HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES
Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby-Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, could the minister clarify two points for the House today and for Canadians who are very concerned about the possibility of military strikes on the people of Iraq who have already suffered such terrible anguish and pain as a result of the impact of economic sanctions?
First, will the minister very clearly state in the House why it is that he believes that a new resolution of the United Nations is needed at this point when in fact the position that has been taken so far by the United States and others is that Saddam Hussein has been in breach of existing resolutions with respect to weapons inspection? Why is he is echoing the call of George Bush for a new United Nations resolution instead of insisting on the observance of existing resolutions?
Second, why is our government not doing far more in terms of regional justice in that area to insist on respect for security council resolutions not just by Iraq but by Israel as well?
Hon. Bill Graham: Mr. Speaker, I hope to make it clear in my remarks that the reason for our support for the British and American initiative to have a new Security Council resolution is based in a history and an understanding of what has taken place in the past.
I do not believe that we can go into this situation naively believing that Saddam Hussein is somebody who intends necessarily to conform to international legal norms. Our experience is the reverse.
It would be the triumph of hope over experience to expect that he would now allow the inspectors in without some clear indication from the United Nations itself that his ability to put it off, to change it to move around is at an end. I think it is in his interest, it is in the interest of Iraqi people at this time that the United Nations act clearly to indicate that there is no wiggle room, if I may put it that way, for Saddam Hussein.
It is in his interests. It is in the interest of his country because if he believes that there is a chance that he could slip out he might try and do what he has done in the past and then force would be used. Then the terrible consequences which I described in my speech are there.
The reason for clarity is twofold. Clarity gives us an opportunity to deal with someone who we recognize has been a menace to world order in the past and has a capacity to be so in the future. It also gives us an opportunity to ensure that no force will be used outside of the constraints applied by the United Nations itself. That is why we seek the clarity of another resolution. We congratulate the parties who are proposing such a resolution on moving in this direction.
As for how resolutions should be obeyed in other parts of the Middle East or in other parts of the world, indeed Canada has always urged that the resolutions of the United Nations be respected.
As the hon. member knows as a scholar of international law, there are times in the times of nations when in fact peace and war are at stake and adherence to certain resolutions is absolutely essential.
It is true that we are taking steps on this case which may be different than they are in the case of other resolutions. We will continue always to urge that all resolutions be obeyed by the United Nations. Let us not lose sight of the fact that we are facing the fact of a possible loss of peace in the world with escalation possibilities that are truly frightening when we conclude it.
Therefore, it is most important that these resolutions not only be adhered to but obeyed.
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Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby-Douglas, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs for this opportunity to debate one of the most important issues that I believe will face this Parliament in many years.
I am probably the only member of the House who was present during the debates in 1990 and 1991 and also probably the only member of the House who has actually had the opportunity to travel to Iraq on three occasions: initially in the fall of 1990 with my former colleagues Lloyd Axworthy and Bob Corbett, a Conservative member from New Brunswick; again with a delegation in the early part of the year 2000; and most recently in May of this year, along with a number of British members of parliament.
It is very clear to me that what is at stake here in this debate and in the very critical decisions that will be made in the weeks and months ahead are the lives of literally tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, the environment in that region and stability throughout the Middle East. It is desperately important that Canada speak out in the strongest possible terms against any possible unilateral military strike that would have disastrous impact on the people of Iraq and on this region.
We have heard eloquent testimony before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
I see my colleague from Mercier and other colleagues also who are members of this committee.
We have heard eloquent testimony before our committee from former UN humanitarian coordinators, Denis Halliday and Hans Van Sponeck, about the devastating impact of economic sanctions on the people of Iraq. We know as well that the impact on the environment has led to the very adverse results of depleted uranium on children and indeed huge increases in the level of congenital birth defects. I was in the south of Iraq. I visited the hospitals in Basra and Baghdad and saw for myself those results.
We have heard evidence before the foreign affairs committee and certainly I have had to respond personally to the anguished plea of an Iraqi mother in a children's hospital in Baghdad that was desperately short of the most basic supplies. She asked "Why do you feel you we must kill their children". I could not answer that question.
