February 17, 2004

NDP

Joe Comartin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Joe Comartin (Windsor—St. Clair, NDP)

Madam Chair, I understand the committee issued a report, which I think was a unanimous report, indicating that we should not proceed with participation in this without further discussion and further reasons for participating.

If I am right about that, and I think I am, what has changed? I cannot say that we have had much further consultation since those committee meetings, but what has changed?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Pat O'Brien

Liberal

Mr. Pat O'Brien

Madam Chair, I guess one of the regrets I have is that very few members of the House, on either side quite frankly, have taken the opportunity to look at the report the committee submitted in June 2000 and which I had the honour to table in the House.

The committee was not unanimous because the Alliance Party, as I said, even before the hearings were held and even before the Americans were asking anything of us, said that we should just salute and definitely join this missile system.

To answer my colleague, the report was, what I would term, a summative report. It was a report to cabinet and to the Parliament of Canada. It summarized all the evidence that we had, both pro and con, but did not recommend that we participate or not participate. I just wanted to clarify that for my colleague. The report did say that further discussion was warranted by the Government of Canada. That is the track we are on tonight.

What the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence are saying is that further negotiations and discussions on such an important system are required. Surely that is warranted between Canada and our bilateral defence partner, the United States of America.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)

Madam Chair, I want to perhaps set the record straight. The hon. member for London--Fanshawe attacked my colleague who spoke earlier to the issue, the member for Okanagan--Coquihalla, saying that he had somehow misrepresented the situation during his remarks earlier this evening when he congratulated the government on finally catching up to our position.

The member for London--Fanshawe said that was not the case and then turned around and basically said that it was by stating that we have been on the record for quite some time now saying that we should be involved in this.

We looked at this issue back in 1999 and 2000 and came to the conclusion that Canada should be rightfully involved in this through Norad as our allies had requested as they moved down this road to try and get this missile defence shield in place to protect not only the United States of America, but Canada as well. Yet he is critical of that. I do not understand where he is coming from because he was critical of that and yet he has readily admitted that the government is finally, although belatedly, moving in that direction.

He says that the government wants to have more discussion on this but the fact is that we have been discussing it and government, supposedly, has been discussing this with our ally, the United States, for some eight years now. How long will it go on discussing this before making a bloody decision?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Pat O'Brien

Liberal

Mr. Pat O'Brien

Madam Chair, I am not interested in being terribly partisan on this issue and I did not intend to attack anybody. However I did take umbrage and I will repeat the umbrage. When that member, the one the member mentioned, spoke earlier this evening he said that we had somehow come on board with the former Alliance position. That is patently wrong.

With all due respect, neither the member who just spoke nor the Conservative member who gave the speech were part of the SCONDVA hearings that I referenced earlier in 1999 and 2000. At that time the Alliance Party was clearly on record as saying that we should announce our full participation with the United States in BMD. That is not even yet the position of the government. The Prime Minister has not said that nor have any of the relevant ministers.

What we have said is that we want to continue to move further into negotiations with the United States to look at what our possible participation might be and to see if it is in the national self-interest of Canadians.

With all due respect to my colleague, that is quite different than saying we must definitely go ahead and participate in this missile defence system.

We have not come on board to the member's position. In fact, the Alliance Party's position, with all due respect, in my view, was premature. I understood where they were coming from but it was premature.

To this point the Government of Canada is not yet up to that position. We may well move in that direction and I may well feel that we should move in that direction but that is the purpose of the negotiations: to see if that is the decision the government will take in the self-interest of Canadians.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill

Madam Chair, I am trying to get to the bottom of this.

The hon. member is stating that the Liberals are not following our position but that is exactly what they are doing. It is almost like we have to drag them kicking and screaming toward the position of supporting our allies on this important issue.

Because he has, as he has said, been involved in the discussions, how long does he think these negotiations will go on? Is eight years long enough to make a decision that this particular defence agreement between two nations for the continental defence of North America is in the national best interest of Canada?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Pat O'Brien

Liberal

Mr. Pat O'Brien

Madam Chair, let me reiterate for my colleague that in June of 2000, as everyone will recall, we were moving to a rather important event called a federal election. The Alliance Party at that time was categorical that we should have already announced, definitively, our full participation with the United States in this ballistic missile defence system. That was the position of his party at that time. That was not the position of my party or the Government of Canada at that time.

The position of the Liberal Party was that this was something that was very important, that we ought to engage in negotiations with the United States and that we ought to see what the pros and cons of potential Canadian participation would be. The two positions were quite different.

We have not adopted the position of the former Alliance Party because if we had done that, we would have announced it three or four years ago. The fact is that we are in intensive negotiations to weigh the pros and cons of whether Canada will make a decision to participate.

I do not know where my colleague comes up with the eight year figure. This system was announced by President Clinton. It was in its infancy in 1998 or 1999. This is not a series of negotiations that has been going on for eight years. Maybe he and I could talk later and I could find out where he gets this misconception.

As one individual Canadian and one individual member of Parliament I believe that we ought to move toward participation in this missile defence system with the United States. After all, we are a full partner in Norad.

Where he and I differ is that I want all the facts in front of me. I want to have, as the Prime Minister has said, a fulsome debate in the House and in the country. I want to involve Canadians before I simply salute and tell the Americans that we will come on board. We need a national debate and the debate tonight is part of that national debate. That is a major point of difference between his party and mine, with all due respect.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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BQ

Bernard Bigras

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Bernard Bigras (Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, BQ)

Madam Chair, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to take part in today's take note debate on the missile defence shield. Although this is an evening debate, it is nonetheless giving parliamentarians a chance to express their views on an important issue.

The position I will express today on this is based on two fundamental principles, two values which are fundamental to Quebec society. The first of these is that the Quebec people is a peace loving people. Hon. members will recall how Quebeckers manifested their firm opposition to the conflict in Iraq, with demonstrations in the streets of Montreal.

Second in importance for Quebeckers are democratic values.

My position is, therefore, based on two values: pacifism and democracy.

First of all, what is the missile defence shield? It is a system of radar to detect enemy missiles, and of interceptors to destroy those missiles.

We must look at what the development plan presented to us today by the U.S. government represents, a plan on which Canadian MPs and the Canadian government would be required to take a position.

First of all, the present plan comprises some thirty interceptor missiles that will be in place on sea or land by the fall of 2004. There would be another twenty or so by 2005; seagoing detection radar will be installed; a fleet of missile-detection satellites—as many as 24—and then orbital interceptors in 2012. Lastly, an Airborne laser-equipped aircraft.

Since this debate began this evening, the government, both the Minister of External Affairs and the Minister of National Defence, have been trying to convince us that the project as presented at this time is not about the militarization of space.

How do they explain, then, that the development plan includes a fleet of detection satellites, up to 24 of them? How can they say this is not the militarization of space, when there will be orbiting interceptors as early as 2012?

It is written in the development plan. If the Minister of National Defence is honest with this House he will admit one thing. He even admitted it this evening, when he said , “We cannot predict what will happen in 20, 30 or 50 years”. He admitted it this evening, when he said that we do not know what the future holds.

Except that we have before us a plan that, in effect, opens the door to the militarization of space. When we look at the schedule presented here today, there is something for this House to worry about. There is something for Quebeckers to worry about.

For example, the plan assumes that the Pentagon has planned to develop and deploy 10 missiles in Alaska, in California and at sea in 2004. By 2005, 16 land-based interceptor missiles will be installed at Alaskan bases and 4 more in California.

Not only is this plan very clear, but so is the schedule. Therefore, there is something to worry about because the costs of this project are astronomical. As my colleagues have already pointed out, the United States Missile Defence Agency, as the lead agency, has worked out budget plans for 2004 to 2009.

In early January, the Minister of National Defence of Canada wrote to his American counterpart to announce that Canada would participate in the project, and that there were only details to be worked out. There is something to worry about here, because the costs are estimated at upwards of $60 billion.

The conclusion we can draw today is that, in the end, the missile defence shield is useless because, as we must admit, it could never prevent the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

Moreover, this missile defence shield involves weak technology. In nine tests where the targets were very well known, only five succeeded. Four tests failed. That is inadequate technology that should be studied much more closely, in our opinion.

Finally, the costs are astronomical. If we apply the funding formula under Norad, Canada should spend at least $3 billion U.S., or 5% of the $60 billion currently forecast. A per capita funding formula would mean that $7 billion Canadian would be required over the next five years alone. It is therefore clear that the costs of this project are astronomical.

It also means ignoring the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade which, in June 2000, concluded that the government should not take any measures concerning the missile defence systems being developed in the United States, because the technology has not yet been approved or tested and details concerning their deployment are not known.

