The Iraq mission: Stephen Harper makes his case for expansion

On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the House of Commons to deliver his reasons for why Canada’s military mission in Iraq should be extended by a year and expand into Syria. The mission is meant to fight the Islamic State, which Mr. Harper refers to in his speech by the acronym ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

The following is a transcript of his speech (in both English and French) provided by Parliament. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks in the House of Commons on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.  (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks in the House of Commons on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Monsieur le Président, ici même, il y a un peu moins de six mois, j’ai parlé de la montée du soi-disant État islamique de l’Irak et du Levant et de la menace qu’il pose non seulement pour cette région, mais pour la grande communauté mondiale et en particulier pour le Canada et la population canadienne.

Back in October, I also spoke of the need to work with the international community in pursuing an aggressive course of action against ISIL, something which the House endorsed. Today, I am here to report on the evolution of the situation, to note that the direction and resolve of our allies and partners in dealing with this threat has not changed, and to propose that Canada renew its commitment to the international coalition and its mission.

Le soi-disant État islamique a établi un califat autoproclamé qui s’étend sur un vaste territoire, des environs d’Alep en Syrie jusqu’à proximité de Baghdad en Irak. À partir de ce territoire, il lance un jihad terroriste non seulement contre la région, mais à l’échelle mondiale.

The good news is this. The territorial spread of ISIL, something occurring at a truly terrifying pace in the spring and summer of last year, has been more or less halted. Indeed, ISIL has been somewhat pushed back at the margins. In significant part, this is because of the breadth and intensity of the international opposition that it has provoked not just in the west but in the majority of the Muslim world, both Shia and Sunni, and specifically in Arab nations. Nevertheless, ISIL’s territorial hold remains substantial and its leadership and networking of wider jihadist forces has continued.

Comme le soi-disant État islamique l’a menacé, les attaques auxquelles il a participé ou qu’il a inspirées dans son réseau se perpétuent dans le monde entier, notamment comme nous nous en souvenons bien ici, même au Canada et dans un cas non loin de cette Chambre. L’État islamique a clairement indiqué qu’il ciblait nommément le Canada et les Canadiens.

ISIL has made it clear that it targets by name Canada and Canadians. Why? It is for the same reason it targets so many groups, in fact for the same reason it targets most of humanity. In ISIL’s view, anyone who does not accept its perverted version of religion should be killed. It is as self-evident to them as it seems insane to us, but it is far from an idle threat.

Le soi-disant État islamique ne tue pas seulement des combattants ennemis. Il tue aussi des journalistes qui couvrent le conflit, des travailleurs humanitaires qui aident des civils innocents et, bien entendu, des civils innocents eux-mêmes.

In fact in its crimes, ISIL targets innocent men, women and children, particularly the most vulnerable and peaceful ethnic and religious minorities.

Why do we know these things? Not because, as is so often the case, the behaviour of brutal regimes inevitably becomes public knowledge. No, we know these things because ISIL brags about them.

Le soi-disant État islamique fait plus que s’en vanter. Il diffuse ses assassinats commis avec les moyens les plus barbares qui soient dans des productions vidéos de grande qualité. Cela est une façon de faire sans précédent dans l’histoire troublante des atrocités humaines.

Canada, along with roughly 60 other members of the United Nations, has taken action. We have provided staff officers to the coalition’s military command. We have transported arms from donor countries to Iraqi forces directly engaged with advancing ISIL terrorists. In fact, early on in this mission, we provided the largest such airlift support.

We have committed Canadian soldiers to advise and assist Iraqi Kurdish forces defending their homes in northern Iraq.

Nous avons pris part à des combats aériens, nous permettant d’atteindre directement le soi-disant État islamique en Irak.

Our Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s have made strategic air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq in the coalition’s air campaign. Canada’s highly capable CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft have made possible the coalition’s effective precision bombing.

L’aide à la reconnaissance, le soutien logistique et l’expertise fournis par les Forces armées canadiennes ont fait partie intégrante de la mission internationale.

Canada is also helping those combatting regional terrorist financing networks, and we are working in concert with others to stem the flow of foreign fighters to the region.

Et bien entendu, nous avons offert de l’aide aux civils déplacés dans la région.

In fact, among the nations of the world, we have been one of the biggest providers of humanitarian assistance. I am glad to say that in the last six months we have helped feed 1.7 million people in Iraq, provide shelter and relief supplies to 1.25 million people, and give some education to at least 0.5 million children.

