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House of Commons Hansard #48 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was iraq.

Topics

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The member still has six minutes left if she wants to use them.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not use my next six minutes. I will let somebody else take the time to contribute.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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.

Pursuant to order made Monday, January 27, 2003, the House will now go into committee of the whole for the purpose of considering Motion No. 13, under Government Business.

(House in committee of the whole on Government Business No. 13, Mr. Bélair in the chair)

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January 29th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That this Committee take note of the situation in Iraq.

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6:55 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chairman, when the House last debated the question of Iraq in early October we grappled with the challenges posed by Iraq's disregard for its Security Council obligations. We considered the long brutal history of Saddam Hussein's regime, the importance to all of us of seeing that it is disarmed, the role of the United Nations in assuring our collective peace and security, and our shared humanitarian concerns for the people of Iraq.

During that debate I asserted that Canada would seek a peaceful resolution to this crisis through UN weapons inspectors and through Iraq's active and complete support in the process of disarmament.

The government's objective remains the same, because our faith in the United Nations was well placed. The Security Council met the challenge of handling the problem in Iraq by passing resolution 1441 unanimously. This resolution has allowed arms inspectors to return to Iraq and has given the Government of Iraq one last chance to comply with its obligations.

Inspectors returned to Iraq at the end of November after a four year absence. They have since been working on the job assigned to them by the Security Council. Once again, some expressed doubts about the inspectors' ability to carry out their responsibilities and predicted that the mission would soon fail. Others complained that it was nothing but a trap set for Iraq and that the operation was nothing more than a provocative western scheme to spy on Baghdad.

However these skeptics were wrong, my friends. The inspection teams did good work under very difficult circumstances, having carried out more than 300 searches and seizures. We congratulate them for their professionalism and their dedication. They managed to gain access to sites where previous inspection teams were not allowed. They made important discoveries, including empty chemical weapons shells. They are demonstrating the objectivity required to show that this process gives Iraq a fair chance.

In a nutshell, the inspectors have shown that they have the ability and the determination needed to carry out their work, provided they have the support they need from Iraq. Therefore, when Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei ask for more time, our government believes that we must give it to them.

At the same time, as the Prime Minister has said, this is not an open ended process. It can succeed only if Iraq understands that this is its last chance to come clean and acts accordingly. Unfortunately, the jury is still out whether the Iraqi government is willing to embrace this final opportunity. The inspectors have bluntly criticized the Iraqi government's approach to inspections. As Dr. Blix said in his report to the Security Council on Monday:

...resolution 1441 states that this cooperation shall be “active”. It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of “catch as catch can”.

The government believes that Iraq must actively provide evidence and answers to all of the many questions still outstanding. Inspectors are not satisfied with Iraq's answers about what happened to tonnes of deadly nerve agent. They are still waiting for the real story behind Iraq's ballistic missile program. They need answers about biological and nuclear weapons research. They are asking these questions because resolution 1441 demands answers.

We must remember that resolution 1441 is not a paper tiger. It warns of serious consequences if Iraq does not comply. The United States, the United Kingdom and some others have begun preparing for the potential use of force against Iraq should this be necessary. Canada has been engaged in prudent military to military discussions with the U.S. to be prepared, if necessary, as well. This credible use of force has been an essential support for diplomacy as it keeps the pressure on Iraq to comply. I assure the House however that no decision on the use of force has been taken by the government and we see it as a very last resort.

The government has been criticized by some for inconsistencies on its policies on Iraq. However, our policy is unchanged since the last debate. Some insist that Canada should commit now to the use of military force before all of the evidence is in or before the UN process has had the opportunity to reach a conclusion. Others say that Canada should ignore what the UNMOVIC and the IAEA may find, ignore our duties as a member of the UN, and announce now that we will never play any part in the enforcement of Iraq's Security Council obligations.

That is not what the government believes and it is not what I believe. I do not believe it is what Canadians believe. Canada must continue to seek a peaceful resolution to the challenge posed by Iraq's non-compliance with its international obligations. Our objective is the complete elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means and in accordance with Security Council resolution 1441. In this way we believe war can be avoided.

This is not the time to abandon the UN process, at the very point when the inspectors are beginning to make real progress and when concerted international pressure is finally beginning to bring about Iraqi cooperation, begrudging as it has been. Inspectors must be given the time they need to use every tool at their disposal. This is the message I will deliver to Secretary Powell when I see him tomorrow, and this is the message that the Prime Minister gave President Bush when they spoke last week on our relationship.

