Canada extends Afghanistan military role for two more years

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper asked for and received the approval of the House of Commons (Lower House of the Parliament of Canada) for a two year extension of the current mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

The Prime minister is not required to seek approval of the House of Commons to deploy forces, and Mr. Harper opened the 6 hour debate by declaring he would extend the mission by a year, with or without support from the Commons.

Prior to the parliamentary debate, the Conservative government consulted the three opposition parties. The Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party voted against the motion.

Thirty members of the Official Opposition, voted for the extension. The Liberal Party allowed their members a free vote on the measure, and the majority opposed. Voting for the measure, interim leader Bill Graham said MPs were not given sufficient time to debate the issues, and were voting "with a gun put to our heads."

NDP leader Jack Layton said the Conservatives were on the "wrong path". The extension in Afghanistan, he said before the vote, would "render Canada incapable of responding to other situations in the world."

The minority government received Commons approval by only four votes: 149-145.

Tragically, Captain Nicola Goddard, a Canadian female soldier posted in Afghanistan, was killed by Taliban rebels on the day of the debate.

CPAC (the Canadian Public Affairs Channel) carried both the full debate and the subsequent vote to extend the mission.

Australia is committed to a similar extension. The Prime Minister of Australia will arrive today, (18/05/2006), for a state visit to address the Parliament of Canada and attend various functions.