House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was technologies.


Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Annapolis Valley-Hants on debate. Colleague, before you begin, unless there is direction otherwise, we will be ringing the bells at 5.30 p.m. I just say that so you will know how much time you have.

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


John Murphy Liberal Annapolis Valley—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves: the children who were born and who will be born from the use of new reproductive and genetic technologies.

Most medical treatments involve only individuals who consent to bear the benefits and burdens of the treatment. Assisted reproduction techniques such as donor insemination and in vitro fertilization are different. There are the interests of another party to consider, those of the children who will be born through their use.

As a society we sympathize with those who are infertile and wish to help them reach their goals at having a child. But we must not forget that we have to consider more people than just those suffering from infertility.

The health and well-being of children must be of paramount importance in the decisions we make about new reproductive and genetic technologies. The value of children in our society is self-evident but it is important to state firmly and unequivocally that children are not a means to an end. They are of value not because of the great gifts they possess, not because of the way in which they fulfil their parents' dreams and not even because of the joy they bring to their parents. Children are of value merely because they exist, because they are.

This government does value children. It believes that the hallmark by which our society can be judged is the priority that is placed on the interests and well-being of children. The government has established a transparent and explicit framework for its policy on new reproductive and genetic technologies.

Concern for children's interests is the vital aspect of that framework. The government also approaches the issue of children and new reproductive technologies from the perspective of a need to protect those who are vulnerable to adverse consequences of these technologies. And who indeed is more vulnerable in our society than a child?

New reproductive and genetic technologies affect children in different ways. Some practices and procedures have consequences so adverse and so easily apparent that prohibition is the only possible response. The consequences of other uses of technology, adverse or otherwise, are less obvious, or they are controllable through policy regulation. These include implications of the technologies for children's physical health, both immediately and in the long term, and the implications for children's emotional well-being. In cases where donated sperm or eggs are involved, new reproductive and genetic technologies also raise serious issues about the legal status of children.

The government by putting forward this legislation is proposing that some practices and procedures are so important for various reasons that there is no alternative than to prohibit them and to set criminal penalties for their use. Practices that turn children into commodities to be bought and sold are among them.

That is why for instance this legislation makes it a criminal offence to buy or to sell human sperm or eggs. Sperm and eggs are the building blocks of human life. To make them into commodities subject to the conditions of the market is to commodify children and to turn them into products. This is ultimately dehumanizing. It will affect in the long term the way we as a society value children and how we value human life.

Permitting payment for sperm and eggs also increases the possibility of health problems for the children who might be born as a result of these donations. Studies have shown that when a donation is made for payment, donors have less reason to be honest about the state of their health and about their genetic family history.

One study found much higher instances of HIV-positive donors among those who were paid than among those who donated on a purely voluntary basis. Men or women in financial need may be less likely to consider the welfare of others in responding to this financial incentive.

Commercial surrogacy arrangements go even further along this road to the commodification of children. Instead of sperm or eggs changing hands for money, it is a live baby. Those involved in the practice will assert that it is not the baby that is being sold but rather the reproductive services of a woman. Commercial surrogacy is simply the practice of paying a woman to give up her baby. We do not permit human beings to be bought and sold in any other context and it is an insult to children to allow this to continue.

I have heard from a significant number of constituents in my riding of Annapolis Valley-Hants regarding the issue of reproductive technology. Many constituents have written to my office or spoken with me personally on this matter. They have consistently expressed opposition to the commercial use of reproductive technologies. Our government has listened to these concerns and through this legislation it is responding.

This government is determined to remove the profit motive from pregnancy and birth. It has accordingly prohibited anyone from paying or offering to pay anyone to surrender a child or from acting as an intermediary in such an arrangement.

The prohibition on cloning is also justifiable in terms of its impact on the health of children. We simply do not know the health implications of creating large numbers of genetically identical people, either for individual children or for the population as a whole. The use of fetal eggs to create a human embryo could be harmful if they are from a miscarried fetus, since genetic disorders are one of the most frequent reasons for early miscarriage.

Practices such as commercial surrogacy arrangements, buying and selling of sperm or eggs, cloning, or using reproductive material from fetuses or dead people have no place in a society that claims to value children. The physical health of children can be severely affected in the short term by the use of new reproductive and genetic technologies for the simple reason that their use increases the likelihood of multiple births.

For example, 30 per cent of deliveries from in vitro fertilization are multiple: twins, triplets or even quadruplets. These babies are at a high risk of being born prematurely and of having a low birth weight. This can mean problems ranging from cerebral palsy and poor eyesight to short attention span and poor learning skills as these children grow up. In fact, Canadian and American studies have found that 20 to 25 per cent of low birth weight babies suffer from a form of serious disability and will continue to need attention and care in varying degrees for much of their lives.

