Mr. Speaker, please excuse my raspy voice for the next 10 minutes, but I was not about to let a nasty cold sideline me during this very important debate on Canada's mission, this patch-up operation, which is the exact opposite of what the Liberals suggested they would do during the election campaign. I want to put you at ease right away and let you know that I will not make you listen to my raspy voice for 20 minutes. I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is especially important for me to rise and address the House given that the New Democrats are probably the only ones who are speaking in a single, united voice day in and day out, delivering a message that differs from that of the Conservatives and Liberals. During the last election campaign, I repeatedly found myself having discussions with people who did not necessarily agree with my stance on withdrawing Canada from the combat mission. In the course of our discussions, based on arguments and common sense on all sides, everyone would readily agree that there is no simple solution to a problem as complex as the fight against ISIL.
What was the best position Canada could take to be a major, effective partner and to truly address the root of the problem instead of putting a band-aid on a wooden leg, as the saying goes? That is what is happening with this new mission, and although the Liberals dare not utter the words “combat mission,” it certainly looks like one. This government's attitude is no different than that of the previous government. I do not think we are going to get the best results.
What should we have done?
We know that there is no sense in claiming that there is an easy solution to such a complex problem. However, trying to have us believe that extending the military mission is the only solution to the conflict that pits the world against ISIL is misleading.
The conversation gets tougher when it comes to clearly defining the objectives of the Canadian mission, the criteria that will allow us to measure our progress or to determine whether we succeeded or need to extend our mission after a set deadline. The deadline is two years, which seems like a long time before conducting a study or a targeted and ongoing follow-up of the situation.
There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered by the very people trying to convince us that we need to broaden the scope of the Canadian military mission, because that is what we are talking about. Although six CF-18s are being withdrawn, more soldiers will be deployed and they will be at greater risk than they were before. This is an extension of the combat mission Canada was already committed to.
When we study the government motion and the resulting plan, it becomes clear that the Liberals have broken an election promise. Although they promised to end the combat mission, the Liberals are extending the military mission and broadening its scope. This will not be the first broken promise or at least the first promise to be interpreted differently than when it was announced.
Quite frankly, with respect to lower taxes for the middle class, had someone asked people in my riding what is meant by middle class, they probably would not have expected that anyone earning $45,000 or less would not get a tax cut. They also would probably not have expected a modest deficit to be in the order of $18 billion. At every turn the Liberals misrepresent reality.
The former Conservative government dragged our Armed Forces into a military conflict with no clear objectives and no exit strategy. Instead of rectifying the situation, the government is continuing an ill-defined mission that has an uncertain outcome. You do not have to be a five-star general to understand that a military mission without objectives generally ends in failure.
The conflict we are facing today is the result of just such an approach, where, under false pretenses, the United States invaded Iraq and dismantled it. The country the Americans left behind needed to be reorganized. In addition to numerous tensions, there was no balance of power, and the governance structure was in disarray.
It should also be said that this combat mission is in no way justified by a UN or NATO mandate. Here again, despite the 's rapprochement with Ban Ki-moon, the government continues to advocate the same approach as the Conservatives, an approach that disregards the traditional institutions under which Canada operated.
Does that mean that we should do nothing and that Canada should remain unmoved by the atrocities committed by the so-called Islamic State? Of course not. The NDP is not saying that Canada should sit idly by and do nothing. On the contrary, we are saying that Canada's contribution to the fight against this terrorist group must involve the use of our internationally recognized expertise in providing humanitarian aid.
The humanitarian aid we provide must be separate from the political action being taken. By way of evidence, Doctors Without Borders has said that trying to coordinate humanitarian aid and military efforts is counterproductive.
In order for humanitarian aid to be effective on the ground, NGOs have to be able to earn the trust of local populations. Problems arise when local communities are suspicious of the work NGOs are doing because of the unholy alliance between military and humanitarian efforts, which can jeopardize the lives of aid workers.
In 2004, Doctors Without Borders withdrew from Afghanistan following the brutal killing of five of its aid workers. Some of the reasons why the organization had to withdraw were the population's lack of trust in its workers and the insecurity caused by the military operations. In the end, the most vulnerable individuals are the first to pay the price when front-line workers leave.
Governments often use humanitarian aid to seek public support and justify their political and military ambitions. This type of confusion is detrimental to the work of NGOs and prevents them from saving lives.
I am strongly opposed to extending the military mission, and that is why I would like to talk about three very important policies in which we believe Canada could have been a leader. Since my time is quickly running out, I will summarize the three points. First, we must develop a deradicalization strategy here in Canada. Foreign fighters are a major problem. Every country, starting with Canada, needs to bring in measures to prevent foreign fighters from joining the so-called Islamic State.
We also need measures to cut off this terrorist group's funding, something else that is completely missing from the motion. Lastly, Canada must sign the Arms Trade Treaty. Those are the three issues at the heart of the problem: the influx of arms, financing, and foreign fighters. The motion does not address a single one of these three issues.
Obviously, I could have gone on about the work Canada could do to decrease or eliminate cases of sexual violence in conflict. With the help of some NGOs, Canada has some extraordinary expertise that it could be put to good use.
I repeat, I am not saying that Canada should not be involved in the international community's efforts to eliminate ISIL fighters, but we need to see how Canada can bring a different kind of expertise that complements that of other countries and that addresses the root causes of the problem instead of the consequences.
I will stop here, and I am happy to take questions from my colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak once again in this House on our current combat mission in Iraq. This is one of the most important issues of our times, so it is crucial that we debate it here. I thank the government for moving this motion so that we can talk about extending this mission. At least it had the decency to allow us this debate.
Unfortunately, many problems with this mission have not been rectified over time. We still have no plan and no clear objectives to define the mission. The member for asked the previous prime minister many questions, but he was unable to provide basic answers, for instance, on the cost and the length of the mission. Many basic questions remain unanswered.
We still have no idea what it is going to cost to transform the mission, and we still do not know how long the mission is going to last. We are told that we will debate the extension again in two years' time. There are too many unknowns, which is extremely unfortunate.
Without clear objectives, we risk once again getting mired down in a mission with no real direction. Perhaps a specific plan is hard to define because the mission is not under the auspices of the UN or NATO and no one is responsible for measuring the success of the mission. There is also no exit plan. The government says we will talk about that in two years, which shows it is not taking this type of military mission seriously.
Our resources will be used for training and arming Kurdish militias. We might be arming people who, years from now, could potentially turn around and become new enemies. Who knows? There is no plan to address that. Unfortunately, that is what tends to happen in the Middle East. There is a focus on one terrorist group while the rest fall off the radar, which creates a sort of rotation of terrorist groups.
For example, during our intervention in Libya, we armed rebels, some of whom later turned to ISIL. No comprehensive plan is in place for the Middle East to prevent a rotation of terrorist groups from taking control of the region and to achieve true stability in the Middle East.
In Iraq, we are seeing some of the same ineffective methods that were used in Afghanistan. At first, the mission in Afghanistan was supposed to be a short mission with a small contingent of soldiers, but it wound up being the longest mission with the most soldiers deployed. The mission produced over 40,000 veterans, 160 fatalities, thousands of injured, and thousands more with post-traumatic stress disorder. That is a major impact.
We also note in this case that no adjustment has been made to the Canadian Armed Forces medical personnel to treat physical or psychological injuries. It seems clear to me that the government is making decisions on the direction and impact of the mission as it goes along. It has no plan and no clear objectives.
During the election campaign, the Liberals promised that they would put an end to the combat mission in Iraq. Unfortunately, our forces are training people who are truly on the front lines. Therefore, we cannot say that it is simply a training mission. We are not talking about Iraqi soldiers being taught theory by Canadian soldiers in a classroom. Canadian soldiers accompany Iraqi soldiers directly to the front lines, where they are in danger and under enemy fire.
Moreover, unfortunately, we mourn the death of Sergeant Doiron. I would like to extend my sincere condolences to his family once again. This is a specific example that shows that the training we provide is not without risks. Our soldiers are in a combat situation and are risking their lives. We must call a spade a spade. When you are on the front lines, you are in a combat mission.
Had I participated in this type of mission when I was in the armed forces and had the government opposite told me that it was not a combat mission, I would probably have been insulted. I would have been fired on, people would have fired shots around me, and the government would have told me that it was not a combat mission. I probably would have been extremely offended because I would have risked my life and then I would have been told that it was not a combat mission.
Let us call a spade a spade. This is a combat mission, and it is not true that there is any classroom training being provided. The fact is that soldiers are accompanying people to the front lines. There are real risks. I would like to thank all the soldiers who are prepared to do this work. However, we are duty-bound to be honest with Canadians and tell them exactly what our mission entails.
There are a number of important measures that should be included in this mission, for example, deradicalization efforts. It is extremely important to ensure that our soldiers are not fighting forever. There was a great deal of confusion at the beginning of the mission. When the Conservatives first undertook the mission, they were talking about eradicating ISIL. Then, they talked about slowing it down and then about undermining it. There is confusion in that respect as well.
The best way to put an end to this situation, so to speak, is to prevent the radicalization of people throughout the world, but particularly in Canada. We need to stem the flow of fighters and have serious discussions with certain countries that tend to propagate extremist ideologies that are seriously undermining the stability in this area.
We need to do better, particularly when it comes to deradicalization. We need to make sure that we can have intelligent discussions about this situation and that no more fighters join ISIL. There is a lot we can do using information technology to find these people in time to prevent them from joining ISIL and terminate the radicalization process.
When it comes to weapons, we need a tracking system so that we can ensure that weapons sold by Canada do not end up, through devious means, in the hands of the terrorists we are fighting. That is another extremely important measure. We need create stability in the Middle East in general, and to do that, we need to look at the bigger picture. Canada and its allies need to look at the overall situation. We must not fight only in the short term. We need to have more than just a short-term vision.
