(i) the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has repeatedly called on its members to target Canada and Canadians at home and abroad;
(ii) ISIL poses a clear and active threat to the people of the Middle East, including members of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority groups who have been subjected to a brutal and barbaric campaign of sexual violence, murder, and intimidation by ISIL;
(iii) unless confronted with strong and direct force, the threat that ISIL poses to Canada and to international peace and security, will grow;
(iv) Canada desires, consistent with Canadian values and interests, to protect the vulnerable and innocent civilians of the region, including through urgent humanitarian assistance;
(v) the Government of Iraq has requested military support against ISIL from members of the international community, including from the Government of Canada;
(vi) Canada is part of a broad international coalition of allies and partners, including numerous countries of the Middle East, committed to the fight against ISIL;
(vii) the United Nations Security Council remains seized of the threat posed by international terrorism with the unanimous passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178;
(viii) the deployment of Royal Canadian Air Force assets has played an important role in degrading, destabilising, and weakening ISIL's position and operations in the region;
(ix) the advise and assist mission of the Canadian Special Operations Forces in Northern Iraq has increased the capabilities of Kurdish-Iraqi Security Forces to combat ISIL; and
(x) continuing to degrade ISIL will require striking its operations and infrastructure where they are located, including in Syria;
(a) continues to support the Government's decision to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against ISIL, and terrorists aligned with ISIL, including air strike capability with authorisation to conduct airstrikes in Iraq and Syria;
(b) supports the Government's decision to extend the mission to a date not beyond March 30, 2016;
(c) notes that the Government continues not to deploy troops in a ground combat role; and
(d) offers its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us.
He said: Mr. Speaker, over the last year we have witnessed the growth of global extremism and brutality. It has shocked Canadians, and it has compelled their government to act.
Instability plaguing Syria continues to spill across the borders with refugee camps the size of cities emerging throughout the region. I visited one of those camps just a couple of weeks ago in northern Iraq and spoke to the Yazidis, Syrian Christians and others. They recounted their tales of horror.
I rise before this House to report that of all those I have met, those who were persecuted, people are on the run because the tyranny that was about to be levied on them was too great to bear. Indeed, the campaign that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has launched is also being felt around the world, from North Africa to South Asia, from social media to the streets in front of our own Parliament.
ISlL's campaign threatens Canadian citizens. It threatens the very foundation upon which our society is based. It does so through fear, oppression and tyranny. It does so through a culture of violence, ruling by brutal and barbaric intimidation.
Although the threat of terrorism continues to evolve, our reaction to this threat persists as the greatest test for this generation. This is fundamentally a test of our values, of our national character and a test of our will as a country and as a nation. The resolve of Canadians has carried us through wars and depressions, through hard times and through great uncertainty.
Like every other test of tyranny, Canadians will rise to the moment. My faith in our country to meet this moment with moral clarity, as we have in every other moment that has defined our nation, will never be diminished.
The scale of ISIL's ambition cannot be overstated. From between the ancient Euphrates and Tigris rivers, these brutal terrorists seek to establish a caliphate from which it promises territorial expansion and religious persecution.
We know that ISIL has set upon the task of organizing their campaign of atrocities. In areas where they operate from inside Syria, they enslave countless people, many Muslims, under the so-called Sharia-based courts. They fashioned a so-called capital for themselves inside Syria in the ancient city of Raqqa, once the capital of the Abbasid caliphate. Their leadership al-Baghdadi has crowned himself a so-called caliph while preaching his perversion of Islam from a Mosul mosque.
What has come of this? In their wake, they have a left an unprecedented humanitarian crisis drenched in the blood of the persecuted: millions of refugees, including religious minorities, fleeing for their lives across the region; brutal mass executions, surmountable to war crimes; the widespread use of rape and sexual violence against women and children; the emergence of slave markets where minority women are bought and sold as sex slaves by violent terrorists; the destruction of ancient relics and treasured religious heritage.
Just over six months ago, the world witnessed the Yazidis, who braved the heat with nothing but the clothes on their backs, as they made their way up Mount Sinjar surrounded by ISIL. We witnessed the Syrians being forced from the Nineveh Plains, their ancestral homeland, and early churches desecrated as they sought shelter in schools and churches in northern Iraq.
We pray for those who were unable to escape, those who have fallen into ISIL's tyranny, and those who have been murdered by ISIL's gangsters or enslaved by ISIL's thugs. We pray that their families know justice, that our efforts from our afar offer some comfort.
Needless to say, this is one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of our century thus far. Let me be clear, this catastrophe was not caused by an act of nature. It was created by acts of unambiguous evil inspired by a fanatical ideology. ISIL is based on an ideology of hatred and brutal persecution, one that seeks to erase a history of cultural diversity and pluralism, and rewrite it based on a depraved narrative that utterly rejects the inherent dignity of every human being.
However, ISIL's ideology is not limited to Iraq and Syria alone. Beyond the region, it has inspired a cult of violence with a global reach. Left unchecked, this terrorist threat is sure to grow and continue to grow quickly. Indeed as recent events have shown, Canada is not immune to ISIL's ideology. While the loudest threats emanate from abroad, they exist here at our home and have been felt in these very halls.
As our has noted, ISIL seeks to destroy the kind of open, free, diverse society that Canadians have chosen and have defended throughout our history. As this menace grows, so too does our responsibility to act to do our part in defence of human dignity and values.
In his response to the statement of the in the House on Tuesday, the leader of the Liberal Party stated that our government's case must be, “based on clear and reliable, dispassionately presented facts”. The facts are clear. ISIL has declared war on Canada by name and seeks to wage its jihad against our people. No matter how these facts are communicated, Canadians know that the leaders of the opposition parties will dismiss them and with that are dismissing Canadian values.
Canadians want their government to take action, and that is exactly what we are doing.
Over the last six months, in concert with our western and regional allies, like the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Jordan, we have been standing in support of the Iraqi state to maintain stability in the region and to halt ISIL's campaign of terror in Iraq.
As my colleague, the , will more fully describe, we have provided valuable military resources to the coalition. Through our combat mission, Canada is degrading ISIL's operations and is advising and assisting those who aim to reclaim ISIL-held territory. However, as our government has consistently said, a military contribution is only part of Canada's response. In fact, our government is pursuing a multi-faceted approach in the face of this crisis. We are acting with both compassion and strength. That is what standing up for Canada means.
Through our humanitarian support, Canada has provided food to 1.7 million people, shelter and relief supplies to another 1.2 million in need, and has improved access to education for up to 500,000 children. Our assistance has helped to provide four million litres of kerosene to 23,000 families across Iraq.
Our assistance has also helped to provide safe drinking water for 760,000 people, half of them children.
We have provided hygiene kits for 466,000 people. We have provided rapid life-saving assistance to over 240,000 highly vulnerable people through UNICEF's rapid response mechanism. With the onset of winter, we have reached almost 60,000 children with warm clothing and materials. Almost 1.5 million people received food assistance through our support through the World Food Programme. We have also helped support Syrian refugees in Iraq with food, water, shelter and protection.
While in Erbil this month, I visited one of the refugee camps and saw first-hand the devastation caused by this crisis. However, I also saw Canadians providing medical aid at a clinic funded by the Canadian government. Seeing the tangible difference we are making to the victims of ISIL is a reminder to everyone of the important humanitarian assistance Canada is rightfully providing.
Indeed, Canada is ranked sixth among the major donors of humanitarian aid to Syria, and fifth in aid to Iraq. This makes Canada one of the largest per capita donors in the world.
We are also providing support and protection for survivors of sexual violence and assisting those targeted on the basis of their faith.
Canada must continue to address the growing abuse of women and girls, bringing justice and relief to survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are ultimately held to account. These actions are abhorrent violations of the most basic principles of civilization and of human decency.
Together, we are proud of the efforts that Canada and our coalition partners are doing to help millions of innocent civilians recover from ISIL's terror. In addition, and in concert with our coalition partners, we are working to disrupt ISIL's illicit financing, counter extremist narratives, and stem the flow of foreign fighters to and from the front lines.
Through our diplomatic efforts, Canada has also heightened its engagement with regional leaders. In the last weeks, I have met with our allies in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, and we will continue to work closely with them.
In the face of this ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, more will need to be done. Our government will ensure that more will continue to be done.
I can assure Canadians that our government intends to provide large-scale humanitarian and stabilization assistance to help alleviate the suffering this terror group is inflicting. However, in order for this assistance to be effective, we must degrade ISIL. This is why we seek the support of this House for our decision to extend and expand Canada's military mission for up to one year so that, with our allies, we can continue to fight Islamic jihadism, which threatens both national and global security.
Although we have seen ISIL's capacities degraded, we continue to see it move its fighters and material across the border into Syria. We cannot permit violent ideologies to fester in ungoverned spaces. ISIL cannot have a safe haven.
This is why seek support to join our allies, who have been attacking ISIL in Syria. We ask that the Canadian Armed Forces conduct air strikes against ISIL targets in Syria on the same basis as our coalition allies: the threat that ISIL poses to Iraq.
Our air strikes in Syria have one goal and one goal only, and that is to degrade ISIL. These threats cannot be wished away by pious rhetoric. Canada will not choose to stand on the sidelines during a crisis that demands both strength and compassion.
The road ahead will not be without obstacles.
The region's deep-seated ethnic and sectarian divisions will not be resolved overnight. The volatile security environments of Iraq and Syria will not be easily stabilized, and the humanitarian crisis that afflicts these nations, sadly, cannot be reversed at once. While we are working with our closest friends and trusted partners, there are others who are pursuing their own agendas at the expense of our shared goals of lasting stability and unity.
We harbour no delusions about these obstacles, but the fact remains, in responding to this threat, Canada stands at a crossroad in history. We may either stand on the sidelines or take real and measured actions.
ISIL's barbarity is an affront to human dignity and to the civilized world. It threatens the very principles that shape Canada's national identity and guide our engagement on the global stage. Its violent ideology and expansionist agenda jeopardize Canadian interests and threaten Canadian citizens.
When Canadian values and Canadian citizens are under siege, we cannot afford to stand on the sidelines and preach moral virtue. We cannot speak of supporting the mission and our soldiers in one breath while voting against them in the next. These serious and consequential times call for serious and consequential leadership.
