Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday March 16, 2018
Canada sending 6 helicopters to help UN mission in Mali
Canada will send up to six helicopters and as many as 250 aircrew and troops to the troubled West African nation of Mali this summer, the Liberal government confirmed Monday.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland made the announcement in the foyer of the House of Commons, providing little more in the way of clarity than the broad aspects of the mission that were leaked last week.
They did reveal that Canada’s year-long commitment will involve two CH-147 Chinook helicopters for medical evacuations and logistical support and four CH-146 Griffon helicopters for armed escorts.
The country’s top military commander, Gen. Jonathan Vance, told the news conference that planning is still underway, including consultations with the UN.
A spokesperson at the UN said Monday the helicopters are expected to be deployed in August.
“This is very much a welcome development,” said Stéphane Dujarric.
“As we know, Mali has been one of the deadliest peacekeeping missions for UN peacekeepers over the last few years. Unfortunately, on a monthly basis almost, if not more, we have seen peacekeepers being attacked, targeted or killed by improvised explosive devices.”
In an interview with CBC News later Monday, Vance said the military is aiming for August, but Canada still needs to consult with the Germans over their contingent, which is being replaced by Canadians.
The Chinook helicopters will be tasked with transporting other UN peacekeepers and the Griffons will act as “armed escorts,” he said.
Both the Germans and the Dutch have occasionally used their armed helicopters to support UN troops in Mali when they’ve been ambushed.
“At this juncture, the planning we’re doing is armed escort,” said Vance, noting again that Canadian planners need to speak with the Germans.
“It is possible in the tasks that we look at, they could be used for support to ground forces. It is possible. We’ve got to look at it. We need to get a lot more detail.” (Source: CBC News)