sorry for the length of this thing, but it's a verbatim speech given by Eggs at the Security and Defence Forum Conference. Thought people may want to know what's said behind closed doors.
Speaking Notes for
The Honourable Art Eggleton
Minister of National Defence
Security and Defence Forum Conference
"Canada and Peacekeeping"
April 24, 2021
Check against delivery
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good morning. It is a pleasure to be here to address this year's conference.
Of course, maybe I should reserve that sentiment until after the question and answer session.
For over thirty years, the Security and Defence Forum has helped foster a domestic competence and national interest in security and defence issues.
Your research, teaching and efforts to help Canadians better understand the issues are as important today as they ever have been.
Today you are gathered here to discuss Canada and peacekeeping.
Peacekeeping has been an important aspect of Canada's foreign and defence policies for some fifty years.
It is an integral part of our efforts to maintain international peace and security.
It has allowed us to promote our interests and values on the world stage.
And its noble aim is supported by the vast majority of Canadians.
There is no question that our experience, professionalism and commitment to peacekeeping have built a strong reputation for Canada.
This gives us an opportunity to play a leadership role, as nations and institutions come to terms with the trends and challenges that are re-shaping peace support operations.
The Peacekeeping Challenge
I think it is safe to say that the international environment has changed significantly since the end of the Cold War.
While the possibility of a global conflict is very remote, many parts of the world are torn by regional instability, wars within and between states and ethnic conflicts.
The proliferation of small arms and light weapons continues to pose real dangers.
Armed forces are finding themselves in unpredictable operational environments, facing multiple and well-armed adversaries, ill-defined lines of demarcation and uneasy or non-existent cease-fires.
One of the things the new environment calls for is a more robust approach to peace support operations.
This is not the classic peacekeeping of the past.
Peace support operations have become more complex, dangerous and demanding.
Achieving peace and stability in this new environment in the long-term requires an integrated approach.
Increasingly, armed forces carry out their work as part of a large network of players that includes civilian police, UN relief agencies, regional organizations and NGOs.
Given the potential for the international community to be more proactive in responding to these challenges, it is likely that there will be greater, not fewer, demands for peace support operations.
Implications for Canada and the Canadian Forces
The changing nature of peace support operations has raised a range of challenges and opportunities for the UN, NATO, individual nations and their armed forces.
This includes the Canadian Forces.
The increasing demand has meant that Canadian Forces deployments have multiplied.
In the past twelve years, the Canadian Forces have deployed on more than 26 UN peace support operations.
This is compared to 15 in the previous 40 years.
The increased demand -- coupled with the complexity of new missions and our efforts to sustain ongoing commitments -- has had an impact on our resources, especially our people.
And the demands placed on the Canadian Forces will likely not change greatly in the near future.
For us, the question is how to continue making meaningful and effective contributions.
Responding to the Challenge
Canada remains committed to helping bring peace and stability in the world.
This commitment was emphasized in the last two Speeches from the Throne.
But one thing is clear. It can't be business as usual.
The issue we face is how to make peace support operations more effective.
Canada has always been an active supporter of the UN.
This includes our efforts to reform its peacekeeping practices.
We are working with all member states to implement the recommendations of the Brahimi report.
This includes ensuring mandates are clear, realistic and achievable. And that there are sufficient resources to carry them out.
It also means that Canada will continue to promote closer consultations between the Security Council and troop contributing nations.
Improving the UN's rapid reaction capabilities is central to our efforts.
And Canada has worked with Denmark and the Netherlands to develop SHIRBRIG.
This Multinational Standby Forces High Readiness Brigade was deployed for the first time to the UN mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea and is working well.
Canada also welcomes the increased role NATO has played in recent peace support operations.
NATO brings with it a strong capacity for effective command and control and the capacity to work effectively with peacekeepers from non-NATO nations.
The Stabilization Force in Bosnia is a prime example.
For Canada and Canadians, we have to decide how to meet our current defence commitments and simultaneously ensure that the Forces are able to meet future demands.
This means we have to make choices.
About where we invest, in terms of our people, equipment and training.
And about how and when we contribute to international operations.
We are going to focus our energies on what matters most.
This includes ensuring that the Canadian Forces are modern, task-tailored, globally deployable and combat-capable.
This gives Canada the flexibility to respond to a range of challenges, in peace support efforts.
