House of Commons Hansard #101 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mission.


Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleague, I did receive the notice you sent me earlier today. Although this is a very important matter, I do not think it meets the requirements for the House to hold an emergency debate for the time being.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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3:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec


Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I want to report to you and the House the remarkable events of the last week and the reasons that Canada decided to take the lead in putting together a mission to bring aid to the starving masses of refugees in central Africa.

As everyone knows, the situation on the ground has improved dramatically since our initiative was launched last week. Refugees in the hundreds of thousands have crossed the border back to Rwanda. This change is due in large part to the resolve shown by the international community under the leadership of Canada.

Much has been written and said about the actions of our government, about our decision to try to break the logjam at the United Nations, to galvanize the international community into action and to offer Canadian leadership for a dangerous but essential international mission.

But when all is said and done, the basic fact is that Canada acted because it was the decent, human thing to do. We acted because two world wars and forty years of peace keeping have taught us that the world cannot turn its back on turmoil and disaster.

We acted because deeply ingrained in our very being as Canadians is a very clear and basic understanding that we are citizens of the world, that we take that citizenship very seriously, and that when it is time to stand up and be counted, Canada is there.

That is the way it was through two world wars and 40 years of peacekeeping. As the most privileged of nations we have understood and valued the responsibility of world citizenship.

There is no mystery to this impulse, no calculation, no posturing. The government felt it. The leaders of the four opposition parties, whom we consulted, felt it. The men and women of our armed forces, who without hesitation stood ready to take the lead, felt it. Our diplomats in posts around the world and public servants in foreign affairs, national defence and CIDA, who helped plan and organize this initiative, felt it. People across the country felt it.

Therefore, the government decision to act, to appeal to the international community, was not a difficult one. It was not taken lightly. Committing men and women to dangerous situations, even as part of a large international force, can never be taken lightly. It was the natural thing to do. It was arrived at without fanfare, without drama and breast beating, but in the typical, understated, matter of fact Canadian way. There was a job to be done and we were ready to do it.

So in itself, our decision was not remarkable. What was remarkable was the reaction of the international community. I wish every Canadian could have listened into the telephone conversations I had last week with the leaders of other nations.

From the leaders of the wealthiest, most powerful countries to the leaders of small, developing nations, including United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the reaction was consistent and powerful: Canada's identity as a peacekeeper, as an honest broker, as a force for decency and humanity around the world-again and again this is what the world's leaders told me.

Sometimes it is useful to raise our heads, clear our minds, and see ourselves as the world sees us. Last week, in our appeals to the nations of the world, in our presence at the United Nations, in the quick and responsive moves of General Baril and his colleagues, the world saw a voice for reason and compassion. A new world nation, without the burdens of history that weigh so many nations

down. A diverse, bilingual country that knows the importance of accommodation and understanding.

They saw a country that had no self-interest in its call for action, that had a proven record in peacekeeping and sensitive military operations, that had the credibility to pull together an international effort and the ability to execute it.

They understand that our history, our experience, our reality made us uniquely suited to this urgent task, a country without colonial past in Africa, a bilingual country with links to and an ability to operate in this French speaking corner of the world, an international player that is at once a G-7 nation and a middle power.

These are the reasons we launched our initiative last week and why we succeeded in convincing the international community to join us. However, it is only a prologue to the actual humanitarian operation. Canadians deserve to know what we are getting into and what we can reasonably expect.

As I speak, more than 400,000 refugees have crossed back into Rwanda and the Goma area. Another 150,000 are expected to cross over in the next few days. These developments are all very good news, but let us not forget that fighting continues in the region and the situation is very fluid.

We know the changes on the ground will affect the mission. Let me tell you what is being done to address this changing situation. Yesterday, we announced new humanitarian aid to respond to changing needs on the ground. And we dispatched General Baril to assess the situation in the region.

Canada and all nations involved in this humanitarian effort are in close contact. We will be meeting with other countries in Stuttgart on Thursday to discuss the impact of these events on the proposed military mission. The Secretary of State for Africa will be on that continent later this week, consulting with governments there. And in the coming days, Canada will be convening a meeting of aid donors to mobilize support for the resettlement of those returning.

But the international community must continue its effort to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid by civilian relief organizations to alleviate the immediate suffering we have all seen in our homes on our televisions every night and to facilitate the return to their homes in Rwanda of those refugees who want to return.

Canada will continue to take the lead in working with the international community. We are all committed to ending the suffering.

For Canada, the last week has been a special moment, a moment of which we can all be proud. We do not know now exactly what the coming days and weeks will bring. And in those difficult moments we must remember what this mission is all about. In a century ravaged by war and aggression, we have called for a commitment that has nothing to do with conquest or glory.

We are not entering into combat with an enemy. Our only enemy is human suffering. Our only foe is hunger and disease. Our only adversary is pain and misery.

We have already won an early battle against moral blindness and self-interest by galvanizing the world community into action. Let us now do what is required to complete the work.

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3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately for the Leader of the Opposition, a member of the Reform Party has the floor.

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3:50 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

You are not going to recognize me, Mr. Speaker?

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3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It seems that, before the Prime Minister made his speech, it was agreed that each party would speak in turn, and it is now the Reform Party's turn.

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3:50 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

We each have our turn, but it is not my turn.

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3:50 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt to speak to the motion before the House today, this take note debate we have before us on Canada's current and future commitments in Zaire.

Canada has apparently agreed to take command of the mission in Zaire. The intentions of the government are noble. However, it has proceeded carelessly and without clear goals. For this reason the Reform Party cannot yet support the mission to Zaire.

My colleague from Red Deer, the Reform Party critic for foreign affairs, outlined the Reform's position with a particular focus on the foreign affairs perspective. Now I will provide a military assessment of the mission.

To me and other members of the House this take note debate is purely smoke and mirrors. Although we would like to see pure consultation with members of the House of Commons, we recog-

nize that there will be no vote with respect to this information that comes out of this debate today.

For more than a week now the media has been reporting that the government has decided to commit troops to Zaire. Senior defence officials have advised the cabinet that we have the capability to participate in this force. Military preparations have been under way for some time now.

The Reform Party does not yet have sufficient information to support the government's decision to lead the mission to Zaire. Canadians recognize the importance of stability in Zaire, Rwanda, Burundi and the area, repatriating the refugees to their countries of origin and relieving the malnourished and starving. This mission will be extremely dangerous and Canadians should be fully aware of that fact.

It is dangerous and this is not a peacekeeping mission. Combat capable troops are required for this mission to Zaire. We will not be monitoring opposing armies but playing a role in providing humanitarian aid to refugees in the area and providing them with a safe corridor through which they can move to their countries of origin.

Only three days prior to announcing this mission I sat in a briefing by senior military officials and they confirmed for me then and there that Canada was not capable of supporting three large scale missions at the same time. We are already in Haiti, we are already in Bosnia, and Zaire will make our third large scale mission.

Only three days after defence officials confirmed we cannot handle three missions we hear from the Prime Minister that indeed we can. We wish we could support this mission but the government has not proven that it can complete the mission, although not through any fault of the troops or the military itself. They are among the best in the world when they are allowed to be, when they have the equipment that will allow them to be the best. We often hear when cabinet ministers talk about missions like this "I talked to the troops and the troops say they are ready to go and they are capable of going".

I was in the Canadian Armed Forces and in 1974 when my ship, the HMCS Gatineau , was asked to go to Vietnam to participate in the withdrawal of American troops I was ready, willing and able. I wanted to go. Unfortunately I was on training in Halifax at the time in fleet school. The commandant called me into the office and said: Hart, would you like to go on this mission with your ship? It would mean you would have to come off training prior to completion of your course''. I said:Sir, I am ready, willing and able and I want to be on that mission''. Unfortunately the decision was made that I would stay back and stay on training and I did not proceed with my ship to patrol the coast of Vietnam.

That is the response that we will get from every man and woman in the Canadian Armed Forces. Of course they are ready, willing and able and they want to participate in the missions because that is what they are trained to do. That has nothing to do with the responsibility of this government, to make sure that they are properly equipped to do the job and that there are enough people to make sure they can complete their missions.

The Reform Party is concerned about the government's handling of Canada's defence policy. One of the most important tasks of any national government is to support the existence of sufficient combat troops, capable armed forces, to match the nation's defence policy. This is not something that is only desirable, this is a responsibility and a requirement of any sound national government. It would be an abdication of the government's responsibility to fail in this regard.

Not long ago the Liberal government changed 50 years of Canadian defence policy by saying that Canada does not have nor does it need to maintain combat capable land forces. In fact, it was the Minister of Foreign Affairs who told Canadians that he does not believe Canada has combat capable forces. Now he is sending that same military, the one he said is not combat capable, into the line of fire.

The former chief of defence staff told Canadians that land forces are unfit to fight a serious war. These are his words: "If the government asked me to go into a high intensity theatre with the equipment I have today I would have to say I can't do it". This is a quote from the last chief of defence staff, one who has never lost the support of this government. Its former hand picked chief of defence staff does not think that we can handle this mission.

The former minister of national defence, contradicting his own white paper, said that General Boyle's comments were pretty fair. He added that General Boyle's comments reflected the 1994 white paper on defence.

Then the Minister of Foreign Affairs went even further in reversing the defence policy of the government: "A lot of the defence purchases have been geared toward the peacekeeping effort because that is the changing nature of the world. The notion that we might re-engage in a major conflict like the second world war does not seem to be there".

