House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was world.


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8:40 p.m.


Chris Axworthy NDP Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to take part in this take note debate and to consider the Government of Canada's intention to renew its participation in the NATO led stabilization force in Bosnia beyond June 1998 in order to maintain a safe environment for reconstruction and reconciliation and a lasting peace for the people of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

I agree. I think it is important that Canada maintain its force in Bosnia for the continuation of the kinds of work it has done already to help maintain stability and ensure that Bosnians have the opportunity to move forward into a more peaceful existence in the near future, the mid term and the long term. It is important that Canada continue to perform what is regarded by most in the world including most Canadians as a critically important function in contributing to a better world.

Canada has legitimately and for extremely good reason become well regarded for its peacekeeping and peacemaking role around the world. It is important that we continue to do that for the benefit of those in whose country we operate, in this case Bosnia since it is important that we do our bit to ensure peace is possible there. Bosnia and all the other hot spots around the world have an impact on Canada too. In order for us to live peacefully and constructively we need to ensure we play our role around the world.

To put these supporting words into context I will make some comments about the approach the federal government and Canada has traditionally taken with regard to the role of its armed forces. The auditor general and many within the armed forces have cast considerable doubt on the ability of Canada's armed forces to do the jobs they have been set to do. The main reason is that this House and the Canadian government do not have a clear view of what functions the armed forces should provide.

Without knowing where we are going it is very difficult to know what resources need to be made available to the armed forces to ensure their priorities are met. It is not clear to many Canadians what our priorities are with regard to our armed forces. The auditor general has quite rightly pointed out the difficulties this generates for the armed forces, not only for the front line personnel but for others who make important decisions. It is not clear what place new equipment, refurbished old equipment, or modernized equipment has because we are not sure what role we want our forces to play.

The international community has gone through a dramatic transformation since the end of the cold war. The end of the cold war marked the end of close to a century of strife in which the world was repeatedly torn apart by the varying rival military alliances of the great industrial and military powers. They were rivalries which brought us the two world wars and the cold war. During such an age it was often necessary to seek security in military alliances. It was equally true that the greatest temptation of such an age was to imagine that security was exclusively a matter of military strength and of participation in the collective security of military alliances.

The NDP and the CCF before it were among those internationalists who always argued that it was important to think of security as something broader and deeper than the security associated with collective military alliances. The CCF supported the view that danger was found not only in military threats but in the social and international tensions created by economic exploitation and inequality, by the international arms trade and by the manipulation of smaller states by great powers in their strategic rivalries with other great powers. That criticism continues to this day.

In the 1960s the NDP built on that CCF critique by adding the nuclear arms race to the list of security threats. By the 1980s global poverty, environmental degradation and widespread human rights violations were also seen by New Democrats and by progressive people around the world as essential elements of any risk assessment that Canadians interested in security matters should take into account.

The culmination of this perspective in international relations for the CCF and NDP was a foreign policy statement entitled “Canada's Stake in Common Security” prepared in 1988. It has been the basic thrust of the NDP's defence and foreign affairs policy since. The main framework of NDP policy was articulated in it.

Common security instead of traditional collective security is to be preferred and actively sought and modelled by a Canada that no longer sees itself primarily or even at all as a stakeholder in a collective alliance. Canada's real stake is in a world run according to the rules of common security. The paper of course is a little dated now, but its essence remains the same and might be argued to be more poignant.

A policy of global common security is surely crucial to human survival in the post cold war era. We must not put to rest the bipolar world of the cold war only to slip back into a multipolar world of competing regional if not ideologically based alliances, or regress to the international anarchy of the international system before the First World War. Neither should we assent to a unipolar scenario that would allow the Americans to assume the role of global policeman.

At the end of the cold war many Canadians had high expectations for the possibilities of building a common security. Many hoped that with the end of the horrifyingly surreal definition of international security as a nuclear balance of terror there would finally open up some real opportunities for an authentic conception of common security. Such a common security would continue to have a military dimension.

On the one hand, systems of mutual independent surveillance, global arms reduction treaties and military information sharing all integrated into a new global security architecture preferably under the auspices of a reformed and revitalized UN would have to be developed and maintained. On the other hand, governments could spend more on international development, poverty reduction and environmental protection and engage constructively in the democratic development of developing societies as a way of achieving genuine international security, rather than propping up so-called friendly authoritarian regimes as happened so often during the cold war.

Canada's New Democrats would want to mobilize this reservoir of hope for a common security, but we realize there are fundamental changes ahead. The end of the cold war has brought us a few welcome steps back from the brink of nuclear holocaust. The decades of addiction to grotesque levels of military spending and the obscene accumulation of weapons of mass destruction have left the world with a formidable hangover.

Nuclear weapons remain the single greatest threat to the future of the planet. A flourishing arms trade, of which Canada plays a part, ensures the world is still awash with military hardware. Millions of innocent people are threatened daily with a plague of anti-personnel land mines. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has played a major role in addressing this issue. This hangover takes the form not only of deadly war materiel, but also in the social conflicts left in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and other former communist states in Europe and in the breakdown of social peace in many African states.

At the same time the international community must respond to the changing technological and social faces of war. For the militaries of industrialized countries, new information technology is leading to the development of an array of new so-called smart weapons which are dramatically changing the dynamics of warfare on the battlefield. In many recent conflicts the social warfare is changing.

It is important that Canada play a major role in helping the international community find its way through the military dangers peculiar to the post cold war era and on building a democratic world order where communities and finally the global community can contain and shape the global marketplace to make it serve the common good.

In that regard, it is important that Canada's armed forces understand their role. The first call on Canada's defence policy and armed forces, as it is for any country, must be to guarantee the territorial integrity of the country. While we share the longest undefended border in the world with the United States, Canada's geography poses substantial challenges to the tasks of guaranteeing our territorial sovereignty and environmental integrity. Thousands of miles of coastline present challenges to the prevention of illegal hazardous waste dumping and so on.

It is important that Canada's armed forces are equipped to meet these challenges. The auditor general points out some problems in this regard. Canada needs to be able to fulfil that primary role, that of defending Canada's integrity.

Because of our commitment to NATO, Canada needs to be able to play our role in the trans-Atlantic security issues. That is why we are in Bosnia in the first place.

Before the NDP, the CCF supported the creation of NATO and Canada's membership in it from its inception and right throughout the 1950s. In the course of the 1960s many members of my party and many Canadians became increasingly critical of American foreign policy and of NATO's first use of nuclear weapons policy. They called into question the wisdom and legitimacy of Canada's membership in NATO.

What has added to that concern in the recent past is the almost complete domination of NATO by the United States. Were it the case that Canada was participating in Bosnia under the auspices of the United Nations, we would have absolutely no reservations at all. But I think everybody is saddened by the fact that this has to take place under the auspices of NATO and is largely then seen as an American driven operation.

We have to ensure that we strengthen the United Nations. We also have to make sure that Canada works toward the abolition of nuclear weapons. We should also do our best to eliminate the international arms trade.

There are two things we have to pay attention to if we are going to focus on whether our armed forces have the tools to do the job. This comes with regard to peacekeeping in particular and also with regard to conflict prevention. I will say just a few words on each. Canadians are rightly proud of Canada's record as a leading participant in UN peacekeeping missions and want to build on past and present experiences.

The tragic incidents in Somalia show the need for vigilance and the maintenance of professionalism in the military and civilian leadership of Canada's armed forces. The government has been rightly criticized for the way in which it handled the Somalia inquiry, for cutting it short and for not carrying out all of the recommendations of the Somalia inquiry. It is crucial that as Canada works its way through this period that the Canadian public has confidence in the integrity of the relationship between the civilian and military leadership in Canada's armed forces.

As Canada fashions its military policies to support the peacekeeping missions we are so often called upon to make, it is important to distinguish between the variety of UN missions. They are often grouped together under the rubric of peacekeeping.

Often it is the case that Canadian military personnel find themselves not keeping the peace that is in place but bringing about peace among warring parties, as was the case in Somalia and which I think is a component in Bosnia too. In other situations military personnel are sent to secure food supplies and safe havens for civilians in the context of civil or international conflicts, which is plainly the case in Bosnia and in a number of other missions. In these situations of peacemaking and protecting civilians from conflicts in progress, the Canadian military will need to maintain armed forces equipped and trained to be combat capable.

Our military planning, so long attuned to the context of the cold war where peacekeeping was of secondary importance, must adjust to the primary importance of peacekeeping and peacemaking for our armed forces. It is important for this place and the government to make clear Canada's commitment to peacekeeping and peacemaking and following that to ensure there are the resources, the materiel and the personnel needed in order to appropriately fulfil that requirement.

Canada needs to play a stronger role in conflict prevention. Perhaps the Prime Minister's visit to Cuba this week is an indication of a commitment to that. Certainly it is an indication that we are prepared to be independent of the United States on this important issue.

