House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was relationships.


International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should convene 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.

Mr. Speaker, I thank members from all political parties for showing support for the motion. It is a motion that will save many lives and, indeed, for Canada, it will demonstrate our extraordinary leadership on the world stage for the collective good.

With the unanimous consent of all members, I would like to change the wording of the motion in a way which I think the government and other political parties will find acceptable. I have only changed a couple of words. The motion would read:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should continue to intensify efforts with `like-minded nations' to further develop multilateral initiatives in order to strengthen the capacity of international organizations (e.g. International Monetary Fund, World Bank, United Nations) to enable them to identify the precursors of conflict and improve their conflict prevention capabilities.

I ask for unanimous consent that this be the motion that stands.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

An hon. member


International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The debate is on the motion as it was originally presented to the House.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, the motion will enable us as a country to deal with the horrible situation facing the world today. We have seen throughout the world tens of thousands of people who have been indiscriminately slaughtered in internecine conflicts.

We heard the refrain time and time again “Never Again”; never again would we see the slaughter that took place during World War II. After World War II the world got together and made a commitment to end the conflict that plagued it. In the case of Europe, we saw the decimation, destruction and genocide of over 6 million Jews, gypsies and other people who were unwanted by the Germans at that time.

After World War II, instead of the world breaking apart, it came together to develop the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations. However, the outcome was two superpowers glaring at each other over a nuclear arsenal that was enough to destroy and decimate the world.

Since the breakdown of the Berlin Wall, we have seen a very different picture. After the cold war and the post-cold war era there has been a proliferation of internecine conflicts, conflicts within states. Rather than soldiers being killed, which is what took place during World War II and before, we now have situation where civilians are the ones being slaughtered. Over 90% of the casualties occurring today are innocent people like us and the viewers out there.

It is not a situation for the faint of heart. When I used to work in Africa, situations happened where children came up holding their bowels after they had been eviscerated. At the end of last year a friend of mine who worked in Uganda was confronted by a group of women who were walking along a roadway. Children, as part of the Lord's Resistance Army, stood up, took the women to the side of the road, cut off their ears, their noses and their lips and forced the women to eat the parts. This is the brutality that children were inflicting on adults.

Those same children were abducted by other adults in northern Uganda. However, before they were abducted they were forced to kill one of their parents. This is the kind of trauma that is occurring there.

We see circumstances in west Africa where individuals have their hands and legs chopped off. It is not to kill them but to terrorize them. In Central Africa right now we have the largest war in the history of the world with unspeakable brutality taking place. Widespread torture of unimaginable proportions is taking place against innocent civilians. The international community has been unable and unwilling to deal with these situations in a preventive manner.

Today I will articulate a way of dealing with conflict and of preventing it.

Too often in our foreign policy today we confuse conflict prevention with conflict management. When we talk about conflict prevention we often talk about peacekeeping and peacemaking, which is often too late because once blood has been spilled and people have been killed the seeds for future ethnic discontent and war have been sown for generations to come.

Trauma has been inflicted upon children and lost generations occur. We see that in many countries of the world, from Caucasus in Europe, to Bosnia, to west Africa, to Central Africa, to South Africa and to South America, to name just a few. Whole generations are lost. Economies are laid to waste. The degree of trauma to a nation is extraordinary, not only to the people but to the costs that are inflicted.

In the case of Mozambique, in its 16-year civil war 400,000 people were slaughtered, 400,000 children lost their lives, 200,000 children were orphaned and the gross domestic product fell to 20% of its pre-war situation. We had a country laid to waste. This is what is happening throughout the world.

Why should we as Canadians be involved or interested? We should be involved not only on a humanitarian basis but in cold hard dollars and cents. If we do not get involved and prevent these conflicts then we pay for it through our defence, aid and our domestic social program budgets. When conflicts occur we have refugees leaving their countries and going to other countries, including our own.

We need look no further than the Somalia and Ethiopia situations where thousands of poor individuals have come to our country putting demands on our immigration social program budgets. We have welcomed them here because of the circumstances that they left, but I am sure most of these people would rather live in their own homes in peace and security than have to move half a world away just to have their basic human needs met. We must prevent conflicts because it costs us, it costs them and it costs the world.

The cost of peacekeeping and peacemaking to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UN has driven these institutions, particularly the UN, to bankruptcy. The UN costs have increased dramatically. The peacekeeping and peacemaking options have increased dramatically. It takes such an enormous chunk of money out of them that they simply cannot afford to function. It is driving them into bankruptcy.

In the case of the World Bank, the cost of post-conflict reconstruction has increased 800% in the last 12 years alone. This cannot continue but it will continue unless we put measures in place to prevent conflicts from occurring.

Here is a road map to conflict prevention. The first thing we need is an early warning centre. I propose today to the Canadian government that it work with members from across party lines to develop an early warning centre in Canada.

There are three possible sites that I have identified: First, Royal Roads Military College in Victoria, which has an excellent centre for conflict prevention; second, the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa with its fine post-graduate programs in diplomacy and in teaching political science; and third, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development in Montreal.

Any of those sites could be an early warning centre where people from around the world could input data from the private sector, NGOs, private individuals and academia. They could input information concerning their particular area for human rights abuses, violence being meted out to individuals and torture or polarization taking place between different ethnic groups, which is what usually happens. Polarization is foisted upon certain groups, usually by despots who are trying to do this for their own political gain. An early warning centre is key. Second, we need to have a series of responses. These have to be an integrated series of responses involving diplomatic, economic and military initiatives.

The diplomatic initiatives are fairly self-evident. I propose again today that the government work with like minded nations, with other interested parties, to develop a rapid reaction force of multilateral diplomats under UN auspices that can go early into a situation. We have rapporteurs in the Horn of Africa but we need more of them. We need teams of diplomats who are viewed as being independent and without prejudice who will go in and try to identify ways in which the circumstances can be diffused.

Third is economic issues. This is an area that has been untouched and unexplored and an area wherein we as a nation can use multilateral organizations to enormous effect. Using economic levers can be very effective both as a carrot and a stick in the prevention of deadly conflict.

War needs money. We have all seen pictures on television screens of individuals in impoverished countries where the average income is $1 a day, carrying on their backs AK-47s, 50 calibre machine guns and enough weaponry that would cost them years to be able to afford. The money to buy these comes from somewhere. To look behind the scenes to see where it comes from is interesting. We must develop a way to choke the money supply. We can do that by applying sanctions targeted particularly at despots engaging in behaviours patently destructive to their people.

We could look at the present situation in Angola where President Dos Santos and the head of UNITA have been engaging in a war for more than 12 years that has resulted in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. As we speak, there is an impending devastating famine in Angola, completely and utterly organized by the two individuals that have been engaging in war for so long and using their people as tools and pawns.

Angola is one of the richest countries in Africa, and indeed the world, with its billions of dollars from the sale of oil and diamonds, diamonds that we buy when we get engaged or married. The diamonds coming from Angola are fuelling a conflict that is causing the death of thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians as we speak.

We must develop ways to choke off the money supply. Intelligent targeted sanctions and the use of financial levers should be applied to these individuals to encourage them to pursue peace and not to take the road toward polarizing groups. Using economic levers as a carrot on a stick can be enormously successful in the prevention of deadly conflicts.

The World Bank and the IMF should put conditions on their loans and on their development aid packages. We simply cannot continue to pour money into countries with no good government and where there will be an explosion of conflict. Once conflict takes place all the aid and development engaged in for decades is destroyed. We go back to square one. All the good money that we and many other countries of the world have put into the IMF, the World Bank and the UN for development is for naught once conflict takes place.

We can look at the degree at which destruction can occur. If we look at Kuwait, six months after Saddam Hussein walked into Kuwait he destroyed the country. It will take up to $100 billion to bring Kuwait back to where it was. Who pays for that? Kuwait and the international community.

We cannot afford it. International organizations cannot afford it. We have to prevent it. The IMF, the UN and the World Bank need to put conditions on the actions of countries behaving in ways that are completely destructive to the internal and external security of their regions. The government has done some excellent work in Sierra Leone by sending one of our colleagues there. We need to continue doing this.

All these organizations are not apart from us. They are us. We make up those organizations. People like to sling arrows at the UN, the IMF and the World Bank, but we are a part of them. We make the decisions and set the direction of these organizations. Therefore we can change it. In self-interest we must argue with other countries of the world that this can no longer continue.

