Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by reiterating, for the benefit of the opposition critics, my commitment to creating a spirit of co-operation between the opposition and the government as far as foreign affairs are concerned.
During the debate on Haiti yesterday, I could not help but notice the open-mindedness and absence of partisanship in their speeches. I am convinced that we can rely on their co-operation, in the best tradition of our Parliament, to further the interests of Canada as a whole on issues of major consequence for the representation of Canada abroad.
A throne speech is not just an agenda for a government. It is an agenda for an entire society. It seeks to articulate an agenda by which we can make commitments, responses and actions required as we face new conditions and new developments.
The throne speech we received this week is a positive agenda. It is trying to take today's issues and meet them with a sense of confidence, aware of difficulties, aware of hazards, aware of all the dangers out there, but at the same time ensuring that we face those dangers, not hide from them.
It is in contrast to all those who work upon fear, who cling to yesterday's solutions, who refuse to confront challenges as they exist and who instead try to find ways to exploit and develop people's sense of insecurity and anxiety.
The throne speech is about a renewal of this country, renewing a spirit within, renewing ourselves and renewing what the country can represent. It is not a prescription to run and hide.
One thing that is important to impress as part of the throne speech is the very important international dimension this agenda has.
No one can escape from the major impacts and influences of the world we live in. Jobs in a competitive economy and globalization are affected every day in every way. There must be international co-operation and understanding to make sure that we work together to create the climate and initiatives for employment.
Our financial system is a totally global one. We must find ways to break rules and establish conventions to ensure that it works in an orderly, fair and just way. Our own democratic way of life can also be threatened by instability beyond our borders and by the denial of rights of other people. These can soon haunt and reflect on ourselves.
We have a system of health in which viruses can travel across borders without any interference and all of a sudden we are faced with a need for massive international action.
Even now we can visit the Internet where hate literature, propaganda and the violence of words can be screened across electronic communications to reach the minds of our young people within seconds.
Canada is intellectually, indelibly and forever a part of an international system. As part of that system we must be deeply concerned about the rise of the counter culture playing on people's doubts and insecurities in languages increasingly shrill, against enemies finding someone to oppose. It fragments society when there is an urgent need to strengthen it.
I listened with shock and dismay to the member for Matapédia when he said: "As a founding people we deserve our own country". How often have we heard that around the world in recent generations, where one culture or language group has demanded its own country? As a result, there has been war, conflict and even worse by that very same attitude that was expressed a few minutes ago. It is shocking and awful to hear this in the House of Commons when we as a country have worked so hard to build on diversity, tolerance and openness to give all people a fair and equal chance.
The charter of rights gives everybody a fair degree of opportunity, liberty and rights. No country in the world has a greater sense of liberty. The reality is that it is being denied. This sense of liberty is something we can hold up as a model to the world. We can show the rest of the world that we know how to be tolerant to make different languages and cultures work together. We are the prototype of the 21st century. We are a nation state that understands that in order to accommodate and work in a global economy we must build on the strength of that diversity.
With all my heart and passion I oppose the kind of attitude we heard from the member opposite and what he represents. That does not represent the best and finest of this country. Part of the international dimension is to oppose that view.
Canadians understand that it is in our best interest to develop a more open relationship with foreign countries. We must ensure that young Canadians will be able to export Canadian know-how, Canadian expertise and Canadian culture. Youth employment programs give young Canadians numerous opportunities to develop their skills, be it only through job experience in the third world or by working for the advancement of human rights. These are opportunities that are open to young Canadians.
That is what the international dimension is all about. It is wrong to retreat into isolationism and separatism. It is why it is so important that we as Canadians stand as a model that we can advance round the world.
Philosopher George Steiner said not too long ago that life in many parts of the world is becoming a series of dangerous reversions in the face of rapid change. I understand that. It is one of the callings of Canadians to fight against that reversion, fight against that inward look and fragmentation and work in the world with a much more broad and expansionary view.
We see it in the incidents Canada is facing today relating to what is happening in Cuba. Americans are justifiably angered that a small civilian aircraft was shot down. We have supported their efforts to go to the United Nations and ICAO.
It is equally wrong to pass legislation that in itself contravenes international rules and practices to unilaterally affect individuals and companies in another country against basic treaties and conventions that have been signed and against the expressed desire of the United States government to have a new set of rules of investment to make sure there is openness and fair trading. It is wrong to introduce that kind of legislation in order to correct the other possibility. That is why we object so strongly to it.