I was very proud of the fact that the foreign affairs committee stood and spoke with one strong, powerful and eloquent voice. I might add that the chair of that committee at the time this decision made was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the hon. member for Toronto Centre-Rosedale. I want to remind members of the House what that committee unanimously called for. The committee called for an end to the economic sanctions, the delinking of economic and military sanctions and a rapid lifting of economic sanctions and a contribution to the overall goal of regional disarmament, a Canadian diplomatic presence and so on.
It is in that context, a context in which hundreds of thousands of innocent children have died, in which a nation's infrastructure in terms of clean water and sewage has been paralyzed, that we are now told by George Bush that there is a concern about weapons of mass destruction, that we must pass a new resolution and obviously that there must be some sort of firm military action to enforce United Nations resolutions.
To accept Bush's insistence that we move in this way is a recipe for disaster. It is also fundamentally dishonest and ignores the history of that region. In fact, members of the House must know that according to the former chief UN weapons inspector, Rolf Ekeus of Sweden, the United States and other Security Council members were manipulating UN inspection teams for their own political ends. I do not have the time to go into that at length, but certainly both Rolf Ekeus and Scott Ritter made it very clear that was the case. In fact Scott Ritter said that far from Iraq kicking out the weapons inspectors in December of 1998 that:
It wasn't Saddam Hussein or the Iraqi government who gave the boot to weapons inspectors from...(UNSCOM). Rather it was the United States. In the person of former President Bill Clinton... It pushed them out so they could bomb in December 1998.
One might ask who Scott Ritter is. Here is how Scott Ritter describes himself:
I need to say right out front I'm a card-carrying Republican in the conservative-moderate range who voted for George W. Bush for President. I'm not here with a political agenda. I'm not here to slam Republicans. I am one.
This is the source about information about the presence currently of weapons of mass destruction. Ritter said, and he said it clearly and unequivocally to our committee, a committee of this Parliament, that no one had substantiated the allegations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction or was attempting to acquire weapons of mass destructions. Scott Ritter said:
This is not about the security of the United States. This is about domestic American politics. The national security of the United States of America has been hijacked by a handful of neo-conservatives who are using their position of authority to pursue their own ideologically-driven political ambitions. The day we go to war for that reason is the day we have failed collectively as a nation. For God's sake, surely our nation, Canada, must be speaking out strongly and clearly to reinforce that message.
Today we received good news. Hans Blix, the chief of the United Nations, UNMOVIC, the monitoring and enforcement inspection commission, has said about Iraq that "On the question of access, is clarified that all sites are subject to immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access". What more can we ask for? Each time they comply, the bar is raised higher and higher.
The spokesperson for the Alliance says that we cannot trust them. Surely we must recognize that when the inspectors go in, they have unfettered access and if there is any suggestion of obstruction of those inspectors, obviously Blix will be in a position to report back quickly to the United Nations, which is where this question belongs.
The hypocrisy in this area is breathtaking. I have heard from a number of my colleagues on this issue already. The silence in March 1988 from the then American government included a number of key administration officials now, about the gassing of Halabja. There was not a word nor a peep. In fact it obstructed the United Nations Security Council efforts to condemn them. Why? Because then Saddam Hussein was our guy.
As well, we have to be honest and recognize that if we are seriously concerned about respect from United Nations resolutions and Security Council resolutions in the Middle East, what country has violated over and over again UN Security Council resolutions with the support, often alone, of the United States? Israel. Yet there is not a word on that. It is the only country in the region that we know for certain possesses over 200 weapons of mass destruction. I remind members of the House that Israel has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty. It is hypocrisy.
Which country just last year blatantly refused to sign onto United Nations protocol on developing, producing or stockpiling biological or toxic weapons? The United States of America.
I want to once again appeal to the government and to the minister to recognize that it is within the framework of both international law and the United Nations that this must be resolved. It must be resolved with consistency and equity. It must be resolved in a manner that respects the lives of innocent Iraqi people who have suffered already too much.
