March 10, 2008

LIB

Jim Karygiannis

Liberal

Hon. Jim Karygiannis

Mr. Speaker, I said when I started my comments that this was a very difficult position for me to articulate, having lost a member of my extended family in Afghanistan.

I also visited Afghanistan. I was not put in a military camp and restricted in my movements. I had the freedom to move and to talk with individual Afghans. I had no security.

I saw the difficulties the Afghan people were encountering. I saw what they wished for, an education for their children, a roof over their heads, probably a car and a better life tomorrow. We must engage the international community, especially NATO, so once we leave Afghanistan, someone else is there to take over from us.

We cannot say we are leaving right now. We cannot pack up our bags and say that the war is not going well and that we are not going to play any more. We have made a commitment. We have spent a lot of money. We have to give notice. Giving notice and saying that we need to change the engagement from peacemaking to peacekeepers is difficult because there are no two people to divide. We can say that in two years we will be gone, but we might leave some of the troops behind to do some work in aid. That is an excellent position for us to take. To say that we will leave right now is not a position we can take.

My hon. colleague talked about what happened when Spain left Iraq. Let me remind him what happened in Spain. A train was bombed. There was a change in the government and it said that it would move right away. That was not Afghanistan. That was Iraq.

Afghanistan is a totally different situation from Iraq. We are not in Iraq thanks to the Liberals.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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NDP

Libby Davies

New Democratic Party

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to rise in the House today to participate in what I think is a very important debate, probably one of the most important debates that we are ever going to have in our Parliament, about whether or not we should be extending the mission in Afghanistan and whether or not we should be committing Canadian troops to that mission. I certainly appreciate being part of this debate.

I think it is really important as part of this debate that we be respectful of other points of view, because there is a variety of points of view in the House, in the Canadian public and in the country. I get a variety of feedback from the constituents in my riding, but overwhelmingly the feedback that I have heard is that people are very concerned about the continuing mission in Afghanistan.

The motion that we are debating tonight from the government, in collaboration with the Liberals, will basically see this mission continue to 2011. Although it is a very long motion that we are debating, the very key and operative part of that motion is: “therefore, it is the opinion of the House, that Canada should continue a military presence in Kandahar beyond February 2009, to July 2011”.

What we also are debating tonight is an amendment from the New Democratic Party, which has offered a different path and a different vision. It is a path that is based on building toward a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan, recognizing that this mission has not done what it said it would do, that it has not worked, and that therefore we need to take a different path.

The NDP amendment that we also are debating in this House reads as follows:

That the House call upon the government to begin preparations for the safe withdrawal of Canadian soldiers from the combat mission in Afghanistan with no further mission extensions;

that, in the opinion of the House, the government should engage in a robust diplomatic process to prepare the groundwork for a political solution, under explicit UN direction and authority, engaging both regional and local stakeholders, and ensuring the full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law;....

The NDP amendment goes much further, but I will certainly leave it at that in terms of the general tone of what we think we should be dealing with.

In debating these two different visions tonight, these two different paths, I did want to make a comment about what has been publicly stated by the chief of staff for the armed forces, General Hillier. I think we all read his various comments in the media, wherein he questioned whether this debate should take place, how long it would be, saying that somehow we were playing into the hands of the enemy, and that we should curtail this and we should be careful. I felt pretty offended by that. I felt those remarks were very out of place.

When I got elected to this House, and I think many members of Parliament feel this way--in fact, I hope we all feel this way--it was on the basis that we came here to have democratic debate, that we came here to represent our constituents, and that we came here to look at our global community as well as our Canadian community. We came here to take on important issues, to examine those issues, to weigh them up and to see what perspectives there were.

This debate, to me, is the very essence and core of what parliamentary democracy should be about. There is no more serious question than sending troops into combat. There is no more serious question than spending billions of dollars on a military mission, than the lives that are involved and the lives that have been lost. I think it is something that must be debated here in terms of public policy and what direction Canada takes.

I felt that the comments by the chief of staff for the armed forces were actually out of line and unacceptable and that we should have this debate. We should do it honourably and respectfully. We should do it from the point of view that we represent a Canadian interest in the international community. We should do it with a sense of our history, of who we are, and of the democratic values for peace-building, diplomacy and negotiation that I think Canadians want to see us move on.

I want to go back to where this began. I have heard from Conservative members today and on other days that the reason we are in Afghanistan is because this is about children going to school and women's equality. I find that a bit ironic given the stance that they take here at home in terms of women's equality and the cutbacks that we have suffered.

In fact, the Liberal member who spoke before me said that it was the Liberal government which ensured that Canada did not participate in the war in Iraq. That is correct, but that decision was made because of overwhelming public sentiment. There were demonstrations across the country of tens of thousands of people who said that Canada should not be participating in George Bush's war on terror and we should not be participating in the war on Iraq.

The prime minister of the day, Jean Chrétien, finally heard that message. I remember when we in the NDP were ridiculed for standing in the House and saying that we should not be participating in the war in Iraq, but finally the prime minister of the day made what I think was the proper decision and he was upheld by the Canadian people.

However, at the same time, another decision was made. That decision was to go into Afghanistan and support Operation Enduring Freedom, as it was known then, under the American military forces. It was clearly George Bush's war on terror. There was his famous line: “You're either with us or against us”. I remember when he made that statement to Congress and the American people. That goes back to 2001.

