Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to speak to the renewal of the NORAD agreement between Canada and the U.S, especially since this debate was requested by the Bloc Quebecois in its dissenting report on reviewing Canada's defence policy.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the new Minister of Foreign Affairs for agreeing to give the official opposition enough time to prepare for today's debate. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs' open-mindedness is in stark contrast to the arrogant and disrespectful attitude toward the opposition taken by this government since the beginning of its mandate with respect to this type of debate.
During the election campaign, as you may recall, the Liberal Party of Canada promised-in an effort to increase transparency, or so it claimed-to regularly consult the House on major issues in foreign and defence policy that may require Canada's involvement. Since the 1993 election, we have in fact noticed that the few debates hastily organized by the government-supposedly to consult Parliament-were nothing but a sham.
Most of the debates were announced with less than 24 hours' notice, with the government providing the motions, relevant papers and briefings at the last minute, before we finally realized that the dice were loaded and that the government was consulting the House merely for appearance's sake.
Despite somewhat inadequate preparation due to a lack of time, we have always insisted on taking part in these debates, if only to be heard. We are therefore happy to see that the government has finally decided to give us enough time to prepare adequately for this debate.
Yet, I fear that this debate will have no more impact on the government's decision, since it seems that the foreign affairs minister's signature is a mere formality. According to a report in the February 24 edition of Le Devoir , the Minister of Foreign Affairs has already approved the final version of the new NORAD agreement and will sign this agreement with his American counterpart during a visit to Washington on March 13 or 14.
Let us point out that the minister's officials have informed us that no decision in this regard had been made so far. This raises an important question: if the minister feels that today's debate is serious, does he really believe that major amendments could be made to the new NORAD agreement in the 24 to 48 hours following this debate?
Which leads to this other important question: Why does the minister refuse to provide the official opposition and the other parties represented in this House with a draft of the new NORAD agreement before it is finalized? Why are the various opposition parties not allowed to give their opinion on this agreement on the basis of all the relevant information that would enable them to really discuss Canada's participation in NORAD?
In this sense, we would greatly appreciate it if, out of respect for parliamentary democracy and for the people of Quebec and Canada, the minister provided all parties in this House with a draft of any agreement or accord contemplated before it is implemented. This would enable the opposition parties to better fulfil their parliamentary duties, while at the same time enhancing the quality of debate for the benefit of our fellow citizens. That is what I call real transparency.
This being said, as you no doubt know, the NORAD agreement was not negotiated overnight. Allow me, therefore, to backtrack briefly to try to understand why such an agreement came about in the first place and to try to see more clearly whether or not the NORAD agreement should be renewed.
First of all, note that this agreement originally derived from the Ogdensburg Declaration of 1940, in which the idea of joint defence arrangements between the U.S. and Canada was officially set out for the first time.
At the time-must we be reminded-the United States and Canada were at war with the Axis powers, which greatly encouraged closer formal military ties with our American allies. Later, in 1947, our two countries set out the basis of a new military co-operation, particularly for air defence. A few years later, in 1954 to be precise, Canadian and American air force officials came to the conclusion that the best way of ensuring both countries' air defence was to place it in the hands of a single organization under a single command.
The U.S. and Canada conducted negotiations that eventually led to a bilateral agreement being signed in 1957, establishing an integrated air defence command based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The following year, on May 12, 1958, the North American Aerospace Defence Command Agreement, commonly known as NORAD agreement, was entered into by Canada and the United States. At first, this agreement was to be renewed every ten years, but this time frame was shortened to five years, in light of the ever changing geostrategic global situation.
Note also that, since its beginnings, the NORAD agreement has been renewed seven times. Initially, the main purpose of this agreement was to ensure active air defence against Soviet long range bombers. To this end, NORAD's integrated command was equipped with ground based radars and with fighter interceptors.
It is interesting to note that NORAD's defence system was set up shortly after the U.S.S.R. developed an atomic bomb, thus creating a real threat for North America.
It is also to be noted that a major element of strategic balance changed following the launching of the first Soviet satellite in space. Indeed, in the ensuing years, the U.S.S.R. developed delivery vehicles capable of making decisive hits on Canadian and U.S. targets.
