Commons approves Libyan mission by UN

The House of Commons has voted in favour of Canada participating in the United Nations mission in Libya.

'We are compelled to intervene,' MacKay says as 4 CF-18s accompany bombing run

Six CF-18s left CFB Bagotville in Quebec last Friday to join the Western air coalition to enforce a UN no-fly zone over Libya. Four of them flew their first operation for the mission on Monday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The House of Commons voted Monday night in favour of Canada participating in the United Nations mission in Libya.

The motion says Canada will take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack and enforce the no-fly zone. It requires the government to return to the House of Commons for another debate and vote if they want to extend the mission beyond three months.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the House that the mission to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya is the right thing to do.

MacKay kicked off a debate on Canada's involvement in the international military mission just hours after four CF-18 jets flew their first sortie in Libyan airspace.

"We are compelled to intervene," MacKay said, both by a moral duty and a duty to the United Nations. "Canada's very fortunate to be in a position to respond."

MacKay said Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is on full warning of the measures the world will take to hold him and his regime to account.

New technology should make it easier to avoid hitting civilians during the operations, he said, but the Canadian Forces are aiming for the least possible impact on civilians.

'This mission cannot be endless': Rae

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae urged the government to put more resources into diplomacy to bring peace to a region that has not known a great deal of it.

"I don't think any of us feels there is a military solution to this conflict. We obviously have to use hard power, which we are now using, in an effort to create the space for soft power to do some of its work. We need to continue to encourage negotiations. We need to encourage back channels. We need to encourage a political engagement," he said.

"Our own view is that this mission cannot be endless. It has to be focused. I'm a little troubled by what I heard from the minister today about the ambiguity with respect to what the overall purpose of the mission is," Rae said.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said it's important to be clear about the motion.

"We will hold the government to account that this is not about deploying ground troops, that this is about supporting the no-fly [zone] and that there is no contemplation by the government to deploy ground troops. There is a provision for humanitarian [efforts] and rescue, that is noted and that is obvious, and that is something we understand," he said.

MacKay expects NATO to take over mission

The CF-18 jets, which flew out of a base in Trapani, Italy, did not fire shots or conduct any bombing, instead serving as armed escorts for fighters of another nation that conducted the bombing. But Canadian planes are expected to begin bombing missions as soon as Monday night. 

Four CF-18s, plus two refuellers, took part in the mission, MacKay said earlier Monday.

MacKay said he expects NATO will eventually take over the mission.

"Will it morph into a NATO-led mission? Remains to be seen," MacKay said. "There has been, shall we say, some divergent opinion as to when and where this will occur, but it is my understanding that this mission may well morph into a NATO-led mission."

HMCS Charlottetown, deployed to the region to help with the humanitarian mission, is there as part of a NATO mission.

U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters Monday he expects another ally will soon take over the American-led mission.

Six more CF-18s are on standby in Canada and set to deploy if they're needed, MacKay said, though he said there's no "formal" plan to use them right now.

MacKay also responded to concerns the Arab League didn't support the operation's bombings in Libya

"My most recent information tells me that the Arab League have now re-confirmed their support for Resolution 1973 from the United Nations Security Council, which includes the no-fly zone.

"I know there's several interpretations of what [Arab League leader] Amr Moussa has said and the support for the no-fly zone, but I think that has been clarified, and I think you will find unanimity around the necessity of enforcement for the no-fly zone," MacKay said.

Canadian fighter jets have been deployed to help enforce a United Nations resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya. U.S., British and French forces launched missile strikes on Libyan defences Saturday.

The CF-18 deployment was authorized Friday by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who informed opposition party leaders of the decision to deploy the planes and 150 personnel from CFB Bagotville in Quebec. Harper said Parliament would be consulted this week about the deployment. The House of Commons was not sitting Friday.

MacKay said on Sunday that the CF-18s, now stationed at a base in Italy, would begin enforcing the no-fly zone within 48 hours. Canadian fighter jets are expected to take flight once the military has approved systems for rules of engagement, command and control, as well as identifying friendly or hostile forces.

The Liberals, NDP and Bloc Québécois support the CF-18 deployment but have expressed reservations about what else Canada's role in Libya might involve. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said his party supported "air interdiction" but was not in favour of Canada committing ground troops.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon indicated, in an interview on CBC Radio's The House that aired Saturday, that Canada is "open to all options" in responding to the Libyan crisis. When asked by host Kathleen Petty if that includes "boots on the ground," Cannon said if that were required to "protect citizens that are being literally murdered by [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi, that's what the resolution calls for."

The UN resolution calls for "all necessary measures" to be used to protect civilians, but it doesn't specify whether ground troops are among those measures. At a meeting in Paris on Saturday, world leaders, including Harper, made it clear the no-fly actions would not include a ground force.

The prime minister also warned the mission could bring casualties on both sides.

"We should not kid ourselves. Whenever we engage in military action — essentially acts of war — these are difficult situations," Harper said in Paris.

The motion

That in standing in solidarity with those seeking freedom in Libya, the House welcomes United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973; that the House deplores the ongoing use of violence by the Libyan regime against the Libyan people; acknowledges the demonstrable need, regional support and clear legal basis for urgent action to protect the people of Libya; consequently, the Government shall work with our allies, partners and the United Nations, to promote and support all aspects of UNSC Resolution 1973 which includes the taking of all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in Libya and to enforce the No Fly Zone, including the use of the Canadian Armed Forces and military assets in accordance with UNSC Resolution 1973, that the House requests 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; that should the Government require an extension to the involvement of the Canadian Armed Forces for more than three months from the passage of this motion, the Government shall return to the House at its earliest opportunity to debate and seek the consent of the House for such an extension;  and that the House offers its wholehearted support to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces.