House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


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6:20 p.m.

The Deputy Chair (Mr. Réginald Bélair, Lib.)

I regret to interrupt the hon. member, but her time is up. The hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair has one minute to respond.

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6:20 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Chair, the problem I have with the quick reaction of the UN was that it was overnight. He resigned and it passed a resolution within less than 24 hours. When the UN passed that resolution, it had not heard from President Aristide. All it knew was that he had signed a letter of resignation. I do not think we can draw too much from the position taken by the UN since it did not have the information of his position as he has now taken.

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6:25 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario


David Pratt LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, I am very pleased to take part in this debate on the situation in Haiti. I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to highlight Canada's significant contribution to the stabilization and rebuilding of that nation, a contribution all Canadians can and should take pride in.

Last Friday I announced the deployment of approximately 450 Canadian Forces personnel to Haiti for a period of 90 days.

This decision is consistent with Canada's longstanding commitment to promote security and stability in the western hemisphere. It also reflects the close ties we have with Haiti and our concern for its future.

Canadian troops are now deploying as part of the multinational interim force mandated by the United Nations Security Council to establish and maintain a secure and stable environment in Haiti. We are joining other nations, including the United States, France and Chile, in supporting the political process currently underway. We want to help bring peace and a lasting solution to this crisis.

As part of the multinational interim force, members of the Canadian Forces will help restore stability, assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid and support local police efforts. There is no doubt in my mind that the experience, dedication and professionalism of our men and women will allow them to make a meaningful contribution to the efforts of the coalition, as well as a very real difference in the lives of the Haitian people.

There are some in this House who have argued that the government should not have committed the Canadian Forces to this latest mission because they are overstretched and need a rest. To these people and to all Canadians, I would say that the deployment of our military abroad is never an easy decision for the government. It is always a balancing act between our existing operational requirements, the quality of life of our men and women in uniform, their training, their readiness and the risks that they face.

In making the decision to deploy our personnel abroad, the government takes into account the most current and relevant information and advice available, information and advice that many outside of defence do not have access to.

I can assure the House that we did not take this decision lightly. We considered carefully several important factors, such as which units were available, the level of training they had and when they were last deployed abroad. In the end, we asked ourselves two key questions. First, would the deployment put undue stress on our forces? Second, would it have a significant impact on our current or future operations?

After looking at the most recent and relevant information and taking into account the advice of the chief of defence staff, the government determined that the deployment of approximately 450 troops to Haiti for a period of 90 days would not put undue stress on our forces. We also determined that the deployment would not have a significant impact on our current international commitments, as the infantry company group that is deploying to Haiti was already on standby for a short notice mission such as this one.

It is also important to note that this deployment will not have a significant impact on the force regeneration efforts of the army and the air force, as we will soon be reducing our contribution to other operations. For example, in April we will draw down our presence in Bosnia, from approximately 1,200 troops to 600. In August we will reduce our contribution to the mission in Afghanistan from approximately 2,000 to in the order of about 500. In other words, we will be bringing home a good number of our people. Since the deployment to Haiti will be of relatively short duration, our land and air forces will be able to take advantage of the regeneration period that was planned for them for this fall. During that period they will have the opportunity to rest, train and focus on other priorities.

The government clearly recognizes that the Canadian Forces are stretched. We realize that we have asked a lot of our men and women in uniform over the past decade. As Minister of National Defence, I am very sensitive to the effects that our high operational tempo has had on our soldiers, sailors and air personnel.

If I could just add, as a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, I participated in the quality of life hearings that we did a number of years ago. The issue of a high operational tempo was very much on the minds of members of our forces.

Our people are the Canadian Forces' most valuable resource and we have a responsibility to take care of them. But the bottom line is that the chief of defence staff would not have recommended this mission, and the Prime Minister and I would not have agreed to it, unless we knew that the Canadian Forces could do it. Nor would we have agreed to it had we thought it would negatively impact the men and women of the Canadian Forces, our current or future operations, or our regeneration efforts.

I would like to add that all indications from the men and women set to deploy to Haiti are that this is something they want to do. They are excited about this mission and the opportunity they have to make a difference in the lives of the Haitian people. I know that Canadians feel the same way. They understand the importance of the mission for Haiti and its people. They understand that something must be done to help them. They know that Canada is a fortunate country and that we have a responsibility to help others.

Of course, the deployment of the Canadian Forces is only one aspect of the government's overall strategy to assist Haiti. The Prime Minister has said many times that Canada will play a leadership role in the rebuilding of Haiti and that we will do what it takes to restore peace, order and good governance in the country and give hope to the Haitian people.

To that end, the government's strategy for Haiti will cover many fronts and will include political, security, humanitarian and long term reconstruction efforts. For example, Canada is actively engaged on the political front. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has been in regular contact with his American, French and Caribbean counterparts. We are also working closely with the United States, the Organization of American States and CARICOM. On the development side, CIDA will contribute to a series of long term aid and reconstruction projects.

This broad strategy for Haiti is another example of the government's three D approach to international affairs: defence, diplomacy and development. We are already implementing this approach in Afghanistan and, as I saw when I visited Kabul last month, it is producing very encouraging results.

We are confident that our approach will allow the government to achieve its objectives, not only with respect to security, but also with respect to politics and development.

When he spoke in this very chamber just yesterday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a compelling case for a long term commitment to Haiti. He also recognized Canada's history of doing our part to bring peace and stability in the world.

The deployment of 450 Canadian Forces members and our broader three D approach will make a real difference in the lives of the people of Haiti now and over the longer term. I am certainly confident in the Canadian Forces' ability to carry out this mission. Canadians can and should be proud of the contribution our men and women in uniform will once again make to those who are in need.

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6:30 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chair, first, allow me to congratulate the minister on the quality of his French. He has made a lot of progress. I remember he had difficulty with French, but now his pronunciation is very good. I congratulate him.

I would like to ask him about disarmament because he did not say much about it. Today the New York Times reported that the Americans have received a mandate—even though the UN resolution does not make a direct reference to it—to disarm the factions. A general or a colonel talked about active and reactive disarmament. It seems the U.S. intends to get as many weapons out of the picture as possible.

