Debates of March 13th, 2008
House of Commons Hansard #66 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 consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.
Betty Hinton Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to our mission in Afghanistan. Our government believes that the Afghan mission is important. It is important to the people of that country and it is important to Canadians. It is especially important to the Canadian sons and daughters who are on the ground there, our military, our diplomats and the civilian aid workers who are all trying to rebuild the lives and livelihoods of the Afghan people.
Last week, Mr. Speaker, you introduced six women seated in that gallery. Those women were parliamentarians in the fledgling Afghan government. Seven short years ago those same women could not have left their homes without burkas or unaccompanied by a male relative. Seven years ago they could not walk to the corner by themselves or access medical care. Now they are free to travel halfway around the world to sit in the gallery of the Canadian Parliament with their faces bare.
As parliamentarians in Canada, we all face certain challenges but having our lives threatened constantly is not one of them. These female Afghan parliamentarians deal with this threat on a daily basis.
In this, our 39th Parliament, 21% of the members are women. In Afghanistan, women account for 25% of parliament. They have no budget for a constituency office and must perform their duties, one on one, over vast areas of terrain under dangerous conditions.
What makes these women leave the relative safety of their homes to take on this very dangerous task? According to them, it is quite simple. They have an inner knowledge that their daring stand for democracy will ultimately have a positive effect on their lives and the lives of their children.
Canadian parliamentarians stood and applauded the bravery of these women and their achievements. I, therefore, see no reason why any member would choose not to continue to stand for them as they continue to rebuild their country into a place that is governed by a democratically elected Parliament, the rule of law, human rights and freedom.
Their victory will not happen overnight, but we knew that going in, and our Canadian Forces on the ground knew that going in.
We in this Parliament have a clear choice. We can be part of the solution or we can be part of the problem. Ten reservists from my riding made their decision themselves when they left a short time ago for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. They are going to do their part. Five Rocky Mountain Rangers have already been there for a tour of duty and, thankfully, returned safety.
I have spoken to them and I have heard the stories of their many successes, which add up to progress being made for the Afghan people. They have no regrets. They are the creators of change.
In January of this year, an American aid worker and her driver were abducted in Kandahar. Cyd Mizell had worked in the area for six years on educational projects and women's development. To date, she and her driver have not been found. In a show of support, 500 Afghan women gathered to protest the kidnapping. They called on officials, elders and ordinary citizens to work for her release. These women could not have dared to rally seven years ago. Canadians made it possible.
Just last week, Afghans celebrated International Women's Day. Hundreds of women marched for peace in Kandahar, the hotbed of Taliban insurgents. In the north, women held public meetings in the provincial capitals on giving women voices, with the provincial governors, women's councils, local police, judges and religious leaders participating. These meetings would not have been allowed to take place seven years ago. Canadians made it possible.
None of this progress would have been made without the security of the NATO troops provided to the Afghan people.
There are members of the House who would have our troops pulled out of Afghanistan immediately. Those members undermine the positive work that is going on in Afghanistan. Their propaganda is an insult to today's military and to the men and women who have served in areas of conflict during the history of our nation.
Canadians have never cut and run when the going got tough. We have a tradition of coming to the aid of those in need, whether it is in a peacekeeping capacity or in a peace-making capacity, and we do it well.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I have had many opportunities to attend special remembrance ceremonies, both here and abroad. I have also witnessed the increased awareness of our military history among the younger generation. There is an earned pride that comes with the awareness and an appreciation for the sacrifices made in the name of oppressed people around the world.
Today, one only has to see the overpasses on the Highway of Heroes jammed with saluting, flag-waving Canadians for a member of our military who has paid the ultimate price and has returned home for burial. It is truly remarkable.
Canadians are gaining a renewed pride in our military men and women who, for too long, were underfunded and ignored by the government. Members of the military are now getting the recognition they so richly deserve and, I must say, some are quite surprised by it.
