House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

February 10th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

moved that Bill C-314, an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to be here today to lead the first hour of debate on second reading on Bill C-314, my second draw on a private member's bill. To date my focus on private members' business has been the protection and safeguarding of Canadian children. This is a topic for which I feel very passionate, and I work hard to protect children in Canada.

My first private member's bill, Bill C-321, requested that an amendment be made in section 163(1) of the Criminal Code. It stated:

When a person has been convicted of an offence under the child pornography provisions, the court would be authorized to order forfeiture of anything by means of which, or in relation to which, the offence was committed.

This justice themed bill would allow federal, provincial and local police officers to confiscate any equipment or tools used by child pornographers and prevent these tools from being reused or redistributed to other dangerous predators.

I am happy to report that the federal government incorporated the essence of my private member's bill, Bill C-321, into justice Bill C-15A. It received royal assent before the House in December 2002. It is to this level of all-party, non-partisan co-operation to which I appeal for this present bill today, Bill C-314.

For those who do not have a copy of the bill before them, Bill C-314 also deals directly with the safety and protection of Canadian children. Bill C-314 is an act to amend the Canada Transportation Act. It would require that adults travelling with children under the age of 16 to produce identification for these minors before boarding a plane. When we looked into this issue we looked at all angles of transportation and this was one part of the Canada Transportation Act that we felt we could target directly in a private member's bill. Therefore the bill deals with air traffic travel only.

Presently there is no requirement to show identification and adults can board domestic flights with children without being questioned as to guardianship or custody. This requirement would be a preventive measure to child abduction. Although it would not stop child abduction completely, it certain would inhibit a predator's plans.

The genesis of this private member's bill is a classic grassroots effort. A constituent, Ms. Connie Bootland, apprised me of a serious concern she had at the time that a five year old girl went missing from Lethbridge, Alberta. Ms. Bootland was travelling with her own daughter at the same time and her daughter was the same age. While law enforcement teams were desperately searching for the missing child, Ms. Bootland was boarding a plane. She was alarmed when nobody asked for proof of custody or identification of any sort for her daughter while a child of similar description was missing. Ms. Bootland told us that even when she insisted on showing ID she was waved off.

Presently any adult can board a domestic flight in Canada with a minor with no questions needed to be asked. This is a serious loophole, especially in cases where it is non-custodial parent taking the child on a flight possibly clear across the country and away from his or her guardian.

With the rise of Internet relationships between minors and adults, this gap in security should be taken advantage of.

A while ago the member for Medicine Hat and myself went down to a border crossing in my riding, Coutts--Sweetgrass. The immigration and customs officers indicated to us that at that border adults show up at the border expecting to meet people at the border coming from somewhere in Alberta. This happens more often than not. We know of these cases but we do not know of any cases where it happens domestically where somebody can meet somebody on the Internet and set up a meeting.

In the era of post- 9/11, security concerns for all citizens are at the forefront of Canadians' minds. Should the security of children fall between the cracks? No. This private member's bill would help strengthen our protective systems for children.

Upon further investigation of the security loophole, I discovered that the very requirement I am presently lobbying for already exists in both international air flights and when crossing the U.S.-Canada border by car. It is considered standard operating procedure for adults to provide identification or proof of custody when boarding an international flight with children.

It is standard operating procedure for adults to provide identification or proof of custody when crossing the Canadian border to the United States with children. Why then is it not standard operating procedure to require adults to provide identification for children when boarding a plane within Canada? Why does the safeguard exist when travelling from our country and not exist when travelling within our country? It is for the implementation of this safeguard that I appeal for the House's support.

Let me now turn to the terrible advantages this loophole provides to predators. More than 40 million people use the Internet, a number projected to rise to one billion during this millennium. Leading search engines have indexed over 500 million web pages and stats indicate that approximately 3.5% of all these web pages are pornographic.

A quote from the National Post on August 7, 2001 revealed that Canadians were found to be the fourth ranked provider of child porn images to Internet newsgroups, the form of Internet linking through which most hard core pornography is shared.

I am sure all my colleagues, as well as most Canadians, realize that the Internet is extremely easy for both children and predators to access. The time is long past when simply being at home protects our children. With a push of a button or the click of a mouse, our children are exposed to the worst type of devious seduction and entrapment.

Agnes Fournier, a member of an Interpol specialized crime unit, states “The Internet is the most significant factor in the sexual abuse of children”. It is this accessibility that gives the pedophile predator the opportunity to trap unsuspecting victims.

With this promise of online contact between minors and strangers, it would be easy for a predator to purchase plane tickets, travel to a child's hometown and board a plan with him or her to anywhere in Canada. Without this amended safeguard in place, the predator would be asked no questions and waved through just as Ms. Bootland was with her daughter.

Today the legal age of sexual consent is 14. Therefore a 40 year old adult could trick a 14 year old child into a sexual exploitive relationship. This 40 year old predator could lure this minor, for example, on a plane in Vancouver and fly to Halifax, and parents would find themselves powerless to stop it. If, for argument's sake, predators wanted to cross the Canadian border to the United States or fly to a different country, they would be stopped at the point of departure, questioned and required to provide identification or proof of custody for the minor travelling with them. This type of safeguard forces the predator to think twice about the risk of being apprehended and in turn delays or stops the predator's plans.

I want this safeguard in place within Canada. As I stated earlier, the bill would not stop abductions altogether but it would at least hinder the plans of would-be predators and help prevent Canadian families from the anguish of losing a child.

We all know the John Robin Sharpe case where he was acquitted for possessing short stories of sexually exploitative relationships between adults and children. B.C. Supreme Court justice, Duncan Shaw, stated that they had “artistic merit”. While these stories of literature may have included an introduction, a body and a conclusion, the subject matter is violent, coercive and has one specific goal in mind: to normalize sex between children and adults. I do not accept that these stories have any artistic merit at all.

Predators use these stories as tools to convince children it is okay to perform sexual acts with adults. The stories are often fairytale like in nature and use childhood characters to make the children feel comfortable in giving in to the predator's demands.

I stand before the House today to ask for support to mandate protection to combat predators. I believe Bill C-314 would be a preventive security measure to safeguard our children.

On average, strangers abduct 66 children every year in Canada and over 400 children are taken by a non-custodial parent. The loophole for domestic air travel must be closed. It is my hope that this requirement would act as a deterrent for non-custodial parents considering taking their children to other areas of Canada without the guardian's permission.

A strong supporter of my bill is Child Find Alberta. It was the first child find organization in Canada. Five volunteers founded it in Calgary in 1983. Its main purpose is to assist in the search and recovery of missing children and to reunite them with their legal parent or guardian. They do this through education, prevention techniques and locating children. Child Find Alberta also offers other services to prevent future abduction and exploitation of children.

This past summer, Child Find Alberta incorporated new tools to assists its agencies to increase caseloads and ultimately find more children. It used a new software program to help facilitate case management. The time saving software allows more time to work on each case, quick, accurate searches of many files at the same time, and creates instant missing children posters with one click of the mouse. These tools help prevent future abductions and locate children when the worst case scenario is realized.

That non-profit charitable organization supports Bill C-314. It believes, as I do, that steps must be taken to help prevent child abductions and that safeguards must be put in place within Canada to protect our children.

I implore my colleagues in the House to support the bill and put in place a safeguard that is already standard operating procedure when travelling from Canada. I ask all members to please make the amendment standard operating procedure within Canada.