I wonder if the minister is able to tell us right now whether the Canadian Forces had roughly the same approach as the Americans. In other words, we no longer need to talk about Aristide's departure, about whether it is a coup d'état or not. He is no longer there. There are currently a lot of armed factions. Have Canadian soldiers been directed to disarm the factions of all these illegal weapons?

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6:35 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the comments of the hon. member in connection with my French pronunciation, but I am not at a point where I would want to venture any further than that in terms of responding to his question in French.

I would say that the role of the Canadian Forces in Haiti at this point is one of what is called presence patrolling. They are going to be on the streets of Haitian towns and cities. They are going to be involved in protecting key institutions and protecting designated people as well, such as humanitarian aid workers, UN workers, that sort of thing.

From a disarmament standpoint, this is clearly one of the objectives that has been set out by the United Nations because ultimately, unless we disarm the factions that are involved in Haiti, we will not get the lasting peace that we need in Haiti. I see the disarmament process perhaps as being a bit of a longer project. I think we have to focus on ensuring in the early stages of this deployment that there is some security and stability on the ground and then move on to the disarmament projects from there.

We may end up over the course of the next number of months with a full-blown disarmament, demobilization and reintegration program, the DDR program that the United Nations is famous for in various theatres of conflict.

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6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Chair, I appreciated the comments by the Minister of National Defence. I have a number of questions and I will put them fairly quickly in case others want to pose questions for the minister as well.

First of all, I would like to start from the premise he drew that somehow this deployment of 450 troops to Haiti would not constitute undue stress on our armed forces. He talked a bit about the high operational tempo. I see a contradiction there.

Obviously even a deployment of a short duration by a relatively small number is going to add to that high operational tempo that our armed forces have been experiencing for quite some time now. I would submit to the minister that despite his reassurances to our men and women in uniform, it will add significantly to the stress, certainly to the stress of those 450 individuals and to the families of those troops we are sending there. I want to also state the obvious, that our men and women in uniform always perform above and beyond the call of duty and what is expected of them. That is the first question that I will pose.

The second and third questions are the ones that I posed to his colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he opened the debate this evening. Do we have any estimate of how much this three month deployment is going to cost? Is it going to be covered, at least the military component of it, under the existing Department of National Defence budget, or are other funds going to be made available either now or in the upcoming budget in a couple of weeks?

Finally, if, as the minister said in his speech, the chief of staff of our military recommended our commitment of 450 troops prior to the Prime Minister's announcement that he made in New York City at the United Nations, then why in heaven's name could the Prime Minister not answer any questions that the reporters posed to him that day about the size of the deployment, where the troops would come from, the terms of engagement, or whose command they were going to be under? He could not respond to any of those questions, yet the minister now expects us to believe that the recommendation came from the chief of staff to the Prime Minister. I am pleased that the Prime Minister is here tonight during the debate.

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6:35 p.m.


David Pratt Liberal Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Chair, I am happy to respond to those questions.

The member of Parliament should be aware of the fact that we have in each region of the country what are called IRUs, immediate reaction units, that are set aside for contingencies. They are there to respond if we have a natural disaster. If there is any sort of an incident that requires the use of Canadian Forces, they are there to respond. It is a company sized unit. We have four of them across the country: one in the west, one in Ontario, one in Quebec and one in Atlantic Canada.

It just so happened that, in connection with the 2nd battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, which is based in Gagetown, the troops were already trained up in terms of non-combatant evacuation and they were ready for this type of operation.

Interestingly enough as well, they had not been on deployment for some time. The stars aligned as far as having these troops ready, willing and able to go. I gather from the press reports that I have seen, I have not spoken to officers directly, but the press reports of those people, the comments of those people have been very enthusiastic. They are anxious to get to Haiti.

We put a cost on the mission of about $38 million at this point for the three month deployment. As I indicated during the press conference that we had when this was announced, there is some flexibility with respect to how long the troops will stay. We will be fully operationally capable and theatre operationally ready on March 21. It must be kept in mind as well that the clock started ticking on the interim force on February 29, but we still have troops to arrive in theatre. It is March 10 now and we still have troops to arrive in theatre over the course of the next seven to ten days or so and beyond then in terms of the national support and national command elements.

With respect to the CDS and his recommendation, and based on what happened in Haiti with the decision of President Aristide to leave the country, we knew that we were into some planning efforts and exercises over the next few days. The first planning meeting that occurred was a very brief planning meeting in Miami on a Wednesday, to be followed by a larger planning meeting, which took into account the French, the Americans, the Chileans and ourselves, and I think there may have been some other countries.

The bottom line was that we had all of the information we needed at the end of that four or five hour long planning meeting. We had identified a force in terms of the 2nd battalion of the RCR, plus the helicopter detachment from 430 squadron. We were then able to put that immediately on the table with the planning group and then make the announcement last Friday.

We moved very quickly on this. As I have indicated in my comments, I am absolutely confident that this will not put any stress on existing deployment, future deployments or army regeneration.

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6:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, may I begin by joining my friend from Prince George—Peace River in noting the Prime Minister's presence in a take note debate. That does not happen very often. I hope it is a practice that he will continue so long as he is in that position. I want, as one member of Parliament, to commend him for being here in a debate of this kind.

Part of what is so distressing about the situation in Haiti is that we have seen it before. Too many in the House have been engaged in trying to help the people of Haiti come to some resolution of problems that seem to be more and more endemic and more difficult.

I certainly was involved with those issues during the time it was my privilege to be secretary of state for External Affairs and again as someone involved with the Carter centre, when President Carter was seeking to play a constructive role in the region.

Of course, the questions are important as to what happened to President Aristide and how it happened. But if those questions are important, the more important question is: What is going to happen to Haiti now? What is going to be done about it that is a response in the long term and not simply another intervention that three or four years later, in unhappy hindsight, it turns out to have been yet another failure?

If there has been an involvement by Canada, if there is a suspicion of an involvement by Canada that was either improper or is regarded as improper by some of the countries upon which we have to count in the region, then let the facts be known. It is important in any event but it is important certainly in terms of our ability to work with our allies and our traditional friends in that region.

I do not at all take away from the concern that has been expressed in the House about those questions. It seems to me simply that they are not the most urgent questions that have to be faced now.

I had the privilege a month ago, at the invitation of the Minister of National Defence, to visit Kabul in Afghanistan, where Canadian troops are deployed. I was impressed again by the excellence of our troops, by the fact that they are of course stretched near the limit. They know that, the minister knows that and everyone in the House knows that.

