The House resumed from February 23 consideration of the motion and of the amendment.
Mr. Speaker, as always it is a great honour to stand in this House and represent the people of Timmins—James Bay. I never take this honour and the task that they have given me to do lightly. I also say that there is no role that we as parliamentarians can take that is more important than the decisions that have to be made in putting men and women of our armed forces into harm's way in a foreign theatre.
Since I have been here, I have been through many of these debates and many of these motions. Over my time here, I have been fed a heavy diet of jingoism and rah-rah and two-dimensional claims that, if we look back, in the light of day did not stand up. Whenever we have these debates, we need to think about what it is that we are being called upon to do.
I would like to say that what concerns me here is that we have, once again, a reactive policy about a region that is the most explosive in the world. This has been the unfortunate response over the last dozen or so years of not having a proactive, clear direction. It has put our soldiers in harm's way and it has added to the destabilization of an already crisis-ridden region.
Nobody is arguing against the monstrosity of the group called ISIL. We do not need to compare the torture-porn stories of what that awful group has done. What we need to do is say what is the best way that we as a nation with a proud military history, but also a proud nation-building legacy, can do in this fight.
What really disturbs me about the present Liberal government is that it is not being truthful to Canadians. The Liberals talk about pulling the planes out, but now, as the minister said today in the House, the fight will be won on the ground, the targets will be found on the ground. This is an expansion of a combat mission. It is important if we are going to have a combat mission to say it is a combat mission. That is the first part of being honest with Canadian people. Once they have identified what that mission is, then they can start to talk about the parameters of the mission and the goals of the mission. However, to be completely vague and misrepresent what our soldiers would be doing on the ground is to do a disservice to this House and it will lead to long-term consequences.
I remember back in 2006, when we had the first debates on the mission into Kandahar. What drove the Paul Martin government at that time was pressure from the United States for having made the wise decision not to go into Desert Storm, which was widely supported by the Conservative caucus, the Alliance Party, and the wild acclaim about how we had to go and save civilization by getting ourselves involved in this illegal war in Iraq.
We commend the previous government for not going in there. It was that wrong-headed invasion that created so much of the instability and horrific death levels and created the grounds that we see for groups like ISIS today. As a result of having offended the Bush administration at the time, the previous Liberal government was under pressure to show that we could be good allies. That was the sense, and we heard that to be playing with the big boys we had to do our part so we voted in this House to send our soldiers into Kandahar without a clear understanding of what was on the ground in Kandahar. Our soldiers went into the toughest parts of that firefight.
We in this House had all kinds of language that this was nation building, but we did not even know what was happening on the ground. We had no forward-looking vision. The New Democratic Party at the time asked what the targets were in terms of the goals to show that we had actually succeeded there. We asked another important question at the time: Who are our allies on the ground? We asked where our allies were, because we went into Kandahar alone. At that time, I remember even lines like, “Oh, it's about putting boots on the ground.” They threw the Neville Chamberlain thing around, “Oh the NDP are being like the 21st century Neville Chamberlain”. The job of Parliament should have been to ask where our allies were, going into Kandahar.
We now see this today. Major General David Fraser, who commanded the military's alliance into the mission in 2006, has said that the west made a serious mistake in going in to fight the Taliban.
I was very surprised at his statements. He said that we did not learn the wrong-headed lessons of Iraq. This was the general charged by Canada to go in there. This is not to denigrate in any way our efforts to fight what was a brutal and awful regime, or the incredible work that our men and women did under really difficult conditions and made us all very proud.
However, this Parliament failed those soldiers because we did not have a sense of the clear objectives, to have the major general tell us today that we did not do what we were supposed to have done and now we have more instability.
Let us fast-forward to Libya and the vote we had in the House on the bombing mission in Libya. At the time we supported it. We were going to stand as a House united, because there was such deep concern about what was happening on the ground in Libya in terms of potential killing and atrocities by the Gadhafi regime. Nobody in the west had any real clue what was really happening on the ground in Libya, so we thought, “Well, we will bomb them. Then things will be okay.”
Then we turned our attention away. The mission was over. Mission accomplished. Now we have a completely destabilized situation in Libya, which is very close to the southern belly of our European allies. We completely failed.
We cannot go and bomb another country without a plan on the ground. What is it going to look like in the long term? This is where I plead with my Liberal colleagues for the incredible vision that was set forward in the 20th century with Mike Pearson, that Canada was going to play a role, that we were going to be the nation builder. We were not just going to be the little brother who went along with the gang. Canada established a reputation that was very unique at the time.
Unfortunately, I feel we have been failing in this mission. It is like we have developed this attention deficit disorder on international affairs. An issue will come up for a little bit, we think we have dealt with it, we will bomb them, we will send in the planes, and then we will move on.
Now we have an extremely destabilized situation in Libya. Then when the ISIS onslaught happened in Mosul and the horrific slaughter started, we went there. We sent members from each party to northern Iraq to find out what role Canada should play. At that time, the allies on the ground in Iraq said they did not need Canada in a bombing mission. They needed Canada to help with the humanitarian crisis they were dealing with. That was what they asked for.
We went in. We started the bombing mission in Iraq, without any clear idea, again, of who our allies were on the ground. Then we extended it to Syria, where we have even less knowledge.
The present said we were going to pull the planes. I think that was a wise move. Now, we are going to be expanding the mission in Iraq.
In the last Parliament when we were debating this, I asked my hon. colleagues in the Conservative government at the time what the plan was. A simple question, what is the plan? What are our objectives? Who are our allies on the ground? They shouted to me and said that they were going to kill bad guys. That is not a foreign policy. There is no shortage of bad guys over there. My question was, “Who are the good guys?”
Let us look at our allies. We could say we have Saudi Arabia. Those are our allies. Saudi Arabia, which is completely destabilized in the region, in terms of creating a conflict, the Sunni-Shiite proxy wars in Yemen, in northern Iraq. Canada is sending billions of dollars in military aid to Saudi Arabia that is already being used on the ground. Our weapons are being used in the Yemeni war, on both sides. The Saudi human rights record is horrific. The Saudis have also caused untold economic damage to Canada, trying to beat us in this oil war they declared. Those are our allies on the ground.
Now we are getting ourselves into a Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq where we have no clue of what the outcome will be.
Let us look at our friends, the Kurds in Turkey. Turkey is a NATO ally. I refer to The Guardian, November 18, 2015, that talked about the key groups on the ground who could fight ISIS: the PKK, the Kurdish Democratic Union. They are the ones that could take ISIS out. It says:
|| In the wake of the murderous attacks in Paris, we can expect western heads of state to do what they always do in such circumstances: declare total and unremitting war on those who brought it about. They don’t actually mean it. They’ve had the means to uproot and destroy Islamic State within their hands for over a year now. They’ve simply refused to make use of it. In fact, as the world watched leaders making statements of implacable resolve at the G20 summit in Antalaya, these same leaders are hobnobbing with Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a man whose tacit political, economic, and even military support contributed to Isis’s ability to perpetrate the atrocities in Paris, not to mention an endless stream of atrocities inside the Middle East.
Canadians deserve better than the mishmash of excuses we are getting from the government. We are sending our men and women to war and we have to do better. We owe it to them.
Madam Speaker, I would like to open by expressing my gratitude and the gratitude of my constituents for the Canadian Armed Forces personnel who have served and continue to serve for the cause of peace and humanity in Operation IMPACT.
We must never forget our men and women in uniform, our fellow Canadians, who stand at the ready to go to the heart of danger to confront the threats to our nation. We must never forget the families of the Canadian Forces personnel who endure the separation and the stress of having loved ones deployed to confront danger on behalf of all Canadians.
As the government undertakes its so-called refocus of Canada's contribution to the Middle East stabilization force coalition, I find myself, among many Canadians, questioning the logic of the refocus. We have all seen the brutal and barbaric atrocities that follows ISIS anywhere it goes. Its beliefs and ideologies are a scourge in the regions where it exists and proliferate. ISIS wields an ideology that must be confronted like an infectious lethal disease.
ISIS, as such, cannot be remedied by partial measures and half-steps. ISIS cannot be allowed to evolve and gain the ability to adapt and become more resistant to the current methods of treatment.
ISIS has declared war on Canada and our allies, and has proliferated beyond the region of its birth, killing innocent civilians in terror attacks in areas previously thought immune, much like a mutating disease that spreads and kills those who do not expect it.
Despite these self-evident realities, the government is not willing to stand with our allies and provide one of the strongest remedies that we have to fight the spread of this blight. We know our jets made significant contributions to the battle so far and could continue to make a difference in containing the spread of this infectious ISIS.
When we look back to the incident of this past December, when Canadian personnel on the ground came under fire, what might have been the result had our CF-18s not been in the region and been able to perform the precision air strikes to destroy the attackers?
However, the government has pulled our fighter bombers from the fray with one hand while deploying an exponential number of boots on the ground with the other. Can the government explain the logic in expanding Canada's presence on the ground while eliminating our air support in the same step? What assurances do our personnel have that the elimination of air support will not affect the security on the ground?
I failed to mention, when I first stood, that I would like to share my time with the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle.
Even the government's own members have stated that defeating ISIS will require multiple tools and methods of attack. When we have the proper tools to wage a battle, why would we leave the most effective tool stored in the tool box and look at others to achieve success without it? Why not use all of the tools?
This includes the CF-18s, along with the ground training, and humanitarian support, where Canada is already one of the leading donors as approved by the House in 2014. Is it because the government has come up short on dollars? Is it because it sees our economy struggling under its management, or is it simply because the government does not support our air force and pilots?
I listened the other day to a radio interview with the mayor of Cold Lake, Alberta, where our military pilots are trained for missions such as this fight against ISIS. I could hear the pent-up feelings in the mayor's responses. He stated that our Canadian pilots are always happy to return home to their families, especially after a mission, and their whole community supports their mission and the reason they are there.
He stated how the pilots are proud of their contribution, and how that pride spreads throughout the entire community and their families. They have trained for years to fly these types of missions and now they are being told they are not needed.
If the government is not willing to have our pilots fight an enemy when this fight is there, then when can we expect them to fight?
What incentive is there for new pilots to enlist and train if they know they will be held back from doing the job they are training for? Canadians train some of the best pilots in the world and now they are sitting on the sidelines when they are needed the most.
Our CF-18s flew 251 air strikes. There were 246 in Iraq and 5 in Syria. They successfully delivered over 600 munitions. It was a significant contribution and one we should continue.
It is our role and duty as parliamentarians to provide the men and women of our Canadian Forces with the best tools available to protect our personnel and our mission allies. Pulling our CF-18s out of the mission is an abandonment of this duty, something that I as a parliamentarian will not support.
Last week, a member of the House stated here that ISIS stands against everything that we value as Canadians and poses a direct threat to our people and our friends. The member who stated this was none other than our . He went on to state: “ISIS threatens peace and democracy with terror and barbarism. The images are horrific, the stories are appalling, the victims are many”.
This is a statement I agree with, but the question that begs to be asked is, why would we remove our fighter bombers from the fight against such an enemy? If the Prime Minister truly believes that ISIS stands against everything we value as Canadians and poses a direct threat to our people and our friends, then why would he order the removal of the most lethal contribution we have against the fight?
The statements of the and his actions do not add up, and Canadians know this. I have received messages from constituents through phone calls, emails, and people stopping me on the street, asking about their safety. These people are concerned because they have seen how the lethal and radical ideology of ISIS has inspired violence beyond Syria and Iraq. These Canadians are concerned for their safety here in Canada, far and away from the source of the danger, but still concerned.
Unless we step up, not step back, and eliminate the risk to our safety at its source, then we all take the responsibility for allowing the spread of ISIS, just like a mutant disease.
If the government is truly interested in what Canadians think about ISIS then it should be taking every action possible to eliminate the root cause of the madness and violence that has ravaged Syria and Iraq and has spread its shadow now across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and more.
ISIS must be defeated. The Canadian Forces personnel deployed on this mission deserve every tool they need to strike ISIS and defend themselves as needed.
If the government is sincere about helping the people of Syria and Iraq, who have suffered the most under ISIS, then the government must look beyond the symptoms of the disease and act decisively and eliminate that disease.
Does the government really believe that Canada's contribution to the fight against ISIS will be more effective without our fighter bombers? Perhaps the Prime Minister and his government believe that the 267 ISIS fighting positions bombed by our jets were of no consequence, that the 102 ISIS vehicles and equipment pieces bombed by our jets were of no consequence, that the 30 ISIS improvised explosive device factories and ISIS storage facilities bombed by our jets were of no consequence.
The fact of the matter is that our fighter bombers were effective tools in the fight against ISIS. There seems to be consensus in the House regarding the barbaric nature of ISIS and the necessity to fight it. I sincerely hope that the government will reverse its campaign promise to withdraw our fighter bombers and redeploy them in the fight against ISIS to protect our men and women on the ground.
Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to address this issue in the House.
Before I start my main remarks, I just want to pick up on something that my NDP counterpart talked about with respect to the importance of cutting off the funds to ISIS. I certainly do agree with him that it is a big part of the fight against ISIS. One of the best ways of doing that is to take Canada out of the market for Middle Eastern oil. If we had a pipeline that ran from western to eastern Canada, we would not need to go to the market for oil from that region. Therefore, I hope we will see him support the various pipeline projects that are being proposed to do just that, to make it easier to isolate any oil that could be coming from ISIS-controlled areas, because we would then have clean, ethical oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan, which is exploited in an environmentally sensitive way.