Our armed forces personnel must be first and foremost combat capable professionals which then and only then enables them to be finest peacekeepers or humanitarian aid providers in the world. If the Minister of National Defence or anyone in the cabinet would listen today I would tell the government to do four things.

The first is stabilize the size of the Canadian Armed Forces. I would urge them to review the work of the special joint commission, which said that the size of 60,000 troops, which we are now

headed toward, is too small given the international commitments that we have facing us today.

Second, ensure that our land, sea and air troops are combat capable. Third, provide the adequate equipment and training. Fourth, I would ask the government to clearly establish a fixed number of troops which can be utilized on international peacekeeping missions, and also to establish how many missions can be supported at any one time. I will tell the House why this is important.

For each mission of 1,000 troops we have committed to a foreign country, that ties up 3,000 troops because there will also be 1,000 who will be training for the mission, waiting for their next rotation. There are the 1,000 in theatre and there are also 1,000 who have also come out of theatre and are waiting for 18 months before they can be put into service in an international peacekeeping role again.

It can be seen that 1,000 troops commits 3,000 troops in actual numbers to an international commitment. Therefore with Bosnia, with Haiti and now with Zaire we will have some 3,300 troops in international theatre. That ties up almost 10,000 of our land forces of an army of approximately 24,000. That is putting an unprecedented amount of stress on our Canadian Armed Forces.

However, there has been no move by the government or the defence minister to look at the things I have mentioned. We are still waiting to hear about the purchase of submarines for the navy to make sure that our navy is combat capable. We are still waiting for word on the replacement of the Sea King helicopters. In fact, another Sea King crashed last Thursday.

We keep hearing from the government how great everything is but in the meantime our Sea Kings are falling out of the sky. Our engineers, pilots and our maintenance crews can keep them flying with gun tape, chewing gum and baler twine for only so long. It is a testimonial to our Canadian ingenuity and skill that our men and women were able to win the William Tell competition and become top guns.

The government should live up to the combat capability to which was committed an entire chapter in the 1994 white paper. It is fine and dandy for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to commit our armed forces to Liberal government foreign policy objectives. However, they must not be trained only for peacekeeping. They must remain combat capable professionals. That is how our Canadian troops earned their well deserved reputation in the first and second world wars, the Korean war, the Gulf war and peacekeeping missions over the last 50 years. They must be given the proper tools. They must be given the proper mandate and the rules of engagement so that they can get the job done properly with minimal risk to themselves.

We have two primary concerns, saving lives in Zaire and keeping our own Canadian Armed Forces troops alive. The Liberals can use these vain ploys to garner peacenik votes but they must remember that the lives of Canadian troops are at stake. Our men and women are not going out on a picnic in Zaire. They will be going into one of the most ruthless war ravaged areas in the world where hundreds of thousands if not millions of people are very desperate. This is a very dangerous situation and we should not be going into it lightly.

There is always a human price that will be paid and it will not be paid by these fat cat Liberal ministers who sit back and suck cappuccinos while our men and women put their lives on the line for the Liberals' half baked political decisions.

How many members of the House know the actual human toll for our mission in Bosnia? Forget for a moment the suicides, the broken families, post traumatic stress disorder. Do the Liberals actually know how many Canadian casualties there were for Bosnia? I bet few of them know. There were 120 Canadian casualties, including 12 deaths. I do not know about anyone else in the House, but when it comes to senior military personnel's telling members of the House of Commons that we cannot support three major international contributions at one time and when the former chief of defence staff and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have questioned the combat capability of our military, I must doubt our abilities to support this third large scale engagement.

With all this information, I am not as quick as my Liberal friends to send our men and women to Zaire. Let me be perfectly clear. I believe that in principle we should be able to go to Zaire. However, to ensure that Zaire is a success and to take some stress off our troops possibly we should look at pulling out of Bosnia.

It is time to completely turn over all peacekeeping responsibilities in Bosnia to the European countries. Let me say that again. The Reform Party supports in principle taking command of the multinational mission in Zaire. However, from the perspective of military and human resources we may have to leave Bosnia and the IFOR mission to do so. There is nothing wrong with admitting that we cannot do all things for all people.

We must establish clear priorities. We are faced with Bosnia, Haiti and now Zaire. Canadians would like to know from this government are these missions in Canada's national interest and, in particular, if they are how do we deal with these missions with our small army and our limited resources.

Canada has performed yeoman service in the former Yugoslavia and it is time to pass the baton to other countries.

The defence minister says the mission to Zaire will last only six months. I think this is grossly naive. Income tax, as we all remember, was meant to be a temporary measure, and look where that got us. We were told in 1991 that Bosnia would be short term. We have been there for five years. The mission in Haiti goes on and on. Just last week the UN was asked to extend its mandate for another nine months, until the end of July 1997.

On the topic of mission extensions, when the Minister for Foreign Affairs was asked how long our stay would be in Zaire he stated the Liberal line four to six months. However, he has already intimated that he expects there will be a need for a force to stay on for a new phase after the first six month deployment expires.

The government intends for our troops to remain there for possibly years. It just will not admit it at this point to Canadians. It refuses to be honest with Canadians about what it is really committing to. How long does it really plan to stay in Zaire? If the first six months are projected to cost $100 million, how much will the extended complete mission cost?

The defence minister said he can find the $100 million in his budget. Liberal math never ceases to amaze me. The minister has a budget for which money has been allocated. I do not remember seeing any line items in estimates or the budget for a mission in Zaire or for a $100 million peacekeeping slush fund. So where is the money coming from? I am not saying do not go, I just want to know specifically where the money is coming from.

I know the budget accounted for acquisitions of submarines and it also accounted for helicopters, replacements for the Sea King helicopters, but are they going to be the cost of the mission to Zaire? It is most unfortunate that this Liberal government would steal money from a much needed procurement to pay for this mission.

The new defence minister says he wants to institute a morale building attitude. I will congratulate the new minister on his issuing of the Somalia medals, which was long overdue, and also on the purchase of flak jackets and helmets, which in a small way goes toward building morale as well. However, robbing from the submarine program or the helicopter procurement program is not going to help morale. It is going to hurt morale in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The minister has a responsibility to properly equip our troops. That includes giving the navy its submarines and the air force its helicopters. He should not abdicate his responsibility because his buddy in foreign affairs wants to use the military to help in a Liberal leadership race.

Canadians are confident in the ability of our armed forces. However, Canadians are not as confident in the Liberal government's ability to lead a military. Canadians call on the government to stop abdicating responsibility. We have reached the critical mass where further cuts and reductions to our armed forces will make them an impotent marching band.

Events over the weekend have dramatically overtaken the mandate of the mission and this Liberal government. The initial mission was to establish a safe corridor and to provide humanitarian relief to refugees in the camps. The refugees are now on the move. They are going home. Now the Minister of Foreign Affairs wants our troops to wander through Zaire for some 700,000 other refugees wandering the countryside. The Liberals are struggling to find a reason to be there and they cannot find one.

Even the host countries do not want us there. In fact, Canadian troops were required to deplane without their weapons because Rwanda does not want them there. Is this the kind of situation our people can expect?

The defence minister promised robust rules of engagement. Do these robust rules include sending our troops in without their weapons?

This mission is falling apart. The government should just admit it and keep our people out of harm's way until we can clearly define a mission for them to accomplish.

Our peacekeepers served for a quarter of a century in Cyprus. Today, only a few years after their departure, Greek and Turkish Cypriots are again killing each other.

In conclusion, I would like to quote the past president of the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion: "The army cannot field a properly equipped division or even a full independent brigade. It would be difficult to man and supply. Still our loyal men and women of the forces continue to serve, many under more extreme conditions short of war than one can imagine. With a targeted military of 60,000 we have less fighting personnel to defend our interests than the number of lawyers in this country".

We want our troops to know we support their collaborative efforts in any regard wherever they are in the world. Whatever mission this government sends them on, the Reform Party will always press the government to ensure there are the proper numbers, to ensure they are properly equipped and to ensure that they are properly supported.

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4:10 p.m.

Roberval Québec


Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I want to applaud the government's decision to take the initiative in the matter before us today because on eight occasions over the past three weeks the official opposition had asked the government to take a leadership role in this matter. We thought it was essential for Canadians to work together and make a contribu-

tion to help improve the situation in that part of the world, which, obviously, is experiencing great difficulties at the present time.

We are happy with the leadership shown by Canada and that is why, on behalf of my party, I was pleased to tell the foreign affairs minister that we are supporting this initiative.

Things are moving fast. As the Prime Minister said, the situation is evolving hourly in that part of the world. Let us not forget that, at the beginning, there were 1.2 million refugees stuck in Zaire. All of sudden, to everybody's surprise, 400,000 of them went back to Rwanda; apparently 100,000 more are on the way at this very moment, and these figures are changing constantly as the situation evolves; it also appears that 100,000 refugees are fleeing to the western part of Zaire because of the fighting and that 500,000 to 600,000 people are still stuck in refugee camps.

If there are situations where political parties have to show altruism and to set aside the daily interests of the House of Commons to take joint action, this is definitely one of them.

The Prime Minister should shortly receive a report by Lieutenant-General Maurice Baril who left yesterday on a reconnaissance mission.

This whole situation has led to a number of conclusions. First, we all know that Canada cannot act alone. This is clear both to the government and to the opposition. We do not have the physical means to act alone in an effective manner.

But Canada has an essential role to play in the sense that we can use our international prestige to convince the international community. It is important that Canada plays a leadership role to maintain dialogue and facilitate a consensus on the best way to put an end to the tragic situation faced by these people.

