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House of Commons Hansard #141 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

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all the only voter virus has obviously infected the NDP members. They had the audacity to stand up in the House the other night and support the government and give it an out to extend the mission in February 2009. At the same time it is rather hypocritical, if I might say, to suggest that the Liberal position has changed. The Liberal position has not changed. We had a six hour debate in May 2006. Given the politics of the government and given the situation--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

It was already extended by you guys.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

You did it.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

If you want to hear the answer, I would suggest you listen. If you in fact know the answer, do not ask the question because obviously you are not interested.

Mr. Speaker, we were confronted with a six hour debate. We had a motion. Unlike the NDP, we had a free vote on this side of the House. We believe strongly in the support of our troops.

Some would interpret that those who did not support the motion did not support the troops. Others would say to get out. At least we have a clear position. The will of Parliament spoke. Parliament said February 2009. Unless the government changes its mind, we stick to the timetable.

Your position, which is totally inexcusable, is to say we will leave. How would you operationalize that leap?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. I listened to the hon. member for Richmond Hill say “you” and “your” and kept hoping that he would stop doing so, but he did not.

We are going to move to the next question. The hon. member for Wild Rose.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, on 9/11 my wife and I sat and watched TV, as did probably the member and many others. We saw the mighty towers come down in New York City killing thousands of people, including many Canadians. It was then that most people recognized there was an evil that was existing, referred to as jihad, that wanted to kill and destroy. That became quite obvious. Many things have happened since 9/11 in other areas of the world which have indicated that this evil has been making an effort to prevail.

The only way to fight evil is with good. What we have in Afghanistan today is good men and women who are prepared to fight evil so that it never encroaches our land and our communities ever again. I commend them for that. I love every one of them for doing it. I will pray every day that they return safely from the mission.

How can any party in the House be party to an idea that we can schedule when a war will end. It is a war. It is a war against evil, and evil against the atrocities in that country which is spreading out to others. It has to be stopped.

I am proud that 36 nations are engaged in this process. I am really proud that this country has recognized the importance of that and has joined in this effort to fight evil.

To make a motion--

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Wild Rose but we do need to give the hon. member some time to respond and time has almost expired.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, the only thing I would disagree with the member on is that this is a multinational force that is there. It is not a Canadian mission alone and, therefore, even in terms of operational ability to take a different role, does not preclude that the Canadian Forces may not take a different role in another part of the country. It may not preclude we set up another provincial reconstruction team. It may not preclude other avenues.

However, in terms of the military mission in Kandahar per se, we have said very clearly that on a rotation basis we need to inform our allies that we will be leaving the engagement there, where we have now been and will continue to be until February 2009. There is nothing shameful about that.

I would conclude by suggesting that it does foreshadow what I believe about the government, which is that it has no intention of honouring February 2009.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île

In this type of debate, I always start with some warnings. The current Conservative government has a strong tendency to say that if we do not share the same opinion, it is because we do not support the troops. This is completely false. I want to explain once again, as I did last week, the importance of this type of debate. The armed forces in democratic countries are under the authority of the government. Any decisions about the future of armed forces therefore rest with civil authorities and democratic parliaments. And in democratic parliaments, not all the members of a party are always on the same side.

I think that all components of each of these parliaments should be respected, and the Parliament of Canada is no exception. We must respect the fact that in this Parliament there are four political parties, whose members are elected democratically. No one in this House has special status. We were all elected by constituents who have a point of view, a philosophy, and who are asking us to represent that point of view and philosophy in Parliament, a most appropriate place. When beginning my remarks, I always say that we must not condemn individuals or parties for not supporting our troops, because we are the ones who determine the future of the Canadian Forces, in Afghanistan and in other international theatres of operation. I thought it was important to say that right off the bat.

That being said, I have a lot of friends in the New Democratic Party and in all of the parties. Even so, sometimes, we have to tell them nicely that we do not agree with them. That is what I will try to do today, even though I like some aspects of the motion. What I just mentioned is part of the motion. Despite our disagreements, all members of this House share the same goal: we are trying to run a country in a way that respects our international commitments, freedom of speech and democracy.

