Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to present what I hope are some new perspectives on this very important debate. We are talking about Canada's mission against the Islamic State in order to combat terrorism, which we all know is a threat to Canada.
It is a threat not only far from our borders, for civilians living in the Middle East and other regions of the world, but also within our Canadian borders and in our communities, where these networks and individuals who have been radicalized to believe in this harmful ideology are present. Luckily they are very few in number in Canada.
I would like to begin by reflecting, as we often do in this place, on the historic context.
A hundred years ago, in March of 1915, the men of the 1st Canadian Division were already in France, at the front line. They were waiting to move from France into Belgium where they phased into the Ypres salient and faced their first major action at St. Julien later in April. That battle, as we recall, included the first use of chlorine gas.
In 1940, it was election day, 75 years ago. Prime Minister Mackenzie King was re-elected with the support, however, of a Conservative leader and Conservative Party under Manion. It called itself a national government because it believed in the importance of what Canada was doing and obviously Canada was already at war. It had declared war, forces were deployed, pilots were in the air and we were facing a major threat. It was one we hoped would remain unprecedented and one that led to the peace of 1945 and the institutions, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It has maintained order on our shores and in much of the world since that time.
These were fights against forces of disorder, in the context of world wars, in order to bring about a stronger order. In one case it led to the League of Nations, which lasted barely a couple of decades, and is not seen as a terribly successful exercise in the management of international affairs. Then there was the United Nations and the UN charter, with the support of NATO, the Bretton Woods organizations and all of the trading relationships, the WTO as it is called today. It made the international system much more successful today than it was in 1945 and much more a home for peace, order and good government, for freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law than we ever dared to hope in 1945.
We have only to turn on our television sets or tune in to the Internet media stream to see that this order is under threat in many parts of the world, from Boko Haram in Nigeria, from the Taliban, still, in Afghanistan, from Putin in Ukraine. However, the scale of the conflict in Iraq and Syria today is without precedent in the world today. The scale of the threat from terrorists to both regimes in Iraq and Syria is without parallel in the annals of terrorists, which itself is a hideous litany of atrocities and conflicts in which Canada has been involved, on the larger scale in Afghanistan, but elsewhere in the world.
In Syria, of course, a vulnerable population faces a double threat because even before terrorism became the hydra headed monster it is today in both countries, its own president, Bashar al-Assad, was repressing the population and inflicting excruciating casualties, which now number well over 200,000 deaths. Many of the deaths were inflicted by the government of Syria.
We have a situation where terrorism and terrorists have been both a threat and part of a larger proxy war involving regional powers, jockeying for position. Iran and Russia obviously want to prop up Syria. Others have unfortunately lent their support in the early stages to groups associated with al Qaeda, to groups that now call themselves the Islamic State. The result is a massive humanitarian crisis, the likes of which this world has not seen since at least Rwanda, the genocide there and the ensuing crisis in the Great Lakes and in eastern Congo, but perhaps a crisis without parallel since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which led to one of the largest exoduses of humanity ever recorded.
In Iraq and Syria, we see Sunni and Shia being victims, especially when they are in minority positions on the territory of the other, on the territory of their armed enemies. We see Alawites and Ismailis suffering, having to protect themselves, vulnerable. We see Kurds and Jews being slaughtered in indiscriminately.
These are only the cases where it is documented. There are very few journalists in Syria. It is increasingly difficult for journalists to cover what is happening in Iraq unless the ISIL media make a video and post it on YouTube. We know that the atrocities are on a much larger scale than we have even recorded so far.
Whether it is Assyrian Chaldeans, Chaldeans, Mandeans, Cyrillic Orthodox, Circassians, Turkmen, Armenians, Yazidis or Shabaks, Kizilbashs, humanity and all the populations of these countries are under threat of indiscriminate violence, and hundreds of thousands of them have lost their lives. The diversity of civilization left by all three Abrahamic faiths in these countries over millennia is under threat. That threat—we know from documented sources that no member of the House is going to challenge—includes a threat to those who would help these minorities, like the United States and our Europeans allies, but explicitly including Canada. That threat needs to be addressed.
The opposition response is to sit on the sidelines and watch the slaughter continue. That is what we are hearing, both from the Liberal Party and the NDP, and it is unacceptable to us and unacceptable to most Canadians. Even in the face of this scale of challenge, the other parties in this place choose to do nothing. The NDP is opposed in principle to military. The Liberals are opposed by stealth and ambiguity, ignoring the principles they articulated earlier in the 20th century, the responsibility to protect which they said would protect vulnerable populations. Now they are honouring in the breach more than the observance.
Our response is military. Our response is humanitarian. Our response is generous. However, it also includes the resettlement of refugees. Let us remind ourselves that this response by Canadians, by private sponsors and by our government has been extremely generous and on a large scale, thanks to the great work of my colleague, the Minister of National Defence, when he occupied this portfolio.
Since 2009, Canada has resettled 21,000 Iraqis, more per capita than other country outside of the region, unheralded by the opposition, unacknowledged most of the time by those on the other side. We are well beyond the commitment we made to Syria and are on our way to resettling 10,000 Syrians. That is the largest publicly announced commitment to refugee resettlement, not to accepting asylum seekers or to accepting people across the borders, because we do not have borders with these countries. It is the largest commitment to resettling refugees from a long way away by any country. In addition, we will continue to work to resettle 5,000 refugees from Turkey, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians who have been there for a long time, and we will accommodate 3,000 more Iraqi refugees this year.
We are defending Canada's values in doing this. We are defending the international order, both by supporting Iraqi forces and by opening our doors and our hearts to those who need and deserve protection.
We have no illusions on this side about terrorism. We have no illusions about the kind of protection victims of terrorism need, and that has to include the kind of response the House is preparing to endorse with this motion: a humanitarian response, a refugee response, and a military response.