We must act with compassion, with strength and with moral clarity. We must defend what is right.
In partnership with our coalition allies, Canada is working across multiple lines of effort to halt ISIL's campaign of terror and restore the stability that those in the region so greatly deserve.
Our resolve in this operation remains strong. Let me be clear, our commitment is ultimately to the people of Syria and Iraq for whom terror and tyranny have been inflicted, and for whom must remain the promise of a future in peace and freedom.
With that, I urge all members of the House to support this motion.
Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt or question from the opposition side that the crimes perpetrated by ISIS are appalling and abhorrent. There have been mass killings, sexual violence, slavery, forced displacement, and the destruction of holy and historic sites. In Iraq alone, the violence has led to the displacement of 2.5 million civilians and left 5.2 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
ISIL has committed heinous crimes, including mass killings, sexual violence, forced displacement and the destruction of holy sites. The violence ISIL perpetrates is entirely unjustifiable and entirely contrary to Islam. The crisis in Iraq and Syria is undermining peace and stability in the region.
The situation in Iraq and Syria demands an international response. The NDP has called for Canada to contribute to that international response since last June.
When I first asked the government to help Iraqis displaced by the ISIS invasion of Mosul, it was last June, and at the time the issue was obscure to the government. In fact, I raised the threat with the minister directly. His response was blunt. He pointed to previous U.S. failures in Iraq and said, “They broke it; they fix it.”
One month later, we called on the government to support Iraqi governance and security in response to the ISIS threat. We recognized then, as we do now, that only responsible, inclusive governance in Iraq will allow Iraqis to take control of their own country and their own destiny and build their own peace.
Canada must act. We must do so in a way that we can best add value to the international coalition and in a way that respects international law and our values as a country.
We believe that Canada must act immediately to save lives. We remain as clearly and resolutely opposed as ever to the Conservatives' ill-defined combat mission.
Unfortunately, the concerns I raised when I spoke on the original motion six months ago are still very valid. In fact, I want to read out now what I said then, six months ago. This is what I said:
The motion we are debating today is ill-defined and ill-conceived. It offers no plan and no exit strategy. Shockingly, there are no new humanitarian commitments....
Just as shockingly, there are no territorial limits on operations. Nearly every other member of the coalition has explicitly ruled out air strikes in Syria; the Prime Minister explicitly ruled them in.
...the motion we are debating today would open that door to air strikes there—or anywhere, for that matter.
There are also no restrictions on who could be included in the category of “terrorists allied with ISIL”. ...
There are very few details in the motion on our deployment of “military assets”. Could these go beyond the nine planes and 600 troops currently committed? We just do not know.
Also, there is no requirement for Parliament to be consulted...if the mission is expanded or extended.
That was all true then. Unfortunately, it is also true now, except now it is worse. The new motion does not rule out the possibility of deploying ground combat troops in the future. In his speech earlier this week, the opened the door to a further expansion, saying: “...we must avoid if we can taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region. We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves....”
In other words, the government will do its best, but there are no promises. With the government's record, that is far from reassuring.
There are other disturbing features of this new mission as well. Whereas the previous objective was to “degrade” ISIS, now the apparently wants to “defeat” ISIS. This implies a much longer commitment. It also highlights the need for an exit strategy that the government does not seem to have.
Of course, the new motion extends Canadian air strikes into Syria without a UN or NATO mandate and without the permission of the Syrian government. This is dangerous in three ways. First, the action may well be illegal. Second, the government has done nothing to show otherwise or to show that it takes international law seriously at all.
After the belittled and joked about international law yesterday afternoon, the government was forced to move quickly to cover up the fact that it had not sent notice of its intention to the UN Security Council, as is required in cases of self-defence. The legal case that bombing in Syria constitutes any form of self-defence has not been made.
The legal case for this war is made even weaker by a change in the text of this motion compared with the one from October. The previous motion targeted ISIS and its allies. The motion in front of us targets ISIS and “aligned groups”, opening the door to a much larger role for Canada in the so-called war on terrorism.
Second, since Canadian pilots will be flying in Syria without ground support, the likelihood of mistakes that kill innocent people is far greater. In fact, the U.S. has excluded Syria from its own standards to prevent civilian casualties and has admitted that it does not have a clear idea of the results of its bombing in Syria. The government is apparently preparing a messaging campaign for if and when civilians are killed, but it has not said how it will prevent civilian deaths in the first place.
Even if pilots are able to identify targets, they will sometimes, inevitably, identify the wrong targets. As Lieutenant General James Terry, the top U.S. commander overseeing the anti-ISIS operation, said last year:
We have some great capability in terms of precision. What's in the balance here if you're not careful is you can be precisely wrong.... And you could create a very bad situation.
Of course, civilian deaths increase the ability of ISIS to use air strikes as a recruitment tool.
Third, bombing ISIS in Syria supports the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad. The Assad regime has used barrel bombs and chemical weapons against children, women, and men in Syria. Assad is directly responsible for a civil war that has cost some 220,000 lives, over 100 times more than ISIS.
We have heard disturbing reports that the Assad regime is collaborating with ISIS, and Syrian opposition groups report that Assad's forces are exploiting the gaps created by bombing to take over more territory. By bombing in Syria, we reduce the prospects for a lasting political solution without Assad, which is needed to resolve the broader conflict.
It goes without saying that Canada must do something about ISIL. Our response must be serious and significant. The question is, what should Canada do? How can we be most helpful, not just in the short run but in defeating ISIL over the long term?
I want to make one thing very clear: we do not need to shoot missiles or drop bombs in order to prove that we take this threat seriously. Over 60 countries are helping to defeat ISIL, and the vast majority are not taking part in air strikes.
From the beginning, the NDP has been proactive and consistent not just in opposing the military mission but in proposing a practical and principled alternative. In the fall, New Democrats called on the government to do four concrete things: support the construction of refugee camps, help victims of sexual violence, assist in protecting ethnic and religious minorities, and encourage the international prosecution of war crimes. To the former minister's credit, he agreed to all of these. He even acted on some of them, but there is so much more that remains to be done.
I have been disappointed to hear the new minister repeat time and time again that Canada is doing its share. There are children freezing in Dohuk refugee camps in Kurdistan. A quarter of Lebanon's population is, in fact, Syrian refugees, pushing that already fragile country to the brink.
A majority of the UN humanitarian appeals for Iraq and Syria remain unfunded. When the need is so great, so obvious, so tragic, and so compelling, I do not find it acceptable for the minister to shrug and say that Canada has done its share. The truth is that most of those in need in Iraq are not in ISIS-controlled territory. They are refugees, internally displaced persons, and people whose livelihoods have been stolen from them by chaos and carnage. They are victims of ISIS, and Canada can help them now.
During last year's debate, I told the story of an encounter I had with a group of young Iraqi children in a refugee camp. I hope those children survived the winter. If they did, they almost certainly still need our help. Now as then, we need to be smart about how we deliver.
At the foreign affairs committee, we have just concluded a study that the NDP requested on Canada's response to ISIS. The committee has heard from a diverse group of witnesses, including academics, civil society representatives, and community organizations. The message from witnesses has been clear: Canada must respond to ISIS; a response must be smart, responsible and comprehensive; and we need a strategy based on international co-operation to both respond to ISIS on the ground and to prevent radicalization and extremism abroad.
We have clear guidance in these areas from existing UN Security Council resolutions on ISIS: 2170, 2178, and 2199. None of these authorizes a military mission. However, the Security Council is requiring action to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, financing, and resources to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. While air strikes are being used as a recruitment tool for ISIS, these UN measures tackle the networks and structures that ISIS and other extremist organizations use to recruit and spread their ideology and their influence.
The Government of Canada should take immediate and specific steps to meet its international obligations in these areas. As part of that effort, the government should immediately sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty, which it refuses to sign, to demonstrate commitment to ending the flow of weapons to illegal armed groups and human-rights abusers.
The government should also partner with domestic communities to develop a strategy to counter radicalization here in Canada. In fact, the one program that had existed the Conservatives cut. Canada can lead the way as the international coalition develops a strong campaign of counter-extremist messaging, exposing the brutality of ISIS and the lack of a religious basis for its atrocities.
Finally, Canada can do a great deal more to help build the inclusive, responsible governance in Iraq that all the experts agree is needed for a lasting solution after ISIS.
As one of the witnesses at committee, University of Waterloo professor Bessma Momani, stated, “If you don't provide sustainable institutions that can fill that vacuum, it will just be another acronym that will fill that space”. I could not agree with her more.
That is where Canada's expertise and Canada's potential lie. We can save lives. We can build peace to help the people in Iraq.
We in the NDP strongly believe that Canada has unparalleled expertise to respond to this crisis, and we must put that expertise to good use.
This country is better than the legally dubious and strategically ignorant motion of the government. That is why I am very proud to present the following amendment on behalf of the official opposition.
I move that Government Business No. 17 be amended by the following:
(a) replacing the words “the threat that ISIL poses to Canada and to international peace and security, will grow” with the words “from capable and enabled local forces, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow”;
(b) replacing the word “2178” with the words “2170, 2178, and 2199”;
(c) deleting sections (viii), (ix) and (x); and
(d) deleting all the words after the word “Accordingly,” and substituting the following: “this House calls on the Government to:
a. end the participation of Canadian Forces troops in combat, air strikes and advise-and-assist training in Iraq and Syria as soon as possible;
b. boost humanitarian aid in areas where there would be immediate, life-saving impact, including assisting refugees with basic shelter and food needs; and investing in water, sanitation and hygiene, health and education for people displaced by the fighting;
c. work with our allies in the region to stabilize neighbouring countries, strengthen political institutions and assist these countries in coping with an influx of refugees;
d. contribute to the fight against ISIL, including military support for the transportation of weapons;
e. provide assistance to investigation and prosecution of war crimes;
f. increase assistance for the care and resettlement of refugees impacted by this conflict;
g. work to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, finances, and resources to ISIL, in accordance with our international obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2170, 2178, and 2199;
h. put forward a robust plan of support for communities and institutions working on de-radicalization and counter-radicalization;
i. report back on the costs of the mission and humanitarian assistance provided to date on a monthly basis to the Standing Committee on Foreign affairs and International Development, until Canadian involvement is concluded; and
j. continue to offer its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces who stand on guard for all of us”.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the government's motion to extend and expand Canada's mission in Iraq. Liberal Party members do not support this motion to seek Parliament's consent for an unfocused and potentially unending mission because it is not in the Canadian interest.
