Canada's Libya mission to end in 2 weeks

Canada's combat mission will end in the next two weeks, after more than six months flying missions over Libya, CBC News has learned.
Canada's combat mission will end in the next two weeks, after more than six months flying missions over Libya. Here, Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk welcomes back sailors who had been patrolling the water off the coast of Libya. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Canada's combat mission in Libya will end in the next two weeks.

Sources tell CBC News that the timing will be discussed with Canada's allies in days ahead.

The news comes on the day that ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed.

In March, parliamentarians voted unanimously in favour of the initial motion in support of a three-month contribution to NATO's air mission, based in Trapani, Italy. They voted in favour of extending the 650-person mission by another three months in June. 

MPs voted last month on a non-binding motion in support of extending the mission another three months. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would continue its mission as long as NATO was there. 

TONIGHT ON CBC-TV: The Fifth Estate 'Gadhafi Palace of Secrets' (9 p.m./9:30 NT)

The mission is UN-approved and aimed to protect civilians on both sides of the conflict. 

In a statement, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO and its partners successfully implemented the UN mandate to protect the people of Libya. 

"We will terminate our mission in co-ordination with the United Nations and [Libya's] National Transitional Council. With the reported fall of Bani Walid and Sirte, that moment has now moved much closer," Rasmussen said.

NDP Foreign Affairs critic Hélène Laverdière says the sooner the combat mission ends, the better.

"Canada in particular should refocus all its energy and resources in rebuilding Libya," she said.

"What is crucial is to build those institutions, develop rule of law and human rights, all of those kinds of things at which Canada is a bit of an expert."

There will also be "hard security issues" to deal with, she added, like removing guns from the streets.

Situation was dire

Canada will be with Libyans as they build a civil, democratic society, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said last month to open the debate on the last mission extension.

Canada's role is no less important now than it was in March, he said.

"The situation was dire. It was urgent. Benghazi was under the threat of attack, Misrata was under siege," he said. "It was clear that Gadhafi had lost all legitimacy."

MacKay said Canada should be there to help the Libyan people establish civil society and democratic institutions.

NDP defence critic Jack Harris said Canada had done more than its fair share militarily and should refocus its efforts on rebuilding Libya.

Harris said Canada should look at what can be done to develop rule of law and provide aid in the country.

Canada reopened its embassy in Tripoli, Libya's capital, last month. The federal government also unfroze about $2.2 billion in assets belonging to Libyan companies and its government.