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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Emblem of the House of Commons

House of Commons Debates

Volume 151
No. 012


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Speaker: The Honourable Anthony Rota

    The House met at 10 a.m.


Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]



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)


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.


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)



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.


    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


[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.


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]


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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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 the MP for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman and I 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.



    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.


    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.


    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.



    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.”


     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.


    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.


    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.


    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.



    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.


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

    (Motion agreed to)


    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.


    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.


    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 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.


    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.



    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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 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?


    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.


    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.


    We have only to 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.



    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.



    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.


    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?


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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?


    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.


    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?


    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.



    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.


    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?


    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 Afghan 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 Afghan 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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.



    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?


    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.