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House of Commons Hansard #20 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was libyan.

Topics

LibyaGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the comments from the Bloc representative in regard to its position on the whole Libya issue. There is no doubt that the Liberal Party and others inside this chamber have seen the value in terms of providing freedom for the people of Libya.

One of the questions that needs to be answered, and I look to the government or the Bloc representative, is this. Under what kind of circumstances would the member envision this engagement in terms of the role that the UN or NATO would play in regard to taking a position of when Canada should withdraw from Libya? To what degree does the Bloc see NATO and the UN providing guidance on that issue?

LibyaGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Bloc Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his excellent question.

In our opinion, it is also the responsibility of the government to plan and to determine the context in which it will decide to withdraw the troops. We hope the decision will be made before the end of the proposed extension of the mission. According to the model established by the organizations on the ground, as soon as the liberation of Libya has been declared, an eight-month preparation process would allow for a free election to be held in Libya. Canada has to be able to determine both the context in which it will withdraw its military troops and the way in which it will provide support for reconstruction and help for victims of damaging crimes. The government has a responsibility to answer the many questions that have been raised as to where we wish to go from here.

LibyaGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, may I begin by expressing the appreciation of the member for Scarborough—Guildwood for the Minister of National Defence and his staff.

Throughout the summer, as the member for Scarborough—Guildwood has expressed, he and other members of our caucus received briefings from the Minister of National Defence and his staff. They gave us updates on the unfolding situation in Libya which were thorough, frequent, extensive and candid. We appreciated the openness the minister demonstrated throughout this mission.

I would add that I had discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and I appreciated as well the diplomatic initiatives he took with the contact group and otherwise the sanctions that were levied against the Libyan leadership and the movement to bring Libyan officials, beginning with Colonel Gadhafi, before the International Criminal Court for accountability.

I would also like to recognize the exemplary contribution of our armed forces. It really is due to the professionalism and dedication of our Canadian Forces and that of NATO that we can discuss what is happening in Libya today in a manner that speaks to the rebuilding of a free Libya, a Libya free from the tyrannical regime of Colonel Gadhafi and his cohorts.

I would like to highlight the work of our diplomatic representatives, particularly that of Sandra McCardell, the Canadian ambassador to Libya. We know that conflicts in this day and age are not simply addressed and won on the battlefield, but they also take place in the trenches of diplomacy. She has been a significant asset to Canada throughout the mission and will continue to play a very prominent role in the rebuilding process. As she and her family head off to Libya, my colleagues in the Liberal Party and I wish her safety and godspeed in her mission.

On this point of expressing appreciation, I want to express our thanks as well to the Libyan diaspora here in Canada and those outside Canada with whom our caucus has met singly and in groups. They identified for us the challenges that are confronting Libya today, as well as the opportunities. Some of those challenges which they outlined to us I am going to be abbreviating for reasons of time. They would be far more elaborate and clear were I able to convey them as they were initially conveyed in their deliberations with us.

First, they spoke of leadership issues. Gadhafi had effectively eliminated most of the political elite, including opposition figures in exile. As a result of that, political parties and opposition groups were almost non-existent. Gadhafi therefore remained the only dominant personality in the political realm which now has to be reconfigured, rebuilt and redeemed.

The second was the issue of the remnants of a divided society. Divisions between eastern, western, coastal and inland regions would still be a factor, as would tribal divisions, though this to a lesser extent. In particular, reference was made to the division between Benghazi and Tripoli. Residents of both cities have a certain apprehension of the other gaining dominance, while Tripoli itself remains a certain complex mix between old residents who, although anti-Gadhafi, are nonetheless concerned about the control to be exercised from Benghazi, and Gadhafi loyalists who came to that city in later years. I do not want to over-exaggerate this point. It has been made by others, including in briefings by the National Endowment for Democracy, but it at least deserves mention in this catalogue of some of the challenges.

The third one is that of a weak security sector. Unlike Egypt, for example, Libya lacks a sophisticated security sector in particular. Under the Gadhafi regime, security was heavily privatized and contracted to foreign mercenaries. Therefore, no effective, sophisticated and viable security sector was developed.

