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 libya.

Topics

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I know that in his part of the world, he has one of the largest Coptic churches. We have seen the trouble that the Coptic community is facing in Egypt, and certainly has been facing for many years. Indeed, I share in the pain of his constituents that he, himself, has expressed from time to time with what is happening in that part of the world. I have seen the work that he has done, working with Copts, in order to make sure that the people's needs are represented.

One question that was asked was about the shift from peacekeeping to peacemaking. We have seen this with missions. I lost a member of my extended family, Sergeant Christos Karigiannis, in Afghanistan. We decided in this House to put soldiers in that part of the world.

It is very hard to know the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking. There is a very fine line. Sometimes we overstep the bounds.

The Arab world is experiencing a call to democracy. The Arab world is changing the channel from dictatorship to democracy. New found means, be it Twitter or Facebook, and the social media are certainly working, calling people to take action and calling for democracy. Democracy is 2,510 years old. It was founded in the city of my birth, Athens, Greece. I find that it is best practised in this country, as we are going to see, in elections.

I encourage people in the Middle East to find democracy. I look forward to working with all colleagues in this House to make sure that we assist these people, and that we provide for them, not only money but the means in order for them to find democracy.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, the member talked about the protection of civilians. I just wonder whether he finds any comfort in the fact that we now have a firm Security Council resolution that is binding on all member nations in these circumstances. I see it as an advance and perhaps something that could be a precedent of the change in international law, and that the bombing of civilians, for example, which occurred widely in World War II on both sides, would perhaps be no longer acceptable as a means of war.

Does he see that as some comfort and some advancement in the cause of international human rights, international laws of conflict, and humanitarian law?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague from Newfoundland, or the rock, as I refer to it.

Certainly, the bombing of innocent civilians should not be tolerated and wherever possible, that should be avoided, but when war starts, unfortunately heinous crimes do happen and heinous acts take place.

I want to assure my hon. colleague that I find a lot of comfort that the R to P, the work we are doing right now, has the United Nations resolution. I personally would not support action taken by a particular group unless it has the United Nations resolution behind it. However, as we are forcibly engaged in making sure that the United Nations resolution, in this instance, works, we should also make sure that other UN resolutions are enforced.

I could go ad infinitum. I could give my hon. colleague an example of the north part of Cyprus where we have resolution after resolution which is never brought into play. For close to 40 years Cyprus has been under occupation and nothing has been done.

Not only do we have a United Nations resolution that we support moving forward, but we should also have teeth in order to make sure that other United Nations resolutions in countries that are affected are also being protected.

Moammar Gadhafi is at the bottom of the list, and that is why it is comfortable for the rest of the people to say that they have to go in and really clean this guy out, although until yesterday, he was a friend and a player. However, other situations such as this also have to be addressed. We cannot pick and choose the leaders. We cannot say that he is on our bad list today and we will get rid of him. Everybody should be handled the same way. We cannot play around with people, and if people of one country are having R to P, then other countries should be given the same thing.

I am looking at the people of Burma and what happened in that part of the world after we had a couple of cyclones. We put on some pressure, but absolutely no enforcement.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I congratulate my colleague on his foresight. A couple of weeks ago, twice he requested an emergency debate on the situation in Libya. He foresaw that the situation there was quite different from what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt. Unfortunately, that debate did not take place, and finally we are having the debate at a time when we are in the midst of a war, in a war zone. I wanted to note that and note his foresight on this particular file.

Coming back to the issue he raised with the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Coptic minority in Egypt, 10% of the population has been terribly attacked and at times terribly repressed.

Did the minister raise the issue of the Coptic minority, of minority rights, democratic rights, when he was in Cairo, either with Egyptian officials or with the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, who is an Egyptian himself?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank my hon. colleague for the comments he made about my request to the Speaker for two emergency debates.

Time and again, on the issue of the Coptic minority, we have asked the government to ensure that we push the government in Egypt for them to be protected.

