OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally unveiled Canada’s long-awaited commitment to United Nations peacekeeping efforts, and it’s getting mixed reviews. Some observers wonder if it will be enough to help Canada secure a coveted UN Security Council seat in 2021. Here are five things to know about the federal government’s plans:
Contributions: The prime minister has offered up to six helicopters and two transport aircraft, plus crews and support personnel, as well as a 200-member quick reaction force for UN operations. He also says the government remains committed to its original promise of up to 600 soldiers and 150 police officers.
Women: Canada has also has also pledged $21 million to help double the number of women deployed on peacekeeping operations. Trudeau said women bring a “unique” perspective to conflict resolution. Women now make up only seven per cent of 13,000 police officers deployed as peacekeepers and two per cent of the country’s 87,000 military personnel.
Training: Canada will offer a training and advisory team which will work with nations planning peace operations, to better help such countries contend with the challenges of peacekeeping themselves. The trainers will be prepared to accompany the trainees on their deployments.
Child Soldiers: Trudeau said Canada will promote a set of principles dealing with the use of child soldiers. They support the reporting of abuses against children in armed conflict, call for the inclusion of child protection expertise in peacekeeping operations and highlight the need for proper psychological support for peacekeepers who face child soldiers. The UN says thousands of children and have been recruited or coerced into fighting factions around the world.
Reaction: While some welcomed the announcements as a renewal of Canada’s long-standing commitment to the UN and peacekeeping, others panned it. Walter Dorn of the Royal Military College, an expert on peacekeeping, said Canada is still “delaying and dithering.” Retired general Lew MacKenzie, who led a famous Canadian peacekeeping mission in Sarajevo in 1992, called it “condescending.”