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.


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9:30 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the situation for Afghans is getting worse and worse, and the number of incidents related to security, famine and poverty are getting worse and worse.

We are not talking about a stable situation where our troops, through the giving of their lives and sacrifices, are somehow maintaining stability. It is not the case. There is a desperate disintegration in Afghanistan.

We have seen widespread corruption by the government, the presence of war lords, and lack of trust in the Afghani police and the Afghani army in Kandahar in the south. That is very clear from the Oxfam report.

He has quoted some individuals; I have quoted some individuals. I think I will finish quoting back and forth because this is the kind of democratic debate that we do want to see. I think the input from all members has been very valuable tonight. I would like to quote people in countries who have been asked about this issue.

In July 2007, in Poland, 17% of the people there supported the mission. In Germany, over 50% wanted the troops out. In February 2008, in Britain, 62% of the public wanted all of their troops withdrawn from Afghanistan within a year.

Let us finish with Canadians. In July, in Canada, 16% supported an extension and 50% supported withdrawal before 2009. In September 2007, 85% of Canadians said that they did not want the mission extended past February 2009.

I think Canadians have heard the debate. They have listened to both sides and overwhelmingly Canadians are saying that they believe Parliament should take the same decision that the NDP is proposing.

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9:35 p.m.


Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont.

I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood—Port Kells to participate in the debate on our government's motion to extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan to 2011.

Canada is in Afghanistan at the request of that country's democratically elected government and as part of a UN mandated NATO-led mission that includes 37 other countries.

Our goal is to protect Canadians by ensuring that Afghanistan never again falls into the hands of the Taliban and that it becomes a stable, free and a democratic society.

Unfortunately, terrorism is a 21st century reality in Canada and everywhere else around the world. It is a reality that we must face together as free nations if we want to remain free.

As noted by our Prime Minister, “Canada can choose to ignore terrorism, but terrorism will not ignore Canada”.

Afghanistan was, and most likely still is in some regions, a haven for terrorists. Al-Qaeda had training camps and bases in Afghanistan. It was the base from which it fomented anti-western sentiment and from which its allies planned and mounted terrorist attacks against the west.

It is in Canada's national interest to not let Afghanistan become a breeding ground for terrorism again. Afghans also deserve a chance at the values we enjoy: freedom, human rights, rule of law, and opportunity.

We must therefore not abandon Afghanistan. To do so would be to betray the interests of Canada and other western nations. It would also be a betrayal of the Afghani people. Afghans have been fighting for nearly three decades. First it was against the Soviets, who invaded in 1979, and then it was among themselves as different factions struggled to gain control of the country. More than one million Afghans died in the fighting.

By 1996 the Taliban militia had managed to secure its dominance over nearly 90% of Afghanistan. The Taliban brought a measure of peace to the country, but in exchange for this security, people paid a heavy price in the form of personal freedoms.

While many people had to accept the Taliban rule, millions fled their country. By September 2001, 2.5 million Afghani refugees were living under the supervision of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

The international community refused to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, instead viewing Burhanuddin Rabbani's government as legitimate even though it controlled only 10% of that country.

When in control of Afghanistan, the Taliban imposed a strict regime of Islamic law, barring most women from education and work. Women were not allowed to work even if they had starving children and no husband or male relatives to support them. The Taliban even prohibited women from participating in a UN program that employed widows in making bread for the poor.

Women were not permitted in public without being covered head to foot in burkas. They were forced to stay at home behind blacked-out windows. When travelling outside their homes, they could do only so in the company of a close male relative.

Men were forced to wear beards. There were bans on all kinds of light entertainment, including music. Religious police patrolled the streets. Those found guilty of infractions, such as failure to attend prayers, the display of photographs of living creatures or the possession of music recordings or videotapes, were whipped. Thieves faced public amputation of hands and feet. Women found guilty of adultery were stoned to death.

The women of Afghanistan were the most oppressed group of people in the world. Hillary Clinton, then U.S. First Lady, declared that “women...are being brutalized by the Taliban, once again in the name...of religion”.

In a 1999 report, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, criticized the Taliban for widespread, systematic and officially sanctioned abuse of women. She accused the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue of deep discrimination against women and of being the “the most misogynist department in the whole world”.

Canada and its NATO allies are creating conditions where the Afghan people can build a safe and just society, where men, women, girls and boys can live and worship freely and work to achieve their full potential.

Obviously, there is much to be done. Afghanistan is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. Massive social disruption and loss of infrastructure resulting from 30 years of conflict will take years to address, and the harm to families and communities may never truly be healed.

That being said, things have begun to change in Afghanistan and the situation is already far better than it was under the Taliban. Where there was no true national government and no hint of democracy or legitimate governance, there is now an Afghan-drafted constitution that protects basic human rights.

Successful elections involving some nine million voters have taken place. An elected president now serves alongside an elected national legislature and regional councils.

Women who had been driven from public life and stripped of all freedom by the Taliban are now in government. Among the 351 members of the national assembly, 87 are women, some of whom visited with us here last week.

Real progress is evident in many other areas. Some 4.6 million refugees have returned to their homeland and almost 6 million Afghan children are attending school, six times as many as in 2001. Thirty-seven per cent of the students are girls. One-third of Afghanistan's 45,000 trained teachers are women.

The economy has tripled its performance since 2001 and per capita income has doubled during that same period.

The latest information suggests that 8 in 10 Afghans have access to primary health care, a tenfold increase since 2001.

Some 62,000 former combatants have been demobilized and close to 100,000 landmines have been destroyed.

At the same time, the security situation remains a major challenge. Afghan and NATO forces have pushed into Taliban sanctuaries to extend the reach of the legitimate Afghan government. As Taliban forces have faced defeat in open engagements, they have begun to rely more on terrorist style attacks.

In attacks with improvised explosive devices and suicide bombs, the Taliban and other illegal armed groups have killed dozens of civilians, and 92% of victims have been Afghans. Insurgent forces continue to use violence and intimidation to advance their cause, including attacks on schools.

According to a survey by the Asia Foundation, two-thirds of Afghans believe that their country is heading in the right direction.

