Esquimalt-Sooke-Saanich NDP MP Randall Garrison is calling on the federal government to extend a Canadian peacekeeping mission in Mali, after visiting the site of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) last week.
The MINUSMA was established in 2013 to assist with the transition of authorities in Mali after a coup in March 2012.
In March 2018 the Government of Canada committed to one year of peace-keeping relief within the mission, with most efforts focused on the medical evacuation of UN forces by air, using Canadian CH-146 Griffon and CH-147F Chinook helicopters. The helicopters also provide logistics support and transport troops, equipment and supplies.
The Canadian effort has 250 troops working in the mission.
The one-year mission will wrap up on Aug. 1, 2019, a date that Garrison says leaves remaining UN troops very vulnerable.
“The 13,000 UN troops that are still there will be much more restricted with what they can do,” Garrison said. “The roads are quite difficult in the region, it’s tough conditions and there are no medical services available except for the people evacuated by air.”
Romanian efforts will move in to take up the humanitarian and medevac missions from the Canadians on Oct. 15, 2019, but Garrison worries that the area is too violent to accommodate an eight-week gap in relief.
The hesitance is inspired in part by three recent attacks in the area in January which collectively saw the death of 12 Blue Helmets and two other peacekeepers, and the injury of 41 people.
“The year is up,” Garrison said. “That doesn’t sound so good in the field, but it sounds good in Ottawa.”
During the trip, Garrison, along with six other members of the Canadian Defence Committee, heard positive feedback about the Canadian presence.
“People universally told us we don’t understand why the Canadians are leaving before Romanians arrive,” he said.
Garrison was adamant that extending the cost of the mission by another six weeks would not have excessive costs, citing that establishing a group in a foreign country was much more expensive than operating it, though no official numbers were available.
Garrison will bring his recommendations to the Defence Committee for discussion in Ottawa next week.
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