As a leading contributor of personnel and resources to UN peacekeeping missions, Canada has a special responsibility to work for a just international order of common security which is geared to conflict prevention.

Preventing conflict means addressing the problems at their roots, encouraging democratic development and human rights, sustainable development to prevent resource depletion and an international economic order that will reduce inequalities and eliminate poverty. We have not done a very good job on these last matters. We have not made a major contribution in this area. Such a conflict prevention approach is not primarily a military matter but it is a question of prevention.

If we are to play our proper role in the world, we have to do our bit on the prevention side. We know from various issues at home, social programs, health care and unemployment, that we take prevention issues seriously. We should do that in the military too.

I have two final points to make. If we are to ask the Canadian Armed Forces to play these important peacekeeping-peacemaking roles, as I have said, we need to ensure that we have a clear vision of what those forces are intended to do. We need to back up that clear vision with resources in order to fulfil that vision.

At the moment we have neither the vision nor the resources to adequately fulfil the jobs we ask the forces to perform from time to time. That is my first point.

The second point I want to make is that it is becoming increasingly clear that the morale in Canada's armed forces is at an all time low. One of the things we surely cannot expect to do is to ask the men and women in our armed services to go into dangerous situations in circumstances in which their morale is low and in circumstances in which they feel they are not adequately appreciated.

A former vice-admiral, Chuck Thomas, has said “We put our troops in jeopardy when we don't give them enough money to support their families. Soldiers have never been rich but I have never seen anything like this”.

The defence committee is crossing the country and hearing on a daily basis of how difficult it is for soldiers and their families to make ends meet. Surely we cannot expect these men and women to risk their lives for the benefit of the world in a far off place unless we treat them well, unless we treat them better.

We recognize—and indeed the Minister of National Defence appears to have recognized it—that there is a serious problem which needs to be addressed. That is one thing. It is another thing to actually address it.

We have a situation in which our armed forces personnel are not feeling very confident about their role within their organization. They do not like the way they are treated, feel they are undermined economically and socially, and have some difficulty seeing why they should do what they are called upon to do when they are not adequately appreciated. Indeed a recent internal Canadian forces poll showed that 83% of the military has lost faith in the leadership. That is not a very good sign.

The last point I would like to make is with regard to the auditor general's report that was published today. It raises very serious concerns about the ability of our forces to function within present circumstances. He says, for example, that if the status quo persists the department's available capital funding may not be sufficient to equip and modernize the force that national defence is currently planning. He points out the roles that have been expected of the armed forces but calls for a significant refocusing of the mission and a reallocation of resources to do the job we are asking them to do today. He talks about declining funds for equipment modernization. He talks about the Canadian forces trying to cope with equipment deficiencies and shortages. He says that the army has difficulty keeping pace with technology and that the air force is facing obsolescence.

None of these things is designed to provide any confidence in the ability of our armed forces to do the job that is asked of them. We all know that those men and women will do the job that is asked of them, but are the government and the armed forces as a whole up to the task?

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9 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

David Price Progressive Conservative Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, this evening I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Chicoutimi.

I am pleased to speak today on the issue of whether Canadian troops should renew their participation in the NATO led stabilization force or what is better known as SFOR. Indeed my party, the party that when in government first ensured Canadian troops would participate in the former Yugoslavia under the UN banner, is in favour of the present government's intention to renew Canadian participation now under the NATO banner and beyond the current June 20 deadline.

Let there be no mistake about it. The debate we entered into tonight has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the Prime Minister is interested in the opinions of the other parties. It has everything to do with optics.

After this debate and when this issue is raised in the public eye the Prime Minister will surely declare that there was a debate in the House, that all parties took part and that everyone had a say.

That is not the case. For the record I would like to read the motion put forward by the government, the one we are debating this evening:

That this House take note of the intention of the Government of Canada to renew its participation in the NATO-led stabilization force—

“Take note of the government's intentions”. That is what we are doing tonight. This is an important debate and my party will make its voice heard.

The first point I will make is that this should not be a take note debate. If the government had courage it would make this a votable motion the way it should be. However the government has no courage and no understanding. If it had either, the Prime Minister would not have felt it necessary to make this evening's vote on whether to compensate all victims who contracted hepatitis C because of tainted blood a vote of confidence.

The Prime Minister of Canada is not confident that his government is doing the right thing. He does not have the courage to stand behind his government's decision. Instead he had to use the authority of the whip to put his party's government in line. That is not a courageous thing to do.

It is appropriate that I talk about courage tonight. If the men and women who will be affected by the government's policy to extend Canada's participation in SFOR have only one thing, it is courage. As we represent Canadians in the Chamber they represent Canada in uniform, carrying a gun and risking their lives in a far off place that many Canadians cannot even find on the map. They are armed with courage. I am sure they expect no less from the government they are serving.

Unfortunately the current government always disappoints in the department of courage. Did it take courage to whip government backbenchers into line for tonight's hepatitis C vote? No. Did it take courage last week when Canada abstained from a crucial United Nations vote condemning the forced recruitment of child soldiers in Uganda? No. Did it take courage for the Prime Minister to stand beside the Cuban dictator in Havana while he compared the current American embargo to the murder of six million Jewish lives during World War II's Holocaust and not say anything, not a word? No.

The government will always make excuses after the fact but it has never shown courage at the appropriate time. The foreign minister, an individual who while highly educated has not one clue about the lessons this century has taught, has since confessed that a mistake was made when Canada abstained from the UN vote. That is simply not good enough.

This is a fearful government that celebrates easy decisions and avoids the difficult ones. In fact the only reason we are here tonight is that the Prime Minister does not have the courage to stand up to the Canadian public and say bluntly that Canadians are staying in Bosnia longer than expected because if they do not stay we risk losing all that has been achieved.

Instead the Prime Minister will appear before the Canadian public and say that parliament decided to extend Canadian involvement. Even though it was the Prime Minister's decision—and by the way it was a good one—he does not have the courage to stand and say it was his decision just in case there are Liberals out there who might not agree with him. Instead he will hide behind tonight's meaningless take note debate.

When I said that if there were one thing Canadian soldiers would be bringing with them to Bosnia it would be courage, I did not mean to exaggerate. The government has cut the defence budget by 30% in the last five years. That is taking its toll. It is taking its toll on equipment and on training. As the defence committee travelled from base to base this spring we found that it was taking its toll on the simple quality of life that my party believes soldiers should enjoy.

Yet, while the government expects Canada's forces to jump when the Prime Minister gives the word and while the dedicated people who make up the Canadian forces will always respond when the government calls, the government abuses the forces. The government abuses the force's dedication to the country.

I cannot think of a more disgusting waste of talent and dedicated men and women than to abuse their dedication by not providing them with the equipment, training and resources they need to do their job.

If the government continues this trend of abusing the Canadian military there will come a time when the Prime Minister says “okay, boys, it's time to go” and the response will come “I am sorry, sir, but we can't perform that mission”.

The answer will come, not because they will not want to perform their particular mission, not because they do not want to come to the aid of Canada, but because their government has let them down and they no longer have the equipment to do the job. That day will come, sooner than one would think unless the government begins to show the smallest ounce of courage and do its most fundamental job, protect Canadians.

I urge the Prime Minister, as I am sure the current Minister of National Defence has done behind closed doors, to stop abusing the Canadian forces, to show some courage in leadership and to give them the resources they need to do their job, this time in Bosnia.

We have already heard tonight good reasons why Canada must extend its stay in Bosnia. Good work has been started and must continue. To leave now would be to abandon all that has been accomplished, but there is another reason that has not yet been pointed out in the Chamber. It was hardly mentioned.

This issue came before the committee in November. When I mentioned it at the committee to the NATO ambassadors they were frank with me. NATO is undergoing change. There will be three new member countries and, to his credit, the Prime Minister was on the right side of the issue when it came to expanding NATO. However, to be honest, NATO's role will have to be adjusted somewhat if it is to continue being effective in this post-cold war era.

The role of NATO and whether NATO should be expanded further or at all, or whether NATO should even exist, are issues that will continue to be debated. In fact they were being debated this week on the floor of the United States Senate.

It is not my intent to enter into that debate tonight, but it is important to note that while the world debates the current usefulness of NATO all eyes are on Bosnia and the current NATO forces there.

If NATO were to fail in its stated mission of implementing the Dayton accord, the voices of those who would have NATO disband will grow louder. For that reason and others mentioned here tonight, my party supports the decision already taken by the Prime Minister to renew Canada's participation in the NATO led stabilization force beyond June 20, 1998 in order to maintain a safe environment for reconstruction, reconciliation and a lasting peace for the people of Bosnia.

My party's only concern with tonight's take note motion is that the government expects Canada's soldiers to show more courage than it ever has. We should all be thankful that the men and women who wear Canada's uniform are up for the job.

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9:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Progressive Conservative Chicoutimi, QC

Madam Speaker, I am particularly grateful to my colleague for Compton—Stanstead and my colleague for Richmond—Arthabaska for sharing time with me.

