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.


Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the order is dropped to the bottom of the list of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think you might find unanimous consent to suspend the sitting until 6 p.m. so that we can proceed pursuant to the arrangement arrived at earlier this day.

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

We will suspend until six o'clock when we will resume debate.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 5.30 p.m.)

The House resumed at 6.03 p.m.

Unemployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

It being 6 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier this day the House will now proceed to a special debate.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

5:25 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec


André Ouellet LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

"That this House, taking note of the tragic events which have taken place in and around Gorazde, and NATO's agreement in February to a UN request for the use of air support to protect a safe area around Sarajevo, consider the 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 to the five other UN safe areas in Bosnia";

Madam Speaker, the government promised at the beginning of its mandate to consult Parliament and Canadians on major foreign policy issues. As I said during the debate on the review of our foreign policy, Canadians care about their country's foreign policy. That is easy to understand when we look at all our peacekeepers overseas.

Bosnia-Hercegovina is probably the most dangerous theatre in which our troops currently operate.

The February slaughter in the Sarajevo marketplace prompted the international community to act with more strength and determination than before. Once again, the international community must take a firm and definite position on Bosnia after the totally unacceptable events that are taking place in Gorazde.

Our goal, I repeat, is still to achieve a lasting peace in Bosnia. All our efforts in Bosnia have always been aimed at promoting the negotiating process. We must never cause the conflict to escalate. Only a diplomatic solution can bring lasting peace to Bosnia. All the parties involved in the conflict, especially the Bosnian Serbs, must realize that there can be no military solutions. We must find a way to get the peace process moving again, because the continuation of hostilities in Bosnia threatens the stability of the entire region.

I must say that, despite all the efforts made by the UN, NATO and the European Union, as well as the specific initiatives of the Americans and the Russians, the situation is deteriorating rapidly.

After the Serbs attacked the city of Gorazde and violated the various ceasefires negotiated in the last few days, the UN Secretary General formally called on NATO to take all necessary measures to protect the five safe areas in Bosnia, Tuzla, Zepa, Gorazde, Bihac, Srebrenica and Sarajevo, by launching air strikes mostly against Serb forces, unfortunately.

The NATO Council discussed the issue yesterday and asked its military authorities to prepare various scenarios in response to the request of the UN Secretary General. Tomorrow the council will reach its decision on the UN Secretary General's request.

We will have to take position at this meeting of the NATO Council. Before making that decision, we feel it is important to hear what parliamentarians have to say about this request from the Secretary General.

We are giving an opportunity to government and opposition members to make suggestions. My colleague the Minister of Defence and myself will be listening to the speeches and, at 10 p.m. tonight, there will be a special Cabinet meeting so that our instructions can be given to those who will be representing us at NATO tomorrow.

I must say however that, in February, Canada did express reservations about using air power to protect Sarajevo. But in the end, we came to the conclusion that it was the only way to deal with a situation which was becoming critical. Canada's concerns were taken into consideration in making a decision at NATO in February. We also indicated very clearly that, in the event of a drastic change in the nature of UN operations in Bosnia, whereby our troops would no longer be involved in strictly peacekeeping activities, we might reconsider our military presence in Bosnia.

I would like to point out that our representative to the NATO Council reiterated yesterday Canada's reservations about using air strikes. Air power alone cannot resolve the situation in Bosnia. We must make our decisions on the basis of our strategic objectives, which remain above all peace and negotiations.

However, in view of the daily flood of horrifying images from Bosnia, we must not overlook the fact that significant progress was nonetheless achieved, as evidenced for instance by the support of a Muslim Croat federation. NATO and the UN had advocated, in February, stepping up operations to protect Sarajevo and relieve the city from the hellish conditions under which it has been living for far too long. We did manage to quiet guns and mortars without resorting to NATO air strikes.

Unfortunately, the war mentality got the better in other regions of Bosnia. So, Gorazde was declared UN safe area. We have the duty to protect the populations which have taken refuge over there. However, last week's events in Gorazde show that for the international community to step up operations entails risks. We must be fully aware of that.

If we take a firmer approach, as requested by the Secretary General of NATO and proposed to NATO, we must do it with our eyes wide open and accept the consequences of our decision.

We are also aware and must be aware that the conflict has evolved. The progress made in Bosnia is compromised by a totally uncontrollable Bosnian Serb army. We must recognize the very positive role that the Russians have played in seeking a negotiated solution to this bloody conflict. We must therefore attach more weight to the observations of the Russians in recent days about the intransigence of the Bosnian Serbs as a primary contribution to the current impasse.

In this context it will be wise to take into consideration the Russian position in any eventual action taken by NATO. This is certainly something that we will be speaking about with our friends and allies in NATO tomorrow. If we want to end this conflict, certainly we have to tell the Bosnian Serbs unequivocally that what they are doing is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

As we said in regard to Sarajevo, if they do not respect the ceasefire, if they do not respect the safe areas, they will risk the consequence of air strikes. As we also said in Sarajevo, we were ready to do it. Fortunately common sense prevailed and it was not necessary to use air strikes.

We are going to be ready if need be to follow the same logic, the same strategy, in regard to the other areas where there are populations that are hostage to belligerents who resist the request of everyone to come to the table to sign a peace agreement.

We obviously have to realize that the original mandate of the Canadian troops sent there to serve as peacekeepers and to help in the delivery of humanitarian aid is singularly compromised at the moment.

The mandate in Bosnia of peacekeeping missions does not work and cannot work unless all parties agree to a peaceful solution to the conflicts. The only ones resisting so far are the Bosnian Serbs and we are determined to make sure that they understand they cannot perpetrate a war that all the other parties want to stop.

Therefore, I believe that we have to make tough decisions in the name of peace and security. We will have to consult with our allies and design the appropriate recourse necessary to assist those who have the responsibility to implement peace in this area of the world.

Canada has served brilliantly in the past on many UN peacekeeping missions. It has been a proud participant in NATO and has been ready to serve whenever asked in any type of capacity. If we can no longer serve under the UN on peacekeeping

missions we might be asked to serve, and we will have to give a response in this regard, under NATO to carry on very vigorous actions to clearly establish good sense in the minds of the Bosnian Serbs.

Hopefully air strikes will not be necessary but we have to say tonight that if necessary there will be air strikes.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

6:15 p.m.

Lac-Saint-Jean Québec


Lucien Bouchard BlocLeader of the Opposition

Madam Speaker, first I would like to say that the government is to be commended for agreeing that this was an appropriate time to have a debate that will give all parliamentarians who wish to do so an opportunity to speak and, above all, to express the views of the opposition for the benefit of the government.

After listening to the speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, which I felt was a very responsible and very balanced presentation, I think we can reasonably expect that the House will unanimously approve this very serious decision the government must make. I believe it is very important to be able to proceed on the basis of a consensus of all political affiliations in this House.

It is clear that the peacekeeping mission, as it has been defined thus far, has failed. First, because there is no peace. There is a war and even a regular slaughter of civilians. On television we see children killed and dismembered by shells. We see women dying, women who have been raped. We see a country that is a bloody battlefield, where 200,000 people have been killed in the past two years.

Today, 28 people were killed in Gorazde. They did not die in battle but in the hospital, because the Serbs opted for the unthinkable strategy of attacking hospitals. Yesterday, a rocket launcher fired on the hospital, people in the emergency ward were killed and operating rooms were destroyed. Today, there was another attack on the hospital. It was not an accident but a deliberate decision to attack the hospitals. It is impossible to go out and help the wounded because they fire at the medical teams.

There is no peace, and there is no will to make peace. There has been a lot of talk about negotiations. However, so far all negotiations have been marred by the bad faith of the Serbs. The violation of the cease-fire around Gorazde is a case in point. The cease-fires that were agreed on have been systematically violated. They were never even enforced. They were violated before the ink was dry.

Speaking of violations, I am told that in the past three months, the Serbs violated at least 57 agreements on Gorazde and Sarajevo.

Furthermore, the peace talks are going nowhere. In fact, they are yielding no positive results because the Serbs refuse to join the Croats and the Muslims of Bosnia in their will for peace. We know that Croats and Muslims have signed an agreement but the Serbs refused to be part of it. In fact, we should be talking about Serb duplicity. They see the negotiations as an opportunity to lull the West while intensifying their efforts. Their strategy is obvious. The Serbs pretend they are negotiating but in reality they are using that time to occupy more land and get into a strategic position for the events to come.

This acknowledgement of failure leads us to believe that, given the current situation, the presence of the peacekeepers in Bosnia could even be prolonging the conflict. Instructions are not clear. The military do not know what to do. They cannot defend themselves. They could very well become helpless hostages if the Serbs get a notion to act along those lines. We absolutely must make a decision.

We talk about our soldiers' safety in case of air attacks, but we must also talk about their safety as things stand right now. Our troops are in danger. The safety of Canadian soldiers is being threatened at this very moment. These soldiers cannot defend themselves; they must watch helplessly as hostilities take place with extreme speed and intensity.

To conclude on the diplomatic aspect of the question, I think most of all that the credibility of western democracies and of the United Nations is at stake here. What is left of Canada's credibility as a peacekeeping country, as a country that is consistent in its policies and able to act in a coherent fashion? What will be left of the credibility of the British, the French, the Americans and the United Nations if we do nothing? It is because they knew how to play on our wish for peace and our pacifism that the Serbs have succeeded in occupying most of Bosnia and that they might be right now taking actions that look an awful lot like ethnic cleansing.

In other words, the situation has reached a critical level. We must redefine Canada's mission. We must do so either by redirecting our peacekeepers' mission in that country or by withdrawing our troops altogether. But is that possible? The fact is that we have no choice, since the alternative is not an option, in practice or in principle.

If we were to withdraw, what would it mean? It would mean, first of all, the end of humanitarian aid. Let us not forget that together with peacekeeping, even if we have failed at that, we are engaged in other operations such as protecting food convoys and supplying a minimum of water and sanitation, as well as drugs to save a few lives, where possible. In that respect, a lot has been achieved. It must go on.

Second, the credibility of peacekeeping missions and the UN would be definitely jeopardized if we were to withdraw today. What would the world think of a total abdication by the UN and by NATO countries, if we were to withdraw now? Moreover, we would be abandoning the Bosnians. Try to imagine what would happen to them if we were to withdraw. All the more so as we have disarmed them. It is not well known that the embargo we declared against Bosnians has been so effective that they have no arms and are finding it increasingly difficult to counter Serb attacks. And finally, we would open the country to possible territorial expansion.

We are dealing with a powder keg, with the Balkans, where several of the great wars started. We can already see the emergence of a threat from Iran. The Muslims' religious solidarity could come into play, as recent statements from Iran lead us to believe. To leave would allow the conflict to degenerate.

Therefore, we must redefine the UN's mission. I think that we will all agree to answer the Secretary General's call and endorse President Clinton's proposal to apply the approach followed in Sarajevo to the six safe areas remaining in Bosnia. That means the use of air strikes, this time offensive ones preceded by an ultimatum. Let us not mince words. We are talking about a real ultimatum. The Serbs must know that if they do not comply with the specific request to free the six safe areas and surrender all their heavy armament, they will in effect decide to become the targets of air strikes.

These air strikes, if unfortunately it came to this, must have a significant effect. The time for half-measures has passed. Strikes must target strategic positions. This would at least ensure the safety of our troops, in the event retaliatory strikes were subsequently launched against them. Heavy Serb weaponry must be destroyed if the Serbs do not respond to the ultimatums.

Of course, we must protect ourselves. We must have the support of the Russians. I do not know if this will be possible, as the wire reports do not give us a clear picture of the situation in Russia. We do know that the United Nations Security Council will be meeting this evening in New York and that the Russians will be in attendance. They have the power to veto the Council's decisions. We have to get beyond the Security Council and hope that Russia will allow itself to be convinced by Western diplomacy to set aside its sympathy for the Serbs, considering how harshly it has been treated by the Serbs. Russian honour is at stake because the Russians vouched for the fact that the Serbs would respect the treaties and ceasefires, when in fact the Serbs violated them anyway. One must hope that the Russians will join the ranks of those who want peace to be restored to that area of the world.

Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about the safety of our troops. We realize that this situation is extremely difficult for them. Our soldiers have already been taken hostage. Fortunately, they were freed. This time, we must ensure that the military backup is in place so that our soldiers cannot be taken hostage as easily as before.

There is also the matter of additional troops that could be required. A number of military experts, including General MacKenzie, have indicated that ground support is needed to ensure the effectiveness of air strikes. Should additional troops be needed, and I do not know if they will as this will be for the military to decide, I do not think that Canada ought to be asked to supply them.

Canada's effort has already been substantial. Its troops account for 8 per cent of the forces in place, whereas it accounts for only 3 per cent of NATO's budget. Some countries still have not sent any troops yet to this area of the world. Some have not sent the numbers they should have. I think we should urge our allies and friends in NATO to match Canada's effort. I have no doubt that we would then have enough troops on the ground to sustain the attacks.

In conclusion, the Bloc will support the implementation of the plan proposed by the American president and strongly advises the government to answer favourably to the call of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

This is a case where we have to be united. This is a case where we have to fulfil a duty of international solidarity because humanitarianism calls for it and it is the kind of responsibility we have to show when the rights and democracy of people are directly threatened.

I can assure the government that we will support any initiative which will be taken in the direction of my comments.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

6:25 p.m.


Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to again acknowledge and thank the government for agreeing to this debate this evening. Also, I want to register our great satisfaction that the cabinet will not meet to decide on this issue until after this debate has been concluded. This is a situation which Canadians should be involved in and it is a situation which should not result from partisan politics.

The situation in Bosnia has become very serious and a decision soon to be taken will have great impact on the Canadian forces committed to the United Nations efforts in Bosnia. It will also have tremendous impact on Bosnian citizens who are in grave danger.

Once again I would remind all that none of the antagonists in Bosnia can claim clean hands in this terrible confrontation. All have been involved in actions for which they could only expect world condemnation. However, it would seem that at this time it is the Bosnian Serbs who are responsible for the escalation and the continuation of the war in Bosnia.

Madam Speaker, you may remember that in my previous submission on Bosnia during the debates here on January 25, I suggested that Canada should take a lead role, and I quote: "by hosting a conference here in Ottawa in early February before that Geneva meeting to include all countries with forces in the former Yugoslavia. At this conference Canada should urge that the UN issue a clear and unequivocal ultimatum to the bellige--

rents: either accept moves to achieve an enforceable, peaceful solution or accept the withdrawal of UN forces".

That advice was overlooked or ignored. Now some three months later we find ourselves in an even more critical situation. We have had Canadian forces held hostage, detained and interfered with along with other UN personnel. We have had intense bombardment of a UN declared safe zone at Gorazde resulting in many casualties killed and wounded.

It has become obvious that at least one of the protagonists in Bosnia has little appreciation for our purpose in being there or respect for the will of the United Nations to effect a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

At the end of March Canada agreed to extend the commitment of Canadian forces in Bosnia for a further six months, taking us through to the end of September. But when that commitment was made there appeared to be light at the end of the tunnel and very good prospects of a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

That has now changed and in light of that Canada should reassess the situation and reconsider our options. A withdrawal of Canadian forces is one option. Canadians are not ones to cut and run when the going gets tough and we have proven that to everyone's satisfaction. But in Bosnia right now we are relegated to being mere observers of atrocities, bloodshed and cruelty. If the Bosnian Serbs cannot somehow be convinced that they have to change their ways, is there any point in Canadians remaining involved, particularly when there seems to be every prospect that some will be placed in great danger and perhaps killed or wounded?

Even President Yeltsin has agreed that the Serbs have violated their agreement. President Clinton said in a news conference that consultations are still going on and that while he cannot commit President Yeltsin to a course until he sees the U.S. proposal in writing, he can say that in general President Yeltsin agreed that the present understanding for air power was ineffective and that the Serbs plainly violated their agreement and overreached in Gorazde. But he feels, as everyone does, that over the long run NATO air power alone will not settle this conflict. It will have to be settled by negotiations.

Without in any way suggesting that my council is as informed as either president, I agree with these assessments. Air power alone will not resolve the war in Bosnia. But the judicious use and firm application of air power may convince the Bosnian Serbs that their best interests lie in coming to the conference table to negotiate in good faith.

As a result I would advocate that Canada should agree to the UN request for NATO air strikes on the condition that such strikes are called for by the commanders on the ground. It is important that when the air strikes are put in that they are put in with the knowledge and consent of the people who will be directly affected by any retaliation that may take place.

Obviously air strikes are a weapon that can be used to great effect. The present proposal is for these air strikes to be applied directly in support of the enclaves or the one enclave at Gorazde. However, they could also be applied to the logistics chain, to the supply despots, to the ammunition dumps, to the roads and rail bridges that are providing the transport link for the Serbs to be resupplied. That I do not think is what we are considering at this moment, but it is another aspect that air power could bring to the situation if it is necessary.