While on the one hand I think the right decision was made on the war on Iraq, on the other hand, Canada, with very little public debate, moved into its role of supporting in an indirect way the war on Iraq by moving its forces into Afghanistan when the bombing began. That was seven years and $7 billion ago. Many lives have been lost since then.

Later we were told that the mission would end in 2003 , but the Liberals extended it to 2006. Then we had a very key vote in Parliament, when the government, which was the right thing to do, at least put a motion forward in the House saying that it wanted to extend the mission until 2009. We could have ended the mission at that point if the Liberals had stuck together and voted the right way, but as we know, a number of Liberals voted with the government and so the extension happened.

Here we are today, now debating the fourth extension of this mission in Afghanistan, until 2011. As many people have said in the House on a number of occasions in the debates we have had, there is no certainty whatsoever, no guarantee or understanding from the government or anybody else, that it will be the last extension. The questions that we in the NDP had at the very beginning of this mission are still the questions we have today.

In fact, in terms of those questions and the analysis that has gone on, I particularly want to thank our NDP defence critic, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, who has done an incredible job in seeking information and accessing information under freedom of information legislation to find out exactly what the nature of this mission is and to try to get answers to some of those questions.

I thank the member for Halifax, who has been an incredible advocate for peace, development and women's rights globally and here at home, and has stood in the House and endured insults for daring to speak the truth about what is going on in this mission. I also thank the NDP foreign affairs critic, the member for Ottawa Centre.

I feel very proud to be a New Democrat. We have analyzed what we believe is going on. We have listened to our constituents and the discourse that is taking place both here in Canada and internationally, and we came to the conclusion, not on a partisan political basis but on the basis of public policy and the history of Canada's role in the international community, that this was indeed the wrong mission for Canada. As a result, we have our amendment tonight to seek the withdrawal in a safe manner of the combat mission.

There is much information that is now available about the mission, although I think more needs to come forward. In fact, I think even the government has acknowledged that the level of information has been very inadequate. This certainly was addressed by the Manley commission.

But we do know that the situation in Afghanistan is not getting better. It is getting worse. We do know that in December 2007 the UN calculated that in the previous nine months violent incidents in the south had risen by 30%, including over 5,000 local deaths.

I feel that is a great tragedy. It is a tragedy when Canadian soldiers die. It is a tragedy when civilians die and there is collateral damage, as it is called. In fact, I am sure we do not even know the full extent of the civilian loss of life and the maiming that has taken place, the villages that have been bombed, and the insecurity that has come about as a result of this combat mission that is being put forward in the name of promoting democracy.

We know that in February 2008 Canadian Major-General Marc Lessard, NATO commander in the south, stated that violent incidents in the six southern provinces increased by 50% in 2007. We know again that in February 2008--and these are very recent pieces of information--NATO statistics revealed that insurgent attacks had climbed by 64% in the past year, from about 4,500 incidents in 2006 to approximately 7,400 incidents in 2007.

We also know that the same NATO statistics show that attacks on western and Afghan troops were up by almost a third in 2007, to more than 9,000 significant incidents, as they are called. That is a very dramatic increase.

Again, in January 2008, there were two independent reports from former NATO commanders in Afghanistan warning that the country risks becoming “a failed state”.

I have found it interesting that a lot of the analysis comes forward from military personnel who have been there. Upon leaving the scene and the environment, when they come back or retire or move on to another position, they actually begin to come forward with an analysis which shows that this mission is failing. I think we have seen that, whether it is from the British senior diplomat who is in Afghanistan, or whether it is from these former NATO commanders. There is now quite a list developing and the opinions are really beginning to stack up.

In the NDP, we are used to hearing the attacks on us from the Conservatives, who say that we do not know what we are talking about, but in actual fact, the conclusions we have come to have been arrived at by looking at what is actually taking place, and by looking at the analysis being provided by some of these military experts, by NGOs and by United Nations organizations.

I also want to briefly talk about another issue that I think has been put forward in this debate, which is that the reason we are in Afghanistan is to protect women and to bring to the country women's equality. I think that again we have to search very deeply and to be truthful as to whether or not that is actually taking place.

I would point out to the House that in October 2006 a report by Womankind Worldwide, entitled “Taking Stock Update: Afghan Women and Girls Five Years On”, concluded that the lives of Afghan women have not changed very much. In fact, violence against women is still endemic. The number of women attempting to commit suicide by self-immolation has risen dramatically. The majority of marriages are still forced. In the middle eastern portion of the country, where the Taliban never had control, a woman dies in childbirth every 20 minutes.

In August 2007 an internal government analysis that was leaked to La Presse contradicted the picture that was painted by the Conservative government. Attacks on schools, for example, were actually increasing across the country. There were more attacks in the first half of 2006 than there were in the whole of 2005.

The justice system there is very fragile. A very clear benchmark of democratic practice and democratic principles is the stability of a justice system. That is struggling in that country.

We know from the debates and the questions we have had in the House that opinions on the whole issue of the transfer of detainees is, at the least, divided. At the worst, court challenges are going on even now to try and stop Canada from continuing the transfer of detainees because of significant concern about the violation of basic human rights.

In January 2007 Rina Amiri from the UN painted a very bleak picture of women's lives that impacted our own parliamentary defence committee. She said that forced marriages, honour killings, extreme poverty, and virtual slavery were commonplace.

