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Mondial Summer 2020: Canada’s support for UN peace operations falls far short of government commitments

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The Canada and UN Peacekeeping 2020 update, released each year on August 9 by WFMC, demonstrates that the number of Canadian peacekeepers has reached historically low levels.

Canadian contributions of military and police personnel are at historic lows, with only 34 individuals (24 military and 10 police) deployed to UN operations as of June 30, 2020.

According to WFMC President, Dr Walter Dorn, “This year’s numbers are particularly disappointing. Canadians were told that this country would do more, not less to support UN peace operations. When it comes to deploying boots on the ground, we’re just not seeing promises being kept.”

Contributions from countries like Canada with advanced military and logistics capabilities are much needed to increase the UN’s operational effectiveness. However, in recent years Canada has provided only a small and diminishing presence in UN missions. Aside from the departing air force contribution to Mali, the Canadian military contributes a total of only 23 personnel (7 to D.R. Congo, 1 to Cyprus, 11 to South Sudan and 4 to the Middle East).

Canada has fallen from being the single largest contributor of UN peacekeepers, a position it held until 1992, to 80th position today with 34 total personnel currently deployed.

There are 8 Canadian women deployed as peacekeepers. While small in number, this does set an example in the percentage of women deployed (23%). Noteworthy also are some programs to support other nations’ women in peacekeeping that are finally being implemented, especially the much touted Elsie Initiative.

One bright spot is the renewal of Canada’s provision of a C-130 military transport aircraft to the UN for a second year, from August 1, 2020 to July 31, 2021. Canada’s C-130 will be based at Entebbe, Uganda and will service multiple UN peace operations.

“This is a positive development,” says Dorn. “However, Canada can and should do more. Ideally, Canada would make a renewed commitment of military and police personnel in Mali. We left after only a year, while three-year rotations are more common practice for UN troop contributors.”

In recent years Canada has made political commitments that have been only partly fulfilled.

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 dedicated to in-creasing 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 December 2019 Mandate Letter from Prime Minister Trudeau to Harjit Sajjan tasked the Defence Minister to “Work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to expand Canada’s support for United Nations peace operations, including with respect to new investments in the women, peace and security agenda, conflict prevention and peacebuilding.”

The Trudeau government has sought to be a leader in the deployment, training and support of UN peacekeepers. But this has not been achieved. Much needs to be done for Canada to become once again a leader and a prolific peacekeeper.

This article draws on material from the Canadians for UN Peacekeeping campaign (, including the 2020 update of the Canada & UN Peacekeeping fact sheet and recent press releases.

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