House of Commons Hansard #175 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wto.


Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his question.

He is right in saying there is overlap between the international agreements, and in referring to the softwood situation. All party politics aside, we hope this dispute will be settled as soon as possible. I know the parliamentary secretary wants the same thing. He is deeply committed to this.

As far as the agreement with China is concerned, the parliamentary secretary is right. There is the question of bureaucracy and respect for existing international rules. A U.S. committee said that, over the last ten years, China has not abided by a single international agreement. Naturally we hope that, with China becoming a member of the WTO, it will abide by the rules of that organization, and will comply with all the subsidiary agreements or parallel agreements existing between China and other countries or continents of the world.

We support this bill because we truly believe that the attitude of the People's Republic of China toward Canadian investors, and toward the industries in the parliamentary secretary's riding, will be such that they will not only find a market, but a real openness. When we say that we will open up a market, we must also recognize that we will have to facilitate access to that market.

What the parliamentary secretary said is true. There is some red tape and too much of it. It is complicated. Some have even alluded to the fact, inaccurate I hope, that little envelopes were being handed out here and there. If the market does open up, it will not only be an opening for 1.250 billion people, it will also mean access to a certain way of doing things. I believe the WTO will modernize China's way of dealing with other countries and that Canada will profit from that. However, we must be very careful about the China's weak points in view of its accession to the WTO.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate Bill C-50. I had an opportunity to speak to this bill at second reading and while it is not an issue that falls within any critic portfolio, I have held a very strong ongoing interest in Canada's relations with the People's Republic of China, particularly vis-à-vis that country's and government's atrocious record of the systematic violation of human rights.

First, I am deeply ambivalent about the accession of the PRC to the World Trade Organization. On the one hand, some have made a plausible argument for it. My colleague, the trade critic for the Alliance and member for Vancouver Island North, quoted from His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, to the effect that China's accession to the WTO may prove to be beneficial in encouraging democratization and respect for human rights. On the other hand, I have seen China's increased integration with free market, democratic, western economies, without a concomitant result in terms of respect for human rights or democratization of its political system. To the contrary, there has been considerable evidence presented by independent observers such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International in recent years that, as the Chinese economy has become ostensibly more open, its political system has become actually more closed.

I am deeply skeptical about the entire premise of our so-called foreign policy vis-à-vis China known as constructive engagement. It seems to me that it is constructive for the Chinese communist oligarchy, which often benefits financially in a very direct personal way through its interest in state owned companies. It is beneficial for it to create a political pressure valve which can, by increasing living standards for a certain segment of the Chinese population, remove immediate political demands from parts of the Chinese political constituency.

However I do not think it is constructive for the vast majority of Chinese who continue to live under a one party, dictatorial, totalitarian regime whose entire premise is that the state and its prerogatives trump the dignity of the individual human person. We can see that this is the case. I will address the human rights situation in China in a moment.

Let me say that while I am ambivalent and skeptical about China's accession to the WTO, I support Bill C-50 because it at least provides restrictions for China's membership in the WTO vis-à-vis its bilateral trade relations with Canada. It provides certain basic trade remedy tools to private industry in Canada to address potential dumping or unfair trade practices on the part of the PRC, in particular on the part of government owned enterprise there.

For instance, I spoke with a constituent who owns a medium sized private sector manufacturing company in Calgary that produces precision machinery and equipment. He advised me that he was losing orders both here and in the United States to Chinese exports that were being sold at what he believed were prices that were below the actual raw material input costs for these precision implements. That would seem to be a prima facie case of dumping or an unfair trade practice on the part of the Chinese.

While I am a free trader in principle and do believe that rules based trade agreements based on minimizing tariffs and barriers are very important policy objectives for an export oriented country such as ours, I do think that when we are dealing with a communist system, such as that in China where the vast majority of the economy is operated by state owned enterprises and where they have no tradition of rules based trade or the rule of law itself, domestically or, I would argue, internationally, it is extremely important to have a framework for addressing unfair practices. I understand that the WTO's agreement itself with China runs over 900 pages long to ensure that the PRC government does observe free trade practices and does not engage in dumping and other unfair practices.

I further understand that the Chinese will have to amend some 400 to 500 domestic statutes in order to come into full compliance. Frankly I am skeptical about their political will or ability to do so, given that if they really do implement and adopt the spirit of the WTO, there will be tremendous transitional costs to its economy. For instance, their banking sector, which is very precarious, is overwhelmingly dominated by government owned banks, the Bank of China. If they face serious open competition by the western financial services sector, we will see major challenges to the Chinese banking system. I really do question whether or not the communist leadership will pay the price that comes along with the benefit of membership in the WTO, but we will see.

Another reason why, notwithstanding my ambivalence, I support the bill and lean toward supporting China's accession to the WTO is that its accession came concurrent with the accession of the Republic of China on Taiwan which, until quite recently, had a more important and robust trading relationship with Canada. I think that we spent so much time focusing on the PRC that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that our trading relationship is quite exaggerated. We know that nearly 90% of our international trade is conducted with the United States and we have a relatively small trade with the PRC. In fact within that trade we receive, I gather, about $11 billion in imports from China annually, but our exports to China are a fraction of that. We are running an enormous trade deficit with that country, whereas we have had a long and very profitable relationship with the Republic of China or Taiwan since the early 1950s.

The Republic of China on Taiwan has, I believe, the 11th largest economy in the world. It is our eighth largest trading partner. I find it bizarre and sometimes shameful that the government treats the state of the Republic of China on Taiwan as a pariah. We will not even grant visas for their ministers to visit Canada on a personal basis let alone on an official basis. We refuse to encourage its accession even as observers to the World Health Organization or UNESCO. We will not allow high level Canadian government delegations to visit Taiwan and to improve our already strong and vigorous trade relationship.

