02.21.2011 08:50 AM

On Libya

More than once in recent days, I have wondered why Paul Martin Jr., as Prime Minister, lavished so much attention on Muammar Gaddafi. Then, as now, Gaddafi was an an anti-Semite, a serial abuser of human rights, and a funder of terrorism.  Incensed by Martin’s decision to travel to Libya, I wrote the column below for the Post, asking why the Hell a Canadian Prime Minister had decided to give legitimacy to a dictator (and particularly since his regime killed a Southam News reporter, and was never called to account for it).

Anyway – Martin has been gone for years, but Gaddafi remains.  I don’t know what will be the outcome of current events – and, unlike a few of the current crop of instant-experts, I’ve even written a book about Libya – but one thing I do know: our collective cosying-up to Gaddafi helped him maintain his grip on power.  We bear some responsibility, indirectly or otherwise, for the carnage now taking place in the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

The column:

Questions for Muammar Gaddafi

by Warren Kinsella, National Post, 16 December 2004

Sometime after midnight on April 14, 1987, the body of a young Canadian man slammed into the pavement outside the entrance to the Zanzour Tourist Village in Tripoli, Libya. When found by a member of the hotel’s night staff around 6 a.m., the man was clearly dead.

The death, Canadians would later agree, was an outrage. Many believe it was murder. The bright young man was a reporter — an employee of Southam News, the news organization that preceded CanWest. And the reporter had been asking a lot of questions about Libyan support for terrorism. His name was Christoph Halens. He was only 32 years old.

The circumstances of Halens’ demise remain unresolved despite the passage of more than 17 years. Also unresolved are questions surrounding the enthusiastic support of the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi for a plethora of terrorist and extremist organizations in the years before and after Halens’s death.

Despite all this, Prime Minister Paul Martin plans to travel to Libya this week, following the trail of a number of other world leaders, to cozy up with Gaddafi. Why?

Halens was sent to Libya in 1987 to report on a “peace conference” sponsored by Gaddafi’s rogue regime. The Southam reporter discovered that invitees included representatives from the Irish Republican Army; the PLO; Canadian, British and American neo-Nazis, such as the Nationalist Party and the National Front; virulent anti-Semitic black nationalist organizations, such as the Nation of Islam; the American Indian Movement; and, oddly, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Prior to the conference, the Libyan regime had more or less openly provided millions of dollars in support to an equally diverse cast of murderers, among them the Basque separatist movement, Germany’s Red Army Faction, the Abu Nidal organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Japanese Red Army and Black September. Even when a world oil glut pushed down Libya‘s annual petroleum revenues, Gaddafi boasted in November 1986: “We have increased our support … for all liberation movements throughout the world.”

According to the RCMP, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Department and Southam News, which conducted a rigorous investigation into the death of their employee, Halens raised the ire of the Libyan secret police when he started asking questions about Gaddafi’s involvement with neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and terrorists. (The notebooks Halens had been using all that week in Tripoli were never found.) He was murdered for doing his job as a journalist, in other words. That, certainly, is the view of his family, friends and colleagues.

Following an autopsy in Libya, Tripoli’s deputy district attorney responded to Canadian pressure by declaring that Halens had been “suffering from a psychological illness,” and therefore threw himself off the roof of the Zanzour Tourist Village. To its initial credit, the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney did not accept that absurd conclusion. The former secretary of state for external affairs, Joe Clark, told the House of Commons that the government was prepared to conduct a second autopsy. But eventually, Halens’ death slipped from the headlines and the government priority list. The mystery remains unsolved.

This would be a perfect time for Mr. Martin to demand the facts surrounding Halens’ death. But as far as any of us know, the issue does not form any part of the Prime Minister’s agenda. When asked about the purpose of the trip, one of Mr. Martin‘s chief spokesmen stated: “Given that he’s in the region, he wanted to meet with Gaddafi, as have so many other world leaders recently.”

Is that all it takes? We happen to be in the neighbourhood and decided to pop by? That’s not good enough.

If Canada is to enhance its stature in the international community as a defender of human rights, it should start by standing up for its own citizens. Mr. Martin must demand a full and frank accounting not only of Halens’ death, but also of the issue that brought him to Libya: the country’s support for terrorism and extremism.

Christoph Halens and his fellow Canadian citizens deserve at least that much.

[Warren Kinsella is a former Liberal party advisor and the author of a book investigating the death of Christoph Halens: Unholy Alliances: Terrorists, Extremists and the Libyan Connection in Canada.]


  1. allegra fortissima says:

    Have Tent, Will Bargain:


    Latest souq bargain: Double Salaries, Calm Protests

  2. Michael Slavitch says:

    This may explain why Dithers visited:


  3. bigcitylib says:

    If Martin hadn’t existed, JC would be celebrating his 8th majority gov.

    Just saying.

  4. Brian says:

    I’m repelled by events in Libya, just as I’ve been repelled by authoritarian and corrupt regimes across Arabia and in Iran generally for many years.

    However, I’m not real clear on what people mean when they say “we” – the west – should be doing more at this stage. Angry letters and speeches? Boycotts? Assassination squads? Military intervention? Economic destabilization? Pre-emptive withdrawal of recognition of governments? No fly zones? Withdrawal of aid?

    I’d support some of those actions under certain circumstances, but then, I’d be willing to live with the consequences. I’m not sure most of those demanding that our government(s) “do something” have even thought of the consequences.

    Just curious.

    • smelter rat says:

      How about a few words of encouragement for the people of these oppressed countries? Failure to speak out, at the very least, leaves the impression that the western leaders are a lot more beholden to their corporate masters than they are to those who have a boot on their neck.

      • Brian says:

        Sure, I don’t object to that, obviously. But the first thing we’ll hear after those words are spoken is, “speeches are useless – we want action.” We’re already hearing that from some quarters, but the desired action is rarely specified.

  5. publius says:

    Can you write a column about Paul Martin Jr.’s relationship with China? What could have motivated this relationship with the regime there (other than business with Maurice Strong). Sorry to see that Ignatieff has also been taking advise from Martin loyalists such as Strong and Martin’s former EA, during his visit there last year. What about the Chinese people who aspire for freedom? Does the Liberal party care?

  6. OMG! Is that Ozzy Osbourne on the right? Then that must be the Biebster on the left!

  7. MontrealElite says:

    More importantly, why wasn’t Harper at the Winter Classic? In Alberta no less.

  8. Iris Mclean says:

    Might be a bit off topic, but Paul Martin sure is a is a hard duck to figure out. In the nineties while in opposition, he co-authored ?Finding Room: Housing Solutions for the Future?, and he railed against the Mulroney government for cutting the funding of the National Housing Program by 50%. Once in power a few years later, he killed the rest of the funding! Since he?s been out of politics, he seems to have once again become concerned with the plight of the destitute and homeless. I don?t get it.

    • Namesake says:

      yeah, I was hoping he’d be more like his namesake once he finally attained the power he’d coveted so long; instead, the child beshamed the father of the man.

  9. sunn says:


    Khomani came with help of 3 men

    Dr. yazdi now arrested In iran
    Gotbzadeh executed in first year in Iran by Khomeini
    Bani Sadr exile in France

    Is west bring in and out people in power in middle east

    do west still behind all in and out for oil and /or is that people who really wanted revolution in their country

    this is confusing for me to know

  10. Sean says:

    Paul Martin met with Gaddafi because his brains are made of cement.

  11. Philip says:

    It looks like Muammar Gaddafi’s in his last gays as ruer of Libya. The Army has mutinied, or more accurately certain units have joined the protesters and the rest haven’t left barracks. Even elements of the Air Force, usually the most cosseted and loyal elements of a regime like this, have upped sticks. As for the rest of the Air Force, by the time you are indiscriminately dropping ordnance on your own, the game is pretty much finished.

  12. M-J says:

    Yes, thank God other prime ministers, like the sainted Johnny C, never cozied up to dictators to advance Canadian corporate interests.

  13. JT says:

    Alberta’s tar sands are looking better every day.

  14. Dave says:

    Didn’t Libya promise to destroy all their non-conventional weapons (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in December of 2003 which facilitated visits from leaders around the world to promote other countries in doing the same? What would be the point of eliminating your WMD’s if everyone continued to sanction you and keep you as an enemy?

    In 2006 GW Bush removed Libya as a ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained that this was due to “…Libya’s continued commitment to its renunciation of terrorism,”

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