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Svend Robinson, a Canadian M.P., has forwarded CASI this transcript from the Canadian House of Commons. -------- HOUSE OF COMMONS DEBATES Debate May 10, 2001 Sanctions against Iraq Mr. Svend Robinson (Burnaby-Douglas, NDP) moved: That, in the opinion of this House, the Canadian government should lead efforts at the United Nations to lift the economic sanctions imposed upon Iraq since 1991, which have served only to inflict severe suffering on civilians, especially the most vulnerable members of the Iraqi population, namely the elderly, the sick and children. He said: Madam Speaker, it is with a sense of profound sadness and anger that I rise in my place in the House today to once again plead with our government, the Government of Canada, to finally show leadership and to call on the United Nations and on every other international forum for an end to the genocidal sanctions that have been imposed upon the people of Iraq for the last decade. I cannot believe I am still standing in place today pleading with our government to act, over a year after a strong, powerful and eloquent report of a unanimous foreign affairs committee called on the Liberal government to do precisely what I am seeking today, to lift the economic sanctions that have had such a catastrophic impact on innocent human lives, innocent people in Iraq. The sanctions certainly have not had an impact on Saddam Hussein, but over the course of the last decade, they have resulted in the death, according to UNICEF, of over half a million children under the age of five. I travelled to Iraq back in January 2000 with a delegation from a group called Voices of Conscience, Objection de conscience. This is a group of very fine women and men, mainly from Quebec, who are artists, journalists, doctors and representatives of non-governmental organizations. We travelled overland into Baghdad and then down into the southern part of Iraq. For me it was a return visit because I had been to Iraq nine years previously, just before war broke out. I visited in November 1990 leading a delegation that included Lloyd Axworthy, then foreign affairs critic for the Liberal Party, and a Conservative member of parliament named Bob Corbett. The results of the imposition of that draconian sanctioned regime, as well as the massive and ongoing bombings that many Canadians do not even know is happening in Iraq today, were absolutely devastating both to the people and to the infrastructure of Iraq. We must never forget the appalling attack that took place in 1991. I will not call it a war because, as one of the United States generals said, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. I believe there were over 100,000 Iraqi casualties of that attack. Prior to that attack, Iraq was one of the most advanced countries in the Middle East in economic, social and cultural rights. Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia. They belong to the people of Iraq. They were nationalized in 1972. Iraq had an extensive health care system, clean and abundant drinking water, sewage treatment plants, electric power generation plants, free education at all levels and a comprehensive network of social services. The status of women in Iraq, a country in the Middle East in which too often women are still very much second class citizens, was one of the most advanced of any country in that region. What our delegation witnessed on our return last year was the total collapse of Iraq's human and physical infrastructure, a nation that has experienced a shift from, as was described by the United Nations development program, relative affluence to massive poverty. Unemployment is epidemic. Inflation has skyrocketed. The average salary is about $5 U.S. a month. There has been a dramatic increase in begging, prostitution and crime. The agriculture sector is in disarray, ravaged by hoof and mouth disease, screwworm and the effects of major drought. The once thriving and vibrant cultural sector has been another victim of this inhumane sanctions regime, as our delegation heard from the artists with whom we met. While we were in Baghdad we also met with the then United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator, Hans von Sponeck. Hans von Sponeck, who was a distinguished public servant with the United Nations for many years, resigned shortly after we left. He said that he could no longer participate in the administration of the inhumane sanctions regime. In resigning in that way, he joined the former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator, Dennis Halliday, and the former head of the United Nations World Food Program, Jutta Burghardt. He pointed out in many speeches afterwards that, in his words, Iraq was truly a third world country once again. He said, and I quote: I have never been in a country where I have seen so many adults crying. In a recent speech, he quoted from a December 2000 UNICEF report that ranked the increase in Iraq's child mortality rates the highest among 188 countries in the world since 1991; a 160% surge as a result of a lack of medicine, malnutrition and water borne diseases, such as dysentery. Hans von Sponeck strongly opposes the sanctions and has called for the lifting of the sanctions. He said that he wants it clearly underlined that does not mean he supports Saddam Hussein, which is certainly also the case for myself and members of the New Democratic Party. While Saddam Hussein has an appalling track record of repression, including the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq at Halabja, and should be held accountable before the international community for his crimes, we also need to understand that the impact of these genocidal sanctions means that those are who are directly responsible for imposing them are, in my view, also guilty of crimes against humanity. Let us look at the former United States secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. When she was asked in an interview whether the deaths of thousands and thousands of innocent Iraqi children were worth the price that was being paid to enforce these sanctions, she looked right into the camera and she said "yes, that is a price worth paying". That was a price worth paying, the death of those children. As my colleague for Vancouver East said, that is shameful and that is genocidal. As Hans von Sponeck said "whether you die by bullets or by hunger and disease, you are still dead". Iraq in the last 10 years has suffered beyond any imaginable allowable limits. We often hear talk of Iraq as a rogue state. The United States is seeking to justify its new star wars scheme, the national missile defence program, partly by suggesting that somehow Iraq, North Korea, Iran and others are rogue states. I want to suggest that the true rogue state on the planet today in fact is the United States itself, which has shown such contempt for international law and for the standards of basic humanity in enforcing these profoundly immoral and illegal sanctions. The United States, after all, is a country that has demonstrated contempt for international law in many different ways. It has shown contempt for the environment by turning its back on the Kyoto accord. It has shown contempt for the rights of children by being one of the only countries in the world, along with Somalia, that has refused to sign the international convention on the rights of the child. It has shown contempt for international law by supporting the absolute violent and appalling policies of the Israeli government in its attacks on the Palestinians and its illegal policy of occupation in settlements. Terrible violence is being directed against Palestinians. It is the United States that has consistently been propping it up. We can also look at the United States in the context of its support for the illegal sanctions against Cuba. Once again, which state is the real rogue state in the world today? We know which one it is. The current situation in Iraq is absolutely tragic. The greatest burden of these sanctions is borne by the most vulnerable people in Iraqi society: the children, the women, the disabled and the elderly. As I have mentioned, UNICEF has confirmed that infant mortality rates have skyrocketed since the imposition of these sanctions. Over half a million children have died as a result of the imposition of these sanctions and 4.500 children continue to die each month. I met with doctors in Baghdad and Basra who, with tears in their eyes, spoke of their sense of helplessness and powerlessness in being unable to save the lives of more than 2% of the children in their care in the oncology wards. They knew that many of those who survived would just return to hellish conditions of malnutrition and open sewage. There was one nurse for 100 children in a ward that we visited. There has been an explosive rise in the incidence of endemic infections, such as cholera, typhoid and malaria, and major increases in measles, polio and tetanus. Iraq has also seen a huge brain drain as a result of the sanctions. The middle class has largely been destroyed and young people see no hope for their future. We were told of Saturday auctions where proud Iraqi families are forced to sell off their family heirlooms and furniture simply to survive. I visited a pediatric clinic in Basra in the south. The death toll there was particularly high and it was linked to the use by the allies of depleted uranium in bombing in the spring of 1991. As I have mentioned, the bombings continue even today in that region. It is illegal. The no fly zones have no legal basis whatsoever, yet the United States and the U.K. continue to bomb and innocent civilians continue to die as a result of that bombing. Recently they bombed just outside Baghdad. I was ashamed as a Canadian that our government was one of the only governments that was actually prepared to stand up and defend the United States and the United Kingdom in that illegal bombing. The bombing goes on and the impact of depleted uranium in terms of the congenital deformities, particularly in the south, has been terrible. We also witnessed the results of what one Baghdad professor referred to as the intellectual genocide of Iraq. Virtually no funding is left for education as a result of the oil proceeds and so the system has collapsed. They have no access to scientific and medical journals and no opportunities to attend professional conferences. Parents give their children chalk to take to schools. Our delegation brought in pencils and medical supplies as an act of silent defiance. What about the oil for food program? Well, it has not worked. In fact the so-called 661 committee, which enforces the program, has been harshly criticized by many commentators, including the secretary general of the United Nations who said just last November that he had serious concerns over the excessive number of holds that have been placed on applications and on sectors, such as electricity, water, sanitation and agriculture, that impact adversely on the poor state of nutrition in Iraq. I would like to say a word about nutrition. Dr. Sheila Zurbrigg has documented eloquently the state of famine that has gripped Iraq today. She pointed out that in recent statistics the trends in mortality are getting even worse and that the conditions are getting worse. She also said that child malnutrition rates in the centre south part of the country do not appear to have improved and nutrition problems remain serious and widespread. Acute malnutrition is a huge problem and it is above 10%. Many children are small for their age and visibly wasting away. One in seven Iraqi children will die before the age of five. It is absolutely unbelievable. The agricultural sector, as the FAO has pointed out, is in crisis as well. I have mentioned Dr. Sheila Zurbrigg. I will also pay tribute to the many Canadians, individuals and organizations that have worked so tirelessly and with such commitment and dedication against these inhumane and genocidal sanctions. These include the Canadian Network to End Sanctions on Iraq, the Nova Scotia Campaign to End Iraq Sanctions, End the Arms Race, Physicians for Global Survival Canada, Objection de conscience or Voices of Conscience, Project Ploughshares, Kawartha Ploughshares and many such groups across the country. In closing, I once again remind the House of the unanimous recommendation of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade that the government immediately work for the lifting of economic sanctions. It is essential that the sanctions be lifted, that they be lifted now and that Canada show the leadership that makes it possible. Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to wholeheartedly support the motion brought forward by the member for Burnaby-Douglas. The work of the member for Burnaby-Douglas has been outstanding, not just on this issue but also in understanding and promoting international human rights. He speaks with a great sense of hope for people in Canada who seek an alternative to Canada's foreign policy. The member has been a beam of light for a lot of people in in the work that he has undertaken. I listened with great sadness as he described his personal visit to Iraq and what he encountered while there. Members in the House and Canadian enjoy the basic necessities of life, although there are people in this country who live in poverty. However what is happening to the people of Iraq is something that is truly horrifying. I listened to the debate and was quite alarmed at what I heard. The member who spoke for the government side and the member who spoke for the Canadian Alliance were both members of the committee and, as we heard from the member for Burnaby-Douglas, were part of the unanimous report that came from that committee which sought to have these sanctions removed. It quite alarming that in a committee members can somehow find the courage and the reason to see the absolute horror and devastation of what has happened with the sanctions, yet on another day in the House somehow be in favour of them. In fact the member for the Alliance characterized the motion as being naive. I am quite surprised by that. If we look at the impact of these sanctions, which have been in place for over a decade, on a civilian population, we see nothing less than the total destruction of a civil society. If we followed the Alliance member's reasoning and logic, if we can call it a logic, then for the net result what would be success in the eyes of that member? Would it be that every child has died? Would it be that 50% of the population of children under five have died? The logic of what is being presented is actually illogical. I take issue with the fact that, as we have heard, the target of the sanctions is Saddam Hussein. If that is so, then there has to be an agreement that the goal of those sanctions has been a failure. Here we are 10 years later and the guy is still in power. Meanwhile the civil society, the infrastructure, the hospitals, the health care, the water system and everything has been totally destroyed. I would say to those who have been proponents of this kind of course of action and this kind of foreign policy that this has been an abject failure. In my community of Vancouver east, and in Vancouver generally, I have received many letters and phone calls from individual constituents who have been horrified and outraged at the destruction these sanctions have caused the people of Iraq. I have personally attended rallies, vigils and meetings. I know that some of the real activists in Vancouver, people like Linda Morgan who was very involved in organizing the delegation that went to Iraq last year, are very committed to an international campaign of solidarity with people from other countries to draw attention to what is taking place in this country. As a Canadian member of parliament, I feel ashamed that our government has so blindly followed this sanction policy for so many years. Let us be clear about what the motion before us today says. It does not say that Canada should take unilateral action. It does not say that Canada should just strike out on its own. It says that the Canadian government should lead the efforts at the United Nations to lift economic sanctions. There are many Canadians who would see that as a positive, hopeful and powerful role for the government to play rather than standing by and watching the devastation take place. I listened to the news the other day to hear what was going on, as we all do every day. I made note that the Pope has now called for lifting of the sanctions. I believe there is a growing consciousness globally that if this is what we have sunk to as an international community, if the lowest common denominator of foreign policy is to basically impose hunger, famine, lack of medical supplies, lack of education, lack of clean water and if this is what foreign policy has come to, then where are we in terms of an international community? As Canadians we should pause and reflect about our complicity is in these sanctions. I urge members on the government side, particularly those members who are part of the foreign affairs committee and who apparently supported the lifting of the sanctions, to think about what this government policy is doing. It seems to me that historically after a conflict or war there is often a period of reconciliation where the international community comes together to rebuild from the devastation of war. Yet in this situation not only was there a war that was horrific, and we could argue that another day in terms of what that was all about, but another war has unfolded, a war that has been even more devastating and that has been going on now for 10 years, which is the war of these sanctions. Therefore, I feel a sense