Usually the last resort is military. It can also be implemented in a preventative fashion as was done in Macedonia. The argument can be that a small early investment in troops, particularly of a multilateral nature, can be enormously effective in preventing conflict. We saw this is in Macedonia.

It would have worked in Rwanda if it had happened before April 1994. Instead we sat on our hands and did nothing. I find it ironic that the European Union would rise on its hind legs and criticize Mr. Haider for his egregious and repulsive comments of the past. It went through enormous gymnastics to slam him yet sat on its hands when it knew that people were being slaughtered in Srebrenica and Bihac. The European Union was targeted with doing something about it. It knew full well that people would be slaughtered and it did absolutely nothing.

Right now we see situations all over the world where the European Union, the OSCE, the OEDC and the UN are sitting on their hands while people are being slaughtered. In Rwanda there is another impending conflict. It is the same one that took the lives of over 700,000. It will happen again. We do not hear a peep about what is happening in Angola, yet thousands of people are being slaughtered. In northern Angola the body parts of innocent civilians are being chopped off and fed to them, and we are doing very little to save them from this trauma.

Military intervention has to take place under certain circumstances. Troops have to be armed for war while engaged in peacekeeping missions. We cannot send them into a situation without being armed appropriately. They must have robust rules of engagement. We cannot have a situation like occurred in Bosnia where soldiers helplessly watched while innocent citizens were gunned down. They must have the mandate to go to their defence.

That is why a rapid reaction force is good. I compliment the Minister of Foreign Affairs for proposing that in the past. It is good and we need to continue to work toward it. Five to ten thousand troops in a multilateral initiative that has a permanent peacekeeping base and operation centre can be very useful for diffusing a situation early, but it has to be multilateral.

I hope these initiatives will take place with regional organizations. Regional organizations can and should play an enormous role. Too much emphasis has been placed on first world countries, NATO and North America to implement peacekeeping and peacemaking solutions. More power and more initiative has to come from organizations like the OAU, OSCE and ASEAN on security issues within their areas. This is important.

The next point is to deal with the U.S. arms registry. It should be expanded to involve the sale of small arms. The greatest producers of small arms are the G-8 nations and the five permanent members of the security council. They stand and want to talk about peace, yet they are fuelling the fires by selling small arms to individuals engaging in wars in which civilians are being slaughtered. This circular pattern needs to be broken. We need to engage in the rules and regulations and develop a method of preventing deadly conflict.

In summary, I thank the government and members of the other political parties for their support of this apolitical motion. It is one that could be extremely useful to our country in finally breaking the cycle of war that continues to take place. The major problem we have is a lack of political will and action.

If I have not been able to argue today on humanitarian grounds the basic need to intervene by helping civilians who are helpless and are being slaughtered, tortured or raped indiscriminately, perhaps I can convince the House to support the motion on the basis of self-interest. If we do not get involved early on in these conflicts we will pay for it in defence aid and economic costs to the taxpayers of Canada.

The world is looking for a leader to revamp the UN, the IMF and other regional organizations. It is up to us to work with other parties in this regard. There is a will and a desire to do it but there needs to be a flame or spark to ignite it.

It is not an option for us but an obligation. It is something of which Canadians would be proud, something we could do and something that would be manifestly important for the security of the international community.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Brome—Missisquoi Québec


Denis Paradis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the motion before us calls on the government to convene a meeting of “like-minded” nations in order to develop a multilateral plan of action to reform international organizations, so that they can play a more effective role in the area of conflict prevention.

The hon. member has rightly brought to the attention of the House the importance of strengthening the capacity of international organizations to prevent conflict.

Our government, in particular the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is cognizant of the devastating effects of conflicts around the world. Recent events have demonstrated that Canadians are not isolated from international conflict.

Consider the recent Air India hijacking, the kidnapping last year of eight Albertan oil workers in Ecuador, the insidious influence of the illicit drug trade on young Canadians, the impact on Canada of the global traffic in human cargo, and the spectre of terrorist activity in our country. These are all human security threats happening today in Canada or to Canadians.

