By the Honourable Daniel Lang, Chair Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence tabled its report titled UN
Deployment: Prioritizing our Commitments at Home and Abroad. Participating in peace-support operations is a laudable goal, however, we cannot ignore the fact that Canadian military resources are stretched thin.
Canada has commitments to NORAD and NATO, which are not being fully met. In fact, our defence spending is below one per cent, approximately $20 billion short of our two per cent commitment.
Despite talk of “re-engagement,” Canada has never stopped contributing to the United Nations. Over the course of this study we learned that Canadians provide approximately $1.5-billion to UN programs and agencies annually — including $324-million for peace-support operations. We have over 100 Canadians presently deployed on UN missions, as well as over 1,000 military personnel deployed on coalition / NATO missions in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, and an additional 455 members of the military who will be deployed early next year to Latvia.
We noted that Canada has a proud tradition in which 120,000 Canadians have served on peacekeeping missions, though these missions have cost 122 Canadian lives.
UN peacekeeping missions have changed dramatically over time. Today’s missions are undertaken when there is often no peace to keep. They are more about the protection of civilians than they are about traditional peacekeeping, where parties agree to end hostilities and international observers monitor the “peace.” We must recognize that any deployment to a place like Mali, in Africa, will be dangerous and more of a counter-terrorism mission, rather than traditional peacekeeping.
The Committee believes that before the government increases our commitments to UN peace-support operations, they must ensure adequate funding is available to meet the current needs of our armed forces. Our first key recommendation calls on the government to table a “Statement of Justification” in both houses of Parliament outlining the specifics of any UN deployment including the size of the mission, its goals, the risks involved, the costs, rules of engagement and a fixed-term deployment plan so as to ensure bi-partisan and multi-partisan support through open parliamentary debate prior to confirmation and deployment of members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
This recommendation affirms in the words of House of Commons Speaker John Fraser, who ruled in 1989 that Canada is a parliamentary democracy, not “a so-called executive democracy nor a so-called administrative democracy.” While on deployment on a United Nations mission, the government must ensure there are clear rules of engagement so our soldiers can take action to defend themselves and/or civilians from harm or abuse. This is in response to the failures on previous UN missions. This must never happen again.
Additional recommendations note:
• Canada should move forward to expedite implementation of UN Resolution 1325 to encourage the inclusion of more women in all aspects of peace-support operations;
• recognizes the burden that a deployment to a francophone nation will have on Franco-Canadians, and calls for a strategy to better support those units and their families;
• if Canada were to become more involved in training, it would contribute to long-term capacity building for regional organizations and those developing countries that are deploying troops so they meet a basic performance standard. Hence our fourth recommendation focused in this area;
• we called on the government to ensure sufficient financial and support resources will be available for women and men who return from dangerous peace-support operations, especially those who develop post-traumatic stress disorders; and finally,
• we called for UN reforms to prosecute sexual exploitation and abuse which have occurred during UN peacekeeping missions.
To learn more about the report, visit www.sen.parl.gc.ca.