Once again, the opportunists are on the rise, seeking anew to make Afghanistan a lawless place, a locus of instability, terrorism and drug trafficking.

We must remain focused on preventing Afghanistan from relapsing into a failed state, where human rights would be routinely abused and terrorists would find a safe haven from which they could strike at Canada and our allies.

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9:45 p.m.


Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my caucus mate from Fleetwood—Port Kells, who talked about human rights and the fact that women were downtrodden. I would like her to comment further on those issues dealing with human rights, particularly on how women were downtrodden under the Taliban regime.

It brought to mind the visit to Afghanistan by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. She interviewed a young lady who forgot she was wearing nail polish on her fingernails during the Taliban regime and had her fingers cut off because of it.

Women can now walk down the streets in Afghanistan, but I recall a general stating that under the Taliban regime if their heels clicked on the sidewalk it was interpreted as bringing attention to themselves and they were flogged in public.

I also heard, with great sadness, the stories about the large numbers of women who suffered fractured pelvises upon childbirth as a result of their lack of vitamin D. They were completely covered and never did see much sunlight.

Could the member could comment a little more on what it means to the women of Afghanistan now that we are there protecting their rights?

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9:45 p.m.


Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the hon. member about what we have accomplished in Afghanistan. Together with troops from other countries, the Canadian Forces have made a real impact on and a real difference in the lives of the Afghan people. All over the country buildings are being rebuilt, refugees are returning home, marketplaces are bustling, and little girls have started going to school.

There has been very substantial progress in governance. Afghans were able to choose their own leaders in fair and democratic presidential and parliamentary elections. Institutions such as the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police are assuming ever-increasing responsibilities in that country.

Let me talk about health care. Access to basic medical services has increased to 83%. In fact, the mortality rate has declined to 22%, with 80% having access to primary health care, a 72% increase since 2001.

Let us talk about drugs in that country. More than 90% of the world's opium and heroin comes from Afghanistan. All of us know that. The drug economy in Afghanistan supports the Taliban, the ruthless warlords and the drug lords.

However, forced crop destruction often drives poor farmers into the arms of the Taliban. The international community should consider a program to develop Afghanistan's agricultural sector to provide alternative livelihoods.

Talking about economic development in that country, I note that between January and May 2007, 60,000 new clients were in microfinanced activities.

Regarding education, 20,800 men and women are receiving legal awareness training within households. That is a much larger number than in 2001. More than 5,100 Afghani women are receiving literacy training in their homes. Under the Taliban, only 700,000 children went to school, all of them boys, but now more than six million children go to school and about 40% of them are girls. Thirty per cent of school teachers are women.

Let us talk about basic infrastructure in Afghanistan. Between March and June 2007, more than 100 reservoirs, 70 hand pumps, 1,000 wells, 100 irrigation canals and 650 kilometres of roads have been constructed and rehabilitated. There have been about 10,000 kilometres of new roads built. The time to travel between Kandahar and Kabul used to be almost 15 hours in 2001, but now it is almost 6 hours.

We are talking about humanitarian--

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9:50 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont.

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9:50 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to stand in the House today and speak to this very important issue.

I will begin by commending the leadership of our party, the Conservative Party, and the Liberals who were involved in discussions to come to this point where we have reached a consensus on an issue that is incredibly important to our country, very consistent with our history as a country and very important, obviously, to the people of Afghanistan.

I want to talk a little about an opportunity I had in January of this year to visit the War Museum. It was my very first opportunity to visit the museum and I found it to be a real eye-opener. It was quite an experience to be reminded of our history as a nation, of the 115,000 Canadian men and women who have given their lives over time in World War I, World War II and other missions to not only to make Canada a better place and protect Canada, but to make the world a better place, oftentimes standing up for people who otherwise would not be able to stand up for themselves in the circumstances.

One of the things that I saw at the museum was a slide show that focused on the 71 or 72 men and women who had lost their lives at that point in time. It is now 80. The slide show focused on them as individuals with their families outside of the military setting. I was captivated. I had to watch every slide as it went through. I was struck by how many of these people had young families, sometimes two, three or even more kids in these pictures shown in circumstances just like I enjoy with my family on a regular basis.

It hit home for me what these men and women were willing to give up because they believed so strongly in this mission. When we have a chance to talk to the family members of these individuals, it is interesting to hear them articulate how important the mission was and how their family members believed so strongly and would want us to continue and finish the job.

There is no question in my mind that we cannot help but be impacted by those statements. These are real people, just like the people with whom I play hockey or with whom I went to school. They chose to go into a situation where they knew that they would be putting their lives on the line. They paid the ultimate price with their lives and gave up 40 or 50 years of life with their families because they knew that Canada would be a better place for it and that in the long term it was worth it, as hard as it is for us to imagine.

I want to talk a little about the town of Beaumont in my riding, a fast-growing town of almost 10,000 people. Beaumont has not been so unfortunate to lose a member of its community in this mission but what the people of Beaumont did during last summer really touched me. They decided that they needed to reach out so they chose a member of the armed forces, Corporal Francisco Gomez, and they decided to honour him. They put a monument up in front of their town hall. They had the family come out. The community came out in droves to a ceremony honouring this man's memory because they thought that this was so important. They recognize what the men and women of our forces do to make their town a better place within our country. I want to commend them for that. Recognizing these folks is something that we as Canadians need to do more of.

The motion itself is a fairly long motion but I want to focus on a few key points. I want to focus on the first clause, which is something that we are all very familiar with here. It reads:

...the House recognizes the important contribution and sacrifice of the Canadian Forces and Canadian civilian personnel as part of the UN mandated, NATO-led mission deployed in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected government of Afghanistan;

The reason I want to focus on that clause is not to remind everybody here because we are all aware of that. The reason I want to focus on that clause is because when I go door-knocking or when I hold a round table and I talk to people, there is much confusion. People do not totally understand the mission. There is a misunderstanding on the part of some that somehow we invaded Afghanistan and we need to work to clear some of that up.

