House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was libyan.

Topics

Libya
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Benghazi in June, he was shown a white paper prepared by the NTC, which is a route to democracy. It includes a transition period comprising 8 months under the NTC direction, followed by 12 months under a new general national assembly with elections expected in roughly 18 months after liberation. A draft constitution has been prepared and we would expect these provisions to be followed as soon as possible.

Libya
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in this debate.

First, let me state that since the outset of the Libyan crisis, the humanitarian implications concerned Canada, specifically the plight of hundreds of thousands of people trapped in conflict areas or fleeing for safety to Egypt, Tunisia and other surrounding countries.

Canada's $10.6 million contribution to humanitarian relief since the conflict began is going a long way to respond to the needs of conflict affected populations. Our humanitarian funding helps humanitarian organizations to respond to specific aspects of the crisis. The funding provided by Canada amounts to $10 million from CIDA and $600,000 from DFAIT.

We allocated funds to the following organizations: the World Food Programme to provide emergency food assistance to displaced and conflict-affected populations in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt; the International Committee of the Red Cross to meet food, non-food, water, sanitation and emergency medical needs with Libya, and to support Red Cross and Red Crescent relief efforts in Tunisia and Egypt; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to provide humanitarian support in the form of shelter, non-food items, water and sanitation to people displaced to neighbouring countries; the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies to provide migrants displaced into Tunisia and Egypt with humanitarian relief, such as food, non-food items and medical support; the Canadian Red Cross Society to transport humanitarian relief supplies from stockpiles in Dubai and Tunisia; the International Organization for Migration to support repatriation efforts for migrants displaced into neighbouring countries by the fighting in Libya to return to their countries of origin; the United Nations Population Fund to help protect and assist women and girls from gender-based violence, including sexual assaults, and to provide critical care to victims of gender-based violence in Libya; and the United Nations Department of Safety and Security for the purchase of essential security equipment to enhance the safety or UN humanitarian personnel.

Those contributions made a vital difference in the lives of the Libyan people.

To deliver assistance effectively, humanitarian personnel require access to all of those affected by the crisis. That is why Canada called on all parties involved in the Libyan conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The last few weeks saw very positive developments. On September 1, the Prime Minister attended the Friends of Libya meeting in Paris where he joined other world leaders to discuss how international partners could best support the National Transitional Council in its efforts to establish a democratic state. Canada re-established our diplomatic presence in Tripoli. Our embassy has re-opened. Perhaps most important, we secured an exemption from the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee to unfreeze $2.2 billion worth of Libyan assets. This is a critical development.

As a relatively resource-rich country, the Libyan people must lead much of the reconstruction effort. In light of the urgent need to stabilize the country, the NTC must begin the essential tasks of establishing security throughout the country and providing social services for the Libyan population. The $2.2 billion of unfrozen Libyan assets will help in this regard.

In addition, the international community's ongoing assistance provided to meet the significant needs that still require attention, in particular as they relate to water, fuel, medical supplies and personnel, as well as the protection of migrant workers, is vital.

We continue to work closely with our international partners, including the United Nations, to monitor the evolving humanitarian situation and to provide our expertise and assistance in an effort to alleviate the suffering of the unwitting and unwilling population affected by this crisis.

Our work is not done in Libya. We provided an opportunity for the Libyan people themselves to remove the tyranny of Gadhafi. We must not walk away at this time of need. Our Libyan friends need our help.

Libya
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are hearing that migrants are seeking refuge in the capital and that most of their medical complaints are linked to terrible living conditions in the camps. The majority of people are staying in makeshift shelters without water, food, electricity or access to proper health care. We hear that they live in constant fear and are being intimidated and harassed. We also hear that many patients suffer from psychosomatic complaints and show signs of stress due to extreme anxiety.

Could the hon. member comment on the rising reports of psychosocial trauma, especially among women and children? I am wondering what additional support the hon. member would recommend to strengthen the response.

Libya
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true we are hearing increasingly alarming and awful reports about some of the atrocities that are being committed. That is why it is so important, as was stated by the last speaker, to maintain our military presence.

The conflict will not be resolved until Gadhafi forces are put to rout. As was previously stated, there still is a strong presence of Gadhafi forces and strong resistance. Although we have made an effort with the United Nations Population Fund to help protect women and girls from gender-based violence, we cannot implement those things unless we have the means to stop Gadhafi and his group.

That is why the debate we are having is so important. That is why we need to make sure that collectively we do what is necessary, which is to continue with what is necessary from the military standpoint to stop Gadhafi and his forces.

Libya
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for outlining the myriad initiatives our government has taken to address specifically the humanitarian needs. Earlier today the defence critic from the official opposition implied that we are not doing enough in terms of the rebuilding of Libya. The speech we have just heard certainly indicates otherwise.

