Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this important debate examining the future of Canada's defence policy both in Canada and abroad. The proposed review is most timely because Canada, along with other nations, has come to recognize that the end of the cold war requires us to rethink the nature and purpose of our military forces.
I add that the timeliness of the debate is significant for another more broadly defined reason. The end of the cold war is not only significant for bringing about change in the defence agenda but in our political agenda as well. Not only is the military's role a broad issue, but as I said it has a role at home. We need to protect the perimeters of our country, but we must consider the military in terms of helping those in need at home.
Having said that, the end of the cold war has not brought a sudden end to the need of our military; quite the contrary. However our focus and priorities must shift in a number of policy areas. In other places, in other committees, we are in the process of redefining how government will better assist the citizens it has been elected to serve. In terms of our military we are redefining how we can better serve the people of our own country, as well as the people of other nations who are in need of its services.
Internationally the focus on peacekeeping training befits changes now occurring at the global level. Emphasis has shifted from one of conflict to conflict resolution. Such change is both welcome and necessary in light of changes happening within society at large.
Citizens both within and beyond Canada's borders now call for greater peace and justice. Greater emphasis is placed on democracy and human rights. When the cold war ceased to dominate the focus of international relations that change brought great hope that our nation would achieve a strengthened spirit built on international co-operation and collaboration.
While we have seen a relaxing of political tensions in some parts of the globe, there are still far too many regions where military conflict is intrinsic, a way of life for people in far too many regions. We still see countries attempting to meet political agendas with military force. This government's plan to strengthen our leadership role in peacekeeping and to commit to Canadian efforts to improve the UN's policies on peacekeeping could not come at a more necessary stage in our history.
It is right for Canada to fulfil the roles of peace enforcement, peace establishment, peace restoration and peace building. I would add to this list the more recent dimension of humanitarian aid protection. Such humanitarian intervention enables aid convoys to reach those people in dire need of assistance. Few can argue about the benefit of such intervention given the number of lives saved by this action.
It is time to reach consensus on the debate surrounding our military and restore our focus to the original UN mandate penned in its charter in 1945 to be a major force for international order and stability.
I would add that it is not only important for us to examine the changing role of our military on the national and international levels. We must also determine how such change should be reflected domestically.
We must continue to train troops to be prepared for any kind of military encounter along with training for peacekeeping initiatives. We need to strike a balance between maintaining armed forces to protect ourselves and participating in international peace operations. I believe the time has come for us to put forward an expanded role for our Department of National Defence, one that is not restricted to military operations alone
since this focus fails to reflect the new reality of the interdependence of foreign and domestic affairs.
Canada has one of the best regarded military forces in the world in no small part because of the training we provide our troops. We need to capitalize on this capability more often and deliver this training to the international community. While we do much of this now, we have the capacity to do more.
CFB Gagetown is the largest military base in Canada by land mass and is situated in my riding of Fredericton-York-Sunbury. As a combat training centre, Gagetown is a land force centre for excellence dedicated to the training of world class soldiers and leaders. Training is conducted within the framework of combined arms operations up to the battle group level. The base provides a most sophisticated and realistic simulation training environment and employs some of the most expert instructors in this field.
The base is responsible for conducting the most advanced courses for the infantry, artillery and armour elements of land force command and the training of troops that have served in one or more peacekeeping missions. The Royal Canadian Regiment stationed at CFB Gagetown participated in two missions within a two year period: Cyprus from October 1991 until April 1992; and the former Yugoslavia from November 1992 to May 1993. In addition there are always a number of soldiers from CFB Gagetown serving with the UN in a variety of peacekeeping missions. The experience and leadership gained while training at CFB Gagetown has had a significant impact on the success of Canadian troops during peacekeeping missions over past decades.
Further members of the reserve force totalling some 2,000 for the Atlantic region and trained at Gagetown have served in peacekeeping missions. As well reserve soldiers provide a valuable resource for emergencies because they are able to work along with the regular force personnel in various situations. The nature of reserve training is an area we may wish to explore in order to further evolve the role of our military in training on the international stage.
