The Iraq mission: NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair on why Canada should leave

On Tuesday morning, NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair stood in the House of Commons to deliver his reasons for why Canada’s military mission in Iraq should not be extended by a year and expand into Syria. The mission is meant to fight the Islamic State, which Mr. Mulcair refers to in his speech by the acronym ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria).

The following is a transcript of his speech (in both English and French) provided by Parliament. At one point, Mr. Mulcair is heckled by Members of Parliament of a different party, and House Speaker Andrew Scheer asks them to let Mr. Mulcair finish speaking.

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks in the House of Commons on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.  (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks in the House of Commons on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Mr. Speaker, asking our brave Canadian women and men in uniform to risk their lives overseas is the most sacred duty that a Prime Minister has. Seeking approval from this House makes us all responsible for their lives. Seeking a mandate like this must be undertaken, therefore, with the utmost responsibility.

I listened very carefully as the Prime Minister spoke just now, and nothing I heard today has convinced me that the Conservatives are taking this duty with the seriousness that it deserves.

You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that we have had this debate before. On September 30, just six months ago, I stood in this House and asked the Prime Minister specifically whether Canadian troops would be involved in directing air strikes in Iraq and painting targets. I asked him twice, as a matter of fact, and twice the Prime Minister specifically denied it. We now know that simply was not true. I also asked the Prime Minister if Canadian troops would be accompanying Iraqi forces to the front line. Again, the Prime Minister categorically denied that, and again we now know that simply was not true. They say that truth is the first casualty of war. It has become clear that the current government has taken that saying to heart.

Petit à petit, sans faire preuve de transparence et à coups de déclarations contradictoires de la part du premier ministre, du ministre de la Défense nationale et du ministre des Affaires étrangères, les conservateurs ont enfoncé le Canada dans une guerre en Irak; une guerre qui n’est pas la nôtre. C’est un bourbier qui dure depuis plus d’une décennie, un conflit qui a déjà coûté la vie, comme le premier ministre vient de le dire, au sergent Andrew Joseph Doiron.

Toutefois, nous voici six mois plus tard: ce premier ministre et ce gouvernement demandent maintenant la permission de prolonger le déploiement en Irak et d’ajouter, le premier ministre vient de le dire, la Syrie comme nouveau théâtre d’opérations.

Le premier ministre nous demande de lui faire confiance pour pouvoir mettre nos troupes en danger. Pour le dire tout simplement, il n’a pas mérité cette confiance.

The Prime Minister has not earned that trust because he misled Canadians from the start. It is simply unconscionable that the current Conservative government would ask for the authority to extend the mission in Iraq when so many things it has told Canadians about the mission up until now have been false.

It begs the question: Do they not know the answers; or do they not want Canadians to know the answers? The women and men who put their lives on the line deserve better, Canadians deserve better.

If we all agree that it is the Prime Minister’s sacred duty to send our troops into war, then it is the official opposition’s sacred duty to scrutinize that decision to ensure that it is the right one.

Military planners will tell us that for a mission to succeed it must have two things. It must have a well-defined objective and a well-defined exit strategy. This mission has neither. The Conservatives simply have no plan. They have no strategy, other than the obvious political one, and that is putting our troops in danger.

Our brave men and women are involved in fire fights with ISIS on the ground, contrary to their clear undertaking. For the Prime Minister to still deny that Canadian troops are involved in combat is simply ludicrous. The death of Sergeant Doiron reminded us all that the risk of deployment on the front line is real. This House cannot turn a blind eye to this fact, despite the Prime Minister’s assertions.

The truth is our allies, the Americans for instance, do not even get close to the front line. In their role of targeting air strikes, the Canadian soldiers are performing a task that so far even the U.S. military has been unwilling to perform.

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has repeatedly said the U.S. would consider directing attacks from the ground but that it has not done so yet. Why not and why are Canadian troops doing it?

Évidemment, le manque d’objectifs clairs n’a pas empêché ce premier ministre d’appuyer la guerre de George W. Bush, en 2003. Pourtant, l’histoire nous démontre que le Canada avait raison de ne pas y participer, à l’époque.

