January 25, 1994

BQ

André Caron

Bloc Québécois

Mr. André Caron (Jonquière)

I want to thank the hon. member for Portneuf for his remarks. I would like to say a few words about how our people would feel if Canada were to play a greater role in peacekeeping missions and in the training of soldiers for such missions.

For the past few years, a rather lively debate has been taking place in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region on the possibility of locating a firing range in the area for the training of F-18 pilots. As you know, the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region is home to CFB Bagotville, one of the three or four major strategic bases in Canada. By the way, this military base operates completely in French. One of the principal arguments advanced by those who oppose the plans for the firing range is that we can no longer afford to have the armed forces play a traditional role in Canada today. These people want to transform CFB Bagotville into a training base for UN peacekeeping missions. While their intentions may be good, there are many problems underlying this proposal. The fact remains, however, that the people in my region would be prepared to see Canadian and Quebec soldiers go out on peacekeeping missions and maybe even do a little more than that.

People do not like to see television images of civilians suffering, of bombings, deaths and other atrocities. When we

look at the situation in some parts of the world where suffering is widespread, not just Bosnia but Somalia and elsewhere, I think it would not take much for our people to support a more active role by the UN in peacekeeping operations than has traditionally been the case.

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Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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LIB

Morris Bodnar

Liberal

Mr. Morris Bodnar (Saskatoon-Dundurn)

Mr. Speaker, first of all I wish to congratulate you and all the others in the House. That way I can simplify it. It has been mentioned many times over and over.

I wish to take this opportunity as well to thank the voters of my riding of Saskatoon-Dundurn for electing me to this House of Commons. Saskatoon-Dundurn comprises a large part of the city of Saskatoon, a city that we affectionately call the pearl of the prairies. The electorate represents all strata of society and are a true mosaic of cultures, creeds, nationalities and religions. I am proud to represent them as their member of Parliament.

The question that is before us today is obviously a very serious one. Canadian soldiers in Bosnia are in more than just a peacekeeping role. It has been mentioned many times over that they are in a war zone where they are neither aggressors nor combatants. This is a very difficult and extremely dangerous role.

A country has crumbled because of religious and ethnic problems. The citizens of Bosnia have rejected the peaceful methods that Canadians have embraced for years of parliamentary debate. Instead they have embraced the gun and the bomb as their means of communication. As well, as the nation has crumbled the peace process sponsored by the European communities and the United Nations seems to have crumbled. It appears that the different leaders have lost control over their military leaders. This is shown by the fact that every time a truce has been drafted it is broken before the ink has dried on the document. The leaders who appear to be intoxicated with power show the problems of a quest for political power over the value of human life.

However, it is not our job here today to name aggressors or to point fingers. Our primary question is the safety of Canadian military personnel stationed in the former Yugoslav republic and that is the only reason that we are here. It has become clear to many that a military solution to the situation in Bosnia is no longer feasible. What is needed now is a political solution. However, the quest for power and nation building seems to destroy all hope of achieving a political settlement without the intervention of the world community.

We have seen the world community intervene at a number of different times. The European community peace negotiators, the Vance-Owen peace negotiations and the current negotiations in Geneva have all proved fruitless. Ceasefires are signed, ceasefires are broken. Peace plans show hope only to have one party walk away at the last moment. The situation seems bleak at present, bleak of ever reaching a political settlement.

We must be careful to balance this against the needs of the 2.75 million people that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says depend on the humanitarian aid as their sole source of food. This is a weighty question.

We must sit here to balance the lives of 1,800 Canadian personnel versus an estimated three million innocent citizens. However the problem does not stop there. It is estimated that once a peace agreement is signed, if one is ever signed, they will need two times the number of troops they have now in the former Yugoslav republic to monitor the peace accord and to disarm the belligerents.

Therefore by staying, are we just getting ourselves into a project that will turn into another Cyprus where we were for 25 to 30 years? I think the chances of a peace agreement at this time are slim.

