Mr. David Anderson (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Consular, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is good to be here today.
It is interesting to see that the Liberals actually showed up in the House for the vote on closure, but they do not seem to be that interested in the debate. I think they have had four speaking slots and have only used two of them. We will see whether they have a little more interest in this as we go forward.
It is intriguing to see the change the Liberals have made in their party over the last few years. One of their policy documents, “Canada in the World: A Global Networks Strategy”, states:
|| Another Canadian-inspired idea, Responsibility to Protect, will ensure that military intervention is truly a last resort, but that when sovereign states fail to protect their people and the international community mobilizes to stop large-scale harm to innocent life (for example in genocide and ethnic cleansing), Canada will be there.
However, the Liberals do not seem to be willing at all to support that statement in their own policy document. It has been interesting to listen to them talk about the fact that they want there to be humanitarian aid, but they really do not want it the way it is delivered right now. They want things to settle down there, but they will not make the commitment in any way that would help us find a solution to the conflict that is taking place.
The NDP talked a little earlier this afternoon about its doctrine that it once had responsibility to protect, and it seems to have gone a long way away from that as well. One NDP member today talked about 60 nations operating together as being unilateral action. Of course, we would disagree with that.
This afternoon, I would like to put a bit of a face on some of the conflict we have been seeing over the last few years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights just released a report in the last few days that talks about the situation in northern Iraq and Syria. I want to talk about that and try to put a face on some of the victims that are being pressured so aggressively by ISIL.
We know that Iraq has had decades of authoritarian government and civil strife. A lot of people, through the violence, have been killed over the years. The so-called Islamic State surfaced last year for the most part out of a lack of inclusivity that was part of the political system in Iraq. It was able to finally begin to expand where it had not been able to previously.
In January 2014, it showed up in the city of Fallujah. In April, Anbar was a battleground. By May, 500,000 civilians had been displaced. It hit Mosul and Tikrit in June. It was able to seize Sinjar and other areas around there in August. Then we began to hear of the many irregularities that were taking place, the serious human rights abuses. By the time that the Yazidi Christians had been evacuated from that area, over 1.5 million people had been displaced from their homes. That is a huge situation and it is disappointing that the opposition parties are not willing to agree to activities that would solve the situation there.
I want to talk about some of the groups that have been attacked in that area. First, the attacks on the Yazidis have received media attention. As I mentioned, ISIL hit the Sinjar area and was able to force the Yazidis out of there. It has been persecuting the Yazidis as a group, based on their religious beliefs. It has systematically and in a widespread fashion carried out atrocities against the Yazidi population on the Nineveh plains and the Yazidi-populated cities and villages.
ISIL has separated the men and women from the children. It has taken men away, and in many places the men have been executed. The women have been taken as what is called spoils of war. The women and girls have been separated into three groups and taken away. It has also detained many of them for months. For example, the United Nations report tells us a group of 196 disabled Yazidis, including the elderly, children, and many people who were ill, were held captive in Mosul and Tal Afar for months. We can see that the Yazidi community has been targeted as one of the specific communities that ISIL has been trying to destroy.
Christians are seen, as the report points out, as “people of the book”. That is a classification that has granted them certain protection in comparison to other ethnic and religious groups over the years, but not with ISIS.
In August of 2014, an estimated 200,000 Christians and members of other ethnic and religious groups in the Nineveh plains were forced to flee. There were 50,000 people who had previously been displaced from Mosul who were mostly Christians as well. Of course, we have heard of many other places. In Qaraqosh, ISIL pillaged and destroyed the buildings in the city, including a lot of historic Christian cathedrals and churches. Basically, it took possession of all of the possessions and all of the identity documents of the families who could not leave and then expelled them from the city.
Shia Muslims have been subject to attacks as well. The pattern has been consistent right across all of these groups where ISIL surrounds villages. It kills the inhabitants who cannot escape, burns and destroys houses, businesses and places of worship and then pillages private and public places. That has gone on in the Shia areas as well. We know that it has executed men and abducted numerous members from Shia and Shabak communities.
It has laid siege in different places. One example is in Amerli, where it laid siege in June of 2014. It cut off the water and power 20 days into the siege and the people who were inside that community were not able to get out. There were 15,000 people trapped in there. Eventually, people were drinking contaminated water and getting sick or dying. The siege was finally broken in September of 2014.
We know there was a prison in Badoosh, where ISIS went in, took the prisoners out, separated them into groups according to their ethnic or religious affiliations and then killed them. In particular, the Sunnis were taken out to a ravine, shot and piled into that ravine.
There have been politically motivated attacks throughout the area as well, particularly against those who have been affiliated with the government. We have seen police officers, members of the Iraqi armed forces, public servants, members of parliament and people who were running for elected office targeted. These folks were not targeted specifically because of a perceived ethnic or religious identity but because they were linked to the government or have been trying to work with the government.
We know that approximately 1,500 members of the Iraqi armed forces from Camp Speicher in Salah ad-Din governorate were summarily executed on June 12 by ISIL.
All of that pales in comparison to some of the sexual and gender-based violence reports that have come out, particularly against the Yazidi women. When attacking Yazidi villages, ISIL would typically kill the men but would also take the women and children as well. There have been widespread killings, enslavement, the selling of women, rape, sexual slavery, forced transfer of women and children, and the inhuman and degrading treatment of them. If we take a look at the report, it goes into far more detail than I am willing to or interested in going into today. Many of the girls and the unmarried women can recount the process of enslavement they went through as well.
ISIL is not above recruiting and using children. Young male children were taken to training centres and forced to watch videos of beheadings in an attempt to desensitize them so that it could convince them to join with it.
A ton of crimes have been committed here. Our government knows that we need to be involved. We have heard many hours of discussion about this, but the challenges that Iraq faces are daunting. Canada and the coalition of 60-plus countries, including many in the Arab world, are supporting Iraq and responding to the threat of ISIL. Progress has been made on military fronts, humanitarian fronts, political fronts and human rights fronts.
We value our good relations with Iraq. Canadians can be proud that Canada and this government is doing its part to fight ISIL. Canada will continue to work together with Iraq in support of the Iraqi people's aspirations for the stability, security, prosperity and freedom that we so much take for granted.
Mr. Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I take to the floor today to seek recognition by this House of Commons that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL as it is more commonly called, represents a clear and a continuing threat to Canada.
I fully support our government's decision to extend the current military mission in Iraq. It is clear to all of us that ISIL poses a significant threat to local and regional stability and to international peace and security overall.
We have just to turn on our TV sets to witness the barbarity of these ultra-radicalized jihadists. By displacing more than two million people they have created a severe humanitarian crisis in Iraq and in neighbouring countries. By systematically persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, they have caused the death of thousands of innocent men, women and children, as the parliamentary secretary who spoke before me very clearly and very articulately laid out.
By conducting barbaric acts against western hostages and the Jordanian pilot, we all remember his fate, they have signalled to the world that they are prepared to go to any length to cultivate and to spread terror.
This group has issued an edict to their followers to attack Canadians. ISIL is active on social media and the Internet, spreading their hateful ideology and their propaganda, encouraging their followers to target innocent people wherever they live, and calling on would-be fighters to rise up and join them on Middle Eastern battlegrounds.
They have inspired the terrible tragedies that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa. They gleefully cheered when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, men in uniform who pledged to defend our country, were felled by the cowardly and terrorist actions of radicalized Canadians.
It is clear that ISIL represents a continuing threat to Canada and Canadians. This is why Canada needs to extend the mission in Iraq, expand its operation to Syria and do its part to deter and degrade this threat. Canada will always do her part and the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are playing an exceptional role in the coalition against ISIL.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence said, Canada is punching away above its weight, and we should all be proud of all of our men and women serving abroad today.
I would like to go into some detail about the contribution being made by our air assets. To date, CF-18 Hornets have conducted over 436 sorties, resulting in the destruction of ISIL vehicles, heavy weapons, IED factories, storage facilities and fighting positions. By damaging or destroying assets like these, the Canadian Armed Forces not only degrades ISIL's combat capability and prevents ISIL fighters from establishing safe havens, but they are also enabling the Iraqi forces to go on the offensive. Ultimately it will be the responsibility of the Iraqi forces to bring sufficient pressure to bear on ISIL and eliminate the threat that it represents.
The CP-150 Auroras, outfitted with advanced imaging systems, radar and other sensors, have conducted over 122 reconnaissance missions, collecting the critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data that is used to identify and strike targets accurately, as well as to assess the battle damage that they cause. The modernized Aurora is a cutting-edge platform. The information this aircraft collects not only enhances the effectiveness of air strikes, but also helps avoid collateral damage by ensuring that targets are limited strictly to military objectives. In fact, our Auroras have made a crucial contribution to what is considered the most precise, close air support campaign in history.
Last, the CC-150 Polaris refueller has conducted over 111 sorties, delivering more than six and a half million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft. That is absolutely stunning. By delivering fuel to fighters in the air, it acts as a force multiplier by allowing these aircraft to lengthen their sorties and fly further into the battle space. Our Polaris is helping the coalition to maintain pressure on ISIL throughout Iraq. Moreover, our special operations forces on the ground are working to advise and assist the Iraqi forces to make them more effective. They are increasing their confidence and ability to plan, to mount and to execute operations against ISIL, and they are making a real difference, a difference that both opposition parties oppose.
Given all of this overwhelming evidence, I quite frankly do not understand how the opposition opposes what clearly is the right thing to do. The contributions of the Canadian Armed Forces have not only been highly effective, but highly valued by the coalition. For the past six months the coalition is seeing real signs of progress. Through the aerial campaign, the coalition has hit ISIL targets in Central Iraq and northwest of Baghdad in areas that are both controlled and contested by ISIL. These efforts have reduced ISIL's freedom of movement and ability to make territorial gains.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces have wrestled the city of Al-Baghdadi back from ISIL control and are working to regain Fallujah. In northern Iraq, Iraqi forces are gradually taking back the ground east of Mosul where ISIL is in a defensive posture. This demonstrates improvement, but there is still much more to do. Our participation in this multinational mission is in line with Canadian values and Canadian interests.