There is a lot of work to be done, and I believe that right now, the mission does not address the issue intelligently. The direction the government is planning to take will not help to resolve the conflict.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the motion to redefine Canada's mission against ISIL. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for
As Canadians, we must ask ourselves what victory over ISIL looks like. When our brave soldiers return from their tours of duty, what will have come from their efforts? What will they remember? What will they have achieved? How are we to measure success? Will they see a land divided, still plagued by civil war, a people living among the ruins of their proud past, or will our veterans look back and see a people who have rebuilt their homes and their lives?
Let us not measure our success in Syria and Iraq by the number of air strikes we see on TV but instead by the circumstances in which we leave. The measure of success means defeat of ISIL, of course, but just as important is the establishment of a civil society. By developing essential services that Canadians sometimes take for granted, through the training of police and security forces, we can impart the tools necessary to maintain stability and peace, as well as providing the means for them to establish proper and effective government.
By no means can we call our mission a success if the people of Iraq and Syria are forgotten, left to fend for themselves in a notoriously unstable and unpredictable region, surrounded by nations that will wish to use this conflict to further their own political ends. Without ground assistance, the region will remain fractured, an incubator for violent extremism.
If we are to do right by our serving men and women, do right by our coalition partners, and do right by the millions of innocents caught in the crossfire, we must think long term. At its roots, insurgency is a political problem. What we are calling for is an all-government approach to form a comprehensive plan: that includes the ministry of foreign affairs; the ministry of national defence; the ministry of immigration, refugees, and citizenship; and the ministry of international development. A wider range of agencies, elements, power, and capabilities, in addition to the military, must come together in unity of purpose to defeat ISIL.
Defeating an insurgency requires more than just bombing. As it is, there are lots of bombers available in the region, as was so eloquently mentioned last week by our . Up until now, as we have discussed at length in the House, Canada has provided support for coalition forces through six fighter jets sent to the aid of the coalition air force of 300 jets. Canada's pilots and ground crews have supported the mission by supplying 2.5% of the overall coalition air strikes, and they have performed their duties admirably.
At a national level, we too have an obligation to look toward the next phase of the armed conflict. It is not simply because we faced an expiration date on March 31, and not simply because we received a new mandate from Canadians, but because the realities of the mission demanded it.
The has answered many questions in the House regarding the consultations his ministry has been having with our coalition partners. As the campaign moves forward, our government is proposing to provide the support Canadians are known for: providing stability through visible presence to assist local police forces; assisting coalition forces by providing intelligence gathering and reconnaissance assets to enhance regional stability; training local forces; increasing humanitarian support and development assistance.
The opposition has been pressing and continues to press for details of the plan going forward. The consultative approach our government is taking to get things right has required appropriate time in order to develop a plan in which Canadians can take great pride.
Our pilots and ground crews have honoured their commitment to Canadians and to our coalition partners by delivering such crucial support for this war-torn region.
In Afghanistan in 2010, the former government learned that the multinational coalition fighting against an insurgency had to adopt a new, sophisticated approach, known as the whole-of-government approach. This new approach was to examine the wide range of tools available among our allies and harnessing the individual strengths of the coalition members to get the job done.
The former government decided to refocus all its efforts on training local forces, increasing humanitarian support and development assistance, and working very hard and quite successfully to enhance regional stability. It provided additional intelligence and reconnaissance assets and focused and refocused on training. This is exactly what we are proposing to do in Syria and Iraq. We are applying the lessons learned in Afghanistan.
With respect to the military line of effort, we recognize that it will ultimately be the people of Iraq and Syria who will be responsible for stabilizing their countries. By working with them, we can help to bring a disciplined approach to the fight. We need to enable them to defeat ISIL, 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 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. Solving complex issues such as we are facing requires a thoughtful and equally complex approach that utilizes Canada's strengths to support the concerted international effort to root out ISIL.
Canada needs to continuously work on the ground providing intelligence and training to ensure that local forces have the resources they need to maintain a lasting peace. To that end, our government is committed and stands shoulder to shoulder with our coalition allies.
This typically Canadian collaborative approach has earned Canada and its Armed Forces the respect of the international community. Upon their return, family and friends can welcome our soldiers back to Canada and congratulate them for a job well done.
Canadians can take great pride in the role our serving men and women will play in the establishment of security, and hopefully, the reconstruction of the nations ravaged by ISIL forces. Canadians can also be proud of our military families at home that are supporting our forces overseas.
We are proud of the extraordinary generosity demonstrated by Canadians across the nation. They have stepped up to welcome families from Syria who have come to Canada in the hopes of starting new lives. Through these efforts at home and abroad, Canadians have proved that we are ready to help however we can.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to proudly speak in favour of the government's motion and to praise a return to Canada's traditional type of international engagement. This motion is about understanding that Canada has an important role to play in the fight against ISIL.
As part of a coalition of over 60 countries, this government recognizes that the way for our country to make the biggest impact is to play to our strengths and ensure that our involvement represents contributions that rise above the noise of politics.
Members from across the way like to spread false information about Canada's decision to withdraw our CF-18s from air strike missions. There is a great deal of fearmongering the opposition parties are spreading about this decision. They like to use misinformation to confuse people and inspire dramatic reactions. One party says that we are running away from our commitments. The other party is claiming that we are committing Canadian troops to a combat role. Both of these positions are not only wrong but they lack any kind of understanding of the enemy that ISIL truly is.
The fact is that bombing missions are nowhere close to being a sustainable solution. Rather, only strong local ground forces will be able to successfully fight ISIL over the long term. In this way of thinking, Canada is well placed to help through our historic expertise in military training.
It was in Afghanistan that the Canadian Forces really solidified our reputation as one of the best training forces in the world. Our military personnel mentored the Afghanistan national security forces, and to this day, the Canadian contribution in Afghanistan is regularly considered as still paying dividends.
Today, using our Canadian special operations regiment to train peshmerga fighters and using Canadian army trainers to focus on Iraq's conventional forces, Canada is making a long-lasting and direct contribution to fighting ISIL. Ultimately, these are the local troops that must directly fight those who invaded their homes, communities, and lands.
The fact of the matter is that pulling away from air strikes does not diminish Canada's military contribution to that region. We will be increasing our military personnel by 180 to a new total of 830. The Canadian Armed Forces will be directly involved in assisting coalition members and Iraqi security forces in planning military operations. This means a high level of involvement in operations, targeting, and intelligence. As part of this increase, we will also be tripling the size of our train, advise, and assist mission to help Iraqi forces conduct military operations against ISIL.
Medical personnel will be directly deployed to conduct casualty management in various battle theatres.
We will supply small arms, ammunition, and optics as part of the training of Iraqi security forces. We will enhance in-theatre tactical transport through our refuelling and surveillance aircraft.
No matter how the opposition parties want to describe Canada's military contribution, the facts are that this government is offering tangible and long-term support to our coalition partners. We are also doing more hard work.
We are also working with our defence partners in Jordan and Lebanon to target the spread of violent extremism throughout the region. As well, we are providing a team of strategic advisers to the Iraqi ministries of defence and interior.
We are also investing heavily in humanitarian assistance. Over the next three years, we will invest $840 million to support those hit hardest by this conflict: the most vulnerable, including children and those who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence in that region. We are also contributing $270 million over the next three years to provide basic social services, including education, health, water, sanitation, and employment to maintain and rebuild public infrastructure and economic opportunity throughout that region.
We are also contributing $145 million over the next three years counterterrorism; stabilization; and chemical, biological, and nuclear security programming.
As well, we will continue to be an active and strong influence to assist in bringing together the region to find political solutions through joint programming and dialogue.
Finally, Canada has taken in 25,000 Syrian newcomers and is continually considering the next phase of our welcome-refugees efforts.
This is what we call a multi-faceted contribution in the battle against ISIL terrorism. This motion brings together the efforts of several federal departments working closely to enhance security and stability, while at the same time contributing to humanitarian efforts to rebuild the region.
It demonstrates, too, that the opposition parties must begin to have an honest conversation with the Canadian public. They have every right to disagree with this government's position and to offer alternative plans and solutions, but by spreading myths and dismissing all of the efforts I have just mentioned, the opposition parties are doing a disservice to our country, to our armed forces, to our diplomatic personnel, and to the Iraqi and Syrian people whom Canada's contributions are helping directly. This is a very important mission, and no amount of politics can diminish Canada's role.
Our coalition partners are very happy that Canada continues to step up through our actions. Today, I strongly encourage all members to remain committed to our efforts, even if we may differ in our opinions.
I appreciate the opportunity to address the House.
Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of sharing my time with the member for , whose good comments I am very much looking forward to hearing.
I have been listening to this very important debate over the last couple days and think I can maybe offer three distinct points about it and what it says about the mission in general.
First, I want to talk about how we are being offered false choices by the other parties. Then I want to talk about the lack of definition around what is actually going on in the mission and some of the terms that have been used to describe it and the situation in general. Finally, I want to talk more generally about the question of intervention, when we intervene, how we intervene, etc.
In terms of the first point about false choices, we have heard members of the government and the NDP talk about the importance of different things we should be doing in the region and, for the most part, I would agree with them. We have heard some good comments from our NDP colleagues about the importance of anti-radicalization, as well as the importance of addressing terrorist financing. These things no doubt should be part of a comprehensive approach.
The government has talked about humanitarian assistance, about helping refugees, and about training. These are all very good things as well, and on this side of the House in particular, we have emphasized the importance of the bombing mission, but more broadly than that, the importance of being involved in fighting Daesh, not just supporting those who are doing the fighting but actually doing some of the fighting ourselves.
More than that, I think what we have said is that there needs to be a multi-pronged approach that includes all of the things the other parties have been talking about. We believe in humanitarian assistance—the Liberals did not come up with that just now—and helping refugees, training, anti-radicalization, and addressing terrorist financing. These are things that we have all been involved in for a very long time as a country. However, it is also part of our historic tradition to be involved in fighting evil, in trying to protect the innocent and being willing to be there on the front line. This is the right thing to do and we have long tradition of doing it.
There has been discussion in this House of a multi-pronged approach. Our approach very clearly has the largest number of prongs. We all agree that there need to be multiple prongs in response to Daesh. What we are arguing against is what we see as a government trying to break off one of those important parts of the mission. It is a false choice. We are told we have to decide between training and humanitarian assistance, and being involved in the fight. We do not have to decide between those things. We can and should be doing all of them. That is our position on this side of the House.
