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 troops.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take some offence with his rhetoric. In fact, I would just tell the hon. member that it was this party, before 9/11 happened, who was calling on the UN to pay attention to what was going on in Afghanistan. It was not a deathbed conversion for us to look at what was happening in Afghanistan with the Taliban.

I do not need lessons from him about critiques on the Taliban. We were saying that long ago. In fact, if members look at Hansard, we were the only party which was talking about it before 9/11. So with all due respect, I do not need lessons on history from him.

The fact is that it is not working. What I need to know from the government is what is wrong with the government looking for other solutions to make sure that the south of Afghanistan is going to be rebuilt and see peace and prosperity because right now--

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The hon. member for York South—Weston.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, accepting the NDP at face value that it stands for the same values we do, human rights and all of the objectives that we have with respect to Afghanistan, if it could be illustrated that over the next two years that the transfer of authority to the Afghan military, which is being trained and deployed and appears to want to defend the judiciary, defend the educational system, and defend against those who are blowing up innocent women and children, if it could be illustrated that that was actually happening, would the NDP withdraw that motion?

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of premises there that I have trouble accepting and there are a lot of what-ifs. What we need to do is look at the present situation. Security is getting worse, not better.

It is incredibly important that as parliamentarians we look at what is working and what is not. What is working are other methods that are being used right now in Afghanistan. What is not working is this counter-insurgency and that is the problem we have in the NDP. We must withdraw from what we are doing presently, so we can change and do and follow those experiences and practices that are working in Afghanistan.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, for the hon. member to say that no progress is being made in Afghanistan absolutely flies in the face of reality. I have been there. I have seen it with my own eyes. Every briefing we get from General Howard of the military talks about progress, talks about the positive things that are happening.

I will point out to the hon. member that one of the 37 allies there is Croatia. It was not long ago that Croatia was a failed state and we were bailing it out.

Maybe if we get this right, with or without its help, maybe Afghanistan will be a part of a coalition helping to bail somebody else out. Would the member like to see that or not? Would he like to see Afghanistan stay a failed state?

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I did not say everything in Afghanistan was a failure. I said what we are doing there is not working. Maybe he needs to turn up the volume on his earpiece.

The fact is by following this mission, we are doing more harm than good in the balance of it. If we have more balance on the development and protection and security side than we do on the counter-insurgency, we might be able to effect change in the way he has submitted we should do.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support the motion of the New Democratic Party today.

In listening to the comments by members of other parties, particularly the Liberal members, it seems to me that many members in the House do not get the fact that we have headed down the wrong path with this mission in southern Afghanistan.

It is clear as well that the Liberals have flip-flopped on a very significant issue for Canadians. If they were so concerned about our young men and women in uniform, then last year when we had a significant and important moment in the House of Commons, the vote on the extension of the mission, their full caucus would have shown up to provide the needed support. However, that did not happen and here we are again today having this discussion.

Polls show that the majority of Canadians across the country are unsatisfied with the direction we are taking in Afghanistan. The situation is not improving with Canadians. Canadians are saying, in ever increasing numbers, that it is not working.

I showed up for the vote last year. As a new MP, I thought the vote was a very important event in my understanding of Parliament and the importance of what we were doing. I voted against extending the mission in south Afghanistan, the counter-insurgency efforts we were taking, and I am more certain today that I made the right choice.

I have spent time reading about it. I have gone to forums. I have discussed this with people. I have listened to the debates. I have listened to Canadians. I made the right choice last spring, the right choice for Afghanistan, the right choice for Canada and the right choice for the world. The counter-insurgency effort in south Afghanistan is bad for Afghanistan, it is bad for Canada and it is bad for the world.

When we first went into Afghanistan, it was at a time when the western world was reacting to the immense events of 9/11. We were hunting down Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda. We turned our backs on the Taliban who were in Washington, negotiating scant days before the invasion. We went in not to take sides in a war, but to clear up an issue within the country.

