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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 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga has risen a number of times in the House today and I want to thank him for his interest in this important debate.

He is absolutely right. We do need to rebuild and to help in the reconstruction. We do need to assist in the lives of those who have been adversely affected by the horrors of war and the atrocities committed by the Gadhafi forces. However, these cannot be possible unless we have the presence and unless the Gadhafi regime which is currently committing these atrocities is removed. We cannot do one without the other.

I cannot stress enough the importance of adopting this motion and for the House to agree that this mission must be completed. In order to do that we need to extend it.

LibyaGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in this House to speak to the situation in Libya, a topic that we have been watching for several months and that requires constant vigilance.

As we know, the evolution of the situation over there, NATO's involvement and the future of the country are at the heart of discussions in Canadian and international politics. Here at home, parliamentarians have shown a great interest in this issue, both in the House and in committees. We have followed the various political, social and military events. We have kept a close eye on what was going on in Libya and we want to support the people of Libya in the stages that will follow.

My speech today will focus on NATO's involvement in Libya, the current situation, my opposition to the motion moved by the Conservative government and the importance of the amendments proposed by the NDP.

First, I would like to give a little bit of background on NATO's involvement in Libya.

As part of the so-called Arab spring movement, rebellions in Libya started on February 15, 2011. Five days after the conflict started in Benghazi, it had spread across the country. Then, two days later, Moammar Gadhafi's regime lost control of certain regions.

The people took to the streets to denounce the injustice, oppression, lack of fairness and obscurantism of the existing government. The courage and determination of these protesters impressed us all. Risking one's life to go up against an authoritarian regime that has been in place for over 40 years is deserving of respect and honour. These people had the courage to question the established order and to bring down a corrupt and threatening government.

However, from the beginning of these protests, Moammar Gadhafi's scandalous and widespread repression has outraged and shocked us all: indiscriminate attacks against civilians, massacres in a number of Libya's cities, massive offensive attacks against unarmed protestors, rape as a weapon of war and extrajudicial killings. In short, oppression under this dictatorship reached its highest level in four decades. This oppression threatened the physical integrity of the people and the stability of the region.

Resolutions 1970 and 1973 of the UN Security Council sent a clear message: the international community will not let the regime get away with massacring a population, and it was prepared to intervene to stop the massacres. Under the responsibility to protect doctrine, the New Democratic Party supported the initial military involvement launched by NATO, as well as the renewal in 2011.

My colleagues and I hope that civilians will be protected, that Gadhafi and his troops will no longer be in a position to cause any harm and that the rule of law will return to Libya. That is why we deployed Canadian CF-18s in support of NATO's commendable, legitimate operations.

Canada conducted 820 air strikes, some 9% of all NATO strikes. Canada conducted 352 aerial refuelling sorties, some 7% of all NATO refuelling sorties. We conducted 85% of all aerial maritime patrol sorties, some 151 sorties. We dropped 600 laser-guided bombs.

We did our part. We did important work. We are proud of the work done by our soldiers. We are proud of their actions. I would like to personally thank them for their excellent work and I know that all of my colleagues, of all political stripes, join me in thanking them.

However, we are now in a different place. The reality is not the same as a few months ago and the needs have changed. The support Canada can provide has also changed and must adapt to the new reality. Tripoli has been liberated, the dictatorial regime has fallen, and fighting between forces loyal to the old regime and the rebels is limited to three cities. Life is beginning to get back to normal, particularly in the capital.

The balance that existed has been reversed. On the one hand, the Gadhafi regime has been limited and is no longer in a position to ensure the country's sovereignty or to make mass attacks on civilians. It has lost. The regime has been defeated.

The National Transitional Council, on the other hand, is recognized and supported by the international community. It has established and stabilized its positions in nearly the entire country and has achieved its first objective, which was to crush Moammar Gadhafi's regime. It has won. The people have triumphed over fear.

If we compare the situation from six months ago, or even three months ago, to today's, no one can deny that the country is doing better. No one can deny that the collapse of the regime is good news for the people of Libya in general. No one can deny that Libya is headed in the right direction.