As the Prime Minister has said, it is not the Canadian way to sit on the sidelines and let others do the heavy lifting for us. Indeed, a broad international coalition of more than 60 partners, approximately 30 of which are contributing to military efforts led by the United States, is working together to confront ISIL head-on.
Canada is collaborating with some of our closest allies and partners, including the governments of the United States, France, Netherlands, Denmark and many others, which are all committed to degrade and to defeat ISIL. This fight against ISIL is not about the politics of right or left, as the opposition would have people believe. It is about doing the right thing and acting in Canada's national interest. Many of our allies are left-of-centre governments and they are fully committed.
Moreover, Middle Eastern countries are playing a vital role in the coalition, demonstrating that this is not a western conflict against Islam, but rather a fight that pits broad international concern for Iraq and Syria, regional stability and humanitarian assistance against murderous extremism. Most of ISIL's victims are other Muslims, including its own members who fall out of favour with the leadership.
Any mission carries with it a degree of risk, but the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are prepared so they can face these challenges. They are rigorously trained prior to deployment overseas, equipped to the highest standards and operate within specific rules of engagement that mitigate risks wherever feasible.
I would also note that the risks to Canadian personnel will be alleviated by dedicated personnel recovery capability, which is provided by the coalition and includes a high readiness combat search and rescue capacity prepared to respond should it prove necessary.
ISIL is a group that decries modern civilization and it equally abhors anything that does not accord with its world view. As part of this relentless campaign to eradicate culture over the last few weeks, we have borne witness to the destruction of the 3,000 year old Assyrian city of Nimrud, the seventh century statues from the ancient city of Nineveh, housed in a museum in Mosul, and most recent, the bulldozing of the ancient city of Hatra, which is dated the second or third third century BC.
The head of UNESCO has declared that this deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime.
ISIL is not merely content to threaten the present and the future of the people of the Middle East. It is determined to erase their culture and their past in an attempt to revise history. We must prevent and contain this peril before it leads to the entrenchment of oppressive rules across this region.
As the Prime Minister has said, we have helped feed 1.7 million people in Iraq, provided shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people and given education to at least half a million children. We have also helped to support 200,000 refugees in Iraq with food, water, shelter and protection.
The choice between military action and humanitarian aid is not a one or the other proposition as the Liberals and NDP would have people believe. Our experience in the recent past has shown that we cannot expect quick and decisive victories and if we falter now, ISIL will continue to gain strength, increase its brutality and ruthlessness.
We must remain resolute in our determination to assist the people and the government of Iraq, and remain firm in our belief that innocent lives must be saved.
Mr. Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that even in a debate as divisive as this one, there is one thing that all parties and all members have in common. We are all committed to keeping Canadians safe. It is therefore disappointing, even if predictable, to hear the government suggest that members who disagree with it are failing to uphold Canadian values.
As I said a few weeks ago in Calgary, we can be very critical of each other's policies without debating each other's patriotism.
That is certainly true when it comes to the debate on the motion before us today. We must confront ISIL. We all agree on that. Where we disagree is on the most effective way for Canada to intervene.
The Liberal Party will not support the government's motion to extend Canada's combat role in Iraq and expand it into Syria.
I wish to use my time today to put our opposition into a broader context, to describe what Liberals believe would be a more effective course of action in the region and here at home.
Our approach to this mission, indeed to any military engagement, centres around four core principles.
First, Canada does have a role to play in responding to humanitarian crises and security threats in the world. As I have already stated, there is consensus in the House on that point.
Second, when we deploy the Canadian Forces, especially into combat operations, there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada. Here is where our disagreement begins. A full week has passed since the Prime Minister first rose on this issue, and the government still has not clearly articulated this mission's objectives. Indeed, as we saw last week, there is not even consensus as to what the ultimate goal is.
Are we only seeking to degrade ISIL's capabilities, as the Prime Minister stated, or are we attempting to defeat them outright, as the Minister of National Defence suggested? If it is to defeat them, are we willing to admit that it may take more than air strikes? Are we willing to admit that it may well mean bombing in Yemen and other countries? Will our involvement in this mission end next March, or was the Minister of Foreign Affairs being more truthful when he explicitly compared this war to Afghanistan, saying that we were in this for the longer term? Let us remember, in Afghanistan the longer term meant 10 years not 12 months.
We cannot allow rhetorical appeals to moral clarity to disguise the absence of a plan.
Third, the Liberal Party cannot support any military mission when the arguments to support it have not been presented in an open and transparent manner.
When we supported the first phase of the mission, it was with the understanding that the length and scope of the mission would be limited, in other words, that it would end after 30 days and it would be limited to non-combat support.
The Prime Minister told Canadians that the purpose of the mission would be to advise and to assist, and that the Canadian troops were not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat. We now know that Canadian troops have been at the front lines, calling in air strikes and engaging in several direct firefights.
In a matter of months, despite assurances to the contrary, the government steadily and stealthily drew Canada into a deeper ground combat role in Iraq. With this motion, it seeks to deepen our involvement even further.
How can we trust a government that so deliberately misleads Canadians, first on the nature of our role and now on the duration of our commitment?
The government wants to increase Canada's participation in a vague and possibly endless combat mission. We cannot support this proposal.
Finally, we believe that any time Canada engages in a military mission, our role must reflect the broad scope of Canadian capabilities and how best we can help, something this motion, with its singular focus on a military solution, fails to do. We know that the men and women who serve in our military are well-trained professionals, deeply committed to our country and very good at what they do.
Canada has a duty to act here at home and around the world. We can provide our police and intelligence services with the resources they need to do their jobs, while ensuring that the appropriate oversight mechanisms are in place, because we all agree that anyone who commits a terrorist act in Canada or conspires to commit such an act should be dealt with by our courts in the toughest possible way.
We can stop shortchanging our armed forces. The government's pattern of demanding more while offering less, of cutting defence spending and allowing billions already budgeted for defence to go unspent must stop. We can work closely with our international partners to starve ISIL of its resources, including by preventing it from using the international financial system.
We can urge the Iraqi government to continue its political reforms and its outreach to the country's Sunni community. We can work with communities in Canada to reduce the risk of radicalization among young people. We can do that without singling out or stigmatizing any one group of Canadians.
The atrocities that Islamic State militants have committed are widely known. They are killing innocent civilians, ethnic and religious minorities, humanitarian workers and journalists. The Assad regime in Syria has committed similar horrific acts. The UN has confirmed numerous incidents where chemical weapons were used against civilians. The acts committed by ISIL and by Assad are horrendous, and we have every reason to be outraged.
However, in a situation as complex and volatile as the one that the world faces in Syria and Iraq, we must not allow our outrage to cloud our judgment. Canada and its allies have learned some important lessons in recent years, at great cost. We have learned about the dangers of drifting into expanded combat roles without a clear idea of how the fighting will eventually end. We have learned that deploying western combat forces in this region can lead to what President Obama has called “unintended consequences”. We have learned that unless we approach a mission like this with a clear understanding of its political and military environment, and unless we match our goals to that reality, we risk making the situation worse, not better.
Responsibility to protect, a doctrine to which the Minister of National Defence has seemingly become a recent convert, spells this out clearly. Intervention must not make matters worse.
In Syria, after four years of all-out war, over 11 million Syrians—over half the population—have been driven from their homes. Syrians have fled their country by the millions, causing a refugee crisis throughout the region. In five years of combat, over 210,000 Syrians have been killed, including over 10,000 children. This is the result of the civil war, a war during which the Syrian people have been terrorized and killed by their own government.
We cannot support a mission that could very well further consolidate Assad's power in Syria.
Rather than continuing to deepen our combat mission in Iraq and Syria, Canada's interests are better served by an approach that combines military training for Iraqi forces fighting ISIL with humanitarian aid and expanded resettlement efforts here in Canada.
Our military training should take place away from the front lines, as our allies have been doing. We did this in Afghanistan and we can do it in Iraq. We should also be realistic about the timelines involved. Training local forces to fight ISIL will take time, not just six months, as we have seen, or even one year.
The government owes it to Canadians to be more honest about how long this mission will truly last. In addition to building on the training we are providing to Iraqi forces, Canada should intensify its support through adequately funded and well-planned humanitarian aid, together with our allies and under the auspices of the United Nations.
Enhancing our humanitarian aid effort will do more than just provide assistance and bring renewed hope to those who desperately need it. Intensifying our effort will also support political and economic security in the neighbouring countries, such as Jordan, Lebanon and our NATO ally, Turkey, countries whose ability to take care of millions of Syrian refugees has already been severely tested.
Here at home, we also have an opportunity to significantly expand our refugee targets and give more victims of war the opportunity to start a new life in Canada. The government's plan to sponsor 4,000 Syrian refugees over three years was a good start, but it follows on a poor track record and does not go nearly far enough.
To quote Britain's former foreign secretary:
|| Resettlement will not end the war, but it can rescue some of the most vulnerable victims of the fighting — the raped and tortured, at-risk women and children, those with acute medical needs.
Canada has an opportunity to help these victims of war and a moral obligation to do more than token assistance. To that end, we believe that the federal government should immediately expand to 25,000 the number of refugees that it commits to accept, and that it directly sponsor all of those refugees. That target, and the cost associated with it, should be in addition to our existing global refugee intake targets and the resources dedicated to meeting them.