Coming back to the main motion, I understand that there are a lot of complex issues in the Middle East. There have been many different conflicts over vast periods of time. We in the west have the safety of our secure and established democracies. We live under the benefit of the rule of law and have an independent judiciary. With all of the benefits that we have, it is sometimes difficult to understand all of the issues going on over there. Some of us, from various political stripes and at various times, make pronouncements or decisions about what the west should do, what NATO should do, and how we should fight various things. Sometimes that works well and sometimes there have been extra problems created because of various interventions in the Middle East. However, on this issue there is no one on our side in the west among our NATO allies who disagrees. This is easy to understand. It is easy to build a consensus on this issue that ISIS must be stopped, that it poses a very real threat not only to the region but also around the world as it exports its terrorist activities.
What is that threat? It is not like some other types of conflicts where there is a civil war because someone wants a regime change, because one faction wants to control a state or a government, or one ethnic group wants to liberate themselves from a country where a different ethnic group is more dominant. This is a genocidal organization. These are people who subscribe to a radical form of jihadi Islam who are not satisfied with having a different kind of system. They are not satisfied with exerting control or gathering riches. They will not be satisfied until anyone who or anything that does not conform to their radical world view is not just conquered, but actually killed. That is what we are dealing with.
We will look at what Canada's role is in this fight. Canada has such a proud tradition of doing our part, and often doing more than our fair share and punching above our weight. When we look at the brave men and women who sacrificed themselves against other kinds of genocidal evils throughout Canadian history, Canada was there. Canada was there eager and willing. We joined the fight against the Nazi forces and fascism before our American neighbours. We were there from the beginning because we recognized that every country around the world that believes in these fundamental ideals of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights has an important obligation to take part in it.
What we have heard from the Liberal government is that Canada cannot be effective, that our air force is too small, and that the number of air strikes is minimal. I have heard numbers thrown around that because we are carrying out only 3% of the air strike missions, what is the point of continuing if our contribution is so small. However, NATO is made up of many countries of different sizes, and many of those countries have similar sized air forces or are making similar contributions. What if they all backed out and withdrew from the fight the same way the Liberals are doing here? Then, our 3%, plus a few others in the 3%, 4%, and 5% range would all be withdrawn. The end result of that would once again be to turn to our neighbours and say, “You pick up the fight. You pick up the slack. We'd like to have a say in what goes on there, we'd like Canada to be a presence in the world, and we'd like you to listen to us when it comes to various issues at the UN or in other forums, but we're not willing to do the heavy lifting and we're withdrawing from the combat role.” Members should make no mistake that we are withdrawing from the combat role.
In question period today the almost said “combat”. It half came out of his mouth and then he quickly stopped himself and went back to the training mission. However, I think it is telling that the does not even want to say the word “combat”. I do not think I have heard it from any one of my Liberal counterparts. In fact, I invite them to stand up during questions and comments and say whether Canada is still part of the combat mission against ISIS. Are we still trying to fight terrorism? Are we still trying to kill terrorists before they kill innocent human beings?
I would also like them, if they could, to name one ally who asked us to withdraw our CF-18s. We have heard from various ministers and the and the say that, no, this is all good, that we are optimizing our contribution and that many coalition partners do different types of jobs and that we all contribute in different ways. I can buy that for sure when many different people are contributing what they are good at or with the tools they might have. It makes sense that when one can do something better than another country, but on the air strikes, our country is proud of our tradition in the air force. We have the best pilots flying excellent equipment and actually making a difference, actually destroying targets and destroying military type installations that have been used and would have been used again to persecute innocent religious minorities, innocent men and women. Our pilots have helped in the fight against those terrible terrorist entities and can look back at the contribution they made and say “we saved lives”. Our men and women in the Air Force absolutely saved lives.
There are innocent human beings, Yazidis, Christians, different types of Muslim minorities, who are alive today because of the contributions of the RCAF. That is something I think all members can agree that we should be proud of.
Can the Liberals name one ally, one coalition partner, who said “Canada's RCAF CF-18s are really getting in the way and messing things up here and we would have a much more optimal mission if you would just withdraw your CF-18s, because the fight against ISIS would be so much better without them. Stop bombing the terrorists. Please take your jets home and our mission against ISIS would be much more optimal and effective”. I do not think they can because not a single ally would say that, because it is ridiculous.
In fact the men and women in the military around the world who are fighting ISIS say something different from their political masters. The is very proud when he can trot out a quote from President Obama or secretaries of state, who say nice things about Canada. Of course, we know that in international diplomacy the title holders rarely say anything that would condemn an ally. We know there are many diplomatic things going on, but it is very telling when the generals involved in the fight tell a different story, and that is what we have from Lieutenant-General Charles Brown, who said that it was kind of sad to see Canada pull the CF-18s out and that he hoped that Canada would have a change of heart.
That is very telling, that the people who are actually on the ground, who actually know what the mission is about and the logistics of it all, not the politicians who have to make 30,000 foot level decision, but the actual people who know what kind of hardware we need, what types of contributions we need from our allies, say this. When they say it is sad that Canada is pulling out the CF-18s, that is very telling. That is the real story. I am sure that our American neighbours, the pilots in the American air force, the British air force, the French air force, miss us. I am sure they wish they had our six CF-18s and that we could be part of the rotation. It is ridiculous to suggest that somehow the mission against ISIS is better because there are six fewer jets doing bombing runs in the area.
I want to talk about one other thing before my time expires. I remember the debate when the previous Conservative government consulted Parliament on the mission against ISIS. I remember that during question period Liberals warned that the personnel on the ground who were training troops and painting targets, and doing all the things that the Liberals are now saying our troops will be doing, were engaged in what was the equivalent of a ground combat role. They were criticizing the fact the previous government had anyone on the ground doing any kind of training and any kind of painting. Now we are being told that not only is that better than the air strikes, but it is still not combat. So these were combat roles when we were doing it, but not when the Liberals want Canada to do it because the people on the ground will be painting fewer targets or will be training less hard, maybe a little farther from the front lines. It does not make any sense. They are saying one thing in one Parliament and a different thing in another Parliament.
One thing Canadians can be sure of is that if there is consistency on this issue, it is to be found in the Conservative Party, which has always stood in defence of ethnic and religious minorities around the world and is not afraid to call radical jihadi terrorism what it is and fight the fight with our allies against ISIS.
Madam Speaker, I do acknowledge that my colleague and I did have some shared memories together in 2004. Although is right beside my riding, I was hoping for a different result in the election. However, it is good to see the member make the contribution he is, and I wish him a bit of luck in his parliamentary career here.
I want to warn him, however, about assuming anything; we all know what happens when someone assumes.
The member asked a very specific question about the end game on this mission. In my view, there can be no safety, security, or peace in the area as long as there are people like the members of ISIS out to destroy innocent human beings everyday. Their world view is something completely incompatible with any peace-loving nation, Islamic, secular, or otherwise. We cannot count on an area to be stable if there are elements like ISIS in it.
The end game for NATO and for the U.N. is ultimately to destroy ISIS. It starts with limiting its capability, and that starts with degrading its ability to launch attacks and to invade areas. Hopefully, with the assistance of our allies in Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, and other countries around the area, they can build up their own forces to do that.
However, the point is that our jets are making a meaningful impact in all of those aspects. Whether it is currently degrading ISIS, whether it is in the short-term limiting of the ability for ISIS to launch these kinds of attacks, or, in the long term, to provide that peace and stability after eliminating ISIS, our jets are a big part of that. Our air mission was important and it was meaningful.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
It is with great honour that I rise in this place to add to this very important discussion.
It is extremely important that we view this mission through two distinct lenses: one, defeating ISIL; and two, restoring stability to the region. Without both of these conditions being met, there is no chance of long-term success.
There are those who would suggest that we are stepping back from this mission. This is simply not true. This government is choosing to re-engage in this mission in an unprecedented manner. We want to take actions that are meaningful and that will make a difference in the long run. It is misleading to think that bombing campaigns alone will be able to defeat ISIL.
We are not suggesting that bombing campaigns are not useful or that they should be stopped. Rather, we are saying that we have different skills to offer and that we can best serve our coalition allies by shouldering other burdens.
Given the contributions of the United States and others to the mission, it is important to ensure that other aspects of the mission are not ignored. It is important to understand why bombing alone will not lead to the defeat of ISIL.
ISIL is not a state and does not have any defined territory. Yes, it has gained control of territory, and yes it is essential that allied forces regain control of that territory, but ISIL was a threat before it held territory and it will continue to be a threat after it loses its territorial holdings.
Humanitarian assistance is not simply about providing aid to people in need. Humanitarian assistance is essential to ensure that ISIL does not get a foothold by taking advantage of those most desperately in need of help.
Those displaced by this conflict have lost everything. We have seen in other conflicts that those who are in the most desperate of circumstances are vulnerable to being radicalized. It is understandable that a group that is willing to provide food, clothing, and shelter to one's family might cause one to become sympathetic to that group. Even those who disagree with the goals and methods of ISIL can be tempted to join it, if it means their family's most basic needs will be taken care of.
That makes it even more critical for us to bring help to the people in that region, to those who have had to flee their homes and who have no idea what normal is anymore. Their lives have been turned upside down. It will be extremely difficult for them to get an education. Taken together, their desperate circumstances create the perfect conditions for radicalization.
ISIL has proved especially capable when it comes to propaganda and disinformation. It is not difficult to imagine circumstances where a whole generation of displaced youth are drawn into ISIL or another of its surrogate organizations across the region.
However, while ensuring food, water, and medicine get to where they need to go, it is not enough. When the coalition regains ISIL-controlled territory, those who have been displaced will not simply be able to go home and resume their lives. Attacks from both sides have left infrastructure in shambles. Schools, hospitals, and government buildings have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair. This is why our government is pleased to invest $270 million toward building local capacity to delivery services.
The values of these contributions cannot be overstated. In order for these societies to rebuild themselves, we need to ensure that basic infrastructure is in place so that their journey toward rebuilding is as smooth as possible.
In addition to this, we are going to be significantly increasing our training and advisory mission. It is extremely important that we understand the necessity behind a robust and all-encompassing training mission. Despite what some on the other side would claim, our allies are pleased that we are stepping up the training aspects of this mission.
It is extremely disingenuous to state that the United States government believes anything other than what it has said publicly on this issue. Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook had this to say, “The Canadian announcement is the kind of response the secretary has been looking for from coalition members as the United States and our coalition partners push to accelerate the campaign against ISIL.” When pressed on specifics, he had this to say about our new role, “...we consider those very significant contributions and we welcome those contributions from the -- from the Canadians...this is a critically important part of the campaign”.
This does not sound like an ally that is disappointed in the direction our mission is taking. Rather, it sounds like a partner that understands and appreciates that Canada is stepping up its contribution to the coalition.
According to Kurdish sources, over 70% of peshmerga casualties to date are caused by IEDs. That is over 1,200 casualties. Air strikes will not help local forces identify and disarm IEDs. It is extremely crucial that local forces are properly trained to locate, disarm, and dispose of IEDs and other weapons in a safe manner. This is why the training mission is so critical to the long-term success of the mission.
In closing, I would like to talk about our allies in the region. We are very proud of our commitment to welcome tens of thousands of refugees. However, that number is small compared to the number of refugees and displaced persons who have been welcomed in Jordan and Lebanon. The numbers suggest that more than one-third of the people currently living in Lebanon are refugees or displaced persons.
Let us put that in perspective. The equivalent for Canada would be to welcome 12 million refugees. Even with the best intentions in the world and a desire to help, those numbers would overwhelm our system in ways we cannot even imagine. That is why we must help our allies manage this challenge. It would show a serious lack of vision if we were to focus our efforts only in Syria and Iraq and ignore our allies.
Canadian foreign policy has always been underscored by the desire to play a role that has the greatest effect and the most meaningful impact. This is what we are doing today. ISIL represents a grave threat to international security and regional stability. It is not enough to regain territory and defeat ISIL. It requires the ability to hold and defend territory. Once ISIL is pushed back, it must never again be able to achieve the foothold it now has.
Without providing adequate training to local forces, we are simply telling ISIL to bide its time until we are gone. We will not allow this to happen.
Madam Speaker, I will start by thanking hon. members for the opportunity to take part in this important discussion regarding Canada's refocused approach to the situation in Iraq and Syria.
As we debate our future involvement, I would like to take a step back for a moment from the military operation itself and thank the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for all they do. These courageous individuals put their lives on hold, leave their families behind, and risk everything. They make these sacrifices so we can enjoy the peace, security, and freedom we too often take for granted. They do all of this with honour, professionalism, and humility.
There are countless examples of individuals who have defended Canadian values at home and abroad throughout our proud history. In fact, as we stand here today discussing Canada's future involvement in Iraq, we should remember that for our Canadian Armed Forces members, this debate is about so much more than words.
They are out there now, helping to keep us safe, protecting our way of life, and promoting a Canadian vision of a more peaceful world, a more tolerant world. They are serving in Iraq and in many other international missions. They are serving here at home and on daily operations, protecting our airspace and maritime approaches with NORAD. These people deserve our thanks and support. They deserve to know that we stand behind them always. They deserve to know that we recognize their sacrifice.
There are many ways to do this. I realize that some of these may not seem like much, but it is often the little things that mean the most. Quite possibly the easiest way to show gratitude to our troops is by taking a moment to post a message on the online message board that can be found on the forces.gc.ca web page. Not only is this easy to do, it is free. It can be done as a group project, together as a family or in the classroom.