The former government's frozen funds have been, for the most part, unlocked by the international community. These billions of dollars are now available to the NTC to begin the reconstruction of the new Libya.

Unfortunately, today's Libya lacks solid institutions, the rule of law, and national structures capable of meeting the people's needs. Libya is currently a country in need of humanitarian, logistical and technical support. The most worrisome threats today are the absence of the rule of law, corruption, a broken justice system and unmet basic needs. First of all, this country needs our expertise in order to build the future.

I will now get to the crux of the matter, the motion introduced by the government. A number of elements in this motion and the government's approach to this matter are of interest to me. I find some aspects disconcerting. The four main points in my speech are the military component of the mission, putting the rule of law at the forefront, protecting civilians, and Canada's role on the international scene. I believe that this motion does not take either the reality or the high-priority needs into account. It is not in keeping with the principles the government preaches.

First, on this side of the House, we deplore that the government's approach is essentially focused on military support, a role of the Canadian armed forces. We are proud of what our soldiers have accomplished. We are proud of their contribution to date. However, we believe that it is now time for Canada to shift its focus to humanitarian efforts.

Historically, Canada's strength has been its expertise in democracy, human rights, justice, and social and economic development. We must take advantage of our strength and focus our efforts in those areas. We do not wish to support continued military action in Libya and we do not believe that it is the priority. The military mission that began in March and was extended in June was to protect the Libyan people from the violence of the Gadhafi regime. We thank our military and our diplomats who worked hard to achieve that goal.

Today, the situation has changed and our action must change accordingly. The humanitarian corridors are open and safe. The basic needs on the ground are no longer the same. We must now build the foundations of Libya's future. We all know that the government will not provide the same resources to the humanitarian component as it does to the military component.

The $10 million being spent on military operations each month is $10 million that is not going to the Libyan people. The $330,000 being spent each day is $330,000 that is not being spent on rebuilding the country. From this point on, Canada's actions should not be based on the past or present, but on the future. We need to be fully dedicated to preparing Libya for the challenges ahead: creating a justice system, training police officers and developing democratic institutions. We must also support a new state structure that will meet the primary needs of the people both today and tomorrow.

There is a lot of work ahead of us and it is essential that we establish our priorities. From this point on, we must focus on civil resources. From this point on, Canada's humanitarian and technical resources must take over from our military support. From this point on, we must prepare for Libya's future.

Second, the motion states the desire that the House continue to support Canada's engagement in all spheres in the rebuilding of the new Libya, including human rights, democratic development and the rule of law, and that the House deplores the violence committed by the previous regime against the Libyan people, including the alleged use of rape as a weapon of war.

Clearly, we cannot oppose those sentiments. What perplexes me is the restrictive aspect of this statement. Like all parliamentarians, we are in favour of the rule of law in Libya. Like all parliamentarians, we want to see the crimes of the previous regime punished. However, the rule of law cannot come before a representative political system is developed. It will necessitate the development of a fair and equitable justice system.

In addition, the National Transitional Council does not have a monopoly on virtue. In a recent report, Amnesty International reviewed the war crimes committed both by the Gadhafi clan and by the National Transitional Council: settling of scores, extrajudicial killings, public hangings, prisoners tortured or killed and arbitrary mass arrests of nationals.

So far, none of the people involved in these war crimes, on either side, has been arrested or tried.

If the government wants its position to be consistent, it must denounce the crimes committed by both sides. It must ensure that these actions do not go unpunished. It must ensure that Libya has the tools it needs to implement the rule of law in the country. We cannot allow those who have committed war crimes to build Libyan democracy.

All this brings me back to my first point. We must base our priorities on our values and on our hopes for the Libyans. If the government's priority is to drop bombs, so be it. Our priority is to establish a strong, fair and equitable Libyan society. For us, establishing a rights-based society involves prosecuting crimes on both sides, mainly through diplomatic and humanitarian efforts.

Third, the conclusion of the motion focuses on the protection of civilians. Of course, we want to do the right thing. Who in the House could oppose this? However, upon careful examination of the situation, we see that it is much more complicated than the government would have us believe. The structures of the former regime are not as easily identifiable as they were when the intervention began.

