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44th PARLIAMENT, 1st SESSION

EDITED HANSARD • No. 012

CONTENTS

Tuesday, December 7, 2021




Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 012
1st SESSION
44th PARLIAMENT

OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.

Prayer



Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]

  (1005)  

[English]

An Act to Amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-5, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

[Translation]

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, two reports of the delegation of the Canadian Branch of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie.
    The first report concerns its participation in the second Parliamentary Conference on the G5 Sahel held in New York, United States, from November 14 to 15, 2019.
    The second report concerns its participation in the Parliamentary Seminar on Parliamentary Oversight and Public Policy Evaluation held in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, from November 14 to 15, 2019.

[English]

National Defence Act

     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-206, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (maiming or injuring self or another).
     He said: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill that I had hoped would be adopted in the 42nd Parliament and again in the 43rd.
    This bill would remove a significant barrier for members of the Canadian Armed Forces needing mental health assistance. We need to remove section 98(c), the archaic section of the National Defence Act that makes self-harm a disciplinary offence under the military code of conduct. This means that those who risk their lives for this country can end up subject to disciplinary action as a result of suffering a mental health crisis. Often this means our troops suffer in silence.
    Canada is still losing more than one serving member each month to death by suicide. Removing self-harm as a disciplinary offence would mark a significant change in the way mental health challenges are addressed within the Canadian Armed Forces. The Liberals had a chance to fix this when they amended the military justice act in the 42nd Parliament. In the last Parliament, the defence committee studied how to improve mental health services in the Canadian Armed Forces, and I believe the government would have had all-party support to proceed at that time. Both these opportunities were lost, and as a result we continue to lose dedicated women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces to self-harm.
    Today, I am reintroducing the bill in the hope that the House will finally listen to the families who have lost loved ones to death by suicide and come together to address this challenge by adopting this bill and taking other necessary measures to make sure we provide our troops with the mental health support they need.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Bill of Rights

     moved for leave to introduce Bill C-207, An Act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights (right to housing).
     She said: Mr. Speaker, I am here today to talk about every Canadian's right to have a home.
    There was a time when I was young that when I saw a sleeping bag, I thought of times with family spent out camping. Now when I see sleeping bags, it is because there are so many people out on our streets across this country, carrying their bedding with them because they have no safe home to go back to. The reality is that the fact of owning a home has become an impossible dream, and finding a decent place to rent is getting harder and harder every day.
    Safe and affordable housing is increasingly out of reach. That is why I am tabling this bill today, an act to amend the Canadian Bill of Rights. This bill would ensure that the right to housing is firmly recognized in law. It is the difference between saying the right thing and doing the right thing. It would redefine the federal framework for housing legislation and set requirements for the Minister of Justice to ensure every regulation change is consistent with that right, because all Canadians deserve the right to have a safe and affordable home.
    I would like to thank the member for Vancouver East for working so hard on the issue of housing and for seconding this bill. I look forward to the debate and hope to see all members stand in support of this bill.

     (Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

  (1010)  

Petitions

Trans Mountain Pipeline 

    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour this morning to take the floor virtually to present this petition. Working electronically, this is petition number 10619695.
    The petitioners call on this government to abandon any plans to expand the Trans Mountain pipeline. They explain that the original pipeline, the one that was purchased at $4.5 billion, is a pipeline in current use. Parenthetically, this is the one that had to be closed down due to the recent floods and has reopened. However, the petitioners are focused on the expansion, which is essentially a brand new pipeline being constructed, without permission, through indigenous territories. This pipeline, unlike the current one, would be carrying diluted bitumen. Diluted bitumen cannot be cleaned up if it should spill, and it crosses 800 waterways across British Columbia to the port in Burnaby for extended export in risky tanker traffic.

Volunteer Firefighters and Search and Rescue Personnel  

    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition on behalf of our important volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel.
    The petitioners, in their preamble, recognize that volunteer firefighters account for 83% of Canada's total firefighting essential first responders. In addition, there are approximately 8,000 essential search and rescue volunteers, who respond to thousands of incidents every year right across this great country of ours.
    The tax code of Canada currently allows volunteer firefighters and search and rescue volunteers to claim a $3,000 tax credit if 200 hours of volunteer services were completed in a calendar year, but that works out to a mere $450. Therefore, the petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to support legislation that would increase the tax exemption from $3,000 to $10,000 and help our essential volunteer firefighters and volunteer search and rescue people across the country with the important services they provide.

Canada Post  

    Mr. Speaker, there are communities of all sizes across this country. One of them, in my riding, Savary Island, had a Canada Post office from 1913 to 1980, but now they have none. More than 100 full-time residents on Savary Island do not receive mail at their primary address.
    Canada Post is mandated to provide free mail service to all Canadians at their primary address. The residents of Savary Island have a right to be included in the free mail service to all Canadians. Just so members know, these folks are taking quite a long trip just to get their mail.
    These citizens of my riding call upon the Government of Canada to ensure that residents of Savary Island in the province of British Columbia are serviced by a corporate post office in their community.

Farmers' Markets  

    Mr. Speaker, I wanted to talk today about farmers' markets and the importance of proactive and healthy food for families as we head into rising prices of healthy food.
    Farmers' markets are a key tool for COVID-19 recovery, as small business incubators, domestic system and food security builders, local economy community builders and farmers' markets coupon programs are a key support for new market development and to support existing markets and their provincial associations. The farmers’ market nutrition coupon program helps create food security and resiliency by giving vulnerable people access to healthy, locally grown foods and dietary education while positively impacting the physical and mental health of participants by increasing the amount and diversity of fruits and vegetables they consume.
    The B.C. farmers’ markets association, with 135 member markets and 4,000-plus vendors and its long-term partnership with the province of B.C., provides an excellent model for farmers’ market nutrition coupon programs, providing almost 16,000 vulnerable families, seniors and pregnant women with access to weekly coupons, and seeing 1,909,000 to local farmers. Their current program has an average coupon redemption rate of over 91%, and 79% of those participants claim the program made a long-term change in their eating habits.
    A national matching program would assist in meeting those demands, encourage provinces without a provincial program to create one, and support provinces that have a provincial program to expand to meet demand.
    Therefore, we, the undersigned citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to support Motion No. 78 and initiate a national matching program for all provincial farmers' market nutrition coupon programs across Canada that would match provinces that are already contributing to their farmers' market nutrition coupon programs and encourage provinces that do not have such a program to implement one by offering matching funding.

  (1015)  

    I am just going to make a comment on the length of petitions to remind all members.
    For new members, while realizing that there are new rules that we learn as we come into a new area, we try to make it as concise as possible for petitions and just give the major lines to keep it short. I say “new members”, but I am also going to emphasize this for some of the members who have been here for a while. It takes a little while to learn.
    The hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni.

Volunteer Firefighters and Search and Rescue Personnel  

    Mr. Speaker, it is a huge honour to table this petition on behalf of volunteer firefighters in my riding from Hilliers, Dashwood, Coombs, Cumberland, Bowser, Tofino and Ucluelet. They are stating that 83% of Canada's total firefighting essential response is from volunteer firefighters, and 8,000 essential search and rescue volunteers respond to thousands of incidents every year.
    The petition outlines that the tax code of Canada currently allows a volunteer firefighter or a search and rescue person to claim $3,000 in a tax credit if they volunteer for over 200 hours. Essentially, we know that these volunteers not only put their lives on the line and give their time, training and efforts to Canadians, but also allow cities and municipalities to keep their property taxes lower than if paid services were available.
    The petitioners are calling on the government to support Bill C-201, a private member's bill that would increase the tax exemption from $3,000 to $10,000 to help our essential volunteer firefighters and volunteer search and rescue people across the country. This would allow them to keep a bit more of their hard-earned money. Right now, the current tax credit works out to a mere $450 per year that we allow these essential volunteers to keep of their own income. This would be a significant change and reward them for the important work they do when we call upon them.
    Once again, I want to remind the hon. members to be as brief as possible.

Questions on the Order Paper

    Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate

Opioids  

[ S. O. 52]
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour today to rise to request an emergency debate in the House at the earliest convenience because of the urgent need for the federal government to address the overdose epidemic that is destroying communities and families across the country.
    This crisis has only become worse with the emergence of COVID-19 and the pandemic. Health experts and coroners' reports are now revealing the unprecedented and accelerating death rates from illicit drug overdoses due to a poisoned drug supply. I believe this meets the bar of Standing Order 52(6)(a), “the matter proposed for discussion must relate to a genuine emergency, calling for immediate and urgent consideration.”
    The Public Health Agency of Canada reported an 88% increase in opioid-related deaths last year. The coroner for Yukon just last week shockingly reported that opioid overdose-related deaths now represented over 20% of all deaths investigated by the Yukon Coroner's Service.
     Indigenous communities have been hardest hit, with a new report, again last week, by the Chiefs of Ontario and the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, showing a 132% increase in opioid deaths among first nations during the first year of the pandemic.
    Just yesterday, in response to this crisis, the Toronto Board of Health voted to join the Province of British Columbia and the City of Vancouver in applying for the decriminalization of small amounts of illicit drugs as an urgent step in the right direction. Toronto Public Health has now said that it is experiencing a historic spike in suspected overdose calls over the last week, pointing to a further acceleration of the overdose crisis.
    Due to this recent and unprecedented death toll from fatal and toxic overdoses that have been uncovered, it is imperative that an emergency debate be held in Parliament at its earliest convenience.

  (1020)  

Speaker's Ruling  

    I thank the hon. member for Courtenay—Alberni for his intervention. However, I am not satisfied that his request meets the requirements of the Standing Orders at this time.

Government Orders

[Business of Supply]

[English]

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Afghanistan  

    That, given that real-time parliamentary oversight was impossible due to the dissolution of Parliament, the House appoint a special committee with a mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review the events related to the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban, including, but not limited to, the government's contingency planning for that event and the subsequent efforts to evacuate, or otherwise authorize entry to Canada of, Canadian citizens, and interpreters, contractors and other Afghans who had assisted the Canadian Armed Forces or other Canadian organizations, provided that:
(a) the committee be composed of 12 members, of which six shall be from the government party, four shall be from the official opposition, one shall be from the Bloc Québécois, and one shall be from the New Democratic Party;
(b) the members shall be named by their respective whip by depositing with the Clerk of the House the list of their members to serve on the committee within 24 hours of the adoption of this order;
(c) membership substitutions be permitted, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2);
(d) changes to the membership of the committee shall be effective immediately after notification by the relevant whip has been filed with the Clerk of the House;
(e) the Clerk of the House shall convene an organizational meeting of the committee no later than Friday, December 17, 2021;
(f) the committee be chaired by a member of the government party and, notwithstanding Standing Order 106(2), there shall be one vice-chair from each of the other recognized parties;
(g) quorum of the committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118 and that the Chair be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and to have that evidence printed when a quorum is not present, provided that at least four members are present, including one member of the opposition and one member of the government party;
(h) the committee be granted all of the powers of a standing committee as provided in the Standing Orders;
(i) the provisions of Standing Order 106(4) shall also extend to the committee, provided that any request shall be signed by members representing at least two recognized parties;
(j) the committee have the power to authorize video and audio broadcasting of any or all of its proceedings;
(k) the Prime Minister, the Minister of International Development, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Public Safety, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Westmount, and other ministers and senior officials, be invited to appear as witnesses from time to time as the committee sees fit;
(l) the committee be instructed to present a final report within six months of the adoption of this order;
(m) the committee's initial work shall be supported by an order of the House issuing for all memoranda, emails, documents, notes or other records from the Privy Council Office, the Department of National Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, including the Office of the Prime Minister and the relevant ministers' offices, which refer to:
(i) the initiation of evacuation planning,
(ii) instructions to implement those plans,
(iii) the effect upon the implementation of those plans attributable to the dissolution of Parliament, the caretaker convention, or the facts that relevant ministers were simultaneously occupied with seeking re-election to the House and that many ministerial exempt staff were on leaves of absence, or
(iv) the determination of the number of individuals who would be evacuated or otherwise authorized to enter Canada,
    provided that,
(v) these documents shall be deposited with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, in both official languages, within one month of the adoption of this order,
(vi) a copy of the documents shall also be deposited with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel in both official languages within one month of the adoption of this order, with any proposed redaction which, in the government's opinion, could reasonably be expected (A) to compromise national security, military tactics or strategy of the armed forces of Canada or an allied country, or intelligence sources or methods, or (B) to reveal the identity or location of any Canadian citizen in Afghanistan or of any interpreter, contractor or other Afghan individual who had assisted the Canadian Armed Forces or other Canadian organizations,
(vii) the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel shall promptly thereafter notify the Speaker, who shall forthwith inform the House, whether he is satisfied the documents were produced as ordered;
(viii) the Speaker shall cause the documents, as redacted pursuant to subparagraph (vi), to be laid upon the table at the next earliest opportunity and, after being tabled, they shall stand referred to the committee,
(ix) the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel shall discuss with the committee, at an in camera meeting, to be held within two weeks of the documents being tabled pursuant to subparagraph (viii), whether he agrees with the redactions proposed by the government pursuant to subparagraph (vi),
(x) the committee may, after hearing from the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel pursuant to subparagraph (ix), accept the proposed redactions or, reject some or all the proposed redactions and request the production of those unredacted documents in the manner to be determined by the committee; and
(n) any proceedings before the committee, when hybrid committee meetings are authorized, in relation to a motion to exercise the committee's power to send for persons, papers and records shall, if not previously disposed of, be interrupted upon the earlier of the completion of four hours of consideration or one sitting week after the motion was first moved, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the motion shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

  (1030)  

    He said: Mr. Speaker, thank you for reading the first opposition motion of the 44th Parliament completely into the record. I am honoured to divide my time with the shadow minister for foreign affairs, the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
    Canada's Conservatives are using our first opposition motion of this Parliament to examine the failure of the Liberal government to act in the years and months leading up to the fall of Afghanistan. The Prime Minister put his own political interests ahead of taking care of thousands of Canadians and Afghans. He chose an election for himself over salvation for others. People were failed, and Canada's reputation has paid the price.
    At the outset of my remarks today, I want to thank some of the incredible Canadians who stepped into the breach when their own government failed them. Veterans and volunteers from across Canada stepped into the void of leadership and did the job their own government should have been doing for months and years. That form of passionate and active citizenship inspires me and should inspire all Canadians.
     “Canadian Dave”, Dave Lavery, a Canadian Armed Forces special forces veteran, one of the original JTF2 soldiers, was on the ground in Kabul literally risking his life every day. I also want to mention veterans like retired general Dave Fraser, David Mack from Oshawa, Ontario, and Tim and Jamie Laidler in Vancouver.
    Through the Veterans Transition Network, Tim and Jamie raised a million and a half dollars to help get interpreters and Afghan contractors to Canada. They personally travelled overseas to do the job their own government failed to do.
     I want to thank these outstanding Canadians for stepping up for our values on the world stage.
    Everyday Canadians have to step up because their government has failed to act, and we must ensure that it never happens again. We must learn from another failure from the Liberal government. A special committee would assess what needs to be done today to ensure that people are brought to safety. It would examine what went wrong in Afghanistan when Afghanistan was deteriorating and the government was equivocating.
    We all saw the images of people running down runways, families desperate to get out of Afghanistan and women bristling with the fear of repression coming with the return of the Taliban. Those images are etched in our minds, and Parliament must now do the work that the election prevented us from doing at the time.

[Translation]

    Our foreign policy should be based on the following principle: Canada should never turn its back on its friends and allies.
    Thousands of Afghans helped Canada, but when they were in danger, Canada did nothing to help them. That makes the work of this committee vital.

[English]

    The Prime Minister and the Liberal government must explain why they failed to act. We could have done work in the years and months before the crisis peaked this summer. We must know what can be done now to make up for lost time. This committee would focus on that.
    As I said in my response to the Speech from the Throne last week, rhetoric and empty promises are often a substitute for meaningful action by the government: ambition over achievement; symbolism replacing action; and diversions and excuses rather than leadership and accountability. That is why Parliament must act.
    Rescuing people from Afghanistan should have been a non-partisan issue. Our long mission in Afghanistan began under a Liberal government and peaked in terms of activity under a Conservative one.

  (1035)  

    Canadians bled in Afghanistan. Afghans took risks for our country, and many are still suffering today from that mission. One veteran who wrote to me during the campaign said, “I left part of my life in Afghanistan.” We owe it to that country to never leave it behind.

[Translation]

    This government's indifference is putting lives at risk. I have been urging the government to act for six years. I have worked with our veterans to try to bring those who have been forgotten back to Canada as quickly as possible.
    That was important for me as a veteran, but also as a Canadian, a father and a patriot.
    The Liberals listened only once, a long time ago. In 2016, they brought interpreter James Akam to Canada. However, unfortunately, that is where the non-partisan efforts stopped.

[English]

    We did get one interpreter back, but shortly after that the Prime Minister removed John McCallum as immigration minister. From that point forward veterans, advocates and opposition MPs such as myself and the MP for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman could not get the government to act when we had time to get people out of Afghanistan safely. The Liberals ignored the plight of thousands of people for many years. Even when the American pullout was imminent, the government did not act. Canadians watched in horror as those who helped our soldiers, our aid workers and our diplomats in one of the longest, most arduous missions in our history were left behind. Some even left to wade through sewage to get to the tarmac at the Kabul airport, only to find no flight out of the country.
    Sadly, this inaction is a pattern for the current government. Time and again it fails to act. It ignored our calls for immediate funding to keep safe houses open. It downplayed a government data breach that may have exposed hundreds of vulnerable Afghans to danger. We repeatedly called for it to release a transparent timeline on when those who supported Canada could arrive safely on our shores. There was no action.
    Canada has a moral obligation to find a way to bring to Canada those who are at risk because they helped Canada. We need to be a refuge for people like Ahmad: an Afghan interpreter who supported NATO and Canada for seven years. He, his wife and their three children, the youngest of which is two years old, have taken refuge in Pakistan, but a bureaucratic mess under the current government is asking them to go back to Afghanistan and put themselves at risk to qualify for help.
     Let us take the case of Mohammed, who stood guard over Canada's embassy for almost a decade. In August, when he applied for a special program for ex-employees to bring his wife and family here, what was Canada's response? It stated:
     Rest assured that we have received your message and that we will respond to your enquiry shortly. It is not necessary to send us another message unless your situation has changed.
     It was an automated reply. How does Canada become a country that asks people to leave a message when their lives are in danger? What happened to the Canada that rescued American diplomats in Iran at its own risk? What happened to the country that over generations has become known as a safe harbour for those at risk? Stories such as Ahmad's and Mohammed's remind us that there are people being left behind that this Parliament needs to give a voice to.

  (1040)  

[Translation]

    These men and women and their families have had it with pointless symbols and gestures.
    It is time to take real action. It is time to do something to bring them home. That is why we need this committee.

[English]

    Today and every day, the Conservative opposition will be a voice for those losing hope, for those fleeing persecution and for those being left behind by a government of warm words, but cold inaction.
    From Vimy Ridge to Kandahar, Canada has been known as a dependable ally that will be there to act and to help. For the thousands of people left behind who are losing hope, and who need a voice in Parliament, Canada's Conservatives will be this voice. This parliamentary committee would show what we need to do now, and would learn the lessons of the government's failure.
    Madam Speaker, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute, and recognizing the enormous value that our forces and those who supported our forces provided in Afghanistan at a time of need.
    Beyond that, the first thing that comes to my mind is to ask where that advocacy was when I was in the opposition and asking for English translators in Afghanistan to be able to come to Canada in the first place? Stephen Harper and his regime resisted. There seems to be a bit of a double standard being applied here. It is important that we be consistent, as I have been, whether in opposition or in government.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    I have been consistent, whether in opposition or in government. I have been an advocate. I think of constituents such as Mr. Daoud, who was a translator.
    The member seems to believe that what is taking place is all because of Canada. The chaos at the airport involved more than just one nation. Would he not recognize that a multitude of nations have a responsibility and that Canada—
    The hon. Leader of the Opposition.
    Madam Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is right about one thing. This should have been a non-partisan issue. The Afghanistan mission started under the Liberal government and continued under the Conservative government, which created a program for interpreters and contractors. Some people were left behind after the mission ended: people who did not know about the program, in a country with no infrastructure.
    In the last five or six years, I and the MP for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman have worked with the government, trying to work in a non-partisan fashion. John McCallum brought an interpreter named James Akam home. I praised him publicly when that happened. He was fired by this Prime Minister. I think he aged out. As the former minister now knows, he lost favour with the Prime Minister's Office and the replacement would not even respond to our inquiries from people who were at risk in that country.
    It is time for the Liberal backbench to start showing leadership and demand the committee themselves to make this non-partisan.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I thank the leader of the official opposition for his speech.
    If one wants to know what is likely to happen with a committee, it can be useful to look at what has happened in the past. One example is our support for creating the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations.
    To better understand the purpose of the proposed committee on the situation in Afghanistan, I would like to hear the official opposition leader's thoughts on bringing back the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations, especially considering that things with China are not great right now.
    Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.
    We need a committee on the situation in Afghanistan because the Prime Minister called an election right in the middle of a crisis in Afghanistan.
    The people needed a voice over there, but we were deep in an election campaign. That is why we need a special committee to look at what happened and also take action now to help families at risk, like the families of Ahmad and Mohammed, whom I talked about in my speech.
    We need to take action now to defend our values and interests, because the government has totally ignored the situation.

  (1045)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I was happy to hear from the leader of the official opposition that this motion today is not an opportunity to score points against a government that has very clearly not done a good job with Afghanistan over the last several months.
    In Afghanistan, half of the population is risking starvation, their health care systems have failed, and women and girls are at risk. In the spirit of recognizing the devastation that is happening, what would the Conservative Party do in this very complex situation to get help to Afghans now, and at what scope does the Leader of the Opposition think that needs to happen?
     Madam Speaker, I think in the spirit of non-partisan action, this committee would be specialized to do what Parliament should have done at the time, which is to look at the situations of people who are at risk because they helped Canada, or who are at risk because they are religious minorities or members of the LGBTQ community. How can we help them now? How can we help build capacity on the ground to get aid into Afghanistan from neighbouring countries?
    In the spirit of non-partisanship, this motion will pass. We can do this work together if the NDP members step up and show that there is not a coalition, that there is a—
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
    Madam Speaker, the way the western alliance left Afghanistan this past summer is a betrayal of the legacy of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers of the NATO alliance who fought in the war in Afghanistan for freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Some 3,500 men and women from NATO coalition forces paid the ultimate sacrifice and died, including 158 Canadian men and women in uniform and one diplomat. They died in the cause to liberate Afghans from the clutches of the Taliban and to secure our own country from terrorist attacks.
    Forty thousand Canadians served in Afghanistan over 13 years. The western alliance's departure is also a betrayal of the thousands of brave Afghan interpreters, advisers and local experts on the ground who served alongside our troops during that war, and who were abandoned in the hasty departure last August. These brave Afghans saved countless Canadian lives. No doubt many more Canadian soldiers would have been killed in theatre had it not been for their work.

