Hon. Laurie Hawn (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, CPC)
Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in this important debate about Canada's military activities in support of the Libyan people and about the flexibility the Canadian Forces bring to the mission. As the Minister of National Defence has stated, Canada has been closely monitoring developments in Libya since the crisis began weeks ago. When the situation deteriorated, the Government of Canada and the Canadian Forces acted.
Our men and women in uniform, as part of a larger whole of government effort to evacuate Canadians flew two C-17 Globemasters and two CC-130J Hercules to Malta. That evacuation was a very successful operation. We have also placed strong sanctions on Colonel Gadhafi's regime in response to the slaughter against his own people. We deployed the HMCS Charlottetown to the Mediterranean where she joined NATO allies and other international partners off the coast of Libya, ready to respond to events as they evolve. Now, in co-operation with several other countries we stand ready to enforce the provisions of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 if Colonel Gadhafi defies them.
The main objective of resolution 1973 is to protect civilian life. It calls for an immediate ceasefire and an end to all attacks against civilians. I will remind hon. members that the UN's responsibility to protect doctrine was a Canadian initiative. Facing the threat of military action, the Gadhafi regime has declared a ceasefire but the international community must be prepared to act should this declaration prove false. Trusting people like Moammar Gadhafi to keep his word has never yielded good results.
Resolution 1973 has clearly established the international community's parameters for action. Its main feature is the immediate establishment of a no-fly zone. It establishes a ban on all flights in Libya's airspace, with the exception of humanitarian flights or evacuation of foreign nationals, in order to stop further attacks on civilians and to enforce the UN arms embargo and sanctions. It authorizes in clear terms willing member states to take all necessary measures, including the use of force, to enforce compliance with the flight ban.
Our six CF-18s and approximately 150 Canadian Forces personnel supporting them are in the region to enforce the ban with our allies, such as the United Kingdom, United States, France, and partners like the League of Arab States which requested the no-fly zone. As the minister said earlier, we are in the process of defining the length and terms of our engagement, but we will enforce the no-fly zone for as long as it is required.
The CF-18, being an exceptionally versatile aircraft, is an excellent enforcement tool. CF-18s are high performance, multi-purpose fighters capable of both air-to-air and air to ground combat missions. Our fighter jets have conducted complex operations with our allies in the past. In 1990, Canada sent 24 CF-18s to Qatar to participate in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, to thwart the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Coalition forces flew more than 1,000 sorties a day, and as a result of the coalition's undisputed air supremacy the entire campaign to free Kuwait was successful. Canadian air force pilots flew more than 5,700 hours and 2,700 combat sorties in both air-to-air and air-to-ground roles. My old squadron, the 416 Squadron Lynxes were part of the Desert Cats of that day and I was very proud of them.
From March to June of 1999, our CF-18s were actively involved in the NATO-led air campaign in Kosovo called Operation Allied Force. CF-18s took part in bombing missions, combat air patrols, and provided close air support, flying 678 sorties and logging over 2,600 combat flying hours, or 10% of all NATO strike missions and with only 2% of the NATO air assets.
This government knows that Canada's CF-18s under Colonel Alain Pelletier's leadership will be capable of doing whatever is needed to implement resolution 1973's no-fly zone. I know that our fighter pilots and support crews of the 425 Squadron Alouettes from Bagotville will make Canada proud once again. It is a good thing that we have fighters available at times like this.
We are similarly confident in the versatility of HMCS Charlottetown to support the resolution's call to enforce the arms embargo and sanctions against Libya. Our Halifax class frigates are very flexible platforms that have demonstrated their worth time and time again. They, along with our Sea King helicopters, can deliver humanitarian aid and assistance as HMCS Halifax did for Haiti following the January 2010 earthquake there. They counteract and engage submarines, ships, and aircraft. Our frigates have been conducting a wide variety of maritime interdiction operations since they were first commissioned. Following the 9/11 attacks, Canada's naval ships joined international coalitions, both under the U.S.-led operation Enduring Freedom and standing NATO maritime groups, to patrol the high seas for suspected terrorists and illicit materials. In the Mediterranean today, Charlottetown is ready for whatever challenges may arise.
One of the government's main priorities since first being elected has been ensuring that the Canadian Forces has the best possible capabilities and personnel so that it can take on the security challenges of today and tomorrow. This is one more example of not knowing exactly what will happen in the decades ahead and underscores the requirement to be equipped and ready for any eventuality.
Two months ago, no one could accurately have predicted what would be happening in Libya and in much of the rest of the Arab world right now. It is a testament to the training, skill and dedication of our men and women in uniform that they are ready, literally at a moment's notice, to deploy to another continent in support of those who need help. The members of the Canadian Forces have demonstrated that they can respond effectively to all types of situations at home and abroad, regardless of the mission at hand. It will be no different in Libya.
Libyan authorities have the responsibility to protect their population. I hope that the violence in Libya will come to and remain at a complete halt. If this does not happen and if the deployment of our forces lasts more than three months, then the Prime Minister will seek the approval of the House to extend Canada's commitment in Libya.
Let me conclude by reminding my colleagues that as Canadians we can all agree that the situation in Libya needs to improve as quickly as possible, and as Canadians, we can be proud of the leadership role we are playing with other like-minded states by deploying Charlottetown, six CF-18 Hornets, two CC-150 Polaris air refuelers and imposing substantial sanctions on Libya.
Our first missions were flown safely today. I hope that as Canadians we will continue to support our men and women in uniform as they go about their important work in harm's way. We can talk about supporting freedom or we can act to support freedom. Canada needs to continue to act and I thank hon. members of the House for supporting that action.
Subtopic: United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya