Opposition parties demand Liberals share anti-ISIS plan
Minister of National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan speaks to reporters in Ottawa, on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Josh Dehaas, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, February 2, 2016 4:39PM EST
With the deadline to withdraw Canada’s fighter jets from the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria coming up next month, the NDP and Conservatives are pressing the Liberals to reveal their next move.
NDP defence critic Randall Garrison demanded during daily question period in the House of Commons Tuesday to know whether the Liberals are “considering expanding the number of Canadian troops on the ground in Iraq -- yes or no?”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would only say that the government is “committed to ending the airstrikes,” and that “we do work in a coalition and we have to do it in a responsible manner.”
Earlier in the day, Sajjan told reporters they should ask Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, who is in Rome meeting with allies, for details on the plan.
Conservatives defence critic James Bezan pounced on that comment, asking in the House of Commons, “who is actually is in charge of the armed forces? Is it the minister of defence or is it the minister of foreign affairs?”
Bezan also said the Conservatives are concerned about recent comments from the defence minister on mistakes in Afghanistan.
“Over 40,000 Canadians served in Afghanistan, 159 gave their lives,” said Bezan. “Was it a mistake that the hard work of our armed forces enabled millions of children to go to school, including over three million girls?”
“Was it a mistake that we restored the rights of women so they could work and have health care,” Bezan went on. “Does the minister believe these successes as we fought the Taliban were all just a mistake?”
Sajjan, a former solider, responded forcefully that he “actually served from the start of the combat mission right to the end,” and witnessed both “the issues” and “the success.”
“This is the conversation that we actually had on the ground and this is where we talked about how political leadership failed us,” Sajjan added. “This is why I will take the time to making sure, as we make future plans, that those lessons are not lost.”
Sajjan accused the Conservatives of “taking things out of context,” adding, ”when we come up with a plan, it will be a plan Canadians can be proud of.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised before and after taking office that Canada would pull its CF-18s from the fight against ISIS, while enhancing the training mission in Iraq.
“How many that will be, what form that will take, what kind of engagement we’re going to have, those are things we’re going to work out,” Trudeau told reporters in November.
Sajjan has been under increasing pressure to explain what Canada’s mission will look like, after Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion warned last week that Canada will not be able to give its allies everything they want.
Sajjan said in a speech Friday that he believed the war on terror had failed.
“Over the last 10 years, we need to do a really hard assessment," Sajjan told the audience at the Canada 2020 foreign policy conference.
"Should we be patting ourselves on the back? And, I'm talking from a security perspective around the world, I think we can say things have not gotten much better,” he said. “Things have gotten worse."
Canada was conspicuously absent from a U.S.-sponsored security-planning meeting in Paris last month that other allies like Australia and the Netherlands were invited to attend. The Netherlands announced last week that it will begin airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
Sajjan will attend a NATO meeting in Brussels next Thursday and Friday, but has not said whether he will present a plan before then.
With files from The Canadian Press