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

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Chair, my hon. colleague raises some very important legitimate questions. These are questions that we need the government to provide information on in a transparent manner.

As members, we take the issue very seriously when we make the commitment to deploy our men and women into harm's way. It is not an easy decision, but is the right decision and I fully agree with it. However, at the same time, we must ensure there is full transparency. The information my colleague is asking for regarding humanitarian challenges, long-term involvement and costs of the mission, all these things need to be brought before the House. At the end of the day, the House is responsible for acting upon the information that is provided in an accurate way by the government.

I fully agree with the questions raised by my colleague.

The humanitarian challenge is this. What we know from witnesses on the ground, from NGOs and other government officials who are still there, the situation in Libya is appalling. The Gadhafi regime is barbaric and willing to go to all costs to ensure its hold on power, including destroying its people.

The world community has acted in the right way yet in a difficult way. It is not easy to get the UN to agree on anything. I was pleased to see that even the permanent members, who have veto powers, acted in a responsible manner. It is a good step for humanity when the world community acts in unison. It is a good step for us all when the UN makes a decision under a chapter 7 mandate, which is very rare. It really makes up part of international law. The jurisprudence of the UN is so important for all of those who believe in international institutions, international law and the rule of law that is needed to safeguard the people who live in countries such as Libya.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Chair, could my hon. member elaborate on some things on which he has already touched.

I have constituents who, for example, are in refugee camps, Eritreans and those who are in harm's way. I wonder if it is not too early for the House to consider the other parts of the right to protect. What else are we prepared to do by way of repair, by way of prevention in areas that are not yet part of the battle that is manifesting itself and where civilians are in harm's way?

It is important, and might even be important to Canadians who today are hearing about this decision but who are not perhaps as knowledgeable about the risk that has been building, to know how we differentiate this from some of the things we have learned in Afghanistan and elsewhere, how we bring things together, the capacity of Canada not just to send planes but also to work on some of those other things.

For example, Canadians have advanced some refugees for determination by our country and the UN has asked people to be part of that. Is there some new capacity coming forward so we can work with some of that to truly keep people safe and to perhaps bring some of those refugees over on an expedited basis or deal with their needs in partnership with our military commitment?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Chair, the world community has learned that it cannot ignore failed states, collapsing states or states that have no respect for the rule of law. Eventually they do create a mass refugee crisis throughout the region and do have consequences, especially if left in a vacuum, without a government, for terrorist organizations. There are not only domestic consequences but international consequences as well.

Canada's commitment has to be many pronged. My hon. colleague is right. It is not just an issue of military force. We also have to figure out the second step not just in Libya but in surrounding countries in terms of what type of humanitarian assistance Canada is prepared to step up and lead. If we are to be true leaders, we have to lead on many fronts. We have to act on behalf of the humanitarian crisis that is taking place in Libya and many places around the region. However, the immediate crisis right now is in Libya, which is the focus of this debate in the House. It requires specific attention and warrants this important debate.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:35 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, a few weeks ago, this House had an emergency debate on the situation in Egypt. At that point, some might have concluded that the way of change sweeping the Middle East and North Africa region had crested.

Anyone who thought we had seen everything we were going to see has been proven wrong. Last February, none of us imagined the situation we are in today in which it is necessary to deploy Canadian Forces in Libya under the authority of a UN Security Council resolution in order to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone. The terrible developments in Libya are a manifestation of the many problems that have faced the Middle East and North Africa for decades.

It began in December last year when Mohamed Bouazizi, a young Tunisian street vendor, desperate and frustrated by too many lost dreams and daily indignities, poured gasoline on himself and set it on fire. This act of despair struck a chord that resounds across the entire region to this day. Libya, like the rest of the Middle East, is experiencing a moment of profound transformation. Like the fall of the Berlin Wall in Europe, these events could have ramifications for decades to come.

