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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was national.

Topics

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:45 p.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, that letter eloquently read by my colleague from Blackstrap certainly speaks to the reason why we need to be in Afghanistan.

It is the Afghan people who are calling for help. It is Afghanistan that we are listening to. It is that country that is in need and looking to the world for leadership. Canada has answered that call, along with 39 other countries, and we have said that we have a role to play in standing up for what is right. I think it is certainly appropriate for the member for Blackstrap to read that letter for us.

It is also interesting to note that as we discuss Afghanistan here today, and when I look at this chamber, there are Conservative members who are eager to participate and express support for this. Hopefully we will see those who object to the mission showing up as well.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

10:50 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, this Thursday evening, parliamentarians will decide whether or not Canadian Forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2009 and, if they do, what will be their role. The premises for this decision are many and are included in the preamble to the motion.

Originally, Canada signed up for the UN mandated and NATO-led mission. In 2002, it joined the international coalition fighting the Taliban following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; in 2003, it provided 2,000 soldiers to manage ISAF; in 2005, it assumed responsibility for the provincial reconstruction team in Kandahar province; from February 2006 to 2007, it deployed a combat group of 1,200 soldiers in Kandahar and, subsequently, following the signing of the Afghanistan compact, there was the prospect of a more comprehensive strategy known as the three Ds.

There is a great deal of scepticism about whether we will leave the Afghans with a country that has better government, is no longer at war and is safer after helping them to rebuild. Parliamentarians must decide if Canada is to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2009 in order to help that country to determine its own future. We must decide if we believe that training Afghan troops, providing assistance for a true reconstruction effort and helping establish governance will give Afghans their own nation.

The House is preparing to authorize the extension of the mission in Afghanistan until 2011. This extension will have conditions that could significantly alter the mission after 2009. If these conditions are of paramount importance to the citizens who elected us, they are of even greater importance to the military personnel and civilians working in the Kandahar region, among others.

These conditions are crucial because they will refocus the mission by accelerating training of the Afghan army and ensuring that we address the major development difficulties faced by Afghanistan rather than focus on a counter-insurgency mission.

Let us be clear: after 2009, the mission can no longer be about hunting the Taliban. Obviously there may be some combat. How can that be avoided without leaving innocent people to die? The military mission will focus above all on training soldiers and protecting civilians who are risking their lives to rebuild the country.

The soldiers in Kandahar are carrying out a difficult but unfortunately essential task. When we talk about securing a region, we are talking about a combat mission. It is a matter of neutralizing the Taliban because they will continue to attack the regions the Canadian Forces are responsible for in Kandahar province through guerrilla and suicide attacks.

The Canadian Forces are there to protect Afghan civilians. However, the dynamic of the mission has to change because this strategy no longer works for the long term. We know that the Taliban are hiding and training in Pakistan. We also know that they are being financed through opium revenues and that NATO's strategy in this regard is counter-productive. We know that the Taliban have to lose these strategic advantages and be seen for what they are by the Afghan people, in other words the worst possible alternative.

For this change to be successful, the Afghan army has to be able to protect citizens, and the economic and security conditions truly need to be improved. Those are the objectives the mission must achieve. We have to give combat soldiers, and civilians involved in reconstruction the economic and diplomatic means to bring about this change. They need a little more time to carry out their mission with the necessary success we are hoping for.

I would like to provide some background to help people better understand Canada's presence in Afghanistan and the means used so far for rebuilding a viable Afghanistan. First, Afghanistan is not Iraq. This distinction is important. This means that we are in Afghanistan in accordance with international law.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty authorizes a country attacked on its own soil, as the United States was on September 11, 2001, to request help from other NATO members.

Operation Enduring Freedom, which removed the Taliban from power, was legitimate from an international law point of view, and few opposed it. However, overthrowing the Taliban did not bring instant lasting peace to the Afghan people.

Soldiers were sent to bring peace to the country. As we all know, traditionally, the blue berets, under the UN, were deployed to separate parties in conflict. This type of operation worked during the cold war.

Today, conflicts are resulting in more and more civilian deaths. These are transnational conflicts, civil wars, not conflicts fought by armies.

Afghanistan is a little different from other countries to which Canada has sent troops, because in this case, coalition forces overthrew a government that supported terrorism and trampled human rights.

However, recent peacekeeping operations have shown the limits and shortcomings of this kind of operation in civil war zones. Interposition forces failed in Bosnia, where the UN was unable to prevent Srebrenica and so many other massacres. The blue berets failed so badly in Somalia that soldiers themselves were traumatized. The blue berets also failed in Rwanda, where General Dallaire could not prevent the genocide because his hands were tied by his restricted mandate. These examples show that traditional peacekeeping does not work in these kinds of situations.

Does that mean we should turn a blind eye to people who are in difficult situations? Do wealthy countries have a responsibility to help oppressed peoples?

