Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Motion No. M-31 which would give members of Parliament the opportunity to register their constituents' approval or disapproval of Canadian involvement in major peacekeeping missions.
I am astounded and I wonder which planet the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs has been living on when he makes remarks about how this motion would preclude Canada from acting rapidly in response to a situation. When pray tell has he ever seen the UN operate with such speed?
Furthermore, I was astounded to hear the member from the Bloc asking what if it is on Boxing Day or what if it is on New Year's Day? When we are sending real live red-blooded Canadians into a harmful situation, putting them in danger, surely it is the responsibility of the people in this House to be able to respond and come back no matter when it is, in the middle of summer or whenever. It is our responsibility to come back here and debate whether or not it is appropriate to send our people to that deployment. Surely holidays should not enter into it. Input from parliamentarians is required if they are to fulfil their obligations to Canada, to the Canadian forces and to their constituents.
The people in the Canadian forces are the only ones in our society who are committed to laying down their lives on order when they are in a combat situation. No one else is required to do that. We are obligated to take account of that and ensure that when we send them somewhere, it is appropriate that they go there, that they are properly equipped and so on.
I will provide examples of mistakes. Look at when we sent our forces to UNPROFOR in the former Yugoslavia. What was the mandate? Nobody knew. How were they equipped? Inadequately. We know that. How did they exist there? Very very poorly. They were stranded. They were held hostage. Everything was wrong with that mission, yet there is no question they did magnificently under the situation, under the conditions that were imposed. But we did not do our homework when we sent them there.
How many Canadians are aware that when we sent our troops to Somalia they did not go as peacekeepers, they went as peacemakers? They were to restore order there. At the time that land was inhabited by warlords who drove around in jeeps and other vehicles equipped with big machine guns. They attacked anybody they could to take away their supplies and goods. Our people went there to restore order and they did a good job of it.
When we deploy our troops overseas, what items do we need to discuss, to approve and disapprove? First we need to find out what the problem is. What has caused the situation to arise? What is needed to resolve it? What sort of force is required to take action on it? What action has already been taken? What have they tried? Has it worked or not? Has it partially worked?
Is there a willingness on the part of the people who are in the situation to resolve the situation? Do they want to achieve a peaceful solution? Are peacekeepers in general welcome? Do they want somebody to intrude into their affairs to try to rectify the problem or cool it down? More important for Canadians, are Canadian peacekeepers welcome? Would they be the ones who would be welcomed in to try to resolve the situation?
Next we would want to know the composition of the force. How big is it? How is it to be equipped? What skills should that force have to accomplish the mission? Are the Canadian forces able to accept this commitment within their present restrictions and resources? Do they have the right personnel? Do they have enough personnel? Do they have the proper equipment? If they do not, we have no business sending them into that area.
We should also know how many and what other nations are involved. What sort of involvement do they have? How may troops are they sending?
What is the command and control? This is one of the most vitally important things we have to resolve before we commit Canadian troops to an action. How are they going to be commanded? Who is in charge? And what recourse do we have to that command and control centre? What are the logistics? Who is looking after providing the requirements to keep our troops active and mobile in the field?
When is the force to be there? How soon does it have to arrive and once it is there, how long is it to be committed? Do we know exactly what it is our troops are being asked to do? Do we have a very clear idea of what it is they must do to resolve the situation? Because if they do not, then we should not be sending them there. It is something we should be deciding in the House.
If they are deployed under UN auspices, what access does Canada have to influence the decisions that are made with regard to things involving our troops? Does Canada have the right to approach the security council or whoever is in charge to ensure that Canadian interests are addressed? If they do not, I do not think we should approve it. We should say: "No way". If we are sending our troops down there, we should have a right to involve ourselves in what is being decided for them.
One of the most important things is the rules of engagement. What amount of force are our people allowed to use? Under what circumstances can they use it? What are the rules governing the whole deployment? Are they adequate? If they are not, again we have to say that is not good enough, that we need better for our troops.
Because of our debt situation obviously we have to be conscious of the cost. We have to know how much it is going to cost. It is also important that we find out who is going to bear the cost. If it is to be paid for by Canada, which ministry is going to pay for it? Would it be defence? Defence gets hit pretty often. Should it be foreign affairs? Is there another agency that should be contributing to this?
What about the other people who are involved? What are they contributing, not only by way of forces but in support, in money? Are they assisting Canada? Are they supporting Canada, or is Canada paying for a disproportionate amount of the involvement in the deployment?
MPs are obligated to know the facts. We should discuss them and we should be willing to come to this place at short notice any time that we are contemplating deploying Canadians into a dangerous situation. I believe that in such a situation it should be a non-partisan decision. The parties should not be involved in it. Obviously, the government has to take the final decision, but the government should listen to what is going on.
The debates we have had until now have been meaningless with no votes. They have been very, very close. In one case, two days before the mission was to be renewed, we were debating it here in the House and there was no vote at the end of it. Obviously, the decision had been taken before that debate took place. This is not appropriate nor adequate.
I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, the IFOR mission in Yugoslavia is up for renewal on December 20 this year. So far we have had no sign that there will be any sort of a meaningful parliamentary debate on whether to renew that commitment or not. It seems that since we are approaching the end of October we should be debating that. It is not fair to the people who are committed there for us to say at the last minute that we are not going to play. Surely to gosh we should give them a couple of weeks' or at least one month's notice that Canada unfortunately will not be able to continue with it.
In this aspect perhaps at the moment our army troops have been over committed to a number of things. Serious consideration should be given to making the Canadian support to IFOR an air support, a fighter squadron. This would be meaningful and would have a lot of punch. It would give the army time to regroup, to recover, to get back into training and to establish relations again with their families.
If this Parliament does not have the intelligence, the capability and the moral courage to address this situation, then it is a lot less of an establishment than I believe it to be. This motion should pass.