[Translation]

    There is no doubt that the Trump administration's negotiations with the Taliban in 2020 on the Doha agreement set the stage for this disaster. The Doha agreement set a date for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in May 2021.

[English]

    While the Biden administration realized the difficulty of the May deadline and extended it to September, it nevertheless failed to understand the faulty assumption of basing a withdrawal on a deadline. The withdrawal should not have been based on a deadline. It should have been based on a set of conditions. By withdrawing on a deadline, the Taliban were given a clear advantage in their takeover of Afghanistan by force.
    It is easy, in hindsight, to question the decisions made by the United States, which has the burden of leading the free world. What is not in question is the fact that as the events unfolded in the first eight months of this year, it was clear at the time that the Taliban were making ever-increasing advances for the forceful takeover of the country and that the government of Afghanistan was going to collapse.
    It was clear in the months before the fall of Kabul on August 15 that Afghanistan was going to fall to the Taliban. It was clear to non-governmental organizations on the ground in Afghanistan, such as Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. Members of that group met with me in April of this year to ring the alarm bells about the threats to women and girls from the Taliban, and pleaded with western governments to slow down the withdrawal from Afghanistan to prevent a catastrophe.
    It was clear to the UN Refugee Agency in July of this year, which warned of a humanitarian catastrophe and indicated that some 270,000 Afghans had been displaced since the early part of the year.
    It was clear from the constant stream of media reports, and it was clear from Canadian veterans who had served in the war in Afghanistan and were hearing directly from their Afghan brothers in arms. These are veterans such as Dave Morrow, an army lieutenant who served in Afghanistan. He raised the alarm bells in interviews he did with the CBC and The New York Times in June of this year before the fall of Kabul. Another veteran, Corey Shelson, also served in Afghanistan and pleaded with Ottawa in July to send Canadian Forces military aircraft into Afghanistan to evacuate our Afghan allies.
    In fact, some Canadian veterans were so frustrated by the lack of action from the government to evacuate our allies that they used their own money, their own time and their own resources to evacuate these Afghans. They organized Facebook groups and worked with members of Parliament, including the member of Parliament for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.
    It was clear to us, as the official opposition, that Afghanistan was collapsing and that Canada urgently needed to evacuate these Afghans. More than a month before the fall of Kabul on July 6, we issued a statement calling on the government to take immediate action.

  (1050)  

    The statement said:
...Conservatives are calling on the Liberal government to take immediate action. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served alongside these Afghan interpreters are pleading for the government to listen to their calls that we must do the right thing and support them at a time when they need us most.
    On July 22, the Conservative leader wrote to the Prime Minister directly, pleading with him to use the immense powers of his high office to uphold Canada's honour and to evacuate these Afghan allies. In that letter, the Conservative leader wrote plainly and directly about the need for the Prime Minister to take action. He wrote, “Not-for-profit organisations are doing more for these interpreters than your government. This is unacceptable. I am calling on you and the Liberal government to take immediate action.”

[Translation]

     It was clear to a large number of people and organizations that Afghanistan would collapse before anything was done. These people and organizations were vocal in expressing their views. They made statements, gave interviews, set up groups on Facebook and organized missions to evacuate these Afghans using their own time and money.

[English]

    The Afghan interpreters, advisers and local experts who assisted Canada, and their families, numbered in the several thousand, I have been told. Canada could have accomplished an orderly evacuation in the weeks ahead of the fall of Kabul on August 15. Canada has five Globemaster C-17s, each with a capacity of some 300 passengers. In fact, during the chaos of the fall of Kabul, one Globemaster carried 823 passengers out of the country. We could have easily evacuated some 3,000 Afghans over some 10 flights in the several weeks before the fall of Kabul, in an orderly fashion and upholding the honour of this country to our Afghan allies. Instead, the government did nothing. Despite the pleas from individuals and organizations, the government did nothing.
    It did nothing on Sunday, August 15 as the city of Kabul fell to the Taliban, the last lifeline for desperate Afghans seeking to flee the country. Actually, the government did do something that day. On Sunday, August 15, the Prime Minister went to Rideau Hall to trigger a general election, amid the fall of Kabul and the beginning of a fourth wave of the pandemic, because he thought he could secure a majority.
    However, even after the triggering of an election and the fall of Kabul, the government still did not do anything in the days after August 15, until, of course, it became an issue during the federal election. The government then sprang not into action but into full rhetorical flight, not for the lives of these Afghan allies but in order to save the life of the government. Rhetorical flight is all the Liberals had because, during the election and afterward until the swearing-in of the new cabinet on October 26 and, some would argue, until the government met the House on November 22, the government was in caretaker mode. During the election, Liberal ministerial staffers were on leave in order to campaign, rather than conducting the business of the nation.
    That is why I support the motion in front of us today. We need to understand how numerous warnings that came from individuals and organizations that Kabul was going to fall and that the lives of our Afghan allies were at risk went unheeded by the government. We need to understand that in order to restore the honour of this country and to ensure in the future that Canada's word is its bond.

  (1055)  

    Madam Speaker, I have had the opportunity to review the text of the motion.
    First, it is quite an expansive production of documents, memoranda and notes that are contained in subsection (m) of the notes. Is one month an adequate amount of time? Does the member opposite think that is reasonable, given perhaps the depth of the documents that would be requested?
    Second, I have concern around the provision (x), in which, as noted, the parliamentary law clerk has the ability to redact this information. I presume that the information in question would have national security concerns and perhaps operational elements still under way for the government. There seems to be an ability for the committee to overrule those redacted recommendations from the parliamentary law clerk. Does the member opposite agree that this is appropriate?
    Madam Speaker, I will respond to the second part of the hon. member's question first. The motion is reasonable in calling for the government to hand over to the law clerk unredacted documents, because the motion, in one of the earlier clauses, specifies the government is also to hand over the proposed redactions it believes to be injurious to national security so the law clerk knows what the government's position is on that issue.
    With respect to clause (m), one month is plenty of time for the government to produce these documents, particularly because it is during a slower time of year where the government will not be occupied with the normal matters governments are occupied with, so one month is ample time.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, when you look at the situation in Afghanistan as a whole, it is evident that Canada does not have a clear foreign policy. Canada has welcomed 4,000 refugees even though it promised to bring in 40,000. Quite frankly, we still have a long way to go, and the government appears to be making things up as it goes.
    This past spring, France started evacuating interpreters and others who had worked with the French army, and these evacuations went as planned. The government here was busy thinking about calling an election. Things were not going well.
    There is one woman who writes to me every day. She was in Afghanistan and is now in Turkey. She must return to Afghanistan because she was told that she was supposed to fill in a form on a Canadian website from within Afghanistan in order to be considered a refugee. Last week she was shot in the leg, which makes it difficult for her to get around.
    Clearly, now is the time for diplomacy. Unfortunately, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is at the beginning of her term and is likely not at maximum efficiency. This worries me, because this situation demands urgent action now, not later.
    Madam Speaker, to help Afghan refugees, the government could approach the government of Qatar, which has diplomatic relations with the Taliban. The Government of Canada could ask the Qatar government to insist that the Taliban protect refugees and allow them to leave Afghanistan to come to Canada. This is just one diplomatic tool the government could use to improve the situation.

  (1100)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree the government has failed Canadian allies.
    However, I have a question specifically related to the many Afghani women and girls who have been left to deal with some of the worst human rights violations. Are the member and his party open to opening up more emergency spaces for refugees in Canada to deal with this current human rights crisis?
    Madam Speaker, I believe the government should focus on practical measures it can take to evacuate Afghans from Afghanistan. One I mentioned to my colleague from the Bloc is for the Government of Canada to démarche with the Government of Qatar in order to impress on the Government of Qatar the need for the Taliban to release some of these persecuted minorities and to release Afghan allies who assisted us to other countries so we may process them for safe passage here to Canada.
    The hon. member for London—Fanshawe is rising on a point of order.

Business of the House

    Madam Speaker, I move:
    That, notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House during the debate on the business of supply pursuant to Standing Order 81(5) on Tuesday December 7th and Wednesday December 8th
a) the time provided for consideration of the supplementary estimates (b) in committee of the whole be extended beyond four hours, as needed, to include a minimum of 16 periods of 15 minutes each;
b) members rising to speak during the debate may indicate to the Chair that they will be dividing their time with another member.
    All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
    Hearing no dissenting voice, it is agreed.

[Translation]

    The House has heard the terms of the motion.
    All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
    I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[English]

    Resuming debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Business of Supply

Opposition Motion—Special Committee on Afghanistan  

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Madam Speaker, I begin by congratulating the member for Wellington—Halton Hills on once again being the official opposition's critic and also the critic of the Bloc Québécois and the critic of the New Democrats.
    I begin today's discussion with two people in mind. The first is Wahida, a young Afghan girl who was nine years old when she was sponsored by the church at which I was the minister in 2001 to come with her uncle from Afghanistan. Over the last 20 years, Wahida has found a way in Canada, shared stories and allowed Canadians to continue to be part of her life in a country that has been torn and wracked by war, civil dispute and international conflict over the last many decades.
    I call her to mind, because each time we talk about Afghanistan, it is important to remember the people of Afghanistan whose aspirations, hopes and dreams have been shattered again and again. I believe every single member of this House has their best interests in mind.
    Another woman who is in my mind today is Adeena Niazi. She is the executive director of the Afghan Women's Organization, an organization in Toronto that works extensively in my riding of Don Valley West, assisting refugee claimants and immigrants who come from Afghanistan and are making an important contribution to Canada every day. She reminds me, through the stories of the people she works with, of the families left behind, of the terror and real chaos in Afghanistan, and of the importance for Canada to maintain, build and create new ways of helping the people of Afghanistan. We, on this side of the House, stand firmly in support of the people of Afghanistan, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
    Over the summer we witnessed the tremendous chaos, difficulties and desperation of Afghan people as their government fell and as the Taliban took over key aspects of safety and security, including the Kabul airport. I watched as people scrambled to try to get to Canada and to other places around the world in safety.
    There are important questions about that period of time. We acknowledge that those questions are important to be asked. We need to look at every aspect of the situation in the fall of Afghanistan, and of Kabul particularly, and the role of Canada and its allies. There are important questions I believe the opposition has every right to ask. Those questions are being asked by members of Parliament on both sides of this House.
    Whether they are about the humanitarian assistance Canada needs to provide now and in the future; the military operations, which for Canada ended some 10 years ago, but we have continued to be present in Afghanistan in humanitarian and development ways; or about the tremendous work of our public servants during a very difficult time this summer, I think we want those questions answered. It is fair for Parliament to request those answers on behalf of Canadians and have them, in a reasoned and thoughtful way, be examined by parliamentarians.
    Where we may disagree is where, when and how that should happen.
    I want to speak about the role of our standing committees. All through the motion today the Standing Orders are mentioned. We have a foreign affairs committee. That committee will be struck shortly. It is part of the standing committee structure of this House. It is charged with engaging, and it can work with other committees such as the defence committee, the citizenship and immigration committee and other committees that are implicated in this topic.
    We want to be mindful of the best use of our resources. We had a special committee on China that was an important aspect of our last Parliament. That may come back this time. We want to make sure that we are using our time effectively.

  (1105)  

    People often talk about the role of a member of Parliament and how stretched we are, and some people think it is because of our operating budget. I never feel stretched because of my member's operating budget. The scarce resource that all of us have is time.
    All of us have this scarce resource, which is how much time we are able to put into every topic, but that does not mean that the topic of Afghanistan is not critically important for every one of us. However, let us find a way to do it that makes sure we do it well, carefully, and using the resources we have as individuals and of the House, which are important.
    We will be asking important questions. We will be asking what actually happened last July and August. We will also ask who knew what, when and where, which are important questions to ask. Also, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I will not denigrate the public servants of this country.
    I will not denigrate the tremendous work of our mission in Afghanistan or our armed forces, who jumped in to help with our allies and colleagues from NATO partner countries. They worked carefully and quickly with commercial airlines, as well as with operatives from Public Safety, the RCMP, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to find ways to have special measures to help not only Canadians who were in Afghanistan, but also Afghans who were at risk, which included women, human rights defenders, advocates, lawyers and NGO partners in Afghanistan. Canadians worked with Afghan interpreters, security agents and the people who kept us safe some 10 years ago. They had worked with us right up until the former prime minister withdrew Canadian troops some 10 years ago. This left us in a very different position than we might have been in if that had not happened.
    Afghanistan is a place of conflict. It is a place that has continually had internal difficulties and external forces, and I think we should hear about that. We should listen to the stories of our partners and allies to find out what happened, when it happened and what actions were actually taken, so we could actually dispel some of the misunderstandings, and I will not say “mistruths”, being held by the official opposition.
    I do not blame the Conservatives for not understanding or for not having heard what happened. They were busy on a campaign, as we were. They were busy fighting government-sponsored refugees, for instance. Now they are calling upon us to help. They were extremely busy tearing down the structures and systems that we need to have at play to make sure Afghanistan is helped by Canada.
    I will be very clear. I have never been shy about criticizing my own government, which is one of the roles of a backbencher. We do that work, but in this case, I want to commend the government. I particularly want to commend the public servants who worked day and night, seven days a week, through a very difficult time as a country was folding in on itself.
    Of course, there were contingency plans. We have contingency plans for evacuation for every country, which is the way that Global Affairs Canada works. Of course, on the ground, we have a small mission in Kabul that was at the ready to work with our partners, but nobody, frankly, could have predicted the rapidity of the chaos that ensued following the American troop withdrawal. Nobody could have predicted that.
    I think we need a committee to discuss, and I would argue the foreign affairs committee could do this, what lessons we learned. Were there mistakes made? Could we do it better? Those are absolutely fair, good and reasonable questions, because everyone in this House wants to make sure we have the ability in this country, as a trusted ally, to make a difference in the world.
    During those several weeks of chaos, my office, like many members' offices, was inundated with calls from people. I represent Don Valley West, and that riding has one of the largest populations of Afghan Canadians, as well as newcomers who are not yet citizens. My office was inundated with calls from family members fearful about those who were trying to reach safety, or trying to reach them to have a conversation.
    We want to know what systems were put in place, and I understand that. Each one of us was frustrated as a member of Parliament, and it is fair to be frustrated.

  (1110)  

    We also have to recognize that public servants are human beings. They are doing the best they can. The structures are in place to help them. We want to learn from them and hear what they did, without jumping to the conclusion that “nothing”, and I quote the opposition leader, was done. Nothing could be farther from the truth, and it is simply irresponsible for an opposition leader to claim that.
    Was enough done? Perhaps it was not. Could it have been done better? Absolutely, as everything can always be done better. It is not fair to denigrate our public servants and Canadian armed services, whether they are public safety officers, immigration officers or some of the 200 Global Affairs staff who were mobilized to help the small contingent at the mission that existed in Afghanistan at the time.
    We have helped the Afghan people in the past, and we will continue to help them. It is one of the prime places we send humanitarian aid. Right now, there is no way we will be recognizing the Taliban. It is a terrorist organization in Canada, but it is nonetheless the de facto government.
    We are finding ways to work around them, but it is still difficult. The situation on the ground is still tenuous. We have to be absolutely careful about the safety and security of Canadian personnel there, and we have to work in conjunction with our NATO allies, who continued to have forces on the ground after we left them behind.
    We will continue to build bridges, such as consular affairs. We will also be making sure that we continue to help the 1,400 people who have already been evacuated who were Canadian citizens, permanent residents of Canada or their family members. Around 1,400 have come back.
    We still have files open. Some of them are hard to connect with. Some of them have left Afghanistan. Some of them have gone to Pakistan and other countries. We are still in conversation with them and trying to help them. We are also guaranteeing to commit to our plan to bring at least 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan into Canada.
    Obviously, there are millions of refugees who have already left Afghanistan and are in places outside of Afghanistan. There are also people at risk inside Afghanistan. This includes women and girls, and LGBTQI people, who are at risk. I am getting constant communications from them. We have to find ways through civil society groups and third-party countries to get them into Canada or other safe countries. We do not need to have a monopoly on goodness in this country. We need to work with other countries that share our values and want to make sure that Afghan people are safe.
    We will call upon the Taliban. We will call upon them to live up to their stated concerns about the well-being of the people of Afghanistan. We will also call them to follow the international rules-based order and the expectations of the international community in the exercise of their of power. We are not going to negotiate with them. We will demand that they do that.
    Meanwhile, we are going to continue to work to make sure that we find a way to help the most vulnerable people. That is our goal. We have been in Afghanistan before. Previous governments have committed. This government continues to commit and recommit to the people of Afghanistan because, as the Leader of the Opposition did say, we have a stake in this. We have CAF members who have given their lives for Afghanistan, and we have aid workers and veterans who have come home and who care deeply.
    We are absolutely there, but we are not there just because of that. We are there because that is what Canada does and that is what Canadians want us to do. They want us to continue to be a beacon of light and hope in the world. We will continue to find ways to get humanitarian assistance there. We will continue to find ways to reignite our development projects. We will continue to find ways to support women and girls, and democracy and human rights in Afghanistan, in a very complicated and difficult situation.

  (1115)  

    As I said, I do respect the will of this House to get answers to those questions appropriately, but we will also safeguard the information that will be released by government. No reasonable or responsible government will ever put at risk military strategic plans. We will never put individuals at risk, through their names or identities, and we will never even put at risk the reputations of the people who are attempting to do their very best. They have sworn an oath to Her Majesty and to the people of Canada to publicly serve to the best of their abilities.
    We are in this together, and I do not believe anyone has ever been elected to opposition. I do not believe that. It is the reality that, after an election, some people find themselves in opposition and others find themselves in government. I have been in opposition. My hope is that the opposition will always find ways to constructively help Canada and the Canadian government make a difference and make positive contributions. Anyone can criticize. Anyone can cut down, but to build up takes more. That is what I would call upon the opposition to do today, to find a constructive and creative way.
    I have been in contact with members in the third and fourth parties, and I believe there is a way we can do this. There is a way that we can bring this information to the foreign affairs committee to make sure we exploit, in the best sense of the word, what a standing committee is for. The Standing Orders are there to protect the rights of every member of the committee, both opposition and government sides, to further the work. We are open to a very early study on Afghanistan. We are very open to finding a way to work together on this, to be creative, to find answers and to ensure that our number one goal is not to have gotcha moments or to one up each other, but to actually create an environment where we can have a discussion.
    I have been incredibly impressed with the member for Edmonton Strathcona and her passionate and compassionate approach on humanitarian assistance. I congratulate her on her new role in foreign affairs more broadly and generally because, to me, we are involved in foreign affairs in all of our ways of ensuring that we are finding a way to make our world better. That is why we create differences.
    No world was ever made better by dropping a bomb. It is made better by giving people hope. We give people hope by making sure they are fed, have democratic rights, and can contribute to the best of their ability to find a way to make a difference for their families and in their lives. We do not do that perfectly. No government in Canada has ever done that perfectly. We can be better, and will continue to work on it.

  (1120)  

[Translation]

    I greatly appreciate the work done by the member for Montarville. He is always extremely sensitive and compassionate. He stands up for the interests of all Canadians and Quebeckers wanting to create a safe, prosperous and equitable world, where everyone can live with dignity.

[English]

    We can work together on this, and that is what I would like to take from this. I am not casting aspersions on the official opposition. I hope opposition members want to work with us as well to find a way through these tricky situations and to not overtax our committee members or public servants. I would sooner they spend more time on humanitarian assistance, creating pathways of communication and dialogue, and working with our allies around the world, than in producing documents that will simply not be helpful to us.
    I want to find a way to be resourceful, constructive and dignified. I am looking forward to the House—
    On that note, questions and comments, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
    Madam Speaker, I congratulate the parliamentary secretary. I am relieved he is continuing in his role.
    With a non-partisan spirit, we worked very closely together in rescuing Canadians around the world at the beginning of COVID-19. I am less pleased with how we are doing in rescuing Afghani women, the people who worked with Canada and the women in Afghanistan's parliament, who are now at grave risk. I agree with him that the member for Edmonton Strathcona has the right approach.
    What do we do now? How do we get humanitarian relief now? I am less convinced that we need a committee that reports in six months. I am sympathetic to the notion that we should not beat up on our civil servants, but I am talking to people who are working with people trying to get out of Afghanistan now, and they do not believe that the Taliban is the biggest obstacle on the ground. They think our unnecessarily bureaucratic immigration procedures as the Government of Canada are a bigger obstacle.
    Madam Speaker, as usual, I agree with most of what the hon. member has said.
    First, on the issue of women and girls in Afghanistan, it is critical. It is absolutely essential that we find ways to address it. Do I think we have bureaucratic structures and systems that sometimes get in the way? Absolutely. I have been frustrated, as have others, with respect to all of that.
     Some of those are put in place to ensure public safety and confidence in the immigration system. I respect that, but I also think we should find ways to cut through them. I do not believe a special committee is the place to do that. We need long-term solutions because this is going to happen again. Let us find a way to do this through our committee structure.

  (1125)  

    Madam Speaker, the failures in Afghanistan are not anything new, especially when it comes to religious minorities and minority groups like the LGBTQ community. As someone who has personally sponsored a refugee family from Afghanistan, I know first-hand that it took the Liberal government four years to get that family here when they were under persecution.
    I want to correct the member, but this is not to denigrate the civil service at all. It is to hold the government to account for its failures. I went through that process and have seen it, and the Liberals continually fail. We are at 1.8 million cases in immigration backlogs. It is not the fact that the public service has failed; it is the government's failure for creating this bureaucratic mess. We have all seen images of the young women and girls who are being forcibly converted and married. What is going on is devastating.
    Let me be very clear. The Conservative Party does not want to destroy the refugee class in any way. Actually, we want to make it better because of the bureaucratic backlogs the Liberal government created—
    I have to give the hon. parliamentary secretary a chance to answer.
    The hon. parliamentary secretary.
    Madam Speaker, the officials at IRCC are working day and night to do these processes. This is not something new. I was in opposition during the Harper government, and believe me, I waited years and years to help refugees at that time. The system does not work perfectly. Can we find ways to improve it? Absolutely. Let us take that to the citizenship and immigration committee, which needs to do it.
    We will continue to stand with Ahmadiyya. We will continue to stand with the Sikh community in Afghanistan. We will continue to stand with persecuted religious minorities in Afghanistan, because that is what we do and that is what Canadians want us to do.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, frankly I do not even know where to begin.
    I was listening to my colleagues and I could see a lot of motivation on their part. Nevertheless, this is not the first war we are getting involved in. We know the consequences of getting involved in a war and the consequences of having people work for us and help us in a country that is not our own. We have known all of this for a long time.
    We should have planned our involvement from the outset and had a vision of the future for these people; the same goes for when we left the country in 2014. Now where are we? We are improvising, asking for things from people who do not even have access to the Internet, and closing the embassy. Every government is at fault. We have to acknowledge that and review this situation to ensure that it does not happen again.
    Does my colleague agree that we must examine what happened to ensure that girls, women and children never again starve to death or get killed?
    Madam Speaker, I agree. I believe such a review is indispensable.
    However, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development must also conduct its own study. That is very important.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I want to think about how we can work together and how we can work in a positive forward-looking way, but I have to call my colleague out on one of the comments he made today, that is, that nobody could have predicted what was going to happen in Afghanistan. I wrote to the minister in February and explained that this would happen. My colleagues in the NDP have written to the minister as well. People from from the Hazara community had written to the minister and explained what was going to happen in August when we knew the U.S. would be pulling out, so I do want to call him out on that a bit.
    More importantly, I would like the member to comment, if he could, on the situation we are in. Will the government be coming up with a plan to work with the non-profit sector, CSOs and multilateral organizations to ensure they can get support to the Afghanis, knowing the very complicated scenario we have in Afghanistan with regard to anti-terrorism legislation and whatnot?

