Plans unclear for Canadians after Iraqi lawmakers call for foreign troop removal

Iraq parliament votes to expel foreign troops from the country
WATCH: Iraq parliament votes to expel foreign troops from the country

Canada is closely monitoring developments after Iraq‘s parliament called for the expulsion of foreign troops from the country, a spokesman for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said.

But Sajjan’s press secretary, Todd Lane, would not say whether contingency plans are in the works for getting Canadian military personnel out of Iraq should the situation there deteriorate further.

NATO chief: Conflict between U.S. and Iran ‘in nobody’s best interest’
NATO chief: Conflict between U.S. and Iran ‘in nobody’s best interest’

Meanwhile, the head of the NATO military alliance suggested during a press conference on Monday that the Canadian-led training mission in Iraq is not about to be permanently shut down.

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Sidestepping questions about calls from Iraq for U.S. and other foreign troops to leave the country, Stoltenberg said NATO will continue to speak with Iraqi authorities and stands ready to restart training efforts once the security situation improves.

READ MORE: Iraqi lawmakers pass resolution to end foreign troop presence

Iraqi lawmakers approved a resolution Sunday asking the Iraqi government to end an agreement under which American and allied forces have been in the country for more than four years to help fight the Islamic State group, also known as Daesh.

The bill is nonbinding and subject to approval by the Iraqi government but has the backing of the outgoing prime minister.

The Canadian-led NATO training mission in Iraq has been temporarily suspended in the wake of the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Sajjan spoke with Stoltenberg about the mission on Monday. He said the training would resume “when the situation allows.”

“During the temporary pause, our focus is on the safety who serve,” he said in a tweet.

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The training mission, currently led by Maj. Gen. Jennie Carignan, has been under Canadian command since it was launched in October 2018 at the request of the Iraqi government.

Attack on Iranian general will lead to security concerns for Canadians in Iraq: Fisher
Attack on Iranian general will lead to security concerns for Canadians in Iraq: Fisher

A U.S. airstrike Friday killed Soleimani and a number of top Iraqi officials at the Baghdad airport. Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s proxy wars across the Mideast and was blamed for the deaths of hundreds of Americans in roadside bombings and other attacks.

“We continue to monitor and evaluate the situation, and remain in close co-ordination with our international partners,” Lane said in an email Sunday.

“Our goal remains a united and stable Iraq, and preventing the re-emergence of Daesh.”

When asked, Lane would not divulge whether Canada had plans to remove its soldiers from Iraq.

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“We won’t have a further comment at this point,” he said.

READ MORE: Trump doubles down on attacking cultural sites in Iran, threatens sanctions on Iraq

Canada has 250 military members working with the NATO training mission as well as dozens of special forces troops who have been working in the northern part of the country with Iraqi security forces.

Tensions in the Middle East have escalated since the air strike with both U.S. President Donald Trump and Iranian leaders trading threats of retaliation.

Those tensions are also now being felt in Canada with a group representing Islamic Americans reporting that dozens of Iranians and Iranian-Americans were detained at length and questioned at the Peace Arch border crossing linking British Columbia to Washington State.

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Petraeus calls Soleimani death ‘bigger than bin Laden’

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said many more were reportedly refused entry to the United States, including many with U.S. citizenship who were returning to their homes in the United States from an Iranian pop concert that took place on Saturday in Vancouver.

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“Those detained reported that their passports were confiscated and they were questioned about their political views and allegiances,” the council said in a statement posted online.

The statement quoted a 24-year-old American medical student who said she was detained and interrogated for more than 10 hours. Email and phone messages sent to the council went unanswered.

READ MORE: Iran’s supreme leader weeps, prays over general killed by U.S. airstrike

A spokesman for Border Security Minister Bill Blair said the Canada Border Services Agency “has no involvement in the matter.”

“All Canadian citizens, regardless of their background, are equal before and under the law, and no one will ever be arbitrarily detained at the Canadian border nor refused entry purely because of their ethnicity or religion,” Blair’s office said.