With that responsible, independent democracy, which respects human rights, why is it that we allow Beijing to dictate our foreign policy vis-à-vis Taiwan? I have a suggestion. It may have something to do with the fact that the Prime Minister's son-in-law is chairman of the Canada-China trade council, that his son-in-law's father was the founding chairman of that entity a couple of decades ago and that one of the very few large companies in Canada with any interests in the PRC happens to be Power Corp.

There is no rational explanation for Canada's utter subservience to the foreign policy of the PRC vis-à-vis Taiwan and our refusal to speak out vigorously about human rights abuses in that regime except for the attitude of the Prime Minister which, I submit, is influenced strongly by his fairly close direct family relations and interests in the PRC.

It is not untoward to suggest that the one company with a longstanding industrial relationship in the PRC, owned by members of the prime minister's family, has an interest in maintaining, I would argue, a policy vis-à-vis Beijing which is not in the best interests of Canada and which is definitely not consistent with our historical track record as a champion of human rights and democracy.

I will now turn my remarks to that issue. Bill C-50, regrettably, does not even mention in principle the importance of China moving toward a system that recognizes democratic rights.

I will quote from Steven Mosher who is a long time expert on the human rights situation in China. Before congress last year he said “If medals were given to nations for committing human rights abuses, China would win the gold every time.

Let me detail for members some of the more recent reports on human rights abuses in that communist country perpetrated by the regime so we get a concrete sense. We often talk about human rights issues as some abstract obsession of certain academics or people on the political left. In fact millions of real people with families and real lives are today enslaved in forced labour camps in the PRC. They are denied the ability to practise their religion with freedom and impunity from state sanction. They are rounded up and imprisoned without due process and are denied the ability to choose their own local representatives. They are jailed for their political opinions or for dissenting from the official communist line.

Let me refer to information from the Cardinal Kung Foundation which observes the situation of loyal Chinese Catholics. According to the Kung Foundation, the Beijing regime's persecution of the underground Catholic church has not only been carried on for the last five decades but this persecution has recently taken on a greater degree of intensity and boldness.

For example, Father LU Genjun, 39 years old, an underground Roman Catholic priest, was arrested about two months ago shortly before Easter in Baoding, Hebei province. The statement on his arrest clearly listed Father LU Genjun's crimes as receiving theology training, being ordained a Roman Catholic priest and conducting evangelization activities. He was arrested and jailed for doing what a priest does. He is only one of thousands.

New York based Human Rights Watch, in its 2002 world report, said:

China's increasingly prominent international profile, symbolised in 2001 by its entry into the World Trade Organisation and by Beijing's successful bid to host the 2008 Olympics,--

That is absurd. The report continued:

--was accompanied by tightened controls on fundamental freedoms.

Human Rights Watch tells us that China's recent strike hard anti-crime campaign has been used to crack down on political opponents of the regime. “10,000 suspected criminals were arrested in the first months of the Strike Hard campaign...and by the end of October at least 1,800 were executed and twice that number sentenced to death”, according to Human Rights Watch.

It added that moves to eradicate the Falun Gong group led to torture and imprisonment.

Police also cracked down on several other Buddhist and Taoist mystical groups, while closing hundreds of unregistered Protestant and Catholic churches.

Falun Gong continued to experience the harshest repression, with thousands of practitioners assigned to re-education through labour camps and more than 350 imprisoned, many for nothing more than printing leaflets or recruiting followers.

A report from the Far Eastern Economic Review states:

In the wake of its being awarded the 2008 Olympic Games, China is ordering one of its remote, poverty-stricken regions to commit at least 20,000 abortions by the end of this year.

This is part of China's forced abortion and mandatory sterilization program which we shamefully finance through our contributions to the United Nations fund for population activities.

ZENIT, the news organization, reported:

In the middle of the night July 10 the police took Father Liao Haiqing of Yujiang Diocese from his home and then interrupted a study-meeting of 15 other priests of the same district, arresting those present--

They were sentenced for being political opponents of the regime simply for preaching the gospel.

Amnesty International's 2001 report states:

Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics who worshipped outside the official “patriotic” churches were the victims of a continuing pattern of arrests, fines and harassment. Scores arrested in recent years remained in prison or labour camps.

The report went on to point out:

In September, 24 Roman Catholics, including a priest and 20 nuns, were detained in Fujian province when police found them holding church services in a mushroom-processing factory. According to reports, Father Liu Shaozhang was so severely beaten by police during arrest that he vomited blood. Two of the nuns were allegedly released the following day after parishioners paid a large sum of money to the police; the whereabouts of the other 22 detainees remained unknown--

I could go on and on but I would suggest that my colleagues or the general public could consult the websites of Amnesty International, the Human Rights Watch, the Cardinal Kung Foundation or any one of the organizations established by the North American refugees from China who were involved in the Tiananmen Square protest and massacre of a decade ago. That was a massacre which the PRC communist government has still not acknowledged or even apologized for and this is a country whose human rights record the Prime Minister will not deign even to comment on in a seriously negative light.

I propose that, and Human Rights Watch recommends this, as a part of China's accession to the WTO we should insist that China invite the United Nations special rapporteur on religious intolerance to return to China to assess progress toward implementation of his 1994 recommendations in that country.

The government's silence on the issue is not new. Just recently the United Nations Human Rights Commission had its annual session in Geneva. Absent, shockingly, was the United States of America which had been voted off the commission by human rights paragons, such as Syria and Libya, who sat on the commission. For 40 years the U.S. representative on the UNHRC had put forward a relevant motion each year critical of China's human rights abuses but the U.S. was not there this year.

Canada was there but we did not stand in the breach. We did not offer a motion critical of China's human rights record. While the UNHRC was condemning Israel for defending its sovereignty, a motion voted on by countries like Libya, we did not stand up to criticize the arrest of innocent Chinese for practising their religion and holding political views at variance with that of the totalitarian regime.

