Mr. Speaker, if I have any time left, I would like to share it with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
I am grateful for the opportunity to stand in the House tonight as a member of the official opposition and a representative of the good people of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. This is a serious issue, whether or not to send Canada's military women and men into harm's way, and it is a difficult issue. It is also a complicated issue and I hope I can add something to this discussion, a discussion being held not just in the House but in the pages of our newspapers and around kitchen tables all across the country.
Canadians are very concerned about the decision the government is making, because they know this is not just a question of whether we should send six jets to fight for six months. They understand that this is a decision about whether we commit our military to a prolonged, expensive and deadly war.
This may be a global issue, but as a member of Parliament, my first responsibility is to my constituents. Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is home to a large number of women and men in the armed forces, as well as countless veterans and reservists. For them, their families and friends, this is not a theoretical debate. These are decisions that change their lives and the lives of their families forever.
They know this because many of them are still struggling with the aftermath of other decisions the government has made on their behalf. Therefore, it is difficult for them, on the one hand, because they are the embodiment of loyalty, honour and commitment. If we ask them to go, they will go without a second thought because that is what they do. That is what they are trained to do, and they are trained very well. They are the best in the world. On the other hand, these same Canadians are on the front lines of another battle, a battle with their government for the help they need after they come home.
In my community, there are members like Major Marcus Brauer, who teeters on bankruptcy because the government has not honoured its commitments to him and his family. There are veterans with PTSD, like Medric Cousineau, who walked all the way to Ottawa to raise money for service dogs. There are great Canadians like Dennis Manuge, who led a year-long battle for pension benefits clawed back from disabled veterans.
When these are the experiences of so many people in my riding, people who have dedicated their lives to their country, it is a stark reminder that although the Prime Minister can talk in terms of months, for many the decision to enter this war will last a lifetime.
I am deeply troubled with how the government is framing this issue. It suggests either people are for air strikes because they care and want to do something or else people do not support air strikes because they do not care and would rather do nothing. It is outrageous.
If that were the case, the government would be accusing Germany of doing nothing. Does it call Norway a coward or say that Italy and Italians simply do not care? They are all allies that are deeply involved in providing aid and have all rejected air strikes. Of course we do not say those things because it is insulting. It is clearly untrue and such gross oversimplification diminishes us all.
Regardless of members' positions on the motion before us, I believe that we are duty bound to acknowledge how complicated, dangerous and fraught with risks this situation truly is. I would suggest that no clearer example can be found in terms of how complex it is than to consider the role of Syria.
Witness the moral knots the Prime Minister is tying himself into in trying to explain how he would deploy our military assets against Assad's enemies, but only at the request of that brutal dictator. We can also look to the campaign in Libya, where many analysts agree that our overreach in bombing that region has added more fuel to the fire.
I do not believe Canada should participate in these air strikes, but that does not mean I do not understand or respect the people who would make a different decision.
They are compelled to support entering this war out of compassion for the victims of ISIL, or out of rage at its atrocities, or out of fear in response to the threats made against our country. Intelligent, compassionate people disagree about what we should do.
I can appreciate the impulse to join air strikes aimed at people who have done terrible things, not just with impunity but seemingly with delight. It offends every fibre of our being. It provokes anger and outrage and disgust. I understand that. I feel it too, but these strong emotions are not the frame of mind with which we should make such decisions. We all agree that something must be done, but what?
The Minister of Foreign Affairs said himself yesterday, and I quote, “The scale of the humanitarian crisis is truly hard to comprehend”. He also said, “When we look at a humanitarian crisis of this size, there is always more that can be done”.
I completely agree, because the millions of internally displaced men, women, and children matter. The victims of the horrible atrocities ISIL is committing matter, and how we respond matters.
Some are caught up in the notion that the only way to deliver peace is with bombs, when really it is not that simple. ISIL is an enemy that does not think like we do. It invites the attacks. It craves the violence. In fact, it is counting on it.
As I said earlier, we cannot underestimate how complicated this situation is, and no one can say what the future will bring, but it is becoming increasingly clear that in this case, more violence will not suppress the violence. Attacks will not dissuade attacks. Killing will almost certainly lead to more killing. This is complicated.
As I have said, we do know some things. We know that deploying six CF-18s would lead to a greater level of engagement, and engagement is sometimes known as mission creep. We have good reason to believe that the value of such air strikes is dubious. We certainly know from experience that the cost of waging war is enormous, not just to our treasury but to the physical and mental health of the Canadians we deploy, not to mention their families.
There are five million and counting internally displaced people who need immediate assistance. That is an area where Canada can and should do more. It is a task where heavy lifting is truly required.
Yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs asked if we should “stand with our close allies...or stand aside as they put themselves on the line”. That is a false dichotomy, and the minister should be ashamed for diminishing the risk that will be taken by each and every person who is sent there to help in whatever capacity.
Make no mistake, humanitarian efforts in that region are not for the faint of heart. It is a job that will put Canadians in harm's way. It is also a job that better reflects who we are as a nation. We all agree that this is a problem that is not going away any time soon, certainly not in six months. It will take a long time, but that is what pulling our own weight is really about. It is about committing time, money, and the resources that are needed for the long run.
It is for those reasons that I implore the House to vote in favour of the amendment proposed by the hon. leader of the official opposition. His amendment recognizes that strong and direct force is absolutely necessary to confront ISIL but that it must come from capable and enabled local forces. It calls for military support for the transportation of weapons where needed and for assistance to investigate and prosecute war crimes. The amendment calls for monthly updates on the cost of our mission and wholeheartedly supports the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us. Perhaps most importantly, the amendment calls for a significant boost in humanitarian aid in areas where there will be an immediate lifesaving impact, including contributing to winterized camps for refugees and investing in water, sanitation, hygiene, health, and education for people displaced by the fighting.
My time has drawn to an end. I thank the House for the opportunity to come here tonight on behalf of my constituents and to share some of my views and the opinions of some of my constituents.