This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was troops.

Topics

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to get some clarification from the Liberal Party on this because we are confused over here.

Initially we had a party that said that we will go ahead and go to the mission in the south. I need to be very clear. The military was given 45 minutes' notice and we had a general who quit. That, clearly, is not the way to go. We now have a government that seems to be making it up as we go along.

We need to be clear with the men and women who are putting their lives on the line about what we are trying to achieve and what our goals are. It changes on any given day with the present government, while the previous government honestly did not know what it was up to.

Does the Liberal Party now have a clear position about what we are doing in Afghanistan, what success is and what we are going to do, not after we consult and talk to someone else but what its position is as a party?

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see that the member endorses my comments with regard to the fact that the government has continually not had a very clear position.

Our position is very clear. Again, in the Leader of the Opposition's speech of February 2007, we have said that we support the mission but we also said that it is an international mission. It is not a clearly Canadian mission and, therefore, in terms of the rotation, which has never come out of the mouth of the government, it needs to have someone lined up, as we did before when we were in Kabul and we had Turkey lined up. The government has not done anything about that.

We have been very clear in our objectives. We support development and we support the enhancement of young women and children going to school. We support diplomatic efforts and we support our troops 100% in the field. However, at the end of the day, we are not expected to be there and it is not realistic to suggest that we will be there, in terms of Kandahar, beyond 2009. We need to know what the government is going to do. As it is the government, it needs to answer that.

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

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.

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member and I are on the foreign affairs committee. In her speech she has highlighted a lot of the challenges that are being faced in development in Afghanistan. We have heard our witnesses tell us about the challenges. I agree with her that the challenges are there and must be addressed.

What is really confusing is what is coming from the Liberals. Their last speaker just said that we have 25 partners in CIDA and that Canada is not giving enough aid to Afghanistan. Let me tell him that Afghanistan is the number one country where Canada is committed to giving international aid.

As a matter of fact, Canada is giving $1 billion over the next 10 years for development projects in Afghanistan. For him to stand up and say that CIDA's budget is for 25 countries and that somehow we have missed Afghanistan is totally misleading.

Another point is that the Liberals have said that there are no new goals or there are ambiguous goals in Afghanistan. All I want to say is this: look at the Afghanistan Compact. The compact gives a complete picture of what should be achieved in Afghanistan and that is what--

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île.

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would have liked my colleague opposite to ask me a question. Since he did not, I will take this opportunity to emphasize the urgency of learning from past mistakes and not repeating them. These mistakes include believing that we can allow corruption to continue without any repercussions, and believing that the Taliban will only be defeated by guns and tanks. The Taliban will be defeated if the Afghan people believe that, with time, they will discover hope once again, rebuild a democratic country and regain their freedom. The Afghan people have a history and a culture and they want to find their way back to it. That is what must not be forgotten.

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to congratulate my colleague from La Pointe-de-l'Île for her excellent presentation.

I would like to talk about reconstruction. I would like to ask her what she heard. As an aside, you may have noticed that my colleague and others in favour of withdrawal have always been very calm and attentive whereas those on the government side are incredibly aggressive.

I would like to ask my colleague if she feels that reconstruction is part of—

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I can only allow the member for La Pointe-de-l'Île 30 seconds to answer. Now, only 20 seconds remain.

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, reconstruction also means the reconstruction of what the Afghans need to have an economy that does not rely on the drug culture. Yes, schools, because—

Opposition motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

We will now move on to statements by members.

Youth Exchanges CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, 18 first-year students and two teachers from Saint-Pierre secondary school in my riding of Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles are flying to British Columbia as part of the Youth Exchanges Canada program put on by the Society for Educational Visits and Exchanges in Canada.

The exchange is between the Saint-Pierre school in Charlesbourg and the Ross Road school in North Vancouver, where there is a French immersion program. The students are well prepared for their trip and are in contact with their counterparts in British Columbia.

The students from North Vancouver came to Quebec City in the winter and enjoyed the hospitality they received from the Quebeckers, who hosted them for a week during Quebec City's winter carnival period. Now it is time for the students from Charlesbourg to spend a week with them from April 20 to 27.

I want to wish them a very good trip. I am sure the experience will be very rewarding for them because they will get the chance to see another side of life in Canada and to discover just how vast their country is.

Saint-Quentin Arc-en-ciel ChoirStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, on April 6, I had the honour of attending a concert by the Saint-Quentin Arc-en-ciel choir at the Maple Capital of Atlantic Canada Festival.

After an 18-year hiatus, the Arc-en-ciel choir made a comeback with a retro show that was sold out for three days. The 40 or so artists impressed the audience by playing old French and English hits.

I would like to congratulate Louiselle Connors, the concert producer, and all the artists who put on such a moving and lively show. I also want to thank Jocelyne Bossé Querry and the entire organizing committee of the Maple Capital Festival, who presented me with a bird's-eye maple tie that I am proudly wearing today.