  (1130)  

    Madam Speaker, yes, absolutely. We need to work with civil society organizations. I have had conversations with Rainbow Railroad. I have had conversations with a number of organizations that are attempting to find pathways in a very, very difficult situation.
    I would not say that no one could have predicted what was going to happen. When the decision was made by the United States to withdraw on September 11, contingency plans were put in place, obviously. What we needed to do then was absolutely expedite them to make sure that when the decision was made to advance, we did the best we could. Was this perfect? Absolutely not. Can it be improved? Absolutely, yes. We will continue to do that, and we welcome help and suggestions.
    Madam Speaker, I have a couple of comments rather than a question, and some corrections to make to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
    First off, the mission did not end a decade ago. The combat mission ended a decade ago, but we did not leave Afghanistan until 2014.
    I would like to correct a few members who keep referring to “Afghanis”. That is the currency in Afghanistan. It should be “Afghans”.
    Next, the member mentioned that—
    An hon. member: Oh, oh!
    To the hon. parliamentary secretary, we have not finished questions and comments.
    The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.
    Madam Speaker, I think the member will find it easier to respond to my comments if he actually listens to them.
    He talked about time and that nobody could have predicted this. He sort of corrected that in his last response, but this was predicted. His own backbencher, the MP for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, raised a concern with the Liberal government two years ago that this was going to come down the pike, so this should have been predicted. I raised it myself in the national media weeks before the government took action.
    I will agree with the member. It is the backbenchers' responsibility to stand up and criticize the government at certain times. I am looking forward to members of the Liberal caucus voting for this motion today.
    Madam Speaker, my apologies. I thought you were recognizing the next debater.
    On the question, let me be very clear that in four months, this government brought in more Afghan interpreters than the previous Conservative government brought here in four years. That is absolutely true. I know those people; they live in my riding. I am in contact with them every day. I understand what that was about. I also understand that the situation changed and Canada continued to adapt.
    I want to thank the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, who was absolutely helpful in raising the issue. We have constantly been engaged on the issue and will continue to be engaged on it.
    Madam Speaker, I always find my hon. colleague's remarks in the House to be very insightful and engaging.
    During the last intersection, I had the opportunity to ask the member for Wellington—Halton Hills about the concerns I have with the text of this motion regarding the one-month timeline and the committee's ability to basically overrule the parliamentary law clerk as it relates to the redacted documents.
    Can the member speak about his concerns regarding that particular text?
    Madam Speaker, obviously we have a concern about that because we already have a taxed public service. We have a holiday period coming up. We think it is unreasonable, and we have to find ways to work around that.
     We also have suggestions, and we have a proposal right now on how we should be handling documents that we think parliamentarians should have access to. We will find a way—
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Saint-Jean.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean, who will give a superb speech that I will be most pleased to listen to.
    First, I would like to highlight what I believe to be some strong points in the motion presented today by the Conservative Party. As the saying goes, we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater, and the motion has some worthwhile elements.
    I am thinking in particular of the reason why they are asking that a special committee be created. My colleague, the parliamentary secretary, mentioned that he hoped the study would be conducted by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. However, this matter touches on international relations, defence and immigration, a combination of areas that we do not see all that often.
    In addition, one of the advantages of creating a special committee is that it frees up the schedules of the standing committees, which, as one might expect, will have a lot on their plate in the coming year and will be very busy. I am thinking in particular of the standing committees on foreign affairs and international development, national defence and citizenship and immigration. The study the motion proposes is extensive and could take several months. Tasking a standing committee with this study would likely prevent that committee from focusing on other equally important issues.
    Finally, there is a need to restore the Canadian Armed Forces' image, a significant issue that I will carry forward and address over the next year. A number of military members have taken it upon themselves to help the local interpreters they worked with in Afghanistan. They have provided private funding to set up houses to keep people safe. If nothing is done and we send the message that some individuals could be left behind, we risk undermining not only the alliances we may want to make with international partners on future missions, but also the Canadian Armed Forces' internal recruitment.
    For all these reasons, I think it is appropriate to ask the question and to study what went wrong and why allies who had worked with Canada were not evacuated.
    The wording of the Conservatives' motion raises the issue of calling an election in the midst of the Afghan crisis. It is very interesting and relevant, but is this really the right place to raise the issue? I am not sure. However, if we were to go down this road, I daresay it might be interesting to see how we could put limits on a government's power to unilaterally call an election without being brought down by the House. I doubt that the Liberals and Conservatives would want to discuss this in the context of the motion we are debating, but I still think it is worth raising this possibility.
    What bothers me about this motion is that the Conservatives seem to have written it more to make the government look bad than to really find immediate and future solutions. I will give an example.
    Paragraph (m)(v) of the motion calls for an enormous quantity of documents to be produced within one month of the creation of the special committee, which is likely to be voted on tomorrow. One month from now will be January 7. Between now and then, there are about seven or eight sitting days left in the House, people and staff will be on vacation, and they may still be on January 7. On that date, it would be very easy for the Conservatives to say that the government has once again disobeyed an order of the House by not producing the documents requested by the deadline. That deadline, however, is absolutely impossible to meet, so the objective will not be met.
    Accordingly, I think that we could be a little more flexible, for example by allowing the committee to decide for itself which documents it wants to obtain and the timeline for producing them. These choices can change depending on what happens in committee and what the committee needs in order to plan or amend its decisions.
    Another aspect of the motion that bothers me is the fact that it is only retroactive in scope. While the Leader of the Opposition talked more about the need for recommendations for the future, it seems to me that it is more about picking at scabs than anything else. Just between us, I do not think that we need a special committee to see that things were botched.

  (1135)  

    We only have ask the members who had all their immigration cases put on hold this summer because of the lack of capacity to deal with Afghan refugee applications. The system was not even close to being ready; cases in the Department of Citizenship and Immigration were already moving slowly, and this just added to it. Afghan refugees do not need a special committee to tell them that things were botched. We only have to ask the 200 Afghans whose names were leaked to the media by IRCC, which put their lives at risk. They do not need a special committee to tell them that things were botched. We only have to ask the 40,000 minus 3,700 Afghans who are still there. Let us ask them if they need a special committee to tell them that things were botched.
    With that in mind, there is no point to creating a committee whose sole purpose is to analyze the past. It is somewhat akin to the work of a coroner who is asked to determine the cause and circumstances of a death. Their work would not be that important if it simply involved telling us why and how a person died. The coroner’s real job is to make recommendations to prevent it from happening again. That is what I would like to see from the committee that is to be set up.
    If worst comes to worst, an amendment could be introduced to that effect. If the special committee's sole purpose is to provide feedback, it becomes less useful. I would prefer to have it look at other issues, such as what to do with the people who are still in Afghanistan. There could be millions of them, and they could starve to death in one of the worst famines in human history. How can we get international aid to these people in the immediate future?
    The committee might consider what kind of diplomatic ties we should have with the Taliban government. Although it is the de facto government, it is not a recognized government, since the Taliban are considered a terrorist organization. Still, we will need to figure out how to deal with them to ensure delivery of humanitarian aid.
    It is also important to look at government funding. Since the Taliban have been recognized by several countries as a terrorist organization, aid is often frozen. International donors are more fearful, so the money that the government relies on to keep running is not coming in.
    Under the circumstances, we do not really seem to be grasping this sense of urgency and the need for action right now. Those are not secondary issues; they should be a key focus for the special committee. I think that is what the Conservatives' motion is lacking. I would not be comfortable supporting the motion as written. It is basically smoke and mirrors. Really, it is mud-slinging, and it is not constructive.
    When I read the motion as it stands, I worry that it will not help anyone other than maybe the Conservatives. Passing this motion will not get any more Afghans out of Afghanistan. It will not get any humanitarian aid into the country. This motion will not do anything to improve diplomatic relations insofar as that is possible.
    I think there is room for improvement. The Bloc, as always, wants a partner it can talk to and work with constructively. We are reaching out to our Conservative colleagues, not for their good, not for the good of the government and not for our own good, but for the good of those who need it most right now.

  (1140)  

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague that there is always room for improvement through amendments. I am looking forward to seeing those and hopefully coming to some sort of consensus, if her party wants to put forward amendments.
    I would also agree with her that this committee is not just about identifying what went wrong. It is about figuring out what we need to do better for the future. Having ample experience with lessons identified and lessons learned within the Canadian Armed Forces, the key difference is that if we do not actually learn from mistakes made in the past, we can identify them until the cows come home and we will be doomed to make the same mistakes again.
    I encourage the Bloc Québécois to work with our Conservative team to come up with an amendment that would work for all of us.

  (1145)  

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I have two things to say about that.
    First of all, as I said in my speech, the need to learn from mistakes is one thing. I am not rejecting that part of the Conservative motion, but I think it needs to lead to something else, and that is what I want to emphasize.
    Second, I just made some suggestions for possible amendments. The Conservatives did not try to get any support from the other parties to make sure this motion passes or to make it worthwhile. This only makes me question the purpose of the motion even more. Is it just smoke and mirrors? The question remains.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I agree that the motion looks more like theatre than looking to improve the lives of Afghanis and the functioning of our government.
    Having a critical look at what has happened in the past is something our committees could do. Our existing committees are set-up for that.
    Could the hon. member comment on the role that could be played by the National Security Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, or the public accounts committee or other committees to look into what happened and what we could do better in the future?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, as I said, this is such a broad subject, which encompasses so many files and requires such a large effort, that it should be the purview of a special committee.
    Will the Department of National Defence really look into why Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not have enough staff to deal with the cases? This is such a complex problem that, on the face of it, it warrants the creation of a special committee. As well, that would avoid monopolizing the time of other committees that will already have a lot on their plates during this Parliament.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, a unique part of this motion to create a special committee is that it would be accompanied by a special order of the House, which is informed by experiences of standing committees in the previous Parliament that ran against obstructive measures from members of the government and had to request the House's help to solicit documents and actually have them put before the committee.
    I wonder if my colleague has any comments on the fact that we are probably saving some time by putting a special standing order of the House in the motion so the committee is equipped with that before and would not have to make use of it at a later stage.

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, there is an interesting aspect to the motion in paragraph (n). It is a kind of clause to prevent filibusters surrounding the production of documents and the presentation of witnesses. I find it interesting to see that come from the House. That is something that cannot be done in a standing committee.
    That is why I am comfortable with the idea of creating a special committee. However, I would reiterate my comment that it is not realistic to ask for all the documents to be produced in a month in the middle of the holidays. Leaving it up to the committee to choose its own documents and set its own deadlines would be a sign of confidence in the committee.
    Madam Speaker, first of all, I want to say just how much I enjoyed hearing what my hon. colleague from Saint-Jean had to say. I especially liked her comments about the purpose of this motion and the fact that, in its current form, it does not seem to help anyone.
    When Syrian refugees started arriving, several groups in our communities sponsored them.
    Does the member agree that Canadians and Quebeckers are ready to welcome refugees from Afghanistan?
    Madam Speaker, I wish we were already at the point of asking ourselves if we are ready to bring these people here and sponsor them privately. We are not quite there yet. These refugees are still in danger. No one knows how to get them out, and that is the problem. When people do private sponsorships, it is because the refugees have already crossed the border and are in refugee camps. We are not even there yet, and Canada has not even—
    Resuming debate. The hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.

  (1150)  

    Madam Speaker, I will try to measure up to my very dear colleague from Saint-Jean.
    Some things are important in politics, but sometimes, in the House, we lose sight of what is important. To begin with, I would like to point out two things we need to bear in mind throughout this debate.
    First, throughout all our discussions, we must remember that more than one million children could die from malnutrition in Afghanistan this winter. I am not making this up; representatives of the United Nations World Food Programme have said so.
    Second, we must remember that we have a duty of solidarity toward the Afghan people, which means we have an obligation to get results. I often tell my children that they should always finish what they start. In the case of Afghanistan, that means that we need to follow through on our commitment to keep those who worked with us on the ground during this difficult war safe. Interpreters and their families put their lives at risk at the time and are still suffering for having helped us. We must therefore do everything we can to help them and repatriate them.
    With that in mind, we need to ask ourselves whether what we are doing is useful in the grand scheme of things. I agree that we need to identify the stumbling blocks and mistakes in the government's efforts to repatriate our Afghan allies. I also agree that we need to make sure we never again witness such chaos in a future military conflict and that we learn from this mess.
    However, I do not agree that we should embark on a mission to nose out scandals that will last until the next election. I also do not agree that we should start combing through redacted material so that we can interpret fragments of confidential information in the hope of finding a comma out of place.
    Every member here knows that this is a complex situation, especially the Conservatives. They did not do much for our interpreters either in 2014.
    Like the Conservatives, I condemn the government's inaction last August, and I would like to remind the Liberals that they called an election at a time when people were so desperate to flee the Taliban that they were clinging to moving planes. I also think that we are seeing some professional improvisation in the management of the repatriation, which is an operation that the Minister of Public Safety will undoubtedly leave off his CV. Like my Conservative colleagues, I get some incredibly tragic files in my riding office.
    Despite all this, if the motion of the hon. member for Durham and leader of the official opposition is intended only to embarrass the government and not to review the events constructively, I do not see how the Bloc can support it. Unfortunately, when I read the motion, I get the feeling that the hon. member for Durham is playing politics rather than trying to resolve the issue. He is more concerned with scoring points off the Liberals than scoring points for the interpreters and their families.
    I will give a few compelling examples to support my arguments, and I will explain the conditions under which I might consider supporting the motion. Since my dear colleague from Saint-Jean already went over those conditions in detail, I may be repeating some of what she said.
    First, in paragraph (l), the committee is being instructed to present a final report within six months of the adoption of the motion. The current motion makes it seem that the Conservatives absolutely want this to fail. Six months is great, but, under paragraph (m), the documentation has to be produced within one month.
    I know what is going to happen: The Liberals will not be prepared to answer our questions and will be filibustering. That is how things will go at every meeting. The Conservatives are well aware of this, since there is a measure in paragraph (n) of the motion to prevent the Liberals from filibustering. However, there will be four hours of discussion before the mandatory vote and that means that, for four hours, members will be able to filibuster.
    The Conservatives know that the Liberal Party will never waive its parliamentary privilege. This says a lot about both parties, but it says even more about the motion, which seems virtuous at first glance, but appears to be intended solely to embarrass the Liberals. In fact, the strategy is to trip up the Liberals, not to conduct a real review of their management of the crisis, which, incidentally, is still ongoing.
    To get back to the timetable, the period during which the process would start also poses a problem. First, the Conservatives know that the holidays are approaching, that Parliament is going to wind down, that parliamentary and government public servants will not be available and that all this will undermine the redaction provided for in paragraph (n). This single step will take months, or it will monopolize every staff member in the departments involved.

  (1155)  

    Second, getting back to what I was saying about the crisis, the public servants they want to call to testify or monopolize for redactions are currently trying to repatriate the Afghans in question.
    If someone in the House wants to tell me that there are currently no delays at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, either they do not work on immigration files, or they are Liberal. The department has been struggling with staggering and inhumane delays for years now, and the situation has only gotten worse since August, because it is working almost full time on repatriation cases.
    I said earlier that we need to keep two things in mind throughout the debate, namely that children will die if things do not change, and that we have a duty toward our allies.
    Will putting more pressure on our public servants improve the situation? No. Will politicizing the crisis right now improve the situation? No. Do the Conservatives want to create a committee to further their partisan interests rather than help the Afghans? That is a fair question. Moreover, it is entirely reasonable to ask why the Conservatives want to create a committee on Afghanistan, but do not want to extend the mandate of the special committee on Canada-China relations. We still do not understand why that is, but it is obvious that the Conservatives see special committees as an essentially political tool.
    Would it not be more appropriate to examine the actions Canada could take?
    Let us change the motion together now, to ensure that the main purpose of the review shifts from the past to the present and the immediate future, with a view to providing humanitarian aid and evacuating vulnerable Afghans. The Bloc Québécois has a lot of ideas, and that is why we are here. We want to work together with every party in the House.
    Let us look at the humanitarian situation and the assistance Canada should be providing, given that millions of Afghans risk dying of hunger in the coming months. This is one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. That is what we need to do to help.
    Let us consider diplomatic ties, as my colleague from Saint-Jean mentioned. Should Canada forge diplomatic ties with the Taliban government? Yes. How can the government communicate with the Taliban if it does not recognize them? We can look at that.
    We can also look closely at the government’s goals. I am the immigration critic for the Bloc Québécois. The government promised to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees, and then 40,000. So far, we have taken in 4,000 out of those 40,000. That raises questions.
    Yes, we agree with the idea of a special committee, but let us change the wording of the motion so that its purpose is not necessarily political and partisan but aligns with the real objective that such a committee would have, namely to help those people who are stuck in Afghanistan. Right now, in Afghanistan, parents are selling their daughters for food, and people are hiding in safe houses to avoid being killed. It is that simple, and it is tragic.
    What do we do with these people? These are all questions that do not appear anywhere in the Conservative motion. We talk a lot about immigration, but this is also a matter of international co-operation and human rights. What do we do about the NGOs, which are reluctant to help the Afghan people because the current Taliban government is considered a terrorist organization? What do we do with the information circulating about human trafficking to meet the needs for food as I just mentioned?
    Let us not forget the elephant in the room, the veterans’ groups that are financing safe houses to protect Afghans and their families with what little they have, without any help from the federal government. We have all seen their requests for help in our riding offices. What is the government doing about those issues?
    I am repeating myself, but that is okay. Let us not forget that one million children in Afghanistan could die of starvation. Let us not forget that we have a duty to the Afghan people, a duty to fulfill our commitment to their security.
    Let us find a way to do that and focus on what really matters for our allies. Let us study the situation in Afghanistan. Let us make it our first order of business to evaluate the humanitarian aid that Canada should be providing to bring relief to the Afghan people. Let us be smart and realistic in how we proceed. If a special committee is formed, let us give its members and the officials who will be assigned to support them the flexibility and time they need to do their job, given the scope of work involved.
    Above all, let us ask ourselves why we were elected. Let us take responsibility and work together.

  (1200)  

    Madam Speaker, I agree with much of my colleague's speech and with the member for Saint-Jean's comment that the wording of the Conservatives' motion is a problem.
    I think the time has come to have discussions on Afghanistan. Every member of the House knows that the situation is serious.
    Will my colleague be proposing an amendment to the Conservatives' motion?
    Madam Speaker, I know that discussions are currently under way. We will want to propose amendments to this motion, and I am convinced that we can reach an agreement.
    I am eager to see what my Liberal colleagues are going to do when they see the amended motion. They will realize that, as elected officials, we need to vote in favour of this motion as amended to simplify the general idea behind the creation of the special committee.
    The idea is to provide assistance to Afghans, to look at the mistakes that should not have happened and ensure that they never happen again, while focusing on the present and the future. I hope that my Liberal colleagues will join us in this adventure.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, again, I have one slight correction for the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Jean.
    In 2014, things were different. At the time, a lot of Afghans did take the opportunity to seek immigration here to Canada, but the majority of Afghans wanted to stay in their home country, because they felt that they had a future there. They felt that the path was on the right direction. Unfortunately, things have changed most recently.
     However, I do believe that we need to focus on the urgency of this situation right now and speak to local NGOs that are working this file, and there are over 10,000 files in their databases of trying to get Afghans to safety. Would the member agree that this is urgent and it needs to be dealt with right now?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I did not want to offend my Conservative colleagues by bringing up what happened in 2014. I like them far too much for that.
    There is indeed an emergency, and that is why this motion is inadequate in its current form. What we want to do is to repatriate these people. We want to figure out how to do that and how to help them.
    We will certainly not do so by having a study conducted by different committees, where there would be constant filibustering in the absence of the paragraph (n) in the motion, which, incidentally, is a very interesting paragraph.
    Yes, this is an emergency. However, we must make sure we work together, and the Conservatives must accept the amendment we will be proposing. Then we will be able to work for the common good and, especially, for the benefit of our allies stuck in Afghanistan.

[English]

    Madam Speaker, I admire my colleague's work in the House of Commons, and his commitment to human rights and to the rule of law.
    The member spoke about moving forward, looking forward, and solutions for the Afghan people. One of the situations that I am hearing about, which I am really quite concerned about, is that the anti-terrorist legislation that is in place is preventing organizations on the ground from getting help urgently to the Afghan people and the people who are at risk of starving to death this winter.
    Could the member give us his thoughts on how we could work around those anti-terrorism laws to make sure that the Afghan people do not suffer at this time of urgent need?

[Translation]

    Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Edmonton Strathcona, whom I like very much. We are working together on several files, and I must say that she is fully invested in international human rights. I find her sincere and extremely dedicated.
    To answer her question, I would say that that is precisely why we need a special committee. We can then call representatives of these organizations to testify and tell us what they need to help people on the ground.
    That is what special committees are for. A special committee is necessary in the case of a situation like the one in Afghanistan. People from these organizations will be able to testify and tell us what they need. We will then be able to act quickly.

