Leadership

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 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 commit. The highest ranking position in the twenty-first century has been the Force Chief of Staff (military) in MINUSTAH (Haiti), 2005-2017.

Status: Canada lost its most significant military position in UN missions with the end of MINUSTAH (colonel position as Chief of Staff) in 2017 when the mission was converted to MINUJUSTH. However, Canada did retain the role of police commissioner and mission leader in the successor mission (MINUSUTH). Canada lost the major opportunity to provide the Force Commander for the Mali (MINUSMA) mission in January 2017 when it continued to dither and delay 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, 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) (since Dec 2017) and Elizabeth Spehar leading (since April 2016) the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). But these leaders are not provided by or seconded from the Canadian government. They are part of the international civil service, individually recruited by the United Nations.

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, fellow contenders for a Security Council seat 2021-22). The opportunity to lead the Mali mission was missed catastrophically.

 

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