We can convince the governments concerned to accept the presence of multinational troops on their territory. Some work is being done on the diplomatic front. We are involved. We want all solutions to be found and agreements to be reached so that the situation can evolve as it must. It is important, as the Prime Minister said, that Thursday, in Stuttgart, Canada show leadership so that a consensus can be reached on the adjustments to be made to the UN mandate and so that things are clear. We need a crystal clear mandate.

However, I would like to give some advice to the government. The official opposition would like the government to follow some advice that we will give from now on.

For the people who have returned to Rwanda, the people who have already decided to go back home, our troops must ensure their safety. These people must be able to go back without apprehensiveness. A massacre must be avoided, and the mandate of the Canadian troops will surely be to ensure the safety of those who have returned to Rwanda.

Canada must also give absolute priority, and I believe the Prime Minister was of the same opinion, to providing humanitarian assistance all along the way home for those who are unfortunately still on the road. In the case of those who are back home, and who will certainly go through days of anguish, it must also ensure that water, food and medication can be provided to everyone. Above all, Canada must ensure that there is no repeat of the tragic events we witnessed before in that part of the world.

For the large number of people still stuck in Zaire, and there are 700,000 of them, it is important that Canada help create humanitarian corridors so that help can be provided to them. I think each and everyone of us, in this House but also in this country, was deeply moved by the terrible plight of these people, particularly the thousands of children. We cannot remain insensitive to their situation and the support of our armed forces, our peacekeepers is essential to help create these corridors to send water, food and medication.

Finally, the Canadian army will be able to step in, to work to ensure the safe return of these people, even though their return is a voluntarily one. It goes without saying that our troops will be extremely useful.

However, the rules of engagement of Canadian troops must be very clear. They must be defined, because, unless I am mistaken, the mandate was given under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

This chapter allows the use of force and weapons, should the situation require it. It is extremely important that our government clearly define the rules governing the use of such force or weapons. We will have to make sure our troops are prepared for this mission, which means they will have to receive very clear instructions.

There is no margin for error in that region, where the situation is explosive. Of course, our troops did not have time to get prepared. This is an urgent mission and an extremely important one. Consequently, they must get their orders as directly as possible, and their instructions must be clear, so as to avoid anything untoward.

Canadians soldiers must understand the social and political implications of their involvement. They are in a region where, once again, everything is fragile and they will have to show a lot of tact, diplomacy and understanding for their mission to be successful.

Our soldiers, and their leaders of course, will then have to ensure that the conditions for a durable solution to the conflict can be put in place. We will have to act as advisors while we are there.

Canada's advice will be most important to everyone. That is why we will humbly submit certain ideas to the government.

We have already suggested that an international conference on the African great lakes region be held as soon as possible. It is important for global partners to discuss the volatile political situation in that region. In the longer term, we must also ensure that all refugees can go back to their country, to the place they came from. I think this is essential if we want to resolve this conflict.

We will have to find ways to disarm the warring factions and to eliminate the causes of war in the area. The international community will have to take action, to do whatever it can to bring about a change of mentality. We can no longer accept situations like the one we saw some time ago and the one we are seeing now. We have to neutralize those who played a leading role in the 1994 genocide. We really have to be on the alert to prevent such barbarities from reoccurring.

Finally, we can negotiate and encourage peaceful relations between the Tutsi minority and the Hutu majority in Rwanda and in Burundi. There is much to do. This is an extremely serious matter for our soldiers, but we are proud to see that Canada will be making its contribution in this part of the world.

We will have done everything possible, as human beings, to end the atrocities that have been brought to our attention and the misery we saw, and I am certain that the intervention of Canadian soldiers will help save thousands of lives. That is why we are proud to contribute to this operation.

In closing, I would like to remind members very briefly that 1,500 soldiers will be sent to Zaire ultimately. These are the figures we have. We have asked much of our troops since 1992. There are still 1,000 soldiers in Bosnia, 750 in Haiti, 187 in the Golan Heights, 28 in the Sinai, in addition to a number elsewhere. A total of 2,059 Canadian soldiers are or will be on tour of duty in the coming days. This is extremely important. They have our confidence.

We know that despite certain mistakes that may have been made in certain places in the past, the great majority of Canadian soldiers are able to make an appropriate and significant contribution to the world peace process. And it is in this spirit that I would like to join with all members of my party, and all members in this House, I am sure, in thanking Canadian soldiers for the work they are doing all around the world, in thanking the Canadian soldiers who are going to intervene in a situation that is extremely delicate but that does require intervention. We are behind them all the way. We also thank their families for the enormous sacrifice they are making in letting one of their own leave them so that we can play this role in the great lakes region of Africa.

I would also like to thank the government for giving us the opportunity to discuss this issue here in the House. It is important that these things be said. Once again, I would like to reiterate our wholehearted support for this operation. It was necessary for us to show leadership. As the official opposition, we were certain that we could play such a role, and we have full confidence in those who will be called upon over there to carry out these extraordinary duties.

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4:25 p.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the United Nations emergency force inaugurated the era of modern peacekeeping. Canada has been in the forefront with its patient explorations, its practical ideas, and its pragmatic compromises.

This has been Canada's trademark, and this same power of persuasion and tenacity which has always characterized Canada, sometimes under difficult circumstances, has been manifested in recent days and recent hours, while the government was dealing with this current crisis.

The Canadian forces have provided the United Nations emergency force with the logistical support that is the backbone of any military undertaking. Over the years, this service has become Canada's specialty, a known quantity, a support on which our international friends have been able to depend to insure the necessary stability and continuity of other peacekeeping missions, for other missions were not long in coming.

In the ten years that followed, two other important peacekeeping missions took place, the United Nations operation in the Congo between 1960 and 1964, and the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus starting in 1964.

The operation in the Congo, now Zaire, was particularly difficult and somewhat controversial. Many lives were lost and much money was poured into it. As well, we had to resort to force and to interfere in the internal affairs of the Congo. This led eventually to deep divisions between the member states, which threatened the future of the United Nations. There was great danger, and Canadians were responsible for a number of acts of bravery. Two hundred and thirty-four members of the United Nations force lost their lives during this operation.

Canadians again had special skills to bring to bear. Our primary contribution was in the area of signals and communications. It also helped enormously that so many members of the Canadian forces could speak the common Congolese language of French. There was a humanitarian aspect to the mission to which Canadians contributed foodstuffs.

Canada was in the lead in Cyprus, with Secretary of State for External Affairs Paul Martin Senior providing the crucial diplo-

matic impetus to get UN members behind the idea of a peacekeeping force. Canadian troops were on the island 24 hours after the force was authorized. "You will never know what this may have prevented", American President Lyndon Johnson told Mr. Pearson, then our Prime Minister.

There have been moments of discouragement as peacekeeping evolved, warts and all, but as this House's Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence reminded Canadians in 1970: "For Canadians now to lose heart and reduce its interest in peacekeeping would be an abdication of responsibility. No other country could fill the gap thus opened-and the development of effective peacekeeping would be set back with incalculable but certainly disastrous effect". The committee added: "The work of peacekeeping is not glamorous. It is frustrating. It does not inspire gratitude. It does not directly assist narrow Canadian interests. But it is an essential service-and one for which Canada has special qualifications because of her reputation for fairness and because of her technical skills".

Canadians listened to that advice. Canada's commitment toward peace keeping has never faltered. By the end of the Cold War, 80,000 Canadian soldiers had taken part in peacekeeping and it was hard to name a peacekeeping mission under UN or other auspices in which Canada had not played a lead role.

We were the leading world peace keepers, well intentioned, well equipped, well trained. Empirical studies, however, indicate that the funds allocated to peacekeeping were only a tiny fraction of total defence budgets.

At the end of the cold war, peacekeeping expanded and changed dramatically, if we consider the type, form and general nature of these operations. Both Conservatives and Liberals sent 20,000 peacekeepers to the borders of Iraq, to the UN Commission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, the Western Sahara, to Rwanda and Somalia, to Salvador and Haiti, to Cambodia and the Balkans.

At one point in the early 90s, more than 4,000 Canadian peacekeepers were deployed in various parts of the world.

During those years, mandates remained vague. The risks were greater. Inevitably, the risk of controversy, error and abuse had increased, compared with the time when missions were straightforward peacekeeping operations.

But the challenges were also more numerous. Humanitarian aid and the defence of human rights were very likely to be a major factor in these new operations which, in turn, could act as a catalyst for putting in place democratic institutions.

In the former Yugoslavia under General Lewis MacKenzie, Canadians got aid to the besieged capital of Sarajevo and elsewhere. They repaired schools, hospitals, roads and they provided medical care. They gave of their own time to the aged and to the young.

In an even more desperate situation in Rwanda, under Generals Roméo Dallaire and Guy Tousignant the Canadian forces cleared mines, delivered aid, purified water and brought critical medical assistance.

We cannot ignore the assistance so many other Canadians have provided and continue to provide daily to those who need it throughout the world. I am referring to the NGOs and Canadian religious orders in Rwanda who were the first to draw our attention to the crisis which had developed in that country.

General Dallaire said one day he had seen too many bodies, too many tears, too much human suffering and too much destruction in Rwanda to let us, the international community, go about our business without a care in the world.

We clearly need mechanisms in order to be able to react quickly and effectively to international disasters. Examples of typically Canadian initiatives intended to help deal with international crises are the rapid reaction force proposed by the government, which made its way at the UN, and the Disaster Assistance Relief Team, also known as DART.