It does not help matters when certain parties in the House, particularly the NDP, as we have heard tonight, repeatedly mischaracterize the mission. The NDP talks of polls that reinforce its stand on the mission but it selectively chooses those polls and it never really focuses on the facts. In fact, I was interested in the previous member comparing casualties, not from 2005 to 2007 or 2006 to 2007 to 2008, but from 2003 to 2008, before we were in Kandahar. It was a totally unfair comparison.

It is interesting when we hear the quote that he selectively chose to talk about when he was talking about an Afghan woman. He did not use the quote, for example, that we heard on March 5 from Fawzia Koofi, a member of parliament who said, “I think the past five years, say five to six years in Afghanistan's history, were golden years for us for many reasons. First of all, the fact that you've seen women sitting in front of you representing their country for the first time in the country's history, you have 68 very intellectual and brave women sitting in the parliament, not only symbolically but meaningfully sitting in the parliament and representing the people”.

That is the story that the NDP never tells. It is also interesting that NDP members never talk about the accomplishments. Strangely, they talk about things getting worse. We have heard over and over tonight the claim that things are getting worse. There was no talk whatsoever about the facts, the fact that more than six million children, a third of them girls, are enrolled in school in 2007-08. It is more than six million compared to 700,000 in 2001. That is a relevant fact.

We never hear them talk about the fact that per capita income has doubled between 2004 and 2007, nor the fact that, when it comes to health care, 83% of Afghans now have access to basic medical care compared to 9% in 2004. When we talk about vaccinations, Canada has directly supported the vaccination of more than seven million children against polio, including approximately 350,000 in Kandahar province alone. I have another fact concerning refugees. More than five million refugees have returned since 2002, including more than 365,000 in 2007. Those are the facts but the NDP never refers to those fact, which complicates the situation from the point of people's understanding.

I would be curious to know if there are NDP members holding round tables in their communities and sharing the facts with them and then allowing them to make their decisions.

I want to refer to another part of the motion which reads:

that Canada should continue a military presence in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to July 2011, in a manner fully consistent with the UN mandate on Afghanistan....

Then it goes on to list the components of the military mission.

The notion that we should continue this mission is shared by several people from my riding and, interestingly, I have several people of Afghan and Pakistani origin in my riding. Not all of them are in favour of the mission. Some are opposed and some are in favour but, interestingly, their position is very similar. One of the reasons most clearly articulated by the people who are opposed is that the people of Afghanistan do not actually believe we will to finish the job. They talk about the history of countries going in and not finishing the job and therefore we should not be there because they do not believe we will finish the job either.

Interestingly, the position of those from those communities who are in favour of the mission is the very same reason. They say that we need to finish the job because in the past no one else has and if we leave we will leave the country in a worse condition than it was when we arrived.

All the NDP talks about are the challenges and it blows them up to be, I believe, more than they are. Admittedly, there are significant challenges, but we are dealing with a country that is the fourth poorest in the world and one that has a newly formed democracy. It is completely unreasonable to expect that this country will be like Canada tomorrow. There are some challenges. One of my constituents used the analogy of it being like a football game and being backed up to the one yard line. He said that the goal was not to throw a touchdown pass because if we were to try we would be in trouble. We need to move the yardsticks, get out to the 11-yard line for a first down again and then move the yardsticks again.

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10 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and ask a question of my colleague from across the way.

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10 p.m.

An hon. member

Who is really one of us.

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10 p.m.


Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Who is always one of us, of course.

I listened with great interest to the member's obviously well-researched and good presentation. It kind of reminded me of an issue that I have been raising and putting to members of the New Democratic Party during this debate over the last couple of days, and that is this whole notion that the NDP seems to be trying to perpetuate among Canadians that somehow we can negotiate with the Taliban and maybe the path to peace, I think the NDP is calling it, will somehow arrive at some sort of a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban.

It strikes me as extremely odd when one looks at the history of this regime. Not only does the Taliban have a distinctly different view from the existing democratically elected government in its view of the separation or, in its case, the lack of separation between mosque and state, but also on the rights of women. Basically, it believes that the rights of women are somewhere beneath that of a cow or a donkey because it believes those animals are more useful than women.

I am not quite sure how it is that a party, which seems to like to present itself as a party that protects the rights of women, would even be able to suggest that power-sharing with a regime that believes in such ideologically backward notions could be possible. I wonder if my colleague would care to comment on that.

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10 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is a total contradiction in the NDP approach here in Canada versus what it is advocating for in Afghanistan. It is a complete contradiction.

We know that the Taliban has been known to pull women out of school and shoot them in public for the crime of teaching. There are even stories of the Taliban killing girls as they came out of school. I would point out that if one were to talk to people who have been there, whether it is the military or people from that area, they will almost unanimously say that the notion of negotiating with the Taliban leadership is absolutely ridiculous.

I note that the leader of the NDP Party at one point talked about sending people with shovels instead of guns. I would ask the question: If we send people with shovels instead of guns, who will protect the people with the shovels?

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10 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia


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

Mr. Speaker, my question is very much in keeping with the theme of my colleague who just posed a question. It occurs to me, in a very practical and fundamental way, that just as one would not be able to do community work in a major city in this country without the protection of the police, or respond to a rash of fires without a fire department, what the NDP seems to be proposing here is that somehow the social situation in Afghanistan will improve if we allow for the security to be withdrawn.

Along the same lines, if there are fires we ban the fire department. If there is a rash of crimes, gun activity and violence, we do away with the police. This is what is so completely irrational and contradictory about what the NDP is espousing.

Unlike all other socialist countries in the world, whose parties at least seem to have some moderation and connection to reality, in this country it appears that the NDP has lost its moorings completely in terms of reality.

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10 p.m.


Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is a saying that I quote often, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything”. On this issue, the NDP does not stand for anything when it comes to Afghanistan but expects that Canadians will fall for the idea that we can somehow do all of the humanitarian things and all the good work in terms of helping to raise up a government without--

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10:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

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March 11th, 2008 / 10:05 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have this opportunity to participate in this important debate tonight.

Nothing is more important than a vote to send Canadians to war than a vote to engage in war, and there is no more serious matter that will ever come before the House of Commons.