The current member for Mount Royal, when he was a law professor, said two years ago:

I think our indifference, sometimes clothed in the notion of neutrality, means we're coming down on the side of the victimizer.

Warren Allmand, former Liberal MP, said:

It is the Prime Minister's...single-minded approach to boosting trade that has watered down Canada's previously harder line on Chinese human rights abuses.

The Prime Minister was quoted on February 12 of last year as saying:

The press wanted me to give instructions to the Chinese. I said we have to put it into perspective a bit. You know we are 30 million. They are 1.2 billion. They want me to tell the Chinese what to do, but they don't want me to tell the premiers what to do.

It is absurd to suggest that this country, which regards itself as a paragon of human rights and democracy, should take that approach.

In closing, I will support the bill only because it does impose restrictions and ensures fair trade practices on the part of the PRC.

However I will do so with strong opposition to the government's most obsequious policy of any western government toward the totalitarian regime in China. All members in voting on this should keep in mind the millions who are in forced labour camps and whose human rights are being violated on a daily basis by that country.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member and could not help but think how wonderful it is to be young, to know everything and to have all the answers.

I do not know how many members have raised children but I have. I will tell the House what I have said to my children when they said they knew everything. I used to say to them that I hope they get it all done while they still know it all, because the day they figure out that they do not it will be too late.

There are many problems when it comes to China. However we must remember it has been in existence for thousands of years. We can do more by working with China than sitting here and criticizing it.

That is what the Prime Minister was saying when he said that the premier of China wanted to tell him what to do, but he answered that he could not even tell the premiers of the provinces what to do. He had a lot of legitimacy when he said that. I believe the method that we have is far more constructive.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, with respect, the facts contradict the hon. member. As I have quoted every independent human rights observer has indicated that violations of human rights have worsened in recent years just when we have accelerated our so-called policy of moral engagement.

I do not know everything but I do know this. Democracy is better than totalitarianism. The respect for dignity is better than a communist system which subsumes the individual to the prerogatives of the state.

We should be willing to use our political, moral, diplomatic and economic powers for instance, to recognize of the sovereignty of the Republic of China on Taiwan. Simply allowing its people to visit this country might be one small way in which we could influence the Beijing regime. The Canadian government is always opposed to Washington dictating our foreign policy. Why is it opposed to Beijing dictating our foreign policy vis-à-vis Taiwan?

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should, on an annual basis, proclaim the first Sunday in June “Canadian Forces Day” in recognition of the tremendous contribution by the Canadian Forces, both at home and abroad, in such areas as the defence of Canada, our NATO commitments, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, search and rescue and peacekeeping.

Mr. Speaker, before getting started on this debate I would like to rise on a point of order and seek the unanimous consent of the House to make a couple of minor changes to the motion which I believe would better convey its intent.

I wish to add after the word “proclaim” the phrase “on an annual basis”. This would make it clear that the effort is certainly not intended for one year only but rather would be an annual day of recognition for the forces each and every year.

The second minor change would remove the mention of the UN from the motion because a good deal of the peacekeeping that Canada is currently involved in, especially in the Balkans is outside of the jurisdiction of the UN. Therefore removing that would capture all of the peacekeeping that Canada does.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent to accept the two changes to the main motion?

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank all hon. members for allowing these changes to occur.

I am pleased and indeed honoured to have the opportunity to debate the motion in the House of Commons. In this regard I also take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Ottawa--Vanier for switching places in the order of precedence so that this item could come before the House as quickly as possible.

It is not my intention to speak for very long on the motion because it speaks for itself. I would however seek unanimous consent to split my time with the Minister of National Defence who indicated his interest in this matter.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the House give unanimous consent for the member to split his time?

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would also seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion. I move:

That the minister's participation in this debate not be considered a precedent.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it agreed?

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion has been on the order paper for approximately the last three years. I placed the motion on the order paper because it came to my attention that unlike many other countries Canada has never formally set aside a day to honour its navy, army and air forces.

Over the years there have been days set aside where base commanders would hold open houses for the nearby communities. However, there was nothing that was formalized which allowed for a more official celebration of and recognition for the valuable role that our forces play both at home and abroad.

The role of the Canadian forces was brought home to us as a result of the tragic events of the past week. It has been a very difficult week for the members of the forces. The deaths of Sergeant Léger, Corporal Dyer and Privates Smith and Green came as a shock to us all. They put themselves in harm's way so that we could be more secure. They gave their lives for their country. One great wartime leader said:

We take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

Putting their lives on the line is what our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women are sometimes called upon to do. It is a tough job. Over the last century more than 110,000 Canadians have given their lives so that we could live in a better world.

We honour our war dead, as is fitting and proper, on Remembrance Day, which drives home the terrible consequences of war.

Having a Canadian forces day is not about our war dead, it is about those who serve us today. It is about the service of the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry in Afghanistan, the air support elements as well as our naval ships that are part of the allied force in the Arabian Sea. It is about the soldiers that we have keeping the peace in Bosnia. It is about the soldiers who are training a new Sierra Leonean army in West Africa. It is about serving with NATO in Germany. It is about every last person in the Canadian forces who proudly wears the Canada insignia on the shoulder of his or her uniform.

I have been on the defence committee for the last five years. I have been privileged to serve as the chair of that committee for the last year. A number of years ago my colleagues and I had the opportunity to get to know the Canadian forces up close and personal. We travelled to virtually every base in the country. We visited their homes, met their families, spoke to their children. We sailed on their ships, flew in their helicopters, rode in their armoured personnel carriers. Most important, we heard their stories.