During the arms race, the United States also developed intercontinental ballistic missiles, commonly called ICBMs. These missiles were equipped with nuclear warheads and were also capable of hitting Soviet targets. However, given its lack of effective defence systems against this type of attack, the U.S. found itself, for the first time in its history, vulnerable to the Soviet threat.
Consequently, in the mid-sixties, NORAD put the emphasis on early warning in case of an attack. NORAD's early detection of soviet missiles would ensure a swift response from the U.S. and became part of the nuclear deterrent strategy. However, even though it had lost some of its importance, air defence against bombers remained a priority.
When the NORAD agreement was renewed in 1981, and following the development of cruise missiles launched from airplanes and submarines, air defence against such a threat became again a top priority. It goes without saying that these developments resulted in a strengthening of east-west and northern security measures. The name of the organization was also changed. The term "air defence" was replaced by "aerospace defence", so as to reflect NORAD's increasingly greater concerns regarding aerospace threats.
NORAD continues to play an important role in terms of surveillance and defence of the North American air space. However, given the end of the cold war and the dismantling of the Soviet Union in the early nineties, we now have to ask ourselves whether it is necessary to maintain such a structure and, if so, whether its mandate should be redefined.
Even though the cold war is over and Russia is not the aggressive and threatening power that the Soviet Union was, we must remain alert and on the lookout for any outside attack. While NORAD was set up to counter the Soviet threat, it would be overly simplistic to assume that, since the U.S.S.R. no longer exists, we do not need this type of aerospace defence system any more.
It is true that, in times of peace, the relevancy of such a system may not be obvious. History, however, has taught us several lessons including this one: to be naive when it comes to security could have disastrous consequences.
It is an accepted fact that, to survive, a state must be able to ensure the security of its territory and of its population. Even today, the Canadian state cannot escape this simple but unavoidable obligation. But we would be kidding ourselves if we thought or claimed that Canada can ensure its own security. That is why it is in the best interests of both Canada and Quebec to be realistic and to renew the NORAD agreement.
Nobody can deny that Russia as it exists in 1996 still possesses mass destruction weapons and nothing can guarantee that we will not see, in the years to come, changes of government or changes of attitude toward the west, particularly toward the United States. And the same goes for other powers such as China, for example, which also possesses mass destruction weapons and has very large military capabilities.
Since the end of the cold war, dozens of armed conflicts have arisen throughout the world and no country can claim to be immune from that. Every country tries to get the maximum from the means at its disposal. It is well known within the international community
that several countries are presently trying to acquire or to develop chemical, bacteriological and nuclear weapons.
These weapons, combined with the use of missiles launched from submarines, ships, airplanes or by other means, could eventually become a threat to us. Let us not forget that terrorism has become a problem in our societies and that state terrorism is a reality that we have to live with.
On the other hand, we must ask ourselves what would be the possible consequences of Canada's non-participation in NORAD. What could be the impact of this non-participation in terms of the inviolability of our air and aerospace sovereignty, the effectiveness of our military defence and the costs that an autonomous defence would create?
It is obvious that the NORAD agreement has been particularly beneficial to Canada's defence policy. The establishment of an exclusively Canadian air and aerospace detection system would have been extremely costly for Canada. Sharing the costs of the current system with the United States has certainly helped us save tens of millions of dollars.
At the present time, we spend about $300 million each year on the NORAD aerospace defence system, which is about 10 per cent of the total costs associated with this system. It is absolutely certain that, if we were on our own, Canada could not have the same level of protection it is enjoying now for the same amount of money.
Canada's participation in NORAD has even allowed us to protect our sovereignty in the far north over the last 35 years. Because of the scope and efficiency of the detection system in place, Canada is spared from having to maintain a major military presence in this region. Canada's position and credibility concerning the demilitarization of the Arctic is therefore defensible.
Canada is also able, through NORAD, to obtain highly significant strategic information from our American allies which would otherwise be unavailable.
Our NORAD membership provides us with access to information concerning Canada, while sparing us the heavy expenditures related to developing, launching and maintaining such satellites.
NORAD also provides Canada with access to space monitoring technology, which is nothing to be sneezed at. That access takes a number of different forms, one of which is the training Canadian military personnel in American military installations.
