House of Commons Hansard #8 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was mission.

Topics

Libya
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, this is an important debate today, not just in form but in substance. What is just as important in the motion and the amendments is the word solidarity. Today is an important day. We must not forget the horrors of the Holocaust. We have a responsibility, as citizens of the world, to ensure such horrors never reoccur. Dictators must be fought. Canada has always taken a stand when it was time to intervene. We have all due regard for the sovereignty of countries, but there comes a time when civilians must be protected and we must act.

Every time I see things like what is happening in Libya—I asked a question this morning about this—I think of General Dallaire and what happened in Rwanda. We do not want history to be forever repeating itself. We have a responsibility, therefore, as parliamentarians and as a country to intervene and demonstrate our solidarity with the people of Libya, who are suffering terribly.

We could talk about what is happening in Syria, in the Middle East, or elsewhere in Africa and in other countries. Every case is unique, but the basic principle is the same. I was proud to serve as a Liberal minister, and I have sat on both sides of the House. Canada must always take a stand when civilians need protection. That is why we supported Canada’s participation in the Afghan mission from the outset. That is why we support this motion today, although not blindly. We have to be specific, and that is why we support UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.

Every time we have had this kind of debate in the House, the Liberal Party has replied ready, aye, ready, whether as the government or the official opposition, as it is today. Regardless of who our leader was, we have always been there to protect people. It is important to us that this motion be based on protecting civilians from an imminent threat and imposing a no-fly zone.

We do not believe that troops should be put on the ground. We have already established an air mission. We are providing support. We belong to NATO and the UN. If Canada had won a seat on the UN Security Council, it might have been able to play a more significant role. Today, as parliamentarians, we must show, with civility, just how much Canada must play a leading role and participate actively in this mission.

What is happening in Libya is serious. We saw the Jasmine Revolution this spring in the Maghreb, in the Middle East. We saw our Tunisian brothers and sisters take the future into their own hands and play a major role in fighting dictators. We saw the exact same thing in Egypt.

However, I do not believe that we should take a piecemeal approach. As far as I am concerned, Canada's foreign policy should not be dictated by a military operation. The military is both necessary and important because it is the strong arm of our democracy, but policies must be determined by Foreign Affairs. That is why we have always provided constructive criticism about certain aspects of the Afghan mission. When it comes to Libya, a piecemeal approach will not work. We need a diplomatic and humanitarian strategy so that the Libyan people can take the future into their own hands. We have an international responsibility, along with other countries, to support the people and civilians who are suffering.

That is why we completely agree. We have said so from the beginning. We have called for the imposition of a no-fly zone since the start of the violence.

I think that we must do much more. I agree with my colleagues who have said that, obviously, the Libyan people must take their future into their own hands. We need to be there to support governance and to give them tools to establish their own democracy. There is no room for ethnocentrism. We must not impose our own values and our way of life. There are universal democratic and humanitarian values. We have always said that we must not give people fish; we must teach them to fish. We must give them the tools they need. It will cost money. In its strategy, the government must not say that it will send planes and that this will just be a military operation. We will have to ensure that we give these people development tools so that they can take charge of their own transition.

That is our role, that is how we do things, how we see things as Canadians. Regardless of the government, I believe that the only way this has a chance of being successful is if we are there to provide support. We are not there to replace. We are there to support. If we want to help the Libyan people, the first thing we must do is support these military missions and play a role. I have a hard time saying that in three and a half months, we will withdraw. We do not know what will happen in three and a half months. Hopefully things will go well during that period, but what is important is for Parliament to hold a new debate if, after three and a half months, there are still problems. I think we have to be realistic.

This is not peacemaking. This is peacekeeping. We can always interpret chapter 7 or chapter 8 on humanitarian missions, if necessary, but we do not want to relive what happened in Rwanda. We need to give this a chance.

