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Afghanistan Motion Speech in the House of Commons

March 14, 2008

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North.

I rise today to support the motion regarding Canada”s future role in Afghanistan. It is not a Liberal or Conservative motion. It is a Canadian motion. It sets out the mandate to our allies, to the Afghan people and to our Canadian Forces.

The motion reaffirms Canada”s position as a leader among the community of nations. To be sure, Canada is not the only leader among the community of nations, but it can certainly count itself as one of the world”s leading nations. That is why we are one of the 50 founding members of the United Nations and one of the 12 founding members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That is why we are one of the 19 founding members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. That is why we are a member of the G-8.

With leadership, comes responsibility, for responsibility is the price of leadership, a responsibility to be engaged in world affairs, a responsibility to multilateral engagement, a responsibility to the United Nations, a responsibility to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a responsibility to give generously of our foreign aid, a responsibility to our citizens to protect their security and many would add, a responsibility to protect. This is the price of being a world leader. That is why Canada is the second largest contributor to the Commonwealth and the second largest contributor to la Francophonie. That is why Canada is the seventh largest contributor to the regular budget of the United Nations. That is why over decades Canada has contributed thousands of soldiers to peacekeeping operations in dozens of United Nations led missions.

Canada is a leader in the world and leadership comes with responsibility. We have a responsibility to the United Nations to be in Afghanistan. Our mission in Afghanistan operates under a number of UN resolutions, the primary one of which is resolution 1267, which demands that the Taliban ceases activities and support of international terrorism. This UN resolution has been subsequently supported and reinforced by other UN resolutions, including resolution 1333 in the year 2000, resolution 1390 in 2002, resolution 1455 in 2003, resolution 1526 in 2004, resolution 1617 in 2005 and resolution 1735 in 2006.

The United Nations has not just passed one or two resolutions, but a total of seven resolutions on Afghanistan. As a founding member of the United Nations, we have a responsibility to uphold these UN resolutions. That is why we are in Afghanistan.
Canada is a leader in the world and with leadership comes responsibility. We have a responsibility to NATO to be in Afghanistan.

On April 4, 1949, Canada agreed to article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty which states:
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”

On September 11, 2001, the United States, a NATO member, was attacked by an al-Qaeda cell supported by the Taliban in Afghanistan. On March 11, 2004, another NATO member was attacked by an al-Qaeda inspired terrorist cell when the Madrid subway system was bombed. On July 7, 2005, the United Kingdom, yet still another NATO member, was attacked when another al-Qaeda inspired terrorist cell bombed the Tube.

Article 5 states that an attack against one member shall be considered an attack against all NATO members Article 5 also states that each NATO member has an obligation to assist the member attacked and to take any and all means necessary, including force, to restore and maintain the security of North America and Europe.

Canada”s word and honour is in that NATO treaty. The word and honour of Canadians long gone is in that treaty. On April 4, 1949, those Canadians stood for Canada. They gave Canada”s solemn word to uphold article 5. We must uphold article 5 or else we forgo our own word and our own honour and our word and our honour means little.
As founding members of NATO, we have a responsibility to support article 5 of the treaty, and that is why we are in Afghanistan.

As Canadians, we lead the world in terms of social outcomes and wealth. Canadians live in one of the wealthiest societies in the world. With wealth and leadership, comes responsibility, responsibility to give generously of our foreign aid. Canada ranks among Afghanistan”s top five donors, and Afghanistan is the single largest recipient nation of Canadian aid.

Over the 10 year period from 2001 to 2011, Canada will have contributed over $1 billion in aid. This aid assists Afghans as they seek to rebuild shattered dreams and lives, disrupted by decades of violence.

We live in one of the wealthiest nations of the world and wealthy nations have a responsibility to provide foreign aid to impoverished nations. Afghanistan is one of the most impoverished nations in the world, and that is why we are in Afghanistan. None of this aid is possible without the security and defence provided by Canadian Forces, and that is why the Canadian Forces are in Afghanistan.

We, as the elected representatives of the Canadian people in the House of Commons, are here to provide leadership. With this leadership, comes a responsibility to ensure the security of our citizens, a responsibility to protect our citizens from threats both domestic and foreign and a responsibility to protect our citizens from terrorist threats.

In the years leading up to 2001 the Taliban in Afghanistan provided a safe haven to the al-Qaeda network, which used Afghanistan to plan, to train and to deploy their attacks. We are in Afghanistan today to ensure that a Taliban government cannot return to provide a safe haven for groups like al-Qaeda to plan, train and launch their attacks on Canadian soil and on Canadian citizens.

As the elected leaders of Canada, we have a responsibility to protect Canadians and lower the risk of a terrorist group based in Afghanistan striking here and endangering our citizens. That is why we are in Afghanistan.

The number of years we have been involved, the price we have paid in lives, the moneys we have spent on defence, and the moneys we have spent on aid should not weaken our resolve. Success in Afghanistan will not be easy. Debates will continue, arguments will be considered, and solutions will be put forward. It is essential that we uphold our responsibilities to this world, for Canadians are leaders in the world and the price of leadership is responsibility.

We must all uphold our responsibilities to the United Nations, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to the people of Afghanistan and to Canadians. These are the reasons why we are in Afghanistan, and that is why the motion in front of the House today should be supported.


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