When I was growing up I learned in school that Canada was regarded as a peacekeeping nation.
For the most part, I am a proud Canadian and I always held the idea of Canada as a peacekeeper in high regard. The Pearson Centre, formerly known as the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre, shut its doors in 2013. The centre provided world-class training to peacekeepers from both Canada and around the world, and its closure could not act as a better metaphor for the direction Canadian foreign policy is headed.
More and more that feeling of peacekeeping pride is pushed further into fuzzy nostalgia, especially when watching the March 30 vote (142-129) to extend Canada’s mission in Iraq to include Syria.
This is a Canada going to war, and it seems this has become the norm. It happened so casually, like the training wheels had come off from our 10-year, multi-billion dollar stay in Afghanistan. One that arguably did more to destabilize the very same region the Conservatives just voted to head right back into.
Harper said we can’t “stand on the sidelines while ISIL continues to promote terrorism in Canada” and the conservatives say we have the moral obligation to commit militarily.
Let’s explore that moral obligation.
On Feb. 11, Niger declared a 15-day state of emergency after horrific attacks by the extremist group Boko Haram, who much like ISIL, have been trying to establish territory with extremist measures. What did our high and mighty “moral obligation” lead us to do then?
Canada immediately pulled special forces who were training local troops from Petawawa. Boko Haram has reportedly committed atrocious acts, essentially raping and pillaging towns and, according to the United Nations, using children as human bombs.
Don’t’ worry, we didn’t leave those fighting extremism in that part of the world completely in the cold.
Instead, private Canadian companies are making a pretty penny selling arms to West African countries, something even our U.S. neighbours don’t allow due to well-documented atrocities committed by the Nigerian military.
Nothing calms a war-torn area down like more arms.
Where is the moral obligation here? Maybe it’s because Boko Haram isn’t a direct threat to Canada, and I have yet to hear of any Canadian citizens leaving to fight with them, or committing terrorist acts in their name.
The translation of Boko Haram is: Western (or non-Islamic) education is a sin. Sounds like they know pretty directly who their enemies are.
The only people on the house floor that seemed to make any sense during the March 30 vote were the New Democrats, who wanted to remove Canadian troops from combat and instead focus on humanitarian efforts, you know, like we used to do in the good old days. The non-combat amendments were voted down.
The Syrian civil war has caused the largest population displacement crisis since the Second World War and an estimated 120,000 Syrians leave the country every month. Imagine if the entire population of Kelowna was pushed into Penticton.
Canada’s war in Syria and Iraq is expected to cost more than half a billion dollars by next year alone. Will that taxpayer money end terrorism? As long as there is more than one ideology out there, I doubt it.
Yes, the atrocities being committed by extremists in Syria and the region are inexcusable, but will an expensive and (as far as I know) indefinite mission stamp out extremism for good? Is that the hope? Because a question with a more definite answer is whether or not hundreds of thousands of civilians and refugees are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The answer is yes. That is your moral obligation.
Dale Boyd is a reporter with the Penticton Western News.