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.


AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB


That, in the opinion of this House, wheat and barley producers in western Canada should be given greater flexibility and more choices by amending the Canadian Wheat Board Act to include a special two year opting out provision for those farmers interested in developing niche export markets.

Mr. Speaker, over the past two years, but more recently, I have followed up on my many discussions with farmers in my riding of Wild Rose. I questioned the farmers, asking what they wanted me to do. The result is this motion. The farmers are asking for the opportunity to opt out of the Canadian Wheat Board for a period of two years in order to see how marketing their niche produce goes.

The question I put to the farmers was: "Should farmers be allowed to opt out of the Canadian Wheat Board?" and 835 said yes, 70 said no. That represents about 90 per cent of the returns. As well, I used information I picked up at different gatherings when I was talking to individual farmers at town halls. It was obvious to me that they desire this. They want the opportunity.

As elected officials I believe we are obligated to give them that opportunity. As the representative for Wild Rose I put forward this motion with the idea that possibly they could have that opportunity.

Let us make it perfectly clear right off the bat, before the Liberals send out any more documents from the Prime Minister's office, these 90 per cent or 835 farmers do not want to scrap the wheat board. Nor does the Reform Party of Canada want to scrap the wheat board. Let us make that perfectly clear before the Liberals send out any more of their dumb propaganda that tells the public what we are all about and it is not even close to the truth.

Neither the Reform Party of Canada nor the farmers of Wild Rose want to see the wheat board scrapped. What they are asking for is freedom of choice. Freedom is something that a democratic society expects, something that producers across the land expect. Unless, of course, you are a western prairie farmer of wheat and barley. Then you must do as the government says or face the mighty, heavy hand of the law.

Mr. Speaker, you know what law I am talking about. It is the law that puts violent criminals into alternative measures programs, the law that allows bail for sex offenders the very same day they commit the offence, the law that allows bail for other violent crimes. It is the same law that puts a man behind bars without bail for selling his own product in violation of the law of the Canadian Wheat Board, literally throwing away the key, the heavy hand of the law.

Clearly farmers across the prairies desire to have a choice in the way they market their grain. Clearly a plebiscite on the issue would be in order. The red book said there would be one. It has not happened though and most likely will not. After all, the results may turn out to be against what the agriculture minister believes. We could not have that now, could we? That is an obvious fact after the minister selected his hand-picked panel to study the issue of the wheat board. When some of its recommendations came back, if the minister did not agree with them, then that was that.

It is well past time for this place and this government to start listening to the people of this land, the people whom we are supposed to serve and not dictate to. For nearly 30 years this place has continually ignored the wishes of the people and does what it wants. It uses dictatorial methods to continue to ram legislation down our throats. I am one Canadian who is getting tired of that kind of attitude. This place really needs an attitude adjustment. We need the kind of adjustment that would make things a little different.

For example, if members listened to the Canadian people and paid attention to the petitions that land in this place, section 745 of the Criminal Code would disappear. But no, this place knows best, we always know best.

Over the past 30 years things have been absolutely thrown into this House, debated and passed which have been dead against the wishes of the Canadian people. Think of the GST days. I could

even go as far back as the time the metric system was first brought in. Remember how the Canadian people felt about that? There are a number of measures I could mention. Rather than listening to the Canadian people and trying to implement legislation that is pleasing to them, we shove it down their throats.

Many have said that those who support choice are young farmers who do not understand. Gordon Reed of Cremona, Alberta, Jack Morgan and Nels Eskenson of Sundre, Alberta along with scores of other long time farmers, those who began farming before there ever was a wheat board, are the very ones who tell me they want choice. They all stated that what was good in 1946 is not what is needed in 1996, and they want some change.

In 1993 when the open barley market was put in place, not only was there a tremendous upswing in the sales of barley by private entrepreneurs, but the board as well experienced an increase in sales and profits. Actually the competition was probably healthy for it. It got off its backside, went out and began to do a little selling, a little promoting, and it worked.

Many niche producers are looking for buyers of their products and are finding markets for their specialty. One of these specialties is chemical free barley. These markets are not met by the buyers the board is aware of and have contact with. But these buyers do have a number of contacts with these niche producers and would very much like to purchase certified chemical free grains. Creating natural food for consumption would be their whole idea. There is a growing demand for that kind of product.

No organic producer receives sales help from the wheat board so why should they not be allowed to search on their own? There are a number of good reasons why farmers as entrepreneurs should be able to seek out and sell to their own markets, and that is just one of them.

When they go out, they work the land side by side with members of their families, and they try to produce something that they find is increasingly in demand. They try to meet the expectations of the buyers they have in mind who they were able to find on their own. Then they cannot sell them the product. It must go through the wheat board, and the best price they can expect from the wheat board are feed barley prices. It gets very discouraging. Many people who are out doing these very things are working for the livelihood of their families and are striving hard to save their farms from going under during tough times.

It is time for the government to look at modern times, at the modern way of doing things. We would like to see the wheat board democratized. We have said that on many occasions and I will repeat it once again so there is no confusion on that side. We do not want to scrap the wheat board. No one in the Reform Party has ever said that, nor has it ever been part of our platform.

We do need some changes. The wheat board needs to be more producer driven and more producer sensitive. We need to stop patronage appointments to those kinds of positions. An elected board is needed, one that is elected by the producers to serve the producers, to go out into the world to look for those new markets, not just the global market and whatever price is set by the global market, but to get out and do some work and search and find those kinds of markets that would benefit those people who are working so hard.

We need a body of people who have open books and who are accountable to the people of Canada. I really find it strange that we can get no information whatsoever regarding revenues, costs, expenses and what is happening at the wheat board. It is an absolute closed society. If that is the norm of a democratic country, then we really need some changes.

The Reform Party has tried in the past to make this kind of an item votable. There are criteria for what makes a private member's motion or bill a votable item. If the material that we submit regarding the motion or the bill follows the criteria right to the letter, follows it so that all 12 requirements to make it votable are in place, then it should be votable.

There are members on both sides of the House who have introduced private member's bills and have come away wondering why their item has not been made a votable one. If the criteria and the regulations are in place and all the rules are followed, then it should be a votable item and we should be able to stand in this House to cast our votes on behalf of the people we represent.

I have often wondered why that does not happen, that when these things do meet the criteria they still are not votable. There is only one conclusion we can come to. It is because of a few people sitting in the front row on that side of the House. If they decide something should or should not happen, then that is the way it is. That is democracy in this land.

They will come into this place of debate, turn around and look at the 177 members on the benches behind them and tell them: "This is the way you will vote. If you do not vote that way, we will kick you out of the party". I am sure the Speaker knows what I am talking about. I also believe that when people are forced to do what they do not want to do with respect to the legislation that comes before this House, when they are not given an opportunity to have their say, that is not democracy.

The agriculture minister has promised a plebiscite. Why has there not been one? Is it truly because the results will be unfavourable to what the government has already decided should happen?

This place really needs an attitude adjustment. It is time we started listening to the people who pay us. It is their money which brings us here. It is their money which lets us sit here to debate these issues. It is their money which helps us to decide what we

should do on their behalf. Consequently we come out of here making decisions daily on what we think is best and ignore their wishes completely. That has to change.

I would like to give the members of this House an opportunity today to change that attitude, to give the people of Canada and the prairie farmers of western Canada the opportunity to truly be entrepreneurs so that they can sell their products in the market which is best for them and have the freedom to do it. We could do that by making this a votable motion and giving every member of this House an opportunity to truly represent what Canadians would like to see. It is with that thought in mind and with the consent of the House I would ask that this motion be made votable.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Colleagues, the member for Wild Rose has moved that this motion be votable. Is there unanimous consent?

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

An hon. member


AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There is not unanimous consent. Accordingly, we will resume debate.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Essex—Kent Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, the premise of this motion is that the Canadian Wheat Board and the legislation it supports lack flexibility and cannot serve the best interests of its clients. The record does not support that premise. It is a retread of a previous motion that was brought forward in June. The premise is flawed.

The purpose of a two-year opting out provision contained in today's motion appears to be a return to the motion made in June by the hon. member and his colleagues. I would suggest that the letter of this motion does not match its spirit if, as the hon. member's motion suggests, this desire is an outcome that produces benefits for producers when what we are talking about is consensus and careful actions.

The Canadian Wheat Board has demonstrated a desire to expand its accountability to farmers. In return the board and the marketing system it maintains enjoy the support of a clear majority of our primary producers. This support is not unconditional. It reflects the commitment of the Canadian Wheat Board to improve service and organizational renewal. These efforts will be aided by the government.

We are taking steps to ensure that the Canadian Wheat Board keeps pace with the needs of its clients. As set out by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in his October 7, 1996 policy statement, the government aims to renew and strengthen the wheat board.

There will be changes to the management of the Canadian Wheat Board. A board of directors will be appointed by the government in 1997 and that group will have a majority of producer representatives. This interim body will give way to elected members in 1998 which will also have a producer majority.

The necessary amendments to the legislation are expected to be tabled in the House before the Christmas break. With these changes the future mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board can be adjusted in a democratic fashion according to the preferences of prairie grain farmers. The way the board does business will also be improved with changes designed to make price systems more flexible, payment processes quicker, a change on the bottom line so to speak.

The hon. member's motion also speaks of developing niche markets for grain. Talk of such niche markets must begin with the recognition that markets are inherently unpredictable, more so when there are no stable influences in those markets such as those provided by a single desk seller. We cannot discuss niches without reference to the large markets and the forces that shape those markets.

The presence of the Canadian Wheat Board has meant price stability and security of markets. The potential of niches for individual producers nowadays is traceable in no small part to the work of the board on behalf of the wider community of producers.

One might argue that the business environment in grain markets achieved through the Canadian Wheat Board has contributed to the potential of niche markets. It has also ironically led to the mistaken view taken by some of the board's harsher critics that the board is an obstacle. It certainly is not. The Canadian Wheat Board actually pursues many niche markets throughout the world.

There is a real possibility that having both a single desk marketing system in the form of the Canadian Wheat Board and the arrangement envisioned by the proponents on the right to opt out of the system may actually deliver the worst of both worlds to our producers. We would have a wheat board with reduced leverage in the marketplace and thus greater exposure to producers to violate market forces that can drive down prices and drive down profits for all Canadian farmers.

The message from farmers themselves is clear: You may be able to opt out of the wheat board system but you will not be able to opt out of the consequences that could result in harsh action. What is to be done in the marketplace is not easily undone or turned about. Returning to the benefits of a proven marketing system is not assured once you have been given the problems that could exist with two marketing systems.

Furthermore, the pursuit of opportunities by a few may reduce the opportunities of the many. That is plainly going to be a concern of those who make their livelihood producing grain in Canada. In some ideal world we can wish for perfect win-win situations but we

do not live in such a world. If the pursuit of alternative marketing arrangements by the minority determines or diminishes the benefits of single desk selling for the majority, then it is not a win-win situation, it is a lose-lose situation.

Long before the hon. member offered this motion for debate today, before he was even a member of this House, the Canadian Wheat Board took the initiative of evaluating itself and its operations, demonstrating a flexibility that we can applaud. Certainly the wheat board has always been committed to providing the best possible service for western Canadian grain farmers. In recent years that commitment has led to some very critical re-examination and re-evaluation.

In recent years the board has reviewed its operation and management structures in order to improve its long term planning, budgeting, management and reporting systems. In addition it has also introduced a new system of performance evaluation. It would have been enough for some, had the wheat board stopped there, to say that the Canadian Wheat Board was neither complacent nor unwilling to meet the challenges of the changing times, but as the House knows, the wheat board undertook further measures.

The board now conducts an ongoing department by department audit of its expenditures. It has expanded the information it provides to its producer clients. It has also emphasized direct contact between its staff and clients. The men and women on the prairies who produce wheat and barley are better informed today. At its most fundamental level, these people are the western Canadian grain farmers and the western Canadian grain industry itself.

Over the past few years new services have been provided to these women and men on the prairies, new services such as pool return outlooks and price forecasting, new market development initiatives and business tools for enhanced risk management. The board has also strengthened its worldwide business information networks and opened a new office in the People's Republic of China.

In summary, the Canadian Wheat Board has met the test of organized managing in tumultuous times. It has adapted, adopted and improved in order to provide the best possible service for its clients. The board and its management have made great strides in meeting the needs of its clients and the challenges of global markets in the late 20th century. All this has been accomplished within the existing legal framework of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Amending the act is necessary in certain ways to put the Canadian Wheat Board on an even better business footing and to meet the demands of the western Canadian grain farmers for more accountable management. This can easily be distinguished from the kind of amendment contained in the hon. member's motion which does not contribute to the modernization of the wheat board. This motion also fails to meet the test of proposing change that has broad base support among the western Canadian grain farmers and that can dramatically improve sales of wheat and barley to its customers.

The motion put forth by the hon. member for Wild Rose does not recognize the flexibility and benefits of both the Canadian Wheat Board and the legislation underlying it. I do not share his presumption. I choose to support the farmers and the institutions and reject the motion.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

November 18th, 1996 / 11:30 a.m.


Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

I welcome this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to speak on the motion put forward by the hon. member for the Reform Party, who persists in advocating a provision that would allow producers to opt out of the Canadian Wheat Board for two years.

What baffles me, however, is the fact that my hon. colleague still does not understand plain common sense. I recall speaking on this issue in this House on June 19. The hon. member for the Reform Party was probably away on that day. And he obviously does not read Hansard .

For the last time, I sincerely hope that the Reformers will realize that it is not a good idea to allow Canadian wheat and barley producers to opt out for a period of two years. This is not the first time that the Reformers have taken a stand against the Canadian Wheat Board. I talked about this on June 19. This is starting to look like sheer stubbornness.

The Reformers are at such a loss for new issues to make political hay with that they are rehashing an old matter that has already been debated in this House. It was discussed last June. Why are they coming back with this two-year opting-out proposal or provision for western producers? I can understand that the Reformers feel that a general election is coming and realizing that they are not very popular. They are trying to make political hay with this clause.

The Canadian Wheat Board is the institutional embodiment of a marketing system developed to help producers. The pooling of resources through the Canadian Wheat Board ensures that producers receive the same initial payments year round. As for the final payment, it is designed to reflect the value set by the market during a given crop year. This means that the pool price is representative of the price variations.

There is a whole system in place to calculate prices depending on the grain category, thereby easing-fortunately for western produc-

ers-fluctuations, some of which are linked to foreign competition. The hon. members of the third party have short memories. In the 1980s, western grain producers definitely benefited from the Canadian Wheat Board.

After certain pools accumulated huge deficits, the federal government came to the rescue. Now some producers are smelling business opportunities. I realize that some want to market their products themselves, outside the board's jurisdiction, because they want to get more. However, when times become hard again, they will be happy to be part of the Canadian Wheat Board.

In a way, Reformers want to eliminate a system which works relatively well, for the benefit of a small group of western producers. Producers that would elect to take advantage of this opting out provision would be allowed to leave the Canadian Wheat Board for a period of two years. However, after this two-year period, will producers be able to rejoin or, for that matter, will they have to rejoin the Canadian Wheat Board? Who will monitor the process and how? This new system would make it very difficult for the board to fulfill its mandate.

The objective is to stabilize prices and set a median price, in spite of market cycles. Everyone is looking for stability, but the Reformers would turn the whole thing into a big mess. It would indeed be the case, should the Canadian Wheat Board disappear, because western producers would suffer major losses of income. They would no longer have any protection.

As you know, no one can predict the future. Who can say what the supply and demand in a given region of the world will be? The proposal of the hon. member for Wild Rose would undermine the principles of price pooling and risk reduction, while creating a parallel marketing system.

The Reform member and his colleagues will probably insist that they are following up on the producers' request. In my opinion, this is only a small group of producers who are either dissatisfied or who want to make more money. It is tempting for producers located along the Canada-U.S. border to sell their crops directly to the Americans and to get paid immediately.

Indeed, it is very tempting and this is why some producers want to go it alone. However, the wind might turn. Economic conditions, fluctuations and many other factors can, at any time, change the whole situation. Going that route would be tantamount to playing Russian roulette, and the consequences could be just as tragic.

The Canadian Wheat Board must be maintained, because it is a good instrument for western producers. The board has already demonstrated its usefulness. It may not be perfect, but nothing keeps us from improving it. For example, producers could be granted more control over the board's operations, or the board could be given more room to maneuver.

The proposal by the member for Wild Rose would undo many years of work by the industry towards maximizing profits from the sale of wheat. The introduction of a provision allowing producers to opt out of the marketing system for two years would seriously undermine the Canadian Wheat Board.

The board has been in existence for 61 years. Over that period of time there have obviously been many changes and marketing has undergone a considerable transformation. However, the fundamental task continues to be one of selling a quality product and offering clients outstanding service, while maximizing profits for western producers. One thing remains unchanged, and that is that grain marketing is just as risky a venture today as it was in 1935 when the Canadian Wheat Board was set up.

Back then, producers had to contend with price fluctuations caused by World War II, while today's producers, like all their fellow producers, have no influence over world prices.

The Canadian Wheat Board continues to provide producers with a means of managing risk and a system for ensuring equity among grain producers. The approach is the same as that used in other agricultural sectors.

Once again, the motion by the member for Wild Rose must be rejected, and I hope members of the Reform Party will change their minds.

I think it would make more sense if we talked about creating jobs. Has any thought been given to the jobs that could be created with the money that would be saved by abolishing the Senate? I hope that my colleagues in this House are finally going to talk about the real problems, and about job creation. The dignity of thousands of the young and the not so young is at stake.

Many of the inhabitants of my riding are looking for jobs. Many have looked in vain. As recently as yesterday, November 17, one of my constituents said that his unemployment insurance benefits had melted away like snow on a warm day, leaving him with little choice but to go on welfare, although he is in good health and wants to work.

I am sure I am not the only member who hears from people looking for work. This is a situation affecting a good many Quebecers and Canadians.

I trust that we will move on to the topic of jobs in this House in the very near future. In the meantime, I thank you for your attention.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be speaking today in support of the motion presented by the hon. member for Wild Rose:

That, in the opinion of this House, wheat and barley producers in western Canada should be given greater flexibility and more choices by amending the Canadian Wheat Board Act to include a special two year opting out provision for those farmers interested in developing niche export markets.

I thank the hon. member for bringing this up. I am not saying this is necessarily the only way we can deal with the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, which is what many farmers are asking for. But this certainly is one alternative that should be debated. Before I get into that debate I will comment on some of the comments by the hon. member from the Bloc who just spoke.

He asked why we were not debating something important. I have barley in the bin and out in the filed to be sold right now. To me this issue is important. I have neighbours who have barley in the field and barley to be sold. To them this issue is very important. In fact, to thousands and thousands of western Canadian farmers this issue is very important.

I have come to know the hon. member from the Bloc and I have gained some respect for him over the past three years, but I find it absolutely unbelievable that he would brush this issue off as an issue that is not important. It is important. It is important to many western Canadian farmers.

Back to the motion at hand, I would like to ask some questions. For example, why is the minister of agriculture denying farmers a third option on the ballot that will give farmers a chance to speak in the plebiscite promised by the minister?

In this plebiscite only two options are offered to farmers. I will read the questions and make clear what these two options are. Then I will talk about a third option which should be on the ballot. The first option is the open market option which is stated as follows: "Remove all barley, both feed and malting food, from the Canadian Wheat Board and place it entirely on the open market for all domestic and export sales". That is the first option and that is the wording the minister will use to present this option.

The second option is the single seller option: "Maintain the Canadian Wheat Board as a single desk seller for all barley, both feed and malting food, with the continuing exception of feed barley sold domestically".

Those options are two out of the three options that should be on this ballot. Unfortunately the minister has denied western Canadian farmers the option that a vast majority of them would choose. I know this not only from polling I have done on my own, not only from the polling of other Reform members in their own constituencies, but from other polls that have been commissioned on this issue. Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Canadian farmers if given the choice would choose the dual marketing option or the voluntary board option, call it what you like.

In a plebiscite held in Alberta about a year ago, when the question was put to western Canadian farmers, two-thirds of the farmers in Alberta chose the voluntary board or the dual marketing option.

This issue has been decided in Alberta already. It should be put to plebiscite for the benefit of farmers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. However, let us present the option that farmers would choose. What kind of nonsense is this, offering only two options which will split western Canadian farmers and pit family against family? Only asking the two questions will do that.

How will farmers handle having only the two options presented? I cannot say for sure but I can make a pretty good guess. My guess is that farmers, on recognizing that the dual marketing option is not available, may choose the open market option. In that case the wheat board will no longer be handling barley sales at all. That is not what I want, that is not what other Reform MPs want and it is not what farmers across western Canada want. They want the freedom to choose to market their barley through the Canadian Wheat Board, through a pooling system, or to market it on their own or through a private grain company. That is the third option which is not on the ballot of the minister of agriculture.

I am afraid, because that option is not on the ballot, that farmers in western Canada might be denied the pooling option, an option which I know some of them want. That is nonsense.

Why did the minister not put this third option on the ballot? I cannot answer that question for sure but it concerns me greatly that he did not offer it. Would not the proper way to handle this issue be to present the three options? The reason the minister of agriculture gives for not putting that voluntary board or dual marketing option on the plebiscite is that it would not work. Would not the proper way to handle this issue be to put it on the ballot and to have a debate across western Canada? The minister, the wheat board and other people who argue that a dual marketing system would not work could debate that option. They could say: "We do not think that option would work for these reasons". That is a point of debate.

On the other hand, I could argue that it would work and that is what I would do during the debate leading up to the plebiscite. I would argue that in fact the Canadian Wheat Board, when it was set up, was a voluntary board. The dual marketing system was in place from the time the board was first set up in the twenties and re-established in the thirties. The voluntary board or the dual marketing option was only taken away from farmers under the War Measures Act in 1943. That was done so the Canadian government could obtain for the war effort grain at the lowest price possible. Canadian farmers allowed that because they wanted to help with

the war. They were promised compensation later which they never received.

Why do we still have a monopoly situation today when it was only put in place under the War Measures Act? It is to get cheap grain. I would argue in the debate leading up to the plebiscite that the dual market system worked well before the monopoly was put in place and that it would work well now.

