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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Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Before we go to questions and comments, in reference to the point of order raised by the hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, Marleau and Montpetit, chapter 13, page 522, paragraph 3, says:

It is unacceptable to allude to the presence or absence of a Member or Minister in the Chamber. The Speaker has traditionally discouraged Members from signalling the absence of another Member from the House because “there are many places that Members have to be in order to carry out all of the obligations that go with their office.”

Therefore, I thank the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. It is true that this only refers to the current absence, not to the general absence.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Don Valley East.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague opposite.

I have a huge community centre in my riding. I have the Afghan Women's Association. I have met with the Afghan parliamentarians and I have been interacting a lot with the Afghan population here in Canada. The overwhelming majority want Canada's help and have said that we should not be withdrawing. The conflict has been going on for 20 to 30 years. They have only had six and a half years to find some peace and they need help. These are the women who come to us.

They have been talking about how important a role Canada plays. It is lopsided at the moment in terms of the military dollars we are giving but they want the development dollars to stay because if there is no economic enhancement, there will be no improvement and the Taliban will take over. It is not the Afghan Taliban alone. It is also the foreign Taliban. It is important for Canada to help ensure diplomacy and that the northern alliance, which is underground at the moment, does not attack anybody.

People understand that there are the caucuses, the Uzbekistans, the Tajikistan, the Kyrgyzstans, et cetera, where there is a lot of potential for diplomacy. How can we run away from this mission when the women and children are truly appealing to us to stay? I would appreciate the member's input on that.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the member is speaking, as many people have, about the purported reasons for being there and continuing to be there, it is important for us to look at the path and general direction of what is happening in Afghanistan.

I wonder if it is the member's contention that things are improving when we have report after report out of NATO describing that the opium production has grown greater and that the violence within Afghanistan has continued to grow. The question then fundamentally becomes whether the mission in which we are engaged goes in the right direction. Is it the right mission not only for Canada and Canada's position, but is it the right mission for the Afghanis who she is talking about and the Afghani Canadians who hold concerns?

The current ratio is 10:1 of military dollars to spending in aid programs. Of that $1 being spent in aid, the accountability and transparency has been almost nil. We cannot even track the dollars that are supposedly going toward building the schools and helping the people she is talking about.

We must understand that the counter-insurgency mission as constructed will only continue down this path with the vote that she will cast tonight and that the General Petraeus model, which was used in Iraq, will be applied in greater stead in Afghanistan. Canadian soldiers will be going beyond the wire more often. There will be more risks taken. This is absolutely the Petraeus model that we know and have seen in effect and will be handed over as the marines come in with another 7,000 or 8,000 troops.

Some have the notion that if we simply add a few more helicopters, 1,000 more troops and the Patraeus model, things will improve, but all evidence is to the contrary. The contestation from the NDP is that the counter-insurgency mission, as constructed and designed by the government and her government previously, is the wrong mission both for Canada and for the success that she hopes for, for the Afghani people, and must be ended.

Royal Assent
Government Orders

March 13th, 2008 / 5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

March 13, 2008

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Hon. Morris Fish, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the schedule to this letter on the 13th day of March, 2008 at 4:29 p.m.

Yours truly,

Sheila-Marie Cook,

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-9, An Act to implement the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention)--Chapter 8; Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Museums Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts--Chapter 9; Bill C-48, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2008--Chapter 10; and Bill C-49, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the financial year ending March 31, 2009--Chapter 11.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bruce Stanton Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to stand in the House today in support of our government's motion on the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. This motion is not a Conservative position nor a Liberal position. It is a motion that represents the values and goals of a vast majority of thoughtful Canadians.

This is an important question, one that beckons us as parliamentarians to understand and express the very essence of our national purpose and identity, to recognize the commitment and courage of those who have fought to uphold our ideals and values and to commit, or not, our Canadian Forces, humanitarian workers and diplomats to responsibilities that will put them in harm's way. I can think of few other questions this House might consider that carry as heavy a burden. We must wear that responsibility proudly and thoughtfully.

One of the backdrops for this debate that has arisen on a regular basis is the notion, the myth really, that we are historically a nation solely of peacekeepers. Members speaking against this mission are inclined to use this argument in suggesting that Canada's current mission in Afghanistan is a departure from that supposed pattern and they are generally eager to extricate us from any combat role so that we can supposedly resume our traditional missions involving only peacekeeping.

One can see the reasons for this. Many in Canada value our peacekeeping heritage, as do I and my colleagues. It is appealing and perhaps more comforting for us to consider ourselves as peacekeepers. It allows us to be more easily differentiating ourselves from other countries in the world. Peacekeeping seems to be more noble and right and keeps us from taking sides, to be the respectful and peaceable country that we are.

