Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Political Battle Shaping Up over Liberal Government's Peacekeeping Plan

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Political Battle Shaping Up over Liberal Government's Peacekeeping Plan

Article excerpt

Battle lines drawn over peacekeeping plan


OTTAWA - Battle lines are being drawn between Liberals and Conservatives as the government prepares to deploy hundreds of Canadian troops to an as-yet-unannounced United Nations peacekeeping mission in Africa.

The pending clash, which is breaking along ideological lines, was previewed Thursday and is expected to figure prominently when the House of Commons returns from its summer break later this month.

At a peacekeeping summit in London, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan affirmed the government's plan to make up to 600 soldiers and 150 police officers available for peace operations. The government will also spend $450 million on peace support projects, and will host a similar peacekeeping summit next year.

"Supporting and encouraging peace is certainly part of what it means to be Canada," Sajjan told counterparts from around the world.

"Canada has a rich history of supporting and building peace around the world. We have seen the tremendous contributions that Canada and our allies can make, and we stand ready to take up this role again."

But even as Sajjan was touting the return of Canadian blue berets, Conservative defence critics James Bezan and Pierre Paul-Hus were in Ottawa taking shots at the UN's record on peacekeeping, and the Liberal government's motives for pursuing such a mission.

Raising the spectre of peacekeeping failures including Rwanda and Bosnia, which many Canadians still remember, the Tories said the UN hasn't proven itself capable of managing peacekeeping missions.

Instead, Bezan held up Canada's participation in the U.S.-led war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh, as an example of a proper military mission. Canada has about 800 troops in the region, including 200 special forces operatives in northern Iraq and three aircraft operating out of Kuwait.

"In the last 15 years," he said, "our success in these types of missions has been in peacemaking, not in peacekeeping."

The Conservatives also accused the Liberals of being more interested in winning a UN Security Council seat than actually participating in a mission that is in Canada's national interest. …

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