National Column: Liberal government to send Canadian troops to Africa

Army to embark on new peacekeeping mission to combat violent extremism

by Bruce Campion-Smith

Canadian troops will soon be headed to Africa as the federal government makes plans for a new peacekeeping mission.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, mentioned the coming deployment as he paid tribute to the work of the Canadian army during a change-of-command ceremony Thursday.

“We’ve seen a shift toward foundational training, preparing for a wide range of future tasks,” Vance told dignitaries and military officers gathered in the rain on Parliament Hill.

“Internationally, the army is at the forefront, managing conflicts around the world, contributing to operations in Iraq, building capacity with allies and partners in Poland, Ukraine and very soon in Africa.”

Vance offered no other details, but his comments come just a day after Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan confirmed that the Liberal government is committed to deploying soldiers on a peacekeeping mission, likely to Africa.

Combating violent extremism, already the focus of Canada’s mission in Iraq, could be the motivation for a new mission in Africa, notably Mali which has emerged as a likely destination for Canadian soldiers.

That’s where a United Nations stabilization mission has been working with local forces in a deadly fight to contain Islamic extremists.

Thursday’s ceremony saw command of the Canadian army transferred to Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk from Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse.

In his address, Vance told Wynnyk that his mission was to keep the army, “agile, ready to be employed across the full spectrum of operations.”

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, Wynnyk said that the army has enough personnel for the missions at hand, but just where soldiers may go next is up to politicians to decide.

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“It’s hard to say where it’s most likely. That’s what the government of Canada will determine,” he said.

“Having served on a number of peacekeeping missions myself, both in Africa and Asia, our outstanding troops can undertake missions like that anywhere,” said Wynnyk, a 35-year veteran of the military.

“If and when the government decides they would like us to deploy somewhere, the army stands ready to prepare troops for that particular theatre.”

Retired military officer and defence analyst George Petrolekas has told the Star that the military could sustain a new deployment of between 600 and 1,000 soldiers, in addition to the commitments it’s fulfilling now.

Vance said details would be coming soon about the just-announced deployment to Latvia, where Canada has pledged to supply 450 soldiers to assist with a NATO mission to bolster its presence in Eastern

Copyright 2016 – Torstar Syndication Services

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