I attached a great deal of importance to taking advantage of my presence in this House to make a few comments on the renewal of our Armed Forces commitment in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

First and foremost, this was because of my respect for our young military personnel serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, of whom we are very proud. We often see them coming to our assistance when there are natural disasters. My region of Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean has had the opportunity to benefit from their expertise, and above all has seen their devotion, during the recent disasters, not only in my region, but also in the Greater Montreal region and in the West.

Yet, when we see them helping out their fellow human beings in other countries, Bosnia in particular in the past few years, we tend to forget them. The time has come for all MPs to try to see the armed forces in a more positive light than they have in recent years.

If you have listened to all the speeches within this debate this evening, they indicate, I believe, that by far the majority of Canadian MPs agree there is a very serious problem within our armed forces.

Unlike my colleagues who have already spoken, I have not had the opportunity to visit our military personnel on the battlefields of Bosnia-Hercegovina. However, I particularly appreciated what these members shared with us this evening.

The common thread that runs through all these remarks, all the judgments that have been made, is that we cannot keep asking our military to do the impossible. Incredible efforts are demanded of our troops as part of NATO, both at home and abroad, to help foreign countries torn apart by terrible wars. In this context, be it only for peacekeeping, everyone agrees that it takes rather extraordinary courage to agree to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces outside Canada.

I know that the committee is currently travelling across the country. Some 25 military sites will be toured by our colleagues from all the parties represented in this House. I do hope that the committee's recommendations will not be left to gather dust on a shelf.

As my hon. colleague said, morale in our armed forces is indeed at its lowest. Unfortunately, it is not in a superficial, strictly routine debate like this one today that we will be able to make any real, significant contribution to the future of the Canadian Armed Forces. All tonight's debate is good for is to take note of the fact that the government intends to renew our commitment to peacekeeping within NATO.

After a few briefings on various Canadian bases, I figure the government must have gained some awareness of the kind of recommendations and suggestions the military make to us through the Standing Committee on National Defence. I want to congratulate all my colleagues on this committee. They visited the base in Bagotville, and that was greatly appreciated.

My colleague said that the climate is very unhealthy and, as we know, there is severe attrition within the Canadian armed forces. This attrition has its causes, and I think the committee will be able to make a harsh judgement on our attitude toward the armed forces.

It is not normal to continue to require incredible efforts of our troops who have to work very hard with foreign forces that are a lot better equipped than they are. We know we have the best soldiers in the world. They have to make unlimited efforts to be on the same level as soldiers from several other countries within NATO because those people are better equipped.

Several NATO countries throughout the world have made an important choice. Here, in the House of Commons, we have always been reluctant to make that choice. This is one rare occasion where almost all political parties without exception agree that it is not normal that we do not pay more attention to the quality of life of Canadian soldiers.

The defence budget was cut by 30 to 40% in recent years. Everybody supports rationalization. However, I think that, if there is an area that deserves a lot of consideration, it is the area related to our Canadian troops, who must carry out mandates that are extremely dangerous.

Obviously, everybody agrees that the quality of our equipment is at a minimum. We all know Canadian soldiers. The major regions of this country all have military infrastructures. One must listen to what these people have to say to realize how serious a deficiency there is in this area. I do not know if it is bad purchases or if priorities are not clearly identified, but the bottom line is that our soldiers are really not equipped to be part of such international forces.

It is the same for training and for salaries. Indeed, 20%, 25%, 30% and even 40% of pilots in certain squadrons leave and go to work in the private sector, because the difference in the working conditions is simply too great. It is not that our military do not enjoy their work, but in the end the difference in the quality of life in the armed forces and in the private sector becomes too great.

I think our young military personnel have taken much abuse from the federal government—including all previous governments. The time has come to have, here in the House, a constructive discussion on how we view the important role of our armed forces and the type of contribution we are prepared to make to allow them to be among the most effective in the world. We are currently asking the impossible from our armed forces.

During the last election campaign, our party suggested—and this was one of our major commitments—the creation of a special intervention unit, an elite corps that would have integrated members of the three branches of the forces, that is between 14,000 and 16,000 troops. This might have helped us to better prepare about one quarter of Canadian troops for international missions, and for missions in our own country.

One should make a careful reading of chapters 3 and 4 of the auditor general's report. Unfortunately, I do not have time to read the main excerpts, but the report stresses that Parliament should be able to determine whether DND's resources are adequate, given Canada's defence objectives. I took a rather close look at this report, and we should listen carefully to the auditor general's recommendations, regardless of our political affiliation. Our troops are being asked to do the impossible, both at personal and operational levels. I hope that the report of the standing committee will make all of us here more grateful to our military personnel for their services.

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9:20 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your recognizing me for the debate on this motion.

I want to read the motion because I think it is important to look at something in the wording. This is a government motion by the Minister of Foreign Affairs:

That this House take note of the intention of the Government of Canada to renew its participation in the NATO led stabilization force, SFOR, in Bosnia beyond June 20, 1998—.

Here we are almost in May. We are in a take note debate because the decision was made and announced some time ago. We are here debating whether Canada will carry on its commitment beyond June 20, 1998. Clearly this is a joke. Where is the planning horizon the government works on? It clearly is not there. It really does not plan things. I think that will explain some of the problems I will bring up in my presentation.

I will deal with three questions. First, can Canada deliver on the renewal of this commitment for six months and beyond?

Second, what will the price be if this becomes a very long term sustained commitment in Bosnia? What will the price be to the forces and to the men and women who serve?

Third, what must change so that Canada can deliver should Canadians choose to support it over the long term? That is what I will deal with in my presentation today.

I would like to comment on the debate itself and the fact that the debate is happening under these circumstances.

The first question is can Canada deliver. The answer is yes. Looking at a six month commitment, which is what this motion is about, and a force of 1,200 men and women then yes, Canada can deliver and it will deliver. We have men and women in Petawawa right now who have been training and preparing to leave in June. They will serve serve well and Canada will meet its commitment over the six month period.

If we are talking about a 10 to 20 year period which is probably what will be needed to stabilize the area then the answer is no, not with the lack of commitment the current government has shown to our forces and to the men and women who serve so well. It is no, not with the continued force of 1,200 or more which may well become what is needed if things escalate. That certainly could happen.

The answer is no, not with the current commitment Canada has in other parts of the world. The answer is no with the current lack of commitment to proper equipment that has been shown by this government. The answer is no, not with the ever reducing number of men and women in our forces.

The answer to whether Canada can deliver over the six month term, which we are debating today, is yes. It can and will. That is in spite of the level of commitment this government has to our forces, not because of it. It is because of the incredible men and women serving in our forces. That is something you learn as you travel from base to base in this country. The men and women in our forces are tremendously well equipped in terms of their personal abilities and are well trained and committed. There is no doubt about that. They will deliver because of what they are, not because of what they are given to work with.

What might the price be that our forces might pay if we end up indefinitely, six month term after six month term? Those of us who have travelled from base to base with the SCONDVA committee started to realize what the price might be.

The price is unacceptable in terms of what will happen to our forces and their ability to do what they should be doing, which is to defend the sovereignty of our nation, to be there in the case of natural disasters like the floods and the ice storms, and to be there to deal with civil unrest, which we have already seen in Oka and which we could well see in various parts of the country over the next years. I do not have the time to get into any detail on the price, but the price that we have seen manifests itself in several ways.

First, it manifests itself in terms of morale. Generally speaking, we have seen from base to base across the country that the morale of the men and women in our forces is not high. Further deterioration in morale could well be the price they pay. Families are being torn apart due to a lack of commitment, what has happened over the past years and what will happen if things do not change, if we maintain this kind of commitment overseas and here in Canada.

One thing was made clear. Men and women are happy to serve. When they are asked if they would like to go on a tour to Bosnia they say yes. They say yes for a couple of reasons. One, because they will get extra money which their families desperately need. Their pay levels are not sufficient. They say yes because they joined the forces to serve their country. This is an opportunity to do that. They say yes because they know the training they will receive in this area is second to none in making them ready to be a part of a combat-ready force which this country deserves and desperately needs to defend our sovereignty. They go for those reasons, in spite of the price that they and their families might and do pay. We have seen it.

The third concern I would like to raise is what must change so that Canada can deliver, if Canadians determine that is what should happen. Canadians have never been asked about this issue. I will talk about that when I wrap up, when I discuss this debate and the conditions under which it is taking place.

What is needed in very broad terms to change things so that Canada can deliver? Specifically, what must this government and future governments do to build a sustainable and top quality military?

First, they must show commitment to change in the structure of our forces and leadership. I am not saying that all the leadership in the Canadian forces is not good. Certainly, some of the men and women are top notch, as well as some of the leaders in our military. They must show this commitment to change, to change in leadership and to change in the structure of the forces, separating the military from the civil service branch.

