House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was project.

Topics

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I would like to correct a couple of things the member mentioned in the speech he made today .

He said that it should be a diplomatic initiative. I want to tell him that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was in Paris for a diplomatic issue and from Paris he went to Cairo to meet Amr Moussa of the Arab League. Therefore, I want to state for the record that the diplomatic initiative the member has called for is happening.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that this morning we had a briefing for all the foreign affairs critics. The Liberal defence critic was also there. The whole process was outlined. Although it is in its early stages, some of the concerns that have been raised here shall be resolved, such as who is in command and what is happening. These issues are in the initial and early stages but, as we were told in the briefing today, they will be addressed in a couple of days. Therefore, many of the questions the member has today will be addressed by this government.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the parliamentary secretary always does a great job at defending whatever the government either is or is not doing. I appreciate that is obviously part of some job description that I have not seen, but he is undertaking it with great determination.

I have as clear a sense of the itinerary of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as anybody does. I follow it with interest. I know that he was in Paris. I know that he was part of those discussions. I also know that he was talking to Amr Moussa.

What I suggested to the minister and the parliamentary secretary specifically was that we should aim to have official representation in the Arab League in Cairo as quickly as possible, that our ambassador in Egypt should be accredited to the Arab League so that we are able to communicate directly with all of the countries that are based in Cairo. At this very moment, we do not have that accreditation. It is something important for us to do.

Second, what I suggested was that our diplomatic effort at finding a solution and continuing to aim for a solution obviously has to be as muscular as our willingness to send the CF-18s to patrol the airspace--

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will have to stop the member there.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, the Bloc Québécois supports Canada’s armed participation in the multilateral intervention in Libya. We support the troops who have been called on to participate in it. It is a perfectly legitimate operation since it is being carried out as a multilateral effort and its purpose is to protect the civilian populations.

While the Bloc Québécois supports Canada’s military intervention within this international undertaking in Libya, it also calls for extreme caution on Canada’s part. This intervention must not lead to human losses among Libyan civilians. That would be a gross violation of Security Council resolution 1973, which specifically provided that protection of civilians had to be the primary objective of the intervention.

We reiterate our belief that the federal government must consult parliamentarians concerning any deployment of troops abroad. Moreover, we condemn the immoral use of force by the Gadhafi regime against innocent people, and we believe that President Gadhafi's abuses of power must end. There must be an immediate ceasefire by the Gadhafi regime in relation to civilians and it must be honoured, as was not the case when the regime announced a ceasefire.

We have supported the measures taken by Canada to implement the two Security Council resolutions on Libya, including the asset freeze. We also applaud the decision by the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to investigate actions committed in Libya that look like crimes against humanity. As well, we believe that Canada must pursue its discussions with the National Transition Council that the opposition has established in Libya. And we express our compassion for all our citizens of Libyan origin who are living through a troubled time, in view of the situation in their country of origin, and we stand with them.

We support the sending of CF-18s to Libya because that intervention is consistent with a value that is fundamental to Quebeckers: that military intervention must be carried out in a multilateral framework. The Bloc Québécois believes that military interventions should be undertaken with the approval of the UN, the organization that has the specific duty to ensure that alternative solutions are found to war. We are opposed to any unilateral action, that is, any action decided on by a single country or a small number of countries.

The Bloc is also against the notion of preventive war, in other words, a war instigated against another country because we suspect it of intending to wage war. Of course, in the absence of an established and imminent threat, a country cannot go to war against another country merely because it harbours misgivings in respect of that country.

Two principles that guide our position on any conflict in which Canada is called upon to participate are our opposition to any and all unilateral action and our disapproval of preventive wars.

Multilateralism is, quite logically, in Quebec’s best interests. Moreover, it is in the best interests of nations that are not superpowers, such as Canada and any future sovereign Quebec, that there be a multilateral organization to manage conflicts.

The air raids in Libya are authorized under Security Council resolution 1973, which authorizes member states to take any and all necessary steps for the enforcement of a no fly zone to ensure that aircraft cannot be used for the purpose of airborne attacks on the civilian population.

The Gadhafi regime has on several occasions in recent days used its aircraft to attack civilian populations. The Bloc Québécois is therefore of the view that action must be taken to protect the civilian population against the attacks launched by its own government, which, as I said earlier, are tantamount to crimes against humanity.