I want to quote from a very brave parliamentarian who was at our convention in Quebec City. Malalai Joya has travelled across Canada. She is a courageous young woman. She was elected to the Afghani parliament. She was removed from the parliament for daring to speak out about the fact that warlords and criminals were still in charge. She has now been expelled from the Afghanistan parliament.

Malalai Joya said in 2006, “When the entire nation is living under the shadow of gun and warlordism, how can its women enjoy very basic freedoms?” Contrary to “the propaganda raised by certain western media, Afghan women and men are not 'liberated' at all”.

We hosted her in our community when she came to Vancouver just a few months ago. She spoke at our anti-war rallies and our peace rallies. It was remarkable to hear this young woman who has endured death threats for daring to speak out.

As members of Parliament, we sometimes say things that are not very popular. Sometimes we rise in this House and we express minority opinions. We do so because we believe it is the right thing to do. I do not think any of us has endured a death threat and we have not been expelled for daring to express our opinions, even if they are unpopular and even if they are in the minority.

Unfortunately, Malalai Joya has been expelled and she has had to deal with those kinds of death threats to herself and her family because she spoke out with a different point of view. For me, that really speaks to the conflict and the crisis that is taking place in that country.

The mission in Afghanistan is now costing the Canadian public more than $100 million per month. We have to ask two serious questions: What is the rationale for the cost of this mission? What is the produced outcome in terms of either a stable government or a stable country?

I take exception to the line from the Conservatives. I guess some people believe that we are in Afghanistan because we are somehow defending democracy there. I believe the reason we are there is that we were led into this on a political basis to support the war on terror. It had nothing to do with women's rights or democracy. It had to do with political, strategic reasons in that region and for the Canadian government at the time. We have seen an escalation of that course now.

It is very disturbing that we lost the opportunity we had in this House to say that we wanted to see this combat mission end. It was lost because the Liberals have now moved over and supported the Conservative position. That is very regrettable. I think it was done for political reasons. I believe that months and even years from now people will look back and ask: Why did this mission go on for so long? Why did Canada play that role? Why did Canada not choose the path to peace?

I want to end by quoting what our leader said when he spoke at the University of Ottawa:

I believe that Canada can and should be a voice of moderation, realism and peace on the world stage.

And to become that voice, we must embrace a new approach for Canada as well for the international community.

That is why we put forward our amendment. That is why we will not be supporting the government-Liberal motion. That is why we will continue to be very firm in our position that this is the wrong mission and we should be withdrawing our troops in a safe way. We should be taking that other path, a path that leads to peace and stability for the people of Afghanistan.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Jay Hill

Conservative

Hon. Jay Hill (Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, about the only thing the hon. member said with which I would agree with her is that originally when we went there it was because of our desire to do our part to fight terrorism. That is about all I think I would agree with in her entire statement.

The member did talk about the NDP amendment to the motion. That is what we are currently debating. I want to read a little from it and then ask her a question about it. It goes on at quite some length. I do not want to read the entire amendment ,but it states:

...that, in the opinion of the House, the government should engage in a robust diplomatic process to prepare the groundwork for a political solution--

--whatever that is, and further on it states:

--and ensuring the full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law;

I wonder if the member could explain how we could accomplish that, ensure the full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, without the troops on the ground there to assist in actually ensuring that. The motion then goes on:

...that, in the opinion of the House, the government should maintain the current suspension on the transfer of Afghan detainees to Afghan authorities until substantial reforms of the prison system are undertaken;

It does not say how long that might take. I would be interested in knowing, since it seems to be the NDP's desire to extend a temporary suspension of holding those detainees to a more permanent role if it is suggesting that we somehow build prisons. I suppose they are not, since we would remove our troops from providing any security and therefore they obviously would not be in a position to take any more detainees or Afghan prisoners, as I would call them.

Then lastly, the motion states:

...that, in the opinion of the House, the government should provide effective and transparent development assistance under civilian direction...

This is something that continues to puzzle me about the naivety of the NDP position. How in God's name do the NDP members figure that we or anyone else, including the Afghans themselves, would be in a position to provide effective and transparent development assistance under civilian direction as long as the Taliban are there to destroy everything and blow people up with their mines and their IEDs? How, if we removed our troops, would we ever get any civilians, foreign or local, domestic civilians, to try to extend development assistance without the troops there to provide some semblance of security?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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NDP

Libby Davies

New Democratic Party

Ms. Libby Davies

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I am not really surprised that the government whip does not agree with my position. I do not think that is a surprise to anybody here. I know that he has very strong views and he wholeheartedly supports what his government is doing. I was glad to hear that at least we agree on one point, so that is some progress, is it not?

In terms of our amendment, it is really how we approach this whole question. What I feel, and I think all of us in the NDP feel, is that all of the resources and the political resources, the weight of the government, is earmarked toward this military mission and very little thought has been given to engaging, to quote from our amendment, “in a robust diplomatic process to prepare the groundwork for a political solution” within international law and upholding international human rights.

I think it is all about where one is coming from. If one is wedded to the idea that it is a military mission that is going to solve it, then everything else becomes exclusionary. We in the NDP believe there is a different path. If Canada played a different role within NATO, within the international community, within the United Nations, and we worked as a positive force in terms of laying that groundwork, then we would begin to see that solution. If we do not try, it will never happen. That is the reality.

I do know for example that the Dutch have taken a very different approach, even in terms of their combat mission. We have hardly debated that in this House.

