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.