That the House support the government’s decision to broaden, improve, and redefine our contribution to the effort to combat ISIL by better leveraging Canadian expertise while complementing the work of our coalition partners to ensure maximum effect, including:
(a) refocusing our military contribution by expanding the advise and assist mission of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in Iraq, significantly increasing intelligence capabilities in Iraq and theatre-wide, deploying CAF medical personnel, offering to provide the Government of Iraq ministerial liaison personnel to the Ministries of Defence and the Interior, enhancing capacity-building efforts with our defence partners in Jordan and Lebanon to advance regional stability, and withdrawing our CF-18s while maintaining air force surveillance and refuelling capability;
(b) improving the living conditions of conflict-affected populations and helping to build the foundations for long-term regional stability of host communities, including Lebanon and Jordan;
(c) investing significantly in humanitarian assistance while working with experienced humanitarian partners to support the basic needs of conflict-affected populations, including children and victims of sexual and gender-based violence;
(d) engaging more effectively with political leaders throughout the region, increasing Canada’s contribution to international efforts aimed at finding political solutions to the crises affecting the region and reinforcing our diplomatic presence to facilitate the delivery of enhanced programming, supporting increased CAF deployments, strengthening dialogue with local and international partners on the ground and generally giving Canada a stronger voice in the region;
(e) welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada;
that the House express its appreciation and pride to the members of the CAF, diplomatic and intelligence personnel for their participation in the fight against terrorism, to Canadian humanitarian workers for their efforts to provide critical support to conflict-affected populations, and reconfirm our commitment to our allies in the coalition against ISIL; and
that the House note the government’s resolve to return to the House within two years with a new motion on Canada’s contribution to the region.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin this debate with a statement of gratitude to the brave women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces and the many public servants who have offered, and will continue to offer, their service and dedication in the Middle East on behalf of all of us. I know I speak for every member in this House, and indeed for all Canadians, when I offer our deepest thanks for their valour, their courage, and their commitment both to their country and to the values that it stands for.
We also reiterate our sincere gratitude and sympathy to the family of Sergeant Andrew Doiron, who was killed in Iraq during a friendly fire incident last March. His service and his sacrifice remain in our minds as we reflect upon our continued engagement.
This government was elected with a commitment to refocus Canada's military contribution in Iraq and Syria on training local forces, providing more humanitarian support, and immediately welcoming 25,000 refugees from Syria to Canada.
This policy differed from that of the previous government, which advocated air strikes. It also differed from that of the previous official opposition, which advocated a complete lack of military involvement. This topic was the subject of debates across Canada during the campaign, especially among party leaders.
With this motion, I am reopening the debate in the House, which was elected by Canadians, and in moving this motion, the government is upholding its promise to Canadians.
When the last Parliament debated Canada's involvement in the Middle East, we put forward four clear principles to guide our decisions.
One, Canada has a role to play in confronting humanitarian crises in the world.
Two, when a government considers deploying our men and women in uniform, there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada.
Three, the case for deploying our forces must be made openly and transparently, based on clear and reliable, dispassionately presented facts.
Four, Canada’s role must reflect the broad scope of Canadian capabilities and how best we can help.
We believe there is an important role for Canada to play in the fight against ISIL, a role that we can play, a role that we must play.
ISIL threatens peace and democracy with terror and barbarism. The images are horrific, the stories are appalling, the victims are many. ISIL fights against open and diverse societies where women and men of all faiths, all ethnicities, and all backgrounds are free to make of their lives what their capabilities, work ethic, and their dreams will allow. ISIL stands against everything that we value as Canadians, and poses a direct threat to our people and to our friends.
Our government understands the need for a sustained effort, working with our international partners, to enable local forces to defeat those terrorists.
Last week this government unveiled a clear, transparent and robust strategy for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the broader region. Ours is a comprehensive whole-of-government approach that has been informed by extensive consultation with our allies and civil society stakeholders.
Our approach covers several key areas: security, humanitarian assistance, development, and diplomacy.
On security, we will allocate more resources to train Iraqi security forces. Our goal is to allow local forces to take the fight directly to ISIL to reclaim their homes, land, and future.
In addition, we will continue supporting aerial surveillance and refuelling activities within the coalition. We will withdraw our six CF-18s and we will be more significantly involved in counterterrorism measures and improving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear security in the region.
When it comes to humanitarian assistance, we will continue to help the refugees most affected by the conflicts. We will deliver $840 million in humanitarian assistance over the next three years to support basic needs in the hardest-hit regions, including drinking water, food, health care, and shelter.
When it comes to development, we will also provide $270 million over the same time frame to build local capacity in communities and countries hosting large numbers of refugees. We will help our partners address basic needs in education, health care, and sanitation services, in repairing infrastructure, and in promoting economic growth.
Finally, Canada will enhance its diplomatic presence on the ground in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon by increasing its engagement with local and international partners to restore stability in the region. In addition to all these measures, the Government of Canada has adopted a new policy to welcome Syrian refugees, quickly but safely, as new Canadians.
Since we took office, communities across Canada have welcomed more than 20,000 Syrian refugees who fled unimaginable chaos. Others arrive daily. The extent to which Canadians have shown solidarity and offered their support to these newcomers is truly inspiring. This welcome is an absolutely essential aspect of the fight against the so-called Islamic State: bringing in men, women, and children who were driven from their homes and opening the doors to our communities in a caring and compassionate way. This approach truly represents the best of Canadians.
Canadians have been rightly outraged by the atrocities committed at the hands of ISIL. We must take action in a way that will deliver durable results on the ground to help restore peace and stability to this war-torn region.
Our renewed strategy for Canada's engagement in Iraq and Syria is robust, comprehensive and effective. By working closely with local communities and with our coalition partners, we will confront ISIL head-on, offer refuge to those fleeing chaos, and work with host nations to build real solutions for the longer term.
I look forward to an engaged, informed debate on this important issue.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to provide the response of the Conservative Party and of Her Majesty's official opposition to the motion before the House.
At the outset, let me say on behalf of all members of the Conservative caucus how proud we are of the men and women of the armed forces. I had the rare opportunity to go to Afghanistan to visit our troops and thank them in theatre. If I could, I would go today to do the same thing. We truly owe them everything we have in this country.
There are times in the life of a Parliament and in the history of the House when Providence calls upon us to lead it, lead by conviction, lead by a responsibility we collectively have to the Canadian people, and lead by fighting evil. Sadly, today is not a day of leadership.
The deployment or decision not to deploy our military involves the most solemn decision any government will ever face: the decision to put the brave men and women who wear our country's uniform in harm's way. It is also a decision that reflects and projects to the rest of the world our most fundamental values. That is why it is important that members of the House have the opportunity to debate the future of the mission, an example set by the previous Conservative government. At its heart, today's motion runs counter to the clearly expressed will of a significant majority of Canadians.
We know that the decision to pull our CF-18s from the fight against the Islamic State, to blunt the sharp end of our spear, is not in keeping with the contributions of our allies. We know, too, thanks to poll after poll, that it is not what most Canadians want us to do.
As I watched the announce the end of Canada's air combat mission against ISIL, I was struck by the incoherence of the Liberal government's plan. While I applaud the commitment to continue diplomacy and development, I question how such goals can be achieved without basic peace and security for the people of Iraq and Syria. More fundamentally, I question how Canada can continue to claim to be a major partner in the fight against ISIL when it is eliminating the very contribution that most directly protects innocent civilians suffering on the ground.
Operation Impact was launched to help to stop ISIL from taking more territory and to destroy whatever capabilities it had built up. Bombing runs by Canadian fighter jets have provided vital cover for those battling ISIL on the ground. The Kurdish government, whose forces have been most effective in retaking ground from ISIL, has repeatedly requested that Canada's bombing activities continue. In light of this record, I am forced to ask why we have fighter aircraft at all, if not for the purpose of protecting innocent civilians from clear and present danger. If not this mission, then which mission?
