I call this meeting to order.
We're at meeting number two of the Standing Committee on National Defence. Just so that everybody is aware, we are being recorded.
We are continuing with our briefings on Libya.
Joining us today is Her Excellency Sandra McCardell, the ambassador of Canada to Libya.
From the Department of National Defence, we have Major-General Jonathan Vance; Jill Sinclair, the assistant deputy minister of policy; and Captain Geneviève Bernatchez, the deputy judge advocate general of operations.
From DFAIT, we are joined by Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, director general of the stabilization and reconstruction task force.
From CIDA, we have Leslie Norton, director general of the international humanitarian assistance directorate, multilateral and global programs branch; and Bob Johnston, the regional director general for Europe, the Middle East, Maghreb, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
I want to welcome all of you back to committee. We're looking forward to hearing your comments and how things are progressing.
With that, we'll kick off with Ambassador McCardell.
Members of the committee, it is a pleasure to meet with you today against the backdrop of a Libya much changed since our informal discussions of just over one month ago. At that time, our attention was focused on the pace and direction of change on the ground as we continued to look for actions by Canada and the international community that would improve the protection of civilians in Libya in the near and long term. The “tipping point” we spoke of was much nearer than many of us dared hope: ten days after our meeting on August 12, most of the Libyan people, including those in Tripoli, were freed from the control of the Gadhafi regime.
Since that time, Canada has responded quickly with a number of steps to support the new Libya. On August 25, Canada accredited the new Libyan chargé d’affaires appointed by the National Transitional Council and committed to interact with the NTC as Libya’s government until an elected government is in place.
On September 1, Prime Minister Harper attended the Paris conference on Libya, where he met with the chair of the executive office of the NTC, Mahmoud Jibril, and informed him directly of the lifting of unilateral sanctions imposed on the Libyan government under the Special Economic Measures Act. At the same time, Canada approached the United Nations to make available to the Libyan people funds frozen under multilateral sanctions.
After receiving the necessary authorities from the UN sanctions committee, Minister Baird announced on September 13 the unfreezing of all Libyan assets held in Canada and by Canadian institutions, worth roughly $2.2 billion. Today the Prime Minister is participating in a high-level meeting hosted by the United Nations secretary-general to coordinate international assistance to the Libyan-led transition.
In addition to support for Libya, Canada is also focused on returning full services to Canadians in Libya, including support for Canadian companies. Following an assessment mission by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Department of National Defence, Canada has re-established its diplomatic presence in Libya, six-and-a-half months after evacuating all personnel and suspending operations. The embassy is currently operating out of a temporary location while repairs on the chancery are completed. As soon as an appropriate level of security is in place, it will re-open fully operational to provide services to Canadians as quickly as possible.
Given Canada’s role in liberating Libya and the greater atmosphere of opportunity post-Gadhafi, the embassy complement will be expanded to increase our capacity for political analysis, engagement with the NTC, and promotion of Canadian commercial interests. We are currently examining ways of supporting Libya’s transition through targeted stabilization assistance, and consultations are under way with the UN and with the NTC to ensure that Canada’s contribution is coordinated with international partners and responds to the needs identified by the Libyans themselves.
Officials are in regular contact with companies previously active in Libya, or who have indicated an interest in becoming so, to discuss how the Government of Canada can best support their interests. The early re-establishment of Libya’s economy and the construction and reconstruction of key infrastructure are important contributions to Libya’s long-term stability and prosperity.
As part of the assessment mission in Tripoli, I witnessed personally changes on the ground. Traffic jams are back in Tripoli—a sign both that basic commodities like fuel are now available and that the people have the confidence to leave their homes.
The overall atmosphere was almost festive, with flags of the new Libya prominently displayed throughout the city, and children and adults alike dressed in t-shirts and ball caps with red, black and green stripes. You now see a degree of civil responsibility—street-cleaning, neighbourhood distribution of water and food when both were scarce—that did not previously exist.
Outside specific areas of fierce fighting, such as Misrata, the infrastructure is largely intact. In Tripoli, the precision of NATO strikes over the past months was evident; some government buildings are damaged, but little else.
As well, Libya enjoys oil wealth, which will be of great assistance in its rebuilding. While there has been some damage to oil facilities, repairs are already beginning.