I wonder if it would make any difference if today we were speaking in the House had the situation a few weeks ago been one of guns being shot not over our soldiers' heads but at a lower position. If we had dead personnel would we be speaking any different today? I suggest we would be.

I must join with the member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre and say that we should withdraw for now and reassess our position.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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BQ

Gérard Asselin

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gérard Asselin (Charlevoix)

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate on Bosnia since 10 o'clock this morning. I have heard words like democracy, solidarity and peace. I think the fact that we welcomed Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide in our gallery yesterday heightened the awareness of every member of this House because, since this morning, the words democracy, solidarity and peace have popped up in practically every speech.

After meeting with President Aristide, the Minister of Foreign Affairs talked about a "man democratically elected by the population of Haiti". Mr. Ouellet reiterated Canada's wish to see democracy restored in Haiti and President Aristide rapidly reinstated in his post. He said: "Together we will go to the Security Council; it is a concrete step we must take to restore democracy."

Democracy, solidarity and peace-words that have been heard all day and in practically every speech made by members of this House-must be preserved in Yugoslavia, Haiti, Bosnia and Canada. These great democratic principles must guide today's statements and tomorrow's actions.

In closing, we, as members of this House, will have to take a position as soon as possible because the people in Bosnia and our fellow citizens in Quebec and Canada are awaiting our decision. I am convinced that our decision will reassure Cana-

dians, who expect this House to make a decision based on democracy and solidarity.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member for Saskatoon-Dundurn wish to respond?

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Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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LIB

Morris Bodnar

Liberal

Mr. Bodnar

Mr. Speaker, because that was not a question but primarily a comment by the hon. member I have nothing further to add.

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Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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BQ

Gilbert Fillion

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilbert Fillion (Chicoutimi)

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment and a question.

I am somewhat surprised by the remarks the hon. member has made, especially when he talked about withdrawing from Bosnia, while several of his colleagues have told us that withdrawing would mean abandoning the people, who would then starve. It would also cause a crisis in neighbouring regions, with everything that entails. The aggressors would have won and it would mean rape and famine for an entire population.

Am I to understand that the member who just spoke will not support in his caucus a government position which should be first to ensure that Canadian troops are safe and second to help Canada live up to its reputation as a champion of peace on the international scene?

So, the member will be against giving this House the assurance that the Canadian peacekeepers will not be unilaterally pulled out of the former Yugoslavia.

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LIB

Morris Bodnar

Liberal

Mr. Bodnar

Mr. Speaker, we have debated the question, exchanged ideas and listened to all other hon. members who have given their views with respect to these matters.

The purpose of the debate is to exchange and to formulate ideas. Hopefully if the hon. member has further comments with which he can convince other members on the other side of the House as to why his position is more favourable perhaps he can be convincing. That is the reason we are here today.

I can indicate that some of the comments, such as those made earlier today by the hon. member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre were convincing. If the the hon. member who has just posed his comment has further comments that may be convincing I ask him for them.

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LIB

Bernard Patry

Liberal

Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds-Dollard)

Mr. Speaker, the situation of our Canadian UN troops in the former Yugoslavia is worrisome. Mr. Boutros-Ghali said last weekend that he was thinking of using air strikes to free a Canadian contingent stationed in Srebrenica. Obviously, the UN troops' mission is in jeopardy.

Since 1947, Canada is the only country to have participated in all UN peacekeeping missions. This participation has made Canada's presence felt throughout the world. Our peace missions are recognized. They contribute to Canada's international prestige. We have become leaders in the art of keeping peace in the world.

For that matter if we go back a few years ago, members will recall that Mr. Lester B. Pearson was the recipient of the 1957 Nobel prize for the promotion of peace.

The first Canadian involvement in a peacekeeping contingent goes back to 1947 in the Kashmir but it was not until 1956 at the time of the Suez Canal crisis, at the initiative of the Canadian government, that the peacekeeping operations began as we know them today.

On that occasion the then minister of external affairs, Lester B. Pearson, proposed sending troops under the United Nations flag in order to permit the orderly retreat of belligerents from the canal zone. Since then Canadians have never missed a single peace mission.

