Mr. Speaker, it is good to be here today.
It is interesting to see that the Liberals actually showed up in the House for the vote on closure, but they do not seem to be that interested in the debate. I think they have had four speaking slots and have only used two of them. We will see whether they have a little more interest in this as we go forward.
It is intriguing to see the change the Liberals have made in their party over the last few years. One of their policy documents, “Canada in the World: A Global Networks Strategy”, states:
|| Another Canadian-inspired idea, Responsibility to Protect, will ensure that military intervention is truly a last resort, but that when sovereign states fail to protect their people and the international community mobilizes to stop large-scale harm to innocent life (for example in genocide and ethnic cleansing), Canada will be there.
However, the Liberals do not seem to be willing at all to support that statement in their own policy document. It has been interesting to listen to them talk about the fact that they want there to be humanitarian aid, but they really do not want it the way it is delivered right now. They want things to settle down there, but they will not make the commitment in any way that would help us find a solution to the conflict that is taking place.
The NDP talked a little earlier this afternoon about its doctrine that it once had responsibility to protect, and it seems to have gone a long way away from that as well. One NDP member today talked about 60 nations operating together as being unilateral action. Of course, we would disagree with that.
This afternoon, I would like to put a bit of a face on some of the conflict we have been seeing over the last few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights just released a report in the last few days that talks about the situation in northern Iraq and Syria. I want to talk about that and try to put a face on some of the victims that are being pressured so aggressively by ISIL.
We know that Iraq has had decades of authoritarian government and civil strife. A lot of people, through the violence, have been killed over the years. The so-called Islamic State surfaced last year for the most part out of a lack of inclusivity that was part of the political system in Iraq. It was able to finally begin to expand where it had not been able to previously.
In January 2014, it showed up in the city of Fallujah. In April, Anbar was a battleground. By May, 500,000 civilians had been displaced. It hit Mosul and Tikrit in June. It was able to seize Sinjar and other areas around there in August. Then we began to hear of the many irregularities that were taking place, the serious human rights abuses. By the time that the Yazidi Christians had been evacuated from that area, over 1.5 million people had been displaced from their homes. That is a huge situation and it is disappointing that the opposition parties are not willing to agree to activities that would solve the situation there.
I want to talk about some of the groups that have been attacked in that area. First, the attacks on the Yazidis have received media attention. As I mentioned, ISIL hit the Sinjar area and was able to force the Yazidis out of there. It has been persecuting the Yazidis as a group, based on their religious beliefs. It has systematically and in a widespread fashion carried out atrocities against the Yazidi population on the Nineveh plains and the Yazidi-populated cities and villages.
ISIL has separated the men and women from the children. It has taken men away, and in many places the men have been executed. The women have been taken as what is called spoils of war. The women and girls have been separated into three groups and taken away. It has also detained many of them for months. For example, the United Nations report tells us a group of 196 disabled Yazidis, including the elderly, children, and many people who were ill, were held captive in Mosul and Tal Afar for months. We can see that the Yazidi community has been targeted as one of the specific communities that ISIL has been trying to destroy.
Christians are seen, as the report points out, as “people of the book”. That is a classification that has granted them certain protection in comparison to other ethnic and religious groups over the years, but not with ISIS.
In August of 2014, an estimated 200,000 Christians and members of other ethnic and religious groups in the Nineveh plains were forced to flee. There were 50,000 people who had previously been displaced from Mosul who were mostly Christians as well. Of course, we have heard of many other places. In Qaraqosh, ISIL pillaged and destroyed the buildings in the city, including a lot of historic Christian cathedrals and churches. Basically, it took possession of all of the possessions and all of the identity documents of the families who could not leave and then expelled them from the city.
Shia Muslims have been subject to attacks as well. The pattern has been consistent right across all of these groups where ISIL surrounds villages. It kills the inhabitants who cannot escape, burns and destroys houses, businesses and places of worship and then pillages private and public places. That has gone on in the Shia areas as well. We know that it has executed men and abducted numerous members from Shia and Shabak communities.
It has laid siege in different places. One example is in Amerli, where it laid siege in June of 2014. It cut off the water and power 20 days into the siege and the people who were inside that community were not able to get out. There were 15,000 people trapped in there. Eventually, people were drinking contaminated water and getting sick or dying. The siege was finally broken in September of 2014.
We know there was a prison in Badoosh, where ISIS went in, took the prisoners out, separated them into groups according to their ethnic or religious affiliations and then killed them. In particular, the Sunnis were taken out to a ravine, shot and piled into that ravine.
There have been politically motivated attacks throughout the area as well, particularly against those who have been affiliated with the government. We have seen police officers, members of the Iraqi armed forces, public servants, members of parliament and people who were running for elected office targeted. These folks were not targeted specifically because of a perceived ethnic or religious identity but because they were linked to the government or have been trying to work with the government.
We know that approximately 1,500 members of the Iraqi armed forces from Camp Speicher in Salah ad-Din governorate were summarily executed on June 12 by ISIL.
All of that pales in comparison to some of the sexual and gender-based violence reports that have come out, particularly against the Yazidi women. When attacking Yazidi villages, ISIL would typically kill the men but would also take the women and children as well. There have been widespread killings, enslavement, the selling of women, rape, sexual slavery, forced transfer of women and children, and the inhuman and degrading treatment of them. If we take a look at the report, it goes into far more detail than I am willing to or interested in going into today. Many of the girls and the unmarried women can recount the process of enslavement they went through as well.
ISIL is not above recruiting and using children. Young male children were taken to training centres and forced to watch videos of beheadings in an attempt to desensitize them so that it could convince them to join with it.
A ton of crimes have been committed here. Our government knows that we need to be involved. We have heard many hours of discussion about this, but the challenges that Iraq faces are daunting. Canada and the coalition of 60-plus countries, including many in the Arab world, are supporting Iraq and responding to the threat of ISIL. Progress has been made on military fronts, humanitarian fronts, political fronts and human rights fronts.
We value our good relations with Iraq. Canadians can be proud that Canada and this government is doing its part to fight ISIL. Canada will continue to work together with Iraq in support of the Iraqi people's aspirations for the stability, security, prosperity and freedom that we so much take for granted.
Mr. Speaker, I take to the floor today to seek recognition by this House of Commons that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL as it is more commonly called, represents a clear and a continuing threat to Canada.
I fully support our government's decision to extend the current military mission in Iraq. It is clear to all of us that ISIL poses a significant threat to local and regional stability and to international peace and security overall.
We have just to turn on our TV sets to witness the barbarity of these ultra-radicalized jihadists. By displacing more than two million people they have created a severe humanitarian crisis in Iraq and in neighbouring countries. By systematically persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, they have caused the death of thousands of innocent men, women and children, as the parliamentary secretary who spoke before me very clearly and very articulately laid out.
By conducting barbaric acts against western hostages and the Jordanian pilot, we all remember his fate, they have signalled to the world that they are prepared to go to any length to cultivate and to spread terror.
This group has issued an edict to their followers to attack Canadians. ISIL is active on social media and the Internet, spreading their hateful ideology and their propaganda, encouraging their followers to target innocent people wherever they live, and calling on would-be fighters to rise up and join them on Middle Eastern battlegrounds.
They have inspired the terrible tragedies that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa. They gleefully cheered when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, men in uniform who pledged to defend our country, were felled by the cowardly and terrorist actions of radicalized Canadians.
It is clear that ISIL represents a continuing threat to Canada and Canadians. This is why Canada needs to extend the mission in Iraq, expand its operation to Syria and do its part to deter and degrade this threat. Canada will always do her part and the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are playing an exceptional role in the coalition against ISIL.
As the said, Canada is punching away above its weight, and we should all be proud of all of our men and women serving abroad today.
I would like to go into some detail about the contribution being made by our air assets. To date, CF-18 Hornets have conducted over 436 sorties, resulting in the destruction of ISIL vehicles, heavy weapons, IED factories, storage facilities and fighting positions. By damaging or destroying assets like these, the Canadian Armed Forces not only degrades ISIL's combat capability and prevents ISIL fighters from establishing safe havens, but they are also enabling the Iraqi forces to go on the offensive. Ultimately it will be the responsibility of the Iraqi forces to bring sufficient pressure to bear on ISIL and eliminate the threat that it represents.
The CP-150 Auroras, outfitted with advanced imaging systems, radar and other sensors, have conducted over 122 reconnaissance missions, collecting the critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data that is used to identify and strike targets accurately, as well as to assess the battle damage that they cause. The modernized Aurora is a cutting-edge platform. The information this aircraft collects not only enhances the effectiveness of air strikes, but also helps avoid collateral damage by ensuring that targets are limited strictly to military objectives. In fact, our Auroras have made a crucial contribution to what is considered the most precise, close air support campaign in history.
