Mr. Speaker, I am quite certain that everyone here rejects ISIL's extremist ideology. We also recognize the threat that ISIL represents, not only to Iraq and Syria, but also to the region and the whole world, including Canada.
I am not going to attempt to demonstrate that ISIL is an evil and brutal organization, nor will I try to convince members of the necessity to defeat it. The question that is on everyone's mind today is this: how can we defeat ISIL, and what should be our country's role in defeating it?
These are very important questions, and Ottawa is not the only capital where such questions are being discussed.
Mr. Speaker, before going further I should note that I am sharing my time with the member for Etobicoke Centre.
French and British parliamentarians, among others, have debated these important issues. These same questions are also being discussed in the Middle East and in regional capitals with an even greater sense of urgency. On September 11, ten countries from the region met in Jeddah and joined the international coalition against ISIL. A few weeks later, five of them—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain—joined the air campaign against ISIL in Syria.
On October 2, the Turkish parliament authorized the government to carry out military operations in Syria and Iraq to fight ISIL and also approved the use of Turkish military bases by foreign troops for the same purpose.
ISIL has made no secret of its expansionist aims. To Iraq's neighbours and Canada's friends in the region, ISIL is not some remote threat. It is a clear and present danger.
It is at their border. It is even inside their borders, as we know that the issues of terrorism financing and foreign fighters that also affect western countries are particularly acute in countries in the region. ISIL is actively recruiting fighters in several countries of the region, including in the Maghreb, where it has set up clandestine cells, and we were recently reminded of ISIL's reach in the region when an Algerian group loyal to ISIL beheaded an innocent French hostage in retaliation for French air strikes in Iraq. Some 2,500 Tunisians are fighting in ISIL's ranks.
Countries in the region are also affected by the humanitarian situation. Jordan is hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled ISIL, and Saudi Arabia has provided half a billion U.S. dollars in humanitarian assistance to help displaced Iraqis. Other countries, including Kuwait, are also providing assistance.
The active participation of regional powers in the international coalition against ISIL marks an important step, and the countries' participation in air strikes contributes to the weakening of ISIL. It also destroys a myth that ISIL is desperately trying to keep alive. According to that myth, ISIL's opponents are enemies of Islam.
This statement is false. Several Muslim religious leaders are raising their voices against ISIL. ISIL's war is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, nor is it between Sunnis and Shiites. ISIL is a megalomaniac terrorist group that recruits all over the world. Its opponents are a growing number of countries and peoples, including Sunni-majority Muslim countries that reject ISIL's violent and extremist ideology.
ISIL's horrific levels of violence have resulted in common cause among Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and others. Like Canada, these states consider terrorism to be the single greatest threat to the region. This includes Sunni extremist groups such as ISIL, as well as the state-sponsored terrorism of the Iranian regime and its proxies and allies, including Hezbollah.
ISIL is not the only source of threat in the region. In fact, some of the region's states themselves pose a significant security threat. Of course, I am referring to Iran and Syria.
Both are state sponsors of terrorism and both are now opposed to ISIL. Given that they share a common enemy with coalition members, they may currently claim to stand on the right side of history, but let us not fall for the tales being spun by these dictators. These regimes are not allies for peace and stability. They helped create the conditions that spawned ISIL and their only aim is to replace one brand of violence with another one, just as cruel, and to continue to destabilize the region.
The Assad regime in Syria has violated international law on many occasions and has lost its legitimacy as a member of the international community. As documented by many sources, the regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons against its own people. The regime has routinely used indiscriminate weapons, both chemical and conventional, to kill combatants and civilians alike. It has targeted medical facilities and denied access to life-saving humanitarian assistance to civilians in areas under the control of its opponents.
Reports of rape, sexual violence, torture and murder in regime detention facilities are absolutely shocking in their scale and depravity. The atrocities perpetuated by the regime have fueled the rise of violent Islamists including ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra. If Iraqi security forces supported by an international coalition manage to halt or reverse ISIL's gains in Iraq, ISIL would likely continue to threaten Iraq and other states in the region from its bases in Syria.
That is why Canada welcomes intensified U.S. efforts, now joined by Gulf states, to destroy and degrade ISIL's capabilities in the region. We also welcome efforts aimed at ensuring that the Assad regime does not unduly benefit from this situation.
As for Iran, despite deploying a so-called charm offensive over the past year, the toxic reality of Iranian meddling in Iraq remains. Iran continues to run its Iraq policies out of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps., IRGC, Qods Force headquarters. Members will recall this is a listed terrorist entity responsible for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks of the past decades. This force can only compromise efforts to bring peace and stability to Iraq and the region. It is arming Shia militias within Iraq, which undermines the attempts by the new government to gain the trust of its Sunni population and build a fully inclusive government in Baghdad. That is no accident.
A truly inclusive government representative of Iraq's diverse communities would not be in Iran's interests. While the Iraqi government is trying to bring its people together, regardless of region or ethnic background, Iran is promoting discord and violence among Iraqis. Iran is stoking the fire for a longer-term conflict, one that risks inflaming sectarian tensions throughout the region. Syria and Iran cannot be part of the solution, when they are in fact a large part of the problem.
Four years ago, ISIL was considered defeated in Iraq and the only way to defeat ISIL once and for all is to address Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divides. Closing these gaps is something only the Iraqi government and people can achieve. Canada will support their efforts through concrete action and programming because we know that a stable, secure, prosperous Iraq is a key factor for regional stability.
Canada is making a major humanitarian aid and security contribution to Iraq.
We are supporting air support and military advice to Iraqi security forces. We passed the Combating Terrorism Act. We passed the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act and now Canada has been asked to make an additional contribution.
Iraqi authorities have been clear that they do not want foreign ground troops, but they need air cover. The United States has asked Canada to join air strikes along with other countries. ISIL is recruiting its fighters all over the world, including in Canada. They are posting online videos, threatening to destroy Canada. ISIL is building a network of cells throughout the region. We cannot in good conscience leave this burden to others.
We should do everything we can to stop ISIL.