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
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
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); } //

Chief of Defence staff General Jonathan Vance speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Aug. 30, 2016.

FRED CHARTRAND/The Canadian Press

The country's top soldier says that Canadian troops have shot first at Islamic State forces in Iraq, reopening the question of whether the military is engaged in a combat mission against the terror group.

While government and military officials have said Canadian Forces are allowed to fire in defence in Iraq, General Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, made it clear Tuesday that troops have fired first at the Islamic State. However, he said this does not mean the mission is turning from a "train, advise and assist" role into a combat one.

"The use of force by our soldiers on this operation ... has only been used in a defensive mode to ensure that our partners were not subject to an attack that they couldn't deal with," Gen. Vance told the House of Commons defence committee.

Story continues below advertisement

"If you are suggesting that our forces have been manoeuvring so as to provide offensive fire, thereby taking the fight to the enemy, then you are wrong."

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Gen. Vance insisted Canadian troops have always been allowed to fire first in the fight against the Islamic State – something he says he has made clear throughout the mission.

"I've said this publicly. We do not have to be shot at first to defend ourselves," Gen. Vance said. "I don't think that any Canadian that's listening out there would think that we need to be shot first before we can take defensive actions."

For instance, Gen. Vance said that Canadian Forces would shoot first if Kurdish forces do not have the ability to defend themselves against suicide bombers, in order to protect themselves and their partners. He said he is confident Canadian troops are still operating within the parameters of the mission mandate outlined by the Liberal government.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan echoed Gen. Vance's comments Tuesday, saying Canadian troops need to be able to defend themselves, their partners and civilians.

"When it comes to self-defence and the rules of engagement, you do not have to wait to be shot at first," Mr. Sajjan told reporters. "The last thing you want to be able to do is put a restriction like that onto our troops."

Last year, the Liberals campaigned on the promise to end Canada's combat mission in Iraq. Although the government withdrew Canada's six CF-18 fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition in February, it ramped up the training mission by increasing the number of troops on the ground to more than 200 from 69. Canadian troops were first deployed to Iraq in October, 2014, under the previous Conservative government.

Story continues below advertisement

The federal government continues to insist Canada's involvement in the coalition against the Islamic State is not a combat mission. However, the opposition parties disagree.

"The Liberal government ... continues to mislead Canadians by insisting that we are in a non-combat role," Conservative defence critic James Bezan said during Question Period Tuesday. "Will the defence minister finally be honest, acknowledge that our troops are in combat, and apologize for misleading Canadians?"

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said outside the House of Commons that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have to stop "beating around the bush" and call the Iraq mission what it is.

"Mr. Trudeau promised word for word in his program to put an end to Canada's involvement in the combat mission in Iraq. He has not done that. This is a combat mission. When you have soldiers on the front line firing first, you're in a combat mission."

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 the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
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

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

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