House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was review.

Topics

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

November 26th, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

moved that Bill C-41, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and sent to a committee.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support this bill to amend the National Defence Act. This bill will ensure that Canadians can maintain their trust in our military justice system. This bill will improve the speed and fairness of the military police complaints process. Furthermore, this bill will give members of our armed forces access to a faster, fairer and more flexible grievance process.

In 1998, Bill C-25 made significant amendments to the National Defence Act. One of the amendments was the requirement for an independent review of those portions of the National Defence Act amended by Bill C-25.

The late right hon. Tony Lamer, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, was appointed to conduct the first independent review, and his report was tabled in Parliament in November 2003. In his report, former Chief Justice Lamer made 88 recommendations: 57 pertaining to the military justice system; 14 regarding the Canadian Forces provost marshal and the military police complaints process; and 17 concerning the Canadian Forces grievance process.

The bill that we are debating today is the Government of Canada's proposed legislative response to recommendations made in the Lamer report. Implementing the proposed response will require changes to the National Defence Act, the Queen's Regulations and Orders to the Canadian Forces and some administrative practices.

A similar bill, Bill C-7, was introduced in April 2006 but it died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued. A successor bill, Bill C-45, was introduced in March 2008 but that bill also died on the order paper.

While the bill before us today largely mirrors the contents of previous bills, some changes have been made, and I will discuss those changes in a few moments. It should also be noted that some amendments to the National Defence Act related to changes suggested in the Lamer report were made in June 2008 by Bill C-60. Bill C-60 was required to respond to the judgment of the Court Martial Appeal Court in the case of R. v. Trépanier.

Further, during consideration of Bill C-60, the minister requested members of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to consider studying the provisions and operation of Bill C-60 and to provide a report on their findings and recommendations, which the committee did in May 2009.

In October 2009, the Minister of National Defence responded to the Senate committee members thanking them for their recommendations and indicating that all of their recommendations were either accepted or accepted in principle by the government.

Thus, in a nutshell, the present bill replicates most of the provisions of Bill C-45, minus some provisions implementing Lamer report recommendations, which have now already been enacted in Bill C-60, plus some additional elements arising from the recent recommendations made by the Senate committee.

I would now like to discuss the amendments we are proposing for the National Defence Act in the current bill.

In his report, former Chief Justice Lamer wrote that, as a result of the changes made in 1998 by Bill C-25, “...Canada has developed a very sound and fair military justice framework in which Canadians can have trust and confidence.” He added that observers from other countries see this system as one their country might wish to learn from. However, he also pointed out that there remain areas for improvement in the military justice system.

The Department of National Defence analyzed the recommendations in the Lamer report very carefully. It undertook extensive policy analysis and consultation to determine the appropriate legislative response to the recommendations. This response is reflected in the legislative amendments we are considering today. These amendments deal with the military justice system, the Canadian Forces provost marshal and the military police complaints process, and the Canadian Forces grievance process.

I would like to look at each of these areas in turn, beginning with the military justice system.

The Canadian military justice system has been developed to deal expeditiously and fairly with service offences, while respecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and meeting the expectations of Canadians. It is a system designed to promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces by contributing to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale. It must also ensure that members of the Canadian Forces who are subject to this process are dealt with fairly.

The proposed amendments to the military justice system would make improvements both in process and in substantive law. They would also ensure that the military justice system keeps pace with evolving legal standards in Canadian criminal law.

Simply put, the bill before us today would reinforce the continued compliance of the military justice system with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while preserving the system's capacity to meet essential military requirements.

I will now go over the main military justice amendments proposed in the bill.

The bill would strengthen the provisions of the National Defence Act regarding the independence of military judges. More specifically, the bill would ensure that judges are appointed until retirement.

The bill would increase the timeliness and flexibility of the system by providing for the appointment of part-time military judges to a reserve force judges panel.

The bill would modernize and enhance sentencing provisions of the Code of Service Discipline.

It would provide more flexibility in the sentencing process, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution orders, providing summary trial presiding officers and military judges at courts martial with a greater ability to tailor a sentence having regard to the particular circumstances of the offence and the offender, replicating many of the options available in the sentencing regime of the civilian justice system.

