House of Commons Hansard #141 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.

Topics

Ministers' Responses Regarding Afghanistan
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP supports the position that the privileges of the House have indeed been challenged by the behaviour of the minister.

The situation with respect to the transfer of detainees has now turned into a circus. We must call on the government to deal with this situation.

When we have a situation where questions are asked on a specific topic in the House of Commons and only two or three hours later, down the hall in a committee room, we have a minister giving information that is clearly contrary to what happened in the House, every Canadian and every parliamentarian needs to be asking what is going on.

We support the challenge put before the government to respond. We believe that the privileges of not only the House, but of Canadians, are being violated here. We support the call for such a ruling.

Ministers' Responses Regarding Afghanistan
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The government has given notice of its intention to respond at a later date. In any event, the Chair would have taken the question of privilege under advisement and come back with a ruling later, so that is what we will do.

I thank hon. members for their interventions. We will proceed now to orders of the day.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

moved:

Whereas,

(1) all Members of this House, whatever their disagreements about the mission in Afghanistan, support the courageous men and women of the Canadian Forces;

(2) the government has admitted that the situation in Afghanistan can not be won militarily;

(3) the current counter-insurgency mission is not the right mission for Canada;

(4) the government has neither defined what ‘victory’ would be, nor developed an exit strategy from this counter-insurgency mission;

therefore this House condemns this government and calls for it to immediately notify NATO of our intention to begin withdrawing Canadian Forces now in a safe and secure manner from the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan; and calls for Canada to focus its efforts to assist the people of Afghanistan on a diplomatic solution, and re-double its commitment to reconstruction and development.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

As I begin, I want to express once again our condolences for those soldiers and personnel who have lost their lives, Canadian and from other countries, and also for the countless citizens of Afghanistan who have lost their lives as well.

Today the NDP has presented a motion to the House calling for the immediate, safe and secure withdrawal of our troops from the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan and to refocus our efforts to assist the people of Afghanistan on development and reconstruction and on creating a pathway to peace.

We are doing so because our current combat mission in Afghanistan is wrong, and two years more of participating in the wrong mission is two years too long. It means countless more lives lost.

Last week I rose in this House to oppose the Liberal motion which confirmed the Conservative extension of two more years. A year ago the Liberals opposed the extension of the mission to 2009, but today they have changed their minds. Their motion endorsed the Conservative plan. That is why the NDP opposed that motion.

I said at the time that when a party comes to the conclusion that a mission is wrong, then it cannot in good conscience tell our soldiers to continue in that mission for another two years.

In our opinion, two more years spent on the wrong mission in Afghanistan is two years too many. We strongly believe that our troops have to be able to trust their Parliament. They have to trust that Parliament will authorize their deployment at the right time for the right reasons.

Our soldiers have to trust that Parliament will reconsider its military strategy when it is not the right tool to get the job done. Our party takes that trust very seriously. We feel that the current mission is wrong and we have been consistent in calling for withdrawal. We have done so on several occasions and today we are formally doing so in the House.

Things wrong with the mission will continue to get worse. It is a seek and kill counter-insurgency. It is fundamentally imbalanced between military, humanitarian and development spending, and there is a deteriorating human rights situation and an escalation of the war.

Why continue to prolong this flawed mission when it is clear that more Afghan civilians will suffer and more insurgents will be recruited?

The NDP position on the combat mission in Afghanistan is clear. Bush-style counter-insurgency missions such as this can actually prevent Afghan citizens from reaching a lasting peace and alleviating the desperate poverty of the country.

It is unbalanced and overwhelmingly focused on an aggressive counter-insurgency mission, and of course the humanitarian situation, as we are all hearing back, is not improving with the situation of the growing numbers of refugees, just as one example.

Both the Liberals and the Conservatives have admitted that the conflict in Afghanistan will not be won militarily, yet they think our soldiers should continue to fight for two more years. They know the strategy is failing, yet they refuse to withdraw our troops now. That is not a responsible position and it does not show the respect that we owe to our men and women in uniform.

It is time to begin to work to settle this conflict diplomatically and redouble our commitment to reconstruction and development. That is going to require peace negotiations supported by the international community.

The secure and resolute withdrawal of our troops, in consultation with our allies, is now necessary. At the same time, we must now make a concentrated effort to develop a new approach to Canada's role in Afghanistan. That begins by opening up a dialogue with the countries that are committed to helping the people of Afghanistan. We must work together to establish peace, development and justice. Our approach must respect and involve the organizations, groups and local governments in Afghanistan.

Canada must draw on its experience to provide the diplomacy, aid and reconstruction that Canadians and Quebeckers want to see in Afghanistan. This should begin with a ceasefire as soon as possible. Showing leadership in Afghanistan means working with our European allies in NATO and our allies from other countries to convince the Americans to end their poppy eradication campaign and stop supporting Pakistan's position on the Taliban.

Showing leadership in Afghanistan means taking concrete steps toward peace negotiations, something we cannot effectively do while we wage war.

Chris Alexander, Canada's former ambassador to Afghanistan and now a leading UN official in Afghanistan, said that the absence of a peace deal in Afghanistan is fueling the conflict. Gordon Smith, former senior Canadian diplomat and head of global studies at the University of Victoria, called on the international community to undertake serious efforts at inclusive and comprehensive peace negotiations. This is what is being called for by the NDP.

Parliamentarians have a responsibility to our soldiers and to the citizens of this country to do the right thing in Afghanistan. It is time to withdraw our troops from the counter-insurgency mission, focus our efforts on a diplomatic solution and regain Canada's strength and credibility rather than squandering it in a failing and futile mission.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where to begin. I know many people want to ask this particular member a question. I will try to keep my remarks short.

The member says that the mission is failing. I wonder if he could enlighten the House on what expertise he might have in military matters and specifically how he is able to judge the success or failure of a military mission?

When I was in Afghanistan and had the privilege to interact with our front line troops at Christmastime, certainly they believed that they were achieving some great successes. Yet this particular member would say that the mission is failing. I wonder what he bases that upon?

I want to quote from the actual motion and if we are to immediately begin withdrawing Canadian Forces now from the “counter-insurgency mission” which is the motion before the House today, I would ask who is to take our place? What negotiations have gone on if we are going to immediately pull out and which of our allies is going to take our place? Who is going to hold the line, as it were?

A person does not have to be overly bright to understand that all of our allies, and especially the Afghan national army, are under tremendous pressure. The Afghan army has been taking countless more casualties than even we are.

Is the situation tragic? Yes, of course it is. I do not believe that the mission is failing and neither do our troops that are on the ground there. Our troops believe in the mission. They believe that they can accomplish the goals that have been set for them and that they set for themselves.

I would ask the hon. member, on what does he base his assessment that the mission is failing?

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member and myself disagree. There are many authoritative reports that have been produced that speak to the failure of this mission. The reports speak to the fact that there is no end in sight. A mission with no end in sight cannot exactly be described as a success.

There has been an increase in the number of refugees reported having to seek shelter and food. Increasing numbers of children have been driven out of their communities and now are unable to receive medical attention when they are ill. There are growing numbers of casualties, both on the side of the soldiers involved, the military personnel, and much larger numbers of citizens being killed.

I think these are measures of a failing mission and there are many others. That is why we think it is time for Canada to take the lead in recognizing that there needs to be a new approach. I think it would send a very powerful signal if we were to do so. It would put Canada back on track as a country that has a role to play in the world, which is quite unique in terms of being able to bring sides together and work toward a ceasefire, peace negotiations. This is what Canadians do best. Frankly, we are losing that ability by prosecuting this mission in the way that we are doing so now.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, I often hear from the NDP members that they believe that this is the wrong mission for Canada. I was hoping that the leader of the NDP could explain to me why that is so. We have 60 countries that developed a five-year plan for Afghanistan. There are 37 countries on the ground in Afghanistan implementing this plan and 192 countries endorsed this plan at the UN General Assembly. Why is it that the entire international community believes that Afghanistan is the right mission? For some reason the NDP thinks it is not. That party is the only that does not think it is the right mission.

I had an opportunity to go to Afghanistan. I focused there on women and children. I went there and spoke with them, and asked them what it was like under the Taliban and what changes they have experienced.

I spoke with one particular person, a politician, who has just given birth to her first little boy. She has a $500,000 bounty on her head simply because she is a woman and fighting for women's rights in Afghanistan. I wonder could this hon. member look her in the face when she says to him “Please don't go. Don't turn your back on us now because all will be lost”. What would he say to her?

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jack Layton Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP brought a woman parliamentarian from Afghanistan to speak to our national convention while we were debating exactly what should be happening in Afghanistan. So, we do not actually need to take a lesson from the secretary of state, with all due respect, in this regard.

What is interesting is that the secretary of state did not mention that the vast majority of countries that are working in Afghanistan on trying to improve the situation, and we support those kinds of efforts, are not responding to a call, including from our government, to become involved in the aggressive counter-insurgency war in the south. It is very interesting to note that the secretary of state herself did not lay out the full story here.

The fact is most countries do believe that the approach being taken in the counter-insurgency effort is wrong and these other countries have chosen to take a different route. We believe that Canada should be engaging with them to find out how we can assist in that effort rather than follow the current direction, which was of course established by the Bush administration.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I stand here again today as a mother, as a grandmother and as someone who has visited Afghanistan with the defence committee of the House of Commons where I had the opportunity to speak with many of the Canadians who are serving in Kandahar province.

I was very impressed with the calibre, the determination and the commitment of the men and women we have sent to Kandahar to participate in this mission.

I remember one man in particular who was part of the supply route in Kandahar and was taking supplies out to the forward operating bases. He spoke to me of his time in the Canadian Forces and of his other missions. He had served in many missions for Canada. He told me that this was his second tour in Afghanistan. He said that he had seen and done things in Afghanistan this time that he never thought imaginable. He told me that he just wanted to go home. That had an incredible impact on me, as did the conversations I had with other men and women at the airfield in Kandahar.

I also stand here as a parliamentarian to echo the concerns and the opposition of millions of Canadians who see this war as a real blight on our country.

Tragically, 54 Canadian soldiers and a Canadian diplomat have been killed in this war and all Canadians share in the grief of their families and send them our condolences.

Violent incidents in January 2007 were more than double those of January 2006. Fifteen thousand families have been displaced in the south due to the military operations there. IDP camps are full. Not enough food and aid is getting through to these people. They live in miserable conditions in these IDP camps.

The criteria for success has never been defined by either the Liberal government that took us into this counter-insurgency mission nor the Conservative government. This mission should never be measured by the number of insurgents killed, nor should the number of foreign soldiers deployed there be seen as signs of progress.

Success would be tangible improvements in the quality of life for Afghan people, such as clean water, medical facilities, electricity and a safe and secure environment.

The war is getting worse. The government clearly does not want Canadians to see that but it is getting worse. With the strategy that counter-insurgency warfare against insurgents who will always know the terrain better than we will, whose recruitment strategies are strengthened by our war against them and who have a safe haven in a neighbouring country, it is not surprising that this mission is failing.

Afghans, Canadians, mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers are dying in a senseless war. The men and women in this House must remember each casualty in war is someone's sister, someone's brother, someone's son, someone's daughter and someone's lover.

The government and the Minister of National Defence admit that the war in Afghanistan cannot be solved militarily but they continue along on this misguided mission, fighting it with air strikes and guns. As they stick to this futile path with what might only be described as ideological blindness, it is our soldiers and the Afghan people who suffer.

Why have the Conservatives refused to budge from this futile strategy? I asked that question nearly a year ago when we had the debate on the extension of the mission. Is it simply because they do not have the imagination or the wherewithal to devise a better approach?

What makes me most angry and what strikes me as being the most tragic part of this is that there are countless opportunities to do this differently and to play a constructive rather than a destructive role in Afghanistan.

Over a year ago I called upon the government to address the inadequacy of the prisoner transfer agreement with Afghanistan. It was my first question in the House the first day Parliament sat. I demanded an end to the flawed practice of handing prisoners over to authorities who we knew, in all likelihood, would torture and abuse them.

The allegations that are coming forward now, allegations that prisoners transferred by Canadian soldiers to Afghan authorities were tortured and abused, could have been avoided. This is a shame on our country, it is a shame on our government and it is a shame on the Minister of National Defence.

The government and the minister have misled the House about the transfer of Afghan detainees with a callous disregard for their responsibilities for human rights and human dignity. Many experts have told the government that it is a violation of international law. I have heard them tell the minister that in committee. It signals a break with the entire history of Canada's foreign policy.