I look forward to comments from other parties. I certainly am seeking their support. I think the issue is just a small piece of a larger puzzle, a larger complex issue with regard to protecting our children. It specifically deals with air transportation which is a good place to start. If the bill is approved by the House and sent to committee, it will be an opportunity for parents, the transportation industry and others to come forward with ideas on how to make this work and on how to implement it . We must keep in focus that the one thing we are after is protecting children and making families and children safer in Canada.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Hull—Aylmer Québec


Marcel Proulx LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I rise at this time to indicate that I cannot support Bill C-314 as was introduced by the hon. member for Lethbridge.

As the House is aware, Bill C-314 would enact an amendment to the Canada Transportation Act with the purpose of making it more difficult for adults and non-custodial parents to abduct children by means of air transportation on Canadian domestic flights.

While I fully support the intent of the amendment, the proposed approach would be impossible to implement. Let me explain why.

Under the proposed amendment, all adult passengers travelling by air on a domestic flight with a person under the age of 16 would be required to produce written proof of consent for travel from the young person's parents or from the legal guardian, as the case may be. Without such consent, air travel could not take place. This concept would include any time one parent travels with his or her own child. That parent would have to provide the airlines with written proof of consent from the other parent to prove this was authorized travel.

Let us look at some of the repercussions of this bill on the typical two parent family. When a parent goes to buy air tickets for one of the two parents plus a child, he or she will have to indicate that an adult with be travelling with another passenger under the age of 16. The issuer of the plane tickets will be required to check that all requirements have been met before allowing the parent to purchase the tickets.

When two adults are purchasing tickets for a family trip, perhaps the issuer will have to ensure that this is indeed the biological family and not a blended family.

Let us look at the blended family scenario. The written authorization by the natural parent of a child will be required before the child can travel with the family with whom he or she resides.

As well, today's society includes more and more single parents, who have either never been married, or are no longer married because of divorce or widowhood.

What proof would a woman have to produce to demonstrate that her child never knew its father? Would a widowed parent have to produce a death certificate before an airline would issue tickets for him or her and the child?

Moreover, with the legislation in place, travel would become cumbersome in emergency situations. Without the availability of both parents to complete the written statements, one parent and a child could not initiate travel on very short notice to respond to a sudden family situation, such as a medical emergency or a death.

Determining what sort of proof is acceptable is also brought into question. When a parent arrives at the airport with a minor child what documentation would be considered valid in order to permit the adult to purchase a ticket for travel with that child?

Would a handwritten letter from the other parent or legal guardian be sufficient? What would the airline do to determine its validity? Perhaps only a notarized statement would be acceptable.

It is quite obvious that an adult with the intention of abducting a child could produce fake documents. Would the airlines be found responsible for accepting these documents and carrying the passengers?

Conversely, what repercussions would befall an air carrier that was suspicious of the documentation presented and as a result refused transportation only to ultimately find out that the documents were authentic?

I now want to move to another point of concern. The implementation of a regime to enforce this amendment to the Canada Transportation Act would not be without significant costs. These costs would be distributed jointly to travellers and the air travel community. As parliamentarians, we are all very aware of the significant costs associated with air travel. With this legislation, we would be imposing additional costs on families and on our airlines already suffering from the aftermath of September 11. The airlines would have to absorb these costs or, more likely, pass them along to the travelling public in yet higher airfares or additional surcharges.

Currently passengers are not required to identify the age of any ticket purchaser except in the case of infants when, for those under two years of age, free transportation can be obtained if a seat is not required. Children may also travel at a percentage off the full economy fare. To obtain this fare they must be identified by age. However, in recent times fewer children travel on the child fare as the discount fares available for all travellers are usually significantly less than the advertised child fare.

At times special fares are also available which would require individuals to identify that they are senior citizens or fall within an age group defined as youths. Under Bill C-314, at a minimum, at the time of purchase the ticket issuer would have to verify that travel did not involve an individual under the age of 16. However, once having identified that travel involved a minor, the ticket issuer would be required to seek and process the paperwork necessary to permit an individual under 16 years of age to travel.

Finally, we should consider situations where, because of the bill, children would be denied the ability to travel.

In some cases, the required documents may be very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. One need only think about parents who are not on good terms and who want to prevent one of them from travelling with the child for any reason, those who have voluntarily withdrawn from a child's life and cannot be located to provide the travel authorization required, or those who are simply not at home for one reason or another.

It would be important to set up a system that would allow one parent of a two-parent family to travel with their children without creating an unnecessary or unwieldy burden on both parents and on the travel industry. There would need to be some approved method of establishing the right of an adult to travel with a child. Since provincial jurisdiction in matters of family law would be involved, at the least provincial authorities should be involved in the development of such a scheme.

In summary, I do not deny the laudable goal that the bill seeks to achieve in reducing child abductions. I suggest, however, that the legislative vehicle is incorrect and unworkable. It would create a very difficult and expensive issue for parents and airlines to deal with. For these reasons, I cannot support Bill C-314.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on my party's behalf on Bill C-314, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act by adding the following after section 68:

Adult Travelling with a Child

68.1(1) The holder of a domestic licence shall not allow an adult passenger to travel with a child under the age of sixteen years unless the adult passenger provides written proof of the consent of the child’s parents, or of any other person who has lawful care or charge of the child, to travel with the child.

So, the first subsection deals with the application of standards to international travel. The Canada Transportation Act requires parents whose children will be travelling with an adult outside Canada to obtain consent.

This amendment would apply this standard to travel within Canada. Since the distances are great, both within Quebec and Canada, the Bloc Quebecois considers the adoption of such measures for domestic flights to be justified.

I was listening to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport talk about the difficulties for airlines when it comes to families. The government surely examined all these situations when it made consent of both parents, or parents, or guardians travelling with children a requirement on flights departing Canada.

The distance from one end of the country to the other is almost as great as the distance to various international destinations. Obviously, this standard would ensure that those intending to kidnap a child could not do so. There is the impression that this would make things more difficult for the airlines, but, in all likelihood, this would make their work easier.

If children under the age of 16 had to get their parents' consent, the Bloc Quebecois believes, first of all, that a standard for all children could be established and, furthermore, the government could surely find an effective way of applying this standard and of involving the airlines so that each time a plane ticket is reserved, the forms, consent and authorizations can be sent immediately.

Currently, this is done only for international flights, but it would not be more difficult to apply that requirement to all flights and to obtain consent for all children travelling. This might even be a more effective measure and one that would be better understood by the public if it was done unilaterally and if the consent of the parents was required whenever they want to have their children take a trip.

After a few months, it would become obvious that families would be very understanding, for the simple reason that this motion seeks to improve their children's safety. We want to ensure that children are always with people who are there to protect them, and that the adults who travel with them do not entertain any wrong ideas. There is no doubt that we could very quickly have effective measures. It is our duty to ensure that this is the case.

If we have to adopt such a legislative amendment, we must ensure that the way children are registered is orderly and that consent is obtained through official forms. We must have standard forms to avoid, among other things, having all kinds of documents going around, which could lead to the forging of such documents.

This measure could even benefit those who travel abroad. This is particularly true since there are few children among air travellers, or among those who go through the gates at airports. In the case of international flights, the forms are not officially recognized by the federal government and others, and there are no standards, since there are few or fewer children who need that authorization.

If this were the case for all flights in and out of Canada, there could certainly be a procedure for preparing consent documents and reports that would be efficient, well recognized and simple to use for families. This would perhaps be less complicated than the current situation for international travel.

We sincerely think that supporting such a measure would ensure safety for families and parents. Obviously it is never easy for families where the parents are separated or divorced, but I think that for the children, this is worth considering in order to protect them better. Clearly it is for their safety and not for that of their parents.

I think that families would understand that if the government implemented such a measure, it would be for the protection of their own children. This would prevent kidnapping of all types. We in the Bloc Quebecois think this measure is very appropriate.

Subsection 2 of section 68 reads as follows:

In the case of a non-custodial parent who travels with a child under the age of sixteen years, the holder of a domestic licence shall not allow that parent to travel with the child unless the parent provides written proof of the consent of the custodial parent, or of any other person who has lawful care or charge of the child, for the non-custodial parent to travel with the child.

Obviously, in addition to the parents of the child this is referring to anyone who has lawful care of the child.

Now, the issue of custody or lawful care is subject to judicial authorization throughout Quebec and Canada. There are always official documents, be they divorce agreements, authorizations, or custody agreements, that the families all have copies of.

All these documents are official. They are judicial authorizations, or documents that the parents or families can very quickly access. Parents can very easily prove that they have legal custody of a child and authorization should be required. So that is fine.

We seriously believe that standardizing authorization or consent for parents or legal guardians for both domestic and international flights—as I said earlier, this obligation exists for children on international flights—is a security measure that would be very well accepted by families.

Obviously, if this were to become a virtual norm, that children younger than 16 had to obtain parental authorization to travel on domestic and international flights, the federal government could certainly develop a efficient and simple way to obtain consent without the need for all kinds of documents, as is currently the case for travel on international flights. There are many ways to obtain parental consent.

If children under the age of 16 were automatically required to have authorization to fly, there could be an efficient process that would be respected by families and that would be well used by families or those who have lawful care of the child, which would mean that children would always be safe when travelling with an adult.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-314, which requires holders of a domestic licence—airlines operating routes within Canada—to obtain the consent of the child’s parents or of any other person who has lawful custody of the child under 16, in order to be able to travel with the child on domestic flights, as in currently the case for international flights.

I cannot stress this enough: this measure ensures improved security for families and those who have lawful custody of children when children under 16 travel by air. We can be sure that they will be traveling with people who respect their rights.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the Alliance for putting this bill forward so that we will have the opportunity to discuss it and look at all the issues that relate to possible child abductions.

At first blush, the automatic reaction is that of course we would support this. How can we not support something like this? It just makes sense that we would do whatever we can to aid in an abduction. Quite frankly I thought that way too the first time I saw it. However, I look forward to the ongoing debate because after reading it through, putting it in context, and seeing how it would be put into practice, I have some misgivings as to how it would work.

I have been involved with the legislative committee on Bill C-17 and the issues regarding the identification of people on an ongoing basis, having to provide identification for this and that. There are concerns that even if people wanted to go anywhere in Canada they would have to have some form of identification.

I am a more conscious now as to some of the concerns that people have, including myself, about always having to provide identification in a country where we are not used to doing that. Part of our freedom is the ability to move without someone questioning us as to our identity or those of our children. It becomes part of the discussion when asking for identification, even if it is for a child that is with a person, because it involves the whole specifics of the family background.

It is a short bill. It states:

The holder of a domestic licence shall not allow an adult passenger to travel with a child under the age of sixteen years unless the adult passenger provides written proof of the consent of the child’s parents, or of any other person who has lawful care or charge of the child, to travel with the child.

Again, everyone would say that absolutely, positively just makes sense.

I represent a riding with a good proportion of first nations individuals who have a different way of dealing with family dynamics. When the bills speaks of domestic travel, it is talking about a flight from one small community to another, or for example to Winnipeg for medical treatment. Often it is an extended family member who has the child living with him or her. The child living there is not under the order of a court. It is just the way it is. It is okay for this month that children may be living with an aunt, or for that matter they may all be living in the same house because that is the situation in a number of cases, but the parents may not be there. There is no legal guardian as such in respect to a legal document.

People may ask how often that happens. I can tell members that it is a real situation in my riding, not just in a few instances but in hundreds or thousands. It is an issue even in a riding such as mine, so as I thought about this I had some concerns.

The second part of the bill says:

In the case of a non-custodial parent who travels with a child under the age of sixteen years, the holder of a domestic licence shall not allow that parent to travel with the child unless the parent provides written proof of the consent of the custodial parent, or of any other person who has lawful care or charge of the child, for the non-custodial parent to travel with the child.

Again it makes absolute sense, but let us look at this. I hate to admit that my colleague from the governing party would be right on an issue. He talked about what is happening in the airline industry. It is being taxed to the limit as to what it has to provide now. That industry alone, not every other transportation industry, is being asked to incorporate all of this information on travellers and be responsible for it. I do not think that necessarily should be the job of the airline industry.

This is a very good issue. I am wondering whether it would not be possible to incorporate this exact same clause in relationship to custodial parents and apply it under a justice bill. It could be brought back when there is an agreement for custodial parents built in the legislation. The subject could then be done as part of an agreement, rather than putting the onus on the airline industry to have that proof.

That way we are only addressing parents or individuals who are criminals. We are not looking at each and every innocent individual who is travelling. I know that my colleagues in the Alliance are not pleased with legislation that targets innocent individuals for the sake of trying to fix a problem somewhere else. I will not get into the specifics of it.

The bottom line is that more innocent Canadians are being asked to prove their innocence before they have done anything wrong. This could be an adult travelling with a child, it could be me, for example, travelling to Winnipeg with one of my grandchildren. Has something happened in our country now where if I am with my grandchild and I take a trip to Winnipeg that I should be questioned whether I have consent for the child to be with me or, for that matter, one of my own children.

Many people out there will be saying that they have proof that this is their child. How many of us travel with the birth certificates of our children? Not even everybody has the birth certificates of their children or written proof that these children are theirs.

I think of my father when one time he had to round up nine birth certificates. There had never been a need to have them. My parents probably could not afford to get them at the time either because they had nine children. My father had to come up with the birth certificates of his children to receive his pension. This is reasonable enough.

I think of that incident now in the sense of numerous parents who do not carry that kind of documentation. There is a cost involved in getting that documentation.

I relate a lot of this to my own riding because I have seen these things happen. I have seen problems with lack of identification in my riding. I do not think there is an objection by people who travel internationally and across the border to the U.S. They have not obviously needed that kind of information. It is tougher then to follow-through with actions and orders that have been taken within a person's country than to pursue those across a border.

However, within our own country there may be ways for us to address these issues without having to ask each and every parent or family member to have that kind of consent. At first blush, it seems absolute and how can we not agree with it?

I am looking forward to the ongoing debate and, if possible, to come up with a way, through this discussion, to address some of the concerns that I have raised, specifically concerning my own riding. We will deal with it when it comes time for a vote.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance for bringing this bill forward. I know he has great intentions with this legislation.

I am a member of the transport committee, and it seems to me that all this legislation would be doing is ensuring that the airline industry becomes more responsible for doing things that the court system should be more involved with regarding getting people's consent.

I firmly believe that Bill C-314 would only make an already bad system worse. I believe the system is unmanageable. For some reason or another we would be putting liability back onto the airline industry. Workers would be adversely affected if something were to be missed in the system. It is never the bureaucrats who get the underhand but rather it is the workers. As a result of this it is difficult to support Bill C-314. It is a great bill which draws attention to the fact that something needs to be done.

