The House of Commons has voted to approve a motion that permits the federal government to join a international coalition to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threat in Iraq.
The six-month combat mission motion passed 157-134 in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s majority Conservative government.
Canada joins more than a dozen other countries who have already confirmed their armed intervention in the conflict, a list that includes the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
By the end of the month, the following Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed overseas for the U.S.-led mission in Iraq:
- 6 CF-18 Hornet fighter jets for airstrikes and air patrols
- 1 CC-150 Polaris air-to-air refuelling aircraft
- 2 CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft
- 1 dedicated airlift aircraft
- approximately 600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel
Harper has maintained that ground soldiers will not be deployed to the battle in an effort to limit Canadian casualties. However, the mission could be expanded to fight ISIL militants in Syria, although federal opposition parties have demanded for a new vote over any expansion of the combat mission into the neighbouring country.
“To be absolutely clear, Canada’s engagement in Iraq is not a ground combat mission. It includes a number of targeted measures, being taken with allies, to severely limit the ability of ISIL to engage in full scale military movements and to operate bases in the open,” said Prime Minister Harper in a statement.
“We do not take this step lightly. The threat posed by ISIL is real. If left unchecked this terrorist organization will grow and grow quickly. They have already voiced their local and international terrorist intentions and identified Canada as a potential target.”
In September, ISIL issued a series of threats to a number of Western nations, urging its followers to kill “disbelievers” in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia.
Today’s approved air-based combat mission adds to last week’s approval of a six-month term extension of the 26 Canadian military advisers who are already on the ground. The advisers were originally deployed on September 5 for a 30-day mission to assist the logistical organization of Iraq’s security forces.
Just yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird also announced Canada would contribute $10-million towards additional humanitarian aid and prosecuting those responsible for sexual crimes to justice. This year to date, the federal government has already provided $28-million in humanitarian relief to Iraq.
Canada’s latest commitment of six CF-18 jets from CFB Cold Lake could be deployed within the next few days and are expected to carry out their airstrikes from Kuwait, about 400 kilometres away from the ISIL conflict zone.
In 2011, following a falling out with the United Arab Emirates, Canada signed a military agreement with Kuwait that permits the Canadian Armed Forces to establish a military base in the country. Similar agreements were also signed with Germany, Jamaica and Singapore.
CIA estimates of ISIL’s strength in both Iraq and Syria range between 20,000 to 50,000 militants. Using captured American-made military equipment abandoned by Iraqi soldiers and Syrian rebels, in a matter of a few short months ISIL has taken over vast territories and major cities in both countries.
The United Nations believes the militant group’s activities have been directly responsible for at least 9,347 civilians deaths and the wounding of another 17,386.
A joint report released last Thursday by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reports ISIL’s abuses include “attacks directly targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure, executions and other targeted killings of civilians, abductions, rape and other forms of sexual and physical violence perpetrated against women and children, forced recruitment of children, destruction or desecration of places of religious or cultural significance, wanton destruction and looting of property, and denial of fundamental freedoms.”
According to a recent survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid, 64 per cent of Canadians support “sending Canadian Forces fighter jets to participate in airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq.” The support breakdown for each Canadian province/region is as follows: 71% Ontario, 69% Alberta, 64% British Columbia, 56% Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 55% Atlantic Canada and 53% Quebec.
In contrast, here are the results of previous Ipsos-Reid’s opinion polls on contributing to other armed conflicts:
- 2001: 72% Canadians support U.S.-led airstrikes in Afghanistan; 61% supported a combat role for Canadian troops in Afghanistan; and 33% Canadians supported a role limited to peacekeeping.
- 2002: 55% Canadians oppose joining U.S. military action to overthrow Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.
- 2003: 59% Canadians were glad that Canada stayed out of Iraq.
- 2011: 70% Canadians support NATO intervention in Libya.
Feature Image: Royal Canadian Air Force