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House of Commons Hansard #210 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was war.

Topics

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved:

Motion No. 338

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should convene in 1998 a meeting of `like-minded nations' in order to develop a multilateral plan of action to reform international organizations (e.g. Internation Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations) so that they can identify the precursors of conflict and establish multilateral conflict-prevention initiatives.

Madam Speaker, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House for the removal of the words “in 1998” from the motion. It was written two years ago and 1998 makes it obsolete. The removal of “in 1998” removes the time course from the motion and gives it more flexibility.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The hon. member is asking to remove “in 1998” from the motion in order to make it more pertinent to this date. Is there agreement?

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the House for its tolerance with removing the date from the motion.

From Kosovo, to Cambodia, to Central Africa and to many other parts of the world, we see over 40 conflicts that are taking place as we speak. Kosovo, the one which has dominated the House for so long, is just the latest in a series of conflicts that have torn across the world for many years resulting in the death and dismemberment of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, and the removal from their homes.

Over 90% of those involved in conflicts, individuals who have been killed or maimed, are people who do not have arms, are non-combatants and innocent victims who only want to live in peace.

Before 1945, we had World War II. Between 1945 to the late 1980s, we have had a cold war with two superpowers glaring at each other, armed to the hilt with very powerful nuclear weapons. Since the late 1980s, with the breakdown of the cold war and the post-cold war era, we have seen a proliferation of conflicts. In fact, over 40 conflicts have and are still taking place today throughout the world.

After the post-cold war era there was a belief that we would have a peace dividend, that the world would now be a safer place to live. The fact is the world is a much more dangerous place. We do not have the tools to deal with this fluctuating situation, a situation that is imperilling more and more innocent people, costing billions of dollars and wreaking havoc over nation states, many of which are imploding as we speak.

Although Kosovo has drawn most of our attention, it is by no means the largest, bloodiest or most destructive conflict existing today. The largest land mass battle ever to exist in the world is taking place right now on the continent of Africa. From Sierra Leone and Liberia to the west, to Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, right through the Central African Republic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and down into Angola, a bloody war is taking place causing the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people every single week. Many people are maimed, many are raped, children are left to starve and entire countries are laid to waste.

As a nation and as an international community we have been completely and utterly unable to deal with this situation in any pre-emptive fashion.

In 1957 Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel prize for peacekeeping, an innovative measure to save people's lives. Many interesting initiatives have taken place since then, such as rapid humanitarian relief and the introduction of peacekeeping and peacemaking forces around the world.

However, we confuse peacemaking with conflict prevention. It is not conflict prevention because the moment we need to make peace, blood has already been shed, people have been killed and the seeds of ethnic discontent and future conflict are there for generations to come. We need look no further than to what is taking place now within the former Yugoslavia.

Slobodan Milosevic came to power and fomented violence against people. He initially stirred it up with the Croats by using propaganda and is now stirring it up with the people of Kosovo. The international community's response has appropriately been to engage in diplomacy.

When we were faced with the situation of the Jewish people and many others being slaughtered during World War II, what did we do? Nothing. If history has taught us anything it is that we have learned nothing. We continually sit on our hands and do nothing while people are slaughtered and killed.

The purpose of Motion No. 338 is to do something. It will change the international organizations that we are part of to become tools of conflict prevention. When despots are engage in actions that result in the deaths of thousands of people we will not stand by and watch. We will act with other like-minded nations.

The cost of this has been enormous. From 1945 to 1989 the UN has spent 23% of its budget on peacekeeping. From 1990 to 1995 it has increased that amount to 77%. Peacekeeping is bankrupting the United Nations.

I will articulate solutions to this problem through the revamping of the international organization. These conflicts did not appear overnight. Bosnia has been around for a long time. Kosovo has been around for 10 years. Many situations have been brewing for a long time. When General Roméo Dallaire spoke eloquently and forcefully before the slaughters in Rwanda and Burundi saying they would spiral out of control and result in the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people, we did nothing.

There are things we can do. We need to look at the precursors to conflict. We can see a polarization taking place before anything else happens. One group of leaders will start to remove the human rights of others. It will start abusing and ostracizing groups. It will polarize groups and try to get its own people onside.

As Michael Ignatieff, the famous author, said, they manage to polarize groups by focusing on the narcissism of the differences. Two people can be very similar but their small differences can be expanded out of proportion. This enables the despot to cause his people to start killing one another. We can see that happening. It is very obvious.

We can use the international financial institutions, the United Nations and NGOs who are on the ground to report back to the UN crisis centre. The UN crisis centre, headed by Stan Carlson, a Canadian, can be the centre through which information is channelled. The information can then go to the UN security council or farmed out to other organizations as part of the intelligence needed to determine ground activity earlier.

The security council needs to be reformed. Now that we are on the security council for the next year and a half there is much we can do. The security council is obsolete but maybe there is a way to change it. We could expand the security council by getting more countries involved, particularly those from Africa, South America and other developing countries. We would then have a more comprehensive and representative security council.

Vetoes should be removed from the five security council members. Granted, this would be extraordinarily difficult. Maybe the way around it is to ensure that the veto power can be only used for chapter VII actions under the UN security council. Or we could require two vetoes to block a motion or an action by the security council. Or we could require that all actions by the security council be passed by a two-thirds majority.

The UN needs to be overhauled in terms of its diplomatic initiatives. It needs to focus on what it needs to do. It cannot do everything and be everything to all people. Right now dozens of organizations are doing the same thing. Why not focus and streamline it so that one organization is tasked to do these things rather than many?

The actions which the UN can take are many. First, as I mentioned, propaganda is one of the most powerful tools that groups use to polarize individuals. For example, Slobodan Milosevic used anti-Croat sentiment to format anti-Croat actions by his own people. In Rwanda the Hutus disseminated propaganda against the Tutsis through short-wave radio.

The UN has the capability to engage in positive propaganda to bring together like-minded moderates from both sides. We need to do this. It is essential to do this if we are to dispel the negative propaganda that despots use to polarize groups.

We need to use diplomacy to bring groups together. When that fails sanctions can be utilized as well as military actions.

Soft power is good, but soft power needs teeth. We can only back up soft power if we have strong, sharp teeth. Strong military action is sometimes required if we are to prevent the deaths of thousands of people. I would submit that is what we are engaging in today in Kosovo.

All the diplomacy in the world is not going to convince individuals like Slobodan Milosevic to come to the peace table, with an olive branch, wanting peace. These people do not engage in the same moral frame of reference that we do. It is different. Individuals like Hitler, Milosevic, Sese Seko Mobuto and Daniel Arap Moi do not engage in the same moral framework; they engage in behaviour that is reprehensible to us.

