Politics

Canadian military wraps up Mali peacekeeping mission

Canadian Armed Forces members are heading home after the military concluded its peacekeeping mission in Mali on Saturday. 

Helicopters, soldiers have been in the African nation since last summer

Canadian infantry and medical personnel disembark a Chinook helicopter as they take part in a medical evacuation demonstration on the United Nations base in Gao, Mali, on Dec. 22, 2018. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canadian Armed Forces members are heading home after the military concluded its peacekeeping mission in Mali on Saturday. 

More than 200 soldiers and eight helicopters were sent to Gao in the northern part of the African nation last July to support the ongoing UN mission there.  Over the duration of the mission approximately 1,250 CAF members have deployed on Operation Presence-Mali. 

They performed 11 medical evacuations, over 100 transport missions and had logged thousands of flying hours transporting passengers and cargo, according to a press release from the government.

"The professionalism of Canadian Armed Forces members was on display throughout the past year in Mali,"  Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, commander Canadian Joint Operations Command, said.  

"I am beyond impressed with the work our people have done to support peace operations in Africa."

Canada is passing the baton to Romania and its helicopter division. A small transition team of Canadian soldiers will be deployed to help with the handover. Canadian civilian police officers are also still deployed on the mission until March 2021. 

Some have questioned Canada's decision to end the mission now, and some have questioned the usefulness of the Canadian deployment altogether.

"There hasn't been enough conflict really to justify the expense," Canadian-South African journalist Richard Poplak recently told CBC's Front Burner podcast.

But withdrawing from the mission after only a year is raising some eyebrows as Canada vies for a rotating seat at the UN Security Council. 

Walter Dorn, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada, said he's mystified by how immovable the government has been on the timing of the pullout.

"Frankly, I think it's unbelievable that, just before an election, we would drop our main contribution in peacekeeping," he said.

With files from Simon Nakonechny and Murray Brewster

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