OTTAWA — Canada’s defence and foreign affairs ministers have confirmed the Liberal government’s plan to send a helicopter contingent to support the United Nations peace force in Mali.
The 12-month commitment to the west African country includes two Chinook helicopters to provide medical evacuations and logistical support and four smaller, armed Griffons to act as armed escorts for the larger transports.
The so-called aviation task force will include support personnel, although a final number has yet to be worked out.
A deployment date has yet to be determined.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland say the force will include a marked female presence as the Trudeau government looks to have Canada lead by example in the push to have more women on peacekeeping missions.
The announcement follows a direct request from the UN and fulfils the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s promise in November to make such aircraft available to a future peacekeeping mission.
“Supported by our diplomatic negotiations, I am confident we can help make a real difference in this region through the deployment of the aviation task force,” Freeland told a news conference on Parliament Hill.
The Mali mission has been a dangerous one for the UN, with about 150 fatalities — which is why the government took the time to carefully consider the situation and decide on the best course of action, Freeland said.
“We are very aware of the complexities and the difficulties of the situation in Mali.”