Stephen Harper says the confirmed death of Moammar Gadhafi means Canadian troops can quickly begin pulling out of the Libyan theatre, where they have been running air strikes against the remnants of the dictator’s regime for the past seven months.
The Prime Minister said Canadians were proud of their armed forces as they upheld the United Nations mandate to defend Libyan civilians against the violence of the Gadhafi regime. And he commended Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard, the Royal Canadian Air Force officer who led the combined NATO military mission in Libya.
“I have recently spoken with Gen. Bouchard and our government shall be speaking with our allies to prepare for the end of our military mission in the next few days,” Mr. Harper told reporters Thursday in the foyer of the House of Commons, hours after the dictator’s demise launched jubilant celebrations in the country where Colonel Gadhafi appointed himself ruler in 1969.
“Gadhafi’s days are over,” Mr. Harper said. “Never again will he be in a position to support terrorism or to turn guns on his own citizens.” With the shadow lifted from their land, the Prime Minister said it is his hope that the Libyan people will find peace and reconciliation after this dark period in the history of their nation.
The Canadian military mission to Libya lasted longer that the New Democrats would have liked. But Hélène Laverdière, the Opposition foreign affairs critic, said Col. Gadhafi’s demise does not mean the NDP was wrong to oppose an extension in September.
“These last few weeks, the battle was raging in an urban environment and this is always more dangerous, more tricky, if you are operating from the air,” Ms. Laverdière said, “and we can’t say the Libyans would have been able to find Gadhafi if NATO hadn’t been there.”
Ms. Laverdière added that Canadian troops should leave Libya as soon as possible and the focus of the mission should turn from the military to diplomatic and humanitarian concerns.
Interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the Libyan people have know four decades of oppression, of great hardship and great suffering.
Like Mr. Harper, he too paid tribute to the role played by the Canadians and Gen. Bouchard, as well as Canadian citizens who went to Libya to help provide support for the Libyan people.
The Liberal chief also said he hoped the Canadian government will play as integral a role in the evolution of Libyan democracy as it has in ending the Gadhafi regime.
“The hard part really starts now,” Mr. Rae said. “The transition to a better government, the transition to democracy, the transition to greater freedom, the transition to a more open society, to a more accountable society and to a government that reflects the genuine pluralism that’s at the heart of Libyan society – that work starts today.”