Mr. Speaker, my thanks go to the erudite and wise member for Ottawa—Orléans for sharing his time with me.
It is considerable sadness that I rise in the House to do something that I never dreamed I would need to do, which is to convince the members of the Liberal Party to return to the internationalist and multilateralist roots of Liberal foreign policy and to reject the isolationism that its current leader wishes to impose upon it. To be clear, the Liberal leader wants his caucus to turn its back as he has turned his back on the atrocities being committed against innocent women and children in Iraq.
I would like to speak today about the multilateral and internationalist policies, like the responsibility to protect doctrine, which used to be the foundation of the Liberal Party's foreign policy, but which the current Liberal leader recently brushed aside with two short sentences amid a lengthy speech about what Canada's response should be to the atrocities being committed against women and children in Iraq, even as we speak.
Every state has the responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. The international community has an obligation to assist states to fulfill that function. The international community has recognized that its members may have to act quickly to protect innocent citizens against ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. For geopolitical reasons of its own, which I urge members of the Liberal Party to reject, China has expressed reluctance to allow the UN to invoke the R2P doctrine, vetoing R2P in response to the deaths of innocent civilians in Syria to date.
In the case we are debating today, however, where unlike the government of Syria, which resisted any effective international intervention, Iraq has actually invited Canada and others to provide military assistance to protect its citizens against the ethnic cleansing and other atrocities being perpetrated by ISIL. There is no reason to prevent the international community from acting.
I would like to quote from the Liberal Party policy document, “Canada in the World: a Global Network Strategy”, which represented the tradition of the Liberal Party before the current Liberal leader reshaped it to conform to his own unthoughtful and dictatorial whims. The document says:
Another Canadian-inspired idea, Responsibility to Protect, will ensure that military intervention is truly a last resort, but that when sovereign states fail to protect their people and the international community mobilizes to stop large-scale harm to innocent life (for example in genocide and ethnic cleansing), Canada will be there.
The same Liberal Party policy document also endorsed “A muscular approach to renewing Canadian multilateralism”.
This is not simply a Liberal Party sentiment. This is actually the policy of governments of Canada, past and present. This is the tradition that is being pursued by our Prime Minister today in the resolution that we are debating. Unfortunately, it is a tradition which the recent remarks of the Liberal leader show has been abandoned under his leadership in favour of spurning our multilateral ties with close allies and adopting instead an unpredictable and inept isolationist approach.
It is also helpful to quote from last week's report by the United Nations office for human rights, which said:
ISIL and associated armed groups intentionally and systematically targeted these (Turkmen, Shabak, Christians, Yezidi and other) communities for gross human rights abuses, at times aimed at destroying, suppressing or cleansing them from areas under their control...OHCHR notes that many of the violations and abuses perpetrated by ISIL and associated armed groups may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.
That report recommended that:
Iraqi political leaders should use every opportunity and urgently achieve a substantial and effective resolution of the crisis by restoring control over the areas that have been taken over by ISIL....
It is for that purpose that Iraqi leaders have reached out and requested international and Canadian military assistance.
In the face of this authoritative report of unspeakable atrocities, what did the leader of the Liberal Party propose should be the world's response? He suggested that R2P required the international community to provide no more than development assistance to Iraq and refugee assistance to Turkey, as if somehow that would protect innocent women and children from the slavery, murder, and other atrocities being perpetrated by ISIL. Shame. Tell that to the women and girls in ISIL's slave markets. Tell that to the children who will have to watch their parents butchered before their eyes by ISIL.
The Liberal leader called on the parties in Iraq to come up with:
...an inclusive government that speaks for and represents all Iraqi men and women....a government that is fair-minded and which respects the many ethnic minorities within its borders.
As if somehow a series of Canadian-sponsored seminars would convince ISIL to stop committing atrocities and to become fair-minded and respectful of minorities.
Perhaps that would have been an admirable prescription for the Iraq of 2004, but it has absolutely no air of reality today in 2014. Had I not read the Liberal leader's words myself, I would hardly believe that such an uninformed view could come from any member of the House, much less the leader of the Liberal Party.