The Liberals fundamentally misunderstand the nature of terrorism. It is not simple thuggery or even organized criminality, as recently alleged by the . Terror, the likes of which we saw in Paris last fall, is designed to undermine civilization and legitimate systems of government. It has at its aim the destruction of democracy and of the equal treatment of citizens, and the replacement of these values with a brutal and hierarchical system of control, including the sexual enslavement of women and children and the murder of religious minorities and gays and lesbians. This is an ideology worth fighting with every tool at our disposal.
Our international partners asked us to stay in the air combat mission. The victims of ISIL on the ground in Iraq and Syria asked us to continue to provide the air cover they desperately need to have a chance at survival, and our own people, including many Canadians who voted for the Liberal government, want our CF-18s to continue to take the fight to ISIL.
In reality, even with the announcement, not a single person has been able to explain why our CF-18s must be removed from the air campaign. We as Canadians are rightly appalled by the depravity of ISIS. The shadow of this so-called caliphate has descended over millions of people in large parts of Syria and Iraq, and under the shadow, people suffer, literally, a reign of terror.
ISIS has revolutionized the use of torture, mutilation, and murder as a means of oppression, an instrument of terror and a medium for propaganda. Those who run afoul of its oppressive rules, or simply do not share its perverse world view, are stoned, beheaded, burned alive, or crucified. The punishment for being gay is being hurled off the roof of a building.
ISIS also sends child soldiers into battle and trains other children to execute their prisoners. They revel in rape as a weapon of war. Some girls and young women are forced to marry ISIS fighters. Others get sold as sex slaves. Preteens are the most expensive, going for $165.
Their soldiers have reportedly turned chemical weapons on civilians.
They have slaughtered and dispossessed many thousands of innocents for the crime of belonging to ethnic or religious minorities, whether it is Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen, Shia, Shabak, the list of their victims go on and on.
Canadians are deeply committed to religious freedom both here at home and around the world. It is a fundamental Canadian value and it has no greater enemy in the world than ISIS. Since the loves to speak of diversity, we should note here that there is no hatred of diversity in the world deeper than the hatred at the dark heart of ISIS.
For us here in Canada, this is the stuff of nightmares, but for the people suffering under the boot of ISIS, it is what they live with every day and it is what has led to the exodus of millions of Iraqis and Syrians from the region.
Let us be clear. These terrorists are not mere thugs, as the has suggested, or simply a criminal organization as the has claimed. They are a death cult that has declared war on the civilized world, and the world, Canada included, has responded. More than 60 nations, including Canada's traditional friends and allies, are currently taking part in the U.S.-led coalition to degrade and destroy ISIS through air strikes.
Our CF-18s have now flown nearly 250 bombing missions, destroying ISIS troops, equipment, bomb factories, and fortifications. They have taken part in the liberation of substantial numbers of innocent men, women, and children. In fact, Canada is the coalition's fifth-largest contributor.
As of February 3, the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 aircraft had eliminated more than 300 ISIL targets. Our air strikes have been focused around major cities, such as Mosul, Sinjar, and Ramadi and have been extremely helpful in liberating roughly 20% to 25% of the populated areas of Iraq that were previously controlled by ISIL.
Canada's contributions to the air mission, both practically and symbolically, are unquestionably important. In mid-December, Canadian special forces trainers were involved in a day-long surprise attack from ISIS. Canadians laid down supporting fire with the Kurdish peshmerga. In that very attack, Canadian CF-18s were called on to provide air cover. Yet, in a statement from the about this issue, he did not even mention the fact that Canadian CF-18s were involved in that heroic effort.
The government talks about openness and transparency, but on this issue it is just talk. The fact is that if we remove our CF-18s from this fight, we will have to rely on others in future similar situations. And why would we leave the fighting to others? Why would we leave the heavy lifting to others? Canada has always stepped up when needed.
To say that our air strikes have had little effect, as the government has repeated time and time again, is an insult to our air force's heroic efforts as its personnel put their lives on the line for us each and every day. To suggest other nations can do their job better than they can is also an insult to Canada's proud history of taking the fight to the enemy. But equally important as the missions our pilots have flown is the statement that we should make with their presence, that we stand united with our allies and the rest of the civilized world, united against the savagery of ISIS, united in support of the suffering people in the region.
By pulling our CF-18s out of this fight, our government wants to send a different message, that this is not our fight. However, it is our fight. When human dignity and human rights are trampled in the world, it is our fight.
The message being sent is the opposite of “Canada is back”. The message is Canada is stepping back from the fight against terror. There can be no other interpretation. The and his cabinet have yet to offer any acceptable reason why the air mission should not continue, no strategic position, no moral imperative, no rational argument whatsoever. Instead, all we have received from them is complete and total incoherence. The truth is that his pulling out our CF-18s means that our fighting days against ISIS are over. Training, humanitarian efforts, and diplomacy are all important, and we support them, but they are not fighting.
When it comes to our security, fighting ISIL is the most urgent priority for every government and it should be the most urgent priority for this government. Instead, we have total incoherence from the Liberal Party.
There is no reason why we cannot increase our ongoing and long-running humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in the region and our training of local troops on the ground, as the government says it will do, while continuing to bomb the enemy and halt their progress.
These are not contradictory measures. Indeed, they are complementary measures. In fact, President Obama himself has said to the American people that air strikes are a key pillar of the coalition strategy in fighting ISIS, along with humanitarian intervention and military training.
Sadly, the government is making such a monumental decision for the purpose simply of fulfilling an election promise. This is clearly an ideological and political decision, that to the government the atrocities that ISIS commits against innocent people do not warrant a direct military response from the air. This is disappointing for a number of reasons, but remember this is the same who called our CF-18s, “CF-15s”.
I say to the and the people around him, military missions where we put people's lives on the line are not jokes, they are not an opportunity for throwaway lines, and they are not an opportunity to try to score political points.
Therefore, we are going to continue to ask the tough questions about the government's plan on behalf of Canadians. That is why we have to ask, again and again, is this not a fight worth fighting for?
There are many clear and worthy reasons for Canada to continue the fight. First, we should stand up for the people in the region. The people whom ISIS is oppressing cannot fight back alone. The training we are doing and will continue to do is valuable, but it is not enough. We must fight by their side and in the air. We must fight this evil head-on.
Second, we should stand alongside our friends and our allies. Whenever the free nations of the world have confronted tyranny and oppression, Canada has been at the fore. From Vimy Ridge to the beaches of Normandy, from Kapyong to the Medak Pocket, from the Persian Gulf to the Panjwai district, when the cause is just, Canadians have never turned away.
Third, the government should stand up for Canadians. It has been said so many times that I am surprised I need to repeat it: ISIS is dedicated to the destruction of all that we hold dear. By taking the fight to the enemy there, we are protecting Canadians here at home. This point seems to have been lost on the government. Indeed, it does not talk about it at all.
Fourth, we should stand up for our values. In the words of one of Canada's great Prime Ministers, Sir Robert Borden, Canada fights “Not for love of battle, not for lust of conquest, not for greed of possessions, but for the cause of honour, to maintain solemn pledges, to uphold principles of liberty”. They were powerful words in 1914, and they ring just as true a century later.
For Canada to abandon our air combat role against ISIS is a betrayal of the people of Syria and Iraq. It is a betrayal of our closest friends and allies. It is a betrayal of generations of our proud Canadian military history. It is a betrayal of the government's highest purpose, ensuring the security of Canada and the safety of Canadians.