Another false choice we are hearing is some members' comments about how Daesh will ultimately have to be defeated on the ground, as if somehow we have to choose between a response on the ground and a response in the air. Of course, Daesh has to be fought on the ground and of course it is important that we partner with local troops in the area that are fighting Daesh, but surely no effective ground combat mission can happen without some kind of support from the air. That much I should think is obvious, that any cohesive military response involves activity on the ground and activity in the air. Again, this is a false choice that we get from the government. We can be involved in the military component from the air as well as assisting training local forces on the ground.
We should not buy into these false choices as if we cannot be doing more than one thing at the same time. In fact, generally speaking, since these different parts of the mission are done by different parts of the government, it is not at all problematic to have different areas involved. Anti-radicalization, terrorist financing, these are things that are addressed either through law enforcement or at the community level. Humanitarian assistance, helping refugees, training, these are done by different parts of the government from those that would be involved in front-line fighting. We can be doing all of these things at once quite effectively. We have the capacity to do them.
The second point I want to make is that there is a real lack of definition around certain aspects of this mission. I recall a comment by the member for , who just spoke, the other day in questions and comments when he alluded to this as being some kind of peacekeeping mission. A number of other members have referenced the legacy of Lester Pearson in the context of peacekeeping, as if they are under the impression that these are people going into this region in blue helmets, which clearly is not the government's approach and clearly is not happening.
We have heard terminology around a humanitarian mission, around a training mission. There has been such a lack of clarity from the Liberal side on whether or not this is a combat mission. Whether or not we call this a combat mission has significant implications for the people involved, for the troops, because the kind of support they receive while they are there and when they get back home is informed by how we describe this mission.
There is such a lack of definition. There is such a soup of terms coming from the other side.
I recall another speech in which a member—I cannot recall which one—referenced Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage. The member who just spoke again talked about playing to our strengths. I do not know if they have thought through the implications of those kinds of arguments, because the implication of that argument is that being involved in the front lines, being involved in the bomber mission, is somehow not a strength we have.
I think that is a strength and we have a comparative advantage because of the effectiveness of our air force, because of the effectiveness of our women and men on the front lines. Therefore, the implication of that kind of statement suggests somehow that we are less able to do that than other countries, which is totally fatuous and frankly quite troubling.
We have all these terms floating around from the government without clear definition. I know we have heard the suggestion that somehow its approach is a more sophisticated one. I will say respectfully that perhaps it is so sophisticated that the government members do not even understand what the mission is all about, because we have heard so many different kind of things about the mission. They will have to get that sorted out, and they should be willing to answer some very basic questions about the nature of the mission.
There is another much more important area where there is a lack of definition. The members of the government are not willing to accurately describe the situation on the ground. The reason they are not willing to describe it accurately is that it has implications for how we would respond. Those of us on this side of the House have frequently pointed out that what is happening in Syria and Iraq right now is nothing short of genocide. The word genocide has been used by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. It has been used in a resolution passed by the European Parliament. It has been used by many human rights groups.
Why is the government unwilling to call a genocide a genocide? The reason it is unwilling to use that word is that it understands that the use of the word genocide entails a responsibility to protect. It entails a responsibility to respond in a much more serious way than the government is willing to do it.
If the government is fully confident that it is doing all it can do and that it is doing the best it can do, then why not use the word and describe the situation accurately? We see, in the unwillingness to use the word genocide to describe a genocide, a tacit admission that Canada is not willing to own up to the responsibility entailed in this idea of responsibility to protect. Therefore, we have a lack of definition both in terms of this mission and in terms of the actual situation happening on the ground.
As my final point, I want to address questions of intervention in more general terms. Often when we talk about Canadian troops being involved in a conflict in the Middle East, there is some discomfort, which is maybe people looking at past conflicts and wondering if we are getting into a similar situation.
There has been some discussion in this House about Canada's involvement in Libya. Nobody has pointed this out yet, as far as I have heard, but there was general agreement within this House about the mission in Libya. Liberals, and I think even New Democrats at the time, voted in favour of Canada being involved in a bombing mission in Libya. In retrospect, we can certainly say that what happened in Libya did not end up the way we would have hoped. However, that is a mission that all of us own, to some extent.
However, there are some important differences between the situation with the Daesh and the situation in Libya. For one, we are not going in to overthrow an existing government without a strong understanding of who we are fighting in support of. In fact, we are working very closely with an existing Iraqi government and with existing Kurdish forces. We are supporting ground troops, so we are involved from the air, but we are doing it in concert with troops on the ground. That is the best possible recipe for success.
There are many examples of intervention gone badly, but there are also many examples of non-intervention gone badly. I can think of cases where terrorist groups were left in power far too long and were able to wreak havoc as a result.
These are important points to consider: the government is offering us false choices in this debate; there has been a general lack of definition; and the questions of intervention should point us in the direction of getting involved in a multi-pronged way in this case.
Canada has a long tradition of being willing to stand up for our values in armed conflict, and we should do it in this case.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to stress three things in my speech with regard to ISIS, our mission against ISIS, and the Liberal government's altering of the initial mission that our side began with.
First, I will start off by speaking of my son. He is 18 years old and an air cadet. He wants to serve our country, which has been his ambition since he was a little guy. I disagree with the other side who say we are war mongers, or that we go into war frivolously, or that we just want to go to war. I love my son, and I know a lot of parents across this country love their kids who serve in the military. We do not go into war ambitiously. We do it cautiously and do so when we have to as Canadians.
I want to see that my son is protected on the ground. I respect the and his military past. It is a great past, and he absolutely has my respect, but to pull out air support for on-the-ground troops, to me, is not good military strategy, especially with our sons and daughters on the ground over there. I think pulling out our CF-18s is a huge mistake. Regardless of political promises made during campaigns, I think we need to do what is best for our military on the ground.
I would also like to mention a few quotes by some respected leaders in Canada about the air mission against ISIS.
Every single ISIS leader should never have a single moment in their life when they're not worried about looking at the sky and having a missile come out and end their life, or go to bed and have that door blown in and have some commandos come in and capture or kill them.
They should be worried because if they're not, they're going to have more time to plan. And I believe Canada has to be a part of that.
That was from former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier. I would say all sides in the House respect him greatly for his past experience and what he continues to do on the world stage today. This is one of the greatest military minds, who I respect, with his Canadian past, and he said that we need to be in the air against ISIS.
Another one of our international allies, the British Prime Minister, also spoke about involvement in a campaign. I think as Canadians we need to make sure that, if we are expecting to have some sort of role in the fight against ISIS, we are not going to let some other country take our responsibility and do it for us. We need to make sure we are there, doing what Canadians expect us to do in that fight against ISIS, because ISIS has affected us in our homeland in Canada. Prime Minister David Cameron said, “We shouldn’t be content with outsourcing our security to our allies. If we believe that action can help protect us, then with our allies, we should be part of that action, not standing aside from it.”
I think that statement says it all. Canadians have never shied away, and our men and women in the military still do not shy away. They are ready to do what is necessary when called upon to defend interests against ISIS.
Another topic I would like to address on the military mission against ISIS is one that is not talked about very often. Our critic on defence spoke about it last week. It is how much of an impact the actual bombing mission has had on ISIS and to its finances.
There was an article in the National Post, and it is an Associated Press article. It talks about the impact of air strikes against ISIS. They are hurting ISIS financially. I think any strategy that would pull back from something that is crippling ISIS and putting it on its knees is failed strategy. This is from the article I mentioned:
The extremists who once bragged about minting their own currency are having a hard time meeting expenses, thanks to coalition air strikes and other measures that have eroded millions from their finances since last fall.
To me, when we have somebody on the run, we keep going after them at their weakest point. I'm a former rugby guy, and I coached and played it for many years. One thing that was part of a winning strategy was that, if we saw a team's weakness, we went after the weakness and kept hitting it until we were successful. I think that is what we are doing in this military bombing strategy. We have ISIS on its knees and we need to keep going at it from the air.
This is another quote from the article:
“Not just the militants. Any civil servant, from the courts to the schools, they cut their salary by 50 per cent,” said a Raqqa activist now living in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, who remains in close contact with his native city. But that apparently wasn’t enough close the gap for a group that needs money to replace weapons lost in airstrikes and battles...
Again, this quote states that air strikes are impacting ISIS and its weapons and its cash.
According to an estimate by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a researcher with the Middle East Forum, who sources Islamic state documents, those two expenses account for two-thirds of its budget.
ISIS is retreating. It is on its knees. We need to keep going at it.
This is another quote from the article, referring to the fighters, states. “You can sense the frustration. Their morale is down”. It goes on to say:
In Iraq, where Islamic State has slowly been losing ground over the past year, the Iraqi government in September cut off salaries to government workers within territory...Between the loss of that money- and the U.S.-led bombing of cash warehouses - American officials are optimistic that the effect could diminish Islamic State's wealth.
As I am giving a speech, it is not for me to ask a question of the other side. However, I would question its withdrawal of air support. We have seen the impact it has had on the cash reserves and the military ability of ISIS. Why would we stop that?
Certainly, we can say that the Americans can keep doing what they are doing and that all the other allies that are providing air support to the mission against ISIS are having an effect. Why would we not be part of that? We have F-18s ready to go. We have airmen and women who are ready to go over and attack ISIS even further. Why would we reduce that effective strategy?
My last quote from the article states:
I don’t think this is fatal for IS...I still don’t see internal revolt as what’s going to be the outcome. It’s more like a scenario of gradual decay and decline.
We need to keep part of that ongoing air strike day after day, year after year, until the morale is so bad that ISIS is defeated. A good military strategy does not quit in the middle of good strategy. It keeps going until the mission is done.
Right now the mission is not done. We need to keep our F-18s in the fight. I think our airmen and women know that. I think our military knows that. I understand political promises, but the government needs to understand that good strategy is good strategy. It needs to send the F-18s back into the fight against ISIS.
