Last week in politics began in a somber and weighty manner, as MPs debated the mission against ISIS. In a 157 to 134 vote, the House of Commons endorsed sending six (aging) CF-18 fighter-bombers, two CP-140 surveillance planes, one aerial tanker aircraft and 600 personnel to support the airstrike campaign against ISIS.
The vote fell along party lines, although there were exceptions, such as noted humanitarian Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who abstained though his party voted against the motion.
I think this was one of those occasions when many in the House truly wrestled with their own conscience. I understand why Prime Minister Harper and the Conservatives caucus feel they must join the international coalition. Leaving aside just who had a hand in creating the morass that is Iraq in 2014 — cough**George W. Bush**cough — ISIS is a huge and growing problem. I understand why Thomas Mulcair and the NDP are against it — it is a step down the slippery, unsolvable slope to boots on the ground in a region where peace remains an elusive, ephemeral concept. I understand the reluctance of the Liberal Party caucus to vote in favour of this mission. How will we just walk away after six months? No one expects ISIS will be miraculously defeated in six months.
When the root of a problem lies in generational poverty and religious hatred, when surrounding Arab countries look to the West for help, yet many strongly suspect they themselves are funding ISIS, when the coalition forces those who want to help to ally themselves with the Assad regime in Syria which has been busily killing its own citizens for the past two years — these are all questions that must be considered.
It comes down to this. Canada is now entering into a battle that has been going on, in one form or another, for a millennium. It hasn’t worked out so well in another eons-long fight in Afghanistan. A lot of military hardware and money has been thrown at that problem too. And yet it remains dangerous.
Will Iraq ever be different? I don’t think so.
But Canada is joining the fight and we certainly must support our men and women of the Armed Forces who will be taking on this mission.
On another note, while we are busy defending freedom abroad, it seems we may not be so keen on the concept at home. A study by Evidence for Democracy, a non-profit group that advocates for evidence-based public policy, has found that open communication between government scientists and the media, and therefore the public, is not supported. In other words, journalists have to speak to communications staff rather than scientists when they have questions. CBC News reports that The National Research Council was the only department that allows its scientists to express their personal views, provided he or she states that the opinions are his or her own. Apparently the most egregious departments for keeping scientists away from direct communication with media are The Canadian Space Agency, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Industry Canada and Natural Resources Canada.
So apparently, if you want scientific answers, you must accept those answers spun in the obfuscating web of government communications-speak. I mean really, why would you want to talk to a scientist about a scientific matter?
Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin