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

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I, too, want to say how supportive we are of the fact that this debate has been brought before the House today. We have already agreed on a motion to be passed later on today. It is extremely important that this military action by Canada outside of our country be brought to the House at the first reasonable opportunity, with an opportunity for members of the House to debate it and to vote on the motion later on today.

I want to thank the minister for outlining some of the issues. I do have a couple of questions, and we will in the course of debate get to some of them.

The United Nations Security Council resolution, which we fully support, is about more than military support. We support section 4 and section 8 that deal with the protection of civilians and the no-fly zone.

The objective out of all of this is to obtain a ceasefire with the ultimate aim of necessary political reform. There needs to be a peaceful and sustainable solution to this problem, led first by a ceasefire with the use of envoys and representatives on the diplomatic side. I want to emphasize that at the outset.

We have jets there now that have already participated in the mission. I presume it must have been a surveillance mission because there was no engagement of ground forces.

Could the minister tell the House if the CF-17's and the Hercules that we have had there for a couple of weeks have been engaged in assisting with the humanitarian effort? That has been a consistent problem there. There are many refugees on both the border of Tunisia and Egypt. What role has the—

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will have to stop the member there to allow the minister enough time to respond.

The hon. Minister of National Defence.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I will answer the member's question directly on the use of the CF-17's. They were initially deployed for the purpose of evacuating Canadians and other allied citizens out of Libya. They have not, by reason of the instability and the volatility in Libya, been able to embark on any true humanitarian relief. One would hope, as the member has indicated, that the situation will improve and that we will in the future be able perhaps to deliver humanitarian aid. I share his concern with respect to the number of displaced persons now gathering at the border of Egypt and Tunisia. The Libyan people are certainly under severe pressure at this point from their own regime.

Regarding the missions that were flown earlier today, four CF-18 aircraft did take part in surveillance. This was the first mission, so it could be deemed a familiarization mission. They were supported by refuellers. They did not engage in any military acts whatsoever. They were not carrying ground ordinances; that is it was not a bombing mission per se. They were there to enforce the parameters of the no-fly zone and to participate with other international partners in carrying out those efforts that are consistent with resolution 1973.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore
Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for his statement. Could he clarify the chain of command for this operation? Is this a NATO operation, or a coalition operation or a hybrid operation? In what part of the chain of command is Canada inserted?

Could the minister also state the Government of Canada's position on the ultimate objective of this action? There is some ambiguity as to whether this is an action whereby the resultant objective is regime change or whether it is an action simply engaged in humanitarian protection. Given the ambiguity of this, could he clarify the government's position on those two points?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his participation in this debate.

The issue with respect to the chain of command or how this mission in fact is tasked is currently essentially under U.S.-led coalition. That is to say that there are participant nations, some of whom are still coming to the front, and those include some members of the Arab league.

With respect to how our military will be operating, the tasking of certain roles under the no-fly zone and enforcement of the sanctions are under that U.S.-led coalition. However, the control of Canadian Forces remains within the Canadian chain of command. Those in theatre report directly to the Chief of the Defence Staff who reports to me, and further up to the Prime Minister.

Regarding the issues with respect to the goals and the end gain, this is a very clear mission. Canada, our allies and the Libyan people want to restore peace and stability on the ground. We very much want to see a progressive approach to that, including the enforcement of the no-fly zone and the sanctions that are set out in the UN Security Council resolutions. In fact, this is our determination, with the international community, to bring about and enforce the no-fly zone and the embargo, to convince Mr. Gadhafi and his regime to abandon these attacks on civilians and relinquish power.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I think there is no question that every member in this honourable House and everyone throughout the country supports our men and women in uniform. However, when we ask some questions, the last thing we want to hear is that we do not support our military. I hope I will not get this back, given the question I am going to ask.

The minister is a dear friend. The current chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence, which I had the honour of chairing, is here. I heard first-hand the good work and the difficulty that our men and women had gone through over the past several years. However, we have an obligation when we come to the House to also ask questions on behalf of our constituents and the taxpayers. They are asking us what happened, saying that six or eight months ago Gadhafi was part of the club. They really do not know what happened. They ask what is going on with respect to Bahrain and why we are not going in there or other areas.

The minister was kind enough to talk about the conflict in former Yugoslavia that brought about Kosovo.

Canadians are asking these types of question. You might not have the answer right now, but I just thought I would pass on to you the type of discussions going on out there. I know what we are doing is right, though.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Andrew Scheer

I would just remind the hon. member to address his remarks to the Chair and not directly at other members.

There is only about 10 or 15 seconds for the minister to respond.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I thank the member for Scarborough Centre who has a long-standing interest in defence matters, as a former chair. I think he makes a very good point. No one wants to have this debate digress into a partisan match. This is really about demonstrating unanimity behind the good work of the Canadian Forces and the diplomatic corps and eventually our efforts to assist directly through humanitarian aid the people of Libya.

With regard to some of the specific question the member has asked, we have not gone into other countries because we do not have the mandate. We do not have a legal authority under the UN Security Council resolutions nor, in some cases, have we been requested as was the case in Afghanistan.

