May 15, 2003 (37th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Yvon Charbonneau


Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, first, I want to commend the Bloc Quebecois for having raised in the House the issue of the American proposal asking Canada to take part in the U.S. missile defence plan.
I also congratulate them on following up on the Prime Minister's suggestion that this be a public debate, because it could well have been limited to a few parties within Parliament. After this opposition day, many Canadians will be paying closer attention to these very serious questions.
I also wish to recognize the very careful work of the hon. member for Yukon, who chaired the committee of our national caucus on these questions, whose report was tabled in the House earlier. This is a very balanced report, which reflects the differing and totally legitimate points of view we hear when we embark on this kind of a debate.
In our parliamentary system, it is incumbent on the government to make decisions in these matters. But the government bases its decisions on debates within the Canadian public, in Parliament and within its own ranks; it has done so and is doing so now.
Personally, I am totally comfortable with the positions taken by the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, as set out previously by our party, against the militarization of space. In other debates, we have stressed the importance of mobilizing against terrorism. We also strongly support mobilization against the doctrine of pre-emptive war inspired by unilateralism, which the government of our neighbours to the south is promoting.
What we want to know is this: how useful will the missile defence system contemplated be against hostile countries, or rogue states as they are called, terrorism in all its forms and weapons of mass destruction? Can one seriously claim that this system can be used and have some degree of effectiveness against these threats? Some paint the world in terms of good states and evil states. Could missile defence be of any use in this context?
I think that there is a great deal of confusion between defence and security. We say that we want to achieve security through increasingly sophisticated technological defence systems. In my opinion, there is a certain imbalance in the debate that has to be emphasized at this point.
We are saying, “Will this work? Will there be so many missiles of such and such a category? Since when have they been around? Approximately how much will that cost? What are the advantages and the disadvantages?” We are fixated on technical considerations when the issue is much more important than that. It is a matter of security. And it is a matter of security not only for the United States and the northern part of the North American continent that includes Canada and United States, but for humanity.
In my opinion, it is not through the building up and the escalation of technologies, however sophisticated they may be, that we will achieve greater security in Canada, in North America or on planet earth. It is not through such escalation that we can reduce the gap between good states and evil states. I do not think that building a fortress here in North America will solve these sorts of issues, which are vital to the long-term security of humanity.
We are in a situation similar to the one in which those people living behind barricades and in fortresses find themselves. Sometimes, when we visit certain countries, we realize that rich people have beautiful residences that cannot be seen from the street because they are hidden behind high walls. Are these people really safe behind those high walls? They claim they are. And when things get bad, they simply add a few more rows of blocks and make the wall higher.
Then they install barbed wire, control towers and radar to watch over everything. But when they leave their fortress, are they safe? They have to be escorted by armed guards to get to an airport to travel. They have to be escorted for their own safety to get to their offices downtown. Are they safe? They can defend themselves as long as they are inside their fortress. Once they leave, real life is waiting for them.
The same thing is true on an international level. It is possible to build a system where you are almost invulnerable as long as you stay inside your own walls. As soon as you leave, real life is waiting for you. Is it really any good to have a fortress in which we see ourselves as invulnerable? If, in the future, we run out of water, if the land around becomes a desert, if disease devastates the entire country and other continents, where is the security in that?
Some people, some countries and some elite groups can believe they are safe, but this does not move the planet forward. In my opinion, we are all in the same boat. As earthlings, we are on a space ship. The survival of one means the survival of all. We will all live or we will all die.
All the escalating and ruinously expensive technologies will not help us one bit in this regard. Instead, it will take international cooperation, the development of multilateral tools, rebuilding the UN and the Security Council, a better balance between the haves and the have nots and between the continents and the superpowers. The creation of new tools will put us on the road to achieving this security, which is much more important and encompassing than the stockpile of defence weapons that only temporarily protect our own fortress.
There are battles ahead. The battle for a clean environment and for sustainable development around the world, for the eradication of poverty afflicting pockets on each continent, for access to water, food, shelter, physical security, and education. These measures are the ones that ensure security in the middle and long term.
Canada should send this message to the U.S., international public opinion and UN forums. It should send the message that this is our first choice. Those are the terms of this debate, in my opinion.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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