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.