House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.


Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

7:10 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful that the House has an opportunity to debate the prospect of war in Iraq and the position that the Canadian government has taken in respect of that prospect. I say thanks to the Bloc Québécois for seeking an emergency debate and making this debate possible.

But I begin by saying that I do not think we should have had to rely on an opposition party procedurally for a debate about the prospect of war in Iraq. I feel that Parliament has not been treated well throughout the period leading up to today. Although we welcomed the Prime Minister's statement in question period, today was really no departure from that disrespect for Parliament, because the Prime Minister, instead of making a statement to the House either in the context of ministerial statements or seeking unanimous consent to do it in some other context, basically tried to fit what really belonged somewhere else into question period. It was not done as well as it could have been done.

Tonight, we have an emergency debate. The Prime Minister kept saying that if we wanted a debate, we should cause one to happen, we should use an opposition day or, in this case, create an emergency debate. Yet the Prime Minister himself is not here. Instead, we have a very brief statement from a junior minister. It is almost as if the government does not have much to say about its position. It seems to me that it would have been much more appropriate for the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs to have been here this evening and for many more members of Parliament from all parties to have been in attendance to hear the respective positions of the parties in the House on the prospect of war on Iraq.

Compare this to the United Kingdom where, I believe, and perhaps it is over by now, there has been a debate going on today at Westminster. The prime minister there has, on many occasions, in the lead-up to the situation we find ourselves in now, spoken to that house. All members of parliament have been there to hear him, or at least it has been a full house to hear the prime minister and to hear others. There was a vote a number of weeks ago. There is a vote today, if it has not happened already. Yet here in the Canadian Parliament, we are having a rather pathetic excuse for a debate, a debate not initiated by the government, nor can we get any commitments from the government, ever, to have a debate that it causes to happen, or even better, what we would like, a debate that it causes to happen by putting down a motion of its own, and then to have a vote on the Canadian position. What would be so wrong with that?

Why is that a fantasy I have about a Canadian Parliament that does not exist, a Canadian Parliament where on a major issue of war and peace the government comes in and lays down a motion? It does not have to be long, just a paragraph which lays out its view of this situation. The Prime Minister comes into the House, gives a lengthy, intelligent and articulate defence of the government's position, not necessarily one that everyone agrees with but something that we can respect, and other positions are put forward. Why does that have to remain part of my fantasy life? Why can we not have that here in Parliament, in this very House of Commons? It shames me as a Canadian that our Parliament is so Mickey Mouse when it comes to these big issues instead of being the kind of parliament that it ought to be.

We do not have to compare the situation we find ourselves in now to just the United Kingdom. We could even compare it to things that I remember here in this House, the debates that went on at the time of what unfortunately might soon come to be called the “first gulf war”, when in this House we had, on three different occasions, resolutions put down by the Conservative government of that day for debate and a vote. Now that comes near to starting to approach my parliamentary fantasy life.

Let us imagine this: important things happening in the world; the government has a position; it puts a resolution before Parliament; members of Parliament debate it; and then they vote on it. Why is that scenario so foreign to the Prime Minister's mind? Why is that scenario so foreign to the collective Liberal mind when it comes to Parliament?

When we have been pushing the Prime Minister for a vote, we have done it thinking that probably we would be in a position to vote against the government. We wanted to express our opposition to what we thought the government was going to do or might do.

On the basis of what the Prime Minister said today, which is that Canada is not going to participate in a war in Iraq in the absence of a second resolution at the United Nations, even though we have a different position about what the government should have done or might have been called upon to do if there had been a second resolution, we nevertheless welcome the Prime Minster's position today.

There would have been a way for the government to put its position today in a way that probably could have received the support of the NDP, the Bloc and perhaps even the Conservatives but I am not sure. I am not sure about the hon. member for Kelowna. I somehow think he would be offside. Yet the Prime Minister does not seek this.

Why not put down a motion that would enable Parliament to speak, three or four parties out of five, a motion that the Prime Minister could use to express the Canadian position to the United States and to President Bush? What would be so wrong with that?

I guess all we have to be grateful for are small parliamentary mercies; that we did not hear about the Canadian government's decision on a talk show in Chicago, during a lecture to a university in the United States, or in some other non-parliamentary venue.

We do welcome the Prime Minister's statement that Canada will not be part of a war in Iraq. The reason given by the Prime Minister was that there was no second resolution of the United Nations Security Council authorizing such a war.

I think this bears some reflection because we in the NDP had been worried, given some of the things that the Prime Minister said in the past, that the Prime Minister might have taken the position that resolution 1441 would be justification enough for Canadian participation in a war in Iraq. This seems to be the American position. The fact that the Prime Minister has not taken that position is a very welcome development but it is a fact that in the lead up to this decision today the Prime Minister said so many different things in the House that he could have taken any position today and cited something he said in the last three weeks to show that this had been his position all along.

We can call that a smart politician.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


Art Eggleton Liberal York Centre, ON

You're getting picky.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

7:15 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Somebody said that I was getting picky. I do not think I am getting picky. I am noticing what was going on because I was asking a lot of those questions and I listened to the answers.

Push came to shove for the Prime Minister when Canada could not, either by itself or in concert with others, get a resolution that would do the two things that seemed to me to be the goal of Canadian policy at the United Nations over the last three weeks, which was to preserve UN unity no matter what and if it meant providing a fig leaf for a war on Iraq that the United States wanted in any event, then that is what Canada was prepared to do. It is only because the government failed in its attempt to do that, that we have the position that the Prime Minister has taken today.

The Prime Minister had a choice when the Canadian strategy failed. He could have said that we would go with the Americans anyway, without the fig leaf and without unity at the UN, but he did not do that. We are really grateful for that but we are also grateful to the millions of Canadians who marched in the streets of our cities and towns on February 15, and on other occasions, demonstrating that they did not want their country to be part of a war that they saw as unjustified and illegal in terms of international law.

All those Canadians who were at the Manitoba legislature where I spoke on February 15, or at other legislatures and other places where Canadians gather, did not have the same position on everything but they were united. Their unity was in saying that they did not want their country to either be part of a war on Iraq or contribute to the logic of war at the United Nations.

Up until today I think a case could have been made that the Canadian government was still participating in the logic of war, that the unity and the resolution that it was seeking was to extend the time a little bit more but that we must make sure that in the end we do have a war but it is a war that has the fig leaf of the United Nations approval.

I do not think we should be sad, and by we I mean those of us who have been critical of the shifting Canadian position over these last several weeks, that there is no unity at the United Nations. If unity came at the price of the UN giving its approval to a war for which there was no real justification, when the weapons inspection process could have been allowed to continue, when we still had progress being reported from Mr. Blix, et cetera, it would have been a real shame to have had the United Nations, for whatever reason, be cornered into supporting such a war, because there is no case for a pre-emptive war of prevention. If this is the logic behind the United States' action against Iraq, this is a whole new development in terms of international geopolitics. It is a whole new doctrine for the United States, one that was announced on September 20 of last year, and it is one we should all be very worried about. What if everybody took that view? There is no case for a pre-emptive war of prevention. There is no case for a war to bring about regime change.

After listening to the Prime Minister carefully, it seemed to me that I first began to think he might do the right thing last week or so when he started to say that regime change was not what Canadians were interested in, that a war in the interests of regime change was unjustified. Therefore, no case for pre-emptive war prevention, no case for a war to bring about regime change, no case for bringing the weapons inspection process to an end because progress was still being reported, and no case for a war on the basis of this being part of the war on terrorism because no case has been made for links between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda.

I think the Prime Minister came to see all those things, reluctantly. I understand, in some ways, that reluctance. He wanted to be able to do both. He wanted to be able to save, and I use the word save here loosely, the UN and the United States all at the same time; save the UN through finding something that could unify the UN and save the U.S. through providing a United Nations fig leaf for what the United States was going to do anyway.

The poison pill in all of this right from the beginning, which made it so hard to listen to all the rhetoric about the United Nations coming from President Bush, was that right from the beginning the president basically said to the United Nations, “Either do what we want you to do or we will do what we want to do anyway”. Now that is not multilateralism. That is not taking the United Nations seriously. That is seeing the United Nations as a political tool to confer legitimacy on something that one has decided to do anyway.

In any event, we now believe that the Prime Minister, if he is to be consistent with his position that Canada should not participate in a U.S. led war on Iraq with the coalition of the willing, or the bullied and the bribed, or whatever one wants to call them, if he feels that Canada should not participate in this particular war, then I do not think Canadian Forces personnel, those who are on exchange with particular American units that are going to be involved in this war, should be allowed to participate in the war either. It would be inconsistent and hypocritical on our part.

I am not talking about the ships in the gulf. They are there as part of the war on terrorism. We may have had our disagreements with the government at the beginning on this but that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about the 30, 35 or however many there are on normal exchange that may now be participating in the war on Iraq. If this is a war that we are not participating in then those people should be called home. It just makes common sense to me and it seems to me it would to other Canadians as well.

The NDP position is that these people should be recalled until such time as there are assurances either that their units are not participating in the war on Iraq or that their units are no longer participating in the war on Iraq. If the Prime Minister wants to be consistent he should be saying that, instead of what he said to me in the House earlier today when I asked him the question that I asked in question period.

What should Canada do now? It seems to me that Canada should now, given the Canadian government position, be urging the United States to change its mind. Maybe it is too late. It certainly seems that we are indeed at the 11th hour. Half an hour from now President Bush will address the nation and the world, so to speak, but it seems to me that it is never too late for a friend, however damaged our relationship with the United States might be, although I heard the American ambassador say only last week that he did not feel there would be any lasting damage to Canada-U.S. relations. It seems to me that if the Prime Minister really believes in the position that he articulated today in the House the follow through on that should be to urge President Bush to reconsider his position.

Failing that, there are a number of other lesser things we could be urging upon the Americans. Our foreign affairs critic, the member for Halifax, mentioned one of them today in the House, and that is that at the very least we could be urging upon the United States, if it insists on having a war on Iraq, that it should not be using depleted uranium. The Canadian Forces do not use depleted uranium. I believe I am right in that assertion. However the American forces do use depleted uranium. They used it in Kosovo and certainly in the gulf war of 1991. This is a completely unacceptable form of weaponry in the sense that it has a long term effect on people far beyond anything that is created as an immediate consequence of the war. I would urge the Canadian government, the Prime Minister and the responsible ministers to communicate to the United States in strong terms that depleted uranium should not be something that is part of the U.S. arsenal.

If we as a Parliament have the opportunity, perhaps through a resolution approving the government's position, but also doing this, urge Saddam Hussein to rethink his position.

In this eleventh hour perhaps Saddam Hussein could say, “If it comes to choosing between my vanity and my regime and having my people blown to hell by the strongest military machine on the face of the earth, maybe I will take a walk, maybe I will leave”. If he wants to cite the ancient verities as he sometimes does, let Saddam Hussein have the wisdom of the real mother in the story of King Solomon and the two mothers who wanted to lay claim to one baby. The king said, “The baby cannot belong to both of you so I will cut the baby in half and one of you can have one half and one of you can have the other half”. It was the real mother who said, “That is fine. She can have the baby”, because in the end she cared more about her baby than she did about her particular claim.

This is the kind of wisdom I would pray that Saddam Hussein has tonight, that he would put the welfare of his own people, given what we know is already fixed in the mind of the American administration, that he would have the welfare of his own people so much in mind that he would be willing to take the walk that he is being called upon by President Bush to take.

Perhaps that is our only hope at this moment. Let us hope that something happens for the good and that war can be avoided even at these last moments.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

7:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time tonight with the member for Cumberland--Colchester.

The world is on the edge of a war that could have terrible consequences within and beyond Iraq. Of course, one question is, what will Canada do? The larger question is, what will the world do about a brutal regime in Iraq, about a United Nations that is deeply divided, about the threat of weapons of mass destruction?

For his part the Prime Minister today said, “Canada will not participate”. That is certainly his trademark in this world.

Canada has not participated in building a relationship with the United States that would have allowed us to counsel prudence on the president. We have abandoned that role and left it to Britain. Canada has not participated in any serious way in bridging the differences across the Atlantic, a role that caused us to be one of the creators of NATO and which we have now abandoned. Canada has not participated in any significant way in sending troops to Iraq; in fact by sending our scant troops to Afghanistan, we made it impossible to participate in any conflict in Iraq. At the United Nations we waited so long before lobbing in a last minute compromise resolution that it was doomed before the first phone call to the White House.

Let us look very carefully at what the Prime Minister said today when he spelled out his latest version of Canada's position, which is not to participate. He did not talk about international law. He did not talk about the havoc that could be caused if Saddam Hussein unleashed his weapons of mass destruction. He did not talk about the suffering of the Iraqi people. He did not talk about the reconstruction of the region after a conflict that could be horrible. All he said was, “If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate”.

The issue for him is not legality. It is not justice. It is not what is right or what is wrong. It is only a procedural issue. There is not a new resolution, so Canada will stand aside.

The Prime Minister does not even argue that a new resolution is needed. Yet for governments that take these questions seriously, that is a major question. Tomorrow the British government will publish a considered legal opinion which I expect will argue that existing resolutions already give the United Nations the authority it needs to act against Saddam Hussein.

Does Canada have a different view? When the Prime Minister decided that the role of this country would be to stand aside, did he ask the legal opinion of the experts in international law who work for Canada? I asked him that in the House of Commons today and he would not answer. If he asked them, why does he refuse to publish their advice? I suspect that this decision was taken not on the basis of international law, not on the basis of international principle, but on polling done for the Liberal Party in Canada that said, surprise, surprise, war is unpopular.

Of course war is unpopular. So are weapons of mass destruction. So are terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But if everyone stands aside, then those evils prevail.

I personally do not believe there is a direct link between al-Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime. Certainly none has been proven. However I recognize that what al-Qaeda did with hijacked aircraft Saddam could do, and has done, with his weapons of mass destruction. For more than a decade he has treated the United Nations resolutions with contempt. Let us be clear, if the Bush administration had not forced the issue he would still be ignoring those resolutions. There would have been no inspections, no chance of removing those weapons peacefully.

I believe it would have been wiser to allow more time for the inspectors to carry out their work. I hoped the Security Council would have found a way forward. I wish Canada had played a larger role and had intervened much earlier, but that did not happen so the question is, what do we do now? The legality of any intervention is key.

Canada's legacy, if I may use that word, is to support international law. Are interventions in Iraq legal? If they are, we should support them. If they are not, we should not. Did the Prime Minister ever ask? Will he publish the opinion of Canada as Britain and other nations publish their opinions?

The next step is for Canada to begin immediately to prepare to put back together whatever Saddam Hussein and his weapons, and a war, might tear apart.

The question of reconstruction is an area of Canada's natural and quite exceptional strengths. We should be spelling out the ways in which we will help rebuild the region again. The British are ahead of us here, too. They have already set out detailed proposals as to how they would help in dealing with reconstruction of the region.

We should be leading other countries which are good at mediation and reconstruction. We should be talking to the Nordics. We should be talking to Japan. We should be talking to countries that have lived through similar experiences, like South Africa. We should be taking initiatives and we are taking none. Canada does not participate under this government.

The United States has set up a reconstruction proposal. Again, let us be frank. That task is better handled by countries and by agencies who are not superpowers. A reconstruction team needs to be built and Canada must play a leading role in building it.

I look forward to an opportunity to expand on that theme later but I want now to pass my time to my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

7:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is a very difficult evening. I find it very sad that we are actually at the threshold of a war. We are here in this nice, warm, dry room, safe and protected, and in another land people are so fearful for their lives and the lives of their children, fearful for their houses and everything they have. It just seems to me to be such a failure by all of us, such a failure of diplomacy, that people are faced with this right now, tonight. We can just imagine what the families in Iraq are doing, what they face and whether they even have a clue about what is coming at them and what the consequences might be, and whether there might be hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of casualties and whether whole families will be obliterated.

It is such a sad night. It is hard to believe that we are at this point. I did not think we would be, but it sounds like we are. It is hard to believe that diplomacy has failed so badly that we are at this point. I do not believe that there is any need for it. I do not think it ever should have happened.

We all agree with the problem. It is unfortunate and we all agree with the problem. All countries agree with the problem, even those that are so aggressive at fighting the actions by the United States, Britain and Spain. Even those that are so aggressive in opposing them agree with the problem. They just do not agree with the solution and the strategy and that is where it is such a terrible failure of diplomacy.

It is hard to believe that families in Iraq now are digging holes in the ground to try to find protection for their families, to try to find some way to avoid the war. It is hard for us in this room and in this country to believe that this is what it has come to. Again, we agree with the problem. We just do not agree with the solution. I just heard the Canadian Alliance member talk about the failure of the United Nations. He listed all the failures of the United Nations. To me, it is not a failure of the United Nations. It is that we have failed the United Nations.

We have failed the United Nations. The Security Council passed a unanimous vote to engage Hans Blix to go to Iraq and do his job, to do his weapons inspections and verification. It was a unanimous vote, but why are we failing to allow that man and his team to do that job? What happened? Why did we change direction? Why did some people and some countries change direction after they voted unanimously to hire this man to do the job? It puzzles me. I do not understand. Why did they vote for it in the first place if now they are not going to allow him to do the job?