Even in terms of military combat, there are different kinds of approaches to take in terms of how we engage civilians, how we work in the local villages in Afghanistan. Even within that debate, there are very different perspectives within NATO.

To answer the member's question, we believe that the approach taken by the Canadian government from the beginning has been so weighted toward a combat mission. We can see that by the money being spent. I think for every $12 spent on the military mission only $1 is being spent on reconstruction. If it were the other way around, or if it were focused on a development process and a peace process, I think we would begin to see a different reaction. If Canada used its goodwill and standing in the international community to do that, I think we would have very strong support here in Canada and we would be able to garner the support of other countries to do that as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Laurie Hawn

Conservative

Mr. Laurie Hawn (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I am going to get to a question, but first I want to say that if the hon. member is going to trash the chief of the defence staff, she should at least pronounce his name correctly. It is Hillier.

In fact, General Hillier has about 100,000 Canadian families who expect him to look after the safety of their kids. He did not say there should not be a debate. He did say it should happen quickly and there should be clarity given to Canadians, given to the troops and given to the Taliban. His comments were in fact entirely proper and within his mandate.

There is one other little point. Nobody has talked about Afghanistan being a military solution only. Nobody has talked about that. A couple of people have raised World War II. I will point out to the hon. member that World War II was not solved by negotiation in any way, shape or form. World War II was ended purely because of military strength.

People talked about the NDP forming government. If the NDP had been in government, perhaps the Dutch would still be eating tulip bulbs. Certainly South Korea would be enjoying the same communist poverty as North Korea if that were the case.

I would just ask my hon. colleague, is there anything that the NDP members think is worth fighting for?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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NDP

Libby Davies

New Democratic Party

Ms. Libby Davies

Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing to hear that kind of commentary from the parliamentary secretary.

To question what the Chief of Staff of the Canadian Forces says and to have that characterized as trashing, I guess the Conservatives cannot stand to have any other opinion. It becomes monolithic in terms of what they stand for. I feel that this is unfortunate because we have a parliamentary secretary who is meant to play a greater role.

I am sorry if my accent does not pronounce his name correctly but that is the way it is and it is with no disrespect to him. However, I believe I have a right to question what the Chief of Staff says and I believe he went over the line in the political arena in beginning to debate what we should be debating here.

The Chief of Staff is to carry out the decisions that are made by Parliament and by the Government of Canada. Our debate is here, and I believe that strongly. If I did not believe that I would not be here. I take great exception to what the parliamentary secretary said. Canada is not run by the military. Canada is run by a democratically elected government, based on decisions that are made in a democratic forum in this House.

In terms of what the NDP is willing to fight for, that is a rhetorical question. We should be having a serious discussion here. If the member wants to look at the history of the CCF and the NDP, then I do not think he will find a party that has a stronger record for standing up for people's rights, for peace and for going to war when that was necessary. That does not mean to say that we agree with this mission.

To say that it is all or nothing makes this some intimidation kind of debate. I would have expected more from the parliamentary secretary.

My comments were made from a serious perspective that does not happen to agree with his but, as far as I am concerned, that is fine. I respect his opinion. However, when we hear that kind of a response from the Conservatives it only digs them in deeper to a position that is not shared by a growing number of Canadians.

Part of this debate is actually having a reality check and hearing what our constituents are saying. I certainly know from the responses that I get that even if people supported this mission at the beginning, they now wonder where it will go. Canadians do not believe that 2011 will be the end of this mission. They do not believe that this motion that has come forth from the Liberals and the Conservatives, called this pan-Canadian motion, is anything that is supportable.

It is for that reason that we put forward the amendment and we have taken a different point of view.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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LIB

Andrew Telegdi

Liberal

Hon. Andrew Telegdi (Kitchener—Waterloo, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing.

I am pleased that we are actually having a debate this time around because the last time we dealt with the issue of extending the mission we really did not have much of a debate. Most members were unable to--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Jay Hill

Conservative

Hon. Jay Hill

How about the debate we had when the Liberals were in office.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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LIB

Andrew Telegdi

Liberal

Hon. Andrew Telegdi

There are only a few of them in the House but I remember the member used to be a member of the Reform Party and they came to Ottawa to do things differently and one of the things they were going to do is not heckle. I would really appreciate if the member would remember his roots.

It is good that we are having this debate and most members who want to speak are able to speak. There is no question that we have many viewpoints coming forward and different parties are presenting different viewpoints.

Before I get into the debate, it is important for all of us to realize the very heavy toll that is being borne by our engagement in Afghanistan. Seventy-nine soldiers have been killed, along with a diplomat and thousands of people in Afghanistan who became casualties of this war, civilians I might add. It is a very difficult situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

I recall meeting with a mujahedeen in the eighties in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo. That gentleman was involved in fighting against the Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. I mention that because it is very important that, as we try to help the Afghans establish a civil society, we recognize that it is a country that has undergone a great deal of hardship and occupation. It is also important that we, as part of a NATO force, be seen as people who are facilitating the Afghan people in establishing a civil society.

The soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice carried out the mission that we as members of Parliament and the government of the day set for them. Let there be no question that every member of this House supports our soldiers. Whether we agree or disagree with the mission, we all support the soldiers. In recognizing their sacrifices, it is important that we honour their service at the point in time where we might have casualty, as was very strongly suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, by commemorating the occasion by lowering the flag in the morning and having a moment of silence in the House. It is something that the previous government did.

