Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House to address such an issue. This issue is important not just for Quebec and Canada, but for the world and for all future international relations.
As one can see, each word of the Bloc Quebecois motion tabled by the hon. member for Saint-Jean is there for a reason and should get the support of the House of Commons. The motion reads as follows:
That this House consider the sending of troops to Iraq by the government only after the United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution explicitly authorizing a military intervention in Iraq.
With this motion, we want to ensure that the House of Commons can vote on the sending of troops to Iraq, and we are also defending the role of Parliament in the making of such decisions.
Like the majority of Quebeckers and Canadians, I want to say loud and clear that I disapprove any participation in a military intervention that is not be supported by the UN Security Council.
We must not lose track of past mistakes and of the reason for establishing the United Nations Organization in 1945. Since the last world war, all nations of the world have realized that war has made too many victims and caused too much hardship to allow us to get into any armed conflict without getting the Security Council, the UN's primary peacekeeping body, onside.
The United Nations Organization was based on the August 1941 Atlantic Charter, whereby U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wanted future generations to inherit an organization that would protect them against human stupidity and do everything it could to ensure that innocent victims were no longer counted in the millions as they were in the last world war. The whole world said, “Let there never be such horrors again”.
The successors of Roosevelt and Churchill should not be the ones, more than 60 years later, to ignore the historical weight of and the raison d'être of the Security Council.
I want all my constituents in the riding of Berthier—Montcalm to know that I am not one to ignore the past. That is why I wholeheartedly support this motion. I totally disagree with any participation in a military intervention without the support of the United Nations Security Council.
The motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois is clear and unequivocal. We cannot consider sending troops into Iraq without the UN explicitly authorizing it. It is up to the UN to decide whether military force should be used or not, and it must do so in a second resolution.
Like many of my fellow citizens, try as I may to keep abreast of developments, listen to the news, read whatever reports are available, understand the evasive Canadian position, and assess the inspectors' evidence, for the time being, no one knows for sure whether or not Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
Convinced that Iraq does have such weapons, some people in the U.S. believe that the United States, in conjunction with the whole world, must take military action to ensure security worldwide. So far, UN inspectors have not found anything that would indicate that the Iraqi nuclear program is up and running again.
Knowing the man, it is obvious that Saddam Hussein would certainly like to obtain a nuclear weapon and that he probably already has chemical and biological weapons at his disposal. But one cannot take justice into one's own hands based on presumptions.
A pre-emptive attack based on nothing definite would be illegal from an international point of view. No country is entitled to attack another one based on mere suspicion. In this case, as in many others, hard evidence required and Americans do not have them.
Not only is it a deadly blow to the UN Security Council's credibility, but it also creates a dangerous precedent.
Once the United States has attacked Iraq on mere presumptions, what will prevent other countries from taking measures to put an end to threats that they consider even more pressing? Where will it all end?
The United States cannot be considered any differently from the others because of its power and of the role it plays on the international level. On the contrary, because it is one of the best armed and the most economically vibrant nations, it has to set an example. It is not pre-emptive military action that is needed against Iraq, but pre-emptive diplomacy.
The international inspectors are expected to present their report to the United Nations Security Council on February 14. Will the evidence contained in this report be sufficient to help the Security Council reach a decision? Will the Security Council adopt a second resolution that would authorize the use of force against Iraq?
Whatever the outcome, before Canada decides on any action, military or otherwise, a vote should be held in this House.
A simple debate without a formal vote is not enough, just as a vote on approving a decision already taken by the Prime Minister and cabinet would sour Canadian democracy and would not be acceptable.
Just like the U.S. congressmen who passed a motion giving the President the right to send troops to Iraq, and just like England, where Tony Blair maintains that he will ask for the United Kingdom's House of Commons' consent before taking military action against Iraq, it is imperative that we vote in the House on a possible military intervention before the Prime Minister decides to involve Canada in a war against Iraq.
This is absolutely crucial. The repercussions of a possible intervention are too serious not to give the elected representatives of Canada and Quebec the chance to vote as their conscience dictates on such a crucial issue.
I feel I was elected in December precisely to fight for democracy, to give my opinion on some fundamental issues like this one and to express the views of the people of Berthier—Montcalm.
Military intervention means that the life of Quebeckers will be at stake. Is there any decision more important than one which could cost the lives of our fellow citizens?
The decisions taken in the next few days could have a major impact on the future of Canada, of Quebec and of the whole world.
Our behaviour and our choices, as elected representatives of course, but as responsible human beings as well, will define the international order, set new legal standards, change the international environment, but first and foremost, in the immediate future, give meaning to the role and raison d'être of the UN Security Council.
Nationally, taking a vote in the House of Communes will ensure democracy is front and centre however we respond to the current situation, thereby giving credibility to Canada's voice and to the Prime Minister's actions on the international scene.
I cannot understand why we have to try to convince the Liberal government of the importance of taking a vote before making a decision on a fundamental question like entering into war with another country. When the Liberals opposite were in opposition, at the time of the Gulf War, they asked the Conservative government for a formal vote.
I will quote what Liberal member Herb Gray said about a motion put forward by the then Secretary of State for External Affairs:
Liberals insist that before Canadians are called upon to participate in any offensive action, such participation must first be brought before Parliament and voted on here in the way it was done at the time of the Korean conflict.
Similarly, we insist that the elected representatives of Canada and Quebec get to vote on this issue. I encourage all members of this House to start by taking my lead and supporting the motion before us.
Then, depending on the UN Security Council's final decision and the second resolution it may adopt, we will have the opportunity to discuss the issue further and finalize our position.
The importance of this issue and its international implications are such that it is imperative that we consider it seriously and take whatever time we need to do so.