Rivers on the role Canada has played in getting Afghan citizens out of the country before the Taliban gets their hands on them

By Ray Rivers

August 30th, 2021



“I want to take this opportunity to speak with our brothers, the Taliban,” said Monsef. “We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country. We call on you to immediately stop the violence, the genocide, the femicide, the destruction of infrastructure, including heritage buildings.” (Maryam Monsef, August 2021)


Maryam Monsef

The media and social media frenzy that followed that address by the federal minister responsible for the Status for Women, Canada’s Minister for Women and Gender Equality, Maryam Monsef, was horrific.   She clearly had been chosen to speak to the new government in Afghanistan, given her Afghan Canadian nationality, as well as the special role she plays looking out for women and their human rights.

But it didn’t take long for Conservative Leader O’Toole and the conservative media to attack the minister for using the term ‘brothers’ which has a cultural significance they obviously don’t understand.   And of course it is election time.

To be clear, Canada ended its combat role in 2011 and it’s training role in 2014.  There were seven years since then for Afghans and Canadians in that country to leave.  Anyone living there should have understood the inevitability of a Taliban victory once Donald Trump demonstrated his ‘art-of-the-deal’ in February 2020, which sealed that country’s fate.

Canadian immigration officials admit they might have acted sooner or faster to short cut screening rules and allow more people to migrate here.  But what would be the public reaction had an ISIS-K terrorist slipped through the cracks?  Regardless that we rescued 3700 people, many Afghans were disappointed they couldn’t be airlifted.  Still, Canada has offered to eventually take in over 20,000 more refugees, making us one of the largest host nations.

Canadian armed forces were reluctant participants in Afghanistan – their role was to train the Afghan Army.

And we must remember that this was not Canada’s war of choice.  We only went there because the USA invoked NATO’s Article 5 following 9/11, albeit on the thinnest of rationales.    Still that demanded collective reaction by NATO.  And it was America that changed the war from a retaliatory strike against al Qaeda to the doomed nation-building project which mostly ended up as waste of time, money and lives.

And it was the Americans who managed the panicked exodus of extra-nationals and those Afghans who had helped them in the war effort, once the Taliban seized Kabul. Canada was a bit player and, no sooner had commercial flights stopped operating we, along with other minor players, were signaled to end our humanitarian evacuation.  And the situation as we have seen became increasingly dangerous as time went on.

The Taliban has committed before 98 nations that it will respect human rights, including the right for its citizens to be able to leave the country.  Once the US Marines leave the airport, commercial flights may resume, though few people expect the Taliban to stick to the letter of that agreement.

Thousands have already fled the borders to Pakistan or one of the other bordering nations.  That is how most people vacate a war zone, much as Minister Monsef’s family fled to Iran during the Soviet invasion, before ending up in Canada.

The ignorance of the critics damning the Minister for her use of the cultural term ‘brothers’ is indicative of how democracy in this country has deteriorated, particularly since the advent of social media where many people now look for their news.  And as the more traditional media has become politically polarized, alternated facts and outright mis-information, have made truth whatever you want it to be.  Yet, a democracy cannot continue to function in the absence of a well informed public – information is perhaps the most important pillar of our system of governance.

It was a big lie by the former president that the 2020 US election was stolen, which set off an insurrection, siege and the occupation of the US Congressional assembly, the heart of American democracy.   The image of a violent mob ransacking and defacing public buildings in places all around the world is not new – but this had never happened before at the Capitol.

It could have been a scene from Tehran or Kabul.  But it is what is becoming more commonplace in America precipitated from both the political right as well as the left.  Intolerance and disrespect have led to the breakdown of the great American society.  Society has been fractionalized along artificial lines of we and they, right and left, Republicans and Democrats.

With more protesters than supporters on hand for a visit to Bolton, ON – the Prime Minister’s handlers asked the OPP to escort their bus out of town.

And now we see civil discourse turning to confrontational, angry, violent protest here as well.  Hate charged articles in the Rebel and Toronto Sun are picked up and translated on social media so as to drive the wedge among all of us.  Erin O’Toole, to his credit, has spoken against these kind of demonstrations, but the people who support him were in the crowds in Bolton and Cambridge.  They made it a point to shout obscenities and racial insults and violently heckle to the point that one of the events had to be cancelled for the safety of the public.

And finally the Honourable Maryam Monsef, who has been beaten up by a highly partisan mob media may well lose her rural riding because of the bad press.  And that will just demonstrate that some of us anyway are no better than those people in that hell hole from which her parents saved her.  It just shows that you don’t have to be a woman in the Taliban’s Afghanistan to become a victim of hatred.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor,  writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers



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16 comments to Rivers on the role Canada has played in getting Afghan citizens out of the country before the Taliban gets their hands on them

  • Ted Gamble

    The extroardinary unparalleled dislike for Trudeau while not welcome is well earned and was certainly easily anticipated. He has has spent his entire term and continues during the election campaign dividing Canadians in as many ways possible in his blind thirst for increased power.

