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Evidence of meeting #18 for National Defence in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was kandahar.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Norine MacDonald  President and Founder, The Senlis Council
Emmanuel Reinert  Executive Director, The Senlis Council

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rick Casson

If it's available, I'm sure they'll supply it.

4:15 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

Yes, it's in Dari.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Okay.

You made statements to multimedia outlets in the past few days, and certainly during this committee meeting. The claim was made that starvation is a serious problem in parts or maybe all of the southern region of Kandahar. But yours is the only group I've heard make such a claim. So I had my office talk to the International Committee of the Red Cross today, and they were unable to support that assertion.

I also noted that only a few days ago, the UN World Food Programme, which is actively involved in delivering aid to thousands of people in Afghanistan, also submitted evidence that there's great success in their ability to deliver food aid.

In light of the fact that at least two recognized organizations actually engaged in emergency relief do not corroborate the message you're communicating to us today, I wonder if you can provide us with more details, perhaps the names of the villages or the number of people you believe are affected.

4:15 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

Yes, I'm happy to do that.

The World Food Programme in July, along with the Afghan government, asked for $93 million for emergency food aid for southern Afghanistan. We checked their website, and they said they have received .03% of the funding they requested.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Interesting. I have additional information. Perhaps we can discuss it after the meeting.

My third question has to do with the point you were making about the eradication of poppies. I think it was at our last meeting that we had a person providing evidence, Colonel Capstick, who told this committee that “We have to be careful about drawing direct linkages between eradication and starvation.” That's a direct quote. He said that it's more complicated than that, that the drug cartels are providing the seeds, the fertilizer, and they actually harvest the poppies, but they only provide the farmers with subsistence cash and that the farmers are actually trapped into this particular lifestyle. He also noted that no NATO forces are involved in the poppy eradication program.

In light of the fact that the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board suggests that micro-credit loans are an effective tool to combat illicit poppy cultivation--and I note that Canada is the largest donor to this particular micro-credit program--and in light of the fact that Thailand and other countries formerly plagued by the problem of opium production were able to convert their farmers to the legal production of other crops, why is it that you're against this proven strategy in Afghanistan?

4:15 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

We're not against that. We're saying that poppy licensing for medicine should be part of a diversified agricultural economic plan for southern Afghanistan. The United States promoted that successfully in Turkey and India during the Nixon era, and I think we should follow suit with that.

To follow up on your question about whether there's starvation in Kandahar, I should formally, on the record, invite the entire committee to come to our field office in Kandahar and come with us on food distribution. If there's any question in your mind about whether there is extreme poverty and starvation in Kandahar province, please come and have a look.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

I think the committee is actually considering such a request, so--

4:20 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

Happy to see you.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

--we'd love to take you up on that opportunity.

4:20 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

I expect to see you there, sir.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

I hope to be there.

The leader of the NDP has suggested that we cut and run from Afghanistan, but today you were quoted in the media as saying that we should not cut and run. I wonder if you could explain for this committee why it's important for us not to cut and run.

4:20 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

I can appreciate the Canadians who are concerned about our Canadian military in Kandahar. As I said, they're being asked to fight in a very hostile environment, and in that situation many people who care about the Canadian military and the troops can naturally say they should return home.

In my opinion, we've made a commitment to Kandahar. We've made a commitment to Afghanistan, and as Canadians we should stick with that commitment. If we leave Kandahar, we are in fact making a gift to al-Qaeda of a geopolitical home for extreme terror. I think that's unacceptable to all Canadians, and it would be an unacceptable desertion of the Afghan people.

What we need to do now is support the Canadian military in Kandahar and we need to support the Afghan people in Kandahar and give them a chance at the durable peace and prosperity that we in Canada enjoy.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

I actually agree with that particular statement. I think we agree on at least some aspect of this mission.

My last question has to do with the funding of the Senlis Council. I understand that the annual financial statements for your organization are not available on your website, and that's not necessarily a surprise. Could you clarify for the committee the source of your funding and what interests are actually represented by the Senlis Council?

4:20 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

It's financed by the Network of European Foundations, which is a group of western European foundations that work together on various global issues. I myself am a member of the Network of European Foundations. I run a foundation called the Gabriel Foundation for a Swiss philanthropist, Stephan Schmidheiny, who was a co-chair of the Rio Earth Summit and the founder of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He's the major financier, through the Network of European Foundations.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Great. Those are all my questions.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rick Casson

We are right on schedule.

