A Canadian pledge of 200 soldiers for peacekeeping missions is missing in action more than 18 months after it was first made to the United Nations by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The “quick-reaction” force was one of the signature promises Trudeau made to the UN during a major peacekeeping summit in Vancouver in November 2017, along with a unit of helicopters and a transport plane.
Canada delivered on the helicopters, which have been conducting medical evacuations in Mali since last August and are close to wrapping up their mission.
And UN and Defence Department sources, who aren’t authorized to discuss it publicly, say an agreement is being finalized on deploying the transport plane to ferry supplies and troops around Africa, with the hope that flights will start as early as next month.
But Canada has yet to register the quick-reaction force in a UN database of peacekeeping pledges, which is normally the next step countries take after making a commitment — meaning it has not been formally offered to the UN.
That is despite the prime minister’s promise and a call by the UN for such units, which are responsible for responding quickly to emergencies such as an attack on fellow peacekeepers or civilians.
The quick-reaction force was “intended as the last of a series of pledges that are being delivered consecutively,” Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in an email on Tuesday.
The military is focused on the helicopter mission in Mali, he added, and the quick-reaction force will be made available “when it becomes appropriate.”
The fact the force has not been entered in the UN database “does not mean that we don’t intend on fulfilling that pledge,” said Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s spokesman Todd Lane, who indicated the government has given itself until November 2022 — five years from the Vancouver summit — to fulfil all three signature pledges.
Yet the UN in May listed quick-reaction forces as one of several “critical” requirements needed for peacekeeping missions around the world, saying they were needed to protect civilians and facilitate aid delivery.