The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
Government must be transparent about new UN peace role: Senators
November 28, 2016
Ottawa – The federal government must seek the approval of Parliament before sending troops abroad and committing scarce resources United Nations peace support operations, senators said today.
The Senate Committee on National Security and Defence released its report, UN Deployment: Prioritizing commitments at home and abroad, after examining the government’s plan to re-engage in UN peace operations.
The government had announced its re-engagement plan in March 2016; in the summer, the government committed 600 troops, 150 police officers, and $450 million over three years to an as-yet-unspecified UN operation. The government also announced $30 million for counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel region of Africa.
The committee said Parliament must be consulted before the government deploys military forces. In a parliamentary democracy, the government has an obligation to inform its citizens about the nature of a proposed mission, including the goals, the risks, the rules of engagement and withdrawal plans.
Any prospective mission must also take into account current commitments to national defence and to NORAD and NATO.
Senators recognize that Canada can potentially do more to bolster global stability. The report identifies areas in which Canada can provide meaningful assistance — including through non-military contributions that strengthen governance and the rule of law abroad. Establishing a Peace Operations Training Centre for foreign soldiers, police and civilians is one example of how Canada can share its expertise.
The report makes eight recommendations to guide the government as it pursues its new objective. The committee’s recommendations come after months of consultation with senior members of the military, academics and diplomats, and after a fact-finding mission to UN Headquarters.
The committee’s recommendations are aimed at fostering openness and transparency in government decision-making, ensuring Canada can maintain its existing international commitments, and integrating women more fully into peace operations per the UN’s Resolution 1325.
- The federal government asked the committee to examine the government’s UN re-engagement commitment as part of the committee’s overall investigation into the government’s Defence Policy Review, which will be the subject of a future report.
- Canada is already a significant contributor to the UN: in the last fiscal year, Canada provided approximately $1.5 billion to UN programs and agencies.
- Women make up just 4% of UN peace operations and 15% of Canada’s regular force. UN Resolution 1325 has called on member countries to ensure women are included in all aspects of peace operations.
“Committing members of the military to serve in potentially dangerous operations is one of the government’s gravest responsibilities. These are not decisions that should be undertaken lightly. Canada has much to contribute to global stability but the government has an obligation to be forthright with Canadians about the costs — and particularly the risks involved in a new UN deployment — of peace missions.”
- Senator Daniel Lang, Chair of the committee
“For decades the world has turned to Canada for help and support. We are once more being called upon to deploy our resources, our expertise and our compassion to bring a measure of hope to those who live in the grip of violence. Our report describes the many ways we in Canada can contribute to a safer world abroad. Canadians have the will and capacity to make a positive impact at home and abroad and the time to act is now.”
- Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer, Deputy Chair of the committee
“Though the government has not yet seen fit to disclose which UN mission it is considering supporting, it seems likely this mission will take place in French-speaking parts of Africa. We have been warned that this could place an extra burden on francophone military units in Canada. More support should be available for units and their families prior to, during and after deployment.“
- Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais, Member of the committee
- Read the report, UN Deployment: Prioritizing commitments at home and abroad.
- The Senate of Canada is on Twitter and Facebook. Follow the committee using the hashtag #SECD.
For more information, please contact:
The Office of the Hon. Senator Daniel Lang
Chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
Senate of Canada
The Office of the Hon. Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer
Deputy Chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence
Senate of Canada