Commons committee report calls for a better strategy to combat ISIL

As Canada prepares its next forays in the fight against ISIL, the Conservative-dominated foreign affairs committee is calling on the government to develop a strategy that goes beyond the military campaign.

OTTAWA — As Canada prepares its next forays in the fight against ISIL, the Conservative-dominated foreign affairs committee is calling on the government to develop a strategy that goes beyond the military campaign.

The committee’s report exploring Canada’s response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was quietly tabled Monday, just as MPs were set to vote on expanding and extending the combat mission for another year.

The motion passed with a vote of 142 to 129, with the opposition withholding its support in part because of a lack of new humanitarian contributions and clarity over the military mission’s ultimate goal.

A holistic approach is necessary in order to end ISIL’s reign, the committee concludes.

“Decisively pushing ISIL out of population centres and eliminating any local support it may enjoy in those areas will be tied to progress made in addressing broader societal challenges,” the report said.

“Ultimately, defeating ISIL in a definitive sense will require the implementation of governance and security sector reforms in Iraq, and the formation and deployment of effective and accountable Iraqi security forces capable of recapturing and holding territory in all regions of Iraq….”

During the course of the debate on the security motion, the Conservatives argued that they don’t view the solution to ISIL as military might alone, but that until the security situation on the ground is stable, no real development can occur.

The committee seemed to disagree, arguing the time to contemplate a development plan is now.

“The committee recommends that the government of Canada develop a long-term strategy to guide its engagement in the Middle East and North Africa, anchored by the objectives of supporting good governance, advancing pluralism and expanding economic opportunities, particularly with respect to the youth population.”

In voting against the mission, the opposition argued Canada could be taking a leadership role in laying the groundwork for development projects down the line.

In its report, the committee proposed several different avenues Canada could pursue, from providing more assistance to support Iraq’s security forces to continuing to fund programs that keep children in Iraq and in Syria in school.

The Conservatives are already engaged in several of the initiatives proposed, though some of the committed funding — $5 million to help survivors of sexual violence, for instance — has yet to be spent.

To date, the government has spent close to $100 million in Iraq, with most going towards direct humanitarian relief, while a further $700 million has been spent in Syria, again mostly for emergency aid.

On Tuesday, Canada was called upon to pledge nearly $180 million towards a record-breaking international aid appeal for Syria alone this year.

With the Syrian civil war in its fifth year, the United Nations is making an $8.4-billion appeal for funds at a major international pledging conference in Kuwait.

That’s twice the combined totals of UN appeals over the last two years.

The increase reflects a dire and deteriorating situation in Syria and neighbouring countries as they contend with an overflow of refugees.

“This is a dangerous tipping point,” Antonio Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said at the meetings, according to a prepared text of his remarks.

“If we fail to provide adequate support to refugees and their hosts, and to build up their resilience to cope with the long-term pressures of this increasingly protracted refugee situation, we risk a further destabilization of the entire region.”

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