The decision to send Canadians into war, to ask members of the Canadian armed forces to engage in war and risk their lives is the most serious matter that I can contemplate being asked to consider as a member of Parliament. We must ensure any mission that they are asked to undertake supports the values that Canada represents. We must ensure it is a mission that is not futile. We must ensure it is a mission that has the strong support of Canadians.

The decision to engage in armed conflict, to kill other human beings is something that I will not take lightly. I have to remind the House that this is also what we are doing in Afghanistan. We do not talk a lot about that aspect of the mission, but we are killing people with whom we disagree. Taking others lives must never be done lightly.

I worry that we have not been struggling much with this in Canadian society, that we have been protected from that ugly reality of the war in Afghanistan, that we cannot get those kinds of statistics out of the Canadian armed forces or the government. However, there are many Afghan families for whom the reality of our role in that war has hit home directly because of the death of one of their loved ones in this conflict.

I am not a pacifist, but I do struggle with pacifism and I am challenged by friends and other Canadians who are pacifists.

I remember the legacy of J.S. Woodsworth, the leader of the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation, the precursor to the NDP. At the beginning of World War II, he said the following in the debate in his opposition to the war of Canada entering the second world war:

I rejoice that it is possible to say these things in a Canadian parliament under British institutions. It would not be possible in Germany, I recognize that...and I want to maintain the very essence of our British institutions of real liberty. The only way to do it is by an appeal to the moral forces which are still resident among our people, and not by another resort to brute force.

I think those are important words for us to consider again at this time. We have to be very clear about what engaging in war really means, what the costs of that are, both the personal cost and the cost to our country as a society. It has to be a last resort, as something that must be engaged in only when all else has failed, as a direction that has to be taken for clear and definable reasons related to protecting our security. However, going to war has to be seen as an act that must ultimately be regarded as a failure in itself.

There is a role for the Canadian armed forces, that a traditional peacekeeping role is one of which Canadians have been proud, of which our armed forces have accumulated significant experience and expertise and one that does require that members of our armed forces understand and have trained for war. Sadly, I do not believe that we have that option any longer in Afghanistan now that we have committed to being a combatant in that war. However, this is something that Canada has been known for and of which Canadians are justly proud.

Doing due diligence on sending Canadians to war is the best way I, as an elected representative, can support the women and men of the Canadian armed forces. It is my job to ensure that they are only asked to risk their lives for the most important of reasons, especially when that mission is far from home and when the direct threat to Canada is harder to perceive.

We know the members of the Canadian armed forces will do as they are asked to the very best of their ability. Our job here is to ensure the justice, the feasibility of that request is clear and we have to make sure that it is clear when so much is on the line.

I am glad the government has put this motion before the House. The decision to go to war properly belongs here with the elected representatives of Canadians. I commend the current government for recognizing that. I wish the previous government had followed that path.

The motion before us commits Canada continuing its combat role in Afghanistan through to 2011. I do not support continuing the mission in Afghanistan. It is the wrong mission for Canada. It is a radical departure from the role that Canadians have come to expect from our armed forces, that of peacekeepers who separate combatants rather than taking sides and joining in combat. Canadians know that peacekeeping is a dangerous role and have mourned the death of many Canadians who risked their lives carrying out that task. This should be the role of our armed forces.

We should ensure a clearer understanding of that role as an aspect of public policy, not just as an assumption or understanding. We need to have that understanding more clearly enshrined in our public policy.

We should give immediate notice of our intention to withdraw and that any withdrawal should be done immediately, but should be done in a safe and secure manner.

Why are we in Afghanistan? That question is at the heart of why I believe this is the wrong mission for Canada. We have heard often that we are there because we want to ensure women's rights. We have heard that in the last hour. We have heard that we wanted to ensure that girls could attend school.

As noble as that is, I do not believe for one second that is why Canada sent troops to Afghanistan. Bad as the situation was in Afghanistan under the Taliban, and it was absolutely horrible, it is absolutely wrong to say that that is the reason why Canada is fighting a combat role there today. In any case, I do not believe that many women would want us to engage in an armed conflict to ensure women's right. If that were the case, our military would be very busy around the world and perhaps even have been busy here at home.

In fact, the situation for women and girls has not dramatically improved. A case in point, the only woman elected to the Afghan parliament from a constituency, who was not on a party list, Malali Joya, was suspended recently for her criticism of the Afghan government, hardly a shining moment for democracy in Afghanistan or a shining moment for the participation of women in that government.

We are in Afghanistan because of the fear that gripped the United States and Canada and many other countries after the events of September 11, 2001. Post-September 11 the U.S. was looking to retaliate for the horrible attacks on New York and Washington, and we got caught up in that call for retaliation.

It is hard to see how invading Afghanistan was the appropriate response to the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Those who carried out the attacks were Saudis, for instance. How conventional warfare can defeat terrorism has never been clearly demonstrated to my satisfaction in any case.

Frankly, I worry there are other reasons too that we are in Afghanistan, reasons related to the control of oil resources and the security of their transport. I worry too that we are there to take the pressure off the United States for the difficulties of the war in Iraq, a war that most Canadians believe is an illegal war and which our government refused to participate in.

Also, the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan is internal Afghan politics, regional disputes, the ambitions of warlords, which will never be solved by western intervention, especially western military intervention. This war has only made the situation worse.

We have a choice. The choice is between continuing the war or charting a path to peace. That is what the NDP is proposing. We do not say we should just abandon Afghanistan. We do not believe we should abandon our responsibilities as members of the global community or as a country that has participated actively in this war. However, we must put all our efforts into seeing a plan for a political solution in Afghanistan.

There is considerable opinion to say that the war in Afghanistan will not be won, that the war is an approach that only creates more problems, or that situation is getting worse, not better. Who said that? Here are some of the quotes that we have heard a number of times already in this debate.

One quote is, “every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you”. Major General Andrew Leslie, former chief of the Canadian land staff, said that.

Another quote is from retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, who said, “I don't think Canada is winning the war, and this war is not winnable”.

British Captain Leo Docherty said that Afghanistan is a “textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency”.

