House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was vote.

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National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

November 15th, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

moved that Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers' Day, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is not often that a member is honoured by his colleagues by getting a bill to third reading. We are here because the bill received unanimous consent of the House at report stage. I want to thank all of my colleagues for their support.

Bill C-287 honours our Canadian peacekeepers as well as all peacekeepers around the world. It is very appropriate that the House return its attention to the proposal in the bill to create August 9 of each year as National Peacekeepers' Day in Canada, especially as all of us have just finished helping our legions and our communities celebrate Remembrance Week and Remembrance Day.

I would like to underline that August 9 would not be a holiday, but a day of commemoration, a day of celebration of what our peacekeepers have done in the past and what they are doing today and what they will be doing in the future. On that day our citizens will have a chance to be reminded about what Canada has done in the world and what it can do.

The bill proposes that on that day the Peace Tower flag be lowered to half-mast. It is quite appropriate that the Peace Tower flag would be lowered at half-mast to recognize peacekeepers who have been lost in action throughout our 50 years plus of peacekeeping participation around the world.

I would also like to point out to my colleagues that my riding, now called Algoma--Manitoulin--Kapuskasing, contains the old riding of Algoma and Algoma East which was held by the late Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson. It is a special honour for me to bring forward a bill to honour our peacekeepers. This year, 2007, marks the 50th anniversary of Mr. Pearson's Nobel Peace Prize for his initiative at the UN.

Why in the first place should we remember and honour our peacekeepers and why on that day?

On August 9, 1974, nine Canadian peacekeepers deployed to the Middle East were killed on a routine supply flight from Beirut to Damascus. The airplane was shot down by ground-fired missiles and nine Canadian UN peacekeepers were lost, along with the crew of the airplane. We could have picked many dates. Some suggested, with great respect, May 29, which each year is celebrated as International Peacekeepers' Day, but August 9 is very much a Canadian day and reflects the most significant single loss of Canadian peacekeepers in one day.

If the House continues its willingness to support the bill, I am inviting Canadians, especially students, who would not be in school on August 9 but would be preparing for school, to take some time to reflect on what peacekeeping is all about.

We in this place and Canadians in general who think about these things recognize that peacekeeping today is not like it was 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Peacekeeping evolves with the nature of conflict. It evolves with the changing regions wherein conflicts are taking place. The reasons for local conflict change. Demographics change. The types of warfare and conflict change. Therefore, peacekeeping has to change and we have to change with the times.

I am convinced, and I am sure my colleagues are convinced, that ultimately peacekeeping and its related peacemaking are the ultimate, albeit altruistic sometimes, goal of our military and in fact of our Parliament and of our own individual work in life. If it is not about finding, making and keeping peace, then really, what is it all about?

I will take a moment to mention a constituent of mine, Robert Manuel of Elliot Lake, who inspired me with this idea. He helped to promote the idea in Ontario, which has celebrated August 9 as peacekeepers day for a number of years now. With his encouragement and support, we gathered the support of legions across the land. We now have the support of the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command for the proclamation of August 9 as peacekeeper day.

I will reference speeches made just over a year ago in this place by colleagues, speeches which I reread recently, and I was very impressed. I refer to the speech of the parliamentary secretary who made an excellent speech in support of the bill. She raised some very good points, but she reminded us that a day of recognition for peacekeepers, as is noted in the resolution by the Royal Canadian Legion in last June, was warranted because the government respected the views of Canadians on either side of the issue.

She is right to have said there is a concern. I recognize it and I think we deal with it head-on. When we have a day separate from November 11 to recognize some aspect of our military history, some aspect of our legacy, does that take anything away from November 11? I think the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command and local legions everywhere have recognized, no.

The parliament secretary was quite right in raising the question. The response is, and I think she agrees with this, any day we can establish as a day of recognition of our current soldiers, men and women serving in any capacity around the world enhances the spirit of remembrance. We are focusing on peacekeeping, but in a way all soldiers are peacekeepers regardless of the nature of a conflict.

I am not sure if my colleagues would agree, but in my riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing the spirit of remembrance is getting stronger. The number of people coming out to events is larger and larger every year. That is because the remembrance brand, a brand promoted effectively and with great strength by the legions and the Dominion Command, is spread out throughout the year. Hence, the movement to Remembrance Week. I am not suggesting a remembrance year, but it is very important that we dot throughout the year other occasions throughout the year where people could be reminded and that helps focus attention even more so on November 11.

I appreciated the parliamentary secretary's comments in that regard. I was most impressed with my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, referring to our peacekeepers, who said:

First, they are a key component of multilateralism, a conflict resolution principle very dear to the hearts of Quebeckers. UN peacekeeping missions represent an impartial and very widely accepted way to share the burden and act effectively.

In fact, I recommend all these speeches to my colleagues in their complete version. I am only able to quote a little bit.

My colleague from Victoria, who spent time in the military, said:

We cannot stress enough the importance of the work of those who serve in the armed forces, who put themselves in harm's way for Canada. There is no word to describe the magnitude of their sacrifice, nor my feeling of gratitude—which all Canadians also share...

I think we all share that with her.

I go on to my colleague from West Nova who is fortunate to have in his riding the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. He spoke eloquently in support of this bill. I will quote from his remarks. He said:

Peacekeeping is a dynamic concept that responds to changes in the international environment in order to create security for those affected by conflict. Traditionally, peacekeeping took place between two states in order to monitor a peace treaty upon which all parties had agreed. These early missions were traditionally military in nature.

He makes a very important point that I wish to expand on. He stated:

The role of peacekeeping has expanded to include the delivery of humanitarian aid, supervision of elections, repatriation of refugees, disarming of warring factions, and the clearing of landmine.

I point out to my colleagues that in the “Whereas“ section, along with members of Canadian Forces, the bill specifically includes police services, diplomats and civilians. Yes, we are recognizing on August 9 the loss of nine soldiers in 1974 in the Middle East, because the beginning of this was focused on the military.

I mentioned we are evolving and now we engage Canadians in a broad range of professions and skill sets to assist, whether they are members of the NGO community, or municipal policemen who volunteered to help, or ambulance or first aid workers. Any Canadian, military or not, who supports Canada's efforts to bring peace, keep peace or make peace is a peacekeeper.

In the bill I deliberately did not define “peacekeeper”. Each person who thinks about these things can define peacekeeper in his or her own unique way. It is a comprehensive. That is actually the view of the Legion Dominion Command. It has an expanded view of peacekeeper, and I laud it for that. Somebody else may have a restricted view of peacekeeper. It does not matter, as long as what we are recognizing is the spirit of what peacekeeping is all about.

I invite this place from time to time, whenever we have debates on military and peace matters, and I invite Canadians every August 9 in particular to take a few moments to reflect on our legacy and where we are going as a nation of peacekeepers. Imagine being called peacekeepers. It is not the same as avoiding conflict.

I would include in peacekeeping the need to be strong and to root out the enemy where necessary. It is not simply sitting back all the time and letting local combatants fight things out. Each situation requires its own solution. It is important that we do not limit ourselves by a specific definition.

I want to underline too that this is not about what we are doing in Afghanistan whatsoever. That is a whole separate debate. I went to a support the troops rally on November 2 in my riding and I was glad to be there. I am sure many of my colleagues were at rallies in their ridings.

It was a non-political event. It did not matter if people believed that we should be in Afghanistan for years or, like so many of us, that the military should pull out of a combat role in February 2009 or tomorrow. That is not the debate. When people support their troops, they support their troops. They are doing a job for us. They are there with a mandate and while they are there in our name, we support them.

I want to pay tribute to Sandy Finamore and Bob Tardif of Elliot Lake who sponsored that rally. I commend them for the excellent work they did.

I want to point out that the bill at report stage had a few very minor amendments. It was made very clear that in Quebec les casques bleus is the standard terminology for a peacekeeper. Therefore, we made sure there was no misunderstanding between gardiens de la paix and casques bleus.

We make it very clear that this is not a holiday. It is not even a day of heritage. It is a day of recognition, of commemoration, a day to take time to understand what our peacekeepers throughout history, in the present and in the future will do.

I hope the chamber will continue its support of the bill when it comes to a final vote in the not too distant future.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest and I commend my colleague on his effort and commitment to this cause.

August 9 had a special meaning for me. I was driving down the autobahn in Germany, between Baden and Lahr, when I heard the news on the radio of that incident. In fact, the pilot of that airplane was a friend of mine named Keith Mirau. He and I had been flying instructors together in years previous.

I have to admonish my hon. colleague just a little. Keith would bristle at being called a soldier. He was an airman, but I know there was no intent there.

