John McKay Speech on the NATO Mission in Libya
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Speaker : Mr. McKay
Time : 14/06/2011 15:50:41
Context : House of Commons Debate
Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak in this important debate.
It seems like there is a great deal of consensus in the House with respect to moving forward for the next three and a half months, and I am pleased to see that the government has responded positively to both the NDP and the Liberal amendments.
I hope at the end of the next three and a half months the facts on the ground will have changed and Libyans can contemplate a better life than what they have been subject to for the last number of months. Let us hope for all of us, but most especially for the Libyans, that we are not back debating this again three and a half months from now with a similar egregious situation in Libya.
I would like to note that there is an extreme reluctance by Canadians to be engaged in yet another conflict. I think that is pretty clear from a lot of conversations we had during the election that we had done our bit in Afghanistan and we do not want to be involved in other conflicts. The real question here is, what is the exit strategy? What is the end game?
The question I pose in the course of my remarks is, what now? I want to frame this as a critique rather than a criticism of the government. I certainly know critique is necessarily a criticism, but I would suggest that the critique is based upon the doctrine of the responsibility to protect.
It is quite easy to get into these missions. It is far more difficult to get out. Ironically, the very success of the military mission to date raises the very question of, what now? A well thought out responsibility to protect might well be something of a road map, more than we have heard from to date.
Mr. Gadhafi is trapped, and barring some Houdini-like exercise, this will be the end of his tyrannical regime. So, what now? What are the initiatives the government has taken or will take in order to return Libya to some level of stability? Will Canada be involved in aid or for governance issues? If so, how? What is our level of contact with the Benghazi Council? Who is spearheading these contacts? What do we hope to achieve?
The military mission has been brilliant, and its success to date is in no small measure due to the men and women who honour us greatly by wearing the Canadian uniform, and indeed as well to Lieutenant General Bouchard's performance as the NATO commander. Now what question is still, though, the top of mind for many Canadians, and hence the amendment put forward by the member for Toronto Centre, which I hope will enjoy the support of the House.
The genesis of the responsibility to protect is the phrase, “Never again”. We have, in our lifetime, seen genocide perpetrated on host populations. Rwanda comes to mind immediately. We have seen the Holocaust in Germany. We have seen what was happening in Serbia. The international community came together and said, “Never again”.
At the core of the international community's responsibility is to take timely and decisive actions where the state has manifestly failed to protect its population, and clearly those were the facts on the ground in Libya when we decided to pass the motion. That is the no-fly zone, the arms embargo, targeted sanctions, humanitarian assistance, et cetera. These can all play a very effective role in the short term. However, as all armed conflicts do come to an end, the real question is, okay, what now.? What measures need to be taken?
I was particularly struck by an article by the World Federalist Movement dated yesterday which set out a number of points to be considered by this Parliament, and I thought it was quite useful to talk about those. The first issue was ambiguous goals. We seem to be moving from protecting civilians to eliminating Mr. Gadhafi. That is known as mission creep and contains its own seeds of destruction. I think we need to be extraordinarily careful about that kind of issue.
With respect to potential oversight, clearly NATO is best suited to do the military operation, but it does lack a mandate and possibly the ability to conduct a multifaceted political strategy. Canada could actually be useful if it chooses to do so, and it would be interesting to hear from the government as to how it does wish to be involved in a multifaceted political strategy.
As to strategy on the fly, bombing is not a strategy. It is wishful thinking to think that Mr. Gadhafi will be taken out by a lucky bomb or will run out of money or ammunition or fuel. Canada should be promoting a de-escalation of the conflict and facilitating the rebuilding process once the conflict ends.
With respect to the disproportionate use of force, it is my view that NATO has been very studious in its application of force and it has adhered slavishly in my judgment to the responsibility to protect doctrine, and its intervention is largely justified and consistent with that doctrine to date.
Although the Liberal Party continues to support the implementation of Resolutions 1970 and 1973, we like most Canadians want to see a clear road map which addresses the questions we have been asking. The road map must include, but not only be limited to, military, diplomatic, humanitarian and post-conflict goals.
The extension of the mission should not be seen as a free pass. Parliamentarians should be given the opportunity to revisit the mission and discuss the progress being made.
I want to compliment all of my colleagues in the House today. I have sat here for some but not all of the debate and it has been at a very high level and it has been very civilized. In some measure, the government should take note of the quality of debate here today as it strives to represent the wishes of Canadians.
When we do revisit this mission in September, there are some benchmarks that should be useful to evaluate our contributions. I would hope, as would everyone here, that we do not have to do this again in September but the greater likelihood is that we will have to revisit this mission.
The first issue would be civilian protection. Canada should strive to closely adhere to the Security Council's resolution, which tasks NATO with protecting civilian lives. Protecting civilian lives is why Canada is included in the mission and it should remain the top objective.
Second, it should be supporting diplomacy. The mission in Libya will hopefully come to an end sooner rather than later and measures should be in place to transition to democracy. This cannot be done with bombs and embargoes, but rather through genuine political dialogue.
The third is humanitarian relief. The conflict in Libya has created a humanitarian crisis within that country which left unaddressed would only lead to further conflict. Coordinating food, shelter and medical supplies should be a priority in this conflict-ridden country.
Post-conflict peace operations is the fourth issue. A discussion over what Canada's role in post-conflict Libya should be should occur and a clear plan be put in place.
The fifth is human rights and international criminal responsibility. Canada should provide the necessary support to enable adherence to human rights norms.
Using these benchmarks will aid in creating a more stable and secure Libya when the conflict has ended.
My party will be supporting the amended resolution. But I suggest that civil protection, supporting diplomacy, human rights and international criminal responsibility should be the benchmarks to measure our success and this may well then turn out to be a successful R2P, responsibility to protect, mission.