As well, a greater voice would also be given to victims by providing the introduction of victim impact statements at courts martial.

The bill will set out the sentencing goals and principles that will apply to military tribunals, promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces and uphold a system that supports a fair, peaceful and safe society.

This codification of sentencing principles and objectives in the National Defence Act would provide an important statutory articulation of the fundamental principles underpinning Canada's military justice system, as well as providing guidance concerning sentencing to all actors in the military justice system, including presiding officers at summary trials, military judges at courts martial and the appellate judges of the Court Martial Appeal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada. This statutory guidance would parallel that already provided in the civilian criminal justice system in the Criminal Code, with the additional specification of factors unique to the distinct military justice system.

I will now explain the key elements of the bill as they relate to the Canadian Forces provost marshal and the military police complaints process.

Although the National Defence Act establishes specific responsibilities for the Canadian Forces provost marshal in relation to the military police complaints process, neither the actual position of the provost marshal nor the full scope of its responsibilities are found in the current act.

Establishing the Canadian Forces provost marshal in the National Defence Act would bring greater clarity to the role and responsibilities of that position and to the military police in general.

We cannot forget that military police are different from all the other police entities in Canada. They can be called upon to undertake both traditional police duties, such as investigating offences, and what I would call purely military duties, such as providing security for airfields and other defence establishments or facilitating movement of troops in a theatre of operations. Bill C-41 reflects the dual nature of the Canadian Forces provost marshal's responsibilities.

It would also ensure that the provost marshal has the independence necessary to ensure the integrity of military police investigations and promote professional standards.

At the same time, the bill recognizes that the provost marshal will be directly responsible to the senior Canadian Forces chain of command regarding the military functions of the military police.

Bill C-41 would also enhance the timeliness and fairness of the military police complaints process by requiring the Canadian Forces provost marshal to resolve complaints within one year of receiving them in normal circumstances, and by protecting individuals who submit complaints in good faith from penalty.

I will now turn to the Canadian Forces grievance process.

In his report, former Chief Justice Lamer indicated that there was a clear need to improve the process for dealing with grievances submitted by members of the Canadian Forces. The proposed changes to the National Defence Act would help ensure that grievances are addressed in a fair, transparent and prompt manner.

For example, the bill provides for an amendment to the National Defence Act requiring the Chief of the Defence Staff or those he authorizes, where circumstances permit, to informally and expeditiously deal with any issues that arise.

At the same time, the bill allows for an expansion of the Chief of the Defence Staff's responsibilities as the final authority in grievance procedures.

These changes would enhance the efficiency of the process and ensure that a backlog of grievances, such as that which existed at the time of the Lamer report, does not recur.

Before concluding, I will discuss the differences between the bill we have before us today and previous Bill C-45. While the content of Bill C-41 is largely the same as that of the previous Bill C-45, some modifications have been made.

Principally, the differences between the two bills reflect the deletion of issues that have already been dealt with in the interim in Bill C-60, such as the requirement for unanimity of the panel to convict or acquit an accused person at a general court martial, the reduction of the number of types of courts martial from four to two, and the enhancement of the powers of military judges to deal with pretrial matters such as disclosure.

Other differences are related to the recent recommendations of the Senate committee. These include reducing distinctions based on rank and the composition of panels for general courts martial, amending the limitation period for summary trials to provide that a charge must be laid within six months after the day on which the service offence is alleged to have been committed, and allowing an accused person to waive the application of a limitation period for summary trials in certain circumstances.

A further point to note relates to the independent review provision. As recommended in the Lamer report, a provision will be added to the National Defence Act requiring that portions of the act relating to the military justice system, the military police complaints process and the grievance process be reviewed and updated on a regular basis.

In the current bill, as was done in Bill C-45, the timeline for conducting future reviews has been modified to seven years. This would allow for more comprehensive and useful reviews to be conducted by ensuring sufficient time to work with and assess amendments to the National Defence Act after they come into force before a review is conducted.

