House of Commons Hansard #14 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was missiles.


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12:45 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, let me start by disagreeing profoundly with what I have just heard.

The hon. member who just spoke said the comments, comments that I thought were insulting toward the President of the United States, were justified because he was quoting someone else. In a country of three hundred million people south of us, we could probably find a quote on anything about anyone at any time. A critical mass will achieve that.

I do not think that is the point. The fact that the hon. member used those comments in support of his argument makes it equally insulting, and I as a member of Parliament, and hopefully the rest of us in the House, want to dissociate myself from that. That is the first thing.

I would like to continue with the debate on the opposition day motion.

I have heard in a previous speech, or was it during questions and comments, a member of the Bloc Quebecois saying that they had to use an opposition day.

As a long time parliamentarian, I would like to say that I really have a problem with that. The use of an opposition day does not diminish in any way the House of Commons. In our parliamentary system, it is the duty of Parliament to challenge the government before approving the budget allocations. This is done through opposition days and at the end of the whole process, a vote is taken on the government's estimates and on the supply bill. The primary role of Parliament is to keep the government accountable before the allocations are approved.

I do not know why the member feels that such a motion would be of a lesser value coming from an opposition member. I was once an opposition member and I never thought that my motions were less valid that the ones coming from the other side of the House.

We are now discussing this motion presented by the Bloc Quebecois, which says: “That, in the opinion of this House, the government should oppose the proposed American antimissile defence shield and, therefore, cease all discussions with the Bush administration on possible Canadian participation.” I think it should have read President Bush.

It is a bit like asking a waiter if there is soup on the menu and having to eat it, whether we like the taste or not, which is totally illogical.

Allow me to elaborate a little bit more on this issue. Of course the government rejects the argument that discussions with the United States on cooperation in antimissile defence weakens Canada's commitment to promote the current international framework of non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament agreements.

As the defence minister pointed out in the letter of intent to Mr. Rumsfeld, which was partially read earlier today in the House, the government considers ballistic missile defence to be a complement to other international efforts toward non-proliferation and, of course, disarmament. It does not exclude such efforts.

A solid multilateral architecture in this sector is essential to Canada's security. Even if we do one thing, it does not mean we are unable to do the other. This is why our country is firmly committed to working toward the reduction of nuclear weapons and the elimination of other weapons of mass destruction. We talked about this in the Speech from the Throne. I could even provide you with several examples of Canadian initiatives.

I will show you that our reputation with regard to disarmament, peacekeeping and so on is well known.

In 2002, at the Kananaskis summit, under the leadership of our country, of our former prime minister, the G-8 countries launched the global partnership against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. We did this with the other G-8 countries and with Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Poland and so on. All these countries invested $20 billion in this partnership.

For its part, Canada will invest $1 billion in this sector. Within the global partnership, Canada will invest $33 million in the upgrading of one of Russia's main plants for the destruction of chemical weapons to help that country, which has far too many weapons, to safely eliminate an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Canada has directed the work of the G-8 expert group on non-proliferation, which was involved in drafting principles to govern the measures to be taken to prevent chemical, biological, radiation-emitting and even nuclear weapons from falling into terrorist hands.

We have the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, or NPT, which is the legal and policy framework for Canada's international efforts around disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. Canada intends to pursue its efforts to bolster the integrity and viability of the NPT. We will continue to implement the principle of ongoing responsibility, which made it possible to prorogue the treaty indefinitely in 1995. As hon. members are already aware, Canada will be working in favour of increased transparency and responsibility in connection with the NPT.

As well, our country plays another lead role in the efforts to deal with certain countries' recent violations of the obligations set out in the NPT. More particularly, it is helping the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, to gather information on the suspected existence of clandestine nuclear programs in North Korea, Iran, and elsewhere.

Canada's contribution, second ranking only to the United States, to the IAEA Action plan on nuclear safety, a new program which will make it possible to address a broad range of international issues relating to nuclear safety and security.

Canada also plays a vital role in all of the mechanisms governing exports of weapons of mass destruction, within the Nuclear Suppliers Group and several others. As well, we headed the Missile Technology Control Regime, the MTCR, from September 2001 to September 2002, which enabled us to promote international action against missile proliferation.

As hon. members can see, we are working against proliferation. Of course we want to see peace maintained, and we are contributing to the efforts to ensure that it is. I will go into this in further detail. Canada, and other like minded countries, given the concerns raised by the lack of a legally binding treaty setting out standards for non-proliferation of missiles and disarmament, have negotiated a code of conduct. That code is, moreover, one with strong political constraints. It is the first step toward the adoption of the instrument known as the international code of conduct against ballistic missile proliferation, known as the Hague Code of Conduct. This sets out a series of principles, transparency measures and other commitments relating to ballistic missiles. Since its inception in November 2002, 110 countries have signed on. This is a highly significant document.

Do I have to remind the members that the Canadian Landmine Fund was extended for the period from 2003 to 2008 with a $72 million budget? One of the purposes of that fund is to promote the implementation of the Ottawa Convention. Why was it so named? Because it was an initiative sponsored by the honourable Lloyd Axworthy when he was our Minister of Foreign Affairs. The fund also helps with the destruction of mine stockpiles and mine clearing activities, and it provides assistance to victims.

When I was minister for international cooperation, I went to Croatia and I visited mine clearing sites. We saw those devices, which are so very small and cost so little to produce, but so much to get rid of. And I am not even talking about all the victims.

It is Canada which initiated the landmine destruction programs. As I said, I do not think our reputation is bad at all. We are the only country in the world to have taken part in all UN peacekeeping missions. This is no small feat.

As you know, I am president of the Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas and, a few days ago, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs what role Canada would play in bringing some sort of peace to Haiti. This is a completely different subject, but it is relevant just the same.

Of course, a few days later, the minister met his American counterpart in Washington. This is proof yet again that Canada is actively participating in peacekeeping.

Also in cooperation with the United States, Canada played a major role in the adoption, in November 2003, of the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War as an annex to the Convention on prohibition or restriction on the use of certain conventional weapons. This was another important initiative.

Let me now turn to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. Of course, it is not in force yet. However, as we all know, Canada is aggressively promoting universal ratification of this treaty. Our foreign affairs minister recently wrote to his counterparts who have not yet ratified the protocol to urge them to do so.

This is another example of the work we are doing in this area. With suicide bombings having become unfortunately almost commonplace, the fight against biological warfare is at the top of Canada's priorities in terms of non-proliferation.

Our country is working to address the implementation and assessment deficiencies, which are the biggest flaw of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, in order to urge countries to pass national implementation legislation providing for penalties and more efficient export controls.

Canada is also supporting the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, another example of what we are doing. Of course, I have not given a complete list of the measures we have taken so far, but I think I have given the House some idea of the scope of Canada's contribution to non-proliferation, arms control and disarmament initiatives.

As I said earlier, this is not the issue now before the House. Canada's reputation in not at stake here, although some people have tried to question it today. Canada's track record is very positive, very good indeed.

Here is the situation that we are faced with. The United States has announced that it would begin the implementation of an antimissile defence system. As we all know, we are the United States' neighbour. We share the longest unprotected border in the world. We are the neighbours of the United States, which is just south of us. In fact, for some residents of Windsor, the United States is their neighbour to the south, the west and the north. The Americans are also neighbours to the west for some of us, and to the north for those Canadians who live along the Alaska border. So, they are our neighbours. Of course, north of Canada we have Russia.

I do not want to think that Russia is a threat. It is not, right now. But that is not the point. As the former Minister of National Defence said earlier, the idea is to take the necessary measures to protect ourselves without weaponizing space. We must protect ourselves against attacks on our country and on our southern neighbours or, at least, discuss this issue with them. And why not discuss it?

I totally disagree with the comments made by New Democrats, who said that we would probably disagree with the Americans. According to them, since we will probably disagree with our neighbours, it would be better not to talk to them at all. This is not very helpful in a dialogue. In my opinion, this attitude is totally unacceptable.

I think that we should be at the table with the Americans. I do not think I am naive that we can influence the process. Let us say that I am wrong on all those propositions. Does that mean that we could not walk out of it if we did not like it in the end? It is silly to think that we would have a conversation with the Americans and after having disagreed with them, if that were to be the result, that we could not move away from them.

We do have an independent foreign policy. We have proven that in the past. Surely the latest issue involving Iraq proved that our foreign policy is quite different. It does not mean that it is always different. That is equally ridiculous. Our views converge in many areas. They often do, but not all the time; nor should they.

One hon. member across seems to be suggesting that we should always disagree with them. That is fine and she is entitled to think that if that happens to be her position. I do not think it is.

We participate with the Americans in Norad. I do not know if the hon. member has ever been there. It is quite interesting. It has increased the security for both countries. Our participation with the Americans and several other countries in NATO has equally been of benefit, but that does not mean, for instance, that Canada has subscribed to other things the United States has done, such as the war in Iraq. We do not exactly espouse the Monroe doctrine either for that matter. We never have. It is not part of us.

We have our own values; the Americans have theirs. They are often, but certainly not always, similar. We should be trying to influence the process. Even if we were not their closest neighbour, our role as a peacemaker should mean that we should try to influence that process. The fact that we are their neighbour means that we should try even more.

I do not subscribe to the theory espoused earlier that it will likely fail, and therefore, we should not talk to the Americans. I do not believe that. I think we have a reasonable chance of being successful. If we do not try, I know very well that we will not be successful at much, because there will not be that kind of dialogue between us and them. It is the security potentially of our country that is at stake here as well.

Those are the reasons why I decided to intervene today, to make these remarks, and to say that I do not intend to support this motion. Whether or not it would be a free vote is immaterial to me. I do not think much of those things anyway. I do not espouse the view of the hon. member across and I will be voting in solidarity with members of the cabinet, because I think the government has the right approach to this.

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1:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to listen to the remarks by the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

I recognize that the North American missile defence shield and whether or not Canada participates and lends its expertise to the American efforts to create such a shield is an important issue. It is an important foreign policy and national security issue. There is no question of that.

I wonder if the member might comment on the fact that the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party in particular always seem quick to say that we do not spend enough time in this place discussing issues like child poverty, employment insurance, the high levels of taxation, and all the social policy issues.

In my case, I have not received one telephone call, one fax, or one snail mail letter on this issue. I have received a few e-mail letters, which are impossible to track as to where they came from. They may be from downtown Toronto, or indeed they may be from my riding of Prince-George--Peace River.

