Mr. Ken James (Parliamentary Secretary to Secretary of State for External Affairs):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the hon. member for Cape Breton-East Richmond. I would like to remind the hon. member that racist behaviour is not and will not be tolerated in the Canadian forces. The Canadian forces has a zero tolerance policy against all forms of personal harassment.
The Minister of National Defence has clearly stated that racism and racist attitudes are completely and absolutely unacceptable in the Canadian forces. If a person applying to the Canadian forces demonstrates such an attitude of extreme intolerance to others then the applicant will be rejected as he or she would be unable to fit into the team concept essential to an effective military force.
The Minister of National Defence is reviewing the Canadian forces recruitment policies to ensure that the explicit and stated policy of the Canadian forces that racist attitudes are absolutely unacceptable is in fact carried out in all activities of the Canadian forces.
The minister is further reviewing Canadian forces recruitment policies to ensure that applicants are deliberately asked about membership in racist organizations. Certain instances, as the hon. member has noted, have raised broad concerns over the suitability of the Canadian forces stationed in Somalia.
Mindful of her responsibility, the Minister of National Defence sought advice on how best to address the variety of concerns raised and directed the chief of defence staff to convene a board of inquiry.
The Minister of National Defence provided leadership, amending military regulations in order to ensure that civilians will sit on the board and undertaking an effective and timely investigation. The Minister of National Defence instituted this board to investigate the leadership, discipline, operations, actions and procedures of the Canadian Airborne Regiment Battle Group.
The terms of reference of the board of inquiry include the examination of the selection and screening process of the personnel on such missions. In addition the board will investigate the extent, if any, to which cultural differences, including racism, affected the conduct of the operations.
I would like to remind the hon. member that the Minister of National Defence has deep concerns over the subject he has raised. I thank him for raising it.
Adjournment Debate STUDENT AID
Subtopic: SITTING RESUMED The House resumed at 5.31 p.m.