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Canada and UN Peacekeeping Update

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In both the Liberal platform during the recent federal election and in the more recent speech from the throne, the current government committed rather vaguely to “renew Canada’s commitment” to United Nations peacekeeping.

As it currently stands, with the end of Canada’s all-too-brief deployment to the peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Canada has 49 peacekeepers, ranking 72nd amongst contributing countries.

Of the 49 Canadian peacekeepers, there are 20 police, 29 military staff officers and experts, and no troops spread over six missions (in Mali, Haiti, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (Middle East), and Cyprus).

This minimal peacekeeping presence may harm Canada’s bid for one of the rotating Security Council seats. The two-year seat on the Security Council would begin in 2021. Canada is a member of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) of states. Two seats in the WEOG group become available every two years.

WFMC President Dr Walter Dorn said in a recent article, that Canada’s bid will be a hard sell. “We can’t make a case that we’re a contributor to the UN’s work in peace and security if we don’t have the boots on the ground and a major presence in peacekeeping.”

WFMC’s campaign Canadians for Peacekeeping ( tracks Canada’s personnel commitments to UN peace operations on a monthly basis, along with analysis from Dorn. During the previous government, a number of promises and pledges were made. Specifically:

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).

At the moment, the nature of the Canadian government’s plans to renew their peacekeeping commitment is unknown. Further details will presumably become available when the ministers’ mandate letters are made public.

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.

As part of that campaign, an annual fact sheet summarizing Canada’s participation in UN peacekeeping within the global context is produced in August to coincide with Canada’s National Day for Peacekeepers. It can be found at the Canadians for Peacekeeping website (

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