The UN also needs to look at revamping its arms registry, making it obligatory for countries to sign on to the registry so that we know where inappropriate militarization is taking place. If the Jane's fighting ships can engage in intelligence gathering to put together comprehensive military expenditures, then certainly the United Nations could do that.

I would like to consider international financial institutions. The World Bank and the IMF are two parts of a triumvirate. They were brought together at Bretton Woods after 1945 to engage in peacebuilding, the reconstruction of societies, improving the markets of societies and also to engage in exchange rate stability around the world. I would argue that they have a much more powerful, potent and important force in the world for peace.

The first thing we need to do is to have them communicate and co-ordinate their actions. Much to my shock, I learned when I was in Washington and New York last year that it has only been since the end of last year that the UN, the IMF and the World Bank started to talk to each other. They have existed and operated in isolation. As a result, sometimes their actions have resulted in matters being worse from an international security perspective. They need to co-ordinate their actions.

Canada, being on the security council and having connections with most of these organizations, could act as a catalyst to work with like-minded nations to pull these countries together. Canada could act as a force to bring other countries together to work to reform these groups.

Wars need money. Every time we look at the television and we see developing nations, we see a 13 or 14 year old kid walking around with an AK47, the cost of which exceeds what that person would make in a year. Where does the money come from? Sometimes the money comes from us, through the IMF, the World Bank and other organizations. Sometimes these developing countries engage in destabilizing activities which result in the deaths of innocent people. We cannot tolerate that. We should have the power to prevent those moneys from getting into the hands of world leaders who would abuse their power at the expense of their people and at the expense of regional security.

The IMF, the World Bank and other regional development banks need to pay close attention to where those moneys are being spent and make the giving of those moneys conditional upon countries engaging in good governance, peacebuilding and investing in basic human needs such as education and health care. That builds peace. Investing in AK47s and small arms does not and we should not be a party to that.

We could invest in activities through international financial institutions, which is what the Grameen Bank has done for a long time. Micro credit loaning to average citizens helps them to become self-sustaining and self-sufficient, and it also builds peace.

While the actions of the IFIs can be used as a carrot, they can and must at times be used as a stick. When leaders of these countries engage in bloody actions against others, such as we have seen with Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or with Emperor Bokassa in the Central African Republic, or what we see today with Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya engaging in bloody action with the Maasi and the Kalenjin people against the Kikuyus, why do we support that?

These people cannot be allowed to do that. We need to hold their feet to the fire. There are things we could do. We could call up loans and we could prevent those loans from being renegotiated. We could suspend borrowing privileges.

I remember being in Kenya in the late 1980s when Daniel Arap Moi, one of the richest men in the world, was begging the world for handouts. He is a multibillionaire. That should never be allowed to happen.

There are other tools we can use, such as withholding money and imposing economic sanctions. However, money needs to go to the people, as we do not want them to suffer. Money can be channelled through non-governmental organizations. Good NGOs, working effectively to provide basic services, could be used as a conduit to ensure that there is economic stability and that money is provided to the people so they can provide for themselves in the future.

Historically the biggest stumbling block to early intervention has been the concept of state sovereignty. Many people around the world have said that state sovereignty is sacrosanct. Many people feel that what goes on within a country's borders is that country's problem. However, if we look closely at what the concept means in terms of international law we can see that does not hold water where leaders are engaging in behaviour that is destructive to their people.

State sovereignty comes from the belief that sovereignty is a manifestation of the will of the people. The UN convention on human rights protects and upholds the will of the people and is the basis of government. Therefore, international law protects the sovereignty of a people and the will of the people, not the sovereignty of the nation state.

Therefore, under international law it is acceptable for us to engage in actions against state leadership when that leadership is engaging in brutal behaviour that contravenes the will of the state and also destabilizes the region.

There is also a very pragmatic and selfish reason for us to get involved. When wars blow out of control, when countries implode and descend into hell, who picks up the pieces? These countries are developing nations, generally speaking. After the conflict they are more of a wasteland than they have ever been. The cost to pick up the pieces rests on the shoulders of the developed world, countries such as Canada. We provide aid and we provide defence. At times our people lose their lives in peacekeeping operations, such as those we have seen in the former Yugoslavia.

We have a right to intervene, and to intervene early, because we pick up the pieces after the war has taken place.

In the first 40 years of the history of the United Nations there were 13 peacekeeping missions. In the last 10 years there have been more than 25. Rather than the situation getting better, it is getting worse. What I am proposing through Motion No. 338 is that we pull together like-minded nations, such as we did on the land mines issue. I firmly believe we can do this. We need to bring together like-minded nations such as Norway, Iceland, South Africa, Australia and Central American nations; countries that are interested in pursuing peace. We need to give them a plan of action. We need to convene a meeting, maybe in Ottawa, to agree on a common plan of action, not a commitment for more study. We can take this common plan of action to these international organizations. If we all have the same plan of action, if we are all working toward the same goal, other countries will come on side.

The ultimate outcome will be the revamping and rejuvenating of international organizations. They will be a tool for conflict prevention so that the conflicts of yesterday will not happen tomorrow, and innocent civilian lives that have been laid to waste in imploding countries will not continue.

We cannot prevent all conflicts of the world, but we can prevent some. That is what Motion No. 338 is about and I hope members from all parties will support it. It is something upon which we can work together, it is congruent with our history as a nation, and it will save many lives and billions of dollars.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Halton Ontario

Liberal

Julian Reed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, the hon. member has raised a number of very serious issues on the world scene, each of which represents a separate debate.

One very important issue to which he referred was the reform of the monetary system. World finances have a great bearing on conflicts which erupt in various countries. It is not the only reason, and we certainly acknowledge that. However, the monetary system in our world is very important. With his indulgence and with the indulgence of the House I will dwell on the monetary system rather than try to make an omnibus contribution to this debate. I want to zero in on that one very important area.

The international agenda recently has been saturated with initiatives of crises prevention, more effective management of international financial crises and more sustainable economic development. What started as a G-7 plan of action is now being echoed by the nations of APEC, the primary international organization for promoting open trade and economic co-operation among 21 member countries around the Pacific rim, which will be discussed later this month at spring meetings of the IMF and the World Bank, and in June at the G-7 summit.

There is a groundswell of support for strengthening domestic and international financial institutions and for economies that are more resilient to economic and financial crises when they do occur. Canada is committed to strengthening the international financial system and the world economy. We started this at the G-7 summit in Halifax in 1995.

Last year, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, Canada proposed a six-point plan aimed at helping to sustain global growth while at the same time reducing the risk of future financial crises.

We call for ensuring appropriate monetary policy through G-7 central banks, paying close attention and giving appropriate weight to the risk of a further slowdown in the global economy; expeditious action to strengthen national financial systems and international oversight; development of a practical guide or road map for safe capital liberalization in developing countries; agreement to work urgently toward a better mechanism to involve private sector investors in the resolution of financial crises, including the possibility of an emergency standstill clause; and greater attention to the needs of the poorest countries to ensure they receive the resources and support they need to reduce poverty and begin growing.

At the G-7 summit in Birmingham in May last year, leaders accelerated work begun in the 1995 Halifax summit on strengthening the international financial architecture to help prevent and better manage financial crises. Key elements of these efforts include: reports of the three G-22 working parties, improving transparency and accountability, strengthening national financial systems and addressing international financial crises delivered at the G-22 meeting October 5, 1998; the G-7 leaders statement on the world economy issued October 30, 1998 together with the declaration of G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors; the plan for implementing reforms to the global financial architecture presented by G-7 finance ministers to heads in December 1998; the February 20, 1999 communique of G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors; the February 1999 Tietmeyer report to G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors on international co-operation and co-ordination in the area of financial market supervision and surveillance, and its proposal for the establishment of a financial stability forum to provide a mechanism for co-ordination and exchange of views among financial sector regulators and supervisors; the first meeting of the financial stability forum on April 13; and two seminars, one held on March 11 and the other to be held on April 25, 1999, involving 33 industrial countries and emerging markets to discuss outstanding issues in the international financial architecture.

Priority areas for strengthening the international architecture outlined in the October 1998 leaders statement on the world economy include greater transparency and openness in financial systems, better processes for monitoring and promoting international financial stability and improvements in corporate governance, orderly capital account liberalization, private sector involvement in preventing and resolving future crises, protecting the most vulnerable in society, and improving the effectiveness of international financial institutions.

The latter includes a proposal for an enhanced IMF facility to provide a precautionary line of credit for countries pursuing strong IMF approved policies, accompanied by bilateral assistance on a case by case basis, and with appropriate private sector involvement. Much has already been accomplished in these areas.

Six areas were also identified in the October 1998 leaders statement as requiring further attention. These six priority areas form the basis for G-33 discussion in the international seminars held on March 11 and to be held on April 25. They include: examining the scope for strengthened prudential regulation in industrial countries; further strengthening prudential regulation and financial systems in emerging markets; considering the elements necessary for the maintenance of sustainable exchange rate regimes in emerging markets; developing new ways to respond to crises and promote greater participation by the private sector; assessing proposals for strengthening the IMF, and proposals for strengthening the interim and development committees of the IMF and World Bank; and minimizing the human cost of crises and protecting the most vulnerable.

Canada supports the six priority areas outlined in the October 1998 leaders statement as requiring further action and is committed to advancing work in these areas. In particular, Canadian objectives in discussions on reforming the international architecture are presently focused on ensuring that the substantive aspects of these discussions take place within a permanent process that is representative of the major participants in the international financial system, that measures to effectively involve the private sector in crisis resolution are established to attenuate imprudent lending, and that the social aspects of international financial crises are addressed.

Prospects for a successful conclusion of the substantive aspects of discussions on establishing a permanent process for addressing international financial issues will be enhanced if they take place within a process that represents the interests and points of view of the major participants in the international financial system, and is anchored within the governance structures of the IMF. For this reason, Canada is supportive of efforts to improve the functioning of the interim committee.

The G-22 working group on financial crises agreed on some mechanisms for enhancing private sector involvement in crisis prevention and resolution, including collective action clauses in bond contracts and contingent financial arrangements with the private sector. Canada attaches a high priority to moving ahead with their implementation and moving even further to address the incentives that lead to imprudent lending. Canadian proposals for greater private sector involvement in crisis prevention and resolution received general support at the March 11 seminar.

Canada is particularly concerned about the social impacts of financial instability. We welcome this opportunity to put forward Canada's position on the reform of these financial institutions.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in the debate on Motion No. 338, which was moved by colleague from the Reform Party.

The motion reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should convene in 1998 a meeting of “like-minded nations” in order to develop a multilateral plan of action to reform international organizations (e.g. International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations) so that they can identify the precursors of conflict and establish multilateral, conflict prevention initiatives.

This is very nicely put, but the Bloc Quebecois must point out right away that it will vote against Motion No. 338. Let us have a closer look together at the motion.

First it says, and I quote:

—the government should convene in 1998 a meeting of 'like-minded nations' in order to develop a multilateral plan of action—

Members will agree with me that “like-minded nations” is a very vague and general concept. According to the logic of the motion, it would appear that the Reform Party is trying to create some level of separation, which we in the Bloc Quebecois find unacceptable, between industrialized countries, otherwise known as “like-minded nations”, and developing countries.

This is clearly undemocratic and paternalistic. How dare the Reform Party exclude developing countries out of hand from the drafting of such a multilateral plan of action?

The reform proposed by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca would directly affect poor countries since for the most part conflicts are taking place in developing countries.

Any reform aimed at significantly changing the role of international organizations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the United Nations must be carried out in consultation with the countries affected.

In fact, I would like to remind the Reform Party that the main aim of organizations such as the World Bank or the United Nations is to help developing countries.

Therefore, why exclude poor countries from this reform? They are the primary beneficiaries of the assistance provided by these organizations. It is important to consult these countries before undertaking any reform, so as to be aware of their needs and concerns, and have an accurate idea of the reality of the people affected by poverty or conflicts. This only makes sense.

Any reform must be undertaken in partnership with international organizations and governments, the people affected and NGOs in the field. We have a lot to learn from them. But the Reform Party is advocating unilateral action by industrialized countries. The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this way of doing things.

With its delusions of grandeur, the Reform Party wants to reform everything. But before trying to reform everything on this planet, it should start right here, in the Canadian government's own back yard. Believe me, there are lots of weeds in that back yard.

Since the Liberals came to office in 1993, CIDA's budget for international assistance has been reduced by almost 30%. Yet, more than 1.3 billion people are living in abject poverty, barely surviving on less than a dollar a day. Every day, 34,000 children die from malnutrition and disease.

Before the Liberals took office, Canada was seen as a leader in development aid. Now, because of the Liberals' poor record in this field, Canada's image and reputation have been tarnished.

Canada is, in fact, no longer one of the top donors to the developing countries. It has now dropped from fifth to eleventh.

