Canada’s military involvement in Iraq: Statements from four party leaders

On Friday, October 3rd, Prime Minister Harper called on the House of Commons to support Canadian participation in a six-month air-strike campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). On Tuesday night the House of Commons passed a motion in favour of the mission by a vote of 157 to 134. Here’s what the four party leaders had to say about the motion:

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada


“Today we are bringing forward a motion asking this House to confirm its confidence for a government decision to join our allies and partners – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and likely others – in launching air strikes against ISIL. In addition to these air strikes, the Government of Canada will, in response to requests from Iraqi authorities as well as other allies and partners, continue to assist in other, non-combat, counter-terrorism roles. We will also contribute one air-to-air refuelling aircraft, two Aurora surveillance aircraft, and the necessary air crews and support personnel. In addition we are extending the deployment in a non-combat role of the up to 69 members of the Canadian Army advising and assisting security forces in Iraq. There will however be no ground combat mission, which is explicitly ruled out in the resolution. These contributions are for a period of up to six months. Let me be clear on the objectives of this intervention. We intend to significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL.”

Read Harper’s full statement here.


Tom Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Official Opposition

Mulcair - Joe CressyFlickr

“The Prime Minister has not outlined a broad strategic blueprint for the mission. He cannot even answer basic questions about the breadth or cost of Canada’s military deployment. When did Canadian Forces arrive in Iraq and how many? There was no answer. What contribution have our American allies requested? There was no answer. How much will this mission cost? What are the rules of engagement? What is our exit strategy? There was no answer, no answer, no answer. These are not hypothetical questions.”

Read Mulcair’s full statement here.


Justin Trudeau, Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada


“Unlike the Prime Minister, Liberals believe Canada can make a more helpful contribution to the international effort to combat ISIL than aging war planes. I think Canadians have a lot more to offer than that. We can be resourceful, and there are significant, substantial, non-combat roles that Canada can play. And some we can play better than many – or perhaps any — of our allies. Whether they are strategic airlift, training, or medical support. We have the capabilities to meaningfully assist – in a non-combat role – a well-defined international mission. The fact remains: the Prime Minister has not been upfront with Canadians about his plans. The Prime Minister and the government have given us no reason to believe that once in combat they will be able to limit our role. Their overheated and moralistic rhetoric is being used to justify more than just air strikes. It is an attempt to justify a war.”

Read Trudeau’s full statement here.


Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada


“I completely support all of the Prime Minister’s intentions. We cannot allow these horrific crimes to go unanswered but we must make sure whatever we do does not make matters worse. That is why I hope we will have a fuller debate for more than just one day so that we can bring to bear the collective knowledge and wisdom of Canadians, every single one of us in this place representing constituents who want Canada to do the right thing. I do not think we are there yet. Without disrespect to any of us, bombings have never ended an Islamic or any religious extremist terrorist threat. Time after time it has made matters worse. Let us try to look to the lessons of history before we go to war again.”

Read May’s full statement here. 


The Bloc Québécois also opposed the motion.


Photo credits:

Harper – Prime Minister’s Office

Mulcair – CC BY 2.0 image “Transit_Canvass_and_Announcement_2014-06-05” by Tim Ehlich on Joe Cressey’s Flickr

Trudeau – made available on the Liberal Party of Canada website

May – made available on the Green Party of Canada website

Tags: Canada and military intervention, Canadian defence policy, Canadian Forces, Canadian foreign policy, Canadian Special Operations Regiment, CF-18s, CP-140, Elizabeth May, Iraq, ISIL, ISIS, Islamic State, Justin Trudeau, Stephen Harper, Syria, Terrorism, Tom Mulcair