  (1205)  

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver East.
    This is my very first speech, so I hope you will humour me, Mr. Speaker, as I thank my constituents for once again allowing me the great privilege of standing in this place to represent them. I will tell members a bit about Edmonton Strathcona before I undertake my speech.
    Edmonton Strathcona is an incredible, amazing community. We are a community of artists and musicians; a community of small business owners, teachers, professors, students and workers. We have incredible events like the Fringe; the Folk Music Festival; the Strathearn Art Walk; and the Canoë Volant, which is an opportunity to ride a canoe down a ski hill. We have the French district with Campus Saint-Jean and La Cité Francophone, the University of Alberta. Being able to represent Edmonton Strathcona really is the deepest honour of my life, and I want to thank everyone who elected me. I want to thank the volunteers who helped me to come back to this place.
     I want to finish by thanking my husband and my children. We all stand in this place. We work long hours. We know that often our private life is sacrificed because of the work that we do for the public good. My husband Duncan and my two beautiful children inspire me. I am so grateful for their love and support. I thank them so much.
    Today, I rise to speak to the opposition motion calling for a special committee to examine and review the events related to the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August of this year. My overarching message that I want to give to every single person in this House is one of urgency. Every parliamentarian in this House needs to understand that what we are dealing with in Afghanistan, what we are seeing in Afghanistan right now, is not one crisis and not two crises; it is three crises that are happening at the same time and they will require urgent action from the Canadian government and from governments around the world.
    I come from a background of international development. I have spent over 25 years working in international development and sustainable development around the world. I have worked with people who have led the way working in Afghanistan to raise women and girls in Afghanistan. I am so proud of the work that our sector, the Canadian CSOs, have done, including Janice Eisenhauer and Lauryn Oates from Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan. We have seen incredible work out of Islamic Relief Canada, Care Canada and World Vision. These organizations have been working on the ground for so long to support the Afghan people. I am so proud that I have been able to support them in my role.
    I have to say how devastating it was in August to watch what was happening on the ground, to watch the despair and the pain in Afghanistan. The thing that I felt most shocked about was that we knew this was coming. The runway for this was very long. For years, New Democrats have been calling on Conservative and Liberal governments to do more, to act faster, to invest more in the Afghan people. For years, members of the religious minorities in Afghanistan have been saying that they are at risk, that their very lives are at risk and that if they are not supported to flee Afghanistan, they would die.
    Even just in February 2021, I wrote to the minister and explained that we were watching the failure of a peace process and we were watching women be silenced in Afghanistan. That is exactly what happened. We wrote to the minister and said that when the U.S. left Afghanistan, as we knew it would because the Americans had told us they would, what would happen would be chaos. It was chaos. We saw this coming. We knew it was going to happen and then when it happened, instead of being ready, instead of having a plan, instead of doing the work we needed to do, we left those people behind.

  (1210)  

    We should be ashamed of ourselves. The government should be ashamed of itself.
    We also know that we need to think of a way forward. We cannot turn the clock back on the failures of the government. We cannot go back in time, so have to look at going forward. We have to look at what to do about these three crises right now.
    First, there is the humanitarian crisis; 23 million Afghans, more than half of the population, are at risk of starvation this winter. The situation in Afghanistan is dire, with the economy on the verge of collapse, food shortages and a crumbling health care system. The latest United Nations' humanitarian response flash appeal is currently deeply underfunded, with only 20% of the required assistance committed.
    The Government of Canada simply has to do more to help the people of Afghanistan, who are facing these food crises. We must commit to more humanitarian aid and we must work with the multilateral and civil society organizations to ensure that the aid can get to those Afghans who need it the most. This is complicated. This will be very difficult to do, but we have to do this work. We know that antiterrorism legislation makes it extremely hard for CSOs and multilateral organizations to work in Afghanistan, but the government needs to be clear. It needs to make very clear declarations on what CSOs can do, how they can do it and how they will be protected to do the work.
    The government will have to look at opportunities to get health care to Afghans. While we do not, in any way, want to recognize any legitimacy of the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan, we may need to find ways to get health care, food and essential services to those in Afghanistan who need the help the most. We need a clear plan. We need the government to take leadership. We need the government to meet with CSOs and folks who are on the ground who know the situation, who can get us through and get the help to those people in Afghanistan right now.
    The second crisis is immigration. My colleague from Vancouver East will be speaking about the immigration crisis, but the government keeps promising things, like 40,000 refugees will be coming to Canada, knowing very well that it has no ability to do that right now. What the Liberals are not telling Canadians is that the majority of those refugees are not coming from Afghanistan. We are asking people in a country with a collapsing economy to get out of Afghanistan before they can come to Canada. We can do better.
    Finally, the third crisis is the international development crisis. This is not something I will just put on the current government. This belongs on the governments of Stephen Harper as well as the governments of the current Prime Minister. Our failure to invest in the people of Afghanistan and to stay with them is something we have seen in our international development file for a very long time. We are at the lowest level we have ever been in the history of our country.
     Over the last 10 years, we have failed to invest in people or in international development. What we see is a country like Afghanistan, where the people are unable to survive without support, and our failure to protect them over years has caused this. Our failure to invest in them and work with our allies has caused this.
    Therefore, I call on the government to recognize that we have a humanitarian crisis, an immigration and refugee crisis and an international development crisis unfolding in Afghanistan right now. Could we all please work together to find solutions to these three crises to protect the people of Afghanistan?
    Mr. Speaker, I was hoping the member could expand on this. Parliament has a standing committee structure. It would seem to me that many of the issues or concerns the opposition wants to deal with could be dealt with by the foreign affairs committee. It has the ability to make those communicational links between the immigration committee and other committees that might warrant it.
    Could the member provide her thoughts in regard to our standing committees and the potential role they could play in this issue?

  (1215)  

    Mr. Speaker, while I do think there is value in using our standing committees for many aspects of what is happening in Afghanistan right now, this committee is important because of the scale and scope of the challenges we see in Afghanistan.
    I also want to point out that the foreign affairs committee, prior to the Prime Minister calling an election in the summer, was not working terribly well. There were multiple instances where filibustering was happening within the committee and other instances where the committee was not working well.
    Finally, there are many other things that this foreign affairs committee needs to look at, including vaccine equity, which is a personal favourite of mine on which we need to do much more.
    The foreign affairs committee already has a lot of work. This committee can look at something that is different and on which we need the voice of parliamentarians.
    Mr. Speaker, I also wish to begin my question for the hon. member for Edmonton Strathcona by congratulating her for her re-election in Edmonton Strathcona. She will recall that her predecessor, Linda Duncan, has been a friend of mine since around 1983 when there were not that many environmental lawyers across Canada. She is a worthy successor to the role Linda played in the House.
    I am very taken with the member's comments. I am also in touch with many organizations that work to try to help Afghanistani women particularly. I am very concerned about the multiple failures, and I agree with the hon. member that it is not just one federal government but successive governments.
    In the current circumstance, what does the member think the benefit is of a committee that reports in six months as opposed to a focused effort of this place, in a non-partisan fashion, to get aid and support to the people of Afghanistan who will remain there in a humanitarian crisis, as well as to ramp up the acceptance of Afghanistani refugees to Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, what we need to look at with this is that it is not one or the other. It is not that we have this committee looking at what is happening and reflecting on the lessons. We need to learn from what happened in August of this year versus having some efforts by members in this place looking at the humanitarian assistance going to Afghanistan. Both of those things can happen at the same time and, in fact, it is imperative that both of them do happen at the same time.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member about a specific part of this motion, paragraph (m), where the committee's work will be supported by an order of the House. In my view, this section of the motion is probably informed by the troubles that standing committees had in the previous Parliament and this may, in fact, be saving this special committee time, because it will be backed up by a full-force order from the House.
    Does the member have any comments on that part in relation to the troubles we experienced in the previous Parliament?
    Mr. Speaker, in the previous Parliament, there was obstruction, there was a deep disrespect from the government for the opposition in how our parliamentary processes would go forward. There is a need to have things put in place to protect our parliamentary roles as opposition to question the government, to demand documents from it, to work to hold the government to account. It is very important and him raising this question was an excellent intervention.

  (1220)  

    Mr. Speaker, given this is my first full speech in the House, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the people of Vancouver East for sending me back here, to bring their voices to the House of Commons. I often look at this place as this place of the people and it is absolutely essential for us to do our jobs and bring our constituents' voices here, represent their needs and drive change. What I have done throughout my entire political life is to really stand by the community and fight for change that matters in their everyday experiences.
    I also want to take a moment to thank the campaign team members. Without them, I would not be here. I often say that I am not here because of me; I am here because of the amazing people who work with me, support me and lift me up to do this work.
    Finally, I come to this place always with these words in mind from the late lieutenant-governor David Lam. He said to me many years ago that it was not the title that brought one honour but rather what one did to honour the title. These are the words I live by every day in the House.
    I requested an emergency debate on Afghanistan on the second day the House resumed after the election. It was my first opportunity to raise the issue, and I was so disappointed the Speaker ruled against it.
    Now we have this motion before us, and the Afghanistan issue is absolutely a crisis to which Canada needs to put its mind. The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking and it did not have to be this way.
    For decades, after risking their lives to help the Canadian Armed Forces, many Afghan interpreters, other collaborators and their extended families were left in the highly precarious situation, being targeted by the Taliban.
    I was astounded, to be honest, when the former minister of immigration's, now the Minister of Public Safety, initial response to help them get to safety was that they could use the existing immigration measures. That was his suggestion. This delay in action prolonged the threats and further endangered lives. Let us be honest about that and let us own that reality. Canada owes them a debt of gratitude and every effort must be made to bring them to safety swiftly.
    With the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Canadian Afghan families are absolutely desperate to bring their loved ones here. I do not believe a day goes by where I do not receive a message from a family member across the country, or even outside of Canada, asking for help.
    In fact, as recently as just this week, I received a message from an Afghan interpreter who received support from the United States and landed there, but whose family members were left behind. Afghan interpreters also helped the Canadian military. Now, even with the government's new Afghan measure it recently announced, they are precluded from being able to bring their family members here because they have to be in Canada in order to exercise that measure.
    There is something really wrong with our approach to this entire situation. Time and again, the Canadian government, the Liberal government, has shown that it is not there for the people who helped us when we needed them the most.
    According to the government’s own website, “Canada and its allies have received assurances from the Taliban that Afghan citizens with travel authorization from other countries will be allowed to leave Afghanistan.” Canada must not squander this small window of opportunity given the dire situation in Afghanistan. The NDP is therefore calling on the government to bring in an emergency immigration measure of utilizing temporary residence permits to help Afghans get to safety.

  (1225)  

    There is no question that the granting of TRPs should be made with temporary travel documents to all Afghans and their extended family members who have supported the Canadian military, to those who are advocates, fighting for human rights, and to women and girls in particular, who are in such dangerous situations. I know of judges and lawyers who have also been left behind. They are asking for help and urging the Canadian government to come to the forefront.
    I am calling on the government to expand the same support to human rights activists in Afghanistan and Afghans with family members in Canada, especially those with family reunification applications still awaiting processing.
     I have a constituent who fled Afghanistan and came to Canada as a refugee three years ago. The minute he was able to, he submitted a family reunification application to bring his wife and his children here to Canada. They have been waiting for three years, and it still has not been processed. Now this has happened. Every time I talk to him he is literally weeping, because he is so worried about his wife and his daughter. Why? It is because they are women in that country, where they cannot be alone. They cannot even go out to get groceries on their own. How do members think families like that feel, who are struggling with this problem? Special immigration measures need to recognize that women and girls need help. They cannot travel without a man accompanying them in Afghanistan right now. That is their reality.
    The government needs to work with advocacy groups in Canada to identify people in Afghanistan and provide them with a TRP and travel documents so that they can get to a third country. I would say that Canada also needs to recognize that under the current environment, Afghans are inhibited from obtaining the necessary travel documents, including a valid visa.
     It is essential that the Government of Canada waive the requirements for documentation at this time and immediately provide them with a TRP and the necessary travel documents. Once they are in safety here in Canada, we can then work to get the necessary paperwork in order, including family sponsorship applications or private refugee sponsorship opportunities. For all of that to work and for the government to promise that 40,000 refugees will be able to come to Canada from Afghanistan, we must also waive the refugee determination requirements.
     Currently, in Turkestan, where many Afghans have fled, there is no system in place for processing Afghans who recently fled from Afghanistan, and refugee determinations are required to qualify under all of Canada’s refugee streams. The government must recognize that and rectify it. It is not something unheard of, by the way. It was done for the Syrian refugee initiative in 2015. If we could do that for refugees from Syria, we can do the same for refugees from Afghanistan. I am asking that we undertake those measures as we undertook them for the Syrian refugee initiative.
    Canadians are deeply compassionate and more than willing to help those in need. Mr. Dan On is a successful entrepreneur in Vancouver. Some members may have seen the products he has on his shelves: the Dan-D Pak and all kinds of products and yummy things. He was a refugee from Vietnam. He came to Canada with literally the shirt on his back and was able to rebuild his life and become a successful entrepreneur. People from Vietnam are a model of how successful refugees can be. He has undertaken to fundraise, to support Afghan refugees all on his own and not ask for anything in return. He understands what it is like to have travelled that journey, and he wants to help.
     I urge the government to take action. We can do it at committee; we can do it outside of committee; we can do it anywhere if we have the political will to make that difference. Let us save lives.

  (1230)  

    Mr. Speaker, the member makes the appeal that we can do anything if the political will is there. There is a great deal of goodwill, I would suggest, that comes from all sides of the House in trying to resolve this in a co-operative manner.
     I reflect on the motion, and at the very least one could say it might be somewhat premature. We have standing committees if we want to look at the refugee file. I know the member opposite has always been fairly keen on the refugee issue. Would she not agree that one of the best ways we could deal with that specifically is to not only discuss it in the foreign affairs committee, but also take it to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where many members have a very active interest in the refugee file and could possibly have a lot to contribute to the debate in terms of how to be of help to Afghanistan? Would she not agree that that is also a good thing to do?
    Mr. Speaker, I am a little more than fairly interested in the refugee file. I am deeply interested in the refugee file, because that is what we need to do. Humanitarian action is required.
    On the issue of a special committee, the advantage of a special committee is that it would bring a number of different departments and ministries together to get the job done, because so far it is not working.
    The government, unbelievably, called the election in the middle of this crisis, which it knew was coming. The day the election was called was the day the Afghan government fell. Then the government told the refugees not to worry, that it would bring them to Canada and that they should make applications and send their information to Global Affairs Canada. The government sent special emails to everyone, but those emails are just sitting there gathering dust.
    I cannot say how many people have said they have not heard from the government even though it has recognized that they are indeed interpreters and told them their families should get to safety. They have had no response—
    Questions and comments, the hon. member for Oshawa.
    Mr. Speaker, one of the things Canada leads in around the world is women's rights and child and maternal health. I was working with an Afghan leader to bring a project to Afghanistan when everything went wrong. He is now stuck in Turkey. These people have helped our initiatives and we are leaving them there.
    The Liberal member said this is premature. I am sure my colleague has a comment, because this is a message for future missions. Canada needs to stand up for the people who support it.
    Could the member please comment on the Liberal member's comment about this being premature?
    Mr. Speaker, I have to say that action from the Canadian government to support people and get them to safety is absolutely essential and urgent. It is not premature. In fact I would argue that it is late in the day for us to get going on this. This should have been done before the election. It should have been done even with the prior administration. The Conservatives created a program from 2009 to 2011, which required at least 12 months of service starting in 2007 for Afghans to qualify to get to safety, even though we knew the Canadian military faced some of the heaviest fighting between 2006 and 2007.
    Successive governments have failed. It is not premature. We should have done this yesterday.
    Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot of talk about stalling by the Liberal government. How is the Liberal stalling on this humanitarian crisis costing lives at this moment?
    Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely costing lives, because people cannot get to safety. The government made an announcement saying it would bring 40,000 refugees from Afghanistan, knowing that the refugee determination process does not enable them to get to safety and knowing they cannot get the documentation to get to safety. All of that is just words. It is meaningless and costing lives.

  (1235)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is with a sense of duty and honour that I stand here today in the House to support this motion to set up a committee to review Canada's actions during the evacuation of Canadian personnel and civilians and our Afghan friends and allies from Kabul; those who got out.
    As a former associate minister of national defence, I want to say that my heart goes out to those 40,000 Canadians and their families who served in Afghanistan, and to our ill, our injured and, most importantly, our fallen. They made the ultimate sacrifice for Canadians so that among other victories, little girls could go to school in peace in Afghanistan and not fear having acid thrown in their faces or being married off at the age of nine. Have we forgotten the attempted murder of Malala by the Taliban in Pakistan, when she spoke up for the education of girls?
    Like Canadians who served during the Afghan mission, the Afghan war, I want to say how profoundly saddened I was to watch Canada strike her colours and run from Kabul, leaving many Afghan friends and allies behind, along with their families, for the Taliban to decide their fate. The victors of Vimy, the Hundred Days, D-Day and Kapyong, had they been able, would have cried out in rightful indignation at the scenes at the airport and at Canada's final retreat. For me and many friends and colleagues, it was a week of feeling frustrated, weak and sickened by the government's half-hearted approach, which can be summed up by “last in and first out”.
    To be clear, I have nothing but praise for the professionalism of the Canadian embassy staff and our Canadian Armed Forces personnel, particularly our special forces, who were left to hold the bag for the Liberal government. I only wish they would get the love and support they need from the government in terms of modern equipment, but that is not the Liberal way. It apparently is not the Liberal government's way.
    As a former minister, I get to see how decisions are made behind closed doors; I have an idea of the “battle rhythm” of a crisis and the response to it. Canada's response has been slow, overly bureaucratic, risk averse and without any real political leadership to get things done. We could see the dithering at the highest levels of the Liberal government, because we were in the lead-up to an election and then into an election that the Liberals thought they had in the bag. To put it simply, the government shamefully had its eyes on a majority government at a pivotal time and could not have cared less about the national interest or the human tragedy unfolding thousands of kilometres away in Afghanistan.
    Canadians have the right to know what the government did in the run-up to the fall of Kabul and what it did afterward. The peace treaty with the Taliban was signed on February 29, 2020, and later, on April 14, 2021, the Biden administration announced its intention to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.
    I will be splitting my time with the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
     If February 29 did not ring any bells in Ottawa at the Prime Minister's Office or the Privy Council Office or Global Affairs or National Defence or Citizenship and Immigration, there can be no question that alarm bells should have been ringing on April 14, with the clear end date set for September 11.
    What did the Liberal government do when the United States administration announced its planned withdrawal? Did it strike an interdepartmental committee of deputies? Did it lay out plans for an all-of-government response? Did it send a reconnaissance team to Kabul to look at the logistics of getting thousands of Canadians and their Afghan allies out of the country? Did it lean ahead and start evacuations of, say, our Afghan embassy staff and interpreters, likely the easiest to clear, and get them and their families out?
    It looks like the government was like a deer caught in the headlights and did nothing. Had there been any action, the government would no doubt have stood on soapboxes across the nation to announce the news. Instead, it chose to do nothing, and this is the point. It was a choice.

  (1240)  

    The government had months to plan, marshal its resources, lean forward and carry out evacuations with the Afghan government and U.S. military still in control of the country. It did not do it. Then between May and July 2021, the Taliban started to make predictable gains on the ground in Afghanistan. As U.S. forces started to withdraw, as money dried up for pay of the Afghan army, as America withdrew the logistics consultants that kept the Afghan air force flying and the Afghan army vehicle fleets moving, the Canadian government had access to the same intelligence as our allies and could have sped up its evacuation operations then.
    Did we reach out to the Pakistani government or the military and ask them for assistance? Knowing that the tide was turning on the ground, what did the Liberal government do to get our people, our friends and our allies out? Where was our logistics hub? Why was there not a search capacity in place to process visa applications? Almost a month after, on July 23, the government announced its so-called path to protection; path to protection, indeed. Almost as soon as the path to protection was announced, the government was running in the opposite direction and jettisoned the 72-hour application deadline.
    Let us look at timelines. Four months after President Biden announced the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the first evacuation flight out of Kabul landed in Canada. By August 10, the Taliban controlled 65% of Afghanistan and the second and third largest cities, Kandahar and Herat, had fallen. On August 13, Canadian officials announced a plan to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, including interpreters, activists, women leaders and members of the LGBTQ community. Two days later, Kabul fell to the Taliban and the Haqqani network. The death squads started to prowl the streets, going house to house to kill people who put their and their families' safety aside to work with Canadian diplomats, aid workers and soldiers. On August 17, two more flights got out with embassy staff and Afghan interpreters. While death squads were roaming the streets looking for our people, the Prime Minister said he would not give the Taliban diplomatic recognition. By August 20, Canadian officials managed to stop COVID testing and waive passports for refugees. On August 26, we witnessed two bomb blasts by suicide bombers at the airport and the Liberal government, in an election morass, pulled the plug; the evacuation ended. Our ambassador had gotten out 11 days previous.
    Would it not be interesting to see the correspondence between Privy Council, Global Affairs and National Defence? Imagine what the Prime Minister's Office was saying to people about taking no unnecessary risks. All this time, innocent Afghans who took us at our word were seen falling from the landing gear of transport aircraft in desperation to leave and find safety. All the while, the Liberal government was playing for time with the media and the electorate.
    Liberals said that we could stay after the Americans left, that we would get them out by land, that we would evacuate them from regional partner countries like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. It was all smoke and mirrors, all a great game to protect the Liberal Party of Canada and its interests over the national interests and, literally, human life.
    Where are the Liberals' priorities? How many refugees did the Liberal government rescue? It was 3,600 with another 1,200 in transit. First, the target was 20,000 refugees, now it is 40,000. These are targets, not reality.
    In 2006, during conflict in Lebanon, the Conservative government, with less time and warning, evacuated 15,000 Canadian citizens from that war-torn country. It acted with leadership, alacrity and dispatch; quite a contrast to the Liberal government.
    As a former associate minister of national defence, I want to say that we simply cannot forget our allies in times of need. Words with no plan are useless and are costing lives. A special committee and its recommendations are absolutely necessary to streamline bureaucracy and show both compassion and agility.
    Mr. Speaker, priorities.

  (1245)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
    Since this morning, much has been said about this motion, whose purpose seems to be to score political points, rather than quickly producing tangible results to help the people of Afghanistan.
    This morning, we heard several times that some people are now—just as we are talking together or going for a snack in the lobby—in so-called safe houses, or secret facilities. Those individuals are waiting for the people of a G7 country, whom they helped for several years, to go and get them. We have a duty, a responsibility, towards them.
    My colleagues made some interesting suggestions this morning concerning changes to proposals and amendments to this motion. Given the current state of affairs, we unfortunately cannot vote in favour of the motion, as it is a dog and pony show.
    For example, we talked about reducing the number of documents required, streamlining the process, giving the committee more power and focusing more on the present and the future.
    What is being done to move forward and recruit the staff required to send humanitarian aid to those who need it now? Would my colleague support this set of amendments?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I absolutely agree with my friend that we must act and we must do better. We are in a very serious situation and we need this committee and its recommendations. We need to take a closer look at this. As for our allies, our friends, the interpreters and those left behind, we need to get them out and we need them out now.
    Mr. Speaker, within the motion, the opposition is suggesting that members should be limited in terms of their ability to pose questions, I believe it is four hours, and to share their thoughts with this special committee.
    Does the member believe the government putting in motions to limit opposition's ability to speak in committees is any more right than the opposition doing it to the government?
    Mr. Speaker, generally speaking, I would say that I am not a big fan of closure of debate and I know my hon. friend does not like it either because he often has a lot to say in this House, and we both welcome and fear those interventions sometimes. In any event, this is a very serious and urgent situation. The reason to get on it within certain parameters is to target our discussions and get the recommendations out as quickly as possible.
    Mr. Speaker, I just had a question around some of the topics in the committee. I agree with the urgent need to help translators and allies get out of Afghanistan.
    Will this new committee address with urgency the challenges for girls and women now and in the future?
    Mr. Speaker, I am particularly concerned about the fate of women and young girls in Afghanistan. We have all seen the videos of nine-year-old girls being sold off into what they are calling “marriage”. This is very serious. I mentioned the need for education of girls and the fact that our efforts allowed them to be educated. Recently, at an international security forum, there was a woman from the former Afghani Parliament there. She was articulate. She was educated. She was passionate and so concerned about the women and girls in her country. We should be just as concerned for them.

