GAO, Mali - More than three months after the federal government announced plans to enhance Canada's involvement in Mali by sending 20 police officers, Canada's ambassador to the West African country says he doesn't exactly know when they'll arrive.

"At this moment, we don't have a definite date," Louis Verret said in a telephone interview with CTV News from Bamako, Mali's capital.

"Some of them will be posted in Bamako for sure," he said, adding that discussions are currently underway with the European Union and United Nations partners.

"We understand they may get some of their first contingent in the fall," he said. "That means between now and the end of the year." 

The police officers are expected to be drawn from the RCMP and Surete du Quebec. Officials from the two forces, along with officials from Public Safety Canada and Global Affairs, visited Mali in June to take a closer look at how they could train local police.

Those local forces are overstretched, and having difficulty securing key smuggling routes extremist groups are using.  Mali, one of the world's poorest countries in the world, doesn't have enough resources to protect its porous borders.

Approximately 250 Canadian peacekeepers and 8 helicopters -- 3 Chinooks and 5 Griffons - are currently in Gao to conduct medical evacuations for ill and injured peacekeepers from other countries.

Each time a Chinook transports the wounded in a so-called "flying emergency room," two Griffon helicopters serve as escort aircraft to monitor threats from the ground below, flying in a formation that resembles a "Y."

Since the Canadian mission became fully operational in mid-August, the Forces have carried out two medical evacuations -- none as a result of enemy fire, but rather environmental threats such as heat stroke. That could change. The dry season is expected to increase insurgent activity as many roads become passable.

Canada does not have "boots on the ground" but the Germans and Dutch do. The Chinooks also help transport soldiers from those countries to more remote areas for ground patrols and to build relationships with village elders, who can provide valuable intelligence of any insurgent activity.

A recent UN report reveals the security and humanitarian situation is getting worse. In the past three months 287 civilians have been killed. That's the deadliest three-month period since UN peacekeepers arrived in 2013.

There were 129 cases of human rights violations and abuses involving 518 victims, up from 475 victims in the previous reporting period: extrajudicial killings, torture, abduction or unlawful detention.

A solution for the conflict between rival extremist groups vying for control is expected to take years.

Canada is ending its one-year commitment in July, 2019.

Still, Verret believes the mission will boost Canada's chances of a successful bid for the UN Security Council in 2020.

"This is part of our tool box to demonstrate that we are a good international partner."