Mr. Speaker, I will simply continue my speech where I left off. Speaking of aid in Afghanistan, Canada and its allies must also channel their aid as much as possible through multilateral organizations, and in particular United Nations agencies, since this will eliminate duplication and avoid working at cross purposes.
As well, the issue of poppy cultivation is key to the economic development of Afghanistan. The illegal opium trade feeds corruption in the Afghan government and is also used to finance the Taliban insurgents. The difficulty, however, lies in the fact that the poppy crop that is the source of opium is still a lucrative means of subsistence for some Afghan growers. We must recognize that since 2002, poppy production has risen steadily. It has increased from 70,000 hectares under cultivation in 2002 to 165,000 hectares in 2006.
We therefore have to try to square the circle: how do we put an end to a crop that is the source of over 90% of the heroin in the world while at the same time making it possible for Afghans to work and earn a living? So far, the strategies used to combat this scourge have been synonymous with failure.
We believe that we must now give serious thought to a three-stage strategy. First, continue and intensify enforcement efforts against drug traffickers. Second, fund and implement programs to encourage alternative crops, while building the infrastructure needed for marketing them. And third, for a transitional period, buy the poppy harvest directly from the small farmers, for medical use.
I would also like to talk about the role Canada should play in the diplomatic realm.
One of the major problems facing the international forces in southern Afghanistan is that the Taliban have a safe haven in Pakistan. That border can be described kindly as extremely porous, and Afghanistan has never recognized the border it shares with Pakistan. Some Pashtuns who have been blithely crossing from one country to the other for millennia even want to see a “Pashtunistan” created on that border.
The government of Canada must bring more diplomatic pressure to bear on the Pakistani government to solve this problem. Pakistan is the linchpin for the consistent stability and development of Afghanistan.
At present, Pakistan is experiencing widespread political instability. Since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the country has been on the brink of a civil war, with democrats, the military and religious groups engaged in a struggle for power. Canada should use diplomacy, as far as possible, to create the conditions that are needed for stabilizing the country. If Pakistan were to descend into chaos, the impact on Afghanistan would be far-reaching.
In addition to Pakistan, we must also intensify diplomatic efforts in dealing with other actors in the region of Afghanistan, including Iran, India and China. Those countries will have to be involved in resolving the conflict and, as far as possible, in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
And last, the Afghan government, the international community and Canada must be open to negotiations with the Taliban, again, as far as possible, in order to achieve a lasting peace. Negotiations have already been held between the Afghan government and the Taliban, in September 2007. The Taliban demanded that the foreign forces leave the country in exchange for surrendering their weapons. The Afghan government refused. We must still recognize, however, that this was the first time since 2001 that the government and the Taliban had engaged in negotiations.
I want to mention a final point. Whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere, the Bloc Québécois has always supported the principle that Canada must treat prisoners humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This has hardly been the case of the detainees transferred to the Afghan authorities. Having heard about major problems and the torture of detainees, we asked repeatedly for changes to the relevant agreement between Canada and the Afghan defence department.
As a result of all the pressure exerted by the Bloc Québécois and civil society, Canada signed a second agreement with Afghanistan on the treatment of detainees on May 3, 2007.
It was an improvement on the 2005 agreement, but to be effective, it had to be vigorously enforced.
Problems persisted however, and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, eventually admitted in November 2007 that there were still cases of torture in Afghan prisons. He said his government’s record was a thousand times better that what it had been, but there were still times when people were threatened or even tortured.
The Prime Minister cannot continue to insist, therefore, that the allegations of torture are just Taliban propaganda. Canada has a duty to take action to ensure that the safety and dignity of detainees are not compromised when they are transferred to Afghan authorities.
In the Bloc’s view, there should be a framework agreement between NATO and the Afghan government on detainee transfers. It would ensure greater uniformity in the treatment of detainees and more control over what goes on in Afghan prisons.
The Bloc Québécois feels as well that, in proposing to extend this mission until December 2011 instead of ending it in February 2009 as originally intended, the Conservative government is completely disregarding the desires of the people of Quebec, who are vehemently opposed.
Our soldiers have done their part by fighting for several years in the most dangerous area in Afghanistan. Other troops should take over now, and we should turn our talents toward helping the people of Afghanistan through the training of Afghan forces, reconstruction, development and diplomacy. That is what we know how to do best.