Canada, which is undertaking a peacekeeping mission in Mali, might not extend the schedule. According to multiple sources, the Trudeau government is repelling requests from the United Nations to extend the mission of providing medical evacuations until replacement for Canadian workers is found.
Under the year-long mission, Canada has been rescuing wounded peacekeepers and UN workers, and has been transporting troops and equipment from the West African nation, by the means of eight helicopters and 250 military members. However, Canadians will pack up and start heading home in July, when the mission is scheduled to end.
Sources have also told The Canadian Press that that Canada is expected to be taken over by Romania. Although Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited Romania last weekend, no official announcement has been made regarding its role in Mali.
However, even if Romanians take over, they are not expected to arrive until October or November. Therefore, a months-long interval might be created in lifesaving evacuations after the Canadians will leave, and the UN will have to fill this gap.
This summer, the UN had contracted civilian helicopters in Mali to provide emergency medical evacuations for a month, to fill in the gap between a German-Belgian helicopter detachment departure and Canadians arrival. However, this time the interval will be longer than that.
Besides, UN officials have also stated that civilian helicopters are not capable of providing the same level of medical support as military aircraft, as they are more restricted about when and where they can fly.
The sources said that although the UN has privately asked Canada to extend its mission, the authorities have resisted firmly.
Byrne Furlong, Sajjan’s spokeswoman, noted that Canada’s commitment to the peacekeeping mission in Mali was for one year, and closed the door on any extension. However, she would not comment on any discussions between Canada and the UN.
In an email, Furlong said, “The mission will be complete at the end of July 2019.” She added, “Just as we worked with German forces when we took over with our air task force, we will work with the contributing country that replaces us.”
So far, the Canadian peacekeepers have conducted four emergency evacuations in Mali. The most recent was on November 1, when two civilians were attacked and injured by an improvised explosive device while driving. Since the beginning of August, they have also delivered 77 tonnes of cargo and transported more than 1,000 UN personnel.
The Mali peacekeeping mission is the most dangerous UN operation across the world. Since the mission began in 2013, there have been 162 multinational peacekeeper fatalities. Although the UN has not requested in public, the Trudeau administration’s decision to not extend the mission stills waits to be confirmed. Will Canada really end the Mali peacekeeping mission in July?