We can also buy a variety of official Support Our Troops merchandise from a CANEX store in communities or from their online site. All proceeds from the sales of Support Our Troops items are in turn reinvested directed into morale and welfare programs for members and their families. This is a very important initiative.
We can also donate directly to Military Family Resource Centres. These centres, located on bases across the country, provide support to the families of CAF members who are dealing with the challenges of military life.
For those of us who are looking for other ways to contribute financially, there are many programs available under the Support Our Troops banner. I'll mention just a few.
First, the military families fund provides support to military families who are experiencing urgent and extraordinary financial demands. It also offers rehabilitation, education, and financial assistance to families of military members who have experienced injuries, or death, due to their service.
The soldier on fund supports ill and injured military personnel with permanent or chronic disabilities. This fund helps both serving and retired members and their families maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.
The hospital comforts program provides for the care and comfort of Canadian Armed Forces members confined to hospital from injury, illness, accident, or surgery.
Then there is Boomer's legacy. This program was created in honour of Corporal Andrew “Boomer” Eykelenboom, a dedicated soldier and a Canadian Forces medic who was killed in Afghanistan in 2006. The mission of Boomer's legacy is “helping our soldiers help others”. The program honours Boomer's humanitarian spirit, so that members of the Canadian Armed Forces who are serving on deployments around the world can help those most affected by war and poverty. It places a particular emphasis on providing health care and education services for women and children and the most vulnerable.
As Canadians, we are known for our generosity and strong social programs. It should be no different when it comes to supporting our military members and their families. The men and women who work for these programs would be grateful for any contribution.
We owe a lot to our military members. I think it is only fitting, as we look at the way forward, that we remember that they are the one essential piece in all of this.
The success of the Canadian contribution to this military mission ultimately depends on the people who carry it out. We ought to take time to recognize this in whichever way we can.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to split my time with the hon. member for .
I rise today to address the Liberal government's motion to cease air operations in Iraq and Syria.
The Liberals state that they want to redefine our contribution to the effort to defeat ISIL, in part with the addition of additional members of the Canadian Armed Forces but while removing air support at the same time. However, removing air support will only serve to put our men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces at greater risk.
I agree with the assertion of the when he said that we have to win the war on the ground, but doing so without overhead protection from our CF-18 fighter jets makes no sense. How can we send members of the Canadian Armed Forces into the line of fire without adequate air guard?
As minister of National Defence and Foreign Affairs, I travelled to the Middle East on a number of occasions, and time and time again, my counterparts in Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates reiterated just how important Canada's contribution was with our CF-18s.
Our fighter jets have been very effective in taking out ISIL and other targets as well as in depleting ISIS resources. The Canadian Armed Forces, by all accounts, have severely disabled ISIS' infrastructure and senior personnel. They have truncated its ability to manoeuver in large numbers, shattered moral, and allowed Iraqi forces to retake towns like Ramadi. They have effectively taken out oil resources and have thus curtailed ISIS' means of funding its so-called caliphate.
Following up on the comment by the about winning the war on the ground, this is exactly what Iraqi officials told me when I met with them. They said that it has to be won on the ground, but it has to be won by them. They said that we are making it possible, with our air strikes, for them to hold onto the territory they have within Iraq. It has allowed them to retake the land that was taken from them, but they need that support in the air. They made that very clear.
The deployment of the RCAF Griffon helicopters for close combat aerial support in fact is inherently more dangerous than bombing ISIS' fighting positions with our CF-18s. What the new government has accomplished in forging ahead with its plan is to highlight just how incoherent it is.
The Conservative Party of Canada supports providing our troops with whatever equipment it needs, whether it is helicopters or fighter jets. The Liberal government has no justification whatsoever for withdrawing the CF-18s. I have to tell members that I am disappointed. Before this debate even began, the Liberals ceased the air strike operations.
We owe it to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces to offer them the confidence that we have their backs and are defending them from above while they are engaging with the Iraqis and Syrians on the ground. The parents, sons, daughters, husbands, and wives of Canadian Armed Forces personnel deserve to know that their government is doing everything possible to ensure the safety of their loves ones while they defend their rights, freedom, and democracy on the ground. What they do not want to hear is that their government is incoherent in terms of what it is that it is trying to do.
I have to point out that the Liberals are offside with Canadians. Not surprisingly, 63% of Canadians say that they would like to see Canada continue bombing ISIS at its current rate or go further and increase the number of bombing missions it conducts.
Canada understands that ISIS has declared war on Canada and our allies. The Liberals should understand that. Canadian Forces involved in the advise and assist mission have already been drawn into firefights. We have to make sure that we do not put them at greater risk, and I believe that is exactly what will take place if we get out of the business of air strikes.
I emphasize that the men and women of the Canadian Forces warrant the assurance of knowing that they are protected at all times, in particular by our CF-18 fighter jets. The Iraqis understand that very clearly, as do our other coalition allies. They know, and we know, that ISIS seeks to destroy the very fabric of our nation. The himself has stated that people terrorized by ISIS every day do not need our vengeance. They need our help.
Canada continues in the fight against ISIS, and the work we do is an important part of the coalition. How is it that our does not understand that we cannot begin to help the people of Syria and Iraq unless we confront ISIS? It is only in its defeat that the people of that region will be able to regain their sovereignty and rebuild their lives.
I admire our allies. They are not sitting on the sidelines and watching while others do the heavy lifting. As I said before, in my role as the defence minister and foreign affairs minister, all our coalition partners thanked Canada profusely for the effective role our CF-18s played in preventing ISIS from overtaking their respective countries. This is what we are talking about: preventing ISIS in Iraq and ISIS in Syria from forcing its ideology on not just those countries but on the rest of the free world. That, of course, includes Canada. Standing on the sidelines has never been our way.
I remember in the early 1990s, after Iraq invade Kuwait, former Prime Minister Mulroney calling us into the government lobby and telling us what had happened and talking to us about his conversation with the president of the United States. Prime Minister Mulroney made it clear that it is not Canada's role to stand on the sidelines when people are being abused. There was unanimous support for the idea of standing with Kuwait at that particular time.
I have to say that on the occasions when I have visited Kuwait, the people there have made it clear again and again that they are appreciative of what Canada did when they were in desperate need.
That is exactly what I hear from our allies in Iraq. At the present time, throughout the Middle East, they are grateful for what Canada is doing and has been doing as part of those CF-18 air strikes.
I actually chaired a meeting in Quebec City a little over six months ago with our coalition partners. I ask the Liberals whether we are still part of that coalition in the sense that we have now withdrawn from that. Are we being ignored? Are we being forgotten about? Nobody wants that. We want to be a part of that.
Again, I am very disappointed that the Liberals are not doing what Canadians want or what Canadians have done, which is to not stand on the sidelines but to be a part of this. I hope that the Liberals will reconsider this and do what is right for the men and women of our armed forces and do what is right in the fight against ISIS.
Madam Speaker, it is one complete package.
I support the mission we undertook, that we had approved by Parliament, which was an advise-and-assist role with respect to the soldiers on the ground. At the same time, and the hon. member made mention of it, the air refuelling and surveillance aircraft were an important component.
However, the key part of our contribution to the coalition against ISIS was the members of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the CF-18s. I can say that I did not run into any of our allies, whether they be at NATO conferences or the conference we held here in Quebec City with the coalition members, who said to me that we did not have to worry about sending our CF-18s. It was the exact opposite.
When I spoke to anyone, from the Prime Minister of Iraq to the foreign affairs minister and the defence minister, they were all very clear in saying that what we were doing in the air was helping them hold onto the territory they had and moving forward against ISIS. They told me that it was absolutely vital. They could not have been more appreciative of Canada's efforts.
Again, this is consistent with what we always do as a country. This is Canada's role, not standing on the sidelines and not, as was suggested to me here, hoping that other people will pick up the slack and get the job done. That is not what Canada is all about.
Madam Speaker, one thing we are simply not hearing from the government benches is the important and key role that the Royal Canadian Air Force has played in the global fight against ISIS.
I must underscore how our men and women in uniform have had a tremendously successful air combat role in Iraq and Syria. This includes eliminating many ISIS fighting positions, equipment, and vehicles, as well as factories used for the construction of improvised explosive devices and storage facilities. I am happy to stand here today and say what the Liberals will not, that I am proud of our men and women in uniform in the air force for the tremendous work they have done with our allies against ISIS. However, since the government unceremoniously removed them, we have not heard so much as a thanks for the air force's successful mission. I will add that this removal happened before debate on this motion had barely even begun.
As of February 3, Canada's CF-18s had successfully taken out 249 ISIS fighting positions, 83 pieces of ISIS equipment and vehicles, and 24 of its improvised explosive device factories and storage facilities. Unfortunately, instead of recognizing the work of our men and women in uniform, the government is inaccurately characterizing Canada's contributions to the air task force. In fact, the recently stated that 600 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force are supporting only six CF-18 jets. This is simply not accurate.
The Royal Canadian Air Force personnel and aircraft are supporting the entire air task force coalition, including providing fuel from our Polaris refuellers to our allies' planes, sharing with the coalition the intelligence that has been collected by our reconnaissance aircraft, and assisting in targeting ISIS positions for our allies. Now, without any kind of a clear explanation whatsoever, the Liberal government is putting an end to our contribution to the coalition bombing.
The decision to abandon our air mission comes at a time when most Canadians want to continue our combat mission against ISIS. In fact, the majority of Canadians believe that pulling out our fighter jets will damage Canada's global reputation. An Angus Reid poll found that nearly half of Canadians, 47% in fact, think that this will have a negative effect on our international reputation. Further to that, only 27% told the Angus Reid Institute that they were on the same page as the Liberals, with their plan to stop Canada's airborne mission and focus only on training local troops in Iraq and Syria—only 27%. That same poll showed that a majority of Canadians, 64% in fact, believe that the global threat of ISIS is growing. Therefore, why are the Liberals ignoring the good work of our air force and thumbing their noses at the will of the Canadian people and, indeed, at our allies?
The brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces have a history of always being proud to do the heavy lifting on the world stage to protect the freedoms that we hold dear. This now includes degrading and defeating ISIS, a terrorist group that is committing mass atrocities, inspiring terror attacks around the world, and has declared war on Canada and its allies.
I have heard from my constituents how disappointed they are that the Liberals have decided to have Canada take a step back and withdraw from the airborne combat mission against ISIS. My constituents ask me why we are abandoning our allies when they need us the most.
Let me be clear that withdrawing from the combat mission against ISIS is a step backward for Canada. Our country has a long history of fighting for human rights and international security. In fact, a short time ago I was reminded of this very poignantly when I had the opportunity to deliver the eulogy for Ray Hoffman, a true Canadian hero who fought for the Calgary Highlanders in the Second World War. Ray served as an infantry machine gunner in Oldenburg on VE day in 1945 and then returned home to build his life in the town of Cochrane, Alberta, in my constituency. He is but one of many who have helped to shape our country's record of defending innocent and vulnerable populations by taking on those who commit mass atrocities.
We should stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies to stop ISIS, its enslavement of women and children, its barbaric treatment of gays and lesbians, and its mass atrocities against religious minorities. It is more critical than ever that we stand against this with our allies to keep people safe.
Let me be very clear: the acts of ISIS are barbaric. Families, villages, and cities are being systematically exterminated. This is barbarism. People are being burned alive. This is barbarism. People are being beheaded and their heads put on display. That includes children who are facing this horrific fate. This is barbarism. Gay men and women are being thrown off buildings to their death. This is barbarism. Women and children are being sold and sexually enslaved. This is barbarism. Those of the Yazidi faith have been marched to their death and shot in mass executions. This is also barbarism.
What is the 's response to this barbarism? He recently said, “The lethal enemy of barbarism isn't hatred. It's reason”. First, I am surprised that the Prime Minister managed to use the term “barbarism”, considering that just a few short years ago he refused to call honour killings “barbaric” and instead stated that the previous Conservative government should make attempts at responsible neutrality.
On this side of the House, we are not afraid to call these heinous acts what they are. They are barbarism and we will stand resolutely against them. But let me also say this to the : no, the lethal enemy of barbarism is not hatred. The lethal enemy of barbarism is the resolute defence of democracy and freedom. It is standing up for the innocent. It is standing shoulder to shoulder with our allies. It is standing up for the minority Yazidis, Christians, and other religious and ethnic minorities. It is standing up for human rights.
ISIS is a terrorist group and its members inspire fear and have declared war on Canada and our allies. This is a just fight and we cannot step back now and expect our allies to do the work of defending freedom and human rights for us.
Make no mistake, Canada has been a key ally in the air combat effort. Our jets are a top five contributor in the anti-ISIS air strikes. On this side of the House, we strongly believe that Canada has the capacity to continue to contribute to air strikes, alongside training and humanitarian support. Canadian Armed Forces personnel have been doing so effectively for nearly a year.
I ask members on the government benches this. How can they claim to continue to stand with our allies and be a major partner in the fight against ISIS, standing with them shoulder to shoulder, when they have eliminated the very contribution that most directly protects the innocent civilians who are suffering mass atrocities on the ground?
If the truly believes that the enemy of barbarism is reason, then maybe he will use reason to recognize that our men and women in the Canadian Air Force have successfully been fighting this barbarism and will rescind his motion to withdraw from the airborne combat mission against ISIS.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from the beautiful riding of Sherbrooke.
I welcome the opportunity to debate in the House about how best to engage and defeat ISIS. I thank the House and the government for this opportunity.
