Mr. Speaker, many of us are rising this evening to take part in the debate on the most important decision we have to make as parliamentarians. We must decide whether to send our armed forces personnel into combat.
I am so tired of hearing the Conservatives' rhetoric in this House. If any other party takes a more pacifist position, they equate that with contempt for our armed forces.
We need to be careful and think long and hard about where we send our armed forces, why we are sending them and the possibility of success, and we must have an exit strategy. These are important fundamentals and a way to demonstrate our profound respect for our armed forces.
Through all these months of debate, we have heard so many childish comments from across the aisle that one would think this is high school. I am sick of hearing them. I must reiterate, we need to be very careful about our decision. Our positions must show our profound respect for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
We must therefore rise and decide whether to vote for or against the motion to extend Canada's combat mission in Iraq. The organization that prompted this evening's debate, and indeed a host of other problems around the world for months now, is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a terrorist organization. I will also refer to it as ISIL and the Islamic State. Although I hate to admit it, there is a certain poetry to its name, but let us stick to the basics.
What is the Islamic State, exactly? It is an organization that has displaced 2.5 million civilians in Iraq by conducting military operations that are completely barbaric. Because of that organization, another 5.2 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. It has killed at least 5,000 people. That is one number I came across, but I think it actually is much higher.
Another troubling thing about the activities of the Islamic State is that it finances its activities in large part by exporting oil from the lands it conquers and charging the residents arbitrary taxes. It simply kills a woman's husband, then taxes her and tells her she has no say in the matter. It also collects ransom from kidnappings. While they are at it, why not take barbarism to the extreme? My colleagues all agree: the extreme barbarism displayed by the Islamic State has to stop.
As always, the Conservatives start with a consensus and then brag about taking action. That is where the problems begin. On the basic issue there is consensus, but when it comes to how to approach the issue, once again, we are headed for a frigging mess. I apologize, Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if that is considered unparliamentary language.
We cannot vote in favour of the motion on extending the mission in Iraq for two fundamental reasons. The first reason is the lies. For months we have a heard a litany of lies. When the government asks the public to accept major expenditures because we are engaged in a conflict and asks members of our armed forces to risk their lives, then it has to be transparent.
The Prime Minister lied. He is miring Canada in a conflict without being accountable and without having an exit strategy. The U.S. Army was the last major army to go to Iraq without an exit strategy. For nearly two decades, it sent troops there and bombed the country and so forth, all without an exit strategy. Two decades later, what is the result? Have things calmed down in the MIddle East, Iraq and Syria? Are these people building co-operatives and voting freely? No.
The situation now is even worse than it was 20 years ago. We are having another go at it without an exit strategy.
We went from a mission that was supposed to be an advise and assist mission to a six-month bombing mission, and then to a combat mission on the front lines. Unfortunately, the death of Sergeant Doiron, killed by friendly fire, is proof of that. Canadians at home understand that you cannot be involved in a friendly fire incident if you are not at the front. That is impossible. If you are behind the front lines, allies will not turn around and fire on you. If such situations arise, it is because you are at the front. I am pleased that one of my colleagues who was in the army told me that my analysis is correct.
On September 30, the Prime Minister said “there is not a direct combat role”. A few months later, in January, Canadian soldiers who were providing ground support for air strikes exchanged gunfire with Islamic State forces. There were at least three such exchanges between late January and mid-February.
Another aspect of the motion that is really worrisome is that it allows us to now take action in Syria. People at home need to know that. Syria is led by Bashar al-Assad. He is running a monstrous regime in an extremely complex situation involving rebel clans and unclear affiliations.
Bashar al-Assad is responsible for over 220,000 civilian deaths and 4 million refugees in just four years. This regime's armed force is made up of about 50,000 people, but these rebels are sometimes a bit disorganized.
I want to ask the House a fundamental question. In such a complex environment, with a tyrant in power, with rebels who, while somewhat disorganized, are fairly well armed and more or less radicalized, and with refugees scattered all over, where should the bomb be dropped? Where are they going to drop this magical bomb that will improve the situation? Can they show us on a map? I would like the Minister of National Defence to show me an exact point on the map where he wants to drop bombs in order to improve the situation.
The situation is so complex, he would not be able to point to a single location on the map. Dropping bombs is not a magic solution. It is absolutely not.
Worse still, under lies and arguments that make it impossible for us to support this motion because we cannot trust the government, information was hidden from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
On February 16, the Minister of National Defence announced that so far, Canada had spent $122 million on the combat mission in Iraq. The next day, the Parliamentary Budget Officer released his estimates, which were on the order of $166 million. We have barely entered the conflict, and we are already in an F-35 situation, and we are wondering if there will be any transparency about the costs.
I do not always agree with how our neighbours to the south decide to intervene, but at least they have the advantage of being very transparent about reporting their expenditures to the American people. I gather that costs are updated publicly every 48 hours. That is not at all the case here. We cannot trust a government that cannot even be honest about the costs stemming from its own decision to enter a conflict.
The government has also awkwardly offered up a whole series of false arguments, including false claims about the coalition.
Most of the nations that make up the coalition, including Norway, South Korea and New Zealand, are not participating in combat. They are giving tens of millions of dollars to address humanitarian needs.
There have been lies about the effectiveness of the mission. When we started bombing ISIL forces, which I am loathe to give any credit to, as everyone can understand, they moved and hid among civilians. We have serious doubts about whether this plan can even be effective.
Small advances were the result of the courage of the Kurds, who were engaged in dangerous combat on the ground.
In conclusion, the government also lied about the UN. The UN did indeed put forward a resolution, but it said that what was important was to target sources of funding for the Islamic State and cut them off as quickly as possible. The UN never said to send in soldiers or put boots on the ground. That is not true.
If at least our Prime Minister thought we needed to take military action and he had panache, courage and a good sense of his office, and he met with world leaders to convince them that NATO and the UN should take action, I might not agree, but I could respect him. That is nothing like what we are seeing here.