Mr. Speaker, for some time now we have been given the opportunity to participate in debates on peacekeeping missions. In that regard, I want to tell the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, whom I congratulate on his appointment, that we are pleased to once again take part in a debate on peacekeeping missions in which Canada might take part.
In light of previous debates on this issue, of the Minister of Foreign Affairs' speech, and of the motion, it goes without saying that, as a matter of principle, the Bloc Quebecois supports this type of motion, which proposes that Canada play a role in helping to maintain peace in Haiti whose population, as we know, was ruled by dictators for many years.
However, I remember that we asked on several occasions, including the two debates on Bosnia, that the government come up with specific and well-defined criteria before holding a debate in the House.
In his speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs shows a great deal of compassion and goodwill, reflecting Canadian values regarding peacekeeping missions, and the Bloc Quebecois fully agrees with those. We have no problem with that.
However, we also said on several occasions that some specific criteria should be set, that the duration of the missions should be determined, as well as the mandate, the number of troops to be sent, and the cost of these missions. It appears that nothing has yet been decided, even though cabinet apparently agreed, based on the information that we have, to send some 750 peacekeepers to Haiti to carry out that mission and to ensure the establishment of a democracy.
But nowhere is there any mention of what Canada's mandate would be. It was assumed that Canada might take over command of the UN mission and that American troops would leave, to be replaced by troops from other countries.
As I said, we readily support this principle but I may have to play the killjoy here and say that, in my view, not much has changed in the preparation of peace missions. We seem to answer requests by the UN without knowing in advance what the real needs are or what we can offer.
It even happened a few times that we exhausted our own peacekeepers. I see the Minister of National Defence sitting in the front benches, and I remember quite well that we often heard him say that if we were to provide more peacekeepers we would not have enough soldiers for the turnover. Some of them were on their fourth or fifth tour of duty in Bosnia. And here we are, committing to yet another mission. Far from me to suggest that we do not agree with that except that, in the last debate on Bosnia, we had asked for exact figures and we still have not received them.
The planning seems to be somewhat improvised. I would say this is rather what we have come to expect from this government over the last two years. There is no shortage of great ideas and grand principles, but there does not seem to be any planning. Right now in Bosnia and in Haiti there are almost 6,000 peacekeepers, Americans, a few French, Canadian, and Dutch troops, etc. I will not give a full list. There are also almost 800 police officers. Yet in spite of all that aid, there are problems. It is very difficult to disarm the Haitian putschists. In fact, Haitian citizens have complained about the non-application of these standards.
Considering the scenario that is slowly unfolding, and this is my reservation on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, if the Americans withdraw from Haiti and Canada takes over command of the UN force with some 2,000 peacekeepers and 500 to 600 police officers, how can we expect as Canadians to disarm the putschists? Moreover, the UN expects, and this is mentioned in the motion, the problems to be solved within six months. Unfortunately, I do not agree with that when we see all the problems that have occurred since 1991-92. I have a hard time acknowledging that simply by arriving with a new mission we will really get what we want.
We could support the principle for another reason. During the defence policy review, the Bloc Quebecois suggested in its dissenting report that Canada should also consider whether its universal mission was not overly ambitious and whether it would not be more appropriate for it to concentrate its efforts in areas of the world where its presence is more natural, such as in America and the Caribbean. We said that, by establishing a regional profile, Canada could better manage and plan requests from the UN while giving Canadian military peacekeepers better and more thorough training. This suggestion was made in a dissenting report tabled in October 1994. We repeated it in the debate on Bosnia and it seems to have gone unheeded, unfortunately. Here is another instance of lack of planning.
I say again, in terms of the principle itself, the Bloc Quebecois supports the Canadian mission without hesitation. We would even say that-as the Minister of Foreign Affairs said-it is really Canada's role, in the end, given that Haitians are part of the francophone community. Obviously, being French speaking, troops coming from the Val-Cartier base, in my riding, will find it easier to relate to the Haitian people than American peacekeepers did due to the language barrier.
On the other hand, I do have other reservations regarding this mission. This afternoon, during question period, I asked the defence minister to confirm the information we had to the effect that General Daigle might be appointed the commanding officer of the UN force in Haiti.
Mr. Speaker, allow me to raise the issue again since the defence minister told me that he would comment on it during the emergency debate. I am referring to the problems in Somalia, to the attack on the Quebec Citadel, and other problems the minister is probably aware of, including the incidents in Gagetown when General Daigle was not yet general. There seems to be a trend as revealed by the inquiry on the deployment of the airborne regiment in Somalia and all the problems surrounding certain individuals. This causes me some concern and my colleagues are of a same mind. We are concerned even though the minister told us he has full confidence in the new general. We are concerned about the history of problems which have been more or less fixed and, I would say, sometimes covered up. This is another reservation I want to mention, Mr. Speaker.
In conclusion, I will say that the Bloc agrees in principle, with a few reservations: we do not know the costs, and we do not know the mandate nor the criteria, and this is not the first time we are saying this. I believe the time has come to present a more specific plan before making any further commitment.
To conclude, I would like to say there is no doubt that the Haitian people needs this and that Canada, because of its geography, must take part in this mission. However, as usual, I would appreciate if we could have more detailed information, as we have requested, in order to apprise the people of the role our peacekeepers are going to play in Haiti, as well as the costs and the means provided to carry on this mission.