Liberals to reveal new Iraq, Syria military mission in coming days, minister says

The details of the Liberal government's military mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria will be revealed in a "couple of days," according to the minister of international development.

Humanitarian aid and military contribution part of 'holistic approach' says minister

A masked man in a recent ISIS propaganda video spoke with a British accent and threatened Prime Minister David Cameron, vowing that ISIS would one day occupy the United Kingdom. Canada's role in the fight against ISIS will change under the current Liberal government, though it's not yet clear exactly what the new priorities will be. (Reuters)

The Liberal government will reveal the details of its military mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria in a "couple of days," according to the minister of international development.

"We will be announcing our full commitment to the Middle East with Prime Minister Trudeau, the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of national defence in a couple of days," Marie-Claude Bibeau told reporters on a conference call from London.

Bibeau is among 70 delegates in the British capital for a one-day conference that's seen about $10 billion committed over several years.

The Quebec MP did not announce any new funding for Syria at the meeting, insisting her government would announce additional aid with other measures in a "holistic approach," that would include military, diplomatic and humanitarian contributions to defeat ISIS and help Syrians fleeing violence in the region.

The minister would not confirm whether details of the mission will be released before Harjit Sajjan, Canada's minister of defence, heads to Brussels for a NATO defence ministers' meeting next week.

Canada's minister of international development Marie-Claude Bibeau shares a moment this week with a family of Syrian refugees in Jordan who are going to Canada. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

To date, Canada has committed $650 million in humanitarian aid for people affected by the Syrian civil war and $233 million for longer-term development.

The Supporting Syria and the Region Conference was co-hosted by Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations. Aside from providing economic aid for refugee host countries, the meeting set the goal of raising enough money to ensure all refugee children are back in school by 2017. 

Since the beginning of Syria's civil war five years ago 11 million people have been displaced and 4.59 million Syrian refugees have been registered by the UN. 

'Needs far outstrip the donations'

Canada's government has done a great deal, said Nicolas Moyer, executive director of the Humanitarian Coalition, an umbrella group of five agencies. Now Canadians must play their part, he said.

"The reality is we are not able to fundraise ... for the Syrian crisis as much as we would like," he said. "The needs far outstrip the donations coming in, the access to resources that we have from all sources. "

Last fall, as the Syrian refugee crisis dominated headlines, the previous Conservative government committed to matching private donations to overseas aid efforts up to a maximum of $100 million. The program was to expire at the end of December, but the Liberals extended it until the end of this month.

The extension didn't result in an influx of new cash, Moyer said. Several factors are at play, he suggested, including the nature of the conflict, the domestic response to the Syrian refugee crisis and the work of humanitarian agencies themselves.

Donor fatigue setting in

"Humanitarian organizations in Canada have solicited their donor bases and those have responded in a very strong way, but after five years of engaging our constituencies and asking them for more, it's not surprising that there is, across the country, a certain apathy to the topic," he said.

"We need to be looking at working more closely together at options to engage the public in different ways."

The UN and regional countries say they need US$9 billion for 2016 alone, as the situation in the region deteriorates. Inside Syria, 70 per cent of the population is without regular access to safe drinking water and two million Syrian children haven't gone to school in years.

Bibeau is in London following trips to Jordan and Lebanon to observe the impact of Canadian aid dollars to date. She will be talking with other donor countries about what support will look like in the coming months.

Need to protect civilians 

Humanitarian and development assistance are expected to be a large part of the Liberals' plan for Canada's role in the fight against ISIS.

One theme will focus on helping countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey deal with the 4.6 million people who've sought refuge since the war broke out.

Moyer said he also sees a role for Canada in helping facilitate the movement of aid in the region.

"We need to be looking at better and stronger ways to protect civilians," he said. "There is a big advocacy and diplomatic effort that needs to be done around that."

with files from The Canadian Press