We are now in a state of more confusion after the minister's appearance at the foreign affairs committee last night. The Minister of National Defence now says that he has yet another new arrangement with Afghan authorities. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs knows nothing about it and the chief of defence staff said that it was news to him. He did not know anything about it either. Those are the very people who are responsible for implementing such arrangements. There is massive confusion and disorganization and the left hand of the government does not seem to know what the right hand is doing.

Canada has always been at the forefront of international human rights issues and, sadly, Canada's reputation has now been tarnished by the inaction of the government. It has known of the inadequacy of the prisoner transfer agreement for over a year and failed to take any action until it was front page news day after day in The Globe and Mail.

We have now purchased over 100 tanks but rather than ratcheting up our offensive by sending tanks and more fighters, we could be doing what we do best as a country. We could be finding creative solutions to bringing peace and security to Afghanistan. Political, not military, problems are at the heart of the Afghan conflict. All experts acknowledge this. There is, therefore, an urgent need for high level peace negotiations to end the violence in Afghanistan.

Canada could take leadership to ensure international support for peace negotiations. Canada invented peacekeeping and peacemaking and yet in Afghanistan we have invested virtually no effort toward exploring, supporting or fostering efforts toward peace.

I am opposed to this mission precisely because it is failing to protect the women and men of the Canadian Forces and the Afghans. I also oppose it because it is not and will not be good for anyone and air strikes from NATO will not bring peace to Afghanistan.

The Liberals put forward a motion to continue this misguided mission unchanged until 2009. If the mission is wrong, then we need to begin to end it now. The NDP motion affirms what seems to be clear only to New Democrats in the House of Commons. This war will not be resolved militarily and Canada must, therefore, change course and begin that change now.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the position the NDP is presenting, the immediate withdrawal of our troops in Afghanistan, seems to go directly against what the president of Afghanistan said. He had very complimentary things to say about our men and women when he came to Parliament less than a year ago. The United Nations and NATO are supporting the mission. The NDP's position suggests, in a very direct way, that we disregard our UN and NATO obligations.

I wonder what will happen to the people of Afghanistan, particularly the women and children who are clearly abused and have had their human rights violated profoundly. Without the protection of western forces, including the Canadian Forces, those abuses will continue. It seems morally abhorrent that the NDP would suggest a withdrawal of this nature without a plan. It is very disappointing that such a debate could even happen when our troops are fighting for Canadian values throughout the world, including Afghanistan.

I would like the member to respond.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I need to clarify something because I guess the member did not hear what I said in my remarks.

New Democrats in no way advocate abandoning the people of Afghanistan. We have never said that. Canada does have a role to play and we want to ensure that Canada plays an effective role in Afghanistan, one that really does lead to a peaceful solution for the people of Afghanistan.

The security environment in Afghanistan is far more complex than any of the government members seem to understand. There is the issue of the border with Pakistan where insurgents move back and forth at will and are able to flee into that country and come back and begin their attacks again. There is the whole issue of the narcotics trade and the criminal elements that are involved in that, which is a security threat. There is the whole issue of the warlords from the north and the independent militias that still operate in Afghanistan.

There is the issue of corruption, which is a security threat. We know that elements in the national police service and the intelligence service are corrupt. We know that people pay bribes to get their get out of jail card. There are many issues.

The last point the member made was that he thought it was disrespectful to our troops for us to be debating this issue. What could be more important in a democratic society than to debate sending our soldiers in harm's way? It is the most critical issue we should be debating in this House. We are talking about being in Afghanistan to help develop democratic institutions. To even suggest that it is wrong to have a democratic discussion in the House of Commons is offensive.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, what is shameful is this irresponsible motion put forth by the NDP. I do not even think the member listened to what she said. We cannot have peace without security.

I want to ask her a specific question. A recent report by the highly respected group, Human Rights Watch, a group with which I am sure the member opposite is familiar, noted that the Taliban tactics employed in the south of Afghanistan, specifically their blatant attacks against the civilian population, are clearly war crimes. For example, in the Helmand province, Taliban extremists resorted to the use of human shields, specifically local Afghan children, to escape fire. Last week there was a video of a young boy beheading a Pakistani man accused of betraying the Taliban.

