As a two-day summit on peacekeeping kicks off in Vancouver, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still teasing out Canada’s long-awaited announcement, saying only that Canada’s plan would satisfy both the UN and “Canadian values.”
As CBC reported last week, multiple sources say Canada is ready to offer the United Nations a list of high-end equipment and troops who could train peacekeepers from other countries for dangerous deployments.
But the pledge, expected to be made Wednesday at an international gathering of defence ministers in Vancouver, does not involve a long-awaited commitment to a specific mission, nor will it see large-scale boots on the ground, say the sources.
The Liberal government vowed over a year ago to deliver up to 600 troops and 150 police officers to UN-mandated peace operations.
“I’m very pleased to say that [what] we will be announcing … is fully in line not just with Canadian values and Canadians’ desire to see our country have a maximum positive impact around the world, but fully in line with the UN and indeed, the world, has expressed its need and interest in,” Trudeau told reporters in Manila on Tuesday at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
“Canadians expect Canada to have a strong and positive contribution that makes a real difference and the world expects Canada to make a significant contribution that makes a difference.”
Trudeau added that the world has “long been waiting to see Canada once again step up in the way we did all those years ago when Lester Pearson contributed to the creation of the UN peacekeeping force around the Suez Canal crisis.”
The UN has pitched Canada on a number of specific missions, including the dangerous deployment in Mali and several smaller ventures in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
All of them have been turned down, much to the frustration of European allies, such as Germany, France and the Netherlands, which have been involved in missions in that region.
‘A work in progress’
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the undersecretary general for peacekeeping operations, told The Canadian Press on Monday that they’re still waiting on a final decision from Trudeau’s Liberals.
“It looks like there are a number of avenues that have been explored quite thoroughly. But we’re waiting for the Canadian government to come up with a final decision,” said Lacroix, who is responsible for managing all peacekeeping operations.
“It’s a work in progress.”
Despite not having a pin on a map, Lacroix said he was “encouraged” there is finally some movement after more than a year of delays and silence from Canada.
“Things are moving, and it’s not frustrating. It’s rather encouraging,” he said. “Now, given the needs, I would be quite happy if the delays are rather short than long. But then again, I am quite encouraged by the latest evolution.”
Preliminary discussions on what capabilities Canada could contribute have been taking place at UN headquarters in New York for weeks.
In late October, CBC News, quoting sources in New York, reported on some of the exploratory capabilities that could be on offer.
They included a C-130J Hercules transport operating out of the UN’s logistics hub in Entebbe, Uganda.
The military aircraft could be used to help transport personnel and equipment between missions in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and possibly Somalia.
Trudeau’s announcement coming Wednesday
There was a separate proposal to train peacekeepers in specific threats, such as countering roadside bombs and booby traps.
Lacroix would not comment on the government’s offers, but did say discussions on “when and how and where these potential contributions would be used and where they would make a difference, that’s where we are.”
Representatives from 80 countries will be at the peacekeeping summit in B.C on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Trudeau is scheduled to appear on the last day with Lacroix as well as Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
The summit is only for countries that have made — or are ready to make — concrete pledges to peacekeeping, and some UN officials, foreign diplomats and experts have warned Canada will be embarrassed if it doesn’t deliver.