Missile Defence System and Need For International Security-Inquiry

Excerpts of Debates of the Senate (Hansard)
1st Session, 37th Parliament, Volume 139, Issue 58
Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Hon. Douglas Roche rose pursuant to notice of September 20, 2001:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to the urgent need to consider the implications of a missile defence system for Canada's policies on keeping space free of all weapons and, in this context, to promote a cooperative and forward- minded approach to international security in the light of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

He said: Honourable senators, during the worst days of World War II, the Allied leaders met to plan ways to lift the world away from the scourge of war. The result was the birth of the United Nations now the recipient, with Kofi Annan, of the Nobel Peace Prize to provide a strengthened base for peace, development, equity and justice.

That was a turning point for the world which saw, for the first time, that the common management of problems was a better route to peace than reliance on militarism. The world is now at another turning point. Aggressors have found a new way to attack humanity, not on the battlefield far away but in our offices and institutions at home. We must find ways to end forever this aggression. Shocked as we are by the horrific attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, we must, just as was done in the midst of World War II, lift ourselves up and recognize that something, other than bombing and the methods of warfare, is necessary to build human security.

We must use this terrible period we are passing through to think and act beyond the immediate crisis to find an enduring solution, not just one that momentarily gives us the satisfaction of responding in kind to an attack. It is not good enough for the Government of Canada to send our Armed Forces, ships and planes into military action in the perceived battle zone surrounding Afghanistan. It is not good enough for the government to introduce antiterrorism legislation and spend an extra $250 million in an effort to make Canadians safer from the ravages of terrorists. It is not good enough to rush through a bill that tightens regulations dealing with immigrants and refugees in the hope that this will make our borders secure against the incursion of unwanted people.

What is most needed today, at this moment of trauma for the world, is an all-out attack on the causes of terrorism. It is not just the criminals who perpetrated these heinous acts who must be caught and brought to justice. It is the dehumanizing economic and social deprivation that terrorists exploit that must be stamped out.

Let it not be said that I am insensitive to the victims, their families and friends who suffered the horrors of September 11. I went to New York and saw with my own eyes the tangled wreckage of the twin towers and the grieving of the people who stood silently watching the firemen and policemen trying to find survivors.

Let it not be said that I am falling into what is known as ``moral equivalence'' in which the actions of the terrorists are explained away by the injustices of the world. The September 11 terrorists are criminals, guilty of attacks against humanity, and they do not deserve the comforting of those who seek to understand them.

Let it not be said that I do not understand that it is only the power of militarism that can make us safe. I understand all too well that the instant recourse to warfare in the name of curing aggression has in the past and will in the future only lead to more violence and more suffering.

As the Afghan refugees in countless numbers are now experiencing, war exacts a terrible toll on the most vulnerable. I oppose the bombing of Afghanistan, just as I opposed the bombing of Kosovo, and just as I opposed the bombing of Iraq. In simple practical terms, it does not work. Neither Slobodan Milosevic nor Saddam Hussein were flushed out by bombing. In moral terms, bombing inflicts disproportionate damage on the society you are trying to save. Civilians are being killed, and this fact has been minimized.

While opposing the bombing, I acknowledge that military action mounted with the full force of the United Nations Security Council acting under the precepts of international law can legitimately be a proper response to the challenge posed by the terrorists. My point here is that even properly constituted military action cannot by itself remove the threat of future terrorist aggression. We must go deeper than this, and Canada has the credentials to do so.

Terrorism, the epitome of hate, feeds on the hatreds and resentments that have been built up in the rest of the world against western society. We do not like to hear this. CNN does not broadcast it. The political processes do not want to deal with it. Nonetheless, more conflict is coming because people who are downtrodden are rising up against the West they perceive as rich, arrogant and powerful. Anyone who has travelled widely, as I have, through the villages, teeming cities, refugee camps and slums of Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, knows these words to be true.

It is time for Canada to listen to a high-level panel of experts headed by former President Zedillo of Mexico who issued a UN report on financing for development in June 2001. The panel said that half the world's people are still living in abject poverty with 80 per cent of the global population living on less than 20 per cent of the global income. Too many people in too many countries lack the freedom to take advantage of the new opportunities of modern technology and are consequently left on the sidelines of the globalization process.