We also need to explore options for using our military personnel and military facilities for non-military purposes. Too often we hear of the need for better equipment and increased personnel in search and rescue. Were military resources more easily available to assist organizations like the RCMP and EMO the trauma and agony suffered by individuals and in many cases entire families and communities would be greatly reduced.
We also need to explore what roles military personnel and their facilities can play in non-military employment and training programs. As I mentioned in a statement earlier this week during members statements, the Department of National Defence has recently engaged in a co-operative initiative with New Brunswick's Department of Advanced Education and Labour to pilot an occupational and lifeskills training project.
Just Monday of this week 30 unemployed New Brunswickers between the ages of 17 and 24 began a 20 week program of military lifeskills and occupational training and job experience at CFB Gagetown. For the participants selected from youth strategy, aboriginal peoples and social assistance programs, the combination of occupational and lifeskills training will help young unemployed New Brunswickers build new futures.
There is more at stake in such an initiative than just training and employing 30 individuals. Although I do not mean to diminish the significance of that, in this period of fiscal restraint it is important to consider the financial benefits of providing training programs in this manner. Since the Canadian forces provide the training facilities and instructors for the project in New Brunswick, the people, space, materials and facilities are readily available. It strikes me that this amounts to a creative arrangement for both federal and provincial governments.
We must also consider how our military can contribute to environmental protection and clean-up and to border patrol, particularly as it relates to the north and the sea. This places new and increased demands on our military such that it moves the forces' agenda beyond just that of defending the country.
As we consider our nation's place in the global community we must remind ourselves that Canada has had a positive and well established international reputation for decades. We have been admired and emulated by countries around the globe. We want to continue to set examples for other nations. We can do this by redefining our military role to better reflect the social changes occurring at the international level. In many respects we are not only just capable of setting such examples, we are also obliged to do so.
When I first arrived in Ottawa to represent the people of Fredericton-York-Sunbury I was immediately struck by the cultural diversity represented in this House. I have always been proud of Canada's efforts to give equal recognition to all cultures living within our borders. This pride was reinforced when I realized the reality of the vision.
We are citizens of the world living in one country. Within our very own borders we know and represent a multitude of cultures found around the world. Unlike the United States we do not ascribe to a melting pot approach where people must give up their culture; we encourage individuality and uniqueness. Such
a philosophy and approach puts us in the unique position to understand the various interests and cultures of the world.
In our understanding of just how wonderful such diversity truly is, we are in the best of all positions to help others when they are faced with some form or level of forceful conflict. The diversity within our borders has not only taught us to be a compassionate and caring society; it has taught us about the many ways of life embraced by many people. We can use our own enlightenment not only as an advantage to ourselves, but also as an advantage for helping others in need of conflict resolution.
I am fully aware that our desire to accommodate a variety of cultures may be controversial and may need government support from time to time. However that should not mean that we do not want that diversity.
We can use this knowledge and respect. In fact I believe we owe it to the international community to assist the United Nations in its mission for promoting world peace. Our knowledge of ethnic diversity combined with our excellent military training and knowledge places us in an enviable and more than capable position to help achieve global stability.
In closing, I would like to add that the people of Fredericton-York-Sunbury are peaceful people who are proud New Brunswickers and Canadians. This pride is not just defined by the integrity and quality of life at the community level, but is further defined by the international reputation we know ourselves to possess around the world.
People recognize that this positive image carries with it certain obligations and responsibilities we must be willing to extend to those in need. As a country we cannot make excuses for ourselves and stay away from the fray. We are far too socially aware to bury our heads in the sand and hope that volatile situations will somehow resolve themselves, preferably in a quiet fashion.
In light of the need for us to examine and redefine Canada's military, I support the call for the appointment of a special joint committee comprised of members of the Senate and of the House of Commons to review Canada's defence policy.