Study on Issues Related to the Government’s Current Defence Policy ReviewPublished on 13 December 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Mobina Jaffer
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer:
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence’s most recent report entitled UN Deployment: Prioritizing commitments at home and abroad. This report is part of the committee’s wider study to examine and report on issues related to the defence policy review presently being undertaken by the government.
In 1957, Lester B. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to send a UN peacekeeping force to Egypt in response to the Suez Crisis. Since then, the international community has relied on Canada’s leadership and know-how whenever a conflict occurs in the world.
Since the days of Lester Pearson, UN peacekeeping has changed. Today’s missions are undertaken when often there is no peace to keep. These missions are more about peace support and the protection of civilians than they are about traditional peacekeeping.
The committee’s report, UN Deployment: Prioritizing commitments at home and abroad, identifies several possible areas for Canada to play a significant role in UN peace support operations, including non-military contributions that can strengthen governance, rule of law and assist in conflict prevention abroad.
The committee learned that we need to take a whole-of- government approach. General Jonathan Vance told us about how our military is ready to take on UN peace missions. However, he told us that soldiers alone cannot solve conflict, saying that:
. . . in most instances the nature of the conflict and the things you can do about it, maybe 20 per cent of it can be managed by the military. The other 80 per cent speaks to root causes, speaks to challenges of the nations they are dealing with, and no matter how much military force you put at it, it’s unlikely to solve the root causes.
Recognizing this reality, our committee has made eight recommendations.
Our first recommendation states that our government must obtain Parliament’s consent before any deployment. Our second recommendation states that our government must clearly articulate the rules of engagement for our military personnel before they depart on a mission.
Now that we are once again getting involved in peacekeeping operations, we need to ensure that our military and police are able to defend themselves from harm.
We also need to ensure that they are able to take action to protect civilians from harm or abuse since the goal of modern peacekeeping operations is to keep civilians safe. It is therefore essential that our rules of engagement reflect that reality.
Our third recommendation states that Canada expedite the implementation of Resolution 1325, that it encourages the inclusion of more women in all aspects of peace support operations, and that it ensures that Canadian and United Nations personnel deployed receive extensive training related to the women, peace and security agenda.
United Nations Resolution 1325 and other sister resolutions recognize the unique contribution women can make to the peace process. As of now, only 4 per cent of uniformed personnel taking part in peace operations for the UN are women. However, honourable senators, in Canada women make up about 15 per cent of our Regular Force.
Several witnesses told our committee that Canada can offer skilled female military personnel for both UN headquarters and field operations. We can also assist with the implementation of Resolution 1325 by implementing gender-sensitive approaches in our contributions to the United Nations.
For example, the United Nations has been looking to member countries to promote gender training for troops, which would allow them to better approach the complex gendered situations in UN peace operations.
Assisting the UN in creating gender-sensitive approaches to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration will also ensure that host countries will allow for women to engage in civilian life following conflict. This will help to change the culture of the UN and to spur progress on the implementation of this very important resolution.
Our fourth recommendation states that, in recognition of the additional burden that a deployment to a francophone nation will have on Franco-Canadians, the government will develop a strategy to better support these men and women and their families.
On that subject, I would like to point out that, today, about half of UN troops currently deployed on peacekeeping operations are working in francophone countries. The witnesses that we heard from agreed that, now that we are once again getting involved in UN peacekeeping missions, deployments to francophone countries would put an extra burden on the francophone units in Canada. It therefore goes without saying that this will have a major impact on the Royal 22e Régiment and the 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group.
Our fifth recommendation states that the government must allocate resources to military personnel returning home from operations, especially those who develop post-traumatic stress disorders.
Testimony before the committee taught us that many of the personnel who had participated in peace missions during the 1990s had come “. . . back to Canada badly scarred, physically and psychologically, from the experience.”
Our lessons in Afghanistan especially underline the need to support our troops suffering from PTSD. As of today, more soldiers have died from suicide since the end of deployment than died while they were in theatre.
Honourable senators, we all know that we cannot leave these brave Canadians alone when they need us the most. They gave us their best years. We now should do no less.