I implore the other side. If those members care about our men and women who are serving on the ground over there, and my son may be there in the future, give them the support they need. These are our sons and daughters. The government should provide the air strike support so our kids are protected in the best way possible.
Mr. Speaker, clearly, everyone in the House always prepares a nice speech or memo to begin their 20 minutes of speaking time. However, I want to digress for a moment. As a veteran who served in Afghanistan myself, the topic we are discussing here is understandably very close to my heart. I know I am not the only one in this House who has served.
These decisions weigh heavily on our minds and can even keep us up at night, or at least they do in my case. It is personal for me, but at least I can share the burden of the choices that we must make here in the House.
The Liberal government made a choice regarding the nature of the mission it plans to conduct in Iraq and Syria. That choice reflects its election promise, first and foremost. Withdrawing the CF-18s and increasing humanitarian assistance were two key promises made by the Liberals last fall during the election campaign.
Last week I went over the positive elements of the government's proposal. No one can oppose virtue and good intentions, because the situation is very serious. This is a war. Men and women have to be deployed, and we cannot forget the human suffering that people have been enduring every day for many years in the combat zone. Who could oppose increasing humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable in the region? The victims of the civil war in Syria number in the hundreds of thousands, not counting all the displaced refugees. In Iraq, the number of displaced people is also very high. It is practically unprecedented since the Second World War.
ISIL surprised everyone in the summer of 2014 when it launched a major offensive through which it took control of vast areas in Syria and Iraq. Around the same time, the group also took possession of a significant amount of heavy weapons including Humvees, T-72 tanks, Abrams tanks, heavy artillery, and even an MiG-27 fighter jet. Those things are not toys.
That is a very heavy arsenal for a terrorist force, and we know that it could jeopardize stability. We cannot turn a blind eye. As a western country and a responsible society, we cannot bury our heads in the sand. Since the government intends to deploy our troops, the Bloc Québécois intends to reach out to the House, to the government and the opposition, so that we can find ways to ensure that this deployment happens under the best possible conditions.
Today, ISIL is present in a number of countries. Syria and Iraq are certainly the most affected, but the situation has not yet been resolved in Libya, Yemen, Lebanon or even Afghanistan. How many other Middle Eastern countries, particularly in Central Asia and Africa, are currently being threatened by this group, either directly or indirectly? The threat is there.
In 2011, many of the weapons used by Islamist rebels were sent to Libya and then to a theatre of operations in Mali. The enemy that we are facing and trying to combat is widespread. Right now, it is quite possible that Daesh will try to recreate the scenario and once again spread its cancerous cells throughout the region.
Given the considerable arsenal it has in its possession, ISIL has the strength and ability needed to destabilize a number of other countries. The entire world expects the influential states to take the initiative to combat this epidemic, this cancer that is ISIL. I said “influential states” and I believe that Canada, with the help of Quebec, is one of them, even though we have our differences.
Therefore, I must point out that the government has not failed in its duty. It intends to achieve a result. I recognize that and I intend to support its efforts.
I will reiterate that there are positives, but it is not all rosy. Like other opposition members, I am again wondering about the decision to withdraw the CF-18s from the theatre of operations. What we make of the Liberal Party's promise is that it intended to stop the air strikes. We can understand the intent. Is this justified as part of a renewed mission? Of course. However, the minister has already clearly explained to the House that we must retain everything we can use because the enemy and the threat is changing and the plan will have to evolve over time.
Therefore, the CF-18s, which currently have a support role, along with many other means, remain an important component of the modern equipment we can use against the forces we are facing.
It is not news that the Bloc Québécois supports continuing the air mission in Iraq and Syria. Nevertheless, there may be a way to redefine the role of the air force in the plan proposed by the government. An interesting compromise could be considered.
We believe that the air strikes managed to achieve, or at least partly achieve, their objective in the summer of 2014. As a result of these air strikes, Kurdish fighters in Kobani managed to push back the Daesh offensive in the fall of 2014. Members will recall that Daesh was spreading in the region at the time. The air strikes also helped the Iraqi peshmerga evacuate the Yazidis on Mount Sinjar. These people had been displaced and were facing a genocide, and the air strikes certainly helped prevent that.
Although the air strikes did not manage to destroy Daesh, to eliminate or wipe out ISIL, they still managed to contain the forces in the region. That is undeniable. As I already said, we are up against an exceptionally strong and unprecedented terrorist group. It has a massive arsenal and highly diversified sources of revenue.
I would also like us to rise above partisanship on this issue. I would like to close this debate by congratulating the government, and I would also like to see the government thank the opposition for its meaningful work on this issue. This is yet to be done.
Yes, we have different visions. The NDP caucus presented a more idealistic vision in which the terrorists exchange their AK-47s for olive branches with Daesh. That would be lovely. We do not oppose virtue. The Conservative caucus is a bit more hawkish. They would have us plunge Iraq and Syria back into the stone age to eradicate a threat that is, after all, limited. The government is bound by its election promise no matter what, but it may not have considered the ramifications of that. However, there is a middle ground in this debate, and if that can clarify things and bring us closer together, then I hope we can do that. I think we can. I believe we can, and I want to believe that some debates can rise above partisanship in the House. I want to believe that the fate of Syrians and Iraqis and, most importantly, our soldiers, does not depend on partisan games.
We are facing an extremely serious situation. Daesh is not just a terrorist group. It has become an empire within a short period of time and now controls more territory than many modern nations. Daesh wants to spread and destroy political entities, states, and especially human beings.
Entire populations in the Middle East are currently under threat of extermination by that organization, as are important cultural and historic elements of humanity, and all because the Kurds are Kurdish, because the Shia are not Sunnis, or because many people in the region dream of liberty instead of preaching barbarism.
Of course, Daesh does not have a monopoly on cruelty in the region, which has been seriously traumatized by its past; history speaks for itself. We must admit, however, that Daesh is a level or two above the rest in terms of the brutality currently on display in the region.
Clearly, there is an urgent need to take action. The threat posed to the people in the region, and to us in the west, is unprecedented. Whether the government should pursue a strategy other than air strikes is open to debate. This is just my opinion, but I think it warrants discussion.
After all, the strikes alone helped contain the enemy force. What we need is a real plan, real leadership, and decisions by government leaders to achieve this objective. To that end, I am prepared to work with the . I do not want to play partisan politics on the backs of our soldiers. No one can ask me to do that. It is out of the question. I am therefore reaching out to the minister in good faith.
I think only of the soldiers and the victims of the conflict when I debate the conflict between the world and these barbarians. There is no compromise on this. In the past, many great world leaders demonstrated that we could come to this sort of agreement. I am thinking about de Gaulle, Churchill, and Roosevelt, to name a few. There is no shortage of examples to guide us in our decisions.
I want to come back to the government's decision to withdraw the CF-18s from the theatre of operations. Although I do not believe that is the right strategy, I am prepared to work on ensuring that the new mission is a success. That is clear.
However, for that to happen, I believe that we must ensure that the men and women deployed on the ground are given protection in a professional way. We are about to send troops into Kurdish territory in Iraq. The dynamics in the area are complicated.
At this point, we have many doubts. Much analysis must be done when sending 850 men and women into a mission of the scope and size of this one. There remain many doubts and questions about this issue.
I am convinced that we can still reach a compromise with respect to the CF-18 fighter jets. We must remember that ISIL is an enemy with a widespread reach. This organization could again use its usual destabilization strategy. We can never be sure of having eliminated this organization even if we curb its ability to control large areas of Iraq and Syria.
I believe it is advisable to keep the CF-18s in the region, without necessarily having them continue their traditional role of carrying out air strikes. They would be on standby in case something went wrong. It is not complicated. This is already being done in an area of operation we no longer talk about: six CF-18s are already in Ukraine and are not being used for anything at all.
If Canada is able to maintain an air strike force that is not being used for anything at all in a so-called theatre of operations, I do not see why we could not keep four measly CF-18s on standby in case something goes wrong, should the nature of the mission change or new threats appear.
That is the compromise that we are suggesting to the government regarding the CF-18s. We hope that the government will consider it. The government has a choice. It can stop launching air strikes while still maintaining a preventive strike force, as I was saying.
That is necessary in order to keep our ground forces safe, but also to continue to contain ISIL. We live in a military era where air combat is a key element of modern warfare. No one can deny that. Why give up an asset, a strategic advantage that the enemy force does not have? The answer is obvious.
That is why I have serious doubts about the government's decision to withdraw our fighter jets from Iraq and Syria. It seems to be more of a political decision than a strategic one.
We will soon have nearly 880 armed men and women in Iraq, in Kurdish territory, and possibly in Jordan. I have reason to believe that these men and women will not have sufficient protection, given what they are being asked to do.
I think that the government would have everything to gain right now by saying that we all hate war, that it is never an easy decision to make, as I said earlier, but that sometimes we have no choice but to reconsider our decisions and reconsider the situation. That would be the responsible decision to make right now, especially since we are organizing a significant humanitarian mission at the same time. However, I have some concerns about our ability to ensure the security of our humanitarian assistance and of our military intervention as well. If the objective is to put an end to the war, we need a professional mission.
I am not in charge of the decision-making. The opposition has no control over the decision to deploy our men and women, but we have a duty today to influence the decision to ensure that everything is done as professionally and securely as possible.
The Bloc is eager to get an answer to the big question of who will truly be in charge of protecting our troops on the ground.
When our troops are on training missions, they are not in charge of security. They are not in charge of their own security. Other parties on the ground are in charge of their security. I would like some answers about this, but I assume they will depend on private security forces on the ground. I also assume that it will be the Iraqi armed forces or the Kurdish peshmerga protecting our trainers, if that is indeed what they are, but the peshmerga are already overwhelmed. They are fighting valiantly against Daesh, but they are exhausted and stretched thin on their front line. The Iraqi Kurdish government is coping with a disturbing reality in the region. It may be that the Turkish air force will bomb the territory in response to potential PKK action in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In short, deploying troops to that region exposes them to fire on all sides. This decision should not be taken lightly.
