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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

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I think there is no question that every member in this honourable House and everyone throughout the country supports our men and women in uniform. However, when we ask some questions, the last thing we want to hear is that we do not support our military. I hope I will not get this back, given the question I am going to ask.

The minister is a dear friend. The current chair of the Standing Committee on National Defence, which I had the honour of chairing, is here. I heard first-hand the good work and the difficulty that our men and women had gone through over the past several years. However, we have an obligation when we come to the House to also ask questions on behalf of our constituents and the taxpayers. They are asking us what happened, saying that six or eight months ago Gadhafi was part of the club. They really do not know what happened. They ask what is going on with respect to Bahrain and why we are not going in there or other areas.

The minister was kind enough to talk about the conflict in former Yugoslavia that brought about Kosovo.

Canadians are asking these types of question. You might not have the answer right now, but I just thought I would pass on to you the type of discussions going on out there. I know what we are doing is right, though.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Andrew Scheer

I would just remind the hon. member to address his remarks to the Chair and not directly at other members.

There is only about 10 or 15 seconds for the minister to respond.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I thank the member for Scarborough Centre who has a long-standing interest in defence matters, as a former chair. I think he makes a very good point. No one wants to have this debate digress into a partisan match. This is really about demonstrating unanimity behind the good work of the Canadian Forces and the diplomatic corps and eventually our efforts to assist directly through humanitarian aid the people of Libya.

With regard to some of the specific question the member has asked, we have not gone into other countries because we do not have the mandate. We do not have a legal authority under the UN Security Council resolutions nor, in some cases, have we been requested as was the case in Afghanistan.

What we are doing is watching the situation very closely. We have people in the other countries he has mentioned, Bahrain and Syria, and others within the region. We did participate in support within Tunisia and Egypt in the past. We are monitoring the entire region and we will continue to do so and continue to act as appropriate and continue to consult with the House, as we do in this instance.

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3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on behalf of my colleagues. I want to thank the minister and other members of the government for providing us with some information and background about this important mission and for giving us the opportunity to debate the motion this afternoon.

We have all been watching the events in the Middle East over the last several months with a great deal of not only interest but, indeed, profound concern for the fate of the people of the Middle East. If there has been one significant transformation in international politics over the last several years, it has been the realization that what happens to people within states is every bit as important as what happens to governments.

This transformation of international law has not been speedy and it has not been without problems and challenges, but its significance cannot be underestimated. The Security Council, in passing the two resolutions, one which called for the freezing of assets of Gadhafi and his family and taking other economic sanctions against Libya and, second, the agreement I think many people found to be surprising, given the membership on the Security Council, to establish a no-fly zone, is only really imaginable if we realize the point, which I will emphasize once more. What happens to people within states and around the world is every bit as important, indeed more important, than what happens to states and governments.

The so-called convention of 1648, the Westphalia convention, which says that sovereignty trumps everything, that national governments are the end game and that reasons of state will always prevail over other considerations, is, as we used to say in law school, no longer good law. That just is not the way it works. The way it works is that governments have responsibilities to their citizens and that the citizens of the world have some degree of responsibility for one another in the challenges they face.

This is not a loosey-goosey concept. This is not a concept that has no parameters or no particular meaning. I am very proud of the fact that the Liberal leader, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, participated in the discussion that was led by the former foreign minister of Australia, Gareth Evans, in advising initially the Canadian government and then the United Nations on how to begin to create some new rules of the game, some new procedures which would give this responsibility to protect some real meaning.

It is important to emphasize that the responsibility to protect, which was ultimately adopted by the General Assembly in 2005 and which was, despite considerable controversy and debate that it might not persist for very long, reaffirmed by the General Assembly in 2009, really comprises several different elements. It is, first, a responsibility to prevent crises and harm, to do whatever we can within our means to prevent crises from happening. It is also a responsibility to react to crises as they take place and then it is a responsibility to rebuild.

These are not consistently applied. The world is not a perfect place. There are many instances which other members can raise. My colleague from Scarborough Centre has raised other examples where we ask about situations over here or in other countries.

Many commentators have made observations. I can refer people publicly to the one very eloquent cri de coeur from Mr. Rex Murphy, who we see on CBC television from time to time. He made a very eloquent comment on the fact that this so-called responsibility to protect doctrine was not consistently applied and therefore it did not mean anything. With great respect to Mr. Murphy, I think he is wrong. It does mean something.

The first thing it means is that we expect governments to protect their citizens. This is the test that Colonel Gadhafi has failed. Not only has Colonel Gadhafi failed to protect his citizens, but after 45 years in power we have had many opportunities over the years to see Colonel Gadhafi in action. We have had an opportunity to see the damage and harm that he can bring. We know that he was certainly an instigator of the Lockerbie bombing. We know that he was actively participating in the creation of Libya as a nuclear power.

We know that he responded to certain pressures from the international community and agreed to change his ways in certain instances. He abandoned, apparently to the satisfaction of the IAEA, any nuclear ambitions which he may have. We also know full well that he took certain measures with respect to directly sponsoring terrorist activities in other countries.

But the fact is that Colonel Gadhafi is still a dictator, meaning that he was not elected and he took power illegally by destroying the monarchy in Libya. He has been in power for over 40 years with the support of the Libyan army and, like any dictator, he rules by oppressing the population, killing anyone who opposes him, torturing people who have different points of view and insisting on as much power as possible for himself and his family. That is an absolutely corrupt way to run a country, but as we say, the world is not a perfect place. We know that there are dictators in the world who do not honour their moral, political and humanitarian obligations. It is difficult to say, but there are heads of state and situations that we do not like, that we want to change and that the world has tried to change. That is the case with Colonel Gadhafi.

As we have watched these transformations taking place in the Middle East, we saw the dramatic change in Tunisia, the dramatic change in Egypt, the demonstrations that are still under way in a number of countries, and many people will try to figure out why this is happening and how it is happening, but undoubtedly it came to Libya.

It came to Libya in a way that surprised many people and apparently certainly surprised Colonel Gadhafi. It was a movement of people that obviously had some military support from an army that was clearly divided and which led to the capture by that rebel army of a number of cities, a number of towns, many of which some of us had not heard of or heard from since we knew the battle names of the Second World War. When I saw on the news one night that Tobruk had been captured, one had a certain sense of historical resonance with respect to what that name and that battle signified.

It was Colonel Gadhafi's determination to take the life of his own people that led to the decision of the international community to respond and that provides us with the justification for the response.

Our own view is that this mission cannot be endless. It has to be focused. I am a little troubled by what I heard from the minister today about the ambiguity with respect to what the overall purpose of the mission is. I can say to the government that we will support the motion. We will support the determination. In fact we have supported for a considerable time the need for the world to be able to respond to situations such as the one we are facing in Libya.

I do not think any of us feels there is a military solution to this conflict. We obviously have to use hard power, which we are now using, in an effort to create the space for soft power to do some of its work. We need to continue to encourage negotiations. We need to encourage back channels. We need to encourage a political engagement.

I would say very strongly that we encourage the government in increasing its diplomatic capacity and diplomatic engagement in its effort to bring peace to a region which has not known a great deal of peace. In fact the peace that it has known is the peace of repression. The peace we would like to see is the peace of justice, the peace of democracy. That continues to be a major objective of foreign policy.

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4:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, my colleague gave a solid overview of the concerns we all share around how we respect international law in keeping with our tradition of respecting sovereignty. It is important to note that there have been changes and they were not made just in the last number of weeks and months. These changes have evolved since the UN was created. It is important to note that because the UN has had many challenges over the years. One of them was how to reflect the idea of sovereignty and by the same token the notion of international law and international human rights.

There is a long list of oppression in Libya. Some very bizarre and troubling cases. One of the things that we need to deal with in this debate today is around parameters. I have a question with respect to what is embedded in the UN resolution, particularly on stressing the need to intensify efforts for a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people. We have to make sure that it is not just military involvement.

Would my colleague agree with us that the government needs to be declarative on what other avenues it is going to explore when it comes to the diplomatic side of this equation?

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I ended my remarks by saying as clearly as I could that we need an effort that is both diplomatic and military. Frankly, we needed a military intervention for the simple reason that if we did not have it then Colonel Gadhafi would have had carte blanche to massacre thousands of his people, civilians as well as armed insurgents, and there would have been no way to apply pressure on him to respond differently. Of course we need to find other means of obtaining a degree of stability in that country. Nobody wants to see an endless mission.

I think what drove the Security Council to its conclusion was a sense that unless those measures were taken there was a genuine risk of an even greater outbreak of violence than the one that we are seeing as a result of the mission being undertaken.

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech.

It is clear that, as a nation, we need to strike and do our job in this situation.

Given that my colleague is also the foreign affairs critic, I think we need to do as he said and make a diplomatic effort as well. The message that is coming across today is unfortunately one of ambiguity in terms of the ramifications. Things are happening in places other than Libya—in Egypt, Tunisia and Syria as well.

I would like my colleague to share his opinion about how this ambiguity could be cleared up, so that the entire Arab community can also play a role in helping the Libyan people get through this. How does the member see its role, both in military and diplomatic terms?

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I believe that the role of the Arab League is absolutely fundamental. It is crucial that the problem be acknowledged. Attempts were made to find a political solution. For days, weeks even, attempts were made to find a political solution through discussions with Colonel Gadhafi in order to reach a better outcome than the one referred to in his declaration, which stated that he would kill anyone opposed to his regime. He refused.

Not only did he refuse, but he insisted on continuing the fight and using violence against his own people. That is why the Arab League has insisted that the solution be an international one.

We need to redouble our efforts in partnership with the Arab League. I would like to suggest to the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs that Canada immediately establish diplomatic relations with the Arab League in order to take part in the discussions and come to a more positive solution than the present situation.

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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Casson Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Chair, it is good that we are having this debate. We all have our concerns and questions and certainly we want to highlight the issues in Libya.

I appreciate the comments of the member opposite. We sat on the defence committee together some time ago.

To have a debate in the House like this today, considering some of the other debates that have taken place and some of the other antics that have gone on, it is good to get down to something serious where we can discuss and work toward a common goal.

The 1973 UN Security Council Resolution is many pages long. It delves into a lot of different areas and does indicate the protection of the people, to stop what is happening there. It goes on about the no-fly zone, ensuring the arms embargo, asset freezing, the whole issue. Then it gets into the humanitarian aspect of it.

I believe, and we have heard this from all today, that this is a necessary step, taking into account that all other avenues have failed. The last action we want to take is what we have to do, particularly flying over a foreign country.

Having said that, nothing else has happened. In the past, the only thing that Colonel Gadhafi responded to was a threat similar to this in his country and things changed after that.

Does the member think there is any salvation for the Gadhafi government or himself? Is this a point in time in the history of the world where he has to completely be removed from governing a country or governing a people?

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, let me make it very clear. If the hon. member is asking the member for Toronto Centre would he be happier if Colonel Gadhafi were gone, the answer is absolutely yes.

However, it seems to me that the important point, and my understanding is, that even President Obama said that regime change was not the ultimate objective or the purpose of the mission.

We all have to understand that the decision as to what kind of government Libya will have has to be a decision by the Libyan people. The new government of Libya will not be imposed by a foreign invasion. That will not work.

What we have to do with this use of military intervention, of the hard power that we are using by the imposition of the no-fly zone, is to create sufficient political space that the people of Libya will actually have a chance to express themselves more fully and more clearly than they already have.

If I am being asked my own personal preference, the member is smiling, I can report to our television cameras, although they are not allowed to shine on his ebullient face, just to say that we are certainly not unambiguous in that regard. I think we are very clear.

However, I do not think it is possible for a UN resolution to say that the objective of the mission is the removal of the government of Libya. I do not think that is a possible statement to make in terms of the resolution itself.

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4:15 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I would like to correct a couple of things the member mentioned in the speech he made today .

He said that it should be a diplomatic initiative. I want to tell him that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was in Paris for a diplomatic issue and from Paris he went to Cairo to meet Amr Moussa of the Arab League. Therefore, I want to state for the record that the diplomatic initiative the member has called for is happening.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that this morning we had a briefing for all the foreign affairs critics. The Liberal defence critic was also there. The whole process was outlined. Although it is in its early stages, some of the concerns that have been raised here shall be resolved, such as who is in command and what is happening. These issues are in the initial and early stages but, as we were told in the briefing today, they will be addressed in a couple of days. Therefore, many of the questions the member has today will be addressed by this government.

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the parliamentary secretary always does a great job at defending whatever the government either is or is not doing. I appreciate that is obviously part of some job description that I have not seen, but he is undertaking it with great determination.

I have as clear a sense of the itinerary of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as anybody does. I follow it with interest. I know that he was in Paris. I know that he was part of those discussions. I also know that he was talking to Amr Moussa.

What I suggested to the minister and the parliamentary secretary specifically was that we should aim to have official representation in the Arab League in Cairo as quickly as possible, that our ambassador in Egypt should be accredited to the Arab League so that we are able to communicate directly with all of the countries that are based in Cairo. At this very moment, we do not have that accreditation. It is something important for us to do.

Second, what I suggested was that our diplomatic effort at finding a solution and continuing to aim for a solution obviously has to be as muscular as our willingness to send the CF-18s to patrol the airspace--

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I will have to stop the member there.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, the Bloc Québécois supports Canada’s armed participation in the multilateral intervention in Libya. We support the troops who have been called on to participate in it. It is a perfectly legitimate operation since it is being carried out as a multilateral effort and its purpose is to protect the civilian populations.

While the Bloc Québécois supports Canada’s military intervention within this international undertaking in Libya, it also calls for extreme caution on Canada’s part. This intervention must not lead to human losses among Libyan civilians. That would be a gross violation of Security Council resolution 1973, which specifically provided that protection of civilians had to be the primary objective of the intervention.

We reiterate our belief that the federal government must consult parliamentarians concerning any deployment of troops abroad. Moreover, we condemn the immoral use of force by the Gadhafi regime against innocent people, and we believe that President Gadhafi's abuses of power must end. There must be an immediate ceasefire by the Gadhafi regime in relation to civilians and it must be honoured, as was not the case when the regime announced a ceasefire.

We have supported the measures taken by Canada to implement the two Security Council resolutions on Libya, including the asset freeze. We also applaud the decision by the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court to investigate actions committed in Libya that look like crimes against humanity. As well, we believe that Canada must pursue its discussions with the National Transition Council that the opposition has established in Libya. And we express our compassion for all our citizens of Libyan origin who are living through a troubled time, in view of the situation in their country of origin, and we stand with them.

We support the sending of CF-18s to Libya because that intervention is consistent with a value that is fundamental to Quebeckers: that military intervention must be carried out in a multilateral framework. The Bloc Québécois believes that military interventions should be undertaken with the approval of the UN, the organization that has the specific duty to ensure that alternative solutions are found to war. We are opposed to any unilateral action, that is, any action decided on by a single country or a small number of countries.

The Bloc is also against the notion of preventive war, in other words, a war instigated against another country because we suspect it of intending to wage war. Of course, in the absence of an established and imminent threat, a country cannot go to war against another country merely because it harbours misgivings in respect of that country.

Two principles that guide our position on any conflict in which Canada is called upon to participate are our opposition to any and all unilateral action and our disapproval of preventive wars.

Multilateralism is, quite logically, in Quebec’s best interests. Moreover, it is in the best interests of nations that are not superpowers, such as Canada and any future sovereign Quebec, that there be a multilateral organization to manage conflicts.

The air raids in Libya are authorized under Security Council resolution 1973, which authorizes member states to take any and all necessary steps for the enforcement of a no fly zone to ensure that aircraft cannot be used for the purpose of airborne attacks on the civilian population.

The Gadhafi regime has on several occasions in recent days used its aircraft to attack civilian populations. The Bloc Québécois is therefore of the view that action must be taken to protect the civilian population against the attacks launched by its own government, which, as I said earlier, are tantamount to crimes against humanity.

Of course, Parliament must be consulted before any troops are deployed abroad. That much is made clear in sections 31 and 32 of the National Defence Act. We recognize the government’s prerogative to place the Canadian Forces on active service, which is what it did over the weekend, but we believe that any such decision must be approved post-haste by the House in order for it to be legal. We must bear in mind that the government’s authority comes from Parliament.

Furthermore, it is clear that soldiers risk their lives on these overseas missions. These soldiers are Quebeckers and Canadians. They have families and friends. They are risking their lives in another country because Canada has asked them to be there. Any such decision on Canada’s part cannot be made without the blessing of its citizens, and the representatives of those citizens are the members of Parliament.

We also know that the rebel leaders in Libya called on the UN to impose a no fly zone. Ultimately, Libyans and Libyans alone can, and must, decide what their future will be, but it is clear that the Gadhafi regime has no intention of allowing this to happen.

There was resolution 1970 on February 26, which provided for the seizure of Libyan military equipment, the imposition of an embargo on arms sales to Libya, sanctions against certain individuals whose assets would be frozen, the creation of a panel to review the situation in Libya, and co-operation with the International Criminal Court in its desire to bring to justice the members of the Gadhafi regime who are accused of crimes against humanity.

There was resolution 1973 on March 17, which called for an immediate ceasefire, the creation of a no fly zone over Libya, and other similar measures. The primary purpose of all these resolutions is to protect civilians.

The resolution aims to impose a ceasefire between the Gadhafi regime and the civilian population. Its aim is not the invasion, division or dismemberment of Libya. A clear message is being sent to the Arab world: this operation is not another Western intervention against the Arab world or against Muslims. It has clearly defined limits. This is not another Iraq.

For all these reasons and in light of the Paris summit last Saturday—which confirmed the multilateral nature of this intervention with the presence not only of many countries but also of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Secretary-General of the Arab League and the President of the Council of Europe—we support the participation of the Canadian Forces in this operation.

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March 21st, 2011 / 4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, we all share the concerns of what is transpiring in many countries around the world and certainly respect and honour our military for coming to the call when they are needed.

The member made one statement that bears some consideration. He referred to this as being a message to all Arab countries around the world.

I have received some communications from constituents over the past week and they raised the question about whether this was just the first step of a broader conflict and a broader engagement involving not just enforcing a UN resolution on a no-fly zone and the freezing of the assets of Mr. Gadhafi and his family, but also an indication that there is a potential that there could be on the ground military and there could be engagement in other hot spots in the Arab world.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether those concerns have been raised and whether he believes that the government has opened itself now to engaging in a much broader conflict.

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4:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, a very important element in the strategy of those who called this very successful conference in Paris—quite a coup for French diplomacy—was the participation of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and, most importantly, the Arab League. Over the weekend, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Mr. Moussa, criticized certain specific aspects of the operation. In the end, though, the Arab League changed its stance and continued its support. This Arab League support is essential.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which includes 57 countries with Muslim populations, also condemned the actions of the Gadhafi regime. That is also very important. It is crucial, of course, for the diplomatic services of the countries involved in this operation to make every effort to convince the Arab world that this operation is not a Western intervention against the Arabs. It is an operation undertaken by the whole world to save Arabs and Muslims, in particular the civilian population of Libya. We are not there to overthrow the regime but to ensure it causes no further injury.

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I was with my colleague from the Bloc and others in the briefing this morning by officials. One of the concerns we had was that this would not be an open-ended exercise. We wanted to ensure that we have parliamentary oversight, that we have a debate and that we vote on a motion.

Another concern is around ground troops. The member will know that one of the concerns we raised was about ensuring this would not be an opening for Canadian ground troops to be sent. We want to ensure that if there is any change in what we agreed to, it will come back to this place, to Parliament. Would he agree with that?

I also would like to know his party's position on the ground troops and on the kind of oversight there should be in terms of the mission itself.

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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, I believe a resolution was tabled, with certain amendments proposed by the NDP. These issues are being examined at this time and we will likely decide in the next few hours or minutes the exact position we plan to take. Certainly, as things stand now, there are no plans to send ground troops. As for the rest, we will see whether everyone in the House agrees on how the operation is envisioned in the resolutions brought before us.

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4:30 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I thank the Bloc. It is a rare thing for somebody from the west to thank a separatist party. Nevertheless, those members were very co-operative in getting Bill C-61 through the House and is now in front of the Senate. The bill would freeze the assets of all the dictators who have stolen money. On that basis, I thank the hon. member for his party's rapid support. I want to tell those Canadians who are watching that there was unanimous support for that bill from all parties.

This morning we had a very extensive briefing by officials from both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence. They discussed the legal aspects. They made it very clear what the resolution means. They made it very clear that no invasion was to be done. Invasion means occupying territory and that is not in the resolution. Protecting civilians is in the resolution and in rate cases protecting civilians requires ground troops.

The Bloc members made their position on this issue very clear. The UN resolution was extremely clear in stating that there will be no invasion. Today, President Obama said that removing Mr. Gadhafi was not the target, but rather it was about protecting civilians as the UN resolution states. It is quite clear that it is about protecting the civilian population, as the Prime Minister has also said.

I would like the hon. member to take that into account based on our briefing this morning.

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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, as I said earlier, we understand that the goal of the mission is not to invade Libya, but rather to protect the people of Libya.

As for the government member's thanks to the Bloc Québécois, I would say to him that we accept all the thanks we deserve, and we believe that, usually, we deserve them.

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4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I would like to put forth the notion that the United Nations Security Council, acting under chapter 7, makes what is in effect legally binding resolutions on all of its members, including, in this case, the Arab League which supported it.

Could the member comment on how important it is to act with a certain degree of restraint in order to ensure that the Arab League, for example, stays onboard with this and participates as much as possible since it is aimed at protecting Arab civilians?

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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Dorion Bloc Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Chair, it is probably more difficult for Arab League countries to become involved. According to the most recent reports, only one country, Qatar, had in fact sent any aircraft to take part in the mission, but I do not know whether others have joined in the past few hours.

It is more difficult for them to become involved militarily, although diplomatic support is also extremely important. As I was saying earlier, we must win the support of Arab countries as well as that of the governments in question if we want to convince Arab populations that this operation is not against the Arab world, but rather only against the Gadhafi regime.

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4:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

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.

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4:45 p.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I want to address one issue about which the NDP has talked. I have been debating with the member for almost a month on all the perils over there and the NDP comes out with a blanket statement on what Canada should do, without legal authority on all of these things. Now we have assumed the legal authority from the UN resolution which would authorize to do what we had been saying, and that was we would take all these actions in coordination with other international partners. At that time, I remember the member telling me that Canada must do this. The NDP says that Canada, for some reason now we are there, is a superpower in the world. We are not, but we need legitimacy which we have through the UN Security Council resolution.

At a briefing this morning, it was very clear that there would be no ground troops. The resolution does not authorize invading Libya. All it says is that the civilians be protected, which the hon. member rightly pointed out he supports. For him to stand and say that the NDP will hold the government accountable and this and that, no.

The hon. member should read the resolution. It is very clear and distinct. The Prime Minister has said it and we have said it, that the resolution says we will not invade Libya. We are there to protect. There are two resolutions, and that should be good enough. He has already said that the NDP members are supporting it, and for that I am thankful.

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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, let me be clear about a number of things. First I said in my comments that after the events of February 17 and 21, on February 22 we were the only party that came out with regard to a no-fly provision through the UN. That is on the record and I think my colleague knows that.

It is very important that we understand what the limits of this are. With respect to my colleague, it is our job as the opposition to hold the government to account. That is what people pay us to do.In the motion we need to see that this will be done. I am glad the government has accepted our amendments for parliamentary oversight.

I want to be absolutely explicit about the Prime Minister's commitment to our leader and to us that there would be no ground troops, with the exceptions, as I said before, in terms of rescue and humanitarian concerns. At the end, it is important we note that.

Finally, I see the Minister of Foreign Affairs is here. I want to mention that we also use our diplomatic capacity. I should note that we have a Canadian citizen, well qualified, who can provide that role, a former member of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic States. I hope we would employ those diplomatic resources as well.