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House of Commons Hansard #104 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was training.

Topics

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, in question period, the Minister of Public Safety shamefully mischaracterized my position yesterday in the public safety committee and the position of the New Democrats.

Yesterday, in the public safety committee, I stood up for the rights of victims across this country, especially the victims of sexual abuse. I specifically said in the public safety committee that victims of sexual abuse in this country have the right to be heard, they have the right to be informed, they have the right to be listened to, they have the right to matter and they have the right to have input into the pardon process.

I pointed out to Mr. Sheldon Kennedy, who agreed with me, that government Bill C-23B would do nothing to inform victims that their offenders are obtaining pardons and would do nothing to provide them input into the pardon process. All I did yesterday was stand up for the rights of victims.

Today in question period, the minister stood and suggested that somehow the New Democrats got it wrong by standing up for the rights of victims. I would ask that the minister stand and withdraw his comment and do the honourable thing and apologize for misrepresenting my position and the position of the New Democratic Party when we stood up yesterday for victims of sexual offences.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, we know that the NDP will stand up for victims as long as there is a byelection in place and it will in fact make those kinds of statements.

However, despite the words that the individual has stated here today, we do know that the New Democrats are all right with hearing from victims but they will never do anything about it. If they actually want to do something about it, they should pass our bill.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to raise a point of order. I would like to go back to the offensive statement made by the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. While he was answering my questions, he took a gratuitous shot at a group known as ATSA, or Socially Acceptable Terrorist Action.

ATSA is the organizer of État d'Urgence, an artistic installation for the homeless in downtown Montreal. ATSA has received close to $70,000 over two years from this department as part of the building communities through arts and heritage program. ATSA has also been supported by Canadian Heritage for a number of years and received $7,000 through Young Canada Works.

Not only did Canadian Heritage cut their funding, but the answer came very late, just a week before the start of the installation, which is very important for the communities and in which a number of homeless people participate. Around 13,000 people from the general the public and hundreds of up-and-coming and established artists have participated in the last 11 editions of État d'Urgence.

For all these reasons, on behalf of the artists and the 13,000 consumers of art work, I ask that the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages apologize for showing his contempt once again for the arts and artists and for adding insult to injury.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I did not realize points of order were used for points of rebuttal, but if she wants to have this debate, I am more than prepared to do so.

We are talking about new funds for next year and not next week. As a government, we must make choices.

Her colleague from Victoriaville wrote to me to ask for subsidies and funding for the 150th anniversary of Victoriaville. We have to make choices. This organization has received funding in the past. It is the 150th anniversary of the city of Victoriaville. We have to make choices.

Yes, this organization, which is called the Socially Acceptable Terrorist Action, will not get funding this year. Instead, we will be supporting a family-friendly organization and event for the 150th anniversary of Victoriaville. We make choices that are right for Canadians.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

That is not a point of order.

We have had two points of order now that are not points of order, in my view, and I would urge hon. members to ask that their questions be set down for further debate under Standing Order 38. They can have a 10-minute debate at the adjournment time in the House on these subjects and have no end of fun debating the matters. I would encourage that. It is more entertaining than having points of order after question period.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will start this afternoon by saying that last week the government House leader ambushed, for lack of a better term, the House of Commons with two unanimous consent motions, both of which I think could reasonably be characterized as publicity stunts. One was a very unusual motion asking that all justice bills on the order paper be adopted, while the other motion s asking to adopt Bill C-10 at all stages was intended to distract from Conservative behaviour in the Senate.

I would simply like to remind the hon. member across the floor and his colleagues that we are here in this chamber working for Canadians. This is serious business and I would hope in the future that the member across the way would treat it as such.

I ask the Conservative House leader which bills the government intends to bring forward for tomorrow and for next week and I hope he can make an effort to ensure, as we approach the Christmas adjournment, that consultations with the opposition parties are conducted in a proper manner. I think he owes it to himself, to his party and to this House. We will do our part, as always, to make this place work in the interests of Canadians.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, before I respond to the hon. member's question, I want to say that at our House leaders meeting just two weeks ago, the government raised the issue of one of the Liberal members calling a minister of the Crown a “slime” five times.

The House leader for the Liberal Party is seeking to raise the decorum and the quality level of debate in this place. The member is a senior member of the Liberal shadow cabinet. Before I answer the normal Thursday question, I wonder if the member could update us on where we are on that.