I think we should also consider the UN embargo on the provision of weapons to the Bosnian Muslims. When Vice-President Ganic was here two days ago in conversation he said that he thought that the UN was to a large extent responsible for the situation in Bosnia as a result of that embargo. He felt very strongly and spoke very eloquently that because of the disparity in the weapons capability between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims that there was no way a reconciliation could be reached. He advocated very strongly that we drop this embargo and allow the Muslims to be armed adequately.

In response to my question would this involve an increase in hostilities, he admitted that at the outset this could very well be the case but he was convinced that for a long term resolution of the conflict in Bosnia this was the only option that would give a real hope of that happening.

In conclusion, I want to commend the government for their position. I want to say that the Reform Party will be supporting them again. I think this is a decision that should be not taken along political lines but in the interests of Canadians. I think it would be unwelcome in the broad Canadian public right now for Canadians to withdraw their forces. I think we should stay there and attempt to see that a peaceful resolution is reached.

However, I do think that it should be made plain that if we are there only to observe atrocities and further bloodshed that we will have to reconsider that option when the time comes.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

6:35 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario


David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, in September 1992, the UN Security Council broadened the mandate and increased the size of UNPROFOR to provide protection to humanitarian assistance convoys in Bosnia-Hercegovina, under the supervision of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Canada agreed to send about 1,200 more troops and, by November 5, 1992, the second battalion group had been

deployed. In December 1992, the UN Security Council established a deterrent presence in the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. A company of the Second Canadian Battalion carried out this operation from January until March of last year.

When these troops were relieved last autumn, the participation of Canadian forces in UNPROFOR was reviewed and increased to about 2,000 soldiers divided in two smaller battalion groups. Currently, almost 2,000 Canadians troops are supporting UNPROFOR efforts in Croatia and Bosnia- Hercegovina.

We have taken a number of steps in the last couple of years. I believe the ones I have just mentioned outlined Canada's commitment to peace and stability in the former republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina of the former republic of Yugoslavia. It has been a great challenge to thousands of Canadians, friends and families of those who have been affected and those who have served in this particular theatre.

We believe that the contributions that we have made in the past two years in the former republic of Yugoslavia, both in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina, have been significant. The Canadian forces have made a difference. They have saved lives. They have helped foster what peace there is in that region and have contributed effectively to the humanitarian effort.

We are talking this evening about the massive deterioration of the situation in Bosnia. Bosnian Serb forces have been unrelenting in their attacks on Gorazde which is a designated United Nations safe area. On numerous occasions UNPROFOR officials have attempted to persuade Bosnian Serbs to halt their aggressive activities. So far these attempts have been unsuccessful and Bosnian Serbs remain. They have detained UN officials and impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

In this environment it is becoming increasingly difficult for UNPROFOR to fulfil its objectives. The international community and in particular NATO countries, the European union and Russia were faced with a fundamental dilemma of how to encourage co-operation without either escalating or widening the conflict.

Taking into consideration all of the factors before him the UN Secretary-General Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali has concluded that stronger military action is required.

The House will recall that in February of this year NATO agreed to provide air support to protect the UN safe area of Sarajevo. Three days ago Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali wrote to Manfred Woerner, the Secretary General of NATO, requesting that the arrangement be made to protect the Sarajevo safe area and be extended to the five other UN safe areas in and around Gorazde, Srebrenica, Zepa, Tuzla and the Bihac pocket area.

Yesterday the NATO Council discussed this request and asked NATO military authorities to develop an operational plan. The operational plan that is being developed will cover such areas as command and control arrangements, selection of targets and the safety of UN personnel.

In any agreement that Canada would have to the UN Secretary-General's proposal we would have to be assured that the command and control of such air strikes meet Canadian expectations and normal NATO requirements for effectiveness and safety. My military officials have been in touch with those of other NATO countries to ensure that if such strikes were permitted our concerns will indeed be addressed.

The plan of the Secretary-General will define the size of the exclusion zones in and around each safe area and will specify how and under which condition air strikes will be used. Some members of the House will say that the government has in the past been opposed to air strikes and will wonder why we have not flatly opposed the UN Secretary-General's latest request.

I would just like to better explain our position. My colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has enlightened us this evening on his position.

We have supported the use of air strikes for the protection of UN troops. We said that we would consider other requests as long as they took into consideration a number of factors, these factors being that air strikes contributed to the overall peace process, would not clearly associate the UN with one side, would not make it impossible for UN forces to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid and would not expose UN personnel to unacceptable risks.

There has been much discussion of the American plan posed by President Clinton yesterday. It was a much more comprehensive plan which goes beyond Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali's request and this plan not only includes the extension of air support projecting Sarajevo to other safe areas but also calls for tighter sanctions aimed at limiting the ability of Serbia and Bosnia to wage war and for a high level meeting between the United States, Europe, Russia and the United Nations.

Tomorrow morning, as my colleague, the secretary of state for foreign affairs has said, the NATO Council will meet to consider the operational plan that is being developed by military authorities and to discuss President Clinton's proposal.

Of course, any decision NATO takes will have an impact on UNPROFOR and more specifically we will have to look closely at whether all of these proposals will change the nature of the UNPROFOR mission. In addition, we will have to look at the operational plan to determine its military viability and its impact on the safety of UN personnel.

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 and the situation in Srebrenica as well as the incident last week involving 16 members of the Canadian forces when they were detained by Bosnian Serbs reminded us that the risks were very real.

I would like to pay particular tribute at this point to those 16 individuals and to the other United Nations observer, a Canadian, being detained.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

6:40 p.m.


David Collenette Liberal Don Valley East, ON

A member of our force is in Gorazde today as it is being shelled to pieces. A Canadian is there and we pray for his return.

The decision tomorrow will not be taken lightly but as my colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has said, too often in the past nations have turned a blind eye to wanton aggression. Too often we have accepted unconscionable atrocities being committed. They are being committed in other places around the world and that should give us equal cause for condemnation.

When we see this kind of situation happening in Europe in 1994, in the heart of western civilization, if you will, when we see people who are ethnoculturally the same but who are essentially divided along religious lines doing unspeakable things to each other, when we see one faction wantonly thumbing its nose at the international community, the time has come to act.

We cannot stand by as we did not stand by-others did not stand by-earlier in this century because if we do, we will only encourage the aggressor more. We will allow more and more atrocities to occur, more and more rights to be abused.

More and more we will see the end of civility in a part of the world where civility has been very much the norm for the past 50 years, in a relatively peaceful situation, notwithstanding the enmities in the history of the past.

As we go forward this evening in cabinet and make a final decision, we will weigh the remarks of hon. members opposite and those on the government side of the House.

We certainly appreciate the valuable contributions made by the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. member from Saanich-Gulf Islands, the critic for the Reform Party. When we stand here tonight discussing this issue we stand here not as Liberals or as Reformers or as members of the Bloc Quebecois or other political parties. We stand here as Canadians.

Canadians are serving with resolve and determination. They have our total support. They will be pleased to know members of the House of Commons are thinking about them and are trying to ensure the world community brings about some course of action that will help them return safely home when this mandate is completed but equally important, brings lasting peace to the former republic of Yugoslavia.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

6:45 p.m.


Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Madam Speaker, this is the second time in this 35th Parliament that I rise to speak on the issue of Bosnia and peacekeeping missions. When the first debate took place, the parties in this House were unanimously in favour of letting Canadian troops participate in a peacekeeping mission which was nevertheless very different from previous exercises to which Canadians had taken part in.

Unfortunately, the situation has changed. Reform Party members, as well as the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, have spoken at length on the evolution of the conflict and the diplomatic means used. We can now see what the situation is. You all sadly remember how the horrors of Sarajevo shocked the world. At that time, NATO had decided, following an ultimatum, to use air strikes in order to free the area surrounding Sarajevo.

Later, every diplomatic effort was made by western nations, and even by Russia which, through negotiation, managed to convince Bosnian Serbs to agree to a ceasefire and to agreements signed by Croatians and Bosnian Muslims. At that point, it looked like a solution was in sight, but Bosnian Serbs once again failed to live up to their word. In so doing, they ridiculed UN members and betrayed the trust of Russia, which had negotiated with them.

In my opinion, this is no longer a situation where nations try to arrive at a negotiated solution but, rather, an attack on the very existence of humanity, its values and its evolution. How can we tolerate any longer a situation which the whole world condemns? Clearly, diplomacy has failed somewhere when belligerents decide to bomb hospitals, as they did in Gorazde and in Sarajevo before. Nothing will bring back to life those who were killed in this conflict, and nothing justifies such barbaric acts.

