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House of Commons Hansard #76 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was iraq.

Topics

IraqOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the state department indicated on Thursday in a press briefing that it had requested 62 nations, including Canada, to consider temporarily suspending Iraq's diplomatic presence in their countries. On Friday the foreign affairs minister claimed “...we have received no request from the United States...”. I do not think and I hope the minister would not deliberately try to mislead the House but we have a serious discrepancy of information here, a serious communication in a time when one of our allies, at least, is at war.

Could the minister please explain this very serious discrepancy here? Two different reports, and he is on the wrong side, by the way.

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member will agree that I certainly have no intention of misleading the House. We have not had a formal request. I understand that the United States has issued a preference that all countries expel Iraqi diplomats. Frankly, we are looking at this in a way in which we believe we can make the best contribution to the long term resolution of this issue in the interests of the United States, in the interests of our allies and in the interests of Canada. We will continue to monitor the situation in the light of all those considerations.

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, people around the world this weekend monitored on television some pretty horrific pictures gleefully displayed by Saddam Hussein's regime that showed Geneva convention violations regarding treatment of prisoners. These prisoners, these soldiers, are friends of ours. They are among our historic allies.

At the very least, since the government decided not to in any big way support this coalition of nations, we could send the diplomats home, back to Iraq. We will not even do that. Why not?

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I made it very clear in the answer to the Leader of the Opposition that Canada's position has been totally, utterly, and absolutely against any violations of the Geneva convention. We support our American friends and allies on insisting that the Iraqi regime conform to international law. We will continue to do that.

We will be able to get our voice through to that regime by having contact with the regime. As always we will examine the best way to deal with this diplomatic matter in consultation with our American allies and in consideration of the best interests of Canada.

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday 200,000 people marched in the streets of Montreal to say no to war in Iraq. The demonstrators expressed their support of Canada's decision not to take part in this illegal, illegitimate and unjustified war. But they called upon the federal government to go still further and to recall the Canadian military personnel working in Iraq.

Is the government going to heed the public and show some consistency with respect to Iraq by pulling out the Canadian soldiers who are in the theatre of operations?

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the government's position is totally consistent. We support our allies in their war against terrorism. It is our war as well.

At a time when the Americans and the British are in need of our protection against terrorism in the gulf, the Bloc wants us to pull out. It wants Canada to withdraw just as the threat of terrorism is on the rise. That is not the position the Government of Canada has adopted.

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is mixing up two things. In the battle against terrorism in Afghanistan, we did not call for the Canadian troops to be pulled out. The presence of Canadian troops within American and British battalions in Iraq, however, is not part of the battle against terrorism. It is an act of war within an unjustified war, to use the very words of the Prime Minister.

How can he say we are against an unjustified war and send troops to that same war, and then say there is no inconsistency in this? It makes no sense.

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, to repeat the answer I have just given, if the hon. member looks at a map of that region, he will see that the gulf region encompasses Afghanistan and Iraq. We are there to protect the allies from terrorists. The risk of it is high, which is one very important reason to remain there, and remain there we will.

IraqOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, numerous pictures of American prisoners bring home the harsh reality of the war in Iraq. We realized that even logistics support units can be targets, just as offensive units can.

Does the Minister of National Defence, who refuses to pull out the Canadian soldiers integrated with the American and British units in Iraq, realize that the Canadian soldiers providing logistics support are performing exactly the same duties as the soldiers taken prisoner this weekend?

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I do not understand this logic. We are very proud of the role played by our soldiers who are participating in this exchange. We have been doing this for decades. Cooperating with our allies is good for joint operations.

If we were to do what the member suggests, then at best we would be offending our allies, and at worst we would be putting the lives of allied soldiers at risk. We are not prepared to do either of those things.

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence has a rather odd way of looking at things.

Does he realize that the Canadian soldiers, who were left in American and British units, are fighting the war as we speak? They are in a combat situation. And even if Canada opposes the war, these soldiers are fighting in it. Let him explain that.