Flagrant unilateralism, great or small, cannot be tolerated. We must have a world of rule, of law. We must have a world governed by a set of standards we can all adhere to. That is what we Canadians have to stand up for internationally.
The answer in Canada is to build bridges, not walls. That is the Canadian way and has been for many generations. It is what I believe Canadians want us to express as a government: to help people reach out, to help build those bridges, to bring a partnership between government and people, to do it domestically, to bring a partnership of business and labour together to help create jobs for young people, to build partnerships and bridges between the regions of the country so we can share in our diversity, to build bridges and partnerships between different generations and different ages. The fundamental role of this national government is to help build those bridges, not to bring up the walls as others in the House seem to espouse.
I have been struck, since taking on the responsibility of foreign minister, with how constant and ongoing the expectation is of people around the world that this is what Canadians will provide. They recognize that over the years we have been able to acquire and adopt an important and significant role. People around the world look to Canadians for solutions, for good ideas and for leadership.
Let us consider the kind of initiative we debated in the House last night. We are being asked by the world community to take leadership in Haiti. Why? We are a country of two founding peoples with two languages and are able to bring together the strength of our two great cultures to offer an opportunity to the world.
What an enormous, incredible, important and significant contribution we have to make as a country as we now stand. Those who want to break it apart, to separate it and fragment it are certainly making a serious mistake. As former Prime Minister Trudeau said in the U.S. Congress many years ago, it would be a crime against humanity to have Canada separate simply because of what we have to offer to the international world.
An American himself, Adelai Stevenson, one of those kinder and gentler Americans, in a speech he made in Canada said that Canada has never claimed the status of a major power but it has been influential beyond its means because it is a patient, level headed poise in the world. We can ride out convulsions. He said the rest of the world needed the built in gyroscope that Canadians seem to acquire when dealing in world affairs.
Forty years later the world is still in great convulsion. We face storms of our own time. I think if Adelai Stevenson were alive today he would agree that the gyroscope, the special skill and aptitude of Canadians is still working.
We seek to be an activist, a partner nation encouraging global systems of security and human improvement, helping to shape rules and procedures, advancing the cause of human rights and strengthening the ties of trade so we can help people grow and prosper. The throne speech indicates those spheres of action where we can make a difference.
We have to set priorities in our foreign policy. If we have a priority for everything then there is no priority. The first priority is to ensure the fundamental defence and protection of Canadian interests both here and abroad. The fundamental responsibility of government is to make sure Canadians have the best representation possible and I can guarantee they will receive that from this government.
However, security goes beyond simply the protection of one's own boundaries and interests. So much in the world today is now bound up in the much broader global scope. The best way we can defend our interests as a country is to defend them in our international institutions and forums, to build those rules and institutions that allow Canadians to get the kind of protection they need.
Since taking on this responsibility, I have said that I am deeply concerned about the state of affairs of the United Nations and the fundamental need to reform its finances, its institutions and its outreach to ensure it can become an institution that enables us to provide a way of life and a way of mediating conflicts, responding to poverty and defending rights around the world.
Our peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, Croatia and Haiti must be maintained. Beyond the military action, we want to help rebuild their civilian society.
I think a new concept of safety has now emerged, including personal safety and social, environmental and economic security.
We may not be a great power, but have been favoured by our position. Our two official languages, French and English, our diversified population, our expertise as a trading nation and our respect for democratic values enable us to play a crucial role as a link, for instance, between Europe and America.
In my opinion, Canada might be able act as a bridge to help reopen the transatlantic dialogue between Europe and North America. We can build new partnerships in terms of financial, technical and training assistance for Canadian and European youth.
That is why I pointed out the fact that the European Commission had decided to strengthen the links between Europe and America.
At the same time, our security as Canadians is also deeply and inextricably tied to the way we deal with the problem of arms in this world. Canada has a long and historic tradition of working against the build up of arms and to secure disarmament and arms control. We must work effectively for the policing of the comprehensive test ban treaty and include a ban on the ghastly cheap weapons that haunt every countryside of warfare with the awful land mines that are dismembering thousands of people around the world today.
