House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, we concur and accept the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The amendment is in order.

Before I go to questions and comments, the Minister of National Revenue is rising on a point of order.

Bill C-3 — Notice of time allocation motionCriminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Gaspésie—Les-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Québec

Liberal

Diane Lebouthillier LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Madam Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) and 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C‑3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code. Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Madam Speaker, we heard a speech from the Bloc Québécois that was a nice jump between different planets, but at the end of the day, it looks like we landed on planet earth.

Considering the agreement we just had on the amendment submitted from the Bloc Québécois, does the hon. member think the government will support this motion, yes or no?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, I have no idea.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to congratulate my colleague for his election victory and his long political career. I also thank him for his military service.

The situation being what it is, we need to focus on the work ahead. It would be reasonable to have this conversation in many standing committees, including citizenship and immigration, foreign affairs, international development, veterans affairs and national defence.

Why do we need to establish a new committee? Is it purely to score political points?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his kind wishes and his question.

I want to say two things in response to that question. First, I believe I said that the amendment we moved sought to remove any attempt to make the motion a partisan exercise.

Second, I also had the opportunity to say that we had a Standing Committee on National Defence, a Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship and a Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.

However, we must not take a compartmentalized approach to studying this multi-faceted issue. On the contrary, we need a comprehensive perspective to ensure we are not just studying bits and pieces without seeing the big picture. Seeing the tree is all well and good, but it is important to see the forest too, and I believe that is what this committee will enable us to do.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2021 / 5:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Montarville for his speech and his remarks.

I liked it when he said that we should look at whether we can get to the bottom of things. I am not going to look into the past and pick at scabs, but getting to the bottom of things also means asking ourselves whether a military venture like the one Canada was involved in in Afghanistan is really not the predictable story of an inevitable defeat.

Social and cultural change rarely comes at the point of a gun. Military force has not been able to bring about the changes we wanted to see, for example, in girls' education, infrastructure, democratic life and justice in Afghanistan. The late Jack Layton was actually insulted when he asked such questions in the House a few years ago.

Beyond this global vision, in my opinion, this is part of the debate that we must have. Would a committee such as the one proposed, with the amendments suggested, not make it possible to put pressure on the Liberal government to keep this issue in the news and to continue to bring it up, perhaps to speed things up so that the Canadians still stuck there and the allies who helped us, regardless of what we think of this mission, can be repatriated as soon as possible?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, I suspect that my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie is aware of the speech I gave to the Parliamentary Assembly to the Council of Europe a few days after the election this September, in which I spoke about the repercussions and implications of the conflict in Afghanistan. I spoke about how it is often very difficult to make fundamental changes through military intervention alone, especially when the countries working to drive out the Taliban are dealing with a cultural context that is so different from their own.

It was clearly a resounding failure, as I pointed out in my speech, when I spoke about how the Taliban that we chased out has now reclaimed power in Afghanistan. We did all of that work and people were killed and injured for virtually no reason. We must reflect on what kind intervention is possible and on how to intervene in other countries when we want to bring about fundamental social changes.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Alex Ruff Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Madam Speaker, I cannot help myself, based on the comments by the member, to interject and give a little of a different perspective.

I agree the mission unfortunately failed. We are seeing the repercussions. However, I am still optimistic about those girls and women who had an opportunity for the better part of two decades to get educated and to live in some semblance of peace and prosperity, which they did not have under the Taliban. I am optimistic that they are going to come back. I predict that one of those individuals who did have that opportunity will be leading Afghanistan in the decades to come.

We cannot just turn our backs, and we cannot avoid getting involved as a nation. Canada is privileged to be one of the few countries in the world that can make a difference. We need to continue to do that. It does need to be a whole-of-government affair. It cannot just be military. We need to continue to focus on helping those who need the help.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, I completely agree with my colleague. I think that when we must intervene or are called upon to intervene we must do so in a timely fashion.

I also agree with him that Afghanistan, which is currently under Taliban rule, is not the same Afghanistan that the Taliban controlled when the international coalition intervened. This intervention by the international coalition is likely the reason why the Afghanistan of today is not the same one that the Taliban controlled when we first intervened.

I agree that we should be optimistic, but we must also take a realistic look at which aspects of our intervention were successful and which aspects were more or less appropriate.

Yes, we must intervene, but we must also find the best way to do so.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Lemire Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his excellent speech and for the inspired leadership he is providing in the situation we are dealing with in the House of Commons.

I would like him to tell us what he thinks about the current geopolitical situation in Afghanistan and about the actions of the Americans, the Europeans and the various powers in the world so that we can see what lessons Canada could learn.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Montarville, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague just asked me a really big question. I want to thank him for that.

We can see it with the Russian troops massing on the border with Ukraine. We can see that a number of countries that do not necessarily share our values may have interpreted the coalition's withdrawal from Afghanistan as a sign of weakness and may seek to take advantage of that supposed weakness to impose their views.

We certainly have to pay close attention to what is currently happening in Europe, but we also have to pay close attention to what is happening in Asia. I think one of the biggest challenges facing western countries in the relatively near future is the situation in Taiwan. I actually think the People's Republic of China, like Russia, sees the West as weak and a failure. They may believe they are in a position of strength vis-à-vis the western nations.

We will most certainly have to ask ourselves some serious questions sooner rather than later, perhaps some of the toughest questions we have had to ask ourselves in many years.

What happened and is happening in Afghanistan is bound to have consequences. It is linked to what is happening and likely to happen with the world order that is currently being established.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, during the debates on Tuesday, December 7 and Wednesday, December 8, 2021, on the business of supply pursuant to Standing Order 81(5), no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed will please say nay.

There being no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Ellis Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Edmonton Manning, should there be any left today. I will try to keep my comments short.

In 2019, someone said:

Because of their sacrifice, young girls are allowed to freely go to school. Because of their sacrifice, we are safer at home. We will never forget the price these women and men paid.

Of course, that was the hon. former minister of national defence.

The situation in Afghanistan is, in a word, disastrous. I must say it is an honour to be asked to speak on this issue as it has deep personal meaning for me and many of my constituents.

In 2006, three young men lost their lives too soon in Afghanistan. To this day, their families reside in and around Truro, Nova Scotia, which is part of my riding of Cumberland—Colchester. Warrant Officer Frank Mellish is survived by his wife and two children. His parents, Barry and Sandy Mellish, are friends of mine and were also patients at my medical practice. Corporal Chris Reid was a single man and the son of Tom and Angela. When he died, he was their only surviving child. Their other child, a daughter, died in 2002. At a Remembrance Day ceremony this year at the Truro Legion, I had the opportunity to lay a wreath on behalf of the Government of Canada while Tom and Angela laid a wreath as Silver Cross parents. Sergeant Darcy Tedford left behind a wife and two daughters. He is the son of Robin and Paulette Tedford, who are also people I know very well in Cumberland—Colchester. They miss their son every day.

They are three Silver Cross families in one small community in Nova Scotia. So, is this personal for me, for many Canadians and certainly for the Afghans left behind? Madam Speaker, you can bet it is.

I spent nine years in uniform as a flight surgeon serving our great nation in Shearwater and Comox, and in Kuwait and Bahrain. My brother continues to serve. He indeed served at the KAF from July 2010 until January 2011.

Despite the significant losses of their sons, these three families are still amazing patriots. They believe in Canada and the work the Canadian Armed Forces was tasked to do in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of the Canadian Forces from Afghanistan has left a bitter taste and indelible stain on our Canadian reputation. Canada is known globally as a nation founded on democracy and human rights. Since the 1960s, Canada has used these principles to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan in the hope that it would one day enjoy peace and stability.

The story of the descent of Afghanistan into civil war after the withdrawal of international troops should come as no surprise. Sadly, it appears to be a significant retelling of the same tale that happened after the former Soviet Union withdrew from its decades-long war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Taliban regained control and severely limited civil rights. It would appear that terrorist groups ran rampant, which of course led us to the events of September 11, 2001. The Canadian role in Afghanistan evolved during the time of the conflict. In the early days, we were primarily based as an interdiction force on the seas. Subsequent to this, our air power was tasked to support the efforts on the ocean and soon after forces from JTF 2 were on the ground.

As time rolled on into 2003, we provided support to other nations in Kabul patrolling the western part of the city. Over time, once again the Canadian role changed. In 2005 Taliban activity in Kandahar ramped up and with the Canadians there it became clear that more forces were required on the ground to combat the significant Taliban forces. It has become well known that Canadians involved in this attempt to stem Taliban insurgency were under ever-present danger as they went outside the wire, which sadly brings me back to 2006, at which time Warrant Officer Mellish, Sergeant Tedford and Corporal Reid were killed in action.

All of this has come at a significant cost. There were 158 Canadians who died; countless others have been both physically and mentally changed forever and their families have been significantly affected. The incredible toll this has taken on our soldiers is not well represented by the number of casualties we suffered. This was a war of uncertainty, IEDs and one that now has an ending that has left many soldiers feeling let down by their country.

