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.