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    Canada offering 200 ground troops for future UN peacekeeping operations

    Canada to deliver host of initiatives including $15M trust fund

    Canada is prepared to offer up to 200 ground troops, transport and attack helicopters, cargo planes and military trainers for future United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Liberal government announced Wednesday.

    The five-year military commitment is part of a comprehensive package that includes millions of dollars to help other countries boost the involvement of women in peace operations and strengthen security for those involved in high-risk missions.

    The presentation of the long-awaited list of military “capabilities” was reported last week by CBC News.

    With the details in place, the list is now being registered with the international office overseeing peacekeeping more than 14 months after the Trudeau government committed to providing up to 600 troops and 150 police officers for UN operations.

    “What we will do is step up and make the contributions we are uniquely able to provide,” Trudeau said in announcing the plan at the UN peacekeeping summit in Vancouver Wednesday.

    “We’re asking peace operations to do more — not only to deal with violence when it erupts, but to respond to the entire life cycle of conflict: preventing its outbreak, supporting complicated peace processes and helping people to rebuild their lives when conflict ends .… That is the reality of modern peace operations. Given that reality, we need to try new things.”

    Senior government officials, speaking on background prior to the announcement, said the numbers could eventually reach what was pledged last year, but the focus of Canada’s renewed involvement will see smaller more tightly defined missions, rather than the mass deployments of troops as in the past.

    It is being called “smart pledges.”

    Negotiations with the UN on which missions to undertake have yet to get underway and it could be as long as two years before the first soldiers and equipment get out the door, the officials said.

    “We are just starting down this path,” said the official. “The exact what and where is going to take a little time to sort out.”

    Turned down missions

    Why the Liberal government has waited so long to register the information and make the offer is unclear, given the party’s firm commitment in the last election to return the country’s military to peace support operations.

    The UN has regularly bombarded the Liberal government with specific mission and equipment requests and all of them have — to this point —  been turned down or left under consideration.

    The latest report from the international office of peacekeeping — dated August 2017 — sees urgent requests for helicopters, troops, bomb disposal teams and surveillance equipment in Mali and South Sudan as well as police support in Haiti.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses delegates during the 2017 United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 15, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

    The biggest component of Canada’s proposed military commitment will be a so-called quick reaction force of troops, likely french-speaking, which would be deployed on a UN mission to either keep — or enforce the peace, depending on the conditions .

    Those troops would be called upon respond to emergencies and attacks on civilians or aid workers.

    Separately, the air force will be prepared to deploy CH-147 Chinook helicopters and CH-146 Griffon helicopters, which can be configured with machine guns as attack helicopters.

    The cargo planes, to be used to ferry other UN peacekeepers, would be C-130J and possibly C-17 transports, depending upon the mission.

    Included in the package — as CBC News reported Tuesday — is a $15 million trust fund to help other countries recruit women soldiers and police officers for peacekeeping missions and provide enhanced training for those already in uniform.

    An additional $6 million is also being made available to the UN that will ultimately help strengthen security for women involved in dangerous missions.

    Child soldier announcement coming

    Also on Wednesday, Retired lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire will help roll out a new set of commitments for the international community to sign onto aimed at preventing the use of child soldiers and better protecting children in conflict.

    The UN released a report last month that found more than 8,000 children were killed or injured in conflicts around the world in 2016 and thousands of children had been recruited or used by warring factions.

    Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie is also scheduled to deliver a keynote address on preventing and better addressing sexual violence in armed conflict.

    A man walks past the flags of participating nations at the 2017 United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday November 14, 2017. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

    After long ignoring the issue of sexual violence in war, the international community has in recent years stepped up its efforts to end rape and other sexual crimes in conflict zones and to hold perpetrators to account.

    But the UN has also struggled with revelations that peacekeepers themselves have either sexually abused or exploited the very people they were meant to protect in a number of countries.

    Defence Minister HarjitSajjan kicked off the two-day Vancouver summit on Tuesday by noting that not only did Canada help invent peacekeeping, but 120,000 Canadians have worn blue helmets or berets over the years.

    Yet Sajjan also reminded delegates, including foreign dignitaries, military officials and civil society actors, that peacekeeping has changed since Canada was among the top troop-contributing countries in the 1990s.

    And he said it is imperative that the international community adapt to ensure the UN can respond effectively in what are increasingly complex and dangerous environments and conflicts.

    “Today, it’s rare to see UN peacekeepers monitoring a ceasefire between two countries. Today’s missions are often undertaken in areas of ongoing conflict. Places where there is not much peace to keep,” he said.

    “It’s more about protecting civilians and working to build a peace in a hostile environment where belligerents are not identified. In the face of this extraordinary and evolving challenge, we must ask ourselves: What can we do better? What must we do differently?”

    with files from the Canadian Press

     

    By Murray Brewster, for CBC News

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