I want to make it as clear as I can that I favour keeping the Canadian Wheat Board. It is very useful. However, I favour giving farmers a choice. Surely in country like this no one could argue seriously that farmers who put all of the money, the sweat and the work into producing their grain should not have the freedom to choose how to market that grain. Yet, that is what the government and the minister are arguing against all common sense. It makes no sense whatsoever.

I have so much that I want to say on this issue, but I see that my time is coming to a close. However, if I may, I would like to again make it clear what I am arguing for here.

The hon. member for Wild Rose is asking that farmers be given the chance to opt out over a two-year period. It is one way of ending the wheat board monopoly. But there are other ways the monopoly could be ended and make it work effectively.

One way would be to offer deferred delivery contracts such as that which grain companies now offer to farmers, unlike the Canadian Wheat Board contracts that are in place now which do not guarantee a price for the commodity and do not guarantee delivery by a certain date. It is a one-sided contract.

The deferred delivery contract which farmers use for canola, peas, or other crops of choice, stipulates that farmers will deliver a certain number of bushels or tonnes of the commodity to a specified delivery point for such a price on such a date. The grain company promises to take delivery at the specified price, destination and date. That is another way to end the monopoly of the board.

A third way is by offering contracts, committing a certain number of tonnes or bushels to the board so that the board would know exactly what it will be working with before the actual marketing. That commitment can be made some time in advance and staged in. That is another way to deal with the issue. Give farmers a choice. I cannot believe that the government in good conscience can continue to deny farmers the choice on how to market their grain.

In conclusion, I want to again thank the hon. member for Wild Rose for his motion and say that I support it as one way to deal with ending the monopoly of the wheat board. I also point out that there are other ways of dealing with the situation. I say very clearly that a voluntary board has worked before, a dual marketing system has worked before, and it will work again. I ask the minister to examine this again.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Dauphin—Swan River Manitoba


Marlene Cowling LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, in the context of debating the motion before the House, it is worth remembering the consultation process that preceded the report of the western grain marketing panel.

The report was presented to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on July 2, 1996 after much direct consultation, independent research and careful deliberation. The panel produced a brochure that described the current grain marketing system and outlined some of the major related issues. This was distributed to over 200,000 farmers, organizations and industry representatives in December 1995. This information was only the first step in an extensive dialogue.

The panel then provided a number of avenues for interested individuals and groups to review the grain marketing system and they were able able to put forward their views and offer suggestions for changes in the marketing system. Clearly the panel made good on its commitment to foster an atmosphere of fairness and impartiality in which people could meet to discuss the future of the grain marketing system.

As part of the consultation exercise that was the most extensive in the history of the industry, a series of 15 town hall meetings was held across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. I attended two of those meetings in my home province of Manitoba, one in Brandon and one in my home town of Grandview which is in my riding of Dauphin-Swan River. It was in this kind of forum that farmers and other concerned people gave their perspective on both the current marketing system for western Canadian grain and alternative arrangements. The panel also held hearings in Winnipeg, Regina and Edmonton where individuals and organizations made formal presentations. In 12 days of hearings the panel heard 69 briefs. There were also 78 written submissions from individuals and organizations that did not appear before the panel during its hearings.

As well, to help in its assessment of the grain marketing system, its institutions and the economic environment in which this important industry operates, the panel contracted consultants to produce six major reports.

Clearly the western grain marketing panel made a valuable contribution in facilitating an important debate concerning the future of the Canadian Wheat Board and the grain marketing system. Key issues were explored and the panel's recommenda-

tions were added to the input received by the government from producers and other interested parties. Taken together, this input has helped the government chart its course concerning the future of the board.

The government supports the way the Canadian Wheat Board has evolved into a body where key decisions affecting farmers in this industry have been made by the farmers themselves and are based on a consensus which they themselves built. At the same time the government is proposing to the future modernization of the administrative structure of the board, to make its operations more flexible and effective and to put more power in the hands of primary producers.

The policy statement issued by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on October 7, 1996 calls for a board of directors for the Canadian Wheat Board to be appointed by the government in 1997, a board with a farmer majority. By 1998 directors will be directly elected by farmers. This proposal reflects the common goal of both the western grain marketing panel and the government, providing western Canadian farmers with the best ways and means to achieve the maximum possible benefits for their industry.

To help the board better serve its clients, new legislation to be introduced shortly will also enable the board to use its financial resources in a more business-like manner. This will permit the board and farmers more flexibility in financial dealings. Specifically, payments to farmers will be easier to make and quicker to deliver. This promotes a better business environment for the industry. Avoidable bottlenecks and other delays in doing business with and on behalf of farmers can be removed to everyone's benefit.

Once the new governance structure is in place, the government will be able to look to the Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors for guidance on issues regarding the industry. In the meantime the government has committed itself to a producer vote on the subject of the marketing system for barley.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has clearly said that he has heard from farm groups on how to formulate the question and a voter eligibility list. The aim is to ask farmers a clear question on the marketing of barley. It will be an important choice because the future of the industry will be shaped in this process. Again, this follows the route of a broad consultation instead of pre-empting debate.

During the western grain marketing panel consultations, farmers demonstrated a strong desire to shape their industry themselves. The motion before the House today proposes a different route, one that I believe should be rejected. It pre-empts a wider consultation on a very important issue and proposes to make an important choice over the heads of farmers.

I strongly oppose this motion. It undercuts the strengths of the Canadian Wheat Board as well as the credibility of prairie grain

farmers. This motion clearly illustrates the extremist views of the third party of this House of Commons.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

As there are no other members rising to debate, the hon. member for Wild Rose is entitled to get up and resume the debate if he so wishes. May we call it twelve o'clock?

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Great Lakes Region Of AfricaGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba


Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs


That this House take note of the evolving situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa and of Canada's leadership role in the international community's efforts to alleviate human suffering in the region.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the honourable Leader of the Opposition, the leader of the Reform Party, the leader of the New Democratic Party and the leader of the Conservative Party for their co-operation during last week's discussions on the urgency of the situation in Zaire. This is certainly a great example of how the members of this Parliament work together to ensure a unified position with respect to the very serious crisis unfolding in that part of the world. We are certainly most interested in the debates that will be held in the coming days in order to determine the direction and the initiatives to be taken with respect to the missions to Zaire, and also to ensure that the voices of each party in this Parliament, which represents the Canadian people, are heard.

The purpose of this is to bring before Parliament the resolution seeking support for the Canadian initiative in eastern Zaire and the surrounding regions.

It was about eight days ago when the entire world, including all Canadians, recognized that we stood on the precipice of one of the most tragic human disasters the world has ever faced. Millions of people were sitting in eastern Zaire without any food, sustenance or support. There was enormous potential for the whole crisis to develop into a situation of huge significance, not just in the region but for everyone. The prospect of a humanitarian disaster shook us all.

In the circumstances, a week ago Saturday the Prime Minister, consulting with a number of other world leaders, took an initiative

in line with what we believe is the long Canadian tradition of involvement as a major peacekeeper to stop the stalemate, to change the inertia that was taking place at an international level. There was a need for political will to take place.

We have learned, as we have gone through these new kinds of crises in the last several years, that the resources are there, the capacity is there and the institutions are there, but what is often missing is the political will. Last weekend the Prime Minister supplied that missing ingredient and took the initiative to begin mobilizing the world community.

Since then, of course, events have taken place rapidly. We were able to bring together a coalition of a number of countries prepared to offer direct assistance for a multinational force which would provide a secure environment within eastern Zaire to ensure that any humanitarian aid could be effectively delivered and at the same time to support and facilitate the voluntary repatriation and movement of refugees back to their homes in Rwanda.

In addition to that, political support had to be mobilized at the United Nations to get the right kind of resolution. Without going into the long history, although it was just a short time ago, Canada took the lead in this important international coalition building. Canada was able to garner the support of a number of countries which were prepared to commit and to mobilize political support at the United Nations. On the weekend just past we were able to obtain the full endorsement of the United Nations security council.

I want to give my vote of appreciation to the leaders of each of the respective other parties in the House. I spoke to them last week to explain the kind of urgency and the quick changing circumstances we faced. We received both their basic support and willingness to wait until the House returned on Monday to have a full debate which we are committed to. I want to thank them very much for signifying and expressing their own commitment during this very tumultuous period this past week.

We now see that the situation has changed. We should take enormous satisfaction that one of the major objectives that was set out just a short week ago was to ensure that the large masses of refugees held in camps and who had been a part of that system for the last two years are now on the move. The dramatic pictures we see every night on television clearly demonstrate that one of the major objectives has already in large part been achieved.

One of the contributing reasons, one of the factors that unlocked or triggered that movement was that in the past week our own country took on the responsibility of organizing the international community. The international community's presence that would soon be felt became a strong and compelling influence in terms of that massive movement that we now witness daily. In part we can take a certain amount of satisfaction that the job is already under way, but we should also recognize the job is not yet over.

At last report there are still hundreds of thousands of refugees in eastern Zaire. We hope that they will be able to join the movement that was started on the weekend, but at this point in time there is no way of knowing. We are still trying to assess the information intelligence with regard to the refugees in the southern part of Zaire around the area of Bukavu. The objectives still remain and they have the UN security resolution force behind them to ensure that humanitarian assistance is given. At the same time we are able to support and facilitate the continual resettlement of refugees back into their home communes.

In this case we still stay committed as the Canadian government on behalf of the Canadian people to do whatever is necessary to meet the current needs. We continue to support these developments and provide any resource necessary to not only ensure the application of humanitarian aid but to look at the broader question of peace building in the region so that we will not have a reoccurrence, that the same problems will not visit us again a year or two down the road and to begin working for longer term settlements of the root causes of the problems.

We seek the support of Parliament today for the initiative of Canada as we seek to find the most effective and useful ways in which we can respond to the humanitarian crisis in Rwanda and Zaire.

To put this into context and why I think this is particularly important as a juncture point in debate, we have witnessed since the ending of the cold war several years ago the emergence of not uniform global peace but a new kind of conflict, low intensity conflicts, often internal conflicts, but which have a nasty way of spilling over their boundaries, creating enormous repercussions in their own regions around the world at great cost to life and resources in those regions and for which we all bear the burden. It is the new kind of world we live in.

As we begin to learn our lessons day by day, week by week, as we go through each of these conflicts, we now begin to apply those lessons in an effective way. If we do not do so we will see the continuing cycles of violence, the targeting of whole communities one against the another, the ugly words that appear in our vocabulary, ethnic cleansing and genocide, that have become all too common in our parlance.

We have to continue to be cognizant of the enormous despair of hundreds of thousands of civilians who are the victims of these conflicts, the women and children who bear the brunt and who often are the most vulnerable and cannot protect themselves against these kinds of internal conflicts, faction fights and the enormous violence we have witnessed for so long.

Clearly, traditional responses are not enough. The lessons we acquired in our diplomatic, political and military textbooks on the cold war do not apply to the new situations.

One of the first lessons we learned is that these internal conflicts are "not a family matter". Given their effect on international security as a whole, given the widespread consequences brought about by these matters, as we have seen just in the past week, it is incumbent on and the responsibility of the international community to find the appropriate response.