To put that number in context, under the leadership of former prime minister Joe Clark, Canada resettled 60,000 Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees. The target I am suggesting today also reflects the scale of effort that Canada should undertake in a world with the largest number of refugees since the end of the Second World War. Of course, the Canadian refugee system must continue to be secure, and we must take all steps required to verify refugee claims.
Let us always remember that when we open our doors to those who seek refuge, it is not a one-sided deal. Our own Canadian experience is made better by everything they bring with them: their intelligence, their hard work, their resilience, their language, culture, and religion. We know that when we welcome those who have turned to Canada for help in times of desperation, we are strengthened, not in spite of our differences but because of them.
Training, humanitarian aid, and resettlement help for refugees are the elements of a serious, smart, and sustained approach to the crises in Iraq and Syria. We would also encourage the government to take a broader, less reactive approach to security challenges. We need to work on preventing threats before they materialize rather than just reacting to them after the fact.
I am not saying that just because humanitarian crises often occur in fragile countries, but also because the chronic lack of political and economic security in those countries makes it more likely that they will attract transnational militants who may use them as a base from where they can organize, grow and recruit. That is what the Islamic State is doing at present.
When it makes sense to do so, we should help strengthen the security forces in those regions so they can counter such threats. However, history has shown us that military action alone does not create lasting stability because it only deals with the symptoms of the instability and not the root cause.
We will make little headway in ending conflict and radicalization if we do not address the underlying causes of both—the root causes—including more governance and lack of economic opportunity. That is not just my opinion. NATO's supreme commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, put the same concerns solidly on the record last December.
I would like to end on something that the Minister of Foreign Affairs said in the House last week. When he stood to introduce this motion, he said something that I do not think we can let stand unchallenged. He said that those who oppose this mission are “dismissing Canadian values”.
I suspect that the government has, and not for the first time, mistaken the values of the Conservative Party of Canada for the values of the people of Canada.
The values of openness and honesty, which the government has failed to demonstrate since the start of this mission last October, are important to Canadians. Canadians like to learn from past experience, something the government has chosen not to do. Canadians cherish our country's longstanding tradition of helping those in need and showing leadership in diplomatic and humanitarian efforts. This government puts military action first and provides much less than what is required to help people in need.
It is not surprising that the government is attempting to shift this to a debate on Canadian values or moral clarity. That is what the current government always does when it knows that its policy cannot bear scrutiny.
Canada has an interest in training and helping Iraqi forces to fight and defeat ISIL, but we should not fight this war for them. We should not drift deeper and deeper into a civil war that may well go on for a very long time. Our position is clear: expanding this mission into Syria, committing our armed forces to the dangers of an ill-defined combat mission, does not serve our national interest. We believe this, come what may.
Canadians did not send us to this House to read polls and to guess at what they want. They did not put us here to stick a finger in the wind and follow whichever way it seems to be blowing. They put us here to stand on principle and lead. That is exactly what we intend to do.
Hon. Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, let me say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.
I welcome the opportunity to add to the debate on our continuing mission against the Islamic State, or ISIS, or ISIL, or Daesh. One can take one's pick. A lot of ink has been spilled and a lot of emotion has been expended, but I submit that it is not all that complicated. To understand why we are there in the first place, people only have to google images of ISIS, but they should be prepared with a strong stomach.
The list of ISIS atrocities is so long, one barely knows where to begin, whether it is with the beheadings, the crucifixions, the enslavements, or its inspiration of others. It is in the latter that ISIS represents a threat to Canada. The perpetrators of murders against members of the Canadian Armed Forces last October were not members of ISIS per se, but they were ideal recruits.
We know that about 70 Canadians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight with ISIS, and we know that CSIS is looking closely at about 140 more. We know that if CSIS says 140, the real number is much higher.
The October terrorist-inspired murders were carried out by people who had been radicalized. Some want to chalk it up to simple mental illness. To be sure, they had to be mentally ill to carry out those murders, but they were the type of people who make ideal ISIS hand grenades simply waiting for their pins to be pulled at random.
There are more of them out there, and we simply must remain vigilant and give our security forces the capacity they need to keep us as safe as possible from those threats. ISIS has singled out Canada, and we would be very foolish not to take them at their word. Some have glibly said that there are more people killed by lightning or other causes in Canada than by terrorists. That is true, and I want to keep it that way.
ISIS's crimes are crimes against humanity. This is not any one leader's war; this is humanity's war. There are indeed other movements that may be equally bad but not that approach ISIS's codified evil, made possible by its pretensions to be a state. It is an ideology that can be defeated, but the first step must be to eliminate the state structure that supports the ideology and whose very existence is what draws others to it.
Sixty-two countries are now supporting the U.S.-led operation, including all 26 NATO countries and many in the region. People speak of international law and the United Nations. I would remind members of the responsibility to protect doctrine that was adopted by the United Nations at the urging of Canada, and especially by former Prime Minister Paul Martin. Where a government cannot or will not protect its citizens, the international community has a responsibility to step in. It seems that the current Liberal leadership has lost sight of its past.
Would we be advocating a formal responsibility to protect? No, we would not, because that would subordinate our foreign policy to Russia and China. However, do we stand by the essence of the responsibility to protect? Absolutely, we do. That is one of the reasons we are there.
As well, under article 51, a nation or nations may take action as a right of self-defence. Due to the actions threatened, and in fact carried out by ISIS and its adherents, the coalition was justified in taking action. The U.S. made that clear to the United Nations with respect to operations in Syria, and Canada will do the same.
Operations in Iraq are more straightforward with the invitation from the Government of Iraq to help them in their fight against ISIS. The alternative, if the allied countries had not begun to take action against ISIS, both in Iraq and eastern Syria, is that we would have today an organization in control of most of Iraq and roughly half of Syria, with its own energy revenues and its military expansion unchecked.
Our mission, as originally conducted, and the expansion into air operations in Syria, is not about supporting Bashar al-Assad. It is about saving lives and eliminating a virulent threat to humanity. The threat of ISIS will be eliminated when it can no longer use Syria or Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks directly or by proxy against people around the world. That does not mean that Bashar al-Assad is now our friend. He is still a war criminal, mass murderer, ethnic cleanser, and deadly fanatic. He must be dealt with at a later time, but the most pressing priority is what to do about ISIS.
Benjamin Netanyahu said it well before the U.S. Congress when, in reference to Iran, he said that “the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy”. That applies in spades to Bashar al-Assad.
Let us talk for a few minutes about the mission itself. For the past six months, we have had 69 special forces personnel helping to train Iraqi Kurdish military elements in the conduct of combat operations. We are not there in a ground combat mission of our own. If we were, we would have an awful lot more troops there and an awful lot more equipment.
Iraq is a dangerous place, and there will always be risk in any mission in a hostile environment. Canadian soldiers accept that risk willingly. If we were to use the current verbiage by the opposition and the media to define combat mission, then I would suggest that virtually every one of our peacekeeping missions was, in fact, a combat mission.
Wherever we operate, our soldiers are always prepared to provide self-defence, and that is what they do when they are with the Kurdish forces, away from the garrison.
Our snipers are, arguably, the best in the business. When they use pinpoint fire to provide a safe extraction from a dangerous situation, that is not a real firefight, as much as the media and the opposition love to use exciting language.
The rules are simple. When the bad guys shoot at the good guys, the good guys get to kill the bad guys. Tragically, from time to time, in any war, the good guys occasionally shoot at the good guys. When that happens, thorough investigations will identify causes and corrective action, but wars will always be subject to uncertainties.
That training mission will continue unchanged by this motion. Only two things will change as a result of this motion. Operations will be extended for 12 months, and that is an entirely logical and justified position. The job will be done when the job is done. People need to remember that the enemy has a vote on when that happens. On September 3, 1939, did anyone know that war in Europe would be over in May 1945, or in the Pacific in August 1945?
The only other thing that will change is that six CF-18 Hornets, two CP-140 Auroras surveillance aircraft, and one CC-150 Polaris air refuelling aircraft will support the air operation mission over Syria as well as Iraq. The Iraq-Syria border has been effectively erased by the successes of ISIS' territorial operations. Operations by the forces of Bashar al-Assad are confined to western Syria, and our area of operations will be in the eastern part of the country. All three types of aircraft that the Royal Canadian Air Force has committed are ideally suited to the task.
The CF-18 Hornets are obviously the teeth of the operation, and the level of mission effectiveness with their systems and weapons available make them a key part of a much larger coalition operation. I would remind anyone who still needs to know that the aircraft is 56 feet long, 40 feet wide, 15 feet tall, and weighs 52,000 pounds.
This past weekend, I spent some time with one of the pilots from 409 Tactical Fighter Squadron based at Cold Lake, who had recently returned from his first tour of combat operations in Iraq.
As Canada has done in other conflicts, it can wield a big stick, but it does so with great care and restraint to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties to the maximum extent possible. Throughout the mission planning process, and indeed, throughout the missions, which can last six to eight hours, there is constant contact and verification that an attack is appropriate in all respects. There is a “red card holder” on the ground with all of the electronic and human information who has the final authority to allow a weapons release to proceed. The pilot, of course, has the ultimate final authority when he presses the pickle button. Very often, pilots return with their weapons if there is any doubt at all.
The CC-150 refuellers play a key role with the fighters from Canada and our allies to give our aircraft the legs to conduct all operations. The CP-140 Auroras' capabilities have been, perhaps, the wild card in Canada's contribution. Their capability to provide intelligence gathering, surveillance, and targeting support have been remarkable and highly praised by everyone with whom they operate. To use a common expression, they are magic.
This mission is not just about bringing ISIS to its knees militarily; it is also about bringing relief to the innocent people of the region caught up in the conflict. Just as we are in a kinetic mission, Canada is doing more than its share in the humanitarian mission as well. Canada is the sixth largest contributor to the humanitarian mission in Syria, and the fifth largest contributor in Iraq. Some 1.7 million Iraqis are eating because of Canada. Another 1.2 million have shelter because of Canada. Some 500,000 children are going to school because of Canada. There is much more.
Somebody across the way wanted numbers. Canada has contributed $700 million to humanitarian aid in Syria since 2011. That is not chump change. More recently, Canada has contributed $67.4 million to humanitarian aid in Iraq. They wanted numbers, so they got numbers.
It is not an either/or mission. Canada will continue to exercise its humanitarian and security obligations on the international stage.
I am disappointed but not surprised that the NDP members oppose the motion and the mission. I do not say that unkindly, because that is simply who they are, and that is their right, even as they are offside with the majority of Canadians. I must admit to more disappointment and some surprise at the opposition of the Liberal Party. I believe that people like Mackenzie King may be looking down in dismay at the moment. I believe there are at least a few among the Liberal éminences grises who are shaking their heads today.
Canada has the capacity to exercise strength and compassion, and that is what it has done proudly throughout its history. That is what makes me proud to be a Canadian and proud to support this motion to help bring at least some measure of safety and stability to a very troubled part of our world, and security to Canadians here in the greatest country in the world.
Mrs. Maria Mourani (Ahuntsic, Ind.):
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by expressing my respect for our Canadian soldiers who risk their lives every day on the many missions carried out around the world.
I am pleased to speak today to this government motion to extend the military mission in Iraq. I think that as parliamentarians, we should always ask ourselves what role our country should play in the world in response to conflict and threats. We also have a duty to ask ourselves whether we have the resources to serve our ambitions and, most importantly, whether we are acting in our own best interests or in the best interests of others.
Since this Conservative government was elected in 2006, it has actively worked to redefine Canada as a military country. Is that truly the role we should play in the world, when we have just over 35 million people?
In the recent past, Canadians were known around the world as a country of peacekeepers and peacemakers. Our country was also known for its humanitarian assistance. At the UN, Canada even championed development by calling for an overall contribution equivalent to 0.7% of the GNP of the richest countries in the global fight against poverty.
There are currently only about 300 Canadian peacekeepers left on missions around the world. In 2013, CIDA was absorbed by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada. Canada's image has been changing bit by bit. When I participated in foreign missions, most of the elected representatives and ministers I met in those countries, particularly in the Middle East, asked me what was going on with Canada. This rebranding of who Canadians are in the eyes of the world must stop.
Here is another question: the Prime Minister wants to get involved in conflicts, but do we have the means to go to war? Do we have the means to fulfill the Prime Minister's ambitions? This March, Canada's remaining troops are coming back from Afghanistan. How much did the mission in Afghanistan cost us? That is a good question. In 2008, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, predicted that the mission would cost $18.1 billion. When I hear that number, I think of everything we could have done with $18 billion. That is incredible. He also said it would take years to get final numbers on what Afghanistan cost us.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's very recent analysis in the report of February 17, 2015, entitled “Cost Estimate of Operation IMPACT in Iraq”, which deals with the Prime Minister's first six-month mission, the estimated incremental cost of Operation IMPACT ranges between a high of $166.4 million and a low of $128.8 million. That is for six months, and furthermore, the Parliamentary Budget Officer did not have all the figures.
Accordingly, the estimated incremental cost of Operation IMPACT for a 12-month mission, which is what the Prime Minister wants, since the motion calls for extending the mission until March 30, 2016, ranges between a high of $351.2 million and a low of $242.7 million. That is on top of the more than $166.4 million the first six-month mission cost us. It is worth noting that the full costs for Canada’s most recent overseas mission, which was Operation Mobile in Libya, were almost six times the reported incremental costs for the mission.
The actual cost is always greater than the estimated cost. The government can certainly tell us that it will cost x dollars, but we can expect there to be a gap, if not an abyss, between the actual cost and the estimated cost.
According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, for the government to be able to wage its wars, it would have to inject funds into defence or simply reduce its military ambitions. However, that does not fit with its ideology.
All these billions of dollars that the government wasted on useless and ineffective military missions could have been invested in humanitarian aid. Yes, it handed out a few crumbs, we can all agree on that, but it could have given more because those activities work in the long term. It also could have helped lift the local populations out of poverty and injustice. That is what Canada is good at.
Instead of all those nice things, this government chooses to go to war. It wants to be the champion of fighting terrorism, but for now, unfortunately, the people are just being lulled by the government into believing that it is working for their security. It wants to create a sense of security, but this is not security. The government is creating bogus laws to distract people and have them believe that it is protecting them.
If this government invested just 10% of all the billions of dollars it is investing in the war to help prevent violent extremism, a lot fewer young people would leave Canada to join Jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria or even Somalia.
Moreover, whose interests are we defending on these missions? Is it truly the interests of Canadians? Canada belongs to a coalition led by the United States, but what is the goal of the United States, which is in negotiations with Iran?
Last Wednesday, the American-led coalition launched air strikes to officially help the Iraqi forces recapture Tikrit from Daesh. I urge my colleagues to use “Daesh” instead of “Islamic State” because it is not an Islamic state. It is a terrorist group known as Daesh.
The international community knows that the Iraqi offensive in Tikrit, which started on March 2, involves soldiers and police officers, but also paramilitary groups, including the notorious popular mobilization forces, groups essentially made up of Shia militias backed by Iran. The Iranians have provided artillery and advice to these Shia militias.
However, there is an Iranian general, Ghasem Soleimani, on the ground leading the Quds, a unit of the Iranian revolutionary guard. If Canada participates, will the Iranians be our allies?
There are also questions about some coalition allies with respect to porous borders, the acquisition of weapons by Daesh, the sale of oil to Daesh and stolen archeological artifacts.
Members will also recall the al-Nusra jihadists, who have ties to al-Qaeda and who allegedly crossed the Turkish border to attack the Syrian city of Kessab, which has a majority Armenian population, as well as the city of Maaloula, a Christian city.
There is also the issue of the Kurds, not to mention the war in Yemen.
My major question is this: are we going to get involved in these conflicts between the Shia and Sunni Muslims or are we going to help them to sit down at the same table and come to an agreement?
These are very complex conflicts. It is important to have a clear foreign policy to guide our national defence policy, but what is our foreign policy—
Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, as the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am pleased to address the House on the extension of Canada's contribution to the multinational effort against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. Canadian Forces Base Petawawa is in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. I take my duty to represent the interests of the women and men in uniform as a serious moral obligation, just as this debate is a serious moral debate.
It is always an honour to contribute to any discussion as their member of Parliament. With the significant Canadian Forces presence in my riding, I, perhaps better than many of my colleagues participating in this event, understand the human dimension when we commit fellow citizens to go into harm's way for their country and the effect it has on their families. However, until I walk in their shoes, I will never fully appreciate the angst that families feel every time a loved one is called to arms.
ISIL is a dangerous, organized, armed death cult, with radical jihadist and expansionist aims. It has demonstrated time and time again its willingness, even eagerness, to use extreme violence for political and economic gain. Let me give a few examples of this appalling brutality. I know it is not pleasant to discuss these things, but I think we all need to understand the reality of the situation.
ISIL has arbitrarily detained, tortured, and executed thousands of innocent civilians, displacing millions, and creating a massive humanitarian crisis. Anyone, including the Sunni Muslims, who is perceived as contradicting its twisted version of Islam is subjected to horrific treatment.
There have been savage drawn-out beheadings using blunt knives. There have been crucifixions, including of rebel fighters perceived as being too moderate. There have been mass executions, such as the shooting of 600 Shia, Christian, and Yazidi prisoners near Mosul last October, and the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians from Egypt in February. There have been reports of torture by electric shock and lashings with generator cables.
It saddens me to report that children are also suffering abhorrent treatment under ISIL's reign of terror. There have been reports of young people being buried alive, and others used as suicide bombers and bomb makers. The children of minority groups are being sold into sex slavery to service ISIL soldiers. They are being auctioned at the market like animals.
I think most of us have a hard time even imagining such a base level of depravity. Yet, ISIL not only commits these acts but revels in its own evil by filming and publishing them on the Internet, as though such unbearable cruelty and wanton destruction of human life is nothing more than an entertaining joke.
It is difficult to believe that such barbarity exists in the modern world, yet it does. It constitutes a major threat not only to Iraq and the Middle East, but also to other countries around the world, including Canada. Indeed, ISIL has been actively recruiting in the west through the Internet and the social media. It has called on sympathizers around the globe to carry out attacks, including against Canadians whom it deems as unbelievers.
It is inciting other groups and individuals with similar inclinations, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, which has purportedly pledged its allegiance to ISIL. The global reach and impact of terrorist organizations like these in today's interconnected world, combined with a fanatical intolerance and rampant use of horrific violence, are what make them so utterly corrosive to our way of life, hinging as it does on respect for human rights and the rule of law, the democratic resolution of differences, and the peaceful co-existence of various religious and ethnic groups.
We cannot be complacent or naive in the face of this terrorist threat. This is a direct threat to Canada and to Canadians, despite the opposition's unwillingness to accept the truth.
Our armed forces possess unique capabilities that can be used to counter the terrorist threat, for example, domestically, by conducting domestic patrol and air surveillance of Canada's sea and air approach, and assisting civilian authorities with emergency response and security; as well as internationally, by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating defence intelligence, engaging in counter-proliferation and arms control efforts, and contributing to lateral efforts, such as the Middle East Stabilization Force.
In addition to these broad capabilities, the Canadian Armed Forces also offer a dedicated counter-terrorism capability through its Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, or CANSOFCOM.
I am proud of the role I played to stand up the Canadian Special Operations Regiment situated in base Petawawa, the first new unit since the politically motivated, bad decision by the old Chrétien regime to disband the Canadian airborne regiment, and the decade of darkness of cutbacks for Canada's military that followed. CSOR is not the Canadian airborne; it did, however, fill some of the operational gaps that Canada faced after the airborne regiment was disbanded.
