Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to join with my colleagues in this very important debate we are having in the House today on the government's motion to extend Canada's combat mission in Iraq.
Before I begin my speech, however, I want to thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre, who spoke a little earlier in this debate. I particularly want to thank him for the amendment he moved. The amendment really highlights the actions Canada could take immediately to help the victims of ISIL's atrocities.
I am glad that some measure of calm has been restored in the House. It was a little noisy on this side. I hope my colleagues across the way will pay attention to what I have to say. That way, it will be easier for them to ask pertinent questions, or so we can hope.
To get back to my speech, as I was saying earlier, the NDP, through my colleague from Ottawa Centre, has tabled a proposal that would allow Canada to have a real impact and save civilian lives immediately. That is the NDP's primary concern at this time. Millions of people have been displaced as a result of the atrocities taking place right now in Iraq and Syria. Those are the people we should be helping immediately.
No one on either side of this House would deny that ISIL has committed absolutely atrocious acts of violence against civilians. I will not go through all the incidents that are reported regularly in the media. We hear about them all the time, and we are all shocked and horrified by the atrocities reported. We are all aware that ISIL represents a threat to Canada and the rest of the world and that we need to act. However, it is not through today's motion by this government that Canada will have the kind of impact it should have or be able to play the kind of role it should play.
The Conservatives have been completely vague on this since the beginning. Even back when we were still talking about a one-month mission to advise and support, the government was sharing very few details despite the many questions being asked in the House. That turned into a six-month air strike mission, which morphed into a front-line combat mission that, unfortunately, we were not informed about. The government will try to deny that fact, but the evidence is clear. We know the facts. Unfortunately, Sergeant Doiron died just a few hundred metres from the font line. Now the government is about to commit us to a one-and-a-half-year mission, or so it says. It is trying to convince Canadians that this is truly the only possible way of overcoming ISIL, but there has not been a real plan since the beginning, and there is still no plan. The government has not shared a single specific objective or even an exit strategy.
We have a proposal for a mission of one and a half years, but if we look at what happened in Afghanistan, we were there for 12 years. We had a similar proposal then too: relatively short missions, lasting only a few months or just a few years. However, we were there for 12 years. We do not really know where we are going with what is being presented to us right now. The Conservatives are not capable of being honest with Canadians about the real role of our soldiers on the ground. They are not even capable of being honest with the troops waiting at home.
We were greatly saddened, but also surprised, to learn of Sergeant Doiron's death near the front lines, when we had been clearly told in this House that our troops were not supposed to accompany Iraqi troops to the front lines. According to the text of the motion the House voted on, that was very clear. However, we are faced with a completely different situation. The government is playing with words and is asking us to trust it blindly to ensure our security. It has been caught off guard. The Conservatives are saying that they will drop a few bombs here and there and that they will feel better because they will appear to be doing something.
However, in reality, Canada is not contributing as much as it could be. Frankly, I am wondering how Canadians can trust a government that refuses to be transparent about the most basic things. Elected officials in the other allied countries in the coalition have been more forthcoming.
For example, in the United States, President Obama was very clear. He presented the plan and objectives to both parliamentarians and the public. Americans were even told how much the mission would cost. It is extraordinary. Here, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has to fight and use information from the Americans and others to try to estimate the cost of the Canadian mission in Iraq. Under these circumstances, I do not see how we can give the government a blank cheque and tell it to go ahead and extend the mission in Iraq.
What is worse, the government is now proposing that we drop bombs on Syria, or in other words that we side with Bashar al-Assad's regime. That is an absolutely incomprehensible decision. Earlier, I heard the Minister of National Defence criticize the NDP for abandoning its commitment to preventing genocide. How can he accuse those who oppose extending the mission in Iraq of supporting the genocidal activity of the Islamic State and then propose joining forces directly with Bashar al-Assad's regime? That argument does not make any sense.
The country has been in a state of civil war for at least four years now. The civilian population is being slaughtered. Horrific things are happening there. Schools and hospitals are being bombed and children are the victims of horrible crimes. Civilians are being subjected to chemical weapons attacks by their own government, and Canada is suggesting playing Bashar al-Assad's game, knowing full well that he has used the Islamic State at various points in the conflict. We would be falling right into his trap if we decide to intervene on the ground.
This is a legal mess, since by explicitly asking for permission from Bashar al-Assad, as the Prime Minister told the House a few months ago he would do, we are giving legitimacy to the regime. If we decide to completely ignore this provision of international law, we are flouting international conventions and international law.
The government has already made a mockery of the notion of international law, but this is an essential principle. Canada is a democratic country, which means that we must comply with the conventions we have signed and negotiated over the years with other countries. Canada could do much better than aligning itself with the Bashar al-Assad regime. I cannot stress that enough.
Everything seems so simple to the Conservatives. As I said earlier, they will carry out a few air strikes and then withdraw once they are satisfied with their intervention. However, what will we leave behind after this military intervention? We will leave a political vacuum that will be filled by other groups that could be worse than the Islamic State. We do not know what is coming. The Conservatives think that their quick-fix solutions are just what is needed, but they could actually make the situation worse.
I want to share a quote from an article Pierre Asselin wrote yesterday in Le Soleil, which summarizes quite well the problem we are facing:
Jihadism feeds on the chaos and violence that lead to structural collapse. In the absence of a strategy to remove Assad, victories against the Islamic State could be fleeting. Is the strategy to push ISIL out of Iraq or to fight it as far as its Syrian strongholds? Who would fill the void left by a hypothetical defeat of ISIL in Syria? If our intervention enables the Syrian regime to recover the territory lost to Islamist zealots, we will never be forgiven by its millions of victims.
That is what we need to keep in mind, and that is why the NDP is proposing that we help the civilians who are going through terrible situations. There are victims of sexual violence and horrendous abuse who need our help right now. Canada has expertise in this area.
We can help them and ensure that the refugee camps are winterized to prevent further deaths.
During question period I hope to have the opportunity to speak more to the NDP's proposed solutions. Frankly, in light of everything I mentioned, it is impossible for my colleagues and me to support the proposal to extend the mission, as moved by the Conservatives.