Despite these very positive signs, there are real challenges on the horizon. Many of the demands for a better quality of life that preceded the conflict remain--demands for improved education, medical services, and employment--and the expectations for rapid improvement after four decades of stagnation are rising quickly.
The NTC, which has done good work so far in maintaining order and establishing itself as a new government, must now tackle the key issues, as we discussed in our previous meeting. These include maintaining cohesion among disparate elements and those with personal ambition now that the shared goal of ridding the country of Gadhafi has been largely achieved; introducing transparency and respect for human rights and the rule of law in a country that has little experience of democracy; reconciling diverse elements and preventing retaliatory attacks so that all may find their future in the new Libya; gaining control of the many thousands of weapons now in circulation and the young men who carry them--all this against the backdrop of Gadhafi, who remains at large with an unknown degree of influence.
These are significant hurdles to overcome. The importance of how they are addressed now cannot be underestimated, as these early steps will establish the country's path for the months and years to come.
In closing, I would like to share with you the goodwill that Canada enjoys in Libya as a result of our decisive action within the NATO mission. Those I met in Tripoli frequently expressed their thanks for Canada's strong support of the revolution over the past months. The chair of the NTC, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, in his first public address of his return to Tripoli, thanked Canada specifically for its assistance. Given the near unanimous support in Parliament for Canada's participation in Operation Unified Protector, I pass their thanks on to you.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity to brief you on Operation MOBILE, Canada's military contribution to the international effort to respond to the crisis in Libya.
I am Major-General Jonathan Vance, director of the strategic joint staff at National Defence headquarters. With me this afternoon I have Jill Sinclair, assistant deputy minister of policy at National Defence, as well Captain (Navy) Geneviève Bernatchez, deputy judge advocate general for operations.
Before you are slides that outline the Canadian Forces involvement in the NATO mission in Libya. I would like to walk you through our past and present contributions to the mission, after which we would be pleased to answer your questions.
Slides 1 and 2 are what I'll be referring to now: the Canadian Forces' role in the Libyan crisis.
I will focus my comments on the military aspects of the international effort.
In February of this year, in response to the emerging crisis in Libya, the Government of Canada advised Canadian citizens to leave Libya. Soon after, the Department of Foreign Affairs began a concerted effort to evacuate all Canadians. The Canadian Forces were asked to assist, and we deployed two C-17 Globemaster and Hercules transport planes to help evacuate Canadians and other eligible individuals.
On March 2 Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Charlottetown, with an embarked CH-124 Sea King helicopter, departed from Halifax for the Mediterranean. On March 14 the Charlottetown joined the NATO fleet off the coast of Libya, and began enforcement of the arms embargo shortly thereafter.
In total, the Canadian Forces during this period conducted seven flights and assisted in evacuating 153 Canadians and entitled persons from Libya. In addition, the NCC, the non-combatant evacuation operation centre, assisted with the departure of 4,431 entitled persons, including 308 Canadians, before ceasing operations on March 9.
As you know, this initial 90-day Canadian military response was supported unanimously in the House of Commons. In June the House voted to support the extension of Canada's commitment to the NATO mission until September 27, 2011.
I'm looking now at slide three, which addresses CF support to Operation Unified Protector. Operation Unified Protector, which is the NATO name for this operation, has three clear objectives known as the Berlin goals, which were set by NATO foreign ministers last April: an end to all attacks against civilians, the verifiable withdrawal of the regime's military and paramilitary forces to bases, and full and unhindered access to humanitarian aid to all those who need it across Libya.
Let's now look at slide 4.
Canada has provided significant military support to the NATO mission in the form of both air and sea assets. Presently, we have seven CF-18 Hornet Fighters, two CC-150 Polaris Tankers, and two Aurora maritime patrol aircraft deployed in the region, as well as HMCS VANCOUVER with an embarked Sea King helicopter.
Canadian Lieutenant-General Charles Bouchard remains in the critical position of the NATO overall commander of the combined joint task force for Operation Unified Protector.
Slide five outlines the current situation as of mid-September. If you turn to this map on slide five, I can briefly discuss the situation. The National Transitional Council forces have made several breakthroughs since I last briefed this committee, in August. Most notably, the NTC now firmly controls Tripoli, and that city continues to move towards normalcy, as the ambassador described.
The most significant area of confrontation is now in the central region along the coast between Sirte and Bani Walid and south to Sebha. Pro-Gadhafi forces have consolidated, and are countering the advance of NTC forces. NTC forces are making progress. The fighting continues, and the NTC leaders are taking steps to ensure their legitimacy with the population, the international community, and even their opponents. Progress is being made, but it's slow and difficult.
The next slide looks at the status of NATO objectives. In terms of the first Berlin goal, an end to attacks against civilians, NATO allies and partners have severely reduced Gadhafi's ability to attack civilians but have not yet eliminated it. The no-fly zone and embargo have been enforced, and pro-regime threats are being eliminated. There remain, however, ongoing threats to civilians in areas controlled by pro-Gadhafi forces.
In terms of the second objective, a return of regime forces to bases, progress is being made in that pro-Gadhafi forces have been pressured to withdraw by increasingly effective NTC forces, but hostilities continue.
Finally, with regard to the third Berlin goal, ensuring unhindered access to humanitarian aid, as my CIDA colleagues may wish to comment further on, there has been much progress, with aid now being delivered safely by both sea and air into ports into Libya, into Tripoli.
On slide seven you'll see some figures on the Canadian contribution relative to the broader coalition total. These numbers simply update you from the last time I was able to speak with you.
Mr. Chair, I don't think I'll review all of the numbers. They're there. We continue to make contributions, and in fact our percentage of contributions has grown. We contribute 9% of the counteroffensive air sorties, 7% of all air-to-air refuelling sorties, 85% of maritime patrol aircraft, and 6% overall. Canada has expended approximately 600 laser-guided bombs in the process.
Under maritime forces there were 284 boardings for the coalition, seven of which came from Canada. HMCS Vancouver is now on station--when we last spoke, it was the Charlottetown--actively preventing pro-Gadhafi maritime forces from closing Misrata. Vancouver's continued presence ensures the delivery of vital humanitarian aid, and is indeed helping to establish the seaport in terms of its operations.
As you can see, Canada is more than pulling its weight militarily. Our ships and aircraft have had significant impact, successfully prosecuting targets that have been vetted extensively to minimize civilian casualties.
However, I would like to stress that we see our contribution as just one facet of a broader diplomatic and humanitarian effort to help the Libyan people. A sustainable peace cannot be achieved by military means alone.
but our forces have certainly contributed to the conditions required to move forward.
That ends my remarks.
Thank you for your presentations this morning to update us on what has happened since our meeting in August.
I would like to ask Ambassador McCardell, first of all, if she could outline the situation with respect to humanitarian aid and delivery of the same. Obviously, the situation is much different from what it was a month or so ago, with Tripoli now being in the hands of the NTC, diplomatic relations now being re-established, and a new interim government being recognized. I guess, in diplomatic terms, the Gadhafi regime doesn't exist as a regime in terms of governing Libya.
Can you tell me the nature of the current humanitarian needs, how they are being met, and what role Canada is playing in that? Are we using any of our assets, military or otherwise, to assist in the delivery of the same, and if so, to what extent?
Secondly, with respect to the governance issues, which are considerable, what is Canada bringing to the table to assist the NTC in developing the capability and the capacity to engage in governance and building? I know the UN resolution, which hasn't really been translated yet from last Friday, does talk about assisting the intellectual process. Is there a role that Canada is contemplating, and if there is not, then why not?
I'll comment just briefly based on my experience and what I saw on the ground there. Then I will ask my colleague from CIDA to speak more broadly on the humanitarian situation, and my colleague from the stabilization and reconstruction task force to speak on Canada's role going forward.
In short, as I indicated a bit in my presentation, the situation on the ground has improved considerably, certainly in large parts of the country. I would exclude the areas of ongoing conflict in the south, where there is still difficulty in accessing the population. I'm speaking here of those areas under conflict: Bani Walid, Sirte, and Sabha. In Tripoli itself, a few days before we arrived, water was turned back on. That being done obviously relieves a considerable humanitarian concern we had. As well, the United Nations is present and was coming in, in a very significant fashion. They're standing up their mission on the ground again, and while I was there I was able to meet with representatives of UNHCR and IOM, the International Organization for Migration, who were in Tripoli assessing the situation for future support.
I can come back to the situation on the ground later on, but I think it's important that CIDA provide a broader perspective.
As noted by the ambassador, at the beginning of September the UN did re-establish its presence. They also stood up what they call a humanitarian country team, which assisted the UN in identifying humanitarian needs, and they did so through a 30-day action plan. Essentially they took the 18 May flash appeal, which is what the UN produces and develops to bring together all the humanitarian actors to have a humanitarian action plan, and extended it until September 30. Currently they're assessing needs. The UN will provide, in very short order—we expect by the end of September—a 90-day action plan.
The current humanitarian needs, as outlined in the plan, include water; protection for migrants; fuel to run basic things like electricity, water, and sanitation facilities; medical supplies and personnel; and there's an issue around some food and security. A large issue, of course, is the high level of explosive remnants of war—there's a certain amount of contamination—and there's also a deteriorating capacity of the communities who are most affected to cope day to day.
The 90-day action plan will probably focus on these elements. It will be from October to December, and we anticipate it will extend the existing flash appeal to round off the year. The focus, of course, is going to be on sustained and safe access to all in need, to reinforce capacity and preparedness, providing assistance to those who need it, and to support and develop institutions.
To go to the point of your question about what is Canada doing and what assets are we bringing to this, as you know, Canada has provided over $10.6 million in humanitarian assistance funding. The asset we have provided is funding. Our key partners include the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is one of the main actors in providing humanitarian assistance in country, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; the IOM and UNHCR, who work on the borders to ensure that the migrant workers who have left, as well as refugees, are getting the assistance they need. That is also complemented by the work of the World Food Programme, both in and outside the country, as well as UNFPA, which is the UN Population Fund, and the Canadian Red Cross.
Yes, we are indeed working in very close coordination with the UN, which is the main coordinator for this post-conflict assistance. We have been involved in discussions since the London meeting in June.
The first step, frankly, is to see the results of the assessment missions that will be largely coordinated by the United Nations to evaluate needs, in consultation with the NTC. The goal, obviously, is to establish an environment in Libya where the citizens of Libya can go back to a normal life and have an environment that is conducive to economic prosperity, which would also eventually be in the interests of our Canadian companies.
The ambassador mentioned that our Prime Minister is in New York at the moment. I think he is about to go into a meeting with the group called “Friends of Libya”. After that, there will be a meeting at the level of officials to discuss the stabilization of Libya, and we will be represented at that meeting.
For the moment, we are looking at options and expect to see soon—I think in the coming weeks—the results of these assessment missions before we make decisions on our contribution.
It is an important question. I think part of why we have taken such an interest in Libya and why this government has been committed to action in Libya.... Certainly our focus has been on the mandate of 1973 and the protection of civilians, but we've been fully aware of the strategic importance of Libya and the presence of al-Qaeda elements in the Maghreb, in the broader Sahel region. Certainly our interest in having a democratic government in place in Libya also relates to regional interests, beyond simply the concern we have for the Libyan civilians.
In our previous discussions I think we've certainly been clear that within the broader National Transitional Council there are groups that we would consider to have an Islamist trend. What we've said previously, and what we believe is still the case, is that these people represent part of the fabric of Libya but their influence is limited, and that the commitment of the NTC to a democratic transition has absolutely been clear from the beginning and, with their constitutional declaration, continues to be.
Certainly we would not support in any way al-Qaeda elements taking root in Libya and we do not see that this is the case. There are those within the Libyan government who have been part of Islamist movements in the past. They have not in any way demonstrated a stepping away from the democratic principles that the NTC has espoused. Certainly part of the reason why we have re-established our diplomatic presence on the ground is to have a better network of contacts in Libya, to have a better understanding of what's taking place, and to ensure that our role in establishing a democratic transition continues and that this is what takes place in that country.
I was in South Africa last week. We met with probably more than 40 MPs, plus we had the benefit of the president's views on Libya. I can say with some assurance that their views are not our views. I just want to put that on the table, because as they see it—as the African Union sees it, I think—NATO has gone way past its mandate. It has effectively gone from protecting civilians to effecting a regime change. And they're not overly happy about it. They think the African Union and the Arab League should be far more engaged in this process. It is, after all, their neighbourhood.
If you had any other confirmation of their views, it was, if you will, the triumphalism of Sarkozy and Cameron, which in their view was not helpful. It reminds others of Mr. Bush's triumphalism, which extended the Iraq war another four years.
