Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate this afternoon. I want to indicate at the outset that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster.
We are here basically debating a motion that is principally a procedural motion. It is not prescriptive, it is not proactive, and the guts of the motion, if I may put it that way, state that a special committee consisting of 12 members be appointed to consider the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.
It is fairly unusual that the so-called official opposition would decide to use its opposition day to engage in such a procedural debate, but it has to be noted that the government had made a commitment, which has not been kept, to get on with creating this committee and so we too welcome the motion.
As my colleagues who have already participated in the debate this afternoon, the defence critic for the New Democratic Party, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam and the foreign affairs critic, the member for Ottawa Centre, have already indicated, we both welcome the creation of this committee and the opportunity in this brief debate to go beyond the procedural and take this occasion to address some of the more troublesome and substantive aspects of the Afghan mission debate.
We absolutely owe that. It is the very least we owe to the brave men and women in the armed forces, 82 of whom together with one outstanding Canadian diplomat have paid the ultimate price, but vast numbers of whom are continuing and many throughout their lifetime will continue to pay a very heavy price for the burden this has heaped upon them and the sacrifice that has been requested of them.
One needs only to see the many accounts of the horrendous damage to limbs and lives, and the statistics are really quite mind boggling about the psychological damage, the emotional damage that many of these veterans will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
We also owe it to the Afghan people. There have been a great number of voices that have tried to articulate back here in Canada, on behalf of many of the Afghan people, the concerns they have about how the counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan, instead of creating greater security in their lives, has actually deepened the problems that plague them in their everyday lives. Unfortunately, the government has been unusually resistant to hearing and unwilling to hear the evidence that has been brought forward again and again.
Hopefully this committee will be an opportunity to air some of those concerns with a completely constructive intent and one hopes a constructive outcome because we have known from the very beginning that there is no military solution to the quagmire in Kandahar. That has been documented over and over again, and yet it continues to be the case that military strategies, more military troops, more military equipment remain the principal preoccupation, the principal response of the government.
I want to say, to be fair, that I have heard some encouraging words here this afternoon from both sides of the House. Members are recognizing more and more that there is no military solution. With short shrift being given, in terms of strategy and particularly in terms of the allocation of resources to development strategies and diplomatic engagement, the situation is not going to improve. That is being increasingly recognized.
I hope very much that what can be accomplished in this special committee on Afghanistan is the opportunity for the voices to be heard, the specific commitments and ideas based on experience to be heard, and what it means to engage in a political process that is the only way to create any kind of lasting peace and meaningful development in Afghanistan.
I hope the voice of Seddiq Weera will begin to be heeded.
I hope the voice of Seddiq Weera will begin to be heeded. Seddiq Weera has spoken before committee on many occasions about the fact that without a political process, without a meaningful commitment to building security and stability in people's lives, the investment will have been wasted. Let me quote briefly what he said:
--a counter-insurgency focus, and that focus is going to fail us. Even Manley's report is telling us how we can win the military intervention. It's a military track that we are focusing on only to achieve peace...you are fighting war on terror in Afghanistan in the wrong way. Isolate the terrorists and bring the Afghans to the political mainstream; for that there is no process.
He goes on to outline what it means to get on to a political track, and without it, it is not going to bring any peace and development to the people of Afghanistan.
I hope that the committee will listen and heed the voice of Oxfam's Matt Waldman, who sets out a positive agenda for community peacebuilding. He states:
Given that existing community peacebuilding has such a significant impact on peace and development, yet benefits only a fraction of the population, there is a powerful case for greater donor support for NGOs engaged in peacebuilding--
He goes on to talk about how there must be a framework for a national strategy for community peacebuilding not just for development. He advocates a national steering group followed by a series of parallel provincial conferences to elaborate local strategies.
I hope that the committee will listen to voices like that of Surendrini Wijeyaratne of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. She warns that even clear strategies to achieve peace and reconciliation, including transitional justice, will not just evolve on their own.
She warns that the prospect for peace grows more remote as violence continues unabated and no concerted efforts are made to engage the parties in a dialogue for peace. She urges Canada to be that voice advocating for peace, and very concretely she calls for a rebalancing of the diplomatic development in military strategies to place greater emphasis on building conditions necessary for an eventual peace process.
She also calls for encouraging the international community and the Afghan government to strengthen conditions for a future peace process and coordinate current efforts for peace. The lack of coordination was one of the things correctly identified by the Manley report. Unfortunately, the recommendations that followed seemed not to flow from the actual insights and analysis of the problems in the current counter-insurgency mission.
The spokesperson for CCIC also put a great deal of emphasis on the importance of supporting women's participation in ongoing peacebuilding efforts and identified the fact that without that there will not be any meaningful lasting peace come out of this.
We supposedly are signatories to the women, peace and security provisions of UN resolution 1325, but there is not an ounce of evidence that the government has taken the challenge of putting women front and centre in the peacebuilding process and has actually supported that in any meaningful way.
I commend to people the very concrete, wise recommendations of those who have been there on the ground and who understand what peacebuilding and robust diplomacy really needs to consist of because without it, this investment will have no prospect for success and no help to rebuild the lives of the beleaguered people of Afghanistan.