Another quote is, “the situation is deteriorating and...NATO forces risk appearing like an army of occupation.” That is from the defence minister of Belgium.

Another one is, “one should not try to bury one's head in the sand...the operation is encountering real difficulties.... the situation is not improving.” The French defence minister said that.

Finally, “if...the international community cannot find a”—political solution—“...then...we have no moral right to ask our young people to expose themselves to that danger”. The United Kingdom's defence minister said that.

Even the Manley report has noted that the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated in the Kandahar region. It states:

By many knowledgeable accounts, security generally has deteriorated in the South and East of Afghanistan, including Kandahar province where Canadian Forces are based, through 2006 and 2007. The Taliban insurgency to some degree has regrouped during the past 18 months; the frequency of its small attacks and the numbers of civilian fatalities it has inflicted were higher in 2007 than in 2006.

The war in Afghanistan has now gone on longer than the world wars and there is no end in sight, and by any measure this war is not being a success.

We can chart a path to peace, and here in this corner of the House we believe we can do that. That is expressed in our amendment to the motion before us, wherein the NDP has called on the government:

—to begin preparations for safe withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from the combat mission in Afghanistan with no further mission extensions;

—that the government should engage in a robust diplomatic process to prepare the groundwork for a political solution under explicit UN direction and authority, engaging both regional and local stakeholders and ensuring the full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law;

that, in the opinion of the House, the government should maintain the current suspension of the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan authorities until substantial reforms of the prison system are undertaken;

—that the government should provide effective and transparent development assistant under civilian direction consistent with the Afghan Compact.

We need to get the control out of the hands of NATO, a military alliance, and put it back in the direct control of the United Nations. If the United Nations has a skill set, it is at dealing with regional conflicts, and there is a significant regional conflict at the heart of the war in Afghanistan. The United Nations can bring significant civilian resources to the solving of the situation in Afghanistan.

Some will say that the United Nations has authorized the NATO mission. The United Nations has essentially contracted out the war in Afghanistan to NATO and it should take back direct control of that operation.

We need to support the kind of measures outlined by Oxfam in its Continuing Peace Building in Afghanistan report. Robert Fox from Oxfam said:

Our report shows that a national strategy for community peace-building is five years overdue: with increasing levels of violence, there is no time to lose.

Oxfam points out that most efforts to build peace have been at a national level, where they have been stymied by warlords, corruption or criminality. It states:

The recent deterioration in security, particularly in the south and southeast, is evidence that the top down approaches by themselves are inadequate without parallel nationwide, peace-work at the ground level.

For the vast majority of disputes, Afghans turn to local institutions to solve them....Yet little has been done to enhance communities' capabilities to resolve problems peacefully, reduce violence and resist militant interference.

It talks about the key elements of a national community peace building strategy, which include: phased capacity building throughout the country; peace-building taught in all schools and incorporated into teacher training; awareness raising initiatives, at national and local levels; mechanisms to monitor shuras' adherence to the constitution in human rights; measures to clarify the role of informal justice in the courts.

Mr. Fox noted:

Existing measures to promote peace in Afghanistan are not succeeding, not only because of the revival of the Taliban, but also because little has been done to support families, communities and tribes—the fundamental units of Afghan society—to resolve disputes among them.

There have been serious problems with how we have conducted the war. We know the problems of prisoner transfers. We should never have transferred prisoners to Afghan authorities and should not be doing so.

We know that torture has been practised in the Afghan prison system. We have obligations under the Geneva Convention about how we deal with prisoners and we must take responsibility for their safety, security and treatment. If we are prepared to be engaged in war in Afghanistan, we should have engaged all of the responsibilities related to that engagement and our obligations to prisoners taken have not been met.

The whole question of the military delivery of development aid is one that I first raised in the previous Parliament in discussions in a take note debate on Afghanistan. We now hear that the Manley report is recommending so-called signature projects, mostly for Canadian consumption, to show how the war is going well. We know that military projects, military delivered aid, have often been to allow for more effective military operations, not necessarily to assist the civilian population.

Canada has traditionally not used the military to deliver aid. It has been for us a civilian exercise. We need to get back to that tradition.

I also want to mention the situation of Omar Khadr, the Canadian child who was caught up in the war in Afghanistan, a Canadian child soldier who remains the only western foreign national in the Guantanamo detention camp. We should have had him home a long time ago. We put a lie to any concern that Canada has ever expressed for child soldiers around the world and the adults who manipulate them by not having done something about his situation. It is another example of how we are not taking all aspects and complications of being at war seriously.

I do not believe that more troops will solve the problem. Where does the number of 1,000 come from? Where is the commitment from other countries to support that number? Look at the experience of the Soviet Union. There are so many parallels and it had so many more troops in Afghanistan than we do and were still unsuccessful there in a mission that looks very similar to what we purport to be doing there.

There is the question of the spending on the war. We are spending billions of dollars on the war effort. We are spending to outfit our armed forces for combat. As I have already said, I do not believe that this should be their international role and I am concerned that a peacemaking role may demand other kinds of equipment and resources. We may be tying our hands for many years to come.

We have spent over $7 billion so far and now we learn that we have overspent this year's budget for the war by $1 billion alone. The fiscal management of the war effort seems to have been lost. The so-called great financial managers in the current government seem to be failing and dramatically so when it comes to managing the costs of the war in Afghanistan. It is taking significant resources at a time when there are other significant needs here at home and around the world. The proportion of aid and development aid to military spending is all wrong in terms of this effort.

The significant problems faced by returning veterans and their families and the failure to ensure appropriate health care support and assistance is also a serious issue. We have asked these people to risk their lives and their health. There should be no questions asked when it comes to providing the best care for any veteran who served in Afghanistan. There is absolutely no excuse for this continuing to be a problem in Canada.

This is the wrong mission for Canada. Canadian and Afghan lives are being lost. Life in Afghanistan is not improving. Opium production is up. Corruption is up. Suicide attacks are up. Security has not been improved. Women are not more equal or freer. We are not winning this war and I do not believe we can win this war. We must begin in earnest the search for a political solution, the search for a path to peace.