My preamble gives you an idea of the position suggested by the Bloc Quebecois. Indeed, we believe that Canada must support the proposal put forward by the U.S. President, Mr. Clinton, and that support must be unequivocal. The idea is to define six safe areas, as NATO did, and to pattern this exercise on the Sarajevo experience. In other words, an ultimatum must be given, but it should have a very short deadline. If this

ultimatum is not observed, then we should resort to strategic and intensive air strikes.

Clearly, some people will say that there is an escalation and that this form of intervention is radically different from those formerly endorsed by Canada.

However, the massacre must cease. All the people in the field said and keep saying that inaction cannot be tolerated any longer considering the horror of the situation. UN troops are sick of helplessly watching the slaughter of often unarmed civilians.

They have performed brilliantly, despite the paucity of their resources and the often confusing directions they received. They saved thousands of lives and I can say, because I heard it from people who were there, that they are even willing to put their lives in danger to stop this bloody massacre.

I met with a few Bosnian Muslims now residing in Canada, who may have been in touch with the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Minister of National Defence. They were describing the situation in Sarajevo, and now in Gorazde, as something that should be unacceptable to countries which consider themselves civilized, and they were shocked that Canada, where they live and wish to remain, could watch this without reacting more strongly.

All the parties involved, that is western countries, the European Community, Russia and the United States, should decide as one to intervene in the most forceful way. Since they have gone back on their word so many times, the Bosnian Serbs can no longer make other countries believe that they are willing to carry out diplomatic negotiations in good faith.

Obviously, this decision will not be taken lightly. However, under the circumstances, I think that it is the only humanitarian solution possible. We have also said that the safety of Canadian and other peacekeepers is of primary importance to us, but given the slaughter that is taking place, this action can only be beneficial and worthwhile.

There is no question that procrastination, coupled with a lack of clear decisions and strategies, has prolonged this barbaric conflict and at times further endangered the lives of peacekeepers. You cannot put a price on a human life, as all of our brave soldiers have so clearly shown us. They want to put an end to this conflict, even if it means risking their lives. They realize that their profession and training places them in situations which can at times be dangerous. However, they are trained for combat and they are prepared to face the consequences.

In my view, the safety of our peacekeepers must be our top priority. This issue is of even greater concern to me since the majority of our peacekeeping troops hail from my riding. I have met with several of them who have returned from Bosnia and, without necessarily speaking on their behalf, I would like to pass along this message from our courageous soldiers: Let us act in a clear-sighted and circumspect manner, but let us act now to end the slaughter.

In conclusion, I believe there is no other solution but to designate these enclaves as safe areas. If the Bosnian Serbs violate these designations, a firm, unwavering ultimatum should be issued to them, so that we can finally put an end to this shameful episode in the history of humanity. When we reach the point where hospitals are being bombed and civilians and children are being murdered, I think we must make some decisions which may at times seem difficult.

Having become involved in this unfortunate conflict in the former Yugoslavia, the UN can no longer act as a mere observer. It must make some decisions which ultimately may give rise to debate. Peacekeepers have already saved many lives, but I believe that if we support this course of action, they will ultimately be able to save even more human beings.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

6:50 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador


Fred Mifflin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, this is a very serious debate this evening.

I have listened to five speakers, all of whom have spoken without regard for their affiliation to any party. As a Canadian I am very proud to stand tonight and say they have all spoken as Canadians in the best interests of this country. I am very honoured to join that nature of the debate this evening on such a serious subject.

I want to approach this debate from a slightly different perspective. I want to look at what is in our national interest. After all, this is what we are talking about as Canadians.

What is in our national interest in the debate this evening is peace and security in the world and a total abhorrence of the genocide we see in front of us. But for every national aim and every national wish, there has to be a risk.

What is at risk? It is not our reputation as peacekeepers that is at risk. We demonstrated in the Arab-Israeli war in 1967 that we can peacekeep, but we can also leave when people really want to fight. We have created the precedent for doing both in the same operation.

However we do have a risk. It is the close to 2,000 Canadians who are involved in this operation. It has to be very clear to Canadians that in this goal and national aim of peace and security and the abhorrence of genocide, our peacekeepers are at risk.

Having said that I want to look at this operation as one which I suppose could be described as typically escalatory. The question I ask in an operation that takes that trend is: Where does it stop?

We started with a handful of officers and non-commissioned members in September 1991 to support the European Community monitoring mission to cease fire on the borders and to provide humanitarian assistance.

In February 1992 we sent a 1,200 member battalion group. In June 1992 we dispatched part of that battalion group to open the Sarajevo airport. Canadians will remember that; it was a very tense time in this operation. In September 1992 we sent another 1,200 troops.

Well, the history of the 57 ceasefires and the use that the Bosnian Serbs have made of these sham ceasefires add to the escalation we see in front of us. In every escalation there is a quagmire. That is where we are now. We are at a quagmire.

What options are open to us? There are three basic options. In one way or another they have been described here this evening.

The first option is to declare we have lost the battle, that there is no further use for us to remain in the present position doing the present things we are doing. We would get out. The consequence is that it would give a certain signal to the Bosnian Serbs. It would put at risk thousands of civilian lives, most of them Muslims. It would put at risk other Muslim populations in the eastern part of Bosnia that we would be concerned about.

It would also give a signal to other aggressors that may want to do the same thing. The history of genocide and our view as Canadians on this kind of atrocity is very clear. Our actions have always been the same.

The second option is to stay the course of what is happening. I am not sure what good that would do us. We are providing humanitarian aid and suggesting air strikes. Unless something changes from what is happening now, I believe any chance of a peace will be totally bogged down. The government which is Muslim Bosnian, as I see it, will perhaps get the wrong signal and expect that sooner or later we may want to come down on its side. I do not have to tell anybody in the House that our troops were not sent there for that reason. Neither are they equipped to do so.

It would also give the wrong signal to the Serbs that we are going to stay there. They will continue to have their little games of ceasefires, and every time there is a ceasefire they will strengthen their position. This has been the history. Why would we expect anything different?

The third option relates to the option that is now being proposed by this motion and the option that seems to be getting total support in the House this evening, that is to have our troops that are vulnerable put in a safe area and to consider more seriously the use of air strikes.

In considering that option we have to remember that the Secretary-General of the United Nations under UN resolutions 824 and 836 authorized NATO to execute air strikes last Sunday. It has been four days since we have looked at that.

What message are we sending to the Serbs? What are they saying? To balance that, again history will show that air strikes without follow-on action with ground troops sometimes have the effect of strengthening the resolve of those people who are being struck with the air power.

The history of air power in the mountainous country in which we are involved in this operation has not been terribly successful. There are some difficulties with air strikes. They have been successful, but there are difficulties and we have to consider them.

There is another area that has not been discussed in any detail this evening. I want to bring it to the attention of the House. I request that the Minister of Foreign Affairs take into consideration that we have a three-organization naval blockade in the Adriatic Sea: the Western European Union Task Force, the Standing Naval Force Atlantic of which a Canadian commodore just relinquished command on April 14, and the Standing Naval Forces Mediterranean, all under the command of COMNAVSOUTH. We need to look at that to see how it relates to the action that will stem from the discussions that will take place tomorrow.

It is with a certain amount of hesitation, I would have to admit, that I would be in favour of air strikes. It would be on the condition that there would be a summit involving the Russians, all NATO forces and all United Nations forces. Whatever we do in our negotiations tomorrow I know I do not have to remind the House in my presentation this evening that the peacekeepers we have there now are at risk. Any further involvement we may undertake as a result of the action that will be contemplated in the next few days will have to be seen as escalatory. We have to bear that in consideration.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House tonight to speak on this very important issue. Certainly most of us in the House tonight would be doing more pleasant duties; I had no idea when I was elected some six short months ago that we would be here tonight as members of Parliament in the House making such a serious decision on such a serious issue.

Back in January I made my maiden speech on the topic of our role in Bosnia for two reasons. The first one was my personal history which goes back to that part of the world. My heritage is from that area and certainly I have concern for what is going on there.

Second, the important thing that we have not talked about very much in these debates is the history of the area. The history of this area will tell us that for the past 500 years we have had these types of flare-ups. We have had wars. We have had people murdering or massacring each other. There have been no good guys and there have been no bad guys in this particular area. It has been a fact of life that this has been a very volatile area of the world.

I had hoped when I gave that maiden speech back in January that there would not be a need for the type of debate that we hold tonight. Unfortunately that has not been the fact.

My concern tonight really is twofold. First and foremost I am very concerned for the safety of our Canadian people there. We as Canadians have a priority and we must protect. We must not allow some of the things that have gone on in that area to happen to our Canadian troops. Safety has to be a top priority.

Second, my concern is for the innocent victims, the innocent people. We have seen thousands of people who have been victims of this war.

