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House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.

Topics

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

9:50 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Chair, I believe we are getting bogged down. All viewpoints, avenues and means of success must be considered. No mistake can be made.

I am aware that security is important, but helping the people of Afghanistan is important too. This unfortunate people needs help urgently. Is our military better equipped than NGOs to provide it? These are the questions we have to ask. It is easy to talk theory and practice, but let us stop and make the right decisions. That is what counts.

What counts is that we reach this goal and make these people happy, give them the tools they need to take control of their lives as soon as possible.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

9:50 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Chair, it is a pleasure for me to be here this evening to speak on this particular topic, especially because I would like to focus my remarks with respect to the women of Afghanistan. There is quite a story there.

Canadian engagement in Afghanistan is making a difference in the lives of Afghans, in the lives of ordinary people, and in particular, women and girls. Women and girls have a reason to be hopeful about their future and the future of their country. They are being empowered to be participants in civil society and in government.

It is only by making women a part of Afghanistan's recovery that change and progress will be sustainable. We must draw upon the capabilities, resources and commitment of both men and women in order to ensure that sustainable reconstruction is achieved. Women possess skills and capacities that can help in the task of rebuilding the country. Without the participation of women, there is no sustainable development, not only in Afghanistan, but in any country that I know of.

Canada has been outspoken about the importance of the active participation of Afghan women in political, economic and social life. We have drawn attention to the ongoing violations of human rights in Afghanistan, particularly for women and girls, and made the promotion and protection of human rights a priority. We have focused much of our advocacy and diplomacy work on the violence that continues to be perpetrated against women and girls across the country.

Because the Canadian approach leverages resources across government in support of a common goal, we are able to maximize our impact. Improving the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan has required mutually reinforcing engagement from the military, diplomats and development professionals.

We have worked within the multilateral context, including at the UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights and the UN Commission on the Status of Women to ensure the human rights situation in Afghanistan gets due consideration and remains integral to the work of the international community.

Canada has funded a number of projects specifically targeting women, such as Afghanistan's first ever human rights development, which includes a gender development index, which looks at the discrepancies between men and women in terms of the human development indicators; the process of constitutional consultation with experts and civil society, including women's organizations; the Afghan women's rights fund and Montreal-based Rights and Democracy; gender training in the context of reconstruction and peace building; and the media support projects by Vancouver based NGO IMPACS, which has created women's radio stations across the country and enabled women to participate in the reconstruction of their own society.

These are our achievements because they are creating an inclusive society where women in fact are partners in building and taking back their communities, their society and their country.

With Canadian funding and support, Afghan women played an important role in drafting the Afghan constitution in which the principle of gender equality is enshrined. The constitution also guarantees women's rights to serve in parliament.

On October 18, 2005, just two weeks shy of the fifth anniversary of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which calls for the involvement of women in all efforts to build peace and security, 582 women ran as candidates in Afghanistan's provincial and parliamentary elections. This is quite a historic achievement considering where women were before Canadians and others were there to assist the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

When I was Minister of International Development, I remember being involved and trying to provide education to women, yes, in a covert way because we could not get past the Taliban to even provide nutrition so women and girls could actually survive physically. To get doctors to them was actually taking one's own life in one's own hands in those days. Now we have 582 women running for Afghanistan's provincial and parliamentary elections. This is absolutely fantastic. Women accounted for 44% of the new voter registrants. Showing up at the polls on voting day and casting their ballots, Afghan women demonstrated that they are taking control of their future, even in the face of threats.

However our work is not done. Women and girls continue to face challenges and serious violations of human rights. Canada is working to ensure that constitutional and human rights norms are implemented throughout the country. The crucial step now is to take the guarantee of equality between men and women enshrined in the Afghan constitution and make it applicable to the daily lives of women and girls.

For instance, there are still communities where early and forced marriages take place. Violence against women remains prevalent. Women are still being treated as property. This is the case when some men use their sisters and daughters as payment for their debts.

Canada is committed to assisting the Afghan authorities to implement human rights obligations, including their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination, a convention to which both Canada and Afghanistan are a party. This requires building the capacity of both women and men, boys and girls, so that they play a concerted and equal role in the rebuilding of their society.

In the reconstruction of Afghanistan, Canada continues to press for the full participation of women in post-conflict governance and rehabilitation activities and for the creation of a government wide gender strategy and action plan.

As a special advisor on women, peace and security to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I will continue to press for the inclusion of gender concerns and the participation of women in an effort to bring sustainable peace and security to that country. Canada will continue to work with Afghans to build a stable, democratic and self-sustaining state, respectful of the rule of law and human rights throughout the country.

It is absolutely fundamental that we continue to work with women and girls in Afghanistan. As I said earlier, I have not seen a nation which Canada has worked with in development where development is sustainable without the participation of women at all levels of society, whether it be social, economic, political or governance. It is also extremely important for the stability of the democracy and the governance of a country that women are part of the structure and part of the decision making process.

I am extremely pleased to see that we are doing a great deal but we have a long way to go. To me these are, to some degree, baby steps. The most critical thing right now is to maintain the kind of stability that will allow for the governance structures of a democratic process to really become consolidated, strong and grow really deep roots. Otherwise, the gains that we have made could be lost.

This is a critical time when we actually have to maintain a sustained effort and support the work for the long term so that it becomes a permanent part of Afghan life. This is where it is most important. I find sometimes we move out of situations a little too soon. We think we have accomplished peace because we have stopped either the killing or the violence in the short term but that does not give the long term stability that is needed. I could mention a couple of other places where I have been where that may have happened.

I would encourage us all to keep focused on the long term because that is where the results and the gains will be made.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Chair, I agree wholeheartedly with the member that one of the good byproducts of basically invading Afghanistan and getting rid of the Taliban government was to allow many young girls and women the freedom that they had not experienced for many years.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Chair, the member is quite right but I want to emphasize that it was not only about freeing the women and the girls. It was also about saving their lives. Not only were the women and girls captives in terms of their daily freedom and movements but they were also being denied health care. Doctors were not allowed to see these women and girls. They were denied education and nutrition. Women and girls in many cases were fed last if there was any food left.

A number of studies were done at the time when I was a minister where we were trying to identify how we could bring in the world food program to provide nutrition to some of the women and girls in some of the areas. We were always trying to work with the Taliban but sometimes we had to leave because they would not let us in.

At the same time, we found out through that study that women's bones were literally becoming soft because of a lack of nutrition. Their lives were literally at risk on a daily basis.

When we talk about human security, it has many faces. It is not just about being secure from bullets, which is of course important, but it is also about being secure in many other elements of their lives which can be just as dangerous to our existence as anything else.

I am really pleased with the fact this is probably the most visible benefit of all that has happened in Afghanistan, and the member is quite right about that.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10 p.m.

Toronto Centre Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham LiberalMinister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, I think all members of the House would agree that the ability of the international community to support a greater role for women in Afghanistan has been one of the undeniable successes of international intervention there.

The hon. member mentioned the number of women who ran in the recent elections in Afghanistan. I wonder if she would have anything to say about that. I understand that some very significant women were returned to Parliament, including one Afghan woman of Canadian origin who ran in the southern province and who defied many warlords in her determination to obtain a seat. It is her voice and other voices at the political level that will also help advance this cause. I wonder if the hon. member has anything to add on this subject.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Chair, 582 women ran in the last election, which is quite a record considering the situation and the environment in which they were living prior to that. A Canadian woman did run in the election and was elected.

However, despite all of that, even now the struggle is a major one. The environment, obviously, is still not safe, which is why our military and other armed forces are in Afghanistan. The government is still fairly fragile. The infrastructure of governance is still being built in many cases and the women have a tremendous role to play.

However it also takes a tremendous amount of courage, a great deal more, I have to say, gentlemen, than it does for the men. In addition to having the threat of the environment that exists, females can also be targeted directly, specifically and very purposely. There are still those in society who do not want women to participate. They want them to stay in their places, to stay in their homes and to stay hidden and invisible. I cannot say how I would react if I had to run for office in that environment. They are very brave women. These women, with men and families who support them, will be the ones to make the difference in Afghanistan in the long run.

That is the reason they need us to be with them side by side for the long term. They need us to protect them, to help them, to assist them and to give them the kind of partnership they need to take back their country and to build a future for not only themselves but for their children. Ultimately that is what this is about.

The only way we can really make a difference is to ensure that, however difficult and whatever the differences we may have, at the end of the day we stay the course with Afghanistan for the long term. This is not a short term solution and it never is. The situation that exists requires a great deal of work. Building a strong government takes a long time. We just need to look at our own country. We did not just evolve over a decade. We have been at it for a couple of hundred years or more and we are still changing.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in Afghanistan. It has gone through tremendous pain and faces a number of challenges not only in terms of its physical security, defence security and human security, but there is also the issue of narcotics and governance structures, et cetera.

The women and the children need our support because ultimately they are the future of that nation and they will make the difference as to whether that nation succeeds or fails. It was one of the failing states but now it is being reborn and it is moving forward. We have an obligation to ensure it gets there.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:05 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, my question with regard to Afghanistan relates to the hon. member's experience when she was minister for CIDA.

We know that the situation in Afghanistan for decades has been one of insecurity for the people who are there, and now because our forces are there with a multilateral coalition of forces, the people of Afghanistan have a chance for security.

The hon. member knows full well the inability of citizens and civilians in areas that have failed or are failing to get access to basic health care and basic services. If our military were not there with other coalition forces, would the people in Afghanistan, particularly in areas outside the major centres, have access to basic medical care and basic nutrition that is essential for them to survive, for their children to have proper nutrition so they can think and go to school, and for women to have children with normal birth weights as opposed to low birth weight infants and high infant mortality and morbidity statistics?

Is not the reason that our forces are there is to provide security on the ground so the people of Afghanistan will be able to build a structure and they will be able to take charge of their country in a secure environment and be able to provide the basic needs that any stable country requires?

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Chair, there is no question that we cannot build anything or form a government in a state of violence and total insecurity, which is why we need to stabilize the situation. We need to continue to have Canadian armed forces and other forces over there in order to maintain stability, peace and security which will allow the building to take place.

The election itself could not have happened had there been violence, total chaos and anarchy, which of course would have been the situation in many cases. Women would never have dared to participate in that election if there had not been a certain stability and secure environment. They are still at risk all the time but at least they have an ability to move about and participate.

While I have not been to Afghanistan, I have had the honour of visiting Kosovo, Haiti and a couple of other places where our armed forces have been, and I can tell members that Canadian soldiers are second to none. When I visited them in Kosovo, not only did they do peacekeeping during the day, which they had to do, but in their off hours they were building schools. At the schools I visited, the children all had pictures and drawings, some showing horrible fear and panic which was happening prior to our soldiers arriving. However in one particular picture which I will always remember was a drawing of a Canadian soldier with a child peeping out from behind the soldier, kind of daring to look around our soldier but hiding in part and using our soldier as protection. It showed the trust of that child in our Canadian armed forces.

I am very proud of our forces and I am very proud of what they do on the ground and in partnership with CIDA. CIDA does a tremendous amount of excellent work on the ground. I could not say these things while I was minister because it would have been bragging but I can now and I am proud to say it. The NGOs are great partners on the ground and without them we could not work because we deliver all our programs in partnership with the NGOs. This is a partnership with our armed forces, with National Defence, with CIDA and with our partners on the ground and it is a successful one.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, it is clear in the discussions from this side of the House and as we are hearing from the other side of the House that we support 100% our troops and the initiatives that are taking place in Afghanistan. Certainly I feel comforted knowing that General Rick Hillier is at the helm. He has clearly proven to be and I believe will continue to prove to be more than capable of the task. The troops have great confidence in him and we have great confidence in him also.

I want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills, for an article which he published not too long ago which raised some important questions. I believe that article was significant in getting the government to recognize that it is time to talk about why we are doing what we are doing. When a nation sends its troops into harm's way, citizens clearly have the right to know what we are doing, why we are doing it and how we are doing it. That is the importance of this debate tonight.

Defence policy is and should be an extension of foreign policy. The foreign policy of a Conservative government would certainly be to recognize that it is in Canada's best interest to defend emerging and threatened democracies. It is in our best interest to promote democracy, defend emerging democracies and stand up for and defend threatened democracies.

It is virtually a corollary that democracies do not go to war against each other. The more nations around the globe that become democratic, the less chance there is of war certainly between the democratic nations. That is why it is in Canada's best interest to be at peace, to see peace advanced in the world. At times it has to be done in this particular fashion. The government should continue to make that point so our citizens know why we are putting troops in harm's way and why we are doing what we are doing.

It is another corollary that dictators and vicious dictatorial regimes, especially like the Taliban, never give up without a fight. As one of the members opposite indicated tonight, and I am not saying the Minister of National Defence shares this view, to suggest that we are now going to allow our troops to be put at risk is being naive. Our troops were at risk the moment they landed in Afghanistan. They are there for a great purpose. We need to acknowledge that purpose, congratulate them for what they are doing and to remind our citizens that this is in Canada's best interest. That is why we raise questions, and we do have questions.

My colleague from Carleton—Mississippi Mills with his considerable experience has gone into great detail in terms of the equipment itself and the logistical matters. I will not try to match his expertise, but we are raising important questions. Is the mandate realistic, clear and enforceable? Are there clear rules of engagement for our troops? Do we have properly equipped forces?

