Military Contribution Against ISIL


Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise on this important day in the House of Commons, and I do so with a deep sense of responsibility as a member of the House.

I have said on numerous occasions, both in this place and outside, that one of the most important debates that a member of the House of Commons will take part in is the decision related to putting the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces in harm’s way. It is a decision that should be used sparingly, but as a democratic leader of middle powers in the world, we should exercise it when our values and indeed freedoms are at risk.

It is also a deep responsibility for me as a Canadian, because it is by decisions like this that we define the type of Canadians we are. Are we Canadians like our forebears, who with a young and small country stepped up in the past and served in a way that was much larger than its population might have dictated? Are we a nation that does not move to the other side of the road as we pass people whose freedoms and very lives are being threatened, hoping that someone else will tend to them? Are we the type of Canadians who in a global age benefit immensely from trade in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but who allow ourselves to fall asleep under the blanket of security that our distance from these conflicts always allows us to have?

Before the House is a debate on the motion for the next phase in our response to the ISIL threat. On September 5, the Prime Minister outlined that Canada’s initial response was to send military advisers to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the defence of their territories and to stop killings on a genocidal scale.

That mission is now over, and it is being extended. It is evolving into an air strike role for Canada.

But who is that threat that is ISIL?

All Canadians have been horrified by the accounts we have seen on television: beheadings of journalists and aid workers, the selling of women and young girls into slavery, rape as a weapon of war, mass killings on a scale that is truly genocidal. ISIL is an enemy of freedom, an enemy that follows no creed except death and destruction.

As Canadians, indeed as part of the developed and democratic world, if we learned anything from 9/11, it is that navel gazing and turning a blind eye to these threats because they are far away can allow them to gather to a point where they also touch us. Therefore, when we see some of the children being impacted by this horrific violence in Iraq and Syria, we should also see the faces of our own children. We should not allow this threat to gather, because we have already seen, sadly, that a few radicalized Canadians are taking part in these horrific acts. ISIL terrorists have already threatened Canada. With the vast amount of territory and financing they have gained in recent months, they are a threat not just to that region but to the entire world.

With our immense freedoms and wealth as a nation comes a duty to safeguard and promote these same opportunities for others. That is why I stand in full agreement with our evolving role in combatting the threat that is ISIL. We are now going to extend the training mission and the advisory commission with select members of our special forces unit. We are also going to deploy surveillance aircraft, an air-to-air refuelling Polaris, and up to six CF-18s to join our allies, both our NATO allies and our allies in the Gulf, in combatting the advance of ISIL.

This is an appropriate response because it can be effective. It can cut off supply and financing lines for ISIL. It can isolate them geographically and allow domestic ground forces to defend their own territory. We see how close this conflict is drifting to our NATO ally of Turkey.

Air strikes can have a limited but impactful role in stopping genocide and stopping the advance of ISIL.

It is also a much lower risk for our men and women of the Canadian Forces. There is risk whenever they are flying in combat, but it is a limited risk. I know the exceptional men and women of our Royal Canadian Air Force train and accept these risks as part of their duty for our country and for our values.

Most importantly, these would be targeted and precise strikes that are assessed to minimize collateral damage, both before the strike and after. We learn from these assessments. and we learn if an impact is being felt on the ground and if we are saving lives and preventing the advance of ISIL.

I want to address some of the concerns raised by the opposition in the debate in the weeks before this mission.

First, the opposition suggests that Canada is running into this air strike role, or rushing into battle, as I have heard some members of this House say. If that were the case, we would have joined the first round of countries implementing air strikes.

On September 5 the Prime Minister outlined our position, which was an advisory one for the first month, and said that we would speak to our allies to see what would be needed going further. Canada has always played a role that is helpful but that is commensurate with our size and scope as a country. That is what we are doing here.

Members of this House have also said what our exit strategy is, throwing out suggestions like that as an excuse not to stand with our allies in the face of this threat.

An air strike role is limited. Our crews are able to return and assess the impact of their last mission; they are not on the ground. As the Prime Minister said in the House, no combat troops are being deployed on the ground with this motion.

Another element of debate has been, “How do we measure success?” Once again the idea is that if we can’t measure success, we shouldn’t stand alongside our allies and we shouldn’t hear the cries from the thousands suffering as a result of ISIL.

However, with air strikes, as I said, we can measure the impact of our role in that area. We can measure if we have isolated ISIL and allowed Kurdish or Iraqi ground forces to safeguard their own interests.

This cries out for a quote from Winston Churchill, who said, “…no one can guarantee success in war, but only deserve it.” The coalition forces, in the face of horrific acts of violence and genocide, certainly deserve success.

As the Prime Minister said, this is not a case of either humanitarian aid or counterterrorism operations, but a case of both, and without security on the ground, as we have seen through the tragic beheading last week, we cannot deliver humanitarian aid to the people who need it.

The NDP opposition in this House is understandable. It is a party that has been very reticent about deploying Canadian forces throughout its history. What is deeply troubling to me as a parliamentarian has been not just the position of the third party, the Liberal Party, in this debate, but its approach to the debate itself.

To highlight that, I am quoting another Liberal leader’s speech in this place on September 8, 1939.

Prime Minister King, in response to Conservative support for his motion, said:

It shows how deep in the breasts of men lies the determination to preserve, to maintain and to defend freedom and all that freedom makes possible in the enjoyment of life itself. This deep-lying instinct for freedom is, I believe, characteristic of the citizens of Canada from one end of this great country to the other.

A “deep-lying instinct for freedom”: these are comments from the Liberal leader in 1939, in response to the Conservative Party’s support for his motion in the House regarding the deployment of men and women at a time of need.

We can contrast that with the comments of today’s Liberal leader, flippant when it comes to the situation that ISIL poses and derogatory of our ability to project force alongside our allies.

Where has the Liberal Party gone? That is the question I am leaving with the House. Where is the Liberals’ deep-lying instinct for freedom? I hope they find it soon.



Stay in Touch with Erin

Sign up for email updates from Erin O'Toole to hear the latest from Ottawa and our riding.