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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

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, the member touched on a number of points. First, we understand that under sections 31 and 32 of the National Defence Act, the government has taken authorized steps and certainly with the authority of the UN resolution of 1973.

The member has made some demands as the previous questioner noted. One of the points was that he wanted to see this current mission complete within a certain period of time, I believe he said in two or three months. I suspect that Canada is not in the role right now to determine how long this may take. In fact, that leads to my question of what the authorized time frame is by the UN, under the National Defence Act, or under any auspices, whether it be even an agreement at the meetings that were taken up in Paris.

It is important for Canadians to understand whether we are in a well-defined mission, which will end at a certain term or whether this is open ended, depending on the developments as they occur.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, one of the things we have asked for and the government has agreed to is what I laid out, and that will be in the motion. We did that because we wanted to have parliamentary approval and parliamentary oversight. That will happen with the provisions accepted by the government. The committee on foreign affairs and defence be seized with this.

The timeline of three months was simply because we needed to have some sort of timeline. We do not want to have what happened, frankly, with his government, when it came to Afghanistan, where we did not really have any timelines and we ended up with a conflict that had no boundaries. We need boundaries on this. We need to have understanding that this will not going to go on forever. Therefore, we believe the three months is reasonable. If it goes beyond three months, we need to know why and we need to have this issue brought back to Parliament so it can debated and so we can decide whether we continue with our military contribution.

Finally, it is important for all members to know that within the UN resolution itself, it is spelled out very clearly about notification by all members involved, before and after action is taken, reporting both to the UN General-Secretary and to the Arab League. Those are both very important provisions of accountability and something that we will monitor in terms of Canada's participation.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, I thank my colleague from Ottawa Centre for his contribution.

Would the member comment on the concerns that have been raised about certain officials. We heard the minister of defence in the U.K., and we may have heard the minister of defence here today, talk about regime change in Libya. We may have our own private opinions about the fate of the leader of Libya. However, in the context of this binding resolution of the Security Council, we have an international consensus on the specific actions in resolution 1973.

Would the member care to comment on the possibility of loose talk about regime change, particularly from leaders, being detrimental to the cause and alienating the Arab League, which is very important and instrumental in this whole agreement taking place to allow international action at this stage?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, it is absolutely critical that we do not engage in rhetoric that talks about regime change and getting rid of leaders. We have to stay true to the Security Council resolution and to the provisions that have been made within the coalition. The last thing we want to do is upset the fragile stability. We know that some of the groups involved, the Arab League, for instance, could not defend partners saying things like “regime change”.

We have to be crystal clear. I urge the government and all ministers to check their rhetoric and to ensure that not only is it not said but that it is not implied.

If we are to be successful in activating resolution 1973 and resolution 1970, it means we all have to understand that it is about protection of civilians and not regime change.

I encourage the government to ensure that we do not engage in that kind of rhetoric and that we are crystal clear about what the mission is about and not engage in things that are outside the parameters and the boundaries of resolution 1973.

Finally, Canada has a role here. Not only should we engage in and be observers of the Arab League, but we should also use our own capacity diplomatically of involving those we know have the skills to go to the next step, and that is the diplomatic side. Right now it is a military focus. The next logical step is obviously a humanitarian and diplomatic one and that should happen right now.

I look forward to the comments of the Minister of Foreign Affairs on that and any update he has about the next steps diplomatically and the humanitarian aspects of the mission.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, in just one month, Canada and Canadians have witnessed an historic change in Libya. It all started when the people of Benghazi, inspired by the recent developments in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the streets to stand up for their basic human rights. The courage these citizens showed in the face of atrocious acts of violence galvanized the entire country and the international community. Initial hopes that Colonel Gadhafi would accept the will of the people and allow them to be in control of their own destiny crumbled when he decided to attack his own people, thereby forcing the United Nations Security Council to approve a no fly zone in order to end the violence. Despite the many challenges to overcome, one thing is certain: a profoundly changed Libya will emerge.

