September 25, 2014 5:14 pm
Updated: September 25, 2014 8:53 pm

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. says Canada offered to help in Iraq – not the other way around


WATCH: A day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the U.S. asked Canada for more help taking on ISIS, it turns out Canada asked first how it could be further involved. Vassy Kapelos and Tom Clark have the details.

OTTAWA – The United States government says it was Canada that asked what more it could do to help in Iraq – an offer that led to the letter Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he recently received from the U.S. requesting further military help in the fight against ISIS.

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A spokeswoman for the U.S. Secretary of Defense told Global News the Canadians reached out to ask how to help in “countering” Islamist rebels.

“What I can tell you is that the Canadians requested additional details on what they could do to contribute to coalition efforts to aid the Government of Iraq in countering [ISIS] and (the Department of Defense) sent a letter describing areas where their contributions would be helpful,” Cmdr. Elissa Smith wrote in an email to Global News.

NDP leader Tom Mulcair said the Conservatives have not been giving Canadians full information on the mission.

“It now appears that it was Mr. Harper who approached the Americans and said, ‘What more can we do?’ And they were simply responding to his request,” Mulcair said in an interview.

“It’s also a pretty clear indication that Mr. Harper is intent in getting us even more involved in this war right now.”

So far, the government has committed 69 special advisers to Iraq for a 30-day non-combat mission.

Harper told a business audience in New York on Wednesday that the U.S. government made the request and Canada was weighing the possibility of an extended military role in the Middle East.

“The United States just recently in the last couple of days has asked for some additional contribution and we’re weighing our response to that,” he said in a question-and-answer session.

Harper alluded to the letter from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel but declined to offer details because the U.S. government “didn’t release the letter publicly.”   He did not tell the audience the letter came after his government approached the U.S. government to ask what further contributions Canada could make to the military effort.

On Thursday, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the House of Commons, again, that the Americans made the request and the government will assess the “non-combat mission” after the 30-day review period ending in early October.

“We just recently received this request from the United States and, of course, we will review that. I think that is only fair and reasonable in terms of our support for our allies and support for what we are doing in Iraq,” Nicholson said.

Harper’s spokesman said the information “doesn’t in any way contradict” what the prime minister said.

“We’ve been clear all along – by which I mean before yesterday – that we have been in regular discussions with allies, like the U.S., about what additional role Canada can play to support the fight against [ISIS],” Jason MacDonald wrote in an email.

“The U.S. has now outlined something specific, as the (prime minister) said yesterday. Cabinet will now have to discuss that and arrive at a decision.”

By stating it is Harper’s cabinet that will make the decision, it appears Parliament will likely not be voting on the issue.

Mulcair called on the government to release the letter and have a full debate and vote in the House of Commons.




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