House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.


Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.


Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my honourable colleague from Beauport—Limoilou.

As we all know, and I think we all agree, regardless of what side of the House we are on, Canada has a long, proud history of defending innocent and vulnerable populations by taking on those who commit mass atrocities. Canadians do not stand by while atrocities are committed, but stand up against them. Whether it was in the trenches of Europe, the beaches of Normandy, or in the Kapyong Valley in Korea, Canadians have always fought against tyranny and oppression.

I, therefore, cannot support this Liberal government's motion to leave the heavy lifting to our allies while Canada stands on the sidelines. ISIS has declared war on Canada and our allies. It is paramount that this government stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies to defend and protect the safety and security of Canadians, both here and abroad.

This is a group that has called for and inspired attacks against Canada, including killing two members of the Canadian Armed Forces. It is no longer a regional issue, as ISIS and ISIS-inspired attacks have spread beyond Iraq and Syria. It is now a crisis that affects the world and requires a world-wide response. I support providing our troops with whatever equipment they need, whether it be helicopters, or in this case, fighter jets.

Canadians expect the government to be transparent and accountable for its actions. Including with its reasons for withdrawing our CF-18s while simultaneously deploying Griffon helicopters. We, on this side of the House, believe that Canada should maintain its combat role in the fight against ISIS and terrorism, and that our CF-18s should be part of that fight.

The Liberal government plans to increase its deployment of military personnel to approximately 830, up from approximately 650. This military plan increases the risk to our members of the Canadian Armed Forces, while reducing their security via that air support. If we are going to send more boots on the ground, we need to ensure that the proper protection is in place. We should not have to rely on our allies to protect our soldiers; we will have that capability if we keep our CF-18s in this fight. We need those assets in place.

With regard to ISIS, we are talking about a group that believes in the destruction of people, cultures, and priceless historical artifacts, targeting Yazidis and other religious minorities, and destroying centuries' old artifacts and UNESCO sites like Palmyra and Hatra.

This is a crisis that must be addressed, and Canada has an obligation to do its part and work with our allies. Many of Canada's closest allies are involved in this fight. France declared the attacks on Paris an act of war. The United Kingdom approved a motion to expand air strikes against ISIS in Syria. President Obama declared that the United States is at war with ISIS.

At the same time, Canada is withdrawing our CF-18s. However, this is not a singular national issue, but a multinational crisis. Even the United Nations Security Council has recognized the threat ISIS poses. It even took the step of urging member states to intensify their efforts to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into Iraq and Syria, and to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism.

Let us take a look at the statistics about our Royal Canadian Air Force assets in the fight. Our forces were successfully able to carry out 1,378 CF-18 sorties, 783 support aircraft flights, 251 air strikes, destroying 399 ISIS targets. All all that happened between October 30, 2014 and February 15, 2016.

Canada and the Canadian Armed Forces have the capacity to continue these air strikes alongside training and humanitarian support, which our forces have already been doing very well. This is Canada's fight, and withdrawing from direct combat against ISIS sends the wrong message to Canadians and to our allies. Canadian air strikes have been an integral element of the coalition's campaign. There has been no justification provided for ending the bombing mission.

The Liberal government is reportedly deploying RCAF Griffon helicopters, but the motion that the government has put before Parliament makes no mention of this deployment of those helicopters. The use of our helicopters in close combat support will significantly increase the danger of our members on the ground.

Is the government withdrawing the RCAF assets in the country or replacing our CF-18s with Griffon helicopters? Canadians deserve to know what their government is planning to do at this crucial time of the fight.

I must admit that I am quite perplexed by the Liberal plan. While the Liberals have made it clear they are against the CF-18 bombing mission, they are fine with having Polaris aircraft refuelling allied planes that conduct air strikes and with using Canadian Auroras to identify targets for them. The Liberals' plan for the air combat mission is a bit irrational in that sense.

The fight against ISIS requires a multifaceted response, and I do not believe that removing one of Canada's most effective assets in the fight will help Canadians or the people living under this ISIS regime.

Canadians have been clear in their support for the bombing of ISIS. A February 2016 Angus Reid poll found that 63% of Canadians said they would either like to see Canada continue bombing ISIS at its current rate or go further and increase the number of bombing missions it conducts; 47% said that withdrawing CF-18s from the mission would have a negative effect on Canada's international reputation, while fewer than one in five, just 18%, said that that it would have a positive effect.

We have an obligation to fight against ISIS and the views and oppression it represents. It was just one month ago Canada was snubbed and not even invited to an anti-ISIS meeting. The Prime Minister's decision to withdraw Canada's CF-18s is seen by our allies as stepping back rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with them.

How is the current Liberal government planning to repair our relationship with our allies? Does it believe this movement toward humanitarian and security assistance will promote and strengthen our relationship with our allies? I am highly doubtful, because we are missing the part of the CF-18s in this fight.

The current government needs to provide further details to the House and Canadians on the deployment of troops, military assets, and the allocation of humanitarian funding.

I would like to conclude by thanking our men and women in uniform for putting their lives on the line to protect our freedoms every day.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.


Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

He talked about the multi-dimensional aspect of the mission that we presented to the House.

The most important aspects are diplomacy, which we plan to use in the region at the political level, and increased humanitarian assistance for the people affected in the region. Furthermore, the assistance and miliary training mission in the region is also extremely important.

A lot of those people who will be overseas have received top-notch training at our military training bases across the country, including many who have passed through Base Gagetown in the riding of Fredericton.

Does the member not think that the multidimensional aspect speaks to just how important a role Canada has to play in this mission in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIL and its terrible atrocities? Does he think that this multidimensional effort is not important and is not the role that Canada has to play in the world?

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, what we are debating here is the taking of our CF-18s out of the fight against ISIS. We are not debating whether or not we have to shut down our humanitarian response. We believe that needs to be part of a multifaceted approach. We need to be able to provide air support to our troops on the ground, and if the governing Liberals are going to increase the amount of boots on the ground, we need to be able to protect them.

Take, for example, our allies' plans to hopefully retake the city of Mosul. It is a city of one million people. Air support is going to be critical in that fight. How we can send them in relying on our allies to protect them is a bit irresponsible in my opinion.

I know it was said during the campaign, but a lot has changed since the campaign. I think we need to seriously reconsider what is being said here, because taking our planes out of this fight is not what our allies are calling for. Everyone else in this fight is calling for more help. Therefore, I believe Canada is on the wrong track here.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague talked briefly in his fantastic speech about how things have changed significantly, and we have heard from our Liberal colleagues across the floor.

This was a campaign promise, something they promised Canadians in the election, that they would pull out the CF-18s. I would argue that things have changed drastically since October 19, with the attacks in Paris and by Boko Haram.

How does my colleague feel that the changes on the global scene make the decision to pull out our CF-18s the wrong decision?

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that we all believe that ISIS is a threat to regional and global security.

Shortly after the attacks in Paris, Africa, and elsewhere, we saw our allied countries, our friends, calling for more attacks on ISIS. They want to dismantle ISIS so that it no longer controls even one square kilometre of land in our world.

By pulling back, it is sending the wrong message to our friends and allies who are stepping up their attacks. France has declared war on ISIS; the United States has. Why we are pulling back is completely beyond me.

It was a campaign promise that was made, and as the hon. member for Foothills has said, quite a bit has changed since the election.

I think it is time we reconsider this campaign promise. According to the Angus Reid polls, Canadians are against taking our planes out of this fight. I think we seriously need to reconsider that before it is too late.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to the unfounded and wrong-headed nature of the mission the current Liberal government has adopted in the fight against the so-called Islamic State.

There is no doubt that this group poses a real and tangible threat. No one in this chamber can deny it. This armed terrorist group claims to be the equivalent of a sovereign state, although nothing could be further from the truth. This clearly illustrates its clear desire to be a lasting, structured organization.

To achieve that, this group and its acolytes have managed to embroil a region of the world that has never truly known peace even more deeply in extremely violent armed conflicts and by so doing, pushing that region even further away from becoming the just and peaceful society that every population in those imperilled areas certainly dreams of.

Peace defined as an in-between period is a consequence of war and not the opposite. Thus, before we prepare for peace, we must face war. For that reason, since the start of Canadian air operations in Iraq and Syria, there have been almost 250 air strikes resulting in the destruction of almost 270 fighting positions, 102 pieces of equipment and 30 explosives factories by only six Canadian jets. In light of this objective and factual statement, we will simply say that operation Impact is aptly named.

However, in light of these facts, I would like my dear parliamentary colleagues, especially those in government, to realize that this is not the type of record often associated with the fight against a simple terrorist group. On the contrary, we must unfortunately acknowledge that we are at war with an organized and well-funded group, not to mention one that is motivated by certain intangible spiritual considerations, obscure reasons and other irrational motivations.

This democratic institution of the Canadian Parliament must provide a qualified and strong response, that is, a response that makes use of the entire arsenal available to Canada.

As we have heard many times in this House, it is true that we have access to all kinds of advantages in this combat, but, from the beginning, our greatest advantage against the so-called Islamic State has come from the air. In all of the chaos caused by its recent appearance, this terrorist group has managed to get its hands on tanks, heavy machine guns, and a staggering amount of ammunition.

This is a sophisticated and well-armed enemy, which means that Canada's involvement must be equally aggressive. I have to wonder why this government insists on sending Canadians and, indirectly, our allies, an incoherent, inconsistent, and deceptive message.

The government claims to want to increase Canada's presence in the armed conflict and to consolidate our impact over there, yet is rushing to withdraw the one thing that has been hugely successful on the front lines, which, has, so far, made us a strong and effective ally. With foresight, retired General David Fraser rightly said that, although we would not win this war with only air strikes, we certainly would not win the war against ISIL without them.

As always, history is repeating itself. Obviously, the Liberals are trying to get out of the Middle East without getting their hands dirty and with a feeling of moral certainty that they did everything in their power to help our allies and the people who are being oppressed by an organization as abhorrent as ISIL.

However, I would like to give them some advice. How can they hope to achieve their desired goal with the contribution they have planned for Canada? In fact, the dice have already been thrown. The air mission has already been terminated, whether we debate it or not. Once again, the international approach being taken by the Liberal government shows its one-dimensional objective to create a utopian history for our country by denying our past military contribution and our combat expertise.

I would like to remind Canadians that, historically, Canada has participated in more combat missions than peacekeeping missions. A combat mission is not the antithesis of a peacekeeping mission. On the contrary, it is the foundation for a peacekeeping mission.

Canada has always been known for its fiercely hard-working and dedicated soldiers. That is still the case today. It is only since the Liberals decided to rewrite history that we have accepted the government's false claim that Canada has never helped countries in need by providing military support and engaging in direct combat.

What our allies are asking us to do today is not to claim that we are acting in good faith and brag about taking some sort of moral high ground in this conflict but to put our military expertise and professionalism to good use in fighting the enemy.

I took the time to mention that because, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the Liberals have never sent our country to war or waged one. What this government is doing is a blatant example: they want to send more troops on the ground without providing them with any domestic air support.

Our troops are going to wonder where Canada's planes are. With fewer resources and less support, we will be exposing our troops to elevated risk. Moreover, our Griffon helicopters are vulnerable to ground-based fire, in contrast to our fighter planes, which operate at higher altitudes out of range of lighter weaponry.

The Liberals' current strategy is utter nonsense. I will be asking the government for formal justification in the unfortunate event we experience Canadian losses because of this political mess.

Let us instead do the opposite. Let us show that Canada can make a strong contribution to the conflict. Let us send our allies a clear message. Need I remind the House that our allies considered us as equals when we showed our willingness to use necessary force in the context of a just war?

Here we are in 2016, and the Liberal government is claiming quite arrogantly that Canada is back in the international arena. However, quite unbelievably, it is doing so by positioning itself as vassal to an international coalition, not as a leader among leaders.

On another note, we have every reason to ask ourselves if this is a just war. The answer, although quite complex, is unequivocally yes. Long before our time, the philosopher Thomas Aquinas, the father of the school of Christian optimists , established a series of criteria for determining whether a war was morally justifiable. First, do we have just cause to go to war? Second, do we have a legitimate authority to wage war? Do we have a plan and formal intention? Lastly, are there any other possible, appropriate solutions to the problem we are trying to solve?

Like the world wars that Canada has had to face in the past, the answers to those questions, in the context of the conflict with the so-called Islamic State, are as follows: we have a moral obligation to fight, and in doing so, to provide any assistance that we can in this struggle in order to help those most affected by this scourge. We also cannot forget that this terrorist group is already on their doorstep and, in many cases, in their homes.

It is also important to note that beyond the combat mission, which is proving to be the most important part of our involvement in those distant lands, the Liberals have no plan for the distribution of food or the humanitarian resources it plans to send, and yet that aspect is a key element of their specific approach.

Need I remind this House that we have seen on many occasions that the organizational aspect of humanitarian assistance is needed to ensure success? How are we going to protect convoys of food supplies or ensure that medical services are provided at the heart of an active conflict?

The Liberals have simply forgotten that before preparing the land for peace, and enjoying it even a little bit, we must first win the war.

To sum up what I am submitting this afternoon, I can only reiterate how wrong the current government's decision is, and that it will have negative consequences for our troops on the ground and for the civilians we are trying to help. We have a duty to ensure that the so-called Islamic State stops hounding people in the world who want to live in peace and security. Finally, we have a duty to ensure that the so-called Islamic State never gains official state status.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Ginette Petitpas Taylor Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I have been listening to this debate in the House for a few days now. On one side, there are people telling us that they do not want any intervention and on the other side, there are those telling us that they want an intervention that is limited to air strikes.

Our government believes that Canada should contribute to the fight against ISIS, but we also need to make sure that our fight is smart. Our plan is committed to ensure that we have a comprehensive plan, an integrated plan, and also a sustainable plan.

Could the member opposite elaborate why he is choosing to minimize our diplomatic efforts and our training efforts that we want to put forward in this fight?

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question. I grew up in New Brunswick, so I appreciate any questions from members from New Brunswick.

In no way did I minimize the government's plan to provide more humanitarian aid and training on the ground. That is what our threefold mission was over the past two years: to provide humanitarian aid, welcome refugees, and provide military support in Iraq and Syria.

What we on this side of the House disagree with is the fact that this government is continuing with the plan but taking away the third component, or possibly the first, depending on your perspective. I am talking about the military mission itself, the mission undertaken by our CF-18s.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat one of the quotes that has been spoken about by some of the members today and also ask my colleague for his comments on it. It is from Prime Minister David Cameron. “We shouldn't be content with outsourcing our security to our allies. If we believe that action can help protect us, then with our allies, we should be part of that action, not standing aside from it.”

I have Base Borden in my riding. Men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces know that they need the equipment to protect them on the ground. It also means that they have a seat at the table in deciding when and where they are placed and how they are protected.

My colleague who has just spoken is a veteran. He is someone who has put himself in harm's way to protect our democracy. He knows why Canadians are out making sure others can enjoy that type of democracy. Why does he believe so strongly, as he has articulated, that we need to have CF-18s and other equipment engage with our Canadian Armed Forces on the ground at this important time against ISIS?

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her question. There are three reasons for that.

First, it is because it is dishonourable and shameful that has Canada has withdrawn from an ongoing mission for the first time in history. Second, it is because we committed to contributing our jets and we should keep our word. Third, it is because we need to be aware that we are no longer living in Pearson's internationalist era, when there was a power struggle and cold war going on between the United States and the former Soviet Union.

Today, Canada is more or less a world power. We deal with very significant emerging powers. It is time for Canada to muster up its courage and present itself as a leader among leaders. I think that is very important. That is why I mentioned it in my speech.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

February 23rd, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.


Dan Vandal Liberal Saint Boniface—Saint Vital, MB

Mr. Speaker, is the hon. member aware that U.S. President Barack Obama publicly endorsed in early February Canada's decision? Through a State Department spokesperson, President Obama did say, “The new Canadian commitment is in line with our current needs, including tripling their training mission in Northern Iraq and increasing their intelligence efforts.”

I dare say that is a very impressive endorsement of our policy.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

First of all, the American president is required to be diplomatic in exchanges with other countries. However, according to other internal sources, the American government is not so happy with this government's decision. As I told the member's colleague, this is not a matter of providing more or less humanitarian assistance. This is about maintaining the CF-18 military mission, which could have been done.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I will be sharing my time with the member for Calgary Nose Hill.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this motion, and I want to begin by sincerely thanking the men and women who so proudly serve in our Canadian Forces. I am often reminded, in my many interactions with CFB Borden, as is the member for Simcoe—Grey, both in my capacity as a city councillor in the past in Barrie and now as a member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil, of the proud tradition of military contribution from my region in central Ontario to the causes Canada has contributed to with respect to military engagement throughout our country's history. I am also very proud to be an honorary member of the Grey and Simcoe Foresters regiment.

Recently the Leader of the Opposition rose in the House and suggested that the Prime Minister was disrespecting Parliament by ending air strikes against ISIS before MPs could even vote on the matter. His answer to the Leader of the Opposition's question was clearly at odds with his own stated promises while on the campaign trail. Promises to run an open and transparent government and to respect parliamentarians are a distant memory, having been replaced with disdain for the members opposite and an attitude that we are on a need-to-know basis only.

It should be abundantly clear to all in the House that the Prime Minister does not feel it necessary to consult with MPs on matters of national security or on any other issue, for that matter. While in campaign mode, the Prime Minister told Canadians that he was going to be different, and now it is obvious that the sunny ways rhetoric was just talk to gain power. Instead of openness and transparency, the government's modus operandi appears to be keeping Parliament in the dark, with no clear plan on the horizon.

Notwithstanding the Liberals' delusions of grandeur after capturing 39% of the vote in October, Canadians deserve answers on Canada's mission against ISIS, and they demand to be heard on the direction we are heading.

The government's motion talks of refocusing Canada's military contribution in Iraq and withdrawing our CF-18s while maintaining air force surveillance and refuelling capabilities.

Operation Impact was launched to help stop ISIS from taking more territory and to destroy whatever capabilities it had built up. As of Feb. 3, Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 aircraft had eliminated more than 300 ISIL targets and had liberated up to 25% of territory taken by the Islamic jihadists. Bombing runs by Canadian fighter jets have provided vital cover for those battling ISIS on the ground, like the Kurdish forces, which have repeatedly requested that Canada's bombing activities continue.

Our international partners also asked us to stay in the air combat mission. In a radio interview just last month, the Minister of National Defence confirmed quite succinctly exactly how our allies feel about Canada's role when he said, “Of course they want to keep our CF-18s there”.

Our pilots are among the most skilled on the planet. They are the best of the best, and our allies have specifically requested that they continue. Instead, the government arbitrarily removes our greatest capability in this fight.

I understand that many on the other side may feel that by pulling out our CF-18s from the bombing mission we are somehow claiming higher moral ground, but they are just fooling themselves if they think fuelling up other nations' planes for bombing runs and finding targets for them on the ground is any more or less moral. What it will do, however, is make us far less effective.

Our brave pilots who carried out those vital missions safeguarded countless innocents on the ground from the advances of barbarism. That was their contribution. That is the narrative. To suggest otherwise undermines those efforts and brings dishonour to our men and women who wear our uniform so proudly.

The Conservative caucus stands steadfast with our military members, and so do Canadians. Sixty-three per cent of Canadians say they would either like to see Canada continue bombing ISIS at its current rate or go further and increase the number of bombing missions it conducts. Forty-seven per cent say withdrawing CF-18s from the mission will have a negative effect on Canada's international reputation, while fewer than one in five, just 18%, say it will have a positive one.

Public opinion was very important to the Liberal Party during the campaign season, so why now, since it has seized the brass ring, is it deaf to the voices of Canadians? Why is this ill-conceived election promise any more important than the laundry list of election promises already broken?

Whether it is promising to resettle 25,000 government sponsored Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, promoting revenue-neutral tax changes that were anything but, or assuring Canadians that we would not be saddled with more than $10 billion a year in deficits, promises, clearly, are made to be broken by the government.

The government is also not being completely transparent with Canadians when it comes to our contributions in the air in the anti-ISIS mission. The motion the government put before Parliament makes no mention at all of the deployment of Griffon helicopters in this region, and many questions exist about the Liberals' plans.

Will the Griffon helicopters be outfitted for combat, or will they be sending our pilots into a combat zone unarmed? What precautions will be taken to protect our helicopter pilots from incoming RPGs or other surface-to-air missiles? If the helicopters are to be used primarily for transport, would it not make more sense to send Canada's CH-147F Chinook heavy aircraft airlift helicopters? Lastly, was the deployment of the Griffon helicopters ever discussed with our coalition allies, or are they on a need-to-know basis, just like opposition MPs in this House and the public at large?

This motion also mentions the desire to improve the living conditions of conflict-affected populations and to help build the foundations for long-term stability. While I am sure that all members of the House and Canadians right across the country would agree that these are worthy goals, how does the government plan on achieving them?

This region is a quagmire. It is the poster child of instability. Terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS in Syria just this past weekend left another 166 dead on the streets of Damascus and Homs.

How does one improve living conditions and build foundations for those living in a theatre of perpetual war and violence. Running away from our allies does not make these people safer; it makes them even more vulnerable. Until the dust settles and ISIS is destroyed, constructing housing projects in a war zone is the last thing on anyone's mind right now.