Second, they must show commitment in terms of money. Spending on our forces has been reduced from about $12.5 billion, when I started looking at this in 1992, to $9.3 billion. It has been cut too much.

Third, the government must demonstrate two things. First, that it believes we need a strong combat-ready military. Second, that it believes the men and women who serve in our forces are doing a great job and that they are top quality. They must demonstrate that.

I would like to ask this question. When was the last time a prime minister in Canada said that our country, Canada, really needs our military and that the very existence of Canada depends on us having a good military?

When was the last time we heard a prime minister stand in this House or elsewhere to say that the men and women in our forces do a great job?

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9:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid that the hon. member's time has expired.

The hon. member for Toronto Centre—Rosedale.

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9:35 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, I have listened to the debate in the House this evening and it is very clear that the mood of the House is strongly in favour of extending the presence of our troops for a renewed mandate in Bosnia.

There is a great challenge to the world community taking place in Bosnia at this time. As we watch what is taking place in Kosovo we know how important it is for us to ensure that the mission in Bosnia is successful, that peace in eastern Europe depends upon it and that we Canadians are playing an important role in guaranteeing that peace, that security, that development of civic society that the Dayton Accords presage.

We listened to the NDP spokesman who said that the mandate which has been given our troops and the role that the government has provided is not clear. We heard a Conservative spokesperson say that the morale of our troops is low. We heard our Reform colleague just now say no to a commitment that would be too long.

I disagree with all of those opinions. I have had the honour of going to Bosnia and the honour of speaking to our troops there. They know what their role is. They have a high morale because the challenges they face each and every day are challenges which they have chosen to face. They have enormous responsibility, requiring military ability, but also human qualities, an ability to bring people together, to deal with sensitive political issues, to demine houses, to act at the staff level, to control movements and arrangements between some troops of some 23 nations which bring into play the best qualities of all Canadians: their bilingualism, their biculturalism, their multiculturalism, their tolerance, their ability to encourage people to act together and to work together.

What we are doing in Bosnia and the role of our troops in that process is extremely important. Let me just recall a few elements. In the first place there are the Bosnian elections. As members know the international community through OSCE has invested heavily in Bosnian elections as they are the instrument for the success of the entire peace process. Municipal elections held there in September 1997 were of great importance, given the extent to which power is decentralized in that area. Elections held in the Republic of Srpska on November 22 and 23 of 1997 established the first truly multi-ethnic government in Bosnia. In September of 1998, this year, general elections will take place, the second set to be held under the Dayton peace plan.

Canada's role in these elections has been important. We have assisted the OSCE with the technical preparations for the elections and we have committed over $6 million to this process. Our assistant chief electoral officer has participated along with other experts in forming groups necessary to assure the success of these elections. These elections will not be successful and indeed may not even take place if it is not for the presence of our troops and those of our allies in that area.

There is a second element. There are in the former Yugoslavia close de 3.2 million refugees and displaced persons as well as persons affected by the war who need help. Current conditions in Bosnia, both in terms of security and economy, make it difficult for refugees to return home.

Canada has been advocating a concerted effort to identify those who can and want to go home now so that they receive special attention and help on a priority basis. Our country provided close to $65 million during the war and in excess of $17 million in humanitarian assistance to the former Yugoslavia since the end of the conflict.

The presence of our troops is essential to the success of this operation.

There is a third element, which is the housing and the rebuilding of infrastructure in ex-Yugoslavia and in Bosnia. An estimated 50% of all housing units in Bosnia were damaged during the war and 6% were completely destroyed. Canada provides funding to the emergency shelter and materials fund of the United Nations and has provided emergency shelter throughout the former Yugoslavia. Under CIDA, Canada has established a special facility to assist Canadian construction firms active in the Bosnian and Croatian markets.

We have many NGOs which are active in ensuring housing there. Our troops not only ensure conditions of stability in which this rebuilding will take place, they also personally participate.

It was very exciting and interesting for us when we were there to see and talk to our troops. They have actually helped to clean up and repaint the hospitals and schools. They had worked on the hospital that we visited. The doctors were there when the hospital was re-opened. There was a sense of tremendous dedication on the part of the troops and a sense of tremendous gratitude on the part of that local community when they saw their hospital functioning again, thanks to the input of our troops and their ability to work on the side, in addition to their other heavy responsibilities, to achieve that and other goals.

The rebuilding and the infrastructure that needs to be replaced in Bosnia will be assured by virtue of the presence of our troops, not only by the security they provide, but by the personal efforts they make to ensure this happens.

A fourth aspect of their presence that is equally important is the aspect of the land mine clearance. According to initial predictions it could take some 70 years to clear the three million land mines left from the recent conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Canada has taken a lead in urging increased support for demining and for greater government and donor co-ordination to help work in this area.

We consider the removal of land mines a priority for humanitarian reasons, particularly to ensure the safety of children returning to school after years of conflict and to encourage the return of refugees. Mine clearance will also allow for the reconstruction of infrastructure necessary for economic renewal. We have contributed money and are contributing men and effort to this process.

The land mines convention is one of the great prides of our recent diplomatic efforts and the area of Bosnia is one place where its success, at least in the demining aspect, will be tested. The presence of our troops is essential, not only to ensure the stability necessary to achieve that, but to also help in the technical aspects of achieving that extremely important goal.

Finally, I will turn to the health sector. It is extremely important in a community ravaged by war to re-establish decent health. We again had the opportunity when we were there to visit hospitals. We visited the hospital in downtown Sarajevo which was shelled and in which people operated under incredible circumstances during the war.

We as Canadians are contributing to community based rehabilitation in Bosnia. Queen's University is there providing a self-sustaining program of physiotherapy to an estimated 40,000 people with war injuries and is training of some 200 health workers.

There are other rehabilitation programs which are too numerous for me to name. However, I want to share with the House one example of an important program, the MAP international project, which provided some $2 million worth of selected pharmaceuticals to Bosnia. Members of the committee were there when these were distributed. Some of them were given to the president of the Republic of Srpska to reward her and her government for the efforts they were making to ensure peace and co-operation with SFOR troops in her area.

All of these important elements, the return of refugees, the civil security, the return of decent government, assistance to the health sector, the rebuilding of schools and communities, depend on the presence of our troops, our young men and women who are there extending their helping hand, not only providing security, but also in a sensitive and an extraordinarily truly Canadian way working with people in these communities to ensure they can recover their lost and shattered lives.

Those troops deserve our support. I believe those troops want to stay. I believe those troops believe strongly that they want to be there to finish the job. We as members of the world community owe it not only to ourselves and to stability in Europe but also to our fine young men and women who have served and will continue to serve to ensure that they will do the job to guarantee peace and stability in a region that is very important to us all.

BosniaGovernment Orders

9:40 p.m.

Hillsborough P.E.I.


George Proud LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, tonight I have the honour of speaking in support of the continued participation of the Canadian forces in the NATO mission in Bosnia-Hercegovina following the completion of the current mission on June 20 of this year. This follow on force will be tasked with preventing any renewal of hostilities in the unstable Balkans region. Its purpose is to provide general support to the enforcement of the civil provisions in the Dayton peace accord.

All our key allies and the international organizations working in the area agree on the need to extend the SFOR follow on force. The secure environment established and maintained by SFOR is deemed vital to the reconstruction effort in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

I encourage my colleagues to indicate their support for Canada's participation for the following reasons. First, SFOR's work in Bosnia-Hercegovina is not finished and the work of the Canadian forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina is not finished.

Second, Canada has a tradition of responding to the call of the international community whenever world security has been threatened.

Third, we have a long and honourable tradition of participating in multilateral operations. We have served under the flags of the United Nations and NATO and in operations involving groups of nations sharing the same interests.

Fourth, our continued participation in SFOR is consistent with Canada's defence policy. In particular we believe in the importance of collective security and we continually contribute to preserving it.

For many years now Canada has invested heavily in terms of time, resources and personnel to promote peace and security in the Balkans. We have always played a pivotal role, serving with the European Community monitoring system, UNPROFOR from 1992 to 1995, IFOR from 1995 to 1996 and now SFOR.

However the military aspects of the hostilities are not the be all and end all of the mission. The civil ramifications of the military operations must be considered, especially in an area of such deep rooted strife.

The military plans and operations within SFOR have been cognizant of civil conditions and activities. Throughout the military operations thus far it was important to improve public security, fight organized crime and corruption, and promote balanced media. Separating the warring factions was not the only objective. That is why it is so important to continue the mission. The civil provisions of the accord must also be upheld.

For example, the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees belonging to ethnic minorities is presenting serious problems. The political struggle between the various ethnic groups continues to undermine efforts to consolidate peace. In other words the parties involved are not prepared to assume responsibility for their joint future. It is clear that they cannot count on the involvement of the international community indefinitely, but they clearly are not yet ready to go it alone.

