SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- NDP leader Tom Mulcair accused the Harper government of hiding “the truth from Canadians” on Monday, following revelations that Canadian Forces continue to engage in firefights with Islamic State militants in Iraq.
But Defence Minister Rob Nicholson denied the claim, pointing to regular updates on the mission — including a briefing on Monday where Cpt. Paul Forget said Canadian military advisors had engaged in two more gun battles.
Last week, senior military officers revealed that Canadian soldiers had returned fire after being shot at during a visit to the front line. The additional two firefights reported Monday ratcheted up tensions over Canada’s role in the region.
“Of course [Canadian soldiers] have to defend themselves,” Mr. Mulcair said in the first question period following a six-week recess. “The real question is why did the government put them in harm’s way after promising Canadians they wouldn’t be at the front?”
In October, the House of Commons passed a motion deploying Canadian advisors and warplanes to fight ISIS in Iraq. But, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted in a speech to the House last fall, the motion “explicitly ruled out” a ground combat mission.
“Stop playing with words,” Mr. Mulcair bellowed at the government side of the House Monday, asking how many gun battles need to happen before the Prime Minister “finally admits our troops are in a combat mission.”
Canadian Forces has stressed that the advisors are in Iraq to train and assist Iraqi military personnel, which requires visits to the front lines.
“I’m not sure how you could train troops without accompanying them,” Minister Nicholson said during question period, drawing laughs from the Conservative benches.
The minister also echoed the Prime Minister’s comments from last week, when Mr. Harper told an audience that “If those guys fire at us, we’re going to fire back and we’re going to kill them.”