Mr. Speaker, the motion introduced by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, providing that Canada assume control of the UN Mission in Haiti shows, first of all, that the United Nations Organization has a great trust in Canada and its peacekeeping missions.
I would like to stress that the Bloc Quebecois is pleased to see that the new Minister of Foreign Affairs is willing to consult members of Parliament regarding the Canada's involvement in this mission. The goal is to continue the peace mission already in progress in Haiti. As I said previously, Canada shows a great deal of openness towards countries in need of humanitarian help, or support in re-establishing democracy and respect for human rights, or help in maintaining a stable and peaceful society, in short, help in their peacebuilding efforts.
We are currently living in a world where a country cannot ignore what other countries are doing or experiencing, and even more so when such a country is a friend and almost a neighbour. The need to live in peace in the world requires actions and initiatives which promote better conditions. Some would tell us, wrongly, that we should take care of our deficit and our own problems before giving any help to foreign countries. This would be a shortsighted view when faced with a problem which might endanger our own security.
To get a better understanding of the context which led to the motion we are debating today, I would like to review briefly the various interventions of the UN in Haiti. In December 1990 the long awaited first democratic election brought President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power. The success of that election was in part the result of the good work of an international mission of observers under the direction of Pierre F. Côté, director general of elections in Quebec.
Less than a year later, a coup perpetrated by the Haitian army forced the new president into exile. Following the coup of September 30, 1991 and until the President's return, the people of Haiti were under a military regime that scorned the fundamental principles of democracy. During those three years, more than 3,000 people were killed by putschists in summary executions, over and above others acts of torture. In the absence of any willingness on the part of the military to restore democracy, severe economic sanctions were imposed on the country by UN and OAS members.
Quebecers and Canadians were among the first to call upon their elected representatives to make major efforts in order to restore democracy and ensure President Aristide's return. Canada also took part in several humanitarian missions under the UN and the OAS.
Furthermore, more than 500 police officers and peacekeepers from Canada and Quebec were involved in the UN mission to Haiti, known as UNMIH. That mission was launched pursuant to Resolution 867 of the Security Council. It was aimed at implementing the Governors Island agreement in order to ensure the President's return as soon as possible. In July 1994, just a year and a half ago, the UN mission to Haiti being unable to give effect to that agreement, Canada took part in setting up a multinational force under U.S. command, in order to hasten the departure of the Haitian military leaders.
The UN Security Council then gave increased capabilities to the multinational force, which would give over these powers to the UN mission to Haiti once the situation had been stabilized. As of March 31, 1995, Canada had provided 100 RCMP officers and 500 members of its armed forces to the UN mission. Since then, the UN mission has taken over from the multinational military implementation force. It includes a military contingent of 6,000 soldiers and a police component of 800 officers from 30 countries.
The Haitian people gave a warm welcome to the troops and police officers, and there has been a substantial drop in the crime rate over the past 12 months. Peaceful demonstrations are now allowed. Journalists are free to do their job. The international community, however, still has one concern: the mandate of UNMIH expires tomorrow.
Since the situation in Haiti is still precarious, the Secretary General of the UN, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, recently indicated that a smaller transition mission would be desirable in order to strengthen the young Haitian democracy. This mission would focus on
supervising the new Haitian police and supporting the civilian institutions. The military aspects of its mandate would be reduced.
We must be assured that this new national police force, which would be trained by Canadian instructors among others, will be able to maintain order after the peacekeepers leave. The newly elected President of Haiti, Mr. Préval, has already stated his intention to ask the Security Council to extend the mission.
The challenge of democratization has not been won yet. It seems that the disarming of the former supporters of the putschists is far from over, and that there is still a risk that hostilities will resume after the international forces leave.
Despite its reservations, the Bloc Quebecois feels that the presence of UN troops, which will be under the direction of Canada for a while, will undoubtedly be a great help in rebuilding Haiti. Maintaining foreign troops is desirable until we have more evidence that democracy prevails in that country. However, before committing Canadian Forces any further and responding to the UN's request, we wish to express certain reservations.
First of all, the government must set the rules and criteria governing its intervention and assess the resources needed to carry out this mission. The minister seemed prepared earlier to take into account what his colleagues were saying, and I hope it was not idle talk.
The government must immediately specify what the mandate of our troops will be in Haiti, to avoid repeating the ad-libbing that has taken place during other missions. We believe that their primary task should be to consolidate democracy by supervising and training local forces and reinforcing civilian institutions.
Since the American troops are scheduled to leave next month, the Bloc Quebecois questions whether this new mission will be able to keep the peace in Haiti. We think that the Canadian government should negotiate with the UN and the U.S. government the withdrawal, possibly over a six-month period, of the American and Pakistani troops currently deployed.
The multinational force under U.S. command included 6,000 troops. Canada should know from the start how many troops we will be able to count on when we will take over command, and make sure that the UN will provide all the resources we will need to fulfil our mandate properly.
As for the Canadian troops in the field, the Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that no more than 750 peacekeepers should be sent to Haiti, as my colleague, the defence critic, indicated. More than 1,000 Canadian military have already been assigned various tasks with regard to the implementation of the Dayton accords in Bosnia. While being generous and compassionate, Canada must also take into account what if any resources are available.
So far, the government has not told us much about the costs involved in this mission. Again, the minister seemed to take that aspect into consideration. For the sake of transparency and integrity, taxpayers in Quebec and Canada must know what expenses the government will incur during this mission.
In June 1995, I took part in an observer mission for the verification of parliamentary and senatorial elections in Haiti. I saw for myself that the presence of foreign forces was absolutely necessary if an atmosphere of detente and security was to prevail over there. For far too long, the people of Haiti have been afraid of walking in the streets, of speaking, singing and expressing themselves freely.
Democracy is a wonderful means of integrating citizens in the society to which they belong. This can take place provided that citizens can play an active and responsible role in society. The democracy emerging in Haiti deserves to survive, if only it will be given a chance.