Other health effects of new reproductive technologies just simply are not known right now. They will not become apparent until enough children are tracked through the various developmental stages until they reach adulthood. This is why the advent of new technologies has to be treated with such caution.

Children are our country's most valuable asset. Our recognition of their value is found in Canada's signature on the United Nations declaration on the rights of children. They are so vulnerable to the decisions made by adults. Concern for children's health and well-being requires that their interests be a priority in making decisions about new reproductive and genetic technologies. The legislation before the House today has taken that perspective.

The government has prohibited activities that, by commercializing reproduction and reproductive materials, make children into commodities, products for sale on the market. It has prohibited activities whose impact on the future health of children is harmful. It has in other measures proposed to set in place mechanisms to ensure that all new reproductive and genetic technologies that are offered in Canada are provided with the interests and needs of children paramount so that children are treated with the care and respect that they deserve.

Human Reproductive And Genetic Technologies ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, we only have one minute left in the debate.

We have an order of the House to proceed to the recorded vote at 5.30 p.m. Because of the ministerial statement we must add 17 minutes to the debate.

I am told that the 17 minutes will be lost because of the call of the bell. We have a government order with which we must proceed.

The House resumed from October 22, 1996, consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Income Tax Act, be read the third time and passed.

Bankruptcy And Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 1996 / 5:25 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the motion at third reading of Bill C-5.

Call in the members.

The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:

Bankruptcy And Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I was late for the vote. Had I been on time I would have voted with my party.

Bankruptcy And Insolvency ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed.)

The House resumed from October 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-29, an act to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese based substances, be read the third time and passed; and of the amendment.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment of the hon. member for Chicoutimi at the third reading stage on Bill C-29, an act to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese based substances.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Bob Kilger Liberal Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, if the House agrees I would propose that you seek unanimous consent that members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as having voted on the motion now before the House, with Liberals voting nay, with the exception of the member for Fundy-Royal who had to leave.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Bloc Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the official opposition will vote yes.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, in deference to the new whip and at the risk of a two-minute delay of game, we are going to vote yes.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the NDP whip, New Democratic members in the House will vote no on this motion.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, as House leader and party whip and anything else you want from me, I am voting in favour.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


John Nunziata Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to cast my ballot in support of the government's position.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment defeated.

Manganese Based Fuel Additives ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now ready to rule on Motion M-1, standing in the name of the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

The hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell has informed the Chair in writing that owing to his recent appointment to the ministry as Minister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for the Francophonie, he is precluded from moving Private Member's Motion M-1 standing in his name in the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Consequently, in accordance with the Speaker's duty under Standing Order 94(1)(a) to "make all arrangements necessary to ensure the orderly conduct of Private Members' Business" I am directing the Clerk to remove Motion M-1 from the Order Paper.

(Motion withdrawn.)

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB


That, in the opinion of this House, all proposed peacekeeping or peace enforcement commitments involving more than 100 Canadian personnel should be put to a free vote in the House for approval or rejection.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on votable motion M-31 which provides Parliament the opportunity to address the important issue of peacekeeping. If passed, M-31 will ensure that members of the House are properly consulted whenever we send a large contingent of our men and women in uniform on dangerous missions abroad.

It reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, all proposed peacekeeping or peace enforcement commitments involving more than 100 Canadian personnel should be put to a free vote in the House for approval or rejection.

The reason my motion would only deal with missions involving 100 or more personnel is to allow the government sufficient flexibility to deal with the kinds of small missions that come up from time to time such as observer missions, de-mining operations, election supervision, without requiring full parliamentary approval.

Motion M-31 is very simple and straightforward. There are no tricks here and what it all boils down to is this. As members of Parliament we have a responsibility to our country and to our troops. When soldiers from my riding or any member's riding are ordered to put their lives on the line, I want to know that all members of Parliament looked at all the facts and made the best decision regarding the mission and any questions arising from the mission.

It is not good enough that decisions are made by a few people behind closed doors. The Canadian people expect all of Parliament to face up to the responsibilities of sending our troops on these missions. When our soldiers go it must be a Canadian decision endorsed by the entire House of Commons. Before the decision to go or not to go is made, members of the House owe it to our soldiers to speak for them in a full debate and to cast their votes only after careful reflection.

I point back to the times over the past 10 years when Liberal members stood up to say much the same thing, that it was a total disregard of this House when soldiers were sent off on serious missions without first consulting them. The people in all of our ridings expect us to have been consulted and expect us to have an answer to the reasons why Canadian soldiers have gone on a peacekeeping mission.

Not only are modern peacekeeping missions more risky than they used to be but they are also much more expensive. The tab for our various missions runs into the billions of dollars. That is money coming straight out of the pockets of Canadians. We owe it to all citizens who are funding these missions to evaluate the facts and have a free vote before jumping in head first.