I do not believe that we can ask the United Nations to keep peace in a part of the world where there simply is no peace to keep. I am not a supporter of violence. In fact I hate violence and I hate what it does to innocent people. We have drawn lines in the sand in this part of the world for some two years now. We keep backing up and keep drawing new lines in the sand. I believe we are at a point where we can no longer draw lines in the sand.

Threats and ultimatums simply have not worked. I believe that we must take a firmer stand, but I say this with mixed emotions. As I mentioned before I have relatives in this part of the world and I am obviously very concerned for their safety.

I do not believe we have any other option at this point in time. As a world community I believe that we have the obligation to protect innocent people wherever they are. Thousands of lives have been lost already and tens of thousands more are in immediate direct jeopardy.

About 20 minutes ago I received a letter from one of my constituents that I would like to quote at this time. She states: "As a wife of a peacekeeper who served in Croatia, I know what it is like to worry that my husband may not make it back to me. My husband served as a peacekeeper proudly for both his country and the United Nations. Every patrol he went out on he never knew if it would be his last one. I believe that the Serbians must be forced by whatever means to respect the safe zones established by the United Nations. However, for the sake of our soldiers let us be very clear in what we are doing. This is no longer peacekeeping. The soldiers who now operate under the United Nations umbrella must be given a new, clear enforceable mandate or alternatively, they should be pulled out altogether and NATO should step in.

Dennis just told me a few minutes ago that he would be glad and have no problems throwing his combats on and going back. As his wife, and mother of his child, all I ask is that if you send him or his colleagues over, make his mandate clear and give him the resources and backing to make it back again".

As I mentioned before it is with mixed emotions that I stand in the House tonight. I support the idea of air strikes, not because I want to see punishment inflicted on anyone but because I want to see this horrific war stopped and stopped now.

I believe that the only option we have and the one we must choose is to pull back all Canadians to safe areas and then proceed with any and all efforts required to stop this bloodshed. Then and only then can we talk about peacekeeping and then and only then can our peacekeepers do the job for which we have become known throughout the world.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7:05 p.m.


Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Madam Speaker, I first want to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the government for providing all members of Parliament with this opportunity of sharing our views to assist the government in making this difficult decision later tonight. I also want to thank the government for holding off on its cabinet decision until after it has heard input from members of Parliament.

On behalf of the New Democratic Party, we support this initiative. Our effort is to make the support unanimous on this very critical issue.

I wish to pay tribute to the extraordinary and outstanding effort of our peacekeeping troops who have been serving in the area. Their contribution to the safety and security of innocent people has been nothing short of extraordinary. All of our hearts, our thoughts, our prayers go out to not only them but of course to their families back home as well.

It is fair to say that none of the parties involved are totally free of criticism, some by a long shot. The time has come in terms of the Serbian issue that we simply cannot allow a war to perpetuate that literally all now want stopped. This is now calling upon extraordinary measures to stop the brutality, the savagery, the horror, the unbelievable level of suffering particularly for the innocent civilians in the region.

There have been tens of thousands killed in this conflict. Tens of thousands have fled the area as refugees. Thousands of women have been systematically raped as an instrument of war. We hear of ethnic cleansing, the concentration camps, the massacres, the destruction of holy buildings.

It has come to a point where we as Canadians can no longer stand passively by and say that this can continue. We have to stand up and be counted. With the United Nations now calling for support for air strikes, it is only right and proper we lend our support as a country to this initiative.

We must take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the safety of our troops in these areas. If the mandate changes and ground support is required to back up the air strikes in order to bring peace and a negotiated settlement eventually, then obviously the mandate for our troops has to be changed. It will be up to us to give them the equipment and support to allow them to do the job that must be done.

What turned the situation for us in the last few days was when we witnessed the television reports of the bombardment and shelling of homes, hospitals and churches which symbolized the ultimate in the savagery which has occurred in this region. For us now to stand passively by and allow this to continue is something none of us are prepared to tolerate any longer.

I applaud the government for its initiative. I appreciate that the government has solicited our views prior to cabinet making this very difficult decision. Let us only hope and pray we do not have to revisit this again in a few weeks when the situation may have even escalated beyond these unimaginable levels.

I am now going to allow my colleague from Regina to complete this time sequence.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7:10 p.m.


Simon de Jong NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the opportunity of participating in this debate. I also thank the government, the Official Opposition and the Reform Party for allowing us to participate in this most important debate.

Earlier today I spoke to a constituent, a mother whose son had just returned from serving in the former Yugoslavia. Her major point to me as her son related his experience to her was that we are no longer capable of playing a peacekeeper role. When the major parties are not in acceptance of our position and do not abide by ceasefires then we cannot play the role of the peacekeeper.

Our forces are not equipped to play the role of the peacemaker. Yet what has been requested of NATO is to change the UN role from one of peacekeeping to one of peacemaking. It seems the Serb forces have forced the United Nations and the world community into that position.

What has been going on has been a farce. We have now reached the point where a serious decision will have to be made. I appreciate that the cabinet will be meeting after this debate and I am certain that the cabinet will take into very serious consideration all the implications that are involved.

Some suggest that this might be the opening to a new Vietnam type war. I have been in Bosnia as I have been in Croatia and I followed the events very closely over the years. I know the terrain in Bosnia is not conducive to the type of warfare that we think of. Certainly it is not like the deserts in the war in the Middle East. We remember as well the few handfuls of partisans who were able to hold down many German divisions during the second world war.

We cannot allow the rape and the killing to continue. I have been to the front and I have seen hospitals that have been attacked by scatter bombs. I have seen attacks on churches, I have seen attacks on civilians and the total disregard for innocent people, the total immorality.

As someone suggested to me, it is the devil's banquet that is going on there. We cannot tolerate it. We cannot just sit in front of our television sets and do nothing. I think air strikes have to be used.

Now the question is what happens to our Canadian forces? They are not equipped. They are out there almost as hostages. I believe what has to be done immediately is before the air strikes, the UN troops who are out there and ill-equipped to protect themselves have to be removed and moved into secure areas.

The other suggestion I would make is that under article 51 of the United Nations the state has the right to protect itself. We have a state here. We have the federation between the Croatians and the Muslim Bosnians. We have as well a co-confederation between this new state of Bosnia and Croatia. Why not lift the arms embargo and allow the Muslims and the Croatians to protect their own homes and their own cities? Surely that would make a lot of sense.

The blood of Canadian boys need not necessarily be spilled on the fields in Bosnia. Allow the Bosnian Muslims and Croats to protect their homes, to protect their villages. Use them as the ground troops, the ground forces necessary to protect the safe havens. Back them up with air power. That combination will create a level playing field.

I believe the Serbs will negotiate in good faith if there is a level playing field. They inherited the third largest or the fourth largest and most powerful army in Europe at the end of the cold war, the army of Yugoslavia. They inherited all that fire power. They are using that fire power against the Muslims and the Croats. It is not a level playing field.

The embargo on arms has helped the Serbs and has put the Croats and the Muslims at a disadvantage. Take away that disadvantage, allow a level playing field, allow the Muslim and the Croatian armies to protect their cities. Back them up with air power. In that way I believe we can be effective and we can see

an end to this conflict because it will force the Serb forces to negotiate in good faith.

I believe there are some possibilities that should be explored which might prevent a full scale blood bath. In fact it is already there. We cannot prevent it, it is already occurring. However, perhaps we can bring it to a more speedy end if we lift the embargo and back up Muslim and Croat forces with air power. I believe some good will come out of that.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7:15 p.m.

Essex—Windsor Ontario


Susan Whelan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak on a very serious issue, the Canadian position on Bosnia.

Our policy has been consistent. In our foreign policy handbook issued in May of 1993 we warned: "The Yugoslav question will take years to resolve. Canada must be prepared to commit resources and time to help rebuild new states and societies in this region".

Before we can help rebuild we must first help to resolve this terrible tragic situation in Bosnia.

The issue before us tonight is the use of air support to protect safe areas in the former republic of Yugoslavia, a very delicate question and an issue that is fundamentally different for Canada than it is for that of the United States; as already mentioned, different since we are the ones with peacekeeping troops on the ground. If the United States administration had followed through on the Vance-Owen plan and committed U.S. ground troops as part of the UN force we may not be facing the question we are facing tonight.

On May 2, 1993 the U.S. pledged 25,000 troops. To this day the U.S. has no troops in the former republic of Yugoslavia.

Our troops have undertaken tremendously difficult UN assignments. In June 1992 they were deployed to Sarajevo to reopen and secure the airport so that the airlift of relief supplies could begin. In January and February of 1993 more Canadian troops were deployed temporarily to the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia to monitor developments in the border areas with Serbia. In April 1993 more Canadian troops were sent to Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia to ensure the presence of UN protection force in the besieged city.

