House of Commons Hansard #86 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was war.


Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 15 petitions.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, regarding Taiwan's request to be granted observer status at the World Health Organization.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, entitled “The Federal Role in Aquaculture in Canada”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report. However, notwithstanding the deadline of 150 days stipulated in Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the comprehensive response to this report be tabled within 90 days of the presentation of the report to the House.

Succinctly, this is not a unanimous report. There are four dissenting opinions. The opinion of the majority can be encapsulated in one sentence, namely, “The committee supports responsible development of aquaculture provided that the industry is managed sustainably, provided that wild fish and their habitat are protected, and provided that the precautionary principle is genuinely applied”.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

This committee deals with the means by which Parliament can better oversee the government regulatory process and in particular, to inquire into and report upon the role, functions and powers of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the pleasure to deliver to the House another petition from residents from across Saskatchewan who are concerned about Bill C-250. They are praying in earnest that the bill be not passed by the House of Commons.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Janko Peric Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my privilege to present to the House a petition signed by 50 concerned citizens from my riding of Cambridge. In Canada one out of four children dies before birth from induced abortion. More than half of all Canadians agree that human life needs protection prior to birth and yet there is still no law protecting unborn children.

The petitioners pray and request that Parliament enact legislation that would provide legal recognition and protection of children from fertilization to birth.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the privilege to present two petitions mostly from residents of Ontario and Quebec. They are calling on Parliament to modify legislation to ensure that parents are equally and actively involved in their children's lives after divorce, and to ensure that child support payments are used for the children.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition pursuant to Standing Order 36. This petition is signed by 47 people from the wonderful community of Milk River in my riding. They call on Parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research to find the cures and therapies necessary to treat the illnesses and diseases of suffering Canadians.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


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

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Situation in IraqGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Saint-Maurice Québec


Jean Chrétien LiberalPrime Minister


That this House re-affirm:

the substantial sense of the House, voted on March 20, 2003, in support of the government's decision not to participate in the military intervention in Iraq;

the unbreakable bonds of values, family, friendship and mutual respect that will always characterize Canada's relationship with the United States of America and the United Kingdom;

our pride in the work of the members of the Canadian Forces who are deployed in the Persian Gulf region;

our hope that the U.S.-led coalition accomplishes its mission as quickly as possible with the fewest casualties;

the importance of self restraint on the part of all Members of the House in their comments on the war in Iraq while our American friends are in battle; and

the commitment of Canada to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq.

Mr. Speaker,I am proud to stand today to support the motion before the House, a principled motion where we reaffirm our decision not to participate in the war in Iraq but to continue our participation in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, a motion where we reaffirm our friendship with the United States and the United Kingdom and our support for the success of the coalition, where we urge restraint in what we say to each other and about our friends in these emotionally charged times. Our motion also focuses on the need to turn our attention to the reconstruction of Iraq as soon as possible.

We will be voting later today on a Canadian Alliance motion which asks the House to apologize for statements made by certain members of Parliament. Presumably, the Leader of the Opposition wants the House of Commons to condemn the leader of the Conservative Party for what he said in Winnipeg on March 26 about the American administration. Surely the motion will have the House of Commons condemn statements related to the war made by members of the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party.

Yes, there are members on this side of the House who have said things in recent weeks in reference to the war with which I strongly disagree and which we all wish had not been said. However there are also members on the other side of the House who say things every day with which all of us on this side disagree and which we sometimes find, in the words of the opposition motion, to be offensive and inappropriate.

We do not use our majority to introduce motions calling upon the House to express regret and apologies for what members opposite may say. We do not do so for a very simple reason. It is for the electorate and not for the House of Commons to pass such judgments.

Nothing is more fundamental in our democracy than the rights and privileges of members of Parliament to speak their minds with complete freedom. These rights and privileges have evolved over centuries in the British parliamentary system. These rights and privileges are a precious asset in a democracy and are not to be tampered with ever.

I have been in the House for a long time. Indeed, I was elected 40 years ago today. Over these many years I have witnessed and participated in very intense debates over very controversial issues, where passions have run very high, where government and opposition have defended fundamentally different positions. However, in all these years, I cannot recall any motion that would have cast a greater chill over the rights of members of Parliament to free speech than the Canadian Alliance motion we will be voting on later today.

The same members who called me at one time Milosevic, who called me a dictator, although the gentler ones called me a friendly dictator, now complain that I do not vet the speeches and remarks of every member of my party. Even worse, they want the House of Commons to condemn members from both sides for expressing their views. As long as it has the confidence of the House, the government speaks on behalf of the nation.

The Deputy Prime Minister spoke eloquently in the House last week on behalf of the government and on behalf of the people of Canada. However this party, this government and this Prime Minister will never vote for a motion that casts a chill on the rights and privileges of members of Parliament to free speech in the House. That is why we have proposed a positive resolution that reflects the profoundly held views of Canadians about the war in Iraq, to which I would like to speak.

Canada took a principled stand against participating in military intervention in Iraq. From the beginning our position has been very clear: to work through the United Nations to achieve the goals we share with our friends and allies; disarming Saddam Hussein; strengthening the international rule of law and human rights; and working toward enduring peace in the region.

We worked very hard to achieve a consensus in the Security Council. We hoped, with a little more time and with robust inspections, that war could have been averted and Iraq could have been disarmed. We argued that a multilateral approach through the United Nations was key to enhancing the international legitimacy of military action and would have made it easier after the war was over.

We applied those principles in deciding not to join the coalition when the war began. We sought a new resolution in the Security Council.

The decision on whether or not to send troops into battle must always be a decision of principle, not a decision of economics, not even a decision of friendship, alone.

Our friendship with the United States is far stronger than some of our critics would have us believe. Our friendship is far stronger than those who scaremonger would have us believe. It is far stronger than some who purport to speak for the business community would have us believe. Close friends can disagree at times and still remain close friends.

When I was a young member of Parliament I remember when Mr. Pearson spoke out in the United States against the war in Vietnam. The United States administration was disappointed and I suspect even the American ambassador at the time was disappointed but our friendship did not suffer. Neither country has ever been in the business of economic retaliation over disagreements on issues of foreign policy. This is not what our relationship is all about. The closeness of our relationship goes well beyond economics alone.

Many of us remember with pride some 23 years ago when Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador in Iran, rescued Americans from the U.S. embassy in Tehran. That is what friendship is all about, a friendship that is far in relations between our two national governments, our states and provinces, our cities, our institutions of learning, our businesses, our hospitals and above all, in our people who work together, marry one another, go to one another's schools and universities, play in the same sports leagues and even sometimes live in one country and work in the other.

The decision we made three weeks ago was not an easy one at all. We would have preferred to have been able to agree with our friends but we, as an independent country, make our own decisions based on our own principles, such as our longstanding belief in the value of a multilateral approach to global problems. This is an approach which we believe is more than ever necessary as we face the threat of global terrorism, environmental damage on a vast scale and many other extremely difficult challenges.

The true test of our principles and our values is precisely whether they guide us when our choices are hard and very difficult. I am proud that this House has spoken so clearly for our principles. I am proud of this country, and I am grateful for the support of Canadians.

Now the war is on and our friends are embattled. While we are not participating in the coalition, for reasons I have expressed, let us be very clear that this government and all Canadians hope for a quick victory for the U.S.-led coalition with a minimum of casualties. We share the concerns of our American, British and Australian friends for their sons and daughters who are bravely fighting. We share concerns for the safety of Iraqi civilians. We care about the outcome even if we are not participants in the war. This means that we should not say things that could give comfort to Saddam Hussein and this means that we should not do things that would create real difficulties for the coalition.

While some express their disappointment because we are not participating in the coalition, perhaps they forget that the U.S.A. is currently waging two wars and we are fully engaged in supporting them in the war on terrorism.

When the U.S.A. was attacked on September 11, 2001, we stood shoulder to shoulder with them in our shock and grief. The people of Newfoundland and other Canadians took into their homes tens of thousands of Americans whose flights could not go home.

We quickly ratified and implemented all international conventions on terrorism and worked closely with the U.S. on terrorist financing and border issues. We passed new anti-terrorism legislation. We played a crucial and highly appreciated role alongside U.S. troops in Kandahar.

We currently have 1,280 military personnel, three warships and aircraft in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea as part of the multi-lateral mission against terrorism, and we will be returning to Afghanistan this summer with troops.

It is now time for Canada to focus on humanitarian aid and on the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.We have already pledged $100 million to help provide access to clean water, proper sanitation, food, shelter and primary health care. Twenty-five million of this has already been disbursed.

We are also working closely with the U.S., Great Britain and other countries, UN organizations and other multilateral institutions, to plan now how to help the Iraqi people after the current conflict is over.

We agree with Prime Minister Blair that the United Nations must be closely involved in the process of reconstructing Iraq. But I think it would be impossible for the UN to do it all alone. And we are ready to help as soon as possible.

Before concluding, I want to say that while we all focus on the current situation with respect to Iraq, we cannot ignore other pressing issues. Like the threat from North Korea and the continuing instability in the Middle East. Like the need to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There again Canada believes in a multilateral approach, in the interests of international peace and security.

We must also recognize that long-term peace and security require not only better intelligence, or armed responses. For hundreds of millions of people, the main threats to their well-being are those of famine, disease, feeble economies, lack of educational opportunity, corrupt or inept governance, and regional conflicts

President Bush recognized these needs. In Monterrey a year ago, in Kananaskis and in his state of the union address to Congress in January, he demonstrated leadership in his commitment to increase international assistance in general and, in particular, to combat the plague of AIDS in Africa. I want to take this opportunity once again, on behalf of all Canadians, to congratulate him for that.

Despite all the pressures on him at home post-September 11, the President has recognized that the issues of poverty, trade and development are in the long run as important to a secure, stable world as addressing the immediate threats we face from terrorism.

I am confident that as we confront the challenges which are before us, we will triumph over them by being strong at home, strong in partnership and partners in a strong international system, loyal to our friends, loyal to our principles and confident in who we are.

I can recall one of the great moments of this Parliament when on the Friday after September 11, 2001 we did something that no other country did. When everyone was scared, we decided to have a show of support for our friends and neighbours. We held this on the Hill in the open. More than 100,000 Canadians came to show their strong feelings about the situation that prevailed in the United States in those days. I was proud of Canada for what we did at that moment, and we did it in a way that showed the values in which we believe.

As I have said before, sometimes we disagree. However there is a reality, and that reality is the fact that we are all aiming for the same goal; to have a more peaceful world where the values that we defend in Canada will be shared across the world.

Today marks 40 years that I have been a member of the House. What I know about Canada is that we are an example to the world of understanding, generosity, sharing and of being able to live with our differences, no matter what language we speak, what religion we profess or the colour of our skin. We have shown to the world that we can all be brothers and sisters. We have built this relationship over many years.

That is why we might sometimes disagree with our neighbours. But our goals are the same. We want to ensure that there is more peace, prosperity and less poverty in the world. We want to ensure that more people in the world have more dignity, prosperity and self-respect. It is the Canadian way.

Situation in IraqGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, in all of that the Prime Minister did refer to some events that actually happened. There were the great outpourings of support for our American friends after September 11, just as during this conflict there has been a great outpouring of support for our American friends and allies, but those outpourings did not originate with our government; they originated with the Canadian people. Canadians have demonstrated once again, and will demonstrate many more times in the future, the capacity that no other people on the earth has: the capacity to overcome the deficiencies of their government.

We have been witness today to a remarkable event. We are three weeks into a war of epoch defining significance. We are six months into the controversy that led to this war, the growing international controversy. This is the fourth motion of the House to debate this particular war and this particular issue, after several take note debates in all of the months leading up to this. Yet this is the first time the leader of our country, the Prime Minister, has come to actually speak to one of these.

What was the problem over all these weeks and months? Were we busy preparing those 40th anniversary parties? Why now? Is it because the position that was supposed to be safe is now controversial, the position that was supposed to be easy has run into all kinds of communications difficulties, and the position that was supposed to be high in the polls is now the position of a shrinking minority of Canadians?

Today is D-Day, but “D” is not as we used it on the beaches of Normandy; the “D” is for damage control. That is why the Prime Minister is here today.

I do have to comment on some things the Prime Minister has covered in his speech. He addressed in a cursory manner all of the anti-American remarks and slurs made by members of government and the governing party. The Prime Minister dismisses all this by saying that after 40 years in the House he has discovered the merits of the freedom of speech of members of Parliament. I will tell the Prime Minister that I ran into John Nunziata a few days ago. I will pass those words along to him.

I can predict this: if the words said about President Bush were being said about the Prime Minister--

Situation in IraqGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Situation in IraqGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. I would remind hon. members that on debate we have one person speaking and not everybody trying to help. It is difficult for the Chair to hear the Leader of the Opposition, who has the floor, and I know all hon. members will want to hear the remarks as we hear all hon. members.

Situation in IraqGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian Alliance Calgary Southwest, AB

If I could just reiterate, Mr. Speaker, if the words that have been said in the past few weeks about President Bush had been said by members of the government about this Prime Minister, I would suggest that this enthusiasm for freedom of speech would have rapidly diminished in the PMO. Of course the real question is why the Prime Minister himself has not distanced himself from the remarks made by members of his government and even his own cabinet.

So what now? What do we do today? Having come to the House of Commons, we say why now and what now? Is it still not to really address this issue as an issue, not as a moment which will define this era and have an immense impact on global security in the years to come? Instead, we have today just another communication strategy, another cynical motion, another image repositioning.

Notice how all the buzzwords have changed in the speech. Three weeks ago it was “independence” and “not being told what to do by the Americans”. It was the “United Nations”. It was “non-justification”. It was all the things about the deficiencies of President Bush. Today it is “shoulder to shoulder”. It is all about the United States and the United Kingdom, “our friends”, about “support for the aims of the war to fight terrorism”, and of course, to congratulate the president for all his hard work. President Bush is learning, and I am sure he knew already, that it sure helps to be a winner.

This motion is an embarrassment. It is not based on principle. What this motion says to the House and says to the Canadian people is, “These are Liberal principles, and if you did not like those three weeks ago, well, we have some new ones today”.

Let me go through it very carefully, just to document the change in position of the government over the past few weeks. This is important. I have stated many times the various controversies and the various contradictions the government has been engaged in. One example: stating that resolution 1441 was enough to justify action in Iraq; certainly saying nothing to the contrary; then condemning our friends and allies for taking action under that resolution; and now supporting the action, in a sense, once it is clear they are winning.

Let me give specific examples. On January 23, the Prime Minister said, “If the Americans or the Brits have great evidence that Saddam Hussein--he is no friend of mine--is not following the instruction of the United Nations...of course Canada will support an activity in there”.

On the same day, January 23, the Prime Minister said, “ is in the interest of the world that Saddam Hussein comply completely with resolution 1441. ...In doing so, he will avoid a war”.

Again, on January 27, the Prime Minister said, “A resolution was passed unanimously and must be complied with. The resolution sets out what must be done if he does not respect the conditions”.

The next day, on January 28, the Prime Minister said, “...everybody is seeking the enforcement of the resolution”.

On the same day, January 28, the Prime Minister said, “...if Saddam Hussein fails to comply with resolution 1441, not only the U.S., but its allies too will be there to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are removed from Iraq”.

Three days after that, on January 31, from the Prime Minister: “...Resolution 1441 will authorize action”.

Then, what is probably the most important event in all of this, on February 11 there was a motion by my friends from the Bloc Québécois, demanding that the government have a second resolution before acting. The Prime Minister and his government came to the House and voted against that resolution.

On February 24, the Prime Minister said, “I think that some weeks should be given to Saddam to comply very precisely with resolution 1441”.

On the same day, the Prime Minister said, “...with resolution 1441, we are telling Saddam Hussein that if he does not comply with this resolution, there will be very serious consequences”.

Then, on March 17, the president is about to deliver his ultimatum to Iraq and suddenly the Prime Minister rises to his feet with a pre-prepared statement in question period and says to our allies, “We have always made it clear that Canada would require the approval of the Security Council if we were to participate in a military campaign. ...If military action proceeds without a new resolution of the Security Council, Canada will not participate”.

There it is, and today we have a motion in front of us that says we will not participate except to the extent we are actually participating and we want the coalition to win.

This is a serious business. The lives of our friends and allies and the future of the planet are at stake. This is not a game. Let me give another example of this flip-flop; for regime change in Iraq; then against regime change; then apparently not against regime change.

These words are all recent. On February 28, the Prime Minister said, “I'm surprised to hear now we want to get rid of Saddam Hussein... If it is a changing of regime, it's not what is 1441”.

On March 18, he said, “...the position of changing of regimes in different countries is not a policy that is desirable any time”.

On March 25, the Prime Minister said, “The question of changing regime is not a policy that is acceptable under the United Nations charter...”.

The next day the Prime Minister said, “...changing the regime is not the right policy...”.

However, on March 27, the next day: “The war has already begun and it is now clear that we want the war to be over quickly and that we want the Americans and their allies to be successful”.

On April 6, the Deputy Prime Minister said, “There should be no mistaking the sympathy that we have for the ultimate success of the coalition...”.

All this is leading to today's motion hoping that the coalition will be successful in achieving its mission, its stated mission, of course, being regime change in the Republic of Iraq.

There is another contradiction: calling the campaign of our allies unjust but now urging a quick and successful end to their activities.

On March 17, the Prime Minister said, “...war is not warranted at this time...”.

On March 18, he said, “As far as their position is concerned, I can state clearly that it is not justified”.

By March 25, they were starting to watch the allied success on TV and starting to reconsider, saying, “I don't want Saddam Hussein to win”.

On March 20, he said, “...I hope the Americans will do as well as possible”.

On March 24, I thought the most revealing comment from the Minister of Foreign Affairs was, “We are willing to fight”--so now it turns out they are actually willing to be there--“under terms which are supported by the Canadian population and which we believe are appropriate in the circumstances”. That is of course the old veiled Liberal reference to the pollsters.

There is another contradiction and this is the one that troubles us the most on this side: failing to acknowledge Canadian Forces present in the gulf and in the war theatre and then failing to clearly support those troops when the truth was learned.

On February 24, I rose in the House and asked the Prime Minister, “Will the government admit that it has already agreed to contribute to military action in Iraq through back channels?” The Prime Minister said, “Mr. Speaker, the answer is no”. But it turned out that on March 17, after the press reports surfaced, the Prime Minister rose to say, “...we have a certain number of people who are in exchange with the British and the American troops...”.

The House leader says that this goes on all the time. As the House leader for the NDP pointed out, there are provisions in exchange agreements that we have done in the past to withdraw troops from combat that we do not agree with. The government believes that is what it should have done but it did not have the honesty to do it.

It was not just whether the troops were there. It was that they were there, but they were not in combat. They were only going to have water pistols or some such thing but if they were fired on it was a different thing. Then of course it turned out that the British said they were in combat situations and then it was, yes, that is different, our sailors are there but only against the war on terrorism, not in the war against Iraq, until the defence minister admitted that they may actually board Iraqi boats if they suspect they are engaged in some kind of terrorist activity.

There are other contradictions. I do not have time and the world does not have time to listen to all the contradictions of the government but let me mention a couple. The government condemns those who express support for our American neighbours, including those in this party, but fails to rebuke the anti-American bigotry in its own ranks. I will go farther. Regarding some of the comments made by personnel in the Prime Minister's Office and in the cabinet, there are too many of those to be accidental. At one point the government thought that playing the anti-American card was a strategy. It misunderstood how Canadians feel about their American neighbours. Another contradiction is it condemns Saddam Hussein for war crimes and genocide, yet fails to remove Saddam's diplomatic front men from Canada.

As I say, the greatest of all of these things is to have Canadian troops in uniform in the war theatre without the full support of their government. I say to the Prime Minister, notwithstanding my regard for his long period of service, this has not only embarrassed us; this is something that no prime minister has done before and I hope no prime minister will ever do again.

The lack of leadership on this issue has not been restricted to the Prime Minister. I point out that not a single Liberal member of Parliament, notwithstanding some who have said they do not agree with everything the government is doing here, has at any point stood in the House to vote against the government's position on any aspect of this issue. So much for all the confidence that these men have about the free speech that would be tolerated from the Prime Minister's Office.

The Deputy Prime Minister has not just been part of this changing of position, but unlike the gradual move of the Prime Minister from one muddy position to another muddy position, he has actually flip-flopped back and forth completely. On March 20 he said:

We made a choice based on principle in this case, and the principles were right and the choices were right. You need to take into account the precedent that...establishes, when it comes to countries that may believe they are threatened in some way by a neighbouring tyrant.

He was against regime change, but the next day he said, “The government in Baghdad is a nasty piece of business. We certainly support the efforts of the U.S. and the U.K. and the other countries that are there”.

That was on March 21. Then on April 3 he was back to saying:

Canada is not directly engaged in this conflict. We stood apart because we believe that it is the Security Council of the United Nations that ought to take the responsibility for authorizing the use of force in international conflict.

Three days later on April 6 he was back again on the U.S. side:

There should be no mistaking the sympathy that we have for the ultimate success of the coalition forces.

Fortunately the Deputy Prime Minister is a well-conditioned runner or he would have casts all over his ankles by now from jumping on an off the bandwagon.

What can I say about the former finance minister? I do not know whether to give the Deputy Prime Minister and the government credit for having multiple positions. The former finance minister, who was here briefly, who emerged briefly from his bubble, has now disappeared again. In the course of all this he has yet to state any position of any kind other than a hint last week that he may support regime change.

I want to point out that the flipping and flopping and being on both sides on different days and simultaneously is not a position that has been characteristic of other parties and other people in the House of Commons, including those with whom I vehemently disagree.

The New Democratic Party has from the outset of the conflict taken the position that it does not support a war on Iraq period, not with the United Nations, not on Tuesday, not on Wednesday. It is just not for it. We all understand that.

The position of the Bloc Quebecois is a bit more nuanced. They are against the war. It is based on their interpretation of international law.

Its support or lack of support for this war in the case of the Bloc, is clear. It is clear why it does not support it. It is clear under what positions it would support it. And it has, like the NDP and like ourselves, demanded that the government's actions, its treatment of our own troops, be consistent with the position that we are supposedly taking.

I probably should wind up here but I will point out that the leadership that has been lacking and which frankly this country could have used is going to be needed in the future. There are not easy days ahead for this world not just in international affairs but in domestic affairs.

