House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was isil.


The House resumed from June 16 consideration of the motion.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Newton—North Delta has seven minutes left to conclude her remarks.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, to make it clear, I will be supporting the motion that refers to the Trent-Severn Waterway at Port Severn.

One of the key things for many parts of Canada is that our waterways play a critical role, not only for tourism but also for transportation of goods, leisure, and people living on many of our waterways. Whenever we go into a region to look at the maintenance required, desilting, for example, in this case, it behooves the government to consult with environmentalists, the stakeholders, the business community, as well as the residents in those areas.

One of the key things that the government has an allergy to, as I have said many times, is meaningful consultation and then having transparency in how it proceeds. We are hearing from this community and those impacted by this waterway of the critical need for maintenance and the need for government to invest in infrastructure.

I could talk for days about the government's abandonment of meaningful investment in infrastructure. In my riding of Newton—North Delta, we are in dire need of federal funds to invest in a public transit system because of the gridlock that we experience. Our bridges need upgrading. We have a tunnel that goes under the Fraser River that is in need of major work. Therefore, when I am looking at the need to invest in infrastructure, I find the government is lacking.

Going back to the desilting and deepening of the Trent—Severn Waterway that we are talking about here, I am also reminded of the dire need to do that in my riding. The Fraser River is an amazing river. I do not know if anyone has travelled down it as a tourist or has walked along it, but it is also what I call a “working river”. It carries goods out to the port. It is a river in need of major desilting. I know that the mayors from Delta and Surrey have spoken to the government on the issue of the need to look after the infrastructure there, and to also take a look at our ports.

It is not just wood being transported down the Fraser River. There is also coal and other goods that are being brought up the valley. I have talked to the authorities who tell me that a major investment is required on an ongoing basis to look after the port to make sure that transportation of goods can carry on in a productive way.

At the same time, the Fraser River, as we all know, is a great attraction for fishing and tourism. For those particular aspects, we also need to look at the river as it enters the ocean with the silt that builds up, and how much we need to invest in order to keep the river functioning for tourism, leisure activities, fishing, and for it to be a working river to transport goods. Those kinds of investments require a federal government with a vision, one that is willing to consult with municipalities, the business communities, and the residents around that area, and then put in resources to look after the infrastructure that we need so badly in the country.

We are not the only ones saying that. We hear that from all kinds of people, whether they are environmentalists, the business community, or citizens who live around that area.

We are blessed in Canada with such amazing waterways, whether it is B.C., Ontario, or Quebec, coast to coast to coast. In many ways we are reliant on our waterways as a way of communication and keeping linkages for some of our communities. That has become very important.

The NDP absolutely supports responsible investment in infrastructure, and I stress that. Investment in infrastructure should not be just so that certain ministers can go to their ridings and make grandiose announcements. Serious investment in infrastructure should look at Canada as a whole, seeing where the gaps are, and then investing in a major way. Whether in Montreal, Vancouver, or in Toronto, it should not matter. We need to see that kind of investment.

If we are investing in infrastructure, we must also balance economic, environmental, social, and legal concerns because some of our waterways are shared. We have international jurisdiction over some of those. However, the number one thing for us right now is that we need investment. Investment in infrastructure would boost the economy, create jobs, and is good for every Canadian across this country.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to discuss Motion No. 502. The motion asks the federal government to invest money in improving the Trent-Severn Waterway in the Great Lakes region.

I have been interested in our freshwater resources for years. In preparing for this morning's debate, I learned more about a region and a waterway that were somewhat familiar to me.

I learned a lot from reading the speech by my colleague, the hon. member for Simcoe North. It is interesting because there are connections between that waterway and the Lachine Canal near my riding alongside the St. Lawrence.

Like the Trent-Severn Waterway, the Lachine Canal is a Canadian historic site managed by Parks Canada. There are connections between the two regions. I am interested in this issue not only because it involves our freshwater resources, but also because of the connection between these two historic waterways: the Lachine Canal and the Trent-Severn Waterway.

Water levels, whether they are high or low, are always a problem for those who live beside or use a particular waterway. I know this because my riding, as I just mentioned, is on a waterway, the St. Lawrence River. There are many marinas, sailing, and boat clubs along the St. Lawrence. We can see from one year to the next the impacts caused by low water levels or high water levels.

Low water levels are a problem for a number of reasons. When water is shallow, there is greater sedimentation, which then requires dredging. That is the subject of this motion. It is also very hard for recreational boat owners to get out of the marina when the water levels are low. Sometimes they are unable to leave that space because of the physical limitations that come with lower water levels. We know that commercial shipping is also affected by low water levels because there is not usually much space between the bottom of a ship and the riverbed. Sometimes we are talking about two or three feet, even for the big Great Lakes vessels.

I understand that my hon. colleague's attention to this issue is very important. I learned that the Trent-Severn Waterway, which is quite long and includes some free-flowing parts and canals, is in great use. It has 160 dams and 44 locks, and there are 50,000 residences along the waterway. This is a very important issue, and I support the request for a very modest sum of money, from what I have read, to drag a portion of the waterway which is at Port Severn. I believe there will also be some blasting required, which I would imagine makes the project a bit more expensive.

What we are talking about is a particular part of the waterway in a particular region, the Great Lakes region. However, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the issue of fluctuating and especially diminishing water levels in the Great Lakes in general.

