For the record: Tom Mulcair on the fight against ISIS

NDP leader Tom Mulcair explains why he opposes the government’s mission
NDP leader Tom Mulcair speaks with the media following party caucus on Parliament Hill Wednesday April 2, 2014 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

An hour ahead of a vote on the government’s motion seeking support for the extension and expansion of a military mission against ISIS, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair stood this evening to join the debate. The following is the prepared text of his remarks—for the official transcript of the speech as delivered, as Mulcair deviated somewhat from the prepared speech, see here.

Monsieur le Président,

Nous débattons encore une fois aujourd’hui sur les aventures militaires du premier ministre.

Le premier ministre s’apprête encore à demander à nos courageux militaires d’aller risquer leur vie à l’étranger.

Monsieur le Président, cette Chambre a été saisie de cet enjeu à plusieurs reprises déjà.

En tant qu’Opposition officielle, nous avons posés les questions qui s’imposaient.

Plusieurs de ces questions sont soit demeurées sans réponses, soit elles ont forcées le gouvernement à faire ou refaire ses devoirs.

Par exemple, il y a à peine six mois, j’ai demandé précisément au premier ministre si les militaires canadiens dirigeraient les frappes aériennes en Irak, s’ils traceraient des cibles sur le terrain.

En fait, je lui ai posé la question deux fois, et à deux reprises, le premier ministre a répondu non.

Nous savons maintenant que ce n’était tout simplement pas vrai.

J’ai aussi demandé au premier ministre si les militaires canadiens allaient être sur la ligne de front.

Encore une fois, le premier ministre a répondu par un non catégorique.

Une fois de plus, nous savons que ce n’était tout simplement pas vrai.

The very foundation of this House, the foundation of everything we do here, is prescribed by law.

Not just the laws of Canada but international law.

These laws are put in place precisely to guide us to reason in the face of danger.

To protect us not just from those who seek to hurt us, but from our own missteps.

To abandon the law so recklessly for the sake of political expediency— as the Prime Minister is eager to do—threatens the very principles we were sent here to defend.

Last week the Prime Minister stood in this House and sought permission to extend his misguided war in Iraq to a dangerous new phase in Syria.

A country already torn apart by years of bloody civil war, ruled by a brutal dictator and a war criminal.

I asked the Prime Minister, repeatedly, what his legal basis was for this dangerous new escalation.

As you’ll remember, Mr. Speaker, he thought his answer was quite funny.

But I can assure you that the families of the brave women and men whose lives he seeks to put on the line don’t find this a laughing matter.

Depending on the day, in fact, depending on the time of day, this government gives differing and contradictory legal grounds for expanding the Prime Minister’s war.

Maybe it’s criminality.

Maybe it’s the Genocide Convention.

Maybe it’s Section 51 of the UN Charter.

Or maybe, as the Prime Minister suggested, international law doesn’t apply to us at all.

Mr. Speaker, this is simply ludicrous.

La manie des conservateurs d’attaquer les Nations Unies a menée à une démonstration d’improvisation hors du commun de la part du premier ministre, du ministre de la Défense, du ministre des Affaires étrangères, et des différents secrétaires parlementaires.

Il a fallu que le NPD, que l’Opposition officielle pose des questions précises, que j’expose personnellement le ridicule de la réponse du premier ministre, pour forcer le gouvernement à faire ses devoirs, et à écrire à l’ONU sur leurs intentions.

Here is what we know:

Canada does not have permission to conduct airstrikes in Syria— a basic requirement under international law.

Let me say that again because, contrary to what the Prime Minister thinks, this is vitally important.

Canada does not have the legal grounds to conduct airstrikes in Syria.

“But our friends are doing it” is simply not a defence.

That sort of childish reasoning is more suitable to the schoolyard than it is to the House of Commons and the Prime Minister should know better.

The fact is, what this government is proposing will put our Canadian Forces in the dubious position of acting outside of international law.

