OTTAWA—MPs in the House of Commons have started thrashing out their conflicting views of how to oppose the militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Debate on the Liberal government’s proposed new anti-ISIL mission began Feb. 17 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau touting his plan to replace CF-18 fighter jets with a bigger contingent of soldiers to train local forces.
The Conservatives, who under Stephen Harper drafted the original mission to send Canadian fighter-bombers into battle, are condemning the changes as a step back from the fight.
The NDP is asking for a clearer definition of the new effort, seeking to know if Canadian trainers will be in harm’s way and urging the government to spell out an exit strategy.
The government is stressing a broader approach, including more humanitarian aid and help for refugees.
Trudeau says the training mission is the right role for Canada in the right place.
“Our goal is to allow local forces to take the fight directly to ISIL, to reclaim their homes, land, and future,” he told the Commons.
“We will be more significantly involved in counter-terrorism measures, improving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear security in the region.”
Trudeau rejected the notion that Canada is backing away from the fight.
“We believe there is an important role for Canada to plan in the fight against ISIL, a role that we can play, a role that we must play.”
In addition to more trainers, Canada will keep its aerial refuelling and reconnaissance planes in the fight, which the prime minister characterized as defending peace and democracy against “terrorism and barbarism.”
He said the government’s revamped mission will be robust, comprehensive, and effective and will deliver results on the ground.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose begged to differ.
“There are times in the life of a Parliament, and in the history of this House, when providence calls upon us to lead,” Ambrose said.
“Lead by conviction, lead by a responsibility we collectively have to the Canadian people, and lead by fighting evil—and, sadly, today is not a day of leadership.”
Withdrawing from the bombing campaign means pulling a vital component out of the U.S.-led coalition effort against ISIL, she added.
“To blunt the sharp end of our spear is not in keeping with the contributions of our allies,” she said. “We know, too, thanks to poll after poll, that it’s not what most Canadians want us to do.”
The Liberal plan calls for the Canadian fighters to stop bombing by Feb. 22.
From The Canadian Press