When we walk up to any man or woman in uniform and thank them for all they do for us, their first reaction is a quizzical look, then a big smile and a bit of embarrassment. Our military do not serve for praise. They are proud to wear their uniform and serve their country.
I have not been to Afghanistan but I am aware of the many successes, such as the mortality rate for newborns declining 22% because the number of skilled childbirth workers has almost quadrupled since 2001. Access to basic medical services has increased to 83%, up from 9% in 2004.
I recognize that there are close to six million children, a full one-third girls, now enrolled in school compared to only 700,000 exclusively male children in 2001. I am aware of the wonderful opportunities, through the Canadian micro-finance plan, that allows women to run their own small businesses to support their families.
However, there is no more compelling evidence for me that the failing Afghan state is on the road to recovery than the sight of those six women sitting in the gallery. They are putting their lives on the line for their country and they deserve no less than our full support.
Our world will be a better place with a free and democratic Afghanistan.
Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, I attempted earlier to read into the record a quote in the Policy Options magazine but I did not do it in the right manner, so I will keep that in mind.
The quote simply states that the present “government--”, as opposed to the nomenclature I gave it earlier:
--takes no steps whatsoever to address the real weaknesses: the misguided US command and control effort; chaos and corruption in the Western-sponsored Karzai regime;....
The reason I read that for comment is because it is a quote, not from a New Democrat, but from someone who actually ran for the Conservative Party, and the member will probably know him, Arthur Kent. His point was that what is being proposed in this motion, with the Liberal Party supporting the government, is 1,000 more troops.
Whose command and control will those troops be under? If it is, as we believe, American troops, we should also know that they will not be under the command and control of any other country. What will happen to the command structure of the 1,000 troops, which we will get and I think everyone knows that, if they come from the United States? Will they be under American command and control? What will happen in that scenario?
Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of things I would like to say but I will control myself.
Canadian soldiers will be under RC South, which is Canadian held. We will be looking after and directing our own soldiers.
I have a question for the member. He just made a statement, which I did not understand, so maybe he can help me. How does his party stand against freedom for women, against democracy, against the rule of law, against the strong and historic Canadian embassies and all the things we have done as a country to make the world a better place in which to live?
I do not understand why NDP members do not understand what it is we are doing. We are making a tremendous difference. We are doing what Canadian people have done for centuries. We are making a difference for oppressed people.
I deal with veterans on a day by day basis. I am very proud of what they have managed to accomplish. They should be proud of themselves, and they are, but they are very humble. They were just doing their duty. The Canadian Forces are doing what our forces have been doing for years.
I simply cannot understand the member's comments.
Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, although I did not get an answer to my question, I will answer the member's question.
I am the son of a veteran. Both of my grandfathers are World War I veterans and my father is a veteran of World War II. I understand Canadian service. It is about how we make a difference, not whether or not we will make a difference.
My question back for the hon. member has to do with how we make the difference. Canada is supporting a corrupt regime. I met with the six Afghan members of parliament. I also know of another Afghan member of parliament, the only elected member representing a constituency, who was thrown out of parliament because she objected to the corruption in parliament. That is the government that Canada is supporting.
There is no question that the Taliban are bad guys but at one time we supported them in their fight against the Soviets.
The question is not whether or not we are against one group. The question is how we can best make a difference in Afghanistan and--
March 13th, 2008 / 12:05 p.m.
Betty Hinton Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC
Mr. Speaker, we are in this Parliament and we have different groups representing all Canadians. We have a group whose sole purpose in the House of Commons is to separate from Canada. We have another group that is most definitely socialist in nature. However, as a group, we manage very nicely to get along.
For the member to suggest that a new fledgling government will be perfect, when he sits in a House that is far from perfect, makes no sense at all to me.
Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to be here today to speak to the motion on Canada's role in Afghanistan. I am glad to see that the government and the official opposition have reached an agreement on Canada's mission in Afghanistan. This motion is neither a Conservative nor a Liberal motion; it is a Canadian motion that is consistent with our history and our values.
During the first world war, Conservative Robert Borden was in power. Historians witnessed the birth of Canada as a nation in the hell of trench warfare.
Some thirty years later, Mackenzie King, a Liberal, led our country through the second world war.
We fought alongside our American and British allies and played a role in the success of one of the biggest land invasions in history.
I sit on the national defence and had the privilege of asking Brigadier General Atkinson about the intelligence gathering abilities of the Taliban. I think too many in the House assume that the Taliban are a ragtag band of primeval warriors, and it is easy to think that because their values are so primitive.
However Brigadier General Atkinson answered thoughtfully. He stated that when a story is printed the Ottawa Citizen today, no matter what it is, it is being read. If it is on the BBC news or from somewhere else, they have it.
We should all ponder that statement when we debate in the House. It is not the statements of the general are anything new either. I think we can all remember that notable phrase from World War II that “loose lips sink ships” and it is not much different from that.
While I certainly understand that the modern media and communications has made issues like this vastly more complicated, all members should take time to examine the consciences. What we say in these halls might as well be said on the streets of Kandahar.
At the conclusion of this debate, we will show the Taliban and other radical groups how disputes should be settled, by a democratic debate and then a vote. However, after this vote, I would ask that all members remember the soldiers on the ground and support them in their task.
Providing helpful, strategic or tactical criticism is one thing, but all too often the farcical cries of question period are now proffered as legitimate advice on war and conflict.
The House should also know that it is not just generals expressing concern, but good-hearted journalists, like Christie Blatchford of the Globe and Mail. It is not often I quote journalists, but her column was particularly instructive. Speaking to her Afghan translator, who had recent communications with village friends in the countryside, she stated:
Truth is, it is quite believable that the Taliban would target Canadians if they sense that it is a useful time to inflict casualties.
Afghanistan may be a country reduced to rubble...but that doesn't translate to a primitive enemy...
I would like all members to remember these warnings, not as forcing silence but of asking wisdom of our spoken words.
We have made great strides in Afghanistan in the relatively short time that we have been there. Many members have spoken about this amazing progress, particularly for women. While it is far from perfect, it is far and away amazing progress in the last six years.
Consider the scenes we witnessed in the 1990s, a shaking and visibly fearful woman under a burqa, bending over in a soccer stadium while her barbaric executioner shoots her in the head. These are not visions from medieval Europe, but realities from just a short time ago in Afghanistan.
Then let us consider the pleasure that we had in the House just a short time ago as Afghan women parliamentarians sat in our galleries. Many of us went and visited with them and then thanked them for their bravery.
Just this past weekend, 1,000 women gathered in Kandahar to celebrate International Women's Day. This is from CP reporter Stephanie Levitz:
Since 2001 and the fall of the Taliban, women are slowly rising back up through the ranks of Afghan society. They sit in government, run hospitals and have regained the right to an education.
“This year is better than last year and the year before last year,” said Dr. Farishta Bwar, who works in the department of public health. “Every day the women's life becomes a little better.”
If these women can be brave, the least members can do in this place is stand with them. Unfortunately, some in the House would rather steep in their wilful denial of reality and their reckless ideology than embrace actual women with greater challenges.
I raise these issues not out of partisan wrangling, but out of genuine concern for the men and women. It seems from the debate thus far that the opposition and the government have come to an agreement that our troops will be in Kandahar till 2011. They will still be in danger and their families will still miss them terribly.
Canadian Forces Base Petawawa is located in my riding. One of my favourite constituency week activities is visiting the base, the soldiers and families of these brave women and men. These families have something to say. A child of a soldier who has served in Afghanistan wrote a wonderful speech, part of which bears reading into the record. This is what he had to say, not just of his dad who is undoubtedly a hero, but of the mother, a hero in his life. He said:
When people think of heroes what often comes to their mind is some fictional character like Batman or Superman. For me the person who first came to my mind was my Dad. He's a soldier and he's on his fifth deployment this time trying to make a better life for the people in Afghanistan.