That is important because we as Canadians mourned with those troops and mourned with their families. There is no question that it should not be a situation where we try to keep the public away from the repatriation of the bodies, which thankfully was changed. The price we pay for having this engagement should not be downplayed.

When we talk about issues related to how we deal with detainees in Afghanistan, we need to recognize that while we are there to establish a civil society and set in place institutions, it is important to deal with human rights and with detainees.

When one supports an internationally accepted norm for dealing with detainees, it is important that the international norm be observed. However, it should not be used to say that one is supporting the Taliban instead of our soldiers, because let us be very clear that there is nobody in this House who does not support our troops.

I listened to the comments earlier on by the member of the Conservative Party, the caucus chair. He talked about his experiences in Uganda under Idi Amin. He talked about how thousands of Asians who settled in Uganda were uprooted because of their race and ended up being expelled. He mentioned that he was still a baby when he was a refugee coming from Uganda. He talked about the price paid by the people who were expelled and who were ostracized in that country.

Canada took his family in, as Canada has taken in many families. He mentioned how important it was, how he looks at Uganda now and how he very much appreciates the evolution that has been taking place.

Many people know my situation. Fifty-one years ago, I came here as a refugee after the Hungarian revolution. On October 23 of last year I returned there with a parliamentarian delegation led by the now defence minister who was the foreign affairs minister at the time.

I recall vividly the revolution in November 1956 when the Soviet tanks came back into Hungary, having withdrawn at an initial stage, and the prime minister of the time, Imre Nagi, asking for help and the call going unheeded. It resulted in 200,000 Hungarians fleeing Hungary. It occurred to me at the 50th anniversary, as all the members of NATO and people from around the world were there, that they came 50 years late.

I was very pleased to see the developments in Hungary and eastern Europe and the democratization. However, the reality is we are no longer caught in the cold war as we were before. It is not a question of either side controlling client states. The situation we are in now is we will have failed states. Afghanistan was a failed state. There are a number of other failed states such as Darfur and Zimbabwe that we in the international community need to pay attention to.

Our legitimacy in Afghanistan and trying to establish civil society is not just doing something for those people over there. It is the world coming together collectively under the United Nations umbrella, in this case NATO. What we are doing is trying to deal with a failed state because it is going to deal with the security of the whole world. We need to get used to the idea that we will need to go into failed states and do these kinds of activities.

The biggest problem I have had with the Afghan mission is that Canada cannot be doing the heavy lifting forever. We are caught up in Kandahar and our casualty rate is higher than anybody else's casualty rate. Now that we have a clearer timeline on rotating out, I think it is great. It is something we can all support. The fact that we will be putting more emphasis on diplomacy and development is also very good. I would venture to say that all members of the House agree that we should put more emphasis on development and diplomacy.

As I talk about the world community and how collectively we will need to ensure each other's security, it is important to mention that collectively we will need to try to bear some influence on the United States to ensure it does not go off and undertake unilateral missions, as it did in the case of Iraq.

That mission has really undercut us, the United States and the rest of the world in dealing with Afghanistan. There is no question now in the United States that the war as turned out to be very unpopular. It is not fulfilling the mission that it was set up to fulfill. All the Democratic candidates have said that they will take the troops out of Iraq. The debate now is how quickly they will do it.

The lesson learned is we have to ensure that when we operate in the international forum and when we deal with failed states and try to bring them into the family of democracy, we do it under the umbrella of the United Nations and in alliances, not in unilateral missions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Deepak Obhrai

Conservative

Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member and I know about his background as a refugee from Hungary, on which he just elaborated on, and the failure of the international community to react when tanks moved into Hungary. My colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona talked about coming to Canada as a refugee.

When we have failed states, it is very important that the international community take action. Where it has taken collective action, we have seen some positive results. South Korea is one of the greatest examples where the Korean ambassador appealed to the UN. The UN responded and Canada, as part of the allies, took part in the international effort.

We lost 587 soldiers in Korea. I was at the memorial in South Korea for the 587 Canadians who lost their lives. When I visited the tunnels and the demilitarized zone, all the people thanked Canada for giving them freedom because they could see a very clear difference.

The NDP has put forward an amendment saying that the UN should take the peacemaking process and be involved in this. I am sure my colleague will answer this. Is this not a UN mission?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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LIB

Andrew Telegdi

Liberal

Hon. Andrew Telegdi

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the parliamentary secretary that we have a NATO mission, with Canada under the umbrella of the United Nations. Canada wanted to bring NATO in specifically because of the rotation issue. They are supposed to rotate out. Troops do their tours of duty under NATO within that mission and after a certain period of time get rotated out.

It is unfortunate that all NATO members are not bearing the same burden as we are. We are into the hottest part of Afghanistan and the casualty rate for the number of soldiers involved is high. I look forward to the rotation out.

Getting back to the point of failed states, that is the biggest strength we have on this planet right now. It very clear that we have to do it under the auspices of the United Nations, but if we can get the NATO alliance in there, as we have in this case because we had the capacity to respond, that is a good thing.

We also have to ensure the UN has the capacity to keep dealing with the failed states. There are a number of failed states in Africa and it is very conducive and helpful to have people from the continent partaking in the UN missions.

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Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Dean Del Mastro

Conservative

Mr. Dean Del Mastro (Peterborough, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member mentioned the word “rotation” quite frequently when he speaks. Other speakers in the House have talked about the importance of standing behind the people to whom we have made a commitment, the families, the women, the children and the people of the Kandahar region.

When talking about rotation, one is implicitly saying that at some point there was an agreement that we would leave and somebody else would come in so they would not be abandoned. Because the member has not spoken about it, perhaps he could provide some details as to what the agreement was on rotation when the former government committed us to Kandahar in the first place. I have never seen any document and I doubt the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence has ever seen one.

He talked about the undue burden that we have carried. If the former government were going to commit them to this burden, where is the document that talks about rotation?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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LIB

Andrew Telegdi

Liberal

Hon. Andrew Telegdi

Mr. Speaker, originally when we went there, we saw the tour of duty being about a year. It was very clear at the time. The Chief of Defence Staff, who was just being appointed, assured us that before we agreed to the mission that we would have the capacity to do other missions around the world as well, such as Darfur.

All members in the House are getting calls from members of their constituencies saying that we need to take a leadership role in Darfur. Obviously we cannot because we are stuck in Afghanistan, which is not a very satisfactory situation.

The fact is the Kandahar region is the hottest spot in Afghanistan. That is why the government now is agreeing to get extra help from other countries going there. We are not going to stay in the highest casualty spot forever. It takes away from our ability to do the kind of reconstruction and the kind of diplomacy we want to do. It also takes away from our capacity to do other missions.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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LIB

Brent St. Denis

Liberal

Mr. Brent St. Denis (Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join the debate tonight, a debate that honours our troops in Afghanistan and everywhere they act on behalf of Canada in the world, and indeed domestically.

I echo the comments of my colleague from Waterloo. To have this debate and to recognize there are different points of view and at the same time to recognize that in this democracy debate is necessary is a good irony. It is good that we can have the debate in this place. We could wish that other countries like Afghanistan could enjoy the ability to have discussions like this without guns, bombs, bullets or treachery. We and our troops, men and women, are there on our behalf to advance those values that we hold as a nation.

There is not a member in the House who does not, regardless of his or her view, support our troops. I want to emphasize that is my view and the view of all of us here.

In so doing, I want to pay tribute to those soldiers, men and women of the military, who have lost their lives, about 80, and the many hundreds who have been wounded to one degree or another.

I am the vice-chair of the veterans affairs committee, which is doing a study of veterans benefits. We are seeing all too often in testimony the tragic impact on lives of post-traumatic stress disorder. There is no question that the operation in Afghanistan will produce, unfortunately, a goodly share of future veterans of today's serving military who will suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. However, that is the price of acting out the values of our democracy in foreign lands.

I also submit that the motion, to give credit to the Prime Minister and the Liberal leader, is the result of their efforts to find common ground that reflects the values of our country and that it is a Canadian motion, not a Conservative or a Liberal motion.

I have talked to previous NDP voters who are much happier with this balanced approach than with the approach that Canada should leave Afghanistan right away.

I represent the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing. A major part of my current riding was represented by the late Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson. It was 50 years ago last fall that he won the Nobel Prize for his efforts in the area of peacekeeping.

We do not use the word “peacekeeping” very much any more, but ultimately it is all about that. Whether we go through seasons when that word does not easily fit the circumstances, there would be few Canadians who would not agree that it is really what ultimately we are trying to achieve.

I know all too well the families of soldiers killed. They are from the little communities of McKerrow and Espanola in my riding. Two young men lost their lives in Afghanistan in the last couple of years. They know too well that there is a great sacrifice.

By the lack of emails, phone calls and letters from constituents telling me that this motion is a mistake, I have a sense, and I am sure most of my colleagues here have this sense as well, that we are doing the right thing.

We will have an election sooner or later and that election will rightfully be about differing views on the country's finances, child care, aboriginal concerns and so on. However, it should not be about Afghanistan. We have troops there and families at home are wishing them Godspeed in their time there and their journey home. I think we are doing the right thing by settling this matter.

Our troops want us to debate this. Ultimately they want clear direction from the Parliament of Canada. As our leader has said, it is not our job as parliamentarians to micromanage the work of the generals and their fellow leaders on the ground. That is not our role. Our role is to set the direction and the mandate.

To go back to our veterans affairs committee, we recently visited four military bases, from the west to the east of Canada, in our veterans health study. In my experience, not a single member of the military questioned the debate, not a single one. They understand that the war has passed and that as for the work of our veterans, whether it was in the first or second world wars, in Korea or elsewhere in peacekeeping, those efforts were in fact to preserve and promote democracy. It is an honour. We honour our military by having this debate.

Let me go specifically to the things that our party wanted to see as the Afghanistan mission moved forward. We knew that there would have to be change in the mission. We knew that there would have to be an end date.

We also felt strongly that we would have to move beyond the military engagement, at least as the military engagement presents itself to us right now. The military engagement should focus on training the security forces and providing security for development and the building of infrastructure, schools and so on. For this, it is understandable.

Canadians understand that we need a strong military to be in that village once it is secured to make sure that it is safe for the water system to be built or rebuilt, as the case might be, or for that school to be built, and for other important issues of local governments to be fostered.

We need a strong military. As for how the devolution or the evolution of the combat mission unfolds in the months ahead, we will leave that to our military leaders. They have our message that the counter-insurgency measures should be diminished and that the military role of combat where necessary is in support of securing the reconstruction and securing development. We understand that it is our military that will decide those issues.