New Democrats are glad to see three things in this plan: first, the renewed emphasis on diplomacy; second, the renewed commitment to aid conflict affected populations in the region; and third, the ongoing commitment for refugee welcoming and settlement in our country. We can all be proud of these things.
The NDP has always stood up for peace and I am proud to be part of that heritage. I am thinking today of my grandfather, John Osler, who was a pacifist. He stayed out of the conflict for as long as he could. During the second world war he was finally compelled to serve in the navy and was proud to be part of that national commitment. He then ran for the CCF and worked in the labour movement. I am honoured to be his granddaughter and carrying on that discussion in the debate today.
The NDP has always been clear. Canada should focus on stopping the flow of arms, funds, and fighters, and we should do that work right here at home before anywhere else. We would have liked to have seen the government step up efforts in these areas.
I will speak to the first plan, stemming the flow of weapons to the region. Although the UN Security Council has passed three resolutions dealing with Iraq, none of them authorized a military mission. The UN Security Council did specifically require action on the part of all member countries to prevent the flow of foreign fighters and suppress the financing of terrorist organizations. As my colleague from said, there has only ever been one terrorism financing conviction in Canada and that was in 2010, so we have work to do right here at home.
ISIL is earning between $1 million and $3 million every day in income from black market oil sales. We are never going to stop ISIL if we do not cut off that flow of money. We must seal the borders in the region against oil exports.
The Arms Trade Treaty would regulate the flow of weapons across international borders. If implemented on a global scale, it has the potential to starve the world's most brutal regimes of the money that they need to carry on their atrocious actions.
Although the Arms Trade Treaty came into effect more than a year ago, Canada, to its shame, stands alone among all NATO member countries that have failed to sign this treaty. The NDP has been pushing this issue for a long time both inside and outside the House, and we were glad to see the government campaign on and make a commitment to sign that Arms Trade Treaty.
However, for the last couple of weeks we have been asking in the House, when will the government sign the Arms Trade Treaty? The word yesterday or the day before was that the minister is seized with the issue but none of us know what that means. What does it mean to be seized? Maybe seized up and indecisive. I do not know, but we need to do this. It is embarrassing that Canada has not honoured that commitment and it would make a big difference. This is a decision we can make here at home that would affect the war against ISIS.
Again, there are other benefits to signing the Arms Trade Treaty as well. It would help us untangle the government's response to the Saudi arms trade deal.
It was reported this week that weapons being used by terrorists in Yemen originated in Canada, in Manitoba, of all places. We have work to do at home. Signing the Arms Trade Treaty would make us proud internationally and we could make a difference in the affected region.
We would love to have seen this mission, as articulated by the government, include a commitment to stem the flow of fighters by supporting de-radicalization efforts here at home.
We know that communities across this country have reached out to the federal government, both the previous Conservative government and now the Liberal government, imploring for help to protect youth from ISIS's very sophisticated recruitment techniques, yet the February 8 announcement did not include any domestic action against ISIS.
I asked this question all day Monday. Does the Liberal Party have a plan to address de-radicalization to help prevent Canadians from going overseas to fight with ISIS? I could not get any Liberal MP to tell me where that sits in their plan. I would still love to hear that it does. I would love to be surprised on this. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that over the longer-term, the biggest threat to terrorists is not the power of missiles, it is the politics of inclusion. I would be proud if Canada honoured that work.
There are sections of both the Liberal and Conservative motions that we can support wholeheartedly, which is that yes, we express our appreciation for and our pride in members of the Canadian Forces who serve now and who have served in the past. We must absolutely do everything we can as a country to look after our veterans and to look after our men and women in service as well as we possibly can.
The Liberals got us into Afghanistan in 2004 with no endgame plan. Just like in Afghanistan, this mission feels like an open-ended military mission with no end in sight.
The Liberals are placing Canadian Forces deeper into a conflict zone, a mission with no end date and no definition of what success looks like.
While the announcement left many unanswered questions, Chief of the Defence Staff General Vance was clear. He said that there will be more risk to Canadian soldiers under this mission. He added:
|You put more people on the ground in a dangerous place, and it is riskier overall.
Canadian troops will be in a conflict zone in a high threat environment and if they do come under attack, they will have to fight back. Here at home, the high number of veterans receiving disability benefits for PTSD is a reminder of the need for support services for our military.
On Sunday this past week four provinces honoured soldiers and veterans from Afghanistan, veterans who came home and committed suicide. We all have these stories in our communities. I have one at home, a family that I love very much in Ladysmith. A Globe and Mail study reports there are at least 62 soldiers who have taken their own lives following the Canadian mission in Afghanistan. That is a national tragedy.
The government promised, and I am delighted that it has, to re-open the nine veterans service offices closed by the Conservatives. It should also commit to increase mental health services.
No matter what happens with the debate in this House or what happens with the mission, the government must honour its commitments to veterans and those in service. These people are working to keep us safe and we must keep them safe as well.
Canadians voted for change and the new government will need to deliver that change. I believe Canada would have more credibility if it was looking after affairs in its own backyard, signing the Arms Trade Treaty, supporting de-radicalization efforts at home, and looking after our veterans as well as we possibly can.
I look forward to Canada cleaning up its act at home and restoring our reputation as a nation of peace and ethics.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the House about one of the most important issues, and perhaps the most important one, that we can be called on to address as members of the House of Commons: the deployment of our soldiers and fellow citizens to foreign countries and sometimes to conflict situations.
First of all, I would like to thank the government for putting this question to the House and agreeing to consult it and eventually have a vote on this motion. I thank the government for this consideration.
This is an extremely important decision that should not be taken lightly. The pros and cons must be weighed carefully and, in this case, we must find the most constructive way to fight ISIL. Thus, after studying the proposal and the Conservatives' amendment, we have decided to vote against it, as a number of my colleagues mentioned.
Members should not assume that we take the atrocities committed by ISIL and the threat it poses lightly. The seriousness of this issue must not be downplayed. However, we must consider the best ways we and our allies can stop ISIL and the barbaric acts it is committing.
Canada must play a very important role, and the parties in the House will inevitably disagree on the best way to do that. We believe that we must first stop the flow of arms, the flow of money to ISIL and, above all, the foreign fighters who go to fight with ISIL. Canada has an important role to play in that regard.
In our own communities, we must also fight the radicalization that encourages Canadians to go abroad to fight with ISIL. That is important. If all countries focused their efforts on this issue, we could solve a big part of this problem because ISIL has many foreign fighters. It would be a more constructive way to address this issue.
This motion announced money for humanitarian assistance, but we think it would be better to focus on our strategy to fight ISIL so that we can help the people caught in the conflict. The NDP believes that it is very important to welcome refugees to Canada and provide them with a peaceful place to live their lives.
During the election campaign, the said a lot of things. He talked a lot about refugees, but he also talked about what the mission against ISIL would look like under a Liberal government. He said that he wanted to clarify the mission and draw a line between combat and non-combat missions.
However, in the motion before us today, the government's proposal is anything but clear on whether this is a combat or a non-combat mission. The is refusing to take a stand and is being vague about this mission.
Apparently we are going to paint targets for our allies' air strikes.
Apparently we will be refuelling planes that are carrying out the air strikes, while at the same time, we are withdrawing our CF-18s. This could be interpreted as an acknowledgement that air strikes are not the best strategy for Canada, although we are helping our allies carry out those air strikes. In this situation, the government's position is not clear. Is the government for or against air strikes? It is withdrawing its own jets, but still helping its allies to continue conducting air strikes.
What is more, everyone knows that our soldiers are going to be in an extremely dangerous situation. Even the head of the Canadian Armed Forces has said that the level of danger will be higher because more Canadians will be deployed in Iraq and Syria. We are sending our soldiers into a dangerous situation.
Sadly, Sergeant Doiron died in very tragic circumstances. Obviously, if we increase the Canadian presence, the risks will also increase, and our soldiers could often find themselves in very high-risk situations, as has been the case in the past and we believe will also be the case in a mission like the one proposed here today. This will include having to return enemy fire, not to mention other extremely dangerous situations.
That is why it is important to weigh this mission carefully because this conflict we are sending our Canadian soldiers into is dangerous. We must not take this decision lightly.
I want to come back to what I was saying earlier about the foreign fighters who go there, including some from Canada. Deradicalization efforts need to be made and should be a significant part of Canada's strategy for the fight against ISIL.
Unfortunately, we are not hearing the government say anything about the fight against radicalization or a strategy to help identify these potential cases of radicalization before these young Canadians go abroad. Unfortunately it is often young people who are involved. There needs to be a strategy to put a stop to this as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this does not factor into what the government is saying right now. I would have liked this fight against radicalization to be part of the government's strategy.
However, we must commend the efforts being made in some communities, including Montreal for example. The Secretary-General of the United Nations recently visited Montreal and commended the efforts by the community to counter radicalization.
So far these efforts seem rather isolated in that they are being driven by communities, municipalities, and provinces. There do not seem to be any efforts being made nationally or by the federal government. I would have liked the government to put more emphasis on this in its strategy because in my view, it is very important in the fight against ISIL.
In this debate, we cannot forget the various conflicts that have broken out in this region, how Canada or our allies decided to intervene, and the impact these decisions had on these conflicts.
Too often, our strategy was to send our soldiers on missions that were poorly defined and had no end date. No one would tell us how the mission would be deemed successful, when we could withdraw our troops, and when we could say that the mission in question was over.
If we adopt this motion, and I sincerely hope that we do not, I think the government will repeat those same mistakes. I think it will continue in the same vein and the results will be much the same. If you are always doing the same thing, you cannot expect to get a different result.
I am disappointed in the government's approach. I would have expected a vastly different approach, one focused on deradicalization.
My time is up. I would be happy to take any questions from my colleagues.
Madam Speaker, just to get a formality out of the way up front, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I rise today to address the House regarding the government motion tabled on February 11, 2016. This motion seeks to gain the support of the House to redefine the mission in Syria and Iraq through the removal of our CF-18s from its sorties while increasing our training mission in Iraq.
Prior to continuing with my remarks, I would like to take the time to thank all of the men and women of the armed forces for their continuing effort to help those who have been made victims of this radical group of terrorists known as the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, I would like to thank those who have served in the armed forces from all sides of the House in any capacity.
Canada's strategy to date has been one that has engaged in a multi-faceted and comprehensive approach, ranging from helping refugees gain resettlement, delivering aid to refugees in camps, training Kurdish troops, air strikes on key ISIS positions, and even stepping up to help defend Kurdish positions that are under intense attack. My colleagues have clearly and succinctly outlined the benefits that our CF-18s provided on the ground in Mosul to our ground troops, as well as the need to maintain those assets in the region.
The most succinct way to describe the government's actions on this motion is this. It is increasing the number of soldiers training forces for the front lines while reducing the capacity of our military to protect those same soldiers. While the increase in the number of troops would automatically increase the risk for Canadians, the government is further exacerbating that increased risk by removing assets available to support our troops and allies on the ground.
What I find most troubling on this matter is that the government fails to explain, after 1,378 sorties by CF-18s, destroying 399 targets, and 251 air strikes, what benefits our allies, Canadians, and our military gain by stepping back. The track record of the Royal Canadian Air Force speaks for itself. We have been deliberate and unwavering in our commitment to freeing the people of the region from tyranny and injustice, that is, until February 17, when the and his cabinet instructed the Royal Canadian Air Force to cease air strikes against ISIS. The government has failed to provide a reason, sensible rationale, or compelling argument as to the goals or objectives that they are trying to fulfill by stepping back from the fight against ISIS.
The reality is that we do not need the to stand in the House to tell us why. We already know. The made a campaign promise without military consultation, without discussion with our allies, without understanding the ramifications or consequences, without a single piece of sound planning. The wrote this foreign policy for political gain rather than effective government policy and then wonders why we are not invited to planning meetings with our allies on the war on ISIS.
When we properly assess the lack of rational arguments provided by the government, it is concerning. The fact that the government, led by a Liberal leader, can make structural change to a military mission based purely on political expedience is shameful, to say the least. At what point do members of the Liberal Party stand and say that this is wrong?
It is wrong to abdicate Canada's responsibility to stand up for those without a voice, it is wrong to leave our men and women on the ground with reduced capacity for reinforcements from the air, it is wrong for Canada to step back on the fight against radical terrorism, it is wrong for Canada to abandon the CF-18 mission against ISIL, it is wrong to make decisions that literally determine whether human beings live or die, live free or in bondage, live or flee in fear based on a campaign promise. I am tired of hearing words like “irresponsible”, “naive”, or “well intentioned” to describe the changes in this motion. The people I have spoken with say there is only one word to describe this motion, and that is “wrong”.
I understand the wants to keep one of his 200 promises to the people of Canada. That makes sense to me. However, why not keep the promise to only go $10 billion in deficit, to have tax changes that are revenue neutral, to be in surplus within four years, to run an open and transparent government, to restore the role and respect of parliamentarians in the House?
Why is it that the only promise the current government has to keep is the one that degrades our ability to help people in an utterly devastated region of the world? In doing so, it walks all over another promise that I just mentioned, that of restoring the role of members of Parliament and operating with respect for parliamentarians. The members of this House are so unimportant to the government that it asked for approval not before ending the air strike mission but after.
I know that during the campaign and while in opposition, the Liberal leader spoke often regarding respect for Parliament. The went so far as to outline this in the very Speech from the Throne that was delivered just months ago. The Prime Minister stated, “In this Parliament, all members will be honoured, respected and heard, wherever they sit. For here, in these chambers, the voices of all Canadians matter.”