The operations of the Gadhafi clan are more subtle. They are not using the same level of deployment that they were three or six months ago. Forces loyal to the former regime are now more likely to be hidden here and there.

As a result, rather than massive bombings, upcoming battles will be ground battles, which will pose a real threat to the safety of civilians and will affect the local people's perception of the international community's operation.

In any bombing operation, no matter how surgical, civilians are often an unintended target that we wish to avoid. Perhaps the government sees them as collateral damage but, for us, the loss of even one civilian is a tragedy that must be avoided at all costs.

It is also important to remember that NATO is not planning to bring in any ground forces and the NTC will inevitably have to continue this military work. The NTC currently has the tools to do so. It has the weapons. It has the logistical and strategic support, and it has the tactical advantage. As representatives from the Canadian army informed us in committee, pro-Gadhafi forces will soon be short on firearms and troops.

The Conservatives' approach once again shows the deep divide between this government and Canadian tradition in terms of international outreach.

Historically, our country played a peacekeeping role, a positive role, a proactive role. This government is only considering a military approach. This government chooses the easy route instead of deploying its resources where it counts. This government refuses to focus on the future of a country in need of solid structures.

Why does this government not come back to our country's strengths? Why does this government not come back to what has made us as a country appreciated around the world in the past? Why does this government insist on favouring weapons over humanitarian efforts?

In closing, the NDP opposes this motion because it is out of touch with reality. It does not take the future into account. It does not take into account the real support Canada can offer to Libya.

Accordingly, we are saying no to the motion as presented. We are saying no to the militaristic approach of the Conservative government and conversely, we are saying yes to humanitarian support from Canada and yes to the future of Libya.

That is why we have proposed two amendments to shift the focus of the motion from military efforts to humanitarian efforts. These two amendments put the emphasis on the real needs of the people. They direct Canada back to its historic mission. The Conservative government has to understand that Libya is more than an exchange of gunfire; it is more than bombings and it is more than a civil war.

Libya is a country of 6 million people who wanted to free themselves from oppression. These 6 million people turned their backs on dictatorship and chose freedom. These 6 million people now want to take charge of their fate, look ahead and build a better future.

Today, Canada's duty is to help Libyans build a modern society that reflects the aspirations of a people. A military mission is no way to achieve that end.

LibyaGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for St. John's East, Afghanistan; the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, The Environment.

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the speech by the member opposite and I appreciate her position, but what she needs to appreciate is that in order to deliver humanitarian aid to the people who need it in Libya, they must first have security, and that is one of the things we are putting forward here. We need to ensure there is security so that people on the ground can deliver the humanitarian aid that is sent from other countries. That is one of the important reasons we are extending this mission in Libya. If we do not first have security, we cannot have the humanitarian aid getting to the places where it is needed.

For example, in many of the remote parts of Libya, pro-Gadhafi forces are interfering with humanitarian aid getting to the people who need it. If the member wants to have humanitarian aid reaching out to people who need it across the country of Libya, she must first acknowledge that security is a necessary factor for that to take place.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell my colleague that I am very aware of the importance of security in delivering humanitarian supplies, for example. When we talk about security to deliver supplies, we are talking about security on the ground. Right now, the NTC provides security on the ground to assist with the delivery of these supplies. Canadian troops are not the ones providing actual security on the ground, since we have insisted all along that Canada's military mission would not involve troops on the ground.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for her speech.

It is certain that once our military leaves, we will have a huge task ahead of us to help Libya, a country that has known only dictatorship and repression for over four decades. The Liberal Party, along with our leader, has taken time to consult Canadians of Libyan origin to find out what they think would be important to do when we help Libya. A number of members of this community work in the health care and medical fields. They suggested that an important role for Canada would be to help put in place health infrastructure, which, frankly, does not currently exist in Libya.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about this suggestion as a way to provide assistance to Libya.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, if we pro-rate the funds currently being put into the military mission, it comes out to $330,000 a day. If we were to allocate that money to health care instead, we could make some serious progress, I would like to point out. As a nurse, I had the opportunity to do some humanitarian work in West Africa. I know that all of Africa is in desperate need right now, so I imagine that Libya is too.

