PACS-Can Workshop Explores Canada’s Role in Peacekeeping Past, Present,
Peacekeeping, and the contexts in which peace operations are deployed, have changed in important ways since the days when Canada was known as the world’s pre-eminent peacekeeping nation. As Canada contemplates a renewed commitment to UN peacekeeping, PACS-Can’s 2017 workshop – hosted by Waterloo’s Balsillie School of International Affairs on 21-22 September – was a timely opportunity for a broader reflection on Canada’s legacy, as well as its potential future, in international peacekeeping.
The papers presented at the workshop – which covered a range of issues from Canadian public opinion vis-à-vis peacekeeping, contemporary peacekeeping and international humanitarian law, technology and peacekeeping, and the challenges of training peacekeepers to counter violent extremism – reflected both the evolving nature of peace operations and the dilemmas faced by Canada as it considers how, and where, it might most usefully re-engage. Collectively, the papers, as well as the presentations that accompanied them, underscored the reality that peacekeeping is both indispensable and imperfect, both evolving (albeit slowly) and struggling to meet the burden of high expectations.
In parallel with the workshop, a public forum on Canada and peacekeeping took place on the evening of September 21, with presentations by Mark Sedra of the Canadian International Council, Jane Boulden of Royal Military College, and Walter Dorn from Canadian Forces College/Royal Military College. While all three speakers acknowledged the deep challenges faced by contemporary peacekeeping, particularly across a range of missions on the African continent, they were also united in the view that Canada – despite having been largely absent from front-line peacekeeping for nearly two decades – still has much to contribute to contemporary peace operations. Whenever an announcement on a Canadian deployment is made, it will also likely be warmly welcomed within the UN system.