Or aujourd’hui, de toute évidence, le manque d’objectifs clairs ne trouble aucunement notre premier ministre. Il semble vouloir sa guerre en Irak, comme il l’a voulue en 2003, peu importe les conséquences. Ainsi le Canada est d’abord entré en guerre en Irak pour une mission de 30 jours. Trente jours se sont transformés en six mois. Et voilà que six mois plus tard s’ajouterait une année supplémentaire. Que se passera-t-il après? C’est cela la question. Les Canadiens ne le savent pas. Les conservateurs ne le savent pas et pire, ils refusent de le dire.

Souvenons-nous de l’engagement du Canada dans la guerre en Afghanistan, une guerre qui, pour le Canada, a également débuté avec quelques opérations de forces spéciales très limitées. À l’époque, malgré les insultes et les quolibets, Alexa McDonough et le caucus du NPD ont posé les questions qui s’imposaient au gouvernement, des questions difficiles. À l’époque, comme aujourd’hui, la mission initiale s’est transformée au fil du temps, enfonçant le Canada dans un bourbier, comme nous l’avions prédit.

Le déploiement en Afghanistan est devenu la plus longue mission militaire de l’histoire du Canada: 160 soldats tués, plus de 1 000 blessés et des milliers d’autres qui ont souffert et qui souffrent encore aujourd’hui du syndrome post-traumatique.

It is the height of irresponsibility for a government to decide to enter a war without a clear plan, without a clear beginning and a well-defined end. That is exactly what the Conservatives are doing in Iraq. The government is taking Canada from mission creep to mission leap.

New Democrats are proud to have stood up to the Prime Minister’s misguided war from the very beginning. The fact is Canada has no place in this war. This is not —

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

Mr. Mulcair:  This is not a UN mission. It is not even a NATO mission. Despite attempts to give appearances to the contrary, it is not a NATO mission. UN missions and NATO missions are the kinds of internationally sanctioned campaigns that New Democrats can and have been able to get behind.

In 2011—

Some hon. members: Oh, oh!

The Speaker: Order. I did not hear any noise when the right hon. Prime Minister was speaking. I will ask members to extend the same courtesy to the hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Mulcair:  In 2011, when Moammar Gadhafi started dropping bombs on his own civilian population, New Democrats supported the international efforts to protect Libyans. That effort was sanctioned by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973. Of course, when the mission of protection of the civilian population became one of a so-called regime change, it was New Democrats who asked the right question — to replace it with what? Ask the Americans how that worked out in Benghazi?

Now, years later, with everything we have seen unfold in Lybia, it is clear that the NDP was right to ask those questions then. Unlike that original mission in Lybia, the war in Iraq does not have the support of the United Nations. Let us be clear about that.

Here it is important to note that the Security Council has indeed passed three resolutions dealing with Iraq, none authorizing a military mission. However, the Security Council is requiring action on preventing the flow of foreign fighters and financing of terrorist organizations, including ISIS and ISIL. Pressuring regional governments to prevent financial transfers to them is a real diplomatic effort that Canada can and should prioritize. That would be effective. The truth is that air strikes are being used as an effective recruitment tool for ISIS.

Ça fait plus d’une décennie que les États-Unis sont embourbés en Irak et les Américains ne voient absolument pas la lumière au bout du tunnel. Est-ce que le premier ministre essaie de nous croire qu’il va réussir et utiliser la force militaire pour imposer une solution en Irak, alors que tous ont échoué depuis les 10 dernières années? Ça ne tient pas la route.

Voilà que le premier ministre veut maintenant faire ça en aidant le régime syrien de Bashar al-Assad, un dictateur de la pire espèce, un criminel de guerre qui cible sa propre population avec des armes chimiques et qui bombarde impunément écoles et hôpitaux sans aucune arrière pensée.