As Gadhafi's forces were advancing to surround the heavily populated historic city of Benghazi, the fear was that the people of Libya who were standing up for their legitimate human rights would face a final bloody confrontation with a defiant and isolated dictator supported by mercenaries. Gadhafi has not only ignored the demands of the people, but he has also ignored those of the international community. He has ramped up the assaults and threatened his own people on television, promising he would attack them one house at a time and that he would be merciless toward some one million inhabitants.

Gadhafi has threatened the Mediterranean countries and any other country that opposes his madness. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 300,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries, including Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria and Niger.

Canada is very concerned about allegations that refugees are being prevented from leaving the country, in western Libya in particular, a region about which it is very difficult to get any information, and that vulnerable populations, including migrant workers, are being targeted.

Canada has taken a series of measures to press the Gadhafi regime to respect the rights of its citizens. On February 23, the United Nations Secretary General responded to the egregious violations of international and human rights law and called on the government of Libya to protect its own people.

On February 27, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1970, which condemned Gadhafi's actions, which by then included the killing of at least 1,000 people and the arrest, detention and torture of thousands more. The measures included a travel ban and an asset freeze on members of the government.

Canada's approach, in concert with the rest of the international community, has been to isolate the Gadhafi regime, cut it off from its financial resources, deprive it of its legitimacy and ensure that there will be no impunity for crimes against humanity committed against the civilian population and for violations of international humanitarian law.

Canada welcomes the decision by the Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court and the prosecutor's announcement that he has initiated an investigation.

As always, our first priority was the safety and security of Canadians caught in the conflict and we worked with our allies to ensure the safe evacuation of all those in need. During the early stages of the crisis, nearly 350 Canadians as well as numerous nationals of partner countries were transported from the conflict zone by road, air and by sea.

Then the Government of Canada responded to the Security Council's initiative by immediately suspending our diplomatic presence and by implementing our own sanctions in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolution and the domestic Special Economic Measures Act. Our quick action to end all financial transactions with Libya prevented Gadhafi and his associates from immediately accessing more than $20 million in assets at Canadian financial institutions. Altogether, this move deprived the regime of more than $2.3 billion in resources located in Canada. Unfortunately these messages from the international community were not strong enough for the regime of Colonel Gadhafi.

Most recently, on March 17, a new Security Council resolution No. 1973 authorized the use of military force to bring the Libyan government into compliance with its international legal obligations.

UN resolution 1973 authorizes UN member states to “take all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya. This resolution, drafted and supported by the League of Arab States, does not—I repeat—authorize any foreign occupation. It sets out a solid mandate of protection, and Canada urges all member states to implement it.

The resolution also imposes a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace and authorizes member states to “take all necessary measures” to enforce compliance. However, the resolution does not affect flights whose sole purpose is to provide humanitarian aid or evacuate foreign nationals. The resolution calls on member states to implement these measures in accordance with Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in order to restore international peace and security.

Canada has answered the call. It has notified the secretaries general of the United Nations and the League of Arab States of its intention to participate in the international efforts, and is in close contact with its allies in order to determine how its participation in these efforts can be as effective as possible.

Resolution 1973 authorizes international action and sets limits on the action. It specifically excludes any form of occupation force on any portion of the Libyan territory. Now this was a clear agreement between the sponsors of the resolution and the Arab League. The central purpose of the resolution is to end the violence, protect citizens and allow the people of Libya to shape their own future.

In closing, I want to reiterate that Canada has contributed $6.5 million to date to partners to help the people of Libya and those affected by the crisis, particularly those who have fled to neighbouring countries. Our contribution will fund essential food, water, shelter, medical supplies and evacuation assistance to those fleeing the violence.

Canada stands ready to provide further assistance to those who suffer as a result of the terrible humanitarian crisis unleashed by Gadhafi. We sincerely hope that Gadhafi does decide to step down.

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5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, the foreign minister intoned the historical nature of the changes that are occurring in North Africa and the Middle East over the last couple of months. The people of Egypt saw what was happening in Tunisia and they found their voice. They rose up and they overthrew a regime that had repressed them for decades.

We saw similar uprisings in a number of countries, including Libya. But it was not just the people learning. Dictators learned from what was happening in the Middle East. Colonel Gadhafi realized that he was facing regime change unless he used lethal force. That is what we saw. One of his sons said there would be rivers of blood.

Prior to this allied action, a number of regimes that are facing uprisings used lethal force against peaceful demonstrators, civilians, who after decades of oppression had found their voice. This happened in Bahrain, in Yemen and most recently in Syria.

Has our government spoken with officials or diplomats from those governments and stated clearly and unequivocally that Canada views the use of lethal force against peaceful civilians as unacceptable?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, I want to reassure my hon. colleague that Canada has spoken out clearly on recent events, whether they be in Yemen or Bahrain. We condemn the violence in Yemen. We have expressed regret over the deaths and injuries to innocent civilians who are protesting peacefully in those countries. Canada has called upon the authorities in those countries to exercise restraint and to engage in peaceful and fulsome dialogue with other civil societies.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the minister for his intervention and clarification on some points. I want to ask him a couple of questions about the next steps.

We have been concerned from the beginning around Canada's response on the humanitarian side. We have lift capacity there. The minister outlined in his speech the government's concern that we all share around the treatment of civilians and refugees.

I would like to ask the minister what concrete steps the government is going to take in terms of using the lift capacity we have on the humanitarian side? Have we engaged with those in the diaspora community, particularly Libyan Canadian doctors, who offered their services?

Up until Thursday the government had not spoken out on whether or not it would support a no-fly provision. We put that forward in our statement on February 22. I am wondering when the government decided to support the no-fly provision. Was it just after the UN resolution or had that determination been made before?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, we have been extremely active on the diplomatic front. Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Europe to participate in the G8 foreign ministers meeting where this issue was discussed. I then proceeded to Cairo to meet Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League on Wednesday. I had the opportunity of seeing him once again on Saturday in Paris.

What is important here is the coming together and the building of a consensus among the like-minded and the members of the Arab League, the African Union, the countries that participate quite actively on the UN Security Council.

The operation over the course of the last several days and indeed over the last couple of weeks has been to build that consensus to ensure that we put an end to the violence that is occurring and stop the bloodshed and make sure that the humanitarian assistance to provide shelter, et cetera, which I indicated in my speech a few moments ago is in the vicinity of $6.5 million, is available.

Members may recall my colleague, as well as the Prime Minister, indicated that the frigate HMCS Charlottetown was on its way. We deployed it specifically to help with the humanitarian deployment for Canada and to ensure that the 750,000 Egyptians who are caught in Libya do get help and aid as they try to transit back into their country.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to clarify two things.

One is that I indicated earlier in the debate that I thought it would be a good opportunity for Canada to establish formally its diplomatic relations with the Arab League, that there be an Arab League ambassador here in Ottawa, as well as for us to have official accreditation at the Arab League in Cairo. I wonder if the minister could comment on that suggestion.

The second is that I realize the minister was very careful in choosing his words at the end when he said that it would be our preference if Colonel Gadhafi were to step down. I can assure him it is certainly a preference that I share. I am wondering if we can be clear with respect to the so-called end game that we talk about. What would Canada regard as a successful mission or what would he interpret the UN would regard as a successful mission? How will we know when it is over?

We all realize that we do not necessarily have precise timetables, but it would be useful for us to know precisely what the objective is.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, I will take the first question under advisement and will be able to discuss it.

In terms of the end game, it is not up to Canada to decide who stays and runs which country. It is up to the people of Libya. It is up to those who are fighting to continue what Amr Moussa called the winds of change that are sweeping across the Middle East as well as North Africa, and to be able to make sure that the conditions to favour that do exist.

Therefore, it is not up to Canada to say this or that individual does not have the authority, legitimacy or the right to govern and be in place in such-and-such a country. It is up the population. It is up to the people. That is, indeed, what Canada is promoting in terms of foreign policy, fostering and promoting democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Those are the things we stand for and that we want put in place in those countries.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, the minister mentioned that he travelled to Egypt. Not only are there problems in Egypt with Hosni Mubarak and what happened there, but throughout the years there were problems with the Coptic population which makes up about 10% of Egypt. On New Year's Eve there was a bombing outside a church and although Hosni Mubarak has left, there is still violence against the Coptic Christians. There was a church burned just a couple of weeks ago and 40 members of Parliament signed a petition.

