Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
First, I would like to thank my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance for making the debate today possible. We have before us a motion that asks that we concur in any decision by the government regarding Canada's involvement in military action. What we are doing is asking that we actually bring our involvement in a potential war to a vote in the House. That speaks to the persistence of the disintegration of democracy in the House.
I understand and I believe Canadians understand that the fact that we are actually discussing Canada's role does not mean the government will listen. However that does not diminish the fact that this debate should take place.
Unlike many members of the House, many of my constituents are directly affected by any decision to join the war against terrorism in Iraq.
As the home of Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, many of the young women and men who will be called upon in service to their country, should they be called upon to actually go to Iraq, are currently serving in Petawawa.
I know the shudder that moves through a military community whenever bad news is received. I remind the Minister of National Defence that it was under his watch when the two helicopter pilots died last summer in Labrador and it is for the spouses of the dead pilots that I speak today when I join with the families of our soldiers in urging the government to take caution in whatever action is taken.
We must remember that the debate about whether or not the government is properly funding the military boils down to the people in uniform who are expected to carry out the government's wishes. As the soldiers are called upon to make do with scarcer resources, it is the families who suffer as they wait for the uncertain news of whether their loved ones will be returned to them safely.
To put this debate in context, I will share with all members of the House a letter I received recently from a constituent about the prospect of war in Iraq and Canada's participation in that exercise. The letter reads:
Yesterday was bitterly cold in Pembroke.
Nonetheless, about 90 of your constituents turned out at the corner of Pembroke and MacKay streets (me included) to demonstrate against war with Iraq and in favour of peace.
I urge you to vote against any legislation or resolution promoting war with Iraq, either in conjunction with a UN resolution or with the U.S. and Britain alone. Saddam is a monster, no one could deny that, but there are many others just as bad.
And there are some whose actions pose a far greater threat to the west than Saddam.
One inevitable consequence of war in the Middle East would be the death of many non-combatants: women, children, the elderly, the disabled.
Please use your vote in Parliament and your influence with your colleagues to prevent war and work for peace.
Sincerely, John Pepper.
I shall be thanking John for his correspondence sent on January 19, which urged me to vote against any legislation or resolution promoting war with Iraq. However I cannot tell him that we will be even voting on this.
Certain members of the government try to portray those of us in the official opposition in simplistic terms when it comes to a complex situation, when it comes to something like Middle East politics, when thoughtful observers know otherwise.
Supporting our allies any more than not supporting them is not something that we determine easily, so let us examine the facts. Saddam Hussein killed 200,000 Iraqi Kurds using high explosives and chemical weapons in the 1980s. This will be included in my letter to John Pepper.
After the 1991 gulf war Saddam Hussein killed 20,000 more Kurds to crush an internal intifada. He ordered the killing of 60,000 Shiites to pre-empt an uprising against Sunni role. Saddam is responsible for the unnecessary deaths of his own constituents, including women, children, the elderly and the disabled.
The UN inspectors have found 16 undeclared, empty chemical warheads and 3,000 pages of documents regarding nuclear weapons technology.
On January 19 Hans Blix said that a lot of the documents concerned nuclear and some missiles. They had not been declared and should have been declared. He also said that the warheads should have been properly declared and in fact destroyed.
UNSCOM said that Hussein had 30,000 such warheads, plus 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas, 400 biological weapons, 26,000 litres of anthrax, as well as botulism, VX nerve agent and sarin gas. These were supposed to be turned over and destroyed but have never been accounted for.
The onus is on Hussein to show compliance, not on the UN to find a smoking gun. When the gun is smoking it is too late.
On January 16 Dr. Blix stated:
We have found several cases where it is clear that Iraq has imported weapons related material in violation of the prohibitions of the Security Council.
Whether these items are related to weapons of mass destruction is a matter that still has to be determined. He also said that some of the illegal importation occurred as recently as 2002.
Both Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell have suggested that Iraqi leaders go into exile to avoid war. News reports in the Middle East say that Saudi Arabia and others have made overtures to Iraq about such a plan. Saddam insists that he will stay and fight to defend Baghdad despite this potential solution.
French President Chirac and German Chancellor Schroeder announced on January 22 that both countries would vote against any UN resolution for war against Iraq and that they would oppose any U.S. led invasion.
By coincidence, France and Russia, both veto bearing members of the UN Security Council, have made oil deals with Iraq that blatantly contravene UN resolutions. So has Syria, a known state sponsor of terrorism, an Iraqi ally and temporary member of the Security Council.
The UN meekly accepted the eviction of UN weapons inspectors in 1998. The oil for food program has not been affected by Hussein's outright belligerence. Flagrant violations have gone unpunished for years.
The UN failed to act in Rwanda, in East Timor and in Kosovo. Thousands upon thousands of civilians were massacred. The future of the UN is at risk if it fails to act in Iraq. UN authorization to confront Saddam is already in place. There was never an armistice to end the last gulf war, only a ceasefire.
Because of Iraq's continued violation of the ceasefire's disarmament resolution, the ceasefire no longer exists. Canada must work with our allies to disarm this rogue Iraqi regime. We must work with our allies to ensure that UN resolutions are enforced.
I thank John Pepper and all the constituents from the Ottawa Valley who have written to me and for taking time to communicate their concerns. The House is divided about war in Iraq and so is the Canadian public. At the end of the day a position has to be taken and hopefully voted for here.
When faced with the choice in taking Saddam at his word versus the safety and security of our citizens, trust that I together with my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance shall put Canadians first.