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

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, the member touched on a number of points. First, we understand that under sections 31 and 32 of the National Defence Act, the government has taken authorized steps and certainly with the authority of the UN resolution of 1973.

The member has made some demands as the previous questioner noted. One of the points was that he wanted to see this current mission complete within a certain period of time, I believe he said in two or three months. I suspect that Canada is not in the role right now to determine how long this may take. In fact, that leads to my question of what the authorized time frame is by the UN, under the National Defence Act, or under any auspices, whether it be even an agreement at the meetings that were taken up in Paris.

It is important for Canadians to understand whether we are in a well-defined mission, which will end at a certain term or whether this is open ended, depending on the developments as they occur.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, one of the things we have asked for and the government has agreed to is what I laid out, and that will be in the motion. We did that because we wanted to have parliamentary approval and parliamentary oversight. That will happen with the provisions accepted by the government. The committee on foreign affairs and defence be seized with this.

The timeline of three months was simply because we needed to have some sort of timeline. We do not want to have what happened, frankly, with his government, when it came to Afghanistan, where we did not really have any timelines and we ended up with a conflict that had no boundaries. We need boundaries on this. We need to have understanding that this will not going to go on forever. Therefore, we believe the three months is reasonable. If it goes beyond three months, we need to know why and we need to have this issue brought back to Parliament so it can debated and so we can decide whether we continue with our military contribution.

Finally, it is important for all members to know that within the UN resolution itself, it is spelled out very clearly about notification by all members involved, before and after action is taken, reporting both to the UN General-Secretary and to the Arab League. Those are both very important provisions of accountability and something that we will monitor in terms of Canada's participation.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre for his contribution.

Would the member comment on the concerns that have been raised about certain officials. We heard the minister of defence in the U.K., and we may have heard the minister of defence here today, talk about regime change in Libya. We may have our own private opinions about the fate of the leader of Libya. However, in the context of this binding resolution of the Security Council, we have an international consensus on the specific actions in resolution 1973.

Would the member care to comment on the possibility of loose talk about regime change, particularly from leaders, being detrimental to the cause and alienating the Arab League, which is very important and instrumental in this whole agreement taking place to allow international action at this stage?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, it is absolutely critical that we do not engage in rhetoric that talks about regime change and getting rid of leaders. We have to stay true to the Security Council resolution and to the provisions that have been made within the coalition. The last thing we want to do is upset the fragile stability. We know that some of the groups involved, the Arab League, for instance, could not defend partners saying things like “regime change”.

We have to be crystal clear. I urge the government and all ministers to check their rhetoric and to ensure that not only is it not said but that it is not implied.

If we are to be successful in activating resolution 1973 and resolution 1970, it means we all have to understand that it is about protection of civilians and not regime change.

I encourage the government to ensure that we do not engage in that kind of rhetoric and that we are crystal clear about what the mission is about and not engage in things that are outside the parameters and the boundaries of resolution 1973.

Finally, Canada has a role here. Not only should we engage in and be observers of the Arab League, but we should also use our own capacity diplomatically of involving those we know have the skills to go to the next step, and that is the diplomatic side. Right now it is a military focus. The next logical step is obviously a humanitarian and diplomatic one and that should happen right now.

I look forward to the comments of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on that and any update he has about the next steps diplomatically and the humanitarian aspects of the mission.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, in just one month, Canada and Canadians have witnessed an historic change in Libya. It all started when the people of Benghazi, inspired by the recent developments in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets to stand up for their basic human rights. The courage these citizens showed in the face of atrocious acts of violence galvanized the entire country and the international community. Initial hopes that Colonel Gadhafi would accept the will of the people and allow them to be in control of their own destiny crumbled when he decided to attack his own people, thereby forcing the United Nations Security Council to approve a no fly zone in order to end the violence. Despite the many challenges to overcome, one thing is certain: a profoundly changed Libya will emerge.

As Gadhafi's forces were advancing to surround the heavily populated historic city of Benghazi, the fear was that the people of Libya who were standing up for their legitimate human rights would face a final bloody confrontation with a defiant and isolated dictator supported by mercenaries. Gadhafi has not only ignored the demands of the people, but he has also ignored those of the international community. He has ramped up the assaults and threatened his own people on television, promising he would attack them one house at a time and that he would be merciless toward some one million inhabitants.

Gadhafi has threatened the Mediterranean countries and any other country that opposes his madness. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 300,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, including Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Niger.

Canada is very concerned about allegations that refugees are being prevented from leaving the country, in western Libya in particular, a region about which it is very difficult to get any information, and that vulnerable populations, including migrant workers, are being targeted.

Canada has taken a series of measures to press the Gadhafi regime to respect the rights of its citizens. On February 23, the United Nations Secretary General responded to the egregious violations of international and human rights law and called on the government of Libya to protect its own people.

On February 27, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1970, which condemned Gadhafi's actions, which by then included the killing of at least 1,000 people and the arrest, detention and torture of thousands more. The measures included a travel ban and an asset freeze on members of the government.

Canada's approach, in concert with the rest of the international community, has been to isolate the Gadhafi regime, cut it off from its financial resources, deprive it of its legitimacy and ensure that there will be no impunity for crimes against humanity committed against the civilian population and for violations of international humanitarian law.

Canada welcomes the decision by the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court and the prosecutor's announcement that he has initiated an investigation.

As always, our first priority was the safety and security of Canadians caught in the conflict and we worked with our allies to ensure the safe evacuation of all those in need. During the early stages of the crisis, nearly 350 Canadians as well as numerous nationals of partner countries were transported from the conflict zone by road, air and by sea.

Then the Government of Canada responded to the Security Council's initiative by immediately suspending our diplomatic presence and by implementing our own sanctions in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolution and the domestic Special Economic Measures Act. Our quick action to end all financial transactions with Libya prevented Gadhafi and his associates from immediately accessing more than $20 million in assets at Canadian financial institutions. Altogether, this move deprived the regime of more than $2.3 billion in resources located in Canada. Unfortunately these messages from the international community were not strong enough for the regime of Colonel Gadhafi.

Most recently, on March 17, a new Security Council resolution No. 1973 authorized the use of military force to bring the Libyan government into compliance with its international legal obligations.

UN resolution 1973 authorizes UN member states to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya. This resolution, drafted and supported by the League of Arab States, does not—I repeat—authorize any foreign occupation. It sets out a solid mandate of protection, and Canada urges all member states to implement it.

The resolution also imposes a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace and authorizes member states to “take all necessary measures” to enforce compliance. However, the resolution does not affect flights whose sole purpose is to provide humanitarian aid or evacuate foreign nationals. The resolution calls on member states to implement these measures in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in order to restore international peace and security.

Canada has answered the call. It has notified the secretaries general of the United Nations and the League of Arab States of its intention to participate in the international efforts, and is in close contact with its allies in order to determine how its participation in these efforts can be as effective as possible.

Resolution 1973 authorizes international action and sets limits on the action. It specifically excludes any form of occupation force on any portion of the Libyan territory. Now this was a clear agreement between the sponsors of the resolution and the Arab League. The central purpose of the resolution is to end the violence, protect citizens and allow the people of Libya to shape their own future.

In closing, I want to reiterate that Canada has contributed $6.5 million to date to partners to help the people of Libya and those affected by the crisis, particularly those who have fled to neighbouring countries. Our contribution will fund essential food, water, shelter, medical supplies and evacuation assistance to those fleeing the violence.

Canada stands ready to provide further assistance to those who suffer as a result of the terrible humanitarian crisis unleashed by Gadhafi. We sincerely hope that Gadhafi does decide to step down.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the foreign minister intoned the historical nature of the changes that are occurring in North Africa and the Middle East over the last couple of months. The people of Egypt saw what was happening in Tunisia and they found their voice. They rose up and they overthrew a regime that had repressed them for decades.

We saw similar uprisings in a number of countries, including Libya. But it was not just the people learning. Dictators learned from what was happening in the Middle East. Colonel Gadhafi realized that he was facing regime change unless he used lethal force. That is what we saw. One of his sons said there would be rivers of blood.

Prior to this allied action, a number of regimes that are facing uprisings used lethal force against peaceful demonstrators, civilians, who after decades of oppression had found their voice. This happened in Bahrain, in Yemen and most recently in Syria.

Has our government spoken with officials or diplomats from those governments and stated clearly and unequivocally that Canada views the use of lethal force against peaceful civilians as unacceptable?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, I want to reassure my hon. colleague that Canada has spoken out clearly on recent events, whether they be in Yemen or Bahrain. We condemn the violence in Yemen. We have expressed regret over the deaths and injuries to innocent civilians who are protesting peacefully in those countries. Canada has called upon the authorities in those countries to exercise restraint and to engage in peaceful and fulsome dialogue with other civil societies.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for his intervention and clarification on some points. I want to ask him a couple of questions about the next steps.

We have been concerned from the beginning around Canada's response on the humanitarian side. We have lift capacity there. The minister outlined in his speech the government's concern that we all share around the treatment of civilians and refugees.

