That this House take note of the political, humanitarian and military dimensionsof Canada's peacekeeping role, including in the former Yugoslavia, and of possible future direction in Canadian peacekeeping policy and operations.
During his visit to Europe, the Prime Minister was asked whether the government would be maintaining Canadian troops in the former Yugoslavia in the spring. The Prime Minister replied that no decision would be made until the matter could be debated in this House. You will remember that when the previous government decided to send troops to the former Yugoslavia, there was no debate, Parliament was not consulted and at the time our party strongly opposed the fact that a decision as important as this could be made without consulting Parliament.
Today, the motion being tabled before the House and inviting all members to express their views on the issue is, as the Prime Minister pointed out, in line with our party's commitment to consult with members of Parliament before making any serious and momentous decisions.
Our decision, whatever it may be, will have a heavy impact on our future role in peacekeeping, our foreign policy and our defence policy.
We must also bear in mind that the position we take will affect our relations with countries that are friends or allies, or with countries that are very deeply involved in or affected by the conflict raging in the former Yugoslavia.
The government's position on the broad question of the place of peacekeeping in Canada's foreign and defence policies is well known. We are on record as stating that was intend to strengthen Canada's leadership role in international peacekeeping.
In the upcoming foreign and defence policy reviews, we will be examining a variety of ways in which this can be done, many of which we elaborated in the red book. I know that all of you have had an opportunity to read it, you are all familiar with it, but all the same I would like, if you permit, Mr. Speaker, to cite a few examples for the record.
We feel it is important, first of all, to re-examine the notion of stand-by forces for peacekeeping. Second, we think it is important to look at the training of peacekeepers; and third, we think it is important to review our procurement policies.
In any debate on peacekeeping, I feel we have to start by placing the issue in the context of Canada's historical contribution to peacekeeping, and go on to discuss the tremendous upheavals that affect the very nature of peacekeeping operations.
Ever since the initiative taken in 1956 by former Prime Minister and then External Affairs Minister Lester B. Pearson, Canada has been closely associated in the minds of Canadians and of other countries with leadership and expertise in peacekeeping. For years we have participated in the overwhelming majority of peacekeeping operations mandated by the Security Council.
We continue today to contribute to most of the missions, including, I would like to say, the most difficult ones. As you know, the government has clearly stated its conviction that peacekeeping is a very important component of Canada's contribution to the multilateral system and the preservation of peace in the world.
Canadians have always believed in the value of promoting multilateral mechanisms for security and crisis management. Peacekeeping is one of the most important of these mechanisms. Our approach to peacekeeping is rooted in a wider view, which seeks to promote the prevention of conflicts before they begin, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts already under way.
Over the years, Canada has developed guidelines governing its participation in peacekeeping operations. Let me summarize them.
There must be a clear, achievable mandate from a competent political authority, such as the Security Council.
Then, the parties to the conflict must undertake to respect a ceasefire and, of course, must accept the presence of Canadian troops.
In addition, the peacekeeping operation must be in support of a process aimed at achieving a political settlement.
Finally, the number of troops and the international composition of the operation must be suited to the mandate. The operation must be adequately funded, and have a satisfactory logistical structure.
These are the broad guidelines that Canada has traditionally used to make its decisions on its participation in a peace mission. If we review each of these points, we will see that in some ways the previous government did not follow these criteria in deciding whether to commit itself, as was the case with the former Yugoslavia.
In the past, it would seem that the amount of risk incurred by our soldiers was rarely a problem. This is no longer the case; the risk factor has become an essential element in our decision-making.
I would invite hon. members to take this aspect, this new dimension, into consideration in their remarks today.
While these guidelines are still valid, the international setting in which peacekeeping operations occur has changed radically since 1989, and will in my opinion continue to evolve. I would therefore welcome the views of the House in this regard.
Traditionally, let me repeat, peacekeeping operations have been launched when the parties to a conflict concluded that their purposes would no longer be served by the continuation of an armed conflict but by a settlement negotiated with the aid of a third party. Peacekeepers were thus deployed to monitor a ceasefire or the withdrawal of troops from disputed zones.
But in 1989 and 1990 far more extensive peacekeeping operations were introduced, designed to assist the parties involved to implement a negotiated settlement to a conflict. In Cambodia, for example, the United Nations had a mandate to disarm the factions, establish security throughout the country, repatriate refugees, ensure respect for human rights, supervise the key departments of the national government and organize provisional elections. Thus a very important civilian component was added to the traditional military presence.