Parliamentarians must insist, at the very least, on a free vote on this issue. Each member of this House, particularly members from Quebec, must consider the distinct character of Quebec when voting. Quebeckers have voiced their views on numerous occasions during the Iraq conflict. If seven out of ten Canadians are in favour of the missile defence program, I am utterly convinced that seven out of ten Quebeckers are opposed.

In our opinion, the voice of pacifism and democracy must take precedence, not the voice of the American administration which withdrew from the ABM treaty and clearly indicated, a few weeks later, that it supported and approved of an missile defence program.

If the government wants to respect democracy, it will allow a free vote on this issue. I was happy to hear today that various Liberal members are opposed to the missile defence program. However, if the renewal and freedom of expression that this government and the Prime Minister have called for during the past few weeks are to mean anything, parliamentarians must be allowed to freely express themselves and vote freely on this issue, in order to reflect the values they hold dear.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Art Eggleton (York Centre, Lib.)

Madam Chair, in the period since the end of the Cold War we have seen a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems. We have seen a diffusion of technology going throughout the world that has been used in those cases to develop chemical, biological and perhaps even nuclear weapons.

We have heard just in the last few days about nuclear secrets coming out of Pakistan. Just in the last year or two, we have seen the development of two-stage missile systems, medium to long range missile systems out of North Korea, not necessarily for their own use but perhaps for sales to others.

If this trend continues, then it is quite conceivable that somewhere in future years we could see a launching of an intercontinental ballistic missile against a city in North America with a nuclear or some other kind of warhead on it.

I would think that if that kind of circumstance were to occur, I would not see that anybody would object if we could send up a missile to destroy that incoming missile before it hit its target.

That is all we are talking about. We are talking about a defensive missile system. It has no warhead on it, but it goes up into space and at a very high speed hits the incoming missile and destroys that missile before it can hit its target and kill literally thousands upon thousands of people.

I do not see why anybody would be against having that kind of system. That kind of system is not star wars. It does not lead to an arms race. It is a completely defensive system. It does not lead us down the path to weaponization of outer space.

I do not believe that we are going to see the Americans go that route any time soon, but even if ultimately they did, there is no reason that we have to be there with them. In fact, we should not be there with them. We oppose the weaponization of outer space.

There are those who say “but if we get into this path of ballistic missile defence it is a slippery slope”. No, it is not. We quite clearly indicated in the war on terrorism that we would go to Afghanistan with our American allies, but we did not go to Iraq. We made a decision that we felt was in our national interest. We went to one and we did not go to the other.

We can make those kinds of distinctions and those kinds of decisions on any other matter, including this whole question of how far to go on these defensive weapons. Weaponization of outer space is something that this country opposes and should continue to oppose.

Nor do we have to go with any substantial capital costs. The Americans have already provided for the capital costs for this system. Quite frankly, we could not afford it in any event. There could be some costs with respect to administration, with respect to operational issues of having additional personnel at Norad, for example, but we would not be participating in any substantial capital costs.

If this sounds like the system is a fait accompli, that is because it is. It is not something that has been invented by the Bush administration. In fact, it is the subject of a piece of legislation that passed through the United States Congress in 1999: the national missile defence act. It was signed into existence by the former president, Bill Clinton. The current president has said that they will deploy missiles starting this fall.

Starting this fall: so I think there is a need to get on with this in discussion with our American allies, because if they are going to make decisions that affect the safety and the security of the people of North America, then I think it is in our national interest to be at the table.

Being at the table involves, to my mind, Norad. Norad is the agency between Canada and the United States that we have had for over 50 years and that has successfully monitored anything coming into the airspace of North America. It detects missiles coming in. It can detect any object from outer space. It detects aircraft. Originally it was designed to detect strategic bombers coming in over the Pole from the Soviet Union as it existed in those days, but today it plays a very important role in detecting anything happening in our airspace.

It was very vital on September 11, 2001. Norad quickly moved to deal with the issues involved and to have planes come into Canada at that particular point in time, as many of them did. They controlled the airspace. There was a Canadian in the command position at the time of the disaster of 9/11, so Canada played a very key role in that.

Norad can detect anything coming in and it can send jet fighters up to deal with anything, except that it does not have missiles. Missiles are the one missing part of a defensive system. If we do have an incoming offensive missile, Norad is the logical entity to be dealing with sending up a defensive missile to destroy it.

I think we need to work that out in the Norad context. If we do not, then the Americans will be making these decisions on their own and we will be left outside the door. It will marginalize Norad. We cannot afford to have that happen. We need to be there. We need to be part of the decision making process. That is certainly in the interests of the people of our country. I hope that is the decision we will ultimately make: to be a partner. That is in our interest.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

John Harvard

Liberal

Hon. John Harvard (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, Lib.)

Madam Chair, it is nice to hear the remarks from my good friend from Toronto. I know that he has been a long-time supporter of our participation in missile defence, particularly in getting into discussions and negotiations leading to something which he believes will be of benefit to Canada. I suppose all of us would like to think that whatever the participation is on the part of Canada, it will benefit and enhance the security of our country.

I think that my friend from Toronto knows as well as I do that the real concern about missile defence is, where does it take us? As proposed, the current proposal is just the first round of technology. There could be a second round of technology. We all know there is deep concern that what it will lead to is weaponization.

That is one of my questions. Does he feel confident? We are opposed to weaponization; that is our policy. Is the member confident that if this project, this technology, whether it is in its first phase, its current phase or some other phase, gets too close, too uncomfortable for us with respect to weaponization, Canada can withdraw?

The second question I have has to do with what I would call the imprimatur of legitimacy. I think what the Americans want from us more than anything is our stamp of approval. They want to say, “Hey, look at those good Canucks, those good, innocent, freedom loving, peace loving Canadians. If they can support missile defence, it cannot be all bad, can it?”

Those are my two questions. I am sure that my good friend, who is quite sanguine on the issue, will give us some good answers.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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?

The Assistant Deputy Chair

I would first like to recognize that I made an error when I called on the member for Charleswood St. James--Assiniboia. He has received an earned position as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade. I apologize.

I would now like to call on the hon. member for York Centre.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Art Eggleton

Madam Chair, we will only go as far as we feel it is in our national interest to go. We do not want to go in the direction of the weaponization of outer space. Even if the Americans eventually go there, we do not have to go there, just as we did not go to Iraq.

We make the decisions that are in our national interest. I believe this is in our national interest, but to go to the weaponization of space is not. I have every confidence that Canadians know where to draw the line, where it is in our interest and where it is not in our interest.

In terms of trying to please the Americans, they are our closest neighbour, our closest friend and ally, and our major trading partner. We certainly want to work with them in terms of defence and security of North America, just as we work together in all those other areas. We have to look at what our interests and our values are. We have to determine whether we can go in this direction with them. Sometimes we will be able to go with them and sometimes we will not.

We will make those kinds of distinctions. I have every confidence that the government and the people of this country will do what is in our own national interest.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough (Halifax, NDP)

Madam Chair, I would just like to pick up on the member's assurances that at any point, if it is not considered in our national interest and it becomes clear that the Americans are headed for the weaponization of space, Canada would just draw the line and pull back.

This is why I raise the question. As I mentioned earlier, my leader Jack Layton and I were in Washington for a day and a half last week. Without exception, the military personnel with whom we met, the U.S. Congress members with whom we met, and the representatives of a number of different, reputable, respected NGOs with whom we met, all said that NMD is simply a way station on the way to the weaponization of space, and that in fact most informed Americans know that NMD cannot work and will not work, that it is an impossibility, that it will never work.

It is like the emperor has no clothes. We talk about NMD. We are going to get through this phase but actually what we are moving to is the weaponization of space because we think that is what we need and that is what we are committed to.

Does the member think that there is really any such thing as Canada signing on to NMD and not finding itself drawn into the weaponization of space, which is, very clearly, from all the documentation available from all sources, precisely where the Bush administration intends to go with this?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Art Eggleton

Madam Chair, not everybody believes that is where it is ultimately going to end, but even given that a lot of people say that--and the member has quoted a number of people--we do not have to be there with them, just as we were not there with them in Iraq. We took a stand. We said no. We did not agree with what they were doing there. We did not agree with them operating outside the multilateral process. We were not going to go that way. People said that we were going to pay a price for that, but we said, “No, we believe that is the right thing to do”.

We will do what we believe is in our interests and what is in the interests of the worldwide community. Weaponization of space is not in the interests of the worldwide community.

If the United States ultimately decides to go there, we will just say no. We are with them in terms of missile defence. It is a discrete system. It is a system that can work.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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NDP

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party

Ms. Alexa McDonough

There is no evidence that it can work.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Art Eggleton

Oh yes, the Americans have had a number of tests that have worked. In fact, for any country that can put a man on the moon and can put the kind of equipment that they have on Mars, it certainly will not take long before they master this technology. They will.