ISIL poses a real and serious threat to security around the world and in Canada. We recognize that. Liberals believe that Canada must be part of the international effort against ISIL. As one of 60 nations participating in the coalition against this ideological extremist and terrorist scourge, Canada must play a constructive role. We must make the best contribution we can, one that serves our national interest.
The mission proposed by the does not measure up. It has an unclear legal basis, unclear mission objectives and an open-ended scope. Overwhelmingly, it fails the national interest test.
Why else do Liberals oppose the 's present motion? Let us discuss this.
Last fall, Liberals did support the government's plan to send special forces into Iraq to help behind the lines, training, advising and assisting Iraqi forces. We believe that ISIL will be stopped when local Iraqi forces can fight successfully against the ISIL rampage, can protect local people and their villages, can succeed in capturing and holding lost territory, and can commit to respecting minority rights. We want to help them to do those things.
However, the Liberals did not support the 's October motion to go to war in Iraq, because he failed to offer a clear objective for his combat plan. He failed to outline a responsible plan to achieve it. He failed to make the case that a bombing role was the best contribution Canadians could make. Regrettably, the motion before us has similar deficits.
Earlier this week, the Liberal Party leader's speech in the House reminded Parliament of four core principles Liberals set out for the October combat mission in Iraq, and they still stand today. The first principle is that Canada has a role to play in confronting humanitarian crises in the world. That is an important Canadian value. Over many decades, Canadian governments have generously contributed help, military and non-military alike, in human emergencies abroad.
We opened our country's doors to the oppressed. We welcomed refugees to come, to rebuild their lives here, and those refugees have helped build Canada. Refugees from Vietnam, Uganda, Cambodia, Somalia, Nicaragua, from every corner of the world, have come to Canada and made our country better. This current motion contains no new ideas, no new funds, no new proposals to help alleviate the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the region.
Under the second principle, when our government considers deploying our men and women in uniform, there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada. The October motion did not respect that principle and the motion that was moved today is just as vague about Canada's mission and role. In October, the Liberals expressed grave concern that lack of clear objectives masked the 's real intentions, namely involving Canada in a longer, deeper combat engagement.
The motion moved today validates that concern. The Prime Minster is saying that the objective is to weaken the Islamic State, whereas the is saying that it is to defeat and completely eliminate the group. Those are two very different mandates.
Once again, the new motion on the combat mission does not set out any clear objectives or any plan as to when or how Canada will extricate itself from the multi-party conflict affecting this complex region, which is mired in deep-rooted divisions, tension and hate.
On the contrary, section (a) of the motion gives the government exceedingly vague and broad latitude to conduct this war. It reads that this House:
(a) continues to support the Government's decision to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against ISIL, and terrorists aligned with ISIL, including air strike capability with authorisation to conduct air strikes in Iraq and Syria;
That is a pretty open-ended permission slip, and both the and the appear eager to use to it. They explicitly compared this new mission to Afghanistan, stating that “we're in this for the longer term”. In Afghanistan, the longer term meant a decade; the longest war in Canadian history.
When asked who takes over should ISIL be cleared from Syria, the told Evan Solomon on Power & Politics that he does not know how this is going to end.
No clear objective is not good enough. Without objectives, clarity, or boundaries in the motion, Canada's war on ISIL in Syria could well result in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad consolidating his grip on power. This president oppressed and terrorized his own people. In just four years, he bombed, gassed, and killed more than 130,000 of his own citizens, the vast majority of them civilians, and almost a quarter of the victims were women and children. Enabling Mr. al-Assad is not in Canadians' interest.
The third Liberal principle is that the case for deploying our forces must be made openly and transparently, based on clear, reliable, and dispassionately presented facts.
The current Conservative government has not been transparent and open on this mission, not with parliamentarians nor with the Canadian people. The Conservatives refused to provide cost estimates to Canadians until shamed into it by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. They refused to provide critics with briefings until yesterday, while troops were first deployed last September.
It is facts not fantasy that underpin the moral value of honesty. Honesty in turn earns trust. We cannot trust the current government, which has been dishonest to Canadians. At every opportunity, ministers promote the myth of stable increasing funding for defence, the myth of investment in state-of-the-art equipment. The fact is that the Conservatives have been cutting the budget for the last four years, they reduced the defence share of funding to 1% of GDP, the lowest in 70 years, and they failed to replace our rusting military planes, ships, trucks, tanks, and rifles.
The himself was caught in a string of falsehoods, misrepresenting a photo of a religious ceremony to promote his war rhetoric, making false claims about the NDP's past record on combat mission votes, and concocting false statistics on former Liberal government defence spending—statistics that are on public record.
Much more serious is the fact that our military was sent into ground combat operations in Iraq despite the repeated, explicit assurances that this would not happen. Canadians were assured by government and by the generals that the special forces would not accompany troops to the front lines, they would not do what is called “close combat advising”, and they would not engage in combat. However, in fact, they did and they are.
In January we learned that, since last November, the mission had “evolved”. Canadian troops are active on the front lines. They regularly engage in direct combat activities. Unlike our closest allies whose advisors stay behind the wire, we are needlessly risking our soldiers' lives. Tragically, Sargent Andrew Joseph Doiron lost his life in this combat zone.
Now the government gives false reasons for participating in the Syria bombing mission. The Conservatives claim Canada has been asked because only Canada has precision-guided smart bombs to assist the United States. That is false. Even Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have these munitions and use them very effectively in the region, according to the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey.
Voting yes now to a longer, deeper war for Canada, led by a dishonest government we cannot trust, is simply not in Canadians' interest.
Our final principle is that Canada's role must reflect the broad scope of Canadian capabilities, so we help how best we can.
Given the Conservatives' massive defence cuts, the Liberals are concerned about asking our Canadian Armed Forces to do more. The Conference of Defence Associations Institute reported that the forces' current international deployments “mask a considerable decline in their capabilities and readiness”. Today's soldiers injured in the Afghanistan war are still waiting to receive timely professional mental health care. How unacceptable.
What are Canada's capabilities? How can Canada play a constructive role in this very challenged region? What roles reflect Canadian values and our national interest? What do Liberals support?
Canada can do better. Canada can act on the values it was known for throughout the world. These are values like working constructively with others, helping the less fortunate, doing more than our fair share, and being honest.
I will talk about three areas that the Liberals support. First, Canada can work constructively with coalition allies to accelerate the training and capabilities of more Iraqi soldiers. According to Major-General Michael Hood, 69 special forces members currently work with Americans to provide strategic and tactical advice to security forces in the Iraqi army. To date, they have conducted 42 training courses with 650 peshmerga soldiers.
Canada has a clear expertise in helping to train Iraqi forces to fight and stop ISIL. Surely there is a need for more trainers. Canada supplied more than 1,000 fine trainers in its final years in Afghanistan. Surely Canada can do more now in Iraq. We can, and must, do it away from the front lines.
This is an area in which we differ from our NDP colleagues, who have been all over the map about military missions, sometimes talking about potentially being supportive of strategic airlifts or military use to bring supplies. Today, we heard that the NDP is not interested in any military involvement at all, while we, the Liberals, have respect for our Canadian Armed Forces members. We know that they can play an essential role here.
Second, Canada could lead a well-funded and well-planned international humanitarian aid intervention to help people in need in the Levant region. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has said that there are now 3.8 million Syrian refugees registered and 12 million displaced persons who need help within Syria itself. That is not including the millions of other displaced persons and refugees from Iraq.
Last month, the High Commissioner launched an appeal to gather $3.7 billion in humanitarian aid for 2015 alone. He said that the need for humanitarian aid in Syria is growing much more rapidly than the contributions from the international community. He encouraged donor countries to give a lot more aid to support refugees and host communities. This refugee crisis is threatening the stability and security of the region. Neighbouring countries, such as Lebanon and Jordan, have been destabilized. Turkey is feeding and housing millions of refugees.
What is in Canada's best interest? We must do more to help vulnerable refugee families, because it is a Canadian value and so that these families' soldiers can confidently fight ISIL.
Third, Canada should expand our country's target for Syrian refugee settlement. Let us give more victims of war an opportunity to start a new life in Canada. The Conservative government's promises have been weak, and its delivery has been even weaker.
Here is an example of past Canadian governments' generosity. In just 1979 and 1980, 50,000 Vietnamese refugees settled in Canada.
These immigrants, known as boat people, were both urban and rural dwellers. They did not speak English or French, by and large, they had no Canadian relatives, and they arrived during an economic downturn in Canada. This made integrating into Canada and achieving economic independence a difficult struggle. Today, these Vietnamese Canadians are recognized for their successes, their strong communities, and their tremendous contributions to Canada. We should keep the figure of 50,000 over two years in mind.
In contrast, the Conservative government has been miserly in its treatment of Syrian refugees. Originally targeting only 1,300 refugees over 18 months, the government resettled less than half by its target date of last December. At opposition members' urging, the government recently increased its pledge to 10,000 refugees in three years, but refugee aid groups are skeptical of this pledge because much of the funding must be raised by sponsoring families and private organizations, not provided by government. It is not a Canadian value to do less than our fair share. Canadians believe in helping more, and that is in the Canadian interest.
Finally, of the four commitments in the government motion, Liberals enthusiastically endorse only the last, which I will quote:
Accordingly, this House:...
(d) offers its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us.
The Liberal Party respects and recognizes the professionalism, courage and dedication of all those who serve our country. We have never hesitated to deploy our extremely competent Canadian Armed Forces to combat zones when doing so was very clearly in the best interest of Canada and Canadians. In each of those cases, the best interest of the nation was very clear.
A mission designed to uphold Canada's interest must have transparent objectives, a responsible plan to achieve them, and a plan to exit the theatre of war. That is missing from this motion and from this proposed combat mission.
Liberals encourage the government, as quickly and as responsibly as possible, to shift Canada's role in Iraq, shift it not into a bombing role in Syria but back to a non-combat mission, focused on expanded Iraqi troop training, humanitarian aid leadership, and a far more generous and warm-hearted welcome to this war's refugees. That is the Canadian way.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be allowed to speak today on the motion before us to extend the mission in Iraq, to expand it into Syria and to conduct it over the next 12 months.
