INTERACTIVE: Canadian UN deployments drop under Conservatives

After a sharp decline in 2006, UN commitments stagnate

Did you know Canada still has a military commitment in the Balkans? A handful of personnel serve various administrative and logistical roles in Kosovo, as part of the ongoing NATO mission in the region. On Thursday, Minister of Defence Peter MacKay announced the Canadian Forces would contribute to the mission until at least December 2014. That effort is a small part of Canada’s evolving commitment to military operations overseas — a commitment that, in recent years, has focused less on the UN and more on NATO.

On the heels of the Kosovo announcement came a Canadian Press story teasing the potential deployment of additional Canadian troops to the UN mission in Haiti. The soldiers would bolster the Brazilian contribution to the stabilization effort in Haiti.

Kosovo, Haiti… Where else are Canadian troops spending the Christmas season?

Canadian Forces personnel are currently engaged in both NATO and UN missions all over the world. The largest and most well-known mission is made up of the 950 soldiers who remain in Afghanistan. The Navy’s standing commitment to anti-piracy operations in the Arabian Sea means about 250 sailors are stationed at sea. And a small number of personnel are attached to other missions. Here’s how the count breaks down (Afghanistan is excluded, since it would blow out the graph). Operations with asterisks are UN missions.

Canada has participated in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization — the mission to keep the peace between Israel, Lebanon and Syria — since 1954. CF personnel have been stationed on Cyprus continually since 1964. Those staffing levels are minimal, though. One person in Cyprus? Outside of Canada’s substantial NATO commitments — to Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea, primarily — in the recent past, Canadian presence on UN missions has been generally sparse.

Since January 2005, the last year the Liberals held power under former prime minister Paul Martin, troop commitments have dropped — note the substantial plunge as soon as the Conservatives took office. By contrast, the number of police officers overseas has remained relatively stable. That third line, UNMEM, comprises all military observers in the field.

The same trend is reflected in Canadian deployment, as a proportion of total UN forces overseas.

Even at its recent peak of 0.55 per cent of total UN forces, CF deployment to UN missions represents just a tiny fraction of the global force. It is dwarfed by the contributions of three south Asian nations that send thousands of troops to missions all over the world; Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani troops and police participate in all but a couple of UN missions. Explore this map to see just where those countries deploy their personnel. Red squares mean the three countries provide more than 20 per cent of that mission’s force, while white squares mean under 20 per cent. Click on New York City for the total number.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.