Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech I want to comment on the minister's statement. He said that he would consider using the foreign affairs committee as a vehicle through which members could discuss this sort of thing. That should be very positive. If foreign affairs is not an area that we can approach in a non-partisan way, then there probably is not an area where we can. I look forward to that co-operation. I certainly hope it works.
A few areas must be talked about with regard to Haiti and this decision. As the last speaker mentioned, this is in our hemisphere. We have a great deal at stake in maintaining stability within the Americas and can set an example that hopefully the Europeans will look at when considerations come up later in the year regarding Bosnia.
We have to talk about the leadership role we can play in Haiti. I believe we are giving an important message which I hope will be
picked up by everyone. Obviously we are doing a favour for the U.S. It is election year but we will not talk about that issue. However, we expect this should weigh rather heavily when the US. considers setting policy in such matters as international trade and removing anti-Canada provisions in the Helms-Burton bill. We expect the Minister of Foreign Affairs to make very clear to the Americans the help Canada is providing them in this area and that certainly we need consideration in other areas-wink, wink.
We need to talk about the problems, the factions that exist in Haiti and their long history. Guns are still in the hands of people, particularly in the countryside. We could talk about the hatred that has built up in this country. These are all issues that could be talked about.
As I understand it, Canada will have control of this mission. That was something that really bothered us in Bosnia where we were not even part of the contact group. This is a move forward.
I want to tell the minister that I was at a town hall meeting last night which over 300 people attended. I gave a 20-minute presentation on Haiti because I knew this debate was coming tonight. That is just about as grassroots and as immediate as one can get. A wide range of people were there, not simply party members. I think the group was a typical cross section of Canadians.
I was rather surprised at the message which was: "You're cutting our health care, you're threatening our pensions. Now what about this going off to other places?" I was rather surprised that the message was quite as blatant as this, that it was so outspoken.
Two people said that Canadians should go but that we should be sure the soldiers have the right equipment and the right training. They put qualifications on their going. However, a huge number of that 300-person crowd said: "We have real concerns. We think you should hold back until you have all the criteria".
What should those criteria be? The message certainly included the length of stay. The resolution in the UN very clearly says that this is an extension for six months. I listened carefully to the minister, making sure that he emphasized that part of the mandate in the UN resolution. I trust it will be made clear that in fact it is six months. Conditions could arise that would cause us to reconsider but there is a six-month period in there.
The government should tell Canadians the cost of this. If on September 30, 1996, the government tabled in this House what this mission cost us, that kind of openness would help to build the confidence of the public, certainly the 300 people I talked to last night.
Is there a contingency plan? When the Americans were there they had a carrier in the harbour. They had attack helicopters that could be brought in. That is a pretty big stick to hold over anyone.
My question is: Do we have any kind of contingency plan, any kind of big stick that we might use to keep people in line?
I bring forth again the U.S. election situation. Obviously this plays very heavily on why the Americans want to leave. They want to leave because they cannot afford to have any ripples and obviously this is a major issue.
I also want to ask about the OAS. I want to know what the OAS has said, what it is going to do, how strongly it is supporting this sort of mission. Can we count on the OAS for support and help and what sort of help will that entail?
It seems to me that the OAS should become a much more important body. If we talk about the regional nature of the Americas, the OAS should be the one that helps monitor problems within that sphere. Obviously Europe is another area and possibly Africa is in their sphere. In southeast Asia there is the whole area of the Asia-Pacific. If we have these spheres we can then start to create a more peaceful world in which all of us can live, trade and get along.
I also would like to know about the reconstruction. Haiti is a country that does not have an education system, that does not have the services, the social system. Certainly there are the problems in the countryside which we have read about. What sort of plan does the UN have, if it has a plan, for the reconstruction of this country? We need a long term solution. We do not need to go back in a few months, years, or whatever. We need a plan.
In conclusion and in talking about this take note debate, I know the minister is aware of my concerns that we do not have a sham of a debate. We must have a true debate where all members take part and represent their constituents on a non-partisan issue like this one, where they can actually hear the pros and cons of the debate. They would then have the duty in a free vote to vote on what this assembly has heard on an issue like this one.
Let us take the politics out of it and put it into the area where we are really representing. This would be a perfect area to do that. If we are sending over 100 troops we should have that sort of debate.
As well, it is important that the government at least 48 hours prior tells us of the tentative budget, the mission's mandate, the size and duration of the commitment, the rules of engagement and certainly the rotation and so on planned for those troops. We owe that to Canadians. If we cannot get that information then we should not be signing a blank cheque. If the UN is so disorganized that it cannot provide it, then perhaps we should not be going.
These sorts of things are the big issues for Canadians and they are asking these questions: What is the mandate? Would you send your son or daughter on this mission? Is it safe? Do we have the equipment? Do we have the mandate? We owe it to Canadians to come up with the answers to those questions.
I believe the House will respond to that in a very positive way. That is how we build up the feeling as Canadians that we are proud of our peacekeepers, that we are proud of our missions abroad, that we are proud to be Canadians. We tend to be shy when we talk about ourselves. I know that all members on all sides of the House would agree it is time that we became proud Canadians. We can demonstrate it through missions like this one provided we have the confidence of the people. The way to have that confidence is to make it transparent, make it open, let them be part of it, let the members of Parliament be part of it and ask the people.
I welcome this opportunity to deliver this message. I know that our new minister is listening.