It is especially disturbing to see the Prime Minister now openly considering an alliance of sorts with the brutal dictator and war criminal, Bashar al-Assad. The Prime Minister has already said that any Canadian military involvement in Syria, something the government is now proposing as members just heard, would require the permission of the Assad regime.

This is a regime that continues to commit the most atrocious war crimes. It is a regime that not only uses chemical weapons on civilians, it uses snipers against women and children. It is a regime that actually collaborated with ISIS.

It is hard to believe the Prime Minister when he says that the mission is about preventing atrocities when he is willing to work with one of the worst perpetrators of atrocities in the world today.

Paul Heinbecker, Canada’s last ambassador to the UN Security Council, said it best. He said:

If out of fear of ISIS and of desire to stop the islamist extremist group the coalition were to ally itself de facto or de jure with Assad for fleeting tactical advantage, it would be the ultimate betrayal of the Syrian innocents and of our own values. Simply put, our women and men in uniform have no place being in Iraq and they certainly have no place being in Syria.

Mark my words, when New Democrats form government on October 19, we are going to pull our troops out. We are going to bring them home.

Monsieur le Président, je suis convaincu que tous et chacun en cette Chambre ne souhaitent que du bien au peuple irakien, mais ce n’est pas avec une escalade militaire que l’on aidera le peuple d’Irak. Les insurgés, les factions, les clans se nourrissent de ces interventions pour radicaliser la population, pour recruter des militants, pour miner les gouvernements locaux. Ces groupes, comme le groupe État islamique, bénéficient justement de la faiblesse de l’État irakien et du faible appui de sa propre population. L’Irak n’est pas en mesure de maintenir la paix et la sécurité à l’intérieur de ses propres frontières. Cela ne changera pas avec plus de bombes, plus de destructions et plus de morts.

Canada can play a more positive role in resolving this crisis. We can do that by helping our NATO ally. Turkey coped with 1.5 million refugees who have poured over its border. We can do that by using every diplomatic, humanitarian and financial resource at our disposal to strengthen the political institutions in Iraq, and yes, in Syria.

It is simply not enough to say that we have to do something. We need to ask ourselves what the right thing to do is. The question should not be a combat role or nothing. It is a false choice offered by the Prime Minister. The question should be: What is the most effective thing Canada can do?

There is a desperate need for humanitarian support. There were reports from the parliamentary commission of this Parliament this week of children freezing to death in refugee camps. Canada could have helped with winterizing those camps.

There is also a desperate need for greater diplomacy. Local frustrations and ineffective outreach brought about the rise of ISIS. Only effective, inclusive and representative governance can end the threat from extremism in the region.

There is a need for a strong campaign to counter extremist messaging, exposing the brutality of ISIS and the lack of religious basis for its atrocities. It starts right here at home with proactive engagement with the communities to prevent radicalization. However, that is something that cannot be achieved when the Prime Minister singles out Canada’s Muslim population instead of reaching out to them.

La motion que propose le gouvernement ne fait rien de tout cela. Voilà pourquoi l’opposition officielle formée par le Nouveau parti démocratique du Canada n’appuiera pas cette motion, n’appuiera la prolongation de la guerre en Irak et n’appuiera pas l’expansion de cette guerre vers la Syrie. Il est clair que ce n’est pas la voie à suivre.

Ask The Globe: Is Harper correct in his assessment that “most” cases of murdered indigenous women are “solved”?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

JJ June poised this question: Fact Check “Harper says ‘most’ cases of murdered aboriginal women are solved.” CP Oct. 6/15

Kathryn Blaze Baum, a national reporter who covers the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women for The Globe gave this response:

First, it is important to note that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment was made in the context of an inquiry into both missing and murdered indigenous women. Indigenous leaders and Canada’s premiers have been calling for a federal probe to better understand why aboriginal women are disproportionately more likely to disappear or be killed and also to determine how to tackle the violence.

In 2014, the RCMP released an unprecedented report looking at police-recorded incidents of missing and murdered indigenous women across the country. It found that between 1980 and 2012, there were 1,017 homicides and 164 outstanding missing-person cases. Within that time period, there are 225 unsolved cases: 105 women have been missing for more than 30 days and their disappearances are categorized as either “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” and 120 homicide cases have not been solved.