Betty Plewes, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Council for International Development, the CCIC, a coalition of 100 major Canadian organizations active in the development filed, stated as follows:

The aid to development program has been more affected by deficit cutting measures than other federal programs.

This is proof that Canada could very well, within the very near future, no longer be on the list of the most generous and most committed members of the international donor community. This government is so irresponsible that it has reached the stage of neglecting the true human values.

In the last budget, the government added $50 million to its international aid budget, out of a total CIDA budget of just under $2 billion.

The Minister of Finance claims to thus be taking a step toward attaining the objective of devoting 7% of the GDP to development aid. Yet all this does is to just barely allow it to keep up. At the rate it is going, the federal government will not attain that objective before the fourth millennium.

The international aid budget is a perfect example of the distortion between Liberal rhetoric and the reality of facts and figures.

I hope that this brief analysis will enable the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca to realize that it would be advisable, and preferable, to look to what is going on in here in Canada before trying to revolutionize the entire world. Before trying to create new international structures, let us concentrate on better adapting the institutions we already have to the new political, social and economic realities of our day.

Motion No. 338 by the Reform Party is all the more incomprehensible when one looks at the May 1995 final report by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, “From Bretton Woods to Halifax and Beyond: Towards a 21st Summit for the 21st Century Challenge”. This was a unanimous report addressing issues of international financial institutions reforms for the agenda of the June 1995 G-7 Halifax summit.

At page 14 of the executive summary, it states:

Ultimately the world's peoples through their representatives need to have a democratic voice in the changes affecting global economic security and development.

The Reform Party supported this statement, because it supported this report. So, what is behind this sudden change in direction? Could we say improvisation?

I invite the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca to read the very instructive report on the renewal and reform of the institutions responsible for international economics, including the IMF and the World Bank. Had he read this report, the member would probably not have presented his motion, because it raises the concerns the member refers to in his motion.

In closing, I would remind you that the Bloc Quebecois has always had a concern for the operation of international agencies, such as the UN, the IMF and the World Bank. They have repeatedly proven their role in the maintenance of world order.

That said, nothing is perfect. Political, social and economic change occurs on our planet at a tremendous rate and these institutions must keep up with the changes. However, if the developing countries are to be denied a say in the reform of these institutions, as the Reform Party is proposing, the Bloc Quebecois must oppose Motion No. 338.

The world balance is precarious enough at the moment. There is therefore no question of heightening the reality of excluding the developing countries. Globalization is not only economic, but social and human as well.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise to make a few brief observations on the worthwhileness and the relevance of the hon. member's private member's motion. It is probably more timely than the member might have thought, although I realize he probably initially regretted that the motion did not come forward at an earlier time and therefore had to seek the unanimous consent of the House to amend it and take out the reference to 1998.

It just so happens that in 1999 we are in a position where we can see the wisdom of the idea we find in the motion, that the world should be more focused on conflict prevention than it has been and that Canada should convene a meeting or act in other ways to bring together like-minded nations that would like to reform our international institutions in a way which would make this kind of conflict prevention more possible and more probable.

It is a timely debate. From my point of view and the point of view of my party, although I realize this is Private Members' Business, reform of our international institutions has certainly been a focus of ours for a long time. Just the other day, again in the context of Private Members' Business, the House unanimously passed a motion by the NDP member for Regina—Qu'Appelle on the issue of the Tobin tax, which in a way addresses itself to an element of what is wrong with the global economy and what is wrong with it in a way that has come to prevent or limit the actions of international financial institutions.

One of the problems we have with respect to the global economy and the international financial institutions is that they were designed for a global economy that was much less globalized and much more regulated. One of the problems we are facing now is the massive deregulation of capital and capital flows.

This has created a new opportunity for the destabilization of national economies, the destabilization of regions, and it is one of the reasons we need to work as an international community on what might be loosely called a new Bretton Woods or a new way of regulating the global economy, to do for the global economy what we once did for national economies; that is to say, to make sure in the way we once made sure national economies worked in the national interest, in the public interest for the common good, we now need to regulate the global economy to replicate in terms of global institutions those things we once did only at the national level.

Otherwise we would end up with this totally unfettered global marketplace in which we see what many have called a race to the bottom; that is to say, a bondage to a certain notion of competition. This means that countries have to cater in an uncritical way to the needs of foreign investment and international capital, which leads to a driving down of wages and a reduction in government revenues, which in turn leads to cutbacks in social programs and the ability of government to act on behalf of the public, both in terms of providing social programs and in terms of legislating in respect of labour and environmental standards or anything else that might be construed to make us less competitive.

We have a situation here which certainly calls for a more focused effort to reform our international institutions. I would say with respect to the IMF and the World Bank that in many respects now they are part of the problem rather than the solution. They make countries do things that countries should not have to do. Through structural adjustment and things like that they literally make countries, particularly the poorer countries, starve their own people in order to pay off debts either to the IMF directly or to banks or generally to their creditors. There is something desperately wrong about this.

It is why we have seen recently the call by the leadership of the churches in Canada for something that is called Jubilee 2000, which is an attempt to use the spirit of the jubilee proclaimed in Deuteronomy; that is to say, the idea that every 50 years the debt should be wiped clean and people should get a chance to—

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Leviticus.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

I am sorry, Leviticus, the hon. member says, a biblical scholar among the Liberals.

In any event the notion we find in the Hebrew testament about jubilee is something which I think more and more Canadians are certainly willing to consider. They do not see the point of driving these poorer countries further and further into situations which are in the final analysis destructive of their environment, destructive of the social fabric of their respective countries, and in the end destructive for all of us, to the extent that these countries are driven to convert their economies to export economies and to the extent that they have to destroy their own environment to do that. If they have to destroy their rain forest, for instance, to create pasture to grow beef in order to export it, that is the only way they can get hard currency to pay off their debts, instead of having an economy that might better service the food and the social needs of their own population.

We are not getting anywhere if in the end all the debts are paid and all the banks are happy but we cannot breathe the air and we cannot go outside because the ozone layer has been so depleted. What shall it profit us if the banks gain the whole world and we lose our ability to actually survive on the planet because we have driven all these countries into a way of behaving that is destructive, not just of their environment but of our common environment? That is certainly one of the concerns I have and one of the things we need to look at when we look at reform of international financial institutions.

Finally I will say a word on the United Nations. I do not think anybody would dare get up in the context of this debate and with what has been happening in the former Yugoslavia and suggest that somehow the United Nations is adequate to the circumstances which the world is experiencing. We have a very serious dilemma precisely because of the failure of the United Nations to be able to act in the former Yugoslavia. There is an inability of the security council to come to any kind of agreement as a result of the vetoes that exist there and the lack of any long term will at the UN to develop a capacity to react to these kinds of situations, even if there were agreement.

