OTTAWA, Sept. 29 :(Xinhua) — Canada’s two main opposition leaders have attacked Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s foreign policy in an election debate three weeks before Canadians go to the polls. In the debate held in Toronto on Monday, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, whose popularity has been on the rise, challenged Harper over his government’s recent decision to revoke the citizenship of Zakaria Amara, a
Jordanian-born man serving a life sentence for leading a terrorist plot targeting several Canadian sites, including the parliament building in Ottawa.
Trudeau said that Harper “devalued” Canadian citizenship when it’s taken away “because you don’t like what someone does.” The Prime Minister replied that Canada has revoked the citizenship of convicted war criminals and should be able to do so with convicted terrorists, such as Amara, who “would have detonated bombs that would have been on a scale of 9/11.”
Meanwhile Tom Mulcair, leader of the traditionally left-of-center New Democratic Party, accused Harper of “campaigning on the politics of fear” through such measures as his Conservative government’s controversial security legislation, Bill C-51.
Mulcair said the bill does little to keep Canadians safe while giving the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) increased powers, which Mulcair noted threatened Canadians’ basic human rights and freedoms.
“The threat we face today is not CSIS it’s ISIS,” Harper responded, referring to the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
On Canada’s military mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or simply IS), Harper said that combating the radical Islamist militant group is in Canada’s best interests as it posed a threat to Canada.
Mulcair said, if elected prime minister, he would only support the mission if it has NATO or UN approval. Harper also defended his government’s policy regarding the Syrian refugee crisis. “We haven’t opened the floodgates,” he said, noting that some European countries “just started letting everybody in and now they’ re trying to reverse those policies.” Earlier this month, the Canadian government announced that it would resettle 10,000 Syrians by next September.
On Canada’s relationship with the United States, Trudeau and Mulcair accused Harper of souring it over the contentious issue of the Keystone XL pipeline that would send crude oil from Canada to the United States, but which U.S. President Barack Obama has yet to endorse. The Prime Minister replied that he had a “great” relationship with Obama, and turned the issue back to the joint military mission against the IS.
“Imagine,” said Harper, if Mulcair or Trudeau were the next prime minister and told Obama that because he was “continuing the policies of George W. Bush,” Canada was withdrawing from the mission. “If you really want to poison the relationship, that would be the way to do it.” The three men will meet again for a fifth and final debate — in French — on Friday in Montreal.