ELECTION 2015: Defence minister discusses foreign policy on Penticton street

Defence Minister Jason Kenney, right, discusses the nation's foreign policy with reporters on a Penticton street Friday, May 22, 2015 while door-to-door campaigning with local Conservative candidate Marshall Neufeld, centre.

PENTICTON - Signs of an upcoming federal election were apparent in Penticton today as the Conservative candidate for South Okanagan-West Kootenay Marshall Neufeld was seen stumping with Federal Minister of Defence Jason Kenney.

The two stopped their door to door campaign on Douglas Avenue for a brief word with the media, May 22.

Kenney answered several questions relating to Canada’s foreign policy, particularly concerning recent events in the Middle East. He was asked about Russian and western forces’ coordinated efforts to supply weapons to Iraq.

“We’ve supplied weapons to the Kurds, who are integrating with the Iraqi security forces, certainly our allies have done the same. There are 60 countries supporting Iraq in the fight against ISIS, and about two dozen are currently involved in the military campaign, including Canada,” Kenney says.

He told reporters Russia hadn’t involved itself in the military campaign to date but said there was a very broad coalition of common interest involving virtually every Middle Eastern country, and almost all of Canada's traditional Western allies, to stop the organization because it posed a very serious risk to international security. As an example, he noted ten radicalized Canadians had been detained from travelling to the Middle East to join ISIS earlier this week.

“We’ve had many other similar detentions, we’ve had the two terror attacks in October, clearly inspired by ISIS, so this organization and its claim to be a caliphate has the power to radicalize and recruit individuals including Canadians who can pose a real security risk to us. That’s one of the reasons we’re there,” he says, adding their was also a moral obligation to support all ethnicities in the Middle East. He said Russia’s aggressive Eastern European policy didn’t lessen Canada’s support of the coalition, which also involved Russia.

Kenney was also asked what happened to the Taliban, since the seemingly sudden rise of ISIS as the dominant terror group in the past couple of years. Kenney says it was never the objective to have a permanent Western military presence in Afghanistan, noting the Taliban continued to be a threat in the southern part of the country, but there was a now a “competent, sovereign government in Afghanistan that we can deal with, and that can fight the terrorists themselves.”

“ISIS is an organization that has attracted thousands of recruits from around the world who are galvanized by this bizarre idea of creating this so-called  caliphate - an Islamic Kingdom based on (a) seventh century, violent conception of Sharia law, and for many youngsters looking for meaning and purpose, sadly, this kind of violent death cult offers them a very clear purpose - to die for this caliphate," he says. "They believe it is the realization of an apocalyptic vision. It’s hard for us to understand, it’s totally irrational, but it’s real."

Kenney says it is Canada’s duty to play a role rather than leaving the job to other countries.

On the local front, Neufeld was asked if the recent NDP victory in Alberta changed his campaign strategy or made him nervous.

He say he wasn’t nervous about it but added it had provided a motivating factor to the party. Neufeld says he expected to see a three and possibly four way race in the South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding.

“You can never take the Liberals for granted in any election, anywhere in the country, and of course the NDP, placing second last time has to be a factor, and I think a lot of people forget the Green Party actually placed third and placed quite well in this area in the last election or two, so I think we’re going to have a three, or possibly four person race,” he says.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at sarstad@infonews.ca or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

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