Speech – Canada’s Contribution to the Effort to Combat ISIL

February 23, 2016

Mr. Lloyd Longfield (Guelph, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the motion to redefine Canada’s mission against ISIL. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Surrey—Newton.

As Canadians, we must ask ourselves what victory over ISIL looks like. When our brave soldiers return from their tours of duty, what will have come from their efforts? What will they remember? What will they have achieved? How are we to measure success? Will they see a land divided, still plagued by civil war, a people living among the ruins of their proud past, or will our veterans look back and see a people who have rebuilt their homes and their lives?

Let us not measure our success in Syria and Iraq by the number of air strikes we see on TV but instead by the circumstances in which we leave. The measure of success means defeat of ISIL, of course, but just as important is the establishment of a civil society. By developing essential services that Canadians sometimes take for granted, through the training of police and security forces, we can impart the tools necessary to maintain stability and peace, as well as providing the means for them to establish proper and effective government.

By no means can we call our mission a success if the people of Iraq and Syria are forgotten, left to fend for themselves in a notoriously unstable and unpredictable region, surrounded by nations that will wish to use this conflict to further their own political ends. Without ground assistance, the region will remain fractured, an incubator for violent extremism.

If we are to do right by our serving men and women, do right by our coalition partners, and do right by the millions of innocents caught in the crossfire, we must think long term. At its roots, insurgency is a political problem. What we are calling for is an all-government approach to form a comprehensive plan: that includes the ministry of foreign affairs; the ministry of national defence; the ministry of immigration, refugees, and citizenship; and the ministry of international development. A wider range of agencies, elements, power, and capabilities, in addition to the military, must come together in unity of purpose to defeat ISIL.

Defeating an insurgency requires more than just bombing. As it is, there are lots of bombers available in the region, as was so eloquently mentioned last week by our Minister of National Defence. Up until now, as we have discussed at length in the House, Canada has provided support for coalition forces through six fighter jets sent to the aid of the coalition air force of 300 jets. Canada’s pilots and ground crews have supported the mission by supplying 2.5% of the overall coalition air strikes, and they have performed their duties admirably.

At a national level, we too have an obligation to look toward the next phase of the armed conflict. It is not simply because we faced an expiration date on March 31, and not simply because we received a new mandate from Canadians, but because the realities of the mission demanded it.

The Minister of National Defence has answered many questions in the House regarding the consultations his ministry has been having with our coalition partners. As the campaign moves forward, our government is proposing to provide the support Canadians are known for: providing stability through visible presence to assist local police forces; assisting coalition forces by providing intelligence gathering and reconnaissance assets to enhance regional stability; training local forces; increasing humanitarian support and development assistance.

The opposition has been pressing and continues to press for details of the plan going forward. The consultative approach our government is taking to get things right has required appropriate time in order to develop a plan in which Canadians can take great pride.

Our pilots and ground crews have honoured their commitment to Canadians and to our coalition partners by delivering such crucial support for this war-torn region.

In Afghanistan in 2010, the former government learned that the multinational coalition fighting against an insurgency had to adopt a new, sophisticated approach, known as the whole-of-government approach. This new approach was to examine the wide range of tools available among our allies and harnessing the individual strengths of the coalition members to get the job done.

The former government decided to refocus all its efforts on training local forces, increasing humanitarian support and development assistance, and working very hard and quite successfully to enhance regional stability. It provided additional intelligence and reconnaissance assets and focused and refocused on training. This is exactly what we are proposing to do in Syria and Iraq. We are applying the lessons learned in Afghanistan.

With respect to the military line of effort, we recognize that it will ultimately be the people of Iraq and Syria who will be responsible for stabilizing their countries. By working with them, we can help to bring a disciplined approach to the fight. We need to enable them to defeat ISIL, and we have the expertise to help bolster their capabilities and prepare them for that fight.

Going forward, this is where we will be focusing much of our effort, as we announced last week. We will triple our commitment to the train, advise, and assist mission in northern Iraq. At the same time, we are going to significantly increase our intelligence capability.

