House of Commons Hansard #85 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


National Peacekeepers’ Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:15 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the fan club is starting to expand on the other side.

It is my pleasure to rise today on Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers’ Day.

First of all, I want to say that I am a fan of everything that the United Nations represents when it comes to international conflict prevention and assistance for people in difficulty.

Before being elected as the member for Gatineau, I was a secondary-school teacher. I want to say that in the five schools in which I had the pleasure of teaching, in Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario, I either helped to establish UN debating clubs or participated in simulations of the United Nations as an ambassador or the president of the General Assembly. I always took it upon myself to emphasize to my students and other participants how important multilateralism is for solving the difficulties faced by the nations of the world.

In regard to Bill C-287, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of it. The strengths of this bill are, first of all, that it recognizes the very important role played by UN peacekeepers.

Second, the Bloc Québécois is very much in favour of multilateralism as a method of settling international conflicts. The UN peacekeepers embody this approach.

Third, the peacekeepers who have died on UN missions deserve to be commemorated.

Fourth, this will give our Prime Minister an opportunity to discover peaceful uses for our army.

The only shortcoming that we should examine is the date of the commemoration on August 9. I will explain why we do not like this. We prefer a date that is already universally recognized: May 29. We think that the peacekeepers should be honoured in a more international context. There is already an International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, and it is May 29. We think that this date is more appropriate than August 9 in order to demonstrate our solidarity with the entire international community and the choice it has already made.

It is quite appropriate to pay tribute to the peacekeepers. They are a central element in multilateralism, a principle of conflict resolution that is dear to Quebeckers. The essentially international characteristic of the peacekeeping missions authorized by the United Nations Security Council grants unparalleled legitimacy to any intervention and attests to the determination of the entire international community to take tangible steps to deal with the crises that occur from time to time. However, peacekeeping operations alone are not the appropriate instrument for every situation. They must be accompanied by a peace process, not simply replace this peace, which is so dear to us and which must be real to everyone around the world.

United Nations peacekeeping operations are an impartial and very widely accepted way of sharing the burden and of acting effectively among the ordinary people. Peacekeepers are present throughout the world, as we well know.

The 18 operations directed by the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, are being carried out on four continents in 10 time zones, employ more than 90,000 people and have a direct influence on the lives of hundreds of millions of others. Close to 64,200 people are currently serving as soldiers and military observers, and roughly 7,500 are in police forces.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations also employs nearly 5,250 international civilian personnel, over 11,300 local civilian personnel and approximately 1,720 United Nations volunteers. One hundred and eight countries contribute military and police personnel to UN peacekeeping operations.

The UN is the largest multilateral contributor to post-conflict stabilization worldwide. Only the United States deploys more military personnel in the field than the United Nations. There is therefore still a long way to go before multilateralism is the most commonly used form of conflict resolution.

In 2005 alone, UN peacekeeping operations rotated 161,386 military and police personnel, made 864 flights into or out of the field, and carried 271,651 cubic meters of cargo.

The actions of peacekeepers are usually effective. Since 1945, UN peacekeepers have undertaken 60 field missions and negotiated 172 peaceful settlements that have not only ended regional conflicts but also enabled people in more than 45 countries to take part in free and fair elections.

UN electoral assistance has become a regular and increasingly important feature in UN peacekeeping operations, bringing democracy to people everywhere on Earth.

UN peacekeeping is cost-effective. A survey by Oxford University economists found that international military intervention under Chapter VII of the UN Charter—action taken when peace is under threat—is the most cost-effective means of reducing the risk of conflict in post-conflict societies.

The approved DPO budget for the period from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2007, was approximately $5 billion. This represents less than 0.5% of global military spending.

UN peacekeeping operations are less expensive than other forms of international intervention. UN costs per peacekeeper, as compared to the cost of troops deployed by the U.S., the developed countries, NATO or regional organizations such as the African Union, show that the UN is the least expensive option by far.

A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that it would cost the U.S. about twice as much as the UN to conduct a peacekeeping operation similar to the UN stabilization mission in Haiti: $876 million, compared to the UN budgeted $428 million for the first 14 months of the mission. Other comparative advantages of UN peacekeeping cited by this study included its multinational nature, which provides impartiality and legitimacy, burden sharing, involvement of member states with experience in post-conflict peace-building operations and a structure for coordinating international assistance.

May 29 is a more appropriate date for commemorating peacekeepers. That is the date chosen by the United Nations as the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. Indeed, May 29 commemorates Security Council Resolution 50, which was passed on May 29, 1948, and which provided for the establishment of the first United Nations peacekeeping operation.

