Alberta Premier Alison Redford cancelled a secret 48-hour trip to Afghanistan, the country where she once acted as an election commissioner, after a deadly Taliban attack on a Kabul restaurant frequented by foreigners.
Besides the security concerns arising from Friday’s massacre at the Taverna du Liban that killed 21 people – including two Canadian accountants, Martin Glazer and Peter McSheffrey – Ms. Redford’s spokeswoman said the Premier decided it would be insensitive to make a political visit to the city at such a difficult moment.
Ms. Redford has a special kinship with the war-torn country. In 2005, she travelled there as a United Nations international election commissioner to help administer Afghanistan’s first parliamentary elections. She also served as an adviser to the Privy Council Office on Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.
“On my weekend down, I was supposed to go into Afghanistan, but we made the decision not to, of course, because of the terrible bombing on Friday, which was a personal disappointment for me,” Ms. Redford told reporters during a Monday conference call from Switzerland, where she is set to attend the World Economic Forum later this week.
Ms. Redford said she relished the prospect of going back to Afghanistan, “a place that really personally impacted me.”
After a trade mission to India last week, Ms. Redford was set to visit Canadian troops in the Afghan capital on the weekend. The visit would have come just two months before the end of Canada’s military commitment in Afghanistan, and Ms. Redford said she wanted to meet with members of the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, “who, of course, were the first troops in, and will be the last out.”
The Alberta Premier was also set to take a look at the University of Alberta’s involvement in Kabul’s French Medical Institute for Children, which is managed by the Aga Khan Development Network. Through the Canadian embassy and Canadian ambassador Deborah Lyons, Ms. Redford said she was also going to meet with leaders pushing for women’s rights.
Human and women’s rights in developing countries, including Afghanistan, have long been close to Ms. Redford’s heart. As a lawyer, she was an adviser on constitutional and legal reform issues in South Africa in the 1990s. Even after she returned to Calgary, her hometown, she regularly travelled overseas to provide legal advice in places such as Vietnam, Bosnia and the Philippines.
The planned weekend trip to Afghanistan was left off the Premier’s official travel itinerary to India and Switzerland because of security concerns.