Canada will provide another $13 million in aid to Mali, International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino announced Tuesday in Ethiopia.

Fantino is the Canadian representative at a donors conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital.

"I'm announcing that Canada is providing an additional $13 million to a number of ongoing initiatives aimed at addressing the humanitarian needs that are so pressing," Fantino said at the conference.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird repeated the announcement in the House of Commons, pledging that Malians "can count on that support to continue in this difficult period on the road to stability, peace and prosperity."

The most recent numbers available on the website of the Canadian International Development Agency show Canada contributed $109.8 million to Mali in 2010-11. Canadian direct aid to Mali was suspended following a coup last spring, although multilateral aid — provided along with other countries through organizations like the UN — continued.

A statement from the African Union said leaders had raised over $453 million US "aimed at bridging the funding gap to expedite the deployment" of African-led forces in Mali.

The African Union funds raised will also go to enhance the capacities and training of the Malian Defence and Security Forces, the statement said.

Canadian aid not for military

Canada's funding appears to be for humanitarian relief alone, including:

  • $3 million for food and nutrition through the UN World Food Program.
  • $2.5 million for health care and medical supplies.
  • $1 million for hygiene and sanitation promotion through World Vision Canada.

Asked about Canada contributing humanitarian aid rather than the military assistance pledged by other countries at the summit, interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said politicians need to make the case to Canadians that there are issues of security and governance that affect the whole region. An al-Qaeda-linked group is waging a bloody battle for the country's north.

"It's very important for people to understand that these little terrorist cells grow and they jump from country to country," Rae said.

"And as they grow, they become a greater threat, not only to that country, but to the region and in fact to the rest of the world. There weren't a lot of people in al-Qaeda in 1998, 1999 in Afghanistan and people said well, you know, it's an internal issue for Afghanistan and we're not going to worry too much about that, and I think we saw what the risks were in taking that approach."

Special forces in Mali

Canadian special forces are on the ground in Mali to protect Canadian assets such as the Canadian Embassy in the capital Bamako, Evan Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, reported Monday. 

The forces are not related to Canadian Forces crews who have been piloting and supporting a Canadian C-17 transport plane in support of French troops since Jan. 18. That mission was extended last week until Feb. 15.

Late Tuesday, the Department of National Defence issued said the twelfth C-17 flight had departed Bamako and was on its way back to Le Tubé, France, having delivered six armoured vehicles.  

So far, the cargo ferried by the C-17 has consisted of aircraft parts, baggage, French passengers and a fuel truck, for a total of 314,158 kilograms over the 12 flights.

The special forces are not there to train Malian troops — and they are not involved in any combat role, as the government has repeatedly stressed and Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated again Monday in the House of Commons.

A statement earlier this week from the Canadian government said in the last year, Canada has provided:

  • Food and nutrition assistance to 1.3 million people in Mali, as well as to 142,000 refugees in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
  • Water and sanitation assistance to more than 49,000 people.
  • Activities such as the screening and referral of children suffering from malnutrition, as well as activities designed to protect livelihoods and enhance resilience, such as the distribution of seeds and tools for 58,000 people; and cash transfers and cash-for-work programming for 3,000 vulnerable households affected by both the food crisis and conflict in northern Mali.

Despite Fantino's announcement earlier in the day, his spokeswoman initially denied Canada had pledged any further funding for the troubled west African country.

"Canada has not announced any humanitarian funds above what is already being implemented. If and when Canada does, I'll ensure you are made aware," Meagan Murdoch said in an email.

Another spokesman from Fantino's office also refused to confirm the announcement, even after being presented with quotes pulled from a recording of the conference.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird issued a statement Tuesday welcoming the adoption of a "roadmap for transition by the Malian National Assembly in Bamako.

"It is important for the country to work toward free and fair presidential and legislative elections. We are pleased that key actors in Mali appear committed to bridge a way forward that will restore democracy, constitutional order and territorial integrity to Mali.

"We are committed to working with Mali and its neighbours to bring about the return of security, stability and democracy for the people of Mali," said Baird’s statement.