Regardless of skepticism about a mission that was initiated by an American administration that is, it must be said, unpopular with most Canadians and Quebeckers, the Afghan people need security.

Given the current state of the country, we have to admit that only an appropriate military presence supporting reconstruction efforts will result in real opportunities for success. The success of this mission is paramount. Failure would be extremely bad for NATO and for the credibility of other commitments we make to help people in difficult situations.

Nobody wants to see another Rwanda. To avoid potential tragedies, we need strong diplomatic action combined with the use of force to protect citizens. Moreover, it is the threat of force, the very possibility of it, that will prevent the kind of abuse that governments or military leaders might perpetrate against civilians.

Although this mission is important, the information we receive about this country, including the Manley report, indicates that the situation is very difficult and that the priorities are not well defined.

The motion we will be voting on sets conditions for the House to agree to extend the mission. Since we know that the solution is not strictly military, we need to redirect the mission towards rebuilding and solving correctional, legal and economic problems. We must play our diplomatic role to resolve regional problems. The Government of Canada must be completely transparent in order to keep the public and parliamentarians informed about the mission.

We must certainly not hand the Conservatives a blank cheque. On the contrary, we must ensure that they follow through on their commitments, as laid out in the motion, and for which they will be held accountable.

Although I am skeptical, as are many of my colleagues, I think we must consider the security needs of the Afghan people, our international obligations, our commitments and the hope to one day see the dictators of this world dethroned, because oppressed people will be able to trust in an international brotherhood that will not let its fellow brothers suffer with impunity.

Everyone will understand that I am in favour of this motion. Even if I am not able to be here on Thursday for reasons beyond my control, to be with my mother, who is gravely ill, I wanted my constituents to know that I am in favour of this motion. I am accountable to them; they have a right to know the reasoning behind my vote.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

I listened carefully to my hon. colleague.

I do thank my hon. colleague for her comments, and offer my condolences on the upcoming session with her mother.

I do appreciate my colleague's dedication to the debate, to come out late at night and speak her piece. That is commendable. She is obviously a very strong, independent women and I know she appreciates the value of women's rights and freedoms in a country like Afghanistan and in a country like Canada.

I agree with her that it is not just a military solution. No one has ever said that. It will be a whole-of-government solution, as we have said all along. I appreciate her appreciation of the military element of that.

The question I have goes along with the political side. We talk about the Taliban having a free haven in areas of Pakistan. In the recent elections in the northwest territorial province, the ANP Party recently ousted the Taliban-friendly party. I am wondering if she has a comment on what effect that might have in making it a little less easy for the Taliban to regroup back in Pakistan.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question and his comments.

We must not fool ourselves. Personally, I read a great deal before making a decision, as I always do. I like to get to the bottom of things, and I am sure most of my hon. colleagues do the same. Where the Taliban come from and where they can hide in complete security is a real problem. From time to time, we read in the newspapers that Pakistani authorities have announced that they have discovered a second, third or fourth right-hand man of a leader. Soon it will be the sister-in-law and brother-in-law.

Unfortunately, I must say, I take this with a grain of salt, because I think that every effort necessary to really help a country like Afghanistan must be made. As everyone knows, this all goes back to the Middle Ages. A tremendous amount of work needs to be done and it should not be taken for granted that any progress will be made quickly. I think work needs to be done, but the most important thing is to make sure that the Afghan people and their government find a way over the years, through governance, to ensure that everything is done as democratically as possible and to create a regime that works for them and includes respect for human rights. Clearly, we must trust them and they must trust each other. One would certain hope this can happen, because we really must withdraw from that country by 2011.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, like the member for Edmonton Centre, I would like to congratulate my colleague and thank her for her participation as an independent member.

I completely agree with the comments she has made in the House of Commons. She obviously has a good understanding of the situation and of Canada's reasons for participating in this international mission. It is also clear that she understands the contribution that Canada and other countries are making to this NATO and UN mission, as well as the collaboration that goes on to improve the quality of life of the Afghan people.

I would like to ask her a specific question. Does she think it is possible to have more development or to make an effort to improve human rights without security? Is that possible? My question is simple. Does she think there is a real link between the efforts of the military forces on the ground in Afghanistan, the efforts to increase development and the efforts to rebuild Afghanistan?

I think it is impossible to do all those things without security.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:05 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his question.

I believe I mentioned that. When the minister rereads my speech tomorrow, he will see that I recognize that there has to be security. Security will be provided by the military. Our soldiers will not take off all their gear and go to work on reconstruction projects as civilians. I believe that everyone recognizes that if we are in Afghanistan, we are going to have to provide security. This is very clear to me, and the minister knows that better than anyone.

It is extremely important that we abide by this motion and provide assistance for development and better governance. I mentioned various points. We must help the Afghan people rebuild and get their country back. I do not mean that they do not have a country. They have been there for centuries. It is very important that we help them, but it is the Afghan people who will make the decisions, with NGOs and various countries that provide assistance. They must decide how they are going to rebuild with our help.

It is very important for us that the minister and his colleagues report to us and tell us, for example, how the money is being spent. I have heard a lot of criticism this week. People have asked: how many roads are there? How many schools are there? It is the government's duty to provide figures. It can keep sensitive defence matters to itself, but there are things we should know about and the public should know about, for example: we are making progress here; this is what we are doing there; this is how far we have come. And we need the whole truth. In my opinion, it is essential to tell people these things as a way of earning their trust.

This morning when I was reading the newspaper, I was dumbfounded to see that two days before the vote, suddenly they were talking about the budget. Who provided them with the documents? Who made sure this was disclosed to undermine, yet again, our vote, our motion and our participation? There are extraordinary things that happen at opportune moments when it comes to information.

To come back to the minister's question, we have to make sure that people are protected if we want them to make progress. That goes without saying. We also have to remember in the future when there are similar conflicts—and we hope there will not be—that we will have this same mentality, this same desire to help and that we have to stay the course and not get involved simply for various ideological reasons.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the question I have concerns making peace with the Taliban in order to make peace in Afghanistan. This has been raised by the members of the NDP who believe that somehow we should engage the Taliban, bring them to the table, that is where the disconnect is, and that the international security of assistance forces should be brought in to speak to the Taliban.

Does the member believe, as I think many of us believe, that would almost be impossible? I wonder if she has any comment on that.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, in short, I would say that even it if is very difficult and even if we are unlikely to succeed, I think we must at least try. As is the case for any group with individuals who are relatively or very extremist, there may be one or two whose views are closer to our own. That may well be. We should at least explore that possibility.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:10 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeSecretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to enter into this historic debate on behalf of my constituents in Calgary Southeast.

Tonight and yesterday, certain members of this place have questioned why Canadian troops, aid workers and diplomats are in Afghanistan. I would like to begin by offering 23 reasons. These are the names of the Canadians who were killed by terrorists in attacks planned from Afghanistan on September 11, 2001:

Michael Arczynski, a 45-year-old Canadian from Montreal; Garnet Bailey, a 53-year-old Canadian from Lloydminster, Saskatchewan who was aboard flight 175; David Barkway, a 34-year-old from Toronto; Ken Basnicki, a 47-year-old father from Toronto and many members of this House, myself included, know and are friends of his surviving wife, Maureen; Joseph Collison of Toronto; Cynthia Connolly of Montreal; Arron Dack, a 39-year-old Canadian from Toronto survived by his wife and two children; Michael Egan and his sister, Christine Egan who was visiting him from Winnipeg in the twin towers when they were struck; Albert William Elmarry, a Canadian of Egyptian origin, 30 years old from Toronto, who had recently married and was expecting his first child; Meredith Ewart and Peter Feidelberg, ages 29 and 34 respectively, a married couple who worked together on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center; Alexander Filipov, born in Regina, he is survived by three sons and his wife; Ralph Gerhardt, a 34-year-old Canadian from Toronto; Stuart Lee, a 31-year-old Canadian of Korean origin recently married; Mark Ludvigsen, a 32-year-old Canadian from New Brunswick; Bernard Mascarenhas from Newmarket, Ontario, survived by his wife Raynette, his son Sven, and his daughter Jaclyn; Colin McArthur of Montreal; Michel Pelletier survived by his three-month-old son and his two-year-old daughter; Donald Robson of Toronto; Roy Santos of British Columbia, a Canadian of Filipino origin; Vladimir Tomasevic, a 36-year-old Canadian of Croatian origin; Chantal Vincelli, a 38-year-old Canadian; and Deborah Lynn Williams, a 35-year-old Canadian young mother from Montreal.

These were the 23 Canadians that we know of whose lives were brutally and cowardly taken by vicious fanatics on September 11, 2001. I did not and cannot possibly include the many dozens of others who were murdered that day who had close affiliations with Canada; the spouses of Canadians, the sons and daughters of Canadians who may not have had citizenship, those with close connections to this country among the more than 2,000 human beings from all corners of the world, of all faiths, dozens of citizenships, who were massacred that day.

I begin with this precisely because it is too easy for us, particularly some of my friends in the New Democratic Party and Bloc Québécois to lose sight of the fundamental reasons why we are there.

We speak, as I will, of the importance of reconstruction, of defending basic rights, of women's rights, of children's rights, of creating security so that human and economic development may happen. But we need to go back from time to time and remind ourselves what it is that provoked the United Nations to authorize the use of force in Afghanistan.