Ours is a solid relationship based on a commitment to common values and it permits this sort of exchange and allows for respect for each other's views together with an understanding of each other's concerns.

Allow me to address the possibility that force would be used to back up the Security Council resolutions on Iraq. It may well be that the weapons inspectors will find evidence of Iraqi non-compliance. Certainly the record of Iraqi compliance is not good. Should that happen, we must be ready to back up our words and principles with action. The Security Council has unanimously agreed that Iraq will face serious consequences if it violates its obligations.

Even as we recognize that war is not inevitable, we must also accept that a peaceful outcome depends critically on whether Iraq begins to co-operate fully and actively. We must not rule out a peaceful resolution, but neither can we rule out the use of force.

As we in the House know, Canada and the United States are best friends and allies. We have a long history of cooperation and partnership, and on matters of values we see eye-to-eye. However friendship and alliance do not imply that we two sovereign countries must adopt identical approaches on all issues. It is in the discussion and debate of differing views and the pursuit of varied but complementary approaches, that we are able to offer to each other the best kind of advice and support.

An independent foreign policy for Canada benefits the United States as well as ourselves. We value our differences as does the United States. Our partnership is the better for it.

On Iraq, we share the same goal: the complete and verified disarmament of Iraq through a peaceful UN process.

Last night I watched President Bush speak of how the United States will make up its mind. He said:

Yet the course of this nation does not depend upon the decisions of others.

Canadians expect no less of their government. Why would Americans expect anything less of ours from what they demand from themselves?

The government is working closely with our friends and allies around the world who share our desire for a peaceful outcome, and our goal of achieving this through our multilateral institutions. The countries of the region have been engaged in this important effort to convince Saddam Hussein that for the good of his people, and for the stability of the region, Iraq must comply with its international obligations.

They, like us, look forward to a time when Iraq will be reintegrated into the international community as a peaceful and prosperous nation. The Iraqi people deserve no less.

Many have asked whether Canada would insist on a second resolution before supporting the use of force against Iraq. To my mind the pertinent question is whether the current process established by the existing council resolution 1441 enables us to address the two fundamental issues we face: whether Iraq is in violation of its disarmament obligations of the world community, and whether the use of force is the only way to bring it into conformity.

Resolution 1441 does enable us indeed to address these two issues. Resolution 1441 has returned inspectors to Iraq, strengthening their hand and giving them new tools. Resolution 1441 with its clear statement of serious consequences of non-compliance, together with a credible threat of force, has compelled the measure of Iraqi compliance we have seen to date. Resolution 1441 lays out a process by which the council will receive reports from the inspectors and then consider the appropriate course of action, which might well involve another resolution.

Resolution 1441 has brought us to where we are today, just as it lays out the way forward. Let us focus on using resolution 1441 to its full extent before we speculate on what else might or might not be necessary.

War is not inevitable, but for conflict to be avoided Iraq must fully comply and act with the UN. Canada will stand together with the world community to see that it does.

I will conclude by echoing the views of Secretary General Kofi Annan on Monday when he said:

I really hope that Iraq will comply and we will be able to get on and disarm Iraq peacefully. I have not given up on peace.

We should not either.

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7:05 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Chairman, I listened with close attention to what the Minister of Foreign Affairs had to say. I noticed that he went to great lengths to say that the government has not changed its position. However, I could produce a whole series of quotes over the past two months not only illustrating such changes, but particularly in the tone. The tough and clearer tone that the minister employed tonight is somewhat refreshing.

The Canadian Alliance has asserted that we should be working more closely with the American and British allied coalition on putting maximum pressure on Saddam Hussein to disarm. We have called for participation in the predeployment exercises. The government appears to date to have rejected that position. However, I note that the minister talked about consultations between the United States and Canada and I forget the exact wording, but on military preparations.

Is the minister in effect saying that the government is involved in a limited form of predeployment activity?

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7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

No, Mr. Chairman, I would not put it that way to the House. I have made it very clear in my speech, the government has always made it clear and the Prime Minister has said on many occasions that if force is deemed necessary to force Saddam Hussein in Iraq to disarm in conformity with resolution 1441 and the United Nations process, Canada will be there.

In the process therefore of examining what facilities, prudent military planning would suggest that we must look at assets, we must decide, we must talk with other countries and we must look at what we would do. The Minister of National Defence has been able to do that, but this is without any commitment of any kind. This is not of the nature of military dispositions, of moving troops or anything of that nature.

