Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois today about the antimissile defence shield.
From the outset, as I did last week, I would like to explain that I come from a different country than you do, Mr. Speaker. It is not better or worse, but definitely different. With respect to many of the issues raised in this Parliament for the past decade or so, since the Bloc Quebecois arrived here in 1993, we have stood apart from the rest of the members in this House on all issues. Whether we like it or not, Quebec culture is very different and is recognized as being distinct from the culture in the rest of Canada. It is normal for our positions to vary slightly, reflecting the region or country we come from.
Naturally, we have different opinions on the issue of the missile defence shield. I take as an example the whole question of the war in Iraq. In Canada, whether one likes it or not, it was in Quebec that the largest demonstrations took place. In all the big cities in Quebec we stood out by having the highest rate of turnout for the demonstrations. I took part in two or three demonstrations in Montreal, in Arctic weather; there were still 100,000 or 150,000 people in the streets. That was a sign that we in Quebec have a different vision of war and peace.
I would even say that in Quebec we are warriors for peace. The people of Quebec want to find answers to the basic questions, at home and elsewhere on the globe. Quebeckers have a great deal of confidence in mediation, consultation and negotiation, and place great importance on them. This is not a people that wants to impose its will by force—economic, military or other. This is a people that wants to live in harmony both inside and outside its borders, and in the world at large.
It is important to state that right at the beginning. It will not surprise anyone that the motion before us today has been introduced by the Bloc Quebecois. I have seen the Liberal Party's poll statistics,which say we are on the wrong track, because 70% of Canadians appear to support the government's intention to get closer to the Americans through the missile defence shield. There was no breakdown on the numbers, but I am sure that in Quebec the figures are probably reversed. Probably 70% of the people object to the shield and only about 30% say they agree with it.
It is important to provide a clear picture of the situation at the beginning and say that in Quebec we are different and proud of our difference, because we are pacifists. As I said before, and I have said often, the people of Quebec are warriors for peace.
We have already talked about the missile defence shield. The Minister of Foreign Affairs presented a motion in the House to hold a take-note debate and we were able to talk about it at length. Something has made us curious. The minister says that if we are going to discuss the weaponization of space, the government does not want to talk about it. With that, he is ignoring the whole American plan.
Someone in the United States is in possession of the overall plan and that is the Missile Defence Agency. It has submitted a clear multistage plan. First, it involves the installation of about 30 land and sea missiles in autumn of 2004. This autumn. Then, there will be the deployment of 20 additional missiles in 2005 and subsidies to launch studies on the installation of counter-missiles in space. I thought that was important enough to mention. The plan also provides for the installation at sea of giant detection radars and a fleet of detection satellites. It is all in the plan. We are talking about space-based interceptors as early as 2012 and the famous laser-equipped Airborne aircraft that could launch missiles at us. We have many concerns about all of this, and I will come back to them.
To the government which says that it will step out if the weaponization of space is on the agenda, I reply that, by approving our involvement in the plan submitted by the Missile Defence Agency, we have already given our consent to go all the way. We cannot adhere to the first two stages of a plan and then say we will opt out.
I am not sure we are being told all the truth here. I will come back to the lack of transparency.
This has been assessed. Before going along with that kind of policy, the threats have to be assessed. I believe the threats were inadequately assessed by the United States as well as by Canada. If we get on board, we have to know why.
Of course, there are other issues at stake, like our important economic ties and the fact that we have distanced ourselves from the Americans on the Iraqi issue, which was not a good thing. I also realize that one of the main goals of the Prime Minister is rapprochement with the United States. But do we have to do it through the army and the defence shield?
We think the answer is no and that a poor preliminary assessment is to blame. I have three examples with regard to this poor assessment. Would a missile defence shield have prevented three commercial planes from striking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? No. That danger, that threat, is real, and it is worth investing in measures to counter such actions.
My second example: could a missile defence shield prevent a ship 200 km off the American coast from launching a cruise missile on New York, Boston or Los Angeles? No. A missile defence shield could not prevent such an attack. That kind of threat is much more concrete and real than a possible intercontinental missile strike on the United States.