There are many loopholes which people can use to escape from this country other than using the airline industry. For some reason or another people are taking children who are not their own, and they are taking these children to other countries where it is difficult for them to get out. Right now in Canada if we block one hole individuals will use another hole in the system.

I cannot see how the bill before us would come close to addressing the problem. I firmly believe the court system will have to become totally involved. Adults use their persuasive ideas and tricks on children to get them to go with them. As a result, children go missing. There are numerous cases in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador alone where people ended up taking the children and moving outside the province.

We must have resources available so law enforcement can do its job. When individuals take a child away from the person with custody, they are doing this with help from other people and they are doing it in a way to ensure they will not get caught. The biggest problem is that the RCMP is doing the best job it can to ensure this does not take place.

The last thing people will do is use the airline system and fly somewhere with these children. Most people will not fly because the airlines have a record on who travelled and when. They know who is travelling on their airline. As soon as people get an airline ticket their name is put in the system. Officials can check to see whether the individual did in fact travel on the plane and whether or not they had any children with them. However the children may have a different identity. The system is failing them because if they have a different identity officials will never know if they are the right children officials are looking for. As a result, I do not see the bill doing what the member is looking for.

I know the member is sincere and concerned as we all are about the fact that people are travelling with children who are not their own. With this legislation we would again be putting the burden back on a system that is unmanageable as it is. I firmly believe that we must have more enforcement. At the same time however, people in these situations will not do a lot of air travel. If they travel at all, they will travel by road or by sea. They will escape the airline system. As a result I cannot see why we are doing what we are doing right now.

I do understand that there is a major concern in Canada about this. We need to be putting more emphasis on our police forces. We can try to block loopholes in the system, but as soon as we block one, we open up another.

I have travelled by train. I can go to a train station with people who are not my own. It just opens the door further and further.

We need to look at enforcement through our police system. The court system needs to be involved. Most important, if we give the police the tools to do the job, I firmly believe we could do more for the country and for those children who have been taken without permission. We have these support groups. We know the concerns of people in these organizations. We should put emphasis on that.

We need to put more money into the system. This bill will not stop people from taking children who do not belong to them. They probably would not fly because they would be an easy target. Most times they would go by road or by sea. We need the enforcement there.

I commend the hon. member for bringing this forward because it is an area of concern. However, unless my colleagues tell me that we should looking at something differently, we will not support the bill as it is.

We are always open to new ideas, and it is important that he has brought these ideas forward. However right now we should be looking at putting money into enforcement to ensure the resources are there to do the job. We should stop this on the ground before it starts, identify it quickly and fast track it before it gets out of control. If we had more police forces, more undercover agents and more money, we could take action as soon as we suspected something was wrong.

We know at times one or the other parent becomes disgruntled and takes the children. Sometimes it is not because of a broken marriage but because people do not have a sense of what is right. They just want to make people's lives miserable and they take children who are not their own. If we had more police officers, we could combat this on the ground first. The world and the country would be better off for this.

Unless my colleagues tell me that I have missed something drastically with regard to the bill, we will not support it. I thank the hon. member for bringing it forward.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we have another tremendous initiative by the member for Lethbridge who is interested in protecting children.

Before I get into a discussion of his private member's bill, I just want to point that all Saskatchewan celebrates today. I know my colleague loves curling. We were able to watch the Canadian juniors one evening last week. I had a good time with the young people and met some of the teams. I want to make everyone aware that on Saturday the Saskatchewan junior men's won the championship and yesterday the junior girls' won it. Once again we have made a tremendous contribution to Canada and to the sport of curling. I know my colleague will appreciate that.

I am sorry to see once again a situation where we have paralysis by analysis. My colleague has brought forward an issue which is worth talking about. We hear all the reasons, particularly from the government members, why this will not work. I find it unfortunate that when finally someone tries to protect children, we have parties who do nothing and want to do nothing.

Last week we discussed the child pornography bill. One thing that concerns most of us on this side of the House is the definition and defence for child pornography is being broadened, not narrowed. We want that material banned. We want our children protected. The government for some reason is unable to do that.

The phrase “paralysis by analysis” comes to mind because there are all the reasons on that side of the House why we cannot move ahead and why we should not do this to protect our children, but no reasons and no suggestions about what we might do.

This is a great start to deal with the problem. We all recognize that there is a problem. On average, 66 children are abducted by strangers in Canada every year. That does not sound like a big number until we start to break it down and realize that more than once a week a family within Canada is affected by having their children abducted.

I listened to the member speak earlier. I wonder if there is anything more that would tear parents and families apart such as having a child abducted from their family. If we can do something to deal with that issue, we need to take a look at it. There are over 400 children a year, which is more than one a day, who are taken by non-custodial parents from parents who have been given custody of those children.

This grassroots private member's bill was inspired by a constituent who, as we heard earlier, on the day a young girl in Lethbridge was kidnapped, was travelling with her own daughter. When she got on the plane, she thought there should at least have been some check to ensure if the girl who was with her, who was about the same age as the young child who had been abducted, was in fact her child. The airline declined to do that, but she felt it was important that there be some protection for children in those situations. My colleague from Lethbridge has seen fit to bring forward a bill to deal with that.

Currently there are no I.D. checks required for children travelling with adults within Canada by air. We are all used to having our I.D. checked. We have to have photo I.D. when we get on the main airline in Canada. We are used to that situation now, but there is no I.D. check required for children travelling domestically. There is one required for children who are travelling with adults when they depart Canada by air or when they are crossing the border to the United States by car. I have had this apply to my own family. We travel with my nephews and nieces and often my kids travel with their uncles and aunts. We write a letter stating that I am the legal guardian of this child and that so-and-so has permission to travel with the child. It is not a complicated affair to put that in place.

The loophole in our domestic air travel can easily be taken advantage of by any adult who wants to travel and is willing to travel unlawfully with minor children. We need to something to deal with that.

Bill C-314 is really a preventive measure. It addresses two areas. First, it addresses the issue of non-custodial parents. We hope this requirement will act as a deterrent for non-custodial parents who want to move their children across this country to get them away from the parent who has been given custody.

Second, because of the Internet and the proliferation of it, we see it provides an increased opportunity for adults to contact minors for the purpose of meeting them. It seems that hardly a week goes by where we do not read about adults who have gone online, posed usually as a young person, tried to gain the confidence of the young persons, then have met them and have began to transport them.

As my colleague has mentioned, we have some controls in place at the borders to prevent people from coming across the borders with these young people who should not be with them. However we really have nothing within Canada to deal with this. It is important that we take a look at how we can protect our children and what we can do to ensure that people do not take advantage of our kids. This requirement really acts as a deterrent in that situation. Realistically this will not stop child abduction. People who want to break the law will do it anyway. However this would put in the way one more deterrent or barrier for people who try to interfere with our children.

I find it interesting that Child Find in Alberta has been informed about the bill and has some understanding of what the member is trying to do with it. It is one of the most authoritative organizations of that bill. It has committed itself to backing the member and trying to make it work.

The other parties raised some interesting points this morning about some of the logistics of how we would do this. I also think we can make this far too complicated. Persons who now travel out of the country can have a letter from the guardian of a child giving permission for the child to travel with that adult and that seems to work fairly well.

I do not think this has to be costly. One thing brought up by the government was that it would be expensive. We have not been in favour of the entire air registry to be put in place, which will be very expensive. I find it interesting that the same government, which thinks it can make an air registry of every traveller in the country work, is not willing to also try to identify some of the principles and expectations to look after our children. It is an interesting concept that the government is willing to spend money galore trying to keep track of adults, just as it has spent money on the gun registry. It has spent well over a billion dollars trying to track every gun in the country but there is an absolute unwillingness to find out what is going on with our children.