I have not so much a question, but a comment to reinforce something my colleague said. Everything every member of the Canadian Forces does every day is about peace in one way of another, peacekeeping, peacemaking, bringing peace, as my colleague said. I would like people to, as he mentioned, broaden their definition of peacekeepers.

The folks in uniform and the folks out of uniform, who he mentioned, contribute incredibly to peace around the world in one way or another. We owe them our thanks and August 9 is a great day to do that, to just pause and reflect.

He may wish to respond to that or not, but congratulations on a good effort.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

I will be brief, Mr. Speaker, in case other members want to comment.

I agree with the member. Let us leave the definition open so each person in his or her own way can interpret it.

I also agree with my colleague's interpretation that all our military men and women in one way or another are involved in peacekeeping.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want also to commend the hon. member for his efforts on the bill. The entire veterans affairs committee was in agreement with the bill. We worked together on it to ensure it was something with which we were entirely 100% in agreement.

I may have heard the member wrongly when he gave his initial address, but one of the aspects that we were in agreement upon was this. November 11 is the time when the peace tower flag comes down to recognize all veterans equally, to ensure that all veterans are remembered on that day. This was one of the agreements we had.

Could the member clarify what he meant in his words earlier?

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly did not intend to cause any confusion, if I did. I absolutely support that November 11 is the day of remembrance in Canada.

Additional days, such as April 9, Vimy Ridge Day, August 9, if it passes, National Peacekeepers' Day, are days in support of November 11. The flag would be at half-mast on August 9 to recognize those who have specifically given their lives in the cause of peacekeeping, however peacekeeping is defined in one's mind. Those are military personnel, civilians, police forces, firemen and NGO workers who have worked in the cause of peace.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to join my colleagues in support of Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers' Day.

Let me begin by commending the members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, who worked together in a spirit of cooperation. As a result, this legislation has the unanimous support of all parties.

We were able to make amendments to address several issues and to improve the bill.

As a member of Parliament, I am very proud to have been part of a committee that kept the language very simple. It states in fullness:

Throughout Canada, in each and every year, the ninth day of August shall be known as “National Peacekeepers’ Day”.

For greater certainty, National Peacekeepers’ Day is not a legal holiday or a non-juridical day.

We were able to amend the language to make sure that we were being as inclusive as possible. For instance, we changed “peace support missions” to “peace support operations” and added the words “diplomats and civilians” after “Canadian police services”.

I would like to thank the representatives of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping, the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, and the Royal Canadian Legion, who came to the committee and shared their insights with us. They provided the committee with a very detailed history of the movement of the Canadian Peacekeepers' Day and the significance of August 9.

If I may, I would like to offer special thanks to Colonel Don Ethell, the honorary president of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping, for his tireless work in this initiative. During his 38 year career in the Canadian military, Colonel Ethell served on 14 peacekeeping tours and other secondments to United Nations agencies.

After his retirement, Don has continued to serve his country and his fellow veterans with great energy and passion. He made an outstanding contribution to the development of the new veterans charter and today he sits as chair of the Operational Stress Injuries Social Support Advisory Committee.

I know that Don would prefer to give the credit to others, but today I want to thank him for really making a difference. I can say that Canada is a better place because of people like Don Ethell.

As members will know, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs is a relatively new committee of the House, but I am proud to say that all the members were united in working on behalf of our veterans. We are all inspired by their service and sacrifice.

I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing for bringing Bill C-287 forward to the House. We all share his desire to recognize the tens of thousands of Canadian men and women who have served our country and have made a significant contribution to international peace and security.

I can assure all members of this House that this government, more than any other in recent history, is committed to giving every possible support to members of the Canadian Forces. We are also committed to ensuring that Canadian veterans are treated with the dignity and respect they have earned and deserve. They have brought honour to Canada and we will honour them.

Since 1919, Canadians from coast to coast to coast have paused each year on November 11 to remember their brave countrymen and countrywomen who have given their all in the service of Canada. Through this national act of remembrance, we honour all veterans.

We honour those who served in war and those who served in peace. We honour those who served in all theatres of war. We honour those who have served in Canada, helping our communities respond to and recover from natural disasters. We honour those who continue to stand for peace and freedom in operations all over the world and most recently in Afghanistan.

This legislation constitutes a specific recognition of Canada's peacekeepers, who have so selflessly contributed to international peace and security. The concept of peacekeeping was a Canadian innovation. Our sterling reputation for peacekeeping is well-earned and is based on a long tradition, indeed, one that spans over five decades.

