Yesterday, Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan announced that Canada will commit to a yet undefined peacekeeping mission, probably in central Africa, and in doing so Canada will be a "responsible partner in the world." It will probably not be until the end of the year that we know the details -- why, where, the mission's duration, what will they do, what victory looks like and the terms of engagement. What we know for sure from minister Sajjan's announcement and follow-up questions is that this matter will not be brought before Parliament for a vote before the commitment to the UN is finally agreed upon and put into operation.
Last Thursday, Lieutenant General Paul Wynnyk became the commander of the Canadian Army and quickly stated the Canadian Army could possibly deploy troops in Africa. As a matter of fact, according to Wynnyk, a deployment to Africa was imminent. Although many regions in Africa would benefit from having Canadian soldiers on the ground, Mali has been mentioned on many occasions.
In 1992, Canada was the world's leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations. Canada now ranks a dismal 68th in personnel contributions to UN peacekeeping. This dramatic decline began under the Liberals. Our international engagement programs took us from #1 to #32 by the time the Conservatives took office in 2006 -- they continued the Liberal abandonment of UN peacekeeping as a key role for Canada.
There was a time when Canada realized that while military security was an important investment, it was the long-term planning involved in relief and development that would ultimately bring greater measures of peace to our world. Somewhere along the way we lost that. We also lost a seat on the UN Security Council, the world's respect through our lack of action on climate change, and our altruism the moment we decided to invest development resources only in those nations that enhanced our own local economy and brought political benefit to the government.
The historic Christmas adage "peace to those of goodwill" takes on an attractive ring for a country that once built its international reputation on fighting to preserve peace in troubled regions. It's time for the military thinkers to come to terms with the reality that Canadians will remain a peaceful people who desire that same blessing for people around the world.
General Romeo Dallaire was in London, Ontario a couple of weeks ago speaking to a varied audience about Canada's dwindling international presence. Perhaps nowhere was that decline so clearly obvious as in Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's speech to the UN General Assembly and its vote on Palestinian recognition.