The House leader of the official opposition has also been very passionate in wanting to reduce the amount of heckling in this place and yet we was rather egregiously heckling the Minister of Finance yesterday on Walkerton. I spoke with the member who represents that constituency and that community takes great offence at the continuing vilification of the name of their town. Maybe we will get that next week with the slime comment.

Today we will continue the opposition motion from the Bloc Québécois.

Friday we will debate Bill C-41, strengthening military justice, and Bill C-43, the RCMP labour modernization.

On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of next week we will call Bill C-49, action on human smuggling; Bill C-47, sustaining Canada's economic recovery; Bill C-22, protecting children from online sexual exploitation; Bill C-29, safeguarding Canadians' personal information; Bill C-41, strengthening military justice; Bill C-43, the RCMP labour modernization; Bill C-54, child sexual offences; Bill C-33, safer railways act; Bill C-8, Canada-Jordan free trade agreement; and, Bill C-20, an action plan for the National Capital Commission.

Thursday will be an allotted day for our friends in the New Democratic Party.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When the matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Richmond Hill had the floor and there are three minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the member for Richmond Hill.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, before question period, I was talking about the valuable contribution that Canadian soldiers and Canadian aid workers have made to Afghanistan.

In this discussion with regard to post-2011, we have talked about the 3-Ds. One of the aspects the government has mentioned is investigating the future of Afghan children and youth through development. I cannot think of anyone in the House who would not be supportive of that initiative. I cannot think of anyone in the House who would oppose the issue of advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, something with which we have helped the ministry of justice in Afghanistan. The rule of law and human rights are absolutely fundamental and are things that we certainly support on this side of the House.

On promoting regional diplomacy, the government has not been very effective in this area. We have called for a special envoy for Afghanistan, for the region, to deal with the situation, not just in Afghanistan, Pakistan, et cetera. We encourage the government to do that. That is one component that the government has failed to respond to effectively. We think it is absolutely critical to promote regional diplomacy because the solutions in Afghanistan also lie in Islamabad, Tehran, New Delhi and in other capitals in the region. The only way to deal with that, we believe very strongly on this side of the House, is through a special envoy.

On helping deliver humanitarian assistance, I cannot see anyone in the House who would oppose that position. That is something that we believe is very important and is part of this issue. However, we cannot do these things unless we have a secure Afghanistan. Therefore, the training aspects are very important, but again, alongside the diplomacy and the development.

We are living in a fictionalized world if we believe somehow that we can have those other things without security. Regarding Canada's contributions, having seen it on three different occasions, I know that the men and women are making a difference. We believe it and we believe that this kind of initiative is important,not only for Afghanistan and for the region but also for the security of Canadians at home.

We encourage that but we would also like more details on the specifics of this training aspect. We also want to encourage the government to look at a regional envoy, which we believe for Afghanistan is extremely important, and that will help in the future not only of that country but for ourselves as well.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I know my friend made many remarks about what the rebuilding process will be like. One of the things I know he would like to expand upon, given his experience in the municipal sphere both as a councillor and as a president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, is the role of local governance and the rebuilding of that aspect, which is not bricks and mortar necessarily, but probably is equal to it in terms of the importance of rebuilding communities.

I would like to know what my friend could add in that regard, which was missing perhaps from his speech and certainly missing in the breadth of the discussion that the government has put forward as to specifics of the rebuilding mission.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know my hon. colleague, who was a former mayor, and an excellent mayor at that, of the beautiful city of Moncton, New Brunswick, understands, as I do, the importance of capacity-building at the village level. It is the capacity-building at the village level that is absolutely fundamental.

A country cannot be built from the top down. It must be built from the ground up. Organizations, such as the FCM, and the aid people who we have talked to in the United States know that getting trained engineers, planners and people in the agricultural sector on the ground to help that capacity-building is absolutely critical.

We continue to encourage the government in that area because that is one area of development that is important. It works hand in hand with aid workers because if they do not have security, particularly in local towns and villages where they need to do the kinds of things that my friend wass talking about, then they will not be able to build the capacity for governance.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to get my colleague's comment on our trip together to Afghanistan with the Afghan committee in May and June of this year and the requirement for this mission or the desire for what we are doing now, and his comments on what we heard from everybody at every level, with every uniform, with every civilian outfit, on the consistency of that message.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that in that trip consistently we heard about the fact that the men and women in the forces are making a difference, development workers were making a difference, and that the Afghans really appreciated the approach of Canadians in terms of consultations with village elders and the work with children.