I believe members of the defence committee came away from that experience with a profound sense of respect and gratitude for the service provided by members of the forces. We have, I would add, certainly seen that service during some of the recent natural disasters over the past few years. I am thinking of the ice storm in particular, which affected my own community, the Red River floods and the flooding of the Saguenay.

In so many respects the motion is simply about expressing thanks. It is a simple message to members of the forces that we value their service, we appreciate their sacrifice and we acknowledge the very difficult job that they have to do.

Sacrifice is certainly part of the terms of service, whether it is the steady rotations through Bosnia, the six month tour of duty aboard our ships or similar types of deployments by our air force.

As civilians we have seen the video on the news of ships leaving and planes departing for wartorn parts of the world. After the cameras get shut off and the families return to their homes, those on the home front are left to continue the daily routine of preparing meals, sending children off to school, arranging recreation, going shopping, and all without the help of a spouse.

This is done knowing that a loved one is going off to a potentially dangerous place. No matter how we cut it military service affects not only the person in uniform but the family that is left behind. We are also expressing thanks to those service families.

The text of the motion I believe is self-explanatory. However I would like to address the significance of the date, the first Sunday in June.

This date was chosen, and I had some good input on the matter from many other people, because it is generally the start of good weather across the country. Having a Canadian forces day on an annual basis the first Sunday of June would allow families to participate in various activities which may occur at bases across the country.

Also, because of the end of the spring session of the parliamentary calendar this usually coincides with the beginning of June, so this date would allow for statements in parliament in recognition of the forces.

I promised I would be brief and I will hold to that promise. Before closing, however, I would like to note some of the input I have received on the idea of a Canadian forces day. I would like to refer to a communication I received from retired Lieutenant-General Lou Cuppens, who is also chair of the Royal Canadian Legion defence committee. He stated:

The Legion does not view your proposal as contrary to our sworn duty to commemorate the many sacrifices made in the past and present of those who served and continue to serve Canada, but rather, it would view your proposal as one to have Canadians focus, on one day each year, and celebrate the unique contributions and sacrifices of those who served so admirably and capably in the Canadian Armed Forces. We are delighted that you would propose such a [motion] to support and recognize the members of our extended family--the Canadian Armed Forces--and wish to offer the Legion's support to your endeavour.

I also received a letter from the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, the former Chief Justice of Canada. In fact just over the last week I received over 100 letters, e-mails and communications from people interested in the subject. I will not read his entire letter. It stated in part:

The men and women of the Canadian Forces serve our country day in and day out because they are proud to contribute, not only to our peace and security but to the peace and security of the entire world.

I have one final letter from Major General Lewis MacKenzie, who wrote:

As someone who has had the pleasure of watching our young men and women in uniform excel, both at home and abroad, under frequently trying and dangerous circumstances and well out of the public's eye and knowledge, count me as a strong supporter of your [motion].

As a Nation which all too frequently focuses on the rare shortcomings of the Forces rather than its unparalleled achievements, the declaration of such a day would be a well earned mark of respect for those who are called upon to do the dirty work for the rest of us.

Finally, I would simply like to say, as I mentioned before, that this is all about saying “thank you” to the members of the Canadian forces. It is about saying that and recognizing the contribution of the forces on that one day of the year. As well, I think we can all learn something from the Canadian forces about the love they have for the country.

With that I will conclude. I look forward to the remainder of the debate.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

York Centre Ontario


Art Eggleton LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate very much the House giving me the opportunity to speak on this matter and to support the private member's motion from the member for Nepean--Carleton. I offer him hearty congratulations on what I think is a wonderful initiative on his part and I hope that all members of the House would support the designation of Canadian forces day on the first Sunday each June.

Last week was a very difficult week for all Canadians.

We continue to mourn the four soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan on April 17. These tragic events have served to highlight for all of us the importance of recognizing the tremendous contributions being made by the Canadian forces.

This tragedy has also served to remind us that our military men and women put their lives on the line for our country and its people in a very real way. I am sure all members in the House will agree when I say that our thoughts are still very much with the families and the loved ones of these soldiers as they are being laid to rest this week. We certainly owe them our deepest gratitude, our deepest respect, just as we owe our gratitude and respect to those who are still serving in Afghanistan and throughout southwest Asia. These brave men and women remain determined to carry on the fight against terrorism, determined to protect Canadians from those who would attack our values and our way of life.

By proclaiming a Canadian forces day we can recognize the many sacrifices they make to protect Canadian interests and to contribute to peace and security. At the same time it gives us a chance to underline how integral the Canadian forces are to Canada's history. Since Confederation, Canadian soldiers have answered their country's call to arms in times of crisis. They have made remarkable sacrifices in the building of our nation. From Vimy Ridge to the beaches at Normandy to Kapyong, tens of thousands of Canadians served in the great conflicts of the last century.

Indeed, our troops have not stood down from conflict in recent times. They have served in the gulf war, they served in the Kosovo air campaign and continue today to go where they are needed. In Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea our forces stand firm in the international campaign against terrorism. Despite the loss of four of their comrades, their dedication to their mission has not been shaken. They continue to demonstrate the clear sense of duty, courage and professionalism for which they are renowned.

At the same time, we must also recognize the tremendous contributions that our forces have made and continue to make to peacekeeping and peace support operations around the world. They are regularly deployed on operations where threats can range from snipers to landmines to unexploded ammunition. Despite these risks, they are consistently up to the challenge. From Bosnia to Sierra Leone to East Timor, the Canadian forces have shown that they are committed to protecting the innocent and bringing security and stability to shattered communities.

They make major contributions to international security. We only have to look at the figures.