The fourth one was a lack of economic infrastructure. Here, too, there was a bifurcated economic system where the oil resources were largely separated from the rest of the economy, which remain for the most part underdeveloped. The allocation of oil revenues, therefore, in a democratically developing Libya raises the issue of a resource-based conflict that could develop between competing regions. This is something we will have to monitor as well, led of course by the Libyan Transitional Council and government.

Finally, reference has to be made to the character of the violent conflict and the transitional justice that will evolve. Such a conflict as we have been witnessing raises issues of accountability and demands for retribution.

In particular, given our experience with respect to transitional justice in terms of developing international justice frameworks and reforms, we can assist the Libyan Transitional Council in this regard.

May I just close in terms of that which was conveyed to us about some of the opportunities.

The opportunities exist because of, in effect, the disenchantment with the Gadhafist ideology. That ideology never did take hold. Libyans at this point are seeking, and indeed welcoming, the notion of having free elections, mechanisms for accountability, and putting to bed any reference to that remnant of an ideology that was never embraced by the Libyan people themselves.

There is also a commitment to democratic legitimacy. The NTC itself has recognized the need for free and fair multi-party elections and the establishment of a provisional government. It has expressed commitment to bring together intellectuals, human rights leaders, trade unions and citizens in any transition process so that it goes forward in an inclusive manner.

In the matter of local government, an important point is that local councils largely superseded tribal ties to provide for more independent, transparent and accountable government. There is a developing healthy interaction. I am speaking here about the potential opportunities between the National Transitional Council and local councils. This will help to develop a governance that promotes both a democratic voice and accountability.

Finally, in terms of civil society, the emerging civil society organizations offer opportunities for civic participation and possibilities to build trust outside the lesser institutions that have been allowed to develop in terms of family and tribe on any national scale. Labour unions can play an important role here. Although they were heavily controlled by Gadhafi, they are one of the few groupings in the civil society sector that were allowed to exist under the Gadhafi regime, although the influence there of course remained.

I participated, as many members did, in the debate on Libya that we had in the House last March. At the time, I mentioned in the House and wrote at the end of February in a series of op-eds:

[T]he threats and assaults on civilians in Libya continue to escalate. ...Muammar Gaddafi vows to exterminate the “greasy rats” of civilians, who “deserve to die”.

The continuing pronouncements by Gadhafi at the time led to ongoing condemnation and calls for action. Even opposition parties at the time in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco spoke of Gadhafi's genuine industry of extermination and the need to act, as did western political leaders, the European Union, the UN Secretary-General and the like. Interestingly enough, none of the political leaders who spoke about the compellability to act referred to the need to invoke the responsibility to protect doctrine. I was delighted that in its midnight session on February 26, the UN Security Council in its resolution then and later in March invoked the responsibility to protect doctrine.

As I wrote at the time:

Strong condemnation--without effective action by the international community--would be a betrayal of the Libyan people and a repudiation of the [responsibility to protect] R2P Doctrine. It is our responsibility to ensure this Doctrine is not yet another exercise in empty rhetoric, but an effective resolve to protect people and human rights.

The two resolutions that were passed, in particular, resolution 1973 of March 17, authorized international military action against the Libyan government including a no-fly zone to protect the Libyan people, tightening the economic and financial sanctions along with calls for a ceasefire, diplomatic initiatives and movements toward self-determination for the Libyan people. This created a situation where not long thereafter, we were able to say that the international action authorized by the UN Security Council appeared to be working.

By the end of March the no-fly zone had not only been established, but enforced. A no-drive zone had effectively been implemented. Rebel forces that were on the cusp of desperation weeks before appeared emboldened by the United Nations' response. The international action was not a unilateral move by the United States or one in the absence of a UN Security Council resolution, but had been undertaken pursuant to two UN Security Council resolutions, the first invoking importantly the responsibility to protect doctrine together with targeted sanctions, and the second invoking the important no-fly zone and the accompanying initiatives to which I refer.