However, other than the few e-mails, I have received very little correspondence in my riding office or my Ottawa office on this particular issue. Yet the House and the Bloc Quebecois are devoting a day of debate on this issue. Yes, it is important, but are there not more important issues out there that the House should be consumed?

I present that to the hon. member and ask, is Prince-George--Peace River an anomaly, is his riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell seized with this issue? Is he inundated with letters, phone calls and petitions demanding that he raise this issue of the distant potential for weaponization of space sometime in the future?

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1:05 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with some of the things the hon. member has raised, but not all of them.

If he is asking me if this is the hottest issue in my constituency right now, of course, it is not. The issues involving mad cow disease, the fear that the avian flu might potentially infect that sector of our agriculture in my riding, the future of a particular steel mill in my constituency, the issues involving the textile industry and how that is going right now, and the jobs related to those areas are definitely raised a lot more.

Issues involving the maintenance and protection of our official languages and their programs are very important to the constituents that I represent. They are two-thirds, by proportion, French speaking in a largely English speaking province that is Ontario. Those are very important issues in my constituency, as are other issues as well.

Having said that, I cannot fault the party across for having brought this issue for debate because, as I said initially in my speech, there is something sacred about that. I think it was wrong for a Bloc MP to denigrate the process of an opposition day, qualifying it as somewhat second rate, which one member did. I do not agree with that either. I think that it is first rate debate. However, in a parallel way, the Bloc has the right to introduce the subject and that is sacred.

Therefore, I must be consistent with my thought here. The Bloc is perfectly legitimate in having brought forth the subject. Maybe it is a big issue for the constituents of those who brought this motion forward, but not in my constituency, at least not that I know.

I note that one member across seems to be very enthusiastic to participate in the debate, no doubt she will get her chance later.

The issue is theirs to raise. In a way, I will be happy to vote on it because it will permit me to state where I stand. That being said, would I have chosen this as the hot topic from my riding today? No, definitely not.

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1:10 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, I cannot believe that a motion containing a few lines can be interpreted differently by everyone. The motion we have today is worthwhile. We said that the government did not take its responsibilities. There is a major change in the defence policy as well as in the foreign affairs policy. There has been almost no discussion, except for a discussion during a take-note debate this week, without any vote.

We submit that we should get some credit for raising an interesting issue. This issue is of major concern in Quebec. In the first part of my speech this morning, I said we are different in Quebec, the country where I am from, and we are glad we are different. We also think that the space defence shield is an important issue. This is my question for the member who just spoke. He talked about a whole series of lists, actions and conventions to limit, eliminate and control armaments. This is great. This is what the government is saying. This has been the government policy for decades, since Pearson, among others.

Now the government is talking about the space defence shield where we go to the weaponization of space. Now there is a breakdown. This is what we have been trying to say from the beginning. There is a major change. The member referred to Lloyd Axworthy earlier. Does he think that Lloyd Axworthy supports the space defence shield? I do not think so. Yet, he is the former foreign affairs minister. He thinks like us. I would like my colleague to comment on the statements I just made.

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1:10 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all, the motion is worthwhile, but it is wrong. I cannot support it. Of course the member has the right to introduce it, and I have said so at the beginning of my speech. I thank him for his congratulatory remarks regarding the initiatives taken by Canada in all the peacekeeping roles.

I have a problem with the member saying that we are headed for a space shield.

First of all, I do not think that we have to decide to endorse the proposed initiative. Second, the issue of the space shield as he called it is not even on the agenda. The star wars that the member for Halifax is talking about are not even in the picture anymore. Just like the movie, it is long gone and forgotten. We are dealing with a completely different thing today. We are dealing with land or sea based measures to prevent states or dissident elements in certain states from attacking us with weapons of mass destruction. These measures should help us defend ourselves without us or the United States having to use nuclear weapons. We are not talking about something that would be based in space nor about weaponization of space. We have certainly not reached the “we are headed for” stage. I have not ordered anything on the menu yet. I have only asked the waiter if there was soup on offer.

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1:15 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to refer, as the member opposite did, to the former foreign affairs minister, Lloyd Axworthy.

I am sure that the member is aware that the former minister is absolutely and totally opposed to the initiative that the government has now launched. I do not have time to quote extensively from the excellent report on “Canada and Ballistic Missile Defence”, issued by the institute which he has had the privilege to head up.

First, I how can he reconcile his favourable comments about the government's leadership and acknowledge Lloyd Axworthy on the peace and disarmament issues of the past, and the fact that he is absolutely condemning what the government is doing?

Second, he invoked Russia in his comments. Could the member indicate whether he is aware that Russia is in opposition to Canada's participation in the U.S. missile defence? Could he comment on that?

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1:15 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, as a matter of fact I do not believe I invoked Russia. I said that there was no danger for that country as we knew it at the present time. I believe those are the words that I said. I am not sure I would agree with what the hon. member is raising in that regard as that was not what I said.

Insofar as any other Canadian agreeing or disagreeing with my point of view, they are certainly entitled to do that.

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1:15 p.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Lloyd Axworthy.

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1:15 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Yes, the hon. Lloyd Axworthy is certainly a great Canadian and one for whom I have a lot of respect. However, that does not mean that I agree with everything he says all the time.

