MPs vote to extend Libyan mission

MPs voted Monday in support of extending Canada's military mission in Libya by three months, bringing it up to the end of 2011.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk welcomes back Canadian Forces members after they returned from Libya in early September. MPs approved a motion on Monday to extend the military mission in Libya by three months.

MPs voted Monday in support of extending Canada's military mission in Libya by three months, bringing it up to the end of 2011.

An NDP amendment to the motion, which pushed to change the focus to rebuilding the country, was defeated.

The motion isn't binding on the government, which doesn't need parliamentary support to decide to send the Canadian Forces on missions. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said last week that Canada would extend its mission by three months.

In the House of Commons Monday, Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said Canada can't walk away from Libya, attacking both the NDP and the Conservative government for their foreign policy stances.

In his speech on whether to support the government's motion to extend the mission, Rae said it was ridiculous the NDP would support going into the country but not staying until the end.

Motion to extend the mission in Libya

September 23, 2011 -- Leader of the Government in the House of Commons -- That, standing in solidarity with those seeking freedom in Libya, the House adopted Government motions on March 21 and June 14, 2011, authorizing all necessary measures, including the use of the Canadian Armed Forces and military assets in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973; that given the current military situation and the success of National Transitional Council (NTC) and anti-Gaddafi forces to date, the House supports an extension of up to three months of the involvement of the Canadian Armed Forces operating with NATO in accordance with the legal mandate from the UNSC Resolution 1973; that the House continues to support Canada's engagement in all spheres in the rebuilding of a new Libya, including human rights, democratic development and the rule of law; that the House deplores the violence committed by the previous regime against the Libyan people, including the alleged use of rape as a weapon of war; that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development and the Standing Committee on National Defence shall remain seized of Canada's activities under UNSC Resolution 1973 and in the rebuilding of the new Libya; and that the House continues to offer its wholehearted and unconditional support to the brave men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, who stand on guard for all of us, and continue to protect Libyan civilians from the risks still posed by the Gaddafi regime.

"It is a fundamentally absurd proposition. Because of the internal workings of the New Democratic Party, they say we have to be the party of peace. Well, we’re all the party of peace... It does not mean you have to be a party of appeasement or of indifference," Rae said.

At the same time, he said the Conservative government hasn't done enough for civilian, humanitarian and civil governance work in Libya. Rae said the Liberals also want to see a strategy for building democracy in North Africa.

"Do we think inside the Liberal Party that the Conservatives have done enough in that area? Not at all," Rae said.

NDP Defence critic Jack Harris called Rae's speech "petty."

"To be petty and political in a situation like this and attack another party, not for the agenda but for the sake of partisan politics, is unworthy for him," Harris said, accusing Rae of signing onto a militarist agenda.

MacKay opened debate

Canada will be with Libyans as they build a civil, democratic society, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Monday, opening the debate on extending the mission.

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

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

To end the mission now would be to jeopardize everything we've accomplished, he added.

Harris says the NDP position is that Canada has done more than its fair share militarily and should now refocus its efforts on rebuilding Libya.


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

In March, parliamentarians voted unanimously on a non-binding 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.

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

Canada has reopened its embassy in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, and has unfrozen about $2.2 billion in assets belonging to Libyan companies and the government.