Mr. Chairman, thank you for that welcome. I've been called many worse things than bookends, that's for sure, so thank you for the opportunity to be here.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your invitation to appear here today. But I have to tell you that it is difficult for me to see where I can be of service after seeing how Canada's mission in Afghanistan has evolved since the beginning of the year. As you are well aware, the report of the independent panel on the mission was tabled in January and a good deal of debate ensued. As a result, you voted in favour of extending our mission to 2011. This decision to extend the mission sets a very precise timeline which will certainly help the Canadian Forces in our planning. Your decision was followed by the NATO summit in Bucharest last week, where member countries undertook to deploy about 1,000 additional troops in Kandahar. That increase will certainly improve security in the province by preventing the Taliban from launching any offensives.
Having said all of that, but also having just returned from a trip to Afghanistan, where I spent five days on the ground, I had the chance to discuss the situation with many of the key players and leaders and engaged men and women there and to travel significantly in the region around Kandahar City. I had a chance to see, if you will, what is sometimes described by our folks as Taliban country and to talk to almost every one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and airwomen, and to almost all of the civilians who are engaged in that mission there.
Let me just give you four points of view from what I saw, and that would be my assessment, over time, of the progress with the Afghan national security forces, the visible development, and the main threats against our men and women. I'll also just finish up with a little something about our men and women.
Let me just say I am one of the few people who have had the great privilege to engage in this mission, really, from very early on. I'm one of the folks, because of my responsibilities, Mr. Chair, who gets to see it continually, consistently, and who gets to see all parts of it over a longer period of time. As perhaps you know, my first engagement started back in 2003. I spent a lot of time there in 2004 as the commander, and since we've re-established operations in Kandahar province itself, I've been back 20 to 25 times since August 2005.
Let me just tell you what I saw in the last 18 to 19 months in Kandahar province and use that as a bit of a measuring stick, which is what we do. When I went into Kandahar province in October 2006, we were at the tail end of Operation Medusa, during which the Taliban tried to isolate Kandahar City. They wanted to cut off Highway 1, which is the main highway that goes around Afghanistan, and they wanted to show NATO or, more importantly, show the Afghans that NATO could not stand up to them. Fighting had taken place for about seven or eight weeks in some intense combat involving our soldiers.
When I arrived in October 2006, the area of the Panjwai, Pashmul, and Zhari districts outside of Kandahar City was a combat zone. There was a lot of destruction. The roads were in poor repair. The only people who moved were the Taliban or our soldiers. We did not have any Afghan National Army soldiers or battalions with us; there were very few police with us, and most of those who were we did not trust. The number of people living there, from the population of that valley area--the triangle out there that normally has a population of about 45,000 to 50,000--was almost zero. They had all departed.
I was back again at Christmas. Not a whole lot had changed, except that we had taken the initiative away from the Taliban and they truly now were retrenching or trying to leave the area. We were seeing people come back into their homes in the morning time, but mostly they would still leave at night, and they'd come back in and try to repair a few things--maybe repair a wall, repair an irrigation ditch--and get ready for the future.
I was back again last spring several times, throughout the summer and early fall, at Christmastime, and then back again three weeks ago, and what I saw was this. Now in that valley, 45,000 to 50,000 of the people have moved back into their homes. They have repaired the damage that took place almost completely. They've actually gotten along with new construction, and that new construction is pretty small by some of our standards. Building a grape-drying hut is a big thing to a family who depends on drying gapes for their livelihood.
They're back in. They've rebuilt, with our assistance--and I mean a whole-of-government assistance--some of the schools in the area that were destroyed completely. I particularly went and saw one at Ma'sum Ghar, and now in that school there are three shifts of children going to school every day because that's the way they can get their education. Traffic back in the area--economic traffic, in particular--has grown enormously, kids are out waving on the streets, and men are actually working in the area. In fact, we have about 400 of them working for us now, building a road that they desperately need.
What was most striking as I stood there, in fact, with Minister MacKay at Christmastime was this. When we had looked out over that valley a year ago, it was completely dark at night. Now you look out over that valley and you see clumps of lighting--yes, the electricity is not all on throughout the place--and the valley actually looks almost like a normal lifestyle that you would see in Afghanistan, and that's an incredible change over just 18 months. They're back there, they're working, they're growing their crops, they're doing all the things necessary to earn a living, and they're getting their children on with the education they want them to have so they don't repeat that cycle.
