Canadian C-17 expected in Mali tomorrow

The Canadian military operation to support the French-led mission in Mali is "going smoothly" and within "expectations," according to officials at the Department of National Defence.

A Canadian C-17 military transport plane has arrived at a base in France and will leave for the Mali capital of Bamako once it is loaded with heavy equipment, according to Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter Mackay.

Paxton told CBC News the plane will likely arrive in Bamko on Thursday and will operate in a non-combat role.

The transport plane left CFB Trenton on Tuesday afternoon, the second aircraft prepared for the mission after the first C-17 experienced a problem with its generator.

Later Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will host the ambassadors of France, Mali and the Ivory Coast at a meeting in Ottawa. Ivory Coast is currently chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is involved in the mission in Mali.

An official within the Foreign Affairs Department told CBC News that Wednesday's meeting is "... very much a listening session" and that the event is "a part of our ongoing monitoring of the situation in Mali since the coup of last March. This is part of the diplomatic efforts alluded to by the prime minister last week."

Part of that diplomatic effort, however, included a browbeating issued Tuesday by the Canadian government through its ambassador in Mali, Louis de Lormier.

Lormier was asked to deliver what is called a démarche — a form of diplomatic protest — to government officials in Mali.

Foreign affairs spokesman Rick Roth explained Tuesday, "We want to encourage [Mali] not to lose sight of, or minimize, the need for Mali to return to democratic and constitutional rule. This means holding elections that are free and fair at the earliest practical opportunity."

The démarche goes further, blaming the security crisis on Mali's government.

"The coup in March 2012 undermined Mali's progress as a democracy and provided Islamist extremists with a window that has had devastating consequences," Roth said.

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