I have quite a bit of respect for the hon. member across, even though she seems to think that people who disagree with her are wrong 100% of the time, especially after hearing her speech this morning.

That is not the way it is at all. We are all entitled to our opinion in this place. At the present time I am a member of Parliament and I am entitled to say what I believe is the right thing.

The critical mass of those opinions in this House influences the government in its decision. Then the votes that we exercise in the House collectively along with other things that happen in society generally are what makes our country move ahead.

We are above all a deliberative assembly. This is where we debate issues and this is where we express the wishes and the complaints of our constituents. However, it is important to recognize that we have a right to do so, even if it means that we disagree with a former member of this House, somebody who is not here anymore, even if it is somebody who is greatly respected, as is the case.

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1:15 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, I had not planned on beginning my speech on the missile defence shield by saying what I am about to say, but I feel compelled to respond to the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, who gives credit to the government alone for the position it took on the war in Iraq and on landmines. I think that those who deserve to be congratulated are the people who took to the streets to make the government aware of their concerns about these important issues.

Members will remember that 150,000 people took to the streets in Montreal to protest against the war in Iraq. Even in my riding, 10,000 people took part in such protest. Therefore, it is the public that deserves credit for the foresight and prudence it has shown with regard to these issues.

The same thing goes for the missile defence shield. Certain members of this government say that people do not hear about this issue and that it is not their priority. We, in Quebec, sent a mailout to each family and each household to explain what the missile defence shield is and to inform them of Canada's unclear position on this issue. We received reply coupons. People told us that they were concerned and that they were saying no to this move toward a possible involvement in the missile defence shield.

I will remind members that the missile defence shield is a system of radar stations to detect enemy missiles, and of interceptors to destroy those missiles. In the long run, the American missile defence shield should include not only sea-based and land-based interceptor missiles, but also a fleet of satellites, orbital interceptors and an airborne laser-equipped aircraft.

We can see that it is a doctrine of total domination of space. We know full well that Quebeckers do not buy into that logic. There is a strong culture of peace that has developed in Quebec over the years. We saw it in action when the time came to bring the government back on the right track when its position was unclear as to its willingness to get involved in the war against Iraq. We know that artists and cultural communities as well as ordinary citizens and their children took to the streets to say that they were totally against Canada's participation in a military intervention in Iraq.

So let me tell you that we have doubts. As far as the issue at hand is concerned, they would have us believe that it is all about discussions, but that it is not the case. The dice have been cast. We know that there are numerous items in the action plan and the development plan for the missile defence shield. Two of those items raise concern and make us think that the objective is really to occupy space. They are talking about a fleet of detection satellites, up to 24, and space-based interceptors, which could be in orbit in 2012.

Clearly they have a detailed and specific plan. Some people even say that, as technology evolves, other elements could be added with each new discovery. I think that, once the big machine starts rolling, it will be hard to stop. Therefore, we do not believe that we are still at the discussion stage. For many reasons we think they are well beyond discussion already.

The President of the United States, Mr. Bush, will not listen to some scientists who question this device which would be used to detect missiles coming from enemy states. This is an American folly, and they want us to be part of it, part of their propensity to arm themselves whenever they fear someone or something—Blacks, the enemy.

Quebeckers do not buy that rationale. For example, we could explain why we think the reason given is false, and that the government might already have signed an agreement in principle behind closed doors.

The plan makes this clear. It goes much further than what the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Defence are saying. The defence minister's letter goes far enough to make us react. I will quote excepts:

We believe that our two nations should move on an expedited basis to amend the NORAD agreement to take into account NORAD's contribution to the missile defence mission.

This is a paradox. Supporters of this military initiative such as the minister argue that the cost of not joining the U.S is the potential marginalization of Norad.

The Minister of National Defence knows what he is talking about when he promotes cooperation within NORAD. He cannot risk making such a proposal and not have it come through. That is why the Bloc Quebecois has lots of doubts about the way talks should be the interpreted. We think there may be an agreement in principle.

Allow me to quote the minister again.

It is our intent to negotiate in the coming months a Missile Defence Framework Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States with the objective of including Canada as a participant in the current U.S. missile defence program—

The operative words are obviously participant and current. We may therefore want to exercise caution and to call this government to order.

Before I continue, I would like to point out that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who will have the opportunity to express his views on the missile defence shield.

We may doubt that the government is acting in good faith. As reported in an article published in La Presse on Wednesday, February 18, the remarks of lieutenant-general Rick Findley, who heads the Canadian section of NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defence Command, speak volumes about the government's intentions. These remarks go much further and the matter of discussions is pretext. He said:

I would not say that it is a done deal, added Mr. Findley yesterday. But it would seem to me that Canada is basically in favour of the initiative and intends to participate.

U.S. President Bush does not even want to listen to his fellow citizens. So, we are very concerned.

Canada claims to be very protective of its cultural sovereignty. To want to defend the antimissile defence project is not a good example of Canada's desire to protect its alleged cultural sovereignty. The government should clearly say no, we will not get involved in this.

Among those opposed to this project, are several government or former government members, including the leadership candidate who ran against the current Prime Minister and who said:

I see our country and I see our party as one that builds bridges. There are no shields strong enough to fight hate. What fights hate is the capacity to walk in another's shoes.

