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-