Beyond that, we have also been helping to support more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq with food, water, shelter and protection. There is no either or here between military action and humanitarian aid. The situation desperately needs both, and Canada has vigorously been providing both. So have a wide range of our international partners.

The upshot is this: there has been no lessening or weakening of the global consensus that ISIL must be resisted and resisted by force.

C’est pourquoi, aujourd’hui, le ministre des Affaires étrangères va déposer une motion pour demander l’appui de la Chambre à la décision du gouvernement de renouveler notre mission militaire contre le soi-disant État islamique pour 12 mois. Nos objectifs demeurent les mêmes. Nous voulons continuer à affaiblir les capacités du soi-disant État islamique, c’est-à-dire affaiblir sa capacité à prendre part à des déplacements militaires à grande échelle, à utiliser des bases librement, à étendre sa présence dans la région et à multiplier les attaques à l’extérieur de la région.

Again, today, the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be tabling a motion seeking the support of the House for the government’s decision to renew our military mission against ISIL for up to an additional 12 months.

Our objectives remain the same. We intend to continue to degrade the capacities of ISIL, that is to degrade its engagement, its ability to engage in military movements of scale, to operate bases in the open, to expand its presence in the region, and to propagate attacks outside the region.

Specifically, we will extend our air combat mission, that is our air strike capability, our air-to-air refuelling capability, our Aurora surveillance mission, and the deployment of air crew and support personnel.

Le gouvernement demande aussi le soutien de cette Chambre envers sa décision d’élargir explicitement les missions de combat aérien pour qu’elles englobent la Syrie. Le gouvernement sait que le pouvoir même de l’État islamique, c’est-à-dire la capitale du soi-disant califat, se trouve en Syrie. Les combattants de l’État islamique et une grande partie de son équipement lourd passent librement la frontière irakienne jusqu’en Syrie, en partie pour s’assurer une meilleure protection contre nos frappes aériennes. Nous croyons que l’État islamique ne devrait plus pouvoir trouver refuge en Syrie.

Again, the government is also seeking the support of the House for its decision to explicitly expand the air combat mission to include Syria. The government recognizes that ISIL’s power base, indeed the so-called caliphate’s capital, is in Syria. ISIL’s fighters and much of its heavier equipment are moving freely across the Iraqi border into Syria for better protection in part against our air strikes. In our view, ISIL must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.

Let me also be clear that in expanding our air strikes into Syria, the government has now decided we will not seek the express consent of the Syrian government. Instead we will work closely with our American and other allies who have already been carrying out such operations against ISIL over Syria in recent months.

En demandant l’appui de la Chambre pour la décision du gouvernement de renouveler la mission pour une durée de 12 mois, on a l’intention, pendant cette même période, de faire en sorte que les forces des membres des forces spéciales du Canada poursuivent leur mission à conseiller et à assister les forces irakiennes et à accroître leur capacité de lutte contre le soi-disant État islamique.

Again, I also note that in asking the House to support the government’s decision to renew this mission for the next 12 months, it is our intention for the same period that members of Canada’s Special Forces will continue their non-combat mission to advise, assist and increase the capabilities of Iraqi forces combatting ISIL.

We share the view of President Obama and others that we must avoid if we can taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region. We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves and our role there is to help them do that. Of course, Canada’s humanitarian work will go on.

Nous n’avons pas à choisir entre lutter contre le soi-disant État islamique et aider ses victimes.

We do not need to choose between fighting ISIL and helping its victims. We will continue to do both.

J’aimerais simplement conclure en disant ceci. Les Canadiens et les Canadiennes savent que nous ne pouvons pas faire disparaître les dangers dans le monde simplement en niant leur existence.

Canadians did not invent the threat of jihadi terrorism and we certainly did not invite it, nor as this global threat becomes ever more serious can we protect ourselves, our communities by choosing to ignore it. That is why a strong majority of Canadians have supported our government’s mission against ISIL. Canadians understand that it is not merely in the wider interests of the international community, but specifically in Canada’s national interest.

Il n’est jamais facile de prendre une décision qui exige que nos hommes et femmes en uniforme acceptent les risques qui accompagnent toute mission. Récemment, la mort du sergent Andrew Doiron nous a rappelé bien tristement que ces risques existent bel et bien.

Yet the Canadian Armed Forces never waver in defending our country, our family and our values. We are humbled and eternally grateful for their service and sacrifice.

On Thursday, the House will debate the motion put forward by the Minister of Foreign Affairs for a renewed mission against ISIL.

Je demande à tous les députés d’appuyer cette motion.

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.