Damaging decisions

Stephen Harper’s behaviour on the global stage should be a concern

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last Friday that Canada would be participating in airstrikes to combat ISIS.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced last Friday that Canada would be participating in airstrikes to combat ISIS.
Supplied by The Crown.

Miriam Bart, ArtSci ’15

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has effectively damaged Canada’s peacekeeping reputation by pulling the country into another war.

The Prime Minister has achieved this by distancing Canada from the United Nations (UN) and making decisions without sufficient understanding of how to represent Canadians on a global level. With the campaign period for the 2015 federal election fast approaching, it’s important to dissect certain events over Harper’s eight-plus years as prime minister.

Harper’s recent approval of an airstrike-based combat mission against the Islamic State (ISIS) wasn’t properly justified to Parliament, nor did he give a proper reason to the population of Canada.

As Canadians, we must decide if fighting ISIS via airstrikes over the next six months is truly a sound decision. Both the NDP and the Liberal Party opposed the motion to allow airstrikes last Friday.

Canada’s past military involvement in Afghanistan tells us that six months may not be the limit of our participation in Iraq and Syria if Harper is re-elected. It’s clear he’s determined to keep Canada at war, since our last troops in Afghanistan only left this year.

Harper’s disillusionment with the UN and his consistent refusal to give sufficient details about the plan to combat ISIS makes him a poor leader, with a lack of understanding of how to represent Canada effectively on an international level.

Harper spoke to the UN General Assembly for the first time in the past four years on Sept. 25 — a day when Western countries received a direct threat from ISIS. That day, Harper spoke anti-climactically about his maternal health initiative.

Needless to say, child health is important. However, as outlined in a Sept. 25 article by the Canadian Press, David Morley — the president and CEO of UNICEF Canada — said it was neither the time nor place to discuss a topic with a previously known solution.

During each of the three times Harper has officially visited the UN, he’s spent more time connecting with the corporate elite to raise funding for his health initiative. When he decided to address the General Assembly in September, it would have been much more pertinent to discuss complex issues that require urgent attention and collaborative action.

You could tell by the lack of attendance to Harper’s address to the UN — as seen by the many empty seats in the audience — that his voice as a world leader may not be considered too important. His lack of participation, unfortunately, reflects poorly on all of us as Canadians.

On Sept. 24, Harper let slip that he planned to do more in the battle against ISIS. He hadn’t previously given this much information on Canada’s involvement concerning ISIS, especially not in Parliament.

In a move that lacked transparency, Harper agreed to support the Americans in their airstrike mission against ISIS after receiving a letter from the Obama administration asking for Canada’s help. That’s all Harper would reveal about this letter, which he could have made public.

The Conservative motion to allow Canada’s military participation in the Middle East was voted on in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with 157 votes in favour and 134 against.

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said Harper and his party lacked any sort of transparency regarding this decision, noting that the Conservatives have refused to clearly answer questions about the mission.

In response to the motion, retired Senator and Military General Romeo Dallaire said, “There’s no way you will destroy that enemy without boots on the ground.”

The war against ISIS isn’t ours to fight. At best, an airstrike approach may temporarily distract the terrorists from their ethnic-cleansing pursuits, but it won’t stop them — and it’ll kill far more innocent civilians than they could ever behead. In fact, it’s not hard to believe that military action may increase ISIS membership and support. Another ineffective invasion by the West will cause more grief than good in the Middle East.

Party leaders have been divided on the topic in the House of Commons, with Mulcair acting as the voice of reason. The Prime Minister said after the vote that “we must do our part” to combat ISIS. Both Liberals and the NDP have said that a focus on humanitarian aid would be best in terms of Canadian involvement in this issue.

With an election approaching in 2015, it’s important to understand what kind of Canada we as citizens want to portray to the rest of the world.

A prime minister who disregards our place at the UN and who draws us into wars that we have no place in isn’t the representative Canadians deserve.

Miriam Bart is a fourth-year environmental science major.

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