Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Canada lifts sanctions against Libya - but assets remain frozen

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his British counterpart, David Cameron, are greeted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of a summit on Libya's future in Paris on Sept. 1, 2011.


Canadian companies can go back to work in Libya.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada is lifting the unilateral sanctions it imposed against the country because dictator Moammar Gadhafi is no longer in power.

"Canada is taking this first step to remove our unilateral sanctions that were put in place against the Gadhafi regime in order to assist the Libyan people transition justly, safely and securely towards a democracy," Mr. Harper said.

Story continues below advertisement

"We will continue to work with our international partners and allies to help ensure support for the people of Libya as they chart their own democratic course."

The sanctions prevented Canadian companies doing any business with the Gadhafi government. Suncor Energy and SNC Lavalin are among several Canadian companies with operations in the oil-rich country.

Suncor suspended operations in Libya after Colonel Gadhafi's crackdown on protesters earlier this year. In a statement last week after rebels seized the national capital of Tripoli, the company said it wasn't sure when it was going to go back in.

"For now, it's early days," the release said. "Like many others, we're watching to see how the current events in Tripoli unfold."

The Calgary-based energy firm had been working with Libya's state-owned National Oil Corp. and was producing about 50,000 barrels of oil a day before the violence began.

Mr. Harper's announcement followed a similar move by the European Union and comes as world leaders meet in Paris to chart the way forward for Libya.

The rebel-backed council now accepted as the country's official government is expected to present a detailed list of requests at the conference, including a plea for the release of billions in seized assets.

Story continues below advertisement

The estimated $2-billion in Libyan assets held by Canadian institutions remains frozen because it is part of broader United Nations sanctions still in effect.

Prior to arriving in Paris, Mr. Harper stopped in Trapani, Italy, where hundreds of Canadian soldiers are stationed as part of the UN-sanctioned NATO mission in Libya.

He said Canada punched above its weight in the international military effort to oust Col. Gadhafi.

And he said NATO's success proves soldiers, not diplomacy, were the only way to end his bloody regime.

"For the Gadhafis of this world pay no attention to the force of argument," he told about 100 soldiers gathered at the base. "The only thing they get is the argument of force itself. And that you have delivered in a cause that is good and right."

But the Prime Minister told the troops the fighting isn't over yet.

Story continues below advertisement

Canada is committed to participating in the UN-sanctioned mission until the end of this month, and officials aren't ruling out an extension.

Mr. Harper says Libyans still face a formidable challenge, both in avoiding reprisals and rebuilding their country.

"Without your commitment, your bravery and your actions, there would be no reason to meet later today," he told the troops gathered in a hangar, a fighter jet positioned for a backdrop. "Nothing to talk about, nothing to plan for, no hope to offer the Libyan people."

Canada joined the coalition backing the rebels in March, following the UN's approval of a mission designed to protect civilians from further abuses at the hands of Col. Gadhafi's regime.

Mr. Harper said the former Libyan dictator has bankrolled terrorism the world over and that Canadians still condemn him for his role in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing in Scotland, which killed two Canadians and 268 others.

He said a world without Col. Gadhafi is a better place.

"Because you held the ring while Libyans fought their own fight with their oppressor, the Libyan people are now free to choose," Mr. Harper said. "This is the best of Canada's military tradition."

Report an error
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to