CANSOFCOM maintains a very high readiness special operations forces that can respond to domestic and global terrorism on a moment's notice by conducting rapid and effective operations in specialized areas such as hostage rescue and direct action.
The troops at CANSOFCOM's disposal include Joint Task Force 2, the highest readiness and most precise combat unit in Canada and arguably the world; the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, which combines mobility, fire power, and special operations capabilities; the 427 Special Operations Aviation Squadron based in Petawawa, which provides aerospace effects; and the Canadian Joint Incident Response Unit, which provides rapid response to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear events.
The personnel who form these units are highly educated, highly skilled, and battle-tested in some of the most dangerous environments in the world. They are trained and equipped to operate in small teams without large, logistical chains, and to respond quickly to evolving needs on the ground. At the same time, they are experienced in coordinating their efforts seamlessly with those of other special operations forces. Most importantly, they know their basics inside out, enabling them to go into even the most unfamiliar and unstable areas and get the job done fast.
CANSOFCOM has earned international respect for its skills and its professionalism, particularly for the key role it played in fighting insurgence in Afghanistan, and training and mentoring the Afghan National Army special forces. In 2008, the command began to expand its international training to meet the demand for the developing world, as well as to support broader Canadian and global counterterrorism initiatives.
To date, CANSOFCOM has instructed personnel from Jamaica, Niger, Kenya, Mali, Belize, Afghanistan, and Iraq on various aspects of counterterrorism, from intelligence to planning, staff training, command and control, communications, battle skills, equipment use, maintenance and repair, ground navigation, and combat medical care.
The military expertise, training, experience, grit, and tenacity of our special forces personnel are what make them so invaluable in the fight against ISIL.
As members know, we have had some 69 members on the ground in Iraq since last fall in an advisory-and-assistance capacity, helping the Iraqi security forces to conduct strategic and tactical planning, and to adapt to the modern coalition warfare so they can win the type of battles they are now engaged in against ISIL.
By all accounts, our people are making a huge difference in this role, contributing in a meaningful way to the coalition success on the ground. That success is considerable. ISIL's advance has been halted and pushed back. It is no longer able to operate freely in around 20% to 25% of the populated areas where it once held the initiative.
We can not falter at this stage, or everything we have gained will be lost. ISIL will be free to terrorize and murder the local population at will and continue to pose a threat to Canadians. That is why I strongly encourage the House to support the government's decision to extend and expand Canada's military contribution to the multinational coalition's fight against ISIL.
Ms. Hélène Laverdière (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, from the beginning, we have been concerned about the mission proposed by the Conservatives. We are afraid of getting dragged into a quagmire similar to the one in Afghanistan. Indeed, this really reminds us of that mission. We were right.
I will give an example. The Prime Minister told us that there would be no ground combat, and yet Canadians have been involved in firefights and one Canadian soldier has even died. Now he wants our soldiers to go into Syria. Many experts are already beginning to wonder about the effectiveness of air strikes in Syria. On top of that, this also raises some very important ethical questions. Our actions in Syria could actually benefit the Bashar al-Assad regime, which, as we know, has committed its own share of terrible atrocities. We might think we are helping, but we could end up doing things that are extremely harmful. I would like to quote our former ambassador to the United Nations Security Council, Paul Heinbecker, who had this to say about intervention in Syria:
|| If out of fear of Islamic State and of a desire to stop them, the Coalition were to ally itself, de facto or de jure, with Bashar al-Assad for fleeting tactical advantage, it would be the ultimate betrayal of the Syrian innocents. And of our own values.
Our men and women in uniform simply do not belong in Iraq and they certainly do not belong in Syria.
The intervention in Syria also raises very important legal questions. I must say that one of the worst moments I have experienced since I became a member of the House of Commons was when the Prime Minister joked about a question posed by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the legal basis for the intervention in Syria. I found that really shameful. This is not something to joke about. The issues are very real and that is why our NATO partners—other than the United States, obviously—are not intervening in Syria and are not helping the Americans.
During debate, the Conservatives have often talked about the responsibility to protect. We have to be careful: the responsibility to protect is a very clear and well-established doctrine. To be put into action, we need a UN Security Council resolution, which we do not have. When it comes to the entire legal basis for intervening in Syria, the government has shown its complete lack of knowledge of and total disregard for international law, which is terrible. International law is the best guarantee of our collective security.
We obviously all want to combat the Islamic State. There is no doubt about that. However, we must ask ourselves what is the best way to do that and where Canada could be the most useful and truly bring about change. Obviously, we could work through diplomatic channels to try to resolve impasses in the region. Unfortunately we have lost so much credibility in the Middle East that we are no longer in a position to contribute to these efforts. We also need to actively implement the United Nations resolutions and push very hard to advance them in order to combat the Islamic State, prevent funding for this group and prevent it from recruiting fighters all over the world and in Canada. We have proposed very concrete measures to achieve this.
Lastly, we must provide humanitarian assistance. Yes, Canada was fairly generous last year, but we could do more. We could encourage other countries to give and to give more, and we could continue to give and expedite that assistance. I want to share a quote from the humanitarian manager of Oxfam, who said this today:
|| Our leaders have been focused on the military mission in the region debating what role Canada should play. The humanitarian crisis has not been given the vital importance needed in this debate. Ensuring that human needs are met should be the top priority for Canada in the international community.
We are also wondering—I asked the question today but I did not get an answer— whether Canada will attend the donor conference tomorrow in Kuwait. We know that the United Kingdom and Sweden have already made commitments and we are wondering what Canada is waiting for. This is extremely important because there is so much that needs to be done.
A few weeks ago, I was in Turkey and I had the opportunity to visit a refugee camp where the World Food Programme sometimes gives out food vouchers. However, it is also sometimes forced to suspend the program because of a lack of funding.
I met with the authorities from the City of Gaziantep, which is the size of Montreal and currently houses 300,000 refugees. They shared with me their concerns about the mounting tension and instability in the region. We can help these people.
In that regard, Jordan and Lebanon have received a staggering number of refugees and could very well also become destabilized. If we want to prevent even greater destabilization in the region, we need to provide a lot more humanitarian aid.
In that respect, the Conservatives and the Minister of National Defence initially told us that their air strikes are actually a means of providing humanitarian aid because humanitarian aid and military involvement go hand in hand. Either the Conservatives do not understand anything or they are once again trying to create a smokescreen at the expense of the safety and lives of humanitarian workers.
I would like to read what Conrad Sauvé, the Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Red Cross, and Yves Daccord, the Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, have been saying, even today, I believe. They said, and I quote:
|| As Canada debates military action in the region, the Canadian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross...call for a debate that clearly separates political and military issues from humanitarian aid. For us, it is a matter of life or death.
|| Blurring the lines around aid and military action threatens the lives and safety of all humanitarian workers currently working around the clock to provide relief in an already volatile environment. Humanitarian workers can not afford to be linked to any military effort. If humanitarian aid is perceived to be aligned to a military agenda, humanitarian workers become targets and there will be further unnecessary casualties of war....
|| Humanitarian aid must be delivered solely for the purpose of helping those who are in need, and the Red Cross Movement cannot be a part of efforts that attempt to provide humanitarian aid in conjunction with any military agenda....
|| We urge leaders to help address the humanitarian needs by first and foremost understanding the utmost importance of keeping humanitarian aid independent and neutral.
I have quoted these people extensively because so many humanitarian workers and organizations have said the same thing in recent days. People are terrified. The lives of humanitarian workers are in danger. I solemnly ask the government to try to stop blurring the line between these two issues, as it has been doing recently.
In closing, I would like to quote Ban Ki-moon, whom we should listen to carefully: “Over the longer-term, the biggest threat to terrorists is not the power of missiles—it is the politics of inclusion.”
That should be the focus of Canada's efforts.
Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in this place, in this instance, to speak about our government's motion seeking the extension and expansion of Canada's military contribution to Operation Impact, the global fight against ISIL, and the defence of those whom ISIL would behead, enslave, rape, torture and murder. This decision is a clear repudiation of that barbaric behaviour and a stoic rejection of the nihilism it represents.
Truly, there is no debate that in recent times, certainly in my generation, we have not seen this type of wanton violence against individuals. As it was stated in the House many times, and by the Prime Minister recently, to have much of this uploaded to the Internet and made available for all to see is truly a shock to our senses and sensibilities. Some of the stories of ISIL are almost too gruesome to even repeat, however, we cannot turn a blind eye to these atrocities, their inhumanity and amorality.
ISIL is a truly detestable group with deplorable ambitions to ruthlessly continue oppressing those who do not have the same values that it espouses, if we can even call them values. They are values of destroying democracy and crushing freedom. It really signals a respect for nothing. It is pure evil and godless.
Not engaging in this fight against these psychotic killers would be cowardly on our part, and it would put this country and our allies in further danger. We need to join our allies. We need to fight for our freedoms and theirs, freedoms that we have always stood for in our history since Confederation, freedoms that so many of our veterans and current serving members of the armed forces have honourably stood for. Throughout our storied history as a nation, we have never expected others to do the heavy lifting for us, while we have stood idly by.
If people know the lyrics of our national anthem, which I know everyone in the House does, they know what we are fighting for when we signal our desire to join this global struggle. It is a desire to protect Canadians and the democratic, glorious and free country in which we live and love so much.
There are instances in history when countries had the freedoms that we enjoy in Canada and lost them to the destruction of attacks of force. I just met members of the Ukrainian community who are joining us on Parliament Hill. Theirs is a perfect example of a country that was sovereign and moving in the direction of greater freedoms and transparency, free of corruption and oppression from external forces, yet we know what has happened and transpired there. We know that it makes a difference for countries like Ukraine and many around the world when they have a country like Canada come to their aid and speak out openly about protecting their rights and freedoms.