  (1250)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, in recent years, Canada has shown that it is not a power with influence on the world stage.
    Right now, we are following the example of other countries who are miles ahead of us. Canada has had multiple foreign affairs ministers since 2015. It takes stability to score points on the world stage.
    In its deliberations, could the committee consider whether it would be a good idea to have some permanency at the Department of Foreign Affairs? If not, Canada will continue to be considered a minor player.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, we should not be considered a minor player. We were a major player in the efforts in Afghanistan. It is with shame, I would say, how we withdrew from Afghanistan and left people behind. We should continue to, in effect, punch above our weight and be integral to bringing those people out.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I think it is important I begin by providing some background so that people can understand why we are debating a motion today about what happened in Afghanistan.
    Let us remember that exactly 20 years ago, Canada was part of an international military coalition seeking to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. At the time, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Canada decided to join our partners from the United States, Great Britain and other countries in fighting the al-Qaeda forces that had gathered in Afghanistan and that were being harboured by the Taliban government in power.
    The coalition obviously included the United States, Great Britain and Canada. Upon their arrival, they had one main mission, a combat mission. It was the first time in years that Canada was officially at war and that our soldiers were being called upon to fight al-Qaeda Taliban terrorists.
    Many of the troops on the ground, many Canadians, engaged in direct combat. We never really saw any figures and so, even though the information exists, we never really found out how many terrorists Canadian soldiers killed outright and wiped off the face of the earth, something I see as a good thing.
    It is also worth remembering that hundreds of Canadian troops lent a helping hand. Those who were fighting the enemy had an extremely difficult, complex and dangerous job, but there were also troops deployed there to help the Afghan people, girls and women in particular, to rebuild schools, and to repair drinking water sources and infrastructure that had been demolished by the Taliban, who are completely insane.
    In the 10 years or so that Canada was directly involved, our troops on the ground devoted all their energy to fighting on the one hand and helping the Afghan people on the other. The Afghan people were under the total control of the Taliban and members of al-Qaeda, some of whom even came from other countries to settle directly in Afghanistan, where they could have land and train as terrorists.
    Let us not forget that 158 Canadian troops lost their lives in Afghanistan. Hundreds, if not thousands, of others were injured. A very good friend of mine blew up three vehicles by driving over improvised explosive devices. He walked away with his life, which is frankly a miracle, because most of the time, once is enough to be fatal. Fortunately, my best friend survived.
    This shows once again, in addition to the 158 men and women in uniform who died either from explosive devices or otherwise, that there are dozens and hundreds of people, like my friend, who almost died for the cause and in order to help. They were there as good Canadians who were deployed on a mission. When Canada deploys on a mission, it is to help. Fighting is one thing, but helping people is what motivates us the most. That is what we did, and Canada’s military has never wavered.
    I was in the military at the time. I personally had to train soldiers who were deployed to Afghanistan, here in Canada, and even in the U.S. The training was on counterterrorism response and how to go into villages and fight the enemy lying in ambush. I was also trained on how to go and inform a family that a soldier had been killed. I learned how to deal with the family of a soldier killed in action.
    Canadians can be very proud of what the military has done and what Canada has done. Some 40,000 Canadian troops were deployed during those years, both the regular and reserve forces. These were moments of great pride. It was dangerous, but the troops who trained and deployed had the great honour of doing that job.
    Canada stopped fighting in 2011 and left Afghanistan in 2014. We completed our mission. We did what we could with the resources that Canada had. It was very difficult and very demanding, even though it was a source of pride. However, it still seriously challenged the ability of the Canadian Forces to do what we did, and we stuck with it until the job was done.

  (1255)  

    The United States, Great Britain and other countries stayed longer to ensure that Afghanistan stabilized and that the government could remain in place. Unfortunately, as we saw this summer, the country collapsed. Everyone left Afghanistan on August 31, 2021, and the Taliban has taken power once again.
    What happened over there? How, after 20 years of work, did we wind up completely losing control over the situation? After all of that, how did the Taliban regain power?
    We need to investigate this and gather as much information as possible, but most importantly, we must look back to understand why Canada did nothing to help our allies on the ground, the Afghans who worked for us, people like Wali and Mohammed and their families. These people worked as our interpreters and cooks, putting their lives at risk.
    Let us not forget that, during the 10 years that we spent there, hundreds of thousands of Afghans risked their lives to help us. As soon as an Afghan was associated with the Canadian Armed Forces, they were considered an enemy by the Taliban. These people helped us accomplish our mission, helped Canada and the allies save their country, at great risk to their own lives and those of their families.
    We knew that this was coming. Months before August 31, 2021, we knew that there was a problem and that these people's lives were being threatened. The NGOs warned Canada and the coalition countries. Everyone was warned.
    The Americans prepared to help the people of Afghanistan who helped them, but in Canada, there was complete radio silence. We were in the middle of an election campaign. Then all of a sudden, Canada realized that we had friends there and that we had abandoned them.
    The Prime Minister thought the election campaign was more important. We got the feeling that he did not care about what was happening in Afghanistan, that he did not care about those people. Perhaps that is not the case, but that is the impression that we got from what the Prime Minister and the Liberals were saying. It did not seem as though they had any consideration for the Afghans who helped Canada for so many years.
    However, warnings were issued. Everyone knew that the danger was coming and it was time to act. Of course, it is complex to intervene, but the time to act was when the Americans and the British were still over there. There is no sense in waiting until August 31, when everyone has withdrawn, and then arriving late and saying that it is complex to intervene, as the Prime Minister told me during question period. Of course it is complex, but what were the Liberals doing when it was time to act?
    That is why the official opposition, hopefully with the support of the other two opposition groups, will get a special committee established. The purpose is to get to the bottom of this. I agree with my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois that immediate action is needed, and I hope the government across the way is moving on this. I hope that the Liberals are moving quickly and doing everything they can to help people like Wali and their families come here.
    We need to investigate and find out why our government did not take more effective action, to understand what was not done and why it happened, so that it does not happen again. That is why we as parliamentarians have a job to do.
    The special committee to be set up will be able to carry out the necessary investigative work to help us understand. If the government needs to be reprimanded, it will be. If there was no other possible action, we will find that out. The important thing is to get to the bottom of this, and that is why we are here today. In order to shed light on what happened, all parliamentarians have to vote in favour of this motion.
    I agree with the Bloc Québécois that we must act now. However, it is up to them, on the other side of the House, to hurry up and get the Afghans whose lives are currently in danger out of their country.

  (1300)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative motion reminds me of the relationship that I have with my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles on Twitter. Let us just say that my intentions are not always the best when we debate on Twitter, and I get the impression that what the Conservatives are trying to do is embarrass the government.
    I would ask my colleague whether he would agree with me that there should be an amendment to the Conservative proposal to focus on the present and the future from a humanitarian perspective.
    Would that not be a good way to untie this knot that perhaps leaves us with the impression that the aim of my Conservative friends is to make the government look bad?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Jonquière for his question. We all like to poke fun at each other on Twitter from time to time.
    In the first part of his question, he says that the purpose of our motion is to make the government look bad. However, if the government had done its job properly, we would not be debating this motion today, and we could have debated a motion about something else. If the government does not do its job properly, then it must answer for that.
    With regard to the second part of his question, I was told that the Bloc Québécois has amendments to propose, which I think are quite acceptable. I cannot give the final confirmation because I am not the one responsible for this matter, but I think that the Bloc Québécois is raising some interesting points. The important thing is that we be able to adopt a motion that everyone finds acceptable in order to hold the government to account.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I have asked this question of others and would be interested in the member's response to it.
    We have standing committees on foreign affairs, immigration and defence. They have been known to coordinate in the past. There would be more involvement by members of Parliament.
    I am wondering if the member believes that our standing committees have a role to play in this. Should they be pushed to the side in favour of this motion?

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. It is good to see him in the House, so I thank him for being here.
    The fact is, all the committees are already overloaded because they have to conduct their own studies on specific subjects or bills. For example, the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations had to be established because there were so many subjects that needed to be studied.
    More recently, the Special Committee on the Economic Relationship between Canada and the United States was established. The reason we need to form special committees is that there are too many subjects to study and the existing committees do not have time. For example, if the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development were asked to do a study, it could take six months or even a year to complete.
    We must act swiftly. I think that enough members would want to be on the special committees, so that is not a problem, because all of them would be happy to be part of these committees.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his dedication and service to our country, in particular in preparing our service members to help out in Afghanistan and help Afghans.
    He highlighted the risk that Afghans face on a daily basis from the Taliban. I know first-hand the torture and abuse and how vicious the Taliban can be when they take revenge on those they feel do not support their cause.
    I would like the member to elaborate further on the urgency of setting up this committee and getting solid recommendations to the government to take action now.

  (1305)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He is a great soldier who served missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. When he was elected for his first term in office, he was just getting back from Iraq. I thank him for his military service.
    We know the Taliban are capable of the worst cruelty imaginable. They are lawless people who will do whatever they want to a five-year-old child because that child is just a piece of meat to them. The Taliban deserve no respect because they do not respect human life. That is why we must act now. People over there are in dire straits. Their lives are in imminent danger. The Taliban would just as readily kill someone who helped Canada as they would a fly.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting and important discussion we are having today. Earlier I posed a question to the leader of the official opposition, and prior to asking the question, I commented on what we share in common. The aspect both of us agree on is our appreciation and love for members of the Canadian Forces and, over and above them, service members who were engaged in what took place in Afghanistan.
    The Afghanistan issue has been before the House of Commons at many different points in time over the last decade or more. In fact, it very much predates my first election to the House of Commons back in 2010. I want to approach the issue of process first and foremost as a parliamentarian and second as someone who has gone through the election and heard what the Leader of the Opposition and other members talked about regarding the election call, priorities and so forth.
    Back in the day there was a war taking place in Iraq, and there was a great deal of pressure on then prime minister Jean Chrétien that we be engaged. We were being criticized, from what I can remember, by the Conservatives for not committing. I believe the NDP was opposed to it. The former prime minister, back in the day, made the decision that Canada would not get directly involved, even though the Americans wanted us to be.
    We argued that we wanted to work with the United Nations and others in dealing with the issue of terrorism and the other issues that were taking place in that area of the world. The decision was made somewhere in the early 2000s, in 2001 or 2002, that Canada would have a presence with members of our forces. We should never take that lightly.
    We have heard members indicate they have served. The former minister of defence is, from my perspective, a hero. I believe he has served two or three terms in Afghanistan or in that area of the world. There are a number of other members of Parliament who have served.
    I had the privilege of serving in the Canadian Forces, but that was in the early eighties so I was never deployed. However, on November 11, I would be walking with World War II veterans in parades, which was immediately followed by going to the legions and listening to the horror stories of World War II. The sacrifices made by members of the Canadian Forces are important to recognize, and we need to state very clearly that we will never forget and that where we can learn, we will learn.
    At the end of the day, I believe that not one Liberal member of Parliament is saying there is nothing we can learn from what has taken place. There are already standing committees, and there is nothing that prevents standing committees from dealing with what is being proposed today by the official opposition.
    I believe there is a bit of politics in the motion. Those who say there is no politics in it should read some of the speeches provided by the leader of the official opposition. Members cannot tell me there is no politics within the motion, because there is. If opposition members believe it is time we put politics to the side, at least at the onset of this, I suggest they are undermining the potential value of our standing committees.

  (1310)  

    They are proposing a committee that would have, I believe, 12 members. Standing committees such as foreign affairs should absolutely be dealing with it. In fact, it could even be coordinating with our other two standing committees on immigration and defence.
    More resources and more members of Parliament would all be able to contribute, if in fact what the official opposition said was true: that it is not on a political witch hunt, but is trying to get a better understanding of what has taken place. Let us see what happens in the standing committees. Depending on what takes place, there might need to be a follow-up motion of this nature. Anything before that, I would argue, is somewhat premature and possibly politically motivated.
    This is not the first time Afghanistan has been the type of issue it is today. In 2009, when we were in a minority and the Conservatives were in government, the production of papers was always an important issue. We recognize and understand that. That is why the government House leader, the other day, stood in this place and provided an option to deal with what was happening with the Winnipeg lab and the records that were being demanded by members of the opposition. He put something on the table that would alleviate the concerns parliamentarians had with regard to the release of documents.
    When we were in official opposition and the Conservatives were in government and there was a need for documents that could potentially be of interest in terms of national security and beyond, an agreement was signed by Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff and the leader of the Bloc. They understood that a blanket motion, such as the motion that we have seen today, was not in our best interests.
    Let me go back. I said earlier that as a parliamentarian, I was very interested in one aspect of the motion. I will read that part. It is really interesting. When I was in opposition, there is no way I would have supported a motion of this nature. The Conservatives are saying:
    [A]ny proceedings before the committee, when hybrid committee meetings are authorized, in relation to a motion to exercise the committee's power to send for persons, papers and records shall, if not previously disposed of, be interrupted upon the earlier of the completion of four hours of consideration or one sitting week after the motion was first moved....
    The Conservatives talk about parliamentary tradition, but there seems to be a bit of a double standard here on the standing committees, or at least the standing committees that I have participated in. I would ask my colleagues from the opposition, if they are going to vote in favour of this, to tell me that this is another standing committee, especially if the Conservatives are in government. They are saying that whether a member is in the government or the opposition, members will not be able to continue to have dialogue and ask questions.
    It was interesting to listen to the leader of the official opposition when he was giving his comments. He said that maybe if the New Democrats did not work with the Liberals, they would be able to get this thing passed. It is kind of a bit of a rub with the NDP.

  (1315)  

    We all recognize that, yes, the NDP play a very important role in this and, yes, the Conservatives can maybe shame the NDP into supporting what they are trying to do here, but from a parliamentarian's perspective, I do not believe that it is a healthy motion that deserves the support of the House of Commons. It needs to be amended, at the very least.
    The Conservatives would never advocate for that for opposition members in other standing committees, because they understand the importance of a member's right to be able to say something in the standing committees. At times there is a need to get things through, and unfortunately there are limits that are put into place from time to time, but I do not believe, given the subject matter we are talking about and the makeup of the committee, that this aspect of the motion is good.
    The motion states that:
(vi) a copy of the documents shall also be deposited with the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel in both official languages within one month of the adoption of this order, with any proposed redaction which, in the government's opinion, could reasonably be expected (A) to compromise national security, military tactics or strategy of the armed forces of Canada or an allied country
    It goes on to talk about the need for national security, so within the motion itself it is realized that there are very sensitive documents that one has to have a higher security clearance level to deal with.
    We already have a standing committee that can deal with the issues that are being proposed. We are a part of the Five Eyes, which as of today has an all-party agreement and the security clearance to deal with this. We already have a motion on the floor from the government House leader, as I pointed out, to deal with the lab and the release of documents that have security concerns through the Department of Health. There is an arbitration mechanism. There is a wonderful opportunity for all parties. It is a very apolitical mechanism.
    Where is the official opposition, in particular, in terms of wanting to genuinely come to the table and say “Okay, let's work this thing through”? It can be done if the opposition has the political will to make it happen.
    Where we agree is on the need to look into these matters and to pose these questions. It is not just members of the opposition who have questions. There are many government members who have questions and they, too, want to hear answers.
    We are not trying to hide anything. That is not the intent of the government, but much like when Stephen Harper was the prime minister and another issue regarding Afghanistan was before the House, an agreement was put in place that involved the three larger parties in the House: the Liberals, Conservatives and the Bloc. What has changed, other than that the Liberals are on the government benches and the Conservatives are on the opposition benches? Does the Conservative Party have no interest now in trying to resolve this? When passing this motion, which is yet to be determined, I would hope that members of the House would take a look at what is being asked of them.
    In 2001, there was participation in some form or other from the Canadian Forces. I do not know the details of what it was. In 2002, the Canadian Forces really began to be deployed. In 2006 or 2007, the forces were deployed in a much larger number, and in 2014 the then government pulled the Canadian Forces out.

  (1320)  

    In that period of time, 159 members of the Canadian Armed Forces died as a result of being engaged in Afghanistan, not to mention the injuries and the psychological issues that have followed, and not including the non-military personnel. I believe that we owe it to those people to make sure that we do this correctly and appropriately. At least at the very beginning, let us take the politics out of it. There is a need to show compassion.
    Members have mentioned that during the election we said 20,000 refugees. In 2015, when there was a crisis in Syria, we committed to 25,000 refugees. The Conservatives seemed to indicate that we would not be able to do it: that it was just an election gimmick. We more than surpassed that, by huge numbers.
    We take very seriously the commitments that we have made. We talk now about 40,000. The member makes reference to those who supported the Canadian Forces. I remember talking to the media when I was in opposition about English translators supporting our Canadian Forces, and the need to accommodate them. It was in 2013 or 2014 that we first raised the issue and challenged the government to respond to that need.
    We do not need to be told. We understand. We know what Canadians expect of the government. We will hit our targets that the Minister of Immigration and the Minister of Foreign Affairs talk about, and the commitments coming from the Ministry of Defence. I really believe that the opportunity to provide humanitarian aid is there today. Our global diplomats have a focus on the refugee situation. I applaud those civil servants and diplomats who are going through some very difficult files seven days a week. I believe that the government is open to ideas, whether from members of the Liberal caucus or members of the opposition caucuses.
    At the end of the day, I believe there are things we can learn from this. I am just not convinced that the motion before the House is really in our best interests. I understand why the official opposition has moved the motion, and I suspect that other opposition parties might be following suit. Maybe there could be some potential amendments. If the opposition came to the government and talked about it, maybe we could resolve this in a positive way, just like the positive resolution in 2010 that Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Harper and the leader of the Bloc signed off on. They did so because they recognized the importance of national security and the interests of Canada and of all the thousands of people who were directly affected by the release of information.
    That is why I would have much rather preferred to see negotiations before getting to this point. My challenge to opposition members is to never give up on the negotiations. Bringing forward motions of this nature is an easy way out.

  (1325)  

    Mr. Speaker, I will first make a quick correction to something the member on the government side said: 158 Canadians died in Afghanistan, not 159.
    The member talked throughout his speech about partisanship and that whole angle, yet he spent more time talking about the official opposition and history than the actual motion at hand, which is the importance of the urgency in taking care of these Afghans who risked their lives to support Canadians. Now we are leaving them behind. He suggested the standing committees as possible solutions to this. However, in the last Parliament, particularly at the defence committee, we witnessed Liberal members filibuster non-stop, and he wonders why part of the motion is to deal with this issue.
    Will the member stand up for those Afghans who helped save Canadian lives and vote for this motion, or will he not?
    Mr. Speaker, when I sat in opposition, I stood up for translators and argued that they should be able to come to Canada, given the service they had provided our nation. I believe most, if not all, parliamentarians recognize the valuable contributions locals in Afghanistan performed, endangering their lives in many different ways. We are all concerned. That is one of the reasons the Prime Minister and this government have made the solid commitment of 40,000 refugees. We will hit that target, and if anyone needs to be convinced of that, one needs only to look at the commitment we made to Syrian refugees, when we more than hit the target of 25,000 we set back then.
    That sense of commitment is there. The passion and compassion are on all sides of this House, as we all want to resolve this in a positive fashion.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg North always delivers very elaborate speeches that touch on several different issues. What he seems unable to do is admit that the government dropped the ball and sent out confusing messages. People were asked to do COVID-19 screening, fill out paperwork and have valid passports while the country was at war. There comes a point when a government has to act fast.
    The Bloc Québécois does not want to dismiss this motion altogether. It could be part of a motion calling for humanitarian action. Does my colleague agree that a committee should be created that would decide which documents need to be provided, set its own deadlines and analyze the humanitarian situation to truly help the Afghan people?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would turn to the agreement signed by Gilles Duceppe, the member's former leader, Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper. They recognized that there was very sensitive information, yet an agreement was achieved and documents were shared. We are not saying we should not be studying this issue. The government is not saying that.
    There are questions on how to best do that. The government House leader made a recommendation on Health Canada and the lab issue, which would allow for it. Given the political desire to deal with this issue in an apolitical fashion, why not allow for negotiation to draw this to a conclusion? Instead, the opposition party is trying to force the government or the Speaker to make a ruling. This can be negotiated; it should be negotiated.

  (1330)  

    Mr. Speaker, I understand the member for Winnipeg North's concerns. I think there is a desire from all members of the House to really look at this issue in depth. We may quibble over what the best format of that is, but the Conservatives have put together a motion, and that is for us to consider.
    I wanted to ask about the specific section of the motion that makes reference to a House order, and I would invite the member to consider that this part of the motion is probably informed by the experiences the opposition had in the previous Parliament. I have heard other Liberal members make reference to the fact that time is our most precious resource. In my mind, having this part of the motion in place would save this committee time because, if there were to be any kind of obstruction or delays in this committee's attempt to gain information, at least it would have an order of the House accompanying it.
    Would the member not agree that this has been informed by previous experiences, and that this would really be giving us the tools to do our job and hold the government to account?
    Mr. Speaker, the member knows Mr. Christopherson from Hamilton. I would sit in committee with Mr. Christopherson, on such topics as on the Elections Act, and he would talk endlessly. As much as I would get a bit bored of what the member was saying, I respected what he was attempting to do. I believe that, through standing committees, we can negotiate compromises that will improve upon things.
    Whether it is in provincial legislatures, here in Ottawa or in parliaments around the world, filibusters do, at times, improve situations. I would appeal to members to consider what should be done here. This motion is, in fact, premature. There is an obligation in this House to attempt to negotiate the best interests prior to bringing forward a motion of this nature. I wish that is what had happened.
    If Gilles Duceppe, Michael Ignatieff and Stephen Harper could negotiate on an Afghanistan issue back in 2010, why can we not do it here? Why is there this confrontation? I do not think the confrontation is necessary because we all agree that we want to look into it, study it and learn from it.
    Mr. Speaker, I would just say to my hon. colleague from Winnipeg North that the probable reason there would be some confrontation here, if there were, and it is our view that there is not, is that there is not any information on the table. The government has had that information since last spring. If they had put it on the table and acted then, we would not be bringing this motion forward today, and we would have easily seen some results and activity out of it.
    We would have a special meeting simply because, as it states right in the motion, under a special committee any information that would put any kind of security in jeopardy, for Canada or Afghanistan, is allowed to be redacted.
    Is my colleague not in favour of saving the lives of these Afghan people who helped us make their country a better place?
    Mr. Speaker, there is the core of the problem, from my perspective. That is not accurate because, if there is an attempt to redact anything, the committee can say no and reverse it. This is one of the reasons.
    I would recommend the members take a look at the government House leader's response to the issue on the health labs, getting information and the mechanism that is set up. I believe that we need to have a mechanism to deal with national security and the best interests of the Canadian Forces, as well as the best interests of the public as a whole. That is what we need, and that is not within the motion.

  (1335)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, my question will be brief, but I imagine the answer will be long, and I would like to stress the nuance.
    Could my colleague tell us about what happened in the past when Mr. Harper, Mr. Duceppe and a third person, whose name I forget, found a way to study such a file?

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, there is a lot we can learn from the agreement achieved between the Bloc, the Liberals and the Conservatives back when Stephen Harper was prime minister.
    There is a lot for us to learn. My suggestion to the opposition parties and, in fact, to all members, is to take a look at the advantages of negotiations. I know the government House leader is very open to talking this thing through and getting it resolved. Every member of Parliament, including Liberal members of Parliament, want to see a study on this take place.
    Mr. Speaker, this is my first time rising in this Parliament, so I would like to thank all of the wonderful people of Calgary Forest Lawn for putting their trust in me and sending me to this wonderful place to be their voice. I am thankful for all of the support from my family and everyone else who got me here.
    I rise today in support of this important motion. The fall of Afghanistan was tragic, and the tragedy is still unfolding today. The U.S. made no secret of their troops' withdrawal. It was only a matter of time before the Taliban would advance through the country once American soldiers were out of the way.
    When the U.S. made that announcement, veterans, NGOs and experts warned governments around the world that Afghan interpreters, support staff and their families were in urgent need, yet at the time that Kabul fell, Canada had no active plan to respond to the deteriorating situation.
    The government conveniently hid behind the excuse of national security while our NATO allies were launching full-scale evacuation operations to get their citizens, and Afghans who had supported them, out of the conflict zone.
    It has been about four months since Kabul fell, and we finally saw the first plane of privately sponsored refugees come to Canada last week. After almost 120 days, the government has yet to put a plan or a timeline in place for fulfilling its promise to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees. The government has had months to prepare, months since the U.S. began its withdrawal and months since the Taliban took over the country. To say the situation in Afghanistan is dire would be an understatement. There are increasing food shortages, little to no access to money, and travel outside the country is severely limited.
    The Taliban is actively hunting anyone who supported NATO and Canadian forces. The regime is arresting religious minorities, including Sikhs, Hindus, Christians, Hazaras and Ahmadiyya Muslims, and charging them with blasphemy, putting their innocent lives at risk and, in some cases, resulting in death. Women's rights leaders, LGBTQ people, pro-democracy activists and anyone who dares to speak out against the Taliban are harassed, tortured and killed. Vulnerable Afghans are stranded in Afghanistan, watching their friends, family and neighbours arbitrarily arrested or summarily shot in the street.
    In the middle of the Taliban takeover, the Prime Minister called an unnecessary and unwarranted election. He dissolved Parliament and with it, any accountability his government would have had to face. Whenever we ask the minister of immigration what his government is going to do to address this disaster, he has said that it is complicated, that they did not have enough information and that they are working on it.
    Do members know what is hard? Hard is when a person has to hide in the country they fought for, knowing they are on a list and being hunted by a regime with historical ties to some of the most horrific terrorists in history. Hard is living in a country without money or food, unable to feed one's family, practice one's religion or speak one's mind. That is hard.
    The government had months to plan for, and now months to evacuate, those who served alongside our forces and in our embassy. Now it makes excuses and talks about a big commitment to settle 40,000 refugees in Canada. Like other Liberal promises, this one will surely be left behind, just as the government left people stranded at the airport.
    The situation has only become more urgent after the data breach at IRCC, which released hundreds of Afghan refugees' personal information. When I wrote to the privacy commissioner calling for an investigation, I knew that the government would do nothing about this. I welcome the privacy commissioner's investigation into this life-threatening data breach, and I hope changes are made by the government to prevent further leaks of sensitive data. This incident, along with the government's inaction, gives me no confidence that the Prime Minister or his cabinet will do anything.
     There seems to be a lack of urgency coming from the Liberals. It is sad. Afghan refugees feel abandoned. They have been stranded in a country with a regime that is hunting them. My inbox is flooded daily with emails from Afghan interpreters and other vulnerable people desperate for help. They are pleading for someone to do anything to help them. Their calls and emails to IRCC go unanswered. They cannot even get an acknowledgement from the department on whether their case is even being processed or not. It is all well and good for the minister to state that they are in the process, but those families have been left completely in the dark, just like the tens of thousands of individuals stuck in the government's massive backlog of applicants.

  (1340)  

    It is not just those stranded in Afghanistan. This fall, I met with former Afghan interpreters who were resettled in Canada by the previous Conservative government. Now that the Taliban is back in control, they are trying to get their families out and into Canada as soon as possible. They told me stories of how their families were in more danger now than ever. However, IRCC is dragging its feet, leaving these people in the dark.
     When the Afghan government fell, there was no time for the public servants to destroy sensitive documents, so the Taliban now has all the information on anyone who served with the International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan military and Canadian Armed Forces. The interpreters, proud of their service in the war, had shared photos and stories on social media. The Taliban took that information too.
     Since the Taliban began retaking Afghanistan, they have used any information they can get their hands on to find, target, arrest, torture and kill anyone who served with us and our allies in the war. If the Taliban cannot find the interpreters or support staff, they target their families.
    The Taliban send the interpreters messages and emails threatening their families, their parents, siblings, spouses and children. When they realize that the interpreter is in Canada, they begin killing the interpreter’s family members. The government’s answer to this desperate situation is to offer to prioritize family sponsorship applications, the same applications that are in massive backlogs and that were not being processed throughout the pandemic.
    I have personally experienced first-hand the inaction and bureaucratic disaster of the Liberal government. In 2015, I helped to sponsor an Afghan family to come to Canada. The family members are religious minorities who were persecuted by the very people who now control Afghanistan.
     Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention I will be splitting my time with the member for Elgin—Middlesex—London.
    My older brother, the late Manmeet Singh Bhullar, started an amazing initiative to bring those persecuted Sikhs and Hindus refugees over here. It took four years for the Liberal government to bring those who were heavily persecuted to Canada. This included young women and girls who were being targeted as they walked to school. They were being forced into conversion and forced marriages, and the civil government sat around for four years.
    We see the same thing today. It is all due to the bureaucratic, Liberal-made backlog that is causing so many families harm. In this case, it is costing lives. Today, 1.8 million applications are backlogged, waiting to be processed. Families are behind those backlogs. It is hurting families and costing lives.
    Let us think of the refugees who are ignored by the government and are left hoping for private sponsorship. If the private sponsorship only happens every few years during an election year, how can anyone say the government is not abandoning these refugees?
    I want to take this opportunity to thank all the veterans and active-duty soldiers in Canada, first for their service and second for their tireless efforts in trying to get Afghan interpreters and their families over to Canada after the Taliban took over. It is because of them, other Canadians and people around the world that Afghan refugees are getting out.
    These brave veterans have partnered with NGOs to fill the void left by the government. That first plane of Afghan refugees who finally made it to Canada was only possible because of veterans and private citizens who took the initiative and acted. That is why we need to pass this motion to finally get to the bottom of the disaster that has unfolded in Afghanistan and to not let our soldiers’ sacrifice be in vain.
    We need to finally act and evacuate those Afghan refugees abandoned by the government. Families of people still stuck in Afghanistan tell me that they live in constant fear, afraid every time the phone rings. They are afraid that it will be the call telling them their loved ones have been killed by the Taliban.
    Enough is enough. We must pass this motion to hold the government to account and get to the bottom of its failures. We are a country that prides itself on being peacekeepers, defenders of democracy and a land of opportunity. Now is our opportunity to do the right thing.

  (1345)  

    Mr. Speaker, we heard the previous Conservative member talk about the need for collaboration, to get along and remove partisan politics from this. However, the entire last speech took political shots repetitively at the government.
    Does the member not feel the same way, that it is important to try to remove the politics from this?
    Mr. Speaker, what is political is the fact that when Kabul was falling, that member's boss, the Prime Minister, called an election and abandoned any responsibility to those who served our country. That was political. The failed $650 million election was selfish and an expensive cabinet shuffle. These are the words of those who served our country. They deserve this investigation to find out what happened. Why were they abandoned? That is why we brought this motion forward.
    Mr. Speaker, I think all our western allies will view that what happened in Kabul was a catastrophe with respect to our nation-building claims and ability.
    What concerns me is that we are not talking about learning the lessons. Rather, we are dealing with the hurt feelings of the Liberals while we discuss the catastrophe that happened in Kabul.
    Veterans were calling me daily trying to get the interpreters they worked with safely to Canada. I talked with international midwifery organizations that were trying to get women health workers. They were having to rely on other nations. To me, this is not about blame; this is about putting billions into Afghanistan. We told the Afghan people we would be there. We lost a lot of young people in Afghanistan. We have an obligation to find out what happened in Kabul and let the chips fall where they may. Would my hon. colleague agree?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with that. We owe a sense of duty to those who serve our country and we owe it to them to know what exactly happened. When they did everything they could to serve our country, why were they abandoned? Our country was supposed to serve them.
     That is the heart of this motion. We want to strike a committee for those people. It is for the veterans and the NGOs that had to step up when their government failed to so. They want answers. The people who have been abandoned want answers. This is not about politics. I hope the NDP will join us in supporting the motion so we can get to the bottom of this.
    Mr. Speaker, one issue that I worked on, and I know other members have been working on it as well, for the last six years is with respect to the creation of a special program to help the religious minority communities that face severe persecution in Afghanistan. We have been calling for that for six years. Sadly, the government did not act and, in many respects, it is now too late for many of those people. It is very disappointing.
     I wonder if the member can comment specifically on the situation of those minority communities that could have been helped, but were not helped.

  (1350)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his advocacy.
    We as the Conservative Party put forward in our platform that we would help those refugees who had been persecuted. I have been through the process of trying to resettle a family from Afghanistan through private sponsorship. Again, it was the Liberal-made backlogs and bureaucracy that stopped this from happening. We recognized this in our platform and we wanted to speed up those refugee applications. We want to put more emphasis on private sponsorship, because we have seen the government-led programs and they are even worse. The backlog is costing lives, which is why we proposed that in our election platform.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin my speech with this quote:
     “Welcome to Canada” is more than a headline or a hashtag. It is the spirit of humanity that every single one of us would yearn for, if our family was in crisis. I pray that you continue to open your homes and your hearts to the world’s most defenceless children and families?—?and I hope your neighbours will follow your example.
    This was said by Pakistan's most prominent citizen, Malala, in the House of Commons in April 2017. Anyone who was here in the 42nd Parliament was were able to hear those words of Malala and see the work she was doing on human rights, especially for women.
    This is a really important time, because yesterday we celebrated 100 years of women in Parliament. We can reflect on this and what we see today in Afghanistan. I want to reflect on some of the history of Afghanistan and how we got to this place.
     As many members noted, after the horrific incidents that happened on September 11, 2001, Canada joined its allies to fight against the Taliban.
    Canada contributed to the war as the Taliban and their insurgency continued to grow. Canada concluded its operations in 2011, and left Afghanistan in 2014, but it was part of the rebuilding. In Afghanistan, we lost 158 of soldiers and many others were left with psychological and physical issues.
    This is a very important conversation because we have to look at where we are today. Why were we there and what great work was done during this period of time? When the Taliban took over, we knew the horrific things that were happening to women in that country. It is really important that we have this committee. It is important to not only look at the $2.2 billion in humanitarian aid to that country, but also to look at where they are today and see how we can move forward.
    As I indicated, yesterday, we celebrated 100 years of women in Parliament, but we have to reflect on what we see in Afghanistan. All elected officials of its government are males. They are not there to be the voices of women. They are there to be the voices of the Taliban.
    I have heard many people speak about some of the tragedies. As I was doing my research and looking at all the information for this speech, I looked at the fact that in our own chamber, we have former litigators, former journalists and people who worked in public broadcasting. However, today in Afghanistan that would not be an option for a woman. The Taliban has taken that away. In the last four months, women who were fighting and continuing to be the voices of women have now been stuck in their homes and told not to come out because of security reasons. These are the same things that we heard from 1996 to 2001, when the Taliban ruled that country. Unfortunately, we are seeing the exact same thing beginning to happen today.
    What is Canada going to do about this? We are a country that talks about human rights. We are a country that wants to see more for women. We know now that young men and boys are allowed to go to school, from grades seven to 12, but girls are not welcome. The girls are not back in those houses of education. Malala indicated, “The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them.”
    That is exactly what we are seeing today, a country that is going backward. We are seeing a country that has now taken all of the rights of women backward. Unfortunately, a lot of these women are trying to go forward and trying are to have their voices heard. As we have heard from many members, at what cost. A lot of times the cost is their lives and we have to be very worried about that. These are the things we should be speaking to at the committee, not just how we failed Afghanistan in August 2021 but how we can move forward to ensure there is equality.
     An Olympic athlete from Afghanistan would like to compete in the 2024 Olympics, but right now she is hiding in her home. She had a number of Taliban come to her home looking for her because of her postings on Facebook and other social media feeds. This young woman is now fearful for her life. These are the people for whom we should be fighting. These are some of the most vulnerable people in the world. They should be able to have this opportunity.

  (1355)  

     When Afghanistan was ruined after the Taliban, Canada was part of remodelling and restructuring of Afghanistan. We were part of the education and we were part of the infrastructure. We were part of the education when it came to policing and training. This is what our role was.
    To all of those persons, whether they are in the Canadian Armed Forces or are members of NGOs across Canada, I thank them so much for making it a better world. Unfortunately, we are at a stalling point and we know we are going backward. It is really important that we continue to move forward, though.
    I would like to read a quote from the Olympic athlete I was talking about. She is a paralympian athlete, who said, “Please, I request you all, especially all the women from around the globe and the female institutions and the United Nations to not let the right of a female citizen of Afghanistan in the Paralympic movement to be taken away, so easily.”
    This is a young tae kwon do athlete. These are the things that here in Canada we strive for. With children in our own country, we try to make sure they have opportunities. We know poverty continues to get worse in Afghanistan and that the opportunities for food are not there, and there are many other things its citizens have to deal with every day.
    When the Taliban came to power, it promised to respect women and allow them to participate in public life in accordance with Islamic law, but secondary schools remain closed for girls and many women are finding returning to work difficult, with the exception of some professionals in some of the health care sectors.
    We have to recognize that women's rights are not being upheld. We need to talk about what we want to see for this globe. When we are talking about wars and things that happen in these countries that are horrific, we know a lot of it has to do with equality. Unfortunately, what we are seeing in Afghanistan is the exact opposite. This is why we need to work together. This is the reality of what Afghan women are seeing, and once again, we need to be on the ground and helping these people.
    On August 26, we were able to bring some to Canada, who were able to get to flights. We need to do more. As many members have indicated, veterans and other people watching what is happening in Afghanistan are writing emails and letters and calling our offices to ask how they can help.
    We know this tragedy is not going to go away if we just turn a blind eye. It is important to have this committee to talk about where we were in August, what we should have done and how we are going to move forward.
    This is an urgent time for all and I would like to talk about the ministry and what has happened. We see simple things like the fact that the ministry of women's affairs has been replaced. Since the Taliban has come into force, there is not a ministry of women. It has now been replaced with the ministry for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice.
    Perhaps somebody can tell me what that means. It seems very forceful and not about women's equality, not about education for women and not about the opportunities for the families and the generations to come. What are we going to see next?
    I would like to end with a quote from the interim mayor of Kabul, who said that women municipal workers in Kabul should stay home unless they hold “positions that men could not fill or that were not for men.”
    We have to understand that we do not want to move backward. We need to be a country that shows its principles, works with other countries and ensures we are there for Afghanistan in its time of need.
    The member will have five minutes remaining for questions and comments after the next proceedings.

STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS

[Statements by Members]

  (1400)  

[English]

Community Service

    Mr. Speaker, my riding of Spadina—Fort York has been fortunate for many years to have the dedicated service of Carolyn Johnson.
    Carolyn recently stepped down as co-chair of the York Quay Neighbourhood Association, after volunteering countless hours to ensure that our community was informed and engaged on the many issues facing our vibrant and diverse urban centre. From helping to build a waterfront that is accessible to all to enhancing community safety and so much more, we owe Carolyn a debt of gratitude for her leadership and unwavering commitment.
    On behalf of the people of Spadina—Fort York, I express my appreciation to Carolyn for her work as YQNA co-chair and wish her and her husband good health and continued success. I also look forward to continuing to work with YQNA, with Angelo, Ulla and Mary, whose tireless work keeps residents of our community fully aware of issues that matter the most in our neighbourhood.

Taiwan

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Mr. Simon Sung for his hard work and contribution to his home country of Taiwan and its relationship with Canada.
    After starting out in journalism as a young man, Mr. Sung, or just Simon, as most of us know him, decided to pursue his master's in peace studies. He went on to join the foreign services of Taiwan serving in Taipei, Singapore, the U.S. and for the past seven and half years, here in Ottawa at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
    Simon has a great love for his home country of Taiwan and for Canada. He has worked diligently to educate people on the history and culture of this beautiful place, making sure that Canadian MPs are aware of what Taiwan has to offer our country and the world. Most importantly, Simon has made sure that the political situation of Taiwan stays top of mind for all of us.
    I thank Simon for the great work he has done here in the Ottawa region, and wish him all the best as he returns home. I bid Simon farewell.

Human Rights

    Mr. Speaker, in the House, I have worked extensively on international human rights issues, but nowadays, I see many stories from Canada suggesting that we are a country in need of intervention.
     One recent story that got my attention was from Timothy Que, a 16-year-old who attends Eric Hamber Secondary School in Vancouver. Timothy tried to start a Catholic club, a voluntary association of students who get together to discuss Catholic ideas, but administrators forbade him from sharing Catholic teaching at the club, even with students who chose to attend the meetings. This is a shameful violation of freedom of association, but it is one small drop in a growing sea.
     Religious services have faced pandemic-related restrictions that have not been applied to casinos. Government is proposing criminal charges for people who express certain personal or religious views in private conversations. The Liberal platform promised another ideological values test imposed on charities. Dozens of churches were destroyed or vandalized this summer with virtually no comment from political leaders. If these events were happening in another country, I know that Canada would not be silent. I hope more members of Parliament resist the populist pressure to clamp down on minority opinions and instead defend freedom of speech, association and religion as they are protected in our charter.

Pramukh Swami Maharaj

    Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to make this statement today, on the 100th anniversary of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj.
    His holiness was a Hindu swami of the Swaminarayan denomination. He gifted the people of Canada the magnificent BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto, the first traditionally hand-carved Hindu place of worship in Canada. The Mandir stands as a symbol of Canada's diversity, cultural mosaic and spiritual popularity.
    Today, BAPS carries out spiritual and humanitarian activities in 154 towns and cities across our country. Living by the motto “In the joy of others lies our own", his holiness inspired spiritual, humanitarian, environmental, education, health promotion, youth and children's initiatives that touch the people of Canada and the world.

[Translation]

Cartier-Brébeuf Park

    Mr. Speaker, Cartier-Brébeuf Park is in my riding. This park is where Jacques Cartier docked his caravel for his first winter and where he had contact with Donnacona and his community. Therefore, it is a national historic site symbolizing the dialogue between francophones and first nations. It could be an ideal place to introduce schoolchildren to the history of Quebec, but this is not possible since the park is closed during the school year.
    In the summer, anyone who wants to learn about our history has little in the way of resources. The signs are partly illegible; the reproduction of the caravel has rotted and burned without being rebuilt; the cross that was a reproduction of Cartier's has been so neglected that Parks Canada removed it, with no intention of replacing it. The history between francophones and first nations needs to be highlighted and celebrated through better funding for Cartier-Brébeuf Park and year-round public access, because Cartier-Brébeuf Park needs to be more than just a nice, well-mowed park.

  (1405)  

Holiday Fundraising in Vimy

    Mr. Speaker, the holiday season is fast approaching, and many families will have to rely on food banks to help them celebrate the holidays this year.
    I encourage all Canadians to open their hearts and give generously. I encourage the people of Vimy to make a donation to our community organizations. Whether through the food drive organized by the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, the toy drive organized by the Centre communautaire Val-Martin or the fundraising drive organized by the Centre de pédiatrie sociale, there are many ways to help those in need.

[English]

    Whether it is food, a gift for a child or money for a local charity, even the smallest donations go a long way in brightening the holidays of those who are struggling. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Queen's Platinum Jubilee

    Mr. Speaker, February 6, 2022, marks the 70th anniversary of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen's platinum jubilee is a unique, momentous, historic occasion never seen before and likely will never be seen again.
    In keeping with tradition, Canada should use this anniversary to honour outstanding Canadians with a platinum jubilee medal in recognition of public service, volunteerism and other significant civic contributions. Whether it is for rescuing people threatened during the recent catastrophic flooding or appreciating frontline service providers during the current pandemic, rewarding community service with a recognition medal is a Canadian tradition.
     I encourage all Canadians to sign electronic petition 3651, initiated by Deep River resident Lucas Bibby, on the House of Commons website before December 21. We can thank our outstanding citizens and honour Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her 70th anniversary, and say “Long may she reign.”

John Meaney

    Mr. Speaker, no one elected has served the City of Kirkland longer than John Meaney, who sadly left us last month. First elected to city council in 1975, John served as mayor from 1994 to 2013. All told, he led Kirkland from a town of about 7,500 into a populous and prosperous Montreal suburb of 21,000, doing so with an efficient decision-making style and practical common-sense approach.
    John Meaney was a proud Irish Montrealer born in the iconic downtown neighbourhood of Griffintown. In 2008, in a fitting honour, he was named Grand Marshall of Montreal's legendary St. Patrick's Day parade; and, in 2012, Montreal's Irishman of the Year.
    I ask members to join me in offering our sincerest condolences to John's wife Evelyn and daughters Sharon, Colleen and Laurie.

[Translation]

Women's Participation in Public Life

    Mr. Speaker, as the first woman to represent my community in the House, I recently reflected on the importance of women's participation in public life.

[English]

    We began this week by reflecting on the tragedy of the École Polytechnique massacre. Each year, this moment of mourning and reflection brings back hard memories and the pit I felt in my stomach when I first heard the news that day as a law student surrounded by my female peers.

[Translation]

    That cowardly act of misogynistic violence did not stop the progress made by women in our professions or in academia. We would not let it.

[English]

    Of course, we also marked, yesterday, the 100th anniversary of Agnes Macphail's election as the first female MP in this country. Today, we have a record number of female MPs and I expect to join many of them this evening, as Equal Voice Canada celebrates 100 years of women parliamentarians at a gala dinner. Let us use our time here to model to our daughters and granddaughters that this is a place where they belong.

[Translation]

    Their voices and their contributions matter.

