The War on Iraq

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, first let me say that I am very glad to have the opportunity to participate in this important debate in Parliament. I think it is noteworthy that we are now in the third night of the debate. It shows that many members of the House from all sides wanted to be heard, wanted to be on record and wanted to participate in what is surely one of the most significant issues facing us in many years.

As I speak tonight, and as other members of the NDP have spoken before me, I do so with a sense of grave danger and foreboding that unfortunately it appears we are heading down a path where the U.S. political agenda is unfolding and determining a course that will cause the world to go into great conflict causing untold suffering, not only for innocent people in Iraq but also in the region that is already full of conflict.

I begin my remarks tonight with that great sense of foreboding. I was very heartened to see that last week there were more than 100 very prominent Canadians, including Margaret Atwood, Linda McQuaig, Senator Douglas Roche, Murray Dobbin, Judy Rebick and many others, who signed a statement calling on the Prime Minister to think very seriously about what course Canada takes. In that statement they said:

We, the undersigned, are deeply alarmed that the most powerful nations in the world continue to rely on military force to achieve their global political and economic goals– while eroding the standard of living, the environment, and the security of people throughout the world. We are united in the belief that a military attack on Iraq at this juncture would be profoundly immoral, and would most certainly result in destabilizing repercussions that will endanger the whole world.

I would say that I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. In fact I was one of a number of Members of Parliament who signed that statement. I have also heard from many of my own constituents in East Vancouver, people who have taken the time to phone or e-mail me because they knew that Parliament began its new session this week and this would be the issue that we would be debating. They too wanted to express their incredible concern and reservation about what it is that Canada will do in terms of being complicit in a war plan against Iraq.

Like other members of our party, I want to be a voice in the Parliament. I hope there are more voices that will speak up for a global environment that respects peace and security, that respects international law and that respects the continuity of international law. I note that in a recent column written by Senator Roche he clearly argued that the military and security document unveiled by President Bush just a couple of weeks ago completely violates and flies in the face of international law, which has been built up so painstakingly over many decades through the United Nations and through the international community. It is now poised to be completely dashed by this mad venture into a military conflict in the Middle East in Iraq.

I am very proud of the fact that the leader of the NDP, the Member for Halifax, has from the very beginning unequivocally presented a position to the government and to the Canadian people that has advocated a position of respecting international law and not allowing ourselves to be dragged into some sort of mad race toward military conflict.

I was appalled when I heard the comments earlier of the Canadian Alliance member for Edmonton North when she took issue with other Members of the House who she said were anti-American and inflammatory when they said that all Mr. Bush wants is to go to war.

The truth be known, if we follow the events following September 11 in this exploding agenda of the war on terrorism, this is very much a part of Mr. Bush’s domestic agenda, which is to keep fuelling the war he is waging. Now he has found a new target.

The Member for Edmonton North questioned who we would go to when we needed help and suggested that because the Americans were our great ally that somehow we should fall in line and not dare to question. I say that the Member for Edmonton North and other Members of the Canadian Alliance who have voiced that kind of position are treading on very dangerous ground.

I believe the majority of Canadians fervently want the Canadian government and Members of Parliament to stand up for a clear and unequivocal Canadian position that is not just blindly following President Bush.

One reason we need to do this is because, as the conflict now escalates and grows more complex, we can see that what takes place in this region is riddled with contradictions and double standards. We hear Mr. Bush on the one hand saying that the existing UN resolution on the weapons inspectors is not good enough. The team was set to go, the terms had been met by Iraq and all of a sudden the goal posts changed again. Now it is back to the UN Security Council to up the ante, change the goal posts and do it again.

If the issue of UN resolutions being ignored is such a pertinent issue (and I would agree that it is, even though at this point Iraq has agreed to meet the conditions of the existing Security Council resolutions) then why in other instances where UN resolutions have been flagrantly ignored is there silence on that question. There is no suggestion that we will be drawn into a conflict, for example, when it comes to UN resolutions respecting the rights of the Palestinian people to exist in an independent entity, or resolutions dealing with the illegal and ongoing occupation by Israel of the occupied territories, or the ongoing intimidation taking place.