We had a situation that moved forward. This brings us to the present day where in discussions in the UN Security Council, Under-Secretary-General Lynn Pascoe spoke of the challenges that still await us and the role we can play in that regard. He mentioned the security concerns that still obtain in that regard and which still need to be addressed and that the formation of a new inclusive interim government would be a crucial step toward national reconciliation and unity and to ensuring that all military groups were brought under a unified command.

Also, and this is something that bears mention and action, regarding the issue of arms proliferation, he echoed the concerns of others that it is imperative the National Transitional Council and the international community establish control over the large stockpiles of sophisticated weapons amassed by the Gadhafi government, including ground-to-air missiles, warning against the spread as he did of those armaments and the threat that they could fall into terrorists' hands.

Re-establishing control over chemical weapons and prospective weapons of mass destruction is of paramount importance. Indeed there has been the discovery of chemical weapons stockpiles, some of which have been discovered as recently as September 22.

Mr. Pascoe spoke of the uncovering of mass graves which indicated the enormity of the human rights crimes that were perpetrated by the Gadhafi regime. Evidence has to be gathered reliably for future accountability. All countries must co-operate--and Canada can play a leading role--with the International Criminal Court in apprehending the indictees and bringing them to justice.

We will also have to make every effort to prevent revenge attacks as he mentioned in expressing concern over the forced displacement of groups of civilians among the Tewerga and Gwaliosh peoples, who were perceived as Gadhafi loyalists.

Another issue expressed today in the Security Council debate was the continuing concern about African migrants and other third party nationals, over 200,000 of whom the United Nations had helped evacuate since the beginning of the crisis. He noted that many more remained in transit camps inside the country. We will have to move to the early processing of those in detention and greater attention to the security of those who continue to work in Libya.

Finally, reference was made by Mr. Jibril today in his address about the need to continue the unfreezing of funds. These funds are needed now in the rebuilding of Libya. The needs of Libya at this point, whether they be housing and electricity, rebuilding infrastructure which was decimated by the conflict, even the security matters relating to weapons retention and the like, will need the kind of funds that the assets can provide.

I will close by making reference to the fact that the NDP amendment that we have been debating effectively calls for the end of our military participation in Libya. It is not a position expressed by the leader of our party, nor one that our party shares.

House of Commons rules are such that this amendment cannot be further amended to ensure that support for this mission continues. Had we been able to amend the government's motion, then the text of our amended motion would have read as follows, and with this I move to a close. I will speak to the substance of what would have been our proposed motion. It is as follows: That, in standing in solidarity with those seeking freedom and better governance in Libya, and in order to protect the civilian population of the country from violent attacks from their own government, the House adopted government motions on March 21 and June 14, 2011 authorizing all necessary measures, including the use of the Canadian armed forces and military assets in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolution 1973; that given the current military situation and the success of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and anti-Gaddafi forces to date, the House supports an extension of up to three months of the involvement of the Canadian armed forces operating with NATO in accordance with a legal mandate from UNSC resolution 1973; that the House continues to support Canada's engagement in all spheres in the rebuilding of a new Libya, including human rights, democratic development and the rule of law, as well as humanitarian and medical assistance in co-operation with the Libyan Canadian community; that the Government of Canada implement a broader engagement strategy with North Africa to promote democracy and stability in the region; that the House deplores the violence committed by the previous regime against the Libyan people, including violence against women, including sexual assault and torture as weapons of war, and including human rights abuses against migrant workers; that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on National Defence shall remain seized of Canada's activities under UNSC resolution 1973 and in the rebuilding of the new Libya.

This would continue to give us an active role with respect to the responsibility to protect doctrine and its implementation.

It further states: that the House extends thanks to Canada's Ambassador to Libya, Sandra McCardell, and her diplomatic colleagues, as well as those working at the Canadian International Development Agency for the good work that they have done; and that the House continues to offer its wholehearted and unconditional support to the brave men and women of the Canadian armed forces who stand on guard for all of us, and continue to protect Libyan civilians from the risks still posed by the Gaddhafi regime, and give effective implementation to the responsibility to protect doctrine.