We cannot use narrow national interests as an excuse for inaction or delay. It is a matter for all common humanity. I believe that is the will of Canadians to serve as a steward in that cause of humanity.

The Prime Minister went to the core of the issue last week when he said that no one can remain indifferent to the suffering in eastern Zaire, no one can close his eyes to the consequences. If the world community does not act, more than a million lives will be at stake.

I think that summarizes basically why we have taken the role and the leadership that we have.

Third, we have learned that what is basically required is no longer the singular responses of just military force or political action. We now have to find an integrated, strategic, comprehensive way of melding political, military and humanitarian efforts so that there is a complete and total response, that we are able to be flexible and provide adaptations, that we can no longer simply go by the old guidebooks.

We now must find notions of combining peacekeeping in its traditional form as established by Michael Pearson many years ago but also with a new concept of peace building, how we work into post-conflict situations to have stabilized communities.

The medical community has a good word for it, triage. If you are a casualty in a traffic accident and you come to the hospital, they do not immediately perform the operation. They stabilize the vital signs. They make sure the blood is pumping. They make sure the body is warm and things are stabilized before they can start the treatment and the cure. One of the new lessons we have learned and the required lessons is to begin seeing how we can provide that triage in these new kinds of international conflicts.

Specifically as it applies to Zaire, we face a situation that challenges all these lessons that we have learned in this new conflict situation, how to provide innovative responses to the new kinds of humanitarian crises. I think we have already shown one important lesson and that is to quickly and effectively use political will and mobilization to bring the international community toward finding a solution.

I would recommend to all members, if they have the time, to read a dramatic report that was issued after the Rwanda conflict which stated that the missing link that led to the genocide was a lack of political will at the international level. That will was supplied over the past week. I am pleased to say that it was the Canadian Prime Minister who provided that basic sense of commitment and engagement to make it happen.

As a result, the scope of the disaster has been substantially reduced. However, we now have to make adaptations. We are now seeing the vast movement of refugees coming across the border as a consequence of that galvanizing of the international area. However, there is still an urgent need for humanitarian assistance to sustainable solutions.

My colleague, the Minister for International Co-operation, will be addressing in more detail how on the humanitarian side we can begin to support work by the various international agencies and care groups that are involved in that region.

We must be prepared to continue to do what we can to ensure that there is continued security. At the present moment we are gathering the information intelligence, working with our allies, working with the African states, the Europeans and the Americans to ensure that in eastern Zaire itself that as the problem begins to be resolved, we also do not see remaining pockets where there is still continued violence, insecurity or instability.

We are beginning to look at how we can meet the objectives but perhaps use a different mix of tools. I hope members of Parliament will be prepared to work with us in developing that ongoing adaptation and adjustment as we move into new fields.

I welcome the response of members of Parliament on the usefulness of setting up regular joint meetings of the defence and foreign affairs committees. Then we can constantly brief members of Parliament from all parties, get their responses and build them in as part of our ongoing policy making and our response mechanism. I put that proposal out and I hope the spokespersons for the opposition parties will indicate whether they would be prepared to engage in that kind of ongoing parliamentary dialogue.

To make sure we have it, Canadian military personnel are now in Rwanda. General Baril will arrive there within hours to do the major reconnaissance. They will help to give us a much better understanding of the situation in the region and how that will affect our deployment plans.

The consultations I talked about are intensifying. There will be a major planning session in Stuttgart within two days which will bring together all the donor nations. We are in constant contact and have been over the weekend with a number of the key players, with

those who are prepared to donate and contribute to the force and with those who represent the African states.

I will be meeting with the ambassadors of the African states later today to engage them in the same kind of consultation and response so we can calibrate and tailor our responses to fit the needs, because that is our primary objective. We have also asked our Secretary of State for Latin America and Africa to visit Africa. She is on her way now to visit certain African capitals, to consult again with the key African states about what they think would be the appropriate response.

It is a continuing involvement. We on behalf of Canadians want to ensure we have the capacity and are in the position to offer the leadership that was initiated last weekend by the Prime Minister.

We must now recognize that a conversion is taking place. The movement of refugees in its own way is a source of enormous satisfaction. It is beginning to deal with one of the root causes of the problem, but there are still issues to face down the road. There is the longer term question of the resettlement of the refugees back into Rwanda. The millions of people now returning to their homelands have to be given basic support and sustenance.

We have to ensure there is proper monitoring in that area so the communities can come together, so there can be reconciliation and development in those areas. That will also involve a continuing ongoing commitment of the international community. We will do our part and offer whatever leadership is required to help deal with those kinds of issues and develop responses.

Last weekend in Paris during a meeting on Bosnia I engaged several of my counterparts as foreign ministers about how we can begin to think through those longer term responses and how we can begin to develop an effective international response to that changing condition.

The United Nations Security Council has also recognized very clearly the need for a follow-up force. Planning is already under way for a second phase as to how we should maintain a system of stability to ensure the problems do not recur. There is a lesson out of the past situations in Rwanda, Somalia and other areas. If we simply say that the immediate crisis is over and that we can now walk away, then we are bound to face a recurrence of the problem within months or years.

For that reason the United Nations has special envoy Ambassador Chrétien working in the region not only to deal with the immediate questions of negotiation about the humanitarian crisis but to make recommendations that will be used by the United Nations, ourselves and other countries to begin planning that longer term response. Again we can take some satisfaction in having received a call from the United Nations with a request that Canada find a proper envoy. We all admire enormously the work of Ambassador Chrétien. There is no one better suited for the task in the work he is doing there to provide international leadership at this crucial time.

In addition to those direct initiatives, I put forward another idea in a speech I gave about three weeks ago at York University. I am sure all members read it as soon as it came off the press.

The need for a peace building strategy by Canada was put forward. It is a need to begin to look differently at some of these kinds of problems; that within our own resources and our own political capacity, how we can provide support for countries emerging out of conflict; how we can provide the ability to help them stabilize so that the problems do not return with frequency.

The issue of Zaire is a good example of how peace building, a rapid, integrated, multifaceted response on the civilian side is as important as the rapid multifaceted response on the military side. We now have to find a forum for the same kind of effectiveness by the civilian peacekeeping side, which we now call peace building, as we have had on the military side.

This means providing assistance to re-establish the rule of law. It means supporting political reconciliation, including the issue of human rights, particularly minority rights. It means developing confidence building measures between the groups and factions that have been in conflict, designed to defuse tensions on the borders, across the borders and among people within those borders.

It means securing an environment so that the continued humanitarian assistance and rebuilding can take place. People cannot go about rebuilding their lives if they are worried that they will be attacked at any moment. That is why one major commitment we have made in places like Haiti is to provide training and support for the establishment of national police forces using public accountability and a sense of transparency so that those countries can begin to acquire that sense of security.

It means the massive problem of resettlement and reintegration of refugees and displaced persons and the reconstruction of a political and civil society in many of these countries. That is the new notion of peace building: how to use our own experiences as a country which has learned how to build bridges across boundaries; a country which has learned how to build a linkage between groups with different languages and different backgrounds; how to use the experiences we have gained internationally over the years to form these kinds of coalitions and alliances; how we begin to work with other like-minded countries so that we do not do it alone, but we

work within the UN context as a coalition of countries dedicated to the notion of peace building.

That is very much the challenge which now faces us. That is the second track we must begin to follow. As we have begun to almost see a certain resolution of the humanitarian crisis, we must now make sure that a new crisis does not occur. Through the kinds of initiatives of peace building that I talked about, I think we can begin to help resolve those issues.

I know it has been the question and concern which was clearly uppermost on the minds of members in terms of the briefing we held this morning. That is why I want to underline and emphasize the importance of being able to respond to these kinds of international difficulties not in a singular way, not in an inflexible way, not in a single dimension, but to provide a subtle, flexible broad based response in which we can bring to bear the best resources of this country to help solve the conflict.

In conclusion, I again ask members of the House for their support in this initiative. It is not a support which is open ended. We will come back to Parliament on a regular basis through the committee system to ensure that it is constantly being referenced and constantly asking for a response. We have to work together.

I believe this is in the vital interests of Canadians. Many out there are asking why we are involved in Rwanda which is so far away, why we are spending resources in a far off place. Every Canadian has a vital interest. If we do not solve the problems, if we do not help to make that kind of contribution, it will be on our doorstep in a matter of time.

It is the underside of globalization. If we can gain from the benefits of a global system in terms of trade, investment, productivity and growth, we must also bear the responsibility of ensuring the global system is stable, orderly, safe and secure. That has been a long tradition of this country. It is in the tradition that will allow us to continue not only to provide security for other people but our own security as well, by making sure that the world is secure.

I thank members of Parliament for their courtesy and indulgence. I look forward to the ensuing debate and to their continued support as Canada engages in a mission where we are showing leadership in the world in representing the best values and interests of the Canadian people.

Great Lakes Region Of AfricaGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very meaningful for me to speak today in this debate concerning a dramatic situation that is unfolding in the world. I will begin by making it clear that we are faced with a very difficult humanitarian situation on the international level.

This current situation affects me personally, for there is a nongovernmental organization in my riding, the Institut de développement Nord-Sud, which ran a fairly extensive program in Rwanda for several years. Hutus, Tutsis, people from Rwanda and the region have come to my riding, and people from my riding have gone over there, all of this on the interpersonal level.

In approaching a problem like this, I believe we must keep in mind that, when all is said and done, we are dealing with human beings, people, men and women, who have been experiencing very difficult situations for some years, and continue to do so. What is more, these situations are constantly changing.

We are faced with a complex and alarming human situation. I think that it is worthwhile to point out, and very realistic as well, that it was high time that someone took the initiative on this. Canada, it must be noted, has been involved in the decision-making process in recent weeks to ensure that there is the will for international action to be carried out.

We are faced with a situation that is evolving with blinding speed. This morning we had an information session on the situation in Zaire, and the people briefing us were receiving hourly, half-hourly updates on the changing situation. It is important that, in approaching this matter, the Canadian government and the international community keep in mind that the objectives are sacred, but the means to attain them may change.

Last week, military intervention was really the main mission, and it will remain essential in the future, but, as the Minister said, there is more and more international action in quite distinct areas. There is a case for military action in one area and humanitarian action next door, while it is also necessary to project future developments.

I think all these actions must be integrated. Experience is an excellent teacher and today's experience is particularly significant in that we have a living laboratory. We have a situation where human lives are at stake, so we must be prepared to accept that solutions that seemed relevant last week may have to be changed and adjusted as events unfold.

In the end, in one or two or three or five years, we should be able to reach a point where we can say: "This part of the world, after experiencing major upheavals, has been pacified. Its people are living in satisfactory conditions, and they are happy in the place where they live. They manage to deal with their problems and are taking a new, more positive approach."

Unfortunately, today the answer is not necessarily obvious. The situation is extremely complex. Zaire is a country surrounded by 11 other African countries, with populations whose backgrounds vary widely and where the European presence has had an enormous impact. Even today, on the map of Africa, borders often are where

they are as result of European intervention. All this means that we have a situation where a country's borders do not necessarily coincide with tribal borders.