We believe that May 29 should have been preferred over August 9, because it is more universal, in keeping with a principle at the very heart of the institution that the peacekeepers represent.

As for August 9, it reflects a form of self-centredness or isolationism that is not consistent with the principle we want to convey to future generations on that occasion.

I will conclude by saying that August 9 refers to the day in 1974 when Canada suffered the heaviest losses in a single day during a UN mission in the Middle East. May 29 is an appropriate date. I urge the House to vote in favour of this bill with the date of May 29.

National Peacekeepers’ Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:25 p.m.


Catherine Bell NDP Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak today to Bill C-287, an act respecting a national peacekeepers' day. Specifically, the act would make August 9 national peacekeepers' day and calls for the lowering of the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower to half mast on that day.

In the preamble of the bill, it talks about a great Canadian, Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, who proposed the first United Nations peacekeeping mission. Mr. Pearson won a Nobel Prize for his actions. Those actions moved Canada to the forefront in the world and our country became the leader in keeping the peace with more than 100,000 members of the Canadian Forces participating in peacekeeping and peace support missions, along with many members of Canadian police services.

The preamble also talks about the reasons for choosing August 9. August 9 was the day in 1974 that nine Canadian Forces' peacekeepers were killed when their plane was shot down en route to Damascus from Beirut. When this bill passes, as I am sure it will since I know everyone in this House respects our peacekeepers, on the ninth day of the ninth month of every year, the flag on the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill will be lowered to half mast to honour not only those nine who lost their lives, but every peacekeeper before or since, either living or dead, who has served or is serving this country so bravely for such a noble cause.

Let me talk about those women and men who serve our country in many capacities within the military. I have a military base in my riding and I have spoken of it on numerous occasions, CFB Comox. I have had the pleasure on several occasions to enjoy the hospitality of the 19 Wing Commander, as well as other officers, their staff and employees at the base.

One of the first things we learn when we visit the base is the military ethos: “Duty with Honour”. We learn about the pride that they take in their roles serving our country. 19 Wing Comox has a rich history dating back to 1942 when the base was constructed. It was constructed to protect the strategic Pacific coastline in the second world war. Today, its two operational squadrons fly the Aurora maritime patrol aircraft, the Buffalo search and rescue aircraft and the Cormorant helicopters.

Using the five Aurora airplanes, the pilot and crews of the 407 Maritime Patrol Squadron spend long hours on surveillance missions over the ocean looking for illegal fishing, migration, drugs and pollution, in addition to foreign submarines. They can also perform search and rescue missions using air droppable survival kits.

With six Buffalo aircraft and five Cormorant helicopters, 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron carries out search and rescue operations in the busiest region in Canada. It is a very vast region. As we can see on a map, the area stretches from the B.C.-Washington border to the Arctic and from the Rocky Mountains to 1,200 kilometres out into the Pacific Ocean.

In addition to its operational squadrons, the Wing is home to 19 air maintenance squadrons and a national training school, the Canadian Forces School of Search and Rescue. 19 Wing also supports cadet training at the Regional Cadet Gliding School at HMCS Quadra sea cadet camp. I might add that my young nephew, Gibson, is a proud sea cadet at HMCS Quadra and we are all very proud of him.

The men and women who join our military do so because they want to serve our country. They are proud to do the job we ask them to do. They are honoured to serve their country and I am honoured to have met many of them and to see first-hand their commitment to making the world a better place to live. Many of those women and men join for the exciting career opportunities, many of which I have just mentioned in my overview of 19 Wing Comox. Many of those professions are provided in our military services.

Many of the men and women who join the forces do so because Canada is a world leader in keeping the peace. But our boots on the ground are losing ground. Canada was once a top 10 contributor of military personnel to United Nations missions. Now we rank 50th out of 95 countries. Less than one-tenth of 1% of the military personnel participating in UN missions are Canadian. Since 2001 our spending commitment to UN operations has only been $214.2 million of the over $6 billion on all international missions. That is a mere 3% for peacekeeping.

Sadly, Canada is not alone in having virtually abandoned UN peacekeeping. Most of the western aligned middle power states now contribute very little to UN missions. While Canada ranks eighth in military contributions among the 26 NATO member countries, there are eight non-NATO countries that each contribute more military personnel to UN operations than do all the NATO members combined.