New Democrats will not stand for it.

As I outlined last week, this is simply not Canada’s war to fight.

It’s not a UN mission, nor is it a NATO mission.

The United Nations Security Council has passed three resolutions dealing with the situation in Iraq, and not one of them authorized military action.

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, the Americans have been fighting in Iraq for over a decade with little success.

Canada should have no part in it.

We were right to stay out of the fight in 2003, despite the Prime Minister’s objections when he was in opposition.

It didn’t make sense for Canada then, and it doesn’t make sense for us now.

But that doesn’t seem to matter to this government, or to this Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister is intent on sleepwalking Canada into this war and he’s misleading Canadians to get his way.

You’ll remember, Mr. Speaker, that this operation began as a 30-day mission.

That transformed into a 6-month mission.

Now we’re looking at a year or more.

Just last week officials from the Department of National Defence said that they expect the mission in Iraq and Syria to last for years.

Not one year but years.

The Prime Minister hasn’t said a word about that.

You’ll recall that Canadian Forces were only supposed to be “advising and assisting” Iraqi troops not accompany.

The Prime Minister said there would be no combat role for us on the front lines.

Now we know that not only are Canadian troops on the front lines they’re exchanging gunfire with ISIL militants.

The death of Sgt. Doiron is a tragic reminder of the kind of danger they’re in.

The Prime Minister also said that Canadian Forces would not be painting targets for airstrikes, something that even the U.S. military is unwilling to do.

Of course, now we know they’re doing just that.

Les stratèges militaires disent qu’il faut deux choses précises pour qu’une mission soit couronnée de succès.

Quel est l’objectif clair de la mission?

Quelle est la stratégie de retrait?

Pour le déploiement en Irak et en Syrie, les conservateurs n’ont ni l’un, ni l’autre.

Ils n’ont tout simplement pas de plan.

Ils n’ont pas de stratégie autre que les considérations politiques domestiques, et cela met nos troupes en danger.

Nos militaires sont engagés dans des escarmouches avec l’État Islamique sur le théâtre d’opérations, contrairement à ce qui a été dit aux Canadiens.

Le fait que le premier ministre nie encore et toujours que les soldats canadiens sont impliqués dans des combats est simplement ridicule.

Les militaires déployés au front courent un risque réel. La mort du sergent Doiron nous a rappelé que les risques sont réels.

Pendant ce temps, nos alliés ne s’approchent même pas du front.

Par exemple, les soldats canadiens doivent aller au front pour identifier des cibles pour les frappes aériennes.

Les américains ne font pas ça.

Le général Martin Dempsey, chef d’état-major de l’armée aux États-Unis, a dit à maintes reprises que les États-Unis envisageraient de diriger des attaques du sol, mais ils ne l’ont pas encore fait.


Pourquoi les troupes canadiennes le font, et pas les américains?

It’s difficult to have faith in anything this government says when everything they’ve told us has been wrong.

When the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Chief of Defense Staff and the Prime Minister contradict each other on an almost daily basis.

It’s clear that this government has no plan and no long-term strategy yet they’re asking our women and men in uniform to shoulder the burden of their improvisation.

There’s just too much at stake for this kind of utter mismanagement, for this kind of callousness.

The decisions we’re making here are literally life and death.

It’s time this government start taking its job seriously.

The fact is, airstrikes will not work.

You can’t bomb ISIL and its ideology into oblivion.

It doesn’t work.

Worse still, it could backfire.

Civilian casualties could be higher because Canadian pilots will not have ground support to direct precision bombings.

ISIL would use any civilian casualty as a recruitment tool.

Airstrikes in Syria implicate Canada in Syria’s civil war.

Bashar al-Assad brutally murdered masses of peaceful protesters.

He used chemical weapons against his own people.

He deliberately fuelled the rise of violent extremists in order to weaken the moderate Syrian opposition.

We know that he cooperated with ISIL.

He released their prisoners.

We know that he is benefitting from airstrikes to seize more territory in Syria.

That’s why his foreign affairs minister says Assad and the west are now aligned.

This is a serious ethical problem.

Dismissing it betrays the government’s lack of knowledge about a region that could suck Canada into decades of conflict.

The Prime Minister tells Canadians that we can either bomb Iraq and Syria, or sit on the sidelines.

That’s a false choice.

Over 60 countries are united against ISIL.

The vast majority of our allies are not taking part in airstrikes.

Only six – the United States and a small group of Arab countries – are bombing in Syria.

Surely the Prime Minister wouldn’t want to suggest that all other allies are sitting on the sidelines.

Our choice is not between bombing or nothing.

The NDP has put forward serious alternatives.

A plan that emphasizes what Canada was asked to do.

A plan that emphasizes what we can do best and most effectively.

Our limited resources can be much more effective in fighting ISIL and its ideology if we avoid sleepwalking into an ever-expanding military conflict and focus on a robust humanitarian mission.

Security Council resolutions on ISIL require action to prevent the flow of foreign fighters, financing, and resources to ISIL.

Canada can take leadership to meet these international obligations.

The government has completely failed to do so.

The NDP amendment would change that.

Canada should finally sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty to help end the flow of weapons to illegal armed groups.

Canada remains the only NATO country that refuses to sign this important international agreement.

That’s a black mark on Canada’s record.

Canada should also partner with domestic communities to develop a strategy to counter radicalization.

Above all, there’s a desperate need for increased humanitarian support.

A quarter of Lebanon’s population is in fact Syrian refugees.

The crisis is pushing an already-fragile country to the brink.

A majority of the UN humanitarian appeals for Iraq and Syria remain unfunded.

The World Food Programme has said that its operations in Iraq are only financially viable until May.

The same program had to suspend food aid to 1.7 million Syrian refugees in December.

On the governance front, Canada can also help build sustainable governance in Iraq.

Sunni frustrations with the central government in Baghdad facilitated the rise of ISIL.

Iraq needs inclusive and representative governance to remove the conditions for violent extremism to take root.

Les frustrations locales ont mené à la montée de la radicalisation.

Seule une gouvernance locale compétente, inclusive, représentative et en mesure de communiquer efficacement peut mettre fin à la menace extrémiste dans la région.

Il faut aussi, évidemment, une campagne solide pour contrer les messages extrémistes, que ce soit ici ou là-bas.

Impossible d’y arriver cependant avec les déclarations du premier ministre, qui cible la communauté musulmane, qui en fait un bouc émissaire plutôt que de tendre la main à ses membres.

Le Canada peut jouer un rôle positif dans la région.

Nous pouvons aider notre allié Turc, un membre de l’OTAN, à s’occuper de 1,5 million de réfugiés.

Nous pouvons avoir recours aux ressources diplomatiques, humanitaires et financières à notre disposition pour renforcer les institutions politiques en Irak et aussi en Syrie.

Il ne suffit pas de dire que nous devons faire quelque chose.

Le Canada, les parlementaires, le gouvernement doit s’interroger sur ce qu’est la bonne chose à faire.

Il ne s’agit pas de choisir entre le combat et l’inaction.

C’est un faux choix.

Les gens ont désespérément besoin d’aide humanitaire.

Nous savons des enfants meurent de froid dans des camps de réfugiés.

Des enfants Iraquiens, des enfants Syriens, des enfants kurdes qui avaient fui l’État Islamique.

Le Canada aurait pu aider et préparer ces camps pour l’hiver.

L’hiver, c’est quand même une expertise du Canada.

On aurait pu sauver ces enfants.

C’est une question de choix.

Our choice is not between bombing or doing nothing.

Our choice is between this Prime Minister’s ever-expanding war.

Or, New Democrats’ focus on a robust and effective humanitarian role.

Canadians will have that choice.

A new government.

A new mandate.

In October 2015, New Democrats will immediately end this war.