Mr. Speaker, this being my first speech in the House, I would like to start by congratulating you on your appointment to the chair. I would also like to thank my constituents of Saint-Denis for giving me their support. I am very proud as a Canadian and Quebecer of Greek origin-the first woman of Greek origin to be elected to this House-to be representing them here, today.
The riding of Saint-Denis is in many ways a microcosm of what Canada is today. With cultural communities representing every corner of the globe, the issue of peacemaking or peacekeeping is of great concern to my constituents and the reason that I rise before you today.
I am convinced that the Canadian peacekeepers presently in the former Republic of Yugoslavia, and especially in Bosnia, should not be withdrawn.
Canada has a very important role to play in resolving this conflict. To pull out now would be abandoning our responsibility to the international community and moreover abandoning our ideals as a nation which pioneered the concept of peacekeeping. We have come a long way from the failure of the League of Nations in preventing global conflict to the far more successful formula for peacekeeping established in the United Nations. Crises will exist but we must never give up searching for solutions to prevent conflict.
With its long and distinguished tradition of peacekeeping, Canada has a moral responsibility to help bring about a solution by easing the level of tension and mistrust that has plagued the former Yugoslavia. No enemies are irreconcilable if they can learn to know and respect each other.
It is a well known fact that the United Nations peacekeeping operations are in serious trouble in some places, the former Yugoslavia and Somalia in particular. However, we can say that, on the whole, peacekeeping operations have had a positive effect. For example, while Mogadishu remains tense and unstable, the rest of Somalia is demonstrating a tremendous recovery capacity. Is it not marvellous to realize that, thanks to the United Nations peacekeeping operation, Somalis are no longer dying of starvation? And what about the remarkable success in Cambodia? That country went through a long and traumatic period, but can now look forward to a better future.
As I mentioned, there are several difficulties that UN peacekeepers and especially our own troops are encountering in the former Yugoslavia. Perseverance, not withdrawal will lead to a positive outcome, the outcome that we have been working toward for nearly two years.
Our peacekeepers are now playing an essential role, preventing bloodbaths. There would no doubt have been many more civilian casualties had it not been for them. To pull them out at this time would trigger an escalation of violence.
Besides, in assessing the value of our peacekeeping action, we will have to be careful not to trigger hostilities which would only get our troops bogged down in that conflict.
The action in December of the four European union states which established diplomatic relations with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia have increased the possibility of yet another outbreak of violence in the Balkans. It is the same premature recognition of Bosnia-Hercegovina that contributed
to its political disintegration and to the armed conflict that continues to this day.
Let us be cautious in extending diplomatic relations so quickly lest we find ourselves once again in the same difficult position. We must avoid having to stretch our forces any further in the former Yugoslavia.
The European union continues to lack a coherent and unified approach to solving the conflict in the Balkans. Canada must rise above this and it will not be done by pulling out our troops at this very crucial time.
Canada is renewing its support for the UN and the CSCE. Our country is committed to strengthening the North Atlantic Alliance, which plays such an important part in peacekeeping operations.
NATO was created in order to counter the very real threats which the Soviet Union under Stalin was making against western Europe. Since those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them, let us not abandon too quickly this excellent instrument which has served us so well over more than four decades. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, NATO must assume a new role in the international forum and Canada has an integral part in helping to define what that role is.
NATO's primary role must remain deterrence; not aggression, but deterrence. NATO is also indispensable in terms of providing logistic support for peacekeeping and humanitarian actions.
Last but not least, NATO is the only existing institution which is capable of receiving most east European states with proper status and a tested framework for regional collective security.
The real issue as far as NATO is concerned is not to decide whether or not it is not relevant any more, a thing of the past, but rather what shape to give it now. That is what we must examine in the general context of peacekeeping operations.
Several important lessons can be learned from the recent past and applied to our peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia. First, distinguish where one can be useful and where one cannot. It is sometimes better to limit one's intervention to the strict minimum humanitarian intervention when one knows that the adversaries are not amenable to any form of wisdom. In the case of Bosnia it is our duty to protect and help the innocent victims and minimize the bloodshed as much as possible.
Second, we must be patient. Some conflicts cannot be solved in weeks or even years. They take decades of patient effort to bring the opponents closer and for them to learn to respect each other.
Third, minimize effectiveness under a clear leadership and with precise objectives in mind. Compare the effectiveness of the coalition forces in the Gulf war with the irresolution and inefficiencies of the situation in Bosnia.
Fourth, play by the rules of collective security. National pride or prejudice cannot be allowed to have priority over the necessities of an efficient security system. The French, Germans and British are now bitterly regretting their haste and their differences and their botched attempts to keep peace in the former Yugoslavia.
Fifth, better safe than sorry. The proliferation of nuclear technologies and know-how must be a constant reminder of the troubling fact that someday prevention may be the only thing keeping us from a nuclear apocalypse happening in our own backyard.
The world today is a very different place from five years ago. Who would have believed in January 1989 that the Berlin wall would come tumbling down and soon after that the Soviet empire. Likewise that Israel would be talking peace with the PLO or that there would be multiracial elections in South Africa.
As the Governor General said in the throne speech last week our hopes for global peace have been raised and, in many places, shattered. In some countries today democracy is under stress, its future uncertain.
I was born in Greece, the cradle of democracy. My parents emigrated to Canada because of its reputation as a country where democracy is very highly respected. It is in this tradition that Canadians today continue their unwavering commitment to peacekeeping.
It is up to Canada to play a responsible role in seeing the resolution of this conflict. Pulling out our Canadian troops will not solve this conflict, but greater concessions among the international community and organizations like the UN and NATO will.
We will have to keep doing our share to ensure that, once the conflicts have been resolved, our peacekeepers can get their due share of the credit for restoring peace in this troubled area.