PM plans trip to U.S. to discuss united force
Chrétien tells Commons he will urge Bush to procede cautiously in war on terrorism
By SHAWN MCCARTHY, The Globe and Mail
PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF
Wednesday, September 19, 2001
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Jean Chrétien will travel next week to the U.S. capital for a war council with U.S. President George W. Bush and said he will advise the U.S. to take a restrained approach in its response to last week's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
A steady parade of foreign leaders will visit Washington over the next week as Mr. Bush tries to build a multinational coalition that includes not only NATO allies but Arab and other Muslim countries.
Mr. Chrétien told the Commons yesterday that he will urge caution on Mr. Bush, who has engaged in Wild West rhetoric in his promise to rid the world of terrorism.
"I intend to discuss with the President -- as I have been able to do with other leaders of governments -- a long-term approach, and not trying to take sensational, short-term actions that could have negative effects over the long term for the whole population of the globe," Mr. Chrétien said.
Mr. Chrétien has pledged to stand by the United States in its response to the attacks but has not indicated the role Canada would play. He said yesterday that the United States had not made any specific requests of Canada.
"There is no action that has been proposed by the Americans at this time in terms of defence. We know what we can do; they know what we can do, but they have not decided on a military action or requested our participation at this moment."
The U.S. ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, said that at Monday's meeting Mr. Bush will seek a pledge of Canadian military involvement from Mr. Chrétien, as well as assistance in building a broad coalition of nations.
Mr. Cellucci said Canada's military has the ability to help, citing peacekeeping troops on the job and frigates that patrol the Persian Gulf as examples of its operations overseas.
As Mr. Chrétien argued for a careful response to the terrorist attacks, he reiterated his admission that soldiers and innocent civilians might be casualties of the military response.
In the Commons yesterday, New Democratic Party Leader Alexa McDonough accused Mr. Chrétien of being willing to sacrifice innocent civilians in the war on terrorism Canada has committed to. "Where is the justice, where is the logic in avenging the death of innocent civilians in the United States by killing innocent civilians in another part of the world?".
Mr. Chrétien said he could make no assurances that soldiers and civilians would not be killed. "It is the nature of the struggle that we face, and we have to be responsible."
Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley appeared to dismiss NDP and Bloc Québécois suggestions that the chief goal should be to try terrorists before international tribunals. He noted that Afghanistan does not appear prepared to extradite terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. As a result, "it seems rather difficult to advocate that as a solution," Mr. Manley said.
He said the international court is supported by Canada, "but at this moment we also have an obligation to ensure that populations live in security."
The debate took on a sharp, partisan tone, as pledges of united action gave way to jeers and taunts across the Commons floor.
Canadian Alliance Leader Stockwell Day and Conservative Leader Joe Clark continued to push the government to take steps to increase policing and intelligence, to increase security at home.
Throughout the debate, Alliance MPs accused the Liberals of having been soft on terrorism and allowing front organizations to operate in Canada. Alliance MPs argued that the Liberals do not want to offend supporters in ethnic communities by cracking down on fundraising by such groups as the rebel Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka or the separatist Babbar Khalsa Sikhs.
After the Alliance introduced a motion for the Commons justice committee to examine draft terrorism legislation and send it to the Commons in February, Mr. Chrétien said Canadians would not like the opposition "trying to score political points all the time in a situation like this one."
The Bloc and the NDP opposed the Alliance motion, with the Bloc objecting to wording that called for the committee to consider measures to extradite accused terrorists who face the death penalty. Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said the Alliance would not agree to a compromise, and accused Mr. Day of caring more about petty politics than fighting terrorism.
Mr. Day said the Alliance felt that was a key point to consider. After the Alliance motion was defeated, the Alliance, in turn, rejected a less specific motion for the justice committee to make recommendations on terrorism legislation "at the earliest opportunity."
"As usual, they want to get unanimous approval on something that means nothing," Alliance House Leader John Reynolds said.