It is true, then, that most homicides involving indigenous women have been solved. As stated in the RCMP report: “The majority of all female homicides are solved (close to 90%) and there is little difference in solve rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal victims.”

But this is not the whole picture.

It is important to understand what the RCMP means when it says “solved.” The report indicates that, for the purposes of the study, the term is used synonymously with “clearance rate.” Here is how clearance rate is defined, in one of the footnotes:

“Clearance refers to whether or not a homicide incident was cleared:  (1) either by the laying, or recommending of a charge to the Crown; or (2) where at least one suspect has been identified and against whom there is sufficient evidence to lay a charge, but where the incident is cleared otherwise (e.g. the suicide or death of the chargeable suspect … ).”

This means that if police recommend charges but the Crown decides not to proceed, or if an accused is charged but later acquitted, the case is still considered solved. A killing, then, could be deemed solved without a conviction.

Put simply, the police might consider a case cleared, but the victim’s family may still be waiting for justice.

Furthermore, it is possible that some of the 105 unresolved cases involving missing indigenous women, whose disappearances are categorized as “foul play suspected” or “unknown,” are actually unsolved homicide cases.

Finally, a couple of questions on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

First Cdn Politico asks: Yes. Wasn’t Tom Mulcair in favour of TPP as recently as 2 months ago?

One of our Ottawa corespondents, John Ibbitson, answers this question.

The NDP has traditionally opposed free trade agreements, saying that they lead to lower labour and environmental standards, job losses and foreign interference/loss of sovereignty.

Under Thomas Mulcair the party has modified its stance, supporting the free trade agreement with South Korea and supporting in principle the free trade agreement with Europe, although it is withholding full approval until it sees the final, legally-vetted document. The party had no stated position on the Trans Pacific Partnership other than it supports free and fair trade.

However, Mr. Mulcair has decided that this agreement would lead to lost jobs — especially in the auto sector — more costly prescription drugs, and the erosion of the supply management system that protects the dairy and poultry industry. The NDP opposes the TPP.

Finally joey wonders: if  The NDP have said they won’t necessarily uphold an agreement PCs may reach in TPP. Have the liberals commented their stance?

The Liberal Party fought the free trade agreement between Canada and the United States, and only reluctantly endorsed the North American Free Trade Agreement the included Mexico, negotiated by the Mulroney government. However, the Chretien government did conclude a couple of small free-trade agreements, and Justin Trudeau has been supportive of the Harper government’s trade agenda, endorsing the agreement with the European Union. The Liberal Party, however, declines to take a position on the TPP until the full text of the agreement is revealed.

(Want to know more about the TPP? Our explainer can be found here.)

Ask The Globe: Answers to your questions on marijuana, the census and Liberal sponsorship scandal

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Spencer Smit asks: @globeandmail Harper saying cannabis is worse than tobacco, citing “evidence” please advise #AskTheGlobe

Mike Hager, a Globe reporter in Vancouver, recently looked into this:

The Canadian Cancer Society says smoking tobacco continues to be the leading preventable cause of premature deaths in the country, claiming about 37,000 lives each year. The non-profit organization says tobacco is the main risk factor for cancer, heart disease, stroke and lung disease in Canada.

In contrast, no deaths have been directly attributed to cannabis use or overdose, says Dr. Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research. But it is likely a factor in “a few” fatal crashes and “a few” lung-cancer deaths each year, he said.

Elizabeth Jane Banks asks: #AskTheGlobe Please fact check Elizabeth May’s claim that almost no one completes the voluntary census. #cdnpoli #elxn42

“Almost no one” may be a bit strong, but experts have warned about the quality of the National Household Survey data after it was made voluntary in 2011. Previously the longform census, which asks for more detailed information and is sent to a fraction of households, was mandatory. The response rates for the voluntary form were about 70 per cent in 2011, whereas the response rate for the mandatory form in 2006 was 93.5 per cent.

