© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Rick Hillier was guest speaker at the Canadian Student Leadership Conference in Montague Thursday.
Canada’s former top soldier says rushing to war in Syria is not the way to go.
Retired General Rick Hillier said he believes Canada should push for, and support, diplomatic solutions to the civil war in Syria.
“I don’t think we’ve articulated as an international community what our purpose is, what our mission is,” Hillier said during a visit Thursday to Prince Edward Island.
“If we went out and struck Syria militarily, as an international community, we may inadvertently do a whole bunch of things that are actually worse for the people of Syria than what’s going on right now.”
Earlier this week, the United Nations chemical weapons experts found ‘indisputable’ evidence of a chemical attack on an Aug. 21 in a Damascus suburb. This attack resulted in numerous casualties, particularly civilians and children.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied his government orchestrated the attack, but has agreed to a Russian-U.S. agreement to give up his chemical weapons.
But Assad told Fox News in an interview this week destroying stockpiles of these weapons will be costly and will take up to a year to complete.
Hillier said Thursday Canada should support the United States and Russia in pushing for a peaceful handover of these weapons.
“I think we can play a very real role in pushing for a non-violent solution now, because I don’t think (a military strike) is going to achieve anything,” he said. “I think a good first step is to help the United Nations and the international community to get those chemical weapons and see how far we can push that one though.”
Hillier said he was not surprised in the least by the UN’s confirmation of the chemical attack in Damascus. In fact he believes there have been many others.
“There have been multiples over this past one or two years, which is why I say, why the rush to war now? Why didn’t we do that two years ago?”
A military strike could further destabilize the country, leaving the Syrian people even more vulnerable, he said.
In the meantime, Canada should continue to help the Syrian refugees.
“These refugees are so incredibly impoverished and destitute and frightened,” he said.
“It’s a tough situation, there’s no question. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet solution to (the conflict) … I think we’re going to have a lot of dying and bloodshed, sadly, in Syria for a long time yet.”