Even if the UN had been able to agree to do something in Kosovo, it would have had to depend on national military capacities and not on its own military capacity. One of the suggestions that has been made over the years is that the UN have this standing capacity in its own name.

We need to look at democratizing the United Nations so that we do not have the situation where those who were considered to be the great powers after the second world war still have exclusive veto over world affairs through the UN. A lot of things need to be looked at.

One of the problems in the current situation in Kosovo is that we have things being done in the name of the international community. I will repeat what I said the other night. Unfortunately the international community through the UN was not able to act, but that does not make NATO the international community.

It causes problems for people who may at some level want to support what is going on in Kosovo when they hear NATO setting itself up as the international community because it clearly is not. Not only that, NATO is being led in this case by a country, the United States of America, which has clearly done all it can over the years to marginalize the UN. It does not pay its dues. It has a significant element within its Congress that regularly attacks the United Nations.

There is a lot to be further debated. It is regrettable that some of the countries which now hold up NATO as the international community are not doing more at the UN to make sure that the UN can become the authentic voice of the international community.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief because many members are here to speak to the Bloc Quebecois motion on this opposition day.

The wording of the motion moved by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is far from perfect. I agree and I think the member would too. Naturally, it is not just a matter of the date for the conference, 1998. I am going to take a look at the wording of the motion.

As other colleagues have pointed out, the motion says “like-minded nations”. Some caution is perhaps in order, because if only “like-minded nations” are going to be involved in changing international organizations, even if this is just the ground work for such changes, there must be a consensus of countries belonging to these organizations.

For all the fine speeches and meetings held with countries that share our thinking in certain areas, it is becoming clear that we are shooting ourselves in the foot, as it were, because we will not be able to make these changes and reach a consensus when it comes to international organizations.

My Reform Party colleague gave the example of land mines. This example can cut both ways. Why? Because there was no consensus among the countries most affected by the land mine problem. Those least affected, such as Canada, signed the Ottawa agreement.

The countries most concerned, those wreaking the most havoc with land mines, were not part of the consensus. The debate must therefore be extended to take in all countries belonging to an organization. This debate should perhaps first be held here in Canada.

Most people do not even know how many international organizations there are and which does what. It is becoming increasingly apparent that people are a bit lost and are no longer very clear on the distinction between the UN, the WTO, the former GATT, NATO and so on. There are so many names that people get mixed up. This is true for many parliamentarians, myself included. There are so many international organizations that is hard to keep them all straight.

In the motion, “international organizations” seems on the one hand to include all bodies, and on the other to exclude them.

The motion states:

—International organizations (e.g. International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations) so that they can identify the precursors of conflict and establish multilateral, conflict prevention initiatives.

I am not sure the WTO would play an important role in settling conflicts. Here again we do not know exactly what this is all about. Is it really a security issue, or a military, economic or humanitarian issue? We do not know, and it is unfortunate because, for the past few weeks, we have been hearing a lot about three major international organizations, namely the WTO, which got involved on the eve of the negotiations, the UN and NATO.

We might be well advised to make these international organizations better known in this parliament and across the country, inform Quebecers and Canadians and then ask them what their opinion is. If Canada can develop a national position, it will be much more credible internationally.

Canada has a leadership role to play nationally, but also on the world scene. For decades Canada has played a role in changing, improving, even creating international organizations. Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, Canada's leadership has been tarnished by events in Kosovo. We asked what steps Canada took before the war in Kosovo, and we are expecting answers. What efforts has the Government of Canada made? What leadership has the Government of Canada shown in preparing for the possibility of an armed conflict in the Yugoslav Republic? We still do not know.

The UN has been replaced by the flag of war, a war under NATO. International organizations are changing, and NATO is the prime example. The purpose of NATO was preparedness if one of its member countries were to be invaded, and now it has become an international police force.

Is this grounds for criticism? For questioning, at least. Is NATO's response in Kosovo not a sign of the UN's weakness? Perhaps. Maybe this was the only approach or maybe others could have been considered. Perhaps the UN and leading members of the UN, such as Canada, have not done their job. There are a lot of questions that will probably remain unanswered, in the short term at least.

There are many negative aspects to the motion with respect to its drafting. We are, however, going to support it because it calls for examining all international bodies, and this is something that is needed.

At present, one committee will address the WTO, another some other body, but there is no overall picture. There is a shift going on within the international bodies. To take an example that is not a military one, an examination of international protection of intellectual property, we realize that the international organization has no teeth and is calling upon the WTO to apply sanctions.

It is clear therefore that a shift is taking place within the international organizations, which creates a need to analyse all of them. As part of this process, we should perhaps look here as well in Parliament at the way Canada joins these organizations and signs protocols and treaties without parliament having any say, or at least much.

A reform of international organizations should include a look at how parliament ought to be changed in order to become a stakeholder in these international organizations and be involved from start to finish. That is very important. The government should learn to use Parliament much more than it does at the moment.

We want to draw attention to the quality of the motion, perhaps not in its formulation, but in what it proposes, that is, an analysis of and profound change in the way the international organizations operate.

We will support it with pleasure and we hope that this will be the beginning of a review of this parliament and how it relates to international organizations.

Reform Of International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

SupplyGovernment Orders

April 19th, 1999 / 12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

moved:

That this House demand that the government submit to a debate and a vote in this House the sending of Canadian soldiers to the Balkans who may be involved in military or peacekeeping operations on the ground in Kosovo and the Balkan region.

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I would draw to your attention the fact that the leader of the Bloc Quebecois will be sharing his time with our honourable colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry. Later on, throughout the course of the debate, the Bloc Quebecois members rising to speak will be sharing their time.

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12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this fashion?

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12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, we are debating a motion that is very democratic, reasonable and responsible.

This motion is asking members of parliament to vote on the opportunity to hold a vote on the sending of Canadian troops to Kosovo and the Balkan region. The motion before us applies to both combat troops and peacekeeping forces.

Today's debate may help us find out a little more about the government's intentions, about what is really going on, about its military planning and diplomatic initiatives. Our main problem, and this is the primary reason behind this motion, is that we sorely lack information. In fact, the government is providing such limited information that we are better informed by Newsworld and CNN.

The purpose of this exercise is not academic or hypothetical, as the Prime Minister claimed last week, in reply to our questions. The legitimacy of our request is evidenced by the dispatches published in newspapers yesterday and today, including The Sunday Observer , and alluding to preparations for a ground invasion of Yugoslavia toward the end of May.

In the leaflets that it recently dropped over the Yugoslav territory, NATO itself stated that an invasion would take place if Serbian forces did not leave Kosovo.

We are not the only ones asking that members of parliament vote on this issue. Many editorials in the country's major dailies are asking for the same thing.

For example, in its April 14 issue, the Montreal Gazette said that our soldiers deserve to know that their elected representatives are supporting them, adding that the Prime Minister was “badly wrong” in not allowing for a vote in the House of Commons.

On April 13, the National Post said that only a parliamentary vote would give the Prime Minister the moral authority to involve Canada in a ground war in the former Yugoslavia.

That same day, La Presse said that the government's refusal to hold a vote was creating a democratic deficit.

On Saturday, the editorial writer for Le Soleil said that fortunately the Bloc Quebecois would be forcing such a vote Monday—today—in the House of Commons.

Susan Riley, a Southam columnist, said that it would be better to abolish Parliament than put it through the travesty of consultation to which the government is now subjecting it.

There is something strange and disquieting about this whole business. From the beginning, the government seems to have been swept along by events. It seems to be making it up as it goes along. In fact, it is ironic to say the least that the Prime Minister, whose constant refrain has been the need for Canada to have a foreign policy that is separate from that of the United States, now seems to have fallen in completely with Washington.

We also have the right to wonder if Canadian troops might find themselves on the frontline because their humanitarian mission would be transformed into a combat mission. They could get involved in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia through the back door, without parliament having had a chance to vote on this issue.

Yesterday, the government announced that another six CF-18s would be sent to Italy, thereby tripling our initial participation.

This brings me to ask the Prime Minister a very simple question: how much will Canadian participation have to escalate before parliament is asked to vote on this issue?

Technically, Canada could be at war without parliamentarians having had a chance to vote on the matter. This seems rather inappropriate in a democratic society and a parliamentary democracy.

It seems even more inappropriate considering the fact that, in 1991, the Prime Minister, who was sitting on this side of the House as opposition leader, was clamouring for a vote in parliament on the issue of military operations against Iraq.

The Liberal leader said at the time that the government did not have, and I quote, “the moral authority to put this country into a war situation” since the House of Commons had not approved, through a vote, Canada's participation in Operation Desert Storm.

The same member, who is now Prime Minister, should be consistent since he is the one who said on January 15, 1991, and I quote:

The problem we all face is why the Prime Minister—

He was referring to Prime Minister Mulroney.

—has not chosen to ask the real question of the House today. This is the question with which the country is faced: Should Canadian troops participate in a war—

Today, the government is desperately seeking reasons not to have a vote on this issue and to object to our motion, which is totally reasonable.

For example, last week, we heard the Prime Minister say in response to our questions that he did not want to have a vote because it could show some dissension among us, which could be exploited by Milosevic's propaganda.

He used this ridiculous argument, knowing full well that almost all MPs support Canadian participation in an international intervention that will put an end to the crimes against humanity perpetuated by the Milosevic regime in Kosovo.

As well, a vote in the House, with the support of 90%, 95% or 98% of MPs, would lend far more authenticity to the government than the polls the Prime Minister refers to.

If there were any objections at all, they would be the normal outcome of a sound debate within a democratic assembly in which it is virtually impossible to achieve unanimity.

This House must hold a debate on this issue. We must set a democratic example for Milosevic, rather than an imposed and unverified unanimity. Democracy is our true strength, and Milosevic's main weakness.

I do not have much idea of what is going on within the Milosevic government, but I doubt very much that he is waiting anxiously on the outcome of a vote by the House of Commons in Ottawa to decide whether or not he will refuse to put an end to the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

Holding a vote on sending troops to the Balkans has nothing to do with a vote of confidence toward the government, as the Prime Minister was stating in his roundabout way last week, nor is it the nonsense the House leader was calling it. Such statements are not a very good example for the people of Canada or of Quebec.

It is also wrong to claim, as the government House leader did a few days ago, that the motion before us implies that any troop movement, even a normal troop rotation, would have to be approved by parliament.

This is a ridiculous argument, and it shows just how deep the government side had to dig to find an excuse to oppose our motion.

Members, the elected representatives of the people, must have their say. Citing polls, as the Prime Minister did last week, is a travesty of parliament. The House of Commons is the expression of democracy. We do not take polls, we were elected to represent the people.

It is all the more logical for us to vote since the deployment of troops on Yugoslav soil was predictable from the outset.

From the time it became clear that the NATO air strikes would not bring President Milosevic to his knees, the Atlantic Alliance had three options. The first was the German peace plan, the diplomatic approach we must build on. The second was to add ground intervention to the air strikes in order to carry out the mission of ending the crimes of Milosevic in Kosovo. The third was to drop our objective, abandon the Kosovars and let President Milosevic complete the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, if not genocide. This would reinforce the aggression of the Milosevic government and encourage all the other tyrants and despots in the world.

The situation is clear. For the sake of consistency with the statements made in 1991 by those who, today, are the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in the democratic spirit the media have summarized so well and to act on the will of the people, the government must allow MPs to vote on this. Canada's position and its participation, if it comes to that, will be the stronger for it.

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12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by the leader of the Bloc Quebecois and I have one simple question for him.

In the current state of emergency with respect to the conflict, would the will of parliaments not be the best means to counter propaganda and identify the democratic proceedings and action to be taken to find a solution to this crisis finally?

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12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this goes without saying, and the Germans have shown us the way. It was Germany that proposed a peace plan and that same country also held a debate in its parliament. Germans acted in a responsible and consistent fashion, and they strengthened the diplomatic channels by acting in a democratic way. These two things go hand in hand.

A vote will also be held by the two houses of the Czech republic. They too are consistent. This is what must be done. We must get all members of this parliament involved, and make sure—and I think all the opposition parties agree—that our colleagues across the floor wake up, stop yielding to the Prime Minister and start remembering the days when they displayed some judgment, when they sat on this side of the House. It seems as though they have lost all critical judgment since moving to the other side of the floor.

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12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois to address this motion we have put forward in the context of the growing crisis in Kosovo.

Today's newspapers are reporting that Kosovo is becoming empty. Therefore, it is essential to continue the debate in this House, to give members an opportunity to address the serious crisis being reported by the television, the media and the newspapers. Quebecers and Canadians have been closely following this conflict, and there is evidence that ethnic cleansing operations are indeed taking place and getting worse every day.

Civilian populations are being displaced to neighbouring countries, including Albania, which is welcoming thousands of refugees—over 40,000 in the last few hours—Macedonia and Montenegro. These countries will have to share that task with other nations such as France and, some day, in all likelihood, Canada, which said it was prepared to welcome some of these refugees.