So we have to consider all these factors. I would like to take this opportunity to mention a major contribution being made by Tanzania, a neighbouring country that has provided a buffer solution, as it were, for at least part of the refugees. I think this is an approach that could be a useful precedent. Other African countries would do well to follow this example so that, in the medium term, solutions will be increasingly African solutions, initiated by and for Africans.

Today, in 72 hours, we have gone from a situation where we had more than one million refugees outside Rwanda to a situation where there are 400,000 or perhaps 500,000. It is hard to estimate the exact figures, but in the past 72 hours there has been a major population movement that has completely changed the situation.

Between 400,000 and 500,000 people have become a new and important challenge for the Government of Rwanda and the current situation. It will be necessary to absorb these people who left the country one or two years ago when the country went through a very difficult time. Now they must be reintegrated. Can this be done without strong international assistance, and I am thinking of shelter facilities and food aid corridors? And there are also the non-governmental organizations that are helping to feed and resettle these people. We will have to consider very carefully where the efforts the Government of Canada and of all the other countries that are part of the current international action should be focused.

We must realize that although the situation has changed so dramatically, the answer is certainly not to stop everything tomorrow morning. Just because a lot of Rwandans are going back to Rwanda does not mean that the problem is solved. And above all, international public opinion must not be allowed to focus its attention on other problems while forgetting to deal with the very real problem that exists in this country.

The difficult situation remains and it is not going to be resolved by the Rwandans' return home. It will be resolved once there is, within the African communities concerned, a balance, a way for the population to live in a democratic context and according to the rules that govern peoples who live together and are concerned about each other's growth and development.

The people are not being judged; the issue is simply to ensure that long term solutions are put in place.

Here is an example of some of the information that must be taken into consideration. We know that, at the moment, there may be enough food to feed some 1.5 million people for about 50 days. Therefore, in order to ensure that supplies reach the refugees in time, without crises or panic arising from logistics problems, we must ensure there is an infrastructure. I think the action the government has undertaken that has mobilized the international community must continue and will bring significant results in short order.

I stress the aspect of continuing the action, because of all the reactions we see today in the news. People are saying: "We do not know anymore whether the troops are really needed". The Americans, for example, may have doubts.

The movement of the refugees elicits a different response to the problem among the Africans involved. However, the problem remains. We have to look to the means and the types of action, but we must never give up on the problem itself.

So, aid is still needed. It is hard to assess the impact of the multinational force. Over time, however, a link may be established between the point at which the international community decided to act and the subsequent population movements.

This result alone is worth the effort of showing that action had to be taken and that it must continue to be accorded the importance it deserves.

In addition to acting in the short term, we must take the right kind of action. There is a clear lesson for the international community here. The many warning signals that preceded the current crisis went unheeded. It was the resumption of an unfinished war, which led to the massacre of more than one million Rwandans in 1994.

This situation, which has deteriorated over the years, should have been anticipated. Solutions had been suggested. The situation must be dealt with in the short term. For the long term, the French government has suggested that an international conference be held on the whole African great lakes issue, on this whole region of Africa. This suggestion has been on the table for some time now, and it was submitted to the Canadian foreign affairs minister by his French counterpart. I think that beyond the logistics of the current crisis, the international community should go one step further and recognize that the problem is indeed serious and deep-rooted, and that there should be an international conference on the subject.

We could ask ourselves the following question: Would this not be the appropriate way to look for a permanent solution to the problems that were encountered? All players would have to sit around a table and develop comprehensive, long-term solutions to ensure this kind of crisis will never happen again.

Action is said to be required. Why should it always be military action? Non-governmental organizations involved in providing humanitarian relief in the field feel that their work remains

essential, that it is still important. I think we should trust their experience.

Humanitarian organizations and the military should continue to co-operate in creating corridors. If all the refugees that fled their country return to Rwanda, there will be a significant increase in the number of Rwandans who were no longer part of the country's economy and now need to be integrated. This will involve combining civilian and military protection to deal with very real food supply problems. To achieve this goal, military supervision will still be required to ensure that all operations are conducted in relative safety.

We are confronted to a complex situation where action is continuously needed. But we must ask ourselves what kind of action is required. In itself, the refugees' return is good news. It was one of the two objectives assigned to the international force. The announcement of an international mission helped trigger off the Rwandans' return. The decision made by Rwandese people to return home poses a major challenge for the international community.

These people are experiencing very special conditions. For example, we know that trucks were put at their disposal to bring them back home. However, these people are animated by some kind of survival instinct and they want to walk back to their communities together, collectively. Some negative thoughts may be associated with the trucks. These people experienced genocide. These are human beings in motion who, collectively, decided to find a solution: to return to their villages and to try to rebuild the relationship that existed between them in each of the villages.

We must help them do it by being present and by ensuring that this process takes place in an appropriate framework. We must also ensure that these people are properly looked after when they come back. We were told this morning that, when a family arrives in the village that it left two years earlier, they find their house occupied by someone else. There is a whole way of life to re-establish and redefine. This implies that some form of international assistance is provided. Otherwise, chaos could resurface, and we would not be able to resolve the new crisis.

We must not bury our heads in the sand. We must not forget that the civil war has left open wounds. This is a country trying to get back on its feet. This is a developing country facing a major challenge. No one could have predicted, 72 hours ago, that some 400,000 or 500,000 people would head back home.

Try to imagine, in Quebec or in Canada, a sudden movement of 500,000 people within a 72-hour period. Think of the impact it could have on an economically developed country such as ours. Now imagine the same situation in a country ravaged by a civil war. This shows how international assistance is still needed.

We may ponder whether, for example, it is still as vital to ensure the disarmament of the troops involved, and how this can be concretely achieved. When refugees were concentrated in camps, the logistics was easier to deal with. Now that refugees are returning home all over the country, will it be possible to use the same approach? Questions remain.

Another big question mark is the six months initially anticipated. We have seen the situation, notably in Bosnia, where a mission was supposed to last a few months and ended up going on for a year and a half. Are we headed for the same sort of situation again? Could the movement of refugees not reduce the length of the mission? These are concerns that we will have to address.

Earlier, the minister was telling us that there will be follow-up. He said that the situation will be referenced through the committee system and in the House of Commons. The official opposition will be watching closely to see, among other things, that our troops are treated properly. Lessons must be learned from the past.

There was a recommendation to change the policy so that soldiers spend at least 12 months in Canada between international missions of this type. Will this policy apply in the present situation? This is one of the factors underlying the malaise found among troops on their return. When this interval is too short and there is inadequate acclimatization and preparation, it shows up in increased suicide rates, and personal and family problems. This is another important concern.

Other questions must also be asked. In light of the unexpected return of over half a million refugees to Rwanda-and the number is increasing daily, if not hourly-will it be possible to meet the goal of ensuring satisfactory humanitarian services in the future?

Another question is whether the Prime Minister intends to require the agreement of all parties present before going ahead, or does he plan to impose the multinational force? This is a good question.

As of this morning, no confirmation has yet been received that the governments of Rwanda and Zaire are prepared to formally agree to the arrival of this force in their territory. Rwanda is wondering whether there is still a need for this international force in view of the changed situation.

Canada is assuming command of this force, an incredible challenge for the armed forces. From the standpoint of political analysis, the challenge will be a major one. Lieutenant-General Baril, the commanding general, and all those assisting him must have access to an accurate analysis of what is going on, be able to react rapidly and have significant support from the Government of Canada. The support of the entire diplomatic machinery will also

be essential, because there is no denying that there is also the risk of friction in an international force involving 15 or 16 countries.

The support of the entire Canadian government, including the diplomatic network, will be required in order to ensure that the action taken is appropriate and responsible, and that it takes account of all the players in this situation.

The armed forces are facing a major challenge as a result of the Canadian government's decision to lead this mission. Canada is already doing its share to a significant extent by sending soldiers abroad on international missions. Consider Bosnia, for instance, where we have about 2,000 soldiers on the ground. Will we be able to continue our participation in missions abroad, and do so satisfactorily, while leading the operation in the African great lakes region?

There is a major point we must consider. Even when we manage to bring in humanitarian aid and take care of the survivors, there is no strategy for preventing a recurrence of the conflict if no long term political solution is found. And this is where the concept of an international conference could be useful.

Today, the initiatives taken by Canada are important to deal with the crisis on a short term basis, but similar initiatives will be necessary to provide a long term solution. Canada must look at the broader picture to find long term solutions.

A concern was raised by families of soldiers who are part of these missions, and past experience can teach us a useful lesson. It is important to know exactly what instructions are given to soldiers who may encounter resistance in the field. What are the rules of engagement? Do those rules exist? Would it be possible to table them so we will know exactly how much leeway the army has?

In addition to our short term strategy, we must have a long term strategy as well. The proposal for an international conference on the great lakes region sounds like an excellent idea. Perhaps we could also learn from our experience in Bosnia with humanitarian aid and the rebuilding of civilian institutions. If the military mission takes less time than expected, perhaps we could consider setting aside certain amounts for rebuilding civilian institutions and include this as part of Canadian and international aid. We think this is an important component of a long term solution.

The governments concerned must have solid roots. They must have the requisite legitimacy and the right tools to build the country. I think the Government of Canada would do well to consider this.

In concluding, in this debate the opposition believes it is important for the Canadian government to continue to take certain initiatives, to do so after reflecting on the situation and to continue to take the lead. We may make minor mistakes, but we must ensure that Canada and the international community come out of this operation with their reputation enhanced and that solutions will be found to ensure that Rwanda has public institutions that work in the years to come, and that Rwandans will see that international aid provided on Canada's initiative has helped to restore the quality of their lives. The next few days will be crucial in this respect.

We therefore urge the government to show good judgment and to seek the support of the opposition parties, so that our position can help the government make the best possible decisions, because in this particular case, we are still talking about protecting hundreds of thousands of human lives.

Great Lakes Region Of AfricaGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to talk about an issue that is of such great concern to all Canadians. I am sure I speak for my colleagues and most Canadians who are horrified by the humanitarian issues that we see on television on a daily basis. The humanitarian tragedy in Rwanda touches all of us.

I cannot help thinking back to my visit to Rwanda. My wife and I spent a month there. We trekked through the very area we are now seeing pictures of. We stood beside Lac Kivu and took pictures of the sunset. We were told that Egyptian folklore said that if you saw a sunset over Lac Kivu you would live 10 years longer. In my office I have a large picture of the sun setting on Lac Kivu.

I cannot help thinking of the people and the villages and the fertile land which represents Rwanda. Rwanda is truly the Switzerland of Africa. The valleys are full of tea. We were able to see the fantastic growth on the volcanic soil. That probably makes this issue even harder, to know the potential of that place and to see what those people have done to themselves.

I cannot help thinking of my days as a university student reading "Heart of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad and being impressed by the book and the way it presented the issue.

We are talking today about what we should do for Rwanda, for Zaire and for the problems which are occurring in the area. To address the issue I want to look back at the record of peacekeeping and of the kinds of issues which we face today. Of course it all comes down to accountability, to making promises and to delivering on those promises.

Canada's role in peacekeeping goes back as far as the Suez Canal. That was a different age. It was a different time. The world was much simpler than the world in which we live today.