While ISIS thrives, no one is entirely safe from its cruelty. That is why our allies have redoubled their efforts to bring this horror to heel with more air strikes. They have stepped up while we are now stepping back.
The fight against global terrorism is the fight of our generation, and we turn away from it with shame. It is not enough for the to just talk about values, about freedom and democracy, about diversity, human dignity, and human rights. We have to defend them, and where they are threatened we must defend them. If we do not, then they are nothing more than just words in this chamber.
This is why Her Majesty's loyal opposition cannot support the motion. It represents a retreat from the fight, a willingness to let our friends and allies do the heavy lifting in the name of those values. It is unworthy of our great country that we all love. I encourage my colleagues in all parties to vote against it.
That is also why I will move the following amendment. I move:
That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after the words “That the House” with the following:
(a) urge the government to re-establish Canada's influence within the international decision-making process in the fight against terrorism and rebuild the trust Canada has lost with its allies by reversing its decision to withdraw CF-18s from the air combat mission, which essentially removes Canada from any combat role,
(b) ensure Canadian humanitarian relief does not directly or indirectly support jihadi terrorism, and
(c) express its appreciation and pride to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and in particular, Special Operation Forces and the RCAF members in the Air Task Force, including CF-18 pilots, and thank them for their extraordinary efforts in the fight against terrorism and for protecting Canadians at home.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the for following precedent and bringing this important issue to the House of Commons for debate and a vote.
Almost a year ago, the previous government asked this chamber to debate an extension of Canada's military combat mission in Iraq.
I want to reiterate now something I said then.
Approving a motion that asks our brave women and men in uniform to risk their lives overseas is the most important decision we can make. It is a responsibility we undertake with the utmost seriousness and with the greatest respect for those who serve our country. We owe them, and their families, a respectful debate and careful consideration of the issues before us.
The threat that Daesh poses to global peace and security and the atrocities it has been committing against civilians cannot be underestimated. Its despicable acts have displaced 2.5 million civilians in Iraq alone. Because of Daesh, over five million people need humanitarian assistance today. That terrorist group has killed thousands of people, many of them brutally slaughtered in unimaginable ways.
The New Democrats have long said that Canada has an important role to play in eliminating this threat, this scourge. We firmly believe that Canada can and must do more to alleviate the suffering of the civilians caught in the middle of this conflict. In fact, we have said repeatedly that first and foremost, Canada needs to block the terrorist group's access to weapons, funds, and foreign fighters. Unfortunately, the current plan does not do any of that. The Liberal plan proposes prolonging a front-line combat mission, and no one knows for how long, while offering no answers to some key questions. To be very clear, this is definitely a combat mission.
While we agree that Canada can be more effective in addressing the threat posed by ISIS, let us be clear about what the is proposing. This is indeed an expansion and an enlargement of Canada's military mission in Iraq, and it is also clearly a combat mission.
During the election, the Liberals promised Canadians that they would end the Conservative government's mission. They said that we “need a clearer line between combat and non combat”. Canadians have had a good example of the lack of clarity over the past couple of days. Every time we have asked the Prime Minister whether this is a combat mission, he has twisted, turned, and done everything he could to avoid even using the word. However, the reality is that their new mission actually blurs these lines even more.
By replacing planes in the sky with boots on the ground, the government is placing Canadian Forces personnel deeper into front-line combat. The Liberals are planning to triple the size of Canada's train, advise and assist mission. However, let us be clear. This is not classroom training. We already know that Canadian Forces involved in training have ended up exchanging fire with ISIS militants on the front lines.
What exactly will this tripling of training mean for Canadian Forces? What proportion of our troops will be on the front lines? When and with what caveats? Will Canadians continue painting targets for coalition bombing? What kind of transport will we be doing in theatre? How will the weapons we provide to Kurdish forces be tracked and their use monitored? Does our training include human rights and international law components? When will our participation end? Critically, what does success look like for this mission? What is the end game? These and many more questions remain unanswered, but last week, the chief of the defence staff was clear about one thing, there will be more risk to Canadian soldiers under this new mandate.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Vance, said that putting more people on the ground in a dangerous place is “riskier overall”. Those were his words.
We can also refer to the government's own backgrounder on this important issue. The government's backgrounder says that training will take place in a battlefield context. That is right. The government's own backgrounder says, and I quote, “in a battlefield context”.
It also says that the mission will examine ways to enhance in-theatre tactical transport.
Last year, the tragic death of Sergeant Doiron reminded us all of the serious risk involved in this kind of on-the-ground training mission. Less than a year ago, when the current was on the opposition benches, he said, and I quote:
...when we deploy the Canadian Forces, especially into combat operations, there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada.
Here is something else he said when he was in opposition:
The government wants to increase Canada’s participation in a vague and possibly endless combat mission. We cannot support this proposal.
That is what he said when he was in opposition, but now that he is in power, he is making the same mistakes. That is exactly what the is telling us today.
Just like the bombing mission, this mission is a de facto combat mission, one that does not have an end date and fewer criteria for establishing what constitutes success and, therefore, the end of the mission. The is proposing a never-ending mission, which is exactly what he criticized last year.
If the members of the House recall, this mission began with a few dozen soldiers providing training. Oddly enough it resembles the start of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. The Liberals are asking the House to give them a blank cheque with respect to a mission that has not been authorized by either the United Nations or NATO and that has no exit strategy.
We obviously do not agree with that. What is interesting, and this needs to be pointed out, is that one year ago the Liberals said that they too did not agree with that.
We cannot agree to this new expanded combat mission, but there is another way forward. When it comes to the fight against ISIS, it is simply not enough to say that we have to do something. We need to ask ourselves what the right thing to do is, and what is the most effective thing that Canada can do.
First, Canada should lead efforts to prevent the flow of weapons and resources to ISIS, starting by signing and ratifying the Arms Trade Treaty, which is another thing the Liberals have promised but still have not done. If fully implemented, the treaty will deprive some of the world's most brutal actors of access to weapons. Canada remains, sadly, the only member of NATO not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty, and we in the NDP find this totally unacceptable.
Second, Canada should partner with domestic faith communities to counter radicalization, which we all know is a primary source of foreign fighters going to join Daesh. We can and should lead the way in developing a strong campaign of counter-extremist messaging, exposing the brutality of ISIS, and the utter lack of any religious basis for its atrocities. ISIS is not Islam.
Many of our allies have recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to countering and discouraging radicalization at the community level: the United States, France, and Germany to name a few. Municipalities are even acting. Montreal now has an effective model. Here at home we have also seen families of young people who have been radicalized and left to fight in Syria pleading for this kind of help from government.
In addition to Bill 's attack on our rights and freedoms, it utterly failed to respond to the need for a Canadian de-radicalization strategy. The Liberals made the unforgivable error of supporting Bill at the time, but they must not compound that mistake by failing to address radicalization now.
Third, Canada must also step up our role in the fight against terrorist financing. In Turkey last November, the signed a joint G20 statement committing Canada to tackling “the financing channels of terrorism”. Yet the fact remains that between 2001 and 2015, Canada has had only one single successful conviction for terrorist financing. More needs to be done here at home and with our international partners to cut off the supply of oil funds that ISIS relies on to fund its terrorist activities.
Finally, and most important, we must continue to do more to increase humanitarian support for millions of civilians who are now victims in this conflict. From the beginning, the New Democrats have urged the government to boost aid in the broader region where there would be an immediate life-saving impact. Our NATO ally, Turkey, has repeatedly asked Canada to do more to help the millions of refugees flooding its borders. We should also be assisting in areas of Canadian expertise, like combatting sexual violence, protecting minorities, reintegration, and helping to investigate and prosecute war crimes.
Last month, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq underscored the importance of providing support for the Iraqi government's reconstruction and stabilization efforts in regions liberated from Daesh. The priority is to rebuild these communities so that civilians can return in safety and with dignity. This will also have long-term benefits.
It is a tragedy that the previous government missed the opportunity to recognize the importance of strengthening institutions, developing democracy and giving priority to humanitarian aid in order to save lives in Iraq and the region.
It is important that the is undertaking to invest in humanitarian aid, but it is also important that the humanitarian aid and military objectives remain separate in order to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers on the ground.
Finally, we cannot overlook the broader context of this conflict. Ignoring the broader context would be a terrible mistake. Daesh managed to set up in Iraq and Syria precisely because those countries do not have stable, well-established governments that can maintain peace and security. In Syria, the UN's fragile ceasefire reached on February 12 to allow humanitarian workers to reach the most vulnerable is in jeopardy because of the Russian bombing in support of the bloodthirsty dictator Bashar al-Assad. In the meantime, nearly 19,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in 21 months. That is why we believe that Canada should put all its diplomatic, humanitarian, and financial resources into trying to establish lasting peace in the region.
The overwhelming human tragedy unfolding on the ground will not be solved by force alone. It also demands that Canada put forward a comprehensive multi-faceted intervention that clearly defines success.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently said, “Over the longer-term, the biggest threat to terrorists is not the power of missiles – it is the [power] of inclusion.” That is Canada's strength. That is why we in the NDP cannot support the Liberal's expanded military combat mission in Iraq.
Mr. Speaker, on February 8, the set out the plan for how Canada will be more effective in the fight against this despicable terrorist group ISIL, the so-called Islamic State. In doing so, the made the most difficult decision any leader or any government must make: the decision to put some of our fellow citizens in harm's way. Yes, they are well trained and they are brave, but it is still a huge decision to send Canadians into danger. We took this decision because it is necessary.
At stake is Canada's own national interest. We know from tragic recent experience that even in regions far from our own, the repercussions of conflict reach Canadians at home and abroad. Besides, Canadians care about other people. They care about the countless families that have been torn apart. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are fleeing their homes, their regions, and Canadians care about those who remain and live in constant fear.
Terrorism knows no borders. That is why it is in Canada's best interests to participate, with its allies, in eradicating the epicentre of the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group. This group represents a real threat to our security and espouses a diabolical view of the world that promises young people salvation if they massacre men, women, and children as brutally as possible.
To be effective, we need to develop the best possible plan for immediate, sustainable action. For our actions to have a chance of making a sustainable difference, we, as Canadians, must provide assistance to a part of the world that has become terribly destabilized. We have developed a plan that will make Canada more effective with its allies in eradicating the so-called Islamic State and in stabilizing the region in the long term. We will be better equipped to combat terrorism today and to prevent it from coming back in the future.
In order to be as effective as possible, this plan must take into account the fact that we are not fighting the so-called Islamic State alone. Canada is part of a coalition of 65 countries, led by the United States. We must make our best possible contribution to this coalition, and that is the crux of this debate: how can we best contribute to the coalition? That is what the , the , the , and I have been focusing on these past few weeks.
We worked with our allies and we assessed our capabilities in order to redirect Canada's effort in such a manner as to achieve the best short-term and long-term results. Yes, our six F-18s will no longer be used for air strikes. There is no doubt that our pilots, our air force, did an admirable job and we should be proud of them, but most experts agree that the coalition has no shortage of air bombers.
As General Vance said last week, it is very clear that this is an absolutely correct moment to be ceasing the direct air strikes. We are growing our commitment and putting the trainers on the ground that will achieve the critical path necessary beyond air strikes against ISIL.
As a spokesperson from the United States operation has said, “we've got enough bombers...but we can't lose sight of the fact that we have to train this Iraqi security force. This Iraqi army needs to be trained”.
Those words are very true. There is an obvious lack of training for local combatants, and that is an essential need. There is an urgent need for humanitarian aid and an ongoing need for more long-term development assistance. It is based on those needs that we developed a plan that draws on more areas of Canadian expertise. We are nearly tripling the commitment to the training mission and doubling our intelligence capacity. We are strengthening our diplomatic presence, maintaining aerial surveillance and refuelling services, providing medical assistance, and working to fight radicalization and the financing of terrorism. We are providing urgent humanitarian aid, assistance with long-term development, and governance assistance. We are promoting diversity and reconciliation and ensuring a strong presence in Iraq, while also providing assistance to Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. We will be a partner that is more useful than ever to our local and international allies.
We Canadians are respected for our ability to train ground troops, to support security forces, to combine effective humanitarian and development support, and to provide sound diplomacy. We have significant expertise in stabilization, security, and development programming. We know how to talk to regional leaders, to support them when we should and press them for action when we must.
We will bring our significant experience in training and development so that we can support Iraqis in their fight against ISIL and ensure that they can stand up against tyranny and meet its threat head-on. That is why we are stepping up our support. This is all in the best possible traditions of Canada.
We will be there to build resilience in the local population, the central objective of our efforts, since it is ultimately they who will have to manage the challenge of extremism and conflict.
With this plan Canada will enhance its effectiveness to stem the flow of foreign fighters, to cut off ISIL's access to financing, to counter its propaganda, and contribute to security and stabilization efforts in the region.
We will commit significant funds to address sexual and gender-based violence and other human rights abuses in ISIL-affected areas.
Canada will be better equipped to protect minority rights and minority communities in Iraq, to mitigate the risk posed by explosive remnants of war in areas of Iraq liberated from ISIL control, and to provide lethal assistance, light arms and ammunition, to peshmerga forces.
To help mitigate the threat that ISIL or other extremists acquire chemical and biological weapons, Canada is supporting Iraq's deterrence and tracking capabilities.
Canada is bringing thousands of refugees to our shores, but we must also support the region in its efforts to house many more families. More than 600,000 Syrians have fled to Jordan and over 1.2 million to Lebanon over the last three years. The leaders of Jordan and Lebanon are warning us that their countries have reached the breaking point. In these two countries, communities continue to voice concerns about mounting local tensions as the newcomers compete with the host populations to access basic services.
In Lebanon, Canada will work to support border security to reduce the threat of ISIL spilling over into that country. For example, we will assist in building new border monitoring posts and provide skills-based training for the Lebanese armed forces, who are at the front lines in the defence against ISIL.
In Jordan, Canada will build on its established relationship with Jordan's military forces and its security and law enforcement agencies. We will be supporting Jordan's efforts to contain and degrade ISIL. Among other areas of focus, we will assist the Jordanians with technical training and equipping and improving its training facilities.
With respect to Syria, Canada will continue to support international efforts to find a political solution to the conflict and we will leverage our programming activities to that end as the opportunities arise.
Beyond these four focus countries, Canada will also support regional efforts in line with the global coalition against ISIL to stem the flow of funding, to interdict the recruitment and movement of fighters, and to counter the destructive and perverse narrative that ISIL espouses.
We will engage with all legitimate players in the region on different efforts at mediation, reconciliation, and peace negotiations, while also providing assistance to strengthen local conflict management capacities and local governance. We will regularly and firmly encourage the leadership in the region to put their people first, to pursue reconciliation and inclusion, and to seek peaceful political solutions instead of violent ones.
We will use our close partnerships with the most trusted and experienced humanitarian and development organizations on the ground. We will provide support to areas that have been liberated from ISIL control in Iraq. We will be there to support the return of displaced populations to their homes by assisting the efforts to restore basic services, such as water, electricity, and schools. Canadians will be there every step, offering our extensive knowledge, our professionalism, our strength, and our courage.
However, it is not only we who are saying that. Our allies have reacted positively to our new plan, which is not a surprise, since we consulted them. For example, the Pentagon underscored that the Canadian government's decision to “step up Canada's role in the campaign at this critical time.” In the words of the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce A. Heyman, Canada's “significant contributions” are “in line with the Coalition's current needs”.
