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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

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Notice of Proposed Procurement Concerning Canadian Wheat BoardPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

September 26th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I was very reluctant to add to my original question of privilege but felt I must because of the government's late input on this matter last Friday in an attempt to misrepresent the question I presented to the House on September 19.

It continues to put forward a position that only the House can take. That is the substance of my argument. It is presumptuous on the part of the government to think otherwise. It has put forward the position that the notice for procurement of auditors, and its wording, was merely part of the government's “planning efforts”.

I submit that the wording in the notice that categorically states an end date of July 31, 2012 upon which the work of the audit is to be based has only been put forward due to the fact that the government has a majority.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have both confirmed that the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board has been “a staple of Conservative election platforms.”

That being the case, one must ask oneself why the government had not placed such a notice at any time since taking office in January 2006. The reason is obvious. It knew that any legislation brought forth to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board would not receive majority support in the House and would in fact be defeated.

As I indicated on September 19, the presumption on the part of the government contained in my original submission was that the House and Parliament itself can be taken for granted. The government cannot let contracts to auditors as if the House and Parliament has spoken. That just affirms the government's fevered drive to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board.

In short, the fact of the notice appearing in the wake of the May 2 election and at no prior time speaks to the point that I have raised with respect to contempt.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources, at pages 1398 and 1399, claimed that on two occasions the decision of Speaker Fraser did not apply to the matter I presented to the House.

I would remind you, Mr. Speaker, that in my citations of Speaker Fraser's ruling I acknowledged that there most certainly was a difference, one I would submit that prevented him from rendering a decision of a finding of contempt in 1989. The difference is that he acknowledged the fact that a technical paper on the goods and services tax was before the House by way of committee. In his opinion, that did constitute a public declaration of intent which prevented him from finding against the government.

The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader stated at page 1400 of Debates that I had implied that the “message on the MERX website was similar to the public advertisements placed by the former Liberal government in 1989”.

My first point is that the parliamentary secretary has failed to even get his facts correct. He would be well-advised to have someone do it for him. The government of the day was in fact the Conservative government. The GST is a Conservative policy.

My second point is had the parliamentary secretary taken the time to either listen to or read what I had presented to the House on September 19, he would know that I raised the point that these situations are different. What makes them different is the fact that Speaker Fraser acknowledged that a technical paper was before a committee of the House that provided a fig leaf of legitimacy and prevented a ruling of contempt at that time.

I had previously quoted comments from Speaker Fraser's contempt ruling. However, I would rather re-emphasize this point than quote them again. Speaker Fraser's dissatisfaction with the course of action taken by the Conservative government of the day should serve as a guide in terms of what I am claiming is a more egregious contempt by this Conservative government.

Mr. Speaker, I would add one last ruling for you to consider. Due to timing, I will not get into the length of it.

On page 1399 of Debates the parliamentary secretary references a decision of Speaker Milliken of November 25, 2002, which I believe once again reinforces my argument.

I would again submit that the fact that the notice of procurement and the task force terms of reference clearly states that the operating premise of both is not that the government is seeking input related to a possible policy initiative but that it is the outcome of the policy, namely the definitive termination of the Canadian Wheat Board within less than a year. That is the premise upon which both must conduct themselves in terms of the MERX proposal and the task force put forward by the government.

That presumes that Parliament has somehow indicated that this is to be the outcome of government policy. Neither the House nor any committee of the House has at any time even implied such an outcome as acceptable in any respect. In fact, over the last several parliaments we will find cases that the very opposite is true.

I conclude by stating that the interpretations of the citations of previous Speakers by both parliamentary secretaries have ignored one salient fact. The situation relating to the matters I presented on September 19 related to the notice for procurement on the government's MERX website and the terms of reference of the ministerial task force are different in that no specific proposal has been presented by the government in terms of its budget. Nothing has been presented let alone tabled by way of a technical paper. No legislation in draft form or otherwise has been provided to the House or any committee.

While expressing concern about the propriety of government advertising, previous Speakers have acknowledged that prior references in terms of documentation by the government prevented them from finding the government of the day in contempt of the House. The most important point being the lack of such documentation, I would respectfully submit, justifies a finding of contempt in this matter.

Notice of Proposed Procurement Concerning Canadian Wheat BoardPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for his further submission and assure him that I will take it into consideration.

The House resumed consideration of the motion, and of the amendment.

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3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie has 13 minutes to finish her speech.

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we now need to concentrate on rebuilding Libya. That is what the Secretary General is saying. It is urgent. It needs to happen now.

It will not be easy. In fact, it will be very difficult. The country is very ethnically diverse and has been ruled by an authoritarian government for more than 40 years. Consequently, when we talk about reconstruction in Libya, perhaps we really should be talking about the construction of that country because there is so much to do. However, just because there is a lot to do and it will be difficult does not mean that we should not roll up our sleeves and take action right now. Too often, and we have seen this in many other countries, the international community intervenes to fix the main problem or the most obvious one, and does not provide a long-term solution for the fundamental issues and challenges.

And in such cases, the problems never stop and the international community, after 5, 10 or 15 years, needs to return to that country. We have seen this in Haiti, where the international community has intervened a number of times but never stayed long enough to ensure that the Haitians were on the right track in terms of leading their own development.

There are many challenges and there is a lot of work to do. So it is important that Canada begin that work immediately. Canada has specific expertise to offer here, particularly in terms of peacebuilding. Canada can contribute its expertise on human rights, can ensure that human rights are being respected on the ground during the next phases of development, and can ensure that Libya is able to develop institutions that will allow it to promote and monitor human rights issues.

Libya has practically no constitution or institutions. At the very least we can say that Canadians are experts in constitutional issues. We can provide some expertise.

There is also the issue of building democratic institutions. Again, I am talking about basic institutions, even just voting systems, electoral systems and slightly more sophisticated democratic institutions. In that I include engaging and energizing civil society and finding ways to bring together all parties in the conflict, and all the ethnic groups that Gadhafi made sure to keep apart.

There is also the issue of security. I am not talking about security ensured by guns and weapons, but security in the sense of creating a healthy society that by definition would be safer. That is the message we would like our Conservative colleagues to understand a bit better, even in Canada, because security is not achieved by building prisons. It is achieved above all by creating healthy, egalitarian societies.

In light of the more pressing humanitarian situation, we have to help. There is a tremendous need for medications and there are still problems with water supplies and other supplies. These are not things that can wait six months. These are things that have to be done immediately and for which Canada can offer its resources and expertise.

We must not forget the issue of the International Criminal Court because justice is another essential element of reconciliation. Again, Canada has traditionally played a key role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

One of the International Criminal Court judges is a Canadian. We should therefore work with this court to ensure that anyone who commits crimes against humanity is brought before this court.

With regard to crimes against humanity, reported cases of the use of rape as a weapon of war must continue to be investigated. Canada could play a leadership role on this issue and prevent such situations from occurring again. In all this, there is much to do and significant challenges to overcome. That is why we must begin work immediately.

We should also not work alone. We must work with other concerned nations and multilateral bodies such as the United Nations agencies involved. We must also work with NGOs. I was talking about helping Libyans to create a thriving civil society in their country. Many Canadian NGOs work throughout the world to support such movements. This is another important way that we could help.

We must work with others and with the Libyans themselves. We must not forget that Libyans must come first in this process, which I prefer to call a building process rather than a rebuilding process. Canada must be there to support Libyans, to help them and to offer them our resources—our expertise, which is incalculable, and financial resources as well. In this regard, we are wondering if the millions of dollars that will be spent on the ongoing military effort could be better spent on providing humanitarian aid and support of all kinds to Libyan authorities and the National Transitional Council to help them to rebuild their country.

In short, Canada must stay. As the saying goes, Canada must stay the course. Canada must stay in Libya for the long term, not just the short term. We are convinced that Canada could forego the military effort at this time and focus all its resources on providing humanitarian aid and support for the building of Libya.

I would like to reiterate that the NDP concurs with the statement that Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon made to the effect that, today, we must take accelerated and decisive action once again, this time to strengthen peace and democracy.

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3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is with regard to the health and welfare of the people. We know that departure of medical workers, due to violence, added strain on the health sector. We also know that laboratory supplies are crucial to maintaining the already weakened disease surveillance and outbreak response systems. There is a shortage of essential supplies, especially vaccines, which may result in increases in morbidity and mortality of communicable diseases.

Could the hon. member comment on the rising reports of psychosocial trauma, especially among women and children, and what additional support is required to strengthen their response?

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for this very pertinent question. I talked about humanitarian aid and touched briefly on the issue of rape as a weapon of war. In a society such as Libya's, it leaves marks, both psychological and social, because ostracism goes hand in hand with rape. It can destroy entire families. Not only does it harm the victims, but it has a dramatic effect on their entire social circle.

How can children who have seen bombardments and people who have lived in terror for years not be affected psychologically after that? From a more medical or physical point of view, there are fairly disturbing connections. Almost everything is in short supply and some infrastructures have been destroyed. That is why it is vital to resolve these conflicts. Otherwise in six months, in one or two years, there will be even greater problems. We must take action now.

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, anyone who has followed events in Libya cannot help but be aware that humanitarian assistance is desperately needed.

I want to tell members about one of my constituents, Dr. Omar Bengezi. He is a Libyan-born plastic surgeon who has twice now led medical teams to the front lines of Benghazi. He is local hero in Hamilton. His team performed life-saving surgeries daily with virtually no equipment.

Dr. Bengezi recently described how his team had to take instruments with it because there was nothing to work with there. He had to improvise to keep the casualties alive, almost all of whom had multiple injuries. Here is a quote from him:

They had massive open wounds, and we didn’t have drains...We used hospital gloves as drains inside the wounds. For some, I couldn’t even do nerve repairs, there was no way to do nerve grafts.

Clearly, the injuries sustained by the people of Libya are horrific, and thousands of people are affected.

I have not spoken to Dr. Bengezi about the motion that is before the House today and I would not presume to speak for him about the extension of the military mission. However, but his first-hand experience highlights for me the essential need for resources for humanitarian assistance. Unfortunately, the motion before us today does nothing to address that urgent need.

I am sure all members of the House deplore the violence committed by the previous regime against the Libyan people, and that suggests that we have an obligation to provide assistance.

Could my colleague tell us what Canada can do to provide this much needed assistance, and do we not have a moral obligation to act?

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3:35 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that question is yes, we do have a moral responsibility to act.

Indeed, people like Dr. Bengezi are heroes who are helping on the ground, and Canada has to be there to help them.

The military intervention costs about $10 million a month. That is what we think because we never really got detailed numbers.

Now that the situation is that there are still pockets of insecurities, but the terror has ended and the situation is relatively calm in most of the country, why do we not use that money instead to help people like Dr. Bengezi, to help the people on the ground, the women, the children, the nurses, the doctors and everybody who is putting forth all their efforts to try to put an end to the tragic humanitarian situation and then rebuild that country?

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague across the way and I am a little confused. Those members are always talking about humanitarian assistance and the need to provide health care.

Has she read our resolution? It talks about the National Transition Council, the anti-Gadhafi forces to date and the fact that we are operating there with NATO in accordance with a legal mandate. However, Canada's engagement is in all spheres of rebuilding a new Libya, including human rights, democratic development and the rule of law, while the people of the Gadhafi regime had not only murdered but used rape as a weapon.

In terms of getting to the end of this so the Libyan people can have a full democracy, we hope within a couple of years, that cannot happen if we pull back. We have NATO representatives.

I wonder how the hon. member deals with that when our motion actually deals with those things about which she has talked.

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are convinced that we must change the focus of the Canadian intervention and put all our energy—and that is where we disagree—on reconstruction, democracy-building, humanitarian aid, intervention and overall support for Libyans in their current efforts.

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member very clearly articulated the need for us to transition in a major way from military intervention into providing humanitarian aid to rebuild Libya.

Canada has a very proud history as a peacekeeper and this would be a wonderful opportunity for us to once again send a strong international message that Canada is ready to build and support the infrastructure, facilities and health care for Libyans and to move away from a military commitment. This is not to say that we are going to leave Libya.

How does the member see this proceeding from here?

