SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) Canada could be sending its military into a combat mission in Iraq over the objections of both opposition parties, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper tells the House of Commons Friday what his government’s next steps are in the campaign to stop ISIL extremists.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau issued broad hints Thursday that his party, like the NDP, won’t be on-side with a combat role.
On Thursday evening the opposition parties were informed that Harper will deliver a statement in the House on Friday “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.”
He said Harper’s statement will outline Canada’s contribution to the “counter-terrorism operation, as well as our ongoing humanitarian support.” A motion will be introduced in Parliament that MPs will debate, and vote on, Monday.
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 Prime Minister Stephen 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.
“Mr. Harper is intent on taking Canada to war in Iraq. He needs to justify that. He has not made the case for it. He hasn’t even tried,” Trudeau said.
“Canada has asked a lot of our men and women in uniform over the last decade. And too often they have returned home only to be let down. If we are to ask more of them now, we had better have a good reason.”
Trudeau departed from the formality of his speech with an off-colour joke when questioned by the event moderator on whether the Liberals will support a combat mission.
“Why aren’t we talking more about the kind of humanitarian aid that Canada can and must be engaged in?” he asked those at the conference.
“Rather than, you know, trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are. It just doesn’t work like that in Canada.”
Later at the Canada 2020 conference, Conservative Employment Minister Jason Kenney said he was “disturbed” by Trudeau’s wisecrack.
“To make a juvenile high school joke about the use of the Royal Canadian Air Force in a global coalition to combat a genocidal terrorist organization says a great deal about Mr. Trudeau’s judgment,” said Kenney.
Trudeau said that unlike previous prime ministers, Harper has made no effort to build a non-partisan case for war. “Instead, he dares us to oppose his war, staking out not moral territory but political territory.”
“Indeed, it seems like he has decided that he actually wants the opposition parties to vote against this military adventure of his. Which is completely contrary, I think, to what Canadians want to see.”
Harper spokesman MacDonald said in an email that Canada is already making “significant” contributions to humanitarian aid in the region.
“Mr. Trudeau’s comments are disrespectful of the Canadian Armed Forces and make light of a serious issue,” MacDonald said of Trudeau’s joke.
For nearly a month, Canada has acted in a non-combat advisory role, committing 69 military advisers, of whom 26 are in Iraq. That could change quickly if Harper’s cabinet commits CF-18s.
So far, the Liberals have supported the mission because it was non-combat, but Tom Mulcair’s NDP stood firmly opposed because it was too vague and appeared, to the NDP, to be creeping towards a full-scale combat operation.
Harper has promised that if he commits Canadian military to combat, there will be a debate and vote in the House of Commons.