By: Janice Dickson, iPolitics
Conservative Interim Leader Rona Ambrose alleged today that the Liberals are no longer briefing the media on Canada’s role in its anti-ISIS mission in Iraq.
Ambrose said Trudeau “is not being transparent with Canadians about our role in these combat operations. He called it a training mission, but we have learned through social media that our troops on the front lines and engaging the enemy. This is serious.”
In question period today, she accused the Liberals’ of changing the communications policy to eliminate technical briefings for media “for political reasons.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau replied by insisting his government remains open and transparent about the mission — “but we will not compromise their safety for a communications exercise here at home.”
While the Canadian Forces and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan continue to update the media on Canada’s mission in Iraq, media were told earlier this month that the Canadian Forces will no longer disclose details when Canadian troops come under fire from ISIS militants while advising and assisting Kurdish fighters on the front lines in Iraq.
But the government hasn’t stopped the briefings altogether, as Ambrose and other Conservative MPs claimed today. Sajjan took questions from reporters for nearly 40 minutes this week; the Canadian Forces updated reporters earlier this month on the ISIS mission and will update them again next month.
Conservative MP James Bezan called on Trudeau to apologize to the Canadian Forces for signalling he didn’t trust them to provide briefings. Sajjan’s parliamentary secretary John McKay assured Bezan that the CF is pursuing its Iraq mandate — to advise and assist — and their role has not gone beyond that.
Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus raised an additional issue related to recent media reports that CF soldiers have gone beyond the limits of advise-and-assist and are taking part in skirmishes against ISIS militants.
“We learned last month the mission changed … but this was hidden from Canadians,” he said. “There are rumours they are doing more than advising. When we were in power we were more transparent about what our soldiers were doing.”
Bezan, jumping in for a second time, pointed to Sajjan’s refusal Tuesday to rule out expanding the mission to Syria.
“Is the minister aware he has contradicted the prime minister?” he asked.
McKay said that the government will assess the needs of the coalition, but right now the mission is focused on Iraq. McKay did not answer an additional question from Paul-Hus about whether an extended mission in Syria would be put to a vote in Parliament.