Tracking the Promises:
Canada's Contributions to UN Peacekeeping
Dr. Walter Dorn, 22 April 2017
Using the latest monthly data (UN, 31 March 2018)
Upon election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to re-engage in UN peacekeeping. He gave explicit instructions to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in the minister's Mandate letter (12 November 2015). The government made major pledges at the Peacekeeping Ministerial in London, UK, of 8 September 2016 (pdf). The Prime Minister made additional pledges at the Peacekeeping Ministerial in Vancouver, hosted by Canadian government on 14–15 November 2017.
This webpage tracks the status of implementation of these government promises on UN peacekeeping using easily measurable statistics, the latest figures, and benchmark data. It draws conclusions for each criteria and conclusions overall.
Pledge: Up to 750 uniformed personnel (600 military and 150 police) (London Ministerial: pdf), in addition to what Canada deployed at the time (112), for total of approx. 860.
Current status: 47 uniformed personnel deployed. None of the promised personnel have been deployed.
|2015 Oct 31||27||89||116||UN, 2015 (pdf)||Conservative gov
(last official figures)
|2016 Aug 31||28||84||112||UN, 2016 (pdf)||Contribution when pledge of additional 750 uniformed personnel was made|
|2017 Oct 31|| 23
||UN, 2017 (pdf)||At time of Vancouver Ministerial (last official figures beforehand)|
|2018 Jan 31||22||19||41||UN, 2018 (pdf)||Lowest number of uniformed personnel and lowest military contribution since 1956|
|2018 Mar 31||23||24||47||UN, 2018 (pdf)||Latest data|
Graph of personnel deployed (monthly, from 2006 to Jan 2018, Martin-Harper-Trudeau governments):
Historical benchmarks: Canada was a leader in providing personnel to UN peacekeeping from its early days (e.g., providing the first chief of the first observer mission, BGen Harry Angle of UNMOGIP in Kashmir, created in 1948). Canada proposed the first peacekeeping force: UNEF in Egypt and made major contributions, battalions throughout the life of the mission (1956–67). It also helped create the peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), to which Canada contributed large units (batallions) for almost 30 years, 1964–1993. Canada was the only country to contribute to all peacekeeping operations during the Cold War and remained a top contributor into the early 1990s. In 1993, Canada deployed 3,300 uniformed personnel in UN missions (Bosnia, Cambodia, Mozambique, Somalia). Canada contributed approx. 200 logisticians to the UN Disengagement Observer Force in Golan heights (Syria) from its creation in 1974 until 2006, when the Harper government withdrew them (see above graph). So during the half-century from 1956-2006, Canada always maintained over 200 uniformed personnel in peacekeeping. In March 2006, shortly after the Harper govenment came to power, the UN contribution dropped to 120 personnel.
When President Barak Obama co-hosted the Leaders' Summit on Peacekeeping at UN headquarters on 28 September 2015, Canada made no pledge. That same night, in an election debate, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau criticised the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, saying: “The fact that Canada has nothing to contribute to that conversation today is disappointing because this is something that a Canadian Prime Minister started, and right now there is a need to revitalize and refocus and support peacekeeping operations ….”
Canada did propose the first peacekeeping force and was the top peacekeeping contributor during the Cold War and for several years afterwards. In 2015, Trudeau criticized the Conservative government of Stephen Harper for a decline (rank 66th on the list of contributors by number of uniformed personnel in September 2015). But the Trudeau government has let the contribution fall further. The current rank is 74th, an all-time-low for the country.
Conclusion: Canada has not re-engaged in peacekeeping (yet). The number of uniformed personnel deployed is less than half of what it was when the Harper government ended in October 2015. Canada has so far contributed none of the additional personnel promised in 2016. Instead of being at 860, Canada is at 47 uniformed personnel. This is only slightly higher than the lowest point (31 Jan 2018) since the first peacekeeping force was proposed by Lester B. Pearson in 1956. More promisingly, the Defence and Foreign Ministers announced on 19 March 2018 that Canada will contribute to the UN mission in Mali an aviation task force of 6 helicopters and an estimated 200-250 personnel. This would be a substantial contribution when it materializes, possible sometime in Fall 2018.