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for the question. It is certainly not simple. As I was saying, the situation on the ground needs to be addressed immediately and we need to start building that country's institutions as soon as possible, because it will be a rather complicated task.

As for the most immediate needs for things like hospitals, food and water supplies, and so on, Canada, as always, must work with its partner countries and, more importantly, with the United Nations agencies that can coordinate the effort on the ground. Canada must support those efforts as much as possible.

As for a longer-term vision, there is the possibility of a first phase for the creation of institutions and for national reconciliation. A situation like the one Libya has endured for the past 40 years will, of course, leave its marks and leave some scars. We need to ensure that those marks and scars heal properly so that the country can rebuild itself. In that respect, what is most important is that we listen to the people of Libya so they can see the help and expertise we can offer them.

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3:40 p.m.

Mississauga—Erindale Ontario

Conservative

Bob Dechert ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex.

I am pleased to participate today in the debate on the motion before the House to extend Canada's continued engagement in Libya.

From the outset, Canada has shown international leadership and has been at the forefront of efforts to secure freedom for the Libyan people. We have come together as Canadians, both in the House and across the country, to support the protection of civilians in Libya, protection that we as Canadians often take for granted, protection that the Libyan people have been without for so very long.

The level of support from the international community has been overwhelming, beginning with the endorsement of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. There have been regular meetings of the contact group on Libya and, just last week, the Secretary-General of the United Nations hosted a meeting of several heads of state, attended by Canada's Prime Minister, to discuss the situation in Libya.

We have led the way in humanitarian, diplomatic and military support to the Libyan people and their cause. Our men and women in uniform have gone above and beyond the call of duty in this mission.

Libya today is very different from the one that existed when I last spoke to the motion that was before the House in June. Most of the Libyan people, including those in Tripoli, have been freed from the control of the Gadhafi regime. Much progress has been accomplished but Libya is not out of the woods yet. The new Libya is vulnerable. Its needs are urgent.

While the humanitarian situation in much of the country has stabilized, civilians still continue to suffer in the remaining pro-Gadhafi strongholds, including Bani Walid and Sirte. Heavy fighting has exacted a serious toll on Libyan families. In some cases, Gadhafi forces are forcefully preventing people from seeking refuge elsewhere. In several towns around the country, Libyans are without water, electricity, phone coverage or medical assistance. Medical supplies are in short supply and there are severe shortages of antibiotics and anesthetics. We remain deeply concerned by reports of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and restrictions to humanitarian access. Efforts are ongoing to secure full, safe and unhindered access to the conflict affected areas so that these crucial needs can be met.

The crisis has not only affected those in Libya. The actions of Gadhafi forces have led to the displacement of thousands of Libyans and migrant workers into neighbouring countries, including Tunisia, Niger and Egypt. The welfare of these refugees and migrants is a serious concern, with migrant transit centres also running out of food and having to manage without water or electricity. Many migrant workers want to leave Libya but do not have the means, or simply, they have nowhere to go.

As Libya moves toward a period of recovery and rebuilding, Canada will continue to monitor the humanitarian situation and respond to the needs as they arise in Libya or on its borders.

Canada will continue to be an active and willing participant in the transition to a new Libya. This is a message that was delivered by the Minister of Foreign Affairs when he visited Benghazi in June.

At the beginning of this month, we secured the unfreezing of roughly $2.2 billion of Libyan assets held in Canada and in Canadian institutions. After having fully assessed the situation on the ground in Tripoli, we have re-established our diplomatic presence in Libya, reopening our embassy in a temporary location.

For Canada, the challenge is clear: to help Libya stabilize so that it can build a solid political foundation for democracy and a strong platform for economic growth.

As we look ahead, it is not our place to tell Libyans how to reconstruct and build their country. On a structural level, the economy must begin to generate jobs, commerce and revenue. Politically, Libyans will move toward elections, a new constitution, justice and security systems. The National Transitional Council is mapping out plans to achieve this and we will support it.

In the immediate future, it will be important for the NTC to send early signals to the Libyan people that change is underway by providing citizens with basic services and security.

Timing is critical but so is effective assistance. Through experience, we have learned that successful stabilization requires a coordinated and coherent approach. Canada has led the call for international coherence to ensure that our aid money is effectively spent and supportive of local efforts on the ground.

We will continue to work with out international partners to help support a made in Libya approach to stabilization. Our immediate objective is short-term and focused: to help Libya stabilize and to help the NTC get on with the job of building a new and free Libya. The capacity is there.

The NTC has identified a road map to begin the work of building a democracy and a strong economy. On August 10, it issued a constitutional declaration which paves the way for elections and democratic governance.

The declaration sets out a plan that envisages a transition period comprising eight months under NTC direction, followed by 12 months under a new general national assembly, with general elections expected roughly 18 months after liberation.

The NTC has asked the international community for support but it is determined, as are we, that the process should be Libyan-led.

Our government stands ready to respond. Our support will be focused, targeted and disciplined. Our support will adhere to the findings of the UN-led needs assessment process. Our support will be coherent within the framework established by the NTC and the United Nations, and with other key donors. Our support will help enable Libyans to take back control of their country.

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3:50 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, my hon. colleague mentioned the reopening of the Canadian embassy in Libya. Did the Canadian government think it was opportune to reopen its embassy in Libya because it felt the security situation was stable enough in that country to allow it to reopen? Does the member believe that the improvement in civilian safety is connected to the decision to reopen Canada's embassy in Libya?

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3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, some stability has returned to Tripoli but that is not, by any means, all of Libya. There still remains very serious ongoing violence, even today, in Bani Walid, in Sirte, and in other places in Libya. In fact, we do not know what will happen in the future in Tripoli. We sent a team to Tripoli. It assessed that the current status is safe enough for Canada to re-establish diplomatic resources there. However, we are taking this on a case-by-case basis. It is very fluid.

I will read for the hon. member a couple of quotes that Colonel Gadhafi put out just a couple of weeks ago. He said:

Street by street, alleyway by alleyway, house by house. The tribes that are outside of Tripoli must march on Tripoli. Each tribe must control its area and stop the enemy setting its foot on this pure land.

Do not leave Tripoli to those rats, kill them, defeat them quickly. You are the crushing majority.... There will be no safe place for the enemies....

He went on to say:

The enemy is delusional, NATO is retreating. It cannot go on forever in the air. NATO be damned.

That is why we believe that NATO has to continue its mission until the Gadhafi regime has actually surrendered and the people of Libya are safe.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on this particular debate, we in the Liberal Party have supported the initial presence and the extension and we will be supporting this extension. The job is almost finished and we want to finish it.

However, part of the motion discusses the fact that it will be up to three months. In other words, as soon as a decision is made that the job is done, our military forces will be returning.

I wonder if the hon. member could explain to us, because I am sure he knows this, what exactly will constitute the job is done. What are the criteria that will be used by Canada to decide that, yes, at this point, we may withdraw and we will withdraw? Because I know that we do not want to extend this any longer than is absolutely necessary.

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3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is pursuing the NATO mission. The NATO objectives have been clearly stated. They are to continue until there is an end to all attacks against civilians, until such time as there is a verifiable withdrawal of the regime's military and paramilitary forces to its bases, and until such time as there is full and unhindered access to humanitarian aid to all those across Libya who need it.

Those are the parameters that would constitute the end of the mission.

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3:50 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, what are our expectations of the new Libyan government to fulfill its commitments to freedom, democracy, rule of law and human rights?

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3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Conservative Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs visited Benghazi in June, he was shown a white paper prepared by the NTC, which is a route to democracy. It includes a transition period comprising 8 months under the NTC direction, followed by 12 months under a new general national assembly with elections expected in roughly 18 months after liberation. A draft constitution has been prepared and we would expect these provisions to be followed as soon as possible.

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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to participate in this debate.

First, let me state that since the outset of the Libyan crisis, the humanitarian implications concerned Canada, specifically the plight of hundreds of thousands of people trapped in conflict areas or fleeing for safety to Egypt, Tunisia and other surrounding countries.

Canada's $10.6 million contribution to humanitarian relief since the conflict began is going a long way to respond to the needs of conflict affected populations. Our humanitarian funding helps humanitarian organizations to respond to specific aspects of the crisis. The funding provided by Canada amounts to $10 million from CIDA and $600,000 from DFAIT.