However, since we are unable to move this specific motion and since we cannot support the NDP's amended motion, we will be supporting the main motion.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Mount Royal is well known as an international legal scholar and I always appreciate his comments and speeches in the House of Commons.

I do not know if he had an opportunity earlier today to listen to the speech given by the opposition, the foreign affairs critic for the NDP, but I was confused and thought that perhaps the hon. member for Mount Royal could help me out with my confusion.

The NDP foreign affairs critic said that the NDP had decided to support the Canadian mission in Libya because of resolution 1973 in March and then they found that this resolution was still in place and a reason for supporting the mission in June. The hon. member will know that resolution 1973 called on all members of the United Nations to take all necessary actions to protect civilians, to enforce an arms embargo and to enforce a ban on military flights over Libyan air space. Then the member will also know that just 10 days ago the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 2009, which maintained provisions to enforce the no-fly zone, protect civilians and enforce the arms embargo in light of continued fighting in some parts of Libya.

Could the member comment on that inconsistency between those two resolutions on behalf of the NDP?

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the inconsistency may lie in the fact that as a matter of principle the NDP has been a strong supporter, not only with regard to the Libyan situation, but with regard to the responsibility to protect doctrine, as incorporated in UN Security Council resolution 1973. That accounts for what we might say the generic commitment is with the responsibility to protect.

However, as the member for Toronto Centre noted earlier in his comments before the House, there were at the same time elements of the speech which were at variance with its own, not necessarily commitment for the responsibility to protect doctrine, but with respect to the application of that doctrine as it applied now to the Libyan situation. At one and the same time in the same breath one heard both a support for and opposition to the motion as proposed by the government. Therefore, in my view, that accounted for the inconsistencies.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question that is both connected to this debate and on a point I raised earlier regarding the work we need to be doing in our own country in terms of building communities, investment and development in our own communities. I specifically look to the challenges we face in northern Canada and aboriginal communities. Would he agree that ultimately nations become stronger when that is the focus, rather than the military end of things, and looking ahead to the next chapter of focusing on developing, capacity building and the need to look at that both at home and abroad?

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would agree with the member, but I do not find a contradiction between working with respect to capacity building in the north with respect to working for aboriginal justice. Indeed, as I indicated, during the period that I was minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, aboriginal justice was a priority both on our domestic and international justice agenda. Certainly a commitment with respect to the north capacity building and the like have to remain a priority for us. The stronger we are as a nation, the better we will be able to make a contribution internationally.

However, this does not preclude our parallel obligation, particularly under the responsibility to protect. One might say we have a responsibility to protect domestically, but there is an international doctrine with regard to a responsibility to protect. It says that where we have a situation of war crimes, crimes against humanity and, God forbid, genocide, where the country in which that is taking place is unwilling or unable to do anything about it, or even worse, as in the case of Libya, is the author of that criminality, then under the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine the international community, and that includes Canada, has a responsibility to intervene and protect the civilians.

I might add that we are now in the 10th anniversary of the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine. Canadians played an important role in the development of that doctrine. We look upon it as something which gives us a kind of international badge of pride, globally speaking, and that we can speak with a certain authenticity with respect to the implementation of such a doctrine, whether it be in Libya or elsewhere.

I do not want to use the same notion of that document domestically because they are different things, but in terms of having responsibility domestically, yes, absolutely we do, and that has to be an ongoing commitment.

With regard to responsibility to protect internationally, that is a distinguishable obligation under international law, which we helped develop, contribute to and we are now implementing. I am delighted that Canada can lead the way in that regard.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague again for his wonderful speeches and tremendous commitment to world peace and advancing the peace in many areas of the country.

I particularly want him to elaborate on the proposed amendment that we would have introduced had procedures allowed. It very much encapsulated a lot of what I think all of us as Canadians and parliamentarians feel when it comes to the issue of peace in Libya and our hopes for the people and the region for a peaceful future. Would the hon. member comment further on that?

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the whole thrust of what we proposed, that would have been the substance of an amendment, was to give expression as to how the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine could actually be implemented on the ground in all its aspects.

