Despite previous expectations, the federal government is now taking the ‘necessary’ time before deploying Canadian soldiers on a peace support mission.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending the Liberals’ drawn-out decision to deploy Canadian soldiers on a peace support mission, saying his government is taking the “necessary” time.
After months of deliberation and several fact-finding trips to Africa, cabinet ministers had promised a decision before Christmas but the government has yet to make an announcement.
But Trudeau made no apologies for the delayed decision Thursday, which has apparently cost Canada the chance to command the United Nations mission in Mali.
“The commitment we have made as a country to reengaging with United Nations peacekeeping is one that I think all Canadians are proud of,” said Trudeau during a visit to the naval base in Esquimalt, B.C. with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
“We talked about up to 600 troops and $500 million invested towards something that Canada had stepped back from in recent years, which is peace operations under the aegis of the United Nations,” Trudeau said.
But the government has yet to commit those resources, first pledged last August as part of Canada’s renewed commitment to peacekeeping. The government didn’t say at the time — and has refused to say since — just where the peace mission may be headed.
The Star has reported that the deployment will likely be to Mali, where a United Nations mission is already on the ground and French forces have been active.
The government has not explained the reason for the delayed announcement, other than to say that it’s taking the time needed to get the decision right, a line that Trudeau repeated Thursday.
“The minister and I and this government take extremely seriously the responsibility involved anytime we send our sailors or soldiers into harm’s way,” the prime minister said.
“We know we have to make the right decision for Canada, the right decision for the men and women who will be executing those orders. We are going to make sure we take the time necessary to establish the right path forward for Canada,” he said.
One of the priorities that Trudeau gave Sajjan when the Liberal government took office in November, 2015 was “to renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations.”
The Canadian Armed Forces is awaiting key government decisions on several fronts. Next week, the Liberals are expected to announce an extension of the ongoing deployment in Ukraine.
Canadian troops have been on a non-combat role there helping train local forces as part of NATO mission to reassure eastern European countries against Russian aggression.
The government also has to decide in the coming weeks whether to extend the mission in northern Iraq, where Canadian special forces soldiers have been advising Kurdish Peshmerga troops in their fight against Daesh.