Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberal Government, Military Defend Letting Canadians Shoot First in Iraq

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Liberal Government, Military Defend Letting Canadians Shoot First in Iraq

Article excerpt

Canadians allowed to shoot first in Iraq

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OTTAWA - The Liberal government faced fresh accusations of misleading the public on Tuesday after the country's top soldier said Canadian troops have been allowed to fire first in Iraq.

Government and military officials have previously said Canadian troops can and have fired in self-defence, including to defend their Kurdish partners and civilians.

Chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that such defensive fire includes instances where his troops have taken the first shot against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"We are allowed to deal with a threat that is emerging that would overwhelm those we are working with, or ourselves, if we didn't deal with it," Vance said after the committee meeting.

He cited as an example a situation where Kurdish forces might not have the weaponry to destroy an ISIL suicide bomber driving a heavily armoured vehicle. Canadian troops have been pictured with anti-tank missiles in Iraq.

"That is the definition of defensive fire," Vance said. "We don't have to be shot at first. We can take the first shot if it is to save lives."

The general told committee members there has been "all sorts of speculation" and "wordsmithing" around the mission in Iraq, but that the military continues to operate within the limits laid down by the government.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan echoed that assessment in the House of Commons, adding Canadian soldiers have a duty to protect civilians when required.

"In many cases they need to protect not only themselves, their coalition partners and civilians," Sajjan said in response to opposition questions.

"This is an imperative they have a duty to do so. And I'm very proud of the work they're doing in fulfilling their mission in an honourable manner."

But Vance's comments renewed opposition party allegations that the Liberal government has been playing political games with the Iraq mission, as well as calls for greater transparency.

"The Liberal government not only attempted to silence our military, they continue to mislead Canadians by insisting that we are in a non-combat role," Conservative defence critic James Bezan said in the House of Commons. …

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