As members know, the promotion of human security is a foreign policy priority of this government. Human security is a complement to national security which takes the safety and well-being of people as the measure of security.

Canada views conflict prevention paired with good governance and respect for human rights as the best path to follow to achieve sustainable peace and human security and achieve our goals. We are already pursuing these goals in a wide range of international fora.

There are many ongoing efforts to enhance the capacity of the international community to improve conflict prevention. Canada believes that the United Nations must be at the centre of the international community's efforts to prevent conflict.

The charter of the United Nations, with its strong emphasis on “we the peoples”, has as a guiding principle the promotion of human security. We now need to give new meaning to these words, to make the UN's actions more relevant to the security and welfare of individual human beings, in a way, to give the Organization back to the world's people for whom it was founded.

That is why Canada sought election to the United Nations Security Council. The United Nations remains the only global body with nearly universal membership. It has a mandate to assist states to prevent and resolve conflict and build lasting peace. The United Nations Security Council has as its central role the maintenance of peace and security.

Canada has consistently called for greater security council activism on conflict prevention. We welcomed the debate led by our Slovenian colleagues on the security council last November.

Canada called on the security council to embrace a culture of prevention rather than responding once conflict has broke out. We stressed the security council's key role as a deterrent to conflict, in particular through the judicious and timely use of instruments at its disposal. These include peacekeeping interventions, sanctions and the creation of international criminal tribunals.

By ending impunity for war crimes and other human rights abuses, these instruments in turn deter others. Above all, by becoming more responsible to threats to human security, the security council will serve as a more effective tool of conflict prevention.

Out of that important security council debate came a presidential statement in which the security council reaffirmed its responsibility under the Charter of the United Nations to take action on its own initiative in order to maintain international peace and security.

The statement also expressed the security council's intention to support, with appropriate follow-up action of course, efforts to prevent conflict by the UN secretary-general through such areas as fact-finding missions, good offices and other activities requiring action by his envoys and special representatives.

The security council also decided to consider the possibility of a meeting at the level of foreign ministers on the issue of prevention of armed conflicts during the Millennium Assembly, which will be held this fall. Canada, as a member of the security council—and as president next April—remains engaged in the ongoing discussions on this matter.

We reject the argument that the security council should limit its attention to traditionally defined conflicts between states. In this spirit, we participated in the recent open debate of the security council, chaired by the United States, on the impact of AIDS on peace and security in Africa.

Canada's deputy permanent representative to the UN said during the debate that the AIDS pandemic has presented, and continues to present, major challenges to governments, in part because one quarter to one half of African personnel in the health, education, security and civil service sectors are expected to die from AIDS within the next five to ten years.

Not only is this a serious human tragedy, but it is also a tangible threat to peace and order in the affected countries which already confront many other challenges, including civil strife, refugee flows and internal displacement, rapid urbanization and poverty.

A year ago, when Canada assumed the rotating presidency of the security council, we convened an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who identified four challenges facing the security council. These included: the prevention of conflict; ensuring respect for international humanitarian and human rights law; supporting the pursuit of those who violate humanitarian norms and standards; and, finally, addressing the issue of the instruments of war.

Canada was pleased that the security council agreed to ask the secretary-general to prepare a report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. The secretary-general's report was tabled last September. His excellent report identified concrete measures that might be taken to improve the legal and physical protection of civilians in armed conflict, including several practical recommendations for preventing conflict. The secretary-general called for adherence to and ratification, implementation and dissemination of international human rights, humanitarian and refugee law instruments.

He advocated greater responsiveness to the early warning indicators of conflict by making use of human rights information and analysis from independent treaty body experts and the UN Commission on Human Rights. He recommended the establishment of expert working groups of the council to monitor volatile situations and to consider options to prevent the outbreak of violence.

The secretary-general also suggested that the council consider the deployment of preventive peacekeeping operations such as UNPREDEP in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 1995, or other preventive monitoring presences, and he noted the need to address hate media assets in situations of ongoing conflict. He also identified factors which should trigger action by the security council to protect civilians in the face of massive human rights violations or humanitarian emergencies.

Building on the Canadian drafted resolution adopted in September on this subject, Canada now chairs an informal experts-level working group of the security council which is considering ways to implement the report's recommendations.

