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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was let.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as NDP MP for Halifax (Nova Scotia)

Won her last election, in 2006, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am going to invite all members to introduce themselves to the complete report, “Community Peacebuilding in Afghanistan: The Case for a National Strategy”, authored by Matt Waldman of Oxfam International. I am sure they can find it on the website.

It is important for me not to do an unfair summary of the excellent proposal for what we should be doing instead, and in the very few moments left, I want not to use up my time to respond to the insults that were being hurled by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence during my speech today. Rather I would like to invite him and other members of the Liberal-Conservative alliance for continuing the Afghan counter-insurgency on a very brief tour of defence ministers and military leaders who have shown themselves more willing to face up to the reality of the hazards and the flaws in the counter-insurgency mission.

“Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you're creating 15 more who will come after you” Who said that? Major General Andrew Leslie, former chief of the Canadian land staff. “I don't think Canada is winning the war, and this war is not winnable”. Who said that? Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau.

Afghanistan is a “textbook case of how to screw up a counter-insurgency”. Who said that? British Captain Leo Docherty. “The situation is deteriorating and...NATO forces risk appearing like an army of occupation.” The Belgium defence minister said that. “One should not try to bury one's head in the sand...the operation is encountering real difficulties.... the situation is not improving.” The French defence minister said that. “If...the international community cannot find a”-- political solution--“...then...we have no moral right to ask our young people to expose themselves to that danger”. Des Browne, the U.K. defence minister, said that.

I could go on. There are others who said much the same. A Dutch military commander said that ultimately, the key to defeating the counter-insurgency is political accommodation, and in Afghanistan, that means talking to the Taliban.

We have no moral right, as was suggested by many of these highly placed, experienced defence ministers and military leaders, to keep sending our young men and women to Afghanistan in a mission that is either going to jeopardize their lives or destroy their health for all time.

We need to get on a path to peace. We have to take the leadership necessary to do that. In doing so, we can regain the respect that countries around the world have had for Canada's traditional role of peace seeking, peace building and peacekeeping in our troubled world.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I heard this fiction reported again today by the Bloc defence critic. Usually, I have to say, I respect him in terms of his points of view, but I do not know who could actually believe that advocating we should move immediately toward giving notice for the safe and secure withdrawal of our troops after 2007 would be somehow an act of irresponsibility. The Bloc has come to understand why this is the course that needs to be pursued. The Bloc, in trying to suggest that the one party that has been absolutely consistent on this point--

Business of Supply March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I do not need any lectures from this member about how military people observe the NDP. He can hurl all the insults he will, as he is doing, but the fact of the matter is that I proudly represent what I think is probably the largest military centre in the country on a per capita basis.

Yes, some of them support the position of the New Democratic Party, and some of them do not, but I think, to try to characterize the NDP's commitment consistently to get us onto a path to peace, that it is not something rejected by the military but actually is what military people would want to see from their government and their elected officials.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, after all of the member's assertions, I have to say that I have some difficulty with the question itself. However, let me say this. I think we have a responsibility to acknowledge that the Afghan government, as all indications would suggest, has actually had a serious erosion of confidence in its ability to do the job. That is assessed to be in the range of 30%.

Therefore, we have to understand that there are problems which have created and contributed to that. They have to do with the flawed mission, the mission which fails to recognize that the people of Afghanistan need to see not more Canadian flags: they need to see that the Government of Afghanistan exists for the purpose of delivering to the people of Afghanistan a better life.

When Canada says our role is going to be overwhelmingly tied to a counter-insurgency mission in Kandahar and that we will outspend military dollars to development dollars by 10:1, we are missing the point of what would actually make a difference in paving the path to peace.

Business of Supply March 10th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity this morning to participate in the debate. We are dealing with a government motion, crafted by a Conservative-Liberal marriage of convenience, to extend the Kandahar counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan for three more years from the time when we find ourselves debating on this occasion.

I want to make reference to the acknowledgement, widely shared and widely expressed, that there is no military solution to the devastating problems that are plaguing the lives of people in Afghanistan today.

That is not a recent idea that has come from the New Democratic Party. It has been acknowledged repeatedly over a period of several years, including by members of the government, by the UN secretary general, by the NATO secretary general and by the President of Afghanistan himself when he spoke in this place two years ago.