Last, the CC-150 Polaris refueller has conducted over 111 sorties, delivering more than six and a half million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft. That is absolutely stunning. By delivering fuel to fighters in the air, it acts as a force multiplier by allowing these aircraft to lengthen their sorties and fly further into the battle space. Our Polaris is helping the coalition to maintain pressure on ISIL throughout Iraq. Moreover, our special operations forces on the ground are working to advise and assist the Iraqi forces to make them more effective. They are increasing their confidence and ability to plan, to mount and to execute operations against ISIL, and they are making a real difference, a difference that both opposition parties oppose.
Given all of this overwhelming evidence, I quite frankly do not understand how the opposition opposes what clearly is the right thing to do. The contributions of the Canadian Armed Forces have not only been highly effective, but highly valued by the coalition. For the past six months the coalition is seeing real signs of progress. Through the aerial campaign, the coalition has hit ISIL targets in Central Iraq and northwest of Baghdad in areas that are both controlled and contested by ISIL. These efforts have reduced ISIL's freedom of movement and ability to make territorial gains.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces have wrestled the city of Al-Baghdadi back from ISIL control and are working to regain Fallujah. In northern Iraq, Iraqi forces are gradually taking back the ground east of Mosul where ISIL is in a defensive posture. This demonstrates improvement, but there is still much more to do. Our participation in this multinational mission is in line with Canadian values and Canadian interests.
As the has said, it is not the Canadian way to sit on the sidelines and let others do the heavy lifting for us. Indeed, a broad international coalition of more than 60 partners, approximately 30 of which are contributing to military efforts led by the United States, is working together to confront ISIL head-on.
Canada is collaborating with some of our closest allies and partners, including the governments of the United States, France, Netherlands, Denmark and many others, which are all committed to degrade and to defeat ISIL. This fight against ISIL is not about the politics of right or left, as the opposition would have people believe. It is about doing the right thing and acting in Canada's national interest. Many of our allies are left-of-centre governments and they are fully committed.
Moreover, Middle Eastern countries are playing a vital role in the coalition, demonstrating that this is not a western conflict against Islam, but rather a fight that pits broad international concern for Iraq and Syria, regional stability and humanitarian assistance against murderous extremism. Most of ISIL's victims are other Muslims, including its own members who fall out of favour with the leadership.
Any mission carries with it a degree of risk, but the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are prepared so they can face these challenges. They are rigorously trained prior to deployment overseas, equipped to the highest standards and operate within specific rules of engagement that mitigate risks wherever feasible.
I would also note that the risks to Canadian personnel will be alleviated by dedicated personnel recovery capability, which is provided by the coalition and includes a high readiness combat search and rescue capacity prepared to respond should it prove necessary.
ISIL is a group that decries modern civilization and it equally abhors anything that does not accord with its world view. As part of this relentless campaign to eradicate culture over the last few weeks, we have borne witness to the destruction of the 3,000 year old Assyrian city of Nimrud, the seventh century statues from the ancient city of Nineveh, housed in a museum in Mosul, and most recent, the bulldozing of the ancient city of Hatra, which is dated the second or third third century BC.
The head of UNESCO has declared that this deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime.
ISIL is not merely content to threaten the present and the future of the people of the Middle East. It is determined to erase their culture and their past in an attempt to revise history. We must prevent and contain this peril before it leads to the entrenchment of oppressive rules across this region.
As the has said, we have helped feed 1.7 million people in Iraq, provided shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people and given education to at least half a million children. We have also helped to support 200,000 refugees in Iraq with food, water, shelter and protection.
The choice between military action and humanitarian aid is not a one or the other proposition as the Liberals and NDP would have people believe. Our experience in the recent past has shown that we cannot expect quick and decisive victories and if we falter now, ISIL will continue to gain strength, increase its brutality and ruthlessness.
We must remain resolute in our determination to assist the people and the government of Iraq, and remain firm in our belief that innocent lives must be saved.
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that even in a debate as divisive as this one, there is one thing that all parties and all members have in common. We are all committed to keeping Canadians safe. It is therefore disappointing, even if predictable, to hear the government suggest that members who disagree with it are failing to uphold Canadian values.
As I said a few weeks ago in Calgary, we can be very critical of each other's policies without debating each other's patriotism.
That is certainly true when it comes to the debate on the motion before us today. We must confront ISIL. We all agree on that. Where we disagree is on the most effective way for Canada to intervene.
The Liberal Party will not support the government's motion to extend Canada's combat role in Iraq and expand it into Syria.
I wish to use my time today to put our opposition into a broader context, to describe what Liberals believe would be a more effective course of action in the region and here at home.
Our approach to this mission, indeed to any military engagement, centres around four core principles.
First, Canada does have a role to play in responding to humanitarian crises and security threats in the world. As I have already stated, there is consensus in the House on that point.
Second, when we deploy the Canadian Forces, especially into combat operations, there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada. Here is where our disagreement begins. A full week has passed since the first rose on this issue, and the government still has not clearly articulated this mission's objectives. Indeed, as we saw last week, there is not even consensus as to what the ultimate goal is.
Are we only seeking to degrade ISIL's capabilities, as the stated, or are we attempting to defeat them outright, as the suggested? If it is to defeat them, are we willing to admit that it may take more than air strikes? Are we willing to admit that it may well mean bombing in Yemen and other countries? Will our involvement in this mission end next March, or was the being more truthful when he explicitly compared this war to Afghanistan, saying that we were in this for the longer term? Let us remember, in Afghanistan the longer term meant 10 years not 12 months.
We cannot allow rhetorical appeals to moral clarity to disguise the absence of a plan.
Third, the Liberal Party cannot support any military mission when the arguments to support it have not been presented in an open and transparent manner.
When we supported the first phase of the mission, it was with the understanding that the length and scope of the mission would be limited, in other words, that it would end after 30 days and it would be limited to non-combat support.
The told Canadians that the purpose of the mission would be to advise and to assist, and that the Canadian troops were not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat. We now know that Canadian troops have been at the front lines, calling in air strikes and engaging in several direct firefights.
In a matter of months, despite assurances to the contrary, the government steadily and stealthily drew Canada into a deeper ground combat role in Iraq. With this motion, it seeks to deepen our involvement even further.
How can we trust a government that so deliberately misleads Canadians, first on the nature of our role and now on the duration of our commitment?
The government wants to increase Canada's participation in a vague and possibly endless combat mission. We cannot support this proposal.
Finally, we believe that any time Canada engages in a military mission, our role must reflect the broad scope of Canadian capabilities and how best we can help, something this motion, with its singular focus on a military solution, fails to do. We know that the men and women who serve in our military are well-trained professionals, deeply committed to our country and very good at what they do.
Canada has a duty to act here at home and around the world. We can provide our police and intelligence services with the resources they need to do their jobs, while ensuring that the appropriate oversight mechanisms are in place, because we all agree that anyone who commits a terrorist act in Canada or conspires to commit such an act should be dealt with by our courts in the toughest possible way.
We can stop shortchanging our armed forces. The government's pattern of demanding more while offering less, of cutting defence spending and allowing billions already budgeted for defence to go unspent must stop. We can work closely with our international partners to starve ISIL of its resources, including by preventing it from using the international financial system.
We can urge the Iraqi government to continue its political reforms and its outreach to the country's Sunni community. We can work with communities in Canada to reduce the risk of radicalization among young people. We can do that without singling out or stigmatizing any one group of Canadians.
The atrocities that Islamic State militants have committed are widely known. They are killing innocent civilians, ethnic and religious minorities, humanitarian workers and journalists. The Assad regime in Syria has committed similar horrific acts. The UN has confirmed numerous incidents where chemical weapons were used against civilians. The acts committed by ISIL and by Assad are horrendous, and we have every reason to be outraged.
However, in a situation as complex and volatile as the one that the world faces in Syria and Iraq, we must not allow our outrage to cloud our judgment. Canada and its allies have learned some important lessons in recent years, at great cost. We have learned about the dangers of drifting into expanded combat roles without a clear idea of how the fighting will eventually end. We have learned that deploying western combat forces in this region can lead to what President Obama has called “unintended consequences”. We have learned that unless we approach a mission like this with a clear understanding of its political and military environment, and unless we match our goals to that reality, we risk making the situation worse, not better.
Responsibility to protect, a doctrine to which the has seemingly become a recent convert, spells this out clearly. Intervention must not make matters worse.
In Syria, after four years of all-out war, over 11 million Syrians—over half the population—have been driven from their homes. Syrians have fled their country by the millions, causing a refugee crisis throughout the region. In five years of combat, over 210,000 Syrians have been killed, including over 10,000 children. This is the result of the civil war, a war during which the Syrian people have been terrorized and killed by their own government.
We cannot support a mission that could very well further consolidate Assad's power in Syria.