There is a complex interplay of forces that underlies the conflict in Iraq and Syria. We need to have a clearer picture of how all the pieces fit together, and we need to better anticipate the impact of our actions. Our enhanced intelligence contribution will be invaluable in this regard. Solving complex issues such as we are facing requires a thoughtful and equally complex approach that utilizes Canada’s strengths to support the concerted international effort to root out ISIL.

Canada needs to continuously work on the ground providing intelligence and training to ensure that local forces have the resources they need to maintain a lasting peace. To that end, our government is committed and stands shoulder to shoulder with our coalition allies.

This typically Canadian collaborative approach has earned Canada and its Armed Forces the respect of the international community. Upon their return, family and friends can welcome our soldiers back to Canada and congratulate them for a job well done.

Canadians can take great pride in the role our serving men and women will play in the establishment of security, and hopefully, the reconstruction of the nations ravaged by ISIL forces. Canadians can also be proud of our military families at home that are supporting our forces overseas.

We are proud of the extraordinary generosity demonstrated by Canadians across the nation. They have stepped up to welcome families from Syria who have come to Canada in the hopes of starting new lives. Through these efforts at home and abroad, Canadians have proved that we are ready to help however we can.

Mr. Harold Albrecht (Kitchener—Conestoga, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Guelph, who is almost my next-door neighbour, for his speech, and I welcome him to the Parliament of Canada. It is a true honour to serve here. I also want to acknowledge the great work our men and women in uniform do for us every day in providing protection and security.

The member said that we should be doing more than just bombing. On this side of the House, we totally agree with that. In fact, we have been doing much more than that for many years. He indicated that we should be providing increased essential services and providing increased training for police and security forces. We agree with providing increased training and increasing our capability in terms of intelligence gathering. However, I have yet to hear one of the members on the opposite side explain how pulling our CF-18s out of the fight there, which are providing cover for our allies and for our own troops on the ground, actually improves our ability to restrain ISIS. I would like him to explain that.

Mr. Lloyd Longfield: Mr. Speaker, our government is looking at the key strategic role Canada can play. We are focusing on where our strengths have been developed over the years in providing assistance on the ground. At the beginning of the mission, we helped in the air. We still have air coverage through our coalition partners and have developed a strategy with our coalition partners, for the new phase of operations, to help stabilize the region in other ways.

[TRANSLATION]

Mr. Robert Aubin (Trois-Rivières, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Guelph for his presentation. I listened to it with interest.

I am not sure if it is because of my cold or my slow-moving brain, but I did not find, either in the motion or in the hon. member’s speech, an answer to a question I have had since the beginning of our debate on this issue.

Where in the motion or his speech can I find something to help me see that we are addressing the root of the problem, in other words, funding for ISIL, the flow of arms, and the influx of foreign fighters? What is Canada doing to stop these three threats?

[ENGLISH]

Mr. Lloyd Longfield: Mr. Speaker, the question of what we do, the details we take from the House of Commons to the theatre, and what we will do in terms of reducing the flow of arms and money is really a question left to the professionals in the theatre. We have military command and we have coalition forces we are working with to have the best strategy going forward.

Canada will be available in being visible on the street and working with the local police forces and the local security forces. We will also be working, of course, to try to develop trade in the region to build up its economic stability.

It is a very complex issue. It is a complex problem, and there is no simple solution to it. We are discussing that at length. Even within the House ideas are being kicked around that we need to consider as we go forward

[TRANSLATION]

Mr. Pierre Paul-Hus (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, CPC): Mr. Speaker, since we started debating this motion I have noticed that when we ask questions about the mission we never get any answers. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe we are currently deploying our special forces to provide training and security and our medical forces to go into the refugee camps. The last item in the motion refers to welcoming tens of thousands of refugees. We never talk about that part of the motion.

Is the mission becoming a mission to evacuate the people over there? Instead of engaging in combat, we are taking a position and bringing in refugees. Is that the work we are going to do?

[ENGLISH]

Mr. Lloyd Longfield: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his service to our country.

We are increasing the number of troops on the ground to 850, so we are not pulling out of the mission. It is an all-of-government approach. We are working with refugees to help them settle into Canada.