How many of us, in our ridings, have been asked why we are spending whatever the figure is on a particular mission? Our troops have done a great job but our voters deserve an answer from us.

The old way of simply handing over blank cheques to the UN is no longer acceptable. Canadians want accountability. Canadians want to know the risk and cost are worthwhile before the decision is made, and the only way to get all of the facts on the table is by a full parliamentary debate with a free vote at the end of it.

After that debate, the only way we possibly can show our accountability is through that vote. Then members can put their money where their mouths are and go on public record as supporting or not supporting a particular mission.

Since we are not only talking about a huge amount of money but the lives of our troops when we make this decision, it is vitally

important that members be able to vote their conscience or vote the wishes of their constituents. If ever there is a free vote on anything in the House it should be for peacekeeping. It should not be political. It should not in any way be partisan. It is an obvious item for a free vote. The lives and welfare of our soldiers cannot be a partisan matter. Similarly, it cannot be a situation where a whip instructs members how to vote. This is a life and death decision that must be left up to the elected members of the House to decide.

I realize that this is private member's hour so there is not a huge number of people here, but there are more people here now than when we have had some of our rather sham debates on peacekeeping missions that have occurred after hours.

Not all the facts were known at that time. The decisions in many cases had already been made and reported in the press. There was no opportunity for input of members to be incorporated into the government plans. There was no free vote. In fact there was no vote at all on any of these debates. No wonder there was so little interest by members. No wonder there was so little media attention. No wonder Canadians were not informed as they should have been. No wonder that when Canadians would ask members about the validity of the missions, those members were not able to give an answer.

Over the next few months two major peacekeeping missions are supposed to expire. All current indications show that these missions will be renewed. The blank cheques are already in the minister's hand. While I have no doubt that some mockery of consultation will occur, it will be what it has always been, a mirage, an image and a fraud on the Canadian public.

It does not have to be that way. I know there are members on all sides of the House who would dearly love to have some real input. They would love to discuss all of the facts in a full debate and then make a decision that is best for the country by means of a free vote.

In particular, I am thinking of the members of the foreign affairs and defence committees. I am thinking of members whose sons or daughters are in the military. I am thinking of members who have military bases in their ridings or members who are veterans. All of these members have something to contribute and it does not matter if they are Liberals, Bloc Quebecois, Reformers or New Democrats.

This debate is about the lives of our young people and the place our country has in the world. For many years peacekeeping has been a major factor of Canadian foreign policy. It is up to all of us as members of Parliament to take the responsibility seriously and speak to these motions.

I am pretty sure that the Liberal whip has already instructed some member opposite to give a speech saying something like this: "We appreciate the idea of the member for Red Deer and the Liberal Party is always concerned about peacekeeping and consulting with the public, but we do not support this motion". Then we will probably hear some convoluted explanation of why my motion is impractical or improper or unparliamentary, but it will be one of those things.

I think back to a motion a couple of years ago on access to information. Member after member got up and said that it was a great motion and it was just what the House needed for accountability but they were going to vote against it because the government was going to act on it and they would have action within the year. That was two years ago and there is still no action.

I urge whichever member has been chosen to give this speech to think twice before that member gives it. The member should think about his or her responsibility as a member of Parliament to represent his or her people back home, to promote the interests of the country and to support our troops. All of these things have to be more important than blindly serving the all knowing party brass.

I urge other Liberal members who have not had instructions from their whip to speak their minds freely. While they are doing this they should take inspiration from what has been said in the past by certain Liberal cabinet ministers. I am going to read a few quotes and I want the Liberal members here to hold their ministers to their words because their words support the principles behind M-31.

I will begin with the words of the Minister of Foreign Affairs: "I appreciate the co-operation of all parties in this new Parliament. This way, the people of Canada will be able to express their views to their elected representatives on an important foreign affairs issue. I also want to point out that today's consultation will not be the last on Canada's foreign policy". In this case he was talking about Haiti: "I promise that as far as possible, future debates will be held under better circumstances".

Since a fuller, more complete debate will be of benefit to Canadians, I can only assume that he would support M-31.

A second quote from the minister: "We have learned our lessons. We realize that when the United Nations takes on a role there must be proper and effective resources to meet the needs". Parliament should know if these resources are in place. If they are, then all the facts are laid on the table. And if they are not but the government is going ahead with the mission anyway, clearly the minister's words about having learned a lesson ring rather hollow.

A third quote: "I also brought the views of Canadians to bear by opening up this question on the Internet so we were able to ensure that Canadians from a wide variety of perspectives would let us know what their thoughts were". Obviously the minister is concerned about listening to people and obviously believing in representative democracy as other parties in the House do. They

obviously believe that members of Parliament then should have their voice heard.

Another quote: "We still need and want the expressions of opinions of members of Parliament on what they think". Obviously the clearest way to get that is by a free vote in the House.

