September 4, 2015 6:48 pm
Updated: September 4, 2015 7:38 pm

ISIS mission reality check: Canada has participated in 4 airstrikes over Syria


WATCH ABOVE: Stephen Harper said military action is the only way to address the root cause of the refugee crisis, the so-called Islamic State. But we haven’t heard much about Canada’s efforts in quite a while. Vassy Kapelos looks at whether our military effort is making a difference.

Stephen Harper emphasized the role he believes Canada’s military must play in addressing the Syrian refugee crisis while speaking at a campaign stop Friday in Whitehorse.

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“Obviously, we have been bringing in and we are bringing in more refugees,” he said. “We also need to address the root cause.”

But while more than 140 Canadian airstrikes against ISIS over Iraq have been consistent, it appears to be a different story in Syria.

Of the 119 coalition airstrikes over Syria, Canada has participated in just four since the Canadian mission expanded to the country at the end of March.

The U.S., which is leading the coalition, has conducted more than 2300 air strikes over Syria.

According to a Canadian Forces’ spokesperson, many factors determine the frequency and location of air strikes.

“Be it in Iraq or in Syria, aircraft are assigned on a daily basis by the coalition to targets where ISIS is known to operate, with the ultimate goal of improving the security of Iraq and Coalition nations,” Capt. Kirk Sullivan said.

In the past, military officials have cited a lack of intelligence on the ground in Syria for the infrequent pace of Canadian air strikes there.

READ MORE: Leaders disagree on action for Syrian refugees after seeing drowned boy photo

Still, University of Ottawa political scientist Roland Paris calls Harper’s emphasis on Canada’s military role “misleading”.

“It’s misleading partly because our actual military involvement in Syria in extremely limited,” he said. “But more fundamentally it’s misleading because addressing the root causes of the Syrian refugee crisis is going to take more than bombing ISIS.”

Paris says the crisis in Syria started well before ISIS appeared, as deadly dictator Bashar al-Assad’s 2011 crackdown on protesters, during the Arab Spring, spurred a bloody civil war.

“The main cause of civilian deaths and dislocation in that country is the government of Bashar al-Assad,” Paris said.

Conservative candidate Chris Alexander isn’t convinced the small number of Canadian air strikes over Syria will lessen the military’s impact in the region.

‘If we were standing on the sidelines and other countries followed our lead, the situation would be worse,” he said. “The best way to protect those millions of people is to continue the military effort with our allies.”

READ MORE: Here’s what the federal leaders had to say about the refugee crisis

Alexander wouldn’t rule out expanding Canada’s military mission in the future, saying missions “always evolve”.

Both the NDP and Liberal Party would withdraw from the coalition’s air campaign against ISIS if they win the election, though Liberals say they’d keep Canadian special forces on the ground training local fighters.

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