That this House calls on the government to intensify and accelerate efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Kosovo through the involvement of Russia and the United Nations, and to urge NATO not to take actions that expand the conflict and stand in the way of a diplomatic solution.
Madam Speaker, in launching this debate this morning, I would like to explain why the New Democratic Party made the decision to use its opposition day, one of approximately three opposition days in the course of a year, to introduce this motion on Kosovo.
In the few minutes that are available to me, because I will be dividing my time with my colleague from Halifax West, the NDP defence critic, I want to say what this resolution means in relation to the critical point, the critical juncture we have reached in the desperate search for a speedy, peaceful diplomatic solution to the horrifying humanitarian crisis in Kosovo.
Since the Kosovo crisis began in March 1998, just one year ago, 700,000 to 800,000 Kosovars have been forced out of their homeland. Another 400,000, perhaps more than that, have been displaced within Kosovo. Massive damage has been done to the civilian infrastructure of Yugoslavia by the some 3,000 sorties flown by the NATO strike aircraft.
Canadians want to know, and they want to know now, that their government is doing everything humanly possible to bring the hostilities to an end, to bring an end to the atrocities being committed by the Yugoslavian government under Milosevic and to the military aggression. They want to be assured that the Kosovar Albanians are going to be able to return safely to live in their homeland in peace and comfort and security.
That is the goal. That is the objective that supposedly drew Canada into this conflict. It must remain our single-minded objective in the days ahead.
Frankly, we in the New Democratic Party along with a great many other Canadians are gravely disappointed with both the scope and the pace of the diplomatic efforts pursued by the Canadian government to date. Instead of bold and creative diplomacy, we have had boosterism, we have had followership for U.S. policies and for NATO tactics.
Lester Pearson would have used Canada's historic tradition and role as peace broker to seek a consensus for peaceful solutions. He would have done so even at the risk of offending great powers. Instead our Prime Minister has toed the NATO line and danced on cue. The past few weeks have been littered with missed opportunities where Canada could have exercised independently its influence to promote promising diplomatic initiatives, but it has not done so.
Today is not the day to dwell on failures, to dwell on omissions, to dwell on missed opportunities. Rather, it is the time, and this is the purpose today of this motion and this debate, to focus single-mindedly on what it is that Canada can now do, what it is that Canada must now do to provide leadership, to play a key role in bringing us to that diplomatic peaceful resolution of the Kosovo crisis.
Now, diplomacy needs to be given a helping hand. That is the objective of this motion, the objective of this debate. We must concentrate our efforts on what Canada can do, on the leadership Canada must show in working toward a diplomatic solution.
There is no question that there is a diplomatic window, a window that is open just so wide. It is not a big opportunity, it is not a guaranteed path, but it is an opening. It is opening because there have been countries that have taken initiatives. Italy, Germany, Russia and the United Nations have stepped forward. Heaven knows, we desperately need the involvement of the United Nations.
It is ironic that for months Canada has celebrated the fact that it has gained a temporary seat on the security council of the United Nations. Yet at the very first opportunity that it might have used that seat to further the cause of peace, Canada opted out. It said that one could not do anything with the security council. However, the potential for using that avenue still exists and we must use it. It is absolutely imperative that we get this issue back into the United Nations arena where it belongs.
In the last few days and over the last week there have been some promising developments. Early in the conflict the New Democratic Party pushed hard for Canada to take a leadership role in persuading NATO to accept the fact that only a genuinely international peacekeeping force would be acceptable in Yugoslavia and that NATO had to abandon its position that only a NATO dominated force would be acceptable to it as a condition for peace. Today NATO has finally moved to that position.
Early in the conflict it was clear that Milosevic was adamant that there be no international presence in Kosovo. Today he appears to have accepted that there not only must be an international presence, but that there needs to be international troops to ensure the safety and the security of Albanian Kosovars returning home or remaining in their homes.
Early in the conflict the New Democratic Party began urging that Canada persuade NATO to commit to a position that it would stop the bombing immediately if Milosevic would stop the atrocities and come to the table. We are not quite there yet, but we are getting there. We now have Russia taking diplomatic initiatives. There are signs of cracks in the Yugoslavian resolve to keep the atrocities going. There is a courageous deputy prime minister in Yugoslavia who is acknowledging that there must be some movement by Yugoslavia.
Now is the time for Canada to play a bold and decisive role in ensuring that we escalate, that we absolutely accelerate and intensify our search for diplomatic solutions and, conversely, that we do absolutely nothing to escalate the military action in Kosovo.
The government has finally recognized that the participation of Russia is key. Everybody who is following the situation in Kosovo knows that the participation of Russia in helping to find that diplomatic peaceful solution is key. What this means, if this government wants to be taken seriously as a peacekeeper in this country and around the world, is that this country must absolutely provide leadership in persuading NATO to abandon the madness of introducing an oil embargo and creating the spectre of military and naval blockades that would without a doubt preclude any possibility of Russia participating in finding a solution.
It is a time when we need the Government of Canada to show leadership and courage. This is not a time to expand the conflict in the air, at sea or on land. Canada must play no part in the ill-conceived naval blockade that can only serve to inflame tensions with the Russians and the Yugoslavs.
Finally, we ought to insist that Canada not send the additional CF-18 fighter planes which the government committed Canada to do. This is essential to indicate that we are serious about recognizing that any escalation of military effort is going to stand in the way of progress toward a diplomatic solution. This would give an important gesture, a concrete gesture that would underscore our commitment at this stage to secure a diplomatic solution to the Kosovo crisis. No less is required of us as Canadians and no less is required of us as citizens of the world.