In 1956, Canada played a leading role in the first United Nations Emergency Force, which was established to secure and supervise the end to hostilities in the Suez crisis. That operation distinguished our country and earned us the Nobel Prize for peace.

Our effectiveness in upholding peace was recognized once again in 1988, when Canada shared in a second Nobel Peace Prize as part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Our peacekeepers, and in fact all peacekeepers, continue to be recognized internationally on the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, May 29.

It has been suggested that we should adopt this day as Canada's Peacekeepers' Day, but as we all know, it is August 9 that resonates nationally for us as a day of recognition for peacekeepers, for it was on August 9, 1974, that nine Canadian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt and Israel were in a Canadian Forces Buffalo transport aircraft that was shot down as it prepared to land at Damascus on a regular resupply mission.

On that day, there were no survivors. This represents the greatest loss of Canadian lives in a single day on a peacekeeping mission.

As we also know, nine provinces have now designated August 9 as Peacekeepers' Day. Ceremonies are held in communities across the country in honour of our peacekeepers, and now, with legislation, we will have a National Peacekeepers' Day.

Bill C-287 complements the other initiatives that have been taken to recognize and commemorate Canadian peacekeepers. Their contribution is commemorated in a very prominent way not far from this chamber. Reconciliation, the peacekeeping monument that sits on Sussex Drive, is still, I believe, the only monument of its kind in the world.

Our peacekeepers are also recognized by the Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal. This award was created in 1997. It honours Canadians, primarily members of the Canadian Forces and members of Canadian police services who have served as peacekeepers. The Peacekeeping Service Medal is in keeping with Canada's traditional expressions of honour to members of the forces for their service.

Tens of thousands of veterans of Canada's peacekeeping and peace support operations wear this medal with pride. It is treasured by the families of those brave Canadians who have made the supreme sacrifice in the cause of peace.

The names of these brave men and women who have died in the service of Canada can be found in The Seventh Book of Remembrance. This sacred book, along with the six other Books of Remembrance, is found in the Memorial Chamber here in the Peace Tower. It is a special place of commemoration and reflection.

The Seventh Book of Remembrance is a testament to the often very difficult and dangerous circumstances in which our peacekeepers have served. On many deployments, there has been very little peace to keep and, unlike in times of war, the rules of engagement have been much less clear, if defined at all.

No matter what the circumstances, Canada's peacekeepers have strived to demonstrate exemplary discipline and professionalism. Often they must leave their families and homes behind, just as our veterans of the first world war, the second world war, the Korean war and the gulf war did.

With each deployment, they know their mission may require that they put their lives at risk. Canada's peacekeepers have courageously and selflessly served the cause of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. They have prevented wars and saved lives and they have contributed to international peace and security.

Through Bill C-287, we will honour their steadfast service, recognize their noble contributions and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

It was Winston Churchill who said, “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others”. That is the legacy of Canada's peacekeepers.

For more than 50 years, our peacekeepers have gone to the far corners of the world to help preserve peace. Their courage has given Canada a well deserved reputation for standing up for the values of freedom, tolerance, respect, dignity and the rule of law. We can only imagine the gratitude of those whose lives have been saved by the intervention of Canada's peacekeepers.

Veterans Affairs Canada has a special mandate to tell the story of those who have served our nation, both in times of war and times of peace, and to keep alive the memory of those who have made the supreme sacrifice.

Let me conclude by thanking my colleagues on the Standing Committee of Veterans Affairs for their support for this legislation. I would encourage all my hon. colleagues to help tell the story of our peacekeepers so that more Canadians, especially our youth, will better understand the significance of August 9, National Peacekeepers' Day.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers' Day. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill.

The strengths of this bill are the following: it recognizes the important role played by UN peacekeepers, which should be highlighted here, in this House. The Bloc Québécois is very much in favour of multilateralism as a method of settling international conflicts, and UN peacekeepers embody this approach. The peacekeepers who have died on UN missions deserve to be commemorated. This bill will also give our current Prime Minister an opportunity to discover that the peaceful use of our army is something that must absolutely be encouraged.

The only shortcoming is the date of the commemoration on August 9, which is not the first choice of the Bloc Québécois.We would have preferred a date that is already universally recognized as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers: May 29.

