Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to take part in the debate, but it is unfortunate, to be polite, that we are not able to have a full debate on a motion from the government which we would then vote on. It was clearly outlined by our leader tonight why that should happen.
Not only is it the desire of our party that Parliament have its say on this matter, after all it is our responsibility as parliamentarians to ensure we are aware, with eyes wide open, when we send our Canadian Forces abroad, but we believe, and we thought the Prime Minister believed in this, that when we send forces abroad, we should have a full debate and vote on it.
It is stunning. To look across the way, the Conservatives have a majority and they know that whatever motion they put forward, it will pass. We know how the Conservative government works, and it would not be a free vote, that is for sure. It is interesting that the government would not be fulsome and transparent.
The Conservatives say that they are being transparent. Why not put a motion in front of the House for all Canadians so we can debate exactly what we are getting into? It is extraordinarily important that we do this, and it has already been enumerated why in recent history.
No, we did not end up going to Iraq, but we ended up going, as a quid pro quo, well documented, to Kandahar. We ended up being unprepared, and everyone agrees with that, when we were in Kandahar. We did not have a vote, we did not have a debate, and look what happened.
Here we are again, and we simply are asking the government to fulfill its own commitment, to say that when we send forces abroad, we define it.
Let us go over what we have seen from the government this past summer.
This past summer we were contacted by the government to say that it was thinking of providing lift capacity, or planes, to particularly help the Yazidis who were isolated because of the ISIL and whose lives were in danger. The government wanted to provide humanitarian support. The leader of our party said that we were absolutely behind that. This then turned into something else, because it was determined that was not needed and we were to give lift capacity for other needs.
Then there was the matter of being invited to go and do an assessment on the ground in Iraq. I was in Baghdad with my Liberal colleague and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We met with the president of Iraq, the speaker and Iraq's foreign affairs minister. We then went on to Erbil, which I had visited in 2007. We met with the president of the regional government there.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague for St. John's East, Mr. Speaker.
We heard that every one of the representatives, be it from Baghdad, Erbil, the United Nations refugee representative, including our ambassador who was in Amman but is responsible for Iraq, has asked for humanitarian support. There was a crisis and they needed that support immediately. That is exactly what the message was from our assessment.
Lo and behold, while we were there in Iraq, an announcement was made by the Prime Minister in Wales that we were committing troops. According to the press, a committee of cabinet decided that we would commit troops. It would be interesting to find out from the government who was on this committee. However, it was very surprising to me and somewhat surprising to the Minister of Foreign Affairs it seemed.
This is why we need this debate because we are hearing different things. We hear that there is going to be dozens, or there is going to be 100. The Prime Minister says that there are 69 special forces in Iraq. Then we hear it is not 69 actually there, but there are 69 special forces getting ready to be deployed and that they will be taking arms from the Czech Republic and bringing them to the theatre. Then we hear there are also special forces that will helping with advisory and assisting, whatever that means. My colleague from Toronto—Danforth made some interesting points about how that could be interpreted as per the Australian mission.
This is why we need to have absolute clarity on what our mission is. It is why we need a motion. It is why we need debate and why we need a vote.
My colleague who I travelled with me to Iraq he heard what I heard. The most important thing that we both heard was the need for humanitarian assistance.
If we were going to have soldiers go and build refugee camps, the government would probably find support from this side, but we are not hearing that. What we are hearing about is special ops to advise and assist for something we do not know about.
The member who is chirping at me does not even know, it seems. He is certainly not disclosing it, so we have to do it. Why? Because of the recent horrific violence we have seen on Iraqi people, and particularly the minority Yazidis, the Christians and the Mandaeans who have been through so much already. This is the third wave. This is not new to them.
The Christians were pushed out of Mosul as well as the Yazidis. That started in 2006. There was a second wave in 2008, and here we are again, so this is not new. It started in 2003 because of the invasion. There was no al Qaeda in Iraq before 2003. Everyone knows that. It was the creation of the void and the vacuum because of the Sunni-Shiite split, and everyone knows that. Who paid the price? The minorities, which the government claims to support and protect, yet all we have are words.
Last week I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs if he would support humanitarian refugee support immediately and help those victims of sexual violence, protecting minorities. I mean no disrespect to Ambassador Bennett for Religious Freedoms, but he is not able to protect the religious minorities.
The religious minorities, particularly the Christians, told us that they could not go back home, that they needed the support immediately and that they did not want to leave their country. They were clear on that, and my colleague would know that. They needed to have protection where they were. Why is our government not announcing that support? Why did we not hear robust support for the refugees who are living right now in the cold? I mean that metaphorically and I mean it physically in a couple of months, because they do not have anywhere to go. Every school is filled. The kids cannot go to school because of the refugees there.
People are living on the streets in Dohuk, just north of Mosul. They do not have the basic needs. They do not have water or sanitation. They want our help. That is what we should be doing here. Instead, what I thought was the assessment and we would provide that support immediately, we have a government that cannot tell us what we are doing on a military mission. My God, we should be providing the humanitarian assistance now, stepping up to the plate. Other countries have done it. Damn it, that is what Canada's role is here. That is what Canada should be doing, building refugee camps, providing that health support, ensuring those who have been victimized by rape get the support they need, the psychosocial support. That is what our fight should be.
Our fight is not to go in and do what obviously did not work out for the Americans before. While I am on my feet, it is extraordinarily important to underline the fact that even after we have 10 countries in the region which are supporting this coalition, which has no UN mandate, no NATO support even, which is very important, we do not have commitment from Arab countries to actually put boots on the ground.
When we have that, not to the extent that our friends in the states are looking for, when people in the region are not willing to do something to the extent that we want them to, with the exception of the Kurds, why we would send troops there with an ill-defined mission when we know what the needs are for the humanitarian support, the protection for religious minorities and minority groups? Prevention of this kind of crime is something that we all want to see, but we need to do it in a straightforward manner, a manner that would help those who have been victimized. It is something we should be doing immediately.
However, to have an ill-defined mission, without clarity, and sending our men and women abroad without that is a disservice to them. It is a disservice to Canadians and it takes away from what the focus should be, which is support for the humanitarian assistance to be provided.