Over the last few minutes I have attempted to sketch the context in which the government motion under consideration by this House is set: a Canadian peacekeeping and humanitarian experience, expertise and excellence built up over many years and tested in a wide variety of circumstances; a longstanding Canadian commitment to international co-operation which is very much in our interests and deeply embedded in our tradition; a Canadian leadership role in the international community which is more usual than unusual.

And so we come to the obvious conclusion that the world is too small for us to turn our backs on the African continent and all its problems.

I fully support the leadership role assumed by Canada within the international community, as it seeks ways to deal directly and fearlessly with the crisis in Africa.

I would also ask that we intervene in a way that leaves no doubt as to the generosity and firm resolve of this House.

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4:35 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister for International Cooperation and Minister responsible for Francophonie

Mr. Speaker, events have unfolded rapidly in central Africa in recent days. Even before our troops touched central African soil, their positive impact was being felt. Fear of the extremist militias, a fear which had held more than one million refugees in squalid camps in Zaire for two years, was suddenly lifted. I am convinced that this happened at least in part because of the imminent arrival of the international force put together under the leadership of our Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister's decision to offer Canadian leadership for this mission is in keeping with an honourable Canadian tradition, a tradition of unparalleled expertise in peacekeeping and of dedicated humanitarian assistance.

We must credit the activism of the Prime Minister, who reacted vigorously out of frustration with the international community's lack of action. As it was never a colonial power, Canada is in a good position to head the multinational force.

As a member country in the francophonie, which is my responsibility in cabinet, Canada has long had close ties with the countries in that region. In taking the initiative of heading the multinational intervention, the Prime Minister mobilized the international community.

The hope created by the imminent arrival of thousands of troops on a humanitarian mission, one of peace and aid, gave pause for thought to the extremists and hope to the victims, most of whom, need I add, are women and children. Since Friday morning, and therefore over the weekend, a flood of people have crossed the border.

We must not lose the momentum prompted by the sudden mass movement of people back to Rwanda. Some have suggested that because the terror in which the Interhamwe militias held the refugees has now been broken, there is no need for international intervention. According to them the problem is solved; of course, we know that this is not the case.

Let us not forget that only four weeks ago all aid agencies had pulled their personnel out of Zaire. There was no help, no food and no medicine. Yes, we have all seen the thousands of people flooding across the border, but let us not forget the hundreds of thousands of victims still in Zaire. We need to find these people. We need to bring them food and water and to give them shelter. We also need to support their voluntary return to Rwanda. Over 60 per cent of the refugees are women and children. They need immediate relief.

It is vital that we continue to provide aid to the refugees. Their need for food and medicine is urgent as they leave transit camps to return to their communities. Once we have looked after these needs, we must help them resettle quickly and safely in their respective communities.

The situation is urgent and the needs are great. This is why the Prime Minister announced that the Canadian International Development Agency, for which I am responsible, is setting aside some $15 million for new emergency humanitarian aid for the victims of the conflict, those coming back to Rwanda and of course those remaining in Zaire.

This morning I held a press conference to outline the details of the aid package. I was accompanied by representatives of the Canadian Red Cross and CARE Canada. With CIDA's support, these two organizations are mobilizing teams of highly skilled Canadians who will go to the region as soon as possible to bring much needed help. They are doctors, nurses, logistics experts and engineers. They will help fulfil the basic needs of the victims, particularly with respect to clean water and medical help.

Canadian NGOs have a long history and much experience in central Africa. They have faced danger to bring help to others. Their actions and commitments are a source of pride to all of us. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate them for all their work, past, present and future.

I would also like to draw your attention to the hard work done in Africa by the Red Cross and UN agencies such as the high commissioner for refugees and the world food program. The thousands of tonnes of food, medical and material aid collected in the region show how seriously they take their role. They are prepared to respond to the vital needs of over a million people. Canadian NGOs I have talked to on three occasions in recent days have expressed support for Canada's leadership in this humanitarian mission. In their view, deploying an international force is the only way emergency relief can be provided to vulnerable populations.

Since 1994, Canadian NGOs have joined forces with the Canadian International Development Agency to mitigate the effects of genocide. Our program in Rwanda is twofold. First, to provide humanitarian assistance to alleviate in the short term the suffering of the Rwandan population. This assistance will consist in providing medical care, shelters, a clean water supply, food, and means of transport through international organizations and Canadian NGOs. The critical situation of children has been the primary focus of

CIDA, which directed a large part of its humanitarian assistance to children.

Second, Canada wanted to help Rwanda find a long term solution. To this end, we support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal, as well as the establishment of a criminal justice system, the training of judges and the protection of human rights. At the same time, we are in favour of reuniting children with their families and communities. We have also provided assistance to the Rwandan women who, following the genocide, found themselves in charge of large families. We are helping them support themselves through housing, low-level credit financing and job creation projects.

Our efforts to deal with the long term effects of central Africa's conflicts cannot be limited to Rwanda. For this reason I am calling a high level meeting of the heads of national aid agencies and international aid organizations to help mobilize the donor community to ensure the safe and peaceful reintegration of returnees to their communities.

We must deal most urgently with the problems of Rwanda but we must also address the special needs of Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania. We need to work together as donors to help develop carefully measured responses to the situation in central Africa while we keep in mind the complexity of relationships among the region's governments, refugees and rebel groups.

This meeting will be held as soon as possible, hopefully as soon as this weekend. It is intended to mobilize international and bilateral donors to provide assistance to the region's repatriated refugees in a quick and co-operative fashion. It is not intended to replace the co-ordinating mechanisms that already exist on the ground but to reinforce them.

We want to reassure Rwandans as they return to their communes that they will have the support they need to reintegrate peacefully into their society. At the same time we must reassure current residents of Rwanda's villages that we support the needs of communities as a whole. Our goal needs to be to find a lasting solution to the problems of that region and to help the refugees in their plight in the immediate days ahead.

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4:40 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, I will be dividing my time with the member for Fraser Valley East.

I have lost track of the number of times in the last three decades that tribalism or ethnic nationalism, whatever we want to call it, has led to widespread violence and suffering on the African continent. This is one of the most unhappy legacies of colonialism on the continent when Africa was artificially divided up into countries in a way which had no bearing whatsoever upon their ethnic make-up. Within the borders of those colonies the colonizing powers practised the policy of divide and rule. Some tribes would be favoured to the detriment of others, thus accentuating pre-existing ethnic divisions.

The Belgians in Rwanda and Burundi were especially good at this. They set up an administration completely staffed by the minority Tutsi tribe and these people, in turn, lorded it over their Hutu majority and they have subsequently paid a very high price.

Most politicians in Africa publicly deplore tribalism but to consolidate their power almost all of them continue to pander to it. Civil services, armies and educational institutions have all been essentially staffed by members of whatever tribe happens to be ascendant in a given country at a given time.

It is said that the current Government of Rwanda is making an honest attempt to break this pattern in the interests of national reconciliation. We shall see.

In any event, the outside world will not settle the problems of Central Africa with a four to six month military mission. This mission may offer a bit of breathing space, but the underlying problems can be solved only by Africans themselves.

The Tutsis originally arrived in Central Africa in the 17th century, migrating in from somewhere in the area of Ethiopia. Nobody knows exactly where they came from. They subjugated the indigenous Hutus and they set up a feudal system with a Tutsi aristocracy. This arrangement was continued with, as I have said, the official sanction of the governments during the colonial era. It led to the first massacres in Rwanda, which actually took place in 1959, prior to the end of colonial rule. The Hutus rose up, overthrew their Tutsi masters and killed about 100,000 people. Nobody seems to remember this anymore.

Pogroms of the Tutsi minority continued until 1964, two years after independence. Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis fled the country, many of them into Uganda. All this was 30 years ago.

Taking a lesson from the events in Rwanda, the ruling Tutsi minority in neighbouring Burundi launched a pre-emptive strike against the Hutus. Any Hutu who was well educated, who had acquired any degree of wealth was summarily executed. About 200,000 people were killed in 1972.

The world, including Canada, yawned and looked the other way. The conscience of the world was finally aroused by the largest massacre of all, the slaughter of the Rwandan Tutsis in 1994, but nobody except the NGOs actually tried to do anything until the Tutsi rebellion in eastern Zaire brought violence to the refugee camps there.

All of a sudden somebody dialled 911 and Canada, as usual, said "ready, aye ready". As the hon. member for Don Valley North has already stated, there is indeed a certain urgency to the present situation but surely it pales compared to the situation in 1994 and the one in Burundi in 1972 when the world just closed its eyes until the killing was nearly over.

I smell a very large political rat in the government's anxiety to get troops into Zaire and Rwanda right now. Sometimes governments do the right thing for opportunistic motives.

I support this humanitarian initiative but with grave misgivings. I do wonder how this government, having continued the 20 year process of eviscerating our armed forces, proposes to support three simultaneous peacekeeping efforts. This is a government which likes to have its cake while continuing to eat it in great gobs. It makes public brownie points by cutting the defence budget and then makes more points by calling on our undermanned, poorly equipped forces to polish the Prime Minister's image in Canada's perpetual role of policemen for the world.

We have these take note debates time after time. Sometimes I wonder why when the decisions have already been made. However, I guess we are on course. The Hercules are already landing in Kigali. I only hope that our troops are not going to be put to any large degree into harm's way in order to give a bit of political polish to the government across the way.

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4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland-Colchester, land mines; the hon. member for The Battlefords-Meadow Lake, endangered species.

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4:50 p.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do thank you for recognizing me and for the opportunity to speak for a few moments perhaps on a little different angle on this take note debate on the desperate situation in Rwanda and Zaire. I would just like to raise a few issues here in the time allotted to me.