Earlier today the Minister of National Defence commented on our commitment to increase access to humanitarian aid and for the rights of women and religious freedom.

I would like my colleague to underscore what he began to answer in response to the previous question where the need for security is urgent if we are going to continue these important humanitarian efforts.

Libya
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga has risen a number of times in the House today and I want to thank him for his interest in this important debate.

He is absolutely right. We do need to rebuild and to help in the reconstruction. We do need to assist in the lives of those who have been adversely affected by the horrors of war and the atrocities committed by the Gadhafi forces. However, these cannot be possible unless we have the presence and unless the Gadhafi regime which is currently committing these atrocities is removed. We cannot do one without the other.

I cannot stress enough the importance of adopting this motion and for the House to agree that this mission must be completed. In order to do that we need to extend it.

Libya
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this House to speak to the situation in Libya, a topic that we have been watching for several months and that requires constant vigilance.

As we know, the evolution of the situation over there, NATO's involvement and the future of the country are at the heart of discussions in Canadian and international politics. Here at home, parliamentarians have shown a great interest in this issue, both in the House and in committees. We have followed the various political, social and military events. We have kept a close eye on what was going on in Libya and we want to support the people of Libya in the stages that will follow.

My speech today will focus on NATO's involvement in Libya, the current situation, my opposition to the motion moved by the Conservative government and the importance of the amendments proposed by the NDP.

First, I would like to give a little bit of background on NATO's involvement in Libya.

As part of the so-called Arab spring movement, rebellions in Libya started on February 15, 2011. Five days after the conflict started in Benghazi, it had spread across the country. Then, two days later, Moammar Gadhafi's regime lost control of certain regions.

The people took to the streets to denounce the injustice, oppression, lack of fairness and obscurantism of the existing government. The courage and determination of these protesters impressed us all. Risking one's life to go up against an authoritarian regime that has been in place for over 40 years is deserving of respect and honour. These people had the courage to question the established order and to bring down a corrupt and threatening government.

However, from the beginning of these protests, Moammar Gadhafi's scandalous and widespread repression has outraged and shocked us all: indiscriminate attacks against civilians, massacres in a number of Libya's cities, massive offensive attacks against unarmed protestors, rape as a weapon of war and extrajudicial killings. In short, oppression under this dictatorship reached its highest level in four decades. This oppression threatened the physical integrity of the people and the stability of the region.

Resolutions 1970 and 1973 of the UN Security Council sent a clear message: the international community will not let the regime get away with massacring a population, and it was prepared to intervene to stop the massacres. Under the responsibility to protect doctrine, the New Democratic Party supported the initial military involvement launched by NATO, as well as the renewal in 2011.

My colleagues and I hope that civilians will be protected, that Gadhafi and his troops will no longer be in a position to cause any harm and that the rule of law will return to Libya. That is why we deployed Canadian CF-18s in support of NATO's commendable, legitimate operations.

Canada conducted 820 air strikes, some 9% of all NATO strikes. Canada conducted 352 aerial refuelling sorties, some 7% of all NATO refuelling sorties. We conducted 85% of all aerial maritime patrol sorties, some 151 sorties. We dropped 600 laser-guided bombs.

We did our part. We did important work. We are proud of the work done by our soldiers. We are proud of their actions. I would like to personally thank them for their excellent work and I know that all of my colleagues, of all political stripes, join me in thanking them.

However, we are now in a different place. The reality is not the same as a few months ago and the needs have changed. The support Canada can provide has also changed and must adapt to the new reality. Tripoli has been liberated, the dictatorial regime has fallen, and fighting between forces loyal to the old regime and the rebels is limited to three cities. Life is beginning to get back to normal, particularly in the capital.

The balance that existed has been reversed. On the one hand, the Gadhafi regime has been limited and is no longer in a position to ensure the country's sovereignty or to make mass attacks on civilians. It has lost. The regime has been defeated.

The National Transitional Council, on the other hand, is recognized and supported by the international community. It has established and stabilized its positions in nearly the entire country and has achieved its first objective, which was to crush Moammar Gadhafi's regime. It has won. The people have triumphed over fear.

If we compare the situation from six months ago, or even three months ago, to today's, no one can deny that the country is doing better. No one can deny that the collapse of the regime is good news for the people of Libya in general. No one can deny that Libya is headed in the right direction.

The former government's frozen funds have been, for the most part, unlocked by the international community. These billions of dollars are now available to the NTC to begin the reconstruction of the new Libya.

Unfortunately, today's Libya lacks solid institutions, the rule of law, and national structures capable of meeting the people's needs. Libya is currently a country in need of humanitarian, logistical and technical support. The most worrisome threats today are the absence of the rule of law, corruption, a broken justice system and unmet basic needs. First of all, this country needs our expertise in order to build the future.