It is a discrete system. It is one that we can sign on to and say, “Yes, that is in the defence of North America. That is a completely defensive system”. As we have said to them quite clearly, “If you go to weaponization of space, we are not going to be there with you”.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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CA

Jay Hill

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, CPC)

Madam Chair, I want to make reference to the latest comment by the member for Halifax. She keeps saying that it is obvious from all of the documentation she has seen that the Bush administration is going to weaponize space, that this is where the Americans are going. The reality is that George Bush might not even be president past November.

Does the hon. member think for a moment that we are going to have weapons in space between now and November? As I said in my speech, if we are faced with that scenario, it is going to be years down the road. The NDP is always holding up this threat of the possible weaponization of space as some reason not to sign on to a land and sea based missile defence shield for North America; it talks about the potential, possible future weaponization of space.

The reality is that if it does happen, it will not happen for a long time and there will be many opportunities for Canadians to voice their concerns about that and to ensure that down the road, if that is the direction they take, we do not participate in that facet of the agreement.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Art Eggleton

Liberal

Hon. Art Eggleton

Madam Chair, the member is quite correct. Even if George Bush were to be re-elected, there is no way that this system, any kind of weaponization of space, could possibly be deployed in his time as president and certainly Canada would not be there. Canada would not be supporting that.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Sheila Copps

Liberal

Hon. Sheila Copps (Hamilton East, Lib.)

Madam Chair, it is certainly relevant that the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, who resigned from the Liberal Party today, said that one of the reasons he left the party was he felt that the opportunities to express different points of view were no longer as welcome as they had been in the past.

If there is an issue upon which there are certainly diverse points of view in this Liberal Party, it is indeed this issue. I am heartened by the fact that with this take note debate we will be able to hear the points of view of many different Canadians, including many Liberals, who have serious concerns about the course that is being charted by the government.

As I was reviewing some material in advance of this evening, I came across a letter, and I have had dozens of letters cross my desk on this issue. I thought this letter summarized better than any letter why the son of star wars should not be a choice for Canada. It is a letter addressed to the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs. It states:

Although joining Star Wars has some practical benefits for Canada, it represents such a fundamental deleterious shift in Canadian policy that we should reject it.

The practical benefits include not having to say “no” to the United States, military cooperation benefits, and possible investment opportunities. I understand that these are attractive.

Star Wars participation should be rejected on three grounds: First, it starts our participation in nuclear war fighting. Second, it involves us in a dubious legality vis-à-vis the ABM treaty. Third and most important, it promotes the military empire building strategy that is behind Star Wars. In addition, once we join Star Wars it will be impossible to back out.

The letter was actually written by a family doctor in Coquitlam, British Columbia. He went on to state:

The Shield: In nuclear war strategy early warning is like the “eyes”, nuclear weapons are like the “sword”, and missile defence is like the “shield”. Careful military analysis sees the “eyes” as stabilizing because a country can be confident that it is not being attacked. On the other hand, with nuclear weapons, the “shield” has always been seen as destabilizing. A country looking at its enemy's nuclear weapons will be very nervous if it sees its own retaliatory force being rendered useless. Each of that country's several possible responses make the earth a far more dangerous place.

Canada has rightly been part of the “eyes”. To become part of the “shield” starts us on a new dangerous path. We become part of nuclear war fighting. We will for the first time participate in a project that makes the earth and Canada less safe.

The Law: Breaking international agreements may not matter to everyone, but I think it should matter to Canadians. Reading Article 15 of the ABM treaty reveals that the treaty was meant to be of unlimited duration....

Russia has done nothing to warrant termination of this treaty. To join with Star Wars would condone the reneging of the ABM treaty.

The Monster Plan: I would invite you to look at the website of the Project for the New American Century. Their statement of principles is signed by Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, among others. They talk about total American military supremacy and Star Wars as its centrepiece. They plan military domination of space and from there unchallenged domination of the earth. This is a monster plan. Furthermore, the American Department of Defense's missile defence website includes this total Star Wars plan.

No getting out: If Canada joins Star Wars it is joining the whole plan and for all time. Can you imagine a future Canadian Prime Minister trying to back out of Star Wars and the American President saying: “But it was you who asked to join. It was clear that we intended from the beginning to eventually put weapons in space. It was even on our website. Our militaries are now integrated in this project. Canada cannot back out now.” If Canada joins Star Wars, we are effectively locked in.