What is causing those fluctuations and specifically the falling water levels? There are three causes that we know of, and we learned this from the IJC's Upper Great Lakes Study.

One cause is from the dredging of the St. Clair River, which is apparently allowing more water to leave the upper Great Lakes. Another cause is from the shifting of the earth's crust. The ice age compressed that part of the continent and over time the lake beds rise a little and tilt, causing some water to flow out of the region. Also, there is the problem of climate change, which leaves less ice cover in the winter and there is thus more evaporation.

This is a broader issue, and the government is going to have to look at the issue in broader terms.

I hope the government listens to the hon. member for Simcoe North and does the work for which he asks. However, we need to look at the issue of the falling Great Lakes water levels more broadly and the government will have make some investments.

The hon. member who spoke before me talked about infrastructure investments, and, yes, I would have to agree, but there are other kinds of investments that the government will need to make, which I would like to address a little later.

We have a problem with climate change and there is some uncertainty as how climate change will impact the Great Lakes. We know climate change will cause less precipitation in some areas and more in other areas.

The problem around the Great Lakes is that we do not know where the greater precipitation will occur, at what latitude. This is an issue when we talk about the Great Lakes because the basin is so small relative to the surface water. It is not a huge basin where if it rains farther north the water would still make its way into the lakes. No, it is a very small basin and if the precipitation is above or below the lakes, that water will not necessarily make it to the lakes.

We cannot say with certainty how climate change will impact the water level, but we have to plan for the worst case scenario and for falling water levels because of the attendant costs of falling water levels.

I mentioned earlier that there were other investments that needed to be made above and beyond infrastructure investments. When the hon. member talked about the infrastructure investments that would be required, she talked about big physical constructs no doubt that might better regulate water flows and so on.

There is a group called Great Lakes Our Water, or GLOW, in Georgian Bay, and we are essentially talking about Georgian Bay here. I am told that part of its focus has now shifted to another problem in the area, which is an invasive species, a kind of reed that is quickly proliferating in Georgian Bay. However, GLOW also has a campaign called “Stop the Drop”.

I was speaking to GLOW's executive director, Colin Dobell, not long ago on the phone. Then I met him on Friday at the meeting of the Freshwater Alliance here in the region. I learned that Stop the Drop was focusing on a technology that would allow us to better predict the impact of changing water levels, in this case, of dropping water levels. This is called LIDAR technology.

LIDAR technology is essentially a radar technology that allows us to construct integrated topographic-bathymetric models to visualize the impacts of variable water levels. Typically it is used to see how rising sea levels will impact on coastal areas, but it can also be used to predict what the impact of dropping water levels will be.

It is very important that the government put some money into applying LIDAR technology in Georgian Bay so the area can adapt to the impact of climate change.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Motion No. 502 put forward by the member for Simcoe North.

I have known the member for Simcoe North for some time now and have always found his actions on behalf of his constituency to be above reproach. Whether it was serving on committee with the member or watching him discharge his duties from the chair of the Speaker, he has always worked hard in this place for the constituents he represents. I find his engagement on this specific issue, that of deepening and straightening the marine vessel navigation channel south of Port Severn, to be indicative of his work on such important causes.

When one travels the 400 highway, the beautiful community of Port Severn is always a great destination to stop and take in one's surroundings. This lively community is really representative of all the great things Ontario's waterfront communities have to offer citizens and visiting tourists alike.

Being from a community on the Great Lakes myself, I can speak to the overall importance that being so closely located to our incredible freshwater resources means to a community. Many day-to-day activities within such communities greatly involve the commerce centred on various marine influenced industries.

Boating and angling are two recreational pastimes that are important to the over 50,000 residents who make up the Trent-Severn Waterway, and many more citizens enjoy other waterways across the province, considering that there are over one million lakes and rivers in Ontario.

We are greatly blessed by such bountiful resources, yet at the same time management of the infrastructure on such waterways can present very serious challenges for policy-makers.

As a long time municipal representative acting in the capacities as mayor of a town and warden of a large county in southwestern Ontario, and now as the federal representative in this place for Sarnia—Lambton, I can speak to the necessity of proactive management of these waterways and the infrastructure located on them.

I would like to share with the House my perspective on these issues and why I strongly support Motion No. 502.

There are three important factors we must consider when we examine the issue of deepening and straightening an important and frequently traversed vessel navigation channel like we are discussing today.

The first issue to consider is the multitude of dynamics that form the foundational approach for waterway infrastructure management and help guide policy-makers toward endorsing a decision to conduct certain types of rehabilitative work on a specific area of a waterway's vessel navigation channel.

Second, we must consider the true economic impact of such a proposal. When conducting a cost-benefit analysis, it must be shown to be truly in the best interests of the community and impacted waterway, as well as the citizens and tourists who rely on these marine passageways, in order for such a proposal to be considered truly economically viable.

Last, we must consider the original objective of such waterways and how any proposed work to deepen or straighten a vessel navigation channel, for example, could possibly impact the use and nature of the waterway in question, and also how the original working conditions of such a channel may have become an issue with the natural passage of time. In this case, the waterway has become dangerous for larger vessels due to the presence of shoals and rocks in a very narrow channel passage.

