Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express the gratitude of the constituents of Wetaskiwin to the brave men and women who serve our great nation as members of the Canadian armed forces and also to express our condolences to the families and friends of all of our brave soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
I am proud to have the opportunity to discuss our mission in Afghanistan. This is a reckless motion from the official opposition that only encourages our enemies and could lead to more intensive action against our troops. But, instead, I would like to talk about why Canada made this commitment and what we are accomplishing.
Canada is fulfilling its duty as a member of the G-8, as a founding member of NATO and of the United Nations, to stand with the global community in the preservation and enforcement of peace and security.
Canada is in Afghanistan, together with more than three dozen other countries, as part of the UN-authorized international security assistance force. Our military is working alongside Canadian diplomats, the RCMP, municipal police officers, correctional services officers, and development workers in an integrated approach to help the Afghan people.
We are there working together with our Afghan partners, including the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police. We are helping the Afghan people carry out their plans for their country and we are helping them take real and positive steps toward achieving security within their country.
We are also securing the safety of Canadian citizens at home and abroad. After September 11, 2001, Canada acted in accordance with article 51 of the charter of the United Nations in the exercise of our individual and collective right of self-defence. The United Nations Security Council recognized this right in resolution 1368, passed on September 12, 2001. However, the Afghanistan mission is about much more than that.
Our Canadian forces are in Afghanistan at the request of the Afghan government. We have a moral duty to support them. Life for ordinary citizens in Afghanistan is very difficult. In the south, they face the worst kind of hardships and lack the most basic government services. Their communities lack proper education and health care, and public infrastructure is damaged or non-existent. Moreover, they live under threat from groups of violent extremists. Social and economic development for Afghan people cannot be achieved while these conditions remain.
Our troops, diplomats, police and development workers are working hard alongside our allies to help the Afghan people realize their hopes for a stable and secure future for themselves and for their families.
The role of our Canadian Forces, an integrated and multidimensional approach, is something understood very well by our troops. As difficult as the job is, our men and women in uniform have met the people. They have seen the children. They know the country.
Beyond security operations, they know that our objectives of development and reconstruction are vital to success. Our men and women in uniform see great promise for the future of these people, especially the children. They believe, as all Canadians should, that supporting the democratically-elected government of Afghanistan is the best way to ensure that all Afghans can enjoy the basic rights and freedoms that we enjoy in Canada.
I want to pay tribute to the men and women of our Canadian Forces, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country and our mission in Afghanistan. They come from places like Owen Sound, New Glasgow, Dalmeny, Comox and Montreal; places just down the road; places a few hours away; and places easily found on a map.
They were soldiers who believed in our mission, like all of the Canadian Forces members serving in Afghanistan. They made a difference in places like Panjwai, Daman, Spin Buldak, Ghorak, Khakrez and Kandahar City.
These soldiers helped in ensuring that Afghanistan never again slides into the clutches of the Taliban, or those like it.
These soldiers gave their lives to stabilize and rebuild a country that has known nothing but war for more than 20 years.
We must ensure that they did not die in vain.
They and their comrades in Kandahar today are leaving behind a proud legacy for the Afghan people: a legacy of hope and confidence in the future of Afghanistan.
Roads, schools, a reliable police force, a sanitary waste management system, clean water, toys for the children are just a few examples of the numerous and many projects these men and women have helped to accomplish; all huge gifts to the Afghan people; all things many of us take for granted in Canada.
Reconstruction and development in Afghanistan are Canada's fundamental goals and they remain a high priority for our government. Canadian troops are making it difficult for Taliban extremists to gain the upper hand. But all of this may be put at risk if Canada signals that it wants to withdraw from the military mission prematurely.
Our military is supporting Afghan objectives by building a safe and secure environment which is essential for long-lasting development. Thanks to our troops and other committed Canadians, we are making significant progress in Afghanistan, but we are not finished yet.
Our goals are simple. They have been outlined many times and they are consistent with the Afghanistan compact. When Afghanistan and its democratic government are stabilized and able to independently handle domestic security concerns, and when the terrorists and their local support networks are no longer a destabilizing threat to Afghanistan, we will know that we have succeeded.
We are moving toward these goals. Canada has contributed greatly to Afghan progress so far and Canadians should be proud of our reconstruction efforts. We have truly broken new ground in our approach to development. Our provincial reconstruction team is helping to reinforce the authority of the Afghan government in Kandahar province. It is assisting in the stabilization and development of the region and it is monitoring security, promoting Afghan government policies and priorities with local authorities, and facilitating security sector reforms.
However, the PRT cannot do its work without the security operations that are still being carried out to help stabilize the Kandahar region. Addressing the root conditions of instability is our focus. Our goal is to help the Afghan people rebuild their country so that they can govern and protect themselves.
Our progress in the Kandahar region over the last year has laid the groundwork for continued improvement. Our forces and their Afghan partners are now patrolling in areas previously considered Taliban sanctuaries, confronting the Taliban where it has not previously been challenged. Our operations in the Pashmull and Panjwai areas have also planted vital seeds of development.
We are building Afghanistan development zones in strategic areas, pockets of development from which future renewal can spread. We are helping to build up the Afghan national security forces through our work at the national training centre, through combined operations with the Afghan authorities, and through initiatives such as our operational mentoring and liaison teams.
Daily, Canadian men and women are meeting ordinary, hard-working and peace-loving Afghans. They are conducting meetings with elders, delivering development aid and making a difference in the everyday lives of Afghans. Importantly, they are building Afghan domestic capacity and helping us move closer to our ultimate objective of a fully independent and stable Afghanistan.
Furthermore, Foreign Affairs Canada is making a profound contribution in promoting Afghan governance. Our diplomats are providing Afghan officials with advice on a range of key issues such as promoting and protecting human rights, security sector reform, and building sound international institutions.
CIDA is also working hard to assist the government of Afghanistan. It is continuing to deliver on Canada's aid commitments in Kandahar and across the country. Canadian police officers are building the capacity of their Afghan counterparts. They are monitoring, advising, mentoring and providing much needed training.
As a Canadian, I am very proud of all of our country's efforts.
I want to conclude by reminding this House how, once again, our Canadian Forces have stepped to the forefront to protect Canadian interests, to promote our values and to help Afghanistan. Our soldiers are among the best in the world and they are making progress in one of the most volatile regions of Afghanistan.
Are the Canadian Forces finished with the job we have asked them to do in Afghanistan? The answer is: not yet. Will they be finished on February 28, 2009? It is too early to tell.
We brought forward a motion to the House of Commons to extend the current Afghan mission to February 2009. The government has been clear that, if it were to seek further extension, it would come to Parliament to do that, and that remains our position.
Canada has invested much in this mission. We have another two years remaining in our commitment, two years of challenges, two years to make more progress, and two years of lighting beacons of renewal in the harsh landscape of a war-torn country.
Now is not the time to turn tail and run. Now is the time to remember Canada's commitment and the reasons behind it.