Sunday, December 13, 2009

Part 5 - Activism - Report #5

Report #5 (see side-bar), which was unanimously supported by the 18 Members of Parliament sitting on the Committee and representing all five political parties, called for a de-linking of sanctions. This meant the removal of economic sanctions but leaving military sanctions in place. It further called for an opening of dialogue between Canada and Iraq. The deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Tariq Aziz, accepted Report #5, as a good basis to resolve the situation in Iraq. It was suggested that the Secretary General of the United Nations might use that report as a basis for breaking the impasse on getting proper humanitarian relief to Iraq.

Report #5 was rejected outright by the then Canadian Foreign Minister, Lloyd Axworthy, and it died without being taken to the UN. The main reason given by senior advisors to Axworthy, at a meeting that I attended, were as follows. “While we recognize the destruction to the people of Iraq, we cannot do anything to upset the U.S. Administration because they will beat us up on trade.” One of the senior advisors was a medical doctor who had visited Iraq and seen first hand the difficulties being experienced by the people of Iraq.

This resulted in two important outcomes for me. I met Madame Colleen Beaumier, the Vice-Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, and I discovered that Lloyd Axworthy would not act if it meant confronting the United States.

I invited Madame Beaumier to come to New York to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Tariq Aziz. She agreed and the meeting was arranged for September 2000 at the Iraq Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. We discussed Report #5 as a basis to solving the economic embargo on Iraq while agreeing that at this stage the military embargo had to remain in place. The meeting was cordial and it was the first time that parliamentarians from Canada and Iraq had met since the Gulf War. By now Canada had closed its embassy in Baghdad even though Iraq maintained a Charge d’Affaire in Ottawa. The action now became one of getting individual MPs to endorse Report #5, in an attempt to get a majority of the 301 MPs to sign a letter addressed to the Prime Minister (and copied to the Foreign Minister) demanding that Canada accept the results of the Report drafted by the Standing Committee assigned the task of advising the Foreign Minister. We received unanimous support from the Bloq Quebecois, the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservatives, while individual members of both the Liberal Party and the Alliance Party, led by Dr. Keith Martin agreed to endorse the Report. We had the support of 127 members when Parliament was dissolved on October 22nd, 2000 and an election called. This nullified our efforts until after the election.

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