There have been troubles in that part of the world for many years but lately, since 2005-06, those problems have been escalated. We had the killings of six Christians in Nag Hammadi. As they were coming out of the church from Christmas mass, somebody drove by and killed them with a machine gun. The Canadian government issued a press release and nothing more.

We had the problems on New Year's Eve. When officials of the government were contacted, they were trying to lowball the emergency of the situation of what was critical in Canada.

Then, after Hosni Mubarak left, we had the situation of the church being burned, people being killed and massive sit-ins by the Coptic community. Forty members of Parliament signed a letter asking for the minister to do something. The minister just put that letter on the shelf.

I asked the minister today if he had addressed that situation when he was in Egypt. We did not get a precise, clear answer. We got rhetoric and big words. The minister said that he and the minister of citizenship and immigration were trying to address this issue but I have yet to see concrete action.

The government has failed the Coptic Egyptians and the Coptic Egyptians in Canada in order to address the needs in that part of the world, not only to ensure that the Egyptian government of yesterday and today know what the wishes of its people are but has certainly not even provided assistance in order for this file to move forward.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Chair, I would like to join my colleagues and speak as part of this take note debate.

Canada is currently participating, with its allies and partners, in the military efforts deployed in support of the United Nations Security Council's resolution 1973. This resolution authorizes members of the United Nations to take the necessary measures, including imposing an arms embargo and no-fly zone, to protect the people of Libya.

Time was running out for all the Libyans who wanted to be rid of the unbearable burden of Gadhafi's dictatorship. As we saw over the past few days, Colonel Gadhafi's forces were regaining ground. We therefore feared the worst for all the courageous Libyans who had dared to defy the murderous authority of their current rulers. The actions taken by the Gadhafi regime in the past suggested that there could be massacres of opponents based in Benghazi, among other places. The situation required a rapid and determined response and, fortunately, the international community fully understood the urgent nature of the situation and responded.

Resolution 1973 opened the door for concrete action to help the Libyan people. And then 24 hours later, France convened a summit in Paris to bring together leaders of the international community, including the Prime Minister of Canada, who had resolved to take action to enforce resolution 1973—leaders of allied and friendly countries, the United States and Europe, and also the Arab world. The Prime Minister and his colleagues laid out the terms of their military engagement in Libya. The imposition of a no-fly zone will make it possible to put some limits on Colonel Gadhafi and reduce the violence raining down on the Libyan people.

This rapid and determined response also came from our Canadian Forces. In the last few days, the Canadian Forces have demonstrated an impressive state of readiness and speed of action. Even as the crisis began, in support of the efforts of the entire government, our military deployed two C-17 strategic lift aircraft and two Hercules C-130J tactical lift aircraft. Those planes were used to evacuate hundreds of Canadians and nationals of other countries who were fleeing the violence in Libya.

On March 1, the Prime Minister announced the deployment of the frigate Charlottetown to support efforts underway in the region, and barely 24 hours later it left the port of Halifax. On Friday, only a few hours after the Prime Minister made the announcement, six CF-18 fighter jets from the base at Bagotville were en route to Libya to support United Nations resolution 1973.

The Canadian Forces are ready to respond at any time, in all circumstances and with the speed and effectiveness that deserves our admiration. This is certainly not owing to chance. It is rather the result of exemplary dedication and true professionalism.

The men and women who wear the uniform of the Canadian Forces do so with pride, with enthusiasm and with passion. They ask for nothing more than to answer the call. They are among the best trained military personnel in the world.

Our military’s state of advanced readiness is also the result of the major investments the government has made in our Canadian Forces. The government is committed to modernizing the Canadian Forces to provide them with all the tools they need to perform the duties we entrust to them.

Almost three years ago, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence announced the “Canada First” defence strategy, under which the government would allocate $490 billion to defence over 20 years. That long-term commitment to modernizing the Canadian Forces is already paying dividends. In recent years, we have announced a number of equipment purchases: transport aircraft and helicopters, new F-35 fighter planes, 24 of which are deployed at Bagotville, tanks, armoured vehicles, trucks and ground combat systems.

