Troops acting 'like terrorists?'
Draft resolution to go before NDP committee
John Ivison, National Post
Published: Wednesday, September 06, 2006
OTTAWA - Canada's troops in Afghanistan have been "acting like terrorists, destroying communities, killing and maiming innocent people", according to a resolution that will be voted on by New Democrats at the party's convention in Quebec City this weekend.
The resolution is one of 104 proposals on international affairs from local riding associations that will be presented at the convention. Others suggest Canada withdraw from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement, while one riding association proposes a freeze on trade with Israel until the "occupation of Palestinian lands" is ended.
The Afghan mission was the subject of a number of proposed resolutions, all calling for the withdrawal of Canadian troops. "The Canadian occupation is propping up a regime composed of barbarous warlords who are little better than the Taliban," says one riding association.
The resolution comparing Canadian troops to terrorists, put forward by the Nanaimo-Cowichan riding association in British Columbia, says Canada's goals "cannot be achieved by violence when the 'enemy' cannot be distinguished from ordinary citizens" and calls for Canadian troops to be withdrawn from that country.
Its release comes as the bodies of five Canadian soldiers were returned home after being killed in the Kandahar region on the weekend.
A spokesman for Jack Layton said the NDP leader would not comment on the language used in the resolution or indicate whether he intended to vote for it.
"These resolutions have not been debated yet and have absolutely no status at this time," Karl Belanger said.
Jean Crowder, the NDP MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, also refused to comment on the resolution before it has been debated at the convention.
Last week, Mr. Layton called for the withdrawal of Canadian troops, claiming Afghanistan is "not the right mission for Canada." At that time, he said New Democrats support the Canadian Forces and are proud of the work they do.
Mr. Layton's call to bring the 2,300 troops home has been criticized by both Conservatives and Liberals, particularly since he reiterated it following the death of four Canadians in Afghanistan. Yesterday, he issued a statement expressing his condolences to the bereaved families that made no mention of his desire to withdraw combat troops.
The resolution by Ms. Crowder's riding association singles out NDP MP Peter Stoffer, who supports the mission in Afghanistan.
"This is not an acceptable position when world peace hangs in the balance. A combat role in Afghanistan is a no-win situation both for Canada and for the Afghani people. Its only dubious value is to curry favour with the militarist government of George W. Bush," it says.
Mr. Stoffer said yesterday delegates are free to express their opinions.
"But I absolutely fundamentally disagree with the statement. The people who did it are not only very naive but very antagonistic in their point of view," he said. The NDP draft policy resolutions appeared briefly on the party Web site last week before being taken down. However, Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor obtained a copy and posted them on his Web site yesterday.
The resolution about Israel calls for the end to "military aid and economic trade," claiming "there can be no lasting peace in Palestine/Israel or the surrounding region without social justice."
The Trinity-Spadina riding association in Toronto called for the NDP to support the right of return for all refugees, an end to Israeli settlements and "occupation" of Palestine lands, "a halt to armed aggression, the bulldozing of homes, destruction of olive groves and farms and the assassination of political leaders and activists by the Israeli state."
It said the NDP should campaign for an end to the "rule of apartheid laws that make Palestinians and Israeli Arabs second- and third-class citizens under occupation" and added it is opposed to the use of suicide bombings against civilian targets.
Despite the widespread criticism, Darrell Bricker of pollster Ipsos Reid said the anti-war stance may pay electoral dividends for the NDP -- and the Conservatives.
"If this issue drives the next vote, Layton could pull enough anti-war votes from the Liberals to help elect Tories," he said. He said the Liberals are in a difficult position on Afghanistan because they launched the mission, and at least two of the leadership candidates -- Michael Ignatieff and Scott Brison -- are in favour of its extension to 2009.
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