Yes, in my opinion, the priority should be the health care system and all other humanitarian needs in Libya.

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4:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Standing Committee on National Defence was at the briefings we had last week from Major-General Vance and Her Excellency the Ambassador of Canada to Libya, Sandra McCardell. They clearly outlined that there is still a large area of Libya under the control of the pro-Gadhafi forces. They clearly stated that there are large caches of weapons and ammunition available to the pro-Gadhafi forces and that they have an ability to strike back and fight a hard fight.

We are witnessing that now. Members of the Gadhafi family are making all sorts of public statements about being prepared to be martyrs and about being prepared to fight to the last man or woman. We have to ensure that we get this oppressor and his forces under control so that we will have the ability for diplomacy and aid to be delivered.

I ask my hon. colleague if she would comment on the need to bring stability throughout the entire country of Libya and not just to the areas that are held now, and on the role that NATO still has to play in providing security for all Libyans.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I also took away from that meeting is that the Gadhafi forces have been reduced considerably and that they are limited to three main cities. So they are concentrated in one area. The NTC continues working hard on the ground to take control of those areas and to ensure the safety of civilians. The Gadhafi forces have been reduced considerably. The NTC is making good progress and we must continue to support it. I think it will be able to accomplish what it set out to do.

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan NDP Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague did serve in uniform herself and understands the importance of our armed forces and our military, and to follow up for my hon. colleague over there who asked the question about costs, I will say that we know military intervention is very expensive.

My question to my hon. colleague for Abitibi—Témiscamingue is this: does she think the money would be better spent on helping to actually rebuild Libya rather than on military intervention?

LibyaGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that the money that was invested in the military mission, before the events of the past few weeks, was necessary. We had to invest on a military level in order to help the NTC bring down Moammar Gadhafi. Now that the regime has fallen, now that Tripoli has been taken and the situation in that country is on the right track, it is time to redirect that money towards humanitarian needs.

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4:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue--

First I want to congratulate the hon. member on her speech. It was very strong, and I agree with the points she raised. Like her, I am very worried about the other crimes, not just those committed by the forces who support Mr. Gadhafi, but also those of the transitional government, which is committing other crimes against young people in the civilian population. They may be especially misinterpreted as being committed by pro-Gadhafi forces, when that is not the case. It may be a case of confusion.

What does the hon. member think of the threats that are weighing on the civilian population of Libya?

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4:25 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to meet the ambassador when she came to a meeting of the Standing Committee on National Defence. I had the opportunity to ask her some questions about that. The thing that came out of the conversation was the importance of diplomatic aid. Establishing Canadian diplomatic aid will help the Libyan people set up a justice system very quickly. Then the criminals from Gadhafi's camp and also the people in the NTC who have overstepped the bounds can be prosecuted quickly. This will prevent those people from being involved in building the new Libya. For that we need major diplomatic efforts, not military efforts.

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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be here today speaking on the subject of Libya. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

It is a pleasure to contribute to this important debate. Today comes at a crucial moment in Libya's history and obviously in the history of Canada's relations with Libya.

As the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have repeatedly made clear, Canada stands ready to assist Libyans and their new leadership during this historic period of transition and change.

We were ready the moment the Libyan people needed our help, and from the onset we have pushed for swift and decisive action. We have shown international leadership with our humanitarian, diplomatic and military efforts. In the last month we have responded quickly with a number of steps to support the new Libya. While progress has been made, we are staying until the job is done.

I do not need to remind members in the House what happened back in the nineties in Iraq with Saddam Hussein, a dictator there. When he thought he had the support of the outside world, a number of people rose up, but when he did not get that support from the outside world, massacres and challenges occurred.

I do not pretend to make those two things the same, but we have started a job in Libya and it is important that we continue the job until the job gets done. That is what we are really trying to demonstrate here today.

Inspired by the actions in Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans took to the streets in January 2011 to protest their living conditions. The protests quickly spread and began to focus instead on the removal of Moammar Gadhafi and his regime. Within months, the civilian death toll had reached the thousands. It became clear to the world that outside intervention was necessary to protect innocent Libyans.

