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.