Canada came within a whisker of losing its place in a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the fall of 2018 because of the military’s inability to consistently deploy enough women to meet the world body’s guidelines.
For the Liberal government, the political optics would have been horrible had the UN’s department of peacekeeping carried out its threat to “reallocate” the post in the critical international mission in South Sudan.
The government has made the recruitment of more women for peacekeeping operations a policy priority — something that was mentioned prominently during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent tour of Africa, where he attempted to drum up support for Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat.
In 2018, the UN was talked out of dropping Canada from the Sudan mission by Canadian officials who assured the world body that a better rotation system was being put in place by the Department of National Defence — one that would see the required number of women attached to the mission.
That near-miss, however, points to the Canadian military’s wider struggle to recruit women in large numbers, and to the extraordinary pressure the UN guidelines have imposed on the existing pool of talented, qualified female soldiers.
UN guidelines mandate that, for observer missions like the one in South Sudan, 15 per cent of each country’s staff officer and military observer positions must be filled by women. (Deployed operations, such as the recently concluded mission to Mali, have different, less strict metrics.)
In order to boost representation on the observer missions, the UN peacekeeping department even relaxed the rules for each country, allowing for women lower in the ranks (such as lieutenants and warrant officers) to be counted, where previously they had not.
The UN reviews countries’ mission representation every quarter. In the fall of 2018, Canada was told it would lose its deployment to South Sudan, documents obtained by CBC News reveal.
“Canada failed to meet the target in the last quarter, and as a result, at the end of September the UN advised that the CAF position in UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) was going to be reallocated to another country. The UN has since indicated that it will not reallocate the position, given the measures the CAF is putting in place to rectify the situation.” said a briefing note for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan dated Oct. 29, 2018.
Canada gets an exemption
The Canadian office at the UN was notified of the decision by fax and it set off an immediate response. A defence official with knowledge of the file said Canada wasn’t the only nation to receive the warning in the fall of 2018.
Once the UN’s department of peacekeeping was told about the measures the government was putting in place, an exemption was granted, said the official, who spoke on background but was not authorized to publicly address the issue.
Canada’s inability to meet the recruitment threshold had been a long-standing issue, according to the briefing note.
“Initial reporting has shown for over a year that we have not been consistently meeting the 15 per cent target. For example, we were at 8.7 per cent in October 2017, 15.8 per cent in May 2018 and 4.8 per cent in August,” said the document, obtained by CBC News through access to information legislation.
The report goes on to note that, “based on the amount of UN officer and military observer positions allocated to Canada, Canada needs at five women deployed” on observer missions at any one time. At the time the briefing was written, only one woman was in the field.
Despite the government’s political pronouncements, the Canadian military is still getting used to looking at deployments through a gender lens.
A ‘strain’ on the Canadian Forces
The “process for identifying the right member for deployment is aimed — above all else — [at] ensuring the selected member has the right qualifications, skill set and experience for the position at hand,” said the briefing note, adding that having a larger pool of women serving throughout the military eventually would solve the problem.
Stefani von Hlatky, an associate professor of political studies at Queen’s University, said the issue is about more than just recruiting more women — it’s also about having women with the right skill sets.
“There is typically a high demand [on UN missions] for infantry officers and that is not a trade where women are particularly well-represented,” she told CBC News.
“If Canada is to meet, consistently, targets that are imposed by the UN when it comes to the representation of women in UN missions, then it is constantly going to be a strain for the Canadian Armed Forces.”
Women already serving in the Canadian Forces could face unique pressure, given their limited numbers.
“There is the consideration that if the Canadian Armed Forces is asked to constantly meet that target and simply doesn’t have the numbers to consistently hit the 15 per cent target from rotation to rotation, there might be more pressure on women to deploy more often and might impact the career trajectory of individual women,” Von Hlatky said.
The defence minister said he recognizes the challenges and the amount of work it will take to ensure there is meaningful representation by women on UN observer operations.
Harjit Sajjan also defended the government’s record.
“We’ve worked very hard to ensure that if we’ve been telling other nations to have more women in peacekeeping operations, that we’re going to lead by example, and we have,” said Sajjan, who noted Canada has put women in charge of NATO operations and in senior posts within the military alliance.