On this motion our role was not honoured when the took this House for granted. We were not respected when being asked to approve a motion on an order that had already been made. We were certainly not heard prior to a decision on military conflict.
Here in these chambers only one voice, only one vote, only one perspective mattered, and it was not the voice of a but a leader campaigning to be one. The Prime Minister silenced this House by giving the order to cease operations in advance of the House speaking to his motion.
I am less concerned about the 's 337 colleagues in this House than I am the 36 million people across this country who do not have a voice on a motion that literally deals with life and death. I am less concerned by the political gamesmanship practised by the government to stifle the ability of the opposition to give meaningful contributions to government than I am by the government's approach to stifle the voice of its citizens in this House.
The throne speech stated the following, “Let us not forget, however, that Canadians have been clear and unambiguous in their desire for real change. Canadians want their government to do different things, and to do things differently.”
The government is fulfilling this part of the mandate within the throne speech with this motion. Not only is it doing different things by stepping back from the fight against ISIS, it is doing things differently too.
On March 24, 2015, the member for , then the Prime Minister of Canada, announced a government motion regarding the beginning of an air strike campaign against ISIS and Syria. This was an expansion of an existing air campaign that was solely operating in Iraq.
The decision was put to a vote on March 30, five days before the mission was expanded not five days after. The members of this House therefore stood for all Canadians and they had a say in the expansion of Canada's role prior to its initiation. This is an example of leadership. It is an example of respect for this House, of restoring honour to Parliament, and of giving Canadians a voice. That is a decision of a prime minister I am proud of.
I have one last quote from the throne speech, which I believe clearly applies to this debate, which is, “They want to be able to trust their government.”
This is true. The people of Canada want to trust that the things that its government are telling them are both true and advantageous for its citizens. However, to gain the trust of Canadians, the government must trust that Canadians and their representatives will make the right choice. The current government must allow people to speak through their elected officials and representatives in advance of ending the mission, not as an afterthought.
What insight has been neglected in this House? Which citizens' voices did the current government ignore? We as Canadians expect better from our government, especially when debating actions that will have a direct impact on the great men and women of our armed forces.
Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost respect for and am forever thankful to the men and women who have served, who are serving, and who will serve in the Canadian Armed Forces, and I am glad to extend that respect and gratitude to many of my colleagues who have served in uniform and now serve here in this chamber.
While I personally do not have military experience, I rise in the House today on behalf of the constituents who placed their trust in me to share their views and to advocate for their expectations of the government.
I was glad to hear that the current government would follow the precedent set out by our Conservative government by allowing a fulsome debate on the mission at hand and to hold a vote in Parliament. However, I was extremely disappointed by the lack of transparency and accountability that the current government has shown by bringing our CF-18s home and parking them before this debate is finished and before we have even hold a vote. Surely the government knows better than to try to deliberately mislead Canadians and parliamentarians, or at least so I had hoped.
My constituents, and indeed all Canadians, deserve better from the . What has not been made clear on the government side is why the Liberal government has unilaterally, in opposition to the vast majority of Canadians, decided to pull our CF-18s out of the fight against ISIS.
In response to my remarks, the Liberal government will say that the Conservative Party does not understand that we are part of a coalition. We absolutely do understand that we are part of a coalition. The difference on this side of the House is that we think it is irresponsible to leave the heavy lifting to our allies.
Our pilots are among the most skilled in the world. They are the best of the best. Our allies have specifically requested that they continue. In a radio interview just last month, the confirmed quite succinctly exactly how our allies feel about Canada's role when he said, “Of course they want to keep our CF-18s there”.
Since 2014, these pilots have carried out over 1,300 sorties, almost 800 support aircraft flights, and have destroyed almost 400 ISIS targets. Our brave pilots who carried out these vital missions safeguarded countless innocent and vulnerable people on the ground from the advances of barbarism. That was their contribution. That is the truth. To suggest otherwise undermines these efforts and brings dishonour to our men and women who wear our uniform so proudly.
Unfortunately, we have been given a false choice by the Liberal government. We can either have training and humanitarian assistance or air strikes, but this is not reality. This is not an either/or situation. It is a both/and situation. Let us not forget that we have been doing all of these things since the mission begun. We have had humanitarian support on the ground. We have had training for the local military and police forces and have had our CF-18s in theatre.
If this were simply a question of increasing training for local forces and increasing humanitarian and diplomatic initiatives without changing our air strike contributions, I am sure that there would be unanimous consent from this side of the House. However, the Liberal government has made us choose between either increasing our training mission, humanitarian assistance, and diplomatic ties, or remaining an ally in good standing by remaining in the combat mission with air strikes.
Unfortunately, as I said, the Liberal government has not just made us choose, it has already decided for us. Why? We do not know why. Is it because the Liberal Party of Canada has adopted a non-combat mantra within its top ranks? Is it because it is looking for ways to save money in order to minimize its ballooning deficit and clear economic mismanagement? Does the just personally disagree with air strikes? We have no idea, because the Liberal government, after a full week of debate, has not given us a single reason why we have brought our CF-18s home and taken the greatest pilots in the world out of the fight. The Liberal government has not given us one reason.
We have taken these pilots out of the fight while leaving their brothers in arms on the ground without Canadian aircraft support. Sure, they can now rely on our coalition partners for cover, but Canadians are Canadians are Canadians and we want what is absolutely best for Canadian men and women on the ground, and the best is having our CF-18s overhead.
This is Canada's fight. We have an obligation to stand up for the victims of genocide, to fight against this evil and destructive ideology, and to protect Canadians at home and abroad.
If only our current had the same courage the U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has shown. He understands how a coalition best works together, and it is definitely not by handing over all the hard work to other countries. Mr. Cameron is quoted as saying, “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.”
Professor Hansen, Director of the Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Munk School of Global Affairs, put it best when he said, “There’s nothing admirable in letting other countries do the fighting while you hide behind liberal pieties.”
The United Nations Security Council has determined that the Islamic State constitutes an “unprecedented” threat to international peace and security, calling upon member states with the requisite capacity to take “all necessary measures” to prevent and suppress its terrorist acts on territory under its control in Syria and Iraq.
We are a member state. We have the requisite capacity. Why are we not taking all necessary steps or measures? Canada has a long, proud history of defending innocent and vulnerable populations by taking on those who commit mass atrocities.
However, this is not just a war that is being waged overseas, out of sight, out of mind. ISIS has declared war on Canada and our allies. It is paramount that the government stands shoulder to shoulder with our allies to defend and protect the safety and security of Canadians both here and abroad. Every single one of us and our constituents would prefer a world where military and police were not needed, but we do not live in a perfect world. Evil exists and Canada has an obligation to restrain that evil.
I have had the great privilege of visiting the monumental historic sites of Juno Beach and Vimy. I encourage all members to take the time to visit these sites. These sites exist because Canadians did not shy away from combat. They did not rely solely on their allies. They exist because Canadians rose to the occasion; our brave men and women fought side by side with our allies and defeated the evil of their time.
We need to do the same today. We need to do all that we can to bring peace and stability in the area. We owe it to the refugees whom we are welcoming here in Canada, and we owe it to their families who are still living under the brutal Islamic State regime back home.
Public opinion was very important to the Liberal Party during the campaign season, so why now, since it has seized the brass ring, is it deaf to the voices of Canadians? Why is this ill-conceived election promise any more important than the laundry list of election promises already broken?
It is with the support of my constituents, Canadian citizens, and our allies that I stand in the House today speaking against the government motion and urging the government to allow our CF-18s back in the fight, to re-introduce the greatest pilots in the world back into theatre and take all necessary measures to degrade and destroy ISIS.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
Since 2011, 270,000 people have been killed because of the war in Syria. To give people an idea of what that represents, that would be like wiping out the entire population of four RCMs in my region, from Vaudreuil-Dorion to Hemmingford, Valleyfield, and Ormstown.
The victims include men, women, children, and seniors, people who may have carried a weapon or simply their clothes as they fled the bombings and the atrocities committed by ISIL. There are also 4.5 million refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Europe. That is comparable to all the residents south of an imaginary line running from Mirabel to Lac-Mégantic having to leave Quebec to seek refuge in Ontario, New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine. It is one of the largest human displacements in recent history.
For the past two years, the Canadian government has responded with relatively meagre humanitarian assistance and increased military involvement, as it has sent in fighter jets and several dozen trainers.
Today, the Liberal government has moved a motion that talks about withdrawing the CF-18s and tripling the number of Canadian special forces members, an advise and assist mission coupled with a combat mission, including target painting for air strikes. Humanitarian assistance is increased to $840 million over the next three years.
Unfortunately, the Liberal government, like the Conservatives, believes that increasing our military contribution will help resolve the conflict in that region and allow us to defeat ISIL.
It feels as though we have not learned our lesson from the mistakes made during the war in Afghanistan. First, the parameters of the mission are very vague. The Liberals criticized the Conservatives for that and now the Liberals are doing exactly the same thing. Neither the nor the has provided any details as to what defines a successful Canadian mission. No exit strategy has been presented.
Will the troops stay until ISIL has been defeated? If so, does the government realize that one shot cannot kill an ideology in two years?
The government is giving itself two years before again bringing this issue before the House for debate. I would remind members that this is not a NATO or a UN mission. It is completely unacceptable for the Liberals to ask us for a blank cheque. Even the Conservatives had a debate in the House after six months and then a year.
This is about the lives of our soldiers. Every day, there are more lives at risk in the region. In the meantime, Canada will provide arms and munitions to the Kurds and perhaps to the Iraqi army.
A series of questions come to mind. Which Kurdish group will we give arms to? Will we give arms only to the Iraqi Kurds or to the Syrian Kurds as well? What will happen if Canadian arms are used against Turkish soldiers? What guarantees can the government give us that our arms will not be used to violate human rights?
These are important questions because we have seen in the news recently how a weapon built by a Manitoban company that was sold to Saudi Arabia ended up in the hands of a fighter in the Yemeni civil war. The arms trade is a key component of the war in Syria and Iraq. Every ally provides the side it has chosen with arms and munitions, with very little thought to civilian casualties. The motion does not address this issue at all.
Academics have looked into how to resolve the conflict in Syria. The Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism in Quebec published an article on its website that proposes several solutions. Here are some of the main actions it suggests: link oil revenue to local development, stop adding arms to the conflict, cut off ISIL's oil revenue, push local stakeholders to impose peace in their area, provide logistical and financial support to countries with refugee camps, and cut off tribal and public support for ISIL.
I do not see many connections between the action being taken by the Liberal government and the solutions proposed by experts on the geopolitical situation in the Middle East.
There is something else. I am thinking about proposals at the national level and measures to counter ISIL's messaging in cyberspace, on the Internet. There is nothing at all about that, even though I believe that action desperately needs to be taken in that regard.
As the NDP critic for youth, I find this extremely irresponsible of the government.
By taking military action, we are simply reinforcing the terrorists' ideology and giving them more reasons to recruit young people who feel excluded from western societies. I do not see a single measure in the motion to help us understand the causes of terrorism or learn how to prevent radicalization and keep young Canadians from going to Syria or Iraq to join ISIL. These young men and women feel excluded from our society because they do not have jobs or are subject to racism. They feel excluded and rejected. They are subject to discrimination, among other things.
The terrorist group capitalizes on these feelings of isolation and vulnerability. It attracts these young people with visions of an ideal society in which young people have a role to play. These young people slowly disconnect from our societies and their social networks and spread ISIL's slick and misleading messages.
What is the government doing to counter this? I do not see a single measure in this motion.
ISIL propaganda is dangerous and destructive. Al-Qaeda was responsible for the September 11, 2001, tragedy, and that group has the same backward ideology as ISIL. According to the Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism, ISIL is a kind of al-Qaeda 2.0 because it is even more adept at manipulating social media and messaging and it is better at attracting people. That is why we need to figure out how to tackle ISIL's ideology and messaging just like we need to figure out how to deal with the problem of youth radicalization.
I have not heard anyone in this debate talk about what we can do about cyberspace. Young people between the ages of 15 and 35, people around my age, get a lot of information from the Internet, through social media and websites. It is pretty easy to find ISIL propaganda, as many reports have shown. I am not talking about censorship or trying to prevent ISIL from being on the Internet, because that would be impossible.
However, we need to provide tools to ensure that our young people resist extremist rhetoric. Once again, the motion does not provide any tools to combat ISIL's toxic, regressive and violent ideology, which is flourishing on the web. While we may be having some problems with our youth now, imagine what is going on in the minds of teenagers who have suffered barrel bomb attacks by the Syrian army or physical or psychological torture at the hands of jihadists. Young Syrians who are in refugee camps or trying to cross the Mediterranean will have no hope if the conflict does not find a political solution and if we do not provide any assistance in that regard, especially neutral humanitarian assistance.
Once again, this is not covered. The motion does not place any emphasis on neutral humanitarian assistance. By linking humanitarians assistance with military action, as the Conservatives did in the past, the Liberal government is tainting its assistance and making it harder for our humanitarian organizations to do their work. We are talking about children, teens, and young adults who have been traumatized and have very limited access to basic services like running water, electricity, schooling, and health care.
In closing, I would say that continuing to add weapons only reinforces ISIL's messaging. It thinks this is a war of civilization between Muslims and the west. The best proof that this is absolutely not the case is the fact that currently in Canada, Muslims, Christians, and atheists, regardless of the colour of their skin or their origin, live side by side.