Today the Canadian forces have over 4,000 personnel deployed on some 13 different missions. While some of these missions are high profile others are less so, but they are no less important. Most Canadians are aware of operations like Bosnia but they may not be as familiar with contributions our military members are making in places like the Sinai, the Golan Heights, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

By us instituting a Canadian forces day, citizens across the country will be encouraged to learn more about these kinds of operations. Perhaps open houses in our armouries will help bring the public in to get that knowledge passed on to our young people and to all our citizens. They will be encouraged to learn more about the military and what the forces are doing to make our world a safer, more secure place.

A Canadian forces day would also serve to highlight the important work that our military personnel do here at home, work like bringing relief during natural disasters or conducting search and rescue missions, patrolling our coastlines, enforcing Canadian law and protecting North American airspace through NORAD.

Experience has taught us that all military operations involve risk, hard work and skill. Domestic operations are no exception. I am sure that we can all recall the tremendous efforts our military personnel put out during the floods in Manitoba, the floods in the Saguenay or the ice storm in central Canada.

Whether they are serving here at home or overseas, our military personnel are making a concrete difference to our lives and to the lives of countless others, which is why we should support this proclamation of a Canadian forces day. It would show our men and women in uniform that we value them, that we value their work and that we are proud of what they do. It would show their families that we appreciate the many sacrifices that the troops are called upon to make.

It is time for us officially set aside a day when Canadians from coast to coast can thank members of the Canadian forces for their service and learn more about what they do, and in the process increase their knowledge and their appreciation. I truly believe that Canadians will appreciate having this opportunity. By designating this day on the first Sunday in June each year, it will give as many people as possible the chance to salute our military personnel. As the member for York Centre, I fully support this private member's motion.

I encourage my colleagues to do the same.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise in full support of the motion brought forth by the hon. member. It has been some time since we have had a day that recognizes the great service that the members of our armed forces provide to this country. Remembrance Day, the battle of the Atlantic and the battle of Britain are days celebrated by the forces, but those are days that are in place not just to celebrate our forces publicly and the great service they provide but actually to recognize particular historic events. Usually part of those ceremonies is the religious celebration. We have had that in the past.

Armed Forces Day was celebrated first on June 12, 1965. This proposed day would in some way replace that day, a day that gives Canadians an opportunity to celebrate the very important and good work done by the members of our forces. I certainly fully support the motion and I know that my party will support this motion. I think recognizing the work that the members of our armed forces do is very important. I am looking forward to celebrating this day down the road.

I heard the minister speak just a couple of minutes ago. I sat there thinking that he was sincere. He wants to recognize members of our forces for the good work they do. I have every reason to believe that he is completely sincere about that. When it comes to supporting our forces I have to wonder, then, why he does not back up his words and his support for the motion with action.

The members of our forces are neglected and so poorly supported by the government that they serve this country well in spite of what the government provides them to do their job. In spite of that, they serve us so well and have become known worldwide for being able to somehow put together dilapidated and outdated equipment and make it work. They do that and are proud of it, but we should not expect that from our soldiers. That is unacceptable.

It is time this minister stopped just offering the words and started offering the support. I will just mention some of the things that our forces need.

Right now the number of members in our armed forces is down to 53,000 effective strength when our white paper says it should be at 60,000. When the government took office there were 80,000 members; it is now down to 53,000 members. Since this government took office we have lost two members from our armed forces for every member who has been recruited. The auditor general said just last week in her report that it could take 30 years with the current recruitment program in place just to re-establish the size of force the government is committed to. In the white paper of 1994, which my party played an important part in developing the government committed to having 60,000 members in our armed forces. Now it is down to 53,000 members and it looks like it will get worse.

We have to ask ourselves why the government has not supported our forces in a lot more meaningful way, not just with words but in fact with action. We have to wonder if this downsizing is not actually a sneaky backdoor way of reducing our military while the policy in fact says that we should maintain our forces at 60,000 members. We have to ask that. It is an important question. Right now the number of members in our forces is a problem.

If we look next at equipment we can go through a long list of problems that the government has not dealt with. The Sea King replacement program was in place when the government took office. The day after, it was gone. We still have not put out for tender a replacement for the Sea Kings. The supply ships desperately need to be supported. We are down to two supply ships. Destroyers have a hull life of seven years. It will be very difficult to replace them before the hull life expires and yet there is nothing in place to support that. The words are there but the action is not. This has to be a concern.

There are many other pieces of equipment that must be replaced and many that must be purchased because we do not have them. Strategic airlifts are an example. When we depend on the Americans to provide strategic airlifts to get our military personnel into flood areas in Manitoba and areas hit by the ice storm in Ontario and Quebec we know we have a deficit in equipment. We need strategic airlifts but the government has not provided them and has no intention of doing so. The words are there but the action is not.

When it comes to tactical lifts we will need replacements for our Hercules aircraft down the road. It is a good plane and a workhorse. Some are still quite serviceable but many are not. We need to replace the lift helicopters that were sold off 10 years ago. We need attack helicopters and gunships. These are things a country needs if it is to take part in the type of environment the world is in today.

Since the end of the cold war the world has become an extremely unstable place. There will continue to be at least as many demands on our military in the future as there are now but we will not be able meet them because of equipment and personnel shortages. The men and women serving in our forces have been overstretched. The government has the words but not the action.

Getting the equipment and people we need in our forces will require money. When the minister is questioned about this on an almost daily basis he says billions of dollars have been spent on the military. In fact the government spends less on the military than it did when it took office. Its words say one thing but the facts say something entirely different. This is completely unacceptable.

On average our NATO allies spend 2.1% of their gross domestic product on the military. What do hon. members think Canada spends? Is it 2.2%? It is 2.3%? Is it more than the NATO average? No, it is not. We spend 1% of our GDP on the military, less than half the NATO average. Canada is supposed to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. This is unacceptable. The government's words say one thing but its actions say another.

We need to put resources into our military so we can offer the men and women who serve the equipment they need. We need enough members in the forces to allow military personnel to take breaks between deployments. This is a serious problem. It is leading to serious family breakdowns in the forces. Post traumatic stress disorder is ever increasing. These things are important to our country because they are important to our military personnel.