The motion before us declares a refocusing of our role, and it also puts our military in more danger. The defence minister describes this ISIS plan as an expansion with greater risk. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Vance, is on record as saying that the lives of the men and women of the military are actually at greater risk.

Is this what the Prime Minister meant when he told the Leader of the Opposition that Canadians elected them because they knew best how to deal with the Islamic State? Did he tell Canadians that our troops would be put in greater harm's way once he became Prime Minister? I think we all know that the answer to that question is a resounding “no”.

I received a letter from a relative a couple of days ago. He was a member of our armed forces and served in special ops protecting hi-level targets in Afghanistan. He agrees with the opposition and the public that pulling our planes out and putting more boots on the ground to train and assist is a mistake. He feels that there could be dire consequences from training and arming civilians in the region. He reminded me how the United States trained and armed a group of civilians to fight the Russians in the late 1970s and how many in that group became the Taliban and al Qaeda. He pointed to the training of civilians in the years after 9/11 and how many joined ISIS after receiving that training and those weapons from U.S.-led training operations.

He wrote to me, “...history shows that the people we train today can be our enemy tomorrow. We can't just arm a group of people and then when the conflict stops expect them to return all the weapons we gave them, forget the training we gave them, and then lead a peaceful life. The only thing it inspires is more conflict and less resolution”.

The motion before the House today is not sound public policy. It does not put us closer to defeating ISIS; it puts us further away. It does not improve Canada's standing in the world; it diminishes it.

I urge all members of the House to see this motion for what it is. It is a step backwards. It abandons our allies and the innocent people caught up in the middle of this conflict.

I sincerely hope that I am wrong, but I think passing this motion and pulling our CF-18s out of this fight will ultimately result in Canadians possibly, and I pray to God that we do not, paying the heaviest of prices with the blood and treasure of our sons and daughters serving in our armed forces.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Kanata—Carleton Ontario


Karen McCrimmon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the good members of this chamber if they believe in learning from experience.

In 2011, the previous Conservative government sent the Canadian Armed Forces to wage an air war in Libya against Gaddafi. The Conservatives had no follow-on plans, zero follow-on plans, for stability, governance, reconstruction, or rebuilding. There was nothing.

What is happening in Libya now? Libya has fallen into complete chaos. Because of the power vacuum that was created when Gaddafi was deposed, groups like ISIL have moved in and taken control. Canada bears some responsibility for that mistake.

We have seen what has happened. We are now in another war, which started in Iraq when the Americans made the mistake there, the first time in 2003, and we are back there now. We saw what happened in Libya with no follow-on phases, and we see what is happening now. We cannot afford to make another mistake.

There needs to be leadership when it comes to these follow-on phases, and sometimes, yes, they are not the things that garner the most attention. However, this stability phase Canada is providing the leadership towards is what is going to contribute to the long-term success of any mission to secure and safeguard all the progress we have made to date.

We need to look around and see where we have been successful, and we need to look around and see where we have not. In Afghanistan, we had a plan for combat, stability, and reconstruction. We are doing all right there, and we need to look at those examples.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, I should have shared my time with the hon. member across the floor and not the member for Calgary Nose Hill. However, I appreciate the member's comments on this.

The challenge is that this is obviously still an active combat situation. It is a combat situation that the Liberals will not even mention is a combat situation.

The fact is, we need a comprehensive effort that includes the CF-18s to protect the troops on the ground. In my statement, I mentioned the significant role the CF-18s have played. Why can we not keep them there? The only reason we are not keeping them there is because of a campaign promise.

I go back to a campaign mention that was discussed during the recent campaign. We often talk about humanitarian efforts. We have to have humanitarian efforts. However, humanitarian efforts without protecting the people we are providing humanitarian aid to means that we are dropping supplies potentially on slaughtered people. That is why we need the CF-18s to continue.

I was not in the House, but I am reminded that the Liberal Party did support, in the past, the mission to Afghanistan and to Libya, as well.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the past few Conservative speakers defending the Canadian bombing mission, but as the other member across the floor mentioned, there is a long history in this region of bombing missions doing nothing but further destabilizing the area. In fact, most experts would point to the American bombing in Iraq as being one of the key points in the birth of ISIS.

I would like to ask the member why he feels that this bombing mission will be so effective in destroying ISIS, especially now that we hear that training is dangerous. Considering that it is only 3% of the effort of our partners, why is it so important?

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great question.

Part of the challenge, when we are relying on other coalition partners to provide air support to our troops in a combat mission, is the fact that we have communication problems. In fact, in the past, we have seen some collateral damage when coalition air strikes have affected our members and in some cases have killed members of our forces.

Would it not be better if we had some continuity? Would it not be better if we had our CF-18s fighting with our troops?

I think the resounding answer to that is yes, and Canadians believe that as well.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak specifically today, in my role as official opposition critic for immigration, to component (e) of this motion, which states, “welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada...”.

Certainly across party lines, we agree that the humanitarian crisis in the region is significant. It is devastating. I have had the privilege of visiting an area close to this region, and what struck me the most was how volatile the area is for a variety of reasons. Certainly the humanitarian crisis in Syria is one that the world should note, and the world is being impacted by it in a wide variety of ways. Certainly it is our duty in Canada to help. The question that arises then is how we do that. With regard to component (e) of this motion, there are many outstanding questions to which the government has not provided answers to Canadians.

