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.

Just Posted

Castlegar athletes excel at 55+ Games

Castlegar residents bring home 28 individual medals and six team medals.

Castlegar Rebels split weekend opener

Rebels opened KIJHL regular season with a win over Grand Forks and a loss against Spokane.

Disability employment awareness month: open house and inclusive employer award

Events take place in Nelson and Castlegar this week

Kootenay author to launch memoir at Castlegar library

D.M. Ditson will share intimate memoir about sexual assault, PTSD and recovery.

LETTERS: On trails, environment, fall fair

Castlegar News letters to the editor for this week

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

Driver of RV in Hosmer collision reported in stable condition

Collision occurred in Hosmer on September 5 and involved a semi truck, an RV and a school bus

Free Tesla 3 offered with purchase of Surrey townhome

Century Group’s offer for Viridian development runs through Oct. 31

B.C. communities urged to improve access for disabled people

One in four B.C. residents has disability, most want to work

Most Read