Mr. Speaker, today's debate in the House is of the utmost importance, and I appreciate the opportunity to participate in it. I join my NDP colleagues in opposing the Conservative government's ill-conceived and ill-advised plan to deploy the Canadian Forces to a combat mission in Iraq.
I would like to thank my colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie for her speech and for her very relevant remarks, which shed some much-needed light on the current situation in Iraq. What is more, given the member's extensive diplomatic experience, I think that the Conservative government would do well to listen to her words and consider them more carefully than it normally would.
The motion that the Prime Minister moved in the House on Friday is disappointing, to say the least. However, when we look at how the Conservative government has been managing Canada's potential participation in a mission in Iraq, we should not be surprised that it presented such a disappointing motion that contains so little information.
What is worse, the government has expressed its willingness to work with the al-Assad regime in Syria, should it ask Canada to drop bombs in that country. That goes way beyond what little discussion we have had in the House on this issue.
All the members of the opposition have tried repeatedly to get details about the first 30-day mission to Iraq, which just ended. As of today, we are still pretty much in the dark. We have very little information about our troops' mission over there. I do not know how many soldiers we sent. Was it 26 or 69? The government has been keeping us in the dark. We still do not know what those soldiers actually accomplished on the ground. We do not have any idea of the cost associated with this first deployment. We are completely in the dark. Today, the Conservatives are engaging in the same sort of obscurantism.
They show up in the House, move a motion and ask for members' opinions on that motion—or at least they seem to be asking our opinion. However, we are well aware that they have already made up their minds. There will not be very much consultation since we have only a few hours to debate the motion in the House. Then, we will have to vote on it either today or maybe tomorrow. Who knows?
As parliamentarians, we do not really have the freedom to fully debate what Canada's participation in Iraq should be. No matter what party we belong to here in the House, we all agree that Canada has a role to play in helping the Iraqi people. We have the means to help them, whether we are talking about civilians or even the Iraqi military forces that are currently fighting against the Islamic State.
The absolutely horrific acts of violence that the Islamic State has perpetrated have shocked the entire world. No one in the House can ignore this violence, regardless of our position on Canada's participation in Iraq.
Despite these horrors, we cannot blindly engage in a potentially indefinite combat mission in Iraq, and maybe even in Syria. We know very little about how this mission could develop on the ground.
Over the past few days I have listened closely to the Conservative government's attempts to justify Canada's participation in air strikes in Iraq, and today, I am still not convinced that this is how we should proceed.
The government has not clearly and unequivocally demonstrated that air strikes will put an end to the horrific acts being perpetrated by the Islamic State. The government is not even able to answer basic questions from the opposition and cannot specify the objectives of an armed mission in Iraq. We still do not know what would be considered success and how we will measure progress.
In six months, the government may decide to present this information to Parliament, since it has said that any military action by the Canadian Forces would be put to a vote in Parliament. I have my doubts.
Since it has a majority, the Conservative government has not been open. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of reasons to doubt what the government is telling us.
At any rate, in six months, when it is time to consider extending the mission or shifting its objective, we will not even have the information we need to determine whether Canada met its objective. How will we be able to determine whether the Islamic State armed group is no longer capable of harm? Nothing has been defined thus far. There is nothing that would lead us to believe that the mission, as presented by the coalition and the government, will produce concrete results.
Furthermore, if Canada is deemed to have participated sufficiently in the mission after a certain number of months or years, is there an exit plan so that Canada can pull out? We know that it was extremely difficult to pull out of Afghanistan, especially since we left the country in a more or less stable political position. We need to take that into consideration when considering armed intervention in countries such as Iraq and Syria.
Beyond simply bombing rebel groups and, if necessary, working with dictators who use chemical weapons against their own people, does the government have a political solution that will bring about some measure of stability? The Conservatives' plan does not include any of those kinds of elements and, frankly, that is unfortunate.
I mentioned the mission in Afghanistan, as did many others in the House. Unfortunately, there are many similarities between what is being presented today and what was presented at the time as a reconstruction mission in Afghanistan. That is quite worrisome.
I represent the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, which is home to the Valcartier military base. Many young men and women from the military base were deployed during the war in Afghanistan. Early in my mandate, I had the privilege of going to the airport to welcome them home.
Many of them were my age or younger. They had proudly served their country. They were not prepared for the kind of combat and the horrible situations they encountered over there, so they returned scarred by unspeakable horrors. They had trouble telling combat soldiers from civilians.
When they come back here, they have questions. Did they really achieve the objectives of the mission in Afghanistan? They are looking for help from their government, They come back with physical and mental injuries, but are left to their own devices. They are released before they can collect a pension. The government is unable to take care of the men and women it sends abroad to fight.
In this case, the government is not even clearly defining the plan or the mission objectives for the soldiers that it wants to send abroad. How will those soldiers succeed? The government is once again asking our brave men and women to go serve abroad without even knowing whether the immediate plans will actually have a positive impact on the current situation in Iraq.
My colleague from Laurier—Sainte-Marie mentioned that the bombings conducted by the coalition countries in Syria and Iraq over the past few months have had a negative impact, and have mainly led to higher recruitment for the Islamic State armed group.
Meanwhile, the coalition has had difficulty determining which rebel groups it could collaborate with in Syria, if a military intervention is conducted there. There are a lot of unknowns on the ground, and we have not received any clarification in that regard either.
In light of these arguments, I do not see how we can just rush into a mission involving air strikes without having any idea of how long the mission will last or the costs associated with it.
We also need to keep in mind the care that we will have to provide to our men and women who participate in the mission. For now, we are talking about air strikes, but who knows what will happen one, two, three or four years down the road. The next government could ask to send in ground troops.
Today, we are being told no, but how can we trust this government? I am very proud to be a member of the NDP, which opposes this military action in Iraq.