The fact is that Canadians are making a significant difference and they are doing that because of the type of approach they are taking. In fact, the Americans in particular congratulated us and they say they are learning about how to respond in many of those circumstances because of what Canada is doing.

Again, the extension in this case of a non-combat role for training with development and diplomacy simply adds to the successes that Canada has had on the ground in Afghanistan.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments about capacity building, but let us talk about non-military capacity building for a second.

I would like the hon. member's comments about one of the things that is going to happen over the next three years if the government and the opposition get their way, which is that the actual aid component, the non-military aid component, is going to be halved, or will be actually less than 50%. I wonder if the member would like to comment on that and how that is going to help build capacity in the country.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is a good one, because the issue that we need to be dealing with, and I notice that the Prime Minister the other week actually commented on it, is the issue of corruption. Therefore, direct aid to the Afghan government is not acceptable. We do it through other channels. But the point clearly is that we have to build capacity for the Government of Afghanistan to be able to spend money, but also to be transparent and accountable on how that money is spent, because corruption still is the elephant in the room.

That is the one that really we have not tackled, and President Karzai has been reluctant but finally seems to have come to the conclusion that he cannot have it both ways. He has to respond to this issue. We have to weed out corruption at the highest levels, down to the village level.

There was a time not too long ago when the police officers were not even paid. The money went to their superiors, who basically pocketed most of it. That is an important issue, and again, in terms of capacity, we as a government need to be working with our friends and allies to address that type of issue.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

I rise today, on this Bloc Québécois opposition day, on a matter of concern to a number of Quebeckers and Canadians, the extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

The Conservative Party and the Liberal Party did not want to discuss the issue, so this will be our only opportunity to talk about this mission, a mission that the Liberals and the Conservatives have agreed will be extended to 2014.

We understand that the Conservative government has signed a backroom agreement with the Liberals to extend the mission. Those two parties have agreed that extending the mission in Afghanistan will not be subject to a vote in the House.

I am proud to be a member of the Bloc Québécois today. The Bloc's opposition day motion is providing an opportunity for some debate about the mission in Afghanistan.

We would have preferred that the Conservative government introduce it, given its 2006 election platform, which stated that any extension of the mission in Afghanistan would be subject to a vote in the House. The Prime Minister has stated on a number of occasions that the military mission would end in 2011, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs has also made statements to that effect.

It is a shame that we are holding the debate on this mission on a Bloc Québécois opposition day, since the government has made a number of statements and commitments that any deployment of troops in Afghanistan would be subject to a vote.

It is a shame because we are going through a time when people are more and more cynical about politics and more and more distrustful of politicians. They are putting less and less faith in politicians. We are here in the House having a debate that should not be taking place given the fact that we were agreed. Even the Prime Minister said clearly that any extension of the mission in Afghanistan would be subject to a vote. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Any extension should go to a vote because we are elected parliamentarians. There are 308 members in the House, and each of us represents close to 100,000 voters who elected us for our ideas. We have taken part in debates in a number of election campaigns. Personally, like all the hon. members of the Bloc Québécois, I have faced the Conservatives, Liberals, New Democrats and candidates from other parties during these debates. The people I represent in Berthier—Maskinongé elected me precisely because we talked about the mission in Afghanistan in the numerous debates I took part in during the campaign.

We talked about assistance to unemployed people, and we talked about guaranteed income supplement budgets. We took part in a number of debates. I represent the people of Berthier—Maskinongé. My Bloc Québécois colleagues, the people of Berthier—Maskinongé and the citizens of all of Quebec are against extending the mission in Afghanistan. A survey shows that over 70 or 75% of Quebeckers are opposed to it.

Unfortunately, some Conservative members from Quebec, who are still supposedly in power and still voluntarily toeing the government's line, did not vote for what Quebeckers want with regard to extending the mission in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister has made a number of statements. In the 2007 Speech from the Throne, he said:

The Canadian Forces mission has been approved by Parliament until February 2009, and our government has made clear to Canadians and our allies that any future military deployments must also be supported by a majority of parliamentarians.

