By Scott Taylor
One of the persisting myths in Canada is that we are a nation of peacekeepers. Hell, we practically claim that former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson invented the concept of deploying neutral troops to enforce ceasefires between belligerents during the Suez Crisis in 1956.
A certain nostalgia exists for those days when Canada was front and centre around the globe, our troops wearing the distinctive blue berets and attempting to stop factions from killing each other.
It was this sentiment that Trudeau’s Liberals tapped into during the 2015 election campaign, when they promised a foreign policy that would make Canadian peacekeeping great again.
The problem is that, after two years in power, there has been no movement whatsoever towards fulfilling this promise. Ironically, this November Canada will be hosting a United Nations peacekeeping conference for international ministers of defence in Vancouver. What makes it ironic is the fact that, were we not the hosts of this event, our own Harjit Sajjan would find himself barred from entering.
That’s right folks. In order to attend this conference each of the national representatives must have a minimum level of skin in the game, and Canada’s paltry current contribution of a token handful of UN observers is not even close to the requirement.
To be fair, there has been talk — lots of very specific talk — followed up by absolutely zero action.
Last August, it was Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance who first teased the media with the notion of a peacekeeping mission. Hours later, via teleconference, MND Harjit Sajjan confirmed Vance’s cryptic comments and all signs pointed to the African continent.
More details soon followed with it being announced that the mission would involve 600 soldiers, 150 police officers and all for a budget of $450-million. However, this very specific force was never allocated to any particular mission. Fourteen months later, still no decision has been made regarding into which country they will be sent.
While Canada has gotten completely out of the peacekeeping game, we have continued to deploy our combat forces to global hot spots for the purpose of training foreign belligerents.
Instead of sending Canadian soldiers in to disarm, demilitarize and stabilize disputed territory, we are actually deploying our troops to train young men on how to better kill.
Between 2002 and 2014, during Canada’s military commitment to Afghanistan, Canadian soldiers trained and mentored tens of thousands of Afghan males — some as young as 16 — on how to handle weapons. These members of the Afghan Security Force have been tasked with propping up what remains arguably the most corrupt regime on the planet — the one the U.S. installed in Kabul. Not surprisingly, the demoralized cannon fodder that the Canadians trained continue to flounder in the face of the far more motivated Afghan insurgents.
Based on the self-professed ‘success’ of the Afghanistan training mission, Canada deployed special forces operatives into Iraq in October 2014 to ‘advise and assist’ Kurdish militia.
The Kurds are honest about their motivation in fighting against Daesh (aka ISIS or ISIL), which remains the eventual creation of their own independent state. They are so open about this end goal that they wear the flag of Kurdistan, not Iraq, on their uniforms. Now, these Canadian-trained Kurds have pulled out of the fight against Daesh as they prepare to fight against Iraqi security forces in their quest to secede.
Neighbouring Turkey, Iran and Syria have all vowed to prevent the establishment of an independent Kurdistan, as this will only embolden the Kurdish separatist movements in their own countries.
If Turkey, a NATO ally, does militarily intervene against the Kurds in northern Iraq, it will now be doing so against Canadian-trained Kurdish militia. The Iraqi central government, which Canada’s Global Affairs department purports to support, has also indicated it will mobilize its Shiite Arab militia to prevent Kurdish independence.
In other words, Canada has gotten as far away from peacekeeping as possible. Instead of curbing conflict, we are actively enabling it by creating legions of warriors in complex conflicts, whose ultimate objectives all too often do not match Canada’s desired end result. Training more soldiers to end wars is like drilling holes in the bottom of your rowboat to let the water out.