Let there be no doubt. Of course, there might be some in this House who share some of the views of the so-called 9/11 truthers and the conspiracy theorists. Sometimes, if we listen really carefully, we tend to hear a little of that coming from some of my colleagues in the NDP. But let us recall that these 23 Canadians were massacred as a result of attacks that were planned over a series of years deliberately, viciously and cold-bloodedly by a network of terrorists whose principal leader was and is Osama bin Laden. These attacks were planned in the failed state of Afghanistan during the leadership of the Taliban regime, which not only tolerated the presence of Osama bin Laden and the network that planned and executed these murders of Canadians, but welcomed him and welcomed the money that came with him. They welcomed him because they saw in Osama bin Laden, what was known in Afghanistan at the time as an Arab Taliban fellow traveller with a common cause.

There is so much noise around this debate that we need to remember a few basic facts. I do not think we should listen to the conspiracy theorists of the loony left. We need to understand the motivations of Osama bin Laden and his Taliban hosts in Afghanistan in planning and executing these murders of Canadians and others. We simply need to listen to his own words, and those of Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the other leadership of al-Qaeda and their affiliated networks.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mullah Omar.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:15 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mullah Omar, the still wanted former leader of the Taliban regime. What they explicitly and repeatedly have called for is the creation of a worldwide caliphate essentially based on eighth century principles, as seen through an extreme, brutal and violent form of Wahhabi Salafist militant jihadi Islam.

Let me make a distinction here. As the secretary of state responsible for multiculturalism in our cultural communities, I believe that the vast majority of Canadians, virtually all Canadians, are able to make a distinction between the vast majority of Canadian Muslims and those who observe Islam throughout the world, and the small extreme fringe who seek to pervert Islam to advance their own violent ideology.

The point is this. The critics of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, under the auspices of the United Nations in a coalition of some 36 other nations, would have us believe that we are there as hostile belligerents in some kind of a civil war context, and that our enemy seems to be a somewhat legitimate expression of Pashtun nationalism, and that if we could only sit down and understand the tribal aspirations and the competing nationalisms, we could all sit around and work things out. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the struggle.

Those whom our troops and others under the auspices of ISAF are confronting in Afghanistan do not seek peace. They seek out conflict. They do not regard peace as a virtue. They do not regard the cessation of hostilities as an objective. Their objective is the construction of a worldwide caliphate, and for their purposes, they would like that to begin again in Afghanistan.

We need to understand the mentality by listening to their own words. The man who is most responsible for the planning of these attacks against Canadians and others from Afghanistan, Sheikh Osama bin Laden, I think on three separate occasions, has explicitly identified Canada as one of his principal enemies.

This country and the good peaceful people of Canada did nothing to offend Sheikh bin Laden, Mullah Omar, or their like-minded allies.

The 23 Canadians who went to work, or went to visit family, or boarded flights that day, September 11, 2001, they were not enemies of any religion, of any people, of any country, of any nationality, of Pashtun nationalism, or of Islam in Afghanistan. They were peaceful loving mothers, fathers, husbands and wives who simply were trying to go about their business.

The same is true of the aid workers and diplomats who put their lives on the line every single day in Afghanistan for Canada and other countries across the world. They are not seeking out conflict. They are risking their lives to help save the lives of others, to ensure that Afghanistan does not yet again become a failed state where these sorts of attacks can once more be planned. The people who seek to drag Afghanistan back into the eighth century, back into the metaphorical dark ages, do not seek peace.

One of the things that most infuriates me in this debate is when I hear particularly members of the NDP refer to the strategy of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan as being characterized as “seek and destroy”, and that we must stop the “seek and destroy” nature of the military mission in Afghanistan. That is an obscenity.

Our troops are not there to destroy anyone. They are there to protect innocent people. Yes, occasionally that does require the use of force, but as often as not our troops in Afghanistan who have been the victims of casualties were not even engaged in active offensive posture combat. They were delivering aid. They were the troops who were delivering notebooks and pencils to Afghan children in a village when a suicide bomber arrived. They were people like Lieutenant Trevor Greene, now Captain Trevor Greene who was struck on the back of the neck at a sit-down shura meeting with tribal elders in March 2006.

Captain Green was not engaged in a seek and destroy mission. He was engaged in precisely the kind of peacekeeping that the NDP exhorts ought to be the centre of our mission in Afghanistan. He was sitting down in a small tribal shura in a village in rural Kandahar. As a sign of respect to the village elders, he removed, at the risk of his own life, his helmet. That is a metaphor for the role of Canada in Afghanistan. It did not stop some fanatic who seeks violence and not peace from striking Captain Greene on the head in an effort to kill him because he was an infidel, because he represented an effort to move the people of Afghanistan to a condition of basic respect for human rights and human dignity.

After the attacks that I have spoken about, after these 23 Canadians and thousands of others were killed, the United Nations took action. In fact, on the next day, September 12, 2001, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1368, which expressed the readiness of the United Nations to take all necessary steps to respond to the terrorist attacks and to combat all forms of terrorism in accordance with its responsibilities under the charter of the United Nations.