I would like to ask the minister what concrete steps the government is going to take in terms of using the lift capacity we have on the humanitarian side? Have we engaged with those in the diaspora community, particularly Libyan Canadian doctors, who offered their services?

Up until Thursday the government had not spoken out on whether or not it would support a no-fly provision. We put that forward in our statement on February 22. I am wondering when the government decided to support the no-fly provision. Was it just after the UN resolution or had that determination been made before?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, we have been extremely active on the diplomatic front. Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Europe to participate in the G8 foreign ministers meeting where this issue was discussed. I then proceeded to Cairo to meet Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League on Wednesday. I had the opportunity of seeing him once again on Saturday in Paris.

What is important here is the coming together and the building of a consensus among the like-minded and the members of the Arab League, the African Union, the countries that participate quite actively on the UN Security Council.

The operation over the course of the last several days and indeed over the last couple of weeks has been to build that consensus to ensure that we put an end to the violence that is occurring and stop the bloodshed and make sure that the humanitarian assistance to provide shelter, et cetera, which I indicated in my speech a few moments ago is in the vicinity of $6.5 million, is available.

Members may recall my colleague, as well as the Prime Minister, indicated that the frigate HMCS Charlottetown was on its way. We deployed it specifically to help with the humanitarian deployment for Canada and to ensure that the 750,000 Egyptians who are caught in Libya do get help and aid as they try to transit back into their country.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to clarify two things.

One is that I indicated earlier in the debate that I thought it would be a good opportunity for Canada to establish formally its diplomatic relations with the Arab League, that there be an Arab League ambassador here in Ottawa, as well as for us to have official accreditation at the Arab League in Cairo. I wonder if the minister could comment on that suggestion.

The second is that I realize the minister was very careful in choosing his words at the end when he said that it would be our preference if Colonel Gadhafi were to step down. I can assure him it is certainly a preference that I share. I am wondering if we can be clear with respect to the so-called end game that we talk about. What would Canada regard as a successful mission or what would he interpret the UN would regard as a successful mission? How will we know when it is over?

We all realize that we do not necessarily have precise timetables, but it would be useful for us to know precisely what the objective is.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, I will take the first question under advisement and will be able to discuss it.

In terms of the end game, it is not up to Canada to decide who stays and runs which country. It is up to the people of Libya. It is up to those who are fighting to continue what Amr Moussa called the winds of change that are sweeping across the Middle East as well as North Africa, and to be able to make sure that the conditions to favour that do exist.

Therefore, it is not up to Canada to say this or that individual does not have the authority, legitimacy or the right to govern and be in place in such-and-such a country. It is up the population. It is up to the people. That is, indeed, what Canada is promoting in terms of foreign policy, fostering and promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Those are the things we stand for and that we want put in place in those countries.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, the minister mentioned that he travelled to Egypt. Not only are there problems in Egypt with Hosni Mubarak and what happened there, but throughout the years there were problems with the Coptic population which makes up about 10% of Egypt. On New Year's Eve there was a bombing outside a church and although Hosni Mubarak has left, there is still violence against the Coptic Christians. There was a church burned just a couple of weeks ago and 40 members of Parliament signed a petition.

I am wondering if we have said something to the Egyptians or if a diplomatic note has been sent to them. I am wondering what Canada has done and what the minister has done on the issue of the Coptic population and the difficulties that they face. We cannot let this go. Not even a press release was issued after the burning of the church.

Although its prime minister attempted to speak to them, as one of the nations stepping forward today saying we have a responsibility to protect Libya, we owe that part of the world and those people some sort of responsibility in sending a clear message not only about what happened with Hosni Mubarak but what is happening to them now. I am wondering if the minister could enlighten us as to what exactly he did.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, that is indeed an important question.

Everyone will recall that when we had the take note emergency debate on Egypt, I indicated that among the things we wanted the new authorities in Egypt to support was the whole question of religious freedoms. We have made that quite clear. I made that perfectly clear to its foreign minister, as well as its prime minister.

When I was there on Wednesday, I had the opportunity of speaking to authorities from the civil society and the youth I met all called upon the new way of looking at how this is going to be introduced. They certainly want a de-radicalization of the elements that have been creating difficulties in that country for so long.

We have been outspoken on this specific issue. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and I stand for religious freedom. We have to remember that this party finds its roots in what John Diefenbaker and the bill of rights and religious freedoms stood for.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, it is indeed a pleasure to rise on this issue. I had asked the Speaker a number of times before to have an emergency debate on this issue and I am glad we are doing it today.

I noticed the hon. minister did not answer the question that was put to him specifically about the Coptic situation, so there will be another time that we can talk about this.