This is precisely the point. This plan can be summarized in three words: comprehensive, integrated, and sustained.
First, it is comprehensive. The plan invests in most aspects of a durable solution, including military, political, and stabilization efforts; and separately, humanitarian and development assistance. Each of these elements is essential and complements the others.
Second, it is integrated. Our plan brings together resources and experience from across government and will be implemented in close co-operation and coordination with key partners and allies, including the countries in the region, members of the coalition, NGOs, and through our active participation in NATO and the UN, as well as through bilateral relations.
Finally, it is sustained. Through this plan, we are making a multi-year commitment to this effort because we recognize that this is a complex and protracted conflict.
Over the next three years, we are committed to investing approximately $1.6 billion to respond to the crises in Iraq and Syria, and to address their impact on Jordan, Lebanon, and the wider region. The bulk of the funding, $1.1 billion, will be for humanitarian and development assistance.
Canada will ensure that our assistance does not serve to support terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, and will place strict controls on funding and programming, so it goes where it is needed and is not diverted.
Last, our plan is also flexible. We know that the situation in the Middle East can change rapidly. So our strategy will be subject to regular reviews, precisely to ensure that it remains relevant and responsive to what is happening on the ground.
To conclude, we are bringing a broad array of capabilities that the coalition has identified as critical to the success of the anti-ISIL fight.
This is the plan we need and the plan the has presented to help us succeed.
As always, in the face of adversity, Canada will stand tall with skill, resolve, humanity and courage.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to speak today on this very important motion and the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
One of the honoured roles I have is defence critic. I am extremely passionate about our Canadian Armed Forces. In the previous Parliament I was both chair of the defence committee and later, parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence.
I understand the incredible risk that our military services, either in the regular or reserved forces, are willing to undertake to protect Canada. Everything that we hold dear in here, our democracy, our freedom of speech, our rights and liberties, are only possible because of the incredible sacrifices made by members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the veterans who came before them.
I want to pay tribute to every member who is currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, whether they are in the Royal Canadian Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Canadian army, in reserves or regular forces. I thank them for keeping us safe. We do not even realize the incredible efforts they take 24/7 to keep us safe in Canada.
They are the eyes of Canada on the world. They are standing on the wall to keep evil out and they are always prepared to go where no one else will go. They run toward danger. Their commitment is something each and every one of us in here should pay great respect for and thank them profusely.
I have been in contact with many veterans over the last couple of weeks and months, as the mission against ISIS was starting to change and with the idea of withdrawing our CF-18s. Families of current serving members are concerned about their sons and daughters, their husbands and wives. They want to ensure they have the protection they are entitled to when we are putting them in harm's way.
Our previous government brought a whole-of-government approach in dealing with ISIS that was well respected by our allies. We were part of the combat mission with our CF-18s and our air task force stationed out of Kuwait. It involved our Polaris refuel aircraft and two Auroras doing reconnaissance, finding targets, painting targets, and ensuring that we degraded ISIS.
It is because of that expertise and work, and risk that Canada was taken seriously to sit at the table to make decisions on the combat mission. Our special operations forces members who are serving with the Kurdish Peshmerga in an advise and assist role, providing training, and command and control, have done great work.
The accumulation of those two efforts really showed itself in December when ISIS mounted one of the largest attacks that the coalition had witnessed. They overran Kurdish Peshmerga positions between Mosul and Erbil and were able to break the line. Our Canadian special operations forces, along with the Kurdish Peshmerga, were able to push back, call in air strikes from Canadian CF-18s, and retake the ground. That is extremely commendable.
The Conservative government also provided humanitarian relief, over half of it going to Syrian refugees and displaced people, providing food, water, shelter, clothing, medical attention, and schooling opportunities that were not there, for hundreds of thousands of people. There was $1 billion spent in the region and over half of that went to Syria.
We expanded the diplomatic corps, trying to engage more with our allies to find solutions in the region, and ultimately hope for a political resolution to the civil war within Syria. However, what we are dealing with, with ISIS, will not be dealt with through diplomacy. We know that.
The Prime Minister, in his comments, said that the most lethal weapon to barbarism is not hatred but reason. I do not think anyone here expects the Prime Minister to actually sit down with the leader of ISIS, such as al-Baghdadi, and try to reason with the man. We know that with every hostage ISIS terrorists have taken, we have tried to reason with them, but the hostages have ultimately, brutally died at their hands, burning in cages, crucified, or beheaded on camera for the world to see.
We can never lose sight that we are not dealing with reasonable people. However, we are not going after them in hatred either. We are exercising the responsibility to protect, which all members in this House agree with. It is a United Nations principle that we have the responsibility to protect the most vulnerable.
We know that ISIS is targeting religious and ethnic minorities: Shias, Christians, Yazidis, Kurds, Turkmen, and numerous others, just because they do not share its twisted ideology. We know that ISIS has gone after Sunnis who refused to recognize its attempt to form a caliphate. ISIS has called them apostates and has executed, persecuted and ostracized them.
The only way we are going to stop ISIS, because it is an evil, is to destroy it. If we are going to bring a whole-of-government approach with diplomacy, humanitarian aid, training, and institution building, then we have to have combat.
Canada has always lifted its fair share. We have always punched above our weight. We have a reputation around the world for being there for the most vulnerable and for stepping in to stop atrocities. Therefore, it behooves me to understand why we would now step back.
Why would we retreat from a combat mission that our soldiers, aircrew, and sailors are so well trained for? Yes, they can do peacekeeping, and yes they do peacemaking, but first and foremost they are warriors. We have trained them to fight.
I can tell members that everybody I have talked to in the Canadian Armed Forces, regardless of their discipline, understands this fundamental more than anything else: the defence of our country, the defence of our society, and protecting the most vulnerable.
Canada has always acted as an ally, as a partner in a coalition. We have never gone out single-handedly to try and change the geopolitics in any part of the world. It is because of our strong relationship with our allies that we need to be more engaged.
We have not heard a single good reason from the government, from the , the , or the , on why we have to stop bombing. The jets are already there, the resources are in place, the costs are accounted for, and the impact has been significant.
We are the fifth-largest contributor to air strikes. We actually fly more than our fair share of the sorties. About 10% of the sorties are actually flown by Canadian jets. We need to keep those things in mind as we look at the reports coming out on how ISIS is being degraded, how it is now on the run, and how just in the last four to six weeks it has had to start cutting back on how much it is paying its staff, terrorists, and fighters that are fighting our guys.
Those salaries are one of the reasons that the ISIS team has held together. However, because oil supplies have now been cut off, it does not have a way to get its oil to the black market. Infrastructure has been degraded, supply lines to bring in guns, ammunition, arms, and food has really been disrupted. Therefore, ISIS does not have the capability to continue its prolonged war, other than living off of its own genocidal views.
Now that we have it on the run, this is the time to hit it even harder. We keep saying that it is going to take boots on the ground. The Conservatives understand that. That is why we first put in our special operations forces to train the Kurdish peshmerga, a reliable ally with boots on the ground that are prepared not only to hold the line for the Kurdistan regional government in northern Iraq, but to push back and retake cities that have been lost to ISIS. There is a major offensive coming this spring. We want to ensure that we can take Mosul, and that is where the special operations forces come into play.
Yes, the Conservatives support the increased training mission to enable more boots on the ground. We are doing that in concert with other allies, like the British and the Americans. Ultimately, the street fighting will be done on the ground, but we still have to maintain the air support to protect our troops first and foremost, as we witnessed in December.