Security also depends on good law and good regulation. The throne speech clearly enunciated our commitment to fulfil the mandate of the law of the sea to protect the increasingly scarce resources, to cherish the sea as the sustainer of life and not as a waste pit.
We also need to temper and balance the workings of the international marketplace with proper rules and standards, which is perhaps the most serious and important dialogue that members of Parliament will have. We have discovered in our own domestic economies and societies that there has to be a good framework of law to make the marketplace work. We need the same framework internationally. We need to be sure that the disputes are properly handled. We need to clearly demonstrate the practices that will ensure basic standards of rights for people within that framework.
That is why the throne speech made a very strong commitment to making a real difference as a country in developing new labour standards, particularly as they apply to the exploitation of children.
Regarding human rights, Canada can play a leading role. Children's rights high are among this government's priorities. We are currently seeking an international consensus to curb child labour.
In addressing this very important issue, I believe we can begin to move to protect and promote children's rights, as we debated in this House on a resolution I sponsored almost eight years ago, but we must first ensure that there are proper rules, laws and covenants that can ensure that children's rights are protected. This means working at the multilateral level, the commission of human rights in Geneva and through the ILO, and taking the lead in negotiating a protocol on the abolition of child sex trades in this country.
We also have to ensure that those countries which are facing problems of child labour have the means and capacity to respond and change. We have recently given a major donation of $700,000 to the International Labour Organization so it can be helpful in developing these new standards.
We also have to work bilaterally, as we are now in Africa working with 15 countries on that continent to establish programs for the education of girls. Education is the alternative to exploitive labour. Where we can make a real difference as Canadians is to help those young children receive the education they deserve.
We also need to look at the voluntary actions of Canadians and at the codes of conduct for businesses building on a consumer oriented approach like the Rugmark. We need to have an outreach among Canadians to ensure they understand that a purchase of an article created through the travails of a young child is contributing to that exploitation.
I look forward to the views and suggestions of members of Parliament on this very important priority. It will take a full consensus, not just internationally but within Canada, to make this an effort that can demonstrate just how important and how effective Canada can be.
I also suggest we take an important leadership role, working with like minded countries, to promote a reduction in the demand for arms. We must begin by tying economic and international development to the spending on military weapons and armaments to ensure there is a proper ratio between the two. This will enable us to provide a bonus system for those countries that are willing to reduce their arms expenditures. By providing that kind of consensus internationally, we can make a difference.
There are many other areas we can talk about, but the most important one, which does not have a substance, a policy or a program, is just basically the Canadian way of doing things. Call it creative realism, as Lester Pearson, our Nobel prize winner, once called it, building consensus, developing alliances or forming acts of careful conciliation. It is a way of ensuring that the values by which we live do not become ideologies, do not become hard and rigid, but in fact we find ways of building bridges between people so that various values and interests which compete can also find co-operation.
One must believe that one cannot have everything that one wants to have. We must search for overarching ways of providing connections and liaisons between people. To do that we must substantially engage Canadians in this new search for our international dimension. The new technologies of communication have outpaced the traditional meeting places of committees and councils. It is probably an overstatement, but the fact is fax machines helped circumvent the Soviet dictatorships that tried to reimpose the old suffering.
Each month millions of people add to the new networks of the web to get worldwide information. As I speak today, students in my own city of Winnipeg have an Internet connection to Pacific rim countries talking about their common problems. There is a young teacher from New Brunswick who is now connecting with groups in Scotland to find out ways of training young people.
The opportunity the Internet provides is a form of electronic peacekeeping. It brings ideas, information and research and development around the world in an instantaneous way. One place Canada can make a difference is in the grand field of international communication and helping to build that consensus with the means that we have.
I believe that if we take a look at the area of national life that is so much affected by our international dimensions, no area is untouched or uncovered. That is why in this throne speech we go out of our way to make sure that foreign policy is not just a closed door exercise, some esoteric discipline taken behind the area with whispers or by elites, but becomes the grand engagement of all Canadians. In particular, we want to reach out to young Canadians because they will be the true citizens of this new global world as we move into the 21st century. It is not just a matter of the policy and the programs, it is also bringing it about.
I welcomed the expressions last evening from members of the opposition wanting to work in this Parliament, wanting to make it a place for global dialogue and a place where Canadians believe they have the opportunity to make a difference with their views, their ideas and their suggestions so that we can truly give them a sense that they are engaged as world citizens in the 21st century.