This sends a very strong signal to the rest of the world that Canada no longer takes the same amount of pride in peacekeeping that it once did. It sends the message that war-torn countries looking for help from the UN should not count on Canada for much support. It also sends the message to those women and men who are so bravely serving as peacekeepers that the work they are doing in other countries so far away is not as important as other military commitments where we are spending much more money.

I know that the role of peacekeepers has changed considerably since its inception. I also do not have my head buried in the sand about the dangers of the missions we send our peacekeepers into. I know that they sometimes have to use force, sometimes even kill, or sadly are killed, defending the peace and security of the area they are tasked to defend.

That does not mean the idea of peacekeeping is a thing of the past. We cannot, we must not, lose sight of what everyone in this world ultimately wants: to live in peace and security, to live without war and strife. It is an age-old dream and one which we must never stop working toward.

That is why it is so important to make sure we are giving our military and peacekeepers the tools they need to do the job that we ask them to do. Some of those tools are tangible, such as tanks, airplanes, ships, guns, clothing, food and other necessities, but also support when they are at home, decent wages and benefits, adequate housing, social supports in the communities and supports for families when the parents are deployed.

There are some things that money just cannot buy, and that is knowing that at the end of the day the duty of peacekeepers is honoured by all Canadians. They serve us so proudly, so bravely. They pay the ultimate sacrifice. It is the least we can do by honouring them.

National Peacekeepers’ Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:35 p.m.


Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to respond to a point of order that was raised by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on Tuesday, November 21 during debate on Bill C-24, the softwood lumber products export charge act.

I referred to the Minister of International Trade, that he had committed a treasonous act. I was referring to the time when he crossed over from the Liberal Party shortly after the last election to the Conservative Party. I realize that wording was unparliamentary and I would like to withdraw it. Hopefully it will end at that.

National Peacekeepers’ Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the member for Etobicoke North. Resuming debate.

National Peacekeepers’ Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:35 p.m.


Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-287, a bill to recognize a national peacekeepers' day. It is certainly appropriate. Parliament has passed bills in the past and previous ministers have also recognized special days. I think of Vimy Ridge Day, April 9, to honour our soldiers who fought at Vimy Ridge in 1917. National Aboriginal Day is in June.

The purpose of the bill is to recognize the tremendous role and the history of peacekeepers in this country since the days of Lester B. Pearson. In 1956 he first proposed at the United Nations a peacekeeping mission with regard to the Suez Canal crisis.

Historically in the world, armies have been involved in combat and often in peacemaking rather than peacekeeping. After the Suez Canal crisis, in November 1956, for the first time countries in the region, including Egypt and Israel, agreed to the proposal to have peacekeepers there. Canada's foreign affairs minister at the time, Lester Pearson, proposed the United Nations expeditionary force to go there and basically separate Egyptian and Israeli troops. For this he received the Nobel Peace Price in 1957.

Canadians have been very proud and have been recognized around the world for their peacekeeping efforts. We have trained. Whether it is on the Golan Heights with Japanese troops, whether it is in Cambodia, or elsewhere, our troops have been recognized for their peacekeeping efforts. People recognize the expertise of Canadians in the peacekeeping field. That is very important.

A national peacekeepers' day would be a day to take time to pause, to think about all of those missions in which Canadians have participated around the world, for example, Cyprus. It would be day to recognize what Canadians have contributed to assist in maintaining not only peace, but also in the promotion of that peace. It is very important to recognize the contribution.

The United Nations under the Security Council gives the power and responsibility to take collective action when it comes to peace and security around the world. For this reason, the international community looks at these types of operations where Canadians and others have played such an important role in the past.

I know all members of the House are very supportive and very proud of the role of our peacekeepers. Over 100,000 Canadian Forces participate in peacekeeping and peace support missions around the world. Regrettably, over 100 have been killed in action over the years.

I would like to stress the importance of a national peacekeeping day. It would be a day to remember, a day to reflect and a day to pause. The Department of Canadian Heritage does a tremendous job in educating Canadians with information packets, brochures, et cetera. I would envision in declaring August 9 national peacekeepers' day, and I will explain why August 9 in a moment, that it would be in part to educate Canadians, particularly young people. It is very important that they understand the role. Why August 9? Because regrettably, 32 years ago on August 9, nine Canadian peacekeepers en route from Beirut to Damascus were killed by a surface missile.

I congratulate the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing in proposing this bill and suggesting August 9 as the day, not only to remember those nine brave Canadians who lost their lives in the quest for peace, but also to recognize in a broader sense all of those who have continued to serve and will serve this country in the future, and to pay homage.

I am the son of a World War II veteran who fought on the shores of Normandy through the Battle of the Falaise Gap, through Caen, through Belgium and Holland. Unfortunately he had shrapnel in his legs until the day he died and suffered from the loss of hearing in one ear from being buried alive when his tank was hit by a shell. I was always instilled with the importance of the role of Canadian soldiers.

It is a fact that freedom does not come cheaply. We are engaged in what I would consider to be a peacemaking mission in Afghanistan. Whether it is a peacekeeping role in Cyprus, the fact is that Canadians have always stepped up and contributed effectively over the years. In situations of civil wars, ethnic cleansing, genocides, Canadian peacekeepers have worked to save the lives of many people around the world. They are heroes.

Normally when we think of peacekeepers, we do not think of them as being involved in conflict situations. Regrettably from time to time they could be fired upon by other parties as they were in Bosnia, or when they could hit a mine when travelling along a road. Our peacekeepers put their lives on the line every day.

I am sure all members of this House would join me in supporting the recognition of a national peacekeepers' day on August 9.

I mentioned that over the last 53 years we have seen Canadians participate in many theatres and also assist other countries in the art and the role of peacekeeping. When Canadians wear their blue berets or blue helmets, people know that peacekeepers are there to improve the quality of life for individuals in very difficult situations. They are there to assist in the peace process.

There is no question that sometimes Canadians are not aware of the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking. Some would argue that in 1993 Somalia was not a peacekeeping mission; it was a peacemaking mission. Afghanistan is a peacemaking mission, although we are there obviously to try to improve the lives of people who are in a very difficult situation.

Recognition is important. We do not do this lightly. We do not declare national holidays. National peacekeepers' day would not be a bank holiday, or something in that regard. In a sense it would be a day to reflect. I think it is important as a recognition.

Not too far from Parliament Hill there is a monument to Canadian peacekeepers around the world, to their dedication and hard work. It is incumbent upon parliamentarians and Canadians in general not only to recognize the contribution of peacekeepers, but also to help educate people on the role of peacekeeping.

As a former educator, I can say that nothing is more effective than making sure that materials are available in schools. I commend the Department of Canadian Heritage for the tremendous work it does in ensuring that information material is available.

I urge members to support private member's Bill C-287. The member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing is no stranger to this issue. He proposed and we adopted April 9 as Vimy Ridge Day.

This issue is important. I would expect that this would be one of the few debates that would not be acrimonious because I think there is a spirit here for that recognition.

Message from the SenatePrivate Members’ Business

5:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill, to which the concurrence of the House is desired.

Bill S-5, An Act to implement conventions and protocols concluded between Canada and Finland, Mexico and Korea for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers' Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

National Peacekeepers' Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:45 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the issue raised by this private member's bill proposing the establishment of a national peacekeepers' day in Canada. This private member's bill is very sincere and well intentioned but I would, however, like to add some perspective that I feel qualified to offer.

Fifty years ago, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal Company and that event gave rise to armed conflict with Egypt on one side and Israel, Britain and France on the other. Eighteen hundred and fifty-three lives were lost. British prime minister, Anthony Eden, was forced to resign and the British, French and Israeli forces withdrew in March 1957.

However, before the withdrawal, Lester Pearson, Canada's acting cabinet minister for external affairs, went to the United Nations and suggested creating a United Nations emergency force in the Suez. The United Nations accepted his suggestion and, after several days of tense diplomacy, a neutral force was sent, with the consent of Egyptian President Nasser, stabilizing conditions in the area.

Lester Pearson was awarded the Nobel Peace Price in 1957 for his efforts. The United Nations peacekeeping force was Lester Pearson's creation and he is considered the father of the modern concept of peacekeeping. Since that time, Canada has lost close 115 personnel on what have been called peacekeeping missions.

In a speech in Edmonton recently, Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, Chief of the Land Staff, recalled wryly that it was hard to classify the operations in Croatia and Bosnia as peacekeeping when artillery rounds were routinely whistling overhead. The name that we give to operations in no way changes the sacrifice that Canadian Forces personnel and their families have made in their conduct of those operations.

Over the past 50 years, many Canadians have become accustomed to the idea that we are a nation of peacekeepers despite the fact that our soldiers have been assigned mainly to missions other than those carried out by the UN blue berets.

Canada is one of the major military forces in the world for some good and some not so good reasons. The Canadian Forces act as instruments of peace every day. Whether in the First World War, the Second World War, Korea, Suez, Cypress, the Balkans, the first Gulf war, Afghanistan, various missions in the Middle East, roles within NORAD and NATO for about 50 years, and many other missions too numerous to mention, the Canadian Forces have contributed to peace and security.

