That this House (i) recognise that the leadership of the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has called on its members to target Canada and Canadians at home and abroad, (ii) further recognise the clear and direct threat that ISIL poses to the people of the region, including members of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority groups who have been subjected to a sustained campaign of brutal sexual violence, murder, and barbaric intimidation by ISIL, (iii) accept that, unless confronted with strong and direct force, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow, (iv) affirm Canada’s desire, consistent with Canadian values and interests, to protect the vulnerable and innocent civilians of the region, including through urgent humanitarian assistance, (v) acknowledge the request from the Government of Iraq for military support against ISIL from members of the international community, including from the Government of Canada, (vi) further acknowledge the participation of Canada’s friends and allies, including numerous countries of the Middle East, in the broad international coalition committed to the fight against ISIL, (vii) note that the United Nations Security Council has become seized of the threat posed by international terrorism with the unanimous passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2178, and, accordingly: (a) support the Government’s decision to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against ISIL, and terrorists allied with ISIL, including air strike capability for a period of up to six months; (b) note that the Government of Canada will not deploy troops in ground combat operations; and (c) continue to offer its resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces who stand on guard for all of us.
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to open the debate on such an important issue for Canadians and for global security.
It is right that all sides of the House have the opportunity to make their voices heard. That is why I travelled to Iraq with opposition critics last month. That is why we called the committee back early, before Parliament was sitting, to discuss the deployment of military advisers. That is why the government supported an emergency debate on the second day of this parliamentary session. That is why we have tabled this motion to debate a new phase of operations.
There are significant questions not just of process but of principle at stake here in the House today. Let us focus on the issues at hand with the seriousness that Canadians rightly expect.
I will defer to my colleagues on some of the details of different aspects. The Minister of National Defence will speak to the military mission, but let me be very up front about the key facts off the top.
How long will this mission last? It will last six months. How many CF-18s will there be? There will be six. How many other planes will there be? There will be one refueling aircraft and two surveillance aircraft. How many supporting crew members will there be in a neighbouring country? There will be 600.
We are asking our brave men and women to fly over the skies of Iraq and confront a new generation of terrorism. It is a terrorist threat that has directly targeted our country.
I hope that we can draw a line under debating the debate.
The government has agreed on its intention. The Prime Minister has articulated clearly the direction in which he intends to lead. How many military advisers will there be? There will be up to 69, aiding and advising those who will confront ISIL forces.
The motion before the House is very clear about what we are doing, and it is just as clear about what we are not doing. It also sets out the clear purpose of the mission. Every step of the way, I have wanted Canada to show a strong and united front in the fight against ISIL. It saddens me that it appears that this will not happen.
It is fair to say that all sides of the House have at times been known to produce more heat than light, but this issue is much bigger than that. This House is bigger than that. Canada is bigger than that.
We have heard those words in this chamber before: that a big country does not need small thinking. We must think big for who we are and what the promise of our people holds for the future.
As former distinguished member of the House, Bob Rae, said:
This is not about “peace” versus “war.” This is about...the collective capacity of governments and international institutions to deal effectively with perpetrators of violence.
By now, everyone is familiar with ISIL's brutal methods. This is not just another conflict. The struggle is not against a state or even a foreign dictator. This is a struggle against a group of terrorists that rape and pillage and slaughter anything and anyone that stands in their way.
These terrorists are creating a proto-state, a place where they can train for attacks against Canada and the west. It is a place where brave and idealistic people like Alan Henning, a humanitarian worker, are beheaded on camera. It is a place where women and girls are auctioned off in slave markets and the heads of minorities are mounted on spikes in town squares. It is a place where the medieval arrogantly confronts the civilized.
On Friday I read an account from a shopkeeper in the Kurdish town of Makhmur. He said:
We had to leave. We were so nervous because everybody knew that [ISIL] had killed everyone they found in some towns.
Those people claim to be Muslims but they have no religion except killing. That is their belief.
With the support from air strikes by the Obama administration, this man's town was recently taken back from ISIL's grip. He then said:
I know all about what Canada is doing....
...it will be very good what the Canadians will soon do in Iraq.
This supportive message has been echoed by my counterpart in the Kurdish regional government.
We cannot predict the future, but we can examine the current situation closely. Just three years ago, al Qaeda in Iraq was in bad shape. Now its successor controls vast lands and resources, creating ideal conditions for launching sophisticated attacks abroad. Last weekend, we heard about a death pact between Pakistani Taliban and ISIL.
We have to attack this scourge, and for good reason. Moreover, the new unified government immediately asked for help.
Our government recognizes the multi-pronged nature of this crisis. As we attempt to halt ISIL's advance, no one who has read the many stories or heard some of the stories for themselves in Iraq can forget about the human cost of its merciless march.
The scale of the humanitarian crisis is truly hard to comprehend. To get a sense of the scale of this human tragedy, imagine if more than the entire population of Montreal, every single Montrealer, had to flee their home in terror. That is 1.8 million people. That is women, children, the elderly, and targeted religious minorities.
Canada has been quick to respond to this unfolding crisis with practical support. We are already the seventh-biggest donor in the world. The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq has praised Canada's co-operation.
I would like to focus on one element of this challenge today, one that has had far too little attention so far.
