January 12, 1970

HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES

OFFICIAL REPORT


Queen's Printer for Canada, Ottawa, 1970



Monday, January 12, 1970


PRESENCE OF TELEVISION CAMERAS IN FOYER-PROVISION OF OTHER SPACE

IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

As hon. members are aware, television cameras have been located for some time in the foyer adjacent to the House of Commons. Propriety of this procedure has been considered by the Chair in consultation with House Leaders and with the executive of the Press Gallery. It was agreed by all concerned, in the course of these lengthy discussions covering several months, that the decision should be left with the Chair. The decision has been made that on an experimental basis, the foyer should no longer be used for this purpose. To give effect to the decision Room 110-S, located at the foot of the stairs leading to the foyer, has been made available to the Press Gallery for the purpose indicated, in addition to Room 154-D which was already available to members of the Press Gallery for radio and television interviews. Technical objections having been made to the use of this particular space, Room 238-S has also been allocated to the Press Gallery on a temporary basis for interviews following Orders of the Day.

This decision has had the effect of bringing into focus a long-standing problem, that of television and radio coverage of the House and its committee proceedings. In view of the wide interest shown in the situation, I have taken the liberty of consulting with the House Leaders and suggesting to them, as they are representative of the members of all parties in the House, that the whole issue should be considered forthwith by the Standing Committee on Procedure and Organization. I propose to have a further meeting with the House Leaders in the hope that a suitable reference will be made as soon as possible.

I think I should insist that in so far as I am particularly concerned, as the custodian of the dignity of the House of Commons and its proceedings, I feel as strongly as ever today that the foyer should not be used as it has in the past for the purpose of radio and television interviews. It is my hope that the House Leaders and the Committee on Procedure and Organization, in consultation with representatives of the Press Gallery, can find a solution which will be acceptable to all concerned.

[DOT] (2:10 p.m.)

Topic:   PRESENCE OF TELEVISION CAMERAS IN FOYER-PROVISION OF OTHER SPACE
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ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

LIB

Mitchell William Sharp (Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Liberal

Hon. Mitchell Sharp (Secretary of State for External Affairs):

Mr. Speaker, hon. members will no doubt wish to know what steps the government is taking with regard to the rapidly changing situation in Nigeria. The latest information we have is that the Commander in Chief of the Biafran forces has ordered his troops to stop fighting and has asked General Gowon for an immediate cease-fire. The government welcomes General Gowon's statement of reassurance to the supporters of the Biafran cause. Bringing hostilities to an end in a territory like that of Eastern Nigeria inevitably results in confusion. The government hopes that General Gowon will spare no effort in maintaining the discipline of his forces and protecting the lives of all the peoples of Nigeria.

We have, at the moment, two senior officers of the Canadian Armed Forces in the area of operations as part of the International Military Observer Team. The government is offering to provide more observer personnel.

The need for relief is bound to increase very rapidly. The government considers it of first importance that outside relief activity should be co-ordinated on an international basis in co-operation with the government of Nigeria, preferably under the aegis of the Red Cross. With this in mind, we are in touch with the Nigerian government and other governments concerned with relief activities. There are considerable stocks of food and other supplies in Nigeria and neighbouring countries, including ports like Cotonou and Sao Tome. The immediate problem is to move these supplies rapidly and effectively into the areas where they are most urgently required.

January 12, 1970

Biafran Relief

Now that hostilities have ended we hope that it will be possible to open up land supply routes. We have also asked our High Commissioner in Lagos to reiterate to the Nigerian government our willingness to mount an air drop operation without delay if this is the only means whereby relatively large stocks of food can be delivered quickly to otherwise inaccessible areas.

As announced on Friday, the government is providing $500,000 to the Nigerian Red Cross, $500,000 to the Nigerian Rehabilitation Commission and $250,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross to aid in the delivery of food and other relief operations. Immediate steps are being taken to make these funds available and the government is exploring ways in which additional funds might effectively be used. As and when it should be required, we are prepared to provide aircraft for an airlift. Canadian Armed Forces Hercules are standing by for these operations. These should be regarded as essential interim measures because, in the long run, supplies in the quantities needed must be delivered by surface transport.

To assist our High Commission to deal with a vastly increased work load and with the special requirements that will be placed upon it, we are sending a small group of experts in relief, transportation and other fields to Lagos.

