POLITICS

John Baird Vows $10 Million In Aid For Victims Of Iraq Conflict

10/06/2014 11:41 EDT | Updated 12/06/2014 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - The groundwork for Canada's combat mission in Iraq was already being laid Monday, even as the government and the opposition clashed in the House of Commons about how necessary it is and how effective it will be.

A Conservative promise of up to $10 million for victims of sexual violence at the hands of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant did little to convince the Opposition NDP and the Liberals that the mission isn't a terrible mistake.

The government remained resolute that committing six CF-18 jets, surveillance aircraft and support personnel for up to six months is — along with humanitarian support — the right thing for Canada to do in the fight against ISIL.

"Ultimately, this comes down to what kind of nation we see ourselves as," said Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

"We cannot confront a 'network of death,' as President Obama calls it, solely armed with bandages, platitudes and investigation."

A vote on the motion, which authorizes airstrikes in Iraq but no ground troops, is expected late Tuesday, although the Conservative majority means it's sure to pass. Indeed, an advance team of Canadian military advisers is already on its way to the Middle East, a senior government source confirmed Monday.

Though the New Democrats and Liberals had at one point seemed open to the possibility of supporting the combat mission, both parties slammed the door firmly shut once the motion was unveiled Friday.

The New Democrats say airstrikes will do nothing to resolve the complex — and long-standing — crisis in Iraq.

"When we realized that everything that is unfolding before our eyes is a direct result of the wrong-headed mission in 2003, we know that more bombing is not the answer," said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

The NDP proposed an amendment to the motion that would overhaul the mission entirely, focusing instead on supplying weapons to local fighters seeking to fight back ISIL and limiting that to three months, on top of more humanitarian aid.

"The tragedy in Iraq and Syria will not end with another western-led invasion in that region," Mulcair said.

"It will end by helping the people of Iraq and Syria to build the political institutions and security capabilities they need to oppose these threats themselves."

Liberal foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau said his party had supported the initial Canadian military contribution — a 30-day deployment of up to 69 special forces advisers.

That deployment has now been extended, but Garneau said the case has not been made for a broader combat role.

There are other things Canada could do such as training local forces, helping refugees, providing medical aid and conducting surveillance, he said.

"Deciding in six months to pull out of combat could be very problematic for Canada, depending on the situation and the pressure that will be on us to remain. That is why the Liberal Party of Canada will not support the prime minister's motion to take on a combat role in Iraq," Garneau said.

"Saying we will review in six months is not an exit strategy."

The up-to-$10 million pledged by the government will help investigate sexual violence and other human rights abuses being carried out by ISIL and also help treat victims.

A report published by the United Nations last week detailed two months worth of rights abuses that including selling women into sex slavery and the sexual abuse of children.

It is those victims the opposition ought to be thinking about when they consider how to vote, Baird said.

"These terrorists stretch their delusional fantasies across generations and across borders," Baird said.

"I urge us to come together in solidarity with those who are being victimized and brutalized, to come together in solidarity with those who are standing up against this terrible barbaric threat."

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