Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Jack Layton's Speech for Take-Note Debate on Afghanistan

Jack Layton is to be commended for asking questions and voicing concerns about Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Here is his speech:

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Created 2006-04-10 19:42

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as we assemble here in this safe and venerable place, hundreds of our fellow Canadians are serving our country and standing in harm’s way in Afghanistan. In doing this duty they have our full support.

New Democrats have called for a full debate on this dangerous mission in southern Afghanistan for many weeks, and I hope that tonight, at long last, we will finally have answers to the important questions Canadians are asking about this mission.

As I begin, I’d like to take a moment to pay tribute to twelve Canadians including one diplomat, who lost their lives in service to our country, in Afghanistan.

Je veux aussi souligner notre appréciation pour le sacrifice énorme que font les familles des militaires au nom de notre pays.

M. le Président, nous ne devons jamais oublier que c’est notre travail et notre devoir, comme parlementaire, de déterminer ce que nous demandons aux hommes et aux femmes en uniformes…

Ces décisions doivent être prises par les gens choisis démocratiquement par tous les citoyens du Canada… Et non pas par les bureaucrates, ou les généraux, ou le Cabinet tout seul. Les Parlementaires doivent pouvoir débattre et voter sur tout déploiement de nos troupes.

Ils le méritent.

After all, how can we ask our soldiers to bring democracy to Afghanistan, if democratic debate and decision making is denied in our own parliament.

Mr. Speaker, through you I call on the Prime Minister to set himself apart from his Liberal predecessors, by committing to a democratic debate and vote in this house on any further role for our Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, beyond our current commitments.

Mr. Speaker, we are here to support our women and men in uniform, through the democratic debate they deserve…something assured all Canadians by the democratic rights that our troops are prepared to secure with their own lives.

Those who portray the request for a vote as a lack of support for our valiant and committed defence personnel are attempting to portray democratic debate on foreign policy as a choice between cheerleading or abandoning our soldiers. Such a characterization does not honour our troops. Surely wise foreign policy involves far more.

We are here tonight to ask questions to help Canadians to determine if this is the right mission for Canada to be participating in, beyond our current commitments which end in February, 2007.

Vital questions that are now being raised across this country from Legion Halls to school classrooms, editorial pages to coffee shops.

Last November, the Minister of Defence, then his party’s defence critic, outlined in this place an essential list of questions that the government must be able to answer when committing Canadian troops abroad.

The government can do this now by answering the very questions the Minister of Defence himself posed just a few short months ago.

  • What are the goals and objectives of this mission and how do they meet Canada's foreign policy objectives?
  • What is the realistic mandate of the mission and how is it being enforced?
  • What is the defined concept of operation?
  • What is the effective command and control structure?
  • Quelles sont les règles d’engagements?
  • Est-ce que nos troupes sont équipées adéquatement pour cette mission?
  • Peut-on s’engager ailleurs pendant que nous sommes en Afghanistan? Par exemple, serait-ce possible pour nos forces armées de s’impliquer au même moment pour contrer le génocide au Darfour?
  • What are the mechanisms for effective consultation between mission partners?
  • What are the criteria to measure progress?
  • What is the definition of success in this mission?
  • What is the clear exit strategy for this mission?

Mr. Speaker, in addition to these and other questions there are actions which the government of Canada must take immediately.

We must re-negotiate the agreement made on the transfer of detainees to third parties.

We must ensure that our obligations under the Geneva Convention are not merely alluded to in spirit, but spelled out in the letter of our agreement to match the much more meaningful and clear treaty made by the Netherlands.

M. le Président, en terminant, laissez-moi vous dire que ce débat n’est que le début.

Les Canadiens veulent des réponses à ses questions. Ils veulent voir la démocratie en action. Dans leur parlement.

C’est pourquoi le gouvernement ne doit pas répéter les erreurs des Libéraux.

Instead, allow democracy to be heard, and felt, through both future debate, and votes on any role Canada might play moving forward in Afghanistan.

Canada’s role in the world, our reputation around the world, rests on our tradition as a peacekeeping nation.

On September 11th, 2001, an immense tragedy struck the United States, and indeed Canada.

But we cannot let that act of terror, that day of great loss….cloud our vision of our country, or ourselves.

In the United States, the Bush Administration has exploited the fear brought on by those horrible attacks, to perpetrate its war on terror.

But Canada must not succumb to the same easy indulgence of fear over hope.

When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Lester Pearson said this: "Of all our dreams today there is none more important - or so hard to realise - than that of peace in the world. May we never lose our faith in it or our resolve to do everything that can be done to convert it one day into reality."

Mr. Speaker, we must ask ourselves, how do we best harness the hopeful work of peacekeeping that has set this nation apart for nearly fifty years?

Canadians are rightfully asking where do our national priorities lie?

And where can we best use our resources to achieve results?

Is this the right mission going forward?

It is my hope that this government will not follow the path of previous Liberal governments, and leave these questions unanswered.

Thank you. Merci.

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