But thinking more about heroes, I realize that a hero often has a “silent hero” behind him or her. The only way my Dad can be a hero and do what he does is to have a great person supporting him here in Canada. That made me think of the heroes behind the heroes, like my Mom.
She has stood behind my Dad's decisions to go on deployments and to move along with him when we were posted yet another time. She had to resign her jobs numerous times and give up her family and friends from the time she dated my Dad. Every move brought her new challenges, new environments and new adjustments to her life and career.
She keeps and has kept our family going while our Dad is gone on a deployment or an exercise. Although I miss my Dad when he's gone, my Mom makes sure our life just continues as if he were there.
In all this debate let us not forget the thousands of moms and dads who are also making a sacrifice, who sacrifice their children, their wives and husbands for the calling that we ask of them. Let us choose our words wisely for their sake, for all our sakes.
One of my constituents also expressed some important points on why we are in Afghanistan. He wrote in his letter:
Should we be there? It's a difficult question to answer. There are so many reasons to say, “yes”: Protecting the rights of women; promoting democracy; stopping the drug trade; promoting education and helping their country develop, so they can be a strong nation and learn to solve their own problems, fighting tyranny and intolerance, everything that Canada stands for. The answer is, yes. We should be in Afghanistan and take a closer look.
I am glad, as a member of the House, that the government and the official opposition have reached consensus on this issue. It sends a clear message to our troops and to Canadians of our intentions. It also sends a clear message to the Taliban that our wills cannot be shaken by their shadowy and cowardly acts.
There are so many successes in Afghanistan, whether it is the girls going to schools, the medical advances or the economic progress being made. I urge all members not to throw this away by a premature withdrawal.
With more troops, helicopters and UAVs, our troops will show even greater progress in the years to come. I, for certain, am looking forward to hearing their stories of success.
Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the member. This is a really important debate in the House and has implications across our land and around the world. It is important that all of us get up and, in a respectful manner in which she presented her case, be heard and be responded to with respect in questions and comments from others and those who might disagree.
Does the member understand, in her support of this new arrangement between the Liberals and the Conservatives, that the Liberals expect that the mission will change and change dramatically and radically? They have asked the question of the government as to where the number of 1,000 troops came from? What was the supporting documentation to come to a decision that 1,000 troops were needed? She talked about more troops, more artillery and more everything being needed to actually win this war. How will she deal with the aftermath of this resolution when it becomes obviously clear that the Liberals have quite a different understanding of the motion?
Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, as has been said in the House, the question of where 1,000 troops comes from is referenced in the Manley report. I am well aware of what different people think on this subject. However, as many hours as we have debated this, and it is coming to a conclusion and hopefully a vote, it would have been instructive for the Manley panel to have been invited to the defence committee, upon which I sit.
A motion was put forth so intricate questions, like the question the member asked me, could be directed specifically to the eminent members on the panel Mr. Manley led. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the opposition did not want to hear the answers to these questions and did not want the greater public to have a better understanding of what the eminent Canadians appointed to the Manley panel did while they were away.
Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's remarks and she asked us to carefully measure our words in this debate. She certainly has set the tone in that regard.
Many of us last week had the privilege of meeting a number of female parliamentarians from Afghanistan. They stood with us and requested that we not abandon them in this mission of providing the security that allowed the reconstruction and redevelopment to occur.
Would my colleague comment on the difference it would make if we were to abandon these women at this time and on the huge difference we have made for women and girls in Afghanistan?
Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON
Mr. Speaker, in listening to the women parliamentarians from Afghanistan, it put into perspective the minor issues we have to deal with involving safety and privacy issues as a parliamentarian. To be a parliamentarian, these women not only put their lives at stake, but the lives of their families and children as well.
