NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair has accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of misleading Canadians into believing our military would not be involved in a ground combat mission in Iraq.
Mulcair told reporters in Toronto on Tuesday that Harper was simply playing with words.
“Mr. Harper cannot get away with telling Canadians there will be no combat by our troops and then try to explain the fact that they are involved in combat,” Mulcair said.
Senior military commanders revealed Monday that Canadian special forces advisors have been laser-targeting Islamic State positions for coalition bombers, and got into a firefight with the jihadist group last week after coming under attack.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the prime minister needs to be more forthcoming about Canada’s role in Iraq.
“The issue today is that the prime minister made some statements in the fall around this mission that turn out not to be entirely truthful and therefore the prime minister has some very serious questions to answer for,” Trudeau said in London, Ont., where he was meeting with his caucus.
Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel accused the media of twisting what was essentially a firefight in self-defence into something more.
“The media now pretends that the mission … has turned into a ground combat mission, which has been contradicted by the Canadian Armed Forces,” Lebel said in a statement Tuesday.
He said the Liberals and NDP “would prefer Canada sit on the sidelines while others do our fighting for us.”
Both parties voted against the mission when it came to a vote in Parliament in September.
In a statement from the PMO, spokesman Jason MacDonald said Canadian troops are in Iraq to “advise and assist” Iraqi forces and are not engaged in ground combat.
“A combat role is one in which our troops advance and themselves seek to engage the enemy physically, aggressively, and directly,” MacDonald said. “That is not the case with this mission.”
Whether its considered as a ground combat role or not, retired general Lew McKenzie designating targets for airstikes must be considered part of the mission Canada signed up for.
“Coalition air power is being wasted if Islamic State targets are not being identified on the ground. You don’t see much at five or 10,000 feet. You have to be guided to your targets.”
A Canadian Forces video released at Monday’s military briefing showed a ground-level shot of two targets being destroyed by bombs, presumably by Canadian troops.