Canadian Armed Forces personnel serving on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission listen as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to them following a turkey dinner in Gao, Mali, Saturday December 22, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau defends pace of peacekeeping deployments as next election looms

Liberals promised more than two years ago to provide up to 600 Canadian troops to peacekeeping missions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending his government’s pace when it comes to deciding where to send hundreds of promised Canadian peacekeepers — a decision that could get even harder with next year’s federal election.

The Liberals promised more than two years ago to provide up to 600 troops to peacekeeping missions as part of a long-standing pledge to re-engage with the United Nations.

The prime minister got to see some of those troops in action Saturday during a whirlwind visit to Mali, where 250 Canadians and eight helicopters have been providing lifesaving medical evacuations and logistical support to UN forces since August.

Trudeau was greeted at the Gao airport by Mali’s prime minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga before donning a flak jacket and climbing aboard one of three Chinook helicopters that the Canadian Forces have turned into a flying hospital for the UN mission.

It was from this vantage point that the prime minister, along with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance, watched troops perform a mock medical evacuation in the desert near their UN base.

“This mission has been an extraordinary opportunity for me to see … a demonstration of what Canadians do best,” Trudeau told the assembled troops during a special Christmas dinner complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and alcohol-free beer.

“And that is respond to very specific needs with the highest level of skill, professionalism and service imaginable. What Task Force Mali is accomplishing here is world-class.”

Yet two commitments that Trudeau has made to the UN remain unfulfilled including a promised provision of a military transport plane to Uganda to help ferry UN troops and equipment around Africa and the deployment of a 200-strong rapid-reaction force to bolster one specific mission.

READ MORE: No letup for Trudeau as difficult 2018 gives way to wild election year

Canadians expect their government to look at ways to be help in the world, Trudeau told reporters during his visit while he insisted the Liberals were continuing to look at ways to fulfil their commitment to the UN.

“Obviously the decisions on where and how to help are determined by what the needs are from the UN peacekeeping forces, how Canada can actually make a significant difference,” he said. “We are always looking for other ways for Canada to help.”

A senior military official said a C-130 Hercules currently assisting U.S.-led operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant out of Kuwait will be diverted down to Uganda for about a week per month starting early in the new year.

But any new decision could grow more complicated in the coming months as the Liberals and their political adversaries eye the coming election.

The Trudeau government has faced pointed criticism from the Conservatives about contributing troops to peacekeeping, suggesting it is not in Canada’s interest and only aimed at helping the Liberals win a seat on the UN Security Council.

The government will also be mindful of the risk of putting troops in harm’s way when voters prepare to cast their ballots.

Trudeau was asked on Saturday whether his government was opposed to extending the Mali mission by several months until Romanian replacements arrive due to the risk of casualties during the election.

He insisted that Canada was following the UN’s new process for making commitments, in which countries offer specific units or equipment matched to specific peacekeeping missions based on need.

The final decision on any mission will ultimately reside with the government.

University of Montreal peacekeeping expert Jocelyn Coulon, who advised former foreign affairs minister Stephane Dion, said he believes electoral politics have already started to figure into decisions on peacekeeping.

“It is going to be a factor,” Coulon said.

There is no end date for Canada’s mission in Latvia, he added, noting the government has repeatedly extended its missions in Iraq and Ukraine, indicating that peacekeeping has fallen out of favour with Trudeau’s Liberals.

“Obviously there is no political willingness to stay in Mali, and that explains everything.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich Peninsula plugs into EV ownership

Sidney and Central Saanich record the second and third-highest EV ownership rate per 1,000 residents

Saanich landfill gets used oil and antifreeze dropoff centre upgrades

BC Used Oil Management Association oversees upgrades, two new facilities in province

Colwood man to ride 400 kilometres to fight kids cancer

Man riding for a beloved family member who died from leukemia at 13-years-old

Saanich woman completes 10 marathons, raises double her initial goal amount

Over $20,000 raised for Victoria Hospitals Foundation

UPDATED: Missing 25-year-old Saanich woman found Saturday

Yuhan Jin thought to be travelling by foot or bus, carrying two suitcases

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Most Read