The sister of the first female Canadian soldier to die in action in Afghanistan is calling on the federal government to help Afghan civilians who are in danger of reprisals from the Taliban for their roles as interpreters and other positions helping Canadian troops.
Shilo, Man.-based Capt. Nichola Goddard was killed May 17, 2006, in a Kandahar firefight. Fifteen years later, her sister Kate Rusk says keeping Goddard’s memory alive means standing up for those in need.
“I think Nic wanted to help people, and I think that was the driving factor in why she ended up joining the armed forces,” Rusk told 680 CJOB.
“My folks are in education and there’s a lot of public service in the family and I think for her that was another way to give back and another way to help out.”
Rusk said her sister’s perspective on not leaving people behind means she would have found the current situation “unconscionable”, and that Goddard’s viewpoint wasn’t an outlier among military veterans.
“You need people who believe in the message, believe in what you’re doing and are willing to take risks for that, and I think the interpreters and the other staff who were assisting the Canadians in Afghanistan really did believe that we could make a difference and that Canada had a message that was worth fighting for,” she said.
“This idea of safety and freedom and equality and human rights was something that was worth fighting for.
“Unfortunately, because they believed in us and they believed in that message, their lives are in danger right now and so are their families.”
Federal immigration minister Marco Mendicino said Friday that Ottawa is working on a plan to help dozens of Afghans who are in danger for having worked with Canada, but there’s no clear timeline on when that will happen.
“I know even in the last number of weeks that the situation has gotten worse, that lives are on the line,” he said.
“Everybody within government is doing everything in our power to try and put the final strokes to this plan so we can put into action.”
Mendicino said immigration officials, the military and Global Affairs Canada are working to identify translators, interpreters and people who worked at the embassy in Kabul.
For Rusk, those plans aren’t unfolding quickly enough.
“I think we, frankly, already should have gotten them out. We’ve known this was going to happen for months. This wasn’t a surprise.
“We know the Taliban are targeting those who worked with Canada and with our allies, and their families. They’re in immediate danger right now and time is running out.”
With files from the Canadian Press