Should Canada continue to participate in peacekeeping missions?
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Whether Canada continues to participate in international peacekeeping missions is, as it has always been, a product of its own determination of self-interest, international treaty obligation, and humanitarian instincts.
Canada is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Irrespective of any mandate issued by the United Nations Security Council, NATO, as a voluntary security alliance comprising democratic governments occasionally makes its own determinations of when and how peacekeeping missions should be conducted. When war broke out in the Balkans in the early 1990s, the stability of Europe was threatened for the first time since World War II (Cold War tensions over Berlin notwithstanding). Especially because the United Nations was proving ineffective at stopping the fighting in the former Yugoslavia, NATO, some of whose members (Greece and Turkey) were directly and emotionally connected to the war, decided to act to force the fighting to an end.
The Balkans aside, Canada's history of participating in international peacekeeping missions has mostly occured in the context of United Nations Security Council resolutions designed to separate warring parties. To that extent, it has participated in dozens of such missions since the 1950s. These missions have taken place in the Middle East, Africa, and in Haiti.
If the Canadians ever decide to forego participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions it will be at least in part because of the experience of Canadian peacekeeping forces in Rwanda in 1994. A sudden and extremely violent backlash against the ruling, minority Tutsi by the majority Hutu resulted in the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The failure of the United Nations to respond forcefully and effectively to the slaughter despite the pleas for authority to act by the Canadian Army officer in charge of peacekeeping forces in the country scarred the country deeply.
Canada participates in U.N. peacekeeping missions mainly because its foreign policy is deeply imbued with a strong sense of humanism, but also because its government and military are viewed around the world as neutral despite its membership in NATO. It will likely continue to contribute to such missions to greater or lesser degrees on a case-by-case basis. Whether it should, however, is a matter for the Canadians themselves to decide.
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