Regarding our economy we are going to need to become more than just a country that markets raw materials or consistently lowers the value of our dollar. We are going to have to challenge the difficult trade-offs that are required to compete to lower our taxes, to lower our debt while providing for the real services that Canadians need. We are going to have to address the demographic challenges that the aging population presents so that when the Prime Minister finally retires, we can actually provide him with the health care and that pension he is expecting, as are many other Canadians.

There are real issues with the environment. It is not like the Kyoto accord. We just cannot pretend the economy does not matter, pass a whole bunch of lofty targets and say we really do not know how we will implement it and that is somewhere down the line.

These are all questions of leadership. They are all questions on which we are going to have to have a government in the future. They are all questions we are going to have to address strongly and that we are going to have to tackle.

Let me end in making one last appeal to the government to do the right thing. I believe that the government knows, and many members of the government know, that supporting our allies is the right thing to do. They should know that because if they had not known it, they would never have let our troops go into that theatre in the first place. Similarly, they know that anti-Americanism is wrong because if they think about it for a second, whatever their feelings about the present administration, they know that in so many ways we are close and depend on our American friends and neighbours.

I would urge the House to vote for our motion. If members indeed love our friends, if they indeed hope the mission is successful, if they indeed send our troops over in harm's way, if they indeed do not believe in the anti-American slurs that some have uttered, then there is only one course of action. It is to back our motion, to back our allies, to back our troops, to back away from anti-Americanism and to get back to our history and our traditions.

Situation in IraqGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion before us today is somewhat surprising because it attempts to reconcile the so-called principles advocated by the government and practice, or how these principles have been applied. At the end of the day, what the government is trying to do is to cultivate ambiguity. This does not promote respect for these so-called principles, but leads to hypocrisy on this issue, instead.

Our party has been very clear on this since the beginning. Yes, Saddam Hussein must be disarmed, but this must be done through international institutions, by the UN inspection process, and it must be done peacefully. We said that this war was illegitimate, illegal and unjustified.

The government, it was explained by the Prime Minister himself, took the position that yes, this war is unjustified. One would expect, then, that all of the government's subsequent actions would be consistent with this position. Upon reading the motion moved today in the House, we see that we are asked to support the “the government's decision not to participate in the military intervention in Iraq”.

It is important to see how this decision came about. It is important to remember that at the beginning, the government told us that it was a staunch supporter of UN resolution 1441, that it was sufficient on its own because it said that Iraq would face serious consequences if it did not disarm and destroy weapons of mass destruction. The government failed to mention that the final paragraph of the resolution said that the Security Council would remain seized of the matter and would assess whether or not the process of peaceful disarmement was progressing or not. In his reports to the UN, up until the penultimate one—he was not able to give the final report because the war was declared— Hans Blix was reporting that progress was being made. It was slow, certainly, but it was progress, and it was better to disarm Iraq peacefully without a bloodbath, without civilian casualties, without provoking uncertainty and anti-Americanism throughout the entire region. This is what is going to happen. We should have proceeded peacefully, but instead, it is being done by force, without any regard for the UN.

Then the government changed its position, saying that a second resolution was needed and then, later, that one was not, and then it reversed its position again to say that a second resolution was needed after all.

Here in this House we proposed that Parliament vote to insist on a second resolution. The government's position was to say no, that resolution 1441 was sufficient. Two weeks later, the government told us that a second resolution was necessary. It is difficult to follow the government's itinerary, except to say that it blows in the wind, depending on polls and on reactions from the United States. The government is trying to look after its interests with the Americans, but has not done a good job of identifying those interests, because criticizing the American position is not necessarily anti-Americanism. We shall come back to this idea a little later.

We have also proposed that this House state its position by a vote. The government has refused to accept a vote in the House. However, there is nothing more important in our lives as the public's elected representatives, than the issue of peace or war. This government asked us to vote on the Kyoto protocol because, they declared, the environment is important, and so it is. I say to the government that if the environment is important, the question of war or peace is just as important, if not more so.

It is because of the Bloc Quebecois that the government is having to make known its position by holding a vote here in the House of Commons. And it is because of the Bloc's efforts during these discussions that the government came out against the war. The government's flip-flops were much more attributable to its fear of public opinion, which it was watching closely, than the fact that this opinion was based on principles.

Now, let us look at the second part of the motion we are examining today. It asks that we maintain “the unbreakable bonds of values, family, friendship and mutual respect” with our friends in Great Britain and the United States.

Opposing a position taken by the Bush administration or the Blair administration does not make us anti-British or anti-American. Being friends does not mean blindly following another government's decision.

It is in no one's interest to implement a philosophy of pre-emptive war. This is only the beginning. From now on, everyone will be able to point to this totally ridiculous notion of attacking someone because one day they might attack us. This can have very dangerous consequences.

The government paired the notion of pre-emptive war with the notion of an unofficial war. We are not at war, but some of our soldiers are. Try to make sense of that.

The same holds true for the regime change. The Prime Minister said that the government cannot support a country's desire to change a regime by force because it disagrees with that regime. The right way is through law, the rule of law and international institutions.

But now, there is support for a regime change. The government's position demonstrates its lack of leadership and a tendency to follow, depending on what happens in the world and in the United States, and particularly here, in Canada and Quebec.

The government told us that it refused to act without a multilateral framework and, particularly, without a UN framework. Obviously, the presence of Canadian soldiers in Iraq totally contradicts this government's so-called position of principle.

So, in terms of our friendship, naturally, we declare our friendship for the British and the Americans equally. But this does not mean rolling over and supporting everything the Americans and the British say. On the contrary, true friends dare to speak the truth, to voice their thoughts, in the spirit of true friendship for those who deserve it. This does not mean kowtowing to those we call friends.

The third part of this motion reaches new heights of hypocrisy in terms of Canada's position. It says:

our pride in the work of the members of the Canadian Forces who are deployed in the Persian Gulf region;

I would say instead our sadness for the members of the Canadian forces because of the Canadian position. This government's attitude toward the men and women of the Canadian Forces deployed in Iraq is one of contempt. How are we to explain to them that they are asked to participate in an a war that is unjustified? It makes no sense. They are told, “You will be participating in a war that we are condemning”. This is unheard of.

We asked the incredible Minister of National Defence if there were precedents, because we keep hearing that exchanges with other countries, especially Australia, Great Britain and the United States, have been taking place for decades. Military historians have been looking for three weeks, but none have turned up yet. We know full well that this was a lie and that there are no precedents.

I had a chance to discuss the matter with the Director of History for the forces, Dr. Bernier. I asked him if Canadian soldiers participated in the Vietnam war. There were exchange agreements at the time, and relatively longstanding ones—all will agree—between 1963 and 1975. His answer was that, naturally, they could not have, because we were part of the commission for supervision.

I asked him whether there were Canadian soldiers in Lebanon in 1956, and he said he doubted there were any in Lebanon, in the Dominican Republic in 1964 or in Grenada or Panama. This is when I was told that exchanges were mainly with British forces. Well then, did Canadian soldiers ever participate in the war in Northern Ireland as part of any such exchange? The answer was, “No, not so far”. Where then did we have people on exchanges in wartime when we were not involved in the war?

The Prime Minister told us earlier that Lester B. Pearson and, later, Trudeau, had expressed disappointment and found the war in Vietnam to be unjustified. They were consistent. No Canadians joined the American troops.

Think of what we are doing at present. We are betraying principles, and principles are not something to be trifled with. We cannot say “the war is unjustified” and at the same time send men and women from our Armed Forces to take part. This is totally inconsistent. It is trying to please the Americans, while trying at the same time not to displease a number of other countries.

There can be no half measures with principles. You either have them or you don't. They need to be applied consistently in all situations, but that is not what is happening at present. The presence of our soldiers is in total contradiction with the position of principle Canada has on the war.

There is another element as well. With this motion, Canada would be expressing its hope that the U.S.-led coalition accomplishes its mission as quickly as possible with the fewest casualties possible. We too hope that this war will be over as soon as possible in order to avoid a bloodbath even greater than took place in Baghdad, in order to avoid killing men, women and children who have suffered, and continue to suffer, under Saddam Hussein and now suffer under the bombardment. We are seeing horrible photos every day now of dead or dying children.

It seems to me that, if this war had not been started, but that peaceful disarmament had been continued, we would have ended up with something far more concrete and far less costly in terms of victims. That is obvious. I still want to see a ceasefire, although I know it is a bit idealistic to say so. Nevertheless, it is sometimes better to express our desire for peace rather than accept this state of war, which is totally unjustified. Our government even calls it that.

In another part of the motion, the Prime Minister refers to the importance of self restraint on the part of all members of theHouse in their comments on the war, it would have been clearer if he had condemned the remarks made by some of his members. That side of the floor is where the anti-Americanism lies, not over here with the opposition.

We have spoken out against the American position; we have spoken out against the war, but we have never made totally gratuitous remarks about the American people. Criticism of the U.S. government is not anti-Americanism. Respecting one's allies and friends means being able to tell them the truth, to tell that what one thinks, to realize our friendship is good enough to withstand criticism.

This is not the attitude of Liberal members in terms of the current conflict and this difference of opinion with the Americans. Even ministers were not chastized for their comments. The Prime Minister should have clearly demanded that all those who made such improper, unjustified and unacceptable comments apologize and have said, “That attitude is unacceptable”. He should not have pretended that it was all the members of all the parties here who were not able to show sufficient self restraint.

We said plainly what we thought, because we have enough respect for the British and the Americans to do so. We did not need to condemn Americans, because the Bush administration was being attacked on one specific point. This is called treating each other as equals. This is called taking a moral stand and not kowtowing, which unfortunately, is what the government is doing now.

With regard to the last point, that Canada would approve the reconstruction of Iraq, obviously, something fundamental is missing. The government is not fully behind the principles that it claims it is defending. The reconstruction of Iraq cannot take place under the Americans or the British. It must be under the auspices of the UN. Otherwise, the results will be not only totally unacceptable but indefensible and unbearable for the entire Middle East. The other people in these regions, for better or for worse, will not lend any credibility to a regime set up by Washington and London. Such a state of affairs is unacceptable.

I thought that, after September 11, 2001, the role of international institutions would be reinforced. Instead of being reinforced, it has been diminished due to the attitude of the British and the Americans.

The reconstruction should be different. It should be done under the direction of the United Nations, not of the United States. If Canada wants to take part in the reconstruction, it must do so under the UN.

I was also very disappointed and surprised to hear this morning that the Americans wanted to try those charged with war crimes before U.S. courts and not international courts. If there is to be peace in the world today, it must not be a pax americana . That would be another case of a country dominating all the other countries, and that is not good for humanity.

There is an international criminal court. It would have been nice if the Americans recognized this court, which they do not, incidentally, endorse. It is because of the fact that it is an international court, and not a national court, that the judgments and trials involving Milosevic and those who plotted the Rwandan genocides were credible. We cannot accept this.

Finally, I must point out another contradiction, since I was just speaking of the international criminal court. There is another treaty that has been signed, the one on landmines. This is the Ottawa convention of which the government says it is very proud, and with good reason. Let us remember that the Canadian government has asked that cluster bombs be considered landmines. The Americans have refused. Moreover, they have not signed the Ottawa convention. They use fragmentation bombs the same colour as the food supplies being dropped for the people. Children get hold of them and you can see what happens next. That happened in Afghanistan. I thought we had learned our lesson. The government does not criticize this because, it says, there is nothing written down, and so it will happen anyway. That is hypocrisy. That is ambiguity.

If there is one coherent element in today's motion, it is that, for once, it illustrates the government's position very well. It is a culture of ambiguity, a culture of hypocrisy, and one that breaks faith with the Canadian tradition in which Pearson—who won the Nobel Peace Prize—firmly intervened in the Suez Crisis of 1956. These attitudes of servility and bowing and scraping will not help Canada construct a coherent policy.

As a Quebecker, I am very disappointed with the Canadian position which, for once under this government, appeared to stand out from its usual middle-of-the-road, unclear, inconclusive and indeterminate positions. Unfortunately, once again we see the sad spectacle of a government that says one thing and does the opposite. It is disappointing.

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11:10 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion that the government has placed before the House of Commons today.

Before I address the motion that is under debate, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister on his 40 years of uninterrupted service to Canadians. I am sure that not just members of all political stripes but all Canadians would also want to take this opportunity to congratulate him on his service to them. That is no small feat. We do have differences in our viewpoints more often than points of agreement, but on this occasion we must acknowledge the fact that he has served his country as he has seen fit. He has done so with surprising longevity and determination. The only other comment that I would make is that perhaps now having passed his 40th anniversary, he too will see that one of the calls to leadership is to know when to pass the torch to one's successor.

Before I address the specifics of the six part motion, I want to say that in a way it is a tragedy. It is disappointing that given today's decision of the government to take the somewhat unprecedented measure of introducing the motion, that it has not taken the opportunity to do what has been sadly lacking over the last many months since the beginning of the debate about a possible war on Iraq to state in clear principled, substantive, and unequivocal terms the basis for Canada's decision not to participate in the war on Iraq.

If the government had done that, it would not only have had our hearty applause and strong support, but it would have gained our support for such a motion which is not a critically important thing. More importantly, it would have made Canadians by and large stand tall, stand strong, and stand firmly behind the decision not to participate in the Iraqi war.

I have never been so acutely aware of how important such a statement could have been had it been made early in the debate or on the eve of Bush launching his unilateral war. Perhaps the most fitting occasion of all would have been for the Prime Minister, on the 40th anniversary of his election to Parliament, to stand firm for peace and do so in a way that would have aroused the sentiments of Canadians to support him, and to do it with a sense of real pride, promise, and hope and optimism for the future. The motion before us is sadly lacking if that were its objective.

This makes us stop in order to understand why today's motion is being placed in an unprecedented way before the House of Commons. When we look at the reasons that have given rise to the motion, it becomes clearer why it is a flawed motion. It is a motion that is fundamentally lacking in the call for strong and principled support for the position of non-participation in the war.

In some respects this is a motion that is reactive. It arises out of the fact that the government has been in many respects quite equivocal, somewhat waffling, and wanting to have it both ways. That makes it hard for Canadians to fully understand what the government had in mind when it decided not to participate in the war in the first place.

It is a motion that is pathetically reactive in the extent to which it is attempting to engage in damage control in response to the raving reactionary ranting of the official opposition, the Canadian Alliance.

I do not think that becomes a government that had the courage to take a decision which my party supported, a decision not to participate in the war on Iraq. In the process of the government thinking that it has to respond to the marginalized view, the pathetically uncritical, and in many respects un-Canadian view, that has been espoused again and again by the Alliance, the government abandons the moral ground and the strength of conviction that would have made Canadians proud had the government stood firm and tall.

I have just returned from three days in Washington. In my three days in Washington I met with many people across a wide spectrum. I was out in the community morning, noon and night. What I encountered, what I saw, and what I heard surprised me very much. Maybe it should not have surprised me, but in many neighbourhoods in Washington there were households that were proudly displaying wonderful signs like, “War is not the solution”, “No war in Iraq”.

There were events happening. There were proud, strong, and articulate messages opposing the war coming from Americans who no more support Bush's pre-emptive strike and decision to bring about an illegal regime change than do members of the House who have opposed the war.