of deep tragedy about what has taken place here. I hope the motion today will help draw attention to the plight of the Iraqi people and to some of the very credible reports which have been produced by the international community such as UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders and many others who have witnessed firsthand what has happened and have given evidence to their witness of that. Another point I would like to make is the member from the Canadian Alliance made an outrageous statement that the Arab summit was not in favour of lifting the sanctions, which was absolutely not the case. That is totally false. In fact, the Amman Declaration of March 28 from the 13th Arab summit, clearly stated: We call for lifting the sanctions on Iraq and for dealing with the humanitarian issues pertaining to Iraq, Kuwaiti and other prisoners of war according to the principles of our religion and national heritage. Therefore, the Alliance member was clearly false in his assertion. In closing, I want to thank the member for Burnaby-Douglas for bringing forward this issue again; a sane idea, a saner policy for a humane world where we do not destroy a civil society because we are trying to get at one person. I hope the members of this House will consider this motion and, like the local and national organizations who have worked so hard, put pressure on our Canadian government to convince it to be part of an effort to lift these sanctions. Mr. Svend Robinson: Madam Speaker, in the final minutes of this debate I want to certainly thank my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, for once again eloquently speaking out for justice, for human rights, for the rights of the people of Iraq to live in dignity and in support of this motion for the lifting of sanctions. I also want to thank my colleague from Pictou-Antigonish-Guysborough for his very thoughtful comments. I must say that I am really quite shocked at the fact that not a single Liberal member of parliament was prepared to stand during the course of this debate and speak out in support of what Liberal members voted in favour of during the last parliament. The foreign affairs committee in that last parliament passed a motion unanimously with the support of every party, including the Alliance Party and the Liberals. I see the parliamentary secretary here who was a member of that committee and voted in favour of this motion, as did the member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca. The motion passed unanimously stated: Notwithstanding the adoption of security council resolution 1284, the committee urgently pursue the delinking of economic from military sanctions with a view to rapidly lifting economic sanctions in order to significantly improve the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people. That is what the motion today calls for. It is unbelievable that members who voted in favour of this principle in the last parliament now are condemning it. How many more innocent Iraqi lives have been lost over the course of just the last year? They say we have to maintain these economic sanctions because of concern about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They ignore the report that they signed on to. In fact that report states very clearly, referring to a March 1999 report of the UN expert panel on disarmament "The bulk of Iraq's prescribed weapons programs have been eliminated-100% of verification may be an unattainable goal". Indeed the former lead United Nations weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, has emphatically declared that Iraq was qualitatively disarmed of weapons of mass destruction from 1991 to 1998. Yet of course there was no lifting of sanctions. I have no doubt that if the international community, with Canada leading in this, were to make it very clear to the Iraqi government that we were prepared to lift economic sanctions by a specific and firm date with international guarantees, Iraq would be prepared to allow the readmission of arms inspectors into that country and an assurance that any evidence of weapons that were being produced illegally would be dealt with and dealt with firmly. However, that is not what is happening here today. I want to appeal to members once again to recognize the impact of this. The fact is that we as Canadians are spending some $35 million every year in enforcing these insane and genocidal sanctions. We have spent over $1 billion since 1991 in this region. I do not believe that Canadians who know of the impact of these sanctions on innocent human lives support this for one minute. Dennis Halliday, the former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator, in speaking of these sanctions said "We are destroying an entire society. It is as simple and as terrifying as that". He is right. The purpose of this motion is to call for leadership. It is a tragic coincidence that we are debating this motion on the eve of Mother's Day. I recall so vividly meeting many Iraqi mothers who had lost children as a result of these sanctions. I recall looking into the eyes of an Iraqi mother who pleaded with me "Why are you killing my innocent child?" I could not answer that question. I appeal on the eve of Mother's Day for the international community and Canada to show leadership to end the impact of these destructive and genocidal sanctions and ensure that no more children, no more innocent people in Iraq, die as a result of these sanctions. That is my plea. That was the unanimous plea of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in its report. In closing, I seek unanimous consent of the House at this time that this motion might be made votable so at the very least the House could debate the issue and ensure that Canadians are given an opportunity to be heard in the committee on a profoundly important issue of life and death. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://www.casi.org.uk