There is, of course, a question of our military capacity. I for one am prepared to leave those decisions to the military experts to make. I can offer one observation. The Canadian troops I met in Kabul are the quintessential Canadian public servants. They want to serve their country. They want to serve the interests of their country. I do not think that one will hear them expressing an unusual concern about being sent on another mission, particularly if that mission has a result that turns out to be both constructive and durable.

However if there is an issue of military capacity, if there is an issue of how President Aristide came to depart Haiti, those are to the side. The real issue is the future of Haiti. The situation is tragic and what makes it more tragic is that it recurs and, frankly, as we look at the circumstances now in all of this uncertainty, there is no one with much confidence that we can do anything to stop it recurring in the future.

That is what we have to address as Canadians, because there is another sense in which the issue here is Canada. What do we do in the world? What difference do we make in the world? When do we step up and when do we step back? I know resources are tight and I also know, if it is any comfort to the government, that they are tighter now than when I had the honour to serve on the treasury benches.

There are real restrictions upon what a Government of Canada can do, but there is a sense in which resources are always tight and there is a sense, consequently, in which if one wants to do something, if something needs to be done, and particularly if we are the only people who can do it, that casts a new light upon the resources that are available to us.

I do not want to dwell on the past but I have had experience with some of these issues. I had experience decades ago now when thousands of people were afloat on the China Sea and Canada could have stepped back, and we did not step back. We embraced a larger number of boat people than I think any other country in the world, with the exception perhaps of Australia.

I recall at the time the great famines in Ethiopia, a country a long way away and not in our hemisphere, when Canada could have stepped back but it did not. It was not just the government that responded. In both of those cases, it was the government of the people of Canada which responded in imaginative and quite extraordinary ways.

I had the privilege to be involved in Canada's activities with respect to apartheid. Again, Canada could have stepped away but we did not step away.

Had we stepped away in any of those cases, there was no guarantee that anyone else would have stepped forward. Had no one else stepped forward, Rwanda and Burundi would not have been as exceptional as they now are in the record of the world.

Countries sometimes have to step forward when there is a particular call upon their capacities and their reputation.

This is an extremely difficult situation in Haiti. The issue for us really is not whether we will send a certain number of troops for a certain number of days. That is important. The fundamental issue for us is whether we are going to engage seriously in this issue or not. Are we going to assume that the normal processes and the normal understandings should be trotted out again and tried again, or are we going to try to find something new and something different?

In each of the cases I cited before, Canada was prepared to look for something new and something different. Because we were prepared to stretch the envelope, to try to entertain some changes, we were able to make some small contribution to make a difference.

There are some very fundamental questions that we have to ask here. I share the profound respect for the sovereignty of nations, which I think is felt by everyone in the House, but let us ask a question: What is sovereignty to Haiti? There is a larger question: What is sovereignty to most failed states? In the case of Haiti, what does sovereignty mean to the people in Haiti in terms of their immediate future? Are we going to allow a definition whereby our great concern for sovereignty means that countries and individuals who might step in will find an excuse to step back? If that is the definition we apply to that concept, then we serve badly the concept and we certainly serve badly the people of Haiti.

We have to look at a couple of possibilities. The word trusteeship, as used in the United Nations context, has a bad history. It is not a word that people normally embrace. It also has a fairly specific history that applied to the transition from colonial roles of countries before. What it did was posit a role for an international body in unusual circumstances that could not simply provide a step toward a democratic process but could also establish some kind of interim means by which other social developments could occur.

Those of us who have been involved in encouraging democratic developments know that often we can get a democratic system in place and often an election can occur. It happened in Haiti. Often the result is not the profound kind of change that we were looking for.

There should be an examination by Canada's excellent diplomats and our excellent legal authorities as to whether there are some opportunities in the existing range of instruments available to the United Nations to apply those anew.

I am reminded of the case of East Timor and the case of Australia where an action was taken authorized by the United Nations in very extraordinary circumstances, circumstances in which normal procedures had broken down and violence had recurred. There needed to be an intervention that had some success and a way was found using the auspices of the United Nations to find that way.

I do not have a solution to propose except that if there was a time for Canadian imagination and commitment, this is the time. This is our hemisphere. This is our language. In very many cases, this is our family, very precisely, in the case of many individuals here. There is a great danger now that countries will do enough to be present but not enough to change the desperate decline that has become the characteristic of Haiti. This is an issue where Canada may be the only country that can make a real difference. I hope that the government will look very imaginatively into ways in which that might happen.

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6:50 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard Québec


Paul Martin LiberalPrime Minister

Mr. Chair, very briefly, if I might, a comment, and then I would like to take advantage of the great experience of the former prime minister to ask him a question.

My comment in terms of the departure of Mr. Aristide is this. It is my understanding that the reason he said he was going to stay and then very shortly thereafter decided to go was in fact that apparently his own security force around him melted away. That is the understanding that at least we are given to believe. Canada obviously was not there and we do not have direct knowledge, but that is the way it is put to us.

I think the example of East Timor is a very good one. As the hon. member knows, what happened after about a year and a half is that the population wanted those who were in charge to leave, which is probably the best way to have it happen, to not stay too long under this kind of concept.

My question, however, for the hon. member is this. Given his experience, does he believe that if Canada were to develop and coordinate its great expertise in institution building, whether it be judiciary, police, or how a democracy should in fact operate, this is an area that Canada should invest in far more heavily as part of our overall foreign aid development? There are a number of failed states; we have seen what happened in Liberia. Does he in fact believe that there really is a niche where Canada can play a very important role if we are able to coordinate the skills we have?

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6:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, I very much believe that is the case. I believe that there is a range of new Canadian capacities that have not been reflected as much as they should be in esteemed institutions like the Department of Foreign Affairs, no matter how able the minister might have been at the time. I think our capacity in institution building is clearly one of those.

I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister in his address to the Speech from the Throne make reference to the use of high technology and Canadian biotechnology in particular in international development. I think that is the kind of new thinking that needs to be applied, and obviously it is relevant in this case.

The flag of alarm I want to raise is this. I do not think this is a case where we should be looking simply for an area where we should play a role, although I understand the Prime Minister put this in a larger context. My real concern is that unless Canada is prepared to frame that larger context and to provide the leadership in that larger context, it will not occur, and then we will be making our particular contribution to a venture that is doomed, that is not likely to succeed.

