Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to make my first speech in the 41st Parliament.
I want to acknowledge the electors of Windsor—Tecumseh for having returned me to this office for the fifth time and to say a special thanks to all of the volunteers who worked on my election campaign, both in the May 2 election and any number of ones before that. It never ceases to amaze me, the willingness of volunteers to come forward and spend lots of hours and donate lots of money to support my candidacy. I accept that support with a great deal of humility.
Special acknowledgement to my wife of almost 42 years, my three children and their spouses for all the support they have given me since I have been here in the House, but a special note in this vein to the inspiration that my four grandchildren give me. That inspiration really leads into the role that we have to play here today and that is about building a better world, for them and for the children and grandchildren all across this globe.
I do not know if it has been enunciated as clearly as it could have been in the debate so far, so I want to address some comments to the reality of what we are engaged in here today in this debate and in this motion is quite historical. It is a minor step, but it is a reflection of a movement to change international law and international relations.
Canada has a great deal of reason to be proud for the work we have done, particularly since the second world war, in developing international standards for human rights. The Declaration of Human Rights was actually drafted by a Canadian. The work that we have done in developing peacekeeping as a methodology of reducing and in some cases eliminating war, and now the next step that we are taking, and again, in which Canada has played a major role at the United Nations, and that is to develop the principle of the responsibility to protect.
It is a basic principle and it is kind of interesting that it has taken us this long. I remember taking international law in law school. My professor at that time said that on average, it is at least 100 years, maybe 200 years before we evolve a new principle and actually enforce it in international law.
The reality is that since the second world war that timeframe has shrunk and we are moving, from a historical perspective, more rapidly to establish order where there is chaos, where there is violence, where there is war and where there are acts of inhumanity to our fellow citizens. The responsibility to protect is one of those next steps, much as establishing the International Criminal Court was.
Today when we are debating this, we really are debating when does the international community have a responsibility to step in and to say to a sovereign nation, because obviously the regime in Libya is at this point, that it does not have a right to put down peaceful protest, democratic rights of assembly or freedom of speech with the use of violence. The international community, the UN in particular, would say that a sovereign country does not have a right to kills its citizens; it does not have a right to commit war crimes; it does not have a right to commit crimes against humanity.
When we look at this motion today, we are recognizing that yes, we will be engaged along with a number of allies, in military action. What goes with that is again the responsibility to not just stop with the military action because we know it has limited usage.
We were forced to do this because of the intent expressed by Mr. Gadhafi to massacre those who opposed him, with the clear ability to do it, and the actions he had already begun to take to carry out that goal. However, it is not enough.
It is also not enough in these circumstances to say that we can do this indefinitely. The leadership of the insurgency in Libya, the people of Libya, ultimately have to resolve that themselves. The best we can do on an interim short-term basis is not allow Mr. Gadhafi to kill his people. That is as far as this motion takes it as the NDP see it.
The balance of the motion, though, is at least as important as that part of the motion that mandates military intervention on our part, and that is the need to see that the investigation that the International Criminal Court has initiated against members of that regime is properly resourced if, in fact, there is sufficient evidence to find there have been breaches of international law, with crimes against humanity being at the top of that list. As a country, and along with our allies, we need to see that the investigation is conducted properly and if there is sufficient evidence that prosecutions are forthcoming. That is part of the evolution of what we are going through.
From everything I know about criminal activity, we are only going to be able to stop genocides, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity if the perpetrators of that kind of violence know they are not going to get away with it, that they are going to be caught and with proper investigations and sufficient evidence, they will be prosecuted, convicted and sentenced to an appropriate justice. If we do not build that mentality right around the globe, then we will have more Rwandas.
The humanitarian aid that we have proposed to add to this, which thankfully the government and the Liberals have agreed to now, is absolutely necessary. So we are clear, we are talking short-term aid. Libya overall is quite a wealthy country. It is not like Egypt and Tunisia that are in much worse economic shape. As this evolves, if there is a stable government there, it will be quite capable of taking care of the needs of all of its people. However, in the interim, humanitarian aid is absolutely necessary.
With regard to the support that we have shown for this resolution, it is clear that the UN, under Resolution 1973, has not only called on members of the United Nations to take part in military action, but it is obviously requiring diplomatic endeavours to have a ceasefire to end the violence on both sides so that the killing stops.
Canada has to take a more active role in that. I draw the attention of the members to the work that Turkey and Norway are doing in terms of trying to resolve this in a peaceful way. We certainly should be assisting them by stepping up at the diplomatic level our activities in that regard.
I would be remiss if I did not speak about the role that communities in Windsor Essex County have played. The second weekend after the insurgency and the violence started in Libya, a significant rally was held with some fundraising. Just in those few days over $400,000 was raised, not just in the Windsor area but other parts of Canada as well. This was led mostly by the medical community. We have a large number of expatriate Libyans now Canadian citizens who practise medicine in this country. They were a big part of the fundraising.
I met with one of the doctors a couple of weeks ago, before the House started back. He had just come back from Libya. He was telling me that they had been rotating medical personnel from Canada, mostly expatriate Libyans, back through Libya on a two-week rotation, in a lot of cases providing expert medical attention. It is absolutely needed.
In addition to that, they have raised additional funds. He was estimating it at least several million dollars just from the community in Canada. They were moving food and medicine into Benghazi in particular and were about to move it through Misrata as well.
All that work was done within the community in Canada, by their efforts both in terms of providing the medical services and in terms of providing medicine and food. He was critical of the government for not doing more in terms of providing humanitarian aid.
I applaud the government for its announcement today on the increased amounts it is giving, but it is not enough. The needs in the eastern part of Libya are particularly great and we have to step that effort up with assistance through the NGOs across the globe.
I actually spoke to the group at one point. There was a fundraiser dinner one night. We were talking about whether there would be military intervention. When I got off the stage, I was surrounded by the members of the community. They were very clear and adamant that they would not have their country, in spite of the violence that was going on, occupied by anybody else.
It is one of the reasons why we in the NDP were adamant in amending this motion, so it would very clear that this mandate would not allow for any ground troops to be put into Libya. The euphemism of “no boots on the ground” is an absolute for the Libyan population.
There have been too many times in their history when they have been occupied, to their great detriment, and they are not prepared to tolerate that ever again.
I have listened to the debate, off and on, today. It has been interesting. With regard to the role that we should be playing, the absolute need is for Canada to be extremely careful of not dictating what the outcome is going to be in the sense of building democracy there. That has to be led by the Libyans themselves.
Again, we put very clear wording in the amendments that we proposed to this motion, and accepted by the government, that it has to be a Libyan-led transition. It cannot be dictated by Canada or by the international community.
We can be there to provide assistance, if they need assistance and if they ask for it. We should be there to assist them, whether it be in humanitarian aid or in building democracy. It may be a democracy that is not similar to ours and certainly not the same as ours. We have to be broadminded enough to still provide support if that is requested, so they can build their democracy as they see fit.
Again, I was bit concerned with some of the comments today about what our role should be in that regard. I think we have to be brave enough and courageous enough to step back. This is an independence movement in many ways in Libya, led by people, the young people in a lot of cases, who are very determined that they will do it their way.
We absolutely do not have a right to be dictating to them the type of government that will be established. We can only be there to provide support. This is true of any other number of countries that are looking for assistance. We do not dictate the outcome.
I want to make one final comment and then I have a couple of amendments I want to propose.
Going back to the point about military intervention and talking about all of the other countries that also need support, we cannot use that as an excuse. As I said earlier in my opening comments, this is a baby step that we are taking with regard to establishing the responsibility to protect. Our responsibility as members of the United Nations, when it passes a resolution like 1973, is to support it.
We do not have the resources to do it for every country in the world that needs help, but we can, as an example, say to other countries that we are doing it here and if we could afford to or were able to, we would do it elsewhere always under the auspices of the United Nations. We want the rest of the world to come onside. It would not be a baby step if we got the rest of the world onside, but we can provide some leadership in that regard. If we provide the leadership and get the rest of the world to follow suit, then perhaps our grandchildren and maybe our great grandchildren will never be faced with genocide in their lifetimes.
There are a couple of problems with the motion as it is. I think I have general consent and support for what I am about to propose. In the original motion, the government used the phraseology of “another extension”. We want to be very clear. The NDP position is there will only be this extension and we want that singularized. I will come back to the actual wording in a moment.
The Liberal subamendment referred to the transitional council as the Libyan National Council. It is occasionally called that, but its formal name is the National Transitional Council and is generally recognized around the globe as that. Therefore, I seek the unanimous consent of the House for the following. I move:
That the motion from the government be amended by replacing the phrase “another extension” with “an extension”, and also that the subamendment be changed by replacing “Libyan National Council (LNC)” with the “National Transitional Council (NTC)”.