Tracking the Promises:
Canada's Contributions to UN Peacekeeping
Dr. Walter Dorn, 18 December 2017
Using monthly data released by the UN (pdf) on 16 December 2017
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 these government promises on UN peacekeeping using easily measurable statistics, the latest figures, and benchmark data.
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: 62 uniformed personnel deployed. None of the promised personnel deployed.
|2015 Sept 30||27||88||115||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);
lowest total since 1956
|2017 Nov 30||24||38||62||UN, 2017 (pdf)||
Graph of personnel deployed since 2006 (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 1948). Canada proposed the first peacekeeping force: UNEF in Egypt and made major contributions (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 in 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 2006, it dropped to 120 personnel.
Conclusion: Canada has not re-engaged in peacekeeping (yet). The number of uniformed personnel deployed is about half of what it was when the Harper government ended in 2015. Canada has so far contributed none of the additional personnel promised in 2016. Instead of being at 860, Canada is at 62 uniformed personnel. This is the lowest point since the first peacekeeping force was proposed by Lester Pearson in 1956.
Initiative: to promote more women in peacekeeping
Tabulation: Number of Canadian uniformed women in peacekeeping
|2015 Sept 30||0||19||19||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)
2017 Nov 30
|1||6||7||UN, 2017 (pdf)||Only 1 women military personnel (She is in UNFICYP)|
Women in Peace Operations Pilot – “The Elsie initiative”
Training activities to meet systemic UN needs
Canadian Training and Advisory Team
As part of this, 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).
Current status: Not yet implemented
Conclusion: Canada is not leading by example, with only one (1) military women in UN operations (with UNFICYP in Cyprus). The Trudeau government is providing only 7 women uniformed personnel (military plus police) to UN peacekeeping, less than what the Harper government did at the end of its term. However, the Vancouver promises (especially the financial incentives) hold promise to increase the number of women military personnel provided by other countries. Will Canada do the same?
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 on 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
Note: Canadian civilian gratis personnel serving at UN headquarters: 1
Pledge: while no pledge was made, Canada has a long history of providing leaders in UN missions.
Historical: The first chief military observer (BGen Harry Angle in UNMOGIP) and the first Force Commander (MGen E.L.M. Burns) were Canadians. Canada provided seven force commanders in the 1990s but none since. Canada was offered the opportunity to sybmit 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 position in UN missions (colonel position as COS in MINUSTAH) in 2017 when the mission was converted to MINUJUSTH.
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, anticipated by Summer 2018. A single transport aircraft (C-130) and possibly several helicopters are the subject of current discussions.
Mandate Letter: includes "leading an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations"
Pledge (Vancouver): develop and implement innovative new training programs and establish a Canadian Training and Advisory Team
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 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 in the same location.
The government' provides its 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 not accurate. Over half-way through the term of the current government, the contribution to UN peacekeeping is at an all-time low. Ironically, the same month that Canada hosted a peacekeeping pledging conference, the number of Canadian uniformed personnel in UN peacekeeping was lower than at any other point since the creation of peacekeeping forces in 1956. It is also less than half the contribution made by the previous government.
There is, however, evidence that Canada will re-engage in UN peacekeeping by Summer 2018, but still at only a third of the pledged contribution of personnel. Still, even that result has yet to be demonstrated. This webpage will be updated on a monthly basis (around mid-month, after UN statistics for the previous month are released).
Canada, Privy Council, "Mandate Letter Tracker: Delivering results for Canadians," https://www.canada.ca/en/privy-council/campaigns/mandate-tracker-results-canadians.html.
Canada, Department of National Defence, "Pledges," 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial, Vancouver, https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/campaigns/peacekeeping-defence-ministerial/pledges.html.
Canada, Prime Minister, "Canada bolsters peacekeeping and civilian protection measures," News Release, 15 November 2017,
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)
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 Ministerial - pledge slides (PPT), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/556825/Pledge_slide_show_-_final_for_media_2.pdf.
United Nations, "Troop and Police Contributors," https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/troop-and-police-contributors.
Canada's pledges, as recorded in the Vancouver pledges: