Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this issue. It is a very important issue which has not received its due yet. The question of whether or not Canada should participate in a missile defence with the United States through Norad has been on the burner for a long time. We have not taken the opportunity to discuss it and debate it in Canada in the way that we should. That is regrettable because it is obviously very important to Canada's future security. It is also very important how we approach this issue and our relations with the United States. We should take more opportunities to debate these sorts of issues.
I have observed today that there has been a real shift in the attitude of the government toward this issue. I am grateful for that because at one point there was no question that the government would even consider talking about this. Now it is saying that maybe it will listen. I would say that it has been mugged by reality a little, but it has a long way to go before it understands that the world is a dangerous place, that there are threats out there, and that it is not helpful when people are reflexively anti-American when we talk about these things because what we are talking about is the security of our country.
When we talk about this, we need to put this into perspective. This is not an issue of Canada's sovereignty. If neighbours agree to look after each other's houses, keep an eye on them, and ensure that nobody is breaking into each others house and that kind of thing, that is a practical way to ensure the security of both neighbours. It does not mean that a person has given up control of his or her house to the neighbour. It just means that neighbours are looking after each other, and that is a practical way of dealing with crime in the neighbourhood.
In like manner, working together with the United States on the issue of securing our borders against attack by ballistic missile is a practical way of ensuring our mutual security. People should look at it that way instead of immediately jumping to the conclusion that somehow we are yielding our sovereignty.
Very often when people reach those conclusions, they do so out of insecurity. A lot of times Canadians who are paranoid about the United States are completely insecure and do not have enough faith in their country. They do not have enough faith in the people of Canada and frankly they show little faith in the good will of the people of the United States.
As my friend who spoke a few minutes ago pointed out, the Americans are frequently called upon to participate and lead the way around the world. Obviously people do not always agree with them, but I would rather stake my future with the United States far more so than 99% of the other countries in the world. I am grateful that they are our neighbours and I appreciate very much what they do in this world to preserve freedom and the security of peace-loving people everywhere.
I want to talk about some of the threats that exist. After 9/11, no one labours under the illusion anymore that the world is a safe place, even though for a long time members across the way, the Liberal Party and the NDP in particular, had this naive view of just how safe the world was. That is gone forever. After the twin towers collapsed, after the attack on the Pentagon, and the plane going down in a field in Pennsylvania, the world woke up to the reality that it was a dangerous place.
If we had this debate before 9/11, there would have been a lot of people on the other side who would have argued that the threat was being exaggerated, that we did not have to worry about these things, and that we did not have to worry about some extremist Islamic agenda.
A lot of people would have said that we did not have to worry about that. That it was a myth. Some people would even have said that we were racist if we suggested that. Rather obviously there are people who have a demented view of Islam. They have made it their own faith and have used it to justify incredible attacks on the United States and other countries around the world. It is our obligation now, after having gone through that, to not fall into the same type of thinking when we come to consider something as important as missile defence.
There were colleagues from the Liberal side who spoke not long ago and in a way downplayed the significance of these rogue states. I would argue that they are extraordinarily dangerous. Kim Jong-il in North Korea is a dangerous man. When former United States President Clinton sent Jimmy Carter to negotiate with the North Koreans, what was he doing? He sent Jimmy Carter there to negotiate a non-proliferation type of agreement. He wanted to ensure that the North Koreans did not build nuclear weapons. Jimmy Carter came back and told us we had a deal.
In fact, he even won the Nobel peace prize for his work. Then we find out that the North Koreans were building a nuclear weapon the whole time. We would be extraordinarily naive to think that Kim Jong-il is not prepared to use it. This is a man who starved millions of his own people. Clearly he has absolutely no regard for human life. As legislators, we have an obligation to take that threat seriously. Of course we can all disagree on the magnitude of the threat, but there is a threat there. I would urge people not to downplay that threat. I think most people would agree that there is at least some threat there.
One member said a minute ago that the missile system that the North Koreans have developed will not reach North America. There is disagreement on that. We know that they started to develop some sophisticated missiles that will reach hundreds of miles. Many people believe that they will in fact reach the continental United States. If that is the case and they have also developed a nuclear bomb or perhaps several, we should be concerned about that. We would not be doing our job and we would be irresponsible if we did not take that seriously. I completely disagree with the member for Don Valley West, who spoke earlier, and the member who spoke just a few minutes ago, and their suggestion that we should not take these threats seriously. They are very serious.
I want to address some of the arguments I heard from the member who spoke just a couple of minutes ago with respect to whether or not missile defence is workable. One of the arguments was that if we had a missile defence system which could knock down a missile over the country from which it was launched, that would cause some plutonium to rain down in that country and cause people to be ill. I acknowledge there is a threat of that kind of thing happening.
However, I cannot believe the member did not completely think that through, because if we let the missile take off, land in the country at which it is aimed and there is a nuclear explosion, rather obviously we will have far greater problems caused by that than the problems that would occur if we knocked a nuclear missile down as it was leaving the launch pad. Obviously the member had not thought things through when she made that argument.
The member for Don Valley West argued that we should not be concerned about rogue states. I will set aside North Korea for a moment here. Let us talk about countries like Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan. Essentially what he was arguing was that these countries would never fire a nuclear weapon or any kind of a weapon of mass destruction from their country toward, for instance, the United States knowing that they would face immediate retaliation.
I take that point. It would be difficult for a rational mind to understand why they would do that. I will not necessarily concede that some of these people are not rational. However, setting that aside for a moment, it is entirely possible that these rogue states could work with groups like al-Qaeda. We know from what we have uncovered in Iraq now that al-Qaeda was in contact with Iraq. It is entirely possible that these organizations could work together, to have ships off the coast of the United States or off the coast of Canada with weapons aimed at our country and in some cases with nuclear technology.