We have also provided support for the Lessons Learned Unit within the United Nations to foster the development of guidelines for demilitarization, demobilization and reintegration of combatants during the peace process. In addition, Canada has created CANADEM, a stand-by roster of experts in various peacebuilding skills, who are available on short notice to serve on human rights field missions and in peace support operations around the world.

In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that the government welcomes the interest of the hon. member in the issue of conflict prevention. We do not disagree that the international community must continue to enhance its ability to prevent conflict, including through international organizations. Through the promotion of human security, this government is working at the United Nations, in the G-8 and within a network of states to accomplish just that.

The government is already involved in ongoing efforts, both formal and informal, and involving a broad range of countries aimed at achieving the objective contained in the hon. member's motion. As I have indicated, Canada is at the forefront of these efforts to enhance the international community's conflict prevention capabilities.

For this reason, the government is not convinced that the adoption of this motion calling for the convening of a meeting would be conducive to advancing the important objective of improving the international community's conflict prevention capability.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, in connection with the motion by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, while I have sympathy for his intentions, at the same time I have misgivings about the wording and even his proposed amendment, for a number of reasons which I am going to explain.

First of all, I have sympathy. He spoke eloquently of the extremely troubling and revolting scenes taking place all around the world, which are intolerable. We will readily agree that millions of people have been killed all over the world in senseless conflicts since the end of the cold war. We are all aware of this.

We can also hope for prevention. The desire to take preventive action is not lacking, not in the hon. member, not in the government, not in the party I represent, not in members of parliament, not in ordinary citizens, not in the NGOs. The real question is: how we go about it.

The proposal made by the hon. member, and I recognize his merit in so doing, is to perhaps stir up debate on this in the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs. This might be the ideal forum for doing so. However, several aspects of the motion disturb me.

First of all, the notion that one country could play a lead role, to spark a so-called policy of the necessity of prevention, is not realistic. This is not how it is done. Many people everywhere want to carry out prevention. We need only go to the UN, to visit the representatives of the institute for conflict resolution. Many people are working concretely on this.

On the other hand, when he refers to like-minded countries, in French “nations de même esprit”, this raises questions in my mind.

If we are to create a real prevention force, there may be countries with different visions, but these visions together must then lead to the establishment of a plan, if a plan is enough.

My first question concerns the expression “like-minded nations”.

I will now deal with the expression “in order to develop a multilateral plan”. I must say that I have a bit of a problem with that. Our hon. colleague is his party's critic, and his party revealed a new position on foreign policy last fall. I was therefore expecting that, as critic, he would adopt this policy, I understand that this is not the case, and I am a bit lost.

It was in light of this policy that I prepared my speech. I note that my colleague is distancing himself a little from it, but he will have to tell us more. Developing a multilateral plan involves all parties, otherwise how could we manage?

The motion says “to reform multinational organizations”. They do indeed need reform. There has been consensus on the need for reform in the various forums I have participated in. Mr. Camdessus, the outgoing president of the International Monetary Fund, does nothing but talk about the interests of the developing countries, but what was his policy when he was the active president?

We have all seen the fiasco of the Seattle summit, resulting from the collision between the rich countries and the others. The gap between the rich countries and the poor ones is widening. We cannot be thinking that a single political plan will reform these international bodies. Major interests are at stake.

So long as the rich countries, including the most powerful, do not understand the link between the unacceptable aggression happening worldwide and poverty, we will get nowhere.

The aim of the member's motion is for the plan to make it possible to “identify the precursors of conflict”. I think there are ample such organizations. In Canada and Quebec, there are groups working at the site of conflicts around the world. I heard what Canada's ambassador to the UN, Mr. Fowler, has to say and I have also read what he has written. If the situation in Rwanda, around the great lakes, turned into something like what we have seen elsewhere, he was not certain that the UN would intervene. I respectfully submit that the problem is not that we do not know there will be conflicts.

The hon. member's motion also says establish multilateral conflict-prevention initiatives. There is nothing my party and I wish for more than for countries to be able to achieve that. As the hon. member pointed out, in 1997, out of the 27 conflicts that occurred, 24 were internal ones taking place within a country.

