Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open this special debate on Canada's participation in another peacekeeping mission in Haiti.
First of all, I would like to thank my fellow members of this House, members of the Bloc Quebecois, the Reform Party, the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party as well as those of my own party, the government party. This debate would not have been possible without your support, and I thank you for it.
I am sorry this debate was held on such short notice. As you know, things are happening very fast in New York, at the UN, and the Canadian government may have to make a decision in the very near future. I appreciate the co-operation of all parties in this new Parliament. This way, the people of Canada will be able to express their views to their elected representatives on an important foreign affairs issue.
I also want to point out that today's consultation will not the last on Canada's foreign policy or on Haiti. And I promise that, as far as possible, future debates will be held under better circumstances.
We all know how important the situation in Haiti is to us as Canadians, to the Haitians and to the world community as a whole. It has in the last several months been a remarkable demonstration of a country under a major process of democratization. For a country that used to be dominated by dictatorship, severe police, autocracy and by a total elimination of human rights and economic hope, it has now had some of that restored.
Now that the euphoria of the first months of freedom is beginning to set into reality, we must dedicate ourselves to the continuous building and construction of that country.
The new president, Préval, was sworn in on February 7. I am pleased to say my new colleague, the hon. Pierre Pettigrew, Minister of International Co-operation, attended the inauguration. The president made a representation to the United Nations of the need for continued assistance while his country does the rebuilding. The first necessary condition is long term stability.
Haitian police force members, many having been trained by our country and by others, are ready to ensure their responsibilities. However, they are young and inexperienced and still need time to learn on the job. As a result there has to be a complementary international presence to ensure stability and security for the population to allow its fledgling institutions of democracy to be formed. It they are left on their own at this crucial stage, the likelihood is that the problems would mount and there would be no backup or security for their initial efforts.
Over the past few weeks I have had a number of consultations on the issue of Haiti. My first trip as foreign affairs minister was to the United Nations where I consulted with the secretary-general and
officials of the UN to ensure that any continuation of mandate in Haiti would have sufficient resources to meet the task.
We have learned our lessons. We realize that when the United Nations takes on a role there must be proper and effective resources to meet the needs.
I have also had the opportunity to hold consultations with members of the opposition parties in the past two weeks to talk to them about what their concerns would be.
Last week, I met with members of the Haitian community in Montreal. They show great solidarity. They are also quite inventive in coming up with solutions to the problems facing their home country.
I also brought the views of Canadians to bear by opening up this question on the Internet so we were able to ensure that Canadians from a wide variety of perspectives could let us know what their thoughts were. The vast majority are very supportive of the continuation of Canada's role of support.
As members know, at the present moment the security council is still debating the issue. The secretary-general has made a request that Canada would take leadership as the mandate of the Americans comes to an end at the end of this week.
The security council is considering the questions of the size of the force and the length of the tenure. Certain members of the security council have raised questions, as they have a right to do. However, because we believe so strongly in the need to continue and maintain a UN presence, an international presence in Haiti, we have come forward with proposals and solutions we think will allow that force to continue and allow the deadlock to be broken, once again demonstrating that as a country we are in a unique and special position to provide leadership, to put forward ideas and to help create bridges, as our Prime Minister said earlier, for solutions to this problem.
What we are suggesting in effect is that if the size of the UN force is not sufficient to meet the task, we could provide auxiliary forces still under the control of a Canadian general, under the UN rules of engagement admission, to ensure that fully adequate resources are available when necessary to maintain the full and adequate positioning of the international forces there and to maintain the security and stability required.
It is our hope the proposals we have put forward will serve as the basis for the resolution of this matter.
At this moment the UN security council has not made its final decision. It is looking at these proposals and although the time is getting short we are confident that because of interventions we made we will find an adequate, proper and effective response to the request of the Haitian government.
We still need and want the expressions of opinion of members of Parliament on what they think would be the most effective, adequate, proper, constructive way for the force to continue its leadership.
When the official decision is made by the security council we would be in a position to make a proper and immediate response. Our will is there. Our inclination and disposition are there. We are finding the solutions but we need to have the views of members of Parliament.
If the decision is made by the security council for Canada to take on its leadership and for us to provide the kind of resources required, I will maintain constant communication and discussion with the new foreign affairs committee so that it will be fully informed on an ongoing basis.
I have had discussions with members of the opposition and they have expressed to me their interest in having the committee as a monitoring agency able to maintain a constant overview and assessment of Canadian overseas operations. We will make that initiative with the committee once it is established, report on a periodic basis and receive responses so that Parliament is a constant partner in this very important mission.
Canada will not be alone. Other countries are making their own interest known. The Pakistan and Bangladesh governments have indicated their willingness to continue the missions. The French government has told me that it is continuing to be involved in the training of police forces and the maintenance of that area. The Americans are maintaining missions of economic development and support in that country.
Beyond the pure maintenance of order we must also ensure rebuilding, economic development, social development, development of a civil society in Haiti, building up judicial institutions and proper ways the government is allowed to conduct its efforts.
Canada cannot try to solve every problem everywhere in the world but this is a place where we can make a difference as Canadians. We have been asked to take a role. We have the reputation and the experience.
Our country is a bilingual country capable of providing peacekeeping services in French. Since Haiti is a member of the Francophonie, this special role played by Canada will make a difference for the people of Haiti.
I hope we as Canadians can offer hope to the people of that country. They are looking for help. They want support. They are starting an exciting process of rebuilding a country, rebuilding a democracy. Canada can make a difference to those people in terms
of expanding and enhancing the role of the United Nations, giving the international community a place and once again demonstrating to the world that Canada is the real peacekeeper.