We strongly believe that, while the threat of force is a part of enforcing diplomacy, in these circumstances it is very important that the world know that it is the Security Council and the United Nations process which will provide the way out of this impasse and if we operate within that process, we do so in a way which will ensure not only that the use of force, if it is required, will be legitimate. However ultimately the resolution of this will mean that in the Middle East and in the rest of the world there will be stability rather than the fear of invasion by other countries. This is the most important principle. We have always been guided by that. Our actions have been careful and our words have been careful. We remain within that context.

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7:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Chairman, the minister has spoken about the importance of working within the United Nations context. Could he explain to the House why the government so far has refused to be unambiguous about a position that it would resort to force only within the context of the United Nations? Why the ambiguity? Could he explain that to us?

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7:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chairman, I do not think the hon. member is interpreting the words correctly. We have been totally unambiguous in terms of our wording, saying that we will only operate within the framework of the United Nations process. That framework is presently laid out by resolution 1441 and that resolution is still being examined.

The President said last night that Secretary Powell will go to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, lay out a case, set out with the security council what they might do and which way they might move given the present circumstances. We heard the report of the two inspectors the other day. I spoke to Dr. Blix myself the other day and we expect a new report on the 14th of February.

Nobody in the United Nations or in the world in my view, such as the United States or France or any of the other powers that are expressing this opinion, or this preferable option or the other, is saying that at this point the use of force is inevitable or that this is the way we will go. Everybody is seeking to operate within that framework and within that context. That is exactly where Canada started when the Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Bush some time ago and that is where we remain. This is the best way to ensure that we will get to the end where we have a credible, legitimate result.

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7:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chairman, yesterday, after the state of the union address, it was quite clear that the United States still reserved the right to attack Iraq on its own or, to use the President's words, with a willing coalition.

Now, it seems that the minister is saying that Resolution 1441 is sufficient to attack Iraq. He says that he will be meeting shortly with Colin Powell. When Colin Powell asks him the question, “Are you following us to Iraq, unilaterally, without waiting for another UN resolution?”, I think that after what he just said, the minister will answer, “Yes, I will follow you to Iraq”. Am I mistaken?

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7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chairman, I am running a strong risk of heading into hypothetical territory. Like my hon. colleague, the Minister of National Defence, I recognize the danger of such a step. But I can assure you that I will tell the Secretary of State, Mr. Powell, that the long-term security of the United States and the world means that we must be guided in this affair by the process set out in Resolution 1441.

We will see what happens when Mr. Powell appears before the Security Council. Their actions, their deliberations and their decisions must be carefully examined. They have the power. Resolution 1441 clearly indicates to Iraq that it must comply, failing which there will be serious consequences.

All these questions are currently being decided by the Security Council. Let it examine this process, back it and then see to it that Iraq is disarmed and the nations of the world protected.

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7:15 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chairman, to the minister, I think it is fair to say that every member of the House shares the fundamental objective of ridding not only Iraq of weapons of mass destruction but that region and ultimately the planet. The minister was an eloquent advocate of eradicating all nuclear weapons from the planet and indeed of strengthening and protecting the Iraqi people from the brutality to which they are subjected and the human rights violations.

That must be done within the framework both of the United Nations and of course with respect to international law. This brings me to my questions.

My first question is with respect to the issue of a second resolution. On this issue the minister has still not been clear. Should it be the case that the international community through the Security Council believes that there has been a material breach under the terms of resolution 1441, both France and Germany have stated clearly and unequivocally that they believe the use of force would not be accepted without an additional resolution to authorize that.

What is Canada's position on that and what is Canada's position with respect to the fundamental right of members of the House to vote on whether to send men and women into war?

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7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chairman, to answer the first question, I have tried to make it clear that what is happening is that we are seeing as we evolve the process of resolution 1441. When resolution 1441 was drafted, it was drafted in such a way which enabled a certain freedom of the Security Council to act in the circumstance of the future. This is why the government has been very careful never to be drawn into speculation as to what would happen, if this happened or if that happened.

We cannot speculate because we will never know the exact conditions that are set. That is why we have said we support the process and we support that the Security Council is engaged in that process at this time. The Security Council will be the master of the need for a second resolution. That will be determined as we go forward, when Secretary Powell goes before it and others make the case.

In our view that case remains to be made. That case, as President Bush said last night, will be made, but he too said that it remains to be made. Secretary Powell has said that force will be used if necessary. It will only be necessary if Iraq does not conform or if the world community judges that it is necessary.