We could talk about Cyprus and the six months that we were going to be there. Of course we know what that turned into.

We could talk about Bosnia. In 1991 we committed to help there. The Liberals were extremely concerned by the Progressive Conservative decision to go to Bosnia without adequate information, without adequate consultation and certainly without the will of Parliament.

I can remember this time last year standing in the foyer of the Parliament Buildings with Susan Harada, who was interviewing the then defence minister. He said that the situation in Bosnia was definitely under control and under the new NATO mission our troops would definitely not be there this time next year. He said we would not be there after December of 1996 and "that is a promise and I stand by it".

We now know that IFOR II is being proposed. The Americans are committed for another 18 months. Canada is probably going to commit for another however many months.

We can talk about Somalia. It was a U.S. mission. We all saw the photos of those dead marines being hauled through the streets. We know how quickly that mission disintegrated and how we returned with our tail between our legs.

We could talk about the tragedy that has already occurred in Rwanda and the under-equipped and under-sized group of peacekeepers who were there, again led by Canada. The genocide continued. There was no hope for the peacekeepers. Of course there was no order and again we withdrew.

We have known about this issue for a long time. Ten years ago when I was there the NGOs were talking about it. It did not happen last weekend, as the Prime Minister would like us to believe. The issue has been there for a long time. It was there during the colonization of this area when the Europeans treated these people so badly.

Then of course there is Haiti. Haiti has not moved a long way. There is no education system. Unemployment stands at 85 per cent. The quality of life has not really improved. This time last year this very foreign affairs minister in the Charles Lynch Room downstairs said that all would be in order by December 1996. Canada would not have to renew its commitment or its mission because all would be in order.

When I had the privilege of being in Haiti in June and really seeing matters, it was obvious that promise would never be kept. Haiti needs a 20-year plan to really get it up and functioning.

Now it is Zaire and we have a promise of four to six months. Is that an honest promise? Is that the reality that we are facing in this House today or is it more like so many examples we have had in the past?

Then I would throw in the U.S. factor. The overriding concern of the world seems to be that the U.S. is the only remaining superpower and that we must do what the U.S. tells us. Of course, during the election campaign it was very easy for Mr. Clinton to say: "We will be out of Haiti by end of February 1996" and it was. But we went in for the Americans. It was easy for him to say in Bosnia: "We will only be there until 1996", but again the credibility of the whole political system is at question when the week after the election the Americans have now committed for 18 months more in Bosnia. I question how much longer it will be until they are back in Haiti.

We can talk about Iraq and the bombings that went on there which we just in a matter of minutes agreed to. We can talk about Somalia and what the inquiry is showing, how U.S. diplomats, U.S. intelligence agents, U.S. military personnel told our people what to do.

The second in command in Zaire is going to be an American. Canada has a great reputation around the world. It is a reputation not tarnished by a colonial past, by aggressiveness to anyone. We have a reputation that we care about people. How long can we keep being the Joe boy for the U.S. and retain that neutral position that we so value as Canadians? All of us in this Parliament should ask that question.

What is the pattern that develops? The pattern is that problems are identified by NGOs, by foreign affairs, by CNN. Occasionally they are identified by the UN. Then a propaganda campaign is started, never mentioning the real issues, never really talking about all of the problems. Our new defence minister has a big problem in that morale has slipped. He has a problem that the Somalia inquiry has gone on much too long. He has a problem that his Prime Minister is perceived in international affairs to simply be interested in trade and that, after all, has not been the Liberal way.

The Liberals believe they have to get involved in something to raise the profile of the Prime Minister, the party and certainly the defence minister. Lo and behold an issue has come along. However, that issue was there two years ago. It was there 10 years ago but now it has become an urgent crisis.

The next step is to get the UN to rubber stamp it. Of course with the U.S. superpower status that is not a problem.

Then we have to think back to what the Liberals said about Mr. Mulroney being in the pocket of the Americans. With regard to Mr. Mulroney's being there, where is Mr. Chrétien?

Then we have to ask about the taxpayers and the cost of these issues. It appears that we can never quite put our finger on what it is going to cost. In fact, we can cover the costs up in normal operation. In all the cases I have pointed out the protagonists

simply wait until we tire of the mission and then they carry on from where they were before.

What are the questions I believe Canadians and all members of this House deserve answers to? The mission is changing, the mandate is changing on an hourly basis. Is there still a need for the mission? Can NGOs carry out this mission? Do we need soldiers on the ground? We have to ask this question and it has to be displayed to us that it is necessary.

We have to ask about the military capabilities, and my colleague will be talking about that in detail. I was at a briefing where I was told we could handle two missions but not three. The Canadian public needs to know which one we are getting out of. Are we going to stay in Bosnia where we are not part of decision making, where we have been there longer than anybody else, more committed than anybody else but have little say in what is going to happen? Can that be handed off to someone else?

With respect to Haiti, it is in our hemisphere and we can hardly give that one up as we took a lead role. How can we give Zaire up? Our Prime Minister has said we are the world leaders, we want to raise our profile and this is how we are going to do it.

We need to ask questions about what is happening and we need to get Canadians and this House to focus on what is the mandate of our military? For 20 years we have been cutting the military. It has been the scapegoat for lowering budgets. When are we going to say not only do we have the very best troops but we want to have the best equipment, the best training and we want to have the very best ability to do the jobs that we are going to be called on to do. What about the families of the military? These are all questions I have not heard addressed by anybody in this House.

Do the local governments want us? That is a pretty big question. The prime minister of Rwanda has questions. Certainly Mr. Mobutu who has been propped up in Zaire for so many years wants to know more details about bringing in foreign troops. Are they going to be on his side or not?

We need to find out what the exact mandate is. You do not go into something without knowing the details of the mandate and the risks you run. It is great if everything goes just fine and you come out being the very best, but what if it does not go fine? There are many potential dangers. It is a dangerous mission we are asking our men and women to go on and so we have to clarify that mandate. We have to know what it is like. that is jungle, after all, and I can testify to that on a very personal basis.

We have to clarify the mandate. We have to know what the rules of engagement are. We have to know what happens if rebels start shooting at our troops. We have to know what happens if hostages are taken. We have to know the answers. Canadians have a right to know the answers to those questions before we send these people off.

Of course I cannot help but mention the cost. We need to know what the estimates are. After all, we have a $50 billion interest payment every year that is crippling us and putting us behind the rest of the world. We need to know where this money is coming from and how much it is before we leave.

We need to know an exit strategy. I have given the examples of all the times we have heard in this place "we are there for six months and I guarantee we will be out of there in six months".

I heard that out in the foyer, I heard that down in the news gallery. I have heard that over and over and we will hear it again. Four to six months, what kind of a guarantee? How are we going to measure how well we have done and how we are going to get out of this mission? We need to know that.

We need to know how we get out of Haiti, out of Somalia, out of Bosnia. We need to know we are training somebody to take our place, and who better than the African forces themselves?

We cannot be the Canadian foreign legion. We cannot go everywhere. We do have to pick and choose. We have to look at our role in the international community. We have to make this Parliament meaningful. This Parliament must be part of this. I could just as easily say what the Minister of Foreign Affairs said when he was in opposition, that Parliament has to be meaningful, Parliament must have a say when the lives of our men and women are at stake.

What should we be doing? We should let Parliament have a say. We should make it a meaningful process. We should have briefings from all the people involved, from the military, from the NGO community, from foreign affairs, from all the people who know what is happening there, from those who have been there, who have spent years there. There are a lot of them. They could let this House know before our troops are sent. We should have an opportunity to question them, everybody on an equal basis. This should not be a partisan issue.

We should have representative speakers of each party speak on the issues. Those people could express the views that would have been formulated with information obtained through questioning. Everybody would have an opportunity to do that.

There should be a free vote in the House to make the decision on this. It does not have to be a last minute thing like it always is. None of these issues shows up overnight.

We need to train people to take care of themselves. We need to be involved in the long term training of African countries to take care of their many issues. These problems for the most part were caused by colonization, by the European and American influence

in so many of these countries. We need a workable plan. Maybe it should be geographic.

Perhaps we need a Euro force. There is one in the planning stages as part of the EU. It will handle European problems. We need an Afro force to handle African problems. We need an Americas force, an OAS force, to handle the Americas. Of course Asia should be able to take some responsibility for itself. The point is we will then create a solution, a hope for the future, a vision of how this world can maintain peace.

We do care about the people. We want to help the people with all these humanitarian problems, but we cannot give a blank cheque. We must have these questions answered. Canadians want answers, we want answers, and I am sure I speak for many parliamentarians on all sides of this House.

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1:05 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be participating in this important debate. I want to thank my hon. colleagues for their participation to this point.

As members of the House are well aware, the situation in the great lakes region of Africa remains extremely fluid. Indeed it continues to evolve as we speak. We face a major humanitarian crisis in eastern Zaire and in Rwanda.

Last week approximately one and a half million refugees were either huddling in makeshift camps or fleeing from conflict. The plight of these men, women and children is absolutely desperate.

The efforts of international humanitarian agencies to reach those in need were being impeded by warring factions. Hundreds of thousands of lives are in jeopardy. Canada was not prepared to stand by and watch another African tragedy unfold. We decided to respond.

Canada took the lead in organizing a multinational approach to ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance in the region. I am sure that all members of the House would agree with me that the Prime Minister's initiative over the last 10 days has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams because already the situation has changed dramatically and for the better.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have taken to the roads to return to their communes in Rwanda. This exodus which all of us are witnessing will go a long way toward resolving the humanitarian crisis in eastern Zaire.

Surely we can all agree that it is much too early to say that the crisis is over. For example, we believe there are still approximately 500,000 refugees in Zaire. There are people still in need. Those who are the healthiest are the ones who were able to return to Rwanda first. Yet it is impossible at this moment for anyone to determine the true extent of the crisis.

So, faced with this uncertainty we continue to take the preliminary steps with our coalition partners that are necessary to mount a relief effort. We continue to examine every option as the situation in the region evolves. To that end Canadian forces continue to prepare for possible deployment. Over the coming days as we assess the situation we want to make sure that they are capable of acting if that is required.

That Canada should take a lead in this endeavour should come as no surprise. Canada has a long and proud tradition of promoting international stability and coming to the aid of those in need.

The Canadian Forces have the capability to make a real difference. Canada has one of the most professional and respected military organizations in the world. Our armed forces have what it takes to lead a multinational relief effort.

We have participated in almost every peacekeeping mission undertaken over the last 50 years, from traditional peacekeeping and observer missions to the more complex operations of the post-Cold War era, including humanitarian relief operations.

Of course, we have extensive military experience in Central Africa itself. From the Congo operation of the early 1960s to more recent operations in Somalia and Rwanda, we know the challenges: inhospitable terrain, a harsh climate, armed and hostile rebel groups.

We have already deployed an assessment team to the great lakes region. This team will help assist ongoing multinational planning. If necessary, we are prepared to contribute approximately 1,500 military personnel to a humanitarian relief force.

This contribution could include the core of a task force headquarters responsible for command, control and communications for a multinational force. We could also provide the core of the air component headquarters, which would help direct air operations for such a task force, as well as a DART disaster assistance response team for humanitarian assistance to refugees, including troops for protection. This team would include a field hospital and a transportation element, Hercules transport aircraft, and associated personnel to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid, and a national support element.

