Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to share my time with the member for Scarborough-Rouge River.
We must see the debate we are having today in its historical context. I am supporting this motion and I am supporting the amendment proposed by the parliamentary secretary.
The amendment seeks to place this human tragedy within its historical context and at the same time to place it in the context of what we as Canadians must do to recognize the historical reality of what has happened in this world in light of today's interdependent world in which we live and what we must do as active politicians both nationally and internationally to ensure these events do not occur again.
That is the purpose of the government's motion. That is the purpose of the debate. I congratulate the Bloc Quebecois on bringing forward this motion because I think it is important.
However, it is unfortunate the member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve has suggested the government in proposing this amendment is trying to mix up this issue with commercial relations and other interests with Turkey. That is not the purpose of this amendment, as I read it. Before I consider this issue I will provide some general observations on this matter.
This was an enormous human tragedy. It fits within the context of other great tragedies, of killings of populations. There were those in Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda. Unfortunately the list in this century is all too long. For that reason it is important to have this recognition. A question we all must ask in the complicated world in which we live, a question posed in the New Testament, is who is my neighbour?
The neighbour of yesterday were Armenians and the neighbour of a nearer yesterday was the Jewish population of Europe. The neighbours of a recent time were those in Cambodia. The neighbours of a more recent time were those in Rwanda and in Bosnia.
If we lose sight of our common humanity we lose sight of what we are here to do as politicians. In so doing, we must not lose sight that we operate within a historical continuum, a historical framework and an institutional framework. It behoves us as members of Parliament to ensure it operates in this modern world. That is the reason I support the amendment.
We need international institutions. We need a United Nations system, which the parliamentary secretary spoke of. I am proud to support the government, which has been actively pursuing a United Nations system which will ensure this does not happen again. Our troops are in Bosnia in support of the reason the government believes genocide should not be allowed to occur.
It is not right for the Bloc Quebecois to say the government does not wish to address the issue of genocide. We are committing the resources of Canada, much to the criticism of the Reform Party, to ensure the stability of places in the world, to ensure this type of event cannot occur again. We have committed troops to Haiti to ensure this will not happen again. These are concrete measures which address this problem and which we must deal with. That is one aspect of the problem.
Another is the aspect of an institutional framework of world government. We lack a legal system which would enable us to say that such and such a group is guilty of genocide and the ability to punish and deal with it. We are reaching toward that. It is still in an embryonic position.
This issue was debated at Nuremberg. When I taught public international law I taught the Nuremberg trials as establishing principles of international law. One must recognize those principles were forged at the end of the second world war by the victorious parties and imposed on the losing party in the conflict and as a result lack that universality which has subsequently developed since the second world war. We in Canada have played
our part in developing those principles which we can now look to for protecting human rights.
My colleague, Professor Humphreys at McGill University, was one of the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Thousands of Canadians have by their actions, in military actions such as IFOR and other military actions I spoke of earlier and in less dramatic situations, working at the United Nations, working in international commissions, sought to develop rules of law which will enable us to deal with the issue before us today.
We must develop that issue. We must develop an international criminal court. I wish the Bloc Quebecois would address that issue. What lesson can we take from Armenia? The lesson that we must take is that we need international institutions, legal institutions which can deal with these issues.
These are the things which modern Armenians and modern Turks and modern Canadians will thank us for, not seeking to condemn and turn a question of language into something which looks like a form of a political manoeuvre when what we all are trying to do is address an issue which is of real distinct importance to every member of the House, which is how to craft modern institutions which respond to the needs of a modern world and can assure that this type of event can never happen again.
I hope the criminal court which has been established in respect of Bosnia and which a learned judge from my province has joined as a prosecutor will contribute toward that process. I hope we might in the House one day debate the possibility of having similar laws as they have in the United States where civil actions may be brought in the courts of the United States based on human rights violations elsewhere.
We have much work to do as parliamentarians. We should attend to that work. The parliamentary secretary said in all frankness to the question asked of him about Turkey that he could not answer what Turkey would say on the issue of genocide. That is for Turkey to answer.
We can answer for ourselves about what we believe in terms of the institutional framework of the world in which we operate and what we can do as politicians to ensure terrible tragedies of this nature do not occur.
That will be the greatest contribution we can make to our fellow Armenian citizens and those Armenians living in Armenia today. That is the greatest means whereby we can show our respect for the meaning of this resolution, by not seeking to argue about the terminology of it, recognizing it as a fact and turning our attention to ensuring this can never happen again, or at least if it does happen that there is a world order in place which will enable us as Canadians to participate in that and prevent it.
There is a complicated subject to raise, but something I think is worth saying in the House. Every issue of this nature has a resonance within ourselves. We are not perfect in this country. We have had our problems, human rights problems. We have evolved and will continue to evolve in respect of it. We have developed a country with a charter of rights which guarantees individual rights. That is an extremely important part of our tradition and our contribution to the international framework of which I spoke.
We have developed federal institutions which respond to the needs of collectivities in different parts of the country which have control over those events which are close to them and at the same time a federal government which assures the charter and general rules and principles may be applied equally and fairly across this land.
I look at that and at what we have crafted over the years. Our federal institutions are among the best guarantees Canadians have that this type of event could never occur here. Remember, this occurred in a unitary state that lacked the checks and balances of many jurisdictions which could deal with this type of issue.
Therefore, I suggest to members of the Bloc Quebecois that when they bring forward a motion like this and want to know the lesson of the Armenian tragedy, that one lesson is the creation of modern political institutions with human values and with sufficient responses to the needs to deal with them. That is what I suggest has been done in our federal institutions and it is one reason why this country is so respected and why it is a great country in which to live. It is respected by everyone.
I know that my time is limited. I would like to say in closing that the amendment proposed by the government is not only consistent with the Bloc Quebecois' basic motion but it also introduces the much broader notion that respect for human rights must enjoy universal recognition. This respect also introduces the notion that our country is based on tolerance and multiculturalism. It is a federal state that guarantees respect for all its citizens, whether they come from Armenia or any other country.