Today a government member put forth a private member's motion calling for recognition of our men and women in the forces. It is a great idea. I fully support it and believe all our members will support it. However it is not enough. The government must start backing up its words with actions. I have seen no indication that will happen. I will be the first to give credit to the government when it starts delivering to our military personnel what they deserve and need to do their jobs safely and even better than they do now. They perform so well in spite of what the government has provided, not because of it. That is unacceptable.

I would be happy to celebrate a day in recognition of our Canadian forces members. However I would celebrate even more the day the government started delivering the equipment, people and money required to enable our military personnel to do the job the country is demanding of them. I would be delighted to celebrate that but I fear it will not happen under the Liberal government. It will happen when our party is elected, and I suspect that is not as far off as a lot of people would have anticipated a few months ago.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois fully agrees that we should devote a national day in recognition of the Canadian Forces, to recognize what these people have done.

The job of soldier has rarely been valued. During world wars, we tend to value it more. However, when world wars come to an end—and the second world war has been over for a very long time now—constituents and taxpayers often have difficulty recognizing the army's work, and we have to understand why.

We live at a time when education and health undergo great trials, often because the federal government makes very little transfers or not enough transfers. While provinces have to carry all the services, the government here in Ottawa keeps on piling surpluses. The provinces would need a helping hand.

Often, the voter, the taxpayer, does not make these distinctions. When we ask him whether we should invest more money in the armed forces, his first reaction is to say “No, I think there is enough”. We must understand that those in the army feel, I would not say the animosity, but the indifference of voters and taxpayers toward them. Of course, other professions do even more poorly on the popularity scale. I think that we, as politicians, are on the very bottom of the scale. So we understand what it means to be rejected and to experience animosity.

We must say that soldiers work extremely hard; I can testify to this. Last summer, I took part in a special program developed by the department to raise MPs' awareness of the military. I trained for a week with the Royal 22nd Regiment. I must admit that it was quite exhausting. I had prepared myself a little in advance. I must say this is not easy work. They get up early in the morning, and train non-stop all day. It is not easy to wear the uniform and carry all the equipment over long distances, and the physical test requires that full gear, weighing at least 50 pounds, be carried over a distance of 14 kilometers in less than two hours.

I did not do that. I have to admit I do not know if I could do it. But this is difficult work, and all the more so when there is no gratitude. The motion before us is a form of recognition, and it is important this message gets across.

Admittedly, we are in a bit of a rush at this time of year. The first Sunday in June is but a month and a few weeks away. We should get ready for this celebration. This is an urgent motion.

We are in a special context with all that is going on in Afghanistan, September 11 and all its consequences, and especially our soldiers who have been killed or wounded. Two of our dead soldiers were brought to their final resting place today.

People are more aware of the importance of all this. Committee members, critics and the national defence minister do understand the importance of having our troops in Afghanistan. Maybe this motion comes at the right moment. We should let our troops know that we appreciate their work and that what they do is important to the values of our society. We appreciate their work not only in the offensive role they have in Afghanistan--something that was unavoidable--but also in their other roles as well.

The value of our military is even better recognized in peacekeeping missions. There have been important situations where the Canadian military have taken position on the line separating two opposing camps, for example in Cyprus and Bosnia.

In fact, following the training I mentioned earlier, we were deployed with the third battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment in Bosnia. We visited every Canadian camp and were able to see how important our presence is over there.

We should not attach a value to these deployments. We should not think that the troops deployed in Afghanistan are more deserving than those in Bosnia. Each group of soldiers has its own specific characteristics as does each theatre of operations.

Our troops are doing a very good job over in Bosnia. I can only agree with General MacKenzie, who pointed out that Canadian soldiers have also died in peacekeeping missions. I think it is time for us to recognize these people.

Recently, soldiers have died in a more dangerous setting, working alongside the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It was an unfortunate accident. Still these people have lost their lives defending our values.

The same thing goes for our peacekeepers. They often find themselves on the front line, coming under enemy fire while trying to keep the two sides apart. Some have lost their lives. So, it is important to also recognize their contribution.

The motion also contains other important concepts, in my opinion. With respect to disaster relief, I know all about it. During the ice storm the situation was quite bad in my riding of Saint-Jean.

I take every opportunity to salute the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battalion. I was saddened to hear the news that four of their soldiers had been killed, because it was the PPCLI that came to our rescue in 1998 during the ice storm. My region is located in what was called the triangle of darkness, between Saint-Jean, Granby and Saint-Hyacinthe, where virtually everything was destroyed. The armed forces helped us out enormously.

My office was closed and I moved in with the armed forces, next to the commander's office, where I was briefed every morning. We would really have been in trouble if the Canadian armed forces had not come to our assistance then.

There were also the Saguenay and Red River floods. These are all disasters in which the armed forces have helped. At such times, the public's appreciation is greater, because it is happening in their community. So the armed forces help taxpayers. At times like these, people are inclined to be more grateful.

Today, people in the riding of Saint-Jean know that military operations are taking place in Afghanistan, but they are not a witness to them every day. The importance of helping victims of the disaster is also obvious.

As for the importance of NATO, but for its intervention against Milosevic, something terrible would have happened. What happened in Bosnia was terrible enough, so we can only imagine what would have taken place if NATO had not stepped in.

In this connection, Canadian fighter planes flew several missions in Bosnia to get rid of a dictator who was conducting a genocide. We are commemorating the Armenian genocide, but this too was a genocide.

It was the UN forces, including Canada's troops, which rushed in to try to sort things out and they were successful. Milosevic had to withdraw and stop the ethnic cleansing going on in Bosnia.