Although Colonel Gadhafi has chosen to defy the will of his own people and the international community, other leaders have acted more wisely. Right now, Tunisia's new authorities are working to fulfill the promise of reform and prepare for the holding of the country's first truly democratic elections. In Egypt, citizens voted on Saturday in a referendum on the constitutional reforms that will lay the foundation for a new system, one that will be accountable and responsible to its citizens.

These present moments of great possibility for a region whose people have been deprived of freedom, dignity and opportunity. It is also a chance for western nations to support the forces of peaceful change. It is a great shame that Colonel Gadhafi has so brutally chosen to ignore the positive force of history and refuses to slake his people's natural aspirations for democratic change.

Most proponents of these movements are sincere in their quest for greater stability, democracy and prosperity in the region. As Colonel Gadhafi's response has demonstrated, however, such outcomes are far from guaranteed, and these transitions are tinged with danger. The international community must meet the challenge of ensuring that real reformers can have their voice heard and are able to advance their positive agendas.

The Middle East has long faced serious political, economic and demographic challenges. Almost a third of its people are under the age of 18. Many reach adulthood and find that there are no avenues for either economic success or political freedom. Unemployment for people under 25 is estimated at more than 30%, and the unofficial figures are much higher. Libya has one of the youngest populations and the highest youth unemployment in the entire region.

In Libya, although Gadhafi had many opportunities to take a different path, he chose to make Libya a police state, using fear and terror to crush all initiatives. The hopelessness and disenchantment of the population should be no surprise to him or anyone else.

The revolutions that began in Tunisia showcase another side of these brave and determined societies. The marchers in Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli were moved by the universal desire for good governance and better economic opportunities. They sought a chance to exercise the universal rights and freedoms that so many of us take for granted: the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and respect for individuals.

In short, these brave revolutionaries want only the right to determine their own destinies. Contrary to the long-held rhetoric of Gadhafi, the world does not have to choose between corrupt autocrats and al-Qaeda.

As we respond to the challenges in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East, we must be guided by our core values and principles. We support the universal right to freedom of expression, association and speech. Individuals must be able to exercise those rights without fear of harassment, reprisal, intimidation or discrimination.

Methods like those of Gadhafi who uses violence and intimidation against a civilian population and political opponents and threatening neighbouring states are unacceptable. Each country has the right to make political transitions that are deliberate, inclusive and transparent, characterized by the participation of women, minorities and people from all religious, economic and social backgrounds.

We must take concrete actions in support of our values if they are to have real meaning. My colleagues have spoken extensively about the measures we have taken in co-operation with international partners on Libya. We will continue to work with the international community to stop the violence against the Libyan people and we will also provide humanitarian assistance to help the innocent victims of Gadhafi's regime.

The developments in the Middle East and North Africa are extremely important. Each nation has a unique history and culture and, therefore, its own path toward sustainable democratic reform.

Canada and its partners are allies in the region and will continue to support the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people to a future of democracy, human dignity and opportunities. Canada welcomes the helpful and decisive contributions of the United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union to resolve the crisis in Libya.

Future generations will look back at 2011 as a turning point in history. Although the Middle East and North Africa region face many challenges, this is one of those moments that come along very rarely. I am honoured to have the opportunity to discuss an issue of such significance in this forum.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, members are becoming more and more informed about the conditions that are being faced right now.

However, not much has been said in the debate so far about the anti-Gadhafi forces. Quite frankly, I am not sure I know who they are, who they represent, who is funding them or what role they are playing now that the no-fly zone resolution has been passed by the UN. They are another player. Obviously they are equipped and they have been engaging the Gadhafi forces. This is a dimension that has not been talked about very much but it is relevant from the standpoint that Canadians would like to understand whether we are talking about an isolated case with Libya or if this is a sign of things to come in the Arab world generally.

Maybe the member could shed some light on that.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Chair, if the member had listened to my speech, I touched on all the points that he raised about what is happening in the Middle East and North Africa.

As Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, said, “The winds of change are sweeping this region”.

