Mr. Speaker, as one who is somewhat pedantic about the use of language, I look around this vast almost empty Chamber and I wonder why what we are doing here tonight is called a debate.
I would call it a series of monologues, commentaries on decisions previously made by the government. I suspect that even as we speak there are similar discussions going on in several bars in Ottawa that would be equally productive and have equal effect on the decisions that this government may ultimately make.
Haiti was the second nation in this hemisphere after the U.S.A. to gain its independence. Unfortunately from that point onward nothing seemed to go right. That was their last success. It has been an unremitting history of bloodshed, brutality, poverty and misery for almost two centuries. The only prolonged period of peace and
stability was during the occupation by the U.S. marines during the 1920s and 1930s.
Even when I was working in Haiti, which was only about 15 years ago, the infrastructure that we had was almost entirely the legacy of the U.S. occupation and any that was left had been built by foreign aid within very recent times.
It is a sad commentary but those are the magnitudes of the problems which Canada or other countries will be facing trying to pull Haiti perhaps kicking and screaming into the 20th century and trying to build a democratic state there.
As Canadians, we do have a vested interest in maintaining political and economic stability in the Caribbean. We do have a vested interest in creating a democratic state in Haiti. There are two very important reasons why we have this vested interest. One is that we have trade and investment links in this area not so much with Haiti itself but with its neighbours and most particularly with the Dominican Republic which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. Therefore, if Haiti blows it up, it will have a direct influence on our well-being in this country.
The second big interest we have and one we share with almost every country in the hemisphere is the question of refugees. If Haiti again does not succeed and everything turns upside down there will be another great flood of Haitians trying to get out of the place in unseaworthy boats going willy-nilly to whatever shore they may find. These people, by the thousands or the tens of thousands, will then become a burden on the recipient countries.
How much better to send some aid and a few people into Haiti to try to straighten out the situation there than to end up with another disaster equivalent to the one we had about four years ago? I do support Canadian intervention. I do support our sending additional troops there to take command now that the Americans have decided it is time for them to leave.
Besides being in our national interest, there is a certain moral imperative for our continued presence in that unhappy country to preserve life and also to provide or assist in the provision of humanitarian assistance.
Finally, unlike the situation in Bosnia, this is an assignment that is well within the capability of our poorly equipped military. There are no heavy weapons to contend with and no well organized opposition. Although, like in any military operation there is always a risk, that risk will not be high unless we do not have adequate rules of engagement. If the rules of engagement are adequate and clearly defined and if our troops will not be unduly restrained from defending themselves, then we should be there. If they are going to be unduly restrained then they should not go. We do not send our people overseas as human sacrifices. That is my primary consideration. The only caveat I would add to my support for this project is that if our military are there they must be able to defend themselves. I have that small reservation.
I will at this time lend my support to the ministers in whatever they have decided to do, whether they are going to send 500 or 750. I know the decision has been made but we will give it our blessing.