Initiative: to promote more women in peacekeeping
Tabulation: Number of Canadian uniformed women in peacekeeping (benchmark data and the latest figures)
|2015 Oct 31||1||20||21||UN, 2015 (pdf)||Conservative gov (last official figures)|
|2016 Aug 31||2||13||15||UN, 2016 (pdf)||At time of London ministerial (last official figures before meeting)|
|2017 Oct 31||2||6||8||UN, 2017 (pdf)||At time of Vancouver Ministerial (last official figures before meeting)
2018 Mar 28
||6||9||UN, 2018 (pdf)||Only 2 women military personnel|
Women in Peace Operations Pilot – “The Elsie initiative”
A pledge of C$ 21 m was made for women, peace and security. This includes contributions to the UN's trust fund for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: "We are equally committed to increasing the number of women that we deploy as part of UN peace operations." Vancouver ministerial, "Canada to deploy more women to peackeeping missions, says Trudeau," Youtube, 1:13.
Current status: Not yet implemented
Conclusion: Canada is not leading by example, with only three (3) military women in UN peacekeeping operations. The Trudeau government is providing only 9 women uniformed personnel (1 military women in Cyprus, 2 in South Sudan, and 6 police women in Haiti) to UN peacekeeping, less than what the Harper government did at the end of its term. The Vancouver pledges (especially the financial incentives) hold promise to increase the number of women military personnel provided by other countries. Will Canada do the same? The Canadian military deploys military women to Cyprus and South Sudan (2).
Pledge: While no specific pledge has been made in this regard, service at UN headquarters provides an important way to make a significant contribution, to gain experience in UN methods, procedures, and priorities, and to view the inner workings of the world organization. Positions to support UN peacekeeping should be in Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) or the Department of Field Support (DFS). For the military, the placement would be within the Office of Military Affairs (OMA) within DPKO.
Current status (military)
UN employment: 0 (out of more than 120 personnel serving from over 70 countries)
Gratis personnel: 1
Pledge: while no pledge was made, Canada has a long history of providing leaders in UN missions.
Historical: The UN's first chief military observer (BGen Harry Angle in UNMOGIP) and its first Force Commander (MGen E.L.M. Burns in UNEF) were Canadians. Canada provided seven force commanders in the 1990s but none since. Canada was offered the opportunity to submit candidates for force commanders in the D.R. Congo and Mali in the new century but did not oblige. The highest ranking position since 2005 has been the Force Chief of Staff (military) in MINUSTAH (Haiti), 2005-1017.
Status: Canada lost its most significant military and police positions in UN missions (colonel position as COS in MINUSTAH and the police commissioner position) in 2017 when the mission was converted to MINUJUSTH.
On the civilian side, two Canadians host positions of mission leadership (Special Representative of the Secretary-General or SRSG): Colin Stewart leading the UN mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO) and Elizabeth Spehar leading (since April 2016) the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
Pledges: As part of the "Contribution of police and up to 600 military personnel" (Vancouver commitment, "advancing" the London pledge):
Tactical Airlift Support
Aviation Task Force
Quick Reaction Force [approx. 200 personnel]
New Police missions being examined
Status: not yet implemented, under negotiation with UN. A single transport aircraft (C-130) will likely be provided for UN service, based in Entebbe, by August 2018. The announced deployment of helicopters to Mali is the subject of discussions with UN headquarters. The deployment is still not finalized.
Mandate Letter: includes "leading an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations"
Training activities to meet systemic UN needs
Canadian Training and Advisory Team (to be established)
Status: No international leadership in peacekeeping training has yet been shown. The Canadian government is currently less well equipped to do training for UN peacekeeping since so few military personnel have deployed in such operations over the past decade. In addition, the training and education within the Canadian Armed Forces on UN peacekeeping has also declined, with the number of activities less than a quarter of what they were in 2005 (see one study: Dorn and Libben, Unprepared for Peace? , 2015, html, pdf). The closure of the Pearson Centre in 2013 left Canada without a place to train military, police and civilians together.
The government does it own evaluation of the results of its promises (from the mandate letters) at canada.ca/results, which redirects to https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/campaigns/mandate-tracker-results-canadians.html. It lists its peacekeeping commitments as "Underway – on track" (defined as "progress toward completing this commitment is unfolding as expected").
The government's self-evaluation is inaccurate, if not outright false. Over half-way through the term of the current government, the contribution to UN peacekeeping reached an all-time low (January 2018), and has hardly picked up since then. Ironically, the same month that Canada hosted a peacekeeping pledging conference (Vancouver, November 2017), the number of Canadian uniformed personnel in UN peacekeeping was lower than at any other point since the creation of peacekeeping forces in 1956, and fall even lower in the months afterwards. The current contribution is less than half that of the previous government (on average). The government is not on track. Furthermore, for a country that seeks to champion women in peacekeeping, it is not leading by example, with just three women military persons deployed in UN peacekeeping operations.