In terms of the foundation of waterway infrastructure management, I raise this issue first to ensure that it is well known that much deliberation goes into policy-making decisions that would impact our waterways.

Those of us who live adjacent to the Great Lakes are well aware of the matter of water levels, both high and low levels, and what issues they can present for our communities.

The cyclical ups and downs of the Great Lakes had previously been on the downside for a period of many years, but over the past several months we have seen a rebound in historical water levels. This is the type of issue that policy-makers would examine as a potential factor in whether certain types of work, such as deepening a marine channel, could or should proceed.

The reality is that regardless of water levels, considerations must be made as to the necessity of the work as it stands now. Considering the dangers to the passing boats through the channel area in question, it would seem that even with the rebound in water levels this past summer, dangers still exist in this specific area.

We must also examine the economic impact of such a proposal.

In terms of the true economic impact of Motion No. 502, we should consider the overall value of the commercial and recreational boating and fishing industry, as well as the multitude of linked industries and businesses to these sectors.

With recreational fishing's economic output measuring somewhere between $5 billion and $10 billion across the Great Lakes and with the boating industry being even larger, there is no doubt as to the impact these sectors have on the Ontario economy and also the overall economic well-being of Canada.

My community of Sarnia—Lambton greatly relies on boat traffic for tourism, and recreational and commercial fishing are important to the marine industry here as well. Therefore, I have a good understanding of these issues. I take further experience from my work on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in which work was done on issues of great importance to the shared Great Lakes resources. Therefore, I understand these issues from an in-depth perspective.

As the member for Simcoe North acknowledges, the issues impacting the channel near Port Severn are, indeed, causing operators of larger vessels, whether they be pleasure craft or commercially operated vessels, to reconsider travelling through that zone due to the danger posed by current conditions. This would obviously create an economic impact that should be considered.

The member for Simcoe North alluded to these factors in his introductory speech in this place, when he acknowledged that 30-foot vessels were having difficulties navigating the shallow channel and many were simply choosing to avoid travelling here altogether. From an economic perspective, this would place great stress on the smaller communities such as Port Severn, given the importance the associated revenues from the boating and angling industry would have for them.

Numerous communities in Ontario have come to greatly rely on marine traffic to boost revenues from commerce across their entire communities. This is not unlike impacts that can occur in areas of my riding of Sarnia—Lambton, where we have water access along the St. Clair River and Lake Huron. The communities in this region also rely on the tourism dollars generated from these waterways and ensuring that any boat can make berth is a crucial element to the economic fortunes of a community.

Any issues relating to accessibility for boaters on waterways in my riding are always of huge importance to municipal stakeholders, and I have worked closely with them on issues related to various marine infrastructure rehabilitation projects in the past. Again, these are simple issues that basic marine infrastructure management and a nation such as Canada, blessed with a vast amount of marine resources, has the ability to remedy such issues with efficiency and precision.

The economic factor becomes even more of an issue when one considers the costs of damage to boats, whether recreational or commercial in nature, from passing through dangerous channels. If a pleasure craft operator damages an expensive boat, the repair costs would ultimately represent a financial drain that otherwise could have gone into other areas of the economy.

If a commercial operator damages his craft, it could mean costly downtime for his business, laid-off workers, and expensive repair and insurance costs. The trickle-down effect from such an occurrence becomes rather drastic when one stops to think about it from the perspective of an operator of such a business enterprise.

Last, let us look at the original objective of the waterway in question. Clearly, it was and remains a marvel of architecture and Canada is a nation seen to have mastered the usage of canals and other marine infrastructure-oriented work in our short history.

When originally built, the marine channel was quite suitable for vessels in operation at that time. Of course, that was almost 100 years ago. As members will understand, the technological advancements surrounding marine navigation have led to larger vessels that can travel further than ever before.

Even more important to understand is that society has grown up along the waterways, and communities on these waterways have come to greatly rely on the tourism aspect of boating and angling in these areas. Therefore, the channel that was appropriate for most marine traffic 100 years ago has now become crowded and, in fact, dangerous based on the testimony heard from the member for Simcoe North, who has been well briefed on these issues relating to the specific waterway from his community stakeholders.

This is commonplace in Canada, where we have tended to build infrastructure in historic spurts. Hence, it is not uncommon to see the need for rehabilitation and regenerative efforts in repairing old and decaying marine infrastructure.

I hereby express my strong support for what is proposed in Motion No. 502 and would call on my colleagues on all sides of the House to do the same.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak to Motion No. 502, the motion put together by the member for Simcoe North. I can say I shared an office floor with the member and know how hard he works and the diligence of his work. I praise him for bringing an issue before us that includes the Great Lakes. As critic for the Great Lakes for the NDP and Canada-U.S. border relations, I can tell members that the Great Lakes are going to frame much of our relationship with the United States for the next 10 years. Whether it be on fresh water, whether it be on invasive species, whether it be pollution, there will be a lot of discourse, and there has been, and I will highlight some of that in my speech.

However, I want to touch on Motion No. 502, specifically, right now, because it is an important issue for the community and is an important issue with regard to infrastructure, with regard to planning, and with regard to ensuring that our natural resources, when they are affected, are handled appropriately.