We must insist that if they go forward with air strikes the same country that is so eager to do so will also bring ground troops to help. We must ensure that our strategy is sound to protect our Canadian peacekeepers in a very volatile situation.

It will be very difficult to suggest the removal of our troops with the knowledge of the brutality being suffered and the great need for humanitarian assistance.

We went to the former Yugoslavia to promote a peaceful settlement to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia and to provide relief to its victims, innocent victims we know have endured unbelievable brutality and senseless death. We know that women have been raped, innocent children killed and both men and women senselessly tortured. In this day and age it is not tolerable to have this situation continuing.

We then face the question of how to resolve it. What is the next step? We must formulate a strategic plan, a plan that goes beyond one day, a plan that goes into the future, a plan that includes a settlement that can bring lasting peace to the region. The settlement must include the NATO forces, the Russians, the Serbs, the Bosnians, the Muslims and all other involved parties so we can end the history of hate that began over 1,000 years ago.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7:20 p.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, the people of Quebec and Canada have agreed to send troops to the former Yugoslavia to keep the peace. Our troops are part of a 23,000 member UN force which has been making commendable efforts for months to restore peace to that European country. With dignity, courage and efficiency, our soldiers have carried out their mandate, a narrow and demanding mandate that they have managed to carry out effectively.

Our troops have saved lives. They have provided medical treatment. They have helped people escape the combat zone.

After many months of hard work, an agreement was finally reached just recently, under which Bosnian Serbs accepted that six safe areas be defined. Sarajevo and Gorazde were among these areas.

We are forced to recognize that the Bosnian Serbs did not live up to their word, as this has been the case all too often over the past few months, and hostilities resumed. The city of Gorazde is currently under Bosnian Serb fire, its unarmed and defenceless population subjected to mortar shelling day in and day out. Blind fire is killing civilians, women and children. Just today, 28 people were killed in the shelling of a hospital.

We are facing a difficult situation. Will we look on helplessly, as brutal force, ill intent and duplicity triumph? Will we keep on worrying about what happens to our troops in the field? On the other hand, should we not help those who are proposing concerted, effective actions to force Bosnian Serbs to abide by the agreements concluded, to stop shelling and remove their guns from around guaranteed safe areas? I think we should. I think that the nations involved in the operations must send a clear message, an ultimatum, to the people who are shelling defenceless people, shelling civilians and children, shelling hospitals.

The ultimatum must be clear and have a short deadline. It seems that is the only language which the soldiers operating under the colours of the Bosnian Serbs understand.

We must issue this ultimatum and if they do not comply, we must, as suggested, strike effectively and rapidly so that the weapons shooting civilians and defenceless people are destroyed and that the troops in the field are no longer subject to the bad faith of the Bosnian Serbs, who as we have seen believe that they do not have to keep their word.

We must issue this ultimatum and use the necessary force if the Bosnian Serbs do not comply, because it is a humanitarian duty. We are witnessing barbaric acts. We are witnessing frightful things. For a long time, we had not seen people in Europe being subjected to mortar fire, random shooting and bombing.

Canadians do not accept violence in their own country. Increasingly, they call for action, and I believe that they have the same attitude to situations of violence abroad directed against defenceless people.

Therefore it is a humanitarian duty to intervene. It also takes the lessons of history into account.

If the League of Nations, a few years prior to 1939, had taken the necessary steps to stop Hitlerian madness in Germany, many millions of people might not have died in World War II.

History teaches us that if we do not do anything to stop massacres, injustice and unspeakable violence against civilians, against defenceless populations-if we witness all these horrible scenes without reacting-we will pay dearly for our inaction several years later. That is also what the news teaches us.

Staggering events are now occurring in Rwanda, Africa. We see people being slaughtered and ask ourselves whether we could have done something in the first hours of the crisis. I think the answer is yes. So I think we should intervene. We have a duty to intervene in the face of growing violence, of the return to Europe of barbarities it had not seen in 50 years.

It is with regret but also with a sense of duty that I think Canada should agree to implement the program proposed by the UN to NATO and, if the ultimatum is rejected by the Bosnian Serbs, to launch the air strikes required to make them live up to their word. In all honesty, I think it is our duty to show solidarity with our fellow human beings.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7:30 p.m.


Roseanne Skoke Liberal Central Nova, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise in this House proud to be a Canadian, a Canadian with family residing in Croatia.

In resolving the issue before the House, the decision that we must make as a government is to determine what is in the best interests of our country Canada. When so doing we must consider what is in the interest of peace and security of the world.

On January 26 on debate in this honourable House I stated it is my position that Canada should withdraw its peacekeeping military forces from both Croatia and Bosnia. Bring the soldiers home. At that time my conclusion to withdraw the Canadian troops from the former Yugoslavia was predicated on the fact that there is no need for peacekeeping since there is no peace to keep.

However, due to the constantly changing circumstances on the ground it becomes extremely difficult and possibly meaningless to hold a fixed position among aspects of the wars in former Yugoslavia.

Today the original Canadian mandate to serve as peacekeepers and to deliver aid continues to be seriously compromised. The resistance of Bosnian Serbs to make peace has dictated the need for an urgent and a new direction for the role of Canada in defence and foreign affairs.

There is still no peace to keep and the war continues. As a nation of conscience we cannot tolerate the slaughter of innocent victims of genocide. We cannot trust the Serbs to negotiate peace. We cannot compromise our credibility as a nation.

This is the most difficult foreign policy question of our time. Since the end of World War II Canada has proudly stood as a leader in world affairs, stepping forward whenever international peace and security were threatened. However, the cold war has passed and the world we face today is much more complex.

The anticipated peace has given way to a resurgence and deep rooted and often brutal ethnic conflict. The situation in the former Yugoslavia is the most striking example of this problem.

The position the Canadian government will take on this very important issue will undoubtedly have profound implications on, first, the safety of Canada's armed forces; second, the practice of future peacekeeping; third, the evolution of the United Nations and its future mandate; fourth, the role of NATO; and, fifth and most important, the future of democracy in the western world and peace and security in our world.

It is my position that Canada has no alternative but to support NATO's demand for air strikes. It is in the best interest of Canadians. It is in the best interest of the people of the former Yugoslavia. However in the negotiations with NATO I ask our government to consider carefully the role of Russia.

NATO must take into consideration the position of Russia and consider carefully the consequences of Russia's position and the impact it will have on the resolution of the conflict. Russia at this time is the key to peace in this conflict. I trust that every effort will be made to ensure that Russia supports NATO's position regarding air strikes.

I wish to take this opportunity to commend the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Defence for their immediate attention to this urgent matter. I pray the decisions made by our government will bring lasting peace to former Yugoslavia.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

April 21st, 1994 / 7:35 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Madam Speaker, one of the greatest tragedies of our time has been the destruction of the dream of world peace by surging ethnic and national conflicts.

Naive as the vision may have been, when the iron curtain collapsed people around the world believed that in a history plagued with war and atrocities mankind would finally be on the path to a peaceful coexistence. Of course that has not proven to be the case.

Eighty years ago the world was plunged into World War I by events which took place in the same unfortunate lands that we are discussing tonight. The firestorm that resulted produced one of the saddest chapters in human history. We must ensure that we do not become entangled in that same web.

The difference today is that this civil war is being played out in real time for millions of television viewers. Almost every day grisly images of mangled children and slaughtered civilians are brought to our screens and in the newspapers. I picked up a copy of the Globe and Mail in which the mayor of Gorazde was reported as saying that Gorazde looked like a slaughterhouse. There were reports of scores of injured and dead lying as they fell amid the debris. An amateur radio operator yesterday was heard saying: ``Wounded people are lying everywhere. The situation is desperate''. Stories of atrocities abound and the term ethnic cleansing, despised by all civilized people since the days of Hitler, has re-entered our vocabulary.

The root cause of this age old conflict is ethnic intolerance and greed. This conflict reaches back into time across the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Turkish Empire and beyond. These are old quarrels being reignited; new battles over old grievances and old hatreds. The fighting has been bitter and indiscriminate.

Two years ago the United Nations dispatched a peacekeeping force into this savage war zone when the Red Cross and other humanitarian agencies were prevented from bringing relief to civilians. For the first time UN forces were deployed during a conflict to ease the plight of innocents. This too was accompanied with television images and the terrible price being paid by the non-combatants: children maimed, orphans abandoned by their care givers, women brutally and systematically raped, marketplaces shelled, and old people lying in twisted heaps. Civilized people could not stand by and let this misery and indiscriminate slaughter continue.

Another article in the paper quoted the Bosnian prime minister in an interview saying: "NATO must take immediate and decisive action to prevent a mass slaughter in Gorazde".

UN peacekeepers have done their best to bring food and medical supplies to these people, to provide some of the very basic things that human beings need to survive. They have done their jobs valiantly and in the face of great adversity. They have been blockaded and besieged. They have been threatened with deadly force, captured and held hostage, terrorized, shot at and shelled. They have performed with exceptional dedication, bringing hope to the victims of this war.

At every turn attempts to find a peaceful settlement have been thwarted by the Serbs. The lies, the deceit and the irresponsible actions of these people are an affront to civilized humanity. Truces have been declared, only to be broken within hours if not minutes. Ceasefires have been agreed to, only to be kept until the military manoeuvres were completed and then violated.

For peacekeeping to function there must be a wish for peace. For peace to be possible there must be some recognition by the combatants that war is a last resort, that the inhuman acts occasioned by war are repugnant, and that all other means must be exhausted before the final option of war is exercised. That does not exist in Bosnia.

We have at least one combatant in the struggle, Serbia, which sees that war as a means to achieve its national objectives. While no one has clean hands in this conflict, perhaps finally the other two protagonists, the Croats and the Muslims, have come to realize that continued arms struggle only brings disaster to their own people and that in the end nothing is really gained. The Serbs on the other hand are prosecuting a war of aggression that aims to subjugate and eliminate the other ethnic groups.

It is understandable in the face of all the horrible facts of this conflict and its capacity to seemingly go on forever that civilized nations are considering more drastic measures to put an end to it and that urgent calls are heard to bring more military force to bear.

The arrogant manner in which the Serbian leadership has conducted themselves, almost as if they hold themselves beyond accountability for their actions, and the utter disdain they obviously have for the United Nations demonstrate clearly their rather primeval attitude, like a bully with a chip on his shoulder. Serbian leaders have dared the UN to take action to stop them.

No matter what our feelings, we must exercise wisdom and restraint. We must consider very carefully where we cross the line between humanitarian relief for the innocent civilians and becoming combatants ourselves. We must not justify the bully's actions by adopting his methods.

The use of air strikes around Sarajevo succeeded because it demonstrated the resolve of the UN to protect safe havens it had created. It was great for the people of that city, but it took the UN down a path of intervention in a civil war that could be dangerous. This was demonstrated when a British Harrier was shot down over Gorazde. The spiral of action and reaction can be very dangerous.

The request before NATO now is to expand the use of air strikes to cover other safe havens. This draws the UN and NATO even further into the web. When did we cross the line, becoming participants in this conflict rather than neutrals? We must ask ourselves whether we are inviting reprisals against our peacekeepers on the ground. At the very least there must be co-ordination between the Canadian forces and NATO to ensure that our troops, Canadian troops, are as safe as possible from reprisals.

Will these actions improve the ability of our troops to deliver aid or impair them? What will our response be if Canadian peacekeepers are attacked and suffer casualties? Is this the right action to take?

Already the Canadian military is facing difficulties in sustaining operations at existing levels. If we agree to these air strikes we will be by extension committing ourselves to expanded troop commitments if the call goes out for them.

Indeed many questions are before the House. Can we, on the other hand, ignore the suffering brought on by the Serbian aggressors against the enclaves and the safe havens? The shelling of the hospitals, the careless endangering of innocent civilians is unacceptable.

The Serbs have shown a blatant disregard for international protest and concerns. They have repeatedly rebuffed the attempts of peace envoys, international delegations and truce negotiators to try to resolve this conflict. Almost at every step United Nations protection forces are hampered in their efforts to provide aid.

Even Russia, which has shown great reluctance to join the international chorus of protest, has angrily condemned recent actions by the Serbs.

I support the actions that we would take in support of these air strikes and I would ask every Canadian tonight at home as they are going to bed thinking of how safe we are in our country to spend a few moments and think about our Canadian peacekeepers who are doing a tremendous job for the entire world and say a few words for them.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7:45 p.m.


George Proud Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate the government, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the minister of defence and veterans affairs for bringing this resolution forward tonight to be debated and to say to Canadians that we again in this House are seeing democracy working.

We also see the laying aside of partisan politics as we debate the very important issue that hopefully will resolve some terrible situations that abound in the world. I want to congratulate our colleagues who have spoken earlier on this matter.

Originally today I was going to go to my riding. The finance committee is meeting there tomorrow morning. I was going to appear before that but when I saw that this situation was coming here tonight, the resolution and the emergency debate, I felt that having served some time involved with matters of defence with a lot of great people on all sides of this House, I should be here to take part in this very important issue that we are dealing with.

We watch with horror the situation that has developed in Bosnia over the past number of years and this is now truly a global village because every night the true extent of what is happening around the world is brought into our homes. It shows us just how thin the veneer of civilization is. The basic humanity in civilization which we all take for granted has been stripped away and we are left with the barbarous acts perpetrated on people by their fellow human beings.

Unfortunately the horror of these events in what was once known as the cockpit of Europe, an area of conflict through the centuries, shows that we must always be vigilant to ensure that we remain at the level that we think we have attained. Reality dictates that our society must always remain on guard to see that the things we hold as basic rights of humanity and citizenship remain in tact.

When communism died we felt that a better world would take its place. I and others were told the other day by the vice-president of Bosnia that when that happened there was a vacuum left, that perhaps something else could have happened. Perhaps democracy and those who know democracy could have been in these places to fill that vacuum by teaching people the ways of democracy. That did not happen. Ancient hatreds and ethnic conflicts have come to the forefront and have led us to these situations.

Canada has for many years enjoyed an enviable reputation as a peacekeeper. Of course we all are concerned for the safety of our troops wherever they may be. What we always have to remember also is that Canada, which has gained this reputation as a peacekeeper, has the capabilities and has been involved in other types of military actions. We stood second to no one in this in two world wars and in the Korean war. We never backed away from anything. We are not a military country. That is not what

we were built on. When we were asked to go, no one ever reneged on that.

Canadians do not go around bragging very much about their military prowess. Any time Canadians were asked to be part of a conflict that was in the interests of the world, we were there. Now we are saying should we in other nations change our role from peacekeeping to that other mode. This would entail a new set of priorities and actions.

We surely cannot tolerate scenes any more like those we saw a few days ago when Canadians were held hostage, which has been mentioned here tonight. We have a saying on the east coast and it is time to use that saying. We either have to fish or cut bait. We have come to that situation in the country we are talking about here tonight. As unpalatable as it may be, if we are going to be involved we may have to become involved in a differ manner, one which may see young men and women from Canada involved in these military operations which I speak about. That may be the choice facing this House.

The request for more air strikes according to military experts should be supported by more people on the ground. According to people who have long military careers this is the way these things are most effective.

Are members of the United Nations, members of NATO prepared to do this? The topic has been debated here this evening on what happened after the bombings, after the air strikes at Sarajevo. We did not really go into it because they were successful. It is hoped that if this has to take place, if we have to go to the line, to the limit, cooler heads will prevail and those people involved once again will know that the United Nations and NATO mean business and we are not going to see these atrocities go any further.

I say to all members of the House right here tonight that we stand on the threshold at a pivotal time in our history, the history of the world. What the United Nations and we the representatives of the people here in Canada decide over the next few days, indeed probably over the next few hours, will set a tone for world affairs for years and decades to come.

I fully agree with the proposal put forward by the ministers and from what I hear in the House tonight everyone else does also. I believe we have to show these people, as someone said earlier, who are thumbing their noses at the rest of the world that the allied countries in the United Nations and in NATO mean business, that we are there to stop these atrocities.

If air strikes have to be used, then we must be prepared to go along with that. I am sure that tomorrow morning at the NATO meetings a lot of negotiating, a lot of thought will go into the final decision.

Madam Speaker and members of the House, I speak to those involved in the negotiations and those on the ground, in the air and on the sea in that country. I hope that by our decision here tonight we will help to bring this terrible conflict to an end.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

7:55 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

I rise this evening as member for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup, which is represented in Bosnia by militiamen of the Fusiliers du Saint-Laurent, and I also speak on behalf of one of the 15 Canadians who were held as hostages last week.

These developments influence our action somewhat because this conflict is not a black and white issue. It is a grey area and the decision to be made is complex and difficult. However, we must take our responsibilities and do what is necessary.

I would like to quote a comment I made in my speech on the same issue, on January 25, 1994. I said: "It is important for our operations to contribute directly to resolving the crisis and above all to avoid perpetuating the current imbroglio."

In fact, one wonders whether the intervention in Sarajevo was strong enough. We targeted only one of the safe areas and since then the problem has spread to another of those areas, and this could go on and on.

