Debates of March 10th, 2008
House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.
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The House resumed from February 26 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
The Speaker Peter Milliken
When this motion was last before the House, the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina had the floor for questions and comments. There are two minutes remaining in the time allotted for questions and comments for the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina.
Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development.
Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak tonight with regard Canada's mission in Afghanistan.
When I was elected in 2000, this matter became an important issue for me and the House. I have followed this mission closely. I always looked to the leadership that was going to make these decisions. The Liberals took leadership first by agreeing with the mission in Afghanistan. Then our Prime Minister took it up, and he is doing much to help the people of Afghanistan.
A comment was made by an NDP member today during the debate. Although the word hopeless was not used, that party sounded hopeless.
I want to go back to when President Karzai was here and what he said to the House. He thanked Canada for its contributions and said:
—Afghanistan today is profoundly different from the terrified and exhausted country it was five years ago. Today, Afghanistan has the most progressive constitutions in our region, which enables the Afghan people to choose their leadership for the first time in their history. Over the past five years, our people have voted in two elections, one for the President and another for the Parliament. With the inauguration of the Parliament, 27 percent of whose membership is made up of women, all the three branches of state have now been established. More than six million children, about forty percent of them girls, have returned to school. Over four million refugees have returned to their homes. We have disarmed tens of thousands of former combatants, and have begun the vital task of building up Afghanistan’s security institution–the Police and Army. We have also achieved fiscal stability and substantial economic growth. In short, we in Afghanistan have embraced the vision of a prosperous and pluralistic society which Canada so richly embodies.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Edmonton—Strathcona.
The government supports our troops and understands that they go to war to help countries such as Afghanistan, to defend their people, to build its bridges, to teach its troops, to help rebuild the devastation that the country has undergone, to give women back their rights and to give its children back their future.
Our troops and their compatriots from other countries are the bravest of the brave. It is their efforts and those of the people in Afghanistan that we defend.
Canada is in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led United Nations sanctioned, multinational security assistance force. At the invitation of the democratically elected Afghanistan government, along with our international partners, Canada is helping Afghanistan build a stable, democratic and self-sufficient country.
Dr. Lee Windsor, deputy director of the Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society at the University of New Brunswick, and a former soldier himself, described how, due to world events like the former Yugoslavia deterioration, aid did not come through for Afghanistan after the Afghan people helped defeat the communist threat during the Cold War.
Afghanistan collapsed into a state of civil war, ripe for the Taliban to take over. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, reminded Canadians of the impact this had on Afghanistan. In a Globe and Mail column on January 24, 2008, he said:
Afghanistan is a potent symbol of the costs inherent in abandoning nations to the lawless forces of anarchy. That alone justifies international efforts to help rebuild the country. Lest there be any doubt, remember Sept. 11, 2001, and its worldwide reverberations. We learned then how a country, shorn of its civic institutions, becomes a vacuum filled by criminals and opportunists. In its chaos and poverty, Afghanistan became a home base for terrorism.
Before the fall of the Taliban in 2001, women had virtually no rights in Afghanistan. Human rights abuses of women included being forbidden access to basic health care. They were forbidden to work outside the house. They were forbidden to go to school or to university. They were forbidden to leave their homes without a close male relative. They were forbidden fair trials and executed for sexual crimes. Public executions and floggings were the norm under the Taliban.
There is no negotiating with a terrorist organization and regime that treats its own people in this manner.
Today things are much different. We learned of real progress through personal reports and stories and just last week from the delegation of Afghan women visiting Parliament. Some of the important accomplishments include women representing 25% of the democratically elected national assembly and more than two million girls enrolled in school.
In 2006, as I said, Mr. Karzai, Afghanistan's president, had explained how Canada's assistance was helping his country and he thanked us for the contributions. He went on to talk about how Afghanistan had the most progressive constitution in the region, enabling the Afghan people to choose their leadership for the first time in their history. He talked about the parliament and how 27% of its membership was made up of women. He talked about the six million children, over 40% of them girls, who had returned to school and the over four million refugees who had returned to their homes. He talked about how the Afghans had disarmed thousands of former combatants and had begun the vital task of building up Afghanistan's security institution, the police and the army. They also achieved fiscal stability and substantial economic growth. In short, Afghans had embraced the vision of a prosperous and pluralistic society, which Canada so richly embodies.