In 1988, a second peace Nobel prize was awarded to the United Nations international force. At home we pay tribute to our troops. In the fall of 1992 during a monument unveiling ceremony by the Governor General, Mr. Ray Hnatyshyn, the monument was named the Reconciliation.

Until this latest mission in Bosnia, we had lost 80 lives. Our soldiers have often had to live in frightful conditions, but they have managed to carry out their mission. This time, the former Yugoslavia is at war. Will we suffer more loss of life in a single mission than in all the previous ones? Our men and women now have to undergo armed attack without the ability to react. Their families and their children are worried about them. A climate of fear and uncertainty is setting in. They are witnesses to a war, they are not allowed to use their weapons and they stand by powerless as people are massacred. Can we call this a peace mission?

Nevertheless, the UN troops' intervention in Bosnia is important. Canada faces a dilemma. We cannot accept depriving these people of our humanitarian aid and we cannot send our troops on a peace mission in a country at war. We cannot keep peace if there is no peace. We cannot restore peace against the will of the Serbs, the Croats and the Muslims. In this context, Canada is in the best position to help set new rules for peacekeeping. Our action to date has been preventive and it must remain so. We are there to maintain the peace; we represent the peacekeeping forces.

In some incidents during this war in Bosnia, tension was so high between these peoples and the line between legitimate defence and provocation was so thin that action taken by our

men and women could be interpreted as aggression by the belligerents. It would be a pity if Canada's peacekeeping reputation were tarnished because of a situation where the violence and horror of war cancel out our efforts for peace. Can we prevent the recurrence of such dramatic events? Can we afford to continue our peace mission in the world?

All these questions remain unanswered, but we cannot overlook the fact that peace missions cost Canadians dearly. Nevertheless, we think they are essential. When we aim for the essential, we eliminate the superfluous and we avoid waste. If we want to maintain these missions, I am afraid that we will have no choice but to exercise tight control over the expenses incurred and future spending. That is the price we will have to pay if we want to continue to ensure peace.

Peace missions are essential for their humanitarian work, for the relief they provide to the most disadvantaged countries, but also to the men and women who could not have survived the misery created by the famine, drought, floods and devastation of war.

They are also essential for Canada. We have built an excellent reputation, we are present on the international scene, we are the number one peacekeepers in the world. This is an essential role for Canada. Is our presence in Bosnia too costly, will it force us to forgo other missions which could bring peace? Should we withdraw from Bosnia?

British troops are now threatening to withdraw from the United Nations contingent in Bosnia. Let us recall that the United Nations has chosen to name the peacekeeping troops the blue helmets so that the Canadians will be differentiated from the British because of their almost identical uniforms. It is my opinion that threats will not do anything and that we would rather concentrate our efforts to assure that the peacekeeping forces in Bosnia will fulfil the mandate which justifies their very existence and that serious proposals be put forward to end this conflict.

So far, all efforts by the west to end this conflict have failed. The whole situation is very disturbing. What should be the role of Canada in order for it to be the instigator of solutions for this conflict and to prevent the resurgence of similar conflicts elsewhere? Shall we have the means to maintain peace in Yugoslavia after this war has ended or will our position be so weak that for all practical purposes it will be the end of our peace missions?

These are all questions that deserve serious thinking and proper answers if we want to assure the success of our future interventions.

Canadian experts are already present in several developing countries as well as in Russia and Ukraine to initiate these countries to peacekeeping operations. Following the appeal made by Boutros Boutros-Ghali to preserve peace in a more energetic way, it has been suggested that an international training centre for peacekeeping be set up in Lahr, Germany. We all know that Canada will close its base there in 1994. Would this training centre enable us to maintain our role as peacekeepers as well as to make good use of existing facilities? Canada could thus continue to be a leader at the international level. This suggestion certainly has some merit and deserves careful consideration to determine the likely benefits of such a centre, whose objective could be the prevention of other conflicts.

The war in Bosnia is serious and tragic. Not only because of the hardships and the violence which prevail in that country, but also for the families of our soldiers who live in fear while waiting for the return of their loved ones. Those families hope that Canada will continue to fulfil its peacekeeping role in a climate of peace.

One cannot maintain peace if there is no peace. Canada is a peaceful country. This was implied and demonstrated and our reputation is solid on that matter. We have an important role to play on the international scene as a peacekeeping country. The members of our peace missions know that their involvement is crucial and very often is the last hope of populations that are continuously living in a state of disturbance and dissension.

Canada can fulfil its peacekeeping obligations. Peacekeeping means that we can act before a situation degenerates into a conflict and that we can maintain peace after a conflict has ended. We have a role to play both before and after a war. If we intervene before a conflict occurs, we may be able to avoid wars and preserve peace.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Pierrefonds for illustrating how complex the situation is and how difficult it is to make a decision. In one hour, we will come to the end of a debate during which members of Parliament will have provided the government with useful information. We will have the choice between a withdrawal of our troops, the status quo, or a solution which seems more appropriate to me, namely to restore the conditions for success. It is very encouraging to know that according to the Stoltenberg-Owen plan, thus named since Mr. Stoltenberg took over from Mr. Cyrus Vance, we could be very close to a solution. Indeed, we could be extremely close to an agreement and negotiations will resume on February 10. Conse-

quently, any decision made by the Government of Canada will have an influence on those negotiations.

I want to ask the hon. member for Pierrefonds if he thinks that the Canadian government should take a stand in the next few days, or if it would be preferable to wait until shortly before April 1st, when our commitment will end, to announce, based on the status of the negotiations, if it is appropriate to maintain our presence in Bosnia, given the very significant impact of that role for Canada's reputation as a peacekeeper, a reputation which it has developed over the last few decades?

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Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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LIB

Bernard Patry

Liberal

Mr. Patry

Mr. Speaker, to answer that question I would say that this is a very personal issue. The Government of Canada should immediately engage in negotiations with the concerned parties, especially with the UN, to somehow renegotiate the agreements ensuring its presence in the former Yugoslavia because, for all practical purposes, Canada must remain there to maintain peace in that area. We must not in any way avoid our obligations at the international level. And Canada's role on the international scene is a humanitarian role. Therefore, in my opinion, Canada's peacekeeping role must be maintained in the former Yugoslavia.

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BQ

Louis Plamondon

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Richelieu)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that the hon. member is clearly in favour of maintaining peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia, so as to avoid a slaughter of the population, especially the Bosnian people.

However, many Canadians and Quebecers are concerned about the cost of maintaining those peacekeepers. Earlier I referred to a reform of our military budget.

Would the hon. member tell us which solution he advocates to maintain our peacekeepers over there while keeping tax increases at a minimum?

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LIB

Bernard Patry

Liberal

Mr. Patry

Mr. Speaker, I learned something earlier from the member for Portneuf, who represents the same political party as the member for Richelieu, to the effect that it would cost each Canadian taxpayer 25 cents a day to maintain Canada's peacekeepers in the former Yugoslavia.

I think this is a very small price to pay to maintain our humanitarian aid over there, and I would be prepared to fight in the Liberal caucus for the monies and credits required to ensure that peace.

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REF

Jim Abbott

Reform

Mr. Jim Abbott (Kootenay East)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make note of the fact that the Minister of National Defence is in the House and the fact that he has spent an inordinate amount of time considering his responsibilities in being in the House and listening personally to this debate. I think that it says something very positive about the direction in which the government is going in taking the views of the members of this House seriously when attempting to come to a broader consideration and determination of where it wants to be going. I thank him for being here.

I would like in my intervention to broaden the discussion just somewhat on the basis of the order of the government's business when it speaks of the possible future direction of Canadian peacekeeping policy and operations. In taking a look at a future approach, I would suggest that we have to be businesslike.

As I come from a business background that is an easy thing to say, but there are many things to be taken positively in the business environment. When we take a look at business and managing affairs we take a look at the fact for example that there must be measurements, yardsticks and goal posts that we can measure things by. We must have a plan. We must have objectives and goals.