We realize that a more comprehensive solution is necessary. Also, we must not lose sight of the objective of the intervention, which is to ensure peace in Bosnia.

Names such as Bihac, Gorazde, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Tuzla, and Zepa are not part of our daily vocabulary. Yet, these names have become synonymous with dying children, and adults running in the streets to stay alive. All these images trigger a common reaction.

It is important to adopt a position which will lead to a complete and permanent solution. To that end, certain essential elements must be taken into account. The first one is the need of a consensus among nations. I think that if we act without first enlisting Russia's support regarding a possible intervention, we will repeat the mistake made in World War One, something which would be very costly.

So it is very important to make representations within the Security Council and at the UN and ensure that the Russians will be at the table and will take part in the process. I think they have realized that the behaviour of the Bosnian Serbs is unacceptable. I think they see a certain betrayal of their commitments as a result of this situation, and we can only hope that they will join in the consensus that seems to be developing here.

It seems that another important point is that we should send a clear message to the Bosnian Serbs because so far, commitments and promises have meant absolutely nothing to them, since there was not always a concerted effort to enforce these agreements.

We have seen a kind of behaviour that in some cases does not even observe the normal rules of war. When we see pictures of people shooting at hospitals, and when we see shells going through hospital walls, I think we have reached the point that something has to be done to deal with the situation once and for all.

In the circumstances, I was referring to a consensus in public opinion, a clear message to the Bosnians-but I think it is also important to have diplomatic initiatives by the major powers to have a clear indication of where we are going and of the main participants in this process. The point is that if we merely resort to air strikes without providing for the next phase, we will only move the problem somewhere else, and we must avoid escalating the conflict.

These are all very important considerations. I think we must act responsibly on this conflict, but I am also concerned about the security of our troops. I think it is important to minimize the risk to the safety of our troops, although as the Minister of Foreign Affairs said on April 14, and I quote: "It is inherent in their responsibilities and their duty as soldiers to risk their lives". We agree with this statement, that to take risks in a war situation is part and parcel of a soldier's job, role and commitment; on the other hand, we must do our utmost to avoid casualties.

In my view, if we are to put the odds on our side, we must take part in strategic planning, avoid a situation where Canadian and Quebec soldiers would become the pawns of unacceptable decisions, the victims of errors that could have been avoided. To this aim, the choice of strategic targets must contain certain minimum guarantees so that we do not pick targets which should not be attacked and would not help solve the crisis, in any case.

When dealing with a problem such as this one, we know that it is dangerous to intervene, and that some soldiers' lives will be on the line. On the other hand, I think that there is a lesson to be learned from last week's hostage-taking, which ended well, but could have gone terribly wrong. Admittedly, this incident was to some extent the result of the UN's procrastination. If we let things drag on, we will face other similar situations, other times when our soldiers' lives will really be threatened. It would be unexcusable if it were to happen by pure negligence, for the simple reason that we did not act responsibly.

I think that it is important that the consensus reached by the Parliament be taken into consideration by the Cabinet and that, with the same caution we feel in this House, it makes sure that any action taken will be decisive and will protect the lives of our troops as much as possible.

Finally, I would like to thank the Canadian peacekeepers, especially those from my riding who volunteered for these peacekeeping missions all over the world. I think that we can never thank them enough. They are aware of the inherent dangers of their job, but I believe that they have the right to expect sound policy direction that gives due regard to the importance of human lives, and to the importance of solving this crisis, which is the result of many years of ethnic hatred. It is important to find a political solution which will put an end, once and for all, to this devastating conflict.

Foreign AffairsSpecial Debate

8 p.m.


Len Hopkins Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, as we stand in the House tonight we have a lot to be thankful for. We have freedom of speech, a free country. We have food in Canada. We have running water. We have toilets. We have hospitals with good medical people. Tonight we are going to talk about people who have very few if any of those things.

I want to compliment the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the government for bringing this business before the House tonight. I also want to compliment the other parties for agreeing with it and for participating the way they have. Foreign affairs of this nature should not be partisan. We as Canadians should be pulling together on issues like this where great humanitarian values are involved.

The situation in the former Yugoslavia is something we never thought we would see in the 20th century, certainly not in the middle of Europe. But it is there and we have to face up to it.

We are dealing with a Serbian group who cannot keep agreements. They are people who hold Canadian peacekeepers hostage. That is something this country cannot stand for under any conditions. The world cannot stand by and allow this to continue.

Over the years foreign affairs have been very much a contest among parties in this House but this one certainly should not. We have to ask ourselves: What price do we pay for freedom? What price do we pay to promote decency in the world? What price do we pay for respect? The answer of course is that no amount of money will buy them. They have to be earned and Canadians have been earning these qualities over the years.

We must look at history from where we stand tonight. Henry Ford once said that history is a lot of bunk. That is one of the most horrible contributions that could possibly be given to the record of the human race.

Tonight we must take into consideration why during the thirties the League of Nations failed. It failed because nobody would support it. Nobody would stand up for the causes of freedom and for the rights of people in other countries. There was no unity within the world to promote those qualities.

World War II did not just happen; we drifted into it because we did not do anything. We know what happened in World War I. It was a Serb who shot a prince and from there we went into international conflict in very short order.

Today there are over 60 hotspots in the world. More than 20 of them are active conflicts today. This is a time to learn from history, not to call it a lot of bunk, not to fall into the same old rut we have fallen into before as a society.

Canadians have participated all around the world. The Canadian forces have made their mark and made their name and they have taken the qualities of Canadian nationhood with them. We thank them for that.

Tonight the Muslims, the Croatians and the Serbs are in turmoil. Let us ask why. They are in turmoil because of that old-fashioned, centuries old term hatred. We talk about all the diseases. No other disease creates so many problems for humanity as hatred. No aggressor can be allowed to get away with what is going on in Bosnia tonight, or tomorrow, or yesterday.

Human rights and the decency of mankind is important to Canada and to every free civilized nation. We cannot stand by and allow slaughter to go on. We cannot stand by and allow rape to occur in that country.

Peacekeeping versus peacemaking. If we are going to ask our Canadian forces to go abroad into these difficult situations, then I say with all sincerity it is up to this Parliament of Canada to provide them with the right equipment to do so and the good training which they have had over the years.

Let us get out there and support them in real terms and not just with rhetoric from time to time. Our military community in Canada has led the way on many great days for this nation over the years of Canadian history and it will continue to do so in the future. We in this Parliament and Canadians from every part of this nation must give them our utmost support.

As we stand here tonight we can look upon this as a test case. Do we allow the UN to become weakened? Do we allow the western world to become divided? Do we not stand up and be counted? Do we drift and send a message out there to the despots and dictators of this world that there is not enough cohesiveness in today's world among the nations of the free world to put a stop to some of these atrocities?

If we allow that message to go out there we will not have more than 20 hot spots around this world, we will have many, many more because they will feel they will get away with it.

We have to stand up and be counted as a nation and Europe itself must stand up and be counted as a group of nations. I think it is a fair criticism tonight that many Europeans did not come forward soon enough and that Canada has played a role in every UN operation since day one. We need not be ashamed of our record in any way whatsoever. We must be proud of it, but if we are going there we want every nation pulling their weight.

Yes, NATO in this case is a UN support and it should not be looked upon by any nations as anything else but a support to the UN today. Yes, Russia should come on board with the rest of the free world on this one because this too can affect it. You cannot close your eyes and hope that it is going to go away. We cannot send our troops lightly armed into a peacekeeping operation that virtually becomes the middle of a war zone.

We have to make certain to take every measure for their safety. NATO will do its part.

Hatred is older than the hills but it is creating and will continue to create problems for mankind. It is the way we handle these that counts. We have to handle the bullies and the cowards of this world in the only way that they understand.

Canada is respected around the world. We cannot lose that respect because many have paid a big price to earn it. They have paid a big price to pave the way for nationhood in this country and it is that price that I guess we are going to have to continue to pay. Let us never fail to support those soldiers out there in the field and those who are in training. This Parliament must resolve to support them. Our Canadian soldiers will do their jobs but we as the Canadian representatives in the Parliament of Canada must do ours by supporting them in real terms.

Canada has been a nation that has played a major part in the founding of the United Nations. Canada has played a major role in the founding of NATO.

Madam Speaker, you are giving me my signal. I will give you my closing remarks. Today, these two institutions are serving mankind well. Let us remain as a team. Let us, as a responsible nation in the free world, pull the other countries together and work with them to bring peace to those troubled spots and to bring decency and respect and decent living again to those poor people in the former Yugoslavia.

Thank you, Madam Speaker, for your patience.