Our suggestion today is that it would be well worth sending this to transportation committee so it can flesh out the details and put forward amendments. The bill is worth the consideration of the committee. It needs to take a look at it. There may be some improvements it can make. It needs to be taken to that level.

I ask members to consider the bill, and that the committee deal with it.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Canadian Alliance Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand and thank a member of Parliament, my Alliance Party colleague from Lethbridge, for putting children and their safety first and most important in decision making in this place. I know you are aware, Mr. Speaker, that this is something I have been pushing for quite some time with regard to the terrible atrocities that are going on in this country, where people are abusing children left and right through child pornography. They are child cripplers and child abusers, yet in the 10 years I have been here we have not had any legislation of any nature coming forward from that side of the House to deal with these problems.

I cannot understand how people can deliver throne speech after throne speech, budget speech after budget speech, talking about all the wonderful things the government is going to implement to protect our children, and still make the same comments in the same speeches as we go from year to year. Nothing is happening.

Thank goodness we have people like the member for Lethbridge who, when he says he wants to do something to protect our children, does it. I am glad he was lucky enough to hit a draw in order to present it. I have several bills, along different lines, to protect children and I cannot seem to get the luck of the draw. It is unfortunate that this is the way it operates.

What I cannot understand is why anyone in the House, on this side or the far side, does not say when we have a bill before us that does protect children, “Let us do what we can to work together to make sure that is what happens”. Instead I can guarantee that members will stand on their feet, vote no on this and that will be the end of it. We will hear no more in the future from anyone over there or anywhere else because it has already been dealt with in what I think is a very unfair fashion.

We should start recognizing the important things in this country that we want to and have to deal with. We should put the protection of children on the table and say, “Yes, this is one thing we can all agree on”. For heaven's sake let us work together and start doing all we can to protect our children's safety, because there are tens of thousands of young kids in Canada who are being abused. More and more every day are being added to the list because we just do not do anything.

Here is an opportunity to take one small step to protect kids. We should support the bill and fix whatever might be wrong with it to make it better to implement. We should work together to do that and not just say no to a principle and an idea that is so essential. I for one am really tired of a group of adults, grandparents and parents, who sit in here year after year and do not bring forward anything to deal with the problem, except Bill C-20 which is supposed to get rid of artistic merit and does not because we are going to replace it with “public good”. It is all nonsense. Let us start getting some common sense in our brains and be determined. We should sit in our chairs and say that children in this country are in dire need of being better protected and let us make up our minds that we are going to do it.

I thank the member for Lethbridge for making the effort. It is too bad that we have people who will not support an effort of this nature.

Canada Transportation ActPrivate Members' Business


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.

SupplyGovernment Orders



Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC


That this House consider the sending of troops to Iraq by the government only after the Unites Nations Security Council has passed a resolution explicitly authorizing a military intervention in Iraq.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning to speak on this motion of the Bloc Quebecois, especially since there is a glimmer of hope now. For the past little while, the past few months, the world appeared to be trapped in a logic of war. With the new proposal put forward by France and Germany, which Russia seems to support, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We are witnessing something of a shift toward a logic of peace instead. Is there any way of resolving this conflict peacefully rather than militarily? I will come back later to the Franco-German proposal.

I would like to caution my colleagues and those listening against taking extreme positions on this issue. As in many issues, nothing about this issue is black and white. I think it horribly wrong to say that the conflict can only be resolved militarily and that a military intervention is necessary.

I think that saying the opposite is just as valid. We cannot say that we will never take military action. That too would be wrong. So, both extremes must be avoided.

The proposal put forward by the Bloc Quebecois today fits in the wide gap between both extremes. It leaves the door open to resolving the conflict peacefully rather than militarily, without stating that military action will never be taken. It seem to me that the Bloc's position is rather wise.

It is a good thing that the official opposition and the Bloc Quebecois are there to raise fundamental questions on this issue, such as having a vote in the House. The motion we are moving today basically provides that troops cannot be sent as long as the UN has not passed a second resolution explicitly mentioning military intervention. If it where not for the opposition, the government would not be holding this kind of debate. The government seems to be saying that it will not allow us to vote on this issue, that it is up to the executive branch alone to make such a decision. It might be prepared to consider holding a consultative vote in this House after a decision has been made by the executive.

The opposition has to force the government to vote on the important issues in this debate. We have to resort to procedural tactics and opposition days to force the government to take a stand and vote. Otherwise, the executive branch would just make the decision, based on its own criteria, its own evidence and its own philosophy. The House would have no input at all, which is totally unacceptable to us.

If we look at Canada's position from the beginning, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and even the Prime Minister has frequently told us, “Wait, wait”. No wonder we keep referring to the government's “wait-and-see” approach in most of our questions. That is Canada's approach.

I want to remind my hon. Liberal colleagues that they are breaking with tradition and with a purely Canadian way of doing things. There was world recognition of Canada's vision with regard to international matters. Remember Pearson and Trudeau. They had clear positions that were often different from those of the United States.

What have we been seeing since this debate began? There has been shilly-shallying and pussyfooting around. We get the feeling that the Canadian government does not know where it is going, or does not want to know as long as it does not have the green light from the Americans. This is a sovereignist speaking. I think that Canada's sovereignty is even under attack right now on a number of fronts, the war against Iraq being one of them.

I am certain that the telephone lines between Ottawa and Washington are humming every day and that the Americans are putting pressure on Canadian ministers. The latter must try to maintain a balance between Canada's traditional position, which favours pacifism and making an international contribution, and the American position, which strongly favours war and seeks Canada's support in this war.

Sometimes, it almost seems as if Canada is the 51st state. Canada's military is regularly integrated into American units. There is the whole issue of interoperability with the American forces. This is extremely important for Canada. There is also the whole issue of customs. Almost identical systems are being established. In the event of a catastrophe, there are agreements that would allow American forces on Canadian soil. And then there are all the American takeovers of Canadian companies.

In the end, we wonder if we are not the 52nd state. Sovereignty like that—I am telling you, I am a sovereignist—is not something I would want.

Would we be able to resist the attraction and economic power of the Americans? We probably could do better than Canada is doing right now.

It is a little harmful and a shame to listen to this debate and to see that Canada is still following in the footsteps of the Americans. I wonder where the days of Canadian credibility on the international scene have gone. I think Canada's credibility is tarnished right now. However, it is not too late to do something about it.

Yesterday, some countries within NATO protested because they were no longer willing to protect Turkey in the event of American action in Iraq. Turkey lies between Europe and Asia. The people there are afraid, because if they allow the Americans to use their base, it is certain that the Iraqis would retaliate.

France, Germany and Belgium have said that it would perhaps be important for NATO not to state its position immediately. However, the Americans had wanted NATO to indicate where it stood. There still has not been any word from Canada. Therefore, it is felt that Canada has not expressed its opposition to NATO protecting Turkey.

People have been too quick to press for military action, and in that sense, France and Germany's proposal is welcome.

I would like to talk about the work by the inspectors, which is not finished, as everyone agrees except for the Americans and probably the British. The inspectors have returned after two days of consultations with Iraqi authorities and seem to be saying that there is better cooperation.

One could say that the only good thing about America's threat against Iraq is that Iraq is being forced to do something. However, the way Americans are handling this issue leaves us wondering.

