A St. Albert man was scheduled to return home last night after a harrowing few weeks in Libya.
Violent protests continued in the African nation of Libya as leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi continued his bloody crackdown on opponents to his rule.
About 255 Canadians had fled the country as of this week, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs, most aboard allied ships and planes. About 24 Canadians left last weekend aboard a Canadian C-17 military jet.
St. Albert resident Grant Cathrea was set to land in Edmonton Tuesday night after this edition went to press. Grant, a power engineer, had been trapped along with hundreds of co-workers in a walled compound near the city of Benghazi.
Nada Cathrea, Grant's wife, said he had called her Monday morning to say he had left Libya by ferry and arrived in Malta and was to board a flight for Canada.
"He's out of Malta and on his way home," she said.
Nada said she was extremely relieved to hear he was safe. "I can't even find the words to explain it."
Edmonton-St. Albert member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber said he was also relieved to hear the news. "I can't imagine the stress that was occasioned by him and his family," he said by phone from Washington, D.C.
Garth Campbell, a friend of Grant's from Saskatoon, said in an email he was very happy to hear of his return. "We all wait now for Grant to get his butt home."
Action and criticism
Rathgeber said he was shocked and chagrined by Gadhafi's actions in Libya. "Anytime a government fires on its own citizens, that's an unbelievably offensive and reprehensible act."
Canada and the United Nations have imposed sanctions on Gadhafi to press an end to the violence, Rathgeber said. They include an arms embargo, inspections of all cargo going into Libya, a travel ban on Gadhafi and 15 of his associates and an asset freeze on Gadhafi and his family. Canada has also banned all financial transactions with the Libyan government and frozen its assets.
Gadhafi is a "highly volatile" individual, Rathgeber said, so there's no way to know if these sanctions will work. "There doesn't appear to be an appetite for military intervention yet," he said, but the U.S. has moved navy and air force units to the area. Canada would not send troops into Libya without UN authorization, he added.
Campbell criticized the government's efforts to get Canadians back home, calling the foreign affairs department "incompetent and flawed."
"Grant and his team had to rely on themselves and fellow co-workers to get onto a ferry to Malta," he said. "They received no help whatsoever from our federal government."
Canada now has two C-17 transports in Malta to aid in the evacuation, Rathgeber said, with two smaller C-130J Hercules planes on the way. "The first priority of our government was and is to provide for the safety of our citizens and get all Canadians out."
Nada said she hopes all Canadians still in Libya would get home safely. "I want everyone else to get that same phone call I got."