House of Commons Hansard #54 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was troops.


Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

8:15 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate tonight although I must say I do so with minimal enthusiasm. This is the end of a rather long personal road for me.

I have always opposed the intervention by Canada or Canada's allies in other people's wars but as of this time I have had to change my outlook. Enough is enough.

Time after time in my lifetime the western world has stood by compromised, temporized and allowed large numbers of people to be butchered. We have the situation now in Gorazde in which thousands of people are in imminent danger of death unless somebody moves in from outside and helps them.

At this stage there is only one way that can be done and that is with air strikes. There is no possibility on earth of getting ground troops from anywhere into that area in time to help those people.

I am not talking geopolitics here. I am talking humanitarian efforts because those people will die en masse. There is no question about it if the world does not do something. It has been said many times here tonight that air strikes alone cannot solve the problems in Bosnia. That is true but if they are executed immediately they can save the people of Gorazde and that is what counts.

There is no time for an ultimatum. There is no time for further discussions. The necessary mechanics are already in place. Warnings are not an option. Warnings have been given again and again and they are no longer taken seriously. Air strikes have to be not only immediate but unrelenting. Anything that moves, tanks, field artillery, has to be taken out. Bridges have to be taken down. Any kind of ammunition or field depot, anything that helps the Serbian war effort, should be fair game in the Gorazde area.

If that is done, if you punish them hard enough and fast enough they, being normal human beings in some ways, will have a self-protective instinct. They will move back. The problem with this scenario is that there is also no time to pull out our troops. If we are going to save Gorazde it has to be done now. Our people cannot be taken to safe haven before the air strikes are made.

Our field commanders on the ground must have the freedom to do whatever they deem necessary to get our people out of harm's way. If air strikes are executed we have to face as a country and as a Parliament the fact there probably will be Canadian casualties. It is inevitable and this is a responsibility that the government with the support of apparently almost everyone on the opposition side has to face up to.

We have all been briefed at great length on the inhospitable terrain in that country for movement of troops, for normal military manoeuvring. Even if we had large numbers of troops in there we would still need the air strikes.

A lot of people I have spoken to who are military people would agree that it does not necessarily follow that if we escalate the war we must have hundreds of thousands of foreign troops in Bosnia.

The Bosnian Muslims are there already. They have been effectively disarmed by the embargo that we have imposed supposedly against all of Yugoslavia. This has really had a serious effect only on the people of Bosnia. They are the victims of this. The Serbs one way or another have continued to get arms. I presume they are able to make them because they have a certain amount of industry intact. They have not had the war rolling back and forth across their part of the country for two years. They are getting them from elsewhere, they have to be.

Let us lift the embargo. I think this is what the Bosnia Muslims want. It would mean that we could help these people without committing large numbers of western troops. Give them a chance to die with dignity. They are dying anyway and they will continue to die by the tens, perhaps the hundreds of thousands if we do not give them the chance to help themselves.

I would urge, I would beg the government to take this to the UN, take off the embargo. Give these poor devils a chance.

I notice that on this I am in complete agreement with the hon. member for Regina-Qu'Appelle. I doubt if there is anyone in North America with whom I have larger degrees of political differences and I heartily concur with this. Let the Bosnian Muslims have a chance to defend themselves.

First and foremost save the people of Gorazde. Stop making idle threats. Stop giving ultimatums. Make the air strikes and make them before it is too late.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

8:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, tonight members of Parliament have been asked to comment on a very important and sensitive matter affecting the entire world.

The aggressions in Bosnia-Hercegovina continue to escalate and now the Secretary-General of the UN, Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, has asked Canada and others to consider, and the operative word according to the minister is consider, the advisability of further air strikes.

I think all members are very grateful that the government has reserved this decision until it consulted with the House. Tomorrow decisions will be made.

Why are we doing this? An Ottawa Citizen headline reads: ``Make Serbs Pay Price Says U.S.''. We have read these headlines for months and months and the issues here are issues of credibility in terms of making our decision, credibility of the UN and whether it has taken appropriate action on a timely basis; credibility of NATO and our NATO allies and whether peacekeeping versus peacemaking has been properly addressed here.

Many members have said often in this House that we have no peace in Bosnia and therefore how can we be peacekeepers. Our Canadian troops are trained and equipped as peacekeepers, not peacemakers.

As the minister mentioned earlier in the House, on April 18 the UN Secretary-General wrote to Manfred Woerner, the Secretary General of NATO, requesting that the arrangement to protect Sarajevo, a safe area, be extended to five additional areas, being Gorazde, Srebrenica, Zepa, Tuzla and Bihac.

Gorazde, which is the area in which this aggression is now taking place, is very close to the Serbian border, only a matter of 15 or 20 kilometres. Where are the Canadian troops? I want to raise this because the previous speaker possibly raised some concerns beyond the level which they should be at this time.

Canadian troops are near the Croatian town of Gradacac. The Princess Patricia Calgary Light Infantry is there. We also have troops in the Bosnian town of Visoko, some 30 kilometres northwest of Sarajevo. Right now our Canadian troops are not in grave danger as a result of the present aggressions in and around Gorazde. We do however have one officer, Major Stogran, in the Gorazde area. His movements at this time are restricted.

Canadians have serious fears. Those fears have been growing over the weeks and months. We all remember when some of our Canadian peacekeepers were lined up in a mock firing squad fashion. We also know the Serbs took some of our brave Canadian peacekeepers hostage.

The Bosnian Serbs have not shown any signs of good faith at any point during this period of aggression, despite the international efforts to stop these atrocities against innocent people. The Serbs have in fact demonstrated solely a thirst to kill.

Before I came into the House this evening I asked for the latest reports and they indicate that the Serbs have taken Gorazde. Gorazde has fallen. There is house to house combat. I am sorry to say that tomorrow we will likely read more statistics about the carnage, atrocities and death of innocent people in that Bosnian city.

Our fears as Canadians are also prompted by the fact that we know what air strikes can do. There were air strikes in Sarajevo, but the difference there was that there were ground troops to support the air strikes. The situation in Gorazde is not as secure. There is not the same kind of protection of ground troops, of those people.

There have been many estimates of how many people have died in this conflict. Now I am told that the number is somewhere over 100,000 people who have lost their lives.

Tonight I asked defence officials how many people were in Gorazde, how many Muslims were there in this so-called safe area? We do not know how many people are there. All we know is people have been going to safe areas in droves and no one can possibly keep track. Estimates have been that in the range of 45,000 Muslims may be in Gorazde, but nobody knows.

What now? The UN, the Americans and most other partners in the UN coalition have basically said that we need the right to go forward with these strikes. How would they happen? They have the ability. There are over 100 fighter aircraft ready to take part in these strikes. They are in Italy. They are on aircraft carriers, et cetera.

I have taken the time to consult with as many of my colleagues as I could to find out what the sense was. There was unanimity among all members and all parties, a serious concern for the safety of our courageous troops in Bosnia.

I asked the minister's staff if I could have a copy of his speech. I want to repeat the minister's concern about Canadian troops because it is very important. Earlier today when he commenced his speech he said: "We have known from the start that deploying forces in the former Yugoslavia meant exposing our personnel to some risk. This concern has been with us since the beginning of the mission. The situation in Srebrenica, as well as the incident last week when 16 members of the Canadian forces were detained by Bosnian Serbs, reminded us that the risks were real". He also said: "As the UN and NATO contemplate more vigorous action the safety of our troops will continue to be a key consideration for the Canadian government".

It is critically important for Canadians to understand that the government, the Official Opposition and the Reform Party have all stated a sincere interest in protecting the interests of our Canadian troops.

It is time to stop the senseless slaughter and the atrocities. We do not need another Vietnam in our world. We need peace and stability. We need international co-operation. We need Canada to stand together with pride and with resolve with its UN partners. We need to support our allies and accept the resolution of the Secretary-General to consider air strikes against the Bosnian Serbs.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

8:30 p.m.


Gaston Péloquin Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise this evening to take part in the special debate on the situation in Bosnia not only as the member for Brome-Missisquoi, but also and most of all, as a human being. It is impossible not to be outraged when one sees atrocities like those that have been perpetrated in the former Yugoslavia during the last few months. We all agree that the situation cannot go on and that we must take steps to put an end to those horrors.

How then can we explain why Canada and the international community have let that conflict deteriorate to the point where Bosnia is now the scene of such savage and barbaric acts? The present situation did not appear overnight in Bosnia. It has evolved steadily since the beginning of the conflict while the international community merely observed from a distance.

In the beginning, we were puzzled by the situation in the former Yugoslavia, but there was no cause to send in troops yet. Later on, rumours of ethnic cleansing made the conflict much more disturbing. But there again, we preferred diplomatic disincentives and negotiations. Afterwards, the bombing of Sarajevo raised the confrontation to an unacceptable level of unwarranted violence but still the UN forces refrained from launching a massive intervention.

The international community's hesitation and procrastination are the reason why we have reached a situation which is totally unacceptable in a so-called civilized world. In fact, I find the recent actions of the Serbian forces particularly revolting. How can we let these people bomb residential areas and hospitals? How can we still claim to try to solve this conflict by sending in peacekeeping forces and advocating negotiations? After all, Serbs showed long ago what little respect they have for the agreements they sign. In fact, as the leader of the opposition said earlier, they failed to keep their word 57 times in less than a month. I cannot see how we would still want to negotiate with such hypocrites.

Peacekeeping troops in Bosnia are no longer safe. The UN Security Council must order air strikes on Serbian strongholds. It must also send ground troops to help our peacekeepers in their efforts to establish peace in that country. We can no longer be content with observing from a distance without reacting. Serbs have had every possible opportunity to prove their good faith, and each time they turned around to attack civilian populations even more viciously. The lives of hundreds of young children and old people have been needlessly sacrificed.

Canada's position must be very clear. We must let the whole world know that our country is prepared to take the necessary measures to put an end to that conflict. So far, peacekeeping forces may have managed to save lives, but their current mandate is too restrictive to allow them to continue to do so effectively. Indeed, the attitude displayed by Serbian forces compels us to consider large-scale operations. We can no longer give Serbs the benefit of the doubt, for too many human lives have already been sacrificed because of our excessive tolerance.

The destruction of Sarajevo was not enough to convince us of the need for a strong military intervention. Today, it is the city of Gorazde that is paying the price.

The American and Russian presidents have agreed to hold a summit on this issue in the next month. How many schools and hospitals will Serbian troops destroy during that period? Yesterday again, 28 people died after the hospital in Gorazde was bombed. We must therefore immediately put pressure on those countries, because it is urgent for the innocent victims of this conflict.

We just learned from a press report that one of the 10 speakers invited to address the opening of a Security Council session confirmed that the Bosnian Serb offensive in Gorazde is now going from house to house. That is horrible.

In closing, I would like to remind the government that, beyond our political differences, we as parliamentarians of a peaceful country must show a powerful solidarity in this House when the time comes to save human lives.

I am convinced that the people of Quebec and Canada will support us without reservation in our effort. It is no longer time for discussion; we must now act by hammering the Serbian positions and forcing them if necessary to honestly negotiate an agreement that will end this conflict which has already gone on too long.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

April 21st, 1994 / 8:35 p.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Ontario, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise with some sadness this evening after hearing the news as members of the caucus and of the House of Commons. Events have taken place in a part of the world where people for the first time know the inhuman deeds of the belligerents.

I must confess to the House that I was not one of those who spoke in the previous debate with respect to the question of our troops in Bosnia but I feel compelled for a variety of reasons to put forward the best I can, as eloquently as I can, in as very quick a time as I can, since many of the members in the House of Commons will know that very few of us had a chance really to prepare for lofty speeches. Madam Speaker, what you see is what you get. It is the heart feeling, the mind feeling and the reaction to what has taken place in a part of the world which none of us in contemporary times will forget.