To demonstrate our commitment to the UN, NATO and our allies, Canada took up its duty and prepared for the mission that lay ahead. The mission continues to be that of protecting civilians but also includes the central factor of making sure that democracy, the rule of law and human rights continue to be upheld. My colleague from Calgary said earlier that when Canada looks at getting involved, we want to ensure that we have the opportunity to promote democracy, the rule of law and to deal with human rights, and in this case, protecting Libyans.

Libya's interim rulers showed the world a mass grave they had found, believed to hold the remains of over 1,270 inmates killed by Gadhafi security forces in the notorious 1996 massacre.

Gadhafi is still at large and to withdraw our troops from a country where this man still roams is really not an option at this point in time.

Canada has been at the forefront of NATO's mission in Libya to protect civilians since March 1, 2011. Canada's own Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard has been commanding NATO's military campaign in Libya since March 31, 2011. Six hundred and fifty Canadian Forces personnel, 15 Royal Canadian Air Force aircraft and three Royal Canadian Navy vessels have been working tirelessly to both achieve its mission in support of the Libyan people and to show Canada's commitment to its allies. They have successfully targeted military sites around the country, enforced a no-fly zone, and maintained a naval blockade without a single Canadian casualty to report.

We must continue to show our support and commitment to NATO and to the UN, as well as those countries with whom we fight against tyranny and oppression. To back out now, with Gadhafi still at large, would be an act of submission and surrender, and that is not the image that Canada can or is willing to portray to the world.

Libya is not Afghanistan. We are there to help the national transitional council rid its people of an oppressor and we will stick by our allies until this mission is accomplished.

Canada has been a member of the UN since the body was created out of the rubble of World War II. Canada's history at the UN is deeply entrenched. Mr. Humphrey, a Canadian, drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Canada has since been a part of every UN mission since 1957 and Libya is no different.

We must show the world that Canada continues to play a major role on the global stage, and we will take necessary actions whenever and wherever innocent civilians are being oppressed.

The national transitional council, or NTC, formed on February 27, acts as the political face of the revolution. It has been recognized by Canada, along with the UN General Assembly, as the legitimate representative of Libyan citizens.

Canada has therefore positioned itself well as an ally to the NTC, and in doing so, could help ensure that it stays the course with its stated goals of creating a tolerant, stable, pluralistic democracy. Certainly, the foreign affairs minister has met with the NTC and we have every reason to be optimistic about Libya's future under its leadership.

Gadhafi's days are numbered, and when that number runs out, so will Canada's military mission in Libya. Until then, Canada must continue to show a commitment to our allies, to the spread of peace and democracy, and to the people of Libya.

Canada has made many recent moves to assist Libya's transition to democracy. On September 1, the Prime Minister announced the lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed by Canada in order to assist the Libyan people transition justly, safely and securely toward a democracy.

On September 13, Canada secured from the United Nations Security Council sanctions committing an exemption to unfreeze the $2.2 billion worth of Libyan assets to be used for humanitarian needs.

We re-opened our embassy in Tripoli in a temporary location, and as soon as necessary repairs are made to our existing embassy building and appropriate security measures are in place, we could again start to provide the high level of service Canadians have come to expect from our embassies worldwide.

We are moving quickly and decisively to establish all necessary links with the new Libyan government and to resume all services for Canadians within Libyan borders. However, that is not all our government is doing. In addition to assistance in Libya, Canada will also work to support Canadian businesses in Libya, many of which are ready and anxious to resume their activities there.

Prior to the unrest, approximately 12 Canadian companies were active in the country and many more were exploring opportunities. Trade and investment form a critical dimension of Canada's relationship with Libya, and last year, Canadian merchandise exports to Libya amounted to $246 million, nearly doubling since 2008.

Over time, Canadian companies have built a significant presence in that market. Some, like SNC Lavalin, Petro-Techna and Canadian Petroleum Processing Equipment, have been active in the Libyan market for over 20 years. They know Libya. They understand the challenges of doing business there, especially now, as many companies have had their operations and payments interrupted by civil war. However, our businesses also understand the opportunities that are now opening up in Libya.