All of these elements could deploy quickly to staging bases in the region. DART is a specialized military unit of highly trained professionals. It includes medical personnel, engineers, a transport and communications unit, and an infantry platoon for security.

DART can provide medical resources to treat up to 500 patients a day, as well as electrical power and drinking water for up to 10,000

people per day. It can also build temporary shelters and provide communications and logistics support.

Some of the lead elements of DART are already in eastern Zaire.

By the end of today, we will have almost 250 personnel in theatre, with 4 Hercules and 1 Airbus aircraft, as well as some DART equipment and vehicles. The balance of the DART equipment and personnel is assembled in Trenton and ready to go.

Other augmentation personnel have been identified from across the Canadian Forces. In short, the Canadian Forces are poised to do what needs to be done. But any decision to participate in a humanitarian relief effort in eastern Zaire will be based on specific guidelines.

To begin with, all regional governments must acquiesce to the presence of a multinational force.

In addition to the need to have the agreement of the governments in that region before we move, we also of course need a clear and achievable mandate. The security council mandate calls for the establishment for humanitarian purposes of a temporary multinational force to facilitate the immediate return of humanitarian organizations and the effective delivery by civilian relief organizations of humanitarian aid. It also calls for a force that will facilitate the voluntary orderly repatriation of refugees by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the voluntary return of displaced persons.

Additionally, any mission must be of limited duration. The UN Security Council resolution envisages a mission of four months, but recent events may well indicate that this may be longer than is necessary.

The multinational force called for by the security council resolution would operate under chapter VII of the UN charter with robust rules of engagement. These rules of engagement would allow our troops for example to use deadly force to protect themselves, relief personnel, and in certain situations, refugees.

We must have a clear and effective command and control structure in place. Lieutenant-General Maurice Baril, commander, land force command, will lead the force. General Baril is a perfect fit for such a command. He was a battalion commander in Cyprus and was special military adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General from 1992 to 1995.

General Baril is now en route to the region and he will arrive there today. Following discussions with Ambassador Chrétien, representatives from various NGOs and local authorities, General Baril will provide the Government of Canada with his strategic assessment of the military situation. I am pleased to advise that there will be a meeting in Stuttgart, Germany on Thursday at which General Baril and representatives of the contributing nations will make further decisions as to what type of force we should have in place and how the humanitarian relief operation should be conducted.

I have been telling the House what this multinational relief force might do. Let me take a moment to tell the House what it will not do. It will not conduct forced entry operations. It will not be responsible for overall repatriation or integration of refugees. It will not intervene in factional or local conflicts. It will not deal with territorial disputes. It will not separate the intimidators from the refugees, nor will it disarm the intimidators. It will not secure the perimeter of refugee camps. It will not provide police functions within the camps.

I am sure that all members in this House will agree that the parties in the region must find their own solutions to the political and social problems they face.

There is no doubt that over the years we have built a reputation as a nation for being there when it counts. We believe it is critical that we not only contribute but lead a force that would help stabilize central Africa and save hundreds of thousands of lives.

I want to thank the American government and the military leaders of the United States for their co-operation. Although we have the lead and the command of this operation, we obviously do not have all of the resources to be able to take on the logistics that are required if we were to continue down the path that we have chosen.

I want to repeat, because I have heard it said over and over again, that we are monitoring the situation hour to hour, if not minute to minute. We understand the changes that have already taken place. Let me say that no one is enthusiastic about having to commit Canadian men and women to a situation that is extremely volatile and very complex. We are doing what we must do. We have moved to this position as a result of a great deal of consensus in the international community.

I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Canadian people, that I know that as I have complete confidence in the men and women of the Canadian forces, I have no doubt Canadians from coast to coast to coast share that confidence. The skill of the Canadian forces, their commitment, their experience, their leadership qualities are second to none. The Canadian forces once again are ready to do the job and I have every confidence they will do it well.

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1:20 p.m.


Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this debate on the peacekeeping missions Canada has been involved in for many years, as the minister of defence has

just mentioned. For some 50 years now, Canada has taken part in almost every peacekeeping mission it has been asked to join.

As it has always done, the Bloc Quebecois supports the government's humanitarian aid initiative. We recognize the leadership shown by the current government in inviting the international community to help bring an end to the slaughter and resolve the current humanitarian problem at the border between Rwanda and Zaire.

Debates have taken place in this House on earlier peacekeeping missions. Certain discrepancies led to questions and requests for clarification from the Bloc Quebecois, the official opposition. Each time there was a mission-be it in Bosnia or Haiti-we expected Canada would go to the aid of countries facing problems, be they wars, famine or disease. When the government decided to send peacekeepers, we expected the role, mandate and length of the missions would be clearly indicated.

The situation in Zaire is changing quickly. A couple of weeks ago, more than half a million people fled to Zaire and now they are returning to Rwanda. Obviously the planning and preparation of the international mission under Canada's leadership will have to change. Zaire has accepted and confirmed the presence of a Canadian led multinational force, but Rwanda has not. If all the refugees head to Rwanda, negotiations will be necessary.

There has been significant involvement by armed rebels in the military conflict in Rwanda between the Tutsis and the Hutus, which has been spilling over into Zaire and Uganda. As the minister of defence has said, we want to send lightly armed peacekeepers, who will intervene not as a UN force, but as a multinational force approved by the UN with a more or less defined mission.

Western countries like Canada, the United States and France should intervene in the event of humanitarian problems, such as the one in the great lakes region of Africa.

I cannot help but wonder, as some of my hon. colleagues probably wonder, how Canada will be able to cope with the various military forces over there, when the role of our peacekeepers remains to be defined.

We will recall that, several months ago, in Bosnia, Canadian troops were taken hostage by Serbs. This incident held the international community in suspense for several days. It is obvious that the peacekeepers and UNPROFOR as a whole had neither the mandate nor the capacity to protect themselves under such circumstances.

What will happen in Zaire and Rwanda with the rebels and armed militia? On what basis have the Canadian government, National Defence, Foreign Affairs planned how our military are to behave in various situations.

Without bringing back too many bad memories, I think we must bear in mind that there were incidents involving peacekeepers in Rwanda. Belgian troops under the command of a Canadian general were murdered in Rwanda. All too often, in peacekeeping missions such as those in Bosnia, Haiti and now Zaire, the Canadian government sends out Canadian troops with a humanitarian mission. Everyone agrees and realizes that Canada must act along those lines.

In missions as important as these, where the political and military stakes are critically high, it is nevertheless fair enough, in my opinion, to say that preparation is critical. Every soldier and officer participating in such missions must know exactly what is expected of him or her, and they must also be able to protect themselves.

In recent years, the practice has very often been to ignore to some extent the families left behind by deployed troops. The troops themselves know very little about the nature of the mission as they fly out of Canada to trouble spots or other areas where they are supposed to make a significant contribution. They are unsure of how long they will be gone, and have little information regarding the role they are expected to play in support of the local population and how they should behave.

The defence and foreign affairs departments deserve to be criticized for the lack of information they provide. Because of the reputation and generosity of Canadians, they take it upon themselves to help communities clearly experiencing major problems. When it comes to missions of this type, the key players are the troops and the officers who take part in it, those who will be in the theatre of operations. Before they leave, military people often tell their families, their loved ones, and sometimes the media, that their mission is vague, that their role is not well defined. They do not know which weapons they can use if they are surrounded by militia troops or rebels out to capture them. They do not know if they are allowed to defend themselves or if they must once again put up with being humiliated? This is one of the problems experienced by Canadian troops who took part in recent peacekeeping missions.

It shows that the government is once again improvising somewhat. The families of these troops feel it makes no sense to send a son, a husband, a father, a wife, or a sister to such theatres of operations, without knowing what is expected of them.

There have been instances, but hopefully this will no longer be the case, where Canadian troops may have lost their lives because the instructions given to them were not clear. I am thinking of the death of Corporal Gunther and others who took part in such missions as proud members of our armed forces, proud Quebecers and proud Canadians. These people provided humanitarian assis-

tance, but their mission was not properly planned, which resulted in mixed success and, in some cases, in extending our troops' involvement.

It must also be pointed out that Canada has contributed very large numbers of troops to international conflicts over the last three years. Only recently, in 1993-94, Canadian troops in Bosnia numbered almost 2,000. At that time, although Canada had a very large contingent, it did not even have a decision making role in diplomatic exchanges or peace negotiations. You will recall that Canada was not then a member of the contact group and that it had not taken part in the decisions surrounding negotiations to restore peace to Bosnia. There are now almost 750 soldiers in Haiti; there are still just over 1,000 in Bosnia, and the plan is to send another 1,000 to Zaire.

I have discussed this point with a number of soldiers and even with certain officers. The rotation of assignments to peacekeeping missions is leading to a certain fatigue among the troops. Far be it from me to turn the knife in the wound, but in the present context we are only too aware that the army has had its internal problems that, up to a point, can be linked to this accumulation of peacekeeping missions and to the fact that soldiers have always been sent back into the theatre of operations, very often with insufficient time to catch their psychological and even their physical breath. Some have experienced serious family, psychological and other problems.

Once again, I do not think these soldiers are being allowed sufficient recovery time. Although there are almost 65,000 soldiers in the Canadian army, including all ranks and levels, with rare exceptions that portion of the Canadian army used in peacekeeping missions is generally and almost always limited to the ground forces. As for the navy and the air force, their participation in the various missions is much more restricted.

So it is almost always the same land army personnel who are used to help out various nations in the world, one might say, for in the last ten years Canada has been to just about all of the theaters of international conflict on this planet.

I feel that these individuals have reached a degree of overload, which might even explain the problems experienced by the army-more so than by the navy or the air force, although they too have been involved in these humanitarian operations or these conflicts-which are psychologically and physically stressful and demand virtually superhuman efforts, particularly when soldiers must do the same thing over and over again.

I know soldiers who were in Bosnia for six months, then back to Canada for a little less than a year, then back to Bosnia. They then returned to Canada for a little less than a year before being sent to Haiti. As for the Calgary regiment, they have been to Bosnia twice and now it will be Zaire.

If, over a period of barely 36 months, soldiers have to spend, in six-month chunks, more than 12 months in a conflict situation away from their loved ones and from the security of their home environments, I imagine that what can happen is a sort of overloading, an inability to bounce back either psychologically or physically.

I point this out because all Canadians, all Quebecers, and I think all parliamentarians here agree that Canada has a duty to take part in this type of mission and, for once, we salute Canadian leadership in the current situation in Zaire.

We must be aware, however, that our human resources within the armed forces, as well as our financial resources, are in what I would call a precarious condition. Despite the good will and compassion of all parliamentarians, of all members here in this House and of the entire public, we must realize that considering its human and financial resources, Canada cannot afford to be the 911 of the planet. Every time a conflict erupts somewhere, Canada is called and everything is taken care of. Canada is always ready to go.

This is not the first time it was mentioned in debate that Canada should have an established and definitive policy. I even remember that, in a speech he gave at the UN in New York, former Minister of Foreign Affairs André Ouellet mentioned that in the not too distant future, the UN, and I think that is where we are now, should have a permanent force, staffed by various countries, that would intervene in certain conflicts in certain locations.

