A small platoon of 34 Canadian soldiers are about to join a peacekeeping operation in Haiti, under the command of Brazilian forces, in a long-delayed mission that has been kept inexplicably low on the Canadian political radar.
The deployment of an infantry platoon was approved by the Canadian government on Oct. 16, 2012, according to internal defense department documents obtained by The Canadian Press.
Three-dozen soldiers arrived in Brazil last April to be embedded and train with that nation’s 44th Motorized Infantry Battalion, the Brazilian joint operations center reported in an online article that included photos of the arriving Canadians.
Although it has been the subject of a couple of speculative media stories in Canada, the partnership and the mission wasn’t formally announced until Wednesday. Boots are set to hit the ground in Haiti on Friday for a mission expected to last six months.
Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay, Consular Affairs Minister Diane Ablonczy – who is also responsible for the Americas – and the Chief of the Defense Staff Tom Lawson, announced the deployment on Parliament Hill, Ottawa.
A senior defense source said the United Nations only signed off within the last week on the unusual request to add Canada to the contingent.
Strengthens ties with Brazil?
The idea of teaming up with Brazil, the largest contributor to the U.N. stabilization mission in Haiti, has been floated around National Defense headquarters for two years. It was pitched as a way to increase bilateral ties with the emerging economic power.
The fact the Canadian government has kept quiet — and not pre-promoted — what would be a politically appealing move amid a blizzard of bad news military procurements has left defense observers scratching their heads.
“I find it surprising Canada wouldn’t be more forthright ahead of time about this positive development,” said Walter Dorn, an expert on peacekeeping at the Royal Military College. “It helps Haiti. It helps the United Nations, the United States and Brazil.”
Read more: CBC