In conclusion: The decision of whether to join Star Wars is one of the most momentous in Canadian history. Are we to choose to be part of a nuclear war fighting machine? I hope not.

I believe we can best help our American friends by diligence at our border, by peacekeeping missions, and by development of international law. This has been our course to date. We should not abandon it.

Sincerely, Earl B. Morris, M.D.

There are far wiser persons than I, and some even wiser than Dr. Morris, who have set the reasons for us. Above all, the strength of Canada has always been based on our capacity to build bridges with the world. Building a wall around North America by joining this plan will reduce our opportunities to build bridges with the world.

I see our country, and I see our party, as one that builds bridges. There are no shields strong enough to fight hate. What fights hate is the capacity to walk in the other shoes.

What can really counteract war and hatred is the ability to know oneself and one another, and to see oneself reflected in the diversities of the other; If we decided to reject everything and come out in favour of this warlike American mission, this would forever be harmful to Canada's opportunity to give hope to all the world's cultures about the possibility of co-existence.

This is why this undertaking of the Americans must stay with the Americans. Canada must have a sovereign voice, a voice that speaks out against President Bush's bellicose policy.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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BQ

Michel Guimond

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Guimond (Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, BQ)

Madam Chair, I simply want to congratulate the hon. member for Hamilton East and wish her good luck during her nomination meeting, which will be held on March 7. I hope that, with 10,000 members, it will be held in Copps Coliseum. I will not call the member by name, but the Hamilton arena bears her name. Unless they try to hold it in the Valeri Arena, but there is no such arena in Hamilton. It is the Copps Coliseum there.

I want to thank the hon. member for Hamilton East for her comments. I know that she is very sensitive to Quebec culture. I have had the opportunity to discuss this with her. She knows my riding, which includes Île-d'Orléans, well. I think she has family and friends in Île-d'Orléans. She is quite sensitive to Quebec's views.

I want to tell her that I think her view shares a great deal with the position of the Bloc Quebecois. This is consistent with a statement she made in Le Soleil on May 11, 2003. She simply asked the following question, and I want her to expand on this. She said:

How can recommendations on the weaponization of a country be made without first consulting the public?

She also said the following day, May 12, 2003, in Le Devoir :

There must be a public debate before we move on the issue of star wars. The cabinet acting alone cannot reverse the direction this country has taken for the past 20 years.

I could quote other statements. This new government—or should I say this new Prime Minister?—that was sworn in on December 12, promises us that it will work very hard to overcome the democratic deficit. I would like the hon. member for Hamilton East to tell us if the direction the government is taking at present is part of a movement or if, once again, the Minister of Defence's views are dominating. We know his views and his position on the missile defence shield. Does the hon. member for Hamilton East agree that the people should be consulted on such an important subject?

I thought it was interesting that she launched her campaign at a Tim Horton's. She really wanted to demonstrate that she was a leadership candidate who was close to the people, close to ordinary folks. I would like her to tell us whether Canada has the means to spend billions of dollars for the weaponization of space, when the needs we have here are so glaring, while 1.5 million children are living in poverty and often do not have enough money to eat before they go to school.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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LIB

Sheila Copps

Liberal

Hon. Sheila Copps

Madam Chair, of course what is being proposed will cost billions of dollars. Although we are being told it will not cost Canada anything for now, we can be sure that as soon as we sign on with the United States, money will be required.

Take Iraq for example. How much has this cost in lives and massive destruction? In the past year, 250,000 people in the world have been killed in such wars. If there is something we can be proud of in the past year with respect to the former government's mandate, it is the fact that we were able to make an independent choice regarding the war in Iraq.

I do not think that if we had joined the U.S. we would have had this freedom of choice with respect to the war in Iraq. It is impossible to claim to want both an integrated military force and freedom of choice. My colleague, the member for Toronto Centre—Rosedale, said earlier that if we decide to withdraw at any given time, it will be our choice.

Look at what happened when 10 or 20 soldiers participated in a pilot project shortly before the war in Iraq. There were barely 20 soldiers, but we could not pull them out because once the plan was implemented, once the system was in motion, it was too late.

That is why I am confident—I know the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I know he is very sensitive about international issues—that the debate that is beginning today will generate discussions, not only within Canada, but also within the Liberal Party, and we will find out what hon. members and the public really think about this critical decision for the country. I am certain this debate is a first step toward such discussions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Ballistic Missile Defence
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February 17, 2004