Response to letters on Canada's combat mission in Iraq
Thank you to all the constituents who wrote to me to express your thoughts on the Conservative Government’s motion in the House of Commons regarding air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. I received about 300 personally written letters and I would like to respond to all of you with this message.
The Liberal Party demanded that the government make a thoughtful case for air strikes. We wanted to know, what was the best way that Canada could fight the radical evil that is ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and protect innocent civilians who are suffering now and dreading the coming of winter and, ultimately, protect Canadians? How will Canada’s contribution lead to progress on these fronts?
While we know that Canada can and must contribute to the effort to protect people from ISIL, we feel that Mr. Harper’s government did not make a reasoned case to Parliament for its decision to focus on the combat role, and did not answer MPs who asked for clarifications. Moreover, unlike other countries who are joining the combat mission in Iraq, Mr. Harper’s government chose not to brief opposition leaders, even in secret.
Indeed, even Conservative ministers were confused. On October 8 in the Canadian Press we read that,
“… Minister Christian Paradis fell flat in his attempt to deflect Opposition criticism that not enough was being done to help civilians and refugees. ‘Targeted military actions will help establish more humanitarian corridors so we can make our people safe,’ Paradis said. …’That’s bizarre,’ said [Retired General and former Conservative candidate, Lewis] MacKenzie. ‘It’s not the way it works.’ The only use for ‘fast jets’ in such a scenario would be if soldiers on the ground, running humanitarian supply convoys, were attacked by an overwhelming force. ‘As someone who’s had to open up humanitarian corridors, I know it takes an awful lot of brave soldiers to either push back the blockage — or negotiate, negotiate, negotiate,’ he said. ‘Humanitarian corridors cannot be opened from the air.’”
Liberal MPs voted against Mr. Harper’s motion.
You may have read about some present and former Liberal MPs calling for Canada to act in a combat role on the basis of the Responsibility to Protect principle, which is that the international community has a responsibility to step in, by military or non-military means, to stop crimes of mass atrocity when a government is unwilling or incapable of doing so. That is a valid viewpoint and it is worth noting that for a few years now I have heard the situation in Syria mentioned as a possible case in point. Responsibility to Protect was, however, not the rationale of the government.
Our country is now participating in the combat operations against ISIL and the Liberal Party supports the Canadian Forces in its efforts there. We will continue to press the government on the level of services it provides to veterans, its handling of refugees from the region, and the attention it pays to domestic security. Here are some of the things we said in Question period last week on these issues:
Frank Valeriote, Oct. 7, 2014:
Mr. Speaker, the government’s response to the veterans affairs committee report on the new veterans charter should have been a strong signal to veterans, but instead the minister merely kicked the can further down the road.
After tonight’s vote, we shall be engaged in a war in Iraq. That means more members of our forces will someday be veterans without the resources they need and deserve.
Canadian Forces members are willing to put their lives on the line. Why must they return with doubt that they will be cared for by a government more willing to invest in self-promoting advertising than in the well-being of our veterans?
Justin Trudeau, Oct. 8, 2014:
Mr. Speaker, last year Canada proposed an initial Syrian refugee intake target of 1,300, but only 200 are reported to have arrived on Canadian soil so far.
When will last year’s target be met, and more importantly, when will that target be increased?
Marc Garneau, Oct. 9, 2014:
Mr. Speaker, yesterday, at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security meeting, the minister confirmed that the government is aware that 80 individuals have returned from overseas after participating in terrorism-related activities. The minister told us that those individuals pose a threat to our society, that they have broken Canadian law, and that they all should be put behind bars.
What is he waiting for? What exactly is it going to take for those individuals to be put in jail?