The Bloc Québécois cannot support the NDP motion. We must make a logical choice because we have adopted specific policy positions throughout this debate. Initially, we supported the mission, and soldiers were sent. Then, when the Conservative government came to power, it held a very limited and brief debate that resulted in extending the mission. We asked questions about issues such as the exit strategy, the kind of equipment our soldiers would have, and how rotations would work. We asked a lot of questions that the current Minister of National Defence himself had asked when he was a member of the official opposition. We received no answers.

I would therefore like to remind those listening to us today that the Bloc Québécois did not support the extension of the mission. Subsequently, as events ensued, it became clear that the mission's mandate had to be changed. My Bloc colleagues and I all agree that the mission must be rebalanced. This can no longer be only a military mission. The development and reconstruction aspects are now, in our opinion, even more important than the military aspect. I am not saying that the military aspect does not have its place. However, based on current trends, we see increased militarization. This is why, last week, we supported the Liberal Party motion to terminate combat operations in February 2009. We believe that it remains important to keep our soldiers there. However, we would like to see the mission rebalanced as soon as possible.

At this time, the problem with the NDP motion is its rashness. In fact, the motion calls for the immediate withdrawal of the troops. Having twice gone to Afghanistan, I can assure this House that it is no small undertaking to get all the equipment and all the troops over there. It truly is not something that can be changed overnight. As a result, we cannot say that we are simply throwing in the towel and leaving. I am referring not just to transportation logistics, but also to how this would be perceived internationally.

For instance, after signing a contract to pay back a mortgage every month or to make monthly car payments, if an individual decided to stop paying, he or she would have to face the consequences. The same is true when it comes to international agreements. When a country makes a commitment to its allies to do something until a certain date, that country cannot later say that something came up and that it cannot continue. To do so would be to lose credibility.

This also gives people the perception of defeat and running away. If we leave without notice, before schedule, our Taliban adversaries, or other adversaries such as al-Qaeda, would claim victory. We would be giving up and that would be our defeat. We are not in favour of rushing this.

Now, as far as pulling out in February 2009 is concerned, I want to remind the House that NATO and the 10 other countries working with us there represent an alliance. People have to share the effort as much as possible.

The first time I went to Afghanistan I was very surprised to see that the Germans, in northern Afghanistan, had to return to camp at 8 p.m., when I know that is not the case for Canadians in the south, in Kandahar.

There is a price to pay depending on the geographic location in Afghanistan. Canada is currently paying a heavy price, and not just financially—that is the other problem.

There are many discussions at NATO. I spend a lot of time there. I attend 3 or 4 meetings a year. There is a joint financing problem at NATO. In other words, people who go to Afghanistan under the auspices of NATO pay their share. They pay for exactly what they have to pay for, such as the movement of troops, equipment and materiel. This means that when they are in a combat zone, such as Kandahar, the bill is much higher than if they were in a zone where absolutely nothing is happening. I do not want to diminish the work of the others. However, I just want to say that the financial cost and human cost should not always be shouldered by the same people.

This is what I am trying to get across to my colleagues: by advising our NATO allies of our departure in the next two years, they will have enough time to determine who will replace the Canadians.

I am not saying that all the Canadians in Kandahar will pack their bags and leave. We do not know that yet. Development and reconstruction continue to be important to us. However, it should not be just Canadians who bear the financial price and the loss of life. It is not always up to Canadians to take on the entire task. This is a very important matter that we would like to debate on a regular basis.

After speaking about the rebalancing, I may also talk about the issue of detainees. The government has decided to remain in Afghanistan until February 2009. We support terminating combat operations as of that date. However, in the meantime, we will ask for a rebalancing of the mission in terms of development and reconstruction.

The figures speak for themselves: $1.8 billion has been spent on military operations to date and $300 million invested in reconstruction and development. That is clearly not enough. There is an imbalance in terms of the financial effort. Still, we are doing better than the average calculated for the area. Unless I am mistaken, for every $1 spent on development and reconstruction $9 is spent on military operations, but Canada's ratio is $1 spent on development and reconstruction for every $6 spent on the military.

We are not yet satisfied with these figures. We believe that a better balance is required. Everyone, including NATO generals, has said so. This battle cannot be won by military force alone. If we continue along these lines, we will end up losing the battle.

That is why the Bloc Québécois does not want an early departure. It wants to give the mission a chance during the next two years. In the meantime, we must work hard on an ongoing basis to rebalance this mission.

That is the Bloc Québécois position more or less. Obviously, I must say to my NDP friends that we cannot support their motion today.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I know that the opposition member's party has a lot of respect for the United Nations. Let us consider the UN's perspective on setting deadlines that are not well thought out.

Recently, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Afghanistan, Christopher Alexander, appeared before the Standing Committee on National Defence. He said that the UN finds it ill-advised and dangerous to set deadlines unless the factors that promote instability are under control. Mr. Alexander also suggested that by rushing to get out, we offer hope to enemies of the transition.

Does my colleague agree with the opinion expressed by Mr. Alexander, the UN's representative?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have met with Mr. Alexander a number of times. He is a very intelligent man, but we should clarify his position on this issue. We do not want to get out of Afghanistan, nor do we want to set a deadline. We are involved in a war, but this war is not like the second world war, which involved many nations against one. In Afghanistan, the major issues are different and the reality on the ground is different. Thirty-six countries are involved, including 26 NATO countries. One of the advantages of the Bloc's position is that our NATO allies would know we are getting ready to leave and would be able to prepare for it. We are ready to take on some other responsibilities, but it is not always up to the same people to take on this kind of responsibilities.

The Taliban can interpret this however they like, but our position is that other allies are capable of taking over from the Canadians. That is what we are saying. Two years from now, we will no longer be involved in combat operations. Our departure will be well organized and we will begin talks with our allies so they can replace us. We may be called to contribute elsewhere in Afghanistan, and we are not yet closing the door on that possibility. Should we be called to contribute elsewhere in the world, we will have the freedom to do so.

I think that the Bloc's position is very balanced.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Bloc for his comments about the process in this place and the need for dialogue and debate. It is healthy to have differences of opinion and this is the appropriate place for that kind of discussion to take place.

We both sit on the defence committee and we had the opportunity to travel together to Kandahar to see a little of what is happening there and certainly to visit with the men and women who are serving there.

Mr. Alexander, who was referred to a bit earlier, was very clear when he came to our committee and said that one of the great failures of the process in which we are engaged and the process to which the international community agreed was that there was no comprehensive peace process as part of the Afghan Compact. He spoke very strongly to that.

I would like to hear my colleague's opinions on Mr. Alexander's statement to our committee about the need for peace negotiations and for a peace process.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to further clarify the Bloc's position. Ten minutes is sometimes not enough time to say everything.

I would like to remind my colleague that the Bloc Québécois also agrees with an international conference. I think it is time to bring together several countries, and not just have opponents of Afghanistan and Afghanistan holding talks in isolation. Everyone knows that there are very close contacts with Pakistan and Iran. So we think there should be an international conference.

I might add that the Bloc Québécois also wants a senior UN official to coordinate things, since everything is now a little disorganized. We are involved in more combat than others, who are doing more development. If someone looked at the whole situation and advised the countries on an approach, things could improve.

I am grateful that the member gave me the chance to talk about an international conference, which is very important to us.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, this issue of Afghanistan and Canada's involvement in Afghanistan is troubling. I do not like the war either. But from the beginning, I supported Canada's involvement, knowing that soldiers from Quebec would be going to Afghanistan.

It seemed to me that we had to support the American response to the events of September 11, a response justified by NATO and the United Nations. It is true that the war came out of those events. But it is also true that we saw the abuses committed by the Taliban regime, which had supported al-Qaeda.

I do not have much time, so I will go on and say that the Bloc Québécois was opposed to continuing the mission until 2009, because of the lack of information and the almost undemocratic way we were forced to vote on short notice on such an important issue.

In fact, I believe that the vast majority of Quebeckers and Canadians agree with Canada's involvement in the operation in Afghanistan. Where people started having problems was when General Hillier himself asked that Canada take on the lion's share of the defence and reconstruction mission with the army in the Kandahar region.

I am very sorry that the NDP did not support the latest Liberal motion, which we did support. Now, with the various means at our disposal, we may be convincing our NATO partners that it is other countries' turn to take responsibility for the most dangerous regions. I would remind hon. members that this is a NATO mission, a UN mission.

