Mr. Speaker, first of all in this brief speech, I would like to express solidarity with the Haitians in Haiti and the Haitian community in Montreal, as well as the rest of the community, present in other parts of Quebec and instrumental in its growth, as I have pointed out before.
Even if the situation seems to have stabilized somewhat, we must agree that things are still very bad, judging by reports from the NGOs and the media. There is looting, and men, women and children are still dying. Security is not yet perfectly restored. The situation is still precarious.
This year was the 200th anniversary of Haitian independence. Such a sad event to take place during this anniversary year.
I must make it clear to begin with that the Bloc Quebecois not only accepts the UN's involvement in this difficult situation, we welcome it. I would like to read a few excerpts from the resolution adopted on February 29. The UN reacted quickly, and the Security Council met within hours of president Aristide's departure. The preamble to the resolution contains the following:
Stressing the need to create a secure environment in Haiti and the region that enables respect for human rights, including the well-being of civilians, and supports the mission of humanitarian workers...
Taking note of the resignation of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as President of Haiti and the swearing-in of President Boniface Alexandre as the acting President of Haiti in accordance with the Constitution of Haiti,
Acknowledging the appeal of the new President of Haiti for the urgent support of the international community to assist in restoring peace and security in Haiti and to further the constitutional political process now under way...
Determining that the situation in Haiti constitutes a threat to international peace and security and to stability in the Caribbean, especially through the potential outflow of people to other States in the subregion,
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations...
This is why there are armed military personnel there. They move on to their intentions, but I will not read it all. It is worthwhile reading, however, and could act as a basis for action by the international community, Canada included.
I will take this opportunity to reply to one of the questions that the Minister of Foreign Affairs asked a while ago; do we not want Canada to be a leader? I say right away that I certainly would like Canada to be a leader. But I only hear our country talking like a leader. If we are not present, or if we do not invest enough, I will keep on asking the country to be a leader and reminding it that it must not only be a leader in words but in deeds as well.
This is an important point in the debate raised by ex-President Aristide. This must bother a lot of people in Haiti, but not only the Haitians, because it is also the case here and in South America. We know there are regimes that do not necessarily have the support of the American superpower. I am thinking of Argentina, of course. These declarations and these appeals by ex-President Aristide—if we rely on the UN resolution—are very troubling.
I must say that if this is what happened—if there was a kidnapping, as he claims—that would be unacceptable.
I take it as a fact that he resigned, based on what I read and heard in the early hours after his departure from Haiti. Moreover, I issued a statement to thank him for making that decision—a very courageous decision and the best one to get his country through this crisis.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs has asked us not to dwell on the past, but we must speak about the recent past. Like the hon. member opposite, I have received requests from members of the community, especially beginning in December when there was a real escalation of human rights violations in Haiti.
The NGOs of Quebec who have members in Haiti were terribly worried about the lives of the people who work for and with them down there. The human rights violations burst into view in a most disturbing way during the demonstration at the university on December 5. The rector of the university had his legs broken by supporters of President Aristide, the ones called “chimères”—who operate under the benevolent eye of the police. Then things continued to escalate.
I was following the situation closely and, on that occasion, I urged the Canadian government to be more firm with President Aristide. The fact is that Canada took a long time to condemn the events that occurred at the university. In fact, the United States, France and other countries did so long before us.
I do not want to dwell on this situation, but I should point out that there was an escalation, which was again recently condemned by the issue table. Currently, the major problem is the presence of numerous weapons in Haiti. I know that the hon. member for Saint-Jean will talk about this. These are not just small calibre guns; there are also large calibre weapons. Aristide himself armed his supporters. We know that they are the ones who turned against him in Gonaïves. The rebels arrived with arms, and there were various groups. This is not to mention the banditry and all these private security forces.
The Minister of National Defence must reassure us regarding this issue. A disarmament process must take place. Otherwise, there can be no security and there cannot even be humanitarian work. Indeed, we will not be able to reach the regions that were cut off. We are told that access has not been restored everywhere.
We are still working on an emergency basis. Fortunately, we have this international force. However, it is working under extremely difficult conditions, as we saw during the Sunday protest with what happened close to the palace.
Haitian people need to hear this. They are the ones who will rebuild Haiti by establishing democratic institutions. However, they must be able to rely on the international community. First, the international community has a responsibility regarding the events that have occurred in recent years.
In 1994, when the UN authorized—we could get the resolution out again, but we do not have time to read it—the international forces to bring Aristide back, there was also a whole program, a plan. But we left quickly. That is why Kofi Annan asked us to be patient this time. He said that it would take at least 10 years. So, the international community has a responsibility in that it left.
I heard about what had happened, but I read it in the report prepared for CIDA on the training of police officers. We found that former President Aristide politicized all senior management positions in the police force. From that point on, the force was no longer an independent body that should operate at arm's length to ensure that the rights of all citizens are protected and respected. We saw the abuse that resulted from this situation. So, we will have to pledge to help—