This is ethnic cleansing bordering on genocide, the most terrible of crimes against humanity, a crime which saw the creation, in 1948, of a convention whose 50th anniversary we celebrated last year. The convention provides not only that the crime of genocide is punishable but also that nations have an obligation to prevent it.

Today, as the century comes to a close, countries, including Canada, seem too little concerned with trying to prevent a genocide that echoes the genocides with which the century opened: the genocides of the Armenians, the Jews during World War II and, more recently, the Cambodians and Rwandans.

We must say publicly that we have an obligation to prevent a genocide. We must say it in parliaments, for parliaments have the role of informing the public, of presenting the situation and informing the public through its elected representatives. Until now, elected representatives have had the less than satisfactory task of receiving information and passing it on to the public that duly elected them.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is the primary spokesperson and we have had debates on this topic. When the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is the government's leading spokesperson on this issue, tells us that it is the government's prerogative to decide to send troops abroad, he is forgetting that, in 1991, this parliament voted in favour of sending troops to Iraq. There is a precedent for voting in favour of sending troops to Kosovo, whether to impose peace there or maintain it.

This is an important precedent. We invoke it, and continue to invoke it, because it belies any notion that the government does not have to consult parliament and put the question to a vote because its prerogative does not necessarily require it to consult that body.

The government should follow the lead of other parliaments. The Minister of Foreign Affairs himself, during a hearing of the foreign affairs committee, gave the example of Germany which, by the way, has proposed a peace plan that the Bloc Quebecois had asked the Government of Canada to sponsor.

Germany is not afraid of its parliament. There have already been two debates and two votes in the German parliament on this issue. The government cannot invoke what is going on in foreign parliaments to justify an opposition to a vote in the Canadian parliament.

Hungarian and Czech parliamentarians also had an opportunity to vote on this issue. The Czech constitution even provides that the deployment of troops in a foreign country must be debated and approved by parliament.

This shows that other NATO member states trust their parliamentarians and their parliaments, and I believe that the Canadian parliament should also have a decisive role to play on this fundamental issue.

Apart from saying that parliament must have a decisive role to play, I cannot exclude dealing with other dimensions of this conflict which the Bloc Quebecois has been concerned with since the beginning.

There is a humanitarian aspect about which we must have the highest concern: there are too many refugees. There are now hundreds of thousands of them. Kosovo, as I already said, is being emptied and its people is the victim of ethnic cleansing and, likely, of genocide.

We must help. We must be generous and show solidarity in this terrible ordeal the Kosovar people is undergoing. The government must act in a more transparent way. It must share information. Militants of the Bloc Quebecois participating in a general council during the weekend asked the government to be generous to refugees and to spend the $100 million committed to aid for the refugees in those countries where they have found refuge.

We must not forget the criminal dimension of this conflict. There are people, heads of state, politicians who are presumably taking part in crimes against humanity, crimes of genocide. They must not escape punishment.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia should one day soon, real soon, bring to justice the individuals who committed and are still committing crimes against humanity. As for the man responsible for such crimes, the head of the Yugoslav state, he should not be spared and escape punishment.

There is also a political role or dimension to this conflict that should not be overlooked. We in the Bloc Quebecois have always been concerned with the role the UN must keep on playing when it comes to putting an end to international conflicts, settling differences, in order to maintain international peace and security.

We still believe the security council should play a role, and Kofi Annan, who is very well received by the Europeans, should also be invited by Canada to play a more active role.

If it proved necessary, we could eventually ask the General Assembly of the United Nations, in keeping with the Acheson resolution, to play a role in maintaining international peace and security with regard to the present conflict. We think it is important for the United Nations not to be cast aside, not to be marginalized, to take part in the dispute settlement process so that it can maintain its role in the future.

I conclude by putting forward an amendment. I move:

That the motion be amended by replacing the words “debate and a” with the following:

“prior debate and”

Lastly, I would like to quote not Euripides like I did last week, but Victor Hugo. The celebrated poet once wrote that war is the clash of men and peace is the clash of ideas.

Let us restore peace in Kosovo through every possible means, so that one great idea, peace, can prevail and future generations of Kosovars can be spared the horrors of war.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The amendment to the motion is in order.

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12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Bernier Bloc Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Madam Speaker, before putting a question to my hon. colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry, who, by the way, is doing a great job as our critic for international affairs, I would like to say, with a catch in my voice, that I thought he made a very passionate speech.

Given what people are saying, what editorial writers are thinking, what headlines are saying, things like “Kosovo almost empty of its inhabitants”, I think it is very important that Canadian parliamentarians address the issue.

When newspapers and politicians use the word genocide, I think it is important for Canadian parliamentarians to rise in this House and exercise their responsibility. They must decide, based on their own conscience, whether or not their country should deploy peacekeeping forces or land troops, as the case may be, as mentioned by our leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

I would now like to ask the member a question. In his speech, he referred to a precedent that occurred in 1991, when the House had a vote on a similar issue. I know the government can make its own decisions with regard to international treaties and agreements. However, it often gives Canadian parliamentarians the opportunity to do so. Bill C-27 is a good example of that. This bill, which deals with the United Nations fisheries agreement, will be put to a vote on Tuesday. Fish stocks are certainly important to me, but life in Kosovo is even more important.

Would the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry tell us what role Canada can play within the UN security council and give us some clarification about that? I know the fisheries, but I would like the UN to take this thing seriously and I would like the member to tell us about the situation in this House.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. While the government, in reviewing its foreign policy, proposed democratizing it by giving a voice to the people on the matter, we note that it does not seem to want to give a real voice to those representing them in parliament.

We have proof of this from the many times it has rejected the idea that these parliamentarians should vote in favour of sending troops abroad, not only in this debate, but in other debates we have had on sending troops to Iraq and the central African republic. It has always rejected a vote following a debate on sending troops.

Since my colleague referred to the treaty, if is true that parliament may at times consider laws implementing treaties, because it is obliged to pass such laws. However, this same government will not let the House of Commons approve treaties before they are signed or ratified.

Here again, this is a great democratic shortcoming, which must be corrected and which was corrected to some extent in other Commonwealth parliaments, such as in Australia and New Zealand, and which the British government wants to correct.

This government and others before it have put an end to a former practice whereby important treaties were approved. I can give you one example, which is very important in the context of the present debate, since parliament, the House of Commons, approved it before Canada ratified it, and that is the treaty establishing NATO. The treaty was approved in the House before being ratified by the Government of Canada. There were others, but the practice was dropped, and for the past few months, with Bloc colleagues, I have been arguing that the practice should be reinstated in parliament.

