Mr. Speaker, I did not jump up when you called the hon. member for Bonavista-Trinity-Conception out of turn because I have such esteem for the gentleman, having known him over so many years. I was quite attentive to what it was he was going to say and would have held my peace.
I will be very brief about the customary niceties of this maiden speech in order to save time for debate material on this subject of peacekeeping.
First of all, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Welland-St. Catharines-Thorold for being elected Speaker of this House and yourself for your appointment as acting speaker. As far as I was concerned, it was a small victory for democracy which we try to improve little by little.
I would also like to thank my wife, Paula, for 40 years of unflagging support for me and in particular for the last two years of support.
It is customary here to describe one's constituency. Let us just say that if one was to embellish all of the descriptions of constituencies heard so far in the House then that would describe Nanaimo-Cowichan. It cuts a swath of beauty from the tranquil Gulf Islands right across Vancouver Island to the wild and rugged west coast.
To my constituents in Nanaimo-Cowichan, I thank them for the honour of representing them in Ottawa. I will try to help you understand what is happening in Ottawa if I understand it myself. However, I will certainly represent your interests in Ottawa and not Ottawa's interests to you.
This brings us to the issue of the day which is peacekeeping and more particularly the situation in the former Yugoslavia. What do my constituents think? I believe that the people of Nanaimo-Cowichan, in common with many other Canadians, think as follows. We are proud of the record of Canadian peacekeepers. We are very proud of the troops who are there doing that job at the moment, the Royal 22e Régiment de Valcartier.
However, Canada seems to be stumbling at the moment because of a lack of international leadership and political will.
We also appear to be short of armed forces personnel to properly meet all current obligations. Therefore, the government's proposed review of foreign affairs and defence policies is timely and welcomed. We must determine if our peacekeeping activities are in accordance with these policies or should these policies be changed.
My constituents see in the Bosnian situation the enmity of hundreds of years of religious and ethnic differences. There appears to be no way to end this hatred. At the same time, Canadians recognize that enmity of this sort is not confined to the Balkans. It is a world-wide problem which leads to atrocities and wars. The world community therefore must find better ways of dealing with it. The United Nations, NATO and the European Community are not perceived as being effective in dealing with the problem.
In response to the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs' statement this morning that he had been talking to his colleagues in France and Britain, it would be helpful to this House for us to know in
what detail. I am really curious to know what France and Britain are doing and what are their thoughts. What are the thoughts of all of the European Community vis-a-vis this terrible situation in the old Yugoslavia?
My constituents have images of Canadian soldiers trying hard to help and sometimes being humiliated in the process. This is very much resented, to the point where some say: "Let us get our personnel out of there". Balancing this is the view that our troops do prevent many atrocities in their own sector and enable humanitarian aid to be given. Some therefore say that we must stay for humanitarian reasons alone. These views of my constituents seem to be in consonance with the views of other Canadians.
There are factors other than my constituents' views to be considered with regard to Bosnia. With regard to Bosnia, as opposed to Croatia where at least there is a peace accord to keep, take this into consideration. Without a change of attitude on the part of the combatants, there appears to be no solution. If the status quo is maintained peacekeepers could be there indefinitely.
The next point is that the withdrawal of peacekeepers leads to the spectre of genocide and more atrocities. Complete withdrawal leads to the spectre of war as some of the surrounding countries such as Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Greece, Turkey and the former Russian states move in to help their particular friends.
Against this background we must identify our role as parliamentarians. First, we must listen to our constituents. Second, we must with haste, re-examine our foreign affairs and defence policies which the government has stated it will do. Third, we must keep the Canadian public informed. Fourth, as parliamentarians, we must show leadership in finding a solution.
It seems to me that leadership is the key if there is any solution to be found. We in this Chamber must take the lead and we as a country must take the lead.
Therefore if the status quo is unacceptable, we must change it. The protagonists in Bosnia must be forced to the negotiating table and kept there until they come up with a peace plan that others can supervise. Canada alone cannot make this happen, but surely the world community can.
Therefore it seems to me that Canada must use its credibility and its stature as a peacekeeper to provide the necessary leadership. We must first talk with the United States, Britain and France and then with NATO, the NATO associates which are coming on line, and the United Nations. We must insist that collectively we come up with a plan that will force the creation of a peace plan by the combatants. If we cannot achieve this, Canada should then think of withdrawing.
I will conclude by underlining the earlier words of my colleague, the hon. member for Saanich-Gulf Islands, that more peace talks are scheduled in Geneva on February 10.
Canada must take the lead by hosting a conference here in Ottawa before that date. Participants should include all countries with forces now in the former Yugoslavia. This conference which we propose must of itself or through the United Nations issue a clear ultimatum to the belligerents that either they come up with an enforceable peace plan or they accept the withdrawal of UN forces. If the conference cannot agree to this and show concrete progress toward peace in Bosnia, Canada should announce its intention to withdraw at the end of its current commitment in April.