    The blinded media attempt to paint these protestors homongeneously as fringe anti vaxxers to try to deflect and build empathy for their financial benefactor.

    News flash It won’t work this time. Trudeau will as he often quotes becomes “historical”; one of his favoured words in his relatively small vocabulary.

  • Penny Hersh

    I thought long and hard about commenting on this article because presently if you disagree with someone on just about anything you are labeled a racist.

    ““I want to take this opportunity to speak with our brothers, the Taliban,” said Monsef. “We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country. We call on you to immediately stop the violence, the genocide, the femicide, the destruction of infrastructure, including heritage buildings.” (Maryam Monsef, August 2021)”

    Under no circumstances is using the word “brothers” acceptable in this statement. The Taliban are a brutal organization that keep women uneducated and in their homes. Not to mention Sharia Law that dehumanizes women.

    For Justin Trudeau to say that this is a “cultural term”. My question is whose “culture”?

    To think for a moment that the Taliban will honour any agreement in allowing those people who have been left behind in the rushed departure of the people who helped both the Canadians and Americans is a joke.

    The statement that the people could have left months earlier is offensive to me. The Canadian Government was asked to intervene by ex-military early on ( in fact years in some cases) and did not.

    The Americans trained the Afghan army to fight in a way that required air support( which the Americans provided ) to accomplish their goals. The Americans dismantled the helicopters and took with them all that was necessary for the army to continue to use them. They also left in the middle of the night without informing anyone weeks ago. Is it no wonder that the Afghan army did not fight back? How could they?

    To think that the Americans did not know that the Taliban was waiting for the Americans to leave and would attack immediately is absolutely ridiculous, especially when the Afghan army that was trained by the Americans had no access to air support.

    Many of the younger people in Afghanistan never lived under Taliban rule and no matter what they were told it is hard to imagine just what it would mean to their lives if this came to pass again. Most people do not want to leave their country. They have family, friends and culture.
    Not everyone wants to live in Canada or the United States away from everything they know. For some families the fear of retribution by the Taliban for helping us is the motivating factor.

    Canada needs to step up and take responsibility for its failure under the Trudeau government to help those who helped our military, no matter when Canada stepped away from its role in Afghanistan.

  • William Boyd

    Thanks, Ray. As ever, a cogent and –I might add–well-mannered essay. Bill in Virginia

  • Alfred


    Does your definition of blindsiided include the calling of a snap election and the short timeline to prepare. Sound familiar. It’s ok when the Liberals do it?

    • David Barker

      Alfred the difference is the Liberals had no duty to keep the other (opposing) parties in the loop as to if and when an election was to be called. The whole point in politics is that the governing party (Liberal or Conservative) wishes to blindside the opposition. The USA did not blindside the opposition when it set 08/31 as a hard deadline. It blindsided its allies, it’s friends. Those that it had dragged into the war in the first place. NOT COMPARABLE.

  • David Barker

    Well, Messrs Gamble and Wooster are proof positive of just what Mr. Rivers described in his piece.

    Mr Gamble is either deaf and blind or wilfully putting forward “alternative facts” à la KellyAnne Conway.

    Mr. Wooster, “sanitized and hair brushed” (sic). Really Mr. Wooster? LOL. I must admit Mr. Rivers does look well coiffed. As Mr. Rivers said Canada ended its involvement there many years ago. Those Canadian citizens choosing to go to a war zone, ok to do humanitarian work, should have gotten themselves out of there weeks if not months before. The withdrawal was known to be coming. At the latest they should have gotten out of there under their own steam when, as Mr. Wooster says it was plain to see what was going to happen. As for the Afghans who assisted our military or our presence there, yes bureaucrats should have been far more ready with a plan well on advance for the govt. But as Mr. Rivers said you can bet your life Mr. Wooster and his PC friends would have been all over the government if there was any indication or suspicion that a not totally wholesome individual might have slipped into Canada.

    Mr. Wooster, you will recall it was the Harper PC govt which passed the fixed term election act. And it was Harper who called a vanity election as you put it in 2008; his government having only the previous year passed the fixed term act. All politicians do what they believe is to their political advantage. Harper did it, Trudeau has done it. You can bet your bottom dollar O’Toole would do the same. If you don’t believe that, well there is no hope for you.

  • Very sad that Ray believes Gazette readers other than those like Carol Victor are not well educated on these issues generated by a very selfish Trudeau who has an expectation of Canadians to accept this blatant betrayal of those who were there for us.

    • David Barker

      What is sad is that your comment which is equal but opposite in its bias, is rude and attacks his integrity. There is nothing in his piece which suggests that he believes any of the Gazette’s readers, yeah even you, are uneducated. He wrote an opinion piece, not a news report. An opinion piece. We are all entitled to our opinions. We may disagree with those of others, but there is no need for insults, like yours. He has not and did not betray anyone there. What those Canadian citizens were still doing there in the first place. when the withdrawal had been announced months before is in defensible. They should hav

      • Seems as though you are having comprehension problems again David if your “He” means Ray at the beginning of the last 2.1/2 sentences which is how it reads!

