Mark Collins- Canadian UN Peacekeeping in Mali? RCAF Helicopters? Part 2

Further to this post, excerpts from a major piece by the CBC’s excellent Brian Stewart:

Analysis: Trudeau government taking a long look at precarious peacekeeping options

It’s not surprising the Liberal government is having a difficult time deciding where and how best to fulfil its election pledge to lead Canada back into significant peacekeeping — there is simply no shortage of potentially life-or-death factors to consider.

This country has been a minor player in peacekeeping in recent years. But now the government intends to sign on to a major United Nations mission somewhere in this troubled world at a time when the global body is desperate for our help and dangers for peacekeepers have never been more deadly.

It’s a good time to ask questions…

While the old term “peacekeeping” is still used in delicate preference to the more robust “peacemaking,” many missions have morphed into counter-insurgency operations against Jihadist guerrillas and, in danger zones like Mali, anti-government militias and bandit gangs as well.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has clearly indicated Canada is considering sending a mission to help UN troops stop the advance of Islamist jihadists in Africa. Either Mali or Central African Republic are rumoured as likely destinations…

UN headquarters in New York receives urgent warnings from the field that peacekeeping casualties are soaring with no end in sight: 51 UN personnel killed in deliberate attacks last year, 230 in just the past four years. Many others die in accidents and from disease…

It’s a great mistake to view peacekeeping through rosy historical glasses, as Canadians are prone to do [emphasis added]. The easy missions where peace agreements have lasted generations are oversubscribed with volunteers; it’s the dangerous ones that desperately need help…

It’s not at all clear what form or strength any new Canadian mission would take because the military is still studying the options. But it’s possible we’ll put more emphasis on supplying headquarters staff, logistics and medical services rather than a great many boots on the ground.

Whatever shape the mission takes, retired colonel George Petrolekas, military analyst and veteran of both peacekeeping and the Afghanistan mission, feels our troops are far better prepared for the demands of peacekeeping than in the past — thanks to the Afghan experience and extensive training…

The threat of attacks isn’t the only difficulty a Canadian mission would face. UN morale has been badly rocked in recent years by allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation involving peacekeepers in several UN missions, including in Mali and Central African Republic.

The UN secretary general has called it “a cancer in our system” and major reforms are underway…

Canadians don’t need to hear that boosterish “can do” optimism so often paraded out at the start of missions.

Instead, they need to know what we’re getting into, our objectives, the possibility of casualties and the likely duration of the challenge ahead.

No shoot, sunny ways. Killer peacekeeping anyone?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


15 thoughts on “Mark Collins- Canadian UN Peacekeeping in Mali? RCAF Helicopters? Part 2”

  1. And another one at

    ‘I’ve been going through a lot of the documents from the UN about Mali. To be quite honest, and please if someone else sees it differently please say so, this mission looks more and more Afghanistanish the more I read. Like was mentioned, most of the issues seem to be coming from insurgents and insurgent tactics.

    Have a look through the latest report of the Secretary General (yes its 22 pages but focus on part III) and to me it reads of the same issues we were dealing with in Afghanistan. I don’t think this is the “peacekeeping mission” the GC thinks it is.


    Mark Collins

  2. Looks like regular Army troops to replace Canadian SOF trainers in Niger:


    “TV: Not a “Who Knew?”, Finally–Canadian Special Operations Regiment Training African Forces in Niger”

    Mark Collins

  3. Prof. Roland Paris, recently advisor to PM Trudeau at PMO,

    suggests maybe not major Canadian boots on ground UN peacekeeping commitment(s); he should know:

    Mark Collins

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