2nd Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 149, Issue 55
Thursday, May 1, 2014
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker
Central African Republic—Security Crisis
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I would like to read a short excerpt from the debates of the House of Commons on Monday regarding the tragic situation in the Central African Republic, and I quote:
What is more important is that the Liberal Party, as well as the NDP, would like to put Canadian soldiers’ lives in danger out in the region. My question to them is this: who is going to pay to have all of these soldiers go out there? Is it Canadian taxpayers?
The question is this: Why is Canada staying away from a mission that is basically in line with all the expectations the international community has of Canada from a peacekeeping point of view, a mission that we are completely qualified for — we even have the language and cultural skills —when we could be a determining factor in the creation and implementation of a United Nations mission?
Why are we throwing money out the window instead of using our skills to save lives and perhaps even prevent genocide in the Central African Republic?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Thank you for your question, Senator Dallaire. As you know, our government is very concerned that the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic is deteriorating, and we are especially concerned about the suffering caused by civilians and the impact of the crisis on neighbouring countries.
As you know, so far, Canada has provided over $16 million to help meet the widespread humanitarian need and $5 million to support efforts by the African Union and France to restore security in the country. Canada contributes a considerable amount of money to the UN peacekeeping budget and is supporting the efforts of the United Nations, France, especially, and the African Union in this crisis.
I can assure you that Canada will continue to closely monitor the situation in the Central African Republic and that we are very concerned about what is currently going on in the country.
Senator Dallaire: I have a supplementary question.
I would never question what the Leader of the Government in the Senate says, but I have doubts about the technical response he gave, because what I read came from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in response to a question asked in the House of Commons three days ago. He asked why we would go to that country, because it costs money, and why we would risk the lives of our soldiers. However, the United Nations is not asking for some paltry sum of money. It wants us to serve as the backbone of a mission that would provide protection and potentially prevent a genocide from happening. This would be achieved by having our soldiers on the ground, of course, but also by having diplomats help set up such an important and high-risk mission.
We are being told that this is not important and that we will not spill blood there or spend our departments’ money, aside from the amounts you already mentioned, to protect these people.
However, that goes against everything we’ve done in the past and the way the Armed Forces were designed — to use force in accordance with chapter 7 in order to protect millions of people.
Why are we refusing to offer our skills? Just because we’re involved in Ukraine does not mean we’re unable to help. We’re capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time; surely we’re able to address this need. Is there something more fundamental going on here that we should know about why we can’t help the United Nations in Africa?
Senator Carignan: I would like to reiterate that we are concerned about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic. We have spent more than $16 million to help meet the widespread humanitarian need and $5 million to support the African Union and France in their efforts to restore security in the country.
We will continue to support the efforts of the United Nations, France and the African Union in the current crisis. We will continue to closely monitor the situation. The United Nations, France and the African Union are there right now with our support on the ground.
Senator Dallaire: I’d like to ask another supplementary question. I didn’t ask what you are doing; I asked why you are not doing what really needs to be done to address the true needs.
Mr. Leader of the Government in the Senate, the department’s speaking notes that you rattled off about this catastrophe are essentially the same things I heard 20 years ago when I was in the middle of a genocide and my country, and others as well, told me exactly the same thing. We are concerned, but not that concerned, because it is not in our interest. We will toss some money at it in the hopes that it will end, sooner or later.
Where is this fundamental desire to show leadership, which a middle power like Canada could express in order to replace a former colonial power that is creating problems? God knows I can provide examples. Even in the Central African Republic, it is better to have the presence of the European Union, with its mishmash of structures, than to have a former colonial country as the foundation for a United Nations force.
I ask that you direct my question to your ministers: Why is Canada refusing to take part in United Nations missions for which our forces have internationally recognized skills that can make a significant difference on the ground?
Senator Carignan: Canada is present through its efforts to support the United Nations forces, France and the African Union. You cannot downplay the effort Canada is making right now. Financial aid is being provided in coordination with the United Nations to meet humanitarian needs. You cannot minimize Canada’s effort in this.
