Mr. Chair, first, I would like to thank the good people of Edmonton Centre for choosing me over a tougher than average opponent and giving me the honour and privilege of serving them in this place.
The world has changed since the defeat of communism, and we in the west have not been paying attention.
September 11, 2001 marked the tragic dawning of a new reality, when two dozen Canadians were among the thousands of victims of indiscriminate murder and terrorism. This terrorism goes on unabated, and much of it has originated in Afghanistan, a country that is truly in distress.
Not only was terrorism being unleashed upon the world from Afghanistan but the Taliban and their allies were ruthlessly suppressing the lives of the people of Afghanistan, a people who have spent far too many decades with little hope for the future.
As Canada has done throughout the past century and more, we stepped up to the plate and took a share of the international responsibility for peace, freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
The previous Liberal government recognized our international responsibility and, to its great credit, it committed Canadians in and out of uniform to the task of helping Afghanistan to become a stable, democratic and self-sustaining state. That task is not yet accomplished but significant progress has been made and we simply cannot quit now.
Whenever Canada and other freedom loving peoples have stood up to those tyrants and regimes who would take away freedom there is a price to pay. That has not changed and Canada is paying a price.
This is not just a fight for the people of Afghanistan. It is a fight for the people of Canada. The Minister of Public Safety took away my Winston Churchill quote so I will just say that organizations like the Taliban and many others and people like Osama bin Laden are, indeed, alligators and by their own admission their appetite for evil knows no limit.
They have let it be known that Canada is on their target list and no amount of wishful thinking will make their evil intentions go away. The only way to stop the alligator of terrorism is to starve it and to strangle it. That is what we must do and that is what we are doing along with our allies.
Our men and women in Afghanistan know that they have the complete support of the Government of Canada and of their Prime Minister who made that known in the clearest possible way through his visit to Kandahar.
I am certain that they also have the personal support of each and every member and that the only reason for this debate is to show that unlimited support and our gratitude. It is no secret that most of the men and women in uniform and their loved ones did not want this debate. And frankly, neither did I.
However here we are and it is time to affirm our support for our brave men and women and for their mission in support of the Afghan people and Canadians. The mission is dangerous to be sure, and it was never a peacekeeping mission as some have suggested.
It has been a long time since Canada has been involved in a classic peacekeeping mission in the Lester Pearson model. The world has changed. The nature of conflict has changed and the enemy has changed. Those who do not recognize those facts run a grave risk of making serious errors in judgment that will endanger our long term security.
I do not take lightly the commitment that our men and women make in service to Canada and neither does our government. I have had the very unpleasant task of presenting our beloved maple leaf flag from a fallen warrior's coffin to his widow on her birthday. It was not much of a birthday present but the present that our men and women in uniform give us every single day is the present of the freedom to pursue our future as we would like. The sacrifice that they make and the work that they do in giving us that present of freedom comes home to us when we talk to them.
I met two Canadian Forces airbus aircraft that brought our wounded back to Edmonton in the past couple of months. I have talked to the soldiers and some of their families. They know why they are in Afghanistan. Their unselfish, courageous acceptance of their mission and its risks is truly inspiring and, frankly, brings a lump to my throat when I think about it.
Great progress has been made in Afghanistan but there is much left to do. There is a face to the freedom, security and prosperity that the Afghan people are starting to enjoy. The Afghan people recognize that face and we need to recognize it as well. It is the face of a Canadian, whether servicemen, servicewomen, police officer or civilian.
I call upon every member of every party in this place to give his or her unequivocal support for our brave Canadians overseas and their families, as well as their mission in support of Afghanistan and the support of Canada. They deserve nothing less.