That, standing in solidarity with those seeking freedom in Libya, 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 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 the legal mandate from the 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; 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; 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; 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 Gaddafi regime.
Mr. Speaker, I begin by saying how proud I am to rise in support of this comprehensive motion laid out before the House.
I am especially proud of the tremendous role that our men and women in uniform have played over the past six months in protecting the Libyan people from the brutal dictatorship of Gadhafi and his henchmen.
I am truly pleased and honoured to speak to the proud contribution that Canada has made writ large in creating a new Libya, one free of tyranny and dictatorship, which after four decades will finally reflect the needs and aspirations of the Libyan people.
When the House first debated Canada's military mission in March, hon. members know I argued very clearly that we needed to act. At that time, Libyans were under attack by their government. They had joined a popular wave of uprisings across the Arab world to demand an end to dictatorship. Moammar Gadhafi's regime met these peaceful protests with violent brutality.
The situation was dire and urgent. Misrata was besieged while Gaza was under threat of attack. Libyan civilians were touched by the violence of Gadhafi forces dropping bombs and shells everywhere indiscriminately.
Through the bloodshed and violence it was clear that Gadhafi had lost all legitimacy. As Canadians, we worked with our allies in the international community to bring forward a peaceful solution.
However, after all exhaustive diplomatic efforts had been made it was evident that action had to be taken to stop these massacres. The United Nations Security Council understood this reality and passed resolution 1973 on March 17. This resolution authorized all necessary action to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas in Libya.
I am proud that Canada took a leading role in enforcing the UN mandate. I wish to commend all hon. members for their role in supporting the Libyan people. In supporting Canada's participation in NATO's Operation Unified Protector, we sent a clear sign of Canada's determination to support the Libyan people.
Our international partners understand that Canada is a country that not only carries its weight but punches above it. Today is a new round.
Support for the motion before us today will enable us to extend the leadership that Canada has shown since the start of the conflict in Libya earlier this year.
Canada has made an important contribution to the major changes in Libya. We have shown our allies that we are a reliable partner. We have shown the people of Libya that they can always count on Canada to do the right thing.
Our work in Libya is not over. NATO has established three conditions for putting an end to its military operations in Libya: all attacks against civilians must have ended; there must be a verifiable withdrawal of the regime's military and paramilitary forces; and there must be full, safe access to humanitarian assistance for all the people of Libya who need it.
Although most Libyans have a kind of freedom they have not experienced in four decades, parts of Libya still remain in Gadhafi's iron grip. Gadhafi's ability to attack civilians has been reduced, but it has not been eliminated. The regime's remaining forces are fighting without much regard for the well-being of the people of Libya. There is better access to basic services, but some areas still have very acute needs.
In support of the UN Security Council resolution 2009 taken September 16, NATO on September 21 acknowledged that its mandate to protect civilians remains in force and extended its mission by up to three months .
As we know, Canada was in it from the very beginning and should remain there until the job is done. It has never shirked a responsibility and certainly cannot do so now. Through Canadian leadership and the military mission of the Canadian Forces, we have been at the leading edge of the Canadian effort in Libya. Working with our allies, we have been instrumental in preventing attacks against civilians. We have persevered. We have helped save lives of those who were at imminent risk while Gadhafi was at the helm. I am proud to say that the men and women of the Canadian Forces have been instrumental in the mission's success thus far.
Our air force has conducted approximately 9% of all NATO strike missions, provided vital aerial surveillance and carried out crucial refuelling missions. At sea, the HMCS Charlottetown and the HMCS Vancouver have enforced the UN mandate by carrying out important maritime patrols and enabling the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
I also salute the leadership of Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard as commander of NATO's Operation Unified Protector. I call on all hon. members to join me in applauding his efforts for the achievements he has overseen not only on behalf of our country but on behalf of all NATO participants in this mission.
On June 14, the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke here and promised that Canada would implement an enhanced diplomatic engagement strategy for success in Libya.