As we raise these questions, family members of our troops may be listening to this debate or may follow the reports of this debate tomorrow or at a later date. We do not want to cause undue alarm in their minds and hearts. As a matter of fact, this process will help to ensure that their loved ones will have the resources they need. Clearly they do have resources, but are they the best resources possible?

There have been great announcements about spending increases related to national defence. The government can talk about $12 billion but in fact the front end load of that is only $500 million this year and $600 million next year. The promise of increased resources are not until years three, four and five. That is making a great presumption on what the voters might be deciding only several weeks from now. We know there are questions related to the resources and how those are procured.

There is the question of whether we can sustain this commitment and still engage in other international crises if they arise. How are we going to measure progress in the theatre in Afghanistan? What is going to be the definition of success?

I appreciate we have already heard tonight some of the things that will be related to and are being measured. We have to have a definition of success and we have to have a clear exit strategy. What are the milestones that will be achieved that will determine when we will exit?

This point of our resources is so important. It has been said by wiser people than myself who understand what military involvement is all about that armed forces have two primary purposes, to either deter or to destroy the enemy. That may sound harsh, but it is the reality. That is the purpose of armed forces. Certainly they can be involved somewhat in other duties as peace is achieved. It is important to remember our history. In the last 10 to 20 years we have heard of Canadians as peacekeepers, but Canadians predominantly have been peacemakers down through our history.

We do not have to walk too far down the banks of the Ottawa River to see a plaque acknowledging in the mid-1800s the coureurs de bois and others. Even before Canada was officially a nation about 400 of them volunteered to go and fight with the British expeditionary force on the Nile because they had great expertise in canoes and other small craft in terms of navigating the waterways. They were brave fighters then. In the Boer War we were there in that particular theatre.

In the first world war it was in dynamic places such as Vimy Ridge where Canada became a nation. Why do we say Canada became a nation there? In that particular battle, other nations and other forces had tried to dislodge the enemy and they had failed. It fell upon Canadians to do what was thought to be impossible in terms of scaling the hills and the ridges that made up Vimy. Canadians did it and this was the first time they were fighting just as Canadians with nobody else to help. Others had failed and we prevailed and it was a significant point in the war.

In the second world war on the beaches of Juno, in the Italian theatre, in North Africa and all the other places and then again in Korea, Canadians were fighting.

Canadians do not like it when people get bullied. We do not like bullies. We never have. We have never backed down from defending people whose rights are being trampled on. We need to realize that is why we are in Afghanistan. There will be peacekeeping. There are peacekeeping aspects of this operation but it is peacemaking and it is high risk.

We pose these questions and we do so remembering our history and not being shy about it. As we have already heard to a degree tonight, we need to trumpet the accomplishments of what is going on there. It is absolutely remarkable to see democracy being sustained. It is weak, but it is growing and it is becoming stronger every day and largely because of our commitment and the commitment of other countries there.

The government has had a reticence of late about acknowledging valour among our troops. There was a terrible situation in the Balkans not too many years ago where the Princess Pats were under extreme danger, possibly at the point of elimination. They had been told they were not even to return fire and they had to literally fight for their lives and the lives of others. They did so in an extremely courageous and skilful manner. There was very little acknowledgement of that by the government.

There are experts in our military and very recently some of our snipers who were awarded and acknowledged by other countries for their expertise, their valour and their courage on what they did to save and preserve lives. Yet the government almost seemed to be embarrassed about that and does not like to talk about it.

Our top guns, our aviators in competition with the United States often win those top gun competitions but there is a reticence to acknowledge that. I am not talking about the glorification of war. I am talking about the recognition of commitment.

School children to this day in Holland are taught about the great price paid by Canadians in peacemaking. Still to this day the children in the schools in Holland tend the graves of Canadians. Students in Holland have a greater understanding of what Canadians did than do Canadians in our own schools because we do not properly recognize it.

We hope there will be no deaths in Afghanistan, but we are being realistic and families are prepared for the eventuality of this high risk area. I hope 50 years from now, as Afghanistan children who have been taught in their schools about the price paid by Canadians, if they have to either tend graves of Canadians or just acknowledge that Canadians were there, I hope that as they do they also know that children in Canadian schools are being taught why we are there.

These are the unfortunate eventualities of history, but we are there. We are asking questions to make sure the mission is successful. We are asking for full recognition of the great valour, courage and commitment that our troops are making as they are there.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:20 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, the hon. member is the foreign affairs critic for the Conservative Party but I have to correct him on a couple of points.

I am not sure if he is aware that in the 2005 estimates, if the opposition chooses to join us, they would agree to spend an extra $1.3 billion on our armed forces for 2005. That is in addition to the $500 million that we put in this year, a number that is going to ramp up over the next five years to a total of $13 billion. That is only a small down payment of the government's commitment to reinforce our armed forces, to give them the personnel, troops, training and equipment they need to do their job. The member has to recognize that the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Finance have put on the table this week an extra $1.3 billion this year alone for our armed forces.

On the issue of recognition, he also has to acknowledge that the Minister for Veterans Affairs declared 2005 as the year of the veteran. That is a clear acknowledgement of the desire on the part of our government, and indeed I would say the whole House, to recognize the sacrifice, the commitment, the courage and the bravery of our armed forces. It recognizes the sacrifice and commitment the armed forces have given, are giving and will continue to give in the future, be it in Afghanistan or in other parts of the world.

He mentioned that the purpose of the military is to deter and destroy. That is certainly part of its role but the type of asymmetric threats we face today go beyond the need simply to do that. As the former minister for international development mentioned in the House a little while ago, for a country to stabilize itself, security must be defined in a much broader context. Yes, our armed forces engage in combat and they do an excellent job. Yes, they engage in peacekeeping or peacemaking, which is war by another name. They also enable places to have security. They enable food to get to the hungry. They enable medications to get to the sick. They enable people to carry on with their lives in an area of insecurity. Our forces enable that to happen.

Recently the DART provided potable water in Pakistan. A person in an earthquake zone who did not have potable water and was going to die of thirst would be very thankful for Canadian Forces soldiers who would be able to provide the potable water that would save the person's life and the lives of his or her family members. That is something our armed forces are doing right now.

Our armed forces cleared roads to enable convoys of NGOs to get into areas that previously were unreachable because of the earthquake. Our armed forces were able to lift that capability into the earthquake zone and open up those roads, which enabled lifesaving material to get to the people who needed it.

Does the member not acknowledge the fact that the government would like to put in $1.8 billion if he and his party would agree to it this year? Would he not also agree that we have acknowledged the extraordinary contributions and will do more for our armed forces by declaring this year the year of the veteran? Would he also acknowledge that in Afghanistan and other parts of the world the role of the armed forces is more than the World War II vision, but something that is more holistic and involves everything from getting aid to an area to full combat capabilities and everything in between?