So what is the government doing? It is making deals with the Liberals on the sly and it is avoiding facing Parliament and the people of Canada and Quebec. Basically, it is avoiding facing up to the opinions and values of Canadians and Quebeckers who are against this military mission in Afghanistan.

Despite what the Conservative government and Liberals can tell us today, we are talking about training Afghan soldiers and police officers. When we talked about extending the mission to train Afghan police officers and soldiers, General Hillier clearly said two weeks ago that we could not do so without finding ourselves in a combat situation. It was not a Bloc supporter or an hon. member of this House who said that, but a general who has been there, on the ground in Afghanistan.

Personally, I think something a Chief of the Defence Staff said is more credible than anything we can say in the House. The French army has been training Afghan soldiers for a few years now and over 50 French soldiers have been killed in these training missions.

Whether or not we agree with any of the other parties regarding the mission in Afghanistan, we must debate the issue. Any time we spend large sums of money on military missions and send troops, people from our country, Quebeckers and Canadians, to fight and risk their lives, I think it is extremely important that we vote on it in the House.

There are 308 members in this House representing all Quebeckers and Canadians, yet we are avoiding a vote on this issue. We are asking military personnel to risk their lives. I am convinced that any soldiers who go to give training in Afghanistan will be risking their lives. I truly believe a vote should be held.

The Canada first defence strategy does not clearly define the government's foreign military policy. There is no explanation for such exorbitant military spending.

It has not been defined. Why are we buying so much defence equipment? It is difficult to understand.

At the same time, and as a final point, of course I do want the government to be able to take part in military missions, but I also want it to be just as concerned about our veterans when they come home, since they often lack resources, especially if they are injured or have a disability of any kind.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my friend across the way. There were many things he said that I would like to comment on, but I will stick to the training piece.

We have heard over and over again about the French experience. There is no question the French have lost lives in training over there, as we have lost lives in training over there. That is training in the operational mentoring and liaison mission where we are actually out in the field with the Afghan national army, as the French have done in their region. That is the training where we have lost soldiers. That is the training where the French have lost soldiers.

That is not the training we will be conducting after 2011. We will be in garrison doing the same kind of basic infantry, basic artillery and basic communications training, the kind of training that is done in Gagetown and other places.

I would like to know when the hon. member and the rest of his party's hard-of-listening members will finally get that, and stop misleading the House and people into thinking that Canada is going to be into combat training other than basic training.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not have a clear idea of what Canada will be doing on this military mission, and the reason is that this government has been lying to us since we started voting on the mission here in the House. I am thinking of the government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who made the following statement:

We have made it clear that the military—

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would just like to point out to my hon. colleague that accusing the government of lying is unparliamentary. I would request that he withdraw that comment.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I was in the process of taking the chair when the comment was made. I did not hear what the hon. member said, but I would remind all hon. members to abide by the rules of parliamentary language.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, then I would just like to ask him to respond to a statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The people who are watching will at least be able to draw their own conclusions. He said:

We have made it clear that the military will not be [in Afghanistan] post-2011 and in that regard there is no need to have a debate in the House.

That was a statement made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. I do not know whether or not he was lying or whether his statement should be called into question, but that is what he said here in March 2010.

The House is not voting on this mission. The Liberals and the Conservatives made a secret agreement to avoid a debate about the mission. Today, on this Bloc Québécois opposition day, we have a unique opportunity to hold a debate, albeit a short one, unfortunately, because the party in power does not want to talk about the mission.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how much evidence the government needs that the Government of Afghanistan is corrupt. Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index indicates that Afghanistan is tied for 176 out of 178 in terms of corruption.

Back in January or February of this year, I recall that a doctor, one of the candidates who ran against Karzai for president, testified at a Senate committee hearing. She indicated that at least two people that she was aware of in Afghanistan working for the Afghanistan government had purchased half a million dollar homes, one in Vancouver and I believe one in Toronto.

When are we going to wake up and smell the coffee here, and realize that we are doing all this work and spending $18 billion to help a government that is essentially corrupt?

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, we know this government's problems with human rights and justice in Afghanistan. There is a great deal of work still to be done. It could have formed part of a diplomatic or humanitarian mission to support efforts by the Afghan government. The mission could have been an opportunity to strengthen the justice system and promote and protect human rights. That is work that could have been done as part of a non-military mission. But it is not being done. The government does not seem to be concerned about that.

