House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.

Topics

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Chair, 582 women ran in the last election, which is quite a record considering the situation and the environment in which they were living prior to that. A Canadian woman did run in the election and was elected.

However, despite all of that, even now the struggle is a major one. The environment, obviously, is still not safe, which is why our military and other armed forces are in Afghanistan. The government is still fairly fragile. The infrastructure of governance is still being built in many cases and the women have a tremendous role to play.

However it also takes a tremendous amount of courage, a great deal more, I have to say, gentlemen, than it does for the men. In addition to having the threat of the environment that exists, females can also be targeted directly, specifically and very purposely. There are still those in society who do not want women to participate. They want them to stay in their places, to stay in their homes and to stay hidden and invisible. I cannot say how I would react if I had to run for office in that environment. They are very brave women. These women, with men and families who support them, will be the ones to make the difference in Afghanistan in the long run.

That is the reason they need us to be with them side by side for the long term. They need us to protect them, to help them, to assist them and to give them the kind of partnership they need to take back their country and to build a future for not only themselves but for their children. Ultimately that is what this is about.

The only way we can really make a difference is to ensure that, however difficult and whatever the differences we may have, at the end of the day we stay the course with Afghanistan for the long term. This is not a short term solution and it never is. The situation that exists requires a great deal of work. Building a strong government takes a long time. We just need to look at our own country. We did not just evolve over a decade. We have been at it for a couple of hundred years or more and we are still changing.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in Afghanistan. It has gone through tremendous pain and faces a number of challenges not only in terms of its physical security, defence security and human security, but there is also the issue of narcotics and governance structures, et cetera.

The women and the children need our support because ultimately they are the future of that nation and they will make the difference as to whether that nation succeeds or fails. It was one of the failing states but now it is being reborn and it is moving forward. We have an obligation to ensure it gets there.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:05 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, my question with regard to Afghanistan relates to the hon. member's experience when she was minister for CIDA.

We know that the situation in Afghanistan for decades has been one of insecurity for the people who are there, and now because our forces are there with a multilateral coalition of forces, the people of Afghanistan have a chance for security.

The hon. member knows full well the inability of citizens and civilians in areas that have failed or are failing to get access to basic health care and basic services. If our military were not there with other coalition forces, would the people in Afghanistan, particularly in areas outside the major centres, have access to basic medical care and basic nutrition that is essential for them to survive, for their children to have proper nutrition so they can think and go to school, and for women to have children with normal birth weights as opposed to low birth weight infants and high infant mortality and morbidity statistics?

Is not the reason that our forces are there is to provide security on the ground so the people of Afghanistan will be able to build a structure and they will be able to take charge of their country in a secure environment and be able to provide the basic needs that any stable country requires?

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:10 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Chair, there is no question that we cannot build anything or form a government in a state of violence and total insecurity, which is why we need to stabilize the situation. We need to continue to have Canadian armed forces and other forces over there in order to maintain stability, peace and security which will allow the building to take place.

The election itself could not have happened had there been violence, total chaos and anarchy, which of course would have been the situation in many cases. Women would never have dared to participate in that election if there had not been a certain stability and secure environment. They are still at risk all the time but at least they have an ability to move about and participate.

While I have not been to Afghanistan, I have had the honour of visiting Kosovo, Haiti and a couple of other places where our armed forces have been, and I can tell members that Canadian soldiers are second to none. When I visited them in Kosovo, not only did they do peacekeeping during the day, which they had to do, but in their off hours they were building schools. At the schools I visited, the children all had pictures and drawings, some showing horrible fear and panic which was happening prior to our soldiers arriving. However in one particular picture which I will always remember was a drawing of a Canadian soldier with a child peeping out from behind the soldier, kind of daring to look around our soldier but hiding in part and using our soldier as protection. It showed the trust of that child in our Canadian armed forces.

I am very proud of our forces and I am very proud of what they do on the ground and in partnership with CIDA. CIDA does a tremendous amount of excellent work on the ground. I could not say these things while I was minister because it would have been bragging but I can now and I am proud to say it. The NGOs are great partners on the ground and without them we could not work because we deliver all our programs in partnership with the NGOs. This is a partnership with our armed forces, with National Defence, with CIDA and with our partners on the ground and it is a successful one.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, it is clear in the discussions from this side of the House and as we are hearing from the other side of the House that we support 100% our troops and the initiatives that are taking place in Afghanistan. Certainly I feel comforted knowing that General Rick Hillier is at the helm. He has clearly proven to be and I believe will continue to prove to be more than capable of the task. The troops have great confidence in him and we have great confidence in him also.