That's just what I've seen, and I've seen that many times now as I've gone back and forth, and we have many measurements that go against that.
The Afghan national security forces....
For me, one of the most important benchmarks is the improvement in the Afghan national security forces. As I mentioned, in 2006, our forces conducted Operation Medusa with no meaningful support from Afghan forces. Currently, our forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA) regularly conduct operations together in Kandahar province. Canadians work in partnership with three infantry battalions, or kandaks, a combat support battalion and a service support battalion, and they provide a mentoring service at their brigade headquarters.
We have six operational mentoring and liaison teams with an Afghan National Army that has three battalions to manoeuvre in and around Kandahar and help provide their security. We've been working with one of the battalions for just over a year, the others less. They are not up to their full strength. They are certainly not up to the operational capabilities they'll need. They don't have all the equipment they must have to be able to do the essential work, but they have come a long way from the zero start we had 17 or 18 months ago in Kandahar province itself, and every day we work with them to improve the operations they can do. The improvement is significant, and we see them leading operations routinely now and conducting operations with us. Canadian troops never conduct operations alone.
For the visible development part, I can tell you there's nothing more visible and nothing more important than roads. When you talk about trying to change an economy from growing drugs to one that grows something that's legal, you don't need roads to take opium and get huge returns on it. You don't need roads to do that, because you can take out an immensely valuable crop worth millions of dollars on a mule train. If you want people to replace that crop with rice or watermelons or wheat, you need to build a transportation system to take 10,000 tonnes or so.
Standing on Route Summit, which traverses those districts immediately to the west of Afghanistan, where a large number of people live, and standing on the causeway, both of which we helped them build to connect that road, Route Summit, into the main transportation network, and being there just three weeks ago and watching 400 Afghan men working under our sort of security with the Afghan police and Afghan army participating in that, to build, rebuild, and pave Route Foster--all three projects were done at the request of Afghans for their livelihood, well-being, security, and their economic vitality--is to see very visible work of which they are very proud and which they protect. Of course, we believe it gives us long-term progress to be able to switch from a drug economy, to be able to get the terrorists away from those sources of money, and at the same time to improve security for the people who live there.
The direct threat is still very real. The mission continues in a positive direction, but that threat remains, especially obviously in the south part of Afghanistan and especially, from our perspective, in the west and north of Kandahar City itself. The Taliban have given up the direct engagements, by and large. Occasionally they will hit us in small ambushes, but now, because of the losses they have taken because of our successes, they prefer to engage in indirect attacks, with improvised explosive device attacks against us, with suicide bombers and small ambushes.
They don't care who they kill. Yesterday they targeted a vehicle in Kandahar City, international forces, and did not cause significant damage to that vehicle. But while they were executing that attack, they killed eight Afghans and wounded, severely in some cases, another 22. We deal with those threats in a variety of ways. There is no silver bullet.
It's imagination. It's ingenuity. It's tactics. It's leadership. It's equipment. It's intelligence. And it's joining up operations, making the best of our characteristics and the best of the Afghan security force characteristics.
For example, in IED attacks we put a lot of emphasis on before the blast, how our intelligence can predict what's going to occur, how we can get surveillance in using a variety of methods to prevent things from being put in, how we can spot the signs that are going to lead to that kind of attack.
During the attack itself, if we can't pre-empt or prevent it, we put a huge amount of emphasis on protecting our soldiers and the Afghans with whom they work, whether it's the kinds of vehicles, the enhanced route-opening capability, or upgrades in the LAV III. I know there are some folks here from General Dynamics Land Systems. I'll tell you the LAV III is an awesome vehicle, and our soldiers love that vehicle. We have improved it to the maximum extent we can.
Then post-blast, when it does occur—and you know they do—we do a thorough analysis. Within two hours we have an assessment team on site, and we pass those lessons around the theatre and pass those lessons back here.
We are keeping the initiative from the Taliban. We're denying them sanctuary and those secure lines of communications and areas from which to operate in Zhari, Panjwai, and Arghandab districts. We're having success with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, and we're doing all those things to help Afghans get on with their lives and be able to live a life free from fear. We're doing those things inside a whole-of-government approach; whether that's capacity-building for the police, where our police OMLTs work with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to help improve the training of the Afghan National Police, or working with the ANA, we're taking this approach.