The issue is whether we are effectively being asked to supervise a low-grade civil war. This is a tribal society. It's very complicated. And the media reports there's a certain lack of enthusiasm on the part of the rebels to engage in the really tough fighting going on where Gadhafi's forces are. If you're looking at it as a Gadhafi-force person, you're saying, “Well, I have nothing to lose. So I'm going to fight, and I'm going to fight to the bitter end.”
Ambassador, you said we had built up some goodwill. Madame, I'm prepared to buy that. What is the plan here? We may have squandered some goodwill in the African Union. We may have squandered some goodwill in the Arab League. We certainly have spent materiel and resources.
So it's not clear to me what exactly we're asking for in the extension of the mandate. Be far more clear as to how we're going to engage the African Union, the Arab League, the tribal factionalism, and the various competing interests. And how are we going to be, effectively, not supervising a low-grade civil war that will go on and on and continue to engage us for months and months?
The points you have raised are important. Some of them, on challenges we're going to be looking at going forward, were highlighted in my presentation.
On the question of the African Union and the Arab League, certainly South Africa is a key player in the African Union, but it is not the only voice within the African Union. Certainly that country has taken particular positions and views on Libya that I think not all of their partners on the continent have shared. There are countries that have recognized the NTC, in which the NTC has opened its embassies or appointed its own diplomatic personnel, and those countries have been in positions similar to our own. I think in each case you find there are different positions reflecting a country's position. There are different national interests, different histories, and different histories with Gadhafi specifically that have affected some of their positions. So this is something members of the African Union, as well as similar structures in the Arab League, need to address as sort of regional organizations.
I think there absolutely is scope to have these organizations play an active role in Libya going forward. In the end, it will be up to the Libyans and the Libyan government to determine exactly how they're going to address that.
With regard to the fighting—you mentioned the NTC doesn't seem to want to engage in the heavy fighting—just to be clear, I think at this point the NTC is very cognizant of the fact that it does not want to have a long-term civil war, and it's approaching the fighting in these three cities and the areas around them very carefully so it does not end up with anything that can be interpreted as reprisal attacks or any kind of tribal fighting. Bani Walid, for example, is the home of the largest tribe in the country, the Warfalla. When I was there, they explained to me that in fact they were quite determined that those NTC forces outside of the city be from the same tribe rather than from another tribe, precisely to avoid giving the impression that there was going to be inter-tribal fighting. I think they've been very cautious.
There have been efforts to have humanitarian assistance sent in to these cities so the civilian population is not unduly affected. I'm not saying they're not affected, but there have been efforts to recognize that there are civilians in these centres and their needs need to be addressed. So I think they're being very careful this close to the end, if you will. They don't want to make some major mistakes that they will then have to live with for a long time in the future.
As for how this will all transpire in the longer term, it's a little bit difficult to tell right now. I think there is all the goodwill on their part to launch their country successfully. I think there is the goodwill on our part to assist them to do that and a very clear desire on everyone's part to avoid some of the continuing conflict within the country that maybe we've seen in other countries. At this point it's going to be up to them to negotiate very carefully with those who are in these cities in an attempt to bring this to a close.
I'll start and then turn it over to Madame Gervais-Vidricaire for some details.
On the UN reconstruction, absolutely, the UN has been engaged. Back when we still talked about a contact group, there was a UN special advisor on post-conflict stabilization, Ian Martin, who was attending those meetings and providing briefings to advise us on the plans the UN had in place. I was developing with the NTC the process we are in now.
I think just yesterday or in the last couple of days Ian Martin was named as the UN Secretary General's special representative for Libya. I think that shows they've recognized that's the phase we're now in.
The resolution passed on Friday lays out specific areas where the UN will be establishing a mission. The resolution created the UN support mission in Libya for an initial three months. What they've outlined is that they will assist and support Libya in national efforts—so continuing with the importance of this being Libyan-led—to restore public security and order and promote the rule of law; undertake inclusive political dialogue to promote national reconciliation and embark upon constitution-making and electoral process; third, extend state authority through the strengthening of emerging accountable institutions and the restoration of public services; fourth, promote and protect human rights, particularly those of vulnerable groups, and support transitional justice; fifth, take immediate steps to initiate economic recovery; and finally, coordinate support that may be requested from other multilateral and bilateral actors.
I guess the last point is really what we've been talking about all the way through, that what we do to support the NTC needs to be coordinated among ourselves.
The European Union has played an important role. They are sending in their own assessment missions to see where they can best fit in on the ground. Certainly one area that stands out for them is their interest in border control and issues that affect migration. That's something they were active in even before the conflict. And there are other areas they are going to be looking at.
I think there's probably a wide range of threats to the Libyan people that will come from a variety of directions, most of which are probably not military threats. They're trying to re-establish a nation, so I'd say there are all sorts of challenges, if not threats, to them as they go through that process. I think the ambassador has covered it off extremely well.
In terms of hard military threat, Gadhafi forces continue to exist. Despite the degradation of regime control of the nation, Gadhafi forces continue to exist in considerable strength in certain parts of the country, particularly in the centre and south.
The NTC forces, the anti-Gadhafi forces, are making progress, but it's a hard slog. As you can see, on any given day, in open source reporting, Gadhafi forces have had and continue to have the propensity to harm civilians when they're in their midst. I would say that those who are in close proximity to those forces are in peril. The NTC knows this as well, and that's why they keep doing what they're doing, to try to eliminate the threat to those civilians and to re-establish normalcy.
I would say that the ball is largely, in terms of managing this, in the NTC's court, as we would very much want it to be. NATO continues to operate and therefore Canada continues to operate in support of the NATO mandate or the UN mandate and the NATO objectives to do exactly what I described: to prevent these perils to civilians from coming to fruition.
Mr. Chair, the crimes were committed by both sides—by the Qadhafi and the anti-Qadhafi forces—and are equally unacceptable. Some incidents have been noted. I even think that Amnesty International had issued a statement claiming that the number of crimes committed by anti-Qadhafi forces was lower than the number of crimes committed by pro-Qadhafi forces. Nevertheless, both groups should be tried for their actions.
Finding and prosecuting the individuals who committed the crimes is important. I think that the National Transitional Council agrees with that. This body accepts the fact that individuals on both sides of the conflict have made serious mistakes and should be tried in a court of law. That's something that is important not only to us, but also to the council. It's important to deal with crimes committed in the past, such as individual acts, so as to avoid a vicious cycle of retribution and retaliation. Dealing with these actions legally would eliminate the possibility of intertribal conflicts and other long-term hostilities—as a colleague pointed out.
It's important for diplomatic representatives on the ground to continue pressuring the council and Libyan authorities to move forward with these legal processes and to ensure appropriate punishments. I must say that, right now, the council is overtasked. It is trying to stabilize the country and govern it at the same time, in addition to establishing a new cabinet and settling a number of issues. That being said, putting off dealing with this matter for a long time is unacceptable.
One of our goals on the ground, as a re-established embassy, would be to stay in touch with the council and to regularly remind it of its obligations to the Libyan people. We should also discuss with the council its own documents about its vision of a democratic Libya, its constitutional declaration, and so on. The council established its own governance principle, and it's up to us to remind it of how important it is to apply the principles it set out.
I am not familiar with the specific steps taken by the council. That's something we could follow up on.
However, organizations like Amnesty International and, previously, Human Rights Watch had produced a report on the mistakes made by both sides. Those NGOs, which I feel do important work, have raised these issues. It's up to us, the international community, to revisit these issues, along with the council, in order to prosecute the individuals.
As I said, Libya is going through a transition period and is faced with meeting some urgent goals, on several levels. However, as soon as they have some time to start the legal proceedings, they will have to do so. Should they need assistance, technical or otherwise, to gather the evidence needed to begin the eventual prosecution, the international community could perhaps provide them with that assistance.
Regardless, what's important right now is for the NGOs and the media, in particular, to bring up these issues, and for us to help the council with the prosecution and to remind it to begin the trials. The third step would consist in implementing the necessary processes. Like you, I am convinced that this is extremely important, but we also need to keep in mind the principles those people set out during the conflict, before us, the international community, and their goals in the country. The last thing they want is a vicious cycle where attacks lead to more attacks and where a system of retaliation is adopted. That's one of our priorities, on the ground.
We have been in touch throughout the last months of the conflict. I've been in touch, in my capacity as ambassador, with a number of the key companies present on the ground. All the way through we've been able to provide them with our sense of how events were evolving on the ground and who have been emerging as key interlocutors.