Finally, this bill would propose that the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board be changed to the military grievances external review committee. The Canadian Forces Grievance Board plays a vital role in the process established under the National Defence Act for members of the Canadian Forces to seek redress of grievances. The impartial findings and recommendations of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board buttressed by that organization's institutional independence from the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence helped to increase the confidence of Canadian Forces members in the grievance process.

The proposed change in name would assist in communicating the Canadian Forces Grievance Board's current role, in particular its institutional independence and mandate to all stakeholders. It should be emphasized that the bill merely proposes a change in the organization's name, at its own request, to assist in this regard, not in its mandate, which will remain unchanged.

To conclude, reforming the military justice system is just one step in a process of continuous improvement.

As Canadians, we are privileged to have a military justice system that reflects our values and respects the rule of law.

These proposals to amend the National Defence Act would ensure Canada's military justice system remains one in which Canadians can have trust and confidence. They would clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Canadian Forces provost marshal and bring greater timeliness and fairness to the military police complaints process. They would ensure that a more responsive, timely and fair grievance process is available. I am confident that these amendments would serve to further strengthen the Canadian Forces as a vital national institution.

This is a very technical bill and for that reason it would be appropriate to pass this bill quickly at second reading and get it to committee where we can hear various expert witnesses to drill down into the details that many will want to do. It is more appropriate that it be done in that setting where we time can take time to reflect fully on all the implications and suggestions that may be come up.

I request that hon. members pass this bill quickly at second reading and move it on to committee for further consideration.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-41 seems to be a result of a very long and torturous process involving a number of prior bills.

Does the parliamentary secretary have any statistics as to how the system worked before in terms of the number of people charged under the old system versus projections under the new one? Because we are making some changes to the system, I would like to know the number of complaints being dealt with.

There are reasons for wanting it to be updated, and I know the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a big part of that, but what was wrong with the old system that would not allow us to leave it the way it was? How many people have been charged, how many have been processed through the system and how many complaints are usually dealt with?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the specific number of charges, those past and those projected, previous charges would be a matter of record, and I could get those numbers if he wishes.

The main point is there was a requirement after the Lamer Commission to modernize the Canadian Forces military justice system to bring it more in line with some of the aspects of the civilian justice system with respect to the Criminal Code.

Recommendations were made to make the provisions for judges more clear, to ensure their independence was maintained, to pay more attention to the rights of victims, in conformity with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to ensure changes as recommended by Justice Lamer, 88 in all, were actioned. Most have been actioned and others are in the process of being actioned.

The purpose behind this is to bring us in line with all of those recommendations, which the government of the day accepted all of them in fact or in principle. It has been a long and torturous process. As a result of several minority Parliaments, bills such as this have gone forward only to be stopped by elections and so on.

Some of the aims of the Lamer Commission have been achieved through Bill C-60 and through other changes to regulations and policies. Not all of them have to be legislated. A lot has been accomplished.

A couple of things still need to be done, even after we pass Bill C-41. More complex issues are being worked on as we speak. Again, this is another try, hopefully a successful one this time, to get the provisions of the Lamer Commission actioned and into law.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-41 provides important opportunities to update the military justice system in the armed forces. Could the parliamentary secretary also elaborate on the opportunities that the bill brings to further improve operational effectiveness within the armed forces?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of the prime reasons for a military justice system is the normal rule of law. It also is to enhance the operational effectiveness for the Canadian Forces. We do that by providing maintenance of discipline, maintenance of efficiency and morale and to contribute to the respect for law and maintenance of it in a just, peaceful and safe society.

A lot of it is about maintaining the Canadian Forces in a state of readiness, because we have to be in a position to enforce internal military justice or internal discipline. Canadian Forces members are often tasked, as we know all too well today, to operate around the world, sometimes in very difficult circumstances.

It is absolutely vital to operational effectiveness and operational readiness that we have a system of discipline and a system of military justice. In certain circumstances, one person can jeopardize the safety and survival of an entire unit.

We need a justice system that can try offences against both the ordinary law of Canada and those that are unique to the military, such as mutiny or being absent without leave, that kind of thing. We have to address breaches of discipline in a prompt and fair manner, with the aim of returning the individual to service as quickly as possible.