The NDP motion calls for a diplomatic solution. I would like to know if this is the same extremist group that the member's party wishes to negotiate with. Can we actually contemplate withdrawing from Afghanistan right now? Is the NDP willing to let Afghanistan fall back into the hands of these murderous tyrants, those who hold public mass executions? Is that what the member wants?

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course any civilized person is horrified at the human rights abuses that take place within Afghanistan by insurgents and by others.

I have consistently said that Canada has a role to play. We want it to be an effective role to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.

In terms of peace negotiations and discussions, President Karzai himself said that was the way to bring peace to his country. There must be dialogue and discussion and it must include all of the affected parties.

Winston Churchill himself said, “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war”.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Helena Guergis Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs and International Trade) (Sport)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

I am honoured to stand in the House to discuss our mission in Afghanistan and to speak against this irresponsible and immoral motion.

I am also very proud to stand here today to defend our troops, our aid workers and diplomats who are making a real difference on the ground for the Afghan people.

I wish to share with members some of the remarkable news about the advancement on women's rights in Afghanistan and how Canada is playing a leading role.

Before I talk of the successes, let us recap where women in Afghanistan were six years ago under the Taliban regime.

It was not uncommon for adult women to be beaten by the Taliban's religious police for simply showing a portion of their skin. Women were not allowed to work. Nor were women allowed to go outside unless they were accompanied by a man. Sadly, we know of instances where a woman's bones would break when she gave birth. She was not allowed to go outside and because of that she did not get the sunshine and the vitamin D she needed to support her bones.

Making matters worse, women were not allowed to be doctors and those who were doctors, the Taliban did not allow them to practise. Women had no access to health care. They could not vote. They could not run for public office. They could not express their opinion. They could not own land. They could not own a business. Sadly, young girls were not allowed to be educated under the Taliban regime. This went on for 30 years. An enormous part of Afghanistan's population cannot read and write. I was also disturbed to hear that under Taliban daughters were given as debt repayment.

Thanks to our Canadian troops, our diplomats and our aid workers and the strong resolve of the Afghan people, times are changing.

I returned from Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago. I found it unbelievable, having been there on the ground and spoken to so many women and children, to see what the military presence was doing in allowing them to grow and develop. I was shocked and could not believe the NDP could even possibly suggest that we leave Afghanistan.

Members of the NDP like to claim they support women's rights. That is completely contradictory. They also like to claim they support basic human rights. What do they think we are doing in Afghanistan? The Afghan people cannot have development if they do not have the security. According to the NDP members, the military presence has not prevented any of the criminal behaviour or murders that have gone on, so we should leave as though it will not change. That is ridiculous.

In my opinion, the NDP is a party of hypocrites, a party of neophytes who do not realize that without security there can be no development. They say they support our troops, but not the mission. The Afghan people, our troops, our aid workers and our diplomats are the mission. It shows that the NDP, just like the Liberals, do not see the advances being made for Afghan women.

In February I met with Ms. Siddiqi, the Afghan woman and member of parliament, who I spoke of earlier. She just gave birth to her first baby boy, and I congratulate her on that. She has been a fierce advocate for women's rights in Afghanistan. I find it hard to understand how she can be so incredibly strong, and I admire that. She has a $500,000 bounty on her head because she believes in what she is doing, she believes in what the international community is doing for Afghanistan and she is standing up for women's rights. This bounty exists for her for no other reason than the Taliban want her dead because she is a woman in politics.

How can NDP members, members of a party that brags about the number of women in its caucus, look her in the eye and say that they are not going to help her, that they want our troops home, that they are going to abandon her in her time of need?

That is not the Conservative way, and that is certainly not the Canadian way, to cut and run when the going gets tough.

When I hear the NDP and the Liberals question why we are in Afghanistan, I remain astounded at their fundamental lack of understanding or appreciation of the good that we are doing. When I think about why Canada is in Afghanistan, I think of just how clear our mission is and how it has been from the very beginning.

The purpose of our mission is to help a democracy take root and support its people, the very people who have lived under 30 years of conflict and oppression and have asked for our help. They have asked us to be in Afghanistan to help rebuild their nation.