Early in, Early Out
The Canadian Forces' experience, combined with Canada's reputation around the world, makes us a favoured contributor to UN and coalition forces.
But clearly there are limits to any country's ability to contribute to international operations.
Canada already contributes not only to UN missions, but other peace support initiatives through NATO and coalitions of the willing.
Our resources, however, are finite.
Canada can and must be selective if it is going to remain in a position to play a meaningful role.
It is against this background that I spoke recently about "early in, early out" for the Canadian Forces.
The idea is not new and it is fully consistent with our current policy.
The 1994 White Paper is quite clear on this point.
"Canada is not obliged to take on a major portion of every operation or to contribute forces for longer than seems reasonable."
We have learned over the last decade the value of deploying modern forces in the early stages of an operation.
Given the unpredictable and complex nature of peace support operations, there is a need for forces that are well equipped and prepared to deal with the immediate aftermath of conflict.
Our forces have the experience, the expertise and the capabilities to deploy at the front end of a mission, to set up the framework of an operation and build any necessary infrastructure.
We have also learned that deploying them at the early stages of a mission has a better chance of influencing the outcome of the problem in a positive way.
And, in many cases, saving lives.
Canada, I believe, is well placed to do this.
The early employment of highly qualified personnel in the critical initial stages of an operation is something we do well.
And have done so with success in the past.
We also have the institutional means.
The recently established Canadian Forces Joint Operations Group and Theatre Activation Team, operating from Kingston, are significantly improving our ability to set up new missions more effectively.
And we are prepared to continue using our expertise in this way.
But Canada can't do it all.
We can't be everywhere. No one can.
We can, however, contribute where we best make a difference.
For Canada, this means our forces deploying among the first and staying only as long as their expertise is required to stabilize an area of operation.
As part of this process, we would need to work with the UN and others to develop a comprehensive approach to ensuring a sustainable peace.
This would include having the UN identify follow-on forces, observers and non-military resources.
Fortunately, there are now more nations willing to contribute to UN missions.
There are more regional candidates with whom to share the responsibility of responding to emerging crises.
Canada welcomes and supports this development.
Our training programs such as MTAP and at the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre are helping to enhance the international community's capacity and ability to respond.
By turning over the responsibility to regional actors and other forces when a conflict situation has been stabilized:
Canadian resources would be freed up for new missions.
We would be more available to deploy elsewhere when the need arises.
And the Government's flexibility to respond to "the next conflict" would be greatly enhanced.
It is not a question of wanting to do less.
We want to do what we do -- but better.
It may help to understand what I mean by "early in, early out" by describing what it is not.
"Early in" does not mean that Canada would get in much earlier than we do now.
The aim is for us to be among the first to make a contribution.
And we have been. Think of East Timor and Ethiopia and Eritrea.
In fact, when you think about it, Canada is one of the few nations that can actually work within the deployment timelines called for in the Brahimi report.
It also does not mean we would go in prematurely.
We would not deploy our troops until we are satisfied that the right conditions are in place.
Ensuring that the mandate, resources and concept of operations are appropriate.
Deploying a national strategic reconnaissance team to ensure that the logistics, medical and security arrangements are acceptable.
And, conducting the necessary pre-deployment training and medical precautions.
Our guidelines and procedures have improved in the past four years. They serve us well and they will not be compromised.
By "early out", I don't mean that our military would necessarily leave after six months or even a year or two years.
The Canadian Forces will continue to participate in some long-term missions, as long as their expertise is still required -- and the Government so decides.
This, in part, explains why we remain in the Balkans.
All that "early out" means is that we would assess the situation on the ground and determine even more systematically whether the capabilities of the Canadian Forces were still required.
To assess when and if to disengage from a mission, we are going to review all our missions regularly, on a case-by-case basis, and in cooperation with the UN and our peacekeeping partners.
We have the experience.
We have the combat-capable, fully-trained and well-equipped troops.
And, we have developed a competency -- so let's use it in a way that it can have the greatest impact.
So, to answer the Conference's main question: Will Canada have an important role in future peacekeeping operations? The answer is "yes."
And we will continue to do so, in a way that:
Supports our commitment to global security.
Helps us manage our resources and operational tempo effectively and realistically.
And makes the best use of Canadian expertise and knowledge.
In closing, let me wish you a successful and productive meeting today.
I will be very interested in the results. Thank you.
Wow, you could float a main battle tank 3 feet off the ground with that hot air!