The day prior to the day I met with those ladies we had another casualty in Afghanistan. The Governor General was there and they asked her if they could stand with her on the tarmac in Trenton when the body of the soldier was repatriated. Every time we lose a soldier, it pains them as well. They know these soldiers have given up their lives so they and their children can lead a better life. This really spoke to the appreciation that Afghan people have for our sacrifices in wanting to be there to comfort the family whose loved one was returning home.
Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Mr. Speaker, I take the responsibility we have with great seriousness. In my view it is unfortunate the debate has not happened in a more fulsome way across the country.
This government initiative is of fundamental importance to all of us. Nothing the government does is more serious than sending our armed forces into another country. In light of that, it is important that we have this debate, but we also have to find some way to reach out to the broader society and allow Canadians the opportunity to have their say. People want to engage in debate on this issue because they are concerned. They are on both sides of this issue. We need to be respectful of and open to the possibility of their coming forward to put their thoughts on the table for us to consider.
In my few minutes today I am going to bring to the table some thoughts on this subject from some of the faith groups in Canada. They have taken great pains to gather information, to do research, to put together positions, and write letters to the powers that be on the important subject of our engagement in the lives of the people of Afghanistan.
There are a number of questions that need to be addressed, and they will be addressed ultimately by all of us as we stand to vote this afternoon.
Is the war winnable? If so, at what cost to Canadians, at what cost to the Canadian armed forces, and most important, at what cost to the people of Afghanistan? Is there a higher moral and ethical value that we need to consider than simply the logistics of executing a war in order to win that war? Is there a higher moral and ethical value that we need to consider if we want to be helpful in that area of the world that has been wracked with difficulty for such a long period of time?
Ultimately then, having considered those questions which I put forward with respect and humility to my colleagues, will this resolution that we are debating today get us there? Will it set us on a path to something which would be a win for everybody concerned? Will it respect the higher values and moral and ethical considerations of many around the world who look at war from a different perspective after having fought world wars and other wars of great consequence and great devastation and destruction?
The first question I will address is, is the war winnable? That is questionable at best and it is certainly not winnable without more troops and artillery as was outlined so clearly in the Manley report.
The story of the Afghan people is not dissimilar to stories in other parts of the world where outside forces try to impose new cultural mores or a new set of values. People will resist and defend with their lives what they treasure most, their land and their freedom.
I only have to look at my own story and the story of the Irish people to understand to some degree what is at play in Afghanistan. The war in Ireland could not be won no matter how many British soldiers were sent in. A resolution and a cease to hostilities was only possible with the Good Friday agreement, a negotiated agreement that involved sitting down with the IRA. As my colleague from Outremont related the other night, Canada played a significant and central role in that effort because we were trusted and because we were seen to be non-aligned.
Two nights ago, the member for British Columbia Southern Interior shared brilliantly the recent experience of the failed Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The Russians used the same tactics as ourselves and yet, after engaging over 100,000 troops, they had to leave not having achieved any of their goals, however noble, and interestingly not unlike our own.
Manley outlines the many signs of failure in Afghanistan. Our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, spoke about them in his opening remarks in this debate. The Associated Press reported 5,000 lives lost in Afghanistan in 2007 alone, 27 of them Canadian soldiers, but that number has now gone up to 31, and thousands of Afghan soldiers, women and children.
History and our experience today should tell us that under the present circumstances this war cannot be won. Even Manley tells us we will need at least another thousand troops. The Liberals asked a good question here in this House. How was that number arrived at? Will that be enough? Will we need more after we discover that a thousand just is not enough? And when do we stop?
I now take us into a broader discussion of the moral and ethical values which need to be considered as we look at this resolution and the further engagement of Canada in this insurgency. In its communiqué of January 24, 2008, the Canadian Council of Churches referred to its letter of June 25, 2007 to the Prime Minister, in which it emphasized three points:
1) the primary goal of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan must be the pursuit of peace for the people of Afghanistan rather than forwarding the war on terror;
2) a political solution for reconciliation among the people of Afghanistan must be found using all available diplomatic means, including engaging civil society and religious networks; and
3) the efforts of Canadian Forces must be directed to the protection of lives and the preservation of civilian infrastructure.
