Debates of Sept. 26th, 2011
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.
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September 26th, 2011 / 11:05 a.m.
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
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.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, I will have an opportunity to make a speech shortly but I want to ask the minister whether he agrees that the situation today is far different from what was facing the United Nations on March 17 in the House? It passed the first resolution when Colonel Gadhafi was the regime in power in Libya and was actively threatening to effectively massacre civilians. We now have the opposition, the National Transitional Council, having taken Libya's seat at the United Nations. The regime no longer exists. Therefore, Canada's role can be entirely different from what it was in March of this year.
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, I agree with my hon. colleague that the conditions have improved. However, the work that is yet to be done remains. We need to be clear. Civilians are still being attacked by the Libyan regime as recently as this weekend. There is still capacity in place that permits Gadhafi to control a certain element. There is a certain following in the country who have access to weapons that can be used against civilians.
It is for that reason that the new UN Security Council resolution is in place. It is consistent with the original goals of the UN Security Council, which is to protect civilians, to enable humanitarian aid and for all actions against civilians to cease and desist.
John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his speech and I thank him and his staff publicly for the extensive and candid briefings within the limitations of open source material. Both Ambassador McCardell and General Vance have been very fulsome in their briefings to us, both privately and publicly. I thank the minister for his contribution in arranging those briefings and keeping us all in the loop, so to speak.
We want to not only thank the brave men and women of the armed forces, but also the brave men and women who are serving us in the diplomatic corps led, in this case, by Sandra McCardell, and those who are serving with the humanitarian relief as it gets into the country.
I have a question for the minister with respect to the larger issue, which is going forward. This is a critical time for Libya. It is a rough neighbourhood, shall we say. There are countries there that have no democratic traditions whatsoever. We have put a lot of effort into ensuring that the National Transition Council has an opportunity to set up a stable formal government, possibly even a democratic form of government. There are cultural sensitivities there.
I had the occasion to be in South Africa a couple of weeks ago. We certainly got an earful about neo-colonialism and triumphalism and, unfortunately, Prime Minister Cameron and President Sarkozy were on the front page of South African newspapers.
I want to put to the hon. minister the core question of going forward. How do we ensure that the gains that have been secured by our people in the military, in the diplomatic corps and with the humanitarian relief are not squandered by inadvertent triumphalism, neo-colonialism and those sorts of things that can actually be counterproductive to what has, to date, been an absolutely first rate effort?
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood. I would very much, first, associate myself with the comments that he made about the officials, not only in their efforts to keep all members and Canadians informed about Canada's role in Libya, but the role of the diplomatic corps, the ongoing efforts of people on the ground in re-establishing our mission there are absolutely a key piece to the whole of government effort.
His question is a quintessential one as to how we continue to enable the Libyan people and ensure that these fragile gains, I would describe them, that have been made already are not lost, and that we continue to support what has always been the Canadian way, which is not to delve, in any way, into colonialism or triumphalism but to empower the people of Libya in ways that he alluded to, such as supporting the organic growth of democratic institutions, which I think are driven very much by the will and desire of people in Libya to achieve that decision-making power for themselves; to help them develop institutions, which are very much lacking at this point; to allow an economy to re-emerge from that country, because we know they have people, they have bureaucracy and they have government elements that they need to support. Therefore, working in concert, being a rational and reasonable voice at the table, for which we are very much admired, both at the United Nations, through NATO and through other institutions, and NGOs, I suspect as well, will play an important role in what we want to see and what we desire for change and for solid, unslippable institutions and a democratic process inside Libya.
Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the incredible leadership that he shows to our Canadian Forces and, more than that, the compassion that he continually shows for the people who serve this great country of Canada.
In terms of the minister's presentation with regard to what would happen if we were to prematurely to pull back at this time and not take on the extension, he talked a fair bit about some of the outcomes. I wonder what the message might be, not only to the Libyan people, who we have been able to help rebuild and protect, but also to our NATO partners.
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex knows through his active participation in both the military committees and on behalf of his constituents that Canada is a very respected and founding member at NATO. More than that, we have been a reliable partner throughout Canada's history. That has been the case in this instance. Canada was a go-to nation. We stepped into the breach. We provided both the military and the diplomatic leadership on all fronts. We were among the first countries to indicate that level of support for the Libyan people on this mission.
