November 15, 2017 12:38 pm
Updated: November 15, 2017 3:37 pm

Few new details on Canada’s fresh approach to peacekeeping

WATCH ABOVE: Canada offers aircraft, trainers to UN peacekeeping efforts


The Canadian government has unveiled new details of its planned approach to international peacekeeping missions in the coming years, but once again the announcement is short on specifics.

Officials provided an update on Wednesday in Vancouver, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and others are meeting as part of a two-day peacekeeping summit.

Trudeau confirmed those details in a speech to the assembled delegates.

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What’s new?

Canada is prepared to offer up to 200 rapid-response ground troops and a separate cohort of military trainers for future United Nations peacekeeping operations. They could be deployed for periods of up to 12 months on an as-needed basis.

In addition to the manpower, the military is promising to provide Canadian tactical aircraft, cargo planes and helicopters for unspecified missions.

“The traditional approach to peacekeeping has focused on where,” said one official speaking on background. “The emphasis now is on how we’re engaged, not where we’re engaged.”

READ MORE: Canada’s dwindling peacekeeping role in the world

The prime minister said Canada will be fulfilling its original commitment to make available up to 600 Canadian Armed Forces personnel for possible deployment to a variety of UN peace operations. It will just be done over time, he said, “through a series of smart pledges.”

“This is the best way for Canada to help, and it offers the greatest chance of success,” Trudeau said.

The other big component of Wednesday’s announcement was tied to the role of female peacekeepers around the globe. Canada is setting aside $15 million for the creation of a new “trust fund” to provide resources and support for other countries that may wish to increase the participation of women in their peacekeeping efforts.

WATCH: Trudeau says Canada must be flexible to meet modern UN peacekeeping needs

Another $6 million will be funnelled to through United Nations to help bolster infrastructure and expertise that, again, is aimed at maximizing the deployment of female peacekeepers on various missions.

The presence of women in the field has, officials explained, been shown to reduce incidents involving sexual violence and increase the reporting of such incidents to authorities.

“Women bring a unique and valuable perspective to conflict resolution,” Trudeau said, calling it a “smart, practical pathway to peace.”

READ MORE: Peacekeeping numbers reach 35-year low under Trudeau Liberals

Canada is also looking into the possibility of helping out at UN peacekeeping training centres, officials said. Right now there are three such centres – in Ghana, Uganda and Kenya – and Canada could assist at one or all of them.

What about specific missions?

The government has still not firmly committed itself to any one country or mission, in spite of Sajjan’s two recent fact-finding trips to the African nation of Mali.

Canada is still in talks with the UN on Mali, but a decision is potentially months away. Canada and the UN have only just started what could be six to nine months of discussions about when and where capabilities are needed.

READ MORE: Canada’s allies growing impatient for government’s decision on peacekeeping 

Trudeau did confirm Wednesday that a C-130 transport plane and necessary support staff would be stationed specifically in the Ugandan town of Entebbe to assist in deploying UN resources.

Approach is ‘condescending’: former soldier

This latest announcement was short on other firm details, which may come as a surprise to observers who had been expecting more.

Retired Major General Lewis Mackenzie, who commanded UN missions in Central America and the former Yugoslavia, called the government’s approach “condescending” in an interview with Global National’s Dawna Friesen.

“It was almost like talking down to the UN and saying, ‘’You haven’t really been doing this peacekeeping thing right … but we’re going to help you do it better.'”

MacKenzie said he sees this resulting in “penny packeting deployment” of Canadian troops. The notion that Canada could deploy a rapid-response team of soldiers on any UN mission is also laughable, he added.

“With the approval of the United Nations, quick reaction is an oxymoron. It just doesn’t happen … if we go, we should have a formed battle group – a formed battalion or whatever you want to call it – of around one thousand plus, that can look after themselves.”

Canada used to be the largest contributor to peacekeeping in the 1990s, with thousands of “blue helmets” deployed around the world. Last month, the number of Canadian police officers and soldiers on peacekeeping duty was just 62.

– With files from the Canadian Press and Robin Gill

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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