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Opinion - Trudeau's First Honoured Campaign Promise is the Wrong One
February 16, 2016

Justin Trudeau has probably broken more campaign commitments in his first 100 days in office than any Prime Minister before him. However, the first major promise the Government will decidedly honour is the wrong one, by all accounts.

In his recent press conference, the Prime Minister outlined in detail what form Canada’s mission in Iraq and Syria would take. The Prime Minister stated that Canada will withdraw our CF-18s within the next couple of weeks, and focus instead on humanitarian efforts, such as the training of the local Kurdish Peshmerga army.

Why exactly are we pulling out of the bombing mission when our allies are ramping up their efforts? Well, the Government hasn’t told us.  We have heard vague statements about “unique Canadian expertise”, and implications that airstrikes are not “what Canada is all about”. However, our Chief of Defence staff, General Jonathan Vance, has explained how immensely successful the airstrikes have been in displacing militants from territory, destroying morale and demolishing the oil resources the Islamic State needs to fund its activities. By any measure, this mission has been a tremendous success.

The repeated implications by this Government that combat is not part of Canada’s history is not only preposterous, but incredibly insulting to the men and women in uniform who have risked everything to serve their country and to fulfil our obligations to foreign allies.

So then, is the Liberal government simply morally opposed to airstrikes and the associated unavoidable risks? Of course not. The Prime Minister admitted there is a role for bombing, apparently just not by Canada’s world-class trained and skilled RCAF pilots. Most alarmingly, they announced that we will keep our refueling tanker in the region to directly assist allied airstrikes and to identify targets.

What could possibly rationalize this illogical move then? The only explanation pundits and policy analysts can arrive at is that Justin Trudeau campaigned on pulling out the CF-18s. The idea did not make sense before October 19th, and now, having seen the tremendous progress that western air power has achieved, it makes less sense. This is not the time for the Prime Minister to be patting himself on the back for honouring his first election promise.

Our allies know that the bombing mission can endure without Canada’s jets, but what this demonstrates to our allies is a sit-on-the-sidelines approach that resembles anything but the Canadian Forces. We owe it to Canada (which has been specifically named by ISIS), to our allied partners, and to those who are terrorized every day in Iraq and Syria, to deliver overwhelming air support at this critical time – not to fade into the background.

Humanitarian aid and combat are not mutually exclusive approaches. No country’s history demonstrates that more clearly than ours. Since 2012, the Conservative Government committed close to $1 billion in humanitarian, development and security/ stabilization assistance.  

ISIS is the most abhorrent organization of our time, and its threats the most wide-reaching. If the actions of the Islamic State do not merit the use of our CF-18s, what possibly could?

For Justin Trudeau to tout his government as defenders of human rights and, in the same breath, weaken Canada’s fight against the world’s biggest threat to human rights is starkly telling of his lack of perspective.

Perhaps the Prime Minister needs a refresher on the concept of humanitarianism. It quite simply means the saving of human lives and the alleviation of suffering. The most humanitarian role Canada can play at this point is to minimize the horrors of ISIS and maximize our potential in this fight.

 Justin Trudeau has made several proclamations regarding “what Canada is all about” in trying to justify the weakening of Canada’s role in this crisis. What Canada is not about is sitting back and letting others fight on our behalf.

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