Given the violence which erupted in Kosovo in March and which nearly led to war, and in light of the riots which took place in Drvar only a few days ago, we must acknowledge the fact that instability continues to haunt Bosnia-Hercegovina and by extension the entire Balkan region.

In short it is absolutely critical for Canada to extend her involvement in SFOR. It is consistent with the efforts we have made for many years aimed at establishing peace in this area of the world by creating the stability required to implement the Dayton accord.

If we look at the Bosnian situation within the historical perspective of Canada's role in international affairs, we can only arrive at the same conclusion. The fact is that in past years when the international community called upon Canada to preserve peace, liberty and democracy our country always answered the call. Today we intend to carry on this honourable tradition within our means.

Canada has traditionally shouldered its share of responsibilities in the world's hot spots when international security was threatened. Canada answered the call during both world wars, the Korean war, the gulf war and on many peacekeeping operations.

Canada's vast experience with multilateral operations has allowed us to make a major contribution to international security notably in Somalia, Haiti, central Africa, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf and of course the Balkans.

At the same time the Canadian forces have managed to maintain their traditional commitments with NATO. During every operation they have conducted, whether in Canada or overseas, the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces have demonstrated their ability to fulfil in outstanding fashion any mission assigned to them.

Accordingly, continued Canadian participation in SFOR is in tune with the tine honoured Canadian tradition of doing what we can to guarantee respect for life and human dignity both in Canada and abroad.

In the 1994 defence white paper Canada made a commitment to continue its active participation in multilateral efforts aimed at enhancing collective security. This attitude reflects our national interests since Canadians believe that their own security cannot be dissociated from that of our allies. However, according to the 1994 defence white paper:

Multilateral security co-operation is not merely a Canadian tradition; it is the expression of Canadian values in the international sphere.

In a similar vein, the 1994 report of the Special Joint Committee on Canada's Defence Policy declared:

If we believe Canada stands for values that are worth promoting in the larger community, we must be prepared to invest resources and commit Canadian troops in defence of those values. If we are not prepared to do so, then what do we stand for as a country?

I would like to comment a little further on our participation in not only this mission but in a large number of missions in recent years. Despite a reduction in financial resources and personnel we have asked our forces to do much more with less.

I was on the 1994 Special Joint Committee on Canada's Defence Policy. I agreed then and I agree today that we should participate in international missions. I said then and I say now we must provide more resources. Our forces are conducting the missions, but at what cost?

The Standing Committee on National Defence as we heard tonight is currently studying the quality of life of Canadian forces personnel. We are hearing many stories from personnel about the poor quality of services provided for them by the Department of National Defence. It appears to me that when cuts are needed the military is a prime target, but we must consider the impact on the personnel on the armoury floor and in the field.

I am not saying we have cut too far yet, but I am saying we are dangerously close to the point of no return. We must ensure that our personnel have not only required equipment for their missions but also the support services to assist them and their families in coping with their missions.

I encourage my hon. colleagues not only to support Canadian involvement in SFOR but our military in general. We ask these men and women to put their lives on the line not only for us but for others throughout the world. We must return that expectation by meeting theirs, which is to provide them and their families a satisfying quality of life.

Finally, we should consider the potential drawbacks of a Canadian decision to forgo the participation in SFOR. Failure by Canada to participate in the follow on force would fly in the face of those values that Canadian forces are charged with defending throughout the world.

Moreover, since Canada might possibly be the only NATO country not serving with the new force, her failure to participate would do serious damage to our reputation among our allies.

To conclude I urge my colleagues to support Canada's participation in the SFOR follow on mission.

BosniaGovernment Orders

9:50 p.m.


Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, allow me first to congratulate you on the daily improvement of your French. You know I am delighted to take part in the debate, because there is always a consensus in this House on matters of foreign policy.

I would remind those joining us of what we are debating this evening in the special debate, since the House does not usually sit beyond 7:30 p.m., and that is the need for Canada to continue its involvement in peacekeeping in Bosnia.

You will agree that looking back on this century's history, we will recall the Armenian genocide, the first world war, the second world war, the Korean war, the Vietnam war and especially the heightened tension that led to the break up of the Republic of Yugoslavia. People in my generation, especially those who studied political science as I did, automatically associate Tito and Yugoslavia. There was a belief that the Yugoslavian model was a model of a revolving confederation, one that managed a potentially explosive balance of various national communities. Time has shown us that the Yugoslav model was very fragile indeed.

I would point out that the Bloc Quebecois, since its arrival in the House in October 1993, has always enthusiastically supported all peacekeeping operations—in Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda and the Central African Republic.

We thought it was a generous way to deal with international relations, an alternative way to use our armed forces, where troops are sent as peacekeepers.

Of course, in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the situation was a bit different. Things started to escalate in 1992. First, we had UNPROFOR, then a stabilization force. It was only at the third level of operation, in 1995, that we sent peacekeepers over there.

Those who take an interest in foreign policy understand full well that Canada has some expertise in peacekeeping. Despite our sovereignist aspirations, we are very proud to remind people that Lester B. Pearson, a former leader of the Liberal Party who received the Nobel Peace Prize in the late 50s, was the first one to suggest, always under the auspices of the United Nations, that armed forces be deployed after a ceasefire has been reached in a region where tensions run high.

Among the people watching the debate tonight, some might wonder why a country like Canada, with no military engagement tradition, where military service is not compulsory, a country that was never directly involved in the war, that has no warring tradition, would take an interest in what is going on outside its borders?

When my constituents ask me that question, I simply give them the example of Bosnia-Hercegovina, a country that has produced, since the early 90s, 3.5 million refugees spread around the world. Of course, in an era of globalization, when refugees look for a new haven, when wars produce political refugees, it all has an impact on our nation.

It is countries such as Canada, France, Italy and Germany that have welcomed these political refugees. Our party believes that it is important to make an additional effort in terms of equipment, because, as you will remember, Canadians were mobilized from Europe and North America for the Sarajevo airlift. A Hercules was used to carry supplies. So, there was a Canadian contribution in terms of material, troops—about 1,300—and international assistance.

Since the early 90s, close to $80 million in taxpayers' money—because Canadians pay taxes and because the government and Parliament agreed to humanitarian assistance—was sent through CIDA and various international co-operation agencies.

If we needed an illustration of how fragile the situation really is in Bosnia, how things are not settled yet, how important it is for NATO to continue its efforts under the supervision of the United Nations, since this is what we are talking about, all we would have to remember is that since 1992, 50% of homes in Bosnia have been destroyed.

According to an assessment by the United Nations, it will take US$4 billion over the next few years to complete the construction and reconstruction of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

True, the peace is real, but it is fragile. It is fragile for a number of reasons. First of all, the Dayton accord, which was negotiated under the auspices of the Americans in Ohio, turned Bosnia-Hercegovina into a federated republic made up in fact of two states: Serbia and the Serbo-Croatian Republic. This unification has not been completed yet and they still need to establish national institutions.

Right now, there are a number of signs telling us, as foreign observers, that the peace, however real, is fragile.

I will give a few examples. First of all, of course, there are the Bosnian Croats. Although they openly, formally, officially and publicly supported the Dayton accords, they did so with this no doubt legitimate hope that could reach extreme proportions and threaten peace efforts.

The Bosnian Croats, who supported the Dayton accords, still dream, maybe somewhat secretly, of being reunited with Croatia. This shows just how fragile the peace is.

There is, of course,—as you know, Mr. Speaker, because I know that you are a keen and vigilant observer of the international scene,—the whole question of Kosovo. Kosovo is a republic of Serbia that was for a very long time an independent province and that unfortunately saw this status challenged to the point that the central government deployed troops there.

Kosovo is a hotbed of unrest, because 90% of the inhabitants are Albanians who understandably have more affinity with Albania than with the state to which they have been attached.

When all these factors are taken together, we are well advised, as parliamentarians, to seek an extension of the participation of NATO, under the auspices of the UN, with a high command. I believe that the NATO and UN mission is very clear. It is a preventive mission to ensure that the slightest potential for hostility is nipped in the bud.

The seeds of potential conflict must be suppressed in order to ensure that the situation that has prevailed since 1995 can become more permanent and that all those, such as Canada, Quebec, France and Italy, who believe in peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans for the end of the century, can continue to invest resources in international co-operation and humanitarian aid so that the experience of the former Yugoslavia will never be repeated.

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10 p.m.

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Ted McWhinney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is late in the evening. There has been comment on the length of the debate and on the opposition side some disparaging comments on the quality of the debate. I will not enter into that but I would take issue immediately with the hon. member for Beauharnois—Salaberry who made the comment that parliament did not have a big enough role in this debate and in these general questions.

Parliament has taken a very dramatic step forward in the life of the present government, although it began in the last parliament under the present government, that is to say the commitment made by the government that when Canadian forces would be involved in military style activities abroad under the United Nations or otherwise, parliament would get an opportunity to debate. It is not a decision making role but it is an unprecedented step to allow parliament to debate.