[English]

Pramukh Swami Maharaj

    Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to recognize the 100th birth anniversary of His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj. His holiness was a Hindu swami of Swaminarayan denomination and he gifted the people of Canada the magnificent BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto, which is the first traditionally hand-carved Hindu place of worship in all of Canada. The Mandir stands as a symbol of Canada's abundant diversity, cultural mosaic and freedom of religion.
    His holiness lived by the saying “In the joy of others lies our own”. This was evident in his work, which promoted health and inspired spiritual, humanitarian, environmental and educational initiatives. BAPS charities have supported communities right across Canada, including in my riding of Edmonton Mill Woods, and provided thousands of COVID vaccines to Canadians.
    Since his passing in 2016, his successor, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, continues his legacy of inspiring people around the world. Pramukh Swami Maharaj's life work is one that needs to be preserved and celebrated for the present and future generations.

  (1410)  

    Before continuing, I want to call order. Members are making statements and we would like to hear everything they say. It is nice that everyone is talking among themselves, but the murmur is getting to a point where it is more than that and it is making it difficult for us to hear.
    While I am up, I want to remind all members that S.O. 31s are 60 seconds long. Some of them have gone a little longer than that. I do not want to have to cut anybody off.
    The hon. member for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Local Broadcasting

    Mr. Speaker, I rise to register deep concern over the performance of some local radio outlets during the storms and flooding in British Columbia.
    On one forum, a former broadcaster commented, “After watching Abbotsford Mayor Braun's 9pm press conference on the city's YouTube channel last night, warning residents of Sumas Prairie to evacuate NOW...I thought I'd dial up the city's radio station to hear what they were doing. After painfully struggling through a 5-minute commercial cluster, they played their station ID and went back to another 10 [songs] in a row!”
    A disaster can wipe out land lines, cellphones, cable and the Internet, but traditionally news and alerts have always been as close as that car or truck radio. I plan to ask the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to review broadcasters’ performance in B.C., including disaster plans, staff resources and technical resiliency. With station ownership now so much in the hands of large corporations, there is no excuse for Canadians to be underserved.

[Translation]

Food Banks

    Mr. Speaker, Christmas is the time to open our hearts and give generously to those in need. Food banks support people of all ages in my riding through different services. Over the past year, there has been an unprecedented demand for those services. Many food banks in the region have seen an over 50% increase in demand and in the number of people using their services, and they have also had to deal with supply problems.
    During this holiday season, I encourage members of our community to join me in making food or monetary donations to support families. Many local and regional food drives, associations, family support centres and grocery stores are working together for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.
    Each of our RCMs can count on the following volunteer organizations: Moisson Kamouraska in La Pocatière, the Carrefour d'Initiatives Populaires in Rivière-du-Loup, Soupe au bouton in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, and Maison de secours La Frontière in Montmagny.
    I invite everyone to be very generous to ensure that everyone can enjoy the holidays.

[English]

Women and Gender Equality

    Mr. Speaker, tonight, with Equal Voice, we are celebrating 100 years of women in the House and the 374 female members of Parliament elected since then.
    Over this century, there have been many firsts, beginning with Agnes Macphail breaking the glass ceiling when she was the first woman elected to the House of Commons, along with the first female cabinet minister, Ellen Fairclough, and our first female prime minister, Kim Campbell. I have the honour of being the first female engineer in the House of Commons.
    I want to thank these trail-blazing women for their hard work and dedication in paving the way for us now, and I want to honour their legacy by having more diverse voices from women, marginalized communities and minorities here in the House. This will better reflect the diversity of Canada and create a strong political foundation for the representation of all Canadians.
    Let us celebrate 100 years of women in this House and look forward to a future of even more.

  (1415)  

Pandemic Preparedness Research

    Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House today to highlight some of the remarkable work being done at McMaster University.
    I am a proud Mac grad and Marauder, so the opportunity to speak to their work to develop Canada's global nexus for pandemics and biological threats is especially significant.

[Translation]

    McMaster University worked with world experts on infectious diseases to fight COVID-19.

[English]

    They established Canada’s first global nexus, a network of experts from academia, industry and government, working to prevent and prepare for the next pandemic. Researchers at Canada’s global nexus have developed a second-generation inhalable vaccine, which is expected to be highly effective against emerging variants. I read this morning that researchers at Mac are starting the phase-one trials of the inhaled COVID vaccine now.
    Canadian research excellence is leading Canada's contribution to the global recovery from this pandemic, so that every country can emerge stronger and more resilient than ever.

[Translation]

    I want to thank all the staff at McMaster University for their hard work and innovation that has saved lives.

[English]

Alberta

    Mr. Speaker, we are seeing the impacts of climate change in Canada, from the recent floods and mudslides in British Columbia to the storms that have threatened Atlantic Canada and the wildfires, floods and droughts that have wrought havoc in Alberta.
    However, Albertans are actually facing two crises. One is the climate crisis and the other is the economic crisis. Albertans are caught between the need to reduce emissions and our reliance on the oil and gas sector. A total of 140,000 Albertans work directly in the sector, and hundreds of thousands more jobs rely on it. If we do not support workers in Alberta, Canada will not be able to meet its climate obligations.
    After decades of Alberta's contributing to building Canada's economy, it is time for federal leadership to help Alberta secure a lower-carbon future. We need targeted investment to reduce emissions within the sector and targeted investments to create jobs outside the sector. Alberta has the knowledge base, and we just need the federal government to invest in Albertans. This cannot wait. The government must invest in a federal jobs plan now.

[Translation]

Charlevoix Maritime Museum

    Mr. Speaker, for a long time, the St. Lawrence schooners, those beautiful, traditional wooden boats, were the only means of transportation available. They delivered supplies to the towns and villages along the St. Lawrence River and enabled them to flourish long before the railways and roads were built.
    As the daughter and granddaughter of schooner captains, I know how courageous and knowledgeable the men who sailed these small but noble hand-built vessels were, and how much they loved the river. I want to highlight the importance of preserving these schooners, which are full of memories, history and pride.
    The well-known Musée maritime de Charlevoix has been working hard to implement a major schooner conservation project. The Government of Quebec has just confirmed its contribution of $5 million for that project.
    As a daughter of the river, I would be remiss if I did not reach out to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and ask him to follow suit and confirm the $700,000 requested by the Musée maritime de Charlevoix. This would round out the funding we need to preserve our remaining schooners, the jewels of the St. Lawrence.

[English]

Chilliwack—Hope

    Mr. Speaker, today I pay tribute to the people in my riding of Chilliwack—Hope for their selfless and heroic actions during the B.C. storm last month. Farmers rushed into rising flood waters with their trucks and trailers to help their fellow farmers rescue thousands of animals in the Sumas Prairie. Hundreds of people sandbagged in the middle of the night to prevent a catastrophic failure of the Barrowtown pump station.
    The people of Hope cared for 1,200 stranded travellers who were cut off for days due to landslides and road closures. Faith communities, service clubs and neighbours sprang into action to help however they could. Angling guides used their own boats to deliver food, take people to medical appointments and help with the recovery effort. First responders and road crews worked around the clock to rebuild supply lines and keep us safe.
    I have never been more proud of my community. We came together in a spirit of unity to do whatever needed to be done. We were there for one another during the crisis, and I know we will continue to be there for one another as we rebuild together.

  (1420)  

Bob Kilger

     Mr. Speaker, I rise to honour a friend and former Liberal MP, Bob Kilger, whose battle with cancer came to an end last week. I never got the chance to serve with Bob, but I got to know him through my dear friend, his wife, Courtney.
    Bob was so generous with his time, not only giving me advice but also being a mentor to my staff. Bob told me early on to never be on the bad side of the whip, and that the people working in the whip’s office are extraordinary. They have seen it all, he said, so I should take their advice and guidance. He said they would not steer me wrong.
    My favourite story about Bob is the time Wayne Easter and another Liberal MP were not in agreement on an issue, and there was a contentious committee meeting coming up with the two of them. Bob, as whip and a former NHL referee, went to the committee meeting, sat right between the two and made sure nothing happened and that they all stayed in line. As someone who served with Wayne a lot on committee, I know how difficult it is to keep him in line.
    I will miss my chats with Bob, but I will not forget his lessons. I want to thank Bob’s wife, Courtney, and his entire family, for sharing Bob with us. This place is better because Bob served here.

Oral Questions

[Oral Questions]

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, two years is how much time the government had to prepare for the evacuation of Canadian citizens, interpreters and contractors in Afghanistan. A 2019 CSIS report said there would be a quick collapse in Afghanistan if the U.S. withdrew.
    With over two years to prepare, how did the Prime Minister oversee the biggest foreign policy disaster in decades?
    Mr. Speaker, we have continued to be there for the people of Afghanistan, even after withdrawing our troops over 10 years ago. That is why we continued to work with our partner and allies on the evacuation of people from Afghanistan through the summer. Indeed, we continue to stand by our commitment to repatriate 40,000 Afghans to their new home in Canada over the coming times.
    This is the work we are continuing to do because Canadians expect it. We continue to work alongside our allies around the world to do just that.
    Mr. Speaker, at the end of August, when evacuation operations ended in Afghanistan, 1,250 Canadians remained in that country: 1,250 Canadians were stranded on the ground as a terrorist group seized control of the country. What was the Prime Minister doing at the time? He was campaigning.
    The longest war in Canadian history ended with Canadians, Afghan interpreters and contractors being completely abandoned by the Prime Minister. Canadians want to know why.
    Mr. Speaker, throughout the month of August, officials, ministers, extraordinary members of the Canadian Armed Forces and diplomats were engaged in a historic effort to get as many Afghans out of the country, and as many Canadians home, as possible.
    We worked alongside our partners around the world. We were there to support as many as possible, and we continue to stand strongly with our allies on pressuring the Taliban to allow people to leave the country so we can welcome them here in Canada to start their new lives.
    Mr. Speaker, he says historic efforts. Do members know what the Prime Minister was doing as Afghanistan fell? He was preparing for an election. He was calling an election as Kabul fell. He was planning an election instead of an evacuation.
    My simple question for the Prime Minister is this. On August 15, when he was briefed that Kabul was about to fall, why did he put his own political survival ahead of the real survival of people on the ground in Afghanistan?
    Mr. Speaker, we can all remember the speed at which events unfolded in Afghanistan and the intensity with which members of the Canadian Armed Forces, our diplomats and our partners around the world continued to step up to evacuate people from Afghanistan and make sure that Canadians were getting out to safety, and indeed continued to be engaged with the people of Afghanistan throughout.
    We know we need to continue to put pressure on the Taliban government to allow people to leave Afghanistan. That is what we are continuing to do alongside our partners, and we will bring 40,000 Afghan citizens to Canada to start their new lives.

  (1425)  

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, we had two years of reflection, slowness and failures, and this continues despite the SOS messages. The evacuation of Canadians and the Afghan interpreters and contractors who helped us was not a priority for this Liberal government.
    Why did this government ignore Canadians' pleas and cause the greatest diplomatic disaster in decades?
     Mr. Speaker, I thank our soldiers, diplomats and all those who worked tirelessly to evacuate thousands of people from Afghanistan. They are still working to make sure that 40,000 Afghans will soon be able to come to Canada.
    We will continue putting pressure on the Taliban to allow people to get out safely. We will continue to work with the international community to give a better life to tens of thousands of people who genuinely deserve it.
    Mr. Speaker, the only thing the Prime Minister does tirelessly is call elections. This Liberal government's foreign policy is a disaster. It is one failure after another.
    There are 1,250 Canadians trapped in Afghanistan. The terrorist group continues to terrorize people, but this Prime Minister was focused on calling a pointless election. He is all talk and no action.
    Why did this government abandon our Afghan allies?
    Mr. Speaker, that is quite simply not true. We worked with our allies in Afghanistan, with organizations and with our partners around the world. Members of our armed forces, our diplomats and our officials worked tirelessly to save as many people as they could in August.
    Since then, we have continued to work with the international community to put pressure on the Taliban so that we could get people out of the country and bring them to Canada. We will bring in 40,000 people to make sure we continue to be there for the people of Afghanistan.

The Environment

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that our Liberal friends have discovered the virtues of physical attendance in the House. I am really happy about that.
    However, I am concerned, and I want to tell all of them that I am concerned, because, according to the CBC, Ottawa is preparing to make changes to an extremely important regulation that prohibits releasing water from oil sands tailings ponds directly into the Athabasca River. That is obviously not permitted under the current regulation, since that water contains heavy metals and very toxic chemicals.
    Can the Prime Minister tell us that this terrible news is not true and that he will not allow that water to be released directly into the Athabasca River?
    Mr. Speaker, we know that we cannot have a healthy economy without a healthy environment.
    We are working with indigenous leaders, the provinces, the industries and stakeholders to develop strict standards for the release of oil sands tailings water in order to issue draft regulations in 2024. This important work will help us reduce the environmental and health risks associated with storing the toxic materials.
    Mr. Speaker, I have a clear measure for him: the ban that is currently in place.
    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change must be having a rough time these days, because not only is the government funding the oil and gas industry, it is making up false emissions caps and removing regulations. It never ends. This government is so pro-oil that the Conservatives are going to have an identity crisis here in the House.
    I am formally calling on the Prime Minister to maintain the ban on direct release into the Athabasca River on a permanent basis.
    Mr. Speaker, there is currently a ban in place, but we are setting strict standards that could take effect as of 2024 on the quality of oil sands process waters that could be released. These measures are backed by science and are intended to protect our environment.

  (1430)  

[English]

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, the fiscal update presents an opportunity for the Liberal government to tackle inflation, which is driving up the cost of living for families. Families are feeling squeezed, and they are struggling to make ends meet. The Liberals say there is nothing they can do. We disagree. They could immediately help people find a home that is in their budget. They could also put a limit on the charges that cellphone and Internet companies charge Canadians, which are among the highest in the world.
    Will the Prime Minister commit today to using the economic update as an opportunity to tackle the rising cost of living?
    Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite said, next week we will be releasing our economic and fiscal update. We will provide Canadians with a transparent look at our public finances and our plan to finish the fight against COVID-19, make life more affordable for Canadians and ensure that our economic recovery leaves no one behind. The best way to get our economy growing and support Canadians is by ending COVID-19.
    We are going to continue to move forward, as we have, on initiatives such as increasing the Canada child benefit to match the cost of living, $10-a-day child care for families, boosts to GIS for vulnerable seniors, more supports for students and the many other things we continue to do to support affordability for families.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the economic update is an opportunity for the Liberal government to address inflation, which is driving up the cost of living. It is becoming increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet.
    The Liberals say they cannot do anything, but we disagree. The Liberal government can help families find affordable housing. It can also put a cap on cellphone and Internet plan fees.
    Will the Prime Minister commit in the economic update to making life more affordable?
    Mr. Speaker, the pandemic has caused inflation around the world, and Canadians are facing rising prices.
    Just as we were during the pandemic, we will continue to be there for Canadians. The 2021 economic and fiscal update will give Canadians a transparent look at our public finances and our plan to finish the fight against COVID-19, make life more affordable for Canadians and ensure our economic recovery leaves no one behind.
    The best way to get our economy growing and to make life more affordable is by ending COVID-19. That is exactly what we are doing.

[English]

Foreign Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, today we put forward a motion for a special all-party House of Commons committee to examine Canada's flawed evacuation in Afghanistan. Instead of saving lives, we had an election. Some 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served in Afghanistan and worked closely with Afghan interpreters, whom we promised to protect and evacuate from the country. Now they are hiding in safe houses to avoid Taliban death squads.
    Will the government support this motion to examine what went so wrong on its watch?
    Mr. Speaker, of course the question of Afghanistan is important. It is important to our government, and it is important to all Canadians.
    I just came back from NATO and the OSCE, where I had the chance to meet with many of my counterparts to look at the lessons learned regarding what happened in Afghanistan. We can be extremely proud of being one of the countries that will be resettling the most Afghan refugees in the world, at 40,000. That is our commitment and we will get there.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Hon. Mélanie Joly: Of course, we can also be proud that we will be resettling many of the NATO-linked refugees. Flights are arriving as we speak.
    I want to remind hon. members of the way things work in the chamber. They ask a question and they get a response. If they ask questions while a person is answering, it just messes things up and makes things difficult.
    The hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock.
    Mr. Speaker, I would love it if we got a response. What I am hearing are delays, platitudes and excuses. That is just not good enough.
    There are 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members who put their lives in the hands of our allies and interpreters in Afghanistan. They served together bravely and selflessly so that we could try to build a new Afghanistan. We promised our allies and their families protection and a new life, and the government broke that solemn bond. Just talking about the 40,000 without doing anything means nothing. Canadians returned here to safety—

  (1435)  

    The hon. Minister of Immigration.
    Mr. Speaker, I think all members of the House will agree on the importance of Canada making good on its commitment to resettle 40,000 Afghan refugees.
    Members on the opposite side are asking when people are going to arrive. Two weeks ago, when I was asked this question, I said 3,800 were here. Earlier this week, when I was asked the question, we had more than 4,000. I am pleased to share that by the end of this week, 500 more Afghan refugees will be arriving, including, for the first time, privately sponsored refugees from Afghanistan in my home province of Nova Scotia.
    Our commitment will not waver and we will make good on bringing 40,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees to Canada.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, this summer, Canada failed in its duty to help our Afghan allies.
    Who among us could forget the sad memory and tragic sight of Afghans clinging to airplanes as they were taking off. What happened in Afghanistan is terrible.
    Those people are our friends and allies. They helped Canadian soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. They are interpreters, support staff and their families. Canadians need to know why we were unable to give them the help they needed.
    If the Prime Minister did nothing wrong, then why is he not supporting our call for a parliamentary committee to study the matter?
    Mr. Speaker, the Afghanistan issue is indeed very important.
    Of course, Canada served alongside many of our NATO allies in Afghanistan, and we were supported by many Afghans on the ground, which is why we decided to honour that Afghan commitment to Canada by bringing 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada. We have now taken in almost 5,000, and we are one of the countries that has received the most Afghan refugees. Right now, the situation in Afghanistan is very difficult, and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure that those refugees get here safely.
    Mr. Speaker, during this debate, let us always keep in mind that these Afghans, who are our friends and allies, put their lives on the line so that Canadians could benefit from the current situation. That is why we must not play partisan politics with this issue.
    It is very sad to see the minister laugh, because as far back as 2016, the Leader of the Opposition warned the House that we needed a plan to bring these people home. This summer, when all of Canada's efforts were needed to get these people out, the Prime Minister called a partisan, self-serving election.
    If the government has nothing to be ashamed of, will it accept our proposal to create a committee—
    The hon. minister has the floor.
    Mr. Speaker, I have no lessons to learn from my colleague when it comes to playing partisan politics, because that is exactly what the Conservatives are doing right now.
    That being said, we definitely need to learn from what happened in Afghanistan. As a government, we must do that. We are prepared to work with the opposition, but other countries have to do this as well. We are also working within NATO.
    The most important thing is to be there for the Afghans who helped Canadians and want to come to Canada. We must do this while safeguarding Canada's national security and that is what we will do.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, those who served alongside Canadians in Afghanistan deserve better than being “left on read” by the government. The Prime Minister avoided accountability and abandoned those who served Canada by calling a selfish election. Veterans, Canadians and Afghan interpreters want to know why the Liberal government failed them so badly.
    Will the minister commit to voting in favour of today's opposition motion so Afghan interpreters and support staff know why they were abandoned, and to make sure this failure never happens again?
    Mr. Speaker, of course we want to learn what happened in Afghanistan. We also want to make sure the future Afghanistan is better than it is right now, and that is why we are continuing to follow the situation in Afghanistan very closely.
    We are very preoccupied with the situation of Afghans, particularly women and girls who are right now in Afghanistan. It is why I have raised the issue with all my counterparts, it is why this is an absolute priority and it is why we will play our part as a country to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to our country.

  (1440)  

    Mr. Speaker, it is such a priority that an election needed to be called.
    The minister loves to say that 4,000 Afghan refugees have come to Canada. Only a Liberal would pat themselves on the back for meeting only 10% of their promises without any timeline or plan to complete the rest. It seems like only privately sponsored Afghan refugees have been arriving recently. Veterans, charities and NGOs have been picking up the massive slack left by the government.
    On what date will the remaining 90% of Afghan refugees be brought to Canada?
    Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member wants to frame this in terms of the recent election campaign, I would point out that on this side of the House we campaigned on a commitment to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees here. On the opposition side, members campaigned on a commitment to end the government-assisted refugee stream. He criticizes our—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please.
    I missed the hon. Minister of Immigration's answer. Could he start from the top, please?
    Mr. Speaker, the truth hurts sometimes, but the reality is that if the members of the opposition would like to frame this in the context of the recent federal election campaign, I would point out that the government campaigned on a commitment to bring 40,000 Afghan refugees to Canada.
    The Conservative Party of Canada campaigned on a commitment to end the government-assisted refugee stream altogether. If the member is concerned about the timeline for new arrivals, we anticipate that on two charter flights tomorrow an additional 520 Afghan refugees will land in Canada. That is something we should all be proud of.

[Translation]

Public Safety

    Mr. Speaker, there was another shooting yesterday. This time, an 18-year-old was shot at a library in Laval. Now we are at a point where even our libraries are not safe. No good can come from normalizing the use of firearms to the extent that people feel free to fire guns in public places.
    What will the minister do right now to reassure worried families?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. Our thoughts are with all the victims of violence perpetrated with assault-style weapons or any gun. We are transferring $46 million to the Government of Quebec to draft and implement prevention strategies for dealing with gun and gang related violence. I will be talking to my provincial colleague later, and I will continue to work in close collaboration with all our partners, including members of the House.
    Mr. Speaker, if we are at the point where libraries are getting shot up, what is next? The situation is getting worse by the day in greater Montreal, and yet there does not seem to be any sense of urgency on the federal government's part. No one is reassured to hear the federal government talk today about what it has done in the past to tackle gun trafficking, because everyone can see that it is not enough. We want to see the minister send a clear message and take concrete action so we can be satisfied that the federal government is finally assuming its responsibilities.
    What is the minister going to do?
    Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague's concerns. That is why our government has already taken meaningful action such as banning assault-style weapons, adding more resources to the border to stop them, continuing the fight against gun violence and working closely with the government to create safe spaces for everyone.
    Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with a gun culture where criminal groups buy, sell and use firearms as though they were toys mainly because they are just as easy to obtain as toys.
    The minister has some solutions. First, he could look to his own party for inspiration. The Liberals spent the election campaign saying that the RCMP is not adequately funded and that prison sentences are too lenient. Then, he could listen to his employees. Border services are telling us that they are underutilized. Finally, he could implement the Bloc Québécois's suggestions. We keep making them.
    The minister has been repeating the same thing for two weeks. When will he take action?

  (1445)  

    Mr. Speaker, our government is always willing to work with the Bloc Québécois and with all parties in the House to seek and find concrete solutions in the fight against gun violence. We will continue to work with the Government of Quebec to stop gun trafficking at the border, and we will be participating in several joint forums with the United States.
    This is a major challenge and a major issue, but our government is committed to resolving it.