Finally, from the Minister of Foreign Affairs: "We are finding the solutions but we need to have the views of members of Parliament". From all these quotes one can see that the minister is saying we should have fuller debate with the facts available to all members so that they can make an educated decision on matters. This is exactly what Motion No. 31 states.

The foreign affairs minister is not the only cabinet minister who seemingly supports the principles of M-31. Let me turn now to some quotes from the former minister of national defence: "I think the hon. members from Red Deer and Charlevoix have raised very good points about getting a better handle on the cost before we go into these missions". Again, clearly the minister was stating he believes more parliamentary debate would be the way to get that information.

He goes on: "With respect to the rules of engagement, we have to be very sure that we know under what auspices we are operating there. We have had some unpleasant experiences before, one in Somalia, and we have learned a lot of lessons". Again I point out that he is strongly promoting the concept of M-31.

I think we will find as well that we have tried various experiments in our committees to make this work. In fact, we have moved a long way in looking at what we might do here.

A final quote from that minister: "The mandate has to be appropriate and achievable under the circumstances. We have to know the rules of engagement. We have to know what the ultimate force size and composition are". This is exactly the point. We have to know the facts, we have to have the briefing and we as members of Parliament have to feel good about what we do when we spend that money and risk those lives.

My conclusion from all of these statements is that it appears there would be strong cabinet support for M-31 based on what I have read and what I have heard in the House.

Time will tell whether those were hollow words or whether the ministers really meant those words about consultation on an issue as strongly felt by Canadians as peacekeeping.

Let me now turn to a discussion on one of those missions which will expire in a month, the Haiti mission. This is a perfect example of an ad hoc mission that is lurching from one crisis to the next. The mission is due to expire yet we have heard nothing about the continued Canadian role in Parliament. Members are being kept in the dark. I expect a day or two before the debate we are going to have a rush debate in order to extend the mission for another six months.

Members of this House who are on the foreign affairs committee know that we were told this was just a six month extension, that most things should be under control by then and that we would in fact not be carrying on with the mission in likelihood come December of this year. Putting a band-aid on a bleeding artery is not going to solve anything.

The former minister of international co-operation in Haiti said Canada will prove its friendship and solidarity. It is very nice for the minister to say that and I am glad that he enjoys cutting backroom deals with foreign leaders while keeping the Canadian Parliament in suspense. I would like to remind this House that the Liberals used to cry bloody murder when the Mulroney Tories did the same thing. Although certain members of this cabinet have the Tory act fine tuned, it appears, I know that most members would agree that this should be openly discussed, openly debated and then let all members consult with their constituents and make that decision. M-31 would allow that to happen.

As far as Reform is concerned, we have to look at the Haiti mission and the facts again, much as we did before. We know the situations, we read the reports about what is happening there. We know that illiteracy is still at 85 per cent and unemployment at 80 per cent plus. We know that Mr. Aristide is waiting in the wings. We know there has been no great progress in democratization. We know that there are under 100 rich families adding nothing back to that country. We know that expatriates are not encouraged to invest in the country.

Canadians need to know more. What are the benefits, the long term solutions and is there a long term plan? We in the House of Commons can put forward such a plan to look at a country like Haiti. It is in our hemisphere. We can come up with a solution, maybe it will take 20 or 30 years, but we have to at least give a chance.

This is the kind of thing that this House can do. This House can put forward a long term solution, one that Canadians will understand, one that all of us will understand and together we will agree on it. This last minute two hour debate rushed through the day before is not a solution to solving these sorts of peacekeeping problems.

Maybe the solution is to go to the OAS to begin the democracy, to say to the 31 other countries it is time that we took the responsibility. It is in our hemisphere, it is causing us problems, let

us take it. Let us at least come up with another solution, not just a band-aid that probably will not work.

Within this House we have the capability, the brain power, the thoughtfulness, the intelligence, all these adjectives, where we could actually create something better for ourselves. If there is any area, foreign affairs has to be that area where we can be non-partisan, where we can look at a solution with long term benefits for all of us.

We should get unanimous consent for this bill. We should all be able to agree to it. My constituents will be happy if I am working for the good of the country, not for the good of my party, not for the good of partisan positions but one showing co-operation, leadership and using members of Parliament to the best advantage of this House.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Cape Breton Highlands—Canso Nova Scotia


Francis Leblanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs but also as a member of foreign affairs and international trade committee who has participated with the hon. member for Red Deer and others in debate on the question of Canada's peacekeeping missions, notably the most recent one in Haiti.

I want to begin by challenging the premise of the motion which is that unless there is a free vote in this House as is specified by the motion, Canada's role in peacekeeping missions is not debated by parliamentarians, that no debate has taken place.

That is manifestly not the case. With the committee of which the member is a part, we have been in the process of attempting to find a realistic way of obtaining the views of parliamentarians who are interested in the question of peacekeeping to provide good, timely and sound advice to the government on the question of renewal of peacekeeping missions and on the question of new peacekeeping missions.

