The newly formed AMS Model NATO team at UBC organized a panel on the topic of peacekeeping on Thursday, February 8th. The panelists involved a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve Lieutenant-Colonel W. Scott Raesler and UBC International Relations professor Katherina Coleman. As a former Department of Peacekeeping Operations Director of Communications, George was invited as the third panel member where he commented on the current status of Canadian peacekeeping. At the time of the conference (before the latest announcement), George stated that Canada’s contributions seemed to be in retreat.
Since 2015, Canada’s role in peacekeeping has been a source of speculation and disappointment. In November of 2017, Canada played host to a defence ministerial conference attended by the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kristy Freeland and Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan. At the conference, Canada and other nations pledged their support for United Nations peacekeeping. Canada will provide 200 technical experts and two transport aircraft but at the time it was unclear where those resources would be used. We have subsequently learned that Canada will participate in the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Canada’s new commitment is a good first step. But it is happening from a very low baseline. In February, Canadian peacekeepers on the ground numbered just 43 – the lowest in decades. In moving ahead, the Canadian government is showing an abundance of caution, given Mali’s reputation as a dangerous place for UN peacekeepers.