That is in the process of resolution 1441. That is why we support that process. That is why we refuse to be drawn into speculation as to what other events might be necessary in a hypothetical situation in the future.

In terms of the House, the government has always respected the House. We have engaged in debates in the House. We have engaged in discussions in the House of matters of the highest importance.

I personally regard the decisions and deliberations in the House with the highest of respect. I regret the fact, that I will not be able to stay tonight because I have to go to Washington. However I assure colleagues that the views of the House are considered by the government, but the government was elected to take its responsibilities.

The Prime Minister has said that the government was elected to take its responsibilities and it will take responsibilities on decisions. Whether to deploy the troops of Canada will be made by the government. In the event that the government's choice is unwise, the House of course can always have non-confidence in the government. However the government will take its responsibilities to deploy its troops as elected by the people of Canada to do so.

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7:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Chairman, I welcome the opportunity to once again address the issue of Iraq.

Let me first recap the position I laid before the House on October 1, 2002. I argued then that the time had come for Canada to pledge support to the developing coalition of nations, including Britain, Australia, the United States and others, in their determination to send a clear signal to Saddam Hussein that failure to comply with an unconditional program of inspection would justify action to remove Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.

I noted that the position is justified in international law. The 1991 gulf war in which Canada participated did not end in an armistice. It ended in a ceasefire agreement in which Iraq agreed to a series of United Nations resolutions requiring the unconditional and unrestricted inspection of any and all Iraqi sites. Iraq has defied this and numerous other resolutions over the past 12 years, including non-compliance with the current UN resolution 1441.

I noted that there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein operates programs to produce weapons of mass destruction. Experience confirms this. British, Canadian and American intelligence leaves no doubt on the matter. Saddam Hussein's continued non-compliance and non-cooperation with the United Nations only confirms this information.

Finally, while I noted and I continue to note that Canadians do not want to see war, they do want to see Canada's national security interests and international values upheld. The limits of UN declarations are not the limits of Canadian foreign policy or our security needs. While Canada has always strived to work with the United Nations and other multilateral bodies, we have also pursued independent policies with our allies.

Based on these arguments, I gave the government the following advice in October.

First, should Saddam Hussein not fulfill an agreement to an unconditional and unrestricted access to UN weapons inspectors, Canada should stand with its allies in spelling out clearly to Saddam that failure to comply will bring consequences.

Second, should the UN Security Council issue a declaration to demand Iraqi compliance and should Iraq fail to meet those conditions, Canada should stand with its allies in telling Saddam once again that failure to comply will bring consequences.

Finally, should some UN Security Council members falter in re-emphasizing their own past declarations, Canada should stand with its allies in ensuring that Saddam understands once again that failure to comply will bring consequences.

Now, four months later, let me be very clear. Enforcing UN resolutions and getting Saddam to disarm could still be done without war. For this to occur, the international community must stand four-square behind the existing UN resolutions and we must understand the nature of Saddam Hussein. Ironically, it was our current Prime Minister who said this in 1998:

Make no mistake, Saddam's behaviour to date indicates that he will not honour diplomatic solutions so long as they are not accompanied by a threat of intervention. The least sign of weakness or hesitation on our part will be interpreted as incitement.... We believe that Canada cannot stand on the sidelines in such a moment.... Canada will be counted.

If the international community understood this better today, and if the Canadian government kept true to the Prime Minister's own words, then we would stand a good chance of avoiding war. Only with a credible threat of force behind resolution 1441 does the world stand a chance of avoiding war.

Instead, what we have are members of the international community failing to stand behind UN resolution 1441. They are failing to back the multilateral coalition including Britain, Australia, the United States, Spain, Italy and others, that is prepared to show Saddam a credible threat of force by redeploying in the gulf region.

Canada can most assist the United Nations process by standing unequivocally with countries prepared to act to remove Saddam Hussein and his weapons. The failure of Canada to stand with its allies can only lead to one of two possibilities.

The first possibility is that the entire international community decides not to enforce Security Council resolutions. This would leave the tyrant Saddam Hussein in place, but worse, he would be emboldened as a threat to the region, his own people and eventually to world stability. His known ties to terrorist organizations and his continued development of weapons of mass destruction would accelerate, leaving the world a less safe place and heightening the possibility of a repeat of September 11 or far worse.

We should be under no illusions. As the nation closest to the United States geographically, culturally and economically, we will inevitably be subject to the full consequences of any attack on the United States, if not also subject to any attack itself.

