Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.
This is my very first speech, so I hope you will humour me, Mr. Speaker, as I thank my constituents for once again allowing me the great privilege of standing in this place to represent them. I will tell members a bit about Edmonton Strathcona before I undertake my speech.
Edmonton Strathcona is an incredible, amazing community. We are a community of artists and musicians; a community of small business owners, teachers, professors, students and workers. We have incredible events like the Fringe; the Folk Music Festival; the Strathearn Art Walk; and the Canoë Volant, which is an opportunity to ride a canoe down a ski hill. We have the French district with Campus Saint-Jean and La Cité Francophone, the University of Alberta. Being able to represent Edmonton Strathcona really is the deepest honour of my life, and I want to thank everyone who elected me. I want to thank the volunteers who helped me to come back to this place.
I want to finish by thanking my husband and my children. We all stand in this place. We work long hours. We know that often our private life is sacrificed because of the work that we do for the public good. My husband Duncan and my two beautiful children inspire me. I am so grateful for their love and support. I thank them so much.
Today, I rise to speak to the opposition motion calling for a special committee to examine and review the events related to the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August of this year. My overarching message that I want to give to every single person in this House is one of urgency. Every parliamentarian in this House needs to understand that what we are dealing with in Afghanistan, what we are seeing in Afghanistan right now, is not one crisis and not two crises; it is three crises that are happening at the same time and they will require urgent action from the Canadian government and from governments around the world.
I come from a background of international development. I have spent over 25 years working in international development and sustainable development around the world. I have worked with people who have led the way working in Afghanistan to raise women and girls in Afghanistan. I am so proud of the work that our sector, the Canadian CSOs, have done, including Janice Eisenhauer and Lauryn Oates from Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. We have seen incredible work out of Islamic Relief Canada, Care Canada and World Vision. These organizations have been working on the ground for so long to support the Afghan people. I am so proud that I have been able to support them in my role.
I have to say how devastating it was in August to watch what was happening on the ground, to watch the despair and the pain in Afghanistan. The thing that I felt most shocked about was that we knew this was coming. The runway for this was very long. For years, New Democrats have been calling on Conservative and Liberal governments to do more, to act faster, to invest more in the Afghan people. For years, members of the religious minorities in Afghanistan have been saying that they are at risk, that their very lives are at risk and that if they are not supported to flee Afghanistan, they would die.
Even just in February 2021, I wrote to the minister and explained that we were watching the failure of a peace process and we were watching women be silenced in Afghanistan. That is exactly what happened. We wrote to the minister and said that when the U.S. left Afghanistan, as we knew it would because the Americans had told us they would, what would happen would be chaos. It was chaos. We saw this coming. We knew it was going to happen and then when it happened, instead of being ready, instead of having a plan, instead of doing the work we needed to do, we left those people behind.
We should be ashamed of ourselves. The government should be ashamed of itself.
We also know that we need to think of a way forward. We cannot turn the clock back on the failures of the government. We cannot go back in time, so have to look at going forward. We have to look at what to do about these three crises right now.
First, there is the humanitarian crisis; 23 million Afghans, more than half of the population, are at risk of starvation this winter. The situation in Afghanistan is dire, with the economy on the verge of collapse, food shortages and a crumbling health care system. The latest United Nations' humanitarian response flash appeal is currently deeply underfunded, with only 20% of the required assistance committed.
The Government of Canada simply has to do more to help the people of Afghanistan, who are facing these food crises. We must commit to more humanitarian aid and we must work with the multilateral and civil society organizations to ensure that the aid can get to those Afghans who need it the most. This is complicated. This will be very difficult to do, but we have to do this work. We know that antiterrorism legislation makes it extremely hard for CSOs and multilateral organizations to work in Afghanistan, but the government needs to be clear. It needs to make very clear declarations on what CSOs can do, how they can do it and how they will be protected to do the work.
The government will have to look at opportunities to get health care to Afghans. While we do not, in any way, want to recognize any legitimacy of the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, we may need to find ways to get health care, food and essential services to those in Afghanistan who need the help the most. We need a clear plan. We need the government to take leadership. We need the government to meet with CSOs and folks who are on the ground who know the situation, who can get us through and get the help to those people in Afghanistan right now.
The second crisis is immigration. My colleague from Vancouver East will be speaking about the immigration crisis, but the government keeps promising things, like 40,000 refugees will be coming to Canada, knowing very well that it has no ability to do that right now. What the Liberals are not telling Canadians is that the majority of those refugees are not coming from Afghanistan. We are asking people in a country with a collapsing economy to get out of Afghanistan before they can come to Canada. We can do better.
Finally, the third crisis is the international development crisis. This is not something I will just put on the current government. This belongs on the governments of Stephen Harper as well as the governments of the current Prime Minister. Our failure to invest in the people of Afghanistan and to stay with them is something we have seen in our international development file for a very long time. We are at the lowest level we have ever been in the history of our country.
Over the last 10 years, we have failed to invest in people or in international development. What we see is a country like Afghanistan, where the people are unable to survive without support, and our failure to protect them over years has caused this. Our failure to invest in them and work with our allies has caused this.
Therefore, I call on the government to recognize that we have a humanitarian crisis, an immigration and refugee crisis and an international development crisis unfolding in Afghanistan right now. Could we all please work together to find solutions to these three crises to protect the people of Afghanistan?