POLITICS

Canada's Syria Contribution Seems Likely, But Nation Not Eager

08/28/2013 10:30 EDT | Updated 10/28/2013 05:12 EDT

Canada is likely to assist with any international intervention in Syria, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not followed British PM David Cameron's lead and recalled Parliament from its summer break, and the public remains reluctant about getting involved in foreign military missions.

A Harper spokesman said it was "premature" to discuss bringing MPs back to work.

The government has condemned the Syrian regime for what it has called the "absolutely abhorrent" chemical weapons attack on its own people, but Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird sounded hesitant Monday when he said the crisis is entering a "dangerous new phase" and that Canada will work with the UN to investigate the facts on the ground.

Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair sounded a similarly cautious note Monday, saying Canada should work through International law one step at a time. He did not, however, rule out support for a military intervention.

Harper talked with U.S. President Barack Obama Tuesday and a spokesman said "both leaders agreed that significant use of chemical weapons merits a firm response from the international community in an effective and timely manner."

The government seems far from eager to contribute to any potential Western mission, but contributions in Libya and Mali suggest Canada will eventually get on board.

Canada contributed a naval frigate, fighter jets, surveillance and transport planes and pilots, flight crews and technicians, to the 2011 air campaign in Libya. In Mali, Canada sent a heavy transport plane to assist with the French mission.

The Conservative government was backed by the all the opposition parties on action in Libya, but the price tag for the mission was heavily criticized after the fact. That criticism may have contributed to the government's firm stand not to send ground forces to Mali.

Canada's decision to stay out of the war in Iraq remains a source of pride, much as avoidance of Vietnam was in the 1960s and 70s, and Canadians often revel in taking a different course from our American allies. Canadians are not quick to support the use of our modest military abroad, and after more than 10 years in Afghanistan, at a cost of 158 lives, hunger for a new war is low.

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