Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about Canada's security policy, more specifically about the tabling of the sixth annual report on the export of Canadian military goods.
However, before I get to this last topic, I would like, first of all, to say a few words about the extremely cavalier manner in which this government, and more specifically the Department of Foreign Affairs, have acted, given the circumstances surrounding this debate.
Once again, the opposition parties and the official opposition to which I belong were not advised until the very last minute that a debate on Canada's security policy had been scheduled in the House. In light of this fact, it is extremely difficult for our political party and for the other parties represented in the House to perform their duties properly since we cannot prepare ourselves in advance. If the minister truly wants thoughtful, cohesive and lively debates to take place in this House, then he must give parliamentarians sufficient time to prepare themselves.
Unfortunately, the same thing happened in the case of the debate on renewing the mandate of Canadian peacekeepers in Bosnia. There again, the government failed to notify the opposition parties or the official opposition until the very last minute, despite the fact that this was a matter of utmost importance. Indeed, the debate centred on whether or not the government should renew the mandate of our peacekeeping forces stationed in a hostile theatre of operations. We deplore the attitude taken by the government here, as it does not appear to have learned anything from that unfortunate incident.
The situation is even more regrettable given that the new Minister of Foreign Affairs had shown some sensitivity and openness toward opposition members by giving them adequate time to prepare for the debate on Canada's peacekeeping mission in Haiti. In addition to notifying us in advance of the debate and of the motion to be debated, the minister invited us to attend a briefing on the subject and gave us more than enough advance notice. It would
now appear that this was nothing more than a chance occurrence on the part of this government and that improvisation has now become once again the order of the day.
I must also deplore the fact that the government is asking us to speak about an annual report on which we have yet to lay our eyes. How can we properly comment on a report which only the minister and his officials have seen? The official opposition has an important role to play in a democracy. However, it must be allowed to properly assume this role. Unfortunately, we see that once again, the government was unwilling to or did not take the necessary steps to allow us to properly take on our role. Otherwise, it would have given us the chance to read and comment in advance on the report on the export of Canadian military goods. Is this not what we are doing here in the House today?
Furthermore, the minister even took the liberty of giving the National Press Club of Canada a sneak preview of his speech earlier this morning, before the House even had a chance to hear it. What a paradoxical attitude to have toward Parliament, an institution that the minister professes to respect and whose opinions he claims to value.
However, I cannot remain silent when our work is made even more challenging by virtue of the fact that the federal government, which prides itself on being the champion of official bilingualism, displays shocking arrogance by sending us the foreign affairs minister's speech in English only. This reflects a blatant lack of respect for my political party as well as for all francophone parliamentarians in the House. The message the federal government has conveyed to the francophone population is therefore one of contempt.
I demand that the minister give us his assurances that this intolerable situation will not occur again in future.
Regarding the sale of Canadian military goods abroad, it should be noted that in 1994, sales to third world countries increased by 40 per cent, setting a new record. In fact, sales to developing countries rose from $242.2 million 1993 to $342.6 million in 1994, an increase of over $100 million.
Canada managed to increase its share of the market at a time when other global arms suppliers were experiencing a general decline in sales. It will be interesting to see whether Canadian arms sales to developing countries will have registered another increase in 1995.
Yet, the minister mentioned in his speech that exports of Canadian military goods had declined by 12 per cent in 1995. Despite the decrease, sales of arms and of Canadian military goods to developing countries remain very strong.
In fact, they remain so strong that the U.S. Congressional Research Service, the leading authority on the transfer of conventional arms to developing countries, ranks Canada seventh among all third world arms suppliers for the years 1991 to 1994. This agency estimates that Canadian arms sales to developing countries totalled $800 million over this four year period.
Moreover, it should also be noted that in 1994, Canada sold some of these military goods to countries with repressive regimes guilty of systematic human rights violations. Unfortunately, this is happening despite government guidelines aimed at curbing exports of this nature. The government was either unable or unwilling to stop the sale of military goods to these countries.
