Mr. Speaker, it is with some pride that I rise for the first time in this House. I would like to thank the electors of Rosedale for confiding in me the responsibility for speaking in this House and for this first time on such an important motion. I will not take the liberty of the traditional introductory speech for members to speak of the characteristics of my riding. I hope my constituents will forgive me that liberty, but I understand that the rules of this debate are that we are to restrict ourselves to the question at hand.
I would like to begin by saying it is clear from all the debate, from everyone in this House, that we are all concerned with the same matter. That is to say the peace and security of this country and the security of Canadians wherever they may be in a world which is becoming increasingly interdependent and in many ways more complicated and in some ways more threatening.
In that context it seems to me we have two debates before us today. The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra referred to a time warp. I would say there is an element of a time warp here. There is the old debate about the cruise missile, the one with which we are all familiar. That debate is about whether we will allow territory of our country to be used to further the development of a nuclear weapon for our neighbours to the south.
Many of us were very troubled by such a concept. With what we can seriously call the end of the cold war we saw no need to pursue such an agenda. I personally would not argue in favour of such an agenda even if it were to support the position taken by the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra in terms of respecting international agreements. The hon. member for Vancouver Quadra is a sophisticated international lawyer. He knows that agreements may be interpreted and discussed.
I would put it on a somewhat different ground. I would suggest there are new considerations we must look at. There is a new agenda. There are new issues which we must examine in the House to decide whether it is opportune today to permit continued cruise missile testing. I would like to review those considerations.
For me the end of the cold war has not made an easier, simpler, safer world in which to live. Various members have referred to that in their speeches today. I see a world in which we have new forms of dangers to our country and to our citizens.
Let me put it in terms of our country. There are new countries. There are new threats. There are the Libyas and the North Koreas which have been mentioned before today. In addition there are whole groups of people, I would suggest, in this new technological age who have access to sophisticated weaponry which in previous times was restricted almost exclusively to the great powers. It was mentioned by one former speaker in this debate that many smaller groups with less sophistication and with less money can have access to technology which could represent a serious threat to the integrity of Canada and, I would suggest, to our soldiers who may be serving in conflicts around the world.
I listened with great interest to the debate yesterday on Bosnia-Hercegovina. One clear point from that debate was that Canadian troops, men and women, would be engaged in world enterprises for a long time in the future. The United Nations is developing its format for the way in which we will continue to participate in peacekeeping activities. We owe it to those men and women to ensure that they have the best training and the best technological information available to them to defend themselves.
That raises the question which I think is really the one we must have before us today. In the new environment in which we live where threats are different from what they were before, in this time when there are threats from new forms of enemies, will the testing of this unusual and very sophisticated weapon, which is no longer restricted to nuclear capacity but to conventional
capacity, enable Canadians to defend themselves better from the threat of the use of such weapons against them in the future?
From the reading I have been able to do there is a double reason for these tests. One is directed toward enabling the United States to perfect this weapon. The other equally important one about which we must ask ourselves or draw attention to today is to enable us to understand how these weapons work and to provide adequate defences to them.
All of us in the House watched the gulf war, saw the defence of Tel Aviv against the Scud missiles and watched the Patriot missiles work. If by watching this missile work and participating in these tests we would enable Canadian forces either in this country or elsewhere in the world to defend themselves against a similar attack by a similar missile, would not the test of such a missile have been worth while? That is the question that I ask myself. That is the question I would direct to the Minister of National Defence.
I urge the government, the minister of defence and cabinet to consider this matter. The minister of defence has clearly said that they are considering the matter. If they can assure the House and assure themselves on the best technological and military advice they have that as a result of these tests we will be obtaining information that will enable us to defend ourselves in this country or our troops to defend themselves elsewhere in the world, we should allow this testing to go forward.
It seems to me that would be in the spirit of what I would call the new agenda of defence that is necessary in a world where new threats are evolving with which we are not yet familiar from sectors with which we are not familiar and from technologies that are being developed and falling into the hands of many disparate groups about which we have no idea in today's context.
That is the new agenda of the debate. It is no longer a debate in respect of the cold war and the testing of a missile device which, in the sort of star wars concept, is to deliver a knockout blow to the Soviet Union. It is the testing of a sophisticated weapon in order to determine our own ability to defend ourselves against it.
It is my personal belief that testing will enable us to do that. I believe it would be in our interest as Canadians both in our own country and in respect of our troops serving in the United Nations or other capacities abroad.
Finally I would like to leave members of the House with one last thought. As other members have pointed out this is a global issue. It is a matter of geopolitics and our relationships with our American neighbour to the south. I will cite the member for Western Arctic, the hon. Secretary of State for Training and Youth. In 1989 she said: "What Canada needs is a defence policy, not in terms of cruise missile tests or nuclear submarines but in service of an overall security strategy emphasizing economic, environmental and non-military elements of security"?
It seems we have an opportunity, if we expect to allow the Americans to continue these tests, of recognizing that we will get benefits from them. Let us press them as part of that package to participate in the Arctic council proposed by the government, by this party. Let us propose to the Americans, who are the ones presently blocking it, the development of an Arctic council that will recognize the participation of the peoples in the north who must live with northern developments. They should participate in their future and have a say and thereby enable this as a peacemaking, as a defensive measure to go forward and enabling Canada to participate more fully in a area of the world where we are fortunate enough to have an important border and important neighbours.