OTTAWA – The Liberal government will officially put the United Nations on notice Friday that Canada is ready to jump back into peacekeeping by promising to provide money, troops and police officers for the cause.
The Canadian Press has learned that the much-anticipated announcement, which will be made at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville in Quebec, will not include signing onto a specific UN mission.
Rather, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan are expected to announce that Canada is making hundreds of troops available for future peacekeeping operations, as well as more than 100 police officers and military helicopters and planes. Specific missions will be chosen later.
The ministers are also expected to announce that Canada will contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to a new peace operations fund that will put a heavy emphasis on protecting civilians. Canada will also work to improve the UN’s ability to detect and prevent conflicts before they occur.
The commitments come in advance of a major peacekeeping summit in London early next month. Countries are required to make a tangible pledge in order to attend. Canada did not attend last year’s summit in Washington, which was organized by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Liberals promised during last year’s election campaign to return Canada to peacekeeping after more than a decade of dwindling participation. But the government had provided few details on its plans, even as it has expanded Canada’s military mission in Iraq and committed to lead a NATO force in Latvia.
There were 103 Canadians deployed on peacekeeping operations at the end of the July, including 75 police officers, nine military experts and 19 troops, according to the UN. Canada ranked 67th out of 121 contributing countries, between Paraguay and Romania.
Speculation has been rife that the government is eyeing a possible Canadian peacekeeping mission in Mali or the Central African Republic. The Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan are also seen as possibilities, after Sajjan led a recent fact-finding mission to East Africa earlier this month.
However, all four represent complex and dangerous environments with no easy solutions. In Mali, for example, 86 peacekeepers have been killed since April 2013. The UN missions in the DRC and South Sudan, meanwhile, have been accused of not doing enough to protect civilians.
Some have questioned the Liberal government’s emphasis on peacekeeping given that many UN missions involve dealing with terrorist groups and other non-state actors.
In an op-ed published in the Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya on Thursday, Sajjan acknowledged that peacekeeping has changed over the years. He emphasized the need to look at new solutions as well as prevent conflict before it erupts.
“We must aim to avert crises before they reach a point that requires military intervention,” Sajjan wrote.
“We must be willing to use the full spectrum of resources at our disposal – not just military force, but also trade and development. To do this we must understand not just the conflict in the country, but the dynamic in the region, and work together, as partners in peace.”
Sajjan has also previously indicated that Canada’s efforts in Africa will not be restricted to one country, as many conflicts transcend borders.
– with additional reporting from Joanna Smith in Saguenay, Que.