In addition to that, we have been attempting to say that somehow because the debate occurs near the end of a given mission on the question of renewing that mission there has been no work done to bring the issue to the stage at which it is brought for debate is again a false presumption.

As the member knows, in dealing with issues that give rise to peacekeeping missions the international environment is changing all the time. At some point, with the facts at our disposal it is appropriate to have a discussion to get reasonable advice from members of Parliament on all sides of the House. That is what this government has been attempting to do, particularly the Minister of Foreign Affairs, using the resources of Parliament.

This continues to be the policy of this government and it will continue to be the policy of this government. Whenever possible and necessary, the House's opinion will be sought prior to Canadian troops being sent overseas.

In the international context, however, the Government of Canada must be able to act. More important, the government must be able to act quickly. This requires flexibility. Canada has been at the forefront of international peacekeeping policy for the past 40 years.

At the 50th United Nations general assembly in 1995, the previous minister of foreign affairs, the hon. Andre Ouellet, presented the Canadian study toward a rapid reaction capability for the United Nations.

It recognized that a faster response by the United Nations in times of crisis was required in today's world. The UN cannot act without the support of leading peacekeeping nations such as Canada.

This motion establishes a rigid process and risks tying the hands of the Government of Canada when the international community seeks our assistance. It does not recognize that each peacekeeping mission is distinct and must be treated as such.

It does not recognize the importance that Canadians and the international community place in our peacekeepers. Because of that, the motion does not receive the support of this government.

In normal circumstances, when a peacekeeping mission is being launched, reviewed or renewed, debate is encouraged, and the House is asked to support the initiative. However, there may be exceptional cases in the future in which time is of the essence. It may be necessary to react quickly in order to avert a disaster.

In these conditions, the government cannot be slowed down by a bill requiring a vote in the House before Canadian troops can be deployed. The government must be able to quickly send Canadian troops where they are needed. A requirement to hold a vote in the House would prevent the government from doing its duty. This could take time we do not have in these situations.

The face of peacekeeping and peace operations in general is changing. The world community does not always wait for a stable environment before intervening.

The United Nations and other international bodies now act to prevent conflicts from starting and to keep them from spreading. They deploy troops while fighting continues when there is no peace to keep. The focus is now on action rather than reaction. In order to fulfil its role as a pre-eminent peacekeeper, Canada must be able to act quickly and decisively when asked to do so. A conflict can escalate in a matter of weeks if not days. A ceasefire can

deteriorate or a town can be destroyed. The intervention of peacekeeping troops can help to prevent a situation from disintegrating into a tragedy.

We hope the world learned valuable lessons from peacekeeping operations like the one in Rwanda. It is no longer possible to stand back and do nothing. We must step in to avert a tragedy before the situation gets out of hand. Waiting for order to be restored in an area is no longer a viable solution.

Peacekeepers must sometimes be deployed somewhere on very short notice. If the situation is dangerous, they are asked to stop violence while it is occurring or before it starts and not after the harm has been done. We must respond to the horror of ethnic massacres with vigorous measures. Canada must play its part in helping to maintain the safety and security we as a people value so much.

This motion would prevent Canada from taking action. Our peacekeepers are considered to be among the best in the world. That is why the international community relies on Canada to participate in almost every UN mission. The word "Canadian" has become synonymous with peacekeeper. One of our Prime Ministers, the Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for coming up with the concept of peacekeeping. In 1988, the peacekeepers themselves received a medal in recognition of their services.

If we cannot respond to UN calls for help, other countries will start questioning Canada's commitment to this organization, and therefore its relevance as a peacekeeping tool.

If we chose to ignore the United Nations' demands, then many other countries will question the confidence they have put in this organization. We must not let this happen. When the UN and the international community call, we must answer. We must be able to react on very short notice, if required.

Peacekeepers have taken on more aggressive roles in peace enforcement but they have also accepted the hat of humanitarian relief workers. Not only do United Nations soldiers separate warring parties, now they must also feed, shelter and protect the civilian populations.

A prime example of this is the new Disaster Assistance Response Team, DART. It is designed to begin the deployment of its 180 members to a humanitarian disaster within 48 hours. The team will provide the infrastructure necessary for UN organizations or non-governmental organizations to follow in the coming weeks. In the interim, DART will provide medical and structural support for the surrounding community.

This could not happen if there was a postponement due to a required debate within the House. A situation could decay just as rapidly in a humanitarian emergency as it can in times of armed conflict. The delay could cost the lives of hundreds of innocent people. It could even make deploying the force impossible.

If they had arrived according to schedule, then the force may avert further disaster. Canada must be in a position to stop a tragedy from developing. If we are capable of doing this let us not be entangled by unnecessary legislative requirements when people are dying. Let us not create reasons why we cannot help those who need our assistance in order to survive. Let us not antagonize and shame the Canadian people.

Canada would lose its status as a leader among countries providing peacekeeping troops if it could not react when the help of Canadian men and women is requested. Last year, Canada released a study entitled "Towards a Rapid Reaction Capability for the United Nations".

We have seen in the past that reacting quickly is a must in a crisis situation. With this report, Canada is now providing a model for the future.

I realize that my speaking time is up. I will therefore wrap up quickly. The government agrees that a debate on our commitments should be held either in this House or before the Parliament of Canada.

It is quite another story to ask that there be a vote before Canada can make any commitment, every time Canada makes a commitment, for the reasons I stated in my remarks.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too am going to speak to Motion M-31 introduced by the Reform Party member, the purpose of which is to give Parliamentarians a greater voice when Canada sends soldiers to take part in United Nations peacekeeping operations.

It is very laudable to give Parliament a greater say in these decisions. Nonetheless, there are some changes we would like to see made to the proposal. As for the substance of this proposal, I think it is desirable to involve parliamentarians in debates of this importance.

We know that, on a number of occasions, this has already happened. Emergency debates have been held to back decisions which, in some cases, had been taken, or were to be taken, to send Canadian soldiers to take part in peacekeeping operations. At the conclusion of my speech, I will propose an amendment to this proposal.

Many people in our ridings and in our families have a connection with the armed forces; we all have such people in our ridings. Some members have military bases or other military installations in their ridings. The number of people involved in the military across the country is large. In debates such as these, therefore, we can

represent our constituents, who share with us their views and opinions when we see them at various events and meetings.

The Bloc Quebecois has already made its views on this subject known in its dissenting report on Canada's foreign policy, tabled in November 1994 after the election. I am going to read you parts of this report. The last paragraph deals specifically with the subject of the motion put by the member of the Reform Party.

The Bloc Quebecois said that "it considers that one of the primary roles of the Canadian Forces on the international scene must be to support peacekeeping operations by taking an active part in them. Canada's willingness to help keep the peace is one of its most important attributes and a major international achievement. However, in the future Canada will have to define more precise criteria for its interventions.

The costs and complexity of intervention will require a new attitude on the part of the international community: the events in Rwanda and Bosnia are eloquent evidence of this. Canada must learn from the experience of all these peacekeeping missions. The recent case of Haiti is a reminder of the need to base our intervention on democratic legitimacy and rigorous planning. In the future, mission objectives and orders will have to be carefully established, under the aegis of the United Nations". I continue: "Although in agreement with the majority report's recommendation on the necessity of giving the Canadian Forces a special configuration, since the credibility of our intervention depends on this, the Bloc Quebecois wishes to spell out the direction that Canada should take in this area. First, we think that Canada should rethink its current military alliances-NATO and NORAD-so that their strategic missions reflect the UN's needs".

"This approach would bring new vitality to these organizations and update their usefulness in security maintenance and conflict resolution, while enabling Canada to achieve the collective security goals that are crucial for its own territorial security. In addition, we consider that Canada should encourage the setting- up of a permanent contingent available to the UN for its peacekeeping missions abroad. We further think that Canada should set a ceiling on the human resources it is prepared to devote to peacekeeping. For example, it could limit the number of military personnel committed to peacekeeping missions at any one time to a maximum of 2,000 to 2,500".

This is what we said earlier. There are now close to 2,000 Canadian peacekeepers abroad. These soldiers are generally sent on a mission for a six-month mandate, so there is a rotation.

We concluded as follows: "And lastly, Canada should submit any decision to participate in peacekeeping missions to a vote in the House of Commons, as rapidly as possible, where time allows".

That is the context in which we want to propose an amendment. I want to say here that peacekeeping is currently one of the main areas of activity of our armed forces. I do not think that anyone is under the impression that, overnight, Canada will be facing any threat of invasion. Our role, as a country, is therefore much more to provide personnel to contribute to the peacekeeping and peacemaking effort around the world.

In fact, any review of DND activities should always be carried out in a similar frame of mind, looking to allocate a larger portion of the budget to peacekeeping missions, which are important missions, while at the same time assuming a role that may be very useful at home and in terms of operations of a more civilian nature. That being said, savings could certainly be made by managing along these lines.

The Bloc Quebecois policy, as set out in this report, has not changed. A number of options are discussed as far as possible positions regarding UN missions.

As for the amendment, I would like to point out that, in its present form, it refers to a number of peacekeepers. A figure like 100 is rather restrictive. The opportunity of this figure could be questioned. It is always difficult to set an arbitrary number. The other question is: what would we do in the event of a major crisis, a crisis erupting somewhere on the international scene, in any given country, on July 31, August 2 or December 27? According to the wording of the other motion, we would have to call an emergency session of Parliament, with the delays that would entail.