Alex Dempster asks: @globeandmail Harper said of the Liberal sponsorship scandal that $40 million of Canadians taxpayers’ money lost. Accurate? #AskTheGlobe

Maybe? This one’s a bit tricky, and may be a case of fuzzy math in campaign slogans. But it may originate in the $40-million of government funds for contracts to a firm where there was no evidence of work done, etc.

(The Globe and Mail, incidentally, won the prestigious Michener Award for public service in journalism for its uncovering of the scandal.)

Ask The Globe: Your questions on citizenship, C-51 and refugees

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Ben asks: #AskTheGlobe Can the government legally revoke someones Canadian citizenship? #MunkDebate

and Sarah asks: What conditions can a Canadian loose their citizenship, residency, or voting rights? Do refugees hafta pay interest? #AskTheGlobe

Let’s deal with these two together.

First, yes, the government can legally revoke citizenship if it was obtained fraudulently. The Conservatives also added another policy, which is that dual nationals can potentially lose their citizenship if convicted of terrorism or treason crimes. Depending on the circumstances, someone whose citizenship was revoked may be removed from the country.

On voting, the Conservatives did change the eligibility to vote for Canadian expats living abroad. Generally they lose their right to vote after five years, which Donald Sutherland was not very happy about.

Chris asks: Did Tom Mulcair really say different things about repealing C51? #AskTheGlobe

The NDP has never supported Bill C-51, the Anti-Terror Act. The New Democrats voted against the bill, which was supported by the Conservatives and Liberals. However, in interviews earlier in the year, leader Thomas Mulcair did change his tone. In February, Mr. Mulcair said he wouldn’t commit to repealing the bill if elected, though his party would definitely change it. Weeks later, in March, Mr. Mulcair committed to repealing the entire law.

Myles asks: Harper says ours response has been generous- is that true compared to past refugee crises? #MunkDebate #asktheglobe #futurevoter

It depends on what past refugee crises we’re comparing it to. In terms of numbers and speed of access for refugees, it’s much lower than Vietnam (when Joe Clark raised the target to 60,000 refugees). Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at the Munk Debate brought up comparisons with Vietnam to accuse Harper of being stingy. What sets Syria apart from Vietnam is the rules Stephen Harper introduced about refugees needing their status approved by UNHCR or a third country, a rule that didn’t exist for the Vietnamese (and which the Kurdi family blames for the events leading to Alan’s death off the Turkish coast). If we’re comparing Syria with the Second World War, though – when we famously turned away a boatload of Jewish refugees in 1939, and were pretty hostile to Jewish refugees even during the war – our current response looks more generous. (Doug Saunders and Sean Fine have done really good historical analyses of Vietnam, the Second World War and our response to the Hungarian refugee crisis in the 1950s).

Ask The Globe: What happens if two parties tie for the most seats?

For the duration of the election, The Globe is answering your questions – from fact-checking leaders’ statements to digging deep into policies and promises. Have a question? Tweet it with #AskTheGlobe

Christopher Stasiuk asks: If two parties tie for first with the most seats in the federal election, who governs? Who is the PM? #asktheglobe

According to Wednesday’s Nanos numbers the Liberals and Conservatives are locked in a dead heat atop the polls. Which makes Christopher’s question a timely one.

Digital politics editor Chris Hannay explains the process.

The incumbent always gets first crack at forming government. (Usually, if the incumbent has not won the most seats after an election, they decline.) If the incumbent is one of the tied parties and they have a Speech from the Throne, and it gets defeated by the other parties, they have to go to Governor-General David Johnston and declare that they don’t have the confidence of the House.

The Governor-General can then decide whether to call an election or let another party have a chance at governing.

If an election has just happened, typically the Governor-General is expected to let another party have a chance to form the government so as not to waste voters’ times. (This happened in 1926)

If the second-place party, or the other party that was tied, can survive a confidence vote with other parties’ support, then they’re in government now.

This is essentially what happened in Ontario in 1985.