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, I am glad that after several minutes the member opposite finally repeated the question. I was paying attention, and I know the hour is getting late, but I was getting lost in terms of what the actual question was. I am not sure that I totally grasp it now. I will stand corrected if I do not get it, but he started his remarks and closed his remarks by talking about an extra $1.8 billion.

I want to repeat something here. A great and grandiose commitment was made in terms of money going into our national defence, of $12.8 billion extended out at least to five years, and I want to talk about how some of it is going even further than that.

This year, the first commitment for that was $500 million. That is a paltry amount given the challenges we are facing and the needs of the armed forces before they went into Afghanistan. The year following it is $600 million, which is still not much of a ramp-up for the incredible needs they face.

I want to point something out here. The member talked about another $1.8 billion. I know that as we toss these figures around taxpayers are trying to grasp the order of magnitude of what we are discussing here. The member opposite talked about an extra $1.8 billion. In light of the fact that we are talking about what is going on in Afghanistan, some people might mistakenly believe, although I am not saying he intended this, that a good chunk of that money is going to our troops there or for troops who might be engaged in other actions.

In fact, of that $1.8 billion, over $1 billion is for the upgrade of our frigates and that extends out for 10 years. So to suggest that a significant portion of that added $1.8 billion is going to our troops in Afghanistan is simply not the fact.

The member also talked about places in the world where our troops are doing good. That needs to be acknowledged. He also talked about the importance of getting the resources to the people in need.

If that is his focus, why has there been so little comment here from the government, from the federal Liberals, on the fact that a huge portion of the aid that went to Sri Lanka following the tsunami is being blocked from going to the most needy regions in the north and the east, largely the Tamil regions? That money is being literally blocked by the Sri Lankan government. We do not hear a public complaint about that from the federal Liberals.

The member can talk about money going to where it should, but in fact it is not being maximized in terms of efficiency and we are not raising a diplomatic row about the fact that the Sri Lankan government is blocking the areas in that country, the north and the east, that have been most devastated.

Using another example, we are involved in reconstruction in Iraq, as we should be. We are not involved there militarily, but we are involved in reconstruction. There was a tranche of some $300 million committed to that. When we talk to officials in Iraq, we find that they are somewhat distressed because the government just sent the lion's share of that portion to be administered through the United Nations, whose functionaries sit in Jordan. It is not getting to the people on the ground in Iraq.

So when the government members talk about money getting to the people who need it most, they need to understand that in fact in many of these situations, and some of the most grave and serious, it is not getting to the people who need it the most. The government is not sufficiently reacting to that and it is not doing everything in its power to make sure that the money does get through.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I agree with the hon. member in that I do not think that at this hour of the night we want to get into a debate about too much detail, largely because we do not have all the figures in front of us. I think it would be unfortunate if the hon. member left the impression with the House or with the public that the $1.3 billion additional in the estimates, not $1.8 billion but $1.3 billion, is all about building ships and other matters. It is not. It is about increased salaries for our troops and increased health costs, and there is a considerable amount of that money which will go to this Afghan mission.

The way in which the budgets work, and I think the hon. member should know that, is that when we deploy our troops abroad we always have to come back to the government for the incremental costs of that mission. The Afghan mission will probably cost, to keep 1,000 troops certainly, when we are 1,000 troops abroad, plus the 350, a possible $600 million or more in order to accomplish that. That will all be achieved by supplementary estimates because that will be the incremental costs of the department.

It is not realistic to suggest that it is just $500 million of new money to the department this year. There is a great deal more than that. There is a great deal more than that to make sure that the troops are able to do the job that they are doing in Afghanistan as well in other jobs across Canada. That is the importance of the supplementary estimates. That is why I think it is legitimate for us in the House to consider why we should sit until we can get those supplementary estimates passed for the good of our troops but also for the success of our mission and what we intend to ask our troops to do.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:30 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, the Minister of National Defence has indeed not contradicted what I said. I jotted down his comments. He said that the $1.3 billion is not all about building ships. I did not say it was all about that. I said the lion's share of that is going to an up to 10 year program in terms of upgrading on our frigates and other ships. He said a considerable amount is going to Afghanistan. Any amount is considerable: $10 million, $50 million or $100 million is considerable.

The third area I want to draw out that gives me some concern is that his junior minister said the figure was $1.8 billion. The minister just corrected him and said no, it was $1.3 billion. I know that the Liberals have a hard time differentiating large sums of money, but that discrepancy is half a billion dollars.

Here we have the junior would-be minister and the minister. I appreciate the minister's honesty. In my dealings with him, I have found him to be honest. He has just corrected his junior minister to the tune of half a billion dollars. If they are that far apart and they are supposed to be the two who are closest together in terms of working on defence issues, how much are we missing and what discrepancies do we have in other areas? When we raise these figures we are not getting satisfactory answers when these two ministers can have a discrepancy between the two of them of half a billion dollars.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, if I could help the House, of the supplementary estimates there will be $418 million to fund operational sustainability, equipment, maintenance and infrastructure repairs; $71 million to support force expansion by 8,000 new personnel; $278.3 million to cover costs associated with our operations in Afghanistan; $22 million to cover part of the costs of the Grizzly armoured vehicles in the African mission in Sudan; $322 million to cover the costs of pay and allowance increases for CF members; and $28.6 million to fund the remediation or environmental cleanup of federal contaminated sites.

If the hon. member can find in that list the ships which he says constitute the largest amount of the numbers, I challenge him to do it and would be quite surprised.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, he still has not addressed the issue about this discrepancy of half a billion dollars. That is very significant. He still has not addressed the fact that the lion's share of the purported money, money that the Liberals say they are going to come through with, is extended out to years three, four and five.

We have an initial cut of $500 million in the first year and $600 million in the second year, and by saying years three, four and five they are making a great presumption on the voters, who are going to decide on questions related to the government and its ability to contain scandal and corruption. They are going to decide on that in just a few weeks.

I do not want to suggest that the government is holding back on the big money as almost a veiled threat to say, “Vote for us or the big bucks will not roll through”. The difference between the present and hopefully soon dearly departed federal Liberals and the government in waiting, the Conservatives, is that we are going to be there now for the troops, now for national defence in all of its scope and breadth, not tossing forward smaller amounts now, but in fact bringing forward the amounts that are going to meet the needs in a way that will make our troops, their families and Canadians proud. We will be there for them now, not with a vague promise of perhaps four or five years from now.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in this very important debate. There is no question in my mind that the mission currently being undertaken by our Canadian Forces in Afghanistan is vitally important for the future of the country and the security of Canada.

Last month, I was fortunate enough to accompany the Minister of National Defence on a trip to Afghanistan. During that trip, I had a first-hand look at the extraordinary work that our dedicated men and women in uniform are doing to help a country that faces some incredible challenges. I saw just how grateful the Afghan people are for the tremendous efforts that Canadians are making to help rebuild their country.