Our sixth recommendation calls on Canada to develop partnerships with regional organizations such as the African Union in order to promote conflict prevention and capacity building. The use of force in dealing with hostile groups is just a small part of United Nations peacekeeping operations. It goes without saying that once the threat is removed, conflict prevention and mediation play a major role in obtaining lasting peace.
In the words of General Jonathan Vance:
The use of force should never be done just for the sake of using force. . . . We set conditions for better things to happen.
However, to develop that lasting peace, we must address a wide variety of different areas. Governance, the security sector, economic ability and the rule of law are just a few examples of the many different areas that must be addressed if a lasting peace is to be achieved.
With that said, we have several international partners who can assist us as we attempt to restore stability worldwide. Specifically, regional organizations like the African Union can be a powerful force in encouraging peace.
As organizations that are integrated in the area and have considerable manpower, regional organizations take on the greatest risk and offer the most personnel for missions. However, many of these regional organizations are struggling with significant capacity challenges, even as they play that major role in restoring stability. At this time, many countries lack the necessary training and expertise in conflict prevention and capacity building.
Canada can play a significant role in equipping these regional organizations with the tools they need to become powerful allies in the fight to sustain global peace.
Over the course of our study, witnesses appeared before us to explain that we have a base of experience and motivated civilians who can help with the capacity-building process. By sharing this expertise, we can empower regional organizations to become a strong shield against conflict.
Our seventh recommendation states that Canada should establish a peace support operations training centre to assist in training military police and civilians inside and outside Canada. Modern peace operations involve the entire spectrum of conflict, from traditional peacekeeping to war-fighting operations to understanding the capabilities and capacity required before, during and after the conflict.
As of now, Canada does not have the same level of expertise and ability to teach this comprehensive approach to UN peace operations that was enjoyed previously when the Pearson Peacekeeping Training Centre was operational.
Establishing a peace support operations training centre would allow us to return to our roots in sharing our experience with the world and learning from our international partners.
Our eighth and final recommendation urges Canada to work with the UN Secretary-General to define and implement a framework to prosecute sexual exploitation and assault, human trafficking, abuse of minors and prostitution, which have occurred during UN peace support missions.
During our study, our committee was informed of the mounting concerns about sexual abuse by peacekeepers and the fact that this is now a serious issue that the United Nations is trying to address.
Unfortunately, many of those responsible for those horrible acts are able to enjoy impunity for these crimes despite their serious nature. This happens because the UN requires the consent of the accused member state to use its disciplinary process for sexual exploitation and abuse. Since this consent is almost never given, those responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse are tried in their member country rather than by the UN or another under international law.
The criminals responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse are often let go without any punishment. Furthermore, member countries often refuse to give the UN the means to launch investigations and legal proceedings, meaning that there is often no way to ever know what happened.
While the UN has already stated that they are now adopting a zero-tolerance policy regarding this very serious issue, Canada can play a role in ensuring that personnel guilty of such crimes are held accountable. Our military and law enforcement institutions have a very robust system in place to deal with sexual misconduct. We can bring our expertise in addressing sexual exploitation and assault to the rest of the world and help other countries develop similar strategies.
Back in the days of the Pearson centre, we were already helping other countries fight this issue. I urge the government to let Canada resume its role in helping to put an end to the impunity that those responsible for sexual exploitation and assault enjoy.
Honourable senators, I am very pleased that Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Sajjan intend to play a greater role in the UN peace support operations. I strongly urge them to consider our eight recommendations as they re-engage with UN peace support operations.
Canadians rightfully take pride in their long history of peacekeeping. Canadians wearing the UN’s blue helmets are still remembered around the world as a symbol of global peace.
Honourable senators, Canada has the equipment, expertise and personnel that could help UN peace support operations in an era when there is often no peace to keep in conflict zones. We also have the knowledge and personnel who can help ensure that peace will remain in these conflict regions for years to come after the threats have been handled.
Honourable senators, let us urge our government to use these strengths and create lasting change to help those in the world who need us most.
May I ask that this report be adopted now, because we would like to send it to the minister.