In terms of diplomacy, there is also a geopolitical reality to consider, since it is not just Libya. Libya has borders. Tunisia and Egypt are also in turmoil. Their reality, what they are learning, must also be considered. The people there are taking control of their own destiny and a new reality is emerging, since the dictators will be judged or have been arrested.

That is why we must ensure that, in each mission, the most important things are the three D's: diplomacy, development and defence. We have already talked about this. Our mission should be based around this notion, in order to make sure it can work.

Canada has a role to play. Realistically speaking, Canada has certain capabilities. We have always been quite strong, for I recall some of our concrete actions, and not just in Afghanistan. There was also Haiti. We have made important contributions in several countries. Canada has a role to play in governance, in assistance, in support for governance and in terms of development tools for democracy, but we also have an important role to play in the International Criminal Court. We cannot allow these crimes to go unpunished. We need to ensure that Gadhafi pays for what he has done.

I hear people talking about a regime change versus just protecting civilians. There is a fine line. The most important thing is stopping the horrors that are taking place right now. It is completely deplorable and unacceptable that rape is being used as a weapon of war, as in Congo. It has even been said that Gadhafi gives his soldiers Viagra. It is completely unacceptable. We must ensure that these actions do not go unpunished.

We will have a role to play in the transition. We will have a role to play in terms of the International Court. I see my colleague, one of our greatest former justice ministers, who played a key role in the creation of the International Criminal Court.

We must ensure during the transition, if we want to give these people a chance, that crimes do not go unpunished. We must absolutely play a role in that regard.

We are going to work constructively and co-operatively with all parliamentarians in order to fully play our role.

I guess we are not seen everything that is going on in the field. A lot of stuff is happening there. I hope we put partisanship aside and that, as Canadians, we will play our role of citizens of the world. We cannot just allow dictators like that do what they do without taking our own responsibility.

The global village is there now. There are no more boundaries, no more frontiers, and we have a role to play. The Canadian way is the triple D, as I said. It is diplomacy, development and defence, and we just cannot go at the menu a la carte saying that we will do one and then the other. If we had that way of doing things, people would not be on side.

We need to send a clear message. I was very pleased to hear my colleagues from the official opposition also say that we are there for the citizens, the civilians, to ensure they are protected. That is our role. Whether we are a member of the Security Council or not, we have a role to play as a country.

Those were the few words I wanted to say on behalf of my constituents in Bourassa. I wanted to give my opinion on a situation that, unfortunately, is a reality in a number of countries. Obviously, we will address them one at a time. It is important to add that the Liberal Party of Canada stands in solidarity—the word “solidarity” is important here—with all parliamentarians to protect people and ensure that dictators like Gadhafi can never be in this position again.

The diplomatic reality is such that we do not always understand how things happen on the ground, but the primary objective is to ensure that we can protect the civilians, protect the people and make the world a better place. It is our responsibility, in our Canadian democracy, to play this role. I thank the government and all parliamentarians for playing this role today. This is an important debate for Canada.

Libya
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to reiterate now that, this morning, the Minister of International Cooperation made the announcement of another $2 million going into humanitarian aid to Libya, $250,000 of which is to go toward helping women and girls who have been the victims of gender-based violence.

I wonder if the hon. member, who condemned, as all of us have, that kind of use of violence as a tool of war, could comment on how this $250,000 will assist these women and girls, particularly in Libya.

Libya
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, today it is not a matter of saying that we have given a certain amount. There must be zero tolerance. Not only must we invest money, but we must also ensure, when international treaties or conventions are signed, that we are capable of fully carrying out our responsibilities. I am thinking of child soldiers, for example. We sign treaties, but I sometimes feel that we just go through the motions of supporting them. I am not speaking about a specific government, but in general terms.

Yes, we do have to invest money and ensure that we are not just cutting a ribbon or writing a cheque to feel good. But there must also be follow-up. When we attend meetings of the UN Security Council and sign a treaty or convention, we must be able to implement it in order to prevent such events from happening again. We must thus push back the limits of impunity. There must be zero tolerance. In this process, there is no room for ethnocentrism, and the Libyan people must take charge of their destiny through the national transitional council. They must also ensure that, in future, the rights of women will be respected, the ravages of war will be prevented, and efforts will be made in terms of the culture. They must ensure that such situations do not happen again.