There are a great many reasons to pay tribute to peacekeepers. They are a central element in multilateralism, a principle of conflict resolution that is dear to Quebeckers. The essentially international characteristic of the peacekeeping missions authorized by the United Nations Security Council grants unparalleled legitimacy to any intervention and attests to the determination of the entire international community to take tangible steps to deal with the crises that occur from time to time.

However, peacekeeping operations alone are not the appropriate instrument for every situation. They must be accompanied by a peace process, not replace it. United Nations peacekeeping operations are an impartial and very widely accepted way of not only sharing the burden, but acting effectively.

Peacekeepers are present throughout the world. The 18 operations directed by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations are being carried out on four continents in 10 time zones, employ more than 90,000 people and have a direct influence on the lives of hundreds of millions of others.

Close to 64,200 people are currently serving as soldiers and military observers, and roughly 7,500 are in police forces. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations also employs nearly 5,250 international civilian personnel, over 11,300 local civilian personnel and approximately 1,720 United Nations volunteers. One hundred and eight countries contribute military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping operations.

The UN is the largest multilateral contributor to post-conflict stabilization worldwide. Only the United States deploys more military personnel in the field than the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. There is therefore still a long way to go before multilateralism is the most commonly used form of conflict resolution.

In 2005 alone, UN peacekeeping operations rotated 161,386 military and police personnel, made 864 flights into or out of the field, and carried 271,651 cubic meters of cargo.

The actions of peacekeepers are usually effective. Since 1945, UN peacekeepers have undertaken 60 field missions and negotiated 172 peace settlements that have not only ended regional conflicts, but also enabled people in more than 45 countries to take part in free and fair elections.

In 2005, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations successfully completed peacekeeping missions in Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste, and fulfilled its mandate of helping to establish domestic institutions and providing these as yet fragile societies with the opportunity to establish lasting peace.

Demining operations managed by the UN Mine Action Service, part of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, facilitate the deployment of peacekeepers to Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.

In terms of security, recent peacekeeping missions have been carried out in some of the most difficult and least governed areas ever encountered by international missions. These operations have provided practical assistance on the ground to extremely vulnerable populations. Peacekeepers are deployed to areas where others cannot or will not go and play a vital role by paving the way for the return to stability and, ultimately, for peace and long-term development.

There is also a clear correlation between the decrease in the number of civil wars and the increase in UN peacekeeping missions. The number of UN peacekeeping operations has more than quadrupled since the end of the Cold War. Since 1990, this renewed international activism has grown in scope and intensity, and the number of crises, wars and genocides has begun to diminish accordingly.

In addition to peacekeeping and security, the peacekeeping forces have, with increasing frequency, been responsible for supporting political processes, building legal systems, creating law enforcement and police forces, and disarming former combatants. For example, through their disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program, the United Nations mission in Sierra Leone alone has destroyed 42,330 weapons and more than 1.2 million bullets and shells. It has also disarmed 75,490 combatants, including 6,845 child combatants, and provided an allocation to and ensured the reintegration of nearly 55,000 veterans.

The United Nations mission in Timor-Leste has created a business women's group that trains women entering the public service and ensures that they are heard in the new government and structures of civil society. Today, women represent over 25% of parliamentarians in that country. That is one of the highest percentages of female parliamentarians in the world.

UN peacekeeping is cost-effective. A survey by Oxford University economists found that international military intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter—action taken when peace is under threat—is the most cost-effective means of reducing the risk of conflict in post-conflict societies.

The approved Department of Peacekeeping Operations budget for the period from July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006, was approximately $5 billion. This represents 0.5% of global military spending. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that it would cost the U.S. about twice as much as the UN to conduct a peacekeeping operation similar to the UN stabilization mission in Haiti.

I will end here with those statistics and illustrations, because it has been proven that peacekeepers are a necessity and the Bloc Québécois is very proud of that.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, stand with great honour to support this initiative, this bill, and I thank the mover for following this initiative.

From time to time in this place we have initiatives on which everyone can agree, and I think we all welcome those opportunities. This day to honour peacekeepers is one initiative I fully support and I believe everyone in the House supports. It is one that is in step with what we all came here to do, which is to certainly represent our constituents, but to also represent what makes our country distinctive, what we can be proud of as Canadians.

Canadians, from time to time, are noted for being modest, which is a good thing, but there are times when we need to celebrate our history, our institutions and what makes us so different and unique.

