Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak to a bill introduced by a colleague of mine both in the House and at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.
From the outset, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle. Bill C-287 likely stems from the campaign conducted by the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping to perpetuate the memories and deeds of fallen comrades who lost their lives in defence of peace and freedom.
Indeed, since 1945, more than 100,000 Canadians have worn the blue beret, and 114 Canadians peacekeepers have died while taking part in peacekeeping and observation missions. That represents 5% of the price paid by peacekeepers from every nation, given that 2,298 have made the ultimate sacrifice.
Why pay tribute to our peacekeepers, one might ask? I will list a few reasons.
First, they are a key component of multilateralism, a conflict resolution principle very dear to the hearts of Quebeckers. UN peacekeeping missions represent an impartial and very widely accepted way to share the burden and act effectively.
Second, they are active around the world. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations—also known as DPKO—is currently running 18 operations on 4 continents and in 10 time zones. It employs over 90,000 people and directly influences the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. The operations are made up of military personnel, military observers, and police personnel. DPKO operations also employ nearly 5,250 international civilian personnel, over 11,300 local civilian personnel and approximately 1,720 United Nations volunteers from 108 countries that supply military and police personnel to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Third, their missions are usually effective. Since 1945, United Nations peacekeeping forces have conducted 60 peacekeeping missions on the ground and have negotiated 172 peace settlements that ended regional conflicts and enabled the populations of more than 45 countries to participate in free and fair elections.
In addition to peacekeeping and security, the peacekeeping forces have, with increasing frequency, been responsible for supporting political processes, building legal systems, creating law enforcement and police forces, and disarming former combatants.
Fourth, peacekeeping missions offer good value for money.
A study conducted by Oxford University economists found that international military intervention, coordinated under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, was the most effective way to minimize conflicts. The official budget for the DPKO for July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2006, was roughly $5 billion, or 0.5% of the world's military expenses.
This raises the question: why August 9? It was on August 9, 1974, that Canadian peacekeepers suffered the most casualties in a single day. Nine peacekeepers perished when their white plane bearing the United Nations insignia crashed on a routine flight from Beirut to Damascus. Captain Gerry Foster, the pilot of the plane, managed to avoid the first missile, but was unable to avoid the other two.
Why not choose May 29, since that was the date chosen by the United Nations to celebrate International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers? It is an international day celebrated on May 29 by all nations that take part in peacekeeping missions. Indeed, May 29 commemorates Security Council Resolution 50 on the creation of the first United Nations peacekeeping operation in 1948.
We could choose July 28 in memory of the most recent peacekeeper, Colonel Hess-von Kruedener, who was killed during an attack between Lebanon and Israel.
Keep in mind that peacekeepers are sent mainly for missions of peace, to maintain peace. These missions became increasingly popular in 1956 after a UN resolution was tabled by a colleague dear to all Liberals here, Lester B. Pearson. This resolution earned him the 1957 Nobel Peace Prize. Let us pay tribute to Mr. Pearson for his dedication to peace.
In closing, I want to confirm that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this motion in principle.