Canada will commit $450-million over three years to a new peacekeeping program, which will make up to 600 Canadian Forces troops available for possible deployment to United Nations peace operations.
The federal government announced the creation of the new Peace and Stabilization Operations Program, or PSOPs, at a news conference in Bagotville, Que., on Friday. However, it did not say which specific peace operations Canadian troops will be deployed to.
"We're very much interested and supportive of the work that the United Nations does," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters. "We will now have important decisions to make around where and how those Canadian Forces and resources are deployed and that will be obviously in conversation and concert with the United Nations, but also with friends and allies around the world."
Through the new program, Canada will support mediation efforts, conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction in UN peace operations, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion.
"PSOPs will give Canada a stronger voice on the world stage," Mr. Dion said Friday.
Last year, the Liberals campaigned on a promise to return Canada to a major peacekeeping role. Although the government has demonstrated an interest in existing UN peace operations in Africa – Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan just returned from a fact-finding mission in East Africa earlier this month – it has not said where it will send Canadian troops.
The $450-million commitment is an increase to the "uneven and sporadic amounts" provided by the Conservatives under the Stabilization and Reconstruction Task Force (START), according to the government. The START program was created in 2005 to contribute to peace building and security in fragile and conflict-affected states around the world. The 600 or so troops deployed will be in addition to the 30 Canadian Armed Forces personnel currently serving on various UN peace missions around the world.
The pledge will also include a renewal of the government's yearly $46.9-million funding for the International Police Peacekeeping and Peace Operations Program (IPP). It will allow for the deployment of up to 150 Canadian police officers and related expert personnel, which will include the 94 already serving abroad right now.
The IPP is administered by the RCMP in partnership with Public Safety Canada and Global Affairs Canada. Its job is to re-stabilize fragile or conflict-affected states through the re-establishment of effective public institutions, such as police services.
The Conservatives were critical of the government's announcement Friday, accusing the Liberals of using its peace operations commitment as a ploy to get Canada a seat on the UN Security Council in 2021. Tory defence critic James Bezan also raised concerns about the government's refusal to say where it plans to deploy Canadian troops.
"There was no commitment to a place, to why we're going, when we're going, who is going," Mr. Bezan told The Globe and Mail. "Right now, we don't have any idea what the government's goal is here, other than try to get a seat at the UN Security Council."
Although the NDP expressed support for the government's plan to enhance Canada's peacekeeping role, it encouraged the Liberals to consult Parliament on all missions.
Walter Dorn, a peacekeeping expert at the Canadian Forces College, said the announcement was made in an effort to get Canada a spot at the UN Leaders' Summit on Peacekeeping in London next month.
"In order to be able to even go to the summit, they had to make a commitment in advance. Otherwise they couldn't be a part of that very important gathering," Prof. Dorn told The Globe and Mail.
He said the government is likely considering joining UN peace operations in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, as Canada's bilingual troops would be an asset in those French-speaking countries.