February 17, 2004 (37th Parliament, 3rd Session)


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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