It needs to be portable to be able to function wherever the Canadian Forces are deployed around the world, in places like Afghanistan, Haiti or wherever.

It is a complement to the civilian system of justice. It is one that is very necessary for the unique requirements that the Canadian Forces is asked to have and the unique situations they find themselves in around the world. To date, they have done an incredibly good job in all those regards. The aim of this is to ensure that the military justice system keeps pace and can to do that in the future.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in all of the notes I read on this issue, I never did get any information to indicate how many judges we had in the system and how many people were involved in the system.

Usually in background information there is the technical information, which we certainly have a lot of here, but there is usually some information as to the size of the problem, how many people are involved in the system, how many judges there are, how many people are charged with different offences and so on. That was the basis of my original question.

Another part of the bill that I find rather positive is the review we would have every five years. I do not know how realistic that is, given how long it has taken us to get this far. I would like to see that in as many bills as possible, so we can take a look and see how the legislation actually performs in the real world.

Could the member get me some information as to how many judges are involved and the size and scope of the current military justice system?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, we can get him a short resumé of that kind of information.

It starts with the Minister of National Defence. There is a Judge Advocate General who has statutory responsibilities to superintend the administration, to conduct regular reviews, to report annually, that kind of thing.

A chief military judge assigns military judges to preside at the courts martial. The military judges are all officers within the Canadian Forces.

However, I would like to talk about the review process because that is very important. In fact, one of the changes under the bill, and which has been proposed in other ones, is to change that review period from five years to seven years. That is primarily to allow a fuller period of experience to build up some knowledge base based on changes that may have come since the last review.

The current review is overdue and that is for a variety of reasons. A lot of them are related to the minority Parliaments, bills dying on the order paper. We are conducting a review at the moment and the minister has committed to reporting that at the earliest opportunity.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that our government very much believes in the importance of giving victims a voice. Could the parliamentary secretary please elaborate on how Bill C-41 proposes to give a greater voice to the victims of offences within the military justice system?

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is quite right. Victims do need voice. One of the major changes would be the introduction of victim impact statements similar to what we see now in civilian courts. That will allow victims to give details, people who have experienced significant physical, emotional or financial harm, and to express themselves in the sentencing process at the courts martial. It is meant to give greater voice to victims in the trial process.

As I said, it is similar to provisions in the Criminal Code and will allow the court to consider that statement when determining a sentence imposed on an offender.

Strengthening Military Justice in the Defence of Canada Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-41, particularly since I serve the men and women on the Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt who do an extraordinary job serving our country. I pay homage and give thanks to them and their families for all that they do, have done and will do in the future.

On June 16, the Minister of National Defence introduced Bill C-41, which is designed to strengthen military justice in defence of the Canada Act. It was given first reading in the House of Commons. The bill would amend the National Defence Act to strengthen military justice following the 2003 report of the former chief justice of the Supreme Court, the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, and the May 2009 report of the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.

Among other things, the proposed bill provides for security of tenure for military judges until their retirement and permits the appointment of part-time military judges. It specifies the purposes, objectives and principles of the sentencing process. It provides for additional sentencing options, including absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution. It modifies the composition of a court martial panel according to the rank of the accused person. It modifies the limitation period applicable to summary trials. It allows the accused person to waive the limitation periods. It sets out the Canadian Forces provost marshal's duties and functions and clarifies his or her responsibilities. It also changes the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board to the military grievances external review committee. It makes amendments to the delegation of the Chief of Defence Staff's powers as the final authority in the grievance process.

The Liberal Party understands the need to reform the Canadian court martial system to ensure that it remains effective, fair and transparent. The Liberal Party also believes that Canadian citizens who decide to join the Canadian Forces should not thereby lose their rights before the courts. As well, the addition of new penalties, in particular, absolute discharge intermittent sentencing and compensation, is important if we are to have an equitable system.

The rationale for our position is as follows.