At the age of 16 I had the privilege of visiting Yugoslavia with my godparents. I do not think it is important to suggest what their background or their ethnic background may have been. The reality is that those are villages and places that I once saw. I see the people in those places living in such insufferable conditions of inhumanity. This would not be the case if it were not for Serbian aggression.

It seems to me that the arguments that have been put forward suggest that we may not want to attack the Serbs because there is some historical reticence on our behalf, that the Balkans has always been a hot place on this planet, that every time there has been a war it has always been very difficult and thousands if not

millions of people have suffered. That historical excuse this evening is simply not acceptable.

It has been suggested that the Wehrmacht army of the second world war, the Nazis, as they invaded Yugoslavia or what was then considered Serbia was not able to completely rid itself of the opposition, that is the Serbian army. I must confess the Nazis were the aggressors and not the Serbs.

In April 1994 the Serbian army in Bosnia is indeed the aggressor. They are indeed the belligerents. There may be other options. I believe there is only one option at our disposal as a country. That is to provide some kind of sanity to the very difficult and senseless thing which is happening right now in Gorazde.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity along with many members of the House of Commons of seeing the very moving film "Schindler's List". That movie depicted an atrocity which took place because good people stood by and did nothing, all those except Oscar Schindler. Perhaps there are several Oscar Schindlers in Canada this evening. Perhaps there are Oscar Schindlers around the world. Ultimately however the difficulty this issue presents us cannot be ignored and cannot be taken in isolation of what has happened historically.

In 1941 we knew full well what was happening in Warsaw. We saw the ghettoization of the Jewish people. We saw them confined to an area where they would not be harmed, but at least they were in a place where they would not affect anyone else. It is interesting how history has so many parallels.

We have an obligation not to posterity, not to history but to humanity in our time. Evil does prevail when good people stand by and do nothing.

We may be on the cusp of a very difficult if not explosive situation if we do not take into context that it is the Muslim people, particularly the Bosnian Muslim people who are the victims of this outrage.

We can talk about the UN not performing up to scratch. We can talk about the United Nations not having done its homework in terms of protecting these people, removing arms as so many colleagues have talked of and leaving these people defenceless in the promise they would be given a safe haven. That is fine and I accept those. That is there for the record, but we now have a chance to act.

We realize the Canadian troops may be in some difficulty. But let us think about the Muslim blood which has been shed in that part of the world. Those people have shown such patience in the face of such outrageous angst and hatred. They find themselves in the position of seeing more of the people who share their fate decimated.

We can make the parallels with Kuwait and say: "We shouldn't do in Sarajevo, we shouldn't do in Bosnia, we shouldn't do in Gorazde what we did in Iraq". There is no such thing as bad publicity in this case. We know the situation and the suffering is very real. We have an obligation to address that suffering and put aside the platitudes and the rhetoric.

I am a peaceful person but on this situation as a peaceful member of this government I am so moved as to ensure that dignity and respect for people's lives is well represented by this country, Canada. We have an obligation. It is my hope we live up to it.

We must not forget the lessons of history. We must act for some fundamental reasons and these are to save lives when possible. We have already invested time and weapons; we have supported the United Nations. More must be done to protect these people.

If I were standing here this evening with the many friends of the Muslim community they would say to me: "God be with you, inch'allah". I say to the ministers this evening, your decision is is going to be a difficult one. Whatever decision you make, I as a member of Parliament representing thousands of people, support you in the test you now have to confront.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

8:45 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to concur with colleagues on both sides of the House that this is not an occasion one looks forward to. We know that events have transpired not only over the past few hours but, as we have been made aware tonight, over many weeks. In fact if we look back far enough, it has been over years and decades. We are dealing with an area of the world that has been the stage for much suffering, much violence and much international tension.

I want to thank members of the other two parties, the Liberal Party and the Bloc, for co-operating and allowing all members to speak in this debate before serious decisions are made in the upcoming hours. It brings credibility and strength to Parliament to know that representatives of the people can take part in a debate on a situation that affects all nations of the world. Several hundreds of Canadian peacekeepers are directly affected by the violence in the former Yugoslavia.

I also want to thank the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs whom I respect for being patient. They have been sitting here and listening to our concerns. I am pleased they have expressed to us that they will take these thoughts and expressions into consideration as they deliberate in cabinet and make decisions regarding air strikes that may be under way in the very near future.

I was wondering as I sat here what Canadians were thinking about tonight as they sense there are difficult decisions to be made by our government and by other members of the United Nations with regard to the former Yugoslavia. I am sure they have watched the television newscasts at night and have been angered, shocked and hurt as they saw the violence, the ruthlessness and the needless bloodshed of innocent people in the former Yugoslavia. They have seen the unfairness of one side in a dispute that seems to have no lack of arms and another side that seems to be unable to defend itself and no mercy being shown.

I am sure Canadians tonight are very concerned about Canadian troops currently serving in a peacekeeping role, what may seem like an impossible role in the former Yugoslavia. We certainly join with other members tonight in expressing concern for our Canadian peacekeepers in this troubled area. We also want to see wise decisions made that have their best interests at heart.

With regard to the NATO air strikes, we have to consider what options are available. We could probably consider three options. As Canadians we could say: "Let us go with NATO air strikes, withdraw our troops, get them out of the country and see what happens". This would likely mean a greater chance of preventing the injury or killing of Canadian peacekeepers. It may add to the cost in human lives and suffering in the Bosnian Muslim community.

We could say that we disagree with NATO air strikes on the whole. Then we would have the problem of seeing ongoing violence and the ongoing slaying of innocent people. We also would have to realize that we have not solved the problem of what we are going to do with our peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia.