I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills, for an article which he published not too long ago which raised some important questions. I believe that article was significant in getting the government to recognize that it is time to talk about why we are doing what we are doing. When a nation sends its troops into harm's way, citizens clearly have the right to know what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it. That is the importance of this debate tonight.

Defence policy is and should be an extension of foreign policy. The foreign policy of a Conservative government would certainly be to recognize that it is in Canada's best interest to defend emerging and threatened democracies. It is in our best interest to promote democracy, defend emerging democracies and stand up for and defend threatened democracies.

It is virtually a corollary that democracies do not go to war against each other. The more nations around the globe that become democratic, the less chance there is of war certainly between the democratic nations. That is why it is in Canada's best interest to be at peace, to see peace advanced in the world. At times it has to be done in this particular fashion. The government should continue to make that point so our citizens know why we are putting troops in harm's way and why we are doing what we are doing.

It is another corollary that dictators and vicious dictatorial regimes, especially like the Taliban, never give up without a fight. As one of the members opposite indicated tonight, and I am not saying the Minister of National Defence shares this view, to suggest that we are now going to allow our troops to be put at risk is being naive. Our troops were at risk the moment they landed in Afghanistan. They are there for a great purpose. We need to acknowledge that purpose, congratulate them for what they are doing and to remind our citizens that this is in Canada's best interest. That is why we raise questions, and we do have questions.

My colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills with his considerable experience has gone into great detail in terms of the equipment itself and the logistical matters. I will not try to match his expertise, but we are raising important questions. Is the mandate realistic, clear and enforceable? Are there clear rules of engagement for our troops? Do we have properly equipped forces?

As we raise these questions, family members of our troops may be listening to this debate or may follow the reports of this debate tomorrow or at a later date. We do not want to cause undue alarm in their minds and hearts. As a matter of fact, this process will help to ensure that their loved ones will have the resources they need. Clearly they do have resources, but are they the best resources possible?

There have been great announcements about spending increases related to national defence. The government can talk about $12 billion but in fact the front end load of that is only $500 million this year and $600 million next year. The promise of increased resources are not until years three, four and five. That is making a great presumption on what the voters might be deciding only several weeks from now. We know there are questions related to the resources and how those are procured.

There is the question of whether we can sustain this commitment and still engage in other international crises if they arise. How are we going to measure progress in the theatre in Afghanistan? What is going to be the definition of success?

I appreciate we have already heard tonight some of the things that will be related to and are being measured. We have to have a definition of success and we have to have a clear exit strategy. What are the milestones that will be achieved that will determine when we will exit?

This point of our resources is so important. It has been said by wiser people than myself who understand what military involvement is all about that armed forces have two primary purposes, to either deter or to destroy the enemy. That may sound harsh, but it is the reality. That is the purpose of armed forces. Certainly they can be involved somewhat in other duties as peace is achieved. It is important to remember our history. In the last 10 to 20 years we have heard of Canadians as peacekeepers, but Canadians predominantly have been peacemakers down through our history.

We do not have to walk too far down the banks of the Ottawa River to see a plaque acknowledging in the mid-1800s the coureurs de bois and others. Even before Canada was officially a nation about 400 of them volunteered to go and fight with the British expeditionary force on the Nile because they had great expertise in canoes and other small craft in terms of navigating the waterways. They were brave fighters then. In the Boer War we were there in that particular theatre.

In the first world war it was in dynamic places such as Vimy Ridge where Canada became a nation. Why do we say Canada became a nation there? In that particular battle, other nations and other forces had tried to dislodge the enemy and they had failed. It fell upon Canadians to do what was thought to be impossible in terms of scaling the hills and the ridges that made up Vimy. Canadians did it and this was the first time they were fighting just as Canadians with nobody else to help. Others had failed and we prevailed and it was a significant point in the war.

In the second world war on the beaches of Juno, in the Italian theatre, in North Africa and all the other places and then again in Korea, Canadians were fighting.

Canadians do not like it when people get bullied. We do not like bullies. We never have. We have never backed down from defending people whose rights are being trampled on. We need to realize that is why we are in Afghanistan. There will be peacekeeping. There are peacekeeping aspects of this operation but it is peacemaking and it is high risk.

We pose these questions and we do so remembering our history and not being shy about it. As we have already heard to a degree tonight, we need to trumpet the accomplishments of what is going on there. It is absolutely remarkable to see democracy being sustained. It is weak, but it is growing and it is becoming stronger every day and largely because of our commitment and the commitment of other countries there.

The government has had a reticence of late about acknowledging valour among our troops. There was a terrible situation in the Balkans not too many years ago where the Princess Pats were under extreme danger, possibly at the point of elimination. They had been told they were not even to return fire and they had to literally fight for their lives and the lives of others. They did so in an extremely courageous and skilful manner. There was very little acknowledgement of that by the government.

There are experts in our military and very recently some of our snipers who were awarded and acknowledged by other countries for their expertise, their valour and their courage on what they did to save and preserve lives. Yet the government almost seemed to be embarrassed about that and does not like to talk about it.

Our top guns, our aviators in competition with the United States often win those top gun competitions but there is a reticence to acknowledge that. I am not talking about the glorification of war. I am talking about the recognition of commitment.

School children to this day in Holland are taught about the great price paid by Canadians in peacemaking. Still to this day the children in the schools in Holland tend the graves of Canadians. Students in Holland have a greater understanding of what Canadians did than do Canadians in our own schools because we do not properly recognize it.

We hope there will be no deaths in Afghanistan, but we are being realistic and families are prepared for the eventuality of this high risk area. I hope 50 years from now, as Afghanistan children who have been taught in their schools about the price paid by Canadians, if they have to either tend graves of Canadians or just acknowledge that Canadians were there, I hope that as they do they also know that children in Canadian schools are being taught why we are there.

These are the unfortunate eventualities of history, but we are there. We are asking questions to make sure the mission is successful. We are asking for full recognition of the great valour, courage and commitment that our troops are making as they are there.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:20 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, the hon. member is the foreign affairs critic for the Conservative Party but I have to correct him on a couple of points.

I am not sure if he is aware that in the 2005 estimates, if the opposition chooses to join us, they would agree to spend an extra $1.3 billion on our armed forces for 2005. That is in addition to the $500 million that we put in this year, a number that is going to ramp up over the next five years to a total of $13 billion. That is only a small down payment of the government's commitment to reinforce our armed forces, to give them the personnel, troops, training and equipment they need to do their job. The member has to recognize that the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Finance have put on the table this week an extra $1.3 billion this year alone for our armed forces.

On the issue of recognition, he also has to acknowledge that the Minister for Veterans Affairs declared 2005 as the year of the veteran. That is a clear acknowledgement of the desire on the part of our government, and indeed I would say the whole House, to recognize the sacrifice, the commitment, the courage and the bravery of our armed forces. It recognizes the sacrifice and commitment the armed forces have given, are giving and will continue to give in the future, be it in Afghanistan or in other parts of the world.

He mentioned that the purpose of the military is to deter and destroy. That is certainly part of its role but the type of asymmetric threats we face today go beyond the need simply to do that. As the former minister for international development mentioned in the House a little while ago, for a country to stabilize itself, security must be defined in a much broader context. Yes, our armed forces engage in combat and they do an excellent job. Yes, they engage in peacekeeping or peacemaking, which is war by another name. They also enable places to have security. They enable food to get to the hungry. They enable medications to get to the sick. They enable people to carry on with their lives in an area of insecurity. Our forces enable that to happen.

Recently the DART provided potable water in Pakistan. A person in an earthquake zone who did not have potable water and was going to die of thirst would be very thankful for Canadian Forces soldiers who would be able to provide the potable water that would save the person's life and the lives of his or her family members. That is something our armed forces are doing right now.

Our armed forces cleared roads to enable convoys of NGOs to get into areas that previously were unreachable because of the earthquake. Our armed forces were able to lift that capability into the earthquake zone and open up those roads, which enabled lifesaving material to get to the people who needed it.

Does the member not acknowledge the fact that the government would like to put in $1.8 billion if he and his party would agree to it this year? Would he not also agree that we have acknowledged the extraordinary contributions and will do more for our armed forces by declaring this year the year of the veteran? Would he also acknowledge that in Afghanistan and other parts of the world the role of the armed forces is more than the World War II vision, but something that is more holistic and involves everything from getting aid to an area to full combat capabilities and everything in between?

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, I am glad that after several minutes the member opposite finally repeated the question. I was paying attention, and I know the hour is getting late, but I was getting lost in terms of what the actual question was. I am not sure that I totally grasp it now. I will stand corrected if I do not get it, but he started his remarks and closed his remarks by talking about an extra $1.8 billion.