We have also invested heavily in defence infrastructure across Canada. Over the past year, the government has announced investments exceeding $750 million in the infrastructure of bases and wings from coast to coast, such as training areas, roads and a variety of other facilities that allow military bases to function as they should.

We have also made massive investments in the support of heath care services offered to members of the Canadian Forces: $140 million in a health information system that will help improve the care available to service personnel who need it, and $52.5 million to establish a legacy of care by delivering better support to seriously injured men and women coming home from Afghanistan.

These investments in equipment and infrastructure, as well as in support services and health care, have a considerable bearing on our military’s preparedness. For the members of the Canadian Forces in Gagetown, Edmonton, Esquimalt, Halifax, Trenton and Winnipeg, these investments mean more comfortable and more modern facilities, safer and more effective vehicles for the upcoming mission, enhanced care and perhaps even a speedier return to work. For the men and women based in Bagotville, the base our CF-18s took off from on Friday, these investments will have a tangible impact. The pilots and support staff who set off from Bagotville bound for Sicily and Libya have left a flourishing base behind them.

Over the last few years, our government has made major announcements regarding Bagotville. In 2007, we announced that the 2 Air Expeditionary Wing of the Canadian Forces would be based in Bagotville, thereby increasing the presence of the Canadian Forces back home. In 2008, I was with the Minister of National Defence when he announced that a $17 million contract had been awarded to rebuild one of the military base’s runways. Last fall, I once again accompanied the Minister of National Defence when he announced initiatives related to the establishment of the 2 Air Expeditionary Wing and the renovation of a section of the base’s health care centre, as well as the government’s decision to base the new F-35 fighter jets in Bagotville; excellent news that will guarantee the ongoing viability of the Bagotville military base for decades to come.

Finally, last month we announced the establishment of an integrated personnel support centre at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville.

A personnel support centre in Bagotville will link up with 24 other such canters across the nation in order to better respond to the needs of our military. The investments the government is making in Bagotville exemplify the investments it is making across the entire Canadian Forces. These investments provide our servicemen and women with comfortable amenities, support, modern work facilities, adequate tools and flexibility, all key elements in the rigorous preparation of a military force that must guarantee the rapid deployment of equipment and personnel, also crucial to the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces. The Canadian Forces members deployed in support of resolution 1973 can count on our government’s unconditional support. That is the very least we can give them; their mission will help save lives.

I would like to conclude by saying that our thoughts are with their family members. We all hope to see them back here in short order, and I hope to soon shake their hands on the tarmac at Bagotville.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, my question is for the minister. We have heard the responsibility to protect, R to P, invoked a number of times. I was incredibly fortunate to have been at the United Nations six years ago when former Prime Minister Paul Martin gave a speech to the general assembly laying out this principle. To everyone's surprise, it actually passed the general assembly. It was an incredibly proud day for Canada.

Today we are invoking this responsibility to protect as being the principle that provides us with the mandate. In fact, it is two UN resolutions that give us the legitimacy of the allied actions that are taking place today to stop the bloodshed that has been unleashed by the Gadhafi regime against innocent civilians in Libya.

However, throughout the debates, we have also heard thanks given to the Arab League for its facilitation and its decision to support a no-fly zone.

What is the guiding principle? Is it the responsibility to protect mandate given by the resolutions at the United Nations? If the Arab League had not supported this no-fly zone and in fact the Gadhafi regime, as Gadhafi's son had said, unleashed rivers of blood in Benghazi during these days, would we be standing aside or would we have stepped forward, without the Arab League's facilitation, done the right thing and invoked the responsibility to protect in this circumstance?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague for his comments and question.

I think we all agree we should act and the United Nations, the countries of the world, could not allow President Gadhafi to continue massacring his own people like that and doing what he was doing. In voting for resolution 1973, the members of the United Nations assumed their responsibilities. When we see a country, a president like President Gadhafi, doing something wrong, action must be taken.

I would like to remind the House what this commitment is:

[The Security Council] demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;

Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary...