Today, young Canadian men and women are dying and being maimed because we have taken a side in the war, a war our military and military experts around the world have said is unwinnable. Like every insurgency that is badly handled, for every civilian we kill and every home we blow up, we make the Taliban stronger. Every time we act aggressively in south Afghanistan we create more enemies than friends.

By focusing mainly on combat operations, we are making the work of those, who we all support in the House, more difficult, those who want to better the lives of Afghan people. By taking a war fighting approach, we make all westerners targets.

By pursuing aggressive counter-insurgency, we turn ourselves into the enemy in many people's minds, people to whom we could be reaching out. They are not all Taliban. They are Pashtun farmers. We were told last summer, in the efforts made in the province, that many of the combatants were not Taliban. They were Pashtun farmers who were rising up because of the unfair nature of the police actions taking place in their province.

Instead of uselessly trying to defeat the Taliban on the battlefield, we should be working to show them that we can provide a better way for them and their families. Rather than offering them death or creating a criminal state as the only way people can survive, let us offer life through peacemaking efforts, like reconstruction and finding economic opportunities for the Afghan nation to prosper.

I want to be clear. After nearly 30 years of war, continued fighting is the worst thing that can happen in Afghanistan. For this reason alone, a mission based on combat operations is bad for Afghanistan.

What about for Canada? Since the Korean war, our position in this world has been traditionally that of diplomat and peacemaker. This mission has completely changed that tradition.

How will we regain our international credibility as diplomats and peacemakers when we take on this type of military adventure? How will my grandchildren wear the Canadian flag proudly while travelling around this world, safe under that umbrella, when we behave in this fashion in other countries, where we bomb villages, where we are indiscriminate in our attacks on the enemy?

This mission is bad for Canada. Every Canadian who is killed or wounded in Afghanistan represents a lost opportunity to make our country better. We have fine men and women in Afghanistan who totally provide us with a great sense of reality toward our armed forces. However, the problem for the New Democratic Party is the mission they have been asked to undertake. NDP members want to build a better Canada. We cannot do that by sending young people off to die in an unwinnable war.

This mission is bad for the world. A well known religious leader said these words more than 2,000 years ago, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”.

War is the greatest waste of resources created by humans. We need leaders who reject war and violence as the key to solving problems. Canada could be a leader, but we cannot be a leader if we believe the main way we can continue in Afghanistan is through counter-insurgency, aggressively pursuing the enemy throughout their villages and farms. We should be showing the world what can be accomplished through non-violent means. We must work toward building trust in Afghanistan. This mission has Canadians destroying that trust.

Because this mission is bad for Afghanistan, because it is bad for Canada and because it is bad for the world, we need to stop and focus our efforts on assisting the people of Afghanistan in a real sense, in a much larger way through diplomacy, reconstruction and redevelopment.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has been completely inconsistent on our mission in Afghanistan, and I will give the House two examples.

First, last September and throughout the fall, the leader of the New Democratic Party called for the complete withdrawal of all our troops from Afghanistan. Now the NDP is only calling for the withdrawal of those troops from southern Afghanistan. That is a change in position.

Second, only earlier this week the NDP voted against the Liberal motion calling for the withdrawal of our troops from southern Afghanistan. Today, it is proposing a motion calling for the withdrawal of our troops from southern Afghanistan.

The NDP has completely inconsistent positions on this issue. Would the member for Western Arctic clarify this very confusing situation for me?

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I really hope that in our efforts in this debate we can clarify many of the issues for Canadians.

We cannot afford confusion on an issue about the deployment of our troops in Afghanistan. The majority of the troops in Afghanistan are in southern Afghanistan. They are involved in counter-insurgency efforts. Those are the things that we point to as the main failings in the mission. In order to change, we will have to pull back.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I fail to understand the member's logic. Earlier this week he had an opportunity to vote in the House on a motion that would have given certainty to our women and men serving in Afghanistan. It would have given certainty to our partners that we would honour our commitment until February 2009. It would have given certainty to our partners in NATO that it would have to replace us in the combat role in this region at that time. However, we would continue to be available for development and for other missions within Afghanistan to help stabilize that country and to help bring it forward.