Since the beginning, we have clearly preferred leaving the inspectors to do their work. Mr. Blix, the chief inspector, had said it would be very slow going in Iraq. The inspectors should be given all the time they need to do their work.

Until now, inspectors have not found much. The chief inspector even said that they have not found anything compromising against Iraq. They have been there for a few months already. He criticized the lack of cooperation, but Iraq now appears to be demonstrating better intentions.

It is therefore important to allow the inspectors to do their work. In this light, the French-German proposal is very interesting, because it would triple the number of inspectors. The most positive aspect of it is that there would be no military intervention; it would be peacekeepers who would assist the inspectors and who would control the territory to ensure that Iraq complies with resolution 1441.

We believe this to be a very good approach. In my opinion, and I think the members of the Bloc Quebecois would agree with me, if a resolution of this type were before the UN, the Bloc Quebecois would support it, much more than military intervention based on the little proof gathered so far.

Let us take a look at the facts, or what the Americans often refer to as intelligence. Mr. Powell failed to convince me last time he gave his presentation of the evidence. I think that the Americans may know a great deal, but they still do not want to reveal it.

If the Americans know where weapons of mass destruction can be found, why do they not tell the inspectors? That does not appear to be the case. Colin Powell went to the UN to give a dubious demonstration, which does not justify, in my opinion, a major armed intervention in Iraq. Many people are questioning the veracity of the facts.

It was mentioned that the last time Iraq was attacked in 1990, it was because babies had been strangled in nurseries. Some years later, we learned that it was staged, and that those events had not taken place at all.

As a result, we are justified in wondering if the CIA is not trying to present us with evidence that does not exist in order to justify an armed intervention like last time. Since that the inspectors have some sort of neutrality, it should be up to them to provide us with an explanation. And so far, they have said that there is insufficient evidence.

As for the link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, no one was able to publicly demonstrate the existence of such a link, and particularly not the British. The last time, they got caught with a text written by an American student that they retransmitted directly. They released this text and said it was the British position. However, that report had been written several years earlier by an American student. Even the spelling mistakes were the same.

One wonders about the validity of this evidence. This is why we feel it is important to let the inspectors complete their work.

As regards the logic of war, it is my opinion that the Americans have been using it since the beginning. It is easy to realize that it is indeed the case. With a deployment of 150,000 troops at Iraq's doorstep, they are very present in the area. It is obvious that they absolutely want to get in there, that they do not want to leave any room for a peaceful resolution to this conflict. They are positioning their troops in the area, and this will make it very difficult later on to remove these troops and say “we are going home” without making the President look like a fool. There is every indication that the Americans want to get involved at any cost. This logic of war has been there from the beginning.

Now, with the suggestion made by France and Germany, we have a proposal for a peaceful solution under which no shots would be fired, and under which the inspectors would be able to do their job three times more quickly, because there would be three times more inspectors and they would be under the protection of peacekeepers.

I am also familiar with peacekeeping missions, because I went to Bosnia on an observation and peacekeeping mission, with the Royal 22nd Regiment. Road blocks are a common thing. If there are laboratories that continually produce weapons of mass destruction, although we have not seen them—we were told that they are in operation, but we have no evidence of that—I imagine that the peacekeepers could set up road blocks and control traffic on a regular basis.

So, what the French and the Germans have proposed, with the increasingly obvious support of the Russians, seems to me to be a very feasible solution.

What is this suggestion currently creating? It is creating a terrible split between the U.S. and Europe. The French and the Europeans—particularly those from what Rumsfeld calls the old Europe, that is France and Germany—want to downplay the logic of war. They have been trying to do so from the beginning. They have taken an additional step by making a very constructive proposal.

There are divisions of this type within a number of bodies. I have already referred to NATO. There are 19 allies, with others added at the latest Prague summit, which I attended. These 19 are not, however, unanimous on protecting Turkey from retaliation by Iraq. These splits are quite evident and not good for international relations.

Why do the Americans insist on such bellicosity? We presume it is out of a desire to establish a new order in the Middle East. Israel's support of the Americans, moreover, is not without significance. Having been there recently, I understand why there is general agreement that a new world order is needed in the Middle East. Some are of the opinion that such a new world order is possible with the Americans.

There is much to be discussed. There is all the matter of pre-emptive strikes, in other words that the United States could attack a country on the basis of what is sometimes superficial evidence. This is very dangerous, because it could create an international precedent and Pakistan, for instance, could not be stopped from attacking India, or North Korea South Korea, because the Americans have done the same on their own initiative.

The only international forum there is, as we have often said, in the UN. Action must be multilateral, involving all the countries within the UN. That is, moreover, the reason behind the creation of the UN: to settle international conflicts without resorting to the law of the jungle, where the strongest wins out.

These debates must, therefore, involve the UN. What our motion says is that the Bloc Quebecois will not budge until such a time as there has been a second, and explicit, resolution on the deployment of troops. Even then, we retain the option to object, if there has been no vote in this House. We dealt with that point last week. We are now dealing with the second UN resolution, which is extremely important to us.

What is important at this time to the Bloc Quebecois is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. Everyone has children, and many of my colleagues have spouses. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the Iraqis. They cannot complain about the regime under which they are living, the regime of Saddam Hussein; they know what would happed to them if they did.

Rumsfeld's philosophy is to drop 3,000 bombs over a 48 hour period. Is that not too high a price to pay for a single individual? We must consider that.

I have a 21-year-old daughter, and some of her friends have children now. I can imagine the lives of Iraqi people; they get up in the morning, the children are a bit nervous and the slightest noise makes them jump; the mother goes out to buy some groceries wondering if war will break out by the evening; the father leaves for work, to earn a living, unsure of whether or not he will still have a family when he comes home; people look up at the sky to determine whether the Anglo-American thunder will be striking them that day.

I think these people must be given a voice, and this voice is that of the international community. That is what it is there for. We waited too long to take action in Rwanda and hundreds of thousands died because we did.

Today, we must not wait for war to come. If 3,000 bombs are dropped on the presidential palaces in Baghdad, there will be civilians losses, and young children who are in school today will not get to go in the future, because they will be dead.

This conflict must be averted. Efforts must be made to find a peaceful solution. We are not excluding military action as a last resort. But at this stage of the game, it would be premature to take military action immediately. We would not be giving peace a chance. It think it is important that we give peace a chance.

Today, the Bloc Quebecois is putting its proposal on the table. It is pretty simple: unless there is a second UN resolution, we are against sending troops. The issue of the vote was resolved last week when we said that, unless the House approves such action in a vote, we are against it. For us to give consent, it must be explicit in the UN's second resolution that troops will be sent. But that is the very last resort.

In closing, I urge Canada to stand up and to try to improve its image internationally—right now it is seen as the 52nd American state. I believe that we can find a way around this internationally and make a positive contribution to the resolution of this conflict in the peaceful tradition of Canada.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Elgin—Middlesex—London Ontario


Gar Knutson LiberalSecretary of State (Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East)

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is too great a divide between the member's party and the government. However on the point about whether a second resolution is absolutely mandatory, I would point out that in the past the United Nations has not always done its job.

Could the member comment on the situation in Kosovo where there was a veto but the international community, through the work of NATO, decided to go ahead and launch military action? Does the member think that was a mistake?

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to reply to this question as I did during the take note debate, last week, after the speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, among others.

We believe that things often happen on a case by case basis. Regarding Kosovo, my hon. colleague might be surprised, but we feel it was justified, because we were witnessing a massacre, as we did in Rwanda.

