Mr. Speaker, it is estimated that ISIS has between 25,000 and 30,000 fighters across Iraq and Syria, of which a number are foreign recruits. It is in possession of all kinds of weaponry, including tanks. Around the world, the repercussions of ISIS are being felt. Thousands have been killed simply for trying to do the things we take for granted, like practise the faith of our choosing or raise our daughters to believe that they can be or do anything they choose. People are fleeing because ISIS has revolutionized the use of torture, murder, and mutilation. Anyone who does not share its perverse and inexplicable world view is being stoned, beheaded, burned alive, or crucified.
More than 2.5 million refugees are now in Turkey, nearly 500,000 in Germany, nearly 1.5 million in Jordan, and the list goes on. None of these refugees will be able to return to their homes until there is peace and stability in the region and critical infrastructure has been rebuilt.
The shocks of the attacks in Paris, San Bernardino, and Burkina Faso remind us that the horrors brought on by ISIS are not limited to a geographic region.
Lester Pearson once said that, whether Canadians fire a rifle in Korea or in Europe, they are protecting people at home themselves.
It is beyond debate that ISIS needs to be stopped.
Today, we are debating the size and scope of Canada's mission to stop ISIS. The Liberals are trying to make this an either/or debate, and the NDP is trying to make this is a neither/nor debate.
This debate is not about deciding upon whether Canada should provide more humanitarian aid or contribute a robust military contribution, as the Liberals are trying to frame it. It is not an either/or decision.
This debate is not about ignoring, as the NDP has, the clear and present danger that ISIS poses to Canadians. It is not a neither/nor decision.
This debate should be about the maximum contribution that Canada can offer to the people of Iraq and Syria, our allies, and the entire region.
On this side of the House, my colleagues and I continue to support doing our part on both the humanitarian level and the combat level.
The facts are that the Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 aircraft have, as part of a broader coalition, stalled the spread of this horrible caliphate. Over the past year, air strikes from coalition forces have limited ISIS to 25% of the territory it once held.
From their first sortie on October 30, 2014, to being grounded on February 15, 2016, Canada's CF-18 Hornets conducted 1,378 sorties and destroyed 267 ISIL fighting positions, 102 pieces of ISIL equipment and vehicles, and 30 improvised explosive device factories and storage facilities.
The threat imposed by their presence has undeniably held back further advances by ISIS.
The Liberal Party will argue that our CF-18s have had minimal impact because of their numbers relative to some of our allies, but this is not a justification for stepping back.
Does the government believe that our Dutch allies should remove their six F-16 fighter aircraft from this theatre of operation because they are not contributing enough aircraft to be effective?
The fact is that, if we remove our CF-18s from this fight, other nations will have to take up the slack left by the absence of our pilots and aircraft.
The Liberals have not said which of our allies will fly the 1,378 sorties that Canadian pilots would have flown in the coming months. The Liberals have not said who will destroy the hundreds of military targets that our aircraft would have destroyed had they not been grounded.
Furthermore, the suggestion by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence that Canada is better suited to a training mission than an air combat mission is an insult to the fighting capacity of the Royal Canadian Air Force, our pilots, and the entire team supporting them in the region.
I cannot speak on behalf of our pilots and support teams, but I dare say that they are immensely proud of the personal contribution they have been able to make.
The skill of our men and women in uniform is clear. That is why our allies want our CF-18s, our CC-150 Polaris aerial refuelling aircraft, and our CP-140 Aurora aerial surveillance aircraft, along with associated air crew and support, to stay active and present in the air.
The RCAF regularly trains with its American counterpart. Our pilots speak the same language as our largest allies. We use similar aircraft. There is no reason why Canada cannot increase our ongoing and long-running humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in the region and our training of local troops on the ground, as the government has said it will do, while continuing to target the enemy from the air and halt its progress. Stalling the progress of ISIS through air strikes gives our soldiers, who are training local militias on the ground, time to build a durable legacy of an effective combat force. These are not contradictory measures but complementary measures.
Since this debate started, I have yet to hear a reasonable explanation for why Canada is withdrawing its CF-18 aircraft. I am hopeful that I will eventually hear a response to this basic question: if this is not a fight that Canada should be involved in militarily, then what is?
I urge all members, especially those from the government side, to support the amendment brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition and re-establish Canada's influence within the international decision-making process in the fight against terrorism and rebuild the trust Canada has lost with its allies by reversing its decision to withdraw the CF-18s from the air combat mission, which has essentially removed Canada from any combat role.