Evidence of meeting #16 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was afghanistan.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

One of the things Mr. Capstick touched on is the concern around people being tortured. I can tell you that when you brought up the issue in the House, it used to be, well then, you're sympathetic to the Taliban. And Mr. Capstick, you commented that these are Afghan citizens. From my standpoint, we don't want to become the enemy, if you will. So it's incredibly important.

If we look at the model, Mr. Neve, if it's not Canada building and administering prisons--and I don't want to see us do that either--then you're talking about a collaborative approach where we are clear and transparent about when we're handing over the detainees. Obviously that's something we should do and that others are doing, and then have more people on the ground.

Do the Afghans presently have enough resources in terms of their human rights oversight? We know that the oversight is with the Afghan human rights agency. Do they have enough resources presently?

4:40 p.m.

Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Alex Neve

There's obviously any number of areas where one could say that resources are inadequate, and I think domestic human rights capacity, human rights monitoring, human rights institutions are areas of real concern.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission is an incredibly important institution in the country; it has done some great work. Hilary has highlighted one of their reports. There's a lot of work that they've done, not just with respect to this particular issue of battlefield detainees; that's one very specific issue in a broad human rights landscape.

So yes, there's a vital need, not just for somewhat increased resourcing, but substantially increased resourcing.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Kippen, I want to bring you in on the conversation.

I had the experience of being in Iraq this past summer. It was actually some of the work that has been done in your shop.... Practical federalism was the theme of the conference. We were discussing in Iraq the problems from the beginning, the fact that they hadn't had a discussion on governance models and not bringing in people who were seen as the enemy to the governance of Iraq.

When you look at Kabul as the central shop, if you will, and a place like Kandahar, is anyone discussing changing the governance models--i.e., the notion of federalism? Has that been discussed at all? Is there any work being done on that within Afghanistan and among people who are thinking about policy options here?

4:40 p.m.

Principal, The Hillbrooke Group

Grant Kippen

There has been that sort of discussion going on. In the constitutional loya jirga back in 2003-04, there was a discussion about the best form of representation, what kind of system works. As you know, Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country that is made up of a diverse group of cultures; it's not homogeneous by any stretch of the imagination. They're all looking for their place in society in their ability to have proper representation.

I think this is a discussion Canada could participate in and help facilitate in the country, but it's first steps.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Absolutely. No question.

4:40 p.m.

Principal, The Hillbrooke Group

Grant Kippen

I agree with what Mike is saying, in the sense that the institutions need to be built out. I think Afghans themselves need to understand what the system is going to do for them.

The international community came in along with the senior Afghan officials, presented democracy, and said this is the best thing since sliced bread; we had elections, now let's move on. One election does not a democracy make. We have to stay for the longer term. We have to facilitate that understanding, education, and build up the capacity. I think there are a lot of expectations from the international communities about what they would like to see Afghans do in terms of their own governance, etc., but I think we've been woefully inadequate in providing the skills and the knowledge and the capacity to make that happen.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Can I ask Colonel Capstick about signature aid projects?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Ten seconds.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

I take it you're against signature aid projects.

4:40 p.m.

Col M.D. Capstick

No, I'm not. What we need to do is understand what we're doing when we do a signature aid project and ensure Afghan capacity is being developed.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Okay, thank you very much.

We'll go to Mr. Khan now for five minutes, second round.

March 4th, 2008 / 4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, gentlemen. It's been a very informative and frank conversation. It's been one of the better presentations.

I will not dwell too much on the developmental side, but I will point out that most of the work that is being done in Afghanistan relates to human rights. Whether it's education, economic capacity-building, community development and infrastructure, health, clearing of mines, eventually rule of law, supporting of the Afghan National Police, freedom of expression, they all fall under the same category of providing a building capacity towards human rights, of providing human rights in different fields, in different areas.

I am a little perplexed that we focus on one area and not appreciate the rest. I want to compliment the government for increasing over $200 million of aid towards development. It is a difficult country, if we can call that a country. It is a difficult task. I would suggest that we need not only look at the grass and the bushes, but also look at the forest. Look at the country as a whole as to what has been achieved.

By no means am I saying this is great, everything's been perfect--not at all. But we should at the same time not diminish the efforts of the international community, and particularly of Canada. When I visited Afghanistan I met the minister of rural development and I was delighted to see that the Canadian PRT people were taking that minister out to areas where the Afghan government did not have the ability to go. In those dangerous areas the Canadians were out there helping the minister.

Also, when I met with General McNeill, who was the ISAF commander at that time, he had tremendous praise for Canadians. He said we are one of the only people...that the development people move along with the military as far as Kandahar is concerned. We can laugh or joke about these things, but we must not forget that without the establishment of order there can be no security, and with no security there can be no human rights that we all want.

Without much further ado--I don't have a whole lot of time, but I could speak a lot--I have a question for Mr. Kippen as well as Mr. Capstick.

You mentioned the elections in Pakistan. Since 1947 there have been three dictatorships and several governments, as you know. I think the people of Pakistan have sent a very clear signal. Whenever there is a free and fair election, which this one, I think, was--maybe not 100%, but to a great degree--the religious parties, the fundamentalist parties, have been rejected completely, which is a wonderful thing. The government has been voted out; the secular parties have won. I think at this time we should also give a little credit to the new chief of the army staff, General Kayani, who instructed all corps commanders and intelligence agencies, right down to people working as nasims, as we call them--mayors in small places--that if anybody intervenes he will take very serious action against them, particularly the military. Therefore they will only be there to assist and maintain law and order; they will not intervene. That is one of the key reasons we had this election.

What I'd like to ask you, Mr. Kippen, is what the next step should be.

And very quickly, Colonel, we abandoned Afghanistan back in 1989, which I think has brought us to this stage today. What would happen to Afghanistan if we abandoned it today?

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Khan. You've left about ten seconds for an answer.

Mr. Kippen.

4:45 p.m.

Principal, The Hillbrooke Group

Grant Kippen

In terms of next steps, I covered that in my remarks. I think there's a tremendous opportunity for Canadian parliamentarians and the Government of Canada to develop professional working relationships with the new parliamentarians, both at the national assembly and at the provincial assemblies, particularly in Beluchistan, which borders, as everyone knows, on Kandahar province. I think the time is short and I think the opportunity needs to be grasped very quickly in order to do that.