We all know that the war will not be won militarily, but through reconstruction and development in a secure environment. We have no choice: we must ensure that security. But we must also strike a balance between our security efforts and the time, money and resources we spend on reconstruction, development and democracy. Many problems need to be addressed.

In committee, where we are looking at the question of Afghanistan, we have heard from a number of experts who have given a full account of all the problems. Frankly, the overall picture gives no indication that, in two years' time, the Afghan government will be able to assume full control of the country, ensure its defence, reconstruction and, above all, democracy, and drive out corruption and corrupt individuals. We have repeatedly been told that the biggest problems are the lack of viable institutions, justice, and police officers, and the presence of rampant corruption, beginning with the government and even in the legal system, as some experts told us today. What the Afghan people need is hope.

It must be understood—and many polls have shown—that the Afghan people prefer foreigners. In fact, Canadians are not viewed as being different from any other foreigners. However, the Afghan people are not sure whether they are going to stay. I understand this argument and I think it is important. This is why I supported the Liberal motion. The allied forces must stay to ensure the reconstruction, development and safety of the country.

It is not up to Canada alone to take on NATO's job in the dangerous Kandahar region. The NATO partnership will crumble. The Canadians have been told that they cannot leave Kandahar to go to another region because that would raise doubts amongst the Taliban and the Afghan people, and NATO would then have to increase its efforts even further or face serious problems.

Strategy is extremely important, and the Taliban, supported by the powerful Pakistani secret service—this is what has been repeated over and over again—certainly know that. I am very sorry that a proposal was put forward for the safe and immediate withdrawal of the Canadian Forces. Such a withdrawal is, I think, impossible. I would like to hear my hon. colleague, who sits on the Standing Committee on National Defence, say that this is possible.

At this time it is not possible to announce that we are leaving. This is where political work has to be done. We could have worked on this together, politically, in international associations and anywhere there are parliamentarians. We could have said that we will stay for the reconstruction and development, but that it is time for others to go to the south, to the dangerous regions. I think this could be done in a NATO partnership. Let us not forget that Afghanistan is a first for NATO and the United Nations. They are trying to find real ways to help a country in this situation—and God knows there are many ways—to rebuild and to take charge of their own future. Indeed, that is our opinion, but we do not want Canada to take on the full burden when it should be shared by NATO.

Before I wrap up, I want to say that there is a long way to go before Afghanistan is ready to take charge of its own future. Reconstruction, which has barely begun, and economic development are necessary, but the priority is democratic development. The government is weak and is often criticized for being corrupt. It is rather difficult to end corruption if you have a reputation for being corrupt. As an expert witness said in committee, the government will have to clean house to be viable and to truly help the country. Finding a solution to the corruption problem is essential, especially when it comes to drug money and, for that matter, our money, which is not always used for its intended purpose.

As far as drugs are concerned, the Bloc proposed—and so have many others—buying the crops to produce medically used narcotics. I even heard one expert say that we should simply buy them to prevent them from being used. How much would that cost? It would cost a lot less to buy the crops than to deal with the consequences. Farmers produce these crops because they do not have other options. The money from the crops does not go back to the producers. Most of the money from these crops goes to the middleman and, quite likely, the warlords.

Some say that if we buy the farmer's crop, no matter what we do with it, the farmer will have some money while he waits for alternatives to be found. Alternatives do exist—for example, fruit production—and they must be developed. We know that roadways are needed for this. Therefore, the important work of reconstruction, development and tackling corruption must be carried out. This requires the coordination of aid. The Bloc Québécois proposed that a United Nations representative be involved. The coordination of aid has been very beneficial in other countries in terms of making effective use of the money available.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's comments today in the House of Commons and I know we agree on several aspects around this mission. I want to ask her a specific question. For six years the Americans have been involved in counter-insurgency fighting in the south of Afghanistan and in other parts of the country as well. It has not been successful. We can acknowledge it has increased the insecurity in that region of the country.

Therefore, I question the statements the member made that we must stay in this counter-insurgency combat mission for another two years. Our motion does not say that we would not support the Afghans in every way possible. We are saying that this counter-insurgency mission is not the right way to go. It has led to the loss of many Canadian lives as well as Afghan lives.