People lack freedom when they lack food, education, training, health, basic human and political rights, security and employment opportunities. Increasing polarization between the haves and have-nots has become a feature of our world, the panel said. Then there is this sobering warning which I quote directly from the report:

Reversing this shameful trend is the pre-eminent moral and humanitarian challenge of our age. For people in the rich world, elementary selfinterest is also at stake. In the global village, someone else's poverty very soon becomes one's own problem: of lack of markets for one's products, illegal immigration, pollution, contagious disease, insecurity, fanaticism, terrorism.

Honourable senators, we fool ourselves if we rely only on militarism to curb terrorists and do not take a gigantic step to ``reverse this shameful trend.'' The high-level panel issued a list of recommendations, ranging from making the World Trade Organization more equitable to recommitment of donor countries to the international target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for official development assistance, to an international tax organization to benefit the development process.

It is not only individual measures, important as they are, that are called for in the present crisis; it is a whole new strategy for the survival of humanity. This is what UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is calling for. Commenting on the anti-terrorism resolutions already adopted by the Security Council, the Secretary-General said:

To defeat terrorism, we need a sustained effort and a broad strategy to unite all nations, and address all aspects of the scourge we face. The cause must be pursued by all the States of the world, working together and using many different means including political, legal, diplomatic and financial means.

How much better for peace and security in the world it would be for governments to put their full weight behind such an effort.

Honourable senators, if we are worried about developing proper relations with Islam, if we are worried about how to cure the hate and racism that feeds evil acts, if we are worried about our own safety inside the borders of Canada, then let us act today to raise up society and its political discourse to project out into the international community the values that have made Canada a great country. These are the values that the Catholic Bishops of Canada recently called for in promoting interfaith dialogue in a common reach for international peace and justice for all. The essence of the great move forward for humanity that I am espousing is to move beyond militarism as the response to conflict.

There is no more pressing matter on the public agenda than preventing the escalation of present weaponry into even new and more dangerous spheres. That is why Secretary-General Annan urged, in the wake of September 11, what he called a ``redoubling'' of efforts to strengthen key treaties banning weapons of mass destruction to ensure that nuclear materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists. We must now work to head off nuclear terrorism.

A cooperative and forward-minded approach to international security, which the inquiry I am launching calls for, must also immediately address the escalating problem of national missile defence. Though the nature of the attacks of September 11 shows the futility of relying on a missile defence system, the opposite is now happening. The clamour of the military industrial complex in the United States to speed up the funding and testing for a missile defence system has grown. Canada, which has taken a low profile on the issue in the hope that somehow the issue will go away, will be challenged soon on whether we support and will be involved in this U.S. effort.

This presents a considerable dilemma for Canada, honourable senators. The U.S. intends the national missile defence system to be directly linked to the weaponization of space. Of this, there can be no doubt. On July 17, 2001, the U.S. announced that the research and development program for missile defence includes space-based lasers and interceptors required to protect the missile defence systems. U.S. defence policy, which can be seen on the Internet, makes a fundamental assumption that space will be weaponized and that the U.S. intends to be the leader by obtaining what is called ``full-spectrum dominance'' of land, sea, air and space. So determined is the U.S. to pursue the missile defence program that it is willing to jettison or severely modify the anti-ballistic missile treaty, which forbids such a system.

The newly invigorated plan to push ahead with missile defence and the weaponization of space threatens over 30 years of international legal norms designed to prevent such a scenario. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, ratified by over 90 countries, including Canada and the United States, is one of those norms. For this same 30-year period, it has been one of Canada's stalwart policies to oppose the weaponization of space. Canada has worked hard in the UN Conference on Disarmament for a convention on the non-weaponization of outer space and has tabled two proposals to negotiate a convention to keep weapons out of space. Foreign Minister John Manley stated that:

Canada would be very happy to launch an initiative to see an international convention preventing the weaponization of space.
However, NMD will undermine such efforts. Canada knows this. For Canada, knowing what it does about NMD's effects on the weaponization of space, to participate in NMD will directly counter three decades of work to prevent the weaponization of space. We will be turning our back on our own policy.

It is not unilateral defence by any one country that is the answer to the threats of our time. Rather, a cooperative and forward- minded approach to security for all is the only way to international security.

Honourable senators, it is now commonly said that September11 has changed the world. I would now ask, has it changed our thinking? Can we now finally rise up and make of God's planet the peaceful, just home for humanity that so many long for?