It would be an element of real democratization, which the present government will no doubt reject, as we will see from the way it votes on today's motion, unless it considers that democracy is calling out to it today and is insisting that parliament also decide matters related to foreign policy.

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12:30 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Liberal

Julian Reed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I will begin by restating why Canada is involved in the action with NATO in the former Yugoslavia.

In Kosovo the Yugoslav regime has engaged in a campaign of brutal repression ever since it unilaterally striped Kosovo of its autonomy and abolished its local institutions in 1989 and 1990.

The United Nations Security Council, acting under chapter VII, has issued several resolutions regarding the Kosovo crisis which identified the conflict as a threat to peace and security in the region.

These resolutions and the October agreements between the FRY, the former republic of Yugoslavia, and the OSCE and NATO, impose a clear legal obligation on FRY to respect a ceasefire, protect the civilian population, and limit the deployment of a security force in Kosovo.

The FRY is in clear violation of these commitments which were accepted in October and is violating the obligations imposed by resolutions 1199 and 1203. The FRY has violated the ceasefire and has systematically violated international humanitarian law by launching a campaign of terror against civilians which includes killing and torturing, arbitrary detention and persecution, and denial of basic rights based on ethnicity.

Our preference has always been for a diplomatic solution to the problem of Kosovo. Diplomacy was given every chance to succeed. Numerous diplomatic missions were sent to Belgrade. The OSCE created a major verification mission. Finally the Rambouillet conference ultimately failed because of the consistent intransigence displayed by President Milosevic.

Only when these efforts had been exhausted and when all attempts to stop the regime's campaign of terror against civilians had failed did the allies resort to military action.

Clearly it would have been best if the UN could have facilitated an end to the conflict in Kosovo. When the security council is unable to reach consensus, however, we cannot remain passive in the presence of massacres and humanitarian disaster.

NATO's objective is to make the Yugoslav government end the savage repression of its own people, to degrade the military machine which supports this brutality, and to prompt Belgrade to negotiate an agreement with a just political settlement for the Kosovars.

The Yugoslav security forces and paramilitary organizations are now carrying out a campaign of terror and expelling large numbers of Kosovars. We have corroborated reports that they are implicated in summary executions and other atrocities against civilians.

Over one-third of the population of Kosovo has left the country. NATO is dealing with this humanitarian disaster, not only by stepping up the military intervention which is the only obstacle in the way of Serbian ethnic cleansing. It is also directly assisting the refugees, increasing its assistance to humanitarian organizations and supporting the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The criticism that NATO action is the cause of the current deterioration of the humanitarian situation is unfounded. Ethnic cleansing by the Yugoslav authorities has been going on for months with forced expulsions, destruction of villages, and massacres by the security forces in 1998 and early 1999.

The regime blatantly violated UNSC resolutions and other obligations, harassed international verifiers and built up its military deployment in preparation for a massive spring offensive which started as soon as the OSCE verification mission was forced to leave.

This all happened before NATO began its military intervention. NATO responded to Milosevic's ethnic cleansing. It did not provoke it. The ideal course of action remains diplomacy. Any diplomatic overture must however open the way to a lasting solution.

Milosevic knows perfectly well what the conditions are for this to happen. He must immediately stop the campaign of ethnic cleansing and terror against civilians, withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo, accept an international peacekeeping force which would provide the Kosovars with enough confidence to return home in safety and commit to a just political settlement.

I fully support Canada's participation in the NATO action precipitated by a humanitarian disaster. I also fully support our men and women in the Canadian forces who have responded so courageously to this situation.

I am not able to support the motion. The government is committed to consulting with parliament and has been doing so on an ongoing basis. So far there have been three separate debates on Kosovo in the House for a total of 26 hours in which almost 100 MPs participated. On the issue of deployment of ground troops, NATO has not so far requested Canada to provide ground troops to the action. Therefore the question remains hypothetical. If this request occurs the Prime Minister has committed to consulting with parliament.

On the issue of holding a vote I would argue that our system in which the government and not parliament is responsible for deploying troops needs to maintain its current flexibility. This ensures that if necessary the government can deploy troops as it at times has on an emergency basis.

Parliament is not always sitting and may not be in a position to respond to an emergency. In practice, when Canadian military personnel are called upon to support peacekeeping or humanitarian missions abroad, the need for their presence can be immediate in very real terms. A prime example is the disaster assistance response team which is designed to begin deployment of its 180 members within 48 hours. Therefore I believe it would be inappropriate to tie the hands of the government to respond quickly and effectively.

I reiterate that opposition to the motion does not mean the government is denying that parliament has an important role to play. Parliament has been engaged throughout this conflict, as have the standing committees on foreign affairs and defence. I repeat that the Prime Minister has made a firm commitment to consult parliament if the situation in Kosovo changes significantly.

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12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Madam Speaker, I have listened carefully to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The only argument he appears to be using to justify this Parliament's not voting on this motion is that of flexibility. That is the only argument I heard.

It is not valid because section 32 of the National Defence Act gives the government that flexibility. I would invite the Parliamentary Secretary to read that section with care, as it provides that, when parliament is not in session, the governor in council may place the Canadian forces on active service and that it can, moreover, recall Parliament within a certain period of time so that the matter may be presented and eventually discussed in parliament.

That is the only argument he used, and it is not convincing. What would be convincing, however, would be to hear the parliamentary secretary, and through him, his government, state a belief in parliamentary democracy. This is a parliamentary democracy.

My question is this: ought a parliamentary democracy not to give MPs a true voice when it comes to sending troops abroad, soldiers whose lives could be in danger, and to committing major funding for the purpose of ensuring international peace and security, as we have since the beginning of the conflict? Does a parliamentary democracy not require the government to accept, as a previous government did, our voting on a motion like the one to authorize sending troops to Kosovo?

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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Madam Speaker, I also listened very carefully to my hon. friend's argument.

Historically, Canada has not voted on issues of this gravity. When there was a vote taken on the Iraq situation, my hon. friend will remember that it was taken months after the fact. The debate did not occur at the outset of the hostilities. I believe it was upwards of four months after the commencement of the hostilities that there was even a debate.

I suggest to the hon. member that the position of the government has historically been that yes, parliament must be consulted. Parliament in this case has been consulted on a regular basis, probably more often than at any other time of serious conflict. It must remain the prerogative of the government to make the instant decisions when they need to be made.

My hon. friend referred to the section in the defence act which gives flexibility to the government. Certainly that flexibility has to be maintained all the way across the broad base.