These conflicts involve groups and people who have power relationships between each other. These conflicts sometimes have economic roots. Some of them occur because a group wants recognition. It is not enough to know that a conflict is brewing. We must also understand the situation, otherwise we will not be able to intervene.

Let us take the conflict in Kosovo, regarding which there was what I would call a reluctant consensus in this House to call for military intervention. The current situation in Kosovo is extremely problematical. In the name of humanitarian objectives that I shared then and that I still share, we created a situation where the multi-ethnicity of society has become difficult to maintain. That conflict should have been avoided altogether. But how could it have been avoided without looking at the issue of Kosovo's self-determination?

However, the international community is still opposed to self-determination. In preparation for this speech, I read a book written under the direction of Charles-Philippe David and Albert Legault, two very attentive observers in Quebec. In their book, a professor wrote the following about Yugoslavia:

An analysis of the events that preceded the declarations of sovereignty and independence of Slovenia and Croatia suggests that the armed conflict in Yugoslavia might have been avoided if the international community had been prepared to rethink the role and implementation of the principle of self-determination.

I understand the hon. member's determination, but I cannot support the proposal in its present form. However, I hope that this debate will lead to more discussions on the issue.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to participate in the debate on this important motion. I want to congratulate the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for proposing this motion to the House.

I welcome the general note that he has struck in his comments in speaking to the motion. I might say, as my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois indicated, that it represents somewhat of a shift from the position that appeared to have been taken by the Reform Party last fall. In October the Reform Party tabled a foreign policy document that in fact would take us in many respects back to the dark ages, a document that in fact in many respects was highly critical of the role of the United Nations, a document that was isolationist and profoundly reactionary in many respects.

I am not sure if the new critic—and I congratulate him on his appointment to that position—is now putting some distance between himself and the policies of the Reform Party as enunciated in that earlier document. I can only say that I certainly hope that is the case.

I was somewhat troubled by the comments that the critic made with respect to an important issue last week. That was with respect to the policy of the Government of Canada to join with the European Union and many other countries in voicing our deep concern as Canadians about the profoundly racist and anti-Semitic policies of Joerg Haider in Austria. It is my understanding that the position of that member was that Canada should not have joined with the European Union in expressing our strong condemnation of those policies and, in particular, joining in the diplomatic isolation of Haider. That signal was again an unfortunate one.

The motion before the House today calls on parliament to urge the government to show leadership with respect to identifying the precursors of conflict and establishing conflict prevention initiatives. It speaks of a number of multilateral organizations: the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations. To that I would add the World Trade Organization, a very important organization. More and more we see in these international organizations that they are being driven not by human values or respect for human rights, but by global corporate values, the global pursuit of profit. We saw that in the context of the WTO meetings in Seattle.

I was proud that a broad cross-section of people from around the world stood to vigorously reject that agenda. They said that as part of any fair global trade regime we must put human rights, the rights of working men and women and the environment at the forefront. As long as we cannot, for example, take action on the exploitation of child labour within the WTO there is something terribly misguided, wrong and twisted about those priorities.

I stand here as a New Democrat, as member of a party that has since its founding been committed to strengthening multilateral organizations which work on behalf of the interests of people. Forefront among those is the United Nations. So much of what the UN has done is tremendously important in advancing those global objectives of human and social justice. I think of the work of UNICEF, the World Food Council and many others.

At the same time we have to recognize that the time has come to make significant changes, to reform those organizations. That is why I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate. I congratulate the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca for his leadership in bringing this issue before the House of Commons.

We have to look at the structure of the United Nations itself. We must strengthen that body. We must certainly look at the composition of the security council of the United Nations, which does not reflect present global realities, and we must look at how we can more effectively strengthen the general assembly of the United Nations.

However, we have a more fundamental challenge today, and that is how we can restore confidence and respect in the process of the United Nations itself, because too often the countries of the world and, in particular, the most powerful country of the world, the United States, show contempt for those resolutions.

I will give a few examples and share some of the concerns that we New Democrats feel about that.

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs is, as my colleague for Mercier has said, in the process of addressing the Kosovo situation. The United Nations has passed a very important resolution, resolution 1244, which is aimed at restoring an environment in Kosovo in which there is respect for all the inhabitants of Kosovo, including the Serb minority.