Subsequent to that, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1373 and resolution 1386, all of them under Chapter VII of the UN charter, authorizing the establishment of the International Security Assistance Force to assist the Afghan interim authority in the maintenance of security in Kabul and the surrounding areas, et cetera, and the renewal of those authorities in resolutions 1413, 1444, 1510, 1563, 1623, 1659, 1707, 1746, and resolution 1707 most recently.

Why do I mention those specifically? Because again and again we hear the repetition from the NDP and friends of theirs in the loony left that this is some kind of a hostile, unilateral “invasion of Afghanistan”, without multilateral authorization.

Let us not forget that what the NDP and the Bloc Québécois are really trying to do is get Canada to withdraw unilaterally from a multilateral mission. These two parties and many other observers say that Canada should end its participation in a UN-mandated multilateral mission.

Either we believe in multilateralism and walk the talk or we do not, but let us be clear. The position of some in this House is that Canada should withdraw itself, and I think permanently damage its credibility in the councils of nations of the world, by saying that we are no longer a reliable partner in multilateral security and peacemaking.

It is not only the UN Security Council. As members know, of course, we are there at the invitation of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan. The six brave women members of the Afghan parliament who joined us here in Ottawa last week reminded us that we are there at not just the invitation but the exhortation of the citizens of Afghanistan, particularly its women.

Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said that the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is “the single most important international security mission in the world today”.

Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, said in a recent op-ed:

Almost more dismaying is the response of some outside Afghanistan, who react by calling for a disengagement or the full withdrawal of international forces. This would be a misjudgment of historic proportions, the repetition of a mistake that has already had terrible consequences.

He went on:

Our collective success depends on the continuing presence of the International Security Assistance Force, commanded by NATO and helping local governments in nearly every province to maintain security and carry out reconstruction projects.

Finally, he said:

The Afghan government has far to go before it regains control of its own destiny, but that day will come. It is hard work. There is little glory. It requires sacrifices. And that is why we are there.

This is not a member of this government speaking. This is not a member of the Canadian Forces speaking. This is the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I would like to ask certain members of this House, who pretend to be champions of multilateralism, how they can possibly look at themselves in the mirror when they want Canada, for all practical purposes, to withdraw from what the United Nations Security Council and Secretary-General have said are the sine qua non of international security. The credibility of the United Nations will fall or stand by the success or failure of the mission in Afghanistan.

Let us be clear. The entire concept of multilateral cooperation in international security is being put to the test every day in Afghanistan.

If we pull out, not only will we be abandoning the women and children of Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Taliban, not only will we be giving a moral and practical victory to those violent extremists who seek to impose a vicious theocracy on many parts of the world, and not only will we be doing a dishonour to the memory of those Canadians whose lives were taken by those attacks planned on 9/11, but we would be saying that Canada has lost faith in the United Nations and multilateralism as a basis for solving international security challenges.

In closing, I implore all members of this House and Canadians who value Canada's role in the world and believe that we owe it to these 23 Canadians to stand proud with our men and women, our diplomats, our aid workers and our forces, to let them finish the job.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:30 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk for a minute about the importance of this debate and then get my colleague's comments on it.

First, I have to say that I truly enjoyed his remarks. I wish more people could be present to hear them.

It was a little less than 18 years ago that I was in the gallery. I was in uniform at the time. I was here planning a potential deployment of CF-18s to “Gulf War I”, a deployment which eventually took place and liberated the people of Kuwait.

The debate that night, which was a little earlier than this one, was on whether Canada should participate in that mission. It was enlightening for me to sit in the gallery and listen to the debate. The House was certainly not full, but there were quite a number of people present from all parties. There was lively debate back and forth.

It was quite interesting for me as a military member and a Canadian to listen to the debate. The value of these kinds of things and those kinds of events in this place really struck me, never thinking for a minute in my wildest dreams that I would actually be here 18 years later participating in the same thing.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague about the importance of debates like this as an expression of democracy and a commitment that this Prime Minister and this government made to allow parliamentarians from all parties to participate in hours and hours of debate on this very important question before Canada, the most important question that Canada has had to answer in a very long time.

I would like my hon. colleague's thoughts on the importance of the debate and the importance of all party participation in this event.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, that question could not have come from a better member, because I think that particular member walks the talk. Not only did he walk the talk by proudly wearing the uniform of this country for most of his adult life and then seeking to serve his country in this Parliament, but he has walked the talk in these debates by sitting through every single hour of the current debate, some 30 hours, and all of those that preceded it in this Parliament. He deserves credit.

The member for Edmonton Centre is an example of how parliamentarians should discharge their duty with dignity. Our troops both here and abroad who may be following this debate will see in him the encouraging sign of a responsible parliamentarian.

