Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.
The New Democrats supported the Canadian military mission and its extension in June in order to ensure that civilians were protected from the Gadhafi regime.
Members have heard a bit of my story before. I fled a war-torn country myself. I wanted to see international support go into my homeland but we did not see any of that. When we in the House were able to provide Canadian support with other international forces, I was happy to know that the Libyan people would get some support.
I and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party sincerely thank our military personnel and diplomats for their hard work in accomplishing the job that they did so well in Libya.
The Gadhafi regime was committing many humanitarian violations, including the threat of going door to door and killing people. The regime was using rape as a weapon of war. Through our support for the extension of the mission in June this year, the New Democrats were successful in adding a number of amendments to address the atrocities that were being committed, including rape.
The acknowledgment that rape was being used as a weapon of war in that amended motion was quite groundbreaking. I really commend every member in the House for acknowledging that and for finally recognizing that rape was being used as a weapon of war.
For many years, hundreds of thousands of women have been in this situation in many countries around the globe. They have been suffering in silence. Once again the women are suffering in so many ways. Not only did they witness their towns and villages being torn apart, but their families were torn being apart. Women experienced many violations of their bodies as well. It is important for me to recognize and acknowledge once again members of the House for recognizing that.
It is significant for the House to acknowledge that, but in order to continue to help these women we need to focus our efforts on a civilian mission, one focused on rebuilding, on education and on providing the help that families need.
The conflict is coming to an end. Even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence mentioned this earlier. Reports that came in today from the Libyan National Transitional Council indicate that its forces have advanced into Sirte, which is one of the regions that the parliamentary secretary was concerned about earlier today. National Transitional Council forces have made significant advances in this region and the Gadhafi regime is being ousted further, as was mentioned earlier.
The trauma that is endured by women, children and all people in a conflict zone outlasts the conflict. Our men and women in uniform suffer post-traumatic stress disorder when they come back home but children especially suffer when they are forced to be in a conflict zone.
I know from personal experience the psychological and physiological effects that war can have on a child. As a young child I was forced to be in a war zone. I was shot at. A child never forgets the sound of guns blazing.
It has been over 25 years since I experienced war but I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday. I know that the children who are experiencing it today in Libya are experiencing the same or worse than what I experienced. Being shot at and hiding in my mother's little store with my grandfather and my sisters, I know how much it affected me and affected my development.
What we need to be focusing on right now is the development of these children. How we can provide that type of humanitarian relief to the people in Libya? It should be about providing our expertise. We have so much civilian expertise and resources for providing that type of assistance toward the rehabilitation of the people of Libya and, of course, creating that democratic institution and allowing for the country to have its own set of governance.
Experiences like mine illustrate why we need a robust civilian mission in Libya right now. We need to help these families and to help people deal with the psychological and physiological effects of war.
Our position reflects the reality on the ground in Libya today, just as our support for military intervention in February and June reflected the needs at the time. At the time, we needed to extend the military mission, but right now we need to focus on the humanitarian aspects of rebuilding.
Now that the Gadhafi regime has been toppled, the focus for most people in Libya is post-conflict transition. This means things like rebuilding infrastructure, rebuilding and developing the democratic institutions, rebuilding and developing for the people and the health of the communities.
We need to ensure once again that it is Libyan-led reconciliation and reconstruction that happens in that country. It is not for Canada or anybody else anywhere in the world to tell the Libyans how to govern themselves. They need to figure out a self-governance model. It is not for us to dictate to them.
That, unfortunately, was what happened in the past when international forces went into a country to support it and then, somehow, stayed beyond the military intervention to protect the civilians and ended up dictating terms to the local people.
I am pretty sure that many of our colleagues in this House on both sides will agree that is the old kind of politics for global affairs. The new kind of politics is really about creating that Libyan-led initiative, that local-led initiative so that the people of Libya can actually own that government and ensure they are a part of it.
New Democrats really do not support yet another extension of the military mission in Libya. We do believe that it is time for Canada to focus on the humanitarian aspect: to provide our civilian expertise in the country and resources for, once again, humanitarian assistance; help with institution building; the democratic development; and, as I said before, the softer, less tangible aspects of war. We have so much expertise and so many people who have the expertise to provide the assistance in helping the people rebuild the country. Canada's focus today should be on helping the people who are now effectively in a post-conflict zone, rather than furthering the military mission.