It is extremely serious to see a president doing such things to his own people. In this situation, Canada must stand with the United Nations and support the group of countries that are willing to protect the Libyan people from President Gadhafi.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Chair, I would like to reiterate the expressions of appreciation by other members of the House for the fact that this discussion is occurring. It is the responsibility of Parliament to approve an initiative such as this and we appreciate the opportunity to come to Parliament to seek endorsement of this UN resolution.

I have a couple of specific questions for the hon. member regarding what has come down in Libya. One relates to the business interests of Canadians. The second has to do with other foreign nationals who have been abandoned or stranded in Libya.

My question about Canadian business interests is this. It has come to light that a number of Canadian businesses have been operating either in resource extraction or performing other operations in Libya. I am curious to know if the Government of Canada has been in consultation with them and whether there is any discussion about giving priority to their protection or priority to those enterprises.

My second question has to do with the stranding of other foreign nationals in Libya, particularly at the border, some of whom are trying to escape and in some ways have been abandoned by their own nations.

I had the opportunity to work with a lot of Bangladeshi. I hear there are many Bangladeshi who have been abandoned. Will Canada use any of its resources in a humanitarian way to help those people out of the country?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, when such a situation arises in the world, in particular in Libya, everything we do is aimed at protecting not only the Libyan people but also any person or Canadian who finds himself there or the representatives of any allied nation who might be there. Like the other allied countries, Canada is doing what it can to provide the necessary assistance to protect its own citizens and all others who may be there.

It is quite unusual that the Security Council of the United Nations has adopted resolution 1973 in order to act quickly to protect the Libyan people. I would like to remind the House again of the importance of this decision. As a parliamentarian and part of a team of elected members, I am glad to see the United Nations assuming this responsibility and making decisions so quickly. We are on the right path to ensuring that neither President Gadhafi nor any future president can attack his own people in this way to keep himself in power.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Chair, as a father with a son who has recently gone to Afghanistan, I am taking a heightened interest in the issues in this area.

We are supporting resolution 1973, primarily because it is a UN-supported resolution, unlike in past conflicts we have had. We are still in Afghanistan after almost 10 years. Therefore, there is a concern about the length of involvement because of our previous involvements. That is why we are insisting on parliamentary oversight and approval, which is absolutely a big plus.

Could Canada withdraw at any time or is there a time limit? At a certain point, if we get into this, after a few weeks or a few months, do we have the option of withdrawing our troops?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, no one can predict how the situation might change over the upcoming days or weeks. We hope that President Gadhafi will leave the country quickly, stepping down and handing power back to the people, and that a democratic system will take root in Libya.

Having said that, Canada is a member of the United Nations, which will assess the situation as events unfurl. Our nation is a loyal partner of the United Nations, and it will live up to its responsibilities on the world stage when it comes to human rights and protecting the people of a nation that is currently being attacked by a president who is flouting every international rule in the book and violating human rights.

When an individual fires on his own people, the nations of the world must act to protect those people. And that is what Canada is currently doing with its six CF-18 fighter jets that have set off from Bagotville.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chair, it is absolutely unbelievable to see the extent of the turmoil in the Arab world. We can see it now in Libya. It is harder to achieve democracy in some countries than it is in others.

After observing the democratic fervour in other countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, where the people rose up, the question on our lips was how the army would behave. How would the various dictators, many of whom have been in power for years or decades, conduct themselves? Would they demand that their army fire upon the people, given the military might at their disposal? We had our misgivings. In Egypt, the army instead took a passive stance. In Tunisia, admittedly there were skirmishes, but not of the same intensity as those in Libya. Libya is in a state of turmoil, and the international community has an obligation to its people.

People armed with Kalashnikov AK-47s facing old MiG-21s from the Russian armed forces are not engaged in a fair fight. The international community cannot sit back and say the people will prevail. The brutality of the Libyan regime is beyond what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. This is a dictator who will be stopped by nothing. He is not afraid of bloodbaths. Nothing will stop him in his efforts to hold on to power. At some point, the international community has to respond.

I am going to give a short review of the events because it is important to see how the methods the regime is using to hold on to power have escalated. The first demonstrations took place on February 17. On February 20 and 22 a number of diplomats and ministers abandoned the regime’s sinking ship.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Oh, oh!