He is also right, as other members have alluded to, that there is much more work to do. Canada still has more of the load to shoulder, which we do so willingly with enthusiasm, with no expectation of anything in return except the success of the Libyan people and the peaceful, democratic emergence of a nation that has been held back for decades. That has always been the inspiration for our country. The desire of our people has been to share many of the things that we too often take for granted in Canada. We are a country that looks outward, that projects outward, that looks for areas in which we can provide assistance and improvement. That is what we are doing. That has always been our country's history. That is something of which Canadians can forever be proud.
Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. Minister of National Defence if he is at all troubled by the fact that the Libyan rebel commander has admitted previous ties to al-Qaeda. He has actually spoken favourably of al-Qaeda members as being “good Muslims fighting against invaders”. Is the minister concerned about what looms as a genocide of black immigrant workers within Libya?
Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS
Mr. Speaker, of course I am concerned about any and all of those indications of linkages outside the country to extremism and to continued stubborn efforts that are being made by those loyal to Gadhafi to continue the violence. In fact, just this weekend inside Libya, Gadhafi's daughter was broadcasting the following message, “Remain reassured, your great leader is doing well. He carries weapons and is fighting on the fronts”. This is a clear indication there is still the capacity to do harm, the capacity to bring violence to the people of Libya in many parts of the country.
It reinforces and underscores the need for Canada to continue to play a leadership role, both on the military and diplomatic fronts, and to continue to try to root out all forms of violence, of intolerance, of assaults against human rights. This is why Canada is such an admired country in the world today.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate for many reasons. It is the third debate on Canada's mission in Libya. We passed a resolution in this House on March 17, and a further one on June 14 extending that mission for three months. We now are faced with the government seeking to continue the military mission for a further three months.
The reason this debate is so important is that it is really about the future of Canada's role internationally, to what extent it will see itself as a military power primarily, or whether it will continue the well-respected role it was known for in providing a very different type of image and action on the world stage.
This is a brand-new approach to international action. The military intervention in Libya through resolution 1973 is in response to a very new doctrine, and some call it an emerging doctrine, of the responsibility to protect. It is a situation in which the normal rules of state sovereignty, alive since the 18th century, have been overridden by humanitarian goals, the obligation of other states to ensure that civilians are protected where a state is incapable, unwilling, or in this case, is a perpetrator of actions against its own civilians.
In doing so, it is extremely important that the international community get this right. As a party, we approached this very gingerly from the beginning. We supported resolution 1973, and still have no regrets about our support for Canada's involvement as of March 17 in engaging in support of resolution 1973.
It has not been without controversy. There have been criticisms along the way about the actions of NATO from time to time, but more so about the comments that have been made also from time to time by world leaders and by members of this House, including the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister, about what can only be called regime change as a goal of Canada's involvement in Libya.
There may be nuances in explanation of that and I am sure the Minister of National Defence will have a chance to do that, but it has never been our intention or desire to support an intervention based on the notion of regime change, for a very simple reason. It has nothing to do with our shared abhorrence of Colonel Gadhafi and his methods and willingness to do terrible things to his own citizens, including murder and mayhem. What it has to do with is the question of the possibility and precedent for Canada or other nations being engaged in other people's civil wars.
We supported the resolution. It was extremely important that we did so. We supported the extension in June. At that time the regime of Colonel Gadhafi was still in power. The regime was continuing to carry out the activities that resolution 1973 was designed to counter.
Canada has played a significant role, as the minister pointed out. We too share in thanking the men and women of our military and our diplomatic corps for their contribution to the protection of Libyan civilians from the risks posed by the Gadhafi regime. They have done what we have asked them to do. They have done it with honour and they have done it well.
The question now is as to what the situation is we are dealing with today as compared to March 17 or June 14.
We had a briefing last Monday from an official from the Department of National Defence, Major-General Jonathan Vance. We had a briefing from our Canadian Ambassador to Libya, Her Excellency Sandra McCardell.
We very much appreciated the follow-through by the government on the resolution passed in the House, which was reiterated on June 14, that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on National Defence remain seized of Canada's activities under UNSC resolution 1973, and appreciates the government's full and continued co-operation on committee meetings and the sharing of information.
That was an amendment inserted into the resolution that was adopted by the House as requested by the New Democratic Party. It was done to ensure that the House play a role as a civilian parliamentary oversight of the actions of the Canadian military abroad. That is a trend that ought to be continued and encouraged at all times when Canada is engaged in military action abroad.