[English]

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, in order to supply themselves with cheap cash for their record deficits, the Liberals had the central bank flood lending markets with $400 billion of cash. We now learn that $192 billion of that overflowed into mortgage markets, and a quarter of all mortgages outstanding today are low-quality and variable-rate, which are highly subject to increases in interest rates. That has inflated housing prices by one-third and created the second-biggest housing bubble in the world.
    Will the finance minister admit that Canada has a housing bubble?
    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives continue to irresponsibly fearmonger and try to talk down the Canadian economy. The fact is that our Q3 GDP was 5.4%, beating market expectations and surpassing the U.S., Japan, the U.K. and Australia. We have now recovered 106% of the jobs lost to the COVID recession, compared with just 83% in the U.S. In the fall, Moody's and S&P reaffirmed our AAA credit rating.
    Mr. Speaker, it is always reassuring to have your credit rating backed up by those who said subprime mortgages were rock solid in late 2008, but the question was about Canada's housing bubble. I have asked the minister eight times now in the House of Commons if we have a housing bubble. Raj wants to know. He is driving Uber in addition to having an IT job in order to save up over the next 15 years to make a down payment on a $1 million Brampton home.
    Canadians deserve to know. Bloomberg has said Canada has the second-most-inflated housing bubble on earth. Yes or no: Will the minister admit that Canada has a housing bubble?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that it has been a long time since the member opposite has spoken about affordable housing. He has found it fashionable to talk about it, but here is the record. Every time we have put forward measures to help first-time home buyers access affordable housing, help the most vulnerable in our communities to access permanent housing solutions, or help women and children fleeing domestic violence to get rental support, he has voted against these measures.

[Translation]

Employment

    Mr. Speaker, the manufacturing industry in the greater Chaudière-Appalaches region is currently losing $7 million a day in production as a result of the labour shortage in Quebec. The industry needs temporary foreign workers right now in order to get the job done.
    Will the government present a plan to simplify the approval process for temporary foreign workers?
    Mr. Speaker, we are definitely going to do that. We have an agreement with the Government of Quebec with regard to foreign workers.

[English]

    We are making the processes more simple. The Government of Quebec is now able to bring in more workers more quickly. Some of the measures came into place yesterday and the rest will come in the weeks to come, but I can assure the member and everyone in the House that we are working very closely with the Government of Quebec on temporary foreign workers.

[Translation]

    Mr. Speaker, the government needs to implement a plan to save Quebec's manufacturing industry as quickly as possible. Anything less will not do. The government needs to make the labour shortage a priority before our businesses move to other parts of the world because of this government's lack of leadership.
    Will the government conduct a full review of the approval process for temporary foreign workers so that it is faster, more flexible and more consistent for the well-being of Canada's economy?

  (1450)  

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives continue to talk down Canada's strong economic recovery following the COVID-19 recession. Perhaps that is because we did a better job than they did in 2008 when they were in office. Canada has already recovered more jobs than those that were lost during the COVID-19 recession. By way of comparison, it took nearly eight months more to recover jobs after the 2008 recession.

[English]

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, Emanuel Benjamin is a 71-year-old senior from my riding whose GIS benefit was suddenly reduced because he accessed pandemic supports last year. Emanuel was already living below the poverty line, and his income has now been reduced from $1,500 to $600 a month. He cannot afford rent, food or medication. He may lose everything if the government does not step up and fix the issue immediately.
    The Liberal government has admitted there is a problem, so when will it fix this and do what is right for Canadian seniors?
    Mr. Speaker, since the beginning of the pandemic we told Canadians and seniors we would be there for them as long as they needed, and that is exactly what we are doing. We have always prioritized the most vulnerable seniors by strengthening their GIS. We provided immediate and direct financial support to seniors this summer. When it comes to CERB and GIS, I can assure the hon. member we are working on that issue to find the best solution.
    We will be there for seniors.

COVID-10 Economic Measures

    Mr. Speaker, raising the GIS just to claw it back again is not going to do anything for people like Emanuel, and that answer is not going to pay his rent. We have been asking this question for some time now. We see a government that has clawed back the GIS and the Canada child benefit, and it has cut the CRB for 900,000 Canadians just as we are seeing COVID case counts go up. Financial support is not there for all of those 900,000 people who need it.
    When is the government going to stop building the recovery on the backs of the financially vulnerable and actually look for some of the money at the top, such as with publicly traded companies that took the wage subsidy and have not paid anything back, except to their shareholders?
    Mr. Speaker, I can assure everyone in the House that we have been unwavering and continue to support workers throughout this pandemic. That is why Bill C-2 talks about continuing the Canada recovery sickness benefit and the Canada recovery caregiving benefit. That is why we are creating the lockdown benefit. That is why we are continuing with support for businesses to hire workers and to provide rental support.
    There is a lot we are doing for workers and businesses, and as the Deputy Prime Minister has said, we have regained 106% of the jobs we lost during the pandemic. Our unemployment was down last month again, for the sixth month in a row. We are within 0.4% of our record high in February 2020.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, last week we were shocked to learn that the Yukon's rate of opioid fatalities is Canada's highest. While this toxic drug crisis has been addressed with many interventions in recent years, we are painfully aware that there is still much to do. Safe supply, supervised consumption, better access to treatment, effective prevention and decriminalization are all approaches that can help prevent more deaths.
    Can the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions update the House on how the federal government is working in partnership with the Yukon to stop this ongoing tragedy?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his extensive work on this issue as medical officer of health for the Yukon and for joining me last week for the discussions with Yukon ministers and first nations leadership.
    Our hearts are with the families, loved ones and communities of those we have lost to the overdose and toxic drug supply crisis. Our government is working in partnership with the provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous communities, experts and those with lived and living experience to consider all proposals to implement innovative bottom-up solutions to this crisis.
    Mr. Speaker, as an MP with four border crossings in my riding, I can tell members that the ArriveCAN app has been a real mess. Take the example of Bernadette in my riding. She was forced into a 14-day quarantine when she is double vaccinated and had a booster. She is now receiving threatening phone calls harassing her to complete her testing requirements or face jail time and/or a $650,000 fine. She is 75 years old.
    When will the Liberal government fix the mess it created at the borders and rescind this unnecessary quarantine order against my constituent?

  (1455)  

    Mr. Speaker, I want to assure all members that we are never going to hesitate on this side of the House to introduce the public health care measures that are necessary to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, especially now that we are dealing with a new variant of concern in omicron. The ArriveCAN app is a useful and essential tool in understanding—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I will have to interrupt the hon. minister. I am trying to listen, but the yelling in my left ear makes it very hard.
    I will ask the hon. minister to start from the top so I can hear the whole answer, please.
    Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, this government will never hesitate to introduce the public health care measures that are necessary at the border, and the ArriveCAN app is one of the tools in the kit that we are using to ensure that we screen returning Canadians who are vaccinated. This has been a mandatory requirement since the beginning. We will continue to communicate and will introduce flexibility at the border where we can, but at the end of the day, we have to ensure that we are doing everything we can to protect against the new variant of concern in omicron.
    Mr. Speaker, the government is just not listening. One of my constituents, Allan, crossed the border with his wife to attend a matter in Washington state and returned an hour later. The government announced a 72-hour exemption, but despite being fully vaccinated, Allan and his wife, because he does not use a smart phone, were told their documents were not acceptable and they would have to quarantine and send in virtual tests or face a $5,000 fine.
    Will the government quit discriminating against people like my constituents for not having a smart phone and immediately rescind this unfair quarantine order?
    Mr. Speaker, as my colleague just acknowledged, this government has already introduced flexibility at the border to ensure that we are facilitating the arrival of Canadians, including the 72-hour exemption rule particularly for those Canadians who are going back and forth across the border and need essential goods. However, we will not compromise when it comes to health and safety. That is the reason we are requiring those returning from the United States to be fully vaccinated. That is why we use the ArriveCAN app. It is to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians, particularly now as we are dealing with a new variant of concern in omicron.
    Mr. Speaker, the horror show of Liberal quarantine hotels has returned. There are five-hour waits in crowded airports, buses to hotels at secret locations and people served food described as cold gruel.
    An Edmonton woman with celiac went 40 hours without food that she could eat safely. Babies are going without milk and diapers. Some people do not have hot water or heat in their hotel rooms. It is almost like jail, but at least in jail people get hot meals, fresh air and care packages from home. “This is not Canada,” one man told us yesterday. He is right. Where is the respect and dignity Canadians deserve?
    “Shame on the Canadian government” is what we have heard repeatedly from Canadians. When will the Liberals end this inhumane treatment and for once treat Canadians with dignity and respect?
    Mr. Speaker, we made a commitment to Canadians to do everything we can to protect their health and safety. We are also protecting our economy. Canadians, over the last year and a half, have sacrificed a lot. We need to be vigilant at the border to ensure that we mitigate the arrival of omicron.
    However, I have a question for the Conservatives. Last week they said we need more measures. Today they are saying we need fewer measures. I am not really sure what they are asking for. We will follow the advice we received from public health experts.
    Mr. Speaker, we need the right measures.

[Translation]

    It is not just the airports that are a mess. Liberal ministers have once again lost control.
    The Minister of Health keeps saying that the measures will take a few days to implement. The Minister of Transport says that the measures may still change. The Minister of Public Safety is doing nothing. The conditions at the quarantine hotels are appalling.
    Who is telling the truth? This morning, Paul Arcand said that the programs were a mess.
    When will the ministers act for Canadians, not against Canadians?

  (1500)  

    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to speak to this issue. He knows as well as I do how important it is, with the new omicron variant, to protect people's health and safety. He knows very well that these measures take some time to implement.
    By the way, I would like to thank all our partners, including our airport partners. I would like to thank public health, obviously, and all the experts telling us that we must be careful and vigilant right now. That is what we are hearing from all the experts, and I would be curious to hear what our friends in the opposition think about it, too.
    Mr. Speaker, last week it appeared as though Ottawa was being proactive at the border, but now we see that it just bungled things up more quickly.
    The government decided to require COVID-19 tests for passengers arriving by plane even though it knew that some airports were unable to provide these tests. People are confused and they are worried about having to quarantine somewhere while they wait for a courier to pick up their test. No one knows who will have to quarantine or for how long.
    What is the government waiting for? When will it straighten out this troubling mess?
    Mr. Speaker, this gives me the opportunity to say hello to and congratulate my colleague since we have not spoken since his election. I also commend him for his concern for the health and safety of Canadians during these very troublesome times.
    We are getting the right things done quickly. We are quickly putting measures in place. People know that the border measures changed a few days ago and that they will continue to evolve in the coming days. As everyone should know, COVID-19 is not over and we need to keep a close eye on this variant and disease in the coming days and weeks.
    Mr. Speaker, the COVID testing chaos at airports is straight out of the permit A38 scene in The 12 Tasks of Asterix.
    Quebec families who have gone through this airport fiasco will surely think of the minister when they watch Ciné-cadeau during the holidays.
    How is this government going to stop the chaotic management of testing from being “the place that sends you mad”?
    Mr. Speaker, the reference to the upcoming holidays is indeed a good one. People know that, over the next few weeks, things are going to change. People are going to be interacting more indoors.
    I think that Canadians, and Quebeckers in particular, understand the importance of following public health guidance in uncertain times. I think that people have so far made the right choices and will continue to make those right choices over the coming holidays.

[English]

Telecommunications

    Mr. Speaker, constituents in my riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex and many rural Canadians are unable to access fibre Internet because large ISPs will lay down the backbone but fail to finish the important last mile. Although the universal broadband fund supports the last mile, many of the ISPs are not taking advantage of it and are simply leaving Canadians not connected.
    What will the government do to ensure that all rural Canadians receive last-mile connections?
    Mr. Speaker, since 2015, we have approved programs and projects that are going to connect 1.7 million Canadian households. By 2026, we are going to connect another 1.2 million Canadian families with better, faster Internet. By then, 98% of Canada will be connected. Connecting every household, every business and every community is how we are going to build back better.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, the cost of living has been dramatically increasing since the Liberals formed government in 2015. It is much more challenging now to keep up with the rising prices on literally everything, but especially the essential items.
     Jennifer, a single mother from my riding, told me that she cannot afford the basic needs for her kids. She often finds herself having to choose between buying clothing and putting food on the table. This is not just inflation.
    When is the Liberal government going to stop printing money to cover up its economic mismanagement?
    Mr. Speaker, let me share some more good economic news, as the Conservatives seem determined to talk down the Canadian economy. The OECD, in its economic outlook for December, noted that not only does it expect our recovery to be the second fasted in the G7, but our net debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to decline and remain the lowest in the G7.
    Canada is recovering and Canadians should be proud of it.

  (1505)  

    Mr. Speaker, labour shortages in the Columbia Valley are are tied directly to issues with the temporary foreign worker program and the lack of affordable housing. Our economic recovery in Kootenay—Columbia depends on the government doing more than talking when it comes to fixing these issues for tourism and hospitality operators like Pavi Khunkhun in Golden, British Columbia.
    When will the government stop talking and start fixing the problems that make it impossible for the tourism and hospitality sector to succeed?
    Mr. Speaker, I can say one thing that all members of the House, including the members opposite, could do this week for the tourism and hospitality sector. That is to help us pass Bill C-2. This legislation is there to help precisely those tourism businesses.
    We understand that omicron is here. We understand those businesses need support. However, what I do not understand is why the Conservatives, who allegedly care so much about these vital small businesses, do not want to actually help them.

[Translation]

Small Business

    Mr. Speaker, the pandemic is hurting not only Canadians, industries, and small businesses, but also community organizations. Our government has supported them by quickly rolling out programs such as the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada emergency wage subsidy.
    We have also created a more targeted program, the Black entrepreneurship program, which is very welcome in the riding of Bourassa.
    Can the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development elaborate on this program that supports Black entrepreneurs?
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and congratulate him on his re-election.
     Black business owners make important contributions to the Canadian economy. Their success is a priority. A total of $10.7 million has already been distributed to support Black entrepreneurs in Montreal, like those in Bourassa, through the Black entrepreneurship program's national ecosystem fund.
    I look forward to sharing some news about other successful projects in the near future.

[English]

Health

    Mr. Speaker, 361 days ago, the House came together to vote unanimously on the motion put forward by the member for Cariboo—Prince George to take immediate action to establish a nationwide three-digit 988 suicide prevention hotline. In a world where we can hold a $600-million election in the midst of a global pandemic, surely we can activate a three-digit telephone number that nobody is using and work with dedicated stakeholders on an initiative everyone agrees is a priority.
    This is important and it should be easy. Why is it taking so long?
    Mr. Speaker, our government supports a national three-digit hotline for Canadians in crisis, and I thank the member for Cariboo—Prince George for his tireless advocacy on this issue.
    The CRTC is currently considering public input from consultations that concluded on September 1. We believe that such a line should have the capacity to connect people to the most appropriate support in the most appropriate way.
    Our government remains committed to fully funding a national three-digit mental health crisis and suicide prevention hotline.

Housing

    Mr. Speaker, this government is out of touch with rural Canadians. My constituents in northern Saskatchewan are frustrated with the made-in-Ottawa greener homes grant. Because they live a long way from urban centres, the cost of the inspection process nearly equals the grant. This simply does not make any sense. Unlike the Liberals, my constituents cannot afford to not think about monetary policy and just print money to pay for their bad decisions.
    Is the Liberal government intentionally designing programs that exclude rural Canadians?
    Mr. Speaker, our national housing strategy has a rural lens to it. That is why 38% of the rapid housing initiative projects are in rural and indigenous communities where the need is the greatest. We make sure that in the National Housing Council there are representatives who bring a rural lens to everything that we do through our national housing co-investment fund and other investments that we make in affordable housing in Canada.

  (1510)  

Transport

    Mr. Speaker, residents of York—Simcoe have many concerns about a proposed aerodrome in the town of Georgina. In Greenbank, Burlington, Tottenham and elsewhere, corporations have used a loophole in the federal aerodrome regulations to exploit municipal soil laws. They use the pretense of building or expanding an aerodrome to dump tonnes of contaminated fill at significant cost to the environment and to local taxpayers.
    What has the Liberal government done to close the loophole, and can the Minister of Transport guarantee this will not happen again in Pefferlaw or anywhere else?
    Mr. Speaker, I can guarantee to my hon. colleague that I will always be open to speaking with him and other colleagues about the issues they have of concern in their own communities.
    I have spoken with my hon. colleague on a couple of occasions on this issue, and I committed to him to continue to follow up with him on his concerns and on the concerns of the local community. We want to make sure that we build a better Canada for everyone.

Seniors

    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the people of Calgary Skyview for the honour and privilege of serving as their member of Parliament after serving as their city councillor.
    Throughout the campaign, I heard from many seniors about the struggles they—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    I am going to ask the hon. member to pause for a moment. I just want to make sure that we can all hear the question. It is rather difficult to hear the question.
    I will get the hon. member to start from the top so that we can all hear his question.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the people of Calgary Skyview for the honour and privilege of serving as their member of Parliament after serving as their city councillor.
    Throughout the campaign, I heard from many seniors about the struggles they have endured due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Northeast Calgary seniors are community leaders and beloved members of our families. Their health, social and financial well-being must continue to be a top priority for our Liberal government.
    Can the new Minister of Seniors tell the seniors I represent about what we are doing to support them in their communities?
    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my new colleague on his election. I think he will make a fantastic representative for his constituents.
    I would also like to thank him for giving me the opportunity to highlight an important program that benefits seniors across Canada. As the Minister of Seniors, I am very excited to announce this year's—
    I am sorry, but I have to interrupt the hon. minister. I am trying to hear her answer. She is very close, but I still cannot make it out. I know that I am getting old and my hearing is starting to go, but I do not think that is the problem today.
    I would ask the hon. minister to start from the top.
    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate my new colleague on his election. I think he will make a fantastic representative for his constituents.
    I would also like to thank him for giving me the opportunity to highlight an important program that benefits seniors across Canada. As the Minister of Seniors, I am very excited to announce that this year's New Horizons for Seniors program call for proposals is now open. I encourage all members to connect with organizations in their own ridings that serve seniors to apply.
     I would like to thank in advance all organizations for the work they do to support seniors.

Health

    Mr. Speaker, only 6% of people in low-income countries have received a COVID-19 vaccine. The African continent needs hundreds of millions of doses just to get 40% of its people vaccinated, yet deliveries were slashed because of supply shortages, putting us all at risk.
    Global vaccine production must expand immediately, but Liberals are blocking WTO efforts to get this done. Will the government finally support the TRIPS patent waiver to help countries produce desperately needed vaccines, yes or no?
    Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic does not recognize borders and will be overcome through coordinated global action. We have been clear from the start that no one is safe until everyone is. That is why we committed over $2.6 billion to the global COVID-19 response in 2020 and we have an additional $1 billion for the International Monetary Fund. We will work with our allies and international partners to get this done.

  (1515)  

    Mr. Speaker, that was not an answer. It certainly was not the answer we were looking for.
    The Liberals say they are proud of the actions delivering vaccines globally, but this is the government that pledged 200 million doses for countries in need by the end of next year and they have not even delivered 20% of that. This is the government that refuses to waive the vaccine patents to allow poor countries to vaccinate their populations.
     We will continue to see dangerous COVID-19 variants until everyone is vaccinated. When will the Liberals do their part to end the global health pandemic?
    Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with the hon. member on this issue and other topics as well.
    As I stated, the pandemic does not recognize borders and we will only overcome this with coordinated global action. We have donated the equivalent of 200 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. I have had discussions with my other COVAX colleagues. We will work with our international partners and our allies to get this done.

[Translation]

Gun Violence

    Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I believe you would find unanimous consent to adopt the following motion:
    That, given the increase in gun violence and the numerous deadly shootings in the streets of Montreal and the metropolitan area in recent weeks, and notwithstanding any standing order, special order or usual practice of the House:
(a) the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security be instructed to undertake as a priority a study on gun control, illegal arms trafficking and the increase in gun crimes committed by members of street gangs;
(b) the members to serve on the committee be appointed by the whip of each recognized party depositing with the Clerk of the House a list of his or her party's members before the adjournment of the House;
c) the Clerk of the House shall convene a meeting of the committee on a priority basis no later than Wednesday, December 8, 2021; and
(d) the Minister of Public Safety, as well as representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, appear before the committee as witnesses for a period of three hours each as the committee sees fit.
    All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.
    Okay. The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.
    I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[English]

Committees of the House

    Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations among the parties and if you seek it, I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, special order or usual practice of the House, Members, Senators and departmental and parliamentary officials appearing as witnesses before any standing, standing joint, special or legislative committees may do so in person.
    All those opposed to the hon. member's moving the motion will please say nay. Hearing no dissenting voice, it is agreed.
    The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay. Hearing no dissenting voice, I declare the motion carried.

    (Motion agreed to)

[Translation]

Points of Order

Noise in the House  

[Points of Order]
    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.
    I want to point out that the House is governed by rules that we are all called upon to follow. For example, when we ask a question, we stand up. We must also abide by a certain code and listen to the answer given, if any, of course. We must always respect that.
     Since the House resumed sitting, there has been a lot of background noise, as there are more members present in the House. We recognize that. That was not the case in the last six months of the previous Parliament, from January to June, when there were only a handful of government members and a few dozen opposition members. We admit that the noise was less intrusive then.
    We also recognize that when someone rises to answer a question and we hear some heckling, the Speaker frequently rises to call members to order, as he should. Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to be very careful about inviting members giving an answer to start over from the beginning. Inevitably, their speaking time is much longer, allowing members to repeat exactly the same argument. However, the people at home have heard the answer because the microphones picked it up, particularly when the question comes from someone who is not physically present in the House.
    I therefore invite everyone to follow the Standing Orders very strictly, which state that we should not heckle and that we should listen carefully to the person speaking.
    Unfortunately, breaches can occur, because we are human. People who have things to say must be able to say them, provided that we hear them properly. If, unfortunately, there is too much noise at the start, we can stop and start again at the beginning, but not at the end.

  (1520)  

    I would like to thank the hon. member for his observation. He is right that members of the House need to listen to each other. That is something we have to do. We must show respect. It creates problems when the answer cannot be heard. The House proceedings are for the benefit of the House. This is not a show for the people at home. I want to make sure that the members of the House can hear the question and the answer. That way, we will all be on the same page.
    The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

[English]

    Mr. Speaker, I would just posit that there is a very simple solution. If the member is concerned with the matter that he has raised for my hon. colleague, of course they could just listen to the question that was posed and not scream and yell at the person trying to answer and create a ruckus in the House. It is among the Standing Orders that somebody is supposed to be given the opportunity to speak.
    There have been many instances where I can barely hear the answer myself because there is so much screaming and hooting and general buffoonery happening on the other side, and I would suggest that is not good for this place.
    I will repeat what I just said. Business of the House is to take place in the House and people here want to hear the question and the answer so we all understand what is being said. Therefore, I want to ask all members to respect each other and not shout when someone else is either asking or answering a question.