The NDP’s defence critic says Canadians have been deliberately supplied with misleading information
Jack Harris, the NDP’s defence critic, has launched a formal complaint against Prime Minister Stephen Harper for providing the House of Commons with “misleading information” regarding the country’s role in combating ISIS in northern Iraq.
Harris called on Andrew Scheer, the House of Commons speaker, to give attention to “a question of grave importance” about the seemingly contradictory statements uttered by Harper when describing Canada’s role in Iraq.
Harris reminded the House that NDP leader, Tom Mulcair, had previously asked the prime minister whether Canadian soldiers “are currently going on patrols with Iraqis or Kurds”. At the time, Harper responded by telling the House that Canada’s role would be to “advise and assist… not to accompany”.
Later, Mulcair asked the prime minister if Canadian soldiers would be going into combat zones. Harper responded by pointing that “Canadian soldiers are not accompanying the Iraqi forces into combat”.
“The Canadian military has been involved in multiple firefights with [ISIS] forces, and are the only coalition partner reported to have been involved in any at all,” said Harris.
“We know that they have regularly accompanied Iraqi forces to the front lines, not under extraordinary circumstances, but as a matter of routine duty,” and “conducting duties that the international military community routinely defines as ‘combat roles,’ including painting targets.”
These activities contradict the statements made by the Prime Minister, which he “explicitly ruled out when this chamber was making its decision on whether or not to authorize the mission,” said Harris.
“He misled this House and Canadians in a deliberate attempt to downplay Canada’s level of engagement as well as the risk involved to our brave men and women in uniform… Canadian troops are accompanying Iraqi forces to the front line, and the Prime Minister said they weren’t.”
Due to this predicament, Harris called on House speaker, Scheer, to find a breach of privilege, which would cause a vote to send the issue to committee for further study.
Peter Van Loan, the Government House Leader, had a different view of the events.
“There is not a question of the House being misled,” said Van Loan. He continued to argue that this is instead a question of whether the opposition “thinks that self-defence is combat. We think self-defence is not combat. We think it is common sense. We think it is what anybody would expect their troops in the field to be able to undertake.”
Additionally, a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s Office said Canadian troops “continue to carry out the advise and assist mission they were given by the government. Their actions as described reflect the mission and mandate they were given, and we stand 100 per cent behind them and the job they are doing in the fight against [ISIS] terrorists.”
Nevertheless, the government failed to address the issue of why Canadian troops are routinely accompanying Iraqi forces to the front lines, where combat engagements are taking place, if their mandate is indeed to merely advise and assist. It will be difficult for the government to make the case that all of these engagements have been self-defence, when our troops are actively accompanying our coalition allies into wellknown combat zones.