Canadian Conservative leader Rona Ambrose is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reverse his plan to end Canada’s bombing mission against the Islamic State (IS) and pledged her “full support” should he continue the airstrikes.
Ambrose addressed media on Saturday in Canada’s Parliament, offering her condolences to the French public after the deadly attacks on Paris Friday night. IS has claimed responsibility for the carnage.
“Yesterday’s terror attacks make us even more resolute that we must continue the fight against the Islamic State,” Ambrose said.
But Ambrose, when asked about the possibility of an Islamophobic backlash from the attacks, also had a message for Canada’s Muslim community.
“We’re all in this together.”
The freshly-minted leader did not, however, directly criticize Trudeau’s refugee plan in light of the attacks, as several commentators and conservative strategists did on social media on Friday evening.
Trudeau committed repeatedly to bringing in to Canada 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year — a number and timeline he has stuck to since his first day in office. On Saturday, according to the Toronto Star, a spokesperson for the prime minister said the attacks will not change that plan.
Ambrose wouldn’t say whether her party opposes that plan directly, except to say that “Canadians are asking the question: can we do it this quickly in a secure way? And I think that’s an appropriate question.”
Pushed on her position, Ambrose still called the plan “important” and “compassionate,” but added some skepticism.
“If you do the simple math, you’re talking about over 500 people a day. It’s up to the government,” she said.
On the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, however, Ambrose was unequivocal.
“Canada should not withdraw the Royal Canadian Air Force from the coalition currently fighting ISIS,” Ambrose said. “That’s why I’m calling on the Liberal government to immediately change its position on withdrawing Canada’s CF-18s.”
Ambrose promised her party would support Trudeau should he decide to continue the airstrikes.
On Friday, Trudeau pledged his full support to France, but when asked about whether it would impact the decision to pull out of the bombing campaign, or how it could affect anti-terrorism laws he has promised to amend, he said it was too soon to draw any conclusions.
Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion reiterated the country’s support on Saturday.
“The reaction is a reaction of immense sadness, but also absolute resolution to fight what the president of France rightly called an act of war,” Dion said to CBC. He went on to say that the government’s intention is to be a “stronger partner” in the coalition fight against IS by reallocating efforts to training, to support local fighters, and to humanitarian assistance. “It’s not to withdraw, to the contrary. It’s to be more effective,” he said.
Canadian airstrikes have increased in recent days, with its fighter jets conducting roughly a dozen airstrikes in Syria and Iraq since the beginning of November. CF-18s dispatched by the Canadian air force were amongst the coalition planes that helped Kurdish forces reclaim the strategically important town of Sinjar.
It’s likely that Canadian planes were slated to play a role in upcoming efforts from the Iraqi Security Forces to take back the city of Ramadi.
While a firm date has not been given for the withdrawal, the government has pledged to bring Canadian military assets back home in a “responsible way.”
“As you know, Muslims — particularly minority Muslim communities — are targeted by ISIS themselves in Syria and Iraq. My message to them is that they are an important part of the response. Here in Canada, the Muslim community has been very vocal in condemning the attacks of ISIS, which took place here on Canadian soil,” Ambrose said, referring to the pair of attacks against Canadian soldiers in October 2014 which claimed two lives.
The opposition leader, who had been criticized for her reticence to speak French, read her opening statement in Canada’s other official language, and took several questions in French.