Canada mulling U.S. call for more help in fight against ISIS
Josh Elliott , CTVNews.ca
Published Wednesday, September 24, 2014 7:17AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 24, 2014 10:31PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada is “weighing our response” to a U.S. letter asking for more help in the fight against Islamic State militants in the Middle East.
But any military action against extremists in Iraq and Syria would have to be debated by the government first, Harper said Wednesday.
“The government of Canada will make a decision on that very shortly,” Harper said during a question-and-answer session before an audience of business leaders at Goldman Sachs Tower in New York. “We have to have some additional debate within our government before we reach a decision.”
Canadian troops are currently helping Iraqis oppose ISIS in a non-combat role, but Harper said he wouldn’t rule out further military action in the region.
Harper’s comments sparked immediate response during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday.
“The prime minister says that he needs to have some debate in cabinet before he can make any decision on this file,” Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair said. “Will there also be a debate and vote in the House of Commons?”
Parliamentary Secretary to the Defence Minister, James Bezan, answered by reaffirming Canada’s support for the U.S. in the Middle East. He pointed out that Canada has committed military resources in Iraq in a non-combat role. However, Canada’s 30-day commitment is nearly finished.
“We are coming up to the end of the 30 days from Sept. 5, and we will have the discussions as we review our progress and look at renewing our commitment,” Bezan said.
Canada currently has 69 special ops soldiers in Iraq, where they are training Iraqi security forces to fight the Islamic State.
An additional contribution could mean extending the training mission, sending more special ops soldiers to Iraq or joining the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS forces.
A senior government source tells CTV News that Canada is considering doing more to support the fight. However, the source said Canada will not be committing troops to a combat role.
Harper addresses UN Security Council
After his appearance at Goldman Sachs, Harper appeared before the United Nations Security Council, where he reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to protecting itself from radicalized westerners.
“The threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters is a source of great concern,” Harper said in a brief speech at the UN on Wednesday afternoon. “For us, it involves the risks that individuals may return home with the knowledge and experience gained in terrorist activities to motivate and recruit others, and potentially to conduct attacks,” he said.
Harper cited Canada’s recent clampdown on citizens involved in terrorism activities abroad as an example of how the country is participating in the fight against ISIS. “As we go forward, we are examining how to strengthen all of these and other tools,” he said.
Harper arrived at the UN after the Security Council voted unanimously to tighten passport controls on foreign fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. Canada does not have a seat on the UN Security Council, after declining to campaign for a spot this year.
There are currently 80 individuals under surveillance in Canada who have returned from participating in terrorist activities abroad, according to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. More than 130 Canadian citizens are believed to have left the country to fight for the Islamic State.
Reports emerged on Wednesday of a Hamilton, Ont. man who was killed while fighting in Syria. Mohamud Mohamed Mohamud is believed to be the first Canadian citizen killed by the anti-ISIS military campaign, which has involved U.S. airstrikes.
Canada’s Combating Terrorism act, passed in 2013, makes it illegal for a citizen to leave or attempt to leave the country to participate in terrorist activities. On Wednesday, Canada added the Islamic State to its list of recognized terrorist organizations.