are going. The reality is that George Bush might not even be president past November.

Does the hon. member think for a moment that we are going to have weapons in space between now and November? As I said in my speech, if we are faced with that scenario, it is going to be years down the road. The NDP is always holding up this threat of the possible weaponization of space as some reason not to sign on to a land and sea based missile defence shield for North America; it talks about the potential, possible future weaponization of space.

The reality is that if it does happen, it will not happen for a long time and there will be many opportunities for Canadians to voice their concerns about that and to ensure that down the road, if that is the direction they take, we do not participate in that facet of the agreement.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Liberal

Art Eggleton York Centre, ON

Madam Chair, the member is quite correct. Even if George Bush were to be re-elected, there is no way that this system, any kind of weaponization of space, could possibly be deployed in his time as president and certainly Canada would not be there. Canada would not be supporting that.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sheila Copps Hamilton East, ON

Madam Chair, it is certainly relevant that the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, who resigned from the Liberal Party today, said that one of the reasons he left the party was he felt that the opportunities to express different points of view were no longer as welcome as they had been in the past.

If there is an issue upon which there are certainly diverse points of view in this Liberal Party, it is indeed this issue. I am heartened by the fact that with this take note debate we will be able to hear the points of view of many different Canadians, including many Liberals, who have serious concerns about the course that is being charted by the government.

As I was reviewing some material in advance of this evening, I came across a letter, and I have had dozens of letters cross my desk on this issue. I thought this letter summarized better than any letter why the son of star wars should not be a choice for Canada. It is a letter addressed to the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs. It states:

Although joining Star Wars has some practical benefits for Canada, it represents such a fundamental deleterious shift in Canadian policy that we should reject it.

The practical benefits include not having to say “no” to the United States, military cooperation benefits, and possible investment opportunities. I understand that these are attractive.

Star Wars participation should be rejected on three grounds: First, it starts our participation in nuclear war fighting. Second, it involves us in a dubious legality vis-à-vis the ABM treaty. Third and most important, it promotes the military empire building strategy that is behind Star Wars. In addition, once we join Star Wars it will be impossible to back out.

The letter was actually written by a family doctor in Coquitlam, British Columbia. He went on to state:

The Shield: In nuclear war strategy early warning is like the “eyes”, nuclear weapons are like the “sword”, and missile defence is like the “shield”. Careful military analysis sees the “eyes” as stabilizing because a country can be confident that it is not being attacked. On the other hand, with nuclear weapons, the “shield” has always been seen as destabilizing. A country looking at its enemy's nuclear weapons will be very nervous if it sees its own retaliatory force being rendered useless. Each of that country's several possible responses make the earth a far more dangerous place.

Canada has rightly been part of the “eyes”. To become part of the “shield” starts us on a new dangerous path. We become part of nuclear war fighting. We will for the first time participate in a project that makes the earth and Canada less safe.

The Law: Breaking international agreements may not matter to everyone, but I think it should matter to Canadians. Reading Article 15 of the ABM treaty reveals that the treaty was meant to be of unlimited duration....

Russia has done nothing to warrant termination of this treaty. To join with Star Wars would condone the reneging of the ABM treaty.

The Monster Plan: I would invite you to look at the website of the Project for the New American Century. Their statement of principles is signed by Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, among others. They talk about total American military supremacy and Star Wars as its centrepiece. They plan military domination of space and from there unchallenged domination of the earth. This is a monster plan. Furthermore, the American Department of Defense's missile defence website includes this total Star Wars plan.

No getting out: If Canada joins Star Wars it is joining the whole plan and for all time. Can you imagine a future Canadian Prime Minister trying to back out of Star Wars and the American President saying: “But it was you who asked to join. It was clear that we intended from the beginning to eventually put weapons in space. It was even on our website. Our militaries are now integrated in this project. Canada cannot back out now.” If Canada joins Star Wars, we are effectively locked in.

In conclusion: The decision of whether to join Star Wars is one of the most momentous in Canadian history. Are we to choose to be part of a nuclear war fighting machine? I hope not.

I believe we can best help our American friends by diligence at our border, by peacekeeping missions, and by development of international law. This has been our course to date. We should not abandon it.

Sincerely, Earl B. Morris, M.D.

There are far wiser persons than I, and some even wiser than Dr. Morris, who have set the reasons for us. Above all, the strength of Canada has always been based on our capacity to build bridges with the world. Building a wall around North America by joining this plan will reduce our opportunities to build bridges with the world.

I see our country, and I see our party, as one that builds bridges. There are no shields strong enough to fight hate. What fights hate is the capacity to walk in the other shoes.

What can really counteract war and hatred is the ability to know oneself and one another, and to see oneself reflected in the diversities of the other; If we decided to reject everything and come out in favour of this warlike American mission, this would forever be harmful to Canada's opportunity to give hope to all the world's cultures about the possibility of co-existence.

This is why this undertaking of the Americans must stay with the Americans. Canada must have a sovereign voice, a voice that speaks out against President Bush's bellicose policy.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Madam Chair, I simply want to congratulate the hon. member for Hamilton East and wish her good luck during her nomination meeting, which will be held on March 7. I hope that, with 10,000 members, it will be held in Copps Coliseum. I will not call the member by name, but the Hamilton arena bears her name. Unless they try to hold it in the Valeri Arena, but there is no such arena in Hamilton. It is the Copps Coliseum there.

I want to thank the hon. member for Hamilton East for her comments. I know that she is very sensitive to Quebec culture. I have had the opportunity to discuss this with her. She knows my riding, which includes Île-d'Orléans, well. I think she has family and friends in Île-d'Orléans. She is quite sensitive to Quebec's views.