        Talking about insults “Mr Gamble is either deaf and blind or wilfully putting forward “alternative facts” à la KellyAnne Conway.” Hmm a case for “practice what you preach”!

  • Bob

    Ray, saying it was OK to use that phrase because of the “cultural significance” is just asinine.
    Using that rhetoric, a politician speaking at a sorority could call women all sorts of nasty names as it would fit the culture? Could someone use the N word in a crowd of Blacks, you know, it would be culturally significant right?
    The answer is NO it wouldn’t. Wrong is wrong no matter the minister’s heritage, she wasn’t representing the Taliban, she was speaking as a Canadian government official. Furthermore it wasn’t just the Conservative Party that called her out on it, the NDP was just as quick to judge and probably gained more traction from it than the Conservatives.

    “Canadian immigration officials admit they might have acted sooner or faster to short cut screening rules and allow more people to migrate here” How do you defend such incompetence?

    This government is polling less than the Conservatives in the early running because of the arrogance of Liberals saying “do as I say, not as I do” and tripe such as this drivel you’ve written play right into anti liberal voters.

  • Gary

    If she loses her rural riding it will be because she is a dumbo and should have known better, and the media should not be blamed for pointing out her tone-deaf commentary. They have a responsibility to her constituents to show them who they really elected and who they should not re-elect. Would you address The Proud Boys as your “brothers”, culturally speaking, of course?

    And what gives you special insight knowing the votes of the Trudeau protesters? They could well be people who don’t vote.

  • Ted Gamble


    A little one sided to say the least and be polite.

    The Liberals under Trudeau have done nothing but promote division and hate in Canada along geographic, linguistic, cultural, religious and lately on vaccinations in his pursuit of a renewed majority government.

    He and his candidates are reaping the seeds he has sowed.

    Anyone that would “trust” the Taliban is well just ridiculous. Just listen to the real time interviews of Canadians and others in Kabul and elsewhere. The Canadian government has abandoned and put thousands of lives at risk.

    There has been no apparent violence or reported threats at these rallies nor is it the work of purely anti vaxxers. The media in spinning these demontrators to stoke sympathy and fear for their favourite son. I have news for you lots of average Canadians have had enough and are concerned about their future.

    I personally am enjoying this latest version of Trudeamania. It is overdue. I have lived and worked in eight provinces. I will be satisfied if the election result is a minority Conservative government with support from the Bloc in Quebec where I grew up.


  • Carol Victor

    So well put. I am appalled by the one-sided press on Afghanistan….the US pull out of this country was a unilateral decision….all allies were blindsided and the time line was incredibly short. Vetting is a critical component to ensure safety of all concerned.
    The criticism of our current government is unfounded and unreasonable, our commitment re resettlement of Afghans is consistent with Canadian values . While the situation is deplorable, our government like the governments in Britain and France and other allies are determined to do everything humanly possible to continue to evacuate as many people as is humanly possible.

    • Bob

      How do? Donald Trump had declared he would withdraw. Joe Biden upon election reiterated that he’d stand by the August deadline to withdraw. There was no blindsiding, what there was, was a total mismanagement by the Canadian government.

  • Phillip Wooster

    Ray, as usual a sanitized and hair-brushed version of what has transpired. Monsef’s address to the Taliban as “my brothers” might have been culturally appropriate if she had been speaking only to the Taliban. But she wasn’t–she was speaking to Canadians and perhaps she might have chosen her ill-advised words more carefully.

    It was very clear that the government in Afghanistan was going to fall to the Taliban some 4 to 6 weeks prior to the humanitarian crisis at the Kabul airport. And yet we kept reading story after story about nothing happening with helping get our Afghan allies out of Afghanistan due to the bureaucracy and redtape in Ottawa–stories that were confirmed by former military people who have been working for several years to try to get these people out of the country. Was a major problem that Trudeau was too preoccupied with his pre-election campaigning on the taxpayer dime and planning his vanity election? He was certainly unprepared and did not act in an urgent manner. For this, he is responsible.

    And lastly, a truly pathetic attempt to link the protests in Bolton and Cambridge to the Conservatives and conservative media. I don’t know about the Rebel (I don’t read it) but I do know about the Sun. Yes, this paper has a pro-Conservative bias just as the Toronto Star is blatantly Liberal, but I don’t read hate-charged articles in the Sun. Ray, perhaps you would care to specify which one was hate-charged? And yes in Bolton, there were four Conservative campaign volunteers in the crowd and they were promptly removed and denounced as they should have been. But I saw no evidence of Conservatives at the protest in Cambridge. Although I’ve seen several attempts by an increasingly desperate Liberal campaign to tie the Conservatives to these protests. Perhaps Trudeau had better face the reality that the majority of Canadians despise him–he has called a vanity election during an increasingly dangerous fourth wave of the delta variant for no reason other than his personal edification. Perhaps after six years of narcissism, hypocrisy, lies & broken promises, scandals and incompetence, the truth is all too plain. Trudeau talks a good game but Canadians aren’t stupid, they know his rhetoric is not matched by his actions.