House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was liberal.


Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Madam Chair, I totally agree that we must have a serious debate about this issue; however, I would ask the hon. member if we cannot at least get the basic facts straight.

When we talk about a missile defence shield, as if this were going back to the time of trying to defend against the Russians, the Chinese, and everything else, surely the hon. member and his party will recognize that is not what this is about. This is a limited land and sea based system which is designed to deal with rogue states and would deal with a very limited form of attack.

All these strategic theories that were put forward which would be destabilizing in fact persuaded me some years ago that we should be engaged in this type of thing. The world has moved on and 9/11 has occurred. Things have occurred and we have moved on. There is a different strategic atmosphere today.

Is the NDP willing to talk about that new strategic atmosphere in which we operate, in which Russia has said that it does not have a problem with this. China is looking at it with a totally different attitude. We are trying to deal with the possibility, it may be narrow and difficult to foresee, it may be in fact something that a lot of people have trouble conceiving, but it is a possibility, and our American friends are willing to do it and we are looking at whether or not we should discuss with them the possibility of looking after North America in this remote possibility?

Should we not at least be willing to be engaged in that discussion? Or does the hon. member think we should just turn our back on this possibility and say that we do not want to be there because there is some sort of religious principle that would oppose it?

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Chair, we have not invoked any religious principles so far this evening.

Let me throw this back to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Would we not be better as a country to go to table and say to the Americans that they are wrong on this because it will cost way too much money; that they are wrong because it does have the potential to escalate the arm's race; and that they are wrong because, based on their own statements, it will probably lead to the weaponization of space?

Why are we saying that we will look at negotiating our participation in this? Why is the Minister of Foreign Affairs not going to them and saying that this is wrong? What we should be negotiating is a reduction in the amount of arms that we have in this world, not the potential for an increase.

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.


Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Madam Chair, I am happy to enter into this important debate. Once again I would like to state my unequivocal opposition to Canada proceeding with a ballistic missile defence.

We have heard here a number of times, whether in fact the American administration is spending $14 million or $3 billion on future projections or historical projections, and no one has disputed the fact, that the Americans are actually spending money on research for weapons in space.

Where I come from, if the road sign says “weapons in space”, we do not want to go down there because the likelihood is that when we get to the end of the road that is where they will be.

We have not talked much about the stability that this system will entail. It is clear that the system is inaccurate. At best we have heard some of the testing results have not been perfected. It is not a perfect system.

All the so-called rogue states, which we are supposed to be protecting ourselves from, have to do is have more ballistic missiles and they will hit their target. Clearly, it is an escalation of the arm's race.

This reminds me of when I went to the Kurchatov Institute, the Russian institute that started its nuclear program. People from the institute told me that they only got involved in the program because the United States started it. That was when the whole nuclear race started. We are just entering into another phase of this.

Let us talk about the technology of the program. I have some quotes here from the American Physical Society. These are the physicists who actually designed and built these missile defence systems. This is what they had to say last July. According to the analysis, the basic science and technology needed to intercept a solid fuel missile would require unrealistically large and powerful interceptor missiles. To get enough coverage would mean putting over 1,000 interceptors into orbit at a cost to the U.S. taxpayer of $40 billion just to launch.

This is a lunacy program. It cannot be justified from a defence point of view nor from an economic point of view.

The other argument is that we are protecting Canadians. How many viewers out there seriously believe that Toronto, Vancouver, St. John's or any other capital in our country is under threat of nuclear attack today? Very few of us would actually believe that to be true.

The American perception is that it is true of them. What is the key to this element? Canada is a huge territory. Clearly, if people are going to attack the United States they must traverse over Canadian airspace.

Once again, this same American Physical Society says that in the unlikely event that either ABMs or lasers could be made to hit a missile, they would not destroy the hardened warhead. It goes on to say that a successful intercept of a missile launched from either North Korea or Iran runs the risk of dropping the missile warhead and its cargo of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons on either Russia or Canada.

We start off with a basic premise that we are protecting our citizens but would we not in fact be putting them in more danger if we were to actually bring these nuclear weapons and have them land on our territory?

The other argument in this whole debate is that it is a free ride; that the Americans are so interested in us rubber stamping their program that they are willing to give us a free ride.

I want to ask the viewers out there whether they really believe that the Americans are going to give us a free ride. Those are the same people with whom we have disputes over softwood lumber and the selling of our grain into the United States. With those events on our plate do we really believe the Americans will give us a free ride? It may well be that they are not asking for money but surely they are asking for something.

It occurs to me that the Americans cannot implement this system properly without some degree of Canadian consent because, clearly, we have this great territorial land mass. They talk about land based systems and sea based system but the logical next step of course is air based systems, and they must transcend Canadian air space to be effective.

It is clear to me that this so-called partnership is really not a partnership at all. We talk about the ability of Canada to sit at the table. The American military attaché in the embassy came here one day and made it very clear that they were not going to run this through NATO or Norad, that it would be run through the northern command. It will be entirely under U.S. command. We therefore do not really have a seat at the table at all. We will be told what to do.

This is not my idea of a partnership. This is the hypothesis of the argument that we have to be involved with them because it will give us a say. I do not think we have a say at all. What we will have to give up and what the cost will be to Canada will be our independent voice in international affairs, something that is respected around the world.

If we are serious about deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons, why can we not spend just one-third of the money that the Americans are willing to spend on this program in the area of aid? After all, one of the basic things North Korea, a rogue regime, is asking for is economic aid. Why can we not spend money in these areas and try to stabilize these areas of the world?

The United States spends very little time in support of the United Nations. One of its treaties says that its administration is allowed to take unilateral action against anybody in the world that it does not like. Is that really a country that we want to get into a partnership with? Could we not do a lot better in the world and for our nation if we stood up with an independent voice and said that we do not agree with that, that we want to go somewhere else, to a peaceful world?

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Chair, first, I know one cannot comment on the absence of members or ministers from the House, but on the contrary I would like to commend the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who have been present in the House for all of this debate until the bitter end. I think that is worthy of commendation, given their obvious concern and interest for the views of members.

Fifty years ago my father was a jet fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, based mainly out of Comox Air Force Base on the west coast. During that time he flew many dozens of sorties with his other Canadian aircrew as part of our then new joint command with the United States in Norad.

Their job at the time was to intercept Soviet bombers that were coming in over the polar ice cap which at any given time could be carrying nuclear armaments. That is precisely why we created Norad. That is precisely why men like my father and thousands of other Canadian servicemen were the first chain of defence, if you will, against the ongoing threat of Soviet nuclear bombers over the polar ice cap in the 1950s. That was the principle upon which Norad was based.

Our forces authorized those sorties out of a joint command structure based at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado where, since the founding of Norad, a Canadian general and an American four star general would survey the skies over North America's airspace to determine when there was a potential threat and order the interception of that threat.

Today the proposal that we are discussing for a ballistic missile defence system is simply an extension of the Norad principle in which this country has participated for 50 years to take into account new technology and new threats. The fact is that the principal threat no longer is in Soviet bombers, prop planes coming over the polar ice cap. The principal intercontinental ballistic missile threat is just that, intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads, or tipped with other potential weapons of mass destruction, not coming from the Soviet Union, but coming from states that may not be rational actors. This is precisely the concern that has motivated the United States, now supported by most of its traditional allies, to explore a land and sea based integrated detection and interception system using ballistic missile technology that could at least diminish the chances of North America and North American civilian populations from being held hostage by states with this kind of offensive missile technology.

I personally do not understand, as somebody who I think has a relatively good grasp of the strategic history of the defence of North America, why there is so much angst and anxiety about taking a 1950s tried and true defence principle where Canada works cooperatively with our allies in the United States and elsewhere to defend the skies over this continent and to defend our people and those of our allies. That is simply the principle of the agreement in which we are being asked to participate.

One thing is absolutely clear, and the defence minister has made this point. Whether or not Canada participates in missile defence and to what extent we participate will make not one whit of difference in terms of whether the United States proceeds with missile defence in its own right.

The only question is whether or not Canada as a sovereign country will willingly participate to ensure that a defence technology which will be employed around our continent will have some involvement from the Canadian government. The question is not whether or not there will be ballistic missile defence. The question is whether or not Canada will have some say in the development and application of this technology, particularly in its use over our airspace.

I believe that just as it was the right thing for us to engage in the Norad agreement 50 years ago, it would be the right thing for us today to say that we are not very keen on the American military releasing ballistic missiles off the Pacific coast, or in the north Pacific off Alaska, or in the north Atlantic, potentially intercepting incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles, potentially in or near Canadian airspace, without our say-so.

