I did have the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan twice in my capacity as associate minister of National Defence. Even in the timeframe of six or eight months apart, I saw significant differences in the actual situation there.
I was struck by the difference compared to my previous visit and how many improvements are actually being made, as we speak. To see little girls walking down the street, coming and going from school with backpacks filled with school books and uniforms, made me feel like we were looking at children here, like there were some other issues happening there.
It shows our commitment there is paying off big time by changing the direction of young lives and most definitely impacting positive futures for them. Due to our government's efforts in Afghanistan we are also seeing more health workers being trained. The Afghans are also beginning to take over responsibility for their own security.
I must also say that recent developments in Afghanistan have been somewhat troubling, but we have made the commitment on mutual accountability to the people of Afghanistan and to the Canadian taxpayers, at the recent Tokyo Conference.
I had the opportunity to have a brief discussion with Mr. Karzai in New York and impressed upon him and his people that our development assistance is not unconditional. It is dependent on increasing accountability, transparency, and proof that the rights of women and girls are being upheld, protected, and championed.
Canada has achieved significant results in its engagement in Afghanistan, but obviously, it's a work in progress and much still remains to be done. In many areas, Canada's fingerprints on Afghanistan in terms of the rule of law, human rights, the development of farming there, and the water issues.... There are so many areas.
To that end, we can't talk about Afghanistan without paying tribute to 158 of our soldiers who lost their lives there, and one civilian member of Canadian authorities, and as well to all the injured folks.
It's been a sacrifice, but I'd like to give Canadians the assurance that significant improvements are continuing to be made.