Canada is the top donor for the Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan, which is helping Afghanistan's economy by helping Afghan people create their own jobs. Afghan women are taking control of their own lives by starting their own businesses through this program. More than 325,000 Afghan people have taken advantage of the program, 75% of microfinance clients being women, and significantly 98% of these loans being repaid with interest.
Another program, integrating women into markets, helps women develop horticulture, mostly fruits and vegetables in home-based gardens to supplement family diets and generate income.
In October of last year we were introduced to artezan designs, a project that provides skill development and weaving, income generation and literacy classes to Afghan women. Silk shawls were available for purchase. The proceeds go directly to help support the project in Kabul.
This is just one more example of how Canada's presence in Afghanistan is providing women with the opportunities to create, to produce and to earn money.
General Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, recently explained the important role of development in Afghanistan. He said:
We are in Afghanistan to help Afghans. We're not there to build an empire. We're not there to occupy a country. But we are there to help Afghan men, women and children rebuild their families.
General Hillier also clarified the connection between security at home and security in Afghanistan when he said, “We must be imparting the conditions for stability there before that instability is exported here”.
I see I have been given a signal that my time is up and I am only halfway through my speech. If I would have had the attention of the House, I would have gone a little quicker, but everyone was talking and not listening to my important points.
I am pleased to have had the opportunity to say a few words tonight in speaking about democratic change and the economic renewal and social progress to a nation that yearns for freedom and stability. Canadians can be proud that we have done so much to bring such change to so many. It is a legacy that we can celebrate and agree to sustain together.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I assure the member that I was listening. There is one item about which the member did not have an opportunity to talk. I am sure it is in the rest of her speech.
It has to do with the poppy trade. When we first had Afghanistan come as an issue on the floor of the House, I did a little research. I found out at the time that the vast majority of the economy of Afghanistan was growing poppies. The farmers got very little, but the Taliban used it to finance their war, their arms and to keep this going.
Is the member aware of the government's position on how to address the problem of the war by the Afghan insurgents being financed by poppies? Could it be addressed in some concrete way so there is a peace or a stability in the Afghan region in our lifetime?
Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK
Mr. Speaker, the poppy industry is a concern, which was expressed in the House when the president was here. It was of grave concern. I think it just goes to show that this is why we have to be there: to try to bring peace and help the Afghan people to try to get this under control.
With our help in training the Afghan national army and the Afghan nation police, we are working together to try to help. This is not something that can be very easily overcome. I am sure that is why the member asked the question: because he knows himself that this is not going to be very easy.
First of all, I think, we have a lot of work to do in bringing stability to Afghanistan and trying to make sure that we are there to help educate the people. Education certainly will help. If we can educate children and women and have an educated society, things like the poppy industry might not be the huge problem that we know it is.
Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague across the way. In 2003 I had an opportunity to visit Afghanistan. I visited the minister responsible for women's affairs. She was running a college and I spoke to the women of that college.
There were ladies in their late teens. When I asked them what the international community could do for Afghanistan, one young lady grabbed my hand and said, “Come with me”. She took me outside the school and waited for a couple of minutes. We saw a convoy of four UN vehicles, with one in the front and one in the back, with mercenaries, if we want to call them that, who were protecting one NGO. She said, “If we can get rid of all of this, open businesses, work and have stability, we will be all right”.
Could my colleague give us her thoughts on the comments by the young Afghan lady? What is the member's government doing in order to move in that direction?
Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK
Mr. Speaker, I am not privy to exactly what the person was talking about, but I do know that if help is what they want, in financing that is where we have been. As I said earlier, we have been helping with micro-financing, which has helped many women start their own businesses. Therefore, I am sure that has been a very good start if that is what answer she wants. We have also done a lot with rebuilding the schools. All of these things are what will start to develop the economy.
The economy specifically has been something that we have zeroed in on through CIDA. Some of the projects have been helping. As soon as we get some of the infrastructure, such as water and wells, as soon as we create infrastructure to overcome these barriers, some of this economy can be built. I believe the member actually has brought to light the fact that this is what we are doing. We are helping with our micro-financing support.
Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise today to speak on an issue that is obviously so important to Canadians, but in particular to me given my family's history. I know that you in particular, Mr. Speaker, know some of that history. I would like to share it with the House, because I feel personally very fortunate that my family was able to come to Canada.
The country gave us a brand new start. As members know, in the early 1970s, shortly after I was born in East Africa, a radical dictator came to power. His name was Idi Amin. For a short time we lived under that incredible regime. Then we were kicked out. Luckily, we were able to come to Canada with our lives and what we could carry. I do not remember much, being just a baby, of course, but my family recounts the story of how we had to go through absolute hell and how we lost everything that we could ever have imagined.
Three generations of an institution in that country, our families and businesses, were ripped away from us overnight. That sort of damage can never be repaired unless one has the aid of others to help fix a radical situation such as the one that had developed under the dictator named Idi Amin. At the time, there was a lot of debate as to what should happen in the international community. Should we be involved? Should we throw the dictator out?
Luckily, Canada opened its arms to my family, to me and to others who came as refugees to Canada. We were able to have a brand new start. It took the intervention of a few African countries close to Uganda, which were able to throw out that dictator and try to help get Ugandans and their families back on the right track after a terrible reign of about six to eight years under Idi Amin.
His reign turned that whole country backward. It was supposedly the jewel of Africa, but it was turned backward and unfortunately became one of the poorer countries in Africa. Everything that was built there by a number of families who got along well and worked hard was turned overnight into an area that is still not quite back on its feet.
I was very lucky that I was able to travel with the Prime Minister recently to the heads of the Commonwealth meeting in Uganda and see some of the progress that Canada is involved with there on the ground. I saw some of the help that we are involved with providing through CIDA and other NGOs. I saw that slowly but surely the stability there is bringing better economic times and people are hopeful about the future. Again, Canada has been a beacon of hope for many in that region.
The reason I wanted to share that story briefly with the House is that I see many similarities with what the people of Afghanistan are faced with. Of course, many of them have known only war. If we think about the last 30 years of Afghanistan's history, we will realize that it has been fighting to stay alive. It has been battling different elements that have put many people's lives through incredible hardship. Yet the spirit of the Afghan people continues to live on and to say that they can have a better place, a strong economy and a free democracy, something that especially in the recent past has been so important to them.
When I speak about the historic visit last week, it really hit me when we returned home. As my colleague from Blackstrap mentioned, it was incredible to hear the stories from the delegation of Afghan women parliamentarians who were here.
To remind the House, in the values that we are fighting for in Afghanistan with the Afghan people in the process of capacity building and helping to improve their quality of life, there are three key things that I think are often forgotten when we debate whether we should remain in Afghanistan in the future or remove ourselves. Those things are defence, diplomacy and development, the 3Ds, and they are all equally important.
When I look back to my family's history and at what has happened in Uganda, all these things had to happen to continue to turn Uganda around. It continues to happen today. The work that I mentioned is still happening.
Rome was not built in a day. If we were to look at what has happened in the last number of years and what Canada and its coalition partners have contributed in Afghanistan, we would not recognize Afghanistan as it was under the Taliban. In only six years, things have changed drastically since the coalition efforts in Afghanistan.
Members do not have to take just my word for it. Again, the women who here last week told incredible stories about the things that have changed. The fact is that they can now go out in public. They can participate in shaping the country and their governance structures, yet they still do not live completely without fear.
This story in particular is amazing. Someone I became very fond of when she was here, for her passion and for dedicating her whole lifetime to trying to improve the plight of her people, was Safia Sediqi, one of the lead parliamentarians. She told us that some of them have bounties on their heads. The Taliban know about the work they have been doing and have bounties on their heads. She said that the women have to travel with security and are always afraid about the condition of their families while they are doing their work.
We get up every day and many of us walk to work here. We are free to do so. We can come and go as we please. Let us imagine these women having a bounty on their heads just because they are fighting for rights for themselves and their people. It is just unimaginable. Not only that, when we were taking pictures with the delegation, they had to ensure that they were dressed in the appropriate way, that their scarves were covering them properly, because if the Taliban saw these pictures, again they would be targeted for potential “extermination”. One of them used that term.