We must be very careful. We are pleased that the government is investing money, but it is not just about the money. Resources are not all about money. This is also about the will to make change and how to go about it, and the resulting political work. One day, we will no longer be there. The cameras will no longer be focused on what is happening in Libya because there will be another problem somewhere else. And when we have forgotten, other things will happen. Just because we are withdrawing from Afghanistan and are proud of what we have accomplished there does not mean that no more horrors will take place.

How can we ensure that there is follow-up? That is the diplomatic and multilateral role of Canada in international institutions. It is the duty of any self-respecting government to ensure that we do more than just give money. Furthermore, we cannot say that the cheque is in the mail because Canada Post is on strike. There must be substantial follow-up, we must work more closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs, make good use of our diplomats, and work with our NGOs in gathering intelligence and taking action to protect the people.

Libya
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Bourassa for sharing his comments with us and for presenting such an informative speech.

He agrees with everyone here that we need to support the people of Libya in their transition. He emphasized the three D's. We have different ways of expressing this concept, but the Canadian government needs to co-operate with other governments and use all available tools.

There has been some discussion today regarding governance, an area that tends to fall between development and diplomacy. It is part of both and cannot be separated from either. How does the member think a country like Canada could support the creation of new civil institutions in Libya? Should it be through our existing institutions? Can he think of a new approach that can be used to reach the objective he talked about in his speech?

Libya
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I think that governance should be a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs; this is a diplomatic matter. There are several ways we can go about it, but there is one thing I would not want to see. At one point, in Afghanistan, National Defence had a committee specifically under the CDS, which advised Mr. Karzai. That is not the role of National Defence, in my opinion. It has a role to play, but that is not it. It has done things well in military terms, but when it comes to governance it is important that this really be under the auspices of Foreign Affairs.

I am in favour of multilateralism. We can work with the United Nations, and Canada can provide support for a mission organized by the UN. That has been done in several cases in the past, particularly with MINUSTAH, in Haiti, where we played a supporting role in relation to governance, reconstruction, justice and all that. There may also be bilateral agreements between Canada and Libya.

Canada must play an even more important role in the Arab world. Governance in Libya is important, but things have been done in Egypt by our former colleague, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. We will have to do things in Tunisia, for example. I do not understand why we have not yet frozen the assets of Ben Ali’s brother-in-law.

We are have to face certain facts, and this will call for a hybrid approach to things. One thing I know, however, is that Canada has a reputation when it comes to democracy and governance. Canada can very certainly play a role, in relation both to existing institutions and to establishing a bilateral strategy.

Libya
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is encouraging to see, in the manner in which this motion has come before us, the support for both the subamendment and amendment.

I ask the question of my colleague posed by a previous speaker, who indicated that after three and a half months, we should be looking at pulling out of Libya, at least that is what was being implied.

Does my colleague believe that this would be advisable for the federal government? What potential impact would something of this nature have, if we were to take the advice of that particular member?

Libya
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, we have to be realistic. If the government says it is conducting its mission and pulling out three and a half months later, it will never work. However, if it co-operates with the foreign affairs critics and if we could be updated on this issue as it develops, that would be different. I would not want us to make a hasty decision without seeking permission from Parliament. We must not decide, after three and a half months, that it is time to pull out.

We do not know what is going to happen in three and a half months. It will go by quickly. Will Gadhafi still be there? According to some, we were supposed to be rid of him, but there have been many bombs since the beginning. There is even talk of civil war. The United Nations has a role to play. The right thing to do is to have another debate here before making any hasty decisions.