The Responsibility to Protect Doctrine not only authorizes the use of military force, it authorizes the use of military force to put an end to the killing field. It authorizes the use, in this instance, of a no-fly zone to stop the rampant and indiscriminate killing and murder that was going on by the Gadhafi regime.

We believe the Responsibility to Protect Doctrine, and indeed the ongoing involvement it will have in the next three months of this mission, speaks to the importance of our involvement in all spheres of the building of a new Libya, including human rights, democratic development, the rule of law, humanitarian and medical assistance in co-operation with the Libyan government itself. In other words, we take the notion of our responsibility to protect as involving an ongoing engagement and involvement in the building of a democratic Libya anchored in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and democratic development and humanitarian assistance processes.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to make this question brief.

There are increasing reports that our responsibility to protect must extend beyond those people threatened by Colonel Gadhafi and must extend to those people who are now understood to have once favoured Colonel Gadhafi. How do we protect those people when we are not allowed by the transitional government to be in Libya to protect civilian populations through a UN peacekeeping force?

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, as part of our engagement we will have to work closely with the National Transitional Council to ensure that the appropriate protection is extended to all groups, including protection against vengeful attacks, and that we move forward in such a way that we build a democratic and inclusive provisional government and a democratically plural society in Libya. I believe we can play in role in that objective.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Selkirk—Interlake.

I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the constituents of Fleetwood--Port Kells to speak to the motion before the House, which seeks an extension of Canada's military engagement in Libya.

Canada has been at the forefront of international efforts in Libya, and from the outset has pushed for swift and decisive action. We are proud of the role Canada has played to support the Libyan people in their struggle to realize a new Libya. After 42 years of brutal dictatorship and one-man rule, the Libyan people have taken important steps to secure for themselves a brighter future.

The unanimous passing of United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 sent a very clear message: the murder of its own citizens by the Libyan regime and the gross violation of the population's human rights would not be tolerated by the international community and would carry serious consequences.

Canada's armed forces have played a leading role in preventing attacks and the threat of attacks against civilians. We have played a vital role in ensuring a positive outcome, but members opposite have lacked the will to see the mission to a successful conclusion.

In August the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I am a member, met to discuss the ongoing situation in Libya. We heard from officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of National Defence.

At that time members discussed and debated the progress of the Canadian mission and ways in which Canada and the international community could improve the protection of civilians in the near and long terms. At that time the NDP walked out of the meeting and declared the mission to be at a standstill.

Just over a week after that meeting, most of the Libyan people, including those in Tripoli, were freed from the control of the Gadhafi regime. The NDP could not have been more wrong.

Despite the progress that has been made, Libya and its people still need our help. The job is not yet done. The reasons Parliament voted to endorse military action still exist, and so it is our position that Canada's role in Libya must continue.

We must remain committed to protecting civlians under threat of attack in Libya and continue to work with NATO allies and partners until the goal of the mission has been met. We must continue protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas. We must maintain the no-fly zone and we must enforce the arms embargo.

As it did in many countries swept up in the Arab awakening, change in Libya came suddenly. Mild, peaceful protests were met with overwhelming force and violence by an autocracy that had long maintained its control through fear and its monopoly of power through the use of violence.

The Gadhafis, first the father and then the son, promised “rivers of blood”. They promised to make the people of Libya pay in blood. They called anti-Gadhafi protestors “rats” and mercenaries who deserved the death penalty. They called upon forces to cleanse Libya house by house.

The Gadhafi regime chose to wage war on its own people and included acts of sexual violence to further the regime's military goals. Canada has been at the forefront of those demanding that the regime halt attacks against its own people and ensure that perpetrators of crimes are brought to justice.

Canada was among the first to call for the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and strongly supported the creation by the human rights council of an international commission of inquiry into violations of human rights.

When used as a weapon of war, rape is a war crime. When used to systematically attack, suppress and terrorize, rape can be a crime against humanity. We condemn these attacks without reservation. These despicable acts underscore why Canada is, and should continue to be, part of the NATO mission.

Libya is a country in the grip of fundamental change. International consensus for action has come in the form of clear and very effective UN Security Council resolutions.