Although I do not wear any of the traditional peacekeeping medals, I flew thousands of hours of peacekeeping missions in the CF-104 Starfighter and the CF-18 Hornet in North America and Europe. I spent thousands of hours as a flying instructor teaching others to carry out those missions. My flying helmet was not blue but that did not detract from the ultimate objective of every mission that I flew.

Several times during the first hour and a half or so of debate on this bill, the tragic and criminal incident of the shooting down of a Canadian Forces Buffalo aircraft by a Syrian surface to air missile on August 9, 1974, was cited. Nine Canadians were killed during this routine supply mission to Egypt. The Syrians maintained that the attack was an accident but no one bought that story.

I recall very clearly when I heard the news that day. I was driving southbound on the autobahn in Germany between our bases of Baden Soellingen and Lahr. One of the names that was released was Captain Keith Mirau. Keith and I had been flying instructors together at Gimli, Manitoba on our previous tours. The loss of Captain Mirau and his eight crew members was mourned appropriately.

During and since my career in the air force, I have attended many dozens of funerals mourning the loss of friends and acquaintances who have died in the line of duty in the uniform of the Canadian Forces.

Every one of those losses was tragic, and the families did not distinguish between deaths caused by a CF-18 crashing in Cold Lake, a diving accident near Esquimalt, a submarine fire in the middle of the ocean, a sniper in Cyprus or Bosnia, a vehicle rollover in Wainwright, a gunshot in the Middle East or fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Every member of the Canadian Forces who died in the line of duty represents a sacrifice in the name of peace, and they are all worthy of the title “peacekeepers”.

The hon. member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore wrote in the February 2003 edition of Policy Options that the traditional, almost quaint, notion of Pearsonian peacekeeping is dead. He contended that Canada has not adjusted well to the realities of what has been called peace enforcement. He said, “We not only don't contribute enough to peacekeeping, we are not training to do the right kind of peacekeeping, which is combat-capable peace enforcement in zones of conflict, like Afghanistan and the Balkans”.

Retired Major General Lewis Mackenzie has argued that the inability of the UN to prevent human slaughter in Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda would have been solved by firmer military force. He wrote last year that the Canadian Forces needed to adapt by being “light, lethal, strategically mobile and sustainable”.

What I am trying to say is that there is a very large grey area between what Canadians have been led to think of as peacekeeping and our military's other activities, including wartime combat.

Like many other countries, Canada sets aside one day to remember Canadians in uniform who gave their lives in the name of freedom, regardless of how they made that sacrifice. That day is Remembrance Day, and we celebrate it every November 11.

We all spent time in our ridings recently commemorating the courage and sacrifice of Canadian men and women in the cause of peace. Remembrance Day has had more meaning for Canadians in recent years but, as always, the sacrifice to which we pay homage was not in the cause of war but in the cause of peace. Canada has lost over 116,000 courageous men and women in uniform in the cause of peace since 1914.

The Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association is an organization that promotes Canada's history in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Their members have a right to be very proud of their contributions to peace. On their website, the new Book of Remembrance will contain the names of members of the Canadian Forces who died as a result of duty either overseas, outside of or in Canada. To date the criteria is:

In addition to those who died from causes related to service in a “Special Duty Area”, the Book will contain the names of all those whose deaths resulted from injury or disease or aggravation thereof that arose out of or was directly connected with military service in other than a “Special Duty Area”.

The Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association clearly recognizes the equivalence of the sacrifices made by all Canadians in uniform, no matter their mission.

August 9 is already designated and celebrated as Peacekeeping Day. In my view and in the view of virtually every serving and retired military member whom I have canvassed, that is appropriate. Any additional recognition, such as lowering the flag on the Peace Tower or declaring a national holiday, would dilute the significance of November 11.

Allow me to quote a few of the many responses I have received.

A retired colonel and member of UN peacekeeping missions said:

With the advent of the Seventh Book of Remembrance, peacekeepers are now recognized in the Peace Tower and, in my view fall into the same category as wartime fatalities—they died in military service to Canada. Almost all of our provinces now recognize the 9th of August as Peacekeeper's Day. I equate this to the Battle of the Atlantic Day and the Battle of Britain Day ceremonies—celebrated to show respect, concern, admiration and remembrance but being neither a national holiday nor an event requiring the lowering of the Peace Tower flag.

