Canada may participate in a peacekeeping mission this year

Trudeau with an honour guard arriving in Ukraine last year / Adrian Wyld (The Canadian Press)

Canada might participate in international peacekeeping operations in 2017, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Canada may contribute boots on the ground the same year it prepares to host a gathering of peacekeeping nations.

This comes after the United Nations, under-secretary-general for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous, admonished Canada for failing to live up to peacekeeping promises. The UN is still waiting “to see the concrete result” of Canada’s announced contributions, said Ladsous.

Over a year ago, Trudeau promised that he would “restore Canada’s voice and leadership role at the UN.”

“I am very much excited by such a strong commitment [from] Prime Minister Trudeau,” responded then-secretary general Ban Ki-moon.

While Canada currently has 121 police and military members deployed in peacekeeping operations around the globe, Trudeau vowed to raise that number to 600 troops and 150 police officers, a $450 million commitment. The UN has not yet seen Canada make good on that promise.

Both Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan recently suggested that the delay in peacekeeping contributions is due to the particularly dangerous list of potential conflicts at the moment.

“We have a difficult history in Africa as peace-keepers, and we need to make sure that when we embark on any mission, military mission, we make the right kind of impact we’re going to have on the ground and on Canadians,” said Trudeau in reference to both the Rwandan genocide, and Canada’s catastrophic 1993 peacekeeping mission to Somalia, which saw two Canadian soldiers torture and kill a Somali teenager.

“That’s a decision we’re not going to fast-track,” continued Trudeau. “We’re making it responsibly and thoughtfully.”

When asked if it was fair to expect no soldiers on the ground this year, the prime minister responded that he “wouldn’t draw that conclusion.”

While the government was originally preparing to announce an official peacekeeping contribution late last year, in keeping with their objective of securing a UN security council seat by 2021, this was halted after the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The Liberals wanted to ensure they understood what the U.S. expects out of the Canadian military before moving forward with peacekeeping commitments. This is an area clouded with uncertainty, especially with reports of Trump’s administration seeking to scale back its UN funding and contributions to peacekeeping operations, which greatly aid the deployments of other nations.

The defence minister has already conducted research trips to various states in Africa, working with governments and international organizations to best decide where Canada should devote its peacekeeping resources.

“We’re looking at all missions with the United Nations,” said Sajjan. “The United Nations obviously has a lot of missions in Africa, but they also have missions in other parts of the world as well.”

Ultimately, with the confusion and uncertainty surrounding Canada’s closest ally, the government has decided to remain cautious, waiting for more information before committing troops and resources to one of the world’s many bloody conflicts.

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