I will now get to the crux of the matter, the motion introduced by the government. A number of elements in this motion and the government's approach to this matter are of interest to me. I find some aspects disconcerting. The four main points in my speech are the military component of the mission, putting the rule of law at the forefront, protecting civilians, and Canada's role on the international scene. I believe that this motion does not take either the reality or the high-priority needs into account. It is not in keeping with the principles the government preaches.

First, on this side of the House, we deplore that the government's approach is essentially focused on military support, a role of the Canadian armed forces. We are proud of what our soldiers have accomplished. We are proud of their contribution to date. However, we believe that it is now time for Canada to shift its focus to humanitarian efforts.

Historically, Canada's strength has been its expertise in democracy, human rights, justice, and social and economic development. We must take advantage of our strength and focus our efforts in those areas. We do not wish to support continued military action in Libya and we do not believe that it is the priority. The military mission that began in March and was extended in June was to protect the Libyan people from the violence of the Gadhafi regime. We thank our military and our diplomats who worked hard to achieve that goal.

Today, the situation has changed and our action must change accordingly. The humanitarian corridors are open and safe. The basic needs on the ground are no longer the same. We must now build the foundations of Libya's future. We all know that the government will not provide the same resources to the humanitarian component as it does to the military component.

The $10 million being spent on military operations each month is $10 million that is not going to the Libyan people. The $330,000 being spent each day is $330,000 that is not being spent on rebuilding the country. From this point on, Canada's actions should not be based on the past or present, but on the future. We need to be fully dedicated to preparing Libya for the challenges ahead: creating a justice system, training police officers and developing democratic institutions. We must also support a new state structure that will meet the primary needs of the people both today and tomorrow.

There is a lot of work ahead of us and it is essential that we establish our priorities. From this point on, we must focus on civil resources. From this point on, Canada's humanitarian and technical resources must take over from our military support. From this point on, we must prepare for Libya's future.

Second, the motion states the desire that the House continue to support Canada's engagement in all spheres in the rebuilding of the new Libya, including human rights, democratic development and the rule of law, and that the House deplores the violence committed by the previous regime against the Libyan people, including the alleged use of rape as a weapon of war.

Clearly, we cannot oppose those sentiments. What perplexes me is the restrictive aspect of this statement. Like all parliamentarians, we are in favour of the rule of law in Libya. Like all parliamentarians, we want to see the crimes of the previous regime punished. However, the rule of law cannot come before a representative political system is developed. It will necessitate the development of a fair and equitable justice system.

In addition, the National Transitional Council does not have a monopoly on virtue. In a recent report, Amnesty International reviewed the war crimes committed both by the Gadhafi clan and by the National Transitional Council: settling of scores, extrajudicial killings, public hangings, prisoners tortured or killed and arbitrary mass arrests of nationals.

So far, none of the people involved in these war crimes, on either side, has been arrested or tried.

If the government wants its position to be consistent, it must denounce the crimes committed by both sides. It must ensure that these actions do not go unpunished. It must ensure that Libya has the tools it needs to implement the rule of law in the country. We cannot allow those who have committed war crimes to build Libyan democracy.

All this brings me back to my first point. We must base our priorities on our values and on our hopes for the Libyans. If the government's priority is to drop bombs, so be it. Our priority is to establish a strong, fair and equitable Libyan society. For us, establishing a rights-based society involves prosecuting crimes on both sides, mainly through diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.

Third, the conclusion of the motion focuses on the protection of civilians. Of course, we want to do the right thing. Who in the House could oppose this? However, upon careful examination of the situation, we see that it is much more complicated than the government would have us believe. The structures of the former regime are not as easily identifiable as they were when the intervention began.

The operations of the Gadhafi clan are more subtle. They are not using the same level of deployment that they were three or six months ago. Forces loyal to the former regime are now more likely to be hidden here and there.

As a result, rather than massive bombings, upcoming battles will be ground battles, which will pose a real threat to the safety of civilians and will affect the local people's perception of the international community's operation.

In any bombing operation, no matter how surgical, civilians are often an unintended target that we wish to avoid. Perhaps the government sees them as collateral damage but, for us, the loss of even one civilian is a tragedy that must be avoided at all costs.

It is also important to remember that NATO is not planning to bring in any ground forces and the NTC will inevitably have to continue this military work. The NTC currently has the tools to do so. It has the weapons. It has the logistical and strategic support, and it has the tactical advantage. As representatives from the Canadian army informed us in committee, pro-Gadhafi forces will soon be short on firearms and troops.

The Conservatives' approach once again shows the deep divide between this government and Canadian tradition in terms of international outreach.