I cannot in good conscience vote to commit to Canada's continuing participation in the war in Afghanistan. We should withdraw immediately, safely and securely. We should undertake a comprehensive peace process. We should make sure that we have an ongoing commitment to aid and development work in Afghanistan.

We should live in the hope of these familiar words, “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”.

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10:20 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I hardly know where to start. I will give the NDP members marks for being consistent. They consistently do not understand peacekeeping. They consistently do not understand that we have to equip and train the military forces to do the toughest job, and that makes them capable of doing any other job. But if we equip and train them to do the lowest common denominator when they have to do something else, we will simply lose lives and not accomplish the mission. The NDP members consistently misunderstand that. They consistently misunderstand the Taliban are not out there using pruning hooks and ploughshares. They are out there using weapons, weapons against Afghans, Canadians, Americans, Brits, Australians, Kiwis, and everybody else.

The NDP members trot out anecdotal evidence as, supposedly, justification for the fact that the war is not going well and they ignore the anecdotal evidence that they get from Canadian service men and women. Do they not believe the Canadian service men and women? Would they rather believe, for example, the people from the Senlis Council who come to the defence committee and grossly mislead the defence committee deliberately? Would they rather believe people like that or the men and women in uniform who are dying for the cause of Afghan freedom, who are dying for the cause of Canadian freedom? Ultimately, it is about Canadian freedom and it is about Canadian interests.

They talk about taking NATO out and putting in the UN. Who the heck do they think the UN is? Who do they think the UN would turn to if not the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Poland, Lithuania, and everybody else who is there? Who the heck do they think they would be replaced by except ourselves?

For crying out loud, the NDP, the new Pollyanna party, really needs to get real.

They talk about the UN solving regional conflicts. The UN has never done a very good job of solving regional conflicts.

It goes on and on. They talk about the path to peace. The path to peace is not strewn with pruning hooks and rose petals. The path to peace is there because of people like Canadians, people like Lester Pearson, who they hold out as the icon of peacekeeping, which he was. Lester Pearson was also part of a government that increased defence spending to 7% of GDP because Lester Pearson knew that we could not stare down our enemies through words of peace and love; we had to stare them down through resolve and through strength. He did that. We did that collectively with our allies, like the United States, Britain and so on.

I could go on and on, but I have one question for my hon. colleague. Is there anything in the world that members of the New Democratic Party would support taking up arms for? Is there anything at all, any cause at all? Or will they continually be, like J.S. Mills said, made and kept free by the exertions of better men, and I will add, and women, than themselves?

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10:25 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish the parliamentary secretary had listened a little more closely to what I was saying, because I did recognize very clearly in my remarks that we have to train our armed forces to prepare for war. That is a key aspect of their training.

I am a little concerned that my colleague described peacemaking activities as the lowest common denominator of military activities. I find that is quite offensive and I think most Canadians would find that quite offensive.

Many Canadians have died doing the dangerous work of peacekeeping around the world. When Canadians participate in those kinds of missions, they have literally put themselves between warring combatants to hold the peace. There is no more dangerous work than that. Lives of Canadians were lost doing that kind of work. I think it is rather offensive to call that the lowest common denominator of military work. It is not an appropriate comment.

Canada has a proud tradition of military work. There is no armed force in the world that is better at it, that has more expertise in it, than the Canadian armed forces. Most Canadians are proud of our Canadian Forces and their work in peacekeeping over the years. I hope, as I am sure most Canadians hope, that we can resume that kind of role for our armed forces internationally.

There is nothing tougher than putting oneself between people at war, between people who have decided to kill each other to solve problems that may have arisen between them. We should not be dismissive of our peacekeeping missions for one second, even in the heat of a debate on an important issue like the war in Afghanistan.

I do not believe that we are talking about anecdotal evidence. The Manley report is one of the pieces of evidence that I quoted from which indicated how badly the effort in Afghanistan is going. That is hardly anecdotal evidence for the problems of the mission in Afghanistan. Mr. Manley may have reached different conclusions than I have, but certainly the evidence that he and his team have presented is worth considering. The quote I read about how badly the mission has gone, how badly the security situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated in the last two years, was directly from the Manley report. I hardly think that is anecdotal evidence.

It is a reason to build a strong case for this being the wrong mission for Canada and the effort is not being successful.

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10:30 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

The mission that we are doing, quote Manley unquote.

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10:30 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I did not yell at Conservatives when they were making their interventions in this important debate tonight and I wish they would have the same respect for those of us who may disagree with them.

I look forward to the opportunity to represent our views in this discussion and the views of many other Canadians. When those members heckle or yell at me because of what I am saying, they are also heckling and yelling at many Canadians who believe what I believe and have taken similar positions and have similar concerns. It is inappropriate to engage in that kind of activity given the seriousness of this debate.

I am never going to be one who underestimates the difficulties and the challenges of pursuing a path of peace. I am never going to be one who underestimates the risk of going down that kind of path. It is a difficult one and it requires effort and risk taking and the support of people through very difficult times and very difficult processes.

To undermine and underestimate the importance of that and the difficulty of that is also a serious problem with the kind of discussion we are having here tonight. Of course--

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10:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments. The hon. the chief government whip should know that there are 90 seconds for the question and 90 seconds for the answer. Fair is fair.

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10:30 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.


Jay Hill ConservativeSecretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, fair would be the hon. member not trying to use up all his time so he did not have to face any more questions.

I am sick and tired of the New Democratic Party being all doom and gloom and saying how badly the mission is going. Those members refuse to look at any good news. They refuse to talk about all of the good things that are happening in Afghanistan, all the freedoms that have been given as a result of people dying for them on behalf of the Afghan people. That is the big difference.

I would like every New Democratic member to have a lesson at some point in what exactly peacekeeping is all about. Afghanistan could not possibly be a peacekeeping mission at this particular time because there is no peace to keep. The old peacekeeping situation where a force was placed between two warring nations to keep them apart is not the situation in Afghanistan. My God, do those members not even watch the news from time to time to understand that the Taliban might be the person standing beside them? It is not somebody wearing a different coloured uniform.

