Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Tuesday for Canada's military role in the Middle East to be expanded.
Saying that ISIL has been pushed back but not defeated, Harper called on the House of Commons to support an expansion of Canada’s military role, including the bombing of targets inside Syria.
“The government recognizes that ISIL's power base, indeed the so-called caliphate's capital, is in Syria,” Harper said.
While Canada and the coalition partners have made progress, Harper told the House of Commons that ISIL was finding safe haven in Syria.
“ISIL's fighters and much of its heavier equipment are moving freely across the Iraqi border into Syria for better protection in part against our air strikes. In our view, ISIL must cease to have any safe haven in Syria,” Harper said.
But while Harper called for an expansion of the mission he made it plain that Canada is not looking to support the Assad regime in its fight to retain power in Syria.
“Let me also be clear that in expanding our air strikes into Syria, the government has now decided we will not seek the express consent of the Syrian government,” Harper said. “Instead we will work closely with our American and other allies who have already been carrying out such operations against ISIL over Syria in recent months.”
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair replied in his own speech that he cannot support a mission that does not have the support of the United Nations. He then accused Harper of giving support to Assad.
“It is especially disturbing to see the Prime Minister now openly considering an alliance of sorts with the brutal dictator and war criminal, Bashar al-Assad,” Mulcair said.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau also said his party cannot support the mission extension.
“The Conservatives have no exit strategy beyond an illusory end date set for next March, Trudeau said.
“Involvement in direct combat in this war does not serve Canada's interests, nor will it provide a constructive solution to the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in this region.”
Debate on the motion to extend the mission officially begins on Thursday. There is no constitutional requirement for the Commons to approve troop deployments and little doubt the extension will pass with a majority of Conservative MPs supporting it.
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