On October 6, 2014, Minister of Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre, MP for Nepean-Carleton, stood in the House of Commons to provide the case for the military engagement in Iraq to stop the advancement of ISIL/ISIS. Here is the full excerpt of his speech.
Mr. Speaker, the principal purpose of government is to protect its citizens. It is the purpose that we must, above all else, serve in our response to ISIL. To guide our course, I believe we must answer the following questions. First, does terrorism threaten Canada? Second, does ISIL in the Middle East add to that threat? Third, if so, how do we counter the threat of ISIL?
The first is the threat of terrorism in Canada.
Since 9/11, we have a clear chronology of threats on our soil. April 2004, Sleiman El-Merhebi firebombed the library of United Talmud Torah’s Montreal Jewish School. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.
In 2004, RCMP arrested Momin Khawaja and courts later convicted the born-and-raised Ottawa resident for financing terrorism and building a remote controlled device, dubbed a “Hi Fi Digimonster”, to trigger terrorist bombs.
In 2006, police announced they had uncovered the Toronto 18 terrorist bomb plot, which also included a plan to assassinate the Prime Minister, kidnap MPs and blow up the Parliament buildings. Eleven of the eighteen were convicted or pled guilty and the ringleader, Zakaria Amara, got a life sentence.
Then there was Misbahuddin Ahmed, also from Ottawa, found guilty three months ago of facilitating terrorism, or his inspiration, Hiva Mohammad Alizadeh, who just received a 24-year sentence for plotting an attack within Canada and possessing the explosives with which to do it.
In July 2013, John Nuttall and Amanda Korody were charged for an alleged al Qaeda-inspired plan to use pressure cooker bombs at festivities in Victoria.
To answer my first question, does terrorism threaten Canada? The answer is proven yes in roughly two dozen convictions by Canadian courts since 9/11, showing clear and present danger that terrorism presents to Canada.
Yet some will ask, what does any of this have to do with ISIL? That brings me to the second question, does ISIL in the Middle East add to the terrorist threat against Canada?
Ask Farah Mohamed Shirdon. He is a Calgarian, a recent student at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. This summer he appeared in an ISIL video from the Middle East where he now fights, saying “This is a message to Canada…we are coming and we will destroy you”. If Farah Mohamad Shirdon can commit terrorist atrocities with ISIL in Iraq or Syria, why could he not have done the same when he was a college student in Calgary?
There is Salman Ashrafi, a privileged and prosperous business analyst also from Calgary, who helped murder 19 people in a suicide bombing in Iraq in November 2013. What would have stopped him from orchestrating the same suicide bombing at the Calgary Tower, or the Saddledome or Encana’s skyrise building, The Bow? Does it sound far-fetched? Consider this excerpt from a recent National Post article:
But in Calgary, [Ashrafi] had apparently fallen in with a circle of extremists who lived in the same apartment building above a small Islamic centre….According to an account posted online by one of the men, who now goes by Abu Dujana, they worshipped Anwar Awlaki, the pro-Al Qaeda propagandist whose videos urge Muslims in the West to either go abroad and fight or conduct terrorist attacks at home.
Again, while they lived and operated in downtown Calgary, they worshipped a pro-al Qaeda propagandist who urged them to attack their home communities.
They were not alone. Three months ago, the RCMP charged Hasibullah Yusufzai with travelling for the purpose of terrorism, alleging the B.C. resident had joined a terrorist group in Syria.
Then there is Ali Mohamed Dirie, the same terrorist who served two years for plotting to blow up this very building along with the Toronto Stock Exchange. He recently turned up again. He was fighting for al Qaeda in Syria. Thankfully, he was killed there. However, his life and story illustrate the overlap between Middle Eastern terrorism and terrorism based in Canada. This individual tried to attack here before going to fight there.
CSIS indicates that roughly 130 Canadians have travelled to conflict zones, including Syria and Iraq. They are thought to be taking part in front line combat, fundraising, operational planning and disseminating online propaganda. This phenomenon is not unique to Canada. There are an estimated 2,000 westerners who are fighting alongside these terrorists.
I want Parliament to consider this question. If such terrorists walked freely on Canadian streets yesterday and are killing civilians as part of ISIL in Iraq today, what makes members think they will not execute the same atrocities in Canada tomorrow?
Imagine the platform they will have if their dream of ISIL statehood is fulfilled. They are close already. They have seized control of an area as large as Belgium. They rule lands covering 40,000 kilometres and 8 million people from northwestern Syria to within an hour of Baghdad. Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, has fallen into the hands of these terrorists, as have Tikrit, Fallujah, Tal Afar and the main power base in Syria, Raqqa. The group reportedly has $2 billion in cash and assets, making it the wealthiest militant group on planet earth, according to the BBC.
Within ISIL’s territory, it is beginning to lay down the foundations of government and state, hence the name. The group has erased old borders and videotaped itself literally kicking down border fences between two different countries. It now has a court system, law enforcement, taxes, tolls, administrative buildings and street signs, all of which could eventually form the apparatus of a state.
To answer the second question, does ISIL add to the terrorist threat against Canada? Undeniably. The risk to Canadian civilians multiplies exponentially with a new terror state intent on attacking us. Imagine the launch pad it would have from which to carry out these attacks.
To my third and final question on how we counter this threat. Some say with humanitarian aid. Aid is worthy, and we are providing it. We will feed, clothe and treat the victims, but that will not stop the victimizer. Members of ISIL beheaded a taxi driver from London last week, precisely because he was an aid worker.
We must remind ourselves that the root cause of terrorism is the terrorist himself. He, and he alone, has chosen his path. It is he and the evil within him that we fight. We know we must degrade and, where possible, destroy him before he destroys us. That means delivering critical military supplies to Kurdish peshmerga forces, using CC-130 and CC-17 cargo planes to airlift military supplies, donated by countries like Albania and the Czech Republic. It means using special ops Canadian Armed Forces personnel in northern Iraq to advise and assist. It also means that Canadian CF-18s will join with President Obama’s coalition to strike ISIL terrorists from the sky.
It takes purpose and planning. What is our purpose? It is to protect Canadians from ISIL terrorists. What is our plan? To block them when they enter Canada, to lock them up when they are here, to strip their citizenship when we can and to join with our allies in order to attack them abroad before they can attack us here at home.