Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my speaking time with the member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.
We would not be here today debating this motion if the government had kept its word. What this government is doing is showing its contempt for parliamentary democracy, as it has done so well since it came to power. According to the Prime Minister, a vote in Parliament is not necessary for extending the mission of the Canadian troops in Afghanistan. On this he is contradicting himself, because in the 2007 Speech from the Throne, this very Prime Minister said that “our Government has made clear to Canadians and our allies that any future military deployments must also be supported by a majority of parliamentarians.”
We, the Bloc Québécois members of this House, demand that a vote be held on this crucial question. The federal government absolutely must obtain authorization from Parliament before deploying troops abroad, because excluding parliamentarians, the people’s elected representatives, amounts to a denial of democratic principles.
With no debate and with no vote in the House, the Canadian government has decided to maintain a presence in Kabul consisting of 950 troops, who will have responsibility for training the Afghan security forces. The government wants to sound reassuring, by saying that the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who remain in Afghanistan will not take part in combat missions. But how can he claim to know the future and to be sure that the insurgents will draw a bright line between the peaceful role of the Canadian Armed Forces and the offensive troops?
The Conservatives are contradicting themselves. In early 2010, the Prime Minister and members of his government declared that Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan would end in 2011 and Canadian involvement would be limited to development, governance, humanitarian assistance and training police. But now, in spite of everything it said in the past, the government is changing its tune and deciding to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan without consulting the public or their elected representatives.
The strategy the Conservatives have discovered for getting out of this, at least for avoiding a vote, is the discovery of the century. They are inventing a new type of mission, a non-combat mission. What is a non-combat mission? I happen to believe that there are two types of missions: military missions and peacekeeping missions. The Conservatives have become experts in semantic game-playing, a bright idea for evading the rules of this House and for not calling a vote.
In addition, the Prime Minister and his Minister of Foreign Affairs are becoming even more confrontational with the opposition, contending that all Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan will be brought home by March 2014 at the latest. Once again, a promise they cannot keep and a commitment they cannot honour. They truly have no credibility and the public is not fooled.
The Liberal Party members are also complicit in the extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. In 2006, when there was a vote on extending the mission, it was the votes of several Liberal members that made it possible for the mission to be extended until 2009. In 2008, the Conservatives introduced a motion, amended by the Liberals, to extend the mission to 2011. Once again, the Liberals lined up with the Conservatives. We can see that they have the same vision and the same philosophy.
Canada can bring a lot to the Afghan people. While the Bloc Québécois feels that Canada has done more than its share militarily and that other allied countries can perhaps take over its role, we believe that Canada can get involved at a number of other levels.
Canadian police officers are renowned the world over. The Bloc Québécois therefore recommends sending a contingent of up to 50 police officers to provide training to Afghan police. The presence of a trained, equipped, legitimate police force may help reduce the lack of security of the Afghan people.
According to all reports, there are major deficiencies in the Afghan prison system, as is clear from the issue of Afghan detainees abused in Afghan jails.
According to NATO:
To western standards, conditions of many detention/correction facilities vary from inadequate to extremely poor in some places.
As a result, the Bloc Québécois is suggesting that the wardens of Afghan prisons receive support from Canadian assistant wardens. We are therefore recommending sending 50 civilians from the Canadian prison system.
Trust in the legal system is one of the bases of a lawful society. NATO revealed that:
The Afghans prize the system’s notion of “fairness” and prefer the use of the informal system, as the formal governmental system is perceived as highly corrupt.
To provide training for the Afghan legal system and to ensure that it functions properly, the Bloc Québécois proposes sending a delegation of Canadian legal experts who can help with the modernization of the legal system. The Bloc Québécois also believes that Canada must continue its official development assistance in Afghanistan and feels that the Minister of International Cooperation's announcement to reduce the ODA envelope by more than half from 2011 to 2014 is unacceptable.
As well, the Canadian government and CIDA must review the policy on development aid to Afghanistan. It must be better coordinated, more transparent and efficient. The ODA must also be restructured because, in the past seven years, 80% of international aid bypassed the Afghan government and was not strictly in line with this government's priorities.
We are here today to vote on a motion that condemns the government's decision to unilaterally extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan until 2014. That is the Conservative way, and it has not changed since they came to power. Canada's foreign policy has shifted to the right, and we no longer hear about the 3D approach: development, defence and diplomacy. The government's three priorities now are security, prosperity and governance. The government dictates Canada's foreign policy in keeping with its economic and military priorities.
It allocates exorbitant amounts to defence and peanuts to development assistance. The Conservatives' diplomatic record is abysmal. It is no wonder this government lost its seat on the UN Security Council as a direct result of its foreign policy. But Canada enjoys a good reputation within NATO, which is understandable because NATO is a military alliance. Canada has invested heavily in military procurement for the past few years.
The Conservatives' militaristic policy is not in line with Quebeckers' values. The vast majority of Quebeckers are opposed to Canada's presence in Afghanistan.
According to a Harris/Decima poll conducted during the week of November 11, 59% of respondents in Quebec think Canada should bring all its troops home, and only 36% want the Canadian army to help train Afghan soldiers.
Clearly, the Conservative members from Quebec are out of touch with their constituents' concerns and are not standing up for their interests within this government.
I will close by inviting all the members of the House to vote for our motion, because any deployment of Canadian troops must by subject to a vote in the House of Commons.