Harper meets with NATO secretary general

Mar 23, 2015 | News

Stephen Harper shakes hands with the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg in Ottawa on Monday. (Reuters)

Stephen Harper shakes hands with the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg in Ottawa on Monday. (Reuters)

By Ian Burns

Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with with NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg Monday in Ottawa, with the fight against ISIS and the conflict in Ukraine at the top of the agenda.

Simon Palamar, research assistant at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ont., told Humber News he expects the mission against ISIS to be extended.

“I expect it will involve more activity in the air and training on the ground,” he said. “But, if the mission is going to get ‘scaled-up’, it will take a few months.”

Palamar said that Canada may get involved in air strikes against ISIS in Syria, but noted there are diplomatic issues in cooperating with Bashar al-Assad’s regime in that country.

Aurel Braun, professor of international relations and political science at the University of Toronto and visiting professor of government at Harvard University, told Humber News that Canada is acting within Canadian traditions by in its involvement in the fight against ISIS.

“We’ve always been willing to put lives at risk to guard human rights and values,” he said.

In an interview with CTV News’ Question Period on Sunday, NDP leader Thomas Mulcair said that, although his party would support a UN- or NATO-led mission, “We think it’s wrong for Canada to be involved” with a U.S.-led mission.

Braun said, whereas the Conservatives and NDP have made their point clear on their positions on the anti-ISIS mission, the Liberals are in a “difficult dilemma” with regards to the mission.

“They hope to form the next government,” he said. “Will they be viewed as responsible in terms of international action and Canadian principles of standing up for human rights?”

Braun said he expects the Liberals to “grudgingly” support the mission, as long as they receive assurances about the length of the mission and its scope.

Palamar agreed with Braun’s assertion.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Liberals vote for an expansion of the mission, or at least allow their MPs to vote their conscience with a free vote,” he said.

The situation in Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces are battling Russian-backed separatists in its eastern region, was also discussed.

“Canada has taken a very hard line on Ukraine,” said Braun. “Canada needs to show whether or not it is willing to provide the defensive armaments that Ukraine has been pleading for.”

Palamar said he expects that Canada will lean toward sending defensive armaments to Ukraine, especially if the U.S. and the U.K. also do so.