Motion No. 502 looks to study Georgian Bay and the westerly limit of the Trent-Severn Waterway, at Port Severn, a channel that is not living up to the needs of the current boating culture that wants to use and access the channel, because it is too small.

Specifically, there are a number of challenges people need to know about when we look at expanding this channel. The channel is currently rock-faced. There are sharp turns in the channel. It is narrow and not wide enough for vessels to pass each other. It is subjected to unexpected swift currents, as well. Why these things are important is that the tourism industry, in particular, and the boating culture need to use this facility, and it does not do itself justice anymore. In fact, the Canadian Coast Guard also provides navigation devices and aid.

There have been some attempts to work with the current infrastructure, but it is so challenged that it does need a review. It is hurting the economy and tourism in the region by deterring boaters from making use of the channel. That is a loss to not only that local community but also to the entire Great Lakes. One of the things I want to focus on is the challenges in the Great Lakes, which are significant. We have proposed a series of things that correlate to this. It is about planning. It is about having a plan.

One of the first things to talk about is the lake water levels. We have tabled a motion in the House of Commons that calls for a study of the lake water levels in the Great Lakes. We saw this last winter, being a better winter for the Great Lakes, but prior to that in a series of different years we saw the lake water levels lowering. That has actually hurt this facility, which Motion No. 502 addresses, as well.

The key thing is that we need planning. Every year, when the lake waters go down, a number of different communities scramble with different types of resolutions, asking for federal funds and provincial funds to deal with dredging and other types of work. There is a problem with that because we go from crisis to crisis, as opposed to having a sustainable fund or a sustainable business plan to deal with the lake water levels rising and lowering, and then also understanding that when we do dredge, we cannot be disturbing some of the sediments and contamination in the actual sediments. Therefore, we are conflicted in terms of how we can deal with that.

What we are proposing, as New Democrats, is that we study those levels and then, on top of that, we create a business plan that comes into operation, depending on what takes place. We have a natural ally in the international joint commission, the binational commission, which has done wonderful work for many decades and which continues to do some really good work on a series of different things. It could really be an asset. For example, if lake water levels go down again this year, we could identify the number of communities that are affected by say maybe two or three centimetres. We would know those target spots, and those organizations and those municipalities, as well as the different docks and even cottages and other types of regions, which could be honed in on in terms of dealing with those problems, as opposed to just waiting for them to respond to emergencies and crises.

We are hoping that our motion gets passed.

It is also about our economy. Obviously the shipping community has to deal with it as well. It depends upon the type of aggregate that is coming and going into different ports, and what type of infrastructure construction is taking place across Ontario, Quebec and other parts of Canada, which use the Great Lakes as a shipping and movement distribution vehicle to get those materials to those projects. Again, it is about having a business plan to deal with this.

If we are more efficient in terms of our economy with regard to our shipping, it is also going to help us environmentally. Again, we will know what the consequences of these actions are going to be.

There are a couple of other things that we have pushed forward that are really important to note on the Great Lakes. In the transition that is taking place, there is an issue with regard to microplastics right now. We have had some good meetings with the industry.

Microplastics and microbeads are in a lot of things, such as toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. They are the little plastic beads that are added to products because the other types of materials used are rough on the skin. Consumers like the microbeads because it makes products feel smooth. When it is used in toothpaste, there is no roughness in the mouth.

The problem, however, is that the microbeads end up going down the drain into our municipal water treatment systems and up into the Great Lakes. Once they get to the Great Lakes there are consequences. First, sometimes the fish and other wildlife mistake it for algae, and then digest and eat them. It then becomes part of the food chain. Later on when people are fishing in the Great Lakes, that becomes part of the experience.

I was not aware of this until someone starting doing some research on this, but alternatively, some of the microplastics wash up in the sands, in the shoreline, and because it is plastic it becomes a heating source with the sun on them. It can change the ecosystem of the beach and other areas that are affected. There is a campaign to ban microbeads. Some industry leaders have been really good on this and I think there is some change there.

I know it has affected Canada-U.S. relations. Illinois, as well as New York, has passed a resolution, defining the size and shape of what can be in these products. I know a lot of states, as well as members of Congress and the Senate, are concerned about this issue. The industry is open to and is looking for a Canada-U.S. solution. I am hoping the government takes some initiative on this because there seems to be some positive will to move forward on this. I am meeting with some groups this afternoon about this issue.

There are alternatives that can be used in those types of consumer products that would not cause the environmental damage, whether it be to the beaches, shores or wildlife. There can be natural remedies. These are things that could even be beneficial for our economy, because products could be manufactured in a way that they would be good for the environment when they break down.

I do want to touch on a couple of other issues just briefly, with regard to the importance of the motion and other issues in the Great Lakes. There is the issue in Kincardine right now, where they want to build a deep repository for nuclear waste. We are fighting against that. We believe it is wrong and hope the government does something about it. It is hurting Canada-U.S. relations because the U.S. has legislation that nuclear waste cannot be stored within 10 miles of the Great Lakes, and we are trying to put it within one kilometre.

I tabled a bill here in the House last week on invasive carp getting into Canada. We are calling on the government to let the CBSA officers of this country stop and refuse invasive carp that comes in if it is not eviscerated, cut and gutted. If this species gets into our lakes and our inland water systems, there will be a significant impact and a loss of fisheries. This is an invasive species that should be stopped and the government can do that at no cost.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Resuming debate.