I do not pretend that the international responsibility to protect, which has arisen in Iraq, is susceptible to any easy or predictable course. The government of Iraq, which has requested international help to protect innocent civilians within its borders, is not itself an ideal ally. The strength of ISIL has been misjudged up to this point. Military commanders, as in any armed conflict, will need to proceed step by step to contain our adversaries, and the course of that battle plan cannot be predictable.
Nonetheless, the responsibility of the international community, including Canada, to protect those innocent women and children in Iraq from ISIL could not be clearer. The resolution before us today offers a modest, even minimalist, Canadian contribution to the international responsibility to protect. We could not do any less.
I expect I am not alone in this House in wishing that pacifism was a sufficient answer to atrocity and to mortal threats. We would all prefer to avoid causing anyone's death, and no Canadian takes any glory in military action. However, no government can proceed without a firm commitment to protect its citizens. It has been one of the great advances in our international practice to recognize the global implications and application of that principle.
I have no great expectation that the NDP will turn aside from the isolationist approach with which it so often shrouds itself. However, I expect better of our colleagues in the Liberal Party.
I urge them to turn away from isolationism and to embrace Canada's role in multilateral efforts to assist the international community in fulfilling its responsibility to protect innocent women and children from the ongoing genocide and other atrocities in Iraq. I urge them not to surrender the time-tested principles of respected Liberal foreign policy to the dictates of the current leader.
The hon. member for Ottawa—Orleans.
Order. The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans is rising on a point of order.
Mr. Speaker, I recently had the pleasure of attending my first working meeting with Marie-France Lalonde, the new MPP for Ottawa—Orléans, her executive assistant, Anick Tremblay, and mine, Bryan Michaud.
Ms. Lalonde, a political newcomer, was elected by the people of Orléans last June.
Ms. Lalonde's election to Queen's Park is welcome and marks the start of a new era in federal-provincial-municipal relations in Ottawa—Orléans.
Of course, there is no shortage of work to be done when it comes to ensuring that Orléans continues to be a good place to live, work and play. One of our joint priorities is cleaning up the Ottawa River so that the people of Orléans and the entire region can enjoy our “jewel”—Petrie Island—to the fullest.
I have assured Marie-France Lalonde that my door is always open, and she made the same pledge.
Mr. Speaker, taxpayers in the riding of Ottawa—Orléans were shocked to learn that they were on the hook for a $72,000 bill in expenses so that a former general could move a few blocks down the road. What is even more shocking is that the individual who left taxpayers with this outrageous bill is none other than the Liberal leader's senior advisor Andrew Leslie.
What is the Minister of National Defence going to do to ensure that these types of outrageous expenses never occur again?
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the hon. member for Pickering—Scarborough East for the service he has given to our country and for graciously sharing his time with me today.
It is the men and women in uniform who have served and sacrificed so much for our country, and those who continue to do so, who have made our nation what it is today.
That is why I am pleased to rise today to support the government's efforts to recognize these sacrifices by helping our veterans find meaningful employment in the federal public service. It is the least that we can do.
Our veterans are the ones who have defended our freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law and the ones who, too often, have given their own lives doing so.
Their sacrifice has allowed us the freedom and peace to pursue and realize the great riches and potential that our country offers.
Indeed, Canada’s veterans personify the ideal of commitment to cause and country. They embody honour and modesty.
Each week, I run into many veterans, whether I am stopping by at the Orléans branch of the Royal Canadian Legion or participating at different commemorative events. There are a considerable number of military personnel and veterans in Ottawa—Orléans, and of course, Branch 632 is the friendliest Legion in the region.
When veterans are asked about their service, their sacrifice or the reasons why they served, their answer is almost invariably because it was their duty.
They did much more than that. They have made Canada a nation that is universally respected around the world. They have helped those in crisis and in need. They have helped to keep the peace in many troubled areas far from Canada.
When all other avenues failed, they fought to protect our way of life and preserve the right of others to live in freedom.
The proud record of Canada's veterans explains the government's deep commitment to recognizing their service and honouring their sacrifice every day.
The government continues to strive to ensure that veterans and their families receive the care and support they need whenever and wherever they need it.
The veterans hiring act further solidifies the government’s commitment and determination to be there for those who have always been there for Canada.
It is our responsibility to ensure that veterans have access to a broad range of programs and services to help them achieve new success after their time in uniform is complete.
