NEWS
09/09/2014 05:00 EDT | Updated 11/08/2014 05:59 EST

John Baird, Rob Nicholson to discuss 30-day mission in Iraq

Canadians could learn more details Tuesday about the role the country's military advisers will play in the battle against ISIS in Iraq.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Defence Minister Rob Nicholson are set to appear before a committee of MPs to discuss the deployment of Canadians to advise on tactical issues.

The foreign affairs committee's special meeting comes just days after the government announced that Canadian military advisers are heading to Iraq to assist the Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS or ISIL. 

The committee will also hear from Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson, as well as Andrew Bennett, Canada's religious freedom ambassador, according to a notice posted to the parliamentary website on Friday evening.

The meeting starts at 11 a.m. ET and runs until 1 p.m. CBCNews.ca will carry the meeting live.

Baird isn't ruling out the possibility of extending the 30-day advisory mission, or the possibility of it changing.

'Fear of mission creep'

In an interview with Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Baird said the government will evaluate the situation once the 30 days are up.

"I suppose we could never do anything if there was always the fear of mission creep," Baird said.

"Listen, this is a great struggle, this is a barbaric terrorist organization who wants to take over a great swath of the world from southern Spain to India. They're beheading journalists. They're targeting Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq. We'll be sending several dozen military advisers to northern Iraq, to Erbil, to help the Kurdish minority be able to defend themselves, defend other minorities, and to ensure the humanitarian crisis doesn't get worse. We're saying we're doing this for 30 days. After those 30 days are up, we'll evaluate.​"

Baird spent several days in Iraq last week, during which he visited Kurdish front lines, where he announced an additional $15 million in aid earmarked for security, including helmets, body armour and vehicles to support Kurdish and Iraqi forces battling fighters from ISIS.   

In a show of cross-partisan unity, Baird took the rare step of inviting both opposition foreign affairs critics, NDP MP Paul Dewar and Liberal MP Marc Garneau, to accompany him on the trip.

On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper revealed that "several dozen" Canadian Armed Forces members would soon be sent to Iraq, where they'll join U.S. officials in advising the Iraqi government on securing the northern part of the country.

They will also "provide strategic and tactical advice to Iraqi forces before they commence tactical operations against ISIL," according to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

"Canada will be present in an advisory and assistance role."  

Special forces going to advise

The advisers will come largely from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment, the government said.

Not surprisingly, one of the MPs asking questions will be Baird's Iraq travel companion Dewar, who said he's eager to hear more about the special operations mission announced while he and his colleagues were in Iraq. 

"It was the government who called the meeting, so I'm assuming they'll have something to share with us ... more skin on the bones regarding the commitment of troops, which … came as a surprise to us, particularly when we were on the ground there."

He's also keen to discuss what Canada can contribute outside the military sphere.

"From my read, and questioning people, and seeing what I saw, there's clearly a lot more needed in terms of humanitarian aid," Dewar said.

MPs want details of mission

The Liberals, who have just one seat at the committee table, will be looking for specific details on the parameters of the mission, according to party spokeswoman Kate Purchase.

"The government must outline the spectrum of operations Canadian military personnel will be engaged in, the steps taken to ensure their safety, what factors would be considered in extending the Canadian presence beyond the stated 30-day time frame and how this mission will help contribute to Canada’s national security interests," she told CBC News.

"It is essential that the government disclose to Parliament the full nature of the mission it is proposing."

Garneau will fill the Liberal seat on the committee.

Last week, Liberal public security critic Wayne Easter served notice that he intends to push for a full parliamentary inquiry into ISIS recruits in Canada when the House returns next week. 

Correction : This story has been updated from an earlier version that misidentified Andrew Bennett, Canada's ambassador for religious freedom, as John Bennett.(Sep 08, 2014 12:50 PM)