I am wondering if we have said something to the Egyptians or if a diplomatic note has been sent to them. I am wondering what Canada has done and what the minister has done on the issue of the Coptic population and the difficulties that they face. We cannot let this go. Not even a press release was issued after the burning of the church.

Although its prime minister attempted to speak to them, as one of the nations stepping forward today saying we have a responsibility to protect Libya, we owe that part of the world and those people some sort of responsibility in sending a clear message not only about what happened with Hosni Mubarak but what is happening to them now. I am wondering if the minister could enlighten us as to what exactly he did.

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5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

Mr. Chair, that is indeed an important question.

Everyone will recall that when we had the take note emergency debate on Egypt, I indicated that among the things we wanted the new authorities in Egypt to support was the whole question of religious freedoms. We have made that quite clear. I made that perfectly clear to its foreign minister, as well as its prime minister.

When I was there on Wednesday, I had the opportunity of speaking to authorities from the civil society and the youth I met all called upon the new way of looking at how this is going to be introduced. They certainly want a de-radicalization of the elements that have been creating difficulties in that country for so long.

We have been outspoken on this specific issue. The Prime Minister, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and I stand for religious freedom. We have to remember that this party finds its roots in what John Diefenbaker and the bill of rights and religious freedoms stood for.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, it is indeed a pleasure to rise on this issue. I had asked the Speaker a number of times before to have an emergency debate on this issue and I am glad we are doing it today.

I noticed the hon. minister did not answer the question that was put to him specifically about the Coptic situation, so there will be another time that we can talk about this.

Since the beginning of this year we are noticing one demonstration revolution after another in the Arab world, in the Middle East, and yet the western world is eyeballing this and a lot of our people are saying “responsibility to protect”, that we have to take some serious steps toward it.

What is happening in that part of the world is a certain something which was well overdue. We had presidents, prime ministers, dictators, most of them there for life, and a lot of them were single-party leaders and many of them were military supported. We had Hosni Mubarak in Egypt who was there for 32 years. We have Gadhafi who has been there for 41 years. The list goes on and on.

However, before I address the issue of Colonel Gadhafi and what is happening and what he is doing to his people, I wanted to look at the Conservative government, and if it is ready to handle the safety of Canadians abroad.

There was a protocol that was put in place after the tsunami in 2004-2005 in order to assist Canadians who were caught in natural or man-made disasters, as well as the countries where the disasters happened. The protocol was that number one we get Canadians out of harm's way, and there should be a blueprint that certainly responds to every need in a different way in order to make sure we address our citizens.

Communities that wanted to raise money in order to assist in those areas would be given a one-time charitable donation number, so they can assist them in raising money, matching dollar for dollar as has been done time and time again with money that was raised. That shouldn't be a knee jerk reaction: we do it for one country and we do not do it for another. We do it for Haiti and the Prime Minister goes out there and makes a donation, but we should offer this to all the communities that are trying to raise money, even for Japan today.

I noticed that we also had some money that was going to Libya. There are Libyan Canadians who want to raise money in order to help and assist in the surrounding countries, and yet they are not being given that opportunity. There are credible organizations. There's the Red Cross, Oxfam, and CARE. There are communities stakeholders such as Humanity First, GlobalMedic. The protocol also stated that we should assist people who had immigration files from those countries, people who were sponsoring spouses, dependent children, parents, and grandparents in order to get them out of harm's way. If people in Canada want to, there has to be the willingness as well as the means to invite people from that part of the world, certainly for them to be given that opportunity to come to this country until the calamity is over.

We have seen the disaster and what happened with the situation in Lebanon. The government's response back then was certainly dismal. Early this year we saw what happened in Egypt when the difficulties erupted. Evacuation of Canadians from Egypt was hastily done, at the very last minute. To my knowledge, Canada was the only country in the world that was asking its citizens to pay money to be evacuated out of harm's way. Never before have we had a government that actually asked people to pay for getting evacuated.

