Mr. Speaker, if the House permits it, I will be sharing my time with the member for Berthier—Montcalm, who reminds us how much the Bloc Quebecois remains a force in Quebec.
The motion before us today is extremely serious and extremely solemn. When it comes to war and peace, it is impossible to take things lightly, and we certainly cannot talk like some of our colleagues have, as though this were some western, where there are good guys and bad guys.
The situation requires that we examine it from all angles and I think that that is what my colleague, the member for Saint-Jean, had in mind when he moved the motion.
The motion states that if there must be military intervention—please note the importance of the if—it could only be done after the United Nations Security Council authorized a multilateral intervention in Iraq.
So, we in the Bloc Quebecois find it hard to imagine that the United States should act alone. We have the utmost respect for the U.S., whose President Kennedy once said, in reference to Canada, that geography had made us neighbours, but history had made us friends. Indeed, we are friends with the United States and indeed, we do have intense trade relations with the U.S. However, as the member for Mercier said, “Might does not make right”. That is why any intervention undertaken must be multilateral.
Does this mean that we believe that there cannot be a military intervention under any circumstances? Not necessarily. The motion does not say that. The motion, with all of the sense of nuance that these circumstances require, asks that our actions be part of a multilateral United Nations effort, and asks that we weigh the situation.
Why is the Bloc Quebecois right to take this approach? First, we need to realize that if we do support a military offensive in the region where Iraq is located, there will be consequences. There will be consequences for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as for the other surrounding Muslim countries. These consequences could involve more than toppling governments or destabilizing a situation that is far from stable; they could obviously lead to civilian casualties.
That is why this is necessary each time we, as parliamentarians, must consider sending equipment or troops.
I was rather disappointed this morning by the casual attitude of the government House leader. I have great respect for him. He is a man who believes in this institution; he started his career here washing the dishes of parliamentarians; he personifies perseverance and what one can achieve when one decides to get involved and dedicate one's life to a cause.
However, he suggested that we did not take seriously the possibility of a vote in this House. Granted, the motion does not call for one explicitly, but in all our remarks—whether the Bloc leader, the hon. member for Mercier or the hon. member for Saint-Jean—we have remained convinced that it is impossible to act sensibly without associating the parliamentarians to a decision of this magnitude.
This is not just a constitutional issue. I studied constitutional law. I am well aware that it is the prerogative of the executive branch of government—the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is smiling at me because he is encouraging me to continue studying. I took classes in constitutional law and I am aware of the prerogative. There is also my colleague, the hon. member for Mercier, to whom we wish every success on this day after the congress, but I will not get into that.
There is something odd in what parliamentarians are saying, and there is a historical perspective we must take into account.
When the hon. member for Calgary Centre, a former prime minister, was Secretary of State for External Affairs in 1990, at the time of the first Gulf War, he moved a motion that read as follows:
That this House, noting that the Government of Iraq has not complied with the United Nations Security Council resolutions concerning the invasion of Kuwait and the detention of third country nationals, supports the United Nations in its efforts to ensure compliance with Security Council resolution 660 and subsequent resolutions.
What this resolution shows is that this is not the first time that Iraq has not complied with Security Council resolutions.
But, in 1990, Herb Gray—if I am not mistaken, he was the Liberal critic for external affairs—had made a request to the House. This is where the Liberals lack consistency, rigour and historic continuity. That is where it gets disappointing.
Herb Gray, one of the greatest parliamentarians in the history of this House, had requested, and I quote:
—that this support shall not be interpreted as approval of the use of Canadian Forces for offensive action without further consultation with and approval by this House.
That is what the Bloc Quebecois has been saying since the beginning of this conflict. We are not naive. We are pacifists, which is a deep-rooted tradition in Quebec. However, we are not naive. We understand that there are times when the use of force is justified.
It is unbelievable that this morning, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons went to great lengths to make fun of what was said by the leader of the Bloc, the member for Mercier and the member for Saint-Jean. That is how politicians are discredited.
Why is it that when the Liberals were in the opposition they called for a vote on military intervention. We know why; it is because military intervention is not like fiscal policy, it is not like heritage policy, it is not like health policy. It can cost the lives of men and women.
That is why we must vote consciously. That is why we must weigh our actions. That is why we can never have too much information. That is why our parties have critics who follow this day to day, hour to hour.
That is how they have been behaving since this morning—with the exception of a few members. The member for Vancouver Centre made an extremely responsible speech by saying that yes, we are not naive and that we should debate the issue. I will come back to Mr. Blix's report.
We cannot deny that the outcome of our work as parliamentarians, the meaning of the motion today and the respect of our institution implies the duty to associate parliamentarians with a decision like this one.
Once again, the Bloc Quebecois has never said that we would refuse any type of intervention. This is possible, and we are reviewing the evidence.
I was reading that there are some questions. Yes, Saddam Hussein has been a bad leader. His behaviour has been reprehensible, that is clear. We should remember the mix of alliances that made the United States stand firmly by this man at times. However, that is not what is at issue. There are issues that must be resolved and 11 members out of 15 say that the inspections process must be given a chance. It has to go further, things must be done properly.
The connection that we are being asked to make sometimes between existing terrorist networks in Iraqi territory and the legitimacy of a U.S. response has not yet been demonstrated. Will that connection be demonstrated eventually? We will see.
The day when it is proven that there is indeed the slightest connection between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi regime, the Bloc Quebecois will obviously be reviewing its position. It will be a most determining factor in our decision. However, it is not the case at this time.
Eleven countries out of 15—and not any just any country, not countries that have been irresponsible in the past—say that the inspection process must be given another chance. The number of inspectors will soon be increased from 280 to 350.
In conclusion, this is a responsible motion which I think deserves the support of all parliamentarians.