As a new report by the United Nations has described, ISIL's brutality is matched only by its depravity. In one case over the summer, it herded up 150 women and girls, mostly Christians and Yazidis, and sent them to Syria to be given to ISIL fighters either as a reward or to be sold as sex slaves. Iraqi forces capturing towns from ISIL have reported finding naked women tied to trees.
Sexual violence and conflict is a despicable crime that targets the most vulnerable. This is an issue that Canada has been taking a lead role in and will continue to in the upcoming weeks and months. We must ensure that the women and girls who suffer at the hands of ISIL are never far from our minds. We will ensure that their protection is central to the efforts of the United Nations and G7 through initiatives on women, peace, and security. Canada will support a specialized expert on sexual violence against women to be part of the UN Human Rights Council's mission to Iraq, and I can announce today that we will contribute up to $5 million to help victims of sexual violence in Iraq get the assistance and treatment they need.
We will contribute another $5 million to partners, including Justice Rapid Response, a Canadian-created initiative, to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual violence in ISIL-held territory.
We are also partnering with the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and my former colleague William Hague, who has taken up this important cause, to find ways of taking this commitment further on the ground. This is something that I have personally worked on in recent years.
When we look at a humanitarian crisis of this size, there is always more that can be done, but we can all be proud of how much Canada is doing in this regard. That said, we must be careful not to draw a line between security and humanitarian assistance. That is not just a false distinction; it is a dangerous one. It is not either-or. Sending someone a doctor, a lawyer, or an aid worker is great, but it will not stop the people they trying to help from getting slaughtered in the first place or stop this humanitarian crisis from growing.
When our house is on fire, we have to call the firefighters, as well as an ambulance. Major Mariam al-Mansouri knows this. She is a fighter pilot for the United Arab Emirates, helping to strike against the same terrorists who are raping and murdering countless other women.
Ultimately, this comes down to what kind of nation we see ourselves as, and as the recent beheadings have reminded us, we cannot stand by as international humanitarian workers are themselves at risk of being slaughtered. We cannot confront a network of death, as President Obama calls it, solely armed with bandages, platitudes, and investigations.
Do we stand with close allies like the United States, the United Kingdom, and France; nations like Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands; and Arab friends, like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates; or do we stand aside as they put themselves on the line? Canada is better than that.
As I have repeatedly said, I believe the fight against terrorism is the struggle that will define our generation. That does not mean this mission will last a generation, as one of my friends opposite has said, but I believe we will be judged in future by whether we took on this fight or ducked it.
Just think for a moment what could happen if we do not act. When I sing “we stand on guard for thee”, maybe I do not sing it very well, but I mean it well enough. I mean it as a citizen, and I mean it as a member of Parliament who sees this as the highest responsibility we have to our constituents. If we do not deal with ISIL and its ilk, they will deal with us. Anyone who accepts the premise that ISIL is a threat to our security while leaving the fight against ISIL to others is abrogating their moral responsibility and their duty of care.
If someone is an out-and-out pacifist, I can respectfully disagree with that, but if we believe that in the realities of this world, military action is sometimes one of the necessary courses to take, then let us have a serious debate.
I was glad to see that the House gave time for the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands on Friday. Her argument was more principled than political, based on the belief that military action is wrong and counterproductive. That view may not be right, but it is sincere. Others seem to be grasping for any reason, though, not to support Canada's mission.
Some in this House have questioned what our most elite soldiers could possibly teach Iraqi or Kurdish forces. They have questioned the effectiveness and honour of the Royal Canadian Air Force. They have deflected by pointing at other concerning situations in the world.
At the end of the day, we know that pedantry is easier than principles. It is easier to make excuses than to take responsibility, and it is easier to criticize the risks of action if we are not held accountable for the risks of inaction. However, any government or aspiring government should be held to a higher standard than that. I believe that Canada should be held to a higher standard than that.
To quote: “Leadership is not about making the easy decision that goes along with things. It is about taking a stand with our values and our principles”. That was not the Prime Minister. It was my friend, the leader of the Liberal Party, who said those words a week ago, and I invite members of his party to reflect on them today.
The member for Papineau likes to talk authoritatively about the way Canada is supposed to do things. Well, throughout history, my Canada has done its part in defending the ideals and values that have made our country the envy of the world.
My Canada heeds the call. My Canada protects the vulnerable. It challenges the aggressor. My Canada does not leave all the heavy lifting to others. We pick up our tools and we get on with what needs to be done. There was a time when the Liberal Party believed in that.
The dark clouds of terror are gathering in Iraq and Syria, threatening to strike their thunder from India to Spain. We must not let this storm descend on Canada, and we know that it will if left unchecked. When terrorism is thrust upon us, we must be strong in its face and repudiate it with every ounce of our ability.
These terrorists stretch their delusional fantasies across generations and across borders. I urge us to come together in solidarity with those who are being victimized and brutalized, to come together in solidarity with those who are standing up against this terrible, barbaric threat.
As members consider whether to support this motion, I encourage them to ask themselves: What would they say to that Kurdish shopkeeper? What would they say to the women and girls fearing that ISIL will come for them next? What would they say to that fighter pilot looking for a wingman?
Let us debate what needs to be done, but let us be Parliament at its best. Let us be Canada at its best.
I encourage and urge all members to support the motion before the House.