I want to repeat something here. A great and grandiose commitment was made in terms of money going into our national defence, of $12.8 billion extended out at least to five years, and I want to talk about how some of it is going even further than that.

This year, the first commitment for that was $500 million. That is a paltry amount given the challenges we are facing and the needs of the armed forces before they went into Afghanistan. The year following it is $600 million, which is still not much of a ramp-up for the incredible needs they face.

I want to point something out here. The member talked about another $1.8 billion. I know that as we toss these figures around taxpayers are trying to grasp the order of magnitude of what we are discussing here. The member opposite talked about an extra $1.8 billion. In light of the fact that we are talking about what is going on in Afghanistan, some people might mistakenly believe, although I am not saying he intended this, that a good chunk of that money is going to our troops there or for troops who might be engaged in other actions.

In fact, of that $1.8 billion, over $1 billion is for the upgrade of our frigates and that extends out for 10 years. So to suggest that a significant portion of that added $1.8 billion is going to our troops in Afghanistan is simply not the fact.

The member also talked about places in the world where our troops are doing good. That needs to be acknowledged. He also talked about the importance of getting the resources to the people in need.

If that is his focus, why has there been so little comment here from the government, from the federal Liberals, on the fact that a huge portion of the aid that went to Sri Lanka following the tsunami is being blocked from going to the most needy regions in the north and the east, largely the Tamil regions? That money is being literally blocked by the Sri Lankan government. We do not hear a public complaint about that from the federal Liberals.

The member can talk about money going to where it should, but in fact it is not being maximized in terms of efficiency and we are not raising a diplomatic row about the fact that the Sri Lankan government is blocking the areas in that country, the north and the east, that have been most devastated.

Using another example, we are involved in reconstruction in Iraq, as we should be. We are not involved there militarily, but we are involved in reconstruction. There was a tranche of some $300 million committed to that. When we talk to officials in Iraq, we find that they are somewhat distressed because the government just sent the lion's share of that portion to be administered through the United Nations, whose functionaries sit in Jordan. It is not getting to the people on the ground in Iraq.

So when the government members talk about money getting to the people who need it most, they need to understand that in fact in many of these situations, and some of the most grave and serious, it is not getting to the people who need it the most. The government is not sufficiently reacting to that and it is not doing everything in its power to make sure that the money does get through.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I agree with the hon. member in that I do not think that at this hour of the night we want to get into a debate about too much detail, largely because we do not have all the figures in front of us. I think it would be unfortunate if the hon. member left the impression with the House or with the public that the $1.3 billion additional in the estimates, not $1.8 billion but $1.3 billion, is all about building ships and other matters. It is not. It is about increased salaries for our troops and increased health costs, and there is a considerable amount of that money which will go to this Afghan mission.

The way in which the budgets work, and I think the hon. member should know that, is that when we deploy our troops abroad we always have to come back to the government for the incremental costs of that mission. The Afghan mission will probably cost, to keep 1,000 troops certainly, when we are 1,000 troops abroad, plus the 350, a possible $600 million or more in order to accomplish that. That will all be achieved by supplementary estimates because that will be the incremental costs of the department.

It is not realistic to suggest that it is just $500 million of new money to the department this year. There is a great deal more than that. There is a great deal more than that to make sure that the troops are able to do the job that they are doing in Afghanistan as well in other jobs across Canada. That is the importance of the supplementary estimates. That is why I think it is legitimate for us in the House to consider why we should sit until we can get those supplementary estimates passed for the good of our troops but also for the success of our mission and what we intend to ask our troops to do.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, the Minister of National Defence has indeed not contradicted what I said. I jotted down his comments. He said that the $1.3 billion is not all about building ships. I did not say it was all about that. I said the lion's share of that is going to an up to 10 year program in terms of upgrading on our frigates and other ships. He said a considerable amount is going to Afghanistan. Any amount is considerable: $10 million, $50 million or $100 million is considerable.

The third area I want to draw out that gives me some concern is that his junior minister said the figure was $1.8 billion. The minister just corrected him and said no, it was $1.3 billion. I know that the Liberals have a hard time differentiating large sums of money, but that discrepancy is half a billion dollars.