It is incredible to think about the types of things these women are facing and the courage they have. And what was their message while they were here? It was clear. They thanked Canada profusely for our leadership in that part of the world.
They thanked Canada for the fact that over the last number of years we have been involved in bringing security and involved in bringing what is needed in order for Afghans to get their lives back on track, things such as development aid in allowing girls to go to school and allowing education and school systems to be set up, and also the infrastructure, due to a significant amount of work that our troops have been involved with, as have NGOs that are on the ground building infrastructure.
All of these things, they said, would not be possible, and they would not even be able to serve as members of parliament, if it were not for the leadership of Canada, other NATO countries and the UN in particular, in regard to taking the leadership to say that all of the world should be interested in helping this wayward state get back on track.
When they spoke to our caucus last week, I do not think there was a dry eye in the place when we heard that message. We heard it so articulately. They asked us not to leave them now. If we were to leave them now, they said, everything would be lost. Not only that, they would be suffering in ways that we could only imagine. That is what they told us. From their stories, I could just see what they were talking about, because it is just something we take for granted here.
In particular, however, it gave me an incredible new sense of hope in thinking about what we can continue to do. Canada's history as a nation has been one of coming to people's aid and bringing hope for democracy and freedom. This is a perfect example of that history in today's reality in some parts of the world, where there are still incredible amounts of conflict. My friend from Blackstrap spoke about the pluralistic society that we are so lucky to have in Canada.
As well, I think about the progress that has happened in Afghanistan in a short period of time. About 15 years ago, my family, along with others, sponsored a number of Afghan refugees who came to Canada. Obviously they were fleeing the regime of the Taliban. Many of them worked with our family. Many of them live all across this country.
Fifteen to twenty years later, they are established. They are proud to be Canadians. Some of them have done extremely well. They have businesses for themselves. Some have partnerships and some still work with my family back in Edmonton.
However, many of them were in tears with me when they saw the leadership that Canada was taking in their home country. For many of them, it is the first time that they have actually gone back to Afghanistan to help in the capacity building. They have told me that never in their lifetimes would they have imagined that Afghanistan would change the conditions that they had to flee when they left under the Taliban.
They never imagined that they would be able to go back to their home country. They closed the chapter when they came to Canada. They just wished for the best and prayed that maybe things would change. Now when they speak to me, they say that if it were not for Canada and its leadership, they would not ever be able to go back to their country, as they can now, and give to it what Canada gave to us here: the experience, the knowledge and the ability, while they are still connected and still Canadian citizens, to be able to work with our soldiers, our men and women on the ground there, and to give Afghanistan, their country, brand new hope and excitement for the future.
I think this has become abundantly clear to Canadians since we have had this debate. I would like to remind everyone that, through the leadership of our ministers involved and our Prime Minister, this has been an open process, a transparent process to be able to bring Canadians together to speak about the work that we are doing and support our men and women in the field in Afghanistan in the tough work they do.
I am happy to see that this motion will pass on Thursday night so we can continue to give hope to people in Afghanistan and that region of the world, because that is going to be so important as we move forward.
Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying how much it meant to me to listen to the member's personal point of view. I know he brings a lot of heart and feeling to this because he has experienced it and he knows people who have experienced this very situation. He was one of a number of MPs, like myself, who met the female MPs from Afghanistan last week. That was a truly moving experience.
He also talked about how Rome was not built in a day. I have been to Rome a number of times and I have seen buildings that took 400 years to be built. What we have accomplished in Afghanistan is we have built thousands of kilometres of roads. We have built schools where millions of kids are going to school. That is all at risk of being lost.
My understanding is that two of the parties in this House are going to vote against this mission. Does the member think that is consistent with Canada's identity in the world?
Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB
Mr. Speaker, that was an excellent question. The member mentioned the progress happening in Afghanistan, but in particular the historic visit of the Afghan parliamentarian women's group that came here.
I find it hard to believe that those parties still maintain the same position. If I am not mistaken, the delegation of women went in particular to speak with the leader of the Bloc and with the leader of the NDP to share the same stories that all of us heard when it came to how important it is for Canada to remain in the significant role as we have been and continue that work in order to help them succeed to bring democracy and freedom to their people. After hearing that message how those parties could maintain their position is beyond me.
