Canada’s Peacekeeping Pledges:
Dithering and Delay is the Order of the Day
Walter Dorn, 15 November 2017
Original version was published as "Trudeau government’s rhetoric on peacekeeping has priority over action" in the Ottawa Citizen (Defence Watch Guest Writer),15 November 2017.
Despite hosting the largest assembly ever of defence ministers on peacekeeping, the Canadian government is once again letting down the world by further delaying its contribution of forces and enablers to UN peacekeeping. The day before the conference, Trudeau touted that Canada’s pledge at the meeting would provide “maximal positive impact, not just for Canadian contributions but for all peacekeepers.” In the actual announcement in Vancouver, no specific mission or field capability was identified for a concrete contribution in the immediate future. It's all subject to further negotiation with the UN, including the airlift support and the Quick Reaction Force. Even the government’s previous pledge is left uncertain: when will Canada provide up to 600 military personnel and 150 police? This was the benchmark pledge made at the previous ministerial in September 2016. Instead, we are told that discussions have been initiated with UN headquarters to see what arrangements for potential contributions in the future – subject, of course to future governmental approvals, including of the next government. More than half way into the Trudeau government’s mandate his defence minister has yet to re-engage the Canadian Armed Forces in peacekeeping. In fact, on the eve of the ministerial meeting, Canada’s contribution of uniformed personnel – 23 military and 39 police (63 in total, according to the latest UN statistics (pdf)) – has fallen to a 50-year low. The glacial pace of Canadian action makes UN headquarters look like a speeding express train!
In concrete terms, Canada is not adding any troops over previous promises and the increase in funding less than 5% over what was previously allocated. This $21 million is for a worthwhile initiatives – women, peace and security in peace operations – but it is certainly not the promised “maximal contribution” the Prime Minister touted the day before. It is further indication that for the Trudeau government on peacekeeping, rhetoric has priority over action, nice pledging has priority over real impact and flashy photos are more important than saving lives.
Trudeau was right when he said in Manila: “Canadians expect Canada to have a strong and positive contribution that makes a real difference and the world expects Canada to make a significant contribution that makes a difference.” When will Canada, the host of the Vancouver pledging conference, actually deliver on its own pledges and make that difference?
(Note added here afterwards: Another current statistic is that the number of Canadian military women in UN peacekeeping operations is 2.)