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No Afghan combat and no House debate, Lawrence Cannon says

1. Cannon's hard line. Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon says there will be no debate in Parliament over Canada's role in Afghanistan post-2011. This, as Michael Ignatieff's Liberals are calling the Conservatives arrogant for conducting foreign policy over Canada's airwaves.

Again this morning, Mr. Cannon signaled in a television interview that his government is not willing to comply with any request for a parliamentary debate on the Afghan mission.

"We have made it clear that the military will not be [in Afghanistan] post-2011 and in that regard there is no need to have a debate in the House," Mr. Cannon told CTV's Canada AM.

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"I don't know how clear we can make this. … When we say there is no combat role for Canada post-2011 there is no combat role post 2011," he said. "I have responded to this question on numerous occasions in the House of Commons.

"This is Canada's firm [position]and we are not budging from it."

His statement will certainly set up a fight in the Commons with the Opposition Liberals who want a say in what happens in Afghanistan once Canada's military mission wraps up.

This potential battle was provoked by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who waded into the debate yesterday, telling CTV Power Play host Tom Clark that the Washington wants Canada to continue to play a role in Afghanistan post 2011.

As a result of her comments, Mr. Ignatieff has renewed his calls for a parliamentary debate and vote over any extension to Canada's role. He said it was time for the government to come to Parliament with a proposition "we can evaluate."

This morning, an Ignatieff official said the Foreign Affairs Minister was denying any request had been made by the Americans just late last week.

"Canadians should not have to watch the news to learn, from the U.S. Secretary of State, that the U.S. has made a request to Canada to extend its mission," the official said.

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"Don't get me wrong, it was great for CTV to get an exclusive interview with Hillary Clinton, and we know that when she's asked a question, she answers.

"But it also shows the arrogance of Stephen Harper. These issues should be debated in Parliament, not through news shows or photo-ops," the official said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is to meet with Mrs. Clinton this morning and the issue will be likely raised again.

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2. Clinton's other cause. Hillary Clinton views women's issues as security issues, arguing that denying women a voice and their rights, is a threat to the national security of the United States and other countries, such as Canada.

The Secretary of State is making her case about women's rights in television interviews and in an op-ed piece she has written for The Globe and Mail. She says there is a "direct correlation" between societies and countries where women are treated as second-class citizens and ones that are breeding grounds for terrorists.

Mrs. Clinton was speaking yesterday George Stroumboulopoulos, host of CBC's The Hour . The interview is to be broadcast tonight.

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"Places like Afghanistan or the border area in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia or places where women are really treated like second class citizens … there is a direct correlation between societies like that, that deny women their opportunities, and societies that are breeding grounds for extremism and unfortunately terrorism," she told Mr. Stroumboulopoulos.

Ms. Clinton said societies, such as China and India, where there are more boys than girls, breed "instability."

"… And what happens if you have that kind of imbalance, where you have too many young men, where you don't have the opportunity for marriage because there are these huge discrepancies? That breeds instability."

The Secretary of State has been making her voice heard as she makes the rounds of Canadian media outlets since arriving in Ottawa yesterday for two days of meetings around the Arctic and the G8 Summit, which Canada is hosting summer.

In addition to the CBC interview, Mrs. Clinton appeared on CTV last night, making headlines when she signaled that the U.S. wants Canada to remain in Afghanistan past its 2011 commitment.

She has also written an op-ed piece for The Globe and Mail. "We view the subjugation of women as a threat to national security of the United States and to the common security of the world," she writes.

"The status of the world's women is not only a matter of morality and justice. It is also a political, economic and social imperative. The evidence is irrefutable: When women are free to develop their talents and contribute fully to their societies, everyone benefits."

(Photo: A Canadian soldier grabs a moment's while riding in an armoured vehicle near Kandahar in 2007. Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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