We think often of the number of times when we have heard jokes made and sometimes we forget about the original purpose of when. Often we get drawn into these things as a nation when we forget what our original purpose is. Therefore, it is important that we take a look at the definition of what we are doing in terms of peacekeeping.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a briefing by the national defence department. I apologize to the House that I did not make accurate notes and so I do not know the time frame. However, my understanding is that the peacekeeping forces world-wide-not Canadian, but all of the peacekeeping forces-in a very short period of time have expanded from 10,000 to 80,000. This is rather a boy scout, altruistic approach on the part of the of the world community where the world community sees a problem and jumps into it. We have in the world a situation of increasing complexity and danger not only for our soldiers but indeed for the soldiers of all the world.

As has been noted in many interventions, Canadians have a very proud peacekeeping history. We have spoken about ourselves and I believe our interventions have been accurate that we have that history of being the originators of the idea and the actions of peacekeeping.

In this same briefing it was noted that two very valid reasons were because of our emphasis on multinational diplomacy and also in support of the United Nations. I believe as members of this House representing Canadians that Canadians too want Canada to support the United Nations.

However, going further with the criterion as to how decisions are made concerning whether we should be involved in a peacekeeping effort, we take a look at the three.

First, there is agreement by parties to a peaceful settlement. Coming from a constituency that happens to include the majority of the Canadian Rockies, I come from a very beautiful but remote area. We have all sorts of very large wildlife there and it makes me think of walking down a path with a 22 calibre rifle and coming across a grizzly bear in rutting season. I would really have to think twice about what I was going to do simply because I would be wondering what the bear was going to to.

Truly if we as a nation are going to become involved in these situations where we have 500, 1,000 or 1,500 people and we are up against an array of tens of thousands of combatants, is it not somewhat like walking down a trail and coming across a grizzly bear when I only have a 22 calibre rife in my hand?

Second, we must also know what clear mandate we have to be there.

Third, we must have a sound financial and logical basis for being there.

Narrowing the focus for just a second to specifically the situation in Bosnia, I must profess that I do not necessarily understand, and perhaps many Canadians do not understand, if we do in fact have a sound financial and logistical basis for being there.

If I may I would like to share a brief story about what happened on my first day in Parliament. The member for Fraser Valley East and I were on a tour with our wives and the four of us ended up in the Remembrance Chapel at the base of the Peace Tower. I recommend it to all members. It was a riveting experience. We were there at 11 o'clock. If one has the good fortune of being there at 11 o'clock one will be there when they turn the pages of the books of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the war. It was a very moving experience because it gave me a real feeling of what it is to be a Canadian and what price has been paid so that we have the freedom of speech we have here tonight in this House of Commons.

I thank those dead people, but what about the ones who are living? What about the ones who are currently facing danger and threat every single second that they are in these theatres of war? I personally cannot possibly imagine the fear that must grip an individual in those situations. They come back but they have emotional scars. This is a price they and their families pay when they come back. When these brave men and women of our Canadian forces come back their families have to deal with their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters or children who have been there and have been changed because of the experience. There is a tremendous price. There is a real cost to being involved in a war as we are.

Reflecting again on my experience in the Remembrance Chapel I wondered to myself how many of these brave men and women died as a result of quick decisions, forced decisions. As we are going forward and want to broaden the approach by taking a look at the future direction of peacekeeping in Canada I ask: Can we take the time? Can we take deliberate action? Can we set the goals for measurement? Can we plan? Can we gain an original purpose for why we are there?

My own feeling is that we must continue in peacekeeping. Our world needs our interventions in peacekeeping. In his intervention the member for Red Deer, my colleague in the Reform Party, suggested using some of the bases and some of our expertise to export peacekeeping understanding and peacekeeping lessons. It was an excellent suggestion but we must measure the cost.

The Reform Party probably for the last three or four days in the House has spoken only in terms of cost. Whenever we talk about that we talk about dollars and cents. I would like to reflect for a second on the emotional cost, the cost of those who will pay the ultimate sacrifice.