Rather than continuing to deepen our combat mission in Iraq and Syria, Canada's interests are better served by an approach that combines military training for Iraqi forces fighting ISIL with humanitarian aid and expanded resettlement efforts here in Canada.
Our military training should take place away from the front lines, as our allies have been doing. We did this in Afghanistan and we can do it in Iraq. We should also be realistic about the timelines involved. Training local forces to fight ISIL will take time, not just six months, as we have seen, or even one year.
The government owes it to Canadians to be more honest about how long this mission will truly last. In addition to building on the training we are providing to Iraqi forces, Canada should intensify its support through adequately funded and well-planned humanitarian aid, together with our allies and under the auspices of the United Nations.
Enhancing our humanitarian aid effort will do more than just provide assistance and bring renewed hope to those who desperately need it. Intensifying our effort will also support political and economic security in the neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and our NATO ally, Turkey, countries whose ability to take care of millions of Syrian refugees has already been severely tested.
Here at home, we also have an opportunity to significantly expand our refugee targets and give more victims of war the opportunity to start a new life in Canada. The government's plan to sponsor 4,000 Syrian refugees over three years was a good start, but it follows on a poor track record and does not go nearly far enough.
To quote Britain's former foreign secretary:
|| Resettlement will not end the war, but it can rescue some of the most vulnerable victims of the fighting — the raped and tortured, at-risk women and children, those with acute medical needs.
Canada has an opportunity to help these victims of war and a moral obligation to do more than token assistance. To that end, we believe that the federal government should immediately expand to 25,000 the number of refugees that it commits to accept, and that it directly sponsor all of those refugees. That target, and the cost associated with it, should be in addition to our existing global refugee intake targets and the resources dedicated to meeting them.
To put that number in context, under the leadership of former prime minister Joe Clark, Canada resettled 60,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees. The target I am suggesting today also reflects the scale of effort that Canada should undertake in a world with the largest number of refugees since the end of the Second World War. Of course, the Canadian refugee system must continue to be secure, and we must take all steps required to verify refugee claims.
Let us always remember that when we open our doors to those who seek refuge, it is not a one-sided deal. Our own Canadian experience is made better by everything they bring with them: their intelligence, their hard work, their resilience, their language, culture, and religion. We know that when we welcome those who have turned to Canada for help in times of desperation, we are strengthened, not in spite of our differences but because of them.
Training, humanitarian aid, and resettlement help for refugees are the elements of a serious, smart, and sustained approach to the crises in Iraq and Syria. We would also encourage the government to take a broader, less reactive approach to security challenges. We need to work on preventing threats before they materialize rather than just reacting to them after the fact.
I am not saying that just because humanitarian crises often occur in fragile countries, but also because the chronic lack of political and economic security in those countries makes it more likely that they will attract transnational militants who may use them as a base from where they can organize, grow and recruit. That is what the Islamic State is doing at present.
When it makes sense to do so, we should help strengthen the security forces in those regions so they can counter such threats. However, history has shown us that military action alone does not create lasting stability because it only deals with the symptoms of the instability and not the root cause.
We will make little headway in ending conflict and radicalization if we do not address the underlying causes of both—the root causes—including more governance and lack of economic opportunity. That is not just my opinion. NATO's supreme commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, put the same concerns solidly on the record last December.
I would like to end on something that the said in the House last week. When he stood to introduce this motion, he said something that I do not think we can let stand unchallenged. He said that those who oppose this mission are “dismissing Canadian values”.
I suspect that the government has, and not for the first time, mistaken the values of the Conservative Party of Canada for the values of the people of Canada.
The values of openness and honesty, which the government has failed to demonstrate since the start of this mission last October, are important to Canadians. Canadians like to learn from past experience, something the government has chosen not to do. Canadians cherish our country's longstanding tradition of helping those in need and showing leadership in diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. This government puts military action first and provides much less than what is required to help people in need.
It is not surprising that the government is attempting to shift this to a debate on Canadian values or moral clarity. That is what the current government always does when it knows that its policy cannot bear scrutiny.
Canada has an interest in training and helping Iraqi forces to fight and defeat ISIL, but we should not fight this war for them. We should not drift deeper and deeper into a civil war that may well go on for a very long time. Our position is clear: expanding this mission into Syria, committing our armed forces to the dangers of an ill-defined combat mission, does not serve our national interest. We believe this, come what may.
