Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 39th Parliament,
Volume 143, Issue 72

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

National Defence

Afghanistan—Efforts to Promote Security and Equality for Women and Girls

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Recently, I sent to all senators a report entitled “Too Little Has Changed,” a report of follow-up meetings with Afghan Canadian women conducted by the Canadian Committee on Women, Peace and Security, which I had the honour to chair for two years, carrying on the work of our former colleague Senator Wilson.

The women consulted, all of whom are Afghani Canadians and many of whom have spent a great deal of time working in Afghanistan to promote security and equality for women and girls, are unanimous on one thing — that is, as the title of the report says, that too little has changed. As the report says, security remains the most critical concern for women and girls living in Afghanistan, despite the hopes that were created by the international community.

Can the government leader please give us details of specific programs Canadian troops in Afghanistan are undertaking to promote security and equality for women and girls?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Secretary of State (Seniors): I thank Senator Jaffer for that question. I believe the situation in Afghanistan for women and girls, while nowhere near where we would like to see it, has improved markedly in the past year. All evidence supports that, including from members of the Karzai government.

I had the opportunity to meet with the minister responsible for women’s affairs when she accompanied President Karzai on his visit last year. There is much work to do. However, there is no doubt that, with girls again being able to go to school and with women receiving micro-credit to open small businesses, great strides have taken place in the past year. However, that is not to say that much more cannot be done. There is much work to do, and Minister Verner and Minister MacKay are working diligently in that regard with their officials and their counterparts in Afghanistan.

As the Prime Minister indicated when he spoke to the Canadian Club on February 6, it is the intention of the government to report very soon on the status of the situation in Afghanistan.

Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, will the minister inquire what specific programs our Canadian troops in Afghanistan are undertaking to promote security and equality for Afghan women?

Senator LeBreton: I shall certainly get more explicit details for Senator Jaffer. The reports coming back from Afghanistan indicate that our military people, diplomats and reconstruction workers are working hard at building roads and moving people back into their communities, which helps all Afghan citizens, including women and children.

I shall get specific details of the programs that are directly related to women and children.