Seeing none, the hon. member for Simcoe North will have his five minutes of reply.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of the members who participated in the debate, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, and the member for Essex.

I also thank the member for Beaches—East York, the member for Ottawa South, the member for Newton—North Delta, the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis, Sarnia—Lambton and Windsor West. I thank each of them for their compliments of my work on the motion and for their support of the motion.

It was clear through the comments that we heard on this particular question and on the motion that there are a number of different questions and concerns that arise out of any debate that involves not only our important Canadian waterways but in this case the Great Lakes. Many of those members of Parliament whom we heard from take their economic means from and much of their local enterprise is derived from things such as recreational boating and all of the things that come from that, from retail to services to marinas. All of those economic interests are affected when we clear up impediments such as the canal at Port Severn.

As members heard, this is a beautiful part of our country. We do everything we can to attract recreational boaters and tourists, for a whole host of reasons, to experience the wonders of Georgian Bay and the inland waterway that stretches from Lake Ontario all the way up to Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. This is what connects much of that summer-season commerce and we know we want to keep that going strong. That is what the direction of the motion is.

I would just finish off and somewhat encapsulate what we heard with a quote from the lockmaster at Lock 45, the immediate lock there. He was there for more than a decade and his family has been there for generations. He summed it up this way:

...very frustrating for the boaters, as well as for me and the staff, because they thought it was our problem. The years passed and water got lower and lower; the problem magnified. Boats had problems going downstream. With any current, they were on the rock shoal. Boats couldn’t meet under the bridge. The boats from 36 feet and upwards started avoiding the locks because of the dangerous and unsafe area.

That is exactly the precise direction of the motion, to address that particular issue. Once again, I thank all hon. members for their support of the motion, and I look forward to seeing it pass should the members consider it that way.

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members


Georgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Suspension of SittingGeorgian Bay Channel to Lock 45--Port SevernPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Given the time, I declare that the House will stand suspended for 14 minutes.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:46 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

Military Contribution Against ISILGovernment Orders


Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario


John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs


That this House (i) recognise that the leadership of the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has called on its members to target Canada and Canadians at home and abroad, (ii) further recognise the clear and direct threat that ISIL poses to the people of the region, including members of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority groups who have been subjected to a sustained campaign of brutal sexual violence, murder, and barbaric intimidation by ISIL, (iii) accept that, unless confronted with strong and direct force, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow, (iv) affirm Canada’s desire, consistent with Canadian values and interests, to protect the vulnerable and innocent civilians of the region, including through urgent humanitarian assistance, (v) acknowledge the request from the Government of Iraq for military support against ISIL from members of the international community, including from the Government of Canada, (vi) further acknowledge the participation of Canada’s friends and allies, including numerous countries of the Middle East, in the broad international coalition committed to the fight against ISIL, (vii) note that the United Nations Security Council has become seized of the threat posed by international terrorism with the unanimous passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178, and, accordingly: (a) support the Government’s decision to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against ISIL, and terrorists allied with ISIL, including air strike capability for a period of up to six months; (b) note that the Government of Canada will not deploy troops in ground combat operations; and (c) continue to offer its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to open the debate on such an important issue for Canadians and for global security.

It is right that all sides of the House have the opportunity to make their voices heard. That is why I travelled to Iraq with opposition critics last month. That is why we called the committee back early, before Parliament was sitting, to discuss the deployment of military advisers. That is why the government supported an emergency debate on the second day of this parliamentary session. That is why we have tabled this motion to debate a new phase of operations.

There are significant questions not just of process but of principle at stake here in the House today. Let us focus on the issues at hand with the seriousness that Canadians rightly expect.

I will defer to my colleagues on some of the details of different aspects. The Minister of National Defence will speak to the military mission, but let me be very up front about the key facts off the top.

How long will this mission last? It will last six months. How many CF-18s will there be? There will be six. How many other planes will there be? There will be one refueling aircraft and two surveillance aircraft. How many supporting crew members will there be in a neighbouring country? There will be 600.

We are asking our brave men and women to fly over the skies of Iraq and confront a new generation of terrorism. It is a terrorist threat that has directly targeted our country.

I hope that we can draw a line under debating the debate.

The government has agreed on its intention. The Prime Minister has articulated clearly the direction in which he intends to lead. How many military advisers will there be? There will be up to 69, aiding and advising those who will confront ISIL forces.

The motion before the House is very clear about what we are doing, and it is just as clear about what we are not doing. It also sets out the clear purpose of the mission. Every step of the way, I have wanted Canada to show a strong and united front in the fight against ISIL. It saddens me that it appears that this will not happen.

It is fair to say that all sides of the House have at times been known to produce more heat than light, but this issue is much bigger than that. This House is bigger than that. Canada is bigger than that.

We have heard those words in this chamber before: that a big country does not need small thinking. We must think big for who we are and what the promise of our people holds for the future.

As former distinguished member of the House, Bob Rae, said:

This is not about “peace” versus “war.” This is about...the collective capacity of governments and international institutions to deal effectively with perpetrators of violence.

By now, everyone is familiar with ISIL's brutal methods. This is not just another conflict. The struggle is not against a state or even a foreign dictator. This is a struggle against a group of terrorists that rape and pillage and slaughter anything and anyone that stands in their way.