It was the former prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, who came up with the idea, and if he were still living he would certainly say that he had a lot of help with the idea, but he clearly was the person who was able to capture the imagination at the right time to come up with a different way of solving conflict.

Hon. members will know their history. In 1956, when there was a problem in terms of how to deal with the Suez conflict and how to have a proper troop withdrawal at the time the French, British and Israeli troops were extricating themselves from Suez, the brilliant idea of peacekeepers came forward.

At the time, we were suffering from a lack of imagination about how to deal with conflicts. It was the post-World War II era. There were, quite frankly, conflicts similar to what is going on in the world now. We did not have the capacity, the ideas and the institutions to deal with conflicts in a creative way. It was in 1956 that the idea of what is really the first modern peacekeeping initiative took place. Lester B. Pearson was given the Nobel Peace Prize after that.

I honestly hope we figure out a way that this day, notwithstanding that it is in August, can be brought in to our school curriculums across the country.

I might add that if members have a chance, they should travel down Highway 7. Not far from Tweed is the Pearson Peace Park and the Pearson Peace Award is given out every year. Those are extremely important ideas and touchstones for our country. The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre is an important well from which to draw, particularly now.

It is important to note that many veterans are working in support of this. In fact, the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association will be more than delighted to see this initiative. It happens to have its own mission statement: “To be a strong and leading advocate for all veterans, to create and nurture a forum of comradeship for veterans and to govern the CPVA democratically and effectively on behalf of all its members”.

It does that because it wants to ensure that the idea of peacekeeping is not seen as something just thrown into the history books, that it is something that stays with us, that the important historical concept not only is referenced, but is something we employ.

I have to say that presently we are at a crossroads where we do need to invigorate our commitment to peacekeeping. We see that now and we know that Canada has, in terms of peacekeeping commitments, fallen behind. However, I will not get into a long discourse about that.

I think the idea of honouring peacekeepers might invigorate the debate about Canada's role in the world. There is no question that peacekeeping has changed. Things change and evolve, but the idea of having blue helmets resolving conflicts throughout the world and dealing with human security is an important one.

I want to reference an initiative that actually falls in line with honouring peacekeepers. It was something that was presented to the previous government but it still has merit. It is the idea of the United Nations emergency peace service, a proposal that is in keeping with our tradition of peacekeeping. The proposal is straightforward. It states that when we see a humanitarian crisis, such as a genocide or massive human rights abuses, we should have a United Nations emergency peace service, a rapid response to: first, take action to prevent war and dire threats to human security and rights; second, to offer secure emergency services to meet critical human needs; third, to maintain or reinstate law, order, penal and judicial processes with high professionalism and fairness; and fourth, to initiate peace building processes with focused incentives to restore hope for local people, their society and economy so they may have a promising future.

The UN emergency peace service proposal would be designed to provide a rapid response to these needs. It would possess five unique strengths. It would be permanent and based at UN designated sites, including mobile field headquarters, and be able to act immediately to cope with an emergency. The proposal goes on to talk about all the other things the service could do.

The proposal of having a United Nations emergency peace service is to take the concept that is a Canadian one of peacekeeping, and see it evolve. It needs to be resourced and to be given a little more permanence and structure but it is something that would honour the history and veterans of our peacekeepers.

It is an idea that has been discussed. I know that Dr. Peter Langille, who is presently with an organization called Global Common Security, which happens to be here in Ontario, has promoted the idea. He has worked with other stakeholders.

It would be interesting to take this opportunity for a peacekeeping day to have a conference on the idea of a United Nations emergency peace service to see if we can engage not only our government but other stakeholders in the possibility of doing that.

It is a terrific idea and I hope it is one that we can use to leverage more support for the idea of peacekeeping so that it does not become a footnote in our history books but it becomes a very robust and important institution that we have for our present day.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are members here who indicated they have membership in the Royal Canadian Legion in some form or another. I am very pleased to second this bill to establish a National Peacekeepers' Day on August 9 of every year.

Indeed, 120,000 Canadians have been killed in conflicts since World War I. This includes several hundred peacekeepers who have been killed serving Canada and the world in this capacity.

I congratulate the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing for recognizing our Canadian peacekeepers who have earned the respect and admiration of the international community. His speech was as erudite and articulate as ever.

This bill is a continuation of our strong support for veterans across our country.

I was honoured to speak at the Thunder Bay South cenotaph ceremony and then I visited five other legions across my riding. For those who may not be aware, that is about a 1,000 kilometre round trip.