The Canadian and international response that followed the passage of resolutions 1970 and 1973 is one of which we can all be justly proud, and we must stay the course, not only in finishing our military mission but also in helping to assure the final outcome.

Libya's success will establish examples for the entire Arab world about how the traditions and values of the Arab world, an ancient and honoured culture, can make the transition to freedom, democracy, genuine rule of law and human security. These are the foundation stones of economic and social development.

As the Prime Minister has stated, “We presume no right to tell the Libyans how they should govern themselves, nor do we have unrealistic expectations”. It is not our place to tell the Libyans how to rebuild their country. We now expect the new government of Libya to fulfill its commitments to freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

We remain committed to supporting these next steps to assist the Libyan people in their determination to rebuild a peaceful and prosperous society.

In Libya today, as the old regime is justly swept into the dustbin of history, the people are coming face to face with these very challenges. The role of Canada and the international community is to help Libyans meet them and find Libyan solutions for a Libyan future.

Members across the way have been saying that Canada's military role in Libya is finished. They say that we have done our part.

As I said previously, the reasons for which Parliament overwhelmingly supported our mission still exist, and so do the conditions that prompted the UN and NATO to act. Civilians in some parts of Libya still face the threat of Colonel Gadhafi and his regime. They still need our protection. Our part is not done yet. For this reason, I urge all members to support the motion.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question regarding enforcing the no-fly zone.

I was wondering if the hon. member could elaborate on what air force she is wishing to protect the civilians against. From all evidence, it seems that the Gadhafi resistance does not have an air force to speak of. What use does she see for the Canadian military's air force in protecting the civilians against whatever air force it is she is trying to defend those civilians from?

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to let the hon. member know why we are in Libya. The reason for being in Libya is to protect the human rights of the Libyan people, and our job is not finished yet.

It is all about helping the Libyan people and the wonderful society there, the women out there, the children out there. Besides doing our part to ensure a new government, we have also acted swiftly to support those affected by the violence in Libya.

I would like to let the hon. member know what Canada has done there to date. Canada's total humanitarian response to the crisis in Libya is over $10 million. Canada is helping to address urgent medical requirements, basic humanitarian needs and the repatriation of those people who are displaced into neighbouring countries and who need our help urgently.

We are working toward that, and I would--

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as must be clear by now to all members, the Green Party will be voting against this motion again today. As we stood alone to do so in June, I am pleased to know I will no longer be standing alone and that members of the official opposition will joining me.

My concern, to the member for Fleetwood—Port Kells, is that yes, we are protecting women, but on the other hand, how do we stand as a country when we know that a Libyan woman whose surname was Gadhafi was shot by the Libyan rebels while she tried to get her family out of the country? Babies were killed. The only mistake they acknowledged was that they thought she was a Gadhafi family member.

Is it now acceptable for our allies to kill small children if they think they are related to Colonel Gadhafi?

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is the very same reason we are in Libya: security. That is what is needed there.

If this mission is not extended, how are we going to help? For various reasons, we need to extend the mission so that we can help the Libyan people in Libya.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if the member would like to expand on how the people of Libya are advancing themselves and helping with their own security.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to let the hon. member know that I am very proud of the work our government is doing.

Our government is proud of the role Canada has played in supporting the Libyan people in their struggle to realize a new Libya. After 42 years of brutal dictatorship and one-man rule in that country, the Libyan people have taken important steps to secure for themselves a brighter future. While the job is not done yet, the Libyan-led efforts to realize their country's potential still continue to advance.

We now expect the new government of Libya to fulfill its commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. That is what I would like to let the hon. member know.

LibyaGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Canada's continued military contribution to the mission in Libya.

I want to add my voice to all the thanks that have gone out in recognition of the great work that has been done by members of the Canadian armed forces regarding the Libya mission. Also, I must give kudos to our diplomats, especially Ambassador Sandra McCardell. She has done a fantastic job in re-establishing our embassy there, getting the mission working on a temporary basis while repairs are being done to the embassy building, and really leading the Canadian charge on the diplomatic end.