Our common humanity or our love of humanity requires us in one way to go to Africa, whether we want to or not. We see the pictures and the problems and we want to help. That is a common Canadian response and it is something that on one level is to be respected.

However, our own safety and our own cognizance of the difficulties also requires us to be wise about the form that this assistance should take in this difficult area. I do not question the principle of helping nations and I do not question the need to help the helpless and especially the poorest of the poor and so on. They are good phrases. They sound good over here where we are well fed, safe and warm. On the broader level I accept that.

However, I do have many questions about how we decide who to help and where we should go. Two years ago, in the wake of the holocaust in Rwanda, while sitting on the foreign affairs committee I called publicly for some sort of a rapid reaction force to make sure we had some capacity to respond in a more effective way; not a UN rapid reaction force but some sort of team in Canada so we could say "we need to send some help, we have the facilities and we have it in place".

I am pleased to see that this spring the government set up DART, the disaster assistance response team, which has improved our capacity to respond quickly to difficult situations.

In 1995 the House of Commons voted on my bill, the peacekeeping bill, in which I argued that Parliament should have the right to pass a resolution and have a debate such as this on each and every peacekeeping mission. My bill would not have stopped the Prime Minister from sending a reconnaissance team to the area in advance of any parliamentary approval, since the bill made allocations for a short term intervention such as this to take place without calling Parliament together just for that reason.

The resolution that I think should have come before the House would have laid out the parameters of the mission beforehand, the size, the cost and duration of the mission and the rules of engagement. The criteria for peacekeeping missions are important. For instance, on the rules of engagement, think back two short years ago. United Nations troops had to stand by and we all saw pictures of it on TV where they had to stand by and watch people being butchered with machetes because the terms of engagement were not to intervene.

I can think of nothing worse than to be told to stand back and not intervene when women and children are being slaughtered in front of you. That must have been a horrible thing for those troops. The question still arises for me. Will the same thing happen again?

There are problems too with the overall priorities of the government. I note that today in Bosnia NATO announced that it needs 30,000 troops to keep the peace in Bosnia. Our current commitment is 1,000 troops in Bosnia right now. I am not sure what the request will be of Canada in the days ahead. It may be more than 1,000. It may be 2,000 or maybe none. We are not sure because there is no organized overall effort to know where we should send our troops and where the priorities should be.

There are other peacekeeping missions ongoing at the moment. We are stretched thin in Bosnia, in Haiti, in the Golan, the Sinai, Mozambique, Angola and Cambodia. We are here, there and everywhere.

As for priorities there are other crises in the world as well. There are refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. The problems in the entire Sudan are enormous. They are tragic and they are longstanding.

Why do we decide now to help Rwanda? Why is Rwanda and the crisis there, a crisis which appears to be thankfully abating somewhat, suddenly at the top of the list? I am not sure of the answer but I will let people read into it what they will.

I am here to make a case for a more orderly approach to important overseas commitments on behalf of Canada. On the weekend we saw the situation change drastically. The Rwandan government says it no longer wants help, it no longer wants the intervention of Canadians on its soil.

Of course, the job of feeding people and saving lives, giving medical assistance in the area continues to haunt us, so we want to participate. Again though, the question is do we participate best with troops. Is the $100 million that it will cost us in troops allocation the best $100 million or could it be best channelled through NGOs or other agencies? I hope those other options are still being investigated even at this late hour.

I would like to suggest a few principles by which we should conduct ourselves in Africa. This is where I would like to take a little different tact perhaps. The hon. member from Maple Creek went through some of the longstanding problems, but in the solutions to Africa the first principle should be that we need a long term solution. Four to six months is not going to fix anything in Africa, I do not believe. The solution must be long term.

All other problems pale in the shadow of the great problem that still exists in Africa. The genocide that occurred in Rwanda and which still threatens millions today in the sub-Saharan area is as a result of a much deeper problem. In a sense Africa is still the dark continent today when it comes to this deep problem of tribalism. In Rwanda, the crisis we are talking about today, one's loyalty is primarily to one's own tribe or ethnic group. The loyalty to the principles of truth, love, justice or any of the things that we have come to accept as due course in Canada, there is not that loyalty there.

I believe we cannot solve this problem in Rwanda with military force. After we go in with the guns, and after we go in with the protective unit of whatever kind, the moral problem will still exist. It will be the same thing all over again. It has been going on, as my hon. colleague mentioned, for 300 years. It bubbled up two years ago. It is still there. It will still be there two, three, four or five years down the road. Perhaps two months after we leave it will still be there unless the people in Rwanda have a change of heart. It is deeper than a military problem. It is actually a moral problem.

I do not want to pick exclusively on the Rwandans but they need more than just military intervention. They need a change of heart and a change of mind.

If it is a military mission alone that we are embarking on, military intervention alone is doomed to failure. So why should Canada be involved at all? We are involved because of our own commitment to those principles that I mentioned earlier.

Our belief in the principles of justice, of love, of esteeming your neighbour as yourself are principles that we gloss over in the House. We take it for granted that tonight when we go home we give vehicles that have the right of way the right of way. We hold the door for others. We understand that someone's home is to be respected and we do not intrude. We understand that someone's choice for an occupation or political party to belong to are choices that we respect.

We have a need to be involved because we take those principles without forcing any cultural principles, any cultural nuances on the Rwanda people. We need to try to somehow impart to them the need for these principles of love, justice, understanding and esteeming your neighbour as yourself. You do not have to get into the religious side of that to know that is the principle on which democracy rides. If we do not impart that somehow in our journeys in Rwanda, it will not be a lasting peace and we will be back. It will be another tragedy.

The second principle is to find a solution that involves justice in the whole sub-Saharan part of Africa. The renewal strategy in Rwanda must reflect Canada's own commitment to justice. If there is ever to be lasting peace in Rwanda, or Zaire, or the Sudan or any area that is undergoing these tragic ethnic wars, the world community must one day come to grips with the idea that there are murderers in Rwanda, there are people who practice genocide and ethnic cleansing and one day they must be brought to justice.

It is not enough just to feed people in a camp or even when they return to their villages. One day justice must be served and it must be seen to be served. To this day we are still trying to bring justice to those people who were involved in the holocaust. Fifty years after the war, we understand it is so important that justice be served and be seen to be served that if a murderer or someone involved in genocide is found, we as an international community and as a nation do not tolerate it.

If this short term intervention in Rwanda is just that and no justice is served then I fear in two, three, four or ten years from now it will erupt again in another holocaust. That is why justice must be served.

Over the last couple of years no one wanted to get involved. The groups who are involved in the refugee camps are known. It is known that they use the refugees as shelter and as a human shield. We all know it is happening. I am not saying it is an easy solution but unless justice is done one day that cancer will come back and

there will be another holocaust. You can count on it and 300 years of history show that to be true.

The third principle is that although we are there and the world is going there in some pretty good healthy numbers, well armed men and women are going to go over to Africa to help deliver aid. It must be a made in Africa solution to this made in Africa problem. The four to six month intervention is to give breathing room. That is a good idea. It has some value. Obviously we cannot allow another holocaust so we are trying to do our bit. However, in the long run it has to be a made in Africa solution.

In some ways I fear that we still have a bit of "this is the white man's burden" in Africa attitude. We are going over there and teach these guys how to do it. In the long term it will not work. We have to do more than that.

I think of the example of South Africa. I heard an interesting speaker a couple of weeks ago and I believe, Mr. Speaker, you did as well, talk about some of the principles that brought about the peaceful change from apartheid to a democratic, one person, one vote rule in South Africa.

The national committee for reconciliation was formed. That is a South African phrase which means that we have to come together and find a solution together because we have to live together. An all-party committee came together to write a new constitution. All parties, all ethnics, all colours, all groups came together to solve the problems in South Africa.

If I could encourage one last thing it would be a just and peaceful Rwanda. It would be a society where all ethnicities, all races are accepted in peaceful co-existence. But that must come from the Rwandan people themselves. While we are there I hope we work to bring about a national reconciliation or whatever name they want to call it so they too can experience what South Africa has, which is a modern day miracle. It is a peaceful solution to a seemingly impossible situation.

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5:05 p.m.


Rex Crawford Liberal Kent, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Rosedale.

I am honoured to speak in this special parliamentary debate on the Zaire mission, and Canada's strong guidance and direction at the United Nations through the compassionate leadership of the Prime Minister. Along with other members of Parliament, I support our efforts 100 per cent and I am pleased that the foreign affairs minister and the Minister of National Defence with the cabinet are leading the way.

I quote from the a November 14 Chatham Daily News editorial: ``Canada's willingness to come to the aid of starving refugees in Zaire once again demonstrates the outstanding leadership our nation enjoys in international affairs''.

While the rest of the world responded slowly to the crisis, Canada took a moral leadership role in generating international military support for the refugees. By authorizing a mission to send as many as 1,600 Canadian troops into what even United Nations' officials have called a no man's land, Canada is spearheading this multinational effort.

As members will agree, this is no exercise in public relations. In addition to the formidable geographical problems, the interior of Africa is quite possibly the most politically unstable place on earth.

Canada has a long and distinguished history as the world's foremost peacekeeper. If our troops are effective in Zaire, it will restore some of that respect we remembered and honoured during last week's Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country. We must remember this mission is different from most of Canada's previous peacekeeping operations. Our soldiers' job will be ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid.

