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Canada will 'do its part' in fight against ISIS: Harper

Jessica Hume. (Andre Forget/QMI AGENCY)

By Jessica Hume, National Bureau

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (L) listen to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso speak during a news conference with on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (C) and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (L) listen to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso speak during a news conference with on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says ISIS is a direct threat to Canada and the world, and Canada will "do its part" to help fight the terror group.

"The situation, as I have said before, with a terrorist caliphate occupying in the open a wide expanse of territory, not simply slaughtering and threatening to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people, but this phenomenon is a direct threat to the security of this country," he said Friday. "That has to be countered."

U.S. President Barack Obama continues to try to rally international support for a military campaign against ISIS.

Asked whether the U.S. asked for Canada's military assistance or whether Canada offered it, Harper said there's "no reluctance" on Canada's part to play a role in fighting ISIS.

"President Obama indicated in the summer that he would be undertaking action against the (ISIS) threat and that he would be talking to a broad range of partners to form a coalition," he said. "When we recognize there is a threat like this that has to be done and it involves our own interests, we do our part."

"We do not stand on the sidelines and watch."

Harper will meet with cabinet next week to discuss further military contributions to Obama's coalition. There is plenty of speculation Canada will send CF-18 fighter jets to join American, British, French, Dutch and other air forces to provide support to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Earlier in the day, the British Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of participating in airstrikes against ISIS.

Canada has sent 69 Special Forces to Iraq to serve in an advisory capacity.

Harper has said there would be a vote in Parliament before Canada's role evolves into a combat mission.

Opposition parties are withholding support for any expanded involvement until they have more details.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar expressed concern about the government's reluctance to provide details about Canada's involvement.

Dewar said he thinks the humanitarian issues should be the top priority, not fighting ISIS.

"I was called by (Foreign Affairs Minister John) Baird, the prime minister called Mr. Mulcair to say we're looking at lift capacity to send humanitarian assistance; that was fine," he said. "Then it turned into we're sending ammunition...then it was we're sending troops."

Dewar believes it matters whether America asked for Canadian assistance or whether Canada offered because "it's our men and women we're sending over in harm's way and our Parliament should be the one who's debating that and yes, these details are extraordinarily important."

Canada commanded a bombing mission in Libya in 2011. Prior to that mission, Parliament voted unanimously in favour of Canada's involvement.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has criticized the government for not being "up front" about the mission in Iraq. He doesn't support any combat role for Canada.

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