This would make it possible for all countries, including Canada, to plan for the number of soldiers it could make available, while maintaining sufficient rotation so that individuals who take part in these missions are able to have a family life and engage in some psychological and physical recuperation. At the same time, it would also be possible to budget for this kind of mission.

Unfortunately, in spite of all the good intentions and praiseworthy proposals, it became clear in recent budgets that the government was cutting back severely on humanitarian aid, including medical assistance, food and the like, and had increased the military component in various peacekeeping missions, which produces results.

We may occasionally wonder whether these results are truly positive, but the fact remains that this money will occasionally be used preventively, as many representatives of NGOs providing humanitarian assistance have mentioned, instead of always putting out the fires of a conflict that in many cases will rekindle as soon as the peacekeepers leave the theatre of operations.

In concluding, I must say that the government's initiative has been approved and is supported by all members here in this House, but nevertheless, various factors must be considered and there must

be a certain degree of planning. The government must consider our human resources, meaning our military, who will need certain rest periods, etc. We must establish very strict guidelines on the amount of money we want to invest in these activities instead of budgeting piecemeal and often cutting somewhere else.

Finally, I would like to point out that many people in Quebec and Canada find it hard understand why the government is deploying humanitarian aid when in a number of provinces, people have trouble keeping body and soul together.

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1:40 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Charlesbourg for his remarks.

A debate like this is a time when all members of the House of Commons can express our feelings about a very serious situation regardless of our party affiliations, whether we are on the government or the opposition benches.

In reviewing the situation this past week I would like to draw the government's attention to the possibility that the Hutu refugees who are arriving on the Rwandan borders, hundreds of thousands right now, may be part of something that has been instigated by the Hutu militias themselves.

I am afraid of this. Two years ago in 1994 during the genocide in Rwanda, the Hutus fled. When they fled they left their homes and villages empty. In the intervening two years a great number of exiled Tutsis have returned to those villages in Rwanda. There is a situation in Rwanda right now where hundreds of thousands of Hutus are returning to their homeland and there are Tutsis occupying many of those villages.

I suggest this is the classic formula for additional conflict, for additional fighting among the local populations. I noticed that the Minister of National Defence made it very clear that in committing troops to Rwanda and Zaire they are being given the robust rules of engagement. That means they can defend themselves with deadly force or defend aid workers with deadly force. While one regrets that very possibility I still applaud the minister of defence for giving the troops that authorization.

However, we must remember another spectre will present itself to our soldiers over there, or there is a very good chance of it. The Minister of National Defence also made it very clear that Canadian troops were not to intervene in local or factional fighting. And so we in this House, Canadians and possibly the world have to be prepared for the possibility that we will have troops and aid workers on the ground, that we will see surrounding them a resumption of the mindless killing we saw two years ago.

I bring to the attention of the House and to all Canadians that while we do engage in a humanitarian effort which is absolutely vital, and I am very proud of Canada and my Prime Minister for initiating this, we as Canadians must be prepared to see on television in the days to come some very appalling scenes. We have to understand that we are faced with a very difficult situation, a very difficult matter of choices. I am afraid that we have to steel ourselves as Canadians and citizens of the world for the scenes we are going to see in the days to come.

I would be very interested in the remarks of the member for Charlesbourg on this.

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1:40 p.m.


Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the comments of my hon. colleague. Certainly no one can have anything against pride. It is easy for the government to decide that Canada will take part in a particular mission.

What I wanted to point out was the number of servicemen in the army. While, as I mentioned, few servicemen in the air force and the navy take part in these activities, there are some 12,000 to 15,000 servicemen in the army involved. Over the past eight or ten years, Canada has regularly been asked to be part of various humanitarian missions, and, as I said, there has often been little planning and even a certain amount of improvisation.

We in Parliament do not give much thought to those who make up these resources. We say we are proud to send them, but we must have some feeling for those who take on the role and those who pay to send them. Everyone is agreed on taking part, but we do have to have a clearer policy, that is all.

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1:45 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the government, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence for providing us with this opportunity to speak on this very important issue.

This is the third or fourth debate we have had on such an important issue since the beginning of this Parliament almost three years ago. I also have to mention that this is probably the only Parliament in western civilization which provides an opportunity for its members of Parliament, the backbenchers and the critics from the opposition parties to speak individually on such issues of importance as this one.

Over the past 30 or 40 years we have engaged in peacekeeping in maybe 2,000 locations. Each one has different characteristics, a different perspective and each one calls for a different mission. With respect to this mission the situation is changing every hour. The situation was different last week from the situation we are now in and the situation tomorrow will probably be a different one again. Nobody knows. There is a massive migration of population

from one country to another. We cannot stop it but we can be there to help them out to achieve that goal.

On April 23, a few months ago, the House passed a motion recognizing the tragedy which fell upon the Armenian people in 1915. At that time we adopted a motion that each year, April 22 to 27 would be a week of remembrance regarding the inhumanity of people toward one another. This is a perfect occasion to use that motion to promote a common understanding among mankind and to make sure that what happened in the past does not repeat itself. We can do our best to prevent that situation and this is one such situation.

The whole western civilization responded positively to the Prime Minister's message to help the people in Rwanda and Zaire to make sure they get back to their communities and villages so that they can start to live in peace and prosperity as they did many many years before.

This morning, foreign affairs, CIDA and national defence provided us with a very important briefing at which members of the opposition party were also present. The Reform and the Bloc Quebecois representatives were there. In that briefing they discussed three situations: NGO aid to the people in the central African nation; the military operations that are taking place now to prepare for a continuation of the mission; and our own foreign aid to the region so we can help build the communities so people can live in peace and harmony.

Last week I was in Germany with colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois and Reform. I discussed this issue with my Reform Party friend from Red Deer. He agrees basically with everybody else that this mission has to take place. He agrees also that we have to make sure we do our bit to help civilization overcome this difficulty.

What we do not agree upon, and I respect his point view, is that we have to get ready, to prepare ourselves. How long do these people have to wait for Canada, for the United States, for Germany and for France to get ready? If they have to wait for us to get ready, there will be a long wait. I am sure my colleague agrees with me it would be a long and difficult wait. By then probably half the people would be dead and we would not be able to help them.

Remember that in April 1995 we saw bodies floating in the river and the lake. We had to do something then. The mission was not complete. I am sorry it did not come to a satisfactory end.

This is the opportunity for us to do the best we can. I am sure at the end of the day the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois will agree that this mission must go forward. It may not be perfect but nothing and nobody is perfect. However, we cannot afford to wait any longer.

Again I thank all members and especially the government for giving us the opportunity to speak on this issue. I hope that at the end of the day we are much wiser when we go forward with this mission to protect innocent human lives so they can build their lives in peace and harmony.

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1:50 p.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning my colleague mentioned the briefing we had with the three departments. It was a very interesting briefing.

I believe it was Mr. Buckley from foreign affairs who mentioned that Canada has spent close to $50 million in help so far in that area of the African continent. Does my colleague think the $50 million was well spent? Does he think we should increase or decrease this amount? Where should this money go?

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1:50 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear during the briefing that after 1994 we saw on TV the Government of Canada responded generously with a $50 million contribution to the situation there. Of that, $27 million has already been spent mostly on NGOs and humanitarian institutions like the Red Cross, Canadian or international.

We also spent quite a bit of money to provide them with a legal system so that those who commit genocide and crimes against humanity can be prosecuted. That is important. Those who commit crimes should know there are consequences to it. They cannot have a free lunch if they commit genocide or other crimes. That is a very important point and it is money very well spent. I am happy the government spent that kind of money for this purpose so we can prevent this from happening again in the future.

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1:50 p.m.


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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member made some reference to the fact that this is an emergency and that it is suddenly urgent that foreign troops be sent into central Africa. There have been massacres of great magnitude in that area since 1959. There was one in 1959, another one in 1972, another one in 1994 and the world essentially yawned and closed its eyes. Suddenly, it becomes urgent.

Why is the current situation of greater importance to the hon. member than the previous massacres?

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1:50 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Don Valley North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a very interesting question.

I am sure the hon. member knows that the world ignored many genocides before, including the 1915 genocide of Armenians which I just mentioned. Just because we did not react then or in 1959, 1965 or 1975, two wrongs do not make a right. It is time we took a stand.

At that time of course the hon. member was not a member of Parliament and could not speak up. I was not a member of Parliament and could not speak up. It is good that both of us are here today so we can react to this situation and make sure that what happened in the past as a wrong does not occur again.

My best message to the hon. member is that two wrongs do not make a right.

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1:55 p.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to give my fullest support to the decision made by the government to alleviate human suffering in the great lakes region of central Africa.

It is right to do all we can to help fight disease, death and cruelty whenever we can. We owe it to ourselves and to our neighbours to recognize that our responsibilities extend beyond Canada's boundaries. As a CBC commentator suggested last week, referring to this issue: "It is a noble deed to transcend our own personal concerns".

Canada has a longstanding commitment to the rest of the world. We have fought tyranny in both world wars. Canada was a founding member of the League of Nations and the United Nations, and since the end of the second world war, we have participated in many international ventures from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to the Francophonie.

We Canadians have such strong immigration, economic, cultural and personal ties with the international community that we instinctively realize that we must know the people out there in order to know ourselves.

Forty years ago almost to the day, a Canadian was in the forefront of another global effort to restore stability to an apparently faraway region. The Suez crisis had erupted and the Middle East was in flames. Foreign affairs minister Lester Pearson, horrified by a conflict that threatened international peace and split even Canada's friends, hurried to New York and immediately set to work with his colleagues from the Department of External Affairs to find the solution.

The answer lay in an innovative application of a relatively new concept, United Nations peacekeeping, an expedient which had been used since the end of the second world war to concoct small observer forces in the Middle East and on the India-Pakistan border.

Mr. Pearson's cool and flexible diplomacy in 1956 led to the establishment against all odds of the United Nations emergency force in the Middle East, a large multinational UN team whose role was to police a ceasefire and interpose itself between the combatants. The idea was a simple but powerful one, to create a breathing space so that there was a real opportunity for peace to be grasped if the parties wanted it sufficiently.

The peacekeepers could not make peace. They had-

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I know that the hon. member has just started his speech but I propose at this time to proceed with Statements by Members. I am sure the whips are going to sort everything out before we get too much farther down the road. I leave it in the hands of our very able whips. I am sure they are going to decide your fate quite well.

We will now move on to statements by members.

VolunteersStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour two constituents who through their actions have enriched the lives of many others both in Canada and abroad.

The first is Ms. Julie Huish, who was awarded a Canada Volunteer Award Certificate of Merit. Julie has been a volunteer physiotherapist with the Manitoba Riding for the Disabled Association for the past eight years.

The second is Mr. Tony Wagemaker, who has been recognized by CESO, Canadian Executive Services Overseas, for his volunteer efforts working with the Government of Thailand at its health system research institute. He has brought many delegates from Thailand to study hospitals and the health care system here in Canada as they attempt to model their health care system on our very excellent one.

Congratulations to both of them. They are enriching the lives of many people through their volunteer efforts.