But NATO, said von Hlatky, does not impose specific gender targets on its missions — and Canada’s soaring rhetoric and promises have created expectations.
“I definitely think there is a gap between the rhetoric and the practice,” she said.
“I think Canada, in terms of its rhetoric, should be careful to adjust that rhetoric to its means.”
Air Canada cancels flights to China until April as government braces for domestic coronavirus outbreak – CBC.ca
Air Canada is extending its suspension of flights between Canada and mainland China until April as the number of coronavirus cases — and the number of countries affected — continues to grow.
The country’s largest domestic and international airline announced Tuesday that service to Beijing and Shanghai will be cancelled until April 10. The company initially grounded flights for the month of February after the federal government issued an advisory warning against non-essential travel to China.
“Air Canada will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely in consultation with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Transport Canada and Global Affairs and will adjust its schedule as appropriate,” says a statement from the company.
Air Canada normally operates direct flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.
The carrier also is extending the suspension of its daily Toronto-Hong Kong flights until April 30 due to reduced demand, and says it will accommodate customers already booked on those flights on its non-stop Vancouver-Hong Kong flights.
Asked in the House of Commons Tuesday if the government has done enough to screen potentially infected individuals entering the country, Health Minister Patty Hajdu insisted Canada has imposed “strict” measures. But she noted the coronavirus has now spread to at least 35 countries — including some that may not have the capacity to properly diagnose it.
“Those measures are less effective and it’s time to turn our attention and our resources to making sure we’re prepared on the domestic stage,” she said.
Hajdu said there are not many cases in Canada now, but that could change at any time.
Hajdu said the messaging at airports will broaden to advise all international travellers on what they should do if they experience symptoms. But she said passenger screening and containment efforts are now less relevant than domestic efforts to delay and mitigate an outbreak.
Hajdu said Canadians in Iran and other affected countries will receive consular support, but suggested that evacuating people is now unlikely.
“We should be clear that repatriation efforts are limited at this point. It’s difficult at this point to commit to an ongoing repatriation process. You have to remember that it takes a lot of resources and the resources have to be focused in terms of our domestic response,” she said. “It’s important for Canadians to realize this may cause disruptions in their lives.”
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Monday Canadian officials are preparing to respond to a possible pandemic in the event there is a community outbreak domestically. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the epidemic a global health emergency, but has not yet called it a pandemic.
Earlier today, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne urged Canadians planning international trips to keep a close eye on government travel advisories as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.
Nations around the world have been imposing strict travel restrictions in an attempt to contain the virus’s spread.
On his way into a cabinet meeting this morning in Ottawa, Champagne called the outbreak a “dynamic” situation and said Canadians with travel plans should take precautions.
“Make sure you check before you go. That’s the best advice I can give,” he said.
“We’ve seen new places where the coronavirus has expanded — in South Korea, we saw in Italy today not only the north of Italy but Sicily and Tuscany. We’ve seen what’s happening in Iran.”
Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has heightened its travel advisory for South Korea, where nearly 1,000 cases have been reported. The department is now warning travellers to exercise a “high degree of caution” in travelling to the country due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
More than 320 cases have been reported in Italy. More than 80,000 cases have been reported globally.
GAC’s advisory for travel to Italy was updated Tuesday, warning travellers to “practise special precautions.”
“COVID-19 can spread from person to person, and in Italy cases have been confirmed in multiple regions in the north of the country. Sustained community spread of the virus is being reported. This means it is unknown how or where some people became infected, and the spread is ongoing,” the advisory reads.
The advisory says good medical care is widely available in Italy, but services could be limited in rural areas and doctors and nurses may not be able to communicate in English or French.
Medical treatment for life-threatening emergencies and emergency room treatment is free of charge in Italy, but hospitals charge up-front for any convalescence or follow-up care, the advisory reads.
Risk remains low in Canada
Tam issued a statement today saying that the risk posed by the coronavirus in Canada remains low.
She also confirmed that the 195 people who were under quarantine at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton after an evacuation flight from China have been released.