Canadians did not send us to this House to read polls and to guess at what they want. They did not put us here to stick a finger in the wind and follow whichever way it seems to be blowing. They put us here to stand on principle and lead. That is exactly what we intend to do.
Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I welcome the opportunity to add to the debate on our continuing mission against the Islamic State, or ISIS, or ISIL, or Daesh. One can take one's pick. A lot of ink has been spilled and a lot of emotion has been expended, but I submit that it is not all that complicated. To understand why we are there in the first place, people only have to google images of ISIS, but they should be prepared with a strong stomach.
The list of ISIS atrocities is so long, one barely knows where to begin, whether it is with the beheadings, the crucifixions, the enslavements, or its inspiration of others. It is in the latter that ISIS represents a threat to Canada. The perpetrators of murders against members of the Canadian Armed Forces last October were not members of ISIS per se, but they were ideal recruits.
We know that about 70 Canadians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS, and we know that CSIS is looking closely at about 140 more. We know that if CSIS says 140, the real number is much higher.
The October terrorist-inspired murders were carried out by people who had been radicalized. Some want to chalk it up to simple mental illness. To be sure, they had to be mentally ill to carry out those murders, but they were the type of people who make ideal ISIS hand grenades simply waiting for their pins to be pulled at random.
There are more of them out there, and we simply must remain vigilant and give our security forces the capacity they need to keep us as safe as possible from those threats. ISIS has singled out Canada, and we would be very foolish not to take them at their word. Some have glibly said that there are more people killed by lightning or other causes in Canada than by terrorists. That is true, and I want to keep it that way.
ISIS's crimes are crimes against humanity. This is not any one leader's war; this is humanity's war. There are indeed other movements that may be equally bad but not that approach ISIS's codified evil, made possible by its pretensions to be a state. It is an ideology that can be defeated, but the first step must be to eliminate the state structure that supports the ideology and whose very existence is what draws others to it.
Sixty-two countries are now supporting the U.S.-led operation, including all 26 NATO countries and many in the region. People speak of international law and the United Nations. I would remind members of the responsibility to protect doctrine that was adopted by the United Nations at the urging of Canada, and especially by former Prime Minister . Where a government cannot or will not protect its citizens, the international community has a responsibility to step in. It seems that the current Liberal leadership has lost sight of its past.
Would we be advocating a formal responsibility to protect? No, we would not, because that would subordinate our foreign policy to Russia and China. However, do we stand by the essence of the responsibility to protect? Absolutely, we do. That is one of the reasons we are there.
As well, under article 51, a nation or nations may take action as a right of self-defence. Due to the actions threatened, and in fact carried out by ISIS and its adherents, the coalition was justified in taking action. The U.S. made that clear to the United Nations with respect to operations in Syria, and Canada will do the same.
Operations in Iraq are more straightforward with the invitation from the Government of Iraq to help them in their fight against ISIS. The alternative, if the allied countries had not begun to take action against ISIS, both in Iraq and eastern Syria, is that we would have today an organization in control of most of Iraq and roughly half of Syria, with its own energy revenues and its military expansion unchecked.
Our mission, as originally conducted, and the expansion into air operations in Syria, is not about supporting Bashar al-Assad. It is about saving lives and eliminating a virulent threat to humanity. The threat of ISIS will be eliminated when it can no longer use Syria or Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks directly or by proxy against people around the world. That does not mean that Bashar al-Assad is now our friend. He is still a war criminal, mass murderer, ethnic cleanser, and deadly fanatic. He must be dealt with at a later time, but the most pressing priority is what to do about ISIS.
Benjamin Netanyahu said it well before the U.S. Congress when, in reference to Iran, he said that “the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy”. That applies in spades to Bashar al-Assad.
Let us talk for a few minutes about the mission itself. For the past six months, we have had 69 special forces personnel helping to train Iraqi Kurdish military elements in the conduct of combat operations. We are not there in a ground combat mission of our own. If we were, we would have an awful lot more troops there and an awful lot more equipment.
Iraq is a dangerous place, and there will always be risk in any mission in a hostile environment. Canadian soldiers accept that risk willingly. If we were to use the current verbiage by the opposition and the media to define combat mission, then I would suggest that virtually every one of our peacekeeping missions was, in fact, a combat mission.
Wherever we operate, our soldiers are always prepared to provide self-defence, and that is what they do when they are with the Kurdish forces, away from the garrison.
Our snipers are, arguably, the best in the business. When they use pinpoint fire to provide a safe extraction from a dangerous situation, that is not a real firefight, as much as the media and the opposition love to use exciting language.
