Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise in the House this evening to speak to and support our government's motion to expand and extend our campaign against ISIL in Iraq.
This so-called Islamic State has threatened and attacked those who stand up to their barbaric form of Islam across the globe. It has also indicated that it is specifically targeting Canada and its allies. It has made it clear that Canada is a target. Why? It is for the same reason it targets most of humanity: in ISIL's view, anyone who does not accept its perverse interpretation of religion should be killed.
That is why we are in Iraq with our allies. It is to fight the threat that ISIL poses not just to the region but to Canada as well.
Our motion clearly lays out precisely what military activities we will be undertaking in Iraq to degrade and destabilize this so-called Islamic State. I would like to go into some detail about the contributions being made by Canadian air assets.
To date, our very capable CF-18 Hornets have conducted over 416 sorties, resulting in the destruction of vehicles, heavy weapons, checkpoints, buildings, and bunkers. By damaging or destroying assets like these, the Canadian Armed Forces are not only degrading ISIL's combat capabilities and preventing ISIL fighters from establishing safe havens but also enabling Iraqi forces to go on the offensive. Ultimately, it will be for the Iraqi security forces to bring sufficient pressure to bear on ISIL and eliminate the grave threat that it represents.
Our CP-140 Auroras, outfitted with advanced imaging systems, radar, and other sensors, have conducted over 116 reconnaissance missions, collecting the critical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data that is used to identify and strike targets accurately as well as to assess battle damage. The modernized Aurora really is a cutting-edge platform. The information that this aircraft collects not only enhances the effectiveness of air strikes but also helps avoid collateral damage by ensuring that targets are limited to military objectives. In fact, our Auroras have made crucial contributions to what is considered the most precise close air support campaign in history. This is a specific capability that the U.S. views as extremely useful for Canada to provide in the fight against ISIL and Syria.
Lastly, the CC-150 Polaris refueller has conducted over 105 sorties, delivering more than six million pounds of fuel to coalition aircraft. By delivering fuel to fighters in the air, it acts as a force multiplier by allowing these aircraft to lengthen their sorties and fly further into the battle space. Our Polaris is helping the coalition to maintain pressure on ISIL throughout Iraq.
Moreover, our special operations forces, who are so incredibly capable, are on the ground. They are working hard to advise and assist the Iraqi forces and make them more effective. They are increasing their confidence and ability to plan, mount, and execute operations against ISIL, and they are making a real difference in helping to professionalize the Iraqi security forces.
Any operational mission carries with it a degree of risk. We all recognize that, but I am confident that the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are as prepared as they can be to face these challenges. They are rigorously trained prior to deployment overseas, equipped to the highest standard, and operate within specific rules of engagement that mitigate risks where feasible. They are also provided with the required intelligence and legal advice to ensure that all Canadian Armed Forces activities comply with international law and Canadian law.
Moreover, risk to Canadian personnel is also alleviated by a dedicated coalition personnel recovery capability, which includes a high-readiness combat search and rescue capacity prepared to respond should it prove necessary. Thank goodness we have such brave, courageous, highly skilled, professional Canadian Armed Forces members.
However, there is no either/or between military action and humanitarian aid. As members know, military operations enable the flow of humanitarian aid and other assistance programming by creating secure conditions on the ground. In order for aid to be delivered effectively, we need security. Therefore, along with our military contribution to assist the people and the Government of Iraq, Canada has taken significant steps to address the suffering of Iraqi civilians.
In fact, Canada is at the forefront of international efforts in Iraq. We have committed funding for humanitarian aid, stabilization, and security programming to Iraq over the past year. This support includes over $67.4 million to address humanitarian needs in Iraq, $15 million to strengthen front-line security measures and combat the threat of foreign fighters and violent extremism, and $10 million to address sexual violence and additional human rights abuses perpetrated by ISIL—human rights abuses the likes of which we have never seen.
All of this support is helping to feed 1.7 million people in Iraq, providing shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people, and giving some education to over half a million children.
Iraq has also been designated as a partner country. This means that it qualifies for bilateral assistance to enable it to meet long-term development objectives and build resilience to withstand the ongoing conflict. We are working swiftly to deliver new development assistance programming in Iraq, both to address short-term needs during the continuing crisis and to contribute to support and stability over the long term.
However, ISIL is a group that decries modern civilization. It equally abhors anything that does not accord with its twisted world view. As part of its relentless campaign to eradicate culture, over the last few weeks we have witnessed the destruction of the 3,000-year-old Syrian city of Nimrud; the 7th century statues from the ancient city of Nineveh, housed in a museum in Mosul; and, most recently, the bulldozing of the ancient city of Hatra, which dated to the 2nd or 3rd century BC.
The head of UNESCO has declared that this “...deliberate destruction of cultural heritage constitutes a war crime.”
ISIL is not nearly content to threaten the present and the future of the people in the Middle East; it is determined to erase their culture and their past in an attempt to revise history.
In conclusion, this is why I am supporting our government's motion, which provides for military support to degrade and destabilize ISIL as well as significant humanitarian aid in the Canadian tradition to ensure that displaced people are taken care of.
I would ask that all of my colleagues in the House support this very important motion.