Who are these people the member is talking about? They are ordinary Libyans, people who want a better future. They came out and demonstrated. I recall the events in Tunisia. The brave people in Tunisia and the brave people in Egypt felt that it was time for them to seek basic demands. That is how the movement started. Most of them expected that, like in Tunisia and in Egypt whose leaders left because of pressure from other people, their leader would leave as well. Wise councils in those regimes forced the dictators to go.

However, in Libya, Mr. Gadhafi is not going anywhere. It is shameful that he is killing his own people because he does not want to leave. He could have gone down in the history books as leading for 41 years. Has he done anything positive? No, he has done nothing.

However, the regime that he built, as one of our colleagues has said, the regime of brutality, is the reason that the world has come together. The world is not coming together to invade Libya. It is coming together to help the people of Libya, which is a key element of the resolution.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, it is important that we talk today not just about the military aspect but also the diplomatic side. The parliamentary secretary obviously has some background in terms of what the government can do beyond the military provisions.

Many people are wondering what the next steps will be. Resolution 1973 talks about the importance of a panel coordinated through the Secretary General of the United Nations. I wonder if the government has any idea what Canada's role could be in that area. I mentioned to the parliamentary secretary that there are Canadians who have experience in this. Canadian Arabs have played that role. Is the government looking at engaging in diplomacy as being the next step of this equation?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Chair, right now we are implementing the UN Security Council resolution for the no-fly zone. The member is right to ask what the next stage will be. Diplomacy will come up. Nobody is interested in dividing Libya. Diplomacy will become the key element in bringing everybody together.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs was in Paris and Cairo. We must remember the African Union is there as well. I represented Canada in Syria at the African Union meeting. The African Union has an important role to play in bringing about peace and stability. At the same time, we must, as the member rightly pointed out, mention the United Nations. The Secretary General has already appointed a special envoy to go to Libya.

The member is right. It will be a diplomatic offensive. Let us forget for the time being the military offensive. I agree that there has to be a strong diplomatic offensive to bring about what we really want to see, which is a peaceful, stable united Libya without the brutal regime that is there. We are witnessing that change in Tunisia and in Egypt.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Chair, I congratulate and commend the UN Security Council for its tremendous action. Some people do not realize how far some countries that sit on the Security Council had to go to allow the Libyan motion to go through. Those countries deserve the utmost commendation and congratulations. This is a great step for the world, a great step for humanity and a great step to show that the United Nations can work.

I want to make a point about what will happen post-Libya. If a similar crisis arises in the future, and I hope it never does, countries of the world, like Canada, that are involved in this great endeavour must be consistent. We have crossed the Rubicon. People will no longer be subject to frivolous, autocratic and irrational dictators who slaughter their own people. If this were ever to happen again, the world needs to be consistent. The world cannot back down from people in a similar situation who think the world is watching, who think the world will support humanitarianism and who think the world will support harmless people. The world cannot be inconsistent with this great exercise it is involved in today.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Chair, I agree with the member. This is a historical moment for the Middle East and North Africa with regard to the changes that are taking place, as it was with the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. He is absolutely right that the international community has come together because it could not withstand the brutality of the regime and all regimes have now been put on notice. Canada supports the International Criminal Court because it puts all regimes on notice that they cannot kill their own people. This will be an example that will come up in the future.

However, I must make it very clear. Canada did not act unilaterally. Canada acted as part of the UN resolution which was, as the member rightly pointed out, all the countries coming together, key parliaments that give legitimacy to this operation, which is why we are all comfortable with this operation. That is why today all of us who are standing in the House are supporting it, because the world is coming together against a brutal regime. There were no UN resolutions against Tunisia and there were no resolutions against Egypt. The people did this. However, Mr. Gadhafi refused to listen to his people, forcing the world community to do that. I agree with the member, that it is an action that has taken place and it puts the burden on the international community to act.

Many of our colleagues have asked the question about the right to intervene. The right to intervene must also have legitimacy behind it. The legitimacy can only come when the world works together through the United Nations which is an international body.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

6:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak in this important debate today. It is an important debate because soon after Canada made a commitment to support by its own action resolution 1973, the matter is before Parliament at the first opportunity for debate and a vote. That is extremely important.

I agree with others who said that resolution 1973 is also an extremely important step for the world in terms of the development of concepts of human rights and international co-operation and responsibility. Of course, the responsibility to protect is what we are talking about. It is not exactly a doctrine but more of a norm that has found its way, through the assistance of Canada, into international law. However, it only becomes part of international law when it is used and we have seen a remarkable coming together by the Security Council with unanimous resolution 1970, which is part of the process.

First, the responsibility to protect is really focused on preventing and halting four separate crimes: war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing or mass atrocities. It is recognized that a state has the responsibility to protect its citizens from those crimes. If it cannot or will not, the international community takes up the cause through diplomatic efforts, more coercively with sanctions, which has been done, and the last resort being military force.

Given the fact that many of us, myself included, did not have a lot of confidence that the Security Council could take this measure because there have been significant vetoes on the council, particularly Russia and China, the fact that both of these countries did not exercise their veto and abstained from the vote, along with a couple of others, allowed this motion to pass, which is a binding resolution. Security Council resolutions under chapter 7 are binding on all member countries.

It is very significant. It moves the matter into the realm of international law where a binding resolution of the Security Council follows up on the need to protect citizens in this case from their own government and leadership. That is an extremely important step for world governance and international law.

It is worthwhile recognizing that and I certainly appreciate the actions by the countries who participated in making that possible and taking that step forward. It also recognizes the extreme level of international concern about the atrocities that have been committed against the citizens of Libya by their own government, which is why my party supports this motion wholeheartedly and the idea that Parliament can discuss, debate and vote on this today.

NDP members worked over the weekend with representatives of other parties, particularly the government, on a motion that would be expansive enough to include all aspects of resolution 1973, not just the issue of deploying six CF-18s to Libya to support paragraphs 4 and 8 of the United Nations Security Council resolution, the ones that had to do with protecting civilians and taking all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack. That is paragraph 4 and the enforcement of the no-fly zone is paragraph 8.

New Democrats wanted to make sure that the resolution was expansive enough to include all aspects of resolution 1973. It includes the humanitarian aspects, diplomatic efforts, the arms embargo, the travel restrictions and all the other aspects. We also want to ensure that we are not just working with individual allies and partners but with and through the United Nations. This is an important part of Canada's involvement and it is doing this for the United Nations. If we look at resolution 1973, the actual measures, even those of a military nature, are expected to be coordinated by and through the United Nations.

The third aspect that we wanted covered in a resolution, which is there, was parliamentary oversight. It is important that members of Parliament play an important role in oversight of military actions abroad by the Canadian government, whether it is the current government or any government. The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on National Defence are seized with Canada's actions under resolution 1973. We can expect that both of those committees will want to hear details, reports and evidence from government as to what activities are being carried out. We may have recommendations, motions and resolutions from those committees before the House to make comments and recommendations on what is happening.

The last aspect we are concerned about was raised in the briefing this morning by our leader that it be clear and that everyone understand that this effort of Canada is limited in terms of its air campaign to just that, to an air campaign, that there will not be ground troops sent by Canada even though the resolution itself may conceivably support that. It does not support occupation, but it does not specifically prevent ground troops from being used in Libya. Canada's involvement is the air campaign. The government has agreed to limit our involvement to an air campaign and no troops on the ground. We will come back to Parliament if an expansion of Canada's activity is contemplated.

We are very pleased that these improvements have been made. We have before us a very comprehensive resolution this evening for consideration of the House and we look forward to doing that. We support the Canadian Forces and our men and women who are engaged in this mission. I think the common phrase is, “support our troops”. Of course we support our troops. Without getting rhetorical about it, we support the men and women who serve our country, who provide the skill, courage, risk and effort to defend our country and our international interests.

I want to make a few comments about some of the things that are concerning in the international media in the last couple of days. We have to be very careful and use extreme restraint in our language about the aims of resolution 1973. The aims of 1973 are specific in the resolution itself, contained in items one, two and three. It talks about having a ceasefire. It talks about the diplomatic effort to ensure that there is an opportunity for political reform in Libya so that the aspirations of the Libyan people can be realized within that country and that there has to be room made for humanitarian efforts to take place.

