Canada's peacekeeping offer 'condescending': retired general
Canada's newly unveiled three-pronged peacekeeping contribution is 'condescending' and dances around the tough issues, says Retired Maj.-Gen Lewis MacKenzie.
On Wednesday at the UN peacekeeping summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada is prepared to offer training, high-end military resources, and a pilot program aimed at helping countries train and deploy more female peacekeepers. However, the government was not able to offer locations for where Canadian peacekeeping efforts will be deployed, as that’s still being negotiated with the UN.
But Mackenzie, Canada’s first peacekeeping commander in Bosnia said the way Canada presented its UN peace package was disappointing, and "condescending."
"It’s tap-dancing around the difficult issues," he said in an interview with Don Martin, host of CTV’s Power Play.
MacKenzie said he thought Trudeau was talking down to the UN officials and to the members there that are committing to doing the heavy lifting.
"'We’re going to throw money at the training, we’re going to throw money at modest resources, but the rest of you do the heavy lifting'… that’s pretty superior coming from people who aren’t doing much peacekeeping these days," MacKenzie said.
The government is committing $6 million to a program to work alongside one or two other countries who want to increase the number of women on peacekeeping missions, and $15 million into a seed fund to build the capacity for countries to deploy more women.
The high-end equipment includes: tactical airlifts to move troops and equipment, helicopters, and a quick-reaction force of 200 personnel with equipment. These resources will be offered as the UN requests them.
The offer will stand for five years, and will include a maximum of 600 troops, as well as 150 police authorized to deploy.
MacKenzie said rapid reaction is an "oxymoron" when it comes to the UN, and expressed concern that Canada’s offer to train forces comes too late, as much of Canada’s expertise when it comes to peacekeeping retired alongside his generation.
"There are some things that other people are probably in a position to teach us," he said. "If they really want to have an impact on UN peace operations then it’s an opportunity lost."
Retired lieutenant general Sen. Romeo Dallaire praised the government’s move as “very progressive.”
Speaking with CTV’s Power Play, Dallaire recalled a recent trip through Africa with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and said foreign nations asked for more training.
“They’re not looking for our battalions. They’re looking for our smarts,” Dallaire said Wednesday from Vancouver.
Dallaire said the role of Canada, as a mid-sized military power, is “not necessarily pouring thousands of troops” into peacekeeping missions, but rather “pouring capabilities.”
“It is not (a question) of numbers of troops. It is where you are bringing new capabilities and competencies,” he said.
The Wednesday announcement also included the unveiling of the Vancouver Principles, a set of pledges aimed at ending the use of child soldiers worldwide. So far, 54 countries -- including Canada -- have endorsed the principles, which focus on spotting early indicators and stepping in before a child is recruited.
It’s a step Dallaire supports whole-heartedly. His organization, the Romeo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, works with communities to educate children and adults about the atrocities of child soldiers.
Recently, Dallaire’s organization was in an area of east Nigeria where Boko Haram is known to target children. He said that the community has created a network of 27,000 people who are trained to spot signs of recruiters and report them.
The trick moving forward, Dallaire said, is finding a way to stop recruitment altogether.
“What they are asking from us is not only prevention, but trying to stop the ones who are already recruiting,” he said.
Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff said that the new peacekeeping pledge will be a “challenge,” but one that is “entirely manageable,” for Canadian Forces.
In an interview with CTV News’ Mercedes Stephenson, Jonathan Vance said Canadian troops are capable, but aware that the nature of peacekeeping missions have evolved.
“I’m under no illusions as all, nor is anybody who is making decisions about where we would operate and what we would do, we’re under no illusions about the nature of peace operations today,” said Vance.
“Peace support operations, which is what we really talk about, occur in dangerous, unpredictable places.”