Madam Speaker, it will come as no surprise that I cannot support the motion before House today.
There is a good reason why the government has taken the measures it has with regard to documents, and that is safety, the safety of our men and women in uniform, their civilian colleagues, other government agencies and departments as well as the protection of our partners and allies. Unfortunately, it may be too easy to demand the provision of written documents as if their disclosure had no impact beyond these chambers.
The Canadian Forces, working alongside over 60 other nations and international organizations as part of the UN mandated NATO-led mission, are playing a leadership role in delivering real results as an integral part of Canada's whole-of-government team in Afghanistan.
Several years ago, when our troops first deployed to Afghanistan, we knew there would be many challenges. After all, Afghanistan had suffered decades of war and misrule. The government lacked the capacity to deliver the most basic service. Still today the insurgency remains ruthless. The Taliban attacks with roadside bombs, vehicle bombs, suicide bombs. They threaten, they intimidate, and the results can be devastating. Sadly, we have paid a heavy price for progress in Afghanistan.
To date, Canada has lost 133 selfless men and women in uniform, one diplomat and two aid workers. Our injured and fallen came from places like Mill Cove, Montreal, Fredericton, Conception Bay, Thunder Bay, Victoria, Iqaluit and Edmonton. They made a substantial differences in places like Panjwaii, Daman, Spin Boldak, Ghorak, Khakrez and Kandahar City.
They left behind a legacy of hope and confidence for the Afghan people, a legacy held high by our more than 2,800 men and women still serving in theatre. It is their valour, their dedication and their selflessness that really make a difference. That has established and reinforced the reputation of our Canadian Forces as one of the best militaries in the world.
We hold them to the highest standards of professional conduct and, through their blood, sweat and tears, they never let us down. In Afghanistan they are defending the basic values we all believe in and stand for day in and day out in this very chamber, things like freedom, democracy, rule of law, values that generations of Canadians who have proudly worn the maple leaf have fought and died for.
Despite the dangers, the devotion of our men and women in uniform has allowed us to deliver on our pledge to the international community, on our promise to the Afghan people. We are offering them dignity, security and justice and a better future.
The Canadian Forces are providing the essential protection that is fundamental to creating the secure environment necessary for governance, humanitarian development and the training of a military and police force to occur. We are partnering with Afghans to do so because it is their country.
It has been clear from the start that a well-trained, well-equipped Afghan National Security Force is essential if the Afghan government is to assume increasing responsibility for its own security and development. Thanks to the Canadian Forces, the Afghan National Security Forces are growing. They are growing in confidence, in capacity and in capability.
We have seen some of our greatest success through our operational mentoring and liaison team. Currently Canadian men and women in uniform in our OMLT are mentoring five Afghan army battalions and their headquarters. We also have civilian and military police trainers and mentors supporting the Afghan National Police reform.
From a fledgling force a few years ago, ill-equipped and lacking proper training, the Afghan National Army has, with the support of the Canadian Forces, matured into a credible force. The progress it has made is impressive. Afghan forces are now conducting more than two-thirds of the combat operations in and around Kandahar City.
Progress is empowering Afghans. It is allowing them to move beyond ongoing security concerns to rebuild their schools, their roads and their sense of pride in their country. While progress may appear slow, it is taking hold and touching the lives of Afghans every day.
The ultimate goal is to help create a better governed, more peaceful and more secure Afghanistan for Afghans, a goal that the Canadian Forces, indeed the entire whole-of government effort, is helping to make a reality.
That leads me to our responsibility back here at home.
First, contrary to a couple of comments across the floor earlier today, this government did not leak any documents to any media. The Government of Canada has an obligation and a moral duty to see that the lives of Canadians Forces personnel in Afghanistan are not put at additional risk by the release of information that may be of an operational security nature. We are required by law to protect sensitive information relating to international relations, national defence or national security, whether in written or oral form.
I am sure you can agree, Madam Speaker, that this is not about politics. It is about protecting Canadian lives. It is about protecting the lives of our partners and allies. It is about protecting the relationships with our partners in Afghanistan, which are so crucial in helping us conduct our mission.
The responsibility of protecting or disclosing sensitive information lies with independent, non-partisan public servants. It is these public servants who review suggested redactions provided by the respective departments. It is their duty to balance the public interest in disclosure against the public interest in non-disclosure, and there is no political interference in this process.
In the end, we are working to preserve hard won trust and respect of our allies and we are ensuring that good people's lives are not put at additional risk by the potential release of information that may be of a sensitive nature.
What if irresponsible actions of the House make us fail in that duty? We need to think about that. Canadian soldiers, civilians, Afghans working for us, some of them in the most perilous situations, and translators. Afghans who translate for us are the most endangered people in the entire country.
We can be sure that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are listening in to what is going on in Canada every day. They are probably listening in today. They may be murderers and terrorists, but they are not stupid and they do know how to conduct operations. They are paying attention.
If we violate the trust of our own men and women in uniform and our allies and the people who count on us, who will ever trust us again? If our Canadian soldiers or the people who trust us die because we have divulged information or because we cannot get information from organizations like the Red Cross or others to protect them, then I hope the folks across the way would stand up and take credit for that.
I know Canadians understand the great sacrifice and commitment of our forces in Afghanistan, the noble work they do to solidify our vision of Canada that holds its own on the international stage and the fact that our armed forces are one of the best and most respected in the world.
We have every reason to be proud of the role our troops are playing in routing the insurgency and planting the seeds of development and good governance, the seeds for a positive Afghan future.
After all they have sacrificed and achieved for Canada, our brave men and women deserve our continued vigilance so they can continue to accomplish the goals that we have set for them.
We are embarking on a very dangerous process today. I spent 31 years in regular force uniform and another 5 years as an honourary colonel. I can tell the House that the men and women of the Canadian Forces do know who their friends are in this Parliament. It is the people on this side of the floor because I speak to them every day. I do not expect—