Why would we have the temerity to think that if we did not participate in this fight against ISIL that other countries should come to our rescue when we become a target, as we have recently, when our two brave soldiers and this very House of Parliament came under terrorist attack? Members on all sides of the House will remember and will have lived the terror of that day. We were terrified because it was very deliberate and murderous in its intent, yet how soon we forget. How quickly we can slide back to complacency, careless bliss and wilful blindness.
We can never forget that ISIL cannot have safe haven to wage continuous attacks against women, children, refugees, minorities and all of us. It has, in fact, sought greater cover in Syria, a place where it emerged. We know that it has wreaked havoc on Iraq from that region, from a strong point there. It has moved equipment into Syria and sought safe haven.
Operation Impact is part of the United States led international coalition against ISIL, composed of over 60 countries. Out of those 60 countries, many have been directly threatened by ISIL. Most, if not all, have been. Canada has certainly repeatedly stood up and partnered with these nations, while ISIL has called for, encouraged and helped orchestrate violence in countries like ours.
This is our mission. There is no denying it. For our families, for our communities and for all of humanity, Canada is part of this fight.
As Canadians, we believe in the rule of law and religious freedoms. The values are fundamental to our identity, and we will continue to protect and promote them around the world. We will not shy away from that duty; we will do what is right. Honouring our Canadian history is about preserving our future.
What would opting out of this fight against ISIL say to Canadians and like-minded nations about what we value in our country, what we value of security, of freedom, if we were to say we did not care, we were not willing to fight to protect it? Clearly we do care. Innocent people are being subjected to a campaign of murder, sexual violence and intimidation. It is a return to the dark ages. That is why, under this proposal, Operation Impact would be extended by up to 12 months and remain a counterterrorism operation, exclusively targeting ISIL.
Coalition military efforts to date have succeeded in blunting ISIL's capacity. Our Royal Canadian Air Force is weakening ISIL's operations as we gather in the safety of this chamber, and ISIL continues to present a serious threat to global and regional security.
Our proposed mandate would also authorize Canada's CF-18 fighter aircraft to join coalition partners in attacking ISIL targets within Syrian territory. ISIL fighters and equipment have been moving freely across the Iraqi-Syrian border without interference for some time, so our allies have been attacking ISIL in Syria without resistance from the Syrian government for over six months. We propose similarly to conduct air strikes against ISIL in that region on the same legal and operational basis as our allies.
As the United States has reported to the United Nations, it is taking necessary and proportionate military action in Syria to eliminate the ongoing threat to Iraq.
It should not be interpreted in any way as support for the illegitimate regime of Basher al-Assad. It is not. Taking part in armed conflict is perhaps the most serious decision for any government to take. It involves careful consideration of all matters, including the legal basis for action, and know this, we have been considering this carefully for some time.
In Canada, decisions as to the use of force are never taken lightly. We carefully consider what international law requires and how we can best support our partners in maintaining international peace and security. The government of Iraq, which has a legal right to self defence under international law and article 51 of the United Nations charter, has officially requested international military assistance in its fight against ISIL. It said in its request to the United Nations that it requested assistance from the UN and said that it believed ISIL must be completely eradicated, an optimistic goal to say the least. ISIL has shown no shred of conscience and has waged a brutal, inhumane war.
Canada will support Iraq's right to collective self defence and as members of the global community, we have a broader responsibility. An expansion into Syria where ISIL has moved, moved equipment and taken safe haven, is part of that action, which is critical.
Canada's humanitarian assistance, and there has been important discussion on this subject, goes hand in hand with that military mission. We will fight ISIL and help its victims. We will continue to provide much needed relief to millions of vulnerable and innocent civilians affected by ISIL's expansion and barbarity.
We are among the top five donors when it comes to food, shelter, education, essentials for refugees displaced by the millions, and we will also continue to assist through accelerated immigration. Almost $68 million has been committed to this cause. In fact, we are working closely with the United Nations and the Red Cross.
Our government is deeply grateful for the incredible support of the Canadian Armed Forces in Iraq and our allies, those who have served and continue to combat or work in peacekeeping efforts. This is among our greatest effort and among our greatest citizens when it comes in this regard.
To conclude, the highest priority of any government must be to protect its citizens from harm. Canadians expect no less. That is a commitment we have made to all Canadians. We are also continuing that important Canadian tradition of compassion and care for those less fortunate who find themselves in harm's way.
The motion is to expand and extend the mission to fight ISIL, sponsored by our esteemed Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is debated and voted in a democratic way here. I would encourage everyone in the House to put aside political and other ambitions and support Canada's interests first, and those of the people of Iraq and Syria.
Ms. Christine Moore (Abitibi—Témiscamingue, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion to extend and expand the mission in Iraq and, now, into Syria. The Islamic State terrorist organization has committed atrocious acts of violence in Iraq and Syria. The violence has displaced 2.5 million civilians in Iraq alone, and 5.2 million people require humanitarian assistance. Over 5,000 people have been killed by ISIL.
Needless to say, the official opposition acknowledges that ISIL is committing unprecedented atrocities. We find them extremely upsetting. Of course, that organization has demonstrated the kind of cruelty it is capable of on many occasions.
With respect to this mission, we have gone from a mission focused on advice and support to a six-month bombing mission, and now, a front-line combat mission. The Conservatives can have fun playing their word games, but when one of our soldiers is 200 metres from the front lines, that means that he is within range of the basic weapons of any soldier. Any soldier is capable of hitting a target that is 200 metres away with a basic weapon, which, for the Canadian Forces is the C7 rifle. When our soldiers are 200 metres from the front lines, that looks very much like a combat mission. We are now entering a conflict that will last a year and a half, without any specific or clearly defined plan or objective and with no exit strategy.
By choosing to bomb Iraq, and now Syria, I unfortunately get the feeling that we are just playing into ISIL's hands. They would not just brazenly provoke the enemy by showing the beheadings of Canadians or citizens of allied countries without hoping for retaliation. No one can tell me that ISIL did these things thinking there would be no retaliation. On top of that, they send out messages calling on members of ISIL who are abroad to carry out attacks against those who would fight this group. Clearly, Canada is already on ISIL's list of enemies and, unfortunately, it is clear that ISIL wanted retaliation, that it wanted to provoke something by committing such atrocities in such a brazen way.
Another thing that seems clear to me is that ISIL wanted there to be air strikes. It knew full well that we would not attack them on the ground and that an attack from the air is much easier to manage. This allows them to adjust their strategy, continue to advance and make gains if they are patient enough and, while the air strikes are being conducted, plan overseas operations.
ISIL reacted to the air campaign by dispersing its troops, sheltering in civilian areas and frequently changing location. While the first air strikes targeted ISIL's bases and camps, more recent efforts targeted vehicles and the industrial infrastructure controlled by the militants.
From the beginning of the conflict, several Canadian and American veterans made it clear that air strikes have their limitations and that at some point it would become increasingly difficult to conduct air strikes on targets without running the risk of causing collateral damage that would obviously have a very negative impact on the local population.
We have to understand that the Islamic State realizes full well that the Iraqi and Syrian people would be very averse to the presence of foreign troops on their soil. When the enemy only carries out air strikes, it is easy to use that against us with the civilian population. The enemy tells the local people to look at what the coalition is doing: destroying their institutions and attacking them. The enemy tries to manipulate the local population in order to win it over. Unfortunately, when the local population is sleep-deprived, cold and hungry, it is much easier to manipulate, especially if, at the same time, some help is offered.
We have to understand that the more we bomb, the more innocent civilians risk being killed or injured and the more we risk helping the Islamic State obtain recruits or convince people to join its cause. Every bomb could aggravate the problem we are trying to solve.
What is worse is that, even if we succeed in completely eliminating the Islamic Sate, there is a high risk that we will have helped one of our enemies who is also an enemy of our enemy, the Islamic State. Right now, we are fighting the Islamic State with countries such as Iran, for example. Most members and I can easily see that Canada and Iran have very different views on human rights. Is it really a good idea to fight the enemies of our enemies? Is that our strategy in the Middle East, to ensure that only the least offensive of our enemies remains? If we think we are going to solve the problem in the Middle East with violence, then we may as well announce the beginning of the third world war. Do I have to remind members why they need to remember World War II? It is precisely because when that war ended, humanity realized that, if there were a third world war one day, it was quite likely that the human race would not survive it.
If we want to eliminate the problem in the Middle East through violence then we will have to eliminate nearly all of the terrorist organizations there. However, as soon as we eliminate one group, another one rises up to take its place. When will it end? When we find the perfect recipe for self-destruction?
There are other ways of engaging in war that do not necessarily include bombs. Those ways would not make us play into the hands of ISIL. To wage any war, there needs to be money, resources, weapons and support, or at least public disengagement. There has to be some means of communication, fighters, an organization and an enemy. To eliminate the conflict, or at least work on it, there has to be a strategy to prevent these groups from obtaining the funding they need.
The vast majority of these groups raise money by selling resources such as oil and conflict stones, as well as growing and producing drugs. Currently, in the case of ISIL, we are also seeing the sale of historical artifacts. Of course, these groups have no regard for environmental principles when conducting these activities.
ISIL is currently still able to sell oil to fund itself. Imagine if we managed to stop them from getting money. No organization can survive when its soldiers have nothing to eat.
There are many other things we could be doing, including blocking access to weapons and supporting the local population. Imagine if we could help all of the refugees by getting all of them to NATO countries, and just think what could happen if Turkey could control its border and prevent radicalized people from entering Syria. There is so much we could do. We could fight, disrupt the organization and prevent it from communicating.