I have been on a few panels in the past where NDP members have said that we have to start a peace process. I think there still needs to be a focus on giving a sense of security. When the women parliamentarians are saying there are bounties on their heads and their families are still at threat, how can we negotiate any sort of peace process?
I appreciate the hon. member raising it because I wanted to mention that even after hearing from such brave and courageous women, it is a shock to me that those party leaders still maintain a position that we should remove ourselves from Afghanistan.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Secretary of State
Mr. Speaker, I know time is short but I want to congratulate my colleague, the caucus chair of the Conservative Party, for his excellent speech this evening. Perhaps many people do not know that his fiancée, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Trade , was instrumental in getting the six Afghan female MPs here last week during International Women's Week.
I know you had the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to be in the chair at the end of question period and introduce them not only to our House, but by television to our country. As the member said, their stories were so moving. It was incredible to be able to talk to them and try not be moved to the extent that it would bring tears to our eyes when they talked about the courage it takes for them just to go to work every day. Sometimes we like to complain in this place about the amount of snow outside and how difficult it is to wade through the snow and the slop to get to work every day, but unless we get hit by a wayward bus, we do not face the type of danger that those parliamentarians do. I admire them so much for their courage.
The member touched on the issue that I have been raising throughout this debate and that is the whole idea the NDP has floated that somehow we can negotiate with the Taliban. In the limited time he has remaining could the member comment on that? Personally I do not see, because of the ideological differences and because it is such an evil regime that would murder people almost for no reason, how we could possibly share power with a regime like that.
March 10th, 2008 / 7:25 p.m.
Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB
Mr. Speaker, in my limited time, at this stage in the development of Afghanistan I do not think we can even look at creating any sort of peace process until there is stability and through the continuous efforts with the NGOs on the ground, education and the basic needs of the Afghan people are being met. Once we get to that stage and once we establish the tools for capacity building as we are moving into now, then we can start looking at ways to look at maybe even removing our military presence there. However, it is just too fragile a place at this point in time. To try to think that we can negotiate with a group like the Taliban, we would be lucky to stay alive if we were in the same room with them.
Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON
Mr. Speaker, this is for me a very special occasion to participate in this important debate on Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Not since the former Yugoslavia and Korea has our flag been placed in a zone of conflict where, by terms of engagement, there has been a full application of military force by Canadians.
We want to remember why we are in Afghanistan. There did exist and perhaps still exists an international terrorist conspiracy based there, which was aided and abetted by the government in Afghanistan. Out of that conspiracy came an attack on New York and Washington. There have been other attacks in other locations around the world as well.
In the New York attack, approximately 3,000 people died, some of whom were Canadian. The United Nations could not allow Afghanistan impunity by allowing this group to act and it was necessary to act, in the view of this House, Canada and the United Nations, to uproot the terrorists and bring them to account. That is why the United Nations, NATO and our American cousins are active militarily in Afghanistan at this time.
As a member of Parliament, I had the privilege of being embedded with the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan a couple of years ago. It was certainly a memorable experience. I was proud to be there with a very impressive group of Canadian armed forces personnel. At the time, they were based in Camp Julian in Kabul. I was there the night that the first convoy moved to Kandahar. It was troubling.
Mr. Speaker, I should say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Welland.
One night, and I will not say what time it was because we are not supposed to say what time things happen, but at some point in the middle of the night the engines started up and it woke up the whole camp. Some in the camp were aware that the convoy was moving out. There was a sense then, as there still is today, that the mission, in moving from Camp Julian in Kabul to Kandahar was to be a very serious commitment with very serious risks. I recall at the time being concerned about the possibility of an ambush on that particular convoy as it made its way for the first time down what I think is called Highway 1 from Kabul to Kandahar.
During that time with the forces, which I was very proud to experience with two other parliamentarians, I bounced around in an Iltis and on the back of a LAV-3, a light armoured vehicle, as a flying sentry. We moved around Kabul and in the rural areas of the region. I was proud to be with the Canadian Forces as I eyeballed the people and places and breathed the dust of Afghanistan in trying to understand all that is there. It is a complex piece, indeed.
I certainly found, as have some who have gone there, that at times one can be optimistic and at other times pessimistic about prospects for the future. I recall when the president of Afghanistan was here, I was particularly optimistic when I listened to his speech. When I was there, the obstacles to progress, economic development and peace seemed huge, but with the presence of the international community, occasionally one sees a glimmer of hope.
There are two things I took away from that particular stint in Afghanistan. First, the Afghan people themselves are resilient and industrious. There is no question about that. It gives reason for optimism. Everybody seemed to be working at something, at least the men. The women and the young girls were less visible, often in the home, but the men and the boys all seemed to be working at something. However menial the task, they were working. They are industrious. They will build their country. I came away with that very clear conclusion.
The second thought that I came away with was the high level of heroin production in the south of Afghanistan, which by itself, the hugeness of it, the scope of it, and the amount of money involved is so large that it will impair the evolution of good governance. It is essentially one big huge implantation of organized crime in the south of the country. It is a problem that Afghanistan and the Afghans will have to deal with. It will distort the evolution of the economy and the politics and the good governance of that country. It is not intractable, but it is a big problem.
I will move to some conclusions. Of course, if 9/11 had not occurred, we would not be in Afghanistan. Afghanistan would be evolving as Afghanistan always has in the will of the Afghanistan people. However, we are there, and it is probably true that we will not be there forever.
The resolution that we have crafted in the House appears to be a rough consensus. The international community may always have some presence in trying to assist Afghanistan now that we are there, but there appears to be a sense that there must be a rotation among our allies for this purpose.
The motion we have before us frames the next many months as a three year commitment. It is our hope that the Afghans will continue to construct a civil society infrastructure within an envelope of security and over time that responsibility for security and the full package will evolve to the Afghans, as it should be.
I want to pay tribute to our Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. I want to pay tribute to the people of Afghanistan. It seems that the people of Afghanistan have put up with soldiers, guys with guns, for decades and decades and decades. I only have to go back half a century or so to notice the Russians, their own civil war, the Taliban, and now NATO, also with guns.
I want to pay tribute to the Afghan police and the Afghan army as they evolve to take on this very large task of providing security for their civil governance. That is an ongoing task.
I pay tribute to our own Canadian Forces with NATO. Often not mentioned are our special forces, JTF2. I pay tribute to them tonight. They have been on the job there for quite a while. They are not mentioned because most of what special forces do is classified. Our provincial reconstruction teams are there, and I pay tribute to them.
Last, I say that there will be no military solution. The military application of force is tactical, intended to allow Afghans an opportunity to develop and to rebuild their system of governance.
We are not going to be armchair generals in this place. The motion that we may approve, and I hope we will approve, says that we are not armchair generals. We will give to our forces the orders. We will tell them what we want them to do and then we will let them do it, using appropriate military procedures as they see fit, but the term will come to an end.
In the hope that we will rotate and continue to contribute to the development of Afghanistan with our NATO allies, I hope that this resolution as negotiated on both sides of the House will be adopted.
Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS
I was hoping that the member for Scarborough—Rouge River might pick up the challenge that was presented by the absolute assertion by the member who spoke before him, the member for Edmonton--Strathcona, that we could not possibly negotiate with the Taliban and that anyone who thinks that we could possibly launch a peace process does not have any idea of what is going on there.
I listened carefully and I completely agree with the member for Scarborough—Rouge River when he says that we cannot be armchair generals. He may or may not have been in the House earlier this afternoon when I quoted a number of generals and a number of defence ministers who stated that it literally was immoral. I want to ensure that I do not misquote the Dutch commander in Uruzgan who said that if the international community cannot find a political solution, then we have no moral right to ask our young people to expose themselves to that danger.
We have had numerous other comments from the U.K. defence minister, a Dutch military commander, and Major General Andrew Leslie, former chief of Canadian land staff, who himself said, “Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you”.
I am sure the member also had the opportunity to meet with the courageous, intelligent six women members of parliament from Afghanistan when they were here. They said that it was absolutely a mistake to say that we cannot negotiate with the Taliban. They said that we needed to make a distinction between those who do not support the Taliban but who fight with the Taliban because they are starving and they need jobs and a livelihood.
I want to ask the member whether he is prepared to acknowledge that there is a difference between the Taliban, with whom it is necessary to negotiate and get a peace--