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10:30 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not just us in this corner of the House that are saying that there is another path that should be pursued in Afghanistan.

Even President Karzai has said that we need to be pursuing a political solution and a peace process in Afghanistan. I am going to quote what he said on Radio Free Europe on September 29, 2007. He said:

We are ready to negotiate to bring peace [to] this country. Continuation of the war, explosions, and suicide attacks should be stopped in any way possible. There were some contacts with [Taliban] in the past. But there is no specific, clear-cut line of communication -- I mean, there is no official place for communication with the Taliban. I wish there were such a place.

That is the President of Afghanistan saying that he hoped that there could be a place created now in Afghanistan for that kind of process of talks, of negotiations with, of all people, of all organizations and of all groups, the Taliban, because he understands that it is important to the future of Afghanistan.

I think that there is a lesson that we can learn from his words. If he is the ally that we have heard he is, we should understand what he has said to us and take that very seriously. We intend to do that in this corner of the House. We intend to say that the path to peace is one that we should be pursuing, that we should be putting effort into, and we are going to continue to put that idea forward.

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10:30 p.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to stand in the House to explain the reasons for Canada's engagement in Afghanistan. It is certainly an honour to participate when we have had so many eloquent speakers, including the Minister of National Defence, the chief government whip, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence. They have eloquently spoken about Canada's role in Afghanistan.

The question we are debating today is not an easy one. I am sure all members of the House, regardless of their views on the mission, are fully conscious of the stakes.

It is about the hopes and aspirations of millions of Afghans who yearn for a better future for themselves and their families.

It is about Canada's standing as a responsible member of the international community.

It is about one of the heaviest decisions any democratic government can be asked to consider: to send its men and women in harm's way to defend global security and promote Canadian values.

If someone were to ask me, there is no issue that is more critical than the one we are contemplating today. As parliamentarians, we have the duty to ensure every option is carefully weighed and given due consideration. That is why I welcome this opportunity and look forward to our discussions in the days ahead.

Let me begin with what we can all agree on. The international community should not let Afghanistan fall back into the chaos and despair of the Taliban rule.

I need not remind members of the House of the horror of the Taliban regime that held the reins of power in Afghanistan until 2001. It placed Afghans under a brutal regime of fear and intimidation, persecuted women and girls, destroyed schools, historical landmarks and basic infrastructure, and gave safe harbour to the terrorists who attacked our southern neighbours in September of 2001.

I think we can all agree that no one who believes in justice and human decency would condone the return of the Taliban.

There is little doubt that the important work of our soldiers, diplomats, development officials and government advisers is making a difference. Their efforts are creating the conditions that serve as a bulwark to preventing the return of the Taliban.

Canadian Forces members are providing a secure environment for reconstruction and development to take place.

Diplomats and development officials are working with local communities and organizations to find ways to improve governance, infrastructure and government services.

Police trainers and corrections advisers are on the ground helping the Afghan government develop the capacity to govern more effectively and ensure the respect of the rule of law.

Their efforts are interconnected. Canada's approach recognizes that security, development and governance are mutually reinforcing. There cannot be one without the others.

As we all know, the going has not always been easy. Considerable challenges remain in Kandahar and across Afghanistan. However, I would urge all members to carefully consider the situation that prevailed in Afghanistan prior to the fall of the Taliban.

Afghanistan had been suffering from decades of conflict. Not only was there virtually no central government to speak of but most of the country's vital infrastructure had been destroyed. Roads, wells and irrigation canals were in rubble. Basic services such as health care and education were non-existent for the vast majority of Afghans. Even today, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

What must be borne in mind here is that the Afghans, figuratively speaking, are rebuilding their country from scratch. The mission is a difficult one, but it is in Afghanistan that the need is greatest.

Canadians are generous. We believe our nation has a role to play to alleviate suffering, improve living standards, and protect those who are vulnerable around the world. It has always been a Canadian motto that we are only as strong as our weakest link. Canada has demonstrated its sincere commitment to these values time and time again.

I think of my late great uncle, Frank Tascona, who was the president of the Barrie Legion on St. Vincent and Cundles. He spoke to me about the valour and the courage that Canadians showed throughout history in standing up for what is right.

I know that a strong majority of Canadians are supportive of our development and reconstruction efforts. Yet, many harbour some misgivings about the more assertive military role our troops have been asked to play in Afghanistan. That is understandable.

If there is a common thread in the Canadian tradition, it is the premium our nation has placed on finding common ground, our willingness to exhaust all options before resorting to force.

Indeed, our reluctance to take up arms is a virtue. Yet, when the cause is just and the sacrifice necessary, Canada has always answered the call.

As the Manley report recently observed, humanitarian disasters in places like Bosnia and Rwanda have led United Nations-mandated peace missions to increasingly rely on the robust use of force to protect those who are vulnerable.

The drafters of the United Nations charter, having just emerged from the most devastating war of the 20th century, had envisioned such situations. That is why they included a reference in chapter 7 of the charter which states:

The Security Council may take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain, to restore international peace and security.

The ISAF mission in Afghanistan is entirely in line with the spirit of the UN charter. The fact of the matter is the NATO-led international security assistance force mission is mandated by the United Nations. Last November the UN Security Council renewed once again the ISAF mandate.

Our government does not believe that Canada should say to the people of Afghanistan, “We are willing to help you, but only if your plight fits the peacekeeping mould. If the going gets tough, I am afraid there is not much that we can do for you”. That is not the Canadian way.

Afghans have suffered through decades of conflict and poverty. With our help they are getting back on their feet. To turn our backs at this point would jeopardize much of what has been achieved up to now and would reflect poorly on Canada's willingness to see its commitment through.

There is a strong agreement in the international community that the Afghan mission is important, that it cannot be allowed to fail. We are part of this mission with 39 other nations. Many others such as Japan and India are providing much needed development assistance.

Certainly, it is in the finest traditions of multilateralism as echoed in history through Canada with Lester Pearson as he spoke loudly on the international stage about the importance of multilateralism. This is a perfect case of that.

