House of Commons Hansard #171 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.

Topics

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

June 14th, 2007 / 2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister would have had a lot of explaining to do concerning his handling of Afghanistan.

Let us start with the Red Cross. Last Monday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs made a number of claims that were contradicted by the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Kabul, who confirmed that the Red Cross is not conducting an inquiry into allegations of torture in Afghanistan.

Will the Prime Minister admit that the only people really investigating allegations of torture in Afghanistan by Afghan authorities are the Afghan authorities?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the International Committee of the Red Cross has a right to visit detainees at any time. That right, of course, derives from international law.

I think everybody in the House is now well familiar with our supplementary agreement that we entered into with the government of Afghanistan and which reaffirms within that agreement that role for the Red Cross.

Of course, that agreement, as everybody knows, and it was tabled in the House, sets out quite clearly that the onus is on the government of Afghanistan to advise Canada, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Red Cross about any corrective action with regard to complaints about treatment of prisoners.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, so much for the Red Cross and this government's attempts to manipulate the situation. Now let us talk about censorship in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

On April 25, the Prime Minister stated that ministers are not consulted about documents prepared under the Access to Information Act. That is not true. We now know that the famous report on allegations of torture that the minister claims he never saw was, in fact, sent to his office “for review”, and that the government prohibited the public servant who has information about this issue from appearing before the parliamentary committee.

Will the Prime Minister let this person talk? What is he trying to hide?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to have to say it, but the Liberal Party leader's accusations are totally false.

Everybody knows that the Department of Foreign Affairs reports annually on human rights and they are internal reports intended to help inform policy.

On the question of the redactions, everybody in the House knows and has heard repeatedly that those redactions are done by officials who are charged with that responsibility. It is done without any political interference and that is the case with these reports as well.

There is absolutely no truth to the allegations being levelled by the leader of the Liberal Party right now and he should apologize for them.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, there is an easy way to know. We just have to let public servants testify at the committee. This interdiction is showing that there is something to hide.

There is another cover-up. The Prime Minister's own department produced a report last November showing that the Taliban resurgence is so dramatic that the country may split in two. This report has never been published. Instead, the government published a very rosy report last February. Why? To hide the truth is not a way to support our troops or to help Afghanistan.

How could the Prime Minister let his ministers table a report that he knew was false?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, one would have to be living under a rock not to realize that our troops are facing real challenges in Afghanistan. We are very proud of the work they are doing. I am quite sure that the Liberal leader is aware of it as well.

Something he never talks about is the progress we are making in Afghanistan, such as how over 4.6 million refugees have returned to the country, per capita income has doubled and the Afghan economy has tripled. Our intervention is making a real difference for the people of Afghanistan. It is something the leader of the Liberal Party never wants to tell Canadians about.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Privy Council Office report clearly indicates that the Taliban made a dramatic resurgence in 2006. Suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices had unpredicted success, according to the report. Yet the Minister of Foreign Affairs tabled a report in Parliament saying that everything was fine.

Why is this Conservative government continuing to lie to Canadians about Afghanistan?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows the challenges our troops are facing in Afghanistan, and unfortunately, there have been some regrettable incidents involving injury and loss of life.

But there are many positive things that the Liberal Party is ignoring. For example, 7.2 million children have been vaccinated against polio, 4.3 million children have been vaccinated against other childhood diseases, 77% of Afghans now have access to medical clinics, compared to less than—

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's own department produced a report documenting a dramatic increase in the Taliban insurgency, which could split the country in two.

In February, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of International Cooperation tabled a report in this House indicating that everything was just fine.

Why did this government choose secrecy and deception to hide the truth about Afghanistan from Canadians?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, we are completely open. I think the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine knows Canada faces challenges in Afghanistan.

The greatest obstacle to the reconstruction of Afghanistan is the continuing violence and the constant threats from the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whose main goal is to prevent Afghan men, women and children from leading normal lives. We want to help the Afghans. I am now inclined to think that the Liberals do not.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the Red Cross has contradicted the government in the matter of Afghan detainees. A senior Red Cross official confirmed that he knew nothing about the investigation by Afghan authorities of allegations of torture. Yet, according to the government, the latest agreement between the Afghan and Canadian authorities requires that the Red Cross be kept informed of the investigation. Once again it is a case of complete and utter bungling. We are in the land of deception.

Can the Prime Minister set the record straight and tell us whether or not the Red Cross is kept informed of the investigation into allegations of torture?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I believe that everyone is aware that we reached an agreement with the Afghan government to confirm the role of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This additional arrangement does not create any obligations for the International Committee of the Red Cross. However, it does require the Afghan government to inform Canada, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and the International Committee of the Red Cross of corrective action taken.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is completely ridiculous. Everyone knows that the Red Cross is a party to the agreement, except the Red Cross itself. That is really something: the Red Cross is party to an agreement without knowing it. Senior officials at the Red Cross do not lie to us.

Could the minister not follow their example?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

2:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting issue. In my opinion, the agreement works well. Canadian representatives continue to have open and constructive dialogue with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the matter of detainees in Afghanistan. This is obviously working well.