A new concept, that of humanitarian intervention, was introduced in Bosnia and Somalia. Our soldiers were not sent there to enforce a ceasefire or preserve a peace that obviously did not exist and still does not exist. Their mandate was to help humanitarian convoys get through. The example of Somalia in particular shows that this type of intervention can have very positive results, for despite the problems we hear about, most of them centred on Mogadishu, the humanitarian crisis in the rest of the country has been largely surmounted.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has acknowledged this process of evolution in the declaration he called his agenda for peace, which is based on the principle that conflict management requires a whole range of tools, one of which is peacekeeping. The international community's objectives have thus become much more ambitious: to prevent conflicts, to consolidate or restore peace by diplomatic means such as mediation or good offices, to keep the peace and even to undertake the political and social reconstruction of ruined societies.
Some operations contain a mixture of these elements. The term "peacekeeping" has taken on a character I would qualify as rather elastic, often extending beyond the concept of forces of intervention, as seen in Cyprus, for example.
It is important to note the international context that has made this process of evolution possible. The end of the confrontation between the two superpowers has opened the way-at least so far-for an unprecedented degree of consensus on the Security Council. Traditionally, the members of the Security Council used their right of veto to prevent intervention on a number of occasions.
More recently, thanks to this new consensus, the Security Council has been able in the last few years to exercise an authority that is indeed recognized by the United Nations charter but that has until now existed only on paper.
It must be recognized that this process flies in the face of our preconceived notions about the nature of peacekeeping and how the international community should respond. Without wishing to launch into a terminological discourse, let me point out that the new concepts used by the Secretary-General in the agenda for peace each have a specific meaning. The term "peacemaking" refers to essentially diplomatic activities pursued to resolve a conflict, while "peace enforcement" is a situation where the international community uses force against a member state, as in the gulf war.
As you will see, Mr. Speaker, what complicates things a great deal is that an element of force is increasingly being introduced in the Security Council resolutions mandating peacekeeping operations and, in a way, changing them into peace enforcement operations. This is obviously the case with Somalia and also with Bosnia.
The effects of these changes on the United Nations are obvious. The UN suddenly finds itself in a position where it must manage operations involving over 68,000 soldiers worldwide. This increase has had a profound impact on the cost of peacekeeping. Canada's assessed peacekeeping contributions, for example, have remained at a steady 3.11 per cent of the total UN peacekeeping budget in the past five years. In absolute terms, however, Canada's contributions have risen from $10 million to $12 million in 1991-92 to some $130 million today. That is a substantial contribution, which requires us to think and very closely review the commitments we must make in this field; we shall pay very close attention to any suggestions parliamentarians make to us in this House during this debate. Clearly, the UN does not have the human, financial or technical resources for this task.
To make up this shortfall, the UN is relying more and more on regional organizations such as the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for African Unity. This co-operation between the UN and regional organizations was foreseen in the charter of the UN,
but its extent in practice is new. Here again, I would like the House to inform us of its views on the implications of this trend.
The sharp rise in the number of peace missions has brought many challenges with it. First of all, there are political challenges, as the international community is increasingly taking on responsibility for situations that, just a short time ago, were confined to the internal affairs of the states involved. Then there are military challenges, as we see a demand-which is growing constantly, and at an exponential rate-for soldiers adequately trained and equipped for missions as dangerous as they are complex. I will not hide the fact that, because our Canadian soldiers are very competent and very well trained, they are in demand worldwide. As soon as there is a request at the UN for a new peace force, people spontaneously think of Canadians and ask them to participate in these peace efforts. I am talking about challenges: political challenges and military challenges; but I am also talking about the financial challenges created by operations with personnel numbering in the tens of thousands, rather than the few thousands of yesteryear.
To meet these new challenges, the UN and its member countries will have to thoroughly review the way peacekeeping operations are managed.
At the national level, we will have to be ever more critical about the commitments we make, and especially about how we determine to make such commitments.
At the international level, it is urgent that the UN's capacity to respond quickly and professionally to crises be reinforced.
Canada responds generously to requests for experts by the United Nations and regional organizations. The Secretary-General's military advisor is a Canadian, General Baril, and many other Canadians have been made available to the United Nations and the CSCE. We pay our financial contributions in full and on time and have submitted to the Secretary-General recommendations on making the UN structure more effective.