With or without such an attack, the failure to enforce resolutions to disarm Saddam Hussein will mean the UN itself will cease to be a credible body in world security affairs. This failure would directly parallel the failure of the League of Nations to address the emergence of global fascism in the 1920s and 1930s.

The second and more likely possibility of the failure of the world community as a whole to enforce disarmament of Saddam Hussein is that the allied coalition led by the United States and the United Kingdom goes to war with Iraq with the goal of disarming this evil regime.

This would force Canada to choose between its most important and closest allies and many of our other friends around the world. This would force us to choose war or to avoid participation in it.

There can be no mistake that war has been made more likely by the failure of some members of the international community to stand behind UN resolution 1441 and its predecessors in presenting a credible threat if Saddam fails to comply.

Let there also be no mistake that if the U.S. and the U.K. lead a coalition into Iraq, this will be fully defensible under existing UN resolutions, even if the UN does not sanction the action with yet another resolution by the Security Council.

What position should Canada take under such circumstances? More important, how should it decide its position? The answer: It should be clear and it should demonstrate leadership.

This party will not take its position based on public opinion polls. We will not take a stand based on focus groups. We will not take a stand based on phone-in shows or householder surveys or any other vagaries of public opinion.

We will take our position the way real leaders and great nations make decisions at such moments in history. Real leaders, and I do not mean brutal psychopaths like Saddam Hussein, real leaders like ordinary Canadians, do not want war. They never have.

My parents and my grandparents and their many friends and relatives of their generation have always told me that war is at worst horrific and at best a terribly inadequate way of dealing with the problems of humanity. They also told me that Canadians have nevertheless gone to war many times. In fact, they remember when Canadians were among the leaders in war, when it became the only option for the long run security of Canada and the world.

In my judgment Canada will eventually join with the allied coalition if war on Iraq comes to pass. The government will join, notwithstanding its failure to prepare, its neglect in co-operating with its allies, or its inability to contribute. In the end it will join out of the necessity created by a pattern of uncertainty and indecision. It will not join as a leader but unnoticed at the back of the parade.

This is wrong. It is not fitting with the greatness of our history or with our standing as a nation. We need to be standing through tough times and taking tough decisions.

We in the Canadian Alliance will continue to take tough public positions and urge the necessary military preparations that make the avoidance of war possible. I can only urge and pray that our government will do the same.

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7:30 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the hon. Leader of the Opposition for the exposition of his party's position. It was clear and helps us understand the debate in this House.

The question I have to ask him since he does not want to listen to the voices of Canadians about where they want to go about an eventual conflict is, why is he listening to the voices of other countries about where they want to go? My precise question for the Leader of the Opposition is, is he satisfied at this time that there is sufficient proof that a war to be taken by a coalition of allies without the authority of the United Nations and clearly in opposition to the will of the Security Council would be justified and would that in his judgment be the support of resolution 1441 of which he spoke in this House?

Up until now we have heard very little about the United Nations from the party opposite. We have heard a great deal about why we have to show leadership and act with certain other allies. Now if we are going to be with the United Nations, where are we? Is the proof there now? Can we move now? Does the Leader of the Opposition advocate a war now?

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7:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Chairman, first I did not say that we ignore the voices of Canadians any more than we ignore the voices of other nations around the world, but in the end we take this information and we do what we believe is in the best interests of the country and the world in the long term when it comes to these kinds of matters. I would say that I am not sure that the minister himself enunciated a position any different. The difference here is that we of course would be willing to put that position to a vote in the House of Commons.

I think the minister answered his own question. Nobody, including the allied coalition, thinks that we are prepared to enter a war today. Secretary Powell is returning to the United Nations Security Council for further discussions and we are going to receive further reports from Hans Blix and the UN inspectors team. We will make our judgments on the facts at that time, but like the position the government has finally come to, and clearly I believe, we do not rule out any further options as a sovereign country.

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7:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Chairman, I am quite surprised. On most domestic issues the leader of the official opposition seeks Canadian input in public but when it comes to a serious issue that could have devastating effects for the world not only in the near future but in the long term future, he does not think it is important to seek Canadian public opinion, but that is beside the fact.

Does the hon. member believe that a second resolution from the United Nations would be warranted in the unlikely event or the likely event that there may be conflict in Iraq? Does he believe that there must be a second resolution as France and Germany have indicated?

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7:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Chairman, I repeat my earlier answer that one does not say one is not interested in public opinion, but one is not a prisoner to it.

