Mr. Chair, I will begin my comments by stating that New Democrats will be supporting UN Resolution 1973 and obviously the debate we are having here is how that will be done in Canada.
It is important to give a bit of an overview and timeline on how we got here. As we know, there have been tumultuous events in the North African-Middle East region. When it comes to Libya, some of the most recent events started in mid-January. There were political corruption concerns of civilians and protests in Benghazi, Bani Walid and other cities. There were protests in the streets on issues around the lack of housing and corruption.
In late January there was a significant event. Jamal al- Hajji, a writer, political commentator and accountant, called out on the Internet for demonstrations to be held in support of greater freedoms in Libya. He was inspired by the events in Tunisia and Egypt. On February 1, he was arrested by plainclothes officers and was charged on February 3 with injuring someone with his car, which was a trumped up charge. Amnesty International claimed that because al-Hajji had previously been in prison for his non-violent political opinions, the real reason for the arrest appeared to be his call for demonstrations.
In early February, Gadhafi met with political activists, journalists and media figures and warned them that they would be held responsible if they disturbed the peace or created chaos in Libya. The protests and confrontations then began in earnest on February 15. On February 17, the day of revolt was called for by Libyans and by February 21 Libya erupted into violence with Moammar Gadhafi's son threatening rivers of blood and deployed security forces on protestors and some who had claimed by that point the second biggest city, Benghazi.
In the initial crackdown, 250 people had died in Tripoli alone. There were reports of military aircraft firing on peaceful protestors in Tripoli. On Monday, these reports were backed up by Libyan diplomats who had turned against the leadership of Gadhafi. Amid the violence, there were also signs that some officials and troops were deserting the Gadhafi regime.
It was at that moment that my party, on February 22, made a statement that the Government of Canada must unequivocally express its support for the peaceful realization of the Libyan people's democratic aspirations. At the time we called on the Canadian government to use all its available diplomatic channels to help put an end to the Libyan regime's violent oppression.
On February 22, we called on Canada to work with international partners to bring the issue of a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace to the UN Security Council. We believed that was required on February 22. On February 26, when the UN Security Council passed the first resolution, Resolution 1973, which enacted sanctions, we pushed again for the Canadian government to engage our UN partners and others to push for a no fly provision.
We had welcomed the sanctions with regard to the Gadhafi regime at the time on February 26, but we were also very concerned and remain concerned about the response of the Canadian government, frankly, when it came to evacuation and the missed opportunity for humanitarian support. We believed at the time, and said so publicly, that Canada should advocate not only for the UN no-fly provision but also to help refugees on the borders of both Egypt and Tunisia. We also believed in the need to refer Gadhafi and the members of his regime to the Hague, the International Criminal Court, and that is something that has been put forward through the UN.
It was also noted at that time that the UN and the Arab League had been calling for a ceasefire. That was something we believed was important to note.
At the time, as was mentioned by some of my colleagues, other institutions were also speaking out. We heard from members the African Union, which is important to put that on the record. They were condemning the violence of Gadhafi. We also heard from the Organization of the Islamic Conference and, as we have already noted, the Arab League.
As we debate this motion, we must remember that it is not just a military engagement. We believe that there needs to be humanitarian support. We have heard from at least one minister that there is contemplation for humanitarian support. We would certainly encourage the government to make concrete plans and to let Canadians and the international community know those plans. We have lift capacity in situ.
We also believe there is an opportunity to engage with the Diaspora here. As has been noted before, we have had fundraising done primarily but not exclusively by Libyan Canadians. We have had Canadian Libyan doctors offer their support to help with a humanitarian mission. We think they need to be engaged. They have offered and we should take them up on that offer.
The government needs to be clear about the goals of this mission, which is what this debate is about and, presumably, what the motion will detail. We have been in conversation with the government and have asked for amendments to be made to the motion that we will be bringing forward to this House in a couple of hours.
I will go over some of the things that we would like to see. I have already mentioned the need to be very clear about what Canada's commitment to UN resolution 1973 is and what it is not. We have certainly let the government know this today. I will say publicly for the record that we will hold the government to account that this is not about deploying ground troops, that this is about supporting the no-fly zone and that there is no contemplation by the government to deploy ground troops. There is a provision for humanitarian efforts and rescue, which has been noted and is obvious, and that is something we understand.
Everyone needs to see and understand what we are committing to in the motion. We want the government to say that we will engage in all aspects of the UN resolution, such as the establishment of a ceasefire, finding a political solution that addresses the legitimate demands of the Libyan people, and ensuring Libyan authorities comply with all obligations under international law.
We would also like to see the motion highlight the role of the UN. The resolution puts the UN General Secretary in a coordinating role, which is very important. Canada's involvement should always honour that part of the resolution, that we are under the auspice and the coordination, ultimately, of the UN, not other organizations.
That is the only way to maintain confidence in this UN resolution, which means working with the UN and with the Arab League. We also want to see parliamentary oversight of this mission, which the government has accepted. We in the NDP wanted to see that done by both the committees of foreign affairs and defence. We want to see a short timeline for this mission, along the lines of a couple of months. If there is any need for further engagement, it must come back to this House so we can debate and vote on that.
Finally, we want to ensure that Canada's involvement is about supporting this resolution while ensuring we can do more on diplomacy. Perhaps in questions I can elaborate a bit more on how we might be able to do that.