Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Canadian special forces look over a Peshmerga observation post on Feb. 20, 2017, in northern Iraq.

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The federal Liberal government is facing calls for an independent inquiry following allegations the military failed to respond to a complaint three years ago that Iraqi forces being trained by Canadian troops had committed war crimes.

NDP defence critic Randall Garrison suggests the complaint and concerns about the vetting of other Iraqi forces working with Canada are part of a disturbing pattern going back at least a decade, which is why he believes an independent probe is needed.

“What I’ve seen over time is that rank and file Canadian troops and lower levels of the officer corps have brought these issues to the attention of senior leaders, and senior leaders appear to have a pattern of telling people just not to pay attention,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

“Why is that happening? I think there needs to be an independent inquiry. Is this the fault of certain senior leaders? Or is there something systemic here that causes us not to uphold international (law) and even our own national law?”

Military police are currently investigating the handling of an incident in September 2018, where Canadian soldiers were helping with the enrolment of 270 Iraqi troops for a U.S.-led training mission near the northern city of Mosul.

An internal report obtained by The Canadian Press and first reported on by Postmedia says the Canadians were shown videos of war crimes and human rights violations being perpetrated by the Iraqi troops they were there to train.

Yet when the Canadians raised the issue with their commanders, according to the report, they were told the matter would be dealt with and that they were to ignore the videos and “carry on.”

One of the soldiers involved said he tried to raise the issue with his commanders on three different occasions, but that he and other members of his unit “remain uncertain whether appropriate action was effectively taken.”

A separate, secret memo obtained by The Canadian Press shows then-defence chief general Jonathan Vance was warned in January 2020 that the vetting of Iraqi security forces with whom Canadian troops might have interacted lacked “sufficient depth.”

Garrison says the recent concerns are a continuation of issues first raised in Afghanistan more than a decade ago, when the military was accused of having transferred detainees to local authorities despite knowing they might be tortured.

Story continues below advertisement

That is why he believes the inquiry should also include a fresh look at what happened then. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who previously served in Afghanistan, rebuffed NDP calls in 2016 for such an inquiry into the Afghan detainee affair.

“Things that were war crimes came to the attention of Canadians, were referred up the chain of command, and nothing happened,” Garrison told The Canadian Press.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan in the House of Commons on Thursday questioned the government’s decision to extend Canada’s mission in Iraq given concerns about the Iraqi forces working with Canadian troops.

“Canada is contributing to greater peace and security in the world and remains a strong partner in the fight against (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” Sajjan’s parliamentary secretary Anita Vandenbeld told Bezan.

“We are committed to meeting our obligations under international and domestic law. The Canadian Armed Forces is no longer operating with the Iraqi security forces related to these allegations.”

Experts say it is not surprising that Canadian troops found themselves interacting with Iraqi soldiers who may have committed atrocities given the country’s recent history, and that part of their mission is to prevent such behaviour in the future.

Story continues below advertisement

“This sounds kind of maybe counterintuitive, but it just reinforces how much we’re needed there,” said Bessma Momani, an expert on Middle Eastern politics at the University of Waterloo.

Yet both Momani and fellow Middle East expert Thomas Juneau from the University of Ottawa said the reports underscore the need for better transparency and accountability when operating in such environments – and with such partners.

“The government should be more transparent with Canadians about the challenges involved in the mission in Iraq, and about what we are trying to accomplish,” Juneau said in an email.

“The government should also specifically be more transparent about what it is doing to make sure that Canadian troops deployed in Iraq, or in other comparable missions, comply with international law on these matters (and also on what happens if or when troops fail to comply with international law).”

The Opposition Conservatives questioned the Liberal government about a Canadian Press report on a secret memo that showed vetting of Iraqi forces associated with a Canadian-led training mission lacked 'sufficient depth.' The news of the memo follows allegations the military turned a blind eye to a complaint three years ago that some Iraqi forces being trained by Canadian troops may have committed war crimes. The Canadian Press

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies