Canada is contributing $25 million in food aid forsouthern Afghanistan, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announcedSunday during avisit to Kandahar.

"On this Thanksgiving weekend, Canadians are reminded that we also have a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan,"Oda said.

"This renewed partnership will help ensure that vulnerable Afghan children and families will continue to receive necessary food aid."

The money will be used to buy grain and cooking oil in areas hard hit by Taliban militants.

Canadian officials say that this year alone, 8,700 tonnes of food have been distributed to about 400,000 people.

After meetings with government officials in Kabul on Saturday, Oda and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier had coffee with soldiers Sunday morning at Kandahar Airfield.

They were later taken on a tour of forward operating bases outside the main camp to see Canadian-supported projects and talk to soldiers in the field.

Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre is on a fact-finding visit to Afghanistan without help from the federal government. He arrived on a UN flight from Pakistan to Kabul on Sunday.


Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre says he wants to convey his party's solidarity with Canadian troops and prepare for a parliamentary debate on the future of the mission in Afghanistan. ((CBC))

The Montreal MP said he made calls to the defence minister over the past several weeks, but requests for government approval of the trip were ignored or rejected.

"If they want to play politics, it's their problem, but this is a serious issue," he told CBC Newsworld. "My duty as the defence critic for the Official Opposition is to do my job, and my job means I have to be out in the field."

Coderre saidhe wants to talk to soldiers and get a first-hand view of the mission for his party before Parliament debates its future.

Coderre said he's using his visit to convey his party's solidarity with Canadian troops and prepare for a planned trip to Afghanistan by Liberal Leader St├ęphane Dion in November.

The Conservatives say it was a Liberal policy that prevented authorized visits forindividual MPs wishing to visitAfghanistan, but now that he's in the country, he'll be treated like any other Canadian.