Here we have the junior would-be minister and the minister. I appreciate the minister's honesty. In my dealings with him, I have found him to be honest. He has just corrected his junior minister to the tune of half a billion dollars. If they are that far apart and they are supposed to be the two who are closest together in terms of working on defence issues, how much are we missing and what discrepancies do we have in other areas? When we raise these figures we are not getting satisfactory answers when these two ministers can have a discrepancy between the two of them of half a billion dollars.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, if I could help the House, of the supplementary estimates there will be $418 million to fund operational sustainability, equipment, maintenance and infrastructure repairs; $71 million to support force expansion by 8,000 new personnel; $278.3 million to cover costs associated with our operations in Afghanistan; $22 million to cover part of the costs of the Grizzly armoured vehicles in the African mission in Sudan; $322 million to cover the costs of pay and allowance increases for CF members; and $28.6 million to fund the remediation or environmental cleanup of federal contaminated sites.

If the hon. member can find in that list the ships which he says constitute the largest amount of the numbers, I challenge him to do it and would be quite surprised.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, he still has not addressed the issue about this discrepancy of half a billion dollars. That is very significant. He still has not addressed the fact that the lion's share of the purported money, money that the Liberals say they are going to come through with, is extended out to years three, four and five.

We have an initial cut of $500 million in the first year and $600 million in the second year, and by saying years three, four and five they are making a great presumption on the voters, who are going to decide on questions related to the government and its ability to contain scandal and corruption. They are going to decide on that in just a few weeks.

I do not want to suggest that the government is holding back on the big money as almost a veiled threat to say, “Vote for us or the big bucks will not roll through”. The difference between the present and hopefully soon dearly departed federal Liberals and the government in waiting, the Conservatives, is that we are going to be there now for the troops, now for national defence in all of its scope and breadth, not tossing forward smaller amounts now, but in fact bringing forward the amounts that are going to meet the needs in a way that will make our troops, their families and Canadians proud. We will be there for them now, not with a vague promise of perhaps four or five years from now.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in this very important debate. There is no question in my mind that the mission currently being undertaken by our Canadian Forces in Afghanistan is vitally important for the future of the country and the security of Canada.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to accompany the Minister of National Defence on a trip to Afghanistan. During that trip, I had a first-hand look at the extraordinary work that our dedicated men and women in uniform are doing to help a country that faces some incredible challenges. I saw just how grateful the Afghan people are for the tremendous efforts that Canadians are making to help rebuild their country.

In Kabul, we met several members of the Afghan government including the defence minister, the foreign affairs minister and the rural development minister. We also met President Karzai. During these meetings, we discussed Canada's involvement in Afghanistan not only from a military perspective, but also in the areas of diplomacy and development.

I must say that all the ministers, as well as President Karzai, expressed their deep gratitude to Canada for what we are doing. They see Canada as a true friend to Afghanistan, a friend that is determined to support them during these difficult times.

We heard very complimentary comments from Afghan officials, local community leaders and ordinary citizens about how the men and women of the Canadian Forces were going out of their way to help people. A British general actually said to our troops that they were an inspiration to other NATO contingents. This is truly something that we should be proud of.

When we were driving in the streets of Kabul on our way to our meetings, I saw a city that does not live in fear. I saw a city where buildings were being reconstructed, where the markets were busy, and where boys and girls both were going to school. I saw a city where people looked to the future with hope.

Our trip to Afghanistan also took us to the southern city of Kandahar, where Canada has deployed a provincial reconstruction team. There we met with Pushtan tribal leaders and with the governor of Kandahar province to discuss Canada's role in bringing stability to the region. The Chief of Defence Staff, General Hillier, also joined us in the ceremony to name the Canadian camp in Kandahar. As members might know, the camp is now known as Camp Nathan Smith, in honour of one of our four Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in an unfortunate incident that occurred at Tarnak Farm in April 2002.

Through its work, the Canadian provincial reconstruction team will help extend the authority and the reach of the Afghan government. By helping to build a just and peaceful society, our team will foster prosperity and improve people's lives.

The multilateral nature of our work in Afghanistan means that Canadian Forces will once more work alongside friends and allies. They will no doubt prove yet again that Canada can be counted on to stay the course and fight against terrorism. By preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists, the Canadian Forces are not only protecting the people of Afghanistan, they are protecting all Canadians.

The tragedy of September 11, 2001, proved to Canadians that we are vulnerable to the threats of terrorism and the spillover effect from failed and failing states. In today's increasingly interdependent world, domestic security is closely linked to events happening outside our borders. That is why the Government of Canada has made a commitment to respond to a potential threat to Canadian security before it reaches our shores. That is why we are in Afghanistan.

