OTTAWA — The foreign affairs minister is promising $10 million in targeted support for victims of the ongoing conflict in Iraq as the House of Commons debates whether to send Canadian fighter jets as well.
John Baird says $5 million will go to victims of sexual violence in Iraq and another $5 million towards investigating and prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in territory held by the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Baird made the pledge at the start of Monday’s debate on Canada’s combat mission to Iraq, which will include fighter planes, surveillance aircraft and support personnel for up to six months.
Baird says the fight against ISIL needs both military and humanitarian support.
“It is not either or,” Baird said.
“Sending someone a doctor, lawyer or aid worker is great but it’s not going to stop people they are trying to help from getting slaughtered in the first place.”
But though the opposition parties welcomed the new aid pledge, it wasn’t going to be enough to ensure their support.
The New Democrats proposed an amendment to the motion that would overhaul the mission entirely, focusing instead on supplying weapons to local fighters seeking to fight back ISIL and limiting that to three months.
Party leader Tom Mulcair also called for more humanitarian aid.
“There is overwhelming agreement, here at home and abroad, of the need to confront the horrors perpetrated by ISIL,” Mulcair said.
“But there is no agreement that western military force is the answer.”
The largely symbolic debate — the Conservative majority means the combat-mission motion will most likely be passed — is expected to continue into Tuesday with a vote Tuesday night.
There is also no requirement for the House of Commons to vote on a military deployment.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau did not speak during the debate, leaving his party’s response to foreign affairs critic Marc Garneau.
He noted that his party had supported the initial Canadian military contribution — a 30-day deployment of up to 69 special forces advisers.
That deployment has now been extended, but Garneau said the case has not been made for a broader combat role.
“Has the Canadian mission been clearly and fully defined? The answer is no,” Garneau said.
“Defining a mission is much more than stating what assets we are going to contribute and then establishing a deadline. Going to war is an extraordinarily complex undertaking. You have to think it through.”
Garneau said the Liberals would support a military role of a non-combat nature as well as increased humanitarian aid.