We allocated funds to the following organizations: the World Food Programme to provide emergency food assistance to displaced and conflict-affected populations in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt; the International Committee of the Red Cross to meet food, non-food, water, sanitation and emergency medical needs with Libya, and to support Red Cross and Red Crescent relief efforts in Tunisia and Egypt; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to provide humanitarian support in the form of shelter, non-food items, water and sanitation to people displaced to neighbouring countries; the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies to provide migrants displaced into Tunisia and Egypt with humanitarian relief, such as food, non-food items and medical support; the Canadian Red Cross Society to transport humanitarian relief supplies from stockpiles in Dubai and Tunisia; the International Organization for Migration to support repatriation efforts for migrants displaced into neighbouring countries by the fighting in Libya to return to their countries of origin; the United Nations Population Fund to help protect and assist women and girls from gender-based violence, including sexual assaults, and to provide critical care to victims of gender-based violence in Libya; and the United Nations Department of Safety and Security for the purchase of essential security equipment to enhance the safety or UN humanitarian personnel.

Those contributions made a vital difference in the lives of the Libyan people.

To deliver assistance effectively, humanitarian personnel require access to all of those affected by the crisis. That is why Canada called on all parties involved in the Libyan conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The last few weeks saw very positive developments. On September 1, the Prime Minister attended the Friends of Libya meeting in Paris where he joined other world leaders to discuss how international partners could best support the National Transitional Council in its efforts to establish a democratic state. Canada re-established our diplomatic presence in Tripoli. Our embassy has re-opened. Perhaps most important, we secured an exemption from the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee to unfreeze $2.2 billion worth of Libyan assets. This is a critical development.

As a relatively resource-rich country, the Libyan people must lead much of the reconstruction effort. In light of the urgent need to stabilize the country, the NTC must begin the essential tasks of establishing security throughout the country and providing social services for the Libyan population. The $2.2 billion of unfrozen Libyan assets will help in this regard.

In addition, the international community's ongoing assistance provided to meet the significant needs that still require attention, in particular as they relate to water, fuel, medical supplies and personnel, as well as the protection of migrant workers, is vital.

We continue to work closely with our international partners, including the United Nations, to monitor the evolving humanitarian situation and to provide our expertise and assistance in an effort to alleviate the suffering of the unwitting and unwilling population affected by this crisis.

Our work is not done in Libya. We provided an opportunity for the Libyan people themselves to remove the tyranny of Gadhafi. We must not walk away at this time of need. Our Libyan friends need our help.

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4 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are hearing that migrants are seeking refuge in the capital and that most of their medical complaints are linked to terrible living conditions in the camps. The majority of people are staying in makeshift shelters without water, food, electricity or access to proper health care. We hear that they live in constant fear and are being intimidated and harassed. We also hear that many patients suffer from psychosomatic complaints and show signs of stress due to extreme anxiety.

Could the hon. member comment on the rising reports of psychosocial trauma, especially among women and children? I am wondering what additional support the hon. member would recommend to strengthen the response.

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4 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true we are hearing increasingly alarming and awful reports about some of the atrocities that are being committed. That is why it is so important, as was stated by the last speaker, to maintain our military presence.

The conflict will not be resolved until Gadhafi forces are put to rout. As was previously stated, there still is a strong presence of Gadhafi forces and strong resistance. Although we have made an effort with the United Nations Population Fund to help protect women and girls from gender-based violence, we cannot implement those things unless we have the means to stop Gadhafi and his group.

That is why the debate we are having is so important. That is why we need to make sure that collectively we do what is necessary, which is to continue with what is necessary from the military standpoint to stop Gadhafi and his forces.

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4 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for outlining the myriad initiatives our government has taken to address specifically the humanitarian needs. Earlier today the defence critic from the official opposition implied that we are not doing enough in terms of the rebuilding of Libya. The speech we have just heard certainly indicates otherwise.

Earlier today the Minister of National Defence commented on our commitment to increase access to humanitarian aid and for the rights of women and religious freedom.

I would like my colleague to underscore what he began to answer in response to the previous question where the need for security is urgent if we are going to continue these important humanitarian efforts.