What does it mean to say that there is no military solution? It means that Afghanistan has serious political problems and that those problems can only be resolved through political solutions.

From the perspective of many people who have studied those problems, it requires that we shift from what is primarily a military counter-insurgency effort. The dollars that Canada expends and how we distribute those dollars indicates how overwhelmingly this is a military mission to which Canada has committed itself. We must shift on to what needs to be a comprehensive, complex peace-building mission.

Unfortunately, the Liberal modified Conservative motion, which we find ourselves debating today, simply fails to recognize that fact and all of the evidence that backs up that position.

The problem with the mission is not that more time is needed. We need to be clear that this motion would extend the military mission to 2011, three more years. The problem with the mission is that it is flawed and, because it is flawed, it is failing in some of the most fundamental ways that matter most to the people of Afghanistan.

I do not want to take all of my time to talk about the six courageous, articulate women members of Parliament from Afghanistan who were here visiting last week, but I too had the opportunity and I welcomed the opportunity to talk to those six members of Parliament from Afghanistan, as I have other members of Parliament from Afghanistan.

Yes, they understandably pleaded the case for Canadians not to turn their backs on the people of Afghanistan. I welcomed the opportunity to make it absolutely clear that it has never been the view of the Canadian people nor the New Democratic Party, as has been disgustingly suggested again and again by government members, to cut and run, one of the most vile terms that could possibly be used to characterize the view of Canadians and my party. As a representative of my party, I deeply resent that representation, not just because it came out of the mouth of George Bush and was immediately parroted by Conservative members of Parliament and now by Liberals, but because it is such a pathetic misrepresentation and distortion of what the view is, which is that there needs to be a comprehensive, robust, diplomatic effort if this series of political problems are to be solved and the people of Afghanistan will be able to get on a positive constructive course to build their lives.

One of the things that is deeply disturbing is the distortion that is created about the position we have consistently advocated. It does such a disservice. It is so insensitive to our troops who are serving as they have been asked to serve by their government in a mission not of their choosing and not of their creation, but one in which they respond to the call of duty. Our troops have never done otherwise. They have always served courageously and competently in carrying out the duties assigned to them.

Clearly it needs to be recognized that NATO is not a diplomacy agency. NATO is a military alliance. It is not multilateralist military alliance either in any global sense or even regional sense that has any relevance to the region in which Afghanistan is located. NATO is primarily a war-fighting machine. It does not have the competence, mandate or experience to be involved in the kind of multilateralist mission to get us on a path to peace. That is why there is a growing crescendo of persons who are involved in the international development field who have long experience in peace building, in peace seeking and peacekeeping who say we need to shift that mission from one that is NATO led to one that is lodged within the purview of the United Nations.

The Manley panel itself identified again and again the lack of coordination that is taking place under the NATO umbrella. The problem with the Manley commission report, as I see it, is that much of its analysis and many of its conclusions were actually quite accurate. The difficulty is there was a huge gulf between the panel's analysis and conclusions, and the recommendations it made. Essentially the panel said that the approach is not working, that insecurity is becoming even more of a problem, that it is not coordinated, and let us do more of the same for another lengthy period of time. That is exactly what the Liberal-Conservative motion on the floor of this House today is prescribing.

It is time to acknowledge Afghanistan for what it really is. It is a conflict among Afghans and other regional actors. Our role is to find a way to contribute to ending that conflict, not prolonging it or, worse still, becoming a party on one side of the conflict. It requires a shift from the role of combatants on the front line in the so-called war on terror to peace support professionals in a dynamic interstate conflict that is in a multilateralist framework. That means reorienting the current strategy away from combat and toward a coordinated diplomatic, developmental and peace support mission.

In the absence of a concentrated political effort, coordination of the military, diplomatic and development strategies in Afghanistan has been severely hampered by internal divisions. This has been hampered by duplication and sometimes competing objectives in terms of various initiatives. This has been hampered by a failure to address Afghan's most pressing needs as outlined in the Afghanistan Compact. Canada must channel its contribution through new and different avenues to support a comprehensive, intelligent peace process and real nation building efforts.

The path to peace has to be organized around institutions that are designed for such tasks. The UN constellation of agencies, the very raison d'être of the UN, is surely in the best position to host those vital roles and initiatives. There are roles for UNICEF and the United Nations Development Fund for Women. Heaven knows we have a major problem to find the way to support and protect women in that society. There is a role for the United Nations Development Programme. Our development contribution has been outstripped 10:1 in terms of the resources allocated for Canada's current mission in Afghanistan. There is a role for United Nations Disarmament Commission, and there may be a role for the UN Peacebuilding Commission, which is led by a proud, distinguished Canadian woman who served this country as a distinguished CIDA official, as a long-time UN official doing effective peace building in a number of countries.

At least two years ago, former deputy minister Gordon Smith stated before the foreign affairs committee, “What is needed is a process of substantial conversation or reorientation of anti-state elements into an open and non-violent political dynamic”. This means placing our diplomatic weight behind peace initiatives at the local, regional and international levels in a coordinated fashion.

We need to be using the considerable skills and expertise of Canadians to help bring the various actors who are parties to these conflicts in Afghanistan to the table. Taking the path to peace through diplomacy also means involving the regional actors who are now excluded and often are contributing in devastating ways to the problems of violence in the region.

More than just new diplomacy, we also need better aid and development. Time does not allow me to talk in detail about this in the context of this debate, but we must do a better job in meaningful development work. There are some good, positive results where we are doing that in some parts of Afghanistan. We should acknowledge that and build on those strengths. What is needed is greater civilian oversight of the Canadian development aid, not more military engagement in a role that does not belong lodged within the military.

Given the decision the government has made to extend the current mission with the support of the Liberals, we are in danger of turning some of that good work that is being done in Afghanistan through the development effort, but not enough of it and not accompanied by a robust peace building effort, in the wrong direction.

It is very worrisome for those who have experience on the ground both in Afghanistan and in other conflict zones that the Manley report and the government apparently advocate directing more of our international development efforts into so-called signature projects.

What people need in Afghanistan is meaningful international development initiatives that will change in a positive way the lives of Afghans, not more Canadian flags to try to gain more Canadian support and approval for what we are doing in Afghanistan that is so deeply flawed.

We also know that a great deal more accountability is needed. Although this Liberal-Conservative motion to a large extent misses the very point of what is needed, it has to be acknowledged, and this is a positive thing, that there has not been the transparency and accountability and we need to build those in. In that respect there is some progress in this otherwise inadequate and flawed motion that is before us.

There were six women members of parliament here from Afghanistan. I was not surprised to hear both the foreign affairs minister and the CIDA minister say that they were just cheerleaders for exactly what the government is doing.

It is very tricky to have a debate here about the true sentiments of women who know what kind of punishment can be meted out to them for speaking out either inside or outside of parliament, especially outside of one's country.

We know what happened with Malalai Joya, also a courageous woman member of parliament. She told the very same truth that was acknowledged by the six women members of parliament that women are at severe risk not just at the hands of the Taliban, but also at the hands of warlords and drug lords, and in some cases the northern alliance and even male members of parliament. For speaking out, Malalai Joya was not only evicted from parliament, but the protection she needed for her life to be safe was removed. This makes her at even greater risk.

I listened to those six members of parliament respectfully, and I welcomed the opportunity to do so. There were three points on which they expressed considerable interest and support. I thought one was quite interesting.

The leader of the NDP, the Afghan ambassador and I met with them. We raised the question of the UN getting on with the diplomatic effort and meaningful development. They looked us straight in the eye and told us that we needed to do that because they were too busy dealing with what needs to happen around working in compliance with the Afghanistan Compact and other important work.

They did not reject at all the notion that there needs to be a great deal more in terms of meaningful humanitarian aid and development effort. They indicated, and these were their words, that many of the people are being drawn into the Taliban because they are starving, because they are desperate, because they do not have jobs, because they do not have income and they cannot feed their families. Those people are easy prey for bribery or being paid so they can feed their families. How many times have we heard that from others? Who is in a better position to confirm that than those six members of parliament?

An increasing number of voices are speaking out about getting on the path to peace and getting off the war effort. They want us to begin to seriously undertake diplomatic and development work. I start by quoting the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan who several months ago stated:

--there is a cry for peace in Afghanistan, from the civil society...and there are possibilities for peace.

It is obvious that among those who support the Taliban and even among those who support their violent actions, there are...people who are tired of war and who respond to the cry of the people for peace. We from the United Nations will certainly support peace talks because the insurgency cannot be won over by military means and we have to keep the door open for negotiations.

Ernie Regehr, a much respected internationalist in terms of peace building and progress to peace, stated:

A comprehensive peace process is required to address the fundamental conflicts and grievances that remain unaddressed in Afghan society. This is a process to build a relationship of trust between the southern Pashtuns and the rest of the country, in the context of respect for fundamental rights and addressing the conflict that fuelled the civil war that predated the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion and is--

The Budget March 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, far be it from me to interfere in any way with this spat the Liberal-Conservative alliance is having over the budget numbers, but I have to say that while it was disappointing there was no reference to ACOA in the budget address, it was even more disappointing and far more significant when one saw the estimates that were tabled on Thursday. It was very clear. The member for Halifax West is right in saying that the $38 million has been removed from the budget and there is not a single reference to it being transferred somewhere else. We are talking about the ACOA budget.

I wonder if the member could indicate, please, whether he has been able to get any further information that would explain away the $38 million reduction that is clearly shown in the estimates for ACOA for next year.

International Aid March 3rd, 2008

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative budget is deeply flawed, with massive giveaways for the wealthiest and crumbs for the poorest of the poor.

In the 1990s the Liberals dragged Canada's international development assistance from 0.53% down to 0.23% of gross national income.

In 2005 Parliament adopted unanimously an NDP motion committing Canada to meet our 0.7% ODA obligations by 2015 in accordance with the millennium development goals. The New Democrat budget infused crucial funding toward those goals.

Three Conservative budgets bring us no closer to meeting our global poverty reduction obligations. Development aid is stagnant at 0.3%.

While Conservative senators block the more and better aid bill, Bill C-293, successor to the NDP bill, Bill C-243, undermining transparency, efficiency and effectiveness, the world's poorest of the poor suffer along with Canada's reputation as a caring nation.

Canada Peace Initiatives Act February 28th, 2008

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-515, An Act to ensure annual reports to Parliament on Canadian peace initiatives.

Mr. Speaker, this morning it is my pleasure to introduce a bill that I think is of interest and concern not only to Canadians generally but people around the world in relation to their own governments.

Specifically, this is a bill that requires the foreign affairs minister to submit an annual report setting out Canada's initiatives and accomplishments in the promotion of international peace and security, public diplomacy, peace building and peacekeeping, both through the United Nations and other multilateral organizations.

This is one of the great challenges of our time. We enter into various obligations. We do very little systematic reporting back to the Canadian people through Parliament on the results of our efforts. If this is not an important thing on which to report to Canadians, I do not know what is. I very much commend it to all members.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Actually, I was hoping, Mr. Speaker, that you would call the Minister of National Defence to order because I could not even hear myself think while he was hurling his insults as I was trying to speak. I accorded him the courtesy of listening to every word he had to say.

I suppose it is a rhetorical question but I would like to ask the Minister of National Defence a question as he gave me no chance to answer any questions that he might have asked.

How does the minister think we will get on the path to peace if we put the overwhelming bulk of our resources into a counter-insurgency mission which is killing more and more civilians, destroying infrastructure, causing people to lose their homes, their lands or their livelihoods and is causing a severe increase in the security problems that are plaguing people's lives?

I do not hear a word coming from the defence minister about the importance of comprehensive peace processes that would involve regional players and yet every informed person who comments on what is happening there says that it is long overdue and that it is very crucial to finding a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

I am sorry that there was no question directed my way so I am taking the opportunity to reinforce the absolute importance of what is underscored in our amendments that we put before the House to engage in a robust, diplomatic process to prepare the groundwork for a political solution under UN direction, because that is the only way we will get on the path to peace.

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, do I have the floor or does the Minister of National Defence have carte blanche to keep yelling and shouting so I cannot even hear myself think?