Mr. Speaker, a little less than six months ago, I stood in this place to address the House about the rise of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the threat it poses, not only for that region, but for the broader global community, and in particular for Canada and the Canadian public.
Back in October, I also spoke of the need to work with the international community in pursuing an aggressive course of action against ISIL, something that the House endorsed. Today, I am here to report on the evolution of the situation, to note that the direction and resolve of our allies and partners in dealing with this threat has not changed, and to propose that Canada renew its commitment to the international coalition and its mission.
ISIL has established a self-proclaimed caliphate that covers a vast territory from around Aleppo in Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad in Iraq. From that territory, it has launched a terrorist jihad not only against the region, but on a global scale.
The good news is this. The territorial spread of ISIL, something occurring at a truly terrifying pace in the spring and summer of last year, has been more or less halted. Indeed, ISIL has been somewhat pushed back at the margins. In significant part, this is because of the breadth and intensity of the international opposition that it has provoked not just in the west but in the majority of the Muslim world, both Shia and Sunni, and specifically in Arab nations. Nevertheless, ISIL's territorial hold remains substantial and its leadership and networking of wider jihadist forces has continued.
Just as the so-called Islamic State threatened it would do, it has carried out or inspired attacks throughout its network across the globe, including right here in Canada, as I am sure everyone remembers, and in one case, not far from the House of Commons. ISIL has made it clear that it targets, by name, Canada and Canadians.
ISIL has made it clear that it targets by name Canada and Canadians. Why? It is for the same reason it targets so many groups, in fact for the same reason it targets most of humanity. In ISIL's view, anyone who does not accept its perverted version of religion should be killed. It is as self-evident to them as it seems insane to us, but it is far from an idle threat.
ISIL does not kill just enemy combatants. It also kills journalists covering the conflict, aid workers helping innocent civilians and, of course, innocent civilians themselves.
In fact in its crimes, ISIL targets innocent men, women and children, particularly the most vulnerable and peaceful ethnic and religious minorities.
Why do we know these things? Not because, as is so often the case, the behaviour of brutal regimes inevitably becomes public knowledge. No, we know these things because ISIL brags about them.
The so-called Islamic State does more than brag. It broadcasts its assassinations, committed in the most barbaric way possible, using high-quality video productions, which is unprecedented in the troubling history of human atrocities.
Canada, along with roughly 60 other members of the United Nations, has taken action. We have provided staff officers to the coalition's military command. We have transported arms from donor countries to Iraqi forces directly engaged with advancing ISIL terrorists. In fact, early on in this mission, we provided the largest such airlift support.
We have committed Canadian soldiers to advise and assist Iraqi Kurdish forces defending their homes in northern Iraq.
We have taken part in air strikes that have allowed us to hit ISIL targets in Iraq directly.
Our Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s have made strategic air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq in the coalition's air campaign. Canada's highly capable CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft have made possible the coalition's effective precision bombing.
Reconnaissance and logistical support, as well as the expertise provided by the Canadian Armed Forces, have been an integral part of the international mission.
Canada is also helping those combatting regional terrorist financing networks, and we are working in concert with others to stem the flow of foreign fighters to the region.
Of course, we have also offered assistance to civilians who have been displaced in the region.
In fact, among the nations of the world, we have been one of the biggest providers of humanitarian assistance. I am glad to say that in the last six months we have helped feed 1.7 million people in Iraq, provide shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people, and give some education to at least 0.5 million children.
Beyond that, we have also been helping to support more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq with food, water, shelter and protection. There is no either/or here between military action and humanitarian aid. The situation desperately needs both, and Canada has vigorously been providing both, and so have a wide range of our international partners.
The upshot is this: there has been no lessening or weakening of the global consensus that ISIL must be resisted and resisted by force.
That is why, today, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be tabling a motion seeking the support of the House for the government's decision to renew our military mission against the so-called Islamic State for 12 months. Our objectives remain the same. We intend to continue to degrade the capacities of the so-called Islamic State, that is, to degrade its ability to engage in large-scale military movement, to operate bases in the open, to expand its presence in the region and to propagate attacks outside the region.
Specifically, we will extend our air combat mission, that is our air strike capability, our air-to-air refuelling capability, our Aurora surveillance mission, and the deployment of air crew and support personnel.
The government is also seeking the support of the House for its decision to explicitly expand the air combat mission to include Syria. The government recognizes that ISIL's power base, indeed the so-called caliphate's capital, is in Syria. ISIL's fighters and much of its heavier equipment are moving freely across the Iraqi border into Syria, in part for better protection against our air strikes. In our view, ISIL must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.
Let me also be clear that in expanding our air strikes into Syria, the government has now decided we will not seek the express consent of the Syrian government. Instead we will work closely with our American and other allies who have already been carrying out such operations against ISIL over Syria in recent months.
In asking the House to support the government's decision to renew this mission for the next 12 months, it is our intention for the same period that members of Canada's special forces will continue their non-combat mission to advise and assist the Iraqi forces and increase their capabilities to combat the so-called Islamic State.
We share the view of President Obama and others that we must avoid if we can taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region. We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves and our role there is to help them do that. Of course, Canada's humanitarian work will go on.
We do not need to choose between fighting the so-called Islamic State and helping its victims.
We will continue to do both.
I would simply like to conclude by saying this: Canadians know that we cannot make the dangers of the world disappear just by ignoring them.
Canadians did not invent the threat of jihadi terrorism and we certainly did not invite it, nor as this global threat becomes ever more serious can we protect ourselves, our communities by choosing to ignore it. That is why a strong majority of Canadians have supported our government's mission against ISIL. Canadians understand that it is not merely in the wider interests of the international community, but specifically in Canada's national interest.
It is never easy to make a decision that requires our men and women in uniform to accept the risks that any mission entails. The recent death of Sergeant Andrew Doiron reminded us that, sadly, these risks are all too real.
Yet the Canadian Armed Forces never waver in defending our country, our family and our values. We are humbled and eternally grateful for their service and sacrifice.
On Thursday, the House will debate the motion put forward by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for a renewed mission against ISIL.
I ask all members to support this motion.