As we discuss Canada's role in Afghanistan, it is especially appropriate to remind ourselves that peacekeeping is an honourable aspiration for us and brings us to the point of our current role in the world. That we support our combat troops in Afghanistan is unequivocal. Their end goal, as mentioned, is peace.

Is there an expanded role for Canada's military in this troubled world?

Recently I was one of two Canadian members of Parliament who were part of the team to ratify the compact with Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Besides the secretary general of the United Nations, the prime minister of Iraq, Condoleezza Rice of the United States, there were many other presidents and heads of state representing 80 countries. Canada is very fortunate to have a capable team in its foreign affairs department, and thus most of the hard negotiations had already occurred.

Canada has contributed $300 million to assist in five areas, including: security reform, such as training police; governance in electoral processes; humanitarian assistance, such as landmine removal; basic social and economic needs, such as safe water and new classrooms; and democratic development, such as building a free press.

Although our participation in Iraq is minor, it is a chance for us to reaffirm our role as independent peacemakers. Several diplomats told me off the record that Canada's role has been diminished by our doing whatever the president of the United States tells us to do. Canada has a way to go to restore the damage this has inflicted on our reputation.

These meetings set in motion a process to help rebuild Iraq into a free and democratic nation. As with all peacekeeping, there can be no illusions about how difficult and lengthy this process can be, but this is a model that can serve to restore freedom to other oppressed countries. The reconstruction of Europe, Japan, and more recently Croatia, are examples of what can be achieved through sincere international cooperation.

What troubled me the most as I discussed our role in the world was the loss of our neutrality by snuggling up too closely to the United States. This has cost us, in some measure, our position as a peacemaker in the world. Some say they agree with this and that might sound acceptable, except I truly believe that the world needs more negotiators, arbitrators and neutral referees to settle these conflicts.

Our loss of status by becoming a mini clone can only be overcome by asserting ourselves as a nation that knows its own mind as a sovereign country. We used to be the country the rest of the world trusted because we were independent thinkers. We do not need to be in lockstep with the United States. In fact, we are undermining our own foreign service by becoming essentially parrots of American foreign policy.

We do value our relationship with the United States, but if we do not make our policies as an independent free nation, we lose the respect of the rest of the world. Americans are our best friends and great neighbours, but I believe they also want to respect our sovereignty.

The representatives at Sharm el-Sheikh described the importance of these conferences, “that finding stability in Iraq is the key to world peace”. Many leaders of national delegations stated frequently that these were historic meetings that could only come about as a result of people who do peacekeeping. Yet Canada did not even send a senior minister and my job as an observer was to study and report. I returned to Canada quite troubled by the loss of reputation. People representing other countries asked me what has happened to Canada.

To wrap up, a National Peacekeepers' Day will be part of the process of restoring our national pride as we honour those who died in the cause of peace and those who continue to strive to make our world a safer place.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues who spoke this evening. They all spoke eloquently and I appreciate that they spoke in favour of this private member's bill.

I would like to use my concluding few moments to thank, as I thank all the members of this House, the veterans affairs committee for its support. It took its responsibilities seriously when Bill C-287 was on its agenda. We had a good discussion and some very helpful changes were made. I appreciate that.

I also want to thank the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River who was the seconder at third reading.

I want to underline that this is another way to say that we support our troops. It is a way of saying that Canada's role in the world, while not easy in terms of its military presence, is not easy to define. If we start from the premise that we are at our core peacemakers and peacekeepers, and however we define what a peacekeeper is, if we start out from that philosophical premise, from that spirit, then we will ultimately do the right thing.

I wish to pay homage to the veterans in my own riding and the ridings of all of my colleagues, and especially aboriginal veterans who have often been unsung heroes in Canadian military history. I just want to remind the House that our job is to represent everyone, not just those who voted for us, but between elections everyone in our ridings. We have people on all sides of the spectrum. If there is one thing we can agree on, it is that as our country moves forward and as our quality of life improves, it is incumbent upon us to do what we can to share our values, our wealth and our vision.

Through our peacekeeping efforts, whether they are through the military or whether they are through our NGO communities, our police forces, our diplomatic corps, in all ways we are serving our children and our grandchildren, indeed the future generations who will depend upon how we conduct our business at this point in the history of the country.

I look forward to a successful vote in the near future.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 6:30 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

Accordingly, the question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

National Peacekeepers’ Day Act
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.