Another option would be to support NATO air strikes but perhaps initiate a circling of the wagons. In other words we could support air strikes but do all we could to protect our own peacekeepers serving in the dangerous area around Gorazde and in other areas where there is potential violence and danger to Canadians. We want to prevent, if we can, the chances of further kidnappings of Canadian peacekeepers in the area.

I sensed from other members in the House, and I share the opinion, that the third alternative is perhaps the best alternative. Yes, if it is the decision of our fellow United Nation members and if we have full input into the decision making process, we should support air strikes as a means to bring an end to foolish and senseless bloodshed.

Also, we need to take whatever steps we can to make sure that our own peacekeepers have the most available and complete means of protection possible to them. We have to facilitate their protection. We have to facilitate a plan and a program for peace in this war-torn area. I do not believe that we should abandon our Canadian peacekeepers at any price because the United Nations and NATO make the decision that we must initiate air strikes in this war zone.

It is important that we consult with our United Nations partners and our NATO partners to make sure that if we escalate the military action in this region, we do not bear an unfair brunt of the load. As members know, Canada has an excellent peacekeeping reputation. We have put many of our peacekeepers into several hot spots over the past few decades. We are proud of the reputation that Canadian peacekeepers have built for themselves and the tradition they have earned.

It is important that if we are going to continue to be involved in this war-torn area, other nations that may also support air strikes but that do not have the possibility of paying a human price for support of that action be prepared to get involved in the conflict and be prepared to be an instrument for peace and an end to the foolish and senseless slaying of human lives.

We have to be realistic and realize that there is a danger that some Canadian peacekeepers will be hurt or killed regardless of what steps we take. There is no guarantee whether we commit to air strikes or not that we will not see the potential danger for some of our troops in this area.

We also have to be concerned about the long term situation in that region and realize that we are seeing mass murder of innocent people who are unable to protect themselves. It is incumbent upon us as citizens of the world to be part of the solution and propose steps we can take to ensure that the defenceless Bosnians have some capacity to defend themselves and that we impose some pressure on the aggressing Serbs to convince them to come to their senses and cease to continue this needless slaughter.

With our international status and a good conscience, we must not totally abandon innocent Bosnian citizens. We could look back and probably see a lot of mistakes that all parties including Canada perhaps may have made. We can second guess ourselves but we have come to the point where second guessing is not going to provide solutions. We have come to a point of reality where we must make hard decisions.

While we possibly have not put forward guidelines and, as someone mentioned previously, drawn lines not just in the sand but lines written in stone, if we made more direct moves as a result of bad decisions made by the aggressors in that area, we would not have reached the point that we have reached tonight. It has happened and therefore we have to press on to try to improve the world situation.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali originally called for a controlled strike solely on artillery posts, tanks and mortar positions. We understand that President Clinton has indicated that the strike could incorporate elements of retaliation against Serb aggres-

sion and we understand that NATO officials perhaps have even suggested a stronger agenda.

If we are going to act we need to be decisive and we need to make these actions make a difference. The last thing we want to do is just scratch a festering wound and aggravate it rather than perhaps do some deeper cutting in the situation, make a difference, provide a clean cut that is possible to heal and bring peace to a very hurting part of the world.

These are the thoughts that are going through Canadians' minds tonight as they have been hearing the newscasts and contemplating what the situation is in this area and what our response should be. I believe they do want us to protect our troops. I believe they do want us to help the innocent Bosnians. I do believe they want to promote peace through proactive strikes with the least bloodshed possible.

While bombing may be our only remaining option, let us only agree to the NATO strikes if we can establish the resolve and dedication to a real and defined plan. We must also consider a contingency plan in case no heed is taken of our action and the violence continues.

When we step into the water we have to be prepared to get wet. We have to be prepared to ford through some fairly deep waters if we are going to accomplish the goal we intend to achieve.

Again I thank government members for this opportunity to speak. I thank them for their respect for Parliament in allowing Parliament to have a part in the decision making process. I wish them wisdom and Godspeed in the difficult decisions that lie before them.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

8:55 p.m.


Shaughnessy Cohen Liberal Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening on this important debate. I thank the last speaker, my friend opposite, for his comments as well. It is significant that our leadership has allowed us this opportunity.

Only this afternoon I participated in a panel discussion with three other members of Parliament. The discussion was on reforms to Parliament and the nature of Parliament itself. There is much criticism of the quality of debate and the usefulness of this kind of debate. I came back here to find that members of Parliament from all parties were co-operating and participating in assisting the leadership of our government in making what is a difficult and in many ways terrible decision.

Like many Canadians I am not very knowledgeable in this area. My interests primarily are at home, as you often hear me say, right there in Windsor. Quite frankly this question, while it is not one I am particularly well versed on, is one I felt prompted to speak to tonight because of calls and reactions from my constituents and because of my strong personal reaction to some of these calls.

Like many Canadians I find the ethnic fighting in Bosnia and the massacre of innocents who cared nothing for power or politics or the stakes of the game to be abhorrent. Like many Canadians I want it to stop. We have an obligation to be part of the solution. I truly trust our leadership to take the right steps to accomplish this.

However I also worry about our troops there. Only two weeks ago Ryan Hendy, a grade 13 student at St. Anne's High School in Tecumseh, Ontario in my riding, an 18 year old lad who is a friend of mine and whose parents are friends of mine, came to me. He is a member of the Essex-Kent Scottish Reserves. He told me he had been asked to go to the former Yugoslavia. His youth and his patriotism moved me to think a little more about our troops there.

Canadians in Windsor-St. Clair and everywhere in this country have taken pride in their armed forces, pride in those young people stationed in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans during this conflict. Canadians watched in fear as our young military men were held as hostages last week and breathed a sigh of relief when they were released.

These anxieties are not distant. All of us in this House know we have constituents who are somehow connected with people in Bosnia. Many of us have friends or even family who are connected there. We have constituents whose children are serving there with the Canadian forces. We have constituents who are members of the forces serving there. We have constituents of Bosnian, Serb, Croatian and Muslim descent who have relatives still living in that country.