There is a significant disparity between the military justice system and the civil system. This disparity must be eliminated as much as possible. It is also worth noting that this disparity does not represent an advantage, but rather a disadvantage, in being subjected to military law, which imposes harsher sentences and applies a less flexible system than the civil system.

It is for that reason the Liberal Party is supporting this bill. We would certainly would like it to be moved forward to the next stage.

Part of this comes out of Chief Justice Lamer's report. I want to read a quote from him as I think it is instructive in terms of illustrating why we need to change the status quo. Justice Lamer said the following:

To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently.

I have no argument there. He goes on to say:

Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct.

The Liberal Party has a problem with that. Individuals who are giving of themselves in the Canadian Forces should not be treated more harshly under a military system than a civilian system. We do not think this is very fair at all.

Let us bore down into some of the specifics, and a little history is important.

The government's legislative process in response to Justice Lamer's report was first introduced in the House of Commons back in April 27, 2006. It was Bill C-7. Bill C-7 died on the order paper when the government prorogued Parliament in September 2007. A successor bill, Bill C-45, was introduced in March 2008, but it met a similar fate as Bill C-7. It too died on the order paper in the 39th Parliament because of a federal election.

Therefore, it is not true that the government wants to move this speedily along. It has had two kicks at the can already and, through its own hand, has ensured that bills like this died on the order paper.

Let us take a look at some of the more specific aspects of the bill, which could be quite instructive. One deals with military judges. The bill actually provides that military judges have security to tenure to retirement age and would serve to enhance the independence and effectiveness of military judges in their role in the military justice system in part by creating a reserve force military judges panel. It is important, though, that these individuals have experience of being in the forces, in the field and in the theatre, as our forces members do.

One of the ongoing challenges in dealing with veterans is that there are not enough people on the Veterans Review and Appeal Board who understand what military folk and their families have to go through and what military members are confronted with in the field, which is completely different from the lives that we are privileged to share in our country. As a result of that absence of understanding, in my experience, justice is not being provided to our veterans when they go before the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. The people on the board are frequently individuals who are appointed for partisan reasons. That has always happened, to be sure, but we need an element of competence on the board. One of the problems we have is an absence of competence and knowledge with respect to what our military men and women endure in the field.

The government would be well served to make sure that individuals who are on this review board and other review boards such as we have for our veterans must have the competence and understanding of what our forces members see and do within the context of being a member of the forces and what they are confronted with in the field.

Also with respect to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, a number of the members of that board should have experience in health care, in medicine. It is crucially important because many of our veterans are suffering from medical problems and need people who have medical knowledge with respect to what they have to endure and can assess them.

The other thing is on sentencing reforms with respect to the bill. The Lamer report recommended a comprehensive review of the sentencing provisions in the National Defence Act with a view to providing a more flexible range of punishments and sanctions.

On the purposes and principles of sentencing, these changes would ensure that we articulate the purposes, objectives and principles of sentencing in a military justice world. That is really important for everybody to understand and to have clarity into why things have been done.

The proposed amendments would provide for additional sentencing options in the form of absolute discharges, intermittent sentences and restitution orders. The amendments would also provide for the use of victim impact statements, as we have heard before.

I would like to speak to the summary trial limitation period. The National Defence Act provides that an accused person cannot be tried by summary trial unless it commences within one year after the day on which the service offence is alleged to have been committed. These amendments would add an additional limitation period for summary trials that would require that the relevant charge be laid within six months of the commission of the alleged offence.

One question we have is whether this would result in more court martials for less serious matters. In other words, although we are trying to make sure that the system is more balanced, in the end would our military folk be confronted with a system that is more punitive than what need be for minor offences?

I want to address a couple of issues with respect to justice for our veterans in particular. The pension reform issue is a very big one for many of our veterans. The current situation is that spouses of veterans who are married after the age of 60 cannot share equitably in their pensions. This must change. The world is a different place now and the rules as written have been around for many, many decades. For the sake of our veterans, and I believe it applies to RCMP officers too, for those who marry after the age of 60, there must be fair and equitable treatment under the law for their spouses with respect to their pensions.