Let me conclude and give you the option to ask me questions and focus on any area you would like.
Our men and women in this mission are Canada's greatest citizens, I believe. Now, I should be saying that, because I'm their Chief of Defence Staff, but I actually believe it.
To go and meet those two and half thousand young men and women is to go and leave with a source of inspiration, a source of pride in our country and the incredible young Canadians, many of them 20, 21, 22 years old, who wear our flag on their left shoulder, who represent our country in Afghanistan in just an incredible manner, and who really are the credentials of Canada.
They represent me, they represent you, and they represent every other Canadian around the country when they go off and do that mission. They need to know that they have your support, the support of Canadians throughout the nation.
I'll close by saying that the outpouring of support across the country over the past weeks, months, several years, has actually allowed these young Canadians to believe they are not alone. When they're 10,000 kilometres away from home, and they're on a dirty, dusty, dangerous trail, and somebody is shooting at them; when they could be forgiven for thinking that they're all alone, that they're all by themselves in this, the outpouring of support in the variety of ways that we have seen over these past months convinces them that the country is with them, that Canadians support them in what they ask them to do for our country.
I'll close there, sir, and I'd be delighted to get any questions. Merci beaucoup.
Mr. Chair, thank you for the questions.
Let me just say that I did tell Mr. Manley and his panel that we needed another manoeuvre battalion group in the south, specifically in Kandahar province. The first thing that led me to say that was that NATO had done the assessment almost two years ago and had said the structure in Kandahar province should include two battalion groups, and we had one. My point was to have us help NATO coalesce its efforts to fill its own structure, which it had laid out two years previously but had not been able to do.
We're doing some very good things now and making some very good progress. If we get more troops, we can make more progress more quickly and possibly at less risk to our soldiers and other security folks, including Afghan folks involved in that mission. The more troops you get in Kandahar province in the shorter term, the better you can actually improve things and the better space you can get to allow development like roads and electricity to take place. Then you can start winning the population over irreversibly to a non-violent approach, to a democratically elected government approach for their country for the future.
So the 1,000 troops, based on the assessment NATO had done and also based on our assessments, would give us a much greater capability and allow more progress to take place quickly.
Actually, it's a growing realization that the more troops you have, even beyond that, the better you can do. That's one of the reasons we're trying to build an Afghan National Army brigade with the Afghans in the south. As I mentioned, too, 18 months ago there were no Afghan soldiers there. We went through Medusa and we had none with us, despite our desire to start building that capacity.
Now we have the three battalions. We have what we call a combat support battalion, which is artillery, engineers, and those kinds of things. We also have a combat service support battalion, which is the beans, the bullets, and the medical assistance. And then we have headquarters over that. Those battalions are not all at the strength they're going to be yet. They don't all have the equipment they need yet. And they have a variety of training issues and leadership challenges, because they're still very new in their development. We know in the Canadian Forces just how long it takes to rebuild a brigade or a battalion after you've emasculated it over a period of time or to change it if you already have it in place. It's a long-term process developing leaders at the level of Brigadier-General David Fraser, for example. That's a 20-year product. There are leaders like that there. How can we enable them over the shorter term?
Let me just tell you this. We had a training team over the last two years in Kabul that worked at the Kabul manoeuvre training centre. They took every single battalion coming through during that timeframe and ran them through a three-week final exercise. They trained some 30,000-plus soldiers with Canadian NCOs and Canadian officers. That was their sort of graduation exercise. Those soldiers went out in the battalions, and over the last 18 months, that brigade showed up in Kandahar.
We now have an OMLT team of about 25 to 27, depending on the battalion, with those battalions. We've helped equip them with the C7 rifle, which is certainly a significant step up from where they are right now. We've helped them build an operational, training, and recuperation cycle, because those same soldiers have now been in the fight for 18 months. You understand that they need a break from intense operations. Many of their families are located all around Afghanistan. If you keep them away continuously, you'll destroy them. Also, when they get the first opportunity, they'll leave and vote with their feet and go back to their families. We've helped them get pretty close to a sustainable cycle, thereby reducing attrition and increasing their capability to the point that when we did operations in the Arghandab, just before Christmas, that battalion, which we had move into that area, did most of the planning for it--yes, with our assistance--and did most of the lead in the operations.