I had the benefit of visiting the Norad joint command in Colorado 18 months ago, to talk with the senior-most Canadian general staff there and the American general staff, including the four star general in charge of Norad. We had a chance, with parliamentarians from all parties, to visit the joint command centre.

I learned some very interesting things there, including the fact that Canadian officers who help protect this country were very concerned that if our government does not quickly indicate its willingness to cooperate in the ballistic missile field, the rest of the Norad joint command would become increasingly irrelevant. It really is structured on a 50 or 40 year old threat.

The Canadian senior officers with whom I spoke said that the usefulness and the relevance of Norad to the United States will really be imperilled if we refuse to allow missile defence to come under that joint command, and the Americans go off and put it under a separate command, a strategic command, space command, or some other command structure. If that happens, then essentially Norad will become a cold war relic and the only real integrated joint command we have over continental defence will become largely irrelevant.

That is an outrageous abdication of sovereignty. I accuse my friends in the NDP that their position, not deliberately, would have the unintended consequence of diminishing Canadian sovereignty in the defence of North America and Canadian airspace.

Further, I would like to point out what I said in my intervention to the speech of my friend from Windsor, that far from leading to another arms race, I believe that the effective development and deployment of this defensive technology would diminish and put the cold war arms race in reverse. It already began to do that two years ago when Russia essentially agreed to the American abrogation of the ABM treaty. Concurrent with that was an agreement to reduce each country's warhead arsenal by one-third. That is the largest single achievement in terms of nuclear arms reduction since the beginning of the cold war. Instead of applauding that, instead of looking at that with open and objective minds, the NDP said that this is going to result in an increase in the nuclear threat when in fact it is doing just the opposite.

The critics of this say that even if this technology reaches its greatest possible level of effectiveness, it cannot present a 100% defence shield. That may well be true, but the strategic point of missile defence is this. If there is a madman in a rogue state, let us just say the dear leader in North Korea, the son of the head of state who is now six years deceased although he is still officially head of state in North Korea, who now clearly has intercontinental ballistic missile capacity and potentially nuclear weapons capacity, and he decides that he wants to hold the United States or any other country within his missile reach hostage, he can do that. He can do that and the only defensive strategy left to the United States or its allies is that vile principle of mutually assured destruction, “if you hit us, we'll hit you back and we'll hit you harder”.

I would simply say in closing that if our concern as Canadians is maintaining international order and peace and preventing another arms race and preventing a potential nuclear capacity, then we ought to agree to intelligent defensive systems. We ought to agree to systems like this which replace the offensive strategic logic of mutually assured destruction with a limited but effective land and sea based defence system, which helps defend Canadian and American citizens and which allows us to maintain our sovereignty in these matters.

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Chair, it seems at this point when the debate is coming to a conclusion that it might be desirable to get to some basic questions.

The one I would like to ask is since the collapse of the Soviet Union, who is the enemy? Who is threatening North America and particularly, who is threatening Canada?

Since the disappearance of the Soviet Union and also in listening to the argument put forward by the member for Calgary Southeast, it is extremely difficult to visualize where the threat is coming from.

Does Canada have an enemy to be concerned about and if so, who is the enemy? We know there are potential threats posed to the U.S. administration but certainly those threats are not posed to Canada. Therefore it would seem to be desirable that in this debate one should draw a line between the position of Canada and the position of the U.S. administration. These are two completely different situations and each of them, if this premise is accepted, would require a different treatment.

If Canada were to join a defence missile system, then the possibility would become very strong that Canada would attract this potential enemy to include our territory as a target. There is very little doubt that we would be seen as part, as other members have indicated, of a continental approach that would therefore make Canada part of an initiative that emanates from the U.S. administration. I see actually in Canada's interest an initiative that would decouple Canada from any defence system for North America for the very simple reason that Canada does not have any enemy to be worried about. Therefore Canada does not need to set up a system of defensive missiles that one day could become offensive.

This leads me to the third point which is the issue of weaponization of space. Here, on a number of occasions, United States officials have made it quite clear that in the long run the defence missile system will lead to the weaponization of space. This is something that the Government of Canada opposes today. If it opposes this today yet engages in discussions about the setting up of a system, it would find it very difficult to withdraw from those discussions in 10 years or 20 years from now when the weaponization of space would be coming within reach.