It was also very important to us that the issue of detainee transfers be dealt with. Happily, there is at least some clearing of the air on that important issue.

Also, we are calling on NATO to step up. There are other member states of NATO that need to take more responsibility. It is not our role as Canadians to be there forever doing the work that others should be sharing with us. Canadians understand that, but at the same time, they do not want to see us leaving Afghanistan tomorrow.

I feel very strongly that ultimately we are helping to build a civil society there. It seems a long way off when we look at the terrible news that emanates from that country and that region on almost a daily basis, but we cannot lose hope. We cannot lose faith that people, individuals, families, and communities, ultimately want to live in peace. We cannot work out their differences that may exist from ages past in their communities. They have to work those things out themselves.

It is not our role to change people or to tell people what they should do in their communities. However, we can provide leadership by good example. We can demonstrate by good example the fruits that come from labouring together to have a country such as we do, where debate is in a chamber like this, where debate does not involve bullets and bombs. Sometimes it involves strong emotional debate, but ultimately it is a debate of words settled by a democratic vote.

Much has been and should be made of the place of women in Afghanistan. Just having celebrated International Women's Day in Canada, I think it is important to remind ourselves that while we have some ways to go in our own country in this regard, we are light years ahead, sadly, of countries like Afghanistan.

Again, however, the cultural mores of another country are not ours to change. Those will change over time. Again, we will provide leadership by example. We will provide the security that will allow for the fostering of more equality and women's rights, and rights for minorities not only in Afghanistan but right around the world.

Afghanistan presents a very complicated situation today, as it has for decades and generations, sadly.

We support our troops. We look forward to them coming home safely when the mission finally reaches its end.

I think Parliament is working. I want to commend this place for helping us achieve a remarkable consensus as we move forward.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Michael Chong

Conservative

Hon. Michael Chong (Wellington—Halton Hills, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Liberal member opposite about his opinions on how as a NATO coalition, a UN sanctioned mission in Afghanistan, we can deal with the challenges in Kandahar province, along some of the border area with Pakistan and with some of the other provinces in southern Afghanistan that border the state of Pakistan.

As the member might know, the Durand line was a line that Sir Mortimer Durand, in the late nineteenth century, set on a map to demarcate the line between Afghanistan and British India, which now has become the Pakistani-Afghani border. This line was an effort on the part of the governments of the day to try to impose nation-state constructs on what then was essentially a tribal area and is at present a tribal area.

What ideas or solutions does the member opposite suggest that could be implemented to ensure that the nation-state constructs of Afghanistan and Pakistan have sovereignty over this area? Does he believe that we can arrive at that end or does he believe that we cannot? In other words, does he believe that it may not be possible for the nation-states of Pakistan and Afghanistan to effect their sovereignty over what is essentially the Pashtun tribal area?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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LIB

Brent St. Denis

Liberal

Mr. Brent St. Denis

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for his very detailed question. Obviously he is a student of history. I commend him for that. I do not know whether I can satisfy his question in any great detail, but what he made me think of as he was asking his question was the age-old problem in Northern Ireland, which, in another context, we might ask, was it tribal or was it not tribal?

As for dealing with tribal issues in parts of the world where the history is unique, each situation is unique and complex, and I do not think it is the place of a western nation like Canada to be picking winners and losers. Lines are often arbitrary lines between states. They are often chosen by the outgoing military leader of the day or some far-off governor appointed from some far-off country.

With respect to Pakistan, I think our leader has said it very well. He was criticized for it, but I think he said it very well when he said that there needs to be a greater emphasis on diplomacy, and I am glad to see that in this motion. I think the Pakistan puzzle in all of this needs a lot more attention. Hopefully, with the election of a coalition government in Pakistan now, we will see some settling down of the political problems there and greater attention and energy on the border.

However, when it comes to tribal and internecine fighting, I think those mysteries will remain mysteries for the western world for a long time to come. All we can do is provide some security within their paradigm, whereby hopefully they can work things out, as we have seen slowly happening in Northern Ireland. I hope that gives the member some sense of an answer to his very good question.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Mike Wallace

Conservative

Mr. Mike Wallace (Burlington, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Avalon.

It is my honour to speak on this motion regarding our future military and development involvement in Afghanistan. Before I begin, I want to congratulate our Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, on the work he has done with the opposition--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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NDP

Bill Blaikie

New Democratic Party

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. member knows that we should not refer to the Prime Minister by name.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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CPC

Mike Wallace

Conservative

Mr. Mike Wallace

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I want to congratulate the Prime Minister on his work with the opposition parties to come up with a motion that hopefully can be accepted by the vast majority of this House.

We all know about the troubled history that the country of Afghanistan has experienced and the Afghan people have endured. After decades of war and oppression, Afghanistan now is a burgeoning democracy. Many successes have been achieved since the UN mandated and NATO led mission was deployed to Afghanistan at the request of the Government of Afghanistan.

One of the areas of success has been democracy and governance. Afghanistan has had a long history of difficulties, being located at the crossroads of central, west and south Asia. That is why, on October 9, 2004, Afghanistan's first national democratic presidential election was so important to the future of the country.

On that day, more than eight million Afghans voted. After having had virtually no rights only a few years earlier, women made up 41% of these voters. On November 3, Hamid Karzai was announced as the winner. On December 7, he was inaugurated as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president. In naming his cabinet, President Karzai appointed three women as ministers.