What it made me realize is that the most fundamental flaw in the resolution that is before us is the notion that there is an American position which is absolutely pro-war and that there is a Canadian position which is absolutely anti-war because nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems to me that if the New York City council can overwhelmingly adopt a strong unequivocal position in opposition to Bush's war, then the least we could hope for from the government would be that it could introduce a motion that would be at least half as strong, if not as strenuous in stating its opposition to the Bush war.

Why do I think the government has not had the moral courage to make the kind of statement that New York City council has made? It is because it wants to have it both ways. It has an eye on any possible negative electoral consequences there might be to having taken a stand against the war.

I happen to believe that Canadians overwhelmingly support the position to remain out of this Bush-led war. Surely there is no decision that a government can make that is as serious as the decision of whether to send troops to participate in a war. There can be no decision that is more serious. The fundamental principles and a clear analysis of what is happening in the world must form the foundation.

There are equally strong positions being taken by members of congress on a regular basis in congress and outside of congress. Barbara Lee, who has been so respected for her consistent position in the U.S. congress going right back to the launch of the war on Afghanistan said:

The doctrine of preemption does not make us safer; it makes us less secure. I believed and still believe diplomatic alternatives existed; diplomacy remains crucial to advancing our long-term interests

She goes on to talk about how she will continue to speak her conscience on issues of war and peace, and that she believes it is part of her patriotic duty as an elected official and an American. She states strongly that non-violent protest and free speech are vital elements of democracy.

If members of the U.S. congress can speak that clearly and in those principled terms, then what is it that prevents the Prime Minister of Canada, who has had the courage to oppose this war, to stand in his place today and make a similarly strong, principled and unequivocal statement?

Chris Van Hollen happens to be the member of congress in Chevy Chase, Maryland. It is just on the border of Washington, which is where I stayed on the weekend. He made a statement outside the U.S. congress. In his address, that he delivered to the University of Maryland, he did a scathing analysis and a damning condemnation of the national security strategy document in which a doctrine of so-called preventive law was set out. He called it a recipe for international chaos. These are proud Americans serving their communities who had no difficulty being unequivocal.

Let me turn to the motion that is before us. I do not think the government wanted to have the support of New Democrats when it introduced the motion. I personally find that surprising. I would have thought that if the intention was--and this is what the Prime Minister said--to send a message to the American people and the American administration of where Canadians stand, then it would have been a good idea to introduce a motion that met at least two basic tests.

First, that the position would be clear and unequivocal. Second, that it would be crafted in such a way that the largest number of members of the House that one could possibly mobilize would stand behind it.

It was perfectly clear that anything short of giving uncritical support to the Bush administration for just about whatever it might want to do, even if it is illegal, even if it thumbs its nose at the UN charter, and even if it violates well-established international law, none of those things would be an impediment to the government voting against a principled statement that could have been introduced by the Prime Minister or the Alliance.

However, if the government had wanted a clear, strong statement then it probably could have talked to the whips, party leaders, House leaders or talked to foreign affairs critics to get as broad a consensus as possible. This is not a motion which was given a great deal of consideration for its value in communicating unequivocally either to Canadians in a way that would make them feel strong and stand with the government with a sense of conviction and pride, or a motion that could clearly communicate to the Americans with whom we stand in solidarity in their opposition to the war.

If Canadians think about it, there are more citizens in the United States who oppose Bush's war than there are citizens in Canada that oppose Bush's war, simply because they are a much larger population and a significant number of Americans stand solidly in opposition to the war. It is solidarity toward the Americans who stand in opposition to the war that should have been one of the things in the mind of the Prime Minister or the drafters of the motion that is before us. Clearly, that was not the case.

We have a motion that has six different clauses. It would be a big stretch to rationalize our way, and I say that as a New Democrat, to support more than one or two of those six clauses.

The very first one refers to a reaffirmation of the government's decision to not participate in military intervention in Iraq. Of course we would support a reaffirmation of the decision not to participate. However let us be clear, even that clause is problematic in that it does not acknowledge the reality that Canadian military men and women are participating in the war in Iraq.

The government cannot have it both ways. Perhaps I feel it more strongly and perhaps my colleague from Dartmouth and my colleague from Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore feel it more strongly than some members, but other members here also represent communities in which there is a very strong military presence, where there are military bases, navel ships and military planes, for example.

We find it very difficult to have the government on the one hand saying that we are not participating in the war, then ending up reluctantly admitting, because the evidence could not be quashed, that in fact there are Canadian ships accompanying warships and that, yes, some Canadians are actually part of the AWACS program, which means that they are participating directly in the targeting of bombs directed at Iraqis. Now that there are pictures identifying the actual members of the Canadian military, who are on tanks and who are part of the brigade rolling into Basra and Baghdad, the government has admitted that they are there because we had an agreement and we could not break our agreement. That is wrong.

What my colleague, the defence critic, very quickly zeroed in on is that those agreements provide explicitly for Canada to withdraw its troops under the conditions of another government, with whom we are involved in an exchange program, going to war, a war in which we are not participating. However did the government avail itself of that measure which, to my understanding, it has always done in the past? No. It wanted to have it both ways so it decided to leave those troops in the situation and did not recall them.

Second, we have no problem supporting the reaffirmation of our bonds with the American family. Most of us have family in the U.S. Many of us, as the Prime Minister himself has said, have lived in the U.S. and have studied in the U.S., and go, as I did on the weekend, to reaffirm some of those bonds.

Third however, the government members talk about the work of members of Canadian Forces who are deployed in the Persian Gulf. Of course we pray for their safety but we do not agree with the government's complicity and the government's duplicity in not acknowledging their direct participation in the war.

Fourth, our hope is that the U.S.-led coalition accomplishes its mission as quickly as possible. Of course we pray for the fewest possible numbers of casualties. The way to ensure that is to invoke the ceasefire for which we and humanitarian agencies have been calling because people are starving or are nearing starvation. People are being killed by cluster bombs which should be absolutely illegal. People are not only being killed now by weapons that are based on depleted uranium but who will be killed for years and decades in the future. That is why we need a ceasefire.

For us to say that we support Bush in the accomplishment of his mission is just wrong-headed because his mission is regime change. His mission is to conduct a pre-emptive strike which is against all international law.

Fifth is the importance of self restraint in anti-American rhetoric. We should not just be saying, “while our American friends are in battle”, which is what the clause says. We should restrain ourselves from comments that are anti-American, period. When any one of us engage in that, we should call each other on it, and I say that with respect to my own members.

My last comment is on the commitment of Canada to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq. It surely is a glaring omission for the government not to have stated that the reconstruction of Iraq should be conducted under UN auspices. Even Tony Blair is vociferously arguing publicly with George Bush to say that it has to be under UN auspices. The government does not even have the vision, the courage or the intestinal fortitude to tell George Bush the truth, which is that he cannot lead the reconstruction of Iraq without there being massive problems.

In conclusion anybody who wants to understand how lacking this statement is in comparison to what it could have been should visit, as I had the privilege to do on the weekend, the FDR memorial in the heart of Washington on the edge of the Potomac. In statement after statement, engraved in stone to last forever, were the kind of inspirational statements that would have made the Canadian people proud and would have been an important message to the American people, had the government seen fit and had the vision to do that in this statement today.

More than an end to war we want an end to the beginnings of all war. Unless the peace that follows recognizes that the whole world is one neighbourhood and does justice to the whole human race, the germs of another war will remain as a constant threat to mankind. The structure of world peace cannot be the work of one man, or one party or one nation. It must be a peace which rests on the co-operative effort of the whole world.

