Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that I will be splitting my time with the member for Drummond.
Like all MPs, New Democrats welcome the opportunity to have this debate in the House on how best to engage and defeat ISIS.
It is interesting to see that the Liberal government is following the precedent set by the Conservatives of asking Parliament to approve the deployment of Canadian troops in active conflict zones. I say that carefully because both the Conservatives and the Liberals are saying that the motions they brought before the House were not for combat missions.
What are we asking the House to do? I guess the precedent is now approving the deployment of troops in active conflict zones.
We in the New Democratic Party believe that this is entirely appropriate, as there are few other decisions that governments make that could be more important than placing Canadian troops in harm's way. Yet, public debate seems to have veered into a narrow cul-de-sac over this question of whether or not this is in fact a combat mission. This is peculiar to me, in that the military mission at the core of the motion before us today seems virtually identical to the previous Conservative mission, however we label it.
No, Canadian jets are not going to be the ones dropping the bombs, but Canada will remain fully a part of the allied bombing mission, with our two Aurora surveillance planes and a refuelling plane. In addition, we will also be sending four helicopters to fly missions over Iraq; not to mention that, as General Vance confirmed on Friday, Canadian Forces will continue to help paint targets on the ground for the allied bombing missions.
The other part of the military mission in this motion, what is sometimes loosely called a “training mission”, still explicitly includes advising and assisting local troops, including accompanying Kurdish troops to the front line and, according to General Vance again, fighting ISIS when necessary.
With the tripling of this part of the mission, Canada is clearly headed into greater involvement in on-the-ground fighting, and for most Canadians, if Canadian Forces are at the front lines and fighting ISIS when necessary, then this is in fact a combat mission.
Once again, let me say that I believe that all members of the House have confidence in the Canadian Forces and that none doubts their capabilities, whether we are talking about a bombing mission or a training mission; nor does anyone doubt their willingness to fight or stand in harm's ways, as required, in the service of Canada and world peace.
I would go further even and defend the Canadian Forces, and in particular General Vance, from being sideswiped by this semantic debate over the nature of the mission, because I believe the Canadian defence staff has always been clear in describing the Iraq mission as a hybrid mission, one that is somewhere between traditional combat and non-combat missions.
For the Liberal government, the problem is that it argued previously that the Conservative mission was a combat mission and it clearly and specifically called in the campaign for an end to what it described as Canada's combat mission in Iraq. Now, what we are seeing is that the Liberal mission label has morphed, rather than the actual mission itself. Unfortunately, as one of my friends has begun to say, sometimes it appears that red may be the new blue.
Returning to the motion before us today, it seems clear there is a convention that Canadian governments should bring motions before the House for a debate and vote. It is just ironic that we have both the Conservatives and Liberals saying that their motions were non-combat missions.
However, there is something more at stake here than just the ironies of political spin. The motion before us is more than just the military component. In fact, a wag might even describe it as an omnibus motion.
Nevertheless, New Democrats are glad to see the renewed emphasis on diplomacy, the renewed commitment to aid conflict-afflicted populations in the region, and the ongoing commitment to refugee assistance in this motion. New Democrats have always argued that Canada needs to do its part in humanitarian aid to the region and with regard to refugees.
The government's lofty goals for refugee assistance are laudable, even if most of the on-the-ground delivery so far has been provided by private sponsorship groups, and even if significant gaps remain in this program. As the government well knows, I remain very concerned about the effectiveness of government measures to assist those most at risk: LGBT refugees in the region.
The need for increased humanitarian assistance in the region is increasingly urgent. When I was in the region two weeks ago, there was enormous concern that the pressure of 1.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, 1.2 million in Lebanon, and more than 650,000 in Jordan might engulf Iraq's and Syria's neighbours in the conflict. There is little doubt that Lebanon and Jordan face imminent economic and social collapse, with refugees equalling 20% and 10% of their populations, respectively.
So, the measures called for in this motion to provide that aid are extremely important. However, again, the question before us is at its core how to best contribute to the struggle against ISIS.
