New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair invoked United Nations mandates three times during the Maclean’s National Leaders Debate this past Thursday.
When asked about the circumstances under which an NDP government would deploy troops or jet fighters into combat in light of the party’s historic opposition to doing just that, Mulcair cited the NDP’s support for operations in Libya in 2011 as evidence of his and his party’s national security bona fides: “Yes, we’ve shown that willingness in the past when it was based on a UN mandate, as in the case of Libya.”
The moderator then asked whether the current consensus among Canada’s traditional allies (the United States, the UK, and France) for military operations against ISIS in Iraq satisfied Mulcair’s suggestion of multilateralism being a necessary precondition for military engagement on the part of Canada. Mulcair responded by implying that the NDP’s opposition to Canadian military support for the mission was based on its lack of a blessing from the UN. “This is not a United Nations mission, unlike the mission I just referred to in Libya a couple of years ago,” he said. “So we think that we are taking a wrongheaded approach here.”
Mulcair then suggested Canada needs UN approval of military operations a third time: “The answer to that is that we’re always going to evaluate it based on whether or not it is a United Nations mission.”
Both the NDP and liberals opposed Canadian military support for strikes against ISIS in Iraq. In 2015, Mulcair derisively referred to American military operations against these Islamic terrorists as “Bush’s war.”
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau stated he does not support “combat missions” against ISIS, but rather “training missions.” In 2014, he suggested that Canada’s support for those targeted by ISIS should be a sharing of Canadian expertise and materiel in dealing with cold climates, not military operations. In response to the Boston Marathon bombing, he suggested the “root cause” of Islamic terrorism was a feeling of exclusion by terrorists.
Both Mulcair and Trudeau avoided any mention of Islam or Muslims when discussing ISIS and, more broadly, Islamic terrorism. The brief introductory video for the foreign policy segment of the debate produced by Maclean’s magazine also avoided mentioning either term, instead referring to “international terrorism.”
Watch the full debate here.