I want to start by saying I appreciate your words, Mr. Speaker. The disrespect and the heckling on both sides of this House and the allowing of this discussion to fall into the disrespectful patterns that we see in question period would certainly be unfortunate.
We are talking about sending Canadian Forces, for another 12 months, into an even more dangerous mission. We should be able to discuss it like grownups, on both sides of this House, in a respectful debate, a serious debate, which would allow Canadians to help form their own opinions about what Canada should do.
I do not think anyone in this place believes that Canada should do nothing. I do not think anyone in this place underestimates the threat that is ISIL or ISIS. Both names are used, but the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a more dangerous force in many ways than what we have seen before. They claim to have the ability to set up their own perimeters, their own sovereignty and their own caliphate.
They have shown themselves to be excessively brutal, sadistic and to shock the conscience of the world. They are practising a 9th century extremist interpretation of Islam, and they represent a quite dangerous force. I do not think anyone around this House of Commons would deny that.
The question then becomes what best can Canada do to degrade ISIL, which is the wording of this motion, to deal with the fact that there are numerous criminal thug organizations around the world now. Back in 2001, I do not think anybody in North America would have imagined that there was a worse group than al Qaeda. We have al Qaeda still exerting its influence, and al Qaeda behind the attacks in Paris. We have Boko Haram kidnapping innocent schoolgirls in Nigeria. We have the presence of groups that are as yet unnamed that could emerge.
Our discussion should be one of how we, as a western community of nations, best deal with the general threat of terrorist organizations around the world. One of the ways to do this, of course, is to ensure that the west not appear to be at war against Islam. This particular narrative of west versus Islam is a rallying cry in the propaganda that has people gather.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Ms. Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if members opposite would not heckle. I am trying to speak respectfully. I have never heckled them.
We must not allow ourselves to enforce the propaganda and rhetoric of those people we would like to defeat. With that said, let us move to what is being proposed in this mission.
I did want to stop and say that I commend the administration, the Conservative government for the humanitarian efforts we have taken so far. I would have said that on Tuesday morning had I been allowed to speak. I was pleased to hear from the that we are feeding Iraqi children, that we are taking steps to assist people who are in situations of unbearable suffering, but there is much more that needs to be done on the humanitarian side and I will return to that later.
This mission as described is to extend, for a 12-month period, the continued bombing in Iraq where we have been invited by the Iraqi government, but also to extend bombing into Syria. I would like to spend a lot of my time this morning, and I do not have much time, on the question of what this mission will do in Syria and how absolutely fraught with peril that is.
When I spoke to this idea of bombing in Iraq last October, I worked on the general theme that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Canada tends to be a country of great intentions. Certainly, I do not take away any of the intentions of the Conservative government on this issue.
However, we had good intentions when we went into Libya. We had good intentions when we said that we were there under the doctrine of responsibility to protect, to protect the civilian population of Libya against a brutal dictator, Moammar Gadhafi. We then switched our purpose and said that we were not actually there for the responsibility to protect, that we would not accept a ceasefire proposal and would not move to peace talks as long as Moammar Gadhafi was in charge.
I remember John Baird said, and I can use his name since he has left this place, that while we may not know who will replace Gadhafi, we could be sure of one thing, that it could not be worse than Gadhafi.
In so doing, we missed our chance. That is why I was the only member of Parliament to vote against the continued bombardment of Libya. I voted against it because I knew that the rebel forces that we were embracing as a legitimate government of Libya included al Qaeda forces. It seemed all too inevitable to me that the warehouses full of weapons that were held by Moammar Gadhafi in Libya would fall into the hands of extremists and terrorists. In fact, those weapons have now been traced to the hands of ISIS.
We went into Libya, and I do not think there is any question we made things very much worse. Equally, there is no question that our intentions were good.
Let us look at Syria. We have ignored the suffering in Syria far too long. We have allowed a brutal butcher, Bashar al-Assad, to murder his own people. We have been allowing this for four years. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, we have turned a blind eye to the cries for help from the rebel forces of Syria and those who want to get rid of Bashar al-Assad. There are now four million Syrian refugees, and over 220,000 people have been killed in Syria by Bashar al-Assad. That is the most recent estimate.
Why did we not go into Syria? We had the permission of the UN Security Council to go into Libya under the provision of responsibility to protect, and when we shifted our mission from responsibility to protect to regime change, we forever lost the ability to get the support of Russia and China to use responsibility to protect to go into Syria to protect civilians there.
I would not blame neighbouring countries suffering under the burden of trying to take care of four million refugees. The populations of Lebanon, of Jordan, and of Turkey are straining under the weight of trying to take care of the refugees who have tried to escape Bashar al-Assad. Now we show an interest in going into Syria. Why? We say it is because ISIS is in there.
Of course ISIS is there.
A few years back we saw U.S. Republicans posing with ISIS fighters because as rebel forces against Bashar al-Assad, they were the good guys. Now that we believe ISIS forces represent a threat around the world, we are interested in Syria. Now we are going to go in without any legal sanction, without any international law on our side. We are going to have to hope that Bashar al-Assad regards our efforts as somehow friendly to him, or we could have Syrians shooting down Canadian planes.
We now know from the , and I accept his word, that ISIS fighters do not have anti-aircraft missiles. Do Syrian government forces have anti-aircraft missiles? They just shot down a U.S. drone.
We know we do not want to ask Bashar al-Assad for his permission, because that would make it completely transparent that the net effect of our first efforts to engage ourselves in the crisis that is the civil war in Syria will be inevitably to assist Bashar al-Assad. We do not want to admit that if we are successful in Syria, we will have made Bashar al-Assad secure by removing a dreadful force that also happens to be against him.
As I describe this, I hope that anyone can see, whether watching from home or in this chamber, that what faces us in Syria is, at a minimum, messy. It is conflicted. The opportunities for things to go wrong are almost infinite. We will be sending Canadian fighter planes to a remote distance without the support of the government of the region, as we have currently in Iraq, and we will be doing so in a war zone that is fraught with sectarian violence.
We know that Bashar al-Assad is supported by Hezbollah and by Iran. We know that the rebel forces include some who are legitimately seeking a democratic transition, but we have stood on the sidelines of butchery in Syria. Now, clothed in moral rectitude, we think we can go in and bomb Syria and nothing will go wrong.
I will go to the words of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the best way to defeat terrorism in the region. The best way and the biggest threat, as he put it, to terrorism is not from missiles; it is from a strategy of political inclusion. We should be doing much more to get the countries in that region, themselves threatened by ISIS, to take on the ISIS threat.
I congratulate the existing humanitarian efforts, but much more needs to be done for the four million Syrian refugees. Much more needs to be done to stem the flow of weapons to ISIS. Much more needs to be done to stem the flow of money to these terrorist groups, and we should, as a community of nations taking the threat of terrorism seriously, work to end the threat of Boko Haram, al Qaeda, ISIS, and groups of criminal thug organizations as yet unnamed.
This mission does not do that.
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois would support an intervention if it put the humanitarian mission first and if it addressed the issues at the root of this crisis as well as the barbaric acts perpetrated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
However, the motion that the Conservatives are trying to adopt requires the blind trust of the House. The motion primarily calls for a military solution and is vague about the mission's objective and its assessment. The Bloc Québécois stands by its usual position and will not give this government a blank cheque.
This motion is even less clearly defined than the one moved six months ago in the House. Instead of restricting and better defining the type of intervention, the motion opens the door to a deeper and longer engagement. However, we can learn from experience, from our past successes and mistakes. For example, we can take lessons from the intervention in Kosovo, Canada's refusal to participate in the Iraq war, the deployment of troops in Afghanistan and the Libya intervention. We also have to take into consideration the complexity of the domestic and foreign policies of the countries in the Middle East. We have to consider the territories, countries, relations among the peoples living in the region and the religions practised there.
The motion proposes that we pursue our intervention in Iraq, true, but it also proposes that we intervene against the Islamic State and against terrorists aligned with the Islamic State, including the capacity to conduct air strikes in Syria. I will come back to Syria in a bit. However, we take the word “including” to mean that this motion would allow Canada to intervene against the Islamic State anywhere, regardless of borders, countries or political situations. The government is prepared to intervene everywhere. Who decides? No one knows.
However, the United Nations was created to provide a framework for international intervention. UN action is guided by its charter, which sets out the objectives of the United Nations. The objectives include “1. To maintain international peace and security”, which obviously includes sending troops, if necessary; “2. To develop friendly relations among nations”, which goes without saying; and “3. To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character”, which means solving problems by whatever means necessary, under the auspices of the United Nations.
Its action is based on some fundamental principles, including the “sovereign equality of all its Members”, which “settle their international disputes by peaceful means”, if possible, which “refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force” and which give the United Nations “every assistance”. There is not a single provision in the Charter of the United Nations that authorizes the UN to intervene in affairs that essentially fall under national jurisdiction.
The Bloc Québécois believes in these principles, which form the basis of our analysis of any action taken by the international community in cases of conflict. Any action taken by Quebec and Canada as part of our commitment to international solidarity should be focused on humanitarian action. The Bloc opposes all unilateral action and opposes the notion of a pre-emptive war in the absence of an imminent, established threat.
The motion moved by the Conservative government demonstrates a one-dimensional approach that calls for air strikes and in which urgent humanitarian assistance plays a secondary role. The Bloc Québécois agrees with the UN Secretary-General in that we need to address the underlying causes of this crisis. Following the adoption of resolution 2178, the UN Secretary-General said that “terrorism must be defeated”, and that “this objective could only be achieved by mobilizing international solidarity and tackling the underlying conditions that provide fertile soil for extremism.” The Secretary-General stressed that “the most powerful weapons against this extremism are education, jobs and leaders who listen to their people and follow the rule of law”.
Although the motion is open to the protection of civilians, particularly by providing emergency humanitarian assistance, the is rushing to close the door on such assistance, saying that Canada has given enough.
When the government says that it is prepared to take military action and that Canada has given enough in the same sentence, despite the millions of Syrian refugees, we are far from the multilateral approach proposed by the UN and the Bloc Québécois.
When the government is prepared to intervene in a country that did not ask for it, to interfere in a civil war where our intervention will inevitably favour one of the belligerents, who should already be facing war crime charges, there is cause for concern.
Using the right to self-defence granted by the UN to justify future bombings against the Islamic State in Syria is a misguided interpretation.
The Bloc Québécois has not changed its mind and will not hand out a blank cheque. The proposed motion would enable Canada to intervene everywhere. We say no to that.
The UN was founded to provide an intervention framework in international relations. That is what we are defending and that is why we will vote against this motion. Our position is clear: yes to an intervention under the UN banner, and only under the UN banner.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to join in this debate on extending our vital, military and humanitarian mission in order to help the innocent in Iraq and Syria, who are victims of this terrorist and genocidal organization, the so-called Islamic State, also known as Daesh or ISIL.
Let me be clear. Canada has always had a sense of moral obligation to act in concert with our allies when faced with grave threats to our security and to global security. We also believe in a moral obligation, wherever possible and prudent, to defend the innocent from the deprivations of genocide and ethnic cleansing, as is the case today in Iraq and eastern Syria.
Let us understand, first of all, the nature of the enemy, I would say the common enemy of humankind, in the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIS, or Daesh. It is hard for some, perhaps with the enlightened western paradigm, to grasp the nature of this organization, because it is profoundly irrational in its entire ideology, in its motivations, and in its actions. This is an organization that is motivated by a dystopian vision of imposing, through violence, a caliphate: the idea of a theocracy grounded in a particularly violent iteration of seventh century Sharia law.
This organization and its fellow travellers regard anyone who does not share their dystopian vision of a caliphate as a kafir, as an infidel, as an enemy, as someone who is marked for, at best, slavery, dhimmitude, or at worst, death, and often a particularly gruesome one.
This is an organization that, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and various independent human rights observers, is responsible for some unthinkable depravities. They are responsible for beheading children; for mass sexual slavery of girls as young as eight; and for targeting gay men by, in one instance that is recorded on film by them, throwing a gay man off of a tower, and when he did not die, stoning him to death.
This is an organization that has sought to erase from the face of the earth the small and vulnerable minority community of the Yazidis, an ancient religious and ethnic community. ISIL has sought to obliterate the ancient Assyrian Chaldean peoples of the Nineveh plains, who are the indigenous people of that region of Mesopotamia, whose ancestors have been there for thousands of years, and who, for the better part of 1,700 years, have observed the Christian faith but for even longer have spoken their own ancient tongue, Chaldean and Aramaic.
ISIL is an organization that has quite literally no regard for the sanctity of human life, that regards girls and women as property rather than people, that regards minorities not as people worthy of protection and respect but rather of obliteration and elimination.
Let me share with members one specific example of its barbarity that was related to me by Archbishop Louis Sako, the leader of the Chaldean Iraqi church. He told me that after ISIL invaded Mosul, the second-largest city of Iraq, and issued a fatwa of death or conversion or dhimmitude for the Christians of Mosul, they fled with their possessions, the rest of which were all taken by ISIL. However, a handful of infirm, handicapped, elderly Christians were left behind in hospitals. They could not move, as they did not have relatives.
The Daesh, ISIL, went into these hospitals and after the allotted 48 hours had passed for the fatwa, they approached these infirmed handicapped elderly Christians in their hospital beds and told them that if they did not convert on the spot, they would be killed, they would be beheaded in their hospital beds. Let there be no doubt about the kind of barbarism, the kind of evil, with which we are dealing.
In light of this, I believe it is incumbent upon us to act for humanitarian reasons. I believe doing so is consistent with the principle of the responsibility to protect. Admittedly, the actual incarnation of that doctrine at the United Nations requires the approval of Vladimir Putin and the Chinese politburo. However, we ought not to encumber Canadian policy with the approval of Vladimir Putin. We should be able to act independently to prevent genocide, to prevent yet more victims from being claimed.
We also have a national security imperative to do so because, as members will know, ISIS has explicitly declared war on Canada, has called on its supporters to kill Canadians wherever they find them. It is rather evident that the two terror attacks on Canadian soil that took Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo in October of last year were at least inspired by the barbarism of ISIL.
Had the world not begun to act, had the coalition of some 24 countries involved in the military combat against ISIL in Iraq and Syria not begun last September and October, had the other 40 allied countries supporting non-military action against ISIL not done so, had these things not occurred, it is clear that ISIL would have continued to gain more territory in Iraq, more resources, more oil fields, more wealth, more armaments and, most worrying, more legitimacy in the eyes of those who are susceptible to radicalization.
It is one of the threats to Canada. More than 100 Canadians have gone to Syria and Iraq to join this terrorist organization. Obviously, when they return to Canada, they pose a threat to our security. This is also the case in almost every developed country.
We have to show those individuals who are likely to be radicalized and recruited by the group known as the Islamic State that it is not the champion of a caliphate but rather a crazed organization.
That is why the Government of Canada has committed the Royal Canadian Air Force, with six CF-18s, one Polaris aerial refuelling aircraft and two CP-140 modernized Aurora aircraft, to join the allied air combat mission against ISIL targets. It is also why we have committed 69 special operations forces members to an advise, assist and training mission with the Kurdish peshmerga near Erbil in northern Iraq. I am pleased to report that, thanks in part to the brilliant work of our men and women in uniform and our allies, we have moved ISIS from being on the offence of gaining new territory last summer and fall to being on the defence of losing territory now.
We now note ISIL moving some of its heavy equipment that has not yet been struck by allied aerial bombardments from Iraq back into Syria. We hope that, with the assistance of allied air support, Iraqi security forces will in due course launch an effective ground combat counteroffensive in which we will not participate on the ground but which we will support from the air.
All of this indicates that in due course the centre of gravity of the fight against ISIL is likely to move westward into eastern Syria, which is the centre of its operations. Its capital is located in Raqqa in central east Syria. This is an area that for all intents and purposes the brutal Syrian regime has ceded sovereignty over to ISIL.
We therefore believe, pursuant to legal advice received from our own Judge Advocate General and the position taken by President Obama's administration, that we have every legal prerogative to pursue the ISIL targets in eastern Syria, in part at the invitation of the government of Iraq under article 51 of the United Nations Charter to give practical expression to the collective right of self-defence.
I believe this modest expansion of the mission and the one year horizon proposed in the motion provides precisely the kinds of rules of engagement that our military need to play a meaningful role in this international coalition.
We ought not to expect others, like the Netherlands or Australia, France or Britain or our Arab partners, to do all of the difficult heavy lifting. This is a responsible democracy. Our country is a champion of human dignity and freedom. We must act now, as we always have though our history, to defend those values and indeed our own interests.
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to join with my colleagues in this very important debate we are having in the House today on the government's motion to extend Canada's combat mission in Iraq.
Before I begin my speech, however, I want to thank my colleague from , who spoke a little earlier in this debate. I particularly want to thank him for the amendment he moved. The amendment really highlights the actions Canada could take immediately to help the victims of ISIL's atrocities.
I am glad that some measure of calm has been restored in the House. It was a little noisy on this side. I hope my colleagues across the way will pay attention to what I have to say. That way, it will be easier for them to ask pertinent questions, or so we can hope.
To get back to my speech, as I was saying earlier, the NDP, through my colleague from , has tabled a proposal that would allow Canada to have a real impact and save civilian lives immediately. That is the NDP's primary concern at this time. Millions of people have been displaced as a result of the atrocities taking place right now in Iraq and Syria. Those are the people we should be helping immediately.
No one on either side of this House would deny that ISIL has committed absolutely atrocious acts of violence against civilians. I will not go through all the incidents that are reported regularly in the media. We hear about them all the time, and we are all shocked and horrified by the atrocities reported. We are all aware that ISIL represents a threat to Canada and the rest of the world and that we need to act. However, it is not through today's motion by this government that Canada will have the kind of impact it should have or be able to play the kind of role it should play.
The Conservatives have been completely vague on this since the beginning. Even back when we were still talking about a one-month mission to advise and support, the government was sharing very few details despite the many questions being asked in the House. That turned into a six-month air strike mission, which morphed into a front-line combat mission that, unfortunately, we were not informed about. The government will try to deny that fact, but the evidence is clear. We know the facts. Unfortunately, Sergeant Doiron died just a few hundred metres from the font line. Now the government is about to commit us to a one-and-a-half-year mission, or so it says. It is trying to convince Canadians that this is truly the only possible way of overcoming ISIL, but there has not been a real plan since the beginning, and there is still no plan. The government has not shared a single specific objective or even an exit strategy.
We have a proposal for a mission of one and a half years, but if we look at what happened in Afghanistan, we were there for 12 years. We had a similar proposal then too: relatively short missions, lasting only a few months or just a few years. However, we were there for 12 years. We do not really know where we are going with what is being presented to us right now. The Conservatives are not capable of being honest with Canadians about the real role of our soldiers on the ground. They are not even capable of being honest with the troops waiting at home.
We were greatly saddened, but also surprised, to learn of Sergeant Doiron's death near the front lines, when we had been clearly told in this House that our troops were not supposed to accompany Iraqi troops to the front lines. According to the text of the motion the House voted on, that was very clear. However, we are faced with a completely different situation. The government is playing with words and is asking us to trust it blindly to ensure our security. It has been caught off guard. The Conservatives are saying that they will drop a few bombs here and there and that they will feel better because they will appear to be doing something.
However, in reality, Canada is not contributing as much as it could be. Frankly, I am wondering how Canadians can trust a government that refuses to be transparent about the most basic things. Elected officials in the other allied countries in the coalition have been more forthcoming.
For example, in the United States, President Obama was very clear. He presented the plan and objectives to both parliamentarians and the public. Americans were even told how much the mission would cost. It is extraordinary. Here, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has to fight and use information from the Americans and others to try to estimate the cost of the Canadian mission in Iraq. Under these circumstances, I do not see how we can give the government a blank cheque and tell it to go ahead and extend the mission in Iraq.
What is worse, the government is now proposing that we drop bombs on Syria, or in other words that we side with Bashar al-Assad's regime. That is an absolutely incomprehensible decision. Earlier, I heard the criticize the NDP for abandoning its commitment to preventing genocide. How can he accuse those who oppose extending the mission in Iraq of supporting the genocidal activity of the Islamic State and then propose joining forces directly with Bashar al-Assad's regime? That argument does not make any sense.
