Canadian Forces Operations
I joined the Canadian Armed Forces (“CAF”) at the age of 18 after graduating from Bowmanville High School. I met some of the most passionate and talented Canadians during my years in uniform. Every man and woman that dons the uniform does so out of a remarkable sense of duty and service to Canada and the values that we all hold dear. Twenty-three years later, I have the honour to sit in Parliament where I take a keen interest in debates about the military with respect to equipment, personnel and deployments. I believe that one of the most important responsibilities facing a government is the decision whether to send our men and women in uniform into combat.
In the last week, there has been a lot of discussion in Ottawa about military operations and in particular the 60-70 members of the CAF that are serving as advisors on the ground in Iraq. These members of our military are there to help the local forces with training and planning related to stopping the rapid advance and barbarity of the terrorist group known as ISIL or ISIS. The Prime Minister has been very clear about this mission. First, he announced that Canada would send a small number of advisors to help in this international effort. Second, the Prime Minister stated that the mission would be reviewed in 30-days, a prudent step, considering the deployment was required to provide a rapid response to the dire situation facing religious minorities and innocent civilians the region. Following this announcement by the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence appeared at an all-party Parliamentary Committee to answer questions on the deployment.
This week the leader of the NDP has asked for a debate in the House of Commons on the military advisors because he claimed that any military deployment deserves a debate in the House of Commons. While the Prime Minister has said that any combat mission would be brought to the House of Commons for a full debate, the deployment of advisors or personnel for a training or assistance role has never led to a debate. In fact, in the last few months the CAF has had HMCS Toronto in the Black Sea with the NATO Fleet, army officers training in Poland with NATO allies and the Royal Canadian Air Force flying support missions to Ukraine. The NDP has not asked for a debate for any of these deployments despite the fact that our men and women were serving abroad. While I think Mr. Mulcair is playing politics on the issue, I think it also shows that the NDP doesn’t really understand military operations.
Canada has always played an important role in the safety and security of North America and the world from World War I to today. In the last 60 years we have regularly played a strong role that is commensurate with our population. Canada remains a founding nation in the NATO Alliance and remains a strong partner in NORAD with the United States. We also have important relationships around the world with countries through our work at the United Nations, in the Commonwealth and the Francophonie group of nations. We have had men and women serving in Europe with NATO or on UN monitoring or peacekeeping missions in the Middle East for decades. These operations are all forms of foreign “deployments”, but there has never been a suggestion that each one should be debated in Parliament.
The United States is taking the lead in this effort and is working with many countries in the region with Islamic populations, which demonstrates that this is a multilateral effort aimed at halting a terrible threat to that region and to global security. We have all witnessed the grotesque violence and savage attacks on religious minority groups and civilians by the terrorist of ISIL. We have also been troubled to see some young radicalized Canadians travel to these regions to engage in these horrific acts. While Canada enjoys the peace and prosperity that vast distance provides, we should not allow this comfort to prevent us from playing a role on a humanitarian and a security assistance basis.
Our military is one of the most highly trained and professional in the world. They are trained to manage risks inherent in their operations and to serve when called upon. The Prime Minister has pledged that before any combat mission where our men and women will engage in war fighting in another country that the issue will be debated in the House of Commons as it should be in a democracy. That is our pledge as a government.