(Please note: this statement has been issued by our sister organization the Conference of Defence Associations and not the Institute. We are merely re-publishing it here for the sake of informing our audience.)
The Conference of Defence Associations, founded in 1932, is an umbrella organization for 40 member associations who represent over 400,000 active and retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Conference of Defence Associations is very encouraged by Minister of Immigration Marco Mendicino’s comments today regarding how his office is working with Global Affairs and the Department of National Defence to bring Afghan interpreters to Canada. We believe that Prime Minister Trudeau and this government must act urgently to rescue Afghan interpreters and their families whose lives are in danger, because they chose to support our cause during the NATO deployment to Afghanistan, and who are now all the more at risk following the withdrawal of western backed troops and the advance of the Taliban. An expedited track for refugee status should also be extended to all former locally engaged staff including interpreters, translators, drivers, fixers, etc. who equally supported Canada’s efforts during our mission in Afghanistan.
We recognize that screening and visa processing especially in a war environment is a complex challenge. In 2015, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a massive program to provide asylum for 25,000 Syrian refugees. This feat was accomplished in 100 days. We have shown Canada’s capacity and strong will in times of crisis. In the current context, there is an added difficulty in that asylum seekers are not in bordering countries, but many of them are still deep inside war-torn regions of Afghanistan. Recognizing this, we nonetheless urge the government to do everything in its power to fulfill our duty to protect them.
“These courageous women and men helped to preserve Canadian lives at great risk to themselves and their families,” points out LGen Guy Thibault (ret’d), former Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and President of the Conference of Defence Associations “Our nation has a debt. We owe them care and compassion, especially at this critical and frightening juncture. Beyond immediate action to accelerate screening and visa processing, we should also be facilitating safe transit to the extent that we can.”
Between October 2001 and 2014 over 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces were deployed to Afghanistan. The war took the lives of 165 Canadians including 158 soldiers and 7 civilians – a diplomat, four aid workers, a government contractor, and a journalist. Furthermore, 635 members of the CAF were injured in action and 1412 were injured in patrol or non-combat situation.
MGen David Fraser (ret’d), who commanded thousands of Canadian and allied troops in the province of Kandahar during Operation Medusa and recently served as a board member with the CDA Institute speaks from personal experience, “The interpreters and locally employed Afghans enabled us with the ability to communicate, understand and deliver the much-needed effects they desired. They played a key role.”
“Our shared sacrifices must not be forgotten nor should we forget those who came to our aid during this dangerous mission,” adds Thibault. “They were friends, allies, and heroes. They deserve our greatest respect for the risks they took. Sheltering them from immediate danger is the least we can do. We urge the Prime Minister and his government to act swiftly and decisively.”