The country has been in a state of civil war for at least four years now. The civilian population is being slaughtered. Horrific things are happening there. Schools and hospitals are being bombed and children are the victims of horrible crimes. Civilians are being subjected to chemical weapons attacks by their own government, and Canada is suggesting playing Bashar al-Assad's game, knowing full well that he has used the Islamic State at various points in the conflict. We would be falling right into his trap if we decide to intervene on the ground.
This is a legal mess, since by explicitly asking for permission from Bashar al-Assad, as the told the House a few months ago he would do, we are giving legitimacy to the regime. If we decide to completely ignore this provision of international law, we are flouting international conventions and international law.
The government has already made a mockery of the notion of international law, but this is an essential principle. Canada is a democratic country, which means that we must comply with the conventions we have signed and negotiated over the years with other countries. Canada could do much better than aligning itself with the Bashar al-Assad regime. I cannot stress that enough.
Everything seems so simple to the Conservatives. As I said earlier, they will carry out a few air strikes and then withdraw once they are satisfied with their intervention. However, what will we leave behind after this military intervention? We will leave a political vacuum that will be filled by other groups that could be worse than the Islamic State. We do not know what is coming. The Conservatives think that their quick-fix solutions are just what is needed, but they could actually make the situation worse.
I want to share a quote from an article Pierre Asselin wrote yesterday in Le Soleil, which summarizes quite well the problem we are facing:
Jihadism feeds on the chaos and violence that lead to structural collapse. In the absence of a strategy to remove Assad, victories against the Islamic State could be fleeting. Is the strategy to push ISIL out of Iraq or to fight it as far as its Syrian strongholds? Who would fill the void left by a hypothetical defeat of ISIL in Syria? If our intervention enables the Syrian regime to recover the territory lost to Islamist zealots, we will never be forgiven by its millions of victims.
That is what we need to keep in mind, and that is why the NDP is proposing that we help the civilians who are going through terrible situations. There are victims of sexual violence and horrendous abuse who need our help right now. Canada has expertise in this area.
We can help them and ensure that the refugee camps are winterized to prevent further deaths.
During question period I hope to have the opportunity to speak more to the NDP's proposed solutions. Frankly, in light of everything I mentioned, it is impossible for my colleagues and me to support the proposal to extend the mission, as moved by the Conservatives.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to rise in the House to participate in this important debate.
It is important to remember that our Conservative government is the one that committed to consulting Parliament regarding Canada's involvement in military engagements overseas. The reason why I am here today is that this is a specific kind of military engagement because it does not involve a state in the traditional sense but an entity that refers to itself as the Islamic State.
I would like to remind the House that these jihadi terrorists have declared war not only on Canada, but also on our French, British, Australian and Danish allies, who have all been the victims of terrorist attacks. Members will remember the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris. They will remember the terrorist attacks that occurred in Sydney, Australia, during the holidays and the more recent attacks in Denmark. These terrorists targeted Canada, urging supporters to attack disbelieving Canadians in any manner and going so far as to vow that we should not feel secure even in our homes.
I should apologize for saying this, but to illustrate the horrific threats that we Canadians and all of our ally countries are facing, here is what the spokesperson for the so-called Islamic State said:
If you can kill a disbelieving American or European—especially the spiteful and filthy French—or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner....
These bone-chilling statements are precisely why I am standing up in the House and supporting our actions both here and abroad to target those terrorists and protect our Canadian citizens. As a government, we know that our ultimate responsibility is to protect Canadians from those who would do harm to us and to our families.
We have seen first hand that this is not a problem in some faraway land. This is not someone else's war, as the leader of the NDP said yesterday. No, it is not.
What happened on October 20 in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu was not a traffic accident. A terrorist who wanted to commit a dramatic act of violence for ideological purposes brutally attacked Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, who died at the hands of a terrorist clearly inspired by ISIL.
Earlier this week, on Monday evening, the sister of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent appeared before the committee to support the measures proposed by our government to fight terrorism, and to show us the dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of letters and messages of support she has received not only from across Quebec and Canada, but from around the world. Families have sent handmade cards to show their support for Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent's mother and entire family, who have been devastated by this heinous crime. As Louise Vincent put it so well, an act of terrorism touches more than just one community; it touches Canada as a whole, and the entire world.
That is why we have a moral responsibility to take the necessary measures to prevent something like this from ever happening again. Since this was a terrorist-inspired attack, we clearly see the relationship and the connection between the measures we are taking here in Canada to fight the terrorist threat and the measures we are taking in the Middle East to attack that hotbed of violence and terrorism.
On October 22, Corporal Nathan Cirillo was murdered. As he stood guard at the National War Memorial—the very symbol of the sacrifice made by all the Canadians who served their country in times of war in defence of peace and freedom—he was murdered by another terrorist inspired by the extremist ideology of the Islamic State. He was a target simply because he wore the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces in his own country, in times of peace, to commemorate the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for their homeland, for our homeland.
That is why Canada cannot stand on the sidelines, which is what the Liberals and New Democrats would have us do in the face of this threat. On the contrary, we are a partner of the free and democratic countries against the Islamic State. We are a partner of this international coalition to defend our rights, our freedoms and our security here on Canadian soil.
It is important to combat terrorism abroad, but we must also combat the ideologies that inspire people to radicalize and embrace this violence, both here and abroad.
That is why our is participating, with the international coalition, in efforts to degrade the Islamic State's capabilities abroad. That is why our government is committed to taking effective public safety measures to give our law enforcement agencies and police forces the means to respond to the evolving terrorist threat here in Canada. That is also why we introduced a counterterrorism strategy more than two years ago, which the New Democrats did not support. This strategy focuses on preventing radicalization.
We must take concrete action before a criminal act takes place and before young people become radicalized and want to travel abroad to commit terrorist acts or, even worse, commit them here. This strategy has four elements: prevent, detect, deny terrorists the opportunity to act and respond to the terrorist threat.
We also passed the Combating Terrorism Act, which made it illegal to travel for terrorist purposes. This is an important legislation to combat the recent phenomenon of western-based individuals, including, unfortunately, a number of Canadians, who have become radicalized and are seeking to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight with the Islamic State.
However, we must go further, because as we speak, we do not have the capability to prevent these individuals from boarding an airplane if we have reason to believe that they are willing to commit a terrorist attack. That is why the legislation before the House, the anti-terrorism act, is to important.
I am more than open to answer questions, but we need to track terrorists abroad and at home. That is why this government has a coherent approach to target those who want to harm us here on Canadian soil.
Mr. Speaker, the issue before this House right now is a serious one, an issue that raises serious questions, and I think it gets to the heart of some of the most important and profound subjects that can be debated in the House of Commons.
We have the spectre of violent movements in the world, and that spectre is real. It is serious. Acts of oppression, of kidnapping, of rape, of ethnic and cultural targeting, of armed conflict and violence are present all over the world.
We have ISIL in Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria, events in Ukraine, civil war in Syria, recent conflicts in Israel and Gaza, tension in the Caucasus between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and conflicts all over Africa and in the second and third world.
The government today is asking this Parliament and the Canadian people to commit Canada to war in one of these conflicts. The Conservatives assert that the acts of ISIL in Iraq are of such a nature that war is the only reasonable response of Canada, and that ISIL in Iraq represents a threat to Canadians here at home. I respectfully disagree with these assertions.
I have been privileged to represent the good people of in this House for the last seven years, and we debate many important issues and have done so over that time, but in my view, no issue is more important or warrants more serious scrutiny and attention than discussion of committing our troops and committing Canada to war.
I would like to start in my remarks with a review of some history. The old adage that those who do not pay attention to history are doomed to repeat it, I think, is time-tested and true. I will review what has been the experience of the west in terms of western military interventions in the Middle East.
Let us just take a brief synopsis of the last 30 years. In Afghanistan in the 1980s, the United States armed the Taliban. At that time the Taliban was the Americans' friend when it was attacking the Soviets. It did not matter to the Americans at that time that the Taliban's orthodoxy, doctrines, or dogma were oppressive, misogynist, sexist, and culturally intolerant and insensitive. At that time the United States armed it because they had a common mutual enemy.
Then 9/11 happened. The U.S. demanded the Afghani government deliver up what it believed were the perpetrators of 9/11 who had been, in its view, hiding in Afghanistan. When the Afghani government either could not or would not do so, the United States and a coalition of western countries attacked Afghanistan, including Canada.
Canada was mired in Afghanistan for 10 years. We lost well over 150 brave soldiers. Thousands more Canadian soldiers were injured, traumatized to this day, and Canada spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan.
What is Afghanistan like today? It is not a democracy. Tribal divisions are intact. Opium production is at record levels. It is a country that has been devastated, where western values have failed to take root and in fact are rejected today as strongly as they have ever been.
Let us talk about Libya. Just a few years ago in this House the government stood here and said it had to commit Canadian Forces to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya, and the opposition, despite what the has erroneously told the Canadian public, endorsed that mission. We warned, however, at that time that we would not support a mission that morphed into a regime-change one, and that is exactly what happened.
We committed to a mission that eventually resulted in the removal of the Gadhafi regime in Libya, and what happened as a result of that military intervention? The country descended into chaos, with violence on an almost unprecedented level today. There is no democracy, stability, justice, or rule of law in Libya today. I have not heard the Conservatives say a word about the situation in Libya since they urged the Canadian public to go to Libya to remove a despotic government, and they have run away from accountability for those actions.
We have the other example of Iraq. I have a feeling of déjà vu today, because this is not the first time that a western country has been asked to intervene in Iraq in a military manner. In 2003, the United States led a coalition and attacked Iraq. This was based, as we now know, on fabrications and outright deception. Iraq was accused of importing yellow cake uranium from Africa to fuel its nuclear program. It was accused of developing weapons of mass destruction. American diplomats at the highest levels asserted that this was the case. It turned out that these were outright lies, absolute fabrications.
Massive military force was unleashed on Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed. Massive infrastructure damage totalling in the billions of dollars was inflicted on Iraq. Regime change occurred. Saddam Hussein was removed and replaced with what the west said was a better government, the government of Mr. Maliki. What happened after we installed him? There was brutal oppression of minorities, corruption on a massive scale, no democracy taking root, and a country shattered, divided, and socially fractured.
