By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch
The Mali mission that the Canadian government announced Monday had a familiar ring to it. Canada will contribute two Chinook helicopters, four armed Griffons and an air support contingent.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland pointed out that the contribution meets the government’s pledge to return Canada to peacekeeping and peace operations.
During the 2015 federal election campaign, then Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised that his government would “renew Canada’s commitment to peacekeeping operations.”
Monday’s announcement has a familiar ring to it. That’s because the UN had thought it convinced the Liberal government in 2016 to contribute the Chinooks and Griffons to the Mali mission. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had said that year the government was focused on Africa for a UN contribution. Mali was “one place we need to be mindful of,” Sajjan added.
In September 2016 Canada sent a team to Mali to conduct a reconnaissance mission in that country as a prelude to a potential deployment. Members of the Canadian Forces, the RCMP and Global Affairs Canada, took part in the reconnaissance.
Both the Dutch military and UN were lobbying Canada to provide Chinooks and Griffons.
In November 2016 Atul Khare, the undersecretary general of the UN’s department of field support, tried subtly put pressure on the government but outlining the need for the helicopters. “I think the most important contributions currently would be devoted to Mali,” he told journalists at a security conference meeting in Halifax after meeting with Sajjan. Both armed helicopters and military utility choppers were needed, he added.
It appeared that the appeals worked – a short time later information was leaked to journalists that the provision of Chinooks for the Mali mission was a go.
And then nothing.
In February 2017 it was revealed that Canada missed an opportunity to provide the commanding officer for the Mali mission because the Liberal government first wanted to confer with the Trump administration on its peace support plans.
A little more than a year after that the Canadian government is back to where it started.