I am pleased to announce that our government has kept its promise. On that day, Canada recognized the National Transitional Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Less than two weeks later, the Minister of Foreign Affairs went to Benghazi and met the rebel leaders. He also delivered 355 trauma kits to help with pressing medical needs. He discussed Canada's deep concern about the use of rape as a weapon of war with the National Transitional Council and with civil society representatives.
The Libyans he met in Benghazi shared their horror at these heinous crimes and said that, because of cultural sensitivities, the full extent of the crimes is not really known. Victims are hesitant to receive treatment or support. Canada's determination to help them is clear.
It has become clear that the council is legitimate. It represents the Libyan people until there is a full democratic process in place. It has a genuine commitment to rebuilding Libya by establishing for its people a government that is based on the rule of law. That is expressed in its vision of a democratic Libya, its road map and the more recent announcement of a constitutional declaration.
These principles must now be put into action. The international community has a mandate to protect civilians in Libya and to support reforms. However, it is the responsibility of the Libyan people to take the reins and guide their country into the future.
That means rebuilding. Of course that means leveraging Libya's immense natural wealth. It means establishing a civil society and democratic institutions. The road ahead will not be easy. However, as with previous conflicts and its previous efforts and missions around the world, Canada will be there to assist.
During our debate here in June, members will recall it was unclear how events would unfold in Libya. The one-man rule had been the reality in that country for four decades. In fact, that was all that two generations of Libyans had ever known. How quickly that has changed.
On August 21 Tripoli fell, as some members of the opposition were referring to stalemates and musing about Canada pulling out. Gadhafi and those closest to him fled, while those who remained are still on the run.
Four days later on August 25, Canada accredited the new Libyan chargé d'affaires who was appointed by the NTC and is committed to addressing the NTC as Libya's legitimate government until elected representatives are in place.
On September 1, the Prime Minister and the foreign affairs minister attended the Paris conference on Libya. They announced the lifting of sanctions imposed by Canada since the UN Security Council has released more of the frozen Canadian-held funds.
Conditions in Tripoli are improving. Traffic jams are back, a sign that basic commodities like fuel are now available, and the people have the confidence to leave their homes. The flags of the new Libyan country are prominently displayed throughout the city. Children and adults alike are dressed in T-shirts and ball caps of red, black and green stripes. We now see a degree of civility returning, such as street cleaning and the neighbourhood distribution of water and food, when both were scarce. This obviously did not exist in the days running up to the fall of Gadhafi.
The infrastructure is still largely intact outside of specific areas of fierce fighting such as Misrata. In Tripoli, the precision of NATO's strikes over the past month is evident. Some government buildings were damaged but little else.
As well, Libya enjoys oil wealth which of course will be of great assistance in its rebuilding. While there has been some damage to oil facilities, repairs are already under way.
Despite these positive signs, there are still very real challenges on the horizon for Libya. Many of the demands for a better quality of life that preceded the conflict still remain. People want better schools, hospitals and job opportunities.
After four decades of stagnation, the Libyan people are hungry for change. The challenge for Libya's new rulers will be to deliver while also maintaining cohesion among its desperate elements that shared in ridding the country of the Gadhafi regime.
Security and stability require the control of many thousands of weapons now circulating in that country as well as the young men who carry them. It was Gadhafi's son Saif who promised to fight to the last man, woman and bullet.
Today we see that is indeed what Gadhafi loyalists intend to do. Together we have watched the brutal tenacity of Gadhafi and his followers in their attempts to remain in power, first in Tripoli and now from strongholds in Bani Walid and Sirte, leading to the further senseless loss of lives.
There are significant hurdles to overcome. Success is not an option. It is an imperative. Again, that is why Canada will be there.
Libyans are asking for our support to continue to protect civilians as well as to provide technical assistance to help them build a country that for the first time represents freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Our role is no less important now than it was in March, two months ago or two weeks ago. To end our multi-pronged mission now would jeopardize everything we have accomplished in Libya this year as well as abandon our allies in their continuing efforts.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs are at the United Nations together this week. They and other leaders from more than 80 countries met to address how to best assist Libya in implementing its plans for stabilizing and rebuilding the country. These include the work of a special support mission that will coordinate support among donors, restore public security and promote rule of law, undertake political dialogue leading to national reconciliation, extending the authority of state institutions, protecting human rights and support for transitional justice and, of course, aid in the economic recovery, among other efforts.