Madam Speaker, one of your own constituents sent us a letter today. Marina Gavanski Zissis is her name. She is a Canadian of Serbian descent. She warns us of the danger of these air strikes. Her greatest concern is for the Canadians on the ground. I quote from her letter: "But much more important is the safety of the Canadians already in Bosnia".

To my mind Mrs. Zissis makes a great point. We cannot ever forget the safety of these people and the situation in which they might be placed by remaining on the ground during an air strike. The American forces will be undertaking this air strike. In my opinion, for what it is worth, they do not have a good record when it comes to casualties by friendly fire.

We must consider these figures: 15 to 20 per cent of U.S. casualties in the Vietnam war fell from friendly fire and 16 per cent of U.S. casualties in the recent gulf war fell from friendly fire. On April 14, 1994, two U.S. helicopters were shot down by American jets, killing 26 military and civilian personnel.

This time it will be our troops and innocent Bosnian civilians on the ground. It is not a textbook battleground. It is not a desert where we can see the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other. The fighting is taking place in and around urban enclaves containing thousands of civilians and our Canadian troops.

I am not a military expert. I am not even very knowledgeable about these matters, but I am a very concerned citizen and member of the House. I know we must stand with our allies. I know if we and our allies walk away we leave thousands of innocent people to a slaughter.

I have faith in our leadership. I have faith in the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister. I am satisfied that they will guide us well and ably in this decision, but I remind them to remember that it is our people on the ground and to take care of them too.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

9 p.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by stressing how important it is for us to have this debate this evening. It is an opportunity for members of all parties to express their indignation about the intolerable situation that exists today in Bosnia, and it is also an opportunity for parliamentarians to show the minister and the government that we are all united in a cause that goes beyond partisan interests and our differences on other issues, because I believe that all parliamentarians here today share a desire to see all parts of the world at peace and to put an end to the slaughter in Bosnia.

There are certain facts we should remember. There have been many ceasefires in that region. Ceasefires that were never observed by the Bosnian Serbs who, today, continue to attack civilian targets. Ceasefires which in some ways have allowed the Bosnian Serbs to continue their offensive before the ink was dry on the documents they had signed, in a hypocritical fashion.

Today, we must do better than ceasefires where one party is acting in bad faith and the other has been disarmed. We must send a clear message. In this respect, the Sarajevo strategy which apparently will be proposed by President Clinton is the only strategy we feel is realistic as a means to put an end to this conflict. The strategy is to send a clear ultimatum to the Bosnian Serbs, with the shortest possible grace period, after which we, that is NATO and the UN must intervene and target the heavy artillery of the Serbs, an ultimatum, as we were saying, that would mean all cities and enclaves recognized as safe areas would have to be respected as such.

We would also have to demand guarantees for the peacekeepers. It is true that so far, Canada has intervened more frequently than other countries. I think we must remind other countries that although air strikes are necessary-in fact, we will support them-the fact remains that Canadian and Quebec soldiers are in position at the present time. If these air strikes are to be accompanied by additional ground troops, the other countries will have to participate, because Canada has already done more than its share in this respect.

It is also true that air strikes may put our soldiers at risk, which is a real possibility, although the present situation is not any better, since our soldiers are in danger at the present time. Last week's hostage taking is a case in point. Besides, we cannot remain silent and powerless in the face of this situation.

We have even more reason to be concerned about the tragic events in Bosnia given that this region of the world has historically been the site of war. Ethnic conflicts between different countries have today moved into another realm, namely that of religious wars. We must not lose sight of the rise of Islamic extremism, not only in Bosnia, of course, but also in the former Soviet republics of Tadzhikistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. The zone in question extends to China, stretching from Europe all the way to Asia and including the Middle East.

When I refer to the rise of extremism, I am not talking only about Islamic extremism. Right-wing extremists are also making their presence felt in France, Germany, Italy and Russia. I mention Russia because we all realize that Russia has a unique role to play in this conflict, since the Serbs and the Russians share Slavic roots and throughout history, alliances have been forged and in turn broken in this region. The situation is all the more serious given that right-wing fascist forces in Russia are now challenging President Yeltsin.

Nor should we forget that World War I began in this region, only to spread to the entire world. We should also remember the mistakes that were made by western democracies in the 1930s, mistakes which led to the rise of nazism and fascism. These democracies remained silent, at times motivated by pacifism, albeit blind pacifism. We made the mistake of letting Hitler invade parts of the world, triggering off a world war. We cannot afford to let the Serbs start a world war today.

While the cold war may be over, there are regional conflicts in some parts of the world that have the potential to start a worldwide conflict and this conflict in particular appears to be more serious and dangerous than any other around the world right now. That is why the UN and NATO must define their roles further. Of course, they must be discussion forums to instill a spirit of peace worldwide. But they could go further, especially when it is obvious that negotiations are going nowhere, that some of the parties are talking for the sake of talking and hypocritically failing to act on their promises and commitments.

It must also be noted that Russia has a major role to play in this conflict. Of course NATO can send out a unit, but this unit will be made stronger by the support of Russia, and vice versa. If Russia does not take a clear stand, get involved and play its role with the Bosnian Serbs, it is obvious that NATO's position and that of the UN will not be as strong as they could be.

We must-and it may sound paradoxical-impose peace. But we must also plan ahead and look toward the reconstruction effort that will be needed in that part of the world. For me, imposing peace means ensuring it of course, but more importantly, once that is done, democracy will have to be brought to that part of the world because these people have not known democracy, never have or at least not for a very long time. They used to live in dictatorial regimes, particularly in the U.S.S.R. and in Yugoslavia as well.

We must also be aware that peace can only be maintained through coherent economic development and, to that end, our international organizations will have to become more than mere discussion and diplomacy forums in the future, their role will have to expand beyond that of policing the world, to include making sure we do not have to maintain forces wherever military intervention is requested.

