POLITICS

Jason Kenney Shakes Off 'Cheerleader-In-Chief' Jibe Amid Scrutiny Over Remarks

04/01/2015 06:02 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT
The man in charge of Canada's military mission against ISIS is spending more and more time defending the accuracy of some of his remarks. Now Jason Kenney may have to add information about civilian casualties in the fight against ISIS to the list.

On Tuesday, the defence minister was asked about the subject by CBC reporter Julie Van Dusen.

"Do you have any idea how many civilians have been killed by other countries' bombing?" she asked.

"We're not aware of any," said Kenney. "We're not aware of any reports of civilian casualties or so-called collateral damage by the Royal Canadian Air Force strikes."

"I'm talking about the American strikes," said Van Dusen.

"I'm not aware of any," Kenney repeated. "Quite frankly, I understand that the protocols for targeting being followed by the United States are extremely cautious, and they're doing everything possible to minimize the possibility of collateral damage or civilian casualties."

However, in January, the U.S. said it was investigating three reports of coalition airstrikes killing civilians. CBC News has confirmed those investigations are continuing.

Kenney was asked about the discrepancy today. He didn't offer an explanation, but insisted the U.S. chooses targets carefully.

"The American military has indicated to allied forces that bombing protocol, their targeting protocols, are designed to minimize the possibility of collateral damage or civilian casualties as much as possible," he said, before excusing himself to go to question period.

Takes responsibility for 'inaccurate' information

In the same discussion with reporters, Kenney was already busy explaining inaccurate information he gave last week to justify Canada's decision to bomb ISIS in Syria.

At the time, Kenney said Canada and the U.S. were the only members of the coalition in Syria that had so-called "smart bombs." The Ottawa Citizen questioned those claims in an article last week. Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson wrote the newspaper to back up Kenney's claim.

Tuesday night, however, Lawson sent out a letter saying an error was made and at least one other country was also using precision-guided munitions.

Kenney told reporters the Defence Department was the source of the mistake.

"I did not receive accurate information in briefings about that," he told reporters Wednesday. "But I have to take responsibility for all of the information provided by my department, including that. So I regret that inaccurate information was provided. As soon as more accurate information came to the attention of the military the CDS issued a clarification."

Kenney later stood in the House of Commons to correct the record.

Kenney has also come under recent criticism for tweeting a photo of Muslim women in chains. Kenney's tweet suggested the photo shows that ISIS is sexually enslaving women. In fact, the photos were a re-enactment as part of a religious ceremony.

Kenney responded by saying that his point about the Islamic State's use of sexual slavery is still valid.

Kenney pleased to be 'cheerleader-in-chief'

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau asked Wednesday about Kenney's tweet and the mistake over munitions.

Trudeau praised Kenney as a strong political operator, but added Kenney seems "unable to reconcile his responsibilities as cheerleader-in-chief for Mr. Harper and the Conservative Party with the very serious responsibilities of being our minister of national defence."

Kenney responded that he takes "cheerleader-in-chief" as a compliment — and he shot back at Trudeau, saying the Liberal leader lacked credibility after saying Canada should be doing more in Iraq than "trying to whip out our CF-18s and show them how big they are."

At least one of Kenney's colleagues didn't find the "cheerleader" remark as flattering.

"I hate to see anybody using that kind of terminology for someone who has provided great support to this country in difficult times," said Julian Fantino, associate minister of national defence.

Also on HuffPost

Jason Kenney's Gaffes