I am sure that members on all sides of the House will agree with me that we must spare no effort in co-operation with other interested nations to ensure that the tragic war in Nigeria is not followed by disastrous famine and unnecessary suffering.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-PLANS FOR RELIEF SUPPLIES AND ADDITIONAL OBSERVERS FOLLOWING CEASE-FIRE
Permalink
PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, this is certainly not a time for recriminations about government policy touching on this very tragic situation. Nevertheless we must say that the maladroitness and ineffectiveness of the government's policies with regard to the Nigerian-Biafran difficulty to date have created a feeling of uneasiness on the part of all those in this country who are concerned about what may happen there now. After a very bitter and bloody war there is bound to be a legacy of bitterness which one can only hope will be overcome by appropriate arrangements. There has also been a very genuine fear of genocide on the part of the Biafrans, and it is not merely confined to the Biafrans because His

Holiness the Pope and others have expressed concern about the possibility of genocide, either actively or through starvation.

The government of Canada is now offering to supply additional military observers, but the Secretary of State for External Affairs has not indicated the extent to which Canada is pressing for this; neither has he indicated acceptance of the government's proposal or where that proposal stands. It is vitally important not only that the team of observers be enlarged but that it should have freedom of movement. It should have not only the theoretical right to go to various parts of the country but the ability to get there. There has been a terrible loss of life, sir, and we must do all we can to keep any further loss of life to a minimum.

We, like the government, welcome the willingness expressed by the governments of Britain, United States, France and other countries to participate in measures to bring relief, but surely this has to be considered in its totality. The government should not simply offer to make observers available but should take the initiative to ensure that such a team is at work in the field to report on what is actually going on there. Furthermore, the relief that is needed should be in a forward position.

The Secretary of State for External Affairs stated that a lot of supplies were available nearby. Can he assure us that the supplies that are immediately required are available? For example, will additional truck transportation be required immediately to make this relief available to the various parts of the country? Is the government now using Hercules aircraft and is it doing its part to ensure that trucks are being put in a forward position to be able to respond when required?

I agree with what the Secretary of State for External Affairs has said about the importance of co-ordination. Obviously it is of vital importance; otherwise relief efforts could degenerate into chaos. The minister has said that Canada has made a proposal, but what response has the government of Canada received? Time is of the essence. It is not a matter for long discussions with the government of Nigeria and personal emissaries going to Lagos. There must not be the sort of delay there has been in the past. Time and vigour are of the essence.

We want more than just a general statement of intentions. We want to know what is going on. We need to send observers there in

January 12, 1970

adequate numbers. We need far more information than the Secretary of State for External Affairs has given us regarding the response. What is the actual state of these proposals put forward? To what extent are they being received? What action in fact is being taken? All we have heard from the Secretary of State for External Affairs are general assurances about the willingness of the government of Canada to do certain things. We want to know what is going on. We want action and not only pious declarations.

At the conclusion of the comments on the statement made by the Secretary of State for External Affairs I will seek the unanimous consent of the House to have the House give instructions to the Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence with regard to the continuing surveillance of the government's program.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-PLANS FOR RELIEF SUPPLIES AND ADDITIONAL OBSERVERS FOLLOWING CEASE-FIRE
Permalink
NDP

Francis Andrew Brewin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Andrew Brewin (Greenwood):

Mr. Speaker, it has now become clear that the military operations in Nigeria and Biafra are coming to an end, but that does not necessarily mean that the immense tragedy that has taken place there cannot be compounded and continued unless there is urgent and immediate action within a matter of hours. I want to reinforce what the Leader of the Opposition has said, that this is a question of hours, not of days or weeks. Something must be done right away.

[DOT] (2:20 p.m.)

The present method of feeding four million people in this unhappy country by airlift has necessarily been disrupted for the time being. Many people are on a knife-edge; threatened daily and hourly by death through starvation. In these circumstances it will be necessary not only to mount a massive international effort in the long run but to use the existing facilities provided by the people who are already there, the people who are operating the feeding centres, in the short run, which means within the next day or two. I put it to the Secretary of State for External Affairs that if there was ever a need for urgent and immediate action it is now.

I wish to pay tribute on this occasion to those gallant people who fought so tenaciously for independence and survival, as they saw it, against heavy odds. I wish to pay tribute also to all those who planned, executed and carried through the magnificent, imaginative and heroic air operation which, as I said ear-

Biafran Relief

lier, has saved up to two million people from starvation despite immense hazards and difficulties. I refer to the operations under Joint Church Aid and, initially, the International Red Cross.