The rules of engagement are something that I do not think all of us always appreciate or understand, but the one thing we have to look at is how the coalition air force operates. Every country always maintains within its rules of engagement the responsibility of protection of its own troops. If ISIS decided to mount a large counteroffensive against numerous fighting positions for whatever reason and thought it could retake territory, if our troops got into trouble, our CF-18s would be there to provide air cover.
We know what happens when other aircrews are sometimes in the region. The minister talks a lot about mistakes of the past. He has been to Afghanistan on numerous occasions as a soldier, as a commander, as a leader, and has witnessed some of the mistakes. I would like to remind the House about 2002 when a U.S. F-15 air force jet dropped a 500-pound bomb on Canadians, mistaking them for the Taliban. That resulted in the deaths of four Canadian soldiers and another eight were seriously injured.
In 2006, Canadian troops were in camp burning garbage and the pilot of a U.S. A-10 Warthog army jet was disoriented due to the time of day and opened guns on the Canadians, killing one Canadian soldier. We can never diminish the importance of having direct communication between Canadian jets and Canadian troops on the ground. Our troops are not principal combatants, but we have already witnessed them coming under fire on numerous occasions. For that reason alone, our troops deserve close air protection.
We are tripling the number of trainers to 220. General Vance has said that is increasing the risk. Therefore, it becomes even more important that we maintain our six CF-18s in the fight.
If we look at this motion and the announcement, details are still lacking. After the announcement, it came to bear that we were bringing in some Griffon helicopters. We are still not sure if they are armed up or unarmed. Are they there for close combat support, or are they there to transport, to evacuate in case the need arises for medical assistance and lifting to hospitals? Are they there to ensure we can move people around without being exposed to improvised explosive devices along roadways? A lesson learned in Afghanistan was when so many of our troops were injured or killed because of roadside bombs. We need to know exactly what that squadron of Griffon helicopters will be doing.
We talk about the intelligence gathering, which we welcome. We talk about the increased medical training, which Canada has a great reputation of doing. I should make a point of this. What the mission is doing now, what Canada is doing in Iraq, is very similar to what we are also doing in Ukraine. It is strictly a training mission. It is training principal combatants on how to engage with the enemy, providing command and control, advise, and assist. It is not a combat mission in the traditional sense anymore.
The rules of engagement for our troops on the ground are the same as if they were peacekeepers. If they were sitting in Bosnia and they are fired upon, they have every right to protect themselves. The arms that they carry are very much for that specific purpose, self-defence.
We still need to really look at the entire mission. That is why, if we look at our reputation on the world stage, it has diminished. We are not sitting at the main table anymore, making the decisions on where our troops will be stationed, how we bring the offensive back against ISIS, and ultimately crushing the enemy.
We hear what the Liberals feel has been congratulations for a job well done. Everybody who is here understands that there is the discussion that happens in public, the niceties, the civilities expressed between friends and allies, as I always have as a parliamentary secretary. However, there are others who know better. I have heard comments from people in the state department in the U.S. and the department of defence, and they are not happy that we are not carrying our load on the combat mission.
Matthew Fisher, a senior foreign correspondent characterized it this way. He said that to think that our friends or allies were happy about our pulling out our CF-18s was hogwash.
Retired Major General David Fraser said, “If we don't have our fighter jets, we are not going to have much of a voice....We won't get much recognition. Strategically, at the political level, we are going to lose here.” He went on to say that we would not win this campaign with only air strikes, but we certainly would not without them.
Canada has a role. We have some of the best pilots in the world. The CF-18s have been upgraded. They have the best technological equipment. There are only a few countries that can do what CF-18 jets can do in targeting, reducing, and eliminating. We are not even aware of any CF-18 bomber strikes having any civilian casualties associated with them. They have always gone at the target, destroying infrastructure, fighting positions, training grounds and weapon caches.
I want to close with this. I know the Liberals really listen to some of their patriarchs of the party. John Manley, whom many people in here have a lot of respect for, said it this way, “As I've said before, if you want to sit at the table and when the waiter arrives with the bill, you excuse yourself to go to the washroom, we've been doing just that in trading in our Pearsonian reputation rather than fulfilling Pearsonian vision”.
I ask the government to rethink its overall mission and leave the CF-18s in the fight. Again, I want to thank every member of the Canadian Armed Forces, particularly those like our special operations forces and our air task force members, including our CF-18 pilots. I wish them all the best. They are in our thoughts and prayers. Godspeed.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the critic for national defence for his passionate comments about the members of the Canadian Armed Forces and what they do for us. One thing we can always agree upon, not just the members of this House but all Canadians, is the great work that our men and women do for us on a 24-7 basis around the world.
It is my privilege to rise in support of the motion tabled by the . Last week, our government presented a detailed plan to broaden, enhance, and redefine our contribution to the fight against ISIL.
Today, I would like to speak to the House about the military elements of that plan. Before I begin, however, I would like to remind the House of the evolution of this mission and to explain the context that necessitated this new approach.
When Canada's military mission began in the fall of 2014, it was in response to an emerging and immediate crisis. The situation in Iraq and Syria was grim. ISIL was advancing rapidly and claiming territory. It was taking charge of abandoned military equipment for its own use. It had the momentum.
Since then, the reality on the ground has changed. ISIL has lost territory. It has lost the freedom of movement. It is forced to move by night in small numbers or under cover of the civilian population. Its leadership has been targeted. Its morale is in decline. As a result, the Iraqi military is able to conduct offensive operations and reclaim territory, most recently in Ramadi.
ISIL remains a danger, but the situation on the ground is much different from 18 months ago. ISIL is losing momentum. Against that backdrop, our mission partners, the U.S. chief among them, have been reviewing the coalition efforts and reconsidering the best way forward.
At a national level, we too have an obligation to look toward the next phase of the armed conflict, not simply because we faced an expiration date on March 31 and not simply because we had a new mandate for Canadians, but because the realities of the mission demanded it.
With that in mind, shortly after taking office this government began a deliberate and comprehensive review process. We knew we needed to undertake a thorough analysis of the evolving situation on the ground. We needed to consider our desired impact and the tools at our disposal. We needed to devise a comprehensive, long-term strategy for Canada that was in lockstep with our partners.
To support that process, I personally travelled to the region twice. I consulted with allies and partners, and I listened to our troops on the ground. In fact, I met with military commanders, front-line troops, and regional leaders, including Iraq's minister of defence. I spoke with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. I spoke with Brett McGurk, the U.S. special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL. I met with Michael Fallon, the U.K. Secretary of State for Defence.
At the same time, I worked closely with the Chief of the Defence Staff and senior officials here at home to gain a better understanding of the skills and assets available within the Canadian Armed Forces and across the Government of Canada.
My cabinet colleagues undertook a similar process, and together we brought informed advice and frank analysis to the cabinet table. Together, we were able to identify a meaningful contribution for Canada, which is synchronized across government and responds to the shifting needs of the coalition effort.
We have recognized that security, diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, and development will all play a major role in this endeavour.
ISIL is not a singular threat that we can just carve out and dispose of. It is dangerously interwoven with internal political instabilities and broader regional dynamics. It is a parasite that thrives off the discord, poverty, and hardship that plagues the region.
For that reason, the military elements of Canada's new approach are now more clearly situated within a broader, whole-of-government plan. This integrated approach will help deal with the immediate needs of the people of Iraq and Syria, while also establishing the conditions for long-term stability in the region.
For the military line of effort, we recognize that it is ultimately the people of Iraq who will be responsible for stabilizing their country.
We need to enable them to defeat ISIL, though, and we have the expertise to help bolster their capabilities and prepare them for that fight. Going forward, this is where we will be focusing much of our effort. As we announced last week, we will triple our commitment to the train, advise, and assist mission in northern Iraq.
