The War on Iraq

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): ): Mr. Speaker, it seems very clear that the government is well down the slippery slope into war. Parliament has been very clear: no involvement in Iraq. Yet we have three Canadian ships escorting Bush’s ships of war into combat as far north as Kuwait. Today we learn of a new risk of being rammed by Iraqi boats.

Mr. Bush says that the Geneva Convention applies to POWs in Iraq because it is a traditional war. Yet he says on the other hand it does not apply to prisoners of war on terror because it is not traditional.

I have a very simple question for the Prime Minister. If a Canadian sailor is captured by Iraq, escorting a ship in Bush’s war does the Geneva Convention apply?

Right Hon. Jean Chr├ętien (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have stated very clearly that the ships operating in this part of the world have been there for a year. They are there to help the people who are fighting terrorism in Afghanistan.

We have been there. We have served there. Our soldiers have done a great job. They have received compliments from everybody. Not only that, they were asked to take the lead of these ships long before the war. They are doing Canada proud, and they will keep doing their job because it is a fight against terrorism.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that the Prime Minister refuses to answer this simple question. The government had an answer when it was American POWs, but no answer when it is a Canadian in the same war.

On March 20 the Prime Minister said that Canada had no troops in Iraq. On Monday, that became no troops in combat. Yesterday he confirmed that Canadians were aboard AWACs, which are directing bomb runs.

Now we are getting calls from families of Canadians serving with British troops in Iraq. Even defence officials are saying that Canadians are inside Iraq.

Again, my question is for the Prime Minister. If helping to select bombing targets and serving with tanks are not combat roles – what the heck is it?

Hon. John McCallum (Minister of National Defence, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member referred to the will of the House. Indeed, the will of the House has been expressed clearly in response to a motion, which states:

–consequently the government [of Canada] repatriate all soldiers and military material in the region that could be used in a war effort in the conflict in Iraq.

This motion was soundly defeated by the House one week ago by a ratio of four to one. Indeed, in terms of the exchange soldiers and the ships, the House has spoken very clear.

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.

The War on Iraq

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, weapons of mass destruction in anyone’s hands are dangerous and must be disarmed. No one should be exempt, including George W. Bush. All nations must honour international treaties that would control such weapons. Surely we should be following our own rules.

Surely we should be telling George Bush to follow these rules too. What is Canada doing now to abolish weapons of mass destruction around the globe, including in our own backyard?

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liberal.): : Mr. Speaker, Canada has had a long and proud tradition of working on the disarmament commission of the United Nations and with other nations around the world, including. let me say, the United States of America, in seeking to bring nuclear non-proliferation around the world. We worked with the United States in a very dangerous situation between Pakistan and India last year.

I think it is irresponsible to suggest in the House that the United States is not taking a responsible approach toward its massive power. We are all trying to reduce the danger in the world and make sure that we get rid of weapons of mass destruction.

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): ): Mr. Speaker, it makes us wonder what happened to that Canadian tradition. Why will the Canadian government not disclose what Canada’s involvement was in discussions this week on the Star Wars missile defence system? Why are we allowing Canada to become complicit in this rampant militarism and escalation of weapons development? Why was this Parliament not consulted before Canada held secret talks on Star Wars?

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Liberal.): Mr. Speaker, the reason why Parliament was not consulted before we held secret talks on Star Wars was that there have not been secret talks about star wars or anything else. We are constantly engaged with the United States in discussing how we can best ensure the security of this continent for the benefit of Canadians and Americans and all of us together. We will continue to do that in a responsible way and in a way which ensures Canadian sovereignty and Canadian interests.

The War on Iraq

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, “there is anxiety in the Canadian people today, they do not know exactly what is going on”. Those are not my words, although I agree with them. They came from the Prime Minister in 1991 when he was speaking about the gulf war. He said then that it was embarrassing for Canada not to have a position.

It is more than embarrassing now. It is shameful that Canada is hedging its bets on a war on Iraq. There is a choice here. Will the Prime Minister say that it is wrong to invade Iraq and Canada will have no part of it?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there is a choice and we have made the choice. We will follow and respect the process of the UN and its resolutions.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, from the debate last night that we heard in this House, it is very clear that the government is hedging its bets. I believe that Canadians want to see leadership on this question. Why is there not an aggressive campaign for peace? I urge the Prime Minister to listen to his own words, not the official opposition. He said in 1991, “Why this war? What are our national interests in this war?”

Let us begin by having a democratic vote in this House. Never mind all the talk about formulas and what the history was, we want a democratic vote in this House. That is why we are here and that is what Canadians expect us to do. What is the government afraid of?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, no one wants war and no one wants the availability of weapons of mass destruction. We are following a process that will allow the UN inspectors to see whether or not the evidence exists that requires further action. We have been consistent in our approach. We will continue to take this approach and let the UN process work out.