The question of having these double standards is something that more and more people are becoming aware. Yes, there are serious questions about weapons of mass destruction that may be in Iraq and it is incredibly important that the inspection team have all the scope it requires to make those inspections. However the greatest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction lies to the south of us. There are 12,500 nuclear weapons in Bangor, Washington just south of British Columbia where I live and in other parts of the United States.

In fact in 1998 I was part of a Citizens’ Weapons Inspection Team that dared to try to gain entry to Bangor, Washington where the Trident submarines are. We wanted to do our own weapons inspection to point out that these weapons of mass destruction were located in the United States as well in other countries. Therefore, we are not just talking about Iraq.

Again, I come back to this point that when we are dealing with these very grave issues of biological weapons, or weapons of mass destruction or a regime that is repressing its people, it is very important to act within international law within the international community.

In closing, I am very proud of the fact that we in the NDP have stood tall on this issue. I know Liberal backbenchers have also spoken out loudly and clearly.

At the end of this debate, we must have hope that the Canadian government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, will listen not only to the members of Parliament but to the Canadian people who do not want to see Canada become complicit in a terrible conflict in Iraq and in the Middle East that will cause untold suffering, never mind what has happened with the sanctions which have caused suffering and death of children and innocent people.

I hope this debate tonight is not for naught. I hope this debate is a message that the government will hear loud and clear. I hope the government will respect the wishes of the Canadian people and ensure that we respect and work within the international law and the international community.

Mr. James Rajotte (Edmonton Southwest, Canadian Alliance): Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I have a few comments and questions.

First, on the matter of the UN resolutions, she is correct in stating that there are some UN resolutions with which Israel has not complied. However we have to be fair on that matter by saying that the Palestinians have also not observed those resolutions to their full extent. She is right in saying that the UN should seek to enforce all the resolutions that have passed. That is one of the challenges the President made to the UN; that, as a world body, does not turn into a League of Nations, which has no enforceable authority, but seek to enforce the resolutions that it passes.

I am a little concerned about having the moral equivalent between the State of Israel, the United States democracy and the regime of Saddam Hussein. Could the member clarify that? She drew comparisons. Is she saying there is a moral equivalence between those types of regimes?

In terms of the inspection team, she mentioned that she wanted an inspection team with a fairly wide scope, which we certainly support as well. However one argument that the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Blair and President Bush are making is that the current resolutions do not cover presidential palaces which in themselves are actually full compounds and that the new resolutions should certainly cover. Does she agree that there should be new resolutions to ensure that these so-called presidential palaces are covered?

Ms. Libby Davies: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the hon. member’s comments and questions. First, it is important that UN resolutions be respected. As I pointed out, there are many that we could point to that have been completely violated and ignored in the Middle East over many years.

The issue though is on what basis will the resolutions be enforced. For us in the NDP, we believe strongly that the resolutions have to be enforced within the parameters of international law and within the UN. We are very opposed to the idea that President Bush has now set the stage or the agenda and moved the bar up. The goal posts continually change, almost on a daily basis, so that whatever is finally agreed upon will somehow no longer be good enough. That is something of which we should be incredibly suspicious and which we should speak against

In terms of the situation in Israel, I have to ask the member if he considers it to be the act of a civilized democracy whereby a state would use its military apparatus to forcibly put people under occupation when that occupation is illegal? Is it the move of a civilized democracy when the state can use its apparatus to put a democratically elected leader under siege? I do not think so and we should be speaking out against that as well.

They are clearly different situations in Iraq and Israel. However the point I have made, which I think is relevant, is that it is hypocritical for the United States to focus on the one issue of what is going on in Iraq and escalate this to a war situation, while at the same time completely disregarding what has taken place in terms of an illegal occupation and a whole set of other people who have suffered as a result of that.