I am pleased to report that our government is leading a whole of government effort that will respond to a post-Gadhafi era with targeted assistance where Canada will add value. This will come in conjunction with other support, both domestic and international, and that is what is at stake here today. Canada stands ready to promote effective governance in institutions and expertise, a secure environment founded on the rule of law, economic development, prosperity and respect for human rights, including women's rights and religious freedoms. In addition to support for Libya, Canada is also focusing on returning full services to Canadians in Libya, including support for Canadian companies.
Following an assessment mission done by the Departments of National Defence and Foreign Affairs, Canada has re-established its diplomatic presence in Libya. The embassy is currently operating out of a temporary location while repairs at the chancery are being completed. It will re-open at full operations as soon as the appropriate level of security is deemed to be in place.
It is important in our discussion today to remember that Libya is not a poor country. It has immense petroleum wealth but it has simply been squandered or seconded by a dictator for several generations. The scourge of war has, of course, taken its toll on the country as well. Libya will need to refurbish its oil infrastructure and its export capacity. It will need to make basic repairs to roads, dams, water wells, electrical and power generation, and a host of other areas of critical infrastructure. These things will happen not only with international support but they will happen at the initiative of the Libyan people.
When the Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke here in June about the mission in Libya, he said, “Our strategy is clear.”
And it has never been clearer. By applying steady and unrelenting military and diplomatic pressure on the Gadhafi regime, while also delivering humanitarian assistance, Canada, its NATO allies and other international partners have protected Libya's civilian population and created the conditions for a genuine political opening. Canadians know this. Canadians understand what needs to be done. Canadians know that our work is not finished.
As Minister of National Defence, I again reiterate how proud I am and how proud I believe Canadians are for our country's military contribution to this mission in Libya. We are fortunate to have such committed soldiers, sailors and air personnel who, three weeks ago, I had the privilege to meet with some of them when they returned to Halifax. I would describe this quite simply as a heroes' welcome on the wharf in Halifax. It was a moment that could be described as timeless as the men and women aboard the HMCS Charlottetown returned to the Port of Halifax and they were met by their families. They were met by other personnel, their colleagues, but they were met, interestingly, by a number of Libyan Canadians who were there to show their affection, support and appreciation for what those men and women aboard the Charlottetown had done for them. They were unreserved in their thanks to those men and women as they debarked from the ship and told them how proud they were as Canadians, but as Canadians of Libyan descent. They had been talking to their families who were able to assure them that Canada was behind the people of Libya in this mission.
I will share very briefly something else that happened, which is quite common when ships return to port. A young mother was there with her child who was born while the father was at sea. This is a timeless scene when ships return to port and a sign of what sacrifice men and women in uniform make when they are away on deployed operations, not only the risk they undertake, but the personal sacrifice of time away from home and those important moments that they give up in order to protect our country.
The sense of duty not only to Canada but to the Libyan people is evident throughout the rank and file of the Canadian Forces. We should be immensely proud of them and immensely proud of the contributions they make on our behalf. Our men and women in uniform are playing a key leadership role in the enforcement of the international community's will through their significant contribution to the NATO mission. They are positioning Canada as an effective, dependable ally and partner, a reputation that we have enjoyed since our inception. However, most important, they are standing up for the people of Libya who are demanding change and getting support in that change and, In so doing, they are setting the stage for a peaceful future for Libyans and a transition that will occur under their watch.
Just as it was right to do so in June, I believe it is right now that we extend the Canadian Forces' mission for up to three months. It is the right thing to do now as well. I urge all hon. members to support this motion before the House. I look forward to the debate that will take place here today. I look forward to the information, the questions and the facts that we will put before the House and the country by virtue of this debate. Again, I thank all members present for participating in this important discussion.