We saw what happened in Japan last week. Other countries are evacuating their citizens. I am told China has evacuated close to 30,000 of its citizens. The only thing Canada did was give two buses to move them out of harm's way.

Now let us see what happened in Libya. When the difficulties started happening and Mr. Gadhafi was starting to kill his people, Canada had the ambassador and one official there, and they were the first ones, after a couple of days, to leave. We hear stories of Canadians who were paying up to 2,500 euros in order to be smuggled to Malta. So again, the government has completely gutted evacuation protocol that was put in place. It is really not putting blueprints in order should our citizens need an evacuation or our assistance in a time of need.

Then we come to the R to P, responsibility to protect. We have seen commentator after commentator, newspapers and television saying that the western world had to do something. Finally, we have moved on and have the no-fly zone. I, for one, am supportive of this. I know that my party is. I know that nobody in this House would say that we should not be supporting the people of Libya or that we should not be making sure that Mr. Gadhafi is taken out of office so that his people could be protected.

However, the responsibility to protect, how we use it and when we use it, is something else that needs to be discussed. In Qatar, people are being killed. In Bahrain, it is the same thing. We also have to look at those areas.

One thing that we have to be careful about is that we need to know the end date of the mission. We need to know how long we are going to be there. We need to know if the no-fly zone works and what the next steps are going to be. We need to know the cost of this. We also need to be transparent with respect to what we are doing.

Those are my thoughts on this matter. I am supportive of the government's action; however, we also have to make sure that before the action is taken that the protocol that was put in place in order to assist Canadians in harm's way is paramount. We just cannot allow what happened in Japan, with the provision of only two buses to get our people out of harm's way. That is dismal and is something that we should not be supporting.

I am supporting the mission; however, I am calling the government to task on the way that they are handling Canadians abroad.

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March 21st, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Chair, the member has really done a very good job of alerting the House to some of the issues.

The communications I have received reflect a humanitarian concern for innocent civilians. It goes to the heart of a question which many Canadians are still asking, and that is whether we are peacekeepers or peacemakers, and whether or not there is a proper balance when it comes to humanitarian needs.

I wanted to give the member an opportunity to say a couple more words about the dimensions of the problem, how many people we are talking about, the areas in the Arab world where we are experiencing these difficulties, and which have not had the kind of support from Canada that they deserve.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I know that in his part of the world, he has one of the largest Coptic churches. We have seen the trouble that the Coptic community is facing in Egypt, and certainly has been facing for many years. Indeed, I share in the pain of his constituents that he, himself, has expressed from time to time with what is happening in that part of the world. I have seen the work that he has done, working with Copts, in order to make sure that the people's needs are represented.

One question that was asked was about the shift from peacekeeping to peacemaking. We have seen this with missions. I lost a member of my extended family, Sergeant Christos Karigiannis, in Afghanistan. We decided in this House to put soldiers in that part of the world.

It is very hard to know the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking. There is a very fine line. Sometimes we overstep the bounds.

The Arab world is experiencing a call to democracy. The Arab world is changing the channel from dictatorship to democracy. New found means, be it Twitter or Facebook, and the social media are certainly working, calling people to take action and calling for democracy. Democracy is 2,510 years old. It was founded in the city of my birth, Athens, Greece. I find that it is best practised in this country, as we are going to see, in elections.

I encourage people in the Middle East to find democracy. I look forward to working with all colleagues in this House to make sure that we assist these people, and that we provide for them, not only money but the means in order for them to find democracy.

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5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Mr. Chair, the member talked about the protection of civilians. I just wonder whether he finds any comfort in the fact that we now have a firm Security Council resolution that is binding on all member nations in these circumstances. I see it as an advance and perhaps something that could be a precedent of the change in international law, and that the bombing of civilians, for example, which occurred widely in World War II on both sides, would perhaps be no longer acceptable as a means of war.

Does he see that as some comfort and some advancement in the cause of international human rights, international laws of conflict, and humanitarian law?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague from Newfoundland, or the rock, as I refer to it.