In Kabul, we met several members of the Afghan government including the defence minister, the foreign affairs minister and the rural development minister. We also met President Karzai. During these meetings, we discussed Canada's involvement in Afghanistan not only from a military perspective, but also in the areas of diplomacy and development.

I must say that all the ministers, as well as President Karzai, expressed their deep gratitude to Canada for what we are doing. They see Canada as a true friend to Afghanistan, a friend that is determined to support them during these difficult times.

We heard very complimentary comments from Afghan officials, local community leaders and ordinary citizens about how the men and women of the Canadian Forces were going out of their way to help people. A British general actually said to our troops that they were an inspiration to other NATO contingents. This is truly something that we should be proud of.

When we were driving in the streets of Kabul on our way to our meetings, I saw a city that does not live in fear. I saw a city where buildings were being reconstructed, where the markets were busy, and where boys and girls both were going to school. I saw a city where people looked to the future with hope.

Our trip to Afghanistan also took us to the southern city of Kandahar, where Canada has deployed a provincial reconstruction team. There we met with Pushtan tribal leaders and with the governor of Kandahar province to discuss Canada's role in bringing stability to the region. The Chief of Defence Staff, General Hillier, also joined us in the ceremony to name the Canadian camp in Kandahar. As members might know, the camp is now known as Camp Nathan Smith, in honour of one of our four Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in an unfortunate incident that occurred at Tarnak Farm in April 2002.

Through its work, the Canadian provincial reconstruction team will help extend the authority and the reach of the Afghan government. By helping to build a just and peaceful society, our team will foster prosperity and improve people's lives.

The multilateral nature of our work in Afghanistan means that Canadian Forces will once more work alongside friends and allies. They will no doubt prove yet again that Canada can be counted on to stay the course and fight against terrorism. By preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists, the Canadian Forces are not only protecting the people of Afghanistan, they are protecting all Canadians.

The tragedy of September 11, 2001, proved to Canadians that we are vulnerable to the threats of terrorism and the spillover effect from failed and failing states. In today's increasingly interdependent world, domestic security is closely linked to events happening outside our borders. That is why the Government of Canada has made a commitment to respond to a potential threat to Canadian security before it reaches our shores. That is why we are in Afghanistan.

In Kabul, as in Kandahar, we spent a lot of time with members of the Canadian Forces. Discussions with these men and women only confirmed what I already knew. These people are very professional and very dedicated. They are open, generous and sensitive to the Afghan culture and to the needs of the local people. They are prepared to take risks and are determined to use their many skills to provide the people of Afghanistan the stability and security they deserve.

Of course I have just as much admiration for the members of our armed forces who support our deployment in Afghanistan from our sustainment base in the region. They also do fantastic work.

When I look at members of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, I see a remarkable group of Canadians with the right training, the right equipment and the right leadership, and I can see that they perform an important mission in Afghanistan and for Canada.

I really wish all Canadians could see the fine work that our soldiers are doing, just as I have. We should be proud of the work that our men and women in uniform are doing for us in the rest of the world. The Government of Canada certainly is. That is why it is providing the Canadian Forces with the right equipment and financial resources to allow them to do their job.

In closing, I would like all the troops in Afghanistan to know that even though they may be far from home and far from their families--after talking to the troops I have learned that is probably one of the most difficult things, that time of being away from their children, their wives, their loved ones and many of the things Canadians take for granted--our thoughts, our support and our nation are with them.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Lanark, ON

Mr. Chair, again in comment I could not find one word wrong in what the member said. He has praised our troops in Afghanistan and the fine work that they are doing. On this side of the House we agree.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Chair, I would echo the hon. member's thoughts and also continue on the wonderful work that our troops are doing.

I found it very interesting living with the troops. When we were there we lived in tents, slept on cots and ate with the troops in the morning. Someone earlier said that when we talked to the troops, they would say whatever we wanted to hear because they knew who we were.

I am not a high profile politician or a high profile person in Canada. I would sit down with some of these soldiers who were not familiar with Canadian politics. It was not with the leadership. It was with the average guy in the bottom. We would start to talk, and it was interesting to get their feedback.

Nothing is perfect. In a war zone nothing could be perfect. However, contentment was one of the things that I got from them. They were happy with their situation, considering what was going on. They were content with much of the support they were getting, not only from their leadership, but from their government as well.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Chair, I have nothing to quarrel with what the hon. member said, except he said one thing that the minister said earlier as well. He referred to failed and failing states in respect of Canadian foreign defence policy.

While I would certainly agree that we have a role with respect to failed and failing states, I am not sure the initial intervention in Afghanistan fits that model. It may have been a state that we did not like. It may have been a state that was sponsoring terrorism. In fact, it was a state that was known to be creating a safe haven for al-Qaeda et cetera.

I think the government is deliberately mixing categories here. If we looked at any definition of what a failed or failing state was, Afghanistan under the Taliban did not qualify. The Taliban controlled the country. They may have had a theocratic regime that we found objectionable with respect to its treatment of women and all kinds of things, but it was not a failed or failing state in the strictest sense of the word.

It is one thing to have a policy on wanting to help failed or failing states. It is another thing to have a policy on Afghanistan. I find it a little confusing. I am not sure if it is a deliberate confusion or whether it is just an urge on the part of the government to fit everything that it is doing into a certain model whether it fits or not.

I would like to register my own objection and that of others. We heard some testimony before the foreign affairs committee recently in Winnipeg. I forget who said it, but essentially it was the same thing. It is one thing to have a policy that addresses failed or failing states, but let us not kid ourselves that Afghanistan fell into that category. Afghanistan may have fallen into another category with which we wanted to deal, but there is room there for different categories.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Chair, the member brings up a very good point. It is important when we look at different countries around the world and what can be done. It is very important that we look at what we do and how we go in.

Afghanistan was a multilateral action. It was not a situation where one particular country decided with a group of buddies that they would go in and take over. Afghanistan was a multilateral action with the blessing of the UN. That is a very important part of helping a country when we see that movement going in with a sense of multilateralism and other countries going in as well. There is a certain convention in place which allows us to go in and make a difference.

I can honestly attest to the fact that during my visit to Afghanistan I could see the difference that has been made. It was interesting to visit Kabul. When I first arrived, I looked at it and thought it was pretty rough over there. It was pretty hard to take in. Then I went to Kandahar. It is interesting to contrast the two. When I looked at Kandahar, I could see what Kabul was about three years ago. We can see the advances Kabul has made. When one sees Kabul after Kandahar, one realizes the advances that have been made.

