As of the end of May 2019, there are 190 Canadian uniformed personnel currently deployed on United Nations peacekeeping missions.
Currently, Canada’s largest single peacekeeping deployment is to MINUSMA, in Mali, with 165 personnel. This is scheduled to end July 31st, 2019. The Canadian defence department frequently states that the number deployed in Mali is “approximately 250 personnel.” The difference of between UN and Canadian statistics arises because Canada deploys more personnel than the UN pays for — the UN has standards for the number of deployed for a given function that are lower than what Canada deemed was required. The additional Canadian personnel are considered part of a “National Support Element” (NSE), which is not reimbursed, though these personnel still wear UN insignia and are incorporated into the mission as part of the regular UN chain of command.
The UN Department of Peace Operations had requested that Canada’s air task force remain in Mali a few months longer, until replacement personnel from Romania arrive in October 2019. But, controversially, Canada has declined to extend its task force participation in the mission.
WFMC President Walter Dorn says, “Canada’s one-year deployment in Mali was shorter than most. A two or three-year deployment is what usually occurs. It’s difficult to see why Canada couldn’t have remained in support of the mission for a few more months.”
Dorn continues, “In the spring of 2018, the Canadian government billed the Mali deployment as a ‘smart pledge,’ which means providing the UN continuous service in coordination with other governments to remove any UN gaps. But Canada is not filling the gap, despite the Canadian Forces having the ability to do so. So, for the government this turns out to be not an example of smart pledging, but to apply the analogy, an example of rather dumb pledging.”
According to WFMC Executive Director Fergus Watt, “Minister Freeland’s public explanation for the decision is far from convincing.” As reported in the Canadian Press, Freeland stressed the importance for Canada “To keep our word to Canadians. To keep our word to the UN. To keep our word to partners around the world. To keep our word to Mali.”
“In fact, the record of this government has more often than not been one of not living up to its public commitments to UN peacekeeping,” says Watt.
When Canada’s role in Mali comes to an end in August, there will be only 46 Canadian peacekeepers deployed overseas (19 military and 27 police). Prior to the mission in Mali, the number of Canadian peacekeepers had dwindled to the lowest level (40) since Canada proposed the first peacekeeping force in 1956.
WFMC’s campaign Canadians for Peacekeeping (peacekeepingcanada.com) tracks Canada’s personnel commitments to UN peace operations. For the record:
- Upon election in 2015 Justin Trudeau promised that Canada would re-engage in UN peacekeeping. The Prime Minister gave explicit instructions to this effect in Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s Mandate Letter.
- At the September 2016 Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting in London, Canada announced new personnel pledges (“up to” 600 military and 150 police).
- At the November 2017 Ministerial Meeting held in Vancouver the Prime Minister specified the nature of the previous pledges. The 2017 commitments included training and a new project, the Elsie Initiative, dedicated to increasing women’s participation in peace operations.
- In March 2018 Defence Minister Sajjan announced a commitment to deploy an Aviation Task Force to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The Canadians for Peacekeeping campaign calls upon the Government of Canada to live up to its pledges. It seeks to educate and mobilize Canadians so that Canada can contribute to the improved effectiveness of United Nations peace operations.