These terrorists are creating a proto-state, a place where they can train for attacks against Canada and the west. It is a place where brave and idealistic people like Alan Henning, a humanitarian worker, are beheaded on camera. It is a place where women and girls are auctioned off in slave markets and the heads of minorities are mounted on spikes in town squares. It is a place where the medieval arrogantly confronts the civilized.

On Friday I read an account from a shopkeeper in the Kurdish town of Makhmur. He said:

We had to leave. We were so nervous because everybody knew that [ISIL] had killed everyone they found in some towns.

Those people claim to be Muslims but they have no religion except killing. That is their belief.

With the support from air strikes by the Obama administration, this man's town was recently taken back from ISIL's grip. He then said:

I know all about what Canada is doing.... will be very good what the Canadians will soon do in Iraq.

This supportive message has been echoed by my counterpart in the Kurdish regional government.

We cannot predict the future, but we can examine the current situation closely. Just three years ago, al Qaeda in Iraq was in bad shape. Now its successor controls vast lands and resources, creating ideal conditions for launching sophisticated attacks abroad. Last weekend, we heard about a death pact between Pakistani Taliban and ISIL.

We have to attack this scourge, and for good reason. Moreover, the new unified government immediately asked for help.

Our government recognizes the multi-pronged nature of this crisis. As we attempt to halt ISIL's advance, no one who has read the many stories or heard some of the stories for themselves in Iraq can forget about the human cost of its merciless march.

The scale of the humanitarian crisis is truly hard to comprehend. To get a sense of the scale of this human tragedy, imagine if more than the entire population of Montreal, every single Montrealer, had to flee their home in terror. That is 1.8 million people. That is women, children, the elderly, and targeted religious minorities.

Canada has been quick to respond to this unfolding crisis with practical support. We are already the seventh-biggest donor in the world. The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has praised Canada's co-operation.

I would like to focus on one element of this challenge today, one that has had far too little attention so far.

As a new report by the United Nations has described, ISIL's brutality is matched only by its depravity. In one case over the summer, it herded up 150 women and girls, mostly Christians and Yazidis, and sent them to Syria to be given to ISIL fighters either as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves. Iraqi forces capturing towns from ISIL have reported finding naked women tied to trees.

Sexual violence and conflict is a despicable crime that targets the most vulnerable. This is an issue that Canada has been taking a lead role in and will continue to in the upcoming weeks and months. We must ensure that the women and girls who suffer at the hands of ISIL are never far from our minds. We will ensure that their protection is central to the efforts of the United Nations and G7 through initiatives on women, peace, and security. Canada will support a specialized expert on sexual violence against women to be part of the UN Human Rights Council's mission to Iraq, and I can announce today that we will contribute up to $5 million to help victims of sexual violence in Iraq get the assistance and treatment they need.

We will contribute another $5 million to partners, including Justice Rapid Response, a Canadian-created initiative, to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence in ISIL-held territory.

We are also partnering with the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and my former colleague William Hague, who has taken up this important cause, to find ways of taking this commitment further on the ground. This is something that I have personally worked on in recent years.

When we look at a humanitarian crisis of this size, there is always more that can be done, but we can all be proud of how much Canada is doing in this regard. That said, we must be careful not to draw a line between security and humanitarian assistance. That is not just a false distinction; it is a dangerous one. It is not either-or. Sending someone a doctor, a lawyer, or an aid worker is great, but it will not stop the people they trying to help from getting slaughtered in the first place or stop this humanitarian crisis from growing.

When our house is on fire, we have to call the firefighters, as well as an ambulance. Major Mariam al-Mansouri knows this. She is a fighter pilot for the United Arab Emirates, helping to strike against the same terrorists who are raping and murdering countless other women.

Ultimately, this comes down to what kind of nation we see ourselves as, and as the recent beheadings have reminded us, we cannot stand by as international humanitarian workers are themselves at risk of being slaughtered. We cannot confront a network of death, as President Obama calls it, solely armed with bandages, platitudes, and investigations.

Do we stand with close allies like the United States, the United Kingdom, and France; nations like Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands; and Arab friends, like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates; or do we stand aside as they put themselves on the line? Canada is better than that.

As I have repeatedly said, I believe the fight against terrorism is the struggle that will define our generation. That does not mean this mission will last a generation, as one of my friends opposite has said, but I believe we will be judged in future by whether we took on this fight or ducked it.

Just think for a moment what could happen if we do not act. When I sing “we stand on guard for thee”, maybe I do not sing it very well, but I mean it well enough. I mean it as a citizen, and I mean it as a member of Parliament who sees this as the highest responsibility we have to our constituents. If we do not deal with ISIL and its ilk, they will deal with us. Anyone who accepts the premise that ISIL is a threat to our security while leaving the fight against ISIL to others is abrogating their moral responsibility and their duty of care.

If someone is an out-and-out pacifist, I can respectfully disagree with that, but if we believe that in the realities of this world, military action is sometimes one of the necessary courses to take, then let us have a serious debate.

I was glad to see that the House gave time for the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on Friday. Her argument was more principled than political, based on the belief that military action is wrong and counterproductive. That view may not be right, but it is sincere. Others seem to be grasping for any reason, though, not to support Canada's mission.