Senator Dallaire: I don’t want to minimize what is being done. I just want you to know that I am not only saddened, but embarrassed by what we are doing right now. We should be living up to our potential, saving lives and helping to avoid the same situation we allowed to happen 20 years ago. Since then, we have worked to set up the International Criminal Court and prevent such atrocities and the massive use of child soldiers, which we claim to be concerned about. I am ashamed of your response. Money is not the answer. We need soldiers and diplomats on the ground to separate these entities and protect people.
Why are you refusing to answer the question? Why is our country showing the international community that it has lost its courage instead of taking risks and saving more lives?
Senator Carignan: I think that when you say you don’t want to minimize the importance of our contribution and you talk about more than $16 million and $5 million to support the efforts of the African Union and France to restore security in the country as though it were just a few bucks, you are being rather disparaging.
Canada must continue to work with the United Nations by supporting the efforts of the United Nations and France — a country that Canadians have a great deal of respect for — in their work in the Central African Republic.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Leader, I have observed how you answered the questions on the Central African Republic, and I honestly believe you are genuine when you say we are doing something.
I am a daughter of Africa. I have drunk the water of the Nile, so I am very emotional when it comes to issues of Africa.
Senator Dallaire and I were in Darfur when the genocide was occurring there. We gave tremendous amounts of money, but wherever I went the women said to me that we provided just 100 soldiers. Those soldiers brought knowledge and Canadian values, and in their time off they helped the people build their country.
Yes, we are providing $16 million plus $5 million, but that’s not the only thing that Canada is known for. Canada is known for the knowledge of the soldiers and peacekeepers who go abroad and save lives.
This is not about providing dollars to France and the African Union. Yes, we have done that and it is very important. This is about protecting our reputation and providing the knowledge that we have to protect the people the best way that Canadian soldiers know how.
I have seen them. I have gone with them into areas where it is very dangerous, and they have been welcomed because they are soldiers in the true sense, with a heart. We need to provide soldiers with a heart in such a terrible situation.
Senator Carignan: Senator Jaffer, I think we need to put things into perspective. As you know, Africa is the primary recipient of Canadian international aid; it receives nearly half of our aid dollars. Approximately 80 per cent of the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health goes to sub-Saharan Africa. Canada is the second largest donor to the World Food Programme, which sends about 60 per cent of its aid to sub- Saharan Africa. We are also a major donor to The Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Our government has untied food aid, an approach we think is more effective because it saves more lives. Every year, we target our development investment to produce concrete results. I don’t think you should belittle Canada’s significant contributions to Africa.
Senator Jaffer: Leader, I am the first person to say that, yes, we give a lot of aid to Africa. Being an African, I am very appreciative of this, but I am also aware of all of our mining companies who are benefiting very much from the raw resources of Africa and of the tremendous money Canada is making from Africa as well.
This is not a question of giving money to Africa. This is about saving lives of children. Two thousand people have died; 643,000 are internally displaced; and 100,000 are refugees. We said many years ago, “Never again.” There is a genocide happening in the Central African Republic. When are we going to act to save lives?
Senator Carignan: Senator Jaffer, I described our current contributions to aid for Africa. These are life-saving initiatives. How can you say that 80 per cent of the funding from the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health does not help save lives? You should acknowledge and honour the importance of Canadian aid in sub-Saharan Africa. You should recognize it. You can’t accuse us of not trying and not saving lives. Your comments are unwarranted.
Senator Jaffer: Leader, I am very disappointed in your answer. I am not talking about providing maternal health care in Sub- Saharan Africa. My question is this: When are we going to send peacekeepers to the Central African Republic?
Senator Carignan: If you want to talk about the Central African Republic again, I’ll give you the same answer I gave Senator Dallaire. We are supporting the African Union, France and the United Nations in their peacekeeping efforts, and we will continue to keep a close eye on the changing situation on the ground. We are concerned about the deteriorating security and humanitarian situation, and we will continue to work with the United Nations in particular.
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