Defence minister's mandate letter: end combat mission in Iraq, Syria

Nov. 6 letter to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan also noticeable for what it doesn't say regarding other issues facing new Liberal government

Canada's new National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is sworn-in during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie  - RTX1URPG

Chris Wattie/Reuters

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given new defence minister his marching orders — and Harjit Sajjan’s top priority is to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria.

The Nov. 6 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press, was also notable for what it didn’t say in terms of the other thorny issues facing the new Liberal government.

Sajjan was told to work with Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote on an “open and transparent” competition to replace Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets, but the letter makes no reference to excluding the F-35 — something Trudeau promised during the election.

The letter also makes no reference to overhauling National Defence along the lines of retired lieutenant-general — now Liberal MP — Andrew Leslie’s transformation report.

Implementing everything in that report, which aimed to give defence less administrative tail and more operational teeth, was also a Liberal promise.

The letter does flesh out what the Liberals have in mind when it comes to re-engaging in United Nations peacekeeping.

The Trudeau government is prepared to make available “Canada’s specialized capabilities — from mobile medical teams, to engineering support, to aircraft that can carry supplies and personnel — on a case by case basis.”

Sajjan will also be expected to co-ordinate with Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion to help the United Nations “respond more quickly to emerging and escalating conflicts and providing well-trained personnel to international initiatives that can be quickly deployed, such as mission commanders, staff officers and headquarters units.”

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