It is the same for humanitarian aid. There is no doubt that when major disasters occur around the globe, Canadian armed forces are often called in. We then send help to these people in need. Specialized teams will often travel to the site to offer assistance. This is part of our international commitment.

So let us therefore renew our appreciation of the past as well as the present role of the Canadian forces. In so doing, we may perhaps interest young people in entering a career where they will be recognized.

We are beginning with a day of recognition, and this is important. I therefore hope that this motion will be passed quickly. I wish to tell our Liberal member that he can count on our support to pass it quickly, because the first Sunday in June is fast approaching.

There is a military base and a former military college in my riding, where there are still many members of the military. I will be pleased to get together with them on this day in recognition of the Canadian armed forces.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Motion M-334. For those who are watching us, I think it would be useful to read the motion again. It says:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should proclaim the first Sunday in June “Canadian Forces Day” in recognition of the tremendous contribution by the Canadian Forces, both at home and abroad, in such areas as the defence of Canada, our NATO commitments, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, search and rescue and UN peacekeeping.

I am sure that my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore—that name is difficult to pronounce for someone like me—would have liked to be here, especially since he is our party's defence critic. Unfortunately, he is in Dartmouth today. He wanted to be there to pay tribute to one of the soldiers who died in a very unfortunate accident in Afghanistan.

I also want to thank the member for Nepean—Carleton for bringing this motion to the House of Commons, and I want to thank the parliamentary committee that made it a votable item. A private member's motion may or may not be votable. This one was made votable, which shows a desire to support such a motion. It should have been done a long time ago. However, as I have always said, it is never too late to do the right thing. Therefore, I congratulate the member for Nepean—Carleton for bringing forward this motion. I can assure him that the New Democratic Party will support it.

It is a truly important motion. When looking at the regrettable death of these four soldiers, it is like people who lose their lives at work because of an unfortunate accident.

Before coming to this House, I worked as a miner. I was not really an apprentice. I was a machine operator underground and I worked with the miners. We often lost people working underground. It is not pleasant to lose a co-worker, but we need miners. It is not pleasant to lose a fisher, but it is his job.

These soldiers lost their lives on the job. Their families have our sympathies. This is a regrettable incident, and we extend our condolences to the families who have lost loved ones. These were people who were prepared to go to other countries because of their belief in freedom. They believe that the whole world should be free. They went out to defend the cause of freedom at the request of the democratically elected government of Canada. The government decided to send troops to war rather than on a peacekeeping mission like before. The decision has been made, so now we have to support our soldiers.

I can guarantee that we do just that. Our leader, the hon. member for Halifax, has said so often in this House. Make no mistake. Just because we are the opposition, we may not always agree with sending our soldiers at war, when they should be on a peacekeeping mission. But when they are at war, we support them. These are Canada's soldiers, these men and women who are defending a cause believed in by many throughout the world, those who do not believe in terrorism.

We also support the Family Resource Centre in its assistance to the families of the dead and wounded soldiers. This is a truly important service.

During World War I, 66,000 Canadians lost their lives. More than 45,000 Canadians gave their lives for peace and freedom during the World War II. The Canadian army developed an enviable reputation after this.

The Canadian Forces also have a role to play in the defence of our country, and also with other countries, such as the United States; there is also the work they do with NATO and other allies.

The Canadian Forces have taken part in international security operations and as peacekeepers under the aegis of the UN, such as in Kosovo.

Peacekeepers have provided a safe environment and humanitarian assistance to the destitute. Up to 80,000 Canadian soldiers have taken part in more than 30,000 peacekeeping missions.

They have taken part in the cold war and the gulf war. Currently they are taking part in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan. It is important to recognize the Canadian soldiers, the men and women who do this work.

But let us return closer to home. As my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois and others have mentioned, five years ago in Manitoba, when the Red River overflowed its banks, I am sure that Manitobans were happy to have the Canadian Forces lend them a helping hand.

In 1996, I am sure that people in the Saguenay region were pleased to see the Canadian Forces come to aid.

As the Bloc Quebecois member mentioned, they travelled to the Montérégie, the triangle of darkness, during the ice storm. I have brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law in Saint-Luc, along the Richelieu River. They were without power for a month. These people experienced great hardship because, with today's lifestyle, they were not used to living without power. This made me realize what people went through.

The same thing happened in eastern Ontario. Our troops were there to help, both morally and physically. There were people helping Canadians and Quebecers.

The motion brought forward by the hon. member for Nepean—Carleton is important. It provides that the government should proclaim the first Sunday in June “Canadian Forces Day”, in recognition of the contribution made by our armed forces to Canadians. We must recognize that we truly need them and that we are extremely pleased to have them.

Last Sunday, I met with some veterans from Bathurst. We were remembering their work during World War I and World War II. I am sure that these people are glad to be able to say today “Canada will finally recognize, each year, the work being done by the Canadian forces.” I think recognition is the best gift we could be giving them.

There are a lot of other gifts we could give them, but we must thank them for the good job they are doing with the tools they have. It would be nice if the government could give them more money to help pay for new uniforms or equipment. It would be nice if the government could invest more in the army. We hope the government will do it. We hope it will think about it.

What the Bloc member was saying is true. Sometimes, people say that we should not be spending all that money on the army, because we need it for health care, education and so on. But we cannot do without the armed forces.

So, our troops need to be well-equipped. That is part of the deal. With a surplus of billions and billions of dollars, I think it is time for the federal government to take a step to give help and support to our men and women of the Canadian forces.

On behalf of the NDP, I would once again like to congratulate the hon. member for Nepean--Carleton. I hope the motion will be agreed to as soon as possible so that activities can be held on the first Sunday in June. We all want to be able, in our communities, to let members of our armed forces know that we support and celebrate them.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise to support the motion moved by my hon. colleague from Nepean--Carleton. I thank him very much for the work he has done. Coming on the heels of last week's tragedy in Kandahar, bringing forth a motion proclaiming the first Sunday in June Canadian forces day seems more timely than ever. Even before the events of last week recognition of our men and women in the armed forces is long overdue.

