Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to conclude the debate on my Motion No. 31.
The motion is designed to try to allow Parliament to have more control, more discussion and more open debate on the sending of our troops on peacekeeping missions. It is not intended to be against peacekeepers, to say that we do not do a good job, or to say that Canadians are not behind it. This is a motion simply to provide accountability for decisions that are made.
Even though peacekeeping is one of the most important aspects of our foreign policy, the Prime Minister and the other elites in the government do not want Parliament to truly participate in the making of decisions. They want to have sham debates or no debate at all. They refuse to allow parliamentarians access to crucial mission information until the dye is cast. They refuse to allow members a vote on whether the peacekeeping mission is in the interest of our country or the interest of our troops.
A perfect example of this disregard for Parliament occurred just a few weeks ago when the government leaked to the press the fact that we would be staying in Haiti for the next five years. There was no consultation. There was no mention of cost. There was no mention of the best interest of our troops.
It was just another unilateral decision by the government. Even though the Minister of Foreign Affairs promised to consult he broke his promise. Even though the minister assured Canadians "when Haitian President Préval was here, he indicated a very strong interest in having the international presence of the UN force and the Canadian force end as soon as possible", guess what. He did not mean that either. Even though Canadian taxpayers have already paid over $430 million for this mission, we now find out there is no end in sight. No wonder the federal debt is $600 billion.
It is not true that committee has the opportunity make the decisions and debate the issues. I use as an example the mission to Zaire which was decided on a weekend. In fact, the member for Rosedale and I heard from a news reporter that the decision had been made for the Zaire mission. We were not consulted. There was no opportunity for Parliament to make a decision.
To say that we need 24 hour decision making, I again use the example of Bosnia. The situation there has gone on for hundreds of years. There was no panic to make a decision.
The situation in Haiti of the dictatorship has gone on forever. I was in Rwanda in 1985 and I knew there was a problem. There was lots of time for Parliament to debate it, two years to make a decision. I mentioned Zaire. That problem did not just pop up overnight. Very seldom will that argument hold any water. If it did there would be ways to deal with it by way of an amendment to the motion.
The issue of peacekeeping goes far beyond the issue of money. It goes to the lives of our Canadian troops, their parents and the lives which could be lost or shattered by crippling injuries. When we send our soldiers abroad we are asking young men and women to take a serious risk for the country. They could be shot, taken hostage, blown up by land mines. There are numerous examples of this.
For the sake of these soldiers, we in Parliament must ensure that the government is not being irresponsible in its decisions to participate in these missions. It cannot be because the Prime Minister watched CNN and made a decision on a weekend. We must not let the government rubber stamp missions where lives will be lost. We must accept responsibility as legislators and demand a full debate will all the information on the table.
Only after the debate, when we know the risks, the mandate, the rules of engagement, the duration and the cost, can we decide if the mission should go forward.
Then we must hold a free vote. A free vote is critical because it forces individual members to assume responsibility for the safety of our soldiers. When young men and women from our ridings are going to a war zone or a country where government has broken down, we owe it to them to find out the facts for ourselves. The lives of Canadians are more important than pride, the party or the government.
In conclusion, when we vote on the motion each of us will make a choice for which we should be held accountable. Our choices will show Canadians what we think is most important, the lives of our soldiers or what the party brass says.
I will end here and let the vote speak for itself so that Canadians from coast to coast can see where their members stand when it comes to the lives of our soldiers.