Letter to the Editor – Syrian Refugees and Fight Against ISIS

December 3, 2015

Dear Editor,

Last month I wrote a letter to express my concerns about the federal government’s refugee intake plan and their goal of resettling 25, 000 refugees before the end of 2015. While I am pleased that the government will be extending the deadline for Syrian refugees, I must express that I am disappointed that the government had not listened to experts and facts from the beginning and that the government has now announced that it plans to bring in up to and potentially exceeding 50,000 refugees by the end of 2016.

The Government has not been clear that it has a long-term solution for the 25,000 incoming refugees and is already proposing to double that number by the end of next year. The use of military bases in Canada is an interim solution but this is not a long-term and sustainable plan. Canada is doing its part to help Syrian refugees. By comparison, the United States has a population of roughly 318 million people and will be aiding 10,000 Syrian refugees. With a population of roughly 35 million, it can certainly be said that Canada is doing its part.

Numerous refugee groups and experts warned the Government that their promise was unrealistic. The Liberal Party opted for an arbitrary number and timeline that had no logistical backing. The government’s platform had set aside $100 million for this plan. We have now learned that the actual cost is approximately $1.2 billion over the next six years with $876.7 million of that amount being spent in 2015-16. Again, it is clear that Canada is more than doing its part.

Furthermore, I am disappointed that the government has not reversed its decision to withdraw Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets from the international coalition fighting ISIS. The attacks in Paris, France are a tragedy and a direct attack on a Canadian ally and must be treated as such. I would remind the Prime Minister that Canada, alongside France, is a member of NATO. Being part of this international organization has important responsibilities. For example, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty states that an attack against one NATO member is an attack against them all. France has declared the Paris attacks were an “act of war” which means that as a NATO partner Canada should be ready to take action. While France has yet to fully invoke Article 5, Canada should be ready to respond. Mr. Robert Baines, a corporate development officer for the NATO Association of Canada, has said that Canada would be expected to make “meaningful contributions” if Article 5 were to be invoked. Unfortunately, rather than confirming that Canada stands ready to assist, the government has made it clear that Canada will be withdrawing our jets from the fight.

The airstrikes that Canada’s CF-18s are conducting are important and have made a difference in the fight against ISIS. Falah Mustafa Bakir, the Foreign Affairs Minister for the Kurdistan Regional Government has stated that “We would like to tell them that the air strikes have been effective, they have helped us a great deal. They have helped save lives. They have helped destroy the enemy.” Furthermore, I was pleased to learn that on December 1st, two of Canada’s CF-18 Hornets successfully struck an ISIS fighting position using precision guided munitions. Therefore, I encourage our new Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Harjit Sajjan, to rethink his insinuation that our fighter jets would make little difference in the war against ISIS.

While I am not a fan of Russian President Vladimir Putin, I was pleased to see that he, and Russia, came to France’s call and has been very active in fighting ISIS. Fighting ISIS should be the priority for us all.

In the coming days, I hope to see the government stand with France and our other allies in our fight against ISIS. The Canadian response has never been to turn our back on an ally when the going gets tough.