At the same time, we are going to significantly increase our intelligence capability. There is a complex interplay of forces that underlies the conflict environment in Iraq and Syria. We need to have a clearer picture of how all the pieces fit together, and we need to better anticipate the impact of our actions. Our enhanced intelligence contribution will be invaluable in this regard.
In addition to our training and intelligence activities, our Polaris air refueller and Aurora surveillance aircraft will continue to serve as critical enablers for the coalition effort.
We will also be offering ministerial liaison teams to the government of Iraq and additional capacity-building efforts in Jordan and Lebanon in close partnership with Global Affairs Canada.
We will increase our medical presence to support Canadian and coalition personnel and to offer mentoring support to the Iraqi security forces.
In addition to these ongoing elements, we also intend to deploy a small helicopter detachment with aircrew and support personnel. This will provide safe and reliable transport for our troops and also for our material and equipment.
Overall, we will increase the number of deployed personnel to approximately 830 people. Please keep in mind that this is a dangerous armed conflict and this mission carries inherent risk to our men and women in uniform. This mission will be riskier than air operations, but at this point in the campaign these new lines of activity are essential to future success and the defeat of ISIS. Our people will be in close proximity to the dangers inherent in the region. There may be times when they will have to defend themselves, their coalition partners, or the forces they are mentoring.
As the Chief of the Defence Staff emphasized last week, we will do everything in our power to keep our personnel safe. We are adding specialized capabilities to mitigate the risk to our personnel. In particular, they will benefit from the enhanced situational awareness that will come from our bolstered intelligence capabilities. They will be closely supported by our medical personnel.
Also, as a former soldier, I can tell the House that those on the ground are well aware of the risks associated with military operations and they will take their own necessary precautions. I know from personal experience in combat that the Canadian Armed Forces are highly trained and experienced men and women who know how to operate effectively in a conflict environment. Ultimately, this is what they train for, to accomplish their mission and to make a difference, and in this case, to contribute to the defeat of ISIL.
Last week I was in Brussels and I met with our coalition partners. I had a frank and open discussion with many key allies, most notably Secretary Carter of the U.S.
I also met with the Iraqi defence minister, as well as ministers from France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, New Zealand, and Poland. I was able to present to them in person the details of Canada's new approach.
There are more than 60 countries working together in this fight, and I can say without hesitation that they have welcomed Canada's new contributions.
Last week Secretary Carter proposed a new way forward in the mission against ISIL. He asked coalition members to step up their contributions as we enter the next phase of the fight. He talked about refocusing and accelerating our collective efforts.
Through the course of the coalition discussions in Brussels, two pressing requirements came to the fore. The coalition needs increased intelligence assets and more training and assistance for local security forces. I am proud to say that Canada's new approach has landed right on target. In fact, a Pentagon spokesperson said, “The Canadian announcement is the kind of response the secretary has been looking for from coalition members as [we]...push to accelerate the campaign against ISIL”.
The coalition commander, Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, came to me personally and described our mission—moving forward with our capabilities that we are bringing to the fore—as forward-looking.
A U.S. military spokesperson for the coalition has characterized Canada's contribution as “extraordinarily helpful”.
From the coalition perspective, there is sufficient air power to continue pressing ISIL positions and to hamper their movements.
We now need to intensify our work with local partners to build real, long-term security solutions for the region. As the has said, we must take action in a way that will affect durable results on the ground.
Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to the fight against ISIL. We recognize the shifting landscape in theatre. We heard the views of our partners and allies. We undertook a deliberate and thoughtful review process to make sure Canada's contribution remains at the heart of the coalition campaign.
Canada's new approach is coherent and comprehensive. It leverages some of Canada's core strengths. It reflects Canada's interests and values and meets the critical needs of the coalition effort.
In closing, I would like to echo the in acknowledging the tremendous service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform. I want to express my sincere gratitude to those who have served, are serving, and will serve on Operation Impact. In particular, I would like to commend members of the Royal Canadian Air Force including our CF-18 pilots and members of the aircrew and support personnel who have done an outstanding job for Canada and conducted their final mission as part of Operation Impact on Monday.
Let us also remember that we have men and women deployed around the world, in the Ukraine, the Mediterranean, the Sinai, and elsewhere. Some 1,400 Canadian Armed Forces personnel are currently deployed on operations abroad. It is thanks to their efforts and those of their predecessors that we are able to gather like this, as democratic representatives, to have a frank and open debate about Canada's role in the world. We, as parliamentarians and as Canadians, owe them and their families a tremendous debt of gratitude.
Madam Speaker, once more it is a pleasure for me to rise in the House and participate in a debate on Canada's mission overseas. As I indicated for the , this is the seventh debate that I have taken part in since Canada became engaged or when the debates came to Parliament. I would like to remind the Liberal Party that the first time Canada entered into Afghanistan it was without a debate in the House. At that time, former prime minister Paul Martin sent Canadian Forces into Afghanistan without having a debate in the House.
Subsequently, when we came into power, we said that any time a Canadian operation took place, we would engage the House of Commons in a debate. I am glad the current government has followed our lead and has brought this motion to Parliament to be debated because many points need to be addressed.
A couple of points come to mind about this. During all those debates, when the Liberals were in the opposition, there were many areas that we agreed upon. We definitely did not ever agree with the NDP, but the NDP's approach is completely different. It is one of humanitarian assistance, but never to go to the root cause of what crisis has started and why it started. However, on many occasions, we agreed upon many points with the Liberal Party.
The point in this debate is that we definitely do not agree with the Liberal motion of withdrawing the air strikes and the air fighting capability of attacking ISIL and degrading it. Past experience has shown that air strikes are one of the most effective ways of degrading ISIL.
We sat here and listened to the , the , and others give reasons for expanding capacity and sending out special forces to train the forces on the ground, as well as humanitarian assistance. Let me just remind the Liberal Party that this is what this government had originally proposed. We are already doing it in Iraq and Syria.
On many occasions, I attended conferences representing the former foreign affairs minister, talking at the conferences about engagement, both politically, in which they are heavily engaged, and diplomatically. As well, many of my colleagues went there to see what the Canadian Forces were doing.
Let me go a step further back in history. It was under the proposal by the then Liberal foreign affairs minister John Manley that there should be parliamentary oversight for our missions and he asked that we create a special committee on Afghanistan. We did, and I was a member of the committee. That committee visited Afghanistan to see Canadian engagement there. When I talked to the Afghanistan people, there was no question that they were very thankful that Canadian soldiers were there, because we had a different approach. We actually embedded into their midst and went out with them into the field. As members know, one of our soldiers was attacked with an axe when he was totally engaged and embedded in the Afghanistan forces. It was an approach that brought us thanks from the Afghanistan people.
I was a little amazed when the defence minister said that our engagement in Afghanistan was a mess. I did not understand how it could be a mess. The fact is that the generals and everybody came before the parliamentary committee to give us an overview of what was taking place, what needed to be done, and was right to be done. When the committee, which included myself and my Liberal colleague at the time, the foreign affairs critic, Bob Rae, went to Afghanistan, we heard from soldiers and commanders. Nobody told us that the mission was a mess. It came as a big surprise to me. Of course, the was there and actually engaged. However, the minister coming to the House and saying it was a mess when nobody else told anybody that it was a mess came as a big surprise.
Getting back to the question of our engagement in Syria and Iraq, I attended three conferences of foreign ministers to bring peace and stability to Iraq after the Gulf War. In all this time in the engagement, it became pretty obvious that, due to the partisan politics of former Prime Minister Maliki, everything was falling apart, which gave rise to ISIL. We all know today that the terrible root of ISIL arose due to the instability both in Iraq and Syria.
As a matter of fact, when I first went to Turkey, I visited the refugee camps. At that time, the Turkish government told us that it did not want any help. Today, with the massive refugee crisis taking place, it is seeking international assistance. I am glad that we agreed to that.
