Mr. Speaker, I take to the floor today to seek recognition by this House of Commons that the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL as it is more commonly called, represents a clear and a continuing threat to Canada.
I fully support our government's decision to extend the current military mission in Iraq. It is clear to all of us that ISIL poses a significant threat to local and regional stability and to international peace and security overall.
We have just to turn on our TV sets to witness the barbarity of these ultra-radicalized jihadists. By displacing more than two million people they have created a severe humanitarian crisis in Iraq and in neighbouring countries. By systematically persecuting ethnic and religious minorities, they have caused the death of thousands of innocent men, women and children, as the parliamentary secretary who spoke before me very clearly and very articulately laid out.
By conducting barbaric acts against western hostages and the Jordanian pilot, we all remember his fate, they have signalled to the world that they are prepared to go to any length to cultivate and to spread terror.
This group has issued an edict to their followers to attack Canadians. ISIL is active on social media and the Internet, spreading their hateful ideology and their propaganda, encouraging their followers to target innocent people wherever they live, and calling on would-be fighters to rise up and join them on Middle Eastern battlegrounds.
They have inspired the terrible tragedies that took place in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa. They gleefully cheered when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo, men in uniform who pledged to defend our country, were felled by the cowardly and terrorist actions of radicalized Canadians.
It is clear that ISIL represents a continuing threat to Canada and Canadians. This is why Canada needs to extend the mission in Iraq, expand its operation to Syria and do its part to deter and degrade this threat. Canada will always do her part and the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are playing an exceptional role in the coalition against ISIL.
As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence said, Canada is punching away above its weight, and we should all be proud of all of our men and women serving abroad today.
I would like to go into some detail about the contribution being made by our air assets. To date, CF-18 Hornets have conducted over 436 sorties, resulting in the destruction of ISIL vehicles, heavy weapons, IED factories, storage facilities and fighting positions. By damaging or destroying assets like these, the Canadian Armed Forces not only degrades ISIL's combat capability and prevents ISIL fighters from establishing safe havens, but they are also enabling the Iraqi forces to go on the offensive. Ultimately it will be the responsibility of the Iraqi forces to bring sufficient pressure to bear on ISIL and eliminate the threat that it represents.
The CP-150 Auroras, outfitted with advanced imaging systems, radar and other sensors, have conducted over 122 reconnaissance missions, collecting the critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data that is used to identify and strike targets accurately, as well as to assess the battle damage that they cause. The modernized Aurora is a cutting-edge platform. The information this aircraft collects not only enhances the effectiveness of air strikes, but also helps avoid collateral damage by ensuring that targets are limited strictly to military objectives. In fact, our Auroras have made a crucial contribution to what is considered the most precise, close air support campaign in history.
Last, the CC-150 Polaris refueller has conducted over 111 sorties, delivering more than six and a half million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft. That is absolutely stunning. By delivering fuel to fighters in the air, it acts as a force multiplier by allowing these aircraft to lengthen their sorties and fly further into the battle space. Our Polaris is helping the coalition to maintain pressure on ISIL throughout Iraq. Moreover, our special operations forces on the ground are working to advise and assist the Iraqi forces to make them more effective. They are increasing their confidence and ability to plan, to mount and to execute operations against ISIL, and they are making a real difference, a difference that both opposition parties oppose.
Given all of this overwhelming evidence, I quite frankly do not understand how the opposition opposes what clearly is the right thing to do. The contributions of the Canadian Armed Forces have not only been highly effective, but highly valued by the coalition. For the past six months the coalition is seeing real signs of progress. Through the aerial campaign, the coalition has hit ISIL targets in Central Iraq and northwest of Baghdad in areas that are both controlled and contested by ISIL. These efforts have reduced ISIL's freedom of movement and ability to make territorial gains.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi forces have wrestled the city of Al-Baghdadi back from ISIL control and are working to regain Fallujah. In northern Iraq, Iraqi forces are gradually taking back the ground east of Mosul where ISIL is in a defensive posture. This demonstrates improvement, but there is still much more to do. Our participation in this multinational mission is in line with Canadian values and Canadian interests.
As the Prime Minister has said, it is not the Canadian way to sit on the sidelines and let others do the heavy lifting for us. Indeed, a broad international coalition of more than 60 partners, approximately 30 of which are contributing to military efforts led by the United States, is working together to confront ISIL head-on.
Canada is collaborating with some of our closest allies and partners, including the governments of the United States, France, Netherlands, Denmark and many others, which are all committed to degrade and to defeat ISIL. This fight against ISIL is not about the politics of right or left, as the opposition would have people believe. It is about doing the right thing and acting in Canada's national interest. Many of our allies are left-of-centre governments and they are fully committed.
Moreover, Middle Eastern countries are playing a vital role in the coalition, demonstrating that this is not a western conflict against Islam, but rather a fight that pits broad international concern for Iraq and Syria, regional stability and humanitarian assistance against murderous extremism. Most of ISIL's victims are other Muslims, including its own members who fall out of favour with the leadership.
Any mission carries with it a degree of risk, but the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are prepared so they can face these challenges. They are rigorously trained prior to deployment overseas, equipped to the highest standards and operate within specific rules of engagement that mitigate risks wherever feasible.
I would also note that the risks to Canadian personnel will be alleviated by dedicated personnel recovery capability, which is provided by the coalition and includes a high readiness combat search and rescue capacity prepared to respond should it prove necessary.
ISIL is a group that decries modern civilization and it equally abhors anything that does not accord with its world view. As part of this relentless campaign to eradicate culture over the last few weeks, we have borne witness to the destruction of the 3,000 year old Assyrian city of Nimrud, the seventh century statues from the ancient city of Nineveh, housed in a museum in Mosul, and most recent, the bulldozing of the ancient city of Hatra, which is dated the second or third third century BC.
The head of UNESCO has declared that this deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime.
ISIL is not merely content to threaten the present and the future of the people of the Middle East. It is determined to erase their culture and their past in an attempt to revise history. We must prevent and contain this peril before it leads to the entrenchment of oppressive rules across this region.
As the Prime Minister has said, we have helped feed 1.7 million people in Iraq, provided shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people and given education to at least half a million children. We have also helped to support 200,000 refugees in Iraq with food, water, shelter and protection.
The choice between military action and humanitarian aid is not a one or the other proposition as the Liberals and NDP would have people believe. Our experience in the recent past has shown that we cannot expect quick and decisive victories and if we falter now, ISIL will continue to gain strength, increase its brutality and ruthlessness.
We must remain resolute in our determination to assist the people and the government of Iraq, and remain firm in our belief that innocent lives must be saved.