Those are the aims. Whatever else may happen as a result of that, these are not the aims of resolutions 1973 and are not the aims of the military intervention and military action. That is extremely important. A few people today have gone overboard on that. It is worrisome when it is done by the defence minister in the United Kingdom and it is worrisome when it is made by ministers here. We have to avoid that language. We have to keep on board the Arab League because that is important.

There are also issues about leadership of this mission. We have to go back to the notion that this is to be coordinated through the United Nations. If there are problems, whether it is NATO, whether it is the United States or whether it is involvement by Turkey and other countries, we may need to go back to the United Nations and sort that out to make sure that we do keep the Arab allies in this motion on board. It is because last Saturday they, unanimously, said that they support the imposition of a no-fly zone and asked the Security Council to do it. It is because of that action that this has been allowed to take place and we should work very hard to keep them on board, because it is their civilians who are being protected, part of the Arab nations, part of the Arab League of which Libya of course was a part.

There is a lot more to say on this issue and I would be pleased to respond to any questions or comments that any of my colleagues in the House have on this issue.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

7 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, I cannot let the member get away without any questions because he has been very active on files to do with Canada's military engagement, particularly the Afghanistan situation and the terrible situation where Parliament is still, after many months, no further ahead in terms of the Afghan detainee documents. This is, I think, very reflective of the problems that may be faced with regard to securing further parliamentary engagement and oversight when there has not been this good faith shown on other matters. So I thought the member would like to comment on that.

I think it is laudable and important, but is it practical, is it pragmatic? Putting it in the context of an ongoing conflict, which is evolving on a day-to-day basis, not just in Libya, but still percolating in other Arab countries, it is going to be extremely difficult for any committee, as duly constituted, to have that kind of information to make some proper oversight.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I do want to thank the member for the excellent question, which is, how do we achieve parliamentary oversight?

I am not going to engage in a lot rhetoric about this particular government, but the answer has to be: respect for Parliament. That is the simple answer. Whether it is the current government or any other government, it has to have respect for Parliament and the parliamentarians' right to hold the government to account to play that important role in Parliament. If that is not there, it is not going to work.

I as a member hold respect for Parliament in high importance. I am concerned about the Afghan documents. The reason there are no Afghan documents is that a process was agreed to that was bound to fail, in our view, which is why we did not participate in it.

Unfortunately, the government got its way and managed to effectively place a code of silence over this whole notion of what went on in Afghanistan, in terms of Afghan detainees, what rules were made, how they were followed, whether they were followed or not, and Canada is not keeping up to its international responsibilities.

I have to say that the party of the hon. member who asked the question went along with that, and so did the Bloc. As a result, we have a situation where, almost a year past this ad hoc committee being set up, not one single new piece of paper has seen the light of day.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Chair, I would like to read some words of the Prime Minister, when he said:

Canada has said, and leaders have agreed, that we must act urgently. We must help the Libyan people, help them now, or the threat to them and to the stability of the whole region will only increase. We must also ensure humanitarian needs are met, and that the humanitarian appeal is fully subscribed. Finally, we should all acknowledge that ultimately, only the Libyan people can or should decide their future. But we all have a mutual interest in their peaceful transition to a better future.

I would like the member to comment on how well this was pronounced by the Prime Minister at the news conference in Paris and how important it is that the Libyan people, indeed, decide their future.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I think the words that were just read into the record of the House express precisely what I think we have to be clear about: the goals of this activity. The goals are to ensure that the Libyan people have the ability to decide their future, not under threat of being massacred by a leader who obviously has no respect for their human rights and for their right to participate in the future of their society.

So, I thank the parliamentary secretary for putting that on the record. I commend the Prime Minister for using those words in describing the aims of this mission. I hope that we can all stick to that, certainly in terms of talking about the Canadian government's action and participation in the international effort.