As a result of massive bombing in 2003, which we said was going to restore democracy, human rights, and the rule of law to Iraq, where are we today in 2015? We have ISIL in Iraq. One could argue that not only did military intervention not accomplish any of the goals that always are the goals asserted at the beginning of a mission, but they created the opposite situation. There was no ISIS or ISIL back in 2003. There is today.
If bombing and military intervention is a way to make Iraq and countries around that region safer and more conforming to western norms, then that would have been the case after massive bombing and military intervention occurred for eight years and eight months, from 2003 to 2011. Thirty years of a western approach to countries in the Middle East and that region based on violence, based on military intervention, and based on deception, have resulted in only one conclusion for anyone who is viewing the situation objectively: an utter, absolute failure to meet any of the objectives that were stated at the beginning of those missions. Worse, there is a complete absence of accountability on behalf of governments like the Canadian government, like the American government, or the British government, who told the people of these countries that they should be intervening in these countries to make their population safer. It has made the world more dangerous.
What should Canada do? Canadians whom I talk to and represent want a different foreign policy from that characterized by the current government, different from the one characterized by war and military intervention and demonizing and jingoistic exhortations to violence. They want a Canada that resorts to our history, which characterizes our foreign policy for most of our time as a country, where Canada was a peacekeeper, where Canada was a peacemaker, where Canada was regarded as an honest broker on the world stage, where Canada was regarded as a fair dealer, where we practised diplomacy and took a leadership role.
There are other ways that Canada can be addressing this very serious problem. We could shift Canada's warlike approach to one of democracy building. We could help countries like Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen develop democratic responsible governments that build respectful rights-based societies. We can help these countries build strong civil societies, assist with constitution making, help them build public infrastructure, help them raise the educational levels of their populations, help with poverty alleviation, provide economic aid, and provide humanitarian assistance. These are the roles that stand in contrast to the one being proposed to us here today, which is, “Here is how we can help the people of Iraq: We will go in and add more violence to a violent situation”. The biggest myth of all is that this will make Canadians safer.
The truth is that we have not had one ISIL-inspired terrorist attack on this soil yet, objectively; not one. However, if Canada commits to force and starts bombing ISIL and ISIS positions in Iraq, it is a matter of logic that it would increase the chances that those people would feel entitled to take retributive action here in Canada.
To keep Canadians safe and to restore Canada to a position on the world stage that Canadians want, I urge all members of this House to reject this ill-conceived motion that is not based in fact and has even less logic and principle behind it than any other motion I have seen in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand in the House to speak on an issue that is of grave importance to Canadians and to free and democratic societies.
Today's debate on Canada's role in the international effort to combat ISIL is, indeed, an important one. As we all know, ISIL is, simply put, a group of inhuman barbarians. It exists to create havoc and to infringe on global security from the Middle East to right here at home. It is a threat to basic humanity and is a murderous threat to even innocent children.
The opposition does not want to stand up to this barbaric organization motivated by a culture of brutality and murder. Listen to the words of the NDP leader only last week on this very issue. He stated:
[T]here's no reason for us to be involved....
Although no one’s trying to understate the horrors of what’s occurring there, the question is, “Is that Canada’s fight?”
I take exception to these comments from the opposition that pay more lip service than actual contribution to dealing with the horrors ISIL has wrought, especially on the most innocent of them all, that being children.
Canada cannot simply stand by as ISIL barbarians slaughter innocent men, women, and children. As it collects women and children as sex slaves and breeds terrorism globally, as we have seen right here on Canadian soil, the leader of the NDP loudly proclaims that this is not Canada's fight. However, throughout our history, Canada has stood up when peace, safety, and security were threatened. As a nation, we have always been deeply committed to defending freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
I know it will be uncomfortable for some to hear, but I want the House to fully understand the evil we are actually dealing with. It is all too easy in this debate to consider a mission against ISIL in the abstract, to forget the unspeakable crimes against humanity committed by this radicalized group. That is why I am going to speak of the unspeakable. For that, I will refer to the February 2015 report of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child entitled, “Concluding observations on the combined second to fourth periodic reports of Iraq”. I will quote from that report, which states:
The Committee abhors and condemns the targeted and brutal killings of children by the so-called ISIL and in particular: (a) The systematic killing of children belonging to religious and ethnic minorities by the so-called ISIL, including several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings and crucifixions of children and the burying of children alive....
The report further goes further to state that there are a high number of children who have been abducted by the so-called ISIL:
...many of whom are severely traumatized from witnessing the murder of their parents and are subjected to physical and sexual assault.
Let those words sink in: beheadings, crucifixions, and burying children alive. Again, I ask the opposition, should Canada simply stand by on preventing these horrendous acts committed against children and not consider it Canada's fight?
I ask the opposition to read this United Nations report. I ask it to fully grasp the inhumane and deplorable acts ISIL has committed, acts such as, quoting again directly from the report:
...the continuing sexual enslavement of children since the emergence of the so-called ISIL, in particular of children belonging to minority groups who are held by the so-called ISIL. It notes with the utmost concern the “markets” set up by ISIL, in which they sell abducted children and women attaching price tags to them; and the sexual enslavement of children detained in makeshift prisons of ISIL....
Renate Winter, the well-respected international judicial expert who founded the International Institute for the Rights of the Child, is an expert who helped draft the United Nations report. I ask the opposition to hear her words. She stated:
We are really deeply concerned at torture and murder of those children, especially those belonging to minorities, but not only from minorities. The scope of the problem is huge.
Ms. Winter went on to say:
We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding.
Mentally challenged children have been used as suicide bombers and other children have been tortured mercilessly. I know that many members of this House have been blessed to have children of their own, and some, like me, have grandchildren. We must think of our own children and our own grandchildren being tortured, sold as slaves, forced to be suicide bombers, raped, and murdered. That is the stark reality of what ISIL is doing as we speak.
We can look at what ISIL did in places like Ar-Raqqah last May. We can look at the photos of people being crucified or decapitated. We can think about the Yezidis, a peaceful religious minority group in a mountain town that was targeted and surrounded by ISIL until its members faced starvation, dehydration, and eventually death. Some escaped, but many did not.
We can look at the many videos of the beheadings ISIL has produced and posted widely for all to see, such as of James Foley, a freelance journalist, who had his head sawed off as the ISIL barbarians cheered. We can watch the more recent videos of ISIL beheading 21 Coptic Christians on the shores of Tripoli. This is the reality of the ISIL terror we all face.
Does the NDP not think this is Canada's fight? I suggest that it is. Everyone is disgusted and repulsed by these acts performed by a death cult of barbaric thugs with no moral compass. Why would the NDP have Canada stand by and do nothing?
Even though I have spent over 40 years in law enforcement combatting the worst criminals and witnessing horrific crimes, I can only begin to grasp the destruction and havoc created by ISIL. Families have been murdered and destroyed. Mothers' hearts have been broken. Children have been buried alive.
Canada has a duty, and indeed a responsibility, to confront this evil alongside our growing list of allies from all regions of the globe, a coalition, of which Canada has been very much a part, that to date has halted the advance of ISIL, regained strategic territory, and significantly degraded ISIL's capabilities.
The opposition would take an isolationist stand. The opposition has claimed that this is a distant threat, not Canada's concern or problem. However, that is not the case here. From the great wars to the Canadian peacekeeping missions in places like Rwanda, the Congo, and elsewhere, Canada has stood up to terror.
I would also remind Canadians of the attacks and threats made by ISIL against Canada right here at home. Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed by a violent jihadist in Quebec, and Corporal Nathan Cirillo was murdered point blank here in Ottawa.
Make no mistake: the international jihadi movement, ISIL, has declared war on Canada. As a government, it is our moral duty to protect Canadians from those who would do us harm. To sit on the sidelines is to let evil thrive.
I hope the opposition will join our government in support of this mission. However, with or without the support of the Liberals and the NDP, we will confront this evil and protect the safety and security of Canadians. Our government is proud of the work done by our brave men and women in uniform. We will continue to support them as we continue to fight this evil.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by pointing out what I think is obvious for many here. The position that the has taken for the last couple of days in the House suggests a serious continuity with the position he took in 2003. He was one of the cheerleaders and apologists for George W. Bush's decision to engage in a manifestly illegal and profoundly stupid invasion of Iraq.
There were two cheerleaders of note at that time. One was south of the border and became the leader of the Liberal Party. That was Michael Ignatieff. He was immediately recruited by the Liberal elites to become the anointed one. The other was the current . He did not give a hoot then about international law, and he does not now.
All we have to do is look at is the contemptuous response he gave in the House yesterday to the . In the end, what the is telling us is “What I say is the law.” That is how he is used to running—and, frankly, ruining—this parliamentary democracy.
“I am King. I am the law.”
That is the .
We then heard from the today. It was a more measured speech, but at the same time, he slipped. He started saying that if we vote against this motion, we are “voting against” our own soldiers. This kind of argumentation, this kind of attempt to suggest that any concerns about wisdom—and, in this case, lawfulness—is somehow beneath debate in the House of Commons is destructive of our democracy. We talk about a goal of degrading ISIL, ISIS, the Islamic State or whatever it is called, and at the same time we are engaging in debate that helps to degrade democratic discourse in the House of Commons.
One thing that is obvious from the last two days is that the government, or at least the ministers, did not have a clue about what the legal basis would be that they were going to be putting forward. They had not bothered to clarify in their own minds what it was. Their answers were all over the map in the House. Yesterday they were scrambling to cross their t's and dot their i's because they finally acknowledged that if they were going to be following the American model, the justification would be one of collective self-defence of Iraq, for which they need an invitation from Iraq. We will see whether that gets backdated, because there is no invitation from Iraq to go into Syria at the moment. They will also need to write a letter to the UN in the way that the U.S. did in order to go into Syria on September 23, 2014.
What that suggests is that legality is an afterthought. Not knowing and not reading whatever legal opinion they purport to have in order to know how they are allowed to go into Syria, so as to then know what the purpose of the mission can be in law, suggests that it does not matter to them. They are going in for other reasons.
Some of the reasons might be very good ones, in the sense that there is this visceral response to the brutality of ISIS. The imagery from the former minister is of that ilk. The government is mixing in justifications about how maybe this is actually a humanitarian intervention, although I have not heard the government give that as the legal basis. It is also on that side.