The Festival organizing committee and the Arc-en-ciel choir made this event a success throughout the entire region.

Roger GibbStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, we recently learned that Roger Gibb has been appointed Chair of the Board of Directors of the Saint-Jérôme regional hospital foundation.

Mr. Gibb is an engineer who retired from Stablex Canada, where he was vice-president and CEO, and he is very involved in the Blainville community. He is a leader in the eyes of many of our entrepreneurs, who benefit from his advice, his ability to organize, and his availability. He was the former chair and then governor of the Thérèse-de-Blainville chamber of commerce, former president of the economic development corporation and vice-president of the Blainville business people's association. He is now the president of Quebec's environmental industry association.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I wish him the best of luck in carrying out his mandate as chair of the Saint-Jérôme hospital foundation.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this Sunday is the 37th Earth Day. Sadly, we are still facing an environmental crisis in Canada and around the world.

Since taking office, the Conservatives have embarrassed and disappointed Canadians by their position on the environment. One of their first acts in government was to give up on Canada's international commitments to address climate change and global warming.

Quite simply, ordinary Canadians are tired of this inaction. They know that this is not only a health issue for their families and future generations but the beginning of a serious economic problem for all Canadians.

New Democrats are fighting hard to ensure that Kyoto remains a priority for the Conservative government.

By helping to completely rewrite the clean air act, we now have the opportunity to pass legislation that would significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions with tough regulations on big polluters, an end to subsidies for oil and gas, a green car strategy and energy efficiency programs.

The government has to get the message. We need to protect our environment.

Residential Schools SettlementStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Conservative Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, on March 21, 2007, the Indian residential schools settlement agreement received final court approval. Now former students and their families must choose whether to stay in the agreement or opt out. Significant plans are under way to inform all former students and their families about their options and legal rights.

During this period, efforts will be made to ensure that all former students receive important information about the details of the settlement agreement and the timelines and procedures involved in exercising their legal rights.

To this end, a summary notice, detailed notice and opt-out form will be mailed directly at the program's outset to over 40,000 former students across Canada. These notices describe the settlement's benefits and explain what it means to opt out and how to do so.

It is important to note that these notices are part of a larger program, which will include media placements, direct mailings, community outreach activities and continued availability of a toll free information line and website.

This government is once again demonstrating its commitment to a fair and lasting resolution to the legacy of Indian residential schools.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, as members will know, we are celebrating Earth Week. It is especially important to recognize environmental activists across the nation.

I am pleased to rise in the House today to recognize a very talented young lady by the name of Megan Paavola, a constituent who is among an elite group of 15 students from across Canada, who will receive the $5,000 Toyota Earth Day scholarship. This award recognizes outstanding achievements in environmental community service, academics and extracurricular participation.

Ms. Paavola's motivation and dedication to raise awareness on environmental issues has been most impressive. Her efforts include, but are not limited to: co-organizing a two-day Polar Bear Awareness event at the Winnipeg Children's Museum; participating in the Polar Bear Science Leadership Camp in Churchill, Manitoba; speaking tirelessly on ecological solutions; and initiating a student run recycling program at her school.

Megan Paavola's passion for the arts and social justice issues, combined with her leadership skills, make her a well rounded individual.

Please join me in congratulating Megan Paavola who understands the true meaning of being a responsible global citizen.

Air Force Appreciation DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, today is Air Force Appreciation Day, an occasion to recognize the outstanding contributions made by the men and women of Canada's air force to protect all Canadians.

The 15,000 men and women in air force light blue are on duty every day, ensuring the sovereignty of our airspace over Canada's great land mass and well out over three oceans.

The air force conducts dangerous search and rescue missions. It forms Canada's contribution to Norad's continental defence. It transports humanitarian assistance to those in need around the world and it plays a vital role in the Canadian Forces operations in Afghanistan as it maintains the crucial air bridge to that operation, transporting thousands of tonnes of equipment and thousands of personnel.

From Billy Bishop's courage of the early morning in a Nieuport 17 to a C-17 Globemaster in the near future, Canada's air force slips the surly bonds of earth around the clock as a vital component of Canada's foreign and domestic policy.

Today I would like all members to join me in recognizing the dedication and importance of Canada's air force whose leadership joins us today and its hard-working men and women who serve Canada first, every day.

Per ardua ad astra and Check-Six.

Earth DayStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, with Earth Day celebrations approaching, I would invite all members of this House to reflect on our ability to act on environmental issues. We each have a role to play here in the House, as well as in our lives. What can we do to act responsibly?

First, we have to become more aware of how our lifestyle and consumer choices affect the environment. Once we do that, it will be easier to change things. We can make so many little changes: reduce our energy consumption, avoid using plastic bags, dispose of hazardous household waste properly, or plant trees.

The Conservative government is refusing to shoulder its responsibilities in the fight against climate change. My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I condemn this government's attitude. We must each make the kinds of changes that will really make a difference.

AHEPA CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise today to recognize AHEPA Canada.

Founded in the United States in 1922, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association is one of the largest Hellenic heritage groups in the world and branched out to Canada in 1928. AHEPA is also in Greece, Cyprus, New Zealand and Australia.

AHEPA promotes the ideals of Hellenism, education, philanthropy, civic responsibility, family and individual excellence. In Canada, the organization donates more than $300,000 a year toward education and charities at the local, national and international levels.

I would like to thank the president of AHEPA Canada, Mr. Frank Antoniou and the members of his executive for honouring us with their presence in Ottawa today.

SikhismStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Sikh communities around the world are celebrating the 308th birthday of the Sikh nation, the Sikh faith, the Khalsa. It also marks the first day of the Sikh new year.

Since 1994, I have held celebrations for Vaisakhi. I would like to thank the Leader of the Opposition for attending the celebration along with many other members of parliament. Mr. Speaker, a special thanks to you for your continued Vaisakhi celebration support.

Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs live as peaceful and full participants in Canadian society. In spite of many difficulties encountered by Canada's first Sikh immigrants at the turn of the century, today they are a full and active community in the Canadian mosaic.

As the first turbaned Sikh member of Parliament of the House of Commons, I am sure all members would like to join with me in congratulating the Sikh community on this occasion and hope that we all continue to work together to promote harmony and good will in order to keep Canada an exemplary country filled with tolerance and compassion.

Brent PolandStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to honour my constituent, Corporal Brent Poland, who was among the six soldiers killed on Easter Sunday in Afghanistan. He is the second combat casualty from Sarnia—Lambton from this mission after last year's tragic death of Private William Cushley.

They represent the first combat deaths for Sarnia—Lambton since the Korean war, where Canadians gave hope to, in those days, the poorest people on earth. Now Canadians are giving hope to today's most downtrodden in Afghanistan.

I had the honour to speak with Corporal Poland before he was deployed and he told me he joined the forces because he was inspired by what they were achieving and, above all else, he believed in this mission.

The Poland family members have stated that they do not want their son's death to be the cause of any wavering will or political opportunism concerning the worthiness of the mission in Afghanistan.

My sincere condolences go to Don and Pat, brother Mark and all other family and friends.

TradeStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently North American automakers came out against the proposed free trade deal with South Korea. This follows the Canadian Auto Workers Union that earlier voiced its opposition as well. In fact, a credible economic study predicts a deal with Korea will cost between 14,000 and 33,000 well paying jobs in this country.

The auto industry used to be a backbone of our economy. Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have allowed it to disintegrate.

The statistics are grave. In the last two years we have lost over 200,000 jobs in manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec. In my region of Windsor-Essex alone, more than 10,000 auto sector jobs have disappeared and for the first time in 18 years Canada has an auto trade deficit.

Despite these job losses and devastating implications of the trade deal, the government has signalled its intention to fast track negotiations without any public debate or impact studies.

If this Conservative government is unwilling to end free trade, it must bring that deal to the House for a vote.

Hearing ImpairedStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garth Turner Conservative Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a parent based community organization that has made a difference not only in my riding but in 17 other chapters across Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Newfoundland.

VOICE for Hearing Impaired Children was established in the 1960s by parents to offer support to families with children who are deaf and hard of hearing. VOICE has made a difference in the lives of hearing impaired children by providing parental support, public education, advocacy and auditory-verbal therapy.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Halton chapter of VOICE which, because of volunteerism, was able to raise over $40,000 to ensure that hearing impaired children in my region have the opportunity to develop their ability to listen and to speak.

The website, for more information, is www.voicefordeafkids.com.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

April 19th, 2007 / 2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, through their quiet, unwavering solidarity and generosity, thousands of women and men in my riding and throughout Quebec are helping improve the quality of life of people in our community.

Volunteer work has quietly taken hold and has given our society a more human face. Each year, thousands of volunteers in Quebec give their time and talent to their favourite cause.

Last September, the Conservative government attacked the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society by slashing support programs. Its actions had a direct impact on the volunteers who humanize our society.

As this is National Volunteer Week, I want to thank and pay tribute to all the people who selflessly devote time to bettering our communities.

Human RightsStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call on all parliamentarians to join me in condemning all forms of hate speech. Unfortunately, occasionally we see hate and intolerance rear its ugly head among us.

On April 4 a small explosion outside a Jewish community centre in Montreal sent a chill as many Canadians celebrated Passover. Last week Professor Muriel Walker of McMaster University had hateful and racist slurs painted on her office door because she promoted understanding about Muslim Canadians. These acts of cowardice and hate disgust all Canadians.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the charter, I am proud that our laws and institutions stand firm against hate. Today my colleague from Etobicoke Centre will be tabling a motion to strengthen our hate laws by adding gender as an unacceptable basis for discrimination and hate.

I am calling on all parliamentarians to offer their unanimous consent to adopt this motion. Last Parliament some Conservative members refused to do so and I hope this time they will reconsider. We all must stand together against all forms of hate.