On Sunday, July 22 nd , 60 locals ducked out of the Crankworx rain to discuss a topic with a bit more political edge: Canada’s role in Afghanistan.
Organized by the Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue, the session covered several angles on the occupancy of Afghanistan, including the reasons behind Canada’s involvement in the Islamic republic and what the country’s future role should be.
An overwhelming 96 per cent of participants at the forum agreed to some degree that Canada is in Afghanistan mainly because of pressure from the U.S. in response to 9/11.
These results were from a survey that participants were given before and after the session.
Another significant result from the survey was that about two out of three participants at least somewhat agreed that Canada is in Afghanistan because it has an obligation within the broader international community to respond to terrorist threats.
And a quarter of the people surveyed did not think that sending troops to the war-torn nation is the price our country has to pay to bring peace and stability to the region.
These were just some of the results from the survey that indicated that, overall, participants wanted less military action in Afghanistan and more reconstruction and development efforts.
The forum’s discussions were led by Dr. Graham Fuller, an expert on political Islam who worked with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and RAND Corporation, as well as Lauryn Oates, who is vice president of Canadian Women in Afghanistan.
“We are finally getting our act together in a coordinated way, and Canadians need to be more aware and involved with what is gong on,” said Oates at the forum.
Fuller expressed his pessimistic views on the current mission, but also spoke of a possible future role for Canada if there is engagement with moderates in the region to have some political influence after “all the heat has cooled down”.
Both agreed that poppy production is a critical issue that must be resolved. Canada could lead in the creation of an international marketing board for Afghan farmers to sell opium for medical uses.
William Roberts, president of the Whistler Forum, said that another forum on this topic will be held soon, based on the overwhelming feedback that most who attended wanted to think and work through with others Canada’s role on this issue.
“When 60 per cent indicate their desire to think and work through with other Canadians our future role in Afghanistan is very high, and 40 per cent indicate that their desire is somewhat high, there is a huge void of true citizen engagement regarding this top priority facing Canadians,” he said.
The Whistler Forum for Leadership and Dialogue is planning to hold future deliberative forums on “Canada’s Role in Afghanistan: Which Way Forward” in the Sea to Sky corridor over the next few months.
The Whistler Forum will also present the complete findings from this forum at the Canadian Conference on Dialogue and Deliberations in Vancouver in November.