As well, I must thank all the humanitarian relief agencies that are at work in Libya providing the resources and services so desperately needed by the people after their civil war, which is still under way as we speak.

Of course I also thank all of the personnel at the Department of National Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and the Canadian International Development Agency who provided briefings to us as members of Parliament and specifically to those of us who are members of the national defence committee. They kept us abreast of everything that was happening throughout the summer and into this fall, on how the Canadian military mission was played out and how things were happening from the standpoint of relief. They also ensured there were diplomatic briefings so we would know how the relationship was progressing with the National Transitional Council. I do want to extend my thanks and appreciation on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of my committee for those briefings.

This mission began last March in response to events in Libya that caught most observers by surprise. At the beginning of this year, few people could have accurately predicted that the Libyan people would rise up in protest against decades of oppression under the Gadhafi regime, and equally as few could have foreseen similar uprisings against entrenched dictators that occurred earlier in Tunisia and Egypt.

The Libyan situation illustrates just how unpredictable the global security environment has become. It also illustrates that responsible governments must be ready to respond to events as they unfold. At home and abroad, this government must remain ready to protect its citizens against all threats while also assuming leadership positions by promoting security and justice around the world.

Libya is but the most recent example, demonstrating why maintaining military capabilities and a high level of readiness makes sense. As the minister said earlier, the Libyan population would not have the opportunity it has now without the Canadian armed forces' contribution to ongoing international efforts in Libya. Both the scale of our contribution and the speed at which it was deployed took a tremendous amount of effort and expertise.

The government acted decisively in support of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973. We deployed CF-18 fighter aircraft to Sicily one day after resolution 1973 passed to join our allies and partners in enforcing the arms embargo and no-fly zone over Libya. Almost three weeks earlier, HMCS Charlottetown set sail for the Mediterranean in early March to join allied ships in view of Libya's deteriorating security situation.

In both cases, the men and women of the Canadian armed forces deployed quickly and professionally with very little notice. They began contributing immediately to what would soon become the NATO-led mission Operation Unified Protector led by Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, a Canadian general no less. He is someone I am familiar with as he was stationed at 17 Wing and 1 Air Command headquarters in Winnipeg.

This rapid effective response is a testament to the high level of our Canadian armed forces' training, readiness and equipment.

Today, Canada maintains one of the international community's more robust military contributions to the mission. This includes the Royal Canadian Navy's HMCS Vancouver together with its embarked Sea King helicopters. Just as HMCS Charlottetown did before it was relieved last month, the Vancouver is escorting mine-countering and measuring vessels and replenishment ships to ensure that the Libyan waters remain navigable and that humanitarian supplies make it to shore. HMCS Vancouver is also patrolling Libyan waters to ensure that illicit persons and material do not enter or leave Libya.

In the skies, the Royal Canadian Air Force is demonstrating leadership through Task Force Libeccio.

Our two CP-140 Aurora maritime patrol aircraft are contributing to surveillance and intelligence efforts. To date, our seven CF-18 Hornet jet fighters that have conducted over 800 sorties along with the United Kingdom and France are the most active fighters of any allied or partner air force. Our two C-130 Hercules and one CC-150 Polaris aerial refuelling aircraft are taking part in what one NATO spokesperson has called the greatest air-to-air refuelling effort in the history of modern aerial warfare.

Each of these Canadian armed forces operations is critical. It is clear that along with the contributions of our allies and partners, they have achieved significant progress in wearing down what are now the remnants of the Gadhafi regime's ability to attack civilian Libyans.

These efforts have allowed the National Transitional Council the time and space to establish greater control, which will all but eliminate further attacks by what remains of Gadhafi's forces.

Earlier this fall, the Prime Minister addressed our members of the Canadian armed forces in Trapani, Italy. He said:

... because you held the ring while Libyans fought their own fight with their oppressor, the Libyan people are now free to choose. This is the best of Canada’s military tradition. For we are not a country that makes war for gain or for territory. We do not fight for glory, and if we covet honour, it is only a reputation for doing the right thing in a good cause. That is all. And that is enough.

