Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Burlington.
I am pleased to take part in this important debate on Canada's efforts to defeat ISIL.
As some of my colleagues will remember, I spoke in the House at the onset of the mission in the fall of 2014, and again last spring when the mission against ISIL was extended. I had the opportunity to reiterate the four core principles that the Liberal Party stood for then, and these four principles are just as relevant today.
The first principle is that Canada has a role to play in resolving humanitarian crises around the world.
This motion calls for a significant investment in humanitarian assistance and prioritizes working with experienced humanitarian partners to meet the basic needs of conflict-affected populations, including children and victims of sexual and gender-based violence. That is an important Canadian value. For many decades, Canadian governments have generously provided aid, military and otherwise, during humanitarian crises abroad.
I am proud that we have opened our doors to thousands of refugees displaced by ISIL and civil war. We have welcomed these refugees so that they can rebuild their lives here and, like refugees from Vietnam, Uganda, Cambodia, Somalia, and all over the world, enable Canada to carry on its tradition of celebrating diversity and welcoming people in need.
The second principle is that we must have a clear mission when we deploy our brave men and women in uniform. The motion does just that, and clearly refocuses our military contribution by tripling the efforts of the Canadian Armed Forces in northern Iraq and significantly increasing intelligence capabilities in northern Iraq and theatre-wide.
This expanded train, advise, and assist mission has a clear mandate and sets the conditions for peace and stability in the region by enabling local forces to take the fight to ISIL. This approach is the only tenable long-term solution to the crisis, as it is clear that the success against ISIL is one that cannot be achieved by bombing alone.
The third Liberal principle is that conversations about deploying our forces must be open, transparent, and based on clear, reliable, unbiased facts.
We have distanced ourselves from the former government's overblown rhetoric. We have consulted our allies, examined the situation on the ground, and decided on the best course of action to achieve our shared objectives.
Lastly, we believe that Canada's role must reflect the broad scope of Canadian capability so we help as best we can. Our whole-of-government approach to this mission is the manifestation of this principle, and I am proud to say that our priorities have not changed since I first rose to speak on this conflict. We are delivering on the vision that I outlined as defence critic in 2014 and 2015.
There has already been a considerable amount of debate on this matter, but there is one aspect of the motion that I think needs further exploration. Before going into details of our refocused mission, the preamble of the motion reads as follows:
That the House support the government’s decision to broaden, improve, and redefine our contribution to the effort to combat ISIL by better leveraging Canadian expertise while complementing the work of our coalition partners to ensure maximum effect....
We have already heard the Minister of National Defence and other hon. members talk about the Canadian expertise that we can put to good use.
However, the second part of the sentence, which reads “while complementing the work of our coalition partners to ensure maximum effect”, is just as important. It explains why the government is refocusing its mission. It explains the reasons for our contributions, and it explains why the excellent work of our CF-18 pilots is no longer the most urgent need. We are part of a coalition, and each member contributes in its own way. We have allies and partners by our side on whom we can count.
Co-operation and collaboration have long been a part of the Canadian way. Let us recall our coordinated response to the crisis in Haiti. I personally had the privilege of being part of a week-long parliamentary delegation to Haiti two years after the devastating earthquake. I visited many sites, where there was assistance and reconstruction that Canadian Armed Forces, our first responders, civil society, and our government officials at that time were putting into place to help the devastated people of Haiti. They made a huge contribution.
Canada has also had important contributions to relief efforts, following the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan, our participation in Operation Structure following the tsunami of 2005, the liberation of Kuwait, and our Canadian Armed Forces training and mentoring of Afghan security forces.
At this point, I want to reinforce my support and respect for all Canadian Forces members, regular and reserves. In fact, I am also proud to acknowledge the efforts of the 39 Canadian Brigade Group under the command of Colonel David Awalt. The headquarters of 39 CBG is at Jericho Garrison in my riding of Vancouver Quadra. This brigade group is the representative of the Canadian Army in British Columbia. It is made up of 1,508 full-time and part-time reserve soldiers located in reserve units in communities across British Columbia. These are men and women who have served in many missions over the course of years.
In all of the cases I mentioned, Canadians stood side by side with partners and allies. We were part of a wider strategy. It is our responsibility to contribute into that larger strategy in order to defeat ISIL.
The Chief of the Defence Staff said last week that the fighter jets were originally deployed in the region in order to stop the rapid advance of an aggressive enemy. At that time, ISIL was quickly gaining ground. Its members were seizing abandoned equipment and threatening the city of Baghdad itself.
Thanks to the initial deployment of aircraft, the advance was thwarted, and ISIL's ability to move freely has now been seriously curtailed by our collective efforts.
The United States Central Command, which has overall responsibility for coordinating the coalition's efforts, has stated that areas under ISIL control are shrinking.
With respect to air power, Canada's CF-18s have done an outstanding job. Yes, there will still be a need for air power in the short term, and these needs are being sufficiently met by the broader coalition. What remains as needed to defeat ISIL is a trained, equipped, motivated local force. It is in this area that the coalition as a whole has a greater need.
Here is what Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook had to say:
The Canadian announcement is the kind of response the secretary's [Ash Carter] been looking for from coalition members...as the United States and coalition partners push to accelerate the campaign against ISIL.
He was speaking, of course, of U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who met with our Minister of National Defence last week in Brussels. There, Canada was held up as an example of what other countries should be doing in the fight against ISIL: adjusting to the evolving conflict; bringing our strengths to the table; putting forward what is truly needed; and, above all else, working with our allies to ensure that the coalition mission is a success.
As a Canadian, I am proud of what has been accomplished to date by our men and women in uniform, including the pilots and support personnel who have fought to halt and reverse ISIL's gains.
Our soldiers have conducted themselves as professionals, and they deserve to be thanked and recognized by all Canadians. However, the situation has evolved. We are in the first few weeks of this transition, and I am grateful to our friends and allies who have our backs, just as we have theirs.
I am proud to stand in this House and reiterate the principles that I laid out a year ago, consistent principles that remain strong and have shaped the mission before the House today.