So, the Canadian Ministry of Liberal Propaganda tells us that four ministers went to the RCAF base in Bagotville to tell us that we are sending $450 million to the UN and up to 600 people, most, one presumes, will be military members (but some reports suggest it is 600 military plus 150 police), somewhere ~ we will all have to wait, breathlessly, to find out where ~ to demonstrate Canada’s commitment to something or other by “taking concrete actions to prevent and respond to conflicts abroad and to support UN peace operations in building a more peaceful and prosperous world.“
Conflicts, today, the government’s public relations flacks tell us are: “multifaceted, requiring political, security, development and humanitarian responses brought together under the broad umbrella of “peace operations”.” I understand some of that bafflegab, I also agree with some of it, in some circumstances. But “political” responses made under the auspices of the United Nations have an almost perfect record of failure; United Nations development and humanitarian operations are infamous for their ineffectiveness and corruption. Security? Well, we’ll see what 600 people wearing UN baby-blue berets and badges can do. The press release say that, “The Canadian Armed Forces are prepared to contribute personnel across a range of available capabilities, which could include ground troops, leadership for command and headquarters positions, air transport, engineering and medical expertise, military and police training, and capacity building, in order to make a meaningful contribution to peace operations.” My guess is that we are looking at sending penny packets of police officers, staff officers (heaven knows we have more than enough of those) and signallers, clerks, medics and engineers, logisticians and some transport helicopters, with ground crews, to one or two or even three or four different UN missions.
I suspect that the Chief of the Defence Staff and senior officials in the PCO want to hold combat forces back from UN operations for two reasons:
- There is a real Russian threat in Eastern Europe and we may need every combat soldier and fighter jet we have on fairly short notice; and
- Effective peacekeeping in Africa involves a fair bit of killing of the local folks and we, politically, do not want Canadians soldiers to be seen to be doing that.
Here are some “quick facts” as the excited young media relations officers call them:
- Canada’s PSOPs will have three core responsibilities:
- 1. lead Canada’s stabilization and fragile states policy;
- 2. coordinate whole-of-government responses to conflicts and crises around the world; and
- 3. support targeted stabilization programming in, and deployments to, fragile and/or conflict-affected states.
- Canada’s increased support to UN peace operations is a whole-of-government effort, combining diplomacy, deployment, training and capacity-building efforts, and includes conflict prevention, mediation, peace operations and peacebuilding efforts.
- Canada’s contributions to UN peace operations reflect a comprehensive approach, drawing from civilian, police and military resources, with protection of civilians as a core concern.
- The International Police Peacekeeping Program was renewed for a five-year period, with renewed funding of $46.9 million per year provided through Budget 2016 for the first three years to allow for the deployment of up to 150 police officers.
- The exact size and composition of any future CAF deployment to a UN mission will be based on discussions with the UN and Canada’s partner nations, as well as an assessment of where Canada can best make a meaningful impact.
That’s supposed to get us a seat (in 2021) on the UN Security Council instead of Ireland or Norway? Tiny Ireland (population 6.4 million, GDP: €217 billion) contributes 383 people to UN peacekeeping operations (the UN still calls it peacekeeping, no matter what Canada’s defence minister says about that term), and Norway (population 5.1 million and GDP: $(US)384 billion) contributes 140. Does someone really think that a country with a population of over 35 million and a GDP approaching $(S)1.5 trillion is going to impress anyone by sending $450 million and up to 600 people?
My guess is that this is just about as little as Justin Trudeau’s re-election team thinks Canada can do and still put a ✔ in the “promises made/promises kept” box in the 2019 campaign brochures. The elections for a second class, temporary seat on the UNSC are after the Canadian elections, so that issue can be on the back burner. I really cannot think of any other reason why Canada would offer such an ineffectual sort of thing after all the “Canada is back” trumpeting.
It gets worse when you read what ministers said at their press conference:
- Stéphane Dion: “Based on our unparalleled experience in building a peaceful and inclusive society, our bilingualism and our diversity, Canada will do what is needed to support the international community in bravely fighting for justice and security on the global stage; in promoting humanitarian assistance, development, training and capacity building; and in protecting gender equality and all human rights.”
- Harjit Singh Sajjan: “Canada is committed to re-engaging in a full spectrum of multilateral peace operations. This is why we are making a significant pledge of military personnel and related capabilities for possible deployment to UN peace support operations.”
- Marie-Claude Bibeau: “I know that our women and our men who will be deployed in various peace missions will inspire their UN comrades with their courageous leadership. They will also help in implementing my development mandate as their exemplary actions will be a crucial determinant for the protection of women, girls and the most vulnerable.”
It is all cringe inducing political pabulum.
The first part of the press release concludes with even more nauseous pap: “Canada is back, and that includes its peace missions. Canada is committed to increasing its support for UN peace operations and supporting its mediation efforts, preventing conflicts and engaging in post-conflict reconstruction. This commitment reflects Canada’s deep desire to be a determined peacebuilder and to make a genuine and useful contribution to building a more peaceful and prosperous world.“
- First: Canada never “left,” unless you ignore the Balkans and Afghanistan and countering Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS in Syria and Iraq. That’s a sickening display of vile Liberal contempt for the men and women of the Canadian Forces and, indeed, for almost 120 years of Canadian combat operations around the world. I understand that Justin Trudeau might want to believe in fairy tales but Canadians need to remember that Pearsonian peacekeeping was never anything except an adjunct to the cold war.
- Second: Canada quit UN peacekeeping for one very, very simple reason ~ it doesn’t work. It didn’t work in the 1990s, when Prime Minister Chrétien, who was, as historian Prof Martin Shadwick notes, “a most ardent peacekeeper,” but was unwilling “to match rhetoric with resources,” because, after the Somalia and Rwanda debacles even he understood that the UN is unable to keep the peace. There is nothing that I have heard about happening in the UN’s New York HQ that will convince me that the gang who bungled Somalia and Rwanda have learned any lessons at all.
If Canada had a real government, rather than an election campaign team, and if that government really wanted to help bring lasting peace and development to Africa then we would be sending billions of dollars and thousands of troops and taking near total responsibility (and leadership) for a major mission or even a set of missions in a region , and there would be a sensible, concrete aim to that mission, not political bafflegab … but we’re not and you can draw your own conclusions about why we’re not. It looks, to me, like nothing more than cheap, throw away campaign rhetoric, crafted by a highly skilled public relations team. Is that all we elected in 2015? Good hair, photo-ops, diversity and great PR team?