Of course, Parliament must be consulted before any troops are deployed abroad. That much is made clear in sections 31 and 32 of the National Defence Act. We recognize the government’s prerogative to place the Canadian Forces on active service, which is what it did over the weekend, but we believe that any such decision must be approved post-haste by the House in order for it to be legal. We must bear in mind that the government’s authority comes from Parliament.

Furthermore, it is clear that soldiers risk their lives on these overseas missions. These soldiers are Quebeckers and Canadians. They have families and friends. They are risking their lives in another country because Canada has asked them to be there. Any such decision on Canada’s part cannot be made without the blessing of its citizens, and the representatives of those citizens are the members of Parliament.

We also know that the rebel leaders in Libya called on the UN to impose a no fly zone. Ultimately, Libyans and Libyans alone can, and must, decide what their future will be, but it is clear that the Gadhafi regime has no intention of allowing this to happen.

There was resolution 1970 on February 26, which provided for the seizure of Libyan military equipment, the imposition of an embargo on arms sales to Libya, sanctions against certain individuals whose assets would be frozen, the creation of a panel to review the situation in Libya, and co-operation with the International Criminal Court in its desire to bring to justice the members of the Gadhafi regime who are accused of crimes against humanity.

There was resolution 1973 on March 17, which called for an immediate ceasefire, the creation of a no fly zone over Libya, and other similar measures. The primary purpose of all these resolutions is to protect civilians.

The resolution aims to impose a ceasefire between the Gadhafi regime and the civilian population. Its aim is not the invasion, division or dismemberment of Libya. A clear message is being sent to the Arab world: this operation is not another Western intervention against the Arab world or against Muslims. It has clearly defined limits. This is not another Iraq.

For all these reasons and in light of the Paris summit last Saturday—which confirmed the multilateral nature of this intervention with the presence not only of many countries but also of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the Arab League and the President of the Council of Europe—we support the participation of the Canadian Forces in this operation.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, we all share the concerns of what is transpiring in many countries around the world and certainly respect and honour our military for coming to the call when they are needed.

The member made one statement that bears some consideration. He referred to this as being a message to all Arab countries around the world.

I have received some communications from constituents over the past week and they raised the question about whether this was just the first step of a broader conflict and a broader engagement involving not just enforcing a UN resolution on a no-fly zone and the freezing of the assets of Mr. Gadhafi and his family, but also an indication that there is a potential that there could be on the ground military and there could be engagement in other hot spots in the Arab world.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether those concerns have been raised and whether he believes that the government has opened itself now to engaging in a much broader conflict.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, a very important element in the strategy of those who called this very successful conference in Paris—quite a coup for French diplomacy—was the participation of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and, most importantly, the Arab League. Over the weekend, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr. Moussa, criticized certain specific aspects of the operation. In the end, though, the Arab League changed its stance and continued its support. This Arab League support is essential.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which includes 57 countries with Muslim populations, also condemned the actions of the Gadhafi regime. That is also very important. It is crucial, of course, for the diplomatic services of the countries involved in this operation to make every effort to convince the Arab world that this operation is not a Western intervention against the Arabs. It is an operation undertaken by the whole world to save Arabs and Muslims, in particular the civilian population of Libya. We are not there to overthrow the regime but to ensure it causes no further injury.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I was with my colleague from the Bloc and others in the briefing this morning by officials. One of the concerns we had was that this would not be an open-ended exercise. We wanted to ensure that we have parliamentary oversight, that we have a debate and that we vote on a motion.

Another concern is around ground troops. The member will know that one of the concerns we raised was about ensuring this would not be an opening for Canadian ground troops to be sent. We want to ensure that if there is any change in what we agreed to, it will come back to this place, to Parliament. Would he agree with that?

I also would like to know his party's position on the ground troops and on the kind of oversight there should be in terms of the mission itself.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, I believe a resolution was tabled, with certain amendments proposed by the NDP. These issues are being examined at this time and we will likely decide in the next few hours or minutes the exact position we plan to take. Certainly, as things stand now, there are no plans to send ground troops. As for the rest, we will see whether everyone in the House agrees on how the operation is envisioned in the resolutions brought before us.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I thank the Bloc. It is a rare thing for somebody from the west to thank a separatist party. Nevertheless, those members were very co-operative in getting Bill C-61 through the House and is now in front of the Senate. The bill would freeze the assets of all the dictators who have stolen money. On that basis, I thank the hon. member for his party's rapid support. I want to tell those Canadians who are watching that there was unanimous support for that bill from all parties.