We have not reached that point yet, but any military intervention, even short-lived or immediate, cannot be carried out without thinking of its long term effects.

The fact remains that for the time being, no plan can be made for the future if a country such as Canada, as a western democracy, does not impose peace. Such is the situation, peace cannot be achieved without us imposing it.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

9:10 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Madam Speaker, I speak to this issue deeply troubled because I have listened to the debate this evening and the one thing that is very clear is there is no easy solution. Whatever way we go in this situation there will continue to be killing. There will continue to be strife in Yugoslavia and we will continue to be at risk with not only our soldiers but soldiers from other countries of the world.

I would like to look at a couple of points and express in my way how I feel about this dilemma. I am actually opposed to an air strike, certainly an air strike that is not tied to a strong show of ground forces. An air strike in Bosnia at this time might knock out some hardware but it will not knock out the Serbian troops gathered around the enclave.

I think the example of history tells us that the more an invading force is injured, the more likely it is to resort to atrocities when it finally does conquer. If the Bosnian Serbs suffer casualties from our air strikes there will be no doubt they will take their anger out on the Muslim civilians as soon as they occupy the city.

The other side of that equation is if we do not have an air strike what is the consequence of that? What we face then is sending a message to the Bosnian Serbs and any other peoples around the world who would like to resort, shall we say, to a military venture that we are helpless and they are able to do whatever they wish. We could expect to see this type of action spread around the world and certainly our chances of preserving the other five enclaves in the former Yugoslavia would be just about impossible.

Therefore, I do not envy the decision that is facing our ministers this night, nor the decision facing the other members of NATO as they wrestle with this very difficult decision.

Where do we go from here? Regardless of whether we have air strikes in Bosnia we are facing civil war. Again as an example of history, wherever you look in history, the absolute lesson is that you cannot intervene successfully in a civil war. The combatants in a civil war will fight it out.

I give the example of Afghanistan where the Soviet Union at the height of its power tried to intervene and it was a complete failure. It had to pull out. The classic example is Vietnam which really was a civil war all along. Again, one of the most powerful nations in the world failed to really effect any kind of outcome there.

There are many examples, Sri Lanka for one. What would we do in Sri Lanka? We cannot change the course of history in Sri Lanka. These are ethnic hatreds which we fought over. Rwanda is another one. What can we do there? What we are looking at here is a situation that is increasingly going to face the democracies of this world as the countries of the world resort to more and more tribalism and more and more ethnic fighting.

I would like to say something with respect to our 2,000 soldiers in the former Yugoslavia. I remind the government of Hong Kong and what happened there when we sent troops just before the Japanese declaration of war in 1941. Our Canadian troops fought bravely. When we look back on that incident we realize that they not only did not affect the outcome of the war, they did not affect the outcome of Japanese intentions. If anything, it cost more casualties. If there had not been a fight for Hong Kong there would have been fewer deaths in that area. We have to ask ourselves about that.

I strongly believe that the tradition of the Canadian troops is to be brave, to help the disadvantaged and to intervene but always as peacekeepers. I do not see us as a nation of combatants. I really do caution our government if it feels it is drawn into a situation where our troops may have to join with other NATO troops in a role that goes far beyond peacekeeping.

Finally, I would like to direct a comment toward the question of ethnic hatred. One thing that we should be very clear about is what is happening in Yugoslavia and we can take this to Afghanistan, Vietnam and many, many other countries is that we are not dealing with something that has anything to do with race, colour or visible minorities and we are not dealing with anything that necessarily has anything to do with religion. Muslims and Christians world-wide in many countries coexist most happily and indeed there is much in their religions that teaches them that they ought to cohabit.

What is happening in Yugoslavia is a return to the wrongs of the past. I think if you look at most ethnic fighting you will find it is because the people in the present are looking to the past and they are deriving the hatreds of the past. Instead of looking to the future or looking to the present and seeing what can unite them today, they look to the wrongs of long ago, sometimes even centuries ago.

What I would like to say in this debate is that I hope all of us worldwide, but most especially this country, take heed of that fact and remember not to look to the past for what went wrong and the wrongs we did to one another in the past, but to look to the future and what can unite us.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

9:15 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I am struck tonight by the relative brevity and great relevance of the remarks to this issue and what appears to be a growing concern in this House on both sides as to where our government should take us over the next few hours in dealing with this very difficult issue of the request for the possible use of air strikes in and around Gorazde and other places in Bosnia.

The views expressed here tonight I am very sure will provide great strength to the members of the cabinet, our government, when they make their decision, a very difficult decision but one that they are charged with and one which will bind inevitably all of us as Canadians, those who pay taxes, those who wear military uniforms, those who have relatives abroad and Canadians in all walks of life.

What we see here tonight is a Parliament at work expressing the views of Canadians for the benefit of a government which shortly must act. As I understand it there are a number of other countries in this world which are waiting for Canada to make up its mind. We are on the verge of that now as we speak.

I think most of the issues that one would have wanted to deal with here tonight have been dealt with extremely well by my colleagues. There are only two that I will refer to. It is the often heard statement that we should not get involved in this kind of a war because we cannot win it. We would prefer to be involved in a peace. Let us not turn this into another Vietnam.

In this particular case I do not think the intention is to get involved in a war. No one intends to invade Bosnia. What we are dealing with is not even the whole country of Bosnia. What we are dealing with is five safe havens, five places where the world, through the United Nations, told Bosnians, principally Bosnian Muslims, that they had safe haven. At the time we were developing that thesis we also, maybe for good reason, imposed an arms embargo. We said they may not have the arms to protect themselves, we will stop arms from getting to them but we will also put some blue helmets on the ground and have some safe havens. In the end I think we had five safe havens.

We created them. We set up the arms embargo and now the people there numbering in the tens of thousands-in this particular case tonight as we speak it is Gorazde-of men, women and children without weapons to defend themselves. We are watching and some of us are saying we should not be there. I say we are there and we must stay there to finish our commitment.