There is, however, evidence that Canada will begin to re-engage in UN peacekeeping this summer. Canada announced on 19 March 2018 that it will provide the UN mission in Mali with an aviation task force of 6 helicopters and an aeromedical team, involving an estimated 200–250 personnel in total, for one year. This will be a substantial contribution if and when it materializes, probably in August 2018. Even still, this would not be even a third of the maximal pledged contribution (additional 600 military personnel). And a new mission for Canadian police contributions has not yet been announced. So Canada is still not on track and the promise remains unfulfilled. The rhetoric remains lofty on paper but the Canadian government has yet to take its own advice.
This webpage is updated on a monthly basis (around mid-month, after UN statistics for the end of the previous month are released). The assistance Nic Baird and Dr. Danielle Stodilka in data gathering is gratefully acknowledged . A copy of this page can be found at peacekeepingcanada.com.
Canada, Department of National Defence (DND), "Pledges," 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial, Vancouver, https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/campaigns/peacekeeping-defence-ministerial/pledges.html.
Canada, Department of National Defence (DND), Directorate of History and Heritage (DHH),
Operations Database: DOMREP; ONUC: ONUCA: UNDOF; UNEF; UNEFII; UNFICYP; UNGOMAP; UNIFIL; UNIPOM; UNMOGIP; UNTAG; UNYOM.
Canada, Department of National Defence (DND),"Minister Sajjan Reaffirms Peace Operations Pledge at UN Defence Ministerial," https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/news/2016/09/minister-sajjan-reaffirms-peace-operations-pledge-defence-ministerial.html (quote: "Canada stands ready to deploy up to 600 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel for future UN peace operations."), 8 September 2016.
Canada, Prime Minister, "Canada bolsters peacekeeping and civilian protection measures," News Release, 15 November 2017,
Canada, Privy Council, "Mandate Letter Tracker: Delivering results for Canadians," https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/campaigns/mandate-tracker-results-canadians.html, accessed 8 February 2018.
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "Canada offering 200 ground troops for future UN peacekeeping operations," http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/peacekeeping-plan-trudeau-vancouver-1.4403192, 15 November 2017. Trudeau Quote from Ministerial (15 November 2017): "We are making all these pledges today, because we believe in the United Nations and we believe in peacekeeping," he said. "What we will do is step up and make the contributions we are uniquely able to provide."
Canadiansoldiers.com, “Peacekeeping,” http://www.canadiansoldiers.com/history/peacekeeping.
Dorn, A. Walter and Joshua Libben, Unprepared for Peace? The Decline of Canadian Peacekeeping Training (and What to Do About It), Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Rideau Institute, Ottawa, February 2016. (html, pdf)
Durch, William J., The Evolution of UN Peacekeeping: Case Studies and Comparative Analysis, St Martin’s Press, New York, 1993.
Sajjan, Harjit (Defence Minister), Address to the UN Security Council, 28 March 2018, video at http://webtv.un.org/watch/part-2-collective-action-to-improve-united-nations-peacekeeping-operations-security-council-8218th-meeting/5760429007001/?term=, 42:00-51:44.
Trudeau, Justin (Prime Minister), Minister of National Defence Mandate Letter (November 12, 2015): https://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-national-defence-mandate-letter.
United Kingdom, "UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial: London 2016," https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/un-peacekeeping-defence-ministerial-london-2016. Final Report (pdf).
United Kingdom, "UN Peacekeeping Ministerial - pledge slides (PPT)" (pdf), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/556825/Pledge_slide_show_-_final_for_media_2.pdf.
United Nations (UN), "Troop and Police Contributors," https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/troop-and-police-contributors.
United Nations (UN), Department of Peacekeeping Operations / Department of Field Support, "Current and Emerging Uniformed Capability Requirements for United Nations Peacekeeping," issued periodically, including December 2016 (pdf), May 2017 (pdf) and August 2017 (pdf).
United Nations (UN), Department of Public Information (DPI), The Blue Helmets: A Review of United Nations Peace-Keeping, 2nd ed.. (New York, N.Y.), United Nations, 1992.
Canada's pledges, as recorded in the Vancouver pledges:
Contributions of three governments compared (Martin, Haper and Trudeau):
Source: UN "Troop and Police Contributors"
Canadian Contributions of Uniformed Personnel from the beginning to present:
Sources: Canada DND, Canadiansoldier.com, Durch, UN DPI