For the record: John Duncan on the fight against Islamic State

The government whip closes debate on the military mission against ISIS

On Monday night, after speeches from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, government whip John Duncan stood to close debate on the government’s motion to extend and expand a military mission against Islamic State (also known as ISIL).

The following is a transcript of Duncan’s remarks. (Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson and Defence Minister Jason Kenney spoke last week when the debate began.) The government’s motion passed by a vote of 142-129.

Mr. Speaker, I speak today to stress the significance of why we are extending and expanding our military mission against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. ISIL is not only a direct threat to Iraq and to its surrounding region, but also to Canada and to our allies worldwide.

The NDP objects to the ISIL mission because NATO is not leading it and the UN never authorized it. This is incomprehensible and completely hypocritical, given that Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan was NATO-led and UN-authorized, and the NDP opposed it and instead promoted negotiations with the Taliban.

Nevertheless, for most people, the incoherent NDP position was no surprise. The surprise is the Liberal position.

As recently as March 15, the Liberal leader was assuring the Kurdish community in Toronto of support to end the inhumanities committed by ISIL. The reaction of this same community to the position of the Liberal leader on March 24 when he opposed the Canadian military mission was one of shock, dismay and extreme surprise. The Liberal and NDP positions are considered to be an embarrassment.

This community agrees that the military capability of ISIL must be degraded, and the position that the Liberals have taken does not address the profound humanitarian situation, because ISIL must be degraded to successfully deal with the humanitarian needs.

Our principal concern remains the safety and security of all Canadians. We are proud to be part of the global military alliance committed to degrading ISIL.

Violent takeovers of towns and cities in the region by ISIL militants and other armed opposition groups have displaced an estimated two and a half million people since June of last year. The United Nations estimates that more than 840,000 children in the region now face severe deprivation, exposure to violence and abuse, and lost opportunities for education.

Through expanding our mission, we are committed to stabilizing the region and degrading one of the worst threats to human life in the world today. We are not sitting on the sidelines. We must all co-operate to move forward in the most effective manner.

A Global News/Ipsos Reid poll found that, by last week, three-quarters of Canadians support our country’s participation in the anti-ISIL campaign. Two-thirds of respondents also said they would support a mission extension. In that poll, fewer than half of NDP supporters support the NDP leader’s position, and two-thirds of Liberal supporters do not support their leader’s position.

Canada is in a unique position to join the military alliance and to provide humanitarian relief simultaneously.

Since 2012, a Canadian initiative headed by a humanitarian group in my riding of Vancouver Island North, called Medical Hope for Syria, has raised over $200,000 to provide medical aid to Syrian refugees. Medical Hope for Syria purchases physician travel packs from Health Partners International of Canada. These packs contain 600 treatments and it figures it saves at least 120 lives with each pack.

This group is in a unique position, as in Israel, to deliver medical aid and other aid to refugee camps. It buys its medications for 10 per cent of retail, and that is matched by a donor in Calgary. This group supports the expansion and extension of our mission, because it knows that delivering humanitarian aid requires the degradation of ISIL.

Those who are most affected by ISIL’s actions are the most vulnerable, including women, children, the elderly and the disabled. Ethnic and religious minorities have also been targeted.

There are horrific reports of violence against women and girls. Sexual violence continues to be widespread, particularly among girls and women who are vulnerable because of conflict and displacement. Rape and sexual violence are being used as reprisals and to create fear.

In the face of this ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, we take pride in our commitment to expanding our mission and eradicating ISIL.

We have all seen the reports. Among other acts of brutality, ISIL is carrying out a systematic campaign against, one that disproportionately targets ethnic and religious minorities. ISIL rapes women and girls, enslaves them for sexual purposes, sells and traffics them, marries them off to their soldiers, and uses them as a recruiting tool.

We can only imagine the suffering of the women and girls who remain in ISIL hands. We do know of the suffering of the survivors who have escaped and sought refuge in camps and communities outside of ISIL areas.

Such is the magnitude of displacements that survivors often continue to suffer. Families in conflict situations may use child, early and forced marriage as a desperate coping mechanism in an attempt to better provide for and protect their daughters. Others feel pressure to marry off daughters who are survivors of rape in an effort to reduce the social stigma they face.

Recent reports reveal how violent extremist groups like ISIL use sexual violence and the enslavement of women and girls as an integral strategy to pursue their perverse aims. Their abuse of women and girls from religious and ethnic minorities is used to so-called “cleanse” territory they wish to dominate. They also use the enslaved women and girls to attract recruits and raise revenue through trafficking and ransom.

ISIL’s actions toward women are an affront to Canada and to the world. Equality between women and men, the empowerment of women and girls, the respect for and promotion of their dignity and human rights, and the prevention and response to sexual violence against them are fundamental Canadian values.

It is my honour to describe some of the actions and policies of the government of Canada to promote the empowerment, the human rights and the well-being of women and girls in countries of concern. Canada has been instrumental in bringing world attention and action to this issue.

In 2013, Canada played an active role in the development of the first resolution focused on child, early and forced marriage at the UN human rights council. In 2014, we co-led a UN resolution on child, early and forced marriage. We are advocating for a specific target on ending child, early and forced marriage in the post-2015 development agenda. We have intensified our programming efforts to end child, early and forced marriage globally. We are supporting UN efforts to support some 640,000 displaced women and girls, including survivors of sexual violence.

We are committed to supporting survivors of sexual violence in conflict and to holding perpetrators to account. We will continue this important work. Canada will continue to deliver humanitarian aid and join our allies in this essential military mission to degrade the military capability of ISIL to make this all possible.