Canada extends Libya mission

As a result of a day long debate, the House of Commons Tuesday overwhelmingly voted to extend Canada's participation in the NATO-led mission in Libya by three-and-a-half months.

The Conservative government's resolution passed by a vote of 294-1, with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May being the lone member of parliament to vote against.

May said she was against giving "a blank cheque to a mission that doesn't have an exit strategy."

May, the only Green MP in Commons, said she was in favor of the original humanitarian mission, but does not support the shift toward a military mission to depose Gadhafi.

Canada has deployed about 650 armed personnel, assisted by CF-18 Hornet jet fighters and a Navy destroyer, working to enforce the no-fly zone as part of a NATO mission to protect Libyans from attack by Libyan government led by Moammar Gadhafi.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the mission isn't over yet, as Gadhafi continues to wage war against his own people.

"Canada and our international partners must continue to show resolve, patience and determination to go the distance and help Libyans secure their future. We must extend our military mission there," he said.

Baird argued that a change in leadership is not part of the military mission in Libya; however, Gadhafi's ouster is part of the long-term political solution.

Defense Minister Peter MacKay said the NATO mission is weakening the infrastructure around Gadhafi and withdrawing the Canadian Forces at this point would send the wrong signal.

The vote came hours after Baird announced that the Canadian government is officially recognizing the National Transitional Council of Libya as the legitimate representative of Libyan citizens.

"Canada is embarking on an enhanced engagement strategy with the National Transitional Council of Libya," Baird said, adding that Canada will provide governance expertise to the council.

The policy echoes similar announcements from Germany and Australia in recent days, as more countries join the growing list of governments that officially recognize the rebels as Libya's legitimate political representative.

Opposition parties made some amendments to the government's resolution, including an increase in humanitarian aid, a focus on preventing and prosecuting rape as a tool of war, and a pledge to keep troops off the ground.

Jack Layton, Leader of the official opposition and New Democratic Party, said the party will only support one-time extension to the mission.

Meanwhile, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced a further 2 million Canadian dollars in aid to Libya.

Canada is giving 1.75 million Canadian dollars to the International Committee of the Red Cross, together with the Red Crescent Societies of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, and 250,000 Canadian dollars to the United Nations Population Fund to protect women and girls from gender-based violence -- including sexual assault -- and provide critical care to survivors in Libya.

"The situation in Libya remains volatile, as thousands of people remain in need of ongoing assistance within and beyond Libyan borders," Oda said in a statement. "Access continues to be difficult as the need for food, water, sanitation, protection services and medical supplies increases."

Lewis MacKenzie, a former major-general with the Canadian Forces, said Canada's goals in Libya have become murky since the mission began in February.

The objective has shifted from protecting civilians to an all-out war against Gadhafi and his supporters, MacKenzie said in an interview with local media.

MacKenzie told CTV's Power Play Tuesday evening that continued bombing is only going to have negative impacts, such as destroying infrastructure, and won't help secure a peaceful future in Libya.

[Source: Xinhua, Ottawa, 14Jun11]

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