What we are doing is watching the situation very closely. We have people in the other countries he has mentioned, Bahrain and Syria, and others within the region. We did participate in support within Tunisia and Egypt in the past. We are monitoring the entire region and we will continue to do so and continue to act as appropriate and continue to consult with the House, as we do in this instance.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of my colleagues. I want to thank the minister and other members of the government for providing us with some information and background about this important mission and for giving us the opportunity to debate the motion this afternoon.

We have all been watching the events in the Middle East over the last several months with a great deal of not only interest but, indeed, profound concern for the fate of the people of the Middle East. If there has been one significant transformation in international politics over the last several years, it has been the realization that what happens to people within states is every bit as important as what happens to governments.

This transformation of international law has not been speedy and it has not been without problems and challenges, but its significance cannot be underestimated. The Security Council, in passing the two resolutions, one which called for the freezing of assets of Gadhafi and his family and taking other economic sanctions against Libya and, second, the agreement I think many people found to be surprising, given the membership on the Security Council, to establish a no-fly zone, is only really imaginable if we realize the point, which I will emphasize once more. What happens to people within states and around the world is every bit as important, indeed more important, than what happens to states and governments.

The so-called convention of 1648, the Westphalia convention, which says that sovereignty trumps everything, that national governments are the end game and that reasons of state will always prevail over other considerations, is, as we used to say in law school, no longer good law. That just is not the way it works. The way it works is that governments have responsibilities to their citizens and that the citizens of the world have some degree of responsibility for one another in the challenges they face.

This is not a loosey-goosey concept. This is not a concept that has no parameters or no particular meaning. I am very proud of the fact that the Liberal leader, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, participated in the discussion that was led by the former foreign minister of Australia, Gareth Evans, in advising initially the Canadian government and then the United Nations on how to begin to create some new rules of the game, some new procedures which would give this responsibility to protect some real meaning.

It is important to emphasize that the responsibility to protect, which was ultimately adopted by the General Assembly in 2005 and which was, despite considerable controversy and debate that it might not persist for very long, reaffirmed by the General Assembly in 2009, really comprises several different elements. It is, first, a responsibility to prevent crises and harm, to do whatever we can within our means to prevent crises from happening. It is also a responsibility to react to crises as they take place and then it is a responsibility to rebuild.

These are not consistently applied. The world is not a perfect place. There are many instances which other members can raise. My colleague from Scarborough Centre has raised other examples where we ask about situations over here or in other countries.

Many commentators have made observations. I can refer people publicly to the one very eloquent cri de coeur from Mr. Rex Murphy, who we see on CBC television from time to time. He made a very eloquent comment on the fact that this so-called responsibility to protect doctrine was not consistently applied and therefore it did not mean anything. With great respect to Mr. Murphy, I think he is wrong. It does mean something.

The first thing it means is that we expect governments to protect their citizens. This is the test that Colonel Gadhafi has failed. Not only has Colonel Gadhafi failed to protect his citizens, but after 45 years in power we have had many opportunities over the years to see Colonel Gadhafi in action. We have had an opportunity to see the damage and harm that he can bring. We know that he was certainly an instigator of the Lockerbie bombing. We know that he was actively participating in the creation of Libya as a nuclear power.

We know that he responded to certain pressures from the international community and agreed to change his ways in certain instances. He abandoned, apparently to the satisfaction of the IAEA, any nuclear ambitions which he may have. We also know full well that he took certain measures with respect to directly sponsoring terrorist activities in other countries.

But the fact is that Colonel Gadhafi is still a dictator, meaning that he was not elected and he took power illegally by destroying the monarchy in Libya. He has been in power for over 40 years with the support of the Libyan army and, like any dictator, he rules by oppressing the population, killing anyone who opposes him, torturing people who have different points of view and insisting on as much power as possible for himself and his family. That is an absolutely corrupt way to run a country, but as we say, the world is not a perfect place. We know that there are dictators in the world who do not honour their moral, political and humanitarian obligations. It is difficult to say, but there are heads of state and situations that we do not like, that we want to change and that the world has tried to change. That is the case with Colonel Gadhafi.

As we have watched these transformations taking place in the Middle East, we saw the dramatic change in Tunisia, the dramatic change in Egypt, the demonstrations that are still under way in a number of countries, and many people will try to figure out why this is happening and how it is happening, but undoubtedly it came to Libya.

It came to Libya in a way that surprised many people and apparently certainly surprised Colonel Gadhafi. It was a movement of people that obviously had some military support from an army that was clearly divided and which led to the capture by that rebel army of a number of cities, a number of towns, many of which some of us had not heard of or heard from since we knew the battle names of the Second World War. When I saw on the news one night that Tobruk had been captured, one had a certain sense of historical resonance with respect to what that name and that battle signified.

It was Colonel Gadhafi's determination to take the life of his own people that led to the decision of the international community to respond and that provides us with the justification for the response.

Our own view is that this mission cannot be endless. It has to be focused. I am a little troubled by what I heard from the minister today about the ambiguity with respect to what the overall purpose of the mission is. I can say to the government that we will support the motion. We will support the determination. In fact we have supported for a considerable time the need for the world to be able to respond to situations such as the one we are facing in Libya.