To ensure that a decision may be made in any event, and later approved by Parliament, we will submit in a moment an amendment introducing a degree of flexibility in the process, while ensuring however that, should this occur, if the government decided to send troops and contribute to a peacekeeping force over the summer or any other time when the House is in recess, immediately upon its return, the decision would be put to a vote in Parliament.

You will tell me: "Yes, but the personnel have already been sent". Even so, if Parliament decided that it was not necessary, we could go back on the decision and not renew the mandate at the end of the six month term, or withdraw the peacekeepers, not immediately of course, because replacements would have to be found, and we do have commitments to honour within the United Nations.

So that would influence matters somewhat. It would mean a public debate could be held on the subject, people from various sectors could express their points of view, and if the government, in the view of the opposition parties, had not made the right decision, this would be the time to say so. But it would allow more flexibility, it would not have the disadvantage of having to

convene an emergency session of Parliament. That is why our amendment will introduce a little more flexibility in this regard.

I would like to say, while I am on the topic, however, that I would like to see our troops receive more training before being sent outside the country, so that they will have a better understanding of the stakes involved, which are often political, economic or social, in order to be able to represent us with dignity.

Many people have done extraordinary things during their posting. It only takes a few unfortunate incidents like those in Somalia, for example, or elsewhere to ruin the reputation it has taken years to build. We must therefore step up our efforts to train these people before they set out, to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they will be doing, and that they represent us well. I think we have some way to go, and we must avoid any more events like those that took place in Somalia.

In conclusion, I propose as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "all" and substituting the following:

"projects of military commitments abroad involving Canadian troops must, as soon as possible, be the subject of a vote in the House in order to recommend their approval or rejection to the government".

This would satisfy the objectives I have just mentioned. I would like to table this amendment.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

The Speaker

This amendment is in order.

I see we have about 18 minutes left. It is my intention to recognize the hon. member for Saanich-Gulf Islands and the hon. member for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Jack Frazer Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

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.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Len Hopkins Liberal Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, in speaking to this motion today, I begin by pointing out that what this motion offers is in absolute keeping with the Canadian peacekeeping policy process. In fact it supports the philosophy which guides our present policy.

It has been and will continue to be the policy of this government to bring before this House all issues relating to peacekeeping. When it has been possible and necessary, that is exactly what this government has done. We recognize the importance of full and free discussion of any proposed deployment of Canadian forces personnel and we attach great value to the opinion which this House has to offer.

It is for these reasons this government has endeavoured to allow for the debate of Canada's peacekeeping commitments at every opportunity. Therefore the apparent objective of this motion to generate discussion and debate of Canada's peacekeeping commitments has already been accomplished by this government.

I note here that we have heard a lot about non-partisan debate from the Reform Party spokespeople tonight. In this House, foreign affairs used to be quite non-debatable and people came to a consensus. It is rather ironic that the spokespersons for the Reform Party were on their feet asking for non-partisanship and at the same time were castigating Liberals in past debates in this House.

Motion No. M-31 calls for a free vote in the House. Our government is derived from the system in Great Britain, the mother of Parliaments. It is called responsible government. Under our parliamentary system responsible government means that the government of the day must make the decisions. Decisions have to be made and sometimes as has been stated they have to be made quickly.

We cannot compare this with the way the United Nations makes decisions because we are in the throes of trying to upgrade and modernize the United Nations and streamline its procedures and that is the right way to go. The way debates are handled in this House, decisions on foreign affairs or any other major events have to be made by a responsible government in the long run. That government is the one that has to live with the decisions.

While we are talking about peacekeeping, peacemaking and what should be done in Parliament prior to a force going wherever to smooth things out, let me emphasize to the greatest degree the appreciation we should have as Canadians for the members of the Canadian forces who go out and do Canada proud around the world. Canadians respond responsibly. Yes there have been a few hiccups along the way, but the hiccups totally disappear when we consider the positive contribution our Canadian forces have made to world affairs and indeed right here at home when disasters occur.

Think back to World War I and World War II and how Canada acted. Why did Canada act? Because there was no United Nations to bring countries together to make decisions. Everybody was drifting off in their own direction and we drifted into World War I and we drifted into World War II. That is why at the end of World War II the UN was founded. Then when the communists started becoming more and more aggressive during the cold war period of the late 1940s, NATO was established, another group of nations coming together for help. That did not exist in the earlier days.

Korea, the first test of the United Nations peacekeeping, was a very successful test in that the United Nations forced the North Koreans back to the 38th parallel.

Canada took part in the Persian Gulf war. It has been into peacekeeping and peacemaking of all kinds over the years. Then there is aid to the civilian power by our Canadian forces.

