The War on Iraq

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): ): Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister is very good on so-called sovereign decisions, but not so hot on international law, judging by what he said yesterday and reiterated again today in the House. Yesterday in speaking about Bush's war, he said, "We have made our decision. They have made their sovereign decision. We respect that".

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, that too was a sovereign decision. Surely the point of international law is to stop sovereign decisions that are illegal.

I ask the Minister again, does Bush's war violate international law, yes or no?

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am not in a position to give a legal opinion on behalf of the United States of America, but Secretary Powell and the British government have been saying that their intervention in these circumstances is fully justified under a series of Security Council resolutions, terminating with Security Council resolution 1441.

We would have preferred a different political solution, but I think that is an interpretation which we have to respect and recognize that it is in their sovereign right to take action based on their analysis of the legal opinion such as they see it.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, maybe the Minister should take a refresher course at law school.

Yesterday he said, "They are taking steps in self-defence which are authorized under UN resolutions which they have cited". Clearly the UN has not authorized Bush's war. It is in fact pre-emptive and not self-defence.

Mr. Bush can cite whatever he wants. The very simple question is, does the Minister think that his citations are correct, yes or no? Is the war legal or illegal in the Minister's view? Why will he not answer that question?

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I read the declaration of the Attorney General of the United Kingdom. I read the legal opinion and listened carefully to what Secretary of State Powell said. They referred to a series of resolutions. Those resolutions I believe were correct, the resolutions they referred to.

The fact that the hon. member draws a different conclusion from them, maybe she and I and all of us should go back for refresher courses at law school.

I think what we are trying to achieve here is a political issue which is of great importance to the future of the world. This government will continue to be motivated by its determination to work in the best interests of Canada and of Canadians and the world in finding the right solutions.

This Question Period Transcript was posted on March 21, 2003