The group arrived two weeks ago on the second government-chartered flight from Wuhan, China, and have shown no symptoms throughout the quarantine period.
“As a result, they pose no risk to others and can return to their usual activities,” Tam said in the statement.
“I would like to thank the repatriated Canadians and their families for their patience, cooperation and contribution to public health. They have been through a stressful experience and I urge everyone to treat them with respect and compassion.”
Canada’s agriculture sector near ‘tipping point’ over blockades, farming federation warns – Global News
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture called for “decisive action” from the federal government Tuesday as it warned that rail blockades across the country were causing critical supply shortages for farmers and hurting their ability to get products to market.
Canadian farmers are being “severely and harshly impacted” by the blockades despite having nothing to do with the dispute over a B.C. pipeline project, federation president Mary Robinson said during a news conference attended by dozens of representatives from the agricultural industry.
Railway blockades bringing Canada’s economy ‘to its knees’ says Scheer
Robinson, whose organization represents around 200,000 farm families across the country, specifically cited shortages of propane for heating barns and feed for animals as among the top concerns, particularly for farmers in Eastern Canada.
Producers are also having difficulty getting their products to market because of the rail disruptions, she said.
“The widespread collateral damage of these protests is grinding our entire industry to a halt and is taking a massive toll on farmers across the country,” Robinson said, adding some estimates have pegged the cost to industry at around $63 million per week.
“Canadian agriculture is quickly reaching a tipping point.”
Stress from railway blockades contributing to further mental health problems in agriculture sector: Canadian Federation of Agriculture president
The comments put more pressure on the federal government to end the rail blockades, which started earlier this month in opposition to the Coastal GasLink project in B.C. While police have removed some of the blockades in recent days, others have since popped up.
Canada is one of the world’s largest agricultural producers and the fifth-largest agricultural exporter, according to the federal government. The industry employs 2.3 million Canadians and contributes around $110 billion to the country’s gross domestic product each year.
Insisting it was too early to talk about compensation or emergency assistance, Robinson instead said the government’s focus should be on ending the blockades before looking at longer-term ways to ensure Canada’s rail network is reliable and not subject to future uncertainty.
“We cannot continue to have our livelihoods held hostage every time a group wants to put pressure on government. These interruptions also greatly affect Canada’s ability to be a reliable and trusted trading partner.”
Protesters continue to block railway tracks in Hamilton after being served injunction
Yet she also warned the blockades along with a year of bad weather, a week-long rail strike in November and ongoing trade disputes with China are causing long-term damage to the agricultural industry, particularly as trading partners turn elsewhere for their products.
“We certainly are a point where our nation should be concerned that our government show leadership and investment to ensure that our agriculture resources are properly shored up in these difficult times,” she said.
Bill Blair reiterates rail blockades are ‘unacceptable’, says legal recourse may be necessary
Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau acknowledged the challenges Canadian farmers have faced over the past year, but stopped short of promising any specific assistance or actions to address their concerns.
“These disruptions have unfairly hurt Canadians, hurt our farmers and the entire value chain of our agriculture industry,” Bibeau said in a statement.
“I care deeply about our farmers who have dealt with the stress and impacts of these rail disruptions, on top of the challenges they faced in 2019. It’s absolutely essential that barricades stay down and that rail service be resumed.”
© 2020 The Canadian Press
COVID-19: Remaining Canadians quarantined at CFB Trenton released – Global News
The remaining Canadians quarantined over a novel coronavirus at a Canadian Forces Base have been released, the Public Health Agency of Canada says.
In a statement released Tuesday, the agency confirmed that the remaining 195 people staying at Canadian Forces Base Trenton in Ontario were released from their 14-day long quarantines.
The agency also said that the people released Tuesday were aboard the second government chartered flight from Wuhan, China — the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak which has infected more than 80,000 globally and killed 2,700.
“These repatriated individuals are receiving the same level of support as the previous group of repatriated Canadians who were released from quarantine on February 21,” read the press release.
Latest COVID-19 evacuees arrive at CFB Trenton
“The Government of Canada is helping to facilitate their onward travel by providing transportation to Toronto before they continue to their final destination.”
More to come.
— With files from the Associated Press
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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