Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion. As members of Parliament, the single most important duty we have is to give consideration to actions by the government, as those actions would lead our military men and women into harm's way.
One thing I want to be clear on is that at this point in time there is already an action under way to go after ISIL, the people committing the atrocities about which the members on the other side just spoke. Nobody on this side of the House is any less offended or troubled by those actions.
Right now militarily, about 60 countries are involved in a coalition and not all of them have made the decision to put their military into action. The United States, France and Australia are leading the way with a massive force. In point of fact, if we consider the six aircraft being proposed by the government and the 600 people who will accompany them, that is a very small portion of what will be utilized in the bombings.
Based on some testimony that the Subcommittee on International Human Rights heard this week from Reverend Majed El Shafie of One Free World International, which is a group that took Conservatives and other members of Parliament to Iraq, right to the edge of where the combat is taking place, the president of Iraq and Kurdish leaders begged for humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons in that country, not bombs.
I want to take members back for a moment and ask if they remember the use of the words “collateral damage”. In and around Parliament and places of government, there are often what are called buzzwords. An example of buzzwords that I am very familiar with were “free trade”. In the 1980s, there was a great debate on free trade and it sounded good. In both Gulf Wars, when the American missiles and bombs were dropping, collateral damage was referred to. The collateral damage consisted of men, women and children. Nobody can direct a surgical strike that does not put at risk having collateral damage.
One of the offshoots of the Gulf War was the instability when the Americans left. Prior to that time, Saddam Hussein, who was a Sunni, whose tribe was about one-quarter the size of the Shia in that area of the world, installed his Sunni supporters into the army. When the Americans and their allies removed Saddam Hussein and destabilized that area, he was ultimately replaced by a prime minister who was Shia, who sought revenge for the many atrocities committed by the troops of Saddam Hussein. It is said that he did not pay the army on time and humiliated it.
When a couple of thousand ISIL fighters came across the border, five divisions of Iraqi soldiers laid down their arms. Many of them joined ISIL because of the instability. Not understanding the horrific consequences, they believed that by joining ISIL, they would get a fairer deal from the government. Since that time, that prime minister has been removed.
I would like to inform the House, Mr. Speaker, that I am splitting my time with the member for Louis-Hébert.
The instability that was created by that vacuum and the years and years of Shia and Sunni tribal warfare is being taken advantage of by the ISIL group.
We have heard testimony from people here today and on other days that ISIL is far more sophisticated than any terrorist group that we have come across. It is an offshoot of al Qaeda. Our leader was indicating in the House the other day that North Americans have been fighting ISIL in one form or another for well over 10 years. It took advantage of that vacuum and has also taken advantage of some people who, had they really considered their actions, would not have joined it.
It is horrific. We have heard very little like it. The only place I can think of that might be comparable is the Democratic Republic of Congo where there have been atrocities.
Reverend El Shafie spoke to us in committee and raised the fact that they are four to five weeks away from winter and there is not even shelter for people. The few hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars, that are going to be spent by Canada on these bombing missions would be better used serving the people on the ground in that country who are suffering. If we were to go there and build shelters and bring medicines, winter clothes and the things they need, they would be better served.
They were forced out of their homes. They were given a choice but they were not believers in this particular brand, this abhorrent brand of Islam. I am pleased to hear the government say that it is not Islam as the world knows it. This is a group of people, much like Osama bin Laden, who use the word “jihad” to justify horrific things. Those who know a little about Islam know that “jihad” simply means to defend one's religion when it comes under attack. It is not to go out and do the things that are happening here.
It is very important to remind Canadians who may be watching that in Canada there are 1.2 million Muslims. Every once in a while I will find someone who is ill informed, who says Muslims are trying to take over, or this and that. I remind him that there are 32 million of the rest of us. When do we see a newspaper story of a Muslim attacking someone in Canada, or stealing, robbing a bank, or committing murder? It is extremely rare because these are good people who believe very fundamentally and are committed to Islam.
Again, this is not Islam. This is a terrible group. I cannot think of ISIL members in any other terms than monsters because the things they have been doing are monstrous. I can understand that members on the other side who have the lever of power and the ability to say we should put our aircraft in the air, or put troops on the ground—in fairness, they have not said that as yet, but we are worried it might happen—would want to do something when we are facing those kinds of horrific crimes.
However, we have a coalition of 60 nations. We have among them the top three or four militaries on the face of the earth prepared to undertake this mission. They do not need Canada to go there bombing, but they do need Canada's help in this effort. I agree with Canada taking part in this effort. I agree that Canada must do something on a huge humanitarian scale because this is going to be proven to be one of the most horrific times in our history with what is going to happen to the displaced people. They have already been terrorized to the point of having to leave their homes. Many have had brothers, fathers, uncles and cousins murdered and there are other atrocities we have heard about.
No one is arguing those have not happened. What we are arguing is that perhaps Canada can take that step back from going into military action and say Canada is prepared to stand up with our allies, supply the humanitarian aid, offer support and the delivery of arms. We are already delivering arms to those fighters trying to protect their homeland, which we are in agreement with. However, it is most important to take that pause before we choose to send our men and women into a war zone that is going to become a quagmire. We saw it happen in the last war in Iraq. We saw it happen in Afghanistan where 40,000 Canadians went through that war zone. We are still paying the price for that today with PTSD and the loss of over 150 Canadian soldiers and a person from our diplomatic service.
I will close by appealing to the government side. Take a moment, step back and give some thought to the fact that this is a broader concern than just war and bombing. It is a place where we can do some real humanitarian work.