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.