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Independence of new Peace Centre debated

Roy McFarlane — May 1984

OTTAWA — External Affairs Minister Allan MacEachen introduced legislation (Bill C-32), Monday, April 16, to establish the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security. The Bill, which is expected to become law this summer, was welcomed with some reservation by P.C. disarmament critic Joe Clark and N.D.P. External Affairs critic Pauline Jewett.

According to the Bill, “the purpose of the Institute is to increase knowledge of the issues related to international peace and security, with particular emphasis on defence, arms control and disarmament, and to

  1. collect and disseminate information and ideas on international peace and security;
  2. promote scholarship in matters related to international peace and security;
  3. encourage public discussion of international peace and security issues; and
  4. foster, fund and conduct research on international peace and security issues of particular interest to Canadians or to the Government of Canada.”

The Institute will be funded jointly by the Department of National Defence and the Department of External Affairs — with $1.5 million allocated for this coming year, rising to $5 million by 1xxx-xxxx.

MacEachen, opening debate on the second reading of the Bill on Tuesday, April 17th, said, “This proposed Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security should be seen in the context of increased concern in Canada over the state of East-West relations.

“There have been some signs of improvement recently. However, we have not achieved an atmosphere in which conflict between East and West can, be ruled impossible. The threat of nuclear war continues to loom. These spectres are of immediate concern to all Canadians. Fortunately there exists a broad-based, non-partisan consensus among us all that Canada has a right and indeed a moral obligation to play a lead role in efforts to reduce these tensions.”

Outlining the tasks of the Institute, MacEachen said, “The first priority will be to set up a library and data base for the voluminous published material on these questions. It will be a central resource for research and interest in this field by individuals as well as by groups and institutions.”

The Institute will also publish studies, and sponsor conferences on peace and security issues, according to MacEachen.

Former Prime Minister Joe Clark, presently P.C. critic on disarmament, began his party’s assessment of the Institute by saying, “I think there can be no question anywhere in the country that the concept of the establishment of a peace institute centred in Canada is of great importance to us.” Clark went on to criticise the Bill as being “fatally flawed.” “We need changes that will guarantee the independence of this agency, changes that will guarantee its accountability to the House of Commons and Parliament, and changes that will ensure … that there will be a complementing of the activities and institutions already engaged in the field of peace research in the country rather than a supplanting, directly or indirectly of these agencies.”

Pauline Jewett, joining the debate on behalf of the N.D.P., said that “We agree with the Bill in principle. We agree with much of its content.” Jewett detailed a number of amendments to the Bill that the N.D.P. would propose. She also stressed the importance of giving the Canadian public sufficient time to make suggestions to the government on the Institute before the, Bill creating it becomes law;

Later in the debate British Columbia N.D.P. MP Ray Skelly criticized the government. “One cannot advocate peace and disarmament and build components for nuclear weapons.”

Jean Lapierre, until recently parliamentary secretary to Allan MacEachen, responded on behalf of the government. “Certainly,” he said, “the cruise missile problem could be examined by that Institute, as well as other arms-related problems, possibly in the light of American involvement around the world.”

The debate on the Bill, adjourned when the House rose for Easter break, will be resumed in May, after the M.P.s return. There is as yet no indication of where the Institute would be located, or when it would begin operation.