Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity other than a very brief intervention in the first week of September 17 to participate in the House. Therefore I will begin by expressing my profound regrets and condolences to the people of the United States and, as my colleague from Burnaby--Douglas said, the 60 other countries with representatives in the World Trade Center when the attacks took place.
I think I heard Mayor Giuliani say in recent days that it was now 80 countries that had representatives there. It is an enormous number and it is a tragedy of untold proportions. I extend my deep condolences to everyone who has been affected.
As this important debate takes place today we seem to be on the verge or the precipice of a military response, from listening to the prime minister of the United Kingdom and others. This is an extremely important debate today in the House of Commons.
I think that September 11 exposed the vulnerability of a free and open society to terrorist attacks. We should not be surprised that in the immediate aftermath the reaction was that of anger and even of hatred against the perpetrators.
The western civilized world and its laws have been designed by wise counsel over many generations. The resulting jurisprudence has been to ensure that anger and hate never become the last words on the subject. We have learned that revenge breeds revenge and that an eye for an eye is not the way to proceed in this regard.
When the terrorist attacks are referred to as acts of war as CNN does 24 hours a day under its subtitle America's New War , it seems to me all that does is help dignify the individuals who masterminded these appalling acts. They should be seen as international pariahs. Their crimes are against humanity and they must be brought to justice publicly and rationally. As Kofi Annan said a couple of days ago:
Terrorism will be defeated if the international community unites in a broad coalition, or it will not be defeated at all.
To seek indiscriminate revenge is merely to react in the same primitive and deadly way as the perpetrators of the acts of September 11.
We are at an incredible point where the entire world at the moment stands behind the United States in wanting to exterminate crimes against civilized society. There is an unshakable commitment at the moment to go forward and rid the world of these individuals, but if we risk the slaughter of innocent people in the hunt for revenge, it will guarantee that episodes of international terrorism will become the legacy of this new century. We want to avoid that at all costs and we have an opportunity to do so.
I want to shift gears for a moment. I was struck by a briefing book delivered to the Western Governors Association, which had a joint meeting almost a month to the day before the attacks in New York City and Washington. Material was provided by the Canadian consulates general for western Canadian premiers who were taking part in the conference. There was a small reference to border security and terrorism. It noted:
Terrorism is not typically seen as a border issue but the Ressam case has alerted both countries to the potential threat.
The reference is to the millennium bomber.
Just as a very brief aside, Terence McKenna's dramatization of that which played on Newsworld a couple of weekends ago was a very compelling television documentary, or docudrama, perhaps. It was appalling to see the ease with which Mr. Ressam was able to get in and out of Canada, acquire a false passport and use that to fly to Afghanistan, apparently for military training, fly back to Los Angeles and eventually into Montreal and on to British Columbia. He was apprehended only as he attempted to enter the state of Washington through Port Angeles.
The document provided by the Canadian consulate told the western Canadian premiers that “Canada and the U.S. are working to improve interdiction of potential terrorists before they reach North America”. That is something we have also heard in the House. The document states:
U.S. law enforcement officials note that the United States is a top target of international terrorists. While the threat to Canada is low, the Government of Canada has taken important steps to enhance Canada's ability to combat terrorism.
That seems to me to fly somewhat in the face of what the executive officer for the Canadian Police Association said yesterday when he said:
Canadians should not be lulled into a fall sense of security when it comes to border security, immigration enforcement, and security at Canada's airports and ports of entry.
Police association executive David Griffin also mentioned four specific points that our caucus has talked about for any number of years. One is the elimination of Canada's ports police. I well remember the NDP talking about its concern about that in 1997-98. Second, the privatization of airport security is something that we have talked about for a long time. Third, there are the drastic reductions in immigration and customs personnel. Finally, there has been a shifting focus at Canada's borders, from security and enforcement to revenue generation and cash collection.
Those are important points that we have talked about, both before this terrorist attack and certainly subsequently. It behooves the government opposite to take some remedial action and to do so very quickly.
I also want to make a comment about the third point in this resolution today, which deals with acts of intolerance against visible and racial minorities. I as well was discouraged to hear the comments from the member for Portage--Lisgar when he said that this is not an issue and that essentially we are overplaying it. That is unfortunate. In the spirit of generosity let me say that perhaps coming from a rural riding in Manitoba as the member does he has not seen or heard about these incidents, but from any number of people that I have been in contact with, we know that these incidents abound.
We heard the Minister of Foreign Affairs this morning relate an incident from his daughter's school. I know from friends and acquaintances in Quebec of similar occurrences there. I know that on the Friday after the attack it was noteworthy at one of the local colleges here in Ottawa how the Arab and Muslim students were simply not in attendance at classes that week, undoubtedly for fear of reprisal or attacks, verbal or otherwise.
I will make specific reference to an article that was written by Vanessa Redgrave. She makes reference to mayor Rudolph Giuliani's magnificent speech for unity and tolerance. On the same day he made that speech, a Pakistani shopkeeper whose son was murdered in the attack on the Twin Towers was beaten by racists outside his shop in Brooklyn. Such outrages also occurred all over Europe before and after September 11. Ms. Redgrave's point is that this will increase a thousandfold if and when the bombing missions begin, and people of all races will suffer.
In closing, this is a very important time and the world of the future will judge us on what we do.
It behooves us to act with discretion and to follow the lead of the United Nations in its approach to this attack against terrorism.