Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the government is looking at ways to increase Canadian intelligence capabilities in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

Speaking to CTV’s Power Play on Wednesday, Sajjan emphasized the importance of the Canadian intelligence skills in the fight against the terror group.

“Our intelligence capability is second to none. It’s always sought after and we are looking at different forms of capabilities, how we can increase that,” said Sajjan. 

“We have a robust intelligence capability and how do we integrate that into our training that we’re already doing?”

Sajjan said the need for increased medical assistance also came to mind during his recent visit to Iraq. He said the government is still considering what is needed in terms of medical help, and is cautious not to propose options that won’t work on the ground.

“You don’t want to be offering things that are not going … to be utilized properly,” said Sajjan. 

Last week, the Globe and Mail reported that the federal cabinet is reviewing options to boost Canada’s role in the coalition against ISIS, ranging from clandestine operations to the maintenance of surveillance and refuelling aircraft. The report also said cabinet is expected to make a decision within 30 days of Jan. 7.

The minister said he and Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance have been talking frequently about options for the future of Canada’s role in the coalition. He added that his list of options has been refined “considerably,” but did not say when exactly he plans to delivery that finalized list to cabinet. 

“There are a few things that we are still looking at. But, yes, the list is refined.”

When asked whether the government is considering using elite Joint Task Force 2 commandos in black ops in Syria and Iraq, Sajjan said the “mission is not going to change in terms of the assist and advise.” 

Sajjan stood by the Liberal government’s election commitment to pull Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets from the bombing mission in Iraq and Syria. However, he refused to provide a timeline on when that withdrawal will happen. Canada’s current fighter jet commitment is set to expire in April. 

“The airstrikes will end,” said Sajjan. “We want to do it in a responsible manner because some of the situation can change. We want to make sure we don’t create a gap for the coalition.”

Plans for peacekeeping: Must look at evolvement

In last year’s Throne Speech, the government promised to renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Sajjan said the government is assessing the evolution of traditional peacekeeping before proposing particular regions of focus around the world. 

“I think we have to look at how peacekeeping has evolved,” said Sajjan. “We need to be able to do the right assessment to figure out where it can happen.”

In considering where Canadian peacekeepers could have a role, Sajjan said the “whole of government approach” must be considered in order to prevent conflicts from happening, including political engagement in potential trouble zones.