The Dutch are doing it differently in the south and I am sure she is aware of the way they are doing it. However, I want to make it clear that in no way has the New Democratic Party ever said that we should abandon the people of Afghanistan. We have said there is a better way to do it and that is what this motion encompasses.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her comments and her question, but I will read the motion, which states:

—to begin withdrawing Canadian Forces now in a safe and secure manner from the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan;

They are there because of a plan, the NATO plan. Had we had a debate or had we rejected the government motion, we could have debated a slow transformation of the mission so as to not convey this message. I believe that if Canada were to leave now, as a result of such a motion, the message would be that we were abandoning the mission and after that others would follow suit. It is extremely important for the Taliban, and those who support them, to know that what we want is to work on the reconstruction of that country by recognizing that it is their government and their country that must take charge of their own affairs and as quickly as possible.

In my opinion, we cannot begin the safe withdrawal of Canadian Forces at this time. Where would these forces be? The NDP wants to abandon Kandahar but I believe that this is not possible.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it boggles my mind that the NDP members are saying we need to move out right now, but we want to stay for construction, to build Afghanistan. They are saying we want to stay there, build there, but we want to leave now and they call it counter-insurgency.

The problem is that we have a group of people there who do not believe in human rights and who do not believe in peaceful means. So if Canada withdraws today, this is a test case for our international commitment. This is the first time the international community, NATO, the UN, has come together.

That is the party that always says to stand behind the UN resolutions, stand behind the UN. Here is a UN mandated mission and for the first time the credibility of Canada, NATO and the international community is at stake.

The member rightly pointed out that the people of Afghanistan call us foreigners and they want to see what foreigners are achieving. So we have to achieve, but who will provide the security? Who will provide the security if we follow the motion that the NDP has proposed? I would like to know who will provide that security? Do NDP members really expect that the Taliban is going to say “great, okay now we'll join with you in the reconstruction”?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Ken Epp

I am sorry to interrupt but the time is waning.

The hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île, please, a short answer.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I have two answers to the question. As I said earlier, this mission is extremely important because it is a new way of doing things. I heard the NATO secretary say so during a press conference. This is the first time that several NATO member nations have shared responsibility for a reconstruction project.

It is also true that a different strategy could have been adopted. Nevertheless, we cannot change our tactics right in the middle of things. That is why I think that the NDP motion, which suggests that we “begin withdrawing Canadian Forces now in a safe and secure manner”, would be interpreted as abandonment—

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.

Having a legal background myself, I would like to address some of the issues that have arisen, particularly in the last several months in terms of our responsibility as a country under the international law system for the planet and the risks with which we are faced because of our conduct in the treatment and the handling of prisoners in Afghanistan.

The law is quite clear, internationally, under the Geneva Convention, on how prisoners are to be treated. We are long past the day when it was accepted practice in warfare to simply kill opponents under any circumstances, including when they had been captured and were defenceless from any further battle undertaking. We are away beyond that, and the convention that we have worked on as a country and with our allies internationally is quite clear on what we are supposed to be doing. Equally clear is that we have not done that.

We see the ridiculous circumstance of what happened yesterday at committee with the Defence Minister making up policy literally at the end of the meeting on the run. For a country with Canada's history and reputation in the international community, that is just simply indefensible and an embarrassment.

Just a few weeks ago I was at Vimy for the commemoration of that battle which has significance to us as a country in the role that our military played. Going back 90 years, even then we should look at how we handled prisoners of war. We did not just turn them over knowingly.

Much as we hear denials from the government all the way up to the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, and Minister of Public Safety that we they do not really know, that they are not sure what is going on, that is not true. It is as simple as that. We do know, even though we try to hide that from the Canadian public. We do know what is going on.

Again, I think back to the way our soldiers, our military, conducted themselves 90 years ago at Vimy and the way they treated prisoners. Then we see the government and our military leadership, I will include them in this, brazenly ignore international law. They ignore their responsibilities.

There is a historical imperative here for this country that is being ignored by the government. I hear the Minister of Public Safety try to justify our unwillingness, our incompetency, because the other side are bad guys. We should stop and think about the logic of what he is saying. He is saying that because they are bad guys, we should be bad guys too. The justification that the end justifies the means should never lie in the mouth of a Canadian politician and certainly not in the minister's mouth.