Certainly, the bombing of innocent civilians should not be tolerated and wherever possible, that should be avoided, but when war starts, unfortunately heinous crimes do happen and heinous acts take place.

I want to assure my hon. colleague that I find a lot of comfort that the R to P, the work we are doing right now, has the United Nations resolution. I personally would not support action taken by a particular group unless it has the United Nations resolution behind it. However, as we are forcibly engaged in making sure that the United Nations resolution, in this instance, works, we should also make sure that other UN resolutions are enforced.

I could go ad infinitum. I could give my hon. colleague an example of the north part of Cyprus where we have resolution after resolution which is never brought into play. For close to 40 years Cyprus has been under occupation and nothing has been done.

Not only do we have a United Nations resolution that we support moving forward, but we should also have teeth in order to make sure that other United Nations resolutions in countries that are affected are also being protected.

Moammar Gadhafi is at the bottom of the list, and that is why it is comfortable for the rest of the people to say that they have to go in and really clean this guy out, although until yesterday, he was a friend and a player. However, other situations such as this also have to be addressed. We cannot pick and choose the leaders. We cannot say that he is on our bad list today and we will get rid of him. Everybody should be handled the same way. We cannot play around with people, and if people of one country are having R to P, then other countries should be given the same thing.

I am looking at the people of Burma and what happened in that part of the world after we had a couple of cyclones. We put on some pressure, but absolutely no enforcement.

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5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, I congratulate my colleague on his foresight. A couple of weeks ago, twice he requested an emergency debate on the situation in Libya. He foresaw that the situation there was quite different from what had happened in Tunisia and Egypt. Unfortunately, that debate did not take place, and finally we are having the debate at a time when we are in the midst of a war, in a war zone. I wanted to note that and note his foresight on this particular file.

Coming back to the issue he raised with the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the Coptic minority in Egypt, 10% of the population has been terribly attacked and at times terribly repressed.

Did the minister raise the issue of the Coptic minority, of minority rights, democratic rights, when he was in Cairo, either with Egyptian officials or with the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, who is an Egyptian himself?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Liberal Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank my hon. colleague for the comments he made about my request to the Speaker for two emergency debates.

Time and again, on the issue of the Coptic minority, we have asked the government to ensure that we push the government in Egypt for them to be protected.

There have been troubles in that part of the world for many years but lately, since 2005-06, those problems have been escalated. We had the killings of six Christians in Nag Hammadi. As they were coming out of the church from Christmas mass, somebody drove by and killed them with a machine gun. The Canadian government issued a press release and nothing more.

We had the problems on New Year's Eve. When officials of the government were contacted, they were trying to lowball the emergency of the situation of what was critical in Canada.

Then, after Hosni Mubarak left, we had the situation of the church being burned, people being killed and massive sit-ins by the Coptic community. Forty members of Parliament signed a letter asking for the minister to do something. The minister just put that letter on the shelf.

I asked the minister today if he had addressed that situation when he was in Egypt. We did not get a precise, clear answer. We got rhetoric and big words. The minister said that he and the minister of citizenship and immigration were trying to address this issue but I have yet to see concrete action.

The government has failed the Coptic Egyptians and the Coptic Egyptians in Canada in order to address the needs in that part of the world, not only to ensure that the Egyptian government of yesterday and today know what the wishes of its people are but has certainly not even provided assistance in order for this file to move forward.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Chair, I would like to join my colleagues and speak as part of this take note debate.

Canada is currently participating, with its allies and partners, in the military efforts deployed in support of the United Nations Security Council's resolution 1973. This resolution authorizes members of the United Nations to take the necessary measures, including imposing an arms embargo and no-fly zone, to protect the people of Libya.

Time was running out for all the Libyans who wanted to be rid of the unbearable burden of Gadhafi's dictatorship. As we saw over the past few days, Colonel Gadhafi's forces were regaining ground. We therefore feared the worst for all the courageous Libyans who had dared to defy the murderous authority of their current rulers. The actions taken by the Gadhafi regime in the past suggested that there could be massacres of opponents based in Benghazi, among other places. The situation required a rapid and determined response and, fortunately, the international community fully understood the urgent nature of the situation and responded.

