Column: Paris attacks shine spotlight on campaign promises

The Paris tragedy has thrown a sharper spotlight on two of PM Justin Trudeau’s election campaign promises.

Last Friday’s horrific terrorist attack in Paris was a frightening realization of the sweep of ISIL fanatics and their ability to coordinate and carry out multiple attacks. With brutal savagery they chose soft targets – young people enjoying a meal, down time with friends, or a concert. By the end of the night, 129 lay dead, over 350 were injured, many critically, and President Francois Hollande declared that “France is at war’ with terrorism.

Washington is already expecting France to retaliate with a stepped up role in the U.S.-led coalition’s bombing campaign against the Islamic State.

The Paris tragedy threw a sharper spotlight on two of PM Justin Trudeau’s election campaign promises – to cancel our CF-18 participation in the bombing raids against ISIL and to bring 25,000 refugees to Canada by the end of the year.

Should he stick to the campaign script or heed what some are calling for – keep the CF-18 Hornets in the skies and slow down the refugee intake pending the time it could take for full security screening?

Trudeau hasn’t called for a change of plans as yet. No telling yet when the fighter jets will return home. But right now those six jets are punching above their weight.

On Tuesday, under Operation IMPACT, two fighter jets successfully struck three Islamic State fighting positions near Ramadi, Iraq, with precision-guided munitions, the Department of National Defence said.

As of November 16, CF-18’s have conducted 1,121 sorties. This week’s airstrikes were the second round involving Canadian jets since last Friday’s attacks in Paris. Despite the fact the aging jets are small in number, their contribution going forward is significant and should continue.

In addition, Canada has contributed two Aurora surveillance planes and about 600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel to the coalition. According to the DND website, Op IMPACT has helped our allies see ISIL lose its ability to operate freely in 25 to 30 per cent of populated areas of Iraq that it previously controlled.

Trudeau has also, rightly, committed to increasing the number of Special Forces troops training Kurds to fight ISIL in northern Iraq. In training the Kurdish forces, our troops have a mandate to advance to front lines and into battle.

The humanitarian commitment includes bringing 25,000 refugees to Canada within the next six weeks. That’s a tall order and anyone would understand the government moving its self-imposed deadline into 2016.

On Monday, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall asked Trudeau to suspend his plan, arguing that if a small number of individuals who want to do harm slip in under cover of a rushed refugee resettlement process, it could be disastrous. But terrorists posing as refugees are a long shot, given intense screening and time delays.

The track record of refugee threats in North America is thin. The Economist last month reported that out of 745,000 refugees who resettled in the U.S. since 9/11, only two Iraqis have been arrested on terrorism charges.

The incoming refugees have been in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan for several years and have already been vetted by the UN High Commission for Refugees. Some will continue to be screened on military bases once they get here.

The majority are families with children. While they go through the various Canadian clearance levels many questions of mass resettlement must be addressed – housing, schooling, English language and job training, medical needs, transportation, and a mountain of paperwork.

A dreadful geopolitical tragedy has put Trudeau’s government in the crosshairs just 10 days after taking office.  If the government fails, it’s on them. If the government fails to act, it’s on them. With that goes leadership.

That campaign promise under sunny skies had better work.

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