Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.
I want to recognize my fellow citizens from La Pointe-de-l'Île and say that there is a military base in this riding which sends out all sorts of things, including unfortunately the coffins used in Afghanistan.
I would like to remind the House that the government forced a debate, making it impossible to ask the questions and get the answers we needed. The result was that the deployment was extended until 2009, although the motion only passed by a margin of five votes. The government took the House hostage. Now we find ourselves in a situation that might have been better if parliamentarians had been consulted. Instead, this deployment was forced on us until 2009. I am not saying that we would have been against it, but we could at least have discussed how to go about it.
This mission is not Canada’s only mission. There are 2,500 soldiers in Kandahar as opposed to 37,500 in all of Afghanistan, if my figures are correct.
However, the mission in Kandahar, which is specific to Canada, is proving very difficult. The Bloc Québécois supports the Liberal motion to inform our allies and colleagues that the Canadians will withdraw from this mission in February 2009. Canadian combat operations in southern Afghanistan will cease in February 2009.
In the short amount of time available to me, I would particularly like to say that Canada has ascribed far too much importance to the military mission in comparison with the humanitarian mission and reconstruction. Why do I remind the House of this? Because this is not an ordinary war. Especially in Kandahar, it is a war against guerrillas. Guerrillas do not have tanks or the same weapons. Guerrillas cannot keep going without support from the local population, and that is why it is important to remember that Afghans must receive support and see the kind of reconstruction that will give them hope.
Why do I say this? Because we have been getting signals. For some time now, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development has been hearing from witnesses. Nearly all of them, apart from those in the army, have been telling us that the Afghans are losing hope.
Why? There are many reasons. A professor from Carleton University reminded us of them this morning. They are losing hope because the democracy and freedoms they were promised are in serious jeopardy and because corruption is widespread, as it was previously when the Taliban came to Afghanistan.
We must remember history. The Taliban were driven out by the American army, by the Canadians and others. The Taliban were able to enter Afghanistan because of the corruption of the warlords.
There was the poverty of most people and the wealth of a few. Why the difference? It is related to this corruption, which is based on the poor distribution of the money that is being sent, for all the reasons with which we are very familiar.
This money passes through the hands of many racketeers, so that fewer projects are actually carried out and less money really gets to the Afghans.
Then there are drugs. We must not forget that right now Afghanistan produces 90% of the world’s opium. This is an extraordinary source of funding for the Taliban and once more a source of corruption. Let me say in passing that these Taliban are capable of paying the soldiers trained by the Canadian army and the other armies much more than they are paid by the Afghan army. I heard this said in a Canadian embassy by a military official who was there.
Freedom of expression and the press is now threatened and jeopardized by the government because Canada is too dependent on the warlords—at the time of the American invasion, the warlords controlled only 3% of the territory. It is because of drugs, opium, but also because farmers make money, though not much, from growing poppies. Twelve percent of the population are involved in growing poppies. So, if we try to eradicate this crop, as we are doing right now, the farmers will once again be forced into the arms of the Taliban.
So something else must be done and other means found. The Bloc has suggested using this drug, buying it and using it for medicinal purposes. It is extremely important to know that something else must be done. A senior official from the United Nations even said that it would be better to buy it up than to let it corrupt the whole system in Afghanistan.
Another extremely important question is the lack of coordination among all those who wish to do humanitarian work—including Canadians and the Afghan government—and those who perform security-related work.
Next winter, when the troops and leaders at various levels are less busy, some thought should be given to transforming what the PRTs, the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, do. The soldiers are not trained to do humanitarian or reconstruction work. According to some recent reports, their efforts in these areas meet with failure and give rise to successive problems. Humanitarian workers could therefore do their work under the protection of the military, but we must not continue with the PRTs.
So there is a lot to do in order to restore hope to the Afghans. All we have to do is restore their hope. It is true that security is necessary and soldiers are needed, but soldiers are not the goal sought and are not even the primary means. The primary means is to restore hope to the Afghans.
To achieve this, Canada must not be afraid to insist that it is time to put an end to the corruption. This message must also be aimed at the Karzai government. It is up to him to do some housecleaning to ensure that the Taliban who are still being supported by the Afghan people cannot return this time, like they did the first time.
Finally, Canada must have the courage to take a very firm stand. Today, we heard some very shocking and strong evidence about President Musharraf. Pakistan is training, arming and instructing the Taliban. We cannot let this situation continue.
Thus, much remains to be done. The Bloc Québécois supports the soldiers working there. However, for the sake of their health and their lives, we are saying that the military should focus its efforts on construction and humanitarian assistance.