We have much to offer Libya as it rebuilds its economy and infrastructure in the years ahead. Canadian companies are well positioned to participate in this effort.

Getting Libyans back to work and Libyan businesses back to business is critical to the stabilization and normalization of Libya.

The government has been working closely with Canadian businesses to seek their views. Officials on the ground in Libya and in Canada are providing information and support on a daily basis.

Together, we are exploring ways that Canadian firms can participate in restoring Libya's historically active commercial life. The need is great. Restarting and rebuilding Libya's economy is both a huge task and a significant commercial opportunity. It certainly will not be done overnight.

War, brutal dictatorship and historic underfunding have all taken their toll on Libya's infrastructure. Think of all the schools, hospitals and buildings that need to be repaired or actually built for the first time. Think of the telecommunications systems, pipelines and electrical infrastructure that requires servicing or upgrading. Canadians and Canadian businesses can help. They want to help.

I hope we can count on the support of all parliamentarians as we find new ways to support our businesses to help Libya overcome this difficult period and rebuild for the future. Canada has always been a positive force in the world, and we can be just that for the Libyan people.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs said recently that all Canadians can be proud that our country has “punched above its weight” by leading the way in providing humanitarian, diplomatic and military support to the Libyan people.

As the new leadership of Libya focuses on the future, Canada's role will continue to be vital. Our commitment to peacekeeping, democracy, freedom and the rule of law takes precedence in every action undertaken by our great nation. This conflict is no different.

The threat posed on the Libyan people's fundamental human rights by Gadhafi's regime laid the ground for Canada's intervention. We will not leave until these rights are once again restored.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, considering the insistence on keeping Canadian military forces there, do our colleagues in the government have information on the real capacity of Mr. Gadhafi's organization to respond?

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not have that information at this point in time.

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4:40 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his very interesting and informative speech.

I wonder if the member could give us some sense of what he feels the remnants of the Gadhafi regime, which are still fighting today in Bani Walid, Sirte and other places in Libya, are likely to do if they were to hear that some members of NATO, such as Canada, were about to pull out of the mission, discontinuing their participation?

What does the member think might happen? Would they continue to wreak violence on the Libyan people?

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that history has shown is these oppressive and violent dictators, if they think there is no support from the outside world, if they believe that people are not paying attention, would go back to their old ways.

Quite frankly, we have seen statements from some of the families saying that it is just a matter of time before they can get back in and continue to run the country.

This is why I believe it is so important, more important than ever, that we stay the course, that we continue to work with the Libyan people, that we continue to work with the NTC as it sets up and moves forward toward democracy and the rule of law, and that we continue until the job is done.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member mentioned health and medical care.

We know that in many cities municipal services have collapsed or are extremely weak because of unpaid salaries, fuel shortages and departure of foreign workers. Garbage is piling up in some streets, increasing the risk of communicable disease outbreaks at a time when the country's disease surveillance and response system is weak.

I am wondering what further action the hon. member would propose to improve and help monitor health and nutritional needs, health care delivery, ensuring life-saving treatment for trauma and injury patients, and access to essential health care, including for chronic disease, restoring the medical supply chain for essential medicines, vaccines and other medical equipment, and strengthening the health system to deliver essential health services.

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I stated in my speech, and I think everyone knows, one of the things that we moved very quickly to do, and it happened back on September 1 was to deal with the sanctions committee of the United Nations to unfreeze the $2.2 billion worth of Libyan assets that is really required for its humanitarian aid.

I think we realize that Libya is a rich country. I do not believe that the assets and the money have necessarily been used for good or for all it could have been in the past. One of the things we recognized as a government was that as long as those assets were frozen, that would hamper the reconstruction, that would hamper the ability to deal with workers who need to be paid, and that would hamper the ability to get aid and medical supplies there.

That is why we acted on September 1 and we will continue to do so until things are restored.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering if the member across would be able to elaborate on the government's plan for aiding in the democratic development of Libya as referenced in its motion before us today.

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4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are moving forward to untie and unfreeze some of the assets for humanitarian aid. As we look at dealing with the NTC and at building ties with it, we want to work alongside the NTC so that it can do the things that it stated it is going to do in order to make Libya a democratic country again.