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I have explained many times that we have an extremely strong alliance with the Americans and the British. We have been taking part in the war on terrorism and we will continue to do so. We do not want to send the wrong message to our allies. We do not want to endanger our allies' soldiers by pulling out our soldiers. That is something we will not do.

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, this Parliament voted for Canada not to involve itself in Bush's war. Yet we have Canadian ships travelling as far north as Kuwait escorting ships of war. If that is not involvement, then what is?

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I said last week that the NDP does not get it. I do not think it has learned very much over the weekend.

The NDP should understand that we are there for the long haul in the war against terrorism. Beginning September 11 that war and the defence of the continent went overseas. We were there in Afghanistan with our allies. At one point we were the fourth largest contingent. We are now leading a multinational naval task force. The risk of terrorism has increased and now more than ever it is important that we stay there.

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, yet again the Minister of National Defence has not been able to tell us where Operation Apollo ends and where Bush's war begins. What is deadly dangerous to our troops is this kind of confusion. On March 18 the Prime Minister said that Canadian troops will not be involved in Iraq.

I ask the defence minister again, if escorting ships of war in the gulf is not involvement, then what is?

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Markham Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the NDP reminds me a little bit of the leader of the fifth party, suggesting the rules of engagement in matters that could put the security of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and women at risk should be announced in the House to the world.

I cannot say exactly where our ships are or what the area of operation is because that would put our people at risk. That is the last thing that I am about to do.

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, last week Iraq fired one, perhaps two, Scud-B missiles at Kuwait. These are missiles which Iraq denied having. Yesterday there were two more discoveries of proscribed weapons: a suspected chemical weapons facility and Russian weapons near Basra.

Does the Government of Canada consider these discoveries to be a further material breach of UN resolutions? Does it consider them to be proof that Saddam deliberately concealed weapons of mass destruction from UN inspectors? Does that evidence change Canada's position not to participate?

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa South Ontario

Liberal

John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we share the view that was expressed in the House as follows:

Of all countries, Canada should not be ambiguous about our respect for the United Nations and for international law. We should be clear now that we will act only within the context of initiatives sanctioned by the Security Council.

That was the leader of the Conservative Party speaking in the House on January 29.

IraqOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

IraqOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. We would not want to waste time. We will want to hear the next question by the right hon. gentleman and he has the floor.

IraqOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Precisely, Mr. Speaker, and my view of the law on the matter was upheld and repeated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the government on Friday.

The United Nations needs a Security Council resolution to lead reconstruction in Iraq. Last week the Prime Minister wanted to wait until the bombs were dropping before Canada acted. That leaves reconstruction to the Pentagon which is dropping the bombs that the Prime Minister was waiting for. The British are seeking a Security Council resolution and Japan has committed at least $100 million to work under UN auspices.

What is the Prime Minister of Canada waiting for now? Will the government spell out exactly--

IraqOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister for International Cooperation.

IraqOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Essex Ontario

Liberal

Susan Whelan LiberalMinister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has indicated that Canada will be providing humanitarian assistance as well as support for reconstruction efforts undertaken in a multilateral context. We will be working very closely with the United Nations and other multilateral institutions to plan the delivery of humanitarian aid in Iraq.

We are expecting an appeal this week on Wednesday from the United Nations on that very subject and we have committed ourselves to be there after for reconstruction.

IraqOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the allied coalition forces are going out of their way to avoid civilian casualties. Saddam Hussein goes out of his way to endanger his own people. He is now using women and children as human shields. Previously, he has used chemical weapons to wipe out large segments of the Iraqi population.

What will it take for the government to change its mind and join our allies to disarm Saddam?

IraqOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we have made it very clear that we totally disapprove of any violation of the rules of war by Iraq and we will continue to convey that measure.

I subscribe to the observation by the hon. member that the United States has been extremely cautious about the way in which it has tried to avoid civilian casualties. We very much respect how the United States is conducting itself and we will support it in every way we possibly can to ensure that Iraq observes the rules of war as they should be observed.