With respect to Bosnia in the short term I would agree with the other members who suggest that if we do something precipitous, if we do something quickly, we will create danger for the people in that theatre of war. Furthermore if we telegraph what we are going to be doing, in other words if we are too obvious with where we are coming from, we create self-fulfilling prophesy. Truly we are caught in a bind.

I believe we must not do something precipitous. We must be prepared to cut our loss but to do it intelligently and with planning. We must resist at all cost instant solutions. Far too often in our community we see instant solutions, the desire for instant solutions. We must take deliberate action.

As a very proud Canadian I sometimes feel that as a nation we end up with boy scout or altruistic actions, taking a reaction to world events. Rather than being pulled along by the world community into these peacekeeping situations I believe we must become more businesslike in our decision making so that we may manage our future direction.

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Subtopic:   Foreign Affairs
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BQ

Suzanne Tremblay

Bloc Québécois

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski-Témiscouata)

I wish to thank the member who spoke before me; his presentation was very clear and to the point. But I would like to add a comment. Last November 27, in my riding, I met thirty young soldiers returning from Bosnia who were celebrating with the families of thirty other soldiers who had just left for Bosnia.

While talking with them, I realized something that several of my colleagues mentioned today. It seemed like they were not

fully aware of the experience they had just been through. Granted they had not been back long, but it seems to me they had not received as thorough a training as they should have had, given the type of work they were expected to do.

Going back to what my colleague just said, that we needed to establish criteria, to give very clear mandates, to have a sound financial basis and so on, I would like to know if he thought about the training of the troops, if he thought about that aspect of the issue?

On that point, does he agree with the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra who talked about the need, for example, to explain to young militiamen what is at stake politically so that they would not only understand the tactics and get the sophisticated training they need to face whatever danger they will encounter, but also learn the social and political dimensions of the type of intervention they will be asked to perform in those countries.

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?

The Deputy Speaker

Does the member for Kootenay East want to treat that as a question or as a representation? Does he wish to reply?

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REF

Jim Abbott

Reform

Mr. Abbott

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reply by saying that I do believe our soldiers must receive all the training required without any question and at whatever cost. However I do not know there is any possible way that people can be trained for the emotional scars that occur in a theatre of war.

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LIB

John Bryden

Liberal

Mr. John Bryden (Hamilton-Wentworth)

Mr. Speaker, I found the remarks of the hon. member to be very informative. I was very struck by his suggestion that we bring sound businesses practices to what is essentially war.

Would the hon. member mind elaborating on how we put humanitarian aid on a sound financial footing?

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REF

Jim Abbott

Reform

Mr. Abbott

Mr. Speaker, the member has suggested humanitarian problems. Obviously these things happen very quickly.

In terms of humanitarian activity, the situation in the former Yugoslavia is such that there are combatants creating serious difficulties for the humanitarian aid to come through. May I suggest there has to be a logical businesslike approach to see if we or any other peacekeeping nation or force is actually going to be able to accomplish the purpose.

There must be intervention in terms of the supplies and those kinds of things but the question always must be: Can we get it there? I believe that is measurable.

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BQ

Pierre Brien

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Brien (Témiscamingue)

Mr. Speaker, since the question and comment period is almost over, I will be brief.

I may not have understood exactly what the hon. member said about the cost of humanitarian interventions. I would like him to explain again what he thinks about the money being spent on peacekeeping operations. Does he think that we should maintain or even increase the amount spent in this area, even if it means reducing other expenditures in the military? Does he consider the money spent on humanitarian intervention a priority?

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REF

Jim Abbott

Reform

Mr. Abbott

Mr. Speaker, the point the member raises is a valid one. I hold in my hand some photocopies of an article in the Globe and Mail on the weekend in which our Minister of National Defence was quoted as saying that there was going to be some pretty stiff medicine. The headline was: ``Cuts are going to be deep''.

This is part of the measurement. This is part of the decision-making process the Canadian people must make. Is this something they are prepared to commit to? If so, in terms of dollars and cents they will have to commit those dollars and cents.

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January 25, 1994