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4:45 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, as the Bloc Québécois foreign affairs and defence critic, I am pleased to be speaking before the House during this important debate.

Last June, our party reiterated its support for this mission for very specific reasons. And these reasons still hold true for us today, even more so because the results of the operation on the ground show that many civilians were saved and others were protected by the summer-long intervention.

To begin, I would again like to say that, for the same reasons, the Bloc Québécois will be supporting a limited extension of the mission. And that is particularly because of the results of the mission. Since June, we have seen significant progress. We are particularly proud that the armed forces, through targeted interventions, were able to protect civilians. The Bloc Québécois bases its renewed support for this mission on certain principles, and I feel compelled to review them. These are the principles to which we subscribe and which should continue to guide Canada and the other UN members involved in this action in support of a civilian population that is struggling.

First, the multilateral nature of the intervention is very important to us. It is organized and directed by the UN Security Council. Second, specific means were laid out in UN resolutions 1970 and 1973. And, finally, the ultimate purpose of the military intervention is to protect the lives of Libyan civilians, who were, I should say, fiercely threatened.

Today, particularly in this case, we can see that the results on the ground have been successful. However, there are still some areas that are under the control of forces loyal to Gadhafi. They are small areas, but there is still a threat. After the briefing that was held, the Bloc Québécois examined the situation, and we believe that it is still logical and relevant to engage in targeted interventions for a limited period.

It is important to mention that the international community's commitment in Libya is still an example of the application of the responsibility to protect doctrine. Members have spoken about it, and there are different interpretations of this doctrine, but we believe that the doctrine of the responsibility to share and protect is based on three pillars. One of them concerns the current situation more specifically. It has to do with the responsibility of the international community to take action in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations if a state manifestly fails in its responsibility to protect its population from one of the four major crimes.

Right now, everything indicates that the National Transitional Council does not yet have the ability to protect the safety of the civilians living in Libyan territory, and under the circumstances, the interventions targeting the pockets of resistance must be as delicate and appropriate as possible.

The doctrine of the responsibility to protect is important. In this spirit of democracy, our party would remind the House and the government that the renewal of the Canadian mission in Libya, in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, is one of the principles that gave rise to this intervention. The success of an effective intervention strategy in this case will of necessity depend on limited military interventions—especially at this time because the pockets of resistance are no longer found across the entire country—which should basically focus on the protection of civilians, in accordance with the UN resolutions.

The Bloc Québécois would also like to express its concern for and solidarity with Quebeckers and Canadians of Libyan origin, who have been going through difficult times. However, a quick resolution is on the horizon and holds the promise of better days for Libya.

The Bloc Québécois's support for the government's extension of this military mission in Libya is based on the principles of respect for human life, respect for rights and freedoms, and especially respect for the political sovereignty of the Libyan people, who are fighting for civil liberties and a better life without suffering.

In our opinion, respect for Libyan sovereignty is essential. When the last bastions loyal to Colonel Gadhafi fall, Canada must withdraw quickly in order for a democratic transition to take place, allowing the Libyan people to govern themselves without any interference from outside forces.

It goes without saying that this is not a military intervention with the goal, as I just said, of taking away the Libyan people's right to sovereignty by invading or breaking up the country. On the contrary, this mission seeks to protect the lives of people intent on changing their political situation, which, at present, violates the freedom of Libyan civilians.

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4:50 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member said that he did not believe that the NTC was capable of protecting the safety of civilians on the ground. If the NTC is not able to protect the safety of civilians during ground operations, why did it not ask NATO or the UN to provide military assistance by deploying ground troops?

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4:50 p.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue asked a very good question.

The intervention by ground troops goes completely against our current vision of the action that should be taken. As I said earlier, to be completely honest with the hon. member, I would say that the reports prove that the National Transitional Council is having difficulty providing security on the ground. In particular, it is having difficulty getting rid of the last remaining bastions that are still loyal to Gadhafi.

When it comes to a decision like this, it seems logical to us to stay on site for a few extra months to allow the NTC, which I would like to remind the House is recognized by international organizations, to take on the responsibility in an acceptable manner that will protect the safety of civilians.