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Canada and Peacekeeping -- a diplomatic train wreck ahead?

Canadian and Philippine UNPOL Officers support Haitian National Police Officers at a check point in Port au Prince / UN Photo

On August 9 (National Peacekeepers’ Day) WFM – Canada will release the 2017 version of its fact sheet on Canada and UN peacekeeping. WFMC has published these annual updates for the last ten years, a time when Canada’s contributions to UN peace operations have been lamentably low.

Promoting Canada’s return to peacekeeping was a difficult struggle during the years of the Harper governments. But following the 2015 election, Justin Trudeau proudly declared that “Canada is back” on the international stage. A signature activity of his government was to “renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations,” as the new Prime Minister stated in the mandate letter to his Defence Minister a few weeks later.

But Canada’s promise to contribute more troops to peacekeeping has not materialized — to the disappointment of many at the UN.

According to Prof. Walter Dorn, National President of the World Federalist Movement – Canada, “Unfortunately, the dithering and delay by Canada is harming our reputation at the UN.” Dorn, a faculty member at Canada’s Royal Military College, is on leave to work in New York. He is helping the United Nations implement the recommendations from the UN Expert Panel on Technology and Innovation in Peace Operations, on which he served.

In recent years international Defence Ministerial Meetings have been convened, in part to encourage governments to contribute additional personnel in support of UN peace operations. Soon after the 2016 Ministerial meeting in London Canada announced that it would contribute up to 600 military personnel, 150 police and $450 million to UN peace operations – a pledge that led to Canada’s hosting the 2017 meeting, scheduled for November 14-15 in Vancouver.

Canada’s Department of National Defence expects upwards of 500 delegates from 70 countries to attend that pledging conference. Yet a renewed commitment of Canadian personnel to UN peace operations is as far off as ever.

Will this government, finally, make good on its promises to re-engage in UN peace operations? Or will Canada, a country that has aspirations of being elected to a two-year term on the UN Security Council, stand before the world in November hosting a peacekeeping pledging conference while reneging on its own pledges?

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