That this House call upon the government not to participate in the military intervention initiated by the United States in Iraq.
Mr. Speaker, today is a terribly sad day. We are forced to admit that diplomacy has failed and that hostilities were begun late last night. Not only is this war unjustified, as the Prime Minister has said; it is illegal and illegitimate as well.
Our thoughts go out immediately to the innocent civilians, the men, women and children who do not deserve what is happening to them.
War is always an admission of failure, particularly since the inspections were making progress. Mr. Blix made his report to the Security Council yesterday.
By far the majority of countries wanted peaceful disarmament to continue. Yes, Iraq must certainly be disarmed, but peacefully. Thus this war is not only pointless, it also represents a serious mistake.
Today is also an important day, because the House of Commons will get to vote. That is the role of the elected representatives that we are, men and women who represent the people in our respective ridings.
There are two important occasions when this House must express itself, when we must vote as parliamentarians. First there are the budgets, obviously, since they set out the priorities for the year to come, but then there is also, and above all, the matter of war or peace. There is nothing more important in life for Parliament, for the elected members that we are, than deciding whether to opt for the logic of war or the logic of peace. This is the most important question we can be asked. And today we will be able to vote.
The government's position on this question of whether or not to hold a vote was untenable. The Prime Minister told us it had to be assumed that he had the support of the House, because he was proposing to refuse to take part in this war, and a vote was not necessary. I repeat, he always presumes he has the House's support, for Kyoto and for the budget, yet votes must be held, so that argument does not hold water.
Second, it is false to claim that, in our parliamentary tradition, in a British-style system, the executive, with the undisputed authority to make such a decision, is not required to consult the House. As recently as the day before yesterday, Tony Blair was doing just that under very difficult circumstances. I do not agree with Tony Blair, but we must admit that he at least respected the democracy of the House of Commons.
During today's debate and through the vote to be held at its conclusion, we will be expressing the opinion of Quebeckers and Canadians. We witnessed those peace and anti-war protests, and I am speaking, in particular, about Quebec, since I am a member from Quebec. Three major protests were held. At the last one, some 250,000 people gathered in Montreal. There were another 18,000 in Quebec City. Protests were held in Trois-Rivières, Gatineau, Rimouski, and Sherbrooke. Some 5,000 protesters gathered in Alma, a city of 30,000 people.
People do not want war. They want peace. Not once have I heard someone say, “We support Saddam Hussein”. Wanting peace does not mean supporting that dictator. We must not buy into that absurd logic. We must disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein, but through peaceful means.
We must be clear about the principles underlying our position. The conditions that authorize war, that justify resorting to such a terrible step, are as follows: the first condition is legitimate defence. A country under attack has the right to defend itself, no argument there. The second is a significant threat to international security, supported by an explicit United Nations Security Council resolution. The third is a threat of genocide.
We were right to intervene in Kosovo. There was a risk of genocide. We should have intervened in Rwanda. Our position is a peaceful one and we understand—as pacifists in Quebec have also told me—that unfortunately, in some situations like in Rwanda or during the Second World War, we have to take the terrible step of resorting to war.
However, none of the three conditions I just mentioned apply to the situation in Iraq. That is why we agree with the Prime Minister that this war is unjustified. But we would add, as Boutros Boutros-Ghali said yesterday, that it is also illegal and illegitimate.
All our actions and interventions have to be based on law. This means multilateral action within the framework of international institutions. No country should set itself above international institutions.
Today the Security Council is paralyzed. There is a major division, although a large majority of countries within the Security Council—11 out of 15—have refused to declare war. The U.S., Britain and Spain were unable to convince nine members of the Security Council to launch hostilities and with good reason, since the weapons inspectors were making progress. We were on the way to peaceful disarmament. I repeat, we have to pursue the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. This is difficult, given what took place yesterday.
No one supports Saddam Hussein. He is a dictator who committed atrocities not only in 2003, but in the 1990s, 1980s and 1970s when he had the support of some western powers, including the U.S. This is the same man who used biological and chemical weapons. Yet at the time, no one talked about disarming him.
Disarming Iraq is not the same as changing the regime. It is not that we want the regime to stay, far from it, as I said earlier. But changes in regime have to be carried out by the people themselves, or by an international coalition respecting the conditions and principles of international law.
This happens through a number of treaties that have been signed since the second world war, since the UN was formed. Take the international criminal court, for example. This is one of the means that countries have to try war criminals, to try those who took certain actions, who initiated genocide. That was the case in Rwanda; it is the case with Milosevic. Unfortunately, it must be pointed out that the United States refuses to support the international criminal court, as well as the Ottawa treaty on landmines. We need to go the route of international institutions and conventions that favour diplomacy and cooperation over force.
The Bloc Quebecois opposes the war, like thousands of Quebeckers and like thousands of men and women across Canada and around the world, like the National Assembly, where all of the parties unanimously voiced their opposition.