There is one statistic that really bothers me. I am told that only 3% to 4% of containers entering Canadian ports are inspected. According to my calculations, 95% or 96% of these containers are not inspected. I do not want to be dramatic, but a weapon of mass destruction could be placed inside a container entering a port such as Vancouver or Montreal. This is much more likely to happen than an intercontinental missile strike on the United States.
As a result, we think that there has been a poor threat assessment. Why seek to invest so much money in this project? We have an answer. We think it is because of the military industrial complex. In a moment, we will talk about the financial costs. There is also a cost associated with a country's sovereignty, but the financial costs are astronomical. These military companies will profit. The most recent amount, for $700,000, granted by the Minister of National Defence, will go to Raytheon. In my opinion, the assessment is inadequate.
Now, is it possible that a missile will be launched? We need to get one thing straight right now. If a massive attack is launched, even with the system that will be developed in several decades, it will be impossible to stop it. We must go back to what George Bush said. Could a rogue state launch an interbalistic missile attack on us? Often, North Korea and Iran are mentioned. But the situation is already quite critical with regard to China and Russia, because they already have more missiles.
First, I think any country that would launch a missile against the United States would be wiped off the face of the earth. Indeed, the infamous doctrine of mutually assured destruction still holds. In my view, this is very obvious. I fail to see why North Korea, which is currently the only country capable of delivering an atomic missile onto American territory, would cause its own destruction by doing that. So, the risk of an intercontinental ballistic missile attack is minimal. Does this risk justify spending money and breaching the Canadian government's foreign policy? We have to think about this.
As regards technical feasibility, we also wonder if it is possible to intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile launched from somewhere in Asia or Russia. At this point in time, we think that the technology is not ready. I will explain why.
So far, nine tests have been conducted and five have succeeded. It must be realized that these tests were conducted in ideal conditions. We knew where the missile was launched from, where the interceptor was located, the time of the launching, the trajectory and, despite all this, four tests failed.
So, let us suppose that a missile is launched without the Americans knowing about it. Sure, NORAD will detect it within five minutes. But the problem is what happens afterwards. It will probably take 20 minutes for the missile to reach American soil. Moreover, the time of launching and the trajectory would not be known. Therefore, the ability to intercept a missile a very questionable.
In terms of costs and technical feasibility, it is almost impossible. In fact, most scientists are saying that they do not see why we should invest that kind of money. However, this may be necessary in the future. Today, we must ask ourselves if this is the kind of spending that we want to make in the future. Later on, I will provide an answer.
At present, in the United States, the government and the Pentagon are estimating that the program will cost between $80 billion and $100 billion. However, Nobel economics laureate Kenneth Arrow of Stanford University contends that, for the project to reach its peak, the costs will be between $800 billion U.S. and $1,200 billion U.S. Here in Canada, some may say we are not looking at the same kind of costs.
We will remember that the Minister of Defence has written to his counterpart, saying he was prepared not only to discuss the terms and recommend a mission change to include the whole space shield issue, but also to share some of the costs. The data provides blatant evidence. In fact, we questioned the minister this week about that. He recently awarded a $700,000 interim contract to Raytheon Canada to upgrade our radar in the Arctic and to participate in a way. An American exercise is scheduled for this summer. Nobody is telling us, but I think that Canada is getting ready to participate in the U.S. program, to track missiles and get involved in the whole space shield deal.
There is price to pay for Canada's sovereignty. For years, Canada has been recognized as a peaceful country. Now, we are getting involved in the Fortress North America, an American concept that is being developed.There is need to defend North America, Canada and the United States. The U.S. is telling Canada, “You have to join us if you want to be protected”.
Until now, we have kept our distance, probably because of the big demonstrations in Quebec. We have kept our distance from the Americans in terms of international policy. I understand the reason for wanting to work more closely together but there will be a price to pay if we go too far.