In a statement in February of this year, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said:
The people of Afghanistan want peace. We hope this conviction will be central to the deliberations by the Parliament of Canada. Political and electoral considerations must take second place when it is a question of human lives and a people's future. We would invite the members of Parliament to put aside any predetermined stances, recognizing that the truth will involve concerted efforts. Diverse points of view need to be welcomed as contributions toward developing a detailed and constructive action plan, with peace as the ultimate goal.
Over the centuries, the Catholic Church has developed a rich and wise social teaching that can help inform the present discussion. I wish to suggest three points that flow from this teaching:
1. "It is hardly possible to imagine that in an atomic era, war could be used as an instrument of justice." Peace negotiations, carried out in good faith and involving all the parties concerned - this approach needs special consideration.
2. A clear distinction must be made between military operations and humanitarian aid. In particular, "humanitarian aid must reach the civilian population and must never be used to influence those receiving it." Otherwise, one endangers the lives of numerous civilians as well as those humanitarian workers who become targets for the insurgents.
3. The human dignity of Canadian soldiers must be safeguarded. Their moral integrity is brought into question when international law is not respected, especially when the troubling issue is the torture of enemy combatants. Furthermore, the personal well-being of Canadian soldiers and their families must be ensured.
In August 2007 a number of Christian leaders wrote in a letter to the Prime Minister:
We share with you and all Canadians of good will the desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan. As churches, we are committed to protecting human life, promoting human dignity, working for justice, practicing forgiveness, and building peace and reconciliation. These commitments are part of our vision of living out the Good News of God in Jesus Christ.
They ask a number of important questions. For example, under the rubric “Reconciliation”:
How can Canada support reconciliation within Afghanistan?...How can Canada support negotiations leading to peace in Afghanistan?...How can Canada foster greater respect for human rights in Afghanistan?...How can Canada support Afghanistan, a fragile state, and promote human rights?...How can Canada best support reconstruction and development in Afghanistan?...How can the Canadian Forces best be deployed in Afghanistan to advance the safety and well being of people wherever they are threatened?...
These are the very questions that we in this caucus, in this little corner of the House, are asking in this very important debate on our engagement in Afghanistan. These leaders of many of the major church groups in our country went on to say:
We believe that The Canadian Forces should focus on enhancing protection of vulnerable Afghans rather than on aggressive engagement with insurgents in areas where the local population is suspicious or alienated from the central government. Such a shift in The Canadian Forces’ operational mandate would be an important consideration in the ongoing public dialogue regarding Canada’s role in Afghanistan.
These are words and thoughts which all of us should consider seriously and very thoughtfully as we make up our minds as to how long we are going to prolong this engagement and how that engagement is going to unfold in the next few years as we put our resources and efforts toward it.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, an organization that does aid work in the third world, had this to say in its paper of October 23, 2006:
1. We are in favour of a prosperous and secure Afghanistan for all, a country where Afghan men and women can live in dignity and enjoy a clear and active participation in the country's social, economic and political life.
It puts forward a number of positions, but I will share with the House two or three of the ones that fit with my thoughts and the presentation here today. That organization said:
3. We ask that responsibility for foreign military operations in Afghanistan be turned over to the United Nations as soon as possible, and that NATO be relieved of this responsibility. It is essential that all military operations avoid being or being seen as a western occupation of the country. All NATO countries (with the exception of Turkey) are western nations.
The organization also stated:
8. We ask that the all party intra-Afghan dialogue, involving both those within and those that have left the country, be re-established. The dialogue must be frank, open, and without fear of retaliation. All parties must have the ability to express their perspectives and grievances and, in doing so, contribute to building a new national consensus.