The measures we are proposing today will greatly help veterans succeed by creating new opportunities for veterans and still-serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces to start rewarding new careers in the federal public service.
We will create a five-year statutory priority entitlement for Canadian veterans who are medically released for service-related injuries and illnesses.
This change will move these veterans to the front of the line, ahead of all other groups for jobs in the federal public service and by doing so, it will recognize their very real sacrifices for Canada.
Additionally, these new measures will extend the priority entitlement period for all medically released veterans from the current two years to five years.
This means that eligible veterans whose military service is cut short by a career-ending injury or illness suffered in the line of duty will have the time they need to find a federal public service job.
However, we must not forget our other honourably released veterans and still-serving military personnel. As outlined in economic action plan 2014, the government made a commitment to allow eligible, still-serving military personnel to participate in the hiring process for internally advertised positions in the federal public service. This eligibility would extend for a full five years after their release from the Canadian Armed Forces.
To ensure our veterans move to the front of the line for federal public service jobs, a hiring preference for our veterans will be established.
If a veteran has the same qualifications as another applicant in an externally advertised hiring process, the veteran will get the job.
This new hiring preference will be available to all veterans who are honourably released with at least three years of military service. It will last for up to five years from their release date.
This will give our veterans who want to upgrade their skills and education before entering the public service the time to do so. This is great news for these remarkable men and women, and it is the kind of action Canadians have come to expect from us.
Check our record. The government, regardless of fiscal pressures or economic uncertainties, has delivered on its pledge to maintain and enhance veterans' programs and benefits.
Due to the action taken by the government, the annual budget of the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased by a total of almost $785 million since 2005. In total, almost $5 billion in new funding has been invested towards enhancing veterans' benefits, programs and services.
At every turn, we have been adapting our programs and benefits to meet the changing needs of the men, women and families that we serve.
We have been streamlining the way we provide this support. We have been simplifying and reviewing our programs and policies.
We have been introducing new technologies to deliver better and faster service. It is all part of our cutting red tape for veterans initiative, because on this side of the House we are actually allergic to red tape.
The government has made significant improvements to ensure the best care, support and benefits for Canada's veterans and their families.
Turnaround times for processing veterans’ disability benefits have been significantly improved.
The approval time for access to rehabilitation services has been cut in half from four weeks to two.
Paperwork has been reduced.
We are listening. The government is implementing a comprehensive approach to serving veterans that is responsive, inclusive and flexible.
Passing this legislation will keep this momentum going. The implementation of these measures is key in helping veterans and releasing members of the Canadian Armed Forces make a successful transition to civilian life.
We are keeping faith with the courageous women and men who have served and continue to serve our country so well.
All members should demonstrate their own support and commitment to Canada’s veterans and serving members by supporting this bill.
I thank members for their kind attention.
I will be just as attentive to the questions put to me by members of the House.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot agree with my colleague more that finding innovative ways to improve the care provided to Canadians is essential.
On top of our government's significant investments in health research that he mentioned, I was proud to announce this morning, along with my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans, over $13 million to support the launch of three new national research networks in the areas of respiratory health, stroke and vascular health.
We are partnering with the Canadian Lung Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and Hypertension Canada to put patients at the heart of our research and deliver life-changing results for Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, today is budget day. We look forward to hearing the Minister of Finance speak to us this afternoon.
Economic development in Ottawa—Orléans has been lagging behind for decades.
Thanks to the attentive team work begun in 2006 by the dedicated Orléans city councillors, our dynamic chamber of commerce, and their servant in this House, we are in the process of re-branding Orléans.
Thanks to an $880 million investment from the government, the new Communications Security Establishment Canada office should be up and running by the end of the year.
Very soon the VENUS Cybersecurity Corporation will be setting up shop in Orléans. VENUS will serve as a business incubator for the knowledge industry.
Orléans has become the computer and telecommunications security capital, generating many jobs.
Orleans, an educated and bilingual community, is on a roll.
The member's time has expired. The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans will have two minutes to wrap up his speech when the House resumes debate on this motion.
We will now proceed with statements by members.
Before we go to resuming debate with the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans, I will let him know that we have about eight minutes remaining in the time allocated for his remarks.
The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.
The electoral district of Ottawa--Orléans (Ontario) has a population of 109,950 with 85,456 registered voters and 228 polling divisions.
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