In closing, as long as the coalition is considered an enemy, ISIL will be able to continue recruiting more fighters. In contrast, if we could be perceived as a potential partner for peace, that would strike a much harder blow against ISIL than the bombs we are dropping. That strategy has its limits.
Hon. Tony Clement (President of the Treasury Board, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour to be in the chamber to address these very weighty and important issues for Canada and on behalf of my constituents in Parry Sound—Muskoka.
What I want to do with my brief time standing is try to give my perspective on four basic questions that frame the debate in the way it should be framed. This pertains to the Islamic State, ISIL, ISIS, or whatever moniker one wants to use. First, what is its purpose? Second, how is it doing? Third, how do we respond? Fourth, what if we do not? Answering those questions certainly encapsulates the reason I will be supporting the motion later on this evening.
First, what is its purpose?
The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada, its values, its citizens and all westerners.
It is very clear that this international jihadist ideology was the first mover. They were the ones who declared that Canada was an enemy to their purposes and that our values were antagonistic to their purposes. This makes this a matter of national security here as well as of our humanitarian interests in the sphere of their operations in the Middle East.
What is their purpose? Quite frankly, they have stated their purpose quite clearly. They want to establish an international jihadist caliphate. One can only look at the example they are setting in the territory they currently control of beheadings, of murders, and of crushing minorities, particularly Christian minorities, but not exclusively, and other Muslim groupings as well.
We look to not only their words in identifying the national interest but to their deeds. Their deeds are contrary to humanity. They are contrary to our national interests and the safety of our citizens. That is their purpose. Their purpose is clearly enunciated by their leadership and by their ruthless actions to date.
Then we go on to step two. How are they doing? They are recruiting. They have money. They have organization. They have territory. These are things that are helping them in achieving their jihadist terrorist internationalistic goals.
I was here in the chamber when my friend, the hon. Minister of Justice, was explaining that we have had success to date in being part of a 60-member coalition that has had some success in degrading ISIL's ability to achieve their purposes. There is no doubt about that, and nothing I am saying detracts from that record to date. However, I think we all agree, and this is why we are standing in this place debating in favour of the resolution on this side of the House, that those goals are not completely accomplished yet. We have to stick to those goals, because they are still recruiting, they still have the financial means to project their terror, they still have an organization that exists and that in some parts of the region is growing, and of course, they still have their mission, which is not only within the sphere of their current influence but is an internationalist mission.
One hon. member from the Liberal Party mentioned ISIL's control of Mosul. That is the size of Vancouver. These are not individuals in tents in the desert. This is a large city they still control. We can only hope that it will only be for a short time longer. However, that tells us that this mission is still important and that it is yet to be completely accomplished. That is why we have to be part of that mission.
It is also because their mission is international. It extends to disrupting our way of life here in Canada. It is clear that this is not just a local mission in the Middle East. It is clear that part of their ideology extends to projecting their force, projecting their terror, and projecting their violence on our peaceable shores as well.
That leads to the third question: How do we respond?
First of all, I believe that we must respond with moral clarity. The fact of the matter is that because of the purpose this group of international jihadists have, and because of the means by which they are deploying against us and innocent civilians, both in this country and overseas, I believe that the moral argument is that we have to respond. We have to continue with the mission, and I believe that we have to extend the mission.
There is no point in continuing the mission in one region, which is to say within Iraq, and not be part of the mission in Syria. The two are interlinked. Certainly the jihadists, Islamic State, do not see any difference or differentiate between the borders. Therefore, our role and responsibility is to be part of this 60-member coalition in all areas of activity in Syria and Iraq.
The way we contribute is with the Royal Canadian Air Force, with the training we are doing with the peshmerga, and of course, and let me repeat, as has been endlessly repeated, through our humanitarian mission and aid to those who are in distress and are fleeing from these murderous individuals.
We do respond, and we will respond, and that is what this mission is all about.
This leads to me to the fourth and final question that should be on our minds and on our list. What if we did not respond? What if we took the advice of certain members of the opposition in this place and others who are helpfully providing their advice on the other side of this argument throughout the country?
Well, clearly what will happen is that we will not be part of a group of people, a group of nations, that is seeking to end the genocidal violence that is occurring overseas: the beheadings, the persecution of minority groups, such as Christians and other Muslims, and of course, the absolute deprivation that goes along with that. That is clear. However, it also probably means more attacks here. If we fail to degrade the terrorists' ability to project their violence, it means that the national security of our nation, Canada, is compromised. Why do I say that? I say that because they have made it clear that if they have the means, they will continue to attack us at home. That is their goal. That is part of how they see their millenarian mission.
For those who say that we are provoking them with our actions, I would reply that we would actually provoke them more with inaction. That is why it is important that we do something rather than do nothing.
Throughout our nation's history, brave Canadians have fought for what is right despite considerable difficulty. We will not turn our backs on that tradition now.
We should not renounce our enviable and honourable history of working with allies to preserve the values Canadians desire and expect and to preserve the national security of our nation.
For all of these reasons, for the questions I have posed and for the answers I have given, I intend to support the motion.
Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, again today we are debating the Prime Minister's military adventures. The Prime Minister is again preparing to ask our brave troops to risk their lives overseas. This issue has come before the House a number of times already. As the official opposition, we have asked the questions that needed to be asked.
Many of these questions remain unanswered, but others forced the government's hand. They forced the government to do or redo its homework. For example, not six months ago, I specifically asked the Prime Minister whether Canadian soldiers would be involved in directing air strikes in Iraq and painting targets on the ground. Hon. members no doubt remember that.
In fact, I asked him the same question twice. Both times, the Prime Minister answered with a resounding no. Now we know that was simply not true. I also asked the Prime Minister whether Canadian soldiers would be on the front lines. Again, the Prime Minister answered with a resounding no. Unfortunately, again, we know that was simply not true.
The very foundation of this House, the foundation of everything we do here, is prescribed by law, not just the laws of Canada, but international law as well. These laws are put in place precisely to guide us to reason in the face of danger, to protect us not just from those who seek to harm us, but from our own missteps. To abandon the law so recklessly for the sake of political expediency, as the Prime Minister seems eager to do, threatens the very principles we were sent here to defend.
Last week, the Prime Minister stood in the House and sought permission to extend the misguided war in Iraq to a dangerous new phase in Syria, a country already torn apart by years of bloody civil war, ruled by a brutal dictator and war criminal. I asked the Prime Minister repeatedly what his legal basis was for this dangerous new escalation. As members will remember, he thought his lawyer answer was quite clever and funny. I put it to members that was, in fact, his “whip out your CF-18” moment. I can assure the House that the families of the brave women and men whose lives he seeks to put on the line do not find this a laughing matter.
Depending on the day, in fact depending on the time of day, the government gives differing and contradictory legal grounds for expanding the Prime Minister's war: maybe it is criminality; maybe it is the genocide convention; maybe it is section 51 of the UN charter; or maybe, as the Prime Minister suggested, international law does not apply to us at all. That is simply ludicrous.
The Conservatives' propensity for attacking the United Nations has led to extraordinary improvisation by the Prime Minister, his Minister of National Defence— the number of blunders he has made this week is incredible—the Minister of Foreign Affairs and various parliamentary secretaries. The NDP, the official opposition, has had to ask specific questions, and I have had to personally expose the Prime Minister's ridiculous position in order to force the government to do its homework and to inform the UN in writing of its intentions.
Here is what we know. Canada does not have permission to conduct air strikes in Syria, a basic requirement under international law. Let me say that again, because contrary to what the Prime Minister thinks, this is vitally important. Canada does not have the legal grounds to conduct air strikes in Syria, full stop. “But our friends are doing it” is actually not a legal defence. That sort of childish reasoning is more suitable to the schoolyard than it is to the House of Commons, and the Prime Minister should know better.
The fact is that what the government is proposing will put our Canadian Forces in the dubious position of acting outside of international law. The New Democrats will not stand for it.
As I outlined last week, our view is that this is simply not Canada's war to fight. It is not a UN mission. It is not a NATO mission, despite the government's attempts to give it that aura with a visit last week. The United Nations Security Council has passed three resolutions dealing with the situation in Iraq, and not one of those resolutions authorized military action.
The fact is that the Americans have been fighting in Iraq for over a decade with very little success. Canada should have no part in it. We were right to stay out of that fight in 2003, despite the Prime Minister's objections at the time when he was in opposition. He wanted us to be there, and he wrote in United States' newspapers that Canada should have been involved since 2003. He is trying to grant his own wish today.
It did not make sense for Canada then and it does not make sense for Canada today. That does not seem to matter to the government or to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is intent on sleepwalking Canada into this war, and he is misleading Canadians to get his way.
Remember, this operation began as a 30-day mission. That transformed into a 6-month mission. Now we are looking at a year or more. Just last week, officials from the Department of National Defence said that they expected the mission in Iraq and Syria to last for many years, not one year but years. That the Prime Minister has not said a word about that is most troubling.
Members will recall that Canadian forces were only supposed to advising and assisting Iraqi troops, not accompanying them. The Prime Minister said that there would be no combat role for us on the front lines. Now we know that not only are Canadian troops on the front lines, but they are exchanging gunfire with ISIL militants. The death of Sergeant Doiron is a tragic reminder of the kind of danger they are in.
The Prime Minister also said that Canadian forces would not be painting targets for air strikes, something that even the U.S. military is unwilling to do. Of course, we now know that they are doing exactly that.
Military strategists tell us that to be successful a mission requires two specific things: a clear objective and an exit strategy. The Conservatives have neither for the deployment in Iraq and Syria. They simply do not have a plan. They have no strategy other than their domestic political agenda, and everything they say betrays it. This jeopardizes not just Canada's credibility, but also the safety of our troops.