A retired colonel and World War II fighter pilot said:

My view is that a proper recognition of our annual Remembrance Day on November 11th is exactly what we need, exactly what all our generations need as a tribute to the fallen, and those who served our country. I do not favour a special “Peacekeepers Day”.

A retired lieutenant-colonel and fighter squadron commander said:

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month would seem to me to recognize those who were successful at establishing peace and maintaining the peace or gave their lives in the attempt.

A retired general and former chief of the defence staff said:

I for one believe that we should keep November 11 as our ONLY military day of recognition...where all present, past, living, dead military folks who have and are contributing to our security are honoured and recognized. I do not believe we should dilute the importance of this have a Peacekeepers Day is a BAD idea.

I have heard similar comments, all of which echo that idea, from members of the armed forces at all levels.

I know that the intention behind this motion is honourable, and I am certainly not questioning the motives of the hon. member who introduced it.

However, as a veteran and a peacekeeper and representing the virtually unanimous opinions that I have received on this issue, I do not support any initiative that would have the effect of watering down the importance of November 11.

I know there is a desire to have this bill go to committee for study and to hear more indepth discussion on the pros and cons of this initiative. For that reason, I will support it at this time.

National Peacekeepers' Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:55 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House today to participate in the debate on Bill C-287, An Act respecting a National Peacekeepers' Day.

I have listened very carefully to the remarks made by my colleagues, most recently my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre. I want to commend the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, who also works with me on the veterans affairs committee, for bringing this initiative forward. I also want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the hon. member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo for her comments earlier in the House.

It is indeed fitting that the debate on the bill has stemmed from the 50th anniversary of the Suez crisis and Remembrance Day less than two weeks ago. Previous speakers have referred to Canada's leadership during the Suez crisis and our country's contribution to many peacekeeping missions in the years since. In fact, I would just like to read a portion from a report from the Library of Parliament, which says:

Over 100,000 Canadians have served in more than 50 separate missions since 1949. UN peace and security operations form the majority of Canada's international military commitments. While peacekeepers come from all branch of Canadian Forces (Army, Navy and Air Force), the Army has provided the vast majority because of the nature of the tasks involved. More recently, thousands of men and women from police forces across the country, Elections Canada, the Corrections Service of Canada and other Canadian governmental and non-governmental agencies have served in peace support missions as well.

Canada's peacekeepers have served their nation with great courage and distinction, and they are continuing to serve the cause of peace in troubled regions all around the globe. Previous speakers have noted that many ceremonies that are organized in communities across Canada on August 9 to commemorate the service and sacrifice of peacekeepers.

I thank our veterans organizations for supporting the bill. May I take this opportunity to salute the leadership of the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping. They led the campaign to win the support of provinces and municipalities for declaring Peacekeepers Day in their respective jurisdictions. They have also been instrumental in organizing the commemorative ceremonies on August 9 as well.

My colleague earlier spoke about the missions involved from peace building to peacemaking to peacekeeping. While there is some debate as to the definition of peacekeeper, I would hope that we give it the widest interpretation possible to be fully inclusive of all Canadian Forces members, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and other police forces as well as members of the diplomatic corps, who have supported international peace and security operations. This would be very much in keeping with the spirit of recognition and remembrance.

The ceremonies on August 9 give Canadians an opportunity to pay their respects to all those who have worn our uniform in times of peace and war, especially those who paid the ultimate price of giving their lives. We also take the time to remember those men and women in the Canadian Forces who are now placing themselves in harm's way to defend our values of life.

My colleagues have spoken about the other ways in which we honour our peacekeepers. We know that tens of thousands of veterans wear the peacekeeping service medal with great pride. Here in the nation's capital, Canadians can visit the peacekeeping monument, “Reconciliation”.

It is appropriate that the House of Commons should be located only a few paces down from the memorial chamber where seven Books of Remembrance are on display. Those books contain the names of those who died serving our country.

Until last November, there were six books in honour of Canadian men and women who died in the first world war, the second world war, the Korean war, the South African war and the Nile expedition as well as the fallen from Newfoundland before it joined Confederation and those who gave their lives serving where my dad served in the merchant marines.

On November 11, 2005, the Year of the Veteran, the Governor General came to Parliament Hill to dedicate the Seventh Book of Remembrance, which is entitled “In Service of Canada”. On its pages are the names of those who died while serving Canada since 1947, with the exception of those who died in the Korean war. It includes the names of those Canadians who died on many peacekeeping missions. It is a permanent testament to the enormous risks taken by those who wear a uniform, both at home and abroad.