With the government structure that is being established, we see a successful state coming together and that is very important. It is not an oppressive state or a dictatorship. It is coming together as a viable democracy.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, with respect, the member opposite did not address the question raised by the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona. In fact, federal Liberal policy is blurred on this point.

It goes back to the Prime Minister at the United Nations taking an initiative which we had wanted to be addressed, something called the responsibility to protect. His speech was important to give and to state that this would be a part of Canadian foreign policy and therefore at times possibly a matter of defence policy, defence policy being the operational arm of foreign policy in some cases. Since then there has been neither action nor definition put to that commitment of responsibility to protect. It has been blurred and inconsistent.

The Prime Minister went to Sudan briefly. The wheels touched down, some photos were taken and an unfortunate incident happened, which I am not saying was his fault. A commitment was made about certain vehicles. When those vehicles were sent over, they were tied up by the Sudanese government which did not permit them into the country. When the Prime Minister was talking to the Khartoum regime, he obviously did not have clearance to get these vehicles into the country because they were stopped. They recently have been released and are moving into the country now. They were released because of actions taken by the Americans not because of anything our government did.

The government takes sporadic and inconsistent action. The reasons for the action have not been clearly articulated. That is why I said at the beginning of my remarks that we support being in Afghanistan, but we have to communicate to our citizens why we are there. We have to tell them why our troops are in harms way.

The fact is Canadians were attacked and killed in New York by a vicious al-Qaeda and Taliban linked regime. We made a decision, along with some other countries, to take pre-emptive action and do what we could to put a stop to this evil and horror before it struck our shores. I believe it has been a noble action. There have been very positive consequences in taking that action. We have caused a barely emerging democracy to gain strength and momentum.

The reasons for it have not been clearly articulated by the government. My colleague's question was about the difference between the action in Afghanistan and emerging democracy with a regime that attacked and killed Canadians. What is the difference between that particular action and one in a so-called failed state?

In talking about failed states, unless we define them, Canadians are not going to know what is expected of them. There has to be predictability to our foreign policy so our allies and enemies can know what to expect from us. It could be said that North Korea is not a failed state because it is functioning. There is order there, but the order has been established by the slaughter and the starvation of millions of people.

Without the definitions being clearly articulated, our own citizens who pay the price with dollars and sometimes pay the price with their lives, our enemies and our allies will become confused and lack the ability to predict how we will respond clearly in different situations.

It is important we ask these questions so we can draw out the answers or if not the answers, at least we can send government members back to the drawing table, scratching their heads and putting more thought into the reasons why we take certain actions in some cases and why we do not in others.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Chair, the important issue here is the importance to protect. I think that is what we are all striving for. We are trying to protect not only our country, but other countries as well.

Let us take Afghanistan, for example. The whole idea there is to instil some form of civil society, which the Afghan people are well on their way to doing. If they do not have a civil society, but just some kind of group of warlords taking over the country back and forth, it fosters the possibility of terrorism. Terrorism can be exported to other countries, like what happened on September 11, 2001. If we allow them to go ahead and export terrorism, then we have a real problem on our hands.

When we look at the importance to protect, it is not only the importance to protect ourselves, it is important to protect others as well in other countries because it is symbiotic. We cannot just have one group being protected or just create a wall around Canada and say that we will live in our cocoon, do whatever we want, and to heck with everybody else because we do not care. We cannot do that. That does not work. We have to participate as a good citizen of the planet and of the world. We have to be able to participate in different countries.

That allows us to have a civil society that is not threatened by lawlessness in other societies as well, so the civil society that we have will hopefully be reflected somewhere else, not exactly 100%, because we are not there to implement a way of life, but we are there to implement some kind of structure.

We talked about development earlier, some kind of development where we have a stable form of government that allows people to raise their children, grow in a safe environment, and have a family to raise. That is the important part. It is the security that people have in growing in their own community.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:55 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Chair, I want to touch on the role of the RCMP, lest it is forgotten, in the provincial reconstruction team and then make a personal comment related to my trip to Afghanistan.

It is both an honour and a privilege to discuss the Canadian police involvement in the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

As we know, the RCMP has been involved in international peacekeeping and peace building operations since 1989. In the intervening years, the RCMP has coordinated the deployment of over 2,100 Canadian police officers to multilateral assistance missions led by the United Nations and the European Union throughout Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

With this extensive range of experience, police participation in the Canadian international assistance effort in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is especially well situated to support the reconstruction efforts of the provincial reconstruction team, the PRT, under Canada's 3-D approach of diplomacy, defence and development.

The mandate of the Canadian police in the PRT is straightforward. It is to assist in building the capacity of the local Afghan police. In undertaking this police mandate the RCMP leadership will be relying on its model of community policing. This model is tried and tested and is based on the same set of principles as those of government community policing efforts in Canada. In addition, the House should know that the community policing model has been adopted by the United Nations largely based on Canada's success. This is no coincidence.

The Canadian police effort in Kandahar is fundamentally based on establishing good relations between the PRT and the local police. The functions of the Canadian police will involve monitoring, advising and training of local Afghans.

Building good relationships also extends to the international police community who are leading reform in Afghanistan including Germany, the United States and the United Nations assistance mission for Afghanistan as well as other international partners. This approach presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate Canadian expertise in community based policing which hopefully would be used to shape security sector reforms generally in the country.

Since the involvement of the Canadian police in the PRT, which began in August 2005, police advisers have been involved in gathering information, conducting research, assessing local capabilities and needs as well as monitoring and advising local Afghan police authorities.

Specific undertakings have involved the preparation of training programs which has meant extensive collaboration with Afghan international partners in pursuing the objective of creating a professional police capacity.

Canadian police involvement in the PRT requires particular coordination with the Canadian Forces who are responsible for all security operations in the PRT. By and large the security environment dictates the manner and method of interaction with the local Afghan police and all visits are undertaken via armoured convoy.

Canadian police regularly visit 10 Afghan substations in Kandahar to assess police infrastructure and equipment, and mentoring and training needs. Canadian police are working closely with Canadian Forces military police to implement police mandate and prepare for the delivery of training packages for local police including paramilitary skills required in an environment of active insurgency.

I must also stress that although Canada's policing efforts will be modelled on a community policing theme, the security environment in Kandahar will shift the focus to establishing the rule of law in the short term. To this end the Afghan national police will lean toward a paramilitary culture and will look to the international community for training tools and support to gain the upper hand on pressing peace and security issues.

Progress is being made with international partners working in cooperation with the German police project and an initiative is underway to install and operationalize a 100 emergency call system in Kandahar similar to the 911 system common to North America. This system will be established by the German police project office in Kabul.

These developments to bolster the Afghan national police in Kandahar are achieving results and the ANP, for example, are intending to provide security for a school soccer tournament. They have created a security plan and will be the primary security provider. This event, besides showcasing youth and sport, will illustrate the Afghan national police as protectors of the community. These indeed are important messages.