We cannot walk away and leave those men, women and children to the guns that are advancing. References have been made in this House tonight to other incidents in history in which maybe we should have been there but we were not. Suffice it to say that we are there because, although we might rather not be, we wanted to be there and we have a job to do. I say we must finish and deliver on our commitment.

The second thing I want to say is that there are millions of people all over the world watching what is happening in Bosnia with a slightly different perspective than that of most Canadians. One cannot help but notice that the majority of the people in Gorazde and in the safe havens are Muslims, people of the Muslim faith. They have lots of brothers and sisters here in Canada and they are also looking at the world. They are looking to see if other countries of the world, those that have the money, the guns, the resources, the morality, the guts, the principles, are willing to stand by and protect the lives of those tens of thousands of people.

The fact that they are of the Muslim faith is very relevant to the whole world. There are millions of people all over the world who will be watching to see how we Canadians stand up for the principles, the morality which we have espoused since the beginning of this country.

I want to close and mention the bad words air strike. This is a mechanism, this is a method by which we are informed by the experts, by the people who know about these things, that we may be able to fulfil our commitment. It will not achieve it by itself. It may enable us to accomplish those very limited goals of protecting the safe havens.

We do not want to micro-manage what happens there on a minute by minute basis or even on a day by day basis. We are asked to say yes to the use of that instrument and I am prepared to say yes.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

9:20 p.m.


Rey D. Pagtakhan Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, as I rise to support the motion before us that air support to protect the five safe areas in Bosnia be endorsed by Canada, I recall a lesson I learned as a boy which strikes to the heart of my feelings about the issue before us.

My mother used to tell me and my brothers and sisters you do not achieve through war that which you can achieve through peace. She added there are also times when you must wage war to achieve that peace. That is a lesson that I have continued to pass on to my four sons.

Canada has never been an aggressive nation. We certainly would prefer to see the conflict in the former nation of Yugoslavia resolved by peaceful means, but the aggressors have continued their crimes against humanity.

Canada is a nation marked by unyielding compassion and a deeply ingrained commitment to human rights, to peace and to the promotion of freedom and democracy worldwide. I realize the House encompasses a remarkably broad range of ideologies and personal convictions, but tonight I am witnessing the unity of hearts and minds. The palpable unanimity of views we have seen emerging tonight speaks volumes about the need for Canada to endorse the use of air support in defined safe areas in Bosnia.

At this juncture I would like to commend and to pay tribute to the brave Canadian troops who are there to continue to serve the cause of peace. Throughout its history Canada has made the right decision at the most difficult times.

For the Croatians and Muslims in Gorazde and in the former Yugoslavia these are the most difficult of times. Indeed these are also the most difficult of times for all peace loving people in the world.

It is always agonizing to support a military manoeuvre which may fan the flames of a war we have sought to extinguish, but we cannot long endure the blatant disregard of human life, of human dignity, practised daily by the Bosnian Serbs.

At a time when barriers to freedom have been torn down, at a time when the Berlin wall has been levelled and the iron curtain folded, it pains us to see the savagery of war perpetrated by the Serbs in that part of the world.

The eyes of the world cannot be blind to the atrocities taking place in that area. Our unequivocal support tonight for the United Nation's request to extend air support in safe areas in Bosnia would send a clear signal to the aggressors.

Many of history's great minds have shared their thoughts with mankind on the subjects of war and peace. Two weeks ago I was at the United Nations in New York participating in a forum of human development. At a nearby book store a volume titled Peace in 100 Languages caught my eye and I bought one. The book reminds me that peace is a universal sentiment. It can be expressed in different languages, but the sentiment is nevertheless the same: human understanding.

I am reminded tonight of the words of the great U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who once said: "When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries is in danger".

I am reminded tonight of the words of Aristotle: "Peace is more difficult than war".

I am reminded tonight of the words of Albert Einstein: "Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding".

Lastly I am reminded tonight of Mahatma Gandhi who once said: "It is possible to live in peace".

It is our hope. We do not want to wage war to achieve peace, but there are difficult times when we have to wage war to achieve peace.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

9:30 p.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


Clifford Lincoln LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I think all Canadians, and certainly all those participating in this debate, share a feeling of revulsion towards this horrible slaughter occurring almost in front of us, since we see the same scenario every night on TV: massacres, a total lack of respect for human life, inexplicable violence.

Looking at all this, we wonder what makes people resort to such cruelty. As a man, I noticed that it is mostly the doing of men. In fact, almost all the people waging war in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda are men. When we look back, we see that all wars have been fought by men.

In Bosnia not only are the Bosnians hostages to the violence, but so too are the Canadian soldiers, soldiers from other nations and indeed the whole world at large. All of us cannot be innocent of this conflict. No matter where we live, we cannot help but be impacted by the tremendous tragedy taking place.

Canadians should be proud that Canada in its time-honoured tradition has continued to do its part. In fact it has done much more than its share in Bosnia and the former Yugoslavia.

Tonight our thoughts must go to the Canadian soldiers on the ground in Bosnia, to their families here at home, including their children who must be living very anxious hours.

I think I translate the feelings of most Canadians. We have a great friendship and a tremendous regard and respect for our neighbours to the south, the Americans. At the same time I sense from many Canadians that they do not think the Americans have played their part in Bosnia. They think that somehow the Americans have played a cosy game, that resorting to air strikes mostly by American pressure and with American war planes will be part of the American agenda because it is partly a political agenda: Let us not send ground troops there, so let us carry out bombing raids.

I wonder if it is normal that the smaller of the two North American partners has had troops on the ground for many, many months whereas the far more powerful and important partner has managed to escape the responsibility of sending ground troops for so many months. Is it also normal that many countries have managed to cosily stand aside finding excuses not to take part in the United Nations peacekeeping effort?

The great majority of us, perhaps all of us simply dread an escalation of the war. We dread another bombing raid. We wonder about the possible failure of bombing raids. Would failure leave not only the Bosnians and their families but all our troops even more vulnerable than they are today?

