A New Era of Peacekeeping


Prime Minster Trudeau announces new peacekeeping plan for Canada

November 15, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the long-awaited peacekeeping plan for Canada. From now on, Canada will be committing 200 troops and 50 officers to missions deemed in need by the United Nations. These troops will be deployed as a part of a UN rapid reduction team, and/or on a training mission to other peace keepers. In addition to troops and officers, Canada will be giving tactical airlift support, armed helicopters, and cargo planes. Specifically, Canada will pledge a C-130J plane for seven missions in Africa that can transport both goods and personnel. Canada is also pledging $21 million to strengthen the number of female peace keepers across all UN missions. Headed by famed peacekeeper Romeo Dallaire, Trudeau also announced a program to end the use of child soldiers in conflict areas.

Prime Minister Trudeau furnished his announcement by describing the Liberal plan as a new era of peace keeping. The goal is for Canadian involvement to be targeted where they are needed most, a call the government believes can only be made by the United Nations. Explaining his decision to not pledge 600 soldiers, as promised last year, Trudeau says 200 will be more effective and trained to a higher level of skill.

Previously, Canada has deployed larger amounts of infantry troops to work as peace keepers, a process which is outdated, according to Trudeau. In this new era of peace keeping, Canadian troops and officers will be working to prevent the complete cycle of violence in volatile regions by not only dealing with violence when it erupts, but by preventing violence before it occurs, supporting complicated peace processes, and helping to rebuild the region when conflict ends. Despite passing the control of selecting hostile regions in need of peace keeping to the UN, Trudeau insists Canada will retain the option to reject a mission and will evaluate all missions for safety and necessity. Trudeau also stated he is hoping Canada will partake in more join missions with other peace keeping nations. Overall, Trudeau stressed Canada is sharpening its peace keeping endeavors to be smarter, targeted and more successful choices.

Trudeau’s announcement was not met without criticism. There are some that see allowing the UN to tell Canada what regions require assistance, is a threat to our nation’s autonomy and strength on a world stage. On the other hand, Canada has been rejecting numerous propositions from the UN to send in peace keepers to conflict areas in the past few years, leaving many to wonder if Canada will even respond to the UN’s demands.

Canada is currently involved in 19 overseas operations, but not all are UN missions. Similarly, there is a large amount of disappointment over the limited number of troops offered, when the Liberal government promised 600 troops and 150 officers last year. However, the government said this number could be worked up towards, depending on what the UN asks of Canada. Another hesitation of having the UN at the reigns of Canada’s foreign policy is that UN peacekeeping problems become Canadian peacekeeping problems. Specifically, the UN has been criticized of poor planning, unreliable surveillance, uneven quality of soldiers and officers on the ground, and lacking in female operatives. Although Canada has pledged $21 million to combat the latter problem, the first three issues have created an uneasiness about the safety of Canadian peace keepers in areas of high conflict.

In addition, it was quite clear that there was no concrete plan on where or when Canada would be putting these 200 peace keepers into an actual mission. There is currently need in Mali, Congo, Ukraine and many other places, but the government says it could take up to 18 months before a single boot hits the ground. With Canadian peace keeping at an all-time low since 1990, many are left wondering if Canada can still identify itself as the nation who coined peacekeeping to begin with.