As others have noted, we did get full, frank, open briefings from our very professional diplomatic and military sources to keep us abreast of the state of play and the activities in Libya that required our knowledge and understanding in order for us to form our opinions.
We have obviously been following the news all along, but as a result of the briefing last week it is pretty clear that we are in an entirely different set of circumstances now than we were in March or even in June.
Ten days ago the National Transitional Council took Libya's seat in the United Nations. It was recognized as the official representative of the people of Libya in the United Nations, representing the state.
The former Gadhafi regime is in what Major-General Vance has called an eroding defensive position. It is eroding daily. It is not done. There are still two cities, Sirte and Bani Walid, where the forces of Colonel Gadhafi are holding out. They seem to have the ability to prevent incursions very easily by the National Transitional Council forces, mostly through the use of snipers.
As I said, and as Major-General Vance said, it is an eroding defensive position. The former Gadhafi regime is not in any state to carry out the kind of activities that caused resolution 1973 to be adopted by the United Nations back in March and our resolution here in the House following on with Canada's support.
Back in February, Colonel Gadhafi and his son, Saif, were talking about their views and promised that they would fight to the last man, woman and bullet, that they would not lose Libya.
Her Excellency Sandra McCardell, in a briefing to the foreign affairs committee in July, referred to the initial promise in mid-March by Gadhafi when they were on the outskirts of Benghazi promising to purify Libya inch by inch, house by house, person by person, until the country was clean of the dirt and impurities, and this from a man who had already described his people as rats and dogs. That was what we were dealing with back in March and it is what we have been dealing with for the past six months.
Canada has played a very significant role in this. In fact, among the nations we have been the largest contributor after the United States, Great Britain and France. In our view, we have done more than our share on the military side. The question now is what role Canada should play in the future of Libya.
We are in what is the end game of a civil war, but it is a civil war within Libya. The forces of the National Transitional Council are, as described by General Vance, weeks, not months or years, and it may only be days away, from an end to the civil war. Although it may be questioned as to what role NATO can play now in terms of the end game when we look at an eroding defensive position by the Gadhafi forces, it is clear that its role is much less and, in fact, lessening by the day, when it is understood that we are dealing with the end game of a civil war.
We are not there to take sides in a civil war. We have grave concerns that this be done right and that in the future the responsibility to protect ought not to be used as a cover for regime change or other interventions. This is a very careful issue that I am sure will be debated by international legal experts for some time to come. However, I do not want to get into that too much as a justification for our position.
Our position is that Canada has done more than its share militarily and should now refocus its efforts on the other aspects of rebuilding of Libya. We were very interested and concerned that, along with the United Nations resolution 1973, there be a Libyan-led solution to the political crisis as well to form a new government. Some doubts have been expressed, as we have heard here today, about what the National Transitional Council is, who is engaged and how well it will be able to form good governance in Libya.
A new resolution, resolution 2009, of the United Nations was passed only on September 16. It recognizes that it is taking note of the developments in Libya, welcoming the improved situation and looking forward to stability in Libya. It talks about the establishment of an inclusive representative transitional government and emphasizes the need for a transitional period to be underpinned by a commitment to democracy, good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights.
It goes on and on to talk about the necessity for change in Libya that supports a call for Libyans of all beliefs and background to refrain from reprisals, which is extremely important. It also notes that the Libyan Transitional National Council is concerned about this and that it calls for an avoidance of acts of reprisals, including against migrant workers. Apparently, some migrant workers are being targeted because they appear to be from southern Africa and are being attacked because they are suspected mercenaries.
The United Nations Security Council has taken strong measures to set up the new mission in Libya, under the leadership of a special representative, for a three-month period to assist in restoring public security, order, promoting the rule of law and a whole series of issues under the UN mandate, as spelled out in article 12 of resolution 2009.
We think this is where Canada ought to focus its efforts. As I said earlier, Canada has made a significant contribution to the mission in Libya, a contribution which far exceeds our place in the world in terms of our size, our military, our population and our financial wherewithal, frankly. We have made more than a significant contribution.
As other nations have done, such as Norway, we are in a position to change our focus and our role. We, as New Democrats, do not support a continued military role in Libya. Rather we believe we should refocus our efforts to that of assisting in the efforts to rebuild Libya and support the use of all the Canadian efforts that will help us do that.
