On Tuesday June 6, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered an address in Parliament on Canada’s foreign policy priorities. And the following day, National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjin released the results of the long-awaited Canada’s Defence Policy Review.
As we have previously noted, following the 2015 election there were reasonable expectations that Canada would return to providing significant contributions to UN peace operations. After all, the Liberals had campaigned on “restoring Canada’s place in the world” and Prime Minister Trudeau announced that “Canada is back” when he went to UN headquarters in New York.
Consequently, the Prime Minister’s “mandate letter” to Defence Minister Sajjan included instructions to “work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations.”
So where are we now?
Dr. Walter Dorn, National President of the World Federalist Movement–Canada, said that “the foreign policy speech and defence review announcement were clear opportunities for the Liberals to concretely deliver on their promise to increase support to UN peacekeeping. But we still have no specifics on the peacekeeping commitments.”
“There are plenty of references to UN peacekeeping in Canada’s new defence policy, which is welcome. But there isn’t much more detail than what was proposed in the Defence Minister’s 2015 mandate letter. The details of our peacekeeping plan – the who, when, where and how – are still missing in action,” Dr Dorn continued. “In fact, Canada is now at an all-time low in military contributions to UN peacekeeping. The Canadian military provides only 23 military personnel. That’s less than half of the average that the Conservative government contributed over its ten year term. This needs to change if Canada is truly committed to becoming the prolific peacekeepers once again. And to gain a seat on the UN Security Council, Canada needs to show that it is pulling its weight in support of multilateralism and global peace.”
The Government of Canada announced in August 2016 that it would provide up to 600 military personnel and 150 police to UN peacekeeping, as well as the establishment of the a new Peace and Stabilization Operations Program and $450 million in funding over three years.”
Despite the pledge to increase support to UN peacekeeping, Canada presently ranks 67th among contributors with a total of 105 personnel deployed in the field. (UN figures as of 30 April 2017.) The current figures are an all-time low in terms of Canada’s historical contributions to UN peacekeeping.
Canada will host the 2017 Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in Vancouver in November. The Department of National Defence anticipates over 500 delegates from 80 countries will attend the conference in November, which will focus on improving four “Ps” of peacekeeping – planning, pledges, performance and partnerships. The Ministerial conferences, which have been held annually since 2014, typically require countries to make specific pledges in support of UN peacekeeping in order to secure participation. It would be an embarrassment for Canada to host the conference in November without living up to its commitments.
Foreign Minister Freeland set out the broad contours of Canada’s foreign policy priorities in advance of the release of the Defence Policy Review by the Defence Minister and a forthcoming announcement by Minister for International Cooperation on Canada’s international assistance policy.
Minister Freeland’s speech highlighted that Canada’s foreign policy is underpinned by values that include feminism and the promotion of the rights of women and girls. The Defence Policy also includes a section on Women, Peace and Security, as well as a commitment to “further increasing the representation of women in the military by 1 percent annually towards a goal of 25 percent in 10 years.” As a member of the Women, Peace and Security Network – Canada, WFMC assisted in convening a joint government-civil society consultation on Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security in April 2017. The joint consultation led to the publication of a report on the opportunities for an ambitious new National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.
What you can do
Write to Minister Sajjan and ask him when the details of Canada’s peacekeeping plan – the who, when, where and how — will be announced.