Once again, every one of us in the House recognizes that ISIS is a threat to global peace and security. New Democrats, like all other parties in this House, have condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist acts of ISIL and its violent extremist ideology. We deplore its continued gross, systematic, and widespread abuses of human rights. We not only believe that the international community has the obligation to stop ISIS expansion, to help refugees, and fight the spread of violent extremism, but we also believe that Canada should be a leader in that effort. However, New Democrats have been clear in our position that the current mission is not the right role for Canada. We see little difference between the Conservative and Liberal versions. We think this military mission should end rather than be expanded. We are concerned at the open-ended nature of the commitment we are now making.
The bombing and the other measures taken so far have not stopped ISIS from administering territory and acting like a state, and that is the key to its legitimacy in its own ideological terms and the key to its authority to command loyalty from its followers, both locally and abroad. The bombing remains a strategic failure, whatever its tactical successes.
The government's alternative of training Iraqi forces to combat ISIS also seems to suffer from the same narrow tactical focus. Even if successful, it is unlikely to achieve the strategic goal of defeating ISIS. It suggests that we can accomplish the short-term goal of eliminating the threat with a tactic that, at best, takes years to accomplish.
After more than a decade of assistance in air and ground campaigns, followed by an on-the-ground training mission involving up to 3,000 Canadians over an equally long period, where are we in the struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan? In December, the Kandahar airport was overrun for a day, with more than 70 people killed; and just last week the Afghan government admitted it was conceding control of virtually the whole province of Helmand to the Taliban.
What is the NDP advocating if it is neither the Conservative option of more bombing nor the Liberal option of surrogate bombing and more training? The best strategy for eliminating the threat from ISIS is to deprive it of that ability to control territory through means other than the military fight it wants and needs. This is exactly what the UN Security Council called for in its resolutions 2170 and 2199. These two resolutions lay out exactly the kind of leadership role Canada can play in fighting this threat to global peace and security.
Each day, ISIS is still earning between $1 million and $3 million from its sale of oil on black markets. This has to be stopped if we are to have any hope of beating ISIS. It is again ironic that we are seeing reports that low oil prices are beginning to do this job for us, as ISIS is reportedly having trouble meeting payrolls due to declining income from oil sales. The end of ISIS might come much faster if we acknowledge that oil is not sold in buckets or paid for in cash and if Canada took a leadership role in bankrupting ISIS. Instead, Canada has registered just one conviction for terrorist financing, in 2010, and nothing since then.
In 2013, the global Arms Trade Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to keep weapons out of the hands of those who would use them to commit war crimes, abuse human rights, or engage in organized crime—groups exactly like ISIS. Three years later, Canada remains the only NATO country that has refused to sign the global Arms Trade Treaty despite the Liberal campaign promise to do so.
When it comes to the flow of foreign fighters to ISIS, Canada clearly lags behind its allies. Communities across this country have reached out to the federal government, both under the Conservatives and the Liberals, asking for help to protect youth from ISIS's sophisticated recruitment techniques. However, the motion before us contains no mention of, let alone any plan, to step up deradicalization efforts.
Why are we not leading on these broader goals? Why are we instead sticking to a tactical rather than a strategic approach? It is hard to understand, unless, of course, the measures that we would have to take to end the flow of funds and the flow of arms might end up embarrassing some of Canada's allies and friends. Not one of the actions we are proposing in any way backs away from the confrontation with ISIS. Some would eventually require the use of military forces to seal the borders against oil exports or arms movements. The contribution they would require from Canada would require in turn a robust Canadian military equipped with the tools it needs to get the job done.
Despite promises to return to the House in two years, what we really have in this motion is an open-ended commitment of the same kind that saw Canada remain in Afghanistan for more than a decade and, as I said, with questionable results against the Taliban. The NDP is not afraid of committing Canadian Forces to difficult tasks on the international scene, but it should be with a clear mandate from an international organization like the UN or NATO, and it should be with clear goals and clear measures of success, alongside a clear exit strategy. Canada has a long and proud history of this kind of contribution. We can and should step up as leaders again. Unfortunately, this motion does not offer us that opportunity.