I believe that this is one of those events where there is an unusual opportunity and obligation for Canada that does not exist for other countries and that does not often or even always exist for us, but can well exist here.

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6:55 p.m.

Bourassa Québec


Denis Coderre LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, I think we can benefit from the experience of the former Prime Minister. I would like to go much further concerning the notion of leadership.

I think it is important to be respectful and to work in complementarity, for example with CARICOM. How does the hon. member see this notion of leadership, while effectively respecting this complementarity? It is also important to build a state in Haiti, to work directly with these people. Does this mean to work in a bilateral fashion with the interim government, or does it not really mean to continue working under CARICOM's plan which, in fact, includes all of the elements the hon. member mentioned earlier?

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6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe that Canada's role rests precisely on our ability to work with various groups. What is lacking is leadership, the determination to have leadership that is lasting and not just temporary.

Of course, we must work with the authorities in place, and with our partners such as CARICOM and others. However, it is not France, the United States or another CARICOM member that can assume this leadership. Canada is the only country that can do so.

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6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Chair, it is an honour and a privilege to rise tonight to address the very serious situation of the current state of affairs in Haiti.

Let me begin by saying that the thoughts and prayers of all Canadians are with the brave people of that embattled country. We wish for them the same peace, security and stability that we have always enjoyed here at home. To that end, we have dispatched our most courageous citizens to safeguard them in their hour of need.

At the first of this week, I had the honour and the privilege to speak at Camp Gagetown. While I was at Camp Gagetown I also had the honour to see some of our men who were getting ready to go to Haiti. I want people to know that our men from Petawawa were also in Camp Gagetown, for we did not have enough there to send to Haiti.

When I was mayor of Saint John, New Brunswick, the president of Dominica came to my council meeting one night. She asked if I would come to Dominica to see if I could set up a local democratic type of government. I was honoured to have been asked that privilege. When I hear what is happening in Haiti, it was like Dominica.

I was flown into Dominica along with my city manager. We met with the mayor at that time. Young people were not educated, like Haiti. There were people with guns on the streets. We were told to stay in the hotel and not to go down the street, not even a block.

I was really dismayed to see the way it was in Dominica. Before we were through--and it took a couple of weeks to work with the local government and some of the churches--we were able to get the children into schools. I was very, very pleased. Today, Dominica is doing quite well, it really and truly is. I am really honoured that I had a role to play.

On television in the past couple of weeks, Secretary-General Kofi Annan was being interviewed about Canada. He was asked if Canada should put more men and money into the military. He smiled and said yes.

I also had the opportunity to go to St. Petersburg, Russia with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Lord Robertson spoke to us via a large screen. There were approximately 54 countries represented there. He said he wanted to speak to all of us who were representing Canada. He said that at one time we were in the top three of the scale with our military and the funding and now we are at the bottom end of the scale. He told us to go back to Canada and tell our Prime Minister and our government to make the military number one. Those were the words of Lord Robertson.

It was with an open mind and a heavy heart that I listened to the remarks of the United Nations Secretary-General in this chamber this week. He called on Canada to aim higher, to play a larger role on an ever expanding international stage, because he can see what is happening in Haiti. He sees it in other countries as well. He pointed to our rich history of peacekeeping and nation building as proof of the constructive role we can and must play. He asked us to do more because the fate of the world lies in the balance.

The Secretary-General's call did not fall on deaf ears. We in the House know that Canada is never neutral in the conflict between good and evil. We do not turn our backs on injustice. We do not accept the loss of innocent lives. We do not stand idle when people are suffering. It is simply not Canadian.

Canada has always enjoyed a special place in the UN, one that we have earned through generations of tireless effort and great sacrifice. From its very founding, the UN has relied on Canada to represent the best of humanity in the worst of times. That is why Lord Robertson told us to put more money into our military and get ourselves back up into the top three.

In a recent column in the National Post , General Lew MacKenzie argued that the Haiti mission is the very type of mission that Canadians will be asked to undertake in the post-Cold War world. He notes that the massive wars of the 20th century are now thankfully a thing of the past and that the future of conflict will be smaller, more contained warfare, often among the peoples of a specific region or divided nations.

I would bow to the general's expertise and support his findings wholeheartedly, but the reality is that any debate about what Canada should do is necessarily a debate about what Canada can do. For the past decade, I have repeatedly stood in the House to call for better funding for the military.

In the year 1993-94, our defence budget was $12 billion, but four years later that total was down to $9.4 billion, a reduction of 22%, this despite the fact that in the same period our operational tempo of our armed forces, that is to say, that ratio of time spent by our military in deployed missions, rose from 6% to 23%, an increase of almost 400%. We know the effect that has on the families when the dads or the moms have to leave for six months and the children are at home. It has a very negative impact.

In short, for close to 10 years we have asked our military men and women to do significantly more with dramatically less. For the past few years, the government has prepared itself for a foreign policy and defence review, yet one has not really been undertaken.

As the former vice-chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs and the defence critic for the PC Party, I was repeatedly asked to prepare submissions for those reviews. Because of leadership changes and new ministerial appointments, those reviews have never been completed.

Without a comprehensive defence policy, it is impossible for us to prepare our military for the vital role that it will play in foreign policy. Without a comprehensive foreign policy, our military will not have the necessary framework in which to make equipment purchases and develop personnel training.

Canada is simply not in a position to make haphazard commitments to every crisis that emerges. Our soldiers and their families are mentally and physically exhausted. They have been asked to commit themselves to a variety of missions, each more complicated and demanding than the last. They are asked to accept the most dangerous assignments on the planet with equipment that is unreliable or unavailable. They are, in short, asked to do the impossible.

I believe that a joint foreign policy and defence policy review is a vital priority for the government. A comprehensive review is an essential first step toward preparing our military for the 21st century, but it is not the only step or even the largest.

I have already spoken of the need to increase the defence budget. I would add as a third priority the need to increase the size of our military. The burdens of our benevolence have been placed on the shoulders of fewer and fewer soldiers. Consequently, these brave Canadians are being asked to accept more missions on a more frequent basis. They are separated, as I have stated, from their families much longer than they should be. They can be asked to return to the same theatre of operations--or indeed another--within a matter of months after they come home.

