Mr. Speaker, in recent months, the international community has almost unanimously expressed its indignation and concern over the rise of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
ISIL has established a self-proclaimed caliphate, at present stretching over a vast territory, roughly from Alepo 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 “disbelieving Canadians in any manner”, vowing that we should not feel secure, even in our homes.
It would be easy to downplay such statements and tell ourselves that these are merely the words of some fanatic fringe; however, this terrorist organization does more than just talk.
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.
This is why Canada's allies in the international community, led by President Obama, decided to intervene, and why our country, Canada, became part of that intervention.
On September 5, 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 have already begun, and the Royal Canadian Air Force is transporting weapons and equipment sent from our allies to the security forces in Northern Iraq.
We also indicated that Canada was prepared to do more.
Today, we are bringing forward a motion asking the 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 launch air strikes against ISIL.
In addition to these air strikes, the Government of Canada, at the request of the Iraqi authorities and other allies and partners, will continue to provide assistance in other non-combat anti-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 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 mission will stem the spread of ISIL in the region and will significantly degrade its ability to conduct terrorist attacks outside the region.
To be clear, let us say that this intervention will not eliminate this terrorist organization or automatically guarantee that our style of governance will take its place in Iraq or Syria. However, it will provide 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 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 the country in question.
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 Government of Canada will not hide its disgust at the actions of the Assad regime. What we are doing is taking part in an anti-terrorist operation against ISIL and its allies. We do not want to wage war on any government 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 actions that will be relatively easy to end.
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.
The military measures we are taking do not in any way preclude humanitarian actions. There is no either/or here.
We are horrified by the human suffering and are already providing emergency shelter and emergency medical care to thousands of civilians in Iraq in support of humanitarian organizations on the ground. We are also providing 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 revoking the passports of people who take part in terrorist activities, and we have taken measures to revoke the citizenship of such individuals who have dual citizenship.
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.
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 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.
Nonetheless, this intervention is necessary to ensure regional and global security and, of course, the security of Canadians.
The evidence of the necessity of this 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, one could say that while the mission is evidently necessary, we do not have to be the ones doing it because others will. But 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, 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 not being taken seriously.
ISIL presents a very real threat. It is serious and explicitly directed against our country, among others.
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, and it allies, share the obligation and the burden that is incumbent on all free peoples: that of rising up against global threats when it is in our power to do so.
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, the House will debate the motion moved in favour of an air-strike campaign against ISIL.
I call on all members of the House to show their support for this mission and 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.