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Liberals, NDP would 'put Canada at risk' with ISIS: Conservative candidate

A local Conservative candidate says other parties don't appreciate the threat ISIS poses when they suggest altering the federal government's contribution to bombing in Syria — and would put Canada at risk on "the altar of ideology" if elected.

'There's no point in delivering humanitarian aid to dead people,' Jason Kenney says of other party strategies

Hamilton Mountain Liberal candidate Shaun Burt, centre, debates with Hamilton Centre Conservative candidate Yonatan Rozenszajn, left, and Hamilton Mountain NDP candidate Scott Duvall at an all-candidates meeting of the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union of Canada on Sunday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A local Conservative candidate says other parties don't appreciate the threat ISIS poses when they suggest altering the federal government's contribution to bombing in Syria — and would put Canada at risk on "the altar of ideology" if elected.

Yonatan Rozenszajn used strong words in a Hamilton Mountain debate held Sunday by the local Assyrian Chaldean Syriac community, an ethnic minority targeted by the terrorist group in their traditional homeland of Syria and northern Iraq.

There's no point in delivering humanitarian aid to dead people.- Jason Kenney , Harper defence minister

When the Liberals and NDP suggest boosting humanitarian aid by "sending crates of food," Rozenszajn said, "you can't take that seriously."

"My friends here simply do not have an appreciation for the threats that are facing not only Canada but also our allies and our family and friends in that part of the world," said Rozenszajn, an Israeli-born lawyer, to the group of about 75.

"They do not understand how to deal with these threats adequately."

Other parties, Rozenszajn added during his closing remarks, would "put Canada at risk on the altar of ideology."

We will cut off the ISIS lifeline, flow of funds, flow of arms and flow of foreign fighters.- Scott Duvall, NDP, Hamilton Mountain

Rozenszajn, a Hamilton Centre candidate, pinch hit for Hamilton Mountain candidate Al Miles in a federal election debate held by the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union. City councillor Scott Duvall carried the banner for the NDP, the party that's held the riding for three terms. Shaun Burt, a teacher, represented the Liberals.

Burt and Duvall disputed Rozenszajn's characterization, saying their parties would take a different approach to fighting the terrorist group.

More equipment is needed, more training and more humanitarian aid.- Shaun Burt, Liberal, Hamilton Mountain

The NDP propose decreasing military involvement in Iraq and boosting humanitarian aid, Duvall said. Canada's role in bombing ISIS targets inside Syria has been expensive and ineffective, and the Harper government has only recently had any sort of plan.

"We're spending hundreds of millions of dollars conducting what amounts to just three per cent of air strikes against ISIS," he said. "We think those resources can be used in a much more effective way."

"We will cut off the ISIS lifeline, flow of funds, flow of arms and flow of foreign fighters."

Jason Kenney chats with the crowd after the Assyrian Chaldean Syriac Student Union debate. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Burt, meanwhile, said the Liberals would focus on training local troops on the ground and supplying equipment and humanitarian aid. Right now, he said, the federal government is bombing ISIS "without any real results."

"Our belief is to put more money intro training the forces in the area," he said. "More equipment is needed, more training and more humanitarian aid."

Calgary Conservative candidate Jason Kenney, who served as defence minister, showed up after the debate to talk to the crowd at the Assyrian Church of the East on Stone Church Road West. He's been helping fellow Conservatives campaign in Toronto and Hamilton this weekend.

He echoed Rozenszajn's take, arguing that talk of decreasing military involvement to Assyrians takes "some chutzpah."

"As these people will tell you, there's no point in delivering humanitarian aid to dead people," he said. "There's no point in allowing ISIL to create new refugees. We have to do our part to stop ISIL from its campaign of genocide and that requires our participation in this international coalition."

The candidates also fielded questions on the economy and education. But the most heated were around foreign policy.

Muneer Nissan is a Hamilton engineer who moved here 15 years ago from Tell Tamer, Syria. He most wanted to know about a subject that wasn't directly asked — what Canada is doing about the 220 Assyrian Christians ISIS kidnapped in northeastern Syria.

"Nobody's doing anything about it," he said.

Nissan still has an uncle living in Tell Tamer, a village mostly inhabited by ethnic Assyrians. Nissan said sometimes he can't bear to watch the news.

He said he still doesn't know who he's voting for.

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