Canadian jets shouldn’t go into Iraq, Trudeau says
DANIEL LEBLANC AND STEVEN CHASE
Ottawa — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Oct. 02 2014
The Liberal Party is withholding its support for a Canadian combat mission in Iraq, with Leader Justin Trudeau saying he remains unconvinced of the need to send Canadian fighter jets to fight against Islamic State extremists.
In a speech and news conference on Thursday, Mr. Trudeau said there is a need for humanitarian aid to deal with the crisis in Iraq, but added he has “serious concerns” about the potential for a Canadian participation in ongoing air strikes.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference following a Canada2020 event in Ottawa on Thursday, October 2, 2014.
(Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
“Why aren’t we talking more about the kind of humanitarian aid that Canada can and must be engaged in, rather than, you know, trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are,” Mr. Trudeau said in a question-and-answer period after his speech to the Canada 2020 conference.
Mr. Trudeau told the crowd that he hasn’t made up his mind on endorsing the expansion of Canada’s military mission, but party officials added afterward that it would take a massive shift in the government’s handling of the matter to obtain Liberal support.
The Prime Minister’s Office quickly attacked Mr. Trudeau for his comments on Canada’s fleet of fighter jets.
“Mr. Trudeau’s comments are disrespectful of the Canadian Armed Forces and make light of a serious issue. Our involvement in the fight against ISIL is, and has been, motivated by a desire to do our part in fighting a group that has made direct terrorist threats against Canada and Canadians, in addition to carrying out atrocities against children, women and men in the region,” said PMO director of communications Jason MacDonald. “As the Prime Minister has said: we take that seriously and will do our part.”
The government has promised to allow a debate and a vote in the House before launching any combat mission in Iraq. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said earlier this week that participating in the international coalition is a “noble and necessary” cause, but has refused to provide details on the potential Canadian contribution to any combat mission.
The Liberals have endorsed the current non-combat mission involving a few dozen Canadian Forces members in Iraq. The party has refused to this point to clearly approve or oppose the possibility of an expanded mission in Iraq, stating Mr. Harper has failed to brief them on the mission or make a clear case for a Canadian involvement.
“Unlike prime ministers for decades before him, Mr. 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,” Mr. Trudeau said in his speech. “We don’t know exactly what he has offered the Americans. We don’t know what our role will look like. We don’t know how long our contribution is expected to last. We don’t know how helpful our CF-18s will truly be. In place of these facts we get rhetoric about the nobility of combat.”
Government sources say the Prime Minister will announce Canada’s plans for Iraq on Friday, including whether to extend a 30-day non-combat deployment of military advisers to the region, where extremist Islamists have cut a path of destruction across parts of Syria and Iraq.
Cabinet this week debated a request from the United States for Ottawa to play a combat role in Iraq by supporting air strikes against Islamic State forces. This could include deploying CF-18 fighters, refuelling tankers or even surveillance aircraft to the theatre of war.
While the NDP is not officially opposed to an expanded military mission, Leader Thomas Mulcair distanced himself from what he called “the Prime Minister’s war in Iraq” during Question Period on Wednesday. After a caucus meeting, Mr. Mulcair said that the focus should be on providing humanitarian assistance in the region.
“This is not a UN mission, so we have to be extremely careful before we start listening to the siren songs of those who would propel us full-force into a war,” he told reporters.