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.