This has been honoured by the government since that undertaking was first given in, I believe, 1994. It has been refined to the point where if there is an issue of urgency such as when the matter arose during the summer recess with the extension of our mandate in Haiti I as parliamentary secretary contacted the official spokespersons for all opposition parties and asked for their interim approval. It was given.

We have made a step forward here. There is an involvement of parliament and I think the debate tonight reflects that.

It is worth noting of course that the present government inherited the obligations to the United Nations in lineal descent from obligations entered into by the preceeding government, the Mulroney government. That was in response to a request by Boutros Boutros Ghali, the then secretary general of the United Nations.

Although SFOR is a different type of operation from the one the Mulroney government engaged us in, the lineal descent is clear and I think one of the large oversights was on the part of the Mulroney government in not insisting in Canadian involvement in the decision making group. We have not been part of the contact group. We were not at the original time and we have not been since, and so in a sense we are carrying out macro decisions that others are making. It is not something one would recommend to governments in future situations.

Going back to history which was referred to by the member for Red Deer in a somewhat general way, of course we also inherit past history. In Santayana's terms, we also inherit the non-observervance of history, in his famous aphorism. The lessons of the past were not applied, were not understood and so wise decisions were not made. But they were not our decisions.

The present grand lines of the Balkan Peninsula, with the disintegration of the Ottoman empire, were created at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 and through two world wars and two Balkan wars which were even bloodier in a limited environment they were confirmed in their large lines. Everything else has represented incremental changes or territorial adjustments.

There was Bismarck in 1878. There was not an equivalent Bismarck in 1989-90 when the Berlin wall was falling down and the cold war was ending.

One of the problems in a certain sense is that the European statesmen in 1989-90, it has been said by historians, rushed to a premature recognition of successor states to the old Yugoslavia.

I think their error was not in their recognition of the new successor states for it was very clear Slovenia and Croatia had to be independent. But they followed Tito's internal historical boundaries which he had created through successive constitutions from 1944 onwards, which were really designed to give population and geographical balance but which ignored much more than the previous historical boundaries under Austria-Hungary and under Serbia, and ignored ethnocultural concentrations.

To a very real extent one had sown the seeds of later conflicts in 1991-92, the problem of either exchange of populations or radical constitutional adjustments for which nobody was prepared. It was an example of the doctrine of uti possidetis being misapplied and I think we are reckoning with some of the consequences of that.

This is not to say, however, that facts cannot themselves acquire a normative quality and I think one of the interesting facts is President Chirac and his visit to Sarajevo earlier this month. President Chirac is one of those who had the most reservations about the dispositions made in 1989-90 in the diplomatic terms, but he is referring in essence, echoing German legal philosopher Mr. Jellinek, to the normative force of facts. New frontiers have been created and it is time now with eight years of experience to try to make them work. We enter in that context.

As we go into Bosnia again and the mandate is extended, we must recognize this is a not a Canadian classic peacekeeping mission under chapter 6 of the charter; nor, however, is it a chapter 7 mission, the peacemaking mission with all the legal powers under chapter 7 to apply armed force. It is in between, so it creates problems in deciding the limits of competence of our troops.

We have to tread carefully because in a certain sense the peace building role is not defined in terms of what can and cannot be done.

We are subject to the general laws of war but we have a mandate essentially to help in limited aspects of matters, maintaining elections, trying to get the cities running again, and this is something we do very well. I think it is probably the biggest justification apart from historical continuity. We have been there and we do not leave a job in the middle before it is completed. That is the biggest justification for going on.

I would note here with great pleasure, as I think some earlier speakers have, that there will be a massive role for our limited number of Canadian forces in mine clearing. We all remember the land mine treaty to which Canada contributed so much. We took the initiative. We went ahead in spite of the reluctance or opposition of superpowers and big powers, and 121 countries have signed. There are 300,000 to 1 million mines remaining in Bosnia in 18,000 mine fields. At the moment SFOR is clearing 22,000 mines a year. We hope to bring it up to 100,000 but it is quite a challenge. I think all Canadians will feel great pride that this is one of the responsibilities of our force in Bosnia at the present time.

In suggesting to the House that it approve, not in the legal sense the decisions made, but that it give its enthusiastic backing to this extension, we entered in the task in good faith. There were conditions that we would not have created if we had been in the decision making at the beginning. But we continue in good faith. We have a mission to fulfil and I think we are very proud of what we are doing.

BosniaGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Perth—Middlesex Ontario


John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to discuss the role the Canadian forces have played in the former Yugoslavia.

As Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and a member of the national defence committee I have had the opportunity to visit the war torn Balkans on two previous occasions. I have seen firsthand the excellent work of our troops.

Everyone in this Chamber knows of the former Yugoslavia, a country torn apart by war, families broken up, human rights violated on a massive scale.

They know about the Canadian forces, a military organization with an international reputation of excellence. I have no doubt the international respect for the Canadian forces has increased as a result of their operations in the former Yugoslavia.

Since 1991 Canadian forces have done their best to assist the international community in dealing with the conflict in the Balkans. Indeed they have been at the forefront in that regard.

Canadian military personnel have helped prevent the fighting from spreading to other parts of the region and becoming even more brutal. They have also accepted to save countless lives in assisting in the delivery of humanitarian supplies and preventing more massive assaults on civilian populations.

Our military contribution has included a broad range of capabilities, at sea and in the air. As the mandate of the UN and NATO forces evolved over the course of the conflict, so too did the task performed by Canadian personnel. Duties ranged from traditional peacekeeping functions such as monitoring ceasefires to more challenging roles that test the skills and training of our troops.

In June 1992 when the mandate of the UN protection force, UNPROFOR, was expanded a Canadian battalion performed the dangerous task of opening the Sarajevo airport. That was the beginning of operation airbridge, the largest humanitarian airlift ever. The air force made some 1,900 flights into Sarajevo between 1992 and 1996 with almost 30 million kilograms of food, medical supplies as well as 1,100 medical evacuations, all under difficult and frequently dangerous circumstances.

Canadians were also the first troops to be deployed to the former Yugoslavia and the republic of Macedonia. In the spring of 1993 Canadians were sent to the tiny enclave of Srebrenica in Bosnia, the first attempt at creating a UN safe area. In the Medak pocket in September 1993 Canadian soldiers became caught in a fire fight when they attempted to establish a buffer zone between the opposing forces.

Operations in the former Yugoslavia have presented our military leaders with many new and difficult challenges but they have responded in magnificent fashion. Four of our soldiers served as deputy force commanders in UNPROFOR and one, Major-General Lewis Mackenzie, served as the force commander's chief of staff. They have all received praise from the international community for their courage and commitment.

I have talked most about our ground forces, but the air force and the navy have also played a part in the instrumental role in the former Yugoslavia.

From 1992 to 1995 as part of the UN's operation deny flight, the Canadian forces provided air crew for surveillance aircraft monitoring the UN embargo over Bosnia and Hercegovina. Today our air personnel play an important role in NATO's aerial surveillance missions. As part of the ongoing operation bison, they assist in the control of tactical intra-theatre airlift for the NATO stabilization force.

Last year six of our CF-18s flew an air umbrella over Bosnia and Hercegovina enforcing the no-fly zone and prepared to support the troops on the ground if necessary. I understand that Canadian soldiers found great comfort in knowing that there were Canadian fighter aircraft patrolling up above.

The Canadian navy has also done yeoman service. Between 1992 and 1996, 11 Canadian warships and four Aurora maritime air patrol craft patrolled the Adriatic Sea enforcing the military embargo and economic sanctions imposed by the UN. That is a significant commitment of Canadian sea power maritime capability.

The success of the Canadian operations in the former Yugoslavia has not gone unnoticed by the international community. When the implementation was first established in 1995, the Canadian forces were called upon to establish a brigade headquarters in the British sector, a clear indication of the respect they have earned among our NATO allies. Their British commander later said he had nothing but praise for the efficient, professional approach adopted consistently by Canadians.

Civil officials with the UN have also had high praise for the men and women in the Canadian forces. In a letter to the Globe and Mail last July, the former leader of the World Health Organization's humanitarian mission to Yugoslavia wrote that the conduct of the Canadian army was highly professional and at all times combined discipline with humanity, tact and—is it necessary to say—courage in an extremely exacting situation.

We currently have 1,200 personnel in Bosnia and Hercegovina as part of the NATO led stabilization force, or SFOR. Their mission is twofold: to ensure compliance with the military aspects of the Dayton accord and to help preserve the secure environment necessary for the consolidation of peace.

Their operational responsibilities include providing local security of vital points, deploying forces on both sides of the ceasefire line and identifying the dominating potential flashpoints. This is difficult, dangerous work but they carry it out with a professionalism that has traditionally been the earmark of the Canadian forces.