The motion says, “welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada...”. I find it interesting that the Liberals were not more precise in their terminology in this particular line. During the campaign, they were very adamant that the number was the issue, that we were not talking about people but we were talking about a number, and that number was 25,000 by year end. The Prime Minister said that it was only a matter of political will to bring 25,000 refugees into Canada by the end of 2015. Of course, we saw that the government did not come close to meeting that particular target. Nonetheless, I am just wondering why the Liberals have gone from this very precise terminology to very vague terminology.

It is important to ask that question—how many refugees the government is actually going to bring into Canada and over what period of time—because we want to ensure that refugees coming into this country are set up for success and have a successful experience when they come to Canada. There are many outstanding questions with regard to that particular issue, and I hope to highlight several of them.

The first question is with regard to the cost of the overall initiative. We can all decide that we want to support and provide assistance to Syrians who are in need. However, it is also incumbent upon us in this place to ask how much a program is going to cost, especially in the context of what we are hearing today: that the government is going to post a spiralling-out-of-control deficit in a few weeks' time. When the Liberals talked about this particular campaign commitment during the campaign, they noted in their “fully costed” platform document that the total cost of their Syrian refugee initiative would be approximately $250 million. We know that, at today's date, it is going to be significantly more than that. It is going to be probably over $1 billion with regard to direct programming, which the federal government has to provide.

There are other costs, which the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has been very adamant in telling Canadians that provinces and municipalities will be on the hook for providing, including health care services, education services, and assistance for affordable housing. I say this not out of a non-desire to help; I want to restate that. However, I also think that, if the Liberals do not have a plan, do not know what the number is going to be, have not figured out how they are going to cost that, and they are passing costs down to other levels of government, that is a problem. It is a problem not just for Canadians but a problem for refugees coming to Canada.

I am going to illustrate that with a case in point today. The minister told the immigration committee that approximately half the Syrian refugees who have come to Canada thus far are still in temporary accommodations. That begs a lot of questions. It begs the question of whether we should be bringing refugees to Canada and expecting that they stay in uncertain accommodations for a long period of time. It begs the question of what is happening to affordable-housing waiting lists and how they are being impacted.

I want to bring the House's attention back to a very glib answer that the minister gave in the middle of December. He had stated earlier that he was going to rely on private sector corporations to provide affordable housing to refugees. I asked what he was doing in terms of securing long-term contracts for this.

He replied on December 9:

...I think the member is unnecessarily suspicious of the private sector. My first reaction is gratitude when the private sector or subsidized housing. I think she grateful to the private sector for coming forward in this way.

Any kind of contractual arrangements will be dealt with. In large measure, the refugees have not arrived yet. The companies have made a very generous offer and—

Here is the rub.

—the details will be worked out with them. However, the primary reaction, from me at least, and from the government, is to thank the private sector very much for its help.

Well, it is two and a half months in. The minister admitted today that half the Syrian refugees are not in permanent housing. The minister is saying the private sector is going to miraculously come up with a solution for this. Affordable housing groups across Canada are saying this is having an impact on them. We have heard stories of hotels in Toronto that signalled they were going to remove long-stay residents because of contractual obligations around incoming Syrian refugees.

I think it begs the question of what tens of thousands of refugees means. It is not a number. It is about how we are going to support these people when they come to Canada and what that looks like. What is the plan? That is a fair question.

My colleagues here have all thanked the military and have talked about the need, but in and of itself, the vagueness of that particular line gives me pause for thought in supporting the motion.

My colleagues opposite, who all expressed concerns for these refugees in their campaign commitments, should be asking the minister, in their caucus meetings, their caucus advisory meetings, and perhaps in their cabinet meetings, what that means in terms of delivering affordable housing, health care, and education for refugees coming into Canada. It is vague, and they will be called on this at some point in time.

Some of the other components, outside of housing, which have been brought up as a concern for a lack of plan on the government's part, are language training services. We know that, for Syrians who are coming to Canada to have a successful experience, enter the workforce, and have every opportunity to succeed, the language barrier is a big concern. The minister has not articulated a plan or a costing for long-term language training services.

I want to applaud the numerous private sponsored refugee groups that have been working hard for decades on this particular issue. Certainly, in the last five years they been working to bring refugees in from the region. I want to applaud their efforts.

When I was at Pearson airport, I kind of stood in the background when the Prime Minister did his photo op, which looked like a music video set. It was quite disconcerting. It struck me that the people who really deserved the thanks for the people who were coming off that plane were the people in the privately sponsored refugee services groups.

They are telling the government now that not only can they link in and do more, and it is not linking with them, but it is really not telling them what its plan is. How many more are coming in? What services are they supposed to provide? How can they provide support? Those questions are not being answered. All we are getting is one line, “...welcoming tens of thousands of Syrian refugees to Canada...”.

I also want to talk about support services for employment transition and the availability of jobs. This ties into some of the conversations the minister has had earlier. It is one thing for the Prime Minister to stand up here and talk about $250 million help for Alberta. I want to contextualize that.

Three weeks ago, when Suncor and another company posted their last-quarter results, they noted a $900 million downgrade in planned capital expenditures. I do not think the Prime Minister understands the scope here. We should be talking about how we are dealing with employment services, not just for Syrian refugees but also for Canadians in western Canada.

When we are talking about tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, where are they coming from? I have not heard the minister talk about persecuted minorities, and sometimes I am concerned about groups like the Yazidis, who are basically facing all-out genocide. We shy away from talking about that in this place.

