Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr is defending the federal government’s new peacekeeping plan saying it will have a multiplier effect that the simple contribution of soldiers would not.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada is prepared to offer up to 200 ground troops—part of a quick reaction force—transport and armed helicopters, cargo planes and military trainers for future United Nations peacekeeping operations.
The number of soldiers is far lower than the “up to” 600 troops and 150 police officers committed by the Liberal government 14 months ago.
But Fuhr, a retired Canadian Air Force pilot and currently the chairman of the parliamentary national defence committee, said since the original commitment, there has been a full review of Canada’s defence policy, which included a review of Canada’s role in UN peacekeeping efforts.
Trudeau said a new vision for peacekeeping is needed and the new commitment reflects that.
“We’re asking peace operations to do more—not only to deal with violence when it erupts, but to respond to the entire life cycle of conflict—preventing its outbreak, supporting complicated peace processes and helping people to rebuild their lives when conflict ends.… That is the reality of modern peace operations,” said Trudeau Wednesday.
“Given that reality, we need to try new things.”
Fuhr said Canada is currently involved in 19 overseas operations, including in Latvia, the Ukraine, Iraq and Romania. Not all, however, are UN operations.
The local MP said he feels contributions, like sending large military aircraft, pilots and support crews to assist in an airlift in Uganda will have a huge impact because it will benefit a total of seven different UN operations in the region. Under the plan, a Canadian military CC-130 transport plane would help the UN address critical gaps around being able to transport troops, equipment, supplies and food to support ongoing missions and the rapid deployment of UN forces in Africa for up to 12 months.
“That’s huge,” he said.
“I’m happy with the direction we are headed in now,” said Fuhr, adding he feels the overall impact of Canada’s contribution is more important than sheer numbers of troops.
Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola Conservative MP Dan Albas, whose riding includes part of downtown Kelowna, called the change from the 2016 commitment “yet another promise that is not fully honoured by this prime minister.”
“Instead only 200 personnel and 50 police will be provided in primarily training and transport roles,” wrote Albas in his latest column. “There will be no specific deployment zone despite many promises and overseas trips to explore potential peacekeeping opportunities over the past two years.”
But Albas said he feels Canada will continue to serve a useful role in UN peacekeeping operations, albeit with what he termed a “significantly reduced commitment.”
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