Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be joining the debate, and speaking to the motion tabled by the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, with whom I have the distinguished pleasure of working on the foreign affairs committee.
To begin, I will go through different subsections of the motion to give some brief commentary and get deeper into it. I also have a lot Reagan quotes today. I find a lot of the positions taken by the New Democrats today almost make them sound like Reaganites at times. I want to draw to the attention of the House that this is where I will be focusing many of my comments today.
The motion says that the House should do some things, and then goes into details, none of which any reasonable person here would disagree with. We all know the consequences and dangers of the use of nuclear weapons, including the humanitarian consequences. There will be no disagreement from me or from others in the House.
Subsection (b) states, “reaffirm the need to make every effort to ensure that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances.” The principle and sentiment behind it is absolutely reasonable, but it is simply unrealistic, especially in an age where there are many more rogue nations that possess nuclear weapons, along with the proliferation of the technology and knowledge, and the ability to track them being very difficult.
Subsection (c) states, “recall the unanimous vote in both Houses of Parliament in 2010 that called on Canada to participate in negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention.” I do not think the motion binds the government today to undertake any talks, or any type of negotiation at the international level. That was seven years ago now. In my case, I was not a member of the House then, and I do not think parliaments are bound by such motions that direct a particular parliament's intent or will.
Subsection (d) states, “reaffirm its support for the 2008 five-point proposal...” It is not that it is pointless, but simply put, we are supporting allies in the NATO military alliance. I have many more comments about NATO's policy document, where it talks about what its nuclear deterrent will and will not do.
Subsection (e) states, “express disappointment in Canada’s vote against, and absence from, initial rounds of negotiations for a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.” I do not agree with that particular subsection. It is not egregious, I just disagree.
Finally, subsection (f) talks about the release on May 22, 2017, of the Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. I disagree with that mostly because of the other subsections leading up to it. I just do not think it would be all that useful.
There is a Yiddish proverb, which states, “The world is big, its troubles still bigger.” Since 1945, we can all agree that the world has faced many troubles. One of the leading ones was nuclear proliferation, and the dangers of an all-out nuclear war between the two superpowers at the time, until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
I grew up in Poland. When I was very little, my parents were able to come to Canada and take us away from there. My parents would not talk about it as a point of discussion, but they remembered the drills they would have at school, which they would talk to us about. They would tell us what they had to do in case of a nuclear war.
There were these funny infomercials on Polish television telling people to cover themselves with newspapers in the case of nuclear war. The thinking was that the initial flash would burn the paper, but not skin, and people were somehow supposed to crawl somewhere. Polish people have very macabre, dark humour, and would say that after that moment, people could crawl to the cemetery. Dark humour is very common in Poland. It is still common today among Polish expats, but it gives the feeling that people had about it. This imminent danger that people felt was quite common.
I have a specific point on why some of the subsections in the motion are quite troublesome. NATO, on deterrence and defence, says in its policy document listed on its website, “Collective defence is the Alliance’s greatest responsibility and deterrence remains a core element of NATO’s overall strategy...” It goes on to list what is being defended: liberty, democracy, human rights, the rule of law. It goes on to state, “NATO’s capacity to deter and defend is supported by an appropriate mix of capabilities...” Then it goes on to list them. It concludes, “Nuclear, conventional and missile defence capabilities complement each other.” This is a core part of what NATO provides in its military alliance to all members who participate in it. Through article 5, Canada ensures our own sovereignty and national protection, but also that of our allies.
Although Canada is not in possession of nuclear weapons, our allies are. It forms what I would call a complete package of protection. That is what NATO says here. It continues, “NATO also maintains the freedom of action and flexibility to respond to the full spectrum of challenges with an appropriate and tailored approach, at the minimum level of force.”
As always, western powers, western countries, liberal democracies have never been the ones to threaten nuclear war. We have never been the ones to say that this should be the first line, that it should always be used as the first response to all types of aggression. It is always “use minimum level of force required”.
Many countries, if not most or all NATO countries, see nuclear weapons the way the population does, which is absolute last resort, preferring that under no circumstances should they be used.
In the British House of Commons, on January 2015, the secretary of state for defence, Michael Fallon, said, “It is Faslane that is truly Britain’s peace camp. Whether we like it or not, there remain approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons globally. We cannot uninvent those weapons.”
I think it speaks to the reality we live in today. The simple fact is that these weapons were invented, produced, manufactured, deployed, and now they sit as part of the nuclear deterrence that many countries use. This is not to say that the sentiment behind the motion is not appropriate. It is not to say that the principle, the thought, the idea is not something shared by many members of the House, and hopefully all members of the House.
I did say at the beginning of my intervention that I would be bringing up a lot of Reagan quotes, because Reagan was a nuclear abolitionist. I see members on the opposite side starting to smile.
On November 17, 1982, Reagan said, in an address to the nation on strategic arms reduction and nuclear deterrence, “I intend to search for peace along two parallel paths: deterrence and arms reductions” He goes on to say, “I believe these are the only paths that offer any real hope for an enduring peace.”
Reagan's example, thoughts, and his active participation in attempting to abolish nuclear weapons through different means is an example. The motion actually speaks to that sentiment as well. Again, when I read it, I immediately thought Reagan's activism.
In 1984, in an interview, he expressed the following sentiment, “I just happen to believe that we cannot go into another generation with the world living under the threat of those weapons and knowing that some madman can push the button some place.” It goes on. Again, he expresses the sentiment, the principle that New Democrats have encapsulated in their wording with some problematic kind of “what would we do with that sentiment” and “how do we make that a reality”, and then not really addressing today's reality.
Reagan was a nuclear abolitionist, but he was also a clear-eyed realist who accepted that the world was as it was. He was an unapologetic supporter of the strategic defence initiative, also known as Star Wars, and he went as far as he could. With his partner, the Soviet Union, he did what was possible.
I will just mention another idea from Reagan. With these considerations firmly in mind, he said, “I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete.” Again, the same type of principle, the same type of sentiment behind the motion. He just believed that the reality we lived in required us to act upon it.
On some of the sections that we have in this motion, where it talks about an agreement and talking at the United Nations, Reagan said in his 1982 UN address on disarmament, “Agreements on arms control and disarmament can be useful in reinforcing peace, but they're not magic.” Therefore, we should not confuse talking at UN cocktail dinners or the signing of agreements with solving and resolving problems.
The paper castle suggested by talk shops the world over are blown away, typically by lax enforcement and aggressive rogue regimes.
Reagan never abandoned what some authors have terms as his hatred of nuclear weapons and his desire to eliminate them. If we look at Reagan from his first term to his second term, he was a strong abolitionist from the beginning, and he made it reality in the only way he knew how. It was not eliminating completely, but he did what he could with the Soviet Union, with the powers that were available to him, leading to arms reduction.
Today, though, we do not have such a situation. Proliferation is far beyond that, to countries that simply do not want to negotiate. I do not believe we should implement parts of this motion, that we should believe talk shops are enough. Aggressive enforcement of current treaties and NGOs are the way to do this. I do not think the motion achieves many of the sentiments and principles behind it.