I guess I am a little shocked that this particular line was added on as what looks like a tack at the end of a list, as if someone forget to put it on, a scribble. On this particular issue, Canadians are owed a lot more detail.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Matt DeCourcey Liberal Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, by the lack of acknowledgement in the member opposite's speech, she must agree with every other aspect of our plan to combat ISIL.

I am disappointed to hear her speak so unfavourably about our plan to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this month and then continue to welcome Syrian refugees right across the country. In the riding of Fredericton, it has not just been a government effort. It has been a whole-of-community effort, as it is in communities right across the country.

Not only has the minister made the commitment to demonstrate leadership by the federal government to bring in these vulnerable populations, but the health minister has demonstrated leadership in reintroducing the interim health program.

Communities have demonstrated leadership, with hundreds of volunteers spending countless hours in the evenings, on the weekends, and during their own work time to help make these people feel welcome. Fredericton now has more than 400 individual refugees, dozens of families. More than 1,000 individuals are throughout New Brunswick now. That province is punching way above its weight, as are many other communities right across the country.

I wonder why the member opposite speaks so unfavourably about this all-of-Canada approach to resettle these refugees as part of the larger mission to help defeat ISIL.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, to the first component of the speech of my colleague opposite, I fundamentally disagree with the government's approach to the combat mission for the reason that the government has never adequately thanked the Royal Canadian Air Force for its contribution of more than 200 air strikes, which successfully assisted in containing the spread of ISIL with no civilian casualties. Instead, what we heard from the Liberal leader was a flippant genitalia joke, frankly, about the CF-18s in his early days as leader. The party opposite has not explained to the House of Commons why we should remove the CF-18s from that mission. It has not talked about it. The government has an ideological aversion to taking a stand on an issue.

Many of the pundits in the Canadian media have written some basically satirical pieces about the Prime Minister's waffling on this issue. There is no reason why the CF-18s cannot continue their excellent work there. This is because the Liberals are trying to walk some sort of line, and I am not quite sure what it is. The end result is that they have cheesed off everyone in Canada and done nothing, rather than advance the cause of this mission, and they know it.

When members of the Royal Canadian Air Force come home, they are going to be faced with questions in their communities on why the government pulled them out after they were doing such good work. I would love the member for Fredericton to tell just one of them why the Liberals decided to end the mission, why they were taken out of the field after they did all the work. The member would have a hard time doing that.

With regard to the Syrian refugee component, my colleague rose with such enthusiasm saying that we are going to support this and that it is great. We should certainly be helping with the Syrian refugee crisis, but the bottom line is that the government does not have a long-term plan to deal with the refugees. I find my colleague's comments to be full of cotton candy and rainbows but completely lacking substance with respect to how the government is going to provide language services, or how it is going to provide affordable housing, or how it is going to do that in the context of processing, using resources for spousal sponsorship applications, let me say. The government is redirecting those applications to sponsoring these applications.

The government has not thought about a whole-of-government approach to this. It has not planned it through. I am going to be watching with great interest over the next 10 to 18 months to see how this lack of a plan materially impacts the lives of not only Syrian refugees coming to Canada but Canadians as a whole.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I want to remind hon. members that, when the Speaker rises and says, “Questions and comments”, it is not necessarily just for questions. The hon. member who asks the questions or gets up to speak can also comment on what is being said.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House on this important motion and, more importantly, I am proud to speak as a New Democrat member of Parliament in opposition to both this motion put forward by the government and the amendment by the opposition, the Conservative Party.

I am proud to be a member of a party that historically has stood up for peace, diplomacy, and humanitarian assistance, which we should all be contributing as leaders on the global stage, a party that has stood up for support for refugees and people fleeing violence and conflict, and a party that has not been afraid to speak out against military missions we believe are irresponsible, ill-defined, and driven forward for all the wrong reasons.

I stand in opposition to the Liberal government's proposal to expand and enlarge Canada's military mission in Iraq. The new mission of the Prime Minister has left more questions than answers regarding our role in the fight against ISIS.

Canadian Forces personnel are now being placed deeper into a combat role, despite the Prime Minister's suggestion that this is a training mission only. With increased boots on the ground at the front lines, as the Prime Minister has indicated, the Liberals have now committed Canada to a larger military role with no end date and no parameters to define success.

We in the NDP have pointed out that this is a dangerous path that Canada should not go down and, more importantly, one that we can learn has proven to be extremely problematic in our recent past.

I will also note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Elmwood—Transcona.

Unfortunately, the Liberals, just like the Conservatives before them, are calling for Canadian troops on the ground to an advise and assist mission on their deployment. Previously, Liberals said that we needed a clear line between combat and non-combat roles. This mission, however, blurs these lines even more.

After promising to end the bombing mission during the election campaign, the Liberals are increasing Canada's military presence, and our forces will still be refuelling and doing targeting for bombing.

As we have heard many times in the House, Liberals have been all too eager to talk about how Canadians voted for real change. However, when we look at their commitments when it comes to defence and Canada's engagement at the military level, the only thing they are not getting is real change. Despite the commitment of sorts to move away from the bombing mission, we know that the commitment to troops on the ground in fact extends our activities and engagement at a level that was previously unimaginable.

It is with great concern that we see the Liberals moving away from their commitment during the campaign and looking at how to engage Canadians in what is proving to be a dangerous conflict, again with no set parameters for success, with no timelines and, frankly, without a clear understanding of the dangers they will be facing.

