OTTAWA — Canada added its support Tuesday to the American and Arab airstrikes on militant targets inside Syria, but is not involved militarily.
A senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Canada has made no military contribution to the air offensive, which for the first time targeted the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, on Syrian territory.
Canada has 69 special forces advisers in Iraq and has offered two military transport planes to deliver humanitarian assistance to displaced civilians and weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq who are facing ISIL on the ground.
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada supports this week’s U.S.-led military action.
“Canada is united with our allies in recognizing the need to address this barbaric terrorist threat and we will not stand idly by while ISIL continues its murder of innocent civilians and religious minorities,” said spokesman Adam Hodge.
Canada’s position towards the fast-moving events in the region continues to evolve.
Baird attended a ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council last week, where he added Canada’s support for a broader international effort to topple ISIL, which has seized territory in Iraq and Syria.
After the session, Baird stopped short of endorsing military action against ISIL inside Syria, saying Canada was still considering its position.
Shortly before Baird spoke, the Russian delegate told the council that Moscow would not support any military action inside Syria.
On Tuesday, Russia and Iran expressed their opposition to the airstrikes, saying they violate Syrian sovereignty.
The Pentagon said the airstrikes, which began late Monday and continued into Tuesday, will continue in what said would be a “persistent” campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL’s capability.
Five Arab nations have joined the U.S. in launching strikes in eastern Syria, near the city of Raqqa, which ISIL has claimed as its capital.
“We’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the regime and for the entire world,” said U.S. President Barack Obama as he left Washington for the United Nations in New York City.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to address the ISIL issue, along with the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, when he delivers Canada’s address to the UN General Assembly on Thursday.
Employment Minister Jason Kenney said Tuesday the West needs to do more to police the Internet to stem the flow of fighters from western countries, including Canada, to the ranks of ISIL.
Kenney said about 200 Canadians have joined ISIL.
“I suspect the number of people who are seduced by these organizations is a fraction of a fraction of a percentage of the population but one that we cannot ignore.”