Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to give my maiden speech. I never thought I would be doing it on such an important subject as this one which certainly affects us now and for a long time in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate you and all other members. I want to particularly thank the people of my constituency of central Alberta. Certainly I will claim to have the most beautiful constituency with the greatest people who we possibly could have.
I want to congratulate the Prime Minister and his ministers for making this day possible. This is an example of the sort of open Parliament that Canadians want. We have to go further with more free votes and constituent assemblies and as the hon. minister mentioned with tours around the country to find out what Canadians really think on such important matters.
Peacekeeping is a very difficult subject along with what we should do and the decision we should make today. In getting this information there are a number of points that we have to consider. Certainly we have to realize that past wars and the history of places like Bosnia make it an ignition point and one that certainly could explode into a much more serious situation as has been described.
I think we also have to recognize that there is really no will to settle this conflict and there will not be a will in many of the situations our peacekeepers get into. I think the escalation point we should look at is of course the great power of the Muslim world and what it could put behind a conflict like this.
We should also look at Russia and its changing political scene, almost as we sit here. Certainly its defence of the Slavic races is a consideration. There is Greece and Macedonia. There is France and its position in the EC. There is Italy, Germany and Albania and their interests in this area as well. All of the recent history we must consider in making our decision on Bosnia.
Something we must also consider is the presence and importance of television in any decision we make. Around every corner is CNN, BBC and of course Newsworld. They show the atrocities and the terrible parts of all of these conflicts right on the screen in your home. We cannot underestimate the power of this sort of influence.
We must realize of course that we have no good guys or bad guys. We do not have anybody wearing a white hat or a black hat which is what we North Americans would like to see. There are atrocities occurring on all sides and we must be aware of that.
We must also be aware that the killing will not stop. It will not stop whether we stay or whether we leave. This is going on. We must recognize the humanitarian successes that have been taking place and we certainly must commend our forces for what they have been doing.
There are a lot of choices but what really should Canada do about peacekeeping? I have tried to put myself in the position of my constituents. I have tried to think about the people of the province of Alberta where we have a great many people in the military. I have tried to think of myself as a Canadian as to what I should really say.
Initially I thought we should just pull the troops out and let the Serbs and Bosnians fight it out themselves. It is a civil war and we should not be part of it. I must admit, however, upon getting into further detail that there is a lot more to it than just that. There is the humanitarian aspect of it, the war crimes and the innocent civilians. Every time we turn on the television we hear about these things. We have to think about that in any decision that we make.
We of course must realize the risk that we are putting our troops under. As things escalate, as there are threats of an increased escalation this spring, how many troops are we prepared as Canadians to bring home in body bags? We have to ask that question and we have to take this as a very serious part of our decision.
We have to look at ourselves as leaders in the area of peacekeeping. Certainly a pull out would be an abrogation of some of those responsibilities. We have to ask what that does to us as Canadians and how we feel because of that. The cost of
course has been mentioned and our debt and deficit are part of any decision when we come to spending money.
The decision then is not easy. We have all these factors to consider. I tried to see if there was anything positive to this whole situation. Can peacekeeping have a positive part to it?
The conclusion I came to was a feeling of nationalism that is part of peacekeeping. What makes Canadians feel good? Next month we are going to look at our athletes at the Olympics and we are going to feel good. When we hear that national anthem play we are going to feel good because they have just done something that made them stand out in the world.
We are going to make Canadians feel good today because this is good government. This is an opportunity for all sides, it does not matter what one's politics are, to really have a say. Thus we will feel good.
What about peacekeeping and making us feel good? We certainly have a reputation. All across the world we know that Canadians are the best trained, have the best political background and the best psychology, if you want, of taking care of peace in this world. We already have that and that is something we should build on and should be part of our national pride.
We of course should emphasize a leadership role. We do not have to take a second seat to anybody when it comes to peacekeeping and the settling of world disputes.
In terms of training, we should build on this. We should provide training for sale. What better thing could we do with the bases we are thinking of closing down than turn them into international academies for the training of peacekeepers?
Let us go further than just peacekeeping. Let us talk about the settling of all kinds of disputes. Let us talk about supervising elections and a better understanding of the cultural elements that are behind peacekeeping efforts. Let us provide conflict management, human rights monitoring, civil administration and emergency measures. One cannot help but think that that could be useful internally as well if we had something like an earthquake such as that which we have just witnessed in Los Angeles.
In conclusion, I think we should always maintain our role in peacekeeping and build on it. We should become world leaders. That is really where it is at. The building of that nationalism within us, that pride of being Canadian, I believe will even go so far as to make Quebecers feel that they want to stay a part of Canada.
We can do so much with this whole peacekeeping situation. If we in this 35th Parliament succeed in building this national pride then I think we have gone a long way in succeeding in why many of us are here.