Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Lethbridge.
I will begin by recognizing that Canada's involvement in Afghanistan has been a bipartisan effort across prime ministers and parliaments. In our commitment to the Afghan people we have tried to join with them to make a difference for a country that has had little hope for several generations due to war and oppression.
In the motion before the House we are looking to the future, not to the past. We are asking Parliament to look forward with us and support the Afghan people once again. There is a job in Afghanistan that still needs to be done and I am confident we can meet the challenge.
I congratulate the Prime Minister for his unwavering support of our men and women in uniform and for doubling the developmental aid to Afghanistan. Canada has shown leadership in committing troops, resources, development and political efforts to help the Afghan government secure a better future for its people.
Canada, as a G-8 nation, is strengthening its position on the world stage. Being a major country entails great global responsibility. We cannot afford an isolationist attitude. Our attitude toward Afghanistan should not be that it is a problem in a land far away, especially in the globalized age. We will be endangering our own national security with such shortsightedness.
In our debate we must consider what the people of Afghanistan want. They want exactly what everybody else here wants, Mr. Speaker, you, me and all Canadians. They want a peaceful and democratic society based on the rule of law. They want to rise above the abject poverty which has been their lot for too many generations. They want jobs and education, peace and stability, and they want hope for the future.
I would suggest two things necessary to achieve these goals are security and development, and they go hand in hand. Without the security provided by the international forces, development would be next to impossible. The stated objective of the mission is to provide a safe and stable environment so that this improvement, important development work, can take place.
We are in Afghanistan to establish a secure space, areas where civilian agencies and development workers can function free from harm. As General MacKenzie pointed out in a recent foreign affairs committee meeting:
The ISAF mission is to expand the secure areas until they overlap and to maintain the security for the local population until they trust you. They, the local population, will defeat the insurgency, not us. They defeat it by not supporting it and by trusting that we aren't going to turn tail and leave ahead of schedule.
The goal of insurgents is not to take over territory and defeat NATO forces. Their goal is to outlast the international forces and to make sure we leave sooner rather than later. Insurgency wins by not losing. Their goal is to outlast us. Our goal is to provide the Afghan people with their own resources so that they can outlast the Taliban.
I think it is important to point out that our Canadian Forces are carrying out their mandated duties in an exemplary fashion. We are humbled by the dedication to the mission and by the extreme sacrifices that they are making.
Our military is among the best trained, most professional in the world. They have developed new capabilities in dealing with insurgency. They have developed relationships with the local people establishing lines of communication and building their trust. Their experience is invaluable to the mission.
Security must be established and maintained before we can proceed with aid, reconstruction and development. As I said, security and development go hand in hand. The Afghan people need the international community to help them rebuild their lives and their country after decades of war, oppression and insurgency.
Our long term goal is to help build a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society. We are helping the Afghans to help themselves and we are seeing encouraging results.
We have provided food aid to nine million people and to over 400,000 in Kandahar. We have opened 1,200 wells for clean drinking water. We have provided jobs, education and opportunities for employment. We are helping to establish democratic governance and the rule of law. We are supporting human rights and gender equality. There are many success stories and I have seen them firsthand.
One area where Canada is making a significant contribution is in the efforts to clear the country of mines and unexploded ordnances. Canada is the biggest donor for demining operations. Afghanistan has more landmines and more UXOs than any place else in the world. Thousands of Afghans have been killed and thousands more have been injured.
When I was in Afghanistan last year, I saw firsthand the devastation caused by landmines. While little children play outside, if they see a metal object lying there they will pick it up, and not to play with it but to take it to a pawn shop to sell it as metal to feed themselves because of abject poverty. Sometimes the UXOs blowup in their hands and we see not only one but a number of children that die or are a disabled. This is an important effort that Canada is making. We ought to be proud of it and continue with it. When I was in Afghanistan last year, I saw firsthand the devastation caused and it moved me tremendously.
Demining also opens up more land for agriculture, more housing and clears areas where people can live and children can play safe from harm. Our efforts are showing results, with over half a million mines being destroyed by the end of 2007. There has been a 55% decrease in victims compared to five years ago. All this reconstruction and development can take place because of the security being provided by the NATO mission.
This discussion today, now taking place here in Canada and in other NATO countries is a necessary part of a democratic process. At some point we have to articulate a position. The confusion over the mission, the why, the how and how long, is playing into the hands of insurgents. They interpret this as a lack of solidarity and a wavering of commitment, and this builds their confidence. This must not be allowed to continue.
That is why we have come out and clearly stated that Canada will stay and fulfill its responsibilities. We cannot abandon Afghanistan and its citizens. Our commitment is important because, as John Manley wrote, “--it concerns global and Canadian security, Canada’s international reputation, and the well-being of some of the world’s most impoverished and vulnerable people”.
Mr. Manley recommended in this report that our role should focus on development and shift increasingly toward the training of the Afghan national army, so that as its capability increases our combat role can be significantly reduced.
The motion put forward by this government makes Canada's position clear to our NATO allies, our partners in Afghanistan, and to our troops on the ground. We have committed to 2011 and I am confident that much will be done in the next three years that will bring even better results for the people of Afghanistan.
I would ask all parliamentarians from all parties to support this motion. Put personal feelings and politics aside as this represents a unique opportunity for all Canadians to rally around our troops, our allies, our purpose and the Afghan people. This is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. We need to stand together, we need to support our troops, we need to support our mission, and we need to support this motion.