In Kabul, as in Kandahar, we spent a lot of time with members of the Canadian Forces. Discussions with these men and women only confirmed what I already knew. These people are very professional and very dedicated. They are open, generous and sensitive to the Afghan culture and to the needs of the local people. They are prepared to take risks and are determined to use their many skills to provide the people of Afghanistan the stability and security they deserve.

Of course I have just as much admiration for the members of our armed forces who support our deployment in Afghanistan from our sustainment base in the region. They also do fantastic work.

When I look at members of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, I see a remarkable group of Canadians with the right training, the right equipment and the right leadership, and I can see that they perform an important mission in Afghanistan and for Canada.

I really wish all Canadians could see the fine work that our soldiers are doing, just as I have. We should be proud of the work that our men and women in uniform are doing for us in the rest of the world. The Government of Canada certainly is. That is why it is providing the Canadian Forces with the right equipment and financial resources to allow them to do their job.

In closing, I would like all the troops in Afghanistan to know that even though they may be far from home and far from their families--after talking to the troops I have learned that is probably one of the most difficult things, that time of being away from their children, their wives, their loved ones and many of the things Canadians take for granted--our thoughts, our support and our nation are with them.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Chair, again in comment I could not find one word wrong in what the member said. He has praised our troops in Afghanistan and the fine work that they are doing. On this side of the House we agree.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Chair, I would echo the hon. member's thoughts and also continue on the wonderful work that our troops are doing.

I found it very interesting living with the troops. When we were there we lived in tents, slept on cots and ate with the troops in the morning. Someone earlier said that when we talked to the troops, they would say whatever we wanted to hear because they knew who we were.

I am not a high profile politician or a high profile person in Canada. I would sit down with some of these soldiers who were not familiar with Canadian politics. It was not with the leadership. It was with the average guy in the bottom. We would start to talk, and it was interesting to get their feedback.

Nothing is perfect. In a war zone nothing could be perfect. However, contentment was one of the things that I got from them. They were happy with their situation, considering what was going on. They were content with much of the support they were getting, not only from their leadership, but from their government as well.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

November 15th, 2005 / 10:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Chair, I have nothing to quarrel with what the hon. member said, except he said one thing that the minister said earlier as well. He referred to failed and failing states in respect of Canadian foreign defence policy.

While I would certainly agree that we have a role with respect to failed and failing states, I am not sure the initial intervention in Afghanistan fits that model. It may have been a state that we did not like. It may have been a state that was sponsoring terrorism. In fact, it was a state that was known to be creating a safe haven for al-Qaeda et cetera.

I think the government is deliberately mixing categories here. If we looked at any definition of what a failed or failing state was, Afghanistan under the Taliban did not qualify. The Taliban controlled the country. They may have had a theocratic regime that we found objectionable with respect to its treatment of women and all kinds of things, but it was not a failed or failing state in the strictest sense of the word.

It is one thing to have a policy on wanting to help failed or failing states. It is another thing to have a policy on Afghanistan. I find it a little confusing. I am not sure if it is a deliberate confusion or whether it is just an urge on the part of the government to fit everything that it is doing into a certain model whether it fits or not.

I would like to register my own objection and that of others. We heard some testimony before the foreign affairs committee recently in Winnipeg. I forget who said it, but essentially it was the same thing. It is one thing to have a policy that addresses failed or failing states, but let us not kid ourselves that Afghanistan fell into that category. Afghanistan may have fallen into another category with which we wanted to deal, but there is room there for different categories.

Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
Government Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Chair, the member brings up a very good point. It is important when we look at different countries around the world and what can be done. It is very important that we look at what we do and how we go in.

Afghanistan was a multilateral action. It was not a situation where one particular country decided with a group of buddies that they would go in and take over. Afghanistan was a multilateral action with the blessing of the UN. That is a very important part of helping a country when we see that movement going in with a sense of multilateralism and other countries going in as well. There is a certain convention in place which allows us to go in and make a difference.

I can honestly attest to the fact that during my visit to Afghanistan I could see the difference that has been made. It was interesting to visit Kabul. When I first arrived, I looked at it and thought it was pretty rough over there. It was pretty hard to take in. Then I went to Kandahar. It is interesting to contrast the two. When I looked at Kandahar, I could see what Kabul was about three years ago. We can see the advances Kabul has made. When one sees Kabul after Kandahar, one realizes the advances that have been made.

With the government structure that is being established, we see a successful state coming together and that is very important. It is not an oppressive state or a dictatorship. It is coming together as a viable democracy.