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

Local artists put their talent on display at the Terrace Art Gallery

Despite the winter weather, the event was filled with art enthusiasts as they perused local works

Extreme winter weather leads to Monday school and bus route closures

BC Transit, School District 82 and Coast Mountain College all announced closures

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

BC Green Party leader visits Wet’suwet’en camps at heart of pipeline conflict

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada and First Nations

Another snowstorm expected for Terrace and Kitimat area

Wind is expected up to 80 km per hour

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

B.C. teacher suspended for poking student in stomach, pulling another’s ponytail

Teacher also swore in classroom, used Facebook to contact students

Larry Walker Jr. and Sr. keeping expectations low for hall-of-fame induction

Walker needs 75 percent of votes in order to be inducted into Cooperstown

Gene Simmons to launch new Titans of Rock music festival in Grand Forks

The rock legend has partnered with Chuck Varabioff to run Titans of Rock in Grand Forks

Most Read