I believe that this man is very credible. I think he is doing a competent job. It is not going as fast as any of us would like and it is not as successful as any of us would like, but meanwhile no one is dying. If we can continue this process, even if it is not working as fast and as effectively as we would like it to, as long as people are not casualties why not give it a chance until Dr. Blix says the system has failed and he is not making progress? He has not said that. He has said he is making progress. It is not going as fast as he wants, but he is making progress.

I have always thought that when the United Nations passed resolution 1441 that was a reasonable path to follow to solve the problem. All of a sudden we have abandoned it, so we have abandoned the United Nations. We have failed the United Nations. The United Nations has not failed us. I take great exception to that.

I just think it is so sad that we are at this stage. I am so puzzled at the developments and how we got here. Some people argue that resolution 1441 gives them the right to go to war, but when the resolution was proposed last fall, the original draft said that if Iraq did not comply it would result in a military conflict. Those words had to come out because it would never have passed. The words “military conflict” were taken out and the words “serious consequences” were put in, because “military conflict” was not acceptable to the United Nations. Now some people are saying that serious consequences means military conflict, but it never would have passed had those words been in there. It puzzles me why that suddenly has changed.

It is really sad. It is sad that Canada has not played a more important role from the very beginning. We have such power around the world. For a country that does not have the arms, whether we are at full force or not, we are so respected. We will never be a superpower from a military point of view, but we can be a superpower from a diplomatic point of view. Everybody respects Canada's opinion. They have for a long, long time. We built up that reputation. We earned that reputation. We have wasted it in this case. We have not used it.

We could have been in there in the first place trying to influence the U.S. policy, trying to help it make a decision to do this a little differently, because again, all the countries I know of agree that the problem is the belligerent leader in Iraq. That is the problem. Everybody agrees with that. It is just the strategy and the way it was introduced that are the failure, in my opinion.

Resolution 1441 was a stage in the path. When we got to the end of resolution 1441, when the weapons inspectors either succeeded or failed to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction, then there was another step. There was always intended to be another step. That step now has been circumvented. It is not ever going to happen, but Canada could have played a role to try to get consensus. There was never an attempt to get consensus. There was a plan put on the table, with “this is it”, but there was no attempt to get consensus, no attempt to ask France or Germany or China what they thought. That was never done. It was, “Here is the plan”. I believe that was the failure in diplomacy.

We could have played a part in this. We could have tried to help bring about that consensus, but we did not do it. We sat on the sidelines and we were invisible, no matter what anybody says. We could look at the news any night and hear what France was saying, what Germany was saying, what Spain was saying, what Portugal was saying, and what their positions were, but we never heard what Canada said. Canada was invisible. Right up until the very last few weeks, Canada was invisible. We should have been involved from the beginning.

We should have been trying to influence the U.S. We are its closest neighbour. We are its biggest trading partner. We are the country that understands the United States better than anybody. We should have been there trying to influence its direction. If we had tried earlier, maybe we could have saved a lot of trouble.

However, it takes risk to do these things. We cannot stand and be counted on these things without taking risks. The government chose not to take any risks, to stay back, to stay behind the curtains, to not come out and state our position until it was too late. Then we were so far in the dust that nobody listened to us. It is just a real shame. It was an opportunity to re-establish and continue to build on our wonderful reputation, an opportunity that we as a country lost.

As members of Parliament, we are lucky. We get to travel around the world. Everywhere I go, I am amazed at the respect people have for Canada and how they respect our opinion. I was at an OAS meeting and all the representatives there said that Canada was so important to them. They said, “We know that you have problems dealing with that giant next door, but imagine the problems we have, our little countries, with our little economies, with different languages. We have a much bigger problem dealing with that giant than you do. We want you, Canada, to be there to help counterbalance the difference between us”. They look to Canada.

I will never forget that meeting. They all spoke up and said they were so glad that Canada was a part of the organization, that they look to Canada to help them and provide counterbalance. We did not play the part this time. People were counting on us to be that counterbalance and we did not do it.

Here we are, at this very sad stage that is so hard to believe. It is so hard to believe that people, maybe tomorrow or maybe the next day, are going to be killed because of a failure in diplomacy. We are part of that failure. It is not a failure of the United Nations. It is a failure of all of us. I am just so sorry that we are at this stage.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

7:45 p.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not often rise in this House and say with what great disappointment and sadness I am able to express not just my views but primarily the views of our constituents on what we have been hearing on this most sad scenario, the pending war on Iraq.

Permit me to go back to just about four years ago, when we had the war and the bombing in Yugoslavia. We had a debate in this honourable House. I remember rising to my feet at that time to say what a sad moment it was as we were leaving one century, going into the new millennium, and that hopefully we would rid ourselves of war and bring peace, prosperity, health and happiness throughout the globe. I remember that at that time we had visitors from the United States. There was a joint Senate and House of Commons committee. We had with us some guests from the United States, Mr. Robert McNamara, former U.S. defense secretary, and General Lee Butler, retired commander-in-chief of the U.S. defense department. They talked about what happened in Vietnam. They said if they only knew then about what happened back in Vietnam, they obviously would have made different decisions.

Now I would like to fast forward for a moment to what we are faced with here today. It is great that members get up. The former leader of the Alliance Party spoke very eloquently about his position and we just heard from the Conservative Party, but what everybody has failed to understand is why the UN was designed. It was designed to prevent war, not to bring forth resolutions promoting war. What has happened over the past decades, let me say to my colleagues, is that we have weakened the UN because of our own lack of contributions, financial contributions. One of the nations that has failed miserably to pay its bills is the United States of America. Sadly, those are the facts.

I have to go back in history because the past always affects the future. I remember when on Kosovo in 1998 the then NATO secretary general, Mr. Javier Solana, said that “the solution to the problem is not in signing papers, it is in compliance”. I said that I agreed with him. When the United States today insists on compliance, on enforcement, I say yes, they are right, we should be moving in that direction.

But as the former leader of the Alliance said, what a hypocrisy. I too now have to say, what a hypocrisy on behalf of the United States, because let me remind all members of so many resolutions in the past. For example, there was resolution 194 from the General Assembly in 1948 for the right of the return of the refugees to their homeland on the Palestinian issue. Year in and year out, the resolution has been brought forward and ignored. Most recently, there was the resolution on Jenin. Why did we not ask for compliance? Why did we not ask for enforcement? There were the many resolutions on Cyprus for the return of the missing people. There was the resolution asking for the illegal occupation of Cyprus to be resolved. Why are we not asking for compliance? Why are we not asking for enforcement? Why all of a sudden are we so insistent that on resolution 1441 we must have compliance? That is the irony today.

Moreover, as the previous speaker from the Conservative Party said, resolution 1441 had no mention of military action. Now today we have the gang of war: the United States, Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, the big powers of the world. What happens in Spain if there is an uprising in the Basque region and there is bombing and there are murders? Are they going to pass a resolution to say let us send the planes in, let us start bombing? No, I do not think that is the way it should be. It is very sad in times like these, especially when the chief inspector, Mr. Blix, has said repeatedly that we are making progress, that we are further ahead today than we were a month or two ago.

The international community knows it is moving in the right direction. The head of the nuclear society said that we are making progress. My question is, why did we appoint these people in the first place?

Here we have a leader in Saddam Hussein who, as I said about Slobodan Milosevic, I do not support. I would love nothing better than to see him moved away from his power throne so that the people of Iraq can start living peacefully democratically to raise their children, educating their families and creating prosperity.

These are indeed very sad moments, but I know that the moral case for immediate war crumbled when the UN inspectors reported, “No evidence of ongoing nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq”. There was no ambiguity in this statement. Yet Colin Powell and all the American representatives chose to put it in one ear and out the other.

Millions and millions of people right across the globe are expressing the same view. Can we all be so wrong? Can Nelson Mandela be so wrong? We all know what Nelson Mandela said. We know what Bishop Desmond Tutu said not too long ago. We know what citizens of the world said. We know what Canadians said Sunday at noon here on Parliament Hill. Give peace a chance. What chance are we asking? We are asking for the inspectors to continue doing their work.

Trying to tie terrorism with Saddam Hussein is wrong. We know that this war has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with vested interest; interest in oil for example and so many other interests. However, we do not want to take it in that direction. We want to create and continue supporting the body called the UN. If we start tampering with it, we may weaken it as we are doing right now. The rule of law that we talk about is often discussed here in the House

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Kitchener Centre.

It is imperative today that we allow these discussions at the UN to continue, that we permit the inspectors to continue doing their work. There were 250,000 people the other day in Montreal sending the same message: we want peace not war.

Should we prepare? Of course we should. Should we always have our guard up? Of course we should. Are we here to fool ourselves and say that nothing will happen again if we dethrone Saddam Hussein? On the contrary, we must always be on guard.

My constituents in Scarborough Centre and other Canadians whom I have spoken to are very concerned. However, if today a precedent is being set by asking for enforcement and compliance of resolution 1441, then it is incumbent upon the United States to lead the way and to lead by example and all the other resolutions that have been there will come forward again in the future. The Middle East issue is a very important issue to world peace. The Cyprus issue is a very important issue to world peace. The Kurd issue is just as important. I was reading the other day an article by Mr. Haroon Siddiqui who writes for the Toronto Star . He talks about the rule of international law. He said:

Iraq has not invaded America. It is not capable of it. It is not threatening to. Nor is it threatening anybody else. The argument that war must be waged to protect Americans from Saddam is simply not credible. Even less so is the attempt to link Iraq to al-Qaeda. If one accepts Bush's logic of invading those who, knowingly or unwittingly, financed, hosted or helped terrorists, then Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and Qatar should be attacked long before Iraq.

We are not talking innuendo and hearsay. We are dealing with facts. We know what is going on out there. This unjustified effort on behalf of the United States that seems to have blinkers right now is unacceptable.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

7:55 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in tonight's debate on the situation in Iraq.

I represent the riding of Kitchener Centre. The population of my riding and indeed Waterloo region is well known for its ethnic diversity. As a matter of fact, we are the fourth largest settlement area for new Canadians in Canada. Immigrants from all over the world have chosen Kitchener as their settling place as they made their home in Canada. Some of my constituents have families in Iraq. The situation in Iraq has evoked intense emotions from all corners of Canada and these emotions reverberate strongly in Kitchener Centre.

Canada has always been an advocate for global peace and security, earning the respect of all nations. Canada's position on Iraq has been clear from the outset. Our objective is the complete elimination of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means and in accordance with the recommendation of the United Nations Security Council. As a member of Parliament it is not very often that many of us receive phone calls praising the action of the government. It simply is not human nature. It is far more likely that we hear from constituents when they are unhappy with either the position of the government or the position of a debate in Parliament. It has been my experience that the situation in Iraq has been quite different. Constituents are pleased with the government's action.

As a matter of fact, a resident of my riding, Ron Hiller, wrote:

I am impressed with what the Prime Minister is saying and doing in regard to trying to avoid a war in Iraq. Please urge him to continue his efforts. It doesn't get more important than this.

Indeed, it does not.

It is because of these significant implications that we must work through the United Nations. When the Minister of Foreign Affairs appeared before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade one of the questions I posed to him was as important as the tension in Iraq. I asked, can we in fact imagine a world without the United Nations? For over 50 years multilateralism has been a defining quality of Canadian diplomacy. Today, in the face of imminent conflict, we continue to try to build bridges and that is certainly what my constituents advocate at this time.

I found some comments made by members opposite to be interesting. Despite the fact that we may not be packed in the House, one of the beauties of having this proceeding televised is that I know there are many people watching this on their television sets, as indeed I was for one of my colleagues opposite.

We must appreciate the fact that the soft diplomacy, the ability to build bridges, which has been the hallmark of Canada, is not necessarily something that one reads about on the front pages of the newspaper. I know for a fact that our Prime Minister worked very diligently with our good friend in the United States, President Bush, and urged him to go to the United Nations because that was our preferred course. That was the course that Canadians and the Canadian government recognized was the way to go.

We must consider the impact that unilateral action will have on the UN. The UN Security Council has been unable to agree on a new resolution authorizing military action. I would like to point out that our ambassador to the United Nations, Paul Heinbecker, is actually a hometown boy of Kitchener. We have watched with a great deal of pride to see not only the kind of representation that he has given Canada but the leadership he has provided in this very important multilateral UN milieu.

For many Iraqis the UN has been an essential lifeline operating the world's largest food distribution operation, distributing food through 46,000 ration agents throughout Iraq. Think about that. It is like having a corner store, only instead of having the stock supplied domestically in a free trade market the food is actually supplied by the United Nations. These 46,000 storefronts will no longer be able to receive food supplies and distribute it to the Iraqi people.

Military action will immediately lead to the breakdown of water and transportation systems and cause a collapse in a food distribution system that is the lifeline for Iraqis. For a population that is already as vulnerable as Iraqis are today, this is certain to cause severe hardship.

If the United States and its allies were to use force without the authorization of the Security Council, in a manner that is generally considered unlawful, how would that serve the global community, not only in resolving the situation but, as we look to the future, other conflicts which undoubtedly would arise?

The consequences to the UN system may depend on whether the conflict is quick, therefore a small number of casualties, and as a result demonstrating that Iraq was, in fact, in the process of developing weapons of mass destruction, which indeed has been the Canadian standpoint all along. It is our intention to see weapons of mass destruction destroyed.

Such a revelation may enable the UN system to recover as there would be justification for the action having been taken. But of course we have no guarantee that this will be the case. We cannot count on the end justifying the means. It is of great concern to me that the conflict could easily spell the end of the UN system as we know it. We cannot compromise the integrity or the credibility of the United Nations in favour of unilateral action.There is too great a risk.

As our Prime Minister said recently, the United Nations can be a great force for good in the world and it is in all of our interests to use the power of international institutions in this very complex world.

In the spring of 1999 former president of the Czech Republic Vaclav Havel addressed the House of Commons. President Havel's remarkable leadership transformed his country from one of fear and oppression into a democratic republic. In his speech before the Canadian Parliament the president said that the role of governments, the rightful role of geopolitical bodies, is the protection of human rights. President Havel concluded his remarks with this statement:

...human rights are indivisible and that if injustice is done to some, it is done to all.

Clearly, we as Canadians must play a positive role in our turbulent world. Ultimately our values are not just being part of being Canadian but they are part of being part of humanity.

Kitchener-Waterloo is defined by a proud and diverse faith community, including the Mennonite Church. The Mennonite faith is based on a deep conviction that war does not present a substantive solution to any conflict. Reverend Mark Diller Harder shared his views on the crisis of Iraq with me recently. He said:

As a Mennonite people we pray for peace. We will work for peace. We call others to join us in building a world that provides peace and justice for all.

This is a sentiment that we share, regardless of our race or religion, and that is rooted in the common respect and love that we have for humanity.

Canada is extremely concerned about the human rights situation in Iraq. Canada has repeatedly condemned Iraq's human rights record. We have co-sponsored resolutions on human rights abuses in Iraq at the UN General Assembly and at the Human Rights Commission. Canadian officials have raised our concerns with Iraqi officials.

Since 1990, Canada has provided $35 million in humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable people in Iraq and Iraqi refugees forced to flee to neighbouring countries. Canada has also participated in joint efforts to alleviate the impact of international sanctions on innocent Iraqi civilians.

Canadians are proud of our long standing tradition in foreign policy which has been to pursue and promote dialogue and understanding among the peoples of the world, and to seek political and diplomatic solutions, even in the face of imminent conflict. By continuing to act consistently with these values world peace and security will be enhanced and international institutions strengthened.

The rightful role of government is the protection of human rights. The United Nations provides an appropriate arena in which Canada can join our allies and ensure the protection and preservation of our freedom and world security.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

8:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak in the debate on Iraq. I have had the opportunity to do that on a couple of other occasions. I know that it is always a difficult debate to take part in because there are so many factors, and I applaud all members who are taking part in this.

It is an interesting time right now. While I am speaking in the House, I am competing with the President of the United States on what he will is suggesting the action of the U.S. will be. I wonder how many people will be listening to me in comparison to that, and that includes my own party members. Nonetheless, I will do my best to put my thoughts on record because I think it is very important debate.

There are a few different factors. As I have said on past occasions, being the only Muslim in the House of Commons, I have concerns about taking action against dictators who need to have action against them for the freedom and democracy of individuals around the world. How that action is taken and what would amount from taking any form of action obviously concerns me.

This is one of those historical days that sometimes we wish that we do not have to live through. It is one of those days when world events overtake those everyday things that we take for granted. It seems like George Bush, in his opening comments just now, has given 48 hours to Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq. After that period, it seems that there will be some sort of action taken.

The entire world has been on pins and needles since President Bush named Saddam Hussein's Iraq as part of the axis of evil. President Bush made his intention clear on September 12 of last year that he wanted to remove the threat of Saddam. He went to the United Nations and asked for its support in disarming Iraq.

In November the world community responded overwhelmingly to his call and the Security Council adopted, as we all know, resolution 1441 with unanimity.

We have watched as weapons inspectors have scurried to and fro in the Iraqi desert, hunting out weapons of mass destruction and, unfortunately, usually without any luck.