That leads to the next point that is linked with this, and that is whether we have as a government an exit policy in these negotiations. This point has been made repeatedly by some of my colleagues.

Apparently we do not seem to have an exit strategy, so to speak, one that would allow us at a certain point in the negotiations to say that we are not prepared to go ahead and that we will refrain from joining the defence system.

Once the negotiations have started and once we have established our technological interests, as has already been outlined by the Minister of National Defence and also by the member from Calgary, once we are engaged in that kind of technologically strategic interests and common development, it will be virtually impossible to withdraw and say we are not going to be part of this system if we have been part of the negotiations and the development of the system itself. For the life of me, I cannot see how this could be arranged.

Much has been said in the course of this debate, by those who favour the negotiations, about how this is a defence system. This is what it is called, there is no doubt about that, but whether in the end this will remain a defence system is very doubtful. And we have no guarantee to that effect. It could be turned into an offensive system, if so desired, by those who planned it.

In this context, it is important to make a reference to this data that I find rather troublesome, namely, that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, since the end of the Cold War, the spending on the part of the U.S. administration on weapons of mass destruction, be they nuclear, chemical or biological, has amounted to some $596 billion. Therefore, there is a little publicized but massive injection of funds behind an effort on the part of the most powerful nation in the world in building weapons of mass destruction. The concept behind it, of course, is one that would have to be debated on another occasion.

The fact is that we have here an initiative which is certainly not one that leads to the stabilization of the relationship of powers in the global community. Canada's interests are not along this line. Canada's interests, it seems to me, would be better served by being part of initiatives at a disarmament table rather than being at a table where there are discussions on the issue of missile defence systems.

The whole notion of conjuring up the threat that might be coming from some unknown source that would one day decide to attack North America--as the member for Calgary Southeast indicated, perhaps North Korea--is simply absurd. It is simply beyond comprehension.

In addition to that, to see this initiative of discussing the missile defence system as one that would only imply a technological participation on the part of Canada is also one that is very difficult to accept as being grounded in logic and realism.

It seems to me, in conclusion, that we would be wise to ask ourselves some basic questions. Where is the enemy? Who is the enemy?

Are we are able to identify the enemy of Canada? I cannot think of anyone considering the high reputation Canada has in the world community, considering the work that it does in the developing world and considering its reputation at the United Nations in its support for multilateralism--you name it, Madam Chair, it is a long list--so considering all these factors, Canada has no enemy and therefore it has no need to participate in this type of so-called missile defence system.

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Yukon Yukon


Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Madam Chair, I did not get any specific calls about this debate tonight, but I would like to go on the record to say that Yukoners are, as they are on a lot of issues, split on this issue. There are a number of Yukoners who think that Canada should not participate, but we are the closest riding to the system. We are a few seconds away from the missiles at Fort Greely. Therefore, a number of Yukoners feel that, without spending any money, we should be at the table so we know what is happening.

It is an honour to end this debate at 11 p.m., speaking after the member who has such a distinguished career in the House of Commons.

With the Chinese or Korean technology, which the technical experts say will be able to hit North America within the next decade, does the member believe that if they were to send a missile to Seattle or Buffalo, the technology would be refined enough that it would not hit Vancouver or Toronto by accident?

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Chair, from a technological point of view I am not qualified to comment. However, I would be quite firm in the conviction that the North Korean and the Chinese governments and their population have better things to do than to scheme an attack on North America, no matter what kind of weapons they may wish to choose.

Therefore, to start planning by imagining these unimaginable conditions, does not lead to the stabilization of relations between continents and between larger countries. China has every interest in maintaining peace in the world, and so does North Korea, despite the statements that have been made in Washington. The issue of North Korea is an energy issue. The manner in which the North Korean government has handled the matter, I think has been one to attract attention to other matters.

Therefore, to imagine that North Korea would attack Canada, and even if it were so, I would say that the attack would be more likely if we were part of a defence system organized under the auspices of the U.S. than of a defence system of which Canada is not part.

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

The Assistant Deputy Chair

It being 11 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, February 12, 2004, the committee will rise and I will leave the chair.

Ballistic Missile DefenceGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 11 p.m.)