I notice the NDP already has taken a position on a future course of action that does not involve any input or opinion from either the Canadian public or the United Nations. The NDP will be opposed to war in Iraq regardless of the circumstances, just as it was in 1991, which quite frankly would have left Saddam Hussein today in charge not only of Iraq but Kuwait as well.

In terms of the second resolution, I think I was clear in my speech. We do not believe a second resolution is warranted. There have been a series of resolutions going back to the terms of the ceasefire in the gulf war in 1991. It is clear to us that a second resolution is not legally required. Whether it is advisory or not is a decision the Security Council itself and the allies are going to have to take.

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7:30 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chairman, I feel like I am in the lion's den here. I still want to share my opinion and ask the leader of the official opposition a question.

I understand that the leader of the official opposition does not believe very much in the UN and I think that is unfortunate. It is the mechanism the international community has created to resolve conflicts. He even finds that the international community is too timid to enforce resolution 1441. The hon. member says that Canada should join its allies in launching an intervention solely on the basis of resolution 1441.

I would like to ask him who Canada's allies are. If the United States decides to go to war against Iraq on its own, what about the other allies? The United States is not Canada's only ally. I want to know what the hon. member understands by “allies”. If all the allies say no and only the Americans say yes, is he still prepared to follow them in a war against Iraq?

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7:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Chairman, clearly the seating arrangement this evening lends new meaning to the term “coalition”.

Let us talk about the importance of the United Nations. Since the gulf war in 1991, it has passed some 15 resolutions. It is important for the UN's credibility to have these resolutions respected. If Saddam Hussein can ignore some 15 resolutions on this matter, what value will the United Nations have in the future? That is an important question.

In my opinion, if the United Nations cannot act in the future, it is up to each sovereign nation to take its own decisions. The United States is going to, and I think that Canada and the other countries will take their decisions under these circumstances. A decision has not been made yet. We will consult with our allies and our past experiences will help us to decide on such an issue.

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7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank the hon. Leader of the Opposition for adding some excellent information to the debate. Perhaps he could add some more information on a couple of points that I am sincerely interested in.

I know that I asked him if he was a supporter of democracy, he would say yes. In my riding this particular issue is the first one that I can ever remember on which 100% of my constituents who have contacted me are in agreement. They are not in favour of going to war at this time. I know therefore that thousands upon thousands of constituents in Canadian Alliance constituencies have also given that input to their members. I would like him to let us know some of the things he is telling those people.

My second question is related to resolution 1441. He said it was non-compliance--

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7:35 p.m.

The Deputy Chairman (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry, I will allow one question only.

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7:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Chairman, I think we have found not dissimilar things. It is clear, as I said in my speech, that Canadians do not want war. On the other hand Canadians do not want Saddam Hussein to continue programs of weapons of mass destruction, to ignore United Nations resolutions, and to be able to continue as if United Nations resolutions simply did not exist.

Obviously the way out of this is to have Saddam Hussein comply unconditionally without war. We may have to choose between those things. I hope that if we choose between those things the member thinks about the long term interest. We must do this in democratic countries. It is not easy in democratic countries. We stumbled into the second world war because of a bunch of politicians could not decide to take tough action when it would have been easy.

We must assess for ourselves the state of the world, the state of the threat, and we will have to make a decision. Surely the hon. member will not make that decision just based on who calls his office more frequently that particular day.

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7:35 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Chairman, I have listened very carefully to the Leader of the Opposition. I do not have any doubt that Canadians will be shocked to hear the position that the Canadian Alliance has laid out tonight. It is a total disrespect for the United Nations and the fact that a second resolution is not needed, a disrespect for international law, and a disrespect for Canadian sentiment on this issue. He can disregard polls or householders, but I can tell him that across the country there is a strong feeling that people do not want to see this country go to war.

On what basis does the member justify a violation of international law just so we can stand with the Americans in a unilateral action?

IraqGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Chairman, as I said in my speeches in October and tonight, I believe the position we have laid out is consistent with international law. I also believe the worse thing that could happen to the United Nations would be for members of the international community to disregard and fail to enforce, if necessary, about 15 resolutions over the past 12 years.

It is always easy to get up and chant “no war, no war, no war”. Nobody wants it. However I wonder if that member is equally comfortable with telling her constituents and the country that if Saddam Hussein continues on a path of developing weapons of mass destruction with international terrorist links there is absolutely nothing we or anyone else will do about it.

That is the position of the NDP. Its members have already said they do not care about public opinion or about the resolution of any member of the United Nations Security Council.