Harper’s full speech on expanding Canada’s mission against ISIS

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper rose Tuesday in the House of Commons to confirm the federal government’s intention to seek the support of Parliament to extend Canada’s mission in Iraq by as much as 12 months and to expand it to include airstrikes in Syria.

What follows is the English portion of Harper’s prepared remarks:

Back in October, I also spoke of the need to work with the international community in pursuing an aggressive course of action against ISIL – something which this House endorsed.

Today I am here to report on the evolution of the situation, to note that the direction and resolve of our allies and partners in dealing with this threat has not changed, and to propose that Canada renew its commitment to the international coalition and its mission.

The good news is this: the territorial spread of ISIL, something occurring at a truly terrifying pace in the spring and summer of last year, has been more or less halted.

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Indeed, ISIL has been pushed back somewhat at the margins.

In significant part, this is because of the breadth and intensity of the international opposition that it has provoked, not just in the West, but in the majority of the Muslim world, both Shia and Sunni, and specifically in Arab nations.

Nevertheless, ISIL’s territorial hold remains substantial, and its leadership and networking of wider jihadist forces has continued.

ISIL has made it clear that it targets, by name, Canada and Canadians.


For the same reason it targets so many groups, in fact, for the same reason it targets most of humanity: in ISIL’s view, anyone who does not accept its perverted version of religion should be killed.

It is as self-evident to them as it seems insane to us.

But it is far from an idle threat.

In fact, in its crimes, ISIL targets innocent men, women and children, particularly the most vulnerable and peaceful ethnic and religious minorities.

Why do we know these things, Mr. Speaker?

Not because, as is so often the case, the behaviour of brutal regimes inevitably becomes public knowledge.

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No, Mr. Speaker, we know these things because ISIL brags about them.

And so Canada, along with roughly 60 other members of the United Nations, has taken action.

We have provided staff officers to the Coalition’s military command.

We have transported arms from donor countries to Iraqi forces directly engaged with advancing ISIL terrorists.

In fact, early on in this mission, we provided the largest such airlift support.

We have committed Canadian soldiers to advise and assist Iraqi Kurdish forces defending their homes in northern Iraq.

Our Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18s have made strategic airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq, in the coalition’s air campaign.

Canada’s highly capable CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft have made possible the coalition’s effective precision bombing.

Canada is also helping those combating regional terrorist financing networks and we are working in concert with others to stem the flow of foreign fighters to the region.

In fact, among the nations of the world, we have been one of the biggest providers of humanitarian assistance.

I am glad to tell you that in the last six months, we have helped feed 1.7 million people in Iraq, provide shelter and relief supplies to one and a quarter million people and give some education to at least half a million children.

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Beyond that, we have also been helping to support more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, with food, water, shelter and protection.

There is no either/or here between military action and humanitarian aid.

The situation desperately needs both and Canada has been vigorously providing both.

And so have a wide range of international partners.

And, Mr. Speaker, the upshot is this: there has been no lessening of the global consensus that ISIL must be resisted, and resisted by force.

Again, Mr. Speaker, today, we are tabling a motion seeking the support of the House for the Government’s decision to renew our military mission against ISIL for up to an additional 12 months.

Our objectives remain the same: we intend to continue to degrade the capabilities of ISIL, that is, to degrade its ability to engage in military movements of scale, to operate bases in the open, to expand its presence in the region, and to propagate attacks outside the region.

Specifically, we will extend our air combat mission, that is, our airstrike capability, our air-to-air refuelling capability, our Aurora surveillance mission, and the deployment of aircrew and support personnel.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the government is also seeking the support of this House for its decision to explicitly expand that air combat mission to include Syria.

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The government recognizes that ISIL’s power base, indeed the so-called caliphate’s capital, is in Syria.

ISIL’s fighters and much of its heavier equipment are moving freely across the Iraqi border into Syria, in part for better protection against our air strikes.

In our view, ISIL must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.

Let me also be clear that, in expanding our airstrikes into Syria, the government has now decided that we will not seek the express consent of the Syrian government.

Instead, we will work closely with our American and other allies, who have already been carrying out such operations against ISIL over Syria in recent months.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I also note that, in asking the House for the renewal of this mission over the next 12 months, it is the government’s intention for the same period, that members of Canada’s special forces will continue their non-combat mission to advise, assist and increase the capabilities of Iraqi forces combating ISIL.

We share the view of President Obama and others that we must avoid if we can taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region.

We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves, and our role there is to help them to do that.

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And, of course, Mr. Speaker, Canada’s humanitarian work will go on.

We do not need to choose between fighting ISIL and helping its victims.

We will continue to do both.

Canadians did not invent the threat of jihadi terrorism, and we certainly did not invite it.

Nor, as this global threat becomes ever more serious, can we protect our country or our communities by choosing to ignore it.

That is why a strong majority of Canadians have supported our government’s mission against ISIL.

Canadians understand that it is not merely in the wider interests of the international community, but specifically in Canada’s national interest.

Yet the Canadian Armed Forces never waver in defending our country, our families and our values.

We are humbled, and eternally grateful for their service and sacrifice.

Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, this House will debate the motion put forward by the minister of foreign affairs for a renewed mission against ISIL.

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