We are seeing the Liberals move away from their commitment to real change on various issues that matter to the daily lives of Canadians. Whether it is their distancing from their commitment to expand the Canada pension plan; whether it is the retraction of their commitment to reinstate postal delivery and home delivery services; whether it is their failure to act on commitments around employment insurance; or their key commitment in the campaign to invest in indigenous communities, particularly to address the outrageous gap on first nation education, we are seeing day after day the new government pull away from their commitment for real change.

When we talk about a nation's commitment to a military mission, I am proud that oftentimes the NDP has been the only party that has spoken out about the need to review our priorities. We know that military missions overseas are extremely costly. Obviously, the greatest cost of all is that of human life, and we saw in the most recent Afghan mission how many Canadians lost their lives, and we certainly think of their families and communities as we talk about this.

We talk about the kind of priorities that we could be acting on if we were not spending money on dangerous and unnecessary military missions like the one the government wants to commit to doing today. We could be, for example, closing the outrageous gap in first nation education, a gap that has been estimated in one figure as $2.6 billion, a commitment that the new federal government said that it would live up to, and we are still waiting for it.

I think of my constituents, many of whom live in situations that one could only characterize as third world living conditions, people who need support for housing, support for health care, and support for employment and training. These are the kinds of needs we ought to be addressing instead of taking part in a dangerous, ill-defined military mission as the government is proposing today.

We could instead be spending on other priorities like fixing the employment insurance system. Coming from western Canada, I am aware of how many people are hurting right now as a result of the massive job losses across our region, and I understand the fact that only 36% of people eligible for EI are actually receiving it today. That is a level of dysfunction that must be addressed by the government. It could be addressed immediately if the government saw this as a priority.

We know about the infrastructure deficit that we face in our country, and despite commitments by the federal government to partner with provinces and municipalities, details remain to be seen on what that kind of investment that might look like. Yes, the budget is coming up, but we are keen to hear about those commitments that were made in the federal election so clearly. We are keen to see them be realized as soon as possible. Again, infrastructure investment is an area that we could be supporting rather than engaging in a military mission like the one that is being proposed.

Finally, it is not unknown to any of us in that House that we also have an obligation as parliamentarians, and, obviously, as people involved in the governance of our country, to take care of those who went to war. Unfortunately, we saw under the previous government the way in which veterans and their needs were ignored time and time again. Under this new government, while commitments have been made to reinstate offices, to reinstate support for veterans, those changes have yet to materialize in any significant manner. I think of a quote of a political leader to the south of us who is making waves. Senator Bernie Sanders said, “If you can't afford to take care of your veterans, then don't go to war”.

The final point in my contributions today as a New Democrat is that I implore the government to move away from the position that it has taken and recognize the importance of taking care of veterans first, the importance of investing in the kind of priorities that would make a true difference in the daily lives of Canadians, and truly to see the importance of restoring our reputation on the international stage as a country that believes in humanitarian assistance rather than in taking part in ill-defined armed conflict that can only serve to destabilize an already unstable part of the world.

Once again, I am proud to stand here as a New Democrat in opposition to the Liberals' proposed military mission, in opposition to the Conservatives' amendment to that mission, and in favour of humanitarian aid, in favour of multilateral co-operation, and in favour of recognizing that this is a question of priorities and that we should be looking at investing here at home.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to hear the comments of the member. On many of the issues she raised, she will get a good sense of where the Liberal government is going when it presents its budget on March 22. I am sure many of the issues she has raised will in fact be addressed.

We are a party that did not commit to balancing the budget in this fiscal year, because we knew that the needs were so great. She needs to reflect on the position of her own party during the campaign, which said that it would balance the budget. That would have resulted in huge cutbacks. It is interesting to hear her talk about the priorities of the NDP that do not necessarily match the type of commitments New Democrats made during the election.

In listening to the comments of the member on the motion we are debating today, one would get the impression that the Canadian Forces play no role whatsoever in combatting terrorism outside of Canada's border.

Does the member envision any role for Canadian Forces where they would actually be deployed to combat terrorism outside of Canada's borders? Do the Canadian Forces in her mind have any role whatsoever to play?

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, MB

Mr. Speaker, I feel compelled to correct the notion that I was speaking to NDP priorities. I was in fact reflecting on the priorities of the Liberals in the campaign that have either been retracted or simply have yet to be acted upon, despite the pronouncements they were urgent in the case of EI or the need to invest in first nation education, for example.

Actually, I spent most of my speech talking about how that commitment the Liberals made about real change is not in fact for much change at all, certainly when it comes to action. We have heard a lot in terms of rhetoric but not in terms of action.

I think today's motion is a perfect example. We heard the Liberals really talk about restoring Canada's reputation in their position on the bombing in Syria. People really believed that it was a new day, and then, fast-forward a few months later, they see the Liberals commit to engagement in what is tantamount to a combat role, and certainly engagement on the front lines. As I pointed out, a mission that is ill-defined, with no timelines and no parameters to define success.

I can only say that I am proud to belong to a party that can say no to this kind of vision and that can point out to Canadians that what we are hearing from the Liberals today is not what we heard in the campaign. I am sure many Canadians will be disappointed as they hear more from the government as it goes forward, unless it changes course and sticks to the commitments it made in the election.

Canada's Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISILGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for pointing out in such a succinct way how we have heard a lot of promises and very little, virtually nothing, in terms of real action.

I wonder if she would comment on the fact that this mission has not been sanctioned or mandated by either the United Nations or NATO. That is a serious problem with respect to Canada's role. Are we humanitarians, are we concerned about what is happening to people, or are we just blindly going along with a U.S.-led mission?