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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was accused.

Topics

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, this government has adopted a double standard with respect to public inquiries. It was keen to investigate the murder and cover-up in Somalia when it thought it was a Tory scandal, but as soon as the inquiry started to get close to former deputy minister Bob Fowler, the Prime Minister's friend and golfing buddy, all of a sudden it lost its enthusiasm.

It was okay when Justice Krever's investigation was examining Tory complicity with the tainted blood scandal, but when Krever wanted to examine why the Liberal government in 1984 ignored the early warning signs about tainted blood, the government started throwing legal obstacles in his way.

How can Canadians trust this government when it has two sets of ethical standards, one for Liberals and their friends and the other for everybody else?

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member referred to my golf buddy. I never played golf with him. Perhaps in the middle of the night in January in Yellowknife I did, but I do not remember.

The Minister of National Defence took this matter seriously. We had this inquiry for two years and the leader of the third party, as the Minister of National Defence yesterday so rightly said, was the one pleading with us to terminate that as quickly as possible so that we will not have anything to hide by the time of the election.

So we are responding. The Minister of National Defence is doing his best to fulfil the request by the leader of the third party but the leader of the third party has again done a flip-flop.

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the issue here is not parties or statements. The issue here is public trust. The thousands of tainted blood victims in the country and their families trusted the blood system and it failed them. They trusted the government to find out why and now the government is failing them. Their trust has been abused.

Instead of acting in the best interests of the victims of the blood system, the government tried to block Justice Krever in the courts and attempted to circumvent his findings with a parallel investigation. What is worse, the Prime Minister has now put the blood system in the hands of a minister who has already abused the public trust over highway funding.

Why should tainted blood victims trust this government to fix the blood system? Why should they trust a minister who has violated the public trust before?

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia

Liberal

David Dingwall LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the preamble of the hon. member's question with regard to the blood system in this country. Notwithstanding his desire to give the impression to Canadians from coast to coast that the blood system somehow lacks the confidence of Canadians, I wish to assure the House and Canadians that our blood system does have the confidence of Canadians from coast to coast.

Finally, I say to the hon. member opposite that if the hon. member wishes to put words to action, why does he not have the guts to run against me in an election campaign?

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

It seems today we have taken a few terms in anatomy that we are trying to use time and again. I would go to the hon. member for Calgary Southwest.

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister gives an arrogant and an unfeeling answer to a question about tainted blood. It is the type of answer that got the Prime Minister into all that trouble on the TV town hall meeting. It is the type of response that is considered so clever in this House and applauded by members opposite but which if repeated outside this House to the suffering families of the victims of tainted blood would be denounced by every compassionate Canadian as callous, unfeeling and-

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

When will this minister and this government start to respond to the tainted blood tragedy in a way that restores public trust rather than destroys it?

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia

Liberal

David Dingwall LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite forgets that it was this minister and this member in opposition who requested and pushed the previous government to have an inquiry into the Canadian blood system.

Furthermore, we have been trying to work co-operatively with provincial governments, consumers and stakeholders across this country to put in place a new system which would ensure that the past would never happen again.

I have said privately and I have said publicly, in this House and outside this House, that I accept and have acted on all the recommendations that the eminent Justice Krever has made. We

look forward to having his report so that we can do follow-up in terms of the various measures he wishes to recommend.

Public InquiriesOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I wonder, my colleagues, if I could ask you to tighten up a bit on the questions and on the answers.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

February 4th, 1997 / 2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

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

By gagging the commission of inquiry on Somalia on very questionable grounds, the government is actually challenging the independence of the commission and discrediting, in a way that is unprecedented, the whole system of commissions of inquiry in this country. And in doing so, it prevents the public from ever knowing the whole truth about the matter.

Could the minister tell us whom the government is protecting in this case? Its acting chief of staff, vice-admiral Murray; its ambassador to the UN, Mr. Fowler; its ambassador to NATO and former chief of staff, John Anderson; its senior officials or senior ranks within the Department of National Defence or the minister himself?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to realize that the process which has been going on for nearly two years will in fact go on until the end of June.

I am convinced that the report that will be produced by the commissioners will be of the utmost importance to the government and to Canadians in general.

We have no intention and, in fact, no reason to protect anyone at all. We have to make a decision, on behalf of the government, that allows us to proceed with changes in the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence, to ensure that in future they will work far more effectively, in a far more acceptable fashion.

We are fully aware of the problem that arose in Somalia and of what has happened since Somalia. What interests the vast majority of Canadians is that we find solutions instead of continuing-

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Rimouski-Témiscouata.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is muzzling the commissioners. It refuses to even consider a possible extension. In so doing, it puts witnesses in a situation where they can afford to be arrogant, since they know that after June 30, everything will be over with.

Does the minister realize that by acting this way, he is making a gesture without precedent in Canadian history, one that will have consequences, because so far, no Canadian government ever denied a commission of inquiry an extension of its mandate? How can the public be expected to have any confidence in the inquiry system from now on?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asked a very good question. Every member of this House will at some time have to consider the following: when we appoint a commission, are we supposed to let the commission go on working in perpetuity?

