Pledge: while no international pledge was made by Canada, the Prime Minister did request his defence minister to provide “mission commanders” for the UN. Canada has not yet done so.

Historical Background: The UN’s first chief military observer, BGen Harry Angle in UNMOGIP, and the first Force Commander, MGen E.L.M. Burns in UNEF, were Canadians. Other Canadians were appointed as UN commanders in the Cold War. Canada provided seven force commanders and two commanders of observer missions in the 1990s but none since. The commanders, i.e., force commanders or heads of military components of missions, in the 1990s were:

 MGen Clive Milner  UNFICYP 1988-1992
 BGen Lewis MacKenzie  ONUCA 1990-1991
 MGen Armand Roy  MINURSO 1991-1992
 MGen Roméo Dalliare  UNOMUR/UNAMIR 1993-94
 MGen Guy Tousignant  UNAMIR II 1994-95
 LGen Maurice Baril  MNF in E.Zaire 1996
 BGen Pierre Daigle  UNSMIH 1996-1997
 BGen Robin Gagnon  UNTMIH 1997
 BGen Cam Ross  UNDOF 1998

Canada has not provided any Force Commanders or heads of military components in the twenty-first century. Canada was offered the opportunity to submit candidates for the force commander positions in the D.R. Congo and Mali around 2008 and 2016, respectively, but did not commit. The highest ranking positions in the twenty-first century has been the Force Chief of Staff in MINUSTAH, i.e., in Haiti, 2005-2017, and Deputy Chief of Staff in MONUSCO in D.R. Congo.

On the police side, a Canadian police officer has headed the police component in the UN’s missions in Haiti since 2004. That has been a significant RCMP-organized police contribution.

Status: Canada lost its most significant military position in UN missions with the end of MINUSTAH in 2017. It was a colonel position as Chief of Staff. The UN mission was downgraded to a smaller mission, MINUJUSTH. However, Canada did retain the role of police commissioner and mission leader in MINUJUSTH. Canada lost the major opportunity to provide the Force Commander for the Mali or MINUSMA mission in January 2017 when Canada dithered and delayed on the Mali mission, with Cabinet unable to commit. A force package for Mali was only delivered a year-and-a-half later. The Force Commander position went to a Major-General Jean-Paul Deconinck of Belgium and two years later to Lieutenant-General Gyllensporre from Sweden.

Aside: On the civilian side, three Canadians hold positions of mission leadership, i.e., Special Representative of the Secretary-General or SRSG: Colin Stewart leads the UN mission in Western Sahara or MINURSO, since Dec 2017; Elizabeth Spehar leads the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus or UNFICYP, since April 2016; and Deborah Lyons leads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan or UNAMA, since March 2020. But these mission leaders are not provided by the Canadian government. They are part of the international civil service, individually recruited by the United Nations, though often with endorsement of Canada. The Canadian civilians who lead UN missions are to be much commended for their personal service.

Conclusion:  In terms of providing military leadership of UN missions, this is a major failure for Canada, especially given the illustrious history of past contributions and the contributions of other middle-power nations, including Ireland and Norway, who were fellow contenders for a Security Council seat 2021-22. The opportunity to lead the Mali mission was missed catastrophically, causing extra hardship for the UN (with the position being unfilled for two months while the UN waited in vain for a response from Canada).

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