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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 LibyaGovernment Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 5:50 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Chair, as a father with a son who has recently gone to Afghanistan, I am taking a heightened interest in the issues in this area.

We are supporting resolution 1973, primarily because it is a UN-supported resolution, unlike in past conflicts we have had. We are still in Afghanistan after almost 10 years. Therefore, there is a concern about the length of involvement because of our previous involvements. That is why we are insisting on parliamentary oversight and approval, which is absolutely a big plus.

Could Canada withdraw at any time or is there a time limit? At a certain point, if we get into this, after a few weeks or a few months, do we have the option of withdrawing our troops?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, no one can predict how the situation might change over the upcoming days or weeks. We hope that President Gadhafi will leave the country quickly, stepping down and handing power back to the people, and that a democratic system will take root in Libya.

Having said that, Canada is a member of the United Nations, which will assess the situation as events unfurl. Our nation is a loyal partner of the United Nations, and it will live up to its responsibilities on the world stage when it comes to human rights and protecting the people of a nation that is currently being attacked by a president who is flouting every international rule in the book and violating human rights.

When an individual fires on his own people, the nations of the world must act to protect those people. And that is what Canada is currently doing with its six CF-18 fighter jets that have set off from Bagotville.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Chair, it is absolutely unbelievable to see the extent of the turmoil in the Arab world. We can see it now in Libya. It is harder to achieve democracy in some countries than it is in others.

After observing the democratic fervour in other countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, where the people rose up, the question on our lips was how the army would behave. How would the various dictators, many of whom have been in power for years or decades, conduct themselves? Would they demand that their army fire upon the people, given the military might at their disposal? We had our misgivings. In Egypt, the army instead took a passive stance. In Tunisia, admittedly there were skirmishes, but not of the same intensity as those in Libya. Libya is in a state of turmoil, and the international community has an obligation to its people.

People armed with Kalashnikov AK-47s facing old MiG-21s from the Russian armed forces are not engaged in a fair fight. The international community cannot sit back and say the people will prevail. The brutality of the Libyan regime is beyond what happened in Egypt and Tunisia. This is a dictator who will be stopped by nothing. He is not afraid of bloodbaths. Nothing will stop him in his efforts to hold on to power. At some point, the international community has to respond.

I am going to give a short review of the events because it is important to see how the methods the regime is using to hold on to power have escalated. The first demonstrations took place on February 17. On February 20 and 22 a number of diplomats and ministers abandoned the regime’s sinking ship.

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5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Oh, oh!

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

I thank my colleague from Hochelaga for restoring order to the House. There does not seem to be a lot of interest in the speeches being made. I am grateful to my colleague for speaking up.

On February 26, resolution 1970 was adopted by the United Nations. That resolution recommended certain embargos so there could be no arms shipments to Libya. This was an effort to isolate the regime. That first step was important. Then there was a series of sanctions. The regime’s counteroffensive began on March 2 and 3. A lot of people say that military intervention must never be used against a dictatorial regime. But in this case, events have proved us right.

The regime was isolated diplomatically and sanctions were imposed on it. When sanctions are applied, Colonel Gadhafi is not the one who is deprived of anything, in his big tent in Tripoli. He is not the one who suffers, it is his people. When there is nothing to be done with a dictatorship, the only course left for us, if we do not want there to be a slaughter, is military intervention.

But it is not military intervention at any cost. The military intervention must be based on the international rules and must go through the United Nations. Canada refused to go with the Americans into Iraq because the UN had not got involved. Here, the UN has adopted two resolutions in a row and is calling on the international community to get involved.

This had been discussed for some time. Even though it was not easy to reach international agreement, a no-fly zone absolutely had to be established. Military doctrine demonstrates this: if you do not dominate in the air, you stand a good chance of losing the conflict. That is the first thing.

This is not a new military doctrine. It was used in Kosovo. Others before me have referred to this. At the time, Serbian and Croatian troops were playing hardball. NATO troops had to get involved. That is when the no-fly zone was imposed because, as I said, if one side is armed only with slingshots and is up against aircraft, they have no chance of winning the conflict. They are likely to lose and get themselves killed.

The international community understands this and decided to go ahead with the no-fly zone when it passed resolution 1973. The Paris summit was held and that is what happened.

A few hours after the Paris summit, military interventions undertaken by international forces began. The French were the first to strike. Resolution 1973 states that all necessary measures will be taken to enforce the no-fly zone. However, procedures also need to be established to protect civilians. France's first intervention, the attack on Libyan tanks, was meant to protect the people being threatened by the tanks. The attack was very successful. Immediately afterwards, about 120 Tomahawk missiles were launched, which struck Gadhafi's anti-aircraft defences. Indeed, if we send these planes into a no-fly zone without first destroying the anti-aircraft guns, we risk suffering losses. That is why this was done. This is a well-known military practice. Were other targets also hit? Probably.

This morning, in a much-appreciated briefing from the Department of Foreign Affairs, we were told that right now the focus would be more on reconnaissance work to determine exactly what is happening. Planes will obviously enter Libyan airspace. The no-fly zone is already being enforced. I think that if a Libyan plane decides to defy the international community, it will very likely be shot down within minutes. The no-fly zone is being enforced. I also think that it is important that it happen this way because we could not allow this slaughter to continue. The mission is called “Operation Odyssey Dawn”. Many nations are involved, including the United States.

The international and political aspects explain how this decision was made. It was a major one. Together, the African Union, the Arab League, the Islamic community, the European Union, the United States and Canada can all legitimately intervene. Of course, anti-Western forces such as Russia and China will voice their disagreement. But this disagreement is limited right now because everyone can see that things could not continue as they were.

I would now like to speak about the responsibility to protect, a new aspect of international law. It is relatively new, but there have been examples where the international community really reacted too late. I am thinking about Rwanda and about Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly the Srebrenica region, where horrific massacres occurred. The international community hesitated to intervene and the damage was done. I think that, this time, the responsibility to protect was really taken into consideration and we intervened quickly.

I would like to close by saying that we must now be careful. Let us not say that everything is perfect. All of the forces in place must pay very close attention to civilian deaths because that is often what shifts the debate and causes unease. They must also pay attention to ground troops. For now, there are not supposed to be any. I think that it is better that way because they could be taken for people who are trying to occupy the area.

I really appreciated this morning's briefing. We ask that the Department of Foreign Affairs provide the opposition with weekly updates on what is happening in Libya.

I would like to thank the members of the House for listening so intently to my speech.

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6 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in this important debate about Canada's military activities in support of the Libyan people and about the flexibility the Canadian Forces bring to the mission. As the Minister of National Defence has stated, Canada has been closely monitoring developments in Libya since the crisis began weeks ago. When the situation deteriorated, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Forces acted.

Our men and women in uniform, as part of a larger whole of government effort to evacuate Canadians flew two C-17 Globemasters and two CC-130J Hercules to Malta. That evacuation was a very successful operation. We have also placed strong sanctions on Colonel Gadhafi's regime in response to the slaughter against his own people. We deployed the HMCS Charlottetown to the Mediterranean where she joined NATO allies and other international partners off the coast of Libya, ready to respond to events as they evolve. Now, in co-operation with several other countries we stand ready to enforce the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 if Colonel Gadhafi defies them.

The main objective of resolution 1973 is to protect civilian life. It calls for an immediate ceasefire and an end to all attacks against civilians. I will remind hon. members that the UN's responsibility to protect doctrine was a Canadian initiative. Facing the threat of military action, the Gadhafi regime has declared a ceasefire but the international community must be prepared to act should this declaration prove false. Trusting people like Moammar Gadhafi to keep his word has never yielded good results.

Resolution 1973 has clearly established the international community's parameters for action. Its main feature is the immediate establishment of a no-fly zone. It establishes a ban on all flights in Libya's airspace, with the exception of humanitarian flights or evacuation of foreign nationals, in order to stop further attacks on civilians and to enforce the UN arms embargo and sanctions. It authorizes in clear terms willing member states to take all necessary measures, including the use of force, to enforce compliance with the flight ban.

Our six CF-18s and approximately 150 Canadian Forces personnel supporting them are in the region to enforce the ban with our allies, such as the United Kingdom, United States, France, and partners like the League of Arab States which requested the no-fly zone. As the minister said earlier, we are in the process of defining the length and terms of our engagement, but we will enforce the no-fly zone for as long as it is required.

The CF-18, being an exceptionally versatile aircraft, is an excellent enforcement tool. CF-18s are high performance, multi-purpose fighters capable of both air-to-air and air to ground combat missions. Our fighter jets have conducted complex operations with our allies in the past. In 1990, Canada sent 24 CF-18s to Qatar to participate in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, to thwart the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Coalition forces flew more than 1,000 sorties a day, and as a result of the coalition's undisputed air supremacy the entire campaign to free Kuwait was successful. Canadian air force pilots flew more than 5,700 hours and 2,700 combat sorties in both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles. My old squadron, the 416 Squadron Lynxes were part of the Desert Cats of that day and I was very proud of them.

From March to June of 1999, our CF-18s were actively involved in the NATO-led air campaign in Kosovo called Operation Allied Force. CF-18s took part in bombing missions, combat air patrols, and provided close air support, flying 678 sorties and logging over 2,600 combat flying hours, or 10% of all NATO strike missions and with only 2% of the NATO air assets.

This government knows that Canada's CF-18s under Colonel Alain Pelletier's leadership will be capable of doing whatever is needed to implement resolution 1973's no-fly zone. I know that our fighter pilots and support crews of the 425 Squadron Alouettes from Bagotville will make Canada proud once again. It is a good thing that we have fighters available at times like this.

We are similarly confident in the versatility of HMCS Charlottetown to support the resolution's call to enforce the arms embargo and sanctions against Libya. Our Halifax class frigates are very flexible platforms that have demonstrated their worth time and time again. They, along with our Sea King helicopters, can deliver humanitarian aid and assistance as HMCS Halifax did for Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake there. They counteract and engage submarines, ships, and aircraft. Our frigates have been conducting a wide variety of maritime interdiction operations since they were first commissioned. Following the 9/11 attacks, Canada's naval ships joined international coalitions, both under the U.S.-led operation Enduring Freedom and standing NATO maritime groups, to patrol the high seas for suspected terrorists and illicit materials. In the Mediterranean today, Charlottetown is ready for whatever challenges may arise.

One of the government's main priorities since first being elected has been ensuring that the Canadian Forces has the best possible capabilities and personnel so that it can take on the security challenges of today and tomorrow. This is one more example of not knowing exactly what will happen in the decades ahead and underscores the requirement to be equipped and ready for any eventuality.

Two months ago, no one could accurately have predicted what would be happening in Libya and in much of the rest of the Arab world right now. It is a testament to the training, skill and dedication of our men and women in uniform that they are ready, literally at a moment's notice, to deploy to another continent in support of those who need help. The members of the Canadian Forces have demonstrated that they can respond effectively to all types of situations at home and abroad, regardless of the mission at hand. It will be no different in Libya.

Libyan authorities have the responsibility to protect their population. I hope that the violence in Libya will come to and remain at a complete halt. If this does not happen and if the deployment of our forces lasts more than three months, then the Prime Minister will seek the approval of the House to extend Canada's commitment in Libya.

Let me conclude by reminding my colleagues that as Canadians we can all agree that the situation in Libya needs to improve as quickly as possible, and as Canadians, we can be proud of the leadership role we are playing with other like-minded states by deploying Charlottetown, six CF-18 Hornets, two CC-150 Polaris air refuelers and imposing substantial sanctions on Libya.

Our first missions were flown safely today. I hope that as Canadians we will continue to support our men and women in uniform as they go about their important work in harm's way. We can talk about supporting freedom or we can act to support freedom. Canada needs to continue to act and I thank hon. members of the House for supporting that action.

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6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, the previous speaker spent quite a bit of time talking about our military and how much we respect and honour them for their service to our country, and the parliamentary secretary has now told us a little bit about the hardware we are dealing with.

Canadians are asking about the conditions and the dimensions of this conflict. They are asking whether we are at war or in a humanitarian campaign, are we peacekeepers, are we peace makers. They are asking whether or not this is just the beginning of a broader conflict in the Arab world and they are asking questions about whether or not we are committed now already, whether it be pursuant to the UN 1973 resolution or the meetings in Paris.

Canadians want to be informed and it is important that the parliamentary secretary make an attempt to try to inform Canadians about the dimensions of the conflict presently in Libya.

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6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, my hon. colleague's question is a good one. At this point it is largely speculation. We are taking this day by day, week by week as it unfolds. Where we want it to end up, in my view, is to have the Libyan people being able to decide their own future.

Right now our priority is protecting Libyan people from Moammar Gadhafi and his forces. We are doing that under the United Nations, which is the right place for that to happen. There was a strong vote in the Security Council to go ahead. Member states from the UN, some members of NATO, many members not from NATO, are all focused on the same thing.

We are there prepared to provide humanitarian aid as we are able and as required by the situation, but first and foremost, our job is to protect Libyan civilians from Moammar Gadhafi's forces. Where that will go, down the road, is speculation at this point. We will do whatever it takes to get the job done in consultation with the United Nations and our allies.

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6:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Conservative Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the remarks of the parliamentary secretary on this important debate about Canada's role as part of an international coalition to deal with what is going on in Libya and the protection of the Libyan people.

The parliamentary secretary is very well positioned to comment on the role of the CF-18s in this combat mission, having been a CF-18 pilot for many years. He also spoke about the Charlottetown. I had the privilege of being on a Halifax class destroyer this past September, the HMCS Calgary out of Esquimalt. We appreciate the teamwork of our Canadian Forces over there.

The member mentioned in his remarks about the responsibility to protect. That was a doctrine that Canada actually implemented. I wonder about two things: One, would he be able to comment on the role of the 140 Canadians deployed to support our six CF-18s over there and the two Polaris refuelers within the confines of what he is able to say? Second, would he comment on the responsibility to protect doctrine that Canada was responsible for helping to implement?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, “responsibility to protect” are easy words. As I said in my remarks, we can talk about supporting freedom or we can act to support freedom. That is what we are doing along with our allies.

With respect to operating and what the folks over there are doing, the CF-18 has only one pilot, but it is a very complex piece of gear. It does require maintenance, support, weapons loading, and all of those kinds of things. While it may be the steely-eyed fighter pilot squinting into the sun who gets the glory, he or she could not do his or her job without at least 20 or so folks behind them, looking after the airplanes, personal gear, and so on.

It is a very busy operation. I have had some familiarity with those. It is a total team effort, from the private on the line to the fighter pilot flying the airplane.

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6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Chair, I would like to ask my colleague, a former member of the forces and a pilot as was indicated, a question about the process that goes on here.

It took a while for the United Nations to assess the situation and to come up with this resolution. The resolution is very complex, and it handles a lot of the situation as it unfolds, from the arms embargo to the no-fly zone, and on and on.

There was some concern expressed earlier about how the command structure works as this deployment unfolds, and as the sorties go on and increase in number.

I would like to ask the member if he is aware of how the actual command structure works, of who is making the decisions on what happens over there, and of what our boys and girls are going to be doing?

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6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, right now there is a coalition op centre. All of the taskings will come through that op centre. They will be assigned out to the various forces.

When we talk about command and control, the Canadian Forces always has command of Canadian Forces assets. So decisions in theatre, or target taskings, will come back to National Defence Headquarters for approval. Once that approval is given, then the control of the mission rests with the coalition op centre in theatre.

I would just point out that there are lawyers assigned, and no target is accepted by the Canadian Forces unless it has been vetted by a team of lawyers. Collateral damage and all the things that we are concerned about, including protecting civilians, are taken care of to the maximum extent possible.

It is a very complex, detailed operation that covers all kinds of aspects that people would not normally think about.

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6:15 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I listened with great care to the parliamentary secretary.

I have a little concern when I hear broad comments like: “We are doing what it takes to get the job done and we will continue to do that as time goes on”. I know that is a form of political rhetoric. We all engage in that.

However, I would like to ask him a question in the context of the mission itself following on the resolution. Resolution 1973 is very particular about its aims, spelling it out in one, two and three, including “with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution”. In other words, to give the Libyan people an opportunity to resolve their own political process through reform. I am a little concerned that the general talk could get us into trouble.

There are many questions about this operation that we could get into as time goes on, over the next number of days. However, for the purposes of today's debate and the resolution that is to follow, I wonder if the member is in a position to confirm on behalf of the government what we have been assured by the Prime Minister speaking to our leader, that the Canadian commitment is to use the CF-18s as part of the resolution, numbers four and eight, that it is essentially an air support mission that will not involve any troops on the ground, except in the case of rescue or humanitarian efforts, and that should the government desire to change that as time goes on that this will be brought back to Parliament for further debate, discussion, and a vote.

Can the member confirm that?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, exercises are scripted, actual conflicts are never scripted. We are going in there under the aim of resolution 1973, which as my colleague said, has some specific aims. I did address that. The ultimate aim of this is to give the Libyan people the opportunity to determine their own future. We are committed to that. Sections 4 and 8 that my colleague talked about are with regard to the no-fly zone and being able to operate air to ground if necessary to stop Gadhafi's forces from hurting his own people.

With respect to the hopefully not long-term aspects of this mission, the mission right now is strictly an air mission. That is what we have committed to. Anything else would have to be discussed. I take the Prime Minister at his word. Obviously, I was not in the conversation the Prime Minister had with the member's leader, but I take him at his word. The Prime Minister is true to his word. If there are major changes to the mission, I am pretty sure we will come back to Parliament.

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6:15 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Chair, the request from the Arab League, the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, the meeting in Paris, and the formation of the immediate coalition and NATO action has been noted as being an unprecedented international determination. I would like the member to comment on that.

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6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Chair, it certainly is an important one. It is an important event in the history of the United Nations. It could be argued that the United Nations Security Council could have come to this decision sooner and that is a fair point, but the fact is it came to this decision by a strong vote of 10 to 0 to 5.

As far as it being unprecedented, probably not quite. We did the same sort of thing with Afghanistan and Kuwait. Leaders who were clearly operating outside of any norms of human decency and human rights, and behaviour were brought up by the UN with people willing to stand up for freedom. Canada, the United States, Great Britain, members of the Arab League, and many others were willing to not just talk about freedom but stand up and actually do something about it.

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6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Chair, over the course of the last few weeks, the people of Libya and many other states in Africa and the Middle East have taken to the streets in protest. People are demanding respect for their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was the first international pronouncement of human rights norms and freedoms, justice and peace, including the inherent dignity, and equal and inalienable rights of all humans.

The subsequent International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights further enhanced the ideal of free human beings enjoying civil and political freedoms.

These charters, covenants and other international treaties establish the foundation for a state's responsibilities to its citizens.

I thank the House for agreeing to such an important debate on Libya and for the world community hearing the cries of its people. Colonel Gadhafi and his regime have brought the full might of armed forces to bear on his people and have used paid mercenaries to crush his own people.

In February, the UN Security Council agreed to resolution 1970. This condemned Gadhafi's actions. It imposed a travel ban and assets freeze on those at the top of his regime. It demanded an end to the violence, access for international human rights monitors, and the lifting of restrictions on the media. It referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court, so that its leaders should face the justice they deserve.

Gadhafi ignored the demands of UN Security Council resolution 1970, that it stop the violence against the Libyan people. His forces have attacked peaceful protestors and are now preparing for a violent assault on the city of Benghazi. Gadhafi has publicly promised that every home would be searched and there would be no mercy and no pity shown.

Human Rights Watch has catalogued the appalling human rights abuses that are being committed in Tripoli.

The transitional national council was the first to call for protection from air attacks, through a no-fly zone. This was followed by the Arab League.

On March 17, the UN Security Council, acting under paragraphs 7 and 8, adopted resolution 1973 by a vote of ten in favour to none against and five abstentions. The resolution demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all acts against abuse of civilians. It establishes a ban on all flights in the airspace of Libya in order to help protect civilians and it authorizes member states to take “all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban”.

Crucially, it says in paragraph 4:

Authorizes Member States...acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures...to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack...including Benghazi.

The council authorized member states acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libya.

Resolution 1973 provides legal authority for the international community to use force to protect civilians.

It further demands that Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law, take all measures to protect civilians, meet their basic needs, and ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance.

The foreign minister of France, Alain Juppé, said, “The situation on the ground is more alarming than ever, marked by the violent re-conquest of cities that have been released”. The Security Council could not stand by and “let the warmongers flout international legality”. The world was experiencing “a wave of great revolutions that would change the course of history”, but the will of the Libyan people had been “trampled under the feet of the Gadhafi regime”.

The resolution both authorizes and sets the limits of the international community action, and that of Canada. It specifically excludes an occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.

Now that the UN Security Council has reached its decision, there is a responsibility for Canada to act with other nations.

The Security Council resolution 1973 is measured to restore international peace and security under paragraph 7 of the United Nations Charter.

As the member for Davenport, I am pleased that the overall will of this House is to support the UN Security Council resolutions.