Those kinds of statements made in the 1930s and early 1940s by Franklin Delano Roosevelt would have been the kind of statement that would have made every member of this House stand and cheer our Prime Minister today as a leader with whom we could be proud, leading a government that should be proud enough of its non-participation in the war to state it unequivocally, not in the kind of waffling, wobbling, contradictory way in which this motion has been worded.

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11:35 a.m.

Edmonton Southeast Alberta


David Kilgour LiberalSecretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Mr. Speaker, I am not asking this in a partisan sense but I would appreciate it if my friend would tell us how she thinks Iraq can best be rebuilt now. What role would she see for the UN and what role would she see for Canada? I think the House would be very interested to hear her views on those issues.

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11:35 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the very first principle is that in the motion before us his Prime Minister has failed to state that the reconstruction of Iraq absolutely has to be conducted under United Nations auspices. I listened carefully to what the Prime Minister said and I do not disagree with him. It seems obvious. It seems like a no-brainer to say that the UN cannot do it alone. However that is not the issue which is at the heart of this debate.

The issue is that the United States is the aggressor in the context of Iraq. It is acknowledged to be the aggressor in any meaningful sense in terms of international law and international tradition. To now be pussyfooting around and willing to say something as meaningless as we reaffirm the commitment of Canada to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq is surely a failure to say that the first and most important principle is that it has to be under the UN auspices. Can the UN carry it out alone? No, of course not. Is there a critically important role for Canada? Absolutely.

We are familiar with the concept of peace dividends. If one of the non-participation dividends which Canada can actually cash in on is that we have not been a participant, then we should be front and centre and offer to be part of working on the very frontlines, under UN auspices, to help deal with the human tragedy now evident for the world to see. The massive devastation of infrastructure was already a big problem before Bush commenced the war. We already knew already was massive devastation to the infrastructure, which has not been rebuilt in the last 12 years. That is a job that desperately needs to be done.

If the government wanted to say honestly that one of the big problems with the U.S. being absolutely in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq, in addition to how ridiculous a notion it is, having been the aggressor against international law, it could have because there are already signs that several people senior and central to the Bush administration are closely connected to companies. Already alarm bells are going off and the whistle is being blown because of conflicts of interest and improper tendering for massive contracts.

In the long run one thing we want to be part of, and it has nothing to do with anti-Americanism but with decent rules of fairness, transparency and non-conflict of interest, is saying that no one should be permitted to enrich themselves economically as a result of being in on the ground floor under a U.S. directed reconstruction of Iraq. We fail to say that in this motion.

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11:40 a.m.


David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows there is a huge amount of oil in Iraq. I think it is the second largest in the world. How would she use the oil of Iraq in a way that would help the people of Iraq who desperately need it, as she said? How much of the oil of Iraq would she use and in what way to rebuild the country?

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11:40 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, these are very delicate questions and very important questions in terms of how they get worked out. The first principle is it would have been helpful if this had been spelled out under Canada's notion of the reconstruction of Iraq.

One thing for darn sure is that it should be the United Nations working with the family of nations in an open, accountable way, which is part of working with whatever new administration is put in place. There is no question that will be very difficult in the short run. However it certainly should not follow the dictates of the world's biggest oil companies that can benefit immensely from policy decisions that are made about how, when and where the oil will be developed. Again, the first principle needs to be for the benefit of the people of Iraq.

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11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, we continue to hear from the NDP these juvenile arguments that the motivation for the United States, and probably its allies, to be involved in Iraq has to do with some kind of a financial gain.

One does not even have to take economics 101 to know that at a time of instability U.S. oil and gas companies and Canadian oil and gas companies, with the cost of oil and gas being so high, are actually making profits now. The United States and its allies have very clearly stated that Iraqi oil is there for the people of Iraq.

Is the member saying that the United States and its allies are lying when they say that the Iraqi oil is there for the people of Iraq? Why do I not hear her comments? She may have commented, but why do I not hear her commenting on the fact that France has huge oil and gas contracts with Iraq and has broken UN resolutions to get those contracts? Could she comment on that please?

Situation in IraqGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, what the member has done is reaffirm the reason the reconstruction of Iraq, including how the oil resources of Iraq are developed for the benefit of the Iraqi people, must be carried out under UN auspices. As long as there is a lack of accountability and transparency about who is really benefiting, then there is the potential for there to be distortion.

The member for Okanagan—Coquihalla says, but the U.S. has said that the oil will be developed for the benefit of the people of Iraq. The U.S. has said that it is engaging in regime change for the benefit of the people of Iraq and that it is bombing Iraqis for the benefit of the people of Iraq. The best of intentions are often paving the way to hell and that is why we have to have UN auspices for the reconstruction of Iraq.

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11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I noted that the Prime Minister opened his debate with reference to a Winnipeg Sun headline of March 27 purporting to be about a speech that I delivered in that city the day before.

The Winnipeg Sun published this correction on March 29, and I quote:

The headline on page 6 Thursday to a story on federal Conservative Leader Joe Clark's speech in Winnipeg did not accurately reflect the story's contents. The Sun regrets the error.

That correction was sent directly to a Jim Munson, whoever he is, of the Prime Minister's press office, on March 31. Therefore the Prime Minister knew the statement with which he opened today's debate to be false. He knew it was false. He chose to start a debate on a critical international issue by deliberately repeating a falsehood.

What is so troubling about this is how typical it has been of the government's response to questions or to criticism from all parties, with all our disagreements here on the opposition side. For two weeks now serious questions by serious members of Parliament in all parties in opposition have been put and the government has not answered with answers. It has responded with insults, as it did again today. What that indicates is a sure sign that the government is ashamed of its position and a sure sign that it cannot defend its position on its merits.

Canada says that it will not participate in the war. It then knowingly sends Canadian soldiers on exchange to war zones. The Prime Minister might not participate but he is quite prepared to put the lives of Canadian soldiers at mortal risk. That is the height of both hypocrisy and irresponsibility. The great joke is that Canada is acting on principle. The Prime Minister's only principle is to avoid taking a position.

We were once known as a country that acted on principle, not just on polls or domestic popularity. War is always inhuman. The real issue with this war is whether it is legitimate in international law. Serious scholars disagree on that issue.

In the absence of formal legal opinions from Canada's government—I asked but it would not provide them—I believe that existing Security Council resolutions give the legitimacy of the United Nations to this intervention. I accept the considered view of the Government of the United Kingdom that the combination of resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 provide the authority required. However, for the Government of Canada, the question of principle does not matter.

The foreign minister says, and repeats, that for moral, principled Canada, it is not a matter of determining whether military action is legitimate or otherwise. What if we had said that about Tiananmen Square or about South Africa, or about human rights?

Canada was once a country that set the highest standard of respecting international law, but the government does not care whether the action is legal or illegal. We have blown away one of Canada's most important and distinctive credentials.

The real issue today in Iraq is not about war. It is about the best way to improve the prospects of peace and stability after the war. Canada can play a major role. Instead, once again we seem to be stepping aside.

The government has announced $100 million in humanitarian aid, and that is a good start. Individual Canadians are making our own contributions, although relief organizations say those contributions are slower and smaller than needed.

However, humanitarian aid, while essential, is very different from reconstruction. War takes things apart. Reconstruction pulls them back together. It is more than food, more than aid, more than building dams and more than building roads. It is the sensitive work of healing open wounds, of reconciling sharp differences and of encouraging institutions which the Iraqi people themselves will see over time and for the long haul as being legitimate institutions.

The question is: Who can best lead reconstruction in Iraq? As a practical matter, the choice is between the United States, which has a team and a plan in place, and the United Nations which needs the authority of a new Security Council resolution before it can act.