The manpower shortages facing our military are just as serious as the equipment shortages and are just as damaging as the budget shortfall. We must commit, each and every one of us on both sides of the House, to a recruitment initiative designed to bring in thousands of new recruits or we risk losing thousands of those in uniform today.

The men and women of the Canadian armed forces swear a duty to us and we all owe a duty to them. We owe them a duty to provide the best equipment possible. We owe them a duty to ensure that they are adequately trained for the missions we undertake in their names. We owe them a duty to ensure that we do not commit their lives to fruitless endeavours where the risks far outweigh any potential benefits.

Our current practice is to wait until a crisis erupts before planning our response. It is ineffective, at best, and irresponsible, at worst.

Even in a rapidly changing world, where new threats to peace and security are emerging, we can predict many of the challenges we will face in the coming years. Now is the time to prepare our military for those challenges. Now is the time to purchase the equipment we will need, to recruit the soldiers we will need, and to forge the alliances we will need for the conflicts of this century.

We have a role to play in the world, one that has clearly defined our history and our values. The mission we undertake in Haiti is not unlike the missions we have undertaken in so many regions of the world. Yet it seems we are forced to scramble to find the people and equipment needed for these missions. We always seem to be moving men and women, and machines around like pieces on a chessboard.

It does not need to be this way. I have outlined here tonight a series of measures that I believe are essential for our future: a comprehensive defence policy; a larger defence budget; a targeted recruitment initiative; and strategic equipment purchases. If we commit ourselves to those actions today, we will be ready for the challenges of tomorrow.

In closing, I would like to extend my heartfelt best wishes to the men and women of the Canadian armed forces serving in Haiti and all across the globe. We pray for their success and their safe return home.

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7:05 p.m.


David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Chair, I would like to associate myself immediately with the comments that have just been made by the member for Saint John to wish the members of our armed forces every success and safety in Haiti.

In fact, the Haitians have a good deal to be proud of. It is the first republic in the world led by persons of African origin, and the first Caribbean nation to achieve independence in 1804. Unfortunately, the people of Haiti have endured long stretches of a dictatorial rule, interspersed with glimpses of democratic hope, like the presidential elections of 1990.

Recent events in Haiti, as everyone knows, have only served to emphasize that there is still a precarious and politically volatile situation.

I had the opportunity to visit Haiti in the early 1990s, to discuss the role of parliamentary committees with the newly elected representatives. The Haitians greeted me with open arms and they were warm and hospitable. What struck me the most was the dark legacy of violence and political unrest. Of the 42 heads of state in the country's history, 29 were assassinated or ousted. The culture of corruption is rampant. The country's history has often been marked with dictatorships, carnage and unsuccessful attempts to establish peace.

As Secretary-General Kofi Annan stated in this chamber so eloquently yesterday:

The experience of Haiti shows how poverty, instability and violence feed on each other with repercussions for the broader region.

He urged the international community to help Haitians restore peace and harmony, while making a long term commitment to the region.

Too often, we in the international community make half-hearted attempts to right wrongs. We owe it to ourselves, as Canadians and as citizens of the western hemisphere, to ensure that the entire region enjoys long term political stability.

For there to be democracy, there must be stability and the appropriate infrastructure. It must be based on a culture that is capable of sustaining it. We must not imagine, as we did with the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, that sending troops for 90 days will be sufficient to restore democracy in Haiti.

What we need is an international commitment to improve the situation and we must help the Haitian people to build schools, set up police forces, establish a court system, get a legislative assembly up and running, and put in place a transparent bureaucracy.

There is a terrible impasse in a regime where the poor are punished just because they exist. Many countries decided to withdraw their aid after the frankly suspicious re-election of Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2000. They suspected, perhaps for good reason, that more than 70% of the funding had been used for illegal purposes or pocketed by corrupt officials. The bottom line, however, is that the ones hardest hit by these decisions to withdraw were the 80% of Haitians living below the poverty line.

Haitians need help in tackling their basic health problems, including dramatic rates of infection of HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis, their pervasive societal inequities, and their lack of even the most basic of infrastructures.

Democracy is a wonderful thing. Its self-determination can lift even the most oppressed people out of misery, but it is difficult to participate when one has little to live for and cannot provide for one's own basic needs.

Mere elections will not be enough to fix the problems in Haiti. A sustained commitment is necessary, one that will build the peace and security that are necessary to achieve rule of law. Rule of law perhaps should be Canada's foremost export.

Before the March break, I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs about the role Canada could play in a possible humanitarian intervention in Haiti.

Canadians have much to learn from the experiences of General Roméo Dallaire in Rwanda. We must intervene when necessary and we must do so expeditiously and multilaterally.

This is why I am delighted to hear that 450 Canadian troops are set to join U.S. forces in Haiti this week, but much remains to be done. Reports out of Haiti yesterday indicate that the presence of foreign troops had not done much to quell the violence.

There is a complete lack of infrastructure and Police Chief Leon Charles admitted recently that he has approximately 3,500 police officers to cover a country of eight million.

The exiled Jean-Bertrand Aristide recently urged his supporters to mount a “peaceful resistance to restore constitutional order”. One must sincerely hope that Aristide's people will not interpret this message as an incitement to further violence, but it is difficult to be sure of that.

Furthermore, the opposition parties in Haiti are not linked to the rebel fighters and have little control over their actions. Haiti is currently a failed state, tragically, where anarchy and chaos reign, and the rule of law is non-existent.

Yesterday our Minister for International Cooperation announced $5 million in aid to address the situation in Haiti. That is in addition to the $1.9 million already provided to the Red Cross, and the $5 million provided to the Organization of American States.

Canada has given Haiti upwards of $600 million in the last 40 years. The money has been there, but perhaps the commitment has not followed. Obviously, simply throwing money at the problem is not the solution.

We need to live up to our international agreements and the promises we have made. In 2001, at the Quebec City summit, Canada along with other nations pledged to do our best to support constitutional rule across the Americas. Haitians deserve our best efforts to keep that promise.

This year marks Haiti's 200th anniversary of independence. What better way to celebrate than to build a better country for all of its citizens? What a present Canada could give by providing genuine long term commitment to resolving the situation.