Our soldiers are exchanging gunfire with the Islamic State in the theatre of operations, contrary to what the Prime Minister himself promised here in the House of Commons. The fact that the Prime Minister continues to deny that Canadian soldiers are involved in combat is simply ridiculous. Soldiers deployed to the front are very much at risk. The death of Sergeant Doiron reminded us that the risks are all too real.
At the same time, our allies are not even going near the front lines. Canadian soldiers have to go to the front to identify the targets for air strikes. Americans are not doing that. U.S. headquarters will not allow them to go there.
Why are the Conservatives allowing this, despite all their promises? They have never given a reason.
It is difficult to have faith in anything the government says when everything it has told us so far has been false. When the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Prime Minister contradict each other on an almost daily basis, how is the public to judge?
It is clear that the government has no plan and no long-term strategy, yet it is asking our women and men in uniform to shoulder the burden of its improvisation.
Today, one of Canada's most respected defence journalists, David Pugliese, wrote an extraordinary article in the Ottawa Citizen with the heading, “General Tom Lawson tries to dig” the Minister of National Defence “out of a bomb crater of his own making”. It is quite extraordinary because what he proves black on white is that the Minister of National Defence has made statements to the Canadian people on mainstream television that are demonstrably patently false. Canadians deserve better. Our brave women and men in uniform deserve better.
There is simply too much at stake for this type of utter mismanagement. The decisions we are making here are literally life and death decisions. It is time the government started taking that job seriously.
The fact is that after 12 years of war, more bombs are not the answer. Worse still, going into Syria could backfire. Civilian casualties could be higher because Canadian pilots would not have the ground support to direct precision bombings. ISIL would only use any civilian casualties as another recruitment tool.
Air strikes in Syria implicate Canada in Syria's civil war. Bashar al-Assad has brutally murdered masses of peaceful protesters. He has used chemical weapons against his own people. He has been using snipers against women and children. He deliberately fuelled the rise of violent extremists in order to weaken the moderate Syrian opposition. We know that he co-operated with ISIL. He released its prisoners. We know that he is benefiting from air strikes to seize more territory in Syria. That is why his foreign minister said that Assad and the west are now aligned. Let us not forget that this was a charter member of George W. Bush's axis of evil. Who else is aligning with us other than Syria? Iran, which is another charter member. All we are missing is North Korea.
This is a serious ethical problem for Canada. Dismissing it betrays the government's lack of knowledge about a region that could suck Canada into decades of conflict. The Prime Minister tells Canadians that we can either bomb Iraq and Syria or sit on the sidelines. That is another of his false choices. Over 60 countries are united against ISIL. The vast majority of our allies are not taking part in air strikes. There are only six, the United States and a small group of Arab countries, that are bombing Syria. Surely the Prime Minister would not want to suggest that all other allies are sitting on the sidelines.
Our choice is not between bombing or nothing. The NDP has put forward serious alternatives, a plan that emphasizes what Canada was asked to do, a plan that emphasizes what we can do best and most effectively. Our limited resources can be much more effective in fighting ISIL and its ideology if we avoid sleepwalking into an ever-expanding military conflict and focus on a robust humanitarian mission.
Security Council resolutions on ISIL require action to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, financing and resources to ISIL. Canada can take leadership to meet these international obligations. The government has completely failed to do so. The NDP amendment would change that. Canada should finally sign and ratify the arms trade treaty to help end the flow of weapons to illegal armed groups. Canada remains the only NATO country that refuses to sign this important international agreement. That is a black mark on Canada's record. Canada should also partner with domestic communities to develop a strategy to counter radicalization.
Above all, there is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support. A quarter of Lebanon's population is in fact Syrian refugees. The crisis is pushing an already fragile country to the brink.
A majority of UN humanitarian appeals for Iraq and Syria remain unfunded. The World Food Programme has said that its operations in Iraq are only financially viable until May. The same program had to suspend food aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees just last December.
On the governance front, Canada can also help build sustainable governance in Iraq. Sunni frustrations with the central government in Baghdad facilitated the rise of ISIL. Iraq needs inclusive and representative governance to remove the conditions for violent extremism to take root.
Local frustrations led to the increase in radicalization. Only a competent, inclusive and representative local government that is in a position to communicate effectively can put an end to the extremist threat in this region. Obviously, a strong campaign is needed to counter the extremist messages, either here at home or over there. However, this will be impossible to achieve with the Prime Minister targeting the Muslim community and using Muslims as scapegoats instead of reaching out to them.
Canada can play a positive role in the region. We can help our Turkish ally, a NATO member, take care of 1.5 million refugees. We can use the diplomatic, humanitarian and financial channels at our disposal to strengthen the political institutions in Iraq and also in Syria. We cannot simply say that we will do something. We must take action. However, it is not a matter of choosing between combat and inaction. That is yet another false choice from the Conservatives.
People are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. We know that children died of cold this winter in refugee camps, which is completely unacceptable. These are Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish children who had fled the Islamic State. Canada has the expertise and could have helped winterize these camps. We are no strangers to winter. We could have saved these children. It is a matter of priorities. A matter of choice.
Our choice is not between bombing or doing nothing. Our choice is between the Prime Minister's ever expanding war or the New Democrats' focus on a robust and effective humanitarian role. Canadians will have that choice, a new government, a new mandate in October 2015. The New Democrats will immediately end Canada's participation in this war.
Hon. John Duncan:
I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker.
As recently as March 15, the Liberal leader was assuring the Kurdish community in Toronto of support to end the inhumanities committed by ISIL. The reaction of this same community to the position of the Liberal leader on March 24 when he opposed the Canadian military mission was one of shock, dismay and extreme surprise. The Liberal and NDP positions are considered to be an embarrassment. This community agrees that the military capability of ISIL must be degraded, and the position that the Liberals have taken does not address the profound humanitarian situation, because ISIL must be degraded to successfully deal with the humanitarian needs.
Our principal concern remains the safety and security of all Canadians.
We are proud to be part of the global military alliance committed to degrading ISIL. Violent takeovers of towns and cities in the region by ISIL militants and other armed opposition groups have displaced an estimated two and a half million people since June of last year. The United Nations estimates that more than 840,000 children in the region now face severe deprivation, exposure to violence and abuse, and lost opportunities for education.
Through expanding our mission, we are committed to stabilizing the region and degrading one of the worst threats to human life in the world today. We are not sitting on the sidelines. We must all co-operate to move forward in the most effective manner.
A Global News and Ipsos Reid poll found that by last week, three-quarters of Canadians support our country's participation in the anti-ISIL campaign. Two-thirds of respondents also said they would support a mission extension. In that poll, fewer than half of NDP supporters support the NDP leader's position, and two-thirds of Liberal supporters do not support their leader's position.
Canada is in a unique position to join the military alliance and to provide humanitarian relief simultaneously.
Since 2012, a Canadian initiative headed by a humanitarian group in my riding of Vancouver Island North, called Medical Hope for Syria, has raised over $200,000 to provide medical aid to Syrian refugees. Medical Hope for Syria purchases physician travel packs from Health Partners International of Canada. These packs contain 600 treatments and it figures that each pack saves at least 120 lives.
This group is in a unique position, as in Israel, to deliver medical aid and other aid to refugee camps. It buys its medications for 10% of retail, and that is matched by a donor in Calgary. This group supports the expansion and extension of our mission, because it knows that delivering humanitarian aid requires the degradation of ISIL.
Those who are most affected by ISIL's actions are the most vulnerable, including women, children, the elderly, and the disabled. Ethnic and religious minorities have also been targeted.
There are horrific reports of violence against women and girls. Sexual violence continues to be widespread, particularly among girls and women who are vulnerable because of conflict and displacement. Rape and sexual violence are being used as reprisals and to create fear.
In the face of this ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, we take pride in our commitment to expanding our mission and eradicating ISIL.
We have all seen the reports. Among other acts of brutality, ISIL is carrying out a systematic campaign, one that disproportionately targets ethnic and religious minorities. ISIL rapes women and girls, enslaves them for sexual purposes, sells and traffics them, marries them off to their soldiers, and uses them as a recruiting tool.
We can only imagine the suffering of the women and girls who remain in ISIL hands. We do know of the suffering of the survivors who have escaped and sought refuge in camps and communities outside of ISIL areas.
Such is the magnitude of displacements that survivors often continue to suffer. Families in conflict situations may use child, early and forced marriage as a desperate coping mechanism in an attempt to better provide for and protect their daughters. Others feel pressure to marry off daughters who are survivors of rape in an effort to reduce the social stigma they face.
Recent reports reveal how violent extremist groups like ISIL use sexual violence and the enslavement of women and girls as an integral strategy to pursue their perverse aims. Their abuse of women and girls from religious and ethnic minorities is used to so-called “cleanse” territory that they wish to dominate. They also use the enslaved women and girls to attract recruits and raise revenue through trafficking and ransom.
ISIL actions toward women are an affront to Canada and to the world. Equality between women and men, the empowerment of women and girls, the respect for and promotion of their dignity and human rights, and the prevention and response to sexual violence against them are fundamental Canadian values.
It is my honour to describe some of the actions and policies of the Government of Canada to promote the empowerment, the human rights and the well-being of women and girls in countries of concern. Canada has been instrumental in bringing world attention and action to this issue.
In 2013, Canada played an active role in the development of the first resolution focused on child, early and forced marriage at the UN human rights council. In 2014, we co-led a UN resolution on child, early and forced marriage. We are advocating for a specific target on ending child, early and forced marriage in the post-2015 development agenda. We have intensified our programming efforts to end child, early and forced marriage globally. We are supporting UN efforts to support some 640,000 displaced women and girls, including survivors of sexual violence.
We are committed to supporting survivors of sexual violence in conflict and to holding perpetrators to account. We will continue this important work. Canada will continue to deliver humanitarian aid and join our allies in this essential military mission to degrade the military capability of ISIL to make this all possible.