In the airlift at the end of the summer of 2021, approximately 3,700 people were evacuated from Kabul airport. One former military member watched on TV as events unfolded. She recognized one person who had worked for the Canadian Forces and returned to school, had become a nurse and then a physician. That man returned to the airport five times into the sewage, wearing a red ball cap, as we have heard previously, to try to stand out. She does not know if he was safely evacuated or was killed. She has received several emails. I will read from a couple. One states:

Hello my dear friend. It is so nice to hear from you as well. No I'm not living in Dubai, I live in Kandahar. Since the U.S. troops pulled out, the Taliban control almost all the Kandahar. It's very dangerous now. Do you remember Farid, the guy who was working with me in shop? They killed him. Today is my 27th day I'm hiding in home. I can't go outside. I've been working in KAF from 2008 till the end of 2013, but not as interpreter. Do you remember I was contractor? I need your help, my friend, to come to Canada. I don't want them to kill me. I have six kids.

Another email from an Afghan still in Kandahar says:

How are you doing? It's happened in Kandahar. They put bombs in house door. The kids' parents are died and this kid is injured. We are living like with animals. They destroyed my beautiful city.

Investing in nations after war is essential to the rebuilding of said nations. Post World War II, Canada remained involved from a military perspective in Germany for 50 years. We now have a robust export to Germany worth $6 billion annually as of 2020. After seeing the colossal failure of the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan and the chaos that ensued and given our history in Germany, how could we think that a rapid drawing out of forces without significant support would be or could be successful?

The Liberal government has failed Afghans and Canadians. This summer the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan, and our soldiers in Canada's armed forces as well as Afghans who served Canada were at risk. Instead of prioritizing this crisis and taking action, the Prime Minister called an election. As chaos ensued outside Kabul's airport, the Prime Minister was asked whether he regretted announcing the election. His answer was a resounding no.

Many vulnerable people, including female leaders, humanitarian rights defenders, journalists, religious minorities and members from the LGBTQ community were left to hide from the Taliban. Many of them continue to hide to this day, because the Liberal government has brought to Canada less than 10% of the Afghan refugees that it promised. To make matters worse, this October the Liberal government's data breach threatened the lives of several hundred vulnerable Afghans seeking refuge from the Taliban.

Canada's reputation as a compassionate country is now tarnished as our government has turned its back on vulnerable people, but we can change that. The first step is to create an all-party special committee on Canada's Afghanistan response. We need to come together to review what Canada's contingency plan was, its evacuations of Canadians and its efforts to bring Canada-Afghan interpreters and contractors to Canada.

As the Taliban continues to hunt for remaining Afghans who supported Canada during our mission to Afghanistan, now is the time for action. Our Conservative Party is taking action right now. We need the special committee to understand that the errors which were made are not repeated. We must find ways to repatriate our supporters and restore Canada to its rightful and historic place on the world stage. Make no mistake: This is urgent and lives are at stake.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I genuinely appreciate the member's service and that of other members who have contributed to the debate. I thank them for that.

We hear of so many heart-wrenching examples and the types of things that are happening there that are so horrific. I would not want members to give an impression that there are some members of the House who care less than other members. We all want to make a positive difference in what is happening in Afghanistan.

Back in 2010, Stephen Harper was the prime minister; Michael Ignatieff was the leader of the Liberal Party and Gilles Duceppe was the leader of the Bloc party. The three of them came together to deal with the concerns that we are trying to deal with: the issue of security and confidentiality. An agreement was actually signed off on by those three leaders. Stephen Harper was the prime minister. Does the member believe there should have been some responsibility from the current opposition at least to achieve an agreement or, at the very least, let the standing committee—

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Ellis Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, there are provisions in the bill that are about the redaction of important comments. Also, if members care so much, why was an election called? If they have such great emotional support, why do they not simply support this bill?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to extend a big thanks to all the military men and women here in Canada who put their lives at risk every day to protect us.

With respect to the Afghan mission and the people left behind, we are in a situation where many people are in desperate straits. However, there are a number of measures the government can take to address this issue.

I wonder whether the Conservatives would support a measure that calls for the government to ease the documentation requirements. As it stands right now, people cannot get their visas processed, for example, to get to safety. Would they support easing the measure with respect to the refugee determination requirements?

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Ellis Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I have only been here a short time, and the trust I have for the government to do anything quickly, expeditiously and in good faith is waning very quickly. I am saddened by that. We therefore believe we need to take the bull by the proverbial horns and get the job done ourselves.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to single out another one of our veterans, Trevor Greene, who is enormously brave and was a hero throughout the Afghanistan conflict. He was originally born, as the member for Cumberland—Colchester was, in Sydney, Cape Breton, and moved to Vancouver Island. I am honoured to be his friend. He lives in Nanaimo.

Some members here will recall his name, because he was the soldier who took off his helmet out of respect for village elders and was attacked with an axe to the back of his head in 2006. He is enormously brave and was interviewed around the time the writ was dropped, on August 15, as the Taliban took over Afghanistan. He was enraged that we would be going into an election at that moment.

My question to the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester is whether he is convinced that forming a new committee will get more Afghans to safety than working with the existing committee structure.

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on AfghanistanBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Ellis Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I will keep it short. Yes.