States have a responsibility to deliver political goods, security, health and education, good governance and rule of law, to their people. Today the Libyan government has been outlawed by the international community as a failed state for no longer being willing to carry out these functions, as well as for massacring its own people. Libya has refused to meet a specific set of conditions, to respect human rights and adhere to the UN Security Council resolution.

The UN Security Council, in resolution 1973, has again confirmed the doctrine that sovereignty is a right that comes with responsibility. One cannot have sovereignty in the absence of responsibility and the doctrine of responsibility to protect. The Westphalia definition of state sovereignty no longer applies.

Afghanistan and Somalia have demonstrated the danger of ignoring failing or failed states. State failure not only presents considerable challenges for those states in decline or collapse, but also for the international system as a whole. Humanitarian challenges arise from the fact that states fail. We all remember too well the lessons learned from the acts of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Libya leader Gadhafi is unwilling to safeguard minimal civil conditions of peace, order and security for his people. He has brought war, anarchy and destruction upon his people and has lost the legitimacy of governance both domestically and internationally.

Under international law, Libya has an obligation to protect its citizens and ensure that human rights are protected. If it fails under the new doctrine of responsibility to protect, in which the leader of my party played an important role in the drafting of that document, the UN will act in demanding an immediate ceasefire in Libya, including an end to the current attacks against civilians, which it said might constitute crimes against humanity. The Security Council has demonstrated these actions are no longer tolerable and I applaud the Security Council for this action.

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6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Chair, I would like to make two comments.

First, on the responsibility to protect, I applaud, as the member did, the Security Council. I think it was Paul Martin who brought this in. It was a great move by the United Nations, but it had to be put into practice. I applaud the members of the Security Council who let this go through. It is a beginning for the world.

I thought today that this could give hope to other people who are downtrodden and think they may be run over by brutal dictatorships. The free world is watching. People of all races and religions are watching and will no longer let a government totally abuse its citizens.

My second comment is to thank a journalist, Kate Heartfield, who on March 3 in the Ottawa Citizen said, “The Burmese situation then was very similar to Libya's last Saturday–a popular uprising crushed by violence”.

I want to remind people in Canada and around the world that a very similar thing happened in 2007 when a cruel dictatorship mowed down innocent monks, perhaps even more harmless and helpless than in this situation. We should not forget the world has a responsibility in that situation as well.

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6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Chair, the responsibility to protect doctrine came out just a very short time before September 11, 2001. There is no question that it is an important document, which has become part of our international discourse and an important part of international law. That doctrine specifies the responsibility states have to their people and that if they fail to do so, there will be consequences.

This came out of the brutal situations that took place such as the genocide in Rwanda, Kosovo and so forth. It is a signal for the international community that action needs to be taken when there are violations of human rights and crimes against humanity being committed and that they are no longer tolerable. There cannot be complete sovereignty for leaders to do whatever they want with their own people.

This is an important doctrine that has been recognized and used internationally by all governments. I have to say one thing. I try not to be partisan, but I am saddened by the fact that the government has refused to use the words “responsibility to protect” and the importance of that doctrine. The doctrine is something of which all Canadians can be very proud.

It is not a Liberal thing. It is an international document in which Canada played a very important role, but we should not be afraid to use the language “responsibility to protect” and state the fact that this is very important international jurisprudence at the moment, in which Canada played a very important role.

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6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, throughout the debate, there has been a lot of commentary about some of the arrangements, the security deal, the aircraft, the military and all kinds of kudos. However, one thing that has not been talked about very much is the dimension of the problem and whether this is just a small part or a starting point where, throughout the Arab world, Canadians are concerned about whether we are making a broader commitment.

We have not heard much about things coming out of the Paris meetings. We have not had a full understanding of what the dimensions of the problem are in terms of Libya and how many innocent civilians have been slaughtered there and whether there is a report on the stability that has been achieved thus far, after a couple of days of sorties. There must be some news for not only the House but, more important, for Canadians so they understand that this is not a matter of talking about whether we are peacekeepers or peacemakers. It is a humanitarian mission with dimensions and full authorization under the UN resolution 1973 as well as under the National Defence Act.

Would member care to share with the House and Canadians the importance of this mission from a humanitarian standpoint?

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6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal 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.

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6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal 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?

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6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal 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.

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6:35 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary 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.

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6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal 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.