Canada’s minister of foreign affairs says he is “proud” of the work Canadian soldiers did last week during a firefight against the so-called Islamic State, but that the men and women on the ground in the region are not there to engage in combat.
In an interview with the West Block’s Tom Clark this weekend, Stéphane Dion acknowledged that his party opposed combat troops on the ground in Northern Iraq when the Conservatives were in power, and that has not changed.
“They are not in combat, but … there are situations where you have no other choice,” Dion explained.
Canada’s military says that several of the 69 Canadian trainers currently deployed in Iraq, along with hundreds of local troops, came under fire from approximately 500 IS fighters near Mosul last week. They fired back and managed to hold the line.
“I feel proud. I think our men and women in uniform are very courageous, very professional, doing a great job,” Dion said. “(The mission) is to, for now, have the airstrikes and to help the national troops to be prepared to fight.”
The Liberal government’s revamped plan for Canada’s role in the fight against IS is coming soon, the minister re-iterated. Dion clarified that the plan for the end to the bombing mission will likely be announced in the coming weeks, but that the bombing itself may continue beyond that, as the plan will take time to implement.
Saudi Arabian involvement
Dion was also asked by Clark to clarify Canada’s position on Saudi Arabia, a country with one of the worst human rights records in the world that has been accused of helping to support the so-called Islamic State.
“There is no indication that they are supporting the Islamic State,” Dion said, adding that he is engaged in talks with Saudi officials on human rights and the fate of blogger Raif Badawi, sentenced to be flogged.
“We are questioning them of course, but we don’t consider them as an ally of the Islamic State.”