By: Sal Sbrega
Canada is officially at war. Last Tuesday, the House of Commons voted in favour of sending fighter-bombers along with personnel to join the allies in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 155 conservative MPs won over the 134 opposed MPs, composed mostly of NDP and Liberal members. And so began the countdown of the three weeks until Canada sends six CF-18 fighter jets, two CP-140 surveillance planes, one aerial tanker aircraft and 600 military personnel overseas.
Canada will be joining allied countries like the U.S., U.K., France, Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, and many others in the fight against ISIS. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said that we must act with our allies to reduce ISIS’s capacity to launch terrorist attacks outside the region, including against Canada.
Normally the House of Commons does not have to approve combat missions, but when this mission was first proposed, Harper promised he would put it up for debate before making any decisions. It seems to me that this was just an act of “kindness” on the Prime Minister’s part and that he really had no intention to follow through with any decision deviating from his own.
In the aftermath of this vote, the big question is: did the House of Commons make the right decision? There is an abundance of evidence that would point to the obvious answer: no. For instance, the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. in 2003 led to even more instability in the country. The same thing might not happen this time, however the government should learn from these mistakes so Canada does not end up in a 10-year war against Iraq.
Harper also stated that it is important for Canada to uphold its reputation by helping instead of standing idly by. But this does not mean that Canada has to involve military action and put our own soldiers at risk. There are other options available for Canada, which Prime Minister Harper doesn’t want to consider.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair devised an alternative action plan that improves Canada’s humanitarian response in Iraq. The plan would remove combat operations and increase humanitarian aid, the investigation of ISIS war crimes, and transport weapons to the allies in Iraq. Mulcair’s plan is what the government should be focusing on as it reduces the possibility of Canadian casualties and our risk of being “stuck” fighting this war.
When the U.S. went wholeheartedly guns blazing to Iraq in 2003, it turned out to be a disaster. Canada should not be involved in a repetition of such things and should instead try a different approach as Mulcair has suggested.
As much as it sounds like a conspiracy to say, I don’t think Prime Minister Harper is telling the Canadian public the whole story. There has been no real explanation of this military plan. There have been no answers to important questions such as: How much will it cost? When did the forces arrive, how many? What is Canada’s exit strategy?
It seems strange that the majority of MPs are voting for Harper’s plan even though he’s being so elusive about its details. The more logical option in this situation seems so obvious: voting for Mulcair’s well-thought-out plan with answers to the important questions. This would be the most logical vote, unless as I said, there is some other important information that is not open to the public eye.
To further my “conspiracy”, perhaps there is knowledge of an incoming terrorist attack on Canada from ISIS, and Harper’s plan is the best way to stop it. There have already been talks of ISIS-‘inspired’ attacks from within Canada. Additionally, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has disclosed information about 130 Canadians that travelled abroad to join terrorist activities, and 80 individuals who returned to Canada and are suspected of involvement in terrorist groups.
CSIS has said there is nothing for Canadians to worry about and that we should go about our daily lives and be vigilant. But I remain unconvinced. There could be an imminent terrorist attack given our government’s seemingly ‘easy’ choice to join the warfare against ISIS. A decision like that has to be rooted in something deeper than Harper’s vaguely explained and mysterious plan.