Mr. Speaker, I invite my colleague to stay a little longer—I know she is busy—because I will be sharing my opinion on the statement she made earlier. I think we should have a discussion on the matter in order to ensure mutual understanding of the issues.
I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Joliette on this issue. We are blaming the government for preventing Parliament from voting on extending or at least defining the mission in Afghanistan. I am making this clarification because a parliamentary secretary indicated earlier that today's debate is on the conduct of the mission.
Today's debate is not on the conduct of the mission because that decision has already been made by the Prime Minister. He even announced it to NATO. The government has broken its promises and denied Parliament the ability to vote on extending the mission in Afghanistan.
The reason I wanted our colleague, the parliamentary secretary, to stay is that in my opinion, there is a distinction to be made between a combat mission carried out by soldiers and a military mission for combat training. It is still a military mission. Soldiers will be doing military work to train colleagues, soldiers, people who perform the same tasks they do in another country, but it is still a military mission. Now we need to know what mandate they will be given. That is where the mandate differs and we need to understand each other. We thought the commitment made was for a civilian mission.
I asked our colleague a number of different questions earlier to find out how many civilians from various disciplines will be assigned to the mission. We still do not know of any civilians who will be participating in this mission. When a police officer is trained—and I think my colleague is in a good position to talk about this because that is her profession—theoretical and practical training is provided. Practical training is not provided in a classroom. It is done outside the classroom.
That is why the French military, which took on this responsibility in 2007, has had some loss of life, although not as much as in combat, of course. However, the French have lost some personnel because they have had to expose themselves to danger, by travelling on the roads, for example. We also know that where the operations are taking place now, there are more deaths from mines than from bullets. Most of our military personnel who have died were killed when they drove over mines.
Just because the French were giving training, that does not mean they were no longer engaged in military activity. They were still engaged in military activity, and that is what is going to happen. That is what we are going to ask of our 9,500 soldiers who will be on the ground by 2014.
I know that some members are sensitive and are prepared to try to discuss the situation. Others who are a bit fanatical—although that is probably not the right word to use—do not want to hear any more about it. I know that some Conservative members also want to be reasonable about our future contribution. Should it be a strictly military contribution? We do not think so. Canada and Quebec have done enough in this regard. Our soldiers have gone to the front from the start, and especially since 2005.
The time has come to do what we do so well: a civilian mission. That is why the Bloc Québécois takes the following position.
As a participant in the London and Kabul conferences, Canada must ensure that Afghanistan makes the transition, in as peaceful and safe a way as possible, to full control by the Afghan government. We know how to do that. Canada invented peacekeeping, and we have a great deal of peacekeeping expertise that we are losing because we are putting most of our forces in combat roles.
Our actions should focus on three main areas: providing training support for Afghan police and helping to set up judicial, prison and administrative systems; reviewing and maintaining official development assistance; and reconciliation and integration. Like the other countries on the ground in Afghanistan, we will continue to maintain a presence, but without accomplishing anything other than what we have achieved to date. We get the feeling that we are not accomplishing anything because the government itself is corrupt. There is general agreement on that.
A military presence is incompatible with the humanitarian mission. For that reason, we believe that police training must be modelled after the training provided in democratic states. In Afghanistan, police forces are accustomed to assuming part of the role usually reserved for the courts. For example, police officers may serve as arbitrators in settling family disputes. A family may be asked to make restitution for the harm done to another family. They may even give their own child to the other family to make amends or restitution for the harm done. That still happens. We have to change this way of thinking. We believe that sending 50 or so police trainers to Afghanistan will be of greater assistance than what we are currently doing with weapons.
We must also focus on establishing a modern judicial system, which is clearly lacking. We have some great legal scholars teaching in our universities. Some are retired and available. We believe that an elite team should be trained in order to establish and maintain a judicial system worthy of that name and so that the police officers we will be training can take people who may have broken the law to court.
This also applies to the prison system. As we know, torture takes place in the prisons. We must also send a team to help them set up a real public service, which will run the components I just mentioned, particularly the judicial system, and stabilize the country. Above all, this will give the Afghan people confidence in their own government.