He raises a very sound point. I am glad to see that we apparently have the basis of a consensus between the government and the official opposition on the motion, which follows the principal recommendations of the Manley commission, but I was discouraged, even through the course of this debate, to hear members of the Liberal Party criticizing this government for supposedly not having had sufficiently robust consultation, parliamentary debate, information and transparency. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sometimes the Prime Minister is accused of centralizing things and for reserving all decisions as executive powers and so forth. However, this is the first Prime Minister, and members may correct me if I am wrong, since the second world war who has taken the historically exclusive power of the executive in matters of war and peace and has offered to be bound by a decision of the House of Commons. This is an historic debate leading to an historic vote that we did not, quite frankly, necessarily have to have.

Let us not forget that the official opposition, when it was in government, committed to the Kandahar mission, and committed before that to ISAF and the whole UN process in Afghanistan, without a vote in this place. This will be the second vote on this matter, and both of those votes will have occurred under this government, this most recent after some 30 hours of debate.

My colleague, the Minister of National Defence, tells me that he and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and colleagues have appeared some 14 times--

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Seventeen.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Seventeen times before standing committees of the House to discuss these issues.

Our government has had how many technical briefings?

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Fifteen.

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11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

It has had 15 technical briefings on this matter of our mission in Afghanistan. We have done everything we can to help try to inform the public debate, most notably by the Prime Minister's appointment of the Manley commission and entrusting it to the former deputy leader of our principal political opposition.

There obviously is room for disagreement about this, which is precisely why we are having the debate, but it is completely not factual to suggest, as some have, that this government has not been willing to listen to and in fact be bound ultimately by the opinions of parliamentarians as the representatives of Canadians.

AfghanistanGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity, for a very articulate and informed contribution to this important debate. I could not agree with him more and I would associate myself with the glowing comments that he made about the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.

I want to go back to one of the important elements that he spoke of and that is the human impact and the human face of the issues that we are discussing here, the impact that it has on Canada and the impact that this debate and Canada's participation continues to have on the people of Afghanistan.

My colleague referenced the important memory of the 23 Canadians who lost their lives and the many others who were affected. He referenced as well the appearance here just last week of six courageous female Afghan members of Parliament. It was an unthinkable occurrence just a few years ago that women could be democratically elected, let alone even vote in that country. Yet, here they were, proudly representing their country, making representations to the Canadian people which could be summed up in one word: help. They wanted the continued assistance of the Canadian people so they could in turn continue to provide inspiration, hope and help to their people.

I have a simple question. I would ask my friend to elucidate further, for those tuned in to this debate, as to the actual human assistance and impact being imparted to Afghanistan and what that does for the children, the women and the men of Afghanistan, in empowering them with the ability to do more, to build their own country and to put their children and their children's children in a better place.

Canadians need to understand how much we have contributed to the building of a country to give it some of the very same rights and privileges that we enjoy in this country.

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11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the defence minister for his tremendous leadership on this historic matter.

I, too, was moved when I met the six women Afghan parliamentarians last week because it reminded me and, I think, all of us who had that opportunity, that we take so easily for granted our privileges and our rights. We go about this tremendous vocation of representing the people of this country without really giving it a second thought. Just the presence of these women reminded us that every day they literally risk their lives. If any member of the Taliban could get their hands on them, these women would be dragged away and God only knows what kind of violence would be inflicted upon them.

My colleagues throughout the debate have covered all the statistics about the millions of girls in school and the small businesses that Canadian aid has helped to develop for Afghan women and the fact that 38% of the Afghan parliament consists of women. We should at least know the statistics by now.

However, as a point of comparison, I want to reference this. Before the liberation of Afghanistan in 2001, we occasionally would see grainy videos from Afghanistan broadcast in the western world. We would see women getting rounded up, brought in to the soccer stadium at Kabul and shot in the back of the head or stoned. Members of the Bloc and NDP rightly stood up and asked what we were doing to stop this.

If we did what those members wanted and pulled out of Afghanistan, believe me when I say that hundreds more women like those would be dragged back into the soccer stadiums and public spaces of Afghanistan and brutally executed, stoned to death, half buried or shot in the back of the neck for the crime of walking down the street without covering their face or without a male escort or for having spoken up and fought for the rights of Afghan women.

I predict that if we and the ISAF nations were to pull out of Afghanistan and those atrocities happened again to these Afghan women, we would be hearing from the same voices in the NDP and the Bloc asking us what we were doing to stop it and to defend the women of Afghanistan.

We are there right now defending these women and ensuring they do not get dragged back into the kind of violence that they once did not so many years ago.

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11:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened earlier this evening to some of the comments of fellow colleagues in this chamber. It is important for people back home to realize that one of the most fundamental questions we always ask on an endeavour like this is, why are we there?

I would boil it down to this. My colleague identified Afghanistan as having been a rogue state. Our purpose in many respects is to bring order to what was chaos. That is as simple an equation as I can boil this down to. I think it has tremendous value.

It is worthwhile for some of the people in this place, and those watching at home, to think of what prompted us to get into this.