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March 10th, 2004 / 7:15 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, I have a question for the hon. member from Edmonton.

He will no doubt recall that in late January 2003, the former secretary of state for Latin America and Africa hosted a summit here in Ottawa of la Francophonie. This summit included France, representatives of the European Union, and the United States. The purpose of this summit was to consider the Haitian crisis, as it was termed. Haiti was not invited by Canada to this summit.

It was an in camera summit. After the summit, there was some confidential information that was leaked to L'Actualité . It was indicated that consideration was being given to a kind of Kosovo-style United Nations trusteeship of Haiti.

Is the hon. member aware of this conference? Will he indicate to the House whether at that conference, which Canada hosted, the issue of regime change, in other words, the issue of the removal of President Aristide in Haiti, was discussed one year before it actually took place?

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7:15 p.m.


David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Chair, my hon. colleague will know that I was no longer the secretary of state for Latin America at the time. I did not attend the conference. I read the same article that my friend is referring to.

I cannot say whether or not what he is alleging was true or not because I was not there. The position of secretary of state for Latin America and Africa no longer exists. I cannot answer his question. As he will appreciate, I will not try to answer a question to which I do not know the answer.

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7:15 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, I appreciate that the member was not secretary of state at that time. Nevertheless, in view of the fact that the position no longer exists and he was, I believe, the predecessor in that position, I thought he may have been involved in the conference, but he has indicated that it was not the case.

I want to ask the hon. member about the serious questions that have arisen concerning the circumstances of the removal of President Aristide from Haiti, and the suggestions and serious concern that this may have amounted to a coup d'état. That would make it probably the 33rd coup d'état in Haiti.

In light of the serious questions that have arisen and the statements by President Aristide himself that he was in effect kidnapped and forcibly removed by the United States, would the hon. member agree that it is essential to respond positively to the urgings of CARICOM that there be an independent inquiry into the circumstances of the removal of President Aristide from Haiti?

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7:20 p.m.


David Kilgour Liberal Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Chair, the member is raising a very important point. CARICOM is the body which speaks for the Caribbean nations. He asked about an independent inquiry to determine whether or not Mr. Aristide was removed or left voluntarily. We can only gain by having such a process and can lose nothing. I am in agreement with my friend's point.

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7:20 p.m.


Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chair, I am very pleased to take part in this evening's take-note debate on the situation in Haiti.

I will begin by saying that I am somewhat distressed to see the situation in which these people have been living for decades and decades. There was one dictator after another. There was so much hope placed on President Aristide when he took power and gave free rein to democracy at last. The turn of events leaves us with something of a bitter taste in our mouths.

I have nothing but good words for the Haitian people who, in my opinion, have often been persecuted and victimized by all these coups d'état, not to mention the associated tragedies.

I must say a few words about a woman who came to see me. Her name is Cassandra Duvert. Some years ago, she came to Canada with her partner, one of Aristide's lawyers. She brought one of her two children with her; one stayed in Haiti while the other came to Canada with his parents. The lawyer returned to Haiti with the child and left this woman here alone. From that time on, she practically lost track of her children. There was no question, naturally, of giving the woman legal custody. One day, unexpectedly, her husband telephoned her, following the regime change, to tell her she needed to take the children back because there had just been an attempt on his life. The children were with him in the car at the time, which made him fear for their safety.

We can imagine all the tragedies being stirred up by this regime change. In fact, I am in discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to try to get these children out of the situation they are in.

This brings us back to the question of whether or not Aristide's departure was a coup d'état. It could be discussed at great length. I am not opposed to having an international panel look into the matter.

However, if we really want to give democracy in Haiti a chance, we must also focus on the fact that there are so many illegal weapons in that country, many in the hands of the factions, that it is no longer democracy being expressed, just the power of weapons. In that respect, much work remains to be done.

My colleague from Mercier and I were somewhat critical of the government for being slow to react. I believe that we could have acted sooner. I am not even sure if the troops are already in the field, since apparently there was a slight delay in operations. In our opinion, it took time before Canada said it would be sending 450 soldiers.

I also know that this is putting stress on the rotation of Canadian troops. I cannot deny this, and I am even one of the first to acknowledge it. However, given the urgency of this situation, given that there could be a bloodbath, it seems to me that the international community, and Canada above all, has a responsibility to intervene and restore some security to a country is torn as this.

I do, however, want to praise the work of the Canadian Forces that will be in the field probably in a matter of hours. Soldiers from the RCR in Gagetown are there. I had the pleasure of meeting them in Eritrea, when I visited the Canadian camps. This Canadian Forces presence was authorized under a UN chapter VII resolution for peacekeeping. As we know, there was no man's land between Eritrea and Ethiopia. I had the opportunity to meet soldiers from the RCR there.

There is also the Canadian Forces Joint Operations Group, which is currently in Haiti, as well as 430 Squadron from Valcartier, a group of helicopter pilots I had the pleasure of meeting when I trained in Valcartier. I must say that I was very impressed by their manoeuvres. I have no doubt that they will be able to accomplish a great deal in Haiti, particularly in terms of providing humanitarian assistance.

So, there is indeed a stress. We still have troops in Bosnia and in Afghanistan. As we were told earlier, there are some 3,700 Canadian troops taking part in missions such as this one around the world. Right now, it would be difficult to add another 450. It should also be understood that the current mission is a peacemaking mission, which is much more difficult than a peacekeeping mission. The social climate is very unstable. Many weapons are circulating and tragedies can occur. These people are not holidaying, they are not tourists out there. They are needed to provide a degree of security that currently does not exist.

Earlier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs told us that he wants to implement chapter VII, the peacekeeping process, in three months. This process is in fact much less difficult.

I was able to provide some testimony in this regard, because I visited the Canadian camps in Bosnia, during rotation 9. That was truly a peacekeeping mission. The danger is not nearly as great for troops engaged in peacekeeping missions. However, they still have to travel, to go abroad and to spend time there. We know that this is very difficult, because there is currently a large number of missions.

I want to get back to the issue of disarmament. We should emphasize this aspect. Just today, the New York Times —and that was the subject of one of the questions that I put to the minister earlier—mentioned that the Americans are now saying that the disarmament process should begin.

If we really want to give democracy a chance, to let public and private institutions regain strength and to truly try to create the most normal context possible, we will have to ensure that the power of arms does not exist anymore.

