Mr. Speaker, I am sharing my time with the member for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek.
I am privileged to rise in the House to speak to this motion. I come from a family that has been involved with the Canadian Forces for many years and I have a profound level of respect and gratitude for our men and women in uniform. Each and every one of them has made a sacrifice to protect the great country of Canada, and not just they, but their families as well.
Because of this deeply rooted level of respect, I find it difficult to make sense of the government's actions when it comes to the global fight against ISIS. One of the biggest issues is the withdrawal of our CF-18s. Canada has been the fifth largest contributor to the air combat mission against ISIS. This is a mission that has helped our allies, as they have stated in the past.
The foreign minister for the Kurdistan regional government said that not only were the CF-18 air strikes helpful and effective, he requested that they continue. If this is not a clear request for assistance by the Canadian Forces, then I do not know what is.
Canada has a long history of defending innocent and vulnerable people by taking on those who have committed mass atrocities, which is exactly what ISIS has done and continues to do. Why then does the government refuse to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies and assist them in this fight?
Not only is there a lack of air combat support, but also a lack of clarity as to why the CF-18s were withdrawn. Not a single person has been able to explain why our CF-18s must be removed from the air campaign. Even more unclear is the decision to keep our refuelling and reconnaissance planes as part of the mission despite the fact that our fighter planes that provide air cover to victims of ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been withdrawn.
This logic is completely incomprehensible. The Liberals are trying to play politics and keep campaign promises while people's lives are at stake. The lack of clarity surrounding the use of military assets is astounding. According to the government, we are willing to paint targets, conduct surveillance, provide fuel for bombers, yet we will not drop any Canadian bombs or provide air coverage for our own troops. This is not the kind of help that our allies need, nor is there any type of logic behind this decision.
A few hours south of my riding of Souris--Moose Mountain lies the Little Bighorn Battlefield historic site in Montana. It is a beautiful location in the great western plains. The history of Custer's last stand where the U.S. 7th Cavalry under Colonel Custer was wiped out by the Lakota and their allies has been well explored by military historians.
An enduring lesson from the battle in 1876 was that conflicting military objectives would lead to the needless deaths of soldiers. Custer split his troops and resources in what he believed was a useful way, only to be wiped out by the Lakota, who took advantage of an untenable plan, a lack of resources, and a simple unwillingness to agree with what Custer wanted to do.
I reference the past not only because it allows me to talk about an area near my beautiful riding, but because it is a bit of history the government can learn from as we discuss the motion on Canadian military involvement against ISIS. Much like Custer who believed his plan was right but was proven to be impetuous, the government, believing it is right, is presenting Canadians with an incoherent plan that appears to be impetuous.
The government would like us to believe that it was elected by Canadians to refocus Canada's military contribution against ISIS to training local forces, providing more humanitarian support, and to immediately welcome refugees to Canada. To fulfill one of the many tales it promised Canadians in order to get elected, the Liberal government is now ending the combat mission against ISIS.
The government has announced it will increase humanitarian funding in the area to help those displaced by the scourge of ISIS. It is announced that it will increase the number of Canadian troops in the area in a training and advisory role so that it may better prepare the allied forces to fight against the scourge that is ISIS. It was announced that it will pull some military resources from this arena and that all will be good in the plan on how to deal with ISIS.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that ISIS would agree with the government. The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Vance, said the Canadian mission is not a combat role, yet ISIS has not agreed to that plan by the government.
I am uncertain how the government's plan to withdraw against ISIS yet leave our troops active to counter the scourge of ISIS without proper resources and scattered in different locations will be a benefit in defeating an enemy that has declared its intention to be at war with the values of religious diversity, human dignity, economic freedom, and a belief in individual human rights that we, as Canadians, believe help to define us.
Canada's air campaign against ISIS has helped to destroy ISIS troops and supplies. It has contributed to ISIS not being able to do as it pleases in trying to create the caliphate of terror and destruction. To pull the CF-18 resources no longer allows us to participate in these activities.
The biggest military difference between the forces of ISIS and the Canadian military is an air force.
The Battle of Britain in World War II was won thanks to the many brave pilots of the Royal Air Force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, and others. This battle led to the defeat of the Nazi regime. The ISIS air force is non-existent. Canadian Forces had an advantage, but have now decided to play fair, despite the fact that ISIS is not playing fair, and therefore removed that advantage.
While our allies are stepping up with contributions to the destruction of ISIS, Canada is cutting and drawing away. Canada is placing humanitarian aid at the forefront of its activities before ISIS is defeated. Canada is offering to train forces in Iraq to counter ISIS. Canada wants to do all the administrative tasks of monitoring, training, education, provisions of social services, before the war against ISIS is finished.
The Canadian resourcefulness that the government talks about appears to be “let others do the work, while we stand in the background and offer our advice”. We are becoming the back-seat drivers in a war zone. Canada is showing its back to its allies. Sunny ways indeed.
We, as Canadians, have an obligation to stand up for the victims of genocide, to fight against the extremist ideology, and to protect Canadians at home and abroad. I am sure everyone remembers the tragic events that took the lives of two Canadian soldiers back in 2014. These were ISIS-inspired attacks that happened right here at home. How can the government justify the decision to step back from this international fight against terrorism when Canadians are being murdered, both at home and abroad?
The public opinion of Canadians is also being ignored by the government. A February 6 poll found that 63% of Canadians say that they would like to see Canada continue bombing ISIS at the current rate or go further and increase the number of bombing missions it conducts; 47% say that withdrawing Canadian CF-18s from the mission will have a negative effect on Canada's international reputation.
We know that the 47% of Canadians are right. Canada was snubbed by our own coalition allies when we were not invited to attend an anti-ISIS meeting that was held in Paris in January. The snub happened just after the government signalled its intentions to withdraw our CF-18s from the air combat effort. Under our previous Conservative government, Canada was hosting these meetings, and yet now, due to decisions made by the Liberals, we are not even invited to attend.
The opinions of Canadians are clear. The requests for assistance from our allies are clear. The only thing lacking clarity is the reason behind the government's choice to step back from the fight against ISIS. The government motion mentioned significant investments in humanitarian assistance, which while necessary do nothing to solve the issue of the root of the problem. This is putting a band-aid over the issue. It is forcing our allies to fight without the help of our combat resources for no reason other than the Liberals wishing to keep campaign promises.
It is disingenuous and dangerous to our soldiers for the government to believe that combat training, humanitarian interventions, and dialogue with countries affected by ISIS in an active war zone is a coherent plan. A whole bunch of highly trained assets are being sidelined by a government that promised to let facts and science guide its decisions. The Lakota were not interested in Custer's plan, and wiped him out. I do not suspect ISIS will care much about the government's plan either.
In closing, I wish to offer my sincere thanks to each and every woman and man in our Royal Canadian Air Force, Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, Canadian Reservists, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police who partake in these dangerous operations. I wish them Godspeed and a safe return to their family, friends, and country.