There still remain more than 600,000 Hutu refugees in Zaire and another 700,000 in Tanzania. I am pleased that the government is identifying this as a humanitarian crisis, as it puts its hopes into deeds. We cannot remain comfortable in the face of hunger and injustice. I am proud of Canada's leading role in peacekeeping and the fact that Chatham and Kent county in southwestern Ontario, the real bread basket of our nation, are leading the way in this humanitarian mission.

As Heather Bondy told me, maybe the only way we can come close to understanding the suffering is to actively hope, then put our hope into action and actually do something. Heather has been involved in nearly a dozen third world projects, for example, building bridges in the Dominican Republic and she started the first food bank in the city of Chatham.

More than 22 tonnes of food has been committed to the effort in Chatham. Eight area nurses and doctors are getting immunized in preparation for the work overseas. Those donations are in addition to 10 tonnes of wheat committed last week by W.G. Thompson & Sons of Blenheim, one of the largest grain facilities in Canada. It will be milled into flour by Dover Flour Mills of Chatham. The company will donate soybean meal that can be mixed with canola oil to make a protein rich nutritious meal. The canola oil has already been donated by western Canada.

Among other gifts committed to the group from Kent are enormous beer tent style canopies that can serve as a shelter for a medical mission; a tentative promise of enough grain to fill several rail cars; small farm implements and seeds for planting quick harvest grain; medical supplies from the Chatham hospitals and

medical community and suitcase sized water purifiers from the MIOX Corporation of New Mexico.

The Prime Minister's announcement yesterday about sending Lieutenant-General Maurice Baril to Kigali is welcomed news indeed. The $15 million in emergency aid to the refugees will also help. The humanitarian aid financed by the Canadian International Development Agency includes support for Canadian doctors, nurses, water sanitation engineers and logistic experts organized by the Canadian Red Cross, CARE Canada and Canadian Lutheran World Relief. Canadian aid channelled through these and other agencies as well as the United Nations will help immensely.

The Kent county group is hoping for a plane to carry its equipment and supplies to Zaire. The Chatham airport has been approved for landing by the city officials. Ten local citizens are waiting to hear from the military on the ground and are ready to move in as part of the national humanitarian effort.

I have contacted the Minister of National Defence and his parliamentary secretary to inquire about the availability of a plane for the huge number of items destined for Africa.

Those involved with the group in my riding include Dr. Eric Williams of Lethbridge, Alberta who has lived in Tanzania for many years and speaks several languages; nurse Candice Barlow, currently the AIDS spokesperson for Kent county and head of the public health department; nurse Kathy Van Basler a medical-surgical nurse who has lived in the Middle East for several years; nurse Joanne Gamble, wife of Dr. Brian Gamble, chief of staff at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance; health care worker John Canna, a former U.S. marine; Marie-France Wilkinson, a French teacher for 25 years. Her talents are crucial in this francophone area.

Also involved is Steve Bradley, president and general manager of the Best Western Wheel's Inn, who has been a board member of the Chatham Food Bank and brings a farming background to help in the sowing of seeds; Andy Morrissey, writer/reporter for the Chatham Daily News . He has been asked to be the Canadian correspondent and is young and willing to do what is needed to help; Father Matthew George of Our Lady of Help Christian Church in Wallaceburg. The priest has been collecting donations of money and goods through the London Catholic Diocese. Since Zaire and Rwanda are 90 per cent Catholic, he will offer much hope to the people he will meet.

As well, Barry Fraser, the Kent county representative for the Ontario ministry of agriculture has researched what seeds will be appropriate in the troubled region.

Right now in Chatham a local businessman has donated the use of an empty store for people to drop off donated items. A church in Windsor has put the local group on the Internet so that they can quickly access what information and items will be further needed.

I hope that a plane can land in Chatham to transport these caring people and their supplies to help the multinational mission. We know that more than one million refugees, of whom 60 per cent are women and children, have been caught between warring parties.

Starting last week, large numbers have been crossing the boarder from Zaire into Rwanda and urgently need food, medicine and shelter. I support and applaud the efforts of my constituents and those of all Canadians in this effort. Heather Bondy and I agree that as Canadians we are a people that believe life is either a daring adventure of hope or it is nothing.

I strongly urge the Minister of National Defence and military officials to work with the Kent County group to transport supplies to the war torn region. They are ready. They are working hard. They care.

Donations from churches, business and area residents have been pouring in from the city of Chatham, as well as Sarnia, London, Watforth, Petrolia and other areas. People are responding to the terrible ordeal being experienced by the people in Zaire.

In conclusion, my constituents and I salute Heather Bondy and her team for bringing this humanitarian effort together in my riding. I also salute our troops and their leaders, who will help to stabilize the ground so that aid efforts can begin successfully. I also praise the work of our Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence, indeed the cabinet and our caucus for leading the way in the world once again. Together we can make it happen.

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5:15 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to support the government's initiative to enter into the Rwanda crisis and the Zaire crisis in such a positive and constructive manner.

We heard the Prime Minister's statement in the House today. From that we clearly understood the background to the taking of this initiative. We also understood that this initiative is being taken in circumstances of the utmost responsibility and of the utmost gravity, both with respect to the nature of the situation and the remedies that are being called upon to address it.

We are told that this will be a multilateral force commanded by Canadians. We are told that it is supported by a United Nations resolution. We are told that it falls under article 7 of the United Nations charter, which gives the largest possible mandate to those forces intervening in Rwanda to act in a way which will ensure the success of their mission.

We are told that there are clear rules of engagement and clear rules of command. Even the Americans, who are often hesitant to be involved in this type of situation, have accepted that this is the

type of situation in which they must participate, and participate in collaboration with our Canadian forces.

We are told that there will be no action without the security of understanding the reaction of the countries involved on the ground.

It seems to me, therefore, when we consider the situation in the House today that the questions we must ask ourselves are is it in Canada's interest to undertake this mission? Has the changed situation on the ground made the whole idea irrelevant? Do we have the resources, both human and materiel, to accomplish this undertaking?

In speaking of Canada's interest, or our interest in Canadians undertaking this mission, I first would like to dwell on the Prime Minister's comments about the humanitarian background for this mission. It seems to me that we, as Canadians, who are fortunate enough to live in this country, recognize the nature of the interdependent world in which we live. We owe it to ourselves to recognize the need to act in circumstances which require a humanitarian response to tragedies of the magnitude and of the type which we are facing.

I can remember some time ago in my riding of Rosedale speaking to some young Rwandan refugees who had come to Canada. They were living in Montreal but they had come down to speak to some disadvantaged youths in Rosedale. We were working together on a common project. We had young people working together under a group called the Environmental Video Exchange. These youths were putting together a very interesting international community response to a lot of our international problems. The interaction of these youth from Rwanda with our own young men and women in Rosedale was very instructive. It was very clear from talking to them that if they were here in the House today they would be reacting much like the majority of the members of the House. That is to say, they would be supporting the government in this initiative.

Canadians at every level, in every walk of life, I believe sincerely want to be of constructive help in circumstances where they are able to do so.

I strongly believe, from having listened to the Prime Minister today and the minister's statements and having had an opportunity to review with some of the officials the circumstances of this mission, that this is an appropriate time to do exactly what the immediate initial response of the Canadians would be, which would be to stand up and say "let us take this, let us run with it and let us make it count in the world".

I listened with great pride to what the Prime Minister said about the reaction of the international community and the reaction he received from around the world, from small nations, great nations and the United Nations.

I had the opportunity to travel to Europe last week with a group of other members of Parliament from all parties. We happened to be in Germany and had breakfast with a group of German parliamentarians, members of their defence committee. They told us: "Do you know what our television is telling us here in Germany? Canada is doing what we in Europe should be doing. Canada is taking the lead in a way that we should be taking the lead and are not able to take the lead". Perhaps it is for the reason the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech that there were problems with the Europeans because of a colonial past or otherwise.

However, the fact of the matter is people in other countries are seeing that this country is willing to take the lead in a humanitarian response but also in another manner that is very important to us in terms of our vital strategic interest in this country. We are taking a lead in supporting and reinforcing the effectiveness of the United Nations as an instrument to ensure that problems like this cannot develop in the future.

We have often debated both in the foreign affairs committee and in the defence committee the need for this country to be a strong supporter of the United Nations system not just because of a humanitarian interest but because of the vital interest of ourselves as Canadians to have a strong, international, multilateral capacity to respond to problems of this nature. Unfortunately they are not becoming less frequent in the world but in today's world for reasons which relate to the end of the cold war and shifting alliances and, in some ways, to the insecurity that is building in various parts of the world they risk becoming more frequent.

The need for a strong multilateral United Nations system which can respond to this type of situation is more important than ever before. What this initiative by the government is doing today is strengthening that system and sending a signal to the world that yes, the UN can work, yes there are countries that are willing to work within the UN system and make it work. That is a very important matter in the interests of all Canadians. I think we have to recognize the need for that.

I would like to point out that in so doing we are addressing the problems of a changing situation. We recognize that this situation is changing but it is very clear from the consultations with our authorities that General Baril will be able to deal with that and recognize that this is a new situation that has to be addressed hour by hour, but that it is not the time now, merely because there is a change in the situation, to back down.

When we are considering this matter in the House as members of Parliament, we obviously have to take the responsibility of asking whether we have the resources to enable us to do the job. As members of Parliament, we have consulted and have been informed by officials of the defence department and the foreign affairs department that we do have the necessary resources and that this is not some mission that we are undertaking in any irresponsible manner. On the contrary, it is something which we have the

capacity to do, the ability to deliver and we will ensure that we are able to do the job.

Those are the conditions which, united, make me believe that it is important for us to participate in this mission.