She was speaking against the antimissile defence shield.

Canadian Michael Moore produced a shock documentary on the tendency of Americans to want to arm themselves because they are afraid of being targeted and attacked. Indeed, the Americans have this propensity to buy guns to protect themselves from their neighbours.

In the opinion of Quebeckers, this is not a good way to send a message to the public. Why would we have so much against the Americans? Michael Moore provides several examples of how the Americans have interfered in the internal politics of other countries, where this led to the death of many women, children and men. For these reasons, we are opposed to the antimissile defence shield.

We will mobilize Quebeckers so that they too will know exactly what the Canadian government's intention to support the Americans and their antimissile shield project implies.

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1:30 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, let me congratulate my colleague from Quebec for her very nice speech. She identified the major issue, that is whether Canada should get involved into such an endeavour. She mentioned some quite valid reasons.

Now I would like to draw her to another issue she did not touch on, because she only had ten minutes, that is the democratic deficit.

Here, last week, the government House leader introduced a number of measures that he would like members to adopt, that is more transparency and more involvement of members. In the issue now at hand, everything is done behind closed doors between a few individuals who are the officials of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defence.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, to our credit, made this debate possible today. It seems to me that Canada is breaking with its foreign affairs policy in the missile defence shield project.

I would like to ask my colleague whether she shares my opinion a little about the fact that, with regard to the democratic deficit, the government introduces nice bills, has nice rhetoric, but does not take any specific and concrete action to correct it. It just missed an opportunity with the issue of the space defence shield.

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1:30 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Madam Speaker, this indeed would have been a great opportunity for the government and the current Prime Minister to show how prepared they are to have more open discussions about the issues they put on their agenda. During this debate on the antimissile defence shield, they could have opened the discussion and the whole process to the opposition parties.

Earlier, the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell listed all the measures Parliament has passed for peace and against anti-personnel mines and the war in Irak, but that is only because the opposition members joined forces and ensured that the government was heading in the right direction.

But here again, we have the issue of antimissile defence being discussed behind closed doors, by civil servants, and they would have us believe that we are still at the discussion stage.

The Bloc Quebecois defended Quebec's interests and we knew full well that the people in Quebec were against the war in Irak. Had we not given some warnings to the opposition parties, the government would never have found out what our electors had to say. We keep saying that the party in office in Quebec, the Liberals, never tells the whole truth to the people. They just keep doing what they have done today all day long. They did not hear a thing. To defend the principle of peace is not their main goal where antimissile defence is concerned.

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1:30 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, there are some motions on which it is a true pleasure to speak in this House, and the motion before us today is one of those. I am very pleased that there is a debate on this issue and that the Bloc Quebecois, once again, has caused the House to take a stand, expressed in a vote, on an important issue like this.

This is the second or third time, at least, that the Bloc Quebecois has led the House to vote on things that the government would prefer to negotiate in private, without necessarily allowing a democratic debate.

Why am I so pleased to be debating this issue? Because the motion says, and I quote:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should oppose the proposed American antimissile defence shield and, therefore, cease all discussions with the Bush administration on possible Canadian participation.

The debate today in the House continues the line of action the Bloc Quebecois has chosen, especially in educational institutions. The leader of the Bloc Quebecois, the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, came to my riding and met students from the Cégep de La Pocatière and the Institut de technologies agricoles de La Pocatière.

We walked around with the postcard the Bloc Quebecois is circulating, having discussions and debates with the young people in order to find out whether they are in favour of the missile defence shield. We saw all kinds of situations.

There are some young people who did not know exactly what it was. We explained it and after the explanation it was crystal clear that they did not want it. In fact, that goes against all approaches and all attitudes held by Quebeckers, in particular the youth who are pacifist by nature and want there to be no militarization of space. They are upset enough with militarization on land, at sea and in the air. They do not want the government's energy going to such a cause.

When we look at the estimated budget, we can say that their intuition is correct and relevant. We know that if we go along with this operation the way the current Minister of National Defence has, against the advice of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, in fundamental contradiction of the Canadian perception, the amounts of money needed will not be justified for Canada and not for the United States either, in my opinion.

The Americans will make a decision, but we do not have to go along with it. We want to say clearly in this House that the Parliament of Canada, through each of its members who in turn represent ridings, does not want Canada to participate in this effort to weaponize space.

We want there to be a public debate. We want to know all the angles before any commitments are made. Ultimately, for example after the next election, we want the current government—if re-elected—to continue, safe in the knowledge that it received a mandate to continue, as a result of that election.

The debate is clear. It will be made public based on the vote here, thanks to the Bloc Quebecois' motion. The position of each member and each party of the House will be known. We will also see if this motion is important enough for this government to allow a free vote or if a gag order will be imposed. In short, that is what we are debating today.

Young people in colleges receive very concrete answers to their questions. What is the missile defence shield? It is a system that uses radar to detect enemy missiles and interceptors to destroy them.

People say that the American missile defence shield should include not only land-based and sea-based interceptors, but also a fleet of satellites and space-based interceptors orbiting the earth. There is also the Airborne Laser, a laser-equipped aircraft.

This is truly the second generation of star wars, introduced by President Regan and reinstated by the Bush administration. Today, the current Prime Minister and his administration are jumping on the bandwagon here in Canada, and this is unacceptable.

We will not support this type of initiative, because our priorities are elsewhere. We must consider the overall needs of our society. We must consider just the security needs in Quebec and Canada. The money needs to be invested elsewhere than in the missile defence shield.

If we must do anything, it is ensure adequate internal security. We must ensure that our ports are well equipped when ships arrive. We must ensure that our airports are well equipped, and that we have a relationship with other countries allowing us to reduce the obstacles in our path, and that we help reduce the number of terrorists by ensuring better distribution of wealth.

If, unfortunately, the situation continues, we need good tools to deal with it. In my opinion, the missile defence shield is not the way to go. Besides, the program is not quite up to scratch yet.

I find very risky the position of the current defence minister, who wrote to his American counterpart, saying that Canada will get on board, move forward with the proposal and work shoulder to shoulder with the U.S., when we are not clear on how far this is going to go.

The cost of this program has already been estimated at $60 billion. Internationally, many countries such as China, Russia and European Union countries have expressed serious concerns.

Everyone applauded when Canada went ahead and patented drugs to combat diseases in developing countries, some of the poorest on the planet. Let us go ahead, take the lead on this issue and make sure that we have the best legislation possible.

Conversely, in the present case, there is no logic in the Government of Canada getting involved right away in the deployment of the missile defence shield. In this respect, I would like to remind the House of the public outcry last year about the war in Iraq. Action is not required as urgently in this instance. There is no reason to believe that, tomorrow, people will die for reasons that will turn out to be false. Still, we are confronted to a similar situation where public opinion must be mobilized.

That is what the Bloc Quebecois has set out to do, through this debate in the House today, the postcard writing campaign we have launched and the tour on which the hon. member for Saint-Jean has gone. Together, all these measures will help demonstrate to this government that the people of Quebec are behind us on this as they were on the war in Iraq and do not want Canada to invest in such an initiative. We pray that the other side will listen carefully and that this matter can be resolved before the election.

If an election were called and there were common viewpoints, this would be a major election issue, especially if the government maintained its wishy-washy position with hawks like the Minister of Defence who push ahead and would like Canada to join the process. Yesterday, we heard a career military officer—someone with long experience who worked in the relevant agencies—say it was a done deal.

Let me say that, for the members of the Bloc Quebecois, the people of Quebec and all the young people in our schools, this is not a done deal and we will make sure it never is. The Government of Canada absolutely should not go any further with this. If we cannot stop the steamroller with the current debate in this House, then we will stop it during the election. I am certain that, when they tour the schools, Liberal candidates will face many questions. They will be asked whether they voted in favour of Canada participating in the missile defence system. They will each have to answer that question. I hope it becomes a major issue.

Young people increasingly feel like citizens of the world. They feel it is very important for developed nations like Quebec, Canada and North America to take their international responsibilities. Pushing ahead with the missile defence shield is not the way to go. We have many other priorities and people who want the military to be better equipped agree. Comments are coming in from everywhere, including the military. Clearly, there are other priorities. Other equipment is needed.

Of all the choices that have to be made in Canada, as the Bloc Quebecois says in its postcard campaign, it is important to say no to the missile defence shield and no to the weaponization of space.

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1:40 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Madam Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague who is, in my opinion, a very persuasive parliamentarian.

I started out this morning by saying that we in Quebec are different from the rest of Canada. I even described Quebeckers as warriors for peace. Since the beginning of this debate, this morning, I have been listening to colleagues, who are unfortunately not from our party, tell us that they are wondering why this issue was raised when there are so many other important issues.

I know that my colleague is also involved with young people since he is working with the comité jeunesse of the Bloc Quebecois. I would like him to tell us how Quebeckers are reacting to an attempt at weaponizing space such as this one.

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1:40 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I think the best response I can give the hon. member is to describe a meeting at Café La Tasse, a student coffee shop at the la Pocatière Cegep. The leader of the Bloc Quebecois and myself met with about twenty students, and the topic of discussion was the reality of the missile defence shield.

The students who participate in café activities are generally greatly concerned about the environment and ecological issues. They believe our responsibility on this planet is to ensure that our planet is at peace. This is an attitude that I imagine young people everywhere must share. Quebec, however, has its own particular outlook on things.

This was obvious last year in connection with the war in Iraq, and the reaction is the same now. When people tell us this is not an important issue, we need to remind them that it will shape the lives of the twenty-somethings of today. When they turn 40, they will have to live with the results of this weaponization of space, and that is not the future they want.

There is a general desire, I believe, to make sure that the escalating violence we are seeing in this world is halted. People do not believe that problems are solved by putting up barriers everywhere and arming heavily. Our young people want to see an openness to the world, they want to be able to tell others who they are, and learn the same from them. They want to see a return to a policy and a dynamic of peace, rather than a dynamic of escalating violence.

That was the message we got from these young people. We are hearing the same thing daily, and will continue to do so. I am sure the member for Saint-Jean will receive thousands of postcards from all over Quebec telling him that people want nothing to do with the missile defence shield of Mr. Bush and the present Prime Minister, and that they are opposed to the weaponization of space.

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1:45 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia


Scott Brison LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Canada-U.S.)

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure today that I rise to speak to the issue of ballistic missile defence, or BMD, and Canada's ongoing discussions with the United States on that important issue. This is a great opportunity to address the facts and to dismiss some of the inaccuracies or myths.

As everyone is aware, on January 15 the Minister of National Defence and the U.S. Secretary of Defense exchanged letters of intent on BMD. These letters will permit Canada to pursue negotiations with the United States and allow us to help shape those plans for the future. This is crucial for Canada to consider. Any decision made on behalf of Canadians by the Canadian government on Canada's participation in BMD will be based on the fundamental question of whether or not it is in Canada's national interest.

Before I go any further, Madam Speaker, I want to split my time with the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean.

Despite the fact that Canadians would overwhelmingly support the notion of increasing and improving Canadian security and the ability to protect Canadians against security threats, there are some who would want to actually keep Canadians in the dark. In some cases there are some who would present and disseminate information which was really misinformation and was not accurate.

If we are going to have a legitimate debate on such an important issue, we need to deal with facts. I am going to point out some of the myths that are out there.

First of all, missile defence and the proposal we are speaking of is land and sea based missile defence. This is not star wars. Star wars is a 1980s term, like Ed Broadbent. We should be dealing with the fact that we are talking about land and sea based missile defence. This is far more limited in scope than the discussions in the 1980s around the weaponization of space.

At that time the Canadian government decided it was not in Canada's national interest to participate for two reasons. It was not in Canada's national interest to pursue a policy of weaponization of space which was the proposal then. Also, it was a very different environment than that which exists today in a post-cold war environment.

It is key for us to recognize that the U.S. intention is to have up to 20 interceptors in place by 2005 and this system will not employ weapons in space. Some military planners in the U.S. have drafted vision documents discussing options in the future. These are not policy; they discuss options well into the future.

Given the fact that the Canadian position is to oppose the weaponization of space, it is important that the Canadian position be represented at the table and down the road when the discussions occur. Then we can make that case in a vigorous and meaningful way as opposed to being shut out of those discussions by some sort of pre-emptive fear of what future discussions could be.

One of the issues that is raised is that participating in these discussions somehow represents a threat to Canadian sovereignty. I would argue that when the Canadian government has an opportunity to increase and protect the security of Canadians, if it chooses not to do so, that in fact is a threat to Canadian sovereignty. Any government that fails to take every possible action to defend the security of its own people is failing to defend the sovereignty of its own people.

A fundamental principle of protecting sovereignty involves first and foremost defending security. We have a 50 year history of working with the U.S. to defend North American security. Norad is an essential part of that. Therefore, this is nothing new, to continue those discussions and continue that level of engagement.

Myth number two is that we cannot afford participation. The fact is that Canada has not yet been asked to contribute anything financially. One of the goals of the negotiations is to determine what participation would cost. Clearly the government will not participate or commit to something that we as a government cannot afford. There is no essential need and in fact there is discussion now that there probably will be no need for direct Canadian financial contribution. However, we should, as a country, be willing to participate in North American defence which among other things protects the lives of Canadians.

Most Canadians understand that when it is explained in those terms, particularly in a post-cold war environment where the nature of the threat is so different than it was. The unpredictability of threat is so significant compared to a cold war period. Most Canadians agree that it makes a great deal of sense to participate as part of North America, as part of Norad to defend the security of Canadians.

Myth number three is that a new arms race will start as a result of ballistic missile defence. To the contrary, the ability to protect against ballistic missile attack in North America, if anything, could actually reduce the degree to which rogue nations or terrorist states would want to pursue a ballistic missile strategy against North America. Why would they want to pursue that line of weaponization or contribute to that arms race if we, as part of Norad and in working with the U.S., were taking action through ballistic missile defence to protect ourselves against that? To the contrary, ballistic missile defence has the capacity to reduce the incentive for an arms race based on ballistic missiles. This is purely a limited and defensive response as opposed to something that could in any way, shape or form contribute to or feed an arms race.

Canada remains committed to stopping the spread of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. We have a strong history internationally of effecting change through multilateralism and working with the United States and countries around the world to achieve that. This certainly does not impact negatively. Canada is continuing to play an important role in reducing the spread of ballistic missiles.

Myth number four is that our security will not be heightened. Does anybody in the House, even the opponents of BMD, actually believe that the Government of Canada would be engaged in a discussion and would agree to support ballistic missile defence if it did not believe absolutely and unequivocally that it would protect the security of Canadians? Why else would we do it?

There is a strong recognition that the primary reason for entering into negotiations with the U.S. on this is to determine how BMD can protect the security of Canadians. We are not pursuing these discussions simply to mollify the Americans. We are pursuing these discussions to protect the security and the lives of Canadians first and foremost. That is the principal goal of this. Particularly in a post-September 11 environment, the principal goal of a lot of our joint initiatives with the United States on security issues has been based first and foremost on the goal of protecting the lives and security of Canadians.

Our participation and support of BMD at the end of the day will be determined and based on national interest which will be focused on the principal question of whether or not this participation will help defend the security of Canadians and protect the lives of Canadians. Clearly this proposal, BMD, has the capacity to defend and protect the security of Canadians.

The whole notion that defending ourselves from ballistic missiles is somehow un-Canadian is nonsensical. I think most Canadians want to defend Canadian sovereignty and the best way to defend sovereignty is to actually participate in a meaningful way in protecting Canadian security.

Our objective as a government and as a country is to protect Canadian and North American security, whether that means investing in our military, participating in multilateral efforts or in BMD, among other things, and to defend Canadian sovereignty. It will not weaken it.

I would argue as well--

SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Questions and comments. The member for Prince George—Peace River.

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1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a quick reference question for the member for Kings—Hants. I want to read something from Hansard of Monday, April 15, 2002, and then ask him a question.

In referring to the $100 million that was blown by the Liberal government to purchase two Challenger jets, the member asked:

Will the Prime Minister return to Earth, cancel the order for the flying Taj Mahals and put the money toward our troops that need it or has the little guy from Shawinigan truly become the sultan of Shawinigan?

He was referring, of course, to former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Does he still feel the same way? Will he now refer to the current Prime Minister when he flies in his luxury jet as the shipping magnate from Montreal?

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1:55 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Madam Speaker, I am not quite certain what relevance that has to ballistic missile defence, but the fact is that the decision, as the Prime Minister responded to the question in the House of Commons, was made outside of the ordinary cabinet procedures. At that time he also was not part of the decision making process that led to the purchase of those jets.

If the hon. member were interested in talking about the issues on which we actually share a commonality of interest, for instance the ballistic missile defence, he could contribute positively to this debate and find common ground.

He, as an hon. member, has probably said more things about some of his colleagues in the House of Commons, with whom he now shares a caucus, members of the former Progressive Conservative Party, than anything I could have said about the party within--

SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

The member will have approximately three minutes following question period. It is now time for statements by members.

Web Awareness DayStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform the House that today is Web Awareness Day.

Initiated by the Canadian Library Association, the Media Awareness Network and Bell Canada, Web Awareness Day seeks to make parents aware of the resources available at their local libraries to help young Canadians develop their Internet literacy skills.

The Internet plays a large role in the lives of Canadian children. Understanding how to manage their online time into the best possible experience for them is a difficult job for parents. Our libraries are doing their utmost to connect parents with the best resources and information.

Under the theme “Parenting the Net Generation”, public libraries will use Web Awareness Day as a positive opportunity to deliver the message that they are ready to support parents and communities in teaching young Canadians literacy skills for the 21st century.

We thank public libraries for their great efforts and wish them success with Web Awareness Day.

Middle EastStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday the member for London—Fanshawe made a statement in the House. I was shocked by the insensitive and inflammatory remarks about the security wall being constructed in Israel.

I am certain most Israelis would agree to dismantle that wall in a heartbeat if the reign of terror and carnage inflicted on its citizens were halted.

The sad reality is that the Palestinian leadership has shown no will, no ability to stop suicide bombers or to prevent the glorification of those who perpetrate such vile acts as martyrs and as heroes.

Israel has a primary responsibility, like as any nation, to protect the person and security of its citizens.

To use accusatory and inflammatory words to characterize Israel's defence is to display gross ignorance of the geopolitical reality and the history of this troubled region.

Those who live in relative peace and security should not be quick to judge those who live in constant peril and with terror.

To accuse Israelis of constructing concentration camps is a cruel and unwarranted slur against all Jewish people and the memory of millions who perished in what remains the world's most infamous genocide.

Scout-Guide WeekStatements By Members

February 19th, 2004 / 2 p.m.


Eugène Bellemare Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week is Scout-Guide Week which takes place February 15 to 22.

This is the time of celebration for Scouts Canada and Girl Guides of Canada. It is a chance for the public to recognize the limitless potential of Canadian youth and the work that scouting does to help build a better world for our nation's future leaders.

Scouting is an activity that instils fundamental principles such as leadership, pride and honour in more than 120,000 young boys and girls.

Moreover, these programs and activities are made possible through the commitment and dedication of some 40,000 volunteers working within the scouting movement.

I would encourage all members to join me in wishing both Scouts Canada and Girl Guides of Canada continued success as they move forward.

Heart MonthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jeannot Castonguay Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, February is Heart Month and it is with great pleasure that I rise today to acknowledge this occasion.

Slightly larger than a fist, the human heart contracts 100,000 times a day and pumps roughly 8,000 litres of blood daily. In a lifetime, the heart beats an average of 2.5 billion times.

Learning more about the heart and conducting research can greatly help people with heart disease.

Healthy living is achieved in many ways, such as eating well, being physically active and quitting smoking. A combination of these good habits will provide a fuller and longer life and could reduce the incidence of heart disease.

As part of Heart Month, I encourage Canadians to take action to stay healthy. I invite Canadians to celebrate Heart Month and become aware of the importance of leading a healthy life all year long.

Export Award of DistinctionStatements By Members

2 p.m.


David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Western Economic Diversification presented the Export Award of Distinction to BioWare of Edmonton.

BioWare develops advanced technology for video and computer games. It has received over 37 Game of the Year awards for its internationally acclaimed products.

Lucasfilms, Microsoft and other producers have chosen this company as their partner for international projects.

Since 1995, BioWare has sold more than 8 million software units in over 40 countries. Exports make up about 98% of BioWare's sales; last year alone accounting for about $13 million.

The 21st century economy is an economy open to the world. Western Canadian companies like BioWare are leading the way.