Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

July 01, 2011 15:35 ET

Ministers Visit Afghanistan for Canada Day

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, AFGHANISTAN--(Marketwire - July 1, 2011) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, accompanied by the Honourable Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, and General Walt Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, celebrated with Canadian Forces members deployed to Afghanistan on Canada Day.

During his 16th visit to Afghanistan, Minister MacKay met with troops of the last rotation of Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan, hosting a town hall meeting, sharing a Canada Day barbeque and enjoying a concert.

"It always brings me great pride to see with my own eyes the fantastic job the Canadian Forces are doing on the ground in Afghanistan, and it was my honour to spend Canada Day with them," said Minister MacKay. "The continued commitment and determination of the Canadian Forces, as well as Canadian officials, to assisting the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country will never cease to amaze me. Our efforts in Afghanistan are a credit to Canada."

"I am enormously proud of Canada's Armed Forces and it has been a true pleasure to spend Canada Day with the brave men and women in uniform whose dedication and skill protect the interests and values of Canadians," said Minister Ambrose. "It is these men and women that make a difference in Afghanistan saving lives, contributing to the peace and stability, as well as the security of Canada."

This weekend's Canada Day activities marked Minister Fantino's first visit to Afghanistan since his appointment as Associate Minister of National Defence last month.

"This Canada Day, we reflect as a country on the outstanding contributions of our Canadian Forces in Afghanistan and around the world. The crucial role our fellow Canadians are playing in protecting our way of life, while doing their part to bring security and stability to others, is an inspiration to us all," said Minister Fantino. "It is a privilege to be among our brave men and women in Afghanistan as we celebrate our country's 144th birthday."

"I have visited our sailors, soldiers and airmen and women in Afghanistan many times, and each visit is just as inspiring as the first time. Man for man, woman for woman, they prove time and again that they are amongst the best militaries in the world," said General Natynczyk. "As we transition to the training mission, we will build on our vast experience and the training and mentoring work that has already reached some 50,000 Afghan National Army soldiers and 2,100 Afghan National Police personnel."

Canada is ending its UN-mandated, NATO-led combat mission in Kandahar province in July 2011 and beginning a non-combat, Kabul-centered training role that will continue until 2014. This training mission will build on the CF's established expertise in training Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), thereby contributing to the goal of preparing Afghans to assume responsibility for their own security by the end of 2014.

Visiting dignitaries and CF members were entertained by impressionist André-Phillippe Gagnon, musician Amanda Rheaume, comedians Rick Mercer and Mike "Bubbles" Smith, and had an opportunity to meet Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke and defenceman Luke Schenn as part of the Team Canada visit into theatre.

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