For the record: Justin Trudeau on Canada's war against Islamic State

In Afghanistan, the 'longer term' meant a decade, Liberal leader tells the House

Liberal leader Trudeau receives a standing ovation from his caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke this morning about expanding Canada’s war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Here — in French and English — is Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s response to those remarks:

Merci, Monsieur le Président.

Je suis heureux d’avoir l’occasion de répondre à la déclaration du premier ministre.

Nous avons beaucoup appris au cours des six mois qui se sont écoulés depuis que le gouvernement a décidé de participer à la guerre en Irak.

Last fall, the Prime Minister stood in this House and told Par-liament that Canadian troops were “not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat.”

In the weeks and months that followed, a very different story emerged.

We now know that our 30-day non-combat “advise and assist” effort became a six-month long engagement, and then evolved into one where Canadian troops were active on the front lines, regularly engaging in direct combat.

Et nous avons appris la mort tragique du sergent Andrew Jo-seph Doiron, qui a perdu la vie en service, le premier décès d’un membre des Forces canadiennes durant cette guerre.

Monsieur le Président, je sais que je parle au nom de tous les députés à la Chambre en disant que nous continuons à rendre hommage au sergent Doiron ainsi qu’à son courage. Ses proches demeurent toujours dans nos pensées.

That tragic loss of life should also serve as an important re-minder. At the end of every decision to enter combat stands a brave Canadian in harm’s way, because they have the courage to serve. And because we made the decision to send them to war.
The men and women who serve in our military are well-trained professionals, deeply committed to their country, and very good at what they do. We in the Liberal Party have never been opposed to employing the lethal force of which they are capa-ble when it clearly serves Canada’s national interest to do so. We never will be.

But in every case that national interest must be clearly and ra-tionally articulated. The mission designed to uphold that inter-est must have transparent objectives and a responsible plan to achieve them.

Mr Speaker, this government has been steadily drawing Canada deeper into a combat role in Iraq. It now wants to expand that war into Syria.

Further they have done all this without clearly articulating the mission’s objectives. As a result, neither Members of this House nor Canadians have any way to know when or whether we’ve achieved those objectives.

They have no exit strategy, beyond an illusory end date set for next March.

Involvement in direct combat in this war does not serve Cana-da’s interests. Nor will it provide a constructive solution to the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the region.

Now the Prime Minister seeks to deepen our involvement. To expand it into the Syrian Civil War.

Mr Speaker, last fall we said that because the Prime Minister failed to offer a clear and responsible plan, one that limited our participation to a true non-combat role and better reflected the broad scope of Canada’s capabilities, that we would not sup-port his motion to go to war in Iraq.

The four core principles we articulated in October still stand to-day.

One, Canada has a role to play in confronting humanitarian cri-ses in the world.

Two, when a government considers deploying our men and women in uniform, there must be a clear mission and a clear role for Canada.

Three, that the case for deploying our forces must be made openly and transparently, based on clear and reliable, dispas-sionately presented facts.
Four, Canada’s role must reflect the broad scope of Canadian capabilities and how best we can help.

In the fall, we expressed grave concern that the Prime Minister intended to involve Canada in a longer, deeper combat en-gagement than he was leading this House to believe at that time.

Today, with their motion, we know those concerns were well-founded.

We will not support the government’s decision to deepen this combat mission and expand it into Syria.

Nous n’appuierons pas la decision d’etendre cette mission de combat et d’y inclure la Syrie.

Monsieur le Président, les Canadiens ont besoin de savoir dans quoi les entraîne le premier ministre.
Les Nations Unies nous disent qu’après quatre ans d’une guerre sans merci, plus de 11 millions de Syriens – soit plus de la moi-tié de la population – ont été chassés de leur demeure.

Les Syriens fuient leur pays par millions, et ce flot de réfugiés provoque une crise absolument effroyable.

En cinq années de combat, plus de 210 000 Syriens ont été tués, dont plus de 10 000 enfants.

Canadians need to know that this is happening in Syria. And they also need to know who is largely responsible.

The Syrian people have for years been oppressed and terror-ized by their own government, under the rule of Bashar al-Assad. This is a man who has used chemical weapons on his own citizens, and whose regime is responsible for torturing and killing many more innocent people than even ISIL.
We cannot support a mission that could very well result in As-sad consolidating his grip on power in Syria.

Nous ne pouvons pas apporter notre soutien à une mission qui pourrait très bien consolider le pouvoir d’Assad en Syrie.

Beyond our concerns about dubious alliances, the govern-ment’s desire to expand Canada’s presence into Syria repre-sents a worrying trend.

We can call it “evolution” or “escalation” or “mission creep.” Whatever term you prefer, the pattern is the same.

First, we discovered that our role included ground combat op-erations, despite the Prime Minister’s assurances to the contra-ry.

Now we’re being asked to expand our involvement into Syria.

It is hard to believe the proposed timeline, given the public musings of the Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs. In-deed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs explicitly compared this war to Afghanistan, stating that “[we are] in this for the longer term.”

In Afghanistan, the “longer term” meant a decade.

Monsieur le Président, je dis cela avec plus de regret que de co-lère, mais comment pouvons-nous faire confiance à un gouver-nement qui a su si ouvertement induire la population cana-dienne en erreur?

Ce gouvernement propose aux Forces canadiennes de s’engager dans une mission de combat vague et sans fin, que nous ne pouvons pas appuyer.

They are proposing an unfocused, unending mission for the Canadian Forces that we cannot support.
Mr Speaker, one thing is clear: Canada has a role to play in the campaign against ISIL. That role must serve our national inter-ests, and the one being proposed today by the Prime Minister does not meet that test.

Le Parti libéral que je représente sait que les Canadiens veulent répondre aux horreurs que l’État islamique fait subir dans la ré-gion. La population canadienne est, avec raison, consternée par le caractère impitoyable et la terreur que sème l’État islamique. Nous comprenons ce sentiment et nous le partageons.

Mais nous savons aussi que dans une situation aussi complexe et changeante que celle à laquelle est confrontée la commu-nauté internationale en Syrie et en Irak, nous ne pouvons pas laisser notre indignation nuire à notre jugement.

Le Canada a un intérêt évident à former les forces irakiennes dans le but de combattre et d’anéantir l’État islamique, mais il n’est pas dans notre intérêt de nous enliser sans cesse davan-tage dans une telle mission de combat.

Nous pouvons et nous devrions dispenser cette formation loin des lignes de front.

Along with our allies, and through the auspices of the United Nations, Canada should provide more help through a well-funded and well-planned humanitarian aid effort. The refugee crisis alone threatens the region’s security, overwhelming coun-tries from Lebanon to Turkey, from Syria itself to Jordan.

And here at home, we should significantly expand our refugee targets and give more victims of war the opportunity to start a new life in Canada.

These calamities are in urgent need of a constructive, coordi-nated international effort, both through the United Nations, and beyond it. The kind of effort that ought to be Canada’s call-ing card in the global community.

We will have more to say about that in the days and months ahead.

While all three parties have different views on what our role should be, let there be no doubt that we all offer our resolute and wholehearted support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Today, Mr. Speaker, the government is asking for this House to support deepening Canada’s involvement in the war in Iraq, and to expand that involvement into a combat mission in Syria. The Liberal Party will not support this government’s motion.

Thank you.