Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to comment on the bill before us today. This bill raises a moral question: should we force the beliefs of this Parliament and this country on the world?
We are asking if we should welcome someone who has refused to participate in overseas military action—which Canada is not involved in and for which there are no United Nations sanctions—and who is asking for our protection.
The Bloc Québécois' answer is yes, of course we should. The war in Iraq is perhaps the prime example, the one the first comes to mind. I remind members that there was once widespread disapproval of the war in Iraq. Despite this, some politicians supported action in Iraq. Obviously, the Prime Minister of Canada, leader of the Conservative Party, was in favour of action in Iraq. The Leader of the Opposition and leader of the Liberal Party was also in favour of the war in Iraq. However, even though these two leaders defended the war, the majority of Canadians and Quebeckers were undoubtedly against it.
Who could forget that, at the time, hundreds of thousands of people in different cities, including 200,000 or 300,000 in Montreal alone, filled the streets. They braved the cold to say that they did not want to participate in what they felt was an unjust war not sanctioned by the United Nations, an unjust and unjustifiable war. They felt that the war would unduly punish Iraqi civilians and society. People also knew that there was a hidden strategic agenda involving control over oil production and so on.
Now we know that George Bush and his administration told all kinds of lies to convince people that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. There were no such weapons. There was widespread consensus.
People considered the war illegitimate. Reacting to public opinion, Parliament decided it would be illegitimate to send soldiers there to fight. That is logical. If something appears to be illegitimate, stay out of it.
That being said, my Liberal Party colleague's bill raises a very interesting question. Were we justified in believing that people around the world should have shared our conviction at the time? If the Iraq war is illegitimate from our perspective, should it not also be illegitimate from the perspective of the United States, Germany, England and lots of other countries?
If, as parliamentarians, we strongly believe that this is a universal value and that human beings should not participate in immoral bilateral conflicts not sanctioned by the UN, then we should also believe that people from other countries who share that conviction should not be required to participate. That is what the bill before us proposes.
This bill would not allow people who simply refuse military service to stay in Canada, but it would admit people who refuse military service because they are ordered to participate in a mission they consider to be illegitimate or immoral. Such individuals would be permitted to apply for permanent residency on humanitarian grounds as conscientious objectors if they believe, as we do, that the war they are expected to join is immoral and illegitimate.
That makes sense to me. The government had a number of things to say about this. My Conservative colleague who spoke before me said that this does not at all correspond to the definition of a refugee. I will admit that, but we are not talking about refugees. We are talking about an application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. This does not correspond to the definition of a refugee and it is for that reason that the spokesperson for the bill did not put it in the section on refugees. I do not know whether my Conservative colleague read the bill before writing his speech, but his comment is irrelevant.
They also pointed out the possibility of an incredible influx into Canada of conscientious objectors from all over the world. That is somewhat exaggerated. Most people who decide on a military career will abide by the army's decisions. A certain number believe they made a mistake. They joined the army in good faith but, after deployment, they realized that it was an illegitimate war and changed their minds. Not all of them want to leave their families. If they are considered deserters in the United States, they can come to Canada, but they can never return to their country. There is no reason to believe that there will be an influx of applicants. There will be applications in particular circumstances. Nevertheless, we must listen to these people and protect them.
We also heard the government cite the issue of national security. I wonder how anyone who has been security cleared in order to become a member of the U.S. army could suddenly become a threat to national security. Was the parliamentary secretary suggesting that the American army hires potential terrorists? This seems to be a ridiculous argument.
Behind these supposedly rational arguments, the government simply does not want to rub the Americans the wrong way or jeopardize its relationship with the Republicans and George W. Bush in the United States. Then there are the Liberals who do not want to jeopardize the position of their leader, who was in favour of the war in Iraq. I applaud the fact that even though he supported the war in Iraq, the Liberal Party leader—the Leader of the Opposition—nevertheless allowed one of his party members to introduce a bill on an issue that directly concerns that unjust war. Most of the recent cases involve people who participated or are being forced to participate in the war in Iraq.
The Liberal Party leader has not yet told us whether he has changed his mind. He has not told us whether he believes, like most Canadians and Quebeckers believed at the time, that the war was immoral or illegitimate or whether he still believes that Canada should have participated in the war. Even though he has not stated his position, he allowed the Liberal Party member to introduce this bill. That is a good sign.
I hope that, contrary to what happened with a recent motion, all Liberal members will support their colleague's bill to make it the law of the land.
I would like to conclude by comparing this issue to the ongoing debate on access to abortion services in other countries, which is a major issue. We know that even though they will never say so openly, the Conservatives want to reopen the abortion debate, and they are imposing their beliefs on other countries.
It is kind of the same thing with deserters. As the parliamentary secretary pointed out, they say that the war was legitimate and moral. They do not see why we would accept American deserters who refused to take part in it. The two situations are similar, and I would like them to stop.