I would be remiss if I did not make reference to the humanitarianism of the men and women of the Canadian forces serving in the former Yugoslavia. During their time there, they have participated in a wide range of activities including repairing schools, hospitals and roads and providing medical care. Let me mention one specific example.

In the summer of 1994 the crew of the frigate HMCS Halifax provided much needed aid to a refugee camp in Slovenia. Sailors donated 50 bags of toys and clothing for the camp residents. Eight sailors conducted general maintenance around the camp including plumbing, carpentry, roofing and painting.

What most Canadians do not realize is that much of the humanitarian work done by the members of the Canadian forces, including that done by the sailors of the HMCS Halifax , is done during their off duty time. They do not have to do it. They choose to do it. They choose to help out. That is the measure of their compassion and dedication.

Canada's military personnel have faced difficult tests in the former Yugoslavia including bad weather, relentless sniper and artillery fire and have been taken hostage. Thirteen have made the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives in the cause of peace. They have persevered and in many cases have gone beyond the call of duty to perform acts of bravery.

In July 1992 Sergeant J.S. Forest of the Royal 22nd Regiment rescued two seriously wounded women while under heavy sniper fire. As Captain Joseph Bélisle took aim at the snipers, Sergeant Forest crawled up beside the two victims and carried them to safety. While still under heavy fire, the two soldiers helped the women into a military vehicle. Both men were awarded the Medal of Bravery.

Then there is Sergeant Thomas Hoppe. Sergeant Hoppe received the Meritorious Service Cross for his command under fire of a key observation post located between Serb and Muslim forces in Bosnia in July 1994.

A month later Sergeant Hoppe performed another act of extreme bravery. When he realized that snipers were firing on three young children playing in a cemetery in Sarajevo, Hoppe dashed out from behind cover to rescue the boys and hustle them into a waiting armoured personnel carrier. For this action he received the Medal of Bravery. Sergeant Hoppe is the only Canadian forces member since the second world war to have won both these medals.

Canada has earned a well-deserved reputation for being there when it counts. If Canada is to continue to play an effective role on the world stage, it is critical that we maintain that reputation. That means contributing to international efforts aimed at enhancing global security efforts like SFOR.

The Canadian forces have done a lot of good in the former Yugoslavia since they first went there in 1991. They have made a real difference. In Bosnia and Hercegovina they continue to make a difference. Although much has been accomplished, the situation is not yet stable. Let us do the wise thing and keep the Canadian forces there as part of SFOR until it is stable.

BosniaGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on this debate. It hearkens back to what we were doing four years ago at the beginning of our first term in Parliament. Many of us made our first speech in the House of Commons in an emergency debate concerning the crisis that was taking place in Bosnia.

Although many people in the House spoke eloquently about the issue, we failed miserably. Despots were prepared to rape, murder, pillage and use their power as leaders to pit brother against brother and cause the worst genocide that Europe and in fact the world had seen since World War II. The bloodletting has not finished.

The Dayton peace accord ensured that the former Yugoslavia would fracture. It ensured that Bosnia would exist.

Through force we have managed to keep the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Muslims together. It is only by force that we have managed to do this. One thing we have to realize in this House is that Bosnia only stays together through the power of international intervention by force. If that force is removed, Bosnia will descend into the same bloodshed which existed four years ago. The killings will continue. At the highest levels of policy making in the world, leaders recognize that. We have to recognize that.

I support completely the use of our soldiers in Bosnia at this time. However unless we want another Cyprus in our midst, because that is what Bosnia is going to be, we have to recognize that the only long term future for Bosnia is for Bosnia to fracture peacefully.

The Dayton peace accord was the proverbial finger in the dyke. It served to prevent further conflict at that time and through force we have prevented that. We have largely prevented further bloodshed. In the future no conflict is going to be prevented in the long term unless Bosnia fractures into two or three separate groups and unless we are prepared to sit there for time immemorial. So much blood has been spilled under the bridge that people there will never forget that. As a result if we leave, SFOR leaves and the killings will resume.

We can see it happening now. Again Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo has started a war against the ethnic Albanians. He started a war against the Serbian president in Bosnia. He has also started to stir up problems and is in a cold war against the leader of Montenegro. This is only an example of some of the future conflicts that are stirring in this pot we call the Balkans and which we have barely managed to keep a lid on.

Unless we are prepared to stay there forever, we have to enter into peaceful negotiations to ensure that Bosnia fractures through negotiations and not at the end of an AK-47. There is much we can do.

If we accept the fact that Bosnia has to fracture peacefully for long term peace, then I challenge the minister to work with his compatriots in the OSCE, in the UN and the members of the contact group to accept that realization. Work toward a negotiated split of Bosnia and separate the ethnic groups peacefully forever.

We also have to realize there are other issues taking place. Yugoslavia represents the most egregious example in Europe in recent memory. Conflict such as that in Yugoslavia sits under our nose like a ticking time bomb for years before it blows up. The genocide that took place in the former Yugoslavia represents a very clear realization that we have learned nothing from the concentration camps of Dachau and Auschwitz. We have proven once again that we are impotent in dealing with impending conflict when it is in our face. We have tools that can solve this problem.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs has developed a great deal of capital over the last two years through his work in banning land mines, through his work on human rights in China and through other foreign policy initiatives he has produced. With that capital he can work with other countries to deal with the larger problem of conflict prevention.

There is a saying in medicine that prevention is a worth a lot more than a cure. Preventing conflict is a lot cheaper, a lot more effective and infinitely more humane than managing the conflict after it has occurred.

I have presented a private member's motion in the House of Commons. It calls on the Minister of Foreign Affairs to bring like-minded nations together, as we did on the land mines issue, in Ottawa or wherever to identify the precursors to conflict and to put in the tools to address them. If we can build this nucleus of like-minded nations, other nations will come on board.

Clearly it is in the best interest of any nation not to sit beside or have conflict within their sphere of influence. Indeed a conflict that may occur halfway around the world will come to roost within our own borders either through the egress of refugees and demands on our own social policies or demands on our defence and aid budgets.

It is also important to realize that if a conflict blows up, all the incredibly valuable work our Canadian soldiers are heroically doing will be washed away within a period of days, weeks or months when war breaks out.

If we revamp the International Monetary Fund, it can be used as a tool, not only as a carrot but also as a stick. Wars need money. If we choke off the supply of money then we choke off the ability of a despot to engage in war. Most of the countries today that are under the threat of war rely on money from the IMF. The IMF can prevent despots from using that money. It can freeze their assets.

The IMF can use its power as a carrot to supply money to moderate groups that are prepared to work together with disparate groups to build bridges of tolerance and understanding. It would reward those who are engaged in peacemaking. It would reward those individuals who would face despots and say “No, you are not going to turn my country into a hell-hole. You are not going to turn this into another civil war. You are not going to pit brother against brother. You are not going to cause my people to be killed”.

We are in an unusual position as a nation. Canada has an unusual role to play in the international community. We have the ability to act as negotiator to bring countries together to work through multilateral measures to change the IMF and use it as a tool for peace.

The United Nations needs a renaissance. It was effective when it was put together at the end of World War II but it does not have the ability to address the security threats that we as a country and the international community face in the future.

The UN needs a renaissance. Many countries feel the same way but they are looking for a leader. We can be that leader. There are very potent, cogent, economic, reasonable and pragmatic reasons for getting involved and changing these institutions. War hurts everybody. It costs us. It costs the countries involved. It costs everybody and everybody loses.

I ask the government to work with other members of the House so that we can use Canada's power as a force in changing these multilateral organizations into tools of peace to address security threats, be they military, environmental or otherwise.

In closing, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Burundi, Burma, India, Kenya and Indonesia represent security threats in the future. We need to deal with them now for everybody's sake. I challenge the Minister of Foreign Affairs to work with us in doing just that.

BosniaGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to this House in support of Canada's continued participation in the stabilization force, or SFOR, in Bosnia-Hercegovina.

I am particularly delighted, because in my capacity as the chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, in November 1997, I had the privilege of heading a delegation of eight members of the defence and foreign affairs committee on a visit to Bosnia.

We saw with our own eyes the components of the peace process in Bosnia and Canada's contribution to its implementation. Our military participation in the stabilization force headed by NATO ensures peace is maintained.

Reconstruction is taking place with the help of the Canadian International Development Agency, non-governmental organizations and the Canadian Forces. Efforts at establishing democracy are being carried out in co-operation with the Organization on Security and Co-operation in Europe, the international police group and other organizations.

Based on all we saw, we concluded that considerable progress had been made in Bosnia in nearly two years, that is, since the signing of the general peace accord known as the Dayton agreement.

We were very proud to see and learn that Canada had played a major role in military and civilian aspects of this peace agreement. Since considerable effort had been expended and progress made, all members of our delegation felt the need for a continued international presence in Bosnia after the expiry of SFOR's current mandate in June 1998.

There was a consensus in our group that Canada should remain among the forerunners in this international effort.

