Society of Friends (Quakers)
60 Maryland St.
Winnipeg R3G 1K7
14 February 2016
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
As the Winnipeg Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), we are writing to express our concern about changes recently announced in Canada’s war against ISIS.
We welcome the withdrawal of the six CF-18s that have been bombing targets in Iraq and Syria, but are dismayed by the retention of refuelling and surveillance aircraft together with aircrew and ground personnel. These will be working in support of coalition bombing, and will continue to be aided by
Canadian troops marking targets. The present plan provides that the withdrawal of Canadian fighter jets will not bring the expected end to Canadian bombing in Iraq and Syria, and instead will ensure that Canada’s role in bombing will continue. The loss of human life and the destruction of infrastructure required for the eventual rebuilding of peace and wellbeing in this devastated region will be unabated.
We are deeply concerned by the tripling of the contingent of Special Forces trainers in an “advise and assist” role with military forces in Iraq. We understand that in addition to marking bombing targets, this will include work at the front lines, may involve combat and will be supported with light arms and ammunition. Together with similar contingents from other coalition members, this appears to be a gradual move toward deploying Western ground troops in combat roles in Iraq and Syria. As such it is a dangerous escalation in a situation where the political negotiations necessary for any reduction in conflict have proven exceptionally challenging. We urge the Canadian government to reconsider and withdraw from this escalation in favour of steps toward negotiated reductions in the intensity of conflict and toward expediting a path toward peace and reconstruction.
We are also concerned about elements of the proposed changes that have yet to be outlined in detail, notably security efforts and counter-terrorism initiatives. We would urge vigilance and careful attention to the protection of local populations and the meticulous observance of international standards of human rights in the work of Canadian personnel and the coalition personnel with whom they are working.
We are cautiously positive about those elements of the changes that will contribute to stabilizing and enhancing the quality of life and reinforcing local capacity in health, education, water and sanitation in Lebanon and Jordan, where the effects of the war and the influx of war-affected people have been so demanding. We urge that this work be conducted through civilian channels.
We welcome the humanitarian aid component of this program, while noting the scale and intensity of the need and the impossibility of a significant improvement without resolution of the armed conflict. We urge that the highest priority in our policy in the Middle East be work toward de-escalating the conflict, and toward encouraging and supporting diplomatic and political initiatives in the direction of peace.
Winnipeg Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)