It’s pretty well a done deal: Canada will go to war — in a limited way, at first anyway — in the Middle East.
The majority of government MPs in Ottawa will see to that rather quickly. The promise to consult and debate the proposal regarding our active combat role in the fight against the terrorists in ISIL was concluded in one day, Friday.
A majority of Canadians, even those who self-identify as Liberal or NDP supporters politically, support sending air strike equipment and personnel to Iraq and probably to Syria. The evidence of that was shown in several polls conducted last week.
Here’s the extent of Canada’s commitment to the international military effort in Iraq right now: 10 aircraft of various kinds, 600 military personnel, for six months.
No Canadian ground troops will be sent, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper promises he will consult and debate again if the six-month engagement is to become something longer.
Although the goal suggested by U.S. President Barack Obama is to eliminate the ISIL threat, Harper says Canada will deem our mission a success if we “seriously degrade the capabilities of ISIL.”
Our aim is to stop the terrorists’ ability to conduct military movements of scale, or to operate in the open.
Harper has also said that if the president of neighbouring Syria requests it, he will authorize Canadian planes to do bombing runs at targets in Syria.
That we can do in six months. In fact, current information says the stated Canadian goal has already been reached. ISIL no longer conducts military movements “of scale.” They are hiding in the villages, towns and cities — among civilians.
For his part, Obama is already speaking publicly about the probability of civilian casualties, the men women and children who get blown up by the smartest of smart bombs nearby the buildings identified as containing ISIL forces, leaders or equipment caches.
In Canada, Harper is not talking about such things. He is also not talking about his government’s cutbacks to accepting refugees fleeing towns controlled by ISIL.
Canada’s official goal for helping to alleviate the humanitarian crisis for over a million Syrian refugees already waiting in camps is 1,300 people.
If Canadian sponsors can be found for these refugees, that is how many Canada will accept. About 1,100 such people have already been allocated to enter Canada, sponsored mostly by churches and non-profit groups, who promise to take responsibility for these people until they settle as landed immigrants.
How many have actually landed so far? A couple hundred or so.
Canada’s largest sponsor is the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto. After going public with their difficulties in dealing with Canadian immigration officers, their 135 refugee claims were fast-tracked.
The archdiocese has no more applications allotted to them.
A whole lot of immigration offices have been closed by the federal government, leading to a backlog lasting years for all current applications, never mind any new ones.
Either the process in approving refugee claims is too time-consuming, the offices are starved for staff or the federal government is deliberately delaying the fulfilment of its humanitarian goals. I believe the reality is a combination of the three.
News reports have already detailed an ongoing genocide of ethnic Christians in Iraq and Syria. That’s a major source of the explosion in refugees from the areas where ISIL operates.
None of this is any secret nor is it recent news.
That leads to my questions for the government, and for the people who support our military role in stopping ISIL:
l How many civilian casualties will Canada accept on its bombing runs in Iraq (and probably Syria)?
l Will that number be greater than or less than the number of legitimate refugees we can pry through our under-staffed Immigration Canada offices, before our six-month combat stint is supposed to be over?
Innocent lives saved versus innocent lives taken. When the casualty reports come in, I hope someone will keep track of the score.
Greg Neiman is a retired Advocate editor. Follow his blog at readersadvocate.blogspot.ca or email email@example.com.