Those are the thoughtful comments of many of our esteemed church leaders who have spent years thinking about this issue and talking with their colleagues, their communities and others across this country. As we consider where they feel from a moral and ethical perspective we should be going, the question we need to consider as we move toward the vote on this resolution tonight is, can the results of this resolution, based on the Manley report, take us to another place based on the values outlined by many of our faith communities?
Will a recommitment to the insurgency for another three years or more after 2009 lead to peace ultimately, and peace is what all of us want, or will more troops get us there? Really, when we boil it down, that is what is being asked for by the Manley report. It says that we cannot win the war under the present circumstances and with the present engagement, but that if we add more troops and more artillery, we can win somewhere, somehow, down the way. We do not know when and we do not know how much it will take.
All we know, as was ably presented to us the other night by our colleague from British Columbia, is that the Russians, after laying out all the same reasons that we are now laying out for our engagement in Afghanistan, and after having brought in 100,000 troops, had to concede defeat and leave.
As for that report, I do not think so, personally, and that is why I am standing here today to make this thoughtful and serious presentation to all members in the House. There were many intelligent and cogent arguments made by my colleagues and others over the last few days to suggest that they agree as well: this resolution will not get us to that place of peace and freedom that the Afghan people so desperately want.
I will leave my thoughts with members. I will add a couple of ideas more, which members might ruminate on and think about during the few hours before the vote takes place, a couple of conditions that are laid out by those who do this kind of work of looking at what the conditions for a just war in our world today might be.
They say that a just war must be an effort of “last resort”. They say, “For resort to war to be justified, all peaceful alternatives must have been exhausted”. That is what we are asking for here as New Democrats: that all peaceful alternatives be exhausted in this exercise, this effort and this work that we do in Afghanistan.
There are a few other conditions that I think are important. Members might want to take some time to look at them. They are readily available on the Internet, which is where I found them.
The article goes on to say that there has to be some high degree of “probability of success”. The authors say, “This is a difficult criterion to apply, but its purpose is to prevent irrational resort to force or hopeless resistance when the outcome of either will clearly be disproportionate or futile”.
Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON
Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's comments. He certainly gave us a lot of good food for thought. He mentioned that he has heard from a number of different church groups and faith groups. I, too, have heard from many of them. In fact, as a person of faith, I come from a group that has a rich history of many great peacekeeping and peacemaking initiatives.
Personally, I have struggled as well with what the appropriate response is. I certainly wish that we did not need a military presence. For that matter, many times I wish we did not need a police force. Perhaps in a perfect world, we would not need a military or a police force.
The problem is that in this situation we are dealing with a sector of society that does not share the values of freedom we enjoy here in Canada. As for myself, I have had to come to the conclusion that I cannot stand idly by when innocent women, children and those from other vulnerable groups are raped, abused and murdered. I cannot stand idly by when I have the means to do something.
How would the member respond to the female parliamentarians who visited us last week and pleaded with us not to abandon them but to stand with them in their efforts to provide the security that is necessary for the reconstruction and redevelopment to occur?
Tony Martin Sault Ste. Marie, ON
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's thoughtful question. I appreciate his faith roots. I agree that the faith community out there is as divided as we are in here in terms of where we should go on this question. That is why it is so important to have this debate and to hear, thoughtfully and respectfully, each other's point of view, so that when we move forward we do it after having taken the time.
I do not think, though, having heard the member's question, that it is helpful to in any way demonize the other side. It never is where war is concerned. It is never helpful to make the other side seem worse than it actually is. It inflames the actual combat itself, and in the end everyone gets hurt and we do not end at a place of peace and freedom, which is what I called for in my speech today.
I suggest that the people of Afghanistan, just like the people of Ireland, where I come from and where I lived for a number of years, believe, understand and appreciate freedom. They know what freedom is about and they want it desperately, just as desperately as we do.