Since the beginning of this year we are noticing one demonstration revolution after another in the Arab world, in the Middle East, and yet the western world is eyeballing this and a lot of our people are saying “responsibility to protect”, that we have to take some serious steps toward it.

What is happening in that part of the world is a certain something which was well overdue. We had presidents, prime ministers, dictators, most of them there for life, and a lot of them were single-party leaders and many of them were military supported. We had Hosni Mubarak in Egypt who was there for 32 years. We have Gadhafi who has been there for 41 years. The list goes on and on.

However, before I address the issue of Colonel Gadhafi and what is happening and what he is doing to his people, I wanted to look at the Conservative government, and if it is ready to handle the safety of Canadians abroad.

There was a protocol that was put in place after the tsunami in 2004-2005 in order to assist Canadians who were caught in natural or man-made disasters, as well as the countries where the disasters happened. The protocol was that number one we get Canadians out of harm's way, and there should be a blueprint that certainly responds to every need in a different way in order to make sure we address our citizens.

Communities that wanted to raise money in order to assist in those areas would be given a one-time charitable donation number, so they can assist them in raising money, matching dollar for dollar as has been done time and time again with money that was raised. That shouldn't be a knee jerk reaction: we do it for one country and we do not do it for another. We do it for Haiti and the Prime Minister goes out there and makes a donation, but we should offer this to all the communities that are trying to raise money, even for Japan today.

I noticed that we also had some money that was going to Libya. There are Libyan Canadians who want to raise money in order to help and assist in the surrounding countries, and yet they are not being given that opportunity. There are credible organizations. There's the Red Cross, Oxfam, and CARE. There are communities stakeholders such as Humanity First, GlobalMedic. The protocol also stated that we should assist people who had immigration files from those countries, people who were sponsoring spouses, dependent children, parents, and grandparents in order to get them out of harm's way. If people in Canada want to, there has to be the willingness as well as the means to invite people from that part of the world, certainly for them to be given that opportunity to come to this country until the calamity is over.

We have seen the disaster and what happened with the situation in Lebanon. The government's response back then was certainly dismal. Early this year we saw what happened in Egypt when the difficulties erupted. Evacuation of Canadians from Egypt was hastily done, at the very last minute. To my knowledge, Canada was the only country in the world that was asking its citizens to pay money to be evacuated out of harm's way. Never before have we had a government that actually asked people to pay for getting evacuated.

We saw what happened in Japan last week. Other countries are evacuating their citizens. I am told China has evacuated close to 30,000 of its citizens. The only thing Canada did was give two buses to move them out of harm's way.

Now let us see what happened in Libya. When the difficulties started happening and Mr. Gadhafi was starting to kill his people, Canada had the ambassador and one official there, and they were the first ones, after a couple of days, to leave. We hear stories of Canadians who were paying up to 2,500 euros in order to be smuggled to Malta. So again, the government has completely gutted evacuation protocol that was put in place. It is really not putting blueprints in order should our citizens need an evacuation or our assistance in a time of need.

Then we come to the R to P, responsibility to protect. We have seen commentator after commentator, newspapers and television saying that the western world had to do something. Finally, we have moved on and have the no-fly zone. I, for one, am supportive of this. I know that my party is. I know that nobody in this House would say that we should not be supporting the people of Libya or that we should not be making sure that Mr. Gadhafi is taken out of office so that his people could be protected.

However, the responsibility to protect, how we use it and when we use it, is something else that needs to be discussed. In Qatar, people are being killed. In Bahrain, it is the same thing. We also have to look at those areas.

One thing that we have to be careful about is that we need to know the end date of the mission. We need to know how long we are going to be there. We need to know if the no-fly zone works and what the next steps are going to be. We need to know the cost of this. We also need to be transparent with respect to what we are doing.

Those are my thoughts on this matter. I am supportive of the government's action; however, we also have to make sure that before the action is taken that the protocol that was put in place in order to assist Canadians in harm's way is paramount. We just cannot allow what happened in Japan, with the provision of only two buses to get our people out of harm's way. That is dismal and is something that we should not be supporting.

I am supporting the mission; however, I am calling the government to task on the way that they are handling Canadians abroad.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, the member has really done a very good job of alerting the House to some of the issues.

The communications I have received reflect a humanitarian concern for innocent civilians. It goes to the heart of a question which many Canadians are still asking, and that is whether we are peacekeepers or peacemakers, and whether or not there is a proper balance when it comes to humanitarian needs.

I wanted to give the member an opportunity to say a couple more words about the dimensions of the problem, how many people we are talking about, the areas in the Arab world where we are experiencing these difficulties, and which have not had the kind of support from Canada that they deserve.