Training is training. This implies that our troops are training other forces. While they are doing that, they are not serving as mentors to regular troops, like the Iraqi army, and they are exposing themselves to risks. I urge the government to make sure that our troops deployed on the ground to provide training are in fact giving training, if that is the government's intention. However, it is important not to confuse operational mentoring and training. Those are two very different things.
Deploying 880 men and women on several fronts in small groups, as special forces are often deployed, could expose them to danger. The Chief of the Defence Staff has already confirmed that there will be enormous risks. I hope that we will play it on the safe side and not put the lives of our men and women in the hands of forces that cannot even defend themselves. Is that not in fact the reason we are being asked to train them in the first place? However, we must not expose our troops in an irresponsible manner, without real protection. We need to ask who from the coalition will be on the ground with us.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by stating that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
Of course we all agree that ISIL is committing horrendous crimes, absolutely barbaric acts in Iraq and Syria, and furthermore, that it poses a threat to global security. We all agree that, basically, we need to destroy ISIL, destroy its message of hate, and I think we need to do it without creating other monsters at the same time.
Last week the government finally unveiled its plan to address this huge challenge. I will begin by saying right away that some aspects of this plan are interesting, at least on paper and in principle. This includes the increase in humanitarian assistance, something that we have been calling for for some time. I am happy to see plans to increase our humanitarian assistance.
Development assistance is another thing we have been calling for for some time, and I am pleased to see it in the plan, to prevent the destabilization from spreading throughout the region and into fragile countries like Lebanon and Jordan.
Furthermore, there is no doubt that diplomatic efforts will be a key element of the solution to this problem.
It all looks good on paper, but there are gaping holes. First is the issue of the combat mission. It is a combat mission even though the government refuses to acknowledge it. During the election campaign when the Liberals said that they would withdraw the CF-18s, I think most people understood that Canada would stay away from the military mission and put the emphasis elsewhere. It is a strange way of withdrawing from the combat mission.
When it comes to the air strikes, let us be honest, we will not have CF-18s any more, but we will provide refuelling, targeting, all kinds of things. We are still participating in the bombing mission.
Then we are going to triple the troops on the ground and we are doing so with no clear parameters, no exit strategy, and no criteria for success or when we feel we have achieved what we want to achieve. It is a combat mission, and it is a combat mission with boots on the ground. We know that under the Conservative government, the troops were spending a significant part of their time on the front lines. Sergeant Doiron died on the front line. Now we are tripling those troops and General Vance has acknowledged that we are increasing the risk to our troops.
It was interesting this morning when I heard some Liberal MPs say in their speeches that the government is ready to fight ISIL on the ground. If this is not a combat mission, what is it? Is it an elephant? Interestingly, the , while in opposition, said the government must be clear about what is and is not a combat role. Now the government is using the same ambiguity. The government should acknowledge that this is a combat mission. It owes it to Canadians and, above all, it owes it to the troops themselves, the men and women serving in the forces.
We are also going to give arms to the Kurds. We cannot even track the arms that we are selling to Saudi Arabia, which are now finding their way to Yemen. Who knows what we are going to learn tomorrow? What exactly is the government going to do to make sure that those arms are not used for the wrong ends or do not fall into the wrong hands?
Will the training of the Kurds only be about fighting? Maybe human rights and respect for international law should be included, because this is part of the problem. I say so because there are recent reports from Amnesty International saying that in their fight, the Kurds have possibly committed war crimes, so the training certainly needs to include that.
There are other issues. The plan talks generally about governance, but there is no detail. There is not much information.
What exactly is the government going to do about governance? Apparently it is going to send advisers to the ministry of defence. I think that has more to do with gathering intelligence. There is so much that needs to be done with respect to governance. ISIL got a foothold in the country because of the breakdown of Iraqi society. We have to work on that or else it will be ISIL today and some other armed group tomorrow.
Why not get involved in facilitating a reconciliation process in Iraq? That is the only way to solve the problem for the long term. The same goes for diplomatic engagement. They talk about diplomatic engagement, which is great, but what then? What exactly are they proposing?
Some of the core elements of our UN mandate are critical to defeating ISIL, not only in the Middle East and Libya, but around the world. We must cut off its supply of arms, money, and fighters. The Liberal plan has little if anything to say about that.
One thing that really bothers me is that there is nothing here about deradicalization. We know that the attacks in Paris, Jakarta, and Ouagadougou, which bolstered the will to destroy not just the armed group, but its hateful ideology, were carried out by people who were homegrown radicals. Why does the Liberal plan not even touch on deradicalization?
I have just a few minutes to say that I am afraid we may be repeating the errors of the past. We have tried to rely on the military approach in various parts of the world and, unfortunately, the result is not that good. In fact, we may have been winning battles for the last 20, 30 or 40 years, but losing the war on terrorism.
It is a new kind of war, a war of the 21st century. It is a war of propaganda and it is a war that breeds on chaos and unaddressed grievances.
We hear that some of the towns that have been retaken are completely destroyed. Seemingly 80% of Ramadi has been reduced to rubble. The population cannot go back there.
After the attacks in Paris and in parts of Europe, certain rules of engagement have been relaxed, which will inevitably mean more civilian casualties. Are we creating more chaos? Are we creating more grievances? If so, we are just exacerbating the problem.
Let us give hope to what I think can actually work. Yes, indeed, humanitarian assistance will work, but above all, cutting what has sustained these groups—arms, money, and foreign fighters—and let us try to find a political solution both in Syria and Iraq.
Mr. Speaker, today I will be speaking on what I think is a very misguided motion presented by the Liberal government.
It is a fairly wordy motion, and I should say that there are some positive aspects, such as “investing significantly in humanitarian assistance”, increasing efforts for “finding political solutions” to the conflict and, of course, “welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada”.
However, the key point is that the Liberals have decided to expand and enlarge Canada's military mission in Iraq, and I cannot, in good faith, support this decision.
This issue has been a point of contention within the Liberal Party for some time now. Canadians have watched them flip and flop, back and forth, on what should be done against ISIS. Indeed, the party seemed to disagree with itself at every turn, both opposing the military mission and supporting it.
After months of waiting for the promise of bringing home our CF-18s, we find out that the Liberals have a new plan that has left more questions than answers regarding our role in this war. The most important part of this motion is missing.
There are no parameters to define success. Indeed, I am having trouble seeing more than cosmetic changes to the original Conservative mission. Again we find ourselves calling it an advise and assist mission, exactly as the Conservatives did before. The Liberals are tripling these advisers to the Iraqi military, while some forces will be working within a battlefield context.
The promise to end the bombing mission has morphed into an increased Canadian military presence. We will still be conducting targeting missions for other countries' bombers. The Liberals have stated in the past that there must be a clear line between combat and non-combat roles. This is indeed a good point, but this motion before us makes that line even blurrier than before.
We know that in practice, Canadian troops have already come under fire on the front lines with ISIS during their advise and assist mission. The cannot, in good faith, deny that troops will be involved in combat. When we lost Sergeant Doiron, I think Canadians were starkly reminded of the risks of a deployment on the front line.
The has not provided parameters for Canadian engagement on the ground for the duration of this expanded role. Afghanistan showed us that training missions, especially those within a battlefield context, are just as dangerous for our Canadian women and men as active conflict zones.
The government is now calling this an open-ended mission with no end date. We all know how well that went in Afghanistan. Have no fear, because the Liberals have assured us that this open-ended mission will cost $264 million. The government is not being transparent with the people. If we do not know when the mission will end, how can we possibly know what it will cost?
The history of western military intervention in the Middle East goes back centuries. The Crusades were the first of a series of organized campaigns, but it was not until the 19th century, starting with the Napoleonic Wars that European powers unleashed a mad scramble to carve up the region.
The modern day borders drawn as straight as a ruler were imposed largely by the French and British on the remains of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, and little regard was given to the different cultures, religious sects, and ethnic groups that were forced into the same national bed, the consequences of which we are still seeing to this day.
The Kurds saw their homeland split between five different countries, including Syria, Iraq, and Turkey, three countries that are at the heart of the present conflict. We are sending weapons to the Kurds, which obviously raises many questions about the long-term consequences of such action.
I feel that this debate has not given enough answers on this issue. How do we make sure that these weapons do not fall into the wrong hands, or that human rights abuses will not be committed with these arms? Has the government given any long-term thought to the goals of the Kurds, which include establishing an independent state in the region? These questions have not been addressed and represent a glaring hole in our foreign policy for the region.
There are other questions that have not been addressed at all with this motion. Three years ago, ISIS did not exist. What conditions created a favourable climate for its rapid growth and the horrific atrocities it has committed? This is the heart of the issue, and we ignore it at our peril.
Simply put, ISIS is the product of a genocide that continued unabated as the world stood back and watched. It is the result of more than 200,000 Syrians murdered and millions more displaced and divorced from their hopes and dreams. It is no accident that ISIS has seen its growth in Sunni Arab territory in both Iraq and Syria. Both governments have fomented sectarian violence on their respective Sunni populations.
The Liberal motion before us today shows that we have not learned our lessons from the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, which created the chaos and conditions favourable to the rise of terrorism in the region. If we continue to use a military response to a problem that needs a political solution, we will never find success in the region.
ISIS, like al Qaeda before it, is but the next head of the hydra. We may cut it off only to find that more have rushed in to replace it.
Our men and women in the Canadian Forces do a fantastic job. They will undertake any mission they are given, expertly and professionally. The problem is that this is an ill-defined mission, with no timelines or victory conditions. We went through this in Afghanistan, and we do not want to see it happen again.
We always talk about giving our troops the tools they need, but we as parliamentarians also owe it to them to give them a clear mission, with an exit strategy and goals for success. Another open-ended mission is just putting our troops in more danger.
Since 2011, the unrest and conflict in Syria has caused over 4.5 million refugees to flee to neighbouring countries. This has led to a massive requirement for humanitarian solutions. It is not just the refugees who are hurting but also 13.5 million people inside Syria who require urgent humanitarian intervention.
