Mr. Speaker, it is good to be able to get up again to address a question I raised after Remembrance Day, as I was not satisfied with the answer from the Minister of National Defence.
As members may recall, the Minister of National Defence, at Remembrance Day services in Vancouver, announced that Canada was going to be sending our troops on a UN mission that was going to go on for three years, and that was going to be all over the place, even though the chief of the defence staff at one point had said that there was going to be no African mission.
The minister has now said that there is not going to be just one mission but many missions in Africa and that we we are going to be there for three years. It is going to involve 600 troops and $450 million. Then, of course, the Minister of National Defence's press secretary had to retract the minister's statement, saying that he got a little bit ahead of himself about where the government is at.
This is a problem with the Liberal government on this file, and on many others. It is the lack of transparency. It is pushing out the idea of going on a UN mission, partially to garner a seat at the UN Security Council, and partially to say that it has carried through on one of its campaign promises, that of returning Canada's military to peacekeeping.
We know that the minister has great interest in Mali. He just returned from there in recent weeks. We know that this is one of the most dangerous missions in the world, and is definitely the most dangerous mission in Africa. Over 106 peacekeepers on the UN mission have already been killed. That is not even counting the French troops who are there. There are over 4,000 French troops on the ground and 13,000 peacekeepers. It is the biggest mess going on with numerous different jihadist terrorist groups pledging alliance to ISIS and al Qaeda. They are using blue helmets for target practice.
There is no question that we have the best troops in the world. They are well-trained; they are ready to go to war at the drop of a hat. They like to be deployed and they like to be in theatre. We believe that our armed forces, the brave men and women who serve this country, are more than adequately trained and equipped to do the job in the right mission.
Should they be fighting terrorism? Of course they should. Should they be helping stop the migrant flow, and helping in the migrant crisis that we are seeing from Syria and North Africa to Europe and elsewhere? Yes, they should. However, is the UN mission the right place to go?
If we are going to have this discussion, and if the government wants to be transparent, we need to have that debate in the House of Commons, so all parliamentarians have the opportunity to pronounce themselves. It has to be voted on before we put any of our troops in harm's way. We have already established the normal practice here, that before troops are deployed, we have a vote.
I have to point out, talking about missions in Africa and how dangerous they are, Anthony Banbury, former United Nations assistant secretary general for field support, said:
Our most grievous blunder is in Mali. In early 2013, the United Nations decided to send 10,000 soldiers and police officers to Mali in response to a terrorist takeover of parts of the north. Inexplicably, we sent a force that was unprepared for counterterrorism and explicitly told not to engage in it. More than 80 percent of the force’s resources are spent on logistics and self-protection. Already 56 people in the United Nations contingent have been killed, and more are certain to die. The United Nations in Mali is day by day marching deeper into its first quagmire.
We have had this type of experience before, in Rwanda, Somalia, and the UN mission in Bosnia. The only way we fixed Bosnia was to turn it into a NATO mission. Our suggestion to the government is that if it wants to put our troops on the ground to do counterterrorism and stop the migrant crisis in North Africa, it should be as part of a NATO contingent, not under the quagmire that exists in the United Nations.