There have already been some very powerful, very significant reports as to how this resolution is not being respected in Kosovo at all. As well, there are insufficient resources to promote human rights, rebuild the country's infrastructures and establish a fair judiciary sytem. The cost of one or two days of bombing would be sufficient now to create a fair and just country.

The United Nations has failed in Kosovo, not only to protect fundamental human rights, particularly the rights of the Serb minority and other minorities, but at the same time to put in place the resources that are necessary to establish respect for that resolution.

We see that in too many other areas. We see it with respect to the resolutions that have been adopted overwhelmingly by the United Nations on Cuba, condemning the United States embargo or blockade of Cuba, and yet the United States shows total contempt for those resolutions. We see it with respect to the Middle East. Recently many of us voiced deep concern about the Israeli bombing of southern Lebanon. It is in total violation of many United Nations resolutions, not the least of which is resolution 425 which calls on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon, which would help lead to a peaceful solution in that very troubled part of the world. Once again it is selective enforcement of United Nations resolutions.

I want to recognize as well the concern that many have voiced about the failure of the United Nations to respond to a continent that is undergoing profound agony. I know the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has spoken to this and indeed has travelled that continent, Africa. Too often the United Nations has turned a blind eye to the terrible tragedy, the grinding poverty, the debt burden and the terrible violations of human rights in Africa. I hope, as part of this debate, that we will have an opportunity to address that issue as well.

The last issue I want to touch on is the question of Iraq. The hon. member talked about United Nations policies on sanctions. I had the privilege of participating in a delegation which travelled last month to Iraq, sponsored by a group from Quebec, Objection de conscience. What we have seen in that country are humanitarian, environmental and social disasters as a result of the implementation of United Nations sanctions. Our government has talked about human security as being the cornerstone of our foreign policy, but how can we speak of human security in Iraq when over 500,000 innocent children have died as a direct result of this cruel and inhumane sanctions policy?

We must recognize that the policy must be changed. Indeed, the last two UN humanitarian co-ordinators for Iraq have resigned. Denis Halliday resigned.

As the co-ordinator put it, “We are destroying an entire society. It is as simple and as terrifying as that”.

We learned last week that the current UN humanitarian co-ordinator, Hans Von Sponeck, is also resigning in despair over the failure of this sanctions policy in Iraq. The head of the World Food Programme has also announced her resignation.

I take this opportunity to plead with the Government of Canada to show leadership and to call for the lifting of these inhumane sanctions on the people of Iraq.

I close by once again welcoming this debate. In the remaining hours of the debate I look forward to continuing to discuss how we can strengthen and reform the United Nations.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The House will continue the debate until 12:05 p.m., in order that we will have a full hour for Private Members' Business.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have already had the opportunity to speak to the motion by my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, but I would like to add a few points.

The first time we discussed this motion, I noted its difficulties and limits with respect to the concept of like-minded nations. Obviously, if we have a bill from the government, for example the upcoming budget, and I invite the four opposition parties, we are like minded. It seems fairly easy to unanimously oppose something, someone or some bill. When it comes to like-minded nations, apart from developing awareness, from saying how good we are and that we are on the right track, I am not sure we will reach the desired end. That said, it does not mean doing nothing.

One of the consequences of this concept, which is already several years old, is that groups already exist but do not have the backing of the major international organizations, which have been in existence since, the second world war, the 1960s or the 1970s.

We need only think, for example, of the two groups, when the issue of genetically modified organisms was discussed. We had the Miami Club and others. Instead of seeking a solution, we divided ourselves. However, I want to stress that the beauty of Motion M-30 is that it develops an awareness to all international organizations. It might have been advisable to give priority to one or two, instead of providing examples.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask you a question, since you have been following world events since World War II. How many international organizations have been created since, and how many have disappeared? Not many. International organizations were created and more continue to be added every year. The result is that their duties are added or changed, and there is duplication. People, including parliamentarians in this House, must humbly recognize that they cannot keep track of what is going on.

Earlier, I referred to the hierarchy among international organizations. This morning, we talked a lot about Kosovo and about the gulf war. During the gulf war, the UN assumed a large part of the decision-making process. A few years later, the case of Kosovo came up. Because some members did not think it was effective enough, the UN was replaced by NATO.

