That this House take note of the dire humanitarian situation confronting the people of Kosovo and the government's intention to take measures in co-operation with the international community to resolve the conflict, promote a political settlement for Kosovo and facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees.
Mr. Speaker, let me express my thanks to members of the House for granting the opportunity for this special debate on the situation in Kosovo.
It is a difficult and troubling time as we watch a tragedy unfold in that part of the world. It is one in which I believe Canadians are deeply engaged in seeing how we can try to find a solution. The immediate issue we face of course is the imminent danger to the life and well-being of tens of thousands of people in that area.
The Yugoslav government has a long history of its involvement. It is important to point out that in the late 1980s, 1989 to be exact, it withdrew the autonomous status that Kosovo had enjoyed with the former Yugoslavia. This gave rise to an insurgent movement and after nearly a decade of political repression, it has resulted in open fighting.
We can understand and perhaps could even have accepted the Yugoslav government's need to preserve its own internal security and to defend its borders from outside, which it says is the roots of its campaign of mass military action that it launched last February and March. But it is clear and obvious to anyone who looks at what is taking place that the Yugoslav government has gone way beyond anything that can be justified in terms of those set objectives.
The brutal tactics of the Yugoslav authorities in countering the Kosovo Liberation Army have included shelling civilian populations, burning homes and crops, and the execution of innocent civilians. A couple of quite tragic examples will suffice to make the point.
Just one week ago diplomatic observers visited the village of Gladno Selo, which means hungry village in our language. Virtually every house in that village had been destroyed. No furniture or possessions remained anywhere. It was flattened to the ground. There was no trace of any of the inhabitants of that village.
On the same day villagers in the Vranic area said that an indiscriminate Yugoslav offensive had started a few days earlier with artillery and then infantry backed by mechanized weapon vehicles. Twenty thousand villagers were reportedly driven from their homes into the mountains.
The next day the military informed the villagers that it was safe to return. As their convoy began to work its way back to the village, police, army and others stopped, attacked, searched and looted the convoy. The charred remains of 150 vehicles were later observed along the road to Vranic. Clearly, many people paid the price with their lives.
It is very clear. Canada and the communities must reject terrorism as a means of obtaining independence for Kosovo. We have stated clearly that the solution for Kosovo is independence within Yugoslavia. No peace is possible in the Balkans if the borders can be changed by force.
We invested a lot to prevent that in Bosnia. No one in Canada and in the international community supports the use of violence to achieve political ends.
We have even less tolerance for the actions of the Government of Yugoslavia, which controls the military, paramilitary and police forces, which in turn are using the government's artillery, tanks and planes to subdue its own people.
There are times when we have to look at the rules that guide us. There are precedents, conventions, covenants, agreements, documents and treaties, but oftentimes those have to be weighed against the sheer weight of humanity and the suffering that goes along with it.
Clearly, in this case we have the making of a major humanitarian disaster. Aid agencies report that close to 300,000 people have been displaced as a result of the actions of militarists in Yugoslavia and Kosovo. Thirty thousand have become refugees in surrounding countries. The remainder are displaced persons within the republic of Yugoslavia.
We also know that in that part of the world winter is soon approaching. It is just a matter of days before the snow arrives and upward of 50,000 people are living without any form of shelter. I do not think we can afford to wait until they are frozen on the hillsides to resolve to do something, to draw the line on the actions of the government that has made them flee in the first place and put them in this untenable situation.
I want to say that from the outset Canada has attempted to mobilize and energize international action. Last summer we underwent a quite substantial diplomatic campaign in capitals around the world to try to get the United Nations Security Council engaged directly in this issue, with some degree of success. It was through those urgings that the security council, which had lain dormant on this issue for a long period time, began to meet.
I also wrote directly to Russian foreign minister Primakov reminding him that as a permanent member of the council and a privileged partner with the Belgrade government, Russia had a special role to play in putting effective pressure on Milosevic.
As many members will recall, when we had the meetings of the G-8 summit in London and Birmingham last spring, there had been a direct commitment by the Russian government to intercede with Milosevic, to ask for the kind of response on the humanitarian basis that was required. As I said, they have that special access. We have made a particular effort to try to have the Russians live up to that kind of commitment and to use whatever special offices they may occupy with the Belgrade people.
I have also just recently repeated the same message to the new foreign minister, Ivanov, just before he travelled to Belgrade this weekend.
I would also like to report that we also sent our special envoy to Belgrade and to Kosovo over this past weekend to begin to undertake direct Canadian representations within that area itself, but not with a great deal of success.
I think these actions are clearly reflective of the combined actions of many other countries that have been introducing envoys, making representations and trying to get a peaceful, political reconciliation or resolution to this dispute.
In September the security council adopted a resolution that demanded that Yugoslav forces cease attacking civilians and withdraw forces that were being used to oppress their population, that they should begin meaningful dialogue and negotiations with political leaders in Kosovo with a view to achieving a political settlement, that the Kosovars themselves, the KLA, refrain from violence and also come to the negotiation table, and that there be clear commitments to allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and freedom of movement for international observers.
At the same time, there has been an opportunity for organizations like the OSCE and others to send missions in. Again Canada has participated in observer missions within Kosovo in an attempt to provide an international presence and an opportunity to monitor these areas.