And now for Canada's position. Canada hesitated for a long time, but we completely support the Government of Canada's refusal to take part in the military intervention by the U.S. in Iraq. On this issue, we are solidly behind the government.
However, there appears to be some inconsistency in Canada's position. There are still Canadian ships in the Persian Gulf. There are soldiers who are integrated with American and British battalions. There are still officers at the American and British headquarters in Qatar. This seems completely inconsistent, to me, not only with Canada's principled stand, but with the position expressed and chosen by Canada not to participate in this military intervention.
This makes me think of the case of Spain. They support the military intervention, but President Aznar was forced to back down because of the objections voiced by Spanish parliamentarians, and to refuse to send troops. Spain supports the intervention but is not taking part; Canada does not support it, but some of its soldiers and ships are there.
I think this is a mistake. It is hard to imagine that at the headquarters in Qatar, they are going to discuss the fight against terrorism with officers, then ask Canadian officers to leave to discuss the situation in Iraq. That does not make sense.
I agree that there should be Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan; we supported Canada's position at that time. However, Canada should be more consistent and withdraw all military equipment and personnel.
I also disapprove of Canada's fatalistic attitude these past few days, with the Prime Minister saying that every effort was made and that nothing more can be done now. Diplomatic efforts must continue.
We brought up resolution 377, which was first used during the Suez crisis in 1956. The conflict had begun, yet the U.S. convened the UN General Assembly to discuss the issue and bring greater pressure to bear on the two belligerent states that were occupying the Suez Canal area at the time, namely France and Great Britain. This effort was successful. It led to the creation of a peacekeeping force, at the instigation of Lester B. Pearson, who was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize that same year.
Canada should take an active approach to diplomacy. It should not lapse into fatalism and make the American position its own, as if nothing more could be done, but rather continue its diplomatic efforts and fully support non-governmental organizations involved in humanitarian relief and the inevitable reconstruction of Iraq.
In this respect, we should learn from the experience in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, promises were not kept, women are still suffering, and freedom has yet to be restored. There are very real efforts that need to be made, right away in Afghanistan, and tomorrow in Iraq.
Canada must also make every effort to ensure that the Geneva conventions concerning prisoners are followed, which was not the case in Afghanistan; they must be followed in Iraq.
I am raising the Afghanistan conflict again because it would seem, as President Bush indicated on several occasions, that this action in Iraq is a consequence of the events of September 11, 2001, even if the Americans' evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq are not conclusive.
There are more al-Qaeda members in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait than there were in Iraq. One must not jump to conclusions and be trigger-happy. It is important to learn the lessons of September 11.
At the time, people said that the attack against the United States was not an attack against the Americans, but an attack against all democracies. People here said it. I said it and many of my hon. colleagues said it. The government also said it, and it is true. But if it is true that is an attack against all democracies, should there not be a response from all democracies, an international response? Is this not the lesson to be learned? Is another lesson—and we were drawing these conclusions the day after the sad events in New York and Washington—that we must not fall for Osama bin Laden's arguments and not bring God or Allah into the wars of men? Unfortunately, we have fallen into that same trap. This is another mistake that will lead to religious fanaticism and that should be avoided at all costs.
This is the false logic of the good guys and the bad guys. Those using this good guy, bad guy logic are no better than Osama bin Laden; the logic is the same and so are the consequences. This is not the conclusion we must draw.
There is another lesson to be learned. How many times over the past several decades have we heard this false logic that my enemy's enemy is my friend? Saddam Hussein was the Americans' friend in fighting Iran; we see what this has led to. Osama bin Laden was the Americans' friend in fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan; and we see what this has led to. We must break with this false logic and instead put our faith in the principles of international law.
We must condemn at all costs this new theory of pre-emptive war. What are the implications for the future? What dictator will say tomorrow, “I am declaring war, because I think that one day, that guy will declare war on me”? What are the consequences for the world? This is an erroneous theory, a theory that can only lead to increased conflicts around the planet.
Nothing can justify terrorism, as we have so often said. We have also said, however, that terrorism does not just crop up out of nowhere, just by chance. There must be fertile ground for it to develop. Terrorism is rooted in poverty, the lack of democracy, the maintenance of dictatorships. These are what must be attacked. Denying cultural and national identities, denying the rights of men and of women, this is where the roots of terrorism lie. We have not taken that lesson to heart, but today we must. We must take it to heart in the reconstruction. We must take it to heart in the provision of humanitarian aid.
In conclusion, today's vote is important. It will make it possible to strengthen the Canadian position and to make it known to all of the member states of the United Nations that not only is this the position of the government and the Prime Minister, but it is also that of the great majority of us parliamentarians. It will bolster the credibility of international institutions, which is why we are calling for the government to intervene, through its ambassador to the United Nations General Assembly. This vote will strengthen the pro-peace camp.
In closing, I wish to say how proud I am that our party, the Bloc Quebecois, is the one making it possible for the House to express itself on this major question, the most vital and important of questions, whether to have peace or war. We are proud to have this opportunity and we trust the government will ensure that the vote in question is held this very day.