Resolution 1973 opened the door for concrete action to help the Libyan people. And then 24 hours later, France convened a summit in Paris to bring together leaders of the international community, including the Prime Minister of Canada, who had resolved to take action to enforce resolution 1973—leaders of allied and friendly countries, the United States and Europe, and also the Arab world. The Prime Minister and his colleagues laid out the terms of their military engagement in Libya. The imposition of a no-fly zone will make it possible to put some limits on Colonel Gadhafi and reduce the violence raining down on the Libyan people.

This rapid and determined response also came from our Canadian Forces. In the last few days, the Canadian Forces have demonstrated an impressive state of readiness and speed of action. Even as the crisis began, in support of the efforts of the entire government, our military deployed two C-17 strategic lift aircraft and two Hercules C-130J tactical lift aircraft. Those planes were used to evacuate hundreds of Canadians and nationals of other countries who were fleeing the violence in Libya.

On March 1, the Prime Minister announced the deployment of the frigate Charlottetown to support efforts underway in the region, and barely 24 hours later it left the port of Halifax. On Friday, only a few hours after the Prime Minister made the announcement, six CF-18 fighter jets from the base at Bagotville were en route to Libya to support United Nations resolution 1973.

The Canadian Forces are ready to respond at any time, in all circumstances and with the speed and effectiveness that deserves our admiration. This is certainly not owing to chance. It is rather the result of exemplary dedication and true professionalism.

The men and women who wear the uniform of the Canadian Forces do so with pride, with enthusiasm and with passion. They ask for nothing more than to answer the call. They are among the best trained military personnel in the world.

Our military’s state of advanced readiness is also the result of the major investments the government has made in our Canadian Forces. The government is committed to modernizing the Canadian Forces to provide them with all the tools they need to perform the duties we entrust to them.

Almost three years ago, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence announced the “Canada First” defence strategy, under which the government would allocate $490 billion to defence over 20 years. That long-term commitment to modernizing the Canadian Forces is already paying dividends. In recent years, we have announced a number of equipment purchases: transport aircraft and helicopters, new F-35 fighter planes, 24 of which are deployed at Bagotville, tanks, armoured vehicles, trucks and ground combat systems.

We have also invested heavily in defence infrastructure across Canada. Over the past year, the government has announced investments exceeding $750 million in the infrastructure of bases and wings from coast to coast, such as training areas, roads and a variety of other facilities that allow military bases to function as they should.

We have also made massive investments in the support of heath care services offered to members of the Canadian Forces: $140 million in a health information system that will help improve the care available to service personnel who need it, and $52.5 million to establish a legacy of care by delivering better support to seriously injured men and women coming home from Afghanistan.

These investments in equipment and infrastructure, as well as in support services and health care, have a considerable bearing on our military’s preparedness. For the members of the Canadian Forces in Gagetown, Edmonton, Esquimalt, Halifax, Trenton and Winnipeg, these investments mean more comfortable and more modern facilities, safer and more effective vehicles for the upcoming mission, enhanced care and perhaps even a speedier return to work. For the men and women based in Bagotville, the base our CF-18s took off from on Friday, these investments will have a tangible impact. The pilots and support staff who set off from Bagotville bound for Sicily and Libya have left a flourishing base behind them.

Over the last few years, our government has made major announcements regarding Bagotville. In 2007, we announced that the 2 Air Expeditionary Wing of the Canadian Forces would be based in Bagotville, thereby increasing the presence of the Canadian Forces back home. In 2008, I was with the Minister of National Defence when he announced that a $17 million contract had been awarded to rebuild one of the military base’s runways. Last fall, I once again accompanied the Minister of National Defence when he announced initiatives related to the establishment of the 2 Air Expeditionary Wing and the renovation of a section of the base’s health care centre, as well as the government’s decision to base the new F-35 fighter jets in Bagotville; excellent news that will guarantee the ongoing viability of the Bagotville military base for decades to come.

Finally, last month we announced the establishment of an integrated personnel support centre at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville.