This process has obviously accelerated in the last few weeks, since there has been such an important shift in conditions in the country. In addition to my own calls with key partners, we've had broader conference calls with about 20 companies that were either previously active or interested in the market. Through those phone calls, we've been able to bring them up to date on what our best information and market intelligence is on the ground, and they've also shared their concerns with us. Principally, those fall into two categories. One is payment for work performed and secondl is establishing or re-establishing themselves on the ground quickly so they can take advantage of some of the new opportunities.
With the re-establishment of our diplomatic mission, one of our priorities is to have commercial resources back at the embassy and to be able to provide full service to Canadian companies. We anticipate having someone out there by early next week. We have already re-engaged our local trade staff, and they're able right now, in a limited capacity, to field questions and provide advice.
The unfrozen assets obviously belong to the Libyan people.
One of the roles of the new trade commissioner will be to ensure that Canadian companies receive priority for payment of work performed. We need, as well, to provide some legal capacity to access how this can be done best under Libyan law.
As for construction and reconstruction going forward, I would just flag, having been there on the ground, that it's clear there aren't going to be the broad infrastructure projects that we saw after conflicts in other countries. NATO has been remarkably precise, so the damage is to specific infrastructure that supported command and control. This is very limited. Then, of course, there are areas that saw significant fighting, like Misrata or Ras Lanuf, where there is some reconstruction work to be done. But we shouldn't give the impression there is a broad swath of this country that was damaged; power plants remain in place, bridges, and so on.
What we will certainly do is to look at these opportunities, but also to look at the pre-existing opportunities. We were already active in looking at infrastructure projects that would be needed in the longer term, such as water treatment, and so on. We are looking at bringing in the companies that were previously interested in or bidding on those and putting them in touch with the right new contacts.
Thank you for the question.
I did respond in general about the ongoing threat. The Gadhafi forces are--in a local context of Bani Walid, Sirte, and some places in the south--relatively strong in eroding defensive positions, if I could put it to you that way. They can still cause some damage to those who have tried to dislodge them.
More importantly, they have shown and continue to show a propensity to harm civilians in their immediate midst, be that creating mass casualty situations or general mistreatment. You'll see civilians fleeing from these areas, and so on.
The Gadhafi regime and their forces have already demonstrated, without doubt, their propensity to do this. And indeed, the most recent UN Security Council resolution 2009 still recognizes the threat to civilians. So we take that as a given. And the forces are still relatively strong locally.
It's a tactical fight, which they will lose. It's a matter of time. It's difficult to put an actual reliable timeframe on this. We're not talking about years and years of fighting here. We're not talking about months and months of fighting here. We're probably talking about some weeks.
I think that estimate is more assured if they maintain the momentum. That is, if the NTC, in their current political momentum and their military momentum, and if the country as a whole gets back on its feet, if that momentum continues, then these locally powerful Gadhafi forces will be eliminated by the opposition.
To make sure everyone is on the same page, I want to point out that there are both migrant workers and refugees, two completely different groups. Most of those in neighbouring countries are in fact migrant workers. According to IOM, some 685,000 to 700,000 migrant workers have crossed the Libyan border into neighbouring countries—and that is as of September 13. Of those migrant workers, 45% are third country nationals. I have here some statistics by country, if you are interested. In Tunisia, for example, there are 291,000, made up of both Tunisians and third country nationals from Niger, Bangladesh and so forth. In Egypt, there are over 220,000 people; in Niger, there are nearly 80,000; in Chad, there are more than 50,000; in Algeria, the number is 14,000; and in the Sudan, it is almost 3,000. There are also others who have gone to Italy and to Malta, and we are still talking migrant workers.
To date, IOM and UNHCR have helped more than 200,000 third country nationals go back home. They used to be largely Bangladeshis. The majority are from Tunisia and the rest from Egypt. It is also important to note that there are approximately 4,000 people who are considered refugees located in two refugee camps near the Libyan border; they are Somalians and Eritreans. There are seven Libyan refugees in southern Tunisia as well.
UNHCR is the main humanitarian agency looking after refugees. UNHCR is on the ground; we give them funding. As for migrant workers and third country nationals, IOM manages the efforts to ensure that these refugees receive the assistance and protection they need.
Thank you very much for the question.
Just to track back and, as you say, Mr. Alexander, fill in some of the blanks, I think what needs to come through very clearly here, and as reaffirmed in the Security Council resolution, is that this is a UN-led process. Again, the new Security Council resolution puts the NTC, the Libyan authorities, firmly in the driver's seat of their future, and NATO, of course, is working in support of a UN mandate. So everything will flow from that broad context--that is, what do the international community and the Libyan people and the NTC as legitimate representatives want?
