Mr. Speaker, please excuse my raspy voice for the next 10 minutes, but I was not about to let a nasty cold sideline me during this very important debate on Canada's mission, this patch-up operation, which is the exact opposite of what the Liberals suggested they would do during the election campaign. I want to put you at ease right away and let you know that I will not make you listen to my raspy voice for 20 minutes. I will be sharing my time with the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.
It is especially important for me to rise and address the House given that the New Democrats are probably the only ones who are speaking in a single, united voice day in and day out, delivering a message that differs from that of the Conservatives and Liberals. During the last election campaign, I repeatedly found myself having discussions with people who did not necessarily agree with my stance on withdrawing Canada from the combat mission. In the course of our discussions, based on arguments and common sense on all sides, everyone would readily agree that there is no simple solution to a problem as complex as the fight against ISIL.
What was the best position Canada could take to be a major, effective partner and to truly address the root of the problem instead of putting a band-aid on a wooden leg, as the saying goes? That is what is happening with this new mission, and although the Liberals dare not utter the words “combat mission,” it certainly looks like one. This government's attitude is no different than that of the previous government. I do not think we are going to get the best results.
What should we have done?
We know that there is no sense in claiming that there is an easy solution to such a complex problem. However, trying to have us believe that extending the military mission is the only solution to the conflict that pits the world against ISIL is misleading.
The conversation gets tougher when it comes to clearly defining the objectives of the Canadian mission, the criteria that will allow us to measure our progress or to determine whether we succeeded or need to extend our mission after a set deadline. The deadline is two years, which seems like a long time before conducting a study or a targeted and ongoing follow-up of the situation.
There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered by the very people trying to convince us that we need to broaden the scope of the Canadian military mission, because that is what we are talking about. Although six CF-18s are being withdrawn, more soldiers will be deployed and they will be at greater risk than they were before. This is an extension of the combat mission Canada was already committed to.
When we study the government motion and the resulting plan, it becomes clear that the Liberals have broken an election promise. Although they promised to end the combat mission, the Liberals are extending the military mission and broadening its scope. This will not be the first broken promise or at least the first promise to be interpreted differently than when it was announced.
Quite frankly, with respect to lower taxes for the middle class, had someone asked people in my riding what is meant by middle class, they probably would not have expected that anyone earning $45,000 or less would not get a tax cut. They also would probably not have expected a modest deficit to be in the order of $18 billion. At every turn the Liberals misrepresent reality.
The former Conservative government dragged our Armed Forces into a military conflict with no clear objectives and no exit strategy. Instead of rectifying the situation, the government is continuing an ill-defined mission that has an uncertain outcome. You do not have to be a five-star general to understand that a military mission without objectives generally ends in failure.
The conflict we are facing today is the result of just such an approach, where, under false pretenses, the United States invaded Iraq and dismantled it. The country the Americans left behind needed to be reorganized. In addition to numerous tensions, there was no balance of power, and the governance structure was in disarray.
It should also be said that this combat mission is in no way justified by a UN or NATO mandate. Here again, despite the Prime Minister's rapprochement with Ban Ki-moon, the government continues to advocate the same approach as the Conservatives, an approach that disregards the traditional institutions under which Canada operated.
Does that mean that we should do nothing and that Canada should remain unmoved by the atrocities committed by the so-called Islamic State? Of course not. The NDP is not saying that Canada should sit idly by and do nothing. On the contrary, we are saying that Canada's contribution to the fight against this terrorist group must involve the use of our internationally recognized expertise in providing humanitarian aid.
The humanitarian aid we provide must be separate from the political action being taken. By way of evidence, Doctors Without Borders has said that trying to coordinate humanitarian aid and military efforts is counterproductive.
In order for humanitarian aid to be effective on the ground, NGOs have to be able to earn the trust of local populations. Problems arise when local communities are suspicious of the work NGOs are doing because of the unholy alliance between military and humanitarian efforts, which can jeopardize the lives of aid workers.
In 2004, Doctors Without Borders withdrew from Afghanistan following the brutal killing of five of its aid workers. Some of the reasons why the organization had to withdraw were the population's lack of trust in its workers and the insecurity caused by the military operations. In the end, the most vulnerable individuals are the first to pay the price when front-line workers leave.
Governments often use humanitarian aid to seek public support and justify their political and military ambitions. This type of confusion is detrimental to the work of NGOs and prevents them from saving lives.
I am strongly opposed to extending the military mission, and that is why I would like to talk about three very important policies in which we believe Canada could have been a leader. Since my time is quickly running out, I will summarize the three points. First, we must develop a deradicalization strategy here in Canada. Foreign fighters are a major problem. Every country, starting with Canada, needs to bring in measures to prevent foreign fighters from joining the so-called Islamic State.
We also need measures to cut off this terrorist group's funding, something else that is completely missing from the motion. Lastly, Canada must sign the arms trade treaty. Those are the three issues at the heart of the problem: the influx of arms, financing, and foreign fighters. The motion does not address a single one of these three issues.
Obviously, I could have gone on about the work Canada could do to decrease or eliminate cases of sexual violence in conflict. With the help of some NGOs, Canada has some extraordinary expertise that it could be put to good use.
I repeat, I am not saying that Canada should not be involved in the international community's efforts to eliminate ISIL fighters, but we need to see how Canada can bring a different kind of expertise that complements that of other countries and that addresses the root causes of the problem instead of the consequences.
I will stop here, and I am happy to take questions from my colleagues.