With Mali over, Canada's peacekeeping contribution returns to historic lows

OTTAWA — Canada's contribution to peacekeeping has returned to historic lows following the end of its mission in Mali, sparking fresh allegations of hypocrisy and concerns about the country's bid for a Security Council seat at the United Nations.

UN figures show there were 49 Canadian military and police officers deployed on peacekeeping operations at the end of September, which represented a steep decline from the previous month's total of 128.

The drop coincided with the conclusion of Canada's mission in Mali, where Canadian helicopter crews had been providing emergency medical evacuations and logistical support since August 2018.

The result? Canada had just nine more uniformed members deployed with the UN than the 40 who were active in May 2018, which is considered the smallest number since 1956.

There were 29 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and 20 police officers deployed on missions as of Sept. 30.

The UN figures do not include the 20 members of the Canadian Forces whose transport plane has been helping move troops and equipment on occasion from a UN base in Uganda to peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo since August.

But even by adding those members, who are not tied to the UN but loaned to it for up to five days a month, the number of Canadian military and police officers on peacekeeping missions remains less than half what Canada had when the Trudeau Liberals came to power in 2015.

Ironically, the Liberals promised at that time to refocus on UN peacekeeping — a pledge they repeated during the fall campaign without any details.

"We will renew Canada's commitment to peacekeeping efforts, and use the expertise of our Armed Forces to help others prepare for climate-related disasters," reads the Liberal party's 2019 election platform.

"Peace operations around the world give help and hope to millions of people affected by conflicts — and they serve Canada's interests, too. A more peaceful world is a safer and more prosperous place for everyone."

The UN's figures once again show the Liberal government is being hypocritical when it comes to showcasing their promises on peacekeeping, said Walter Dorn, a professor at the Canadian Forces College and one of Canada's leading experts on peacekeeping.

And he warned Canada's failure to step up on peacekeeping will ultimately hurt its bid to win a Security Council seat next year, because the UN Charter says that is one factor members are supposed to consider when choosing who should get the seat.

"It's actually in the UN Charter for the rotating members that their contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security will be taken into account," Dorn said.

"And we can't make a case we're a contributor to the UN's work in peace and security if we don't have the boots in the ground and a major presence in peacekeeping."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 27, 2019.

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Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version said there were 41 Canadian peacekeepers at the end of September.