I remember being phoned early on the morning of September 11. I watched the planes crash into the towers and the towers collapse. I personally had a friend who was working in downtown New York, and he still does, as an investment banker. He told me the story of walking north from those buildings, as the smoke poured out of them and as the emergency vehicles rushed in. He watched as people jumped from the upper stories of the World Trade Center. He used his shirt, his tie and various items of clothing to cover his mouth so he did not breathe in as much of the soot and the dust as what would have normally happened had he not shielded his lungs.

I was in New York one month after the towers collapsed. For the folks back home in Calgary, I want to paint this picture, and for members here I hope it will provide some sense of gravity of the situation.

We have the Petro-Canada tower in downtown Calgary. It was built when the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau nationalized Petrofina, and it is not necessarily a loved institution in our city. Nonetheless, each tower of the two complexes of the World Trade Center was twice as wide and twice as tall as the Petro-Canada tower. Each of those towers therefore represented eight times the mass of the Petro-Canada tower. When those two buildings came down, that was 16 times the size of the Petro-Canada tower.

When I was there a month later, three blocks away from the epicentre of that destruction was police tape, and nobody but emergency workers were allowed to walk in that space. Then another two blocks beyond that, for a total of five blocks, no motorized were vehicles allowed. Therefore, an area of 10 blocks, 5 blocks each side all the way around, 10 blocks by 10 blocks, 100 square city blocks, was taken out and immobilized as a result of those towers collapsing.

It was not just those two towers. All the buildings surrounding them were heavily damaged or fully collapsed as a result of the debris that came down. Every street in every direction for as far as the eye could see, nose to nose, was lined with nothing but containers, massive dumpsters, the types of things we would imagine being loaded on the barge of a ship. The containers were full of nothing but debris. I do not know whether the debris was parts of buildings, or paper, or people.

In my city, that would represent an area in downtown Calgary from the Bow River, north of the city, right down to the railway tracks in the south, to the Beltline, and from basically the car dealerships in the west, right out to the East Village and Inglewood in the east. It would be the entirety of downtown Calgary that literally was immobilized and rendered useless as a result of the collapse of those towers.

I went there both a month afterward and two months afterward. When I stood three blocks away from that epicentre a month after that incident occurred, I stood there and I watched as the steam was still venting from the epicentre. That of course made sense because New York, being the highly civilized place that it is, with all the traffic and the people and the transit cars and the subway system, and everything else that is involved was built into the granite block that is Manhattan, and there were countless electrical and natural gas and other mains operating underneath the World Trade Center. There were fires still at 1000°C burning underground causing that venting and steam. That was still the case two months later when I visited. It was less, but it was still there in evidence.

So that, in a sense, boils down one kernel to why it was crucial for us to step in. We could not allow something like that to happen again without making our best possible effort to stem it.

Since that time, I have had the honour of having people come to visit my office who have personally lost loved ones as a result of these terrorist attacks.

I know that Senator Tkachuk, in the other place, has a bill that he is putting forward on this very issue.

I had a lady sit in my office here in the East Block on Parliament Hill. She wants us to change, in a sense, the justice system to allow her and others like her to pursue civil actions against terrorist fundraisers.

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11:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Maureen Basnicki.

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11:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

Maureen Basnicki. That is right.

She sat on the couch in my office and told me about how her husband was over 100 storeys high in the World Trade Center. The reason she knows he was there is because he phoned home. She was not there to take the call, but nonetheless, somebody else let her know that he had made his best effort. He talked about how difficult it was and that he was above where those planes crashed into the building, and did not know how they would escape or get out or what the scenario would possibly be, not knowing of course that those towers would later collapse.

Joined with her was a gentleman whose relative was the first to have his throat slashed on board the United flight that crashed into a Pennsylvania farm field en route to Washington, D.C.

These people are frustrated. They know there are groups out there that raise money on behalf of terrorist organizations and funnel it to help those causes.

Maybe it is martyr money that is given to people who make the ultimate sacrifice as the ultimate terrorist in the cause. Maybe it is money that is given to help buy the detonating devices or the bombs. Maybe it is money to provide safe houses. Maybe it is money to help provide or manufacture false travel documents, et cetera.

But anyhow, they want to have the ability to go after these terrorist fundraising groups through civil action, through lawsuits, because they are having a great deal of difficulty in proving it in criminal court.

They would have a much easier time going after these groups with a probability in a sense and reasonable grounds in civil courts. I wholeheartedly support them in their effort. I think it is a valuable tool that we have in our potential arsenal to go after terrorism and we should pursue it wholeheartedly.

Earlier this evening, I heard the NDP ask questions and catcall some of my colleagues and make criticisms.

I would like to point out that some of the soldiers I know affectionately call the leader of the NDP Taliban Jack. I think that needs to be said. It needs to be heard and the soldiers need to know that we are listening.

