Newly released documents show that the Conservative government launched a trade push just before the end of the war in Libya in 2011 “to ensure a return on our engagement and investment,” Lee Berthiaume reported this week (“Canada made trade push as Gadhafi fled,” Ottawa Citizen, March 19, 2013).
The documents have raised old questions over what role commercial interests played in the decision to launch a military operation in oil-rich Libya, especially given international inaction in Syria.
“I thought we were there to protect civilians and support human rights, not to protect our investments and make sure we win new ones from people who take power after Gadhafi,” said Steve Staples, president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute and a critic of the mission in Libya.
“It undermines the government’s own arguments that we were there to protect civilians from a brutal dictator when they go in so quickly with a trade mission.”
According to the documents obtained by PostMedia News, cabinet approved a plan to support Canadian companies wishing to conduct business in Libya in September 2011. In October 2011, Baird met with senior officials of the rebel government to secure the continuation of contracts with Canadian companies, and to identify “a number of commercial opportunities that will drive Canadian economic activity in Libya” (Lee Berthiaume, “Canada made trade push as Gadhafi fled,” Ottawa Citizen, March 19, 2013).
Baird ended up spending about five hours in Tripoli on Oct. 11, 2011, which included a meeting with senior officials in the rebel government. According to “objectives” prepared for Baird, he was to “build on Canada’s leadership role in the NATO mission” and “highlight Canada’s fast action to ease sanctions.”
That was to “set the foundation to pursue Canadian interests, in particular commercial interests in the new Libya.”
The last objective was to “promote the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law as the best foundations for a stable and prosperous Libya.”
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