The government has already agreed to three requests for an extension of the committee's mandate. In this case, the commission was supposed to finish its work by March 30, but it was given an extension for the study component until June 30.

Even if the hon. member does not understand, Canadians who are following the situation understand perfectly well why the government made this decision.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence says that he does not need a full report now from the Somalia inquiry because he already knows the facts. Since he knows so much about what really happened, will he answer this quiz question about these two Liberal patronage appointees: former deputy minister Robert Fowler and former chief of defence staff John Anderson were involved in a high level cover-up in the Somalia affair, true or false?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member yesterday took issue apparently with how I answered some of her questions. I just want to make sure that I understand, as we continue with this inquiry that she is conducting, whether the hon. member wishes to step outside the House and make any allegations she may wish to make out there with respect to any alleged wrongdoing she may be aware of.

I would point out to the hon. member that the deputy minister to whom she refers was appointed to that position by the previous government. The incidents that occurred in Somalia occurred under the previous administration. The appointment to which she refers, that of the deputy minister, is certainly not one that was made by this government. It was the responsibility eventually, of the person who became the Prime Minister of this country in the previous administration.

Maybe the hon. member might want to consider carefully any allegations she may wish to make and to make sure that whatever she says in here that she has the intestinal fortitude to say outside.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, if Fowler had not been shipped off to the United States we probably would not even have needed the Somalia inquiry in the first place.

Since the minister obviously cannot say, in that long answer when I just asked him for one word, that these two Liberal appointees were not involved in a cover-up, and since the minister has shut down the inquiry that would have gotten to the bottom of this and told us the truth, does the minister not realize that he is directly responsible for hiding the truth? How can we trust his bravado which is his own real cover-up for bungling?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

The Speaker

In posing questions hon. members should not in any way impute motive. I would hope that this slant might better better worded, the questions might be better worded in future. If the hon. minister wants to answer it, I will let him.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, let us see if we can give this a fresh start.

Part of the problem we are all grappling with-and I know that Eaton's always play an important role in this-they like guarantees and it is satisfaction guaranteed or money back at Eaton's. So let us see if we can get it straight now.

Again referring to Hansard , I want to know if the hon. member who just posed this question agrees or not, because she likes yes or no answers. Does the hon. member agree with her leader, yes or no, that he wanted the Prime Minister of Canada to ensure that there was no ultimate cover-up in the Somalia inquiry and that the results of the inquiry would be made fully public before the next federal election? Or does the hon. member not expect the next federal election in this century?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister promised that the Somalia inquiry would get to the bottom of all this. They have once more broken their promise by imposing a deadline on the commissioners. The minister tells us there have already been three extensions. If the army had not tried to conceal the documents, there would have been no need for an extension.

By muzzling the commissioners, is the government not interfering politically in a judicial process? In other words, is the government not acting both as judge and jury in this case?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that, as I see it, when a commission asks for an extension the first time, it is okay for the government to say yes. At least I hope that was the case.

They ask for a second extension, and the government says yes. That is entirely above board. It is not interference, and everything is okay. They ask for a third extension, and the government says yes. But when the government adds: "However, we want you to finish your work by a certain date", in that case, it is interference.

Is it interference when we say no but not when we say yes? If that is the case, why ask for an extension in the first place, if it should be automatic, according to the hon. member?

We must have some logic here. If people ask for an extension, they should realize that the answer may be yes or no, or yes with an extension but with a deadline set by the government.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister says he granted an extension because he saw a number of requests. The commissioners asked for extensions because there were a lot of things they did not see. They were concealed by the army. Obviously, if there had been no concealing, there would have been no request for an extension.

The Minister of National Defence said a few months ago that he wanted to know about everything that happened in Somalia. He may have heard some very important news, so important he no longer wants to know everything.

I want to ask the minister whether, when he made his decision, he was perhaps thinking about the next election campaign, and whether the true intentions of the Minister of National Defence were to ensure that what comes out of this report will be only what happened under the Conservative government and then to conceal from the public what happened under this Liberal administration?

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, no, this is not about trying to conceal or bury anything whatsoever.

What is important in my mind, and I hope it is in the minds of Canadians, is that we must proceed so as to ensure that the Government of Canada takes steps to prevent such situations from recurring in future.

Regarding what happened in Somalia, the two incidents that occurred within a rather short time frame, everyone is aware that these elements were very carefully examined by the commission. We never required the commission to follow a schedule set by the

government. We refrained from suggesting who should be heard as witnesses.

When the commission has finished its work, it will be able to make recommendations and reach any conclusions it feels appropriate, and the government is committed to take these into consideration.

Somalia InquiryOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Bob Mills Reform Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have direct allegations that Robert Fowler and General Anderson shredded important documents relating to the murder investigation of Shidane Arone, and that Mr. Fowler did not keep Kim Campbell informed during this entire thing. But the Prime Minister protected his friends, appointed them to positions outside of the country and now he is trying to bury the inquiry before we find the smoking gun.

Will the Prime Minister explain this abuse of trust?