I have a motion, which I will move shortly, incorporating that, but the thrust of the motion is to refocus our efforts in the areas of assisting in the development of governance, in the development and the rule of law and in humanitarian aid and spending some of resources on that rather than on continuing in the military role.
We appreciate and thank our soldiers and our diplomats for their efforts to date. We think the Government of Canada should be using its good offices, its talented people, our NGOs and others who have a great interest in supporting this effort and in participating in the assistance in rebuilding Libya and in a larger civilian commitment to the post-conflict transition that is to take place in Libya, hopefully with greater assistance from our country than we have been able to provide to date. With the new government in Libya and improved access to Libya, we now think it is time for us to engage in the post-conflict phase.
Therefore, I wish to move the following:
That the motion be amended by:
(a) substituting the words “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” with the words “focusing our efforts on”;
(b) substituting the words “continue to protect Libyan civilians from the risks still posed by the Gaddafi regime” with the words “thank them for their contribution to the protection of Libyan civilians from the risks posed by the Gaddafi regime”.
The motion would now read:
That, in 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 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 focusing our efforts on 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 thank them for their contribution to the protection of Libyan civilians from the risks posed by the Gaddafi regime.
The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin
I have been advised that the amendment is in order.
Questions and comments, the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.
Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence
Mr. Speaker, the member for St. John's East, in calling for an end to the mission of Canada's armed forces, has referred a post-conflict phase, a phase during which the conflict would be over. At the same time, he has referred to the very serious fighting still under way in Bani Walid and in Sirte and the serious dangers posed to the civilian population there, where Gadhafi and his forces continue to enunciate the most violent objectives against their own population. We have been told by Ambassador McCardell that up to 15% of the population of Libya may reside in that area.
Could the hon. member inform the House what the consequences would be if Canada, our NATO allies and our non-NATO allies followed his advice at this point? What would the consequences be for the civilians of Bani Walid, Sirte and the area in south central Libya that are still under imminent threat?
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, events are moving very fast in Libya. As the parliamentary secretary knows, the most recent reports refer to 400 or 500 cars per day of civilians fleeing that area. I have seen pictures on BBC News of shelling of Sirte by the forces of the NTC. I am not sure how accurate those are. No doubt civilians are going to flee the areas. There is no question that civilians are in danger as long as the civil war continues. The danger, however, is rather limited to the activity that can be perpetrated if the Gadhafi forces are not in a position to attack anyone. We are not playing a role in the civil war.
I am not talking so much about the fact that that resolution 1973 continues. I am talking about Canada's involvement and what Canada should be doing, whether we should be continuing our efforts or refocusing them on what we think Canada is good at doing.
I am not saying we are not good at doing military work. We have done more than our share, more than every country in the world with the exception of the once superpowers of France, United States and Great Britain. The question is what is Canada's role? Canada has a lot more to offer than what it has done so far and we think the focus should change to that.
John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thought the hon. member's speech was correct in that he attempted to frame the debate in terms of the overall concept of the responsibility to protect. I think he was absolutely accurate about that and correct to warn us about the mission creep into regime change and various other things.
However, I think the hon. member is not correct when he does not take the advice of what I thought were fairly candid and open conversations with our officials, particularly General Vance and Ambassador McCardell.
I wonder whether the hon. member is concerned that if force is prematurely withdrawn, it will be what he fears the most, which is a supervision of a low- or possibly higher-grade civil war among the various factions, and that if we do support this motion and there is force still to be played out that, there may actually be a reduction in the violence and a real possibility that institutional and governmental structures might be instituted.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, what we heard from our officials and the general was that what was left of Gadhafi's forces was an eroding defensive position and that there was still some potential.
I think the question is really whether it is the role of Canada to participate in the civil war to the extent of ensuring that one side wins. That is really the danger that we are saying exists.
If Colonel Gadhafi's forces are no longer in a position to act in an aggressive manner and to carry out whatever threats they may have made in the past, the military threats, as General Vance said, are small. There are some, but they are small. As to the fact that there is a potential, anyone with a gun has the potential to do harm, but that is not what we are dealing with here. We are dealing with the question of what Canada should do now, over the next three months. Should it carry on this mission as a military one or should it focus its attention on what we have suggested here?