I understand that for political reasons the NDP is against NATO. Some NDP MPs wanted us to pull out of Libya immediately and “keep our powder dry”, as they say. Let us talk first and adopt the right policy. What we want above all is to protect the civilians, the people of Libya. After that, we will hold another debate, but we must not pull out too quickly.

Libya
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank all of my colleagues who have spent the better part of today debating what I believe to be an absolutely important discussion for us to undertake as parliamentarians.

Any time we consider the actions of any government going to war, the responsible thing for the government to do is to go to the Canadian people and ask for their permission to act on their behalf.

Today we have seen the commitment of our Prime Minister realized in this House. The Prime Minister made it very clear during the last election, as he has over his time as prime minister, that he would continue to act on behalf of Canadians but only with the permission of this House when it comes to going into a combat or conflict zone. So it is really a privilege for me to stand and be part of this discussion undertaken by members of all parties in this House.

Today I had the opportunity to go to the Holocaust memorial service held at the war museum here in Ottawa. I heard from representatives of many of the parties in this House. The unifying theme of all the speeches given by all of the party leaders and representatives of different parties was that we must act to help those who are the most vulnerable in their time of need. There was even a reference by the leader of the Green Party to Canada, to a certain extent, having failed the Jewish people by coming in so late.

If there is one thing that we Canadians never want to do, it is to come late to the rescue of those who are the most vulnerable in our world. As we look at the Libyan people today, especially the women and children, I cannot think of a more vulnerable population that we as Canadians have an opportunity to advocate on behalf of.

We Canadians did go to Libya, first and foremost, to protect the civilian population that had seen its own government attack the most vulnerable in the country. We are there in collaboration with our NATO partners and under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973.

This House did unanimously agree that we must bring forward sanctions. We brought them forward, and all parties agreed. As members of this House, we also endorsed military action in Libya.

I think it is important for us to remind ourselves why we did that. We did see the horrific reality of the Libyan military attacking the most vulnerable in its own country, a government attacking its own people.

In history when we have seen this happen, we have known there was little opportunity and little chance for the civilian population to move out of a conflict like that unscathed or prepared to see freedom happen. That is why it is so important that we are there today and that we continue and complete the mission we set out to do, which is to protect the most vulnerable.

Since the conflict started, we have heard of alleged acts of sexual violence by the Gadhafi regime against those who are most vulnerable in Libya. Those include the attacks on women and children and the use of rape as a tool of war.

Any time in world history when we have seen regimes use this type of weapon of war, we have understood that the effects of this will not just be short term in the country but long term.

As we hear of the realities of that, we cannot even imagine them. I am a father of two young girls. I cannot imagine what I would do to someone who came to brutally rape my daughters or my wife. However, we realize there are fathers and husbands at this moment who are being hauled off and slaughtered in some cases. In other cases, they are standing there helpless, unable to care for or protect their children and wives.

That is why we as Canadians have the responsibility, when we hear the reports of this, and have the ability and the tools and the strength to go in there and free those people, to do everything in our power to do that.

Our Prime Minister did act swiftly when we saw what was happening in Libya. From the outset, the Prime Minister did push for swift and decisive action not only here in Canada but also in the international community. The reality is that without that swift action, far worse conditions would have developed. We as Canadians, having advocated swift action and gone in there, now have a responsibility to carry through with the action the House endorsed.

The reality is that much of what we went in there to help solve remains. The Gadhafi regime is still there, actively warring against its own people, which speaks to our responsibility to continue to advocate on behalf of those who are the most vulnerable in Libya.

When we consider what we have to do, we realize there is the military component in which we are engaged, as this Parliament knows well, but we must also continue on both the diplomatic and humanitarian sides. Our ministers have spoken about the contributions this government has made on the humanitarian side. That is important as well.

Libya
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

It being 6:30 p.m., pursuant to order may Monday, June 13, 2011, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of Motion No. 1 under government business.

The question is on the amendment to the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment to the amendment?

Libya
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Libya
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the amendment to the amendment will please say yea.

Libya
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Libya
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Libya
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Libya
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion, the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.