The departure of a Canadian Forces C-17 transport plane with 35 personnel headed to support the French mission in Mali was delayed by mechanical problems today, but it has now left CFB Trenton.

The aircraft was expected to take off at around 8 a.m. ET, but due to a generator problem the crew has had to switch to a different C-17.

A second plane is now en route to a French military base northwest of Marseilles to pick up troops and equipment destined for Mali's capital, Bamako.

The French military is leading an assault against al-Qaeda-linked rebel fighters in Mali who took over an area in the country's north larger than the size of France, following a coup last March.

"This is a logistics operation, intended to support French operations," Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay said on the tarmac before the C-17's departure Tuesday morning. "I spoke yesterday with the French defence minister [Jean-Yves Le Drian] to indicate that Canada would indeed support their efforts there."

Diplomatic scolding in Bamako

In a separate move, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's office announced late Tuesday morning that Canada's ambassador to Mali, Louis de Lormier, was asked to deliver an official demarche – a form of diplomatic protest – to the Malian government.

"We want to encourage them not to lose sight of, or minimize, the need for Mali to return to democratic and constitutional rule," said Baird's spokesman, Rick Roth, in an email. "This means holding elections that are free and fair at the earliest practical opportunity."

"The coup in March 2012 undermined Mali's progress as a democracy and provided Islamist extremists with a window that has had devastating consequences," Roth continued.

Late Monday morning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada's contribution of the heavy-lift aircraft to assist its allies for one week.

The announcement followed a tweet from the Malian president on Sunday that previewed that not only the U.S. and the U.K. were announcing support for the French-led campaign, but also Canada – which had not yet announced any material contribution beyond offering its verbal support.

Both Harper and MacKay said Canada was contributing the transport aircraft based on a specific request from France for this type of assistance. Canadian personnel are not expected to be directly involved in any combat, as fighting is not currently centred on Mali's capital.

On Tuesday, MacKay noted there is a shortage of this type of aircraft and praised Canadian Forces personnel from 429 Transport Squadron for preparing quickly for the departure of this C-17 from Canada.

International efforts ramp up

The British contribution also consists of two transport aircraft in a similar role to Canada's. MacKay said he was in the U.S. on Monday meeting with American military officials, who are "contemplating what level of support they can provide," which is not expected to include any ground troops but likely to include drones and other communications and logistical support.

The rebels behind the insurgency in Mali have imposed a brutal form of Islamic law in the north that threatens to spread, enabling terrorism elsewhere in Africa.

"It's a world away, but it's an indication of Canada's role within the global community," MacKay said Tuesday. "This is a region of the world right now that is deemed to be quite unstable.

"We have seen a deterioration of the security situation in Mali. Canada has a history of having supported Mali in the past. We have an obvious interest at stake of seeing stability and democracy return to that country," said the defence minister, also noting Canada's history of supporting France as a military ally.

Under the mandate of a United Nations Security Council resolution, several thousand troops from West African countries are expected to reinforce Mali's weakened military this week, as efforts to first contain and then defeat the insurgency escalate.

Robert Fowler, a former Canadian diplomat who in 2008 was kidnapped by al-Queda for 130 days in neighbouring Niger, thinks Canada can do more. Fowler says the group that snatched him and two others he was travelling with were members of al-Queda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQUIM) who want to create a fundamentalist Islamic state in Mali, and other parts of Africa.

Fowler, a former deputy minister of defence, who was in Africa as a UN special envoy to Niger, says Mali has the potential to become worse than Somalia, "a Darfur multiplied a hundred times."

"I think we can provide training, we can provided logistics, we can provide helicopters, we can provide fixed wing, we can provide intelligence and we can provide the services of our extremely skilled special forces to get this job done." Fowler told CBC News.

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair has said he supports the government's decision to send a C-17 military transport plane to support French intervention in Mali. But Mulcair told Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, Tuesday that any further action by Canada would have to be a decision made by Parliament.
canada mali c17
Canada's Minister of Defense Peter MacKay and CFB Trenton Commanding Officer Col. Sean Friday speak during a news conference at CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ontario, Tuesday Jan. 15, 2013. (AP/CP, Lars Hagberg)
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  • French Gazelle military helicopters, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrive at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Chadian soldiers securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows a Chadian soldier securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows a Chadian soldier securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows a Chadian soldier securing Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Malians soldiers arriving at Gao airport, north of Mali, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Malian soldiers boarding a French Transall military plane in Bamako, Mali, Saturday Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • This picture provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Monday Jan. 28, 2013 shows Malian soldiers boarding a French Transall military plane in Bamako, Mali, Saturday Jan. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Ghislain Mariette, EMA-ECPAD)

  • French Gazelle military helicopters, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrive at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Gazelle military helicopter, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrives at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Gazelle military helicopter, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrives at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Gazelle military helicopter, flying back from the city of Timbuktu, arrives at the French army base camp airport on January 28, 2013 in Sevare. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian soldier stands at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian soldier stands at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Malian soldiers wait at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Malian soldiers wait at a checkpoint near Sevare on January 27, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French soldiers are waiting the arrival of the French Defence Minister before their departure to Mali on January 25, 2013 at the Miramas ZRA (Zone de Regroupement et d'Attente) military base, southern France, as part of the French military operation codenamed Serval.(GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Bin Laden sticker adorns the tank of a small motorcycle in Mopti, some 630 kms (400 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • French soldiers return from patrol in Sevare, some 620 kms (400 miles) north of Mali's capital Bamako Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A U.S. Air Force transport aircraft with French military personnel and equipment aboard takes off for Mali from Istres airbase, near Marseille, southern France, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Claude Paris)

  • A French soldier stands guard as he arrives in the city of Diabaly, on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French soldier deployed near city of Diabaly keeps post from a machine gun mounted vehicle on January 22, 2013. (SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Residents look at an abandoned Malian army tank in Diabaly on January 22, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Malians walk past a burnt pickup truck mounted with a machine gun, which was formerly used by Islamists and destroyed after air strikes by the French air force a week ago, at a Malian military base which had been temporarily captured by Islamists, in Diabaly, on January 22, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French soldier deployed in Diabaly patrol on January 22, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A man and woman on a scooter ride past a Malian soldier controlling a strategic bridge on the Niger river on January 22, 2013 near Markala, 270km North of Bamako. (ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French soldier stands next to a military truck near Malian army buildings which were taken by Islamic jihadists before being destroyed during aerial bombings, in the city of Diabaly, on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French soldiers arrive in the city of Diabaly, on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French soldiers arrive in the Malian town of Diabaly on January 21, 2013. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A French Legionaire stands guard as groups from various units of the Air Force, Ground Army (Armee de Terre) and the French Foreign Legion fly out for a military operation in the north of Mali on January 21, 2013. (FABIO BUCCIARELLI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A foreign press photographer shoots pictures of a man holding a French flg on a street of Bamako on January 17, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A picture taken with a mobile phone on January 12, 2013 reportedly shows Islamist insurgents in Gao. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian man sells flags, including French ones, on a street of Bamako on January 17, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A Malian man sells souvenirs, including French ones, on a street of Bamako on January 17, 2013. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

  • French helicopters are towed to the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali National Guard soldiers stand guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, as a commercial jet takes off during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali's President Dioncounda Traore, center, visits the troops on the military side of Bamako's airport, Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali army cadets secure a perimeter on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali National Guard soldiers stand guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A Mali National Guard soldier stands guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A Mali gendarme directs traffic on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • A Malian soldier stands guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • Mali National Guard soldiers stand guard on the military side of Bamako's airport Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, during a joined visit to French and Malian troops by Mali's President Dioncounda Traore and French Ambassador to Mali Christian Rouyer. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

  • This night vision photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows French military armored vehicles on Bamako airport, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lempin, ECPAD, EMA)

  • This photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows a Rafale jetfighter flying over Mali, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2013. (AP Photo/Adj Nicolas-Nelson Richard, ECPAD, EMA)

  • This photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows French soldiers carrying ammunition at Bamako airport, Tuesday, Jan.15, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeremy Lempin, ECPAD, EMA)

  • This photo provided by the ECPAD/French Army shows a Rafale jet fighter refueling over Mali, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Adj Nicolas-Nelson Richard, ECPAD, EMA)

  • Members of pro-Islamic human rights groups gather in front of the French consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 to protest against France's military intervention in Mali. (AP Photo)

  • Members of pro-Islamic human rights groups shout slogans in front of the French consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 to protest against France's military intervention in Mali. (AP Photo)

  • An Ivorian officer (sitting) and other ECOWAS army officers prepare a document during a meeting of chiefs of staff on January 16, 2013 at the Mali peacekeeping traning center in Bamako. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A soldier stands guard during a meeting by ECOWAS chiefs of staff on January 16, 2013 at the Mali peacekeeping traning center in Bamako. (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)