As a sovereignist, I think there is a price to pay in terms of sovereignty. Canada has always maintained multilateral relations. We have good relations with both Europe and with the U.S.
If we want to get closer to the Americans on the economic level, fine, but I do not agree with using the space shield to get closer to them on the military level. This means that the Canadian government is jumping on the American policy bandwagon as far as international relations and world peace are concerned. Canada gained recognition for its lead role in connection with the anti-personnel landmines treaty, even though the U.S. refused to participate.
Why today, under the pretext of rapprochement with the Americans, are we jumping on the U.S. bandwagon and indicating our intention to follow them on the space shield? There is a price to pay for this. We are at risk of weakening our position in Europe and Asia. People will say that Canada has become a puppet of the Americans. They are participating in a project to turn North America into a fortress, protecting themselves at the expense of international policy, at the expense of multilateral international contacts. Going down that road will, in my opinion, lead to a loss of international credibility
This is particularly the case because being part of the shield implies our adherence to the American doctrine of total domination—domination in the air, domination on the land, domination on the seas. Now the U.S. wants to add one more component: domination of space.
It is clear that this is where the Americans are headed. It is also clear that, if the Canadians follow them on this, we are subscribing to their philosophy and compromising our multilateral connections.
Consequently, as far as foreign policy is concerned, we have nothing to gain by sending a Canadian hawk to perch on the same branch as the American hawk. This is not how to solve anything in Canada.
We in Quebec feel it is far from the solution. On the economic level, as I have said, it is fine. On the military, however, I feel it is extremely dangerous to compromise our relations. We stand to gain nothing militarily by sitting on the same branch as the American hawk.
Why is the government doing this? We in the Bloc Quebecois have been speaking out against the policy void in this country for two years now. There is no national defence policy. There is no foreign policy.
What does that mean? It means that the government thinks it can do whatever it wants. Yes, indeed. The national defence policy dates back to 1994. It is completely outdated. We are living in a different world today, especially since the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Today, our enemy is not even visible anymore. Anyone can appear anywhere armed with a weapon of mass destruction and set it off. That is what is going on in Irak at this moment.
Do you think that if the Americans saw someone dressed in an Iraqi uniform and carrying a gun coming their way, they would let that person approach them? That is not what is happening. It is very ordinary people who come and blow themselves up.
It is commercial planes that were hijacked and flown into the twin towers. It is not intercontinental missiles that hit the towers, but commercial planes.
So there is a huge political void. There is no defence policy and no foreign affairs policy. Moreover, there is an enormous democratic deficit in the issue that is before us today. A handful of civil servants, with the foreign affairs minister and the national defence minister have just decided, on their own, to make a radical change in the Canadian stance on foreign affairs as well as defence.
For weeks, we have been questioning the cabinet ministers about this, because we are concerned by the turn of events. Brigadier General Findley just said that this was a done deal. This does not square with what the foreign affairs minister has been telling us for a long time, “We are gathering information before deciding”. But the officers are telling us it is a done deal.
We have a huge democratic void, to the point where the opposition, through the Bloc Quebecois, has to move a votable motion on this issue today. Finally, we will know the real intentions of each member of this House.
I have to tell you that the Bloc Quebecois will make the vote on this issue a free vote for its members. They will be free to vote according to their conscience. I hope the other parties will follow suit. During the take-note debate on Tuesday night, I heard Liberal members say they were in total disagreement with the present Canadian position.
We will make this a free vote. We have no choice but to condemn the democratic void we have now. I could go on and on, and I could talk about the solutions to our security problem, such as disarmament, diplomacy and international assistance to eliminate poverty.
To conclude, I would like to ask in what kind of world we want to live. What kind of world do we want to leave to our children and grandchildren? Do we want a world in which we will be able to show our children the great open skies and tell them they have a future in space, a world where they will be able to hold their head high? Or do we want a world where deadly devices will fill the skies, so that our children will walk with their heads down for fear that the sky will fall?
I urge my colleagues to vote with the Bloc Quebecois tonight so that we will have a brighter future than the one held out to us now.