Canada votes for air strikes on ISIS in Syria
Canada first joined the U.S.-led airstrikes on the ISIS group in November
Canadian lawmakers voted Monday to extend a campaign of airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and for the first time strike at them in Syria as well as in Iraq.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, wielding a majority in the House of Commons, pushed through a motion on enlarging the mission in a vote 142 to 129, despite opposition parties’ vigorous objections.
“Our government believes that we must act to protect Canadians against the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” he said.
Canada first joined the U.S.-led airstrikes on the ISIS group in November.
Its expanded air campaign was authorized until March 30, 2016.
Harper has defended the need for sorties into Syria, saying the ISIS group “must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.”
He pointed to its movement of heavy equipment across the Iraqi border into Syria.
The prime minister also noted that ISIS fighters have threatened Canada in propaganda videos.
“As a result of ISIS’s specific threats against Canada and Canadians, our government has worked closely for the past six months as part of a broad international Coalition, including our closest allies, to help degrade and disrupt ISIS’s ability to inflict harm.”
At least six Canadians have died over the last two years fighting alongside extremists in Syria and Iraq.
In the aftermath of two militant-inspired attacks in Ottawa and rural Quebec last October, a majority of Canadians have told pollsters they support the military mission against ISIS.
Opposition parties, however, warned that airstrikes against the ISIS group in Syria may implicitly aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and embroil Canada in a regional conflict that could drag on for decades.
New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair decried the move “expanding a misguided war in Iraq to a dangerous new phase in Syria.”
“This is simply not Canada’s war to fight,” he said.
Canadian airstrikes in Syria are not authorized by the United Nations, nor is it a NATO mission.
Canada has also deployed about 70 special forces soldiers to train Kurds in northern Iraq.
They came under mortar and machine gun fire while training Iraqi troops near the frontlines in mid-January, and a Canadian soldier was killed by friendly fire on March 6.
Harper said that militarily, the “mission will remain focused on targeting ISIS from the air and advising and assisting Iraqi Forces to fight ISIS more effectively on the ground.”