OTTAWA — Canada's top soldier says a Canadian Forces hospital is now up and running in northern Iraq and ready to treat anyone who is brought to it — including fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Canada promised the hospital in July in advance of the Iraqi military offensive to retake Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul.
But the hospital was still not in place when the attack on Mosul began last month and Canada blamed the Iraqi government for the delay.
Gen. Jonathan Vance holds a technical briefing in Ottawa at National Defence heaquarters on Nov. 4, 2014. (Photo: Fred Chartrand/CP)
Gen. Jonathan Vance told the Commons defence committee this week that the medical facility, which includes three surgeons, started operations in the last few days and will provide medical support to anyone injured on the battlefield, including civilians and enemy combatants.
"We would never deny medical support to any casualty on a battlefield," Vance said.
While that position is consistent with the Geneva Conventions, of which Canada has long been a signatory, it's unlikely Canadian troops would receive the same treatment from ISIL.
"We would never deny medical support to any casualty on a battlefield."
The extremist group has shown a blatant disregard for the rules of war and has routinely executed prisoners.
Canadian military personnel are in the field helping triage casualties, Vance said, which includes determining whether they are sent to the hospital by helicopter or land.
"If it's serious enough they can go by helicopter, which is the preferred method," he said. "The faster the better."
Iraqi and Kurdish forces have reported heavy casualties in recent days as the battle for Mosul intensifies.
Many civilians have also been injured in the fighting or by booby traps left behind by ISIL.