In conclusion, I would like to say something which has no direct impact on this mission but which, I believe, has to do with its importance. This is the third time we are debating the idea of a similar mission in this House. We have troops in Bosnia, we have troops in Haiti, and now we will have troops in Rwanda. Why are we there?

The Prime Minister referred to the reason in his speech before the House this afternoon. One of the reasons we are there is that we are a bilingual country.

We are a country of diversity with a tradition of tolerance, with a tradition in the world which, based on our own Canadian experience, makes ours a country particularly suited to undertaking this kind of mission.

I think that we can be proud, as members of Parliament, of the fact that our government has decided to undertake this mission. I think that we can be proud, as Canadian citizens, of the fact that our society allows us to undertake such a mission.

In conclusion, I think that, when the history of the development of international co-operation is told, this mission will be an example of the beginning of new form of international co-operation, and Canada will be the country that will have set the example of this new form of co-operation.

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5:25 p.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Rosedale a question after this brief commentary.

He indicates he would support UN participation and he supports this peacekeeping mission to Zaire. I commend him for that and I have no problem with that. My question is related to the armed forces we have, the role they play and how it just seems to be always a shifting and moving target. It is almost like how the finance minister talks about his deficit elimination tactics.

If we are to support peacekeeping efforts, if we are to support a military, why did the Liberal government, of which he is a member, reduce the defence budget and continue to support peacekeeping missions around the world? As my colleague from Red Deer said in the first speech on this issue today, every foreign affairs minister in the House of Commons says this is for a set period of time and we will have that problem solved. Why was the budget cut? What criterion does the member from Rosedale feel the government should set out for itself to define the role of this humanitarian mission? Under what terms and conditions will this member then feel it has been a success or a failure? If we do not know as members of Parliament what the terms are, how do we know if it is a success or not?

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5:25 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and I would like to go back to the point that the hon. member for Red Deer often makes about the requirement for a set period of time for these missions. I have heard the member refer to that in our committee and I respect the member's opinion on these issues a great deal.

The hon. member also made a very valid point in saying these are shifting times. One of the things you have to have in these circumstances is a certain amount of flexibility, as we have seen in the United States. In Bosnia we set a time for a certain period of time and we are willing to stay for another year. One does not say we are willing to stay for a longer period of time because the mission is a total failure. One is staying because the mission is a success and it is important that we give the flexibility to be able to stay.

I think where this mission will be different from other missions is that there will be a clear ability to say when this mission has been successful when in fact the majority of the population has been able to move out of Zaire back into Rwanda, and in circumstances where it can be settled in Rwanda and the militia in Zaire is not able to harass the population or prevent it from returning to its homes. That is a very much more settled form of a framework it seems to me of a problem, and one which can reasonably be dealt with in a short period of time than the much more complicated case of re-establishing a civil society in a country like the former Yugoslavia. But that is not to say that the establishment of a civil society in Rwanda will not be an important issue for ensuring that this type of situation does not repeat itself in the future.

In that area I would suggest that there is where we again as Canadians have very responsible programs in place. We have the Canadian International Development Agency. One of the things we are doing in Rwanda is financing a reinvigoration of its justice system. We are trying to give its people and help them develop themselves the basis of a civil society. It is clearly not something which we can do for them. That would be another form of new colonialism. It is something that we have to enable them to do through help in education, by providing to them judicial instruction and other instruments that Canadian society values and enabling them to choose for themselves and apply it. I personally am not one of those who believes that after the end of this mission there will be the possibility of an eruption of civil violence in the communities of Rwanda. There is a civil authority in Rwanda. It needs beefing up. It can be made better and we can help them in doing that.

That will not require troops. That will not require the continuation of this mission. It will require continued Canadian aid. I am glad to hear from the government that it intends to do that.

Third, let me say that the member points out the reduction in the defence budget. I will not dwell long on the seeming inconsistency in his position on this, given the fact that his party has strongly advocated greater reductions in government expenditures.

It is true we have had to reduce the defence budget. We have reduced the aid budget. We have reduced the budgets of every department in the country. I believe we are reducing them responsibly. We have reduced them in a way that enables our military to come to us and say: "Yes, we can do this mission. Yes, we have the capacity to do it properly". That is why I am willing to support it today.

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5:30 p.m.


Philippe Paré Bloc Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to tell you first that I will share my time with the member for Verchères. It is a pleasure for me to take part in this debate on the deployment of a UN multinational force. As my colleagues who spoke before me told the House, the Bloc Quebecois supports and welcomes this Canadian initiative.

My colleague from Rosedale told us that it is the third or fourth time we hold such a debate. Every time there is a debate about sending Canadian troops to hot spots, we are always confronted to the same question: Are Canadians and Quebecers in favour of sending these Canadian troops abroad?

In our ridings, opinions are divided. Some people are radically opposed, most often for financial reasons, while others strongly defend the idea, usually on humanitarian grounds.

In the February 1995 budget, the Canadian government cut all subsidies to non-governmental organizations specifically set up to show Canadians and Quebecers how important international co-operation is. I think that, in doing so, the government has made things much harder to understand. People see that the government is making decisions it should explain, but that it has stopped providing information.

I think it is essential that Canada be present in these disaster areas, for they are indeed disaster areas. Everybody agrees that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR have changed the world. It is one thing to recognize that the world has changed, but it is another to realize that the notion of security contains elements we had been previously unaware of.

Nowadays, when we talk about security, our security, the security of Quebecers and Canadians, is at stake every time some disaster occurs. I will list a few, such as population migrations caused by all kinds of situations.

It is estimated that 50 million men, women and children are displaced, have left their home, their homeland, their town or city due to tensions, wars, etc.

At the recent FAO summit on food, it was said that 800 million people are undernourished. The summit made the long term commitment of reducing world hunger by half within 20 years.

Underdevelopment, ethnic wars, overpopulation are issues of concern to us. Is the planet going to be able to sustain continuing demographic growth? I say that all these issues concern us because now and again our constituents ask us: "Do you not think that too many immigrants and refugees are allowed into Canada?"

If we refuse to do something about these problems, if Canada does not intervene in disaster areas, Canadians and Quebecers will not be able to use the same logic and say: "We should not let refugees in". Refugees are the immediate product of these events and we are all concerned.

We are so concerned that increasingly, within the international community, it is recognized that ethnic wars, civil wars within a country's boundaries, give rise to an obligation to interfere. Ten or fifteen years ago, this would have been unthinkable. Now international law is starting to say that whenever there are civil wars where the most fundamental rights of people are denied, it is the duty, not only the right, but the duty of the international community to take action.

Let us go back to the situation in Rwanda. How did the international community address this problem? As early as 1992 or 1993, following some missions in the great lakes region, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, based in Montreal, had warned the secretary general of the United Nations that something was brewing that had all the characteristics of a genocide.

The international community did nothing. It waited for the crisis to explode in 1994. What happened of course is that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people were killed. Naturally, what followed was the exodus of refugees, and bordering countries, like Zaire and Burundi, suffered the consequences.

Two years after the end of the genocide, we now realize that the international community was not very active in implementing solutions. The refugee situation in Zaire had to become explosive before the international community started to wonder if it should

act, and I want to commend the Canadian initiative, which finally stirred the international community to action.

However, we are always putting out fires. Instead of preventing, instead of making sure the developing countries get out of their underdevelopment, instead of investing in durable human development, education, health, democratisation, democratic governments, human rights and civilian societies, the international community continues to invest billions of dollars in defense budgets and merely tosses crumbs to help developing countries.

Let us take Canada, for example, because it is the same as in the other countries. Canada allocates about $2 billion to its official development assistance and a budget of about $10 billion to defence, as if nothing had happened in the early 1990s, as if the concept of security had remained the same and was only related to a military aspect.

So, the international community must get out of its torpor. Permanent mechanisms must be put in place, not to impose peace, but to ensure that, in countries where these tensions exist, people can gradually regain hope and can develop in a framework that respects them. At that time, we will stop putting out fires, because we will have put a stop, perhaps, to underdevelopment.

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5:40 p.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, since this aspect will not be covered in any great depth in my speech, allow me to commend the expertise of my hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert in international affairs.

I completely agree with the last part of his remarks, which I caught and which dealt with prevention. The image was quite forceful. When $2 billion is spent on international assistance, while national defence is funded to the tune of $10 billion, this clearly indicates that, in this area as in many others, a more curative than preventive approach is being favoured. In the end, the cost is higher, and, in this case, we are not talking about money, but human lives.

I would like to say a few words about this multinational force Canada will be leading and which will be deployed. In Zaire, it has already started providing assistance to refugees, many of whom are now returning to Rwanda, which is a major development that has taken place since the creation of a multinational force was announced.

The Bloc's position, as stated earlier by our leader, is clear: We support this mission designed to allow refugees to safely return from Zaire and ensure that assistance will be provided to these people. Over the weekend, some very poignant images were broadcast. Some I saw myself, but one in particular was described to me; I did not actually see it. Just imagining the scene makes us realize how terrible a tragedy this is. Following an attack, a portion of the slaughter was shown, and there was this little child looking around him, but all he could see was dead bodies. There were not many people on hand to provide assistance to the child, who was apparently rescued later. Such pictures cannot leave us indifferent.

At some point, someone had to take the initiative so that something could be done in Zaire, because everyone was leaving it up to the others. Everyone was waiting for everyone, including France and the United States. No intervention was being made and we were faced with a situation that could still get worse, because even the presence of a multinational force will not eliminate the causes of the conflict. Far from it. This is a potentially explosive situation and there could be a great deal of damage.