A number of experts have said that more bombing is not going to contain ISIL. On the contrary, the bombings have caused ISIL troops to disperse and find shelter in civilian homes and on their lands. This makes it even easier for them to recruit new soldiers.
What the NDP is proposing and has always proposed for fighting ISIL is not to get involved in a combat mission, but to disrupt the arms trade, the flow of money, and the influx of foreign fighters, in addition to enhancing deradicalization efforts here in Canada.
I will close by quoting United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon:
|| Over the longer-term, the biggest threat to terrorists is not the power of missiles—it is the politics of inclusion.
Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise in the House today, even if it is to speak about such a complex and troubling issue. We must admit that these are very complicated and ongoing geopolitical situations. This violence has existed, in different forms, for many years now.
I think it is important to point out that what we are talking about today is the role that Canada should play. When we talk about the fight against the so-called Islamic State, we often talk about all of the efforts being made. However, our responsibility as parliamentarians is to focus on what we can do better and determine how we can better contribute to the efforts being made in the region.
Before I get into the questions that we have for the government and the solutions that the NDP is proposing, I would like to point out two very important things. The first is that no matter where we come from or what party we belong to, we all support the men and women in our Canadian Armed Forces 100%, before, during and after any missions they participate in. That is very important.
No matter where we come from or what party we belong to, we are all disgusted by the atrocities being committed by the so-called Islamic State. Videos of the atrocities circulate online and cause us to all feel the same horror and indignation. That is also important to note.
Where we unfortunately disagree is on how to proceed, but the two points I mentioned are very important, and I think they should not unfairly taint the debate.
I will start by talking about the questions we have for the government about what is in the motion. Many of our questions show that, unfortunately, history is repeating itself. I am very proud to be a member of the New Democratic Party of Canada, a political party that, in the past 15 years, has been there to ask questions about topics such as our intervention in Afghanistan.
These questions were difficult and unfortunately generated some nastiness. Jack Layton was called Taliban Jack in the House of Commons. Why? Because he dared to ask questions about the length of the mission, the parameters and conditions of victory, and our specific objectives. The ideas were laudable, but unfortunately, we cannot ask the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces to go overseas to defend and accomplish a military mission simply on the basis of ideas. There must be clear objectives. We are asking them to put their lives in danger, so we must ask ourselves these questions.
I remember reading an article in La Presse a few years ago that described the lamentable state of a school in Afghanistan. There was no stairway to the second floor of the school. Schools were falling apart, the very schools that we were supposed to protect and help rebuild. That mission lasted over 10 years and cost many Canadian lives. We did some good, but we did not achieve the objectives we set out to achieve, vague as they were, to a degree that we, as parliamentarians, and the Canadian people deemed satisfactory, not to mention the men and women who gave so much in their attempts to accomplish something in those chaotic regions.
So here we are asking the same questions today. What exactly is the government's objective? How will it define success? How much time should we expect this to take?
As my colleague from just pointed out in her speech, at least the Conservatives had a timeline in the motions they moved in the previous Parliament. They came back to the House every six to 12 months to discuss the mission again with a new motion. In this case, the government moved a motion even though it had already started changing the parameters of the mission without even consulting parliamentarians, and its answers in question period leave a lot to be desired.
We will therefore continue to ask these questions because the answers have been unsatisfactory so far. This is very troubling. That is one reason why we oppose this motion.
Here is another question we would like to ask the government: is this a combat mission, yes or no?
The Liberals here in the House, in this very place where I stand today, asked a number of questions and voted against a Conservative motion, because they said they did not want to support a combat mission. During the election campaign, they also promised to end the combat mission.
Even though the government is withdrawing our CF-18s today, it is putting more men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces in danger, without being able to say why or whether this is actually a combat mission or not. We have gotten no answers on this.
Furthermore, in one of his answers today, the used the term “combat mission”. He finally realized that perhaps he called it what it really is. Then he backpedalled and started talking again about the fight against ISIL. We know, however, from comments made by the and the Prime Minister that the government recognizes that this is a combat mission, even though it does not want to call it that. Let us tell it like it is. That would be a good place to start.
We are raising all these questions, but what is the NDP proposing? Since we do not support this government's or the previous government's approach, we should at least come up with our own proposal and possible solutions. How does the NDP think Canada should contribute to this very dangerous and very important situation in the Middle East, specifically in Iraq?
Before we even go to the region, we need to examine what we are doing here at home. Efforts to combat radicalization and extremism are crucial. That begins here, because after all, we have heard many stories, including some about young people who are going overseas to fight with those terrorist groups. I am grateful that my colleague addressed this issue in her speech.
It is crucial that we take action here at home. Unfortunately, the previous government did not do so, despite Bill , and the current government does not seem ready to do so either.
We are seeing some extraordinary efforts being made, in Montreal for example, and it is quite commendable. However, it is not just up to local authorities to do this work. We expect leadership from the federal government. We expect it to work with religious, local, and police authorities to ensure that young people are not influenced by ISIL's propaganda. This would reduce the number of fighters contributing to the violence in these regions. That is extremely important.
Unfortunately, despite good intentions and fine speeches, there is still no tangible plan to address radicalization here at home. That is what the NDP would like to see.
There are two other important aspects: money and weapons. As far as weapons are concerned, the solution is so simple. The government just has to sign a treaty that was negotiated, but that the Conservatives did not sign. The Liberal government says it wants to sign the treaty, but it has yet to do so.
In the past few days, during this debate, I heard one of the parliamentary secretaries say that the was seized of the matter. If so, I do not believe he sees the urgency because it would be so easy to resolve this problem.
The government already indicated that it intends to sign this treaty, so it should do so. The government should sign it and then we can start doing what we must in order to reduce the influx of arms in the region.
This is especially troubling, as my colleague from and several of my other colleagues pointed out in their speeches, because we know that some of these weapons originated in Canada.
We are asking for more than just transparency. We are asking the government to take real action to ensure that we stop the flow of weapons in this region. We must reduce the influx and take action in true Canadian fashion. In other words, we need to work with our international partners to reduce the arms trade.
With respect to money, we can conduct negotiations together with our allies, the United Nations and other stakeholders and authorities to ensure that we cut off funding for these groups.
This week, we learned that ISIL sustained a serious financial setback. It had such an impact that it reduced ISIL's ability to commit terrible and violent acts in the region. Money is crucial.
Let us continue our efforts. That is the type of role that Canada can have and the one envisaged by the NDP. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be what the Liberal government plans on doing. For that reason, we are going to oppose the motion.
We will continue to ask questions and make specific proposals concerning the positive role that Canada can have.
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speeches and thus wanted to speak to this issue this evening, practically at the end of the debate. I will humbly seek to suggest a compromise.
When it comes to defence and foreign affairs, it is best to be prudent. We have to be able to adapt to problems that are changing and becoming very complex. I do not want to blame the new , who was excited about winning the election on October 19. However, it seems to me that he was somewhat careless when he said the next day that he would withdraw the fighter jets. The jets protected the troops on the ground and at times made it possible to open up humanitarian corridors. He suddenly declared that this was all being withdrawn. There is a way to put things right and to consider that this happened well before many other events that I will talk about shortly.
First of all, I will say that the Bloc Québécois is a pacifist party that has always believed that humanitarian missions could be conducted under the auspices of NATO. The Bloc was open to NATO's peace talks. It has always favoured multilateralism. If one analyzes this complex conflict with an appropriate degree of pragmatism, it becomes clear that the bombings in support of humanitarian efforts on the ground were considered appropriate measures. That was during the election campaign. What happened afterwards?
All the members in this place have read the UN Security Council resolution adopted in November. However, for the benefit of those following our debate who may not be familiar with the resolution, it is important to quote some parts of the UN Security Council resolution of last November. In fact, we heard the call of the UN, which stated:
|| Reaffirming the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations,
|| Reaffirming its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of all States in accordance with purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter,
|| Reaffirming that terrorism in all forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security and that any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable regardless of their motivations, whenever and by whomsoever committed,
|| Determining that, by its violent extremist ideology, its terrorist acts, its continued gross systematic and widespread attacks directed against civilians, abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including those driven on religious or ethnic ground, its eradication of cultural heritage and trafficking of cultural property, but also its control over significant parts and natural resources across Iraq and Syria and its recruitment and training of foreign terrorist fighters whose threat affects all regions and Member States, even those far from conflict zones, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant...constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security,
|| Determined to combat by all means this unprecedented threat to international peace and security,
|| Reaffirming that Member States must ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law,...
|| Reiterating that the situation will continue to deteriorate further in the absence of a political solution to the Syria conflict and emphasizing the need to implement the Geneva communiqué...
|| 1. Unequivocally condemns [and this is where I want to mention what has happened since October 19] in the strongest terms the horrifying terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIL also known as Da’esh which took place on 26 June 2015 in Sousse, on 10 October 2015 in Ankara, on 31 October 2015 over Sinaï, on 12 November 2015 in Beirut and on 13 November 2015 in Paris, and all other attacks...
|| 5. Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures...to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL also known as Da’esh...
The day after the election, when the thought he was doing the right thing by outlining how he was going to keep his election promise with all his political resolve, he ended up carelessly painting himself into a corner. Then the Paris attacks happened and barely a weekend or two ago there was the bomb attack carried out by the Kurds, the very people to whom this government wants to send soldiers. The government is not changing course, but just yesterday morning my colleague said that it would be easy to do so.
The Bloc Québécois agrees with a number of aspects of the motion on Canada's contribution to the efforts against ISIL. As far as the mission statement is concerned, there are many things we agree with, but there is a problem. Beyond the rhetorical debates over whether this is a combat mission or not, and beyond the debates on semantics, after we establish what is really happening in the theatre of operations, what do we do to heed the call of the UN? What do we do, for example, after we have learned, just on February 11, that the 28 NATO countries that are already individually involved in the fight against ISIL now want to join the coalition?
I think we need to follow suit, but following suit does not mean being arrogant and saying that an election promise was made and must be kept. Eventually, the government will have to revisit its plan if it is sending three times the number of soldiers to a theatre of operations where they will be in danger. I do not know who would want to go paint targets on the ground. I do not suppose people are painting targets on the ground in the kitchen out back. It is in a risky theatre of operations. When people are doing that, they are very close to danger whether we call it a combat mission or a support mission.
As my colleague said, the description of the mission is not clear on whether this is training or operational mentoring. If it is just training, even if it is in theatre, that is not the same thing as advising troops on the ground who are advancing and who are in danger of attack.
How many will be in a group, and who will ensure their security? The big question is who will ensure the security of our troops while they are engaged in operational mentoring.
In our view, given this aspect of the mission, asking to keep a reasonable number of CF-18s available seems like a fair compromise. I would remind the House that some Quebeckers believe that national defence and foreign policy are up to Canada alone. However, one-third of the soldiers sent overseas will be Quebec residents, and we are paying for one-quarter of the mission. Any time we send troops into the field, the absolute minimum we must do is to ensure increased security.
Yesterday my colleague suggested that perhaps it would be private firms, mercenaries, or Iraqi forces, who still need training, who will defend and provide security for our troops on the ground. I do not believe that anyone answered the following question: how will security be coordinated within the coalition to ensure that our troops are really being covered during operational mentoring? I think it would have been quite prudent to keep our planes close by, to support our troops, as we did in Ukraine, where there are six CF-18s doing nothing.
That is the compromise the Bloc Québécois is proposing to the House. To those looking for a perfect mission statement here today I would say that we have a mission statement that is going to change in time. What I am saying is that its imperfection must not have a direct impact on the lives of those we are sending into the field. There is a way to reach consensus. So far we get the impression that the mission statement is enough and fairly complete in the government's eyes. It is not very open to some of the amendments proposed by the opposition parties. I would remind the government that even though it has a majority, it was still elected by a minority of voters.
In a parliamentary democracy like ours, when it comes to something as important as this mission statement, as intervening in very risky theatres of operation, then the government has to listen to all the opposition parties. In that sense I think the Conservatives could get behind the Bloc Québécois' position and the compromise it is proposing.
For my NDP colleagues, whom I quite like, I think that the deradicalization centre that was quickly set up in Montreal and admired by Ban Ki-moon, is very important for our young people here at home, as the hon. NDP member said so eloquently in her speech. There are field activities we can do at home and field activities we can do abroad.
When we send our soldiers into a theatre of operations, I imagine that there are not too many people looking for training on human rights. I do not think that deradicalization training would be appropriate either.
At some point, after all of the rhetoric and theatrics, we need to stop being theoretical and start being practical. I urge all parties to be practical and to unite behind a mission statement, which, in my view, needs a bigger consensus than we have right now.
For completely different reasons, which we sometimes partly share with the other opposition parties, the opposition will vote against this mission statement, and the government, with its majority, will pat itself on the back. I think we should try to find a minimum compromise to bring people together on this issue.
In closing, I remind members that human lives are at stake here, and that is why I am calling on parliamentarians in the House to find a compromise.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague for .
I would like to start by thanking the men and women of our armed forces who put their lives in danger each and every day, protecting the principles that allow Canadians to continue living in a free and democratic society, one where individuals do not fear for their lives based on religious values, the colour of their skin, sexuality, or gender, values that our previous Conservative government thought should be protected against all odds, and Canadians agree with our position.
It seems the Liberal government fundamentally misunderstands the nature of terrorism and the threat that ISIS poses to the western civilization. It is not simple thuggery or even organized criminality, as stated by the , and contrary to his belief, it is not caused by climate change either.