On March 27, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Heinbecker, said that we wanted the United Nations to have the authority and to lead reconstruction. Since then there has been absolutely no evidence at all of any follow up action by Canada. There was none in the Prime Minister's speech today, not a mention, in a situation where Tony Blair found it urgent enough to fly from London to Washington to make the case for the UN, and when the Australians sent their highest spokespeople to Washington to make the case for the UN.

When the case for the UN was being made by presidents and prime ministers throughout Europe and Asia, the Prime Minister of Canada, instead of using the opportunity that he already had to go to Washington to make that case, cancelled his trip. He was either afraid to make the case to the Americans or his excuse was that he really believed that it was not a suggestion one makes in a time of war. Well, when in the world does one make that kind of contribution?

If it was controversial for Canada to sit out the war, it would be unconscionable for Canada to stand back from reconstruction. As I have said, France, Britain, Australia, Germany and a host of other countries have argued forcefully for a lead UN role. They have spoken through their premiers, their presidents and their prime ministers. By contrast, our quiet intervention was by an ambassador, a skilled ambassador, but an official, not an elected leader.

While Tony Blair found reasons to go to Washington and make the case directly to the president, the Prime Minister found reasons, as I said, to cancel his trip.

When I and other members of Parliament put questions in Parliament about reconstruction, they are answered by the minister responsible for international development, not the Prime Minister, not even the foreign minister. Her response is about aid, not about reconstruction.

I pray that the government will recognize the unique influence that Canada could have, both in building consensus about a UN role and in the reconstruction itself, a reconstruction that requires precisely the skills for which Canada is and has been celebrated around the world.

The stakes are dangerously high. Both Iraq and the region are turbulent. War deepens those natural tensions, those suspicions, those ambitions. Fairly or not, the Arab “street” believes that the Americans' real interest is oil. The deadly impasse between Israel and the Palestinians is an open wound.

Moreover, some influential figures in the Bush administration are thought to believe that they can use the aftermath of war to build, in the Middle East, regimes that are more like America in their value systems and in their institutions.

In those circumstances, the Pentagon, for all of its skills, is bound to be seen as the engine of attack and not the instrument of reconstruction. Yet, unless clear authority is given to the United Nations, reconstruction will fall to the Pentagon by default.

The British have not been inactive. The British, for at least three weeks now, have been travelling the world trying to identify the names of prominent world leaders who may be able to head up the kind of UN effort that will be needed. They have been making their case directly, on several occasions, most recently yesterday, face to face with the President of the United States.

Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has himself already designated an esteemed Pakistani diplomat to play a lead role in the United Nations operation.

Canada is not on the Security Council, but no one in the House would doubt the influence that we have on countries that are on that council or, indeed, on other member nations of the United Nations that could influence a decision taken by the Security Council. Of course, it will not be easy.

The Americans want to contain the British for reasons that one understands. Since they had the courage to go in and to take the lead in the war, they want to have as much an imprint as possible upon the reconstruction. They must be persuaded otherwise. A compelling case must be made. But that case will not come out of the air. That case must be put forward by a respected, strong, international country like Canada. We should be doing it, and there is no evidence at all that we have lifted a finger in that regard. We are sitting out the peace, just as we sat out the war.

Right now, we should be in touch with countries that have reputations like ours; Nordic countries, for a start. We should be working closely with Japan, which has skills on peacekeeping and institution building. We should be in touch with South Africa, which is the most recent society to have successfully faced the problem of a divided internal community and has, through its truth and reconciliation commission, found a way to begin the healing process in a way that bore a South African accent, not the accent of something imposed by some other power. We should be building consensus for United Nations action and we should be doing that now.

Reconstruction, obviously, must start by building order. There is a war on. There will be conditions of war for a certain period of time. Some members of the House might not like it, but the reality is that in the early days after the conflict is formally over, the principal role in maintaining a simple system of order will fall to armies, the United States army, the United Kingdom army and the army of Iraq because it is one of the national institutions which enjoys respect through that country.

We cannot blast away everything that is there. We must take what we can trust, obviously changing the leadership, but take the structures that are there that we can trust to establish a basic elemental order, whether that is civil order normally assigned to police or whether it is a larger order normally assigned to armies. But stage one, the army stage, the Pentagon stage, should be over as early as possible.

Then we must get to the second stage, the stage of building confidence, rebuilding a society, and reconstruction. That must be carried forward by the United Nations.

There is a need to draw together communities that have never been together but have been drawn more desperately apart in recent days. There is a real need to heal the wounds of war. There is a fundamental need, a need in which Canada can play a primary role, to establish a kind of federalism that might work in a society of that kind, a federalism based on regions not on culture or religion, to build institutions that flow naturally from the traditions and the needs of the Iraqi people. Those are things that we are good at and that the UN is good at. They are not things that armies are good at. So there needs to be, in this second stage, a real emphasis upon that work of reconstruction. We should be making that a Canadian priority here.

I admire the Minister for International Cooperation. I envy her portfolio. It is one of the most interesting portfolios in government and she does it well. However, she cannot speak for the government or the country on the question of reconstruction. For one thing, the government alone needs to draw in the larger Canadian communities. There are non-governmental organizations with immense talents in this regard. There are experts in institution building across this country. There are people who are prepared to go themselves or to send money to help in this project.

I am reminded, and some members of the House will remember the parallel, of a different kind of crisis to which Canada responded when famine struck Ethiopia. Instead of simply responding in the normal governmental way through CIDA or through the Department of Foreign Affairs, the government of that day established a special cross-departmental project led by a former colleague of mine, the hon. David MacDonald. It had a capacity to draw upon non-governmental organizations. By its very nature it demonstrated that this was a matter which was of particular importance to Canada.

To whom might we turn if we were to establish some kind of urgent Canadian task force on Iraqi reconstruction? I can think of some names from the public service offhand. I think of General John de Chastelain, who has performed excellent service in Ireland in circumstances that are not terribly dissimilar. I think of Margaret Catley-Carlson, a distinguished former deputy minister of health and former president of CIDA, who herself has headed international agencies dealing with children allied with the United Nations. I think of Huguette Labelle, a former chair of the Public Service of Canada, a former president of CIDA, and a distinguished Canadian public servant. That is just the beginning, and that is just from the public sector. There is a range of Canadians who could be drawn together if the government had the will to have Canada play a major role in reconstruction.

Let me raise one other matter that is of great concern to myself and to others. I alluded to the view among some in the Pentagon that this opportunity of post-war should be seized to try, not only in Iraq but elsewhere in the region, to establish a regime of values more like America. I consider that to be a prospect full of problems. It is something that we must deal with.

Last week, a former colleague of mine, a former secretary of state in the United States, and a person clearly prominent in the senior ranks of the Republican Party of the United States, James Baker, came to Toronto to spell out a vision of reconstruction that was very different from that being proposed in certain corners of the Pentagon. It is one that is more similar to the Canadian tradition. I found it interesting that Secretary Baker did not go to London. He did not speak to Paris. He came to Canada. He came to the one country that he knew was most likely to be inclined, and to have the capacity and the influence to mobilize this kind of alternative.

The world is faced with a real choice between what the United Nations can do in reconstruction and what might be left to the Pentagon. There is a division of view in the United States at its most senior levels. If we were looking to reassert our reputation with our neighbours, if we were looking to reassert our reputation as a country that could count in the world and change the world, this would be an ideal opportunity. We have the skills and the influence. There is an urgent need to do it. It is a by-product of doing what we should be doing as a country. In the world's interest we could materially improve our reputation with our neighbours, whether they know it or not, who need our help on this issue. We can certainly improve our reputation in the world and help make a material contribution to reconstruction in a land which, if it is left as things are now, could simply slide into some new kind of chaos.