The NDP members attacked the credibility of the government this evening. They said that Mr. Karzai and his government were not perfect. I think I would be the first one to stand and say that I do not think the NDP is perfect.

The NDP, despite the fact that we won the cold war in eastern Europe, still does not support the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The NDP is the party that proposed unilateral disarmament to leave Europe defenceless to the Warsaw Pact so that they would have served as a mere speed bump had those tanks rolled westward.

I will let that credibility sink in, but so many times in the past the NDP have always been the appeasers of aggressors. I am not sure what line in the sand NDP members would draw before they would be willing to stand up and fight.

They say that the Karzai government is not perfect. I would ask all members to think on this fact long and hard. This Parliament that we stand in today is the result of at least 1,000 years of history.

I was very lucky to be in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and travel to London on the 50th anniversary. When we think how long it took with King Canute in the 800s to establish property law and then in 1215 at Runnymede for some of the barons to say that the king should indeed have restrictions on his ability to tax.

I imagine the NDP in 1215 would have been a jester, running around saying, “Oh, but my Lordship, I don't think you can make any criticisms of King John because you have serfs on your land”. That is cute, but nonetheless, that was an important forward movement with regard to the restriction of the powers of the monarch so that we did not have capriciousness.

It took longer yet with the glorious revolution and various other things through history to arrive at the Parliament we have today. For the NDP members to expect that in a place like Afghanistan it will have a Parliament exactly like ours today, after 1,000 years of British common law history, is ridiculous. They should look at the situation and really compare what is fair.

In that respect, would our NDP colleagues prefer that the Taliban was still in charge? Is that what they would like? Or, would they have preferred that the Soviets had won their way and, instead, imposed their sense of order? Or, would they have us pull out and either allow the Taliban back in or possibly even allow the Iranians to impose their sense of justice on the place? It is nonsensical. If we are not there, who?

I also want to talk about the thanks that are well deserved with regard to these endeavours. We in this place have it pretty good. We are here in an air-conditioned room. It may be cold outside and we have suffered a storm on the weekend, but life is not so bad for parliamentarians when we consider the contrast. I thank the men and women who serve.

I remember the cook who was on board the HMCS Toronto when I was lucky to be embedded with them in the Arabian Sea in Operation Apollo. This gentleman spent 18 months at sea because his trade was hard to come by. I do not think there is enough of them in the navy. Ideally, he should only have spent six months on board that vessel but he was there 18 months later after first being deployed still doing his job and serving our country. I thank him tremendously for providing the meals and the bolster to the morale of those sailors on-board our vessels.

I also want to thank a gentleman by the name of Doug Movat who I met this past November at a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Bowness Legion that is in or close to my riding. Doug served in the infantry in Afghanistan. He told me stories about being in 54° Celsius temperatures, which is pretty hot. I think the hottest I have ever experienced was when I was at a port in Fujairah. It was 45° in the shade and I thought that was something else. However, he suffered through 54° temperatures while wearing a Kevlar vest in Afghanistan. I thank him for his sacrifice.

I also appreciate the young men who have been willing to join the cause, people like Lieutenant Will Lymer, who signed up with the Governor General's Foot Guards, did his basic training, his weapons training and finally his leadership training. Will sometimes gets up at 5 a.m. to run his new recruits. I am not sure it is something I would do, but I humbly appreciate what he does.

This weekend we had one of the largest dumps of snow that I think I have ever seen in my lifetime and I was born in Winnipeg. I think that says something, Mr. Speaker. This weekend Will stood out in the storm for at least six hours so that his recruits could train to shoot their C7s.

There are so many sacrifices. We could talk about those who have passed on in service. These are the real heroes. As one of the American comedians, Dennis Miller, puts it, we live the life of Riley. These men and women put themselves on the front line to defend civilization, to bring order out of that chaos.

We recently, with my committee and Veterans Affairs, did a tour of some of our bases across the country. I think of the dark, sunless hours in places like Cold Lake. I look at the member behind me and I know that he spent a lot of time in Cold Lake, bless his heart.

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March 12th, Midnight

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Dark, sunless hours.

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March 12th, Midnight

Conservative

Rob Anders Conservative Calgary West, AB

They are dark, sunless hours. But I appreciate all those men and women who make those sacrifices.

I met a young man when I was there in Cold Lake. For three years he has been wanting to serve in Afghanistan. He would continue to serve and be the engineer who keeps those lights going on the runways, the backup batteries and chargers. He could make double or triple the amount of money working in the oil patch in northern Alberta for fewer hours.

This man, good soldier that he is, stays on board with that cause and hopes that he can see service in Afghanistan. That is nobility for the cause. I hope the NDP takes some of that to heart.

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March 12th, Midnight

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being midnight, pursuant to order made Thursday, March 6, 2008, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on Motion No. 5, under government business, at this time.

Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until later today at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

The House adjourned at 12 a.m.