I would be remiss if I did not remind my colleagues that the Seventh Book is unique, because it will never close. It will also commemorate those in future generations when they give their lives in the service of this great nation, Canada.

We have been reminded all too well in recent weeks of the tremendous sacrifice made by our soldiers. I have visited them, both those who have returned without wounds and those who have returned seriously wounded. I have attended funerals as well.

We have been inspired by their stories and the courage of their families and friends as they cope with the tragic loss of their loved ones. They are in our thoughts and they are most certainly in our prayers. May they take some measure of comfort knowing that our nation will not forget their service and sacrifice.

This brings me to the issue of remembrance. In the past few years, especially during the Year of the Veteran, this year called Share the Story, I have been impressed by the increasing number of Canadians who gather at memorials and cenotaphs in their communities in honour of their local heroes.

That is the essence of November 11 and it is also the inspiration of August 9, to express our gratitude to those who served our nation and to commemorate the sacrifice of those who lost their lives. In fact, if I have any concern at all regarding this bill, if any concerns have been expressed by the veterans community, and if it is in any danger whatsoever, it is because there may be a danger in obscuring the memorial we have on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour.

I am also encouraged by the work that our schools are doing to stimulate interest in Canada's military history and heritage. In many schools it was commemorated during Remembrance Week. I would like to applaud the efforts of all those teachers who take the time to organize special learning experiences for their young students.

As Canadian citizens we should not take for granted the sacrifice made by those who lay down their lives so that others may enjoy peace and freedom. It is our collective duty to remember them. They deserve no less.

I think too that we also pay tribute to our veterans through the services and programs we provide to them and the way in which we do so. As my colleagues would know, veterans returning from the second world war had access to a veterans charter, a series of programs and services intended to aid their rehabilitation to civilian life. Over the years, those programs were adjusted in line with the changing needs of our aging veterans.

However, these programs are not well suited to the needs of younger Canadian Forces veterans and earlier this year in April a new veterans charter was put in place. As the Minister of Veterans Affairs said at the time, “The new charter represents a new chapter in Canada's longstanding commitment to take care of those who take care of us at home and abroad”.

We are also committed to keeping alive the memory of those whose noble and selfless sacrifice represent the very highest ideals of public service. On August 9 and on November 11 at the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them. We will remember them.

National Peacekeepers' Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

National Peacekeepers' Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


National Peacekeepers' Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

National Peacekeepers' Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


National Peacekeepers' Day ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:05 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, the people of Labrador were not satisfied with the answers given on June 16 concerning the Trans-Labrador Highway.

I asked if the Prime Minister's promise to support a cost-shared agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway meant the entire road, including the south coast and phase III. I asked if the Prime Minister committed to fifty-fifty cost-shared funding, as Premier Williams said. The province has already budgeted this non-existent federal money, which is very unusual.

There was no meaningful response to either question.

By way of background, in the 1970s and 1980s, under current Senator Rompkey, federal Liberal governments provided the first major highway funding for Labrador, funding for the Straits highway, and for the Wabush to Churchill Falls road, but in the 1988 roads for rails deal, concocted by the federal and provincial Conservatives, just $8 million out of over $800 million went to Labrador. The Tories sold us out.

It took a Liberal government in 1997 to help right this injustice. The $340 million Labrador transportation initiative funded the reconstruction of the Wabush to Happy Valley-Goose Bay road, the construction of the south coast highway, and several branch roads. It has also funded a portion of phase III, which will link the other two sections, despite the provincial promise to pay for it with its own funds.

Conservatives have never shown an interest in the Trans-Labrador Highway other than during byelection campaigns. In the 1996 byelection, the Reform and the PCs suddenly discovered Labrador. They ridiculed the fifty-fifty funding formula that the premier now calls for. They made lavish highway promises, then disappeared.

In 2005, with another byelection looming, the Conservatives rediscovered Labrador. By then, federal Liberal funding had seen the construction of more highways in Labrador than under the Mulroney and Peckford Conservatives put together.

During that campaign, the current defence minister said that “a Conservative government would commit funds to complete Phase III of the Trans-Labrador Highway” and that it “would share the cost on a 60/40” [federal-provincial] basis”, but in the 2006 election the Prime Minister would only vaguely offer “a cost-shared agreement”. The sixty-forty figure was gone.

The premier now says it is fifty-fifty, but the Minister of Transport and the Prime Minister will not confirm it. In a letter to me, the transport minister admits that federal highway plans “have yet to be determined”.

