Canada’s government promised a boost in military funding Monday, even as its news conference fell short of a fully fledged plan to return its military to peacekeeping missions abroad.
The announcement came two days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he was ditching Canada’s combat mission in Syria and Iraq and that “no decision” has been made about whether Canada will play a role in a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
“We’re going to remain a leadership player in peacekeeping, and we’re certainly committed to doing it well,” Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said on Monday.
The announcement also followed the government’s spending on the military. The country will soon receive about $2.3 billion more per year in supplemental funding, Mr. Sajjan said, an increase of roughly 5 percent compared with 2017-18.
But beyond saying more money will be spent on training, equipment and munitions for Canada’s soldiers, Monday’s announcement didn’t shed any new light on what exactly Canada’s plans are for peacekeeping missions around the world.
The minister said Canada is still considering its options for sending troops to UN missions, but will be seeking support from the organization first. The idea of sending Canadian troops to the UN comes as a response to Mr. Trudeau’s stated decision not to join U.S. President Donald Trump’s regional anti-terrorism mission in Syria and Iraq, saying Canada needs to find a better way to help its Muslim neighbors.
Mr. Trudeau, who has been criticized for allegedly inviting Mr. Trump to tea over the phone, has also said Canada has decided to pull troops out of the country’s interventions in Afghanistan, Haiti and Lebanon.
If Canada does indeed deploy troops to a U.N. mission, it would only join nations like France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland that have been calling for a return to peacekeeping for years. Others have been drawing up plans for returns to U.N. peacekeeping missions that would help countries like Cambodia, Colombia, Liberia and Somalia.
Mr. Trudeau has long been vocal about Canada’s support for peacekeeping missions, previously touring countries like Haiti to drum up support for peacekeeping missions and arguing Canada is a lead role-player in peacekeeping.
Before Monday’s announcement, Canada had not deployed troops in peacekeeping missions since 2011, when it had a force of about 90 troops along with support for peacekeepers in Congo, Angola and the Congo. It has been seen as one of the most vocal supporters of troops on the ground.
Both Ottawa and Brussels have been playing catch-up on troop withdrawal from Syria and Iraq. Since mid-March, France has been the first European country to announce it will pull out troops from Syria. Poland sent its last troops home in late March.
Leveraging the broader peacekeeping community is an important incentive for countries that want to strengthen their diplomatic and defense presence in the volatile region.