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Dear members of House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence, and Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence

As a former senior military officer, I would like to offer some, hopefully objective, remarks regarding the current return of Canada to “peacekeeping” in Mali.  I agree that the Mali mission is very complex and there seems some debate whether we are dealing with a civil war, terrorist/insurgent groups, or criminal groups, or all these.  Regardless, people are suffering and dying and the country faces massive instability, complicated by imminent elections.

Canada has chosen to get involved in Mali.  This begs the question of whether Canada is in a military “war on terror” mission which means war-fighting; or a peacemaking mission which means impartiality and aid.  

 Canada is almost two decades out of significant peace operations and a lot of changes have occurred since then.  We are now in the world of 4th generation civilian-led UN multidimensional peace operations, and the days of post-conflict military-led peacekeeping are in the past.   Peace operations have now expanded to pre-conflict, during-conflict and post conflict phases and we have a lot of learning to do.  We have a capacity and institutional foundation to build.

This should mean creating a credible Canadian capacity for peacebuilding (conflict prevention) peacemaking, and peacekeeping activity to cover all phases of conflict. This should mean, in the best of all worlds, establishing a federal institution for peace to support conflict monitoring and responses. It is recommended that GAC to establish a civilian peace service of trained professionals. Also, perhaps for DND to re-role, train, equip and resource a brigade or two to be a permanent standing capacity to support peace missions.

Perhaps the Senate and House of Commons need committees for international peace and security; co chaired by DND and GAC, and that reflects the primacy of mission civilian authority. 

 I believe we need to evolve a clear understanding of peace operations.  Good practice may consider four pillars of peace operations for Canada such as;

  •    Presence in conflict
  •    Strict impartiality
  •    Uncompromising values of human rights and human security
  •    Capacity for relentless diplomacy, communication, mediation.

 In practical terms, this could mean an strategic approach of:

  •     First priority:  Stopping the violence, protecting civilians
  •     Care for the victims, medical and PTSD care.
  •     Relentless diplomacy and Mediation
  •     Humanitarian aid, rebuilding institutions
  •     Enabling justice and reconciliation

 Mali seems in a “during conflict” state and physical security is obviously a serious concern. What can this mean for Canada in Mali:

  •      We can lead in reforming the mission form a military led mission to a civilian led peace operations mission, stressing impartiality and engaging all parties.
  •      This means not being a party to the conflict, not taking sides.
  •       Perhaps we need to advocate less war fighting involvement (such as supporting search and destroy operations), and more aid and protect.
  •      This means a primacy of protecting civilians, building constabulary capacities and safe havens that extend to communities.
  •       We can provide humanitarian and security aid at community levels.
  •       We can undertake diplomacy and offer mediation capacities.  Civilized people talk!
  •       We can be involved in strengthening of democracy and democratic institutions and can assist in the conduct of free and fair elections
  •       We can engage the meta environment around the conflict; AU, EU, UN, donor countries in promoting a more enlightened view of peace operations.

 Canada has the tremendous advantage of being trusted as a peace-making nation. We meet the criteria of being a soft and middle power, we come from far away, have no big power or colonial interests.  This is important.  It gives credibility to impartiality and fairness. 

 We can better respond to Mali than with a few helicopters and their support contingent, with little possible strategic effect.    We need to evolve and change the way we think about peace operations and respond and commit resources accordingly. 

Sincere regards in the cause of peace,

Paul

— Paul Maillet Colonel retired Former Director of Defence Ethics pmaillet@magma.ca Tel 613.841.9216 Cell 613.866.2503 Paul Maillet Center for Ethics paulmailletethics.wordpress.com Accredited Peace Professional CPSC Co chair Ottawa Chapter Canadian Peace Initiative