Kandahar served as a wake-up call to all Canadians to the threats and dangers that our armed forces personnel face every day. In recent years we have come to see war and conflict as something of a sanitized process, hoping that technology can prevent the overwhelming loss of human life like we saw in the two world wars. Where there is war and conflict, there is danger. As long as our armed forces personnel and indeed Canadians as a whole are willing to travel to all corners of the globe to protect the values we believe in and the lives of innocent civilians, we must recognize the risks involved.

I have been involved with the committee on defence and veterans affairs for nine years. I asked for those positions because to me they are the most important people in Canada. Not only do these men and women make tremendous sacrifices to defend our country and our ideals, but they do so knowing that one day their job could result in their death. For many of us it is hard to imagine such a line of work. It is a true testament to our armed forces personnel that they knowingly accept this risk for the good of our country.

Consider all the missions at home and abroad that have been mentioned here tonight that our Canadian soldiers have been involved in over the years. Canada rarely fails to answer the call when the United Nations comes forward looking for peacekeepers. Genuine Canadian troops have emerged from peacekeeping efforts, such as Roméo Dallaire in Rwanda and Lewis MacKenzie in the former Yugoslavia. These individuals were in the spotlight, but think of all the soldiers we did not hear about and who still had to witness the horrors that took place in those countries. Some of them still live to this day with the trauma of what they saw.

Canadian armed forces personnel are involved in key operations the world over as we speak. We have been focusing on Afghanistan and rightly so, but let us not forget our troops in the Balkans, the Golan Heights, Cyprus, Sierra Leone and the Congo, just to name a few. Let us also not forget that we have lost the lives of peacekeepers on a number of these missions in recent years. They were also Canadian heroes.

Let us not forget that our armed forces are also involved with DART, our disaster assistance response team, which was created in 1996 to be deployed in situations ranging from natural disasters to complex humanitarian emergencies. They have seen service in places like Haiti, Honduras and Turkey. These specially trained individuals are the finest examples of the military evolving to meet the challenges of our changing world where threats are not just of the military variety but also include earthquakes, floods, disease and hunger. We have seen that.

One of my fondest recollections of our armed forces personnel will always be the help they provided to the millions of Canadians who were hurt by the ice storm in 1998. Fourteen thousand troops, including 2,300 reserves, were deployed to help Canadians through one of the worst storms in our history. I have heard countless tales from constituents who were holed up in their homes during the storm, feeling cold and isolated, only to have one of our armed forces personnel show up at the door offering assistance.

There was the Manitoba flood. Our colleagues in Quebec suffered through the Saguenay flood. For both of those disasters our military people were there. I say to my hon. colleagues here and to all the members on the defence committee that it is very important for us to make sure that we give our troops all of the equipment they need to do their job.

Today we had the debate on our submarines which are used. The Sea Kings need to be replaced and I know that it has been mentioned before as well.

All of us on both sides of the House have to work to put the money back into the budget for those men and women because they cannot come to the Hill and protest. They are looking to everyone of us who sit in the House to speak up. They want to do the job for us.

There is something else that I want to see along with the special armed forces day. Because we have such a proud military history, we owe it to ourselves to continue this legacy. I would hope that as part of the armed forces day we would make a concerted effort to educate young people of today about the past achievements of the Canadian military together with its current successes.

Study after study show that Canadians, and in particular our youth, have very little knowledge of our military history. I would suggest to hon. colleague from Nepean--Carleton that every effort be made in our schools and communities to educate young Canadians about Canada's past and to instill in them a sense of pride on this very special first Sunday in June, our armed forces day.

I would also like to ensure that special recognition is given to the families of our military personnel on armed forces day. The husbands, wives, sons, daughters, parents and grandparents of our military personnel make incredible sacrifices as well. I know that through my brothers who served in the second world war. They have to suffer the worry when our troops go abroad and the loneliness of missed loved ones. They often move from base to base not getting a chance to develop roots in any particular area. Worst of all, when our troops are abroad, they live with the fear of getting a knock on the door in the middle of the night to receive news of injury or death, just like some did just recently because of what happened in Afghanistan.

I thank my hon. colleague for bringing this forward, but we have a job to do to carry it through. We have to ensure that we look after our military men and women and their families. We have to ensure that we teach our young people in the school system so when they become our age they will remember the efforts of our military and on armed forces day honour those individuals.

I would like to remind my hon. colleague that while this is a worthwhile symbolic move, we all have to address the challenges facing our military men and women. We have to help them do their job as best as possible and provide them the best equipment, resources and support. Canada will join a long list of countries that have already proclaimed an armed forces day. For a country with as proud a military as ours in Canada, this is long overdue.

Military recruiters say there is no life like it. That could not be more true. Such a lifestyle requires special individuals and Canada certainly has a host of them in the armed forces. I am honoured and pleased to support the motion to help recognize the achievement of Canada's military. I call on all Canadians to join in celebrating Canada's armed forces on the first Sunday in June. We have a lot of which to be proud.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. First, I thank all hon. members for their comments which I am sure were very heartfelt. At this point, I ask for the unanimous consent of the House to adopt the motion on Canadian forces day today.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I did not consent but I would be delighted to grant consent. Let me say that I have twice sought consent to deem votable my private member's bill to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day, which has been supported by 60,000 petition signatures and every veterans group in the country. If the hon. member opposite would consent to make my bill votable, I would be glad to reciprocate.

Therefore, I seek unanimous consent to restore to the order of precedence and deem votable Bill C-297, an act to promote the observance of two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day.

Canadian Forces DayPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent?