Ministerial Statement on Evacuation of Canadian Citizens from Libya: Thursday, February 24

(No. 81 - February 24, 2011 - 7:50 p.m. ET) The following is a verbatim transcript of a statement by the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered in Rome, Italy, on Thursday, February 24, 2011:

"As you know the situation in Libya is very quickly changing and continues to become more dangerous. We continue to call on the Libyan authorities to cease the use of force and the outrageous abuses against civilians. As the situation remains volatile, our first and foremost priority is the safety of Canadians.

"Earlier today the scheduled evacuation flight from Tripoli to Rome was cancelled by the charter operator for security reasons. However, we have made alternative arrangements. Our goal is to get Canadians out. Safely. By any means possible.

"To achieve this we are coordinating with our allies to get Canadian citizens out. We are doing everything possible to ensure that we can get Canadian and chartered aircraft in to make that happen. And we are in constant contact with our international counterparts to make sure we are sharing resources and helping each other.

"We have arranged for the evacuation of Canadians on a number of flights and boats chartered by allies such as the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States. My officials tell me that nearly 200 Canadians have been, or are about to be, safely evacuated. I am told that this would include all or virtually all Canadians who have been waiting at the airport in Tripoli today.

"In terms of next steps, our government has diverted a C-17 aircraft to assist with this evacuation. This C-17 can carry 156 Canadians to safety. It will soon be en route from Germany to Rome. It will then depart for Tripoli as soon as possible, provided Libyan authorities grant clearance to land. My officials have informed me that Canada has also contracted a charter flight out of Amman, Jordan, that we expect to arrive in Tripoli in the early hours of Friday morning.

"Additionally, I have requested that the aircraft to be used by the Governor General tomorrow on his trip to Kuwait be on standby for departure to Tripoli in the event it is needed. He has graciously accepted.

"I have personally been in contact with my Italian, French, British and American counterparts to discuss the situation and further steps. I will also take part in the UN conference that will be held in Geneva to assess the ongoing events in Libya.

"We strongly urge all Canadians to leave Libya. In order to expedite evacuation arrangements, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada will be calling all Canadian citizens currently registered in Libya to inquire about their travel intentions. We strongly recommend that Canadian citizens currently in Libya register to receive the latest advice from the Canadian embassy in Tripoli.

"The number of Canadians registered with us who have expressed their intention to leave Libya currently stands at 213.

"Canadian citizens in Libya requiring emergency consular assistance or wanting to leave Libya should contact the Canadian embassy in Tripoli at 218 (21) 335-1633 (dial 011 from Canada), or call Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s Emergency Operations Centre at 613-996-8885. They may also send an email to sos@international.gc.ca.

"Friends and relatives in Canada seeking information on Canadian citizens believed to be in Libya should contact the Emergency Operations Centre by calling 1-800-387-3124. They may also send an email to sos@international.gc.ca.

"Canadians in Libya are advised to avoid all gatherings and demonstrations and to stay away from places where they may occur.

"I want to take this opportunity to urge all Canadians in countries across the region to register with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, so that we know you are there. Develop personal departure plans so that you know how you and your family will get home if circumstances change. I also ask you to assess whether you need to remain in the region at this time."

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Lynn Meahan
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
613-995-1851

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874
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