Over 100 prominent Canadians, Québécois et Québécoises, Canadiens et Canadiennes from everywhere in Canada, Anton Kuerti, Margaret Atwood, Pierre Burton, David Suzuki, and many more have signed a statement calling on our government to endorse the principle of a peaceful resolution of this conflict. They have said it is time to move beyond war, il n'y a pas que la guerre. I urge the minister to heed the eloquent words of these Canadians.
Mr. Jim Karygiannis :(Scarborough-Agincourt, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. colleague across the way for speaking so eloquently and so passionately. However, I would like to point out to him some of us on this side were in the House in 1988-89 and also spoke on that issue.
Could the hon. member, in his own words, give us an impression of or characterize George Bush and Saddam Hussein and could he differentiate between the two? As well could he try to give us an idea of the difference between what Turkey is doing in Kurdistan to the Kurds and what Saddam Hussein is doing to the Kurds?
Mr. Svend Robinson: Mr. Speaker, we have to be very clear. Saddam Hussein is a ruthless and brutal dictator who has gassed his own people, the Kurds in Halabja, and who has suppressed in the most violent and bloody manner the civil liberties of his own people. I said that in May of this year in Baghdad in the presence of Tariq Aziz. I made that very clear that those who are responsible for terrible war crimes whether the killings at Sabra and Shatila or the gassing of Kurds at Halabja, must be brought to justice.
I look forward to the day when the brave people of Iraq are able to live in a democratic society that respects the fundamental human rights of all of its citizens.
This is a ruthless and tyrannical dictator. However why on earth would we punish the people of Iraq in the way that is suggested by Bush? Nelson Mandela said that they think they are the only power in the world. Americans are not and they are following a dangerous policy. One country wants to bully the world. We must not allow that.
The member asksed me what this was about. In March of this year Colin Powell said about the U.S. policy that regardless of what the inspectors did, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad. This is about fulfilling what his father did not finish. It is about regime change. It is about oil. It is about mid-term elections and we in Canada must not be a party to that violence and that brutality.
Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member, since he attributes every motive possible to the American government's desire to enforce UN resolutions, could he perhaps speculate on or ascribe motives to the Labour Party in the United Kingdom and why its members in their conference this weekend endorsed essentially the position taken by my party? What nefarious Oedipus complex does he choose to apply to Prime Minister Blair and his attempt to ensure that international law and the integrity of the United Nations is respected by enforcement of the resolutions?
Further, does my hon. colleague not understand that in terms of the weapons inspection regime, we would be sending yet once again roughly 100 inspectors into a country roughly the size of British Columbia? Clearly the Iraqi regime has now created mobile weapons plants and mobile scud missiles, which can be moved from locale to locale and quickly and easily hidden from weapons inspectors. Is he not aware that previous weapons inspectors have raised this concern?
Finally, while the member quoted Nelson Mandela, is he not aware that Vaclav Havel, one of the great moral heroes of the world today, has called for the world to act together, if necessary using military force to ensure that the integrity of the UN resolution is respected?
Mr. Svend Robinson: Mr. Speaker, if I have to choose for my facts between an extreme right wing member of the Canadian Alliance and an extreme right wing Republican who was actually on the ground in Iraq for seven years, who was the deputy chief weapons inspector and who has said unequivocally, and I repeat again, that no one has substantiated the allegations that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction or is attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction, with great respect to my friend from Calgary, I think I will go with Scott Ritter on this one in terms of the actual facts on the ground.
We want to get the inspectors back in there absolutely. Hans Blix has arrived at an agreement today to do that. I suggest that we allow that to work.
Just a couple of weeks ago the foreign affairs committee took the same position. I want to pay tribute to the member for Mercier and to my own leader, the member for Halifax, for ensuring that the foreign affairs committee had an opportunity to speak out on that very important question.
In terms of the Labour Party, perhaps my colleague is not aware of the fact that the Labour Party motion that was passed in fact just yesterday made it very clear that both international law and the United Nations must be fully respected in any response on weapons of mass destruction.