It seems to me the new situation imposes heavy obligations on the international community which permitted this situation to develop. There is need not only for an expanded military observer team, as the Secretary of State for External Affairs indicated, but for a substantially expanded team whose membership would not be confined to the military alone. There is an obligation on the international community to ensure that the fear of genocide does not turn into one of the tragic facts of this generation.

There is also a long term need to organize an international community which would be able to intervene even in civil wars to preserve human rights and lives. We cannot afford in this world to experience tragedies like Biafra.

In view of the large number of questions which still arise despite the statement of the Secretary of State for External Affairs, and the immense concern of the Canadian people, I shall put forward, when the occasion arises, a motion that this matter be debated further today.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-PLANS FOR RELIEF SUPPLIES AND ADDITIONAL OBSERVERS FOLLOWING CEASE-FIRE
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RA

Bernard Dumont

Ralliement Créditiste

Mr. Bernard Dumont (Frontenac):

Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of 1970, we have gone through very tragic hours and very dark days. The Ralliement creditiste has been calling the attention of the government to the problems of Biafra and Nigeria far the past two years.

We note, following the minister's statement, that the government can act quickly when it wants to. It is unfortunate that this action has not been taken without any political consideration, in order to prevent the starvation of Biafrans and Nigerians. The genocide of Biaf-rans is really an unfortunate event.

We cannot understand why Canada did not intervene before today. I think that love of lucre was stronger than Christian charity. Unfortunately, pressures to prevent England from selling arms to Nigeria failed. We have rendered valuable services to that country in the past and stronger pressures from us would surely have brought results.

Finally, since the tragedy is now over, I would suggest to the Secretary of State for External Affairs that we could send to Nigeria,

January 12, 1970

Biafran Relief

besides military observers, representatives of all parties of the House who could examine the problems on the scene.

If members of Parliament can attend United Nations meetings as observers, can go to Paris, to India or to any other country, why would it not be passible for representatives of each party accompanied by military observers to visit the scene of the hostilities in order to get clear and precise information about the situation and to report to the House so that the government will be in a position to take the steps necessary to eliminate misery from that part of the world.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-PLANS FOR RELIEF SUPPLIES AND ADDITIONAL OBSERVERS FOLLOWING CEASE-FIRE
Permalink
PC

Robert Lorne Stanfield (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 43 I ask unanimous consent of the House to move the following motion:

That the Standing Committee on External Affairs and National Defence be instructed to take under consideration immediately the plans of the government to give assistance to the victims of the Nigerian-Biafran conflict; that the committee exercise continuing surveillance over the efforts of the Canadian government in this respect; and report with all possible speed to this House as to the adequacy of the measures proposed and recommend any further measures it considers appropriate.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
LIB

Donald Stovel Macdonald (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Macdonald (Rosedale):

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, we on this side of the House would be quite prepared to have the committee study this question if it is agreeable that the question on the motion be put without debate today.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order. Hon. members have heard the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, which can be accepted only by unanimous agreement. There may be a difficulty in that the President of the Privy Council has placed a condition on putting the motion which places the Chair in a somewhat embarrassing position. Since there can be no debate under the rules I can only ask whether there is unanimous agreement to the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, though I am willing to hear any member on the point of order raised by the President of the Privy Council.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas (Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands):

Mr. Speaker, I should like to raise one point. The motion has been placed before the House under Standing Order 43.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
LIB

Donald Stovel Macdonald (President of the Privy Council; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Macdonald (Rosedale):

No, it has not.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
NDP

Thomas Clement (Tommy) Douglas

New Democratic Party

Mr. Douglas (Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands):

All there is for the House to decide is whether or not unanimous consent is forthcoming. I do not think that any member or any party in the House can put a proviso on their approval. As far as we are concerned we are prepared to give unanimous support.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
IND

Lucien Lamoureux (Speaker of the House of Commons)

Independent

Mr. Speaker:

Order. I am in agreement with the point of order raised by the hon. member for Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands, who raised the same point I had in mind. I was trying to be helpful to hon. members, but according to the terms of Standing Order 43 I can ask only whether there is unanimous consent to the putting of the motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Is there unanimous consent of the House for the Chair to put the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition?

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
Permalink
?

Some hon. Members:

No.

Topic:   ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS
Subtopic:   EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Sub-subtopic:   NIGERIA-BIAFRA-REQUEST FOR UNANIMOUS CONSENT TO MOVE MOTION UNDER S.O. 43
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January 12, 1970