How can the Minister of Foreign Affairs be proud to announce to us that Canadian arms sales declined by 12 per cent this year, when the 1994 annual report on the export of military goods shows an increase of 48 per cent over the previous year? This means that, compared to 1993, Canadian arms sales are up 36 per cent. Those are the real figures.
The Bloc Quebecois is not opposed to trade. Quite the contrary, in fact. However, when it comes to arms sales, we believe that we must remain vigilant in the face of the Liberal government's choices.
In this case, we know for a fact that military goods produced in Canada are not always used advisedly. For example, in 1994 Canada sold $1.2 million worth of arms to Indonesia. Yet, we know that this country has been illegally occupying East Timor for the past 20 years and has been responsible for over 200,000 deaths, according to Amnesty International.
How can we believe that the goods produced here were not used to put down this country's population? How can the minister claim that he is toughening his criteria in order to draw up a list of countries that can purchase arms from Canada? What the minister is not saying is that arms sales to Thailand increased from $620,000 in 1993 to $20.621 million in 1994.
Nonetheless, it is ironic to hear the Minister of Foreign Affairs give us an overview of his government's record of arms sales to foreign countries, when as recently as last year, this same government was seriously negotiating the sale of its fleet of 63 CF-5 fighter aircraft to Turkey.
I even put a question about this issue to the minister of defence in March 1995. Need we remind the House that the Turkish air force and artillery were pounding civilian Kurds in northern Iraq at that very moment?
Even though Canada ultimately sold 13 of its fighter aircraft to Botswana, the mere fact that it even dared to negotiate the sale with
Turkey is reprehensible. There was reason to be concerned that these fighter aircraft would be used to bomb civilian targets. The Bloc Quebecois refuses to compromise where this issue is concerned.
The minister also talked about antipersonnel mines. I would simply remind the House that the Bloc Quebecois members have expressed only partial satisfaction with the announced moratorium on the production, export and operational use of antipersonnel land mines.
Admittedly, the moratorium is a step in the right direction. However, in our view, the government missed a golden opportunity to show some leadership by refusing to destroy its own stocks of land mines.
The Bloc Quebecois believes that Canada should take the lead in destroying these weapons.
Nevertheless, I do want to say that the Bloc Quebecois wholeheartedly supports Canada's participation in UN mine clearing operations in many countries. Canada must spare no effort to help toughen up the restrictions on the use of land mines, until such time as these are completely eliminated from the world's arsenal of weapons.
On the subject of arms exports, I would like to remind the Minister of Foreign Affairs of his government's profligate spending on arms, particularly at a time when it has no qualms whatsoever about slashing blindly at the expense of most disadvantaged of all to make up part of its annual financial deficit.
Simply as an example, consider the defence department's recent decision to purchase 1,600 new anti-tank missiles at a cost of $23.6 million. This brings the total cost of the procurement program to over $230 million.
One has to wonder what the army did with the first 4,500 missiles it ordered in 1993. Why did the government order an additional 1,600 missiles when it never really had any use for the ones it ordered in the first place?
I can understand that we need to be prepared, just in case. However, I would remind the minister that it is time for his government to stop imagining enemies hiding behind every bush, to stop making preparations for war and to put a end to costly and unjustified large-scale procurement programs.
This government's stubborn insistence on purchasing new submarines, the usefulness of which has never been proven, speaks volumes about its logic.
On the one hand, the government is quick to purchase useless military toys while on the other hand, because of cutbacks, the level of government assistance to the poorest nations will be the lowest it has been in nearly 30 years.
An OECD report released in Paris yesterday shows that the level of official development assistance fell by 7 per cent last year in Canada to .39 per cent of GNP, whereas internationally, the level was .7 per cent of GNP.
Canada's contribution has not been so paltry since 1969. This is deplorable.
In conclusion, it is my hope that the new guidelines announced by the minister this morning for the export of military goods will be applied much more stringently and consistently, something which we have grown accustomed to since the government took over the reins of office.