On the question of the pillars of humanitarian assistance, diplomacy, and training on the ground, yes, that is part and parcel of the whole thing. However, on taking out one of the most effective means of degrading ISIL, the air strikes, and saying that the coalition forces will carry on, I just heard the say that they are learning something.
I am a little surprised. The fact of the matter is that no other coalition force has said that it would withdraw its air strikes. It is only we in Canada. In fact, on the other hand, the British went back recently to their Parliament to start air strikes, because they felt that was the most effective thing to do. Yet, here I am sitting in the House listening to the say that the Liberals are actually learning a lesson, that we are the only ones supposed to have learned this lesson on air strikes and are withdrawing from this thing. However, all the other coalition partners are going in with more strikes, including the U.S.A.
The minister said that he talked to the defence ministers when he went to Brussels, and they accepted. What do we expect them to say: no? The Liberals already made a campaign promise and openly said, before any consultation with anyone, that they were going to take the air strikes out. Therefore, this was already public knowledge. They made this commitment publicly without thinking deeper about it, and now, of course, they expect the coalition partners to say they are doing a great job and that they agree. No, they are not going to say that. They understand what an election promise is.
Nonetheless, the Liberals made this election promise, among many others, which they have broken after realizing they were not sustainable. Most important was the one on a budget deficit of $10 billion, which is not sustainable. We saw it with the refugee crisis, that they would bring in so many people by the end of last year, but they could not do it due to logistical problems. At the end of the day, they made a campaign promise.
I know for a fact, because I was in the opposition, that one does not have all the facts. When one does get all the facts, then there is a re-evaluation, and it is very easy to re-evaluate this. This is why we are having this debate and making a very clear point of why the air strikes are very effective and why they should be resumed, which is what our amendment talks about.
I want to talk about the other issue of humanitarian assistance.
The in the Huffington Post said very clearly that once the government gives money, it then has no control over it. However, the question was asked if the jihadists got access to it. The , when we were debating on CPAC, said not to expect jihadists to wear a t-shirt that says “I'm a jihadist” on it. It is absolutely naive to talk about that. However, we are saying that if the jihadists hear of these things, then, yes, they can take advantage of them. This is one of the reasons we are opposed to UNRWA getting this money. We know from past experience that money sent to it was misused against Israel. Henceforth, we need to have oversight.
The said yesterday, in answer to my question, that universality was very important. She was asking us a question, and said that they were just following what we were doing. I am glad she is following what we were doing, because if she really followed what we were doing, I am sure that humanitarian assistance would go to the right people.
However, it was publicly stated that we do not have any control over the assistance money, but then today in question period the said that, no, we have complete control over it and know where it is going. The said that, yes, we have control over it.
Fine, I am happy they have control over it. I am happy they will work hard and ensure that Canadian dollars will not go to jihadists, that they will make every effort to ensure that happens.
They cannot wash their hands of something that is not theirs. It is Canadian tax dollars going out there. They are duty bound to ensure that those hard-earned Canadian dollars do not go to the wrong people. That is absolutely fundamental. It is very important that the does not get up and publicly say that they wash their hands of it. That is absolutely the wrong signal.
They will defend that in the House, but that is fine. Good. I am happy to hear what the said, that they will do proper diligence to ensure that money does not go to these groups. I can tell the House, from this side, we will keep an eye on that to ensure that the money for humanitarian assistance goes to the right people.
We agree that humanitarian assistance is vitally important in addressing the issue. We see the refugees coming. That is another pillar to bring peace to the region. The third is diplomacy. We all agree. As a former parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, I was part of diplomacy working in that region.
It is a complex region. The crucial thing is that Canadians have always stood up when called to do our duty. We are again today doing the same thing. We are debating, which is the effective way to do it. We have past experience.
The says we have past experience, we are going to learn, and we are going to move forward. However, we are the only ones who somehow have found a way to move forward. We are the only ones who seem to have found a way that intelligence capacity is something we need. He has been part and parcel of the military. Everyone knows that is a vital component. Certainly, all of a sudden that becomes more important. There are 60 coalition factions out there and all of them are working in the same capacity on this.
It comes as no surprise, as our Leader of the Opposition has stated and my colleague, the defence critic, has stated very clearly, why we cannot support the motion and why we have put forward amendments to the motion. Hopefully, we will continue doing that.
Do I have time left, Madam Speaker?
The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Carol Hughes): You have six minutes.
Mr. Deepak Obhrai: Madam Speaker, I will take my six minutes to address this very important issue for Canadians.
ISIL is spreading its terror throughout the world. We know from Paris, Indonesia, and Nigeria with Boko Haram fighting there. In Somali, it is Al Shabaab fighting there. In Kenya, Al Shabaab has arrived there as well. The root of terrorism is spreading. We need to fight together to fight it.
No one disputes the fact that working with those affected, the local population, is the most effective way of handling this. That is why we are with the Peshmerga in Iraq, why we went to Nigeria to help build capacity, and why we said we would support the Kenyans in building their capacity to fight terrorism. That is the most effective way.
Right now, the most effective way to stop the biggest threat to the world, the most terrible terrorist organization, is in Syria and portions of Iraq. That is where we have to go and attack. We have been doing it in an effective way. The and everyone stands up and says it. We all know our pilots and our military personnel have done a marvellous job of degrading the capacity of ISIL.
That is why we are extremely surprised that the Liberal Party wants to take away an effective tool. Then, after deciding it wants to take this tool away, it makes its excuses, saying it has to put in more training officers and that we will have better intelligence capacity. It is already there. They can also do that. There is nothing stopping them increasing the training forces or the intelligence gathering.
However, why would that be at the expense of the most effective weapon we have in destroying ISIL? That is what everyone is asking. That is what Canadians are asking. In poll after poll, this is the question everyone is asking. That is the question the government will have to answer for the Canadian public.
Madam Speaker, I think I will have an opportunity to take a breath but, in taking a breath, I want to note that I am splitting my time, what few seconds I have, with the member for .
Given the few minutes available to me at this time, I thought I should put a summary point on this debate.
I want to commend colleagues for, largely, the civility of the debate. It has been the aspiration of the and the cabinet to improve the tone of the House. Based upon at least the first day of debate on this contentious motion, there has been some success.
In summary, as I indicated to my hon. colleague with whom I share a long relationship, sometimes strange relationship, the points of agreement far exceed the points of disagreement. It is clear that the conflict is entering another phase. It is clear that the bombing has had some success. It is clear that there are quite a number of other nations very capable of doing exactly what our very capable men and women in the Royal Canadian Air Force have done.
However, it is now Canada's opportunity and its mission to step up to this conflict so the people on the ground have some chance of success.
Therefore, we have put before the House a mission which says that we will triple the number of trainers, advisers, and assisters. We will double the amount of intelligence capability. We will put into the theatre a medical capacity. We will put into the theatre helicopters so our people are much more able to transport themselves if necessary.
We have, as a nation, welcomed 20,000 refugees into our country since this government was elected, taking them out of this conflict zone. We have committed to engaging in a more robust diplomatic engagement because a lot of bridges were burned by the previous government. We have stepped up on the humanitarian component of this message. This is a whole-of-government approach. That is what we need at this time.
The Conservatives have taken the position that they agree with everything except the bombing.
The NDP, on the other hand, agrees with the humanitarian, it agrees with the refugees, it agrees with a more robust diplomatic engagement, but somehow or other it thinks that we can do all of that without any military component to the mission. I welcome it to that thought.
However, it is not as if ISIL is in fact a very pleasant group of people to deal with. It is one of the worst forms of terrorist organizations, and a military response is absolutely necessary.
I look forward to the opportunity to engage in this debate when it resumes.