I will tell you exactly what Col. Charles Gurganus said today in connection with the U.S Marines. He described the action as “active and reactive disarmament”. So the Americans are aware of that.

I am therefore asking the minister this evening whether, from now on, if the troops are not yet there, as soon as they arrive, they will join with the Americans in disarming these factions, because these are still in place and still active.

There are, for instance, the chimères, who support the departed Aristide. They are still spreading terror in Port-au-Prince with their armed incursions. Looting, rapes and murders are still far from uncommon, and weapons are always involved. It is therefore important to confiscate these weapons.

The problem with Aristide is that, in 1994, he demobilized the army completely. He sent the soldiers home but he did not tell them “leave your weapons behind, and go back home”, so away they went with their guns. As a result, there are plenty of weapons in circulation. Then there is the fact that they are so close to the Dominican Republic, with its rather porous border, and guns can easily get across. There is no one patrolling the border. So there are gun traffickers within Haiti, and as a result the opposing factions have armed confrontations.

There are not just the chimères. There are also the dissident chimères, who make up the infamous cannibal army of Gonaïves. They too are armed and have their own interests, their own line of action, which always involves weapons.

Then there is the famous Guy Philippe, the self-proclaimed army and paramilitary leader, you will recall, but that did not last more than two or three days. His followers are habitual criminals and all are armed.

These factions must be disarmed. I implore the Minister of National Defence to give the order immediately. I have not seen the rules of engagement. I have not seen the exact mission, except for the fact that it comes under chapter 6 of the UN charter, which is a rather elaborate resolution. Even if it is not specific, we feel there are enough provisions in the current resolution to allow for disarmament. We must take this direction with the U.S.

I hope we achieve disarmament. I hope that the people of Haiti find real democracy again. For years now, Haitians have been denied real democracy, an active federal public service and an active public sector. For years, now, private enterprise has been sidelined. No one wants to invest money when there is such insecurity.

For the situation to return to normal, to give Haiti's democracy and economy a chance, these factions have to be disarmed. The U.S. has understood. Now I would like the Minister of National Defence to understand as well and to give orders accordingly so that this democracy can be restored.

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7:30 p.m.

Kings—Hants Nova Scotia


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

Mr. Chair, as already noted by my hon. colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the current political situation in Haiti, punctuated by events of the last few weeks, has its roots in the seriously flawed legislative and municipal elections of May 2000. The resulting polarization of the government in opposition, compounded with weak institutions and severe economic and social challenges in the country, have led us to the situation today where strong participation by the international community is required to accompany Haiti in changing direction and moving forward to a more positive future.

Canada has been intimately involved in Haiti for many years, perhaps most profoundly since 1994 when we began supporting training and development of the newly constituted Haitian national police. Since that time, the bulk of Canada's $45 million in development assistance to Haiti has gone to support the security sector, in particular Canadian policing contributions and police related activities.

Our engagement in Haiti has been one of our largest international missions, with a total of 685 officers deployed at different times from October 1993 through to the end of March 2001. Canadian personnel participated in the various UN policing missions in Haiti as members of the police civile and providing training at the police academy. Canada also bilaterally provided institutional support for the Haitian national police.

Despite our ongoing commitment to Haiti, Canada decided to terminate our police engagement in that country in March 2001, due to the worsening political insecurity context more broadly, and more directly as a result of the politicization, corruption and lack of administrative and management capacity and experience within the Haitian national police. Nevertheless, our efforts internationally to work toward a better future for Haiti has continued.

Along with ongoing Canadian development assistance to Haiti, we have also become the largest contributor to the OAS special mission in Haiti, led by Canadian David Lee, which has been on the ground for the last two years. It has acquired experience and developed expertise in supporting a process of democratic strengthening in Haiti.

With the events of the past month, we are now facing a new era for Haiti and the opportunity for a new beginning. The challenges are great and this time we must be sure not to underestimate the commitment required to overcome them. Canada has been there before and will be there for Haiti in the future.

Canada believes it is crucial that the efforts of the international community in Haiti be coordinated effectively. We can play a strong advocacy role in ensuring that the efforts of all agencies, particularly the United Nations and the OAS, are complementary and well coordinated.

The OAS special mission can play an important role in reducing the level of tension in Haiti, working toward building a social consensus and supporting good governance efforts. Its contribution is valuable and is to be encouraged as we look forward to building a viable democracy. Canada can play a leadership role in increasing the capacity of the mission to facilitate consensus building, monitor human rights, reinforce the justice system and improve policing. This is why Canada has recently pledged a further $5 million to the OAS special mission in addition to our previous support.

All the international communities, including Canada, stand ready to provide support. It is ultimately up to the people of Haiti to find the way forward.The earlier work of CARICOM and the OAS serve as the foundations for the current efforts to rebuild Haitian institutions that will provide a better future for Haiti. The process of political reform is already underway, following those steps outlined in the transition plan originally proposed by CARICOM that remain relevant. For this to be a success, there must be a firm commitment for reform on the part of the new interim government.

The first step of this of course, following the resignation of former President Aristide, was the swearing in of the new president in accordance with the Haitian constitution. While the constitution clearly states that the head of the supreme court is the next in line, it is silent on how this appointment should be confirmed without a sitting national assembly. However, this issue is being addressed through the newly formed tripartite council, composed of one representative each from the government, the opposition and the international community. The council has now named a seven member Counseil de sages which will be working at naming a new prime minister who will in turn nominate a national unity cabinet.

Accompanied by the international community, a provisional electoral council will be looking to organize elections, hopefully before the end of 2004, in order to ensure a smooth and timely return to true democracy.

The task ahead is enormous. In order for the political process to move forward, the international community is committed in the immediate term to provide security and work with the Haitian national police to restore order. The UN multinational interim force, or MIF, including Canadian participation, is assisting in bringing stability and security to Haiti.

Over the medium term, a continued military presence coupled with ongoing humanitarian assistance and a civilian mission to help rebuild Haiti's democratic institutions most particularly its civilian police will be critical to help Haiti move forward.

Planning is currently underway for this UN stabilization force which would take over from the MIF in three months' time. The role and mandate of this stabilization force are still to be determined and must be approved by the Security Council, but it will play a critical role in restoring essential governance and security institutions, the rule of law, and set the stage for long term development programming.