When I was in Kabul only a few weeks ago, I met a widow from the rural provinces outside the city. She travelled over seven hours to see me, and not by car. She had eight children, four girls and four boys. Her husband, like many, was killed by the Taliban. The family became impoverished, since women were banned from working. She was so poor that she could not afford her children and had to give the four girls up to the orphanage so they would not starve.

When the international community cleared the Kabul area of the Taliban and started micro-financing initiatives, she took out a micro-loan from an agency, in part funded by Canada. Canada is the leading donor for the micro-finance program in Afghanistan. She bought a cow. She used the cow for milk. She makes cream, yogourt and cheese and she sells this at the local market now. She has repaid the loan. She bought another cow and now she has enough money to support her family. She has told me that at the end of this month she will be able to get her girls back from the orphanage and then they will be able to go to school for the first time.

This is proof of progress. If we leave, as the NDP suggests and as the Liberals hint, then the Taliban will simply come in and end this progress. Under the Taliban, women could not own businesses nor could girls go to school. I wonder if anyone in the NDP sees this connection. Without security, these kinds of success stories cannot happen. Let us not forget that 5.4 million children now go to school and one-third of those are girls.

I had an opportunity to visit a school when I was in Afghanistan. No less than 20 girls, all around the age of 13, were for the first time going to school. What did they say to me? The only words they could say in English were “thank you”. What an incredible experience for me. Those girls will become a new generation of literate young women who will help lead their country. What does the NDP think will happen to those girls if the Taliban are permitted to once again take power?

It is time to stop the rhetoric of supporting our troops, but not supporting the mission. The troops are the mission. The international community believes in this mission. It is UN-sanctioned and NATO-led. Sixty countries developed the plan for Afghanistan. The Afghanistan government asked us to be there to implement it for them.

As I conclude, let me quote from a member of the House, who said:

It's not a question of should we be in Afghanistan. Yes, we should; we need to be...

Who said that? It was the former NDP leader, the current foreign affairs critic and member from Halifax. I agree with her. We need to be there. Perhaps her caucus should listen to her.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the member speak to the situation in Afghanistan.

I am continually in communication with the member for Halifax, who is our foreign affairs spokesperson. She said exactly what the member said she said, and I say exactly what the critic for foreign affairs said. We have never ever advocated abandoning the people of Afghanistan. I do not know how much more clearly we can say that.

We have always said that we were opposed to the counter-insurgency, search and destroy mission that Canada is involved in right now. We do not believe it can bring peace and security to the people of Afghanistan. We say that, recognizing that security is an element of what is needed in Afghanistan, but not through the barrel of guns, tanks and bombs from airplanes. There are better ways to do it. Canada has demonstrated better ways of doing it in the past. We can do that again.

She talked about the women in Afghanistan. One of the women in my riding is from Kandahar province. In fact, she is an OB/GYN. She grew up in Kandahar, was educated there and left when the Soviets invaded. She has family in Kandahar province right now. She came to see me to talk about the escalating insecurity for her family in Kandahar now and how much less security and less peaceful they felt right now while the Canadians ware there.

I ask the member to take off the rose-coloured glasses and address, in a real way, the situation of the women in Afghanistan.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Helena Guergis Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must be hitting the right buttons for her to accuse me of seeing through rose-coloured glasses.

Again, I will talk about some of the women who I spoke with in Afghanistan. One in particular, Rona Tareen, is a women's advocate within Kandahar city. Unfortunately, her predecessor was assassinated just a few months ago and now she has stepped into this leading role. Her predecessor was assassinated because she was a woman standing up for women's rights in Kandahar.

This is an incredibly brave woman. She told me what it was like in Kandahar under the Taliban before we arrived. She told me about how her little girl, who is 13 years of age, could not go to school. Now, for the first time, her daughter goes to school, and she is so proud of that. She told me how me she appreciated what we were doing.

Members should not kid themselves. Afghans know exactly what is going on. They know there is a certain element in the political parties and the NDP saying we should not be there. They do not understand and are actually a little nervous about it. They do not want us to leave. They do not want us to turn our back on them. That was the message I got from the women.

What does the hon. member say to a woman when she asks that we not turn our backs on them? Maybe the member could answer that question for me?