In The Media

Kyle Matthews: Trudeau and Mulcair can’t ignore ISIS’s crimes

by Kyle Matthews

National Post
April 4, 2014

On Monday the Canadian parliament voted to extend Canada’s military mission in the Middle East against the Islamic State in Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS). While all opposition parties rejected the extension,  the Conservatives, who hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, easily prevailed.

Canada’s six CF-18 Hornet fighter jets, two CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft, one C-150 refuelling aircraft and 600 Canadian support crew will remain in Kuwait. Fewer than 100 special forces members in northern Iraq will continue to help train the Kurdish peshmerga. What is new is that airstrikes will be expanded to target ISIS in northern Syria.

The government has argued that ISIS poses a double threat: the first is to civilians in the Middle East, the second is to Canada and its allies.

Indeed, reports by journalists and human rights organizations have revealed a brutality that knows no bounds: children have been killed, sexually abused and forced to become child soldiers, while women have become sexual slaves.

Yet NDP leader Thomas Mulcair opposed the  extension without seriously referring to the group’s atrocities. Leading up to the vote he vowed that if the mission were extended “despite our opposition to it, yes, when we form government on Oct. 19, we would bring our troops back home,” adding: “when it is a UN mission, when it is a NATO mission, we are open to it. But here, this is an American-led mission. We think it’s wrong for Canada to be involved.”

Trudeau, who last fall opposed the initial mission and argued Canada should focus its efforts on delivering humanitarian aid to those fleeing ISIS, was much more circumspect than Mulcair, having taken a major hit in the polls for being seen as weak in confronting the jihadist group. No doubt many Liberals wondered what position the party would take, given that it played a leadership role in advancing the Responsibility to Protect (a mass atrocity prevention initiative) at the United Nations. In the end, Trudeau opposed it and argued it did not serve Canada’s “national interests.”

Yet the United Nations recently issued a report that said ISIS appears to have been carrying out a genocide in Iraq against the Yazidi minority. Like the Kurdish town of Kobane in Syria, many of the Yazidis in Iraq owe their lives to American airstrikes.

That is not the only reason to think that the fight against ISIS counts as a “just war.” The Vatican backs military action to prevent ISIS from continuing to massacre religious and ethnic minorities. “We have to stop this kind of genocide,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s top envoy at the United Nations in Geneva. “Otherwise we’ll be crying out in the future about why we didn’t do something, why we allowed such a terrible tragedy to happen.”

As a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canada is expected not to turn a blind eye to massive human suffering.

Every generation or so we have witnessed groups emerge, drunk on an ideology based on supremacy and destruction, that eventually aim to put their ideas into action, resulting in the mass slaughter of civilians. ISIS has all the hallmarks of becoming the Khmer Rouge of the early 21st century, save for its ambitions are not confined to one country’s national borders.

While the bulk of ISIS’s forces are confined to a sizeable chunk of land in Iraq and Syria, its reach goes much further. Recently it claimed responsibility for the Bardo museum attack in Tunisia that left over 20 people dead. It also claimed responsibility for the bombing of two Shia mosques in Yemen. ISIS is also strongly entrenched in Libya and recently formed an alliance with Boko Haram, the group currently destabilizing Nigeria and Cameroon. To make matters worse, ISIS  is actively working to recruit new fighters and incite individuals in the West, including Canada, to carry terrorist attacks.

In a recent essay, Nobel Prize winning author V.S. Naipaul warned, “ISIS is dedicated to a contemporary holocaust. It has pledged itself to the murder of Shias, Jews, Christians, Copts, Yazidis and anyone it can, however fancifully, accuse of being a spy. It has wiped out the civilian populations of whole regions and towns. ISIS could very credibly abandon the label of Caliphate and call itself the Fourth Reich.”

To Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau: isolationism and humanitarian aid will do nothing to stop ISIS’s atrocities or protect Canada. Religious extremism is the defining issue of our time. Social democrats and liberals outside of Canada realize this. Do not wallow in denial for partisan political gain.

Kyle Matthews is a fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute.

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