Terror, the likes of which we saw in Paris last fall, is designed to undermine civilization and legitimate systems of government. At its core, its aim is the destruction of democracy and equal treatment of citizens, promoting instead a brutal hierarchical system of control, including the sexual enslavement of women and children, and the murder of religious minorities and of gays and lesbians.
This is an ideology worth fighting against with every tool at our disposal. That is why it is simply unacceptable that while our coalition partners are ramping up their efforts to degrade and defeat ISIS, the government has pulled out a key strategic tool in our military arsenal.
The frequently stands in the House and says that his government is committed to openly consulting and engaging with Canadians. Why then has the Liberal government has chosen to ignore the Canadian public when it comes to the fight against ISIS and the brutality it is waging around the world?
This is a fight that has resulted in the deaths of multiple Canadians. It is a fight that has threatened the core principles of western democracies. It is a fight that has seen Canadians recruited and radicalized to join ISIS, many of them just teenagers. It is a fight that has been brought to the steps of the halls of this very House.
I know the and his Liberal government are intent on ignoring the facts and the voices of Canadians in order to blindly fulfill a purely partisan election promise. However, 63% of Canadians say they would either like to see Canada continue bombing ISIS at its current rate or go further and increase the number of bombing missions it conducts, 47% of Canadians believe that withdrawing our CF-18s from the mission will have a negative effect on Canada's international reputation, while fewer than 18% say that it will have a positive one.
The facts are facts. It is difficult for me to comprehend how the Liberals can be so ignorant to the threat that ISIS poses.
Canada's withdrawal from the combat mission against ISIS is a step backward for Canada from our country's traditional role as fighters for human rights and international security. Our men and women in uniform have always fought bravely against those who violate human rights and those who threaten and terrorize the innocent and most vulnerable. When constituents come up to me in the riding or come to my office and ask me why we are not doing everything in our power to wipe out ISIS, what am I to tell them?
The truth is that the Liberal government is not only downplaying Canada's contribution but whittling it down, and all for partisan purposes. The Liberals have said our fighters, our fighter jets, and our pilots have been ineffective. Perhaps there is another plan the government is not telling us about. It would not be the first time a Liberal government has systemically dismantled our military.
The Liberal plan for Canada's mission against ISIS has been indecisive, incoherent, and, frankly speaking, confusing for our allies and for Canadians.
However, pulling out our CF-18s is just one of the factors being debated here in the House. Not only has the left our coalition partners high and dry, he is increasing the exposure of our troops to risk and tripling the number of men and women on the front line. Where does tripling the number of our men and women on the front lines factor into the Liberal campaign promise? I wonder how Canadians feel about that.
Regardless of what the Liberal government calls the mission, more men and women will be put in high-risk positions, deemed high-risk personnel. Simply put, the likelihood of injury, death, or capture is high; again, without a key piece of our military arsenal.
Is the willing to personally deliver the message to the families of our men and women should something terrible happen? Will he stand before those families and say that we did everything we could to protect their mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter?
The military plan that the Liberal government has proposed increases the risk to members of the Canadian Armed Forces while reducing security via air support. We will be 100% reliant on our allies to provide air support for our ground troops.
The Liberal government's plan neglects Canada's obligations to stand up for the vulnerable populations and protect Canadians at home and abroad. It is a step backwards from Canada's traditional role, despite what the government says.
Canada has the capacity to contribute to air strikes, along with training and humanitarian support. The Canadian Armed Forces have been doing so very effectively for over a year. At the very least, I ask, as did my friend from the Bloc who is not here now, that the Liberals leave our aircraft and our world-class men and women—
Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw my comments and I do apologize to the House for both comments that I made.
At the very least, I ask that the Liberals have our aircraft and our world-class men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force in a forward position to provide support and safety for our troops, and those of our allies.
The true test of a leader is when he can stand up, face the people who elected him, and admit that he made an error or misjudged a situation. It is okay for him to say he is wrong. It means standing tall and using the information now at his disposal to make the right decision, even if it is not always the right one or the easy choice.
It is truly unfortunate that I cannot identify one single leader across the floor at this moment who will stand up for Canadians. Not a single person has been able to explain why our CF-18s must be removed from the air campaign. While we are putting more boots on the ground, we are also putting more of our men and women in harm's way without the necessary support to ensure their safety. That is a novel word that we have not been talking about a lot in this debate: safety.
Is that not what we should be focusing on? The safety of our men and women who are serving their country and the safety of Canadians here at home. I have a quote from General Rick Hillier that I would like to read. It is pretty powerful:
|| 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.
This is Canada's fight. ISIS has taken it to our country. ISIS is committing brutal genocide. It has called for and inspired attacks against Canada, including the murder of two Canadian Armed Forces members. As I said earlier, they are recruiting Canadians, many of whom are just kids.
We have an obligation to stand up for the victims of genocide, fight against the twisted ideology, and protect Canadians at home and abroad. We should never have to rely on our allies to protect our Canadian soldiers. If we are going to send more boots on the ground, then we need to ensure the proper force protection is in place.
I offer this in closing, the men and women of our armed forces need to know that just as they stand on guard for our nation and put their lives on the line every single day that we here are fighting for them.
It is our job to ensure that when decisions are made that impact Canadian lives, be it during secret cabinet meetings or on a cocktail napkin on a Liberal campaign bus, that we will continue to stand and fight for those who put their lives in danger, those who risk their lives every single day, so we can sleep soundly, and the maple leaf can stand tall.
Simply put, Canadians deserve better.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak on the government's motion pertaining to Canada's anti-ISIS mission. However, first, like several others, I wish to thank the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces for their service. I would also note that I know that my colleagues, both on this side and the other side of the House, also support our forces unequivocally. I know we all wish the best for Canada and its interests, but just think we should go about it a different way.
Canada has a long and proud tradition of helping our allies when it comes to stopping evil and terror from spreading throughout the world. Make no mistake, ISIS's main goal is to do just that, spread terror and its evil ideology around the globe.
I support the notion of stopping ISIS dead in its tracks, but the motion before the House today does not do that. Instead, it weakens our abilities in the fight while sending a contradictory message to our men and women who are in the trenches fighting to keep us safe.
I would like to dispel some of the misconceptions being spread by certain members on a certain side of the House, who claim that the actions put forth in the motion are taking the fight directly to ISIS.
Let us begin with the fact that the government wants to end air strikes against ISIS targets. The decision to do so is simply an uninformed one. I know how much the government loves to say its policies are evidence based, but the evidence is against it on this one. It is a fact that air strikes have been the safest and most effective form of eradicating the enemy, especially one like ISIS, a group that is dispersed across a vast amount of land in pockets of population. Unlike ISIS, which has a ground game and no modern technological capabilities, we are able to hugely degrade ISIS through our air strikes, keeping our men and women safe and out of harm's reach. The Americans, British, and French are doing it. What is even stranger is the fact that all these countries except Canada are contributing to an air strike mission against ISIS.
None of our allies have asked us to pull our fighters out. In fact just the other day, the American general leading the coalition air campaign against ISIS jihadists called out our government's decision to pull the jets out. Lt.-Gen. Charles Brown just yesterday said: “Ideally, I would like the Canadians to come back at some point, but I know that there are local decisions that have to be made in Canada for that to happen.” Those local decisions are merely partisan political decisions being made by the government as a result of a campaign promise during the previous election.
The government has broken its campaign promise on its tax hikes being revenue neutral. It has broken its campaign promises on settling Syrian refugees. It has broken its campaign promises on how large the deficit will be. Pulling out our CF-18s is one campaign promise I would dearly love to see our Liberal government break. It is sad to see that the government is taking direction not from defence and intelligence officials but from political backroom staff and campaign war rooms.
Strangely enough, while the government plans on pulling out our fighter jets, it is sending more Canadian men and women out into the field. This is simply dangerous for our men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces, and potentially deadly. Sending more Canadian boots on the ground to assist with training and humanitarian support while depleting our air power capability leaves our men and women in uniform vulnerable. This move sets a very dangerous precedent. When we deploy Canadians on mission we back them up with all our capabilities. We do not handicap them, nor put them in further danger because of campaign promises.
The Liberal government, however, is deploying more Canadians while significantly scaling back our capabilities that would ensure their safety. It is putting our ground forces at risk, not because of a coherent plan but because of a campaign promise. We have heard again and again in response to why it is pulling out our jets that it is a campaign promise. It is not because it is best for our forces or our allies, but it is a campaign promise.
Canada has the capacity to continue to contribute to air strikes alongside training and humanitarian support. Canadian Armed Forces personnel have been doing so very effectively for the past six months.
Our party has said repeatedly that we do not oppose increased ground forces, but oppose the decision to pull out our CF-18s.
The motion makes it clear the Liberals remain incoherent on the air combat mission. They have not provided any explanation on how the withdrawal of the CF-18s will help the coalition more effectively defeat ISIS. Despite the Liberal government's supposed opposition of bombing, Canadian aircraft will continue to refuel planes that conduct air strikes and we will continue to identify targets for allied planes to strike.
To add to the confusion, while the government pulls out our CF-18s, there is talk about deploying four of our Griffon helicopters. We do not know why this is being done and how the helicopters will be used in furthering our objective of eradicating ISIS. However, I can say this much. The Conservative caucus has several questions for the government. Why are these helicopters being deployed? Will they be used for combat, and if so, how? What precautions will be taken to protect our helicopter pilots and crews from enemy ground fire, given the removal of our air capabilities?
I realize that this is not question period, so I will stop my questions. However, they highlight a multitude of problems and a lack of clarity in the government's decision to whip out our helicopters and throw them into an active war zone, not to mention the fact that deploying our helicopters while simultaneously removing our CF-18s highlights the incoherent, ill-conceived plan put forward by the government.
Allow me to say that not one of our allies supports this decision by the Liberal government to pull out of the air strike mission against ISIS. No one has asked the to pull out, and no one is cheering on this move, except for the and his caucus.
While our is pulling back and hiding behind the shadows of our allies, our allies are leading the charge against ISIS. This could not be made more clear than Canada being snubbed by our allies at a recent anti-ISIS meeting. Six months ago, our foreign affairs minister hosted an international meeting in Quebec City to discuss the military and political aspects of the mission against ISIS. Today we are not even welcome to have a seat at the table.
While our coalition partners are stepping up their efforts to degrade and defeat ISIS, the Liberal government is stepping back. The decision to withdraw Canada's CF-18s is seen by our allies as stepping back rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
It is also quite clear that this move has absolutely nothing to do with Canada's long-term strategy for fighting ISIS. Rather, it is nothing more than a political stunt being orchestrated by the government and its PR team.
This motion is a disgrace for our military and a disgrace for our allies, and it weakens our standing in this world. For these reasons, I will not be supporting the motion.
Mr. Speaker, as we are winding this debate down, I thought we should do a kind of compare and contrast.
On the advise-and-assist mission, the Liberal Party is proposing a mission three times the size of the Conservative mission. The Liberal Party is proposing a mission on intelligence twice the size. Actually, the Conservatives are not proposing any intelligence mission whatsoever.
We are proposing a medical capability. The Conservatives are not proposing any capability whatsoever. We are proposing using four helicopters. The Conservatives are not proposing the use of any helicopters.
We are proposing enhanced diplomatic engagement. The previous government pretty well burned every diplomatic bridge in that region, so anything is an improvement over what the Conservative position has been.
To the credit of the previous government, it engaged in humanitarian assistance. We have actually upped the humanitarian assistance. We have as of this week brought into this country something in the order of 24,000 refugees. Under the Conservative plan, no refugees would be here.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. John McKay: I went through this election, Mr. Speaker, along with you and everyone else. It was the who drove the commitment to receive refugees in this country, and it was opposed by that party, which sowed the seeds of fear of terrorists among the refugees.
Who is stepping up here and who is stepping back?
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House and debate important issues to all Canadians. I believe our responsibility and our commitment in the fight against ISIL is one of those extremely important issues facing Canadians and those of us in Parliament.
I will be splitting my time, Mr. Speaker, with the hon. member for .
First, I would like to thank the brave men and women who wear our nation's uniform in the Canadian Armed Forces for their professionalism and their dedication to service. I believe I am speaking on behalf of all members in the House when I say we are tremendously proud of what they have achieved. Because of their world-renowned reputation, we are honoured to call ourselves Canadians.
Our men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force are some of the best pilots, the best air crew and the best technicians anywhere in the world. We have an incredible history from the early days of World War I to Billy Bishop to the accomplishments we made through World War II, Korea, Afghanistan, and even today. We made a reputation for being some of the best fighting men and women anywhere in the world.
The brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are always willing to do the heavy lifting, which includes degrading and defeating ISIS, a terrorist group committing mass atrocities, inspiring terrorist attacks around the world, and has declared war not only on the Middle East, but Canada and our allies.
Our contribution to the fight against ISIS has been absolutely incredible. Our men and women in uniform have protected our soldiers, helped stave off the advance of terrorism, and played an integral role in the coalition. I would to thank them very much for everything they have done.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of my speech and my debate, the one thing I really feel is important to mention here is the disingenuous debate we are having on this topic at all. The fact is that the announced that he had already halted the CF-18 mission before the debate even started. He has disrespected the House, every member of Parliament, and, most important, he has disrespected every Canadian who wanted a fulsome open debate on an issue of this magnitude. They want a real debate within the House of Commons, but they are not getting that debate because they know the decision has already been made.