In that respect, I think the NATO mission obviously has been a success. It was dispatched rapidly. It has been extremely effective in terms of doing what it was supposed to do: protect civilians. The NATO Secretary General and, I believe, the Prime Minister have made it clear that the mission will continue until it's no longer required. Everyone hopes that will be sooner rather than later, and not a day longer than required.
That's a great question.
No effort at any blockade embargo is perfectly immune to penetration. There is some porosity, I suppose, and from the south especially.
The Gadhafi forces aren't being supplied in the way that you and I would normally think of armies being supplied. They're existing off the country. So in Bani Walid.... And they've had 42 years to get ready for all sorts of things, so there are all sorts of munitions there. There are incredibly well-developed defences. They're using the food and water and so on in the towns and villages they're in. So the classic sense of resupply, in a way that we could categorically chop it off like you would in conventional warfare, doesn't exist. If it did, we would have dealt with it a long time ago.
We are making certain that the borders are as non-porous as possible and that nothing is coming in from the Mediterranean. I think we're doing extremely well in terms of closing access to the country from the north, but as we've discussed, there's a regional dynamic there. Some of those nations to the south may be more sympathetic, or individuals in those nations, not even acting on behalf of those nations, could be more sympathetic. As you know, in a fairly wealthy regime you can pay for support in some respects.
The good news is that they can't last long this way. They've lasted till now. They are showing signs of running out of important things needed to wage war. They haven't run out yet, but they will eventually.
I'll start with the court question because it's more specific.
The courts, to my knowledge, are not currently up and running in Tripoli. I can't speak for Benghazi, but in Tripoli they were not. They are now looking at how to address cases that were tried under the previous government. What do they do with cases that were partway through? There are a number of legal issues that are going to consume them for some period of time. Legal advice is something we mean to give through our trade law expert, and others will contribute as well.
I would say that probably overall the court system itself and the legal system that underpins it in theory were probably not that bad. The real problem was the political interference in the system. So if you extract that element, you may find you have a base to work with that is fine. As you're familiar with, in many of these cases in these countries, the theory is great; it's the practice that was terrible. So we'll look at that.
The revolution began, both in Benghazi and in Tripoli, with lawyers protesting in front of court houses determined to have a constitution and a better democratic future for Libya. I've spoken to some of those lawyers who were doing that, and they're either back or are on their way back to the country committed to rebuilding it, and obviously they're professionally and keenly focused on the court system.
They are also aware, by the way, of what they will do to try those who come to trial who were part of the previous regime, and they are quite concerned about ensuring, among other things, that they actually get a proper defence. So these things are being thought through.
Just on the construction of the government, the NTC itself established a road map, which was presented to the Rome contact group--I think that was back in April--and it has a number of steps coming out of it, including the naming of a caretaker government and a broad national congress that will launch a national reconciliation process and so on. These elements are timed from a declaration point at which they will consider their country liberated. They have not done that yet. There were discussions about how to handle that. They have Tripoli now liberated, which is the capital and obviously significant, but they have parts of the country that are not yet. So they are looking at that date, and it is something they are discussing right now. They mean to have all of the country able to participate in the process, and that is not the case currently.
Well, I think that wraps up our questioning. I think we've again had a very good briefing. I really appreciate all of our witnesses coming in and fully disclosing what the committee wanted to hear, informing Canadians on the great role that our diplomats and our members of the armed services are providing to the Libyan people.
Ambassador McCardell, I want to wish you well in your return to Tripoli, as you get things back to normal operations and get the mission completely re-established. I wish you all success in that and in providing that service to Canadians in Libya as well as to Libyans who are interested in the role that Canada has played.
General Vance, again, share our gratitude and congratulations on the success so far in the mission, Mission Mobile, definitely with General Bouchard but also with all members of our armed services, who again have made us all very proud by the way they've conducted themselves with professionalism, in our great military history that Canada has enjoyed. They've emulated that with all the diplomacy and professionalism that we know they always have.
To all the other witnesses here, thank you very much for taking the time to come here and brief us. We really appreciate having that information so that we can be properly informed as we go forward in policy-making.
With that, I will adjourn the meeting.