Towns like Labrador City and Happy Valley-Goose Bay are impatient with Conservative inaction. On the coast, residents worry that the Conservatives will ignore their needs altogether. The provincial transportation minister talks of highways and money but makes no mention of a plan for a coastal highway and connecting the unconnected communities.

The provincial transportation minister said in August that he expected a roads deal by next June. More recently he changed the deadline to this Christmas, yet nobody has seen the province's official proposal to the federal government. According to a New Brunswick media report, there is no federal highways program anyway. The transport minister has generously given himself 10 years to come up with one. So much for a deal by Christmas.

We cannot wait for 10 years, so I will ask my question again. Is the Conservative minority government committed to cost-sharing the Trans-Labrador Highway on a fifty-fifty basis? Will this include the whole Labrador Highway from Labrador City to the Straits? Has the province made an official proposal? Is federal funding even available? Will Labrador have a highway deal by Christmas?

6:10 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca Alberta


Brian Jean ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the funding for the Trans-Labrador Highway.

In Canada highways fall under provincial and territorial jurisdiction which the member knows. I am wondering why the member is part of a party that for 13 years had the opportunity to do whatever it pretty much wanted in Labrador as far as highways were concerned and did absolutely nothing.

Notwithstanding that, we are responsible for national parks highways and a portion of the Alaska Highway which are under federal jurisdiction. Provincial and territorial governments are therefore responsible for deciding on the planning, the construction, the operation and the financing of highways.

We, unlike some governments in the past, do not interfere in provincial jurisdiction. We are there to help Canadians and help provinces fulfill their mandate.

Nevertheless in today's increasingly global environment the Conservative government is going to take action. It recognizes that investments in transportation infrastructure are absolutely crucial to maintaining Canada's competitiveness and most importantly the quality of life of Canadians. That is the most important challenge the Conservative government has and the government is going to fulfill that mandate.

To show what we are doing as a government, in budget 2006 we announced $16.5 billion over the next four years to improve provincial, territorial and municipal infrastructure. The reason why is because nothing was done by the Liberal government before. It took a Conservative government to make this promise because of 13 years of inaction.

This is an unprecedented amount. It has never happened before and after 13 years of neglect, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are looking forward to the results that we are going to get for them.

As stated in the budget a key objective of the funding will be to cost share with the provinces and territories improvements to the core national highway system. Also, the government is considering how the new funding should be used to address the multi-modal priorities identified in the Council of the Federation's report, “Looking to the Future: A plan for investing in Canada's transportation system”. What can be more important than transportation for our quality of life and for our economy?

The government is also committed to restoring fiscal balance, something that the Liberal Party has never even identified as being an issue.

During the summer the transport infrastructure and communities portfolio held consultations with provinces, territories and other stakeholders under this Conservative minister's direction on the federal role of infrastructure. We want to have predictable, long term, long track funding, so people can count on it, but also we need to ensure that this funding is done, so that people cannot steal that money, that we are accountable to Canadians.

These consultations provided valuable input and we are going to listen to Canadians, and do what they say in relation to that.

The national highway system of which we speak here had a review and recently it was undertaken to see whether that system was serving Canadians properly. As a result we discovered it was not under the Liberal government and we expanded it. It was expanded in 2005 and includes three distinct categories.

The Trans-Labrador Highway has been included in the northern and remote category of the national highway system, so it is included in that system, like Highway 63 north to Fort McMurray. Indeed, that highway must meet applicable program parameters and funding criteria.

The fiscal balance consultations have identified many competing priorities and pressures across all jurisdictions. We, after 13 years of neglect, are going to do something. That is why I am pleased that the Conservative government intends to honour its commitment to contribute $50 million for the surfacing of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

We are awaiting at this stage a business case from the province in order to ensure that the project will provide results for Canadians and accountability for Canadians.

6:15 p.m.


Todd Russell Liberal Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, like most things from this government, I will believe it when I see it. If words could pave roads, we would be all driving nice vehicles right now, but we still have the gravel and some places are not even connected.

The federal government had no problem, as I understand it, to put $150 million into a road from Fort McMurray to Edmonton. What is taking the government so long? It made a promise, it made a commitment, and it has the money, so why have we not seen it roll out? When can we expect a deal? When can we expect a cheque to be delivered for the Trans-Labrador Highway?

6:15 p.m.


Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, apparently the member was not listening. We are awaiting a plan from the provincial government because we have promised taxpayers that we will be providing an accountable government. We will ensure that money is spent properly and not wasted, not stolen by people helping their friends. We are there to help Canadians long term to provide a solution on a national highway system that will work.

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:16 p.m.)