I believe that Canadians can be proud of our country's leadership role from day one in responding to the Libyan crisis . What truly is impressive is that while all of this was going on the Canadian armed forces was carrying out other international operations as well as operations here at home in North America.

In Canada, the Canadian armed forces continued to provide critical search and rescue capabilities, providing life-saving assistance to those in distress anywhere in Canada and at any time. This was demonstrated rather vividly just last month when our military personnel responded quickly and professionally when a civilian airliner tragically crashed near Resolute Bay, Nunavut.

Just over the past few months, our men and women in uniform have assisted our provincial authorities in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, and my home province of Manitoba and indeed in my very own riding, in dealing with and preparing for floods and forest fires.

In North America, the Canadian armed forces continues to work with its American counterparts, mainly through NORAD, to defend the skies above the continent.

However, while the Canadian armed forces has been busy at home over the past several months, it was also engaged in a truly massive undertaking in Afghanistan. In July, the Canadian armed forces wound down five years of combat operations in Afghanistan and shifted its focus to the training of Afghan security forces.

The Canadian armed forces is involved in 15 other missions around the world fulfilling a variety of roles in addition to its operations in Afghanistan and Libya.

All of these missions are essential.

We simply cannot afford to interrupt them.

We simply cannot afford to not do them, just as we cannot afford to leave Libya now, as the minister has stated.

I support Canada's continued military commitment to this NATO mission and to the people of Libya. I call on all members of the House for their continued support in strengthening and sustaining the Canadian armed forces' impressive readiness and capabilities well into the future.

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5:45 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the Conservative member believe that, by focusing on the humanitarian and diplomatic aspects of the situation as we are proposing, it would give the NTC more time, energy and strength to successfully carry out the few remaining battles in towns that are still occupied by pro-Gadhafi forces on the ground and to conduct military operations to quickly free the few remaining towns that are still under the control of pro-Gadhafi forces.

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5:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her service to this country as a member of the Canadian Forces and for her experience in the past. I know that she brings a great deal of knowledge to the Standing Committee on National Defence which I get to chair with her. Therefore, I do appreciate the member's input.

As the member knows from the briefings we have received just this past week a large part of the country is still under the control of the pro-Gadhafi forces. That represents about 15% of the population. I believe that she as well as all members of the House want to see humanitarian aid and the rights of those individuals protected and delivered so that they have the same opportunity the rest of the people of Libya are now enjoying because of the activities taken on by the NATO mission.

By putting in place the no-fly zone, by making sure that the navy is out there protecting the shoreline and ensuring there is no increase in arms availability to the pro-Gadhafi forces, we can bring about peace hopefully in the short term and deliver the aid that is so desperately needed in the entire country.

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5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame that the Liberal Party was not able to move the subamendment because I have often heard members on the government side talk about the compassionate side and the importance of humanitarian support. The amendment that was talked about by the member for Mount Royal highlighted the aspect that Canada does have a stronger role in that area to play.

Because of the amendment and the position the NDP took on it, we were not allowed to bring forward the subamendment.

At this time, I will take the opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful efforts of the Canadian Forces and the work that it has done.

Does the member or the government envision any circumstances wherein the UN or NATO might become disengaged? What role does he see NATO and the UN having in terms of a disengagement with Libya?

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5:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we know that we have to improve the security situation. As the member for Mount Royal stated clearly and eloquently in his speech earlier, the security situation is still very unstable in Libya and there is no ground force in place other than the NTC to defend and bring about law and order on the streets and in homes and communities across Libya.

When it comes to humanitarian aid, Libya has a great deal of wealth. It has a lot of natural resources at its disposal. Canada has already unfrozen $2.2 billion of assets Libya had in Canada through the Gadhafi regime and has made them available for humanitarian aid efforts.

Ambassador Sandra McCardell is leading the Canadian diplomatic mission and is making sure things do advance so that we do see things like human rights and the rule of law addressed, as well as ensuring that individual freedoms are protected.

We do have a role to play. The motion that is before us today does address--

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5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. There is time for a very short question and response.

The hon. member for Kitchener--Conestoga.