I want to tell her that I think her view shares a great deal with the position of the Bloc Quebecois. This is consistent with a statement she made in Le Soleil on May 11, 2003. She simply asked the following question, and I want her to expand on this. She said:

How can recommendations on the weaponization of a country be made without first consulting the public?

She also said the following day, May 12, 2003, in Le Devoir :

There must be a public debate before we move on the issue of star wars. The cabinet acting alone cannot reverse the direction this country has taken for the past 20 years.

I could quote other statements. This new government—or should I say this new Prime Minister?—that was sworn in on December 12, promises us that it will work very hard to overcome the democratic deficit. I would like the hon. member for Hamilton East to tell us if the direction the government is taking at present is part of a movement or if, once again, the Minister of Defence's views are dominating. We know his views and his position on the missile defence shield. Does the hon. member for Hamilton East agree that the people should be consulted on such an important subject?

I thought it was interesting that she launched her campaign at a Tim Horton's. She really wanted to demonstrate that she was a leadership candidate who was close to the people, close to ordinary folks. I would like her to tell us whether Canada has the means to spend billions of dollars for the weaponization of space, when the needs we have here are so glaring, while 1.5 million children are living in poverty and often do not have enough money to eat before they go to school.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

9:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sheila Copps Hamilton East, ON

Madam Chair, of course what is being proposed will cost billions of dollars. Although we are being told it will not cost Canada anything for now, we can be sure that as soon as we sign on with the United States, money will be required.

Take Iraq for example. How much has this cost in lives and massive destruction? In the past year, 250,000 people in the world have been killed in such wars. If there is something we can be proud of in the past year with respect to the former government's mandate, it is the fact that we were able to make an independent choice regarding the war in Iraq.

I do not think that if we had joined the U.S. we would have had this freedom of choice with respect to the war in Iraq. It is impossible to claim to want both an integrated military force and freedom of choice. My colleague, the member for Toronto Centre—Rosedale, said earlier that if we decide to withdraw at any given time, it will be our choice.

Look at what happened when 10 or 20 soldiers participated in a pilot project shortly before the war in Iraq. There were barely 20 soldiers, but we could not pull them out because once the plan was implemented, once the system was in motion, it was too late.

That is why I am confident—I know the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I know he is very sensitive about international issues—that the debate that is beginning today will generate discussions, not only within Canada, but also within the Liberal Party, and we will find out what hon. members and the public really think about this critical decision for the country. I am certain this debate is a first step toward such discussions.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Chair, I welcome the member back to the House. I hope her nomination battle in Hamilton is going well. I assume it must be, otherwise she probably would not be here. Since she is, we appreciate that and her remarks.

During my intervention earlier this evening, I referred to the fact that I was a bit disappointed the government decided to opt for this framework for a debate, a take note debate, rather than have a debate that culminated in a vote. I remarked that I supported having discussion and debate here and across the land about this important issue. I did refer to the fact, however, that I believed it should culminate in a true free vote on an issue like this.

Given her comments about her former colleague and the decision that he came to today and given her opposition to the position of her government on this issue and others, would she support having a free vote in the chamber on Canada's participation in the ballistic missile defence?

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

10 p.m.

Liberal

Sheila Copps Hamilton East, ON

Madam Chair, not being the government House leader, I cannot speculate as to what the government would suggest, but as an ordinary member, of course I would welcome a free vote.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

10 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Chair, the member, whose intervention is extremely welcome here this evening, has made the point, one that is very important to Canadians, that Canada is known in the world and Canadians take some pride in our being a nation that is involved in bridge-building and a nation absolutely committed to multilateralism.

In contrast to that, I received, as we all did, various reminders from people about their concerns with respect to the approach of the United States to multilateralism in recent times, particularly as it relates to star wars. As one person wrote, “the U.S. is firing on all cylinders to get star wars in place” and pointed out that in December of 2002, the U.S. abrogated the international treaty on anti-ballistic missiles testing.

In December 2003 the U.S. cast the only dissenting vote on the UN resolution for a comprehensive test banning treaty. In December 2003 it voted against the total elimination of nuclear weapons. In December 2003 it also voted against a nuclear-free world. It voted against the obligation for nuclear disarmament, again in December 2003, and abstained on a vote at the UN to prevent the weaponization of space. In fact, when the UN general assembly voted on a resolution, specifically the prevention of an arms race in outer space, on which well over 160 countries voted in favour, the U.S. opted to abstain.

Could the member elaborate further on where she thinks this puts Canada in terms of our relationship with the other peace-loving, peace-building nations in the world that are concerned about the weaponization of space?

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

10:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sheila Copps Hamilton East, ON

Madam Chair, one of the most potentially dangerous aspects of this discussion is the potential on the part of Canada that this is our mea culpa for Iraq, that somehow because as a country we chose to exercise our sovereign decision on Iraq, a decision that I think was widely supported around the world but a decision that was not very popular south of the border, that we are limiting our choices for the future.

I believe that one of the reasons the Department of National Defence has been very anxiously pursuing this agenda is because it sees it as a way back into the hearts of their American allies. I do not think that is the basis for which a sound decision should be made. That is why I totally support the position stated earlier by a member of the opposition that there should be a full debate and a vote on this issue by all members. I do not think it should be part of the horse trading that goes on because somebody wants a contract in Iraq.

Ballistic Missile Defence
Government Orders

10:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Chair, let me start this evening, as one of the last speakers, to try to do a summary of what I have heard. The debate has centred itself--