We are determined to increase this effort and to exercise the leadership that other countries expect from us in this field.
I would say that the Canadian men and women serving under the United Nations banner are saving lives and relieving misery. None of us will forget the poignant images of the soldiers who aided the helpless victims in a hospital in Bosnia. It is also clear their living conditions are increasingly dangerous. Here another picture comes to mind, that of the 11 Canadian soldiers threatened by Serbian troops near Sarajevo last month.
Events in Bosnia are thus very much in the public eye. The powerful images of the suffering of the Bosnian people and the challenge facing our troops have became an integral part of the evening news. However we must look beyond these images to the larger questions which Bosnia poses.
These questions, I submit, fall into two categories: the future of our commitment to the UN effort in Bosnia itself and the implications of this episode for our peacekeeping policy generally. These are the questions with which the government is now wrestling. The views of the House and of the public generally are of critical importance to our deliberations.
In discussing events in Bosnia we must bear in mind certain factors that have guided our actions to date. To begin with, we must recognize that there are two relatively distinct operations taking place in the former Yugoslavia. Though both are taking place under the banner of one UN operation, the United Nations protection force, they are quite different in terms of the activities under way and the dangers they face.
First, in Croatia our peacekeepers are engaged in a relatively traditional UN operation. There are two distinct sides and they have agreed to respect a stable ceasefire line while they are negotiating over a permanent settlement to their differences. While these negotiations are in progress the two sides have asked the UN to provide an international force to monitor the ceasefire and patrol the line. The situation is relatively stable though that stability is highly dependent upon events in Bosnia. I could say-and I am sure the Minister of Defence will expand on this-our troops there are not at high risk. This is peacekeeping as we understand it and have practised it for several decades.
Second, in Bosnia however the situation is radically different. There is no ceasefire and there are certainly no lines. Even the desire to negotiate seems to be lacking. In these circumstances the UN Security Council has mandated our forces to engage in assisting in the provision of humanitarian relief to the civilians caught in the middle of the conflict and in providing protection through a small military presence in Srebrenica, a UN designated safe area.
Our actions in Srebrenica are a perfect example of the evolution of peacekeeping to which I referred earlier. It remains an environment in which the peacekeepers require the permission of the parties to the conflict to go about their duties.
The task in Bosnia is an infinitely more difficult and dangerous one than that which our peacekeepers have traditionally faced. In addition to the dangers of simply operating in a war zone, we must face the fact that some of the factions do not always want the humanitarian aid to get through.
For all of these dangers it has been argued however that the UN force is making a critical contribution. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Red Cross have confirmed that aid is getting through. People who would otherwise be dead
are alive today. Canadian troops have played a vital role in this effort and continue to do so.
Beyond this humanitarian effort it is often pointed out that Canada's presence in Bosnia has served to demonstrate our continuing commitment to act with our NATO allies in the promotion of European security. It also demonstrates to the world that Canada is a nation which is prepared to carry out its international obligations under difficult circumstances, while others are merely willing to offer advice from the sidelines.
At the same time serious questions must be asked as we debate our continuing participation in these UN forces. Is there a reasonable prospect of any progress in the peace process in the foreseeable future? Will sufficient humanitarian aid continue to get through? At what point will the dangers to our troops outweigh the benefits of our presence there?
Concerning the first question, I am in constant communication with my colleagues who also have many troops in the region. I have spoken today with the French minister of foreign affairs about the situation and I intend in the coming days to speak with Secretary Hurd who has just returned from Bosnia and who will give us a personal evaluation of the situation on the ground. France, Great Britain and Canada are the three countries that have contributed the most troops in the region. It is clear that we will want to co-ordinate our efforts.
We think that the only solution is a negotiated solution. We think it is essential that we pressure the factions to come to a negotiated solution. We will increase our diplomatic efforts in order to put pressure on those who are the natural friends of the factions so that those who are in a better position than others can speak to the Serbs, the Croats, the Muslims, can convince them that the only solution is a negotiated peace, not prolonging the war.
And I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that beyond the military operations involved in peacekeeping or in escorting humanitarian convoys, we will strive unceasingly through diplomatic channels to find a solution to this conflict.
I would like to refer briefly to the recent NATO summit where the question of the dangers faced by our troops was the subject of much debate. In particular the topic of air strikes as a means of relieving the pressures on our troops was prominent in major reports of the summit.
