But since any sovereign state must be able to protect its borders, we must recognize that Canada's political and territorial sovereignty depends to a large extent on its participation in the collective security system provided under NATO and NORAD.
We must recognize that Canada does not have the resources required to defend its huge territory by itself.
Canada has been a member of NATO since 1949 and of NORAD since 1958. Cruise missile tests are not strategically tied to NORAD since this organization's mandate, namely the surveillance of North America, is essentially defensive in nature. The use of the cruise missile must be seen in that context mainly as a counter-offensive measure. However, cruise missile tests improve detection and interception techniques that fall under NORAD's mandate.
Since Canada does not stockpile strategic arms and bases its defence policy on the collective security system put in place under NATO, it must volunteer to co-operate with its allies in putting in place a strategic deterrent force if necessary.
Under this approach, Canada was asked in 1983 to approve cruise missile tests on its territory despite the fact that this nuclear deterrence strategy was not directed linked to NATO's strategy. This was aimed at maintaining a strategic balance between the two superpowers in a then bipolar world.
The international situation has changed since the dismantling of the Warsaw pact and the Eastern Bloc. Nevertheless, the nuclear threat has remained and become even more complex with the arrival of new nuclear powers. I am thinking of Ukraine and Kazakhstan, for example. In its 1992 defence policy, Canada recognized that the geopolitical environment had changed considerably and that the global balance of power was no longer based on a bipolar structure. We have witnessed the gradual emergence of new nuclear powers, which are often very politically unstable. Under such circumstances, it was risky for Canada and its allies to question the collective security system their defence policy had been built on since the days of the cold war. The cruise missile is a weapon perfectly suited to the new strategic context and illustrates our current collective security system.
The tests requested by the U.S. administration are not designed to encourage the escalation of new nuclear technologies. The START I and START II treaties already limit the number of deployed missiles. This ceiling cannot be exceeded either in terms of the number of missiles deployed or in terms of striking force, that is the size of nuclear heads.
It must be pointed out that this type of missile can be used for conventional-type missions, which is certainly not without importance. Even though nuclear weapons were not used in the Persian Gulf, that conflict demonstrated the effectiveness of very localized attacks on well-defined targets. We saw cruise missiles used to destroy armed command posts, conventional or chemical weapons storage sites and even conventional, chemical and nuclear, or should I say potentially nuclear, weapons manufacturing plants. Had it not been for these missiles, massive bombing strikes would undoubtedly have been undertaken to destroy these targets. Heavy conventional bombing strikes would have exacted a very high toll in human lives since the majority of the sites destroyed were located in densely populated areas. Because this type of weapon was used, the heavy bombardment which could have resulted in a great many civilian casualties was not necessary.
Although some cruise missiles launched during the Persian gulf war did in fact miss their targets, there is no question that they proved to be an effective weapon. But the fact remains that certain flaws inherent in the design of the cruise missile resulted
in targeting errors. New technologies have been developed to correct these design flaws and the United States now needs to conduct tests, and hence extend new missile development programs. The purpose of the testing over Canadian soil is to improve and perfect the cruise missile guidance system.
These tests are conducted no more than two or three times a year over sparsely populated areas. The impact on the ecosystem and on local populations is therefore minimal.
It should also be pointed out that these tests do not involve any outlay of Canadian public funds, since under the terms of the umbrella agreement, the United States covers all costs associated with tests of this nature. Therefore, the testing would not lead to any increase in our national defence budget.
The Bloc Quebecois, while firmly opposing the continuation of the arms race, cannot ignore the unstable international environment since the dismantling of the former U.S.S.R. and the potential threats now facing the world. NATO recently wanted to show this spirit of co-operation which should normally exist in the aftermath of the cold war, by making a gesture of openness to the countries of eastern Europe. Mr. Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in Russia, replied that admitting these countries to NATO could only lead to a third world war. The rise of the extreme right in Russia and the growing number of nuclear powers mean that it would be imprudent and irresponsible to lower our guard and not to follow global strategic developments closely.
Under these circumstances, Canada cannot afford to call into question its defence commitments to its allies. Its international credibility would be greatly affected as would its special relationship with the United States. A deterioration in political relations between Canada and the United States could have negative economic and trade consequences, at a time when it is already rather difficult for us to have the spirit of the free trade agreement respected and its various provisions enforced.
The present international environment therefore requires us to maintain the collective security system structures to which we belong and as a result Canada must keep its commitments in this regard. Nevertheless, we should follow international developments and adapt our defence policy to new global realities if necessary. On the basis of these new realities, we might even be called upon to review our international defence commitments. It is therefore essential that the government make a formal commitment to repeat annually the exercise in which we are participating today and to submit the question of cruise missile testing to Parliament for discussion and approval every year.
In closing, I wonder about the government's intentions for Canada's defence policy. The speech from the throne announced that Canada's defence policy would be redefined. Barely a week after the speech from the throne was read, even before the government's defence policy has been defined and a public debate has begun on this new defence policy, the government is asking Parliament to deal with two issues that directly concern Canada's defence policy, namely the presence of Canadian UN troops in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia and the authorization of cruise missile tests on Canadian territory. Does the government intend to make a decision on these two important questions before defining a new defence policy or is it just trying to sound out the opinion of the House of Commons on two fundamental aspects of this defence policy before it says where it stands? Although we are glad that the government is consulting parliamentarians on these two important issues, we can well wonder why this exercise is going on at this particular time. This government initiative smells of improvisation and seems like a diversionary tactic.
This debate on cruise missiles is only meaningful to the extent that it is directly related to the Canadian government's defence policy. Since we do not know what the government intends to propose for redefining Canada's defence policy, we think that no real debate can take place and no final decision on cruise missile testing on Canadian territory can be made until the government tables its white paper on defence policy.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Cruise Missile Testing