I want to say here what a debt we owe to those Canadian forces who participated in aid to the civilian power during the Saguenay River disaster. The words of a person who lost their home, lost everything, when he came up to the Prime Minister in the Saguenay area when he visited there were: "Mr. Prime Minister, the Canadian forces have been with us since day one. We don't know what we would have done without them. They have been marvellous".

When we see all this hype about Canadian forces today and all the negative things occurring, let us give those men and women out there a pat on the back. Let us tell them that Canadians should be giving them the credit they deserve for the wonderful work they are doing. The other problems go into insignificance.

Those young families sitting out there tonight may be watching this debate. They have to be thanked, the rank and file of the Canadian Armed Forces who are the very basis of what we are talking about today.

Just to back up what I have been saying, the recent event that supposedly occurred in Hungary with four Canadian soldiers, remember the headlines the first day: "Canadian soldiers assaulted couple, Hungary police say", headlines in a Hungarian newspaper.

After the investigation was made, they found that reports of Canadian soldiers attacking a Hungarian civilian and his girl friend were exaggerated, as Hungarian journalists in the Canadian military now say.

In fact, information indicates that one of the Canadians was himself beaten up in a street fight. Then the editor of the largest Budapest daily newspaper said Monday that the story his paper published on the weekend was not entirely accurate.

I want to thank the Ottawa Citizen for correcting that story. While we castigate the media, when it does admit a mistake and comes forward and corrects a story, it deserves our thanks as well.

I want to emphasize that while we are sending our Canadian troops into all areas of the world, into all kinds of different cultures, different languages, different geographical conditions, different transportation conditions to do a job, for heaven's sake, let the rest of us here at home get behind the spirit of the Canadian forces and give them the boost they deserve.

They are an institution of this country, and a proud one. I want to underscore that tonight while I am on my feet. This country since the very conception of peacekeeping has been an international leader in the field.

Canada's pre-eminence in peacekeeping has resulted from a willingness to act in times of crisis. Indeed it has been our willingness to become involved and our ability to do so quickly that has won us the acclaim and admiration of the entire international community.

This is not to say that this government opposes debate. On the contrary, we recognize that debate is essential, especially when the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces may be put in harm's way.

Debate on important peacekeeping issues is crucial and the opinion of this House is valued.

That is where this government stands. We have had debates on these issues in the past. There will continue to be debates in the House, but I want to underscore that it is the government of the day that must make the final decision. It is the one which is going to be held accountable, so it will make the decision. If we are going to have responsible democracy in Canada we have to have a responsible government. That means that members of the government respect the government which they support.

PeacekeepingPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Speaker

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

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

PeacekeepingAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to raise again a question which I originally raised with the Minister of Foreign Affairs respecting the role of our election supervisors or election observers in Bosnia.

At that time I asked the minister if he would be good enough to respond to the concerns which Canadians had as to what the role of our observers actually was in an election of that nature and the response was given by the Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa. She pointed out the important role that our observers have played in that particular community.

In following this up tonight I think it is worth reminding members of the House and members of the public of the very important role that our observers play in local elections. I have not had an opportunity to do this, but as chairman of the foreign affairs committee I get regular reports on this form of activity and have often had the opportunity to observe the role that Canadian parliamentarians and others have played not only in Bosnia but in Nicaragua, in Palestine and in many other countries where there are really serious concerns about the credibility of the election process.

It is appropriate that my opportunity to follow up on this issue comes this evening on the heels of the debate which has taken place on peacekeeping. In many ways the role that our observers play in this type of activity is very similar to the role that our troops play in peacekeeping. They are there to ensure the credibility of the democratic process. They are there to ensure that peace will be maintained in the region because there will be elections which will replace the need for violence.

This is an extraordinarily important process and it is important for us to be assured by the ministry that our observers are actually performing the role which they are called upon to do and are able to do it.

I ask the parliamentary secretary for the minister if he would be good enough to elaborate on the role that our observers play. I would like him to tell us what the prospects are for peace, particularly in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia, now that these elections have been held. What can we see from the fruits of all the labours of our observers and peacekeepers? What can the parliamentary secretary tell us about the present prospects?

In particular, I would ask him if he is able to comment on a recent suggestion by the president of the war crimes tribunal, which is seeking to bring to justice potential war criminals in the former Yugoslavia. The president of that tribunal has actually gone so far as to say that he is considering resigning from his post. He is concerned about the integrity of the process of that tribunal because of its failure to actually bring before the tribunal many of the accused. Some 74 persons have been accused and only seven people have been arraigned before the tribunal because many of the accused are still in the former Yugoslavia, still unassailable, still inaccessible and cannot be brought to justice.

I would like to take this opportunity to invite the parliamentary secretary to elaborate some more on the answer which was given before and assure the House that the role of our observers is an important one, that they have achieved success in the former Yugoslavia and that there is now ongoing opportunity for peace in that region, including justice to be served by the international tribunal.