IN THE HOUSE ~ Speech ~ on government's motion to expand its mission in the Middle East

Context : Debate

    Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that the theme from the Conservatives has been that they care about keeping Canadians safe.

    After a decade now of Conservative governments where we have seen their complete incompetence and irresponsibility around 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women, where we have seen Canadians who have died because of the Conservatives' cutbacks in food safety and the appalling incident that we saw in Lac-Mégantic where we lacked rail safety that led to the death of dozens of Canadians, I just want to say right off the bat that we take no lessons from Conservatives on keeping Canadians safe. They have an appallingly poor record on that, and that is something on which I think Canadians will judge them on October 19.

    The second point I want to make in starting out is I am profoundly disappointed in the fact that the Liberals have not shown up to the debate this evening. They had three speaking spots and time after time this evening they simply refused to stand up and defend their position. I have been following the Liberals' position over the last six months. They reversed themselves three times over the last six months. First they were in favour of the mission, then they were opposed, then they were in favour, then they were opposed. It would have been nice to have Liberals actually stand up and speak, and try to explain and defend their position.

    That being said, I want to start by saying my family history is very similar to so many other Canadian families across the country. When one goes to New Westminster, one will see in front of the city hall a cenotaph. Two members of my family have their names inscribed on that cenotaph, having given their lives for their country. There is no doubt that many Canadian families have the same story. Many Canadian families have shown great courage. The reality is that our men and women in uniform show great courage all of the time.

    It is important, though, as the Leader of the Opposition stressed earlier this week, that when we send our men and women in service overseas we are honest and forthright with them. The current government has been anything but.

    I will start with the history of the Minister of National Defence. I am happy that he is here this evening, but he cannot deny that his record has been less than forthright when we look at his record in cabinet. First, back in 2011, he manufactured a fake citizenship ceremony. It was bizarre and unprecedented. He has never apologized for what was an essential fib that was put forward.

    Since he has become Minister of National Defence, we have seen a number of these fibs, misleading statements, statements that are completely manufactured. First, there was the photo of a woman taken at a religious ceremony, that the minister purported to be of a woman being abused. More recently, there was an incident that was manufactured where a Russian jet supposedly buzzed a Canadian warship. NATO had to openly contradict the minister and say that incident simply did not happen.

    These are not isolated incidents, because it comes into the narrative that we have seen from the Prime Minister. On September 24, the Prime Minister and the government said that Canada was considering a request from the United States to provide assistance in the fight against ISIL. On September 25, as many of my colleagues have outlined over the course of the day, it was actually revealed that the Canadian government was going to the U.S. government asking to provide options for Canadian support. On September 30, we were told that our forces were not going into a combat mission, not going to the front lines, but the casualties that we have seen so far belie that fib. The tragic death of Sergeant Andrew Doiron as well shows very clearly that the statement that was made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons was simply not true.

    I think the most egregious comments coming from the Conservatives, and we have heard them tonight repeatedly from them, was the point that somehow this is a balanced approach, that somehow there is just as much emphasis being put on humanitarian aid as there is on the bombing mission. We have already seen from the Parliamentary Budget Officer that the current government has deliberately hidden information from the Parliamentary Budget Officer and actually broken the law, and that the actual size and scope and extent of the bombing mission is perhaps as high now as $1 billion.

    We cannot get accurate figures on that because the government has been hiding information, contrary to the law, from the Parliamentary Budget Officer.

    The reality is the government seems to be willing to spend unlimited amounts of money, even hiding it from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, for the bombing mission, bombing people and targets in Iraq, and now looking to bomb those targets in Syria.

    However, to say that somehow the government is emphasizing, equally, a humanitarian mission is simply ridiculous. The government itself has tried to spin it figures. Tonight we heard from the Minister of Labour that the Conservative government has fed millions of the 2.5 million refugees who are living in appallingly dire circumstances right now in areas of northern Iraq and southern Iraq.

    Let us look at the figures the Conservatives themselves have released, and this is a figure that we have started to raise today, not one Conservative has been able to answer the question. When we do the math, it amounts to five cents a day per refugee.

    We are being asked to believe, if we listen to the Minister of Labour, that somehow at five cents a day per refugee we are feeding, clothing, putting tents up, creating hospitals and educating millions of refugees. That is a whopper that defies any attempt at realistic and constructive debate. It is simply a whopper that compared to inventing incidences with Russian jets, inventing fake citizenship ceremonies, having the Prime Minister invent that somehow the United States was asking Canada to come in pales in comparison.

    It is a myth that somehow the Conservatives are providing humanitarian aid in such a way that we are helping the millions of people who are living in appallingly dire circumstances.

    As members well know, we have had the Kurdish government and the Iraqi government hamstrung by the extent of the humanitarian crisis. Canada is simply not there in any meaningful way at five cents a day for refugees, five cents a day per refugee. That is what the government's own figures tell us about the extent of the humanitarian aid. It is five cents a day. A few grains of rice, maybe a tablespoon of powdered milk.

    However, to say that there are tents and somehow there are schools being constructed, somehow there are hospitals and medical facilities being constructed, somehow sanitation is being taken care of, somehow water programs that are desperately needed are being taken care of, it is simply not true. It is the biggest whopper of all the whoppers the Conservatives have brought forward tonight.

    It is simply the reason why we are seeing that steady erosion in support for this mission since the beginning. It is because the Conservatives have simply not been honest and forthright with the Canadian population. That is why we have seen, over the course of the last few weeks, a steady decline in support for this mission.

     It is because Canadians have fundamental values. They understand that ISIS is terrible and has created a terrible humanitarian crisis. Canadians can also see that what we should be doing is offering that immediate humanitarian support, not at five cents per refugee per day, not at five cents, enough for a few grains of rice or a tablespoon of powdered milk.

    Canada really should be stepping up to a humanitarian mission. We really should be looking at, instead of pretending that somehow we are building schools and hospitals. We really should be putting and investing so that we can help stem that extent of the humanitarian crisis. That is the appropriate role for Canada.

    The government has said yes to $1 billion for bombing, that it is willing to do that, it will even hide funds from the Parliamentary Budget Officer, it will not be straightforward, and it will not be transparent.

    The reality is there are millions of people suffering tonight. They need support tonight. What Canada should be doing, and if Conservatives support the amendment that was brought forward by the member for Ottawa Centre, what Parliament would be directing our military forces to be doing and the government to be doing is providing humanitarian support now for the 2.5 million refugees who are living in such dire circumstances.

    We should be looking at providing schools and medical support. We should be looking at sanitation. We should be looking at providing food and water, and not at five cents per refugee per day, which is what the Conservatives have ultimately admitted is what they are actually providing in humanitarian support.

    That is why we are urging Conservative members to support the NDP amendment and put in place real humanitarian relief.

Context : Questions and Comments

    Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the Minister of National Defence, has all of his exaggerations and all of his whoppers he has been telling, like Russian jets buzzing Canadian war ships. It was not true NATO simply said. The Minister of National Defence simply was making it up. There was the fake citizenship ceremony and now he has fake figures. The reality is the figures that they have put forward are exactly that, 5¢ per refugee per day in one of the greatest humanitarian crises that the world has seen in recent times. The Conservatives should be ashamed of themselves.


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