PM Justin Trudeau said the U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis called Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to give Canada a heads up. | Photo: Reuters
During a question and answer session at the House of Commons on Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said they were informed about the bombing of the Shayrat airbase near Homs, “about an hour before the airstrikes by the American military on Syria.” He said that U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis called Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan Thursday night to give Canada a heads up regarding the U.S.’s intention to launch an offensive on Syria. The PM said Sajjan “immediately” briefed him.
But, on Friday, U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer disseminated information that contradicted Trudeau’s statement. “Missiles were launched at 7:40 p.m. during dinner,” Spicer told reporters at the Tideline Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. “Foreign leaders and congressional leaders were notified starting at 8:30 p.m., just as first impacts were hitting the ground.”
The Canadian PM repeated his comments later in Dartmouth saying Mattis did, in fact, call Sajjan an hour before the strikes began. He also said that while his government will continue to help their allies fight terrorism and provide humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people that “Canada’s military role in the region remains unchanged. We will continue to work to see how Canada can help,” Trudeau said. “But right now Canadian military efforts are concentrated on continuing our mission in northern Iraq.”
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre criticized the Trudeau government for what he said were inconsistencies in the prime minister’s response to the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Poilievre noted that Trudeau said the U.N. Security Council should launch an investigation into who was behind the use of the deadly nerve toxins. The conservative MP said the rapid change in positions proves Canada has been “completely out of the loop” on developments in the region. “Now (Trudeau) says he fully supports the United States’ unilateral missile strikes against the Assad regime,” Poilievre said in the House. “The government’s position seems to change with the wind.”
According to a transcript circulated by the Prime Minister’s Office, Trudeau told U.S. President Donald Trump that Canada fully supports the “limited and focused action to degrade the Syrian regime’s ability to conduct chemical weapons attacks.”