We are seeing real progress in the Canadian police participation in the PRT which is a key element in the overall Canadian strategy and once again, we commend the RCMP for its great service not only in Canada but, as in this case, in a dangerous situation overseas.

I think our troops in Kandahar are certainly appreciative of the support from all members of the House who have expressed their appreciation for what they do for us.

I would like to close my remarks with a tribute to the peacekeepers over there and those who have fallen, based on the trip when I was there. I would like to begin with the Legion prayer on behalf of my Legion, Branch 254 in Whitehorse:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.Lest we forget.

When I was in Afghanistan, I learned the tremendous terror and fear that our peacekeeping troops around the world must go through.

All members of Parliament have spoken at Remembrance Day ceremonies often referring to the second world war, the first world war or Korea, but this situation goes on today, as we are speaking, with our peacekeepers around the world who are in tremendous danger and under stress.

When we fly in there, someone told me we fly over a place with 100 million guns. There are still rockets left over from the Russian war and to know that every minute may be one's last is certainly a life-changing experience for those number of hours the troops are going in there.

Imagine that this is just one trip and how much effect those threats have? Imagine the pilots that ferry people in day in and day out, never knowing when they wake up for work in the morning if the next day is going to be their last.

Once we get there, it is no better. Some people go into town in armoured vehicles, but the Canadian troops are out talking to the people who by and large love them. The troops are building a community for the people, but nevertheless there are elements lurking that want to create havoc and our troops are at extreme risk.

As we arrived at Camp Julien in Kandahar a rocket had just been found. There was pandemonium, I must admit. Our troops responded wonderfully, but even the safest part in their camp was under fire from rockets a couple of hundred yards away.

Unlike many people with dangerous jobs, at least those people go home to their families at night and a safe place. Our soldiers are sleeping in canvas tents that are close to rockets and fire. They do not even know whether they are going to wake up in the morning.

We went by helicopter into one of the provincial reconstruction teams in Gardez. It was not that long ago that the president of Afghanistan went to the same spot and his helicopter was fired at by a rocket. Fortunately it missed.

To meet the president or ministers there, one has to go through rows of 30, 40 or 50 machine guns. How safe is a country like that? These are the types of pressures that our troops are under every day.

Tonight, as we all go home to sleep in our safe beds without major worries, our soldiers will be going to bed in Kandahar and other peacekeeping missions around the world not knowing whether they will rise in the morning.

As civilians, we cannot imagine the type of pressure this must put on these young men and women who are fighting for us. We may wonder why, when we talk to veterans, they do not talk much about the situation. We could not possibly understand. We, who have touched with the tip of our finger quicksand, cannot possibly understand the feeling of soldiers who have been immersed up to their necks for days on end and on the verge of losing everything.

Our troops are going from the safe part in Kabul to Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar which is an even more dangerous part and our prayers are with them.

Canadians do sense how horrible it is to face death. Look at how tense we get when we see movies of hardened criminals who have murdered someone and see the tension leading up to their death. But that person, even after a horrible crime, only faces that torture once. Think of our troops who face potential death day after day and night after night. These are our young Canadians whose only crime is to fight in order to give freedom to innocent people in a foreign land.

I want to close with this prayer to those Canadian peacekeepers in Afghanistan and elsewhere along with Nathan Smith who have fallen:

They will never know the beauty of this place, see the seasons change, enjoy nature's chorus. All we enjoy we owe to them, men and women, who lie buried in the earth of foreign lands and in the seven seas.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, I want to thank all members for giving their speeches and interventions on this extremely important and serious issue of Afghanistan and the involvement of our Canadian Forces in this endeavour. We wanted to open up the debate so the public would be informed, aware and knowledgeable about not only what our troops are doing but why they are doing it in a place that is so far away and so forlorn.

Above all else, I want to thank not only the Canadian Forces members who are in Afghanistan today and their families who make the supreme sacrifice of giving up their loved ones to work half a world away, but also the Canadian Forces members here in Canada who support our troops far away, the civilian workforce at the Department of National Defence and all of the people who ensure that this very large and important organization in our country, the Canadian Forces and our military, are able to engage in the work they do not only here at home but also abroad.

Our Canadian Forces are true Canadian heroes who exercise their duties with the highest level of professionalism, courage and behaviour. It is something I have witnessed as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. I must say that it has been my honour to serve the members in the forces who are the best and finest people our country has to offer.

I want to clear up something that the foreign affairs critic for the Conservative Party mentioned about the amount of moneys being spent. I thought I made myself clear when I said that we put $500 million into the budget this year for our forces. We now have $1.3 billion in the supplementary estimates that will only pass if the opposition members allow them to pass.

These moneys include $418 million for equipment, $322 million for pay increases and health benefits for our CF members, $278 million for this Afghanistan operation, and $71 million for troop expansion because we will be increasing the numbers by 5,000 in the regular forces and 3,000 in the reserves. I want to emphasize that this is merely a down payment for what we will do to strengthen our Canadian Forces.

Why Afghanistan? Many comments were made earlier as to why we are half a world away. The reality is that the country is situated strategically in such an important area. It is surrounded in part by nuclear capable countries, other areas of great uncertainty, particularly the CIS states that are close by, and it is close to the Middle East which is an area of great instability.

Our forces are in Afghanistan because to allow Afghanistan to go back to being a failed state would not only be a regional disaster but an international disaster. We must not forget that the Taliban was in power and that it was an area where the Taliban was supportive of al-Qaeda, the group responsible for terrorist activities around the world. We cannot allow Afghanistan to become a staging point for terrorist activities in the region or, indeed, here in Canada.

We are in Afghanistan with troops from other countries because failed and failing states, as we know, can and do breed terrorist activities. That is what will happen in Afghanistan and that is what did happen. We as part of the international community are determined not to go back down that road.

One of the major dangers and threats to the country, quite frankly, is the fact that more than half of the GDP of the country is due to heroine coming from the production of poppies and opium. We have had some success. Afghanistan has seen a 21% reduction in opium production but there is much more to be done. Warlords get involved which provides insecurity in regions and opens up the country to going back to a failed state. Kabul, the capital, will lose control over the country and all the work we are trying to accomplish at the end of the day to allow Afghanistan and Afghanis to maintain control over their country and provide the basic services and a sustainable economy for the long term will be for nought.

There is no doubt that our troops are engaging the Taliban in full combat actions, which is dangerous and their lives are in danger. However we have given them all the equipment and the best equipment they need to do their job. Nothing is perfect and that is an unfortunate situation but they accept those realities. However our job as the government is to ensure they have the personnel, training and equipment to do their job and we have done that. Whatever else they need they will get.

We also need to ensure there is a demobilization of former armed personnel. We need to demobilize and integrate the former troops as part of rag tag rebel groups. We need to reintegrate people who were part of the Taliban in the past. We also need to remove and destroy those weapons because that is part of our role.

We also need to ensure there will be an alternate economy, which is why CIDA is there, and our Canadian Forces are there to ensure that CIDA can work effectively and safely in the country.

We also need to ensure the Afghani people have security on the ground. If we cannot teach and train the Afghani people to have their own viable, effective force to provide security on the ground, we know that without security a country becomes a felled state. Our RCMP officers are doing a yeoman's job of training Afghani police forces but they are not only doing it for Afghanistan. I had the privilege of visiting our RCMP officers in Ahman, Jordan this past summer where they are training Iraqi police forces for Iraq. Without effective police forces on the ground, a country cannot have a sustainable economy.

Comments were made earlier today about the need for troops in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has one of the worst education systems and one of the worst health care systems in the world but a committed population that wants to change that and a committed international cadre of countries that also want to change that.

It is, as I said, a very dangerous mission, but it is one that we must succeed in at the end of the day, which is why our troops are on the ground. It is all part of, as we heard before, the three Ds.

One of the previous speakers wondered why so much investment had been put into our military and somehow suggested that all that work was combat. It is not. Part of it certainly is, but on the sharp edge of where our forces are in Kandahar, where there are insurgents, where the lives of our troops are in danger and where we are trying to give Afghanis a secure health care system and a better economy, then our troops need the combat capabilities to do their job. They will be engaged against these insurgents. Some of our allies have been murdered in Kabul through bombs. These are ongoing and omnipresent threats to our troops. Our responsibility as the government is to do all we can to ensure our troops are protected while they are there and that is our commitment. We can do no less.

Comments have been trotted out about the under-investment in our Canadian Forces. I freely admit that historically our Canadian Forces have been underfunded and the investment has not gone into them as it should have. However we have turned a significant corner over the last year and we have managed to put nearly $13 billion into our armed forces over five years. The reason it is ramping up is that we have the agreement of the Chief of the Defence Staff that those moneys will be given to the forces in a way that those moneys can be used effectively. The $1.3 billion in the supplementary estimates right now are for extra needs that the forces can use immediately.

In closing, I want to again thank our Canadian Forces for the work they are doing abroad and at home. On behalf of all Canadians, we honour the commitments they make for our country and their courage and bravery. We give thanks to those veterans who served before, as we just did on November 11. They are Canadian heroes.

Canada's military mission in AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Chair, at times in this chamber there is a happy coincidence of views on some broad issues. What we have heard tonight is that all members of all parties are supportive of the decision to have our troops in Afghanistan for reasons stated throughout the evening, which I will not cover again.

Just as Canadians have proven themselves on the field of battle and on the humanitarian field, Canadians, especially when related to our armed forces, have proven themselves to be courageous, to be willing to sacrifice to the ultimate and to be willing to do what has to be done to preserve human rights, individual freedoms and democracy. Canadians have stood proud and our troops in Afghanistan tonight are proudly doing what they are called upon to do. They are doing it with professionalism and with an eye to the future because they really do believe that an emerging democracy in Afghanistan will be of huge benefit to the people there and in fact to the world. We give the greatest credit to our troops that are there.

However the question that still has not been answered concerns the consistency in the federal government's foreign policy. I want to put the question again because I asked it on a couple of occasions earlier tonight and did not receive an answer. One of my colleagues from the NDP asked a similar question and we did not receive a consistent answer.

As I said before, Canadian citizens, our friends, our allies and our enemies need to know where we stand on different issues. There needs to be predictability in our policy.

If we look back to 1999, Canadian troops were involved in Kosovo. Canadian pilots dropped bombs on Kosovo and killed people. They were joined by other forces, predominantly NATO forces, and they did so because a genocide was unfolding before our eyes. Milosevic at that point was responsible for the slaughter of some 8,000 people and counting, and there had to be intervention. Our troops, along with other troops, bravely did what had to be done to stop what was already horrific enough with 8,000 slaughtered.

In 1999, without the approval of the UN Security Council, we supported our troops taking military action in Kosovo and yet, if we hit the playback button and go back five years earlier to Rwanda, our general on the ground in Rwanda was literally begging for intervention because he foresaw what was about to become one of the most horrific genocides of the 20th century of over a million people mainly macheted and axed to death. Where was Canadian foreign policy then?

The UN could not get its act together, just as it could not get its act together related to Kosovo, but through NATO, Canada took the leadership role in saying that we had to intervene in Kosovo but we failed in Rwanda. This is what I am talking about in terms of the inconsistency of policy.

Let us hit the fast forward button and look to Iraq and the situation there. We went into Kosovo when 8,000 people had been slaughtered. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein had slaughtered, according to the shallow graves found by the Red Cross, some 300,000 people and he had a history of invading other countries. He invaded Kuwait and Iran. He sent Scud missiles into Israel and said that he wanted to wipe Israel off the map and yet we made a decision not to go into Iraq.

I will say it was not the position of the Conservative Party at that time to go into Iraq. We did say we should have our ships in the Persian Gulf because there were Canadians involved in Iraq with American troops. The federal government denied that for quite a period of time. In fact, because we put pressure on the government, it finally acknowledged that there were Canadian soldiers fighting in Iraq. We said we needed to be there to support our troops if we have to get them out. We never did say be part of the invasion, the pre-emptive action into Iraq.

I am asking a question in terms of consistency of policy. Why would the federal government say yes to Kosovo? It said yes, we will go into Kosovo, yes, we will bomb people, yes, we must kill people because 8,000 have been slaughtered, but 300,000 were slaughtered in Iraq and our government said no.

Then we jump to Sudan and what is going on there because of the extremist Islamic front out of Khartoum. The Janjaweed warriors still have free rein. They are slaughtering people, killing, raping. It is estimated now that there are some four million Sudanese and Darfur refugees in Egypt alone, yet our government is not saying we have to go in there.

The Security Council will not give approval because China sits there and China has significant oil interests related to Sudan. The Security Council is not going to do it.

Again I come back to the question, we said yes in Kosovo without Security Council approval and 8,000 people had been slaughtered. In Sudan right now in Darfur it is estimated that 8,000 people every two weeks are being slaughtered, but we sit idle. We are not out trying to put together a multilateral force to go in. The African Union is reticent to take on their own brothers.

Our military vehicles get held up and we do not protest. These are military vehicles that we had committed to go into Sudan, but the Prime Minister had not received clearance. He did not even bother to get clearance from the Khartoum regime. It was only as a result of American action a couple of days ago that those vehicles have been released.

As we close out the debate tonight, we are still asking for an explanation of this inconsistency in policy. As I say that, I do not want there to be any mistake that we are supportive of our troops being in Afghanistan and what they are doing there, but someone has to explain the inconsistency in policy to us.