I think that it was justified for Kosovo. We even waited a bit too long before acting. I think that the current situation with Iraq is not the same as with Kosovo. It is not the same situation. Military intervention can be taken, without irrefutable proof from the Americans and before the inspectors have finished their work.

Of course, there have been human rights abuses in Iraq; everyone agrees on this. But does this justify a major American intervention à la Rumsfeld, with 3,000 bombs in 48 hours to destroy all the country's infrastructures and cause huge losses of civilians? I think not.

We do not completely rule out the military option, but there will have to be major conditions. Proof is required, a vote in this House is required, and the UN's resolution must be very explicit about troops being sent.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend the Bloc for bringing this matter forward for debate, although I must say that personally I disagree with the motion and the sentiments expressed by my hon. colleague.

He says that we have to give peace a chance before going to war right away. Would he not agree with me that it is simply a matter of fact that Iraq has been in material breach of the ceasefire agreement to the gulf war in 1991 and to 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions since that time over a period of 12 years; that 12 years of embargos that have hurt the Iraqi people because of their misapplication by the Iraqi regime have not worked to bring Iraq out of material breach of its international obligations; and that 12 years of diplomacy have not worked?

If the member believes that we are rushing to the credible threat of force as a means of compelling compliance with the United Nations, how many more years would he like us to wait? Twelve years--

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member for Saint-Jean.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree that Iraq has violated several UN resolutions, but can we say that violation of a UN resolution automatically calls for war? Perhaps not.

Can we say that after twelve violations there should be war? At this time, I think not, but the Americans think the opposite.

Until now, the UN has restrained the Americans. Resolution 1441 has been a factor. And by the way, the UN remains seized of the matter. So normally discussions should be continued.

I would also say this to my colleague. How is it that UN inspectors were asked to withdraw from Iraq for four years, from 1998 to 2002, and that suddenly there is urgency, bombing is the answer and this issue absolutely needs to be resolved.

It is a bit late now. The moment the inspectors left Iraq, if the Americans thought there were still illicit arms activities going on, then they should have intervened at that point and forced the return of the inspectors sooner. It is highly debatable. My colleague may be right, but then again I may be right. Time will tell.

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12:25 p.m.


Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is an admirer of Winston Churchill. He has quoted him a few times. I would like to know if my colleague from Saint-Jean agrees with me that the following Churchill quote applies to this government.

Churchill said—and I think this applies to this government:

They are decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful for impotence.

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12:25 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

I think this quote from Churchill applies perfectly to this government. Incidentally, in my speech earlier I mentioned that since the beginning, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister have been telling us, “Wait, wait, wait”.

Their approach is such that no one can say exactly what Canada's position is. I said so in my speech. It is impossible to say that Canada is fully behind the United States, because Canada has not yet given its support. Nor is it possible to say that Canada is searching for a peaceful solution, because it has not said anything about it. Canada is not doing enough, in our opinion, to find a peaceful solution. It would be in the tradition of this government to make an international contribution to settle conflict peacefully.

We do not know where this government stands yet. To my colleague, the member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, I say that the quote from Churchill, a politician who is highly regarded by the government House leader, unfortunately applies perfectly to his government.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague from Saint-Jean if he has actually read resolution 1441 of the United Nations Security Council. If so, he should be aware that under section 4 of that resolution it states:

--that false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq...shall constitute a further material breach....

Further on it states “that such a material breach will require serious consequences”.

Is he not aware of that? Does he not agree with Hans Blix that Iraq still has not come to terms with its obligations and that, as clearly demonstrated by Secretary Powell last week, is in material breach and has provided an inaccurate and incomplete report to the United Nations?

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12:25 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would simply like to draw it to the attention of my colleague that Hans Blix said yesterday that Iraq was being much more cooperative.

I would also like to tell him that it is true that if Iraq contravenes resolution 1441, it runs the risk of severe retaliation. However—and this is where interpretation comes into play—the international community, with the exception of the United States and Great Britain, says that the UN remains seized of the matter and that we will now have to determine what kind of sanctions will be applied if there is a breach of resolution 1441.

For this reason, we support a second UN resolution. Before any military intervention, this UN resolution must explicitly give the international community the right to intervene militarily. Of course, it is important to remember that we also want a vote in the House.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Elgin—Middlesex—London Ontario


Gar Knutson LiberalSecretary of State (Central and Eastern Europe and Middle East)

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to inform the House of important developments and advise it of Canada's position on Iraq.

I will be dividing my time with the government House leader. Furthermore, I will leave the procedural items to be dealt with by the House leader.

Over the past month, the international community, including Canada, has been undertaking increasingly intense diplomatic efforts to urge Iraq to meet its international obligations. These efforts have one important goal: to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

The Government of Canada has played an important role in these diplomatic efforts. Our Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs have been in constant contact with their counterparts around the world. It is clear that there is widespread consensus among our friends and allies that Iraq must disarm.

While we might not share exactly the same perspective on how this is to be achieved, there is general agreement on the need to maintain international pressure on Saddam's regime until Iraq fulfills its international obligations.

In the international community there is strong support for the United Nations process. We all recognize that the United Nations is the primary international organization responsible for peace and security. Canada continues to see the solution to the Iraq crisis based in resolution 1441 and through the UN Security Council.

The United Nations possesses the authority and is obliged to deal with this issue. That is why we will continue to urge our friends and allies that together we must pursue diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq through this forum. This is the fundamental basis for our policy on Iraq.

With resolution 1441, the international community sent a clear message to the Iraqi regime. To ensure the pacific resolution of this situation, Iraq must cooperate fully, actively and unconditionally with the weapons inspectors.

Resolution 1441 gave the Government of Iraq one final chance to comply and it set out a detailed road map for doing so peacefully. Unfortunately the current reality is that Iraq continues to avoid complying fully with UN resolution 1441. As Dr. Blix made clear during his update to the Security Council on January 27, Iraq has not co-operated fully and actively with the weapons inspectors as required.

United States Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the Security Council on February 5 put forward important factual information that added to the long list of outstanding questions regarding Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction. His presentation reinforced the concerns expressed by Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei in their reports of January 27.

This past weekend, Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei returned to Baghdad to meet with Iraq officials and to make clear to them once again that the onus is on Iraq to fill in the gaps and actively co-operate to provide the answers, information and co-operation required.

They will report back to the Security Council on February 14. This will be another important milestone in this process. Their findings will be invaluable to Security Council members as they consider the most appropriate way to proceed. The inspectors and the international community must see a concrete change in behaviour, from evasion to disclosure. Piecemeal co-operation is not enough and promises are not sufficient.

Clearly this process cannot be extended indefinitely. Inspections are not an open-ended process, and diplomatic pressure is increasing, but war is not inevitable if Iraq complies with the letter and the spirit of resolution 1441. The clear statement in resolution 1441 that there will be “serious consequences” has focused us all on the need for Iraq to co-operate. This credible threat of serious consequences from the international community has been essential to supporting the diplomatic effort to disarm Iraq.

Already resolution 1441 has made Iraq's obligations clear. It has permitted the return of the inspectors to Iraq and it has provided the necessary focus to get the job done. It sets out a detailed process for the council to receive reports and to consider appropriate actions, as well as the serious consequences of further non-compliance.

The first critical step is to cooperate fully, actively and openly with the international community in the disarmament process in resolution 1441.

It is up to the leadership of Iraq to do so and, in so doing, to bring their country in line with its international obligations for the good of its people as well as for the peace and security of the international community.