We have an important role to play in addressing the threat ISIS poses to the global community and in alleviating the suffering of civilians caught in the conflict.
New Democrats have always been clear on this issue. There are things that must be done. Canada should absolutely not be playing a military combat role. We should focus on stopping the flow of arms, funds, and foreign fighters to ISIS. These actions would not only be effective but would be in line with the UN resolutions and mandates.
The Liberal government has been silent on the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty. Ratifying this treaty would be a more effective deterrent to ISIS than would contributing Canadian soldiers on the ground.
The idea that we are actually ending the bombing mission is a ludicrous rationalization. We have changed the mission from dropping bombs to one where we paint targets so that other countries may do the physical act of dropping bombs. I may not throw the stick myself, but if I point to someone else who is throwing the stick, I am just as guilty. I am participating in that combat. Rationalizing it any other way does a disservice to this argument.
I remember in the last Parliament when the criticized the Conservatives because they wanted to increase Canada's participation in a vague and possibly endless combat mission. However, this is exactly what we see here: a Liberal government promising something and then hiding behind smoke and mirrors to act as if change is really happening.
There is no way the Liberal government can be honest if it claims that Canadian Forces will not see combat in this expanded advise-and-assist role. The idea that augmenting a Conservative plan will make this a non-combat mission is not grounded in reality.
It is a good thing that the Liberals are bringing this debate to Parliament. I hope they see the points the NDP are proposing so that we can have the most effective opposition to ISIS.
We cannot just expand the Conservative advise and assist mission, putting even more boots on the ground, expecting that we can solve this great problem through military means.
New Democrats will continue to oppose this government motion while proposing alternative solutions to solve this crisis.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this very important subject. I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my neighbour, the member for .
I am honoured to speak to this government motion, a motion that is extremely important, because it will broaden, redefine, and improve, which is important, the war against ISIL.
The significance of this war to the people of Nova Scotia, particularly in my riding, is extremely important. In my riding, about 22% of people are either veterans or active members of the forces.
In Nova Scotia, we are home to 40% of Canada's military assets. The Canadian Forces base in Halifax is Canada's largest military base. In addition, Nova Scotia is part of the Maritime Forces Atlantic, the largest naval presence in Canada. Nova Scotia has contributed to the defence and security of Canada and has participated in all of Canada's military operations, including both world wars, the Korean war, peacekeeping operations, the Gulf War, and our mission in Afghanistan. This is evidence that this country relies greatly on our brave men and women who have and continue to contribute to the success and security of our great nation.
We call on those individuals often to support us. I must say that during my campaign, when I knocked on doors, I met veterans and active members, and they are very proud Canadians who accept whatever the government asks of them with open arms. That is extremely rich and something I am not sure I could do personally. I am grateful for their contribution.
This debate is extremely important. I am confident, after long reflection, that this is the right direction we are taking. I want to talk about five issues in our strategy.
Our strategy has five components: expanding our training role, which is very important; reinforcing our diplomatic role; increasing our humanitarian role, which is extremely important; our role with respect to the refugees who continue to arrive in Canada; and the appreciation of the House for our armed forces, which is extremely important.
When seeking information and opinions, we often consult experts who are on the ground as sources of information. I would like to quote Colonel Warren, the U.S. mission spokesperson:
We are not going to bomb ourselves out of this problem, right? It's never going to happen.... and as we see nations like the Canadians agree to triple their presence, we find that extraordinarily helpful.
That is quite powerful. It is impressive to hear our allies speaking that clearly and supporting us with such confidence. Why are they supporting us? They are supporting us because Canadians have long been known for their expertise in training. They are also putting their trust in us because of our armed forces and the expertise they have on the ground. That is certainly very impressive. I agree with the colonel. Bombing alone is not going to end the war against ISIL.
That being said, if we want to make a difference, we have to strengthen and train local forces, and provide them with the tools they need to win the war against ISIL.
The second part of this broadened mission is an increased level of diplomatic involvement. As our has said, the solution must, first and foremost, be political.
We have to ensure that we engage allies on the ground in the discussion to ensure that we are a coalition working closely together. We must ensure that we speak with the international community if we are going to ever have lasting peace for the people in that region.
Third, I want to speak on the increase of humanitarian aid. We must do our part. Canadians have always been looked at as strong contributors in that area. We do so because millions of individuals have been displaced. We do so in order to support the most vulnerable people. That is why our government is investing $840 million over three years to support the basic needs of those hardest hit. When I speak of basic needs, I speak of food, shelter, health care, and water. Those are essential, and we are going to be contributing greatly in that area.
We will also invest $270 million to provide social services to rehabilitate local infrastructures, to help foster growth in the economy, to help support women, children, and newborns, in the areas of health, gender equality, and so forth. Those are extremely important issues to which we are going to be contributing as we move forward.
Fourth, there is the matter of refugees.
There is no question that Canada is a leader by far in opening up its arms and accepting refugees, which is extremely important during times of need. There is no question that now we are dealing with a crisis such as we have not seen in the world for at least 30 years. Nine million people have already been displaced. They are in terror and we need to support them. I am extremely pleased about the international community's support, but also about how our government is moving forward in doing that, and we are doing it very well. There have been well over 20,000 people so far.
I want to mention in my riding the RiverLake Syrian Refugee Project, co-chaired by Sue MacLean and Laura Jayne Hambly-Fournier. I mention them for their hard work in working with the community to raise funds, to find housing, and to accept families. It is those individuals and many individuals in the community who make us so strong, and I thank them for that.
As I said earlier, 22% of my riding members are very proud servicemen and women who work on the base, abroad, or serve in the conflict of war. The House needs to recognize their contribution in Canada. In Canada, we have the most professional, talented, and dedicated servicemen and women on the planet. Some of them are even serving in the House here today.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the people of , I am honoured to rise today to speak on the motion calling for the refocusing of our Canadian mission against ISIL.
I am very pleased to take part in this debate that is very important to our government, our country, and our closest allies. I want to start by talking about the approach our government took in redefining our contribution to the international coalition against ISIL.
We distanced ourselves from overheated rhetoric and focused on a serious analysis of the current situation. We considered the needs of our allies and took into account our own military, financial, and diplomatic means.
Unlike the previous government, Liberals refocused our contribution to the international coalition by engaging our allies, by determining the most effective role we can play, and by allowing our Canadian Armed Forces and other departments, such as global affairs and international development, to contribute in the manner that can be most effective.
As the has said, our new policy in Iraq, Syria, and the surrounding region reflects what Canada is all about: defending our interests alongside our allies and working constructively with local partners to build real solutions that will last. We will work with allies to defeat ISIL and the terrorist threat it represents. At the same time, we will help address the needs of millions of vulnerable people, while helping lay the foundation for improved governance, economic growth, and long-term sustainability.
The men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are well prepared and equipped to take on this new role. There is risk, but necessary risk, that can and will be mitigated to the greatest degree possible. Our commitment to enhance our train, advise, and assist role carries with it an increased likelihood of contact with the enemy while our troops perform their daily duties. This is not a combat mission. However, our troops will always possess the right to self-defence and will always take the necessary precautions to protect themselves, our coalition partners, and local forces.
As part of our new and expanded commitments to fight against ISIL, Canadian Armed Forces personnel are not the principal combatants, but are training, advising, and assisting those who are. To be clear with Canadians, our troops are and will be operating in a conflict zone, supporting local forces that are fighting to rid Iraq of the scourge of ISIL.
Based on the experience we gained during our military involvement in Afghanistan, Canadian trainers are particularly well equipped to provide support, advice, and training to local forces that will be combatting ISIL forces on the ground. Our international coalition partners have stressed the importance of this support and the need for training.
As our coalition partners have indicated, to paraphrase Colonel Steve Warren, the spokesman of Operation Inherent Resolve, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we have to train local security forces. It is one of our primary lines of effort and our contribution is extraordinarily helpful to achieving the goals of the coalition. To say, as the official opposition has said, that we are cutting and running from the coalition's fight against ISIL is patently false. As Colonel Steve Warren has said, “everybody likes to focus on the airstrikes, right, because we get good videos out of it and it's interesting because things blow up — but don't forget a pillar of this operation, a pillar of this operation, is to train local ground forces. That is a key and critical part.”
We are extremely proud of the critical role that our CF-18 pilots have played in limiting ISIS' movement on the ground, but the coalition has sufficient air power to continue this phase of the mission. Dr. James Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, said it best when he stated:
...you're going to shift to doing training, which is...perhaps the most important of all. So I applaud the fact that our Canadian military and NATO colleagues will be working on the training mission with the Iraqi security forces, potentially with the Kurdish peshmerga in the north because we don't want to send 100,000 troops, or 150,000 troops like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan. We want local forces to fight ISIS. We need to train, advise and mentor them. NATO can do that very effectively.”
We will also deploy medical personnel and a helicopter detachment to northern Iraq to support and care for our personnel. Our surveillance and refuelling aircraft will remain active, addressing key requirements of the coalition. During 370 sorties, the CP-140 Auroras have surveyed over 3,200 points of interest, including some 20,000 kilometres of main supply routes. The CC-150T Polaris aircrews marked a milestone on January 5, 2016, when they passed 20 million pounds of fuel delivered since the beginning of Operation Impact, an incredible achievement, one of which Canadians should be proud.
We are also working with the Government of Iraq and the coalition to establish ministerial liaison teams to work with select Iraqi ministries. I am convinced that these measures will be welcomed. These teams would assist with the coordination, the planning, and the process in support of Iraqi governance. Canada will also provide capacity building in Jordan and Lebanon.
This is a broader mission, a whole-of-government approach that will involve a number of federal departments, and a mission that entails a military component as well as increased humanitarian assistance.
This is a broader, deeper, and more dynamic military contribution than we have had previously, and it is made all the more effective because it is integrated with expanded contributions in humanitarian assistance, development efforts, and diplomatic presence in the region.
We are part of a broad, international coalition. Air strikes are planned, coordinated, and executed based coalition priorities and tasks. Our CF-18s never operated exclusively in support of our troops in northern Iraq. Air support was there when needed, provided by whichever member of the coalition was in the air or planning cycle.
