Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie.
Canadians have a long tradition of discouraging the arms race and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In fact, in my own riding of Kootenay—Columbia, two communities formed, in part, around their beliefs in pacifism.
The Doukhobors, who began to immigrate to Canada from Russia around 1900 and settled in the Kootenays a few years later, opposed military service. They became famous for their nude protests, which resulted in Canada's first laws against public nudity, in 1932.
The Religious Society of Friends, also known as the Quakers, continues to be one of Canada's most active communities on issues like nuclear disarmament. We have a large Quaker community in Argenta, on the north end of Kootenay Lake. The list of famous Canadian Quakers includes Dorothy Stowe, who co-founded Greenpeace, and Muriel Duckworth, founder of the Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace. Both fought for nuclear disarmament, and the Quakers in Argenta are well known for their pacifism and actions for both peace and the environment.
A number of my constituents in the West Kootenay are disenfranchised Americans who chose peace over the Vietnam War. In 2016, Selkirk College graduated its first-ever class of civilian peacekeepers, ready to work around the globe to broker peace. World peace has long been a priority for the people of Kootenay—Columbia.
In 1930, Canada ratified the Geneva protocol banning gas and bacteriological weapons. We ratified the nuclear non-proliferation treaty in 1970. We have adopted bans on nuclear weapons testing, bans on weapons in outer space, and hosted the 1997 meeting that led to the Ottawa treaty, which aims at eliminating anti-personnel landmines. As recently as 2010, the House unanimously passed a motion calling for nuclear disarmament.
Perhaps Canada's greatest contribution to peace was from former Liberal prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, whose creation of our peacekeeping forces won Canada immense international respect and earned “Mike” Pearson a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize. I hate to imagine what Pearson would say if he could see today's Liberal government renounce nuclear disarmament.
All this leads me to wonder how far we have fallen. The Liberal foreign affairs minister, this week, renounced the U.S. administration's failure to take leadership on such issues as open trade and climate change. However, the Liberals continue to follow the Americans on their approach to nuclear weapons.
Canada, which has aspirations to the UN Security Council, is boycotting the current UN progress toward nuclear disarmament. The Prime Minister, this week, said that the process and the motion we are debating today are useless because the major countries that possess nuclear weapons are refusing to participate.
This is an unacceptable change in direction for Canada. At one time, Canada would stand up to nuclear powers and declare our opposition to proliferation. We did not accept being bullied. Instead, we engaged in leadership. By saying that Canada's intervention in this critically important matter is useless, the Prime Minister is saying that Canada has no influence on the world stage.
Former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau addressed the same issue, on February 9, 1984, but with the opposite conclusion to our current Prime Minister.
We have done more than look to our defences, Mr. Speaker. We have addressed the causes of insecurity and instability, particularly in the Third World. East-West and North-South are the four points of the political compass of our modern age. The problems of the South cannot be solved in the absence of progress on global security. Massive military expenditures are distorting economic policies and diverting resources away from global economic development. This in turn is worsening Third World instabilities that ensnare East and West and add to the insecurity of us all.
He went on to say:
Canadians, therefore, have earned the right to speak. They are telling us, the Members of this House, as people everywhere are telling their own leaders, that the danger is too near. They want their leaders to act, to accept their political responsibility, to work to reduce the nuclear threat.... Nuclear weapons exist. They probably always will. And they work, with horrible efficiency. They threaten the very future of our species. We have no choice but to manage that risk. Never again can we put the task out of our minds; nor trivialize it; nor make it routine. Nor dare we lose heart."
I reject the current Prime Minister's assertion that Canada is without influence. I reject his belief that working for peace and disarmament is useless. By failing to participate in the UN's work against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we diminish our role on the global stage and we repudiate our history as peacemakers and as peacekeepers. For the Liberal members to do so, they abandon their own party's history and shun the work of Pearson and the senior Trudeau. That is as shameful as it is shocking.
Let me close by quoting Prime Minister Pearson. He said:
And I have lived since—as you have—in a period of cold war, during which we have ensured, by our achievements in the science and technology of destruction, that a third act in this tragedy of war will result in the peace of extinction.
Let us ensure that Pearson's prediction never comes true. I ask that all members of the House support peace by supporting the motion.