Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Minister, my question is on the peacekeeping force. First of all, I want to thank you for all the work you do, especially for us in B.C.
In two weeks, Vancouver will host this year’s United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference, where the world’s contributors to peacekeeping meet every year. However, despite hosting this event, Canada’s contributions to peacekeeping have fallen to their lowest point in 30 years.
As of last Tuesday, Canada had only 68 active peacekeepers deployed abroad, of which only 28 were Canadian Armed Forces members. This is far from the 600 Canadian Armed Forces and the 150 police officers that the government had promised last year.
I believe, minister, it would be an embarrassment for Canada to host the UN Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Conference in our city without making any real contributions to peacekeeping. We cannot afford to keep making promises to re-engage with UN peacekeeping without taking action; the cost of non-participation is too high.
Minister, we know how important it is to have peacekeepers. You have worked as a peacekeeper yourself. Minister Sajjan, the time is now. When and how are we going to engage our peacekeepers?
Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much for the question, senator. Today, when you look at conflict, United Nations peacekeeping is not the peacekeeping of the past. Canada can be extremely proud of the work it has done with the United Nations when it comes to peacekeeping.
I am very diligent when it comes to looking at whether we will be sending troops, and the Prime Minister and entire cabinet are as well. When we make a decision to send troops into harm’s way, we want to make sure we are going to have the right impact. Yes, we have as a government decided on 600 troops, up to 150 peace officers and the development money that also comes with it, but we want to really engage. We want to make sure we have the right impact.
I understand there is considerable enthusiasm from many nations for Canada to get back involved. As the concept of peacekeeping was developed, we want to consider how we contribute in a meaningful way that will have an impact, not just pick a location somewhere. Put it this way: Our troops always do phenomenal work, but how can the special skills and abilities assist the United Nations?
How do we look at conflict, not just from a location but from a regional perspective? That’s what we are doing now.
I am comfortable with taking the time to get this right, because if you look at the conflicts now, I think there has been 18 years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If we spend our time to get this right, what efforts can we make within the United Nations that will expand on their mission? More important, there have been good efforts in the United Nations; for example, the mandate of protection of civilians, and women, peace and security initiatives that have been done. How do we look at development?
So when we look at this, we ask: How can we assist the United Nations by moving some of their initiatives forward? I look forward to making the announcement to all Canadians. We will explain it well. We want to make sure we are going to have a meaningful impact. I’m confident we will.