Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak today and to congratulate you on your ascension to the position of Deputy Speaker. I look forward to working with you. I also thank members of the government who have given all of us the opportunity to address this very important issue.
As this is my maiden speech I would certainly like to take the opportunity to thank the people of Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca, my riding, for giving me their confidence on October 25. I commit to them that I will again do my very best to represent them here in Ottawa. This subject is of great importance to the people of my riding because of its long history in defence and peacekeeping with Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt being there and the Princess Patricia Rifles.
I would however like to say that because of the seriousness and gravity of the situation we are speaking about today, I will keep my introduction to the most beautiful riding in Canada to a minimum and rather invite everybody to come there to see it for themselves.
The issue at hand today is Bosnia, a very serious one, and what should be Canada's role in this bloody civil war. I will preface what I am about to say by mentioning that there are no white knights and no black knights in this situation. Rather there are many gray zones. Atrocities have been committed by all sides. However certainly there has been a preponderance on the side of Serbian aggression.
It is important to note that the people of the former Yugoslavia did in fact live together quite nicely up until the beginning of this century. After World War I and with the collapse of the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires the Serbians, Croats and Muslims were fused together to form what we have come to know as Yugoslavia. There was little rancour beforehand. However ethnic tensions mounted because one group, the Serbians, were given preferential treatment to the expense of the other ethnic groups there. I hope this subject I have just mentioned is not lost on the Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.
This culminated in World War II as ethnic tensions mounted with the slaughter of over two million Croats and Serbians at each other's hands, a number I might add that far exceeds the number of people who were killed at the hands of the Nazis. This deepened the hatred between the two groups, widened the rift between them, and set the stage for the carnage we see today in all its horror via CNN. As time goes on and the atrocities pile up on both sides, the rift between the peoples widens and the misunderstanding and hatred deepen. That is a profound tragedy.
Now that I have presented my preface what will our role be in this conflict? Since there is no peace in existence today, as has been said before, there is no peace to keep in the seething caldron of racial hatred. Is there peace to make? I think so but it will only come through diplomatic channels and not with force. To commit our troops with force today would in my estimation banish them to be just another fourth force in this encounter.
Along this line of questioning are air strikes. Should we or should we not employ them? If we use air strikes the impartiality of the peacekeepers would be forever forsaken. This would set us up for two things. First, it would set us up for full-scale reprisals by all sides that would produce a large loss of life both among the United Nations troops and therefore among our own.
It is interesting to note in these conflicts-and I speak from some personal experience-that one group can go ahead and kill its own people to make it look like another group is doing the killing. It is the easiest way to go against the group that is disliked intensely and against which the other is fighting.
Second, what would happen if we engaged in this conflict-and this is very important to understand-is that it would completely neutralized the humanitarian role the United Nations has engaged in so far. While this role has been imperfect it has indeed saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from death, rape and torture. Thus I do not think that air strikes are an option.
Now we are left with the last option, the humanitarian effort for which we have been given a mandate under the United Nations. At this time I would publicly like to state that it is a role our Canadian men and women have been doing admirably. Often overworked, underarmed and outgunned they have carried out their UN humanitarian role with profound bravery. I would like to extend to them publicly my heartfelt thanks and admiration.
Should we engage in this endeavour? If we pull out it can be fairly certain that other member states will pull out too. Therefore no humanitarian aid effort would go through in this conflict whatsoever. It would set the stage for mass genocide. Hundreds of thousands of people would be killed and there would be an escalating conflict.
It is very important to understand that this whole area is a tinderbox. The escalating conflict would involve other countries such as Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Albania, Italy and Germany. I do not think Canadian people would tolerate it.
At this time I would like to hearken back to the holocaust memorials we see every year and our response to them. As we view the horrible footage of Nazi atrocities the world commits naively to say never again. Tragically we may say this and believe it but clearly our heads are stuck in the sand for we have allowed the situation to continue in other countries over the years such as Cambodia, Iraq, Burundi, Sudan and Ethiopia, to name just a few. Bosnia represents an opportunity to say never again and to do something about it.
The soldiers are fighting these dirty little civil wars, but the greatest penalty to pay are the penalties that are paid by the civilians. I can say from personal experience that the penalties are paid by the children, the infirm and the aged. Those are the people who are subjected to the brunt of it.
As a physician and surgeon I worked in Africa and treated people who had suffered under a bloody civil war. I can say I have seen the effects of gunshot wounds, people who were chopped up with machetes, victims of torture and gang rape, children and teenagers with their arms and legs blown off, and the death, social destruction and dislocation that tear apart the very fabric of a country often forever. Once we have seen it we are compelled to do something about it. We cannot turn our backs on it.
What I have heard is that our soldiers feel the same way. It was perhaps best put most eloquently by a commander of our United Nations forces who said that there was a tremendous feeling of satisfaction when a young man or young woman came home and was able to say: "I helped keep this peace. I helped save lives. I helped people in distress. I helped people who are much worse off than I am". It raises the morale of individuals and collectively contributes to the well being of Canadian forces at large.
Apart from the purely altruistic reasons of continuing these humanitarian efforts there are some very concrete reasons why we should get involved in this venture. By having a leadership role in these multinational peacekeeping efforts, Canada raises its profile, strengthens its positions and gives us leverage across a broad range of diplomatic endeavours.
My philosophy is that we should get involved in these efforts earlier. In that way we can often obviate these situations, not always but sometimes. Bosnia is a case in point. The writing was on the wall in 1987.
I would summarize by suggesting the following. First, we should continue to provide humanitarian aid and not pull out of this endeavour. Remember we are there for the innocent civilians and not the combatants. This is another important point to remember. Many of the fighters and their leaders would like us to be out of this conflict so they can continue to increase the pace of the battle, increase the brutality and the killings. If we ask the civilians whether they want us there, they will tell us yes they do because we are often the difference between life and death for them.
Second, do not use air strikes unless we need to protect our own troops.
Third, we need to strengthen the sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including the freezing of state assets and additional trade restrictions. I would go so far as to say complete isolation of the republic, but I would also engage in trade embargoes and sanctions against any other state that refuses to enter into these peace talks in a legitimate and determined fashion. Bring them to the table.
Fourth, penalize countries which break the embargo that exists with economic and financial penalties. They are being broken now. I suggest we get on them collectively and do something about it.
Fifth, continue with diplomatic efforts and let us play diplomatic hardball with these people with the aforementioned sanctions. I would go so far as threatening them with freezing their assets long after this resolution comes about, if they do not come to the table now.
Sixth, I would demand immediate guarantees for the safe movement of humanitarian aid by UN forces throughout Bosnia.
Seventh, create more safe zones where appropriate.
Eighth, continue with the war crimes tribunal under UN auspices which would hold accountable those individuals responsible for the atrocities that we have seen. I feel that the credibility of international humanitarian law demands a successful conclusion to this endeavour, for if we do not do it the failure of this process will exist. If we do continue, it will act as a deterrent in the future.
Finally, I would strongly suggest to the government and in fact plead with it to continue our humanitarian involvement under the UN auspices for the reasons that I have mentioned before. In fact I can probably summarize by saying if you do not do it now, you pay me now or you pay me later. That is what is going to happen.
I would like to make a personal plea for two brief things in which I think Canada should take a leadership role. First, Canada should act in a leadership role in banning the manufacture and distribution of anti-personnel devices. These devices from Hades have but one function and that is to maim and not kill civilians. We have seen them used with horrific results in Cambodia and other countries. Even when these conflicts are resolved the country is hamstrung. The people cannot move anywhere. They cannot move any goods and services because of these anti-personnel devices. They are truly horrific.
My second point ties into what I said before. We need to look in the future for potential conflicts. One I would bring to the attention of everyone is the Republic of South Africa. It is a tinder box and going into its elections in April is a very sensitive time. I would suggest that the United Nations consider bringing in an interim observation force to ensure that the elections go ahead in a fair and unbiased fashion. If these elections are perceived as being unfair and rigged, then it could lead to a bloody civil war.
I believe my time is up and I thank you for you attention, Mr. Speaker.