This morning we had a very extensive briefing by officials from both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence. They discussed the legal aspects. They made it very clear what the resolution means. They made it very clear that no invasion was to be done. Invasion means occupying territory and that is not in the resolution. Protecting civilians is in the resolution and in rate cases protecting civilians requires ground troops.

The Bloc members made their position on this issue very clear. The UN resolution was extremely clear in stating that there will be no invasion. Today, President Obama said that removing Mr. Gadhafi was not the target, but rather it was about protecting civilians as the UN resolution states. It is quite clear that it is about protecting the civilian population, as the Prime Minister has also said.

I would like the hon. member to take that into account based on our briefing this morning.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, as I said earlier, we understand that the goal of the mission is not to invade Libya, but rather to protect the people of Libya.

As for the government member's thanks to the Bloc Québécois, I would say to him that we accept all the thanks we deserve, and we believe that, usually, we deserve them.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I would like to put forth the notion that the United Nations Security Council, acting under chapter 7, makes what is in effect legally binding resolutions on all of its members, including, in this case, the Arab League which supported it.

Could the member comment on how important it is to act with a certain degree of restraint in order to ensure that the Arab League, for example, stays onboard with this and participates as much as possible since it is aimed at protecting Arab civilians?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, it is probably more difficult for Arab League countries to become involved. According to the most recent reports, only one country, Qatar, had in fact sent any aircraft to take part in the mission, but I do not know whether others have joined in the past few hours.

It is more difficult for them to become involved militarily, although diplomatic support is also extremely important. As I was saying earlier, we must win the support of Arab countries as well as that of the governments in question if we want to convince Arab populations that this operation is not against the Arab world, but rather only against the Gadhafi regime.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I will begin my comments by stating that New Democrats will be supporting UN Resolution 1973 and obviously the debate we are having here is how that will be done in Canada.

It is important to give a bit of an overview and timeline on how we got here. As we know, there have been tumultuous events in the North African-Middle East region. When it comes to Libya, some of the most recent events started in mid-January. There were political corruption concerns of civilians and protests in Benghazi, Bani Walid and other cities. There were protests in the streets on issues around the lack of housing and corruption.

In late January there was a significant event. Jamal al- Hajji, a writer, political commentator and accountant, called out on the Internet for demonstrations to be held in support of greater freedoms in Libya. He was inspired by the events in Tunisia and Egypt. On February 1, he was arrested by plainclothes officers and was charged on February 3 with injuring someone with his car, which was a trumped up charge. Amnesty International claimed that because al-Hajji had previously been in prison for his non-violent political opinions, the real reason for the arrest appeared to be his call for demonstrations.

In early February, Gadhafi met with political activists, journalists and media figures and warned them that they would be held responsible if they disturbed the peace or created chaos in Libya. The protests and confrontations then began in earnest on February 15. On February 17, the day of revolt was called for by Libyans and by February 21 Libya erupted into violence with Moammar Gadhafi's son threatening rivers of blood and deployed security forces on protestors and some who had claimed by that point the second biggest city, Benghazi.

In the initial crackdown, 250 people had died in Tripoli alone. There were reports of military aircraft firing on peaceful protestors in Tripoli. On Monday, these reports were backed up by Libyan diplomats who had turned against the leadership of Gadhafi. Amid the violence, there were also signs that some officials and troops were deserting the Gadhafi regime.

It was at that moment that my party, on February 22, made a statement that the Government of Canada must unequivocally express its support for the peaceful realization of the Libyan people's democratic aspirations. At the time we called on the Canadian government to use all its available diplomatic channels to help put an end to the Libyan regime's violent oppression.

On February 22, we called on Canada to work with international partners to bring the issue of a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace to the UN Security Council. We believed that was required on February 22. On February 26, when the UN Security Council passed the first resolution, Resolution 1973, which enacted sanctions, we pushed again for the Canadian government to engage our UN partners and others to push for a no fly provision.

We had welcomed the sanctions with regard to the Gadhafi regime at the time on February 26, but we were also very concerned and remain concerned about the response of the Canadian government, frankly, when it came to evacuation and the missed opportunity for humanitarian support. We believed at the time, and said so publicly, that Canada should advocate not only for the UN no-fly provision but also to help refugees on the borders of both Egypt and Tunisia. We also believed in the need to refer Gadhafi and the members of his regime to the Hague, the International Criminal Court, and that is something that has been put forward through the UN.

It was also noted at that time that the UN and the Arab League had been calling for a ceasefire. That was something we believed was important to note.