There was the destruction of the Al-Samoud missiles and there was the discovery of drones capable of spraying anthrax on unexpecting civilians, but nowhere was there a smoking gun to be found, a shell filled with mustard gas, a rocket tipped with VX. That is not to say that through the process as well Saddam was not complying. There was some fear among all the allies, including the UN, that in fact Saddam was doing what he could to hide some of it.

The Iraqis and the French have said that this is proof that Iraq has disarmed. The British and the Americans have said that this is proof of Iraqi deception and non-compliance of resolution 1441.

We have watched positions harden. We have watched numerous failed attempts to broker a second resolution at the UN to authorize war. We have seen other countries put forward compromises, hoping to stave off war if only for a few more days. We have seen the intransigence of the French who have said they will veto all attempts at a compromise. We have watched numerous debates, at different levels, whether here or in other parts of the world.

In this House we have seen a few different reactions. Because of the Conservatives leadership race, we have seen some candidates saying no, that we should never be involved in action, while others have said that they think we should stand with the U.S. and bring on the invasion.

At least the members of the NDP have been somewhat consistent. It has been their position that Canada should never participate in war, even if the cause of war is just, a policy that was disproven at Munich but one that appeasers still today maintain.

The Bloc has maintained its position for UN involvement. Consistent, yes, but hardly realistic when we have an institution that relies upon the goodwill of countries like Libya which currently chairs the human rights arm of the UN.

The government has been the opposite of consistent. We have seen the defence minister saying one thing and the foreign affairs minister saying something entirely different. Then we have the Prime Minister making it up as he goes along. That is of course until today when he finally took a solid position.

It has been my party, the Canadian Alliance, that Canadians have had to look to for leadership on this issue.

It is not an easy thing to say right from the get-go that we have to stand with our allies even though we have to work through the UN process. However there has to be a united front against dictators like Saddam Hussein. While we have taken a position that may not have been popular, it is a position that we firmly believe is right.

When we say the world would be better off without weapons of mass destruction, it is because we believe that and not because it is popular. When we say that dictators like Saddam Hussein are criminals, it is because we believe that is right. When we say that we have to support our allies, is because we believe that despite our differences with the American government, we believe democracies must stick together.

This is the bond of democracy. It is a love of freedom and a real wish for all of the world's citizens to live in peace. The Canadian Alliance firmly believes this. We do not equivocate like our government. We do not depend on how the wind is blowing, especially when it comes to popular opinion on the issue.

Now the question becomes this. If we treasure the lives of people, how can we support a war? I want to make it clear that we never did support nor do we still support an open-ended senseless war. That is not done in the interests of the world community. We have always said that peace is preferable and Saddam should disarm.

We know that peace is not the absence of conflict and to be frank, Iraq has been in a constant state of conflict since Saddam became president. The sanctions are killing more children and civilians in a single year than what allied bombing did during the 1991 gulf war. Saddam arrests, tortures and kills those who oppose him and those who stand up for freedom in his own country.

It is absolutely a falsehood to say that Iraq is not embroiled in a conflict. Is it not incumbent on us, the privileged few in Canada and other countries, to stand up for Iraqi civilians and say enough is enough?

With that question being put, I think back to my family's own experience. I was only a toddler at the time when we came to Canada. When we came here, it was under similar circumstances of being persecuted in Uganda. My family fled a radical dictator similar to that of Saddam Hussein in Idi Amin of Uganda where our choice was clear. We had to leave the country and everything we had behind or face death.

At that time I remember there was some decision as to whether the UN or anyone should be involved with any conflict, and no action was taken. However countries like Great Britain, some European countries, the United States and of course Canada opened up their doors to many refugees fleeing from there, and that was a great thing.

I know as a Muslim growing up in Canada that I was able to become a part of the community and the culture. However we all know that there are many challenges that people face coming from other countries. In this place we represent people from all parts of the world and all different communities and cultures. The one thing my father always stressed to me, and I sometimes think was the reason why I ended up in this place, was how important freedom and democracy were and how we could not take that for granted.

As successful as we were in East Africa, as my family had businesses and we had communities that shared successes of a similar sort, we were not involved with the process of government and we were not involved in putting checks on people like Idi Amin who came into power. Having that influence from such a young age, from a person like my father who lost everything in coming to this great country, really left a huge imprint on my mind as I was growing up.

It is no surprise that after getting involved in the process of democracy to the point where I have ended up in this place, I speak quite passionately about getting involved in places where we can deter some of the hardships that my own family and others felt in Uganda. What can we do in a proactive way to try to bring freedom and democracy around the world?

I have heard it also being put that we cannot democratize some of these Muslim countries because their religion and their beliefs are not compatible with democracy. It is completely abominable that people believe that. We have seen the history of some of these countries that have had unfortunate dictatorships, even though they have been in the guise of democracy. Iraq is one of those examples. Unfortunately there are dictators who hijack their own form of democracy and institute a form of democracy that is not compatible with the democracies we see in the western world.

This is why, if we want democracies to work and we want many of these countries to be a part of the large nation in respect for human rights for women and for various cultural groups and religious beliefs, all these different diversities that exist in Muslim countries as well, we have a responsibility as wider nations of the world to try to put pressure on people like Saddam Hussein to comply with standards that we all accept will even help to improve their own country's situation.

One of the concerns also with what may happen in the next few days in the Middle East, is how war will affect the Middle East and what sort of instability it will bring in the short term and if any war does take place, how we can hopefully set up some democratic systems and governing procedures that will institute a proper democracy in the interests of the people of Iraq.

For instance, Saudi Arabia is one of the countries we feel, and many people have said, that if there is war in Iraq it could create instability. We have seen the history there and we have seen that Saudi Arabia has in fact previously been threatened by Saddam. He has fired scud missiles into that country. Unfortunately, because of that there is a real balance of power, even among the Muslim countries, to try to guard themselves from any imminent attack.

With any movement into Iraq, we must obviously start thinking. Mr. Bush has given Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave in exile. Any action that the Americans may take, we would hope that this government would be involved in a post-war scenario in helping to set up the new government located there and in helping to set up the principles of democracy that would be long standing and would hopefully stand in the interests of Iraqis. That is where we have a real opportunity. Now that the government said we will not be involved be any military action, we should really focus on the post-Iraq scenario, and I will talk a little bit about that later.

Iran has also been put in as part of this axis of evil. We have seen that it is also in the process of developing nuclear weapons. In this country we know the civilian government is one that is a bit more open and we can take this opportunity to carve out a new, not so radical path for Iran. We can have a positive influence in trying to set up a long term democratic regime. However it has to take some stand in principle on behalf of countries like Canada to work with our allies to do so, especially in a post-war scenario.

I want to go on to talk about how we can take part as well in the next while, regardless of what may happen in Iraq or in the Middle East, in the peace process and just to highlight some of the successes and failures to date, because it is all linked together in trying to bring stability into that area.

The positive steps taken after the 1991 gulf war, such as the Oslo accord, were things in which many people were involved. The hope was that peace and security would be brought to the region. No one can argue that the American involvement in the Middle East in this time was crucial and key to the success of it.

Now, as we look forward, especially since we recently heard the British proposal for the road map for peace, I think it is clear that removing Saddam from creating instability in the area may actually make this more attainable. It will also help to create a level of security as well for Israel, which we are trying to do on both sides, whether its Palestine or Israel.

The subsequent breakdown of peace over the last while obviously has links to Iraq. Some people may deny that but we had some information that Saddam was paying terrorists and suicide bombers to go ahead with their plan of action and kill innocent civilians. The peace process has been paralyzed for over three years because of many of the actions related to Iraq.

This is a great opportunity, as I mentioned, with Great Britain going to the Security Council for a new resolution to lay out the road map for peace. After this whole situation developed, many people have questioned the effectiveness of the UN and how effective it will be in the future when it comes to deliberations on countries in military action because clearly there are different interests at stake.

It is unfortunate that we are reaching a point in history where the credibility of that institution, which could have a huge and tremendous effect around the world, is going to be questioned.

As we get into this process again of how and what is going to be happening, I would like to highlight some of the situations, as I have said in the past, with Saddam's crime against humanity and non-compliance.

Saddam Hussein previously ordered the use of chemical agents against Iran during the 10 year conflict and against the Kurdish people in the north. Over 1.5 million people died during the Iran-Iraq conflict. The invasion of Kuwait in 1990 was illegal under international law. Atrocities and crimes committed by Iraq during its occupation have been well documented, including murder, torture, the pillaging of Kuwaiti households and national treasures, and the destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells which led to massive environmental catastrophes, as well as obviously the scud attacks against Israel during the gulf war. We have now seen that Saddam has no hesitation in attacking people around him and often without any provocation.

Following the gulf war, Iraq agreed to disarm and allow UN weapons inspectors to destroy chemical weapons. However, in 1998 weapons inspectors left because of Iraqi non-compliance with these UN resolutions. The oil for food program established to allow Iraqi citizens to avoid the brunt of Saddam's actions has been circumvented also by the Iraqi regime. There has been a clear non-compliance of resolution 1441.

Chief inspector Blix reported to the UN Security Council on January 27 numerous breaches by Iraq, thereby failing to fulfill its obligations under resolution 1441. Iraq was obligated to declare all of the chemical weapons and all devices but in fact it has not. The 12,000-plus page report had glaring omissions, especially with regard to nerve gas, anthrax, and chemical bombs and warheads. Iraq was supposed to grant unfettered access to all weapons sites. Access has been granted to sites but no effort has been made on Iraq's part to make these inspections easier at those sites. We have seen that right up until today.

Complying with the letter of the law but not the spirit has really been the mandate the Iraqi regime has been following. Canada's response to Iraqi non-compliance has been mixed at best. Canada has, and rightly so, acted with the United Nations when it comes to the issues of dealing with Iraqi non-compliance and we think that has been a good thing.

Canada supported the UN multilateral action in the 1990-91 action to prevent Saddam from holding on to Kuwait. Canada has supported every UN resolution adopted in the past decade, from sanctions to establishing the oil for food program and now to resolution 1441.

Canada also supported Operation Desert Fox in 1998 when Saddam refused to co-operate with weapons inspectors. This is an important point because this did not have UN approval, yet the House, from what I have heard some of my colleagues say today, did have an open debate and the House did take a vote so that all members could have a say.

Even though we finally see a position from the government today, there still has not been that commitment to democracy that many members in the House would like to see in order to have a final say as to what we believe should be done in this particular case. The government, when in opposition, had the right to do so. It is incredible that today, when it does have the chance to let all members have a say, it refuses that opportunity.

I would like to summarize what the Canadian Alliance has said in the past. We have questioned the effectiveness of sanctions. Something I was happy to see was when an all party committee actually agreed and there was unanimous consent to ease the sanctions, I believe it was in 2000, to try to help the people of Iraq. We were on side with that because it is not clear what detrimental effects sanctions can have on the people on the ground.

There have been a number of other fronts with which we have been involved. I know my time is limited, so I would like to simply leave off by saying that in the next little while, as we know, unless Saddam does decide to leave Iraq in exile, we are faced with military action. Seeing that the government is not going to be involved, we must start to work toward the post-war scenario.

We should hope that the conclusion of any war will be fast. Canada should be making plans now with the UN, the U.S. and our allies for post-conflict restructuring of Iraq. The focus should be democratic reforms, inclusive of all ethnic groups and committed to peaceful relations with its neighbours and the world.

Canada could have a long term positive effect in developing that strategy and that is where we should be focusing. I hope that our credibility will not be affected with our allies because of this decision by the government.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

8:25 p.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, over the past number of months a deeply troubled global community has watched the American government as it has fanned the flames of war against Iraq. As I was heading into the chamber tonight we were delivered a cold and brutal truth that now the President of the United States has given his final 48 hour ultimatum.

The Bush administration has tried unsuccessfully to justify this war against Iraq. Individuals, communities and nations have rejected the American claims that Iraq presents a security threat to the rest of the world. None of these individuals or nations support the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime, but none support the idea that a war for regime change is legitimate.

I forgot to mention, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the member for Algoma—Manitoulin.

The Bush administration says that this war against Iraq is part of an ongoing battle to fight terrorism. Yet many have clearly stated that an unjustified, illegitimate attack against Iraq, such as the one the American government has set the world on its course tonight, will only act to sow the seeds of terrorism wider and deeper. The idea that an American led war against Iraq would create a domino effect leading to peace and stability within the Middle East, an idea that has been put forward by the Bush administration, is a foolhardy notion. The critics of this notion are many. Indeed the critics of this peace domino effect exist within the American government itself. Many see that an American led attack against Iraq would instead result in huge instabilities and chaos in the region.

We are told that President Bush is a deeply religious man, and as we know, it is indeed a dangerous and volatile cocktail when religion and politics are mixed. We must ask ourselves why a deeply religious man refuses to listen to the pleas from the world's religious leaders and the prayers of millions of protesters across the planet, including the prayers that come from the lips of American citizens.

This push for war defies all reasoned, logical thinking and now it is with petulance and impatience that Bush informs the rest of the world that the moment of truth, his deadline, has been reached. Impatience is the key image that we should hold in our mind's eye of this man and his government, the tapping of the impatient American war boot as the soldiers wait for the final call to war; the impatient tapping of the pen on the desk of the American generals as they await this final call from the president; the impatient tapping of the war correspondents' fingers on empty laptops as they wait for the rush of horror and gore to fuel their words.

What of the Iraqi people, the innocent men, women and children? What are their innermost feelings, their thoughts, their terrors as they await this impending carnage?

As an associate member of the foreign affairs committee, I have attended meetings to hear expert testimony on the Iraqi situation. We heard moving and very chilling testimony from a number of humanitarian relief organizations, groups and individuals who have spent many years working with Iraqi people. They know about the daily hardships these people face.

Sixteen million people depend on food distribution systems that will be grossly disrupted once hostilities commence. Iraq is a desert country and people need the electrical system to deliver water. If the electrical grid is damaged, people will be without clean, potable water. People are already badly nourished and suffering from diseases and medical conditions that would easily be treated in western hospitals. Many exist in a weakened state and it will be very difficult for them to survive more hardships.

The Iraqi children are particularly vulnerable. Many are malnourished and face starvation. The psychological effects of the terror of the impending war will scar these children deeply and forever. War Child, an NGO that works with war affected children, conducted a survey among Iraqi children last fall. It found that 40% did not think life was worth living. Children as young as five years old were interviewed.

Currently, Canadian humanitarian and relief organizations do not have the capacity to deal with the aftermath of this American led war against Iraq. The Canadian government needs to provide resources now in order to help the humanitarian relief organizations do the very difficult work that they will have to soon do.

The government, through the leadership of the Prime Minister, has taken a very important first step in making a clear and unequivocal statement. As the Prime Minister said today in the House, “Canada will not participate in a war with Iraq without a new resolution from the Security Council”. The Prime Minister knows the course of action the Americans are inextricably bound with is unjust and unacceptable.

The Prime Minister has been able to successfully untangle Canadian foreign policy from that of the hyperpower to the south of us. We are an independent and sovereign nation whose Prime Minister, in the words of Dalton Camp, “knows it is better to let his powder dry before opening fire”, a counterpoint to the jingoistic, petulant impatience blatantly displayed by Mr. Bush. Today the Prime Minister said the words that Canadians want to hear, that we will not participate in this unjustified, illegitimate war. These are words of strength and courage.

The Quakers in my riding of York North organized a peace rally. I congratulate them for doing this and joining the millions of people around the globe who spoke out for peace. Unfortunately, Bush and his government have chosen to ignore this. The reality of this final ultimatum of 48 hours is shocking and the impact of the meaning of these words will take months, years, if not decades, to be fully understood.

What kind of domino effect is really going to be felt not only in the region but across the planet? I fear for the men, women and children of Iraq just as I fear for my own children's safety and security.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

8:35 p.m.


Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, like all my colleagues who have spoken this evening and those who will follow, we have chance to speak in this place at a very challenging time for the world.

Just a few minutes ago Mr. Bush, the U.S. president, concluded an important address to not only his own citizens in the U.S., but to people around the world. In that address he basically gave Iraq's leadership 48 hours to decide its own fate. In this next 48 hours we will either see a conclusion of a march to war or, hopefully, a miracle. Lest we drown ourselves in wishful thinking, it appears all too obvious that the chance for a miracle is very remote.

Nonetheless, there will be millions of people around the world, including Canadians, who will be praying and hoping, and others who will be wringing their hands in the very limited possibility that Mr. Hussein will see that the only option it would appear to avoid war is for him to stand down.

As recently as yesterday I actually believed that it was possible to avoid war. However I am sure, like most members in this place, that hope has been severely diminished, but we will see.

I would like to remark, as my predecessor has, on the statement made by the Prime Minister today on behalf of all Canadians and the position, quite frankly, that will resonate with the vast majority, certainly of my constituents but of citizens across the land that we must at this time and in the future put our trust in the UN.

The Prime Minister said today that we believe Iraq must fully abide by the resolution of the United Nations Security Council. We have always made it clear that Canada requires the approval of the Security Council if we are to participate in a military campaign. Over the last few weeks the Security Council has been unable to agree on a new resolution authorizing military action.

Canada worked very hard to find a compromise to bridge the gap in the Security Council but unfortunately we were not successful. If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate.

I fully support the position taken by the Prime Minister. He has taken us through a very difficult time and these times will continue to be difficult. I have little doubt that while Canada's role in a military action will not be there, I do know that Canada's role in the following rebuilding of Iraq will be there. I take great solace in the fact that our Minister for International Cooperation just announced a quarter of a billion dollars to assist Afghanistan in its reconstruction, and I have little doubt that Canada's commitment to a post-war Iraq will be just as strong and just as serious.

My riding of Algoma—Manitoulin was once represented by the late right hon. Lester B. Pearson who, as members will know, left us a great legacy when it comes to peacekeeping and in his work to support the United Nations.

I believe that while the tragedy of a war and the loss of innocent human lives is the greatest tragedy, very close behind that will be the potential loss of whatever credibility the UN has earned itself over the past 50-plus years.

Some will argue that the UN is irrelevant and has always been irrelevant. Others will say, and I am in that camp, that the UN is still a work in progress and that every opportunity we have to build the UN indeed we should take.

This situation with respect to Iraq was one such occasion, an occasion where we as a world, including our neighbours to the south, should have taken as an opportunity to add some more bricks and mortar to the UN as a very important planetary institution. However, the world is a long way from being perfect and we know that.

My only hope is that this particular time period will not see the demise of the UN to a state from which it cannot recover. It will take a very serious body blow but I am confident that men and women of goodwill from all parts of the world will see that this recent time, if nothing else, should require us to bend our shoulder to the wheel and work harder to ensure that the United Nations in situations like this becomes a stronger player in the world.

I am one who believes that we can use worldwide institutions of governance more to bring about a more peaceful world, a world that is more fair for the poor, that is better for the environment and that is a place where the quality of life for everybody each year grows instead of the gap growing.

Where we have put so much confidence in the UN at different times only to have our confidence shattered, and on this day and quite possibly over the next two days have that hope shattered again, this is a time I think for the world, once the dust settles, to step back and rethink the structure of the United Nations and its ability to engage itself in the difficult challenges that face the world. Indeed, I think the very first step the United Nations will take, if the war is a short war, should it happen, is to shortly thereafter rebuild Iraq. Hopefully the world will see that it should never bring itself to this precipice again.

Like all my colleagues here, we had the chance to visit our ridings over the last couple of weeks. We heard much about the issues of the day and in particular the potential war in Iraq. My constituents, with some exceptions but in the great majority, indicated that they would want the United Nations support for our involvement.

We are a nation of peacekeepers. I had a chance, as some of my colleagues have had, to spend a little bit of time in the military. I had the great honour to spend a week in Wainwright, Alberta, last August and then a week in Bosnia in November with the 1st battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, a great program that the former minister of defence had a hand in developing. I had a chance to meet people in our army in particular but our military in general, who I am sure are the finest military people in the world. If we were to ask them about the way they would tell us that, at all cost, peace must be our first objective.

This is not a time for me or the House to condemn our neighbours to the south. They are our friends today and they will be our friends tomorrow, next week and next month. I think we are past picking apart the entrails of the chicken to determine how we got here and where we are going. Mr. Bush will answer to his own citizens and he will of course answer to the stories written about this time which will become part of the history of our planet. That will be as it will be.

The main thing for me is whether this time brings us closer to peace in the world in the long run or further apart? Being the eternal optimist, I would find, even in this difficult time, some consolation that there has been a galvanization in the world about such matters, and that men and women of goodwill will find the way, in the medium and long term, to bring peace to this planet.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

8:45 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Rosemont. This speech tonight might be the most important speech I make in the House since being elected in 1993, because these are very troubled and tense times that the world is experiencing.

We know when a war starts, but not when it will end. It will no doubt start in about 48 hours, according to the ultimatum served earlier by President Bush to Saddam Hussein. Knowing Saddam Hussein's position, and given his reaction this afternoon, we can unfortunately predict there will be an armed conflict. Our job is to express our views, but we must not lose sight of what is important.

What is important, in my opinion, lies in the three notions of this debate that have divided international public opinion. But there are many more people who have taken one of the sides in this debate, and I believe that it is the minority that is imposing its will.

So there are three notions that we must consider. They are the legitimacy of this war, the legality of this war and the necessity of this war. Nowhere have these three notions been proven: not at the United Nations, not at the Security Council, not in worldwide public opinion, nor in the international community has anyone demonstrated that this war is legal, necessary or legitimate. Colin Powell has not managed to prove it, nor has Tony Blair. The same is true of the UN inspectors, who maintained their neutrality, despite the pressures they were subjected to. On the contrary, the UN inspectors had to acknowledge, ultimately, that the Iraqi regime was in fact cooperating with the whole process.

Therefore, we must question the current position, because if we cannot find plausible reasons, then everything is arbitrary. That is what I want to emphasize, because we must ask ourselves in good conscience how this war is justified, how we can explain it. American leaders have so far failed when it comes to providing reasons that appear valid.

In this respect, several possible explanations have been put forward. Are the Americans motivated by the need for oil, and the fact that Iraq still has huge oil reserves, which could help protect American reserves? Is it to fight terrorism? But no link could be made officially or scientifically between the regime in Iraq and al-Qaeda. Could it be to usher in a new geopolitical order in the Middle East? If so, at what price? And, as everyone knows, there is direct connection with another very complex situation known as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Is it simply because the American leaders want to impose a presence and their power in the Middle East, in keeping with a concept that pervades the American culture and which is called the manifest destiny, that is their manifest destiny whereby they never stop expanding their hegemony?

Is it to push for Saddam Hussein's regime to be replaced? If so, where does it stop, as the Prime Minister of Canada pointed out? How far shall it go? Who will be next on the list of political leaders to be replaced?

Or is this—I hope this is not serious and that the idea put forward by some is unfounded—an elaborate diversion tactic to distract attention from the terrible scandals that have rocked the American economy in recent months? I think of Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia where, as we know, thousands of small investors have been cheated in their investments.

Thousands of jobs were lost. This, we know, shook the U.S. economy and affected mainly, in terms of their credibility, stock markets in the U.S..

I do hope that this is not true, but could this not be a huge diversionary tactic? American leaders are currently, I think, very isolated from the international community. Only two countries support the United States. They are now being condemned throughout the world by millions and millions of people.

The United States in particular, despite the media concentration we are familiar with, is being condemned by important figures in the international community. I am thinking of Nelson Mandela, who spoke in very harsh, virulent terms. I am thinking of the Vatican, which has said that if there is any military intervention in Iraq without UN approval, it will not be a war but aggression. Words are important in diplomacy. That is what the Vatican said. Jesse Jackson, the black leader, has taken a stand against the U.S. administration. Jimmy Carter, a former President of the United States, very courageously condemned his government's intention to take unilateral action, without UN approval.

We must be clear. When we talk about having or not having UN approval, we must remember that the UN is the custodian of international law. When action is taken without UN approval, that action is illegal. The UN authorizes or prohibits war. It is not a detail, a secret or a whim. This organization gives the authorization. If a state does not follow UN law, it is a rogue state. That is exactly why the League of Nations was founded in the 1920s and the United Nations in 1948.

It would be a huge step backward for mankind and perhaps the first moments of a crisis that, unfortunately, could degenerate and have very negative, incommensurable consequences.

Because they have been so brutally attacked by the media in the U.S., I think that in this entire debate we should commend the countries of Europe. I am thinking especially of France, which has defended itself and put up a very courageous fight in this debate. It has demonstrated leadership and determination. It is perhaps because Europe—I am thinking about France, Germany, Belgium—consists of countries with people who have experienced the agonies of war and suffering. They know that we always know when a war begins, but not when it is going to end. That might be what is motivating the leaders of these countries in the courage they have had, despite threats of retaliation; it is no secret. They do not know the future, but despite these threats, they have stayed the course, which is peace, not war.

Based on what we know about the American strategy, there will be 3,000 bombs dropped in the first 48 hours, if all goes according to plan. However, 3,000 bombs in the first 48 hours will result in a massacre and carnage. Faced with such a situation, there is a clear risk that this will degenerate across the world and spread from continent to continent. In fact, specific groups of people—namely Arabs and Muslims—could very well feel targeted, attacked and humiliated. Where will this end?

Before I conclude I would like to express my sympathy for the Iraqi people who have been suffering since the gulf war in 1991 and under the embargo. Some 500,000 children have been affected. Some 200 children die each day because of the embargo imposed by the international community, which has been maintained—it seems—more arbitrarily than not, more often than not.

I would also like to commend the Canadian position. I think we are currently adopting the right position. We must not do indirectly what we do not want to do directly, that is maintain troops in the region to make it easier for other countries to fight against Iraq by taking their place in Afghanistan. I think we have to show true courage and openness.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

8:55 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am of course pleased to have the opportunity to speak this evening, but distressed at the same time, since we find ourselves obliged to hold this debate that is so important, to say the least, for the future of Iraq and the future of our civilization as well. As my colleague from Trois-Rivières has already said, this is a very sombre evening.

Before I address the core issue, that is the potential of an intervention in Iraq, I would like to make it clear that, regardless of the positions we have to take this evening, I feel it is important to stress the major impact the Saddam Hussein regime has had in recent years on the people of Iraq. A dictator who dares to use chemical warfare against his own people deserves to be denounced, in my opinion. The people of Iraq are a fragile population that has ended up with a dictatorial regime of which women and children, and of course men as well, have been the first victims.

Let us also remember that the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq have already had major consequences. According to UNICEF, two million children under the age of five have suffered and died since 1991. This represents 150 to 200 children a day who have fallen victim to the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq.

There was a dual factor involved: a regime that showed nothing but contempt for its own civilian population, and economic sanctions that hit the population first and foremost.

The conflict that is to come will have major consequences for civilian populations. Let us keep in mind that the last Gulf War in 1991 left between 100,000 and 200,000 Iraqi civilians dead. Civilian populations are, of course, the first ones to be affected.

It seems to me that it is important to put the situation in context in this evening's debate, that is the fact that the civilian populations are the first ones affected, regardless of whether or not there is an “oil for food” program. It may prevent famine, but it does not improve conditions for the people of Iraq, not by a long shot. These realities must be kept in mind throughout the debate.

The Bloc Quebecois feels that the objective of international policy toward Iraq must be compliance with the United Nations resolutions and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We believe in resolution 1441; all nations of the world believe in it. But the speech this evening by the President of the United States forces us to acknowledge that our interpretations of this resolution differ.

We believe that the basis of the resolution that was adopted in November 2002 is disarmament, of course, but peaceful disarmament. It is aimed at achieving disarmament not by force as the President of the United States would have us believe tonight, but first through diplomatic means, through peaceful means.

That is what we are repating tonight, what we believe in. We believe that such disarmament must be achieved by the international community and by the Security Council. We believe that inspectors must be given enough time to do their job. We also believe that the speech tonight by the President of the United States makes a mockery of the international community. Even though the United States has the support of Great Britain and Spain, let us not forget that the people of these countries are opposed to military action without the approval of the Security Council, the proportion being over 80% in the case of Spain and even greater in the case of Great Britain.

We believe that the democratic principle of respect for the people must apply in this case and that any talk of war makes a mockery of the international community.

I will give as an example the report presented to the Security Council on March 7 by the UN inspectors, which says that the inspection process, under the able direction of Hans Blix, is bearing fruit. As of March 17, 72 Al-Samoud missiles have been destroyed, which represents about half of the total number of missiles that Iraq possesses. Inspectors must be given more time because the process is working, because we are achieving results and because these results are continuing.

Dr. El Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that there was no evidence that Iraq had resumed a nuclear program. Nor did there exist any evidence that Iraq was trying to import uranium. Is this not proof that the current process is working well? No, the Americans have refused to accept the UN report and they are trying to impose their war logic on the international community.

What is this logic based on? It is based on a supposed link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, a supposed proof that Iraq is said to possess weapons of mass destruction. Again, Hans Blix said that there was no real evidence that Iraq has resumed its nuclear program, no evidence that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction.

So, is there a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda? On February 2, 3003, The New York Times quoted a U.S. government official who said, “We've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there”.

So, there is no evidence that the nuclear program has resumed, no evidence that Iraq is currently in possession of weapons of mass destruction and no evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq.

Canada's position may well be clear tonight, but the government must do more. It must reiterate the fact that it will not, either directly or indirectly, take part in an intervention in Iraq. We know that we currently have three ships in the Gulf.

What we want from the government tonight is for it to make a solemn commitment to withdrawing the three ships. What we are asking of this government is that it not use the pretext of an essential fight against terrorism to maintain its presence in the Persian Gulf.

More than 3,000 people in my riding are against an intervention in Iraq. Today, I represent these 3,000 citizens. I want to repeat that I will never, ever, support Canada's participation in a possible attack or intervention against Iraq, given the current evidence.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

9:05 p.m.


Art Eggleton Liberal York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Cambridge.

Approximately an hour ago President Bush gave a 48 hour ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his regime. Do we not all wish that he would take him up on that and that he would depart Iraq. He is a brutal dictator and certainly the Iraqi people would be much better off without him. But I do not think that will be a great possibility, as much as it would be wished.

The next step the president intends to take is one that involves military action. I believe that is a mistake. I believe that the inspection regime was producing results. Yes, we must all admit that to a great degree it was because of the very pressure President Bush brought to bear on the Iraqi regime, but that does not justify taking it to the next step of war because, as Mr. Blix has said, progress is being made. More time is needed by him and the inspectors. There can be containment of the situation by the United Nations.

Indeed, the agenda of the United Nations is one of disarmament. That is not the agenda of President Bush. He has made it clear that it is one of regime change. He has said that right from the beginning. The United Nations believes there is not a clear and present danger to the world or to the United States from Iraq and that inspections should be allowed to carry on.

The position that was put forward today in the House by the Prime Minister is the correct position. It is one where we will not become involved in the conflict in Iraq because it does not have the sanction of the Security Council. We must be a part of and support the United Nations and its Security Council process. Yes, there are imperfections. Yes, there is a need for a lot of reform in that system. But it is the one international forum we have to try and maintain peace in the world and I think we must respect that forum.

Mr. Bush tonight said that it had failed to act and he indicated his disappointment in the Security Council. I do not believe we should allow him to attack the credibility of the United Nations because he did not get his way, because there are many countries that simply do not agree with the next step that he wants to take. Canada will continue to support the United Nations and the Security Council process, and that is what I believe most Canadians would want Canada to do.

At the same time, we must recognize that we are the closest friends of the people of the United States. We are tied very closely economically to the United States. Our neighbours have gone through a very traumatic experience with the attacks of September 11. We must be careful in dealing with our friend and ally that we bear that in mind as we go through the troubled times ahead.

Some mention was made of the legality of going into this conflict, whether resolution 1441 in fact does provide, as the president has indicated, the sufficient justification to proceed with conflict, with a military attack. I think lawyers will argue for a considerable amount of time whether in fact it is legal. Meanwhile, whether it is or is not, regardless what the lawyers may say, a military action is about to occur.

Canadian troops were mentioned today in the House. I do not believe that any Canadian troops should be a part of any action in Iraq. If we are not participating in that war, our troops should neither be involved in direct combat nor in a support operation where the maple leaf is on their shoulder and they are participating in any way in the Iraq conflict.

There are other roles which they could play with the United States, Britain or our other allies around the world, that may well not come within that category, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Nor is it wrong for our troops to be involved in the war against terrorism. Indeed the campaign against terrorism is one that we have thoroughly supported. We are involved again in sending troops to Afghanistan and that region as part of the effort to bring about greater stability in that country. Our Canadian troops should not be part of the conflict in Iraq.

There is also the question of a humanitarian disaster which is looming for the people of Iraq, the innocent civilians of Iraq. Half of the people of that country, some 60 million people, depend upon the government for food supplies and half of them in turn are children. There are many children that are undernourished, many children that are already going without clean water. Disease is already a factor in their lives. How much worse is it going to be when the conflict begins?

Unfortunately the United States and the other countries that are involved in the conflict have not put enough time and attention into how they are going to relieve that kind of pain for the very people the President of the United States said tonight he was not attacking. He wants to help them. He wants to liberate them. Hopefully he and his country will be able to do more to help relieve the pain that might result from any attack.

It is not going to be the people who become, in the jargon of war, collateral damage. It is the people who will suffer from starvation, disease and other factors that are going to be part of this humanitarian catastrophe.

There is also the risk of instability in the entire region. There must be great caution in terms of not inciting the potential for a clash of civilizations, Muslim versus the west. Nobody wants that. When we get into war, when we get into this kind of conflict and the kind of instability that could be created in that entire region, there are always risks that have to be watched. Hopefully as any military action progresses, the world community through the United Nations will keep an eye on the situation to help ensure that this war, this conflict does not spread beyond what the President of the United States says he wants to accomplish in terms of regime change.

Post-war governance again will be an issue that will require a lot of attention. It is probable that there will be a military governor from the United States who will be in Iraq for some period of time. We do not know what length of time that might be, but again that can cause a lot of anxiousness, a lot of resentment for many other people, not only in Iraq but people in the surrounding areas. We only hope that out of all of this, if there is going to be war we end up seeing the people relieved of so much pain they have been through and that we end up moving toward the kind of democratic institutions that I believe they deserve.

It would have been better to go the other route. It would have been better to contain the conflict. In fact the more clear and present danger probably comes from North Korea. The President of the United States says that we can solve that by diplomatic means, but somehow we cannot solve this by diplomatic means. I believe that he is making a mistake in the plan that he is about to unleash.