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

I thank my colleague from Hochelaga for restoring order to the House. There does not seem to be a lot of interest in the speeches being made. I am grateful to my colleague for speaking up.

On February 26, resolution 1970 was adopted by the United Nations. That resolution recommended certain embargos so there could be no arms shipments to Libya. This was an effort to isolate the regime. That first step was important. Then there was a series of sanctions. The regime’s counteroffensive began on March 2 and 3. A lot of people say that military intervention must never be used against a dictatorial regime. But in this case, events have proved us right.

The regime was isolated diplomatically and sanctions were imposed on it. When sanctions are applied, Colonel Gadhafi is not the one who is deprived of anything, in his big tent in Tripoli. He is not the one who suffers, it is his people. When there is nothing to be done with a dictatorship, the only course left for us, if we do not want there to be a slaughter, is military intervention.

But it is not military intervention at any cost. The military intervention must be based on the international rules and must go through the United Nations. Canada refused to go with the Americans into Iraq because the UN had not got involved. Here, the UN has adopted two resolutions in a row and is calling on the international community to get involved.

This had been discussed for some time. Even though it was not easy to reach international agreement, a no-fly zone absolutely had to be established. Military doctrine demonstrates this: if you do not dominate in the air, you stand a good chance of losing the conflict. That is the first thing.

This is not a new military doctrine. It was used in Kosovo. Others before me have referred to this. At the time, Serbian and Croatian troops were playing hardball. NATO troops had to get involved. That is when the no-fly zone was imposed because, as I said, if one side is armed only with slingshots and is up against aircraft, they have no chance of winning the conflict. They are likely to lose and get themselves killed.

The international community understands this and decided to go ahead with the no-fly zone when it passed resolution 1973. The Paris summit was held and that is what happened.

A few hours after the Paris summit, military interventions undertaken by international forces began. The French were the first to strike. Resolution 1973 states that all necessary measures will be taken to enforce the no-fly zone. However, procedures also need to be established to protect civilians. France's first intervention, the attack on Libyan tanks, was meant to protect the people being threatened by the tanks. The attack was very successful. Immediately afterwards, about 120 Tomahawk missiles were launched, which struck Gadhafi's anti-aircraft defences. Indeed, if we send these planes into a no-fly zone without first destroying the anti-aircraft guns, we risk suffering losses. That is why this was done. This is a well-known military practice. Were other targets also hit? Probably.

This morning, in a much-appreciated briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs, we were told that right now the focus would be more on reconnaissance work to determine exactly what is happening. Planes will obviously enter Libyan airspace. The no-fly zone is already being enforced. I think that if a Libyan plane decides to defy the international community, it will very likely be shot down within minutes. The no-fly zone is being enforced. I also think that it is important that it happen this way because we could not allow this slaughter to continue. The mission is called “Operation Odyssey Dawn”. Many nations are involved, including the United States.

The international and political aspects explain how this decision was made. It was a major one. Together, the African Union, the Arab League, the Islamic community, the European Union, the United States and Canada can all legitimately intervene. Of course, anti-Western forces such as Russia and China will voice their disagreement. But this disagreement is limited right now because everyone can see that things could not continue as they were.

I would now like to speak about the responsibility to protect, a new aspect of international law. It is relatively new, but there have been examples where the international community really reacted too late. I am thinking about Rwanda and about Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly the Srebrenica region, where horrific massacres occurred. The international community hesitated to intervene and the damage was done. I think that, this time, the responsibility to protect was really taken into consideration and we intervened quickly.

I would like to close by saying that we must now be careful. Let us not say that everything is perfect. All of the forces in place must pay very close attention to civilian deaths because that is often what shifts the debate and causes unease. They must also pay attention to ground troops. For now, there are not supposed to be any. I think that it is better that way because they could be taken for people who are trying to occupy the area.

I really appreciated this morning's briefing. We ask that the Department of Foreign Affairs provide the opposition with weekly updates on what is happening in Libya.

I would like to thank the members of the House for listening so intently to my speech.