10 years later Jean Chrétien talks about his decision not to send Canadian troops to Iraq

Andy Radia
·Politics Reporter

It was ten years ago this week that then Prime Minister Jean Chrétien told Parliament and told the world that Canada would not be participating in the Iraq war.

CTV's Don Martin had a one-on-one interview with Chrétien, on Tuesday, to reminisce.

"It was a very important decision," Chrétien said.

"It was in fact the first time ever that there was a war where the Brits and the Americans were involved and Canada was not there.

"And it turned out to be a very important decision for the independence of Canada. Because unfortunately a lot of people thought sometimes we were the 51st state of America. It was clear that day we were not."

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Chrétien, 79, added that he made the decision to not enter the war because it was his government's policy to not commit troops without UN backing.

"I was not convinced they weapons of mass destruction," Chrétien said.

"I had said to [U.K. Prime Minister] Tony Blair and President Bush...you should have a UN resolution."

At the time, Chrétien faced intense pressure from the media, from the public and even Don Cherry. Opposition leader Stephen Harper was one of the most adamant about joining the"coalition of the willing."

"Alliances are a two-way process," Harper said in a 2003 speech in the House of Commons.

"We should not leave it to the United States to do all the heavy lifting just because it is the world's only superpower.

"As the possession of weapons of mass destruction spreads, the danger of such weapons coming into the hands of terrorist groups will multiply, particularly given in this case the shameless association of Iraq with rogue non-state organization."

Despite all the controversy, the decision not to join turned out to be the right one.

The U.K.'s decision to join the war has resulted in years of introspection in the form of an on-going national inquiry. By participating in the war, taxpayers in that country are on the hook for a CDN$14 billion bill. Moreover, 178 of their troops perished.

A recent poll, published in the Guardian newspaper suggests that only 28 per cent of Brits believe the war was justified and made the world a safer place.

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The death toll for American troops was over 4,400 while other nations lost 130+. Some of have also estimated that over 100,000 Iraqis civilians were killed, as a result of the war, between 2003 and 2010.

And they never did find those weapons of mass destruction.

The full Don Martin/Jean Chrétien interview can be seen here.

(Photo courtesy of Reuters)

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