Canada to send CF-18 jets to Iraq

SHAFAQNA – Canada is poised to go to war in Iraq, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce plans in Parliament today to send CF-18 fighter jets to battle Islamic extremists. In his address to the House of Commons, Harper will outline the rationale for why Canada needs to join other countries in a combat mission against ISIL.

Up to six CF-18s will join the fray over Iraq in the coming days. In addition, Canada plans to send surveillance aircraft and refuelling tanks as part of the mission – which, until now, had only involved non-combat Canadian military advisers.

In his speech to MPs — expected at about noon ET — Harper will stress that the measures are part of a “counter-terrorism” plan to defeat ISIL, which has been growing in strength in Iraq and Syria and recent months.

He will also outline Canada’s plans for humanitarian measures to assist the thousands of refugees in the region.

The Conservative government’s military plan is expected to be debated in the House of Commons Monday and be put to a vote the same day.

It’s expected that both opposition parties will oppose the plan. For weeks, Tom Mulcair’s New Democrats have opposed Canada’s non-combat mission and have indicated they would not support a combat role.

On Friday morning, NDP House Leader Peter Julian told reporters that Canadians need to see Harper finally address questions that have been posed for many days.

“We do see the prime minister making very controlled comments but he hasn’t answered some of the basic questions we’ve been asking around timelines, around the scope of the mission, about whether he’s asking for an extension of the mission to Syria.”

Julian said the NDP believes that humanitarian relief should be the “foremost principle” of Canada’s involvement in the region.

“There are people dying right now in the streets of cities, refugees that have had to escape the fighting, escape the murderous thugs that are ISIL.”

On Thursday, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who supported the non-combat mission, hinted broadly that he would not support a shift to a combat mission.

On Thursday evening the opposition parties were informed that Harper will deliver a statement in the House today “outlining Canada’s additional support for counter-terrorism efforts against ISIL,” said the Prime Minister’s Office.

“This group has made direct terrorist threats against Canada and Canadians, in addition to carrying out atrocities against children, women, and men in the region,” said Harper’s spokesman, Jason MacDonald.

“As the prime minister has said before, when we recognize a threat like this that must be addressed, and that involves Canadian interests, we do our part.”

In a speech at a conference hosted by think-tank Canada 2020 Thursday, Trudeau agreed that this country must play a role in the battle against ISIL. The Liberal leader spoke in favour of Canada helping in a variety of ways: non-combat training; airlift transport; medical aid; and humanitarian aid for refugees.

But he said Harper has not yet explained why a combat mission involving CF-18 fighter bombers should be part of the Canadian response to the crisis.

Trudeau accused the prime minister of “playing politics” and refusing to address key questions.

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