At the time, as was mentioned by some of my colleagues, other institutions were also speaking out. We heard from members the African Union, which is important to put that on the record. They were condemning the violence of Gadhafi. We also heard from the Organization of the Islamic Conference and, as we have already noted, the Arab League.

As we debate this motion, we must remember that it is not just a military engagement. We believe that there needs to be humanitarian support. We have heard from at least one minister that there is contemplation for humanitarian support. We would certainly encourage the government to make concrete plans and to let Canadians and the international community know those plans. We have lift capacity in situ.

We also believe there is an opportunity to engage with the Diaspora here. As has been noted before, we have had fundraising done primarily but not exclusively by Libyan Canadians. We have had Canadian Libyan doctors offer their support to help with a humanitarian mission. We think they need to be engaged. They have offered and we should take them up on that offer.

The government needs to be clear about the goals of this mission, which is what this debate is about and, presumably, what the motion will detail. We have been in conversation with the government and have asked for amendments to be made to the motion that we will be bringing forward to this House in a couple of hours.

I will go over some of the things that we would like to see. I have already mentioned the need to be very clear about what Canada's commitment to UN resolution 1973 is and what it is not. We have certainly let the government know this today. I will say publicly for the record that we will hold the government to account that this is not about deploying ground troops, that this is about supporting the no-fly zone and that there is no contemplation by the government to deploy ground troops. There is a provision for humanitarian efforts and rescue, which has been noted and is obvious, and that is something we understand.

Everyone needs to see and understand what we are committing to in the motion. We want the government to say that we will engage in all aspects of the UN resolution, such as the establishment of a ceasefire, finding a political solution that addresses the legitimate demands of the Libyan people, and ensuring Libyan authorities comply with all obligations under international law.

We would also like to see the motion highlight the role of the UN. The resolution puts the UN General Secretary in a coordinating role, which is very important. Canada's involvement should always honour that part of the resolution, that we are under the auspice and the coordination, ultimately, of the UN, not other organizations.

That is the only way to maintain confidence in this UN resolution, which means working with the UN and with the Arab League. We also want to see parliamentary oversight of this mission, which the government has accepted. We in the NDP wanted to see that done by both the committees of foreign affairs and defence. We want to see a short timeline for this mission, along the lines of a couple of months. If there is any need for further engagement, it must come back to this House so we can debate and vote on that.

Finally, we want to ensure that Canada's involvement is about supporting this resolution while ensuring we can do more on diplomacy. Perhaps in questions I can elaborate a bit more on how we might be able to do that.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I want to address one issue about which the NDP has talked. I have been debating with the member for almost a month on all the perils over there and the NDP comes out with a blanket statement on what Canada should do, without legal authority on all of these things. Now we have assumed the legal authority from the UN resolution which would authorize to do what we had been saying, and that was we would take all these actions in coordination with other international partners. At that time, I remember the member telling me that Canada must do this. The NDP says that Canada, for some reason now we are there, is a superpower in the world. We are not, but we need legitimacy which we have through the UN Security Council resolution.

At a briefing this morning, it was very clear that there would be no ground troops. The resolution does not authorize invading Libya. All it says is that the civilians be protected, which the hon. member rightly pointed out he supports. For him to stand and say that the NDP will hold the government accountable and this and that, no.

The hon. member should read the resolution. It is very clear and distinct. The Prime Minister has said it and we have said it, that the resolution says we will not invade Libya. We are there to protect. There are two resolutions, and that should be good enough. He has already said that the NDP members are supporting it, and for that I am thankful.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, let me be clear about a number of things. First I said in my comments that after the events of February 17 and 21, on February 22 we were the only party that came out with regard to a no-fly provision through the UN. That is on the record and I think my colleague knows that.

It is very important that we understand what the limits of this are. With respect to my colleague, it is our job as the opposition to hold the government to account. That is what people pay us to do.In the motion we need to see that this will be done. I am glad the government has accepted our amendments for parliamentary oversight.

I want to be absolutely explicit about the Prime Minister's commitment to our leader and to us that there would be no ground troops, with the exceptions, as I said before, in terms of rescue and humanitarian concerns. At the end, it is important we note that.

Finally, I see the Minister of Foreign Affairs is here. I want to mention that we also use our diplomatic capacity. I should note that we have a Canadian citizen, well qualified, who can provide that role, a former member of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic States. I hope we would employ those diplomatic resources as well.