INTERACTIVE: Canadian UN deployments drop under Conservatives

After a sharp decline in 2006, UN commitments stagnate

Did you know Canada still has a military commitment in the Balkans? A handful of personnel serve various administrative and logistical roles in Kosovo, as part of the ongoing NATO mission in the region. On Thursday, Minister of Defence Peter MacKay announced the Canadian Forces would contribute to the mission until at least December 2014. That effort is a small part of Canada’s evolving commitment to military operations overseas — a commitment that, in recent years, has focused less on the UN and more on NATO.

On the heels of the Kosovo announcement came a Canadian Press story teasing the potential deployment of additional Canadian troops to the UN mission in Haiti. The soldiers would bolster the Brazilian contribution to the stabilization effort in Haiti.

Kosovo, Haiti… Where else are Canadian troops spending the Christmas season?

Canadian Forces personnel are currently engaged in both NATO and UN missions all over the world. The largest and most well-known mission is made up of the 950 soldiers who remain in Afghanistan. The Navy’s standing commitment to anti-piracy operations in the Arabian Sea means about 250 sailors are stationed at sea. And a small number of personnel are attached to other missions. Here’s how the count breaks down (Afghanistan is excluded, since it would blow out the graph). Operations with asterisks are UN missions.

Canada has participated in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization — the mission to keep the peace between Israel, Lebanon and Syria — since 1954. CF personnel have been stationed on Cyprus continually since 1964. Those staffing levels are minimal, though. One person in Cyprus? Outside of Canada’s substantial NATO commitments — to Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea, primarily — in the recent past, Canadian presence on UN missions has been generally sparse.

Since January 2005, the last year the Liberals held power under former prime minister Paul Martin, troop commitments have dropped — note the substantial plunge as soon as the Conservatives took office. By contrast, the number of police officers overseas has remained relatively stable. That third line, UNMEM, comprises all military observers in the field.

The same trend is reflected in Canadian deployment, as a proportion of total UN forces overseas.

Even at its recent peak of 0.55 per cent of total UN forces, CF deployment to UN missions represents just a tiny fraction of the global force. It is dwarfed by the contributions of three south Asian nations that send thousands of troops to missions all over the world; Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani troops and police participate in all but a couple of UN missions. Explore this map to see just where those countries deploy their personnel. Red squares mean the three countries provide more than 20 per cent of that mission’s force, while white squares mean under 20 per cent. Click on New York City for the total number.




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INTERACTIVE: Canadian UN deployments drop under Conservatives

  1. It’s interesting that 2005 was taken as a baseline. Yup, under the Conservatives, since 2005 we dropped from 314 to just 149 today. That’s absolutely true.

    Now step back, put it into perspective. In 1994, under PM Mulroney, Canada had over 2,400 military personnel deployed on peacekeeping missions, the overwhelming majority of which were on UN Chapter VI missions. That was our high point. At no time in history have we had more soldiers, sailors and airmen overseas on peacekeeping (Korea doesn’t count as it was a peacemaking, combat mission).

    Two years later, under PM Chretien, Canada had only about 1,100 peacekeepers, UN and otherwise. By the year 2000, still under PM Chretien, it was down to about 650.

    It might also be noted that one of the reasons for the drawdown in peacekeeping efforts was a commitment of peacemaking (combat) forces into places like Haiti (UNMIH), East Timor (INTERFET) and Yugoslavia (including Kosovo).

    Finally, it should be recognized that although Canada’s efforts in Afghanistan were not under direct UN control, not technically a UN mission, we were there at the specific request of the UN Security Council through UNSC Resolution 1386 in December 2001 as a Chapter VII (peacemaking) mission. That request was backed up by a separate request by the legally-elected government of Afghanistan, one that, however weak it may be, was and remains the internationally-recognized government. UNSCR 1386 resolution has been regularly updated and supported by the UNSC. The first combat deployments were made under PM Chretien.

    This has not been a particularly balanced look at the use of our armed forces, sorry. You can do better.

  2. I’d be interested in seeing a discussion (or a least a mention in passing) of the reason that India, Pakistan and Bangladesh contribute so disproportionately to UN peacekeeping forces. It’s because the UN pays roughly $1300 per month per soldier to Troop Contributing Countries for UN missions. In the developed world, this is a small fraction of the total cost of deployment, but for countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh it is many multiples of the salary and other deployment costs. The balance of the money is sent home to pay for the country’s standing armies and to buy tanks.

    So, in effect the UN is hiring the world’s largest mercenary outfits to do its work on its missions, and the money spent goes directly to paying for arms races in the third world.

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