Canada's consistent policy on Iraq has served us well in terms of events and developments, from the passage of resolution 1441 to the reports of Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei to the council, to Colin Powell's case to that body on February 5 and to any possible second resolution on Iraq, the consistent thread is the UN process and the need for the international community to express its concerns through that body.

Not everyone fully agrees with the Government of Canada's approach on this issue, yet I would suggest to the House that the results are there. The U.S.A. has stayed within the UN process and the inspectors are doing their work in Iraq under its mandate. Should it be found that Iraq is unwilling to comply and co-operate with inspectors in its disarmament, then Canada will again look to the Security Council to consider next steps.

There was much compelling debate last week in the House and there is much discussion now of the possibility of a second resolution. It is ultimately up to the Security Council to determine whether it needs a second resolution. If there is a need to state clearly and unequivocally once again to Iraq the will of the international community, Canada would support such an approach.

The motion before the House, that we consider the sending of troops to Iraq by the government only after the Security Council has passed a resolution explicitly authorizing a military intervention, would unduly restrict the government's ability to respond to an extremely fluid and complex international situation. A great majority of Canadians agree with our fundamental position: The disarmament of Iraq by peaceful means is best achieved through the UN.

Canada continues to be actively engaged with its partners around the world in finding a solution to this rapidly evolving situation. We are in constant dialogue with the United States, other Security Council members and countries of Europe and the region. As I said earlier, war is not inevitable. We must do everything possible to achieve the peaceful disarmament of Iraq.

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12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, that was a ten minute exercise in begging the question and avoiding the resolution before the House, which is very clear in its intent. It asks whether the government would be prepared to decide to discharge Canadian Forces to Iraq for its failure to comply with a 17th United Nations Security Council resolution without the passage of an 18th resolution explicitly authorizing force. I would like the minister to clarify exactly where he stands.

Second, he says that the government's position is why there are inspectors operating in Iraq today. Let us be serious. The only reason there are inspectors in Iraq today, as Kofi Annan himself has said, is because of American military pressure and the credible threat of force. Why has Canada not joined its traditional allies, Australia, Great Britain and the United States, in exerting that kind of credible threat of force which has brought Iraq at least to the charade of inspections today?

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12:35 p.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. When he says it is begging the question, the position of the government is that we do not want to prejudge what facts may or may not be in play some weeks or some months down the road. If we look at the experience to date, when the United Nations has failed to do its job Canada has taken a certain position. There is no evidence in play right now that the United Nations is failing to do its job. That is why we are quite confident in saying that we are committed to the UN process.

What we do not want to do is get into a situation where our actions would be interpreted as trying to get ahead of the United Nations, or that the march to war is somehow not dependent on the will of the international community but on how one country or one small group of countries views the situation.

We are committed to following through with the process that is in play with resolution 1441 and we are quite comfortable that this is the view of the majority of Canadians.

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12:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Canadian Alliance Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, surely the member can understand the problem with this wishy-washy position Canada is being put in on the world stage and with our largest trading partner and our greatest long-time ally. The problem is that the message we send is not strong enough to be of any use in attempts to pressure Iraq and it panders to all the wrong things in its ambivalence.

The Canadian Alliance has already said in the motion we brought forward last week that we accept that the administration has the right to decide whether we are to go to war, if that unfortunately should ever come to reality. In return the government should ask the House for a vote on that to give a stamp of approval.

However, the motion today is asking the second question. Does the government really think it needs an explicit resolution, another resolution, from the United Nations or are resolution 1441 and the 16 that preceded it good enough not just to call Iraq's bluff but to take the action necessary to enforce some resolutions?

I would hope that the government would say that it does not know if war will be necessary, that it hopes it will not be, but if it comes to that we will make sure that the United Nations gets the respect it deserves and needs to have for credibility by standing with our allies to make sure the United Nations resolutions are enforced.

I was down in Washington, D.C. this last week and I heard person after person say that the position of the Canadian government is just not understandable or credible down in the States. They just do not understand why we are straddling the fence, why we are not being any help in pressuring Saddam Hussein and why we are not sending any clear messages to our strong, long-time ally that we are going to be there to do our part to pressure the Hussein regime into accepting what we all want, which is demilitarization and a regime change.

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12:40 p.m.


Gar Knutson Liberal Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think our position is somewhat what the hon. member has stated. The Prime Minister has said in response to questions in the House, and I quote from memory, that while a second resolution is not legally necessary we think that resolution 1441 as it stands is enough and it would be preferable. The reason it would be preferable is that it would represent complete unity of purpose among the Security Council members and a stronger unifying force for the international community. So while we are not wedded to it, it is not something that we want to discount out of hand as not being necessary, because we think it would be preferable.

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12:40 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part again in the debate on an opposition motion on Iraq. I think it is important to listen carefully to the wording of this motion, which reads as follows:

That this House consider the sending of troops to Iraq by the government only after the Unites Nations Security Council has passed a resolution explicitly authorizing a military intervention in Iraq.

I will come back to the wording later, because there is something wrong with it, to say the least.

I will begin by reminding the House that since our government took office in 1993—we all remember this happy day—we have honoured the commitment made that same year in our red book, when we said, and I quote:

A Liberal government will also expand the rights of Parliament to debate major Canadian foreign policy initiatives, such as the deployment of peacekeeping forces—

The opposition keeps suggesting mistakenly that this House has not looked into the Iraq issue. That is just plain wrong. And to say that a vote is in any way necessary, because of some past practices, has no basis in terms of current House practices.

Some opposition members claim that past precedents show us that only Parliament decides to commit Canadian forces to active service overseas. Of course that is not the case. Even last Thursday's motion which still remains to be voted on does not make that request and it came from another opposition party.

As I indicated in the House on February 6, Parliament's role in considering the sending of troops for offensive deployment or peacekeeping was not consistent before 1993. There were about eight different ways of doing it. Only since 1993, thanks to the initiative of our Prime Minister, do we have the very consistent way that we have now.

Involvement of Parliament in the decision making process before 1993 looked something like this. There was no consultation at any time in the case of the Korean conflict. There was a debate and a vote after the Canadian forces were sent in the case of the gulf war in 1990-91. There was a full debate and a vote in the House before a formal commitment was made in other cases and a debate with no vote in other cases. In other cases there was a vote on the estimates without a debate, and so on and so forth. There was never a consistent way.

Since 1993 the government has met its red book commitment, as it has of course with most other red book commitments, that is to say, to engage Parliament on international issues, including before Canadian forces are sent.

I personally consulted with House officers on several occasions about this in the past. I reached them at home or elsewhere when the House was not sitting so we could do things to consult Parliament. We used the procedure of take note debates to give all members the opportunity to express their views and their concerns. The government has used other mechanisms to engage Parliament once Canadian forces have been involved abroad, such as having the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Defence appear before the standing committee if Parliament was not in session. Things like that have been done in order to keep Parliament fully involved.

Let us compare our approach with that of other countries. Members sometimes go to great lengths to do that. Our approach with the Iraq situation to date has been consistent with the approach taken by many other Commonwealth nations.

For instance, the Australian house of representatives began, guess what, a take note debate on the Iraq situation, but there has been no vote by the Australian house. The British house has had a number of debates on the subject but no vote, nor has the British Prime Minister stated that there would be a vote. Indeed, in the U.K. as in Canada, there is no requirement to do so. We are all familiar with how our Constitution works.

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12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

What about the United States?