Let me tell the House what we saw and how this led us to our conclusion. Our first stop was in Aviano, Italy. This U.S. air force base was the location from which six Canadian CF-18 fighter aircraft flew over 250 operational missions, enforcing the no fly zone over Bosnia last year.

From Aviano we proceeded to Bosnia where over the next three days we visited all four major Canadian military facilities. We started at Black Bear Camp in Velika Kladusa where we received detailed briefings on military operations in the Canadian area of responsibility which is roughly the size of Prince Edward Island.

Coupled with the difficulties presented by the very mountainous terrain in this area, the challenge of communication and travel for our Canadian troops is immense.

It is not easy to describe the pride we felt to see our Canadian soldiers successfully meeting these challenges. We were struck by the high degree of professionalism and the great pride among the Canadian military personnel serving in the region. We were impressed as well by their understanding of the mission and their commitment to it.

We were all convinced that, if more Canadians had had the opportunity to see what we saw over there, they too would feel great pride in them.

We were also struck by the danger they were facing in this mission. One of the first briefings we attending was a mine awareness session. We saw mines that were virtually undetectable, buried in a small mine field used for training purposes. We were shown the equipment the mine removal crew wore. We were given explanations of how to avoid or to deactivate mines, and this gave us considerable food for thought.

It was not merely a matter of learning to detect or to deactivate mines, but also of learning to live with this insidious and ever-present threat.

We were told not to leave the paved area of a road when getting out of a vehicle. We were told not to walk on the grass surrounding local villages. We were told that farmers fields were sowed with mines and not crops. We saw miles and miles of yellow tape stretched throughout the land marking potentially mined areas.

We were also told that there were probably one million mines left in Bosnia. We were moved by the horrendous impact that mines can have on day to day living. It is difficult for Canadians living in such a rich and free country as Canada to understand such a horrible situation.

After this trip, we were convinced that Canada had to maintain its participation in SFOR in Bosnia. I was also very proud of Canada's efforts to rid the world of antipersonnel mines.

I will tell you what else we saw in Bosnia. In Drvar, we visited a school that Canadian field engineers helped rebuild under one of our restoration projects. We also took note of the enormous task of reconstruction that will have to be undertaken to repair that country's infractructure, to restore what the war detroyed: hospitals, electric substations, bridges and roads. It will take years.

Everywhere we went, people told us how important these projects are. They also asked us to thank the Canadian people and to convey their gratitude for what Canadians have done to help rebuild their country.

The military aspects of Dayton have been a clear success. The fighting has stopped as far as help to guarantee that municipal elections take place peacefully and as far as actively supporting the UN international police task force in the restructuring of the civil police are concerned. SFOR continues to monitor weapon storage sites and SFOR is also engaged in many other projects to help recovery.

However, the democratization process in Bosnia has been more than slow. The main issues yet to be settled are the inability of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons and refugees to go home and the presence of individuals accused of war crimes.

We saw why it is so hard for people to go home. Despite minor reconstruction work in some areas, houses in ruins can be seen everywhere in the countryside. In village after village, we saw houses that were destroyed by bombings during the war and others that were destroyed to prevent their rightful occupants to come back to them.

For all these reasons, I will be glad to give my unconditional support to the continuing presence of the Canadian armed forces in Bosnia.

BosniaGovernment Orders

10:40 p.m.


Jim Gouk Reform West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was trying to examine, as I was sitting here listening to the last speaker, why exactly I am here tonight. I was at home. I was ready for bed. I have had several late nights. I am one of those MPs who has to travel from the west so it does get very tiring when one goes back and forth on a continued basis.

I think I am here to speak in part out of guilt and the guilt has nothing to do with the military. The guilt links to something else that occurred tonight. Yet it all ties together into why we are having this debate right now.

My guilt is because tonight we had a vote on a different matter. We had a vote on compensation for people who have had a tragedy enter their lives. We lost that vote and they lost. I left from here and I went to a reception. I had a drink. I had some good food. Then I went home. As I was sitting there getting ready to go to bed I started thinking how unfair life was. Here I am. I had my reception. I had my good dinner. Life goes on, but for those people their lives do not go on. They have suffered a tragedy and they got no help from parliament tonight.

I was about to turn off the TV but I changed a couple of channels and happened to fall on CPAC to see a bit of this debate. I thought how ironic it was for us to debate such an issue tonight after the vote that took place. I started thinking why we were talking about Bosnia.

Is that what we are really doing? The decision is already made. It is not like the government is coming in here and saying this is what it is thinking of doing and asking whether it should. The government made that decision, so why are we here?

The decision to have the debate on Bosnia, this take note speech or whatever it is called, is a simple diversion because of Liberal embarrassment about the vote we had in this place tonight. This is an opportunity for them to stand after having done that and say “Aren't we good? Can't we be proud? Can't we reflect the pride of our military, of our peacekeepers back on us by the great thing we have done of simply authorizing them to be there?” The answer is no, they cannot do that. I could not go to bed and allow them to do that.

We heard the justice minister talk in the House about why there was no compensation for people who contracted hepatitis C prior to 1986. He said there was no way that government should be compensating people, that it had no obligation to pay for people who had a problem that was not the result of government negligence.

Bosnia is not the result of the government's negligence. Hate is not the result of the government's negligence. Cyprus was not the result of the government's negligence or any of the other places we went. Desert storm 1 and the almost desert storm 2 were not the result of government negligence, but when people were in need the Canadian government responded.

Tonight people were in need and the Canadian government did not respond. It responded to the flood in the Saguenay. Was that the fault of the Canadian government? It responded to the flood in Manitoba. Was that the fault of the Canadian government? How about the ice storm?

It is despicable that the Liberals have the temerity to raise this subject in the House tonight as a deflection of the vote that took place. It demeans the good name of our Canadian military. It is absolutely disgusting.

I have a reserve unit in my riding, the 44 field squad, an engineer squadron. It has served in Bosnia. It has helped when there have been natural disasters. It has done an infinite number of good and meaningful deeds in my riding and around the world.

I received a letter recently from someone in my riding who is a conscientious objector. She objects to the military and to her tax dollars going to the military. She wanted to know whether there was some way she could have her taxes go to some special fund instead.

I wrote to her and suggested that I understood her position, her abhorrence of war, and would hope we would all abhor it but sometimes have to stand up for people who through no fault of their own were being victimized. I suggested to her that our military had a strong tradition of things other than violence such as peacekeeping and helping when disasters hit the people of this country. That is what we should be focusing on. We should not be using that to deflect what happened in the House tonight.

Perhaps we should truly help the military and do something good for it instead of pontificating about its role over there and how proud we are that we sent the military there. Somehow it is suggested that it makes us greater than them because after all they are just the grunts who went there; we are the wonderful people who sent them. Instead, maybe what we should be doing in the House is looking at their lack of equipment, at their lack of training and at the bases that have been shut down.

Some of the best bases in Canada have been closed. An almost new base in Chilliwack was rebuilt, almost completely overhauled. It was closed and the people were transferred to a base in Alberta that does not have enough room for them and they have to start adding additional facilities there.

What the government does to the military makes no sense. Yet it somehow feels it is right that its members should come to the House and suggest that they are good because they have sent troops over to Bosnia.

I do not know if it does any good to speak tonight. Maybe I would have done myself more good had I gone to bed and caught up on my sleep, but I just could not do that. It seemed somehow important to me to get this off my chest.

I did not expect any more of the justice minister. I did not expect any more of the Prime Minister or of the government whip. However I expected more of some of those backbenchers. I know they were opposed to the government's bill. I know some of them are people of integrity.

I have often said to people in my town hall meetings that Ottawa is not what they think: “As I stand tonight as a Reform member of parliament I will say something that will seem strange coming from me. There are a lot of good Liberal MPs in Ottawa. It is not the people. It is the system”. I am not going to say that again because it is not true. Tonight, wipe that out. Tonight, completely wipe that out.

I saw people on those backbenches who were opposed, who felt that the victims of hepatitis C, of tainted blood were entitled to compensation, and yet they knuckled under. They ignored the victims. They ignored their constituents. They ignored their duty to the country.

They had the temerity to come here and suggest that they were good and wonderful because they sent our troops to Bosnia. Is that timing not just a little curious? It was right on the heels of the vote they knew was coming on which they were going to take a lot of heat. What unbelievable timing. What an uncanny coincidence that it should happen tonight.

I do not believe it. I do not think the Canadian people believe it. I hope it took a lot of soul searching by the Liberals in terms of this incident. If they truly feel what they have spoken tonight about the military, I hope they will do something meaningful in terms of equipment, in terms of bases and in terms of training.

If they want to send them into harm's way, they should give them the proper tools to do it. If they want to take pride in something, they should make sure that notwithstanding the vote tonight they do something for those victims, the people who relied on them and whom they let down.

BosniaGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There being no further speakers, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 10.48 p.m.)