OTTAWA — Defence Minister Jason Kenney delivered a mea culpa Wednesday for his erroneous claims that Canada was the only nation outside of the United States with smart-bomb technology that was willing to launch airstrikes in Syria.
Kenney made the statement several times last week in the House of Commons, as well as in television interviews and a media availability. Problem is, it wasn’t true.
It is a well-established, widely known fact that the U.S. and some of its Arab allies — notably Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — have conducted airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
They all use U.S.-made, laser-guided “smart” weapons — including Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs, and so-called Paveway bombs.
Kenney rose in the House of Commons on Wednesday to correct the record and take responsibility for the mistake. He said he “wasn’t given accurate information” in the briefings he’d received from the military.
The controversy was taken to a whole new level last weekend when the country’s top military commander, Gen. Tom Lawson, defended Kenney to an Ottawa newspaper, saying only the U.S. and Canada could hit moving targets in Syria with smart bombs.
Kenney piled on, distributing Lawson’s letter on Twitter as proof he was correct.
Lawson, however, climbed down from the statement on Tuesday, saying another coalition ally had used the advanced weapons on at least one occasion.
It’s not the first time Kenney’s version of the facts has elicited controversy.
He landed in hot water last month when, to mark International Women’s Day, he tweeted a photos of Muslim girls and women covered in black and in chains. He cited it as another example of ISIL brutality.
The photos were actually of a ceremonial Shia Ashura ceremony that celebrates the heroism of the prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Hussein, and his family.
Both Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau slammed Kenney over the smart bombs gaffe.
“Jason Kenney has always had an uneasy relationship with the truth,” said Mulcair. “He’s always pushed that envelope. He’s good at spinning lines and now he’s simply been caught.”
Trudeau described Kenney as the prime minister’s principal cheerleader — something the minister said he considers a badge of honour.