In my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, we have a very extraordinary program. It is Cockrell House. It is named after World War II veteran Jack Cockrell. This house, quite remarkably, is meant to deal with a situation that many Canadians would be appalled to find out occurs in our midst, and that is to deal with homeless veterans.

Cockrell House provides housing for homeless veterans, and due to the leadership of a very remarkable developer named Russ Ridley in my riding, as well as the Mayor of Colwood, Dave Saunders, who have come together with veterans such as Dave Munro, Angus Stanfield and others to create this house, our veterans actually can go this house and live there for up to two years while they receive treatment for their mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, operational stress injuries and socio-economic problems that they may find themselves in.

I was visiting there recently with our critic for veterans affairs and it was heartbreaking but inspiring to see these men and women who were there in the house. It was heartbreaking in the sense that some veterans had been living in the bush for years. Can we imagine, veterans who have served our country, living in the bush for years on end? That is the situation we have today, and this is not a problem isolated to Vancouver Island, but rather, this is a national problem.

We do not know how many veterans are actually living out in the bush, who are homeless, but we know there are probably more than 1,000. There should not be one veteran in a homeless situation in Canada. They gave to our country and make an enormous sacrifice for us. We have a reciprocal duty to take care of them.

I commend retired General Hillier for his work in trying to deal with this, but I would ask communities from coast to coast to please take a look at the model of Cockrell House on Vancouver Island, because it can help. It is a partnership between the private sector, the developer, the local community and our veterans to ensure that we have a home for our veterans who have fallen under hard times. I would ask the Minister of Veterans Affairs to please take a look at this, because it is an issue of fundamental justice for our veterans and for their care.

We are seeing younger and younger veterans who have been traumatized and are seeking justice for what they have endured. They are seeking care for what they have endured.

For them on the issue of Afghanistan, I have to say that while our troops are doing an extraordinary job in Afghanistan, that mission has not been backed up by the diplomatic work that has to be done. In order to support them, what is missing are huge pieces of the puzzle that will enable the Afghan people, the Afghan government and us to be able to see some semblance of security and stability in the country. In particular, we have failed to see the government, with our partners in ISAF, put together a plan with our Afghan partners to have an on-the-ground diplomatic initiative to flip elements of the insurgency.

It is very sad to hear in this House when members of the government refer to the fact that we are battling “terrorists” in Afghanistan. The fact of the matter is that we are battling an insurgency. It is a complex insurgency made up of different groups with different motivations. There are people involved in the drug trade and common criminals. There is the Taliban, individuals who have a vicious view of the world and are absolutely brutal. Negotiating with those elements of the Taliban will probably not work out, but there are parts of the Taliban that actually can work in terms of bringing them into the power structures in the country.

The other issue is corruption. The ongoing corruption of Mr. Karzai's government and our support of him is a message to the Afghan people that we support his actions. By being seen to be almost blindly supporting what Mr. Karzai does and not demonstrating to the Afghan people that our support for him is absolutely conditional, we are seen as part of the problem, which means that our troops are being seen, in too many cases, as part of the problem, because they do not differentiate one from the other.

In the support of our troops and the extraordinary work that they are doing, it is crucial to ensure that we have an on-the-ground diplomatic effort to be able to hive off and negotiate and flip elements of the insurgency. Only by doing this will security come to Afghanistan. Only by doing this will the training option that we are engaging in now, to train the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police, be successful.

If the training element is all we do and if the other elements of the mission are simply going to be runts in what we do within the country, then Afghanistan five years from now will be little better than it is today, because we are not going to beat an insurgency by virtue of throwing more troops into the situation. The kind of war being fought requires very few people. It is done by stealth to create havoc in a country. It takes very little effort to do that and that is what we are seeing now.

The other aspect is that there has been very little effort to get India and Pakistan on the same page. India will support Mr. Karzai in a non-Pashtun government, and Pakistan will support the Taliban and Pashtun within Afghanistan. As we see, these two countries are playing a proxy war within Afghanistan. Unless India and Pakistan get on the same page, working in lockstep towards the security and development of the country, we are never going to see security in that country.

Why do we not have a regional working group? We are not alone there, but due to the extraordinary commitment and cost in terms of the blood of our troops and with respect to the treasury of Canada, surely we have the cachet to put our foot down and demand a number of things for the success of this mission.

To my knowledge, we have not done that. What we tend to hear in Canada are discussions on the military option with respect to Afghanistan, which is certainly a part of it, but we know that we are ultimately not going to be able to address an insurgency unless we deal with the diplomatic initiatives that are required.

On the development side, I met with the medical officers at the Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar city, as well as in a hospital in Kabul. These hospitals do not even have the ability to secure an airway, intubate and ventilate people. They do not have the ability to provide general anesthesia.

The levels of trauma they see within Kandahar city and Kandahar in general, as well as in Kabul, are atrocious. Yet we have been in the country nine years and there has been billions of dollars in aid spent within the country, and the Mirwais general hospital in Kandahar city and hospital in Kabul do not even have the ability to provide general anesthesia and are operating with local anesthesia. How horrific is that? That is absolutely cruel and inhumane punishment. It should not happen.

I beseech the government, through CIDA, to engage the Mirwais general hospital. I know we have given money to the Red Cross. I certainly understand doing that, but there has been a failure in that mission. There has been a failure in implementing the Red Cross' actions within the Mirwais general hospital and these people desperately need access to basic services.

I actually have the ability now to provide the equipment they need. I have a needs list for them. I have tried to engage CIDA to help. I have tried to get DND to help. All that is needed, quite frankly, is a very small area within a C-17 aircraft, smaller than two desks here. A space that size in a C-17 aircraft would provide lifesaving tools for people to use at the Mirwais general hospital. Increase the space to an area the size of eight seats here and there would be enough equipment for two hospitals.

I beseech the government. I would be happy to work with it so that our troops can deliver this equipment to both the Mirwais general hospital in Kandahar city and the general Hospital in Kabul. We can work together to enable those people to have access to the medical equipment that will save people's lives within the country. I am happy to work with the government to do this and I hope it sees this as a non-political endeavour but one that will certainly help our provincial reconstruction teams working within the country.

In closing, I know I added a few extra things that may be outside the realm of this bill, but I did it to provide information to the government that there are some options that we could work together on to help the mission, our troops and the Afghan people. I certainly hope that the government takes a look at some of those options, and I know my party would be very willing to work with it to implement these things for the good of our troops, the good of the mission and the good of our country.

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Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague had very wide-ranging and comprehensive remarks. I think somewhere in there he actually touched on the topic of military justice. I have a simple question for him.

I would like to confirm that he and his party will actually be supporting this bill.

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Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

The answer to that, Mr. Speaker, is yes.

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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, two days ago the member's former leader, the member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, who still sits on the front bench, made a statement that the Afghans do not need any training because they managed to beat the Russians a number of years ago in the war. Now the current leader of the Liberal Party and the member for Toronto Centre support the Conservatives in their efforts to continue the process of war through a training mission and all this without informing their caucus or getting their own caucus involved in the decision.

Where does the member and his party actually sit on this issue?

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Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberal Party and the Government of Canada dealt with where we ought to go on the mission, and whether or not to extend it, we agreed that we would extend the mission to 2011 with respect to the combat aspect. The combat aspect would terminate at that time. That is what the government and the Liberal Party have agreed to.

There was nothing in that agreement that said we would not maintain a presence. We were quite explicit in saying that we would remain and have a presence within Afghanistan. That presence would be a non-combat role, but it would enable the Afghan people to provide for their own security. It would be irresponsible if we walked away right now and did not enable the Afghan national police and Afghan national army to scale up their training.

Our troops do a phenomenal job in training. That is what our party and the government have said that we would support. It is a fair and reasonable thing in combination with the development aspects. The member certainly knows there cannot be development without security. It would be absolutely irresponsible to have development without security because we would be leaving people to the ravages of individuals who would kill or torture them.

I am sure the member understands that our party and the government have chosen a balanced approach between development and security. That development is a fair and reasonable approach to what obviously is a very complex situation. We certainly hope other aspects including the diplomatic ones I mentioned will be part of the ongoing discussions and actions of Canada with respect to the mission.