We are Failing our Friends

CHRIS MacLEAN  –  Aug 4, 2021

Afghan interpreters once put their lives and those of their families at risk to assist the Canadian Forces mission in Afghanistan in the hopes of a better future.

Even as we pulled out of Afghanistan, Canadians expected these brave souls would be protected and offered asylum in Canada if their lives were at risk. Well, the Taliban is at their collective doors, and threatening to make grisly examples of them. In response, the Liberal government is demanding new forms, validations and resubmission of documentation – causing life-threatening delays.

Many groups have been working diligently to assist the former Afghan interpreters and their families complete the required forms and compile and verify the required documentation, but the department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada prefers to painstakingly redo all of the work, putting our friends and mission allies in grave peril.

Critics claim the new process is overly extensive. Others say, simply: Get them to a safe location now, while they are still alive, then deal with the paperwork.

Approximately 800 Afghan interpreters had been allowed into Canada between 2008 and 2012, but their extended families were not included. Still in Afghanistan, they are now at great risk of Taliban ;retaliation. With signs saying "We helped you, You help us" a Parliament Hill rally on 3 Aug 2021 hoped to bring attention to the situation. "The Taliban can’t attack us here so they attack our families,” said one former interpreter, now loving in Canada, whose brother was killed by the Taliban.

The Taliban is taking swift advantage of the departure of American and NATO troops, and claims it now controls 80% of the country.

The danger encroaches further every day. Until recently, Kabul was considered a safe zone, but on 3 August 2021, the home of the Acting Defence Minister's home was rocked by a Taliban suicide bomb, killing eight people. A statement claiming Taliban responsibility said: “The attack is the beginning of the retaliatory operations against the circles and leaders of the Kabul administration who are ordering attacks and the bombing of different parts of the country.”

The following day, an explosion near the office of Afghanistan's main security agency wounded three people.

NATO's mission to create a safe and secure environment for the Afghan people would have failed much earlier without the assistance of hundreds of interpreters. Many helped Canadian teams on the ground. Buying into our vision of a peaceful future, they put their own and their families' lives on the line to help ensure success.

In some cases, Canadian soldiers owe their lives to these interpreters. Now we owe it to them to do what we can to ensure they and their families don't pay the ultimate sacrifice in return.

Many organizations are working to help Canada do right by our Afghan friends.

The Conference of Defence Associations Institute is building a list of volunteers to help integrate Afghans who served alongside the Canadian Armed Forces as interpreters, translators, drivers, and fixers during Canada’s mission in Afghanistan. At last report, more than 500 Canadians had stepped forward to help facilitate the arrival of Afghan families into Canada. https://cdainstitute.ca/afghanrefugees/

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Mendicino, you have the power to smash the roadblocks before any more are killed. When are you going to do what's right?