If they do not think Canadians care about due process, I would encourage the government and the to speak to the Alberta NDP government. It made a similar mistake in December when it put forward a farm bill and had consultations, debates and meetings after third reading was already scheduled. What happened? Every farmer and rancher in Alberta became extremely upset. They made a huge difference and rallied for their friends and neighbours. The Liberals should take a real lesson that Canadians will not stand by and let these disingenuous decisions be made without having a fulsome and legitimate debate within the House of Commons.
I find it somewhat ironic that the government is making such a decision. Last year when we voted in the House to proceed to put our military in Syria and Iraq, I heard lots of calls and consternation from the other side saying we were not having enough debate on taking military action in the fight against ISIS. However, we had a real debate and we had a real vote on taking that action. Each and every member of the House had the opportunity to speak before a decision was made, something the Liberal government has not given us the benefit of the doubt to do. It should be ashamed of taking that action.
I had an opportunity earlier this week to speak to several military families in my riding. I wanted to ask them how they felt about what was going on in Syria and Iraq and about the motion being put forward by the Liberal government. Their message was crystal clear, and I cannot stress this enough. If ever there was a time for them to get in the fight, this was it. This is what they have trained for, to fight against the atrocity of ISIS. If there were ever a time where they felt it was the moment to put their life on the line, this was it.
They understand that ISIL is a threat not only to the Middle East, but it is a threat to Canadians at home and abroad. They want to do everything they possibly can to protect Canadians. To do that, they need to be part of the fight. They need to be in the action. That is what they have trained for, that is what they want to do. They have not spoken to one single member of the military who does not believe we should be in this fight against ISIL.
Yesterday, the Liberal government's position on this became really quite clear. A member of the Liberal Party said that our military contribution in the fight against ISIL was just a token gesture. I cannot believe the disrespect the member would show to our men and women in uniform who are putting their lives on the line to fight one of the most disgusting things we have seen in a generation. The Liberals call that a token gesture. I find that completely disrespectful to the men and women of our military.
Our job is supposed to be to support our allies with whatever contributions we can make. For example, Belgium has two fighter jets as part of the coalition—just two. Belgium is not pulling out its jets, nor do I believe our allies are calling Belgium's contribution a token effort. If the Liberals truly believe that our commitment and our contributions to the coalition are a token effort, why does the motion they have put forward not include an increase in our air support? Why does it not call for having 12 CF-18s, if the Liberals believe this is really a token effort, instead of pulling out the six CF-18s we now have there?
This member also questioned whether ISIL was even a terrorist group at all. I find it quite astonishing that the current government would be this out of touch with what ISIL really represents.
Moreover, I find it incredible that it would be this out of touch in understanding the magnitude of the impact our CF-18 have had in the fight against ISIS. For example, our CF-18s have conducted more than 250 bombing missions; and as of February, 249 missions against ISIS fighting, 83 against ISIS equipment and vehicles, and 24 against ISIS improvised explosive factories and storage facilities. Despite this success, we are taking our dogs out of the fight.
Not only are we taking a major asset out of the fight, we are putting our men and women on the ground at further risk. The Liberals argue that pulling our CF-18s will not mean further risk to our men and women on the ground. This is simply not the case.
First, I for one do not want to rely on someone else to protect our men and women in uniform. I think that is our job. Our Canadian Armed Forces and our Royal Canadian Air Force train together. They communicate with one another. They know they can depend on one another. Without our CF-18s, there is a significant safety risk and they are reducing the capabilities of our Armed Forces. Six CF-18s have the same impact in a fight as 400 to 600 boots on the ground. What is safer? Is it 600 boots on the ground, or 6 in the air? My argument is that we would be much safer and at less risk if kept our CF-18s in the fight.
Second, our CF-18s are absolutely the most technologically advanced aircraft among our allies in the coalition. They absolutely have capabilities that some of our allies do not. This means that they could take on tasks other air forces in the coalition would not be able to do.
Third, we are losing our influence in the planning. When we take a major asset out of the fight, we are losing a spot at the big-kids' table. We are going to be on the bench. I do not think that in a fight of this magnitude, Canadians expect us to be sitting on the bench.
Also, our military may be handicapped. There are differences in rules of engagement among our allies, differences in communication, and definitely differences in priority. One of the things I am really concerned about with this decision is the communication between our CF-18s and our ground forces, as well as the fact that we will not be a priority for allied air forces. For example, we saw this in Afghanistan when we did not have our CF-18s there. Many of the missions we put forward were delayed because we were waiting for allied air assets. God forbid that something would happen that our men and women would be in danger and they did not have air support. Knowing that our CF-18s are there, those on the ground would be reassured that they are always the number-one priority for our CF-18s. Our Royal Canadian Air Force would be there to back them up. They have trained together, they communicate with one another, and it is a huge morale booster for our men and women on the ground knowing our CF-18s are there.
In conclusion, I would like to say that our men and women in the military want our CF-18s there. Our allies want our CF-18s there. Most importantly, the vast majority of Canadians want our CF-18s there. Of all the broken promises that the current Liberal government has had in the last 100 days, why is this the one it is so adamant to keep when the rest of Canadians do not agree with it?
I implore the and the members of this House to vote against this motion.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise in the House today at this late hour to be one of the final speakers on what is a very important motion about a very important issue.
It is important to begin by acknowledging the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces, especially in the Royal Canadian Air Force for all they have done in the mission to this point. It is also important to recognize the families and loved ones of those members of the Canadian Forces. When our brave men and women are deployed, so often it is their loved ones, their families, manning things at home and keeping the support when they are overseas. Their families and loved ones are owed a great deal of respect and thanks as well.
Canada's men and women in uniform are called upon to travel to some of the most hostile and uninhabitable places in the world to protect the most vulnerable, to fight terrorism, and to promote Canadian values. The Canada we have today would not be this great country if it were not for the past sacrifices of the brave men and women who have worn our uniform.
I am pleased that the government was actually bringing this debate to the House because I believe it is important that we have a fulsome debate on a military deployment. That was the convention that was ingrained in this great Parliament by our previous government. When important military issues were to be undertaken, they were brought to Parliament to be debated and voted upon.
Therefore, I was initially pleased that the government was bringing the motion to the House, only to find out that, as the Liberals were presenting the motion, they had already ended the CF-18 mission. It is disingenuous at best and it is disappointing that they would break this convention that this great Parliament has set.
Canada must not be a passive player on the world stage. We must and should be a global leader in the protection of human rights and in the fight against terrorism. We must stand up for the rights of people suffering around the world and stand against those who commit horrendous and heinous acts against the most innocent in our societies.
Canadians are disappointed with their government and the steps it has taken away from the important mission against ISIS. In fact, last July, the member for , previously the minister for foreign affairs, hosted an international meeting here in Canada of those nations who are contributing to the fight against ISIS.
Our then minister of foreign affairs hosted that meeting. Fast forward to Paris recently, there was another such meeting of our allies who are undertaking a mission against ISIS, but Canada was not even invited. We went from hosting the meeting to not even being invited. This seems to be an emerging trend with the current Liberal government when it comes to its foreign policy.
I find it interesting that the and Liberals often claim that their first act of coming to office was to propose a middle class tax cut. The fact of the matter is that it was not their first act. Their first act was for the Prime Minister to call up President Obama and say that he was withdrawing our CF-18s from the fight against ISIS. That was his first foray into international relations and international politics. It was to withdraw from the fight.
Canada must continue to play an important role in Iraq and Syria against ISIS.
Upon hearing the news of our withdrawal of the CF-18s, Jabar Yawar, chief of staff and spokesman for the Kurdish regional government’s Peshmerga ministry said, “It is bad news for us. Canada was a major partner in the coalition and it was a great help to Kurdistan”.
Canada is abandoning our allies in the region. The decision to withdraw Canada's CF-18s is nothing more than the fulfillment of an ill-conceived campaign promise. What is most troubling is that neither the nor the , nor, frankly, any member opposite has really provided an explanation as to why or how withdrawing our CF-18s is actually helpful to our international allies. The government's new course is not the best strategy to combat ISIS and it is hurting Canada's reputation on the world stage.
What is more confusing about the position the government has taken is that while the Liberals oppose the CF-18s actually carrying out any actual bombing, under the plan being put forward, Canadians and Canadian aircraft will still participate in the refuelling of planes and identifying targets for the international coalition. The Liberals want the benefits of appearing to withdraw, but still want to be in the fight as well. They cannot have it both ways.
When historians look back at how Canada and its forces contributed to the fight, I think they will find us wanting on this particular point. Withdrawing the CF-18s will serve to be a major point of contention and a disappointment going forward.
In November 2015, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum released a report that ISIS had committed genocide against Iraq's Yazidi population. It found that ISIS fighters had carried out crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, and war crimes against other minorities. Why is the government choosing to turn its back in the face of such evil?
While some members across the way are hesitant to use the word genocide, that is exactly what it is, and that is exactly why Canada and its CF-18s should be part of the fight. In fact, Canadians continue to support this viewpoint. Recently, on February 6, 2016, an Angus Reid poll found that 63% of Canadians would like to see Canada continue the bombing mission. In fact, some would like to see our bombing mission even further enhanced. The Canadian public understands the importance of the fight against ISIS and of being actively involved in the CF-18 mission.
We can also be extremely proud of the men and women of the air force. Colonel Sean Boyle, who commanded the air force task force for Iraq between April and October 2015, recently confirmed that Canadian bombing missions did not lead to any civilian casualties. This speaks volumes to the skill and professionalism of our brave men and women in uniform. Why would the Liberal government want to withdraw our most effective fighter pilots instead of commending them and giving them a vote of confidence for their hard work and the skill with which they have participated in this mission thus far?
Taking our CF-18s out of this mission is a further step in reducing our standing and Canada's presence on the world stage. Much as they are doing in an effort to seek to normalize relations with Iran, the government is damaging our reputation abroad. If we are not willing to take a firm stand against nations and terrorist groups that commit horrendous acts, like ISIS, we will no longer be respected to the degree we are on the world stage.
Further, from 2012 on, our previous Conservative government committed $1 billion in humanitarian development and stabilization aid in the region. This was part of a multi-faceted approach to fighting ISIS. There was not only the military effort with the CF-18s but also humanitarian and development assistance for those on the ground.
We cannot deliver humanitarian aid if we are not providing military support. We cannot build for peace if we are not willing to fight for peace.
Canada must show that it is willing to stand up for our values and freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and association, the equality of women, and the rule of law.
Canadians understand the importance of the responsibility to protect. It is not enough to simply talk about rights and freedoms; we must be willing to defend the defenceless when called upon, not just in words but with force, when necessary. When dealing with a group as evil as ISIS, force is necessary.
I am proud to stand in the House and oppose the motion put forward by the Liberal government. Withdrawing our CF-18s at this time shows a lack of confidence, on that side of the House, in our brave men and women of the Canadian Forces. I am proud to stand with the men and women of the Royal Canadian Air Force and commend them on all they have done thus far in the fight. I would encourage the government to re-evaluate the proposal and leave our CF-18s in the fight.
Mr. Speaker, I do not like war, I do not like conflict, and I do not like fighting. Over the past few days, many of my colleagues have told the House what they think of the war against ISIS. This is not a war in the traditional sense of the word because the enemy does not have a country.
That is actually what worries me most about what is going on right now in Syria, Iraq, Africa, and everywhere. The new enemy of the modern world is stateless. What does that mean? It means that this new enemy has nothing to lose. If we manage to gain ground, all that means is a setback for the enemy in a country that does not belong to it anyway.
No matter where it is, this new enemy is not at home. It cares little for the people left broken, mutilated, dead, and raped in its wake because it does not want territory, it wants souls, and unfortunately, it has no territory. Fortunately, it has no territory.
I do not like war, I do not like conflict, I do not like fighting. As representatives of Canadians, we must ask ourselves how we can face this new enemy that does not use recruitment centres to recruit soldiers, but uses Internet forums, which are unfortunately filled with impressionable people who are prepared to believe someone who promises them happiness on this earth or elsewhere.
They have no country, no land. They have only enemies that they have learned to hate and detest. They have only enemies that they must destroy, kill, rape. These soldiers have nothing to lose but their illusions, and they are convinced that dying will bring them even closer to victory over their enemies.
The so-called Islamic State is a threat to the entire world. As I said earlier, this insidious war is nothing like the other major conflicts we courageously fought over the centuries. Our enemy can choose any battlefield. No one is immune. We have even experienced it here, in Canada.
Fortunately for us, our enemy chose to concentrate on a very specific area by calling all its sympathizers to arms in the hopes that it could take advantage of a people's suffering and the disorganization of areas already at war to gain credibility and claim territory. It is shamelessly stealing that territory from local populations.
We have a unique opportunity to live in a country where it is still possible to live a life free from war. I am very grateful for that. Even if everything goes well, Canada is not immune. We know that. People died here in Canada, victims of this terrible war. I do not like this war, but we have to fight it. We cannot turn a blind eye. The ocean and the miles of land that separate us from the battlefield do not make us immune.
As long as these soldiers without a country believe they have a chance of winning the war, they will continue to target innocent people. Unfortunately, just recently, the so-called Islamic State won a victory as a result of our weakness. A member of the coalition decided to withdraw from the combat zone. Without dropping a single bomb on that country, the so-called Islamic state brought it to its knees. The longer the conflict goes on, the more such victories ISIS will win.
Unfortunately, this government's decision to withdraw the CF-18s from the mission is the sort of victory ISIS is looking for. For purely political reasons, the Liberal government granted ISIS this moral victory. There is still time for the government to change things and take away this moral victory it gave ISIS. It is by leaving our CF-18s where they are that we will send ISIS the right message.