The Bloc Quebecois sees another advantage in Canadian membership in NORAD: Canada's partnership with the Americans in aerospace defence has, undeniably, given it some clout with the U.S. in this field. Canada has some degree of control over what goes on in Canadian air space. Without NORAD, would it have been possible for us to defend ourselves against the designs the U.S. had on our air space? That is far from certain.
I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to indicate the Bloc's support of the government's recent commitment not to authorize any weapon deployment in Canadian air space.
While the Bloc does agree that the NORAD agreement has served Quebec's and Canada's interests well, and while it is prepared to support renewal for a further five years, this does not mean there are no changes to be made to it.
In fact, in its 1994 defence white paper, in connection with the renewal of the NORAD agreement, the government committed to "look closely into those areas which might require updating, given the new challenges to continental security".
The Bloc finds it most regrettable that the government has let slip the opportunity offered by renewal of the NORAD agreement to do as it had suggested in its own white paper: redefine the primary mission of that organization within the present international context. Why indeed has it not seized the opportunity afforded us here to make changes, such as an expansion of NORAD's mandate to enable it to support UN peacekeeping missions in the Americas.
In this regard, the Bloc Quebecois wrote in its dissenting report on the foreign policy review that Canada should review "its current military alliances and adapt them to strategic missions in accordance with the needs of the United Nations. This approach would inject new life into these organizations and would make them more effective in protecting safety and in resolving conflicts. It would also make it possible for Canada to meet its public security objectives, which are crucial to its own domestic security".
As regards UN regional peace missions in North America, could NORAD not help the UN with its mandate, in Haiti for example, by doing air surveillance? This new mandate for NORAD might help the UN increase its chances for successful peace missions in the region.
Furthermore, by supporting this new mission for NORAD, as proposed by the Bloc Quebecois, the government could tighten up its notion of collective security. It could thus play a more important role with the United States in this regard in North America.
The Bloc Quebecois also feels it is time the NORAD agreement was expanded to include our other American economic partners. We feel that NORAD could provide a valuable means of linking our economic and trading interests to our common interest in
security. This could ensure the sustainability of the incipient political stability in countries in Central and South America.
In this regard, we could start first by extending NORAD to Mexico, which is also a party to NAFTA, and then, little by little, to other countries, in South America. We could thus eventually end up with an alliance of the Americas. The aim of this alliance, essentially, would be to set up a common air, land and sea surveillance network. It would enable Canada to set up a tighter, and better co-ordinated defence structure at less cost to taxpayers.
NORAD could also be used to a greater extent in the fight against drug trafficking. It could be used more intensively against drug traffickers using Canadian and American airspace. And, if it were extended to other countries in the Americas, it could be put to greater use in their struggle against the drug trade.
Moreover, the new NORAD agreement should answer the Bloc Quebecois' legitimate concerns with regard to anti-missile defence. If, for instance, either party to the NORAD agreement wanted to develop and use new anti-missile defence technology, the other party should not only be consulted but also be in agreement.
By so doing, Canada would avoid finding itself in a situation where, even though consulted, it would be subject to American decisions in this area, which, let us not forget, is at the heart of today's nuclear deterrence strategy. A new NORAD agreement should also include clauses providing for environmental protection with respect to Northern military facilities. Furthermore, since the Canadian and American governments appointed negotiators, in February 1995, to deal with this issue, we would hope that by now a solution to this problem has been found and that it is reflected in the present NORAD agreement.
However, in the what we would consider regretable event that the Canadian government was unable to reach an agreement with our neighbours to the south, the Bloc Quebecois would urge it to engage in continuing negotiations without delay; eventually, such negotiations would be held on a regular basis. My party believes that the U.S. must pay its fair share of the costs to clean up these sites.
Lastly, Canada should make it very clear it is committed to promoting the demilitarization of Canada's North and to negotiating with Russia granting this region the same demilitarized zone status as Antarctica.
To conclude, I would say that, for the reasons I just mentioned, the Bloc Quebecois will support renewing the NORAD agreement. However, we believe it essential to make a number of changes and, in this respect, we ask the government to consider the official opposition's legitimate claims with an open mind.