October 8, 2001
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Canada pledges 2000 soldiers
to war against terrorism

Ajit Jain in Toronto

Canadian Minister for National Defence Art Eggleton says that more than 2,000 Canadian military personnel will be involved in US-led multi-national military offensive against Afghanistan that was launched on Sunday.

In a press briefing on Monday morning in Ottawa, he said he authorised the deployment of Canadian troops overseas 10 days ago.

In his prepared statement, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien said on Sunday that in response to US President George W Bush's request for help in joint military action against Afghanistan, he agreed to make "certain contributions as part of a multinational military coalition against international terrorism."

Chretien said: "We will stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States and when these things happen, we have to stand up to it and we would take the necessary steps to increase the security of Canadians."

In his 10-minute telephone conversation with Bush, he said he fully committed Canadian support to fight terrorism.

"The struggle to defeat the forces of terrorism will be a long one. We must remain strong and vigilant. We must insist on living on our terms, according to our values, not on terms dictated from the shadows," Chretien said in his statement.

Eggleton said six ships would be dispatched to the Persian Gulf, including HMCS Halifax and HMCS Vancouver.

The navy's purpose will be primarily to support US naval maneuvers while aircraft will aid in humanitarian drops and surveillance.

Canada will contribute three Hercules aircraft, one Airbus, and two Aurora Maritime Patrol aircraft.

To start with, Canada is planning a six-month deployment, said General Ray Henault, chief of defence staff. It will make adjustments as the situation develops over a period of time.

Opinion amongst Canadian politicians is divided over Canada's military commitment to joint forces. While Chretien has full support of Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day and Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark, leader of the New Democratic Party Alexa McDonough condemned the attacks and said Chretien shouldn't have committed Canadian troops without a vote in the House of Commons.

A similar suggestion is made by Lloyd Axworthy, former minister for foreign affairs, now heading a think tank at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

A special debate in the House of Commons will take place on October 15 when Parliament resumes after Thanks giving holiday.

Axworthy suggested that "the House of commons should be convened immediately, not only as the forum through which Canadians can express their solidarity, but as a place where tough questions can be asked about the conduct and objectives of this military operation.

"We all knew this battle was coming, but little clue was given as to the nature of Canadian involvement," said Axworthy.

"Justice will not be served by bombing civilian targets such as power plants and the infrastructure and supports civilian necessities," McDonough said.

"We all are very concerned about what it means for us to be part of a military assault in a situation that is US-led, under US command, not under Untied Nations auspices," she argued.

In his statement to reporters, Chretien recounted how the world looked on in shock and disbelief on September 11 "as the deadliest terrorist attack in history was carried out against hundreds of defenceless victims in New York and Washington."

The War on Terrorism: The Complete Coverage

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