Opposition Motion--Mission in AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time I have had the opportunity to speak about the war in Afghanistan and Canada's role in this military mission. Over the past few years, it has undoubtedly been one of the subjects most talked about in this House. That is understandable because Canada's mission in Afghanistan has changed over the years and the general public really does not know what is happening over there.

In speeches I gave in 2006 and 2007, I asked that the mission in Afghanistan and its duration be more clearly defined. The following is an excerpt from my April 2007 speech.

The most important thing is to redefine the mandate of our soldiers in Afghanistan. We must be able to measure the progress made. From that perspective, if we cannot quantify the progress, it becomes clear that public opinion will focus only on the loss of human life we are suffering.

Today, we are dealing with a broken promise. The mission was to end in 2011, but now we are talking about extending the mission. The motion moved today by the Bloc Québécois is a reminder that parliamentarians and the government promised to end the military mission in Afghanistan in 2011 and they must keep this promise.

On two occasions, the Conservative government assured the people of Quebec and Canada that the mission would come to an end in 2011, that the combat mission would end and that any change would be subject to a vote in the House of Commons. It is totally unacceptable that the government has made a unilateral decision to extend the mission beyond 2011. By acting thus and bypassing Parliament, the Conservative government is scoffing at democracy. Parliamentarians embody democracy in Quebec and Canada. It is vital that the government conduct a discussion before such a decision is made.

The Bagotville military base is located in my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord. Having a military base in one's riding and frequently rubbing shoulders with troops means more exposure to the realities of the lives of servicemen and women. I am convinced that the majority of residents in my riding no longer support extending the mission in Afghanistan. The mission will still be a military mission, even though the Conservative government may call it an “Afghan army training mission”.

The mission in Afghanistan is not easy for anyone, not the least for the family members, children and friends of the servicemen and women. This is something that troops know and accept when they make a commitment to the Canadian Forces. If the government is intent on pursuing a military mission involving many young people in an interminable conflict, there will be a substantial cost to society both from a human capital and a societal standpoint.

In 2007 and 2008, I was a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence, which focused at the time on both the materiel and equipment procurement process and the progress of the mission in Afghanistan. Military officials appeared before our committee on a monthly basis laying out Canada's achievements and reporting on the coalition forces' progress.

There was a flip side to this, a whole other perspective. A number of humanitarian organizations came and contradicted the information the military gave us about setbacks and unfavourable Afghan public opinion regarding the actions of countries involved in the war. I have to say that it was very difficult to get accurate information or photos of the work that had been done in Afghanistan. It was a question of relying on the debriefings that were provided.

In May 2008, members of the Standing Committee on National Defence had an opportunity to travel to Afghanistan and get a better sense of how the situation was progressing. During our visit of a couple of days, I had an opportunity to truly understand and see with my own eyes the situation on the ground. We met with the Afghan authorities and observed the difficult conditions in which the civilian population was living, the widespread poverty, and the continual tension in Kandahar.

The provincial council of Kandahar told us one thing that has stuck with me: do not bring your big machines and your workers who can build roads, bridges, and schools in a flash; leave them at home. Let the Afghan people and Afghan workers build this infrastructure. It will take us longer, but that is not important. The work will make it possible for Afghan fathers to feed their children and families.

After having spent several days in Afghanistan, I could better understand the daily difficulties and realities for the soldiers who are always on high alert. Every trip outside of the Canadian Forces' secure zones becomes a dangerous mission.

When I came back, I recognized that if we do not end this military mission, Canada could be there for many more years. The country ranks low on the human development index and needs to be rebuilt. Afghan authorities and the coalition countries have known for quite some time that Canada was going to pull out of military operations in 2011.

We must recall that in 2007, the fundamental objective of the international coalition and NATO was to rebuild the economy and democracy and make Afghanistan a viable state. To do that, Canada tried to leading role in the distribution of humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of the country.

I am convinced that Canadian soldiers have played an important role in Afghanistan since 2001, but it is time to move on and offer strictly civilian support to Afghan authorities. Our work is done. We have paid dearly in terms of human lives and in terms of monetary costs.

In Quebec, people are not fooled. If the majority of Quebeckers want to immediately end Canada's military mission in Afghanistan, it is because they have realized that this war has changed very little.

That is the Bloc's position. Of course we support this motion. We want this military mission to end, but we can imagine a civilian mission to help the Afghan people.