Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to speak to all of the resolutions in the House on Libya and I am glad to be able to participate in the debate today.
I will be indicating to the House our support for Canada’s staying the course with the United Nations, to our staying the course with our NATO allies, and to our staying the course with our friends in the Libya community both in Canada and in Libya. I will be asserting very strongly the need for Canada to in fact expand its engagement with civil society in Libya and with the broader issues of governance and reform, not only in Libya but in North Africa.
We do not agree with our NDP colleagues’ position that it is time to withdraw our support for the UN- and NATO-led efforts and stop protecting civilians in Libya through international action.
I find the NDP position described by the hon. member for St. John’s East completely inconsistent. First of all, one cannot agree with the NATO and United Nations position but also say that once the Gadhafi regime is defeated and the people are no longer being oppressed, that is when Canada should withdraw. It makes no sense.
I understand where my NDP colleagues’ reasoning comes from, but their position is completely inconsistent. It is as though we had to choose between two UN resolutions—resolution 1973 and resolution 2009—and the NDP has chosen the one that deals with the civilian situation in Libya and is ignoring the resolution that deals with the military situation. It makes no sense.
We have to be consistent. I must say I am very disappointed in the comments from my colleague from Newfoundland. He says we do not want to take sides in a civil war. The implication is that he is indifferent as to whether the regime of Colonel Gadhafi stays or not. I cannot believe that is the position of the official opposition of Canada.
We on this side are not indifferent with respect to what happens in Libya. We want there to be the emergence of a civil society and of a civil government that represents the broad interests of the people of Libya. That is the position of the Liberal Party of Canada, and that should be the position of the House of Commons as well.
There is the notion that somehow it is too delicate to say, and I heard the member from Newfoundland say it, “We don’t want to take sides”. Why did the United Nations pass resolution 1973? It passed resolution 1973 because there was a government in Libya that was about to attack its own citizens and its own people. That is why it went in.
Now the question becomes, what has changed? Well, things have moved beyond where they were. It is true that the regime is apparently on its last legs. We know that its members are hiding in two cities.
However, I have to say I am not going to substitute my judgment for that of the United Nations or that of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who has asked Canada to continue in this role. I am not going to substitute my judgment for those or for those our allies our in NATO, who say it is important for us to continue with this mission under the umbrella of the United Nations. I am not about to substitute my mission and say that I have been reading the newspapers over the last couple of days and that I know better what is going on in Libya and that I know the right moment for Canada to withdraw. It is a fundamentally absurd proposition.
Because of the internal workings of the New Democratic Party, its members say that it has to be the party of peace. We are all the party of peace, but being a party of peace does not mean that we have to be a party of appeasement or a party of indifference. We in the Liberal Party are not a party of indifference and we are certainly not a party of appeasement.
The lesson of collective security, which we learned as a planet throughout the middle of the 20th century, has now been furthered by our obligation to be concerned about what happens inside a state.
The great revolution in international law that my colleague, the member for Mount Royal, has had so much to do with and has had so much to say about is the revolution that says what happens inside states is every bit as important to us and our obligation as citizens as what happens between states. That is the simple message of the responsibility to protect.
I know that the government opposite is reluctant to talk about the responsibility to protect and that we want to put this language into the resolution, but it is very important for the House to understand that the reason the United Nations took the unusual step of asking for a military intervention in Libya was precisely to protect the civilian population and that there was no other way in which that could be done.
Gadhafi had threatened very clearly that he was going to go house by house to cleanse his country of dirt, which is language reminiscent of Nazi Germany. Rreducing people to microbes very quickly establishes what the real objective is, and they are now discovering mass graves in which hundreds and hundreds of people are buried.
I cannot believe my ears when I hear the New Democratic Party spokesman say we cannot take sides in this dispute in Libya. It is a truly preposterous statement. Those NDP members do not have the courage of their humanitarianism to understand what it takes to ensure that the humanitarian goals are accomplished.
The New Democratic Party says we have to change course.
No, we do not have to change course. We have to add to the course. We have to continue to do what we are doing with respect to our obligations under our treaty obligations with NATO and with respect to the work we have undertaken with the United Nations.
At the same time, it is important for us to ask whether the civilian work has to be added to. Of course, it does. Does the work that we are doing on the humanitarian side have to be added to? Of course it does. Does there need to be a more robust strategy with respect to civil governance in Libya? Of course there does. Does there need to be a democratic strategy with respect to what is taking place in North Africa? Of course there does.
Do we think, inside the Liberal Party, that the Conservatives have done enough in that area? Not at all.
Lastly, there is the risk that all the non-governmental organizations that have been doing crucial work in this area for decades will collapse because of a lack of funding from the Conservative government.
There is no consistent program, either within CIDA or at the heart of government, to help ensure good governance when it comes to foreign affairs. That is a real problem. We recognize that and want to point it out. There are all kinds of organizations across the country that have worked hard to support good governance in this transition to democracy, which we want to see around the globe. However, while the Conservative government likes to talk about human rights, it does not seem to want to move things forward.
As Liberals, we find ourselves in the situation where we do not see a government which is willing to live up to its words about good governance and its words about human rights, and it is not following that strategy effectively in terms of giving the assistance to the non-governmental organizations which have been the lifeblood of this movement in Canada over the last 30 years.
I can give any minister first-hand knowledge to say that they are not living up here and not living up there. The Europeans have now developed a robust program with respect to assisting democracies. The Americans have a robust program with respect to supporting democracy, good governance and a new way of life.
However, the government of Canada is retreating from those policies. It is moving away from those policies and not sustaining those organizations and institutions. It is talking the game, but it is not playing the game. It seems to me that it is time as Canadians we learn to do something very simple: walk and chew gum at the same time.
We believe very strongly that it is important for Canada to have a coherent and credible policy. What is being proposed by the official opposition has no particular credibility. To suggest that we were there at the beginning but we are going to leave before it is over is just ridiculous. We did not pull back from other situations until the victory was assured. That, it seems to me, is critical. We go in with the United Nations and NATO, and that is when we come out. That is how we do things. That is what builds the credibility of this country.
On the other side, what builds the credibility of this country is for our foreign policy to reflect more than just a military policy. Our foreign policy cannot just be a question of which military interventions we want to support and that be the end of the subject. It has to be engaged much more profoundly on a whole set of levels with Libyan society, with the changes that are underway in north Africa, with the changes that are underway around the world.
We are not going to be able to sustain that credibility unless we are in a very clear position to do both things. We do not have to choose between resolution 1973 and resolution 2009 of the General Assembly of the United Nations. We can actually do both. We can say that we are there to see this conflict through and the emergence of a government that speaks for the people of Libya. We are also there to assist in the achievement of better governance in the country itself.
There are serious issues. My colleagues have mentioned that there are serious issues: what kind of a transition it would be; what assurances we would have that there would be no reprisals; the situation affecting migrant workers; as well as the situation of human rights, the promotion of human rights and the equality between women and men, which is such a critical feature of our own lives here in Canada.
We cannot walk away from these issues. We cannot say that we are interested in doing business in Libya, but we are not interested in the human rights situation or democracy in Libya. We have to develop a foreign policy that is robust enough and intelligent enough to do both things in harmony. My colleague, the parliamentary secretary, says that we do.
I can tell my good friend that it just is not the case that Canada has maintained its credibility with respect to all the other things that go into making good governance. CIDA has downgraded it and is not doing it the way it used to do it before. CIDA is not involved in the governance field the way it used to be before and it is not supporting these changes. The Department of Justice is not supporting these changes. The budget for it in the Department of Foreign Affairs is under constant threat and the member should know that. He should understand the budgets for which he holds some responsibility. That is something that has to continue to be emphasized. We say very clearly that the government is not broadening the base of the mission sufficiently in Libya.
We want that mission to be broadened in its civilian, humanitarian, legal, and human rights orientation. We know that needs to happen and we want it to happen. We would not use the excuse of having a different perspective with respect to how it needs to be broadened, or invent some reason now as to why, a few weeks away from the culmination, we hope, that Canada would say it is sorry but it does not really want to be engaged, or in the words of the member from Newfoundland, “We’ve done more than our share”.
Is this really the vision of Canada the government is proposing? This is not a little matter of accounting: we put in a few more bucks than somebody else. It is this small mindedness, frankly, of what we are seeing here that takes away from what needs to be a big, generous and, may I say it, Liberal vision of a foreign policy for this country.
Yes, it needs to be robust enough that we can deal with crises and have the courage of our humanitarian principles to say we will intervene, even militarily, if that is what it takes to stop tyranny from having its impact on its own citizens. We are not afraid to say that.
We also know that military solutions alone are not enough, that what comes after the change of government is every bit as important, and that requires an equally robust commitment to aid, assistance, advice, and presence. But I can tell members opposite, the Europeans are doing it, the Americans are doing it, and Canada used to do it under a Liberal government. It is time that it did it for the future of Canada and indeed, for the future of the region.