Historically, our country played a peacekeeping role, a positive role, a proactive role. This government is only considering a military approach. This government chooses the easy route instead of deploying its resources where it counts. This government refuses to focus on the future of a country in need of solid structures.

Why does this government not come back to our country's strengths? Why does this government not come back to what has made us as a country appreciated around the world in the past? Why does this government insist on favouring weapons over humanitarian efforts?

In closing, the NDP opposes this motion because it is out of touch with reality. It does not take the future into account. It does not take into account the real support Canada can offer to Libya.

Accordingly, we are saying no to the motion as presented. We are saying no to the militaristic approach of the Conservative government and conversely, we are saying yes to humanitarian support from Canada and yes to the future of Libya.

That is why we have proposed two amendments to shift the focus of the motion from military efforts to humanitarian efforts. These two amendments put the emphasis on the real needs of the people. They direct Canada back to its historic mission. The Conservative government has to understand that Libya is more than an exchange of gunfire; it is more than bombings and it is more than a civil war.

Libya is a country of 6 million people who wanted to free themselves from oppression. These 6 million people turned their backs on dictatorship and chose freedom. These 6 million people now want to take charge of their fate, look ahead and build a better future.

Today, Canada's duty is to help Libyans build a modern society that reflects the aspirations of a people. A military mission is no way to achieve that end.

Libya
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's East, Afghanistan; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, The Environment.

Libya
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the speech by the member opposite and I appreciate her position, but what she needs to appreciate is that in order to deliver humanitarian aid to the people who need it in Libya, they must first have security, and that is one of the things we are putting forward here. We need to ensure there is security so that people on the ground can deliver the humanitarian aid that is sent from other countries. That is one of the important reasons we are extending this mission in Libya. If we do not first have security, we cannot have the humanitarian aid getting to the places where it is needed.

For example, in many of the remote parts of Libya, pro-Gadhafi forces are interfering with humanitarian aid getting to the people who need it. If the member wants to have humanitarian aid reaching out to people who need it across the country of Libya, she must first acknowledge that security is a necessary factor for that to take place.

Libya
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my colleague that I am very aware of the importance of security in delivering humanitarian supplies, for example. When we talk about security to deliver supplies, we are talking about security on the ground. Right now, the NTC provides security on the ground to assist with the delivery of these supplies. Canadian troops are not the ones providing actual security on the ground, since we have insisted all along that Canada's military mission would not involve troops on the ground.

Libya
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for her speech.

It is certain that once our military leaves, we will have a huge task ahead of us to help Libya, a country that has known only dictatorship and repression for over four decades. The Liberal Party, along with our leader, has taken time to consult Canadians of Libyan origin to find out what they think would be important to do when we help Libya. A number of members of this community work in the health care and medical fields. They suggested that an important role for Canada would be to help put in place health infrastructure, which, frankly, does not currently exist in Libya.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about this suggestion as a way to provide assistance to Libya.

Libya
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, if we pro-rate the funds currently being put into the military mission, it comes out to $330,000 a day. If we were to allocate that money to health care instead, we could make some serious progress, I would like to point out. As a nurse, I had the opportunity to do some humanitarian work in West Africa. I know that all of Africa is in desperate need right now, so I imagine that Libya is too.

Yes, in my opinion, the priority should be the health care system and all other humanitarian needs in Libya.

Libya
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Standing Committee on National Defence was at the briefings we had last week from Major-General Vance and Her Excellency the Ambassador of Canada to Libya, Sandra McCardell. They clearly outlined that there is still a large area of Libya under the control of the pro-Gadhafi forces. They clearly stated that there are large caches of weapons and ammunition available to the pro-Gadhafi forces and that they have an ability to strike back and fight a hard fight.

We are witnessing that now. Members of the Gadhafi family are making all sorts of public statements about being prepared to be martyrs and about being prepared to fight to the last man or woman. We have to ensure that we get this oppressor and his forces under control so that we will have the ability for diplomacy and aid to be delivered.

I ask my hon. colleague if she would comment on the need to bring stability throughout the entire country of Libya and not just to the areas that are held now, and on the role that NATO still has to play in providing security for all Libyans.

Libya
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I also took away from that meeting is that the Gadhafi forces have been reduced considerably and that they are limited to three main cities. So they are concentrated in one area. The NTC continues working hard on the ground to take control of those areas and to ensure the safety of civilians. The Gadhafi forces have been reduced considerably. The NTC is making good progress and we must continue to support it. I think it will be able to accomplish what it set out to do.

Libya
Government Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague did serve in uniform herself and understands the importance of our armed forces and our military, and to follow up for my hon. colleague over there who asked the question about costs, I will say that we know military intervention is very expensive.

My question to my hon. colleague for Abitibi—Témiscamingue is this: does she think the money would be better spent on helping to actually rebuild Libya rather than on military intervention?