10/06/2015 05:40 EDT | Updated 10/06/2015 05:59 EDT

Rick Hillier Criticizes Opponents Of Canadian Military Operations In Iraq, Syria

Rick Hillier says Canada could do more in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East.


WINNIPEG — A former top military commander says Canada could do more in the fight against terrorism in the Middle East and is criticizing those who oppose military operations in Iraq and Syria.

"I would like to see Canada do more of what it's doing," Rick Hillier, the retired general who was Canada's chief of defence staff between 2005 and 2008, said Tuesday.

"Let's face it, ISIS is not an organization that I think we're going to have success negotiating a settlement with."

Canada's role in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has become an election issue. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has said he would end bombing campaigns and other military action, and put more resources into humanitarian and refugee efforts.

Hillier, who was answering media questions following a speech on leadership to a construction industry group, said ending military involvement would not work.

"You've got to decapitate that ISIS leadership the best way you can. Until you do that, it's almost impossible to deal with Syria and therefore the hundreds of thousands or millions of refugees who are leaving that country," he said.

"Precision air strikes are but one way that we can help ... I think the special forces have got to be part of that, both to help pinpoint those strikes and to take direct action roles themselves."

Despite his retirement, Hillier has continued to speak out about Canada's role in the Middle East. He recently said the military could help bring in many more refugees than Canada is planning and suggested there's a capacity to handle up to 50,000 by the end of the year.

Mulcair has criticized the mission by pointing out it is not sanctioned by the United Nations or conducted under the auspices of NATO.

There are things Canada should be doing other than direct military involvement, he said, such as more effectively cracking down on the flow of foreign fighters and halting the movement of money to extremists.

Hillier said Canada has a long history of direct military involvement alongside allies. He pointed to the battle at Vimy Ridge in the First World War and landings in Normandy, France in the Second World War.

"We've always done what is necessary as a nation and I believe this is something that is necessary."

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