The second part that's given us some great measure of what they are capable of doing is that in Zhari district we have withdrawn our significant combat team that was there and moved it to Arghandab. We have left Zhari district security, by and large, to the Afghan National Army battalion and to the Afghan National Police. They've reached a decent level of training. Yes, they are supported by us in a variety of ways. Yes, we're ready to go back in if they meet something that's beyond their capacity, but we've brought them to that level.
The third part, which we're now moving to, and this is from NATO and from SACEUR, Supreme Allied Command Europe, where they want to focus in the future, is not just the OMLT team with the Afghan battalions; it's partnering our units, our rifle companies, for example, with their battalions and operating together. We provide a bit of a core for them to do things and stretch past what they're doing normally, so that they have confidence that they can actually go out and do something and that they have the right stuff with them.
We're moving towards that now. That's part of what the marine unit will do when it comes in.
We've made good progress. We have a long way to go. It takes a long time to build an army. We're building a brigade of that army. We don't control all the pieces that come into it. If the Afghans can't recruit and the Americans move a battalion out, all things change. But with what we're doing, we're making great progress in building our army.
Truthfully, I've seen an amazing move forward over the past six months. When they'll be able to take over complete security for themselves is something I can't say. We have just moved one of their battalions up a level of validation because of the progress they've made, and we keep working that one hard.
Yes, sir, I'd be delighted to speak to that. There are two aspects of the mission and setting success for the mission that helicopters enable, overall, under the umbrella of flexibility.
The first aspect is force protection. We have soldiers, sailors, airmen, and airwomen, not just our nationalities, in places throughout Kandahar province, at forward operating bases, or patrol bases, or out at police substations. As I mentioned earlier, the number of roads and the number of kilometres of road in that area are very limited. So when you're moving back and forth on the ground, you become predictable. Most of the roads and the ones we're trying to pave now that will reduce that somewhat are gravel roads. Therefore, it's very easy to dig them up; it's very easy to put in an improvised explosive device of any size and then camouflage that so you're not going to see it.
We take a lot of steps, obviously, to prevent that, but the first thing you can do, and specifically with the leased helicopters, is the hash and trash, getting all the beans and bullets and water and spare parts, and all those kinds of things, from Kandahar airfield out to that forward operating base, or that patrol base, or that police substation, and quite literally jump over that route, not be predictable and not be constrained to it, and therefore not be such a vulnerable target with a high probability of getting hit by an IED.
That's part one with the helicopters. It really does reduce the logistics support traffic, and that, I believe, would lead to a reduction in some of our casualties, along with other things we do.
The second part, given our manoeuvre forces, is a mobility throughout to be able to take the initiative away from the Taliban and to go to wherever we consider they're staging and strike them there before they can strike in Kandahar City or in Panjwai.
That's why something like the Chinook helicopter gives us an air mobility option. All of a sudden, you're into the area. You're not seen a long way off, coming down a road and raising clouds of dust and therefore somebody is either waiting for you with an ambush or else has long disappeared. That gives flexibility, a mobility that reduces vulnerability and allows us to take, in a huge way, the initiative away from the Taliban and therefore be more successful at improving the security in Kandahar City and the districts surrounding it, and just enabling a bit more space to build the other things we're trying to do: the army, the police, and the developmental projects.
The ongoing crisis in Sudan represents one of the greatest challenges to the Horn of Africa region and the international community today. Despite significant high-level international attention and engagement over the past several years, we're still far from a sustainable peace in a country that still hosts multiple active or simmering conflict areas and plays a role in regional conflicts in Chad, the Central African Republic, and northern Uganda, among others.
Progress is possible, but it will require a significantly more coordinated and consistent approach from the international community and possibly a radical change in the way we've approached policy making in Sudan. We've done a commendable job of averting catastrophe and helping to keep people alive through humanitarian support in Darfur and elsewhere and through support to the various peacekeeping operations in Sudan, but this alone is not enough. This is treating the symptoms of the problem, while leaving the causes of Sudan's multiple wars intact.
Sudan today has an active war in the western provinces of Darfur; a fragile peace, the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, in south and central Sudan, which has seen increased military clashes over the past three months in the contested area of Abyei; a weak and largely unimplemented peace agreement in eastern Sudan; and new potential conflicts in the central region of Kordofan and in the far north where local communities, unhappy with the construction of the Merowe and Kajbar dams, are threatening to take up arms against the government.
This pattern of civil war, which is more than 50 years old in the case of southern Sudan, yet new to equally underdeveloped regions like Kordofan in the far north, stems from a common set of problems relating to poor governance, centralized and opaque decision-making, and the control of resources and power by a small and ruling elite at the expense of the broader population.
We must understand that the current regime in Sudan is benefiting from today's status quo despite the international outrage over Darfur, a conflict that the regime has fuelled and continues to fuel. The ruling National Congress Party is selling its oil on the open market; has had consistent protection in the UN Security Council from China, Russia, and others; and views the political reforms that address the core governance problems in Sudan as a threat to its survival.
Despite having committed to many of these reforms in the 2005 CPA and enshrining them in the Interim National Constitution, it has resisted the codification of these reforms through new legislation. Thus, tackling the deeper causes of conflict in Sudan requires not only addressing technical issues like establishing a functioning and inclusive federal state, or complex issues in Darfur related to traditional land tenure systems and grazing rights, but doing so in a context where the ruling National Congress Party will resist progress each step of the way if it determines it somehow threatens its political survival.
Darfur remains the most urgent and tragic crisis in Sudan. Yet despite the past four years of international attention and engagement, the outlook for civilians and for an end to the conflict remain negative. Civilians continue to face a myriad of threats on a daily basis.
The National Congress Party remains the main driver of conflict in Darfur, but the situation is further hampered by significant rebel divisions, a proliferation of armed groups, and an escalated proxy war between Sudan and Chad. UNAMID is slowly deploying, held up by government obstruction, UN bureaucracy, and tepid support from troop-contributing countries. What is far more worrying, however, is that the political process is completely frozen, with little urgency seen anywhere in the international arena.
Without progress on the political track, the peacekeeping mission, even if fully equipped and deployed, can at best provide increased civilian protection for static populations in IDP camps and increased humanitarian access. But these are symptoms of the larger problem.
A resumption of peace talks in Darfur will probably require a significant amount of time to carry out preparatory work, focusing on rebel unification and broadening of participation, to give the talks even a minimal chance of success. This is not happening and it is not being prioritized. The joint African Union-UN mediation team is stuck, and therefore we see attention shifting once again to the peacekeeping force at the expense of the more difficult, but ultimately more important, political process.
The 2005 CPA is the bedrock upon which peace and national reform can be based. Its provisions include a significant governmental reform agenda, as well as a democratization process that is supposed to lead to elections in 2009. Yet the pattern of implementation more than three years into the agreement is one of systematic undermining of national-level provisions by the ruling NCP and uneven implementation by the southern-based SPLM.
In October, the SPLM suspended its participation in government due to these NCP violations and the parties came close to returning to war on several occasions in November and December. Although the suspension was resolved peacefully between the parties without external intervention, and the SPLM returned to government in late December, the fundamental challenges remain.
The NCP's ruling clique view implementation as a threat to its survival, while the SPLM is challenged by internal divisions and capacity issues. The most volatile issue, the contested area of Abyei, remains unresolved and has seen a series of deadly clashes in the surrounding areas since late December.
This is not a recipe for sustainable peace, but instead carries a high likelihood of an eventual collapse of the peace agreement and a return to war, unless something changes. A collapse of the CPA would have devastating consequences for all of Sudan and torpedo any peacemaking efforts in Darfur. It would have significant negative ramifications on each of Sudan's nine neighbouring countries.
So what must change to improve the chances of sustainable peace in Sudan? I believe the answer, or at least part of the answer, rests with the approach of the international community. Three things must happen for a more effective international response.
First, there must be a consistent, coordinated message from the international community to the Sudanese government and other actors. This requires a common international strategy towards Sudan, but this is currently lacking and poses a significant challenge in the context where the UN Security Council is sharply divided.
