OTTAWA – Speaking in the House of Commons on the decision by the Government of Canada to join the international coalition fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
Members of the Canadian House of Commons voted 157 to 134 on Tuesday (October 7) to support sending Canadian forces to combat Islamic State in Iraq. The motion was pushed by Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper and clears the way for Canada to send CF-18s to embark on airstrikes in the Middle East.
Combat missions do not ordinarily require approval by the House of Commons, but Harper promised to put any combat missions, including airstrikes, up to a debate and vote.
Harper said Canada would not deploy ground troops against the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIL. He has also said Canadian jets would not strike targets in Syria until it had the full support of Damascus.
The United States has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria for two weeks with the help of Arab allies, and hitting targets in Iraq since August. European countries have joined the campaign in Iraq but not in Syria.
Prime Minister Harper delivered this statement:
“In recent months, the international community has reacted, with virtually unanimous outrage and alarm at the rise of ISIL, the so-called ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.’
“ISIL has established a self-proclaimed Caliphate, at present stretching over a vast territory roughly from Aleppo to near Baghdad, from which it intends to launch a terrorist jihad not merely against the region but on a global basis.
“Indeed it has specifically targeted Canada and Canadians, urging supporters to attack, quote, ‘disbelieving Canadians in any manner’, vowing that we should not feel secure even in our homes.
“It would be convenient to dismiss such statements as the mere rambling of lunatics were it not for the fact that ISIL’s deeds have been fully in line with its words.
“More shockingly, ISIL’s words are matched by its actions.
“In the territory ISIL has occupied it has conducted a campaign of unspeakable atrocities against the most innocent of people.
“It has tortured and beheaded children, it has raped and sold women into slavery, it has slaughtered minorities, captured prisoners and innocent civilians whose only crime is being or thinking differently from ISIL.
“Indeed by late last summer, ISIL stood on the brink of committing large-scale genocide in Northern Iraq.
“It was at that moment that Canada’s allies in the international community, led by President Obama, decided to intervene.
“Canadians have joined in this response.
“On September 5th, I announced that members of the Canadian Army, in a non-combat role, would advise and assist security forces in Iraq battling the terrorists.
“We had already begun, through the Royal Canadian Air Force, moving weapons and supplies donated by our allies to security forces in Northern Iraq.
“And we indicated that Canada was prepared to do more.
“Today we are bringing forward a motion asking this House to confirm its confidence for a government decision to join our allies and partners – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and likely others – in launching air strikes against ISIL.
“In addition to these air strikes, the Government of Canada will, in response to requests from Iraqi authorities as well as other allies and partners, continue to assist in other, non-combat, counter-terrorism roles.
“We will also contribute one air-to-air refuelling aircraft, two Aurora surveillance aircraft, and the necessary air crews and support personnel.
“In addition we are extending the deployment in a non-combat role of the up to 69 members of the Canadian Army advising and assisting security forces in Iraq.
“There will however be no ground combat mission, which is explicitly ruled out in the resolution.
“These contributions are for a period of up to six months.
“Let me be clear on the objectives of this intervention.
“We intend to significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL.
“Specifically, its ability to either engage in military movements of scale, or to operate bases in the open.
“This will halt ISIL’s spread in the region and greatly reduce its capacity to launch terrorist attacks outside the region.
“To be clear, this will not eliminate ISIL nor automatically ensure that alternative governance is able to occupy its space in Iraq or Syria.
“It will, however, open the opportunity for others to do so.
“But again to be clear, while ISIL will not be eliminated, the risks presented from the territory in which it operates will be significantly reduced to those of other similar ungoverned spaces in the broader region.
“There are, Mr. Speaker, two other matters on which I wish to elaborate.
“First, the resolution confirms the Government of Canada’s intention to strike ISIL and its allies.
“We will strike ISIL where and only where Canada has the clear support of the government of that country.
“At present this is only true in Iraq.
“If it were to become the case in Syria, then we will participate in air strikes against ISIL in that country also.
“The revulsion of the Government of Canada to the actions of the Assad regime is well known.
“But we are participating only in a counter-terrorism operation against the terrorists around ISIL.
“We have no intention of participating in a war against the government of any country in the region.
“Second, let me assure Canadians that the government is seized with the necessity of avoiding a prolonged quagmire in this part of the world.
“The actions we have announced are ones that could be ended with relative ease.
“Indeed, we and our allies are acting now precisely to avoid a situation that was clearly headed to a wider, protracted and much more dangerous conflict.
“Let me also say that the military measures we are taking do not in any way preclude humanitarian actions.
“There is no either/or here.
“In response to horrifying human suffering, we have already been providing emergency shelter and urgent health care for thousands of civilians in Iraq through support to humanitarian organizations on the ground, and substantial assistance to the Government of Iraq.
“This is in addition to large scale financial assistance already being furnished to the significant number of countries in the region that have been impacted by the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
“Let me also assure Canadians that the Government will continue to be seized with the broader terrorist threats against Canada.
“We have strengthened laws in this country to deal with the issue of so-called Canadian foreign fighters.
“We have broadened the grounds for passport revocation against such people as well as allowing for the stripping of citizenship from dual nationals who engage in terrorist activities.
“We will soon bring forward additional measures to strengthen the ability of our security services to monitor aspiring terrorists to where possible prevent their return to Canada or to where that is not possible give greater tools to be able to charge and prosecute.
“Mr. Speaker, to return to the matter before us today, I urge all members to consider and to support the motion we have presented.
“I do this, Mr. Speaker, in recognizing that in a democracy, especially one approaching an election, there is rarely political upside in supporting any kind of military action and little risk in opposing it.
“Nevertheless, for regional and global security and, of course, the security of Canadians, this action is necessary.
“The evidence of the necessity of this, Mr. Speaker, there is none better than the fact that the mission has been launched by President Obama, the leader who had withdrawn American troops and proudly ended the war in Iraq.
“Of course, Mr. Speaker, one could say that while the mission is evidently necessary, we don’t have to be the ones doing it because others will.
“But, Mr. Speaker, throughout our history that has never been the Canadian way.
“It has never been the Canadian way to do only the most easy and praiseworthy of actions and to leave the tough things for others.
“Indeed, Mr. Speaker, colleagues, we should be under no illusion.
“If Canada wants to keep its voice in the world, and we should since so many of our challenges are global, being a free rider means you are not taken seriously.
“The threat posed by ISIL is real.
“And it is grave.
“And it is explicitly directed, in part, against this country.
“Left unchecked, this terrorist threat can only grow and grow quickly.
“As a government we know our ultimate responsibility is to protect Canadians and to defend our citizens from those who would do harm to us or our families.
“We also know that our country, like our allies, shares the duty and burden of all free peoples, to act against wider global threats when it is in our capacity to do so.
“And when our allies recognize and respond to a threat that would also harm us, we Canadians do not stand on the sidelines.
“We do our part.
“On Monday, this House will debate the motion put forward for an air combat campaign against ISIL.
“I call on all members of this House to show their support for this mission and of course our support for the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who are now and always ready and willing to answer the call of their country.”