This will not change. Our troops will have the air support they need when they need it, but our military contribution is just one part of the mission.
As we have heard from my colleagues, we are taking a whole-of-government approach to achieve these goals.
With the hard work of our , Canadians have currently welcomed more than 22,000 refugees of this conflict to Canada.
These courageous refugees have beat the odds and found themselves a new home among us as part of a diverse Canadian social fabric. We welcome them with open arms and are here to support them in becoming an integral part of our Canadian society.
Furthermore, we will deliver $840 million in humanitarian assistance over the next three years to support the basic needs of those hardest hit by this conflict, including food, shelter, health care, water, sanitation, and hygiene. Assistance will target the most vulnerable, including children and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
We will also deliver $270 million over the next three years to build local capacity to provide basic social services like education, health, water, and sanitation; maintain and rehabilitate public infrastructure; foster inclusive growth and employment, including by enhancing women's and youth employment; and advance inclusive and accountable governance.
Our programming will focus on helping women and youth, improving maternal, newborn, and child health, and advancing gender equality.
We simply cannot accept opposition rhetoric that we are cutting and running from this mission. Unlike the previous government, we are taking a conscientious and principled approach to a complicated problem.
We are engaging in every area of this conflict. We are presenting a truly coordinated, collaborative, and integrated plan for a problem that deserves nothing less: a long-term vision and a coherent strategy to achieve our goals.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this important resolution. This is a difficult issue. Contrary to the implications in some of the speeches we have heard in this place since the government's motion was put forward, this is not a black and white issue. It is one of the most complex and intractable issues that has been debated in this place in many years, and that is because it is not black and white. It is not simple.
I want to start by paying tribute to a veteran, Captain Trevor Greene, who lives in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. I have been inspired by him and his example. Many in this place will remember him as the Canadian soldier who in Afghanistan was attacked from behind. He had taken off his helmet as a sign of respect for the Afghani villagers with whom he was meeting, and he was attacked with an axe. He still struggles with the physical impacts of that attack. His brain is as sharp as a tack, but his body does not always co-operate. He spends most of his time in a wheelchair, as he learns to walk again. I have heard him speak publicly, saying that when he planned his career in our Armed Forces, he most wanted to wear the blue beret and become a peacekeeper. I read in the Speech from the Throne that the current government intends to return Canada to its peacekeeping role, and I want to apply that lens and look at those things that a young Trevor Greene wanted to see his country doing, for which he was prepared to risk his life, for Canada and for peace and for the peoples of the world.
This mission is intractable because it is so very difficult to figure out whose side we should be on, especially when it is described solely as a war against terrorism or a mission to get rid of Daesh. I do not like to call this group Islamic state. The resolution refers to ISIS and ISIL, but I do not like to convey any sense that this terrorism group has any legitimate claim to statehood.
Let us talk of Daesh. If this is a conflict solely directed at Daesh, then we have missed out all the complicated bits that make this so hard. This is a sectarian conflict. This is a Sunni-Shia religious war within which there are multiple proxy wars, with superpowers all over the place moving in and out of the region to their own advantage, and also neighbours in the region, for good or for ill. We have essentially a civil war in Syria.
The speech by the hon. leader of the official opposition made it sound as though this is simple. There is this group of horrific actors, a horrific army, a death cult. Daesh, according to the official opposition, marauds at will. There is no context, no history, no understanding that this group would not exist at all except for the fact that the U.S. waged an illegitimate and illegal war in Iraq. This gave rise to the creation of this group, literally and physically. The people who founded Daesh met in a prison camp run by the U.S. army. They organized there. They saw their radicalization in what appeared to be the west oppressing the region.
Thank goodness Canada said “no” to going into Iraq at that time. The rhetoric in this place around why we should be bombing in Syria or Iraq tends to come with the tagline “Canada always steps up to do our part”. When there is a mission that is wrong-headed and contravenes international law, Canada is quite right to stay out of it. That is why I am so pleased that Canada did not overtly participate in the Iraq war. We used to think there could be nothing worse than al Qaeda until Daesh came along, which created itself through the Iraqi conflict. If we lose track of history and we lose track of context, how can we possibly know the right way forward?
Let me return to this issue of a civil war in Syria.
The current government of Syria, if we can still call it a government given that Syria is rapidly a failed state, is led by the brutal dictator, Bashar al-Assad, who has killed far more people within his own country than has Daesh.
Bashar al-Assad, of the Shia minority and Alawite family, has led Syria with a fairly iron grip for a long time. In the Syrian civil war, Assad is supported by Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia. I read a lot of the journalists who have been covering this issue. Terry Glavin, a Victoria, B.C. area journalist, is right that when this first civil war began in Arab Spring, a lot of the people opposing Assad were people who deserved to have been supported because they represented an effort for democracy and against Bashar al-Assad.
However, the rebel forces now are an unsavoury concoction of al Qaeda's branch, al-Nusra, and of course Daesh, or as it is called in the motion, ISIS, working to defeat Assad. Therefore, as we take up arms to defeat ISIS, are we incidentally keeping Assad in place? We are in very tricky territory here.
I completely support the decision of the current government to withdraw the CF-18s. One of the reasons I voted against the bombing mission in the first place was that inevitably we would be responsible for killing civilians. That by itself is a horror, but beyond that every civilian killed is part of the recruiting for Daesh. It gets more people who might have been moderate to feel that they must go to war because their own people have been bombed by Canada or the U.S. Now Russia is claiming to have come in to bomb ISIS targets, but, incidentally, seeming to bomb more of those other rebel forces that are trying to unseat Assad. It is complicated.
Let us look at what has happened so far. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is an independent organization, coalition air strikes so far have killed 4,256 people, among which 322 were civilians. In Iraq, coalition air strikes so far have killed a further 1,000 civilians. This killing of innocent civilians is always described as “collateral damage”. However, in a situation like this, where we are trying to stop radicalization and create an argument against radicalization in a context that is so fraught with appeals to particularly young men but others around the world to come and join the fight, when there are large military efforts bombing targets on the ground and killing any civilians, we lose ground in the fight against radicalization. Therefore, I completely support the decision to withdraw our planes.
I am definitely affected by this by being the daughter of a dad who grew up in London during the blitz. He always said that there was no surer way to build the resolve of civilians on the ground to oppose an enemy than to see it come over in planes and drop bombs. It did not work to break the resolve in North Vietnam. It has not worked to break resolve so far in Syria or in Iraq.
Therefore, the coalition air strikes are wrong-headed. It is a good thing to be out of them. However, I then am puzzled by the Liberal government's insistence that we stay involved in them by providing refuelling and reconnaissance missions. This muddies the waters. It can only be explained, because in stopping something that was not going to work and adopting more humanitarian, diplomatic, and even peacekeeping type of work, and training, we did not want to, in any way, alienate our so-called allies that are working in the region, including through continued air strikes.
Who are our allies in the region? We really need to talk about what is going on with Turkey. Turkey is more concerned about the growth of Kurdish nationalism than it is with ISIS at its borders.
We saw the frontier land along the Turkish-Syrian border being reclaimed by Kurdish fighters, and where Kurdish fighters were under siege by Daesh fighters, Turkey held back and did not go forward.
Turkey is ostensibly a NATO ally. Yet Turkey has also been accused of aiding, through its intelligence, extremist militants from China making their way across Turkey to join ISIS fighters. This is an allegation that is contained in a highly controversial article, and I know it is controversial. The article published in the London Review of Books by Seymour Hersh on U.S. intelligence sharing in the Syrian war was called “Military to Military”.
Seymour Hersh is a journalist of great renown. He was right about Abu Ghraib. He was right about the My Lai massacre going way back. However, he may be wrong about the central allegation in the article, which is that the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military chose to ignore President Obama's central effort to bring down the Assad regime. They, the Joint Chiefs, felt that it was important to protect the Assad regime and so deliberately shared intelligence with other allies in hopes it would reach Assad.
Another claim in the article is that U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff replaced access for the rebel forces against Assad with less sophisticated weaponry, older weaponry, so that the Assad regime would be aided basically through neglect. These charges may not be true, but they also point to the enormous complexity of the fight in the region.
What of Saudi Arabia? We are still prepared to sell it armoured vehicles despite the evidence that those armoured vehicles are used against civilians within Saudi Arabia and in Yemen. However, we also have very consistent reports of Saudi Arabia aiding ISIS. Why? Well, it does not really like the idea of seeing Assad staying in power. Again, these proxy wars continue.
All through the region there is black market activity, selling black-market oil across the border, and selling antiquities. When I was discussing the matter with one of the leading journalists in the world on this subject, Robert Fisk who writes for the Independent, he said that he had reliable intelligence that the oil refineries inside Syria, which are shipping out black market oil for the benefit of the ISIS coffers, were being run with Turks on the inside of the refinery, and Turks at the border turned a blind eye to the black market oil.
This is surely a place where Canada could play a much stronger role, working with allies, particularly along the border. If we are going to have boots on the ground and put ground troops in the area, surely we should be prepared to say that we will make that border with Turkey less porous and ensure that we stop the flow and the sale of black market oil. Interpol needs to play a stronger role.
Another place where the millions that fill the coffers of Daesh come from is the horrific destruction of antiquities in the region. Before it blows up a temple, Daesh takes out valuable artifacts. Apparently, there are art collectors, speculators, and billionaires of no conscience, who are prepared to buy these black market antiquities. The sale in black market antiquities also funds the horrific activities of Daesh.
Again, we have a civil war with no really good options for good guys. There is al-Nusra, ISIS, versus Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia trying to support Bashar al-Assad. In all of that, I can see why the and the new government think that the only good guys they can find on the ground are the Kurdish forces. At least one knows that Kurdish forces are not likely to do what other so-called more moderate rebel groups have done when they have received training, weapons, and equipment from the west. Some of those moderate groups have just sold it to ISIS. They can get good coin and they are not that committed to being against Daesh.
We know one thing about the Kurdish forces: they have a real commitment. However, their commitment is not solely of getting rid of Daesh; their commitment is to a Kurdish state.