The rules are simple. When the bad guys shoot at the good guys, the good guys get to kill the bad guys. Tragically, from time to time, in any war, the good guys occasionally shoot at the good guys. When that happens, thorough investigations will identify causes and corrective action, but wars will always be subject to uncertainties.
That training mission will continue unchanged by this motion. Only two things will change as a result of this motion. Operations will be extended for 12 months, and that is an entirely logical and justified position. The job will be done when the job is done. People need to remember that the enemy has a vote on when that happens. On September 3, 1939, did anyone know that war in Europe would be over in May 1945, or in the Pacific in August 1945?
The only other thing that will change is that six CF-18 Hornets, two CP-140 Auroras surveillance aircraft, and one CC-150 Polaris air refuelling aircraft will support the air operation mission over Syria as well as Iraq. The Iraq-Syria border has been effectively erased by the successes of ISIS' territorial operations. Operations by the forces of Bashar al-Assad are confined to western Syria, and our area of operations will be in the eastern part of the country. All three types of aircraft that the Royal Canadian Air Force has committed are ideally suited to the task.
The CF-18 Hornets are obviously the teeth of the operation, and the level of mission effectiveness with their systems and weapons available make them a key part of a much larger coalition operation. I would remind anyone who still needs to know that the aircraft is 56 feet long, 40 feet wide, 15 feet tall, and weighs 52,000 pounds.
This past weekend, I spent some time with one of the pilots from 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Cold Lake, who had recently returned from his first tour of combat operations in Iraq.
As Canada has done in other conflicts, it can wield a big stick, but it does so with great care and restraint to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties to the maximum extent possible. Throughout the mission planning process, and indeed, throughout the missions, which can last six to eight hours, there is constant contact and verification that an attack is appropriate in all respects. There is a “red card holder” on the ground with all of the electronic and human information who has the final authority to allow a weapons release to proceed. The pilot, of course, has the ultimate final authority when he presses the pickle button. Very often, pilots return with their weapons if there is any doubt at all.
The CC-150 refuellers play a key role with the fighters from Canada and our allies to give our aircraft the legs to conduct all operations. The CP-140 Auroras' capabilities have been, perhaps, the wild card in Canada's contribution. Their capability to provide intelligence gathering, surveillance, and targeting support have been remarkable and highly praised by everyone with whom they operate. To use a common expression, they are magic.
This mission is not just about bringing ISIS to its knees militarily; it is also about bringing relief to the innocent people of the region caught up in the conflict. Just as we are in a kinetic mission, Canada is doing more than its share in the humanitarian mission as well. Canada is the sixth largest contributor to the humanitarian mission in Syria, and the fifth largest contributor in Iraq. Some 1.7 million Iraqis are eating because of Canada. Another 1.2 million have shelter because of Canada. Some 500,000 children are going to school because of Canada. There is much more.
Somebody across the way wanted numbers. Canada has contributed $700 million to humanitarian aid in Syria since 2011. That is not chump change. More recently, Canada has contributed $67.4 million to humanitarian aid in Iraq. They wanted numbers, so they got numbers.
It is not an either/or mission. Canada will continue to exercise its humanitarian and security obligations on the international stage.
I am disappointed but not surprised that the NDP members oppose the motion and the mission. I do not say that unkindly, because that is simply who they are, and that is their right, even as they are offside with the majority of Canadians. I must admit to more disappointment and some surprise at the opposition of the Liberal Party. I believe that people like Mackenzie King may be looking down in dismay at the moment. I believe there are at least a few among the Liberal éminences grises who are shaking their heads today.
Canada has the capacity to exercise strength and compassion, and that is what it has done proudly throughout its history. That is what makes me proud to be a Canadian and proud to support this motion to help bring at least some measure of safety and stability to a very troubled part of our world, and security to Canadians here in the greatest country in the world.
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by expressing my respect for our Canadian soldiers who risk their lives every day on the many missions carried out around the world.
I am pleased to speak today to this government motion to extend the military mission in Iraq. I think that as parliamentarians, we should always ask ourselves what role our country should play in the world in response to conflict and threats. We also have a duty to ask ourselves whether we have the resources to serve our ambitions and, most importantly, whether we are acting in our own best interests or in the best interests of others.
Since this Conservative government was elected in 2006, it has actively worked to redefine Canada as a military country. Is that truly the role we should play in the world, when we have just over 35 million people?