Because some confusion seems to exist in the public mind I would like to take advantage of this timely opportunity to clarify the government position on the subject of air strikes and our understanding of the procedures in place for their authorization. I hope these clarifications will be helpful not only to members of Parliament and the public at large but will also be beneficial to the press that have made some comments in this regard which I felt were sometimes out of context.
Essentially there are two distinct scenarios for air strikes. The first envisages the case where UN troops are directly under attack. In this specific case NATO agreed in June that the commander of the UNPROFOR could call on the UN Secretary- General to authorize an air strike to assist UN troops where they are under attack.
The fact that the UN Secretary-General would be the ultimate authority for an air strike under these conditions was insisted upon by Canada in view of the highly charged political considerations which would surround such decisions. There would be no debate within NATO before the strike was carried out as time would be of the essence.
We agree with this procedure. We think it is appropriate that if our troops are under attack we should be able to respond. An air strike under these circumstances might be necessary and we are fully in agreement with this.
The second type of air strike would be intended to remove an obstacle to UNPROFOR's performance of its duties in circumstances where there was no direct threat to UNPROFOR troops. The proposed air strike would thus be less time urgent. Under these circumstances the commander of UNPROFOR would submit a request for such an air strike to the Secretary-General of the United Nations who must give his authorization as in the first case. The request would also be discussed in the North Atlantic Council of NATO. The North Atlantic Council must agree to support the request.
The North Atlantic Council operates by means of consensus. Therefore no decision to launch an air strike under these circumstances could be made unless all allies agreed to it. Canada's position on this question is well known and would guide our representative to the North Atlantic Council in such debate.
We have said and we repeat that in the second case we do not believe that an air strike would be conducive to solving current situations. In fact we have said on numerous occasions that air strikes should be the last resort. We believe the use of an air strike could jeopardize the humanitarian aid process and put our soldiers in great danger.
We want it abundantly clear that obviously this is a decision that would have to be discussed and agreed to within NATO by unanimous consent, including obviously the acceptance by Canada.
We have said that the only reason we would agree to such use of air strikes would be if our military people were telling us that it was okay to go ahead with it. It would be done only with the acceptance and recommendation of our military officers.
With respect to the second broad issue before us, the implications of Bosnia for our peacekeeping policy generally, it would seem that events in Bosnia provide a clear example of what I have been saying about the way in which peacekeeping is developing.
We must recognize the decisions we make regarding the continuation of our commitment to UN operations in Bosnia must be taken in the context of our considerations of Canada's willingness to remain involved in the broadening range of peacekeeping activities.
My remarks have been intended to raise several questions, questions about the future of peacekeeping generally and questions about the related subject of our future in Bosnia. In the immediate terms, the government must make a decision about the future of our commitment in Bosnia. We want to hear the views of this House on that subject.
As for the longer term issue of Canada's peacekeeping policy generally, we intend to consult with individual Canadians as part of the ongoing review of our foreign and defence policies. The parliamentary committee on foreign affairs will be asked to make suggestions and recommendations on our foreign policies.
I understand that the minister of defence will ask the parliamentary committee on defence and security to do a similar study. I suspect that these two parliamentary committees will hear witnesses, will travel throughout the country and will seek advice and opinions from Canadians on the evolution and revisions of our foreign policy and our defence policy. Therefore I am sure that the parliamentary committees in the general context of peacekeeping operations will certainly want to pursue debate and discussion and give advice to the government.
On the more immediate question of whether or not in March we should stay in Bosnia or leave is one on which we would ask parliamentarians to express their views today because this is a decision the government will have to make in the coming weeks. We will want to make this decision having assessed all the aspects as I indicated in my earlier remarks. We will obviously make a decision after having consulted with our allies. It is important to realize that Canada is playing a very important role through the UN and a very important role through NATO and such a decision cannot be taken in isolation.
I am pleased to move this motion today, seconded by my colleague, the Minister of National Defence, calling for a debate on peacekeeping. In particular, the government seeks the view of this House in two general areas: Canada's future in peacekeeping and our future commitment to Bosnia.
Although we are very much interested in knowing the views of members about Canada's future in peacekeeping, there will be other occasions to talk about it at a later date, but it might be the last occasion to express their views on our future commitment to Bosnia before a decision is made by the government. Therefore I invite members to express openly, candidly and in a very constructive way their advice and suggestions in this regard. We are open to advice. It is a difficult decision and we welcome their input in this debate.