OTTAWA - Canada will deploy military assets, including CF-18s fighter jets, to battle Islamic State extremists for six months, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
Calling the extremists a threat to Canadians, Harper announced that in addition to the fighter jets, Canada will contribute an air-to-air refuelling aircraft and two Aurora surveillance aircraft.
As well, the government will extend an ongoing non-combat mission by up to 69 Canadian soldiers to assist security forces in Iraq.
There will, however, be no ground combat mission, which “is explicitly ruled out in the resolution,” Harper told the Commons.
The NDP said it would not support the motion. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau announced his party would also oppose a military mission to fight the Islamic State, also known as ISIL.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the Conservatives have not given Canadians adequate information on how this war would be conducted.
“Will Canada be stuck a decade from now mired in a war we wisely avoided entering a decade ago?” he asked in the Commons. Mulcair said Canadians are not convinced that the planned mission is necessary.
“Canada, for our part, should not rush into this war,” Mulcair said.
Trudeau accused Harper of using “moralistic” arguments in “an attempt to justify a war.”
“The prime minister and the government have given us little reason to believe that, once in combat, they will be able to limit our role,” Trudeau told MPs.
He noted that Harper had criticized then Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien for not joining the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, a mission Trudeau said was based on false intelligence and led to a destabilization of the region. “The world is still dealing with the consequences of” that mistaken mission, he said.
Harper laid out the case for combat in a noon-hour address to Parliament.
“Let me be clear on the objectives of this intervention. We intend to significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL,” Harper said.
“Specifically, its ability either to engage in military movements of scale or to operate bases in the open,” the prime minister.
While Islamic State will not be eliminated, Harper said, the military strikes will significantly degrade its capabilities.
He also said for now, military operations are only contemplated in Iraq but said that Syria could also be included if the government there sought assistance.
As he has said before, Harper insisted that Canada will not get embroiled in a drawn-out fight in the region.
“Indeed, we and our allies are acting now precisely to avoid a situation that was clearly headed to a wider, protracted and much more dangerous conflict,” he said.
A motion tabled by the Conservatives for a Monday debate on the mission provides broad strokes of the government’s intentions.
It calls on the MPs to support the government’s decision to “contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against ISIL, and terrorists allied with ISIL, including airstrike capability for a period of up to six months.”
And it makes clear that Canada will not deploy troops in ground combat operations.
The motion warns that unless confronted now, Islamic State extremists already blamed for widespread violence in Iraq and Syria will become a threat to Canada.
“Unless confronted with strong and direct force, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow,” the motion states.
Harper said that the Islamic State has established itself across a broad swath of Iraq and Syria where it “intends to launch a terrorist jihad, not merely against the region, but on a global basis.”
“Indeed, it has specifically targeted Canada and Canadians,” Harper said.
He said the Islamic State has waged a campaign of “unspeakable atrocities” in the region.
“It has slaughtered minorities, captured prisoners, and innocent civilians whose only crime is being or thinking differently from ISIL,” Harper said.