A personnel support centre in Bagotville will link up with 24 other such canters across the nation in order to better respond to the needs of our military. The investments the government is making in Bagotville exemplify the investments it is making across the entire Canadian Forces. These investments provide our servicemen and women with comfortable amenities, support, modern work facilities, adequate tools and flexibility, all key elements in the rigorous preparation of a military force that must guarantee the rapid deployment of equipment and personnel, also crucial to the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces. The Canadian Forces members deployed in support of resolution 1973 can count on our government’s unconditional support. That is the very least we can give them; their mission will help save lives.

I would like to conclude by saying that our thoughts are with their family members. We all hope to see them back here in short order, and I hope to soon shake their hands on the tarmac at Bagotville.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Chair, my question is for the minister. We have heard the responsibility to protect, R to P, invoked a number of times. I was incredibly fortunate to have been at the United Nations six years ago when former Prime Minister Paul Martin gave a speech to the general assembly laying out this principle. To everyone's surprise, it actually passed the general assembly. It was an incredibly proud day for Canada.

Today we are invoking this responsibility to protect as being the principle that provides us with the mandate. In fact, it is two UN resolutions that give us the legitimacy of the allied actions that are taking place today to stop the bloodshed that has been unleashed by the Gadhafi regime against innocent civilians in Libya.

However, throughout the debates, we have also heard thanks given to the Arab League for its facilitation and its decision to support a no-fly zone.

What is the guiding principle? Is it the responsibility to protect mandate given by the resolutions at the United Nations? If the Arab League had not supported this no-fly zone and in fact the Gadhafi regime, as Gadhafi's son had said, unleashed rivers of blood in Benghazi during these days, would we be standing aside or would we have stepped forward, without the Arab League's facilitation, done the right thing and invoked the responsibility to protect in this circumstance?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, I want to thank my colleague for his comments and question.

I think we all agree we should act and the United Nations, the countries of the world, could not allow President Gadhafi to continue massacring his own people like that and doing what he was doing. In voting for resolution 1973, the members of the United Nations assumed their responsibilities. When we see a country, a president like President Gadhafi, doing something wrong, action must be taken.

I would like to remind the House what this commitment is:

[The Security Council] demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;

Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High-Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary...

It is extremely serious to see a president doing such things to his own people. In this situation, Canada must stand with the United Nations and support the group of countries that are willing to protect the Libyan people from President Gadhafi.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Chair, I would like to reiterate the expressions of appreciation by other members of the House for the fact that this discussion is occurring. It is the responsibility of Parliament to approve an initiative such as this and we appreciate the opportunity to come to Parliament to seek endorsement of this UN resolution.

I have a couple of specific questions for the hon. member regarding what has come down in Libya. One relates to the business interests of Canadians. The second has to do with other foreign nationals who have been abandoned or stranded in Libya.

My question about Canadian business interests is this. It has come to light that a number of Canadian businesses have been operating either in resource extraction or performing other operations in Libya. I am curious to know if the Government of Canada has been in consultation with them and whether there is any discussion about giving priority to their protection or priority to those enterprises.

My second question has to do with the stranding of other foreign nationals in Libya, particularly at the border, some of whom are trying to escape and in some ways have been abandoned by their own nations.

I had the opportunity to work with a lot of Bangladeshi. I hear there are many Bangladeshi who have been abandoned. Will Canada use any of its resources in a humanitarian way to help those people out of the country?

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning LibyaGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Conservative Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Chair, when such a situation arises in the world, in particular in Libya, everything we do is aimed at protecting not only the Libyan people but also any person or Canadian who finds himself there or the representatives of any allied nation who might be there. Like the other allied countries, Canada is doing what it can to provide the necessary assistance to protect its own citizens and all others who may be there.

It is quite unusual that the Security Council of the United Nations has adopted resolution 1973 in order to act quickly to protect the Libyan people. I would like to remind the House again of the importance of this decision. As a parliamentarian and part of a team of elected members, I am glad to see the United Nations assuming this responsibility and making decisions so quickly. We are on the right path to ensuring that neither President Gadhafi nor any future president can attack his own people in this way to keep himself in power.