There is now an opportunity for Haiti to fully embrace democracy. Addressing the key issue of impunity is essential for the re-establishment of rule of law in democracy. Our shared goals need to ensure a brighter future for all Haitians, a future in which they can rebuild their lives and follow their dreams in a secure environment.

Governance is key, and building strong institutions and a democratic culture cannot be done overnight. What really is required in Haiti is long term institution building from the judiciary, to the police, to parliament to the education, health and agricultural systems. We have already learned hard lessons about the effectiveness of our assistance if the governance framework is flawed for instance. As our Prime Minister has said on several occasions, we will not make that mistake again.

We must evaluate the situation rationally, identify needs and priorities, and respond to the needs of the Haitian people. We must also be realistic in our expectations. Haiti is a long term project and will require long term international donor support.

It is important to note that an important byproduct of this current crisis in Haiti is the close collaboration that has developed between Canada and the United States. Equally important is that our partnership with the United States is being pursued under the auspices of the OAS and the UN.

We have worked closely within these multilateral institutions, with the U.S. and our CARICOM partners, to work toward solutions to the political crisis in Haiti. Canada will do its part in building a new and better future for all Haitians. I believe that Canadians will be increasingly proud of the important role that Canada is playing in building a better world and defending not only Canadian interests, but also the Canadian values of equality, democracy, and rule of law.

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7:35 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, the hon. member for Kings—Hants has spoken of the close collaboration between Canada and the United States on Haiti. Given the fact that what appears to have occurred in Haiti is an American driven, an American led coup d'état, the 33rd coup d'état in Haiti's history, aided, abetted and actively encouraged by France, I think many Canadians are deeply concerned and troubled by the extent to which Canada was in fact collaborating with the United States as the hon. member has indicated.

I want to ask the member a specific question. The member referred to the importance of working closely with CARICOM and our partners in CARICOM. The member will know that a proposal was put together by the OAS and by CARICOM that involved power sharing. That proposal was put together in the days before the overthrow of President Aristide.

President Aristide accepted that proposal. It was rejected by the murderous thugs and the rebels who were determined to overthrow him, even though he had been democratically elected with the support of some 90% of the Haitian people in 2000. They rejected it.

Yet Canada stood by and did nothing whatsoever to support the democratically elected President Aristide and the people of Haiti at that very critical time. The Americans abandoned him and hung him out to dry. They made it clear that they were prepared to see him overthrown. The French, in their desire to please the Americans after taking a distinct position on the war in Iraq, urged the overthrow of President Aristide as well.

Now our partners in CARICOM are asking for an independent international inquiry into the circumstances that led to the illegal removal of President Aristide as the president of Haiti.

I earlier asked the hon. member's colleague, the member from Edmonton, whether he supported that call by CARICOM for an international inquiry into all of the circumstances of the removal of President Aristide. He said yes, he did agree with that.

I put the same question now to the parliamentary secretary with special responsibility for relations between Canada and the United States. Does the parliamentary secretary agree with his colleague and with many Canadians that there must be an independent international inquiry to determine the circumstances that led to the overthrow of President Aristide?

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7:40 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Chair, first, our understanding is Mr. Aristide voluntarily resigned. Part of his decision making would have been from the collapse of his own security which was not a situation to which Canada contributed. It is not a situation that we were directly involved in. It is my understanding that in fact his own security forces had weakened to the extent that he was willing to resign voluntarily and that it was certainly not a coup d'état engineered by the U.S. or anyone else.

In terms of the 2000 election results, as the hon. member knows, the results may have been overwhelming, but there were significant questions around the legitimacy of the elections from that time. Part of the issue we have been facing ever since has been based on some of the questions around those elections.

I thought it was curious that the hon. member referred to France as acting to mollify the Americans. It would be one of the first times that France has been in a hurry to mollify the Americans in terms of foreign policy. I would be greatly surprised if in fact France acted in a way in Haiti, a country with which we share an interest as another member of the Francophonie, to mollify the Americans. That would not make a lot of sense based on what I understand to be the traditional foreign policy of France.

The real focus here is not in the short term necessarily focusing on how we arrived in the last several days and weeks in our current situation, but in focusing on the democratization, stabilization and reconstruction of Haiti. The people of Haiti deserve that. If we are to have a foreign policy as a country based on Canadian values, those values being democracy, rule of law and equality, it is in our interests to be working toward that.

There is a lot of work that has to be done. By working with the OAS and CARICOM and others multilaterally, we can achieve a great deal. The real focus in the coming days, weeks, months and in fact years needs to be on that very positive, forward thinking focused effort to provide a more stable, peaceful and democratic Haiti.

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7:45 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, I noted the hon. member's suggestion that President Aristide, in his words, voluntarily resigned. In fact President Aristide himself has made it very clear that far from resigning voluntarily, he was driven from office by both France and the United States. In fact his American lawyer, Brian Concannon, said today after meeting with Aristide in exile in the Central African Republic:

The ambassadors of France and the United States told him that he would be killed, his family would be killed and his supporters would be killed if he did not leave right away.

That is not a voluntary departure. That is a coup d'état.

I want to again ask my hon. friend to answer the question that I put to him initially. Does he or does he not support the call by CARICOM for an independent international inquiry into the circumstances that led to the overthrow of President Aristide?

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7:45 p.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Chair, first of all, I can tell the hon. member that I disagree and find almost ludicrous the allegation that the governments of France and the United States told President Aristide that if he were not to voluntarily resign, he and his family would be killed. I do not believe that was the case. Although that may be what he is saying, I do not believe that the governments of France and the United States would be involved in that type of thuggery.

My understanding is that Mr. Aristide had difficulties in terms of his own security forces that effectively melted around him and he did not have the ability to protect himself against his own people. When a democracy fails or there is a crumbling democracy as in the situation that has evolved in Haiti, to maintain power he actually required physical security that simply was not there. That is what I understand to be a contributing factor to his reasoning that he and his family may not have been safe, but that was not instigated by either the United States or France.

As such, I would reject the premise of the member's question that President Aristide was threatened by France and the U.S. and forced to resign based on those threats because I do not believe those threats occurred.

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7:45 p.m.


Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Chair, the question that was asked was does he or does not support an independent international inquiry into the circumstances that forced President Aristide to leave Haiti?