That ends our first seven-minute round. We're going to start our second five-minute round with Mr. McGuire, then Mr. Hawn, and then Mr. Bouchard.

I'm sorry; it is Dr. Bennett.

October 25th, 2006 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Thanks very much.

The three-D approach obviously was in our international policy statement. Then, in hearing Colonel Capstick, we understand the silo still exists, and certainly that's what you're saying here.

In your understanding of the Canadian government, do we actually have a structure in place that deals with the three Ds together in a machinery way within the Government of Canada? How would you suggest that we get the three Ds in balance? Obviously what you're telling us is that winning the hearts and minds and expanding our development side is the way of actually allowing the military side to be more successful. How would you do that?

Obviously we in government know that we've had trouble, even after the tsunami, in terms of how we get different government departments to work together properly. If we had the minister responsible for CIDA here, what would questions would you be asking her?

4:20 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

First I'd say that all the Canadians I've met who are working for the government or the military in Afghanistan are extremely well intentioned and very committed. Everybody who is there with the various assignments is trying to do their best in an extremely difficult situation. All the Canadian government employees in Kabul and in Kandahar are absolutely trying to make that three-D approach work.

What exactly caused this situation in Kandahar is not a malfunction of the three-D idea. I don't see that. It's a confluence of things that happened all at the same time when we first arrived in Kandahar--one of which, as we quite clearly said, is eradication. The problem is not necessarily the three Ds. It's the three Ds applied to that situation, a very dramatic situation that none of us expected.

What should we do now? I think you have to do one of those things you might do in a corporation when you recognize that you have to reorganize really quickly. We have to find one person who is going to sit down with all these guys and ask what we can do in a spirit of goodwill. I understand the silo problem, but I wouldn't want to spend too much time talking about what's wrong; I'd get busy on how we're going to fix it, because everybody who's there wants to fix it. This is an issue that all Canadians and everybody in the civil service can agree on, so let's just try to get into the solution phase, as opposed to talking about what the government might have done or should have done.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

I think that in your recommendations on the hearts and minds strategy, you're saying you want to launch food and humanitarian aid immediately, to back up the possibility of being successful on the military side--it's not going to work on just a military arm. How would you make sure the food and humanitarian aid got where it needed to be? I think that's what we have always been concerned about.

4:25 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

I can speak to what the situation is on the ground. When we try to do our research, we're trying to figure out how to get to places too. That's my job too--how to get to places--so we work with Afghans. We talk to the Afghans and we travel and dress as Afghans so that we don't have this tension when we're there. It's a matter of sitting down with the local people and saying that we want to go in there with food.

The great advantage when you go in there with food is that people are welcoming. If your children need food, you're happy to see whoever is delivering it. The actual delivery of food aid itself is not the hardest part of it, and after you've done it, the community is welcoming to you.

I guess what the minister is saying is that they don't have the current methodology in CIDA to do it, and the military is doing their military stuff. That is why we're suggesting that we need to put somebody in on an emergency basis to help them sort that out and get the job done.

I'm not sure I know enough. I know what's going on in Kandahar; I don't know what's going on inside the various parts of the Canadian government. It's not something I'm familiar with. I wouldn't want to comment, because I don't know the inner workings of it. I just know what I see on the ground.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

I guess what I'm asking is if you're calling for massive food and humanitarian aid in order to complement what we're doing or make it more likely to be successful, would you be able to help the minister? If she all of a sudden were able to cut a cheque for the development side, could you make sure it got where it needed to go?

4:25 p.m.

President and Founder, The Senlis Council

Norine MacDonald

We'd be happy to do that on a short-term basis.

When I go back now, we are going to do food aid to the best of our financial ability, because I've seen that situation now. As a Canadian, I'm working there, I'm doing the research, and I'm going to do the best I can in our modest circumstances to deliver it. I'm happy to help anyone in any way deal with that situation, out of concern for the Afghans and concern for the Canadian military.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Can I ask just one dumb little question?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rick Casson

Is it a very short one?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Yes.

I have heard, and I can't find it anywhere, that poppies are the very best source of biodiesel.