Some in this House have questioned what our most elite soldiers could possibly teach Iraqi or Kurdish forces. They have questioned the effectiveness and honour of the Royal Canadian Air Force. They have deflected by pointing at other concerning situations in the world.

At the end of the day, we know that pedantry is easier than principles. It is easier to make excuses than to take responsibility, and it is easier to criticize the risks of action if we are not held accountable for the risks of inaction. However, any government or aspiring government should be held to a higher standard than that. I believe that Canada should be held to a higher standard than that.

To quote: “Leadership is not about making the easy decision that goes along with things. It is about taking a stand with our values and our principles”. That was not the Prime Minister. It was my friend, the leader of the Liberal Party, who said those words a week ago, and I invite members of his party to reflect on them today.

The member for Papineau likes to talk authoritatively about the way Canada is supposed to do things. Well, throughout history, my Canada has done its part in defending the ideals and values that have made our country the envy of the world.

My Canada heeds the call. My Canada protects the vulnerable. It challenges the aggressor. My Canada does not leave all the heavy lifting to others. We pick up our tools and we get on with what needs to be done. There was a time when the Liberal Party believed in that.

The dark clouds of terror are gathering in Iraq and Syria, threatening to strike their thunder from India to Spain. We must not let this storm descend on Canada, and we know that it will if left unchecked. When terrorism is thrust upon us, we must be strong in its face and repudiate it with every ounce of our ability.

These terrorists stretch their delusional fantasies across generations and across borders. I urge us to come together in solidarity with those who are being victimized and brutalized, to come together in solidarity with those who are standing up against this terrible, barbaric threat.

As members consider whether to support this motion, I encourage them to ask themselves: What would they say to that Kurdish shopkeeper? What would they say to the women and girls fearing that ISIL will come for them next? What would they say to that fighter pilot looking for a wingman?

Let us debate what needs to be done, but let us be Parliament at its best. Let us be Canada at its best.

I encourage and urge all members to support the motion before the House.

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12:15 p.m.


Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge that the minister has taken us up on our request for protection for those who are victimized by sexual violence. We on this side of the House appreciate that. We have been asking for that for months.

I have to comment on what was in the minister's speech and what was not.

The announcement he is making today, the idea of robust humanitarian support to save lives, we were hoping could have started a month ago. That is not in the motion. In fact, it was a reference in the Prime Minister speech.

What was in the Prime Minister's speech and in the motion were doors opened that we are very concerned about. I would like the minister to respond to two concerns we have. The first is with respect to opening the door to potential bombing in Syria. Our allies have explicitly closed that door. Why would we do any truck or trade with Bashar al-Assad, who has done such heinous, horrible things to his people? Second, why is there no definition of the territory in which these air strikes will happen? This relates to my first question.

These are important issues. They are not defined in the motion. That is one reason we cannot support the government.

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12:20 p.m.


John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issues of women, peace, and security; gender-based violence in conflict; and rape as a weapon of war are issues Canada has been working on for a number of years, particularly with the leadership of William Hague in the United Kingdom. Financially, we have been there. In terms of justice, we have been there. We will continue to be there. That is why this was an important part of my remarks.

I want to deal directly, though, with the issue of Syria.

First, this government is no friend of Assad. We have been very clear on that. This government is also the only major western government that two and a half years ago did not recognize the opposition in Syria as the sole and legitimate representative of the Syrian people. We took that position at first because we wondered if there would be a place in a pluralistic Syria for minorities. We feared that there might be a small number of radicals and extremists in the opposition. Those fears, unfortunately, were well founded. The opposition has become infected with radical extremists, including ISIL and the al-Nusra brigade.

Canada does not support Assad. We do not support his opposition either. When they commit war crimes, we will stand up and speak ardently against them.

What we said in the motion is that we will not intervene in Syria unless the government there agrees to that. We will confine this mission to Iraq. We have been very clear on that. We have been clear on what we are doing and what we are not doing. It is tremendously important that this be before the House.

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12:20 p.m.


Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his words and also for quoting me both accurately and in context, which is always nice to hear in this place.

The question I have goes to what happened in the run-up to the 30-day mission that just ended. At the end of August and in early September, I actually had the opportunity to speak with the minister on multiple occasions about the intention and shape of this 30-day mission, which was a non-combat, advisory mission. We were still sending troops into the area. The Liberal Party was happy to support this concrete action that would help in the fight against ISIS.

One of the commitments made by the government around that 30-day mission was that it would assess the effectiveness and results of that mission. Can the hon. minister please share with us the results of the assessment of how effective our 30-day mission was?

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12:20 p.m.


John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence, who will be speaking in this place shortly, would be best to answer the assessment of the Canadian Forces, as he is the minister responsible.

There is no doubt that the Kurdish Peshmerga forces are very battle tested, but they are battle tested in the mountains, not in a more conventional war with a front line. There is no doubt that they need support, advice, and counsel, and that is exactly what the government committed to.

We had a challenge with the previous Iraqi government in getting troops into the field as quickly as we would have liked. The good news is that Iraq has a more inclusive government today, one that is working with the Kurdish and Sunni populations, which we did not have at the outset of that deployment. However, I will allow my colleague, the Minister of National Defence, to speak to the issue.

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12:25 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario


Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his speech and for his leadership on Canada's response to the threat of ISIL.

Some members of the opposition and commentators in the media have raised questions about the legal basis for Canada's involvement in a military mission in Iraq. I wonder if the minister could address those issues for us.

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12:25 p.m.


John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, the democratically elected government of Iraq has asked the world for assistance and has asked Canada to participate. This initiative has obviously been before the United Nations Security Council, where the Prime Minister showed great leadership by speaking, as I did at a previous Security Council meeting, in the last two weeks. It obviously has the blessing of both the UN Security Council and the government of Iraq.

We do not have any legal authorization in Syria. As despicable as the political leadership is in Syria, and with respect to the motion before Parliament, we obviously do not have any legal basis at this stage for that effort.

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12:25 p.m.


Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise one question about some of the remarks the minister made just now in answer to the parliamentary secretary's question and also, on the weekend, on CBC radio. He said that there was a unanimous resolution of the United Nations Security Council regarding the operation in Iraq. Again, the minister said that it has the authorization of the UN Security Council.

It is very clear, and I want to give the minister an opportunity to clarify it to the House and to the public, that UN Security Council resolution 2178 deals with the whole issue of foreign terrorist fighters travelling from their home countries to Iraq or elsewhere. It is a very general resolution. It deals specifically with asking countries to prevent people from within their borders, on a domestic basis, from engaging in foreign terrorism. That is the thrust of that motion. It was not a motion to authorize any campaign in Iraq involving military action such as is being suggested in the motion.

Would the minister please clarify those remarks? I think it is very misleading to suggest that the United Nations Security Council has authorized either the U.S. campaign or the campaign we are talking about here today.

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12:25 p.m.


John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, there were two security council resolutions. Under the United States' chairmanship and presidency of the council, Secretary Kerry had one meeting and President Obama presided over another meeting.

The legal authorization is that the democratically elected Government of Iraq has invited and asked for this support and assistance. The Security Council does not need to authorize it, but is certainly seized with the issue in support of the initiative.

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12:25 p.m.

Outremont Québec


Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, before I present my prepared remarks about the government motion to send Canadian troops and fighter jets to Iraq for a combat mission, I would like to address some of the comments made by the minister who just spoke.

I will start by reminding my friend that although his answer to my colleague, our critic for defence, was artful, it was not accurate. He said on the air this weekend that there was a United Nations resolution that unanimously allowed for this mission. That is simply false. There is no such resolution. We can read it in its entirety. It is quite long. The preamble is very long. It sets things out. It is simply not true that this is a United Nations mission.

The minister is far too intelligent and far too experienced to know that. He said that on the air, and people will be able to check the record of what he said and compare it to what he just said again here today.

The other thing is that in his remarks earlier, the minister claimed that the government had articulated clearly the reasons for this mission, the end game and what it was supposed to be about. That is not true, and I will point that out citing chapter and verse of the alternating versions we have received from the government.

There was something most shocking in Friday's speech in the House by the Prime Minister, and I am anxious to hear the Prime Minister today. It is always important to hear from his foreign affairs minister, but the Prime Minister, of course, should be front and centre in this debate.

In describing ISIL, the minister said that the reason they were going to go after this group was because they raped, pillaged and slaughtered. No one is underestimating the horrors that we have seen. In this day and age, they come instantaneously either to our TV screen or through other media.

However, if we contrast that with what was in thePrime Minister's speech verbatim Friday, repeated just now by the foreign affairs minister, the foreign affairs minister said that his government was no friend of Assad. I am more than willing to take the foreign affairs minister at his word, but actions speak louder than words. What the Prime Minister did say in his speech on Friday was that if there were a request from Assad to bomb in Syria, he would follow that request. What that means in real simple terms that every Canadian can understand is that the Prime Minister of Canada is according a great deal of credibility to Bashar al-Assad and his murderous, genocidal regime. We give them no such credibility on this side of the House.

How can the government on the one hand claim that the Assad regime is not even worth talking to and then on the other hand say “but when they ask us we're going to respond to their request”? They are mutually exclusive and it shows a total lack of structure in the thinking of the government. It also shows a lack of rigorous thought. It shows a lack, frankly, of ethics on the international stage.

We also heard the minister say a little earlier that one could not deliver humanitarian aid unless one was involved in the combat mission itself, in the bombing.

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12:25 p.m.


John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I did not say that.

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12:25 p.m.


Thomas Mulcair NDP Outremont, QC

Look at the countries that are indeed close to us, many of which the government likes to cite, but that are not involved in any combat mission. Italy, Germany, Norway, all close NATO allies, are all involved in providing aid and all are rejecting air strikes, as Canada should reject air strikes.

The minister said as well that people were grasping for any reason. What a haughty and dismissive way to deal with people who just do not agree with him, that more bombing is a way to peace in a region that has already seen too much war. We respectfully disagree with the government on this.

Thoughtful editorial comment across the country has said just the opposite. I will only read two, but they are well worth reading. I will read Agnès Gruda from La Presse of Saturday, October 4. I will then read Peggy Mason, who just yesterday, Sunday, October 5, wrote a very thoughtful piece in the Ottawa Citizen. It is important to know that Peggy Mason is Canada's former United Nations ambassador for disarmament and an adviser to the then Conservative external affairs minister, Joe Clark.