We know that Iran is working right now on nuclear technology. Why is it doing that? Is it doing it because it needs the electricity that comes from a nuclear reactor? Hardly. It sits on a sea of oil and gas. It has energy that is the envy of most of the world. The same thing of course was true of Iraq when it was building its reactor and the Israelis went in and blew it up. Even now nuclear materials are still being uncovered in Iraq. Clearly Iraq was not building these facilities to produce electricity. These countries were building them and are building them for the purpose of developing weapons. I do not think there is any question about that.
If these countries work with a terrorist organization and they fire a weapon from a ship, no one is the wiser as to who was involved in this. Therefore it is not automatic that there would be retaliation because we would not know the origin of the weapon and who was working in concert to necessarily fire that weapon.
To me it makes abundant sense that we would have some kind of a weapons system that could knock those types of missiles down. The technology is currently available to these countries both to build nuclear weapons--and again, the Iranians are working on that and North Korea has already developed one or two bombs and others are working on that type of technology--and certainly to launch missiles, especially for short hops of 50 miles or 100 miles with no problem.They can do that. We saw in Iraq that it had the capacity to fire weapons farther than with the old 1950 Scud missiles, so that is not even an issue. That capacity exists already.
The problem with rogue states is that they will provide those types of weapons to terrorist organizations that are doing their bidding. There is no question that it is not only possible but likely. Again, we uncovered evidence of that in Iraq when British and Canadian newspaper reporters actually found documents linking al-Qaeda to the Saddam Hussein regime.
Canadians need to understand how good a deal Canada has in Norad as it currently exists. A number of my colleagues and I have been there. I know government members have been there. Members from all sides of the House have visited Norad. Once we have been there we cannot help but come away impressed because of the technology and how amazing it is that people can sit in one location and have surveillance of the entire continent. That is very impressive. And what is more impressive is the fact that Canada and the United States work seamlessly together on that project. Canadians have a very good deal.
I do not think many people recognize that we have joint command of North American air defence right now. It is because we struck a deal many years ago that allows Canada to pay a small part of the bills for that, but to play a large role, essentially an equal role with the United States in defending North America's shores. I am encouraged that we are starting to look at other ways of participating with the United States in our joint defence. I think that is very important.
However I think we need to aggressively pursue the next step, which is to talk about ballistic missile defence for the entire continent. We need to work with the United States.
Another objection was raised and it had to do with the actual motion, which reads:
That this House affirm its strong support for Norad as a viable defence organization to counter threats to North America, including the threat of ballistic missile attack; and support giving Norad responsibility for the command of any system developed to defend North America against ballistic missiles.
The problem the member had was with the word “any” as in “any system”. He went on to say that the Americans were aggressively pursuing the weaponization of space, which of course is a term that they love to throw around because it scares people.
I want to make a couple of points. First, I would like to ask the member a rhetorical question. If his concern is that the Americans will pursue the weaponization of space, that they will put a defensive system in space to protect their interests, is he under the illusion that if Canada does not participate that will not go ahead? Of course it will go ahead. It will go ahead one way or another.
I am sure the Americans will have a debate about it. I am sure it will be an issue in the elections in the fall and an issue in the next presidential election. If they make a decision to go ahead and do that after they have a big debate, guess what? Our non-participation in Norad will not affect their decision. It will have no impact on that at all.
However if we were to participate in Norad and the Americans went the next step where they had a defensive weapons system in space, we would at least have an influence on it. We could play the role that Canada used to always play when it came to the United States, a privileged friend of the United States, someone who shares a border with the United States and has a long and good history with the United States. We could be there to temper them and make them aware of their obligations in the world because we would have a privileged place at their elbow.
However after the rantings of the Prime Minister and, unfortunately, some members on the government side over the last number of months, we have lost the ability to influence our friends, in fact to the point where I think they are questioning how sincere government officials are when they say we want to work together.
I would argue that if Canada wants to continue to influence the United States and have a positive influence on a country that somebody said was a hyper-power, and maybe that is a pejorative term, but certainly it is the world's only existing super power right now, then let us participate in these bodies with the Americans and have the ability to influence them. We will not influence them if all we do is stick our finger in their eye at every opportunity, insult them, run them down, attack them politically, do all the things that, unfortunately, our Prime Minister has done as recently as yesterday and has done repeatedly over the last number of weeks.
I hope government members see this as an opportunity to use our good reputation in the world to influence the Americans and turn this opportunity into a way to bring about some of the ends that the people of goodwill on the other side really believe in. If they are concerned about the weaponization of space, then we should at least participate with the Americans in Norad and help them understand that point of view. If they are worried about the United States being a lone cowboy in the world, as they might say, then we should work with them and enter into multilateral agreements with them in NATO and a bilateral agreement in Norad and then they are not working alone. We would be there to temper their actions.
I encourage my friends across the way to not be reactionary any time somebody talks about working with the United States. I encourage them not to assume that it means we are giving up our sovereignty. I encourage them to be secure enough about being Canadian that we can use our influence to work with the Americans, as we have done so many times in the past, something I think we forget about. Ultimately, we must remember that this is about protecting Canada's sovereignty from people of ill will around the world. We can do that if we take a responsible, mature approach to this and work with our American friends.
I will simply wrap up by saying that this is a pivotal time in the history of Canada-United States relations. It is the perfect time for the government to send a positive signal about its friendship toward the United States by supporting the motion.