So, depending on what is going on at the international level, we choose those organizations that we like. Another situation where people pick and choose is in the case of trade disputes between Canada and the United States.

If they think they have a better chance of winning out over Canada in the WTO, they are going to opt for the WTO. If they think the chances there are less good, they will opt for the free trade agreement. There is a problem. Which is the more important? The bilateral agreements, the international, the multilateral? No one knows. The decision is made at the time. I have referred to the UN and to NATO. Which is more important? Depending on what the Americans want, they are going to opt for the UN, for NATO or for some other organization.

It is indeed high time to think seriously about the internationalization of absolutely everything. Today there is frequent reference to the sovereignty of a country, but finally something is relinquished. I do not know if I can use marriage as an example, not having the experience myself, but it is a bit like when people get married. Two people marry—whether or not they are of the same sex, and that will be voted on later today—and they decide to pool certain things, accept certain obligations, and thus relinquish some of their sovereignty, because of their marriage. On the international level, it is the same thing, when it comes down to it. We relinquish more and more of our sovereignty in international organizations and lose more and more of ourselves.

Frequently, in Foreign Affairs or elsewhere, there is a desire to put an initiative in place, but we are reminded that this is contrary to an agreement signed with this or that organization. In another case, we will say “Yes, that is what we should do”. But then we are told that it cannot be done, because of the free trade agreement, the UN, NATO. So we are extremely limited.

Of course, we support what Motion M-30 proposes, as we did before the last session was prorogued. I can tell hon. members that profound reflection will be required. I could spend days discussing the matter, but unfortunately my time is up.

International OrganizationsPrivate Members' Business


The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The time provided for Private Members' Business has expired. The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska will have four minutes when next this item comes before the House.

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.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders


Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons


That in relation to Bill C-23, an act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the day allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purposes of this order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Modernization Of Benefits And Obligations ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 687Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

PrivilegeGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

The Speaker

I am now prepared to deal with the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Calgary Centre on Tuesday, February 15, 2000 relating to the alleged disclosure of Bill C-23, an act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, to a third party before the introduction and first reading of the bill in the House.

I would like to thank the hon. member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House, as well as the opposition House leader, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader and the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Langley for the assistance they have offered to the Chair.

The issue raised by the hon. member for Calgary Centre concerned the premature disclosure of Bill C-23 by the Minister of Justice to a special interest group which subsequently did an in-depth analysis of the bill before it was actually introduced and read a first time in the House. In his presentation the hon. member argued that this behaviour was contrary to the parliamentary law and practices of the House.

I fully understand the frustrations of the hon. member regarding the circulation of documents that are of a confidential nature and I have ruled on this in the past. Certainly, the Chair is of the opinion that government bills, once placed on notice, should be kept confidential until introduced in parliament.

Bearing this in mind, the Chair wishes to emphasize that this is not the first time that a case of this nature has been raised on the floor of the House. In fact, a question of privilege with certain similarities to the present one was before the House on January 18 and 19, 1984.

I refer members to the ruling Speaker Francis gave on January 19, 1984 and which can be found at page 563 of the Debates . He stated:

The process of consultation is an important part in the development of proposals if they are to succeed in the public interest—

There are any number of situations where drafts of bills have been circulated and no further action has been taken with regard to them. Surely the Chair cannot be placed in a position of determining whether a document or a piece of paper, or whatever it is—it is certainly not a document of the House—can or cannot be circulated, or that the Speaker in some way should regulate the persons to whom such a document could be circulated.

I am of the same opinion as Speaker Francis. Although the members of the House should always be the first ones to examine legislation after it has been introduced and read the first time, this rule must be balanced against the need for the government to consult both experts and the public when developing its legislative proposals. The form and content of such legislative proposals is entirely left to the discretion of the government. Once introduced and read a first time in the House, the text is officially made public and the legislative process in parliament is initiated. The Chair must rule that the matter raised by the hon. member for Calgary Centre does not constitute a prima facie case of privilege nor a contempt of parliament.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Calgary Centre and all of the other interveners for raising this matter.

The House resumed from February 15, consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, an act to modernize the Statutes of Canada in relation to benefits and obligations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.