Madam Speaker, since this aspect will not be covered in any great depth in my speech, allow me to commend the expertise of my hon. colleague from Louis-Hébert in international affairs.
I completely agree with the last part of his remarks, which I caught and which dealt with prevention. The image was quite forceful. When $2 billion is spent on international assistance, while national defence is funded to the tune of $10 billion, this clearly indicates that, in this area as in many others, a more curative than preventive approach is being favoured. In the end, the cost is higher, and, in this case, we are not talking about money, but human lives.
I would like to say a few words about this multinational force Canada will be leading and which will be deployed. In Zaire, it has already started providing assistance to refugees, many of whom are now returning to Rwanda, which is a major development that has taken place since the creation of a multinational force was announced.
The Bloc's position, as stated earlier by our leader, is clear: We support this mission designed to allow refugees to safely return from Zaire and ensure that assistance will be provided to these people. Over the weekend, some very poignant images were broadcast. Some I saw myself, but one in particular was described to me; I did not actually see it. Just imagining the scene makes us realize how terrible a tragedy this is. Following an attack, a portion of the slaughter was shown, and there was this little child looking around him, but all he could see was dead bodies. There were not many people on hand to provide assistance to the child, who was apparently rescued later. Such pictures cannot leave us indifferent.
At some point, someone had to take the initiative so that something could be done in Zaire, because everyone was leaving it up to the others. Everyone was waiting for everyone, including France and the United States. No intervention was being made and we were faced with a situation that could still get worse, because even the presence of a multinational force will not eliminate the causes of the conflict. Far from it. This is a potentially explosive situation and there could be a great deal of damage.
One only needs to remember what happened in Rwanda not too long ago to realize that the situation is very complex and is far from being resolved as regards the cohabitation of the Tutsis and Hutus.
So, we congratulate Canada for taking the initiative regarding this issue by getting together a multinational force and sending it with a UN supported mandate. Of course, some adjustment will have to be made. It will be made on Thursday, at an important meeting, because the population that was living further north in Zaire is now in motion. It is believed that 400,000 Hutus are already back in Rwanda and that another 100,000 will have made it to that country over the next few hours.
However, according to estimates made by NGO observers over there, some 700,000 refugees are still scattered, including more than 100,000 who are headed to western Zaire, who may have to quickly go to Rwanda. These people often find themselves in zones that are much less safe. A humanitarian corridor will have to be provided for them also. The mandate provides for the creation of a safety corridor for these people, and for bringing them the basics, such as food and medication.
In spite of the fact that 500,000 people are about to go back to Rwanda, the mandate remains. The intervention is still justified. Even though it is difficult to negotiate with the authorities of Zaire and Rwanda, as it is always complex, there will nevertheless be observers on the ground, especially NGOs that are there to help the people who still need help. Those observers know how to deal with the real situation and can make very specific observations.
Of course, there will be complex things to settle to ensure rapid intervention. In spite of Canada's commitment to send a force, there are still a few obstacles to overcome that will need to be dealt with at an important meeting on Thursday.
Whereas we can deplore somewhat how slow the process is, things do not always move as fast as we would like them to in this kind of intervention. A further step has already been made at least, since observers are already on site. More specifically, General
Baril is there with a team that will grow in the days and weeks to come.
There is no ambiguity about our support. It is there, even though we, as well as the government, might have questions on the duration of the operations. There is some question about a more permanent solution, because obviously nobody expects the political problem there to be settled in four months. We know that we are getting involved in a very complex mission that might certainly last longer than the four months contemplated. The United Nations could then take over. We will see.
Mr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali has already stated that there will be a report. It has been agreed that a report will be submitted in early January. We will see what comes out of it.
I want to mention it, because it deals with a question often asked by some of our constituents. True, this type of mission costs money. However, as citizens of a relatively rich country, living in a very different context, we have the duty to show solidarity with the people who are living in utterly unacceptable conditions and facing a human drama which is really out of the ordinary, compared to what we see in our everyday lives.
The $100 million contribution that was mentioned comes to a mere $4 a year per capita. On a daily basis, it does not represent such a huge contribution, such a huge sacrifice to make in order to help those people and to take part in this operation, which will hopefully, because of the troops we are sending over there, make for an international perspective a lot closer to the real situation.
I think everybody, including the Government of Canada, wishes for an international conference on the situation in the great lakes region of Africa. Such a conference could be another step in the right direction. Meanwhile, in the sort term, there are some needs to be met, especially in terms of humanitarian aid. Safe corridors have to be established for the people returning back home.
There is one more thing I want to mention. I want to salute our people and our soldiers sent over there. When people enlist in the armed forces, they expect one day to be called to take part in such a mission. Today, in the case of Canada, it is well known that when you enlist in the armed forces, you will probably take part in peacekeeping missions because, to our great fortune, we are not directly involved in domestic or foreign conflicts.
This means that our interventions are primarily civilian in nature or part of UN operations or other types of intervention by a multinational force led by Canada. We pay tribute to those who take part in such missions. It will be difficult for them and for their families, but such is reality. This is a choice they have made.
We pay tribute to their courage and hope that this operation will allow the Canadian armed forces to restore their reputation, which was tarnished by events, however isolated, in Somalia. I think that this will be an opportunity to point up the fact that the very great majority of our soldiers are doing extraordinary work and that they are deserving of greater attention.
This will provide an opportunity to realize that they are making a contribution that they will remember all their lives, just as those they help will remember it. We support them and we wish them the best of luck.
I repeat that we support this mission. Certain questions have been raised by colleagues during debate, but I do not think that this level of detail is appropriate when operations on this scale are involved. We wish our troops the best of luck and we hope that the government will keep us informed of developments, should there be any change of mandate. I am certain that the ministers involved and the government will do so.