Second, such a strategy must be comprehensive and address Sudan as one country with multiple conflicts stemming from a common set of causes. We must understand the inter-linkages between Darfur, the CPA, and the greater region, and adapt our policies accordingly. For the past three years, most international actors have viewed Darfur and the CPA as two separate conflicts, have developed two separate sets of policies, and, in trying to balance these agendas, have ultimately ended up undermining both. For example, the CPA holds the seeds to begin to address some of these structural issues, but these are not sexy, do not make headlines, and have too often been ignored.
Finally, we must build leverage with the parties. In some cases, this means just backing up threats already made in existing UN Security Council resolutions and using it to push the parties down the path that will lead towards peace. This does not mean regime change, but we must be more effective at holding the parties to their commitments in the CPA and in Darfur. By doing so, we support the political transition and reform agenda already embedded in the CPA. By creating political and economic costs for non-compliance, the international community can make a peaceful transition the best political option available to the parties and greatly reduce the risk of renewed conflict or be prepared to better manage renewed hostilities.
Canada has an important role to play. In addition to the crucial support that Canada is providing in Darfur on the humanitarian side and through support to UNAMID, as well as in southern Sudan in the transitional areas, Canada is a consensus-builder in the international arena. The Sudan file needs leadership and vision in developing a comprehensive strategy and an international consensus around that strategy if we are to make progress on consolidating peace in Sudan.
Thank you for your attention.
When the decision is made to impose sanctions on a country, economic sanctions are often those that first come to mind. We are one of the few companies currently conducting activities in Sudan. In the document that has been distributed to you, we try to describe for you the vision of a mining operation in Sudan. I should say at the outset that the comments in the presentation are made from the perspective of a resource company. It is of course possible that the various economic sanctions that could be imposed might approach the question from various angles, depending on whether mining companies, the oil and gas industry or any other operation were involved.
Let me now quickly put things into context. Currently, supply and demand of natural resources are not in balance. This is true for practically all kinds of minerals, and for oil. As we show in slide 3, this is also what explains the significant rise in demand for gold in recent years. According to Bank of Montreal economists, among several others, the demand is going to last for some time because of the time needed to increase capacity to match the sudden spike in demand. This spike, as you know, is often attributed to the rapid development of the economies of China and India. So it is likely to last for some time yet.
A little less known is the fact that, previously, operators and producers of natural resources, certainly mining resources, essentially all came from the big four countries, namely Australia, Canada, the United States and South Africa. Very recently, that old order has changed. Whether in mining or oil and gas, the producers are increasingly new players that we have identified on slide 4. They are China, Indonesia and Russia. They are playing an ever more active role in the production of natural resources. They are homes to growing companies that are making a greater and greater mark on the world stage. It is important to remember this. Any freeze in Canadian activities in Sudan, for example, whether in mining or in oil and gas, could benefit the emerging players in China, Russia and Indonesia.
With the context now set, I would quickly like to introduce the company that I represent today, La Mancha Resources Inc. La Mancha is a Canadian company headquartered in Montreal. It is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, the TSX, has a market capitalization of $61 million—as of last March 31—and is presently operating two mines, one in Côte d'Ivoire and another in Sudan. The latter is the Hassaï mine, 150 km northeast of Khartoum.
The Hassaï mine has been in operation since 1992 and has produced over 2 million ounces of gold to date. The forecast production for 2008 is about 100,000 ounces of gold. Once produced, every ounce is sent to Canada where it is refined and sold on the international market. We presently employ 850 people, of whom 20 are expats, and 830 are locally hired and trained, Sudanese, that is. The mine is presently the only one in operation in the country. But we must remember that there is a lot of exploration going on at the moment and, unfortunately, it is not being done by Canadian companies, but exclusively by companies from China and Indonesia.
As a producer, La Mancha has a relatively short history. We began production activities after having acquired the assets of AREVA, a company based in France. A few months after we had acquired the Sudanese assets, the Sudan Divestment Task Force (SDTF), which appeared before this committee a few weeks ago, placed La Mancha on its highest offenders list because of our company's operations in Sudan. The objective of the Sudan Divestment Task Force is to provide financial markets with information about the operations of various public companies conducting activities in Sudan.
Their initial recommendation, based on information available in the public domain, was rather damaging. The organization put us on its highest offenders list simply because of our presence in Sudan.