It is with a sense of a tremendous tearing apart of our minds and hearts that we face this terrible decision. What do we do? I think certainly it is essential for us to make sure that no decision is taken without the Russians having their say and being involved. Even if I happen to be completely opposed to the idea of an air strike, seeing this I realize that decisions like this cannot be black and white.

I listened very carefully to our two leading ministers on this issue, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defence, this afternoon in caucus and I was struck by their sense of caution, of wisdom, of realizing that there is no easy solution.

I know that tonight the Prime Minister and our two ministers must be thinking through this terrible dilemma that faces all of us. In their case they are the people who have the decision to make. Who am I to say that it should be one way or another without the proper facts at my command, without the responsibility to answer for whatever I say?

I trust our leadership. I think it has been wise. It has been cautious so far. It has been extremely human in its approach. Whatever the decision may be, and if it has to be bombing raids after much thought, sad as I would be, I would understand that it was made with a feeling that it may be the last resort to try and stop the Serbians.

If this is what our leaders decide, I hope at the same time they will add some caveats to the Canadian position asking others, especially the United States, to do their share; asking President Clinton for more than bombing raids and sending troops there. If we can send 2,000 troops surely he can send 3,000 or 4,000 or 5,000 or 10,000.

I hope that our leaders convince the rest of the nations that are not participating in the issue on Bosnia to do their fair share.

Finally, we must draw lessons from all of this. What of the United Nations strategy? What happens in the future? What are the lessons to be drawn from Somalia, from Rwanda and today from Bosnia and tomorrow maybe from many other places? Can we police the world? Can we keep the peace all over the world? What should be our strategy for the future?

Tonight I must say, as a man, that I feel very sad thinking that it is men like me who have carried out practically endless slaughters in many parts of the world, be it in Africa, in Northern Ireland or today in Yugoslavia.

I notice that the innocent victims of these acts of violence are invariably women and children. So tonight we should look mostly at the innocent people and pray that our leaders will make wise decisions, as they did in the past, to keep our troops safe and save the lives of innocent people.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

9:35 p.m.


Jean-Robert Gauthier Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Madam Speaker, this debate is a difficult one for many of us and I would like to briefly in the few minutes I have remind Canadians that the House has been asked to consider a request contained in the UN Secretary General's April 18 letter to the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to extend arrangements similar to those in place to protect Sarajevo and five other UN safe areas in Bosnia.

NATO had previously agreed to provide air-ground support only for self defence of our forces, NATO forces and the United Nations protection force, in order to facilitate certain things such as rotation of UNPROFOR troops and to protect Sarajevo which as we know was designated as an exclusion zone as of last February.

An exclusion zone differs from a safe haven because in the latter case, safe haven, the Bosnian-Serb forces in an exclusion zone are required to withdraw their heavy weapons beyond 30 kilometres or to hand them over to UNPROFOR, UN forces.

I understand from what I hear and know of the situation today that President Clinton has apparently suggested that all the safe havens become exclusion zones, that sanctions be reinforced and that a summit meeting be called.

NATO is to meet tomorrow to consider what to do. If we agree with the proposal, it would demonstrate to the Bosnian Serbs and others who have questioned the UN's credibility that the international community is serious about backing its words with actions. It could possibly, as it did in Sarajevo, deter attacks on other safe havens.

If we do not agree, we could be accused of doing nothing to prevent ethnic cleansing, aggression. We could even be accused of genocide. If we do not agree, the action may be too little, too late and it would not prevent the Bosnian Serbs from continuing with their inhumane actions against other human beings.

If we did not agree, it would put our forces at risk. It would possibly create a situation that would be untenable for many people in the former Yugoslavia. I find it very difficult nevertheless to support air attacks because as we know in any type of initiative of that nature, it has two consequences.

First, any air attack that is not supported by good ground support in my view is not very effective. Second, it would change our role in the UN forces from a peacekeeping to a peacemaking role and I am not sure that Canadians today would endorse that kind of initiative.

Keep in mind some of the reasons for which we sent our troops to Bosnia under the United Nations flag. First, to support peacekeeping in that region of the world and, second, for humanitarian reasons. Everyone will recall the difficulties we had in bringing humanitarian support to Sarajevo. I do not need to remind Canadians of the difficulties UN forces had to overcome in this conflict.

We must remember that Canada has in the past expressed serious reservations about the use of air strikes. In our opinion, the problem cannot be solved by air strikes; we look instead to a negotiated solution. Let us not forget that the international community must consider the effect this decision will have on the peace process. In the end, a lasting peace can only be a negotiated peace, unless the international community is ready to impose peace by force.

At this time, UN forces in the field are neither equipped nor in a position to enforce peace. Whatever decision the international community will reach tomorrow must be credible in my eyes and in those of the Canadian and international communities. We should not make statements that cannot be backed up. Whatever the decision, air strikes do not, in my opinion, meet these two criteria for making peace unless we go all the way.

I do not think the Americans, who do not have any military troops in the field at this time, can tell us once again to go there while they stay home. So the Americans' contribution to the land forces is an important consideration. I think that Russia should be ready to participate and that it should have an important role to play in this conflict. If I understood Mr. Yeltsin correctly, he is ready to accept a summit meeting and that is very positive.

I for one think that Canada must support Mr. Clinton's and Mr. Yeltsin's proposal for a summit meeting where we will be certainly present. I am among those who approve a negotiated position. I can honestly say I am against violence and air strikes.

I don't think we would accomplish much with such measures. I agree with those who are totally convinced that negotiation is the way to go and that we must draw these people to the negotiating table because otherwise we are heading straight for a disaster; history will repeat itself. I say so with great sorrow and hesitation since I know my opinion is contrary to that of many colleagues in this House. Air strikes are not the solution to this problem; we will have to negotiate and not use force.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

9:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

As there are no more speakers, pursuant to the order adopted earlier this day, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 9.48 p.m.)