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TakeAction: Canada's commitment to UN peacekeeping

Peacekeeping in Mali

Senegalese peacekeepers from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) peak with Malians during a sport event organized by the Outreach Unit to promote peace among the youth. UN Photo/Marco Dormino

In an article in the December 2016 edition of Mondial, WFMC President Walter Dorn and Board member Sylvain Paquet discuss the delays that have plagued the government of Canada’s return to United Nations peacekeeping.

“Where is Canada?” they ask. “It has not yet deployed new forces in UN-mandated peace operations … Even now, more than one year after the election, Canada’s involvement in UN operations remains at an all-time low.”

Canada currently provides only 27 military personnel among the 88,000 in UN service. And the military now has fewer teaching activities on peacekeeping than it did a decade ago, even though Canada was once a world leader in that sphere. (See WFMC’s Canada and UN Peacekeeping fact sheet for 2016 for further details.)

In August, the Canadian government pledged to provide on a continuing basis up to 600 troops and up to 150 police for UN peace operations. This illustrates a welcome willingness to assume more leadership on the international scene for security and the reconstruction of war-torn societies. But this willingness has yet to move beyond rhetoric to action. We are still waiting for initiatives to take shape.

The gap between what the politicians promise and what the government actually delivers reflects an entrenched preference. Both academic experts and the Department of National Defence have a preference for Canada’s military to be involved in operations other than UN peacekeeping. Since the 2015 election, while we wait for Canada to live up to its commitments to UN peacekeeping, Canada has re-structured and ramped up its combat commitment in Iraq and initiated a large NATO deployment to Latvia.

In addition to the long-awaited peacekeeping deployment in Africa, there are other peacekeeping commitments that are backlogged at the Defence Ministry.

1) Canada promised last summer to host a global peacekeeping summit in 2017. But planning has barely started and a date for this Ministerial Summit has not yet been announced.

2) The mandate given to the Minister of National Defence following the 2015 election calls for Canada to “lead an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations.” To date, no announcement on peacekeeping training has been made.

What you can do

Write to Prime Minister Trudeau, copying Defence Minister Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland, to express the need for the government to live up to its rhetoric on UN peacekeeping.

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