However, the dialogue that came after August 2007 allowed us to describe the benefits resulting from La Mancha's presence in Sudan, the type of operations we had, our positive influence on the local population because of the training and instruction we provide, the working conditions in place at the site, the company's environmental policy, and so on. As a result, the Sudan Divestment Task Force reviewed its position and removed La Mancha from its highest offenders list.
This position was confirmed in November, when consultants appointed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force came to visit our operations in Sudan to confirm the statements that had been made to the Sudan Divestment Task Force committee.
A little more practically, not preventing companies like La Mancha or other Canadian producers from operating in Sudan has a number of advantages. I describe them in a few of these slides. First, it creates favourable working conditions. I can mention no discrimination in hiring and promotion, workforce training, respecting workers' human rights, and their religions, and so on. Most Canadian companies observe these policies and continue to do so outside the country. We do so in Sudan.
The same goes for environmental policies. It is important to know that the people developing the resources of a country are doing so responsibly. Again, blocking access for Canadian companies runs the risk of opening the door to companies whose environmental policies are less dynamic than is the norm among publicly traded companies in Canada.
Looking at regional development, many Canadian companies, including La Mancha, continue to have policies that are very socially oriented in their actions and their overseas operations. This deserves to be highlighted; several schools and hospitals have been built thanks to funding provided by our company, for example. We have provided water and electricity to a number of places.
In a few words, that is our position. If economic restrictions are to be imposed that would limit commercial links between Canada and Sudan, it is important that companies developing natural resources be exempted from those restrictions. Once again, the present great demand for natural resources means that any space vacated by Canadian companies would be immediately taken by Chinese, Indonesian or Russian companies.
As the example of Talisman Energy very recently showed, this is not necessarily beneficial for the local population. In the folder you have received, you will find an article describing what has happened since Talisman Energy left Sudan several years ago. Clearly, this special case is not necessarily representative of everything that can happen in those situation, but it is still an important example to keep in mind.
Of course, we are ready to take your questions.
Mr. Chair, for your information, my daughter worked for Talisman in corporate social responsibility. They do have a very good division of that. It's a conflict; I agree.
David, I'm going to respectfully tell you that I disagree with your analysis. I know from looking at your.... I just came back from Sudan. I was there with the minister, and we went to Darfur. We went to south Sudan and we met with the Government of Sudan, and although the general analysis of the attitude of the Government of Sudan is interesting, a lot of other factors are taking place. Your analysis is very negative; I would say we would have to look at the positive side. I've just come from south Sudan, and it is an amazing situation. You see the birth of a nation taking place in south Sudan, the birth of a little nation starting from ground zero, and they are working around that. What we found was that although we talk about the CPA and its breakup, and it is a possibility, the realization is coming that south Sudan is probably going to be an independent nation in due course, with its own president and all these things. Sure, politics are always part and parcel of the game. Tugs-of-war are always going on, but that is part of it.
An important aspect in that country is the oil revenues, although they will be shared equally, it does provide a basis for a zero economy to move up, for south Sudan, although for the government.... The situation in Darfur is very different. The governor of Darfur met us and said he was very grateful to have NGOs and everybody come to address the humanitarian crisis, but what about the development of that region? No development people will come, because in these refugee camps they're able to find food and everything, so more and more people are coming, just for economic reasons.
We passed a motion for investment in Sudan, and colleagues were tough with that. We have come back to revisit this question, to say you cannot penalize these regions that are growing now, like south Sudan. When we put a blanket sanction on Sudan to punish the Government of Khartoum, we are punishing the government of Juba as well. When we were there, sanctions were biting. You can't use visas and other things. Quite interestingly, I am seeing the Government of Khartoum using the Government of Sudan to go to the international states and try to work within the sanctions.
I'm not going to comment on this mining issue, on your company, at this stage, but I think from the international crisis aspect of it, you will have to change your analysis and say there is a lot of progress and good things happening at a very slow pace. The international community needs to focus on getting south Sudan and all these things moving forward, not as an international basket case but moving forward because they have the potential, and in Darfur, addressing the humanitarian crisis of the war going on.
In the long term, how is the economic development of Darfur going to take place? If you're not going to do economic development in Darfur, I can tell you those IDP camps will never disappear in Darfur.