One only needs to remember what happened in Rwanda not too long ago to realize that the situation is very complex and is far from being resolved as regards the cohabitation of the Tutsis and Hutus.

So, we congratulate Canada for taking the initiative regarding this issue by getting together a multinational force and sending it with a UN supported mandate. Of course, some adjustment will have to be made. It will be made on Thursday, at an important meeting, because the population that was living further north in Zaire is now in motion. It is believed that 400,000 Hutus are already back in Rwanda and that another 100,000 will have made it to that country over the next few hours.

However, according to estimates made by NGO observers over there, some 700,000 refugees are still scattered, including more than 100,000 who are headed to western Zaire, who may have to quickly go to Rwanda. These people often find themselves in zones that are much less safe. A humanitarian corridor will have to be provided for them also. The mandate provides for the creation of a safety corridor for these people, and for bringing them the basics, such as food and medication.

In spite of the fact that 500,000 people are about to go back to Rwanda, the mandate remains. The intervention is still justified. Even though it is difficult to negotiate with the authorities of Zaire and Rwanda, as it is always complex, there will nevertheless be observers on the ground, especially NGOs that are there to help the people who still need help. Those observers know how to deal with the real situation and can make very specific observations.

Of course, there will be complex things to settle to ensure rapid intervention. In spite of Canada's commitment to send a force, there are still a few obstacles to overcome that will need to be dealt with at an important meeting on Thursday.

Whereas we can deplore somewhat how slow the process is, things do not always move as fast as we would like them to in this kind of intervention. A further step has already been made at least, since observers are already on site. More specifically, General

Baril is there with a team that will grow in the days and weeks to come.

There is no ambiguity about our support. It is there, even though we, as well as the government, might have questions on the duration of the operations. There is some question about a more permanent solution, because obviously nobody expects the political problem there to be settled in four months. We know that we are getting involved in a very complex mission that might certainly last longer than the four months contemplated. The United Nations could then take over. We will see.

Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali has already stated that there will be a report. It has been agreed that a report will be submitted in early January. We will see what comes out of it.

I want to mention it, because it deals with a question often asked by some of our constituents. True, this type of mission costs money. However, as citizens of a relatively rich country, living in a very different context, we have the duty to show solidarity with the people who are living in utterly unacceptable conditions and facing a human drama which is really out of the ordinary, compared to what we see in our everyday lives.

The $100 million contribution that was mentioned comes to a mere $4 a year per capita. On a daily basis, it does not represent such a huge contribution, such a huge sacrifice to make in order to help those people and to take part in this operation, which will hopefully, because of the troops we are sending over there, make for an international perspective a lot closer to the real situation.

I think everybody, including the Government of Canada, wishes for an international conference on the situation in the great lakes region of Africa. Such a conference could be another step in the right direction. Meanwhile, in the sort term, there are some needs to be met, especially in terms of humanitarian aid. Safe corridors have to be established for the people returning back home.

There is one more thing I want to mention. I want to salute our people and our soldiers sent over there. When people enlist in the armed forces, they expect one day to be called to take part in such a mission. Today, in the case of Canada, it is well known that when you enlist in the armed forces, you will probably take part in peacekeeping missions because, to our great fortune, we are not directly involved in domestic or foreign conflicts.

This means that our interventions are primarily civilian in nature or part of UN operations or other types of intervention by a multinational force led by Canada. We pay tribute to those who take part in such missions. It will be difficult for them and for their families, but such is reality. This is a choice they have made.

We pay tribute to their courage and hope that this operation will allow the Canadian armed forces to restore their reputation, which was tarnished by events, however isolated, in Somalia. I think that this will be an opportunity to point up the fact that the very great majority of our soldiers are doing extraordinary work and that they are deserving of greater attention.

This will provide an opportunity to realize that they are making a contribution that they will remember all their lives, just as those they help will remember it. We support them and we wish them the best of luck.

I repeat that we support this mission. Certain questions have been raised by colleagues during debate, but I do not think that this level of detail is appropriate when operations on this scale are involved. We wish our troops the best of luck and we hope that the government will keep us informed of developments, should there be any change of mandate. I am certain that the ministers involved and the government will do so.

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5:50 p.m.


John O'Reilly Liberal Victoria—Haliburton, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Ottawa West.

I want to speak in favour of the mission to Rwanda, Zaire and the rest of central Africa. The world is watching the situation on the African continent. In the last number of days over 400,000 refugees have crossed back into Rwanda in the Goma area. In the next few days over 150,000 will return to Rwanda.

Fighting, starvation, dehydration and disease are running rampant. The situation must be addressed. Canada has taken the position that it must step forward to help in a humanitarian fashion. Our history in peacekeeping puts us in a good position to be the leader, with the world showing its confidence in Canada to lead the way.

We must remember what this mission encompasses. As the Prime Minister indicated earlier, the enemies are suffering, pain, disease and hunger. We need to offer aid.

The sub-Saharan region is in great need of help on a long term basis. There are some non-government agencies in my riding of Victoria-Haliburton similar to a small group of Christians who run HAVE, which stands for Help A Village Effort, that operate out of the county of Haliburton.

This group sends money and people every year to help people to obtain clean water by drilling wells. They supply clean drinking water and all that goes with it: sanitation, hygiene, nutrition and a different way of life. They teach how to treat sickness and how to avoid disease. They teach people to read the instructions on a simple water pump. This is a major problem in an area with little or no educational system. These people will continue to try to help in the sub-Sahara region.

I had the honour to attend a conference in 1996 in Washington. It was called "A 2020 Vision for Food, Agriculture, and the Environment". The major sponsor was the National Geographic Society. This conference, ironically enough, pinpointed the exact problem we are dealing with today.

The most successful missions to the sub-Sahara are small and include, first, a banking system that lends small amounts to farmers in Africa. The majority are women by the way. They have a huge success rate, with a 99 per cent payback record.

Second is a seed program for farmers, with training by the Canadian agricultural community, to help the African communities obtain knowledge in modern agricultural techniques.

Third is programs in education on basic reading for instructions in order to read labels and symbols, or language training for sanitation and attending to basic human needs.

We must take this opportunity to step in and lead the way. The world is not only watching with hope, it is counting on Canada to show the United Nations' countries that our intervention is for the long term building of a self-sustaining country in Africa.

There are many reasons to send aid to the sub-Sahara. There is only one, fear of the unknown, that holds other people back. Some countries, because of their colonial history, are unable to help. Canada is able to help.

In conclusion, I wish to offer my support to this mission and hope it is the first step in helping the sub-Sahara and all of Africa to become self-sustaining.

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5:55 p.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I know why the hon. member supports this mission and I accept that. However, I would like to know how it is that our peacekeeping forces can be sent all around the world, ad infinitum, without a finite end to these efforts? I am talking about the bigger picture.

I suggest that our troops are only able, by their own admission, to take on two peacekeeping ventures at a time. This is a third one. They have two other commitments in Haiti and Bosnia. Are we not stretching these troops out too much? Are we not imposing a greater burden on them than we should be? How sensitive are we to their needs? We were told by the military that it only has the capacity, the money, the troops and the equipment to handle two peacekeeping missions at a time.

How does the member balance the military's admission of that fact with his support for this humanitarian effort? It will have to be measured on what criterion we think is just to make sure that the refugees are safe, have food and the basic necessities and that the rebels will not fire on them? How does the member rationalize us supporting this in light of the fact that our troops are being stretched to the limit right now?

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5:55 p.m.


John O'Reilly Liberal Victoria—Haliburton, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Calgary Centre on his intervention. He has allowed me to speak a little longer about the strength that I have and feel as a member of the defence committee. I know that the Canadian troops are the best trained in the world, have the best attitude and have the highest degree of commitment to anything that they are assigned to do.

I believe our troops can handle this as they have handled other missions and as they continue to handle missions in places like Haiti, an area where bilingualism is a great asset. Our peacekeepers are well trained and well equipped. They are able to handle the missions that they are assigned. They handle them with the honour and dignity that comes with the strong history of the Canadian peacekeeping force.

The Canadian peacekeeping forces are known worldwide for their generosity, their support and their humanitarian ways. I think they will continue to do that. I would like to think that there is money in the defence budget to be able to handle that. I put my trust in the minister of defence that we have the capacity to do that. I put my confidence in the fact that the military has indicated to me that it is able to handle this mission. It has the money, the resources, the know-how and the ability. It is very anxious to treat this problem where it is. It does not want to let it spread to other areas.

The members of the armed forces do not want only to be peacekeepers, they want to teach people how to live a better life and how to sustain themselves for the long term. That in kind helps Canada sustain itself by not having these people on the shores of other nations in boat loads and so forth. I think that is very important. I believe our peacekeepers are able to handle this and that there is a budget available or we would not be sending them.

However, it is necessary, even if we have to scrape and scrounge somewhere, to ensure that this mission is carried out to the betterment of the whole world.

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6 p.m.


Jim Silye Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to pursue this a little further. We were told when troops were sent to Haiti that they would be there for six months. An extension would be asked for.

We do not know how long the troops are going on this humanitarian effort. So when I say ad infinitum, I want to know why parliamentarians are not given more information and why the government or the minister of defence does not establish what our role is in terms of the military and defence. Are we peacekeepers or are we more than that? Let us tool ourselves up for that.

It is very frustrating in my opinion to see us committing and stretching ourselves out and not really getting the recognition and

the credit that we could still be getting even though we do have the best troops in Canada.

How long will this be for now? Why are the troops not out of Haiti?

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6 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

The hon. member has 30 seconds.