I do not think any of us feels there is a military solution to this conflict. We obviously have to use hard power, which we are now using, in an effort to create the space for soft power to do some of its work. We need to continue to encourage negotiations. We need to encourage back channels. We need to encourage a political engagement.

I would say very strongly that we encourage the government in increasing its diplomatic capacity and diplomatic engagement in its effort to bring peace to a region which has not known a great deal of peace. In fact the peace that it has known is the peace of repression. The peace we would like to see is the peace of justice, the peace of democracy. That continues to be a major objective of foreign policy.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, my colleague gave a solid overview of the concerns we all share around how we respect international law in keeping with our tradition of respecting sovereignty. It is important to note that there have been changes and they were not made just in the last number of weeks and months. These changes have evolved since the UN was created. It is important to note that because the UN has had many challenges over the years. One of them was how to reflect the idea of sovereignty and by the same token the notion of international law and international human rights.

There is a long list of oppression in Libya. Some very bizarre and troubling cases. One of the things that we need to deal with in this debate today is around parameters. I have a question with respect to what is embedded in the UN resolution, particularly on stressing the need to intensify efforts for a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people. We have to make sure that it is not just military involvement.

Would my colleague agree with us that the government needs to be declarative on what other avenues it is going to explore when it comes to the diplomatic side of this equation?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I ended my remarks by saying as clearly as I could that we need an effort that is both diplomatic and military. Frankly, we needed a military intervention for the simple reason that if we did not have it then Colonel Gadhafi would have had carte blanche to massacre thousands of his people, civilians as well as armed insurgents, and there would have been no way to apply pressure on him to respond differently. Of course we need to find other means of obtaining a degree of stability in that country. Nobody wants to see an endless mission.

I think what drove the Security Council to its conclusion was a sense that unless those measures were taken there was a genuine risk of an even greater outbreak of violence than the one that we are seeing as a result of the mission being undertaken.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech.

It is clear that, as a nation, we need to strike and do our job in this situation.

Given that my colleague is also the foreign affairs critic, I think we need to do as he said and make a diplomatic effort as well. The message that is coming across today is unfortunately one of ambiguity in terms of the ramifications. Things are happening in places other than Libya—in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria as well.

I would like my colleague to share his opinion about how this ambiguity could be cleared up, so that the entire Arab community can also play a role in helping the Libyan people get through this. How does the member see its role, both in military and diplomatic terms?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I believe that the role of the Arab League is absolutely fundamental. It is crucial that the problem be acknowledged. Attempts were made to find a political solution. For days, weeks even, attempts were made to find a political solution through discussions with Colonel Gadhafi in order to reach a better outcome than the one referred to in his declaration, which stated that he would kill anyone opposed to his regime. He refused.

Not only did he refuse, but he insisted on continuing the fight and using violence against his own people. That is why the Arab League has insisted that the solution be an international one.

We need to redouble our efforts in partnership with the Arab League. I would like to suggest to the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs that Canada immediately establish diplomatic relations with the Arab League in order to take part in the discussions and come to a more positive solution than the present situation.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Chair, it is good that we are having this debate. We all have our concerns and questions and certainly we want to highlight the issues in Libya.

I appreciate the comments of the member opposite. We sat on the defence committee together some time ago.

To have a debate in the House like this today, considering some of the other debates that have taken place and some of the other antics that have gone on, it is good to get down to something serious where we can discuss and work toward a common goal.

The 1973 UN Security Council Resolution is many pages long. It delves into a lot of different areas and does indicate the protection of the people, to stop what is happening there. It goes on about the no-fly zone, ensuring the arms embargo, asset freezing, the whole issue. Then it gets into the humanitarian aspect of it.

I believe, and we have heard this from all today, that this is a necessary step, taking into account that all other avenues have failed. The last action we want to take is what we have to do, particularly flying over a foreign country.

Having said that, nothing else has happened. In the past, the only thing that Colonel Gadhafi responded to was a threat similar to this in his country and things changed after that.

Does the member think there is any salvation for the Gadhafi government or himself? Is this a point in time in the history of the world where he has to completely be removed from governing a country or governing a people?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, let me make it very clear. If the hon. member is asking the member for Toronto Centre would he be happier if Colonel Gadhafi were gone, the answer is absolutely yes.

However, it seems to me that the important point, and my understanding is, that even President Obama said that regime change was not the ultimate objective or the purpose of the mission.

We all have to understand that the decision as to what kind of government Libya will have has to be a decision by the Libyan people. The new government of Libya will not be imposed by a foreign invasion. That will not work.

What we have to do with this use of military intervention, of the hard power that we are using by the imposition of the no-fly zone, is to create sufficient political space that the people of Libya will actually have a chance to express themselves more fully and more clearly than they already have.

If I am being asked my own personal preference, the member is smiling, I can report to our television cameras, although they are not allowed to shine on his ebullient face, just to say that we are certainly not unambiguous in that regard. I think we are very clear.

However, I do not think it is possible for a UN resolution to say that the objective of the mission is the removal of the government of Libya. I do not think that is a possible statement to make in terms of the resolution itself.