Canada is playing a leading role in this critical international endeavour. The burden we have carried in Kandahar is a heavy one, but Afghans and the international community are thankful for Canada's commitment and determination.

Our government does not believe Canada should abandon the people of Afghanistan after February 2009. To that end we issued a revised motion on the future of Afghanistan mission on February 21.

The motion reflects the wise counsel of the Manley panel. It embraces an even wider expanse of the common ground than before. It commits our government to notify NATO that Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011, completing redeployment from the south by December of that year.

More importantly, it acknowledges what is required for Canada's mission to succeed in Afghanistan. It states two important conditions for the mission to be extended. First, that NATO secure a battle group of approximately 1,000 to rotate into Kandahar no later than February 2009. Second, that the government secure medium helicopter lift capacity and high performance unmanned aerial vehicles.

We believe this is a reasonable compromise that addresses the important questions Canadians have about future of the mission and it will give our brave men and women the means to succeed.

As the Prime Minister stated, it is a clear and principled position. We urge all members of the House to carefully consider their vote on this issue.

It has profound implications for Canada's international reputation, for the Canadian men and women who are bravely putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan and for the millions of Afghans who are looking to us for support as they strive to rebuild their country.

I believe the choice is clear and the government has taken the correct position.

I look at my own riding in Barrie, Ontario, and it has been amazing to see some of the support that the community has shown for the mission and for our troops. I think of the red Friday rally at Fred Grant Square where it was packed and we could not even move because there was that much support for our troops and for the mission in Afghanistan.

I think of the support our troops T-shirts that were sold at the Barrie Legion by Royden Johnson, and at the Army Navy Club by Dick Howie and Neil McKinnon. The work they did in supporting our troops was remarkable.

What was even more remarkable is that those shirts sold out within days because Canadians were excited and enthused to stand up for what is right. What is right is the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. It is playing that multilateral role. It is continuing the role that Canada has always shown throughout history.

It has been a pleasure to stand in the House today to support the Canadian position in Afghanistan.

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10:40 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the presentation of the Conservative member. He talked about “the Canadian position”, but what has been very clear as Canadians have expressed their view on the mission in Afghanistan is that the most recent polling shows that 85% of Canadians believe that our mission in Afghanistan should be ending within the year.

Therefore, “the Canadian position”, as expressed by Canadians from coast to coast to coast, is in line with the NDP position. It is not in line with the Conservative government position, so the member cannot say it is the Canadian position. It is the position of the Conservative government to stay in Afghanistan regardless of what is actually happening on the ground there.

That was the point I wanted to make, but the questions I would like to ask are the following.

The member has heard evidence tonight of the $18 billion that has gone mainly into the back pockets of the warlords and drug lords in the Afghani government. He has heard evidence as well from Malalai Joya, a member of Parliament who has been muzzled in the Afghani parliament, but who has said that after six years in control the government has proven itself to be as bad as the Taliban and in fact is little more than a photocopy of the Taliban.

The situation in Afghanistan is getting progressively worse, not just for women but for all Afghans. In fact, she says that in 2007 in Afghanistan more women killed themselves than ever before. It shows that the situation has not improved.

The government members tonight basically have had two lines. One is that we have to continue because that is our position, regardless of what is actually happening on the ground. Second, they have said that the situation of the women in Afghanistan is something that concerns them. Yet the facts that the Afghani government has not improved the situation of women in Afghanistan at all, that most marriages are still forced, and that rape and murder are commonplace in Afghani government-controlled areas do not seem to have any impact on Conservative members.

My question is quite simple. Why do members of the Conservative Party simply refuse to criticize the Afghani government at any point for the widespread violations of human rights, for the abuse of women and for the widespread corruption in Afghanistan?

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10:45 p.m.


Patrick Brown Conservative Barrie, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly it is difficult to comment on anecdotal evidence that is based more on myth than reality, but I would say that if there is one reason alone to be in Afghanistan, we simply have to look at the fact that when the Taliban ruled the day females were not allowed to vote, let alone sit in parliament, and that is happening today in Afghanistan.

I would like to point to more reasons why I think a lot of Canadians are very proud of the mission. I will give some examples of why we are so proud.

Close to six million children, one-third of them girls, enrolled in school in 2007-08.

The per capita income doubled between 2004 and 2007.

How about the fact that 83% of Afghans now have access to basic medical care? It was 9% in 2004.

These are not anecdotal points. These are facts about the success in Afghanistan.

How about the fact that Canadians directly support the vaccination of more than seven million children against polio, including approximately 350,000 in Kandahar province?

Another fact, not an anecdotal point based on myth or rumour, is that more than 10 million Afghans registered to vote in free and fair elections, and 347 women were candidates.

It is a testament to the accomplishment of what has happened in Afghanistan. We are seeing a country rebuilding from scratch. It is a country that was in a very weak position when the Taliban ruled the day with a heavy hand and with such depravity that it allowed that country to harbour terrorists.

I could not imagine a political party supporting that status quo. It is certainly an honour to support the position of the Minister of National Defence, this government and our Prime Minister, which is that Canada has a role to play in Afghanistan in the multilateral way in which we are doing it.

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10:45 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan


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

Mr. Speaker, I have a letter that I would like to put on the record and then I would like the hon. member's comments. I would like to have those who are listening understand that terror does not have any borders.

The letter talks about Afghan pleas for Canadian help. It is from Dr. Bashir Ahmad, a medical intern from Herat University in Afghanistan. He states:

Afghanistan is my home. And it's a bitter reality to me, but we need external assistance to keep our country peaceful. People here are worried about rumours that international forces are planning to leave Afghanistan. If international forces leave, the future for us Afghans will go as well. There is hope in Afghanistan, but this hope depends on how strong the international commitment is. The involvement of the international community, including Canada, means more peace and security here.

Will the rest of the world be safe if Afghanistan is left in the hands of destructive forces? Our enemies do not recognize borders; if they win in Afghanistan, they will turn it into a base to attack the rest of the world. So continued international commitment in Afghanistan is something that must be done for the sake of a more secure and peaceful world.

I would like the member to comment.