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Press release: Canada’s faltering support for UN peace operations


2 April, 2019

Ottawa – The Government of Canada has let down the United Nations once again.

In New York last Friday, at the time of the UN’s 2019 Peacekeeping Ministerial Meeting, Foreign Minister Freeland announced Canada’s decision not to extend its peacekeeping mission in Mali.

Canada’s mission is scheduled to end July 31. The UN Department of Peace Operations had requested that Canada’s deployment remain a few months longer, until replacement personnel from Romania take their place, in October 2019.

“This is very disappointing,” says Walter Dorn, President of the World Federalist Movement – Canada (WFMC). “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.”

“In the spring of 2018, the government billed this as a ‘smart pledge,’ which means the government would deploy strategically, coordinating with other governments smartly 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 is not an example of smart pledging, but 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, to say the least.” The Minister defended the decision to stick to a one-year deployment, citing the importance of Canada keeping its word. As reported in the Canadian Press, she 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.

WFMC maintains a website that 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 additional personnel commitments and funding for UN operations. While the UK government reported a Canadian pledge of up to 600 military personnel, a month earlier, at a Cabinet retreat in Quebec City, the government had also pledged up to 150 police, and a spending commitment of $450 million over three years. These significant new pledges led to Canada becoming host of the 2017 Ministerial Meeting.
  • At the November 2017 Ministerial Meeting held in Vancouver the Prime Minister made additional new pledges. These were presented as part of the existing (and at the time not acted upon) pledges made the previous year in London. The 2017 commitments included training (in Canada and internationally) and a new project (“The Elsie Initiative”) dedicated to increasing the proportions of women deployed in peace operations.
  • On March 19 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 government’s March 2018 announcement described the deployment to Mali as its second “smart pledge” following the Vancouver Ministerial. The first smart pledge, a C-130 Hercules aircraft intended to be based in Entebbe Uganda to provide tactical airlift support to UN operations, has also not been deployed.


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