Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of my constituents from Surrey North to speak on the government's Motion No. 17, which seeks to extend Canada's combat mission in Iraq and further extend it into Syria.
I talked to many of my constituents over the last two weeks and I will summarize some of their concerns today.
The issue that we have at hand is deeply concerning and should not be taken lightly. With the motion before us, the government is basically asking the House of Commons, myself as a member of Parliament, and Canadians as a whole to commit to war. The motion, if passed, will require our brave women and men in uniform to risk their lives overseas. A decision like this needs to be carried out with the utmost responsibility and should not by any means have any political motivations.
There is no doubt that the crimes perpetrated by ISIL are appalling and deeply concerning. We are witnessing heinous acts of oppression, kidnapping, rape, ethnic cleansing and cultural targeting.
There also other conflicts around the world. We have ISIL in Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria, the conflict in Ukraine, civil war in Syria, and there are tensions in the Balkans and other parts of the world with violence happening as we speak.
However, what the Conservatives are asking from us today is to risk the lives of our soldiers for a mission that is not defined. It is not part of an international response, and clearly has not been taken into consideration with the seriousness and responsibility that it deserves.
As a representative from Surrey North, as I said, I have talked to many constituents. I cannot, in good conscience, agree to blindly commit the lives of our women and men in uniform to a mission that has no plan and no exit strategy.
How can we support this mission when the Conservatives have misled Canadians about our role in Iraq since day one?
It was not too long ago when the Prime Minister insisted that we were only sending troops for a month, and it was only to advise and assist deployment. On September 30, we all saw the headlines when the leader of the opposition, the member for Outremont, stood in this House and asked the Prime Minister specifically whether Canadian troops would be involved in directing air strikes in Iraq. The Prime Minister denied it. However, the mission has quickly escalated to a potential year-long conflict where Canadian troops have been on the front lines exchanging fire with ISIL. Now the Prime Minister is openly considering a massive expansion of the mission into Syria.
The Syrian President Assad has committed heinous crimes against civilians. Now the Prime Minister wants to treat him as a friend. Assad is not an ally. He is a war criminal who uses chemical weapons against his own people and bombs schools and hospitals. We have seen this on television stations. Canada should not be allying itself with Assad or strengthening his hand in any way. This is why none of our western allies, except the United States, are conducting air strikes in Syria.
Paul Heinbecker, Canada's last ambassador to the UN Security Council, was quoted in The Globe and Mail on March 23. He said:
If out of fear of Islamic State and of a desire to stop them, the Coalition were to ally itself, de facto or de jure, with Bashar al-Assad for fleeting tactical advantage, it would be the ultimate betrayal of the Syrian innocents. And of our own values.
Simply put, our women and men in uniform have no place being in Iraq and they certainly have no place being in Syria. It is very disturbing to see that the Prime Minister is willing to sleepwalk Canadians into a war without accountability.
The Conservatives have been very dishonest about our role in Iraq since day one, but for the Prime Minister to still deny Canadian troops are involved in combat is simply disrespectful to our forces. The Conservatives continue to mislead us about our soldiers being involved in ground combat, and now they want to put our troops in danger.
They have not gained our trust for us to commit to this mission. They have not gained the trust of Canadians because they have not put out all the facts for Canadians to judge. They have not done that for parliamentarians to be able to look at the facts and decide whether this mission should be approved. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is having trouble getting some facts and figures from the government with regard to how much this war is going to cost.
The recent death of Sergeant Doiron reminds us of the risk of deploying troops to the front lines. History has shown us the dramatic horrors that war can bring. Let us not repeat history. The Prime Minister does not seem to be at all concerned about the risks or lack of clear objectives. He seems to want his war in Iraq just as he wanted George W. Bush's war in 2003. However, history showed us that Canada was right in not participating at that time.
We also need to remember Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Just like our current mission in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan started with Canadian Forces participating in a very limited operations. We know what happened in Iraq and in Afghanistan. It was the longest mission, which was 10 years. New Democrats stood in the House and opposed both of those wars. Today, after 10 years, we can see why the NDP made the right decision, because NDP members make their decisions based on principles. We do not base them on fear or political motivations. We stand up for what is right.
There is a lot we can learn from our military intervention in Afghanistan. Only a few days ago, March 5, the Minister of Foreign Affairs actually said in the media, “Being in this for the long term—it’s similar to what we did in Afghanistan, for instance”. That is what the foreign affairs minister said. I would like to point out for the minister that the deployment in Afghanistan is nothing Canadians want to see repeated. It was the longest mission, 10 years, cost billions of dollars, and resulted in 166 soldiers, brave men and women, being killed, more than 1,000 injured, and thousands of others who suffered and are still suffering today from post-traumatic stress disorder.
We ask our soldiers to go overseas. We ask them to fight for our country, to defend our freedoms, to ensure our right to practise religion, to freely speak in the House, and yet when those soldiers come home, we have seen the record of the government over the last number of years on the treatment they have given our soldiers. That is shameful. It is time we invested in various services that our soldiers require when they serve for this country.
The Conservatives do not like to look after our veterans, but when it comes to war, they seem to be more than willing to blindly spend money to ensure that we go into some sort of war with no plan and no exit strategy. We must learn from history so that we do not repeat it. Another example is the Libya situation, and we know what happened there. There is a lawless society there. There is no rule of law. We continue to see the same pattern of the Conservatives following in the footsteps of the United States and sleepwalking into military interventions.
I want to quote Mrs. Jaisri Margaret Lambert. She is a constituent of mine, and she sent me an email that came to my office.
Canadians are peacemakers, not warmongers. This is a critical time to disallow the government to even seek the right to kill and find a way of making it “legal”. Canada is historically wisely governed by a foreign policy of peacekeeping. Let not my taxes be used to bomb. Help! Life and death issue most important. Please make my voice heard in the House of Commons!”