EDITORIAL: Strong and free

Canada continues to provide humanitarian aid while it commits to more military action

On a map, Syria and Iraq are a long way from Parksville Qualicum Beach.

To those who have family and friends in the Canadian Armed Forces, the conflict there hits much closer to home.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper rose in the House of Commons asking MPs to support a 12-month renewal of an international fight against ISIL, including air strikes over Syria.

Canada, it should be noted, has contributed $700 million in humanitarian aid to the war-torn region. Yes, we are committing to more CF-18 sorties, but we are not stopping the help we are providing to children and other civilians caught in the conflict.

“There is no either/or here between military action and humanitarian aid,” said the prime minister. “The situation desperately needs both and Canada has been vigorously providing both. We do not need to choose between fighting ISIL and helping its victims. We will continue to do both. Canadians did not invent the threat of jihadi terrorism, and we certainly did not invite it. Nor, as this global threat becomes ever more serious, can we protect our country or our communities by choosing to ignore it.”

Harper has his haters out there, of that there’s no doubt. Many live in this region, as evidenced by letters to the editor and other methods of public expression.

There is much to criticize about this government. All governments that have been in power for a time make mistakes. There are deeper issues with the Conservatives than simple mistakes — a puzzling and apparent distrust of science/research and the cuts to services protecting our coast, to name just a couple.

However, we scratch our heads when we hear the exaggerated wailing about how Canada has lost its place in the world, lost respect, how we used to be a helper and peacekeeper but now we’re not.

We continue to provide hundreds of millions, no, billions to humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies and education to children who did not choose to be born in war-torn or drought-afflicted areas.

Has our role in the world changed? That was inevitable — the world changed. We can no longer send brave members of our Forces into well-defined conflicts wearing baby blue berets. However, like we have always done, we continue to provide aid, and we also see our responsibility, with the use of our Armed Forces, to stop tyranny in its tracks. Make no mistake, what we fight against right now in Syria and Iraq is tyranny. And those tyrants have specifically mentioned Canada and Canadians as targets.

With a continued combination of humanitarian aid and armed support, Canada is doing what it has always done.

— Editorial by John Harding