One can only hope that if this is going to happen, that it be mercifully short. I think there is a very high risk of it being quite dangerous, quite messy and a high risk of it going on for some period of time, a high risk in it spreading beyond where the President of the United States thinks its limits are.

One of the lessons of history is that wars do not very often go according to plan. They become something far different than we had ever imagined. We only hope and pray that will not happen in this case and perhaps in these last moments somehow war will totally be avoided.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

9:15 p.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to once again put on the record my views with respect to Canadian intervention in Iraq.

I cannot in all honesty believe that this evening the world is on the brink of another war. What makes the situation that much more difficult to understand is that we have been brought to this brink by none other than two of our closest allies, the leaders of the United States of America and Great Britain.

The leaders of those two great democracies in the world have decided to say to hell with the United Nations and international diplomacy, to hell with the millions of people around the world who have pleaded with their governments to resolve their differences with Iraq by peaceful means. No, our two greatest allies have decided they are too far down the road to war that they cannot turn back and they do not need a resolution from the United Nations to authorize them to invade another nation.

All I can say is what absolute nonsense. Our neighbours and friends are being led into a war by a leader who believes he has something to prove, to whom I am not certain, but he is prepared to isolate his nation from the international community, united against war with an already weakened nation.

Yes, Hussein is a dangerous man. No doubt Iraq is in possession of weapons it should not have, chemical and otherwise. I said no doubt because there has been documented evidence that the U.S. provided Iraq with such weapons back when it considered Saddam Hussein a friend, but he is no longer considered a friend.

Even weapons inspectors have been making inroads in Iraq over the past few weeks. Iraqis have been cooperating with weapons inspectors. Missiles found to be non-compliant have been and continue to be destroyed, but none of this is good enough for President George Bush. President George Bush will not rest until he has defeated Saddam, until he has finished the job his father did not finish in 1991. For this the world has been thrown into uncertainty.

I am terribly concerned about the precedent this unilateral action by the U.S. and Britain is setting. U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have decided that they are not required to abide by international law, that they are above the law. God forbid that anyone should disagree with them, because in their minds their actions are justified. They can go in and overrun a nation and those of us who do not agree with them are wrong and unreasonable.

As far as I can see the only parties being unreasonable in this entire situation are President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. They are the ones who have appeared unwilling to compromise. They are the ones who are showing absolute disregard for the concerns of their friends and neighbours around the globe. I am sorry if our neighbours to the south do not like what has been said here tonight, but if we are true friends, we must not be afraid to tell it like it is.

What happens if, after the U.S. and Britain have completely destroyed Iraq, they succeed in removing Saddam Hussein? Will they install yet another so-called puppet, as was once the case when Saddam and other known U.S. friends turned enemies, like Osama bin Laden and Slobodan Milosevic? Will the U.S. then decide to go to war against the new Iraqi leader in a few years when the leader decides he no longer wants to abide by its orders? Perhaps there is another rogue leader somewhere in the world that will be the next target. When will this ever end?

My constituents have been consistent in their position on Canada's intervention in Iraq. Canada should not participate in any military action against Iraq or anyone else without authorization from the United Nations.

This government has listened. The Prime Minister's announcement today that Canada will not participate unless there is a new resolution from the United Nations Security Council is welcome news to my constituents and to me personally. The Prime Minister and Canadian diplomats at the United Nations have worked tirelessly to reach a compromise between those with opposed views on this matter but it is hard to reach a compromise when there appears to be so little will to do so.

There are some in the House who believe we should support efforts of our American neighbours just because they are our neighbours and because we share a common border. I am afraid that I do not buy this argument. If my friend was about to commit a crime or do something that was morally wrong, I could not stand by that friend no matter how much he or she meant to me personally. In fact I would not support a family member if that person's actions were illegal or immoral, so how could I possibly support the actions of the United States and its British partner when they are about to act illegally?

Simply put, I cannot support them and will not support them unless the United Nations sanctions their actions by way of a UN Security Council resolution. I applaud the Prime Minister for making our nation's position on this matter very clear.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

9:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking in this debate tonight. Of course I am not happy about the circumstances of this debate. I think it is clear that the reason for it is that the members of the House anticipated that the United States and its coalition of allies, roughly 30 countries, would come to a decision to go to war in Iraq should Saddam Hussein refuse to back down and to respect the United Nations resolution. It has become pretty clear that simply will not happen and the anticipation on the part of the members has led to this debate here today.

I would like to start by asking this question. Is there one member of Parliament in the House, either from the government's side or from the opposition's side, who wants war? I think the answer is clear: no. I doubt that there is one member of Parliament in the House of Commons who wants war. That is not the issue.

There are a couple of important issues that have to be considered seriously. First, starting from the base that not one member of Parliament wants war, then what could Canada do to best help avoid war? Second, is there a time when war is a preferable option to taking no action and ending up with a much worse situation down the road, even worse than war? I think those are the two questions that have to be debated, talked about and considered very seriously tonight.

How can we best avoid war? We are to a point now where it is very clear that is highly unlikely. It is entirely in the hands of Saddam Hussein and maybe a few people in his immediate surrounding environment. Should Saddam decide to leave Iraq, war could be avoided. Should Saddam be killed by someone in Iraq, then perhaps war could be avoided. It is only those circumstances realistically right now that could cause war to be avoided.

It is important that we look at what should have been done. I do not think there is anybody here in the House who believes this will be the last very difficult situation that will have to be dealt with by the United Nations, by our allies and by the NATO alliance. I do not think any of us think this will be the last very difficult situation with which we will have to deal. It is important to learn from what has and has not happened in dealing with this situation.

How could war most likely have been avoided in Iraq? The answer is twofold. First, the United Nations could have backed up its resolutions at a much earlier stage than now. Second, Canada, along with our allies, could have provided a much stronger, unified deterrent on the borders of Iraq to send the message to Saddam Hussein in the only language he understands that in fact he must comply with the United Nations resolution.

What does that mean Canada should have done? The official opposition called for Canada last October to be a part of a broad coalition to send military personnel to the area of Iraq, not to declare war but to be a part of a unified force to provide that strong deterrent to Saddam Hussein. Quite frankly, we have learned over the past at least 12 years that the only language Saddam Hussein understands is the language of a very real threat of force.

Last October, did the Prime Minister join with our allies to provide part of that deterrent, to put Canada's name on that list of unified nations that would stand and enforce the UN resolutions against Iraq and against Saddam Hussein? Canada chose not to. I suggest that by not taking that action, Canada has not done its part in trying, in a very real way, to help prevent this war from ever happening.

It worked twice before with Saddam Hussein. In 1995, four short years after the gulf war, Saddam Hussein amassed troops on the border of Kuwait once again to invade Kuwait for a second time in four years. What prevented him from doing that? It was the amassing of a large number of American troops on the border. Only when Saddam saw the American troops, did he know that if he attempted to invade there would be consequences. Only then did he back down.

The second occasion where that show of force proved to be very effective against Saddam Hussein was last year when American troops along with British troops amassed on the border of Iraq once again, and only then did Saddam Hussein agree to allow weapons inspectors back into his country. It was only with that very real and present threat of force.

It worked twice before. Most of the world has come to realize that is the only way of delivering a message that Saddam Hussein really understands.

Last weekend the Prime Minister made a very important and interesting point. He said that the deterrent effect provided by the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and a growing coalition of about 30 countries, that very real show of force on the border, had practically won the war already. He said that it certainly caused Saddam Hussein to co-operate at least to some degree with weapons inspectors.

I have seldom heard a leader of any free nation in the world make a more stupid statement than the Prime Minister made when he said that the war was practically won. I do not believe that for a minute. I believe this could be an extremely difficult war, not only for the allies but certainly for many Iraqi people. It was an unbelievable statement made by our Prime Minister.

I want to focus a bit on the other point.

The Prime Minister said that the show of force provided a very useful, important and effective deterrent to Saddam Hussein. We would have to assume then that Canada would be a part of that deterrent force. It makes sense. If the Prime Minister could see that this was effective, surely he would know that from the two times before, in 1995 and last year, when a show of force proved to be the only thing Saddam understood. It was proven to be effective.

The Prime Minister knew this show of force was effective. Was Canada involved then? No. He chose to take no action. He did not join with our allies and help provide that deterrent force, not to invade Iraq but to send a unified message. Instead we have had anything but unity from the United Nations and from the world. Saddam Hussein sees wiggle room and he has taken it.

I believe that is why we are where we are today. No one has taken a stand. The world has not united to take a strong stand against Saddam Hussein. For the Prime Minister to recognize the effect and the benefit of this deterrent and not be involved in it, is something for which he has to answer to Canadians. It is not acceptable leadership from this government.

I have heard many people say that there are those who think that Canada should go to war if the United States or Great Britain does. I disagree. I do not believe Canada should go to war because our allies choose war. I do not think that is the right reason and I do not believe that is what Canada should do.

Canada should choose war only when choosing to avoid war will lead to a less desirable outcome. Let us look at the reality of what has happened in Iraq when trying to determine if that is the situation because I think clearly that is the situation here.

There are many who say we must let diplomacy run its course. How many years should we try to depend only on words to win against Saddam Hussein? How many years? Some say certainly a year; and two years is not too much to ask. If it takes five years, maybe we should take five years.

It has been 12 years that the world, and the United Nations in leading this effort, has applied words, diplomacy, to try to force Saddam Hussein to destroy his weapons of mass destruction.

Let us keep in mind what we are talking about here. It is to disarm Saddam Hussein and to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction which could easily be delivered by any number of terrorist groups who would be too happy to deliver them on behalf of Saddam Hussein. The goal is to disarm and to ensure that these weapons of mass destruction will not be used against Canada, the United States, neighbouring countries or the Iraqi people. That is the objective.

The question is, how do we do that most effectively? We tried 12 years ago starting with the ceasefire resolution 687. Under that resolution Saddam Hussein agreed 12 years ago that he would turn over weapons of mass destruction to UN weapons inspectors. Can we afford to wait another 12 years?

I think there is no doubt that waiting another 12 years would do two things. First, it would allow Saddam Hussein to build even more dangerous weapons of mass destruction and have someone deliver these weapons on his behalf. Second, more time and another 12 years is not a realistic solution at all in this case.

I wanted to ask a couple of questions about the leadership of this country. Has the government provided effective leadership on this issue? I would argue that the Liberal government has never shown leadership on the question of a potential war in Iraq. It is clear that today's decision was taken for pure political considerations. What do I mean by that? It is the easy position for the government to take. That does not make it the right decision, but it is the easiest decision for the government to make under these circumstances, right now. That is the major contributing reason.

In the first major international crisis of the century, the Canadian government has chosen not to support its closest allies. In fact, we have seen one after another, government members in the House and some opposition members poking our closest friend and ally in the eye. It is not enough to take a different position and certainly at times we take different positions. That is fair enough, but they poked them in the eye and made statements like “the United Stated is more dangerous to world peace than Saddam Hussein and Iraq”. We have heard that again and again from the governing party and from members of the opposition. I believe that type of statement is completely unacceptable.

In fact, we must recognize that while we may have differences of opinion in how we deal with a situation, that type of treatment of a good friend and neighbour is simply not acceptable and I will be no part of that, nor will my party or anyone in my party.

Looking at the government leadership, the Liberals have flip-flopped on their earlier declared position regarding resolution 1441. We saw, just a short time ago in the House, the government say clearly that resolution 1441, which was passed unanimously by the United Nations Security Council, did provide everything that was necessary to authorize the use of force in the case of Iraqi non-compliance. That is what the government supported just a couple of months ago here in the House.

What does the Prime Minister say over the past week or two? He says that is no longer good enough, we need another UN resolution to be passed before we can legitimize the use of force against Iraq for complete non-compliance on the part of Saddam Hussein.

Anyone who has any doubt that Saddam Hussein is not complying with the weapons inspectors just has to look at the Blix reports carefully and honestly. He has made statements very clearly in his reports that Saddam Hussein has not sufficiently supported and complied with resolution 1441. He has made that very clear, yet we have the government flip-flopping on this very important issue.

I would now like to deal with the last action on the part of the government, today's usual money position on the issue. Its position today was saying that it politically would not support using force to disarm Saddam Hussein, but it may commit troops to help with disarming Saddam Hussein when it comes to weapons of mass destruction. I want to talk a little about that. I think it is something Canadians should have a look at.

The Prime Minister on the one hand takes the position that politically we cannot support force to disarm Saddam Hussein, yet let us look at the reality of what Canada is doing in the area of Iraq right now.

I proudly say that Canada is involved in Operation Apollo and has been for the last couple of years. Operation Apollo is an extremely important mission in the war against terrorism. Canada is involved in interdiction of ships which may be carrying illegal goods into Iraq or may be carrying illegal goods, such as weapons of mass destruction, out of Iraq. It is dangerous and difficult work, and Canadian military personnel have performed wonderfully in carrying out that work. They have become known as some of the best in the world at boarding ships and carrying out this interdiction work. They do it with equipment that is completely inadequate by anybody's judgment, including government members.

Canada is involved and Operation Apollo very interestingly has been moving across the Persian Gulf closer and closer to Iraq every week. So, can we argue that Canada's involvement in Operation Apollo is not an involvement in the war in Iraq? I think it may be a difficult issue to argue.

Let us go a little farther than that. Let us look at the Canadian contingent in Qatar. Some time back, more than a year ago, Canada had agreed to put a contingent of Canadian military personnel in Qatar. Now Qatar, as we know, is the American main base of operations for Iraq. Are these military personnel involved in war with Iraq? It is unclear when they are operating from the same country that houses the main American base in amassing military might on the border of Iraq and we have Canadian troops there.

We have Canadian troops working with our allies in joint missions. They are on exchange programs. I do not know exactly how many. It could be somewhere over a hundred.

The Prime Minister made the decision on behalf of Canadians that morally it is right to put these Canadian military lives on the line to help win the war in Iraq, if we should go to war, to help disarm Saddam Hussein. I would like to know how the Prime Minister could argue that morally it is not right for Canada to send a larger contingent and provide a larger effort to help disarm this heinous dictator, Saddam Hussein? That is the question I would like the Prime Minister to answer at his earliest opportunity.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

9:40 p.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Halifax West.

Let me begin by reading some words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free”. Those words are engraved on the base of the Statue of Liberty in the United States, in New York harbour. I will focus my remarks on that famous monument because I think the Statue of Liberty is central to what is happening here with respect to the Americans wanting to invade Iraq, to rescue the Iraqis from an evil dictator.

Every school child knows that the Statue of Liberty was built in cooperation with the French. It was a centennial project celebrating the declaration of independence which was declared in 1776, and a century later Americans wanted to celebrate the occasion by doing something that was really profound because, of course, the declaration of independence contains very famous words.

The declaration of independence says, among other things, that “all men are created equal and they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. That was an incredible statement for its time and it arose out of enlightened thinking, a renaissance of thought that was occurring in the 18th century when the social institutions of the monarchy were being questioned across the globe. Some of the lead thinkers were French.

The Americans took inspiration from the French and there was the American revolution and the declaration of independence. Then the French in their turn took inspiration from the Americans with the French revolution. This sent out an enormous message to the world that individuals did count. It was not the state that counted, it was individuals who counted and that they had certain inalienable rights. The French in their turn came out with the first declaration of the rights of man and that is where we get the expression, “liberty, equality, fraternity”. That came out in 1792.

There is this huge linkage between the French and the Americans in terms of being pioneers in the development of the institutions of liberty and the rule of law and so it was no coincidence and no surprise indeed that the Americans and the French should get together and attempt to build this monument that was to symbolize all these wonderful thoughts. That monument was the Statue of Liberty. The internal structure was built by the famous Alexandre Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower, and the Americans built the base. The Statue of Liberty officially opened 10 years later in 1886.

Everyone in the world knows that monument. It has become, as the Americans like to say, an icon and a beacon of liberty around the world. I think that the principles that are embodied in that statue and the declaration of independence are so ingrained in the American psyche that I believe that the President of the United States is motivated by the very principles that are seen in those two symbols of American society, of American heritage. I take him at his word that he is wanting to go into Iraq to give liberty and opportunity to the starving, oppressed and the tortured. I accept that, but unfortunately, something has gone terribly wrong.

All that idealism I think is falling on barren ground and it is falling on barren ground in the world because public opinion in the world does not see the attack on Iraq as something that does embody the principles of liberty, equality, freedom and life for all. Instead, people see it as a superpower exercising its muscle and trying to come into Iraq for its own personal gain.

One of the problems in language is that much of the debate we have heard from the American representatives at the UN, and even from the president tonight, revolves around the suggestion that resolution 1441 of the Security Council gives legal authorization for the use of armed force against Iraq for its non-compliance. The Americans and the British argue that it does give this legal power and others argue the opposite way. This is to miss the point.

The problem is that the war on Iraq, the attack on Iraq without the support of the UN Security Council, is not seen as justified. All the arguments that the Americans and the British have put forward have not been sufficient to carry world opinion, so we have the situation where 90% of Turks are opposed to an attack on Iraq unilaterally, and around the globe we have similar statistics.

So if a war is not justified, if people do not see that it has been justified, then it becomes an unjust war. This is a terrible problem for the Americans, because quite apart from all other damage that might occur to the Americans, to the free world, to our institutions of the United Nations and whatever else, or the loss of trade or economic consequences, nothing compares to the damage that is going to occur toward the image of the United States as a beacon of liberty, as an upholder of the law, as a bastion of freedom.

If we were to go into New York harbour and take the ferry, not long ago we could look in one direction and see the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the symbol of the economic power of the United States. We could look in the other direction and we could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance, the symbol of freedom, of liberty, and of all the things for which the United States has been admired for many years.

I am very afraid that one of the great consequences of what is going to happen should the Americans decide to go into Iraq is that all of that will be lost. The destruction of the United States as a symbol of hope, of freedom, of liberty, of the rule of law, will be just as certain as the destruction of the World Trade Center. It will not be a matter of flying an aircraft into the Statue of Liberty. It is that the Americans, I truly fear, will destroy that symbol themselves and it will then become only a copper monument 301 feet high. It will not actually represent the hope and the wishes of the world.

I really do despair of what I see coming, because if the world loses confidence in the United States and confidence in the goodwill of the United States to other lands, then I just do not know what the consequences will be. There will be a kind of anarchy that rules the world because suddenly material wealth will become an end in its own right. Material wealth and the pursuit of happiness were always linked with the idea of liberty and giving life to other people and respecting the lives of other people. I am afraid that this has all become twisted around and what the world sees is a superpower that does not have respect for life and is only concerned about its own happiness.

I think it is a very sad situation that we are faced with now. I would hope that even at this late hour the Americans will reconsider this prospect of an attack on Iraq. In the end, whether or not Saddam Hussein is removed does not matter, because there will be an enormous and permanent loss of goodwill toward the United States and I do not know what kind of world will be left after that.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

9:50 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that most Canadians would acknowledge, even if reluctantly in some cases, that the threat of force has resulted in progress toward disarmament in Iraq. I am not one of those who would advocate that we should shrink from the duty to enforce resolution 1441 and the many other UN resolutions requiring Iraq to disarm.

I would admit that the Iraqi regime has been a serious threat to its own people, to the region it is in, and perhaps to the world beyond. In fact, it could well be a source of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons that might hit North America. It is not surprising to me, therefore, and I think it is a natural preoccupation, for the U.S. administration after 9/11, and it should not surprise us as Canadians that the Americans would be preoccupied with this concern.

To the extent that Iraq has disarmed, it has done so because of the threat of force, unfortunately. So if that threat is the only way to obtain compliance, it must therefore be backed up by a resolve to use force if compliance fails.

It would be wrong to shirk our duty, but it is right to shudder at the thought of war, at its horror, and at its victims, intended or unintended. It is equally right to insist that force should only be used as a very last resort. To whom, then, should we look to be the arbiters of compliance, to tell us whether there has been compliance or not, whether disarmament has ceased or not, if not the UN weapons inspectors? It is their verdict that the world has awaited.

It seems to me it is very important today that when there is one superpower in the world, the U.S., that superpower must lead responsibly, must lead by consensus, in spite of the threat that it feels toward itself.

Most of us accept that disarmament is a valid objective. We accept that the failure to disarm may justify the use of force, but regime change in Iraq is a different matter entirely. Without question, a new government in Iraq is something devoutly to be wished for. I strongly hope that Saddam Hussein will take seriously the president's ultimatum made earlier this evening and leave Iraq before any more blood is shed, but we have to ask whether regime change is a wise rationale for war.

Canadians ought to be troubled, I think, by the precedent that regime change represents as a concept. In this new millennium, do we choose to move in the direction of international governance, where the rule of law applies to all and is enforced against any state that threatens terror and mass destruction? Or will the world revert to the rule of the powerful, where might is right? I think we have to ask ourselves as human beings which path will lead us to long term peace and security.

I think it is important in this discussion, as we consider our relations with the U.S. these days, that we have strong connections with the Americans. They are our friends, our neighbours and our trading partners. We have many family ties. I have an aunt and uncle, cousins, and a sister-in-law and her family who are American. These are very close, important ties for many reasons. If we must differ over Iraq or over other topics, let us do so with respect.

It is difficult for us, I think, to comprehend how profoundly changed the U.S. population was by 9/11. We know they feel deeply vulnerable, but in spite of our country being targeted in al-Qaeda's list of six countries to be targeted, so far we really have not been struck, so to speak, with a real reason to see ourselves as targets. So in measuring our reactions to America's actions, let us keep in mind that they must feel like they are walking around with bulls' eyes on their foreheads.

Our trade by itself should be a sufficient reason to nurture the relationship we have. Millions of Canadian parents put bread on the table and clothes on their children's backs because their goods and services are sold across the border. Before we indulge in Yankee-bashing, let us consider those who cannot afford such indulgence.

As the friends and allies of the U.S., we have an opportunity to influence the Americans and offer insights that may differ, and will differ sometimes, from their own insights. I think it is important that when we differ, as we do in this case on Iraq, we make sure that at the same time we nurture the influence we have and do not squander it.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

9:55 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, at the outset I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, the NDP House leader.

President George Bush calls today's deadline for diplomacy at the UN “a moment of truth”. The arbitrary, Bush-imposed deadline on diplomacy might perhaps be more accurately described as a tragic distortion of truth.

What is the truth? One important truth is that chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has confirmed that peaceful disarmament is not only possible but is happening, is in progress. It is surely a tragedy of monumental proportions that the Bush empire has decided to slam the door on that process of peaceful disarmament and opt instead for showering bombs on the heads of innocent people. Those bombs will kill and maim men, women and children, and let us not forget that 1.2 million Iraqis have already lost their lives as a result of the economic sanctions.

Furthermore, it is well understood and widely predicted that any decision of the Bush administration to proceed with bombing Iraq will result in a massive destabilization of the entire Middle East. Let us not forget that there are men, women and children who are living in terror and that great numbers are losing their lives as a result of the escalating cycle of violence in the Middle East, which is already very much entrenched.

Another important truth, a truth that I believe gives rise to optimism, is that millions of citizens across the globe have said, unequivocally, no to war in Iraq. Week after week, month after month, hundreds of thousands of Canadians have braved brutally cold winter weather to participate in rallies, demonstrations, vigils, marches, religious services in town halls and teach-ins in an attempt to persuade their own government to stand against a war in Iraq. Those Canadians are tonight celebrating the Prime Minister's announcement that Canada will not join in a pre-emptive strike in Iraq and will not join the U.S. in an illegal war. I think they would want members of the House to congratulate the Liberal government for having listened to the citizens of this country.

In congratulating the government for responding to those pleas to stay the course for peace, I want tonight to urge the government to do yet more. Earlier today I had an opportunity to table the first installment of petitions signed by literally thousands of Canadians calling upon not just this government but this Parliament to take a clear stand for peace. That is why I urge the Prime Minister, following his announcement this afternoon, to proceed with a formal vote here in Parliament, because having the backing of not just those on the government side but I believe a majority on the opposition side as well, will strengthen the hand of our Prime Minister and our government in continuing to stand up and, I would say, in escalating the attempt to stand up to George Bush and persuade him of the sheer madness of what it is that he is about to launch in the way of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq.

I think that Canadians are desperate to see their government take advantage of the narrow window that is left, admittedly a very narrow window and a dangerously short timetable, but nevertheless, Canadians want the government to take advantage of that window before bombs start dropping and to do absolutely everything within the power of this government to even yet bring about a resumption of diplomatic dialogue in the UN Security Council.

It is an insult to multilateralism and international law for the U.S. to walk away from negotiations, declare its intentions to strike Iraq unilaterally and then tell the UN that it will be required to play a role in post-war reconstruction and humanitarian relief.

Humanitarian workers and weapons inspectors are being forced out of Baghdad as we speak here tonight. The oil for food program has been terminated. This will inflict untold massive damage and hardship on the people of Iraq.

In conclusion let me simply reiterate the words expressed by the son of Martin Luther King, who played such a major role in taking a stand against the war in Vietnam, when he said the following:

One of the most persistent ambiguities we face is that everybody talks about peace as a goal, but among the wielders of power peace is nobody's business. Many men cry 'Peace! Peace!' but they refuse to do the things that make for peace

Before it is too late, we must narrow the chasm between our proclamations of peace and our lowly deeds that precipitate and perpetuate war.

Let us not tonight be so congratulatory of the government for having listened to the citizens of the country. Let us use the time that is available and every means that are available to try to avert this dangerous, destructive war and ensure that we do get on a path to peace, which will not only be important for the people of Iraq but for the future of this world.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

10:05 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House tonight in the emergency debate on the grave situation in Iraq.

I would like to first thank our colleagues from the Bloc who sought to have the emergency debate tonight. It seems that all we are left with are take note debates and emergency debates. We have been looking for leadership from the government to hold a proper debate and a vote in the House for months and months. Nevertheless, we are having the debate tonight, although there will not be any vote, and I am pleased to participate in it.

Today we heard the Prime Minister finally enunciate a position that I think is shared by a vast majority of Canadians, and that is that Canada must not participate in an illegal war led by President Bush on the people of Iraq. In congratulating the government on finally taking that position, I too, similar to the member for Halifax, want to call on the government to do more than make that position clear. It now needs to be acted upon. To enunciate that position and then to stand silently by and not follow up on it would, I think, ring hollow and false. We call on the government tonight to use every means possible, diplomatic and political persuasion, at the UN with our American allies to avert the war that we are now on the brink of having.

In hearing what the Prime Minister had to say today in the House I have no doubt in my own mind that it was the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who took to the streets, lobbied their MPs and signed petitions that forced the Liberals to act. There has been a groundswell, a great momentum and mobilization across this country because people know what this terrible war is about. They know that President Bush's actions are illegal and not supportable.

We just have to look at the incredible turnouts in November, on January 15 and on February 15 where around the world something like 20 million people participated in the largest anti-war demonstration ever seen in our history. Last Saturday, March 15, people participated in Vancouver and across Canada. There were 200,000 people in Montreal. In Vancouver,, made up of 145 organizations, assembled tens of thousands of people in Vancouver to call on our government and on the international community to avert this war.

One of the things I found interesting at the rally on Saturday was that a number of speakers, including Dr. David Suzuki who made quite a remarkable speech, talked about how the world's last remaining superpower, the U.S., seemed to be calling all the shots and how President Bush was undermining the United Nations and playing such a dangerous game. Speaker after speaker also said that there was an emergence of a second superpower and that was the superpower of the people who had mobilized around the world and who were holding their own governments to account, not only here in Canada but in Europe, in Mexico, in Central America, in the Middle East and all around the globe.

I find that very heartening. I am very proud of the fact that our leader, Jack Layton, participated in those rallies, was part of the solidarity to stop the war on the people of Iraq and that as NDP members we participated fully and stood in solidarity with Canadians in those mobilizations across the country. We did that because we know the war is illegal.

I would like to quote an article in The Guardian newspaper about a week ago. It states:

We are teachers of international law. On the basis of the information publicly available there is no justification under international law for the use of military force against Iraq. The UN charter outlaws the use of force with only two exceptions: individual or collective self defence in response to an armed attack, an action authorized by the security council as a collective response to a threat to the peace breech or active aggression. There are currently no grounds for a claim to use such force in self defence.

There are now all kinds of opinions from lawyers around the world who are expressing the same kinds of sentiments.

I want to congratulate organizations like Oxfam Canada which announced on March 10 that it would not accept direct funding from belligerent governments for humanitarian work in Iraq should there be a war in that country. The executive director of Oxfam Canada, Rieky Stuart, said:

We cannot be willing participants when governments attempt to use humanitarian agencies as instruments of a belligerent foreign policy.

That is a profound statement because it shows that civil society, that NGOs, that people are beginning to challenge what they see in the media; the notions of what we are led to believe are somehow the moments of truth as we hear from President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. People are challenging that because they know the war is illegal.

It was chilling to hear George W. Bush say tonight that what he is doing he believes is in the name of peace and democracy, and yet he said not a word about the untold misery, grief, death and civilian casualties that he will cause if he unleashes this awesome military might, the bombs that will be dropped and the potential weapons that will be used. He did not say a word about the devastating impact war will have on ordinary people, on families, on children, on seniors, on people who have no chance to escape.

We have seen a groundswell of opposition in this country and around the world because people know that not only is the war motivated by a political agenda based on U.S. foreign policy about a regime change that it wants to see for political and economic purposes in Iraq, but people also are concerned about the fact that Mr. Bush's agenda undermines the United Nations itself.

Time and time again the member for Halifax as well as other members of our party have risen in the House to point out that the UN process of weapons inspection has indeed been working and it needs to be given a chance to work. Even Mr. Blix, the chief weapons inspector, has pointed out repeatedly in his progress reports that he is making progress. It is all the more disturbing and grievous now that we are at the 11th hour and we hear the address from Mr. Bush tonight.

It was because of the UN process of weapons inspection that I went to the Edgewood Chemical Biological Centre just outside Washington, D.C. on February 22 with a number of citizens and parliamentarians from five different countries on a mission organized by the Centre for Social Justice in Toronto. We wanted to point out that all weapons of mass destruction needed to be inspected and eliminated. The greatest stockpile of these weapons of mass destruction that are not subject to verification or inspection were actually in the United States. We cannot stand by and see a double standard emerge in what President Bush is demanding of Iraq.

Yes, we do support the weapons inspection process but we need to ensure that kind of process is available and is working in all locations, whether it is in the Middle East or in the United States of America. We need to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are eliminated.

The action in which I participated was successful in raising awareness of the contradictions that exist in the kinds of policies that we see coming from the United States. We had a lot of support from civil society organizations in the United States that have also been mobilizing in terms of opposing what their president has been doing.

Today in Parliament we heard some good news from our government but we implore our government, on behalf of the Canadian people, to let us do our job in the House. Let us debate and have a vote in terms of what other measures can now be taken, to call on our American allies and the United Nations to forestall where we are now, which is on the brink of war.

That is why we are in this place. We exercise those democratic rights. That is what we are here to do. That is what we want to do.

On behalf of my constituents from Vancouver East and all the representations that I have received, I call on the government to allow that vote to take place in this House so that we can exercise our democratic rights.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

10:15 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario


Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies.

I am pleased to be here in the House tonight. I am sorry it is at such a late hour but I had a previous engagement which did not allow me to be here earlier. However I was pleased that the Secretary of State for the Middle East was able to put the position for the government and that the Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific has been here during the debate. I consider these debates extremely important and I appreciate the words of the hon. member for Vancouver East. I support exactly the thrust of her comments that we are here in the House to debate and consider these extraordinarily important issues.

Today, the Prime Minister announced the position of the Government of Canada in this House. I believe it has the general support of the members of this House. I was pleased to hear the support coming from the opposition benches, not only now but also earlier in the day and also from our own benches. From the number of calls that I have received in my office and the offices of other MPs, it is a position which receives the general approbation and enthusiastic support of the population of Canada.

I believe it has that support for many reasons. The first reason is that it is consistent with the Prime Minister's personal and this government's constant support for the multilateral system which we have worked so hard in Canada to make a success as a guarantee for a more peaceful world in which our children can grow up. We worked hard during the course of the last few months to bring the Security Council together. We worked hard to find a way where we could bridge the gap between those who felt that Saddam Hussein could be disarmed but over a period of time that the pressure perhaps would not have been significant on him and those who felt that the time was extremely short and the pressure had to be immediate.

Canada therefore made its position clear today, that without a clear mandate from the Security Council, from the body that has been entrusted by the world to deal with directions over the issues of peace and security, we were not in a position to participate in the use of force against Iraq.

We also have made the point, and it is an important one, that we are committed with our American, British, French and other allies to the war on terrorism, that we retain that commitment and that this commitment is not something that, whatever disagreements we may have on a specific issue, will cause us to flinch. We are committed to putting troops into Afghanistan. We have committed to retaining our ships in that area to interdict terrorists to act in defence of those men and women of our armed services who are serving with distinction in that theatre.

We recognize that this will be a challenge for the United Nations system which we have all worked so hard to try to ensure it would be a success. I do not despair for the United Nations system. I believe it will continue to be needed. It will be needed for reconstruction, as President Bush has already personally said in his speech in the Azores and to which he made reference tonight. I listened to his words tonight with great interest as he laid out the case that the United States has against Saddam Hussein.

I made it clear in my telephone call with Colin Powell earlier this afternoon, when he was good enough to call me, that we respected the United States for the efforts it had made to ensure the disarmament of Saddam Hussein and that whatever differences we might have, nothing would distract from the respect that we owed each other and the mutual respect that we had for one another.

To those who believe there is a problem or a threat to the relationship between the United States and Canada because of the conduct of either one of us in the course of this action, I do not believe there is a threat. Our relationship is one that is founded on immense friendship. It is founded on much more than diplomatic initiatives on one or two items. It is founded on centuries of living together on this continent and co-operation between families and institutions. We will work our way through this with the sense of mutual respect that we have for one another, which has brought us to here, and we will continue to do so in that light.

We believe the positions that we have set out in the House today and that we have consistently followed throughout this issue have laid out Canada's commitment to a multilateral system and at the same time our respect for and our willingness to work with our U.S. allies.

We have made a decision today, in the interests of Canada and Canadians. Some have suggested in this House that we adopt the French position, while others suggested that we adopt the American position. We have always maintained that we were clearly going to adopt a position for the good of Canadians and Canada, and in the interests of Canada and Canadians. And I think that the decision announced today by the Prime Minister specifically reflects this concern.

In conclusion I would like to say that I am proud of the decision we have made today. As Canadians we will meet the challenges in the days, weeks, months and even years to come in the spirit of a recognition that we must all seek to work for peace. We must all seek to find the conditions in which peace will prevail. Canada is committed to this. Canada has a unique past and has a unique capacity in the future to bring conditions where peace may prevail in many corners of the world.

The government is committed to using our interest, our abilities and the great goodwill, which this country has accumulated over the years, in the interest of peace, security and justice throughout the world. While we may have problems today, whatever those problems are, nothing will cause us to flinch from our determination and our absolute efforts in the future to keep Canada at the forefront in the work for peace and for social justice throughout the world.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

10:20 p.m.


Yvon Charbonneau Liberal Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a time when there seems to be every indication that the Bush administration and a few allied forces will be attacking Iraq in a matter of hours or days, I wish to say how sad, distressing, revolting and, more importantly, dangerous this situation is.

These feelings are shared by those people of my riding who have contacted me these past few months. They are also shared by hundreds of thousands of who rallied in the streets of Montreal and a dozen other cities in Quebec last Saturday and over the past month. All these people to whom I wish to pay tribute today share these feelings, which I want to reflect in my remarks.

I will take a moment, however, to say how pleased I am with the position taken by the Canadian government and our Prime Minister with respect to both the basic issue and the approach throughout this past year. Canada's position has always been clear, contrary to what we may have heard. It was based on three main elements.

First, as far as Canada is concerned, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime must comply with UN resolutions. Canada does not have any sympathy for this regime and has consistently supported the UN's approach and objectives.

The second pillar of our policy is as follows. To ensure that the Iraq of Saddam Hussein is no longer a threat to its neighbours and the international community, Canada supported renewed and increased inspections. This process produced results.

In practical terms, Saddam Hussein's regime is paralyzed, surrounded and rendered powerless. Canada has proposed a very strict work schedule for the teams of weapons inspectors over the next few weeks. This program would still take several more weeks. This initiative received the support of all the international inspectors. Therefore, we put forward a progressive process to reach the goal, without war.

The third pillar of Canada's position is to preserve the UN, to preserve the only international organization able to ensure that certain rules of law are respected around the world. I am proud of the responsible and conservative attitude taken by our government and our Prime Minister.

Remember that, in September 2002, President Bush did not want anything to do with the UN. Our Prime Minister and other political figures persuaded him to seek the UN's approval. We know that Mr. Bush approached the UN very reluctantly. Nonetheless, he got a resolution, the famous resolution 1441, passed unanimously.

Inspections are coming to fruition. According to the U.S., it is because of all the pressure it exerted. Why not then benefit from the pressure that was exerted? Why not keep pushing in the same direction for another few weeks, since we are making progress? Why is the U.S. so eager to go to war?

At 8 o'clock tonight, we heard President Bush say that he wanted all discussions to stop. Over a month ago, he told us “the game is over”. We have been hearing about this for a month now. Tonight, unconditional surrender by Saddam Hussein is what he demanded. He is setting the U.S. up as the supreme court for the international community. Not only the UN—which he called irresponsible—but the whole international community is not taking its responsibilities. He says “I, George Bush, will set out the responsibilities we have to assume. I will speak on behalf of the whole world and submit our fair demands”.

How arrogant of him, since we know that the international community, the bishops, the churches and the Pope do not agree with him. Last weekend, major U.S. newspapers said no to war.

President Bush is playing a very dangerous game. By riding roughshod over the UN to defend his country's right to attack, to launch a pre-emptive strike, and to make unilateral decisions on everything, based on its own interests, Bush and his government are acting in a very dangerous and irresponsible manner.

Hence, the U.S. is paving the way for other super powers who want to settle things with their own neighbours or minorities. The U.S. is also setting itself up as a new world power that can dictate to others what to do and take whatever it wants from whomever it wants.

As Canadians we live in a country full of resources, abundant minerals, water, oil and gas, more than anyone else has. We must, more than anyone else, support strong international institutions and the establishment of world governance, where the smallest—we are not among the weakest, but we are among the smallest countries in terms of population—will never be at the mercy of the largest and their neighbours. This is an important message that we as Canadians must send to the international community.

The Americans and their allies are taking a terrible risk. In addition to the horrible massacres, the suffering and destruction that comes with any war, Bush is playing with fire by giving himself the mandate to invade Iraq and overthrow its regime. What will the ramifications be for Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, the Arab world and the Muslim world?

Bush is in the process of giving Islamic fundamentalists the very momentum and unity they seek to try to impose their vision on their own people and destroy any glimmer of democratic or social progress that has been achieved here and in their country.

What gives Americans under the Bush administration the right to dictate international law, when for the past 30 or 40 years they have supported, trained and armed dictatorships on all continents, including in association with bin Laden and Saddam Hussein?

This war is unjustified and unfair. It is illegal and illegitimate. It is a terrible and dangerous mistake.

As for Canada, thanks to the careful and informed position that we have taken, we must advocate for the side of international law, now more than ever, we must back the UN and its institutions, promote the necessary reforms, participate in humanitarian aid, open our doors to refugees and contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq.

Not only will we need to rebuild the roads that have been ruined, the factories and bridges that have been demolished and wrecked, but we will first have to try to rebuild good relations with the Arab and Muslim world. These communities have values that are similar and comparable to ours, based on humanitarianism, fraternity and openness.

Our Arab and Muslim friends in Canada and in other countries must know that there are peace-loving people in North America, in the United States and Canada, and that they, too, dream of building a world that is balanced and sensible. A world where new international relations will be based on cooperation. These relations will allow us to work in a healthier environment that will allow everyone to eat their fill, to get an education and to be healthy and free.

We have all the means to reach these objectives. President Bush is always saying this:

It is a matter of resolve.

Let us put that resolve at the service of peace.

This is the message that Canada must send despite these difficult times, a message of hope.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

10:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Progressive Conservative Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, under the Liberal government, Canada has gone from influencing the world, to first becoming irrelevant and now becoming an irritant.

Under the Progressive Conservative government, Canada helped shape the world. Under the current Prime Minister's government, Canada is trying to escape it.

The 1991 Persian Gulf conflict was an example of how a Canadian government played a role in shaping both UN and U.S. policy. Then prime minister Mulroney, working with the leader of my party as the Canadian foreign affairs minister, was able to convince then President Bush from taking unilateral military action to liberate Kuwait, to help build a multilateral UN sanctioned effort.

We were trusted then by the world and trusted by the United States. We used our role as a powerful middle power to shape the world at that time and to prevent a U.S. unilateral effort.

Canada should have, in the current Persian Gulf crisis, played a leadership role in helping avert a non UN sanctioned effort. However, the government's ambiguity, hesitancy and poll mongering has served to reduce Canada's role to that of an irrelevant bystander. In fact we have seen 10 years of defence and foreign policy neglect and drift under the Liberal government that has resulted in a role today where nobody knows really where Canada stands. When we finally do make up our mind on a foreign policy issue, it is too late to have any influence on the rest of the world.

Several weeks ago one of Canada's major newspapers had as its headline something to the effect that the Prime Minister was prepared to back Bush. Another Canadian newspaper ran a headline on the same day saying that the Prime Minister refused to back Bush.

The fact that two of Canada's major newspapers were able to present diametrically opposite headlines about the same Prime Minister's position on the same important foreign policy issue indicates the confusion around the government's position on this and other issues. The problem is the Prime Minister uses ambiguity as his modus operandi, which is bad for domestic policy and is dangerous and irresponsible in foreign policy.

This debate has become a bumper sticker debate. It has been dumbed down to sound bites and as such, it is ignoring a lot of the complexities of foreign policy in the most complicated part of a very complicated world. There are some who say there should be no Canadian military support or intervention in any conflict in Iraq at this time, some who say only if it is UN backed, and others who say we should simply support the U.S. and the U.K. led efforts without really trying to shape them.

Foreign policy ought to be aimed at building a better world and at protecting our national interests. Failing to shape the efforts of our traditional allies, failing to stand with our allies, does neither. It certainly does not help to build a better world and it clearly is contrary to Canada's national interests.

If Canada had stood by the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia and helped those countries to shape UN support, that would have been far better. A unified effort of the United Nations would be far more effective in seeking to achieve both disarmament and a regime change in Iraq.

However, the government's foreign policy is shaped more by anti-Americanism than it is by respect for institutional institutions. It is also shaped, it would seem, by the Prime Minister's affinity for dictators. He was willing to pepper spray Canadian youth to protect Suharto from embarrassment. He has defended and stood by Mugabe. Now of course with Hussein he is opposed to action to see regime replacement in Iraq.

I think the Prime Minister admires these dictators and their ability to cling to power. Perhaps he would like to emulate them. I guess it would be a surprise to Canadians to expect that the Prime Minister would ever support regime change, particularly not regime change that would lead to a more democratic government. He certainly does not support regime change in Canada and I do not think he should be expected to support regime change in Iraq.

We should be shaping the policy of and standing beside our allies, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. I am not suggesting a ready, aye, ready blind support for the U.S. We should not blindly follow the UN or the U.S. We are a sovereign country and we should develop a sovereign foreign policy. Canada should play a leadership role in shaping U.S. and UN policy, as we did in 1991.

Recently when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented his case for war in Iraq, our foreign affairs minister and our Prime Minister learned of that case by watching CNN. That is how far away we are from shaping the policies of either the U.S. or the UN.

Mr. Hussein has failed to comply with 16 UN resolutions. He has actively thwarted UN weapons inspections efforts. The sanctions placed upon his country have served to hurt innocent citizens but have not hurt or weakened his regime. Clearly the current approach is not working. Obviously there is a strong case to be made for action against Mr. Hussein and regime change in Iraq.

The UN Security Council led by France has chosen to give Mr. Hussein more time. After 12 years it believes that more time is warranted. The UN was not right in Somalia or in Rwanda. The UN is not without fault or flaws. Libya after all is the chairman of the UN human rights commission. We should not blindly follow the UN. I am not suggesting that we blindly follow the U.S. either. But we could be helping to shape the approach of the U.S., the U.K. and the coalition of the willing on this issue.

I would rather change it from a coalition of the willing to a coalition of the wilful by focusing on an end game, not just in terms of regime change in Iraq but a macro approach to the entire Middle East. We should be focusing on an end game, including reconstruction and democratization and in helping develop a vision not just for a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq but for a more stable, democratic and peaceful Middle East.

President Bush's recent speech to the American Enterprise Institute provided some broad strokes of an end game, but lacked details on how to achieve that end game. Canada should play a leadership role in helping to fill in the blank spaces in that end game working with President Bush and others and to propose a Canadian doctrine, so to speak, for the Middle East with a macro approach to the Middle East, including a democratically led Iraq, working with Israel and the Palestinian authority to first of all ensure a democratically led Palestinian authority and ultimately to an independent and democratically led Palestine.

It is not too late for Canada to introduce a Canadian doctrine today to actually help shape the future of the Middle East. We should have done that before. The fact is that we are now in a position where we basically have a choice of either supporting or not supporting our allies in an imminent war in the Middle East with less opportunity to shape the position of those allies or to help create a long term macro end game approach to a more stable, peaceful and democratic Middle East. It is absolutely awful that we have lost the opportunity to do that.

We can still play a positive role through a Canadian doctrine today in helping to provide a vision for a part of the world that I described as the most complicated part of an increasingly complicated world and in now being able to both work with the U.S. and broker with the UN an agreement in a post-Hussein reconstruction and democratization effort in Iraq. All our foreign policy efforts, in my opinion, ought to be guided by the principles of democracy and democratization.

Some would argue that Iraq is not ready for this sort of democratic leadership. Those same arguments were made in post-war Japan in saying that Japan was not ready for democratic leadership and democratic system at the time. I believe fundamentally that the best, most natural governing system for people is democracy and that people anywhere in the world deserve to live under democratic freedoms. Part of the role that we can play, if we can regain the trust of our allies after this debacle and if we can regain our relevance to the world after this situation passes, is to play a role in helping to shape a more democratic and stable Mideast.

We do have a responsibility to present not just to the world but to Canadians an independent, sovereign foreign policy, but it should not be guided simply by anti-Americanism. It should be guided by our desire to build a better, more stable world and to protect our national interests.

France, that bastion of foreign policy consistency, is certainly protecting its national interests in this most recent UN decision, or intransigence, not to support a military effort in Iraq. We are failing to protect our national interest by thumbing our nose at our greatest trading partner and ally, the United States, and at our traditional ally, the United Kingdom. We are choosing to be pulled around by the nose by France, while at the same time thumbing our nose at our best allies. I think that might be a shortsighted way to appeal to immediate polls, but part of leadership is not simply focusing on next week's polls but on the challenges and opportunities of this century.

I think it would be a laudable goal for Canada to seek to build a more stable, peaceful and democratic Mideast, to help provide a blueprint for that as part of the Canadian doctrine, and to work with our partners in the UN and in the United States and with our traditional allies to help make that happen. If we were to succeed in that, in 10 years or 15 years we could look back at this time in history and be proud of the role that Canada played in shaping the world and shaping a more secure Mideast.

I am concerned, though, that we are missing that opportunity and will see a continued drift by the government and an ambiguity and a lack of foreign policy consistency or principle. That is not good for Canada and it is not good for the world.

In a post-cold war environment, in an environment where there really is only one superpower left in the world, it is now more important than ever that Canada be a trusted partner of the U.S., trusted by the United States and trusted by the world in being able to work between and shape the policies of both. That is what we are capable of. That is what we have done in the past. That is what we will be capable of doing in the future, but we have to step up to the plate and demonstrate courage, vision, foresight and the intestinal fortitude to make not simply the politically palatable short term decisions, but to actually take the courageous long term view and do what is right and what is not always popular.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

10:45 p.m.


Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is an old and not unfamiliar adage which says, “When the guns roar, the muses are silent”. While the countdown to war has begun and while the legal muses may be unable to prevent it, international law does provide an appropriate framework: first, for appreciating the general principles of international law respecting the use of force; second, for assessing the validity of the recourse to the use of force by the United States, the United Kingdom or any coalition of the willing; third, for invoking or applying the legal norms that govern the exercise of the use of force; and finally, for providing a normative guideline of the conduct of foreign policy, be it that of the United States, the United Kingdom or Canada.

Accordingly, with this in mind, I will share some basic principles that underpin such a juridical analysis. One preambular comment: the United States' resort to force or the resort to force of the coalition of the willing might well seem on the face of it an arguably justifiable use of military force, for, simply put, Saddam Hussein has directed and presided over one of the most tyrannical and brutal regimes in modern history.

Indeed, for more than 25 years Saddam Hussein has sought to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and has, in several documented cases, not only succeeded but has in fact used them. He gassed 60,000 of his own people in 1986 in Halabja in a modern genocide. He launched two catastrophic wars, sacrificing nearly a million Iraqis and killing or wounding more than a million Iranians. He has violated the United Nations resolutions, some 16 resolutions over 12 years, resolutions that found him to be in material breach of his disarmament obligations, including the most recent one of four months ago, a resolution that gave him a final opportunity to fully and immediately disarm or face serious consequences.

Most important and most disturbingly, he is the only head of state to have committed the most horrific of all international crimes, crimes against the peace, sometimes referred to as the mother of all crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. But while Saddam Hussein is clearly a war criminal and has committed the most serious of international Nuremberg-type crimes, this does not necessarily authorize the use of force against him, unless such recourse to the use of force is consonant with international law.

Admittedly, it has been said that international law is something that the powerful need not heed and that the righteous need not obey. It may well be that President Bush believes that the convergence of power and right on his side is such that it authorizes the use of force, but there is an normative and juridical framework applicable both to the powerful and the righteous, which I shall now seek to share with colleagues in the House.

The first and foundational principle, which is set forth in article 2, paragraph 4 of the United Nations charter, is the prohibition on the use of force save for two exceptions: first, the exercise of the right of self-defence in response to an armed attack as mandated under article 51 of the charter; and second, the right of the Security Council, acting under chapter 7 of its authority, to determine a situation to be one of a breach of international peace and security and to authorize military action to address that breach to counter aggression and the like.

President Bush has argued, first, that he has a right of pre-emptive self-defence, that is to say, that in a post-9/11 universe the United States nor any other power is not required to await an armed attack which, with the convergence of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and rogue states, can convert that into a suicide pact.

However, even allowing for a flexible interpretation of the right of self-defence in a post-9/11 universe, even allowing for a broader interpretation of that right, nonetheless there must at least be credible evidence of the imminence of such an attack. There must be credible evidence of a clear and present danger of such an attack. No such evidence exists at the present time.

Second, the president has argued, and has argued again this evening, that Iraq is in material breach of UN Security Council resolution 1441 and that serious consequences thereby ensue, including authorizing the use of force. This brings me to the second principle, that is to say, UN Security Council resolution 1441 as a basic juridical framework for appreciating the legalities here.

It is somewhat ironic that President Bush, who helped craft the UN Security Council resolution, which was very much a creature of the United States and the United Kingdom, should seek to invoke that UN Security Council resolution as a legal basis for the recourse to the use of force, because that resolution states clearly that it is only the UN Security Council, not the United States, not the United Kingdom, not the combination of them or others, that can determine whether, first, there has been a material breach, second, that serious consequences flow from that material breach of Iraq's disarmament obligations and, third, that it authorizes the use of force. No such determinations have yet been made by the UN Security Council. Simply put, the UN Security Council resolution 1441 is not a self-executing act that can be invoked by any state acting on its own.

That brings me to the third principle, the principle known as the exhaustion of remedies short of war. Indeed, the United Nations charter on customary international law requires states to seek peaceful resolutions to their disputes. Article 33 of the charter states:

The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

It may well be, and the United States and the United Kingdom may well argue, and have argued, that they have exhausted all other means, but even in the case of a clear act of aggression or threat to the peace and even in the case of the presumed exhaustion of other means, it is only the UN Security Council which is required, under the charter article 41, to first employ measures not involving the use of armed force, and only when such measures would “be inadequate or have proven to be inadequate”, as article 42 states, can the Security Council authorize the use of force.

I might state parenthetically that I regret that the Canadian bridging proposal, which set forth disarmament benchmarks or tests for Iraq to comply with as part of its disarmament obligations and provided timelines for testing the implementation of those disarmament obligations, was not adopted. We are in fact only 10 days away from the expiry of those timeframes; to think that we may have to witness a recourse to the use of force in 48 hours when we could have waited another week and arguably had a UN Security Council resolution that in fact determined that Iraq was indeed in breach of its disarmament obligations as set forth in those benchmarks or tests. And there would have been a timeframe within which that needed to be fulfilled.

That brings me now to principle number four and that is a refined multilateralism approach, or the invocation of the Kosovo precedent and principle. I am referring here to the invocation of the argument that the coalition of the willing resorting to or invoking the Kosovo precedent and principle can go to war. In the same way that a UN Security Council resolution did not exist then but there was a coalition at the time, so can a coalition now engage in the recourse to force without such a resolution.

However, this ignores the fact that at that time a significant majority was secured for a UN Security Council resolution that resulted in a veto by Russia and therefore did not pass.

Today, we have a situation where even a second resolution could not have been put to a vote because a majority vote simply was not there. At the same time the objective then was humanitarian intervention, and even arguing that President Bush has now, in fact, expanded the objective for the use of force from the breach of disarmament obligations under UN Security Council resolution 1441 to that of humanitarian intervention or regime change, it is still clear that even for humanitarian intervention a UN Security Council resolution would be required. Yet such a UN Security Council resolution for that purpose has not even been sought, let alone sanctioned, and regime change is not otherwise permissible under international law.

That leads me to the fifth principle, which is the principle of unintended consequences. If there is one given with respect to the use of force, it is that war is unpredictable. If precedent be a guide, and if the witness testimony before our Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade be instructive in this regard, then the use of force may well trigger a humanitarian catastrophe, as the witness testimony before our committee cited.

Which segues into a sixth principle, what I would call the right action principle, having regard to all the circumstances and the prospective adverse fallouts from the use of force. Is this the right action to be taken at this time?

The prospective use of force may well result in a series of adverse fallouts, including not only untold large numbers of civilian dead and wounded--and women and children are the likely first victims of such a use of force--but also the destabilization of the region so that it may not achieve the goal of democracy, peace and security that is sought, but in fact it may unravel both with respect to Iraq and beyond.

Regarding the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure, the undertaking by the United States and others to rebuild Iraq does not in any way assuage us. The inflaming of the Arab and Muslim world by an attack will be perceived as being an attack on Islam and on Arabs. Even though with respect to humanitarian intervention in Kosovo it was for the sake of saving Muslims at the time, nonetheless the perception at this point, in the absence of any perceived legitimate framework, may be very different. The provoking of more terror would not contribute to the struggle against terror but, in fact, to the encouragement of it through the disruption of the global economy in such a way that we would be faced with untold misery rather than the securing of a freer and stable world.

It may well be that none of these adverse actions that I have just cited may occur. I am only saying that in making a determination to go to war, one has to factor into that decision the principle of the law of unintended consequences and therefore the right action to be deployed in that regard.

That leads me to principle seven and the distinction between jus ad bellum and jus in bello . In other words, international law is relevant not only in assessing the legality of the recourse to the use of force, but also the validity in the exercise of force. However, paradoxical as the nomenclature may seem, we have laws of war, laws governing the use of force in armed conflict, that perhaps are better known as international humanitarian law principles.

These international humanitarian law principles are very clear in what is permissible and impermissible. The use of weapons in any armed conflict must be proportional to the threat, must be necessary for effective self-defence, must not be directed at civilians or civilian objects, must respect the principle of civilian immunity, must be able to discriminate between civilian and military targets, must not cause unnecessary or aggravated suffering to combatants, must not affect states not party to the conflict, must not cause severe, widespread or long term damage to the environment, and must endeavour to avoid civilian infrastructure which is already operating at minimal efficiency.

This is, generally speaking, the framework with respect to the international humanitarian norms applicable to the exercise of the use of force, which leads me now to the eighth principle.

That is the principle of accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law. Clearly, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi leadership are responsible under international criminal law as well as humanitarian law for their Nuremberg crimes, crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Clearly, one does not anticipate, nor should one impute, that the coalition of the willing forces will in any way engage in any crimes similar to that. However, the principles I enunciated with respect to the norms of international humanitarian law, the most important among them being respect for the principle of civilian immunity, are sacrosanct. We now have a regime of international criminal law and an international criminal court which is in force that can hold even members of the coalition of the willing accountable, believing as they do and even imputing to them the good faith that they are acting out of right intent. Nonetheless, they too could be held accountable for said breaches of international humanitarian law.

While the United States has not ratified the international criminal court, the United Kingdom has, and therefore armed forces from the United Kingdom could, should they engage in any breaches of international humanitarian law, find themselves liable first of all before the British court if not before the international criminal court. Even U.S. nationals could find themselves liable under principles of universal jurisdiction before other jurisdictions.

I make this statement because as a basic principle of notice before any armed conflict with the kind of weaponry that may be engaged, this principle of accountability for breaches of international humanitarian law must be given.

Clearly, I make no equivalence between that which has already been committed--the international Nuremberg crimes that have already been committed by Saddam Hussein and his regime--and prospective breaches of international humanitarian law that could be committed by the allied forces. Nonetheless, under the principle, such notice must be given.

Finally, we come to what I would call the principle of retroactive validity. That principle is perhaps the most compelling one that may operate in favour of President Bush and the coalition of the willing. The principle of retroactive validity is such that if the resort to the use of force is exercised, if a war is launched and even if there is some dubious question about the legalities of the recourse of the use of force, if the United States, the United Kingdom and the coalition of the willing do uncover weapons of mass destruction, do uncover evidence that Iraq was deceiving the inspection regime and the international community, and are greeted with a responsive greeting by the Iraqi people, who see them as liberators and the like, it may well be that at that point one might perhaps consider that the initial legalities or the question of legalities of the recourse to the use of force will have been overtaken by the realities of what I would call the principle of retroactive validity.

In conclusion, the juridical framework organized around principles of international law may yet be for us the best looking glass to appreciate what in the days ahead may become a recourse to an extensive use of military force, during which we will have to assess what is the validity of this recourse to the use of force, what is the validity of the exercise of the use of force, what is the accountability that is involved, and what are our respective obligations post the use of force.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

11:05 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the events of today have been extraordinary and will not soon be forgotten. They have placed us on the brink of war and have sent shock waves around the world.

The day began with the news that resolution 1441 had been withdrawn or held in abeyance at the UN Security Council. The day ended with the live broadcast of United States President George W. Bush presenting his ultimatum to Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq within 48 hours or face the consequences of military action. It is a day that peace loving people everywhere had hoped would never come.

Just this weekend an article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press written by well known author Karen Toole who wrote the following:

There's a fine line between faithfulness and fanaticism. There's a fine line between pride and prejudice, dedication and domination, patriotism and panic, enthusiasm and evangelization. In the “regular” calendar of the world, March 17 is St. Patrick's Day, and the eve of Purim, but this year March 17 is “D day”; decision day, we are told (once again), for U.S. President George W. Bush and the UN. So saints days and faith festivals can get swallowed up by this relentless war machine.

Today, March 17, our worst fears have been confirmed. In 48 hours, on Wednesday, March 19, the war on Iraq may have begun.

Our only relief today comes from knowing that our Canadian government has finally taken a clear position and said Canada will not be party to a war declared without the sanction of the United Nations. For that we congratulate the government and the thousands of Canadians who spoke out over the past several months; who walked for peace; who signed petitions; who sent letters, faxes and e-mails; and who said with one voice that we ought to support diplomacy, a path of peace and a resolution to the Iraq conflict within the framework of international law.

Tonight we want to acknowledge the significant step taken by the Prime Minister, but in so doing we must indicate our concern about the failure of the government to show clarity on the matter of Canadian troops presently in the region. We call upon the government to clarify its position with respect to the Canadian troops involved with U.S. and British forces on an exchange basis and who, unless called back, will be part of the war on Iraq. Whether we are talking about one or 30 or 3,000 troops, the presence of Canadian troops in this war is an act of complicity.

While we congratulate the government for its position clearly enunciated in the House today, we express our concern and opposition for its failure to allow the House of Commons to have a vote on the fundamental issue facing us. It is clear that the government's position would have had much more power and strength if the matter had been put to the House of Commons for a vote.

It is clear that Canadians want us to pursue diplomacy and peace as long as we have time to do so. Canadians know that war will mean a humanitarian crisis. We all know that in the event of war there will be major damage to Iraqi infrastructure which is critical to the provision of health, nutritional and social needs of millions of citizens. We know that the number of refugees will certainly be major and that environmental damage will be incalculable.

The World Health Organization estimates casualties will rise in the hundreds of thousands. UNICEF calculates that the basic nutritional needs of more than three million Iraqi civilians will be unmet. According to the leader of a Canadian funded mission to Iraq and a report by international experts entitled, “The Impact of a New War on Iraqi Children” casualties among children have reached in the hundreds of thousands.

We all know the importance of acting seriously and concretely with measures to prohibit Iraq's acquisition and retention of weapons of mass destruction. For that there is no hesitation. However, clearly, it is incumbent upon Canada on the eve of a war in Iraq to do everything possible and to use every imaginable tactic to call upon the United States to think twice before it makes that final decision on Wednesday, March 19, and as others have said in this House tonight, to call on Saddam Hussein to do what is so necessary in this situation; to pull back, to pull out and to give peace a chance.

In these hours leading up to Wednesday, March 19, it is clear that Canada does have a major role to play. Should war come, God forbid, clearly Canada has a role to call for strict rules for the protection of civilians, to demand that depleted uranium never be used in weapons employed in the war, to call for limiting the use of weapons like landmines and cluster bombs and to call on forces in the region to avoid targets where civilians are at risk and where collateral damage can be very great.

That of course is not to detract from the overriding objective at hand, to do everything we can to try to avert war at the eleventh hour. Today in this debate, we congratulate the government but we urge our government to do everything possible to ensure that all steps are taken to prevent this tragic development, the war, looming around us.

I want to close by simply reading a little story that is well known in Winnipeg circles. It is called “The Robin and the Dove” and I think it says everything that Canadians wish for in terms of peace and what is possible. It goes like this:

The robin returned from its winter quarters to Winnipeg and everybody was very glad to see the robin, for a robin announces that spring is coming. Not that the winters are that bad in Winnipeg; throwing snowballs, making a snowman, printing yourself in the snow as an angel, admiring winter wonderland, but yes they are a bit long.

Now it was one of those years that you think the winter is gone, but the winter turns around and teases and Bea Boop, still there!

The robin went to see his friend the dove and asked “how much weighs a snowflake?”. “A snowflake? It feels cold and wet on your nose, but does not weigh at all. Why?”

Yesterday the robin said “I saw for the first time snow. I was sitting on my branch and counted all the snowflakes that fell on my branch. A million! Nothing happened, but when one million and one snowflakes fell on my branch, the branch broke”. Then it flew away.

The dove thought, if a million snowflakes will not break a branch, but a million and one can do it, maybe you have a million voices and nothing happens but when you hear a million voices that can bring peace.

It can be your voice or his or hers or mine but we need a million voices with it.

Situation in IraqEmergency Debate

11:15 p.m.


Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was a little over a month ago that I walked with my three sons in Vancouver in a peace march. I walked not as a politician and I walked very quietly. I walked with mothers, I walked with babies, I walked with senior citizens, I walked with church people and for a short time, I walked with my colleagues, physicians against war. There was a sense that day of people coming together and there was a sense of hope. There was a sense that with goodwill, one could change things, that with goodwill, one could move forward, that with goodwill, one could avert an impending disaster. People who had never walked before, walked on that day. I felt quite humbled. I walked as a mother, I walked as a physician and I walked as a Canadian.

Today many people voiced how surprised they were that the Prime Minister finally came up with what they consider to be a focus and to point clearly on what Canada wished to do with regard to Iraq. I was not surprised because I knew all along that the Prime Minister, whose mentor was Lester Pearson, who worked with the government of Pierre Trudeau, who in fact has followed in a long line of Liberal governments, would do the right thing. I know what he has always felt. He has a commitment to multilateralism and he has a commitment to the United Nations. It has always been thus. He is a strong Liberal, with clear Liberal values. I have never doubted his position for a moment. I always thought his position was particularly clear. However his position today made me again, one more time in the last month and a half, proud to be a Canadian.

Tonight I watched the President of the United States, George W. Bush, speak. For the first time, I felt a strong sense of despair. I felt all hope, all the best ideas of men and women of goodwill, the Canadian position that we brought forward and that I was so proud of when Paul Heinbecker went to the United Nations and brought forward a set of ideas within which we could set guidelines and timelines for a process of disarmament within Iraq, all those things, had come to naught.

In fact and indeed when George W. Bush made his speech today, I got a sense that it was not whether he would consider if there would be a war but that he had determined all along that he would go to war, it was only a matter of when and how. This was not a case of finding ways in which one could avert war or finding ways in which one could disarm Saddam Hussein. We have all heard, and no one doubts it for a moment, that Saddam Hussein is in deed a monster committing genocide and crimes against humanity. One got the sense tonight that this war had already been cast in stone a very long time ago.

However, one does not despair for long. Tonight we have to regroup and we have to ask ourselves whether Canada can come up again with a plan and play a strong role in averting this war, albeit in 48 hours and albeit it at the eleventh hour. I think we can. I think we can come together and come up with ideas in which we can ensure that disarmament occurs. We can ensure that Saddam Hussein is forced to do the right thing. There are ways in which this can be done. We have to work with like-minded countries and we have to speed up our efforts to do so.

When I listened to Mr. Bush tonight, I remembered, and I was a very young girl, when President Kennedy faced a similar crisis and decided that he would indeed threaten war during the Cuban missile crisis. This was another American president at a time when America was the super power in the world, albeit with another super power, Russia. I remember that while the force, the ships, moved forward, we all waited with bated breath to see whether there would be a war. Indeed there was a very good reason for President Kennedy to move his ships into place. There was a real threat to America. Missiles were being set up in Cuba directed at the U.S., which is not what we see here today with regard to the United States and Saddam Hussein.

I recall then that even while Kennedy spoke of war, even while he clenched his fists very tightly and held them up and said, “We will not back down”, he was working behind the scenes constantly, as history tells us, with Russia and Mr. Khrushchev to see if, as men of goodwill, they could avert a war, to see war itself as a threat was not what they should use as a way of averting war, which is in itself an irony, using the threat of war to avert war. I think this is what one hoped would happen at the last moment here today.

I want to say clearly that we will see Canadians walk again. We will see them walking tomorrow probably. We will be getting letters. I know that my office will be inundated with phone calls because, as we heard tonight from my colleague from Mount Royal, Canadians believe in the rule of law and they believe international law must prevail. They believe the United Nations was set up to avert war and to ensure that no country unilaterally would make a pre-emptive strike. There are countries of the world that have known real war. France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom have seen war in the two great wars. They like no one else understand what war is. They are all anxious even at this moment to avert war because they know that war does not solve the problem. War is a temporary measure.

If we wish to seek democratic solutions, if we wish to ensure disarmament, we must find a way to do so with a threat of force, yes with force, but to find the kind of process where we set clear guidelines and ensure that we exhaust all the efforts we need to exhaust, under the United Nations, to bring Saddam Hussein to heel.

I want to close by saying that, as a Canadian, I believe our government will stand up and do the right thing. I believe that in the history of Canada we have always at the right moment come up with ideas that are worth following. I hope that all of us in the House will not take petty political positions. This is too big. This is not a hockey game. I watched the media following Iraq as if it were a hockey game. Let us see who will be the first one, let us see who will get out there and deke out whom on the ice. This will be a crisis of humanitarian proportions, if war is launched on Iraq. This will last for a long time because there will be retaliation from many countries. The Middle East will be plunged into something unimaginable. This war has long term consequences.

Finally we need, and I think Canada can lead in this, to let men and women of goodwill move forward and to come up at this last moment with decisions under the rule of law and with compromises that would set clear guidelines to avert what would seem right now, in my sense of despair, to be an inevitability.