OTTAWA — The United Nations is warning that it will be forced to curtail its peacekeeping efforts in Mali for several months unless Canada extends its mission there to prevent a gap in lifesaving medical evacuations.
The potential impacts are detailed in a new report by the House of Commons’ defence committee, which heard firsthand about the impact Canada’s withdrawal will have during a visit to the West African nation in February.
Canada has eight helicopters and 250 military personnel in Mali, where they are currently scheduled to provide emergency evacuations to injured UN peacekeepers and workers until July 31.
But Romanian replacements aren’t due until mid-October — a gap UN officials told the committee will be “dramatic” because without such support, they will have to reduce patrols and services to communities.
The warning follows the Trudeau government’s most recent refusal to keep Canadian peacekeepers in Mali until mid-October, after the UN formally requested an extension at the end of February.
The government has offered little explanation for its decision, but the committee report suggests military officials are worried about the helicopters’ mechanical condition and a need to have them ready for crises back home.