Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will keep my comments as brief as I can.
It is with great pleasure that I rise tonight and for the first time speak in the greatest forum of our country. I further wish to express my thanks to the people of Victoria-Haliburton who sent me here and instilled confidence in me to do my best.
The matter we are discussing today is one that is of concern to all Canadians. This discussion is long overdue and I thank the Prime Minister for this opportunity.
Peacekeeping has long been viewed as a made in Canada concept, which is understandable since former Prime Minister Lester Pearson developed the program and subsequently was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his efforts. Canada has long been a vocal and active supporter of organizations for international stability and order and now has in the area of 2,300 troops stationed around the world in various peacekeeping operations.
For the most part, these operations have been peaceful. However, more and more often violent encounters are occurring in day to day peacekeeping. The role of peacekeeping is changing.
In today's debate we must be careful about what is being discussed. We can easily dismiss peacekeeping by saying that we must get our troops out of dangerous peacekeeping areas. However this sort of thinking is short-sighted.
We must expand our discussions and ask what we want our peacekeepers to do. We must develop a clear and concise mandate for our peacekeepers. Are we committing troops to a
peacekeeping operation because Canada has never refused to commit troops to a UN operation, or do we commit because it is in the best interests of Canada to have a presence in a particular operation?
We must think of our financial situation and come to terms with the implications of a shrinking defence budget and how it might affect our participation in future peacekeeping operations. Furthermore, when we do commit our troops to an operation we must ensure they have the proper equipment and training to address whatever situation may arise in that operation.
Although we are somewhat isolated here from the realities of peacekeeping, we owe it to those who are risking their lives in frightening situations that they have the best equipment and training available to adequately protect themselves and to ensure the operation is carried out with success for Canada.
I did have 21 pages, but I have condensed it.