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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was quebec.

Last in Parliament September 2008, as Bloc MP for Papineau (Québec)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 26% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, when talking about the values of Quebeckers we are not making any assumptions about the values of others or whether they are shared. We are not comparing the values of Quebeckers to those of others. We know that, in general, 70% of Canadians are in favour of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. That does not change the issue.

It is important to understand that we, as Quebeckers or Canadians, must withdraw from the Afghanistan war zones where we have been fighting for three years. For most of this conflict, we have been front and centre in the most dangerous area—it bears repeating—whereas other countries have been coming in and doing what they are good at.

Historically, we have been recognized for our achievements in human rights and for our values of reconciliation and diplomacy. We should now be able to play this role fully and let others fight in the most dangerous areas. I will repeat, we have done that, we have fulfilled our obligation. We have been in Kandahar for three years and I believe that our soldiers should be elsewhere.

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. What we are saying is that Canadian troops have done enough. That is the crux of the matter.

In our opinion, leaving the combat zone of Kandahar does not mean the end of the mission. There are 38 countries directly involved. It seems to us that after three years and considerable loss of life, Canada should be able to go elsewhere and do what it does best, that is work in humanitarian aid, reconstruction and development.

That is in keeping with what Quebeckers want. They do not want us to abandon the Afghan people. They want us to do the work for which, over the years, we have gained an enviable reputation that is now being tarnished because we are fighting a war that we will never win.

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that very good question.

There is nothing really new in the motion before us. Postponing the end of the mission to 2011 does not meet any new condition. It is just the same as if we ended the mission in 2009.

We therefore fail to see the merits of this measure. To us, it is just more of the same. Nothing in what we have seen so far could persuade us to look at this issue differently and refuse to vote for the motion.

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

Poppy production is clearly a scourge in Afghanistan. However, if the international powers agreed on a use for poppies at the international level, especially for medical purposes, that could help solve part of the problem. But since the Afghans use poppies to earn money to meet their needs, poppy cultivation should not be eradicated completely. Other uses for poppies must be found.

Repression will not solve this problem. Other ways must be found to help the Afghan people and help them gradually stop growing poppies, as much as possible.

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will simply continue my speech where I left off. Speaking of aid in Afghanistan, Canada and its allies must also channel their aid as much as possible through multilateral organizations, and in particular United Nations agencies, since this will eliminate duplication and avoid working at cross purposes.

As well, the issue of poppy cultivation is key to the economic development of Afghanistan. The illegal opium trade feeds corruption in the Afghan government and is also used to finance the Taliban insurgents. The difficulty, however, lies in the fact that the poppy crop that is the source of opium is still a lucrative means of subsistence for some Afghan growers. We must recognize that since 2002, poppy production has risen steadily. It has increased from 70,000 hectares under cultivation in 2002 to 165,000 hectares in 2006.

We therefore have to try to square the circle: how do we put an end to a crop that is the source of over 90% of the heroin in the world while at the same time making it possible for Afghans to work and earn a living? So far, the strategies used to combat this scourge have been synonymous with failure.

We believe that we must now give serious thought to a three-stage strategy. First, continue and intensify enforcement efforts against drug traffickers. Second, fund and implement programs to encourage alternative crops, while building the infrastructure needed for marketing them. And third, for a transitional period, buy the poppy harvest directly from the small farmers, for medical use.

I would also like to talk about the role Canada should play in the diplomatic realm.

One of the major problems facing the international forces in southern Afghanistan is that the Taliban have a safe haven in Pakistan. That border can be described kindly as extremely porous, and Afghanistan has never recognized the border it shares with Pakistan. Some Pashtuns who have been blithely crossing from one country to the other for millennia even want to see a “Pashtunistan” created on that border.

The government of Canada must bring more diplomatic pressure to bear on the Pakistani government to solve this problem. Pakistan is the linchpin for the consistent stability and development of Afghanistan.

At present, Pakistan is experiencing widespread political instability. Since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the country has been on the brink of a civil war, with democrats, the military and religious groups engaged in a struggle for power. Canada should use diplomacy, as far as possible, to create the conditions that are needed for stabilizing the country. If Pakistan were to descend into chaos, the impact on Afghanistan would be far-reaching.

In addition to Pakistan, we must also intensify diplomatic efforts in dealing with other actors in the region of Afghanistan, including Iran, India and China. Those countries will have to be involved in resolving the conflict and, as far as possible, in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

And last, the Afghan government, the international community and Canada must be open to negotiations with the Taliban, again, as far as possible, in order to achieve a lasting peace. Negotiations have already been held between the Afghan government and the Taliban, in September 2007. The Taliban demanded that the foreign forces leave the country in exchange for surrendering their weapons. The Afghan government refused. We must still recognize, however, that this was the first time since 2001 that the government and the Taliban had engaged in negotiations.

I want to mention a final point. Whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere, the Bloc Québécois has always supported the principle that Canada must treat prisoners humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Convention and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This has hardly been the case of the detainees transferred to the Afghan authorities. Having heard about major problems and the torture of detainees, we asked repeatedly for changes to the relevant agreement between Canada and the Afghan defence department.

As a result of all the pressure exerted by the Bloc Québécois and civil society, Canada signed a second agreement with Afghanistan on the treatment of detainees on May 3, 2007.

It was an improvement on the 2005 agreement, but to be effective, it had to be vigorously enforced.

Problems persisted however, and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, eventually admitted in November 2007 that there were still cases of torture in Afghan prisons. He said his government’s record was a thousand times better that what it had been, but there were still times when people were threatened or even tortured.

The Prime Minister cannot continue to insist, therefore, that the allegations of torture are just Taliban propaganda. Canada has a duty to take action to ensure that the safety and dignity of detainees are not compromised when they are transferred to Afghan authorities.

In the Bloc’s view, there should be a framework agreement between NATO and the Afghan government on detainee transfers. It would ensure greater uniformity in the treatment of detainees and more control over what goes on in Afghan prisons.

The Bloc Québécois feels as well that, in proposing to extend this mission until December 2011 instead of ending it in February 2009 as originally intended, the Conservative government is completely disregarding the desires of the people of Quebec, who are vehemently opposed.

Our soldiers have done their part by fighting for several years in the most dangerous area in Afghanistan. Other troops should take over now, and we should turn our talents toward helping the people of Afghanistan through the training of Afghan forces, reconstruction, development and diplomacy. That is what we know how to do best.

Kosovo February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, now that Kosovo has declared its independence, the Government of Canada should follow the lead of several European countries and the United States and support the nation's decision to take control of its own destiny.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell us whether Canada intends to recognize Kosovo's independence?

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, on February 15, the minority Conservative government put forward a motion that included the Liberal Party's amendments. Despite the fact that the Prime Minister has made it a matter of confidence, the motion does not change the Bloc Québécois' position. We have said it before, and we will say it again: we are ready for an election on this issue.

This Conservative motion would extend the Canadian mission in Kandahar to December 2011. Canada has been in Kandahar since 2006. We think that by the time the mission's current deadline arrives in February 2009, Canada will have done its part. The Liberals and the Conservatives share the same basic position on this issue. Both parties want Canada to stay in Kandahar until 2011.

Considering that most Quebeckers want Canada to end its mission in February 2009, it is clear that only the Bloc Québécois represents Quebeckers' will and their values. The Liberal and Conservative parties are completely out of touch with Quebec's reality. The position these parties share is convoluted and rife with contradiction. Just a few weeks ago, the Liberals were fighting tooth and nail to ensure that Canada would withdraw from combat zones at the end of the current mission in February 2009, but now they are ready to extend the mission until 2011. They simply changed their minds. How inconsistent!

The government House leader claims that he wants an open and transparent debate, but we have reason to doubt that. Since coming to power, the Conservatives have maintained a culture of secrecy. Moreover, despite their claim that this motion is not a partisan matter, they have turned it into a confidence vote. The government has turned the Afghanistan issue into an ideological debate with only two possible options: one can be either for or against the stated position.

As far as the substance of the motion is concerned, we think Canada must focus more on reconstruction and military training. That has always been the position of the Bloc Québécois, who would like to see this process begin immediately and continue until the end of the mission in February 2009.

We should add that the government has still not set a date to vote on this motion. We are calling for a clear commitment to have this vote before the NATO summit in Bucharest, which is to begin on April 2, 2008.

Let us remember that this is not the first time Parliament is debating the mission in Afghanistan and its February 2009 deadline.

Let us recap. The war in Afghanistan was authorized by the UN from the outset after the tragic events of September 11, 2001. At first, it was an operation— Operation Enduring Freedom—whereby the United States exercised its right to legitimate defence after receiving proper permission from the UN. The purpose of the operation was to push the Northern Alliance, which was fighting the Taliban regime, toward the capital. The goal was to weaken the Taliban, who had been recognized by the UN as a threat to international peace and security.

Defeating the Taliban regime was relatively easy; achieving peace and rebuilding a viable Afghan state is a far more demanding task. The fundamental objective of the international coalition and the United Nations is to reconstruct the economy, the democracy and a viable Afghan state enabling Afghans to take control of their country and their development.

Canada has been on mission in the Kandahar region since October 2005. In February 2006, it assumed command from the United States of the regional command south in Kandahar. Canada was responsible for the Enduring Freedom operations conducted by the coalition in southern Afghanistan until November 2006. At that time, Canada also committed to keeping most of its troops there until February 2007.

In May 2006, the Conservative government asked the House to support extending the Afghan mission by another two years, effective 2007.

The House agreed to this extension. At that point, the mission was to end in February 2009. In July 2006, NATO officially took over command in southern Afghanistan. The Canadian Forces left Operation Enduring Freedom to join the International Security Assistance Force. The situation in southern Afghanistan proved to be much tougher than originally thought. NATO troops, and particularly Canadian troops, have faced organized and ferocious resistance from the Taliban. It was at that point that the number of deaths of Quebeckers and Canadians started rising at an alarming rate, going from eight deaths between 2001 and 2005, to 70 deaths between 2006 and 2008. For a country of about 30 million people, we can consider that we have done our part.

In fact, Canada has deployed the fourth-largest number of troops in Afghanistan, and has suffered the third-highest number of deaths. Canada has paid a high human price to maintain security in Kandahar. The country has not lost so many lives since the Korean War. Add to that the financial cost of the mission. According to figures published in the report on National Defence's plans and priorities, the cost of Canadian operations in Afghanistan was over $7.7 billion for the period from 2001 to 2008.

If it ended the combat mission in February 2009, Canada would have some financial flexibility to invest in development assistance in Afghanistan. Furthermore, if we consider that NATO's mission in Kandahar is an international mission and that 38 countries currently have a military presence in Afghanistan, we can say without shame that Canada has carried out an important and dangerous mission in Afghanistan for over three years, and that the time has come for others to take over in that region.

Even though we want Canada to withdraw from Kandahar at the end of its mission, we do not think that the entire NATO mission should end. That is why we have always advocated handing the reins over to other NATO countries to replace the Canadian contingent in Kandahar. The federal government should notify NATO member countries now that our mission will end in February 2009. Complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, as recommended by the NDP, would be irresponsible toward the Afghan people, their government and our allies, who are counting on our participation until 2009. We need to create a new balance by then. That is why for some time now, the Bloc Québécois has supported focusing on increasing development and diplomacy in Afghanistan. To avoid losing the support of the Afghan people, Canada must make development assistance a priority right away. This is urgent.

In the wake of over 20 years of war, devastation reigns in Afghanistan. There is next to no civil infrastructure or economic growth. Everything needs to be reconstructed. It is therefore not surprising that Afghanistan is considered one of the poorest countries in the world. Let us not forget that this is what brought the international community and the Afghan government together for the London Conference on Afghanistan in 2006, where participants adopted the Afghanistan compact. Participants also set a number of goals and a five-year timeline to bring about improvements in three crucial areas—one: security; two: governance, rule of law and human rights; and three: social and economic development in Afghanistan.

To achieve the London goals, we need the support of the Afghan people as we work to ensure their security and, most importantly, improve their daily living conditions.

Concerted action by the international community is required for successful development in Afghanistan. To convince our allies to do more, Canada must lead by example and increase aid immediately. Funding must be increased in order to provide humanitarian aid in the short term and commit to the construction of roads, wells, basic infrastructures, and so on.

Furthermore, it is well known that, generally speaking, international aid and reconstruction efforts are poorly coordinated. The secretary general of NATO stated: “We need a better international coordination structure for Afghanistan. We must provide the security and do the reconstruction but we must also do the politics.” His comments echo those of the UN secretary general.

Without stronger leadership from the Afghan government, greater donor coherence, and in particular, better cooperation among military and civil organizations from the international community in Afghanistan, as well as a strong commitment from neighbouring countries, many of the gains made since the Bonn Conference in terms of security, reinforced institutions and development could be lost or reversed.

In January 2007, inspired by what was done in Bosnia and Kosovo, the Bloc Québécois proposed the appointment of a senior UN official with real, considerable power to better coordinate all international aid in cooperation with the Afghan government. This senior representative would also act as the link between NATO and the reconstruction teams in order to direct aid to where it is needed most. We were pleased to hear the Minister of Foreign Affairs say he was in favour of such an appointment in his speech to the UN General Assembly on October 2, 2007—

Afghanistan February 25th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Leader of the Opposition what he means by rotation. He is basing his argument on the fact that there is a major change in the mission. However, earlier, we heard the Minister of National Defence give us a rather convoluted definition of what he means by rotation, which seems more like a strengthening of the mission.

Will the Leader of the Opposition talk about this so that we know exactly what it means? It seems to be a pivotal aspect of his argument.

Omar Khadr February 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the Secretary of State that the Conservatives have been in power since 2006.

Omar Khadr is the last citizen of a western nation still being detained at Guantanamo. Moreover, he is being detained with adults, not in a camp for minors, as provided for under international conventions.

Given that he was a child soldier and is a Canadian citizen, what is Canada waiting for to bring him home?

Omar Khadr February 14th, 2008

Mr. Speaker, when I asked the parliamentary secretary about repatriating Omar Khadr, a young Canadian being detained at Guantanamo Bay, he replied that the Government of Canada had received confirmation that Mr. Khadr was being treated well. But apparently, Mr. Khadr has been subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment during his detention.

If he has indeed been treated so well, how can the Minister of Foreign Affairs explain the fact that while at Guantanamo, Omar Khadr became blind in one eye and partially blind in the other?