In 2005, the Afghan people, in a national vote, elected their 249-seat lower house, the House of People. As well, the 102-seat House of Elders was elected by the 34 provincial councils. All of this would have been unheard of only a short time earlier, yet the people of Afghanistan, with the help of their international allies, now have a democratically elected national government. During this time, Afghanistan has had the largest refugee repatriation of any country in the world over the last 30 years.

Canada and its allies are working with the Afghan government and the provincial councils on rebuilding the country's infrastructure. A safe and secure environment is critical for the development and reconstruction to take place and to help the Afghans build the foundations for stability.

The country now has 167 district development agencies and over 19,000 community development councils, elected to prioritize infrastructure projects. Of the more than 33,000 local infrastructure projects approved nationwide, more than 16,000 have been completed.

In the province of Kandahar, where Canada heads the provincial reconstruction team, there are more than 530 elected councils and more than 630 projects completed. Canadians have helped build more than 1,200 wells, 80 reservoirs, 500 culverts and 150 kilometres of irrigation systems and canals.

Many kilometres of rural roads have been upgraded, along with road-paving projects on key high traffic routes. The roads are essential for the transportation of goods, especially for Afghan farmers. None of these projects would have been possible without the province being able to maintain security.

Another important area of development is the justice system. Canada is helping to reform the Afghan justice system to promote human rights and to allow better protection of its citizens.

Our country provided training for prosecutors, public defenders, court administrators and legal aid programming, as well as more than 200 judges, including women, and those who will train others to be judges.

Canada is also working to strengthen the Afghan national police so that the Government of Afghanistan can effectively police its own population and bring law and order back to the country, which is sorely needed so that people can feel safe in their own communities.

Canada has been investing in police reform through an approach that includes mentoring, training, funding of salaries, providing equipment and uniforms, and building police facilities.

In Kandahar province alone, Canada has trained more than 475 members of the Afghan national police. Canada has contributed nearly $13 million to a law and order trust fund which helps pay the salaries of the Afghan national police.

All of this assistance to the government of Afghanistan is aimed at building its ability to govern and to leave Afghanistan to Afghans.

As we have helped their country remain secure and governance is developing, Afghanistan has been able to take its rightful place in the international community. Repeated efforts by the Taliban to occupy the Afghanistan seat at the United Nations were unsuccessful. However, now the Afghan people are represented at the UN and around the world.

Afghanistan now enjoys diplomatic relations with dozens and dozens of other countries and has signed a good neighbour declaration with six nations that border Afghanistan to respect its independence and territory. As we help to rebuild the Afghan government and its institutions, Afghanistan will become more and more self-sufficient.

All of these achievements can only come about in a secure environment.

I want to talk about three personal experiences I have had. I have not had the opportunity to go to Afghanistan, but last summer I had the opportunity to go to Alberta for about five or six days to the training centre that this country has for those who are going to serve our country proudly in Afghanistan.

I was very impressed by the facilities that we have for the fine men and women who are going to risk their lives on behalf of our country and Afghans. I was also very impressed with the people I was with there. They were reservists training, wanting to go to Afghanistan, wanting to make a difference in their country and wanting to represent Canada in a very difficult spot. It was an honour for me to be there. It was an opportunity for me to learn while talking to those individuals what was important to them and why they wanted to serve.

Another thing which reinforced my commitment to support the motion for us to continue our work in Afghanistan until 2011 is that we had a red Friday event in my riding, which was a very large rally supporting our troops at our city hall. Some veterans who had been there and had come back spoke to us about the work that is being done on the ground in Afghanistan and why it was important for us to continue our efforts there.

It was a very moving experience for me. The overwhelming desire at the very large rally was that we need to continue to play the role Canada has traditionally played in our history in development, in providing safety and security for others around the world. I was very honoured to be a guest at that rally.

The second last thing I would like to speak about is when I visited the reservists from my riding who were going to Afghanistan. I talked to them about why they were going. I was pretty new in my term as a member of Parliament and it was very moving for me and a very difficult thing for me. I was not sure what to say to them other than to thank them. I thanked each and every one who was going there to serve.

Finally, the hardest vote I have had to make was the vote to extend the mission which we had a couple of years ago. I can say now, based on my experience and my understanding of what we are doing there that I am much more comfortable voting, this week hopefully, on this motion supporting our efforts in Afghanistan. To this end, I will continue to stand up for our soldiers, our development workers, our diplomats and aid workers as they continue to do this very important work on behalf of Canada in Afghanistan.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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NDP

Dennis Bevington

New Democratic Party

Mr. Dennis Bevington (Western Arctic, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague with a great deal of interest. I find him to be a very logical and amenable person in most of his parliamentary duties.

When we look at what is happening in Afghanistan, the Conservatives and Liberals are forming a coalition on an extension of the conflict for three years with a very definitive end date. That end date is not attached to a success date or a successful point in Afghanistan's development. We see it simply as an end point. We are debating a motion that will extend our involvement in Afghanistan to 2011. Our soldiers will continue to be engaged in active combat, where their lives are in danger, but there is no understanding of the end point being a success point.

We have moved from the Conservatives having an open-ended approach where we were going to be there until we were successful to the Liberals wanting us to get out a little bit earlier. How does this logically follow that now we have an end date of 2011 and we are asking our soldiers to remain there regardless of the successful outcome of the mission?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Afghanistan
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March 10, 2008