We might take comfort in the fact that Canadian peacekeeping missions were less violent and that no shots were fired. However, that was little consolation to the peacekeeping soldiers who were not always able to avoid combat, the soldiers who had to withdraw and stand by while innocent civilians bore the brunt of the conflict.

There is simply no question that the nature of peacekeeping is changing. In 1991, Canadian Forces represented about 10% of UN peacekeeping personnel. By 2007, we had less than 1% committed to this type of mission.

I contend that the excesses of this myth, this misconception, is a disservice to the debate on the role of our military, be it for the future of our mission in Afghanistan or for any other missions we might undertake. It confuses the issue because Canada's contribution to collective security since the second world war, indeed, since the turn of the 20th century with the Boer War, has not been neutral. Canada has always taken a stand in favour of our national and strategic interests and our democratic values.

It is appropriate that members of the Liberal Party have worked to forge a consensus on the motion before us. Leaders of that party and former Liberal prime ministers knew and articulated the objects of collective security very clearly. In fact, I find it humourous when members of the fourth party quote none other than Lester Pearson in defence of their indefensible position.

Pearson understood and was a fervent supporter of collective security. He served as a private in the first world war and in the second world war as a diplomat for Canada. He worked with Prime Ministers St. Laurent and King and others who stood for a strong, assertive Canada, not relishing in the drama or tenacity of war, but for the logic and advantage of working with our allies collectively to defend against aggressors who would use violence and oppression to further their political ends in the pursuit of power.

In 1951, when he was the secretary of state for external affairs under Prime Minister St. Laurent, the hon. Lester Pearson addressed the Empire Club of Canada in Toronto and he stated:

We should accept without any reservation, the view that the Canadian who fires his rifle in Korea or on the Elbe is defending his home as surely as if he were firing it on his own soil.

He went on, adding and referring to considerations of how much or little Canada should contribute to collective security, saying:

...we must play our proper part, no less and no more, in the collective security action of the free world, without which we cannot hope to get through the dangerous days ahead.

Lester B. Pearson's words retain their relevance and wisdom to this day, but most assuredly Mr. Pearson was a humble man, because Canada did much more than was required of it. Mr. Pearson and his fellow soldiers in World War I certainly did, and our soldiers in Afghanistan are doing so today.

Prime Minister Pearson's sentiments shaped Canada's foreign policy and military posture in the years ahead. At the height of our peacekeeping missions in the 1960s and 1970s, there were upward of 1,600 to 1,700 personnel deployed for peacekeeping. Our Canadian Forces involved in peacekeeping performed admirably and helped to stave off conflict between warring states.

During that time, Canada had upward of 10,000 troops stationed in western Europe as part of our NATO commitment to the cold war. Our largest deployment of that era was in maintaining a defensive posture against the threat of Soviet expansion. The threat was real and Canada understood that. In Pearson's time, Canada still devoted more than 7% of GDP to defence.

If we are to stay with our Canadian tradition of contributing to collective security in the world, it will increasingly mean taking on more dangerous missions, and Afghanistan is no exception.

Unfortunately, an Afghanistan that is grasping for the chance to be free and stable forever does not suit everyone. There are elements there, violent Taliban extremists, for example, drug traffickers and renegade warlords, who would vastly prefer an Afghanistan that would be their own personal playground, never mind the 30 million or so ordinary Afghans who would once again be relegated to a miserable fate under their regime.

I contend that Canada's mission in Afghanistan is entirely consistent with Canada's historical role, a mission that is every bit as just, noble and meaningful as those of the nearly 100,000 Canadians, men and women, who gave their lives over the last century to protect and defend our security, indeed, the collective security of our world, shoulder to shoulder with their allies.

In the Afghanistan mission, we join with 37 other countries, 24 NATO countries among them, backed by no fewer than eight UN Security Council resolutions, at the invitation of a democratically government, in a country that is among the poorest in the world, where democratic governance and basic human rights were non-existent just a short time ago, indeed, where women and girls were denied any form of status, health care or livelihood.

Our efforts there are improving the lives of millions of Afghans who have suffered through decades of war. We are there helping them take their future into their own hands.

We can and will do this, not just to achieve the ability for Afghans to chart a new course for themselves: we will be advancing Canada's and Canadians' interests and safety in the process. Experience has shown us that when the world turns its back on the likes of the Taliban or al-Qaeda having their own way with a nation-state or people, global security, including the safety of Canadians, is put at risk. Protecting the safety of Canadians is the first and overarching responsibility our Parliament assumes.

With this motion, Canada has taken a clear position. It asserts that path with conditions for greater allied support so that we can leave Afghanistan in 2011 with the full knowledge and confidence of Afghanistan's new capacity for its own security and reconstruction.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made on Wednesday, March 12, it is my duty to put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of Motion No. 5 under government business.

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #75

Afghanistan
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the amendment lost.

The next question is on the main motion.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?