Frankly, there is also just politics. The government wants to go in for reasons that have as much to do with electoral politics as they do with the actual need for Canada to be involved in this way, especially by extending the mission to Syria.
We debated this question back in early October. At the time, the motion that was passed by the House included Syria. We knew that it did. It was clear, and there was a condition set by the that Canada would not extend its active mission, particularly the bombing part of it, without the consent of the government of Syria, namely Assad.
The U.S. had already put out its legal rationale for going into Syria a full two to three weeks before, on September 23, 2014. Surely any competent Canadian government and its advisers would know what that rationale was by the time we had the debate in the House, yet the only legal basis that the government put forward then for going into Syria was one of the consent of the Syrian government. No mention was ever made of the U.S. rationale.
Was that because the government had legal advice from somewhere within the government that the U.S. rationale was dubious, or even not valid? If so, how the government went about getting a legal opinion that it liked a lot better is a question that has to be asked.
Maybe there is a hint. Newspaper reports suggests that it was the Judge Advocate General, based in the Department of National Defence, who gave that legal opinion.
It is one, of course, we are never going to see, because the current government will raise the bogus argument of solicitor-client privilege as the reason we cannot see the legal opinion. However, the Judge Advocate General has no business giving legal opinions on ius ad bellum, the use of military force as set out in general public international law. That is the role of the legal adviser to the Department of Foreign Affairs, who in every other government and every other Westminster system would be the one giving the opinion.
The question is begged: did the legal adviser give an opinion back in September and October? Was it favourable to the government? If so, why do we not know about it? If it was not favourable to the government, is that why the Department of National Defence has inserted itself and overridden the Department of Foreign Affairs in its proper role of advising the government on the lawfulness of going to war?
These are questions we have to ask. I would remind members that we have asked them and will continue to ask them. We will want to see the legal opinions. It is not for the sake of legality itself, but in order to know what the government sees as the basis for going in and to be able to hold the government to account for the reasons given, under law. It is also in order to be critical, to scrutinize, and have others who are also experts say “case made” or “case not made”.
The fact is that unless the government changes its ways, it is going to say, “Sorry, solicitor-client privilege”, which is so bogus. First of all, the client is the government. Second, this is the ultimate public interest. There is nothing reasonably confidential in what the government hears about whether it can go to war that cannot be shared, not just with Parliament but with Canadians as a whole.
Therefore, with the here in the House, I do ask him to make sure that any legal opinion that has been received by the government is tabled, and tabled forthwith.
I will briefly go over the three kinds of legal justifications that have been circulating.
One is that when things are finally clarified, it is beginning to look like the government realizes that for the Americans, the primary justification is one of collective self-defence of Iraq. Not surprisingly, the U.S. needed Iraq to request it to defend itself against whatever threat it sees coming from Syria. This is based on a very tenuous theory that does not have firm grounding in international law, possibly not even firm grounding in emerging international law: the safe haven theory.
The safe haven theory is that if another state is incapable or unwilling to eradicate safe havens from which non-state groups like ISIS are crossing the border into another state, that state can attack at will in order to deal with the threat. The fact is that the leading judgment in international law on this point, from the International Court of Justice in the Nicaragua case in the mid-1980s, specifically said that it is not a basis for exercising the right of collective self-defence.
The leading definition set out by the United Nations in 1974, the Definition of Aggression, does talk about a scenario like this, a scenario of non-state groups crossing borders to attack another state. It is not as if this issue has not arisen. However, the issue is whether another state is sending, by or on behalf of that state, or is substantially involved in sending, armed groups across the border. That does trigger a right of self-defence.
People have cited the 9/11 response. After the towers came down, after that brutal terrorist attack on New York, the response was to go into Afghanistan. People said the attack meant that we can go after any safe haven in response to a non-state terrorist attack.
That is absolutely wrong. At the time, everybody thought and understood that al Qaeda and the Taliban government of Afghanistan were so interpenetrated that any al Qaeda attack was, in effect, one that had the substantial involvement of the Taliban government. That was the basis on which self-defence was exercised, and nobody objected at the time. However, to stretch that into this broader theory requires seeing the legal opinions. Maybe the law has marched on. Despite being a public international lawyer, maybe I have not watched enough in the last five years to know it has, but we need to see to know.
The last thing floating out there, especially coming out of the mouth of the , is the idea of a George Bush-style GWOT, a global war on terror. It is the idea that all that is needed is a threat by a non-state group to allow a state to go around the world bombing, whether with drones or airplanes, if another state is somehow or other not doing the job that this state says needs to be done.
The wording of the motion actually plays exactly into that idea, because the new motion—as my colleague, the critic for foreign affairs, brought up earlier today—specifically says that it is not just against ISIS but ISIS allies, which include, for example, Boko Haram in Nigeria.
It also says that the actions Canada can take “include” air strikes in Iraq and Syria. It does not create an exclusive list. There are good reasons the official opposition is asking for legal clarity and to see the legal opinions.
Mr. Speaker, that we are again discussing Iraq speaks to the gravity of the current situation and to the reality of the struggle that many Iraqis are facing. As the so-called terrorist group ISIL attempts to spread its flawed ideology across Iraq and the country's civilians who stand in the crosshairs. They are targets, unfairly victimized by a group whose only rule is to be ruthless.
We know that ISIL is waging a campaign of terror in Iraq and across the region, preying on the vulnerable to advance its alleged cause and doing so with wanton disregard for any and all who dare stand in its way. This group is morally reprehensible, one that willfully kills innocent children, that murders humanitarian workers and innocent journalists just to make a point and that uses rape as a weapon of war.
It is a group that we must continue to take steps to confront and to degrade, in order to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East and to protect global security, but also, to lessen the incredible burden that has been so unfairly placed upon Iraqi civilians. They are the ones living on the front line of this conflict, the people whose lives have been turned upside down as ISIL has captured vast stretches of territory from the Syrian border in the northwest to the outskirts of Baghdad.
I want to focus on that, on the humanitarian aspects of this crisis and on the role that Canada is playing to help Iraq's children and its terrified mothers and fathers find the relief and safety they so desperately seek. Armed clashes have driven displacement, causing the humanitarian situation in Iraq to rapidly deteriorate. When such violence erupts, not only does it force masses of people to flee their homes and communities, it creates havoc in the entire country. Businesses have trouble operating. People lose their jobs. Food production and clean water services are disrupted. Normal supply routes are blocked. Families are separated and they suffer tremendous shock, especially when losing a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. They are left to grieve amidst the turmoil of their own circumstances which for many has included fleeing homes, villages and the familiarity of everyday life. There has been concern that children will fall behind in their education because of the disruptions caused by the conflicts and displacements.
Canada is actively working with partners to address children's needs. To date, we have contributed $8 million to UNICEF's no lost generation initiative in Iraq, which is providing education and protection assistance to conflict-affected children. We are also working through experienced partners such as Save the Children and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help provide child-friendly environments for displaced children and to give them the psychosocial support they need. Although conflict is a disruptive force in the lives of children, we must do everything possible to see that their education continues. Education is essential in Iraq right now. It gives children and youth a sense of normalcy, stability and structure. When schools are open, they are places for children to free their minds of the anxiety of war and instead focus on the pursuit of knowledge and improving their skills.
For most Canadians, the situation in Iraq is simply unimaginable. Canadians will say that the actions we have undertaken in response to this crisis are a direct reflection of their own values and of their understanding that a country like ours cannot possibly stand idle while millions of Iraqi civilians are suffering.
Since the beginning of the crisis, Canada has committed $67.4 million in humanitarian assistance for conflict-affected Iraqis. In addition, we have provided $9.5 million to respond to the needs of approximately 215,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq. This makes us the fifth-largest donor in response to this crisis. These funds have been provided to United Nations agencies, the International Red Cross movement and non-government organizations to provide life-saving assistance to those who are most in need. In the last six months, we have helped feed 1.7 million people, provide shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people and helped with education for half a million children.
Canada's assistance is also supporting organizations that are responding to incidents of sexual and gender-based violence by establishing safe places, providing psychosocial support, specialized health services, case management, community outreach and other services to up to 35,000 women and children. In addition, Canadian contributions include $10 million to strengthen accountability for sexual and gender-based violence crimes and support victims and additional programming to protect the rights of religious minorities in Iraq and in the region.
Religious persecution of those seeking to practise their faith in a peaceful and secure way is unacceptable to Canada, and we are supporting efforts to assist in the protection of these rights. Through all these actions on the humanitarian front, Canada is showing it stands by the people of Iraq. We will continue to look for more ways to respond to the needs of all Iraqis.
In June, Canada established a bilateral development program to address short-term needs and to support resilience and prosperity in Iraq over the long term. This bilateral program will enable communities to cope with increased demand for basic services including water, sanitation and health services; mitigate the negative economic implications; and sustain institutional capacities through this protracted crisis. Canada recognizes that without resilience and hope for a more prosperous future, Iraqi communities will continue to struggle with instability. However, the world must unite to confront and downgrade the ISIL threat. Canada is contributing to the allied effort in order to do just that and to bring some normalcy and stability back to the lives of Iraqi people.
In summary, the military measures we are taking against ISIL do not in any way preclude humanitarian actions. There is no either/or. Canada is the fifth-largest country donor in the humanitarian response to the crisis in Iraq and the sixth-largest donor in Syria. Security on the ground is absolutely essential to providing humanitarian assistance. Degrading the capabilities of ISIL is key to achieving this, while accessing those most in need.
It is concerning to me that the Liberals and the New Democrats failed to acknowledge the real threat posed to Canada by ISIL and the jihadi terrorism. Both leaders had an opportunity to speak to the threat ISIL poses to Canadians, and they opted for partisan attacks over serious dialogue. As I mentioned earlier, it is often innocent civilians in Iraq who are the victims of ISIL, and the focus of my remarks has dealt with Canada's humanitarian response to the crisis. However, ISIL has made clear that it targets, by name, Canada and Canadians.
We cannot protect Canada by simply choosing to ignore this threat. We will not sit on the sidelines, as the Liberals and the New Democrats would have us do. I will be voting in favour of this motion, and I encourage all members of this House to do the same.