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House of Commons Hansard #25 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was debt.

Topics

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

Indeed, he would tell the people of Quebec that he has always voted against recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, whereas we Liberals have always worked to achieve this end.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.

At the general membership meeting of the Quebec wing of the Liberal Party, the minister stated in connection with the place Quebec holds within Canadian federation that the words themselves were of no importance, what counts is the reality.

Well then, can the minister tell us whether, in his reality, Quebecers constitute a people?

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this is the first question asked of me as a member of Parliament, and I must thank the hon. member for it.

Anyone wishing to properly describe public opinion in Quebec is obliged to admit it is not a society in unanimity, but a society where various opinions are voiced. The best way to illustrate this is with a poll that came out a week before the referendum. Quebecers were asked how they defined themselves. Twenty-five per cent said they defined themselves as Quebecers only, and all the rest defined themselves as Canadians, many of them as Quebecers first, because they felt more at home in Quebec, but Canadians also.

These people are Canadians. The hon. member would like them to stop being Canadians, and that is where the problem lies. The answer is this: in Quebec we have differing opinions, but the large

majority of Quebecers want to remain in Canada. We are going to work to ensure that everyone in Canada may be reconciled.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

It would have been far wiser, Mr. Speaker, for the Liberals to find out what the minister's answer was before applauding.

Is the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs not demonstrating through his reply that, just like the Prime Minister, he has absolutely no grasp of the Quebec reality?

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am not much versed in how things are done here, but if I understand the hon. member correctly, he wishes me to repeat what I said, because he did not understand it fully.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

An hon. member

That is right.

Distinct SocietyOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

I thought I had been very clear. We have a pluralistic society in Quebec, one in which a number of different points of view are expressed, one in which people need to be left to define themselves as they wish. Some wish to define themselves as primarily Quebecers, others as primarily Canadians, and what is so wonderful in Canadian federation is that no one forces anything on anyone else.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, this morning's revelations in the growing Somalia cover-up are deeply disturbing.

Documents from Two Commando Unit have miraculously reappeared in a Petawawa filing cabinet. Vital operational logs from One Commando were apparently the victim of a Mogadishu mud puddle or Somalia sea water, and the RCMP is now examining DND's tampered with hard drive for electronic fingerprints.

Given all of this, how could the Prime Minister still have full confidence in the chief of the defence staff and his own Minister of National Defence?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is because I have known the Minister of National Defence for a long time. He is a very good man and a very competent minister.

When he became minister he was confronted with a file that was created before the coming of this administration. He has worked with this problem and he has decided to do something unprecedented: to have an inquiry into the operation of national defence. Not only that, but he recommended that we disband the regiment that was involved in that.

He took some extremely courageous actions and he has decided this inquiry will go to the bottom of the file, a file that was started perhaps by an incompetent administration before we arrived.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, this trouble may have started before but what we need is for this minister to truly get to the bottom of it and clear it up once and for all.

The lawyers for the Somalia inquiry were quite clear in who they think is responsible for this whole mess: the Somalia inquiry liaison team, the public affairs division of DND and this Liberal government.

The lawyers did not say that General Jean Boyle is the common link between all three of these problem areas. He had a hand in SILT and he headed up public affairs at DND before he was hand picked for this current position by this minister.

Will the defence minister ask his friend, General Jean Boyle, to step aside until the Somalia inquiry gets to the bottom of his role in this attempted cover-up?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I certainly will not ask the chief of the defence staff to step aside.

It seems the members of the Reform Party are intent on making accusations, not allowing individuals to state their cases before the commission and drawing their own conclusions. This is foreign to Canadian justice which has served us well for over a century as a nation.

I think the inquiry process is working. The chairman of the commission has noted a problem with documentation and has set aside a couple of weeks to look at this specific issue and hopefully will draw some conclusions.

If it is apparent, as the chairman said, that outside help, whether the military police or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, should be involved, that is the job of the commission to identify.

I cannot reply every day to accusations that come forward at the commission. That is why we set up the commission, to take it out of the political arena and put it where it belongs, in front of three independent people to evaluate the facts.

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people who do want to state their cases. Instead they have been stifled, which is the unfortunate part of this whole thing.

I guess it is easier to blame subordinates than it is to fire a hand picked appointee. If this minister had done his job the military brass would not be leading him around by the nose. If this minister had done his job, General Boyle would not even have been named

chief of defence staff. If this minister had truly done his job the Somalia inquiry would not be scrambling around looking for operational logs and missing documents.

