Ottawa has 'no plans' to recognize Taliban as legitimate government of Afghanistan: Trudeau
Thousands are still trying to flee the country through Kabul's airport
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau put the pin back in a political grenade today by firmly declaring that Canada will not recognize the Taliban regime as the legitimate government in Afghanistan.
His remarks came one day after Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau, speaking on CBC's Power & Politics, said the federal government would take a "wait and see" approach to the question of recognition.
Pressed by opposition attacks, Trudeau firmly closed the door on the notion during a campaign event in Markham, Ont. today.
"They have taken over and replaced the duly elected, democratic government by force," Trudeau said, noting that the federal government of the day did not recognize the Taliban the last time they were in power.
WATCH: Justin Trudeau says government has 'no plans' to recognize Taliban
The Taliban continues to be listed as a terrorist organization by Canada and its allies — something that's unlikely to change anytime soon.
Trudeau said the federal government's focus continues to be on getting Afghans who worked for the Canadian military and federal agencies out of the country safely.
Many of those Afghans have applied to a special immigration program but are still trapped in Kabul, having not yet received the necessary clearance to make the dangerous journey to the airport.
"The Taliban need to ensure free access to people to get to the airport," Trudeau said. "We will continue to work with our international partners to put pressure on them to do just that and secure a future for people in Afghanistan."
Canada has set up a special immigration program for Afghans still in the war-torn country and has conducted nine evacuation flights to date, Trudeau said. It also has established a separate stream for refugees who've made it out of Afghanistan and is promising to resettle up to 20,000 people.
With the Kabul airport now considered secure, the Canadian government is planning to resume military flights into Afghanistan, sources told CBC News.
In Kabul, during their first news conference since the stunning collapse of the elected government of former president Ashraf Ghani, Taliban spokespeople insisted they want peaceful relations with other countries and would respect the rights of women within the framework of Islamic law.
"We don't want any internal or external enemies," said the movement's main spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid.
The pressures of the federal election campaign — coupled with bitter memories of Canadian troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan for over a decade — has led to a rare degree of consensus among federal Opposition parties on dealing with the Taliban.
Foreign Affairs Minister <a href="https://twitter.com/MarcGarneau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MarcGarneau</a> says it's "too early" to say whether the Canadian government will recognize a Taliban government in Afghanistan: "We want to see what happens." <a href="https://t.co/moFGrGtTDC">pic.twitter.com/moFGrGtTDC</a>—@PnPCBC
Soon after hearing Garneau's televised remarks, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole said Monday a Conservative government would not recognize the Taliban.
He was followed Tuesday by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
"It's really clear that Taliban is a terrorist organization and it's an organization that we should not recognize," he said.
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet also weighed in on the issue today, telling reporters in French the government should not recognize the Taliban because its values are opposed to those of Quebec and Canada.
He also said Canada long ago lost its ability to project power abroad and needs to work with allies to handle the current chaotic situation.
In addition to Tuesday's statements in Kabul, the Taliban have sought to present a relatively moderate image as they take control of the country. They recently announced a general "amnesty" for Afghans and are urging women to join their government.
"Nobody is going to harm you, nobody is going to knock on your doors," Mujahid said.
He also said private media could continue to be free and independent in Afghanistan, adding the Taliban is committed to the media within its cultural framework.
With files from The Associated Press