The United States government has made a variety of efforts, including one that is still ongoing with its special envoy to again try to come to grips with the Yugoslav government and the Kosovars to say that there are ways and means of resolving this and the international community is behind them.
It is clear that up to this point the Belgrade government has simply been playing a cat and mouse game with the rest of the world and has been toying with the lives of its own citizens. It has claimed that the Kosovo crisis is purely an internal affair, that there is no violation of human rights, and that it is simply responding to terrorist attacks. This is after close to 15,000 Kosovar refugees have already crossed the border into Albania.
When NATO ministers agreed to prepare a wide range of contingency plans to prevent a spillover into the neighbourhoods of Macedonia, President Milosevic again promised that mediation and peaceful activities would ensue. He had promised President Yeltsin in a widely publicized meeting that he would implement a plan of action so a group of observers could come to Belgrade to start talking about the return of the international community to the OSCE. He agreed to set up centres where displaced persons could seek help.
However, just to show the calumny that takes place, within two weeks of making that commitment, the Yugoslav army intensified shelling and pursued actions which pushed more people out of their homes and their villages. Police routinely denied any kind of access for international observers. Over the summer the tempo of aggression toward its own people had increased.
The Belgrade authorities had clearly decided two things. First, to uproot as many Kosovars as possible, torching their homes, destroying their livelihoods. The price of supporting the insurgents would become too great. It was an act of terrorism. Those the army and the police could not convince, the winter would. Second is very much the point of tonight's debate. It was clear they did not believe the international community would act so decisively to prevent this from happening.
When we look at this record of attempts and efforts to try to come to grips with the situation and the duplicitous responses from the government itself, we can see how those conclusions could be reached. The question is what are the choices and options before us. That is the point of the debate tonight and why we welcome the participation of members of parliament who are speaking on behalf of their constituents.
To focus that debate I turn back to resolution 1199 which was adopted in September and the demands that were made. At the same time those demands were clearly articulated, NATO, which is the only international organization that has the capacity to mobilize any form of international action in the area, also began to prepare plans for air intervention and to implement and look at the contingencies for those plans. As NATO countries identified their contributions, Belgrade again in its cat and mouse game began to moderate its behaviour.
Resolution 1199 has clearly called upon the Yugoslav authorities to meet a series of conditions. As the secretary general said in his report which was tabled on Monday, those conditions have not been met. He reported that there still continues to be violations of human rights, that there still continues to be transgressions against humanitarian principles and standards, and that any compliance is clearly far from complete.
While the security council continues to wrestle with its problems in trying to come to grips with this issue it is also important that the broader international community of which we are also members begin to look at how it can exert maximum pressure and follow through on the declarations that have been made. It is clear that the Belgrade authorities are not of a mind to negotiate willingly. They must feel the full weight and pressure of the international community to bring them to the table and find a solution. NATO is an important part of this effort.
I have urged NATO colleagues from the outset to look at the broadest possible range of contingencies they can take to promote a resolution with particular emphasis on having a proportionate response using the right modulated measure to suit the condition. NATO has prepared a number of actions to show Milosevic that he has gone too far and must change his ways. These plans include air strikes aimed at the capacity of the Yugoslav army and police to drive people from their homes and to try to use that in a selective way to show they cannot use these forces as a form of intimidation and terror against their own population.
I emphasize that NATO is also looking at ways in which it can create a more secure environment for displaced persons to return to their homes. As the NATO meetings continue to the end of this week we will continue to emphasize the importance of developing those plans and actions that can ensure proper treatment of the displaced persons and the access to humanitarian assistance. It is also clear that NATO must be ready to act. It is also clear that Canada must be able to contribute to its readiness to act. It is also clear that such actions do not come easy. They are difficult and they must be wrestled with. That is why it is very important that we use this opportunity to consult with the House.
I was at United Nations last week for several days, meeting with the secretary-general and I spoke to members of the security council, a body by which we hope some time tomorrow we will be accepted. In the meantime we can only make our representations. I expressed that it is preferable that the security council use its article VII mandate to give clear direction. It ought to do that but there is also another reality that one or two permanent members of the security council who hold the veto power have said they will refuse to give such a mandate.
That is a tough dilemma. I still expect that tomorrow or the day after there will be further attempts to have the security council come to resolution but if not and the veto is exercised or the security council itself does not take action, does that mean that we stop and give up and allow the humanitarian tragedy to unfold? That is a dilemma we have to face.
I want to give every assurance that we have made every effort on the phones, in the corridors and in the various embassies around the world the last several days doing everything we possibly can to find a way of ensuring these actions take place within the right context and the right frame. We still have to face the terrible tragedy that we may have to decide that without that clear mandate there is enough legitimacy in resolution 1199 already passed and the clear statement by the secretary-general that has not been complied with that we would have to contemplate other actions and other measures. These would be considered at NATO council meetings at the end of this week. It is one of those tough choices that have to be made by all of us in this setting. However, under these circumstances we must be reminded of the saying that all it takes for evil to triumph is that the good do nothing.
I am here in the House this evening to invite members to express themselves on this issue and give us the best of their judgments so that we can take into account, as we go through as a government some difficult decisions in the next three or four days. I hope members will remember that all it takes for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing.