Canada responds to Libya – Canada is diminished

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Peace Building
Tags: , , , , ,

There is no doubt that the recent Canadian decision to extend its mission represented a lost opportunity for Canada to know itself.   There was a dissenting vote to not extend the mission and leave the people of Libya to their own fate.  There were 294 votes to continue Canada’s involvement in a bombing campaign and to continue killing.  The bombs continue to fall, people die, and there is now talk of funding the rebels from confiscated accounts.   This is shameful!

Where was the debate, discussion and the amendments to the motion to discontinue Canada’s involvement in the bombing and reshape our  response to the real relief of suffering of the Libyan people, and to the reduction of conflict, rather than the continuation of conflict?  This is the heart and soul of Canadian values.

Where was the discussion to exercise Canadian leadership in the development of a community of practice and response to the R2P “responsibility to protect” doctrine that better reflects the actual intent of the UN mandate.  We were not given carte blanche for a massive bombing campaign.   High altitude bombing protects combatants and involves a risk transfer strategy directly to the people of Libya.  Collateral damage rears its ugly head.   This was not a mandate for regime change.   Where was Canada’s voice on this?

This was a mandate to PROTECT, to stop the violence.  It was a mandate to care for those suffering.   This means neutrality.  This means the creation of designated spaces or cities for which refugees and non-combatants can be safe and have humanitarian concerns addresses.  It  means soldiers on the ground to guard these people and places.  It means taking risks for fellow human beings.  It means facilitating diplomatic  communication, for creating spaces for the resolution of differences, and spaces for eventual reconciliation or justice.  This implies a willingness of Canadians to accept risk in the cause of peace and the care for others.  This is why we have a military.

We have missed a huge opportunity to reshape our response to the Libyan conflict.  We missed an opportunity to be a strong voice and leader in the evolution of R2P and peacekeeping tradition, a tradition where Canada shares two Nobel peace prizes.

When you sacrifice the few for the many, you diminish the many.   When Canada accepts the killing of some non-combatants for some so-called greater cause, Canada is diminished.  We are one people on this planet.  Their children are our children.  We are losing our way.

Paul Maillet

Colonel retired

Former DND Director of Defence Ethics

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