With Kurdish nationals and a Kurdish dream of nationhood that extends from Iraq to Syria to Turkey to Iran, one can see that our efforts here must be made with great caution because our allies will not thank us when they find, having been emboldened by military victories pushing back the horrible Daesh forces, that the Turkish state turns its own guns on the Kurds instead of on ISIS.
This is a complicated mess, and I am not saying it is simple. If there is anything I am saying today it is that it is anything but simple, and our debate about it should not pretend it is black and white.
I have one last point about the damage we have done in other countries.
When that illegal war ended in Iraq and the U.S. installed some puppet governments, it decided to ban any members of Saddam Hussein's former Baath Party from office. As a result, there are a lot of people who have skills, who know how to run a government and an army, and who are not allowed to have a job. We have created a group of people that was ready to go to work for Daesh, because through its black market activities, it had money to pay people. It is time that we talk to our allies about removing the ban on the Baathist forces and Baath Party members, whether they were part of Saddam Hussein's former government or former army, from having legitimate jobs in a new Iraq. We must stop the flow of people who were not previously radicalized to the Daesh army just because it could pay for them.
There is more here than one can possibly scrape the surface of in a 20-minute speech.
I am honestly torn about how I will vote on this resolution. I support much of what is being proposed. I support the increase in humanitarian assistance. I am pleased to see any discussion of diplomacy, because this cannot just be about how to get rid of Daesh without a strong focus on how we bring peace and stability to the region. If that is not our goal, we will never get rid of extremist factions in an ongoing Sunni-Shia war in the context of a civil war and in the context of a brutal dictator like Bashar al-Assad.
Where does Canada stand in an argument with no easy solutions and no easy answers? There is only one safe place to stand, and that is on international law. Bombing a country at which we are not at war is illegal under international law. We should not be in a bombing mission. Helping where we can on the ground makes sense, but we need to do much more in this country to oppose radicalization. We must not do anything to increase the propaganda value of those who want to recruit youth from any country anywhere in the world to come into this sick world of a death cult thinking they have gone for some higher moral purpose.
Canada can play a significant role in the world. We always did, and I hope we always will. However, we should move with great caution. We should be constantly reassessing what Turkey and Saudi Arabia are doing, and what we can do by working and creating much better diplomatic channels with Russia. The U.S. Secretary of State, in this very inadequate partial ceasefire, would never have gotten anywhere if the U.S. had not established the ability to at least talk with Russia. We need the help of Russia, China and the U.S. together to end the conflict in Syria. We must not allow it to become yet another failed state like Libya.
I was the only member of Parliament in June 2011 to vote against the bombing missions in Libya. One of the reasons was I simply did not buy it when our then minister of defence said that although the government did not know what would follow Moammar Gadhafi, it could be sure that it could not be as bad. A failed state in Libya, the rise of ISIS, and all of those warehouses full of armaments in Libya going into the hands of terrorists are worse than Moammar Gadhafi.
We must find our role in diplomacy. As hard as it is, we must work to stop the flow of money to Daesh. We must ensure that when we ask Canadians to go into as problematic a region as Syria in the middle of a civil war that they are adequately protected at all times, that we do everything possible to ensure their safety, and that as they train other forces, we are very careful about who we decide wears the white hats and the black hats in a war that really does not have any good guys.
Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for .
I am privileged to rise in the House to speak to this motion. I come from a family that has been involved with the Canadian Forces for many years and I have a profound level of respect and gratitude for our men and women in uniform. Each and every one of them has made a sacrifice to protect the great country of Canada, and not just they, but their families as well.
Because of this deeply rooted level of respect, I find it difficult to make sense of the government's actions when it comes to the global fight against ISIS. One of the biggest issues is the withdrawal of our CF-18s. Canada has been the fifth-largest contributor to the air combat mission against ISIS. This is a mission that has helped our allies, as they have stated in the past.
The foreign minister for the Kurdistan regional government said that not only were the CF-18 air strikes helpful and effective, he requested that they continue. If this is not a clear request for assistance by the Canadian Forces, then I do not know what is.
Canada has a long history of defending innocent and vulnerable people by taking on those who have committed mass atrocities, which is exactly what ISIS has done and continues to do. Why then does the government refuse to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and assist them in this fight?
Not only is there a lack of air combat support, but also a lack of clarity as to why the CF-18s were withdrawn. Not a single person has been able to explain why our CF-18s must be removed from the air campaign. Even more unclear is the decision to keep our refuelling and reconnaissance planes as part of the mission despite the fact that our fighter planes that provide air cover to victims of ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been withdrawn.
This logic is completely incomprehensible. The Liberals are trying to play politics and keep campaign promises while people's lives are at stake. The lack of clarity surrounding the use of military assets is astounding. According to the government, we are willing to paint targets, conduct surveillance, provide fuel for bombers, yet we will not drop any Canadian bombs or provide air coverage for our own troops. This is not the kind of help that our allies need, nor is there any type of logic behind this decision.
A few hours south of my riding of Souris—Moose Mountain lies the Little Bighorn Battlefield historic site in Montana. It is a beautiful location in the great western plains. The history of Custer's last stand where the U.S. 7th Cavalry under Colonel Custer was wiped out by the Lakota and their allies has been well explored by military historians.
An enduring lesson from the battle in 1876 was that conflicting military objectives would lead to the needless deaths of soldiers. Custer split his troops and resources in what he believed was a useful way, only to be wiped out by the Lakota, who took advantage of an untenable plan, a lack of resources, and a simple unwillingness to agree with what Custer wanted to do.
I reference the past not only because it allows me to talk about an area near my beautiful riding, but because it is a bit of history the government can learn from as we discuss the motion on Canadian military involvement against ISIS. Much like Custer who believed his plan was right but was proven to be impetuous, the government, believing it is right, is presenting Canadians with an incoherent plan that appears to be impetuous.
The government would like us to believe that it was elected by Canadians to refocus Canada's military contribution against ISIS to training local forces, providing more humanitarian support, and to immediately welcome refugees to Canada. To fulfill one of the many tales it promised Canadians in order to get elected, the Liberal government is now ending the combat mission against ISIS.
The government has announced it will increase humanitarian funding in the area to help those displaced by the scourge of ISIS. It is announced that it will increase the number of Canadian troops in the area in a training and advisory role so that it may better prepare the allied forces to fight against the scourge that is ISIS. It was announced that it will pull some military resources from this arena and that all will be good in the plan on how to deal with ISIS.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that ISIS would agree with the government. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Vance, said the Canadian mission is not a combat role, yet ISIS has not agreed to that plan by the government.
I am uncertain how the government's plan to withdraw against ISIS yet leave our troops active to counter the scourge of ISIS without proper resources and scattered in different locations will be a benefit in defeating an enemy that has declared its intention to be at war with the values of religious diversity, human dignity, economic freedom, and a belief in individual human rights that we, as Canadians, believe help to define us.
Canada's air campaign against ISIS has helped to destroy ISIS troops and supplies. It has contributed to ISIS not being able to do as it pleases in trying to create the caliphate of terror and destruction. To pull the CF-18 resources no longer allows us to participate in these activities.
The biggest military difference between the forces of ISIS and the Canadian military is an air force.
The Battle of Britain in World War II was won thanks to the many brave pilots of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and others. This battle led to the defeat of the Nazi regime. The ISIS air force is non-existent. Canadian Forces had an advantage, but have now decided to play fair, despite the fact that ISIS is not playing fair, and therefore removed that advantage.
While our allies are stepping up with contributions to the destruction of ISIS, Canada is cutting and drawing away. Canada is placing humanitarian aid at the forefront of its activities before ISIS is defeated. Canada is offering to train forces in Iraq to counter ISIS. Canada wants to do all the administrative tasks of monitoring, training, education, provisions of social services, before the war against ISIS is finished.
The Canadian resourcefulness that the government talks about appears to be “let others do the work, while we stand in the background and offer our advice”. We are becoming the back-seat drivers in a war zone. Canada is showing its back to its allies. Sunny ways indeed.
We, as Canadians, have an obligation to stand up for the victims of genocide, to fight against the extremist ideology, and to protect Canadians at home and abroad. I am sure everyone remembers the tragic events that took the lives of two Canadian soldiers back in 2014. These were ISIS-inspired attacks that happened right here at home. How can the government justify the decision to step back from this international fight against terrorism when Canadians are being murdered, both at home and abroad?
The public opinion of Canadians is also being ignored by the government. A February 6 poll found that 63% of Canadians say that they would like to see Canada continue bombing ISIS at the current rate or go further and increase the number of bombing missions it conducts; 47% say that withdrawing Canadian CF-18s from the mission will have a negative effect on Canada's international reputation.
We know that the 47% of Canadians are right. Canada was snubbed by our own coalition allies when we were not invited to attend an anti-ISIS meeting that was held in Paris in January. The snub happened just after the government signalled its intentions to withdraw our CF-18s from the air combat effort. Under our previous Conservative government, Canada was hosting these meetings, and yet now, due to decisions made by the Liberals, we are not even invited to attend.
The opinions of Canadians are clear. The requests for assistance from our allies are clear. The only thing lacking clarity is the reason behind the government's choice to step back from the fight against ISIS. The government motion mentioned significant investments in humanitarian assistance, which while necessary do nothing to solve the issue of the root of the problem. This is putting a band-aid over the issue. It is forcing our allies to fight without the help of our combat resources for no reason other than the Liberals wishing to keep campaign promises.
It is disingenuous and dangerous to our soldiers for the government to believe that combat training, humanitarian interventions, and dialogue with countries affected by ISIS in an active war zone is a coherent plan. A whole bunch of highly trained assets are being sidelined by a government that promised to let facts and science guide its decisions. The Lakota were not interested in Custer's plan, and wiped him out. I do not suspect ISIS will care much about the government's plan either.
In closing, I wish to offer my sincere thanks to each and every woman and man in our Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, Canadian Reservists, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police who partake in these dangerous operations. I wish them Godspeed and a safe return to their family, friends, and country.