Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion before the House with regard to the crisis in Libya and the potential extension of Canada's participation in the mission that we entered last March. I will make comments and then propose amendments in my remarks.
If we look at the timeline of this issue and its trajectory, we really have to go back not to Tripoli or Benghazi or Misrata but to the events that happened in Tunisia. We are all well aware of what happened there, where the so-called Arab spring was launched. It is important to note the similarities between what happened in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya, but there are profound differences in each of these situations, and I will elaborate on them later.
What is notable in all of these situations and in what is happening in Yemen, Syria and Jordan, and the list goes on, is that the people of the respective countries have decided to hold their regimes to account. This is unprecedented in modern history in the region. It is something worthy of note, particularly for these countries in a post-colonial era, where the people themselves have decided they will set the agenda, that they will decide who is going to lead them and to throw off the shackles of oppression and suppression.
On February 15 in Benghazi, riots were triggered by the arrest of a human rights activist, and that is important for people to note. There was finally a coalescence of humanitarian action around those who typically have been isolated, arrested and tortured. People said they would no longer stand by and watch their fellow citizens jailed and oppressed. The riots soon turned into a fight against government forces, with protestors peacefully demanding that Colonel Gadhafi step down, similar to the situations in Tunisia and Egypt.
Just days later on February 21, two Libyan air force pilots decided to defect because they were ordered to use their monopoly on violence, as it were, in this case their jets, to massacre their fellow citizens. It was just after that on February 24 that anti-government forces coalesced around Misrata, evicting forces loyal to Gadhafi.
On February 27, we saw the first UN resolution, resolution 1970, which looked to impose sanctions on Gadhafi and his family. On March 1, the UN General Assembly suspended Libya's membership of the Human Rights Council, and aid agencies reported at that point that 147,000 people had fled Libya for Tunisia and Egypt.
It was on March 5 that the Libyan National Council met in Benghazi and declared itself the representative of the Libyan people.
On March 6, the former Jordanian foreign minister was appointed by the UN as a special envoy to Libya. The next day a regional flash appeal for the Libyan crisis was launched by aid agencies, and foreign workers started to flee Libya.
On March 9, over 100 physicians who were deployed in eastern Libya by the Arab Medical Union coalesced to support the humanitarian crisis there. I might note that many Canadian Libyan doctors and civil society coalesced in support of the humanitarian crisis.
It was on March 10 that forces loyal to Gadhafi bombed the oil town of Brega and took control of another town nearby, just west of Tripoli. It was then that we started to hear calls, after this massacre and bombing, by the Arab League. It was on March 12 that the Arab League called on the UN to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
There was also support from the African Union, which expressed:
[Its] deep concern at the prevailing situation in Libya, which poses a serious threat to peace and security in that country and in the region as a whole, as well as to the safety and dignity of Libyans and of the migrant workers, notably the African ones, living in Libya. [The] Council is equally deeply concerned with the resulting humanitarian situation.
It was after the cry for help from both the Arab League and the African Union that on March 17 the UN Security Council voted on resolution 1973, which authorized a no-fly zone and all necessary measures to protect civilians from the government forces.
On March 20, Libya declared a ceasefire. The problem was that it continued to oppress its citizens and use violence against them, which clearly showed the cards of the regime, that it was not serious about a ceasefire at that point.
On March 24 NATO was given command to enforce the no-fly zone. It did not take full control of that until other countries signed on. I might note that Canada was joined in the mission by countries like Norway, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, the U.K., France, Italy, Turkey, Qatar, UAE, Jordan and Morocco.
These are important points because many people have forgotten how we got here. The fact of the matter is that we were asked by the African Union, the Arab League and the United Nations to act, and that is why we supported the initial motion of the House.
As has been noted by many, there have been many changes on the ground. For that reason, I think amendments are required to support the humanitarian concerns that exist, especially the internally displaced people and refugees resulting from this conflict; to ensure that we investigate and prosecute rape as a weapon of war, which is something my party has asked for in places like the Congo; and to ensure that there is a strengthened diplomatic pledge by the government to ensure that we fall in line with UN resolution 1973.
I say this because it is not a crisis that will be solved by Canada, by NATO or by more bombing, but by diplomatic and humanitarian pursuit and making sure that the UN is in the lead and is coordinating matters. For the New Democratic Party, it is absolutely important that the UN is involved. I say that because some would put their trust only in regional representation. We in the NDP believe that the UN is the right body to coordinate a crisis of the proportion we have seen in Libya.
I might also note that Libya has challenges. Libya is different from Tunisia and Egypt. It is in some ways about having to look at not just democratic development, as has been mentioned and is certainly true, but also at state formation. For 40 years we have seen one person dominate that particular state, tear down institutions and ensure that he has full power over the people of Libya. So there is a problem and challenge there that is different from the other two countries I have mentioned.
It is also clear to all that if we are to pursue the UN resolution in a way that is meaningful, we need to strengthen diplomatic support. I was glad to hear the minister announce that there would be recognition of the national council.
I would also hope that we work with the diaspora community here. I also would hope that we would see a continued support for diplomatic efforts. Without that, we are not living within the spirit of UN Resolution 1973.
Finally, I want to touch on the need for full accountability and transparency.
I realize that after the initial motion was passed in this House we were in an election. However, it is absolutely imperative that the House and Parliament are seized with this issue through our committees of Parliament and that we actually live up to the same standards as other countries when it comes to transparency of our military mission as well as humanitarian and diplomatic efforts. For that, we believe an amendment is required that is in line with the spirit of the motion as presented.
I also believe we need to ensure that we have not only what was mentioned today by the minister, more humanitarian support, but that it needs to be explicit in the motion as well, and I think that amendments are required for that.
Finally, we have to say after three and a half months of a military commitment to the mission, that would be it. However, that is something that we will abide by, in terms of this motion, in terms of a three and a half month commitment. It is important that amendments be made to assure Canadians that this is not just about a military mission, that this is about making sure we live to the spirit of UN Resolution 1973. For that, I would like to amend the motion with the following. I move:
That the motion be amended by:
(a) substituting the word “consent” with the word “support” and the word “consents” with the word “supports;
(b) adding after the word, “therefore”, the following:
“, with the objective of protecting civilians,”
(c) adding after the words “with UNSC Resolution 1973”; the following:
“the House supports an increase in Canada's humanitarian assistance to those affected by the crisis and efforts to strengthen Canada's support for the diplomatic efforts outlined in UNSCR 1973 to reach a ceasefire leading to a Libyan-led political transition, and supports the government's commitment to not deploy Canadian ground troops”
(d) adding after the words “war by the Libyan regime” the following:
“and supports Canada's participation in the international effort in investigating, preventing and prosecuting these alleged crimes;” and
(e) adding after the words “under UNSC Resolution 1973” the following:
“, appreciates the government's full and continued co-operation on committee meetings and the sharing of information in accordance with the highest levels of transparency practised by our partners in the operation”
I submit these amendments and I look forward to the House supporting them.