As It Happens

Canada's allies are 'welcoming our re-orientation' in ISIS fight, says Stéphane Dion

Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion says Canada's Allies are welcoming his government's decision to withdraw from the air campaign against ISIS and to find other ways to contribute to the coalition effort to combat the terrorist group and bring peace and stability to Syria and Iraq.
Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, left, meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry alongside NATO ministerial meetings at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP) (The Associated Press)

Fresh from meeting with his NATO counterparts in Brussels, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about his government's decision to end Canada's participation in the air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Here is part of their conversation.

Carol Off:    How does Canada's plan to pull out of air strikes fit with our allies?

Stéphane Dion:    It fits well... We are not pulling out of the coalition in the fight against this horrible terrorist group. In fact we are re-orienting our effort to be more optimally effective in the coalition... in important aspects of the mission like training the local fighters, training the police, strengthening the governance, strengthening the institutions in a country that is dysfunctional now and needs to be improved.

CO:    Do you feel that the airstrikes are themselves effective, or is it just Canada's role in the airstrikes that you don't think is effective?

SD:    No, no, we need the airstrikes. But Canada is only delivering two per cent of the airstrikes. So with this investment we may reorient our effort to do much more in other skills that we have.

CO:    You feel that the airstrikes are being effective even though we've seen that ISIS is actually growing quite strong in the region.

SD:    It would be even worse if they were not stopped by the airstrikes.
 
Canada already has Special Forces trainers working alongside Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in the north of Iraq. In March Sgt. Andrew Doiron was shot and killed by Kurdish forces when his unit was returning to an observation post near the front lines.

CO:    The reason we lost people is that we were so intimately involved in calling in strikes and being so close to the action. Do you see that continuing? 

SD:    No.  And you remember that, when it happened, we asked the government to clarify, because the prime minister of the time, Prime Minister Harper, gave his word to the House and to Canadians that it would not happen this way, that we would not have our trainers themselves so close to the combat. So that's not something that is considered.


This interview was edited for length and clarity. 

To hear the full interview please click on the Listen audio link above.

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