We have a responsibility, a historical responsibility, to always take the high road. We cannot allow, ever, our public policy, our foreign affairs policy, or our military policy to degenerate to the level of what we are fighting, never. We cannot allow ourselves to do that.

It is happening. We read some of the letters to the editors of our newspapers across this country and we hear the same argument that came out of the mouth of that minister. He says that they are bad guys, they kill men, women and children, so we should not treat them humanely. That is assuming of course that the people we have in custody are those same people, which of course is a false assumption, in all cases. We hear that we should not care that when we turn them over to some other force or state authority that they are going to be tortured and sometimes summarily executed. We should not worry about that. It is not our concern.

In fact, it is our concern. It is our responsibility. It is our legal responsibility under international law, conventions that we have signed onto going back decades and decades. There is nothing new here. This has always been our responsibility since we signed on and we are abrogating that responsibility.

I want to say in particular on this point how utterly angry I was at the Prime Minister when he stood in this House and repeatedly said, as have other ministers of the Crown, that by raising these points we are exposing our soldiers, our troops, to charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

I want to be very clear to the Prime Minister and to his government. It is not our troops we are talking about here. It is his government that we are talking about. If we in fact have, as I believe we have, crossed over the line, then we have aided and abetted with torture. We know about it. We are aiding and abetting it. We have crossed the line. I believe that, but it is not our soldiers who are doing that. It is the government.

It did not put in place the proper agreements in the first place and when it found out, and it has known now for certainly months if not years, what in fact was going on in terms of the treatment of the prisoners, it did not move on that.

Therefore, it is complicit. The government is complicit not our soldiers. Our soldiers are doing their jobs as they are directed by their superiors. They are not responsible here. The government is.

Where does this come from? We are burying ourselves in this and so we end up in these kinds of quandaries. It goes back to the very basic nature of this mission.

It was interesting to hear one of the speakers from Calgary, in his questions and comments, saying that this is a new experience. We are hearing the same thing from the Bloc. It is not, really. Any number of other governments, other state authorities, have tried to fight state insurgency. They have tried it in this country repeatedly.

We can go back to Alexander the Great if we want to, certainly going back to the British in the 1860s and the Americans more recently. We can look at all the insurgencies that we have tried to fight, whether on an ideological basis or an economic basis, and they do not work.

The very essence of this mission is one that is doomed to failure. We can go from the second world war and look at every single one, I think with maybe one exception that I am aware of, and that was the one in Malaysia where the British used just horrendous tactics to put that down.

One might argue that one was ultimately successful, but barring that one, there has not been one, not one. The best example, of course, we can point to is Vietnam and that is what we are doing. We are repeating that. Or we can point to Iraq and we are repeating that.

When we do that, we bury ourselves and we get ourselves caught in this situation where we are breaking international law. This country's reputation for decades to come will suffer as a result.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member was talking about history. Let us go back in history.

It was the leader of that party at that time who actually did not want Canadians to be involved in World War II. He did not want to fight Hitler. The leader at that given time said no. That party is known for coming up with situations which are very idealistic but which are not what is really happening out there.

Let me ask the member a simple question. If I were the Taliban, if I were looking at what is happening here today and the motion we have here, I would say I am going to target Canadian soldiers because every time I target Canadian soldiers, and unfortunately there is a loss of life, this party gets up to speak and wants to call them home. If I were the Taliban, that would be the strategy because the Taliban knows it could easily get this party to go out there screaming and shouting that the whole mission is wrong.

I can also say that if we ever pull out of there, this would be one of the major disasters because the NDP is actually asking the Taliban to target Canadians. It is actually not stopping the insurgency, but really it is helping the Taliban win the insurgency.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to avoid categorizing that question when I really would like to. If he believes that, then he is just grossly ignorant of the history of Afghanistan and the insurgencies that have gone on there.

Does the member really think, whether it is the Taliban or the entire country that fought against Russia, that out small force will make a difference?

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

You don't know of the Taliban. Go learn the history of the Taliban.

Opposition Motion—AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

I do know the history, Mr. Speaker. I have read the history of Afghanistan repeatedly. I understand the motivation that is coming from it but I obviously do not agree with it .

Are we going to make one iota of difference there? This is not a peacekeeping mission. This is not even a policing mission. Our soldiers are on a search and destroy mission, a mission that was not decided by them but by the Conservative government.