Since the minister is obviously incapable of doing his job and has lost the confidence of absolutely everybody but the military brass, will he resign?

National DefenceOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister has dealt with that on a number of occasions.

This has been a particularly troublesome file for all of us in government. The Department of National Defence is under instructions to make all documents available to the commission. There have been some problems. I welcome the commission's deciding to set aside these two weeks to look at the documentation problem.

Obviously by what has transpired this morning the commission still requires further answers. Departmental officials will give those answers. However, it is very important that individuals, whether the chief of defence staff or others who have been named publicly by the Reform Party or others in the media, have an opportunity to go to the commission, state their own case and be judged in the eyes of all Canadians fairly and justly because that is what Canadian justice is all about.

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

April 15th, 1996 / 2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Contrary to what the minister just said, the commission adjourned this morning because it was dissatisfied with the level of co-operation from the Department of National Defence and the minister himself. This is unacceptable.

Does the Prime Minister feel his defence minister is still trustworthy despite his lack of co-operation in the Somalia inquiry and the fact that the minister himself had General Boyle appointed to the position of Chief of the Defence Staff, supposedly to restore public trust?

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the minister asked the department to co-operate with the commission. Furthermore, he himself created the commission and recommended that an independent commission be established to review this whole matter.

This is obviously a complex matter that was-

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Ah, ah.

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Liberal Saint-Maurice, QC

Yes, it is complex. It happened before we formed the government, and the party in power had trouble dealing with this matter. After disbanding the regiment involved in these operations, the minister decided to request that a fully independent commission be established to review this whole matter.

All requested documents will be made available to the commission, and all those concerned are doing their utmost to honour the commission's requests, especially the minister, in whom I have full confidence.

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Marc Jacob Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the Prime Minister just said, the existence of the files was known when the Conservative Party was in power. General John Anderson said so.

They keep saying that they still trust the minister and General Boyle, when everyone has lost confidence in the Canadian Forces. It could be said that, as recently as last weekend, the whole world was making fun of Canada because of the search for documents ordered by the minister.

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the search for documents was a very important exercise for the Canadian Forces. I think it shows that the members of the Canadian Forces are willing to co-operate with the commission.

The hon. member across the way has accused the Chief of the Defence Staff of committing offenses, even though the CDS has not had the opportunity to share his views with the commission. This is not how the Canadian justice system works.

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

In October 1995 the military police reported that its inquiry on the divergence of information provided to the Somali inquiry could not conclude due to a missing hard drive computer disk. The minister deemed it unnecessary to go further to find the missing hard drive disk.

How is it that the Minister of National Defence did not recognize the significance of what the military police explained to him regarding the missing disk?

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will remember that about a year or so ago in the House I said that when the commission was set up all relevant documents would be made available to the commission. The department has tried to meet the expectations that were made of it to provide those documents.

It is quite apparent that there have been some problems with the documents that appear to be missing. The department has given certain explanations. In fact, the chief of defence staff initiated a

search last week which turned up further documents that are now being analysed by the commission.

When the hon. member implies that we did not take the search for documents seriously, that is not true. Even as late as last week, to assist the commission this week in its exercise to look at the documents, it was the department that asked the RCMP computer experts to come in and assist it with respect to those deficiencies relating to the computers.

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's actions speak much louder than his words.

The minister did not provide the Somali inquiry with the military police report, such an important document, until four months after the minister had accepted it.

It would seem that General Boyle had to be appointed to the position of chief of defence staff because anyone else would have deemed it necessary to go further and get to the bottom of why the hard disk and certain records were missing.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister not see that this one event alone is so serious that clearly the Minister of National Defence and the chief of defence staff, General Boyle, must resign?

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Don Valley East Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has shown once again how selective he is with the facts.

I would rather listen to the commission counsel who this morning raised some further concerns and asked the department to provide answers by this Thursday. I would prefer to wait until next Monday when a certain hearing can be started on the public affairs aspect of the problem so that the chief of defence staff and others can state their case.

It does not serve us well every day in the House to rehash the accusations, the comments that come from the commission. That is why the commission was established, to remove it from Parliament to let an independent group take the appropriate action and review this in the clear light of day.

Department Of National DefenceOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the situation continues to deteriorate. Even before really getting down to business, the Somalia inquiry commission is exposing a most serious situation. Not only is what took place in Somalia unacceptable, the whole situation within the Canadian forces high command and the Department of National Defence is intolerable.

Does the Prime Minister agree that the government must order a much more wide-ranging inquiry to consider all the blunders made by the Canadian Armed Forces and the whole cover-up?