In the recent past, Canadians were known around the world as a country of peacekeepers and peacemakers. Our country was also known for its humanitarian assistance. At the UN, Canada even championed development by calling for an overall contribution equivalent to 0.7% of the GNP of the richest countries in the global fight against poverty.
There are currently only about 300 Canadian peacekeepers left on missions around the world. In 2013, CIDA was absorbed by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. Canada's image has been changing bit by bit. When I participated in foreign missions, most of the elected representatives and ministers I met in those countries, particularly in the Middle East, asked me what was going on with Canada. This rebranding of who Canadians are in the eyes of the world must stop.
Here is another question: the wants to get involved in conflicts, but do we have the means to go to war? Do we have the means to fulfill the Prime Minister's ambitions? This March, Canada's remaining troops are coming back from Afghanistan. How much did the mission in Afghanistan cost us? That is a good question. In 2008, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, predicted that the mission would cost $18.1 billion. When I hear that number, I think of everything we could have done with $18 billion. That is incredible. He also said it would take years to get final numbers on what Afghanistan cost us.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's very recent analysis in the report of February 17, 2015, entitled “Cost Estimate of Operation IMPACT in Iraq”, which deals with the 's first six-month mission, the estimated incremental cost of Operation IMPACT ranges between a high of $166.4 million and a low of $128.8 million. That is for six months, and furthermore, the Parliamentary Budget Officer did not have all the figures.
Accordingly, the estimated incremental cost of Operation IMPACT for a 12-month mission, which is what the wants, since the motion calls for extending the mission until March 30, 2016, ranges between a high of $351.2 million and a low of $242.7 million. That is on top of the more than $166.4 million the first six-month mission cost us. It is worth noting that the full costs for Canada’s most recent overseas mission, which was Operation Mobile in Libya, were almost six times the reported incremental costs for the mission.
The actual cost is always greater than the estimated cost. The government can certainly tell us that it will cost x dollars, but we can expect there to be a gap, if not an abyss, between the actual cost and the estimated cost.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, for the government to be able to wage its wars, it would have to inject funds into defence or simply reduce its military ambitions. However, that does not fit with its ideology.
All these billions of dollars that the government wasted on useless and ineffective military missions could have been invested in humanitarian aid. Yes, it handed out a few crumbs, we can all agree on that, but it could have given more because those activities work in the long term. It also could have helped lift the local populations out of poverty and injustice. That is what Canada is good at.
Instead of all those nice things, this government chooses to go to war. It wants to be the champion of fighting terrorism, but for now, unfortunately, the people are just being lulled by the government into believing that it is working for their security. It wants to create a sense of security, but this is not security. The government is creating bogus laws to distract people and have them believe that it is protecting them.
If this government invested just 10% of all the billions of dollars it is investing in the war to help prevent violent extremism, a lot fewer young people would leave Canada to join Jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria or even Somalia.
Moreover, whose interests are we defending on these missions? Is it truly the interests of Canadians? Canada belongs to a coalition led by the United States, but what is the goal of the United States, which is in negotiations with Iran?
Last Wednesday, the American-led coalition launched air strikes to officially help the Iraqi forces recapture Tikrit from Daesh. I urge my colleagues to use “Daesh” instead of “Islamic State” because it is not an Islamic state. It is a terrorist group known as Daesh.
The international community knows that the Iraqi offensive in Tikrit, which started on March 2, involves soldiers and police officers, but also paramilitary groups, including the notorious popular mobilization forces, groups essentially made up of Shia militias backed by Iran. The Iranians have provided artillery and advice to these Shia militias.
However, there is an Iranian general, Ghasem Soleimani, on the ground leading the Quds, a unit of the Iranian revolutionary guard. If Canada participates, will the Iranians be our allies?
There are also questions about some coalition allies with respect to porous borders, the acquisition of weapons by Daesh, the sale of oil to Daesh and stolen archeological artifacts.
Members will also recall the al-Nusra jihadists, who have ties to al-Qaeda and who allegedly crossed the Turkish border to attack the Syrian city of Kessab, which has a majority Armenian population, as well as the city of Maaloula, a Christian city.
There is also the issue of the Kurds, not to mention the war in Yemen.
My major question is this: are we going to get involved in these conflicts between the Shia and Sunni Muslims or are we going to help them to sit down at the same table and come to an agreement?
These are very complex conflicts. It is important to have a clear foreign policy to guide our national defence policy, but what is our foreign policy—