Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau is facing criticism for suggesting that Canada should consider a humanitarian mission in Iraq rather than “trying to whip out our CF-18s and show how big they are.”

Trudeau made the off-colour joke during a brief question-and-answer session with journalist Don Newman at the Canada 2020 conference.

“Why aren’t we talking more about the kind of humanitarian aid that Canada can and must be engaged in, rather than trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are?” Trudeau said.

“It just doesn’t work like that in Canada.”

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a terse statement of criticism shortly after the comment made the rounds on social media.

“Mr. Trudeau’s comments are disrespectful of the Canadian Armed Forces and make light of a serious issue,” PMO spokesperson Jason MacDonald said in a statement to CTV News.

“Our involvement in the fight against ISIL is, and has been, motivated by a desire to do our part in fighting a group that has made direct terrorist threats against Canada and Canadians, in addition to carrying out atrocities against children, women, and men in the region. As the Prime Minister has said: ‘we take that seriously and will do our part.’”

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson later took to Twitter to decry Trudeau's comment.

The question of whether Canada will undertake a combat mission in Iraq is expected to be settled Friday, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to reveal his plan. Canada’s 30-day advisory mission to Iraqi forces battling ISIS in the north is up for review.

Trudeau’s joke followed a speech in which he said Canada should consider a variety of options in Iraq, including training of Iraqi forces, humanitarian aid, and assistance with refugees.