Member Of Parliament for Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan
February 23, 2016

Government Business No. 2 - Canada`s contribution to the effort to combat ISIL - Part 1

There is such a lack of definition. There is such a soup of terms coming from the other side.

   I recall another speech in which a member, I cannot recall which one, referenced Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage. The member who just spoke again talked about playing to our strengths. I do not know if they have thought through the implications of those kinds of arguments, because the implication of that argument is that being involved in the front lines, being involved in the bomber mission is somehow not a strength we have.

I think that is a strength and that we have a comparative advantage because of the effectiveness of our air force, because of the effectiveness of our women and men on the front lines. Therefore, the implication of that kind of statement suggests somehow that we are less able to do that than other countries, which is totally fatuous and frankly quite troubling.

   We have all these terms floating around from the government without clear definition. I know we have heard the suggestion that somehow its approach is a more sophisticated one. I will say respectfully that perhaps it is so sophisticated that the government members do not even understand what the mission is all about because we have heard so many different kind of things about the mission. They will have to get that sorted out, and they should be willing to answer some very basic questions about the nature of the mission.

   There is another much more important area where there is a lack of definition. The members of the government are not willing to accurately describe the situation on the ground. The reason they are not willing to describe it accurately is because it has implications for how we would respond. Those of us on this side of the House have frequently pointed out that what is happening in Syria and Iraq right now is nothing short of genocide. The word genocide has been used by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. It has been used in a resolution passed by the European parliament. It has been used by many human rights groups.

   Why is the government unwilling to call a genocide a genocide? The reason it is unwilling to use that word is because it understands that the use of the word genocide entails a responsibility to protect. It entails a responsibility to respond in a much more serious way than the government willing to do it.

   If the government is fully confident that it is doing all that it can do and that it is doing the best it can do, then why not use the word and describe the situation accurately? I think we see an unwillingness to use the word genocide to describe a genocide. We see a tacit admission that Canada is not willing to own up to the responsibility entailed in this idea of responsibility to protect. Therefore, we have a lack of definition both in terms of this mission and in terms of the actual situation happening on the ground.

   As my final point, I want to address questions of intervention in more general terms. Often when we talk about Canadian troops being involved in a conflict in the Middle East there is some discomfort around maybe people looking at past conflicts and wondering if we are getting into a similar situation.

   There has been some discussion in this House about Canada's involvement in Libya. Nobody has pointed this out yet, as far as I have heard, but there was general agreement within this House about the mission in Libya. Liberals, and I think even New Democrats, at the time voted in favour of Canada being involved in a bombing mission in Libya. In retrospect, we can certainly say that what happened in Libya did not end up the way we would have hoped. That is a mission that all of us own to some extent.

   However, there are some important differences between the situation with the Daesh and the situation in Libya. For one, we are not going in to overthrow an existing government without a strong understanding of who we are fighting in support of. In fact, we are working very closely with an existing Iraqi government and with existing Kurdish forces. We are supporting ground troops, we are involved from the air but we are doing it in concert with troops on the ground. That is the best possible recipe for success.

   There are many examples of intervention gone bad and many examples of non-intervention gone bad. I can think of cases where terrorists groups were left in power for far too long and were able to wreak havoc as a result.

   These are important points to consider: the government is offering us false choices in this debate; there has been a general lack of definition; and, the questions of intervention should point us in the direction of getting involved in a multi-pronged way in this case.

   Canada has a long tradition of being willing to stand up for our values in a conflict, and we should do it in this case.


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