The member favours moving out right away without giving that certainty, yet he failed to support the motion this week to give certainty to our troops that they would not serve more than one rotation. Instead, a motion has been presented before the House that he knows has no chance of passing, leaving our troops in absolute uncertainty.

Opposition Motion—Afghanistan
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, for any armed forces in this world engaged in active combat, the proposition that one will be there for two years, regardless of outcome, and then be removed is patently absurd as well.

Our position to move the troops out immediately is pretty straightforward. This will happen if the motion is supported. The Conservatives have taken the tack that they will wait to find out what happens with the mission and how successful it is before they decide on extensions. We have three distinct positions in the House of Commons. In letting the troops know what we think, our position is pretty clear.

The member's suggestion that these troops should be in an active war zone that they know they will leave, regardless of outcome, in two years is patently unfair.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, throughout the prairies, producers have asked that the government act in order to provide more choices and bankable investment options for the production of biofuels. Canada's new government has listened to farmers and, more important, we have acted on their behalf.

Our government has extended our commitment to farmers by announcing the eco-agriculture biofuels capital initiative this past Monday. This $200 million initiative will assist agriculture producers to construct and expand biofuel production facilities. Under this new initiative, production of renewable fuels could increase by 1.5 billion litres.

This announcement builds on our $1.5 billion commitment to provide operating incentives to producers of renewable fuels. Producers wanted it and we delivered it.

After 13 years of Liberal neglect and ineffective programs, our government is delivering to farmers real opportunity. We have taken enormous steps to ensure these programs are delivered in the best interests of our hard-working farmers. That is getting the job done.

Justice
Statements By Members

April 26th, 2007 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' crime policies are about scoring political headlines rather than making our streets safer. Victims of crime do not care about politics or headlines. They just want to know that criminals will be stopped, caught and punished.

A new Liberal government would continue to pursue tough effective strategies to fight crime and make our communities safer.

We are putting forward a comprehensive crime strategy that is lacking by the minority Conservative government. We are committed to appointing more judges, putting more police officers on the street and more prosecutors in the courts, but also protecting the most vulnerable, including children and seniors, and giving our youth more opportunities to succeed.

A crime prevention strategy involves more than imprisonment. The Liberal government took a proactive role by providing communities with the tools, the knowledge and the support they need to deal with the root causes of crime at the local level.

While I agree with tough punishments for offenders, we must get to the source of the problem to build a strong country.

Joséphine Domenica Sciascia-Sorgente
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I want to pay tribute to a young cadet, 16-year-old Sergeant Joséphine Domenica Sciascia-Sorgente, who used the Heimlich manoeuvre to save her grandmother from certain death.

Sergeant Sorgente is a cadet with 2729 Terrebonne Cadet Corps. While she was visiting her grandmother, the older woman choked. The young woman stepped in and performed the Heimlich manoeuvre, which is the only appropriate response in such cases.

In so doing, Cadet Sorgente proved that she has good judgment and that she deserves the admiration of her friends and teammates in 2729 Cadet Corps.

I want to congratulate Sergeant Sorgente on her bravery and tell her that I am very proud to represent her, her family and her cadet corps in the House of Commons.

National Day of Mourning
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, this Saturday, April 28, communities across Canada will be marking the National Day of Mourning for workers killed or injured on the job and those who have become ill because of workplace problems.

The National Day of Mourning is not only a time of reflection and remembrance, it is also a day to rededicate ourselves to the goal of keeping our workers safe on their jobs.

Every day, three Canadians die on the job and each year another one million are injured. Such statistics are clearly unacceptable but equally staggering is the fact that one in seven young workers is injured on the job. These are our sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.

Canadian workers are losing their lives because workplace safety is thrown out the window, down the shaft or derailed in the interests of the bottom line. We see it again and again. When a worker is killed, it is because he or she has been pressured to do unsafe work.

Corporate responsibility is crucial to improving safety for working Canadians. Government plays a key role in legislating and enforcing safe work practices and strict rules for workplace safety.

I will close by echoing the labour movements' most appropriate motto for this day--