Uniformed Personnel

Pledge: Up to 750 uniformed personnel, i.e., 600 military + 150 police (2016 London Ministerial: pdf). This should be in addition to what Canada deployed at the time, 112, as is required for the pledging conference (i.e., pledging new contributions only).  So the total would be approximately 860 maximum.

Status: 39 Canadian uniformed personnel deployed, according to UN figures.

Table 1. Number of Canadian uniformed personnel, recent history and last UN report

Date     Military     Police     Total Source  Comment
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        39          62 UN, 2017 (pdf)
At time of Vancouver Ministerial last official figures beforehand
2018 May 31        19        21          40 UN, 2018 (pdf)
To that point, lowest number of uniformed personnel — lowest military contribution since 1956; lowest police contribution since 1992
2019 Feb 28 167 23 167 UN, 2019 (pdf) Highest contribution from Trudeau gov in Mali — 250 military incl. NSE
2020 Aug 31 22 12 34 UN, 2020 (pdf) Lowest number of uniformed personnel since 1956 and lowest police contribution since 1992
2020 Mar 31  28 27 55 UN, 2021 Increase over lowest point

Figure 1. Contribution by month, from 2005 to 2020 (Dec), showing governments in power at the time

Historical benchmarks: Canada was a leader in providing personnel to UN peacekeeping from its early days, e.g., providing the first military observer chief, BGen Harry Angle of UNMOGIP, which was the first observer mission, created in April 1948 for Kashmir. In 1956, Canada proposed the first peacekeeping force: UNEF in Egypt and made major contributions, including battalion-sized contributions throughout the life of the mission (1956–67). It also helped create the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), to which Canada contributed large units (battalions) for about 30 years (1964–1993). Canada was the only country to contribute to ALL peacekeeping operations during the Cold War, with about 1,000 deployed on average over 40 years. It remained a top contributor into the early 1990s. In 1993, Canada had 3,300 uniformed personnel deployed in UN missions (including in Bosnia, Cambodia, Mozambique, and Somalia). Canada contributed approx. 200 logisticians to the UN Disengagement Observer Force in Golan Heights (UNDOF, in Syria) from its creation in 1974 until 2006, when the Harper government withdrew them (see decline in Figure 1). So during the half-century 1956-2006, Canada always maintained at least 200 uniformed personnel in peacekeeping, and the average for the period was well about 1,000 (see Figure A2 in Annex below). In March 2006, shortly after the Harper government 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.

Before his election in October 2015, Trudeau criticized the Conservative government of Stephen Harper for a decline in number of uniformed personnel (rank 66th on the list of contributors on 31 September 2015). Surprisingly, under the Trudeau government, the contribution fall further for over two years until Canada reach its lowest rank ever: 81st (31 May 2018). The rank increased substantially in July 2018 with the addition of 134 mil personnel in Mali (as counted by the UN) but it was short lived.

During the one year deployment in Mali (2017-18), the Canadian defence department (DND) frequently stated that the number deployed in Mali is “approximately 250 personnel.” The discrepancy between UN and Canadian statistics arises because Canada generously deployed more personnel on this mission than the UN pays for. (The UN has standards for the number of deployed for a given function that are much lower than what Canada deemed was required for its deployment.) So the additional Canadian personnel (approx. 100) were considered part of a “National Support Element” (NSE), which is not reimbursed, though most of these personnel still wore UN insignia and were incorporated into the mission as part of the regular UN chain of command.

The Mali contribution was the largest Canadian deployment since 2005 and only the third time it contributed a military unit since 2005 (both other units were short one-time deployments in Haiti with no rotations). With the Mali deployment, the number of uniformed personnel deployed finally became greater than what it was when the Harper government ended in October 2015. But instead of being at 860, Canada never contributed over 300. Following the Defence and Foreign Ministers’ announcement on 19 March 2018 that Canada will contribute to the UN mission in Mali, Canada provided an aviation task force of 8 helicopters (three Chinooks and five Griffons). This was a substantial military contribution with high quality assets. The initial Vancouver pledge was made as a “smart pledge,” which means “helping [the UN] to eliminate critical gaps” by securing successive rotational contributions from different countries but Canada still left a gap until the next country (Romania) took over the responsibility in mid-October 2019. So the pledge was not so “smart.” Furthermore, the police contribution reached the lowest point since 1992 (just 15 police officers in November 2018, see Figure 1).  At less than 20 officers, this is lower than any point in the Harper government, though the authorized ceiling under the Trudeau government is much higher (150 overall, with 20 for UN mission in Mali, and 35 for mission in Haiti; see RCMP current operations).

– With the withdrawal from the Mali mission, Canadian personnel contributions sunk to a record low, now only slightly higher. Not since 1956 had Canada made a smaller contribution of personnel.
– Five years after the 2015 Liberal campaign pledge, promises ring hollow. Only one substantive increase over the Harper monthly numbers is found, but for only for one mission (Mali) for a short duration (one year).
– The average number of deployed personnel under the Trudeau government (monthly average of 95 personnel) is 60% LESS than that of the Harper government (157).
– It is hard to say that the Trudeau government is heeding the legacy or the call of Lester B. Pearson, as made in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:

We made at least a beginning then. If, on that foundation, we do not build something more permanent and stronger, we will once again have ignored realities, rejected opportunities, and betrayed our trust. Will we never learn?

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